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he went on evenly, as if no silence had intervened, always respectful, but frank, with perfect simplicity of purpose. “All you've got to do is just to lie down quietly. I noticed him looking sort of surprised at you on the wharf, sir.” At these words, a naïve tribute to the aspect of his physique, even more suggestive of the grave than of the sick-bed, a fold appeared on that side of the governor’s face which was exposed to the dim light—a deep, shadowy, semicircular fold from the side of the nose to bottom of the chin—a silent smile. By a side glance Ricardo had noted this play of feature. He smiled, too, appreciative, encouraged. “And you as hard as nails all the time,” he went on. “Hang me if anybody would believe you aren't sick, if I were to swear myself black in the face! Give us a day or two to look into matters and size up that 'yporcrit.” Ricardo's eyes remained fixed on his crossed shins. The chief, in his lifeless accents, approved. “Perhaps it would be a good idea.” “The Chink, he's nothing. He can be made quiet any time.” One of Ricardo's hands, reposing palm upward on his folded legs, made a swift thrusting gesture, repeated by the enormous darting shadow of an
arm very low on the wall. It broke the spell of
plexities with amusement concealed in a death-like composure. Ricardo disregarded the question. The material vision of the spoil absorbed all his faculties. A great vision! He seemed to see it. A few small canvas bags tied up with thin cord, their distended rotundity showing the inside pressure of the disk-like forms of coins—gold, solid, heavy, eminently portable. Perhaps steel cash-boxes with a chased design on the covers; or perhaps a black and brass box with a handle on the top, and full of goodness knows what. Bank notes ? Why not ? The fellow had been going home; so it was surely something worth going home with. “And he may have put it anywhere outside—anywhere!” cried Ricardo in a deadened voice. “In the forest—” That was it! A temporary darkness replaced the dim light of the room. The darkness of the forest at night, and in it the gleam of a lantern, by which a figure is digging at the foot of a tree-trunk. As likely as not, another figure holding that lantern— ha, feminine! The girl! The prudent Ricardo stifled a picturesque and profane exclamation, partly joy, partly dismay. Had the girl been trusted or mistrusted by that man P Whatever it was, it was bound to be wholly! With women there could be no half-measures. He could not imagine a fellow half-trusting a woman in that
intimate relation to himself, and in those particular circumstances of conquest and loneliness where no confidences could appear dangerous since, apparently, there could be no one she could give him away to. Moreover in nine cases out of ten, the woman would be trusted. But, trusted or mistrusted, was her presence a favourable or unfavourable condition of the problem 2 That was the question! The temptation to consult his chief, to talk over the weighty fact and get his opinion on it, was great indeed. Ricardo resisted it; but the agony of his solitary mental conflict was extremely sharp. A woman in a problem is an incalculable quantity, even if you have something to go upon in forming your guess. How much more so when you haven’t even once caught sight of her. Swift as were his mental processes, he felt that a longer silence was inadvisable. He hastened to speak: “And do you see us, sir, you and I, with a couple of spades having to tackle this whole confounded island P” He allowed himself a slight movement of the arm. The shadow enlarged it into a sweeping gesture. “This seems rather discouraging, Martin,” murmured the unmoved governor.
“We mustn't be discouraged—that's all,” retorted his henchman. “And after what we had to go through in that boat too! Why it would be—” He couldn't find the qualifying words. Very calm, faithful, and yet astute, he expressed his newborn hopes darkly. “Something's sure to turn up to give us a hint; only this job can't be rushed. You may depend on me to pick up the least little bit of a hint; but you, sir—you've got to play him very gently. For the rest you can trust me.” “Yes; but I ask myself what you are trusting to.” “Our luck,” said the faithful Ricardo. “Don’t say a word against that. It might spoil the run of it.” “You are a superstitious beggar. No, I won't say anything against it.” “That's right, sir. Don't you even think lightly of it. Luck's not to be played with.” “Yes, luck's a delicate thing,” assented Mr. Jones in a dreamy whisper. A short silence ensued, which Ricardo ended in a discreet and tentative voice. “Talking of luck, I suppose he could be made to take a hand with you, sir—two-handed picket or ekkarty, you being seedy and keeping indoors—just