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idea that if she followed his instructions those men were not likely to find her, steadied him a little. They did not know that the island had any inhabitants; and he himself once disposed of, they would be too anxious to get away to waste time hunting for a vanished girl.
All this passed through Heyst's mind in a flash, as men think in moments of danger. He looked speculatively at Mr. Jones, who, of course, had never for a moment taken his eyes from his intended victim. And the conviction came to Heyst that this outlaw from the higher spheres was an absolutely hard and pitiless scoundrel.
Mr. Jones's voice made him start.
"It would be useless, for instance, to tell me that your Chinaman has run off with your money. A man living alone with a Chinaman on an island takes care to conceal property of that kind so well that the devil himself—"
"Certainly," Heyst muttered.
Again, with his left hand, Mr. Jones mopped his frontal bone, his stalk-like neck, his razor jaws, his fleshless chin. Again his voice faltered and his aspect became still more gruesomely malevolent, as of a wicked and pitiless corpse.
"I see what you mean," he cried, "but you mustn't put too much trust in your ingenuity. You don't strike me as a very ingenious person, Mr. Heyst. Neither am I. My talents lie another way. But Martin—*
"Who is now engaged in rifling my desk," interjected Heyst.
"I don't think so. What I was going to say is that Martin is much cleverer than a Chinaman. Do you believe in racial superiority, Mr. Heyst? I do, firmly. Martin is great at ferreting out such secrets as yours, for instance."
"Secrets like mine!" repeated Heyst bitterly. "Well, I wish him joy of all he can ferret out!"
"That's very kind of you," remarked Mr. Jones. He was beginning to be anxious for Martin's return. Of iron selfpossession at the gaming-table, fearless in a sudden affray, he found that this rather special kind of work was telling on his nerves. "Keep still as you are!" he cried sharply.
"I've told you I am not armed," said Heyst, folding his arms on his breast.
"I am really inclined to believe that you are not," admitted Mr. Jones seriously. "Strange!" he mused aloud, the caverns of his eyes turned upon Heyst. Then briskly: "But my object is to keep you in this room. Don't provoke me, by some unguarded movement, to smash your knee or do something definite of that sort." He passed his tongue over his lips, which were dry and black, while his forehead glistened with moisture. "I don't know if it wouldn't be better to do it at once!"
"He who deliberates is lost," said Heyst with grave mockery.
Mr. Jones disregarded the remark. He had the air of communing with himself.
"Physically I am no match for you," he said slowly, his black gaze fixed upon the man sitting on the end of the bed. "You could spring—"
"Are you trying to frighten yourself?" asked Heyst abruptly. "You don't seem to have quite enough pluck for your business. Why don't you do it at once?"
Mr. Jones, taking violent offence, snorted like a savage skeleton.
"Strange as it may seem to you, it is because of my origin, my breeding, my traditions, my early associations, and suchlike trifles. Not everybody can divest himself of the prejudices of a gentleman as easily as you have done, Mr. Heyst. But don't worry about my pluck. If you were to make a clean spring at me, you would receive in mid-air, so to speak, something that would make you perfectly harmless by the time you landed. No, don't misapprehend us, Mr. Heyst. We are—er—adequate bandits; and we are after the fruit of your labours as a—er—successful swindler. It's the way of the world—gorge and disgorge!"
He leaned wearily the back of his head against the wall. His vitality seemed exhausted. Even his sunken eyelids drooped within the bony sockets. Only his thin, waspish, beautifully pencilled eyebrows, drawn together a little, suggested the will and the power to sting—something vicious, unconquerable, and deadly.
"Fruits! Swindler!" repeated Heyst, without heat, almost without contempt. "You are giving yourself no end of trouble, you and your faithful henchman, to crack an empty nut. There are no fruits here, as you imagine. There are a few sovereigns, which you may have if you like; and since you have called yourself a bandit—"
"Yaas!" drawled Mr. Jones. "That, rather than a swindler. Open warfare at least!"
"Very good! Only let me tell you that there were never in the world two more deluded bandits—never!"
Heyst uttered these words with such energy that Mr. Jones, stiffening up, seemed to become thinner and taller in his metallic blue dressing-gown against the whitewashed wall.
"Fooled by a silly rascally innkeeper!" Heyst went on. "Talked over like a pair of children with a promise of sweets!"
"I didn't talk with that disgusting animal," muttered Mr. Jones sullenly; "but he convinced Martin, who is no fool."
"I should think he wanted very much to be convinced," said Heyst, with the courteous intonation so well known in the islands. "I don't want to disturb your touching trust in your—your follower, but he must be the most credulous brigand in existence. What do you imagine? If the story of my riches were ever so true, do you think Schomberg would have imparted it to you from sheer altruism? Is that the way of the world, Mr. Jones?"
For a moment the lower jaw of Ricardo's gentleman dropped; but it came up with snap of scorn, and he said with spectral intensity:
"The beast is cowardly! He was frightened, and wanted to get rid of us, if you want to know, Mr. Heyst. I don't know that the material inducement was so very great, but I was bored, and we decided to accept the bribe. I don't regret it. All my life I have been seeking new impressions, and you have turned out to be something quite out of the common. Martin, of course, looks to the material results. He's simple—and faithful—and wonderfully acute."
"Ah, yesl He's on the track"—and now Heyst's speech had the character of politely grim raillery—"but not sufficiently on the track, as yet, to make it quite convenient to shoot me without more ado. Didn't Schomberg tell you precisely where I conceal the fruit of my rapines? Pah! Don't you know he would have told you anything, true or false, from a very clear motive? Revenge! Mad hate—the unclean idiot!"
Mr. Jones did not seem very much moved. On his right hand the doorway incessantly flickered with distant lightning, and the continuous rumble of thunder went on irritatingly, like the growl of an inarticulate giant muttering fatuously.
Heyst overcame his immense repugnance to allude to her whose image, cowering in the forest, was constantly before his eyes, with all the pathos and force of its appeal, august, pitiful, and almost holy to him. It was in a hurried, embarrassed manner that he went on:
"If it had not been for that girl whom he persecuted with his insane and odious passion, and who threw herself on my protection, he would never have—but you know well enough!"
"I don't know!" burst out Mr. Jones with amazing heat . "That hotel-keeper tried to talk to me once of some girl he had lost, but I told him I didn't want to hear any of his beastly women stories. It had something to do with you, had it?"
Heyst looked on serenely at this outburst, then lost his patience a little.
"What sort of comedy is this? You don't mean to say that you didn't know that I had—that there was a girl living with me here?"
One could see that the eyes of Mr. Jones had become fixed in the depths of their black holes by the gleam of white becoming steady there. The whole man seemed frozen still.
"Here! Here!" he screamed out twice. There was no mistaking his astonishment, his shocked incredulity—something like frightened disgust.
Heyst was disgusted also, but in another way. He too was incredulous. He regretted having mentioned the girl; but the thing was done, his repugnance had been overcome in the heat of his argument against the absurd bandit.
"Is it possible that you didn't know of that significant fact?" he inquired. "Of the only effective truth in the welter of silly lies that deceived you so easily?"
"No, I didn't!" Mr. Jones shouted. "But Martin did!" he added in a faint whisper, which Heyst's ears just caught and no more.
"I kept her out of sight as long as I could," said Heyst. "Perhaps, with your bringing up, traditions, and so on, you will understand my reason for it."
"He knew. He knew before!" Mr. Jones mourned in a hollow voice. "He knew of her from the first!"
Backed hard against the wall, he no longer watched Heyst. He had the air of a man who had seen an abyss yawning under his feet.
"1i I want to kill him, this is my time," thought Heyst; but he did not move.
Next moment Mr. Jones jerked his head up, glaring with sardonic fury.
"I have a good mind to shoot you, you woman-ridden hermit, you man in the moon, that can't exist without—no, it won't be you that I'll shoot. It's the other woman-lover —the prevaricating, sly, low-class, amorous cuss! And he shaved—shaved under my very nose. I'll shoot him!"
"He's gone mad," thought Heyst, startled by the spectre's sudden fury.
He felt himself more in danger, nearer death, than ever since he had entered that room. An insane bandit is a deadly combination. He did not, could not know that Mr. Jones was quick-minded enough to see already the end of his reign over his excellent secretary's thoughts and feelings; the coming failure of Ricardo's fidelity. A woman had intervened! A woman, a girl, who apparently possessed the power to awaken men's disgusting folly. Her power had been proved in two instances already—the beastly innkeeper, and that man with moustaches, upon whom Mr. Jones, his deadly right hand twitching in his pocket, glared more in repulsion than in anger. The very object of the expedition was lost from view in his sudden and overwhelming sense of utter insecurity. And this made Mr. Jones feel very savage; but not against the man with the moustaches. Thus, while Heyst was really feeling that his life was not worth two minutes'