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"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 veranda—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 dreaminess wrapped up in a sense of impending trouble. A woman ? Yes, there was one; and it made all the difference. 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 ?
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 afterward, 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