“I can’t,” MacRae said grimly. “You’ve been in California for months. You wouldn’t hear any mention of my affairs, anyway, if you’d been home. I got back three days before the armistice. My father died of the flu the night I got home. The ranch, or all of it but the old log house I was born in and a patch of ground the size of a town lot, has gone the way you mentioned your home might go if you don’t buck up the business. Things didn’t go well with us lately. I have no land to turn to. So I’m for the salmon business as a means to get on my feet.”
“Gower got your place?” Abbott hazarded.
“Yes. How did you know?”
“Made a guess. I heard he had built a summer home on the southeast end of Squitty. In fact Nelly was up there last summer for a week or so. Hurts, eh, Jack? That little trip to France cost us both something.”
MacRae sprang up and walked over to a window. He stood for half a minute staring out to sea, looking in that direction by chance, because the window happened to face that way, to where the Gulf haze lifted above a faint purple patch that was Squitty Island, very far on the horizon.
“I’m not kicking,” he said at last. “Not out loud, anyway.”
“No,” Stubby said affectionately, “I know you’re not, old man. Nor am I. But I’m going to get action, and I have a hunch you will too. Now about this fish business. If you think you can get them, I’ll certainly go you on that twenty per cent. proposition—up to the point where Gower boosts me out of the game, if that is possible. We shall have to readjust our arrangement then.”
“Will you give me a contract to that effect?” MacRae asked.
“Absolutely. We’ll get together at the office to-morrow and draft an agreement.”
They shook hands to bind the bargain, grinning at each other a trifle self-consciously.
“Have you a suitable boat?” Stubby asked after a little.
“No,” MacRae admitted. “But I have been looking around. I find that I can charter one cheaper than I can build—until such time as I make enough to build a fast, able carrier.”
“I’ll charter you one,” Stubby offered. “That’s where part of our money is uselessly tied up, in expensive boats that never carried their weight in salmon. I’m going to sell two fifty-footers and a seine boat. There’s one called the Blackbird, fast, seaworthy rig, you can have at a nominal rate.”
“All right,” MacRae nodded. “By chartering I have enough cash in hand to finance the buying. I’m going to start as soon as the bluebacks come and run fresh fish, if I can make suitable connections.”
“I can fix that too,” he said. “I happen to own some shares in the Terminal Fish Company. The pater organized it to give Vancouver people cheap fish, but somehow it didn’t work as he intended. It’s a fairly strong concern. I’ll introduce you. They’ll buy your salmon, and they’ll treat you right.”