The Rescue
by Joseph Conrad
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"There is that in me," Lingard murmured, deeply, "which would set my heart harder than a stone. I am King Tom, Rajah Laut, and fit to look any man hereabouts in the face. I have my name to take care of. Everything rests on that."

"Mr. d'Alcacer would express this by saying that everything rested on honour," commented Mrs. Travers with lips that did not tremble, though from time to time she could feel the accelerated beating of her heart.

"Call it what you like. It's something that a man needs to draw a free breath. And look!—as you see me standing before you here I care for it no longer."

"But I do care for it," retorted Mrs. Travers. "As you see me standing here—I do care. This is something that is your very own. You have a right to it. And I repeat I do care for it."

"Care for something of my own," murmured Lingard, very close to her face. "Why should you care for my rights?"

"Because," she said, holding her ground though their foreheads were nearly touching, "because if I ever get back to my life I don't want to make it more absurd by real remorse."

Her tone was soft and Lingard received the breath of those words like a caress on his face. D'Alcacer, in the Cage, made still another effort to keep up his pacing. He didn't want to give Mr. Travers the slightest excuse for sitting up again and looking round.

"That I should live to hear anybody say they cared anything for what was mine!" whispered Lingard. "And that it should be you—you, who have taken all hardness out of me."

"I don't want your heart to be made hard. I want it to be made firm."

"You couldn't have said anything better than what you have said just now to make it steady," flowed the murmur of Lingard's voice with something tender in its depth. "Has anybody ever had a friend like this?" he exclaimed, raising his head as if taking the starry night to witness.

"And I ask myself is it possible that there should be another man on earth that I could trust as I trust you. I say to you: Yes! Go and save what you have a right to and don't forget to be merciful. I will not remind you of our perfect innocence. The earth must be small indeed that we should have blundered like this into your life. It's enough to make one believe in fatality. But I can't find it in me to behave like a fatalist, to sit down with folded hands. Had you been another kind of man I might have been too hopeless or too disdainful. Do you know what Mr. d'Alcacer calls you?"

Inside the Cage d'Alcacer, casting curious glances in their direction, saw Lingard shake his head and thought with slight uneasiness: "He is refusing her something."

"Mr. d'Alcacer's name for you is the 'Man of Fate'," said Mrs. Travers, a little breathlessly.

"A mouthful. Never mind, he is a gentleman. It's what you. . . ."

"I call you all but by your Christian name," said Mrs. Travers, hastily. "Believe me, Mr. d'Alcacer understands you."

"He is all right," interjected Lingard.

"And he is innocent. I remember what you have said—that the innocent must take their chance. Well, then, do what is right."

"You think it would be right? You believe it? You feel it?"

"At this time, in this place, from a man like you—Yes, it is right."

Lingard thought that woman wonderfully true to him and wonderfully fearless with herself. The necessity to take back the two captives to the stockade was so clear and unavoidable now, that he believed nothing on earth could have stopped him from doing so, but where was there another woman in the world who would have taken it like this? And he reflected that in truth and courage there is found wisdom. It seemed to him that till Mrs. Travers came to stand by his side he had never known what truth and courage and wisdom were. With his eyes on her face and having been told that in her eyes he appeared worthy of being both commanded and entreated, he felt an instant of complete content, a moment of, as it were, perfect emotional repose.

During the silence Mrs. Travers with a quick side-glance noticed d'Alcacer as one sees a man in a mist, his mere dark shape arrested close to the muslin screen. She had no doubt that he was looking in their direction and that he could see them much more plainly than she could see him. Mrs. Travers thought suddenly how anxious he must be; and she remembered that he had begged her for some sign, for some warning, beforehand, at the moment of crisis. She had understood very well his hinted request for time to get prepared. If he was to get more than a few minutes, this was the moment to make him a sign—the sign he had suggested himself. Mrs. Travers moved back the least bit so as to let the light fall in front of her and with a slow, distinct movement she put her left hand to her forehead.

"Well, then," she heard Lingard's forcible murmur, "well, then, Mrs. Travers, it must be done to-night."

One may be true, fearless, and wise, and yet catch one's breath before the simple finality of action. Mrs. Travers caught her breath: "To-night! To-night!" she whispered. D'Alcacer's dark and misty silhouette became more blurred. He had seen her sign and had retreated deeper within the Cage.

"Yes, to-night," affirmed Lingard. "Now, at once, within the hour, this moment," he murmured, fiercely, following Mrs. Travers in her recoiling movement. She felt her arm being seized swiftly. "Don't you see that if it is to do any good, that if they are not to be delivered to mere slaughter, it must be done while all is dark ashore, before an armed mob in boats comes clamouring alongside? Yes. Before the night is an hour older, so that I may be hammering at Belarab's gate while all the Settlement is still asleep."

Mrs. Travers didn't dream of protesting. For the moment she was unable to speak. This man was very fierce and just as suddenly as it had been gripped (making her think incongruously in the midst of her agitation that there would be certainly a bruise there in the morning) she felt her arm released and a penitential tone come into Lingard's murmuring voice.

"And even now it's nearly too late! The road was plain, but I saw you on it and my heart failed me. I was there like an empty man and I dared not face you. You must forgive me. No, I had no right to doubt you for a moment. I feel as if I ought to go on my knees and beg your pardon for forgetting what you are, for daring to forget."

"Why, King Tom, what is it?"

"It seems as if I had sinned," she heard him say. He seized her by the shoulders, turned her about, moved her forward a step or two. His hands were heavy, his force irresistible, though he himself imagined he was handling her gently. "Look straight before you," he growled into her ear. "Do you see anything?" Mrs. Travers, passive between the rigid arms, could see nothing but, far off, the massed, featureless shadows of the shore.

"No, I see nothing," she said.

"You can't be looking the right way," she heard him behind her. And now she felt her head between Lingard's hands. He moved it the least bit to the right. "There! See it?"

"No. What am I to look for?"

"A gleam of light," said Lingard, taking away his hands suddenly. "A gleam that will grow into a blaze before our boat can get half way across the lagoon."

Even as Lingard spoke Mrs. Travers caught sight of a red spark far away. She had looked often enough at the Settlement, as on the face of a painting on a curtain, to have its configuration fixed in her mind, to know that it was on the beach at its end furthest from Belarab's stockade.

"The brushwood is catching," murmured Lingard in her ear. "If they had some dry grass the whole pile would be blazing by now."

"And this means. . . ."

"It means that the news has spread. And it is before Tengga's enclosure on his end of the beach. That's where all the brains of the Settlement are. It means talk and excitement and plenty of crafty words. Tengga's fire! I tell you, Mrs. Travers, that before half an hour has passed Daman will be there to make friends with the fat Tengga, who is ready to say to him, 'I told you so'."

"I see," murmured Mrs. Travers. Lingard drew her gently to the rail.

"And now look over there at the other end of the beach where the shadows are heaviest. That is Belarab's fort, his houses, his treasure, his dependents. That's where the strength of the Settlement is. I kept it up. I made it last. But what is it now? It's like a weapon in the hand of a dead man. And yet it's all we have to look to, if indeed there is still time. I swear to you I wouldn't dare land them in daylight for fear they should be slaughtered on the beach."

"There is no time to lose," whispered Mrs. Travers, and Lingard, too, spoke very low.

"No, not if I, too, am to keep what is my right. It's you who have said it."

"Yes, I have said it," she whispered, without lifting her head. Lingard made a brusque movement at her elbow and bent his head close to her shoulder.

"And I who mistrusted you! Like Arabs do to their great men, I ought to kiss the hem of your robe in repentance for having doubted the greatness of your heart."

"Oh! my heart!" said Mrs. Travers, lightly, still gazing at the fire, which had suddenly shot up to a tall blaze. "I can assure you it has been of very little account in the world." She paused for a moment to steady her voice, then said, firmly, "Let's get this over."

"To tell you the truth the boat has been ready for some time."

"Well, then. . . ."

"Mrs. Travers," said Lingard with an effort, "they are people of your own kind." And suddenly he burst out: "I cannot take them ashore bound hand and foot."

"Mr. d'Alcacer knows. You will find him ready. Ever since the beginning he has been prepared for whatever might happen."

"He is a man," said Lingard with conviction. "But it's of the other that I am thinking."

"Ah, the other," she repeated. "Then, what about my thoughts? Luckily we have Mr. d'Alcacer. I shall speak to him first."

She turned away from the rail and moved toward the Cage.

"Jorgenson," the voice of Lingard resounded all along the deck, "get a light on the gangway." Then he followed Mrs. Travers slowly.


D'Alcacer, after receiving his warning, stepped back and leaned against the edge of the table. He could not ignore in himself a certain emotion. And indeed, when he had asked Mrs. Travers for a sign he expected to be moved—but he had not expected the sign to come so soon. He expected this night to pass like other nights, in broken slumbers, bodily discomfort, and the unrest of disconnected thinking. At the same time he was surprised at his own emotion. He had flattered himself on the possession of more philosophy. He thought that this famous sense of self-preservation was a queer thing, a purely animal thing. "For, as a thinking man," he reflected, "I really ought not to care." It was probably the unusual that affected him. Clearly. If he had been lying seriously ill in a room in a hotel and had overheard some ominous whispers he would not have cared in the least. Ah, but then he would have been ill—and in illness one grows so indifferent. Illness is a great help to unemotional behaviour, which of course is the correct behaviour for a man of the world. He almost regretted he was not very ill. But, then, Mr. Travers was obviously ill and it did not seem to help him much. D'Alcacer glanced at the bedstead where Mr. Travers preserved an immobility which struck d'Alcacer as obviously affected. He mistrusted it. Generally he mistrusted Mr. Travers. One couldn't tell what he would do next. Not that he could do much one way or another, but that somehow he threatened to rob the situation of whatever dignity it may have had as a stroke of fate, as a call on courage. Mr. d'Alcacer, acutely observant and alert for the slightest hints, preferred to look upon himself as the victim not of a swindle but of a rough man naively engaged in a contest with heaven's injustice. D'Alcacer did not examine his heart, but some lines of a French poet came into his mind, to the effect that in all times those who fought with an unjust heaven had possessed the secret admiration and love of men. He didn't go so far as love but he could not deny to himself that his feeling toward Lingard was secretly friendly and—well, appreciative. Mr. Travers sat up suddenly. What a horrible nuisance, thought d'Alcacer, fixing his eyes on the tips of his shoes with the hope that perhaps the other would lie down again. Mr. Travers spoke.

"Still up, d'Alcacer?"

"I assure you it isn't late. It's dark at six, we dined before seven, that makes the night long and I am not a very good sleeper; that is, I cannot go to sleep till late in the night."

"I envy you," said Mr. Travers, speaking with a sort of drowsy apathy. "I am always dropping off and the awakenings are horrible."

D'Alcacer, raising his eyes, noticed that Mrs. Travers and Lingard had vanished from the light. They had gone to the rail where d'Alcacer could not see them. Some pity mingled with his vexation at Mr. Travers' snatchy wakefulness. There was something weird about the man, he reflected. "Jorgenson," he began aloud.

"What's that?" snapped Mr. Travers.

"It's the name of that lanky old store-keeper who is always about the decks."

"I haven't seen him. I don't see anybody. I don't know anybody. I prefer not to notice."

"I was only going to say that he gave me a pack of cards; would you like a game of piquet?"

"I don't think I could keep my eyes open," said Mr. Travers in an unexpectedly confidential tone. "Isn't it funny, d'Alcacer? And then I wake up. It's too awful."

D'Alcacer made no remark and Mr. Travers seemed not to have expected any.

"When I said my wife was mad," he began, suddenly, causing d'Alcacer to start, "I didn't mean it literally, of course." His tone sounded slightly dogmatic and he didn't seem to be aware of any interval during which he had appeared to sleep. D'Alcacer was convinced more than ever that he had been shamming, and resigned himself wearily to listen, folding his arms across his chest. "What I meant, really," continued Mr. Travers, "was that she is the victim of a craze. Society is subject to crazes, as you know very well. They are not reprehensible in themselves, but the worst of my wife is that her crazes are never like those of the people with whom she naturally associates. They generally run counter to them. This peculiarity has given me some anxiety, you understand, in the position we occupy. People will begin to say that she is eccentric. Do you see her anywhere, d'Alcacer?"

D'Alcacer was thankful to be able to say that he didn't see Mrs. Travers. He didn't even hear any murmurs, though he had no doubt that everybody on board the Emma was wide awake by now. But Mr. Travers inspired him with invincible mistrust and he thought it prudent to add:

"You forget that your wife has a room in the deckhouse."

This was as far as he would go, for he knew very well that she was not in the deckhouse. Mr. Travers, completely convinced by the statement, made no sound. But neither did he lie down again. D'Alcacer gave himself up to meditation. The night seemed extremely oppressive. At Lingard's shout for Jorgenson, that in the profound silence struck his ears ominously, he raised his eyes and saw Mrs. Travers outside the door of the Cage. He started forward but she was already within. He saw she was moved. She seemed out of breath and as if unable to speak at first.

"Hadn't we better shut the door?" suggested d'Alcacer.

"Captain Lingard's coming in," she whispered to him. "He has made up his mind."

"That's an excellent thing," commented d'Alcacer, quietly. "I conclude from this that we shall hear something."

"You shall hear it all from me," breathed out Mrs. Travers.

"Ah!" exclaimed d'Alcacer very low.

By that time Lingard had entered, too, and the decks of the Emma were all astir with moving figures. Jorgenson's voice was also heard giving directions. For nearly a minute the four persons within the Cage remained motionless. A shadowy Malay in the gangway said suddenly: "Sudah, Tuan," and Lingard murmured, "Ready, Mrs. Travers."

She seized d'Alcacer's arm and led him to the side of the Cage furthest from the corner in which Mr. Travers' bed was placed, while Lingard busied himself in pricking up the wick of the Cage lantern as if it had suddenly occurred to him that this, whatever happened, should not be a deed of darkness. Mr. Travers did nothing but turn his head to look over his shoulder.

"One moment," said d'Alcacer, in a low tone and smiling at Mrs. Travers' agitation. "Before you tell me anything let me ask you: 'Have you made up your mind?'" He saw with much surprise a widening of her eyes. Was it indignation? A pause as of suspicion fell between those two people. Then d'Alcacer said apologetically: "Perhaps I ought not to have asked that question," and Lingard caught Mrs. Travers' words, "Oh, I am not afraid to answer that question."

Then their voices sank. Lingard hung the lamp up again and stood idle in the revived light; but almost immediately he heard d'Alcacer calling him discreetly.

"Captain Lingard!"

He moved toward them at once. At the same instant Mr. Travers' head pivoted away from the group to its frontal position.

D'Alcacer, very serious, spoke in a familiar undertone.

"Mrs. Travers tells me that we must be delivered up to those Moors on shore."

"Yes, there is nothing else for it," said Lingard.

"I confess I am a bit startled," said d'Alcacer; but except for a slightly hurried utterance nobody could have guessed at anything resembling emotion.

"I have a right to my good name," said Lingard, also very calm, while Mrs. Travers near him, with half-veiled eyes, listened impassive like a presiding genius.

"I wouldn't question that for a moment," conceded d'Alcacer. "A point of honour is not to be discussed. But there is such a thing as humanity, too. To be delivered up helplessly. . . ."

"Perhaps!" interrupted Lingard. "But you needn't feel hopeless. I am not at liberty to give up my life for your own. Mrs. Travers knows why. That, too, is engaged."

"Always on your honour?"

"I don't know. A promise is a promise."

"Nobody can be held to the impossible," remarked d'Alcacer.

"Impossible! What is impossible? I don't know it. I am not a man to talk of the impossible or dodge behind it. I did not bring you here."

D'Alcacer lowered his head for a moment. "I have finished," he said, gravely. "That much I had to say. I hope you don't think I have appeared unduly anxious."

"It's the best policy, too." Mrs. Travers made herself heard suddenly. Nothing of her moved but her lips, she did not even raise her eyes. "It's the only possible policy. You believe me, Mr. d'Alcacer? . . ." He made an almost imperceptible movement of the head. . . . "Well, then, I put all my hope in you, Mr. d'Alcacer, to get this over as easily as possible and save us all from some odious scene. You think perhaps that it is I who ought to. . . ."

"No, no! I don't think so," interrupted d'Alcacer. "It would be impossible."

"I am afraid it would," she admitted, nervously.

D'Alcacer made a gesture as if to beg her to say no more and at once crossed over to Mr. Travers' side of the Cage. He did not want to give himself time to think about his task. Mr. Travers was sitting up on the camp bedstead with a light cotton sheet over his legs. He stared at nothing, and on approaching him d'Alcacer disregarded the slight sinking of his own heart at this aspect which seemed to be that of extreme terror. "This is awful," he thought. The man kept as still as a hare in its form.

The impressed d'Alcacer had to make an effort to bring himself to tap him lightly on the shoulder.

"The moment has come, Travers, to show some fortitude," he said with easy intimacy. Mr. Travers looked up swiftly. "I have just been talking to your wife. She had a communication from Captain Lingard for us both. It remains for us now to preserve as much as possible our dignity. I hope that if necessary we will both know how to die."

In a moment of profound stillness, d'Alcacer had time to wonder whether his face was as stony in expression as the one upturned to him. But suddenly a smile appeared on it, which was certainly the last thing d'Alcacer expected to see. An indubitable smile. A slightly contemptuous smile.

"My wife has been stuffing your head with some more of her nonsense." Mr. Travers spoke in a voice which astonished d'Alcacer as much as the smile, a voice that was not irritable nor peevish, but had a distinct note of indulgence. "My dear d'Alcacer, that craze has got such a hold of her that she would tell you any sort of tale. Social impostors, mediums, fortune-tellers, charlatans of all sorts do obtain a strange influence over women. You have seen that sort of thing yourself. I had a talk with her before dinner. The influence that bandit has got over her is incredible. I really believe the fellow is half crazy himself. They often are, you know. I gave up arguing with her. Now, what is it you have got to tell me? But I warn you that I am not going to take it seriously."

He rejected briskly the cotton sheet, put his feet to the ground and buttoned his jacket. D'Alcacer, as he talked, became aware by the slight noise behind him that Mrs. Travers and Lingard were leaving the Cage, but he went on to the end and then waited anxiously for the answer.

"See! She has followed him out on deck," were Mr. Travers' first words. "I hope you understand that it is a mere craze. You can't help seeing that. Look at her costume. She simply has lost her head. Luckily the world needn't know. But suppose that something similar had happened at home. It would have been extremely awkward. Oh! yes, I will come. I will go anywhere. I can't stand this hulk, those people, this infernal Cage. I believe I should fall ill if I were to remain here."

The inward detached voice of Jorgenson made itself heard near the gangway saying: "The boat has been waiting for this hour past, King Tom."

"Let us make a virtue of necessity and go with a good grace," said d'Alcacer, ready to take Mr. Travers under the arm persuasively, for he did not know what to make of that gentleman.

But Mr. Travers seemed another man. "I am afraid, d'Alcacer, that you, too, are not very strong-minded. I am going to take a blanket off this bedstead. . . ." He flung it hastily over his arm and followed d'Alcacer closely. "What I suffer mostly from, strange to say, is cold."

Mrs. Travers and Lingard were waiting near the gangway. To everybody's extreme surprise Mr. Travers addressed his wife first.

"You were always laughing at people's crazes," was what he said, "and now you have a craze of your own. But we won't discuss that."

D'Alcacer passed on, raising his cap to Mrs. Travers, and went down the ship's side into the boat. Jorgenson had vanished in his own manner like an exorcised ghost, and Lingard, stepping back, left husband and wife face to face.

"Did you think I was going to make a fuss?" asked Mr. Travers in a very low voice. "I assure you I would rather go than stay here. You didn't think that? You have lost all sense of reality, of probability. I was just thinking this evening that I would rather be anywhere than here looking on at you. At your folly. . . ."

Mrs. Travers' loud, "Martin!" made Lingard wince, caused d'Alcacer to lift his head down there in the boat, and even Jorgenson, forward somewhere out of sight, ceased mumbling in his moustache. The only person who seemed not to have heard that exclamation was Mr. Travers himself, who continued smoothly:

". . . at the aberration of your mind, you who seemed so superior to common credulities. You are not yourself, not at all, and some day you will admit to me that . . . No, the best thing will be to forget it, as you will soon see yourself. We shall never mention that subject in the future. I am certain you will be only too glad to agree with me on that point."

"How far ahead are you looking?" asked Mrs. Travers, finding her voice and even the very tone in which she would have addressed him had they been about to part in the hall of their town house. She might have been asking him at what time he expected to be home, while a footman held the door open and the brougham waited in the street.

"Not very far. This can't last much longer." Mr. Travers made a movement as if to leave her exactly as though he were rather pressed to keep an appointment. "By the by," he said, checking himself, "I suppose the fellow understands thoroughly that we are wealthy. He could hardly doubt that."

"It's the last thought that would enter his head," said Mrs. Travers.

"Oh, yes, just so," Mr. Travers allowed a little impatience to pierce under his casual manner. "But I don't mind telling you that I have had enough of this. I am prepared to make—ah!—to make concessions. A large pecuniary sacrifice. Only the whole position is so absurd! He might conceivably doubt my good faith. Wouldn't it be just as well if you, with your particular influence, would hint to him that with me he would have nothing to fear? I am a man of my word."

"That is the first thing he would naturally think of any man," said Mrs. Travers.

"Will your eyes never be opened?" Mr. Travers began, irritably, then gave it up. "Well, so much the better then. I give you a free hand."

"What made you change your attitude like this?" asked Mrs. Travers, suspiciously.

"My regard for you," he answered without hesitation.

"I intended to join you in your captivity. I was just trying to persuade him. . . ."

"I forbid you absolutely," whispered Mr. Travers, forcibly. "I am glad to get away. I don't want to see you again till your craze is over."

She was confounded by his secret vehemence. But instantly succeeding his fierce whisper came a short, inane society laugh and a much louder, "Not that I attach any importance . . ."

He sprang away, as it were, from his wife, and as he went over the gangway waved his hand to her amiably.

Lighted dimly by the lantern on the roof of the deckhouse Mrs. Travers remained very still with lowered head and an aspect of profound meditation. It lasted but an instant before she moved off and brushing against Lingard passed on with downcast eyes to her deck cabin. Lingard heard the door shut. He waited awhile, made a movement toward the gangway but checked himself and followed Mrs. Travers into her cabin.

It was pitch dark in there. He could see absolutely nothing and was oppressed by the profound stillness unstirred even by the sound of breathing.

"I am going on shore," he began, breaking the black and deathlike silence enclosing him and the invisible woman. "I wanted to say good-bye."

"You are going on shore," repeated Mrs. Travers. Her voice was emotionless, blank, unringing.

"Yes, for a few hours, or for life," Lingard said in measured tones. "I may have to die with them or to die maybe for others. For you, if I only knew how to manage it, I would want to live. I am telling you this because it is dark. If there had been a light in here I wouldn't have come in."

"I wish you had not," uttered the same unringing woman's voice. "You are always coming to me with those lives and those deaths in your hand."

"Yes, it's too much for you," was Lingard's undertoned comment. "You could be no other than true. And you are innocent! Don't wish me life, but wish me luck, for you are innocent—and you will have to take your chance."

"All luck to you, King Tom," he heard her say in the darkness in which he seemed now to perceive the gleam of her hair. "I will take my chance. And try not to come near me again for I am weary of you."

"I can well believe it," murmured Lingard, and stepped out of the cabin, shutting the door after him gently. For half a minute, perhaps, the stillness continued, and then suddenly the chair fell over in the darkness. Next moment Mrs. Travers' head appeared in the light of the lamp left on the roof of the deckhouse. Her bare arms grasped the door posts.

"Wait a moment," she said, loudly, into the shadows of the deck. She heard no footsteps, saw nothing moving except the vanishing white shape of the late Captain H. C. Jorgenson, who was indifferent to the life of men. "Wait, King Tom!" she insisted, raising her voice; then, "I didn't mean it. Don't believe me!" she cried, recklessly.

For the second time that night a woman's voice startled the hearts of men on board the Emma. All except the heart of old Jorgenson. The Malays in the boat looked up from their thwarts. D'Alcacer, sitting in the stern sheets beside Lingard, felt a sinking of his heart.

"What's this?" he exclaimed. "I heard your name on deck. You are wanted, I think."

"Shove off," ordered Lingard, inflexibly, without even looking at d'Alcacer. Mr. Travers was the only one who didn't seem to be aware of anything. A long time after the boat left the Emma's side he leaned toward d'Alcacer.

"I have a most extraordinary feeling," he said in a cautious undertone. "I seem to be in the air—I don't know. Are we on the water, d'Alcacer? Are you quite sure? But of course, we are on the water."

"Yes," said d'Alcacer, in the same tone. "Crossing the Styx—perhaps." He heard Mr. Travers utter an unmoved "Very likely," which he did not expect. Lingard, his hand on the tiller, sat like a man of stone.

"Then your point of view has changed," whispered d'Alcacer.

"I told my wife to make an offer," went on the earnest whisper of the other man. "A sum of money. But to tell you the truth I don't believe very much in its success."

D'Alcacer made no answer and only wondered whether he didn't like better Mr. Travers' other, unreasonable mood. There was no denying the fact that Mr. Travers was a troubling person. Now he suddenly gripped d'Alcacer's fore-arm and added under his breath: "I doubt everything. I doubt whether the offer will ever be made."

All this was not very impressive. There was something pitiful in it: whisper, grip, shudder, as of a child frightened in the dark. But the emotion was deep. Once more that evening, but this time aroused by the husband's distress, d'Alcacer's wonder approached the borders of awe.



"Have you got King Tom's watch in there?" said a voice that seemed not to attach the slightest importance to the question. Jorgenson, outside the door of Mrs. Travers' part of the deckhouse, waited for the answer. He heard a low cry very much like a moan, the startled sound of pain that may be sometimes heard in sick rooms. But it moved him not at all. He would never have dreamt of opening the door unless told to do so, in which case he would have beheld, with complete indifference, Mrs. Travers extended on the floor with her head resting on the edge of the camp bedstead (on which Lingard had never slept), as though she had subsided there from a kneeling posture which is the attitude of prayer, supplication, or defeat. The hours of the night had passed Mrs. Travers by. After flinging herself on her knees, she didn't know why, since she could think of nothing to pray for, had nothing to invoke, and was too far gone for such a futile thing as despair, she had remained there till the sense of exhaustion had grown on her to the point in which she lost her belief in her power to rise. In a half-sitting attitude, her head resting against the edge of the couch and her arms flung above her head, she sank into an indifference, the mere resignation of a worn-out body and a worn-out mind which often is the only sort of rest that comes to people who are desperately ill and is welcome enough in a way. The voice of Jorgenson roused her out of that state. She sat up, aching in every limb and cold all over.

Jorgenson, behind the door, repeated with lifeless obstinacy:

"Do you see King Tom's watch in there?"

Mrs. Travers got up from the floor. She tottered, snatching at the air, and found the back of the armchair under her hand.

"Who's there?"

She was also ready to ask: "Where am I?" but she remembered and at once became the prey of that active dread which had been lying dormant for a few hours in her uneasy and prostrate body. "What time is it?" she faltered out.

"Dawn," pronounced the imperturbable voice at the door. It seemed to her that it was a word that could make any heart sink with apprehension. Dawn! She stood appalled. And the toneless voice outside the door insisted:

"You must have Tom's watch there!"

"I haven't seen it," she cried as if tormented by a dream.

"Look in that desk thing. If you push open the shutter you will be able to see."

Mrs. Travers became aware of the profound darkness of the cabin. Jorgenson heard her staggering in there. After a moment a woman's voice, which struck even him as strange, said in faint tones:

"I have it. It's stopped."

"It doesn't matter. I don't want to know the time. There should be a key about. See it anywhere?"

"Yes, it's fastened to the watch," the dazed voice answered from within. Jorgenson waited before making his request. "Will you pass it out to me? There's precious little time left now!"

The door flew open, which was certainly something Jorgenson had not expected. He had expected but a hand with the watch protruded through a narrow crack, But he didn't start back or give any other sign of surprise at seeing Mrs. Travers fully dressed. Against the faint clearness in the frame of the open shutter she presented to him the dark silhouette of her shoulders surmounted by a sleek head, because her hair was still in the two plaits. To Jorgenson Mrs. Travers in her un-European dress had always been displeasing, almost monstrous. Her stature, her gestures, her general carriage struck his eye as absurdly incongruous with a Malay costume, too ample, too free, too bold—offensive. To Mrs. Travers, Jorgenson, in the dusk of the passage, had the aspect of a dim white ghost, and he chilled her by his ghost's aloofness.

He picked up the watch from her outspread palm without a word of thanks, only mumbling in his moustache, "H'm, yes, that's it. I haven't yet forgotten how to count seconds correctly, but it's better to have a watch."

She had not the slightest notion what he meant. And she did not care. Her mind remained confused and the sense of bodily discomfort oppressed her. She whispered, shamefacedly, "I believe I've slept."

"I haven't," mumbled Jorgenson, growing more and more distinct to her eyes. The brightness of the short dawn increased rapidly as if the sun were impatient to look upon the Settlement. "No fear of that," he added, boastfully.

It occurred to Mrs. Travers that perhaps she had not slept either. Her state had been more like an imperfect, half-conscious, quivering death. She shuddered at the recollection.

"What an awful night," she murmured, drearily.

There was nothing to hope for from Jorgenson. She expected him to vanish, indifferent, like a phantom of the dead carrying off the appropriately dead watch in his hand for some unearthly purpose. Jorgenson didn't move. His was an insensible, almost a senseless presence! Nothing could be extorted from it. But a wave of anguish as confused as all her other sensations swept Mrs. Travers off her feet.

"Can't you tell me something?" she cried.

For half a minute perhaps Jorgenson made no sound; then: "For years I have been telling anybody who cared to ask," he mumbled in his moustache. "Telling Tom, too. And Tom knew what he wanted to do. How's one to know what you are after?"

She had never expected to hear so many words from that rigid shadow. Its monotonous mumble was fascinating, its sudden loquacity was shocking. And in the profound stillness that reigned outside it was as if there had been no one left in the world with her but the phantom of that old adventurer. He was heard again: "What I could tell you would be worse than poison."

Mrs. Travers was not familiar with Jorgenson's consecrated phrases. The mechanical voice, the words themselves, his air of abstraction appalled her. And he hadn't done yet; she caught some more of his unconcerned mumbling: "There is nothing I don't know," and the absurdity of the statement was also appalling. Mrs. Travers gasped and with a wild little laugh:

"Then you know why I called after King Tom last night."

He glanced away along his shoulder through the door of the deckhouse at the growing brightness of the day. She did so, too. It was coming. It had come! Another day! And it seemed to Mrs. Travers a worse calamity than any discovery she had made in her life, than anything she could have imagined to come to her. The very magnitude of horror steadied her, seemed to calm her agitation as some kinds of fatal drugs do before they kill. She laid a steady hand on Jorgenson's sleeve and spoke quietly, distinctly, urgently.

"You were on deck. What I want to know is whether I was heard?"

"Yes," said Jorgenson, absently, "I heard you." Then, as if roused a little, he added less mechanically: "The whole ship heard you."

Mrs. Travers asked herself whether perchance she had not simply screamed. It had never occurred to her before that perhaps she had. At the time it seemed to her she had no strength for more than a whisper. Had she been really so loud? And the deadly chill, the night that had gone by her had left in her body, vanished from her limbs, passed out of her in a flush. Her face was turned away from the light, and that fact gave her courage to continue. Moreover, the man before her was so detached from the shames and prides and schemes of life that he seemed not to count at all, except that somehow or other he managed at times to catch the mere literal sense of the words addressed to him—and answer them. And answer them! Answer unfailingly, impersonally, without any feeling.

"You saw Tom—King Tom? Was he there? I mean just then, at the moment. There was a light at the gangway. Was he on deck?"

"No. In the boat."

"Already? Could I have been heard in the boat down there? You say the whole ship heard me—and I don't care. But could he hear me?"

"Was it Tom you were after?" said Jorgenson in the tone of a negligent remark.

"Can't you answer me?" she cried, angrily.

"Tom was busy. No child's play. The boat shoved off," said Jorgenson, as if he were merely thinking aloud.

"You won't tell me, then?" Mrs. Travers apostrophized him, fearlessly. She was not afraid of Jorgenson. Just then she was afraid of nothing and nobody. And Jorgenson went on thinking aloud.

"I guess he will be kept busy from now on and so shall I."

Mrs. Travers seemed ready to take by the shoulders and shake that dead-voiced spectre till it begged for mercy. But suddenly her strong white arms fell down by her side, the arms of an exhausted woman.

"I shall never, never find out," she whispered to herself.

She cast down her eyes in intolerable humiliation, in intolerable desire, as though she had veiled her face. Not a sound reached the loneliness of her thought. But when she raised her eyes again Jorgenson was no longer standing before her.

For an instant she saw him all black in the brilliant and narrow doorway, and the next moment he had vanished outside, as if devoured by the hot blaze of light. The sun had risen on the Shore of Refuge.

When Mrs. Travers came out on deck herself it was as it were with a boldly unveiled face, with wide-open and dry, sleepless eyes. Their gaze, undismayed by the sunshine, sought the innermost heart of things each day offered to the passion of her dread and of her impatience. The lagoon, the beach, the colours and the shapes struck her more than ever as a luminous painting on an immense cloth hiding the movements of an inexplicable life. She shaded her eyes with her hand. There were figures on the beach, moving dark dots on the white semicircle bounded by the stockades, backed by roof ridges above the palm groves. Further back the mass of carved white coral on the roof of the mosque shone like a white day-star. Religion and politics—always politics! To the left, before Tengga's enclosure, the loom of fire had changed into a pillar of smoke. But there were some big trees over there and she couldn't tell whether the night council had prolonged its sitting. Some vague forms were still moving there and she could picture them to herself: Daman, the supreme chief of sea-robbers, with a vengeful heart and the eyes of a gazelle; Sentot, the sour fanatic with the big turban, that other saint with a scanty loin cloth and ashes in his hair, and Tengga whom she could imagine from hearsay, fat, good-tempered, crafty, but ready to spill blood on his ambitious way and already bold enough to flaunt a yellow state umbrella at the very gate of Belarab's stockade—so they said.

She saw, she imagined, she even admitted now the reality of those things no longer a mere pageant marshalled for her vision with barbarous splendour and savage emphasis. She questioned it no longer—but she did not feel it in her soul any more than one feels the depth of the sea under its peaceful glitter or the turmoil of its grey fury. Her eyes ranged afar, unbelieving and fearful—and then all at once she became aware of the empty Cage with its interior in disorder, the camp bedsteads not taken away, a pillow lying on the deck, the dying flame like a shred of dull yellow stuff inside the lamp left hanging over the table. The whole struck her as squalid and as if already decayed, a flimsy and idle phantasy. But Jorgenson, seated on the deck with his back to it, was not idle. His occupation, too, seemed fantastic and so truly childish that her heart sank at the man's utter absorption in it. Jorgenson had before him, stretched on the deck, several bits of rather thin and dirty-looking rope of different lengths from a couple of inches to about a foot. He had (an idiot might have amused himself in that way) set fire to the ends of them. They smouldered with amazing energy, emitting now and then a splutter, and in the calm air within the bulwarks sent up very slender, exactly parallel threads of smoke, each with a vanishing curl at the end; and the absorption with which Jorgenson gave himself up to that pastime was enough to shake all confidence in his sanity.

In one half-opened hand he was holding the watch. He was also provided with a scrap of paper and the stump of a pencil. Mrs. Travers was confident that he did not either hear or see her.

"Captain Jorgenson, you no doubt think. . . ."

He tried to wave her away with the stump of the pencil. He did not want to be interrupted in his strange occupation. He was playing very gravely indeed with those bits of string. "I lighted them all together," he murmured, keeping one eye on the dial of the watch. Just then the shortest piece of string went out, utterly consumed. Jorgenson made a hasty note and remained still while Mrs. Travers looked at him with stony eyes thinking that nothing in the world was any use. The other threads of smoke went on vanishing in spirals before the attentive Jorgenson.

"What are you doing?" asked Mrs. Travers, drearily.

"Timing match . . . precaution. . . ."

He had never in Mrs. Travers' experience been less spectral than then. He displayed a weakness of the flesh. He was impatient at her intrusion. He divided his attention between the threads of smoke and the face of the watch with such interest that the sudden reports of several guns breaking for the first time for days the stillness of the lagoon and the illusion of the painted scene failed to make him raise his head. He only jerked it sideways a little. Mrs. Travers stared at the wisps of white vapour floating above Belarab's stockade. The series of sharp detonations ceased and their combined echoes came back over the lagoon like a long-drawn and rushing sigh.

"What's this?" cried Mrs. Travers.

"Belarab's come home," said Jorgenson.

The last thread of smoke disappeared and Jorgenson got up. He had lost all interest in the watch and thrust it carelessly into his pocket, together with the bit of paper and the stump of pencil. He had resumed his aloofness from the life of men, but approaching the bulwark he condescended to look toward Belarab's stockade.

"Yes, he is home," he said very low.

"What's going to happen?" cried Mrs. Travers. "What's to be done?" Jorgenson kept up his appearance of communing with himself.

"I know what to do," he mumbled.

"You are lucky," said Mrs. Travers, with intense bitterness.

It seemed to her that she was abandoned by all the world. The opposite shore of the lagoon had resumed its aspect of a painted scene that would never roll up to disclose the truth behind its blinding and soulless splendour. It seemed to her that she had said her last words to all of them: to d'Alcacer, to her husband, to Lingard himself—and that they had all gone behind the curtain forever out of her sight. Of all the white men Jorgenson alone was left, that man who had done with life so completely that his mere presence robbed it of all heat and mystery, leaving nothing but its terrible, its revolting insignificance. And Mrs. Travers was ready for revolt. She cried with suppressed passion:

"Are you aware, Captain Jorgenson, that I am alive?"

He turned his eyes on her, and for a moment she was daunted by their cold glassiness. But before they could drive her away, something like the gleam of a spark gave them an instant's animation.

"I want to go and join them. I want to go ashore," she said, firmly. "There!"

Her bare and extended arm pointed across the lagoon, and Jorgenson's resurrected eyes glided along the white limb and wandered off into space.

"No boat," he muttered.

"There must be a canoe. I know there is a canoe. I want it."

She stepped forward compelling, commanding, trying to concentrate in her glance all her will power, the sense of her own right to dispose of herself and her claim to be served to the last moment of her life. It was as if she had done nothing. Jorgenson didn't flinch.

"Which of them are you after?" asked his blank, unringing voice.

She continued to look at him; her face had stiffened into a severe mask; she managed to say distinctly:

"I suppose you have been asking yourself that question for some time, Captain Jorgenson?"

"No. I am asking you now."

His face disclosed nothing to Mrs. Travers' bold and weary eyes. "What could you do over there?" Jorgenson added as merciless, as irrepressible, and sincere as though he were the embodiment of that inner voice that speaks in all of us at times and, like Jorgenson, is offensive and difficult to answer.

"Remember that I am not a shadow but a living woman still, Captain Jorgenson. I can live and I can die. Send me over to share their fate."

"Sure you would like?" asked the roused Jorgenson in a voice that had an unexpected living quality, a faint vibration which no man had known in it for years. "There may be death in it," he mumbled, relapsing into indifference.

"Who cares?" she said, recklessly. "All I want is to ask Tom a question and hear his answer. That's what I would like. That's what I must have."


Along the hot and gloomy forest path, neglected, overgrown and strangled in the fierce life of the jungle, there came a faint rustle of leaves. Jaffir, the servant of princes, the messenger of great men, walked, stooping, with a broad chopper in his hand. He was naked from the waist upward, his shoulders and arms were scratched and bleeding. A multitude of biting insects made a cloud about his head. He had lost his costly and ancient head-kerchief, and when in a slightly wider space he stopped in a listening attitude anybody would have taken him for a fugitive.

He waved his arms about, slapping his shoulders, the sides of his head, his heaving flanks; then, motionless, listened again for a while. A sound of firing, not so much made faint by distance as muffled by the masses of foliage, reached his ears, dropping shots which he could have counted if he had cared to. "There is fighting in the forest already," he thought. Then putting his head low in the tunnel of vegetation he dashed forward out of the horrible cloud of flies, which he actually managed for an instant to leave behind him. But it was not from the cruelty of insects that he was flying, for no man could hope to drop that escort, and Jaffir in his life of a faithful messenger had been accustomed, if such an extravagant phrase may be used, to be eaten alive. Bent nearly double he glided and dodged between the trees, through the undergrowth, his brown body streaming with sweat, his firm limbs gleaming like limbs of imperishable bronze through the mass of green leaves that are forever born and forever dying. For all his desperate haste he was no longer a fugitive; he was simply a man in a tremendous hurry. His flight, which had begun with a bound and a rush and a general display of great presence of mind, was a simple issue from a critical situation. Issues from critical situations are generally simple if one is quick enough to think of them in time. He became aware very soon that the attempt to pursue him had been given up, but he had taken the forest path and had kept up his pace because he had left his Rajah and the lady Immada beset by enemies on the edge of the forest, as good as captives to a party of Tengga's men.

Belarab's hesitation had proved too much even for Hassim's hereditary patience in such matters. It is but becoming that weighty negotiations should be spread over many days, that the same requests and arguments should be repeated in the same words, at many successive interviews, and receive the same evasive answers. Matters of state demand the dignity of such a procedure as if time itself had to wait on the power and wisdom of rulers. Such are the proceedings of embassies and the dignified patience of envoys. But at this time of crisis Hassim's impatience obtained the upper hand; and though he never departed from the tradition of soft speech and restrained bearing while following with his sister in the train of the pious Belarab, he had his moments of anger, of anxiety, of despondency. His friendships, his future, his country's destinies were at stake, while Belarab's camp wandered deviously over the back country as if influenced by the vacillation of the ruler's thought, the very image of uncertain fate.

Often no more than the single word "Good" was all the answer vouchsafed to Hassim's daily speeches. The lesser men, companions of the Chief, treated him with deference; but Hassim could feel the opposition from the women's side of the camp working against his cause in subservience to the mere caprice of the new wife, a girl quite gentle and kind to her dependents, but whose imagination had run away with her completely and had made her greedy for the loot of the yacht from mere simplicity and innocence. What could Hassim, that stranger, wandering and poor, offer for her acceptance? Nothing. The wealth of his far-off country was but an idle tale, the talk of an exile looking for help.

At night Hassim had to listen to the anguished doubts of Immada, the only companion of his life, child of the same mother, brave as a man, but in her fears a very woman. She whispered them to him far into the night while the camp of the great Belarab was hushed in sleep and the fires had sunk down to mere glowing embers. Hassim soothed her gravely. But he, too, was a native of Wajo where men are more daring and quicker of mind than other Malays. More energetic, too, and energy does not go without an inner fire. Hassim lost patience and one evening he declared to his sister Immada: "To-morrow we leave this ruler without a mind and go back to our white friend."

Therefore next morning, letting the camp move on the direct road to the settlement, Hassim and Immada took a course of their own. It was a lonely path between the jungle and the clearings. They had two attendants with them, Hassim's own men, men of Wajo; and so the lady Immada, when she had a mind to, could be carried, after the manner of the great ladies of Wajo who need not put foot to the ground unless they like. The lady Immada, accustomed to the hardships that are the lot of exiles, preferred to walk, but from time to time she let herself be carried for a short distance out of regard for the feelings of her attendants. The party made good time during the early hours, and Hassim expected confidently to reach before evening the shore of the lagoon at a spot very near the stranded Emma. At noon they rested in the shade near a dark pool within the edge of the forest; and it was there that Jaffir met them, much to his and their surprise. It was the occasion of a long talk. Jaffir, squatting on his heels, discoursed in measured tones. He had entranced listeners. The story of Carter's exploit amongst the Shoals had not reached Belarab's camp. It was a great shock to Hassim, but the sort of half smile with which he had been listening to Jaffir never altered its character. It was the Princess Immada who cried out in distress and wrung her hands. A deep silence fell.

Indeed, before the fatal magnitude of the fact it seemed even to those Malays that there was nothing to say and Jaffir, lowering his head, respected his Prince's consternation. Then, before that feeling could pass away from that small group of people seated round a few smouldering sticks, the noisy approach of a large party of men made them all leap to their feet. Before they could make another movement they perceived themselves discovered. The men were armed as if bound on some warlike expedition. Amongst them Sentot, in his loin cloth and with unbound wild locks, capered and swung his arms about like the lunatic he was. The others' astonishment made them halt, but their attitude was obviously hostile. In the rear a portly figure flanked by two attendants carrying swords was approaching prudently. Rajah Hassim resumed quietly his seat on the trunk of a fallen tree, Immada rested her hand lightly on her brother's shoulder, and Jaffir, squatting down again, looked at the ground with all his faculties and every muscle of his body tensely on the alert.

"Tengga's fighters," he murmured, scornfully.

In the group somebody shouted, and was answered by shouts from afar. There could be no thought of resistance. Hassim slipped the emerald ring from his finger stealthily and Jaffir got hold of it by an almost imperceptible movement. The Rajah did not even look at the trusty messenger.

"Fail not to give it to the white man," he murmured. "Thy servant hears, O Rajah. It's a charm of great power."

The shadows were growing to the westward. Everybody was silent, and the shifting group of armed men seemed to have drifted closer. Immada, drawing the end of a scarf across her face, confronted the advance with only one eye exposed. On the flank of the armed men Sentot was performing a slow dance but he, too, seemed to have gone dumb.

"Now go," breathed out Rajah Hassim, his gaze levelled into space immovably.

For a second or more Jaffir did not stir, then with a sudden leap from his squatting posture he flew through the air and struck the jungle in a great commotion of leaves, vanishing instantly like a swimmer diving from on high. A deep murmur of surprise arose in the armed party, a spear was thrown, a shot was fired, three or four men dashed into the forest, but they soon returned crestfallen with apologetic smiles; while Jaffir, striking an old path that seemed to lead in the right direction, ran on in solitude, raising a rustle of leaves, with a naked parang in his hand and a cloud of flies about his head. The sun declining to the westward threw shafts of light across his dark path. He ran at a springy half-trot, his eyes watchful, his broad chest heaving, and carrying the emerald ring on the forefinger of a clenched hand as though he were afraid it should slip off, fly off, be torn from him by an invisible force, or spirited away by some enchantment. Who could tell what might happen? There were evil forces at work in the world, powerful incantations, horrible apparitions. The messenger of princes and of great men, charged with the supreme appeal of his master, was afraid in the deepening shade of the forest. Evil presences might have been lurking in that gloom. Still the sun had not set yet. He could see its face through the leaves as he skirted the shore of the lagoon. But what if Allah's call should come to him suddenly and he die as he ran!

He drew a long breath on the shore of the lagoon within about a hundred yards from the stranded bows of the Emma. The tide was out and he walked to the end of a submerged log and sent out a hail for a boat. Jorgenson's voice answered. The sun had sunk behind the forest belt of the coast. All was still as far as the eye could reach over the black water. A slight breeze came along it and Jaffir on the brink, waiting for a canoe, shivered a little.

At the same moment Carter, exhausted by thirty hours of uninterrupted toil at the head of whites and Malays in getting the yacht afloat, dropped into Mrs. Travers' deck chair, on board the Hermit, said to the devoted Wasub: "Let a good watch be kept to-night, old man," glanced contentedly at the setting sun and fell asleep.


There was in the bows of the Emma an elevated grating over the heel of her bowsprit whence the eye could take in the whole range of her deck and see every movement of her crew. It was a spot safe from eaves-droppers, though, of course, exposed to view. The sun had just set on the supreme content of Carter when Jorgenson and Jaffir sat down side by side between the knightheads of the Emma and, public but unapproachable, impressive and secret, began to converse in low tones.

Every Wajo fugitive who manned the hulk felt the approach of a decisive moment. Their minds were made up and their hearts beat steadily. They were all desperate men determined to fight and to die and troubling not about the manner of living or dying. This was not the case with Mrs. Travers who, having shut herself up in the deckhouse, was profoundly troubled about those very things, though she, too, felt desperate enough to welcome almost any solution.

Of all the people on board she alone did not know anything of that conference. In her deep and aimless thinking she had only become aware of the absence of the slightest sound on board the Emma. Not a rustle, not a footfall. The public view of Jorgenson and Jaffir in deep consultation had the effect of taking all wish to move from every man.

Twilight enveloped the two figures forward while they talked, looking in the stillness of their pose like carved figures of European and Asiatic contrasted in intimate contact. The deepening dusk had nearly effaced them when at last they rose without warning, as it were, and thrilling the heart of the beholders by the sudden movement. But they did not separate at once. They lingered in their high place as if awaiting the fall of complete darkness, a fit ending to their mysterious communion. Jaffir had given Jorgenson the whole story of the ring, the symbol of a friendship matured and confirmed on the night of defeat, on the night of flight from a far-distant land sleeping unmoved under the wrath and fire of heaven.

"Yes, Tuan," continued Jaffir, "it was first sent out to the white man, on a night of mortal danger, a present to remember a friend by. I was the bearer of it then even as I am now. Then, as now, it was given to me and I was told to save myself and hand the ring over in confirmation of my message. I did so and that white man seemed to still the very storm to save my Rajah. He was not one to depart and forget him whom he had once called his friend. My message was but a message of good-bye, but the charm of the ring was strong enough to draw all the power of that white man to the help of my master. Now I have no words to say. Rajah Hassim asks for nothing. But what of that? By the mercy of Allah all things are the same, the compassion of the Most High, the power of the ring, the heart of the white man. Nothing is changed, only the friendship is a little older and love has grown because of the shared dangers and long companionship. Therefore, Tuan, I have no fear. But how am I to get the ring to the Rajah Laut? Just hand it to him. The last breath would be time enough if they were to spear me at his feet. But alas! the bush is full of Tengga's men, the beach is open and I could never even hope to reach the gate."

Jorgenson, with his hands deep in the pockets of his tunic, listened, looking down. Jaffir showed as much consternation as his nature was capable of.

"Our refuge is with God," he murmured. "But what is to be done? Has your wisdom no stratagem, O Tuan?"

Jorgenson did not answer. It appeared as though he had no stratagem. But God is great and Jaffir waited on the other's immobility, anxious but patient, perplexed yet hopeful in his grim way, while the night flowing on from the dark forest near by hid their two figures from the sight of observing men. Before the silence of Jorgenson Jaffir began to talk practically. Now that Tengga had thrown off the mask Jaffir did not think that he could land on the beach without being attacked, captured, nay killed, since a man like he, though he could save himself by taking flight at the order of his master, could not be expected to surrender without a fight. He mentioned that in the exercise of his important functions he knew how to glide like a shadow, creep like a snake, and almost burrow his way underground. He was Jaffir who had never been foiled. No bog, morass, great river or jungle could stop him. He would have welcomed them. In many respects they were the friends of a crafty messenger. But that was an open beach, and there was no other way, and as things stood now every bush around, every tree trunk, every deep shadow of house or fence would conceal Tengga's men or such of Daman's infuriated partisans as had already made their way to the Settlement. How could he hope to traverse the distance between the water's edge and Belarab's gate which now would remain shut night and day? Not only himself but anybody from the Emma would be sure to be rushed upon and speared in twenty places.

He reflected for a moment in silence.

"Even you, Tuan, could not accomplish the feat."

"True," muttered Jorgenson.

When, after a period of meditation, he looked round, Jaffir was no longer by his side. He had descended from the high place and was probably squatting on his heels in some dark nook on the fore deck. Jorgenson knew Jaffir too well to suppose that he would go to sleep. He would sit there thinking himself into a state of fury, then get away from the Emma in some way or other, go ashore and perish fighting. He would, in fact, run amok; for it looked as if there could be no way out of the situation. Then, of course, Lingard would know nothing of Hassim and Immada's captivity for the ring would never reach him—the ring that could tell its own tale. No, Lingard would know nothing. He would know nothing about anybody outside Belarab's stockade till the end came, whatever the end might be, for all those people that lived the life of men. Whether to know or not to know would be good for Lingard Jorgenson could not tell. He admitted to himself that here there was something that he, Jorgenson, could not tell. All the possibilities were wrapped up in doubt, uncertain, like all things pertaining to the life of men. It was only when giving a short thought to himself that Jorgenson had no doubt. He, of course, would know what to do.

On the thin face of that old adventurer hidden in the night not a feature moved, not a muscle twitched, as he descended in his turn and walked aft along the decks of the Emma. His faded eyes, which had seen so much, did not attempt to explore the night, they never gave a glance to the silent watchers against whom he brushed. Had a light been flashed on him suddenly he would have appeared like a man walking in his sleep: the somnambulist of an eternal dream. Mrs. Travers heard his footsteps pass along the side of the deckhouse. She heard them—and let her head fall again on her bare arms thrown over the little desk before which she sat.

Jorgenson, standing by the taffrail, noted the faint reddish glow in the massive blackness of the further shore. Jorgenson noted things quickly, cursorily, perfunctorily, as phenomena unrelated to his own apparitional existence of a visiting ghost. They were but passages in the game of men who were still playing at life. He knew too well how much that game was worth to be concerned about its course. He had given up the habit of thinking for so long that the sudden resumption of it irked him exceedingly, especially as he had to think on toward a conclusion. In that world of eternal oblivion, of which he had tasted before Lingard made him step back into the life of men, all things were settled once for all. He was irritated by his own perplexity which was like a reminder of that mortality made up of questions and passions from which he had fancied he had freed himself forever. By a natural association his contemptuous annoyance embraced the existence of Mrs. Travers, too, for how could he think of Tom Lingard, of what was good or bad for King Tom, without thinking also of that woman who had managed to put the ghost of a spark even into his own extinguished eyes? She was of no account; but Tom's integrity was. It was of Tom that he had to think, of what was good or bad for Tom in that absurd and deadly game of his life. Finally he reached the conclusion that to be given the ring would be good for Tom Lingard. Just to be given the ring and no more. The ring and no more.

"It will help him to make up his mind," muttered Jorgenson in his moustache, as if compelled by an obscure conviction. It was only then that he stirred slightly and turned away from the loom of the fires on the distant shore. Mrs. Travers heard his footsteps passing again along the side of the deckhouse—and this time never raised her head. That man was sleepless, mad, childish, and inflexible. He was impossible. He haunted the decks of that hulk aimlessly. . . .

It was, however, in pursuance of a very distinct aim that Jorgenson had gone forward again to seek Jaffir.

The first remark he had to offer to Jaffir's consideration was that the only person in the world who had the remotest chance of reaching Belarab's gate on that night was that tall white woman the Rajah Laut had brought on board, the wife of one of the captive white chiefs. Surprise made Jaffir exclaim, but he wasn't prepared to deny that. It was possible that for many reasons, some quite simple and others very subtle, those sons of the Evil One belonging to Tengga and Daman would refrain from killing a white woman walking alone from the water's edge to Belarab's gate. Yes, it was just possible that she might walk unharmed.

"Especially if she carried a blazing torch," muttered Jorgenson in his moustache. He told Jaffir that she was sitting now in the dark, mourning silently in the manner of white women. She had made a great outcry in the morning to be allowed to join the white men on shore. He, Jorgenson, had refused her the canoe. Ever since she had secluded herself in the deckhouse in great distress.

Jaffir listened to it all without particular sympathy. And when Jorgenson added, "It is in my mind, O Jaffir, to let her have her will now," he answered by a "Yes, by Allah! let her go. What does it matter?" of the greatest unconcern, till Jorgenson added:

"Yes. And she may carry the ring to the Rajah Laut."

Jorgenson saw Jaffir, the grim and impassive Jaffir, give a perceptible start. It seemed at first an impossible task to persuade Jaffir to part with the ring. The notion was too monstrous to enter his mind, to move his heart. But at last he surrendered in an awed whisper, "God is great. Perhaps it is her destiny."

Being a Wajo man he did not regard women as untrustworthy or unequal to a task requiring courage and judgment. Once he got over the personal feeling he handed the ring to Jorgenson with only one reservation, "You know, Tuan, that she must on no account put it on her finger."

"Let her hang it round her neck," suggested Jorgenson, readily.

As Jorgenson moved toward the deckhouse it occurred to him that perhaps now that woman Tom Lingard had taken in tow might take it into her head to refuse to leave the Emma. This did not disturb him very much. All those people moved in the dark. He himself at that particular moment was moving in the dark. Beyond the simple wish to guide Lingard's thought in the direction of Hassim and Immada, to help him to make up his mind at last to a ruthless fidelity to his purpose Jorgenson had no other aim. The existence of those whites had no meaning on earth. They were the sort of people that pass without leaving footprints. That woman would have to act in ignorance. And if she refused to go then in ignorance she would have to stay on board. He would tell her nothing.

As a matter of fact, he discovered that Mrs. Travers would simply have nothing to do with him. She would not listen to what he had to say. She desired him, a mere weary voice confined in the darkness of the deck cabin, to go away and trouble her no more. But the ghost of Jorgenson was not easily exorcised. He, too, was a mere voice in the outer darkness, inexorable, insisting that she should come out on deck and listen. At last he found the right words to say.

"It is something about Tom that I want to tell you. You wish him well, don't you?"

After this she could not refuse to come out on deck, and once there she listened patiently to that white ghost muttering and mumbling above her drooping head.

"It seems to me, Captain Jorgenson," she said after he had ceased, "that you are simply trifling with me. After your behaviour to me this morning, I can have nothing to say to you."

"I have a canoe for you now," mumbled Jorgenson.

"You have some new purpose in view now," retorted Mrs. Travers with spirit. "But you won't make it clear to me. What is it that you have in your mind?"

"Tom's interest."

"Are you really his friend?"

"He brought me here. You know it. He has talked a lot to you."

"He did. But I ask myself whether you are capable of being anybody's friend."

"You ask yourself!" repeated Jorgenson, very quiet and morose. "If I am not his friend I should like to know who is."

Mrs. Travers asked, quickly: "What's all this about a ring? What ring?"

"Tom's property. He has had it for years."

"And he gave it to you? Doesn't he care for it?"

"Don't know. It's just a thing."

"But it has a meaning as between you and him. Is that so?"

"Yes. It has. He will know what it means."

"What does it mean?"

"I am too much his friend not to hold my tongue."

"What! To me!"

"And who are you?" was Jorgenson's unexpected remark. "He has told you too much already."

"Perhaps he has," whispered Mrs. Travers, as if to herself. "And you want that ring to be taken to him?" she asked, in a louder tone.

"Yes. At once. For his good."

"Are you certain it is for his good? Why can't you. . . ."

She checked herself. That man was hopeless. He would never tell anything and there was no means of compelling him. He was invulnerable, unapproachable. . . . He was dead.

"Just give it to him," mumbled Jorgenson as though pursuing a mere fixed idea. "Just slip it quietly into his hand. He will understand."

"What is it? Advice, warning, signal for action?"

"It may be anything," uttered Jorgenson, morosely, but as it were in a mollified tone. "It's meant for his good."

"Oh, if I only could trust that man!" mused Mrs. Travers, half aloud.

Jorgenson's slight noise in the throat might have been taken for an expression of sympathy. But he remained silent.

"Really, this is most extraordinary!" cried Mrs. Travers, suddenly aroused. "Why did you come to me? Why should it be my task? Why should you want me specially to take it to him?"

"I will tell you why," said Jorgenson's blank voice. "It's because there is no one on board this hulk that can hope to get alive inside that stockade. This morning you told me yourself that you were ready to die—for Tom—or with Tom. Well, risk it then. You are the only one that has half a chance to get through—and Tom, maybe, is waiting."

"The only one," repeated Mrs. Travers with an abrupt movement forward and an extended hand before which Jorgenson stepped back a pace. "Risk it! Certainly! Where's that mysterious ring?"

"I have got it in my pocket," said Jorgenson, readily; yet nearly half a minute elapsed before Mrs. Travers felt the characteristic shape being pressed into her half-open palm. "Don't let anybody see it," Jorgenson admonished her in a murmur. "Hide it somewhere about you. Why not hang it round your neck?"

Mrs. Travers' hand remained firmly closed on the ring. "Yes, that will do," she murmured, hastily. "I'll be back in a moment. Get everything ready." With those words she disappeared inside the deckhouse and presently threads of light appeared in the interstices of the boards. Mrs. Travers had lighted a candle in there. She was busy hanging that ring round her neck. She was going. Yes—taking the risk for Tom's sake.

"Nobody can resist that man," Jorgenson muttered to himself with increasing moroseness. "I couldn't."


Jorgenson, after seeing the canoe leave the ship's side, ceased to live intellectually. There was no need for more thinking, for any display of mental ingenuity. He had done with it all. All his notions were perfectly fixed and he could go over them in the same ghostly way in which he haunted the deck of the Emma. At the sight of the ring Lingard would return to Hassim and Immada, now captives, too, though Jorgenson certainly did not think them in any serious danger. What had happened really was that Tengga was now holding hostages, and those Jorgenson looked upon as Lingard's own people. They were his. He had gone in with them deep, very deep. They had a hold and a claim on King Tom just as many years ago people of that very race had had a hold and a claim on him, Jorgenson. Only Tom was a much bigger man. A very big man. Nevertheless, Jorgenson didn't see why he should escape his own fate—Jorgenson's fate—to be absorbed, captured, made their own either in failure or in success. It was an unavoidable fatality and Jorgenson felt certain that the ring would compel Lingard to face it without flinching. What he really wanted Lingard to do was to cease to take the slightest interest in those whites—who were the sort of people that left no footprints.

Perhaps at first sight, sending that woman to Lingard was not the best way toward that end. Jorgenson, however, had a distinct impression in which his morning talk with Mrs. Travers had only confirmed him, that those two had quarrelled for good. As, indeed, was unavoidable. What did Tom Lingard want with any woman? The only woman in Jorgenson's life had come in by way of exchange for a lot of cotton stuffs and several brass guns. This fact could not but affect Jorgenson's judgment since obviously in this case such a transaction was impossible. Therefore the case was not serious. It didn't exist. What did exist was Lingard's relation to the Wajo exiles, a great and warlike adventure such as no rover in those seas had ever attempted.

That Tengga was much more ready to negotiate than to fight, the old adventurer had not the slightest doubt. How Lingard would deal with him was not a concern of Jorgenson's. That would be easy enough. Nothing prevented Lingard from going to see Tengga and talking to him with authority. All that ambitious person really wanted was to have a share in Lingard's wealth, in Lingard's power, in Lingard's friendship. A year before Tengga had once insinuated to Jorgenson, "In what way am I less worthy of being a friend than Belarab?"

It was a distinct overture, a disclosure of the man's innermost mind. Jorgenson, of course, had met it with a profound silence. His task was not diplomacy but the care of stores.

After the effort of connected mental processes in order to bring about Mrs. Travers' departure he was anxious to dismiss the whole matter from his mind. The last thought he gave to it was severely practical. It occurred to him that it would be advisable to attract in some way or other Lingard's attention to the lagoon. In the language of the sea a single rocket is properly a signal of distress, but, in the circumstances, a group of three sent up simultaneously would convey a warning. He gave his orders and watched the rockets go up finely with a trail of red sparks, a bursting of white stars high up in the air, and three loud reports in quick succession. Then he resumed his pacing of the whole length of the hulk, confident that after this Tom would guess that something was up and set a close watch over the lagoon. No doubt these mysterious rockets would have a disturbing effect on Tengga and his friends and cause a great excitement in the Settlement; but for that Jorgenson did not care. The Settlement was already in such a turmoil that a little more excitement did not matter. What Jorgenson did not expect, however, was the sound of a musket-shot fired from the jungle facing the bows of the Emma. It caused him to stop dead short. He had heard distinctly the bullet strike the curve of the bow forward. "Some hot-headed ass fired that," he said to himself, contemptuously. It simply disclosed to him the fact that he was already besieged on the shore side and set at rest his doubts as to the length Tengga was prepared to go. Any length! Of course there was still time for Tom to put everything right with six words, unless . . . Jorgenson smiled, grimly, in the dark and resumed his tireless pacing.

What amused him was to observe the fire which had been burning night and day before Tengga's residence suddenly extinguished. He pictured to himself the wild rush with bamboo buckets to the lagoon shore, the confusion, the hurry and jostling in a great hissing of water midst clouds of steam. The image of the fat Tengga's consternation appealed to Jorgenson's sense of humour for about five seconds. Then he took up the binoculars from the roof of the deckhouse.

The bursting of the three white stars over the lagoon had given him a momentary glimpse of the black speck of the canoe taking over Mrs. Travers. He couldn't find it again with the glass, it was too dark; but the part of the shore for which it was steered would be somewhere near the angle of Belarab's stockade nearest to the beach. This Jorgenson could make out in the faint rosy glare of fires burning inside. Jorgenson was certain that Lingard was looking toward the Emma through the most convenient loophole he could find.

As obviously Mrs. Travers could not have paddled herself across, two men were taking her over; and for the steersman she had Jaffir. Though he had assented to Jorgenson's plan Jaffir was anxious to accompany the ring as near as possible to its destination. Nothing but dire necessity had induced him to part with the talisman. Crouching in the stern and flourishing his paddle from side to side he glared at the back of the canvas deck-chair which had been placed in the middle for Mrs. Travers. Wrapped up in the darkness she reclined in it with her eyes closed, faintly aware of the ring hung low on her breast. As the canoe was rather large it was moving very slowly. The two men dipped their paddles without a splash: and surrendering herself passively, in a temporary relaxation of all her limbs, to this adventure Mrs. Travers had no sense of motion at all. She, too, like Jorgenson, was tired of thinking. She abandoned herself to the silence of that night full of roused passions and deadly purposes. She abandoned herself to an illusory feeling; to the impression that she was really resting. For the first time in many days she could taste the relief of being alone. The men with her were less than nothing. She could not speak to them; she could not understand them; the canoe might have been moving by enchantment—if it did move at all. Like a half-conscious sleeper she was on the verge of saying to herself, "What a strange dream I am having."

The low tones of Jaffir's voice stole into it quietly telling the men to cease paddling, and the long canoe came to a rest slowly, no more than ten yards from the beach. The party had been provided with a torch which was to be lighted before the canoe touched the shore, thus giving a character of openness to this desperate expedition. "And if it draws fire on us," Jaffir had commented to Jorgenson, "well, then, we shall see whose fate it is to die on this night."

"Yes," had muttered Jorgenson. "We shall see."

Jorgenson saw at last the small light of the torch against the blackness of the stockade. He strained his hearing for a possible volley of musketry fire but no sound came to him over the broad surface of the lagoon. Over there the man with the torch, the other paddler, and Jaffir himself impelling with a gentle motion of his paddle the canoe toward the shore, had the glistening eyeballs and the tense faces of silent excitement. The ruddy glare smote Mrs. Travers' closed eyelids but she didn't open her eyes till she felt the canoe touch the strand. The two men leaped instantly out of it. Mrs. Travers rose, abruptly. Nobody made a sound. She stumbled out of the canoe on to the beach and almost before she had recovered her balance the torch was thrust into her hand. The heat, the nearness of the blaze confused and blinded her till, instinctively, she raised the torch high above her head. For a moment she stood still, holding aloft the fierce flame from which a few sparks were falling slowly.

A naked bronze arm lighted from above pointed out the direction and Mrs. Travers began to walk toward the featureless black mass of the stockade. When after a few steps she looked back over her shoulder, the lagoon, the beach, the canoe, the men she had just left had become already invisible. She was alone bearing up a blazing torch on an earth that was a dumb shadow shifting under her feet. At last she reached firmer ground and the dark length of the palisade untouched as yet by the light of the torch seemed to her immense, intimidating. She felt ready to drop from sheer emotion. But she moved on.

"A little more to the left," shouted a strong voice.

It vibrated through all her fibres, rousing like the call of a trumpet, went far beyond her, filled all the space. Mrs. Travers stood still for a moment, then casting far away from her the burning torch ran forward blindly with her hands extended toward the great sound of Lingard's voice, leaving behind her the light flaring and spluttering on the ground. She stumbled and was only saved from a fall by her hands coming in contact with the rough stakes. The stockade rose high above her head and she clung to it with widely open arms, pressing her whole body against the rugged surface of that enormous and unscalable palisade. She heard through it low voices inside, heavy thuds; and felt at every blow a slight vibration of the ground under her feet. She glanced fearfully over her shoulder and saw nothing in the darkness but the expiring glow of the torch she had thrown away and the sombre shimmer of the lagoon bordering the opaque darkness of the shore. Her strained eyeballs seemed to detect mysterious movements in the darkness and she gave way to irresistible terror, to a shrinking agony of apprehension. Was she to be transfixed by a broad blade, to the high, immovable wall of wood against which she was flattening herself desperately, as though she could hope to penetrate it by the mere force of her fear? She had no idea where she was, but as a matter of fact she was a little to the left of the principal gate and almost exactly under one of the loopholes of the stockade. Her excessive anguish passed into insensibility. She ceased to hear, to see, and even to feel the contact of the surface to which she clung. Lingard's voice somewhere from the sky above her head was directing her, distinct, very close, full of concern.

"You must stoop low. Lower yet."

The stagnant blood of her body began to pulsate languidly. She stooped low—lower yet—so low that she had to sink on her knees, and then became aware of a faint smell of wood smoke mingled with the confused murmur of agitated voices. This came to her through an opening no higher than her head in her kneeling posture, and no wider than the breadth of two stakes. Lingard was saying in a tone of distress:

"I couldn't get any of them to unbar the gate."

She was unable to make a sound.—"Are you there?" Lingard asked, anxiously, so close to her now that she seemed to feel the very breath of his words on her face. It revived her completely; she understood what she had to do. She put her head and shoulders through the opening, was at once seized under the arms by an eager grip and felt herself pulled through with an irresistible force and with such haste that her scarf was dragged off her head, its fringes having caught in the rough timber. The same eager grip lifted her up, stood her on her feet without her having to make any exertion toward that end. She became aware that Lingard was trying to say something, but she heard only a confused stammering expressive of wonder and delight in which she caught the words "You . . . you . . ." deliriously repeated. He didn't release his hold of her; his helpful and irresistible grip had changed into a close clasp, a crushing embrace, the violent taking possession by an embodied force that had broken loose and was not to be controlled any longer. As his great voice had done a moment before, his great strength, too, seemed able to fill all space in its enveloping and undeniable authority. Every time she tried instinctively to stiffen herself against its might, it reacted, affirming its fierce will, its uplifting power. Several times she lost the feeling of the ground and had a sensation of helplessness without fear, of triumph without exultation. The inevitable had come to pass. She had foreseen it—and all the time in that dark place and against the red glow of camp fires within the stockade the man in whose arms she struggled remained shadowy to her eyes—to her half-closed eyes. She thought suddenly, "He will crush me to death without knowing it."

He was like a blind force. She closed her eyes altogether. Her head fell back a little. Not instinctively but with wilful resignation and as it were from a sense of justice she abandoned herself to his arms. The effect was as though she had suddenly stabbed him to the heart. He let her go so suddenly and completely that she would have fallen down in a heap if she had not managed to catch hold of his forearm. He seemed prepared for it and for a moment all her weight hung on it without moving its rigidity by a hair's breadth. Behind her Mrs. Travers heard the heavy thud of blows on wood, the confused murmurs and movements of men.

A voice said suddenly, "It's done," with such emphasis that though, of course, she didn't understand the words it helped her to regain possession of herself; and when Lingard asked her very little above a whisper: "Why don't you say something?" she answered readily, "Let me get my breath first."

Round them all sounds had ceased. The men had secured again the opening through which those arms had snatched her into a moment of self-forgetfulness which had left her out of breath but uncrushed. As if something imperative had been satisfied she had a moment of inward serenity, a period of peace without thought while, holding to that arm that trembled no more than an arm of iron, she felt stealthily over the ground for one of the sandals which she had lost. Oh, yes, there was no doubt of it, she had been carried off the earth, without shame, without regret. But she would not have let him know of that dropped sandal for anything in the world. That lost sandal was as symbolic as a dropped veil. But he did not know of it. He must never know. Where was that thing? She felt sure that they had not moved an inch from that spot. Presently her foot found it and still gripping Lingard's forearm she stooped to secure it properly. When she stood up, still holding his arm, they confronted each other, he rigid in an effort of self-command but feeling as if the surges of the heaviest sea that he could remember in his life were running through his heart; and the woman as if emptied of all feeling by her experience, without thought yet, but beginning to regain her sense of the situation and the memory of the immediate past.

"I have been watching at that loophole for an hour, ever since they came running to me with that story of the rockets," said Lingard. "I was shut up with Belarab then. I was looking out when the torch blazed and you stepped ashore. I thought I was dreaming. But what could I do? I felt I must rush to you but I dared not. That clump of palms is full of men. So are the houses you saw that time you came ashore with me. Full of men. Armed men. A trigger is soon pulled and when once shooting begins. . . . And you walking in the open with that light above your head! I didn't dare. You were safer alone. I had the strength to hold myself in and watch you come up from the shore. No! No man that ever lived had seen such a sight. What did you come for?"

"Didn't you expect somebody? I don't mean me, I mean a messenger?"

"No!" said Lingard, wondering at his own self-control. "Why did he let you come?"

"You mean Captain Jorgenson? Oh, he refused at first. He said that he had your orders."

"How on earth did you manage to get round him?" said Lingard in his softest tones.

"I did not try," she began and checked herself. Lingard's question, though he really didn't seem to care much about an answer, had aroused afresh her suspicion of Jorgenson's change of front. "I didn't have to say very much at the last," she continued, gasping yet a little and feeling her personality, crushed to nothing in the hug of those arms, expand again to its full significance before the attentive immobility of that man. "Captain Jorgenson has always looked upon me as a nuisance. Perhaps he had made up his mind to get rid of me even against your orders. Is he quite sane?"

She released her firm hold of that iron forearm which fell slowly by Lingard's side. She had regained fully the possession of her personality. There remained only a fading, slightly breathless impression of a short flight above that earth on which her feet were firmly planted now. "And is that all?" she asked herself, not bitterly, but with a sort of tender contempt.

"He is so sane," sounded Lingard's voice, gloomily, "that if I had listened to him you would not have found me here."

"What do you mean by here? In this stockade?"

"Anywhere," he said.

"And what would have happened then?"

"God knows," he answered. "What would have happened if the world had not been made in seven days? I have known you for just about that time. It began by me coming to you at night—like a thief in the night. Where the devil did I hear that? And that man you are married to thinks I am no better than a thief."

"It ought to be enough for you that I never made a mistake as to what you are, that I come to you in less than twenty-four hours after you left me contemptuously to my distress. Don't pretend you didn't hear me call after you. Oh, yes, you heard. The whole ship heard me for I had no shame."

"Yes, you came," said Lingard, violently. "But have you really come? I can't believe my eyes! Are you really here?"

"This is a dark spot, luckily," said Mrs. Travers. "But can you really have any doubt?" she added, significantly.

He made a sudden movement toward her, betraying so much passion that Mrs. Travers thought, "I shan't come out alive this time," and yet he was there, motionless before her, as though he had never stirred. It was more as though the earth had made a sudden movement under his feet without being able to destroy his balance. But the earth under Mrs. Travers' feet had made no movement and for a second she was overwhelmed by wonder not at this proof of her own self-possession but at the man's immense power over himself. If it had not been for her strange inward exhaustion she would perhaps have surrendered to that power. But it seemed to her that she had nothing in her worth surrendering, and it was in a perfectly even tone that she said, "Give me your arm, Captain Lingard. We can't stay all night on this spot."

As they moved on she thought, "There is real greatness in that man." He was great even in his behaviour. No apologies, no explanations, no abasement, no violence, and not even the slightest tremor of the frame holding that bold and perplexed soul. She knew that for certain because her fingers were resting lightly on Lingard's arm while she walked slowly by his side as though he were taking her down to dinner. And yet she couldn't suppose for a moment, that, like herself, he was emptied of all emotion. She never before was so aware of him as a dangerous force. "He is really ruthless," she thought. They had just left the shadow of the inner defences about the gate when a slightly hoarse, apologetic voice was heard behind them repeating insistently, what even Mrs. Travers' ear detected to be a sort of formula. The words were: "There is this thing—there is this thing—there is this thing." They turned round.

"Oh, my scarf," said Mrs. Travers.

A short, squat, broad-faced young fellow having for all costume a pair of white drawers was offering the scarf thrown over both his arms, as if they had been sticks, and holding it respectfully as far as possible from his person. Lingard took it from him and Mrs. Travers claimed it at once. "Don't forget the proprieties," she said. "This is also my face veil."

She was arranging it about her head when Lingard said, "There is no need. I am taking you to those gentlemen."—"I will use it all the same," said Mrs. Travers. "This thing works both ways, as a matter of propriety or as a matter of precaution. Till I have an opportunity of looking into a mirror nothing will persuade me that there isn't some change in my face." Lingard swung half round and gazed down at her. Veiled now she confronted him boldly. "Tell me, Captain Lingard, how many eyes were looking at us a little while ago?"

"Do you care?" he asked.

"Not in the least," she said. "A million stars were looking on, too, and what did it matter? They were not of the world I know. And it's just the same with the eyes. They are not of the world I live in."

Lingard thought: "Nobody is." Never before had she seemed to him more unapproachable, more different and more remote. The glow of a number of small fires lighted the ground only, and brought out the black bulk of men lying down in the thin drift of smoke. Only one of these fires, rather apart and burning in front of the house which was the quarter of the prisoners, might have been called a blaze and even that was not a great one. It didn't penetrate the dark space between the piles and the depth of the verandah above where only a couple of heads and the glint of a spearhead could be seen dimly in the play of the light. But down on the ground outside, the black shape of a man seated on a bench had an intense relief. Another intensely black shadow threw a handful of brushwood on the fire and went away. The man on the bench got up. It was d'Alcacer. He let Lingard and Mrs. Travers come quite close up to him. Extreme surprise seemed to have made him dumb.

"You didn't expect . . ." began Mrs. Travers with some embarrassment before that mute attitude.

"I doubted my eyes," struck in d'Alcacer, who seemed embarrassed, too. Next moment he recovered his tone and confessed simply: "At the moment I wasn't thinking of you, Mrs. Travers." He passed his hand over his forehead. "I hardly know what I was thinking of."

In the light of the shooting-up flame Mrs. Travers could see d'Alcacer's face. There was no smile on it. She could not remember ever seeing him so grave and, as it were, so distant. She abandoned Lingard's arm and moved closer to the fire.

"I fancy you were very far away, Mr. d'Alcacer," she said.

"This is the sort of freedom of which nothing can deprive us," he observed, looking hard at the manner in which the scarf was drawn across Mrs. Travers' face. "It's possible I was far away," he went on, "but I can assure you that I don't know where I was. Less than an hour ago we had a great excitement here about some rockets, but I didn't share in it. There was no one I could ask a question of. The captain here was, I understood, engaged in a most momentous conversation with the king or the governor of this place."

He addressed Lingard, directly. "May I ask whether you have reached any conclusion as yet? That Moor is a very dilatory person, I believe."

"Any direct attack he would, of course, resist," said Lingard. "And, so far, you are protected. But I must admit that he is rather angry with me. He's tired of the whole business. He loves peace above anything in the world. But I haven't finished with him yet."

"As far as I understood from what you told me before," said Mr. d'Alcacer, with a quick side glance at Mrs. Travers' uncovered and attentive eyes, "as far as I can see he may get all the peace he wants at once by driving us two, I mean Mr. Travers and myself, out of the gate on to the spears of those other enraged barbarians. And there are some of his counsellors who advise him to do that very thing no later than the break of day I understand."

Lingard stood for a moment perfectly motionless.

"That's about it," he said in an unemotional tone, and went away with a heavy step without giving another look at d'Alcacer and Mrs. Travers, who after a moment faced each other.

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