Hearts are Not Always Trumps
If MacRae reckoned on tranquillity in his island seclusion he failed in his reckoning. A man may fly from temptation, run from a threatening danger, but he cannot run away from himself. He could not inhibit thought, reflection, surges of emotion generated mysteriously within himself.
He did his best. He sought relief in action. There were a great many things about his freehold upon which he bestowed feverish labor for a time. He cleared away all the underbrush to the outer limits of his shrunken heritage. He built a new enclosing fence of neatly split cedar, installed a pressure system of water in the old house.
“You goin’ to get married?” old Peter inquired artlessly one day. “You got all the symptoms—buzzin’ around in your nest like a bumblebee.”
And Dolly smiled her slow, enigmatic smile.
Whereupon MacRae abandoned his industry and went off to Blackfish Sound with Vincent in the Bluebird. The salmon run was long over, but the coastal waters still yielded a supply of edible fish. There were always a few spring salmon to be taken here and there. Ling, red and rock cod knew no seasons. Nor the ground fish, plaice, sole, flounders, halibut. Already the advance guard of the great run of mature herring began to show. For a buyer there was no such profit in running these fish to market as the profit of the annual salmon run. Still it paid moderately. So MacRae had turned the Bluebird over to Vin to operate for a time on a share basis. It gave Vin, who was ambitious and apparently tireless, a chance to make a few hundred dollars in an off season.
Wherefore MacRae, grown suddenly restless beyond all restraining upon his island, made a trip or two north with Vin—a working guest on his own vessel—up where the Gulf of Georgia is choked to narrow passages through which the tidal currents race like mountain streams pent in a gorge, up where the sea is a maze of waterways among wooded islands. They anchored in strange bays. They fared once into Queen Charlotte Sound and rode the great ground swell that heaves up from the far coast of Japan to burst against the rocky outpost of Cape Caution. They doubled on their tracks and gathered their toll of the sea from fishing boats here and there until the Bluebird rode deep with cargo, fresh fish to be served on many tables far inland. MacRae often wondered if the housewife who ordered her weekly ration of fish and those who picked daintily at the savory morsels with silver forks ever thought how they came by this food. Men till the sea with pain and risk and infinite labor, as they till the land; only the fisherman with his nets and hooks and gear does not sow, he only reaps. Nature has attended diligently to the sowing, from the Cape of Good Hope to Martha’s Vineyard, from Bering Strait to Botany Bay.