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“Belongings? Do you mean chairs and tables ?” Davidson asked with unconcealed astonishment.
Heyst did mean that. “My poor father died in London. It has been all stored there ever since," he explained.
“For all these years ?” exclaimed Davidson, thinking how long we all had known Heyst flitting from tree to tree in a wilderness.
“Even longer," said Heyst, who had understood
This seemed to imply that he had been wandering before he came under our observation. In what regions ? At what early age? Mystery. Perhaps he
e was a bird that had never had a nest.
"I left school early," he remarked once to Davidson, on the passage. “It was in England. A A very good school. I was not a shining success there."
The confessions of Heyst. Not one of us- - with the probable exception of Morrison, who was deadhad ever heard so much of his history. It looks as if the experience of hermit life had the power to loosen one's tongue, doesn't it?
During that memorable passage, in the Sissic, which took about two days, he volunteered other hints—for you could not call it information-about his history. And Davidson was interested. He was interested not because the hints were exciting but.
because of that innate curiosity about our fellows which is a trait of human nature. Davidson's existence too, running the Sissie along the Java Sea and back again, was distinctly monotonous and, in a sense, lonely. He never had any sort of company
board. Native deck-passengers in plenty, of course, but never a white man, so the presence of Heyst for two days must have been a godsend. Davidson was telling us all about it afterward. Heyst said that his father had written a lot of books. He was a philosopher.
“Seems to me he must have been something of a crank, too,” was Davidson's comment. “Apparently he had quarrelled with his people in Sweden. Just the sort of father you would expect Heyst to have. Isn't he a bit of a crank himself ? He told me that directly his father died he lit out into the wide world on his own, and had been on the move till he fetched up against this famous coal business.
Fits the son of his father somehow, don't you think ?"
For the rest, Heyst was as polite as ever. He offered to pay for his passage; but when Davidson refused to hear of it he seized him heartily by the hand, gave one of his courtly bows, and declared that he was touched by his friendly proceedings.
"I am not alluding to this trilling amount which you decline to take,” he went on, giving a shake to
Davidson's hand. “But I am touched by your humanity." Another shake. "Believe me, I am profoundly aware of having been an object of it.” Final shake of the hand. All this meant that Heyst understood in a proper sense the little Sissie's periodical appearance in sight of his hermitage.
"He's a genuine gentleman,” Davidson said to
"I was really sorry when he went ashore.”
The Tesmans had their principal counting-house in Sourabaya. There had long existed a connection between Heyst and the Tesmans. The incongruity of a hermit having agents did not strike us, nor yet the absurdity of a forgotten cast-off, derelict manager of a wrecked, collapsed, vanished enterprise, having business to attend to. We said Sourabaya, of course, and took it for granted that he would stay with one of the Tesmans. One of us even wondered what sort of reception he would get; for it was known that Julius Tesman was unreasonably bitter about the Tropical Belt Coal fiasco. But Davidson set us right. It was nothing of the kind. Heyst went to stay in Schomberg's hotel, going ashore in the hotel launch. Not that Schomberg would think of sending his launch alongside a mere trader like the Sissie. But she had been meeting a coasting mail-packet, and had been signalled to. Schomberg himself was steering her.
“You should have seen Schomberg's eyes bulge out when Heyst jumped in with an ancient brown leather bag!" said Davidson. "He pretended not to know who it was—at first, anyway. ashore with them. We didn't stay more than a couple of hours altogether. Landed two thousand cocoanuts and cleared out. I have agreed to pick him up again on my next trip in twenty days' time."
I didn't go
Davidson happened to be two days late on his return trip; no great matter, certainly, but he made a point of going ashore at once, during the hottest hour of the afternoon, to look for Heyst. Schomberg's hotel stood back in an extensive enclosure containing a garden, some large trees, and, under their spreading boughs, a detached "hall available for concerts and other performances, as Schomberg worded it in his advertisements. Torn and fluttering bills, intimating in heavy red capitals "Concerts every night,” were stuck on the brick pillars on each side of the gateway.
The walk had been long and confoundedly sunny. Davidson stood wiping his wet neck and face on what Schomberg called "the piazza." Several doors opened on to it, but all the screens were down. Not a soul was in sight, not even a China boy—nothing but a lot of painted iron chairs and tables. Solitude, shade, and gloomy silence—and a faint, treacherous