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WITHIN THE TIDES 



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WITHIN THE TIDES 
(*oor TALES 

VI) ^^ij JOSEPH CONRAD 

\9\^ 





Go, make yon ready. 

Hamlet to iht Players. 



LONDON * TORONTO 
J. M. DENT & SONS LTD. 

MCMXV 



So 



Mr. and Mrs. RALPH WEDGWOOD 

WIS A, OF CAR..,|ttB ANTB-BIUUH PACK 

«N ORAniOn, «,R TH„, CHARWKO HOSP.TAL.Ty 

IN TBI LAST MONTH OP PEACE 



.( 



I ;' 



,1 



CONTENTS 



The Planter of Maiata . , 
The Pastner . 
iHE Inn of the Two Witches 
Because of the Doliaes 



FAOt 
I 

"7 
'73 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



In the private editorial office of the principal news- 
paper in a great colonial city two men were talking 
They were both young. The stouter of the two. 
fair, and with more of an urban look about him' 
was the editor and part-owner of the important 
newspaper. 

The other's name was Renouard. That he was 
exercised in his mind about something was evident 
on his fine bronzed face. He was a lean, lounging, 
active man. The journalist continued the conver- 
sation. 

"And so you were dining yesterday at old 
Dunster's." 

He used the word old not in the endearing sense 
in which it is sometimes applied to intimates, but 
as a matter of sober fact. The Dunster in question 
was old. He had been an eminent colonial states- 
man, but had now retired from active politics after 
a tour in Europe and a lengthy stay in England 
durmg which he had had a very good press indeed. 
The colony was proud of him. 



4 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

"Yes. I dined there," said Renouard. "Young 
Dunster asked me just as I was going out of his 
office. It seemed to be like a sudden thought. 
And yet I can't help suspecting some purpose be- 
hind it. He was very pressing. He swore that 
his uncle would be very pleased to se? me. Said 
his imcle had mentioned lately that the granting 
to me of the Malata concession vas the last act of 
his official life." 

" Very touching. The old boy sentimentalises 
over the past now and then." 

" I really don't know why I accepted," coutinued 
the other. " Sentiment does not move me very 
easily. Old Dunster was civil to me of course, but 
he did not even inquire how I was getting on with 
my silk plants. Forgot there was such a thing 
probably. I must say there were more people 
there than I expected to meet. Quite a big party." 

" I was asked," remarked thu newspaper man. 
" Only I couldn't go. But when did you arrive 
from Malata? " 

" I arrived yesterday at daylight. I am anchored 
out there in t^^ bay — off Garden Point. I was in 
Dunster's office before he had finished reading his 
letters. Have you ever seen young Dunster read- 
ing his letters? I had a glimpse of him through 
the open door. He holds the paper in both handb. 
hunches his shoulders up to his ugly ears, and brings 



.. i 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 5 

his long nose and his thick Hps on to it like a suck- 
ing apparatus. A commereial monster." 

"Here we don't consider him a monster." said 
the newspaper man looking at his visitor thought- 

uuy. 

" Probably not. You are used to see his face 
ajid to see other faces. I don't know how it is 
that when I come to town, the appearance of the 
people m the street strike me with such force. 
They seem so awfuUy expressive." 

" And not charming." 

"WeU-no. Not as a rule. The effect is for- 
cible without being clear. ... I know that you 
thmk It's because of my soUtaiy mamier of Ufe 
away there." 

"Yes. I do think so. It is demoraUsing. You 
don t see any one for months at a stretch. You're 
leading an unhealthy life." 

The other hardly smiled and muir- red the 
admi^ion that true enough it was a gc eleven 
months since he had been in town last. 

"You see," insisted the other. "Solitude 
works like a sort of poison. And then you 
perceive suggestions in face^mysterious and 
forcible, that no sound man would be bothered 
with. Of course you do." 

Geoffi-ey Renouard did not tell his journalist 
fnend that the suggestions of his own face, the face 



6 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

of a friend, bothered him as much as the others. 
He detected a degrading quality in the touches of 
age which every day adds to a human countenance. 
They moved and disturbed him, like the signs of 
a horrible inward travail which was irightfully 
apparent to the fresh eye he had brought from his 
isolation in Malata, where he had settled after five 
strenuous years of adventure and exploration. 

" It's a fact," he said, " that when I am at home 
in Malata I see no one consciously. I take the 
plantation boys for granted." 

" Well, and we here take the people in the streets 
for granted. And that's sanity." 

The visitor said nothing to this for fear of 
engaging a discussion. What he had come to seek 
in the editorial office was not controversy, but 
information. Yet somehow he hesitated to 
approach the subject. Solitary life makes a man 
reticent in respect of anything in the nature of 
gossip, which those to whom chatting about their 
kind is an everyday exercise regard as the com- 
monest use of speech. 

" You very busy? " he asked. 

The Editor making red marks on a long sUp of 
printed paper threw the pencil down. 

"No. I am done. Social paragraphs. This 
offict; is the place where everjrthing is known about 
everybody— including even a great deal of nobodies. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 7 

Queer feUows drift in and out of this room. Waifs 
and strays from home, from up-country, from the 
Pacific. And, by the way, last time you were here 
you picked up one of that sort for your assistant— 
didn't you?" 

"I engaged an assistant only to stop your 
preaching about the evils of solitude," said 
Renouard hastily; and the pressman laughed at 
the half-resentful tone. His laugh was not very 
loud, but his plump person shook all over. He was 
aware that his younger friend's deference to his 
advice was based only on an imperfect beUef in 
his wisdom— or his sagacity. But it was he who 
had first helped Renouard in his plans of explom- 
tion: the five-years' programme of scientific adven- 
ture, of work, of danger and endurance, carried out 
with such distinction and rewarded modestly with 
the lease of Malata island by the ugal colonial 
government. And this reward, too, had been 
due to the journalist's advocacy with word and 
pen— for he was an influential man in the com- 
munity. Doubting very much if Renouard reaUy 
liked him, he was himself without great sympathy 
for a certain side of that man which he could not 
quite make out. He only felt it obE>ji,rely to be 
his real personaUty— the true— and, perhaps, the 
absurd. As, for instance, in that utse of the assist- 
ant. Renouard had given way to the arguments 



8 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

of his friend and backer— the aigiunent against 
the unwholesome effect of solitude, the argument 
for the safety of companionship even if quarrel- 
some. Very well. In this dociUty he was sensible 
and even likeable. But what did he do next? 
Instead of taking counsel as to the choice with his 
old backer and friend, and a man, btsides, knowing 
everybody employed and unemployed on the pave- 
ments of the town, this extraordinary Renouard 
suddenly and ahnost surreptitiously picked up a 
fellow— God knows who— and sailed away with 
him back to Malata in a hurry; a proceeding obvi- 
ously ra«h and at the same time not quite straight. 
That was the sort of thing. The secretly unfor- 
giving journalist laughed a little longer and then 
ceased to shake all over. 
" Oh, yes. About that assistant of yours. . . ." 
" What about him," said Renouard, after wait- 
ing a while, with a shadow of uneasiness on his face. 
" Have you nothing to tell me of him? " 
"Nothing except. . . ." Incipient grimness 
vanished out of Renouard's aspect and his voice, 
while he hesitated as if reflecting seriously before 
he changed his mind. "No. Nothing whatever." 
" You haven't brought him along with you by 
chance — for a change." 

The Planter of Malata stared, then shook his 
head, and finally murmured carelessly: " I think 



■^ 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 9 

he's very weU where he is. But I wish you could 
teU me why young Dunster insisted so much on 
my dining with his uncle last night. Everybody 
knows I am not a society man." 

The Editor exclaimed at so much modesty. 
Didn't his friend know that he was their one and 
only exploier-that he was the man experimentinR 

with the silk plant 

" StiJl, that doesn't teU me why I was invited 
yesterday. For young Dunster never thought of 
this civility before. . . ." 

" Our WiUie." said the popular journalist, " never 
does anything without a purpose, that's a fact." 
" And to his uncle's house tool " 
" He lives there." 

" Yes. But he might have given me a feed 
somewhere else. The extraordinary part is that 
the old man did not seem to have anything special 
to say. He smiled kindly on me once or twice 
and that was all. It was quite a party, sixteen 
people." 

The Editor then, after expressing his regret that 
he had not been able to come, wanted to know if the 
party had been entertaining. 

Renouard regretted that his friend had not been 
there. Being a man whose business or at least whose 
profession was to know everything that went on in 
this part of the globe, he could probably have told 



10 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



him something of some people lately anived from 
home, who were amongst the guests. Young 
Dunster (Willie), with his large shirt front and 
streaks of white skin shining unpleasantly through 
the thin black hair pkutered over the top of his 
head, bore down on him and introduced him to that 
party, as if he had been a trained dog or a child 
phenomenon. Decidedly, he said, he disliked 
Willie — one of these large oppressive men. . . . 

A silence fell, and it was as if Renouard were not 
going to say anything more when, suddenly, he 
came out with the real object of his visit to the 
editorial room. 

" They looked to me like people under a spell." 

The Editor gazed at him appreciatively, thinlrin g 
that, whether the effect of solitude or not, this was 
a proof of a sensitive perception of the expression 
of faces. 

" You omitted to tell me their name, but I can 
make a guess. You mean Professor Moorsom, 
his daughter and sister— don't you? " 

Renouard assented. Yes, a white-haired lady. 
But from his silence, with his eyes fixed, yet avoid- 
ing his friend, it was easy to guess that it was not 
in the white-haired lady that he was interested. 

" Upon my word," he said, recovering his usual 
bearing. " It looks to me as if I had been asked 
there only for the daughter to talk to me." 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



II 



He did not conceal that he had been greatly 
•truck by her appearance. Nobody could have 
helped being impressed. She was different from 
everybody else in that house, and it was not only 
the effect of her London clothtr He did not take 
her down to dinner. Willie did that. It was 
afterwards, on the tentice. . . . 

The evening was delightfully cahn. He was 
sitting apart and alone, and wishing himself some- 
where else— on board the schooner for choice, with 
the dinner-harness off. He hadn't exchanged 
forty words altogether during t le evening with the 
other guests. He saw her sudtlenly aU by herself 
coming towards him along the dimly hghted 
terrace, quite from a distance. 

She was taU and supple, carrying nobly on her 
straight body a head of a character which to 
him appeared pecuUw, something— well— pagan, 
crowned with a great wealth of hair. He had been 
about to rise, but her decided approach caused him 
to remain on the seat. He had not looked much 
at her that evening. He had not that freedom of 
gaze acquired by the habit of society and the 
frequent meetings with strangers. It was not 
shyness, but the reserve of a man not used to 
the world and to the practice of covert staring, 
with careless curiosity. AU he had captured by 
his arst. keen, instantly lowered, glance was the 



M THE PLANTER OF KALATA 

impreidon that her hair was magnificently red 
and her eyes very blaclc. It was a troubling effect, 
but it had been evanescent; he had forgotten it 
ahnost till very unexpectedly he saw her coming 
down the terrace slow and eager, as if she were 
restraining herself, and with a rhythmic upward 
undulation of her whole figure. The light from an 
open window fell across her path, and suddenly all 
that mass of arranged hair appeared incandescent, 
chiselled and fluid, with the daring suggestion of 
a hehnet of burnished copper and the f -.ving lines 
of molten metal. It kindled in him an astonished 
admiration. But he said nothing of it to his friend 
the Editor. Neither Jid he tell him that her 
approach woke up in his brain the image of love's 
infinite grace and the sense of the inexhaustible 
joy that lives in beauty. No I What he imparted 
to the Editor were no emotions, but mere facts 
conveyed in a deliberate voice and in uninspired 
words. 

" That young lady came and sat down by me. 
She said: ' Are you French, Mr. Rti.ouard? ' " 

He had brcthed a whifi of perfume of which he 
said nothing either— of some perfume he did not 
know. Her ^oice was low and distinct. Hjr 
shoulders and her bare arms gleamed with an 
extraordinary spJendour, and when she advanced 
her head into the hght he saw the admirable con- 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 13 

tour of the face, the straight fine noM with delicate 
nortrU, the exquisite crimson brushstroke of the 
lips on this oval without colour. The expression of 
the eyes was lost in a shadowy mysterious play of 
jet and silver, stirring under the red coppery gold 
of the hair as though she had been a being made of 
ivory and precious metals changed into Uving tissue. 
"... I told her my people were living in Canada, 
but that I was brought up in England before 
conung out here. I can't imagine what interest 
she could have in my history." 
" And you complain of her interest? " 
The accent of the aU-knowing journalist seemed 
to jar on the Flant-r of Malata. 

" No I " he said, in a deadened voice that was 
ahnost suUen. But after a short silence he went 
on- "Very extraordinary. I told her I came out 
to wander at large in the world when I was nine- 
teen, ahnost directly after I left school. It seems 
that her late brother was in the same school a 
couple of years before me. She wanted me to tell 
her what I did at first when I came out her ; what 
other men found to do when they can i out- 
where they went, what was Ukely to happen to 
them-as if I could guess and foreteU from my 
experience the fates of men who come out here 
with a hundred different projects, for hmidreds of 
different reasons-for no reason but restlessness- 



X4 THE PLANTER OF JIALATA 

who come, and go, and disappear I Preposterous. 
She seemed to want to hear their histories. I told 
her that most of them were not worth teUing." 

The distinguished journalist leaning on his elbow, 
his head resting against the knuckles of his left 
hand, listened with great attention, but gave no 
sign of that surprise which Renouard, pausing, 
seemed to expect. 

"You knowsomething," the latter said brusquely. 
The all-knowing man moved his head slightly and 
said, " Yes. But go on." 

" It's just this. There is no more to it. I found 
ms^self talking to her of my adventures, of my early 
dajre. It couldn't possibly have interested her. 
Really," he cried, "this is most extraordinary. 
Those people have something on their minds. We 
sat in the Ught of the window, and her father 
prowled about the terrace, with his hands behind 
his back and his head drooping. The white- 
haired ladycame to the dining-room window twice — 
to look at us I am certain. The other guests began 
to go away— and still we sat there. Apparently 
these people are staying with the Dunsters. It was 
old Mrs. Dunster who put an end to the thing. 
The father and the aunt circled about as if they 
were afraid of interfering with the girl. Then she 
got up all at once, gave me her hand, and said she 
hoped she would see me again." 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 15 

Wlnle he was speaking Renouard saw again ihe 
sway of her figure in a movement of grace and 
strength— felt the pressure of her hand— heard the 
last accents of the deep murmur that came from 
her throat so white in the Ught of the window, and 
remembered the black rays of her steady eyes 
passing ofi his face when she turned away. He 
remembered aU this visuaUy, and it was not exactly 
pleasurable. It was rather startling like the dis- 
covery of a new faculty in himself. There are 
faculties one would rather do without— such, for 
instance, as seeing through a stone wall or re- 
membering a person with this uncanny vividness. 
And what about those two people belonging to her 
with their air of expectant soUcitudel Really, 
those figures from home got in front of one. In 
fact, their persistence in getting between him and 
the solid f onns of the everyday material world had 
driven Renouard to call on his friend at the office. 
He hoped that a littie common, gossipy informa- 
tion would lay the ghost of that unexpected dinner- 
party. Of course the proper person to go to would 
have been young Dunster, but he couldn't stand 
Willie Dunster— not at any price. 

In the pause the Editor had changed his attitude 
faced his desk, and smiled a faint knowing smUe. ' 
" Striking girl— eh? " he said. 
The incongruity of the word was enough to make 



x6 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



one jump out of the chair. Striking I That girl 
strikingl Stri . . .1 But Renouard restrained his 
feelings. His friend was not a person to give one- 
self away to. And, after all, this sort of speech 
was what he had come there to hear. As, however, 
he had made a movement he re-settled himself 
comfortably and said, with very creditable in- 
difierence, that yes— she was, rather. Especially 
amongst a lot of over-dressed fiiunps. There 
wasn't one woman under forty there. 

" Is that the way to speak of the cream of our 
society; the ' top of the basket,' as the French 
say," the Editor remonstrated with mock indigna- 
tion. " You aren't moderate in your expressions 
— ^you know." 

" I express mjrself very Uttle," interjected 
Renouard seriously. 

" I will tell you what you are. You are a fellow 
that doesn't count the cost. Of course you are 
safe with me, but will you never learn. . . ." 

" What struck me most," interrupted the other, 
" is that she should pick me out for such a long 
conversation." 

"That's perhaps because you were the most 
remarkable of the men there." 

Renouard shook his head. 

" This shot doesn't seem to me to hit the mark," 
he said cahnly. " Try again." 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 17 

"Don't you believe me? Oh, you modest 
Cloture. WeU. let me assure you that under 
ordmary circumstances it would have been a good 
shot. You are sufficiently remarkable. But you 
seem a pretty acute customer too. The circum- 
stances are extraordinary. By Jove they arel" 

He mused. After a time the Planter of Malata 
dropped a negligent— 
" And you know them." 
"And I know them." assented the aU-knowing 
Editor, soberly, as though the occasion were too 
special for a display of professional vanity a 
vamty so well known to Renouard that its abs^ce 
augmented his wonder and almost made him un- 
easy as if portending bad news of some sort. 
'' You have met those people? " he asked. 
" No. I was to have met them last night, but 
I had to send an apology to Willie in the morning 
It was then that he had the bright idea to invife 
you to fill the place, from a muddled notion that 
you could be of use. Willie is stupid sometimes. 
For It IS dear that you are the last man able to 
help." 

" How on earth do I come to be mixed up in 
this-whatever it is?" Renouard's voice was 
shghtly altered by nervous iiritation. "I only 
arrived here yesterday morning." 



A. W 



i8 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



II 

His friend the Editor turned to him squarely. 
" Willie took me into consultation, and since he 
seems to have let you in I may just as well tell you 
what is up. I shall try to be as short as I can. 
But in confidence — ^mindl " 

He waited. Renouard, his uneas" 'ess growing 
on him unreasonably, assented by a nod, and the 
other lost no time in beginning. Professor Moor- 
som — physicist and philosopher — fine head of 
white hair, to judge from the photographs— plenty 
of brains in the head too — all these famous books — 
surely even Renouard would know. . . . 

Renouard muttered moodily that it wasn't his 
sort of reading, and his friend hastened to assive 
him earnestly that neither was it his sort — excapt 
as a matter of business and duty, for the litdrary 
page o.. that newspaper which was his property (and 
the pride of his life). The only literary newspaper 
in the Antipodes could not ignore the fashionable 
philosopher of the age. Not that anybody read 
Moorsom at the Antipodes, but everybody had 
heard of him — ^women, children, dock labourers, 
cabmen. The only person (besides himself) who 
had read Moorsom, as far as he knew, was old 
Dvuister, who used to call himself a Moorsomian (or 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 19 

was it Moorsomite) years and years ago, long before 
Mooreom had worked himself up into the great 
swell he was now, in every way.... Socially too. 
Quite the fashion in the highest world 

Renouard Hstened with profoundly concealed 
attenbon. " A charlatan," he muttered languidly. 
Well-no. I should say not. I shouldn't 
wonder though if most of his writing had been done 
with his tongue in his cheek. Of course. That's 
to be expected. I tell you what: the only really 
honest writing is to be fomid in newspapers and 
nowhere else— and don't you forget it " 

The Editor paused with a basilisk stare till 
Renouard had conceded a casual: " I dare say " 
and only then went on to explain that old Dunster 
durmg his European tour, had been made rather a 
Hon of m London, where he stayed with the Moor- 
soms-he meant the father and the girl The 
profeKor had been a widower for a long time 
She doesn't look just a girl." muttered Re- 

Had been playmg the London hostess to tip-top 
people ever since she put her hair up, probably 

I don't expect to see any girlish bloom on 
her when I do have the privilege.' he continued. 
Those people are staying with the Dunster's incog. 
m a manner, you understand-something li 
royalties. They don't deceive anybody, but th. 




30 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



want to be left to themselves. We have even kept 
them out of the paper — to oblige old Dunster. 
But we shall put your arrival in — our local 
celebrity." 

" Heavens. " 

" Yes. Mr. G. Renouard, the explorer, whose 
indomitable energy, etc., and who is now working 
for the prosperity of our country in another way 
on his Malata plantation . . . And, by th? by, 
how's the silk plant— flourishing? " 

" Yes." 

" Did you bring any fibre ? " 

" Schooner-fuU." 

" I see. To be transhipped to Liverpool for 
experimental manufacture, eh? Eminent capital- 
ists at home very much interested, aren't they? " 

" They are." 

A silence fell. Then the Editor uttered slowly— 

" You will be a rich man some day." 

Renouard's face dia not betray his opinion of 
that confident prophecy. He didn't say anything 
till his friend suggested in the same meditative 
voice — 

" You ought to interest Moorsom in the afiair 
too— since Willie has let you in." 

"A philosopher! " 

" I suppose he isn't above making a bit of money. 
And he may be clever at it for all you know. I 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA ai 

have a notion that he's a fairly practical old cove 
. . Anyhow." and here the tone of the speaker 
took on a tinge of respect. " he has made philo- 
Sophy pay." 

Renouard raised his eyes, repressed an impulse 
to jump up, and got out of the arm-chair slowly 
It isn't perhaps a bad idea." he said. " I'U 
have to call there in any case." 

He wondered whether he had managed to keep 
his voice steady, its tone unconcerned enough 
for his emotion was strong though it had nothing 
to do with the business aspect of this suggest.^ 
He moved in the room in vague preparation for 
depa.1ure, when he heard a soft laugh. He spun 
about qmckly with a frown, but the Editor was 
not kughing at him. He was chuckling across 
the bjg desk at the wall: a preUminaiy of some 
speech for which Renouard, recalled to himself 
waited silent and mistrustful. 

"No! You would never guess! No one would 

ever guess what these people are after. Willie's 

ey^ bulged out when he came to me with the tale " 

They always do," remarked Renouard with 

disgust. " He's stupid." 

"He was startled. And w was I after he told 

me. Its a search party. They are out looking for 

a man. Willie's soft heart's enlisted in the caiL " 

Renouard repeated: "Looking for a man'" 



33 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



He sat down suddenly as if on purpose to stare. 
" Did Willie come to you to borrow the lantern," 
he asked sarcastically, and got up again for no 
apparent reason. 

" What lantern? " snapped the puzzled Editor, 
and his face darkened with suspicion. " You, 
Renouard, are always alluding to things that 
aren't clear to me. If you were in politics, I, as 
a party journalist, wouldn't trust you further 
than I could see you. Not an inch further. You 
are such a sophisticated beggar. Listcsn: the 
man is the man Miss Moorsom was engaged to for 
a year. He couldn' : uave been a nobody, anyhow. 
But he doesn't seem to have been very wise. Hard 
luck for the yoTmg lady." 

He spoke with feeling. It was dear that what 
he had to tell appealed to his sentiment. Yet, as 
an experienced man of the world, he marked his 
amused wonder. Young man of good family and 
connections, going ever5nvhere, yet not merely a 
man about town, but with a foot in the two big F's. 

Renouard lounging aimlessly in the room turned 
round: " And what the devil's that? " he asked 
faintly. 

" Why Fashion and Finance," explained the 
Editor. "That's how I call it. There are the 
three R's at the bottom of the social edifice and 
the two F's on the top. See? " 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 23 

"Hal Hal Excellent! Hal Ha!" Renouard 
laughed with stony eyes. 

" And yor proceed from one set to the other in 
this democratic age," the Editor went on with 
unperturbed complacency. " That is if you are 
clever enough. The only danger is in being too 
clever. And I think something of the sort hap- 
pened here. That swe" I am speaking of got 
himself into a mess. Apparently a very ugly mess 
j of a financial character. You will understand that 

( I Willie did not go into details with me. They were 

I not imparted to him with very great abimdance 

I either. But a bad mess— something of the 

criminal order. Of course he was innocent. But 
I h(: had to quit all the same." 

I "Ha! Ha!" Renouard laughed again abruptly, 

staring as before. " So there's one more big F in 
j the tale." 

4 "What do you mean?" inquired the Editor 

quickly, with an air as if his patent were being 
infringed. 
" I mean — Fool." 

" No. I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say 
that." 

" Well— let him be a scoundrel then. What the 
devil do I care." 

" But hold on! You haven't heard the end of 
the story." 



84 THE PIANTER OF BIALATA 

Renouard, his hat on his head already, sat down 
with the disdainful smile of a man who had dis- 
counted the moral of the story. Still he sat down 
and the Editor swimg his revolving chair right 
round. He was full of unction. 

" Imprudent, I should say. In many ways 
money is as dangerous to handle as gunpowder. 
You can't be too careful either as to who you are 
working with. Anyhow there was a mighty flashy 
burst up, a sensation, and — his familiar haunts 
knew him no more. But before he vanished he 
went to see Miss Moorsom. That very fact argues 
for his iimocence— don't it? What was said 
between them no man knows — ^unless the professor 
had the confidence from his daughter. There 
couldn't have been much to say. There was 
nothing for it but to let him go— was there? — for 
the afiair had got ii>to the papers. And perhaps 
the kindest thing would have been to forget him. 
Anyway the easiest. Forgiveness would have 
been more difficult, I fancy, fyr a young lady of 
spirit and position drawn into an ugly afiair like 
that. Any ordinary young lady, I mean. Well, 
the fellow asked nothing better than to be forgotten, 
only he didn't find it easy to do so himself, because 
he would write home now and then. Not to any 
of his friends though. He had no near relations. 
The professor had been his guardian. No, the poor 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA aj 

devil wrote now and then to an old retired butler 
of his late father, somewhere in the country, for- 
bidding him at the same time to let any one know 
of his whereabouts. So that worthy old ass would 
go up and dodge about the Moorsom's town house, 
perhaps waylay Miss Moorsom's maid, and then 
would write to ' Master Arthur ' that the young 
lady looked weU and happy, or some such cheerful 
intelligence. I dare say he wanted to be forgotten, 
but I shouldn't think he was much cheered by the 
news. What would you say? " 

Renouard, his legs stretched out and his chin on 
his breast, said nothing. A sensation which was 
not curiosity, but rather a vague nervous anxiety, 
distinctly unpleasant, like a mysterious symptom 
of some malady, prevented him from getting up 
and s^ing a^vay. 

" Mixed feeli^s." the Editor opined. " Many 
fellows out here -eceive news from home with 
mixed feelings. But what will his feelings be 
when he hears ;vhat I am going to tell you now? 
For we know he has not heard yet. Six months 
ago a city clerk, just a common drudge of finance, 
gets himself convicted of a common embezzlement 
or something of that kind. Then seemg he's in 
for a long sentence he thinks of making his con- 
science comfortable, and makes a clean breast of 
an old story of tampered with, or else suppressed. 



a6 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



documents, a story which clears altogether the 
honesty of our ruined gentleman. That embez- 
zling fellow was m a position to know, having been 
employed by the firm before the smash. There 
was no doubt about the character being cleared — 
but where the cleared man was nobody could tell. 
Another sensation in society. And then Miss 
Moorsom says: ' He will come back to claim me, 
and I'll marry him.' But he didn't come back. 
Between you and me I don't think he was much 
wanted — except by Miss Moorsom. I imagine 
she's used to have her own way. She grew 
impatient, and deckred that if she knew where the 
man was she would go to him. But all that could 
be got out of the old butler was that the last 
envelope bore the postm^ji: of our be:.utiful city; 
and that this was the only address of ' Master 
Arthur' that he ever had. That and no more. 
In fact the fellow was at his last gasp — with a bad 
heart. Miss Moorsom wasn't allowed to see him. 
She had gone herself into the country to learn what 
she could, but she had to stay downstairs while 
the old chap's wife went up to the invaUd. She 
brought down the scrap of intelligence I've told 
you of. He was aheady too far gone to be cross- 
examined on it, and that very night he died. He 
didn't leave behind him much to go by, did he? 
Our Willie hinted to me that there had been pretty 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 37 

itotmy days in the professor's house, but-Jiere 
they are. I have a notion she isn't the Idnd of 
everyday young lady who may be permitted to 
gallop about the wo Id all by herself— eh ? Well, I 
think it rather fine of her, but I quite understand 
that the professor needed all his philosophy under 
the circumstances. She is his only child now— 
and brilliant— what? Willie positively spluttered 
trying to describe her to me; and I could see 
dmscUy you came in that you had an uncommon 
experience." 

Renouard, with an irritated gesture, tilted his 
hat more forward on his eyes, as though he were 
bored. The Editor went on w..h the remark that 
to be sure neither he (Renouard) nor yet Willie 
were much rsed to meet girls of that remarkable 
superiority. Willie when learning business with 
a firm in London, years before, had seen none but 
boarding-house society, he guessed. As to him- 
self in the good old dajrs, when he trod the glorious 
flags of Fleet Street, he neither had access to, nor 
yet would have cared for the sweUs. Nothing 
interested him then but parliamentary politics 
and the oratory of the House of Commons. 

He paid to this not very distant past the tribute 
of a tender, reminiscent sm'V,, and returned to 
his first idea that for a society girl her action was 
rather fine. All the same the professor could not 



28 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



be very pleased. The fellow if he was as pure as 
a lily now was just about as devoid of the goods of 
the earth. And there were misfortunes, however 
undeserved, which damaged a man's standing per- 
manently. On the other hand, it was diificult to 
oppose cynically a noble impulse— not to speak of 
the great love at the root of it. Ah! Love! And 
then the lady was quite capable of going off by 
herself. She was of age, she had money of her own, 
plenty of pluck too. Moorsom must have con- 
cluded that it was more truly paternal, more 
prudent too, and generally safer all round to let 
himself be dragged into this chase. The aunt 
came along for the same reasons. It was given 
out at home as a trip round the world of the usual 
kind. 

Renouard had risen and remained standing 
with his heart beating, and strangely affected by 
this tale, robbed as it was of all glamour by the 
prosaic personality of the narrator. The Editor 
added: " I've been asked to help in the search— 
you know." 

Renouard muttered something about an appoint- 
ment and went out into the street. His inborn 
sanity could not defend him from a misty creeping 
jealousy. He thought that obviously no man of 
that sort could be worthy of such a woman's 
devoted fidelity. Renouard, however, had lived 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 29 

long enough to reflect that a man's activities, his 
viaws, and even his ideas may be very inferior to 
bis wiiaracter; and moved by a delicate considera- 
tio.i for that splendid girl he tried to think out for 
the man a character of inward excellence and out- 
ward gifts— some extraordinary seduction. But in 
vain. Fresh from months of solitude and from days 
at sea, her splendour presented itself to him abso- 
lutely unconquerable in its perfection, unless by her 
own folly. It was easier to suspect her of this than 
to imagine in the man qualities which would be 
worthy of her. Easier and less degrading. Because 
folly may be generous— could be nothing else but 
generosity in her; whereas to imagine her sub- 
jugated by something common was intolerable. 

Because of the force of the physical impression 
he had received from her personality (and such 
impressions are the real origins of the deepest 
movements of our soul) this conception of her was 
even inconceivable. But no Prince Charming has 
ever lived out of a fairy tale. He doesn't walk 
the worlds of Fashion and Finance— and with a 
stumbling gait at that. Generosity. Yes. It 
was her generosity. But this generosity was 
altogether regal in its splendour, ahnost absurd in 
in its lavishness— or, perhaps, divine. 

In the evening, on board his schooner, sitting on 
the rail, his arms folded on his breast and his eyes 



30 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

fixed on the deck, he let the darkness catch him 
unawares in the midst of a medita'don on the 
mechanism of sentiment and the springs of passion. 
And all the time he had an abiding consciousness of 
her bodily presence. The effect on his senses had 
been so penetrating that in the middle of the 
night, rousing up suddenly, wide-eyed in the dark- 
ness of his cabin, he did not create a faint mental 
vision of her person for himself, but, more intim- 
ately affected, he scented distinctly the faint per- 
fume she used, and could almost have sworn that he 
had been awakened by the soft rustle of her dress. 
He even sat up listening in the dark for a time, then 
sighed and lay down again, not agitated but, on 
the contrary, oppressed by the sensation of some- 
thing that had happened to him and could not be 
undone. 



HI 

In the afternoon he lounged into the editorial office, 
carrying with affected nonchalance that weight of 
the irremediable he had felt laid on him suddenly 
i-- the small hours of the night— that consciousness 
of something that could no longer be helped. His 
patronising friend informed him at once that he 
had made the acquaintance of the Moorsom party 
last night. At the Dunsters, of course. Dinner. 



-«^37 w. * 






THE PLANTER OF MALATA 31 

"Very quiet. Nobody there. It \ras much 
better for the business. I say . . ." 

Renouard, his hand grasping the back of a chair, 
stared down at him dumbly. 

" Phew! That's a stunning girl Why do 

you want to sit on that chair? It's uncomfort- 
able I" 

" I wasn't going to sit on it." Renouard walked 
slowly to the window, glad to find in himself 
enough self-control to let go the chair instead 
of raising it on high and bringing it down on the 
Editor's head. 

" Willie kept on gazing at her with tears in his 
boiled eyes. You should have seen him bending 
sentimentally over her at dinner." 

" Don't," said Renouard in such an anguished 
tone that the Editor turned right round to look at' 
his back. 

"You push your disUke of young Dunster too far. 
It's positively morbid," he disapproved mildly. 
" We can't be all beautiful after thirty. ... I 
talked a Uttle, about you mostly, to the professor. 
He appeared to be interested in the silk plant— if 
only as a change ffom the great subject. Miss 
Moorsom didn't seem to mind when I confessed to 
her that I had taken you into the confidence of the 
thing. Our Willie approved too. Old Dunster 
with his white beard seemed to give me his blessing. 



3a THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

All those people have a great opinion of you, 
simply because I told them that you've led every 
sort of Ufe one can think of before vou got struck 
on explorption. They want you to make sugges- 
tions. What do you thick 'Master Arthur' is 
likely to have taken to? " 

" Sometiiing easy," muttered Renouard without 
unclenching his teeth. 

" Hunting man. Athlete. Don't be hard on 
the chap. He may be riding boundaries, or drov- 
ing cattle, or humping his swag afjout the back- 
blocks away to the devil— somewhere. He may 
be even prospecting at the back of beyond— this 
very moment." 

" Or lying dead drunk in a roadside pub. It's 
late enough in the day for that." 

The Editor looked up instinctively. The clock 
was pointing at a quarter to five. " Yes, it is," he 
admitted. " But it needn't be. And he may have 
lit out into the Western Pacific all of a sudden- 
say in a trading schooner. Though I really don't 
see in what capacity. Still . . ." 

" Or he may be passing at this very moment 
under this very window." 

" Not he . . . and I wish you would get away 
from it to where one can se« your face. I hate 
talking to a man's back. You stand tb^re like 
a hermit on a sea-shore growling to yom'self. 



'^j.'^^m^n., ■<:k 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 33 

I teU you what it is. GeofErey. you don't like 
mankind." 

" I don't make my living by talking about man- 
kind's afiairs," Renouard defended himself. But he 
came away obediently and sat down in the arm- 
chair. " How can you be so certain that your man 
isn't down there in the street? " he asked. " It's 
neither more nor less probable than every single 
one of your other suppositions." 

Placated by Renouard's docility the Editor 
gazed at him for a whUe. "Aha! I'll teU you 
how. Learn then that we have begun the cam- 
paign. We have telegraphed his description to 
the police of every township up and down the land. 
And what's more we've ascertained definitely that 
he hasn't been in this town for the last three 
months at least. How much longer he's been away 
we can't tell." 
" That's very curious." 

" It's very simple. Miss Moorsom wrote to him. 
to the post office here, dkectly she returned to 
Londo^ after her excursion into the country to 
see the old butler. WeU-her letter is still lying 
there. It has not been called for. Ergo, this 
town is not his usual abode. Personally, I never 
thought it was. But he cannot fail to turn up 
some time or other. Our main hope lies just in 
the certitude that he must come to town sooner or 



34 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



later. Remember he doesn't know that the butler 
is dead, and he will want to inquire for a letter. 
Well, he'll find a note from Miss Moorsom." 

Renouard, silent, thought that it was likely 
enough. His profound distaste for this conversa- 
tion was betrayed by an afr of weariness darkening 
his energetic sun-tanned features, and by the 
augmented dreaminess of his eyes. The Editor 
noted it as a further proof of that immoral detach- 
ment from mankind, of that callousness of senti- 
ment fostered by the unhealthy conditions of 
soUtude— according to his own favourite theory. 
Aloud he observed that as long as a man had not 
given up correspondence he could not be looked 
upon as lost. Fugitive criminals had been tracked 
in that way by justice, he reminded his friend; 
then suddenly changed the bearing of the subject 
somewhat by asking if Renouard had heard from 
his people lately, and if every member of his large 
tribe was well and happy. 

" Yes, thanks." 

The tone was curt, as if repelling a Uberty. 
Renouard did not Uke being asked about his people, 
for whom he had a profound and remorseful affec- 
tion. He had not seen a single human being to 
whom he was related, for many years, and he was 
extremely different from them all. 

On the very morning of his arrival from his 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 35 

island he had gone to a set of pigeon-holes in 
Willie Dunster's outer office and had taken out 
from a compartment labellod " Malata " a very 
small accumulation of envelopes, a few addressed 
to himself, and one addressed to his assistant, all 
to the care of the finn, W. Dunster and Co. As 
opportunity offered, the firm used to send them on 
to Malata either by a man-of-war schooner going 
on a cruise, or by some trading craft proceeding 
that way. But for the last four months there had 
been no opportunity. 

" You going to stay here some time? " asked 
the Editor, after a longish silence. 

Renouard, perfunctorily, did see no reason why 
he should make a long stay. 

"For health, for your mental health, my boy," 
rejoined the newspaper man. "To get used to 
human faces so that they don't hit you in the eye 
so hard when you walk about the streets. To get 
friendly with your kind. I suppose that assistant 
of yours can be trusted to look after things?" 

" There's the half-caste too. The Portuguese. 
He knows what's to be done." 

"Aha I" The Editor looked sharply at his 
friend. " What's his name ? " 

" Who's name? " 

" The assistant's you picked up on the sly behind 
my back." 



36 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



Renouaid made a slight movement of impatience. 

" I met him unexpectedly one evening. I 
thought he would do as well as another. He had 
come from up country and didn't seem happy in a 
town. He told me his name was Walter. I did 
not ask him for proofs, you know." 

" I don't think you get on very well with him." 

" Why ? What makes you think so." 

" I don't know. Something reluctant in your 
manner when he's in question." 

" Really. My maimer I I don't think he's a 
great subject for conversation, perhaps. Why not 
drop him? " 

" Of course ! You wouldn't confess to a mistake. 
Not you. Nevertheless I have my suspicions 
about it." 

Renouard got up to go, but hesitated, looking 
down at the seated Editor. 

" How funny," he said at last with the utmost 
seriousness, and was making for the door, when the 
voice of his friend stopped him. 

" You know what has been said of you? That 
you couldn't get on with anybody you couldn't 
kick. Now, confess— is there any truth in the soft 
impeachment? " 

" No," said Renouard. " Did you print that 
in your paper." 
" No. I didn't quite believe it. But I will tell 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 37 

you what I believe. I believe that when your 
heart is set on some object you are a man that 
doesn't count the cost to yourself or others. And 
this shall get printed some day." 

"Obituary notice?" Renouard dropped negli- 
gently. 

" Certain— some day." 

" Do you then regard yourself as immortal? " 

" No, my boy. I am not immortal. But the 

voice of the press goes on for ever And it will 

say that this was the secret of your great success 
in a task where better men than you— meaning no 
offence— did fail repeatedly." 

"Success," muttered Renouard, pulling-to the 
office door after him with considerable energy. 
And the letters of the word Private like a row of 
white eyes seemed to stare after his back sinking 
down the staircase of that temple of publicity. 

Renouard had no doubt that aU the means of 
publicity would be put at the service of love and 
used for the discovery of the loved man. He did 
not wish him dead. He did not wish him any 
harm. We are aU equipped with a fund of humanity 
which is not exhausted without many and repeated 
provocations— and this man had done him no evil. 
But before Renouard had left old Dunster's house, 
at the conclusion of the call he made there that 
very afternoon, he had discovered in himself the 



38 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



desire that the search might last long. He never 
really flattered himself that it might fail. It 
seemed to him that there was no other course in 
this world for himself, for all mankind, but resig- 
nation. And he could not help thinking that 
Professor Moorsom had arrived at the same con- 
clusion too. 

Professor Moorsom, slight frame of middle 
height, a thoughtful keen head under the thick 
wavy hair, veiled dark eyes under straight eye- 
brows, and with an inward gaze which when dis- 
engaged and arriving at one seemed to issue from 
an obscure dream of books, from the limbo of 
meditation, showed himself extremely gracious to 
him. Renouard guessed in him a man whom an 
incurable habit of investigation and analysis had 
made gentle and indulgent; inapt for action, and 
more sensitive to the thoughts than to the events 
of existence. Withal not crushed, sub-ironic with- 
out a trace of acidity, and with a simple manner 
which put people at ease quickly. They had a 
long conversation on the terrace commanding an 
extended view of the town and the harbour. 

The splendid immobility of the bay resting under 
his gaze, with its grey spurs and shining indenta- 
tions, helped Renouard to regain his self-possession, 
which he had felt shaken, in coming out on the 
terrace, into the setting of the most powerful 



THE PLANTER OF M\LATA 39 

•motion of his life, when he had sat vnthin a foot 
of Miss Moorsom with fire in his breast, a hununing 
in his ears, and in a complete disorder of his mind. 
There was the very garden seat on which he had 
been enveloped in the radiant spell. And pre- 
sently he was sitting on it again with the professor 
talking of her. Near by the patriarchal Dunster 
leaned forward in a wicker arm-chair, benign and 
a little deaf, his big hand to his ear with the inno- 
cent eagerness of his advanced age remembering 
the fires of life. 

It was with a sort of apprehension that Renouard 
looked forward to seeing Miss Mooreom. And 
strangely enough it resembled the state of mind of 
a man who fears disenchantment more than sorti- 
l^e. But he need not have been afraid. Directly 
he saw her in a distance at the other end of the 
terrace he shuddered to the roots of his hair. 
With her approach the power of speech left him 
for a time. Mrs. Dunster and her aunt were 
accompanying her. All these people sat down; it 
was an intimate circle into which Renouard felt 
himself cordiaUy admitted; and the talk was of the 
great search which occupied all their minds. Dis- 
cretion was expected by these people, but of re- 
ticence as to the object of the journey there could 
be no question. Nothing but ways and means 
and arrangements could be talked about. 



40 THE PLANTER OF BtALATA 

By fixing his eyes obstinately on the ground, 
which gave him an air of reflective sadness, 
Renouard managed to recover his self-possession. 
He used it to keep his voice in a low key and to 
measure his words on the great subject. And he 
took care with a great inward effort to make them 
reasonable without giving them a discouraging 
complexion. For he did not want the quest to be 
given up, since it would mean her going away with 
her two attendant grey-heads to the other side of 
the world. 

He was asked to come again, to come often and 
take part in the counsels of all these people capti- 
vated by the sentimental enterprise of a declared 
love. On taking Miss Moorsom's hand he looked 
up, would have liked to say something, but found 
himself voiceless, with his lips suddenly sealed. 
She returned the pressure of his fingers, and he left. 
her with her eyes vaguely staring beyond , :-.- 
air of listening for an expected sound, i. . : 
faintest possible smile on her lips, a .^Lc not 
for him, evidently, but the reflection of some deep 
and inscrutable thought. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



41 



IV 

He went on board his schooner. She lay white, 
and as if suspended, in the crepuscular atmosphere 
of sunset mingling with the ashy gleam of the vast 
anchorage. He tried to keep his thoughts as sober, 
as reasonable, as measured as his words had been 
lest they should get away from him and cause some 
sort of moral disaster. What he was afraid of in 
the coming night was sleeplessness and the endless 
strain of that wearisome task. It had to be faced 
however. He lay on his back, sighing profoundly 
in the dark, and suddenly beheld his very own self 
carrying a small bizarre lamp, reflected in a lon^ 
mirror inside a room in an empty and unfurnished 
palace. In this startling image of himself he 
recogmsed somebody he had to follow-the 
frightened guide of his dream. He traversed end- 
less galleries, no end of lofty halls, innumerable 
doors. He lost himself utterly-he found his way 
again. Room succeeded room. At last the lamp 
went out, and he stumbled against some object 
which, when he stooped for it, he found to be 
very cold and heavy to lift. The sickly white light 
of dawn showed him the head of a statue. Its 
marble hair was done in the bold lines of a hehnet 
on iU Ups the chisel had left a faint smile, and it 



42 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

resembled Miss Moors^m. Whye he was staring 
at It fixedly, the head began to grow light in his 
fingers, to diminish and crmnble to pieces, and at 
last turned into a handful of dust, which was blown 
away by a puff of wind so chiUy that he woke up 
mih a desperate shiver and leaped headlong out 
of his bed-place. The day had reaUy come. He 
sat down by the cabin table, and taking his head 
between his hands, did not stir for a very Ion* 
tmie. ^ 

Very quiet, he set himself to review this dream 
The lamp, of course, he connected with the search 
for a man. But on closer examination he perceived 
that the reflection of himself in the mirror was not 
reaUy the true Renouard, but somebody else whose 
face he could not remember. In the deserted 
palace he recognised a sinister adaptation by his 
bram of the long corridors with many doors, in 
the great buildmg in which his friend's newspaper 
was lodged on the first floor. The marble h^d 
with Miss Moorsom's face! Weill What other 
face could he have dreamed of? And her com- 
pleMon was fairer than Parian marble, than the 
heads of angels. The wind at the end was the 
morning breeze entering through the open porthole 
and touchmg his face before the schooner could 
swing to the chilly gust. 
YesI And aU this rational explanation of the 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 43 

fantastic made it only more mysterious and weird, 
niere was something daemonic in that dream 
I was one of those experiences which throw a man 
out of confonnity with the estabUshed order of 

X^^oT ^' "^ ' "-^"" °^ °^- 

Henceforth without ever trying to resist, he 
went every afternoon to the house where she Kved 
He went there as passively as if in a dream. He 
could never make out how he had attained the 
footmg of mtunacy in the Dunster mansion above 
tee bay-whether on the ground of personal merit 
or as the pioneer of the vegetable silk industry 

in, ^" *'' '^'' "^"^ ""' remember^ 
^ tmctly, as distinctly as in a dream, hearing old 
Wer once telling him that his next public task 
would be a careful survey of the Nor^them Dis- 
tricts to discover tracts suitable for the cultivation 
o the silk plant The old man wagged his beard 
athnnsagely. It was indeed as absurd as a dream. 
WiUie of course would be there in the evening. 
But he was more of a figure out of a nightmre 
hoyermg about the circle of chairs inZ dress-' 
clothes hke a gigantic, repulsive, and sentimental 

th. ,??,r*y^*''*^« beastly cocoons all over 
the world," he buzzed in his blurred, water-logged 
voice. He affected a great hoiTor of insectsXui 
kinds. One evening he appeared with a red flower 



44 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



in his button-hole. Nothing could have been more 
disgustingly fantastic. And he would also say to 
Renouard: " You may yet change the history of 
our country. For economic conditions do shape 
the history of nations. Eh? What? " And he 
would turn to Miss Moorsom for approval, lowering 
protectingly his spatulous nose and looking up with 
feeling from under his absurd eyebrows, which grew 
thin, in the manner of canebrakes, out of his spongy 
skin. For this large, bilious creature was an econo- 
mist and a sentimentalist, facile to tears, and a 
member of the Cobden Club. 

In order to see as Uttle of him as possible Re- 
nouard began coming earlier so as to get away 
before his arrival, without curtailing too much the 
hours of secret contemplation for which he Uved. 
He had given up trying to deceive himself. His 
resignation was without bounds. He accepted 
the immense misfortune of being in love with a 
woman who was in search of another man only to 
throw herself into his arms. With such desperate 
precision he defined in his thoughts the situation, 
the consciousness of which traversed like a sharp 
arrow the sudden silences of general conversation. 
The only thought before which he quailed was the 
thought that this could not last ; that it must come 
to an end. He feared it instinctively as a sick 
man may fear death. For it seemed to him that 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



45 



1 



it must be the death of him followed by a lightless, 
bottomless pit. But his resignation was not spared 
the torments of jealousy: the cruel, insensate, 
poignant, and imbecile jealousy, when it seems that 
a woman betrays us simply by this that she exists, 
that she breathes — and when the deep movements 
of her nerves or her soul become a matter of 
distracting suspicion, of killing doubt, of mortal 
anxiety. 

In the peculiar condition of their sojourn Miss 
Moorsom went out "ery little. She accepted this 
seclusion at the Dunsters' mansion as in a hermit- 
age, and lived there, watched over by a group of 
old people, with the lofty endurance of a con- 
descending and strong-headed goddess. It was 
impossible to say if she suffered from anything 
in the world, and whether this was the insensibility 
of a great passion concentrated on itself, or a 
perfect restraint of manner, or the indifference of 
superiority so complete as to be suflftcient to itself. 
But it was visible to Renouard that she took some 
pleasure in talking to him at times. Was it be- 
cause he was the only person near her age? Was 
this, then, the secret of his adnussion to the circle? 

He admired her voice as well poised as her move- 
ments, as her attitudes. He himself had always 
been a man of tranquil tones. But the power of 
fascination had torn him out of his very nature so 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



completely that to preserve his habitual calmness 
from going to pieces had become a terrible effort. 
He used to go from her on board the schooner 
exhausted, broken, shaken up, as thoiigh he had 
been put to the most exquisite torture. When he 
saw her approaching he always had a moment of 
hallucination. She was a misty and fair creatture, 
fitted for invisible music, for the shadows of love, 
for the murmurs of waters. After a time (he 
could not be always staring at the ground) he would 
summon up all his resolution and look at her. 
There was a sparkle in the clear obscurity of her 
eyes; and when she turned them on him they 
seemed to give a new meaning to life. He would 
say to himself that another man would have found 
long before the happy release of maaness, his wits 
burnt to cinders in that radiance. But no such 
luck for him. His wits had come . iscathed through 
the furnaces of hot suns, of blazing deserts, of 
flaming angers against the weaknesses of men and 
the obstinate cruelties of hostile nature. 

Being sane he had to be constantly on his guard 
against falling into adoring silences or breaking 
out into wild speeches. He had to keep watch 
on his eyes, his limbs, on the muscles of his face. 
Their conversations were such as they could be 
between these two people: she a young lady fresh 
from the thick twilight of four million people and 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 47 

the artificiality of several London seasons; he the 
man of definite conquering tasks, the familiar of 
wide horizons, and in his very repose holdmg aloof 
from these agglomerations of units in which one 
loses one's importance even to oneself. They had 
no common conversational small change. They 
had to use the great pieces of general ideas, but 
they exchanged them triviaUy. It was no serious 
conmierce. Perhaps she had not much of that 
coin. Nothing significant came from her. It 
could not be said that she had received from the 
contacts of the external world impressions of a 
personal kind, different from other women. What 
was ravishing in her was her quietness and, in her 
grave attitudes, the unfailing brilliance of her 
femininity. He did not know what there was under 
that ivory forehead so splendidly shaped, so 
gtoriously crowned. He could not tell what were 
her thoughts, her feelings. Her replies were reflec- 
tive, always preceded by a short silence, while he 
hung on her lips anxiously. He felt himself in the 
presence of a mysterious being in whoir spoke an 
unknown voice, like the voice of oracles, bringing 
everlasting unrest to the heart. 

He was thankful enough to sit in silence with 
secretly clenched teeth, devoured by jealousy— and 
nobody could have guessed that his quiet dtleren- 
tial bearing to aU these grey-heads was the supreme 



48 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



effort of stoicism, that the man was engaged in 
keeping a sinister watch on his tortures lest ills 
strength should fail him. As before, when grap- 
pling with other forces of nature, he could find in 
himself all sorts of courage except the courage to 
run away. 

It was perhaps from the lack of subjects they 
could have in common that Miss Moorsom made 
him so often speak of his own life. He did not 
shrink from talking about himself, for he was free 
from that exacerbated, timid vanity which seals 
so many vain-gbrious lips. He talked to her in 
his restrained voice, gazing at the tip of her shoe, 
and thinking that the time was bound to come 
soon when her very inattention would get weary of 
him. And indeed on stealing a glance he would 
see her dazzling and perfect, her eyes vague, staring 
in mournful immobility, with a drooping head that 
made him think of a tragic Venus arising before 
him, not from the foam of the sea, but from a dis- 
tant, still more formless, mysterious, and potent 
immensity of mankind. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



49 



One afternoon Renouard stepping out on the 
terrace found nobody there. It was for him, at the 
same time, a melancholy disappointment and a 
poignant relief. 

The heat was great, the air was still, all the long 
windows of the house stood wide open. At the 
further end. grouped round a lady's work-table, 
several chairs disposed sociably suggested in- 
visible occupants, a company of conversing shades. 
Renouard looked towards them with a sort of 
dread. A most elusive, faint sound of ghostly talk 
issuing from one of the rooms added to the illusion 
and stopped his already hesitating footsteps. He 
leaned over the balustrade of stone near a squat 
vase hoWing a tropical plant of a bizarre shape. 
Professor Moorsom coming up from the garden 
with a book under his arm and a white parasol held 
over his bare head, found him there and, closing 
the parasol, leaned over by his side with a remark 
on the increasing heat of the season. Renouard 
assented and changed his position a little; the 
other, after a short silence, administered unexpect- 
edly a question which, hke the blow of a club on 
the head, deprived Renouard of the power of speech 
and even thought, but. more cruel, left him quiver- 




.-aiCWF-MK^ . 



50 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



ing with apprehension, not of death but of ever- 
lasting torment. Yet the words were extremely 
simple. 

" Something will have to be done soon. We 
can't remain in a state of suspended expectation for 
ever. Tell me what do you think of our chances ? " 

Renouard, speechless, produced a faint smile. 
The professor confessed in a jocular tone his 
impatience to complete the circuit of the globe and 
be done with it. It was impossible to remain 
quartered on the dear excellent Dtmsters for an 
indefinite time. And then there were the lectures he 
had arranged to deliver in Paris. A serious matter. 

That lectures by Professor Moorsom were a 
European event and that brilliant audiences would 
gather to hear them Renouard did not know. All 
he was aware of was the shock of this hint of 
departure. The menace of separation fell on his 
head like a thunderbolt. And he saw the ab- 
surdity of his emotion, for hadn't he lived all 
these dajrs under the very cloud? The professor, 
his elbows spread out, looked down into the garden 
and went on unburdening his mind. Yes. The 
department of sentiment was directed by his 
daughter, and she had plenty of volunteered moral 
support; but he had to look after the practical 
side of life without assistance. 

" I have the less hesitation in speaking tp you 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 51 

about my amdety, because I feel you are friendly 
to us and at the same time you are detached from 
all these sublimities— confound them." 
" What do you mean? " murmured Renouard. 
" I mean that you are capable of calm judgment. 
Here the atmosphere is simply detestable. Every- 
body has knuckled under to sentiment. Perhaps 
your deliberate opinion could influence . . ." 
" You want Miss Moorsom to give it up? " 
The professor turned to the young man dismally. 
" Heaven only knows what I want." 
Renouard leaning his back against the balustrade 
folded his arms on his breast, appeared to meditate 
profoundly. His face, shaded softly by the broad 
brim of a planter's panama hat, with the straight 
line of the nose level with the forehead, the eyes lost 
in the depth of the setting, and the chin well for- 
ward, had such a profile as may be seen amongst 
the bronzes of classical museimis, pure under a 
crested helmet— recalled vaguely a Minerva's head. 
" This is the most troublesome time I ever had 
in my Ufe," exclaimed the professor testily. 

" Surely the man must be worth it," muttered 
Renouard with a pang of jealousy traversing his 
breast like a self-inflicted stab. 

Whether enervated by the heat or giving way to 
pent up irritation the professor surrendered himself 
to the mood of sincerity. 



ja THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

" He began by being a pleasantly dull boy. He 
developed into a pointlessly clever young man, 
without, I suspect, ever trying to understand any- 
thing. My daughter knew him from childhood. 
I am a busy man, and I confess that their engage- 
ment was a complete surprise to me. I wish their 
reasons for that step had been more naive. But 
simplicity was out of fashion in their set. From 
a worldly point of view he seems to have been a 
mere baby. Of course, now, 1 am assured that 
he is the victim of his noble confidence in the recti- 
tude of his kind. But that's mere idealising of a 
sad reaUty. For my part I will teU you that from 
the very beginning I had the gravest doubts of his 
dishonesty. Unfortunately my clever daughter 
hadn't. And now we behold the reaction. No. 
To be earnestly dishonest one must be really poor. 
This was only a manifestation of his extremely 
refined cleverness. The complicated simpleton. 
He had an awful awakening though." 

In such words did Professor Moorsom give his 
" young friend " to understand the state of his 
feeUngs toward the lost man. It was evident that 
the father of Miss Moorsom wished hun to remain 
lost. Perhaps the unprecedented heat of the 
season made him long for the cool spaces of the 
Pacific, the sweep of the ocean's free wind along 
the promenade decks, cumbered with long chairs, 



THE PLANTER OF BIALATa 53 

of a ship steaming towards the Califomian coast 
To Renouard the philosopher appeared simply 
Oie most treacherous of fathers. He was amazed 
But he was not at the end of his discoveries. 
" He may be dead." the professor murmured. 
Why? People don't die here sooner than in 
Europe. If he had gone to hide in Italy for 
mstance, you wouldn't think of saying that." 

" Weill And suppose he has become morally 
dismtegrated. You know he was not a strong 
peraonaUty," the professor suggested moodily. 
My daughter's future is in question here " 
Renouard thought that the love of such a woman 
was enough to pull any broken man together-to 
drag a man out of his grave. And he thought this 
with mward despair, which kept him sUent as much 
ahnost as his astonishment. At last he managed 
to stammer out a generous— 
" Oh I Don't let us even suppose ..." 
li.^ professor struck in with a sadder accent 
than before — 

" It's good to be yjung. And then you have 
been a man of action, and necessarily a believer in 
success. But I have been looking too long at hfe 
not to distrust its surprises. Agel Agel Here 
I stand before you a man full of doubts and hesita- 
tion— s^« lentus, tmidusfuturi." 
He made a sign to Renouard not to interrupt. 



S4 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



and in a lowered voice, as if airaid of being over- 
heard, even there, in the solitude of the terrace— 

" And the worst is that I am not even sure how 
far this sentimental pilgrimage is genuine. Yes. 
I doubt my own child. It's true that she's a 
woman. . . ." 

Renouard detected with horror a tone of resent- 
ment, as if the professor had never forgiven his 
daughter for not dying instead of his son. The 
latter noticed the young man's stony stare. 

" Ah I you don't understand. Yes, she's clever, 
open-minded, popular, and — well, charming. But 
you don't know what it is to have moved, breathed, 
existed, and even triumphed in the mere smother 
and froth of life — the brilliant froth. There 
thoughts, sentiments, opinions, feelings, actions 
too, are nothing but agitation in empty space — to 
amuse life — a sort of superior debauchery, exciting 
and fatiguing, meaning nothing, leading nowhere. 
She is the creatture of that circle. And I ask my- 
self if she is obeying the uneasiness of an instinct 
seeking its satisfaction, or is it a revulsion of feel- 
ing, or is she merely deceiving her own heart by 
this dangerous trifling with romantic images. 
And everything is possible— except sincerity, such 
as only stark, struggling humanity can know. 
No woman can stand that mode of life in which 
women rule, and remain a perfectly genuine, simple 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 33 

human being Ah' '"•-ere's some people 

coming out." 

He moved off a pace, then turning his head: 
" Upon my word! I would be infinitely obliged to 
you if you could throw a httle cold water . . ." and 
at a vaguely dismayed gesture of Renouard, he 
added: "Don't be afraid. You wouldn't be 
putting out a sacred fire." 

Renouard could hardly find words for a protest: 
" I assure you that I never talk with Miss Moorsom 
—on— on— that. And if you, her father . . ." 

" I envy you your innocence," sighed the pro- 
fessor. "A father is only an everyday person. 
Flat. Stale. Moreover, my cliild would natur- 
ally mistrust me. We belong to the same set. 
Whereas you carry with you the prestige of the 
unknown. You have proved yourself to be a 
force." 

Thereupon the professor foUowed by Renouard 
joined the circle of all the inmates of the house 
assembled at the other end of the terrace about a 
tea-table; three white heads and that resplendent 
vision of woman's glory, the sight of which had the 
power to flutter his heart hke a reminder of the 
mortahty of his frame. 

He avoided the seat by the side of Miss Moorsom. 
The others were talking together languidly. Un- 
noticed he looked at that woman so marvellous that 



?*55??1^3F3!B 



56 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

centuries seemed to lie between them. He was 
oppressed and overcome at the thought of what 
she could give to some man who really would be a 
force I What a glorious struggle with this amazon. 
What noble burden for the victorious strength. 

Dear old Mrs. Dunster was dispensing tea, look- 
ing from time to time with interest towards Miss 
Moorsom. The aged statesman having eaten a 
raw tomato and drunk a glass of milk (a habit of 
his early fanning days, long before politics, when, 
pioneer of wheat-growing, he demonstrated the 
possibility of raising crops on ground looking 
barren enough to discourage a magician), smoothed 
his white beard, and struck UghUy Renouard's 
knee with his big wrinkled hand. 

" You had better come back to-night and dine 
with us quietly." 

He liked this young man, a pioneer, too. in more 
than one direction. Mrs. Dunster added: " Do. 
It will be very quiet. I don't even know if Willie 
will be home for dinner." Renouard murmured 
his thanks, and left the terrace to go on board the 
schooner. While Ungering in the drawing-room 
doorway he heard the resonant voice of old 
Dunster uttering oracularly— 

"... the leading man here some day. . . . Like 
me. 

Renouard let the thin summer porti^ of the 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 57 

doorway fall behin*^ him. The voice of Professor 
Moorsom said — 

" I am told that he has made an enemy of abnost 
every man who had to work with him." 

" That's nothing. He did his work. . . Like 
me." 

"He never counted the cost they say. Not 
even of lives." 

Renouard understood that they were talking of 
nun. Before he could move away, Mrs. Dunster 
struck in placidly— 

" Don't let yourself be shocked by the tales you 
may hear of him. my dear. Most of it is envy." 

Then he heard Miss Moorsom's voice replying to 
the old lady- Py^ngro 

" Oh ! I am not easily deceived. I think I may 
say I have an instinct for truth." 

He hastened away from that house with his 
heart full of dread. 



VI 

On board the schooner, lying on the settee on his 
back with the knuckles of his hands pressed over 
his eyes, he made up his mind that he would not 
return to that house for dinner-that he would 
never go back there any more. He made up his 
mmd some twenty times. The knowledge that he 



58 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

had only to go up on the quarter deck, utter 
quietly the words: " Man the windlass." and that 
the schooner springing into life would nin a 
hundred miles out to sea before sunrise, deceived 
his struggling will. Nothing easier! Yet, in the 
end, this young man, abnost iU-famed for his ruth- 
less daring, the inflexible leader of two tragicaUy 
successful expeditions, shrank from that act of 
savage energy, and began, instead, to hunt for 
excuses. 

No! It was not for him to run away like an 
incurable who cuts his throat. He finished dress- 
ing and looked at his own impassive face in the 
saloon mirror scornfully. While being pulled on 
shore in the gig, he remembered suddenly the wild 
beauty of a waterfaU seen when hardly more than 
a boy, years ago, in Menado. There was a legend 
of a goveriior-general of the Dutch East Indies, 
on official tour, committing suicide on that .spot 
by leaping into the chasm. It was supposed that 
a painful disease had made him weary of Ufe. But 
was there ever a visitation hke his own, at the same 
time binding one to Ufe and so crueUy mortal I 

The dinner was indeed quiet. Willie, given half 
an hour's grace, failed to turn up, and his chair 
remamed vacant by the side of Miss Moorsom. 
Renouard had the professor's sister on his left, 
dressed in an expensive gown becoming her age! 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 59 

That maiden lady in her wonderful preservation 
reminded Renouard somehow of a wax flower under 
glass. There were no traces of the dust of life's 
batties on her anywhere. She did not like him 
very much in the aft omoons, in his white driU suit 
and planter's hat, which seemed to her an unduly 
Bohemian costume for calling in a house where 
there were ladies. But in the evening, Uthe and 
elegant in his dress clothes and with his pleasant, 
slightly veiled voice, he always made her conquest 
afresh. He might have been anybody distinguished 
—the son of u duke. Falling under that charm 
probably (and also because her brother had given 
her a hint), she attempted to open her heart to 
Renouard, who was watching with all the power 
of his soul her niece across the table. She spoke 
to him as frankly as though that miserable mortal 
envelope, emptied of everything but hopeless 
passion, were indeed the son of a duke. 

Inattentive, he heard her only in snatches, till 
the final confidential Durst : "... glad if you would 
express an opiniou. Look at her, so charming, 
such a great favourite, so generally admired! It 
would be too sad. We aU hoped she would make 
a brilliant marriage with somebody very rich and 
of high position, have a house in London and 
in the countoy, and entertain us all splendidly. 
She's so eminenUy fitted for it. She has such 



•r'^WL.1^-1-* 1 



60 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

hosts of distinguished friends! And then— this 
instead! ... My heart really aches." 

Her well-bred if anxious whisper was covered by 
the voice of professor Moorsom discoursing subtly 
down the short length of the dir^er table on the 
Impermanency of the Measurable to his venerable 
disciple. It might have been a chapter in a new 
and Topular book of Moorsonian philosophy. 
Patriarchal and delighted, old Dunster leaned 
forward a Uttle, his eyes shining youthfuUy, two 
spots of colour at the roots of his white beard; 
and Renouard, glancing at the senile excitement, 
recaUed the words heard on those subtle Ups. 
adopted their scorn for his own. saw their truth 
before this man ready to be amused by the side 
of the grave. Yes! InteUectual debauchery in 
the froth of existence ! Froth and fraud ! 

On the same side of the table Miss Moorsom never 
once looked towards her father, all her grace as if 
frozen, her red Ups compressed, the faintest rosi- 
ness under her dazzling complexion, her black eyes 
burning motionless, and the very coppery gleams 
of light lying stiU on the waves and undulation of 
her hair. Renouard fancied himself overturring 
the table, smashing crystal and china, treading 
fruit and flowers under foot, seizing her in his arms, 
carrying her off in a tumult of shrieks from all 
these people, a silent frightened mortal, into some 



I 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 6i 

profound retreat as in the age of Cavern men. 
Suddenly everybody got up, and he hastened to 
rise too, finding himself out of breath and quite 
unsteady on his feet. 

On the terrace the philosopher, after lighting a 
cigar, slipped his hand condescendingly under his 
" dear young friend's " arm. Renouard regarded 
him now with the profoundest mistrust. But the 
great man seemed really to have a Uking for his 
young friend— one of those mysterious sympathies, 
disregarding the differences of age and position, 
which in this case might have been explained by 
the failure of philosophy to meet a very real worry 
of a practical kind. 

After a turn or two and some casual talk the 
professor said suddenly: " My late son was in your 
school— do you know? I can imagine that had 
he lived and you had ever met yor would have 
understood each other. He too was, indined to 
action." 

He sighed, then, shaking off the mournful thought 
and with a nod at the dusky part of the terrace 
where the dress of his daughter made a luminous 
stain: " I really wish you would drop in that 
quarter a few sensible, discouraging words." 

Renouard disengaged himself from that most 
perfidious of men under the pretence of astonish- 
ment, and stepping back a pace— 



^<^ i^se^m^mms^^m^^mtmm:'T^mw^'iSi 



6a 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



" Surely you are making fun of me, Professor 
Moorsom," he said with a low laugh, which was 
really a sound of rage. 

" My dear young friend! It's no subject for 
jokes, to me. . . . You don't seem to have any 
notion of your prestige," he added, walking away 
towards the chairs. 

" Humbug I " thought Renouard, standing still 
and looking after him. "And yet I And yet! 
Whatif it were true?" 

He advanced then towards Miss Moorsom. 
Posed on the seat on which they had first spoken 
to each other, it was her turn to watch him coming 
on. But many of the windows were not lighted that 
evening. It was dark over there. She appeared 
to him luminous in her clear dress, a figure with- 
out shape, a face without features, awaiting his 
approach, till he got quite near to her, sat down, 
and they had exchanged a few insignificant words. 
Gradually she came out like a magic painting of 
charm, fascination, and desire, glowing mysteriously 
on the dark background. Something impercep- 
tible in the lines of her attitude, in the modula- 
tions of her voice, seemed to soften that suggestion 
of calm unconscious pride which enveloped her 
always like a mantle. He, sensitive like a bond 
slave to the moods of the master, was moved by 
the subtle relenting of her grace to an infinite 



i(k,^H^%.di^!AZ.- 



w.;m. 



.tm'?Mm 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 63 

tenderness. He fought down the impulse to seize 
her by the hand, lead her down into the garden 
away under the big trees, and throw himself at 
her feet uttering words of love. His emotion was 
so strong that he had to cough slightly, and not 
knowng what to talk to her about he began to tell 
her of his mother and sisters. All the family were 
coming to London to live there, for some Uttle 
time at least. 

" I hope you will go and tell them something 
of me. Something seen," he said pressir-gjy 
By this miserable subterfuge, like a man about 

to part with his life, he hoped to make her remember 
hun a Uttle longer. 

"Certainly." she said. "I'UbegladtocaUwhen 
I get back. But that ' when ' may be a long time." 

He heard a hght sigh. A cruel jealous curiosity 
made him ask — 

" Are you growing weary. Miss Moorsom ? " 

A silence feU on his low spoken question. 

"Do you mean heart-weary?" sounded Aliss 
Moorsom's voice. " You don't know me, I see." 

'• Ahl Never despair," he muttered. 

" This, Mr. Renouard, is a work of reparation 
I stand for truth here. I can't think of myself " ' 

He could have taken her by the throat for every 
word seemed an insult to his passion; but he only 
said — ' 



^.ws^^smmfassmmfm wm-- 



64 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

" I never doabted the— the— -nobility of your 
purpose." 

" And to hear the word weariness pronounced in 
this connection surprises me. And from a man too 
who, I imderstand, has never counted the cost." 

" You are pleased to tease me," he said, directly 
he had recovered his voice and had mastered his 
anger. It was as if Professor Moorsom had dropped 
poison in his ear which was spreading now and 
tainting his passion, his very jealousy. He mis- 
trusted every word that came from those lips on 
which his life himg. " How can you know any- 
thing of men who do not count the cost ? " he asked 
in his gentlest tones. 

" From hearsay — a little." 

" Well, I assure you they are Uke the others, 
subject to suffering, victims of spells. . . ." 

" One of them, at least, speaks very strangely." 

She dismissed the subject after a short silence. 
" Mr. Renouard, I had a disappointment this 
morning, iliis mail brought me a letter from 
the widow of the old butler— you know. I ex- 
pected to learn that she had heard from — from 
here. But no. No letter arrived home since 
we left." 

Her voice was cahn. His jealousy couldn't 
stand much more of this sort of talk; but he was 
glad that nothing had turned up to help the search; 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 65 

g»d blindly. uni««onably-H,n]y because it would 
keq, W longer in hi. aght-siace d.e wouldn't 

f.,Hif "° *^ """ ^•" ^' *^°^^'- «°^°« a little 
ftnjherontheseat. He was afraid in the avulsion 
offedmg of ILngiug himself on her hands, which 
flying on her lap. and covering them with 

^ i^t Z ti'. I'"^'- °°*""« ~""^ 
snaice mat spell-not if she were ever so false 

stupid, or degraded. She was fate itself. The 

extent of his misfortune plunged him in such a 

stupor that he faUed at first to hear the sound of 

vo^es and footsteps inside the drawing-room 

^J^e had come home-and the Editor was wiTh 

They burst out on the terrace babbling noisily, 
and then pulling themselves together stood stij 
8urpnsmg-and as if themselves surprised 



VII 
T^v had been feasting a poet from the bush, the 
bt«t discovery of the Editor. Such discoveries 

dehght of the only apostle of letters in the hemi- 
jph^the solitary patron of culture, the Slav^f 
the Lami^-as he subscribed himself at the bottom 



66 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



of the weekly literary page of his paper. He had 
had no difficulty in persuading the virtuous Willie 
(who had festive instincts) to help in the good work, 
and now they had left the poet lying asleep on the 
hearthrug of the editorial room and had rushed 
to the Dunster mansion wildly. The Editor had 
another discovery to announce. Swaying a little 
where he stood he opened his mouth very wide 
to shout the one word " Found I " Behind him 
Willie flung both his hands above his head and let 
them fall dramatically. Renouard saw the four 
white-headed people at the end of the terrace rise 
all together from their chairs with an effect of 
sudden panic. 

" I tell you — ^he — ^is — ^found," the patron of 
letters shouted emphatically. 

" What is this I " exclaimed Renouard in a choked 
voice. Miss Moorsom seized his wrist suddenly, 
and at that contact fire ran through all his veins, 
a hot stillness descended upon him in which he 
heard the blood — or the fire — beating in his 
ears. He made a movement as if to rise, but was 
restrained by the convulsive pressure on his wrist. 

" No, no." Miss Moorsom's eyes stared black 
as night, searching the space before her. Far 
away the Editor strutted forward, WiUic follow- 
ing with his ostentatious manner of carrying his 
bulky and oppressive carcass which, however, did 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 67 

not remain exactly perpendicular for two seconds 
together. 

"The innocent Arthur ... Yes. We've got 
him, • the Editor became very business-like. " Yes 
this letter has done it." 

He plunged into an inside pocket for it. slapped 
the scrap of paper with his open pahn. " From 
that old woman. William had it in his pocket 
smce this morning when Miss Moorsom gave it to 
him to show me. Forgot all about it tiU an hour 
ago. Thought it was of no importance. Well, 
no I Not till it was properly read." 

Renouard and Miss Moorsom emerged from the 
shadows side by side, a well-matched couple, 
ammated yet statuesque in their cahnness joid in 
their pailor. She had let go his wrist. On catch- 
ing sight of Renouard the Editor exclaimed: 
What— you here I " in a quite shrill voice. 
There came a dead pause. All the faces had in 
them something dismayed and cruel. 
" He's the very man we ^t," continued the 
Editor. "Excuse my excitement. You are the 
very man. Renouard. Didn't you tell me that 
your assistant called himself Walter? Yes? 
Thought so. But here's that old woman-the 
butler's wife-listen to this. She writes: All I 
can tell you. Miss, is that my poor husband 
directed his letters to the name of H. Walter." 



68 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



Renoiurd's violent but repressed exclamation 
was lost in a general murmur and shuffle of feet. 
The Editor made a Uep forward, bowed with 
creditable steadiness. 

" Miss Moorsom, allow me to congratulate you 
from the bottom of my heart on the happy— er — 
issue . . ." 
" Wait," muttered Renouard irresolutely. 
The Editor jumped on him in the manner of their 
old friendship. " Ah, you I You are a fine fellow 
too. With your solitary ways of Ufe you will end 
by having no more discrimination than a savage. 
Fancy Uving with a gentleman for months and 
never guessing. A man, I am certain, accompUshed, 
remarkable, out of the common, since he had been 
distinguished " (he bowedagain) " by MissMoorsom, 
whom we all admire." 
She turned her back on him. 
" I hope to goodness you haven't been leading 
him a dog's life, Geoffrey," the Editor addressed 
his friend in a whispered aside. 

Renouard seized a chair violently, sat down, 
and propping his elbow on his knee leaned 
his head on his hand. Behind him the sister 
of the professor looked up to heaven and wnmg 
her hands stealthily. Mrs. Dunster's hands were 
clasped forcibly under her chin, but she, dear soul, 
was looking sorrowfully at Willie. The model 



mp^:^. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 69 

fl«hedl The careful disposition of the thin hairs 
•-«. Willie', bald spot was deplorably T 
anarg-d and the spot itself was red and. as it 
were, Etnammg 

^' What'- the matt,.r, Geoffrey? " TTie Editor 
r '^ f '^'""■^^^-' ^^y the silent attitudes round 
h.m as thou,^h he had expected all these people to 

shout a>,da.uce. " You have him on the^Zid- 
haven t yr j >' »«»«— 

"Oh, yes. I have him there," 
without looking up. 

"Well, then!" The Editor 
w^und as if begging for respo.. . 
But the only response that car. 10 
expected. Annoyed at being t' 



Re)i'>uard, 



'fd lielj i -sly 

of iori!*> iOTt 

ground, and also because vei^ little d'-X ''^''Z 
h^ nasty, the emotional Wilhe turned .^u,„ant 

man r? r' "^ " ''''^°"^ *°"« surprisingTa 
man able to keep his balance so well- "^ "^ * 

"Ahal But youhaven'tgothimhere-notyetl- 
he sneered. "No! You haven't got him yet " 

J t^e".:f r^^ '''^'"'°" -«" *° tl>e Editor 
|^^-^.^ht .;aded horse. He positively 

"Whatc/l.^t/ What do you mean? We- 
haven't-got-ham-here. Of co-orse he i^ 
here! But Geo&ey-s schooner ,. here She^ 



70 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



be sent at once to fetch him here. No! Stay! 
There's a better plan. Why shouldn't you all sail 
over to Malata, professor? Save timet I am sure 
Miss Moorsom would prefer . . ." 

With a gallant flourish of his arm he looked for 
Miss Moorsom. She had disappeared. He was 
taken aback somewhat. 

"Ah I H'm. Yes. . . . Why not. A pleasure 
cruise, delightful ship, deUghtful season, delightful 
errand, del ... Not There are no objections. 
GeofErey, I understand, has indulged in a bungalow 
three sizes too large for him. He can put you all 
up. It will be a pleasure for him. It will be the 
greatest privilgr Any man would be proud of 
being an agent of this happy reunion. I am proud 
of the Uttle part I've played. He will consider it 
the greatest honour. Geofif, my boy, you had 
better be stirring to-morrow bright and early 
about the preparations for the trip. It would be 
criminal to lose a single day." 

He was as flushed as Willie, the excitement 
keeping up the effect of the festive dinner. For a 
time Renouard, silent, as if he had not heard a word 
of all that babble, did not stir. But when he got 
up it was to advance towards the Editor and give 
him such a hearty slap on the back that the plump 
little man reeled in his tracks and looked quite 
frightened for a moment. 



smFTW0m^y\ar 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 71 

" You are a heaven-bom discoverer and a first- 
rate manager. .. . He's right. It's the only way. 
You can't resist the claim of sentiment, and 
you must even risk the voyage to Malata. . . ." 
Renouard's voice sank. " A lonely spot," he added, 
and fell into thought under all these eyes converg- 
ing on him in the sudden silence. His slow glance 
passed over all the faces in succession, remaining 
arrested on Professor Moorsom, stony eyed, a 
smouldering cigar in his fingers, and with his sister 
standing by his side. 

" I shall be infinitely gratified if you consent to 
come. But, of course, you will. We shall sail to- 
morrow evening then. And now let me leave you 
to your happiness." 

He bowed, very grave, pointed suddenly his 
finger at Willie who was swaying about with a 
sleepy frown. ... "Look at him. He's overcome 
with happiness. You had better put him to bed 
. . ." and disappeared while every head on the 
terrace was turned to Willie with varied expressions. 

Renouard ran through the house. Avoiding the 
carriage road he fled down the steep short cut to 
the shore, where his gig was waiting. At his loud 
shout the sleeping Kanakas jumped up. He leaped 
in. " Shove off. Give way I " and the gig darted 
through the water. "Give way! Give way!" 
She flew past the wool-clippers sleeping at their 



fP'^^r^siH^ 



72 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

anchors each with the open unwinking eye of the 
lamp m the rigging; she flew past the flagship of 
the Pacific squadron, a great mass aU dark and 
silent, heavy with the slumbere of five hundred 
men, and where the invisible sentries heard his 
urgent " Give way! Give wayl " in the night. 
The Kanakas, panting, rose o« the thwarts at 
every stroke. Nothing could be fast enough for 
him! And he ran up the side of his schooner 
shaking the ladder noisily with his rush. 
On deck he stumbled and stood still. 
Wherefore this haste? To what end, ■•.:. he 
knew weU before he started that he had •- v„,'^ -cr 
from whom then was no escape. 

As his foot touched the deck his wiU, Iiis p„rpost 
he had been hurrying to save, died .->ut wi-.m,^ ai/u. 
It had been nothing less than gettii ', : v ,,;-,« 
under-way, letting her vanish silent'- .. the ^./,,' 
from amongst these sleeping ships. \ , i u . j. 
was certain he could not do it. It wa.s ;,, •: •- j' 
And he reflected that whether he lived or dica Ich 
an act would lay him under a dark suspicion from 
which he shrank. No, there was nothing to be 
done. 

He went down into the cabin and, before 
even unbuttoning his overcoat, took out of the 
drawer the letter addressed to his assisVanf that 
letter which he had found in the pi#»n-hole 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 73 

l^'belled •• Malata " in youiig Dunster's outer office, 
where it had been waiting for three months some 
occasion for being forwarded. From the moment 
of dropping it in the drawer he had utterly for- 
gotten Its existenc^till now, when the man's 
name had come out so clamorously. He glanced 
at the common envelope, noted the shaky and 
labonous handwriting: H. Walter, Esqre Un- 
doubtedly the very last letter the old buUer had 
posted before his iUness, and in answer clearly to 
one from "Master Arthur" instructing him to 
address in the future: "Care of Messrs. W 
Dunster and Co." Renouard made as if to 
open the envelope, but paused, and, instead, tore 
tte letter deUbeiately in two, in four, in eight. 
With his hand full of pieces of paper he returned 
on deck and scattered them overboard on the 
dark water, in which they vanished instantly 

He did it slowly, without hesitation or remorse. 
H. Walter, Esqre, in Malata. The innocent Arthur 
-- What was his name? The man sought for 
by hat woman who as she went by seemed to draw 
aU the passion of the earth to her, without eilort 
not dei^ing to notice, naturally, as other women 
breathed the air. But Renouard was no longer 
jealous of her very existence. Whatever its mean- 
ing It was not for that man he had picked up 
casuaUy on obscure impulse, to get rid of the tire- 



74 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

some expostulations of a so-called friend; a man 
of whom he really knew nothing— and now a dead 
man. In Malata. Oh, yes! He was there secure 
enough, untroubled in his grave. In Malata. To 
bury him was the last service Renouard had ren- 
dered to his assistant before leaving the island on 
this trip to town. 

Like many men ready enough for arduous enter- 
prises Renouard was inclined to evade the small 
complications of existence. This trait of his 
character was composed of a little indolence, some 
disdain, and a shrinking from contests with certain 
forms of vulgarity— like a man who would face a 
lion and go out of his way to avoid a toad. His 
intercourse with the meddlesome journalist was 
that merely outward intimacy without sympathy 
some young men get drawn into easily. It had 
amused him rather to keep that " friend " in the 
dark about the fate of his assistant. Renouard 
had never needed other company than his own, for 
there was in him something of the sensitiveness of 
a dreamer who is easily jarred. He had said to 
himself that the all-knowing one would only 
preach again about the evils of solitude and worry 
his head off in iavour of some forlornly useless 
prot6g6 of his. Also the inquisitiveness of the 
Editor had irritated him and had dosed his lips in 
sheer disgust. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 75 

And now he contemplated the noose of con- 
sequences drawing tight around him. 

It was the memory of that diplomatic reticence 
which on the terrace had stifHed his first cry which 
would have told them all that the man sought for 
was not to be met on earth any more. He shrank 
from the absurdity of hearing the all-knowi«g one, 
and not very sober at that, turning on hin with 
righteous reproaches — 

" You never told me. You gave me to under- 
stand that your assistant was alive, and now you 
say he's dead. Which is it? Were you lying 
then or are you lying now? " No! the thought 
of such a scene was not to be borne. He had sat 
down appalled, thinking : " What shall I do now ? " 

His courage had oozed out of him. Speaking 
the truth meant the Moorsoms going away at once 
—while it seemed to him that he vould give the 
last shred of his rectitude to secure a day more 
of her company. He sat on— silent. Slowly, from 
confused sensations, from his talk with the 
professor, the manner of the girl herself, the 
intoxicating familiarity of her sudden hand-clasp, 
there had come to him a half glimmer of hope. 
The other man was dead. Then! . . . Madness, 
of course— but he could not give it up. He had 
listened to that confounded busybody arranging 
everything— while all these people stood around 



76 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

"Siting, under the speU of that dead ronumce. 
He had listened scornful and silent. The glinmiers 
Of hope, of opportunity, passed before his eyes 
He had only to sit still and say nothing. That 
and no more. And what was truth to him in the 
face of that great passion which had flung him 
prostrate in spirit at her adored feet I 

Ajad now it was donel Fatality had willed iti 
With the eyes of a mortal struck by the maddening 
thunderbolt of the gods, Renouard looked up to 
the sky, an immense black pall dusted over with 
gold, on which great shudders seemed to pass 
from the breath of life affirming its sway 



VIII 

At last, one morning, in a clear spot of a glassy 
honzon charged with heraldic masses of black 
vapours, the island grew out from the sea show- 
ing here and there its naked members of basaltic 
rock through the rents of heavy foliage. Later 
in the great spilling of all the riches of sunset' 
iWata stood out green and rosy before turning 
mto a violet shadow in the autumnal light of the 
expmngday. Then came the night. In the faint 
«rs the schooner crept on past a sturdy squat 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA ^^ 

headland, and it was pitch dark when her head- 
sails ran down, she turned short on her heel, and 
her anchor bit into the sandy bottom on the edge 
of the outer reef; for it was too dangerous th^to 
attempt entering Ihe little bay fuU of shoals. 
After the last solemn flutter of the mainsail the 
mminuring voices of the Moorsom party Ungered 
very frail, in the black stiUness. 

They were sitting aft, on chairs, and nobody made 
a move. Early in the day, when it had become 
evident that the wind was failing, Renouard. 
basmg his advice on the shortcomings of his 
l^chelor establishment, had urged on the ladies 
the advisability of not going ashore in the middle 
of the night. Now he approached them in a con- 
strained mamier (it was astonishing the constraint 
that had reigned between him and his guests all 
through the passage) and renewed his arguments 
No one ashore would dream of his bringing any 
visitors with him. Nobody would even think of 
commgoff. There was only one old canoe on the 
plantation. And landing in the schooner's boats 
would be awkward in the dark. There was the 
nsk of gettmg aground on some shallow patches 
It would be best to spend the rest of the night on 
board. 

There was really no opposition. The professor 
smoking a pipe, and very comfortable in an ulster 



78 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

buttoned over his tropical clothes, was the first 
to speak from his long chair. 

" Most excellent advice." 

Next to him Miss Moorsom assented by a long 
silence. Then in a voice as of one coming out of 
a dream — 

" And so this is Malata," she said. " I have 
often wondered ..." 

A shiver passed through Renouard. She had 
wondered I What about? Malata was himself. 
He and Malata were one. And she had wondered I 
She had . . . 

The professor's sister leaned over towards 
Renouard. Through all these days at sea the 
man's— the found man's— existence had not been 
aUuded to on board the schooner. That reucence 
was part of the general constraint lying upon them 
all. She, herself, certainly had not been exactly 
elated by this finding— poor Arthur, without 
money, without prospects. But slie felt moved 
by the sentiment and romance of the situation. 

" Isn't it wonderful," she whispered out of her 
white wrap. " to think of poor Arthur sleeping 
there, so near to our dear lovely FeUcia, and not 
knowing the immense joy in store for him to- 
morrow." 

There was such artificiality in the wax-flower 
lady that nothing in this speech touched Renouard. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 79 

It was but the simple anxiety of his heart that he 
was voicing when he muttered gloomily- 

mavtld"" ^ *''' ^"'^^ '"^^ *^* *°-»°'^°w 
may hold in store. 

The mature lady had a recoU as though he had 
said something impoUte. What a harsh thing to 

pnate. On board, where she never saw him in 
evemng clothes, Renouard's resemblance to ^ 

b^'hi^rLT "^ "PP"'"* *° ^«^- Nothing 
but his-ah-bohemianism remained. She ro^ 
with a sort of ostentation. 

"It's late-and since we are going to sleep on 
^^Jo-night..."3he^d. "But it does Ln 

ash'^^r^i::;:r^.T„s>''^-^«the 

my dear Emma ''^' ^"^^^^^ ""^ ^"sible. 
Renouard waited behind Miss Moorsom's chair 
She got up slowly, moved one step forward, and 
paused looking at the shore. The blackness of " 
sknd blotted out the stars with its vague mJ 

and ready to burst into flame and crashes. 

And«>-thisisMalata,"sherepeateddreamUy 
movmg towards the cabin door. The dear cJoi 
I^gmg from her shoulders, the ivory faceS^ 
the night had put out nothing of her but Z 



«o THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

gleanu of her hair-^nade her resemble a shining 
dream-wonum uttering words of wistful inquiry. 
She disappeared without a sign, leaving Renouard 
penetrated to the very marrow by the sounds that 
came from her body like a mysterious resonance 
of an exquisite instrument. 

He stood stock still. What was this accidental 
touch which had evoked the strange accent of 
her voice? He dared not answer that question. 
But he had to answer the question of what was 
to be done now. Had the moment of confession 
come? The thought was enough to make one's 
blood run cold. 

It was as if those people had a premonition of 
something. In the taciturn days of the passage 
he had noticed their reserve even amongst them- 
selves. The professor smoked his pipe moodily 
in retired spots. Renouard had caught Miss 
Moorsom's eyes resting on himself more than once, 
with a peculiar and grave expression. He fancied 
that she avoided aU opportunities of conversation. 
The maiden lady seemed to nurse a grievance. 
And now what had he to do? 

The lights on the deck had gone out one after the 
other. The schooner slept. 

About an hour after Miss Moorsom had gone 
below without a sign or a word for him, Renouard 
got out of his hammock slung in the waist under 



m 



-WP*' J 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 8i 

tb» midship twning-for lie had given up aU the 
accommodation below to his gueste. He got out 
with a sudden swift movement, flung off his sleep- 
tag jacket. roUed his pyjamas up his thighs, and 
stole forward, unseen by the one Kanaka of the 
anchor^tch. His white torso, naked like a 
stopped athlete's, glin^ered. ghosUy. in the deep 
shadows of the deck. Umioticed he got out of thJ 
ship over the knight-heads, ran along the back rope, 
and sazmg the dolphin-striker firmly with bo\h 
hands, lowered himself into the sea without a 
splash. " 

He swam away, noiseless like a fish, and then 
stoadc boldly for the land, sustained, embraced! 
^ .the tepid water. The gentle, voluptuous heave 
of Its breast swung him up and down slightly 
sometmies a wavelet muimured in his ears; from 
time to time, lowering his feet, he felt for the 
bottom on a shallow patch to rest and correct his 
direction. He landed at the lower end of the 
bungalow garden, into the dead stiUness of the 
island There were no lights. The plantation 
seemed to sleep, as profoundly as the schooner. 

v^t ^ ' ""*" ^*" ^«=^«d under his 
naked heel. 

ne faithful half-caste foreman going his rounds 
cocked his ears at the sharp sound. He gave one 
enormous start of fear at the sight of the swift 

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82 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

white figure flying at him out of the night. He 
crouched in terror, and then sprang up and dicked 
his tongue in amazed recognition. 
"Tsel Tsel The master! " 
" Be quiet, Luiz, and listen to what I say." 
Yes, it was the master, the strong master who 
was never known to raise his voice, the man blindly 
obeyed and never questioned. He talked low and 
rapidly in the quiet night, as if every minute were 
precious. On learning that three guests were 
coming to stay Luiz cUcked his tongue rapidly. 
These clicks were the uniform, stenographic sym- 
bols of his emotions, and he could give them an 
infinite variety of meaning. He listened to the 
rest in a deep silence hardly affected by the low, 
" Yes, master," whenever Renouard paused. 

"You understand?" the latter insisted. "Nopre- 
parations are to be made till we land in the morning. 
And you are to say that Mr. Walter has gone off 
in a trading schooner on a round of the islands." 
" Yes, master." 
" No mistakes— ^nind I " 
" No, master." 

Renouard walked back towards the sea. Luiz, 
foUowing him, proposed to caU out half a dozen 
boys and man the canoe. 
" Imbecilel " 
"Tsel Tsel Tsel" 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 83 

"Don't you understand that you haven't seen 

Illcf 

"Yes,master. But what a long swim. Suppose 
you drown." ^^^ 

" Then you can say of me and of Mr. Walter what 
you Uke. The dead don't mind." 

Renouard entered the sea and heard a faint 
Tsel Tsel Tsel of concern from the half-caste 
who had already lost sight of the master's dark 
nead on the overshadowed water. 

Renouard set his direction by a big star that, 
dipping on the horizon, seemed to look curiously 
m ohjsface. On this swim back he felt themoum- 
ftJ fatigue of all that length of the traversed road 
which brought him no nearer to his desire It 
w« as if his love had saj.ped the invisible supports 
of his strength. There came a moment when it 
seemed to him that he must have swum beyond the 
confines of hfe. He had a sensation of eternity 
dose at hand, demanding no effort-offering its 
peace. It was easy to swim like this beyond 
the confines of life looking at a star. But the 
thought: "They will think I dared not face 
them and committed suicide," caused a revolt of 
his mmd which carried him on. He returned on 
board, as he had left, unheard and unseen. He 
lay m his hammock utterly exhausted and with a 



84 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

confused feeling that he had been beyond the con- 
fines of life, somewhere near a star, and that it was 
very quiet there. 



IX 

SHEtTERED by the squat headland from the first 
morning sparkle of the sea the Uttle bay breathed 
a delicious freshness. The party from the schooner 
landed at the bottom of the garden. They ex- 
changed insignificant words in studiously casuaJ 
tones. The professor's sister put up a long-handled 
eye-glass as if to scan the novel surroundings, but 
in reality searching for poor Arthur anxiously. 
Having never seen him otherwise than in his town 
clothes she had no idea what he would look like. 
It had been left to the professor to help his ladies 
out of the boat because Renouard, as if intent on 
giving directions, had stepped forward at once to 
meet the half-caste Luiz hurrying down the path. 
In the distance, in front of the dazzlingly sunlit 
bungalow, a row of dark-faced house-boys unequal 
in stature and varied in complexion preserved the 
immobility of a guard of honour. 

Luiz had taken off his soft felt hat before coming 
within earshot. Renouard bent his head to his 
rapid talk of domestic arrangements he meant to 
make for the visitors; another bed in the master's 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 85 

room for the ladies and a cot for the genOeman 
to be hung in the room opposite where— where 
Mr. Walter— here he gave a scared look all round— 
Jlr. Walter— had died. 

" Very good," assented Renouard in an even 
undertone. " And remember what you have to 
say of him." 

"Yes, master. Only "-he wriggled sUghtly 
and put one bare foot on the other for a moment 
in apologetic embarrassment—" only I—I— don't 
like to say it." 

Renouard looked at him without anger, with- 
out any sort of expression. " Frightened of the 
dead? Eh? WeU-aU right. I wiU say it my- 
self—I suppose once for all. ..." t mediately 
he raised his voice very much. 

" Send the boys down to bring up the luggage." 

" Yes, master." 

i^enouard turned to his distinguished guests who, 
h. personaUy conducted party of tourists, had 
stopped and were looking about them. 

" I am sorry," he began with an impassive face. 
" My man has just told me that Mr. Walter . . ." 
he managed to smile, but didn't correct himself 
" has gone in a trading schooner on a short tour 
of the islands, to the westward." 

This communication was received in profound 
silence. 



86 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



Renouard forgot himself in the thought: " It's 
done I " But the sight of the string of boys march- 
ing up to the house with suit-cases and dressing- 
bags rescued him from that appalling abstraction. 

" All I can do is to beg you to make yourselves at 
home . . . with what patience you may." 

This was so obviously the only thing to do that 
everybody moved on at once. The professor 
walked alongside Renouard, behind the two 
ladies. 
" Rather unexpected— this absence." 
" Not exactly," muttered Renouard. " A trip 
has to be made every year to engage labour." 

" I see . . . And he . . . How vexin;jly elusive 
the poor fellow has become! I'll begin to thinly 
that some wicked fairy is favouring this 'ove tale 
with unpleasant attentions." 

Renouard noticed that the party did not seem 
weighed down by this new disappointment. On 
the contrary they moved with a freer step. The 
professor's sister dropped her eye-glass to the end 
of its chain. Miss Moorsom took the lead. The 
professor, his lips unsealed, lingered in the open: 
but Renouard did not listen to that man's talk. 
He looked after that man's daughter— if indeed 
that creature of iixesistible seductions were a 
daughter of mortals. The very intensity of his 
desire, as if iiis soul were streaming after ba 



THE riANTER OF MALATA 87 

through his eyes, defeated his object of keeping 
hold of her as long as possible with, at least, one of 
his senses. Her moving outlines dissolved into 
a misty coloured shimmer of a woman made of 
flame and shadows, crossing the threshold of his 
house. 

ITie days which followed were not exactly such 
as Renouard had feared— yet they were not better 
than his fears. They were accursed in all the 
moods they brought him. But the general aspect of 
things was quiet. The professor smoked innumer- 
able pipes with the air of a worker on his holiday, 
always in movement and looking at things with 
that mysteriously sagacious aspect of men who are 
admittedly wiser than the rest of the world. His 
white head of hair— whiter than anything within 
the horizon except the broken water on the reefs- 
was glimpsed in every part of the plantation 
alvr^ys on the move under the white parasol. 
And once he cUmbed the headland and appeared 
suddenly to those below, a white speck elevated 
in the blue, with a diminutive but statuesque effect. 

Felicia Moorson remained near the house. 
Sometimes she could be seen with a despairing 
expression scribbUng rapidly in her lock-up dairy. 
Bui only for a moment. At the sound of Re- 
nouard's footsteps she would turn towards him 
her beautiful face, adorable in that cahn which was 



88 



THE PLANTER OF BIALATA 



like a wilful, like a cruel ignoring of her tremendous 
power. Whenever she sat on the verandah, on a 
chair more specially reserved for her use, Renouard 
would stroll up and sit on the steps near her, mostly 
silent, and often not trusting himself to turn his 
glance on her. She, very still with her eyes half- 
closed, looked down on his head — so that to a be- 
holder (such as Professor Moorsom, for instance) she 
would appear to be turning over in her mind pro- 
found thoughts about that man sitting at her feet, 
his shoulders bowed a little, his hands listless— as 
if vanquished. And, indeed, the moral poison of 
falsehood has such a decomposing power that 
Renouard felt his old personality turn to dead 
dust. Often, in the evening, when they sat out- 
side conversing languidly in the dark, he felt that 
he must rest his forehead on her feet and burst 
into tears. 

The professor's sister suffered from some little 
strain caused by the unstabihty of her own 
feelings toward Renouard. She could not tell 
whether she really did dislike him or not. At 
times he appeared to her most fascinating; and, 
though he generally ended by saying something 
shockingly crude, she could not resbt her inclina- 
tion to talk with him— at least not alwajrs. One 
day when her niece had left them alone on the 
verandah she leaned forward in her chair — speck- 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 89 

less, resplendent, and, in her way, almost as 
striking a personality as her niece, who did not 
resemble her in the least. " Dear Felicia has 
inherited her hair and the greatest part of her 
appearance from her mother," the maiden lady 
used to tell people. 
She leaned forward then, confidentially. 
" Oh I Mr. RenouardI Haven't you something 
comforting to say ? " 

He looked up, as surprised as if a voice from 
heaven had spoken with this perfect society intona- 
tion, and by the puzzled profundity of his blue 
eyes fluttered the wax-flo\. r of refined woman- 
hood. She continued. " For -I can speak to 
you openly on this tiresome subject— only think 
what a terrible strain this hope deferred must be 
for Felicia's heart— for her nerves." 

" Why speak to me about it," he muttered feel- 
ing half choked suddenly. 

"Why I As a friend — a well-wisher — the 
kindest of hosts. I am afraid we are really eating 
you out of house and home." She laughed a little. 
" Ah ! When, when will this suspense be relieved I 
That poor lost Arthur ! I confess that I am ahnost 
afraid of the great moment. It will be like seeing 
a ghost." 

" Have you ever seen a ghost ? " asked Renouard, 
in a dull voice. 



90 



THE Pi^NTER OF MALATA 



She shifted her hands a little. Her pose was 
perfect in its ease and middle-aged grace. 

" Not actually. Only in a photograph. But 
we have uany friends who had the experience of 
apparitions." 

" Ah I They see ghosts in London," mumbled 
Renouard, not looking at her. 

" Frequently — in a certain very interesting set. 
But all sorts of people do. We have a friend, a 
very famoi s author — his ghost is a girl. One of 
my brother's intimates is a very great man of 
science. He is friendly with a ghost ... Of a 
girl too," she added in a voice as if struck for the 
first time by the coincidence. " It is the photo- 
graph of that apparition which I have seen. Very 
sweet. Most interesting. A little cloudy naturally. 
. . . Mr. Renouard I I hope you are not a sceptic. 
It's so consoling to think . . ." 

" Those plantation boys of mine see ghosts too," 
said Renouard grimly. 

The sister of the philosopher sat up stifBy. What 
crudenessi It was always so with this strange 
yotmg man. 

" Mr. Renouard I How can you compare the 
superstitious fancies of your honible savages with 
the manifestations . . ." 

Words failed her. She broke off with a very 
faint primly angry smile. She was perhaps the 



THE PLANTER OF BIALATA 91 

more offended with him because of that flu* ter at 
the beginning of the conversation. And in a 
moment with perfect tact and dignity she got up 
from her chair and left hiro alone. 

Renouard didn't even look up. It was not the 
displeasure of the lady which deprived him of 
his sleep that night. He was beginning to forget 
what simple, honest sleep was like. His hammock 
from the ship had been hung for him on a side 
verandah, and he spent his nights in it on his back, 
his hani's folded on his chest, in a sort of half 
conscious, oppressed stupor. In the morning he 
watched with unseeing eyes the hea''' d come 
out a shapeless inkblot against the thin light of 
the false dawn, pass through all the stages of 
daybreak to the deep purple of its outlined mass 
nimbed gloriously with the gold of the rising 
sun. He listened to the vaguc sounds of waking 
within the house: and suddenly he became aware 
of Luiz standing by the hammock— obviously 
troubled. 
"What's the matter?" 
"Tsel Tse! Tse!" 

" Well, what now ? Trouble with the boys ? 
" No, master. The gentleman when I take him 
his bath water he speak to me. He ask me— L? 
ask— when, when, I think Mr. Walter, he come 
back." 



9a 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



The h»lf-c«8te'8 teeth chattered slightly. Re- 
nouard got out of the hammock. 

" And he is here all the time— eh ? " 

Luiz nodded a scared afiinnative, but at once 
protested, " I no see him. I never. Not II The 
ignorant wild bo3rs say they see . . . Something I 
Oughl" 

He clapped his teeth on another short rattle, and 
stood there, shrunk, blighted, like a man in a 
freezing blast. 

" And what did you say to the gentleman ? " 

" I say I don't know — and I clear out. I I 

don't likii to speak of him." 

" All right. We shall try to lay that poor ghost," 
said Renouard gloomily, going oft to a small hut 
near by to dress. He was saying to himself: 
" This fellow will end by giving me away. The 
last thing that I . . . Nol That mustn't be." 
And feeling his hand being forced he discovered 
the whole extent of his cowardice. 



That morning wandering about his plantation, 
more like a frightened soul than its creator ind 
master, he dodged the white parasol bobbing up 
here and there like a buoy adrift on a sea of dark* 
green plants. The crop promised to be magnifi- 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 93 

cent, and the fashionable philosopher of the age 
took other than a merely scientific interest in the 
experiment. His investments were juc! dous, but 
he had always some little money lying by, for 
experiments. 

After lunch, being left alone wii 1 Renouard, he 
talked a litOe of cultivation and such matters. 
Then suddenly: 

" By the way, is it tr what my sister tells me, 
that your plantation boys have been disturbed 
by a ghost? " 

Renouard, who since the ladies had left the table 
was not keeping such a strict watch limself, came 
out of his abstraction with a start aud a stifi smile. 
"My foreman had some trouble with them 
during my absence. They funk working in 1 
certain field on the slope of the hill." 

"A ghost here! " exclaimed the amused pro- 
fessor. "Then our whole conception of the 
psychology of ghosts must be revised. This island 
has been uninhabited probably since the dawn of 
ages. How did a ghost come here. By air or 
water? And why did it leave its native haunts. 
Was it from misanthropy ? Was he expeUed from 
some community of spirits? " 

Renouard essayed to respond in the same tone. 
The words died on his lips. Was it a man or a 
woman ghost, the professor inquired. 



94 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



" I don't know." Renouard made an effort to 
appear at ease. He had, he said, a couple of 
Tahitian amongst his boys — a ghost-ridden race. 
They had started the scare. They had probably 
brought their ghost with them. 

" Let us investigate the matter, Renouard," 
propof^ed the professor half in earnest. " We may 
make some interesting discoveries as to the state 
of primitive minds, at any rate." 

This was too much. Renouard jumped up 
and leaving the room went out and walked about 
in front of the house. He would allow no one to 
force his hand. Presently the professor joined 
him outside. He carried his parasol, but had 
neither his book nor his pipe with him. Amiably 
serious he laid his hand on his " dear young 
friend's " arm. 

" We are all of us a Uttle strung up," he said. 
" For my part I have been like sister Anne in the 
story. But I cannot see anything coming. Any- 
thing that would be the least good for anybody — 
I mean." 

Renouard had recovered sufficiently to murmur 
coldly his regret of this waste of time. For that 
was what, he supposed, the professor had in his 
mind. 

" Time," mused Professor Moorsom. " I don't 
know that time can be wasted. But I will tell 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 95 

you. my dear friend, what this is: it is an awful 
waste of life. I mean for aU of us. Even for my 
sister, who has got a headache and is gone to Ue 
down." 

He shook gently Renouard's arm. " Yes, for 
all of us I One may meditate on life endlessly, 
one may even have a poor opinion of it— but the 
fact remains that we have only one life to live. 
And it is short. Think of that, my young friend." 
He released Renouard'r arm and stepped out 
of the shade opening his parasol. It was clear 
that there was something more in his mind than 
mere anxiety about the date of his lectures for 
fashionable audiences. What did the man mean 
by his confounded platitudes? To Renouard, 
scared by Luiz in the morning (for he felt that 
nothing could be more fatal than to have his decep- 
tion unveiled otherwise than by personal confes- 
sion), this talk sounded like encouragement or a 
warning from that man who seemed to him to be 
very brazen and very subtle. It was Hke being 
bullied by the dead and cajoled by the living into 
a throw of dice for a supreme stake. 

Renouard went away to some distance from the 
house and threw himself down in the shade of a 
tree. He lay there perfectly stiU with his forehead 
resting on his folded arms, light-headed and think- 
ing. It seemed to him that he must be on fire, then 



96 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



that he had fallen into a cool whirlpool, a smooth 
funnel of water swirling about with nauseating 
rapidity. And then (it must have been a reminis- 
cence of his boyhood) he was walking on the 
dangerous thin ice of a river, unable to turn back. 
. . . Suddenly it parted from shore to shore with 
a loud crack like the report of a gun. 

With one leap he found himself on his feet. All 
was peace, stillness, sunshine. He walked away 
from there slowly. Had he been a gambler he 
would have perhaps been supported in a measure 
by the mere excitement. But he was not a gambler. 
He had always disdained that artificial manner of 
challenging the fates. The bungalow came into 
view, bright and pretty, and all about everything 
was peace, stillness, sunshine. . . . 

While he was plodding towards it he had a dis- 
agreeable sense of the dead man's company at his 
elbow. The ghost I He seemed to be everywhere 
but in his grave. Could one ever shake him oS? 
he wondered. At that moment Miss Moorsom 
came out on the verandah; and at once, as if by a 
mystery of radiating waves, she roused a great 
tumult in his heart, shook earth and sky together — 
but he plodded on. Then like a grave song-note 
in the stor. . \er voice came to him ominously. 

" Ah I Mr. Renouard. . . ." He came up and 
smiled, but she was very serious. " I can't keep 



97 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA ^ 

■•»<! .11 direct y„„. To S, « •. "" '"■'»=^' 
She was wearing a itmt „anki« skirl a „„ai„ 

pa h begins where these three pahns a e The 
only pahns on the island." ^^^ 

" I see." 

She never turned her hpaH a** 
observed: " This nath . I ^^*^'- ^ ^^le she 

r^,^ P "* ^°°^S as f it had been 

made recently." *° 

"Quite recently," he assented very low 

They went on chmbing steadily without exchan. 

'^ veiled ,he „^ C^^,^^"'^' 

ft 



98 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



of wrecked islands, the restless myriads of sea- 
birds rolled and unrolled dark ribbons on the sky, 
gathered in clouds, soared and stooped like a play 
of shadows, for they were too far for them to hear 
their cries. 

Renouard broke the silence in low tones. 

" They'll be settUng for the night presently." 
She made no sound. Round them all was peace 
and declining sunshine. Near by, the topmost 
pinnacle of Malata, resembling the top of a buried 
tower, rose a rock, weather-worn, grey, weary of 
watching the monotonous centuries of the Pacific. 
Renouard leaned his shoulders against it. Felicia 
Moorsom faced him suddenly, her splendid black 
eyes full on his face as though she had made up 
her mind at last to destroy his wits once and for 
all. Dazzled, he lowered his eyeUds slowly. 

" Mr. Renouard! There is something strange 
in all this. Tell me where he is ? " 

He answered deUberately. 

" On the other side of this rock. I buried him 
there myself." 

She pressed her hands to her breast, struggled for 
her breath for a moment, then: " Ohhhl . . . You 
buried him 1 . . . What sort of man are >uU? . . . 
You dared not tell! . . . He is another of your 
victims? . . . You dared not confess that evening. 
. . You must have killed him. What could he 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 99 

have done to you?... You fastened on him some 
atrocious quarrel and . . ." 

Her vengeful aspect, her poignant cries left him 
as unmoved as the weary rock against which he 
l«med. He only raised his eyelids to look at her 
and lowered them slowly. Nothing more. It 
sJ«ced her. And as if ashamed she made a 
gesture with her hand, putting away from her that 
thought. He spoke, quietly ironic at first 

•Hal the legendary Renouard of sensitive 
^o^the nithless adventurer-the ogre Tth" 

1 don t thmk that the a.«atest fool of them all ever 
dru^d hmt such a stupid thing of me that I killed 
men for nothing. No, I had noticed this man in a 
hotel. He had come from up country I was told 
and was domg nothing. I saw him sitting ther^ 
lonely ma comer like a sick crow, and I went ov^ 
oneevemngtotalktohim. Just on impulse. He 
wasnt mipressive. He was pitiful. My worst 
enemy could W told you he wasn't good'enou^h 
to be one of Renouard's victims. It didn't take 

J^r^r- ,^ry'*^«Kenouardofshopkeepers' 
legend. Listenl I would never have be£ je^ou. 



100 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

of him. And yet I am jealous of the air you 
breathe, of the soil you tread on, of the world that 
sees you — moving free — not mine. But nevermind. 
I rather liked him. For a certain reason I proposed 
he should come to be my assistant here. He said 
he believed this would save him. It did not save 
him from death. It came to him as it were from 
nothing — ^just a fall. A mere sUp and tumble of 
ten feet into a ravine. But it seems he had been 
hurt before up-coimtry — by a horse. He ailed 
and ailed. No, he was not a steel-tipped man. 
And his poor soul seemed to have been damaged 
too. It gave way very soon." 

" This is tragic! " Felicia Moorsom whispered 
with feeling. Renouard's lips twitched, but his 
level voice continued mercilessly. 

" That's the story. He raUied a little one 
night and said he wanted to tell me something. I, 
being a gentleman, he said, he could confide in me. 
I told him that he was Uilstaken. That there was 
a good deal of a plebeian in me, that he couldn't 
know. He seemed disappointed. He muttered 
something about his innocence and something that 
sounded Uke a curse on some woman, then turned 
to the wall and — just grew cold." 

" On a woman," cried Miss Moorsom indignantly. 
"What woman? " 

" I wonder! " said Renouard, raising his eyes 






THE PLANTER OF MALATA loi 

and noting the crimson of her ear-lobes against 
the Uve whiteness of her complexion, the sombre, 
as if secret, night-splendour of her eyes under the 
writhing iiames of her hair. " Some woman who 

wouldn't believe in that poor innocence of his 

Yes. You probably. And now you will not 
believe in me— not even in me who must in truth 
be what I am— even to death. No I You won't. 
And yet, Felicia, a woman Uke you and a man hke 
me do not often come together on this earth." 

The flame of her glorious head scorched his face. 
He flung his hat far away, and his suddenly lowered 
eyelids brought out startlingly his resemblance 
to antique bronze, the profile of Pallas, still, 
austere, bowed a little in the shadow of the rock.' 
"Oh! If you could only understand the truth 
that is in me! " he added. 

She waited, as if too astounded to speak, till he 
looked up again, and then with unnatural force as 
if defending herself from some unspoken aspersion. 
" It's I who stand for truth here ! Believe in you ! 
In you, who by a heartless falsehood— and nothing 
else, nothing else, do you hear?— have brought me 
here, deceived, cheated, as in some abommable 
farce! " She sat down on a boulder, rested her 
chin in her hands, in the pose of simple grief- 
mourning for herself. 
" It only wanted this. Why! Oh! Why is 



4 

m 



loa THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

it that ugliness, ridicule, and baseness must fall 
across my path." 

On that height, alone with the sky, they spoke 
to each other as if the earth had fallen away from 
under their feet. 

" Are you grieving for your dignity ? He was a 
mediocre soul and could have given you but an 
unworthy existence." 

She did not even smile at those words, but, 
superb, as if Uf ting a comer of the veil, she turned 
on him slowly. 

"And do you imagine I would have devoted 
myself to him for such a purpose! Don't you 
know that reparation was due to him from me? A 
sacred debt — a fine duty. To redeem him would 
not have been in my power— I know it. But he 
was blameless, and it v. as for me to come forward. 
Don't you see that in the eyes of the world nothing 
could have rehabilitated him so completely as 
hismarriage with me? No word of evil could be 
whispered of him after I had given him my hand. 
As to giving myself up to anything less than the 
shaping of a man's destiny— if I thought I could 
do it I would abhor myself. . . ." She spoke with 
authority in her deep fascinating, unemotional 
voice. Renouard meditated, gloomy, as if over 
some sinister riddle of a beautiful sphinx met on 
the wild road of his life. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 103 

"Yes. Your father was right. You are one 
of these aristocrats ..." 
She drew herself up haughtily. 
" What do you say? My fatherl ... I an 
aristocrat." 

" OhI I don't mean that you are Uke the men 
and women of the time of armours, castles, and 
great deeds. Oh, no I They stood on the naked 
soil, had traditions to be faithful to, had their feet 
on this earth of passions and death which is not a 
hothouse. They would have been too plebeian 
for you since they had to lead, to suffer with to 
understand the commonest humanity. No you 
are merely of the topmost layer, disdainful and 
supenor, the mere pure froth and bubble on the 
mscrutable depths which some day will toss you 
out of existence. But you are you! You are 
you! You are the eternal love itself-only 
Divinity, it isn't your body, it is your soul thiit is 
made of foam." 

She listened as if in a dream. He had succeeded 
so weU m his effort to drive back the flood of his 
passion that his life itself seemed to run with it 
out of his body. At that moment he felt as one 
dead speaking. But the headlong wave return- 
ing with tenfold force flung him on her suddenly 
with open ams and blazing eyes. She found 
herself like a feather in his grasp, helpless, unable 



104 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

to struggle, with her feet off the ground. But 
this contact with her, maddening like too much 
felicity, destroyed its own end. Fire ran through 
his veins, turned his passion to ashes, burnt him 
out and left him empty, without force— almost 
without desire. He let her go before she could 
cry out. And she was so used to the forms of 
repression enveloping, softening the crude impulses 
of old humanity that she no longer believed in 
their existence as if it were an exploded legend. 
She did not recognise what had happened to her. 
She came safe out of his arms, without a struggle, 
not even having felt afraid. 

" What's the meaning of this? " she said, out- 
raged but calm in a scornful way. 

He got dfiv.Ti on his knees in silence, bent low 
to her very feet, while she looked down at him, a 
little surprised, without animosity, as if merely 
curious to see what he would do. Then, while 
he remained bowed to the ground pressing the hem 
of her skirt to his lips, she made a slight movement. 
He got up. 

" No," he said. " Were you ever so much mine 
what could I do with you without your consent? 
No. You don't conquer a wraith, cold mist, stuff 
of dreams, illusion. It must come to you and 
cling to your breast. And then I Oh I And 
then I" 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 105 
AU ecstasy, aU expression went out of his face 

have no fr"*^'" ^' '^^' " *^°"«'> y°" «« 
J«ve no clann on my consideration after having 

decoyed me here for the vile purpose, apparently' 
of gloating over me as your possible prey. : wiU 
^U you that I am not perhaps the exL;d;nI^ 
bemgyouthinklam. You may believe me. hZ 
I stand for truth itself." 

"What's that to me what you are? "heanswered, 
At a sign from you I would climb up to the 
seventh heaven to bring you down to eartS for my 
own-and if I saw you steeped to the «ps in vice 
m cnme. m mud. I would go after you. take you' 
to my ams-wear you for an incomparable jewel 
on my breast. And that's love-true love-the 
gift and the curse of the gods. There is no other." 
ne truth vibrating in his voice made her recoU 
^hUy. for she was not fit to hear it-not even a 
nttle-not even one single time in her hfe. It was 
revoltmg to her; and in her trouble. pcrhTL 
prompted by the suggestion of his name or To 
soften die harshness of expression, for she wa^ 
obscurely moved, she spoke to him in French 
Assez/ J-ai horreur de tout cela." she said 
He was white to his very Ups. but he' was 
trembhngnomore. The dice had been cast, and 
not even violence could alter the throw She 
passed by him unbendingly, and he followed her 



io6 THE PLANTER OF BIALATA 

down the path. After a time the heard him 

laying: 

"And your dream is to influence a human 
destiny? " 

" Yes I " she answered curtly, unabashed, with 
woman's complete assurance. 

' Then you may rest content. You have done 
it." 

She shrugged her shoulders sUghtly. But just 
before reaching the end of the path she relented, 
stopped, and went back to him. 

" I don't suppose you are very anxious for people 
to know how near you came to absolute turpitude. 
You may rest easy on that point. I shall speak t-^ 
my father, of course, and we will agree to say that 
he has died — nothing more." 

" Yes," said Rcnouard in a lifeless voice. " He 
is dead. His very ghost shall be done with 
presently." 

She went on, but he remained standing stock still 
in the dusk. She had ah-eady reached the three 
palms when she heard behind her a loud peal of 
laughter, cynical and joyless, such as is heard in 
smoking-rooms at the end oi a scandalous story. 
It made her feel positively faint for a moment. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



X07 



XZ 

SlowLv . ccanpiete dartoess enveloped Gcoftev 

« ead of following FeUcia Into the hou« he lid 
stopped under the three pahns, and Sg J^,^j 
a «nooth trunk had abandoned himself "0 a^^i 

r^e:S:L"/lSe::Jta^-^^^^^^^^^^ 
gone too far-so far that there Ln^^tf 

JM he he had to give up, and with a sort of 
d«pa.r«,g self-possession he tried to unde^and 
the cause cf the defeat. He did not ascrii t^o 
that absurd dead man. ° 

The hesitating shadow of Luiz approached him 

savrj^.r^ ^"'' ^"^e? You must 
say I beg to be excused. I can't come But I 

^s. them to-mo.ow morning, at tilafi; 
place. Take your orders from the professor wtf 
the saihng of the schooner. Go now " 
Luiz. dumbfounded, retreated into the darkness. 



lo8 THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

Renouard did not move, but hours afterwards, 
like the bitter fruit of his immobility, the words: 
" I had nothing to offer to her vanity," came from 
his lips in the silence of the island. And it was 
then only that he stirred, only to wear the night 
out in restless tramping up and down the various 
paths of the plantation. Luiz, whose sleep was 
made light by the consciousness of some impending 
change, heard footsteps passing by his hut, the 
firm tread of the master; and turning on his mats 
emitted a faint Tse! Tse! Tsel of deep concern. 

Lights had been burning in the bungalow almost 
all through the night; and with the first sign of 
day began the bustle of departure. House boys 
walked processionally carrying suit-cases and 
dressing-bags down to the schooner's boat, which 
csime to the landing place at the bottom of the 
garden. Just as the rising sun threw its golden 
nimbus aroimd the piuple shape of the headland, 
the Plsinter of Malata was perceived pacing bare- 
headed the curve of the httle bay. He exchanged 
a few words with the sailing-master of the schooner, 
then remained by the boat, standing very upright, 
his eyes on the ground, waiting. 

He had not long to wait. Into the cool, over- 
shadowed garden the professor descended first, and 
came jauntily down the path in a lively cracking of 
small shells. With his closed parasol hooked on his 



■'W0t -K. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 109 
far^, and a book in his hand, he resembled a 
banal tounst more than was permissible to a man of 
his ,m,que distinction. He waved the disen^^ed 

!f t hands. He seemed to appraise the aspect 
oHhe man with a sharp glance, and made up'Ss 

"We are going back by Suez." he began almost 
^ terous y. .. I have been looking up'the sailing 
^sts. If the zephirs of your Pacific are only 
moderately propitious I think we are sure to catch 

uirm' t " ''"'''''' °" ''^ ^'^^^ 
March. This will suit me exceUently. " He 

lowered his tone. " My dear young friend iZ 
deeply grateful to you." ^ ' ^ " 

Renouard's set lips moved. 
" ^hy are you grateful to me> " 
'•Ah! Why? In the first place you might have 
made us m.ss the next boat, mightn't you ? 1 

don t thank you for your hospitahty. You can't 
be ^g^ with me for saying that I am truly thank- 
M to e«:ape from it. But I am grateful to you 
f«r what you have done, and-for being What 

It was difiicult to define the flavour of that 
speech, but Renouard received it with an austerely 
eqmvocal smile. The professor stepping into the 



no THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

boat opened his parasol and sat down in the stem- 
sheets waiting for the ladies. No sound of human 
voice broke the fresh silence of the morning while 
they walked the broad path, Miss Moorsom a little 
in advance of her aunt. 

When she came abreast of him Renouard raised 
his head. 

" Good-bye, Mr. Renouard," she said in a low 
voice, meaning to pass on; but there was such a 
look of entreaty in the blue gleam of his sunken 
eyes that after an imperceptible hesitation she laid 
her hand, which was ungloved, in his extended 
palm. 

" Will you condescend to remember me? " he 
asked, while an emotion with which she was angry 
made her pale cheeks flush and her black eyes 
sparkle. 

" This is a strange request for you to make," 
she said exaggerating the coldness of her tone. 

" Is it? Impudent perhaps. Yet I am not so 
guilty as you think; and bear in mind that to me 
you can never make reparation." 

"Reparation? To you I It is you who can 
offer me no reparation for the offence against my 
f eeUngs — and my person ; for what reparation can 
be adequate for your odious and ridiculous plot so 
scornful in its implication, so humiliating to my 
pride. Not I don't want to remember you." 



Ill 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA „, 

«»->. steppe. r,iUr.™fnf 

ratae. ^'^ <I"PP«<' " »iu, . fata, 

moment afterwards softening L ^''*"' * 

only his back in the disian.. '^'^ 

the bungalow. She^tchS^r"' ^^""'^ 
beforeshe tooleft the sJ^ofnttf""—^- 

Nobody disturbed Renouard in thot- 
he had shut himself in to^^t"e^e"°" "'''*' 
Perfmne of her who for him wa^^^^^' '"^.r"* 
in the afternoon when thiSal^^Te w^^ ^.''*" 
the other side of the door ""^^^ ^^ ^^^ard on 



Iia THE PLANTER OF MALATA 

He wanted the master to know that the trader 
Janet was just entering the cove. 

Renouard's strong voice on his side of the door 
gave him most unexpected instructions. He was 
to pay off the boys with the cash in the office and 
arrange with the captain of the Janet to take every 
worker away from Maiata, returning them to their 
respective homes. An order on the Dtmster firm 
would be given to b>m in payment. 

And again the siJence of the bungalow remained 
unbroken till, next morning, the half-caste came to 
report that everjrthing was done. The plantation 
boys were embarking now. 

Through a crack in the door a hand thrust at 
him a piece of paper, and the door slammed to so 
sharply that Luiz stepped back. Then approach- 
ing cringingly the keyhole, in a propitiatory tone 
he asked: 

" Do I go too, master? " 

" Yes. You too. Everybody." 

" Master stop here alone? " 

Silence. And the half-caste's eyes grew wide 
with woi.der. But he also, like those " ignorant 
savages," the plantation boys, was only too glad 
to leave an island haunted by the ghost of a white" 
man. He backsd away noiselessly from the 
mysterious silence in ihe closed room, and only in 
the very doorway of the bungalow allowed himself 



THE PUNIER OF MAIAT^ „, 
"Tsel Tsel Tsel " 



XII 

« town. Thufthe 1, "^'^^"^Hourhours 

afterwards from relLJ ' ^"^ "°* P^^^^"* him 
-anly tears in SseyesT^^^^ ""''' ''''''''■ ^'^ 
the fashionable Jdl, T ""'^^ ^°°^^°'"- 
betrothedinMlt?o„,w "^^"^y-^^^nd her 

Most people ^'Xt T "! '^ *^ '" ^^^ -™s. 

^-asthrta.o;atr-t;f^"-^-- 

frieni::^;e::?rnTed?r "^"^-^'^ ^^ 
rest of the world"^' Crof •°" "°" *^^" ^''^ 
perhaps, he th^rste^^ a ft"""'' r"""^"'^^' 
f etail. And when he «: iLlrj .'T^^ 
^y'-g - port day after day hfru^ ^ .°"^^ 
n^aster to leam the reas J rT '"'""« 

that such wer» his iT\- '"^" *°^^ him 

ordered to he the': a :lTif "^ '^'^ ''- 
Malata. And the montr^^ °''' ''*"™"« to 

ask you to give Z7^LT--'':^''IZ " ' ^ 
He landed in the mT '^''^ ^''^ Editor. 

the mormng at the bottom of 



114 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA 



the garden and found peace, stillness, sunshine 
reigning everywhere, the doors and windows of the 
bungalow standing wide open, no sight of a human 
being anywhere, the plants growing rank and tall 
on the deserted fields. For hours the Editor and 
the schooner's crew, excited by the mystery, roamed 
over the island shouting Renouard's name; and 
at last set themselves in grim silence to explore 
systematically the uncleared bush and the deeper 
ravines in search of his corpse. What had happened ? 
Had he been murdered by the boys? Or had he 
simply, capricious and secretive, abandoned his 
plantation taking the people with him. It was im- 
possible to tell what had happened. At last, towards 
the decUne of the day, the Editor and the sailing 
master discovered a track of sandals crossing a strip 
of sandy beach on the north shore of the bay. 
Following this track fearfully, they passed round 
the spur of the headland, and there on a large stone 
found the sandals, Renouard's white jacket, and the 
Malay sarongof chequered pattern which theplantei 
of Malata was well known to wear when going to 
bathe. These things made a little heap, and the 
sailor remarked, after gazing at it in silence — 

" Birds have been hovering over this for many 
a day." 

" He's gone bathing and got drowned," cried the 
Editor in dismay. 



THE PLANTER OF MALATA „5 

^blt^l'"''^- " '^^'"d been downed any- 
where «,tlu„ a mile from the shore the body would 
have been washed out on th ,eefs. AndoilTts 
have found nothing so far" ""TDoats 

Nothing was ever found -and Renouard's 
du^ppeai^ce remained in the main inexpUcaWe 
For to whom could it have occurred that a man 

onxfe-with a steady stroke-his eyes fixed on a 

Next evenmg fron, the receding schooner, the 
EAtor looked back for the last time at the de- 

Tt f "'u ^ '^^^'^ ^'""'^ '^-S hstlessly ot 
the high rock on the middle hill; and under 
«.e mysterious silence of that shadow M^t" 

sunset, as if remembering the heart that was 
broken there. ^ 



Dtc. 1913. 



V 



THE PARTNER 

" And that be hanged for a silly yam. The boat- 
men here in Westport have been telling this lie to 
the summer visitors for years. The sort that gets 
taken out for a row at a shilling a head— and asks 
foolish questions— must be told something to pass 
the time away. D'ye know anything more silly 
than being pulled in a boat along a beach ? . . . It's 
like drinking weak lemonade when you aren't 
thirsty. I don't know why they do it I They 
don't even get sick." 

A forgotten glass of beer stood at his elbow; the 
locality was a small respectable smoking-room of a 
small respectable hotel, and a taste for forming 
chance acquaintances accounts for my sitting up 
late with him. His great, flat, furrowed cheeks 
were shaven; a thick, square wisp of white hairs 
hung from his chin; its waggling gave additional 
point to his deep utterance; and his general con- 
tempt for mankind with its activities and morali- 
ties was expressed in the rakish set of his big soft 
hat of black felt with a large rim. which he kept 
always on Lij head. 

"9 



130 



THE PARTNER 



His appearance was that of an oH adventurer, 
retired after many unholy experiences in the darkest 
parts of the earth; but I had every reason to believe 
that he had never been outside England. From a 
casual remark somebody dropped I gathered that 
in his early days he must have been somehow con- 
nected with shipping — with ships in docks. Of 
individuality he had plenty. And it was this 
which attracted my attention at first. But he 
was not easy to classify, and before the end of the 
week I gave him up with the vague definition, " an 
imposing old ruffian." 

One rainy afternoon, oppressed by infinite bore- 
dom, I went into the smoking-room. He was 
sitting there in absolute immobility, which wa^ 
really fakir-like and impressive. I began to wonder 
what could be the associations of that sort of man, 
his " milieu," his private connections, his views, his 
morality, his friends, and even his wife — ^when to 
my surprise he opened a conversation in a deep, 
muttering voice. 

I must say that since he had learned from some- 
body that I was a writer of stories he bad been 
acknowledging my existence by means of some 
vague growls in the morning. 

He was essentially a tacitiun man. There was 
an effect of rudeness in his fragmentary sentences. 
It was some time before I discovered that what he 



THE PARTNER ui 

woulu be at wu the process by which stories- 
stories for periodicals— were produced. 

What could one say to a fellow like that? But 
I was bored to death; the weather continued im- 
possible; and I resolved to be amiable. 

" And so you make these tales up on your own. 
How do they ever come into your head? " he 
rumbled. 

I explained that one generally got a hint for 
a tale. 

"What sort of hint?" 

"Well, for instance," I said, "I got myself 
rowed out to the rocks the other day. My boat- 
man told me of the wreck on these rocks nearly 
twenty years ago. That could be used as a hint 
for a mainly descriptive bit of story with some 
such title as ' In the Channel,' for instance." 

It was then that he flew out at the boatmen and 
the summer visitors who listen to their tales. With- 
out moving a muscle of his face he emitted a power- 
ful " Rot," from somewhere out of the depths of 
his chest, and went on in his hoarse, fragmentary 
mumble. "Stare at the silly rocks— nod their 
silly heads [the visitors, I presume]. What do 
they think a man is— blown-out paper bag or what ? 

—go ofi pop like that when he's hit Damn 

siUy yam Hint indeed ! . . . A lie ? " 

You must imagine this statuesque ruffian en- 



na THE PARTNER 

haloed in the black rim of his hat, letting all this 
out as an old dog growls sometimes, with his head 
up and staring-away eyes. 

"Indeed!" I exclaimed. "WeU, but even if 
untrue it is a hint, enabling me to see these rocks, 
this gale they speak of, the heavy seas, etc., etc., 
in relation to mankind. The struggle against 
natural forces and the effect of the issue on at least 
one, say, exalted " 

He interrupted me by an aggressive— 

" Would truth be any good to you? " 

" I shouldn't like to say," I answered, cautiously. 
" It's said that truth is stranger than fiction." 

" Who saj^ that? " he mouthed. 

" Oh I Nobody in particular." 

I turned to the window; for the contemptuous 
beggar was oppressive to look at, with his immov- 
able arm on the table. I suppose my uncere- 
monious maimer provoked him to a comparatively 
long speech. 

" Did you ever see such a silly lot of rocks? 
Like plums in a sUce of cold pudding." 

I was looking at them — an acre or more of black 
dots scattered on the steel-grey shades of the level 
sea, imder the uniform gossamer grey mist with a 
formless brighter patch in one place — the veiled 
whiteness of the cliff coming through, like a diffused, 
mysterious radiance. It was a deUcate and wonder- 



'I 



THE PARTNER 



z« 






All picture, sometluniB •'xpressive, suggestive, and 
desolate, a symphc -ly in gicy ; -d black— a Whist- 
ler. But the nex* th ag said jy the voice behind 
me made me turn re ca.-! It fjrowled out contempt 
for all associated notions of roaring seas with con- 
cise energy, then went on— 

" I— no such foolishness— looking at the rocks 
out there— more Hkely call to mind an office— I 
used to look in sometimes at one time— office in 
London— one of them small streets behind Cannon 

Street Station " 

He was very deUberate; not jerky, only frag- 
mentary; at times profane. 

" That's a rather remote connection," I observed, 
approaching him. 

"Connection? To Hades with your connec- 
tions. It was an accident." 

" Still," I said, " an accident has its backward 
and forward connections, which, if they could be 

set forth " 

Without moving he seemed to lend an atten- 
tive ear. 

"Aye! Set forth. That's perhaps what you 
could do. Couldn't you now? There's no sea Ufe 
in this connection. But you can put it in out of 
your head— if you like." 

" Yes. I could, if necessary," I said. " Some- 
times it pays to put in a lot out of one's head, and 



124 



THE PARTNER 



sometimes it doesn't. I mean that the story isn't 
worth it. Everything's in that." 

It amused me to talk to him Uke this. He re- 
flected audibly that he guessed story-writers were 
out after money like the rest of the world which 
bad to live by its wits: and that it was extra- 
ordinary how far people who were out after money 
would go. . . . Some of them. 

Then he made a sally against sea Ufe. Silly sort 
of Ufe, he called it. No opportunities, no experi- 
ence, no variety, nothing. Some fine men came 
out of it — ^he admitted — but no more chance in the 
world if put to it than fly. Kids. So Captain 
Harry Dunbar. Good sailor Great name as a 
skipper. Big man; short side-whiskers going grey, 
fine face, loud voice. A good fellow, but no more 
up to people's tricks than a baby. 

" That's the captain of the Sagamore you're talk- 
ing about," I said, confidently. 

After a low, scornful " Of course " he seemed 
now to hold on the wall with his fixed stare the 
vision of that city office, " at the back of Cannon 
Street Station," while he growled and mouthed a 
fragmentary description, jerking his chin up now 
and then, as if angry. 

It was, according to his account, a modest place 
of business, not shady in any sense, but out of the 
way, in a small street now rebuilt from end to end. 



THE PARTNER 



125 



" Seven doors from the Cheshire Cat pubUc house 
under the railway bridge. I used to take my lunch 
there when my business called me to the city. 
Cloete would come in to have his chop and make 
the girl laugh. No need to talk much, either, for 
that. Nothing but the way he would twinkle his 
spectacles on you and give a twitch of his thick 
mouth was enough to start you off before he began 
one of his little tales. Funny fellow, Cloete. 
C-1-o-e-t-e— Cloete." 

"What was he— a Dutchman? " I asked, not 
seeing in the least what all this had to do with 
the Westport boatmen and the Westport summer 
visitors and this extraordinary old fellow's irritable 
view of them as liars and fools. " Devil knows," 
he grunted, his eyes on the wall as if not to miss 
a single movement of a cinematograph picture. 
" Spoke nothing but English, anyway. First I 
saw him— comes off a ship in dock from the States 
— passenger. Asks me for a small hotel near by. 
Wanted to be quiet and have a look round for a 
few days. I took him to a place — friend of mine. 
. . . Next time— in the City— Hallo ! You're very 
obliging— have a drink. Talks plenty about him- 
self. Been years in the States. All sorts of busi- 
ness all over the place. With some patent 
medicine people, too. Travels. Writes advertise- 
ments and all that. Tells me funny stories. Tall, 



126 



THE PARTNER 



loose-limbed fellow. Black hair up on end, like a 
bnish; long face, long legs, long arms, twinkle 
in his specs, jocular way of speaking — ^in a low 
voice. . . . See that? " 

I nodded, but he was not looking at me. 

" Never laughed so much in my Ufe. The beggar 
—would make you laugh teUing you how he skinned 
his own father. He was up to that, too. A man 
who's been in the patent-medicine trade will be up 
to auything from pitch-and-toss to wilful murder. 
And that's a bit of hard truth for you. Don't mind 
what they do — think they can carry o£E anything 
and talk themselves out of anything—all the 
world's a fool to them. Business man, too, Cloeta. 
Came over with a few hundred pounds. Looking 
for something to do — in a quiet way. Nothing 
like the old country, after all, says he. . . . And so 
we part — I with more drinks in me than I was 
used to. After a time, perhaps six months or so, 
I nm up against liim again in Mr. George Dunbar's 
office. Yes, that office. It wasn't often that I . . . 
However, there was a bit of his cargo in a ship in 
dock that I wanted to ask Mr. George about. In 
comes Cloete out of the room at the back with some 
papers in his hand. Partner. You understand ? " 

" Aha ! " I said. " The few hundred pounds." 

" And that tongue of his," he growled. " Don't 
forget that tongue. Some of his tales must have 



THE PARTNER 



xa7 



opened George Dunbar's eyes a bit as to what 
business means." 
" A plausible fellow," I suggested. 

" H'm! You must have it in your own way 

of course. WeU. Partner. George Dunbar puts 

his top-hat on and tells me to wait a moment 

George always looked as though he were making a 
few thousands a year— a city swell. . . . Come 
along, old man ! And he and Captain Harry go 
out together— some business with a soUcitor round 
the comer. Captain Harry, when he was in Eng- 
land, used to turn up in his brother's office regularly 
about twelve. Sat in a comer hke a good boy, 
reading the paper and smoking his pipe. So they 
go out. . . . Model brothers, says Cloete— two love- 
birds—I am looking after the tinned-fruit side of 
this cozy Uttle show. . . Gives me that sort of 
talk. Then by-and-by: What sort of old thing is 
that Sagamore? Finest ship out— eh? I dare 
say ail ships are fine to you. You Uve by them. I 
teU you what; I would just as soon put my money 
into an old stocking. Sooner! " 

He drew a breath, and I noticed his hand, lying 
loosely on the table, close slowly into a fist. In 
that immovable man it was startUng, ominous, Uke 
the famed nod of the Commander. 

" So, akeady at that time— note— already," he 
growled. 



128 



THE PARTNER 



" But hold on," I interrupted. " The Sagamore 
belonged to Mundy and Rogers, I've been told." 

He snorted contemptuously. " Damn boatmen 
—know no better. Flew the firm's house-flag. 
That's another thing. Favour. It was like this: 
When old man Dunbar died. Captain Harry was 
ahready in command with the firm. George 
chucked the bank he was clerking in — to go on his 
own with what there was to share after the old 
chap. George was a smart man. Started ware- 
housing ; then two or three things at a time : wood- 
pulp, preserved-fruit trade, and so on. And 
Captain Harry let him have his share to work with. 
... I am provided for in my ship, he says. . . . But 
by-and-by Mundy and Rogers begin to sell out 
to foreigners all their ships— go into steam right 
away. Captain Harry gets very upset— lose com- 
mand, part with the ship he was fond of — very 
wretched. Just then, so it happened, the brothers 
came in for some money — an old woman died or 
something. Quite a tidy bit. Then young George 
says: There's enough between us two to buy the 

Sagamore with But you'll need more money 

for your business, cries Captain Harry— and the 
other laughs at him : My business is going on all 
right. Why, I can go out and make a handful of 
sovereigns while you are trying to get your pipe 
to draw, old man. . . . Mundy and Rogers very 



V 



THE PARTNER tag 

friendly about it: Certainly, Captain. And we 
will manage her for you, if you like, as if she were 
still our own. . . . Why, with a connection Ukc 
that it was good investment to buy that ship. 
Good I Aye, at the time." 

The turning of his head slightly toward me at 
this point was like a sign of strong feeling in any 
other man. 

" You'U mind that this was long before Cloete 
came into it at all," he muttered, wamingly. 

" Yes. I will mind," I said. " We generally 
say: some years passed. That's soon done." 

He eyed me for a while silently in an unseeing 
way, as if engrossed in the thought of the years so 
easily dealt with; his own years, too, they were, 
the years before and the years (not so many) after 
Cloete came upon the scene. When he began to 
speak again, I discerned his intention to point 
out to me, in his obscure and graphic manner, the 
influence on George Dunbar of long association 
with Cloete's easy moral standards, unscrupulously 
persuasive gift of humour (funny fellow), and 
adventurously reckless disposition. He desired me 
anxiously to elaborate this view, and I assured 
him it was quite within my powers. He wished 
me also to understand that George's business had 
its ups and downs (the other brother was meantime 
sailing to and fro serenely); that he got into low 



130 



THE PARTNER 



water at times, which worried him rather, because 
he had married a young wife with expensive tastes. 
He was having a pretty anxious time of it generally ; 
and just then Cloete ran up in the city somewhere 
against a man working a patent medicine (the 
fellow's old trade) with some success, but which, 
with capital, capital to the time of thousands to be 
spent with both hands on advertising, could be 
turned into a great thing — infinitely better-paying 
than a gold-mine. Cloete became excited at the 
possibilities of that sort of business, in which he 
was an expert. I understood that George's partner 
was all on fire from the contact with this unique 
opportunity. 

" So he goes in every day into George's room 
about eleven, and sings that tune till George 
gnashes bis teeth with rage. Do shut up. What's 
the good ? No money. Hardly any to go on with, 
let alone pouring thousands into advertising. 
Never dare propose to his brother Harry to sell 
the ship. Couldn't think of it. Worry him to 
death. It would be like the end of the world 
coming. And certainly not for a business of that 
kindl ... Do you think it would be a swindle? 
asks Cloete, twitching his mouth. . . . George 
owns up : No — ^would be np better than a squeamish 
ass if he thought that, after all these years in 
business. 



THE PARTNER 



X3X 



i 



" Qoete looks at him hard— Never thought of 
selling the ship. Expected the blamed old thing 
wouldn't fetch half her insured value by this time. 
Then George flies out at him. What's the mean- 
ing, then, of tht se silly jeers at ship-owning for the 
last three weeks ? Had enough of them, anyhow. 

" Angry at having his mouth made to water, 
see. Cloete don't get excited. ... I am no 
squeamish ass, either, says he, very slowly. 'Tisn't 
seUing your old Sagamore wants. The blamed 
thing wants tomahawking (seems the name Saga- 
more means an Indian chief or something. The 
figure-head was a half-naked savage with a feather 
over one ear and a hatchet in his belt). Tomahawk- 
ing, says he. 

" What do you mean ? asks George. . . 
Wrecking— it could be managed with perfect 
safety, goes on Cioete— your brother would then 
put in his share of insurance money. Needn't 
tell him exactly what for. He thinks you're the 
smartest business man that ever lived. Make 
his fortune, too. . . . George grips the desk 

with both hands in his rage You think my 

brother's a man to cast away his ship on purpose. 
I wouldn't even dare think of such a thing in the 
same room with him— the finest fellow that ever 
lived. . . . Don't make such noise; they'll hear 
you outside, says Cloete; and he tells him that his 
brother is the salted pattern of aU virtues, but aU 



I3a 



THE PARTNER 



that's necessary is to induce him to stay ashore 
for a voyage— for a hohday— take a rest-why 
not ? . . . In fact, I have in view somebody up to 
that sort of game— Cloete whispers. 

" George nearly chokes So you think I am 

of that sort- you think me capable— What do 
you take me for? . . . He ahnost loses his head, 
while Cloete keeps cool, only gets white about the 

gills I take you for a man who will be most 

cursedly hard up before long. ... He goes to the 
door and sends s^w.y the clerk&-there were only 
two— to take tfteu iunch hour. Comes back. 
What are you indignant about? Do I want you 
to rob the widow and orphan ? Why, man I Lloyd's a 
corporation, it hasn't got a body to starve. There's 
forty or more of them perhaps who underwrote the 
lines on that silly ship of yours. Not one human 
being would go hungry or cold for it. They take 
every risk into consideration. Everything I tell 

you That sort of talk. H'ml George too 

upset to speak— only gurgles and waves his arms; 
so sudden, you see. The other, warming his back 
at the fire, goes on. Wood-pulp business next door 
toafaUure. Tinned-fruit trade nearly played out. 
. . . You're frightened, he says; but the law is 
only meant to frighten fools away. . . . And he 
shows how safe casting away that ship would be. 
Premiums paid for so many, many years. No 



THE PARTNER ,33 

shadow of suspicion could arise. And, dash it aU I 
a ship must meet her end some day. . . . 

" I am not frightened. I am indignant, says 
George Dunbar. 

" Qoete boiling with rage inside. Chance of a 
Wetune-his chance! And he says kindly: Your 
wife 11 be much more indignant when you ask her 
to get out of that pretty house of yours and pUe 
m into a two-pair back-with kids perhaps, too. 

George had no children. Married a couple of 
years; looked forward to a kid or two very much 
Feels more upset than ever. Talks about an honest 
man for father, and so on. Cloete grins: You be 
quick before they come, and they'U have a rich 

man for father, and no one the worse for it That's 
the beauty of the thing. 

" George nearly cries. I believe he did cry at 

odd times. This went on for weeks. He couldn't 

quanel with Cloete. Couldn't pay off his few 

hundreds; and besides, he was used to have him 

about. Weak fellow. George. Cloete generous 

too. . . . Don't think of my litUe pile, says he. 

Of course ,t s gone when we have to shut up. But 

I dont care, he says. ... And then there was 

George . new wife. When Cloete dines there, the 

beggar puts on a dress suit; little woman liked if 

• • • Mr. Cloete. my husband's partner; such a 

clever man, man of the world, so amusing! 



194 



THE PARTNER 



When he dines there and they are alone: Oh, Mr. 
Cloete, I wish George would do something to im- 
prove our prospects. Our position is really so 
mediocre. . . . And Cloete smiles, but isn't sur- 
prised, because he had put all these notions himself 
into her empty head. . . . What your husband 
wants is enterprise, a little audacity. You can 

encourage him best, Mrs. Dunbar She was a 

silly, extravagant little fool. Had made George 
take a house in Norwood. Live up to a lot of 
people better off than themselves. I saw her 
once; silk dress, pretty boots, all feathers and 
scent, pink face. More like the Promenade at the 
Alhambra than a decent home, it looked to me. 
But some women do get a devil of a hold on a man." 
" Yes, some do," I assented. " Even when the 
man is the husband." 

" My missis," he addressed me unexpectedly, 
in a solemn, surprisingly hollow tone, " could wind 
me round her little finger. I didn't find it out till 
she was gone. Aye. But she was a woman of 
sense, while that piece of goods ought to have been 
walking the streets, and that's all I can say. . . . 
You must make her up out of your head. You 
will know the sort." 
" Leave all that to me," I said. 
"H'ml" he grunted, doubtfully, then going 
back to his scornful tone: " A month or so after- 



THE PARTNER 



135 



I 



wards the Sagamore arrives home. All very jolly 
at first. .. . Hallo, George boy! Hallo, Hany, 
old man! ... But by and by Captain Harry 
thinks his clever brother is not looking very well. 
And George begins to look worse. He can't get 

rid of Cloete's notion. It has stuck in his head 

There's nothing wrong— quite well. . . . Captain 
Harry still anxious. Business going all right, eh? 
Quite right. Lots of business. Good business. 
... Of course Captain Harry believes that easily. 
Starts chaffing his brother in his jolly way about 
rolling in money. George's shirt sticks to his back 
with perspiration, and he feels quite angry with 
the captain. ... The fool, he says to himself. 
Rolling in money, indeed! And then he thinks 
"iddenly : Why not ? . . . Because Cloete's notion 
* hold of his mind, 
next day he weakens and says to Cloete 
. . . Perhaps it would be best to sell. Couldn't 
you talk to my brother? and Cloete explains to 
him over again for the twentieth time why selUng 
wouldn't do, anyhow. No! The Sagamore must 
be tomahawked— as he would caU it; to spare 
George's feelings, maybe. But every time he says 
the word, George shudders. . . . I've got a man at 
hand competent for the job who wiU do the trick 
for five hundred, and only too pleased at the chance, 
says Cloete. . , . George shuts his eyes tight at 



%aF^m,: 



10' J 



136 



THE PARTNER 



that sort of talk— but at the same time he thinks: 
Humbug! There can be no such man. And yet if 
there was such a man it would be safe enough — 
perhaps. 

"And Cloete alwajrs funny about it. He 
couldn't talk about anything without it seeming 
there was a great joke in it somewhere. . . . Now, 
says he, I know you are a moral citizen, George. 
Morality is mostly funk, and I think you're the 
funkiest man I ever came across in my travels. 
Why, you are afraid to speak to your brother. 
Afraid to open your mouth to him with a fortune 
for us all in sight. . . . George flares up at this: 
no, he ain't afraid; he will speak; bangs fist on the 

desk. And Cloete pats him on the back We'll 

be made men presently, he says. 

" But the first time George attempts to speak 
to Captain Harry his heart slides down into his 
boots. Captain Harry only laughs at the notion 
of staying ashore. He wants no holiday, not he. 
But Jane thinks of remaining in England this trip. 
Go about a bit and see some of her people. Jane 
was the Captain's wife; roimd-faced, pleasant 
lady. George gives up that time; but Cloete 
won't let him rest. So he tries s^ain; and the 
Captain frowns. He frowns because he's puzzled. 
He can't make it out. He has no notion of living 
away from his Sagamore. . . ." 



THE PARTNER 



l» 



" Ahl " I cried. " Now I understand." 

" No, you don't," he growled, his black, con- 
temptuous stare turning on me crushingly. 

" I beg your pardon," I murmured. 

"H'ml Very well, then. Captain Harry looks 

very stem, and George crumples all up inside 

He sees through me, he thinks. ... Of course it 
could not be; but George, by that time, was scared 
at his own shadow. He is shirking it with Cloete, 
too. Gives his partner to understand that his 
brother has half a mind to try a spell on shore, 
and so on. Cloete waits, gnawing his fingers; so 
anxious. Cloete really had found a man for the 
job. BeUeve it or not, he had found him inside 
the very boarding-house he lodged in— somewhere 
about Tottenham Court Road. He had noticed 
down-stairs a fellow— a boarder and not a boarder 
—hanging about the dark part of the passage 
mostly; sort of ' man of the house,' a slinking 
chap. Black eyes. White face. The woman of 
the house— a widow lady, she called herself— 
very full of Mr. Stafford; Mr. Stafford this and Mr. 
Stafford that. . . . Anyhow, Cloete one evening 
takes him out to have a drink. Cloete mostly 
passed away his evenings in saloon bars. No 
drunkard, though, Cloete; for company; Uked to 
talk to all sorts there; just habit; American 
fashion. 



138 



THE PARTNER 



" So Cloete takes that chap out more than once. 
Not very good company, though. Little to say 
for himself. Sits quiet and drinks what's given 
to him, eyes always half closed, speaks sort of 
demure. ... I've had misfortunes, he says. The 
truth was they had kicked him out of a big steam- 
ship company for disgraceful conduct; nothing 
to afiect his certificate, you understand; and he 
had gone down quite easily. Liked it, I expect. 
Anything's better than work. Lived on the widow 
lady who kept that boarding-house." 

"That's almost incredible," I ventured to 
interrupt " A man with a master's certificate, 
do you mean? " 

" I do; I've known them 'bus cads," he growled, 
contemptuously. " Yes. Swing on the tail-board 
by the strap and yell, 'tuppence all the way.' 
Through drink. But this Stafiord was of another 
kind. Hell's full of such Stafiords; Cloete would 
make fim of him, and then there would be a nasty 
gleam in the fellow's half-shut eye. But Cloete was 
generally Idnd to him. Cloete was a fellow that 
would be kind to a mangy dog. Anyhow, he 
used to stand drinks to that object, and now and 
then gave him half a crown — ^because the widow 
lady kept Mr. Stafford short of pocket-money. 
They had rows almost every day down in the 
basement. . . . 



THE PARTNER 



139 



" It was the fellow being a sailor that put into 
Cloete's mind the first notion of doing away with 
the Sagamore. He studies him a bit, thinks there's 
enough devil in him yet to be tempted, and one 
evening he says to him ... I suppose you wouldn't 
mind going to sea again, for a spell ? . . . The other 
never raises his eyes; says it's scarcely worth one's 
while for the miserable salary one gets. . . . Well, 
but what do you say to captain's wages f'..- a time, 
and a couple of hundred extra if you are compelled 
to come home without the ship. Accidents will 
happen, says Cloete. ... Oh I sure to, says that 
Stafford; and goes on taking sips of his drink as 
if he had no interest in the matter. 

" Cloete presses him a bit; but the other 
observes, impudent and languid like: You see, 
there's no future in a thing Uke that — ^is there? 
... Oh I no, says Cloete. Certainly not. I don't 
mean this to have any future — as far as you are 
concerned. It's a ' once for all ' transaction. 
Well, what do you estimate your future at? he 
asks. . . . The fellow more listless than ever — 
nearly asleep. I believe the skunk was really too 
lazy to care. Small cheating at cards, wheedling 
or bullying his living out of some woman or other, 
was more his style. Cloete swears at him in 
whispers something awful. All this in the saloon 
bar of the Horse Shoe, Tottenham Court Road. 



140 



THE PARTNER 



FInaUy they agree, over the second sixpennyworth 
of Scotch hot, on five hundred pounds as the price 
of tomahawking the Sagamore. And Cloete waits 
to see what George can do. 

" A week or two goes by. The other feUow loafs 
about the house as if there had been nothing, and 
Cloete begins to doubt whether he reaL'y means 
ever to tackle that job. But one day he stops 
Cloete at the door, with his downcast eyes: What 
sb-.ut that employment you wished to give me? 
h> asks. . . . You see, he had played some more 
than usual dirty trick on the woman and expected 
awful ructions presently; and to be fired out for 
sure. Cloete very pleased. George had been pre- 
varicating to him such a lot that he really thought 
the thing was as well as settled. And he says: 
Yes. It's time I introduced you to my frien.' 
Just get your hat and we will go now. . . . 

" The two come into th?; office, and George at 
his desk sits up in a sudden panic — staring. Sees a 
tallish fellow, sort of nasty-handsome face, heavy 
eyes, half shut ; short drab overcoat, shabby bowler 
hat, very careful-like in his movements. And he 
thinks to himself. Is that how such a .nan looks! 
No. the thing's impossible. . . . Cloete does the 
introduction, and the fellow turns round to look 
behind him at the chair before he sits down. . . . 
A thoroughly competent man, Qoete goes on. . . . 



THE PARTNER 14J 

The man says nothing, dts perfectly quiet. And 
George can't speak, throat too diy. Then he makes 
an effort: H'm! H'ml Oh yes-unfortunately— 
Sony to disappoint— my brother— made other 
arrangements— going himself. 

" The fellow gets up, never raising his eyes off 
the ground, like a modest girl, and goes out softly, 
right out of the office without a sound. Cloete 
sticks his chin in his hand and bites all his fingers 
at once. George's heart slows down and he speaks 

to Qoete This can't be done. How can it 

be? Directly the ship is lost Harry would see 
through it. You know he is a man to go to the 
underwriters himself with his suspicions. And 
he would break his heart over me. How can I 
play that on him? There's only two of us in the 

world belonging to each other 

" Ck)ete lets out a horrid cuss-word, jumps up, 
bolts away into his room, and George hears hini 
there banging things around. After a while he 
goes to the door and says in a trembling voice: 
You ask me for an impossibility. . . . Cloete in- 
side ready to fly out like a tiger and rend him. but 
he opens the door a little way and says softly: 
Talking of hearts, yours is no bigger than a mouse's, 
let me tell you But George doesn't care- 
load off the heart, anyhow. And just then Captain 
Harry comes in HaUo, George boy. I am 



Z4S 



THE PARTNER 



a little late. What about a chop at the Cheshire, 
now? . . . Right you are, old man. . . . And off 
they go to lunch together. Qoete has nothing 
to eat that day. 

" George feels a new man for a time; but all of 
a sudden that fellow Stafford begins to hang about 
the street, in sight of the house door. The first 
time George sees him he thinks he made a mistake. 
But no; next time he has to go out, there is the 
very fellow skulking on the other side of the road. 
It makes George nervous; but he must go out on 
business, and when the fellow cuts across the road- 
way he dodges him. He dodges him once, twice, 
three times; but at last he gets nabbed in his very 

doorway What do you want ? he says, trying 

to look fierce. 

" It seems that ructions had come in the base- 
ment of that boarding-house, and the widow lady 
had turned on him (being jealous mad), to the 
extent of talking of the police. That Mr. Stafford 
couldn't stand ; so he cleared out like a scared stag, 
and there he was, chucked into the streets, so to 
speak. Cloete looked so savage as he went to and 
fro that he hadn't the spunk to tackle him; but 
George seemed a softer kind to his eye. He would 
have been glad of half a quid, anything. . . . I've 
had misfortunes, he says softly, in his demure way, 
which frightens George more than a row would 



THE PARTNER 



143 



have done. . . . Consider the severity of my dis- 
appointment, he says. . . . 
" George, instead of telling him to go to the devil, 

loses his head I don't know you. What do 

you want? he cries, and bolts up-stairs to Cloete. 
. . . Look what's come of it, he gasps ; now we are 
at the mercy of that horrid feUow. . . . Cloete 
tries to show him that the feUow can do nothing; 
but George thinks that some sort of scandal may 
be forced on, anyhow. Says that he can't live 
with that horror haunting him. Cloete would 
laugh if he weren't too weary of it all. Then a 

thought strikes him and he changes his tune 

Well, perhaps I I will go down-stairs and send him 
away to begin with. ... He comes back. . . . 
He's gone. But perhaps you are right. The 
fellow's hard up, and that's what makes people 
desperate. The best thing would be to get him 
out of the country for a time. Look here, the poor 
devil is really in want of employment. I won't 
ask you much this time: only to hold your tongue; 
and I shall try to get your brother to take him as 
chief officer. At this George lays his arms and his 
head on his desk, so that Cloete feels sorry for him. 
But altogether Qoete feels more cheerful because he 
has shaken the ghost a bit into that Stafford. That 
very afternoon he buys him a suit of blue clothes, 
and tells him that he will have to turn to and work 



144 



THE PARTNER 



for his living now. Go to sea as mate of the Saga- 
more. The skunk wasn't very willing, but what 
with having nothing to eat and no place to sleep 
in, and the woman having frightened him with the 
talk of some prosecution or other, he had no choice, 
in-operly speaking. Cloete takes care of him for 

a couple of days Our arrangement still stands, 

says he. Here's the ship bound for Port Elizabeth ; 
not a safe anchorage at all. Should she by chance 
part from her anchors in a north-east gale and get 
lost on the beach, as many of them do, why, it's 
five hundred in your pocket— and a quick return 
home. You are up to the job, ain't you ? 

" Otu- Mr. Stafford takes it all in with downcast 

eyes I am a competent seaman, he says, with 

his sly, modest air. A ship's chief mate has no 
doubt many opportunities to manipulate the chains 
and anchors to some purpose. ... At this Cloete 
thumps him on the back: You'll do, my noble 
sailor. Go in and win. . . . 

"Next thing George knows, his brother tells 
him that he had occasion to oblige his partner. 
And glad of it, too. Likes the partner no end. 
Took a friend of his as mate. Man had his troubles, 
been ashore a year nursing a dying wife, it seems. 
Down on his luck. . . . George protests earnestly 
that he knows nothing of the person. Saw him 
once. Not very attractive to look at. . . . And 



mmm 



THE PARTNER ^^ 

Captain Hany say, b his hearty way. That's so 

but must give the poor devil a chance 

" So Mr. Stafford joins in dock. And it seems 
that he did manage to monkey with one of the 
cables— keeping his mind on Port Elizabeth The 
riggers had all the cable ranged on deck to clean 
lockers. The new mate watches them go ashore- 
dmner hour-and sends the ship-keeper out of the 
ship to fetch him a bottle of beer. Then he goes 
to work whittling away the forelock of the forty- 
five-fathom shackle-pin. gives it a tap or two with 
a hammer just to make it loose, and of course that 
cable wasn't safe any more. Riggers come back- 
you know what riggers are: come day. go day 
axid God send Sunday. Down goes the chain into 
the locker without their foreman looking at the 
shackles at aU. What does he care? He ain't 
going m the ship. And two days later the ship 
goes to sea " *^ 

At this point I was incautious enough to breathe 
out another " I see." which gave offence again 
and brought on me a rude " No. you don't "-sis 
before. But in the pause he remembered the glass 
of beer at his elbow. He drank half of it. Mdped 
lus mustaches, and remarked grimly— 

"Don't you think that there will be any sea life 



in this, because there ain't. If 



m 



you re going to put 



any out of your own head, now's your chance, 



146 



THE PARTNER 



I suppose you know what ten days of bad weather 
in the Channel are like? I don't. Anyway, ten 
whole days go by. One Monday Cloete comes to 
the office a little late — hears a woman's voice in 
George's room and looks in. Newspapers on the 
desk, on the floor; Captain Harry's wife sitting 
with red eyes and a bag on the chair near her. . . . 
Look at this, says George, in great excitement, 
showing him a paper. Cloete's heart gives a jump. 
Ha I Wreck in Westport Bay. The Sagamore gone 
ashore early hours of Sunday, and so the news- 
paper men had time to put in some of their work. 
Columns of it. Lifeboat out twice. Captain and 
crew remain by the ship. Tugs summoned to 
assist. If the weather improves, this well-known 
fine ship may yet be saved. . . . You know the 
way these chaps put it. . . . Mrs. Harry there on 
her way to catch a train from Cannon Street Got 
an hour to wait. 

" Cloete takes George aside and whispers: Ship 
saved yet I Oh, damn I That must never be; 
you hear? B- ^ George looks at him dazed, and 
Mrs. Harry keeps on sobbing quietly: ... I 
ought to have been with him. But I am going to 
him. . . . We are all going together, cries Cloete, 
all of a sudden. He rushes out, sends the woman 
a cup of hot bovril from the shop across the road, 
buys a rug for her, thinks of everything ; and in the 






THE PARTNER x^ 

train tucks her in and keeps on talking, thirteen 
to the dozen, aU the way, to keep her spirits up, 
as it were; but reaUy because he can't hold his 
peace for very joy. Here's the thing done aU at 
once, and nothing to pay. Done. Actually done. 
His head swims now and again when he thinks of 
it. What enormous luck! It ahnost frightens 
him. He would Uke to yeU and sing. Meantime 
George Dunbar sits in his comer, looking so deadly 
miserable that at last poor Mrs. Harry tries to 
comfort him, and so cheers herself up at the same 
time by talking about how her Harry is a prudent 
man; not Ukely to risk his crew's life or his own 
unnecessarily- -and so on. 

" First thing they hear at Westport station is 
that the Ufe-boat has been out to the ship again, 
and has brought of! the second officer, who had hurt 
himself, and a few sailors. Captain and the rest 
of the crew, about fifteen i all, are still on board. 
Tugs expected to arrive .v. y moment. 

They take Mrs. Harry to the inn, nearly oppo- 
site the rocks; she bolts straight up-stairs tt look 
out of the window, and she lets out a great cry when 
she sees the wreck. She won't rest till she gets on 
board to her Harry. Cloete soothes her all he can. 
• ■ . AU right; you try to eat a mouthful, and we 
will go to make inquiries. 
" He draws George out of the room: Look here. 



M 



THE PARTNER 



■he can't go on board, but I ihall. I'll lee to it 
that he doesn't stop in the ship too long. Let's 
go and find the coxswain of the life-boat. . . . 
George follows him, shivering from time to time. 
The waves are washing over the old pier; not much 
wind, a wild, gloomy sky over the bay. In the 
whole world only one tug away ofi, heading to the 
seas, tossed in and out of sight every minute as 
regular as clockwork. 

" They meet the coxswain and he tells them: 
Yes I He's going out again. No, they ain't in 
danger on board — not yet. But the ship's chance 
is very poor. Still, if the wind doesn't pipe up 
again and the sea goes down something might be 
tried. After some talk he agrees to take Cloete on 
board; supposed to be with an urgent message 
from the owners to the captain. 

" Whenever Cloete looks at the sky he feels 
comforted; it looks so threatening. George Dim- 
bar follows him about with a white face and saying 
nothing. Cloete takes him to have a drink or two, 
and by and by he begins to pick up. . . . That's 
better, says Cloete; dash me if it wasn't like walk- 
ing about with a dead man before. You ought to 
be throwing up your cap, man. I feel as if I wanted 
to stand in the street and cheer. Your brother 
is safe, the ship is lost, and we are made men. 

"Are you certain she's lost? asks George. It 






THE PARTNER 



149 



would be an awful blow after aU the agonies I have 
gone through in my mind, since you first spoke t 
me, if she were to be got off— and— and— all tk. 

temptation to begin over again For we had 

nothing to do with this; had we? 
"Of course not. says Cloete. Wasn't your 

brother himself in charge? It's providential 

Oh I cries George, shocked WeU. say it's the 

devil, says Cloete. cheerfully. I don't mind! You 
had nothing to do with it any more than a baby 
unborn, you great softy, you. . . . Cloete has got 
so that he ahnost loved George Dunbar. Well. 
Yes. That was so. I don't mean he respected 
him. He was just fond of his partner. 

" They go back, you may say fairly skipping, to 
the hotel, and find the wife of the captain at the 
open window, with her eyes on the ship as if she 

wanted to fly across the bay over there Now 

then. Mrs. Dunbar, cries Cloete, you can't go, but 
I am going. Any messages? Don't be shy. ' I'U 
deliver every word faithfully. And if you would 
like to give me a kiss for him, I'U deliver that too, 
dash me if I don't. 

" He makes Mrs. Harry laugh with his patter. 
Oh, dear Mr. Cloete. you are a cahn. reasonable 
man. Make him behave sensibly. He's a bit 
obstinate, you know, and he's so fond of the ship, 
too. Tell him I am here— looking on Trust 



150 



THE PARTNER 



me, Mrs. Dunbar. Only shut that window, that's 
a good girl. You will be sure to catch cold ii you 
don't, and the Captain won't be pleased coming ofi 
the wreck to find you coughing and sneezing so 
that you can't tell him how happy you are. And 
now if you can get me a bit of tape to fasten my 
glasses on good to my ears, I will be going. . . . 

" How he gets on board I don't know. All wet 
and shaken and excited and out of breath, he does 
get on board. Ship lying over, smothered in 
sprays, but not moving very much; just enough 
to jag one's nerve a bit. He finds them all crowded 
on the deck-house forward, in their shiny oUskins, 
with faces like sick men. Captain Harry can't 
believe his eyes. What! Mr. Cloetel What 
are you doing here, in God's name? . . . Your 
wife's ashore there, looking on, gasps out Cloete; 
and after they had talked a bit. Captain Harry 
thinks it's uncommonly plucky and kind of his 
brother's partner to come off to him like this. 
Man glad to have somebody to talk to. . . . It's a 
bad business, Mr. Cloete, he says. And Cloete 
rejoices to hear that. Captain Harry thinks he 
had done his best, but the cable had parted when 
he tried to anchor her. It was a great trial to lose 
the ship. Well, he would have to face it. He 
fetches a deep sigh now and then. Cloete almost 
sorry he had come on board, because to be on that 



THE PARTNER 



151 






wreck keeps his chest in a tight band all 'he time. 
They crouch out of the wind under the port boat, 
a little apart from the men. The life-boat had 
gone away after putting Cloete on board, but was 
coming back next high water to take off the crew 
if no attempt at getting the ship afloat could be 
made. Dusk was falling; winter's day; black 
sky; wind rising. Captain Harry felt melancholy. 
God's will be done. If she must be left on the 
rocks— why, she must. A man should take what 
God sends 5i„ti standing up. . . . Suddenly his 
voice breaks, and he "squeezes Cloete's arm: It 
seems as if I couldn't leave her, he whispers. 
Cloete looks round at the men hke a lot of huddled 
sheep and thinks to himself: They won't stay. . . . 
Suddenly the ship hfts a httle and sets down with 
a thump. Tide rising. Everybody beginning to 
look out for the life-boat. Some of the men made 
her out far away and also two more tugs. But the 
gale has come on again, and everybody knows that 
no tug will ever dare come near the ship. 

" That's the end, Captain Harry sajrs, very low. 
. . . Qoete thinks he never felt so cold in all his 
life. . . . And I feel as if I didn't care to live on 

just now, mutters Captain Harry Your wife's 

ashore, looking on, says Qoete. . . . Yes. Yes. 
It must be awful for her to look at the poor old 
ship lying here done for. Why, that's our home. 



15a 



THE PARTNER 



" Qoete thinks that as long as the Sagamore's 
done for he doesn't care, and only wishes himself 
somewhere else. The sUghtest movement of the 
ship cuts his breath like a blow. And he feels 
excited by the danger, too. The captain takes 

him aside The life-boat can't come near us 

for more than an hour. Look here, Cloete, since 
you are here, and such a plucky one— do something 

for me He teUs him then that down in his 

cabin aft in a certain drawer there is a bundle of 
important papers and some sixty sovereigns in a 
small canvas bag. Asks Cloete to go and get these 
things out. He hasn't been below since the ship 
struck, and it seems to him that if he were to take 
his eyes off her she would fall to pieces. And then 
the men— a scared lot by this time— if he were to 
leave them by themselves they would attempt to 
launch one of the ship's boats in a panic at some 
heavier thump— and then some of them bound to 
get drowned. . . . There are two or three boxes 
of matches about my shelves in my cabin if you 
want a light, says Captain Harry. Only wipe 
your wet hands before you begin to feel for them. . . . 
" Qoete doesn't like the job, but doesn't like to 
show funk, either— and he goes. Lots of water 
on the main-deck, and he splashes along; it was 
getting dark, too. All at once, by the mainmast, 
somebody catches him by the arm. Stafford. 



THE PARTNER 153 

He wasn't thinking of Stafford at aU. Captain 
Hany had said something as to the mate not being 
quite satisfactory, but it wasn't much. Cloete 
doesn't recognise him in his oilskins at first He 
sees a white face with big eyes peering at him. . . 
Are you pleased, Mr. Cloete . . . ? 

"Cloete is moved to laugh at the whine, and 
shakes him off. But the fellow scrambles on after 
hmi on the poop and follows him down into the 
cabin of that wrecked ship. And there they are 
the two of them; can hardly see each other. . 
You don't mean to make me beUeve you have had 
anything to do with this, says Cloete. 

" They both shiver, nearly out of their wits with 
the excitement of being on board that ship. She 
thumps and lurches, and they stagger together, 
feehng sick. Cloete again bursts out laughing 
at that wretched creature Stafford pretending to 
have been up to something so desperate. . Is 
that how you think you can treat me now? yells 

the other man all of a sudden 

" A sea strikes the stem, the ship trembles and 
groans all round them, there's the noise o: the seas 
about and overhead, confusing Cloete, and he 
hears the other screaming as if crazy. Ah 

you don't believe mel Go and look at the pori 
Cham Parted? Eh? Go and see if it's parted. 
Go and find the broken link. You can't. There's 



154 



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no broken link. That means a thousand pounds 
for me. No less. A thousand the day after we 
get ashore— prompt. I won't wait till she breaks 
up, Mr. Cloete. To the underwriters I go if I've 
to walk to London on my bare feet. Port cablet 
Look at her port cable, I will say to them. I 
doctored it — for the owners — tempted by a low 
rascal called Cloete. 

" Cloete does not '.mderstand what it means 
exactly. All he sees is that the fellow means to 
make mischief. He sees trouble ahead. ... Do 
you think you can scare me? he asks, — you poor 
miserable skunk. . . . And Stafford faces him 
out — both holding on to the cabin table : No, damn 
you, you s\re only a dirty vagabond; but I can 
scare the other, the chap in the black coat. . . . 

" Meaning George Dunbar. Cloete's brain reels 
at the thought. He doesn't imagine the fellow 
can do any real harm, but he knows what George 
is; give the show away; upset the whole business 
he had set his heart on. He says nothing; he 
hears the other, what with the funk and strain and 
excitement, panting like a dog — and then a snarl. 
... A thousand down, twenty-four hours after 
we get ashore; day after to-morrow. That's my 
last word, Mr. Cloete. ... A thousand pounds, 
day after to-morrow, says Cloete. Oh yes. And 
to-day take this, you dirty cur. ... He hits 



THE PARTNER 



155 



straight from the shoulder in sheer rage, nothing 
else. Stafford goes away spinnmg along the bulk- 
head. Seeing this, Cloete steps out and lands him 
another one somewhere about the jaw. The fellow 
staggers backward right into the captain's cabin 
through the open door. Cloete, foUowing him up. 
hears him fall down heavily and roU to leeward, 
then slams the door to and turns the key. 
There! says he to himself, that will stop you from 
making trouble." 
" By Jove I " I murmured. 
The old feUow departed from his impressive 
immobihty to turn his rakishly hatted head and 
look at me with his old, black, lack-lustre eyes. 

" He did leave him there," he uttered, weightily, 
returning to the contemplation of the wall. " Cloete 
didn't mean to allow anybody, let alone a thing 
hke Stafford, to stand in the way of his great 
notion of making George and himself, and Captain 
Hany, too, for that matter, rich men. And he 
didn't think much of consequences. These patent- 
medicine chaps don't care what they say or what 
they do. They think the world's bound to swallow 
any story they like to tell. .. He stands hstening 
for a bit. And it gives him quite a turn to hear 
a thump at the door and a sort of muffled raving 
screech inside the captain's room. He thinks he 
hears his own name, too, through the awful crash 



ifam^^-M-m' 






156 



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as the old Sagamore rises and falls to a sea. That 
noise and that awful shock make him clear out of 
the cabin. He collects his senses on the poop. 
But his heart sinks a little at the black wildness 
of the night. Chances that he will get drowned 
himself before long. Puts his head down the 
companion. Through the wind and breaking seas 
he can hear the noise of Stafford's beating against 
the door and cursing. He Ustens and says to him- 
self: No. Can't trust him now. . . . 

" When he gets back to the top of the deck-house 
he says to Captain Harry, who asks him if he got 
the things, that he is very sorry. There was some- 
thing wrong with the door. Couldn't open it. 
And to tell you the truth, says he, I didn't hke to 
stop any longer in that cabin. There are noises 

there as if the ship were going to pieces Captain 

Harry thinks: Nervous; can't be anjrthing wrong 
with the door. But he says: Thanks — ^nevermind, 
never mind. ... All hands looking out now for the 
life-boat. Everybody thinking of himself rather. 
Cloete asks himself, will they miss him? But the 
fact is that Mr. Stafford had made such poor show 
at sea that after the ship struck nobody ever paid 
any attention to him. Nobody cared what he did 
or where he was. Pitch dark, too — ^no counting of 
heads. The light of the tug with the Ufe-boat in tow 
is seen making for the ship, and Captain Harry 



* — .:»■ 



THE PARTNER 



W 



asks: Are we aU there? . . . Somebody answers- 
AU here, sir.... Stand by to leave the ship, then 
says Captain Harry; and two of you help the 
gentleman over first. .. . Aye, aye. sir. . . . 
Cloete was moved to ask Captain Hany to let 
him stay tiU last, but the Ufe-boat drops on a 
grapnel abreast the fore-rigging, two chaps lay 
hold of him, watch their chance, and drop hun 
into her, all safe. 

" He's nearly exhausted; not used to that sort 
of thing, you see. He sits in the stem-sheets with 
his eyes shut. Don't want to look at the white 
water boiling all around. The men drop into the 
boat one after another. Then he hears Captain 
Harry's voice shouting in the wind to the cox- 
swain, to hold on a moment, and some other words 
he can't catch, and the coxswain yelling back- 
Don't be long, sir. . . . What is it? Cloete asks 
feeUng faint. . . . Something about the ship's 
papers, says the coxswain, very anxious. It's 
no time to be fooling about alongside, you under- 
stand. They haul the boat off a little and wait. 
The water flies over her in sheets. Cloete's senses 
ahnost leave him. He thinks of nothing. He's 
numb all over, till there's a shout: Here he is! . . . 
They see a figure in the fore-rigging waiting-they 
slack away on the grapnel-Une and get him in the 
boat quite easy. There is a little shouting-it's 



. - -V '.!■. 



Mi.(K"ii a' - ^•' j&s-^- ■ 



X58 



THE PARTNER 



all mixed up with the noise of the sea. Goete 
fancies that Stafford's voice is talking away quite 
close to his ear. There's a lull in the wind, and 
Stafford's voice seems to be speaking very fast to 
the coxswain; he tells him that of course he was 
near his skipper, was all the time near him, till the 
old man said at the last moment that he must go 
and get the ship's papers from aft; would insist 
on going himself; told him, Stafford, to get into 
the life-boat. ... He had meant to wait for his 
skipper, only there came this smooth of the seas, 
and he thought he would take his chance at once. 

" Cloete opens his eyes. Yes. There's Stafford 
sitting close by him in that crowded life-boat. 
The coxswain stoops over Cloete and cries: Did 
you hear what the mate said, sir? . . . Cloete's 
face feels as if it were set in plaster, Ups and all. 
Yes, I did, he forces himself to answer. The cox- 
swain waits a moment, then says: I don't like it. 
. . . And he turns to the mate, telling him it was 
a pity he did not try to run along the deck and 
hurry up the captain when the lull came. Stafford 
answers at once that he did think of it, only he was 
afraid of missL.g him on the deck in the dark. 
For, says he, the captain might have got over at 
once, thinking I was already in the life-boat, and 
you would have hauled off perhaps, leaving me 
behind. . . . True enough, says the coxswain. A 



THE PARTNER ijg 

minute or so passes. This won't do, mutters tlie 
coxswain. Suddenly Stafford spealcs up in a sort 
of hoUow voice: I was by wlien he told Mr. Cloete 
here that he didn't know how he would ever have 
the courage to leave the old ship; didn't he. now? 
. . . And Cloete feels his arm being gripped quietly 
in the dark.... Didn't he now? We were stand- 
ing together just before you went over, Mr 
Cloete? . . . 

" Just then the coxswain cries out: I'm going 

on board to see Cloete tears his arm away: 

I am going with you. . . . 

"When they get aboard, the coxswain teUs 
Cloete to go aft along one side of the ship and he 
would go along the other so as not to miss the 
captain. . . . And feel about with your hands, 
too. says he; he might have faUen and be lying 
insensible somewhere on the deck. . . . When 
Cloete gets at last to the cabin companion on the 
poop the coxswain U ah^dy there, peering down 
and sniffing. I detect a smell of smoke down there, 
says he. And he yeUs: Are you ...ere, sir? . . .' 
This is not a case for shouting, says Cloete, feeling 
his heart go stony, as it were. . . . Down they go. 
Pitch dark; the inclination so sharp that the cox- 
swain, groping his way into the captain's room, 
sKps and goes tumbUng down. Cloete hears him' 
cry out as though he had hurt himself, and asks 



i6o 



THE PARTNER 



what's the matter. And the coxswain answers 
quietly that he had fallen on the captain, lying 
there insensible. Goete without a word begins to 
grope all over the shelves for a box of matches, 
finds one, and strikes a light. He sees the cox- 
swain in his cork jacket kneeling over Captain 
Hairy. . . . Blood, says the coxswain, looking up, 
and the match goes out. . . . 

" Wait a bit, says Cloete; I'll make paper spills. 
... He had felt the back oi books on the shelves. 
And so he stands lighting one spill from another 
while the coxswain turns poor Captain Harry over. 
Dead, he says. Shot through the heart. Here's 
the revolver. ... He hands it up to Cloete, who 
looks at it before putting it in his pocket, and sees 
a plate on the butt with H. Dunbar on it. . . . His 
own, he mutters. . . . Whose else revolver did you 
expect to find? snaps the coxswain. And look, 
he took ofi his long oilskin in the cabin before he 
went in. But what's this lot of burnt paper? What 
could he want to bum the ship's papers for? . . . 

" Cloete sees all the httle drawers drawn out, 
and asks the coxswain to look well into them. . . . 
There's nothing, says the man. Cleaned out. 
Seems to have pulled out all he could lay his hands 
on and set fire to the lot. Mad— that's what it i»— 
went mad. And now he's dead. You'll have to 
break it to his wife. . . . 



THE PARTNER ^l 

"I feel as if I were going mad myself, says Cloete 
suddenly, and the coxswain begs him for God's sake 
o puUhm,sel£ together, and drags him away from 
the cabm. They had to leave the body, and as 
It was they were just in time before a furious 
«iuall came on. Cloete is dragged into the life- 
boat and the coxrwain tumbles in. Haul away 

hLl^S ^^""' *" '''°"*'' '^" "^P*^" ^''^ '^°' 
•' Cloete was like a dead man-^idn't care for 
anything. He let that Stafford pinch his arm 
twice without making a sign. Most of Westport 
«^ on the old pier to see the men out of the life- 
boat, and at first there was a sort of confused 
cheery uproar when she came alongside; but after 
the coxswain has shouted something the voices 

ta^;.T IT'^'"'''"^'''^''- As soon 
as Cloete has set foot on something firm he becomes 

hmself again. The coxswain shakes hands with 
tarn: Poor woman, poor woman, I'd rather you 

had the job than I ' 

"Where's the mate? " asks Cloete. He's the 
last man who spoke to the master. . . . Somebody 
ran along-the crew were being taken to the 
Mission Hall, where there was a fire and shake! 
downs ready for them-somebody ran along the 
pier and caught up with Stafford. ... Here! 
The owner's agent wants you. . . . Cloete tucks 



z6a 



THE PARTNER 



the fellow's aim under his own and walks away 
with him to the left, where the fishing-harbour 
is. . . . I suppose I haven't misunderstood you. 
You wish me to look after you a bit, says he. The 
other hangs on him rather limp, but gives a nasty 
little laugh: You had better, he mumbles; but 
mind, no tricks; no tricks, Mr. Cloete; we are on 
land now. 

" There's a police office within fifty yards from 
here, says Cloete. He turns into a little public 
house, pushes Stafford along the passage. The 
landlord runs out of the bar. . . . This is the mate 
of the ship on the rocks, Cloete explains; I wish 
you would take care of him a bit to-night. . . . 
What's the matter with him? asks the man. 
Stafford leans against the wall in the passage, 
looking ghastly. And Cloete says it's nothing — 
done up, of course. ... I will be responsible for 
the expense; I am the owner's agent. I'll be 
round in an hour or two to see him. 

" And Cloete gets back to the hotel. The news 
had travelled there already, and the first thing he 
sees is George outside the door as white as a sheet 
waiting for him. Cloete just gives him a nod and 
they go in. Mrs. Harry stands at the head of the 
stairs, and, when she sees only these two coming 
up, flings her arms above her head and runs into 
her room. Nobody had dared tell her, but not 



.an./tjwj«» 



'^'V. afWt 



1 A* ° k ^ 



THE PARTNER 



«63 



■ecing her husband was enough. Cloete hears an 

"^^l!;- <^° »«"'«'' he says to George. 

While he s alone in the private parlour Cloete 
dnnks a glass of brandy and thinks it all out 
Then George comes in. . . . |.,e landlady's with 
her. he says. And he begins tn Wulk uv anr' down 
the room, flinging his arms about and talk.n^' dis- 
connected like, his fac. :.( hard a. Clo to has 
never seen it before. . . What rnua Ho must be 
Dead-^nly brother. Weil, ,lea.]-his troubles 
over. But we are living, he says ^. CIo< te and I 
suppose, says he, glaring at him v. ith liot, dry eyes 
that you won't forget to wire in the morning to 
your friend that we are coming in for certain. . 

"Meaning the patent-medicine fellow 
Death is death and business is business. George 
goes on; and !ook-my hands are clean, he says 
showmg them to Cloete. Cloete thinks- He's 
gomg crazy. He catches hold of him by the 
shoulders and begins to shake him: Damn you- 
if you had had the sense to know what to say to 
your brother, if you had had the spmik to speak 
to bm at aU, you moral creature you. he would be 
ahve now, he shouts. 

"At this George stares, then bt rsis r. wiping 
with a great bellow. He throw. hi.a«.lf on the 
couch, buries his face in a cushion, i-. ; icwis like 
a tod. . . . That's better, thinks Cloeie, and he 






■ if-^^m "^B 



164 



THE PARTNER 



leaves him, telling the landlord that he must go 
out, as he has some little business to attend to 
that night. The landlord's wife, weeping herself, 
catches him on the stairs; Oh, sir, that poor lady 
will go out of her mind. . . . 

" Cloete shakes her off, thinking to himself: 
Oh no! She won't. She will get over it. Nobody 
will go mad about this affair unless I do. It isn't 
sorrow that makes people go mad, but worry. 

" There Cloete was wrong. What affected Mrs. 
Harry was that her husband should take his own 
life, with her, as it were, looking on. She brooded 
over it so that in less than a year they had to put 
her into a Home. She was very, very quiet; just 
gentle melancholy. She Uved for ^oite a long 
time. 

" Well, Cloete splashes along in the wind and 
rain. Nobody in the streets — all the excitement 
over. The publican runs out to meet him in the 
passage and says to him : Not this way. He isn't 
in his room. We couldn't get him to go to bed 
nohow. He's in the little parlour there. We've 
lighted him a fire. . . . You have been giving him 
drinks too, says Cloete; I never said I would be 
responsible for drinks. How many? . . . Two, 
says the other. It's all right. I don't mind doing 
that much for a shipwrecked sailor. . . . Cloete 
smiles his funny smile: Eh? Come. He paid 



THE PARTNER 



165 



for them. ... The publican just Winks. .. . Gave 
you gold, didn't he ? Speak up ! . . . What of that • 
cnes the man. What are you after, anyway? 
He had the right change for his sovereign. 

"Just so, says Cloete. He walks into the 
parlour, and there he sees our Stafford; hair all 
up on end, landlord's shirt and pants on, bare feet 
m slippers, sitting by the fire. When he sees 
Cloete he casts his eyes down. 

" You didn't mean us ever to meet again, Mr. 
Cloete, Staiford says, demurely. . . . That fellow 
when he had the drink he wanted— he wasn't -1 
drunkard-wouJd put on this sort of sly, modest 

air But since the captain committed suicide 

he says, I have been sitting here thinking it out.' 
All sorts of things happen. Conspiracy to lose 
the ship— attempted murder— and this suicide 
For If it was not suicide, Mr. Cloete, then I know of 
a victmi of the most cruel, cold-blooded attempt 
at murder; somebody who has suffered a thousand 
deaths. And that makes the thousand pounds of 
which we spoke once a quite insignificant sum. 
Look how very convenient this suicide is. . . 

" He looks up at Cloete then, who smUes at him 
and comes quite close to the table. 

" You killed Harry Dunbar, he whispers 
The fellow glares at him and shows his teeth- Of 
course I didl I had been in that cabin for an hour 



fn 



i66 



THE PARTNER 



and a half like a rat in a trap. . . . Shut up and 
left to dro'vn in that wreck. Let flesh and blood 
judge. Of course I shot him! I thought it was 
you, you mvirdering scoundrel, come back to settle 
me. He opens the door flying and tumbles right 
down upoii me; I had a revolver in my hand, and 
I shot him. I was crazy. Men have gone crazy 
for less. 

" Cloete looks at him without flinching. Aha! 
That's your story, is it? . . . And he shakes the 
table a Uttle in his passion as he speaks. . . . Now 
Usten to mine. What's this conspiracy? Who's 
going to prove it? You were there to rob. You 
were rifling his cabin ; he came upon you unawares 
with your hands in the drawer; and you shot him 
with his own revolver. You killed to steal — to 
steal! His brother and the clerks in the office 
know that he took sixty pounds with him to sea. 
Sixty pounds in gold in a canvas bag. He told me 
where they were. The coxswain of the Ufe-boat 
can swear to it that the drawers were all empty. 
And you are such a fool that before you're half an 
hour ashore you change a sovereign to pay for a 
drink. Listen to me. If you don't turn up day 
after to-morrow at George Dunbar's solicitors, to 
make the proper deposition as to the loss of the 
ship, I shall set the police on your track. Day 
after to-morrow. . . . 



I 



r-.*;,: ^'^:' 



fk. 



THE PARTNER 



167 



" And then wb. do you think? That Stafford 
begins to tear his hair. Just so. Tugs at it with 
both hands without saying anything. Cloete gives 
a push to the table which nearly sends the fellow 
off his chair, tumbhng inside the fender; so that 
he has got to catch hold of it to save himself 

" You know the sort of man I am, Cloete says, 
fiercely. I've got to a point that I don't care 
what happens to me. I would shoot you now 
for tuppence. 

" At this the cur dodges under the table. Then 
•Cloete goes out, and as he turns in the street— you 
;.!.» V little fishermen's cottages, all dark; raining 
j^ ;n to :^nts, too— the other opens the window of 

• i< pa>- ur and speaks in a sort of crying voice — 

' ' •■ ow Yankee fiend— I'U pay you off some 

A -»e passes by with a damn bitter laugh, 
I .. -ise he thinks that the fellow in a way has paid 
iii a off already, if he only knew it." 

My impressive ruffian drank what remained of 
his beer, while his black, sunken eyes looked at me 
over the rim. 

" I don't quite understand this," I laid. " In 
what way? " 

He unbent a little and explained without too 
much scorn that Captain Harry being dead, his 



i68 



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half of the insurance money went to his wife, and 
her trustees of course bought consols with it. 
Enough to keep her comfortable. George Dun- 
bar's half, a. oloete feared from the first, did not 
prove sufficient to launch the medicine well; other 
moneyed men stepped in, and these two had to 
go out of that business, pretty nearly shorn of 
everytliing. 

" I am curious," I said, " to learn what the motive 
force of this tragic affair was-I mean the patent 
medicine. Do you know?" 

He named it, and I whistled respectfully. Noth- 
ing less than Parker's Lively Lumbago Pills. 
Enormous property! You know it; all the world 
knows it. Every second man, at least, on this 
globe of ours has tried it. 

" Why! " I cried, " they missed an immense 
fortune." 

" Yes," he mumbled, " by the price of a revolver- 
shot." 

He told me also that eventually Cloete returned 
to the States, passenger in a cargo-boat from Albert 
Dock. The night before he sailed he met him 
wandering about the quays, and took him home 
for a drink. ' Funsy chap, Cloete. We sat all 
night drinking grogs, till it was time for him to go 
on board." 

It was then that Cloete. unembittered but weary. 



I 

I 



THE PARTNER ^9 

told him this story, with that utterly unconscious 
franlmess of a patent-medicine man stranger to all 
moral standards. Cloete concluded by remarking 
that he had " had enough of the old country " 
George Dunbar had turned on him, too, in the end. 
Cloete was clearly somewhat disillusioned 

As to Stafford, he died, professed loafer, in some 
tast End hospital or other, and on his last day 

womed hmi for kilhng an imiocent man. " Wanted 
jebody to tell him it was all right," growled my 
^d ruffian, contemptuously. " He told the parson 
that I knew this Cloete who had tried to murder 
him, and so the parson (he worked among the dock 
k Wrs) once spoke to me about it. That skunk 
of a feUow finding himself trapped yelled for mercy. 
••• ^romisedtobegoodandsoon. .. Then he 

^f^u '. • '"'^"'^ ^""^ *^^^ '^^W about, 
beat his head against the bulkheads ... you can 
gue«s aU that-.h? ... till he was exhrust^ 
Gave up. Threw himself down, shut his ets 
and wanted to pray. So he says. Tried to tS 

temfi H "T" '"' ^ '1"^'='' ^^^th-he was that 
temfied. Thought that if he had a knife or some 

Then he thmks: No! Would try to cut awav the 
wood about the lock v / '" ''"^ **ay the 

pocket „'°*=^- • He had no knife in his 

I^et. ... He was weeping and calling on God 



170 



THE PARTNER 



to send him a tool of some kind when suddenly 
he thinks: Axel In most ships there is a spare 
emergency axe kept in the master's room in some 
iocker or other. ... Up he jumps. . . . Pitch 
dark. Pulls at the drawers to find matches and, 
groping for them, the first thing he comes upon— 
Captain Harry's revolver. Loaded too. He goes 
perfectly quiet all over. Can shoot the lock to 
pieces. See? Saved! God's providence 1 There 
are boxes of matches too. Thinks he: I may 
just as well see what I am about. 

" Strikes a light and sees the little canvas bag 
tucked away at the back of the drawer. Knew 
at once what that was. Rams it into his pocket 
quick. Aha! says he to himself: this requires 
more light. So he pitches a lot of paper on the 
floor, set fire to it, and starts in a hurry rummaging 
for more valuables. Did you ever? He told that 
East-End parson that the devil tempted him. 
First God's mercy— then devil's work. Turn and 
turn about. . . . 

" Any squirming skunk can talk like that. He 
was so busy with the drawers that the first thing 
he heard was a shout. Great Heavens. He looks 
up and there was the door open (Cloete had left 
the key in the lock) and Captain Harry holding on, 
well above him, very fierce in the light of the burn- 
ing papers. His eyes were starting out of his head. 



THE PARTNER xy. 

Thieving, he thunders at him. A saUorl An 
officerl Nol A wretch Uke you deserves no better 
than to be left here to drown. 

"This Stafford— on his death-bed— told the par- 
son that when he heard these words he went crazy 
agam. He snatched his hand with the revolver 
m It out of the drawer, and fired without aiming. 
Captain Harry feU right in with a crash like a 
stone on top of the burning papers, putting the 
blaze out. AU dark. Not a sound. He listened 
for a bit then dropped the revolver and scrambled 
out on deck hke mad. " 

The old fellow struck the table with his ponderous 
fist. 

" What makes me sick is to hear these silly boat- 
men telling people the captain committed suicide. 
Pah I Captain Harry was a man that could face 
his Maker any time up there, and here below, too. 
He wasn't the sort to slink out of life. Not he I 
He was a good man down to the ground. He gave 
me my first job as stevedore only three days after 
I got married." 

As the vindication of Captain Harry from the 
charge of suicide seemed to 'je his only object I 
did not thank him very effusively for his material. 
And then it was not worth many thanks in any 
case. ' 

For it is too startling even to think of such 






IfZ 



THE PARTNER 



thinj/s happening in our respectable Channel in 
full view, 80 to speak, of the luxurious continental 
traffic to Switzerland and Monte Carlo. This story 
to be acceptable should have been transposed to 
somewhere in th^ South Seas. But it would have 
been too much > :>uble to cook it for the consump- 
tion of maga;.',c readers. So here it is raw, so 
to speak— just as it was told to me— but un- 
fortunately robbed of the striking effect of the 
narrator; the most imposing old ruffian that ever 
followed the unromantic trade of master stevedore 
in the port of London. 

oa. 191U 




,"t.-h.-^" r 



IHE INN OF THE TWO 
WITCHES 

A FIND 

This tale, episode. experience-<aU it how you 

by a n,a^ who, by his own confession, was siZ 
yean, old at the time. Sixty is not a J^ 

plated by the majority of us with mixed feelings 
It IS a calm age; the game is practically over by 
^n; and standing aside one begins to rememb^ 
Zt certam vividness what a fine feUow one used 

tio^of lj^^:\°'^"'^ '^'' by an amiable atten- 
tion of Providence, most people at sixty begin 
to take a romantic view of themselves iSr 
ve^ faUures exhale a chann of peculiar pot^^ 
And mdeed the hopes of the future arfa Z 
company to live with, exquisite fonns, fascinatbg 
'f you hke^but-^ to speak-^aked, stripped for 
a run^ The robes of glamour are luciTthe 

'75 



Mioocorr resolution tbt chart 

(ANSI ond ISO TEST CHART No. 2) 




APPLIED IIVHGE Inc 

IG53 Eoit Uain Street 

RochMttr. New Yorti 14609 USA 

(716) 482 -0300 - Phon* 

(716) 258 - 5989 - fOK 



176 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

I suppose it was the romanticism of growing age 
which set our man to relate his experience for his 
otvn satisfaction or for the wonder of his posterity. 
It could not have been for his glory, because the 
experience was simply that of an abominable 
fright — terror he calls it. You would have guessed 
that the relation aUuded to in the very first Unes 
was in writing. 

This writing constitutes the Find declared in the 
sub-title. The title itself is my own contrivance 
(can't call it invention), and has the merit of 
veracity. We will be concerned with an inn here. 
As to the witches that's merely a conventional 
expression, and we must take our man's word for 
it that it fits the case. 

The Find was made in a box of books bought in 
London, in a street which no longer exists, from a 
second-hand bookseller in the last stage of decay. 
As to the books themselves they were at least 
twentieth-hand, and on inspection turned out not 
worth the very small sum of money I disbursed. 
It might have been some premonition of that fact 
which made me say: " But I must have the box 
too." The decayed bookseller assented by the 
careless, tragic gesture of a man already doomed 
to extinction. 

A litter of loose pages at the bottom of the box 
excited my curiosity but faintly. The close, neat. 






THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 177 
regular handwriting was not attractive at first 
sight But in one place the statement that in a d 
1813 the writer was twenty-two years old caught 
my eye. Two and twenty is an interesting age 
m which one is easily reckless and easily frightened • 
the faculty of reflection being weak and the power 
of unagination strong. 

In another place the phrase ."At night we stood 
m again," arrested my languid attention, because 
It was a sea phrase. " Let's see what it is all 
about. ' I thought, without excitement. 

Oh I but it was a dull-faced MS., each line re- 
sembling every other line in their close-set and 
regular order. It was like the drone of a mono- 
tonous voice. A treatise on sugar-refining (the 
dreanest subject I can think of) could have been 
given a more lively appearance. " In a d 1813 
I was twenty-two years old," he begins earnestly 
and goes on with every appearance of cabn 
homble industry. Don't imagine, however, that 
there is anything archaic in my find. Diabolic 
ingenuity in invention though as old as the world 
IS by no means a lost art. Look at the telephones 
for shattering the little peace of mind given to us 
m this world, or at the machine guns for letting 
with dispatch life out of our bodies. Now-a-days 
any blear-eyed old witch if only strong enough to 
turn an msignificant little handle could lay low a 



w 



178 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

hundred young men of twenty in the tMonkling ot 
an eye. 

If this isn't progress I . . . Why inunensel We 
have moved on, and so you must expect to meet 
here a certain naiveness of contrivance and sim- 
pUdty of aim appertaining to the remote epoch. 
And of course no motoring tourist can hope to 
find such an inn anywhere, now. This one, the 
one of the title, was situated in Spain. That much 
I discovered only from internal evidence, because a 
good many pages of that relation were missing — 
perhaps not a great misfortune after all. The 
writer seemed to have entered into a most elaborate 
detail of the why and wherefore of his presence 
on that coast — presumably the north coast of 
Spain. His experience has nothing to do with the 
sea, though. As far as I can make it out, he was 
an officer on board a sloop-of-war. There's 
nothing strange in that. At all stages of the long 
Peninsular campaign many of om men-of-war of 
the smaller kind were cruising off the north coast 
of Spain — as risky and disagreeable a station as 
can be well imagined. 

It looks as though that ship of his had had some 
special service to perform. A careful explanation 
of all the circumstances was to be expected from 
our man, only, as I've said, some of his pages (good 
tough paper too) were missing: gone in covers for 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 179 
jampots or in wadding for th. fowling-pieces of his 
m-eve„„t posterity. But it is to be Ln cleariy 
that communication with the shore and even the 
sendmg of messengers inland was part of her 
-mce either to obtain intelligence from or to 
taansamt orders or advice to patriotic Spaniards, 
^enlleros or secret juntas of the province Some^ 
hmgofthe«,rt. All this can be only inferred from 
the preserved scraps of his conscientious writing. 
Next we come upon the panegyric of a very L 

ratmg of the captam's coxswain. He was known 
on board a. Cuba Tom; not because he was Cub" 

Bntish tar of that time, and a man-of-war's an 
for years. He came by the name on accou. . of 
^me wonderful adventures he had in that island 
m his yomig days, adventures which were the 
favounte subject of the yarns he was in the habit 

?or™ie °'"^fP'"^*-°f- evening on the 
toreca^tle .^d. He was intelligent, very strong, 
-.d of proved courage. IncidentaUy we are toW 
so exact ,s our narrator, that Tom had the fines 

>. T: 7 appendage, much cared for and 
sheathed tightly in a porpoise skin, hung half w^y 

^Zil ^"?"' *° ^'^^ ^-* admiration:' 
all beiiolders and to the great envy of some. 



i8o THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

Our young officer dwells on the manly qualities 
of Cuba Tom with something like affection. This 
sort of relation between officer and man was not 
then very rare. A youngster on joining the 
service was put under the charge of a trustworthy 
seaman, who slung his first hammock for him and 
often later on became a sort of humble friend to 
the junior officer. The narrator on joining the 
sloop had found this man on board after some 
years of separation. There is something touching 
in the warm pleasure he remembers and records at 
this meeting with the professional mentor of his 
boyhood. 

We discover then that, no Spaniard being forth- 
coming for the service, this worthy sea nan with 
the unique pigtail and a very high character for 
courage and steadiness had been selected as 
messenger for one of these missions inland which 
have been mentioned. His preparations were not 
elaborate. One gloomy autumn morning the 
sloop ran close to a shallow cove where a landing 
could be made on that iron-bound shore. A boat 
was lowered, and pulled in with Tom Corbin (Cuba 
Tom) perched in the bow, and our young man (Mr. 
Edgar Byrne was his name on this earth which 
knows him no more) sitting in the stem sheets. 

A few inhabitants of a hamlet, whose grey stone 
houses could >ie seen a hundred yards or so up a 



■ i i 



' 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES i8i 

deep ravine, had come down to the shore and 
watched the approach of the boat. The two 
Englishmen leaped ashore. Either from duUness 
or astonishment the peasants gave no greeting, 
and only fell back in silence. 

Mr. Byrne had made up his mind to see Tom 
Corbin started fairly on his way. He looked round 
at the heavy siUT)rised faces. 

" There isn't much to get out of them," he said. 
" Let us walk up to the village. There will be a 
wine shop for sure where we may find somebody 
more promising to talk to and get some information 
from." 

" Aye, aye, sir," said Tom falling into step be- 
hind his officer. " A bit of palaver as to courses 
and distances can do no harm; I crossed the 
broadest pat t of Cuba by the help of my tongue tho' 
knowing far less Spanish than I do now. As they 
say themselves it was ' four words and no more ' 
with me, that time when I got left behind on shore 
by the Blanche, frigate." 

He made light of what was before him, which 
was but a day's journey into the mountains. It 
is true that there was a full day's journey before 
striking the mountain path, but that was nothing 
for a man who had crossed the island of Cuba on 
his two legs, and with no more than four words of 
the language to begin with. 



■ 



i8z THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

The officer and the man were walking now on a 
thick sodden bed of dead leaves, which the peasants 
thereabouts acrumulate in the streets of their 
villages to rot during the winter for field manure. 
Turning his head Mr. Byrne perceived that the 
whole male population of the hamlet was following 
them on the noiseless springy carpet. Women 
stared from the doors of the houses and the children 
had apparently gone into hiding. The village 
knew the ship by sight, afar off, but no stranger 
had landed on that spot perhaps for a hundred 
years or more. The cocked hat of Mr. Byrne, the 
bushy whiskers and the enormous pigtail of the 
sailor, filled them with mute wonder. They 
pressed behind the two Englishmen staring Uke 
those islanders discovered by Captain Cook in the 
South Seas. 

It was then that Byrne had his first glimpse of 
the little cloaked man in a yellow hat. Faded and 
dingy as it was, this covering for his head made 
him noticeable. 

The entrance to the wine shop was like a rough 
hole in a wall of flints. The owner was the only 
person who was not in the street, for he came out 
from the darkness at the back where the inflated 
forms of wine skins hung on nails could be vaguely 
distinguished. He was a tall, one-eyed Asturian 
with scrubby, hollow cheeks; a grave expression 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 183 

of countenance contrasted enigmatically with the 
roaming restlessness of his solitary eye. On 
learning that the matter in hand was the sending 
on his way of that English mariner toward a certain 
Gonzales in the mountains, he closed his good eye 
for a moment as if in meditation. Then opened it, 
very lively again. 
" Possibly, possibly. It could be done." 
A friendly murmur arose in the group in the door- 
way at the name of Gonzales, the local leader 
against the French. Inquiring as to the safety 
of the road Byrne was glad to learn that no troops 
of that nation had been seen in the • ;ighbourh&od 
for months. Not the smallest little detachment 
of these impious poUzones. While giving these 
answers the owner of the wine-shop busied himself 
in drawing into an earthenware jug some wine 
which he set before the heretic English, pocketing 
with grave abstraction the small piece of money 
the oflficer threw upon the table in recognition of 
the unwritten law that none may enter a wine- 
shop without buying drink. His eye was in con- 
stant motion as if it were trying to do the work of 
the two; but when Byrne made inquiries as to the 
possibility of hiring a mule, it became immovably 
fixed in the direction of the door which was closely 
besieged by the curious. In front of them, just 
within the threshold, the Uttle man in the large 



184 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

cloak and ycUow hat had taken his stand. He 
was a diminutive person, a mere homunculus, 
Byrne describes him, in a ridiculously mysterious, 
yet assertive attitude, a comer of his cloak thrown 
cavalierly over his left shoulder, muffling his chin 
and mouth; while the broad-brimmed yellow hat 
hung on a comer of his square little head. He 
stood there taking snuff, repeatedly. 

"A mule," repeated the wine-seUer, his eyes 
fixed on that qraint and snuffy figure. ... " No, 
sefior officer I Decidedly no mule is to be got in 
this poor p!ace." 

The coxswain, who stood by with the true 
sailor's air of unconcem in strange surroundings, 
struck in quietly — 

" If your honour will believe me Shank's pony's 
the best for this job. I would have to leave the 
beast somewhere, anyhow, since the captain has 
told me that half my way will be along paths fit 
only for goats." 

The diminutive man made a step forward, and 
speakmg through the folds of the cloak which 
seemed to muffle a sarcastic intention— 

" Si, sefior. They are too honest in this village 
to have a single mule amongst them for your 
worship's service. To that I can bear testimony. 
In these times it's only rogues or very clever men 
who can manage to have mules or any other four- 



THE INN OF THE IWO WITCHES 185 
footed beasts and the wherewithal to keep them 
But what this valiant mariner wants is a guide- 
and here, sefior, behold my brother-in-law. Bernar- 
dmo, wine-seller, and alcade of this most Christian 
and hospitable village, who wiU find you one." 

This. Mr. Byrne says in his relation, was the only 
thing to do. A youth in a ragged coat and goat- 
skm breeches was produced after some more talk 
The English officer stood treat to the whole village 
and while the peasants drank he and tuba Tom' 
took their depirture accompanied by the guide 
The diminutive man in the cloak had disappeared ' 
Byrne went along with the coxswain out c ■ e 
village. He wanted to see him fairly on his way 
and he would have gone a greater distance, if the 
seaman had not suggested respectfully the advis- 
abiUty of return so as not to keep the ^Hp a moment 
longer than necessary so close in with the shore 
on such an unpromising looking morning. A t«ld 
gloomy sky hung over their heads when they took 
leave of each other, and their surroundings of 
rank bushes and stony fields wer- dreary. 
"In four days' time," were byrne's last words 
tte ship will stand in and send a boat on shore 
If the weather pennits. If not you'U have to make 
It out on shore the best you can tiU we come along 
to take you ofi." * 

" Right you are. sir," answered Tom, and strode 



l86 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

on. Byrne watched him step out on a narrow 
path. In a thick pea-jacket with a pair of pistols 
in his belt, a cutlass by his side, and a stout cudgel 
in his hand, he looked a sturdy figure and well able 
to take care of himself. He turned round for a 
moment to wave his hand, giving to Byrne one 
more view of his honest bronzed face with bushy 
whiskers. The lad in goatskin breeches looking, 
Byrne says, like a faun or a young satyr leaping 
ahead, stopped to wait for him, and then went off 
at a bound. Both disappeared. 

Byrne tumeil back. The hamlet was hidden in 
a fold of the ground, and the spot seemed the most 
lonely comer of the earth and as if accursed in its 
uninhabited desolate barrenness. Before he had 
walked many yards, there appeared very suddenly 
from behind a bush the muffled up diminutive 
Spaniard. Naturally Byrne stopped short. 

The other made a mysterious gesture with a tiny 
hand peeping from tmder his cloak. His hat hung 
very much at the side of his head. " Sefior," he 
said without any preliminaries. "Caution I It 
is a positive fact that one-eyed Bernardino, my 
brother-in-law, has at this moment a mule in his 
stable. And why he who is not clever has a mule 
there? Because he is a rogue; a man without 
conscience. Because I had to give up the macho 
to him to secure for myself a roof to sleep under 



THE INN OF TIIE TWO WITCHES 187 
and a mouthfuJ of o'ln to keep my soul in this 
insignificant body of mine. Yet, sefior. it cont 'ns 
a heart many times bigger than the mean thing 
which beats in the breast of that brute connection 
of mme of which I am ashamed, though I jpposed 
that marriage with all my power. Well, the 
misguided woman suffered enough. She had her 
purgatory on this earth— God i t her soul." 

Byrne says he was so astonished by the sudden 
appearance of that sprite-like being, and by the 
sardonic bitterness of the speech, that he was un- 
able to disentangle the significant fact fro what 
seemed but a piece of family history firea out at 
him without rhyme or reason. Not at first. He 
was confounded and a. the same time he was 
impressed by the rapid forcible deUvery, quite 
different from the frothy excited loquacity of an 
Italian. So he stared while the homunculus, 
letting his cloak fall about him, aspired an immense 
quantity of snuff out of the hoUow of his palm. 

" A mule," exclaimed Byrne seizing at last the 
real aspect of the discourse. " You say he has 
got a mule? That's queer! Why did he refuse 
to let me have it ? " 

The diminutive Spaniard muffled himself up 
again with great dignity. 

" Quien saber he said coldly, with a shrug of 
his draped shoulders. " He is a great politico in 



i88 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

everything he does. But one thing your worship 
may be certain of — that his intentions are always 
rascally. This husband of my defunta sister ought 
to have been married a long time ago to the widow 
with the wooden legs.^ " 

" I see. But remember that, whatever your 
motives, ycur worship countenanced him in this 
Ue." 

The bright imhappy eyes on each side of a pre- 
datory nose confronted Byrne without wincing, 
while with that testiaess which lurks so often at 
the bottom of Spanish dignity — 

" No doubt the senor officer would not lose an 
ounce of blood if 1 were stuck under the fifth rib," 
he retorted. " But what of this poor sinner here ? " 
Then changing his tone. " Senor, by the necessi- 
ties of the times I live here in exile, a Castilian 
and an old Christian, existing miserably in the 
midst of these brute Asturians, and dependent 
on the worst of them all, who has less conscience 
and scruples than a wolf. And being a man of 
intelligence I govern myself accordingly. Yet I 
can hardly contain my scorn. You have heard 
the way I spoke. A caballero of parts like your 
worship might have guessed that there was a cat 
in there." 

' The gallows, suppoeed to be widowed of the last executed 
criminal and waiting for another. 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 189 
" What cat ? " said Byrne uneasily. " Oh, I 
see. Something suspicious. No.senor. I guessed 
nothing. My nation are not good guessers at that 
sort of thing; and, therefore, I ask you plainly 
whether that wine-seller has spoken the truth in 
other particulars? " 

" There are certainly no Frenchmen anywhere 
about," said the little man with a return to his 
indifferent manner. 
" Or Tohbei^—ladronei, ? " 
" Ladrones en grande—no\ Assuredly not," 
was the answer in a cold philosophical tone. 
"What is there left for them to do after the 
French? And nobody travels in these times. 
But who can say ! Opportunity makes the robber. 
Still that mariner of yours has a fierce aspect, and 
with the son of a cat rats will have no play. ' But 
there is a saying, too, that where honey is there 
will soon be flies." 

This oracular discourse exasperated Byrne 
" In the name of God," he cried, " teU me plainly 
if you think my man is reasonably safe on his 
journey." 

The homunculus, undergoing one of his rapid 
changes, seized the officer's arm. The grip of 
his little hand was astonishing. 

" Senorl Bernardino had taken notice of him. 
What more do you want ? And listen— men have 



\n 



190 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

disappeared on this road — on a certain portion of 
this road, when Bernardino kept a meson, an inn, 
and I, his brother-in-law, had coaches and mules 
for hire. Now there are no travellers, no coaches. 
The French have ruined me. Bernardino has 
retired here for reasons of his own after my sister 
died. They were three to torment the life out of 
her, he and Erminia and Lucilla, two aunts of his 
— all affiliated to the devil. And now he has 
robbed me of my last mule. You are an armed 
man. Demand the macho from him, with a pistol 
to his head, senor — it is not his, I tell you — and 
ride after your man who is so precious to you. 
And then you shall both be safe, for no two travel- 
lers have been ever known to disappear together 
in those days. As to the beast, I, its owner, I 
confide it to your honour." 

They were staring hard at each other, and Bjrme 
nearly burst into a laugh at the ingenuity and 
transparency of the little man's plot to regain 
possession of his mule. But he had no difficulty 
to keep a straight face because he felt deep within 
himself a strange incUnation to do that very extra- 
ordinary thing. He did not laugh, but his lip 
quivered; at which the diminutive Spaniard, 
detacliing his black glittering eyes from Byrne's 
face, turned his back on him brusquely with a 
gesture and a fling of the cloak which somehow 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 191 

expressed contempt, bitterness, and discourage- 
ment all at once. He turned away and stood still, 
his hat aslant, muffled up to the ears. But he 
was not offended to the point of refusing the silver 
dun which Byrne offered him with a non-committal 
speech as if nothing extraordinary had passed 
between them. 

" I must make haste on board now," said Byrne, 
then. 

" Vaya usted con Dios." muttered the gnome. 
And this interview ended with a sarcastic low sweep 
of the hat which was replaced at the same perilous 
angle as before. 

Directly the boat had been hoisted the ship's 
sails were filled on the off-shore tack, and Byrne 
imparted the whole story to his captain, who was 
but a very few years older than himself. There 
was some amused indignation at it— but while 
they laughed they looked gravely at each other. 
A Spanish dwarf trying to beguile an officer of his 
majesty's navy into steaUng a mule for him— that 
was too funny, too ridiculous, too incredible. 
Those were the exclamations of the captain. He 
couldn't get over the grotesqueness of it. 

" Incredible. That's just it," murmured Byrne 
at last in a significant tone. 

They exchanged a long stare. " It's as clear 
as daylight," affirmed the captain impatiently. 



192 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

because in his heart he was not certain. And 
Tom the best seaman in the ship for one, the good- 
humouredly deferential friend of his boyhood for 
the other, was becoming endowed with a compelling 
fascination, like a symbolic figure of loyalty appeal- 
ing to their feeUngs and their conscience, so that 
they could not detach their thoughts from his 
safety. Several times they went up on deck, only 
to look at the coast, as if it could tell them some- 
thing of his fate. It stretched away, lengthening 
in the distance, mute, naked, and savage, veiled 
now and then by the slanting cold shafts of rain. 
The westerly sweU rolled its interminable angry 
lines of foam and big dark clouds flew over the 
ship in a sinister procession. 

" I wish to goodness you had done what your 
Uttle friend in the yellow hat 'vanted you to do," 
said the commander of the sloop late in the after- 
noon with visible exasperation. 

" Do you, sir? " answered Byrne, bitter with 
positive anguish. " I wonder what you would 
have said afterwards? Why! I might have been 
kicked out of the service for looting a mule from a 
nation in alliance with His Majesty. Or I might 
have been battered to a pulp with flails and pitch- 
forks-a pretty tale to get abroad about one of your 
officers-while trying to steal a mule. Or chased 
ignominiously to the boat— for you would not have 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 193 

expected me to shoot down unoffending people for 

the sake of a mangy mule And yet," he added 

in a low voice, " I almost wish myself I had 
done it." 

Before dark those two young men had worked 
themselves up into a highly complex psychological 
state of scornful scepticism and alanned credulity. 
It tonnented them exceedingly; and the thought 
that it would have to last for six days at least, and 
possibly be prolonged further for an indefinite 
time, was not to be borne. The ship was therefore 
put on the inshore tack at dark. All through the 
gusty daik night she went towards the land to 
look for hfcr man, at times lying over in the heavy 
puffe, at others rolling idle in the swell, nearly 
stationary, as if she too had a mind of her own to 
swing perplexed between cool reason and warm 
impulse. 

Then just at daybreak a boat put off from her 
and went on tossed by the seas towards the shallow 
cove where, with considerable difficulty, an officer 
in a thick coat and a round hat managed to land 
on a strip of shingle. 

" It was my wish," writes Mr. Byrne, " a wish 
of which my captain approved, to land secretly if 
possible. I did not want to be seen either by my 
aggrieved friend in the yellow hat, whose motives 
were not clear, or by the one-eyed wine-seller, who 



194 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

may or may not have been affiliated to the devil, 
or indeed by any other dweller in that primitive 
village. But unfortunately the cove was the only 
possible landing place for miles; and from the 
steepness of the ravine I couldn't make a circuit 
to av3id the houses." 

" Fortimately," he goes on, " all the people 
were yet in their beds. It was barely dayUght 
when I fotmd m3rself walking on the thick layer of 
sodden leaves filling the only street. No soul was 
stirring abroad, no dog barked. The silence was 
profound, and I had concluded with some wonder 
that apparently no dogs were kept in the hamlet, 
when I heard a low snarl, and from a noisome 
alley between two hovels emerged a vile ciu: with 
its tail between its legs. He slunk ofi silently 
showing me his teeth as he ran before me, and he 
disappeared so suddenly that he might have been 
the imclean incarnation of the Evil One. There 
was, too, something so reird in the manner of its 
coming and vanishing, that my spirits, already by 
no means very high, became further depressed 
by the revolting sight of this creature as if by an 
unlucky presage." 

He got away from the coast unobserved, as far 
as he knew, then struggled manfully to the west 
against wind and rain, on a barren dark upland, 
under a sky of ashes. Far away the harsh and 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 195 

denuded ndges seemed to wait for him meTadngly 
T^e^emng found him fairly near to them, but, 
in sailor language, uncertain of his position 
hungr-. wet, and tired out by a day oE^eldv 

^"ZT ""''■: ^"""^ *^^ ^^<=^ he ha J 
seen veiy fe^ p^^pj^ ^^ ^^^ 

^tam the sHghtest intelligence of Tom Corbi,^: 
^e "Onl on! I must push on," he had b^n 
saymg to himself through the hours of soliUrJ 
effort spurred more by incertitude than by an^ 
definite fear or definite hope ^ 

Mo tt "" %'"*'" '"'*«^' "« descended 
nto he ra,ane, forded a narrow stream by the 

heother side was met by the night which fell li^e 
a bandage over his eyes. The wind sweeping in 

he ^kness the broadside of the sierra Ued 
his ears by a continuous roaring noise as of a 

d^fS Tt !^'' °^ outcropping stone, it was 
difficult to distinguish from the dreary waste o 

Dusnes. But, as he says " he <!fMr«/i k- 



196 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

again from mere weariness of mind rather than of 
body — as if not Lis strength but his resolution were 
being overtaxed by the strain of endeavour half 
suspected to be vain, and by the unrest of his 
feelings. 

In one of these pauses borne in the wind faintly 
as if from very far away he heard a sound of 
knocking, just knocking on wood. He noticed 
that the wind had lulled suddenly. 

His heart started beating tumultuously because 
in himself he carried the impression of the desert 
soUtudes he had been traversing for the last six 
hours — the oppressive sense of an uninhabited 
world. When he raised his head a gleam of Ught, 
illusory as it often happens in dense darkness, 
swam before his eyes. V/hile he peered, the sound 
of feeble knocking was repeated — and suddenly 
he felt rather than saw the existence of a massive 
obstacle in his path. What was it? The spur of 
a hill? Or was it a house I Yes. It was a house 
right close, as though it had risen from the ground 
or had come gUding to meet him, dumb and 
paUid, from some dark recess of the night. It 
towered loftily. He had come up under its lee; 
another three steps and he could have touched the 
wall with his hand. It was no doubt a posada and 
some other traveller was trying for admittance. 
He heard again the soimd of cautious knocking. 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 197 

Next moment a broad band of light feU into the 
night through the opened door. Byrne stepped 
eagerly into it, whereupon the person outside leaped 
with a stifled cry away into the night. An excla- 
mation of surprise was heard too, from within. 
Bynie, flinging himself against the half closed door, 
foiced his way in against some considerable 
resistance. 

A miserable candle, a mere rushlight, burned at 
the end of a long deal table. And in its hght 
Byrne saw, staggering yet, the girl he had driven 
from the door. She had a short black skirt, an 
orange shawl, a dark complexion— and the 
escaped single hairs from the mass, sombre and 
thick like a forest and held up by a comb, made a 
black mist about her low forehead. A shrill 
lamentable howl of: " Misericordia! " came in two 
voices from the further end of the long room, 
where the fire-light of an open hearth played 
between heavy shadows. The girl recovering her- 
self drew a hissing breath through her set teeth. 
It is unnecessary to report the long process of 
questions and answers by which he soothed the 
fears of two old women who sat on each side of the 
fire, on which stood a large earthenware pot. Byrne 
thought at once of two witches watching the brew- 
ing of some deadly potion. But all the same, when 
one of them raising forward painfully her broken 



ii 1 



196 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

form lifted the cover of the pot, the escajiing steam 
had an appetising smell. The other did not budge, 
but sat hunched up, her head trembling all the time. 

They were horrible. There was something 
grotesque '->. their decrepitude. Their toothless 
mouths, their hooked noses, the meagreness of the 
active one, and the hanging yellow cheeks of the 
other (the stiU one, whose head trembled) would 
have been laughable if the sight of their dreadful 
physical degradation had not been appalling to 
one's eyes, had not gripped one's heart with 
poignant amazement at the unspeakable misery 
of age, at the awful persistency of life becoming 
at last an object of disgust and dread. 

To get over it Byrne began to talk, saying that 
he was an Englishman, and that he was in search 
of a countryman who ought to have passed this 
way. Directly he had spoken the recollection of 
his parting with Tom came up in his mind with 
amazing vividness: the silent villagers, the angry 
gnome, the one-eyed wine-seller, Bernardino. 
Why! These two unspeakable frights must be that 
man's aunts — affiliated to the devil. 

Whatever they had been once it was impossible 
to imagine what use such feeble creatures could be 
to the devil, now, in the world of the living. Which 
was Ludlla and which was Erminia? They were 
now things without a name. A moment of sus- 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 199 

pended animation followed Byrne's words. The 
sorceress with the spoon ceased stirring the mess 
in the iron pot, ■- . very trembling of the other's 
head stopped for the space of breath. In this 
infinitesimal fraction of a second Byrne had the 
sense of being really on his quest, of having 
reached the turn of the path, ahnost within hail 
uf Tom. 

" They have seen him," he thought with con- 
viction. Here was at last somebody who had seen 
him. He made sure they would deny all knowledge 
of the Ingles; but on the contrary they were eager 
to tell him that he had eaten and slept the night 
in the house. They both started talking together, 
describing his appearance and behaviour. An 
excitement quite fierce in its feebleness possessed 
them. The doubled-up sorceress floiuished aloft 
her wooden spoon, the puffy monster got ofi her 
stool and screeched, stepping from one foot to 
the other, while the trembling of her head was 
accelerated to positive vibration. Byrne was quite 

disconcerted by their excited behaviour Yes I 

The big, fierce Ingles went away in the morning, 
after eating a piece of bread and drinking some 
wine. And if the caballero wished to follow the 
same path nothing could be easier — ^in the morning. 

" You will give me somebody to show me the 
way? "said Byrne. 



300 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

"Si, Kfior. A proper youth. The man the 
caballero saw going out." 

"But he was knocking at the door." protested 
Byrne. " He only bolted when he saw me. He 
was coming in." 

"No! No! " the two horrid witches screamed 
out tf ether. " Going out. Going out I" 

Aftc. all it may have been true. The sound of 
knocking had been faint, elusive, reflected Byrne. 
Perhaps only the effect of his fancy. He 
asked — 

"Who is that man?" 

" Her novio." They screamed pointing to the 
girl. " He is gone home to a village far away from 
here. But he will return in the morning. Her 
novio t And she is an orphan— the child of poor 
Christian people. She lives with us for the love 
of God, for the love of God." 

The orphan crouching on the comer of the hearth 
had been looking at Byrne. He thought that she 
was more like a child of Satan kept there by these 
two weird harridans for the love of the Devil. 
Her eyes were a Httle obUque, her mouth rather 
thick, but admirably formed; her dark face had a 
wild beauty, voluptuous and untamed. As to the 
character of her steadfast gaze attached upon him 
with a sensuously savage attention, "to know 
what it was like." says Mr. Byrne, " you have only 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES aoi 

to observe a hungry cat watching a bird in a cage 
or a mouM inside a trap." 

It was she who served him the food, of ifhich lie 
was glad; though with those big slanting black 
eyes examining him at close range, as if he had 
something curious written on his face, she gave 
Wm an uncomfortable sensation. But anything 
was better than being approached by these blear- 
eyed nightmarish witches. His apprehensions 
somehow had been soothed; perhaps by the sensa- 
tion of wamth after severe exposure and the ease 
of r ling after the exertion of fighting the gale 
inch by inch all the way. He had no doubt of 
Tom's safety. He was now sleeping in the moun- 
tain camp having been met by Gonzales' men. 

Byrne rose, filled a tin goblet with wine out of 
a skin hanging on the wall, and sat down again. 
The witch with the mummy face began to talk to 
him, ramblingly of old tuTies; she boasted of the 
mn's fame in those better days. Great people 
m their own coaches stopped there. An arch- 
bishop slept once in the casa. a long, long time ago 
The witch with the puffy face seemed to be 
listening from her stool, motionless, except for the 
trembling of her head. The girl (Byrne was 
certam she wis a casual gipsy admitted there for 
some reason or other) sat on the hearth stone in the 
glow of the embers. She hummed a tune to her- 



.h 



I 



203 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 



I 



self, rattling a pair of castanets slightly now and 
then. At the mention of the archbishop she 
chuckled impiously and turned her head to look 
at Byrne, so that the red glow of the fire flashed 
in her black eyes and on her white teeth under the 
dark cowl of the enormous overmantel. And he 
smiled at her. 

He rested now in the ease of security. His 
advent not having been expected there could be 
no plot against him in existence. Drowsiness stole 
upon his senses. He enjoyed it, but keeping a 
hold, so he thought at least, on his wits; but he 
must have been gone further than he thought 
because he was startled beyond measure by a 
fiendish uproar. He had never heard anjrthing 
so pitilessly strident in his Ufe. The witches had 
started a fierce quarrel about something or other. 
Whatever its origin they were now only abusing 
each other violently, without arguments; theii- 
senile screams expressed nothing but wicked 
anger and ferocious dismay. The gipsy girl's 
black eyes flew from one to the other. Never 
before had Byrne felt himself so removed from 
fellowship with human beings. Before he had 
really time to understand the subject of the 
quarrel, the girl jumped up rattling her castanets 
loudly. A silence fell. She came up to the table 
and bending over, her eyes in his — 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 303 

" Senor," she said with decision, " You shaU 
sleep in the archbishop's room." 

Neither of the witches objected. The dried-up 
one bent double was propped on a stick. The 
puffy faced one had now a crutch. 

Byrne got up, walked to the door, and turning 
the key in the enormous lock put it coolly in his 
pocket. This was clearly the only entrance, and 
he did not mean to be taken unawares by whatever 
danger there might have been lurking outside. 
When he turned from the door he saw the two 
witches " afiUiated to the Devil " and the Satanic 
girl looking at him in silence. He wondered if 
Tom Corbin took the same precaution last night. 
And thinking of him he had again that queer 
impression of his nearness. The world was 
perfectly dumb. And in this stiUness he heard 
the blood beating in h:s ears with a confused 
rushing noise, in which there seemed to be a voice 
uttering the words: " Mr. Byrne, look out, sir." 
Tom's voice. He shuddered; for the delusions of 
the senses of hearing are the most vivid of all, and 
from then- nature have a compelling character. 

It seemed impossible that Tom should not be 
there. Again a slight chill as of stealthy draught 
penetrated through his very clothes and passed 
over aU his body. He shook off the impression 
with an effort. 



204 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 



I 



It was the girl who preceded him upstairs carry- 
ing an iron lamp from the naked flame of which 
ascended a thin thread of smoke. Her soiled 
white stockings were full of holes. 

With the same quiet resolution with which he 
had locked the door below, B3rme threw open one 
after another the doors in the corridor. All the 
rooms were empty except for som? nondescript 
lumber in one or two. And the girl seeing what 
he would be at stopped every time, raising the 
smoky light in each doorway patiently. Meantime 
she observed him with sustained attention. The 
last door of all she threw open herself. 

" You sleep here, sefior," she murmured in a 
voice light like a child's breath, offering him the 
lamp. 

"Buenos noches, senorita," he said politely, 
taking it from her. 

She didn't return the wish audibly, though her 
lips did move a Uttle, while her gaze black Uke a 
starless night never for a moment wavered before 
him. He stepped in, and as he turned to close 
the door she was stiU there motionless and dis- 
turbing, with her voluptuous mouth and slanting 
eyes, with the expression of exp>ectant sensual 
ferocity of a baffled cat. He hesitated for a 
moment, and in the dumb house he heard again 
the blood pulsating ponderously in his ears. 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 205 
while once more the illusion of Tom's voice speak- 
ing earnestly somewhere near by was specially 
terrifying, because this time he could not make 
out the words. 

He slammed the door in the girl's face at last, 
leaving her in the dark; and he opened it again 
ahnost on the instant. Nobody. She had vanished 
without the slightest sound. He closed the door 
quickly and boiced it with two heavy bolts. 

A profound mistrust possessed him suddenly. 
Why did the witches quarrel about letting him sleep 
here? And what meant that stare of the girl as 
if she wanted to impress his features for ever in 
her mind? His own nervousness alarmed him. 
He seemed to himself to be removed very far from 
mankind. 

He examined his room. It was not very high, just 
high enough to take the bed which stood under an 
enormous baldaquin-like canopy from which fell 
heavy curtains at foot and head; a bed certainly 
worthy of an archbishop. There was a heavy 
table carved aU round the edges, some arm-chairs 
of enormous weight Uke the spoils of a grandee's 
palace; a tall shaUow wardrobe placed against 
the wall and with double doors. He tried them. 
Locked. A suspicion came into his mind, and he 
snatched the lamp to make a closer examination. 
No, it was not a disguised entrance. That heavy. 






306 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

tall piece of furniture stood clear of the wall by 
quite an inch. He glanced at the bolts of his room 
door. No I No one could get at him treacherously 
while he slept. But would he be able to sleep? he 
asked himself anxiously. If only he had Tom 
there— the trusty seaman who had fought at his 
right hand in a cutting out affair or two, and had 
always preached to him *ke necessity to take care 
of himself. " For it's no great trick." he used to 
say, " to get yourself killed in a hot fight. Any fool 
can do that. The proper pastime is to fight the 
Frenchies and then live to fight another day." 

Byrne found it a hard maUer not to fall into 
listening to the silence. Somehow he had the con- 
viction that nothing would break it unless he heard 
again the haunting sound of Tom's voice. He had 
heard it twice before. Odd I And yet no wonder, 
he argued with himself reasonably, since he had 
been thinking of the man for over thirty hours 
continuously and, what's more, inronclusively. 
For his anxiety for Tom had never taken a definite 
shape. " Disappear," was the only word con- 
nected with the idea of Tom's danger. It was 
very vague and awfil. "Disappear!" What 
did that mean? 

Byrne shuddered, and then saiJ to himself that 
he must be a little feverish. But Tom had not 
disappeared. Byrne had just heard of him. And 



THE INN OF THE TWO vv^ITCHES 207 
again t^ young man felt the blood beating in his 
ears. He sat still expecting every moment to 
hear through the pulsating strokes the sound of 
Tom s voice. He waited straining his ears, but 
noUnng came. Suddenly the thought occurred 
to hm,: He has not disappeared, but he cannot 
make himself heard." 

Hejumpedupfromtheann-chair. Howabsurdl 
Lavmg his pistol and his hanger on the table he 
took off lus boots and, feeling suddenly too tired 
to stand, flung himself on the bed which he found 
soft and comfortable beyond his hopes 

He had felt very wakeful, but hemust have dozed 
off after aU, because the next thing he knew he was 
sittmg up in bed and trying to recoUect what it 
was that Tom's voire had said. Oh! He remem- 
bered ,t now. Ithads^id: "Mr. Byrne! Look 
« ^y ' A warning this. But against what ? 
He landed with one leap in the middle of the 
floor, gasped once, then looked all round the room 
The wmdow was shuttered and barred with an 

Tk ^^^^^ his eyes slowly aUromid 

the bait- walls, and even lo< :ed up at the ceiUng 

which was rather high. Afterwards he went to the 
door to examine the fastenings. They consisted 
of ^o enormous iron bolts sliding into holes made 
m the waU; and as the corridor outside was too 
narrow to admit of any battering arrangement " 






«'«'«' 'WWSf- 



■«.Wi^-^l««-» I'-'j:?: 



308 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

even to permit an axe to be swung, nothing could 
burst the door open — unless gunpowder. But 
while he was still making sure that the lower bolt 
was pushed well home, he received the impression 
of somebody's presence in the room. It was so 
strong that he spun round quicker than Ughtning. 
There was no one. Who could there be? And 
yet . . . 

It was then that he lost the decorum and re- 
straint a man keeps up for his own sake. He got 
down on his hands and knees, with the lamp on the 
floor, to look under the bed, like a silly girl. He 
saw a lot of dust and nothing else. He got up, 
his cheeks burning, and wall:ed about discontented 
with his own behaviour and unreasonably angry 
with Tom for not leaving him alone. The words: 
" Mr. Byrne! Look out, sir," kept on repeating 
themselves in his head in a tone of warning. 

" Hadn't I better just throw myself on the bed 
and try to go to sleep," he asked himself. But 
his eyes fell on the tall wardrobe, and he went 
towards it feeling irritated with himself and yet 
unable to desist. How he could explain to-morrow 
the burglarious misdeed to the two odious witches 
he had no idea. Nevertheless he inserted the point 
of his hanger between the two halves of the door 
and tried to prize them open. They resisted. He 
swore, sticking now hotly to his purpose. His 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 209 

you wa. addressed to the absen' Tcm. Just 
then the doors gave way and flew open 
He was there. ' 

was thet^ drawn up shadowy and stiff, in a prudent 
s lence. which his wide-open eyes by therfix^ 

glea^ seemed to command Byrne to respect. B^ 
Byrne was too startled to make a sound. Amazed 
he stepped back a little-and on the ins^t the 
-aman flung himself forward headlong as f to 
clasp his officer round the neck. Instinctively 
Byrnepuouthisfaltering arms; he felt the horrible 

as their heads knocked together and their fac s 
came mto contact. They reeled. Byrne hugZ 
Tom close to his breast in order not tolet hi,^^,' 
-.th a crash. He had just strength eno^h to 

nead swam, his legs gave way, and he sank on his 
kn«s, leamng over the body with his hands resting 
on the breast of that man once full of generous We 
and now as msensible as a stone. 

"Deadf my poor Tom, dead," he reneatA^ 
m«>taUy. The light of the lamp st^d^^H ^ 
he edge of the table fell from above straight ^ 

nad a mobile and merry expression. 



ill 



210 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 



Byrne turned his own away from them. Tom's 
black silk neckerchief was not knotted on his 
breast. It was gone. The murderers had also 
taken ofi his shoes and stockings. And noticing 
this spoliation, the exposed throat, the bare up- 
turned feet, Byrne felt his eyes nm full of tears. 
In other respects the seaman was fully dressed; 
neither was his clothing disarranged as it must 
have been in a violent struggle. Only his checked 
shirt had been pulled a little out the waistband in 
one place, just enough to ascertain whether he 
had a money belt fastened round his body. Byrne 
began to sob into his handkerchief. 

It was a nervous outburst which passed off 
quickly. Remaining on his knees he contemplated 
sadly the athletic body of as fine a seaman as ever 
had drawn a cutlass, laid a gun, or passed the 
weather earring in a gale, lying stiff and cold, his 
cheery, fearless spirit departed — perhaps turning 
to him, his boy chum, to his ship out there rolling 
on the grey seas of! an iron-bound coast, at the 
very moment of its flight. 

He perceived that the six brass buttons of Tom's 
jacket had been cut ofi. He shuddered at the 
notion of the two miserable and repulsive witches 
busying themselves ghoulishly alxut the defence- 
less body of his friend. Cut off. Perhaps with 
the same knife which . . . The head of one trembled ; 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES an 

the other was bent double, and their eyes were red 
and bleared, their infamous claws unsteady. 
It must have been in this very room too, for Tom 
could not have been killed in the open and brought 
in here afterwards. Of that Byrne was certain. 
Yet those devilish crones could not have killed him 
themselves even by taking him unawares— and 
Tom would be always on his guard of course. Tom 
was a very wide awake wary man when engaged 
on any service. . . . And in fact how did they 
murder him? Who did? In what way? 

Byrne jumped up, snatched the lamp off the 
table, and stooped swiftly over the body. The 
light revealed on the clothing no stain, no trace, 
no spot of blood anywhere. Byrne's hands began 
to shake so that ne had to set the lamp on the floor 
and turn away his head in order to recover from 
this agitation. 

Then he began to explore that cold, stiU, and 
rigid body for a stab, a gunshot wound, for the 
trace of some killing blow. He felt all over the 
skull anxiously. It was whole. He slipped his 
hand under the neck. It was unbroken. With 
terrified eyes he peered close under the chin and 
saw no marks of strangulation on the throat. 
There were no signs anywhere. He was just dead. 
Impulsively Byrne got away from the body as 
If the mystery of an incomprehensible death had 



3ia THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

changed his pity into suspicion and dread. The 
lamp on the floor near the set, still face of the sea- 
man showed it staring at the ceiling as if despair- 
ingly. In the circle of light Byrne saw by the 
undisturbed patches of thick dust on the floor 
that there had been no struggle in that room. 
" He has died outside." he thought. Yes, outside 
in that narrow corridor, where there was hardly 
room to turn, the mysterious death had come to 
his poor dear Tom. The impulse of snatching up 
his pistols and rushing out of the room abandoned 
Byrne suddenly. For Tom, too, had been armed— 
with just such powerless weapons as he himself 
possessed— pistols, a cutlass I And Tom had died 
a nameless death, by incomprehensible means. 

A new thought came to Byrne. That stranger 
knocking at the door and fleeing so swiftly at his 
appearance had come there to remove the body. 
Aha! That was the guide the withered witch had 
promised would show the English ofiicer the 
shortest way of rejoining his man. A promise, 
he saw it now, of dreadful import. He who had 
knocked would ha"e two bodies to deal with. 
Man and officer would go forth from the house 
together. For Byrne was certain now that he 
would have to die before the morning— and in the 
same mysterious manner, leaving behind h-m an 
unmarked body. 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 213 

The sight of a smashed head, of a throat cut, of 
a gaping gunshot wound, would have been an in- 
expressible relief. It would have soothed all his 
fears. His soul cried vithin him to that dead man 
whom he had never found wanting in danger. 
" Why don't you tell me what I am to look for. 
Tom? Why don't you?" But in rigid immo- 
bility, extended on his back, he seemed to preserve 
an austere silence, as if disdaining in the finality 
of his awful knowledge to hold converse with the 
living. 

Suddenly Byrne flung himself on his knees by 
the side of the body, and dry-eyed, fierce, opened 
the shirt wide on the breast, as if to tear the secret 
forcibly from that cold heart which had been so 
loyal to him in hfe! Nothing I Nothing! He 
raised the lamp, and aU the sign vouchsafed to 
him by that face which used to be so kindly in 
expression was a small bruise on the forehead— 
the least thing, a mere mark. The skin even was 
not broken. He stared at it a long time as if lost 
in a dreadful dream. Then he observed that Tom's 
hands were clenched as though he had faUen facing 
somebody in a fight with fists. His knuckles, on 
closer view, appeared somewhat abraded. Both 
hands. 

The discovery of tnese slight signs was more 
appalling to Byrne than the absolute absence of 
every mark would have been. So Tom had died 



ai4 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 
•triking against scanething which could be hit 
and yet couJd Idll one without leaving a wound-' 
by a breath. 

Terror, hot terror, began to play about Byrne's 
h«rt hke a tongue of flame that touches and with- 
draws before it turns a thing to ashes. He backed 
away from the body as far as he could, then came 
forward stealthily casting fearful glances to steal 
another look at the bruised forehead. There 
would perhaps be such a faint bruise on his own 
forehead— before the morning. 

"I can't bear it," he whispered to himself. Tom 
was for him now an object of horror, a sight at 
once tempting and revolting to his fear He 
couldn't bear to look at him. 

At last, desperation getting the better of his 
increasing horror, he stepped forward from the 
waU against which he had been leaning, seized 
the corpse under the annpits, and began to lug 
|tov«tothebed. The bare heels of the seaman 
traUed on the floor noiselessly. He was heavy 
with the dead weight of inanimate objects. With 
a last effort Byrne landed him face downwards 
on the edge of the bed, rolled him over, snatched 
irom under this stiff passive thing a sheet with 
which he covered it over. Then he spread the 
curtains at head and foot so that joining together 
as he shook their folds they hid the bed altogether 
zrom bis sig'i i . 



THE IN- OF THE TWO WITCHES 215 

He itumbled towards a chair, and fell on it. 
The perspiration poured from his face for a moment, 
and then his veins seemed to carry for a while a 
thin stream of half-frozen blood. Complete terror 
liad possession of him now, a nameless terror which 
had turned his heart to ashes. 

He sat upright in the straight-backed chair, the 
lamp burning at his feet, his pistols and his hanger 
at his left elbow on the end of the table, his eyes 
turning incessantly in their sockets round the walls, 
over the ceiling, over the floor, in the expectation 
of a mysterious and appalling vision. The thing 
which could deal death in a breath was outside that 
bolted door. But Byrne believed neither in walls 
nor bolts now. Unreasoning terror turning every- 
thing to account, his old time boyish admiration 
of the athletic Tom, the undaunted Tom (he had 
seemed to him invincible), helped to paralyse his 
faculties, added to his despair. 

He was no longer Edgar Byrne. He was a 
tortured soul sufiering more anguish than any 
sinner's body had ever suffered from rack or boot. 
The depth of bis torment may be measured when I 
say that this young man, as brave at least as the 
average of his kind, contemplated seizing a pistol 
and firing into his own head. But a deadly, chilly, 
langour was spreading over his limbs. It was as 
if his flesh had been wet plaster stiffening stowly 
about his ribs. Presently, he thought, the two 



2i6 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

witches will be coming in, with crutch and stick- 
horrible, grotesque, monstrous— affiliated to the 
devil— to put a mark on his forehead, the tiny 
little bruise of death. And he wouldn't be able 
to do anything. Tom had struck out at some- 
thing, but he was not like Tom. His limbs were 
dead akeady. He sat still, dying the death over 
and over again; and the only part of him which 
moved were his eyes, turning round and round in 
their sockets, running over the walls, the floor, the 
ceiling, again and again till suddenly they became 
motionless and stony — starting out of his head 
fixed in the direction of the bed. 

He had seen the heavy curtains stir and shake 
as if the dead body they concealed had turned over 
and sat up. Byrne, who thought the world could 
hold no more terrors in store, felt his hair stir at the 
roots. He gripped the arms of the chair, his jaw 
fell, and the sweat broke out on his brow while 
his dry tongue clove suddenly to the roof of his 
mouth. Again the curtains stirred, but did not 
open. "Don't, Tom!" Byrne made effort to 
shout, but all he heard was a slight moan such as 
an uneasy sleeper may make. He felt that his 
brain was going, for, now, it seemed to him that 
the ceiling over the bed had moved, had slanted, 
and came level again — and once more the closed 
curtains swayed gently as if about to part. 
Byrne closed his eyes not to see the awful appari- 



»t *m^if¥ -?■.■•"■ 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 217 

tion of the seaman's corpse corning ouf animated 
by an evU spirit. In the pic' )nnd silence of the 
room he endured a moment of frightful agony, then 
opened his eyes again. And he saw at once that 
the curtains remained closed still, but that the 
ceiling over the bed had risen quite a foot. With 
the last gleam of reason left to him he under- 
stood that it was the enormous baldaquin over the 
bed which was coming down, while the curtains 
attached to it swayed softly, sinking gradually 
to the floor. His drooping jaw snapped to— and 
half rising in his chair he watched mutely the 
noiseless descent of the monstrous canopy. It 
came down in short smooth rushes till lowered 
half way or more, when it took a run and settled 
swiftly its turtle-back shape with the deep border 
piece fitting exactly the edge of the bedstead. A 
sUght crack or two of wood were heard, and the 
overpowering stiUness of the room resumed its sway. 
Byrne stood up, gasped for breath, and let out 
a cry of rage and dismay, the first sound which he 
is perfectly certain did make its way past his lips 
on this night of terrors. This then was the death 
he had escaped! This was the devilish artifice 
of murder poor Tom's soul had perhaps tried from 
beyond the border to warn him of. For this was 
how he had died. Bynie was certain he had 
aeard the voice of the seaman. fainUy distinct in 
his familiar phrase. " Mr. Byrne! Look out. sir! " 



2i8 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

and again uttering words he could not make 
out. But then the distance separating the living 
from the dead is so great! Poor Tom had tried. 
Byrne ran to the bed and attempted to lift up, to 
push ofi the horrible lid smothering the body. It 
resisted his efiforts, heavy as lead, immovable like 
a tombstone. The rage of vengeance made him 
desist; his head buzzed with chaotic thoughts of 
extermination, he turned round the room as if he 
could find neither his weapons nor the way out; 
and all the time he stammered awful menaces. . . . 
A violent battering at the door of the inn re- 
called him to his soberer senses. He flew to the 
window, pulled the shutters open, and looked out. 
In the faint dawn he saw below him a mob of men. 
Ha! He would go and face at once this murderous 
lot collected no doubt for his undoing. After his 
struggle with nameless terrors he yearned for an 
open fray with armed enemies. But he must have 
remained yet bereft of his reason, because forgetting 
his weapons he rushed downstairs with a wild cry, 
unbarred the door while blows were raining on it 
outside, and flinging it open flew with his bare 
hands at the throat of the first man he saw before 
him. They rolled over together. Byrne's hazy 
intention was to break through, to fly up the 
mountain path, and come back presently with 
Gonzales' men to exact an exemplary vengeance. 
He fought furiously till a tree, a house, a mountain. 



THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 219 

seemed to crash down upon his head— and he 
knew no more. 



Here Mr. Byrne describes in detail the skilful 
manner in which he found his broken head ban- 
daged, informs us that he had lost a great deal of 
blood, and ascribes the preservation of his sanity 
to that circumstance. He sets down Gonzales' 
profuse apologies in full too. For it was Gonzales 
who, tired of waiting for news from the English, 
had come down to the inn with half his band, 
on his way to the sea. " His excellency," he 
explained, "rushed out with fierce impetuosity, 
and, moreover, was not known to us for a friend, 
and so we . . . etc., etc. When asked what had 
become of the witches, he only pointed his finger 
silently to the ground, then voiced cahnly a moral 
reflection: " The passion for gold is pitiless in the 
very old, senor," he said. " No doubt in former 
days they have put many a soUtary traveUer to 
sleep in the archbishop's bed." 

" There was also a gipsy girl there," said Byrne 
feebly from the improvised litter on which he was 
being carried to the coast by a squad of guerilleros. 

" It was she who winched up that infernal 
machine, and it was she too who lowered it that 
night," was the answer. 

" But why? Why? " exclaimed Byrne. " Why 
should she wish for my death ? " 



.& •f*! i 



230 THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES 

" No doubt for the sake of your exceUency's 
coat buttons," said poKtely the saturnine Gonzales. 
" We found those of the dead mariuer concealed 
on her person. But your excellency may rest 
assured that everything that is fitting has been 
done 0.1 this occasion." 

Byrne asked no more questions. There was still 
another death which was considered by Gonzales 
as •• fitting to the occasion." The one-eyed Bernar- 
dino stuck against the waU of his wine-shop 
received the charge of six escopettas into his breast. 
As the shots rang out the rough bier with Tom's 
body on it went past carried by a bandit-like 
gang of Spanish patriots down the ravine to the 
shore, where two boats from the ship were waiting 
for what was left on earth of her best seaman. 

Mr. Byrne, very pale and weak, stepped into the 
boat which carried the body of his humble friend. 
For it was decided that Tom Corbin should rest 
far out in the bay of Biscay. The officer took the 
tiller and, turning his head for the la.st look at 
the shore, saw on the grey hillside something 
moving, which he made out to be a little man in a 
yellow hat mounted on a mule— that mule without 
which the fate of Tom Corbin would have remained 
mjraterious for ever. 



Junt, 1913. 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 



- »-i-S» 'W 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 



While we were hanging about near the water's 
edge, as sailors idling ashore will do (it was in the 
open space before the Harbour Office of a great 
Eastern port), a man came towards us from the 
" front " of business houses, aiming obUquely at 
the landing steps. He attracted my attention 
because in the movement of figures in white drill 
suits on the pavement from which he stepped, hU 
costume, the usual tunic and trousers, being made 
of Ught grey flannel, made him noticeable. 

I had time to observe him. He was stout, but 
he was not grotesque. His face was round and 
smooth, his complexion very fair. On his nearer 
approach I saw a Uttle moustache made aU the 
faurer by a good many white hairs. And he had, 
for a stout man, quite a good chin. In passing us' 
he exchanged nods with the friend I was with 
and smiled. 

My friend was Hollis, the fellow who had so 
many adventures and had known so many queer 
people m that part of the (more or less) gorgeous 
a33 



224 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 



'i 
f I 

i 



East in the days of his youth. He said: "That's a 
good man. I don't mean good in the sense of 
smart or skilful in his trade. I mean a really 
good man." 

I turned round at once to look at the pheno- 
menon. The " really good man " had a very broad 
back. I saw him signal a sampan to come along- 
side, get into it, and go off in the direction of a 
cluster of local steamers anchored close inshore. 

I said: " He's a seaman, isn't he? " 

" Yes. Commands that biggish dark-green 
steamer : ' Sissie — Glasgow.' He has never 
commanded anything else but the ' Sissie — 
Glasgow,' only it wasn't always the same Sissie. 
The first he had was about half the length of this 
one, and we used to tell poor Davidson that she was 
a size too small for him. Even at that time David- 
son had bulk. We warned him he would get 
callosities on his shoulders and elbows because of 
the tight fit of his command. And Davidson could 
well afiord the smiles he gave us for our chafi. He 
made lots of money in her. She belonged to a 
portly Chinaman resembling a mandarin in a 
picture-book, with goggles and thin drooping 
moustaches, and as dignified as only a Celestial 
knows how to be. 

"The best of Chinamen as employers is that 
they have such gentlemanly instincts. Once they 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 235 

become convinced that you are a straight man. 
they give you their unbounded confidence. You 
simply can't do wrong, then. And they are pretty 
quick judges of character. .00. Davidson's China- 
man was the first to find out his worth, on some 
theoretical principle. One day in his counting- 
house, before several white men he was heard to 
declare: ' Captain Davidson is a good man.' And 
that settled it. After that you couldn't teU if it 
was Davidson who belonged to the Chinaman or 
the Chinaman who belonged to Davidson. It was 
he who, shortly before he died, ordered in Glasgow 
the new Sissie for Davidson to command." 

We walked into the shade of the Harbour Office 
and leaned our elbows on the parapet of the quay. 

" She was really meant to comfort poor David- 
son." continued Hollis. " Can you fancy anything 
more naively touching than this old mandarin 
spending several thousand pounds to console his 
white man? Well, there she is. The old man- 
darin's sons have inherited her. and Davidson with 
her; and he commands her; and what with his 
salary and trading privileges he makes a lot of 
money; and everything is as before; and David- 
son even smiles— you have seen it? Well, the 
smile's the only thing which isn't as before."' 

" Tell me. Hollis." I asked. " what do you mean 
by good in this connection? " 



aa6 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

" Well, there are men who are bom good just as 
others are bom witty. What I mean is his nature. 
No simpler, more scrapulously delicate soul had 
ever lived in such a — a — comfortable envelope. 
How we used to laugh at Davidson's fine scruples I 
In short, he's thoroughly humane, and I don't 
imagine there can be much of any other sort of 
goodness that counts on this earth. And as he's 
that with a shade of particular refinement, I may 
well call him a ' really good man.' " 

I knew from old thar Hollis was a firm believer 
in the final value of shades. And I said : " I see " 
—because I really did see Holli^'s Davidson in the 
sympathetic stout man who had passed us a little 
while before. But I remembered that at the very 
moment he smiled his placid face appeared veiled 
in melancholy — a sort of spiritual shadow. I 
went on. 

" Who on earth has paid him off for being so 
fine by spoiling his smile ? " 

" That's quite a story, and I will tell it to you if 
you like. Confound it! It's quite a surprising 
one, too. Surprising in every way, but mostly in 
the way it knocked over poor Davidson — and 
apparently only because he is such a good sort. 
He was telling me all about it only a few days ago. 
He said that when he saw these four fellows with 
their heads in a bunch over the table, he at once 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 237 

didn't like it. He didn't Uke it at aU. You 
mustn't suppose that Davidson is a soft fool. 

These men 

" But I had better begin at the beginning. We 
must go back to the first time the old doUars had 
been called in by our Government in exchange for a 
new issue. Just about the time when I left these 
parts to go home for a long stay. Every trader in 
the Ulands was thinking of getting his old dollars 
sent up here in time, and the demand for empty 
French wine cases— you know the dozen of ver- 
mouth or claret size— was something unprece- 
dented. The custom was to pack the dollars in 
little bags of a hundred each. I don't know how 
many bags each case would hold. A good lot. 
Pretty tidy sums must have been moving afloat 
just then. But let us get away from here. Won't 

do to stay in the sun. Where could we ? I 

know! let us go to those tiffin-rooms over there." 
We moved over accordingly. Our appearance 
m the long empty room at that early hour caused 
visible consternation amongst the China boys. 
But Mollis led the way to one of the tables between 
the windows screened by rattan blinds. A bril- 
liant half-light t:«mbled on the ceiling, on the 
whitewashed waUs, bathed the multitude of vacant 
chairs and tables in a peculiar, stealthy glow. 
" All right. We will get something to eat when 



"4 



328 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

ii's ready," he said, waving the anxious Chinaman 
waiter aside. He took his temples touched with 
grey between his hands, leaning over the table to 
bring his face, his dark, keen eyes, closer to mine. 
" Davidson then was commanding the steamer 
Siss»«— the little one which we used to chaff him 
about. He ran her alone, with only the Malay 
serang for a deck officer. The nearest approach 
to another white man on board of her was the 
engineer, a Portuguese half-caste, as thin as a lath 
and quite a youngster at that. For all practical 
purposes Davidson was managing that command 
of his single-handed ; and of course this was known 
in the port. I am telling you of it because the fact 
had its influence on the developments you shall 
hear of presently. 

" His steamer, being so small, could go up tiny 
creeks and into shallow bays and through reefs and 
over sand-banks, collecting produce, where no 
other vessel but a native craft would think of 
venturing. It is a paying game, often. Davidson 
was known to visit in her places that no one else 
could find and that hardly anybody had ever 
heard of. 

"The old dollars being caUed in, Davidson's 
Chinaman thought that the Sissie would be just 
the thing to collect them from small traders in 
the less frequented parts of the Archipelago. It's a 



r- w- 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS aa9 

good business. Such cases of doUars are dumped 

aft in the ship's lazarette. and you get good freight 

for very httle trouble and space. 
"Davidson, too, thought it was a good idea- 

and together they made up a list of his calU on his 
next tnp Then Davidson (he had naturally the 
chart of his voyages in his head) remarked that on 
his way back he might look in at a certain settle- 
ment up a mere creek, where a poor sort of white 
man hved in a native village. Davidson pointed 
out to h.s Chinaman that the feUow was certain to 
nave some rattans to ship. 

" 'Probably enough to fill her forward,' said 
Davidson. ' And that'll be better than bringing 
her back with empty holds. A day more or iZ 
doesn't matter.' 

" y*-'' und talk, and the Chinaman owner 

coul . : , ,. But if it hadn't been sound 

r " ,'^' "' •'* ^'"'* ^^^ *^^- Davidson did 
whai he hked. He was a man that could do no 
wrong. However, this suggestion of his was not 
merely a business matter. There was in it a touch 
of Davidsonian kindness. For you must know 
that the man could not have continued to live 
quietly up that creek if it had not been for David- 
«.n s wiUmgness to call there from time to time. 
And Davidson's Chinaman knew tUs perfectly 
weu. too. So he only smUed his dignified, bland 



■#>' 



a •. fet" 






330 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

smile, and said: 'All right, Captain. You do 
what you like.' 

" I will explain presently how this connection 
between Davidson and that fellow came about. 
Now I want to tell you about the part of this 
affair which happened here — the preliminaries 
of it. 

" You know as well as I do that these tiffin- 
rooms where we are sitting now have been in 
existence for many years. Well, next day about 
twelve o'clock, Davidson dropped in here to get 
something to eat. 

" And here comes the only moment in this story 
where accident — mere accident — plays a part. If 
Davidson had gone home that day for tiffin, there 
would be now, after twelve years or more, nothing 
changed in his kindly, placid smile. 

" But he came in here ; and perhaps it was sitting 
at this very table that he remarked to a friend of 
mine that his next trip was to be a dollar-collecting 
trip. He added, laughing, that his wife was 
making rather a fuss about it. She had begged 
him to stay ashore and get somebody else to take 
his place for a voyage. She thought there was 
some danger on account of the dollars. He told 
her, he said, that there were no Java-sea pirates 
nowadajrs except in boys' books. He had laughed 
at her fears, but he was very sorry, too; for when 



Hi 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 231 
she took any notion in her head it was impossible 
to argue her out of it. She would be wonying 
herself all the time he was away. Well, he couldn't 
help it. There was no one ashore- fit to take his 
place for the trip. 

" This friend of mine and I went home together 
in the same mail-boat, and he mentioned that 
conversation one evening in the Red Sea while we 
were talking over the things and people we had 
just left, with more or less regret. 

" I can't say that Davidson occupied a very 
prominent place. Moral exceUence seldom does. 
He was quietly appreciated by those who knew him 
weU; but his more obvious distinction consisted in 
this, that he was married. Ours, as you remember, 
was a bachelor crowd; in spirit anyhow, if not 
absolutely in fact. There might have been a few 
wives in existence, but if so they were invisible 
distant, never aUuded to. For what would have 
been the good? Davidson alone was visibly 
married. 

" Being married suited him exactly. It fitted 
him so weU that the wildest of us did not resent the 
fact when it was disclosed. Directly he had felt 
his feet out here, Davidson sent for his wife. She 
came out (from West Australia) in the Somerset. 
under the care of Captain Ritchie— you know 
Monkey-face Ritchie-who couldn't praise enough 



a3!» BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 



' 



her sweetness, her gentleness, and her chann. 
She seemed to be the heaven-bora mate for David- 
son. She found on arrival a very pretty bungalow 
on the hill, ready for her and the little girl they had. 
Very soon he got for her a two-wheeled trap and a 
Burmah pony, and she used to drive down of an 
evening to pick up Davidson, on the quay. When 
Davidson, beaming, got into the trap, it would 
become very full all at once. 

"We used to admire Mrs. Davidson from a 
distance. It was a girlish head out of a keepsake. 
From a distance. We had not many opportunities 
for a closer view, because she did not care to give 
them to us. We would have been glad to drop in at 
the Davidson bungalow, but we were made to feel 
somehow that we were not very welcome there. 
Not that she ever said anything ungracious. She 
never had much to say for herself. I was perhaps 
the one who saw most of the Davidsons at home. 
What I noticed under the superfirial aspect of 
vapid sweetness was her convex, obstinate fore- 
head, and her small, red, pretty, imgenerous mouth. 
But then I am an observer with strong prejudices. 
Most of us were fetched by her white, swan-like 
neck, by that drooping, innocent profile. There 
was a lot of latent devotion to Davidson's wife 
hereabouts, at that time, I can tell you. But my 
idea was that she repaid it by a profound suspicion 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 333 

of the sort of men we were; a mistrust which 
extended— I fancied— to her very husband at 
times. And I thought then she was jealous of him 
in a way; though there were no women that she 
could be jealous about. She had no women's 
society. It's difficult for a shipmaster's wife 
unless there are other shipmasters' wives about, 
and there were none here then. I know that the 
dock manager's wife called on her; but that was 
all. The fellows here formed the opinion that 
Mrs. Davidson was a meek, shy litttle thing. She 
looked it, I must say. And this opinion was so 
universal that the friend I have been telling you of 
remembered his conversation with Davidson simply 
because of the statement about Davidson's wife. 
He even wondered to me: ' Fancy Mrs. Davidson 
making a fuss to that extent. She didn't seem to 
me the sort of woman that would know how to 
make a fuss about anything.' 

" I wondered, too— but not so much. That 
bumpy forehead— eh? I had always suspected 
her of being silly. And I observed that Davidson 
must have been vexed by this display of wifely 
anxiety. 

"My friend said: 'No. He seemed rather 
touched and distressed. There reaUy was no one 
he could ask to relieve him; mainly because he 
intended to make a caU in some God-forsakea 



a34 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

creek, to look up a fellow of the name of Bamtz 
who apparently had settled there.' 

" And again my friend wondered. ' Tell me," he 
cried, 'what connection can there be between 
Davidson and such a creature as Bamtz? ' 

" I don't remember now what answer I made. 
A sufficient one could have been given in two 
words: 'Davidson's goodness." That never 
boggled at unworthiness if there was the slightest 
reason for cc mpassion. I don't want you to think 
that Dav' \ on had no discrimination at all. Bamtz 
could not have imposed on him. Moreover, 
everybody knew what Bamtz was. He was a 
loafer with a beard. When I think of Bamtz, the 
first thing I see is that long black beard and a lot 
of propitiatory wrinkles at the comers of two Uttle 
eyes. There was no such beard from here to Poly- 
nesia, where a beard is a valuable property in itself. 
Bamtz's beard was valuable to him J.i another way. 
You know how impressed Orientals aie by a fine 
. beard. Years and years ago, I remember, the grave 
Abdullah, the great trader of Sambir. unable to 
repress signs of astonishment and admiration at 
the first sight of that imposing beard. And it's 
very well known that Bamtz Uved on Abdullah off 
and on for several years. It was a unique beard, 
and so was the bearer of the same. A unique 
loafer. He made a fine art of it, or rather a sort of 



li ' .:l 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 335 

craft and mystery. One can understand a fellow 
living by cadging and small swindles in towns, in 
large communities of people; but Bamtz managed 
to do that trick in the wilderness, to loaf on the 
outskirts of the virgin forest. 

" He understood how to ingratiate himself with 
the natives. He would arrive in some settlement 
up a river, make a present of a cheap carbine or a 
pair of shoddy binoculars, or something of that 
sort, to the Rajah, or the head-man, or the principal 
trader; and on the strength of that gift, ask for a 
house, posing mysteriously as a very special trader. 
He would spin them no end of yams, live on the fat 
of the land for a while, and then do some mean 
swindle or other — or else they would get tired of 
him and ask him to quit. And he would go off 
meekly with an air of injured innocence. Funny 
life. Yet, he never got hurt somehow. I've heard 
of the Rajah of Dongala giving him fifty dollars' 
worth of trade goods and paying his passage in a 
prau only to get rid of him. Fact. And observe 
that nothing prevented the old fellow having 
Bamtz's throat cut and the carcase thrown into 
deep water outside the reefs; for who on earth 
would have inquired after Bamtz? 

" He had been known to loaf up and down the 
wilderness as far north as the Gulf of Tonkin. 
Neither did he disdain a spell of civilisation from 



'Ill 



336 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

time to time. And it was while loafing and cadging 
in Saigon, bearded and dignified (he gave himself 
out there as a bookkeeper), that he came across 
Laughing Anne. 

" The less said of her early history the better, but 
something must be said. We may safely suppose 
there was very little heart left in her famous laugh 
when Bamtz spoke first to her in some low ca.i6. 
She was stranded in Saigon with precious little 
money and in great trouble about a kid she had, 
a boy of five or six. 

" A fellow I just remember, whom they called 
Pearler Harry, brought her out first into these 
parts — from AustraUa, I believe. He brought her 
out and then dropped her, and she remained knock- 
ing about here and there, known to most of us by 
sight, at any rate. Everybody in the Archipelago 
had heard of Laughing Anne. She had really a 
pleasant silvery laugh always at her disposal, so to 
speak, but it wasn't enough apparently to make 
her fortune. The poor creature was ready to stick 
to any half-decent man if he would only let her, 
but she always got dropped, as it might have been 
expected. 

" She had been left in Saigon by the skipper of a 
German ship with whom she had been going up and 
down the China coast as far as Vladivostok for 
near upon two years. The German said to her: 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 337 

'This is aU over, metn Taubchen. I am going 
home now to get married to the girl I got engaged 
to before coming out here.' And Anne said : ' All 
right. I'm ready to go. We part friends, don't we ?' 
" She was always anxious to part friends. The 
German told her that of course they were parting 
friends. He looked rather glum at the moment of 
parting. She laughed and went ashore. 

" But it was no laughing matter for her. She 
had some notion that this would be her last 
chance. What frightened her most was the 
future of her child. She had left her boy in 
Saigon before gomg off with the German, in the 
care of an elderly French couple. The husband 
was a doorkeeper in some Government office, but 
his time was up, and they were returning to France. 
She had to take the boy back from them; and 
after she had got him back, she did not Uke to part 
with him any more. 

" That w<ts the situation when she and Bamtz 
got acquainted casually. She could not have had 
any illusions about that fellow. To pick up with 
Bamtz was coming down pretty low in the world, 
even from a material point of view. She had 
always been decent, in her way; whereas Bamtz 
was, not to mince words, an abject sort of creature. 
On the other hand, that bearded loafer, who looked 
much more like a pirate than a bookkeeper, was not 



;!i 



338 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

a brute. He was gentle — rather— even in his 
cups. And then, despair, like misfortune, makes 
us acquainted with strange bed-fellows. For she 
may well have despaired. She was no longer 
young — you know. 

" On the man's side 'his conjunction is more 
difficult to explain, perhaps. One thing, however, 
must be said of Bamtz ; he had always kept clear of 
native women. As one can't suspect him of moral 
delicacy, I surmise that it must have been from 
prudence. And he, too, was no longer young. 
There were many white hairs in his valuable black 
beard by then. He may have simply longed for 
some kind of companionship in his queer, degraded 
existence. Whatever their motives, they vanished 
from Saigon together. And of course nobody 
cared what had become of them. 

" Six months later Davidson came into the 
Mirrah Settlement. It was the very first time he 
had been up that creek, where no European vessel 
had ever been seen before. A Javanese passenger 
he had on board ofiered him fifty dollars to call in 
there— it must have been some very particular 
business— and Davidson consented to try. Fifty 
dollars, he told me, were neither here nor there; 
but he was curious to see the place, and the little 
Sissie could go an)where where there was water 
enough to float a soup-plate. 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS ,39 

„ K^K^I'*'^" ^'^'^^ ^' J*^'^'^ P'^to^rat. and. 
as he had to wait a couple of houn, for the tide, he 
went ashore himself to stretch his legs 

r.'J'JT"'^'^,'"''^'^'^'- Somesixtyhouses. 
most of them built on piles over the river, the rest 
scattered m the long grass; the usual pathway at 
the back: the forest hemming in the clearing and 
smothenng what there might have been of air into 
a dead, hot stagnation. 

"AU the population was on the river-bank 
stanng silently, as Malays wiU do, at the Sissie 
anchored m the stream. She was almost as won- 
derful to them as an angel's visit. Many of the old 
people had only heard vaguely of fire-ships, and not 
many of the yomiger generation had seen one. On 
the back path Davidson stroUed in perfect solitude. 
But he became aware of a bad smell and concluded 
he would go no farther. 

" While he stood wiping his forehead, he heard 
from somewhere the exclamation: 'My Godr 
•It s Davy I ' 

•' Davidson's lower jaw, as he expressed it, came 
unl:ookedatthec«yingofthisexcitedvoice. Davy 
was the name used by the associates of his young 
«^ys: he hadn't heard it for many years He 
stared about with his mouth open and L a whit 
woman issue from the long grass in which a smaU 
hut stood buried nearly up to the roof . 



240 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

" Try to imagine the shock: in that wild place 
that you couldn't find on a map, and more squalid 
than the most poverty-stricken Malay settlement 
had a right to be, this Euroi)ean woman coming 
swishing out of the long grass in a fanciful tea- 
gown thing, dingy pink satin, with a long train and 
frayed lace trimmings; her eyes like black coals 
in a pasty-white face. Davidson thought that 
he was asleep, that he was delirious. From the 
offensive village mudhole (it was what Davidson 
had sniffed just before) a couple of filthy buffaloes 
uprose with loud snorts and lumbered off crashing 
through the bushes, panic-struck by this appari- 
tion. 

" The woman came forward, her arms extended, 
and laid her hands on Davidson's shoulders, 
exclaiming: 'Why! You have hardly changed 
at all. The same good Davy.' And she laughed 
a little wildly. 

" This sovmd was to Davidson like a galvanic 

shock to a corpse. He started in every muscle. 

' Laughing Anne,' he said in an awe-struck voice. 

" ' All that's left of her, Davy. All that's left 

of her.' 

" Davidson looked up at the sky; but there was 
to be seen no balloon from which she could have 
fallen on that spot. When he brought his dis- 
tracted gaze down, it rested on a child holding on 



BECAUSE OF IHE DOLURS ,4. 

freckliM] fa«. J ^ sunburnt tegs, a 

and when he had disappeared i„ ?h ^"*' 

tunied to Davidson S! ^^ ^^''' '^^ 

ting out the J:S 'SwT ' '"k ''*" ^^*- 
long fit of crvinr <:k t .^ ^°°y' ''""* '"to » 
should r ST'distfi!^'' *° ''"" °° ^^^^-"'^ 

^ean.stood"r:.:iirs^;i::j:-/^ 

upon him. ™ *"® "^'^ come 

youth h^^" ^ '^''^^ '^^^^ « his 

Q 



a4a BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 
the path, with Bamt. himself. She ran back to the 
hut to fetch him, and he came out lounging, with 
hi8 hands in his pockets, with the detached, casual 
manner under which he concealed his propensity to 
cringe Ya-a-as-as. He thought he would settle 
here permanently-with her. This with a nod 
at Laughing Anne, who stood by. a haggard, 
tragically anxious figure, her black hair hangmg 
over her shoulders. ^ 

•• ' No more paint and dyes for me, Davy, she 
struck in. ' if only you wiU do what he wants you 
to do. You know that I was always ready to stand 
by my men— if they had only let me.' 

" Davidson had no doubt of her earnestness. 
It was of Bamtz's good faith that he was not at aU 
sure Bamtt wanted Davidson to promise to caU 
at Mirrah more or less regularly. He thought he 
saw an opening to do business with rattans there, 
if only he could depend on some craft to bring out 
trading goods and take away his produce. 

" * 1 have a few dollars to make a start on. The 
people are all right.' 

" He had come there, where he was not known, 
in a native prau. and had managed, with his sedate 
manner and the exactly right kind of yam he knew 
how to teU to the natives, to ingratiate himself with 

the chief man. 
" • The Orang Kaya has given me that empty 



I'miz 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS ,43 

houM there to live in as long as I will stay,' added 
Bamtz. 

"•Do it Davy/ cried the woman suddenly. 

Think of that poor kid.' 
"•Seen him? 'Cute Uttle customer,' said the 
reformed loafer in such a tone of interest as to 
surprise Davidson into a kindly glance. 

•"I certainly can do it, ' he declared. He thought 
of at i St making some stipulation as to Bamtz 
behaving decently to the woman, but his exagger- 
ated delicacy and also the conviction that such a 
feUow's promises were worth nothing restrained 
hmi. Anne went a Uttle distance down the path 
with him talking anxiously. 

" ' It's for the kid. How could I have kept him 
with me if I had to knock about in towns? Here 
he will never know that his mother was a painted 
woman. And this Bamtz likes him. He's real 
fond of him. I suppose I ought to thank God 
tor that. 

•; Davidson shuddered at any human creature 
bemg brought so low as to have to thank God for 
the favours or affection of a Bamtz. 

" 'And do you think that you can make out to 
live here? ' he asked gently. 

Can't I? You know I have always stuck to 
men through thick and thin till they had enough 
of me. And now look at me! But inside I am as 



I 



244 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

I always was. I have acted on the square to them 
all one after another. Only they do get tired some- 
how. Oh, Davy! Harry ought not to have cast 
me off. It was he that led me astray.' 

" Davidson mentioned to her that Harry the 
Pearler had been dead now for some years. Per- 
haps she had heard? 

" She made a sign that she had heard; and 
walked by the side of Davidson in silence nearly to 
the bank. Then she told him that her meeting 
with him had brought back the old times to her 
mind. She had not cried for years. She was not a 
crying woman either. It was hearing herself called 
Laughing Anne that had started her sobbing Uke a 
fool. Harry was the only man she had loved. 
The others 

" She shrugged her shoulders. But she prided 
herself on her loyalty to the successive partners of 
her dismal adventures. She had never played 
any tricks in her Ufe. She was a pal worth having. 
But men did get tired. They did not understand 
women. She supposed it had to be. 

" Davidson was attempting a veiled warning as 
to Bamtz, but she interrupted him. She knew 
what men were. She knew what this man was 
like. But he had taken wonderfully to the kid. 
And Davidson desisted wiUingly, saying to himself 
that surely poor Laughing Anne could have no 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 245 

iUusions by this time. She wrung his hand hard 
at parting. 

I«!''*k*''k'-'"u"'' ^'^' ^^^-"'s for the kid. 
Isn t he a bright litUe chap ? ' 



II 

"All this happened about two years before the 
day when Davidson, fitting in this very room, 
talked to my friend. You will see presently how 
this room can get full. Every seat'll be occupied 
aad as you notice, the tables ar. set close, so that 
the backs of the chairs are ahnost touching. There 

?c?^ ^ ^"^ ^"^^ °* "°''^ ^""^^ ^^'^ ^^^*- °°« 
'• I don't suppose Davidson was talking very 
loudly; but very likely he had to raise his voici 
across the table to my friend. And here accident 
^ere acadent, put in its work by providing a pai; 
of fine ears close behind Davidson's chair ItvTs 
ten to one against the owner of the same having 
enough change in his pockets to get his tiffin here 
But he had. Most likely had rooked somebody of 
a few doUaxs at cards overnight. Hewasabr^ht 
creature of the name of Fector, a spare, shJrt 

jumpy feUow with a red face and mudd^eyes He 
described himself as a journalist as certain kind of 



246 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

women give themselves out as actresses in the dock 
of a poUce-court. 

" He used to introduce himself to strangers as a 
man with a mission to track out abuses and fight 
them whenever found. He would also hint that 
he was a martyr. And it's a fact that he had been 
kicked, horsewhipped, imprisoned, and hounded 
with ignominy out of pretty well every place 
between Ceylon and Shanghai, for a professional 
blackmailer. 

" I suppose,, in that trade, you've got to have 
active wits and sharp ears. It's not likely that he 
overheard every word Davidson said about his 
dollar collecting trip, but he heard enough to set his 
wits at work. 

" He let Davidson go out, and then hastened 
away down to the native slums to a sort of lodging- 
house kept in partnership by the usual sort of 
Portuguese and a very disreputabk Chinaman. 
Macao Hotel, it was called, but it was mostly a 
gambling den that one used to warn fellows against. 
Perhaps you remember? 

" There, the evening before, Fector had met a 
precious couple, a partnership even more queer 
than the Portuguese and the Chinaman. One of 
the two was Niclaus — you know. Why! the 
fellow with a Tartar moustache and a yellow com- 
plexion, hke a MongoUan, only that his eyes were 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 247 
set straight and his face was not so flat. One 
couldn't teU what breed he was. A nondescript 
beggar. From a certain angle you would think 
a very bilious white man. And I daresay he was. 
He owned a Malay prau and called himself The 
Nakhoda, as one would say: The Captain. Aha I 
Now you remember. He couldn't, apparently, 
speak any other European language than English, 
but he flew the Dutch flag on his prau. 

" The other was the Frenchman without hands. 
Yes. The very same we used to know in '79 in] 
Sydney, keeping a Uttle tobacco shop at the lower 
end of George Street. You remember the huge 
carcase hunched up behind the counter, the big 
white face and the long bkck hair brushed back 
off a high forehead like a bard's. He was always 
trying to roU cigarettes on his knee with his stumps, 
telling endless yams of Polynesia and whining and 
cursing in turn about ' mon nudheur: His hands 
had been blown away by a dynamite cartridge 
whUe fishing in some lagoon. This accident, I 
believe, had made him more wicked than before, 
which is saying a good deal. 

"He was always talking about 'resuming his 
activities ' some day, whatever they were, -f he 
could only get an intelligent companion. It was 
evidoit that the Uttle shop was no field for his 
activities, and the sickly woman with her face tied 



^^^ 



248 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 



up, who used to look in sometimes through the back 
door, was no companion for him. 

" And, true enough, he vanished from Sydney 
before long, after some trouble with the Excise 
fellows about his stock. Goods stolen out of a 
warehouse or something similar. He left the woman 
behind, but he must have secured some sort of 
companion — he could not have shifted for himself; 
but whom he went away with, anJ wher?, and what 
other companions he might have picked up after- 
wards, it is impossible to make the remotest guess 
about. 

" Why exactly he came this way I can't tell. 
Towards the end of my time here we began to hear 
talk of a maimed Frenchman who had been seen 
here and there. But no one knew then that he 
had foregathered with Niclaus and lived in his 
prau. I daresay he put Niclaus up to a thing or 
two. Anyhow, it was a partnership. Niclaus was 
somewhat afraid of the Frenchman on account of 
his tempers, which were awful. He looked then Uke 
a devil; but a man without hands, unable to load 
or handle a weapon, can at best go for one only 
with his teeth. From that danger Niclaus felt 
certain he could always defend himself. 

" The couple were alone together loafing in the 
common-room of that infamous hotel when Fector 
turned up. After some beating about the bush. 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 249 
for he was doubtful how far he could trust these 
two. he repeated what he had overheard in the 
■ tiffin-rooms. 

•• His tale did not have much success till he came 
to mention the creek and Bamtz's name. Niclaus 
saJmg about like a native in a prau, was, in his 
own words, ' familiar with the locality. The huge 
Frenchman, walking up and down the room with 
h.s stumps in the pockets of his jacket, stopped 
short m surprise. 'Comment? Bamtz! BanUz'' 

He had run across him several times in his Ufe 
He exclaimed: ' Bamtz, Mais je ne cannais que 
cal And he appHed such a contemptuously in- 
decent epithet to Bamtz that when, later, he alluded 
to hun as • une chiffe ' (a mere rag) it sounded quite 
comphmentary. • We can do with him what we 
Hite, he asserted confidently. 'Oh yes Cer 

tamly we must hasten to pay a visit to that ' 

(another awful descriptive epithet quite unfit for 
repetition). • Devil take me if we don't puU ofi 
a coup that will set us all up for a long time ' 

'• He saw all that lot of doUars melted into bars 
and disposed of somewhere on the China coast 
Of the escape after the coup he never doubted 
There was Niclaus's prau to manaje that in 

In his enthusiasm he puUed his stumps out 
of his pockets and waved them about. Then, 



catching sight of them, as it were, he 



held them in 



250 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

front of his eyes, cursing and blaspheming and 
bewailing his misfortune and his helplessness, till 
Niclaus quieted him down. 

" But it was his mind that planned out the afiair 
and it was his spirit which carried the other two on. 
Neither of them was of the bold buccaneer type; 
and Fector, especially, had never in his adventurous 
life used other weapons than slander and lies. 

" That very evening they departed on a visit to 
Bamtz in Niclaus's prau, which had been lying, 
emptied of her cargo of cocoanuts, for a day or two 
under the canal bridge. They must have crossed 
the bows of the anchored Sissie, and no doubt 
looked at her with interest as the scene of their 
future exploit, the great haul, le grand coup I 

" Davidson's wife, to his great surprise, sulked 
with him for several days before he left. I don't 
know whether it occurred to him that, for all her 
angelic profile, she was a very stupidly obstinate 
girl. She didn't like the tropics. He had brought 
her out there, where she had no friends, and 
now, she said, he was becoming inconsiderate. She 
had a presentiment of some misfortune, and not- 
withstanding Davidson's painstaking explanations, 
she could not see why her presentiments were to 
be disregarded. On the very last evening before 
Davidson went away she asked him in a suspicious 
manner: 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS ,51 

•" I am not anxious,' protested the good David- 
son ' I simply can't help myself. There's no 
one else to go in my place.' 

slowly.^' ^'"'' "° °"''' ^' '^^' *'™'"e *^y 
•■ She was so distant with him that evening that 
Da^adson from a sense of delicacy made up his 
mmd to say good-bye to her at once and go and 
s^eep on board. He felt very miserable and 
strangely enough, more on his own account than 
on account of his wife. She seemed to him much 
more offended than grieved. 

•■ Three weeks later, having collected a good many 
cases of old doUars (they were stowed aft in the 
azarette with an iron bar and a padlock securing 
he hatch under his cabin-table), yes, with a bigger 
lo than he had expected to coUect, he found hL- 
self homeward bomid and off the entrance of the 
creek where Bamtz Uved and even, in a sense 
flounshed. ' 

•* It v^ so late in the day that Davidson 
actuaUy hesitated whether he should not pass by 
thistmie. He had no regard for Bamtz, who was 
a degraded but not a really unhappy man. His 
pity for Laughing Anne was no more than her case 
deserved. But his goodness was of a particularly 



252 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

delicate sort. He realised how these people were 
dependent on him, and how they would feel their 
dependence (if he failed to turn up) through a 
long month of anxious waiting. Prompted by his 
sensitive humanity, Davidson, in the gathering 
dusk, turned the Sissie's head towards the hardly 
discernible coast, and navigated her safety through 
a maze of shallow patches. But by the time he 
got to the mouth of the creek the night had come. 

" The narrow waterway lay like a black cutting 
through the forest. And as there were always 
grounded snaggs in the channel which it would 
be unpossible to make out, Davidson very prudently 
turned the Sissie round, and with only enough steam 
on the boilers to give her a touch ahead if necessary, 
let her drift up stem first with the tide, silent and 
invisible in the impenetrable darkness and in the 
dumb stillness. 

" It was a long job, and when at the end of two 
hours Davidson thought he must be up to the 
clearing, the settlement slept aheady, the whole 
land of forests and rivers was asleep. 

" Davidson, seeing a soUtary light in the massed 
darkness of the shore, knew that it was burning 
in Bamtz's house. This was imexpected at this 
time of the night, but convenient as a guide. By 
a turn of the screw and a touch of the helm he 
sheered the Sissie alongside Bamtz's wharf— 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 853 
a miserable structure of a dozen piles and a few 
planks, of which the ex-vagabond was very proud 
A couple of Kalashes jumped down on it, took a 
turn with the ropes thrown to them round the posts 
and the Sissie came to rest without a single loud 
word or the slightest noise. And just in time too 
for the tide turned even before she was properly 
moored. r i~ j' 

" Davidson had something to eat, and then 
commg on deck for a last look round, noticed that 
the light was still burning in the house. 

" This was very unusual, but since they were 
awake so late, Davidson thought that he would 
go up to say that he was in a hurry to be off and 
to ask that what rattans there were in store should 
be sent on board with the first sign of dawn. 

" He stepped carefuUy over the shaky planks not 
bemg anxious to get a sprained ankle, and picked 
his way across the waste ground to the foot of the 
house ladder. The house was but a glorified hut 
on piles, unfenced and lonely. 

" Like many a stout man, Davidso.. . very 
lightfooted. He climbed the seven steps or so 
stepped across the bamboo platform quietly but 
what he saw through the doorway stopped' him 
short. 

"Four men were sitting by the light of a solitary 
candle. There was a bottle, a jug and glasses on 






354 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

the table, but they were not engaged in drinking. 
Two packs of cards were lying there too, but they 
were not preparing to play. They were talking 
together in whispers, and remained quite unaware 
of him. He himself was too astonished to make 
a sound for some time. The world was still, 
except for the sibilation of the whispering heads 
bunched together over the table. 

" And Davidson, as I have quoted him to you 
before, didn't Uke it. He didn't Uke it at all. 

" The situation ended with a scream proceeding 
from the dark, interior part of the room. ' O 
Davy I you've given me a turn.' 

" Davidson made out beyond the table Anne's 
very pale face. She laughed a Uttle hysterically, 
out of the deep shadows between the gloomy mat 
walls. 'Hal ha! hal ' 

" The four heads sprang apart at the first sound, 
and four pairs of eyes became fixed stonily on 
Davidson. The woman came forward, having little 
more on her than a loose chintz wrapper and straw 
sUppers on her bare feet. Her head was tied up 
Malay fashion in a red handkerchief, with a mass 
of loose hair hanging under it behind. Her pro- 
fessional, gay, European feathers had Uterally 
dropped off her in the course of these two years, 
but a long necklace of amber beads himg round 
her uncovered neck. It was the only ornament shej 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS ,35 

tri^vlf ; ^^^ ^^ "''^ *" ^'' poor-enough 
tnnket. dunng the flight from Salgon-when th^r 
association began. 

li«hfUrV°"^''' P*** "•' **^'''' '"t" the 
tlnln "'"*' ^'"P'"^ «««*"'<' of ex- 

2e^.Tf' " *'^°"^'" ''^ '^'^' P°°' *Wng' had 
gone bhnd long ago, her , hite cheeks hoUow her 

eyes darkly wUd, distracted, as Davidson CgM 
She came on swiftly, grabbed him by the in' 
d^edhnnm. ' It's heaven itself thai sends^u 
to-mgh . My Tonys so bad-come and see Z 
Come along — do! ' 

••Davidson submitted. The only one of the 
men to move was Bamtz, who made as if to get 
up but dropped back in his chair again. Da,dd- 
son m passing heard him mutter confusedly some- 
thmg that sounded like ' poor little beggar ' 

cnil^''^^'^- ^^^ ""^ ^"^^^ ^ » miserable 
cot knocked up out of gin-cases, stared at David- 
son w.th wide, drowsy eyes. It was a bad bout 
of fever clearly. But whUe Davidson was promis- 
mg to go on board and fetch some medicines, and 
gen«a^y teymg to say reassuring things, he could 
not help bemg struck by the extraordinary mam.er 
of the woman standing by his side. Gazing with 
despamng expression down at the cot, she would 

T^ltz '^ •'"^'='' '"^^ «^- ^* ^ 

son and then towards the other room. 



3ISIK^J^ '*^ 



aje BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

" ' Yes, my poor girl,' he whispered, interpreting 
her distraction in his own way, though he bad 
nothing precise in his mind. ' I'm afraid this bode«> 
no good to you. How is it they are here? ' 

" She seized his forearm and breathed out 
forcibly: ' No good to me I Oh, not But what 
about you I They are after the dollars you 
have on board.' 

" Davidson let out an astonished ' How do they 
know there are any dollars? ' 

" She clapped her hands lightly, in distress. 
' So it's true! You have them on board? Then 
look out for yourself.' 

" They stood gazing down at the boy in the cot, 
aware that they might be observed from the other 
room. 

" ' We must get him to perspire as soon as 
possible,' said Davidson in his ordinary voice. 
' You'll have to give him hot drink of aomt kind. 
I will go on board and bring you a spirit-kettle 
amongst other things.' And he added imder his 
breath: ' Do they actually mean murder? ' 

" She made no sign, she had returned to her deso- 
late contemplation of the boy. Davidson thought 
she had not heard him even, when with an un- 
changed expression she spoke under her breath. 

" ' The Frenchman would, in a minute. The 
others shirk it— unless you resist. He's a devil. 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 257 
H« keep, them going. Without hin, they would 
havedojjenothingbutuilc. IVegotchumiy with 
JSthe^ "^ '" '" "''" y"" are with a n,a„ 
oTthi! rJ""'^*''"°*- Ba«-' is terrified 
of them. «d they know it. He's in iv from f ...7 
Oh. Davyl take your ship away- „urkl ■ 

alreaJ?'**"'"^''^'^'^"- ' ^^^-^ th. ... 

" • If the kid hadn't been i., this sHac I would 
have run off with him-to you-int. .h. .- Jl 
anywhere. Oh. Davyl wiU he die> ' sh. cri^ 
aioud suddenly. ^^° 

"Davidson met three men in the doorway 
They made way for him without actually daring 

whoTootd'^"- ^^^^-^^--tl'-nlyonf 
who looked down with an air of guiJt The 

"'Isn't it unfortunate about that child! The 
distress o that woman there upsets me. but I al 

Low'f"*'^""- ^-"'^"'t-ooththesS 
^^owo,„.y dearest friend. I have r. hand. 
Would you mmd sticking one of those -..are.^-c 
^ere mto the mouth of a poor, hannl.. ^,,,; 
My^ nerves want soothing-upon my ho.:..;, 

"Davidson complied with his naturally kind 



, J- *''S''. <■! 



1 31 



358 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

smUe. As his outward placidity becomes only 
more pronounced, if possible, the more reason 
there is for excitement; and as Davidson's eyes, 
when his wits are hard at work, get very still and 
as if sleepy, the huge Frenchman might have been 
justified in concluding that the man there was a 
mere sheep— a sheep ready for slaughter.' With a 
•merci bien' he uplifted his huge carcase to reach 
the Ught of the candle with his cigarette, and 
Davidsor left the house. 

"Going down to the ship and returning, he 
had time to consider his position. At first he was 
inclined to believe that these men (Niclaus— the 
white Nakhoda— was the only one he knew by 
sight before, besides Bamtz) were not of the stamp 
to proceed to extremities. This was partly the 
reason why he never attempted to take any 
measures on board. His pacific Kalasbes were not 
to be thought of as against white men. His 
wretched engineer would have had a fit from fright 
at the mere idea of any sort of combat. Davidson 
knew that he would have to depend on himself in 
this affair if it ever came off. 

" Davidson underestimated naturally the driving 
power of the Frenchman's character and the force 
of the actuating motive. To that man so hope- 
lessly crippled these dollars were an enormous 
opportunity. With his share of the robbery he 



HT^ixifr 



IF-'^3PWiil. 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 259 
would open another shop in Vladivostok Hai- 
phong, Manila-somewhere far away 

"Neither did it occur to Davidson, who is a man 
of courage, .f ever there was one. that his psyXo 

that to th.s particular lot of ruffians, who'udged 
hmi by h,s appearance, he appeared an unsus 
Picious, moffensive. soft creat^e, as Te Zld 
agam through the room, his hand full of vS 
object, and parcels destined for the sick ^y 

Bamt ! ^r"""'" ''"^S ^"^ ^'^d the table, 
to not havmg the pluck to open his mouth. 
It was Niclaus who, as a collective voice called 
ouMo^him thickly to come out soon an'ir;' 

" • I think ru have to stay some little time in 
here, to help her look after the boy.' B.^Ll 
answered without stopping. 

" ™' ^ ^ g°°d thing to say to allay a possible 
usp.aon. And. as it was. Davidson felt h^mu 
not stay very long. 

" He sat down on an old empty nail-keg near the 
-Prov^sed cot and looked at the chifd wht 
Laugh A„„e, moving to and fro, preparing tj 

v^^^.J^"' '"°*'°'^''' "* *^« fl"^hed face 
wh.s^edd.,omted bits of information. She had 
succeeded m makmg friends with that French 



26o BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

devil. Davy would understand that she knew 
how to make herself pleasant to a man. 

" And Davidson nodded without looking at 
her. 

" The big beast had got to be quite confidential 
with her. She held his cards for him when they 
were having a game. Bamtz! Oh! Bamtz in his 
funk was only too glad to see the Frenchman 
humoured. And the Frenchman had come to believe 
that she was a woman who didn't care what she did. 
That's how it came about they got to talk before 
her openly. For a long time she could not make 
out what game they were up to. The new arrivals, 
not expecting to find a woman with Bamtz, had 
been very startled and annoyed at first, she 
explained. 

" She busied herself in attending to the boy ; 
and nobody looking into that room would have 
seen anything suspicious in those two people 
exchanging murmurs by the sick-bedside. 

" ' But now they think I am a better man than 
Bamtz ever was,' she said with a faint laugh. 

" The child moaned. She went down ->n her 
knees, and, bending low, contemplated him mourn- 
fully. Then raising her head, she asked Davidson 
whether he thought the child would get better. 
Davidson was sure of it. She murmiu-ed sadly: 
' Poor kid. There's nothing in life for such as he. 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 261 

Not a dog's chance. r.:t I couldn't let him go, 
Davy! I couldn't.' 

"Davidson felt a profound pity for the child. 
She laid her hand on his knee and whispered an 
earnest warning against the Frenchman. Davy 
must never let him come to close quarters. Natur- 
ally Davidson wanted to know the reason, for a 
man without hands did not strike him a^ very 
formidable under any circumstances. 

'• 'Mind you don't let him-that's aU,' she in- 
sisted anxiously, hesitated, and then confessed that 
:*' P^^n^^hman had got her away from the others 

pit. (i 

do u if 
-'• iper 

io h 1 



fioon and had ordered her to tie a seven- 
'■ -eight (out of the set of weights Bamtz 
■»' ■«) to his right stump. She had to 
'»•«■ She had been afraid of his savage 
••■ "tz was such a craven, and neither of 
■-^■" would have cared what happened 
■ '« Frenchman, however, with many 
' V ' •■ •. -ts had warned her not to let the others 
xno^ What she had done for him. Afterwards he 
hadbeentryingtocajoleher. He had promised he. 
that If she stood by him faithfully in this business 
he would take her with him to Hai-phong or some 
other place. A poor cripple needed somebocy to 
take care of him— always. 

" Davidson asked her again if they really meant 
'n.schKf. It was, he told me, th. hardest thing to 



26a BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

believe he had run up against, as yet, in his hfe. 
Anne nodded. The Frenchmar.'s heart was set 
on this robbery. Davy might expect them, about 
midnight, creeping on board his ship, to steal 
anyhow — to murc_ . , perhaps. Her voice sounded 
weary, and her eyes remained fastened on her 
child. 

" And still Davidson could not accept it some- 
how ; his contempt for these men was too great. 

" ' Look here, Davy,' she said. ' I'll go outside 
with them when they start, and it will be hard 
luck if I don't find something to laugh at. They 
are used to that from me. Laugh or cry — what's 
the odds. You will be able to hear me on board 
on this quiet night. Dark it is too. Oh ! it's dark, 
Davy! — it's dark! ' 

" ' Don't you run any risks," said Davidson. 
Presently he called her attention to the boy, who, 
less flushed now, had dropped into a sound sleep. 
' Look. He'll be all right.' 

" She made as if to snatch the child up to her 
breast, but restrained herself. Davidson prepared 
to go. She whisfiered hurriedly : 

"'Mind, Davy! I've told them that you 
generally sleep aft in the hammock under the 
awning over the cabin. They have beer asking 
me about your ways and about your ship, too. I 
told them all I knew. I had to keep in with them. 



i 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 263 

And Bamtz would have told them if I hadn't— you 
understand? ' 

" He made a friendly sign and went out. The 
men about the table (except Bamtz) looked at 
him. This time it was Fector who spoke. 'Won't 
you join us in a quiet game, Captain? ' 

" Davidson said that now the child was better 
he thought he would go on board and turn in 
Fector was the only one of the four whom he had, 
so to speak, never seen, for he had had a good look 
at the Frenchman already. He observed Fector's 
muddy eyes, his mean, bitter mouth. Davidson's 
contempt for those men rose in his gorge, while 
his placid smile, his gentle tones and general air of 
innocence put heart into them. They exchanged 
meaning glances. 

"'We shall be sitting late over the cards,' 
Fector said in his harsh, low voice. 

Don't make more noise than you can help.' 
•"Oh! we are a quiet lot. And if the invalid 
shouldn't be so weU. she wiU be sure to send one 
of us down to call you, so that you may play the 
doctor again. So don't shoot at sight.' 
" ' He isn't i. shooting man,' struck in Niclaus. 
"I never shoot before making sure there's a 
reason for it— at any rate,' said Davidson. 

'■ Bamtz let out a sickly snigger. The French- 
man alone got up to make a bow to Davidson's 



264 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 



I 



caxeless nod. His stumps were stuck immovably 
in bis pockets. Davidson understood now the 
reason. 

" He went down to the ship. His wits were 
working actively, and he was thoroughly angry. 
He smiled, he says (it must have been the first grim 
smile of his life), at the thought of the seven-pound 
weight lashed to the end of the Frenchman's stump. 
The ruffian had taken that precaution in case of a 
quarrel that might arise over the division of the 
spoil. A man with an unsuspected power to deal 
killing blows could take his own part in a sudden 
scrimmage round a heap of money, even against 
adversaries armed with revolvers, especially if he 
himself started the row. 

" ' He's ready to face any of his friends with that 
thing. But he will have no use for it. There will 
be no occasion to quarrel about these dollars here,' 
thought Davidson, getting on board quietly. He 
never paused to look if there was anybody about 
the decks. As a matter of fact, most of his crew 
were on shore, and the rest slept, stowed away in 
dark comers. 

' He had his plan, and he went to work me- 
thodically. , 

" He fetched a lot of clothing from below and 
disposed it in his hammock in such a way as to 
distend it to the shape of a human body ; then he 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 265 
threw over aU the light cotton sheet he used to 
draw over himself when sleeping on deck. Having 
done this, he loaded his two revolvers and clam- 
bered mto one of the boats the Sissie carried right 
aft. swung out on their davits. Then he waited. 

" And again the doubt of such a thing happen- 
ing to him crept into his mind. He was abnost 
ashamed of this ridiculous vigil in a boat He 
became bored. And then he became drowsy 
The stiUness of the black universe wearied him 
There was not even the lapping of the water to 
keep him company, for the tide was out and the 
Sissie was lying on soft mud. Suddenly in the 
breathless, soundless, hot night an argus pheasant 
screamed in the woods across tha stream. Davidson 
started violently. aU his senses on the alert at once 
" The candle was still burning in the h9use 
Everything was quiet again, but Davidson' felt 
drowsy no longer. An uneasy premonition of evil 
oppressed him. 

Surely I am not afraid, ' he argued with himself. 
" The silence was like a seal on his ears, and his 
nervous inward impatience grev intolerable. He 
commanded himself to keep still. But all the 
same he was iust going to jump out of the boat 
when a faint ripple on the immensity of silence 
a mere tremor in the air, tiie ghost of a silvery 
laugh, reached his ears. 



266 BEr '.USE OF THE DOLLARS 

"lUfsionl 

" He kept very still. He had no difficulty now 
in emulating the stillness of the mouse — a grimly 
determined mouse. But he could not shake off 
that premonition of evil unrelated to the mere 
danger of the situi.' n. Nothing happened. It 
had been an illus' ~>'. ' 

" A curiosity ame to him to learn how they 
would go to work. He wondered and wondered, 
till the whole thing seemed more absurd than ever. 

" He had left the hanging lamp in the cabin 
burning as usual. It was part of his plan that 
everything should be as usual. Suddenly in the dim 
glow of the skyhght panes a bulky shadow came 
up the ladder without a sound, made two steps 
towards the hammock (it hung right over the 
skyhght), and stood motionless. The Frenchman! 

" The minutes began to slip away. Davidson 
guessed that the Frenchman's part (the poor 
cripple) was to watch his (Davidson's) slmnbers 
while the others were no doubt in the cabin busy 
forcing off the lazarette hatch. 

" What was the course they meant to pursue 
once they got hold of the silver (there were ten 
cases, and each could be carried easily by two men) 
nobody can tell now. But so far, Davidson was 
right. They were in the cabin. He expected to 
hear the sounds of breaking-in every moment. 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 267 
But the fact was that one of them (perhaps Fector, 
who had stolen papers out of desks in his time) 
knew how to pick a lock, and apparently was 
provided with the tools. Thus while Davidson 
expected every moment to hear them begin down 
there, they had the bar off already and two cases 
actually up in the cabin out of the lazarette. 

" In the diffi-, d faint glow of the skylight the 
Frenchman moved no more than a statue. David- 
son could have .hot him with the greatest ease- 
but he was not homicidally inclined. Moreover 
he wanted to make sure before opening fire that 
the others had gone to work. Not hearing the 
sci.ads he expected to hear, he felt uncertain 
whether they all were on board yet. 

"While he listened, the Frenchman, whose 
unmobUity might have but cloaked an internal 
struggle, moved forward a pace, then another 
Davidson, entranced, watched him advance one leg 
withdraw his right stump, the anned one, out of 
his pocket, and swinging his body to put greater 
force mto the blow, bring the seven-pound weight 
down on the hammock where the head of the sleeper 
ought to have been. 

" Davidson admitted to me that his hair stirred 
at the roots then. But for Anne, his unsuspecting 
head would have been there. The Frenchman's 
surpnse must have been simply overwhehning 



I! !;i 



II 



a68 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

He staggered away from the lightly swinging 
hammock, and before Davidson could make a 
movement he had vanished, bounding down the 
ladder to warn and alarm the other fellows. 

" Davidson sprang instantly out of the boat, 
threw up the skylight flap, and had a glimpse of 
the men down there crouching round the hatch. 
They looked up scared, and at that moment the 
Frenchman outside the door bellowed out ' Trahison 
—trahison I ' They bolted out of the cabin, falling 
over each other and swearing awfully. The shot 
Davidson let off down the skylight had hit no 
one; but he ran to the edge of the cabin-top and 
at once opened fire at the dark shapes rushing 
about the deck. These shots were returned, and 
a rapid fusillade burst out, reports and flashes, 
Davidson dodging behind a ventilator and pulUng 
the trigger till his revolver clicked, and then throw- 
ing it down to take the other in his right hand. 

" He had been hearing in the din the French- 
man's infuriated yells ' Tuez-le t—tuez-k ! ' above 
the fierce cursing of the others. But though they 
fired at him they were only thinking of clearing 
out. In the flashes of the last shots Davidson 
saw them scrambling over the rail. That he had 
hit more than one he was certain. Two different 
voices had cried out in pain. But apparently 
none of them were disabled. 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 269 
'■ Davidson leaned against the bulwark reload- 
ing his revolver without haste. He had not the 
shghtest apprehension of their coming back On 
the other hand, he had no intention of pursuing 
them on shore in the dark. What they were doing 
he had no idea. Looking to their hurts probably 
Not very far from the bank the invisible French- 
man was blaspheming and cursing his associates 
lus luck, and all the world. Heceased; thenwitha 
sudden, vengeful yeU. ' Ifs that womanl-ifs that 

•' Davidson caught his breath in a sudden pane 
of remorse. He perceived with dismay that th! 
stratagem of his defence had given Amie away 
He did not hesitate a mo-ient. It was for him to 
save her now. He leaped ashore. But even as he 
landed on the wharf he heard a shrill shriek which 
pierced his very soul. 

"The light was still burning in the house 
Davidson, revolver in hand, was making for it 
when another shriek, away to his left, made him 
change his direction. 

"He changed his direction-but very soon he 
stopped. It was then that he hesitated in cruel 
perplexity. He guessed what had happened 
The woman had managed to escape from the house 
>n some way, and now was being chased in the 



Mic«ocofr aisoiuTiON tbt chart 

(ANSI and ISO TEST CHART No. 2) 




^ APPLIED IIVHGE In 

^^^ 1653 East Moin Street 

ST^ Rochester, New York 14609 USA 

•,^S (716) 482 - 03O0 - Phone 

^S ("6) 288 - 5989 - Fox 



I 



a70 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

open by the infuriated Frenchman. He trusted she 
would try to run on board for protection. 

" All was still around Davidson. Whether she 
had run on board or not, this silence meant that 
the Frenchman had lost her in the dark. 

" Davidson, reheved, but still very anxious, 
turned towards the river-side. He had not made 
two steps in that direction when another shriek 
burst out behind him, again close to the house. 

" He thinks that the Frenchman had lost 
sight of the poor woman right enough. Then came 
that period of silence. But the horrible ruf&an 
had not given up his murderous purpose. He 
reasoned that she would try to steal back to her 
child, and went to he in wait for her near the house. 

" It must have been something hke that. As 
she entered the Ught falling about the house- 
ladder, he had rushed at her too soon, impatient 
for vengeance. She had let out that second scream 
of mortal fear when she caught sight of him, and 
turned to run for life again. 

" This tune she was making for the river, but 
not in a straight line. Her shrieks circled about 
Davidson. He turned on his heels, foUowing the 
horrible trail of sound in the darkness. He wanted 
to shout ' This way, Anne! I am here! ' but he 
couldn't. At the horror of this chase, more ghastly 
in his imagination than if he could have seen it. 



iili 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 271 
scream was cut short suddenly ^""' 

^ui:'^StrHerTr°'^^'-^- 

spot and walked st Sght ^0"! '"" *'^ 

revolver and peering?! .lu' ^PP'"8 ^^^ 
Suddenly a buTk"! "''^^"rity fearfully. 

within a L y rd :rh^^^^^ '""^ ^--^ 

instinctiveiyhr;^7trst::ttdt"'^'.^^^^- 

body. He picked himself unanH'""''""''^ 
his knees, tried to IfH " in H '""''"'"^ °" 
her so limp that he g ve t " 17' ."' '^" 
her face, her long hair slat^!" / """" '^"^ °° 
Some of it was wet n T °" '^' «^°""d. 

hea^cameHSe^hrtrcSr"^^' 
way under his fingers j,,^ ''"''^^^ ^one gave 

^scove^heknewth^shewa :::; '^Th:^ '"-' 

battering in her stu^'^T. °" '^^'^ "-J^- was 
had fastened ; uZZl I "^'^'* '""^ ^"^^ 
expected Dav.^' ^ red utTn th^ ^°*f ^ """ 
scared him away. ^ *''" "'^''* *°d 



272 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

" Davidson, kneeling by the side of that woman 
done so miserably to death, was overcome by re- 
morse. She had died for him. His manhood was 
as « stunned. For the first time he felt afraid. 
He might have been pounced upon in the dark at 
any moment by the murderer of Laughing Amie. 
He confesses to the impulse of creeping away from 
that pitiful corpse on his hands and knees to the 
refuge of the ship. He even says that he actually 
began to do so. . . • 

" One can hardly picture to oneself Davidson 
crawling away on all fours from the murdered 
woman— Davidson unmanned and crushed by the 
idea that she had died for him in a sense. But 
he could not have gone very far. What stopped 
him was the thought of the boy, Laughing Anne's 
child, that (Davidson remembered her very words) 
would not have a dog's chance. 

"This life the woman had left behind her 
appeared to Davidson's conscience in the Ught of 
a sacred trust. He assumed an erect attitude 
and, quaking inwardly still, turned about and 
walked towards the house. 

" For aU his tremors he was very determined; 
but that smashed skull had affected his imagina- 
tion, and he felt very defenceless in the darkness, 
in which he seemed to hear faintly now here, now 
there, the prowling footsteps of the murderer with- 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 273 

out hands. But he never faltered in his purpose 
He got away with the boy «fely aftTau' 
The hou^ he found empty. A profound Lee 
encompassed him aU the time, except once ^ I 

when' f "fli^r ''' ""'''' ^'' ^""^Tin hi:';^ 
wnen a famt groan reached his ears. It seemed to 
come from the pitch-black space betw "n'^^t 

Si::::^;^"^-^^-^-— idnot^tS 

J "k "°J''' *'"^"^ y°" ^ ^^t^" how Davidson 

2 e^d thrust into his anns; how next mCng 

S s^eofar' ^'*V^""^g fro™ a distancf 
the state of affairs on board, rejoined with alacrity 
how Davidson went ashore and, aided bv Ms 

i^ughmg Anne's body in a cotton sheet «nH 
brought it on board for burial at sea" ten wSe 

bud^^d'^^ "1 ir '"' °' "'^^^ '='°"'- 

Th;.f i* i comer-post of the house 

not doubrx ; ''""'"^" '^« ^''^ ^« -^cl 
not doubt. Takmg it in connection with the dismal 

srii^r^r'^^'^-^^'^^'^^^^^^p'ty 

-•n^er^oCrA^^-™-- 

As to the others. Davidson never set eves o„ 

a-gleoneofthem. Whether they hadlo^^^:," 



274 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

themselves in the scared settlement, or bolted into 
the forest, or were hiding on board Niclaus's prau, 
which could be seen lying on the mud a hundred 
yards or so higher up the creek, the fact is that they 
vanished; and Davidson did not trouble his head 
about them. He lost no time in getting out of 
the creek directly the Sissie floated. After steam- 
ing some twenty miles clear of the coast, he (in 
his own words) ' committed the body to the deep.' 
He did everything,himself . He weighted her down 
with a few fire-bars, he read the service, he lifted 
the plank, he was the only mourner. And while 
he was rendering these last services to the dead, 
the desolation of that life and the atrocious 
wretchedness of its end cried aloud to his com- 
passion, whispered to him in tones of self-reproach. 
" He ought to have handled the warainj, she 
had given him in another way. He was convinced 
now that a simple display of watchfuhiess would 
have been enough to restrain that vile and cowardly 
crew. But the fact was that he had not quite 
believed that anything would be attempted. 

" The body of Laughing Anne having been • com- 
mitted to the deep ' some twenty miles S.S.W. 
from Cape Selatan, the task before Davidson was 
to commit Laughing Anne's child to the care of 
his wife. And there poor, good Davidson made a 
fatal move. He didn't want to tell her the whole 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 273 
awful story, since it involved the knowledge of the 
dagger from which he. Davidson, hadlscap^d 
And this, too. after he had been laughing at her 
unreasonable fears only a short time before 

D.vi/ "'°"^!'* *^* " ^ '"^^ ^-' everything,- 
Davidson explained to me, 'she would ne^^v 
a moment's peace while I was away on my tripl ' 

the child of some people to whom he, Davidson 
was under the greatest obhgation. and that he 
felt moraUy bound to look after him. Some dav 
he would teU her more, he said, and meantime^' 
trusted m the goodness and warmth of her heart 
in her woman's natural compassion 

•• He did not know that her heart was about the 
«ze of a parched pea, and had the proportion' 
amount of warmth; and that her facSty^rrom 
Passion was mainly directed to herself. He was 
only startled and disappointed at the air of coW 
surprise and the suspicious look -^th which Z 
received his imperfect tale. But she did not 1 
much She never had much to say. She was a 
fool of the silent, hopeless kind. ^°« «^as a 

"What story Davidson's crew thought lit to 
-t afloat in Malay town is neither here nor therl 
Davidson hmiself took some of his friends i^o 

'rsSsr"'^^^^-----% 



876 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

" The Harbour Master was considerably aston- 
ished. He didn't think, however, that a fonnal 
complaint should be made to the Dutch Govern- 
ment. They would probably do nothing in the 
end, after a lot of trouble and correspondence. 
The robbery had not come off, after all. Those 
vagabonds could be trusted to go to the devil in 
their own way. No amount of fuss would bring 
the poor woman to Ufe again, and the actual 
murderer had been done justice to by a chance 
shot from Davidson. Better let the matter 
drop. 

" This was good common sense. But he was 
impressed. 

" ' Sounds a terrible affair. Captain Davidson.' 

" ' Aye, terrible enough,' agreed the remorseful 
Davidson. But the most terrible thing for him, 
though he didn't know it yet then, was that his 
wife's silly brain was slowly coming to the con- 
clusion that Tony was Davidson's child, and that 
he had invented that lame story to introduce him 
into her pure home in defiance of decency, of 
virtue — of her most sacred feelings. 

" Davidson was aware of some constraint in his 
domestic relations. But at the best of times she 
was not demonstrative; and perhaps that ve y 
coldness was part of her charm in the placid 
Davidson's eyes. Women are loved for all sorts 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 277 

nursing he 'susSn, ''^^ "^' -*^^« »>- »«» 

on"t?«r' °"' '^^' ^""^'^y-faced Ritchie caUed 
on that sweet, shy Mrs. Davidson. She had 

2r ""* r^ "« -«. and he conside^d ht 
sdU pr^vjleged pe:^„_her oldest friend inte 
tropics. He posed for a great admirer of hers 
He was always a great chatterer. He had got h"d 
of the story «ther vaguely, and he started chatter' 
ing on that subject, thinking she knew aU al^u 

";:;rn;r'^^-----ahout- 

su^'^^IS^.trp'-^^-^-^'^-witha 
"Ritchie plunged into circumlocution at once 

" ' But you don't know for certain? ' 
" • Not How could I. Mrs. Davidson I ' 

Joi^^thfrir^'^-'-^-^^-^ 

.o'fo!^'" ^''^'^'°" "^' ^""^^ ^' "^as ready to 
out as f tnckhng a stream of cold clear water 
down his back. She talked of his base^tri^e 




278 BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

with a vile woman, of being made a fool of, of the 

insult to her dignity. 

" Davidson begged her to iisten to him and told 
her aU the siory, thinking that it would move a 
heart of stone. He tried to make her understand 
his remorse. She heard him to the end, said 
' Indeed I ' and turned her back on him. 
" ' Don't you believe me? " he asked, appalled. 
" She didn't say yes or no. All she said was, 
• Send that bi \t away at once.' 

" • I can't throw him out into the street,' cried 
Davidson. ' You don't mean it.' 

" ' 1 don't care. There are charitable institu- 
tions for such children, I suppose.' 
" • That I will never do,' said Davidson. 
" ' Very well. That's enough for me.' 
" Davidson's home after this was Uke a sUent, 
frozen hell for him. A stupid woman with a sense 
of grievance is worse than an unchained devil. 
He sent the boy to the White Fathers in Malacca. 
This was not a very expensive sort of education, 
but she could not forgive him for not casting the 
offensive chUd away utterly. She worked up her 
sense of her wifely wrongs and of her injured purity 
to such a pitch that one day, when poor Davidson 
was pleading with her to be reasonable and not to 
make an impossible existence for them both, she 



BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 279 

turned on him in a chiU pascion and told him th= 
his very sight was odious to he 

"Davidson, with his scrupulous delicacy of 
feeling, was not the man to assert his rightsover a 
woman who could not bear the sight of him He 
bowed his head; and shortly afterwards arranged 
for her to go back tc her parents. That was 
exactly what she wanted in her outraged dignity 
And then she had always disliked the tropics and 
had detested secretly the people she had to live 
amongst as Davidson's wife. She took her pure 
sensitive, me in Mttle soul away to Fremantle or 
somewhere in that direction. And of course the 
httle girl went away with her too. Wha • .uld 
poor Davidson have done with a little girl on h-s 
hands, even if she had consented to leave her with 
him— which is unthinkable. 

" This is the story that has spVied Davidson's 
smile for him-which perhaps it wouldn't have 
done so thoroughly had he been less of a good 
fellow." * 

HoUis ceased. But before we rose from the 
able I asked him if he knew what had become of 
Laughing Anne's boy. 

He counted carefully the change handed him 
by the Chinaman waiter, and raised his head. 

"Oh! that's the finishing touch. He was a 
bright, taking little chap, as you know, and the 



38o BECAUSE OF THE DOLLARS 

Fathers took very special pains in his bringing up. 
Davidson expected in his heart to have some com- 
fort out of him. In his placid way he's a man who 
needs affection. Well, Tony has grown into a 
fine youth — but there you are I He wants to be a 
priest ; his one dream is to be a missionary. The 
Fathers assure Davidson that it is a serious voca- 
tion. They tell him he has a special disposition 
for mission work, too. Go Laughing Anne's boy 
will lead a saintly life in China somewhere; he 
may oven become a martyr; but poor Davidson 
is 'eft out ii the cold. He will have to go down- 
hill without a single human affection near him 
because of these old dollars." 



}a». 1914. 



TBI TBUPLS PRESS, FRIMTZRS, LKTCUWORTH, ENGLAND 



up. 

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boy 
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