And the gods may launch destroying thunderbolts, but they do not lie or cheat or steal. An honest man may respect an honest enemy, and be roused to murderous fury by a common rascal’s trickery.
When MacRae dropped his hook in Folly Bay he was two days overdue, for the first time in his fish-running venture. The trollers had promised to hold their fish. The first man alongside to deliver reminded him of this.
“Southeaster held you up, eh?” said he. “We fished in the lee off the top end. But we might as well have laid in. Held ’em too long for you.”
“They spoiled before you could slough them on the cannery, eh?” MacRae observed.
“Most of mine did. They took some.”
“How many of your fish went bad?” Jack asked.
“About twenty-five, I guess.”
MacRae finished checking the salmon the fisherman heaved up on the deck. He made out two slips and handed the man his money.
“I’m paying you for the lost fish,” he said. “I told you to hold them for me. I want you to hold them. If I can’t get here on time, it’s my loss, not yours.”
The fisherman looked at the money in his hand and up at MacRae.
“Well,” he said, “you’re the first buyer I ever seen do that. You’re all right, all right.”
There were variations of this. Some of the trollers, weatherwise old sea-dogs, had foreseen that the Blackbird could not face that blow, and they had sold their fish. Others had held on. These, who were all men MacRae knew, he paid according to their own estimate of loss. He did not argue. He accepted their word. It was an astonishing experience for the trolling fleet. They had never found a buyer willing to make good a loss of that kind.
But there were other folk afloat besides simple, honest fishermen who would not lie for the price of one salmon or forty. When the Arrow drew abreast and stopped, a boat had pushed in beside the Blackbird. The fisherman in it put half a dozen bluebacks on the deck and clambered up himself.
“You owe me for thirty besides them,” he announced.
“How’s that?” MacRae asked coolly.
But he was not cool inside. He knew the man, a preemptor of Folly Bay, a truckler to the cannery because he was always in debt to the cannery,—and a quarrelsome individual besides, who took advantage of his size and strength to browbeat less able men.
MacRae had got few salmon off Sam Kaye since the cannery opened. He had never asked Kaye to hold fish for him. He knew instantly what was in Kaye’s mind; it had flitted from one boat to another that MacRae was making good the loss of salmon held for him, and Kaye was going to get in on this easy money if he could bluff it through.
He stood on the Blackbird’s deck, snarlingly demanding payment for thirty fish. MacRae looked at him silently. He hated brawling, acrimonious dispute. He was loth to a common row at that moment, because he was acutely conscious of the two girls watching. But he was even more conscious of Gower’s stare and the curious expectancy of the fishermen clustered about his stern.