He fixed Bill Brennen with a glance of his black eyes that made that worthy tremble from his scantily-haired scalp to the soles of his big, shuffling feet. Bill was one of those people who cannot get along without a master. In the past, for lack of another, he had made an exacting tyrant out of a very mild and loving wife; but since the masterful opening of the new skipper’s reign he had snapped his fingers at his wife, who had ruled him for close upon twenty years. He was shrewd, though weak, and his heart was full of the stuff in which personal loyalty is bred and fostered. If the hand that beat him was the hand that fed him—the hand of his master—then the beating seemed an honorable and reasonable thing to him. True, the skipper had not yet lifted a fist to him; but in this case darkling glances served quite as well as blows. Bill had seen the strength of Dennis from the first and from the first had loved it as a thing to serve—as the spirit of mastery. Nick Leary, though a much younger man than Bill Brennen, possessed the same spirit of service.
The three searched the barrens all day, from sun-up to dark, north, south and inland. It was a gray day, sloppy underfoot and raw overhead. At one time the skipper halted and lit his pipe within three yards of the point of the edge of the cliff from which Quinn had pitched to his death; but wind, snow and thaw had obliterated all trace of those blindly staggering feet. The searchers explored the inner, tangled recesses of a dozen thickets of spruce-tuck, snarled coverts of alders, hollows hip-deep in sodden snow, and the pits and rocky shelters of knolls and hummocks.
“He bes hid away somewheres, sure’s Saint Peter was a fisherman,” said the skipper.
“Axin’ yer pardon, skipper, I bes t’inkin’ as how maybe he bain’t dead,” said Nick Leary, humbly. “Maybe he got t’rough to Brig Tickle, sir, an’ from the Tickle he’d be headin’ for Witless Bay this very minute.”
The skipper shook his head.
“There bain’t a man on the coast could live t’rough a flurry the like o’ that widout he found shelter,” he replied. “He bes dead somewheres widin t’ree or four mile o’ Chance Along, ye kin lay to that, Nick.”
They returned to the harbor after dark and said not a word to the others about the business that had occupied them throughout the day; Brennen and Nick Leary were asked many questions, but they lied valiantly, saying that they had been spying out boat-timber. Had they admitted that they had devoted a whole day to searching over the barren for the body of Foxey Jack Quinn a suspicion that the missing man had carried away something of extraordinary value would have fired the harbor and set every able-bodied inhabitant on the quest. That would not have suited the skipper’s plans. He did not want a knowledge of the necklace of diamonds and rubies to become general.