“I could, quite easily.”
Dolly considered this a moment.
“No,” she said. “You like me. I know that, Johnny. I like you, too. You are a man, and I’m a woman. But if you weren’t bursting with sympathy you wouldn’t have thought of that. If Norman had some of your backbone—but it wouldn’t make any difference. If you know what it is that draws a certain man and woman together in spite of themselves, in spite of things they can see in each other that they don’t quite like, I dare say you’d understand. I don’t think I do. Norman Gower has made me dreadfully unhappy. But I loved him before he went away, and I love him yet. I want him just the same. And he says—he says—that he never stopped caring for me—that it was like a bad dream. I believe him. I’m sure of it. He didn’t lie to me. And I can’t hate him. I can’t punish him without punishing myself. I don’t want to punish him, any more than I would want to punish a baby, if I had one, for a naughtiness it couldn’t help.”
“So you’ll marry him eventually?” MacRae asked.
“If he doesn’t change his mind,” she murmured. “Oh, I shouldn’t say ugly things like that. It sounds cheap and mean.”
“But it hurts, it hurts me so to think of it,” she broke out passionately. “I can forgive him, because I can see how it happened. Still it hurts. I feel cheated—cheated!”
She lay back in her chair, fingers locked together, red lips parted over white teeth that were clenched together. Her eyes glowed somberly, looking away through distant spaces.
And MacRae, conscious that she had said her say, feeling that she wanted to be alone, as he himself always wanted to fight a grief or a hurt alone and in silence, walked out into the sunshine, where the westerly droned high above in the swaying fir tops.
He went up the path around the Cove’s head to the porch of his own house, sat down on the top step, and cursed the Gowers, root and branch. He hated them, everything of the name and blood, at that moment, with a profound and active hatred.
They were like a blight, as their lives touched the lives of other people. They sat in the seats of the mighty, and for their pleasure or their whims others must sweat and suffer. So it seemed to Jack MacRae.
Home, these crowded, hurrying days, was aboard the Blackbird. It was pleasant now to sit on his own doorstep and smell the delicate perfume of the roses and the balsamy odors from the woods behind. But the rooms depressed him when he went in. They were dusty and silent, abandoned to that forsaken air which rests upon uninhabited dwellings. MacRae went out again, to stride aimlessly along the cliffs past the mouth of the Cove.
Beyond the lee of the island the westerly still lashed the Gulf. The white horses galloped on a gray-green field. MacRae found a grassy place in the shade of an arbutus, and lay down to rest and watch. Sunset would bring calm, a dying wind, new colors to sea and sky and mountains. It would send him away on the long run to Crow Harbor, driving through the night under the cool stars.