And now he knew that he must go on to Witless Bay, and so prove himself a fool for not having sent one of the men, or else face and act upon the thought lurking in the back of his mind. He drew the letter from his pocket and looked at it for a long time, turning it over and over between his fur-clad hands.
“She’ll soon be forgettin’,” he said. “Come summer-time, she’ll be forgettin’. I bes rich—an’ when she sees the grand house I kin build for her she’ll marry me, sure, an’ be happy as a queen. An’ why not? Bain’t I rich as any marchant? She’ll be wearin’ gold an’ silk every day, an’ eatin’ like any queen—an’ bain’t that better for a grand lady nor singin’ songs for a livin’?—nor singin’ songs for her bread an’ baccy like old Pat Kavanagh wid the wooden leg?”
He tore the letter to fragments and scattered it upon the snow. He had faced the lurking thought at last and acted upon it.
“Praise be to the saints!” exclaimed the skipper with intense relief. “That bes done—an’ a good job, too. That letter’ll never be gettin’ to up-along, anyhow, an’ when she larns how rich I be, an’ begins to love me, she’ll be praisin’ the saints the same as me. Why for would she want to be goin’ up-along to New York, anyhow? Now I’ll jist shape me course ‘round beyant the harbor an’ see if they squid be up to any divilment or no.”
He made his way inland for about half a mile and then headed southward. As he drew near the line of Chance Along he edged farther away from the coast, deeper into the wilderness of hummocks, frozen bogs and narrow belts of spruce and fir. When at last he heard the axes thumping between himself and the harbor he sat down in a sheltered place and filled and lit his pipe. The men were at work. The letter that would have torn Flora Lockhart from him was not on its way to New York. All was well with the skipper and the world! He remained there for an hour, smoking, listening, congratulating himself. By the thumping of the axes and the slow crashings of falling trees he knew that Bill Brennen had put a big crew at the chopping. This knowledge stilled his anxiety for the girl’s safety. He knocked