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behind them now, I bet—the dodging, artful, plotting beast !"
“Why not go over there and see if we can't get to the bottom of this game?" was the unexpected proposal uttered by Mr. Jones. "He will have to talk to us."
Ricardo repressed a start of dismay, but for a moment could not speak. He only pressed the governor's hand to his side instinctively.
“No, sir. What could you say? Do you expect to get to the bottom of his lies? How could you make him talk? It isn't time yet to come to grips with that gent. You don't think I would hang back, do you? His Chink, of course, I'll shoot like a dog the moment I catch sight of him; but as to that Mr. Blasted Heyst, the time isn't yet. My head's cooler just now than yours. Let's go in again. Why, we are exposed here. Suppose he took it into his head to let off a gun on us! He's an unaccountable, 'yporcritical skunk."
Allowing himself to be persuaded, Mr. Jones returned to his seclusion. The secretary, however, remained on the verandah—for the purpose, he said, of seeing whether that Chink wasn't sneaking around; in which case he proposed to take a long shot at the galoot and chance the consequences. His real reason was that he wanted to be alone, away from the governor's deep-sunk eyes. He felt a sentimental desire to indulge his fancies in solitude. A great change had come over Mr. Ricardo since that morning. A whole side of him which from prudence, from necessity, from loyalty, had been kept dormant, was aroused now, colouring his thoughts and disturbing his mental poise by the vision of such staggering consequences as, for instance, the possibility of an active conflict with his governor. The appearance of the monstrous Pedro with his news drew Ricardo out of a feeling of dreami
wrapped up in a sense of impending trouble. A woman? Yes, there was one; and it made all the dif
ference. After driving away Pedro,' and watching the white helmets of Heyst and Lena vanish among the bushes he stood lost in meditation,
"Where could they be off to like this?" he mentally asked himself.
The answer found by his speculative faculties on their utmost stretch was—to meet that Chink. For in the desertion of Wang Ricardo did not believe. It was a lying yarn, the organic part of a dangerous plot. Heyst had gone to combine some fresh move. But then Ricardo felt sure that the girl was with him—the girl full of pluck, full of sense, full of understanding; an ally of his own kind!
He went indoors briskly. Mr. Jones had resumed his cross-legged pose at the head of the bed, with his back against the wall.
“Anything new?" "No, sir."
Ricardo walked about the room as if he had no care in the world. He hummed snatches of song. Mr. Jones raised his waspish eyebrows at the sound. The secretary got down on his knees before an old leather trunk, and, rummaging in there, brought out a small looking-glass. He fell to examining his physiognomy in it with silent absorption.
"I think I'll shave," he decided, getting up.
He gave a sidelong glance to the governor, and repeated it several times during the operation, which did not take long, and even afterwards, when, after putting away the implements, he resumed his walking, humming more snatches of unknown songs. Mr. Jones preserved a complete immobility, his thin lips compressed, his eyes veiled. His face was like a carving.
“So you would like to try your hand at cards with that skunk, sir?" said Ricardo, stopping suddenly and rubbing his hands.
Mr. Jones gave no sign of having heard anything.
"Well, why not? Why shouldn't he have the experience? You remember in that Mexican town—what's its name?—the robber fellow they caught in the mountains and condemned to be shot? He played cards half the night with the jailer and the sheriff. Well, this fellow is condemned, too. He must give you your game. Hang it all, a gentleman ought to have some little relaxation! And you have been uncommonly patient, sir."
“You are uncommonly volatile all of a sudden,” Mr. Jones remarked in a bored voice. "What's come to you?"
The secretary hummed for a while, and then said:
"I'll try to get him over here for you to-night, after dinner. If I ain't here myself, don't you worry, sir. I shall be doing a bit of nosing round-see?”
“I see,” sneered Mr. Jones languidly. “But what do you expect to see in the dark?"
Ricardo made no answer, and after another turn or two slipped out of the room. He no longer felt comfortable alone with the governor.
MEANTIME Heyst and Lena, walking rather fast, approached Wang's hut. Asking the girl to wait, Heyst ascended the little ladder of bamboos giving access to the door. It was as he had expected. The smoky interior was empty, except for a big chest of sandalwood too heavy for hurried removal. Its lid was thrown up, but whatever it might have contained was no longer there. All Wang's possessions were gone. Without tarrying in the hut, Heyst came back to the girl, who asked no questions, with her strange air of knowing or understanding everything.
“Let us push on," he said.
He went ahead, the rustle of her white skirt following him into the shades of the forest, along the path of their usual walk. Though the air lay heavy between straight denuded trunks, the sunlit patches moved on the ground, and raising her eyes Lena saw far above her head the flutter of the leaves, the surface shudder on the mighty limbs extended horizontally in the perfect immobility of patience. Twice Heyst looked over his shoulder at her. Behind the readiness of her answering smile there was a fund of devoted, concentrated passion, burning with the hope of a more perfect satisfaction. They passed the spot where it was their practice to turn towards the barren summit of the central hill. Heyst held steadily on his way towards the upper limit of the forest. The moment they left its shelter, a breeze enveloped them, and a great cloud, racing over the sun, threw a peculiar sombre tint over everything. Heyst pointed up a precipitous, rugged path clinging to the side of the hill. It ended in a barricade of
felled trees, a primitively conceived obstacle which must have cost much labour to erect at just that spot.
“This,” Heyst explained in his urbane tone, "is a barrier against the march of civilisation. The poor folk over there did not like it, as it appeared to them in the shape of my company—a great step forward, as some people used to call it with mistaken confidence. The advanced foot has been drawn back, but the barricade remains."
They went on climbing slowly. The cloud had driven over, leaving an added brightness on the face of the world.
"It's a very ridiculous thing," Heyst went on; "but then it is the product of honest fear-fear of the unknown, of the incomprehensible. It's pathetic, too, in a way. And I heartily wish, Lena, that we were on the other side of it."
“Oh, stop, stop!” she cried, seizing his arm.
The face of the barricade they were approaching had been piled up with a lot of fresh-cut branches. The leaves were still green. A gentle breeze, sweeping over the top, stirred them a little; but what had startled the girl was the discovery of several spear-blades protruding from the mass of foliage. She had made them out suddenly. They did not gleam, but she saw them with extreme distinctness, very still, very vicious to look at.
"You had better let me go forward alone, Lena," said Heyst.
She tugged persistently at his arm, but after a time, during which he never ceased to look smilingly into her terrified eyes, he ended by disengaging himself.
"It's a sign rather than a demonstration," he argued persuasively. "Just wait here a moment. I promise not to approach near enough to be stabbed.”
As in a nightmare she watched Heyst go up the few yards of the path as if he never meant to stop; and she heard his voice, like voices heard in dreams, shouting unknown words in an unearthly tone. Heyst was only