The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Pursuit, by Frank (Frank Mackenzie) Savile, Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer

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Title: The Pursuit

Author: Frank (Frank Mackenzie) Savile

Release Date: January 5, 2011 [eBook #34861]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



E-text prepared by Darleen Dove, Mary Meehan,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team







Author of "Beyond the Great South Wall," etc.






Copyright, 1909, 1910,
By Little, Brown, and Company.

All rights reserved

Published, June, 1910


"I know now that you are a gentleman," she said simply


CHAPTER I. The Lady of the Pier
CHAPTER II. At the Tent Club
CHAPTER III. The Shadow of a Name
CHAPTER IV. Despard Explains
CHAPTER V. Mr. Miller
CHAPTER VI. Landon's New Profession
CHAPTER VII. Villa Eulalia
CHAPTER VIII. The First Trick is Lost
CHAPTER IX. Aylmer is Explicit
CHAPTER X. By Favor of the Fog
CHAPTER XI. Rattier Loses his Calm
CHAPTER XII. The Ambush of the Broom
CHAPTER XIV. One Side of a Bargain
CHAPTER XV. Perinaud's News
CHAPTER XVII. Muhammed Scores Twice
CHAPTER XVIII. The Santa Margarita's Lazaret
CHAPTER XIX. Miller is Still Imperturbable
CHAPTER XX. Aylmer Climbs—and Falls
CHAPTER XXI. Fate Stays her Hand
CHAPTER XXIII. Padre Sigismondi
CHAPTER XXIV. Luigi's Hospitality
CHAPTER XXV. Fate's Final Word
CHAPTER XXVIII. Fate Smiles at Last



"I know now that you are a gentleman," she said simply

"You saved the boy!" she said, in a quick, panting whisper

"Mademoiselle, I am Sergeant Perinaud"

She gripped the protecting hand between her fingers




It was not the muleteer's shove, slight but significant though it was, which produced John Aylmer's shrug of irritation. His resentment was directed at himself. He realized that he had been guilty of a gaucherie. For thirty seconds he had been standing halted in the main street of Tangier, a rock of obstruction to all the rabble traffic which passes between the Bab al Marsa and the Bab al Sôk, staring at—what?

At a pretty woman.

He reddened under his tan. The muleteer's shoulder had displaced him for purely practical reasons, for, indeed, almost benevolent ones, for the mules would have been capable of obtaining with their teeth what their guardian had obtained by mere weight of his body. But Aylmer felt that by accepted social standards a kick would not have been more than his due. Had he not been behaving like some cub of a cockney clerk at an Earl's Court Exhibition? His lips moved. He was muttering excuses of himself to himself, and knew that they were valid, but that an onlooker would have had no clue to them.

For it was not her prettiness which had drawn his attention to the girl. It took no second glance to assure him that she was no countrywoman of his, but an American. Her features had the clean regularity, her complexion the pale, unfurrowed smoothness which is kept intact on the western side of the Atlantic and there alone. The Moroccan sunlight was proving in a dozen places the mistake the shadows made when they dulled the gold of her hair to brown. Her eyes matched the waters of the unrippled bay.

Though he recognized these things, they had not, in the first place, attracted Aylmer's attention. American girls—pretty American girls—are no rarity in Tangier since Mr. Cook threw over Moghreb-al-Aksa the ægis of his protection. Under ordinary circumstances he would have looked, approved, and, without altering his stride, passed on. But here was something which appealed to the inherited instincts of a gentleman. What was it?


He felt no reasonable doubt on the subject. Among this girl's natural attributes, he told himself, were placidity, content, self-reliance. The first two were wanting. The third was strained. There was almost a sense of furtiveness in the glances which she turned to throw not only about but, occasionally, behind her. Frankly, she was afraid.

His interest fed upon observation. He glanced at her more narrowly, he observed her surroundings. He drew aside out of the mid-street traffic, and under pretence of lighting a cigarette, halted again in the shadow of an awning.

She was not alone. She held by the hand a small, alert-looking child—a boy, who watched the passers-by with the happy, unconcentrated interest of childhood. His eyes reviewed his surroundings without any of the surprise of unaccustomedness; obviously the scene was not strange to him. He smiled at Jew and Moslem, Christian and Infidel, with a pleasant patronage which one or two itinerant pedlars and shop touts returned with obsequious affability. One man, indeed,—a bronzed, hawk-nosed specimen of the desert Arab clad in a ragged djelab of brown,—laughed gaily, plucked a carnation from behind his ear, and flung it to his small admirer as he passed.

The child gave a little cackle of delight as he picked it up. The girl looked down as he did so and frowned.

"Who was that, Selim?" she asked quickly, and Aylmer saw that the question was addressed to a stout, muscular Moor who was in attendance.

The man lifted his shoulders in deprecation and darted a suspicious glance towards the crowd which had already closed upon the djelab of brown.

"Some desert dog," he answered sullenly. "But indeed Sidi Jan encourages all the rabble of the Sôk to take these liberties. He smiles, and the jackals think they have license to smile back."

The object of these reproaches thrust the carnation carelessly behind his own small ear.

"I have seen him before—once, twice, many times," he explained. "He laughs; he is not gray and dull like Selim. I would like to have him for my kavass."

"I drown in perspiration three shirts a day while I wait on thee," affirmed the fat man reproachfully. "Is this thy gratitude?"

"I do not wish to be waited on; I wish to be played with," said the child. "I should like to go to the sands where the Kaid's horses are galloped, and play with the brown man. We would paddle and I would throw the water over him. He has promised me this."

The girl started and gave a convulsive little grip of the fingers which lay in hers.

"He has spoken to you?" she cried. "When—where?"

The boy nodded his yellow mop of hair importantly.

"Yesterday as I rode through the Sôk," he answered. "He walked beside my donkey and told me that I was a horseman already made, and should be on the back of a black barb like Sid' Abdullah's. Then I, too, could race upon the sands."

The girl looked stonily at the Moor.

"How was this, Selim?" she asked coldly. "Where was your watchfulness?"

The man spread out his hands.

"Am I a prophet—am I Allah Himself?" he cried aggrievedly. "There was a crowd—a press—in the Sôk yesterday, wherein one had scarcely room to take breath. And you have seen for yourself. Sidi Jan snatches at familiarities from such as that one; the nearer the gutter he finds his friends the better is he pleased."

She looked down at the delinquent, who, without being disconcerted, grinned back.

"John," she admonished him gravely, "you are never to speak or listen to strangers in the Sôk, or anywhere else."

John wriggled and pouted.

"I love the brown man," he answered defiantly.

"He's probably a wicked, wicked man," said his monitress. "Instead of playing with you on the sands, he'd very likely bite you—like a camel."

The eyes beneath the yellow mop grew round with interest.

"Would he?" he asked breathlessly. "That would—would be fun!"

Do what he could to restrain it, a smile broadened across Aylmer's face, and in that moment the girl, looking up, met his eye. He reddened slightly again, hastily struck and put a match to his still unlit cigarette. But in that instant he had read surprise first in her glance, then the knowledge that she had been overheard, and lastly—yes, there was no doubt about it—fear. Not the apprehension of the unknown and unexpected this time, but the thrill of distrust experienced by one seeing peril looming unveiled before her. She was afraid of him, John Aylmer! Her apprehension was no longer vague; he had become the target of it.

She dropped her eyes, made a sign to the Moor, and swung quickly towards the nearest shop. And Aylmer, in the midst of the mental disturbance caused by the incident, barely repressed a smile. For the booth, it was little more, was stored with the coarse calicoes and prints which appeal to the dwellers in the desert; there was certainly nothing there to please the tourist or hunter of curios. No—hunted, she had turned instinctively to the nearest shelter. Undoubtedly she had fled from—him.

He wheeled quickly and strode off down the hill towards the Bab-al-Marsa. Explanation eluded him; he felt baffled. At the same time he was conscious of a sense of relief. Instinct had brought him to a halt, the instinct which bids the normal man stop to offer help to the helpless even before that help is claimed. He had discovered, or thought he had discovered, fear in the girl's attitude, and almost inadvertently had stayed to rout it. And now? What fear could have a stable foundation which made him, an absolute stranger, its sudden focus?

He shook his head regretfully. To what could not neurasthenia or some such fashionable derangement of the nerves bring a woman in these days of fashionable stress? And yet? Her bearing had not been that of a neurotic. And she was young, three and twenty at the outside. Her face was unlined, her eyes clear, yet, after a moment's scrutiny, she had fled from him. He could not dismiss the problem; he carried it with him out of the Marsa gate, along the wooden pier. Behind the toll bar he sat upon a timber balk and studied it. It gave him a sense of physical pain to remember the expression in those eyes, of which the sea was one vast reminder.

A minute or two later, with a petulant shrug, he dismissed the matter—or tried to—from his thoughts. After all, mystery though it was, the affair had no real significance for him. He had, inadvertently, frightened a lady. But no real responsibility was his. He had looked at her keenly; too keenly, perhaps, but with no shadow of offence. She had chosen to interpret his scrutiny as menacing. They would probably not meet again—why, indeed, should they? And yet, this decision was mentally addressed to a possibly listening Fate to disarm it. Without defining the desire even to himself, he knew that it was there. He wanted to meet her again; he wanted it badly.

It was with this desire still at the back of his mind that he turned his eyes seaward on the mission which had brought him to the harbor.

The Diomède? Was she in? Would her commander, Paul Rattier, be in time to join him in riding out to the Tent Club that evening, or would they have to postpone their expedition to the early hours of daylight? He strained his glance northward where the gray bulk of Gibraltar was hidden by floating clouds of Mediterranean mist.

Two French men-of-war lay far out in the bay. A trail of black smoke showed where another steamed eastward with invalids from Casablanca to Oran. But neither of the three was the Diomède; he knew her squat turrets among a thousand. He gave a pessimistic little sigh. Instead of the jovial evening out at Awara under canvas, they would have the hot discomforts of an hotel and a fifteen-mile ride in the dawning to sap their energies before the day's sport began. He looked up with discontent at the westering sun. It appeared to be sinking towards the horizon with almost indecent haste.

He pulled out another cigarette and lounged lazily along the plank, watching the traffic of the pier and shore in blasé indifference. Just below him half a dozen barcasses were being filled with stout, squat little cattle, destined for food for the weary troops of Ber Rechid and El Setat. The bullocks were being goaded up an incline of planks and tumbled roughly into the unwieldy lighters, and as these were filled a little tug fussed up and towed them by threes to the waiting steamer of the Compagnie Mixte. And here the sufferings of the bullocks deepened from mere discomfort to the fine edge of tragedy. In twos they were lassoed round the horns. The steam winch aboard the steamer crashed, and with straining necks and starting eyes the unfortunate beasts were rushed up through the air and swung with terrifying speed down into the hold. They were near enough for him to see through his binoculars the strained mute agony of fear in the eyes of each brute as it swung. And there was a dog on board. Each time as the living load passed within reach of its leap, it sprang into the air and made its teeth meet in the helpless flesh. And the stevedores applauded and goaded him to further efforts. Finally the horns of one struggling animal broke. There was a hoarse laugh as it fell, to break other bones, no doubt, in the depths of the hold, or to mutilate some former comrade below. Aylmer turned away with a shrug of sickened disgust. What a land of cruelty it was, of grinding cruelty which spared neither man, woman, nor child, and certainly no beast! He turned his glance shorewards to avoid seeing the tragedy of the bullocks repeat itself.

As he did so he gave a start of suddenly aroused interest. Rapidly nearing him was a man whom he recognized. He was the hawk-nosed, swarthy son of the desert who had flung the carnation at the American child's feet. He was walking rapidly, smiling, talking in a quick undertone to another child, one who trotted at his side happily enough—born of his own people, this—a little Moor, clad in a tiny bournous and a hooded djelab of brown.

They were making for the steps which led down from Aylmer's side to the huddle of rowboats which awaited chance fares below.

Suddenly Aylmer's attention, which had been aroused merely by the fact that the sight of the man led his thoughts back to the interest of an hour before, became concentrated. The Moorish child babbled in English!

"A black stallion!" he said impressively. "One that will arch his neck like the dome of the mosque, and carry me past all the other horses on the sands?"

"It shall be as you desire, little lord," answered the man, easily. "We have but to take a boat from among the many below and row across to the beach. There the horse of thy desires awaits thee. Look carefully. Perchance thou canst see it even now. Thou hast the eyes of a hawk; I know it."

And then Aylmer understood. He saw that below the child's ears and along the line of his hair a dye had been applied. The golden curls had been stuffed back into the hood of the djelab, shoes and stockings flung away, and little dye-stained feet thrust into yellow slippers. The folds of the bournous covered all else. It was the child of the street encounter, the child himself!

Aylmer's instincts, rather than any formed purpose, brought him to his feet and in front of the man, as the latter was about to descend the stairs.

"Where did you gain authority over this?" he asked curtly in Arabic, pointing down at the boy.

The man eyed him with stony imperturbability.

"Is Tangier come to such a pass that we of the Faith have to justify to Nazarenes our authority over our own children?" he asked. "Keep to thine own affairs, Kaffirbillah."

Aylmer did not unbar the road of the steps. He leaned down and spoke directly to the child, who was regarding him with half timid curiosity.

"Is this man your kavass?" he said gently. "Is he in your parents' service?"

The red flush of guilt rose under the brown dye. A bright yellow curl fell from out of the djelab hood as the small head was shaken.

"He promised me a horse," said lips which had begun to have a distinct semblance of trembling. "They have only given me a donkey so far—only a gray donkey."

"Then they do not know that you are with this man; they would not allow it?" pursued Aylmer.

The Moor broke in angrily.

"Do not be questioned, little lord!" he cried. "This is a son of infinite shame and wickedness, who has no rights over thee!"

"As many, at least, I suspect, as thou," returned Aylmer. "This is a matter for investigation. We will come to the post of the Spanish police at the pier head."

"We!" The man's eyes flashed wickedly. "I come not, nor this, my charge."

Aylmer shrugged his shoulders.

"That is a matter within your discretion, for yourself." He laid his hand upon the child's shoulder. "But this one goes with me."

A grin of rage flashed across the Moor's features. With one hand he made a quick clawing snatch at the child's arm; the other he plunged into his bosom. As it reappeared a knife blade flashed in the sun.

Mere instinct made Aylmer throw up his arm in defence. Experience and presence of mind bade him fling himself to one side without removing his knee from the path of his assailant. Matters followed the usual course when this old trick of the desert is put in action. The fellow tripped, plunged forward over the outsprawled limb, and fell crashingly upon his elbows.

Aylmer's first thought was for the knife which gleamed upon the planking half a dozen yards away. He scrambled to his feet and, without troubling to bend, gravely kicked it into the sea. At the same time he was aware of a commotion behind him. The small child's voice was raised in anger.

"I hate you—I hate you!" he declaimed. "Now Selim will get me!"

There was a reason for his wrath. Panting, blowing, and, to be frank, looking uncommonly like an over-driven buffalo, the Moor attendant was speeding down the pier with outstretched arms furiously gesticulating. The flap of his slippers slammed upon the boards, boat boys jeered, hotel touts made comments which no Bowdler could render into reputable English. And a few yards behind him—Aylmer's heart gave a queer little leap at the sight—ran totteringly the white-clad lady, his mistress.

The child made an angry gesture of repulse.

"I won't go back!" he shrilled. "I won't, I won't!"

He looked round towards his new-found friend, who was scrambling to his feet. He ran towards him.

Aylmer stretched out a hand and whirled the child up, facing towards the Moor. The latter hesitated, looked towards the advancing figures, and hesitated no longer. Behind the lady ran a couple of the newly raised Spanish police.

He swerved swiftly aside, dashed down the steps, and passed rapidly from boat to boat across the gunwales till he had gained one on the outskirt of the press. He shouted fiercely to the boy who held the oars, and the latter bent to his work. The tide was with them and they passed rapidly across the harbor mouth towards the yellow sands outside the town.

The child struggled and shouted in Aylmer's arms, stretching out his hands as he saw his friend disappear in the direction of the, to him, still credible black stallion and other promised delights. He struck out passionately at Selim as the latter's hand closed upon him like the grip of an embodied Fate.

"I want my horse, my horse!" he wailed. "I don't want a donkey; I hate it, hate it!"

Aylmer surrendered him, nothing loath, into his attendant's arms and then stood expectant, hat in hand. As she saw Selim again in full command of his responsibilities, the girl dropped from a run into a rapid walk. She panted, she held her hand upon her breast as she joined them. The two khaki-clad police inspected Aylmer with something of mistrust in their gaze.

For a moment her breath failed her; she could only look at the captive with half resentful, half satisfied eyes. Then she shook her finger at him.

"You wicked child!" she cried. "You wicked, wicked child!"

The small sinner laughed defiantly.

"The brown man beckoned me from the door of the mosque," he boasted. "I did see him and ran behind the mule that passed, and in at the door, and the brown man caught me up and smeared brown stuff on my face, and ran with me through the other door and out into the other street and covered me with this." He indicated the djelab with pride. "And Selim did not find me. Ho! Ho! I saw fat Selim jumping like a jerboa as we passed the harbor gate!"

Aylmer inspected him gravely.

"I have a bamboo cane at home which would meet your case, young man," he said quietly. "Would the loan of it be a boon?" he asked suddenly, looking at the girl.

There was no answering smile in her eyes. She shook her head.

"Thank you for—your intervention," she said quickly. "No, we never beat children in America; we—we respect them."

Aylmer nodded.

"In England our plan is to make them respect themselves," he answered. "I dare say both methods have their advantages." He made a gesture towards the town. "Can I have the pleasure of escorting you back?" he asked. "Have you any further—attempts to fear?"

There was an obvious desire for information in the question and in his eyes.

She made no attempt to satisfy it. She shook her head again.

"Thank you, no," she answered. "John will have no further opportunities to escape us; we have had our lesson. I can only thank you again and say good morning."

He raised his cap in answer to her bow. He watched her turn and walk after Selim, who held his prisoner enfolded in an embrace that gave no loophole for a second escape, little, indeed, for any movement at all. Expression gave place to expression on Aylmer's face. Irritation succeeded surprise and that was quickly followed by amusement.

Finally he seemed to dismiss the subject with a shrug which was all bewilderment.

"She thanked me," he reminded himself. "She thanked me, but her manner suggested that she would rather have flung me a sovereign to get decently rid of me." He nodded his head with decision. "She's afraid of me, that's the truth. Why—in the name of all that's sensible—Why?"

Echo supplied no answer.



Aylmer tightened the reins, touched the rowels against the mare's flank, and lifted her out of her easy amble into something like a canter. He called to his companion and pointed up the slope at a gleam of white set in the dun green of the cork woods.

"The camp!" he said, and gave a little sigh of relief. Through the fifteen miles which separate Tangier from Awara the two had halted no longer than sufficed to tighten a girth or light a cigarette. The horses were white with lather, the men stained with dust.

Commandant Rattier looked, nodded, and smiled. For a sailor, people were apt to consider him taciturn—at first; but they soon discovered that his was a taciturnity which spoke. His brown eyes could gleam with many lights which were whimsically expressive. A little sidelong jerk of his neatly trimmed beard told more than many elaborated sentences. Reputations had tottered and scandals had been abashed before a single gesture of his neatly gloved hands. For the moment his nod suggested content, anticipation, and unruffled good humor.

A minute later surprise overcame his reticence. Half a dozen dull, half-muffled explosions throbbed in the distant jungle of broom and wild olive. The commandant's eyebrows rose in arcs of amazement.

"Do they then shoot the boar as well as impale it?" he asked.

Aylmer smiled.

"The beaters," he explained. "They are driving towards the plain behind the marsh. They are firing blank charges."

The Frenchman gave a little laugh.

"In all these matters you must remember that I am of an ignorance the most profound. And my impudence, also, must appear to you colossal. I am to allow myself to charge with a spear—I, who, till to-day, have never seen a wild pig save, perhaps, as bacon!"

Aylmer dropped the reins upon the mare's neck, lifted his hand, and wiped his forehead.

"All things must have a beginning, my friend," he said. "You have the sailor's eye and, no doubt, the sailor's steady hand. And, above all, you ride—as sailors do not always ride. I have every reason to believe that I shall be proud of you before the day is out."

Rattier lifted his shoulders with a little shrug. He did not speak, but he left the impression that he deprecated this point of view, found the arguments futile, and disposed of the question finally. The attention of the riders was suddenly drawn elsewhere.

A couple of men emerged into view from behind a clump of argans. They held two horses by the bridles. One of them signalled with outstretched hand.

As Aylmer reined in the mare almost upon her haunches the man dropped his hand, relinquished the horse he held into the care of his companion, and approached. He made a dignified gesture of welcome and pointed to a basket on the ground.

"Sid' Anstruther sends breakfast, Sidi. They drive the bush beyond the hill and the marsh. If you will refresh yourselves here you will avoid climbing the hill to the camp. You can then take these horses and join the spears who wait at the tongue of the jungle in the plain."

Aylmer slid to the ground.

"It is well thought of, Absalaam," he said, and turned to explain matters to his companion. The Moor beckoned forward his underling, who quickly tethered the fresh horses to a broom stump and then led away the other two in the direction of the tents which gleamed white upon the slope a mile or so above them. Absalaam, meanwhile, was deftly setting out the meal in the shadow of the argan branches.

The two began to eat and drink with appreciation but quickly. They did not exchange much conversation; their attention, indeed, seemed concentrated on matters outside sight but within hearing. For the muffled explosions continued and to them was added the sound of chorussed and intermittent yells. But these last had not risen to any great pitch of excitement; no pig, or, at any rate, no boar, had as yet been sighted or had broken cover.

Absalaam flitted to and fro handing dishes, changing plates, expressing by the vigilance of his attitude and actions the fact that he, too, appreciated the need for haste. His dark eyes beamed a sort of intensity of vigor; the pose of his head seemed to indicate that his ears were critically alert to the purport of those distant shouts. But he offered no comment till Aylmer pushed aside his plate and rose to his feet.

"Your station, oh Sidis, will be at the far side of the point of jungle, between the marsh and the forest."

Aylmer nodded, explained to Rattier, and swung himself into the saddle.

"How many spears?" he asked laconically. The Moor held up the open fingers of one hand.

"Four," he answered, "and a lady, who rides but does not carry a spear. It will be difficult with so few, but the Sidis will find the horses of good mettle and capable. Have I now your leave to go, oh Sidis? It is desirable that I join the beaters."

Aylmer made a curt motion of consent and looked round, with a tinge of impatience, for his companion. Rattier was daintily flicking a crumb or two from his khaki tunic and flapping his handkerchief at the dust on his overalls. He mounted, at last, with a self-satisfied little shrug. He was prepared to meet the world's criticism, or this, at any rate, was the implication his shoulders conveyed.

With an air that was deferential without being obsequious the Moor handed each rider a long "under-arm" spear. The next instant they had disappeared down the ragged track through the mimosa at a gallop.

As they emerged into the open plain beyond the stretch of forest land, the yells in the jungle combined into a stentorian chorus. The hidden men shrieked, hollaed, rattled their staves, and in one or two instances performed excited fantasias with empty sardine tins. Up on the slope a furlong or two above Aylmer and his companion, a woman came suddenly into view, riding a dappled gray, and waving a handkerchief.

They turned towards her as another rider, as yet unseen, cantered round a thicket of broom in the same direction.

The handkerchief was waved excitedly and the canter became a gallop.

The mimosa crashed; the sun-dried lop of wild olive was splintered. Something dark, unwieldy, menacing, burst out of the undergrowth with a speed which seemed preposterously out of proportion to its bulk. It fled across the interval of sand which lay between the strip of forest behind it and the one from which Aylmer and Rattier had just emerged. Emotion perforated the latter's imperturbability. Speech escaped him.

"But this is a monster!" he exclaimed. "The near relation of a hippopotamus!"

The boar may have heard and certainly seemed to resent the criticism. He jinked, wheeled from the direction which would have taken him slantingly towards the other rider, and charged the commandant. Nothing daunted, the latter lowered his spear and galloped steadily forward.

He did not attempt to lessen his speed to receive the shock. Had his skill, indeed, been equal to his spirit, the result would never have been in doubt. But he held his spear at a "dropping" angle, which discounted the force of speed behind it. The point, instead of meeting the boar's chest in a line almost parallel with the ground, grazed his jaw, brushed past his shoulder, and cut a shallow groove in his quarter. It turned the charge, but not far enough. The wicked eight-inch tusks flashed out in passing and gashed the horse's pastern. The gallop slowed into a canter, blundered into a trot, and became a halting limp.

The boar jinked again and Aylmer spurred in pursuit, hearing the hoofs of his rival's horse thundering jealously behind. He increased his speed, diminished the distance yard by yard, lowered his spear, thrust, and was nearly spilled from the saddle. With incredible quickness the huge body had wheeled again as if on a pivot.

The pursuers made a chorus of their vexation. Their impetuosity carried them a full forty yards past the line of the boar's retreat. They reined in jerkily, and turned to see their quarry in full retreat up the hill.

By good horsemanship Aylmer maintained and increased his lead, but without much hope of overhauling the chase before the thicket gave it shelter. The mimosa covert was a bare two furlongs distant. The only chance lay in the boar being headed, and all the spears were, apparently, behind it. There remained nothing to do but to ride and ride hard.

His horse responded bravely to the touch of the spur but the sand was loose and deep. He decreased very slightly the distance between pursuer and pursued, faltered once or twice, and began to show distress in his breathing. Aylmer told himself that, for the moment, the game was up.

And then, with a whirl of flying drapery and gesticulating arms, a new rider shot into view on the brow of the slope. Absalaam, calling down innumerable maledictions upon the ancestry of all jungle pigs, galloped a tent pony between the boar and his refuge.

His tactics were successful, but not in the direction which he had desired. The brute wheeled, not down-hill towards the other riders, but slanting back and still upwards in the direction of Awara and the camp.

As Aylmer swerved to follow, a cry startled him. He was suddenly aware that the lady in white was riding slightly behind, but almost abreast of him. She was swathed in a sand veil, but her eyes were uncovered and the expression in them was arresting. She was staring up the hill. Her glance told of anxiety, or even horror.

He followed the direction of her gaze.

Two figures appeared, both exactly in the line of the hunt. One, also white clad, and running with uncertain feet, was evidently a child—a boy of six or seven years. He had distanced his pursuer, a fat and middle-aged Moor, who was menacing him with gesticulations of wrath and at the same time emitting supplicating cries. The youngster answered him with triumphant little jeers, and continued his escape. At the same moment both of them saw the approaching danger.

The child halted, hesitated, and seemed to debate upon his action. Not so the Moor. With a howl of dismay he fled towards the undergrowth, his yellow slippers twinkling against the dun background of the sand. And he continued to yell with whole-hearted despair; he woke the echoes with his shrieks.

About fifty yards separated Aylmer from the boar. The child was a full furlong distant. A sudden chill pulsed into, and gripped, the man's heart as he realized the situation.

Again the woman called aloud and smote her horse furiously across the withers as she strove to urge it on. Taken by surprise the gray changed step, stumbled, and nearly came down. With lowered spear Aylmer shot ahead.

The horse responded nobly to the need. The interval decreased. The boar was thirty yards ahead—twenty—now no more than ten. The wicked little eyes flung glances sideways; the bristling withers showed that almost imperceptible rippling motion which presages a "jink."

Aylmer leaned down across his saddle, holding out the spear before him almost by the butt. He was yet too far to get in a thrust. He could only hope to divert the brute's attention by a short, pricking stab. For the child, now running with short, terrified strides, was immediately in front of the gleaming tusks.

Aylmer lunged out.

The point reached and entered the boar's flank. It squealed savagely, turned, blundered, and fell beneath the horse's hoofs. Aylmer felt the shock, the agonizing effort at recovery, the final thud of the fall. The horse tripped and rolled over; the spear was torn from the rider's grip. Aylmer ploughed a groove in the sand which landed him far out beyond the huddle of flying limbs in which the white tusks were already working viciously.

He scrambled first to his knees and then to his feet. He looked around. The child was close to him, running now towards him. His hands were outstretched; he gave little panting cries.

And then Aylmer experienced that curious cold sense of relaxation which comes to some men when the situation calls for instant effort. He saw the child; he saw also the boar, slashing relentlessly a way out from the tangle of his horse's legs; he saw the horsewoman whose reins were tightening not twenty yards away. But here was no cause for hesitation or bewilderment. His mind, to himself, worked with a certain sense of leisure. He stooped, caught up the child, placed him in the woman's arms, and gave her horse a thrust of dismissal with his fist. As the flying hoofs scattered the sand upon his tunic, he turned to confront his own plight without fear, with, indeed, nothing less than relief. The absorbing objective of the last two minutes being achieved, his mind had not had time to review and interpret his own danger.

The boar shook itself free of entanglement, snapped around at the wound in its flank, swayed a little and suddenly, malignantly, focussed its gaze upon Aylmer. It gave a grunt of satisfaction, as it seemed. As if the tension of a hidden spring was released, it bounded forward.

Aylmer looked at it as one looks at, and appraises, a picture. The sense of his own peril was in his mind, but latently. He understood the consequences if the boar reached him, but, owing to some perverse enravelment of the brain, details absorbed him to the veiling of all else. He noted with what excellent effect the crimson smear upon the dark flank shone out against the dull background of the sand. He recognized the abnormal curl of the tusks, and debated to what angle the jaw must be slanted to deliver the ripping undercut which experience told him he would receive within a couple of seconds. He saw with a pang of regret that the shaft of his spear was broken; the splintered end protruded from below the withers of the still struggling horse. Thus the picture—which engrossed him.

And then it was gone, blotted out. The thunder of hoofs, a rising cloud of sand, a dark, struggling mass, which was the boar upon its back. The rider whom he had distanced had passed and the spear had got home. Red was the central spot of this picture, also, but no longer on the dark flank. It welled from the dying animal's chest in torrents.

As he watched its struggles, the sense of hazard escaped came home to him. Fear found room in his brain. He ran towards the broken spear, grasped it, turned to confront a peril which no longer menaced.

A shudder shook the swaying body, the great thews relaxed. The boar panted violently—once—twice. Then with a single sigh, very gently, very languidly, it sank upon the earth. And so lay still.

As he stood staring down at it, a reaction against his tinge of panic moved Aylmer to laughter. He began to giggle in little bubbling gasps of mirth which were near relations of hysteria. Matters had gone so quickly that his sense of proportion had been displaced. First perfect equanimity, then sudden and unfounded apprehension, now recoil. One short minute had made ample room for all these among his emotions. He found laughter the only balm to his self-respect, for he was shivering with a Briton's uneasy sense of having been guilty of melodrama.

His introspection was so intent that he failed to observe the return of the lady in white till her horse spurned the sand upon his riding boots. Then he wheeled alertly and looked up in her face. Her veil had dropped.

She was clasping the child to her with the hand in which she gripped the reins. The other she held out to him.

"You saved the boy!" she said, in a quick, panting whisper. "You saved him!"

"You saved the boy!" she said, in a quick, panting whisper

Aylmer took the proffered hand, lifted his hat, smiled, and recognized the lady of the pier.

He hesitated a moment. He shrugged his shoulders.

"No," he deprecated, and pointed to the other spear-man who was already wheeling to inspect his trophy. "Your thanks are due to our friend Despard, if anywhere."

"No!" she contradicted vehemently. "Did I not see it? You were sacrificing yourself, doing it deliberately. And I shall never forget it—never!"

He smiled again. He looked at the child who sat silent on the saddle-bow, staring down at him.

"Still running away?" queried Aylmer, pleasantly. "Whither, this time? And what was the terrible hurry?"

A guilty grin puckered the little man's lips.

"I thought I knowed you; you're the man of—of yesterday," he shrilled. "I was running from Selim. He wanted me to take siesta, but I did wish to be in the hunt."

Aylmer nodded.

"The usual trouble," he said. "We all want to be in—or, at any rate, to see—the hunt. And we never pay any attention to Selims, worse luck. You'll learn more by experience, sonny."

The child made a little gesture of protest.

"That's not my name," he answered solemnly. "Mother calls me Jackanapes, or Jack. But I'm John, really, just John."

"Just John," assented Aylmer. "Just John what?"

"John Aylmer," said the boy and stared in surprise at his new friend's startled visage. But the other John Aylmer was not looking at his namesake. He was looking at the girl who held him.

Her eyes answered the glance gravely, sternly, even defiantly, and in silence.

"You?" cried Aylmer. "You are—?"

She hesitated.

"John's nurse," she said, looking him steadily in the face.



For a moment there was silence between the two. Aylmer's fingers unconsciously wound and unwound a tiny lock of hair in the horse's mane. His eyes travelled over the woman's face and figure appraisingly; his brows contracted into a frown of puzzlement.

He had seen little John Aylmer's mother once before, at her wedding nine years previously. She had been a girl, then, almost a child, and young for her age, which was barely eighteen. Her beauty had been the fresh, innocent beauté du diable. She was fair, blue-eyed, with a tendency to fragility. And if report told the truth, her beauty had wasted and her fragility increased through the cruel years of her husband's domination. A bare six months ago she had been freed. Her father's millions had helped her to a separation which English Courts had made a legal one. They had also given her the custody of her one child, the heir to the Aylmer name and the Landon title.

This girl was fair, indeed; her eyes like the sea, her color fresh, her forehead bland and unwrinkled. But she was not the woman whose woes had made copy for a thousand newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic, whose sufferings had roused the storm of execration which had made the honest name of Aylmer a byword of dishonor and reproach. No, this was not his cousin Landon's wife.

And yet?

Feature for feature, line for line, she reminded him of the woman whose daintiness he remembered among the massed decorations of that New York cathedral those years ago.

He sought bluntly for an explanation.

"I, too, am John Aylmer," he said quietly. "Who are you?"

The sudden thrill of surprise with which she clutched the child to her tightened the reins. The gray backed a step; it was as if horse and rider were alike repelled by his question.

She stared at him with a sudden fierce aversion which was undisguised.

"You are Landon's cousin—you?" she cried.

He bowed his head.

"I have that misfortune," he answered quietly.

At the form of his answer a tinge of relief woke in her eyes, but they still watched him with incredulity and suspicion.

"He—he has sent you?" she demanded. "You bring other proposals, or threats?"

He smiled gravely.

"We have shared nothing, except a club, he and I," he explained. "I have not set eyes on him for over a year."

She still watched him alertly, debatingly, and still with mistrust.

"How did you come here, and why?" she asked.

"I am a member of the Tent Club," he answered. "I am in garrison at Gibraltar. I could not get leave till yesterday afternoon and I waited in Tangier to accompany Captain Rattier, whose ship is in harbor. Have I sufficiently explained myself?"

She hesitated.

"You have not seen your cousin for over a year? Perhaps you are in correspondence with him?"

He showed signs of impatience.

"We have not exchanged half a dozen letters in our lives!" he said emphatically.

The lines of her face remained unsoftened. Her fierce grip on the child's shoulder did not relax.

"And this Frenchman—this Captain Rattier?" she asked. "What of him?"

His eyebrows expressed the intensity of his amazement.

"Paul Rattier is my distant cousin," he answered. "No finer gentleman walks the earth." He paused for a moment. "Is it permitted to inquire why you suspect—strangers?"

She did not answer him. An abstraction, real or feigned, seemed to have seized her. She stared out over his head into the distance with unseeing eyes as if she weighed problems, debated evidence, sought conclusions. It was the child who roused her into attention. He laughed, clapped his hands, and shouted.

"Browny!" he clamored in delight. "Browny!"

Aylmer looked round.

Rattier, leading a very melancholy and still bleeding horse, had approached with Despard. Together they were bending over the major's trophy, the dead boar. Behind them Aylmer's horse was hobbling painfully to its feet. Despard looked up and shook an admonishing finger at his acclaimer.

"You young rebel!" he cried. "You want a good smacking for your disobedience!"

He slipped from the saddle as he spoke and led his horse towards them. He laid his hand familiarly on Aylmer's shoulder.

"Hurt?" he asked.

"Not in the least," said Aylmer, and then looked, with a significant lift of the eyebrow, from Despard to the gray horse's rider.

Despard's face showed his own surprise.

"Don't you know each other yet?" he marvelled. "Miss Van Arlen—Captain Aylmer."

Uncertainty gripped Aylmer again. Landon had married a daughter of Jacob Van Arlen, the millionaire. A divorcée reverted to her maiden name, but surely not to her maiden title. But Despard had said Miss, most distinctly Miss.

With his usual straightforward instinct to find the nearest way to probe a mystery, he looked at the girl herself. He became aware that her eyes had been upon his face with intentness.

"Yes," she said quietly. "This," she patted the child's shoulder, "is my nephew."

He gave a little sigh of appreciation and, he scarcely knew why, of relief. It was not possible, of course, that this girl, whose whole poise and carriage spoke of resolution and unfettered self-command, could be the woman, broken in health and spirit, who had cowered before her husband's glance, so some of the baser journals had hinted, even when she was seeking and had received the law's protection from him.

And her eyes? They were not of that appealing blue which had shone beneath the bride's deep lashes on that half-forgotten wedding-day. They were blue, indeed, but they met his with something which was akin to defiance.

She did not explain herself, but her glance was that of one who needed no warrant for her demeanor. Her attitude was not one of blatant aggressiveness, but was undoubtedly distrustful.

He looked at the child with renewed interest.

"Your sister is—where?" he asked quickly.

The frown came swiftly back to her forehead.

"You ask me that? Why?" she demanded.

He looked at the boy.

"Naturally I thought she might be with you," he answered. "As an Aylmer I should be glad to meet her."

"Ah!" Her tone was hard and suspicious again. Unconsciously she gripped the child to her again with a fierceness which made him protest.

"You hurt!" he complained. "You hurt, and I want to see the boar."

With a sailor's instinctive fondness for children, Rattier, who had resigned his limping horse into the hands of one of the Arab beaters, turned towards him.

"May I be permitted?" he said simply, and held out his arms. The child made a restless little movement towards him. "He'll show it me!" he cried joyously. "He'll take me!"

Again she reined back, looking from one to the other with patent misgiving.

"No!" she cried sharply. "You shall not touch him, either of you!" She made an appealing gesture towards Despard. "You must see me back to the camp!" she said.

He was smiling with tranquil amusement, a smile which seemed to rouse her to anger.

"Let us go now, at once!" she said, and wheeled her horse.

Despard nodded, but did not dismiss the smile.

"Might I inform you that Aylmer has been my friend since our Sandhurst days, and that I have shared his intimacy with Commandant Rattier for the last five years? I can vouch for them; I really can."

She reined in her horse again and sat looking at all three with doubt still lurking in her eyes. Aylmer met her expression with unrestrained amazement. He found her mistrust of him a conundrum to which there was no answer. The Frenchman's shoulders rose and fell almost imperceptibly. His head was slanted with deferential acquiescence. He laid his hand upon Aylmer's arm.

"Your horse?" he interposed.

He pointed to it and to Absalaam, who had now arrived and was touching the wounds in its flank with delicate, probing fingers. The commandant's gesture seemed to imply that the situation in which they found themselves demanded a tactful retreat, and that here he indicated a dignified one.

Aylmer still hesitated. He saw no reason why he should concur in his own dismissal; the idea grated on him. What had he done?

It was Despard who took the edge of restraint off the situation. He swung himself back into the saddle, and pointed up the hill.

"After all, the thing was a squeak," he allowed. "You are shaken." He turned and nodded slightly to the other two. "I will return and help with the horses; we shall have no other beat to-day."

They smiled, bowed to his companion, and gave him answering nod. They understood. He was going to use the opportunity to sponsor them. Then he would return, and they would have their explanation. They watched him bend towards his companion as they rode away.

"It is almost as if we diffused a contagion, you and I," speculated Rattier as they turned to Absalaam and the horses, but Aylmer made no effort to elaborate the issue. An inexplicable instinct to make the incident a personal rather than a general one had overtaken him. As he watched Despard ride away with his companion, he felt almost as if he were being defrauded. The relations between his cousin and her sister made a tie between Miss Van Arlen and himself; surely, in spite of everything, they were sufficient foundation upon which to found something more than a mere acquaintanceship. In the name of all the other decent-minded, clean-living Aylmers, he might have been allowed to make his and their protest against being held responsible for the knaveries of the head of their house.

So it was with something of dissatisfaction in his aspect that he turned to Absalaam and the wounded horse. The Moor saw it but misunderstood its purport.

"Merely a flesh wound, Sidi," he hastened to assure Aylmer. "A week, perhaps ten days, of rest and he is himself again. A small price to pay for so precious a thing as that child's life."

Aylmer looked at him with tolerant amusement. Absalaam ibn Said had neither harem nor wife; his career had been notoriously one of unrest and adventure. These pious opinions issued oddly from his bachelor lips.

"A small price indeed," he agreed pleasantly, "but a hundred youngsters run risks little less in the Sôk of Tangier every day."

The Moor made a sweeping motion of the hand, as if he suddenly dropped the subject of conversation from a higher plane to a lower.

"The children of the Sôk!" he cried contemptuously. "Khabyles—Arabs—Susi—Riffs! What are they? Little more than vermin; their ranks are replenished all too quickly as it is! But this one! Here we tell a different story, do we not?"

Aylmer halted in his examination of the wounded pastern and looked up. There was something arresting in the Moor's vehemence.

Absalaam caught the look and shrugged his shoulders.

"The Sidi has not visited Tangier for five or six weeks?" he said.

Aylmer nodded. And waited. He had had a good deal of experience of the Moor and his conversational methods. He was aware that the deferring of a climax till it could be launched on a tide of tantalization was the chiefest of them.

"Therefore, Sid' Aylmer," continued the Moor, "you have not heard all the tales which center round this small one's fortunes?"

Aylmer smiled and prepared to give his attention again to his horse. It was left to Rattier to ruin the pyramid of stimulation.

"What tales?" he demanded laconically.

Absalaam's brown eyes met both question and questioner with melancholy—almost, indeed, with scorn. How could one titillate, how could one embroider, how could one work up to a brave display of interest, if bald facts were to be wrung from one at this stage of a tale? He sighed.

"Tales of his wealth and importance, Sidi," he answered, in accents of subjection.

Rattier drew up the monocle which swung from a ribbon at his buttonhole and concentrated his stare upon the Moor.

"Wealth?" he repeated tersely.

Absalaam opened his arms to their widest and held his palms emptily outflung.

"Wealth sufficient to buy all Tangier, all Fez, the whole of Mogrheb al Acksa, if a tenth of the reports be true. His life, therefore? How can one value it!"

He beamed upon them. He had been robbed of his slowly forged culmination, but he had, at least, been able to offer them a surprise.

Aylmer replaced upon the ground the hoof which he had been holding. He looked at the Moor good-humoredly.

"So the gossip mongers of the Sôk credit this infant with riches?" he said. "On what evidence, if any?"

Absalaam made a motion towards the sea.

"In the harbor, when you landed, did you observe a yacht, Sidi—a white boat, with lines of gold at her cutwater and figurehead?"


"That boat lies there at the service of that child. They have taken for him the Villa Eulalia; they have surrounded it with tents of men who are there to do no more than guard his safety; there are servants, horses, donkeys. The Gibraltar steamer brings packets of provisions or what not several times a week. In the town their money flows."

Rattier dropped his eyeglass.

"I think, mon ami," he said slowly, "that gold must be freer with them than gratitude. Were you thanked for what you did? I don't seem to remember it."

Aylmer shook his head.

"That is the mystery," he agreed. "I did little enough, but I was going to be thanked—till I disclosed my name. Then," he shrugged his shoulders, "you saw."

He meditated a minute. Then he burst out laughing.

"I was not allowed even to hold him, and I am not at all sure that I am not his guardian!" he said suddenly.

Rattier's surprise was evident, but he managed to concentrate it in a monosyllable.

"Eh?" he demurred wonderingly.

Aylmer gave an emphatic nod of the head.

"I was coming home from China at the time of the marriage of my cousin Landon with this child's mother. I broke my journey in New York specially to attend it. And Landon, merely as a form, asked me as his kinsman to be a party to his settlement. In certain circumstances, including his death, I was to be one of the trustees for his children."

"And he is dead, this cousin?"

"No, my friend. Merely divorced. Where do I come in—where?"



"Suppose we sit down long enough to smoke a cigarette," suggested Aylmer. "Perhaps the thump I received just now has had a disastrous effect upon my limited intelligence, but I confess that Miss Van Arlen's deportment remains a matter of mystery. What have I done?"

Despard laughed gently. He had strolled back from the camp to meet his friends and had found them superintending the obsequies of the boar. These were performed by a Spaniard, one of the human jetsam cast up everywhere along the North African coast by tides of hazard and adventure which set from every quarter of the Mediterranean. The true son of Islam will not touch the haloof, the unclean jungle pig. And so Señor Bernardo Albareda, penniless derelict and strongly suspected of being a fugitive from the Spanish convict establishment at Melilla, was extracting the tusks. He held them up with a dramatic gesture of admiration.

"Twice the length of my central finger, which is not a short one!" he remarked airily, and used the occasion to exhibit the elegances of a hand which had patently not occupied itself lately with manual toil. One or two of his compatriots, who had been among the beaters, were given the task of disposing of the flesh and bristles, and departed under his escort, carrying their burdens dependent from a couple of poles, the Arabs hastening to avoid even the shadow of contamination which they cast, and spitting with undisguised disfavor as they passed. Despard accepted his comrade's invitation and joined the other two upon the seat which they had made of a fallen mimosa stump in the shadow of the olive.

The major took out his cigarette case, found a match, and sent several tiny clouds rolling up among the branches before he spoke. And his answer was another question.

"You read the details of the Landon divorce case?" he hazarded.

"Yes," said Aylmer. "One could hardly escape it."

"You remember, then, that at the close the respondent was very nearly committed for contempt of court?"

"He lost his temper, or his head," agreed Aylmer, "and threatened his wife. I don't think any one attached much importance to his vaporings."

"Ah!" Despard nodded his head thoughtfully. "I suppose that would be the point of view with most people."

"Not with yourself?" suggested Aylmer.

Despard shook his head.

"I have known the Van Arlens for many years," he said quietly. "Perhaps you have forgotten that my own mother was an American, that a good deal of my boyhood was passed in New York."

"I didn't know you knew the Van Arlens; in fact, I could hardly suspect it, when to the best of my remembrance you never even discussed the Landon divorce case with me."

Despard nodded.

"No," he said, in a dry, unemotional voice. "I did not discuss it with any one. And you, moreover, were an Aylmer."

He was silent for a minute and the other two looked at him a little curiously. This was not the Despard they were accustomed to, a sportsman whose hobbies engrossed him to the exclusion of most other topics. This was a man who had the force of pent feeling behind his words.

"The Van Arlens naturally did not seek outside society at the time of the case," he continued, "but I was on leave, and I saw a good deal of them. Has it occurred to you," he added suddenly, "that this child is not only heir to the Landon title but to the Van Arlen millions—at present?"

"No," said Aylmer, "but I suppose he is the only direct male descendant."

"Do you realize what that means in America? To be a Landon, only a barony, though I grant you an old one, is a small thing compared with being the grandson of—the richest man in the world."

Aylmer was silent. The point of view was one that did not easily present itself to his British complacency. Rattier, too, though he nodded assent, did it without vehemence and with a tinge of reserve. Of a royalist clique, transatlantic caste was outside his experience.

"At any rate your cousin Landon realized it at last in realizing what he was losing. He moved every legal lever he could lay his hands upon to retain the custody of his child and failed. He is to see him twice a year, for an hour. You will understand that his chances of winning his child's profitable affections are too limited for his taste."

Aylmer's brows met in a tiny frown of perplexity.

"Profitable affection?" he meditated.

"John is eight. In thirteen years he will be of age. His father then will be forty-five, and quite capable of getting much enjoyment out of his son's unlimited income."

Rattier gave a little hissing intake of the breath.

"This Landon!" he murmured admiringly.

"The Court decided, also, that the child must be brought up, for nine months of every year, at any rate, in England. This was modified, after medical examination and certificate, to include Europe and North Africa."

Aylmer made a little startled motion which dropped the ash of his cigarette upon his knee.

"Eh?" he questioned. "Medical certificate?"

"Phthisis," rejoined Despard, quietly. "The little chap has the seeds of it, but with care the seeds need never come to growth. But he has to winter in the South, invariably."

Rattier made a tiny caressing motion of the hand which seemed to imply infinite commiseration. Aylmer expressed the same emotion in a little inarticulate murmur.

"And so—?" he questioned. "And so—?"

"And so Tangier," said Despard, "which has other conveniences, for the moneyed. The law, here, is always behind the dollars, is it not?"

The other two looked at him debatingly.

"The law?" mused Aylmer. "The law?"

"They have already had experience of it in Italy and Spain—the Van Arlens. A man like Landon can make use of it there to further his own purposes, against the law. The Spanish and Italian police? Can you expect them to interfere against a man's dealings with his own child? What do they know of the fiats of the British Courts of Chancery? He made two very nearly successful attempts to get possession of the boy,—one at San Remo, one at Taormina."

Aylmer gave a little low whistle of comprehension. Rattier nodded, still with a sort of grudging admiration of this English lord's talents and persistence.

"Have you got it now?" went on Despard. "Do you see where they stand? Here, under the protections of the Bashaw, where Landon can never overbid them, they enjoy a security which they can obtain nowhere else outside America or Great Britain."

Aylmer's eyes filled with a sudden shadow of loathing.

"The scoundrel!" he cried. "The miscreant!"

Despard nodded.

"Quite so," he agreed. "The epithets any decent-minded man would apply to him. Unfortunately, he is without shame, reckless, and heedless of everything but his passionate desire to turn defeat into victory. He will stop at nothing to get even with those who have so far triumphed over him."

"And the boy's mother lives here—with her sister?" said Aylmer.

Despard did not reply for a moment. There was a queer pause and catch in his voice as if he sought uneasily for breath.

"Miss Van Arlen is here, and the old man, Jacob Van Arlen, the grandfather."

"And the mother?" asked Aylmer, with a note of surprise in his voice. "Lady Landon, or does one call her Mrs. Van Arlen?"

"She is broken down in health," answered Despard, in a curiously wooden, expressionless accent. "She has been—recommended to try for at least six months the effects of an Alpine Sanatorium."

The two listeners understood, or thought they understood, and muttered their sympathy in an almost inaudible chorus.

"Insane?" they whispered. "Insane?"

Despard smote his hand down upon the rotting wood.

"No!" he cried fiercely. "Her brain is as sound as yours or mine, but her heart has been frozen. By God! Try to think, imagine, if you can, what hell a woman has lived in who was the wife of Landon!"

His passion seemed to choke him. His eyes glowed, his chest heaved, he was another man from the one who had sat down smilingly to smoke a cigarette with them a few minutes before. And the passion of his wrath infected his hearers. Imagination painted pictures in their brains; they, too, breathed a little faster as they listened.

The gust of Despard's passion passed and left him calm again. He gave a tiny shrug of the shoulders, which seemed to imply apology. He began to speak with ordinary unshaken accents.

"It was I who suggested Tangier to the Van Arlens. I am in garrison at Gibraltar; I can see them at frequent intervals; I introduced them to the Foreign Colony here. The Anstruthers have done their best to make them at home. I got Absalaam to be their dragoman, and I don't think you will find a better or more versatile one between Tripoli and Mogador. They have the most suitable villa outside the town. The Bashaw has been given to understand the situation, has been generously tipped, and is doing his best to keep his side of the bargain. The men who guard them are picked and know that matters will reach an extreme of unpleasantness for them if their vigilance is allowed to relax. All has been done that can be done. And yet—?" He shrugged his shoulders again. "They share the anxieties of Damocles," he added. "They live under a sword which may fall at any moment."

He rose, flicked the cigarette ash from his sleeve, and made a motion towards the hill.

"Shall we be getting on?" he asked. "The sun waits for no one."

They rose slowly and began to follow the distant line of beaters. Aylmer linked his hand through Despard's arm.

"Miss Van Arlen understood ... what we feel ... all we Aylmers, about Landon?" he asked.

Despard hesitated.

"I put it to her, strongly," he answered.

There was something not entirely convincing in the reply. Aylmer's voice showed anxiety.

"But—but she cannot imagine that we, or any decent-minded man, could view him with anything but loathing?"

There was still a perceptible pause before Despard's reply.

"I didn't tell her yesterday that you were coming," he said. "Indeed, Anstruther only informed me last night. I thought it would be well that you should arrive and make a good impression before she learned your name. Then, you see, as it happened, you exploded it on her rather startlingly. And she, at the time, was rather shaken."

"And this means—?" said Aylmer, impatiently.

"It means," answered Despard, debatingly, "that your name recalls memories to her which, unfortunately, do not prepossess you in her favor. And, I think, that, being a woman ... your service to the child ... your saving of him ... under the circumstances ... acted against you."

Aylmer turned and looked into his friend's face with amazement.

"But—but I don't understand!" he stammered. "That's unjust!"

Despard shook his head.

"Not entirely," he demurred. "It's feminine; it's jealousy. It is hard to her that you should have saved the child's life. I could see that, and combated it, during the few minutes in which we rode back to camp."

Aylmer was frowning. He dropped Despard's arm, thrust his own hands into his pockets, and stared out into the distance. He shook his head.

"No!" he said suddenly. "I can't quite follow it. No woman with that girl's ... eyes ... would be so ... shabby ... if she understood!"

Rattier gave him an impulsive little nod.

"If?" he enunciated slowly. "If?"

Despard threw the Frenchman a grateful glance.

"That's it," he agreed. "His name is Aylmer. So far she has not got beyond that fact, my friend."

Aylmer looked round at them both. There was something calculating in the way in which he surveyed the two, as if they were factors in a situation which had hitherto eluded him, but which was now beginning to take definite shape. And his lips had set one upon the other in a rigid line. His chin seemed to have attained incongruous squareness beneath the suave droop of his moustache.

"She's got to believe in me!" he announced grimly. "I won't let her be unworthy of herself."

And the other two noticed that as he said it he nodded to himself two or three times decidedly. He drew himself up; unconsciously his carriage grew stiffer. It was as if he had mapped out and settled a matter definitely. He began to talk and laugh naturally, and on other subjects. And if any allusion to the day's adventure outcropped into the conversation he did not avoid it, but simply passed it by without comment. He had taken his line. The incident, apart from his resolution, was closed.

As the three strolled up to the camp a man rose from the group which sat in the shadow of the awning at the door of the largest tent and came out to meet them. He was tall, white-haired, aquiline of feature. And his pervading characteristic seemed to be gravity. His figure and face alike were unbending.

He made them a studied little bow.

"My daughter tells me, Captain Aylmer," he said, "that I have to thank you for your prompt action on behalf of my grandson. You saved him from a situation of grave peril."

Aylmer realized that this was without doubt Jacob Van Arlen. He suspected, also, why the old man had thus addressed him without waiting for an introduction. For men who are introduced, amid the intimate sociabilities of the Tangier Tent Club, at any rate, usually shake hands. Van Arlen's right hand held his sombrero; his left was at his side.

Aylmer returned the bow.

"I did no more than what had obviously to be done," he said quietly. "Despard merits your thanks more than I."

The other looked at the major with a distinct tinge of relief.

"Is that so?" he asked hopefully.

"No!" said Despard, laconically. "Your thanks are not in the least misdirected, Mr. Van Arlen."

The old man made another courteous inclination of the head.

"I thought I could not so far have misunderstood my daughter," he answered. "I hope, Captain Aylmer, that while you remain in Tangier I may be permitted to serve you in any way which you like to command. Perhaps, though, your stay is short?"

And there was hopefulness in this last query. It was patent amid the studied urbanity of the tone. In spite of himself Aylmer smiled.

"I am a bird of passage," he said lightly. "I manage to take short leave for most of the Tent Club meetings, to which Colonel Anstruther is kind enough to make me welcome."

He strode forward as he spoke and began to exchange greetings with Mrs. Anstruther, who rose to meet him. He had to hear the morning's story re-discussed, exclaimed over, criticized. He bore it, without impatience, but with a certain aloofness which gave the subject no chance to endure. He managed skilfully, at last, to divert the conversation into other channels.

Anstruther, who had sat between his wife and Miss Van Arlen, had risen to welcome Commandant Rattier. The mishap to the latter's horse engrossed their attention; they wandered off together to examine the wounded limb. After a moment's hesitation Aylmer sank into the vacant chair.

He looked round at the girl. Her eyes met his, but her hand, as if acting by some automatic command of the brain, touched her skirt and pulled it toward herself, and away from him. His lips grew a thought more rigid behind the veiling moustache. But his voice was entirely divested of any semblance of pique.

"And how is my small cousin?" he asked pleasantly. "Has Selim persuaded him to take that long-deferred siesta?"

Old Van Arlen stirred restlessly on his seat. He looked at Aylmer, his lips moved as if to speech, and then closed again. Miss Van Arlen sat up very straight.

"Do you mean my nephew?" she asked frigidly.

"Your nephew and my cousin," said Aylmer, cheerfully. "I hardly expected to find a relation here when I started this morning."

Her eyes grew stormy with suspicion, almost with hate.

"Are you sure?" she demanded suddenly.

"Quite sure," said Aylmer, halting for a scarcely perceptible moment before her meaning reached him. "I have found only friends—so far."



Outside their own country two British types carry their caste marks patently. They are the tourist and the officer. Gibraltar abounds with both, the company of the first having an occasional and transient superiority when it is swollen by Transatlantic arrivals or intermittent yachting cruisers. But the officers of the garrison and their wives and daughters are the reigning members of the informal club which makes Society on the Rock. They know each other, they discuss each other; the longer they stay the more parochial grow their interests. Newcomers undergo a period of silent probation. They cannot slip in unobserved. The who and the whence test is applied to each with unction, sometimes without justice, but almost invariably with good-humor. As a consequence everybody, within limits, knows something about everybody else.

There are exceptions, and one, an olive-complexioned, gray-clad, gray-haired, dark-eyed man, was walking steadily down the Waterport one sunny afternoon as a rush of cabs towards the custom-house proclaimed the incoming of an important steamer. Mr. William Miller had a pleasantly situated cottage in the South Town. The postman knew that he had many correspondents in Spain, England, Germany, and elsewhere. Moorish visitors from across the straits were not infrequent at a small office which he retained in Waterport Street. Men of letters, desiring information on recondite subjects, separated themselves from the frivolous landing parties of Messrs. Cook and called at the same address. No one had ever tapped the sources of Mr. Miller's encyclopædic knowledge in vain. No one had found him otherwise than affable. And though it was understood that his activities were literary, no resident or tourist had successfully probed the nature of his life-work.

The wives of many colonels had recognized this and had flung themselves with ardor against the breastworks of his imperturbability. Not one of them could look back with pride on any action in which they had won even a temporary advantage. Mr. Miller spoke freely, showed an intimate knowledge of men and manners throughout the civilized world, and appeared to manifest pleasure in sociabilities. His only attempts to return these lay in small but eclectic tea-parties whereat he displayed hoards of artistic treasures and discoursed learnedly of carpet dye and porcelain marks.

But he was by no means a ladies' man. He accepted, and was welcome at the hospitalities of many a mess or gun room. He sang well and could play a more than ordinary effective accompaniment to a comic song after hearing the air whistled half a dozen times by its would-be interpreter. The impersonality of his social attitude prevented his being popular, but he was an institution. As he walked along he bowed, nodded, smiled; obviously he knew everybody. Obviously everybody knew him.

As he walked across the sunlit square and dived into the deeply shadowed tunnel which is the Waterport, a tender fussed noisily up to the quay. Mr. Miller eyed the passengers on its deck keenly.

The steamer was evidently a White Star in from New York. The load of colossal trunks upon the deck would have told him that apart from the accent of the passengers and the flag at the masthead. Baggage agents began to dart here and there; Mr. Cook's uniformed interpreters were in the forefront of the fray; Spanish cab runners yelled and grimaced.

Mr. Miller stood aside without attempting to force a way into the tumult. His hands rested quietly together on the hilt of his cane. His brow was contemplative and unruffled. Certainly if he awaited anything he was in no hurry to find it.

All things come to those who wait, and Mr. Miller had not to wait long. A man strode suddenly out of the custom-house gate, thrust aside the Spanish porter who was snatching at his handbag, and made a beckoning motion towards a cab.

Mr. Miller strode quietly forward and reached it simultaneously with the fare.

The man looked at him with a sudden irritable alertness and then broke into a grin.

"You're here," he said, and flung his bag upon the seat. The other responded with a tiny shrug as if he deprecated the platitudinous nature of the remark. He motioned the man to take his seat, sat down beside him, and told the driver the name of an hotel. "Your man is looking after your heavy luggage?" he questioned.

The other nodded impatiently.

"Yes," he said. "Not that there's much to look after." He turned and glanced into his companion's face. "I'm getting down to bed-rock now; nothing left to waste on trivialities. I nearly came second class."

Miller's eyebrows rose.

"That would have been unnecessary." He speculated.

"Imbecile, as it turned out," agreed the man. "There were some bridge-playing Southerners on board, old school, couldn't bring themselves to be civil to the New Yorkers, but ready to take an Englishman, and a lord, moreover, to their hearts. No high play, but I'm eight hundred dollars up on the voyage."

Miller nodded placidly.

"Bed-rock is quite a way down yet," he smiled.

"Not if expenses are to mount as you advised me in your last letter," snapped the other. "Has anything been done?"

Miller shook his head slowly.

"Force is beyond us," he said, "for we don't possess it. Bribery is out of the question; there is no one left by the other side who has not had his price. Opportunity may be ours. We must await it."

"And waiting costs twenty pounds a week!"

The gray man turned his opened palm outwards with a deprecative motion which was not English at all.

"My dear Lord Landon, how can Opportunity be seized if there is no one to meet her when she appears?"

Landon gave a dissatisfied grunt.

"How many lacqueys have you set to wait on her?"

"Six," said Miller, succinctly. "Six men of action, who would have succeeded before now, but for an accident."

Landon's face took on the eager expression of a wolf to whom a distant taint is brought by the evening wind.

"Eh?" he cried. "There has been a chance, then; their defences are not impregnable?"

Miller shook his head.

"They have been strengthened since," he said diffidently. "But the weak spot in them is the child himself. He has never had, if you will pardon the remark, proper control. He is frankly disobedient of the precautions with which they surround him."

Landon grinned.

"There's my blood in him," he chuckled. "And, by God, I'm fond of the little toad, too. It's not only to spite her, Miller, or for the money that's in it. I never took the trouble to whop him; I believe he'd come to me of his own accord, if he had the chance."

"It's a large if," suggested Mr. Miller, politely.

Landon made no retort. His face had assumed a meditative mask; his lips were firmly pressed together; he had the effect of one who calculates pro against con.

"That's why I think it's time I took a hand," he said suddenly. "We'll knock off three of your six, Miller. I am prepared to be a host in myself."

For the moment the other said nothing. They had swung out of the Waterport Street and turned the sharp corner which brought them to the entrance of the hotel. He listened quietly as his companion demanded the number of the room engaged for him, received his letters, and entered the lift. He accompanied him silently. It was not till they were left alone that he pulled a pocket-book out, tranquilly turned the leaves, and consulted an entry.

"I note that I have had no remittance from you, Lord Landon," he announced, "since November."

"Six weeks ago," agreed Landon, languidly. "Six times twenty is a hundred and twenty. You reinforce my argument, my good Miller. A hundred and twenty pounds gone and you show me—nothing."

The other coughed a dry, perfunctory little cough.

"As far as I am concerned, the money is, as you say, gone," he allowed, "but you have just come by one hundred and sixty sovereigns owing to the complacence of these Southern gentlemen on board your boat. That puts us right and safeguards another fortnight."

Landon nodded and answered in a voice as dry as his own.

"That is a matter for discussion," he intimated. "I should like to hear these expenses justified to some appreciable extent. What was the chance which failed?"

"Though it failed," rejoined Miller, "it proved the advantage of constant vigilance. The child separated himself from his guardians in the very midst of the late afternoon traffic and got into the hands of one of our men. They reached the pier together; they were within an ace of success. Then Fate interfered—it must have been Fate," he interpolated with the ghost of a grin—"because her instrument was of your own house."

Landon came to a sudden halt in the opening of an envelope.

"What's that?" he cried quickly. "A relation of mine?"

"Captain John Aylmer, R.A., Assistant Secretary to the new Military Works Commission," answered Miller, sedately.

Landon swore. Then suddenly he began to laugh.

"It's quaint," he conceded. "It's damned quaint, Miller. And he did—what?"

Miller shrugged his shoulders.

"Interested himself in the situation, caused a delay which was fatal, for the moment, to our success. He cross-questioned the child and our man had to save himself, alone."

Landon laughed again.

"And he knew, this cousin of mine? He knew whose child it was?"

"Not then, but now, I imagine. He has met him since, at the Tent Club. He has also met your late father-in-law."

"What? The Kite—old Jacob—he's there?"

"Personally superintending a situation which gets daily more impenetrable, for us. Each fright we give them adds another palisade to the defence."

Landon took up the letters which he had laid down and went on opening and glancing through them. He pursed up his lips into an obstinately set expression; he assumed the air of a bargainer who has reached the limit of his purpose. For he fully understood the drift of Mr. Miller's remarks.

"We had better be plain with each other," he said at last. "My little expedition to the States has been a failure. As a matrimonial proposition I am, for the present, out of the running. They told me to come again in a year's time. Title-hunting American women have short memories, but some beastly reporter recognized me and ran two columns of reminiscences of the trial. That queered me, and after all the decree is not made absolute for another six months."

"Is this anticipatory of the announcement that those eight hundred dollars are the only support between you and bed-rock after all?"

"You jump at my meaning. I'm going to take over the duties of your six, or of some of them, at any rate."

The other's gray eyes reviewed his companion with a keenly calculating glance. There was no irritation in it, rather there was satisfaction. Mr. Miller did not present the aspect of a man whose chances of receiving a debt of one hundred and twenty pounds had been made doubtful. He had more the look of a bull speculator watching a tape as the eighths and sixteenths are added every few minutes to the stock which he commands.

"You will fail," he said drily. "Without funds you must fail. One poor man, in spite of the story books, can do nothing against a hundred and wealth."

"Possibly," said Landon. "But one may be permitted to try."

"No," said the other, stolidly. "One may not be permitted, in Tangier."

Landon looked up and for a moment silence hung heavily between the two men. The one who stood was the picture of heavy, imperturbable resolution. Landon, sitting back in his chair, was animate with energy, with a sort of tenseness which was almost magnetic. It was as if a panther faced a rhinoceros.

Then Landon shrugged his shoulders.

"Am I being threatened, my dear Miller?" he asked quietly.

"You are being informed," said the other. "The Syndicate which I represent is willing to finance you, for an adequate return. Without that it proposes to make Tangier an impossible residence for you."

Landon stared his surprise and his obvious relief.

"They are going to speculate in me?" He pondered for a moment. "I don't promise, or I haven't promised, that I shall allow old Jacob to buy the child back, if we get him, at all."

Miller nodded weightily.

"That does not matter to us," he announced. "That is as you like."

Landon's eyes were still wide and debating.

"Then your return comes—where?" he asked.

"We are willing to wait for it," said the other. "The first service we require from you is that you will renew your acquaintance with your cousin, Captain Aylmer, and endeavor to remove the distaste which I regret to think he feels for your company."

Landon bent forward, leaned his elbows on the table and his chin on his closed fists. He stared at his companion with a concentrated, dispassionate examination which seemed to probe and fathom through the depths of the other's impenetrability.

Miller met the scrutiny with no other manifestation than an, if possible, increase of apathy.

Landon dropped his hands slowly upon the table and gave his head a tiny shake.

"I don't understand you," he said. "Why has my cousin a distaste for my society? We have never been in collision. As a matter of fact, he was best man at my wedding."

"It is to be supposed that he read the account of your divorce," said the other, stolidly. "He has now made the acquaintance of your wife's relations."

"I see," said Landon, slowly. "Is that all?"

"Isn't it enough? Are you generally received?"

There was something callous, almost brutal, in the man's tone. The tiny spot of color which began to burn in Landon's sallow cheek was evidence that he recognized it.

"So," he answered, "I am to eat dirt at the hands of Captain John Aylmer? I am to appear to like it? Why?"

"Because," said Miller, dispassionately, "you are practically penniless. That is your side of the question. Our side is that your cousin happens to be what he is—Secretary to the Military Works Commission, who hold the immediate future of Gibraltar in their hands."

For the second time, and through a longer silence, the two stared at each other. As the fiery torch of comprehension burned brightly on Landon's face, rose to his forehead, seemed, indeed, to gleam in his eyes, his lips, which were at first grim and rigid, curled slowly into a sneer.

"By the Lord!" he swore. "By the Lord, Miller, you have an impudence!"

"I have a knowledge of values," said the other, impassively. "I wish to get my commission both ways. I expect it from you, because you get the job from no one else. I expect it from my employers, because you are practically the only tool at present, which they can use. I am perfectly open with you."

"As open as the Pit!" snarled Landon. "As candid as midnight! Let's have a taste of it plainly. What is it you want of me—robbery?"

Miller made a gesture of deprecation.

"I want you to—borrow—unknown to your cousin, certain books, the nature of which will be indicated to you in detail."

"And if I don't?"

"You must, at any rate, try."

"And if I won't?"

Miller smiled.

"We don't discuss absurdities."

There was nothing manifestly menacing in this, but there was a sense of finality. It reached Landon like a shaft of cold air blown in through the suddenly opened door. Mentally he flinched from it; he lifted his shoulders into a shrug of resignation.

"Where are his quarters?"

"In the South Town near my own cottage. For the moment that does not matter. You meet him to-morrow, by accident. You do not know, you see, that he is here?"

He consulted a small time-table.

"We should be on the quay about three-thirty to-morrow, when the steamer gets in from Tangier."

For the second time Landon expressed surrender with a passive shrug.



As Despard and Aylmer passed out of the dark of the Waterport into the sunlight of the square, two men, who walked in front of them, halted, shook hands, appeared to exchange an informal farewell, and separated. One, clad in gray flannels and a gray sombrero, turned to the left and began to mount the ramp behind the barracks. The other strolled slowly on.

The two soldiers fresh from their crossing of the straits from Africa were hailed and questioned more than once by comrades or friends who had not been fortunate enough to share in leave for the Tent Club meeting and were anxious for the last details of sport. How did pig run this time? Had such and such coverts been burned as was reported? What luck had they had personally? Despard and Aylmer had to halt half a dozen times within the first two furlongs. They began to regret that they had not taken a cab.

The man who strolled along in front of them halted, too, here and there. He did not appear to look round, but whenever acquaintances buttonholed the pair behind him it was noticeable that shop windows or Moorish curio sellers claimed his attention. He lingered, indeed, opposite a well-known book shop till his sudden resumption of his stroll brought him into collision with the others at the exact moment of their passing.

He started, muttered a perfunctory apology, and then made an exclamation.

"Jack!" he cried gladly, and held out his hand.

Aylmer met his cousin's glance, first with surprise, then with a sudden stiffening of his lips, finally with frowning. He gave a side glance at Despard.

The major's face was transfigured with wrath and loathing. He was looking at Landon as he might have looked at a poisonous reptile. He drew back a step of instinctive repulsion.

Landon gave a bitter little laugh. He still held out his hand defiantly.

"Isn't it fit to be shaken, Jack?" he asked. "Have I to thank the Galahad at your side for that?"

Despard's eyes grew grim and set. He turned to Aylmer and nodded coldly.

"See you later," he suggested, without another look in Landon's direction, and passed on his way with unhesitating strides. Venomously, malignantly, Landon watched him go.

"I don't wonder he won't face me!" he cried with well-simulated passion. "By God, I don't!"

He turned and stared at his cousin. Aylmer met his gaze coolly, unhesitatingly, and without a trace of relenting. For the second time Landon's bitter laugh escaped him.

"You've had his version?" he said. "Well, I don't altogether wonder at you in that case."

"I don't understand you," said Aylmer, quietly. "The public prints have made it quite evident that you're not fit for the society of decent men, if that is what you mean."

"No!" snarled Landon. "It isn't what I mean. What I mean is that that blackguard who's just left us, curse him! has won all round. He took my wife from me and now he's taken my reputation, my honor, and he's gone far to take every friend I have. But by the Lord who made me, Jack, I thought that you might be left with some sense of justice!"


Aylmer's voice made an echo to Landon's. "Justice?" he repeated. "You got that, or less than that in most men's opinion, in the divorce court."

"I didn't!" said Landon, fiercely. "Ah, they made a pretty story of it! The blackguard who knocked his wife about, who thrashed his child, who took his wife's allowance and flung it under a dunghill of drink and devilry. That was me! Who gave evidence? The wife herself, who has since gone into a lunatic asylum. Servants who were bought with that old miser's gold. The man who wanted her—Despard!"

In spite of himself Aylmer gave an almost imperceptible quiver of surprise.

Landon laughed again.

"Does that touch you?" he cried. "He wouldn't tell you that. Not of how he schemed, and laid traps, and sunk pitfalls for me, to catch me, as I was caught. I'm no saint, Lord knows, but I've never sunk to that. I've had my game and paid my price, but, by God, I've never cheated!"

Aylmer's eyes still met his with level contempt.

"I know Despard, I've known him since boyhood," he answered. "He does not do these things."

Landon shrugged his shoulders.

"Of course! I'm down and you're all stamping me into the mud, lower and lower. You've all taken the accepted view, and when I cry out against it I'm told I've had my chance. So I did, but it was never a fair one."

"You have still six months in which to give your version to the King's Proctor if you have any new facts to support your statement," said Aylmer, coldly.

"Facts! How am I to get the benefit of facts when the other side can manufacture answers for them with a dollar for my every penny? I've supplied 'facts' to the King's Proctor till I'm sick of the sight of his office paper assuring me that he has 'no evidence to justify my contentions.' I can give facts enough. It's a hearing I want—an impartial hearing!"

Aylmer shook his head.

"You got it," he said doggedly. "You got it!"

Landon rapped his stick upon the pavement.

"I tell you I didn't!" he cried. "I tell you that I could tell you things that would prove to you—yes, prove—that the whole job was got up by that scoundrel who's just left us—got up by him to steal my wife from me. I ask you to hear me; I appeal to you to listen to my side; I appeal to your sense of justice!"

Aylmer turned up the street.

"If you think there is anything to be gained by it, say on!" he answered. "You can walk with me as far as my quarters."

"You won't ask me in?" sneered Landon. "That's more than I can expect."

"Some of the fellows might look in on me—decent fellows," explained Aylmer, drily.

Landon gave a little gasp, halted, and leaned suddenly against the wall. He looked up at his cousin. His lips worked, he stammered, he broke into a panting storm of sobs.

"I didn't deserve that! My God! I didn't deserve that!" he cried.

Aylmer looked down at him and a tiny thrill of compunction shot through him. He hesitated. He did not believe in Landon's protestations. He knew, in every instinct of his nature, that Landon was a scoundrel. But he began to remember that it had not always been so. Things that had brought them together as boys came back to him. His memory suddenly framed a picture of that wedding nine years ago. Landon had gone to meet his bride gallantly, adoringly, that day. He had loved her then. Yes, he could not have acted that, he had loved her then.

And Landon, watching narrowly his cousin's face, read the emotions as they chased each other across it as if they had been writ upon an open page. He hugged himself mentally.

"That's what knocks him!" he told himself triumphantly. "The abased ingenuous sinner! A little more of that and, Great Nicholas! I have him by the short hairs!"

He pulled himself together with a well-acted effort. He turned and drew back.

"You cur!" he cried. "You cur, to hit at a man who's down!"

Aylmer's tanned cheek showed through it a tiny flush. The dart had gone home.

"When you prove that an apology's due, I'll make it."

"In the street!" sneered Landon. "I'm to shout my wrongs, tell you all the intimate story of my provocation before the town. Thank you for nothing!"

Aylmer made a little movement of the hand which implied irritation.

"You can come to my quarters," he said, "but—"

"This evening?"

"No, this evening I'm dining out. You can come to my quarters. Until you give me reason to alter my opinion I don't introduce you to my friends. Is that understood?"

Landon stood silent for another instant before he answered slowly.

"Yes," he agreed. "You've read and been told enough to excuse you. Yes, I'll come. And in half an hour you'll be begging my pardon, or—"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Or what?" said Aylmer, quietly.

"Or I shall know you've made up your mind not to be convinced."

And then a sudden taciturnity overtook him. He marched along at his cousin's side, his eyes bent upon the pavement, his brows contracted. He had the appearance of one who considers deeply. John Aylmer made no attempt to resume conversation. He concluded that Landon was either piecing together a story out of unpromising material which would leave considerable gaps to be filled or, which was more likely, evolving one out of his vivid imagination. In either case he was content to leave the issue to be ascertained in the privacy of his quarters.

They gained them uninterrupted. Aylmer made a sign towards a chair. Landon, after an expressive glance towards the Tantalus on the sideboard, sat down. Aylmer did not take the hint; he was in no mood to offer hospitality to this man, even to the inconsiderable extent of a whisky and soda.

He looked at Landon.

"Well?" he demanded curtly.

Landon gave another look towards the sideboard.

"I've hinted once," he said, with a laugh which he tried to make genial and offhand. "This time I'll ask bluntly for it."

"For what?"

There was no encouragement in Aylmer's voice, and his eyes were hard and unrelenting.

"For a drink."

Aylmer shook his head.

"Suppose I hear your statement first," he suggested. "Then you can have a drink here, or elsewhere."

Landon rose to his feet with a dramatic jerk. He turned abruptly towards the door.

"That's enough, by God! that's enough!" he swore savagely. "I've taken your insolence once; I'll not take it again. I'm not fit to be offered a drink in your rooms; I'm to sit like some damned flunkey giving his character while you cross-examine me. I'll see you on the far side of Hell first."

He reached the door, halted, and stood with hand on it, looking round.

"You'll be sorry for this," he said. "I tell you that, when the truth of it comes to be known, as it'll be known some day, you'll be sorry for it."

Aylmer looked at him with a steady contemplation which showed no signs of clemency. Landon flung open the door and passed out.

"Cursed prig!" he snapped and descended the stairs into the street. Aylmer, with a slight shrug of the shoulders, turned towards his dressing-room.

Ten minutes later Landon was enjoying his drink in Mr. Miller's pleasantly furnished apartments. His host had supplied it this time without any demur—with alacrity. He watched his guest dispose of it and hastened to offer another. This, too, disappeared down Landon's throat and a third was placed solicitously at his elbow. Not till these arrangements had been completed did Mr. Miller smirch his hospitality with any hint of business. But though he differed from Aylmer in this, he imitated him in the directness of his pour-parlers. He, indeed, used the same monosyllable.

"Well?" he said inquiringly.

Landon nodded with much satisfaction.

"I got in," he said briefly. "I was only there two minutes, at a liberal computation, but I've found out and done all I required. He's dining out to-night. The books, as you expected, are in an ordinary bookcase, glass fronted, with an ordinary padlock on it. What fools these War Office experts are! There was a spare latch-key of his rooms hanging on a hook on the wall, for the servant, I suppose. I nicked it as I went out. I met the servant on the stairs—just as well, if I run across him to-night. There will be nothing rummy in my returning to see his master. I purposely dragged my coat against the passage whitewash, and after he offered to brush it for me I gave him half a crown. So he's all right; he thinks I'm a worthy gentleman who ought to be encouraged to call often. Is that all right?"

Mr. Miller smiled.

"You show such talents and attention to detail, my dear Lord Landon," he answered, "that I grieve that I am not the happy partner of such a colleague permanently."

Landon looked across at him with a grin.

"Seriously?" he demanded.

"Quite seriously," replied the impassive Mr. Miller.

Landon meditated.

"If there is good money in it—?" he mused slowly, but his host hastened to interrupt him energetically.

"Excellent money," he assured him, "and we have always a use for a lord."

Landon grinned again.

"Perhaps my value will increase after this evening," he suggested. "When do you purpose going?"

"Would half-past nine suit you?" said Miller, affably, and Landon nodded.

"Charmed, I'm sure," he grinned again, and tossed off his third glass with unction. "Here's luck!" he cried, and Mr. Miller, who used spirits sparingly, and in the afternoon not at all, was forced to include himself in the aspiration with the good fellowship which is implied in a courteous bow.

At half-past nine Aylmer's soldier servant found, as Landon had prophesied, nothing extraordinary in his master's guest's return. The glint of a second half crown shone persuasively in that guest's hand as he expressed his desire to write a note to await the master's coming. He was shown without any demur into the sitting-room, and supplied with pen and paper.

But Landon's talents were not wasted on literary composition when he was left alone. He produced a pair of pliers and dealt very drastically with the padlock on the bookcase, opened the glazed doors, and ran his fingers down the numbers engraved upon the morocco-bound volumes. He selected one, opened it, flipped the pages, and finally came to a halt, his finger-tip poised above a plan.

He closed the book and went to the window. He opened it noiselessly.

"Number 34 North Front. Elevation of gun platforms with angles to east and south," he enunciated very quietly but very distinctly into the night.

A grayness stirred in the shadow below the window. There was a whispered reply.

"Right!" answered Miller's voice laconically, and Landon poised the book in mid-air.

"Can you see it?" he asked, still below his breath. There was an affirmative grunt from below.

The book left Landon's hand and fell through the night. There was a faint shock as it reached the waiting grip in the darkness.

Landon quietly and methodically shut the window and turned to the desk. He leaned, pen in hand, over the note-paper.

There was the click of a latch-key. He swung round to confront his cousin.

For a second the two eyed each other in silence. Then Landon rose slowly to his feet.

"I came, forgetting that you were dining out," he said. "I came because I reasoned that by now ... you would be wanting ... to offer me an apology."

Aylmer looked at the desk. Landon followed the glance.

"I was going to explain—why?" he added, pointing at the unsullied note-paper.

And then Alymer's gaze, which had been concentrated on his cousin's face, slipped past it and found, by chance, the bookcase.

His brows met in a puzzled frown; he made a step forward; he bent to examine the fractured padlock. Then he straightened himself and gave an exclamation.

Landon was ready. He drew a revolver from his pocket; he held it by the muzzle. And the butt came down with business-like vigor on Aylmer's temple. He seemed to crumple up rather than fall. He slid against the bookcase to the floor.

The dawn was breaking before, confusedly, achingly, consciousness wavered back to him again—the same dawn which saw a Spanish steamer drop anchor in Tangier's roads and Landon, with a satisfied smile, swing down the ladder into the boat which was to take him ashore.



Aylmer looked up as Despard came into the room. A kit bag lay on the floor half full and Aylmer's man was packing it. Despard raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Going?" he asked quickly. "Where?"

"Tangier," said Aylmer. "To-night, by the Forwood boat."

Despard gave a little whistle.

"And the Commission?" he objected.

"I've had very special luck there," explained Aylmer. "Sir Arthur went down with influenza yesterday morning. So the Commission, instead of meeting this week as proposed, adjourns till the end of November."

He leaned down, gave a searching glance into the bag, and closed it.

"That will do, Sillery," he said to the servant. "I'll call if I want you."

As the man went out Despard dropped down upon the sofa. He sat and looked across at his companion with a glance which blended inquiry and concern.

"I've heard only rumors, so far," he remarked.

Aylmer made a little gesture towards the bookcase, which was still broken but empty.

"I came back unexpectedly last night. I had been discussing a point with the general at dinner and ran across to find a book to prove my contention. I found Landon here, ransacking the bookcase. One volume is gone. He took me unawares and knocked me out. I didn't come to for several hours."

Despard made an inarticulate exclamation of anger.

"And he escaped, out of Gibraltar?"

"By the Miramar, so the police declare. A Spanish tramp, going down the Moroquin coast and stopping first at Tangier."

"He's gone to kill two birds with one stone," said Despard. "And you are pursuing?"

"Naturally," said Aylmer, in a very matter-of-fact voice.

"And your leave home—Scotland—cub hunting?"

"That goes, of course. Possibly, if ten weeks is insufficient, my secretaryship goes. Perhaps, old chap, even my commission."

Despard got up with a startled jerk.

"What's that?" he cried fiercely. "What's that?"

Aylmer's hand made a deprecative motion.

"My duty's plain, isn't it?" he asked.

"No!" retorted Despard. "If these old women of Commissioners have no more sense than to direct you to keep important books in a simple bookcase in your quarters—"

"Oh, the book?" interrupted Aylmer, placidly. "Of course, there's the book."

Despard halted, hesitated, and looked at his friend with curiosity.

"You mean the contents of it? You can't help them getting known?"

Aylmer nodded.

"We must recognize the fact that they are known by whoever buys them, or whoever hired Landon to steal them."

"Then why worry; why pursue, why start on this wild-goose chase?" He pointed to the great bruise on Aylmer's forehead. "It's outrageous, with that on you. It's probably dangerous."

For a moment Aylmer was silent. He stood looking at Despard, and his eyes seemed to express a sort of speculative criticism.

"Landon is my cousin," he said at last, as if he put the keystone to an argumentative arch.

"What of it?"

For the second time Aylmer hesitated before he spoke.

"It seems to me," he said slowly, "that in this part of the world I am responsible for the good name which he is smirching. He has gone to Tangier—not only to save his skin. He has gone to commence a campaign of terrorization against the Van Arlens. Merely as an Aylmer I have to pit my hand against his, merely to clear our name and to do my duty. And there is more than that. Since Landon, for moral purposes, is dead, I consider that morally, and very possibly legally, I am the child's guardian. To keep my trust I have to safeguard the child from his father."

Despard tapped his fingers doubtfully upon the mantelpiece.

"And the Van Arlens?" he questioned.

There were tones in his voice which made Aylmer pause over his portmanteau.

"The Van Arlens? I am, of course, going to them direct."

Despard hesitated.

"You can't work with them," he said at last. "They won't accept your help."

A flicker of emotion, first of pain and then of purpose, gleamed in Aylmer's eyes.

"But they may need it," he answered. He looked at Despard searchingly.

"And why not?" he went on. "What have they against me except my name?"

"You don't know what it has come to mean to them, in eight years," said Despard, quietly.

And then a queer little silence fell between them, an interval which seemed charged with the electricity of emotion. Despard looked at Aylmer. His friend was staring in his direction, but with a meditative, impersonal gaze which seemed to glance through—not at—him. And a smile grew faintly about his lips, though these, indeed, were pressed firmly together.

He straightened his shoulders, he sighed.

"Of course I start handicapped," he allowed. "But I can run a waiting race." And then he gave an involuntary start and a quick, curious glance at his companion. "We aren't competitors?" he asked suddenly.

The crimson surged up under the tan on Despard's forehead. He laughed harshly.

"The race was run and I was beaten, nine years ago," he said. "There will be no other entry, for me." He walked up to Aylmer and laid his hand upon his shoulder.

"God knows, old chap, I wish you luck. But you carry weight, there's no denying that."

Aylmer nodded again.

"To carry weight one wants a stayer," he said. "And I can stay, Despard."

The other nodded.

"Yes," he said quietly. "You can stay. And as far as I know, the course is clear." His voice halted and stumbled queerly. "I ran straight, too, but I was fouled."

And with a grip of Aylmer's hand he went out, to lay the balm of hope against the unhealed wound fate had dealt him, nine long years before.

As twenty-four hours later Aylmer climbed the steps from the water's edge to the pierhead of Tangier, a red fez was doffed from a close-cropped skull and out of a little crowd of hotel touts a Moor saluted with a welcoming smile.

"A pleasant surprise, Sidi," he remarked affably. "There is no hunt abroad to-day."

Aylmer shook his head gravely.

"Not in thy meaning, Daoud," he answered. He moved closer to him. "A Spanish boat—the Miramar came in at dawn?" he questioned.

The Moor hesitated and then turned to shout to a companion. The man answered with a laconic affirmative.

Daoud nodded.

"Yes, Sidi. She came in. As you see, she has gone again."

"Who landed from her?"

Again Absalaam put queries to the assembled loafers. They answered obscenely but with directness.

"A man came ashore with the captain and did not return with him," said the Moor. "Is this, then, an affair of importance?"

"I will give fifty dollars to him who brings me face to face with that man," said Aylmer, quietly. "Let your fellows know this."

Absalaam frowned ferociously and then laughed, a queer, high-pitched nasal laugh.

"My fellows!" He swept his hand towards the pier loafers witheringly. "Does the Sidi think that I am of this noble company of—of dogs and eaters of dirt?" He laughed again, cheerfully this time. "After all, I have given the Sidi every reason to believe it. But it is not so. My work in Tangier sends me strange companions, but I am not of them. And there is no need that these should debauch themselves with your fifty dollars, Sidi. I will see to this thing!"

Aylmer made a gesture of assent.

"As you will, so that the matter is done with speed. I stay at the Bristol. For the moment I visit the Villa Eulalia."

"You can spare yourself the heat and the mounting of the hill, Sidi. They of the villa set forth on an expedition to the lighthouse this morning."

Aylmer came to a halt, irresolute.

"This is not mere talk; you know it?"

The Moor looked at him with sombre eyes which, however, barely hid a twinkle.

"The lady, the little lord, and their attendants went; this I saw myself. Absalaam ibn Said, their dragoman, is my cousin. I spoke with him."

"The old man?"

Daoud's shrug conveyed the fact that he was sufficiently conversant with the customs of Nazrani to have neglected the movements of one who could surely not claim the attentions which were notoriously the due of his daughter.

"I did not concern myself to notice the old man, Sidi. If your business is with him, doubtless it is God's will that he awaits you."

He waved towards the town with a determined and energetic sweep of the hand.

"I go, to earn your dollars, Sidi. One hour may suffice me; perchance I must waste three or even four. But I shall find him, have no doubt of the matter. Have I your leave to depart?"

As they passed together under the shadow of the Marsa gate, Aylmer nodded and the next moment passed alone into the crowd. A side alley had swallowed Daoud as if by magic.

Aylmer joined the main stream of traffic which breasted up past the Mosque and the little Sôk towards the Gate of the Great Market, and so, past the hovels of the desert vagrants which cluster round the walls, to the Marshan and the European quarter outside the town.

A little apart from the cluster of Legations stood the Villa Eulalia, encircled with its tiny park. This, in its turn, was bounded by a high wall of plaster or dried mud. The entrance led under an archway by a porter's lodge.

A Moor in a spotless bournous appeared and made a grave gesture of obeisance as the visitor stood in the shadow of the porch.

Aylmer presented his card.

The man inspected it and pulled a cord. Some way off, inside the house, came the clang of a bell. Another man emerged, took the card which the porter handed him, and disappeared. All this time Aylmer still stood outside the gate.

Perhaps a certain irritation showed on his face, for the porter made a gesture of deprecation.

"If the Sidi would sit—?" He submitted courteously, indicating his own chair. "I do not know the Sidi," he added, with another tiny shrug, "or else—" His voice died away. He let it be inferred that circumstances, not his own desire, stood between the visitor and instant welcome.

Aylmer smiled.

"Strangers do not have the entrée?" he asked, as he seated himself.

The man bowed a grave affirmative.

"These are my orders, Sidi," he answered. "But if the Sidi comes again he will find that I have a good memory. I do not forget a face."

Aylmer nodded. "I hope to prove it, my friend," he said quietly, and then sat silent, reviewing his surroundings.

There is probably no more beautifully situated dwelling in Africa than this wide one-storied house upon the knoll which dominates the Marshan with Tangier at its feet. Beyond the clustered houses of the town lies the blue of the bay. Beyond that again the gray vagueness of Gibraltar, Cadiz, and the cork woods of Spain. On clear days, high, white, and mystical looms, above all, the snow of the Sierra.

Far to the east stands the ring of mountains which encircles Tetuan, and this, for many months of the year, has its own crown of white. Away to the west is the infinite emptiness of the Atlantic beyond Spartel, while southward, a barrier between the sea and the desert wastes, Sheshouan rears up its mighty crest. To whichever quarter the eye turns there is loveliness—loveliness both of color and of line. And the lucent clearness of the atmosphere emphasizes both. Sometimes the mist floats in and covers the seascape with a cloud of mystery, but it is seldom, save in the short time of the rains, that the landward view is anything but sun-swathed. And the sands which stretch between the river and the town walls seem to suck in his rays and render them back from their yellow richness when his face is obscured.

What nature has done for the distant views artifice has graven upon the immediate surroundings. Pipes laid down to the little River of the Jews, which babbles below the knoll, bring up water to irrigate the lawns which surround the verandahs. Nowhere in Tangier is there such a carpet of living green. The creepers climb the verandah posts and trail unrestrained upon the roof. Great white, red, and yellow flowers swing from pole to pole as the sea breeze freshens; trailing tendrils of vine and clematis nod through the open windows and mingle with the cords of the string curtains. And the plash of water adds to the sense of leisure and repose. A little fountain plays ceaselessly from the summit of a massed pyramid of rocks and rambles down into the grass between clustered ferns. In masses of six and seven the date palms fling shade from trunk to trunk.

Peace was the pervading element, Aylmer told himself, as he looked down the shady alleys and listened to the voice of the fountain, and yet peace, as facts went, was further from this abode than from the clangors of the market-place in the faction-riven town at their feet. This was no house of pleasure; it was a fortress, with the enemy ever at the gate.

The precautions of his own entrance were sign enough, but other things bore witness. A score of gardeners was not necessary to tend the two acres of pleasaunce, elaborately planned and kept though they were. There was no entrance save the one; two others had been solidly walled in. Bars were on the windows; massive bolts upon the inner wooden gate beyond the iron one.

Remembering to whom this debt of anxiety and watchfulness was due, Aylmer set his lips yet more grimly as he waited. Landon should pay to the uttermost, not only for the wrongs which he had heaped year by year upon his wife and her relations, but for the injury he had done to those of his own blood. Aylmer's eyes grew hard; his color rose angrily. He, John Aylmer, a reputable man, sat and waited admission to a house like a common mendicant, because Landon was a scoundrel. And beyond this, was there not more? Had he not had to endure a look of repulse, of loathing, from eyes—for the first time he confessed it, even to himself—which had become to him the very eyes of Fate. By God! Landon should pay bitterly for that!

A step upon the gravel scattered his reflections. He looked up. Mr. Van Arlen was coming towards him, his head bent to that courteous, suavely interested inclination which is a relic of the old school of politeness. No man under sixty has had the time, or the inclination, to practise these old-time graces.

Aylmer rose, and held out his hand. Mr. Van Arlen, with profuse gesticulations, insisted on personally bringing forward a couple of low deck chairs into the shadow of the palms. He waved his visitor to take a seat.

Aylmer bowed, but preferred, he said, to stand. There was a significance in his tone which did not escape, was, indeed, not meant to escape, his companion. The old gentleman gave him a keen and somewhat disquieted look.

"But I cannot sit if you do not," he protested. He gave the back of the chair a seductive little pat. "Let me persuade you," he pleaded anxiously.

"Mr. Van Arlen," said Aylmer, slowly, "I am not received here as a friend. I prefer, therefore, to give my message standing, as a matter of business."

The gray, furrowed face flushed.

"My dear sir!" protested the old man. "My dear sir!"

"You obviously evade my hand; you do not desire to ask me inside your house?" insisted Aylmer, quietly.

The other raised a hand which shook deprecatingly. But Aylmer forestalled his attempt at speech.

"You do these things, or rather you avoid doing them, without any personal cause of complaint against me, but because my name is what it is?"

Van Arlen's hand fell to his side. The pained remonstrative look faded from his eyes. His lips, which had quivered, grew suddenly set and were firmly pressed together. He seemed to increase in stature.

"Is not my reason good?" he cried sharply, as if some relentlessly passionate impulse mastered all restraint.

"No," said Aylmer, quietly, "though I grant your provocation has been ample. Let me tell you this. If there are any men breathing whose loathing of your son-in-law can equal your own, it is those who are tainted with his name. In the name of my kinsmen, a name all reputable till Landon smirched it, I tender you their sympathy and regret."

For a long instant the gray eyes beneath the grayer eyebrows searched Aylmer's face. Doubt, perplexity, and then finally a thrill of obvious relief passed across the waxen face. Aylmer's hand was taken; he was gently propelled towards a chair.

"I have suffered much; can I be forgiven?" said the old man wearily. "Can you make my excuses valid to yourself?"

"They were written, and the shame of our family with them, all too large in the press of two hemispheres," said Aylmer. "God knows I am not here to-day to bring anything more than such little reparation as is within my power."

"Reparation?" Van Arlen's tone was more than surprised; it was startled.

Aylmer nodded.

"I came to give you information of Landon's whereabouts. He is here in Tangier, Mr. Van Arlen. I came to put you on your guard, and at the same time to offer you my assistance."

Quickly, accurately, and in as few words as possible he outlined the events of the previous evening. Silently, but with growing anxiety, Mr. Van Arlen heard him to the end.

He rose, trembling a little, as Aylmer concluded.

"You will excuse me if I leave you to—to give some orders. The one outstanding fact in your story for me is that Landon is here, and that my daughter and the boy are on this expedition. They have their usual attendants, but—but—" He halted, stammering. "He—he may poise his all on one last attempt? He may get together a following which would overpower them?"

Aylmer looked at him debatingly.

"Yes," he allowed. "That is a possibility to be faced though I believe his resources are, or were, meagre. You will take more men and go and meet them?"

The old man made a gesture of apology.

"Yes," he said. "And, if you will pardon my curtness, at once."

"The sooner the better," agreed Aylmer, quietly, "as I hope to be allowed to accompany you?"

Van Arlen gave a little start, one that seemed to imply a doubt or a question. As if he replied to it, Aylmer gave a little nod.

"You must accept me as an ally, my dear sir," he said. "You have seen that I have a pressing need to meet Landon. I should like to do so in your company."

The other still hesitated.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because I would like to make the interview convincing—to you," said Aylmer. "Because I covet your friendship; because I want you and your family to revise their estimate of the name of Aylmer. Because," he paused and deliberated over his words for a moment, "because I want to be received by you at Villa Eulalia, inside."

Again the gray face flushed; again the hand was raised in deprecation. And then the bell in the porch rang furiously, and continued to ring till the porter emerged frowning from his lodge.

Aylmer heard the sound of blows and his own name repeated in fierce interrogation. He recognized the voice. It was Daoud who was shouting and endeavoring to gain entrance in the face of the porter's emphatic protests.

As Aylmer advanced to the bars, the tumult ceased.

"Sidi! Sidi!" cried the Moor. "Your man left by the Larache road three hours back. A company of ne'er-do-wells have taken a sudden impulse to visit Arzeila, or so they said. He joined himself to them, wearing native dress, and was accepted by them without comment. Surely there is something of strangeness and importance in this. I have run, I have sweated, to let you know!"

Van Arlen gave an exclamation of alarm.

"It is as I thought!" he cried. "The Arzeila road? That is a blind. They can make a cut across towards Spartel at any moment." He shouted towards one of the watching attendants; his voice seemed to gain new force as he issued his orders alertly. He faced Aylmer again. "It is a matter of speed," he exclaimed. "I must hasten—at the gallop."

Aylmer gave him a protesting look.

"Not I! We," he corrected.

For a moment the other still hesitated. Then a smile broke into being in his sombrely weary eyes.

"We, then," he agreed. "Even the gentleman who has sadly impaired the distinction of my porter, if you can guarantee him. We may need all the help we can get. Certainly we! God send we may be in time!"



The cavalcade of horsemen swept along a level plain of beach and from there turned aside to gain the broom-covered slope which led towards the cliff top. The white column of the lighthouse, which had been their guide heretofore, disappeared behind the shoulder of the ascent. It was no more than a couple of miles away. The riders spurred their horses up the steep, Aylmer and Van Arlen leading. The edge of their anxieties grew blunter as they neared their goal. They might be in time to meet and safeguard those they sought before they left the shelter of Spartel.

As they topped the rise and looked across the undulating stretch of green which lay before them, Daoud, riding behind Aylmer, gave a triumphant shout.

"La bas, alkumdullah!" he cried fervently. "No harm, thanks to God. The lady is even now coming towards us with her party unharmed."

Their eyes followed the direction of his finger. A great sigh of relief broke from Mr. Van Arlen's lips.

A party came slowly towards them, a couple of furlongs distant. Seven or eight were men mounted on barbs, and armed, in spite of prohibitions, with Remington rifles swung across their laps. In front of them, a couple of mules paced doggedly on, carrying two white-clad figures. At their bridles were djelab-clothed youths, whose adjurations of their charges were audible even at that distance, so still was the evening air. Two or three dogs chased each other and supposititious partridges from tuft to tuft.

Van Arlen and Aylmer saw that they were seen, but not recognized. The muleteers halted and cried loudly to the guard. The horsemen looked up, whirled up their rifles with their right hands, and spurred to the front.

Daoud's bull voice stormed the cliff echoes.

"Absalaam—Absalaam ibn Said! Son of foolishness! It is I, Daoud, with Sid' Aylmer and thine employer!"

The rifle muzzles were lowered; the horsemen drew aside, and the two white-clad figures led again. A minute later Aylmer reined in his horse, and raised his helmet at Miss Van Arlen's side. Daoud, with a self-satisfied smile, was understood to explain that owing to his unparalleled management the expedition had resulted in an unprecedented success.

The girl's eyes were raised questioningly, first to her father's face, and then doubtfully, almost, indeed, unwillingly, to Aylmer's. She bowed to him coolly, not ungraciously, but with no effect of welcome. He sat silent, watching as she listened to the explanation which the elder man gave in a rapid undertone.

She made no comment till he finished, but at the first mention of Landon's name she unconsciously, as it seemed, edged her horse in a direction which took her away from Aylmer and closer to her small nephew, who sat on his gray donkey, staring at the newcomers with the frank astonishment of childhood. Aylmer noticed the movement. Was it instinctive maternal impulse which drew her to her charge when she heard that danger threatened him? Or was it antipathy for himself—the antipathy which long prejudice had given her for all who bore her brother-in-law's dishonored name? The shadow of doubt clouded his eyes, but his lips grew hard and resolute. Despard, if he had been there, would have recognized the symptoms. It was with that expression that Aylmer had led his guns into action on Colenso's already forgotten day of blood.

But as Mr. Van Arlen's narrative continued, the girl's features relaxed. She turned and for the second time looked at Aylmer, doubtfully, indeed, but with the doubt of one who reconsiders, whose verdict is shaken by appeal.

"Captain Aylmer has been at considerable trouble to warn us," she said.

Aylmer shook his head.

"No," he said quietly. "The warning I brought you was only part of my obvious duty. Surely you see that?"

There was a queer note of feeling below the restraint in his voice. She recognized it and interest grew in her glance. She looked at him keenly.

"After all, you have put yourself out to assist us in what is solely our own hazard," she protested. But there was something in her look which seemed to put the emphasis of her words awry. Was she hinting that he might have minded his own business, or was she pricking his sense of honor purposely, to judge him out of his own mouth.

"I thought of your hazard, truly enough," he answered slowly. "I was thinking, perhaps more earnestly, of my own and my family's reputation. You forget that if you and your father have a heavy reckoning against my cousin, his own kinsmen, whom I represent, consider that theirs is no lighter."

She considered him gravely.

"No," she answered quietly. "No, I did not get that point of view. I did not even believe it a possible one, amongst Aylmers. There I have to ask your forgiveness."

There was the hint of a smile lurking in her eyes, something that hinted that she exaggerated in saying this and knew it. But there was perfect seriousness in his reply.

"That is taken for granted. And my position in this matter is taken for granted, too?"

She looked at him questioningly again and then at her father. The latter smiled.

"Captain Aylmer has his own grudge against this child's father. He offers us his co-operation."

"And I ask for the friendly treatment of an ally," added Aylmer, quietly.

Her look was still doubtful and, unconsciously, perhaps, she frowned.

"Considering what we already owe you—" she began. He interrupted with a gesture.

"You owe me nothing," he said. "If you reckon profit and loss in your dealings with Aylmers, you have a wide balance against you. All I want is your friendly tolerance, while I pay in instalments."

She still seemed to ponder his proposal, to review it with the interest of a curiosity which has been imperfectly fed.

"What is your ultimate goal, then?" she asked.

He hesitated. A queer glint of passion shone in his eyes to sink into shadow again.

"My goal is the trapping of Landon into an English gaol, for espionage and robbery. Or—" He shrugged his shoulders meaningly.


"Or his death," he said, in very distinct, level tones.

"Ah!" The exclamation came from her almost unconsciously. Her face shone with a sudden alertness, her expression warmed, her eyes grew bright.

"You would not hesitate—at that?" she demanded.

Mr. Van Arlen made a little inarticulate murmur of protest; his hand was stretched towards her with appeal.

She disregarded it. Her eyes were fixed piercingly on Aylmer's face.

He met her glance with matter-of-factness.

"I should not hesitate, if need arose," he said.

She drew a long breath. Her features relaxed.

"Thank you," she said gravely. "Now I know where we stand. And then—that is all?"

This time it was his eyes which held hers with insistence, almost with menacing, she told herself.

"No," he said quietly. "That is—not all. But that, for the present, is enough."

For a moment her heart seemed to halt in its beat, the blood rushed to her face, the pulse of anger which leaped through her gave her a queer sense of choking. For she understood. Incredible, monstrous, as his purpose appeared in the light of her loathing of those who bore his name, she had not misread it. His words? They were possibly nebulous. But his eyes? No. No woman could misunderstand that look. Steadfast, patient, determined—the unswerving gaze of the pioneer who sees the unseen goal with the eye of faith, and sees it won.

She wheeled her mule with a fierce drag of the rein; her spur found its flank and forced it forward. She felt morally stunned by this—this insolence; mere words could not meet it. For the moment she felt herself deprived of weapons by the unexpectedness of the attack.

Her movement set the whole party in motion. Her father reined up to her side. She stole a half glance at his face. There was a queer, partly grim, partly puzzled expression on it, but she read, too, a glint of humor? Her exasperation rose. Her father, even? Had he gone over to the enemy; could she no longer reckon that his support would not crumble from resentment into laughter? Oh, this imperturbable Englishman should pay for this! If there was one shaft of gall left in her woman's armory, he should pay! The insolence of the man—the unparalleled insolence!

Behind her she heard his voice, addressed to Absalaam in trivial inquiry. She felt an overwhelming desire to forestall the answer with indignant words of bitter loathing. His impassibility excited her—the serenity with which he passed back, as it were, to little things after launching such a bomb. She gave a shiver of passion, or, perhaps, fear had its place in her emotion. There was something relentless in his attitude, something uncompromising.

Absalaam's answer was forestalled, but not by her. Little John Aylmer's voice rang out, shrill with the joy of discovery.

"The brown man!" he cried rapturously. "The brown man!"

The other John Aylmer looked up. A couple of men had come into sudden view round a corner of the track. A clump of Spanish broom had hidden their approach; they gave an exclamation of alarm as they met the glances of the riders not thirty yards away.

One Aylmer recognized at once. He was the man of the pier, the would-be kidnapper whose purpose he himself had frustrated at the moment of success.

The other man made a movement to cover his face with the hood of his djelab, but by some apparent unadroitness let it fall further back. And so revealed his identity.

It was Landon—brought to a sudden halt by surprise.

Through a pregnant instant of silence they confronted one another. Then Aylmer spurred forward with a shout.

"Don't let them escape!" he roared. "A hundred dollars to the man who takes him!"

The two fugitives turned and ran desperately down the path, seeking wildly for an opening in the surrounding jungle. Surprise and terror appeared to have dazed them, for they passed several avenues of escape heedlessly, made half-hearted attempts to turn, and still blundered on between the caging walls of green. Aylmer thundered behind them, drawing nearer with every stride. He leaned forward in the saddle; his arm reached out within a yard of Landon's flying draperies; he spurred fiercely into his horse's flanks.

The two men leaped right and left into the green thicket as divers leap into the blue. And in the same instant something rose out of the earth—something thin, snake-like, starting suddenly into being, as it were, from the concealing smother of the dust into a rigid line knee high. Aylmer's horse stumbled, shot forward, and went down heavily. His rider was flung far beyond him, moved spasmodically once, and then lay still. The squadron of charging horsemen were trapped in their turn. Not one escaped. The goad of Aylmer's bribe had sent every man of them charging in the wake of his leadership. The taut-held rope accounted for them all, or for all save one. Absalaam, a consummate horseman, reined in on the brink of disaster, rearing his stallion high into the air.

The road was an inferno of yelling men and blood-stained horses.

The few Moors who were not stunned and incapacitated by their fall had to endure the perils of half a hundred wildly struggling hoofs. Scarcely six out of the score who had thundered so carelessly after their easy quarry fought a way for themselves out of the mêlée unharmed.

And of those six there was not one who did not come to a sudden halt with uplifted fingers as they gained the open road. A revolver barrel was pointed at each man's breast.

Ten or a dozen men had emerged from the thicket. They used no words; their fingers, significantly pressed upon the triggers, were eloquent enough. Only one spoke—Landon, who strolled slowly and panting a little into the circle which the menace of his underlings had formed.

He halted opposite Claire Van Arlen.

"Eh, sister-in-law!" he chuckled smilingly.

Her face was white, but her hand, which gripped the reins, was steady. And her gaze burnt upon his face in loathing and contempt.

"Rather neat?" said Landon, amiably. "I plume myself. My resources were limited, you see. I may congratulate myself upon having used them to the very best advantage."

Still she was silent and still her eyes flung him their message of hate. He gave a pleasant little laugh. He made a significant jerk of the head in the direction of the chaos behind him.

"And the virtuous cousin," he said. "What a fall is there, is there not? A hundred dollars! He actually appraised my poor liberty so high!"

For a moment the expression in her glance changed as she turned it in the direction of the still struggling horses and their riders. He saw it and laughed again.

"You divide your anxieties," he said. "Let me relieve you of one!"

He stretched out his hand and laid it gently upon his son's shoulder. "Are you coming with your father—to ride the black horse upon the sands?" he asked.

The child looked at him debatingly. His face lit up at the question, and then shadowed again as he turned his glance upon the motionless white figure on the mule beside him.

"Auntie won't have it—and Selim," he deplored.

"Won't they?" said Landon, good-humoredly. "I think they will."

He stared up in the girl's face with insolent satisfaction.

"In fact," he went on, "they've got to. Vulgarly, my boy, they may not like it, so they must lump it."

He made a gesture of command.

"Come, my son!" he said, motioning him to dismount.

A tension broke. She lifted up her riding-whip and struck hard at him, struck with the concentrated strength of passion and despair. He leaped aside, but the end of the lash reached him and left a staring weal of red upon his cheek.

He cursed aloud; he made as if he would spring at her.

A warning cry came from behind him; half a dozen revolver shots rang out upon the evening air.

Absalaam, sitting stark upon his stallion, covered by the revolvers which encircled him, had struck his spurs against his horse's flank. The fire in the animal's blood had responded in a great leap forward. Landon wheeled round to see, towering above him, man and horse, looming gigantic against the glare of the sunset. Instinctively, automatically, he threw up the muzzle of his own revolver, and fired full at the Moor's broad chest.

The other bullets flew wide, but that one, so near was the human target, had no room to miss. Absalaam fell limply, heavily from the saddle, fell at his mistress's feet. The horse tore past a dozen restraining hands into liberty.

There was shouting, confusion, the rattle of other shots. And then the voice of the brown djelabed man thundered out high above the uproar.

"In God's name, Sidi, have haste. Four of them have fled into the thicket! God alone knows what help they may bring their fellows and how soon!"

And Landon, who had been flung to his knees in the dust, rose swiftly, without another word snatched his son from the saddle, and led the way into the jungle.

In five short minutes he had come, conquered, and gone. He had won every trick, every trick! Claire passed her hand across her brow as she stared at the huddle of wounded and—she shuddered in agony as the thought thrilled—perchance the dead! What lay within that ring of broken bodies—what? With white lips and fear-brimmed eyes she slipped from her saddle to see.



It seemed to Aylmer that the world into which he woke was one of stillness, of neutral tints, of intrinsic peace. There was a hint of sunshine diluted by the green hangings in front of the windows, but no more than a hint. There was a faint echo of the sound of falling water floating in with the light, but merely an echo. There was, in fact, but the slightest suggestion of life in his surroundings, and that came from the silently regular rise and fall of the bosom of the sleeping man who sat at his bedside. Aylmer blinked and stared in mild surprise, for the man was Daoud.

He moved restlessly under the sheets. Where was he? Into what unsought refuge had Fate flung him now?

His movement, slight as it was, aroused the Moor. With a little self-reproachful exclamation he stood up and leaned over the bed.

"Oh, Sidi!" he cried, "it rejoices my heart to read the light of understanding in your eyes."

Aylmer blinked again bewilderedly.

"Where am I and what do you here?" he asked.

"You are in Villa Eulalia, Sidi, and where should I be but in attendance on my lord?"

Astonishment lifted Aylmer into a weak attempt to rise. The Moor put a hand upon his shoulder and firmly pressed him back.

"Nay, Sidi," he said respectfully. "The German doctor lord expressly forbade that you should raise your head from the pillow till he had seen you again."

Aylmer began to feel as if his wits as well as his body had been bludgeoned. Circumstances seemed to have leaped freakishly beyond his recollection.

"I was brought here when?" he asked.

"Yesterday, Sidi. Your brain was sorely smitten inside your skull, or so I understood the man of medicines. For fifteen hours you have lain as one feigning death, though breathing. Now you have come into the right of your senses again. This the medicine man also prophesied."

The puzzled frown stayed on Aylmer's brow.

"And you?" he demanded. "And you?"

The Moor answered with a demure shrug of the shoulder.

"Your wounded brain has perchance forgotten, Sidi, that I entered your benign service on the morning of the day which saw you defeated by the treachery of that one whom we sought, you and I. My service has been constant ever since."

He met his victim's increasing frown with complacent assurance as he spoke. Surely everything, he seemed to imply, was in order. And as the situation became clear to Aylmer's growing intelligence, the frown became an exasperated smile.

"You have used my helplessness to impose yourself into this house as my body-servant," said Aylmer. "Oh, Daoud, you are of a deceitfulness beyond my unpractised powers of speech."

"Speech beyond the mere limits of necessity was strongly discountenanced by the German doctor lord," said Daoud, hastily. "Has the Sidi any further desires?"

"None, save for information. Speak thou! Give me the plain tale of all happenings since I fell into that trap upon the road. The man we sought—did he escape?"

The Moor nodded.

"He escaped victoriously, with all his following. He took also the child, the Sidi Jan, who, so they tell me, is the son of his house. They took themselves unmolested into the tangle of the broom, leaving of our company one dead—from the kick of a horse, Sidi—half a dozen senseless, yourself among them, Absalaam grievously wounded in the bosom, though like to recover, and all, save four or five, with bruises, broken limbs, or, at least, frayed and bleeding skin. So they fled, but Ali, of the Walad Said, who had been flung away from the hardness of the open track into the heart of the thicket, had taken no harm and followed them to the caves."

Aylmer gave a start.

"The caves?" he muttered weakly. "The caves?"

"The Sidi knows them well. The caves of Hercules beyond Spartel, where the millstone carvers ply their toil and where the Sidi and other Nazrani ride forth to eat and drink upon occasion when they entertain their friends."

Aylmer nodded. The caves of Hercules are the resort of many a picnic party from Tangier.

"Leaving them there, he hastened back with news. The Sidi Van Arlen, lord of this house, was by then recovered of the stunning which he, too, had suffered, and weak though he was immediately led forth another company to search the caves. And this they did unsuccessfully, Sidi, learning from one of the millstone workers, who had doubted of the integrity of these sons of dirt before they saw him, and who had therefore hidden himself and watched them unseen, that after a rest of three or four hours the men, taking with them the child, had passed down to the shore, had there awaited and been taken off by a boat which delivered them, so he conceived, to a lateen which he could descry in the moonlight about three furlongs out. And in that ship they have gone we know not whither."

Aylmer's fingers clenched and unclenched upon the coverlet. How thoroughly, how absolutely, they had been bested! But the account was rolling up. Ultimate defeat? His mind never even considered it. He merely put another item in the mental ledger from which Landon's account would one day be presented, and paid, in full.

"Let not the Sidi imagine that we have sat inactive while these sons of unchaste mothers triumph. I myself snatched a hasty hour from your bedside to enter the town and set certain ones agog for news. The Sidi Van Arlen hath telegraphed to Spain; every Guardia Civile along the coast has knowledge of how a reward of a thousand pesetas may be gained. By favor of the captain of the French warship all other ships of the French marine within three hundred miles have been warned to challenge unvouched-for boats. How this is done I am unable to say, but so it is. Watch upon the seas is therefore being kept. Now steam is being raised upon the white yacht in the bay, that when news comes it may be followed without delay. Lastly, a special mission has been sent by favor of the Bashaw from town to town along the coast as far as Dar-el-Baida. Thus have we set a wide net. Yet it has holes in it, Sidi, and holes are what these jackals are ever quick to seek."

With a sudden movement, Aylmer sat up. A frown and a gesture of command warded back Daoud's outstretched hand.

"Art thou my servant?" he cried, and the Moor spread out his palms in alert assent.

"Of a surety, Sidi, but the dispenser of medicines—"

"What have I to do with medicines—I, a strong man with no more than a bruised skull? Give me my clothes!"

"But, Sidi—"

"My clothes, or return instantly to the gutter from which my favor yesterday lifted you!"

The Moor gave a fatalistic shrug.

"If Allah has written it that you are to die by the weapon of thine own obstinacy, oh, Sidi, He has written it. This is thy shirt."

With an accustomedness which spoke of previous practice, he presided over his master's toilet. He fetched water, honed a razor, shaved Aylmer with deftness and despatch, produced trousers from a press, handed coat and waistcoat brushed and folded to the last pinnacle of neatness. It was as he laced the boots that he looked up inquiringly and put a question which had been obviously hanging upon his lips since the moment of his master's rising.

"And what, oh, Sidi, are your intentions now?"

"First, to see my host. Afterwards," he made a vague gesture, "afterwards, my friend, I shall act as is directed by your perpetual gossip—Fate!"

"May Allah direct our councils!" aspired Daoud, piously. "Lean upon me, Sidi! There is no need to overtax thy returning strength!"

But Aylmer leaned upon nothing. Slowly, but walking erect, he paced across the wide entrance hall, and then halted, indeterminate.

The hangings across a door opposite him were drawn aside. Claire Van Arlen stood confronting him, her lips parted in amazement.

"You!" she protested breathlessly. "You!"

He answered with a little bow.

"Myself," he said quietly. "I must present my excuses for an ... intrusion which it was not within my power to prevent."

She held up her hand in protest.

"When you were wounded in our service!" she cried. "When you were doing your best for us!"

He shook his head.

"No," he said. "I am working, I shall go on working, for myself. I should like that to be clear."

She half turned away with a little startled motion and the ghost of a frown. Words trembled on her lips and were thrust back. She understood, and would have sought, at any other time, this opportunity to make things clear indeed, but ... the man was wounded ... serving her and hers. No, for the moment the opportunity must go by.

She held up the cord hangings and pointed into the room behind her.

"At any rate you must not stand, and I am extremely culpable to permit your mutiny against your doctor's orders. Why have you got up?"

He strode slowly after her into the shadowed room. He sat down upon the wicker chair which she indicated. His eyes sought hers, keenly and very directly.

"You have no news?" he asked. "Nothing out of Spain, or from the coast?"

Her eyes clouded.

"None, or next to none. The signal station at Spartel saw a lateen working her sweeps in the distance at dawn. There was a glassy calm inshore, but occasional and uncertain breezes out of the shelter of the land. She was making as if for Cadiz, but half an hour later, just as the haze covered her, a strong wind rose from the northwest and it is doubtful if she could have beaten up against it. In which case she probably stood down the coast."

Her voice was apathetic and a little weary. Her glance avoided his.

He gave a little nod as she finished.

"Yes," he said. "He has taken the first trick—Landon. And I have been no help to you but a hindrance. It was I who helped him last night—I, with my impulsiveness. There you have a right ... to suspect me."

She made a quick, restless movement.

"Suspect you!" she cried. "You!"

"Yes," he said slowly. "That day in the town, and on the pier, at the Tent Club meeting, even—was not that in your mind?"

His voice was not reproachful, merely inquiring.

She flushed.

"The first time I suspected every one," she answered. "The second time I discovered, suddenly and unexpectedly, your name."

He nodded.

"And now?" he questioned. "And now?"

"Now?" she repeated. "Have you not given me my proofs?"

"Have I?" His voice was eager. "I can reckon that barrier down then? The taint of the name is cleared away? I start with no handicap of prejudice?"

Again the form of words half bewildered, half exasperated her. Start? Start whither, in what race, to what goal? And were there barriers to be won, too? Between him and—what?

Her instinct gave her the answer as it had done the day before. But she shrank from the acknowledgment, even to herself. The thought was too monstrous. An Aylmer and—and that! The blood rushed to her forehead on the tide of her resentment. And then as suddenly ebbed. After all, was it not the name alone which sent that surging throb of repulsion through her veins? Supposing she had met this man, in ignorance. She started again. Had she not so met him, at first? She cudgelled her brains in reflection. How did she regard him that morning at the Tent Club, before she knew? Had he not seemed a personable, even a gallant and courageous soldier, worthy of a woman's regard? She looked at him suddenly, curiously, with a sort of speculation in her eyes.

And he met the glance quietly, watchfully, and—so she told herself with a recurrent thrill of exasperation—relentlessly as well. It was as if he was forcing her to be won from prejudice to impartiality. As if he willed her into just thinking against herself. A tiny spasm of fear pulsed through her. In a clash of purpose who would win, she or this man?

She made him a gesture which had about it the sense of appeal.

"One cannot dismiss prejudices; one can fight them," she faltered.


He sighed, not with weariness, but with a sort of patience, with restraint. "I think perhaps women do not accept mere justice as a plea so easily as men," he debated. "So I must not presume on that footing. I have still to win my way from ... dislike?"

"No!" she cried sharply. "No! I can be just to what you have done. What you are—that I have yet to learn, have I not?"

He smiled a little bitterly.

"I am an Aylmer. That is the lesson you have got by heart. I ask you to begin by unlearning."

She caught her breath a little quickly. Then she gave a decided little nod.

"Very well," she answered. "I—I will forget everything but the fact that you saved the boy once and that you—"

"Will do it again," said Aylmer. "That is a bargain?"

Again she hesitated over the form of words. A bargain? What was her side of the contract. If he fulfilled the purpose of which he spoke so confidently, what did it mean, from her point of view? She avoided the issue.

"You will find the child, you will bring him back?" she wondered.

"Of course!" He sat very erect in his chair. He smiled confidently. "In a fight between a rogue and honest men, the honest men win ultimately, and always. The green bay tree of the unrighteous grows with luxuriance but withers in time inevitably. I shall follow him till I win."

"And your career?" she asked incredulously. "Your profession?"

He smiled.

"That will be my career—to defeat Landon. Is it a reputable one for a gentleman?"

She made a motion of protest.

"But—but that is self-sacrifice, one which we couldn't accept. Why should you do this for us?"

He shook his head again.

"No," he said. "I must repeat it, I work for myself. I seek my own interest, and that, in the first place, is to make you just. I see but the one way to do it. I have to convince you that I am in earnest, have I not?"

Again that baffling allusion. In earnest in what? In defeating Landon, in attempting the rescue of the child? Surely he had proved that already. And yet how could she counter a point which she could not help allowing she now understood; how could she do it without the loss of dignity implied in an explanation? But it was grotesque. He had known her a bare week. He had met her on four occasions.

She looked up, met his eyes, and dropped her own. A tiny sense of panic overtook her. He sat there, indomitable. Suppose—suppose he ultimately made his purpose good. She made herself look at him again. He had, at any rate, good looks to recommend him. And courage and the respect of his fellows. But—again a wave of exasperation flowed over her mind. Oh, it was outrageous, unthinkable. An Aylmer—another Aylmer. Unconsciously her lips curved in a half sarcastic smile. Why, the very newspapers of the world would pile headline upon headline over such a fiasco. She stiffened with resentment, with a sense of being played with. Her voice was chill with a note of dignity outraged.

"I think the fact of your proposing to devote time and strength to the pursuit of—of your cousin is a very convincing one, Captain Aylmer," she answered. "The point is that we have no right to accept so much from you."

He smiled joyously.

"I shall always want to be giving, to you. Always, always. Please understand that. My service is to you, and so to myself. Try to think of me in that light, patiently."

And then a sort of desperation seized her. She probed her mind for a form of words which should give him no further loophole to persist in his veiled menaces, for she could call them no less, one that should seize a meaning out of his allusions and crush it with a directness which could not be misunderstood. Her eyes grew hard; she rose to her feet.

A step sounded in the hall, and the hangings were pushed aside. Her father stood before them.

He looked at Aylmer with amazed reproach. His face, already haggard with anxiety, took on new lines of concern.

"My dear sir!" he protested. "My dear sir!"

And Aylmer could not resist a smile. It was the form of protest which he had used at their former meeting to veil—what? Antipathy? And now? The words were full of genuine concern. He read no longer dislike in Mr. Van Arlen's glance. The elder man's eyes had softened as they reached his.

He warded off further reproaches with a question.

"The news?" he cried eagerly. "The news is what?"

"Good, in so far that we can gauge the direction of their flight. They have been seen passing Arzeila; the morning's gale has prevented their attempt to reach any port of Spain."

"And so—?"

"And so we start in pursuit with my yacht, within the hour."

Aylmer stood up.

"We?" he repeated. "We being—?"

Van Arlen looked mildly astonished.

"My daughter and I."

Aylmer held out his hand with a pleading gesture.

"You can't afford to despise my help," he said. "You must take me, too."

Van Arlen looked at Aylmer and then, questioningly, towards his daughter. She met his glance. Here at last was the opportunity to make things plain with a vengeance. They had but politely to decline.

Aylmer's voice forestalled her.

"To be impartial, that was your promise," he said. "We had not got far, but at least as far as that."

In spite of herself she turned and faced him. He met her glance steadily, confidently, expectant.

She gave a queer, half-exasperated little laugh.

"I think Captain Aylmer is a man who is easily refused nothing," she said, and passed quietly out of the room.



"I do not like this!" piped a small and dejected voice. "I came to ride a black horse, not to be bumped in this vessel forgotten of God!"

In English these words would have sounded strangely from the lips of a child of six, but little John Aylmer was fluent in the Arab jargon of his grandfather's native household.

He was sitting disconsolate in the cockpit of the lateen Esmeralda. His company was Señor Emilio Albaceda, mariner and practical exponent of the tenets of an uncompromising Free Trade. From the uncovered hatch came the sound of wind whistling in the cordage and the swish and thud of the combers breaking past. Upon one of the narrow bunks which flanked the tiny cabin lay Landon, fast asleep. A guttering and extremely odoriferous lamp of vegetable oil was the sole illuminant. The prospects of comfort and entertainment in such surroundings were not those likely to appeal to a child accustomed to luxury and constant attention.

"Pazienza!" grunted the skipper, good-humoredly. "Black horses are not found upon the sea, though a friend of mine who prefers the running of contraband to the priesthood for which his parents destined him, read me once verses from a journal—true poetry in praise of a boot polish the name of which does not stay by me—where the waves of the Atlantic were likened unto stallions white-maned. I confess I thought the notion original."

The child stared at him meditatively.

"If horses are not to be found upon the sea and we seek horses, why do not we forsake the sea for the land?" There was a note of anticipation in the query which seemed to find this argument conclusive.

The smuggler grinned.

"Excellently argued, son of much intelligence," he answered. "Land is what we shall seek when this gale breathed from Jehannum permits us to do so in safety. For the moment we drive before it, there being no harbors on this coast within a thousand miles."

The child moved restlessly.

"Where then can we land?" he demanded.

"Where God and His Mother and the Holy Saints permit," said Señor Albaceda, suddenly reverting to lingua franca to clothe a piety of sentiment which the Moslem religion ignores. The One Allah's plans, being laid from the foundation of the world, are not susceptible to the influences of human appeal.

Little John made a grimace of hearty discontent and looked doubtfully at the sleeping form of his father. But for the moment distraction came from another quarter.

Two brown legs appeared in the opening of the hatch. As their owner lowered himself into the cabin, he disclosed the features of the man of the brown djelab—he who on Tangier pier had been sponsor for those fiery but phantom steeds which Fate had not allowed to materialize. The child received him with a shrill little shout of welcome.

"Muhammed!" he cried gladly. "Muhammed!"

The Moor placed his lean finger upon the yellow curls in a light caress, but his look was towards the berth where Landon could be seen stirring, aroused by his son's acclamation.

He slipped into a sitting posture in front of the tiny table and leaned upon it, his chin supported by his elbows, a look of expectancy tinged by humor in his eye.

"Well, my friends," he queried amiably, "our news is, what?"

The Moor gave a pessimistic shrug of the shoulder.

"Bad, Sidi," he said tersely. "We continue to drive westwards as before."

Landon shrugged his shoulders.

"We shall not see Cadiz to-morrow nor the day after," he said. "Well, the future is spacious. We have infinite leisure before us in which to beat back."

The captain grunted.

"Leisure we have in abundance, but not food nor yet water. We must put in somewhere before we attempt a feat which will take, at the best, three days and, if Chance so decides, perhaps a fortnight."

Landon's face was clouded with a sudden scowl.

"Food and water! Why have you not these in sufficiency? Your terms are extortionate enough as it is without the makeweight of starvation!"

"My terms," said Señor Albaceda, gruffly, "were all too cheap; what I learned in Tangier after I had come to an agreement with you was proof to me of that. But I am a man of honor; I keep bargains duly made. I contracted to set you ashore in Cadiz harbor—with a favorable wind a one night's work. I did not contract to feed three extra mouths through a voyage of weeks. When the wind moderates, I make for the nearest market, and you will buy your own provisions for our return. That is well understood."

"You mean to land on the African coast, not the European?" cried Landon.

"Where else?" said the skipper, drily. "Do you expect me to carry you on to the Azores?"

Landon looked questioningly at Muhammed. The Moor made a gesture of resignation.

"Mektub, it is written!" he answered fatalistically. "Azemmour, perchance, or Mazagan."

"And opposite each we shall find a French cruiser anchored," growled Landon, "with launches fussing about, and every craft which enters under suspicion of smuggling guns for the Chawia. And ten to one warning about us from Tangier sent down the coast."

"That would be a matter of time," said the Moor. "We have driven faster than horsemen could ride!"

"Horsemen!" Landon smote the table in his irritation. "These ships of war have apparatus by which they can communicate as if a cable linked them. If my father-in-law gets the right side of the commandant of the Tangier guardship—" He broke off with another shrug. "Well, to each day its appointed sorrow. The gale has not blown itself out yet."

"The event is with Allah!" said the Moor, gravely. He thrust his head up through the hatch and shouted to the steersman. A moment later he dropped back into the shelter of the cabin again.

"Your man Ibrahim is of opinion that the wind shows signs of abating. We passed Larache two hours back. The scud hides the shore, but he judges that we are not far from Sallee. If the surf permits, we may get anchorage and make a landing at Azemmour. If not, we must dare Casablanca or continue to Mazagan."

Señor Albaceda grunted pessimistically and climbed lumberingly on deck. Landon threw himself back on the berth again. The Moor looked down at the child with a whimsical expression of pity which changed to a benignant smile as the object of it raised his eyes to his.

"The Sidi Jan has not heard the marvellous tale of the Bashaw of Tripoli and the Afreets of El Mut?" he submitted. "If it is the Sidi's will, his servant will now take the opportunity of relating it to him?"

Little John Aylmer answered with an ecstatic chuckle of delight, and wriggled hurriedly into the encirclement of his friend's arm. Thus supported, he was able to defy the unsettling influence of the waves and give the whole of his attention to the taxing of the Moor's memory or, when this occasionally failed, his very competent imagination. The hours of the afternoon were passed agreeably; the difficulties of making a meal without the ordinary appliances of civilization provided a certain amount of diversion when night fell, and afterwards sleep was paramount. When the child woke he found the boat running slowly upon an even keel, and scrambling on deck was met by the view of a glassy swell surrounding her, but only visible to the extent of the few square yards which were enclosed in a veil of fog.

The skipper was at the wheel, and Ibrahim, the deck hand, and Muhammed were seated side by side in the bows. They did not peer into the fog—a hopeless task. They sat in a listening attitude, exchanging a brief word now and again.

"It is certainly the drumming of a ship's screw," decided the sailor, after a moment's silence. "It is going at half speed, behind us."

"Let us hope that Allah has not predestined us to be cut in twain," said his companion. "But from port, and very regularly, I hear the beat of breakers. The swell is rolling against a cliff."

"A shore, not a cliff," corrected the other. "If my dead reckoning is right within a score of miles, we are opposite a beach of sand."

Muhammed shook his head.

"Nay, listen to that thud. The crest of the comber meets something flat. It does not roll, in slowly dying foam, upon a strand."

Ibrahim shrugged his shoulders.

"In a fog we be all blind men," he said pessimistically. "Let us wait for the fulfilment of Allah's plan."

They glanced questioningly upwards. As is common in these west coast fogs, the blanket of vapor was thin. Now and again a faint hint of blue above their heads seemed to presage a lifting of the mist; occasionally, indeed, the sun was to be seen vaguely as a round yellow ball of light, streaked by the slowly drifting scud. But the gray walls on each side of them remained unbroken. At the same time the beat of the breakers was perceptibly near.

Señor Albaceda lifted his head from the hatch and invited the maledictions of innumerable Holy Men upon the weather. He was understood to confess that he did not undertake to gauge their position within a hundred miles.

"If Allah's mercy would send us an offshore wind!" aspired the pious Ibrahim, and lo! with the word came its sudden fulfilment. The fog was rent by a gust, to disclose, not a couple of cable lengths distant, what appeared to be a smooth and painted crag of gray.

The two Moors addressed fervent appeals to the One God. The Spaniard, impartially apostrophizing the tormented of Purgatory and the celestially blessed to hasten to his assistance, delivered himself of the opinion that Fate had closed her iron hand upon them. Where else could they be than within a mile of the sea bastions of Casablanca?

That, did they observe, was a cruiser—nay, possibly a battleship by whose watch they had been observed without a shadow of a doubt. As the fog closed in again, he descended to the cabin where he could be heard loudly bewailing the situation to his passenger, whom he appeared to hold responsible for this and for a fairly extensive list of other inconveniences. The captain of the lateen Esmeralda had obviously been warding off the chill influences of the fog by a liberal dose of aguardiente.

Landon lifted himself quickly to the deck. The mist was perceptibly lighter by now. A beam of sunlight pierced it from above and lit the Esmeralda's deck. The gray wall was still unbroken landward, but seaward it thinned, lifted, rolled this way and that, and finally disclosed a shining plain of blue. The central object in this, a couple of miles away, was a white, gleaming yacht.

Landon swore.

"The Morning Star—Van Arlen's boat, by God!" he cried. He made the helmsman a furious gesture. "Into the fog again!" he shouted. "Stick her nose into it, get out of this!"

"To beat out her timbers upon the harbor reef, or be swamped beneath the bows of a warship!" screamed the skipper from the hatch. "Never! Keep her in the light, son of accursed mothers! Do passengers who have been born of leprous parents give orders aboard this vessel, or I, Concepcion Albaceda, to whom the law rightly adjudges powers of life and death?"

He came lurching heavily aft, waving a case bottle by the neck to give emphasis to his commands. The bewildered Ibrahim stared at him owlishly.

The next moment he gave a cry of alarm. Landon had tripped the captain's unsteady feet, and, aided by Muhammed, had taken him forward and flung him into the cockpit. They closed the hatch, secured it, and came aft again. Imperiously Landon repeated his order.

The unfortunate sailor still hesitated. His compatriot took him firmly by the nape of the neck.

"Into the fog, child of indescribable unfaithfulness," he commanded, "or become immediately bait for sharks! Choose!"

The bewildered Ibrahim brought round the tiller with a jerk. Like a rabbit seeking its burrow, the lateen dived fogwards.

As the gray wall surged up to them again, they turned and stared seaward. Landon cursed loudly. The yacht was turning, too, straight towards them. At a word from his master, Muhammed got out the great sweeps and invited Ibrahim imperiously to join him in working them. Landon took the helm.

Two minutes later there was a crashing sound forward and the bowsprit splintered with a shock which made the little vessel shiver throughout its length. A muffled wail of wrath and despair followed from the depths of the cockpit.

The wall of gray was towering above them. Over the bulwarks of the R. F. Cruiser Diomède a lieutenant looked down and anathematized them with a versatility only acquired by a true son of the sea. Landon bowed, smiled, and in perfect French, asked the liberty of being permitted to come aboard.

The lieutenant, surprised beyond measure to hear the accents of the Faubourg from the decks of such an unpromising craft, hastened to forget the collision between the Esmeralda's bowsprit and the Diomède's paint, and directed his petitioner to find the companion ladder. A minute's groping in the fog, and Landon stood upon the cruiser's deck.

He bowed elaborately. The lieutenant returned the bow and motioned him towards the quarter-deck. The captain came forward to receive him, smiling amiably.

"I must be perfectly frank with you, Monsieur le Commandant," said Landon, returning the smile. "I come to beg assistance. My yacht is in harbor here, as you are possibly aware. No? The fog has hidden us; we came in last night. With my little son, I went ashore early this morning to leave a card on General d'Amade, to whom I have an introduction. I missed my own boat at the landing-place and was foolish enough to be persuaded to embark with these imbeciles below, of whom one is drunk and the other witless. I have already had an hour of monotonous adventure in the gloom; I am a little tired of being very reasonably cursed by master mariners whose vessels we have been ambitious enough to ram. It struck me that perchance you would be sending a boat ashore within the course of an hour or so, and might permit me to wait on deck and be a passenger in it. If so, my gratitude would be beyond words. It is not only for myself. My little son is delicate; I do not wish to expose him longer than is necessary to the chill of these vile vapors."

Commandant Rattier smiled again, expressed his pleasure in being able to offer assistance to any Englishman—he himself was united to that nation by ties of blood. He would order away his launch immediately. In the meantime une limonade Ecossaise would combat the effect of chill and mist. Monsieur would descend to the cabin, would accept some small refreshment?

Monsieur overflowed with thanks. He would dismiss the villains who had led him into such a coil, and then hold himself at M. le Commandant's service.

He leaned over and gave his orders. Muhammed turned to Ibrahim.

"Remove yourself and your master, oh, son of dirt, from these surroundings with the utmost speed, or I have the promise of the captain of this warship that he will send you in chains ashore to answer for your crime in wilfully colliding with his vessel. Your bowsprit? What have I to do with the results of your own vile seamanship? Have haste or Allah alone knows what will betide from the mouth of one of these guns."

He gathered the child up into his arms and stalked with dignity up the companion.

Ten minutes later a launch fussed away from the side of the Diomède. The commandant waved his handkerchief gaily in farewell to his small guest, who, from the encirclement of his father's arm, waved as gaily back. Half a hundred matelots grinned affably at him as they paused in their toil at cabin lights and brass-work. Landon saluted punctiliously and Muhammed's brown eyes expressed a grave approval of his entertainment. The launch's prow was thrust into the gloom.

Another gust sang lazily from the shore and the desert and shivered the fog. The patches of blue joined, grew wider, opened a triumphal arch for the descending sunbeams' entrance. A little more than a mile away the walls of the sea bastions shone white. The launch's speed increased.

Before they reached the quayside the last wisp of vapor had disappeared. Land and sea were swathed in sun. Landon gave a little cackle of amusement and pointed behind him.

"My yacht!" he cried gaily. "My over-anxious master has weighed anchor in pursuit of me. Word must have reached him of my having allowed myself to be persuaded into that vile lateen."

The sub-lieutenant in charge swerved the tiller.

"Let me take you straight to her," he said. "Let me signal her!"

Landon appeared to consider.

"Thanks, a thousand times," he said, "but a small matter of victualling which I promised my steward to deal with has just recurred to my mind. I will see to it and then signal for my own boat. After all, too, I might see a little of the town, now we have the sunshine to illuminate it. A couple of hours ago it was London in November, with a few additional smells!"

The lieutenant laughed and turned the prow towards the shore again. He cast another look over his shoulder.

"Is it possible that your master has information of, or suspects, that very lateen? It appears to me that he is chasing it!"

Landon faced seaward and observed the yacht keenly.

He laughed with great enjoyment.

"He is a character, that skipper of mine," he said. "He is as likely as not to sink the unfortunate boat if he does not find me on board or get a reasonable account of me. I shall have to smooth matters down with a dollar or two."

A minute later the launch slowed up against the little quay. The three passengers stepped ashore, Landon full of compliments and thanks. Still waving adieu, he, Muhammed, and the child paced contentedly off into the town. The lieutenant turned seaward again.

A slightly bewildered frown clouded his face as he approached the Diomède. The yacht had anchored with the lateen alongside her, and a boat was pulling from her towards the warship. The lieutenant considered that for yachtsmen he had never seen a boat's crew pull faster.



Major D'Hubert, Provost Marshal of the French forces occupying Casablanca, grinned widely.

"So you suffered him to escape?" he said.

Commandant Rattier drummed fiercely on the office table.

"Suffered?" he roared. "I entertained him—the escroc! I nourished him; I sent him ashore!"

The soldier smiled and looked at Rattier's companion—Aylmer.

"What open-hearted ingenuousness!" he chuckled. "You and I now, my Captain! When one has been officer of the day a few thousand times, or sat upon a few hundred courts-martial, or acted as maître de logis, one learns to sift a story then. And this one had its weak points, even for a sailor. Would any one not mentally deranged hire a lateen to take him aboard his own yacht? No, I should have required something better imagined than that—I."

Aylmer shrugged his shoulders.

"The man can make himself of an engaging personality, Major. Our friend acted according to the impulses of his generous soul. But the point is that our man is hidden in the town. We come to you for expert knowledge. Who would be likely to shelter him, and where? You will pardon our insistence and intrusion, but our need is very pressing. It is the child who is our concern, the child."

D'Hubert made a gesture of assent.

"Apart from my sincere affection for our simpleminded commandant, Monsieur, your tale is good enough for any honest man and a father of babes like myself. But this town of Casablanca is, in effect, a haystack. Your quarry has the best of chances to act the needle."

He opened a door into an outer office and shouted a name.

"Sergeant Perinaud!"

A body filled the doorway and entered, bending the last few inches of its stature. The sergeant saluted and unfolded himself, his eyes reviewing the company with affable respect about two metres above the floor.

"Visit the guardroom at each gate, see the lieutenants of the Spanish police and bring me back a list of parties which have left the town since morning. This is a matter of haste."

The sergeant saluted again and then hesitated.

"Is it permitted first to speak?" he asked.

The major nodded jerkily.

"It is, by chance, the movements of two men and a woman which are in question?" speculated Perinaud.

Major d'Hubert opened his lips, shut them tight, meditated a moment, and then spoke. He turned and looked at his visitors.

"The child? Is it of a stature to be disguised as a woman?" he asked.

The sergeant interrupted with an apologetic gesture.

"The figure of the woman I suggest was not seen by me. She travelled in an arba. My attention was drawn to the party thus. Two hours ago a band of the Beni M'Geel, Berbers, left by the eastern gate as for Ber Rechid. They had with them two Arabs and a woman under the canopy of which I spoke. Arab and Berber, especially if the latter are of the Beni M'Geel, do not usually travel together."

"You observed the men?"

"Not narrowly, my Major. One was of a smiling countenance, hook-nosed, and clad in a djelab of brown. He walked beside the arba and his talk, as I judged it, was to the woman, who, however, made no reply. The other had the hood of his haik pulled far over his face. I did not see it."

The major sat down at his desk, wrote a few lines swiftly, dashed sand upon the ink, and handed the completed note to his underling.

"Let that be taken to General d'Amade without delay. Search may at the same time be made in the town for an Englishman, his child, and a Moor attendant who landed from a launch of the Diomède some three hours back. The messenger may await the general's answer and bring it to me here."

As the giant saluted for the third time and diminished himself into the doorway, Major d'Hubert confronted his friends with a pessimistic shake of the head.

"My instinct is that Perinaud has already put his finger on the mystery. Your milord must be a man of resource. To have engaged the services of some of these wolves of Beni M'Geel within an hour of landing in a strange town shows more than talent. It amounts to genius."

"This servant of his, Muhammed, is no stranger to the port," said Aylmer. "We learned that before we left Tangier. He is a well-known gun runner, and stands high in his profession. He has made these arrangements."

Commandant Rattier flung aside his taciturnity with a suddenly impulsive oath.

"Name of all little names!" he cried. "Do we sit and discuss this matter as if it were a comedietta in which we take no more than the languid interest of the dilettante! Are they not to be pursued—this past master of perjury and his lieutenant? Are we to mount the town walls and wave them affectionate farewells?"

D'Hubert arched his brows with protest.

"Pursuit? Certainly there is a question of pursuit, if it is allowed. I have just sent a précis of your story to the commander-in-chief with a request for his leave to send a patrol. In a very few minutes we shall learn whether or no we have his permission."

"Permission!" Rattier roared the word in the major's face. "I, Paul Rattier, do you see, have been made the laughing-stock of the fleet and, in time, no doubt, of half Europe! Am I to wait your general's permission to chase this scoundrel to Timbuctoo, if I so wish? I am the senior officer of marine here. I give myself leave, understand me—I!"

"And these amiable Berbers?" asked the major, sarcastically. "Supposing they turn upon you and demand your reasons, and estimate your powers? Suppose, to be blunt, my friend, they put a bullet through your brains?"

"Would that be any worse than wearing this hat of ridicule which this Baron de Landon has put upon my head? No Moor or Touareg or Berber shall stand between me and the object of my just retaliation, if I confront him!"

A small bell tinkled in a corner. D'Hubert made a gesture of apology as he went towards a cabinet screened from the general office. He came back grinning.

"My Paul," he chuckled, "there will be shortly an insuperable barrier between you and your desire. In another hour you will not be the senior officer of marine at Casablanca. I learn by wireless that the Barfleur, with the admiral on board, enters the roads within the hour."

Rattier stood for an instant motionless. Then he turned and darted for the door.

Before his fingers reached the handle Aylmer's grip was on his shoulder. With a passionate gesture of repulse the commandant shook him off.

"I am not one to await admirals!" he roared. "I go to make arrangements. Within half an hour I leave the town—I. If I have to walk I will follow these Berber scoundrels, yes, if I have to crawl upon my knees!"

As the two wrestled and argued on the threshold, the door opened from the outside. The massive proportions of the sergeant towered over them in respectful amazement. He saluted and deferentially edged a way for himself towards D'Hubert.

"The general was in the act of passing, my Major," he explained. "He read your note and wrote his answer on the back in five words—he was amiable enough to inform me."

The major untwisted the little roll of soiled paper and as he inspected it a smile creased his cheek. He chuckled.

"A half troop of Goumiers!" he read. He looked at the frowning face of the commandant.

"No need to go alone, my Paul. There is your escort." He hesitated a moment, debating. "Do either of you, by chance, speak Arabic?"

"Am I an interpreter?" asked Rattier, bitterly. "Does one need a grammar and dictionary to arrest half a dozen scoundrels who are perfectly well aware why they are being chased, and whom one will take the liberty of shooting if they resist capture? For that plain English or French—or, for all practical purposes, Chinese—will suffice. Avoid alarming yourself on that subject, mon ami."

The major grinned.

"I was not thinking of your quarry but your colleagues, my pigeon. The Goumiers speak their own argot. They are good-hearted children, but apt to be tempestuous in matters of fighting." He meditated through another minute before he spoke with quick decision. "Sergeant! Prepare to accompany M. le Commandant within fifteen minutes."

Perinaud saluted with entire imperturbability.

"And my instructions, my Major?" he asked.

"To return with the prisoners which Commandant Rattier will indicate to you, or, failing their capture, within twenty-four hours."

"Bien!" Perinaud folded himself anaconda-like into the back office and disappeared. Ten minutes later, a period which D'Hubert filled with much voluble advice, there was the tramping of many horses' feet without. Aylmer and Rattier strolled out into the open at the major's heels.

Under the command of one of their own native officers, forty horsemen of the famous Algerian yeomanry had reined up in the dusty street. They sat in their high peaked saddles, watching keenly the faces of D'Hubert and his companions. Aylmer noted the eager, alert expectation which filled each flashing brown eye. The Goumier, though he has proved his valor in more than one pitched battle against the men of his own blood, is not a man of war as we understand it. Manœuvring, tactics, the orderliness of drill and discipline are not inherent in his nature. But the raid, the foray, the looting expedition are to him the apex and apogee of human bliss. Thin, modest of stomach and worldly possessions, he passes over the quickly reached horizon of the desert and is forgotten of the well-drilled colleagues he leaves behind. But see his return! Swelling with good victuals, jingling with caparison of desert wealth, with chicken and kid pendent from his saddle-bow, who more popular than he? The savory incense of his mess attracts all nostrils; his lavishly scattered loot widens the already capacious circle of his friends. Winning it, or wasting it when won, loot is the pivot on which his reckless, joyous, heedless existence swings.

Rising from the rear as a cathedral tower rises above the encircling dwellings at its base, Perinaud's head and shoulders topped the ranks. His amiable smile, this time, had about it something of more than ordinary deference. It was the near kin of a smirk, and his yellow moustache was twisted fiercely upwards. Aylmer followed the direction of his glance to find it focussed upon Claire Van Arlen.

Her eyes met his. She made him a little gesture, half of appeal, as it seemed, half of command.

As he covered the few yards which separated them, he noted, with a queer tightening of the heart, the deep shadows which had grown beneath her eyes. But at the same time it was not all anxiety or weariness which her face expressed. There was determination also. And this was reflected in Mr. Van Arlen's glance. It dwelled upon Aylmer with expectancy and more than expectancy,—with hope.

Without preamble he answered the question which their eyes had asked. They heard him in silence to the end, and as he finished, the girl's first comment was no more than a little sigh.

"The sergeant's surmise is right; my instinct tells me that," said Aylmer. "A few hours—and I shall be putting the child in your arms again."

She looked up at the double rank of horsemen. A sudden vivid flash of feeling passed over her features. Her breath came with a little pant.

"Ah, if I could ride with you!" she said fiercely. "If I could do more than wait!"

The color mounted to her cheeks, to her brow. A new note sounded in her voice.

"If they show fight—these men? If, rather than lose the child, he"—her voice sank unsteadily for a moment—"does him an injury? You would not spare him?"

He smiled a little wearily.

"So you distrust me still?" he asked. "Why should I spare him? Because, to my shame, we are of one blood?"

Mr. Van Arlen's thin hand rose in deprecation.

"We can leave this matter confidently in Captain Aylmer's hands," he said. "We have only the one thing to think of—the child."

"No!" she cried vehemently. "I want the child, but I want more than that. I want retribution. I want Landon in the dust. I want him made to feel, as I feel. The child is much, but he is not all. Have you forgotten the last eight years of my sister's life? Do you remember what she has undergone and still has to undergo if the father of her son wins this trick, as my heart tells me he will win it? I want vengeance. I want every chance to grasp it seized. I should not hesitate, where his kinsman might."

Aylmer nodded gravely.

"I understand," he said quietly. "Perhaps it is natural. But you keep forgetting the one thing—that I work for my own reward. Even pity would be a frail barrier between me and that."

Watching her keenly, he saw a quiver of repulsion tremble about her lips, but it did not stay. She set them rather into grimness. She looked at him keenly, debatingly, indeed, as if she weighed his words and sought to set a value on them.

"Yes," she said, and there was a breathlessness in her tone as if she slurred words which she did not dare to let herself hear. "I, too, understand. And my father would consider no price too high for the service which won back his grandchild, and removed the menace of Landon's existence from our lives."

Van Arlen bowed unconsciously—his courteous, instinctive inclination of assent.

"Such a service would be beyond price or reward," he said quietly. "We could only do our best."

But there was a queerly puzzled look in his eyes as they wandered from Aylmer to his daughter's face. He frowned a little, still unconsciously, in the throes of an obvious bewilderment.

Aylmer looked at him once, swiftly, speculatively, and then turned steadily towards Claire.

"And you?" he asked quietly.

She did not flinch; she did not even show, this time, any sign of repulsion. The note in her voice now was exasperation, the nervous defiance of one confronting an intolerable situation from which there was no escape.

"I? I should think as my father thinks," she said coolly. She turned as she spoke and looked impatiently at the line of waiting horsemen.

Aylmer nodded.

"Thank you," he said briskly. He made a sign towards Perinaud, who jogged forward leading the spare horse whose bridle he had been holding. Aylmer vaulted into the saddle, and reined in beside his friend Rattier, who, using the pommel for a desk, was writing a few lines of instruction to his lieutenant. A guttural order rumbled from the native officer's lips.

The line of horsemen wheeled and deployed into lines of four. With a jingle of accoutrements, they jogged off into the dust of the allies towards the eastern gate.



"The wells of El Djebir, Monsieur," explained Sergeant Perinaud. "It is here we should find our men, if they are proceeding by the shortest route to their hills. If not—" He shrugged his shoulders significantly.

The horses were roused from their gentle amble into a gallop. The dust rose from fourscore hoofs as the Goumiers raced down in an enveloping cloud upon the cluster of palms and thicket of broom scrub which surrounded the watering-place. They pulled their horses upon their haunches; they shouted in hoarse disappointment. The shadowed resting-place beneath the palms was empty. Not a living soul was in sight.

Perinaud shrugged his shoulders again.

"This is very conclusive, Monsieur. The party we seek has thought fit to leave the open road and to bury themselves in the recesses of the jungle and the northern gorges of the river. They did not do that without a reason. It remains to follow, if we can."

The native officer shouted something and Perinaud turned swiftly in the saddle to stare down the track which they had been following. A white figure bestriding a brown horse was thundering towards them, the rider's haik fluttering out snowily against the dun background of the earth.

"So Monsieur thought fit to leave me—me!" expostulated Daoud, as he drew rein at Aylmer's side. "I, I who address you, am told by the chance gossip of the Sôk that this expedition has set out without a word of warning, to seek bandits—where?" He threw abroad his arms in derision. "On the broad and open road, within sound, nay, almost within sight, of the patrols of Casablanca. I ask, is it here that knaves are likely to hide their knavery? Your venture and its object are already the pivot on which the laughter of the market-place swings."

He turned and pointed vehemently towards the north.

"Has none of your trained spies had the wit or the courage to tell you that a hundred of these Beni M'Geel Berbers have encamped in the thickets of the Bou Gherba gorge this ten days back? And yet the market-place knows it, as it knows a hundred things beneath your concern."

Perinaud looked the Moor up and down. Then he turned leisurely towards Aylmer.

"He is a safe man, this?" he asked. "You guarantee him?"

Aylmer smiled, and shrugged his shoulders towards the waiting Goumiers.

"They are all for their own hand, these, are they not, Sergeant? Yes, I will guarantee that he seeks to serve me, for the moment, and in serving me, himself. It is the way with these desert folk. They cannot manage large issues, and they split into factions to follow small ones. Let us hear him and, if you see no objection, take his advice. He has been in Casablanca before."

Perinaud grunted and eyed the Moor grudgingly.

"Well, man of infinite knowledge," he said in Arabic. "You propose—what?"

"Are there two courses before us?" asked Daoud, disdainfully. "Or are we to await reinforcements? We have to surround this lair of desert cats."

"Where?" asked Perinaud, laconically.

The Moor wheeled his stallion with an elaborate caracole.

"If the Sidi had used my services from the first," he said, "he would have been saved an hour's ride. Forward, Sidi!"

The sergeant lifted his eyebrows at Aylmer with an air of comical resignation. To the native officer he gave a decisive little nod. With Daoud leading, the brown stallion arching his neck in remonstrance to a tightened rein and goading spur, the column broke formation and in single file turned northwards into the broom scrub which fringes the tilled lands of the Chawia.

The horsemen rode in silence. The mantle of Rattier's taciturnity, rent to rags in D'Hubert's office, seemed to have been restored to its pristine imperviousness, seemed, indeed, to hang heavy upon the spirits of the whole company. Now and again the commandant's lips moved uneasily, but the spoken word died still-born. A Goumier would address fervent maledictions to the memory of the female ancestors of a stumbling horse; curt conferences took place at long intervals between Perinaud and the native officer. But apart from this, the thud of hoofs meeting sand or earth and the dull rap of rein or stirrup leather were all the sounds which broke the stillness. The heavy noontide heat seemed to have swallowed into silence all sound. For sound denotes creative energy, and energy, when the sun is at its zenith in South Morocco, is sapped.

Their course, as Aylmer was quick to notice, led perpetually upward, but in gradients which almost eluded notice. Gray blue in the haze of distance, the rolling uplands culminated in a range of low hills, but these were a full day's march beyond their powers. Their goal, if it were to be reached within daylight, must be nearer than that. His attention, as the hours went monotonously by, was at last drawn to a gap in the far mapped expanse of vegetation.

A line of green, deeper and of more luxuriant growth than the thickets around them, divided the jungle from east to west. Daoud, turning in his saddle, waved his hand in an important gesture.

"The Gorge of the Bou Djerba, Sidi," he said. "It is my advice that I go forward to reconnoitre—alone."

Aylmer looked at Perinaud. The sergeant shrugged his shoulders.

"Monsieur guarantees this fellow, I understand? Well, let him justify himself. I have no objections."

Rattier interrupted.

"It is well understood that I deal with this M. de Landon if he is there, I alone? Your man, now, if he suddenly confronts him—" He broke off with a meaning gesture. "I do not wish my interview with him anticipated."

In spite of himself, a smile broke the imperturbability of the sergeant's face. With a suggestive jerk of the hand he dismissed Daoud, who cantered on into and was lost in the jungle of mallow. Perinaud turned sympathetic and now perfectly grave features towards the commandant.

"Monsieur may be easy in his mind," he said quietly. "The man we seek, if I have understood his talents rightly, is hardly likely to be subdued without the display of some force and intelligence."

He turned to give the order to dismount. Rattier watched him with an air of baffled exasperation. There had been a gentle emphasis on the last two words which could scarcely be misunderstood, and as the sailor ruminated over them, his taciturnity showed renewed signs of failing before the rising tide of his wrath. A sudden diversion averted an outbreak.

For a gunshot rang out among the woodland silences into which Daoud had disappeared. It was instantly replied to by the shriller snap of a revolver. And this was followed by a fusillade of five more reports as the weapon was emptied. The Moor's voice was suddenly uplifted.

"To me, Sidi!" he was shouting vehemently. "To me!"

The native officer thundered an order. In a twinkling the men were back in their saddles and, in irregular formation, threading the aisles of thicket at a canter. Aylmer and Rattier followed the sergeant, riding abreast.

There came another report. A bullet whistled between the pair, and from Rattier came a little growl of satisfaction. If there was to be a fight, he seemed to imply, his promised interview with Landon would assume proportions which were entirely pleasing to him. Perinaud increased his horse's pace, flinging alert glances each side of him rather than in front.

A couple of hundred yards at speed and the forest maze opened into a wide clearing, deeply overgrown with mallow and broom. Through the middle of this, his horse laboring against the growth which was full five feet high, rode Daoud, revolver in hand. A short distance ahead of him the green thicket was grooved in half a dozen places, as unseen bodies crashed through. Daoud's aim was poised and then withdrawn a score of times in as many seconds. The flicker of a white haik would show for a brief instant here and there, and then be swallowed by the jungle.

Daoud would answer these appearances with a bullet, one which apparently invariably missed its mark, for the echo of a mocking triumph greeted them. He turned irritably in the direction of his companions.

He waved his hand significantly, motioning them to deploy right and left, to surround the thicket. Perinaud answered with a comprehending nod.

But Rattier had neither the time nor the inclination for a display of tactics. As Daoud turned his horse to emerge from the mallow, the commandant spurred his charger into the thick of it. And he shouted, he whirled up his right hand, grasping his revolver, with fierce gesticulations of encouragement.

The Goumiers saw, heard, and found little room for hesitation in their mood. Like a torrent released at the breaking of a dam, they followed. Perinaud thundered an ineffectual protest.

It fell on deaf ears. The green brake was furrowed by a dozen lanes before their impact and then, relentlessly, as it seemed, closed behind them. The horses bucked, plunged, but made little headway. From one of them came a sudden whinnying shriek of pain.

Then it sank under its rider as the knife which had severed its tendons slipped back into the cover from which it had been so swiftly and so silently thrust.

The fallen Goumier cleared himself and scrambled to his feet. His face alone was clear in the sea of vegetation, and it was a mask of anger and bewilderment. And then it, too, was gone with a sudden panting cry.

Aylmer gave a little gasp. The head was there and then it was not. It sank into the green as the swimmer sinks into the blue in a shark-infested sea. But this shark was a human one, and its teeth a long Berber knife. The fugitives of the Beni M'Geel had chosen their battle-ground well.

Horse or man, lance or carbine—what were they against the daggers which the tussocks veiled? Mocking cries echoed in the thicket. Another horse shrieked and fell; another face showed white above the green and then was gone. The Goumiers snarled with rage as they spurred furiously forward, but the clinging mallow held them, shackled them, suffocated them with its density. There was a note of panic in their shouts; they battled no longer for victory but for escape.

The leader of the reckless charge was in slightly better case than the majority. Rattier and one or two others, by chance of circumstances, stood in wider spaces, where the dagger men could not reach them unseen. They sat in their saddles, alert for opportunity, quivering with rage, but useless. Their glances flashed from side to side, their eyes gleamed, but opportunity evaded them. And the cries of the unseen enemy still mocked them from the ambush.

Carried away by impulse, Aylmer would have joined the charge. Perinaud's hand fell upon his reins with a grip of iron. Aylmer made as if he would release them by force.

The sergeant made a gesture of appeal.

"No, my Captain! This is serious. A little coolness, a little restraint, and we pull them out of this! But to follow! That spells death for us all!"

He leaped from the saddle, drew his carbine from the bucket, and flung to Aylmer the reins of both horses.

"If Monsieur will be so obliging?" he said quickly, and turned towards the nearest tree, a cedar which towered twenty feet above the dwarfed bolls of cork. He climbed lithely, rapidly, resting, at last, within a few feet of the top. He leaned his carbine upon a bough, took a steady aim, and fired.

A shriek answered the report—a shriek muffled in the blanket of the broom.

"Courage, mes enfants!" said Perinaud, placidly. "That accounted for one, and from here I see all. There are but six. Give me time and the affair completes itself effectually."

Again he dwelled upon his aim, hesitated, fired, shook his head in self-reproach and fired again. This time he gave a little nod of satisfaction.

"Two!" he cried complacently. "Two, my children!" and the report of his rifle punctuated the announcement. "So!" went on the sergeant, as if he commented on the score at a rifle range. "So! We write full stop to Monsieur le troisième. Aha! Messieurs quatrième, cinquième and sixième—it is poor stuff to push through, the broom. No, I do not see you, Messieurs, but I see where you run like rabbits, and perhaps we may chance a bullet—there!"

The report of the last cartridge in the magazine was answered by another yell. A brown-clad body shot into the air out of the undergrowth and subsided limply. Perinaud nodded again.

"Through the brain, my friend, through the brain. Yes, I still see you, my two little doves. We have to reload. Four for one magazine of five cartridges is not bad, you will allow. You are trapped, are you not? In the broom you cannot escape me; in the open you will be ridden down. Well, it is to be in the broom, is it? So! Voilà, Monsieur le cinquième! That closes your account. As for you, my sixth friend, you have chosen the thicket, have you? You are very still; we must speculate, we must invite the co-operation of chance, who is a good friend to Sergeant Perinaud as a rule. There! No, is that not in the middle of the target? We must try again. Umph! I wonder if you are, after all, dead, my pigeon. Holà, there! Monsieur le Commandant. If you will be good enough to step fifteen long paces to the right, following the motion of my hand, you will be able to inform me if my last shot was a bull's-eye, an outer, or even—shame to me if it is so—a miss. Yes, Monsieur, that is the spot. Where the patch of broom outcrops between those two stumps of cork."

Rattier beat a road laboriously through the clinging stems as the sergeant's finger motioned. A sudden muffled exclamation burst from him; he lurched sideways, stumbled, and fell prone. The green stalks rustled and shook as something brown and indistinguishable shot through them in the direction in which the waiting Goumiers were thickest.

Perinaud gave a warning cry.

"Look to yourselves! I cannot shoot; he is in line between us!"

One of the horsemen shouted and spurred his stallion towards the fringe of the undergrowth furthest from the point at which the charge had entered it. His impulsive action countered Perinaud's manifest purpose of firing, for he, too, had seen the agitation of the mallow in that direction. The horseman bounded forward, the horse clearing the obstructions in a series of jerky little leaps. Beside the edge of the clearing they halted, the man searching the cover in front of him and on each side keenly.

A brown something snaked out of the thicket at his back. Steel flashed in the sun. The Goumier toppled from the saddle, and a brown figure, bowing flat across the horse's withers, seemed to have replaced him almost in the moment of his fall. Spurred desperately by his new rider, the stallion burst away down the cork tree alleys.

A ragged volley rattled out. Splinters flew wide from a dozen trees, but horse and rider fled on. The Goumiers called fiercely on the name of a dozen saints of Islam to qualify their rage as they thrust their chargers out of the tangle in pursuit. Perinaud and their officer yelled strenuous commands.

Crestfallen and sullen, the troopers reined in, listening in silence to the commination addressed to them from the pulpit of the cedar.

"Is one lesson insufficient?" thundered Perinaud. "Do we practise the arts of war or are we conducting a ralli-papier? Like hares you were decoyed into this ambush, and, flinging your red-hot experience to the winds, you are prepared to be drawn, as likely as not, into another. Collect yourselves, morally as well as physically, if you please."

They reined in among the cork trees, and half a dozen, flinging their reins to comrades, pushed back on foot into the cover. A string of oaths and maledictions, twice repeated, told of what they found. They came back with the sullen tread of those bearing the heavy burdens of defeat and death. They laid the bodies of their two comrades at the foot of the cedar.

Rattier, leaning upon Aylmer's arm, swore vehemently. The blood dripped from a gash across his wrist, but he raised it to shake a fist in the direction taken by the fugitive.

"Another item in M. de Landon's ledger, name of all names!" he cried. "But we shall see, my friends, we shall see. The hand is not played out yet, believe me!"

"Perhaps not," agreed Aylmer, "but you, at any rate, have cut out of the deal, or have been cut out," he added significantly, pointing to the wounded arm.

The commandant drew himself away with a fierce jerk.

"I!" he cried. "Is a cut finger—a graze—to send me weeping to the ambulance? The scoundrel who deceived me I pursue to the world's end! He has scored once more. It is the last time—this!"

He raised himself to his full height in a grandiloquent gesture and—fell fainting into Perinaud's arms. The sergeant grunted morosely and pointed to a crimson stain which had welled through the blue tunic and was rapidly spreading.

"If it is not serious, I thank Our Lady and all the listening Saints for this!" he said devoutly. "He is impossible as a colleague on reconnaissance, this energetic commandant. It was his recklessness which led these men into a trap which at any other moment they would have avoided. We have lost two men and five horses by the result of this escapade. What are your suggestions now, Monsieur?"

Aylmer hesitated.

"For the moment have you not done enough?" he asked. "After all, your service is to France, not to intruders like myself. My Moorish servant and I might continue to reconnoitre alone. Your hands are full enough, are they not?"

The other looked at him queerly.

"Perhaps Monsieur thinks that so far we have been a hindrance rather than a help to his purposes. Monsieur has reason. At the same time we might justly, in my opinion, be permitted another chance to repair our prestige."

Aylmer smiled. Perinaud's voice was chilly. The glance he directed at the crestfallen Goumiers let it be inferred that his words were also designed to reach their address. They shuffled and kicked at the ground restlessly as they listened.

"It is for you, of course, to direct matters, Sergeant!" he said quickly. "But the commandant, without a doubt, must be removed at once to hospital."

"Without a doubt, Monsieur," agreed Perinaud, with sudden cheerfulness. "We will escort him and the dismounted men out of the forest into the open farm lands, where patrols are not infrequent and nothing is to be feared. They will then be about twenty kilometres from the town. The best mounted will proceed as quickly as possible to fetch the ambulance. Of the others, twenty will escort the commandant's stretcher—it is perfectly feasible to make a good one of poles which we will cut and over which we will button two greatcoats—the five new-made fantassins will walk. The remaining dozen and you and I, Monsieur, will proceed—with energy, if you please, but certainly with prudence."

Perinaud closed his little homily with the satisfied air of an orator who has arrived at and correctly delivered an anticipated peroration.

And chance, who may have been listening, offered yet another of her favors to her protégé. As the little column debouched from the trees into the open expanse of alluvial country, a cloud of brown dust was rising on the far side of the fringing barley fields. Perinaud gave an exclamation of content.

"It is the Tirailleurs with their major," he explained. "They have patrolled the Ber Rechid road and made a reconnaissance to get cattle. They will have an ambulance, or at least a mule litter."

He put his horse to the gallop. The others, following more sedately, saw him reach and disappear among the ranks of white-uniformed men, whose cummerbunds and tarbooshes winked a cheerful scarlet against the dun fallow or green cropping of the fields. And there was an air of animation about the column accounted for, perhaps, by the fact that innumerable kids frisked about their mothers as the captured goats were herded along the track, while droves of small, wiry cattle bellowed and butted at each other, their captors, and every moving object within reach of their serviceable little horns.

Perinaud, who had dismounted, was standing and speaking with an air of respect and precision to a mounted officer. The latter turned as Aylmer and his companions approached, and the former could barely restrain a start of consternation and surprise. For a deep, flaming groove dinted the man's forehead from temple to temple, while the hand which he raised in salute was one huge scar from knuckles to wrist. His brown eyes inspected Aylmer with friendly attention.

"At your service, mon Capitaine," he said. "Sergeant Perinaud has explained your needs."

Aylmer began to express his thanks. The other nodded pleasantly and gave an order. From the rear an ambulance was trotted forward: a gray-moustached doctor in uniform swung himself from his saddle and bent over Rattier, who was still unconscious.

A moment later he looked up.

"Loss of blood," he said laconically. "He has a gash two fingers deep behind the shoulder. Severe, but not serious—with care. We will see to him."

The officer nodded again. He looked at Aylmer.

"And yourself, Monsieur?" he asked.

Aylmer made a gesture towards the forest and the distant uplands.

"With your leave, we will continue our—investigations, Major," he said.

The other shrugged his shoulders.

"The forest, mon ami? We, do you see, have confined our operations so far to the plough lands, the open. I have no store of experience to draw upon for your advice. You will be pioneers. I shall hope to have the benefit of your experience on your return. Maillot is my name, Monsieur, and I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you at the headquarters of my regiment outside the Fedallah Gate. For the moment, then, au revoir!"

He smiled cheerfully, saluted, and gave an order. The tramp and jingle of the march were renewed. The dust cloud began to form again where it had settled, and the Tirailleurs swung off seawards with the elastic step which those who wear the godillot acquire, and which makes them the envy of their colleagues in the regulars who are doomed to the precise lacing of the soulier. Perinaud made a gesture of admiration, as with Aylmer and his half score of Goumiers he watched them go.

"Monsieur has seen the bravest man and the finest leader of all the troops of France," he remarked.

"Major Maillot?"

"But certainly the major, Monsieur. He needs no medals to prove what he is and where he has been. His deeds are witnessed on his brow and hands."

He hesitated and then spoke quickly.

"I have no wish to vaunt the deeds of Frenchmen to you, a foreigner, Monsieur, but that is a man in whom we may take an honest pride. The scar you saw came to him by Settat. He and a picket were cut off from the main body by a hidden reserve of the enemy. They retreated fighting and were within measurable distance of safety. And then one of our fallen, whom they had left for dead, cried aloud out of the hands of the enemy. How these savages were dealing with him I shall not disgust Monsieur by telling. Suffice it to say that they were working the will of devils upon him and, in spite of his manhood, he shrieked. The major heard, and like a thunderbolt turned and charged straight for the enemy, and his men, without a thought of the peril, turned with him, a dozen perhaps, against five score. But those hundred Moors were in full retreat before the main body of the regiment raced up to the rescue, and they picked their major up wounded as you have seen, lying across the body of the man he had fought to save, with seven dead foes ringed round him.... They have a confident air, these Tirailleurs of ours. Some say an insolent one. Well, Monsieur, they have their pride, it must be allowed, but God knows when they are led as that man leads they have a right to it."

Aylmer nodded. Slowly they turned their horses' heads forestwards again. Perinaud looked at the line of trees abstractedly and then back again at the receding column.

"France does not desert her children if she remembers," he remarked quietly. "It is well that we met these men and their major. He is a man who will see to it that we are not forgotten, if chance wills that we do not soon return. The task of seeking us would be one after his own heart, and his Tirailleurs would think with him." He smiled confidently. "So we may go forward with an easy mind, mon Capitaine. We are pioneers, as the major said. To pioneers should come adventures, if they are worthy of their name."

He touched his stallion's flank with the spur. The little band of horsemen cantered up and into the shadow of the cork trees. And there was an air of arrogance and recklessness about the riders. All trace of discomfiture of an hour back was gone. It was as if the Tirailleurs had breathed an infection of valor around them—a bacillus of intrepidity which their major had cultivated with the point of his untiring sword.



"That our friends have left is obvious," said Daoud. "The question is how long ago and whither."

The litter of a recently disturbed encampment cumbered the ground. Rags, the feathers of lately plucked chickens, the ashes of recently extinguished fires abounded. But whether the camp had been struck days or only hours before it was impossible to determine. Night as well as day had been rainless, and the dry dust left no trail perceptible to European eyes. Daoud, however, examined the soil carefully.

"They have gone south," he declared at last. "They have struck out of the forest and back towards the plain. This grows interesting."

Perinaud gave a sniff.

"The reason is obvious," he said a little contemptuously. "Where did they obtain water? From the spring which welled up at the foot of that cactus to the left. But now it is dry and cracking mud."

Daoud nodded grudgingly.

"Possibly," he allowed. "The nearest wells are at Ain Djemma."

"Held in force by two companies of the Legion," said Perinaud. "They are hardly likely to show themselves there. No, if they have gone south they are seeking the Wad el Mella. They will follow the stream through the gorge towards their own foothills from which it issues."

"This river? How far is it?" asked Aylmer.

"Eight kilometres, possibly ten," said Perinaud. "There are duars and encampments along its banks in a dozen places. We ought to get news of our men, even if we do not overtake them."

"Our horses have come a matter of thirty kilometres already," said Aylmer.

"Then as soon as possible they must do ten more," answered the sergeant, energetically. "Without water we cannot camp, any more than our friends of the Beni M'Geel. En avance!"

Aylmer drew his horse up beside Perinaud's as for the second time they left the shelter of the trees and ambled out on to the plain. The westering sun was turning it to broad belts of dun, and yellow, and green, as the slanting beams fell upon earth, or marigold weed, or crops. Four or five miles distant to their front the rolling uplands culminated in a belt of squat but far-branching trees.

"There, one may suppose, are the river and the gorge," he suggested. "The inhabitants of these duars, of which you speak? How will they greet us?"

Perinaud shrugged his shoulders.

"It remains for Fate to show us, Monsieur. There were some drastic whippings of the Moors within this district a few weeks back. How well they have learned the lesson taught them then we shall have to prove."

Aylmer hesitated.

"It is not with the purpose of getting embroiled in skirmishes that I have come," he said quietly. "You understand that my duty, for the moment, is to keep myself alive until my object is achieved."

Perinaud grinned drily.

"That is a remark which a poltroon would not have dared to make, Monsieur, and shows you to be a brave man. Be assured that my efforts towards maintaining an unperforated skin will be as energetic as your own. Hysterical madness, such as we were involved in in the forest, shall not recur, if I can help it. My purpose is to camp, as soon as we reach water, and then to allow your omniscient Monsieur Daoud to conduct his investigations under cover of the darkness."

As the red disk of the sun sank below the seaward horizon, they topped the gentle rise which terminated in a belt of trees. Not far below them, belling musically through the dusk, came the song of the ripples. Half a mile away, on the far side of the gorge, a dim light twinkled in the growing darkness.

Perinaud pointed towards a group of palms.

"Here, Monsieur," he explained, "you will find dry earth. You have your cloak. Your saddle is a practical pillow. I have bread, a ration or two of preserved soup, some beans, coffee, a tin of milk, sugar. At the duar, where we see that light, are—possibly—chickens. But we are quite as likely to receive a bullet. What does Monsieur advise?"

Aylmer smiled.

"An immediate picnic. In the friendliest of duars cannibal hordes thirsting for our blood would await us, if we were reckless enough to sleep among them. I prefer to housekeep à la belle étoile."

The sergeant nodded and gave his orders. Sentries slipped right and left into the night. A tiny fire was kindled in a hollow between two boulders. The tins of preserved soup gave up their secrets, and the ration bread proved that the military bakers of France have discovered the secret of making loaves which will remain fresh and eatable through a whole week of desert marches. Coffee succeeded—coffee made in the empty vegetable tin, and worthy of Maxim's or the Ritz.

Daoud drank his portion, shrugged his shoulders fatalistically at the sleeping places which the Goumiers were preparing, and then, without comment, vanished into the night.

Aylmer lay back upon his cloak, his head pillowed upon his arm, his pipe between his teeth. He was enjoying to the full the sensations of a pleasantly weary and well-fed horseman. The first drowsy challenge of sleep touched his eyes and brain.

The very next instant, as it seemed to him, he was on his feet, revolver in hand, searching the dark aisles of the forest on either side. A shout had echoed from one of the sentries, a hoarse challenge followed almost on the instant by a shot.

The cry was repeated, shriller this time with the insistence of anxiety. "Au secours!" came the Goumier's voice. "Au secours! There are a score of them; they are all around me!"

In silence, but with a wave of the hand, Perinaud dispersed his men into open order and doubled towards the sounds of conflict. Aylmer ran with them, making more noise in his heavy boots than the whole of the party made in their souliers. He heard Perinaud whisper an emphatic oath of disgust as he tripped over a fallen branch and smashed heavily through a cactus bush. The next instant both of them fell together, over a soft, woolly obstruction, which stirred faintly under their feet. Meanwhile, half a dozen rifles were flashing red in the night, and the woodland echoes tossed the reports from thicket to thicket.

Perinaud swore again viciously, scrambled to his feet, and shouted.

"Imbeciles! Cease fire!" he thundered. "They are sheep, these Moors of yours, sheep! A pretty night's work! You have killed probably a dozen, and we have no means of transport."

Shamefacedly the Goumiers crowded round to feel the fatness of the victim which had lain in Aylmer's path. As they felt and appraised it, their voices resumed a note of philosophic content. It was indeed a slur upon the collectedness of the Goumiers as a whole that Hassan el Fehmi, the sentry, had been betrayed into this indiscretion. But the dead sheep, look you, was of an unlooked-for plumpness, and breakfast must be partaken of sooner or later. There would be cutlets, and room might be found on a saddle or two for a couple of gigots. No, this was not all loss, this night alarm. There were compensations.

Perinaud declined to meet these representations in the spirit in which they were made.

"Looters! Robbers of hen roosts!" he cried. "The whole of your thoughts are centered, as ever, on your unworthy stomachs. The compensation for this outrage will be made to the owners from your pay, let me tell you, from your pay! You have raised the country on us with your shootings; within a matter of minutes we shall have the Moors here in earnest, be assured of that!"

Wrathfully he led the way back to the bivouac and carefully extinguished every cinder of the fire.

"And now," he ordered, "our duty is to wait—beside our horses. If it will not inconvenience Monsieur, I should be obliged if he will defer sleeping, for the present. If we are not molested for the next hour or two, it will be different. The moon rises before midnight and after that a couple of sentries will amply suffice."

It was a memory which stayed by Aylmer for many a month—that long, silent, and very weary vigil of the next few hours. He sat, with his back supported by a palm trunk, the haltering rein of his horse in his hand, his eyes trying vainly to pierce the gloom which surrounded him, and his ears strained to attention.

The forest, though in the windless calm not a leaf fluttered, was full of disquieting noises. There were rustlings, faint, half perceptible crackings of twigs, dull, muffled, resistant sounds from the earth which must surely be caused by human footfall. Once his whole frame sprung into startled alertness as a night bird shrieked in the cork branches not twenty yards away. The faint but distinct after-echo of a chorussed sigh told him how a dozen other pulses had leaped with his. The quick, irregular darting run of a small animal—a jerboa or a forest rat—produced a little less disturbing effect. But the soft, stolid breathing of his horse, as its breath beat past his shoulder, was a soothing, soporific sound which his nerves welcomed, yet seemed to protest against as tending to lull him into an unalert insecurity. With a sudden qualm of reproach he found his head dropping sideways and smiting lightly the trunk of the palm. He drew himself up with a quick, decisive tautening of his muscles. He would not sleep; his eyelids almost ached with the intensity with which he held them apart.

Sleep, like fate, is a tricky jade to defy. It was Perinaud's voice, level and stolid, but with a faint note of sarcasm, which aroused him.

"Monsieur may now sleep in comfort if he will," suggested the sergeant. "There is little fear from surprise with such a moon."

Aylmer blinked. The round white orb was sending its rays in full flood through the broad fans of the palm leaves overhead. It tinged the cork trees with silver radiance; it produced an effect of grateful coolness in the cinder-dry thickets and powdery earth. It was as if dew had fallen, a dew of light. And the shadows of the gorge were of a velvet blackness in contrast.

Aylmer looked carefully round. It was as Perinaud said. The forest spaces were clear; one could trace them almost as distinctly as in the daylight. No enemy could steal upon them unseen.

And so it was with a little sigh of content that he laid his head back upon his saddle, pulled his cloak more disposedly about him, and prepared to give nature freely what during the past three hours she had stolen.

With the usual result. Sleep deserted him. He closed his eyes resolutely; he breathed with exact precision; he even counted an imaginary flock of sheep as they passed sedately between two supposititious hurdles. He remained broadly awake, his eyes rebelling against their imprisonment till at last he gave up trying to coerce them. He searched his pocket, found tobacco and a pipe, and smoked. His brain became suddenly active.

He reviewed the circumstances of the last few days. He debated his position, appraised his progress. It was typical of his temperament equability that he did this; it was part of the dogged resolution with which he approached the vital problems of his career. He knew that for the first time he had encountered passion, and that it had mastered him. He had seen Claire Van Arlen perhaps half a dozen times before he realized this, and realized it, too, with a certain ingenuous wonder at the thing which had such power over him. But he had made no attempt to combat it. He knew that this girl had become for him the pivot of existence. As matters had gone, he had scarcely had the opportunity for introspection. Passion had gripped him, and now passion's authority had gone beyond the limits of question. He set his face unswervingly towards his goal. The days of debating an alternative path had gone by.

He sighed. Up the path he had chosen had he made any progress? Yes, one great step had been taken. She knew the goal he sought; he had made it absolutely plain. He had read repulse in her eyes as she first divined it. He had read it again, but tinged with a thrill of curiosity, at his second allusion. The third time? There he was beaten. She had seemed to fling him a sort of encouragement. Why? What was her intention here? She had not softened towards him; instinct told him that. And yet—and yet. He sighed again. There were many barriers in this road he had set out upon—barriers which must be levelled one by one. Dislike, suspicion, but not, thank God, apathy. No—from the first he had interested her—from the moment of their first meeting he had been forced into prominence in her regard.

A hand fell lightly upon his shoulder, bringing him back with a start from the possibilities of romance to the facts of an everyday African world. The most engrossing of these, for the moment, was Daoud's face.

There was a sense of importance in the Moor's aspect, the importance of discovery. Aylmer realized this at once.

"You have discovered—what?" he asked sharply.

Daoud waved his hand with a magnificent and comprehensive gesture.

"All, Sidi," he answered. "The two we seek, with the child, are in an encampment of Berber tribesmen within an hour's march."

Aylmer scrambled to his feet. He made but little noise as he did so, but there was a corresponding movement in the half-dozen recumbent figures beside him. Perinaud, raising himself upon his elbow, looked thoughtfully at the scout.

"Well, my friend?" he asked amiably. "Your researches take us where?"

"Five miles further up the ravine," said Daoud. "It is more than a camp. A village of some importance. Our friend who escaped from the broom thicket has not arrived there. There was no alertness, no watch kept. By the time I left snores were echoing from practically every tent and dwelling of mud. We are not expected."

Perinaud nodded.

"Bien. The moment of attack then—?"

"Is now, Sidi. By the time we reach it the dawn will have come."

Aylmer fumbled for his watch. It was true. The hour was between four and five. The wan light of the false morning was, indeed, faintly paling the east. He looked at Perinaud.

The sergeant nodded.

"Short rest for the horses, Monsieur," he said, "but that we cannot help. The time is short enough, as it is."

He motioned the waiting figures of the Goumiers into activity. The sentries were recalled. A tiny fire was kindled, and coffee made with incredible quickness while the saddles were being flung upon the horses' backs.

Aylmer gulped his portion gratefully, for the dew-brimmed air was chill. But within twenty minutes of Daoud's return, the half score of horsemen were following him in single file along the river bank.

Progress was slow, the path imperceptible or devious. The light of morning was no longer yellow, but alive with the rose red of sunrise as they halted, at a gesture from their leader, and gazed between the trunks of a grove of palms.

White against the green of crops a dozen houses lined the edge of an oval space, which some winter floods of bygone years had hewn deep in the surrounding alluvial soil. The forest thickets grew up to the fringe of the arable land, divided from it by hedges of cactus. Between the house and the river was an encampment of brown, dilapidated tents. The land immediately in front of these was bare and open, as if some ceaseless traffic had beaten all vegetation down. On an eminence stood a lime-washed, dome-topped shrine.

"If possible, we should surround and examine each house or tent in silence, and one by one," suggested Daoud.

"A matter of hours," said Perinaud. "No, let our men form rank where their rifles command each doorway, and I will see to the summoning of the inhabitants. For the moment, softly. Keep your horses off the rock, but avoid the thickest of the jungle. Show judgment, my children, show judgment!"

He finished with a little oath of surprise. For almost at his horse's feet, or, at the furthest, a bare five yards from him, a man had suddenly risen from a thicket—a man clad in a dirty djelab, who viewed the sitting horsemen with every sign of amazement and sudden panic. In another moment, and with a shrill cry, he had darted through the palm grove and was flying across the crop lands, straight towards the line of silent tents.

Perinaud struck spurs into his stallion.

"Take him!" he cried, and his voice had a queer note of exasperation as he tried to make it vehement and yet hold it below the level of a shout. He led the charge which raced across the herbage. Aylmer, carried away by the sudden infection of repressed excitement, thundered at his side. The dark spot of brown made by the djelab of the fugitive seemed, for the moment, to comprehend all that was vital in existence. He must not reach the tents, he must not give the alarm. Although he was a matter of fifty yards or more behind his quarry, owing to the start the runner had gained by the intervening palms, Aylmer began to lean forward in the saddle, to thrust out his arm, feel a tenseness, a twitching in his fingers as if he already grasped the hood of the garment which rose and fell with its owner's every stride.

A yell burst from Perinaud's lips—a yell of rage and warning!

"A trap!" he cried. "The silos! The silos! Pull wide! Pull wide!"

Aylmer heard a crash. A Goumier on his right seemed to have been swallowed with his horse into the very earth. He gripped his own rein, moved by a sudden and imperfectly comprehended pulse of fear, and wrenched at his bridle. His horse fought under the strain, made a half-hearted attempt to halt, and was carried by mere impetus another fifty yards. There came another crash; another Goumier's horse disappeared, while the man, spilled from the saddle, rolled over a dozen times across the hardened flat. Perinaud's stallion, its eyes wild, its nostrils round with terror, spread out its legs and skated forward to the very brink of—what?

A huge round hole, beneath which was darkness only. Aylmer saw it, saw that he himself must reach it, and comprehended as in a flash the sergeant's cry.

The silos!

Even his narrow experience of things Moroquin had taught him what the word meant. They were the underground grain cellars of the villagers, sunk in the earth, unfenced, often coverless, and, as now, open traps for the unwary. The thought and the flash of apprehension which it kindled added force to the grip with which he tore at the reins.

Too late!

His realization of the hideous fall which was inevitable was swift as a lightning flash, and yet at the same time the thing itself seemed to arrive with a horrible deliberation. His thews were tense, his knees clutched the saddle. And then, and the feeling was as if he watched for the culmination of a well-understood and expected movement of familiar machinery—his horse's feet slid grudgingly over the edge. The black hole in the earth rose instantly—rose and sucked him down. There was a shock and then night fell—a night impenetrable.



"It's the pig man," said a childish voice. "The man what lifted me out of the way of the boar."

Aylmer blinked. Himself in the shadow, he was aware of a figure opposite him in the center of a circle of light. He lay, apparently, in a circular and unfurnished room, lit by an unglazed skylight alone. The figure, which sat cross-legged on a lump which his returning senses discovered to be a dead horse, wore the white haik and the bournous of a Moor. The hood was drawn back, showing bronzed aquiline features and a brown beard, but the man's eyes were blue. Aylmer studied the face with a feeling of bewilderment which gradually became irritation. He was stunned, but consciousness had so far returned that he knew himself stunned, and knew, also, that his brain was confronting a problem which his normal powers would have grappled with easily. He ought to be able to recognize his visitor; there was familiarity, there was recognition in the man's sneering smile. And yet, who was he? Aylmer moved restlessly, petulantly. An excruciating pang leaped up through his shoulder and made him gasp. The man shrugged his shoulders.

"Dislocated, I fear," he said in level English accents. "And the collar-bone most certainly fractured."

Aylmer's ear served him where his eyes had failed. The voice was Landon's. It was his cousin who sat opposite him, smiling evilly from the shadow of the haik.

Something touched the wounded shoulder lightly, but not so lightly but that Aylmer winced again.

"Poor—poor!" said the childish voice again commiseratingly. "Is it badly hurted? When I fell off my pony they rubbed me wiv butter."

It was his little namesake, swaddled in white flowing garments, who stood at his elbow, peering into his face with anxious eyes.

Aylmer pulled himself into a sitting position, not without intense pain. But the throb of his wounded arm seemed to awake his dulled consciousness. He looked from father to son without bewilderment. His understanding had fully regained command of the situation.

His first action was typical of the man; he fumbled with his left hand at his holster.

Landon laughed.

"Empty, my dear John," he said. "Fogs, gales, the menacing hand of nature I do not pretend to have my remedy for. But I retain the common-sense which deprives my enemy of a weapon, when opportunity is my friend."

Aylmer was still silent. Landon gave a self-satisfied little nod of the head, a little motion which implied the insolence of triumph fully enjoyed.

"And by opportunity, please understand that I do not refer to mere chance," he went on. "The little ruse de guerre by which you and your associates were drawn into this trap was the product of an active brain, not mine, I grieve to say. A friend who has seen much of desert bickerings did not invent but adapted it. I don't think many of your beautiful Goumiers escaped him and his allies."

There was something more than disgust and repulsion in the glance with which Aylmer regarded his cousin. It was, perhaps, wonder.

"Libertine—blackmailer—spy—and thief—you have proved yourself all of these within the space of half a dozen years," he said quietly. "And now, traitor, and, I suppose, assassin. It puzzles me. Clean living isn't so hard, and yet, you have never tried it, never!"

A queer line showed in Landon's cheek, as his lips tightened against each other. And then he laughed again—a harsh, unconvincing little laugh.

"Is the first line of attack an appeal to my better nature?" he asked. "Omit it, my friend. However good your aim, you cannot reach a target which, to be frank, is non-existent. Appeals to my self-interest find me alert, but to my conscience, chill as ice. We may chaffer, you and I, but on strictly business lines."

He settled himself back upon the dead horse's shoulder, pulled out a silver case, and selected a cigarette. He lit it, talking slowly, between puffs.

"My apparently unkinsmanlike conduct in offering no attention to your wound is easily explained. It is a small matter, involved in far larger issues. If you meet my terms, our limited resources in that and other matters will be at your service. If not—" He shrugged his shoulders placidly. "Well, I do not suppose a prison governor pays attention to the condemned's complaints of his breakfast egg on the morning of execution."

He moved, leaning forward at last, his elbows on his knees, his palms supporting his chin. And he looked down at Aylmer malignantly.

"And I have you here to make or break as I will," he said. "By God! Opportunity doesn't call me twice. I clutch her!"

The child turned with a little start, looking at his father with puzzled but not apprehensive eyes. The note of malice in that voice was evidently strange to him, and Aylmer, as he understood this fact, breathed a tiny sigh of relief. The child, at any rate, did not suffer ill-treatment.

Landon saw the motion and his features relaxed into something like affection.

He held out his hands.

"Come here, my son," he said. "Go and find Muhammed."

As the child ran forward, he caught him deftly and without a pause of energy tossed him up and out into the sunlight. Aylmer heard the boy's cry of welcome and laugh of delight, as his footsteps pattered over the roof of the cellar and were lost. Muhammed, whoever that might be, was evidently not far away.

His father settled down upon his seat again.

"That," he said, with an upward jerk of the shoulder towards the opening above his head, "that is one of the things I have been robbed of. Also my comfort, my credit, my security, my ease. I have had to endure unpleasantness. I have had to descend, though as a mental exercise I do not count it a descent, to crime. Life, in fact, has been difficult for me lately, owing to the action of certain people—with whom you appear to have allied yourself. You and they have to get matters in a different perspective. Your efforts in future must be for, not against, me. They must, indeed, be directed to effacing unfortunate circumstances in the past which are detrimental to my well-being. That must be fully understood before we even begin to talk of terms."

He looked up at Aylmer with a sudden quick, speculative flash of the eyes. The other met it steadily and equably.

"Have we begun—to discuss terms?" he asked.

"No!" Landon snapped the monosyllable with contemptuous emphasis. "No! I don't discuss them, let me tell you. I make them!"

Aylmer met the announcement with a smile.

"Ah," he said quietly, and something in his tone seemed to whip Landon's restrained spite over the border-line of fury.

"Damn you!" he cried, "do you think I can't and won't humble the lot of you; do you think I'm to be robbed of the winning ace now, when I've got it in my hand? I tell you there isn't a thing in me you can appeal to. I've shunted notions; I'm out for the stuff; I'm in business for myself, for me!"

He swayed to and fro upon the carcase, his face livid, his fingers unconsciously twining and plaiting the dead animal's mane. His teeth flashed, attracting, as it were, the core of the little light which reached the gloom—attracting it to intensify his fierce animal fury. For, as he swayed, and swore, the teeth shone behind his red lips like the fangs of a cornered wolf.

And then, suddenly, darkly, the emotion was planed from his face. His features became mask-like in their imperturbability.

"You had better listen carefully," he said. "First, I keep the boy. That goes without saying. I've got him. Secondly, they give me their engagement under bond not to molest me in my possession of him if I choose to visit America or England, or even if I marry again. Thirdly, old man Van Arlen pays me ten thousand pounds—pounds, mind, not dollars—within a week from now, and on the same date every year. Fourthly, you explain away the matter of the book I borrowed from your library. Explain it as you like; say I was drunk or insane or any sort of lie which suits you best. You'll have to give me your word of honor to do your best about that; I'll take it, because I know you believe in these shibboleths. Lastly, they're to keep quiet while I have a free hand with Despard."

Aylmer gave an involuntary start, and Landon snarled—there is no other word for it—with savage rage.

"By God, they've got to stand by and see me break him! He's hunted me through the courts and through the press of two hemispheres. He shall have his turn. Not all in a moment, either. A word here and a word there. A paragraph or two where they can't well be missed. Then rumors, and then a circumstantial story. Rush him into action and then, slowly, thoroughly, and perfectly plainly, bowl him out. Eh, that will be the gilded roof on the whole thing. Despard down in the mud—Despard ... broken!"

His fingers ceased their wandering. He sat motionless, his eyes staring gloatingly into the gloom over Aylmer's head. It was as if he saw visions of evil triumph limned upon the walls.

Aylmer lay very still. The sense of inertia which had been overpowering when consciousness first revived was passing away. His brain was clear. He realized that for all practical purposes he was in the hands of a madman, or of a man so far enthralled by a very possession of wickedness that he might be reckoned insane. There was nothing to do but await events.

Landon dropped his eyes.

"Do you see?" he asked. "That's your job. To go to them and tell them. Do you understand?"

Aylmer shook his head.

"I hear your price—for what?" he asked. "It's a one-sided bargain, so far."

"The goods that I have to deliver," said Landon, slowly, "are what I put safely out of your way a moment ago. That boy's health, and mental and—moral, too, if you like—strength. Do you get the notion?"

For a moment the silence remained unbroken. Then Aylmer spoke.

"You devil!" he said slowly. "You incarnate fiend!"

Landon laughed again, with complacent satisfaction.

"You do get the notion," he said. "Let your mind dwell upon it, give it deliberation. I sha'n't kill the boy, oh, not for a long time. I shall keep him alive; he'll even enjoy the process. I'll bring him up carefully, very carefully. There isn't a form of life as I've seen it that he sha'n't be familiar with. You may hunt me from England; you may make it hot for me in Europe and America. There are plenty of lively resorts in this good old continent of Africa which will amply fulfill my purpose. I'll put him through the mill; I'll begin early, too. I sha'n't leave much to luck. If by any chance you brought about my death, and I credit you with grit enough to attempt it, you'll find the kid well-grounded. He shall be his father's son, and a bit more. I hadn't the advantages he's going to have."

The flush of anger which had mounted to Aylmer's face was gone now. He looked at Landon keenly, indeed, but with more curiosity than wrath. His voice was quite controlled.

"And in the alternative?" he asked. "In any case you keep him. What do we gain by meeting your terms?"

Landon shrugged his shoulders.

"He has his chance, then, against the World, the Flesh and the Devil with the rest of them. I sha'n't pose as a saint before him, but I'll see that he behaves himself decently and plays the game. He'll go to Eton and Balliol, if he has the sense. I sha'n't send him to Sunday-school but he'll attend church on Sundays—once. I'll choose his tailor and put him in the way of things. He'll learn, in fact, how to conduct himself as an ordinary English gentleman."

Aylmer nodded.

"From whom?" he asked quietly.

And then Landon flinched. The eyes which had been bent on his cousin with eagerness, with greed alight in them, quivered. He gave a little intake of the breath.

"You cursed prig!" he breathed thickly. "You cursed prig!"

Aylmer smiled.

"You've been out of it too long, Landon," he said. "For over a year I suppose your only familiars have been Bowery ruffians or Soho blackmailers. Did you think this could be done? Did you really make yourself believe that I was likely to be an easy intermediary for such a proposition? And I imagine that you forget that it was entirely for your wife's sake that your father-in-law dealt gently with you during your married life. There's no need for any restraint in that quarter now."

Landon made a gesture of contempt.

"Are you making threats for that old tame cat?" he sneered.

"He's got claws that will reach out to scratch you at the world's end, my amiable cousin. They're made of dollars. And they'll be sharpened with American grit. Uncommon unpleasant, you'll find them."

Landon snapped his fingers.

"That for his dollars and his grit!" he cried. "It's no good raising your bluff on me. I'll see you every time, see you and take it! Leave it out; don't waste time over it. Are you going to carry my message to them, or are you not?"

"No," said Aylmer. "You knew perfectly well what my answer was going to be, but if it's any satisfaction to you to have it—No!"

Landon leaned forward.

"I guessed what your high falutin' ideas would answer," he said, "but I'm talking to you—to you about yourself." He pointed to the well-like opening above his head. "Do you believe that you could climb out of there with a broken collar-bone?" he asked.

Aylmer glanced quickly in the direction of the extended finger.

"Perhaps not," he answered.

Landon nodded.

"You don't know what superhuman exertions a man will contrive when he is perishing—of thirst," he said. "But even he couldn't move the slab of stone which ten men will drag over that opening, if I bid them. And that will be now, if you don't come off your high horse. This isn't a healthy place for my friends of the Beni M'Geel. We have to be moving on immediately."

A sudden quiver that perhaps was nearly akin to fear pulsed up into Aylmer's brain, showed, indeed, in his eyes. The fever of his wound was already upon him; his lips were parched, his tongue swollen. To be left in that pit—to be sealed in—to die?

Landon grinned.

"Eh?" he questioned. "Are second thoughts best? Do you begin to understand?"

For a moment or two the stillness remained unbroken, and in Aylmer's gaze there was little still but wonder—wonder that things like Landon should continue to exist in this prosy work-a-day world of ours. Opportunities for unleashing a real lust of cruelty and evil come to few of us. We argue therefore that they do not occur. A common error. A glance at the pages of half a dozen reports of philanthropic societies will refute it, but we, who are not engaged in social reform, are lost in amazement at the monsters when we meet them. It was incredulity which was in Aylmer's mind, and incredulity Landon imagined to be deliberation.

"There are no two ways to it!" he cried sharply. "Don't think that. It's yes or no, now and here!"

Aylmer made a wearily contemptuous gesture.

"Haven't you had your answer?" he said. "It's no; it would be no if I had a thousand chances to say it—no—no—no!"

Landon rose. He looked down at the man at his feet malignantly, suspiciously. He shouted in Spanish to some unseen listener outside. The end of a rope was dropped down through the opening. Methodically Landon knotted it about the dead horse's neck and forelegs.

"No, my friend," he said, as if in answer to some unspoken question, "you aren't going to exist by munching this dead brute's flesh or sucking its blood till help comes, if it comes at all. You are going to be left in here with no more company than your own obstinacy, alone."

He shouted again. The rope tautened. Landon seized it, and with a couple of energetic jerks swung himself up into the sunshine. And then the carcase rose, dragged a little on the floor, and in its turn was hauled out of sight. The cellar loomed larger, gloomier, emptier when it was gone. There was another dragging sound. Half the light which filtered through the opening was eclipsed.

Landon's voice rang hollow in the underground echoes.

"Is it no, still, you fool?" he snarled.

There was no answer.

With a curse, Landon made a significant motion of the hand. The brawny Arab shoulders were bent and their thews tightened. The great slab slid into its appointed place.



A full mile out in the offing The Morning Star swung at her anchorage, dipping and swerving lazily over the incoming rush of the Atlantic swell. The dawn-light was soft behind the white bastions of the town's sea-wall; the harsh glare of the fully risen sun was yet to come. A little boat put out from the shore, zigzagging across the wide lake which is bounded on the south by the headland and on the north and west by the ring of transports, merchantmen, and cuirassés of the French Marine. She tacked and came about at short intervals as if those who sailed her had need of haste, or at any rate of the distraction of attempting speed even if it could not be attained. She sidled, at last, towards the yacht's companion ladder.

Claire Van Arlen rose from her deck chair as the boat's sail dropped. She walked towards the taffrail and looked down. She had used her binoculars upon the little craft ever since its start from the shore, and had finally recognized Daoud. His companion, a uniformed man, whose long limbs seemed to occupy the whole of the space between stern and stem, had his head swathed in bandages.

Daoud was the first to scramble aboard. He stood before her with bent shoulders, the picture of dejection.

She breathed a little quickly.

"Yes?" she asked. "You have brought news—of what?"

The tall man swung himself off the ladder, drew himself upright, and saluted.

"Mademoiselle, I am Sergeant Perinaud, attached to the office of the military police here. I attended M. Aylmer during our ride in pursuit of the man named Landon, who was escaping with certain desert knaves of the Beni M'Geel. We overtook them—"

"Mademoiselle, I am Sergeant Perinaud"

She interrupted with an exclamation of delight.

"You have the boy?" she cried. "You recovered him?"

He shook his head.

"No, Mademoiselle. We were betrayed into an unfortunate ambush. We lost five men out of ten in addition to further losses at an earlier date in the proceedings. Monsieur le Capitaine has been badly hurt."

He looked at her keenly with a sort of speculative curiosity. And Daoud frowned. For there was no sign of commiseration in her glance. She showed annoyance, almost disgust.

"You had your hands upon these men and they escaped you?" she cried.

"We were within a very little of arresting them, Mademoiselle, but by an Arab trick in which I regret to say they showed more intelligence than we were capable of divining, they defeated us. I am directed by Major d'Hubert to report to you fully on the incident if you desire it."

She made a vehement gesture.

"If!" she cried. "If!"

With an accession of woodenness in his demeanor, the sergeant drew himself up yet more stiffly, repeated his salute, and in a few precise words gave the story of the pursuit. But, as he described Aylmer's fall, it was to be noted that his voice and bearing relaxed. A tinge of the dramatic colored his level tones. His eyes—his hands were called upon to emphasize the description of the headlong plunge into the black trap of the silo—indicated the feelings of an onlooker rather than a mere reporter, as he described the sealing of the prison mouth. And as she listened, she gave a little gasp. In the background Daoud flung his colleague a little nod of approval.

"And then?" she asked breathlessly. "And then?"

"I was unhorsed, Mademoiselle, and somewhat beaten about the head, as is evident. I found shelter in a neighboring patch of mallow, where, after a season, I was joined by my friend here. The Beni M'Geel having departed, we watched their route as a matter of precaution for a mile or two, and then returned. We were unable to deal with the slab upon the cellar mouth."

This time his voice had been level enough, but he made his pause effective.

She gasped again.

"You left him there?"

He smiled.

"Yes, Mademoiselle, but not without rendering him assistance. Not being able to remove the stone, we merely dug another entrance. The outer earth was hard and baked, but after pecking off a few inches with our knives we fetched water from the river and easily softened it. We fashioned a couple of wooden shovels. Thus we dug down into the prison in an hour or two. We found the captain delirious."

"Yes?" she said again, eagerly. "You brought him away?"

"Mademoiselle forgets that we had no horses. Daoud remained with him. I walked to our nearest outpost—at Ain Djemma—to fetch assistance."

His tones were absolutely matter of fact, but some instinct of comprehension made her look at him yet more keenly and thus note the weariness which his voice could hide, but not his drawn features.

"You walked, how far?" she questioned.

"I have no exact idea, Mademoiselle. For some hours. I could not obtain a surgeon; there was but one at the post and his hands were full. An orderly of the ambulance came with me with a cacolet and a small escort of Chasseurs. But we have not dared to remove the captain, whose fever has reached a serious height. The orderly advised that I should come direct to the town and obtain either medical help, or, if possible, one of the Dames de la Croix Rouge. But there is an epidemic of fever at the hospital and an influx of wounded from the Tirailleurs' foray of four days back. Neither surgeon nor nurse can be spared for one man."

For a moment there was silence again. Perinaud looked at her with a sort of questioning apathy, with the detached air of one having done his duty and awaiting the decrees of fate. But Daoud moved restlessly, and then broke into speech, as if some irresistible impulse moved him.

"I think my master is likely to die, Mademoiselle," he said.

And then he, too, waited, in a sort of queer, hushed expectancy, as if his words must result in some definite action.

"We have medical comforts on board," she said quickly. "We will put anything we possess at Captain Aylmer's service."

Perinaud nodded again solemnly.

"The dislocated shoulder has been dealt with, Mademoiselle, and the broken bone set. The orderly, also, has quinine for the fever, which is high. We might be doing right, perhaps, in taking back any other remedies which your intelligence can suggest."

His tone was meditative and judicial, and intimated quite distinctly that this was a side issue and not the objective of his present mission. He continued to stare at her steadily, without any tinge of offence, but with a questioning directness which spoke volumes. "I am waiting," it seemed to say. "I have given you your cue. Speak your part."

She looked from him to the Moor, read the same message in the latter's air of anticipation, and then spoke, desperately.

"What is it?" she demanded. "You want—something?"

The man looked not exactly embarrassed but disconcerted, surprised. His eyebrows rose a fraction, he flashed a swiftly inquiring glance at the Moor. The other nodded.

"The captain's fever and delirium is very great, Mademoiselle," he said slowly. "We thought—" He hesitated. "The captain, in his wanderings, used your name frequently."

She understood in a moment. Aylmer, in his fevered unconsciousness, had—what had he done? Placed himself, and her, in a false position? These stolid, unimaginative men, at any rate, regarded her as his fiancée! She was not eager, vehement, to rush to her lover's side! No wonder they showed astonishment.

She stood silent, perturbed, at a loss. And the two impassive faces watched her. And again a tiny spasm of fear throbbed through her. Fate was fighting for this man, it seemed. Helpless, unconscious, cast away in this rat-hole in the wilderness, his plight worked for him where his own powers could not. His very helplessness appealed to her. Could she refuse the duty which was being plainly forced upon her by the mute message of those four watching eyes? Her imagination began to work. She saw a gloomy pit, a white face wasted with fever, heard a voice which, unconsciously, perhaps, but still appealingly, called upon her name. And this was the debonair soldier who had ridden out three days before to do—what? Her bidding, no less. A flush rose to her brow.

"I have not a nurse's training," she assured Perinaud quietly, "but I will come with you, if you will wait."

The sergeant saluted.

"At Mademoiselle's service," he said placidly, and then turned towards his colleague and sighed, a deep suspiration eloquent of relief.

At the door of the saloon she hesitated. She could see her father at his desk, bent over his papers, writing methodically. A sudden irritated sense of shyness fell upon her. Surely he, too, could not misunderstand.

He looked round at her entrance. Without preamble she repeated the sergeant's report, speaking in level, matter of fact tones. She announced her decision to return with Perinaud and his escort.

Her father's first comment was no more than his usual deferential little nod. But there was a slightly strained silence between them as she finished speaking—a silence which gave him time for reflection.

"You think your presence necessary, likely to benefit him?" he said questioningly.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"He has been wounded in our service," she said. "These men seem to expect much of my nursing—I who have never nursed. I hardly see a way to refuse graciously."

Again her father made his little obeisance of assent.

"I could charge myself with an explanation," he said gravely. "There is no reason for you to go against your wishes. I fear there is little prospect of our being of real help."

Then a sudden throb of protest surged up in her. The vision of the dark cellar and of the fevered lips which called constantly upon her name became vivid, more vivid than before. To her own amazement she realized that she wanted to go, that the thought of those two horsemen riding out into the wild with their message of repulse had become abhorrent to her. She felt suddenly pitying, protective. The feminine, indeed, the maternal, instinct gripped her.

The blood rose to her cheeks.

"I should prefer to go," she said quietly.

Van Arlen made a little gesture of finality.

"The sooner, then, the better," he said, and moved briskly towards his own cabin, summoning the steward to his councils as he went.

The dusk was falling over them with grateful coolness as, eight hours later, they rode over the brink of the gorge and saw below them the black spectral shape of camel's-hair tents and the white dwellings of the duar. A lantern newly lit twinkled a welcome. A stallion neighed a greeting from his pickets as he heard the sound of advancing hoofs, and a couple of men in white uniform came to the door of a white-domed hovel and stood awaiting them.

One, a dapper, black-moustached little man with the Geneva Cross upon his sleeve, hastened to help Miss Van Arlen to alight.

"Monsieur sleeps, Mademoiselle," he informed her, as she reached the ground. "It is a matter of temperatures—and the subsequent weakness. Mademoiselle may have good hope that matters will yet go well."

His smile was reassuring and, in spite of his obvious youth, almost paternal. At the tent door he turned and laid his finger upon his lips. There must be no feminine want of self-restraint, he implied. The sight of one dear to her in his hour of helplessness must not leave her unstrung. She must be brave.

She followed with her father into the shadows within.

He lay with his arms outflung. A light coverlet was over him, but the damp of perspiration gleamed upon his forehead and neck. He moved restlessly, breathing with a panting sound.

"We poise much on Monsieur's recognition of Mademoiselle when he wakes," explained the orderly, and offered a smirk of intelligent sympathy to Mademoiselle's father.

She looked down, and a strange sense of unreality in the situation seized her. The white, fever-stricken face on the pillow seemed a spectre—a caricature of something familiar. A queer sense of anger, as if some well-liked possession had been meddled with and defaced by outsiders, rose in her heart. An instinct which she could not explain set her kneeling beside the pallet bed, her eyes fixed on its occupant.

Wearily, drowsily, Aylmer opened his eyes.

And then his smile dawned, slowly, incredulously, till the glory of assurance had become convincing. He pronounced her name.

In the background, emotional thrills travelled across the orderly's foolishly sentimental countenance. He took mental notes of a situation which bulked largely and enticingly in a letter to an apple-cheeked damsel in far-away Provence a few days later. "Such are the rewards of the soldier, my soul," he explained. "Love? Its cords are strong to drag its devotees even across this waste wilderness of Africa!" Wherein he did one of the most fertile lands upon the habitable globe a vile injustice. But your true lover is invariably a poet and girdled with merely a poet's limitations, while the apple-cheeked demoiselle's romantic sensibilities were quickened to the point of tears.

Mr. Van Arlen moved forward to his daughter's side with a suddenly instinctive motion. And she understood it. The embarrassment of the situation had at once become plain to him; his desire was to clear it, he was framing words—courteous, no doubt, but without any trace of sentiment—to assist her in this. He would do it admirably; his tact was beyond question.

And she?

Again she felt a sudden thrill of protest. No, how could they deal coldly with this man, now? It would be less than womanly—would it even be common fair play? He was down. Surely till he was up again, the indomitable soldier she knew and feared, honor forbade their striking even at his self-assurance.

Her hand was laid upon her father's arm, pressing it in gentle remonstrance. Then she leaned towards the bed.

"We have come to thank you," she said quietly. "You have suffered much for us, too much."

His smile was fading while she spoke.

"I—I failed," he muttered. "I had my hands upon him, and failed."

"Ah, but you mustn't think us unjust, always," she answered. "What you intended—that is what we look at. You have worked for us ceaselessly. And now you suffer for us. You must accept our gratitude for that."

He shook his head slowly, and his gaze wandered past her to Van Arlen's face.

"It is a check," he said slowly, "but only a check. He is not going to win." His eyes grew suddenly clear and his lips grim. "I shall follow him to the end," he said.

The orderly moved forward and rearranged the coverlet. He looked significantly at a flush which had risen to Aylmer's cheek.

"It is better that Monsieur should not excite himself," he explained amiably. "Mademoiselle is here; matters are going well. Monsieur will convalesce all the quicker if he avoids emotion."

Aylmer pushed at the rearranged coverlet with a gesture of irritation. He drew himself into a sitting posture.

"Don't think that I have flung up the sponge!" he cried. "Before, before this weakness came over me I arranged for the future. Daoud has seen to that; he has put matters in train. Landon will be watched—if necessary, followed. And when I am up again—" he smiled savagely—"when I take the trail for the second time, he will pay in full, as I promised he should."

And his voice rang firm as he caught sight of the Moor silhouetted against the evening light at the tent door.

"That is so?" he demanded. "You have seen to this among your friends?"

Daoud came forward a couple of respectful paces.

"Be assured, Sidi," he said, "that this man will not move a yard but I shall have due knowledge of it, in time. He cannot leave North Africa, and I be ignorant of it. Our hands may lag, but they will grip him at the last."

Aylmer gave a little sigh of satisfaction and lay back. And his eyes rose to Van Arlen's half appealingly, half defiantly.

"You see?" he said. "At any rate, I am doing—my best."

The other bowed, but not his automatic, courteous little bow with which he punctuated his everyday conversation. There was a moisture in his eyes. He leaned forward and took the hand which moved restlessly across the coverlet.

"If I had had a son," he said, "he could have done no more. Take my thanks, Captain Aylmer, for all that you are and have been; take them in full."

Aylmer gave a little nod of content.

"I'll take them," he smiled, "for what I have been to you, and that is less than nothing. But for what I am going to be—I'll earn them for that, earn them!"



About the aspect of the port of Melilla there is only one thing wholly admirable. That is the curving bay which sweeps eastward from the town towards the frontier blockhouse. This last is an eyesore; the untethered camels which pasture in herds beside it have little attractiveness; the wide plateau which stretches up to the distant hills is desolate and often arid. But the bay is a perpetual delight. Curved like a scimitar, it shines in the sunlight as a tempered blade shines, ringed by white tresses of foam, banked by its parapets of sand.

Two men sat in the shadow cast by a stranded boat and watched half a dozen Moors and Spaniards who bent their shoulders and swelled out their muscles to haul at a couple of ropes. The ropes slanted down to and were lost in the rush of the breakers. Those who dragged at them panted, the perspiration raining off their faces. The men who sat and watched seemed to find a whet to the enjoyment of their siesta in reviewing so much energy. One of them sighed—a contented little sigh, drew a cigarette from the breast of his djelab, lit it, and began to smoke with stolid satisfaction.

A child who was sitting between the two rose suddenly and ran down the sand. The men at the ropes had come to a halt. They stood gasping, wiping their faces. Impulsively the child laid his little hands upon the rope and stood in an attitude of tension, ready to use his tiny strength when operations were resumed. The men welcomed him with a glance of good-humored toleration.

The cigarette smoker laughed.

"The restlessness of youth, Sidi. Repose? They have no knowledge of the meaning of the word, these children. Now I? The last three weeks have brimmed with such toil that I could sit here and contentedly drowse a week, a month, nay, a whole year, if Allah willed."

The other nodded and stretched his limbs. The movement expressed the lethargy which is earned by fatigue.

"To-night we shall eat real food," he murmured. "We shall sleep in beds of sorts. We can even be amused, if we find the cafés chantants which attract these poor devils of Andalusian conscripts amusing. It's all a matter of contrasts—life. After the experiences we have endured among our friends the M'Geel, this doghole appears alluring. This!"

He waved his hand with a significant gesture towards the town, in which the mean houses appear to hustle the citadel and the citadel the houses, without either the one or the other gaining advantage.

The smoker blew out a cloud and spat towards the flagstaff which dominates the sea bastion.

"May Allah relegate it and its inhabitants shortly to the Abyss!" he aspired devoutly. "Is it permitted to ask how long, Sidi, you purpose using its hospitalities?"

"It is always permitted to ask, my friend. The answer is another matter. Bluntly, till the Gibraltar boat arrives."

The other lifted his shoulders into a tiny shrug.

"For the Sidi Jan this is a place not to be recommended. There is a smell, do you notice, especially at night—murk which rises from the fort ditch. And the vermin! His little skin is pitted with them!"

Landon moved irritably. He looked at his son. The men at the ropes were hauling again by now, and the small back was bent and the little arms tautened with efforts to emulate them. The first few meshes of a laden net appeared above the surface of the breakers.

Little John gave a squeal of delight, promptly deserted the toilers, and capered joyously down the beach. Scales began to shine silvern in the sun as the tangle of the nets rose slowly, but higher and yet higher. His voice rose in shrill outcry; he clapped his hands.

As the great bag of the net was hauled little by little up the shelving beach, he flung himself into the hurtle round the wriggling catch. The mackerel were there in their hundreds—in their thousands. He tripped and fell into the center of the heap of fishes, wriggling as they wriggled, and to little more purpose.

Muhammed rose, paced slowly forward, and plucked him into safety. But the child met his good offices with scorn.

"I wish to help; I wish to gather them up!" he cried petulantly. "I am going to be a fisherman. I shall take the yacht to the fishing grounds and catch millions—millions!"

"There must be a catching of a yacht first," said Muhammed, amiably. "Where wilt thou obtain it, little lord?"

Little John Aylmer turned puzzled eyes up to his questioner. Then he wheeled and pointed eastward towards the anchorage below the headland.

"It is there!" he explained. "Did he," he pointed towards his father, who still lay comfortably reclined in the shadow of the boat, "not send for it?"

Muhammed's eyes followed the direction of the child's hand. He stared, gave a sudden startled exclamation, and stared again, incredulously. The next moment he was back at his employer's side, twitching excitedly at the folds of his bournous.

"Sidi—Sidi!" he exclaimed. "While we drowse we are betrayed. Look! Look!"

Landon scrambled to his feet and saw what the timbers of the shadowing boat had hidden before. A white vessel, drifting slowly in from the headland abreast the market quay. As he watched, a white spout of foam and the rattle of the hawse-pipes told that the anchor had been dropped.

She rounded to, the American flag waving lazily from her stern, the burgee of the New York Yacht Club from her peak. They could not read her name across two miles of water, but they did not need to. It was The Morning Star.

Landon went white beneath his tan. He swore.

"We have been here three days—three days, by God! Not a soul in the place knows me or knows that I am not what I profess to be—a Moor from El Dibh. And yet—this! It can't be a coincidence. They know—somehow!"

He looked at Muhammed in sudden fierce suspicion.

"That infernal Jew of yours has sold us!" he cried.

The Moor made a tolerant gesture, the sort of motion a nurse offers a wilful child.

"Sidi! You do not understand. A Jew to sell me! Not this side of the Mediterranean. It means death! Yakoob knows it; it is knowledge that he has sucked in with his mother's milk, chewed with his daily bread, seen written in letters of blood in a score of towns between this and Mequinez. No, Yakoob Ihudi is not in this business. Some other is the instrument of—fate!"

He stooped, lifted little John carefully in his arms, and nodded towards the town gate.

"We must use haste, Sidi," he said calmly, avoiding the protests the child was making with his closed fists. "Show wisdom, little lord. Why do you not wish to return to the town, wherein are special delights for the eye in the booths of the market-place?"

Landon hesitated. Then he joined the Moor, running. And the other was covering the ground with huge strides which forced his companion to continue the run to keep pace with him. He panted out a question.

"My plan, Sidi?" returned the Moor. "It lies in the hands of Allah. Here when inquiry begins to be made, we are the mark of a hundred eyes. In Yakoob's hovel a means of escape may be found."

The two reached the dusty road which leads from the drill ground, followed it into the shadows of the town gate, mounted the steep on which the citadel stands, and gained a row of squalid wooden hovels which fringed the rampart above the fort ditch. Into one of these they disappeared.

A man looked up as they entered, a dark-skinned, low-browed Israelite, who greeted them with an obsequiously furtive air. He sat cross-legged upon a turned-up chest and plied his needle upon an exceedingly ragged pair of trousers. A heap of other garments lay at his elbow. His trade was evidently that of mending tailor.

"This deposit for contraband of which you spoke last night?" asked Muhammed, without preamble. "Where is it?"

The look of furtive expectancy in the tailor's eyes became active alarm.

"What do you fear?" he asked shrilly. "A search? There are fifteen thousand cartridges awaiting transport."

"The search will not be for those, but for these," said the Moor, pointing to Landon and his son. "And there is as great a ruin attached to the finding of the one as the other. You must prevent that."

The Jew rose quickly and barred the door. With alert movements he gathered up the smoking ashes from the hearth and emptied them into a shallow pan. He covered his hand with a cloth, seized the pothook which hung from the entrance of the chimney, and moved it laboriously aside. As he did so the hearthstone moved slowly downwards as if on a hinge. A flight of steps led into the darkness.

Muhammed indicated the opening with a shrug.

"The best we can do, Sidi," he deprecated. "Till matters adjust themselves you must keep company with Yakoob's contraband."

Landon shrugged his shoulders.

"Air?" he questioned laconically. "It is supplied—how?"

Muhammed passed on the question. The Jew pointed to the bosom of his bournous, which rose and fell in the draught which rose from below.

"There are innumerable crevices which open through the wall of the fort ditch," he said. "For this reason the Sidi must not use a light—at night."

Landon shrugged his shoulders pessimistically, and took his son by the hand. "Come, my boy," he said. "We are going to play that childhood's favorite and most successful comedy—the Robbers in the Cave. You and I are to be the leaders of the gang."

Little John peered doubtfully into the darkness.

"And Muhammed?" he asked, looking at the Moor with expectant, trusting eyes.

There was a queer intensity in the Moor's glance as he bent over the small figure hesitating at the head of the steps. His smile was kindly and reassuring.

"I am the robber who goes abroad, prowling to find wicked rich men who deserve robbing," he said. "I return shortly, little lord. Have no fear."

Little John nodded gravely and took his father's hand. The two paced solemnly down into the cellar. The hearthstone was replaced, the cinders set smoking upon it again. With a sigh Yakoob took up another deplorable pair of trousers and bit off a length of thread. Muhammed passed out into the street.

Five minutes later he stood on the quayside, watching the motor launch which slid out of the shadow cast on the still waters by The Morning Star.

Three figures sat upon the cushions at the stern, and Muhammed, as he watched them from under the hood of his haik, examined one of them with startled intensity. Miss Van Arlen he recognized. Aylmer, whose face was partially disguised by bandages, he debated over for a moment. But this third? This gray-clad elder? This was not the owner of The Morning Star. It was—whom?

Surprise as much as relief erased the wrinkles from the watcher's face as the unknown stepped ashore, turned to assist his companion, and disclosed the features of the Moor's former employer, Mr. Miller.

Muhammed emphasized his amazement with an oath. "One God!" he swore, and for a moment hesitated. Then, as the gray-clad man strolled past him, talking, the Moor pushed back the haik which shadowed his face and met the other's glance squarely.

Mr. Miller made no sign.

Muhammed dropped back into the shadow of the quayside booths, and sauntered carelessly up the citadel ramp. The three preceded him. At the top of the ramp a causeway leads to the drawbridge which spans the fort ditch. Mr. Miller had apparently eyes for nothing but his fair companion. He failed to notice, at any rate, the dilapidated state of the iron rails which fence the bridge. The dust cloak he was carrying caught in a jagged piece of iron and was most unfortunately torn. A sudden appreciative gleam burned in Muhammed's eyes as he noted the incident. The haik hood concealed a smile.

He could not hear, but he could see the expressive pantomime which was accompanying Mr. Miller's apologies. He motioned his companions forward towards the bridge and the dark entrance through the casemate into the citadel. As for himself, his finger explained, he would return to the town and get the damage repaired. After a minute's discussion, matters followed the course indicated. Aylmer and Miss Van Arlen passed on—to seek the government offices, as Muhammed told himself, to interview the head, no doubt, of the military police.

The Moor slid forward deferentially as the gray figure turned.

"I can direct the Sidi to a sastre of incredible skill," he explained. "The Sidi has no need to return to the town if he desires such an one. He is to be found within a hundred paces, if the Sidi so will."

Mr. Miller made an affable gesture of acquiescence.

"You are certainly quick to seize a business opportunity, my friend," he said amiably. "Lead on."

Two minutes later the two stood behind Yakoob's well-barred door, and the hearthstone had been raised. Landon offered his visitor a tribute of surprise tinged with humor.

"I understood, my friend," he said, as he took the other's hand, "that the mail came in from Gibraltar to-morrow. For you, it seems, the age of miracles is not past?"

"I hope I am an alert servant of opportunity," said Miller. "I got your letter yesterday morning."

"That does not entirely explain your presence in Melilla to-day."

Miller nodded.

"Your father-in-law has been anchored in Gibraltar Bay for the last fortnight. He has had information of your movements, my friend—good information, and I have not been able to determine the source of it. I made it my business to get introduced to him at the house of mutual friends. A humble client of mine, a ship's chandler, acquainted me with the fact that The Morning Star's anchor and steam were being raised, and with the name of her port of destination. A couple of good boatmen and a little tact did the rest. I told Mr. Van Arlen that I had an urgent business necessity to visit these possessions of the King of Spain. Result—a warm invitation to anticipate the mail boat by a day."

"Excellent!" commended Landon. "And the business necessity? You have brought the means of relieving it?"

Mr. Miller dilated his nostrils. Perhaps the reek of the fort ditch reached him. Very carefully and methodically he lit a cigarette.

"Yes—and no," he answered at last, and with deliberation. "I have money with me, my dear Lord Landon. But my employers give me no commission to apply it to—charity."

Landon's eyes grew suddenly ominous.

"The price of that book was to be five hundred pounds," he said. "I have received one hundred so far."

Miller made a gesture of assent.

"You obtained for me a certain book. Subsequent investigations proved it to be a mere dummy—a book made, in fact, to be stolen. You remain in my debt to the extent of that score of five-pound notes which I gave you."

Landon laughed a dry little laugh.

"Then I concede that I shall remain in your debt—permanently. The bungling is yours, not mine. I demand the balance of my fee. For suppose, my dear Miller, that I gave your game in Gibraltar away?"

"Suppose you did," said Miller, placidly. "It would be a question of your word against mine, would it not?"

There was nothing sneering in his tone, but its bald self-assurance seemed to whip Landon's temper into fury. He swore wickedly.

Miller watched him as the weasel might be expected to watch the trapped rat. And the dark, unpleasant little room had, indeed, many of the attributes of a cage.

And then there was an energetic gesture from the gray-clad arm.

"You bungled the matter—not in stealing the wrong book," said Miller, "but in the manner of your escape. It was then that you lost your value to my employers. You are liable to be arrested in any of the British dominions. Till that matter is settled, you are a weapon without an edge, for us. That error must be repaired."

Landon stared up at him curiously.

"How?" he asked.

Miller made a significant gesture towards the child. There was no intention of menace in it, but the child shrank back, turning, not towards his father, but with a sudden instinctive outstretching of his hand to Muhammed. The Moor grasped the little fingers silently and smiled—a smile which faded as he turned his keen, watchful eyes again upon the visitor.

"You must renounce your detention of your son," said Miller. "You must bargain with his grandfather. Your price must be a certain competency, if you will, but above all the right to return unquestioned into your proper place in society. In this way alone can you continue to be of use—to me."

There was a silence. Landon, still a-squat upon the floor, his elbow on his knee, the heel of his fist supporting his hand, stared up at his mentor with impassive eyes. In the shadow on his right Muhammed stood, still holding the child's hand, his glance hovering over Miller with a speculation which was almost distrust. Behind him the tailor stitched apathetically at his dilapidated wares.

Suddenly Landon turned to the Moor.

"You have heard?" he questioned sharply.

"I have heard, oh, Sidi."

"And understood?"

The man hesitated.

"There is a purpose of surrendering the Sidi Jan?" he murmured, and his voice conveyed not so much protest as incredulity.

Landon nodded.

"This month of toil, all our leagues of weariness and pain among the men of the M'Geel are things lost, then," went on the Moor impassively. "An order has come and we must leap to obey it. The Sidi Jan, too? His voice is not to be heard in the matter." He shrugged his shoulders apathetically. "Only a child," he added, and touched the golden curls with a caressing hand. "Only a bale of merchandise, a thing to be bought and sold."

Miller turned and looked at him keenly. The Moor met the glance with a droop of the head which spoke eloquently of submission. But a queer smile began to harden Landon's lips. He rose slowly to his feet.

"A bale of merchandise," he repeated slowly. "And, as I am reminded, we toiled to bring it uninjured across the wilds of the Beni M'Geel. Will that be reckoned in the value of it?" he asked, and wheeled suddenly towards Miller with a savage, cat-like motion. "Will they pay me for my sweat and thirst and pain?"

The gray man was silent for a moment. There was something electric in the atmosphere, something menacing, something—and this was perhaps what his machine-like mind shrank from most—something human and passionate. These were not among the goods which Mr. Miller sought to purchase.

"You will do your own bargaining," he said, in a level, dispassionate tone. "But the child must be delivered. The price? There you are master of your own affairs."

For the second time Landon's eyes dwelled on Muhammed's face.

"I shall answer him—how?" he asked quietly.

"Thus!" said the Moor, and flung his arms round Miller's elbows and smothered his lips upon his breast, while Landon, laughing a queer, excited laugh, snatched up a garment from the dismal heap on the floor, tore off a liberal patch, and deftly wound it in gag-wise between the prisoner's teeth. Shackled with ragged waist-cloths at ankle and wrist, the gray figure was lowered down the steps into the darkness. Muhammed spoke rapidly and incisively for the space of a minute to the Jew, who listened in impassive silence. Then, with a last commanding gesture, the Moor opened the door and went out again alone into the swiftly falling dusk.



Muhammed's steps were bent away from the town towards the row of dilapidated hovels which fringe the bank of sand below the nearer blockhouse. And he walked quickly; there was definite purpose and no sign of hesitation in his stride. He came to a halt before a dwelling, half burrow, half barn, round the entrance of which were clustered half a dozen ragged figures.

The Moor's face was dark in the shadow of his haik hood, but he appeared to need no introduction. He raised a finger and beckoned. One of the lounging figures rose grudgingly and drew aside with him.

"I have it from Yakoob, Signor Luigi, that you leave to-morrow. That must be altered. It may be necessary to make a start to-night."

The other raised a dark Italian face towards the Moor and eyed him questioningly. He shrugged his shoulders.

"I have no charter from Yakoob," he said. "I return home to Salicudi—to await the sponge-fishing season. I need a holiday; this contraband running frets the nerves, do you see? I wish to forget the need of having eyes—and a telescope—at the back of one's head."

For a moment Muhammed was silent, debating, as it seemed, something in which memory or experience gave him no assistance.

"Salicudi?" he questioned.

"In the Lipari group," said the other, laconically. "My home."

"An island?" said the Moor. "And your home? What is it? A house—a hut—a castle? Give me particulars. My chiefest need would be privacy. Can you guarantee it?"

The Italian pondered.

"You flee from—what?" he demanded.

"From a curiosity which still seems to dog my footsteps," said the Moor, drily. "Let it be sufficient for you to know that with three friends I desire to vanish from Melilla to-night. We might find it convenient to remain temporarily on Salicudi. It depends on your neighbors' thirst for information and your capabilities of defeating it."

Signor Luigi gave an expressive and contemptuous wave of the hand.

"On Salicudi are six families—cousins of mine, all of them. I and my brother Sandro alone possess boats or money. The others work for us and are fed. We do not encourage them to think; they do not tire their magnificent brains except under our direction."

Muhammed nodded appreciatively.

"The priest?" he suggested.

"Father Sigismondi serves six islands besides mine," said the smuggler. "He visits us by favor of my boat, when Christian offices are in special demand. It is a matter I regulate myself."

"Carabineers, tax collectors?"

"Of the former, none; we have leave to cut our own throats. Of the latter, one yearly. He is due in about eight months' time."


"Polenta—fish—beans; at times of festa a risotto of kid. We have goats, and therefore milk."

The Moor nodded.

"I am empowered to offer you for your hospitality for myself and friends twenty lire per head per week during our stay on your boat or island," he said slowly.

Luigi scratched his head.

"One hundred lire for the lot?" he temporized. "You have appetites, you Moors; that is notorious."

"We have appetites—for food," agreed Muhammed. "The bill of fare you quote contains little that would be dignified as such in my way of thinking. You will take eighty lire per week, or lose this trade of Yakoob's. Choose quickly."

For the second time the Italian's shoulders rose in a shrug.

"What you will," he said apathetically. "You hold a pistol to my head."

"Try to remember that it remains always loaded," replied the other, and turned briskly towards the port. "You had better see to your arrangements instantly."

He passed across the sand towards the dirty little Marina which fronts the shipping offices and ship-chandlers' booths, leaving his companion staring after him with a frown. Then, for the third time, Signor Luigi shrugged his shoulders and followed, to enter finally a ship's dingy which was tied to the Marina steps. In this he gained a large lateen-rigged boat which swung at her moorings in the bay.

The motor launch floated idly on the ripples at the landing stage immediately below the citadel. The engineer had come ashore and sat on a bench beneath the tarpaulin which had been roughly erected to protect some perishable government stores. In the shadow of the Marina booths, Muhammed halted and looked thoughtfully at the man and then at the launch and finally at the setting sun. The birth of a new and up-lifting emotion could be seen working in his expressive eyes.

"Bismillah!" he exclaimed softly. "The one! Why not the three!"

He drew himself up; a deep breath escaped him. He slipped around the back of the line of booths and reappeared coming as from the citadel. And he had the aspect of haste and importance.

He walked straight up to the waiting engineer.

"I bring an order that you do not await your mistress but return for her in three hours' time," he said in excellent English.

The man looked up in stolid surprise.

"Eh?" he questioned.

"Your mistress has accepted an invitation to dine with the governor," said Muhammed. "You are to return for her at ten o'clock."

The man got up and shook himself lazily as he strolled towards the launch.

"Nice hospitable old cock—what?" he hazarded. "Didn't send me down a small bottle of beer and a sandwich, now did he?"

Muhammed shook his head. The man grunted pessimistically, gave a surly little nod, and sat down behind the launch's steering wheel. A moment later he was grooving a white trail of foam out into the bay.

Muhammed sighed—a sigh which expressed relief, content, and the expansion of a hitherto unleashed excitement. He turned and ran rapidly back along the shore. A second visit to the hovels below the blockhouse resulted in a conference with another of their deplorably clad inhabitants. A taciturn fellow this, of apparently Spanish extraction. But the fact that he wore the remains of an extremely dissolute haik over a pair of remarkably tattered frieze trousers hinted at a cosmopolitanism which was buttressed by his speech. He used the lingua franca and moved amid an almost palpable reek of garlic.

After the exchange of a few rapid sentences, he relapsed into silence but not into inactivity. He paced solemnly down the sand and motioned the Moor to help in the launching of a boat. In it they pulled round the sweep of the bay into the inner port and moored themselves in the berthing which the motor launch had vacated.

The dusk had now become darkness. Lights shone in the booths; the distressing clangor of a gramophone sounded from one albergar, the thrumming of a mandolin from another. There was a clink of spurs as half a score of artillerymen clattered down the citadel ramp, eager for the squalid debaucheries of the port. A guardia civile sauntered along the quayside edge and looked down into the waiting boat.

"Profitable evil-doing is surely at a low ebb when I find El Avispa trying to make an honest penny," he meditated.

Muhammed's companion turned.

"Why do you term me The Wasp, Señor?" he asked with a grin of complacence. "Have I been known to sting?"

The guardia made a jerky motion of his thumb in the direction of the great convict establishment upon the hill.

"I don't know, amigo. Your exploits are scheduled up there; have a care that I do not need to refer to them. Whom do you await?"

"The Señor and the Señora who landed from the yacht," said the boatmen. "They visit the Señor Intendente."

The guardia looked doubtful.

"They landed from a boat, a motor boat," he objected.

"Precisely," agreed the other. "It appears that something affected the engine of this, some leak of the jacketing which I do not understand, but which I am informed cools the cylinders. The engineer returned while he could, enlisting my services to await and explain matters to his employer."

"Humph!" grunted the uniformed man. "His choice showed little discretion. See to it that you do not disgrace your opportunity. That seat is bespattered with fish-oil and scales. Wipe it!" He made a commanding gesture towards the offending stain, and walked majestically away.

At the far end of the Plaza he was seen to halt and observe two newcomers, who appeared leisurely descending the citadel ramp. A gold-braided official was in attendance on them, and his gestures were rapid and deferential. The guardia civile saluted and spoke. Muhammed, watching keenly, gave another sigh. Fate was on his side. The very guardians of law and order were unconsciously buttressing his plan. This officious guardia civile was already explaining the situation to Miss Van Arlen and her companion. The onus of explanation—and possible suspicion—was thus being lifted from shoulders possibly less capable of bearing it. He muttered his satisfaction in a hurried undertone.

The girl and Aylmer advanced towards the quayside, the gesticulating official still in attendance. The latter eyed the waiting boat disdainfully.

"Let me demonstrate, Señora," he cried, "that our port can supply something less deplorable in the way of shore boats. Let me summon a pinnace and crew from the naval arsenal."

Muhammed's heart stood still. But fate smiled on him yet.

Miss Van Arlen protested that the boat would do well enough, that it was hardly fair to have kept this man waiting by the instructions of her own engineer, as it appeared, and then refuse to engage him. With a smile and bow of farewell she took her seat in the stern, while the guardia civile muttered stern instructions to the rowers anent their duty. They received them in stolid silence. Aylmer took the yoke lines, and amid a renewed demonstration of respect from the men of gold braid, the boat shot out into the darkness.

A slight mist hung over the water, but the riding lights of the yacht were plain enough and Aylmer headed directly for them. He leaned forward and asked a question of the man who pulled stroke oar.

"The Señor who came ashore with us?" he queried. "Did you mark him? Did he return in the motor boat?"

The man shrugged his shoulders.

"I did not see it," he said laconically. "Have the goodness to steer well to the right. Your present course will foul a line of net buoys."

Aylmer pulled the line and swerved as directed. And then Claire spoke, with a hint of something in her voice which was nearly akin to suspicion without exactly attaining it.

"Mr. Miller frankly puzzles me," she said.

Aylmer gave a little nod in the darkness.

"Yes," he agreed. "There is a sense of—of estrangement about him. He is good company, a mondain, intelligent, but not—human. One feels that at every turn."

The girl made a gesture towards the shore.

"What can he have to do in that—that ash heap?" she asked. "A man who poses as a flâneur, a dilettante."

"Pottery?" suggested Aylmer. "He collects; I have seen his collections. They are sound and in good taste, without being remarkable."

"That is what I think," she acquiesced. "For the life-work of a man they are petty. It is mysterious; he is mysterious! Why did he not rejoin us this evening at the governor's office as he promised?"

Aylmer smiled.

"The ardors of the chase," he hazarded. "He is probably sitting in the sanctum of some Jew huckster, chaffering for the least worn of a collection of Rabat rugs or old Mequinez steel-work. He will come on board to-morrow to explain and bid us farewell, and we shall hear all about it."

"About what?" asked the girl enigmatically.

Aylmer smiled again.

"About—what he chooses to tell us," he answered, and jerked the yoke-line energetically, as a couple of oval dark objects loomed up on the surface just ahead.

There was a swish and a dragging sound, and the dark objects disclosed themselves alongside as net buoys. They hung below the gunwale persistently; the boat was obviously brought to a standstill.

"In spite of my warning the Señor has fouled the fishing nets," growled the boatman.

"On the contrary," retorted Aylmer, "your directions carried us straight into them. A direct course would have avoided this."

The man shipped his oar and stood up.

"The Señor will permit me to pass him?" he said. "The rudder itself must be unshipped to clear us."

Aylmer shifted his seat to one side as the man leaned over him. The next instant he had cried out—a choking cry, smothered under the folds of the sail which the man had heaped bodily upon his head. His hands were grasped and drawn together in the loop of a rope. Lashings were knitted about his limbs with almost miraculous rapidity. Stark and inert, he felt himself rolled into the bottom of the boat, his rage and horror almost suffocating him as he heard the quickly stifled cry which told him that his companion was suffering like treatment. And then, for half a minute, the rapid rumble of the rowlocks was evidence that the boat was being furiously rowed—whither he could not guess.

There was a shock of wood meeting wood. They had run alongside another vessel, or possibly the piles of a landing place. Whispered voices joined those of their captors.

He felt himself lifted, borne staggeringly forward a few paces and then lowered into arms which gripped him from below. There was the creak of reluctant hinges. He was placed not ungently upon a floor of planking. The voices whispered again, something was laid beside him, touching him. The hinges grated, footsteps passed over a floor or deck above his head. And then there was silence.

But out in the bay a few minutes later, the decent stillness of the night was torn into tatters of uproar. The voice of the Spanish boatman was uplifted in appeals for help to every listening saint in Paradise, and to every inhabitant of the Melilla's citadel and port. The sounds reached, as they were meant to reach, the quay. Every guardroom was emptied; the roisterers surged into the street from a dozen albergars and cervecerias. Half a score of boats put out into the night, one manned by the naval police leading.

Lament guiding them, within five minutes they reached a point where El Avispa clung disconsolately to the keel of his upturned boat, bewailing the day of a birth which had developed for him into a life of unremitting sorrow. He was dragged into the police boat and ordered to explain himself.

It was the fault of the foreign Señor, he deposed. Justice to himself compelled him to admit that, though he had every regard for the reputation of a cavalier who was now without doubt drowned fathoms deep below the very spot on which the rescuing pinnace swam. Being careless, or perchance engrossed by the attractions of the Señora who was for beauty a very swan, the amateur steersman had precipitated them among the mackerel nets. The rudder was fouled. He, Ignacio Baril, sometimes called El Avispa, had stood up to pass to the stern and release it. The Señora, with entrancing but unfortunate timidity, had risen in her turn, and the Señor, gesticulating in argument, had consummated the disaster. He had leaned sideways, lost his balance, and caused the boat to lurch completely over.

Yes, he himself had put forth the efforts of a Hercules to save, at least, the woman. In deference to the memory of his mother, who was already among the Saints after a lifetime of charity and benevolence, he must bear witness to the fact that her son met this crisis with energy. How was he defeated? The truth must out; again it was the foreign cavalier. In his panic he had clutched and drawn back from the brink of safety the Señora—alas! to perdition. The would-be rescuer had desisted from his efforts only when his overtaxed lungs failed him. In a state of semi-unconsciousness, Providence had guided his aimless hand to reach and rest upon the keel of his overturned boat. He had been saved, it was very true, but it was a question if death itself was not to be poignantly preferred to safety coupled with such a burden of grief. His days must be clouded to his life's end.

And thereupon the bay echoed with the shouts of a hundred searchers and the waters glittered in carnival gaiety below the glare of their lights. A couple of hours later one of them halted, as if to rest the rowers, in the shadow of the felucca Santa Margarita. From her bows a long, cord-lashed package was silently lifted on the larger vessel's deck, while three figures scrambled hastily over the gunwale and crept below. Then laboriously the clumsy anchor was hauled home, the broad sail spread to the western breeze, and Signor Luigi steered a straight course into the bosom of the night.



The torment of his tightly lashed limbs, the irk of the gag between his teeth, want of air, hunger, thirst—these had all done their work upon Aylmer and, as the hours went by, produced a partial unconsciousness. It was not sleep which overpowered him; it was a thing less merciful than that. A numbness had seized both his limbs and his brain. He no longer felt the cutting pressure of his bonds; he scarcely realized where his powerlessness lay. Effort was paralyzed, that was all he understood. It was a nightmare; his brain refused to confront reasons; he was sensitive only to effects. Thus it was with a shock as if sensibility itself was only then returning that he heard the grating sound of hinges, was conscious of a gleam of light in the hitherto persistent darkness, felt fingers busy at his lips. The gag fell from between them.

With the powers of speech his own again, his senses used them instinctively for primitive needs.

"Water!" he muttered hoarsely. "Water!"

"With pleasure, my dear cousin!" said a familiar voice. "Water, food, and even, under restrictions, a little liberty. Has that programme attractions? Surely—after what, I fear, has been a monotonous night."

It was Landon who held a guttering lamp in his hand and looked down at them complacently—Landon, debonair, smiling, triumphant.

Aylmer's eyes searched past him after the first glance of surprise. Touching his feet lay Miss Van Arlen, bound as he had been bound, the mark of the gag still grooving her lips and cheek. Beyond her, propped against a bulkhead at the end of the narrow oblong lazaret in which they all lay, was another figure. Aylmer blinked and frowned in his surprise. The face was unfamiliarly pale; the usually apathetic eyes dark with repressed emotion. But they both undoubtedly belonged to—Mr. Miller.

This, then, was the meaning of the opening of their prison door for the second time the previous evening; this was the addition to their cargo which darkness had concealed from him.

Landon gave a pleasant little laugh.

"An unexpected reunion, is it not?" he suggested. "I have unavoidably deprived you of a few luxuries, my dear Miller, but have supplied what is far more important—true friends."

For a moment the other was silent; his glance reviewed his surroundings with careful intensity; he seemed to prime himself with all available information before he dealt with a situation which found him moved, indeed, but not by useless loss of temper.

"You will probably pay for this—highly," he said in his usual level tones. "I do not know precisely what you expect to gain, my dear Landon, but believe me the price of this exploit will be more than you can afford."

Landon made a gesture of protest.

"There will be a price; you are quick to jump to these conclusions," he agreed. "But I, dear friend, am the payee."

He nodded, favoring each of them with a glance in turn.

"Yes," he said. "That is the situation; please understand it. I am dictating terms, I. I am no longer the hunted, but the hunter. I have many debits in my mental ledger. I propose to collect them once and for all, in full."

The three regarded him without speaking, and he laughed again, amiably.

"Sister-in-law," he said, "your sex requires my first apologies. You must blame the wind, not me, for the discomforts of the night. While we remained within earshot of the land or of passing ships, your silence was overwhelmingly desirable. This applied to all three of you, and the contumacious wind forbore to rise. But the breeze of the last hour has given us an offing which frees you of all disabilities. Your bonds, to commence with."

He stooped and rapidly unlashed her wrists and ankles. He put out a hand to draw her to her feet.

With an uncontrollable gesture of repulsion, she waved it away and rose unsteadily, clinging to the bulkhead. She faced him.

"Have you never asked yourself what the end will be, the end of all this?" she said suddenly, fiercely. "You win a trick here and there; you reckon up the points; you mock your adversaries. Do you never give a thought to what the price, the ultimate price, must be?"

He looked at her—a look that held some curiosity—a tinge, indeed, of admiration.

"You are a little unexpected, my dear Claire," he answered. "Does not the more material question of food and drink engross you? Do you really wish to discuss abstractions?"

She gave a hopeless little shrug of her shoulder.

"It is because you are wholly evil, wholly, that you puzzle me. And yet you are not unintelligent; you must know, mere experience must teach you, there is a price to be paid!"

"Certainly." Landon laughed again, a mocking laugh. "I sketched it in outline to your—your lover—may I have the felicity of calling him that?—when I enjoyed his company in the silo on the road to El Dibh."

The color flamed to her cheek.

"You are insolent!" she said, and again Landon laughed.

"Or merely premature?" he asked gaily. "After all, for the moment hospitality must engross me and nothing else." He turned and beckoned to some one unseen. He received a basket.

"Bread, cheese, wine," he explained. "Will you help yourself while I assist my other guests? Or, if they choose, they may assist themselves. But I must have your words, my friends, that you will not attempt violence or escape if I release your hands."

The two prisoners exchanged glances. Then Miller held out his fettered wrists.

"As you will," he said quietly. "Temporarily I give you my parole. I retain the right to withdraw it."

Landon nodded and looked at his cousin.

"And you?" he asked.

Aylmer met the look squarely.

"No, to you I will be beholden for nothing," he answered. "I give no word; I keep my independence."

Landon shrugged his shoulders.

"You only inconvenience yourself," he said indifferently. "Well, my Quixote, stay here then, in the dark, shackled, and alone."

He held back the door, motioning the others into the outer cabin. Miss Van Arlen stood still, leaning against the bulkhead.

Landon made another gesture towards the door. "Ladies first," he smiled. "While we play at pirates, let us maintain the high standard of piratical courtesy."

She shook her head.

"I prefer to stay," she said quietly.

Landon's surprise escaped in an exclamation. And then he laughed—an evil, sneering laugh, which brimmed with insolence and suggestion.

"You—prefer—to stay?" he repeated, and looked from her to the man who lay at his feet. "Was my chance shot so far from the target?" he asked. "You will stay with—whom? Not a lover?"

Her eyes were stormy, but her voice was restrained.

"Even your insolence does not turn me from my duty," she answered. "Captain Aylmer has served, and is suffering for, me and mine."

She turned her eyes from his as she spoke and, as if some power outside herself compelled her, let them meet the glance which Aylmer flung at her from the level of the floor. Through a pregnant moment she read its message—surprise, incredulity, and then hope. These lit fires in it one by one, but the last eclipsed all other gleams, and remained.

He spoke.

"Thank you," he said simply. "But I am not here to add to your hardships. I cannot accept the sacrifice."

"The decision is with me," she said quietly, but with determination. "It is settled. I remain here, with Captain Aylmer."

Landon was still smiling.

"It has its unconventional side, this decision of yours," he said. "I must remind you of that."

"You need remind me of nothing," she answered. "I stay; that is all."

He shook his head.

"Not quite all," he objected. "I must, of course, have a promise from you that you will not interfere with Captain Aylmer's bonds in any way."

She nodded.

"Very well," she said laconically. "I promise."

Still Landon hesitated, his hand upon the door.

"And you?" he said suddenly, looking at his cousin. "You shall give me your word not to let her touch you."

Aylmer's eyes sparkled with rage.

"Have you not got her word, you dog!" he answered, and there was an intonation on the last syllable which seemed to sting even Landon's imperturbability. For he made a threatening step forward.

"By God, I'll show you where you are!" he cried. "You dare to give me your impudence, here?"

He stood looking down, his breath coming pantingly. His cheeks had become curiously patched; he gasped.

Miller's even voice broke across the tension.

"Captain Aylmer refuses any relaxations," he said urbanely. "Why not accept the fact?"

Landon swung round.

"Do you think I daren't?" he cried menacingly. "Do you think I daren't go the whole hog? If I swing him overboard, who's to tell? By the Lord, I've a mind for it—and to make myself safe with the rest of you, too. I've a mind, a very good mind, to rid myself of the lot of you!"

"And live afterwards—on what?" replied Miller very quietly.

There was silence, more than a moment of it. Landon's fingers sought and found purchase upon the wood partition. His glance dwelled upon Miller, debatingly. Slowly the flush died from his cheek.

And then he laughed again, harshly, unmirthfully, even apologetically, so it seemed, but as if the apology were to himself. He motioned Miller to the door. He laid the basket upon the floor.

"Make the most of it," he said. He hesitated. "And don't count on my—my good-humor—again." Without a backward look, he placed the lantern on the table and banged the door.

Claire made no comment; her whole desire was to dull all sense of emotion from the situation. She laid her hand upon the basket; she drew out a bottle of wine; she found a tin cup and filled it. She did it all with matter-of-factness; she did not spare a glance towards the floor.

And then she knelt beside him, put her arm behind his back, helped him to shuffle into an uneasy leaning posture against the bulkhead. She brought him the cup.

He shook his head in protest.

"After you," he said determinedly.

Her lips moved to speech, and then she stayed herself. After all was not stolid acquiescence best; did not that kill sentiment, and was not sentiment the one thing to be dreaded in this situation? She lifted her shoulders in an indifferent little shrug and then she drank. He watched her quietly. She refilled the cup and held it to his lips. He moved his chin in a queer, cramped little nod of acknowledgment and drank in his turn. And there was a hint of reluctance in the little sigh with which he relinquished the emptied cup.

She refilled it and held it for him again, anticipating his protests with the declaration that she herself would have no more, disliked it, wished, rather, for food. And so she watched him drink for the second time, slowly, swallowing tiny mouthfuls, dwelling on it. A queer sense of unreality gripped her as she did so. It was as if she waited on and tolerated the foibles of a child. A hundred times she had done as much or more for her small nephew, but without this protective sense in the doing of it. She realized the fact with a sort of self-inquisition. It pleased her to see this man where her help was essential to him. Some instinct of the same kind had been awake in her as she nursed and watched over him at the silo, but it had died or slept in the intervening weeks of ordinary converse at Gibraltar and on the yacht. It woke again now; and it had grown unwatched. Why, she asked herself. Why?

And then came the question of food. The basket contained no accessories, merely the bare essentials. She had to break the bread and divide the cheese with her fingers, bit by bit. And bit by bit she had to place each portion between his teeth. She shrank, or she told herself that it was shrinking, as her hand brushed his moustache, but was there anything truly repellent in this suddenly intimate action? Again self-inquisition denied it. Pleasure was in the sensation, not pain.

She rose, at last, when the contents of the basket were finished, and placed it on the table. Returning she flicked the crumbs from his shoulder and then, with a little sigh, sat down. He looked at her gravely, but with a gravity which tells of emotion restrained.

"Thank you again," he said. "Thank you for everything, but—why?"

She gave a little start. Was not this the question that her inner self had been dinning in her ears for half an hour? She was humbling herself, sacrificing herself even, in the eyes of such as Landon, lowering herself to serve this man. Why?

And as she debated she avoided his gaze lest he should read indecision in her glance. And yet the answer should have been glib on her lips; she had, indeed, already given it to Landon. Duty to a servant suffering in her service. But was that all?

"Did you expect me to choose the company of your cousin?" she asked slowly. "The very sight of him revolts me. I cannot stand it!"

"You spared me a little of that distaste, at our first meeting," he said, and there was the glint of a queer smile beneath his moustache. "Have I lived that down?"

"I know now that you are a gentleman," she said simply. "I realize, too, that Landon is—is monstrous, wickedness incarnate, beyond the reach of human feeling, completely vile. I think," she hesitated, "I think he must have concentrated within himself every evil influence that has fallen upon his family, to leave you—" again she faltered, as if she struggled with a compelling power, not as if a word or phrase escaped her—"to leave you—stainless," she sighed with an inflection that seemed to tell of something reluctant in the effort.

For a moment he was silent. Then the color flamed to his face; the light of incredulity woke in his eyes.

"Then I start now with every handicap cleared away?" he asked quickly. "You see me—as other men?"

She turned and looked at him. She smiled a little wearily.

"No," she said quietly. "Not as other men."

He drew a deep breath.

"Claire," he said very quietly, "a month ago I came first into your life. Fate brought me to you, to earn, and then to resent, your unexplained hatred. When I understood it, I swore to myself that I would make you—just. That, then, is a task accomplished."

Was this sudden intimate use of her Christian name unconscious or was it premeditated? She made no comment; she only bowed her assent.

"That was no personal decision," went on Aylmer. "I did it as a duty—to all who bore my name. The personal factor came afterwards, but so soon afterwards that I can scarcely tell you when the one merged in the other. I loved you; did you understand that?"

And now it was her turn to flush and wince. But was it wincing? The pulse which throbbed through her—was it truly resentment? A sense of sudden bewilderment came over her—a bewilderment which sought refuge, at first, in silence.

"You—you almost threatened me," she allowed at last, with the ghost of a tiny smile. "And I am not accustomed to threats. They—they made me angry."

"Yes, but you understood!" he cried. "You understood what I sought and for what reward?"

There was something masterful, triumphant in his tone which grated on her instincts, a reaction to the days when all he said and did grated upon her. And it helped her to regain command of herself, to snatch herself from the brink to which she was drifting.

"I hoped I misunderstood," she said coolly. "For it was a liberty. At the time I considered it an insult."

She did not look at him, but she heard the quick intake of his breath. And the sudden pain in his voice smote her with remorse.

"As an insult it is atoned?" he asked. "Does it remain a liberty still?"

She turned her eyes to his, and he looked up to know his opportunity there, and could not grasp it. He lay a prisoner at her feet. If he had been free, if his arms had been about her, if he had used his man's strength and mastery to take and hold her, if opportunity had not mocked him, would he have won? Fate knows, but fate was smiling then. And the history of man and maid from all ages is with us. Yes, he would have won; he would have won.

She gave a tiny gasp, and then the fugitive instinct, the primeval resort to flight, was upon her. She sent opportunity packing with her reply.

"I am here, by my own choice, with you—alone," she reminded him. "A liberty may become a question of—circumstance."

He flushed hotly, and again remorse gripped her as she saw the haggard lines draw in about his eyes.

"I can only ask your pardon," he answered. "I ask it, humbly and contritely." He gave a wry little smile. "And perhaps circumstance is to blame, after all."

Opportunity halted in her flight, hesitated, gave a returning step towards beckoning remorse. There was a shuffling sound at the door of the lazaret, and opportunity wheeled and fled.

"Let me in!" said a childish voice impatiently. "It's me! It's me! Let me in!"

The girl started forward.

"John!" she cried. "Little John! Find the bolt! It's your side of the door!"

The shuffling, scrabbling sound continued. An impatient foot kicked the panel. And then suddenly, creakingly, the door flew back. The child pranced gaily over the threshold.

"I just kicked, so!" he explained, "and it flew in! I did not know there was a cupboard here." He gave a shrill little shout of amazement and capered towards Aylmer. "It's the pig man!" he cried. "The pig man!"

Claire's arms closed about him and snatched him to her.

"Oh, John—Little John!" she whispered fiercely. "Aren't you glad to see me, me?"

He held his face back from her for an instant and looked at her appraisingly.

"Yes," he said meditatively. "But you aren't come to make me wear clean things again? Muhammed doesn't."

And then he wriggled energetically, his eyes on Aylmer.

"Is he hurted?" he asked anxiously. "He was hurted once, last time I saw him. Why have they wrapped up his hands?"

A sudden gleam shone on Aylmer's face. He held out the pinioned wrists.

"Could you unknot them, old boy?" he asked quickly. "Would you like to try?"

She gave him a glance of comprehension and let the child go. He leaned down over Aylmer and his little fingers picked at the cords. He pulled at first unavailingly. Aylmer gave low-voiced suggestions, showed which knot should be dealt with first. Claire, as she watched, put out a hand instinctively to help.

He smiled, but snatched his wrists away.

"You forget," he said quietly.

She drew back.

"Yes," she said. "I forgot," and a flame of unreasoning anger burned in her. Landon fought with any weapon he chose to forge—a lie had ever been the easiest to his hand. And they? They must not touch the fringe of disloyalty; even with him they had to keep perfect faith. Her feminine perceptions revolted; this was too rigid for her woman's mind. If she had forgotten, for a moment, her promise, why should he not avail himself of the slip, which was hers alone? And then she smiled. Had he not gone up in her estimation another step? Yes, and she smiled again; how long ago was it since she, who now looked up at him, had from so very great a height of condescension and dislike, looked down?

Suddenly the child gave a little squeal of triumph.

"There!" he cried. "You pull your hands—so! Then I pull so!" And shouted again, for the lashings which lay upon the parted wrists lay now loosely, in loops which dangled on the floor.

And then, as anger had seized upon her, so did fear. She looked at him with suddenly apprehensive eyes.

"You will do—what?" she asked tremulously. Her imagination pictured half a dozen dangers in as many seconds, all lurking to overwhelm a too reckless freedom.

He smiled.

"For the moment I dissemble, and wait," he said, and sat down quietly to loop anew the cords about his arms, but in running loops, this time—knots which would give before one well-directed pull.



As the imperturbable Mr. Miller reached the deck of the Santa Margarita, he took stock, for the second time within a few minutes, of his immediate surroundings.

He saw an exceedingly dirty deck on which the smuts from the galley chimney appeared to have become embedded through long years of neglect. He smelt the very rich, nourishing odor of spaghetti fried with garlic, and sniffed unappreciatively, in spite of his hunger. He heard a couple of nasal voices chanting cheerfully, but with an exceedingly labored accent, the Bersaglieri quickstep, and made a tiny grimace of protest. Around him the panorama of sea was empty of all shipping. Land was out of sight.

Muhammed leaned lazily against the tiller and eyed his late employer with the stolid apathy which an Oriental alone can make convincing. Lounging against the panel of the companion hatch, from which Landon and his companion had just emerged, sat the skipper, Signor Luigi, idly whittling a stick, and looking up at his passenger with an amiable indifference.

Miller, it must be remembered, had just passed a night of great discomfort and mental agitation following a most unanticipated shock. His nerves—is it wonderful?—were at tension. In spite of his own imperturbability, on which he set some store, the insouciant aspect of his surroundings jarred on him. Was kidnapping, then, such an everyday affair that men cooked, and sang, and whittled under his very nose while the pirate's gallows very possibly stood awaiting them? He had probably never approached petulance more nearly in the course of his well-ordered existence.

He turned to Landon with a little shrug.

The other was holding out the half of a yard-long roll of bread, with a lump of doubtful-looking cheese.

"I would have suggested a plateful of that spaghetti, my dear Miller," he smiled, "but my watchful eye understood the curl of your nostril. This is at least clean."

Miller drew an edge of tarpaulin over a heaped rope, and, after a regretful glance at his no longer immaculately gray trousers, sat down. He took the bread and cheese and began to eat slowly.

There was something bovine in the manner in which he carefully champed each mouthful, something ruminative about the way in which he looked around him. But behind this stolid mask of indifference his brain was working rapidly. He was putting facts as they appeared to him to the test of logic and experience. His mental summing up was rapid. A felucca, of Italian register: crew, three men and a boy. Engaged in the contraband trade more or less continuously, for the ingeniously contrived lazaret between the cabin and the galley showed an attention to detail made necessary by continual service. The real mast passed through the centre of his prison of the previous night. Yet the half of a mast, a sham half, of course, passed through the partition and showed in the cabin. Doubtless another half was to be seen likewise in the galley. It was a neat idea; there was nothing to indicate to the casual glance of a custom's officer that the partition between the two was not what it appeared to be. Nothing but actual measurements would discover the space which hid the intervening lazaret.

With the tonic of food, his self-reliance was entirely his again. He turned to confront Landon after half a dozen mouthfuls, alert to probe for the limits of his position. Landon had greatly dared. Did he understand how greatly? Miller felt himself restored to a state of energy and resolution which would very quickly find out.

"This," he enunciated slowly, "is of the nature of piracy. Do you and your underlings realize it?"

Landon was lighting a cigarette. He sucked in a full mouthful of smoke and shot it out again before he replied. The act was artificial—far too artificial, Miller told himself—in its indifference.

"My underlings," he answered, "realize that they are well on the way to—what shall we say—a modest competency. Beyond that, their very finite understandings have not advanced. Domani or mañana are words frequent in their vocabularies, but not in relation to results. Comfortable procrastination—that is the whole sense which they appreciate in them."

"Your own outlook is sufficiently intelligent to pierce beyond to-morrow," said the other, drily.

"Certainly!" agreed Landon. "I dwell upon to-morrow, and the day after to-morrow, and the day after that! I engage in prescient revels in their rosy-tinted hours!"

Miller made a little inarticulate sound which expressed a restrained but unequivocal irritation.

"Shall we be business-like?" he proposed. "You have entrapped on board this boat three people, including myself. What advantage do you expect to get out of the situation and, bluntly, how?"

"You are such a rigid man of affairs," complained Landon. "You refuse even to eat your breakfast without distractions."

"I find myself in an extraordinary and unfamiliar situation," said Miller. "It is obvious that I wish to disentangle myself from it as soon as possible. Let me hear and accept or reject your terms. Is there any need to be mysterious?"

"None," said Landon, amiably. "But I have not been a man of successful coups, so far, my dear friend, and you must not grudge me the unaccustomed zests I draw from this one. To clear the situation, I purpose holding you all three to ransom."


Landon laughed.

"That you must allow me to consider a trade secret. I intend to retain your company and that of my cousin and my sister-in-law till I am richer by some forty thousand pounds. There you have the situation in a nutshell. I am willing to take the advice of such a finished man of the world as yourself on business methods. The end in view I cannot consent to vary."

The gray man shrugged his shoulders.

"You are of opinion that money will be paid for me? By whom?"

"I can conceive two sources of supply. The German Government—pray don't allow yourself to be startled—or, in the last resort, yourself. You are not a poor man, unless you have grossly misused your opportunities."

"The German Government has no interests of any kind in my well-being or otherwise."

"I must take your word for it," said Landon, politely. "The alternative remains by us, literally."

"Meanwhile, what about the laws of—whatever country you purpose using the shore of? We do not, I take it, remain afloat—a sort of modern Vanderdecken?"

"Let me assure you that no laws or lawgivers will be of the slightest assistance. My friend Luigi and I propose being a law unto ourselves and you."


Miller's tone was reflective and impassive. He had found out one of the things he wanted to know. As he suspected, they were being taken to some remoteness, probably an island. He digested the information silently.

"You must pardon the want of—of finish in our arrangements," said Landon. "Your capture was entirely unpremeditated; you were a gift from the hand of fate. Your suggestion about my child undid you. The boy has become the pivot of Muhammed's existence. Queer, don't you think? I have never professed to plumb the depths of the Oriental mind."

"And Miss Van Arlen and Aylmer?" questioned Miller. "That was a matter of premeditation?"

"Nothing less than an inspiration, a stroke of genius conceived in a moment in Muhammed's brain. Premeditate? How could we premeditate? We expected you and you only, or your messenger, by the next day's boat."

Miller nodded.

"Miss Van Arlen and her companion are officially drowned," he said. "My own disappearance—how is that accounted for?"

"The matter is now probably engaging the interest of the Melilla police. They need distraction; theirs is a gray life," said Landon, pleasantly.

Again Miller nodded, perhaps unconsciously, and in assent to some deduction of his own mind. He kept his meditative air for a second or two, shrugged his shoulders again pessimistically, and then made a brisk gesture of acquiescence.

"And your terms—to myself—are what?" he asked.

"Ten thousand golden sovereigns," said Landon. "Do I hurt your self-esteem by my moderation?"

Miller smiled again sombrely.

"That is, of course, preposterous," he said. "I do not possess half the sum. I should not pay it, if I did. If the alternative is that you support me for the remaining number of my days, I must accept it."

"That would not be the alternative," answered Landon. "In fact, I hope to be able to prove to you that an alternative is lacking. But, at the same time, I am willing to hear proposals."

"My proposal remains what it was yesterday. Make your peace with your wife's family, give up the child. I shall then be able, I have little doubt, to put you in the way of earning more than the sum you suggest. But that you become a person tolerated in ordinary English society is essential."

"I am, in fact, to work laboriously for what is already in my grasp. You underrate my business capacity, my dear sir, you really do."

The gray shoulders were shrugged.

"I might possibly allow a payment of a thousand—let us say—on account. That would suffice to establish you in a decent and plausible position. The work, as you call it, would not be difficult. I rather fancy you would find it amusing."

"I think you want me badly," said Landon. "I think I must be unique for your purposes."

"Don't assume that it is your intelligence which my employers wish to buy," said Miller, coolly. "It is your social standing, still something of an asset in your caste-ridden land."

"But I refuse to have my intelligence underrated," protested Landon, gaily. "I hug it; it tells me many things which you may not suspect. One of them is that there is a lever which will displace your self-confidence. You are a very bad bearer of—physical pain."

Very faint was the pulse of the emotion which throbbed through Miller's eyes as he turned them towards his companion, but distinct enough for Landon to discover and greet with another amiable little laugh.

"It's where blood tells," he said. "I discovered it accidentally; we spoke of what D'Amade's men had to undergo as prisoners at the hands of the Moors, did we not? I mentioned the eyes gouged out, the fettered wounded flung on slow fires, the impaled. You flinched, my dear sir, you flinched badly and—I tried you again. I harked back to like subjects more than once; the result satisfied me. And then I began to dwell upon your complexion. Is that olive tint from Spain, or was there a near forefather in the gorgeous East? Are you of Hindoo blood, my friend—are you?"

Miller's impassive eyes met his, looked deeply within them, and wandered vaguely towards the empty spaces of the sea. Landon chuckled.

"By God, I wouldn't stop anywhere, with you, you renegade!" he swore with sudden, hot, irrational rancor. "I'd deal with you. Will any one stop me? Ask those men—Mafiaists, every one. Stop me! They'd give me tips; they'd mutilate you as they'd mutilate their own domestic animals, for fun!"

Miller drew back a couple of paces, not with any show of disgust or fear, but with the air of an artist who wishes to regard a finished work from a more distant aspect. And he surveyed Landon keenly.

"So I am being threatened?" he said quietly.

Landon grinned wickedly.

"So you're being threatened," he agreed. "Deliberate the matter; give it your best attention; and all the while remember that there is nothing which will stop me, not a single solitary thing."

"I think you are wrong," said Miller, slowly, and then—the sound of it was bizarre to the last degree between his lips—he whistled a quaint little run, which thrilled and quavered up and down half a dozen bars to end upon a long-drawn note.

There was a queer silence. Landon looked at him with a frown which implied scarcely apprehension, but what is nearly akin to it—bewilderment. For there was no mistaking the intention with which the thing was done. Miller had whistled the tripping little air deliberately.

There was a stirring from below. The two hands appeared, and appeared with a suddenness which left no room for doubt that they had been summoned. The savor of burning spaghetti followed them; the summons had been one exacting instant obedience. They had left the frying-pan upon the fire. Together with their appearance came the sound from the companion of Captain Luigi stumbling to his feet.

"Fling this man overboard!" said Miller, in level, indifferent tones. He pointed to Landon.

Landon gave a shout which brimmed with incredulity as much as fear. His hand flew to his breast pocket fumblingly, but too late. Miller's grip was on his wrist; Miller's thrust flung him into the skipper's waiting arms. As Muhammed relinquished the helm and sprang forward, one of the deck hands ducked, tripped him, and rose between his legs—that deadly Mafiaist trick which never fails of its results. The other had closed in upon Landon as he struggled in the captain's grip. He assisted to drag him relentlessly towards the gunwale.

Landon yelled again. His eyes glared out of the struggle at Miller in a very fury of amazement. He bellowed oaths, blasphemies, obscenities even, the fruits of instinctive passions and automatic to his wrath. And there was something almost devilish in the silence which his two assailants kept. They panted a little, by stress of effort, but they uttered no other sound. They merely edged their victim nearer and yet nearer to the side, forced him against the gunwale, stooped with concerted action for one last heave, and then—fell away from him with a little obsequious shrug. For Miller's voice had been heard again.

"Basta—enough!" he had said, his voice still unraised.

Landon lay where their relinquished efforts had left him, huddled against the gunwale, and staring up at his surroundings with fierce, incredulous eyes. Muhammed was stretched prone beneath his assailant who, as he tripped him, had deftly caught the Moor's right wrist and twisted it behind his back. He sat on his prisoner now, still holding the other's hand, but carelessly and without open concern, perfectly aware that the slightest movement from his human pedestal would break the delicate bone as pipe-clay breaks—in one clean snap.

"Have I made myself plain?" asked Miller, equably.

Landon used a moment of complete silence to stare round the deck, poising his glance on each of his companions in turn. It rested, at last, on Miller's entirely emotionless countenance.

"Yes—and damn you!" said Landon, rising sullenly to his feet.

Miller nodded.

"An amateur cannot break into my particular class of business, my dear Landon," he said. "There are pitfalls for him at every turn. Membership of a dozen organizations is necessary, and they are close corporations; even their humbler servants, as you see, find them rigidly exacting."

Landon shrugged his shoulders, produced his cigarette case and match-box, stuck a match in his mouth, and drew the cigarette across the roughened edge of the box. Miller suffered himself to smile.

"Your nerves are not altogether at their best," he allowed, "but there is no need to emphasize the fact. I have no wish to deal harshly with you. In fact, half of the scheme you have just outlined to me has my approval. I shall not interfere with your desire to receive compensation from your father-in-law, but whatever you receive you will regard, if you please, as from me, provided by my efforts and to be accounted for in full! Is that understood?"

Landon shrugged his shoulders again.

"I welcome your assistance," he said quietly, and put the cigarette to its appointed use.

"But my scheme has, in the final event, to be carried out in all its details," Miller added. "In your bargain with your relations, complete social regeneration and recognition is included."

"But not—the boy?" said Landon, slowly.

"But not the boy," repeated Miller. "The first, I have satisfied myself, cannot be obtained without the surrender of the second. You follow me?"

Landon looked at Muhammed, looked at the deck hand who still sat impassive on the Moor's shoulders, looked at Luigi, looked, lastly, at Miller.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"We are in your hands—literally," he said, and made an amiable gesture of assent.



The door of the lazaret was pulled quietly back. The opening showed Miller, silhouetted as in a frame, a splash of sunshine which flowed down into the outer cabin hanging in a golden halo, as it were, behind his remarkably solid looking head. Coming from the full light into the darkness—for the lamp was already flickering to final extinction—he blinked. And there was something unhuman in his aspect as he stood there, searching the gloom with his impassive eyes, something not altogether stealthy, but yet something with a tinge of menace in it. So, no doubt, the hovering night-bird comes to a pause above its victim.

His glance first recognized Miss Van Arlen. He demonstrated the fact by a little deferential movement—a bow which seemed to deprecate, or even criticize, the circumstance of her surroundings. He smiled, but with slightly raised eyebrows, and as his glance travelled on to meet Aylmer's there was a hint of suggestion in it. It was a glance, at any rate, which was responsible for the faint flush which rose to the girl's cheek and for the hardening of Aylmer's lips. For some reason unknown even to himself, the latter's bound arms instinctively moved towards the child, who had nestled against his shoulder and had there fallen asleep.

"A scene which would catch a painter's—or a poet's eye—" said the gray man, meditatively. "We could call it Innocence, could we not?"

Again he looked from one to the other with that questioning, suggestive glance which somehow seemed to deprecate, and yet, at the same time, imply equivocation. Neither answered him, and he made an energetic gesture—one which relegated trivialities to forgetfulness.

"I must be a source of wonder to you; I am to myself!" he cried. "To allow myself to be trapped into such trifling at such a moment! It is the artistic temperament; you must address your amazement to it and your forgiveness to me. I bring good news, relatively."

Claire rose from her seat on the floor.

"Yes?" she said eagerly. "There is a chance of escape, or, perhaps, rescue?"

His eyes became sombre.

"No, my dear young lady," he said. "My optimism has not reached so far, as yet. But I have persuaded our captors that Captain Aylmer's detention here is not necessary. They do not exact a parole from him, but they permit me to loose his lower limbs and to give him the freedom of the deck. It is because his release implies your own that this concession gives me—and him—undoubted pleasure."

He stooped as he finished speaking, and quickly and deftly unlashed the cords at Aylmer's ankles and, with a jerk, pulled him to his feet. He shrugged his shoulders as he looked at the still tethered hands.

"I fear I am helpless there, my dear fellow," he said. "Complete rights of enfranchisement were not allowed me."

Claire parted her lips as if to speak, hesitated, and pressed them firmly together again. The shackling of those wrists was a mere blind but—Aylmer forbore to communicate the fact to Miller. Why?

Miller looked at her keenly, inquiringly.

"Yes?" he said. "You want further information? Is that it?"

"I have a hundred questions to ask," she smiled. "How did you get this concession? Where are we? What are they doing with us? What is our destination?"

He shrugged his shoulders again.

"As to the first—a little tact was all that was necessary, though tact, indeed, is too self-laudatory a word. Logic, let us say. I showed him how unnecessary it was to antagonize a man with whom he would eventually have to chaffer. That was mere common-sense, was it not?"

"Chaffer?" repeated Aylmer. He considered Miller; for an appreciable moment he surveyed him silently. "That implies a bargain, and to bargain there must be goods to sell. Landon has none which will tempt me."

"Liberty," suggested Miller. "Comfort, and not for yourself alone?"

"With Landon I do not bargain," said Landon's cousin, doggedly. "I have set myself to clean our name of the stigmas with which he had bedaubed it. There are no terms to be made."

"You sacrifice yourself?" said Miller. He paused. "Have you the right to sacrifice others?"

"No," said Aylmer, quietly. "You and Miss Van Arlen must do exactly what seems best for yourselves. That is a deal apart."

Miller shook his head.

"No, my dear Captain Aylmer," he answered. "That is exactly what it is not. Landon's terms concern us all."

Claire looked at him anxiously.

"He has told you them?" she cried. "You are his messenger?"

Miller gave a little bow of acquiescence.

"They are bluntly these," he said. "For you he demands from your father the sum of twenty-five thousand pounds. For your nephew, double that amount. For myself, I must apologize for placing myself next, but the financial sequence necessitates it, ten thousand. For our friend here—nothing, or, to be precise, nothing in cash."

She did not flinch as he mentioned the sums. She merely looked contemptuous.

"Is that all?" she asked. "He is a common blackmailer?"

Miller shook his head.

"No," he said. "Unfortunately that is not all."

He looked directly at Aylmer.

"It rests with you," he said suddenly. "He wants from you—silence. What has happened is as if it had never been. You are to allow him to take his place unquestioned in the society which befits his rank. He wishes to turn a new leaf."

Aylmer met the look with blank incredulity, at first. Then his lips tightened with determination.

"And you?" he cried. "You are taking him seriously? You are going to give him this money?"

Miller's out-turned palms expressed a vague pessimism.

"Is there an alternative?" he asked.

Aylmer laughed harshly.

"Blank refusal: what is his answer to that?"

The dark eyes searched the two expectant faces meditatively. The thin prehensile fingers picked at a loose splinter in the bulkhead.

"I think he would find a way," he said slowly. "I think—in fact he has threatened it—he would—hurt you!"

Aylmer stared at the gray figure, puzzled, frowning. Miller had used a new voice for the two last syllables, a voice that shook ever so slightly with some concealed emotion. "Hurt you," he reiterated sharply, and then darted a quick, bird-like glance at Aylmer—a look full of interrogation.

Claire Van Arlen moved forward with a sudden startled movement.

"Hurt!" she cried. "You mean that he would use torture?"

"I think," said Miller, very slowly, "that he would use anything."

And then Aylmer began to laugh—loudly, gaily, and quite whole-heartedly. Miller's eyebrows proclaimed their owner's astonishment.

"Melodrama!" explained Aylmer, still chuckling. "I remember Landon as a small boy, even before his Eton days. He bred these leanings then. He wasted his pocket money on 'bloods,' I think they are called—penny exhilarators for youths of tender years, crammed with impossible villainies. And now he is going to tie flaming splinters between my fingers and squeeze my thumbs in the crack of the door! This is the price I am to pay for refusing him social rehabilitation. We cannot congratulate him on his sense of humor, we really cannot."

Miller paused over his reply, looked down, looked up, and then bridged a moment of hesitation with his usual expedient—a shrug.

"For the moment I fear he hasn't got one," he said.

"Possibly not," agreed Aylmer. He nodded towards the door. "I'll take advantage of his concessions to come and see." He gave another little confident nod to usher the other two before him. As the child ran forward he caught him up with his bound hands and raised him shoulder high. Then, stooping, he passed out at Miller's heels on to the deck. He was laughing still, laughing up at the boy as the childish fingers steadied themselves in his hair.

"You won't be able to do that when they shave it to put the pitch plaster on," he cried. "And when they've stretched me on the rack, I shall be too tall to carry you out of a cabin. And as for being a pig man again, and carrying a spear after the thumbscrews have been applied, why, it simply won't bear thinking about!"

As he emerged on deck he looked about him keenly. Muhammed's was the first figure which caught his eye. The Moor was sitting on the gunwale opposite the companion, looking shoreward. And the shore, to Aylmer's surprise, was very near on the starboard bow.

Suddenly he realized that it was not the mainland which he saw, but an archipelago of islands girdled with reefs. Rockbound channels were frames to pictures of the dun red African strand half a dozen miles away.

He looked aft. The sun was not far from its setting, hanging in a red disc above the distant hills of Algeria. The captain was at the tiller. Beside him lounged Landon, watching a gray-painted torpedo boat which had emerged from the shelter of the islands and was about to pass close under their stern. The gold and crimson of the Spanish naval ensign floated at her flagstaff.

Landon looked round as he heard the footsteps of the newcomers on the deck. He nodded them a greeting without changing his seat, and did it with a studied air of contempt.

"Well?" he said laconically.

Aylmer was silent. His glance traveled over Landon's head to examine the war vessel as it passed.

The captain grunted something in an undertone. Landon laughed, and held up the first and fourth fingers of his right hand horn-wise.

"The good Luigi advises me to avert the evil eye," he explained. "Does that glance of yours threaten us, my affectionate cousin, does it?"

Aylmer sat back upon the boom and looked at the other squarely. The child scrambled from his shoulder and went back along the deck to stand at Muhammed's knee. But the Moor, after a quick, welcoming smile, showed no further recognition of his presence. His glance, the glances, indeed, of all on board, centered in the meeting of the two who eyed each other across the slant of Signor Luigi's tiller.

Aylmer made a motion of his head towards Miller.

"You sent this man to bargain with me?" he said.

"No," said Landon. "I sent him to tell you my terms."

He laughed; he looked Aylmer insolently in the face and laughed again.

"The thick-headedness of you is what amuses me," he said. "The crass incapability of understanding your own case. Order, respectability, good feeling, as you call it—these have been propping you all your life. You don't understand—how should you?—what it is to be in the hands of a man who gives not a jot for any one of them." He snapped his fingers. "Not that!" he added. "For honor, standing, the esteem of my fellows I give nothing—nothing!"

"And yet chaffer to obtain them," said Aylmer, drily.

"I don't chaffer; I take," said Landon. "I am requiring them as mere stage properties necessary to the carrying out of my other purposes. Intrinsically they have no value for me."

"Unfortunately for you, you have neither the weapons to win them nor the means to buy them," said Aylmer.

"Haven't I?" said Landon, slowly. "Haven't I?" He rose from his seat and came a pace or two nearer. "Listen to me, you—you blazing fool!" he snarled. "I have you here to break, as I will. See that you don't goad me into doing it, for the mere pleasure of seeing you squirm. You give me your promise to accept me, push me forward, vouch for me, in the rotten mob you call society, or, by God, you'll be sorry before I've done with you!"

Aylmer still stared relentlessly into the other's eyes.

"You haven't a thing that'll touch me—not a single thing!" he said. "My life? Do you think that has a value for me above the hope of clearing you from a decent family's path—into the gutter!"

Landon went white with passion. His fingers worked.

"By the Lord!" he said, and his eyes shot menacing lightnings towards Miller, not towards his cousin; "by the Lord, am I to keep my hands off him—after that?"

There was a sort of appeal in the question. There was malignance, there was red anger, but there was entreaty, the cry of a slave to a master. Claire recognized it; so did Aylmer, with amazement.

They both looked at the gray man.

Miller's gesture was all humility, all dejection.

"Don't exasperate him, Captain Aylmer," he pleaded. "He has weapons; he has, indeed!"

Landon laughed malevolently.

"By God, I have!" he cried. "Your thick body and your ox's nerves? You can pit them against me, if you like! What about your finer feelings, as I suppose you'd call them? What about your honor? And—what about—hers?"

He shot the question out fiercely, insistently, pointing at Claire.

A sudden dryness coated Aylmer's lips.

"What do you mean?" he demanded. He rose, too, towering over Landon from the full height of his stature and that, indeed, seemed to have added inches to itself since the other spoke.

But Landon, drunk with venom, did not flinch.

"Look at her!" he cried, still pointing. "Look at her! And if you defy me, you shall have something more to look at before long! I'll deal with her; I'll let these men have their will of her; I'll drag her through filth enough—I'll—"

His voice broke hideously into a shriek of pain. Aylmer had flung off the lashings on his wrists and continued the movement, as it were, into one direct, smashing blow on Landon's mouth!

And Landon fell as a log falls, stark, inert, his head meeting the tiller end in his fall with frightful emphasis. He rolled into the scuppers at the captain's feet, bloody, disfigured, unconscious as the deck itself.

There was a rush from the two deck hands. Muhammed came flying aft. Aylmer dodged, landed his fist on the Moor's temple, evaded the hands stretched out for him, and sprang for the rigging. Within the space of seconds he was standing upon the great cross spar of the lateen, leaning against the mast, and waving his arms in semaphore-wise towards the gray stern of the torpedo boat as she slid away against the disc of the setting sun.

The captain yelled aloud with fury.

"He is signalling to them!" he screamed. "God's Mother! If they see him we're undone!"

A sudden light gleamed in Claire's eyes, a light of hope, of relief and—bright above them all—admiration. This was a man. Her woman's blood quickened to the knowledge that his man's strength had been used brutally, splendidly, for her. She cried aloud her encouragement. She waved her hand.

"Make them see you, make them!" she called. She beat her open hand upon the taffrail in her passion.

The gunboat slowed. Half a dozen signal flags rushed up to her peak. The white foam of her wake disappeared slowly with the stopping of her engines. Captain Luigi cried out again; he addressed invectives to things terrestrial and to celestial things apostrophes at a set value in candles, using both forms of eloquence impartially to goad his hesitating deck hands to pull Aylmer from his eyrie at the risk of their lives. The mariners shook their heads.

And then, at the captain's ear, harshly, snippingly, between his teeth, Miller spoke.

"Let go the halliards!" he hissed. "Let go the halliards!"

And Claire Van Arlen heard.

She cried out to Aylmer warningly, shrill in her despair. He did not hear or, perhaps, in the intentness of his task, did not heed. She cried out again.

Too late!

The two men flung themselves upon the ropes which held the great lateen yard in place, slacked them, payed them out suddenly a couple of yards. Aylmer tottered, rocked forward, and then maintained his hand hold upon the mast. But this time the men reversed the operation. With a tremendous effort they jerked the ropes. The spar leaped upwards!

And Aylmer shot into the air and landed stunningly upon the planking at Claire Van Arlen's feet.



Rescue, liberty, and, not least, triumph over Landon! These were all possibilities, even probabilities, clear to Claire Van Arlen's intelligence as she bent over Aylmer—clear, but undefined. Yet the one outstanding, engrossing thought was that her champion had fallen in the moment of victory. The blood was flowing from a deep cut on his forehead; he was unconscious; the color had ebbed from his very lips. An agony of apprehension seized upon her. He was dead! He was dead!

And then—the pulse of that relief will be quick in her to her dying day—his eyes opened, he stirred. He did more than stir; he made efforts to rise.

She held him masterfully; her voice was stern in her command to him to lie still. And he looked up at her with an incredulous glance in which humor had its part. He smiled—a puzzled smile. Suddenly remembrance came back to him and his bewilderment became anxiety.

"The gunboat?" he asked hoarsely. "They saw me, they were slowing down!"

She nodded silently as she looked about her. They had floated within the shadow cast by the towering bulk of the island nearest them. The last red rim of the sun's disc had passed below the horizon. The dusk was gathering. A mile away the gunboat was turning ponderously.

Rapidly she told him what she saw and he nodded a satisfied assent.

"They're done, now," he whispered triumphantly. "We have them in a cleft stick!"

But Fate—listening Fate—shook her head.

It was Muhammed who had taken command of the situation, Muhammed who roared his orders to hoist again the half-lowered sail, to let drift the dingy from the stern, to stand by the halliards for a tack. He leaped upon the tiller and flung the boat's prow round to point directly for the land.

The freshening breeze from the northwest swelled out the great sail as the panting sailors swung the yard aslant the mast. The water sang and bubbled from the prow. The Santa Margarita leaped landwards like a living thing, straight for the cliffs of shadowing stone.

Captain Luigi, completely unnerved by the sudden crisis to which events had soared, wailed protests without attempting interference.

"I call you to witness that I said he had the evil eye!" he cried. "I call you to witness! Capture or destruction—there are no two ways to it!"

"There is One God and one road to safety for a brave man," answered Muhammed, as he leaned his strength upon the helm. "They call it courage. Run out the French flag, amigo! They dare not fire on that, here, in debatable waters, for all their claim to these islands as within the grip of Spain."

A sudden pang of doubt shook Claire. The gunboat was completing its turning movement—slowly—ah, how slowly! And yet? How could the felucca, with no more than a fresh breeze to rely on, hope to evade that greyhound of the seas? A spout of gray smoke burst from the gray painted sides; the sound of a cannon shot echoed down to them among the crags.

Muhammed laughed.

"Blank cartridge," he said derisively. "Within five minutes their faces will be as blank. Sons of dirt, I spit upon you!"

The girl's apprehension grew. Confidence rang in the Moor's voice. He smiled as one who had already triumphed. And still the felucca drove shorewards, relentlessly towards the bare face of stone.

But the torpedo boat was gaining speed. The white lift of the foam was veiling her bows; she ripped through the waters as a blade rips through calico, directly, cleanly, tossing aside the waves. Another few minutes—seven—six—perhaps less—and she must be alongside. And the island cliff seemed to overhang them now; the great sail flapped as the breeze beat back from the sheer rock against its breadth.

A second time Muhammed roared his orders. The sailors shifted the huge spar around the mast, swinging it as on a pivot. The Santa Margarita came about, dancingly.

The rush and boil of breaking foam on the seaward bow caught Claire's ear. She glanced over the taffrail.

A comber was breaking on a great tooth of black rock within half a cable's length of the boat. Not far ahead she saw the white after-spume of another—and beyond that a third—a fourth—countless ones. They were within a very labyrinth of reefs. And Muhammed, swerving the tiller delicately from side to side, steered unshaken, his eyes piercing into the swiftly coming gloom, the smile of victory growing round his lips.

She understood, and before she turned her eyes astern knew hope was lost. The torpedo boat was slackening speed; the cream of her wake began to slide past her sides and swirl round her bow as she slowed, went astern, halted on the lips of danger, and then reluctantly turned.

A yell went up from the felucca as the crew saw themselves saved—a yell of defiance.

Again the gray jet of smoke spurted from the gray port, and this time the background of purple dusk showed the red tongue of the flame. The sound of the report reached them, but not so swiftly as another sound—a nerve-rending menace which shrieked in their very ears, as it seemed, and passed, to thunder crashingly against the forehead of the crag. And again Muhammed laughed and showed his white teeth, and roared to his fellows to swing the yard-arm about as he spun the boat between two waiting jaws of rock and sent her bounding out into the open before the lash of the favoring breeze. And night fell over them—for Claire Van Arlen the hopeless night of despair.

She looked up to find Miller standing beside her, looking down at Aylmer's face with sombre, inquiring eyes. And she realized for the first time that in that face the eyes were closed again, the lips bloodless, the cheeks sunken. She gave an exclamation; she bent and stanched the blood which still flowed from the wounded temple.

Miller picked up a bucket, seized a rope, attached it to the handle, and slung it overboard. He placed it, brimmed with water, at her feet. She looked up again, eyed him silently and without thanks, dipped her handkerchief in the water and laved Aylmer's face. And Miller himself remained silent, as if he would force the first comment from her, as if he probed for information by mere inertness. Had he been heard? She guessed that he was asking himself—and by force of silence, her—this question.

A sudden instinct not to betray herself gripped her. Aylmer? Was not he an example of a like reticence? He had not revealed the fact that his hands were free till circumstances had revealed it, with a vengeance. She would follow this example and so tell nothing. She pillowed Aylmer's head gently upon a coil of rope and stood up.

"The hope of rescue is gone then?" she said quietly. "There is no chance of their rounding the island, and encountering us later?"

He shrugged his shoulders doubtfully.

"They seldom carry search-lights—craft of that size, in the Spanish navy, at any rate. No, Muhammed's seamanship has taken the trick this time. Spanish captains do not waste coal lavishly, and what, after all, have they to go on. Merely the words 'Help! Prisoners!' It might easily have been the vagary of some half-drunken sponge-fisher."

She looked at him keenly.

"That was what he signalled?" she said. "You understood that?"

"I know the international code," he said simply. He looked down at Aylmer again. "His escapade has not improved our position," he added. "When Landon comes to himself—"

"He is not seriously wounded, then?" she cried in quick disappointment. "I had hoped—I had prayed—"

"What?" he asked, as she hesitated.

"That he had been killed," she answered slowly. "Is there any escape from the net of villainy in which he has us all entrapped?"

He looked at her silently, and the dawn of a hard smile glimmered about his lips. He pointed aft.

"Will you come and look?" he said. "Perhaps I have undervalued your prayers. I am no surgeon, but I would wager a larger sum on his reviving than I would on the recovery of—this."

He touched Aylmer with the point of his foot. There was no ungentleness in the action, but it seemed instinctive—the gesture of an autocrat or of a dictator, seeing all men under his feet.

She gave a gesture of assent and followed him into the gloom cast by the sail upon the stern. Landon lay within a foot of where he had fallen, his head pillowed upon a tarpaulin. Muhammed had relinquished the tiller to Captain Luigi and was dropping aguardiente between the set lips and the color was stealing slowly back into the cheeks which had been as pale as Aylmer's own. Landon's eyes opened as Claire reached and stood beside him.

They met hers at first without recognition. Then a gleam of feeling flashed in them—a gleam which grew in fierceness as he gazed.

"I remember!" he muttered. He made a feeble effort to rise, which Muhammed prevented by the steady pressure of a hand. "By the Lord, he shall pay for it—and you!"

And then, meeting that glance, and stricken by the revulsion from the hope which the events of the last few minutes had engendered, Claire surrendered to a sense of despair. What could the future hold for her except—the worst? As far as she was concerned, the deal with fate was finished and she had lost finally. But even despair could not crush the maternal, protective instinct which had sprung into being in the silo of El Dibh, which had grown into full flower through the last dark hours in the lazaret. She spoke quickly, on the spur of the moment.

"Him you cannot hurt," she answered. "He is escaping you; he is dying."

Landon struggled under Muhammed's restraining hand.

"Is he?" he cried, looking at Miller. "Is he? He's not going before I get my hands on him! For God's sake, man, say he isn't! Say it isn't true!"

Miller shrugged his shoulders apathetically.

"We'll do all we can," he temporized.

Landon gnashed his teeth and burst into hysterical weeping.

"Ah, but I wanted to have my will of him!" he cried. "It's he and all the thousands like him that have put me here! The cursed hypocrites! I slipped; I went against their code, and they jostled each other to trample me when I was down! And I?" He shook his fist weakly into the night. "I? I was no worse than the best of them. I was only myself—the natural man—and they flung me out! And I could have repaid every stab, every kick, on him—on him!"

He writhed and then suddenly steadied himself. Again his eyes focussed evilly upon Claire.

"Go to him!" he ordered. "Go to him and do your utmost for him! Bring him round and I'll be light with you; I'll save you—the worst of it. Let him slip through your fingers, and by every devil in Hell I'll make you pay double, double, and double that!"

She turned from him silently and in turning made a little stagger. Miller's hand slipped under her elbow; for an instant she found that he was supporting her. She stirred away from him in uncontrollable disgust.

A moment later she had pulled herself together; she murmured a disjointed sentence of thanks, and moved away towards the scuppers where Aylmer still lay motionless, realizing, as she reached it, that the gray man was still at her side. He was looking at her keenly, but with an impassive gaze which told her nothing.

She bent her face to the white lips. Faintly, but still distinct, she felt the breath pass from them. She rose with a little gesture of appeal.

"You must help me," she said. "We must get him below."

For a moment he hesitated. Then he passed his arms behind the other's shoulders and lifted him. She bent and took his knees. Staggering again at first, but with growing steadiness, she helped to half carry, half drag him to the companion, into the cabin, to lay him, at last, on the floor of the lazaret.

She drew off her jacket and arranged it under his head.

She rose and looked at Miller.

"Now, if they will give me food and water, I will do what I can," she said simply. "Quiet is his best chance, absolute quiet."

He gave a little bow of assent.

"We must hope for the best," he answered. "You must rely on me all you can; come into Landon's notice as little as possible. I will use my influences, such as they are, for the best."

The hot throb of repulsion—of hate, even—throbbed up in her, knowing, as she knew, that he was false to her, but she kept her face unmoved. She nodded.

"Yes," she answered quietly, "unless—you think my duty is to let him—die?"

His imperturbable face lost its calm for a moment. He was genuinely startled.

"But no!" he cried quickly. "Things are not as bad as that! The threats he used? Those were the results of shock, of delirium. I would prevent that—I."

She looked at him very steadily.

"Yes?" she said. "You—a prisoner, like myself. How?"

He shrugged his shoulders vaguely.

"He is open to reason," he said. "He could not afford it; I could make that plain to him, I have every assurance that I could."

He was looking at her searchingly—frowning, showing dissatisfaction with himself for his slip. She was content to let it pass.

"Thank you," she answered. "You give me hope," and truly enough a wild, incredulous hope had just arisen in her heart, for her gaze had been still on Aylmer's pallid face at her feet.

The gray man still hesitated and then, with the air of one who has probed an enigma the solution of which still escaped him, turned and passed into the cabin. She heard his footsteps echo along the deck over her head.

Aylmer's eyes opened, and then one of them closed again, in a wink!

She laid her finger warningly upon her lips. She bent till her lips touched his ear.

"I knew it—I knew it!" she breathed joyfully. "Ah, but you nearly spoilt it all. You smiled—I saw the beginning of it—when he made his slip, and he might have seen it, too!"

He smiled again.

"The renegade!" he whispered. "I knew it before this last hour; I saw it in his face when Landon came here, before. They have some understanding, those two. And it was he who betrayed me—with his suggestion about the halliards. I heard him, before they let them go!"

"And I!" she answered. "He is against us; we are alone, against them all!"

"Where does his profit come in?" he asked, wonderingly. "What arguments has Landon used; how can a man like him be the gainer?"

She shook her head.

"One has met him—in Gibraltar—in society," she said. "But do we know anything of him; does any one know?"

He was silent for a moment.

"No," he said, at last. "No one knows. I have heard it spoken of, his unknowableness, but no one has supplied a key to the mystery. I think—I think if we win out of this I must set machinery to work in Gibraltar—to find out."

"If!" she repeated sadly. "If!"

His lips set firmly.

"Not if," he answered resolutely. "When! Do you believe that men like Landon win! You, yourself? Didn't you tell him that he would have to pay, eventually. I'm going to present the bill—I. I know it; I have it as a conviction!"

Her eyes glowed down at him. The dead roots of hope began to sprout in her heart. The down-hearted, the fainéant? Has any natural woman a use for such an one? No! Nature made you the leader, they cry to the male. For God's sake, behave as one!

She offered no protest, no comment. She did not question his faith; her matter-of-factness only asked for detail.

"Meanwhile?" she questioned. "Meanwhile?"

He made a little grimace.

"It is a gray prospect," he admitted. "I lie here, unconscious. I lie physically—and by implication—morally. I feign myself as one on the lip of extinction. I wait!"

She felt vaguely disappointed.

"You wait—till when?" she asked.

He smiled.

"Till a very old friend comes by," he answered. "She has seldom failed me, and then my own laggardness was at fault. They call her Opportunity."



"What is to be the end?" asked Claire, suddenly, wearily. "What is to be the end?"

Aylmer looked up from his pallet on the floor—looked at the girl—looked at the walls of bare masonry—looked at the shaft of sunlight which slanted through the barred window. For eight and forty hours he had lain there, shamming, shamming, shamming. For three days previous to his being brought to that place, he had lain as motionless in the lazaret of the Santa Margarita.

Conceive it—you who walk abroad as you list! Nearly a week of inaction, when all the time your blood is coursing healthily in your veins, your feet itch for the road, and your wrath, above all, is suffering a continual fever for which no remedy is presently available.

The picture, however, had its other side. Could he, in any other circumstances, have advanced so far in intimacy with his companion? When, in the ordinary intercourse of uneventful life, would the barrier which she had raised against him have been flung down? Where else than in this island prison of Salicudi would he have seen the glorious vision of hope over that barrier's crumbling walls? Dwelling on these matters, he was able to answer her pessimism with a genuine smile.

"When I first met you I told myself that I should have to play a waiting game," he said. "Well, it is proving itself so, literally."

She flushed faintly.

"You must forgive me," she sighed. "We women are not taught to wait. And in America we are allowed to be petulant, you know." She smiled. "You Britishers have more sense of discipline. But an end? Surely you yourself must want to see one? How long are you to lie there, paralyzed for action?"

He was silent for a moment, and his eyes were shadowed.

"It is I who must ask forgiveness," he said at last. "Perhaps—I hardly realized what it is—for you."

A throb of compunction stung her. She gave a little cry of protest.

"For me? It is a thousand times worse for you. I have liberty, in a sense. They let me walk abroad, even, at times—I am not interfered with—I can look out to sea and—and hope. I have you to lean on. But you? You lie within these four walls and think, and think. Your only support is within yourself. And I am a drag upon you."

And then she turned her face from the sudden passion in his eyes.

"Claire!" he said. "Claire!"

She did not answer in words. She made a little gesture which seemed to plead for forbearance, for a postponement to an inevitable but far distant morrow. She rose and walked to the window.

"There is a ship passing now," she reported. "Half a mile from land. I can see her flag—the Union Jack. A Newcastle collier, I expect, by her bulk and her grime. I suppose there are a score of unwashed deck hands and heavers in her forecastle who would sweep this island bare of the human vermin who infest it if we could let them know our need, if we could signal—wave—act! Act? But to go on waiting? To have not so much as a plan?"

He rose cautiously.

"There is no one in sight?" he asked.

She looked right and left, keenly suspicious.

"No," she said, at last. "I watched Luigi back to the houses after he left our food. He and half a dozen more are at the landing place. Two or three are on board the felucca, working her with sweeps into the shelter of the little breakwater. Mr. Miller? He is sitting on a boulder, watching—and like us, I suppose—waiting. What are we all doing but that? Fate is to be the arbiter for all of us. We can offer no interference."

He came up beside her, keeping in the shadow and peering cautiously between the bars. His glance was directed at the Santa Margarita as the toilers at the sweeps slowly worked her to her moorings.

"They are making it the more difficult for us," he said slowly. "While she lay out there in the open, she represented the weapon with which we might have defeated Fate, if Fate is against us. Inside the breakwater the edge of the weapon is blunt. Did Fate read my thoughts?"

She looked at him anxiously.

"You have had a plan?" she asked. "You have not been leaving all to chance?"

"Wind—that is all I asked," he said. "A storm, a moonless night, and a little luck. If I could have got on board the felucca with you and cut her from her moorings, we would have played a deal with Fate then. We would have enlisted her on our side, to take us where she willed."

Her eyes grew vivid with hope and with anxiety.

"But to get on board? We are locked in at night, bolted. And those dogs of theirs are loose."

"That is it—they are loose," he said. "A few handfuls of food saved and we can attract them to the window, and they will be quiet enough when they are fed. It is merely a question of the getting out."

"And how?"

He pointed to a corner of the unmorticed wall.

"Their bars are sound enough, their bolts are out of reach of our tampering. But the building itself? Its foundations date from the days of Augustus, as likely as not. At night, while you slept, I tried its stability, course by course. It was in that corner that I found the weak spot. The lower stone I can remove at will. The one above it will fall when the support of the first is removed. And I put pressure enough on to the outer stones to know that a strong effort will thrust them away. The road is open, when we choose to take it."

She clapped her hands softly. Her face glowed.

"Why not now?" she cried. "Why not choose the passing of a ship and then signal—as you signalled to the torpedo boat?"

He shook his head.

"A warship is one thing," he objected, "a merchant ship another. We should be poising our all on the intelligence of a look-out-man who would be scanning the water, not the land, or of a third officer who might not know the code international."

She sighed.

"So we wait," she said despondently.

"So we wait," he agreed. "But not for long." He was looking westward at the sky.

"You see something?" she said quickly. "What?"

"Wind clouds," he answered. "Cirrus. Fate may be making her preparations for to-night."

"To-night?" She repeated the word faintly, incredulously. "I wonder," she said slowly. "I wonder if, after all my yearning for action, I shall—be brave when it really comes to—to-night?"

He looked down at her.

"And I?" he said. "Have I as good a chance as you to show courage?"

"You?" she answered wonderingly. "You are a man."

"Yes," he answered. "I am a man. And you, a woman, are dependent on me and I am taking you into perils that I can only guess at, dangers that lie absolutely in the hands of chance. For which of us is it easiest to be brave, you or me?"

Her eyes dropped from his.

"What do you hint?" she temporized. "For me—why should it be easier for me? The—the cases are equal, are they not?"

"No," he said quietly. "No, Claire. And you know that they are not. Not because you are a woman, but because you are the woman; because you are you—and I—am myself—and love you!"

And this time there was a note in his voice which she had not recognized before, vibrant, unrestrained, passionate. The thrill of it pulsed through her; she felt it in her nerves, her very veins. She flinched from it, she gave a tiny pant; the womanly instinct of evasion made her draw back from him a startled pace.

"Isn't that the truth?" he asked, his voice hoarse with its intensity. "Isn't it easy to be brave for oneself alone—easier than to be brave for another?"

She stood looking at him, strangely, doubtfully, the shadow of dumb entreaty in her eyes. But in her heart other shadows were fading to disclose realities hitherto faintly suspected and half defined. Was this the true meaning of the fear which had suddenly been born in the moment of hope? Was it for his sake she paused upon the threshold of danger? The protective instinct which she had recognized in herself with wonder—had that grown into something more? Was it death with him or life without him that she pictured as the worst that Fate could give?

The silence grew in tension but she could not break it. What was only then revealing itself to her—could she reveal it to him? She drew back another pace, she held out her hand as if she warded off the inevitable.

"I cannot tell," she said weakly. "But—but I think I could be brave for myself—alone."

He made an exclamation, his arms went out to possess her, his eyes shone—

"No!" she cried passionately. "No! Is it fair, is it right to take advantage of our position; is it honorable?"

And then she regretted her words in the very speaking of them. The passion faded from his face, a shadow veiled his eyes, he made a gesture of contrition. And she? With feminine inconsistency she opened her lips to undo what she had done, to make her victory defeat.

Again Fate intervened. Aylmer whispered warningly, slipped across the flags, and stretched himself upon the pallet. One look through the barred window explained his action. A hundred yards away a couple of figures were advancing towards the building. She recognized Landon and in his companion, Miller, talking vehemently.

She left the window and waited, sitting on the rough stool which was placed at the pallet foot.

A minute later the sound of bolts withdrawn and a key in a lock echoed under the stone arch. Landon entered alone, debonair, smiling, but with eyes which were ominous of intention.

He looked down at the pallet.

"Our sufferer—our patient? Do we perceive no signs of progress?"

There was danger in his voice; she read it unmistakably.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"He is no different," she said apathetically. "He has spoken, once or twice. I see no change."

"That is the misfortune of it all," said Landon. "You see no change. Can your nursing be at fault—not from want of care, let me say at once, but from want of knowledge? Must we call in further advice in consultation?"

His face was white and haggard below the soiled bandage which crossed his forehead. The sharpness of his jaw, his sunken cheeks, made of his smile a very evil thing. She flinched before it.

"I cannot tell," she answered wearily.

"His movements, now?" grinned Landon. "Do they give no indication of his condition? Has he no conscious interests?"

The eyes below the bandage glittered and fear stabbed her suddenly. Were they betrayed?

She shook her head.

"You see for yourself," she answered, and made a gesture towards the motionless form on the pallet.

Landon laughed.

"No, I do not see," he said. "I am not a physician. I cannot walk to a bedside and deliver sentences of death or reprieves to life like the miracle mongers of Harley Street. Unconsciousness? How is it diagnosed? Sometimes by actual experiment in corpore vile, is it not?" He leaned over the bed. His hand slipped into a pocket and reappeared holding an open penknife. He thrust it suddenly into Aylmer's arm.

She gave a cry of indignation; she seized his hand and dragged him back.

He laughed savagely and tried to fling her off. She threw her whole weight upon his wrist, clinging to it.

And then he laughed again, with malignant enjoyment. He changed his tactics. He no longer evaded her grip. He jerked her towards him. And this time the penknife point found a new sheath. Deliberately he stabbed it against her shoulder and—held it there!

She shrieked.

There was a stirring from the pallet bed. With a mighty leap Aylmer was on his feet! His face was convulsed; his eyes were lightnings.

For the third time Landon laughed, triumphantly. In the same motion he released his prisoner and sent her spinning against Aylmer's outstretched arm. He himself was at the door and outside it, slamming it, locking it, flinging home bolt after bolt before the two inside had recovered from the sudden shock. A moment later he reappeared at the window.

"Well, my early convalescent!" he mocked. "Have you no thanks for such a sudden recovery? And you, sister-in-law, for such a lesson in the healing art? Think of the efforts wasted on that malingerer. Aren't you blushing for the ease with which you were deceived?"

And then the twinkle of wicked laughter faded from his eyes. He drew near the window bars and glowered down at them evilly.

"Or are you blushing for yourself, you wanton!" he cried. "You who deceived me into leaving you with him as a nurse, and knew that he needed none. A little paragraph with hints—or more than hints, the truth—about such a matter, and where do you stand? Are there society rags in London and New York ready to accept that sort of matter? Yes, virtuous cousin and sister-in-law, I think there are, I think there are!"

Neither of them flinched. They looked at him fixedly and, in the girl's case, almost wonderingly. And Landon read the message of her incredulity with a chuckle of enjoyment.

"I keep on presenting surprises to you, do I not?" he grinned. "My versatility, the quickness with which I seize new points of humor impresses you?"

For a moment she was silent. And then, as if a force beyond her control forced her to speak, she answered him.

"I did not believe in the possibility of there being a thing as vile as yourself," she said. "I did not think God allowed such as you to live!"

The satyr-like grin broadened across his haggard cheeks. He leered down at them.

"I revel in it!" he answered. "By the Lord! Till you've tried absolutely unrestrained wickedness, till you've thrown off every sort of control, till you're one with the devil and proud of it, you don't know what enjoyment is!" His eyes glowed; he smote his fist ecstatically on the stones. "It's great!" he cried. "Great!"

A gray figure came suddenly into view behind him. Miller's face showed white against the shadow of the dusk which was heralding its coming by the deepening azure of the sea and sky. And his glance seemed to hold a significance which the prisoners were meant to read, but for which they had no clue.

Landon heard him and wheeled.

He surveyed him slowly and then he laughed.

"I'm beyond you now, teacher!" he derided. "I used to admire you—the callousness, the relentlessness—which you could put into a job! But I'm way up above you. Decency had to be part of your stock-in-trade."

He laughed again, his harsh, cackling merriment, and there was a note in it which struck a new chord of fear in Claire's heart. It was inhuman, unintelligent, this laughter. It fell poignantly, horribly on the ear.

"To-morrow—mañana!" chuckled Landon. "I'm coming back with all my friends. We'll give hours of daylight to the job and, by God! we'll make a good one! Think it over; give it your attention through the night! My terms, every word of them or—well, try and guess the persuasions I'll use. Meditate on them; paint them up in your imaginations and then you'll fall short! And as for restraints, remember that in my particular case there isn't such a thing, not one!"

He stood staring down at them through a moment of leering self-satisfaction, and then slowly, reluctantly, turned away. He took Miller's arm and drew him insistently down the path. His evil laughter came back to them shrill upon the evening breeze.

Inside their prison the two turned and confronted each other. Then Aylmer spoke.

"He has defied God, and the judgment of God has fallen on him. He is insane—that is evident! Insane with malice, with his surrender to the devil and all his works."

Her lips were parched. She whispered.

"And to-morrow?" she questioned, thickly. "To-morrow—we shall have to surrender, too. To him?"

He clenched his fists.

"No!" he said. "No! Not while Fate has given us to-night—to-night!"



The presage of the afternoon sky was amply fulfilled by midnight. The western gale howled through the window bars and the sound of the sea's thunder rolled up from the beach. For the Mediterranean it was a gale beyond the normal, one that had borrowed strength from its Atlantic kin. It lashed the green islands of the archipelago with unaccustomed violence. The vine poles fell in ranks before its blast; the lava dust whirled up in spirals; the pebbles clattered along the face of the shingle. And yet there was something strange, noticeable, almost ominous, about the tempest. It had none of the northern breath of ice. It was a hot wind; in spring or summer, and had it risen in the south, one would have called it sirocco and kept in the shadow throughout its blowing. But this wind blew from the north and the month was December. The islanders mused over the phenomenon debatingly.

Inside the prison the storm muffled sounds which, however, no listener was abroad to detect. A common table fork his only implement, Aylmer was levering the massive corner-stones inch by inch from their seating. The lower one had already been removed, but the upper one, as expected, had not fallen from its place. He panted as he put forth his strength upon it. The ebb and flow of his pulses swelled in the half-healed scar on his temple. Blood was flowing from a few superficial cuts upon his fingers. He ground his teeth and tugged at the stone savagely, worrying it as a terrier might worry a defiant rat. And then, with an unexpected jerk, it fell out upon him bodily. He dropped backwards, the stone's weight upon his leg.

He gave a half-muffled cry, not of pain, but of satisfaction. The rest was easy; the road was open.

Then, as he panted in the relief of accomplished effort, Fate rebuked his satisfaction with a sudden threat. A step sounded coming up the gravel.

His temperamental coolness and presence of mind never stood a test better. He stood up, raised each stone in quick succession, and placed them swiftly, carefully, and silently beneath the coverlet of his companion's bed. She flung herself down beside them. He drew his own pallet into the corner from which the stones had been removed and lay, his face to the wall, the huddle of the bed clothes hiding the opening. A moment later a light shone through the window. The light of a lamp illuminated a wrinkled Italian face.

The watcher blinked at them suspiciously, grunted, and then with a half-articulate expression of satisfaction, turned away. The light bobbed slowly off into the distance, flaring and guttering before the force of the wind. Inside the prison a sigh went up—a chorussed echo of relief.

"Landon is taking no chances," said Aylmer, in a whisper. "We are to be visited, at intervals. That is evident."

He heard something like the sound of a sob in the darkness.

"It means defeat—this?" asked Claire. "Fate is setting her face against us. We are not even to have our chance!"

"No!" he said grimly. "Fate is not against us. I feel it, I have believed it all along. And if she is, then it is our duty to defy her. After all, we can use the chief source of danger to defeat suspicion; that is easy."

He rose cautiously and plucked the remaining stones from the hole. He placed them in his own bed; he arranged matters carefully. And then he made a motion towards the new-made opening.

"Will you lead?" he said quietly. "Will you be the first to confront—Fate?"

She gave a little gasp.

"I?" she said, and hesitated, fear in her eyes.

"You, if you will," he answered simply. "Make your way out and hide yourself in the nearest convenient shadow. Then, if he returns before I can join you, await me. If not—" He shrugged his shoulders. "I shall be at your heels."

She still paused, and her fingers clenched and unclenched.

"I did not expect—to be—separated," she breathed. "My strength—I did not realize it at first—is coming all from you."

His hand went out into the darkness and touched her.

"From now on, it will be used in your service," he said quietly. "For you and you alone." She felt the hand quiver. "Whether you ask it or not, whether I am to be all to you in the future, or nothing. It will be there—for your asking."

And then, because the need of that strength came upon her with a force which she could not control, she gripped the protecting hand between her fingers and—Fate alone knows why—raised it to her lips. The next instant she had slipped past him in the darkness and was drawing herself through the opening. She rose to her knees, to her feet. She stood out upon the wind-swept earth, free. Free of the material prison behind her. Had she not laid upon herself new bonds? It was a thought too new, too indefinite, too strangely sweet. The tumult of her feelings was in accord with the tumult of the night.

She gripped the protecting hand between her fingers

She stood, expectant, her ears alert for sounds. There was no grating of pebbles upon the path. But from the hole at her feet the faint rip of clothing torn against the angle of the stone. The next instant Aylmer had emerged, but did not rise. His hands, returning to the opening, still worked at something within. And then she gave a little gasp. A light shone at her feet. It made a tiny, yellow splash in the darkness and fell—on Aylmer's face.

Terror paralyzed her; she stood as if turned to stone; her hands clenched into her clothing upon her breast. And Aylmer lay as motionless, the golden gleam falling directly into his eyes, which did not even blink.

A sound broke the stillness—a sound which came from the far side of their prison—and the light disappeared. She heard footsteps which retreated; she recognized again the grunt which told of another inspection made to the inspector's content. But what had saved them—what?

Aylmer rose and stood beside her. His hand gently gripped her elbow and drew her out into the roar and beat of the tempest. He headed inland; the path which the sentinel had taken was the one which led towards the shore.

A minute later she breathed her question. And he laughed lightly in the darkness. The sound, incongruous as it seemed to her sense of ever-menacing fear, thrilled her strangely. If he could laugh, was not Fate laughing with him? Was there not a smile on the face of Hope?

"I was only just through the hole when he came, when he flashed his lantern at what he supposed was my body, recumbent on the bed. I was holding up the bed clothes from outside; I had not had time to shove the stones back into place."

She shuddered at the nearness of the hazard. Supposing the man had come at the very moment of escape—supposing?

"But the light?" she protested. "The light shone upon your face!"

He laughed again.

"The bed clothes had a hole in them!" he said. "I held them up into the form of human shoulders, and through a rent his lantern beat directly on my face! He could not, of course, see me, but I got a good view of him. It was Luigi himself, this time. Has Fate been whispering to him, do you think? Has she made him suspicious?"

She stumbled and caught at him to steady herself. He looked down in sudden, quick compunction.

"It has been too much for you!" he said anxiously. "You are feeling faint?"

"No!" she said quietly. "I am trying to think of it as a nightmare from which I shall wake directly, but it is real! Whenever that comes home to me it—it is a pain. Well, it will not be a long ordeal now, will it? We meet Fate at the landing stage, and she will give her decision. Can we unmoor the Santa Margarita from inside the breakwater, or can we not? She will know."

He nodded.

"In five minutes we, too, shall know. We are circling for the Marina now. A couple of hundred yards and we shall be there!"

They strode on into the darkness, with eyes and ears alert. They heard the battling of the waves against the stones of the tiny pier, but what they did not hear was the sound of singing cordage in the felucca's rigging.

Aylmer halted with a sudden, muffled exclamation.

"They have unshipped the mast!" he cried sharply, and this time she recognized, even in his voice, the note of defeat.

She echoed his exclamation; she followed at his heels as he ran out upon the little breakwater. No, there had been no room for mistake. The great mast with its cross spar lay along the stone flags. The hull was snugly berthed alongside it, within the tiny harbor. The dingy? There was none; they had cast it loose when they fled from the torpedo boat through the island channel.

For a moment he did not speak. He stood, looking silently at the dismantled boat, the raging sea, the swinging lights of a passing steamer. Then he turned and shook his head.

"To step that mast into place again is beyond one man's strength," he said. "To fling ourselves out into that whirl on a mastless hull is to court death inevitably. What is the alternative? We could stand in front of the shed here, screened from view inland, and signal some passing vessel with flares, if we had the means of making a light. That would not be a good chance, but it has possibilities."

"And I have matches!" she said eagerly. "I have my chatelaine still. I have even my purse yet. So far they have not robbed me."

He turned as she spoke and without comment ran back across the shingle. He began to pluck handfuls of the dry, bent grass which found a sparse livelihood in the belt of sand between the shore and the vineyards. He returned, rummaged among the litter around the shed, broke up some stray pieces of driftwood into chips, and thrust a lighted match among the bents. A flame shot up, passed from the tinder to the wood, and within a minute was a well-lit fire. He twisted the remaining handfuls of grass into spirals, wetted them slightly in the sea, and held them to the flame.

They burnt slowly with a red glow, as he swung them to and fro in the wind; in dashes, in dots, in circles, he spelled messages into the night, but no answering lantern or rocket came from the sea. And she watched apathetically. For her hope was dead again, the hand of Fate had closed. This was action; this helped them to avoid thinking, to avert anticipation, but success was a matter outside her calculations. The sense of nightmare closed down upon her again. The storm, the red flashes against the purple darkness, the wild unaccustomedness of everything heightened the illusion. But when would she wake? Ah, when would she wake?

And then—she rubbed her eyes. A light—surely this was no freak of her fevered eyesight?—danced into view within a couple of hundred yards of the shore. For a moment it swung to the lift and surge of the waves alone, but a moment later it rose half a dozen feet into the air, and flashed and circled as the charred torch in Aylmer's hand was circling—an answer to their message of despair. She gasped with eagerness; she cried aloud.

Was it fancy or did another cry reach them through the thunder of the waves?

The light stayed motionless for an instant, and then swung towards them. Whatever vessel was bearing it had turned its prow towards the shore. Aylmer caught up another glowing handful of bents and ran out to the breakwater's end. Claire's heart beat in suffocating throbs as she followed.

Again a cry reached them, and Aylmer waved his beacon vigorously. A sudden shaft of moonlight sank through a rift in the flying clouds.

They saw it then—a dark mass which plunged and heaved among the white crests, and drifted nearer and nearer. There was no sail set, but they could see the rise and fall of a couple of great oars which steadied the boat as it advanced by drifting only. It was less than a cable length distant now, passing through the ring of rocks which guarded the harbor entrance.

They held their breath. Ten seconds would do it, but ten seconds held an infinitude of possibilities. If the boat broached to, if its prow, indeed, deflected a couple of yards from the course, would not that give Fate a chance to fling her scorn upon their rising hopes? Their eyes were strained. Claire's hand was clenched till her nails seemed to sink into the flesh of her palm. And then she gave a sigh of relief. The boat had passed the outer rock, was heading straight for the inner harbor and the calm.

Fate laughed harshly.

A gust stormed in from the sea, caught the boat's prow, swung it, caused the port side rower to meet its strength too swiftly with his own. They heard a crack—heard it distinctly above the uproars of the gale. The oar had broken between the thole-pins; the rower was down.

There was another crashing sound, louder this time, and menacing. A great sea raced beneath the laboring keel, lifted it, shook it, and flung it aside, full upon the rock. The white gleam of the new-made splinters reached them through the smother of the foam fifty yards away.

Aylmer cried out and raced back along the stones. His hands plucked at the cordage which was folded about the felucca's mast, and drew out a rope. He came back at speed, unwinding the coils as he came. He thrust the loose end into her hands.

"Get a purchase against a stone and then hold on—hold on!" he ordered. He flung off his coat.

She cried out in protest; she clung to him.

"No!" she cried. "No!"

Very gently, very firmly, her hand was drawn aside. He bent over her; something touched faintly—very faintly—her lips. The next instant she was alone. He had leaped—far out into the grip of the tide.

She caught her breath and clutched the rope; she flung herself down and wedged her limbs behind a boulder. Fate was relentless, she told herself, was cruel beyond even her darkest anticipations. For now her one support was to be denied her; she was to be left alone. She set her lips grimly. No, she would never see Aylmer again, but she would defy Fate! She was to be crushed, but she would go down fighting; she would be worthy of herself—and of him.

The vagrant shaft of moonlight was gone again; the darkness was well-nigh impenetrable. The rope swung between her fingers unstraining. The minutes passed one by one; the tension of expectancy plucked at her nerves; she shivered, but not with cold. Even if it was the worst that was to come upon her she wanted to know—to know.

The rope grew taut.

It was as if an electric shock thrilled her. She braced herself against the stone, and her muscles tightened; slowly, using her strength to its utmost but with steady effort, she began to haul it in foot by foot. It came heavily but unceasingly, the coils unwinding fathom after fathom at her side.

And then the strain ceased as suddenly as it had begun. A voice hailed her out of the darkness, almost at her feet. A dark bulk rose at the breakwater's edge.

Aylmer staggered towards her and laid something on the stones—something which stirred uneasily but unavailingly, clogged, as it seemed, by the weight of its sodden clothing.

She knelt beside it. She brushed the lank hair from a dripping face.

Aylmer waved her back.

"There is another!" he shouted. "Hold on if you can! Hold on!" and so plunged back into the surf. For the second time she braced herself to endure the strain—to wait—to agonize with expectation. And again Fate played with her, racked her between hope and fear, drew out the strain and then, as suddenly, relaxed it. Aylmer crept out upon the stones, gasping, doggedly clinging to a new burden.

This time it was the bearer who staggered and fell, the burden who rose unsteadily, and peered into his rescuer's face.

She dropped upon her knees beside him. Pale, clean-cut ascetic features were lifted to hers. Two dark brown eyes inspected her with startled incredulity.

And then the man rose and—the act was instinctive, it was obvious—doffed his hat.

"Signora," he said in Italian. "Signora! This is Salicudi, is it not? I am at a loss—I do not understand."

For a moment she hesitated, looking at him. The long black garment which clung about him reached to his feet. Suddenly she recognized it, and, with recognition, a little cry escaped her. It was a soutane. And this was no sailor. She was confronted by a priest.

As she opened her lips to find a reply, something clattered behind her; something rushed, calling upon the names of innumerable saints, out of the darkness, and seized her shoulder. A harsh voice rang into the echoes of the night.

"To me—to me, all of you! They are escaping! Blood of My Lady, the prisoners are loose!"

The man in the soutane whirled fiercely upon the newcomer. And as he turned the moon broke through the scurry of the drift and fell upon the group in cold brilliance.

"Prisoners!" The voice was incredulous, wrathful, and above all full of command. "Prisoners! You speak of—whom?"

The hand upon Claire's shoulder dropped. Her captor fell away as if struck by a physical blow.

"Padre Sigi!" he stammered, and his voice was convincing of his amazement. "Padre Sigi!"

The other nodded imperiously.

"Padre Sigismondi," he agreed. "At your service, my good Luigi. At your service!"



The smuggler's eyes expressed the limits of amazement. He stared at the newcomer. He turned his glance to Aylmer, as if he sought information there. He brought it back and focussed it upon the dripping soutane. He made inarticulate noises of incredulity; he flung up his hands with gestures of bewilderment.

"You arrive—how, reverend father?" he cried. "What have you used? The wings of a bird, the fins of a fish?"

"The eyes of a God-fearing priest," retorted Padre Sigismondi. "I saw signals being flashed from your island. With Emmanuele here," he pointed to the dripping figure which still lay upon the stones, "I was passing your abode of sin on my way to Stromboli. I had, in fact, no choice—I was being blown there. I saw the signals, I say, but read no meaning in them. Some unconfessed wretch needs extreme unction, say I to myself, and steered among the teeth of your reefs. One of our sweeps broke at a critical moment. This cavalier here leaped in to our rescue. I have not properly thanked him yet because I am awaiting explanation of the words I heard as you thrust yourself upon us. Prisoners, did you say? It must be a cataclysm of morality which has made you a gaoler or a judge, my wonderful Luigi."

The smuggler shivered and blenched.

"This man and this woman are in a sense prisoners," he allowed. "They are not on good terms with our other—guests. We have had to restrain their liberties."

Padre Sigismondi regarded him fixedly. The unfortunate Luigi's tongue protruded with nervousness; his cheek muscles twitched. The priest shrugged his shoulders as he turned to Aylmer.

"I arrive unceremoniously," he smiled, "but not inopportunely, it seems. May I have your version of the extraordinary circumstances in which I find the Signora and yourself, Signor?"

Aylmer smiled back at him.

"They are simple enough, father," he answered. "We are prisoners; there is no need for our friend here to beat about the bush. At the instigation of—of a certain enemy of ours, in whose pay the good Luigi finds himself, we were kidnapped from the port of Melilla and brought here. It was our signals you saw. May I add my profound regrets at the misfortune you experienced in answering them?"

"The Church is a boat to the bad, but possibly a gainer in righteousness," said the other. "I may be the means of preventing some irretrievable sin on the part of these islanders. You were being held to ransom, do I understand?"

The dripping figure at his feet stirred and rose weakly to a standing posture. A cackle of laughter came from between the chattering teeth.

"The gaol-bird as gaoler—eh, but that is a rib-rending jest, Luigi. You have imagination, amico, imagination and, it seems, opportunity. You will go far!"

The sailor turned his wrinkled face on the abashed smuggler; his white teeth flashed a prodigious smile. He seemed to find nothing disconcerting in the situation, but desired to show quickness in seizing its points of humor.

"He will certainly go far, my good Emmanuele," agreed Padre Sigismondi, drily. "As far as the penal station on Procida if I am not hugely mistaken, or unless he shows a most improbable repentance. What have we here? Other warders in this private penitentiary?"

Footsteps clattered along the tiny causeway. With a rush, half a dozen figures swept up to them through the moonlight, Landon at their head. This was the answer to Signor Luigi's frantic shouts.

The rush wavered, hesitated, came to a halt. The islanders recognized the grim, aggressive form in the soutane with sharp exclamations of amazement and alarm. Landon, without their experience, felt the impalpable infection of their fear. He, too, halted, staring mistrustfully at the priest and his companions.

He shook Luigi by the elbow.

"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded.

The smuggler made a deferential outward movement of his palms.

"It is a visit, an unexpected visit, from our—our vicar," he explained. "It is the Padre Sigi—Sigismondi, I should say."

The padre stepped forward and spoke in crisp, imperturbable tones.

"I am peripatetic confessor to these islands, Signor," he said. "There is a bitter need of six priests to each island, rather than six islands to a priest. It is an abode of wickedness, this. That, perhaps, has not been hidden from you?"

Landon kept a moment's silence. Then he smiled.

"I confess that I have not augmented its morality, in bulk, Signor," he said. "In fact, by adding the two who stand behind you to its population, I have done far otherwise. Instead of being where you find them, they should be under lock and key."

"Why?" demanded the priest, laconically.

"Because they robbed me," answered Landon. "Because, for wicked purposes of their own, they took from me—not gold, but what is beyond the price of gold or buying—my only son."

"You accuse them of—kidnapping?" The good man's voice was coldly incredulous.

Landon made a gesture of assent.

"Of that and of attempted murder. They hired Moorish desperadoes to attack me, to ride me down."

"And you have made of yourself not only prosecutor, but judge, jury, and keeper of their prison?"

"These things happened in Africa, outside civilized jurisdiction. Was I to lack justice when it lay in the hollow of my hand?"

"Are there no consular courts? If not, you cannot bring your private cause to private verdict in the dominions of the King of Italy, however bad his title to the throne."

"Your reverence is a Legitimist?" grinned Landon.

"In every sense of the word, Signor. My sense of legitimacy finds your arguments unsound."

He looked at Claire with an apologetic bow.

"And as a matter of fact, Signora, I have not heard your statement. How does it vary from this gentleman's? Or does it, perhaps, corroborate it?"

She looked at him very steadily.

"The man to whom you have been talking," she said slowly, "is, I think, Signor, the worst man whom God permits to live."

He made a little gesture of protest.

"You have suffered at his hands—is that it? But your sentence is too sweeping a one, is it not? Surely, Signora, surely?"

She shook her head.

"No!" she said determinedly. "Traitor, forger, thief—we know him to be all these. And last, but not least, murderer. A murderer of souls. I do not know if he has taken a fellow creature's life, but for five years he racked into the numbness of despair the soul of my sister, who was his wife."

He made a tiny exclamation of sympathy; he held up his hand as if he put away from him a spectre of evil.

He looked back to Landon.

"You have heard, Signor?" he said.

"I have heard," said Landon, easily. "As a tale it has no originality and therefore little interest for me. I have heard it a hundred times. Your reverence found fault, a moment back, with my self-assumed status of judge. Are you going to borrow the cloak which you do not permit me to wear? You have heard both sides. To what proof can you refer a decision?"

The long, lean figure drew itself up very rigidly.

"I am a sinful man myself, Signor. I make no decisions. But I have been appealed to, as I understand, by those whom I find in your power. I shall not permit your restraint of them to continue. You can refer any grievance you have against them to properly constituted tribunals over there." He lifted his arm and pointed south to where storm and night hid Sicily.

He turned to Luigi.

"Emmanuele and I are, as you see, sodden to the skin. It may reach your great intelligence, by degrees, that we need warmth and refreshment."

The smuggler made an apologetic gesture.

"But certainly, Reverenza. There is in the house a fire. My poor provisions are at your service."

The priest looked towards Claire with another courtly doffing of his hat.

"And you, Signora, and you, Signor, will add to my felicity by sharing both with me?"

She looked at him gravely.

"They have not starved us; we had food a couple of hours ago," she said. "But your company, here and to the mainland, is a boon straight from the hand of God."

He inclined his head in assent.

"I am His servant, Signora," he said. "I thank Him for permitting me to serve Him, in serving you. Shall we make our way to the house? The hour must be close on midnight."

He made a motion towards the path. He looked imperturbably at Landon, who, with Muhammed, still stood astride it.

"You appear to be blocking the lady's way, Signor," he said. "Not intentionally, I dare to hope."

Landon shrugged his shoulders and drew aside.

"On the contrary, your reverence. Not for worlds would I stand between you and refreshment—and sleep."

He looked at Muhammed with a half-sardonic, half-inquiring gaze as he spoke. And there was a faintly emphasized inflection on the last two words.

The Moor looked back at him impassively, and then drew aside with an obsequious droop of the head.

But to Claire and, to a less extent to Aylmer, there was a queer, indefinite sense of something which impended—something which racked them with suspicion in the attitude of those about them. Landon's surrender was too facile; Luigi's deference too pliant; Muhammed's apathetic eyes were never less convincing of guilelessness. When they reached the cottage, and stood with Padre Sigismondi before the blaze in the great open hearth and watched the quick preparations which were being made to improvise a meal, the unreality of their surroundings seemed to grow in significance. No one interfered with them; no one even noticed them. Luigi set the table; Muhammed busied himself with the coffee-pot; Landon held the father's dripping garments to the blaze while their owner assumed a sailor's trousers and jersey in an adjoining room. It was too incredible, this sudden turning of tables. They looked at each other doubtfully.

Their speculations received a sudden interruption. The door opened to admit Miller.

He was half dressed. He blinked—it was apparent that he and sleep had parted company a short half minute before.

"I heard noises," he said, and then his glance fell upon the two who stood near the fireplace, side by side. His usual phlegm seemed to desert him. He gave an exclamation.

"You!" he cried. "You!"

He wheeled towards Landon.

"Will you explain?" he cried harshly. "What is happening?"

"I entertain guests—a small, but select, family party," grinned Landon.

The gray man stared at him with still unappeased surprise. Then, suddenly, his face cleared. He looked at Claire; he looked on beyond her to Aylmer.

"You have met his terms? You see the hopelessness of it all; you have been wise?"

His voice was smooth, now, and had lost its harsh tones of amazement. He purred his approbation.

Aylmer laughed.

"We have been wise, my dear Miller," he agreed. He laughed again as Padre Sigismondi briskly entered the room. He had the aspect of an ascetic but experienced mariner in his new garb. He bowed to Miller courteously but inquiringly. The inquiry, it was to be noticed, was directed in part towards Aylmer and his companion.

But Aylmer offered no introduction. He drew forward a chair, and placed it in front of the fire.

"A good roasting after your immersion? Let me prescribe that," he said.

The priest looked at him and then gave a cry of commiseration.

"But you yourself, Signor—you remain in your sodden clothes?"

"For a very simple reason, father," said Aylmer, smiling. "I was taken prisoner, but not my luggage. I stand up in my belongings."

The house began to resound with the recriminations which the priest addressed to Luigi. Why had he not provided the cavalier with a suitable change of raiment while his own clothes dried? Why had he not done this; why had he not done that?

The smuggler ran to and fro distractedly. A jersey came from one press. A shirt from another. A cupboard supplied trousers; a deplorable collar which had had no recent acquaintance with a laundry was even offered and declined. Aylmer retired into the adjoining room, and Landon, on his return, with imperturbable aplomb received and began to dry the wet clothes he had taken off. Miller reviewed these proceedings with unqualified amazement. Offered no key to the position, he proceeded to probe for one.

"Your reverence has voyaged far?" he hazarded.

"More miles than I care to remember, Signor," said the other, courteously. "But ever, alas, in a circle. My peregrinations have been bounded, ever since my ordination, by Naples on the north and Palermo or Messina in the south. I see much earth and sky and water, especially the latter, but I add nothing to geography. I am amphibious, that is all."

His "ordination"? The gleam of discovery woke in Miller's eyes. A priest, was it? But the presence of Aylmer and Miss Van Arlen—how was that to be explained? And how far had the newcomer gauged the situation.

"Your reverence finds in us unexpected additions to your flock," he said. "The population of Salicudi has increased since you last visited it."

"To my very natural satisfaction," said Sigismondi, imperturbably. He looked at the steaming bowl of polenta and the coffee-pot which Luigi had set upon the table. Emmanuele came in, wrapped in a sheepskin coat and grinning at the food expectantly. His master greeted him with a nod. "It appears that we are to feast and feast alone, my son," he said. "These friends of ours insist on having dined two hours ago. May the Blessed bless to us this refreshment."

He seated himself and began to eat slowly, but with relish.

"Heat is a great tonic," he remarked reflectively. "The contents of this bowl and, above all, of this admirable coffee-pot, will erase the remembrance of the discomforts of the night. And then sleep, but not too much of it. Luigi, my friend, we must be off at dawn."

The smuggler's eyebrows rose into arcs.

"How, Reverence?" he exclaimed. "At dawn, and whither, if you please?"

"By way of Celsa, where an infant awaits baptism—and my friends, I dare to hope, will excuse the short delay—to Messina. Where else, my good Luigi? That surely is the place where your guests can most conveniently adjust their misunderstandings."

The smuggler shrugged his shoulders.

"I am at your service, father," he said, and looked vacantly at the opposite wall. But the tail of his eye, Aylmer noted, was on Landon. Was there a message, or inquiry, in it?

"All of us," said Landon, smoothly, "must find your proposition a very practical one. May I hasten to add my approval of it?"

He looked smilingly at Aylmer, at Claire, lastly at Muhammed. The Moor—was it Aylmer's fancy?—answered with a tiny nod. There was sarcasm in this glance of Landon's; there was menace; there was—so Aylmer told himself—malignant triumph.

Padre Sigismondi nodded absently. He presented his coffee-cup to the Moor to be refilled, and as the brown liquid ran from the spout, watched it with a slow, stolid abstraction. His mental alertness seemed to be relaxing with physical refreshment. He offered no further remarks; he plied his spoon upon the polenta slowly, and yet more slowly.

Suddenly Emmanuele, the sailor, dropped his cup in the act of taking a more than usually copious draught. He looked stupidly at the coarse crockery as it broke upon the floor.

Sigismondi shook a finger at him, a finger which, somehow, he seemed to have under no proper command. "Careless one!" he mumbled. "Careless one! Where are your manners?" And then, suddenly, as if he heaved back a weight, he rose unsteadily to his feet. He threatened Luigi with his clenched fist.

"Traitorous dog!" he cried, and fell senseless to the floor.

His companion stared at him stupidly, plunged forward as if to bring him aid, and then fell, too, at his feet. The pair lay where they had fallen, unmoving.

At the back of the room Landon broke out into pleasant laughter.

Aylmer darted forward and bent to shake Sigismondi fiercely by the shoulder. Claire cried to him warningly.

Too late!

Landon and Luigi had flung themselves upon him from behind. Muhammed had dropped a looped cord across his shoulders. There was a moment's confusion—the corner of the table smashed under a chance blow—and then stillness. Lashed with cords into rigidity, Aylmer lay upon the planks, and Landon, gazing down, spat upon his upturned face.

"You clever fool!" he derided. "To think to have cornered me—me!"

He looked rapidly at his watch and turned to Luigi.

"It is five hours to dawn," he said. "Where is it we are to take them? There is no possibility for delay?"

The smuggler threw out his hands with an air of fatalism.

"The headquarters of the Society—there is no other place!" he said. "With this wind, four hours or less will see us there. They will charge a commission; you will have to bear with that. But we shall have perfect privacy and, if you will, perfected means of dealing with this man's obstinacy. And there will be adepts, who will give you their assistance for the pleasure of the thing."

Landon nodded.

"Do you hear, my friend, do you hear?" he cried, thrusting his foot against Aylmer's cheek. "You have wriggled well in my coils—I grant you that. You have twisted and, for the moment, escape seemed open—wide open—before you. But against me? No one prevails there, no one!"

"One may—yet."

The voice was Claire's. Landon wheeled towards her.

"That shows a very determined optimism, sister-in-law," he said. "And who, if the knowledge is not privileged?"

"God," she said quietly, and met his eyes unflinchingly.



Storm, darkness, despair—these had been the sole comrades for the two who lay bound in their old quarters in the Santa Margarita's lazaret. Within a few minutes of the moment in which Padre Sigismondi had succumbed to the islander's treacherous hospitality, those who had sought his protection had been prisoners once more, and the felucca's mast had been stepped anew. For three hours it had bent before the strength of the northern wind—the hot, oppressive breath which seemed to blow no longer from Nature's lips but in her very face. For it was an unnatural wind—in temperature, in the quarter from which it came, in dampness. The rigging slackened in the humid gusts, but the great sail bellied out magnificently. They had torn across the broad waste of waters at racing speed. Captain Luigi announced with legitimate pride that they had come a matter of five and fifty kilometres. The land loomed up before them mountainously a short five miles away.

Landon peered into the darkness. Lights shone far to the left of their position—lights in rows, lights white, lights dusky orange, and far beyond the main mass of the illumination one red star which winked in solemn intervals.

"Messina," explained Luigi, tersely. "The red beam? That is the Faro."

"And we land where?" asked Landon.

"Here, if the Holy Mother gives us her protection," said the skipper, and pointed straight ahead. "In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred there is no difficulty about it. The port police—there are three of them—are cousins of my own and, it is needless to say, controlled by the Society. In fifteen minutes you will see."

"The hundredth chance?" said Landon. "That is—?"

"The Carbineers, Signor. Or rather one Carbineer—Sergeant Pinale, who has been at the bottom of many an honest contrabandist's misfortune. Brutta bestia! He will not keep to any ordered sequence in his goings and comings. But the men of the Society will know. If they answer our signals, all is well."

Landon looked at him debatingly.

"Who is to answer signals at this hour of the night, my good Luigi? Your colleagues will be in their more or less virtuous beds."

The smuggler smiled a superior smile.

"The Society never sleeps, Signor, and it has trained the men in its ranks to remember as much. High on the blank wall of hill above the port is a watch-tower, though only a private dwelling-house to all seeming. There is a need for the sons of the Mafia to have an open door into Sicily at any moment of the day or night."

He called one of the hands to the tiller as he finished speaking and went forward. He came back, holding a ship's lantern. There were wings of glass on hinges on either side of it—one red, one green.

He knelt and busied himself in lighting it in the shelter of the companion. The breeze had driven them right in under the shadow of the land by now. The steep above the shore seemed almost to overhang them. Here and there a faint oil lamp flickered along the Marina; a larger, nearer, and brighter gleam was evidence of a tiny jetty which was washed by waves which were dwindling under the protection of the land.

Luigi lifted his lamp and held it clear of the companion. Rapidly he shut the green shield over the untinted glass, as rapidly opened it again, shut the red wing twice in quick succession, and finally left the green signal closed.

Landon's eyes probed the darkness. His companion stood silent, his face raised towards the hill. There was no apprehension in his attitude, only expectancy.

Quite suddenly it seemed that the wind had dropped. The shelter of the shore might account for this in part, Landon mused, but surely not altogether. It was weird, in a sense, this abrupt alternation to perfect stillness after the uproars of the outer seas, but it was not unpleasant. It gave one a sense of relaxation; but the heat, untempered by the faintest breath of air, was incredibly oppressive. December was aping the temperatures of August.

Luigi sighed contentedly and spoke.

"All is well, Signor. It remains to get our merchandise ashore."

Landon became aware of a blue speck of light in the darkness—a speck which wavered, grew to a suddenly unexpected point of brightness and disappeared. So quickly did it come and go, so evanescent was its effect, that none but those who searched for it would have been likely to give its appearance a second thought. It might have been caused by the passing of a candle behind one of the many panes of frosted glass which disfigure Italian villas in villeggiatura.

Luigi gave an order. The two deck hands clutched the halliards. The sail was lowered. A moment later the anchor set the ripples herding towards the shore as it plunged into the calm below the jetty. Landon and his companion descended to the cabin.

Stretched on a bunk was Miller, sleeping the sleep of the justly tired. He roused himself at their touch and sat up. He looked about him meditatively.

"The wind has dropped, absolutely?" he said. "Since when?"

"Half an hour ago. We are in port," said Landon. "We are ready to land, when you will."

The gray man smoothed the creases in his gray coat.

"When I will?" he repeated. "I am a prisoner—the captive of your bow and spear." He smiled with sombre sarcasm.

"That position is to be maintained?" asked Landon.

"Naturally. Your cousin may make my continued residence in Gibraltar well-nigh impossible, otherwise."

"My cousin?" Landon repeated the words with a certain doubtfulness. "He is my cousin," he said slowly, "and we sha'n't break one of his blood except in one way. It's the girl, remember, that is our strong suit. There's to be no bleating about that. To win, the trick has to be taken with her alone."

Miller nodded woodenly.

"If I had the inclination to interfere, I have not the power," he said. "Do you forget that I am a prisoner, like herself?"

"Yes," said Landon, and there was more than doubt in his expression this time, there was suspicion. "I forget it all the time. I want your assurance that you won't!"

Miller made a gesture of assent.

"Let's get on," he said. "I understand that it's within a couple of hours of dawn."

For an instant Landon hesitated. Then, with Luigi at his heels, he entered the lazaret. Neither of them spoke. They bent and lifted Aylmer methodically, holding him by his shoulders and his lashed ankles. They bore him on deck. They gagged him with the cork float of a fishing-net and left him, stark and motionless as a log. They turned back to the cabin, and a minute later placed Claire Van Arlen beside him, as helpless as himself.

The dingy—a new one, picked up in the island—was lowered. The prisoners were thrust beneath the seats. A deck hand and Muhammed took their places at the oars. Luigi steered; the child, half asleep and wrapped in a blanket, drowsed at his feet. Miller and Landon sat on the thwarts.

The two rowers dipped their oars without splashing in long, slow strokes. The thole-pins were muffled with rags. The boat stole along in the shadow of the jetty into the darkness which hid the port. It was noiseless, ghost-like, this entry into the little haven. To the two dumb prisoners who lay along the bottom of the boat it was ominous of hope entirely lost.

They stifled under the cloaks which hid them; the perspiration dripped from the rowers, despite the unhurried nature of their work. The weight of a dozen atmospheres seemed to have replaced the exhilarating breath which Sicily flings seaward from her sun-brimmed shores. Luigi, at the helm, gasped and passed his hand across his eyes.

"Thunder in December! Not natural, Signor, but that is what we must expect. I suffocate. Per Dio! The bay is an oven."

He let the prow nose in towards the jetty. Moored boats began to appear dimly, right and left of them. The lamplight from the Marina showed an empty quay. Luigi steered for the shadow cast by a shed, and took the ground silently on a strand of mud and garbage.

The deck hand drew in his oar and skipped nimbly ashore. Muhammed followed him. They both laid their hands upon the painter. They bent their backs to haul.

Two shadows appeared right and left of them, shadows which seemed to have detached themselves from the framework of the shed. Something clicked. A yellow beam flared out, full on Luigi's face.

He gasped, he yelled.

"God's Mother—the Carbineers!"

Landon leaped to his feet with a curse. He seized an oar; he thrust with all his strength at the mud. And at the same moment the two on the shore, struggling in their captor's hands, let fall the painter. The boat shot out stern foremost into deep water.

From the shore came the sound of a struggle and then Muhammed's voice, shrill in explanation.

"Signori! Signori! I am not a contrabandist! I am a tourist; I can prove it; I wish to offer no resistance; I place myself in your hands, freely."

There was a grim laugh, and then the yellow beam of light which had been withdrawn while the struggle proceeded, flung out its level rays again and illuminated the boat.

"Surrender, Luigi!" shouted a stern voice. There was another click. "Surrender, stupido! I have you covered; I give you five seconds before I fire!"

The shrill voice of the captured sailor reinforced the argument.

"It is over—finished," he shouted pessimistically. "It is Pinale; there is nothing more to be done!"

Luigi groaned and then flung up his hands.

"I give in!" he cried, and burst into a storm of hysterical sobs. "It means Procida—this," he wept. "It means years in chains; it means half the rest of my life snatched from me." He turned and smote at Landon in the darkness. "I owe it to you, tempter!" he yelled. "Accursed of God, you led me into this!"

Landon stumbled in his surprise and then leaped at him like a cat. There was a shrill scream from the child as the swaying pair rolled down upon the stern sheets, gripping, each of them, for the other's throat. The boat rocked violently.

Again the stern command from the shore rang into the night. They gave it no heed. Animal rage possessed them; they were no longer men but beasts, fighting with hand and foot and knee, clawing, tearing, even biting as the chance of conflict brought Luigi's lips within reach of his assailant's cheek. They were lost to all human warning or control.

It was no human interference which separated them.

Fate played her hand—played it irresistibly, crushingly, played it with a vindictive completeness such as even she has never used since her grip fell upon her plaything—that toy of hers among a million million toys, and which we call our world.

A roar, terrific, growing, menacing, filling the echoes, brimming the heavy air, rolling out across the still waters of the bay, thundered into the silence of the shore. The dim lamps upon the Marina shook; crash upon crash echoed from buildings which could not be seen, but which terror could picture in all the crude pigments of imagination and despair! Beside the boat a huge crack rent the jetty in twain. Stones, dashed from the crumbling buildings in the darkness, flung huge gouts of spray over the two who wrenched themselves apart in her stern, over their prisoners, over the child, who cried aloud in all the agony of childish fear.

And then human voices joined the chorus—voices which expressed every intonation of panic, of the horror which is built upon amazement, of the unleashed emotions of men awaking to meet blindly the common hazards of life and confronting chaos, illimitable ruin, a sudden unbarring of the gates of Hell.

The struggle in the boat ceased. Wild curses became, on Luigi's lips, a string of piteous appeals to the very saints whose names he had used a moment before to point his blasphemies. Miller and Landon grasped the oars.

But even the terrors of earthquake do not wreck the discipline of Italy's Carbineers. The sergeant's warning was repeated thunderously.

Miller screamed an assent, a surrender. Landon answered with an oath. The one endeavored to propel the boat shorewards, the other towards the sea. It spun between their efforts; they yelled and gesticulated madly.

And again the sergeant's voice was heard, with a hundred other voices, appealing to a God whose mercy was surely turned away.

For a moaning sound tingled along the strand, and then silently, but with the speed of a cataract, the sea sank back from the shore.

It plucked half a hundred boats from their anchorages; it gripped them down into its trough. For full thirty seconds they fled upon this monstrous tide of a tideless sea, hull crashing against hull, mast beating against mast, a wrecked wilderness of spars and rigging, tangled, coiled, the froth, the scum, as it were, upon that mighty crest. And behind them went the Santa Margarita's dingy, with bound and free in equal helplessness.

Then, as if the sluice of some Cyclopean lock had been shut, the mighty mill-race halted and a mountain grew upon the face of the deep. Huge, black, awesome, it swung itself up, swelled higher and higher, hung through an æon-long moment of horror, and then rolled back whence it had come. And the menace of its coming left no tiniest coign of foothold for hope in its path. Irresistible and relentless it moved along to destroy every barrier of nature, every man-built obstacle with its might. Its foam-plumed crest roared over the quayside and the Marina five fathoms deep.

Like a chip upon the surface of a torrent which suddenly hastens to the brink of the cascade, the boat and its burden of lives was snatched along. The three who stood and gripped its gunwale saw the broad expanse of the Marina before them, saw it seem to sink as they themselves rose upon the flood, saw how they raced across it twenty feet above the level of its flags. And they saw more—saw it with eyes which seemed to sear their brains with anticipation, with despair.


A long, irregular, deep-fronted row of dwellings, square to the sea, square to the reeling ridge of ocean which was sweeping upon them as the gust sweeps down upon the far-flung autumn leaves.

They called aloud in chorus; they challenged Fate with their despair. And Fate replied.

The waters reached the walls; the huge sheet of spray shot high into the night. But the dingy passed on uncrushed.

An alley opened before them—an alley through which they shot on the roaring tide into the square beyond, sank down as the dwindling waters sank and with their last effort of destruction reached, and were borne into an arched opening girt about with trees. And then that, in its turn, became a ruin of plaster and planks and stone. The wave completed what the earthquake had all too thoroughly begun. The roof and walls crashed down into a grim monument upon a living grave.



Out of the darkness of insensibility consciousness came slowly into being in Aylmer's brain, but memory lagged to join it. He was bound—that he realized, and his teeth were immovable upon a gag. The darkness was absolute and so, for the first few minutes through which his senses woke, was the silence. He could feel rough slabs of wood which cased his body in. He shifted uneasily and beat his temple upon a plank. The sweat of terror broke out upon his brow. He was buried alive! God help him! The worst that could happen to a living soul was his sentence from the lips of Fate!

Something whimpered in the darkness; something stirred beside his feet.

In a flash came remembrance. The awful moment of disaster through which he had been carried, blind, speechless, and bound, became a picture in his brain—a picture the more vivid in that actuality had been hidden from him and imagination had supplied details beyond the compass of the real. He stirred afresh, he writhed, his bound wrists beat out upon the air.

The whimpers ceased and words followed—words in a child's voice shaken by fear. A trembling hand found Aylmer's sleeve, crept up it to his cheek, and halted there in miserable hesitation.

"It's me—it's me!" whispered the voice. "Can't you speak? Oh, can't you speak to me?"

And then the wandering fingers found the linen band which bound the gag into place and was fastened behind Aylmer's head.

"Is that why?" said the child in eager discovery. "Is that why?"

The band cut into Aylmer's cheek as the knot was twitched with all the awkwardness of haste, but a moment later the pressure ceased. He spat the gag from between his teeth.

"Little John!" he cried. "Little John! Are you hurt? are you able to stand?"

The boy clutched him with a sort of desperation of relief.

"Oh, you can speak—you can speak!" he shouted joyously. "My head aches and my shoulder doesn't move right, but I can stand. I can reach nothing above my head—or right—or left."

There was a creaking of timber as he moved, stretching his hands, as was evident, into the black emptiness about the boat. Aylmer's bound wrists were lifted to reach him.

"Pick at them—as you did before, little John," he said. "Loose me, so that we can search the darkness together."

The child's breath came in zealous pants as he tugged and pulled, but the knots were tightly lashed and sodden with the sea. And his haste was a handicap; he plucked and twisted ineffectually. And finally he overbalanced himself and slipped.

He gave a cry of pain.

"I'm hurted—I'm bleeding!" he sobbed. "I fell against something that cut!"

Aylmer's heart stood still. If the fall had injured the child severely, if it had disabled him, if he were to lose consciousness—was this horror of helplessness to be added to those which already had them in their grip? He stretched out his arms towards the sound of the sobbing, and this, as he did so, suddenly ceased.

Panic gripped him, only to be fought down. Slowly, and with painful effort, he twisted himself round in the darkness till his bound wrists found as their goal the child's cap which still covered his untidy mane of curls. And these were wet and sticky.

The reason was not far to seek. The baling slipper lay below little John's temple—the baling slipper mended with a rough strip of tin. And this had cut through cap and curls, down to the bone. It had finished what terror had begun. The boy had fainted.

Aylmer's first impulse was to use the whole of his tethered strength in bringing consciousness back to the child—to what was, he considered, his only chance of freedom. A moment later chance pointed a quicker road. His knuckles met and were scarred by the frayed edge of the tin. He gave an exclamation of impatience at his own dulness. What would cut him would cut his bonds. Crouching down he managed to grip the slipper between his knees and steady it there. And then he rasped his lashings upon its edge.

A minute sufficed, or even less. The cord frayed, gave strand by strand, and broke apart with a twang. He gasped with relief and fell to work upon his ankles. As these bonds loosened and fell away in their turn, he stood up, rising slowly and stretching his hands above his head. He touched nothing.

He sighed not only with relief, this time, but with a faint tinge of hope. And then he bent, felt his way past the still motionless child, and touched, by chance's guidance, Claire Van Arlen's hair. And he gave another exclamation of self-encouragement. For her cheek was warm.

He plucked the gag from her lips; his hands were already at her wrists as she uttered his name. He thrilled to the anxiety in her voice.

"You?" she asked anxiously. "You? You were uninjured. I heard you speak and—and, it seemed, to me that you—flagged—that you—were not you!"

"Yes," he answered quietly. "I had not found you then. I did not know—I do not know it yet—how far you yourself were unhurt."

His fingers were unlashing her feet now. He heard her stir into a sitting posture and, as her feet were freed, felt her rise to her knees. Instinct bade him thrust out a hand as she did so, and she rocked up against it. Her energy had been more than her strength; she leaned against him panting.

For a full minute he held her, feeling her pulses throb against his, fanned by her breath that panted past his cheek, one hand warm within his own, one upon his shoulder. And through the darkness he sent out his appeal to Fate. If the grim goddess had no farther favors in her store for him, let her hand close upon him there. Might there be no more weary struggles; might the end find him and the girl whose hand clung to his in this intimate protection at once. Let death come in that moment, and he would ask no more.

Fate gave no answer and the moment passed.

She gave a little sob and, still holding him, staggered to her feet.

"It is the stiffness, and the long hours bound. And the anxiety—for—for you!" she murmured. "I am unhurt, indeed I am unhurt. I have scarcely so much as a bruise upon me. And my chatelaine? That is still at my waist. I have—have matches, if the sea water has spared them!"

Light! Could they pierce this wall of darkness; could they actually hope to see how and where they were caged? He scarcely dared to breathe as he heard her silver chain of trinkets tinkle, and heard the rasp of the match-head on the box. The red spark sputtered against the blackness and then flared into yellow being as the wax took flame. They looked about them with more than curiosity. With awe.

High above their head was an arch of masonry, massively mortised, curving from a wall to a row of squat, solid pillars; and these last flanked a pile of heaped rubble and stone. They were in a passage some twenty feet long, closed at each end as the unwalled side was closed by the wreck of the house above. It was a cloister. And the open courtyard which it had rimmed was now a stupendous rubbish heap, massed high above their heads with ruin.

They looked down. They still stood in the boat, and at Aylmer's feet the child was huddled in unconsciousness, the blood still welling slowly from the cut on his brow. Beyond them something indefinite and unrecognizable lay in a dark heap upon the flags.

Aylmer stepped forward and bent over it.

It was the body of a man, clothed in the dark, red-striped uniform of the Carbineers. His lips were grim and set. His right hand still clutched the breach of a rifle. And at his belt was a lantern—the glass broken, but the tin intact. Aylmer's hands trembled as they fell upon this prize.

He wheeled back to his companion and touched the flame against the wick. There was a moment's suspense, and then they sighed in chorus. For the oil was unspilt. For a time, at least, darkness was not to be among the terrors which menaced them.

Claire knelt and pulled the child upon her knee. She stanched the blood; she dropped her handkerchief into the little pool of sea water which was fast draining through the wrenched seams of the boat, and gently laved the unconscious face. Little John stirred drowsily, opened his eyes reluctantly, and looked up with wonder into her face.

He put his hand up weakly to his temple.

"It's—it's queer—and—and hurty," he whispered. "Muhammed? He would make it well."

She pulled him to her tenderly.

"Does it hurt badly?" she asked. "Muhammed hasn't come to us—yet."

He looked wonderingly around him.

"The house—opened—and let us right in," he mused. "We came up on the sea—right up—as fast as a train. And Dad? Dad was with us then."

She looked up questioningly at Aylmer. And he had gathered up the dead Carbineer's cloak and was arranging it against the stern. He made a motion towards it.

"Sleep is all the medicine we can give him," he advised. "Let him rest. Meanwhile we must use the light while we have it."

She nodded quickly and laid the child gently down. He smiled at her drowsily again, whispered a half-distinguishable appeal to be told when the Moor "came back," and then nature's healing hand closed over his eyes. He slept—the deep, dead sleep of exhaustion.

Aylmer raised the lamp. Together they paced the length of their prison.

The gray flags were bare except where the Carbineer's body lay. With a little gesture of compassion, Aylmer straightened the stiffening limbs, and covered the stern, unfaltering face with the dead man's handkerchief. And then they passed on, to confront the hill of rubble which closed the cloister's end. And here they halted, as they looked down.

Claire shuddered.

A gray sleeve emerged from the stones and an open hand seemed to appeal for the help which came all too late. Aylmer dragged fiercely at the ruined wall. A block or two became unseated. These shouldered out others to rumble at their feet.

A gray-clad body became exposed. They looked at it, instinct preparing them to recognize what they saw. Battered and disfigured though it was, they knew it for Miller's face.

For a moment they kept silence, looking at it fixedly. The eyes were open, but death had wiped out from them the imperturbability which they had held through life. Fear had gripped the gray man at the last. Horror had been with him—even panic.

Aylmer leaned down and covered the fear-haunted eyes.

"He has gone, and taken his mystery with him," he said. "What his life was we shall never ascertain. What led him to betray us? That is beyond our learning. It may have been no more than fear and the desire to save himself. I think there was something behind it all that has escaped us, but"—he shrugged his shoulders as he looked about him—"what does it matter now?"

He held the lantern at arm's length as he spoke, and looked searchingly round. The gray stone ringed them in relentlessly. Was there any expedient in which they could find a challenge to the arbitrary decree of Fate? He saw none.

The girl at his side watched him. And then her eyes met his. And as he spoke his voice was strangely gentle.

"God interfered between Landon and his evil purpose, as you said He would. Perhaps, who knows, He may have other mercies reserved for us. But in any case we must teach each other to be strong."

She nodded gravely.

"We are in His hands," she said, "and nothing can be as terrible as what was threatened us by that vile man. The boy is safe. I have the help of your presence. We must kill imagination with work."

He looked about him again, doubtfully.

"Work?" he questioned. "Have we the chance to work?"

"Isn't it obvious," she said. "That is a courtyard. Above the ruins which brim it is the sky. If we use our strength and time to pluck a way through that to life again, we shall, at least, not think."

He paced forward a yard or two and examined the heaped wreckage of plaster, wooden beams, and stones. He hesitated.

"If we disturb it, there is just a chance of making our situation worse," he hazarded.

She shook her head.

"No," she said significantly. "Not worse. God might answer us that way, and save us suspense. And we shall, at any rate, have defied Fate to the end."

"Yes," he said. "In that I am with you; we will do our best—to the last. And if God's purpose falls upon us quickly, Claire, I thank Him here and now that He has permitted me to share this bitter cup with you, instead of draining that more bitter one which threatened an hour ago. At least I am not leaving you in Landon's hands, alone."

"And I am not helpless while they work their vile wills upon you," she answered. "Fate has been cruel enough, but she has spared us that. The end? That is still her mystery. Let us forget it."

He smiled.

"There is much I can remember which will spare me that. What you have been and done for me these last wild days—my memory will occupy itself with that and hope—while I work to make hope true."

And then, still smiling as if he had plumbed the eyes of Hope and found in them an answering smile, he laid the lantern on the flags and put his hands upon the barrier of ruin which faced him.

He toiled vigorously but with caution. As he rolled the larger blocks from their resting-place, he was quick to notice and to support the beams or flagstones which they had buttressed with their weight. And he used the first plank which tumbled out of the chaos as a lever upon its fellows. At his feet Claire worked vigorously, sweeping out the plaster which filled the openings as he made them, rolling aside the unseated stones to give him room, lending her lesser strength to aid his, when some task was trying his powers to the utmost.

For a couple of hours they toiled silently, and a gap had been hewn into the debris—a gap which seemed to be ceaselessly filled as the accumulations rolled into it from above, but an opening, nevertheless, which spoke of progress, which showed a reward for effort, which even pictured, faintly and indistinctly, a vision of hope. If their strength lasted? Was there not a chance, a tiny, elusive, but possible chance?

It was the remembrance that uninterrupted effort would fatigue them to a point where their strength would be taxed beyond recovery which made Aylmer at last call a halt. They went and sat beside the sleeping child. To economize the light, they extinguished the lamp.

And then—they rubbed their eyes.

A tiny beam of light, dim, faint, gray but distinguishable, was filtered down into their prison at the point where one of the cloister pillars reached an arch. It fell upon the flags in a little circle.

Aylmer reached it in two strides. He gave an exclamation.

"It is a pipe from the spouting of the roof," he cried. "I see the sky. I see the sky!"

She was at his side in an instant. In her turn she looked up into the hollow of the tube, to see light. She gave a little gasp.

"It's wonderful—wonderful!" she breathed. "Only that little way up—ten feet, twelve, perhaps, and freedom. And we are here!"

"It means two things of infinite importance!" he rejoined. "Air and, in all probability, water. If the gutter which discharges into this is still intact, we shall receive the rain when it comes. And after earthquake it comes, invariably."

She was not paying him attention. Her eye was still fixed below the tiny opening; she continued to look up as if the tiny disc of brightness fascinated her, as if she would drink draughts of the outer air thus delivered to them as if from an immense cistern.

And then the emotion of sudden discovery illuminated her face.

"We can signal!" she cried. "We can attract attention! We have only to thrust a rod up through that, and it will tell our tale. Surely there are rescuers at work by now; a whole city cannot be left to its fate!"

His eyes glistened.

"God sent that thought to you—God himself!" he cried. "We must have a rod; we must make one!" He turned and re-lit the lantern. He examined the splintered woodwork of the boat with a calculating eye.

Wood was at their service in plenty, but the tools to deal with it were wanting. Neither of them possessed a knife. He searched the pockets of the dead, but had no success. For a moment they stood regarding each other in incredulous despair. Surely Fate, after bracing them with this hope, was not going to torture them by withdrawal? And then Aylmer's eye fell upon the baling slipper.

He lifted it with a gesture of relief; he tore the strip of tin from off it and held it up.

"That is our blade!" he cried. "We have only to pare down splinters till they will pass through the pipe, and the thing is done."

He picked up a piece of planking as he spoke, worked the metal into the grain till a split began to gape, and then, wrapping a piece of tarpaulin round each end of his impromptu blade, worked it to and fro and downwards. A thin sliver of wood was the result—one about eighteen inches long.

He repeated the operation, slowly and carefully. As each lath was split and pared, he passed it to his companion and she spliced the ends with strips of gray cloth. And these? Aylmer took them from the dead body at the end of the cloister. Miller, in death, was helping to repair some of the injuries for which his life was responsible.

They worked methodically, without haste, but with every care. Two hours later they had a twelve-foot staff laid out at their feet. To the top they attached a little flag, also of gray. They divided it into halves, thrust the upper half into the pipe, attached the lower one to it, and then pushed the whole upwards to the full extent of Aylmer's reach. Claire peered anxiously into the hole. She gave a great cry of relief; her eyes filled with sudden tears.

"The flag is outside!" she cried. "There is no doubt of that; it is a certainty. While it was wrapped round the head of the staff inside the tube, it hid all light from me. And now light has come again—dim, but there still. It slips down between the staff and the sides. The flag is out in the air—the air!"

He nodded.

"All that remains, then, is to keep it moving—to show that human beings are holding its other end. We must work ceaselessly."

He looked round at her as he spoke. Her eyes were bent on him earnestly, meditatively. And there was something in her gaze for which he had no clue.

She spoke, and so supplied it herself.

"I think we shall be rescued now," she said quietly. "I feel a certainty about it, an instinct. Yes, I think we have defeated Fate. We shall come back into life again, you and I."

He understood. Through the wild days in the boat and on the island, Fate had given no chance for either of them to probe the future. Hope had had so tiny a place in their thoughts—hopelessness had so immeasurably absorbed them all. And now? Was she allowing herself to dwell on life as it would affect them untouched by Fate, and free? Was she mentally rearranging her attitude to him?

Fate would supply her own answer. He turned and doggedly began to work the flagstaff up and down.

A tension of silence was over them as they waited. The hours went by. With a little gesture she came, took the pole from his hand, and bade him rest. He surrendered it quietly, spent ten minutes in massaging his stiffened muscles, and then took it again. It was queer, this sudden reticence which had arisen between them. It was as if while Fate delayed to speak, all other words were futile. And her answer might come at any moment or—God help them—not at all.

The hours lengthened. The thin rays which still filtered through the half-closed pipe grew dim and at last died altogether. Night had come.

Aylmer turned with a little shrug, placed a plank beneath the butt of the staff to keep it in position, and came back to the boat.

"There is no need to fatigue ourselves through the darkness," he said. "Till daylight shows our flag again, we had better rest, to be strong for to-morrow. Shall we sleep?"

She looked at him curiously, and then answered with a little nod.

"Sleep," she agreed. "You are tired, tired. And wake strong; your strength—God knows—has been tried enough."

There was something restrained in her voice; something which again escaped his comprehension, but his fatigue was overmastering. He stretched himself upon a couple of flags. Sleep overcame him instantly.

Was it a moment later that he awoke in answer to her cry? So he believed, but as a matter of fact midnight was long past. She had lit a match; she was holding it to the wick of the lantern.

Her eyes were wide and bright with excitement. She pointed towards the pipe.

"I could not rest!" she cried. "No, I could not sleep and know that rescue might be passing by. I have worked at the staff ceaselessly and now! Now it is gone!"

He sprang towards her.

"Gone!" he repeated. "Gone!"

"They are there—above us—men—men who know we are here. They pulled it up, out of my hands!" She made a gesture which pled for silence. "Listen!" she cried. "Listen!"

A tinkling sound came from the pipe and then a tiny bottle sank into view, dangling from a string. He seized it. It was warm.

"Soup!" he cried. "Food! That is their first thought for us! And I had forgotten that I was starving. I had forgotten it absolutely!"

He held it to her lips. She put out her hand in protest, but his gesture was inexorable. She gave a queer little laugh, shrugged her shoulders, and drank. He took the half she left him and drank in his turn. He tied the bottle again to the string and shook it. It disappeared and was lowered again, this time with wine. And half a dozen little rolls dropped at their feet. They ate, they waked the child and fed him, they sat, and from above the sound of pick and mattock in the hands of men who toiled furiously thundered down to them. They speculated how and whence the first sight of rescue would appear. They laughed in high, excited tones. Expectancy had them in its grip to the exclusion of all other emotions.

And then, with a sudden roar and crash, an avalanche of rubble poured into the hole which they had dug into the mass of debris. And with it came a man in sailor uniform who mixed anathema and congratulation in excited but fluent French. He wept, he fell upon Aylmer's neck and embraced him, he kissed the child and Claire's hand. Slowly they toiled at his heels, helped by a dangling rope, out into the red glare of a dozen torches which were held by seamen of the French Marine.

And one of the two officers who directed them called upon the name of God and all His saints to emphasize his amazement.

It was Rattier who held and shook their hands a hundred times. Rattier, incoherent, swearing, every vestige of his taciturnity ravished from him by emotion, plying them with a thousand questions, raining tears upon little John Aylmer's wondering face.

They reached the market square. They looked upon the ruin which covered the devastated earth in the wan light of the slowly coming dawn.

Five miles away, swinging at her mooring opposite the ruined port of Messina was a white-hulled boat—a boat which they looked at with wistfully incredulous eyes. They whispered her name.

"The Morning Star?" they wondered. "The Morning Star?"

"What else?" cried the commandant, exultantly. "That Spanish torpedo boat—did you think nothing was to be heard from her? You disappeared. Two days later comes the news from Malaga of a felucca, going east with prisoners on board. Would that not induce your father, Mademoiselle, to put two and two together? The Melilla port authorities supplied the name of that felucca and her destination—Sicily. He arrived two days back. I have seen him, we spoke together, and then God knows all our energies and thoughts have been with these poor wretches ashore. Down in Messina your own countrymen and the Russians are doing marvels. The Diomède was the only French ship, alas, in harbor, but we have others coming from Tunis, from Algiers, from Marseilles. We need every worker we can get. What you have suffered thousands are suffering still."

Aylmer gave a quick, decided little nod. He looked at Claire.

"You will let one of these sailors see you on board?" he said. "Paul will spare one to escort you."

She looked at him, startled, a little bewildered, even.

"And you?" she asked. "And you?"

He made a gesture towards the chaos which covered shore and hill.

"Can I leave the work which calls me, knowing what I know?" he asked. "Paul has put my duty into words. What I have suffered, others are suffering yet. Would you think well of me, if I left it?"

She looked at him with a smile that told of appreciation, approval, of something (or was hope a lying glass?) more than these.

"No!" she said quietly. "No!" She hesitated a moment.

"And when I have found my father, eased his mind, delivered to him his grandchild whom he owes to you, rested, made myself strong to work, will you come for me to do my part? Will you come—then?"

As the dawn rose over Messina's city of the dead, in John Aylmer's heart rose the dawn of hope fulfilled. Her eyes? What message did they not give? He read it as plainly as he knew he would read it at their next meeting—from her lips.

He lifted her hand. His moustache swept it.

"Till then, Claire," he whispered. "Till then, Beloved."



Dawn flushed into full daylight as the sun rose upon the ruined city. Morning dragged its length to midday and midday merged in afternoon. And the workers toiled on doggedly, burrowing, hewing, climbing, flinging their energies, risking their lives, against the inanimate barriers of destruction. Italian and Frenchman, Englishman and Russian vied with each other in deeds of humanity against the common foe. Nor was that foe content with the victory already won. Further shocks furrowed the stricken shores: ruin became more complete, danger more menacing, but the toilers worked on.

Aylmer's rescuers had gone aboard their ship and had been replaced by a new relay. He himself remained. The pressing needs of those who lay, as he had lain, in living tombs around him were first in his mind. But another thought was ceaseless. Certainty—that was what he asked. Certainty of Landon's fate. He scarcely allowed himself to realize how he hoped—yearned—to know definitely that Landon was dead. He simply contemplated it as a matter of completeness, as news that would bring infinite relief to those on board The Morning Star. If he were alive? He set his lips grimly. Though law was suspended, order out of gear, Landon should meet his deserts. If not by instruments of Italian justice, then by Aylmer's own hands—by the law of retribution, not the law of revenge.

He dropped the mattock which he had been wielding. He stood up and straightened himself, turning his eyes from the wearying expanse of wreckage towards the sea.

A boat was running up beside the ruined jetty. Before the mooring ropes were cast ashore a tall figure leaped from it—a figure clad in a soutane.

Aylmer made an exclamation, hesitated, and then clambered down the walls and ran across the uneven flags, holding out his hand.

Padre Sigismondi flung up his arms. His gesture was one of incredulous relief.

"But the Signora?" he cried, stricken with sudden apprehension. He panted, his eyes were vivid with anxiety. "The Signora?"

As Aylmer answered with the one vital word, the priest cried aloud again. He lifted his face towards the sky and made the sign of the cross.

"Safe!" he repeated. "Safe! If there was a single hope left to me amid the horrors which have overwhelmed us, it was that. I told myself that God, who allowed me to fail in my duty to you through my arrogant self-confidence, might be saving you in the midst of—and by—this destruction. When I came to myself and found you gone, I writhed. My friend, I cast myself upon the ground in the agonies of my self-reproach. Not to have plumbed the wicked devices of these men—I, who have worked among them a score of years!"

Aylmer gripped his hand.

"You, yourself?" he inquired. "You come here—how?"

"One of the many boats which were speeding to Messina—some, alas, with no charitable intent, I fear—saw my signals and took me off. And now? One scarcely knows where to begin. How can one confront such a disaster with one's puny efforts? God send me His strength! My own is as water!"

A shout echoed to them suddenly from the group of sailors. One stood up and waved to them with his neckcloth.

Aylmer made an answering gesture. He took the priest's arm.

"Begin here, father," he said quietly. "Some of those we have found are alive, but death's claim, I fear, is relaxed for no more than an hour or two. They need your offices. It may be for such an one that they are signalling to us now."

They hurried across the square. They climbed the pyramid of ruin.

The sailors were looking down at something which lay at their feet—something brown, and white, and vivid red.

The quartermaster pointed to a crevice in the masonry.

"There is a hollow," he explained. "We pulled him out by the arms, which—God forgive us—are broken. There are in there, perhaps, others. His eyes imply it. Words are beyond him."

The priest gave a startled exclamation. Aylmer echoed it. Disfigured, battered, crushed as it was, they recognized the figure in the blood-stained djelab of brown.

A growing dimness was clouding Muhammed's eyes. The quick pant of his breathing weakened as they watched. But a flash of feeling illuminated the pallid features as the Moor's glance reached and dwelled upon Aylmer's face.

His lips moved.

"The child?" he asked in a faint whisper. "The Sidi Jan?"

Padre Sigismondi darted an inquiring look at his companion and then knelt beside the dying man.

"The child is well," he answered gravely. "Yourself? Is there no message to give, no delivery of your soul you wish to make? Time is short for you. Use it, and me, as you wish."

The brown eyes searched the priest's features with a queer disdain, as it seemed—or was it, perchance, compassion. The stiffening lips became more grimly resolute.

"I proclaim!" said the Moor. "I proclaim that there is One God—One God—," and passed, unfaltering, to meet Him.

For a moment there was silence. Aylmer broke it.

"Perhaps we owe him more than we think," he said slowly. "The boy? That was always his first care. Perhaps he stood between the child and harm. I believe that he would have done so in the face of the child's father himself!"

Sigismondi drew a fold of the djelab over the bruised face.

"The God to whom he appealed is his judge," he said. "Let us leave it in His hands. The living, now, my friend. It is not here that we can concern ourselves with the dead."

They turned to the sailors. Half a dozen blocks had been rolled from the opening, which gaped wide over an empty darkness. The quartermaster slung himself carefully down into it and slowly disappeared.

A moment later they heard his voice.

"A rope," he demanded. "Here is one who is, at least, warm."

They passed down a rope carefully. Aylmer's heart became suddenly audible to himself. What would appear; what had Fate still in store for him?

Again the quartermaster's voice echoed from the darkness with directions. The sailors bent their backs and hauled.

A face appeared in the opening, travelling upwards.

Aylmer felt no surprise. This was the expected, the inevitable. Landon was dragged out into the day—Landon—alive.

They laid him silently at his cousin's feet.

And as Aylmer looked down he felt a thrill of what must have been nearly akin to sympathy. God help the mutilated wretch!

His arms hung beside him limp and helpless, the fractured bones distorted in hideous angles. There were marks as of burns upon his face. But the supreme horror was in the sockets which held nothing recognizable as human eyes. Coals might have lain within them—coals pressed down to find their quenching there.

He moaned ceaselessly, swinging himself from side to side. And then words came slowly, piteously, one by one.

"Oil!" he gasped. "For God's sake, a little oil—upon my eyes!"

Sigismondi shuddered. Then he bent and placed his hand compassionately on the scarred temple.

"As soon as it can be found, my brother," he said. "Try to keep your courage while we do our utmost. We have to carry you—where you can be treated."

The tortured wretch moaned again and made an instinctive effort to raise a hand to his face. He shrieked as the shattered bones failed him, shrieked and cursed in hideous blasphemies. His brain began to wander upon the border-line of delirium.

"Hours—days—weeks," he wailed. "Broken—broken! Immovable and always in agony—burning—my eyes—my eyes! And the rain—running over them and bringing more agony—and more—and more. And unable to move a finger. My feet hanging in emptiness—my hands crushed in upon me—crushed—crushed—crushed!"

The quartermaster made a gesture of infinite compassion.

"The room had been newly plastered, do you see?" he whispered. "He was caught bodily—in the closing of the walls—as a nutcracker closes. And he was held and crushed—like the nut. The lime was deep upon his face—and when the rain came, washing it in—eating him—" He turned away with another pregnant motion of his hands, as if he put from him the picture which imagination conjured up.

Aylmer leaned down and spoke.

"We are going to take you from here," he said. "We are going to lift you. Be prepared."

Landon's groans ceased. His body became suddenly rigid with attention.

"Jack?" he whispered incredulously. "Jack?"

"It is I," said Aylmer gravely. "I—am unhurt."

Landon's face grew yet more distorted.

"Claire?" he muttered eagerly. "Claire—is gone?"

A light gleamed tempestuously in Aylmer's eyes and then as quickly died. His voice was even and restrained.

"She is safe, and well," he said. "She is on her father's yacht."

An inarticulate howl of rage burst from Landon's lips. He rocked himself to and fro; he made as if he would beat his broken hands upon the stones.

"God! If they'd suffered alongside me, if they'd been there, if they had given me groan for groan, I could have stood it—enjoyed it—damn them, I could have laughed with the lime in my eyes, if they'd been there—if they'd been there!"

He jerked himself to a sitting posture; he writhed backwards and forwards. His spite was a sort of ecstasy, possessing him, freeing him, as it seemed, from even the sense of pain.

Aylmer made a significant motion. He bent and slipped his arms beneath Landon's shoulders. The quartermaster lifted his knees.

Landon struggled in their arms.

"Let me be!" he cried. "Let me stand. Damn you, let me stand upon my own feet!"

They hesitated. Then with a shrug the quartermaster laid down his burden.

"This is no place for a blind man to pick his way," he remonstrated. "To get down, Monsieur, you have to poise yourself along the wall thirty feet above the square."

Landon stood panting and leaning against his cousin. The spasms of agony were convulsing his face.

"I will not be carried," he panted. "I'll walk upon my feet—like a man."

They looked at each other, hesitating.

"But your arms?" protested Aylmer. "Your arms?"

The breath hissed between Landon's teeth.

"My arms!" he repeated. "God! If I'd my arms! You—you must lead me—carefully—carefully. Put your hand upon my shoulder; keep close—close."

For a dozen yards he tottered along, and the sweat broke out astream upon his scars. And then he halted, and stumbled.

The quartermaster instinctively put a hand upon one of the broken wrists. Landon shrieked, and cursed him hideously.

"Monsieur might have fallen," apologized the man. "My excuses, Monsieur, but it was so quick—so near—the danger. The drop is sheer, do you see, sheer down to the square."

Landon gasped. "Which side?" he asked thickly. "Which side?"

"The right," said Aylmer. "Lean away from me, inwards, to the left!"

Landon drew a deep breath.

The next instant he had flung himself against Aylmer's guiding hand, outwards, to the right!

For the second time the quartermaster cried aloud and stretched out a hand. But it was not Landon's sleeve which it reached, but Aylmer's—reached and gripped it while the two bodies reeled upon the crumbling edge and sent the flying blocks down to break into powder upon the solid flags below.

And then, where two had struggled, one alone remained and clung. Landon had gone. Like the blocks he lay thirty feet below—broken.



A pall of mist and driving rain closed upon the city as evening fell, as if Nature flung a veil between herself and the handiwork of her passions. Through it the launch of the Diomède threaded the network of the shipping.

Warmly red against the ghost-like paintwork, the ports of The Morning Star beamed up out of the smother. Aylmer held up his hand. Silently, with stopped engines, the boat slid up to the accommodation ladder, and as silently Aylmer swung himself aboard.

With a gesture of farewell to the boat's crew and one of greeting to the sailor at the gangway head, he passed into the companion and went below. In the doorway of the saloon he halted.

Two figures sat at the table, a picture book open before them. Claire's arm was about her little nephew's shoulder. His face was turned up to hers, but his finger still pointed to the page which they had been studying.

"And was he brave, enormously brave?" he was asking. "As brave as—as Muhammed?"

"Braver than Muhammed," she said quietly. "Because he was—good."

He debated a moment.

"As brave as the pig man, then?" he suggested. "He's been good, always?"

Aylmer stepped forward.

"Not always," he said smiling. "Not even often. But just as much as he knew how to be."

The glances which met his were startled but full of welcome. With a cackle of delight little John ran from his seat.

"It's him, himself—the pig man!" he cried.

Aylmer smiled and held out his hand.

Then he turned.

In Claire's eyes the surprise had vanished. They were full of inquiry, of an agony of question. Her lips were pale and faltered over the words which would not come.

He nodded, gravely, significantly.

She gave a little gasp. The color rushed to her cheeks, flooded to her brow. As if some strong chord of tension had broken in her breast, she leaned against the table, quivering.

"Yes," said Aylmer, quietly. "That shadow is lifted from our lives. He is gone—God's hand fell upon him—as you told him it would. The future of this life," he laid his fingers tenderly upon the child's head, "is in your hands now." He paused. "And my life, Claire—that is yours, too, to deal with, as you will."

She lifted her head.

The wave of emotion had passed and left her calm again. The haggardness, the anxious lines, were smoothed. Only in her eyes remained the mist of unshed tears. And as the mist sinks from the face of the risen sun, so the shadow of passed sorrow fled before her dawning smile. Slowly she came towards him.

With a sigh of infinite content her hands reached out to—and placed their surrender in—his.



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