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.Trees had been cleared, a service road plowed, and freshly milled lumber awaited the hammer.As he drove on, figures appeared that proved to be diggers.Not clam diggers catching the low tide, but gold diggers—treasure seekers—searching the dry sand and cliff bases and the wooded verge that dipped low to meet the sea.He waved to the diggers.If they waved back, he drove out of the reach of the incoming tide to talk to them.If they ignored him or dispersed for trails up into the woods, he continued on.Captain Bell had spread word in the area by way of the mail carrier that volunteer diggers were welcome but must first check in with him or send him a letter of intent.The unfriendly diggers had likely ignored that request.The coast, he knew, was sparsely populated.Yet he counted no less than a hundred diggers.Those who spoke with him said they’d come from the logging camps, the mills, the canneries, from Aberdeen, from Tacoma, even Seattle.Those who’d abandoned logging or railroad construction jobs had come through the forest following logging roads and railroad spurs as far as possible.Others had traveled on foot from Oyehut after catching the steamer from Hoquiam.He’d not seen them pass Healing Sands on their way north, but last night as the tide began to drop, they must have been silently marching past his cabin as he slept.He arrived at Moclips—a cluster of shacks and modest new buildings—just as the tide threatened to force him off the beach.He drove the Stanley up out of reach of the waves, prepared to eat the meager supplies he’d brought.But his arrival was hailed by a friendly housewife of Mrs.Prouty’s proportions and years who invited him to share a hot meal with her husband—a man as small as she was large—who’d just come in from fishing on the river.Inside a tidy clapboard house named “West End,” he was served what he considered the first real meal since his arrival on the coast.Roast duck, clam chowder, fresh garden vegetables, fresh white bread, and a home-brewed ale the same amber as Missouri’s eyes.He was profuse with his praise.The pair had spoken to Captain Bell the previous day, they said, and they had no information to share for they’d not seen the Thompsons when they made their daytrip up to Moclips.They knew the Hornsbys, had often made use of David Hollister’s washhouse, and wondered if it would be impolite to ask about resuming monthly washings.Bradshaw doubted they’d be allowed until Captain Bell completed his investigation.He thanked the couple for the fine meal and made his leave, spending the next few hours retracing Captain Bell’s footsteps and getting the same results.The Thompsons had not been seen in Moclips.Bradshaw returned to the Stanley to await the tide.His thoughts wandered as he stared at the ocean.To the north, seastacks, vertical formations of rock formed by the forces of erosion, rose near shore.He wondered what about their jagged shapes gave them such an eerie, alluring quality.He wondered what it was about Missouri Fremont that so possessed him.He dug into his supplies, found paper and his pencil, and wrote a letter to Missouri that he didn’t intend to mail.And then he wrote out, for himself, every word he could recall of what she’d said to him on the beach.He studied her words, especially the part where she said, “I thought maybe you’d have some sense now, or at least be willing to discuss the very real differences between us to see if we can find a way past them.”What were those real differences?She was young, he was not.He was a man of habit, she was spontaneous.He felt at peace with organized routine and she lived each day anew.He was a man who found solace and stability in attending Mass.She considered nature God’s cathedral.He set down his pencil and stared, unseeing, at the ocean.The wind gusted, fluttering the paper beneath his hand.Why had it not occurred to him before? He was Catholic.Was she? He’d never asked.Henry, while not a man of regular church habits, was Catholic, and he’d assumed Missouri, being his niece, was too, although lapsed.She was of a spiritual nature but felt no compulsion to follow the organized prescriptions of any church.He’d supposed she was, like many young people, exploring religious and spiritual ideas on a voyage of self-discovery that would eventually lead her back to the church.But what if her voyage took her elsewhere? Was she Catholic? Would she be Catholic—for him?The very real differences between us.She must have been referring at least in part to this.His chest tightened.She was right.Of course, she was right.While he dragged his feet, ignoring his feelings for her, it kept him from seeing this very real difference.This obstacle.But if it were an insurmountable obstacle, would she have declared her feelings, told him she was done waiting, chastised him for wasting so much time rather than figuring it out?And yet, what was there to figure out? While a mixed-marriage between a Catholic and someone who practiced another form of Christianity was possible with a special dispensation, it was frowned upon and highly discouraged.Marriage to a person of any other faith, or non-faith, was forbidden.When the tide had dropped enough to set out for Healing Sands, he did so, attempting to distract his thoughts by constructing physics lessons from the forces of nature—wind, temperature, granular matter, liquid, solids.He wondered if the emptiness and uncertainty he felt, and the ache in the pit of his stomach that threatened to reverse the direction of the digesting duct, were about his investigation.Or Missouri.He knew it was very possible he was avoiding returning home and facing her.And yet he also knew this case was not over.Even Captain Bell had declared there were yet unknowns.Captain Bell could live with them, Bradshaw could not.Chapter Thirty-threeThe next morning, he was off again with the low tide, this time driving south with all his belongings in the Stanley [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]