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“Come, sir!" Ricardo's whisper was alarmed. "You don't mean to say you're going to be bored ?"
“Quite right!” The secretary was very much relieved. “There's no occasion to be, I can tell you, sir,” he whispered earnestly. “Anything but that! If I didn't say anything for a bit, it ain't because there isn't plenty to talk about. Ay, more than enough."
"What's the matter with you ?” breathed out his patron. "Are you going to turn pessimist ?”
“Me turn ? No, sir! I ain't of those that turn. You may call me hard names, if you like, but you know very well that I ain't a croaker.' Ricardo changed his tone. "If I said nothing for a while, it was because I was meditating over the Chink, sir."
“You were ? Waste of time, my Martin. A Chinaman is unfathomable.”
Ricardo admitted that this might be so. Anyhow, a Chink was neither here nor there, as a general thing, unfathomable as he might be; but a Swedish baron wasn't-couldn't be! The woods were full of such barons. “I don't know that he is so tame,'
was Mr. Jones's remark, in a sepulchral undertone. “How do you mean, sir ? He ain't a rabbit, of
You couldn't hypnotise him, as I saw you do to more than one Dago, and other kinds of tame
power of the
citizens, when it came to the point of holding them down to a game.”
"Don't you reckon on that,” murmured plain Mr. Jones seriously. “No, sir, I don't; though you have a wonderful
a fact.” "I have a wonderful patience," remarked Mr. Jones drily.
A dim smile fitted over the lips of the faithful Ricardo, who never raised his head.
“I don't want to try you too much, sir; but this is like no other job we ever turned our minds to."
"Perhaps not. At any rate let us think so.
A weariness with the monotony of life was reflected in the tone of this qualified assent. It jarred on the nerves of the sanguine Ricardo.
"Let us think of the way to go to work,” he retorted a little impatiently. "He's a deep one. Just look at the
he treated that chum of his. Did you ever hear of anything so low ? And the artfulness of the beast—the dirty, tame artfulness!"
"Don't you start moralising, Martin,” said Mr. Jones warningly. “As far as I can make out the story that German hotel-keeper told you, it seems to show a certain amount of character; and independence from common feelings which is not usual. It's very remarkable, if true.”
"Ay, ay! Very remarkable. It's mighty low down, all the same," muttered Ricardo obstinately. “I must say I am glad to think he will be paid off for it in a way that'll surprise him!”
The tip of his tongue appeared lively for an instant, as if trying for the taste of that ferocious retribution on his compressed lips. For Ricardo was sincere in his indignation before the elementary principle of loyalty to a chum violated in cold blood, slowly, in a patient duplicity of years. There are standards in villainy as in virtue, and the act as he pictured it to himself acquired an additional horror from the slow pace of that treachery so atrocious and so tane. But he understood too the educated judgment of his governor, a gentleman looking on all this the privileged detachment of a cultivated mind, of an elevated personality.
“Ay, he's deep—he's artful,” he mumbled between his sharp teeth.
“Confound you!” Mr. Jones's calm whisper crept into his ear.
"Come to the point." Obedient, the secretary shook off his thoughtfulness. There was a similarity of mind between these two one the outcast of his vices, the other inspired by a spirit of scornful defiance, the aggressiveness of a beast of prey looking upon all the tame creatures of the earth as its natural victims.
Both were astute enough, however, and both were aware that they had plunged into this adventure without a sufficient scrutiny of detail. The figure of a lonely man far from all assistance had loomed up largely, fascinating and defenceless in the middle of the sea, filling the whole field of their vision. There had not seemed to be any need for thinking. As Schomberg had been saying: "Three to one."
But it did not look so simple now in the face of that solitude which was like an armour for this
The feeling voiced by the henchman in his own way—“We don't seem much forwarder now we are here"—was acknowledged by the silence of the patron. It was easy enough to rip a fellow up or drill a hole in him, whether he was alone or not, Ricardo reflected in low, confidential tones, but
"He isn't alone,” Mr. Jones said faintly, in his attitude of a man composed for sleep. “Don't forget that Chinaman.” Ricardo started slightly.
"Oh, ay—the Chink!"
Ricardo had been on the point of confessing about the girl; but no! He wanted his governor to be unperturbed and steady. Vague thoughts, which he hardly dared to look in the face, were stirring in his brain in connection with that girl. She couldn't he much account, he thought. She could be frightened. And there were also other possibilities.
The Chink, however, could be considered openly.
“What I was thinking about it, sir,” he went on earnestly, “is this—here we've got a man. He's nothing If he won't be good, he can be made quiet. That's easy. But then there's his plunder. He doesn't carry it in his pocket.”
"I hope not,” breathed Mr. Jones.
"Same here. It's too big, we know; but if he were alone, he would not feel worried about it overmuch—I mean the safety of the pieces. He would just put the lot into any box or drawer that was handy."
"Would he ?"
“Yes, sir. He would keep it under his eyes, as it were. Why not? It is natural. A fellow doesn't put his swag underground, unless there's a very good reason for it.”
“A very good reason, eh ?”
"Yes, sir. What do you think a fellow is—a mole ?"
From his experience, Ricardo declared that man was not a burrowing beast. Even the misers very seldom buried their hoard, unless for exceptional reasons. In the given situation of a man alone on an island, the company of a Chink was a very good
Drawers would not be safe, nor boxes, either, from a prying, slant-eyed Chink. No, sir;