« PreviousContinue »
uncovered his enormous fangs in gaping astonishment. Then suddenly he set off rolling on his bandy legs to impart to his masters the astonishing discovery of a woman.
As luck would have it, Ricardo was lounging alone on the veranda of the former counting-house. He scented some new development at once, and ran down to meet the trotting, bear-like figure. The deep, growling noises it made, though they had önly a very remote resemblance to the Spanish language, or indeed to any sort of human speech, were from long practice quite intelligible to Mr. Jones's secretary. Ricardo was rather surprised. He had imagined that the girl would continue to keep out of sight. That line apparently was given up. He did not mistrust her. How could he ? Indeed, he could not think of her existence calmly.
He tried to keep her image out of his mind so that he should be able to use its powers with some approach to that coolness which the complex nature of the situation demanded from him, both for his own sake and as the faithful follower of plain Mr. Jones, gentleman.
He collected his wits and thought. This was a change of policy, probably on the part of Heyst. If so, what could it mean? A deep fellow! Unless it was her doing; in which case—h'm—all right! Must be. She would know what she was doing. Before him Pedro, lifting his feet alternately, swayed to and fro sideways—his usual attitude of expectation. His little red eyes, lost in the mass of hair, were motionless. Ricardo stared into them with calculated contempt and said in a rough, angry voice:
“Woman! Of course there is. We know that without you!" He gave the tame monster a push. “Git! Vamos! Waddle! Get back and cook the dinner! Which way did they go, then ?"
Pedro extended a huge, hairy forearm to show the direction, and went off on his bandy legs. Advancing a few steps, Ricardo was just in time to see, above some bushes, two white helmets moving side by side in the clearing. They disappeared. Now that he had managed to keep Pedro from informing the governor that there was a woman on the island, he could indulge in speculation as to the movements of these people. His attitude towards Mr. Jones had undergone a spiritual change, of which he himself was not yet fully aware.
That morning, before tiffin, after his escape from the Heyst bungalow, completed in such an inspiring
way by the recovery of the slipper, Ricardo had made his way to their allotted house, reeling as he ran, his head in a whirl. He was wildly excited by visions of inconceivable promise. He waited to compose himself before he dared to meet the governor.
On entering the room, he found Mr. Jones sitting on the camp bedstead like a tailor on his board, crosslegged, his long back against the wall.
“I say, sir! You aren't going to tell me you are bored ?"
“Bored ? No! Where the devil have you been all this time ?"
"Observing—watching-nosing around. What else ? I knew you
talked freely, sir ?”
“Yes, I have," muttered Mr. Jones.
"No. I wished you had been here. You loaf all the morning, and now you come in out of breath. What's the matter ?"
"I haven't been wasting my time out there,” said Ricardo. "Nothing's the matter. I-1-might have hurried a bit.” He was in truth still panting; only it was not with running, but with the tumult of thoughts and sensations long repressed, which had been set free by the adventure of the morning. He was almost distracted by them now: He forgot him. self in the maze of possibilities threatening and inspiring. “And so you had a long talk ?” he said, to gain time.
“Confound you ! The sun hasn't affected your head, has it? Why are you staring at me like a basilisk ?"
"Beg pardon, sir. Wasn't aware I stared,” Ricardo apologised good-humouredly. “The sun might well affect a thicker skull than mine. It blazes. Phew! What do you think a fellow is, sir-a salamander ?"
"You ought to have been here," observed Mr. Jones.
“Did the beast give any signs of wanting to prance ?" asked Ricardo quickly, with absolutely genuine anxiety. "It wouldn't do, sir. You must play him easy for at least a couple of days, sir. I have a plan. I have a notion that I can find out a lot in a couple of days."
“You have ? In what way ?"
"Nothing new, that. Watch, eh? Why not pray a little, too ?
"Ha, ha, ha! That's a good one," burst out the
“, secretary, fixing Mr. Jones with mirthless eyes.
The latter dropped the subject indolently.