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Vane of the Timberlands

Harold Edward Bindloss

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
A light breeze, scented with the smell of the firs, was blowing down the inlet, and the tiny ripples it chased across the water splashed musically against the bows of the canoe. They met her end-on, sparkling in the warm sunset light, gurgled about her sides, and trailed away astern in two divergent lines as the paddles flashed and fell. There was a thud as the blades struck the water, and the long, light hull forged onward 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 labor in the open. Their eyes were clear and, like those of most bushmen, singularly steady; their skin was clean and 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 west from the wet Coast Range of Canada's Pacific Province and, overleaping the straits, 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, toward 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, for they could have hired Siwash Indians to undertake the labor 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; 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 bow, was twenty-seven years of age. Nine of those years he had spent chopping trees, driving cattle, poling canoes and assisting in the search for useful minerals among the snow-clad ranges. He wore a wide, gray felt hat, which had lost its shape from frequent wettings, an old shirt of the same color, 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 coloring which showed through the deep bronze of his skin hinted at a sanguine and somewhat impatient temperament. As a matter of fact, the man was resolute and usually shrewd; but there was a vein of impulsiveness in him, and, while he possessed considerable powers of endurance, he was on occasion troubled by a shortness of temper. His companion, Carroll, had lighter hair and gray 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, but, dilapidated as it was, it suggested a greater fastidiousness. 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.