Next morning, I looked out upon a
wet mist that hung over Golden Crescent like a spider’s
gigantic web all a-drip with dew.
My visitors of the previous night
had gone three hours ago. I had heard them getting
up steam, but I was still too weak and stiff to think
of getting out of bed so early to see them off.
I turned, as usual, to watch the upward,
curling smoke from Mary’s kitchen fire.
Strange to say, this morning there was no smoke.
“Taking a rest,” I thought,
“after her long watching and nursing over a
good-for-nought like me! Ah, well! I
shall breakfast first then I shall pay my respects
and ask forgiveness of the lady for ’the things
I have done that I ought not to have done,’
and all will be well.”
I hurried over that porridge, and
bacon and eggs. I dressed with scrupulous care,
even to the donning of a soft, white, linen collar
with a flowing tie.
“Surely,” I reasoned,
“she can never be cruel to me in this make-up.”
When I started out, all seemed quiet
and still over there at Mary Grant’s.
With a feeling of disrupting foreboding,
which dashed all my merriment aside, I quickened my
The windows were closed; the door
was shut tight. I knocked, but no answer came.
I tried the door: it was locked.
“Why! What can it be?” I asked myself.
My roving eyes lit on a piece of white
paper pinned to the far post of the veranda.
It was in pencil, in Mary’s handwriting.
“There is yet another battle
for you to fight. I am going away. Please
do not try to find out where, either by word or by
“Golden Crescent will always
be in my thoughts. Some day, maybe, I will come
“God bless you and keep you,
and may you ever be my brave and very gallant gentleman.
I read it over, and over again, but
it seemed as if the words would never link themselves
together in my brain and form anything tangible.
Gone away! Oh, God! Meaghan
gone; Mary gone; every one to
whom my heart goes out leaves me the same way.
What is it in me? Oh, my God! my God!
I staggered against the veranda rail
for support, then, like a blind man groping for a
path in a forest, I made my journey across the rustic
bridge, and home.
I am not ashamed to own it: in
my anguish and my physical weakness, I threw myself
upon my bed and sobbed; sobbed until my sorrow had
spent itself, until my spirit had become numbed and
well-nigh impervious to all feeling.
In desperation, I threw myself into my work.
Never was store kept so clean nor
in such a well-stocked condition as mine was; never
was home so tidy.
I sawed timber, when there were stacks
of it cut, piled and dry in my wood sheds. I
built rafts. I repaired the wharf. I added
barns to my outhouses, when, already, I had barns
I insisted on delivering the requirements
of every family in Golden Crescent, instead of having
them take their goods from the store.
With no object in view, other than
the doing of it, I tackled the wintry winds and the
white-tipped breakers, in my little rowing boat, when
none other dared venture from the confines of his beach.
When the sea came roaring into the
Bay, tumbling and foaming, boiling and crawling mountains
high, breaking with all its elemental fury, I would
dash recklessly into it and swim to Rita’s Isle
and back, with the carelessness and abandon of one
who had nothing to live for.
As I look back on it all now, I feel
that death was really what I courted.
Remonstrances fell on deaf ears.
My life was my own, at least, I thought
it was, my own to do with as I chose.
What mattered it to any one if the tiny spark went
My books had little attraction for
me during those wild, mad days. Work, work, work
and absorption were all my tireless body and wearied
brain craved for; and work was the fuel with which
I fed them.
I was aware that the minister knew
more of Mary’s going and her present whereabouts
than I did, and, sometimes, I fancied he would gladly
have told me what he knew. But he could find
no opening in the armour of George Bremner for the
lodgment of such information.
Rita and he got to know, after a while,
that the name of Mary Grant was a locked book and
that Mary Grant alone held the key to it.
Christmas, my first Christmas
from home; Christmas that might have been
any other time of the year for all the difference it
made to me, came and went; and the wild, blustering
weather of January, with its bursts and blinks of
sunshine, its high winds and angry seas, was well
There had been little to do in and
around the store, so I was taking the excuse to row
over to Clarks’ with their supplies, intending
to bring back any eggs they might have for my camp
It was a cold, blustery morning, with
a high, whistling wind coming in from the Gulf.
The sky was clear and blue as a mid-summer’s
day and the sun was shining as if it had never had
a chance to shine before.
It was with difficulty that I got
into my boat without suffering a wetting, but I was
soon bobbing on the crest of the waves or lying in
the troughs of the pale-green, almost transparent sea,
making my way across the Bay, as the waves climbed
higher and still higher, with white-maned horses racing
in on top of the flowing tide.
It was hard pulling, but I was strong
and reckless, fearing neither man nor elements.
Every minute of that forenoon brought
with it an increasing fury of the storm; every minute
greater volumes of water lashed and dashed into the
Bay, until, away out, The Ghoul looked more like a
waterspout than a black, forbidding rock.
Rita was surprised and angry at my
daring in crossing, yet she could not disguise her
pleasure now I was with her, for she chafed with the
restrictions of a stormy winter and craved, as all
healthy people do, for the society of those of her
“Seems as if it’s goin’
to be a hurricane,” remarked old Andrew Clark,
looking out across the upheaving waters. “Never
saw it so bad; yet it’s only comin’
“Guess you’ll ha’e to stop wi’
us the night, George.”
“ And welcome,”
put in his good lady. “There’s always
a spare bed for George Bremner in this house.
“Ay, ay!” remarked
the old man, reflectively. “We’re
no’ havin’ ye drooned goin’ away
frae this place, that I’m tellin’
Like me, Rita was a child of stress
and storm. She loved to feel the strong wind
in her face and hair. She gloried in the taste
of the salt spray. She thrived in the open and
sported in the free play of her agile limbs.
Unafraid, and daring to recklessness, nothing seemed
to daunt her; nothing, unless, maybe, it were the
great, cruel, sharks’ teeth of The Ghoul over
which the sea was now breaking, away out there at
the entrance to the Bay: that rock upon which
she had been wrecked in her childhood; that relentless,
devilish thing that had robbed her of her mother and
of her birthright.
Even then, as she and I scampered
and scrambled along the shore line, over the rocks
and headlands, whenever she gazed out there
I fancied I detected a shudder passing over her.
For an hour, with nothing to do but
pass the time, we kept on and on, along the shore,
until we reached Neil Andrews’ little house on
the far horn of the Crescent, standing out on the
We stood on the highest rock, in front
of the old fisherman’s dwelling, watching the
huge waves rolling in and breaking on the headlands
with deafening thundering, showering us with rainbow
sprays and swallowing up the sounds of our voices.
Rita kept her eyes away from the horrible
rock, which seemed so much nearer to us now than when
we were in the far back shelter of the Bay. And,
indeed, it was nearer, for barely a quarter of a mile
divided it from Neil’s foreshore. But
such a quarter of a mile of fury, I had never before
Different from Rita, I could hardly
take my eyes away from that rock. To me, it seemed
alive in its awful ferocity. It was the point
of meeting of three different currents and it gave
the impression to the onlooker that it was drawing
and sucking everything to its own rapacious maw.
Old Man Andrews saw us from his window
and came out to us, clad in oilskins and waders.
“Guess it’s making for
a hum-dinger, George,” he roared into my ears.
“Ain’t seen its like for a long time.
God help anything in the shape of craft that gets
caught in this. She’s sprung up mighty
“Got a nice cup of tea ready,
Rita. Come on inside, both of you. It
ain’t often I see you up here. Come on
But Rita was standing apart, straining
her eyes away far out into the Gulf.
“What is it, lass?” shouted
the old fellow. “See something out there?”
“It is a boat,” she cried
back anxiously. “Yes! it is
Old Neil scanned the sea. “Can’t
see nothing, lass. Can you, George?”
I followed the direction of Rita’s pointing.
“I’m not quite sure,”
I answered at last, “but it looks to me as if
there was something rising and falling away there to
Neil ran into the house for his telescope.
“By God!” he cried, “it’s
a tug. She’s floundering like a duck on
ice. Steering gear gone, or something!
Hope they can keep heading out for the open, or it’s
all up with them,” he said.
We watched the boat for a while, then
we turned into the house and partook of the old fellow’s
tea and hot rolls.
In half an hour, we went out again.
“George, George!” cried
Rita, with a voice of terror, looking back to us from
her position on the high rock. “Quick! they
are driving straight in shore.”
We ran up beside her and looked out.
The tug, for such it was, was
coming in at a great rate on the crest of the storm,
beam on. Water was breaking over her continuously
as she drove, and drove, a battered, beaten
object, straight for The Ghoul.
We could see three men clinging to the rails.
Rita was standing, transfixed with
horror at the coming calamity which nothing on earth
Old man Andrews closed his telescope with a snap.
“Guess you’d better go inside, Rita,”
he spoke tenderly.
“No, no!” she cried furiously,
her lips white and her eyes dilated. “You
can’t fool me. That’s Joe’s
tug. Give me that glass. Let me see.”
“Better not, Rita. ’Tain’t
“Give it to me,” she cried savagely.
“Give it to me.”
She snatched the instrument from him
and fixed it on the vessel. Then, with that
awful pent-up emotion, which neither speaks nor weeps,
she handed back the telescope to the fisherman.
We stood there against the wind, as
doomed and helpless Joe Clark’s tug crashed
on to the fatal Ghoul. It clung there, as if
trying to live. Five, ten, fifteen
minutes it clung, being beaten and ripped against
the teeth of the rock; then suddenly it split and dissolved
Neil had the telescope at his eye
again. He handed it to me quickly. “George! look
and tell me. D’ye see anybody clinging
there to the far tooth of The Ghoul? My eyes
ain’t too good. But, if yon’s a man,
God rest his soul.”
I riveted my gaze on the point.
There I could see as clearly as if
it were only a few yards off. Even the features
of the man who clung there so tenaciously I could make
“My God! It is Joe Clark,” I exclaimed
With the cry of a mother robbed of
her young, Rita dashed down the rocks to the cove
where Neil Andrews’ boat lay. She pushed
it into the water and sprang into it, pulling against
the tide-rip like one possessed. I darted after
her, but she was already ten yards out when the boat
swamped and was thrown back on the beach.
Just as the undertow was sucking Rita
away, I grabbed at her and dragged her to safety.
“Let me go! Let me go!”
she screamed, battering my chest. “It’s
Joe. It’s my Joe. He’s drowning.”
I held her fast.
She looked up at me suddenly with
a strange quietness, as if she did not understand
me and what I did. As she spoke, she forgot her
“Ain’t you goin’
to help him? It’s Joe. You ain’t
scared o’ the sea. You can do it.
Get him to me, George. Oh! get me
Joe. I want him. I want him. He’s
I grasped her by the arm and shook
her, as I shouted in her ear:
“Do you love Joe, Rita; love
him enough to marry him if I go out for him?”
“Oh, yes, yes! Get him,
George. I love Joe. I always loved him.”
In that moment, I made up my mind.
“If we come back, little woman,”
I cried, “it will be down there at the end of
the Island. Run home; get grand-dad
and the others in some boats. It isn’t
so bad down there. Watch out for us.
“If I don’t come back, Rita, dear,
little Rita ”
I took her face in my hands and pressed my lips on
I ran from her, up over the cliffs,
away to the far side of the horn, where the eddy made
the sea quieter. I threw off my boots and superfluous
clothing and sprang into the water. Out, out
I plunged, and plunged again, keeping under water
most of the time, until at last I got caught in the
terrible rush three hundred yards straight out from
I well knew the dreadful odds I was
facing, yet I was unafraid. The sea was my home,
almost as much as the land. I laughed at its
buffeting. I defied it. What cared I?
What had I to lose? nothing! And, I
might win Joe for Rita, and make her happy.
In the very spirit of my defiance,
I was calling up forces to work and fight for me,
forces that faint-heartedness and fear could never
have conjured to their aid.
On, on I battled, going
with the rush, holding back a little, and
easing out, and out, all the time toward the Rock.
Half an hour passed; perhaps
an hour, for I lost count of time and distance
in my struggling. But, at last, battered and
half-smothered, yet still crying defiance to everything,
I found myself rising with a mountainous sea and bearing
straight upon The Ghoul. As I was lifted up,
I strained my eyes toward the teeth of the rock.
Joe Clark, that Hercules
of men, was still hanging on desperately: no
hope in his heart, but loth as ever to admit defeat,
even to the elements.
With tremendous force, I was thrown
forward. As the wave broke, I flashed past Joe
in the mad rush of water. I grabbed blindly,
feeling sure I should miss, for it was
a thousand chances to one, but I was stopped
up violently. I tightened my clutch in desperation.
I pulled myself up, and clasped both hands round
the ledge of the rock, clinging to it precariously,
my nails torn almost from my fingers. My hands
were touching Joe’s. My face came up close
to his. Almost he lost his hold at the suddenness
of my uncanny appearing.
He shouted to me in defiance, and
it surprised me how easily I could hear him, despite
the hiss and roar of the waters. I could hear
him more easily than I had heard Rita on the beach
at Neil Andrews’, so long, long ago.
“My God! Bremner, where
did you come from? What d’ye want?”
“I want you, Joe,” I cried,
right into his ear. “Rita sent me for
you, will you come?”
“It ain’t no good,”
he replied despairingly; “nobody gets
off’n this hell alive.”
“But we shall,” I yelled.
“Rita wants you. She loves you, Joe.
Isn’t that worth a try, anyway?”
“You bet!” he cried, as
the water dashed over his face, “but how?”
I screamed into his ear again.
“Let go when I shout.
Drop on your back. After that, don’t move
for your life. Leave the rest to me. Don’t
mind if you go under. It’s our only chance.”
He nodded his head.
I waited for an abatement of the surge.
“Now!” I yelled, as a great, unbroken
swell came along.
Away we whirled on top of it; past
the side of The Ghoul like bobbing corks, into
the rip and race of the tide, sometimes
above the water, most of the time under it, gasping, choking, fighting, then
away, in great heaving throws, from that
How brave Joe was! and how trusting!
Not a struggle did he make in that awful ordeal.
He lay pliable and lightly upon me, as I floated up
the Bay, or wherever the current might be
taking us. But there was only one direction
with that flowing tide, after we had passed The Ghoul,
and I knew it was into the Bay. So quiet did
Joe lie, that I began to think the life had gone out
of him. But I could do nothing for him; nothing
but try, whenever possible, to keep his head and my
own out of the sea.
How long I struggled, I cannot tell.
My arms and legs moved mechanically. I took
the battering and the submerging as a matter of course.
A pleasing lethargy settled over my brain and the
terror of it all went from me.
When twenty minutes, or twenty years,
might have flown, my head crashed against something
hard. I turned quickly. I seized at the
obstruction. It was a log from some broken boom.
I threw my arm around it for support, then I caught
Joe up and pulled his hand over it. In a second,
he was all life. He clutched the log tightly,
and hung on.
Thus, he and I together, enemies
till then, but friends against our mutual foe, the
storm, floated to safety and life.
I remember hearing voices on the waters
and seeing, in a blur, Joe’s giant body being
raised into a boat. But, of myself, I remember
not a thing.
Later on, they told me that, as soon
as they hoisted Joe, I let go my hold on the log,
as if I had no further interest in anything, no more
use for life.
But old Andrew Clark was too quick
for me. He caught me by the arm and clung on,
just as I was going down.
And it was Joe Clark, despite
all he had gone through, who carried me
in his great strong arms from the beach to his grand-dad’s
cottage, crooning over me like a mother. It
was Joe who fed me with warm liquids. It was
Joe I saw when I opened my eyes once more to the material
“Shake hands, old man,”
he said brokenly, “if mine ain’t too black.
Used to think I hated you, George. I ain’t
hatin’ anything or anybody no more. You’re
the whitest man I know, Bremner, and you got me beat
six days for Sunday.”