The Protector - Harold Bindloss - ebook

The Protector ebook

Harold Bindloss

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Vayne was 27 years old. And nine of which he spent on scott, canoeing, chopping trees and searching for minerals. He and his friend discovered valuable mineral property several months earlier. They were aiming for a better life and wanted to grow their business. However, not everything is so easy.

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Liczba stron: 383

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Contents

CHAPTER I. A FRIEND IN NEED

CHAPTER II. A BREEZE OF WIND

CHAPTER III. AN AFTERNOON ASHORE

CHAPTER IV. A CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT

CHAPTER V. THE OLD COUNTRY

CHAPTER VI. UPON THE HEIGHTS

CHAPTER VII. STORM-STAYED

CHAPTER VIII. LUCY VANE

CHAPTER IX. CHISHOLM PROVES AMENABLE

CHAPTER X. WITH THE OTTER HOUNDS

CHAPTER XI. VANE WITHDRAWS

CHAPTER XII. VANE GROWS RESTLESS

CHAPTER XIII. A NEW PROJECT

CHAPTER XIV. VANE SAILS NORTH

CHAPTER XV. THE FIRST MISADVENTURE

CHAPTER XVI. THE BUSH

CHAPTER XVII. VANE POSTPONES THE SEARCH

CHAPTER XVIII. JESSIE CONFERS A FAVOUR

CHAPTER XIX. VANE FORESEES TROUBLE

CHAPTER XX. THE FLOOD

CHAPTER XXI. VANE YIELDS A POINT

CHAPTER XXII. EVELYN GOES FOR A SAIL

CHAPTER XXIII. VANE PROVES OBDURATE

CHAPTER XXIV. JESSIE STRIKES

CHAPTER XXV. THE INTERCEPTED LETTER

CHAPTER XXVI. ON THE TRAIL

CHAPTER XXVII. THE END OF THE SEARCH

CHAPTER XXVIII. CARROLL SEEKS HELP

CHAPTER XXIX. JESSIE’S CONTRITION

CHAPTER XXX. CONVINCING TESTIMONY

CHAPTER XXXI. VANE IS REINSTATED

CHAPTER I–A FRIEND IN NEED

A light breeze was blowing down the inlet, scented with the smell of the firs, and the tiny ripples it chased across the water splashed musically against the bows of the canoe. There was a thud as the blade struck the water, and the long, light hull forged onwards with slightly lifted, bird’s-head prow, while the two men swung forward for the next stroke with a rhythmic grace of motion. They knelt, facing forward, in the bottom of the craft; and dissimilar as they were in features and, to some extent, in character, the likeness between them was stronger than the difference. Both bore the unmistakable stamp of a wholesome life spent in vigorous labour in the open. Their eyes were clear, and like those of most bushmen singularly steady; their skin was weather-darkened, and they were leanly muscular.

On either side of the lane of green water giant firs, Cedars and balsams, crept down the rocky hills to the whitened driftwood fringe. They formed part of the great coniferous forest which rolls westwards from the wet coast range of Canada’s Pacific province, and, overleaping the Strait, spreads across the rugged and beautiful wilderness of Vancouver Island. Ahead, clusters of little frame houses showed up here and there in openings among the trees, and a small sloop, towards which the canoe was heading, lay anchored near the wharf.

The men had plied the paddle during most of that day, from inclination rather than necessity, because they could have hired Siwash Indians to undertake the labour for them, had they been so minded. They were, though their appearance did not suggest it, moderately prosperous; but their prosperity was of recent date, and they had been accustomed to doing everything for themselves, as are most of the men who dwell among the woods and ranges of British Columbia.

Vane, who knelt nearest the bows, was twenty-seven years of age, and he had spent nine of them chopping trees, driving cattle, poling canoes, and assisting in the search for useful minerals among the snow-clad ranges. He wore a wide, grey felt hat which had lost its shape from frequent wettings, an old shirt of the same colour, and blue duck trousers, rent in places; but the light attire revealed a fine muscular symmetry. He had brown hair and brown eyes, and a certain warmth of colouring which showed through the deep bronze of his skin hinted at a sanguine and somewhat impatient temperament.

His companion, Carroll, had lighter hair and grey eyes, and his appearance was a little less vigorous and a little more refined, though he, too, had toiled hard and borne many privations in the wilderness. His dress resembled Vane’s. The two had located a valuable mineral property some months earlier, and though this does not invariably follow, had held their own against city financiers during the negotiations that preceded the floating of a company to work the mine. That they had succeeded in securing a good deal of the stock was largely due to Vane’s pertinacity, and said something for his acumen; but both had been trained in a very hard school.

As the wooden houses ahead rose higher and the sloop’s grey hull grew into sharper shape upon the clear green shining of the brine, Vane broke into a snatch of song.

“Had I the wings of a dove, I would fly, Just for to-night, to the Old Country.”

He stopped and laughed. “It’s nine years since I’ve seen it, but I can’t get those lines out of my head. Perhaps it’s because of the girl who sang them. Somehow, I felt sorry for her. She had remarkably fine eyes.”

“Sea-blue,” said his companion. “I don’t grasp the connection between the last two remarks.”

“Neither do I,” Vane admitted. “I suppose there isn’t one. But they weren’t sea-blue, unless you mean the depth of indigo, when you’re out of sounding. They’re Irish eyes.”

“You’re not Irish. There’s not a trace of the Celt in you, unless it’s your habit of getting indignant with the folks who don’t share your views.”

“No, sir,” answered Vane. “By birth, I’m North Country–England, I mean. Over there, we’re respectable before everything, and smart at getting hold of whatever’s worth having. As a matter of fact, you Ontario Scotsmen are mighty like us.”

“You certainly came out well ahead of those city men who put up the dollars,” said Carroll. “I guess it’s in the blood, though I fancied they would take the mine from you.”

Vane brought his paddle down with a thud. “"Just for to-night, to the Old Country,’” he hummed, and added: “It sticks to one.”

“Why did you leave the Old Country?”

“That’s a blamed injudicious question to ask, but you shall have an answer. There was a row at home–I was a sentimentalist then and just eighteen–and as the result of it I came out to Canada.” His voice changed and grew softer. “I hadn’t many relatives, and except one sister, they’re all gone now. That reminds me–she’s not going to lecture for the county education authorities any longer.”

The sloop was close ahead, and, slackening the paddling they ran alongside. Vane glanced at his watch when they had climbed on board.

“Supper will be finished at the hotel,” he remarked. “You had better get the stove lighted. It’s your turn, and that rascally Siwash seems to have gone off again. If he’s not back when we’re ready, we’ll sail without him.”

Carroll, accordingly, prepared the meal, and when they had finished it they lay on deck smoking with a content which was not altogether accounted for by a satisfied appetite. They had spent several anxious months, during which they had come very near the end of their slender resources, arranging for the exploitation of the mine, and now at last the work was over. Vane had that day made his final plans for the construction of a road and wharf by which the ore could be economically shipped for reduction, or as the alternative to this, for the erection of a small smelting plant. They had bought the sloop as a convenient means of conveyance and shelter, since they could live in some comfort on board. Now they could take their ease for a while, which was a very unusual thing to both of them.

“I suppose you’re bent on sailing this craft back?” Carroll said at length, “We could hire a couple of Siwash to take her home while we rode across the island and got the cars to Victoria. Besides, there’s that steamboat coming down the coast to-night.”

“Either way would cost a good deal extra, Vane pointed out.

“That’s true,” Carroll agreed with an amused look, “You could charge it to the Company.”

Vane laughed. “You and I have a big stake in the concern, and I haven’t got used to spending money unnecessarily yet. I’ve been mighty glad to earn 2.50 by working from sun-up until dark, though I didn’t always get it afterwards. So have you.”

“How are you going to dispose of your dollars, then? You have a balance in cash, as well as the shares.”

“It has occurred to me that I might spend a few months in the Old Country. Have you ever been over?”

“I was across some time ago, but if you would sooner I went with you, I’ll come along. We could start as soon as we’ve arranged the few matters left open in Vancouver.”

Vane was glad to hear it. He knew little about Carroll’s antecedents, but the latter was obviously a man of education, and they had been comrades for the last three years. During that time they had learnt to trust each other, and to bear with each other’s idiosyncrasies. Filling his pipe again as he lay in the fading sunlight, Vane looked back on the nine years he had passed in Canada; and allowing for the periods of exposure to cold and wet, and the almost ceaseless toil, he admitted that he might have spent them more unpleasantly.

Having quarrelled with his relatives, he had come out with only a few pounds and had promptly set about earning a living with his hands. When he had been in the country several years, however, a friend of the family had sent him a small sum, and the young man had made a judicious use of the money. The lot he bought outside a wooden town doubled in value, and the share he took in a new orchard paid him well; but he had held aloof from the cities, and his only recklessness had been prospecting journeys into the wilderness. Prospecting for minerals is at once an art and a gamble, but even in this direction, in which he had had keen wits against him, Vane had held his own; but there was one side of life with which he was practically unacquainted.

There are no social amenities on the rangeside or in the bush, and women are scarce. Vane had lived in Spartan simplicity; his passions had remained unstirred, and now he was seven-and-twenty, sound and vigorous of body and, as a rule, level of head. At length, however, there was to be a change. He had earned an interlude of leisure, and he meant to enjoy it, without, as he prudently determined, making a fool of himself.

Presently Carroll took his pipe from his mouth.

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