MacRae, however, was chiefly concerned with the local trade in fresh salmon. His plan didn’t look quite so promising as when he mulled over it at Squitty Cove. He put out feelers and got no hold. A fresh-fish buyer operating without approved market connections might make about such a living as the fishermen he bought from. To Jack MacRae, eager and sanguine, making a living was an inconspicuous detail. Making a living,—that was nothing to him. A more definite spur roweled his flank.
It looked like an air-tight proposition, he admitted, at last. But, he said to himself, anything air-tight could be punctured. And undoubtedly a fine flow of currency would result from such a puncture. So he kept on looking about, asking casual questions, listening. In the language of the street he was getting wise.
Incidentally he enjoyed himself. The battle ground had been transferred to Paris. The pen, the typewriter, and the press dispatch, with immense reserves of oratory and printer’s ink, had gone into action. And the soldiers were coming home,—officers of the line and airmen first, since to these leave and transportation came easily, now that the guns were silent. MacRae met fellows he knew. A good many of them were well off, had homes in Vancouver. They were mostly young and glad the big show was over. And they had the social instinct. During intervals of fighting they had rubbed elbows with French and British people of consequence. They had a mind to enjoy themselves.
MacRae had a record in two squadrons. He needed no press-agenting when he met another R.A.F. man. So he found himself invited to homes, the inside of which he would otherwise never have seen, and to pleasant functions among people who would never have known of his existence save for the circumstance of war. Pretty, well-bred girls smiled at him, partly because airmen with notable records were still a novelty, and partly because Jack MacRae was worth a second look from any girl who was fancy-free. Matrons were kind to him because their sons said he was the right sort, and some of these same matrons mothered him because he was like boys they knew who had gone away to France and would never come back.
This was very pleasant. MacRae was normal in every respect. He liked to dance. He liked glittering lights and soft music. He liked nice people. He liked people who were nice to him. But he seldom lost sight of his objective. These people could relax and give themselves up to enjoyment because they were “heeled”—as a boy lieutenant slangily put it—to MacRae.
“It’s a great game, Jack, if you don’t weaken,” he said. “But a fellow can’t play it through on a uniform and a war record. I’m having a top-hole time, but it’ll be different when I plant myself at a desk in some broker’s office at a hundred and fifty a month. It’s mixed pickles, for a fact. You can’t buy your way into this sort of thing. And you can’t stay in it without a bank roll.”