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Title: The Dust of Conflict
Author: Bindloss, Harold, 1866-1945
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE DUST OF CONFLICT


[Illustration: “I AM, YOU WILL REMEMBER, AN ADVENTURER.”]


THE DUST OF CONFLICT

By HAROLD BINDLOSS

AUTHOR OF “ALTON OF SOMASCO,”
“THE CATTLE‐BARON’S DAUGHTER,” ETC.

With illustrations in color by
W. HERBERT DUNTON

NEW YORK · FREDERICK A.
STOKES COMPANY · PUBLISHERS


Copyright, 1907,
BY FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY

Published in January, 1907

All rights reserved

THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



CONTENTS


  — I — VIOLET WAYNE’S CONFIDENCE

  — II — DAVIDSON MEETS HIS MATCH

  — III — TONY CANNOT DECIDE

  — IV — THE VERDICT

  — V — APPLEBY MAKES A FRIEND

  — VI — THE SCHOONER “VENTURA”

  — VII — THE DESCENT OF SANTA MARTA

  — VIII — APPLEBY’S PRISONER

  — IX — THE BREAKING OF THE NET

  — X — AN UNEXPECTED MEETING

  — XI — THE ALCALDE’S BALL

  — XII — PANCHO’S WARNING

  — XIII — THE SECOND ATTEMPT

  — XIV — APPLEBY PROVES OBDURATE

  — XV — TONY’S LAST OPPORTUNITY

  — XVI — DANE COP

  — XVII — TONY IS PAINFULLY ASTONISHED

  — XVIII — NETTIE ASKS A QUESTION

  — XIX — POSITIVE PROOF

  — XX — FOUND GUILTY

  — XXI — TONY’S DECISION

  — XXII — MORALES MAKES A PROPOSAL

  — XXIII — APPLEBY TAKES A RISK

  — XXIV — RESPITED

  — XXV — MORALES SITS STILL

  — XXVI — THE SEIZING OF SAN CRISTOVAL

  — XXVII — HARDING’S APPROBATION

  — XXVIII — TONY MAKES AMENDS

  — XXIX — TONY PERSISTS

  — XXX — MORALES PRESERVES HIS FAME

  — XXXI — STRUCK OFF THE ROLL

  — XXXII — APPLEBY LEAVES SANTA MARTA

  — XXXIII — VIOLET REGAINS HER LIBERTY

  — XXXIV — THE RIGHT MAN


THE DUST OF CONFLICT



I — VIOLET WAYNE’S CONFIDENCE


THE November afternoon was drawing towards its close when Bernard
Appleby stood with a gun on his shoulder in an English country lane. It
was a costly hammerless gun, but it had been lent to him, and the fact
that his right shoulder was sore and there was a raw place on one of his
fingers was not without its significance. Appleby, indeed, seldom
enjoyed an opportunity of shooting pheasants, and had been stationed at
what proved to be a particularly warm corner of the big beech wood. Here
he had, however, acquitted himself considerably better than might have
been expected, for he had a steady eye and the faculty of making a quick
and usually accurate decision, as well as a curious coolness in action,
which was otherwise somewhat at variance with an impulsive disposition.
These qualities are useful in more serious affairs than game shooting,
and it was fortunate for Appleby, who was a poor man, that he possessed
them, because they comprised his whole worldly advantages.

A little farther up the lane his kinsman, Anthony Palliser, was talking
to a keeper, and though Appleby could not hear what they said, there was
something in the man’s manner which puzzled him. It was certainly not
respectful, and Appleby could almost have fancied that he was
threatening his companion. This, however, appeared improbable, for
Anthony Palliser was a man of some little importance in that part of the
country, and endowed with an indolent good humor which had gained him
the good will of everybody. Still, Appleby had seen that complaisance
can be carried too far, and knowing rather better than most people how
little stiffness there was in Palliser’s character, watched him somewhat
curiously until the keeper moved away.

Then Palliser came up and joined him, and they turned homewards down the
lane. They were not unlike in appearance, and of much the same age—
Appleby twenty‐six, Palliser a year younger. Both were healthy young
Englishmen, but there was an indefinite something in the poise of
Appleby’s head, and the very way he put his feet down, which suggested
who possessed the most character. He had clear blue eyes which met one
fearlessly, and into which there crept at times a little reckless
twinkle, crisp brown hair, and lips which could set firmly together,
while he held himself well, considering that he labored for the most
part at a desk.

“What do you think of keeper Davidson?” asked Palliser.

“A surly brute!” said Appleby. “Ill‐conditioned, but tenacious. Have you
any reason for asking?”

He fancied for a moment that Palliser had something to tell him, but the
younger man smiled somewhat mirthlessly. “I don’t like the fellow, and
wonder why my respected uncle tolerates him,” he said. “He is certainly
tenacious. You have a trick of weighing up folks correctly, Bernard.”

“It is fortunate I have some qualification for my profession, and it’s
about the only one,” said Appleby dryly. “Still, it did not need much
penetration to see that you and he held different opinions.”

Palliser appeared irresolute. “The fact is, he would have the netting
put up in the wrong place, and spoiled what should have been our best
drive,” he said. “It was by his bad management they had to put two of
the game hampers in the dog‐cart, which sent us home on foot. I hope you
don’t mind that. It’s a pleasant evening for walking, and you know you
don’t get much exercise.”

“Not in the least!” said Appleby. “Don’t make excuses, Tony. It isn’t
everybody who would have walked home with me, and it was very good of
you to persuade Godfrey Palliser to have me down at all. It is the only
taste I get of this kind of thing—one fortnight in the year, you see—and
I’m considerably fonder of it than is good for me.”

Palliser flushed a trifle, for he was sympathetic and somewhat
sensitive, though his comrade had intended to express no bitterness. By
and by he stopped where the lane wound over the crest of a hill, and it
was possible that each guessed the other’s thoughts as they looked down
into the valley.

A beech wood with silver firs in it rolled down the face of the hill,
and the maze of leafless twigs and dusky spires cut sharp against the
soft blueness of the evening sky, though warm hues of russet and crimson
still chequered the dusky green below. Beyond it, belts of thin white
mist streaked the brown plough land in the hollow where Appleby could
see the pale shining of a winding river. Across that in turn, meadow and
coppice rolled away past the white walls of a village bowered in
orchards, and faded into the creeping night beyond a dim church tower
and the dusky outline of Northrop Hall. As they watched, its long row of
windows twinkled into brilliancy, and the sound of running water came up
with the faint astringent smell of withered leaves out of the hollow.
Appleby drew in a deep breath, and his face grew a trifle grim.

“And all that will be yours some day, Tony!” he said. “You ought to feel
yourself a lucky man.”

Palliser did not appear enthusiastic. “There are,” he said, “always
drawbacks, and when there are none one generally makes them. The place
is over head and heels in debt, and setting anything straight,
especially if it entailed retrenchment, was never a favorite occupation
of mine. Besides, a good deal depends upon my pleasing Godfrey Palliser,
and there are times when it’s a trifle difficult to get on with him.”

“Still, your wife will have plenty of money.”

Appleby almost fancied that Palliser winced as they turned away. “Yes,”
he said. “Violet and I are, however, not married yet, and we’ll talk of
something else. Are you liking the business any better?”

Appleby laughed. “I never liked it in the least, but Godfrey Palliser
gave me my education, which was rather more than anybody could have
expected of him, and I had the sense to see that if I was ever able to
practise for myself the business he could influence would be a good
thing for me. My worthy employer, however, evidently intends holding on
forever, and the sordid, monotonous drudgery has been getting
insupportable lately. You may be able to understand that, though you
haven’t spent six years in a country solicitor’s office.”

“No,” said Palliser sympathetically. “I never go into such places except
when I want money, as I frequently do. Still, is there anything else
open to you?”

Appleby straightened his shoulders with a little resolute gesture, and—
for they were heading west—pointed vaguely towards the pale evening
star.

“There are still lands out there where they want men who can ride and
shoot, and take their chances as they come; while if I was born to be
anything in particular it was either a jockey or a soldier.”

Palliser nodded. “Yes,” he said, “you got it from both sides, and it was
rather a grim joke to make you a solicitor. Still, it’s a risky thing to
throw one’s living over, and I have a fancy that my uncle likes you. You
are a connection, anyway, and one never knows what may happen.”

“Godfrey Palliser has done all he means to do for me, and even if there
were nobody else, your children would have a prior claim, Tony.”

Palliser looked up sharply, and though the light was very dim there was
something in his face that once more puzzled his companion. “I think
that is a little personal—and I wouldn’t make too sure,” he said.

They said nothing further, but tramped on in the growing darkness, past
farm steadings where the sleek cattle flocked about the byres, into the
little village where the smell of wood smoke was in the frosty air,
through the silent churchyard where generations of the Pallisers lay,
and up the beech avenue that led to Northrop Hall. It would, as Appleby
had said, all be his comrade’s some day. They parted at the head of the
great stairway where the long corridors branched off, and Appleby looked
at Palliser steadily as he said—

“One could fancy there was something on your mind tonight, Tony.”

Palliser did not answer, and Appleby went to his room to dress for
dinner, which was a somewhat unusual proceeding for him. Nothing of
moment occurred during the meal, and it was nobody’s fault that he felt
not quite at home, as he had done at other functions of the kind. The
gayeties of the Metropolis were unknown, except by hearsay, to him, and
it was but once a year he met Tony’s friends at Northrop Hall. It was,
however, not quite by coincidence, as he at first fancied, that he
afterwards found Miss Violet Wayne, Tony’s fiancée, sitting a little
apart from the rest in the drawing‐room. He did not think that either of
them suggested it, but presently she was walking by his side in the
conservatory, and when they passed a seat almost hidden under the fronds
of a tree fern she sat down in it. The place was dimly lighted, but they
could see each other, and Appleby had realized already that Violet Wayne
was distinctly good to look upon.

Her face was almost severely regular in outline and feature, with but
the faintest warmth in its creamy tinting; but this was atoned for by
the rich coloring of her hair, which gleamed with the hues of gold and
burnished copper. There was also a curious reposefulness about her, and
Appleby had wondered why a young woman of her distinction had displayed
the kindliness she had more than once done to him. He was grateful for
it, but what he had seen of men and women during his legal training had
made him shrewd.

“This place is pleasantly cool and green, but I am not sure that is why
we are here,” he said. “In any case, I am glad, because I am going away
to‐morrow, and wished to thank you for your graciousness to me. I am,
as, of course, you know, an outsider here, and you have in several
tactful ways made my stay pleasant to me.”

Violet Wayne looked at him with big calm eyes, but made no disclaimer.
“You are a relative of Godfrey Palliser!”

“A distant one; but my mother married a penniless army captain, and a
ranker. He had won his commission by worth and valor, but that was no
reason why the Pallisers should hold out a hand to him.”

Violet Wayne nodded gravely. “Still, Godfrey Palliser sent you to school
with Tony. You were always good friends, though I think he told me you
were born abroad?”

“Yes,” said Appleby, “he was my first English friend. My father died at
Gibraltar, and my mother stayed on there until she followed him. She did
not want to forget him, and living is cheap in Spain. Tony and I fought
our way through three schools together.”

“I think it was you who fought for him,” said Miss Wayne, with a little
smile. “He has, I may mention, told me a good deal about you, and that
is one reason why I feel that I could trust you. You would, I believe,
respect any confidence a woman reposed in you.”

Appleby flushed a trifle. “I fancy I told you I was grateful,” he said.
“The little kindnesses you have shown me mean so much to a man whose
life is what mine has been. One gets very few of them, you see.”

“Still,” the girl said quietly, “when we first met you were not quite
sure of me.”

The color showed a trifle plainer in Appleby’s forehead, for he had not
had the advantages of his companion’s training, but he looked at her
with steady eyes. “You can set that down as due to the pride of the
class I sprang from on one side—I feared a rebuff which would have hurt
me. I was, you will remember, Tony’s friend long before he met you!”

“And now?”

Appleby made her a little inclination. “Tony,” he said, “is a very good
fellow, as men go, but I do not know that he is good enough for you.”

Violet Wayne smiled and then sat still, looking at him with a curious
softness in her eyes. “He is in trouble,” she said simply, “and I am
fond of him. That is why I have led you on.”

Appleby rose, and there was a suggestion of resolute alertness in his
attitude, though his head was bent. “Don’t ask me for any help that I
can give. Let me offer it,” he said. “I don’t know that I am expressing
myself fittingly, but it is not only because you will be Tony’s wife
that you can command whatever little I can do.”

The girl saw his lips set and the glint in his eyes, and knew he meant
what he said. She also saw his chivalrous respect for herself, and,
being a young woman of keen perceptions, also surmised that the son of
the ranker possessed certain qualities which were lacking in the man she
was to marry. She was, as she had admitted, fond of Tony, but most of
those who knew and liked him guessed that he was unstable and weak as
water. Violet Wayne had, however, in spite of occasional misgivings, not
quite realized that fact yet.

“I want you to help him because you are his friend—and mine, but it
would hurt him if you told him that I had asked you to; and I do not
even know what the trouble is,” she said.

“I have pledged myself; but if you have failed to discover it how can I
expect to succeed?”

Violet Wayne did not look at him this time. “There are some difficulties
a man would rather tell his comrade than the woman who is to be his
wife.”

“I think, if I understand you aright, that you are completely and wholly
mistaken. If Tony is in any difficulty, it will be his usual one, the
want of money.”

A tinge of color crept into the girl’s face. “Then you will lend it him
and come to me. I have plenty.”

She rose as she spoke, and Appleby long afterwards remembered the
picture she made as she stood amidst the tall ferns with the faint
warmth in her face and the vague anxiety in her eyes. She was tall, and
held herself well, and once more he bent his head a trifle.

“I will do what I can,” he said simply.

Violet Wayne left him, but she had seen his face, and felt that whatever
it cost him the man would redeem his pledge; while Appleby, who went
outside to smoke, paced thoughtfully up and down the terrace.

“If Tony has gone off the line in the usual direction he deserves to be
shot,” he said.

He went in by and by, and watched his comrade in the billiard room. Tony
was good at most games, but that night he bungled over some of the
simplest cannons, though Appleby remembered that he had shot remarkably
well during the afternoon. Still, he expected no opportunity of speaking
to him alone until the morning, and when the rest took up their candles
retired to his room. He lay in a big chair thinking, when Tony came in
and flung himself into another. Appleby noticed that his face was almost
haggard.

“Can you lend me ten pounds?” he said.

“No,” said Appleby dryly. “I had to venture an odd stake now and then,
and do not play billiards well, while I am now in possession of about
three sovereigns over my railway fare home to‐morrow. What do you want
the money for?”

“I only want it until the bank at Darsley opens to‐morrow. This is my
uncle’s house, of course, but I am, so to speak, running it for him, and
I couldn’t well go round borrowing from the men I asked to stay with
me.”

“It seems to me that you have not answered my question.”

Tony showed more than a trace of embarrassment. He was, though a
personable man, somewhat youthful in appearance and manner, and a little
color crept into his forehead. Appleby, who remembered his promise, saw
his discomposure, and decided that as the bank would be open at ten on
the morrow Tony wanted the money urgently that night.

“Is there any reason why I should?” said the latter.

Appleby nodded. “I think there is,” he said. “We have been friends a
long while, and it seems to me quite reasonable that I should want to
help you. You are in a hole, Tony.”

Palliser had not meant to make a confession, but he was afraid and weak,
and Appleby was strong. “I am. It’s a devilishly deep one, and I can’t
get out,” he said. “Well, I’ll tell you. I’m in that condemned Davidson
the keeper’s hands, and he is squeezing the life out of me. You will
remember his daughter Lucy, who lived at the lodge?”

“Blackmail!” said Appleby dryly. “Go on.”

Tony took out and played with a cigar. “She was pretty, and you know I
was always a trifle soft. Now and then I stopped as I passed, and talked
to her. I don’t think she disliked it. Well, I don’t remember exactly
how it came about, but I made her a trifling wager, and, of course, I
lost it; while some fiend put it into my head to send her a little
brooch, with a note, instead of the forfeit agreed on—I think it was a
box of chocolate. I was away for a week or two, and when I came back she
told me she didn’t think she ought to take anything of that kind from
me. There was nobody about the lodge—at least so I fancied—and I
insisted upon putting the condemned thing on. I think I told you she was
pretty.”

“I have seen it for myself,” said Appleby, whose face was a picture of
disgust. “Go on!”

“Well,” said Tony, “why the devil are you looking like that at me? I
wasn’t engaged to Violet then, and I kissed her—and went away
immediately. It is necessary that you should know this, you see.”

Perhaps it was relief, for his comrade was more truthful than weak men
usually are, but Appleby lapsed into a great burst of laughter. Tony,
however, looked at him lugubriously.

“It really isn’t in the least amusing—to me,” he said. “It’s an
especially risky business kissing that kind of young woman, especially
when anybody sees you. Still, I’d seen something in the girl’s face that
warned me, and on my word of honor the affair ended there; but in a week
or two, when I didn’t answer the note she sent, Davidson came and
worried me. Talked about his feelings and a motherless girl’s
reputation, showed me the note I’d written her, and said a good deal
about witnesses. Well—you know I’m careless—I gave him five pounds, a
note, and then saw he had one of his men hanging about. ‘Go down to the
“Black Bull,” and get this fiver Mr. Palliser has given me changed,’ he
said.”

“Clever!” said Appleby. “I begin to understand the thing.”

“Well,” said Tony, “I never went near his place since then, and the girl
went away, but soon after I was engaged to Violet, Davidson turned up
again. This time it was a more serious tale—the usual one—but you have
got to believe what I told you.”

“Yes,” said Appleby, “I think I can. You were often a fool, Tony, but
that contented you.”

“I gave him twenty pounds. If I’d had any sense I would have knocked him
down instead; but it was an unpleasant story, and I was engaged to
Violet. Godfrey Palliser was bent on the match too, though it wasn’t
that which influenced me. Then Davidson commenced to come for money
regularly, and I can’t get out of the fact that I’ve been subsidizing
him without perjury; while it’s evident that if I told the truth now
nobody would believe me. I tell you, Bernard, the thing has been
worrying the life out of me.”

This was apparent from his strained voice and the dejection in his face,
but Appleby smiled reassuringly. “You should have gone to a lawyer long
ago, Tony; but you can leave it to me,” he said. “Davidson expects you
to give him money to‐night?”

“Yes. He makes me come out at midnight and meet him to show he holds the
whip over me. Thirty pounds—and I can only raise twenty—at half‐past
eleven by the fir spinny! Have you the slightest hope of doing anything
with him?”

Appleby nodded as he took out his watch. “I shouldn’t wonder if I bring
you good news to‐morrow. Remember, you are to say nothing to anybody.
Give me what money you have and then go to sleep. You look as if you
needed it.”

He took the notes Palliser handed him, and when he went away hung about
the head of the stairway until Violet Wayne came up with a white‐haired
lady. He contrived to catch her eye, and though she passed on with her
companion within five minutes she came back again.

“Well?” she said expectantly.

Appleby smiled. “If you can let me have ten pounds and ask no questions
I think it will be an excellent investment, though it is quite possible
that I shall be able to hand you them back to‐morrow,” he said. “If I
were a richer man I would not ask you.”

The girl made a little gesture of impatience and flitted away, but in a
few minutes she once more stood beside him, a trifle breathless, and
there was a crisp rustle, as she slipped something into his hand.

“Thank you ever so much! When you can you will tell me,” she said.

Appleby only nodded, and went down the stairway. He took a riding crop
from the rack in the hall, and then passed through the drawing‐room into
the conservatory, the outer door of which was not fastened yet. He
opened it noiselessly and slipped out into the night, taking the key
with him; but, though he did not know this, a man who afterwards
remembered it saw him and noticed that he carried the riding crop.



II — DAVIDSON MEETS HIS MATCH


IT was with confused feelings that Appleby, treading softly as he
crossed the gravelled terrace, slipped into the gloom of a shrubbery.
There was a trace of frost in the air, and the stars shone brightly, but
here and there a thin white mist hung in filmy wisps. He was, however,
conscious of an elation which had a curious bracing effect. Violet Wayne
had trusted him with her confidence, and it was the first time a woman
of her station had cast more than a passing glance on him. Her reposeful
serenity, with its faint suggestion of imperiousness, had impressed him
more than her beauty, and he was sensible of an unbounded respect and
admiration for Tony’s fiancée. Tony had also, in his indolent fashion,
and perhaps because the favors he dispensed cost him nothing, been a
good friend to him, which was, however, not astonishing, since Appleby
had fought most of his battles for him and stood between him and the
results of his easy‐going carelessness at school. Tony Palliser was one
of the men who need the guidance of a stronger hand, and usually obtain
it.

Appleby had, however, affairs of his own to think of that night, and as
he swung across a misty meadow the half‐formed resolution which had been
long in his mind took definite shape, and he decided he would not go
back to the drudgery his soul detested. His father had risen by valor
from the ranks, and the instincts he had stubbornly held in check at
last asserted themselves dominantly. He remembered the sordid poverty,
the struggle to maintain appearances, and the strain of forced attention
to an uncongenial task, and asked himself half contemptuously why he had
borne them so long. He had spent his early years in Spain, where he had
been taught out of charity by an army chaplain, and had reckless brown‐
faced muleteers and smugglers and grave artillery officers, the
gatekeepers of the Mediterranean, for his friends, while the fortnight
spent at Northrop had brought back old associations overwhelmingly.

It was, however, not the leisure and wealth and luxury which appealed to
him—and indeed there was little of the latter at Northrop Hall—but the
smell of the brown woods and the ringing of the guns. There were also
the horses, for Appleby had learned to ride in Spain, the wide spaces he
could gallop through with tingling blood, and the hours he had spent
pitting every faculty against the wariness of the grayling in the
stream. He felt he could never go back to the old colorless life again,
and as he looked out into the dusky blueness under the stars and across
the dim landscape which rolled away before him, silent, and wide, and
shadowy, his courage rose. There was room, he felt, beyond the confines
of English cities for men with thews and sinews who were willing to hew
their own way to fortune out in the wind and sun.

He stopped for a few moments on a hillside and looked about him, while
his heart throbbed faster. There was still a light or two in the hall
behind him, but none in the village, and the earth lay asleep wrapped in
fleecy draperies of drifting mist, while the low murmur of the river
came out of the great stillness. He could see its pale blink where it
slid out from the gloom of a wood, and above, across the stubble where
the footpath led, a clump of rigid spires that rose black and solid
against the faintly luminous night. That, he knew, was the fir spinny
where he was to meet the blackmailer, and shaking all thought of his own
affairs from him he went on quietly resolute to do battle for his
friend. Appleby was an impulsive man, quick to decide; but there was
also an obdurate persistency in him, and the decision once made was
usually adhered to. Keeper Davidson was not to find an easy victim that
night.

He stopped outside the spinny with the riding crop held, where it would
not be seen, behind him, and a man who had been listening for his
footsteps came out of it. It was unfortunate for him that he had spent
most of the evening in the hostelry at the village, or he might have
recognized the difference between them and Tony Palliser’s reluctant
tread. Appleby had come up with swift, resolute stride, as one who had a
purpose, and meant to accomplish it.

“Davidson?” he said, with a little ring in his voice, which was very
unlike Tony’s then.

The man stared at him. “It was Mr. Palliser I expected to see,” he said.

“I have come in place of him, and don’t think it likely that he will
meet you here again,” Appleby said dryly. “In fact, unless we can come
to some arrangement, it is very probable that you will get a month’s
notice from Mr. Godfrey Palliser to‐morrow.”

Davidson laughed unpleasantly. “Mr. Tony tried that game before, and
found it wouldn’t pay. Now, you listen to me, though I’m not telling you
anything you don’t know. Mr. Tony has to marry money, and Miss Wayne is
a particular young lady. They say he’s fond of her, too; but if I
thought it my duty to tell her the kind of man he is there’d be no more
talk of that match.”

“The trouble is that Miss Wayne would not believe you,” said Appleby.

Now, though Appleby was not aware of this, Davidson had consumed a good
deal of liquid refreshment that evening, or he might not have shown his
hand so plainly. Nor did he know that Appleby had any connection with
the legal profession.

“It would be easy convincing her when she saw his letter. I’ve got
witnesses—and a certificate,” he said.

The sullen anger in the last words would probably have caught Appleby’s
attention had he been an older man, and shown him that it was not
avarice alone which prompted Davidson. As it happened, however, he did
not notice it.

“That proves nothing,” he said. “We do not dispute the fact it relates
to, but maintain that Mr. Palliser had no connection with it.”

“Do you think you could convince anybody who heard my story?”

“We can try. Isn’t it clear to you that Mr. Palliser can’t go on
subsidizing you forever?”

“He’ll go on until there’s enough put by to bring his daughter up a
lady.”

Again Appleby failed to discern the sincerity of conviction in
Davidson’s tone, which would have been evident to him had he possessed
any of the qualities which go to make a successful lawyer.

“I think you are mistaken,” he said. “It is quite clear to us that you
will tell your story sooner or later, and because it is Mr. Palliser
will tell it before you in his own way. That cuts the ground from under
your feet, you see. Then he will indict you and your daughter for
conspiracy. It is a somewhat serious thing to blackmail anybody, but you
shall have one more chance. I will pay you twenty pounds for Mr.
Palliser’s letter, on condition that you sign a statement confessing
there is no truth in the slander you have brought against him, and leave
his uncle’s service within a month from to‐morrow.”

The man stood silent a moment or two, his gun on his arm; and it was
unfortunate that Appleby could not see the passion in his face. A sullen
hatred of the class he served had smouldered within him since the day a
gunshot accident, for which he had obtained no adequate compensation,
left him with a limp, and now when he saw the game was up it blazed into
unreasoning anger. He may also have been as fond of his daughter as he
was of gold, and deceived by her, for the veins were swollen on his
forehead when he made a step forward.

“Who are you to thrust yourself into what doesn’t concern you?” he said.

“I am a lawyer,” said Appleby quietly. “Don’t come any nearer!”

Davidson dropped the gun into the palm of his left hand with a rattle.
“I might have known it by your tricks,” he said. “Well, I’ll make you
fight, and we’ll see who Miss Wayne will believe to‐morrow. Now take
yourself and your money to —— out of this!”

He raised the gun, and Appleby’s calmness deserted him. With a sweep of
the riding crop he struck the barrel aside, and, perhaps without
Davidson intending it, there was a flash and an explosion. Then the
riding crop came down upon a dim white face. The man reeled, recovered,
and lurched forward, while next moment he and his adversary were panting
and straining in a breathless grapple. Davidson was a strong man, but
the blow had dazed him, and the refreshment consumed at the “Black Bull”
had endued him with an unreasoning passion, which was not an advantage
in a conflict with a man who kept his head. Appleby was also wiry, and
tolerably proficient in a certain useful art. Thus when he got his fist
home in a place where it would hurt Davidson slackened his grasp, and
Appleby struck again as he flung him off. He staggered backwards and
went down heavily. Appleby stood still until he rose shakily to his feet
again.

“Go home,” he said. “You will be sorry for this tomorrow. It will
probably cost you twenty pounds.”

Davidson turned without a word, and Appleby waited a minute or two
watching him cross the meadow towards the narrow, one‐railed footbridge
that spanned the river. He was walking unevenly, but Appleby was too
shaken himself to trouble about his condition. Perhaps keeper Davidson
was still dazed by the blows dealt him, or his brain was clouded by
impotent anger, for he passed on, a dim, shadowy figure, into the gloom
of a coppice, and no man saw him alive again. Then Appleby went back to
the hall and let himself in through the conservatory. He found Tony
waiting him in a state of feverish anxiety, told him briefly what had
passed, and, assuring him that Davidson would in all probability listen
to reason next day, went to sleep. He also slept soundly, and awakened
later than usual when Tony’s man, who had found knocking useless,
entered the room with some of his garments on his arm.

“Mr. Palliser was asking if you were up, sir, and they’re getting
breakfast now,” he said, and then glanced at the clothes. “I’ve been
giving them a brush. There was some mud on the trousers, and I notice a
seam split in the coat. I could ask one of the maids to put a stitch in
it before it gets worse.”

“No,” said Appleby, a trifle too hastily. “You can put them in my bag. I
am leaving by the night train.”

He got into his tweeds, and went down to find the rest of the men who
had finished breakfast lounging about the hall, while Tony and his uncle
stood on the terrace outside. A dog‐cart was also waiting, and another
vehicle coming up the avenue. Appleby commenced his breakfast,
wondering—because he surmised that Miss Wayne would be anxious to hear
what he had accomplished—whether any of the ladies would come down
before the shooters started. By and by he saw a light dress flit across
the gallery at the head of the stairway, and immediately got up with the
ostensible purpose of going back to his room. He, however, stopped in
the corridor which led out of the gallery, where, as he had expected,
Violet Wayne was waiting him. She usually appeared to as much advantage
in the morning as she did under the glitter of the lamps at night, but
Appleby fancied that she had not slept very well. There was, so far as
he could see, nobody else about.

“You have something to tell me?” she said quietly.

“No,” said Appleby. “I fancied I should have had, but instead I have ten
pounds to give you back.”

“Then some plan you had has failed?”

“Not exactly! I am going to try a bolder course.”

The girl looked at him steadily. “I have trusted you, Mr. Appleby. Would
it be too much if I asked you to take me into your confidence?”

Appleby shook his head. “I am afraid I can’t very well do that just
now,” he said. “In the meanwhile you can be kind to Tony. He has been
foolish—and a trifle weak—but he has done nothing that you could not
readily forgive him.”

There was a faint sparkle in Violet Wayne’s eyes, and a suspicion of
color in her cheek. “How do you know that my code is as lenient as your
own—and are you wise in asking me to take so much on trust?”

Appleby smiled gravely. “I think I grasp your meaning, but if you try to
follow up any clue I may have given you it can only lead you into a
pitfall. Please wait, and I think I can engage that Tony will tell you
the whole story. It would come best from himself, but he must
substantiate it, and that is what I expect I can enable him to do.”

The color grew a trifle plainer in Violet Wayne’s cheek, and Appleby,
who guessed her thoughts, shook his head.

“There is a question you are too proud to ask, but I will venture to
answer it,” he said. “I have known Tony a long while, and he has never
wavered in his allegiance to you. To doubt that would be an injustice
you have too much sense to do yourself. Now you have the simple truth,
and if it is a trangression to tell it you, you must remember that I
have had no training in conventional niceties.”

The girl looked at him with a curious little glow in her eyes. “Tony has
the gift of making good friends,” she said. “One could have faith in
you.”

She turned and left him, while Appleby, who went down, found Godfrey
Palliser talking to the under‐keeper on the terrace. He was a spare,
gray‐haired gentleman, formal and fastidious, and betrayed his
impatience only by a faint incisiveness of speech.

“Davidson has kept us waiting half an hour, it has never happened
before, and it shall not occur again,” he said. “You have been round to
the lodge, Evans?”

“Yes, sir,” said the man. “They had not seen him since last night. He
told them he was going to the fir spinny. Some of the Darsley men had
been laying snares for hares.”

“It shall be looked into, but we will make a start now as you have sent
the beaters on,” said Palliser, who turned to his guests. “I am sorry we
have kept you waiting, gentlemen.”

They started, and, as it happened, Tony and Appleby sat at the back of
the dog‐cart which followed the larger vehicle, while the rattle of
gravel beneath the wheels rendered their conversation inaudible to those
who sat in front.

“You heard what Evans said?” asked Tony anxiously.

“Of course!” said Appleby. “I am almost afraid Davidson has made a bolt.
If he hadn’t he would have come for the twenty pounds.”

“I hope so,” and Tony drew in a deep breath. “It would be a merciful
relief to feel I had seen the last of him. Why in the name of all that’s
wonderful are you afraid he has gone?”

“Because I wanted a statement and your letter from him,” said Appleby.
“You see, you will have to tell Miss Wayne that story sooner or later.”

“Tell her!” said Tony blankly. “I’ll be shot if I do!”

“Then she’ll find out, and it will be considerably the worse for you.”

Now, Tony Palliser was a good‐natured man, and had as yet never done
anything actually dishonorable, but whenever it was possible he avoided
a difficulty, which, because difficulties must now and then be grappled
with, not infrequently involved him in a worse one. He lived for the
present only, and was thereby sowing a crop of trouble which he would
surely have to reap in the future.

“I don’t think it’s likely, and there is no reason why I should make
unpleasantness—it wouldn’t be kind,” he said.

“You don’t know Violet yet. She is almost unmercifully particular, and
now and then makes one feel very small and mean. It would hurt her
horribly to know I’d been mixed up in the affair at all—and, the fact
is, I don’t feel equal to telling her anything of that kind. Besides, I
did kiss the girl, you see—and I don’t think Violet would understand
what prompted me.”

“Still,” said Appleby dryly, “that story will have to be told.”

Just then one of the other men touched his shoulder and asked a
question, while there are topics which when once left off are difficult
to commence again; but Appleby fancied that Tony had made one incorrect
statement. He felt, strange as it seemed, that he knew Violet Wayne
better than her prospective husband did.

They drove on, and nothing of moment happened during the shooting, or at
the lunch they were invited to at one of Palliser’s neighbor’s houses,
though Tony, who seemed to have recovered his spirits, shot unusually
well. He also bantered the beaters and keepers, and, though he was as
generous as such men usually are, the largesses he distributed somewhat
astonished the recipients. It was a bright day of early winter, with
clear sunlight that took the edge off the faint frost; and most men with
healthy tastes would have found the hours spent in the brown woods,
where the beech leaves still hung in festoons about the lower boughs,
invigorating, even if they had not just had a weight lifted off their
minds. Tony made the most of them, and it was, perhaps, as well he did,
for it was long before he passed another day as free from care again.

Still, the troubles he could not see were trooping about him, and it was
doubtless as part of the scheme that was to test him, and bring about
his retribution when he was found wanting, that a nut on the bush of the
dog‐cart’s wheel slackened during the homeward journey. As a result,
four men and several guns were flung without serious injury into the
road; and when the horse had been taken to a neighboring farm, Tony and
three of his friends found themselves under the necessity of walking
home. He took them the shortest way by lane and stile, and they came to
the footbridge across the river as dusk was closing down. Both he and
Appleby long remembered that evening.

The sun had sunk behind a bank of smoky cloud, and a cold wind wailed
dolefully through the larches in the wood, under which the black water
came sliding down. There was no mist in the meadows now, and straggling
hedgerow and coppice rose shadowy and dim against the failing light. The
river, however, still shone faintly as it swirled round the pool beneath
the bridge, and the men stopped a moment and leaned upon the single
rail. It was seldom any one but a keeper took that path to the hall.

Appleby noticed how the dead leaves came sailing down, and little
clusters of them swung round and round in the eddies. It was a trifle,
but it fixed his attention, and often afterwards he could see them drift
and swing at the mercy of the current. Then it seemed to him that their
aimless wandering had been curiously portentous. He, however, looked up
when Tony struck a match to light a cigarette with, and saw his face by
the pale flame of it. Tony shook off his troubles readily, and there was
a twinkle in his eyes, while his laugh rang lightly at a jest one of the
others made. Then a man standing further along the bridge stretched out
his hand.

“There’s a stone among the boulders at the tail of the pool that seems
different from the rest. One could almost fancy it was somebody’s head,”
he said.

“Good Lord!” said one of the others. “One could do more than fancy it.
Can’t you see his shoulder just above the water?”

Tony dropped his cigarette, and stared at Appleby with a curious horror
in his face, but the latter gripped his arm.

“Keep your head!” he said sternly.

Nobody else heard him, for the rest were hastening across the bridge,
and in a moment or two one of them sprang down among the boulders at the
edge of the pool. He called out sharply as the others followed him, and
standing very still when they came up with him, they saw a white face
that moved as the stream swirled about it looking up at them. A wet
shoulder also bumped softly against a stone.

“I think it’s your keeper, Palliser,” said one of them a trifle
hoarsely. “It would have been more pleasant if somebody else had found
him, but we can’t leave him in the water.”

Tony seemed to shiver, and glanced at Appleby. “Yes,” he said, and his
voice was very strained, “it’s Davidson.”

It was Appleby who, as one of the rest remembered, stooped down and
grasped the dead man’s arm. “Give me a lift,” he said.

The men had evidently little liking for the task, but they accomplished
it, and stood still again when the rigid object lay with the water
draining from it at their feet.

“He must have fallen over the bridge and struck his head. There are
stones yonder, and you can see the bruise,” said one. “Still, it might
not have happened that way, and it seems to me we had better push on to
the hall, and send somebody for the police.”

They went on in haste, and twenty minutes later Tony stood, a little
white in face, in Appleby’s room.

“I don’t ask you whether it was the truth you told me last night,” he
said.

“No,” said Appleby, who was flinging articles of clothing into his bag.
“I could not have taken that from you, but I told you what happened
precisely. Perhaps I should have seen him across the bridge, but I never
thought of it. Still, there will be an inquest, and when they find out a
little more it will be difficult to convince an average jury that one of
us didn’t kill him.”

“It could be managed,” said Tony, a trifle hoarsely.

“Yes,” said Appleby, “I think it could, though I couldn’t be certain;
but, if there was a defendant, not before everything came out. That
would spoil my two best friends’ lives. You see, he did not sign the
statement, and folks are very quick to believe the kind of story that
would certainly get about.”

“That would ruin me,” said Tony. “Godfrey Palliser would turn me out for
bringing it on him. It’s a trifle horrible. You have got to help me!”

“Yes,” said Appleby, closing the bag with a snap. “I fancy it would.
Still, there will be no defendant, because I’m going out of the country.
If you sent to the bank you might lend me fifty pounds, and tell
somebody to get the dog‐cart out. There’s a train I can get through to
Liverpool starts in an hour. If I am ever able, I’ll send you back the
money.”

Palliser stared at him. “But they may bring it in homicide against you!
I can’t let you do this for me.”

Appleby smiled curiously. “I had decided to go, anyway, and I haven’t a
friend who would worry about me except yourself, and perhaps Miss Wayne.
It would be very different with you. Now, don’t waste a minute, Tony. I
have made my mind up.”

Tony Palliser had usually yielded to the domination of his friend, and
was not in a condition to think very concisely then, so he did what he
was bidden, and ten minutes later grasped Appleby’s hand as the dog‐cart
came up to the door. He did not remember if he said anything, but
Appleby, perhaps for the groom’s benefit, laughed as he drew the rug
about him.

“You will remember to send on the cigars you promised me,” he said.

Then the groom flicked the horse, the dog‐cart rattled away, and Tony
Palliser was left standing, flushed in face, on the steps, with his
heart beating painfully.



III — TONY CANNOT DECIDE


THE beat of hoofs died away, and Tony shivered as he strove to collect
his scattered wits. He wanted to think, but mental effort had always
been distasteful to his easy‐going nature, and now the faculty of
concentration had deserted him. It was also very cold out on the
terrace, for the raw wind was driving a thin drizzle before it, and Tony
was fond of warmth and light, so with a little shake of his shoulders he
went back into the house, and sought inspiration in a stiff brandy‐and‐
soda. After that he felt a little more cheerful, and decided that in the
meanwhile there was nothing to be done but refrain from unnecessary
worry and wait events, which was the usual course with him. There was,
it seemed, nothing to be gained by involving himself before suspicion
was cast upon his friend.

He, however, spent an unpleasant five minutes with his uncle, who asked
a few general questions respecting the affair, in the library, and then
went down to dinner, where Violet Wayne did not find him a very
entertaining companion. She, however, noticed that he allowed his glass
to be filled more frequently than usual, for Tony was an abstemious man,
and during a lull in the conversation turned to him.

“I have spoken to you at least three times without getting an answer,
Tony,” she said. “One could almost fancy that you had something on your
mind to‐night.”

Tony did not meet the questioning gaze of the big grave eyes, though
there was a sympathetic gleam in them. “I have a headache. Gun headache,
you know,” he said. “I got a warm corner, and fired every cartridge I
had. I had them specially loaded with an extra quarter‐ounce, too.”

Violet Wayne appeared thoughtful, for she had heard the other men
grumbling at the scarcity of pheasants that afternoon; but she was a
wise young woman, and did not tell Tony so.

“What has become of Mr. Appleby?” she asked.

“Gone away,” said Tony. “He left just after we came in.”

Again Violet Wayne glanced at him with grave quietness, but Tony was
looking at his plate just then.

“His train does not leave for an hour yet,” she said.

Violet Wayne did not often speak without reflection, but she blundered
then. Tony Palliser was not the man to boldly choose his path, but
rather addicted to follow the one events seemed to force him into, and
she who might have proved his good angel helped to start him down hill.

“He was going to Liverpool,” he said, and a moment later regretted it.

“To Liverpool! What has taken him there? He told me he was going back to
his office.”

Tony looked round in search of inspiration, and did not find it. It was
also a somewhat fateful moment for him, because he had as yet been
guilty of nothing more than a passing indiscretion, which the woman
would have forgiven him. Had he decided to take her into his confidence
she would have believed his story, and she had sufficient strength of
character to carry him with clean hands through the difficulty. As it
happened, however, he was not looking at her, and saw only the glitter
of light on glass and silver and the faces of his friends. Tony was as
fond of pleasant company as he was of luxury, and what he saw reminded
him that he had a good deal to lose. That put him on his guard, and he
took the first fateful step in haste, without realizing where it would
lead him.

“I don’t quite know,” he said; “Bernard isn’t communicative. He asked me
for the dog‐cart, and I didn’t worry him.”

Violet Wayne deferred her questions, though she was not satisfied. She
had her duty to her hostess, and because news of what had happened had
got about felt it incumbent on her to do what she could to lessen the
vague constraint, especially as Tony, who wanted to think and could not,
did nothing whatever. He was glad when the meal was over, but afterwards
appeared to even less advantage in the billiard room, where one of the
men commented on his play.

“You are showing remarkably bad form, Tony,” he said. “What is the
matter with you? In your case it can’t be worry, because there is
nothing a man could wish for you apparently haven’t got.”

Tony did worse at the next stroke, and put down his cue. “It’s a fact
that I can’t play to‐night,” he said. “You were not with us at the
bridge, and it wasn’t a nice thing we had to do. As to the other remark,
I suppose I’ve got my worries like the rest of you; but since you will
get on just as well without me I think I’ll go to bed.”

He went out, and the man who had spoken laughed. “That is just the one
thing that is wrong with Tony—he gives up too easily and doesn’t play
the game out when it seems to be going against him,” he said. “He had
Bernard Appleby to help him through at school, but I have a notion that
Miss Wayne would do as much for him now if he would let her, and if he’s
wise he will. Men like Tony generally find somebody to stand behind
them, but that slackness is the only fault anybody could find in him.
Tony never did a crooked thing.”

“No,” said another man dryly. “Still, it is comparatively easy to go
straight when you are never called upon to stand up under a deflecting
pressure.”

“If Tony hasn’t had to do that yet, he will most certainly have to
sooner or later, and Miss Wayne is the woman to help him,” said his
companion. “Will you take his cue and finish the fifty for him,
Lonsdale? It is, you see, quite the usual thing.”

Tony in the meanwhile sat staring at the grate in his room. No definite
course had yet occurred to him, but he was conscious of a vague relief.
Davidson, at least, could not come back to trouble him, and Tony knew
that his daughter, whom he had done no wrong, did not possess her
father’s pertinacity. He fancied she could be easily dealt with, and
rising with a little shake of his shoulders he went to bed, and, as it
happened, slept almost as well as usual. Next day, however, events
commenced to happen, for during the morning Godfrey Palliser received a
visit from a sergeant of police. Soon afterwards he sent for Tony, and
it was with distinct uneasiness the latter entered the library.

Godfrey Palliser sat, gray‐haired and somewhat grim of face, beside the
fire; and he was a punctilious English gentleman with a respect for
conventional traditions and no great penetration, to whom Tony owed his
present status and all he hoped for in the future. He had led a simple,
wholesome life, and though it was perhaps not unwarranted, placed an
undue value upon the respect his tenants and neighbors accorded him.

“This is an especially unfortunate affair,” he said. “Sit down. I want
to talk to you.”

“Yes, sir,” said Tony, wondering what was coming.

Godfrey Palliser drummed on the chair arm with his fingers. “There will
be an inquest, and as I am, most unfortunately in this case, a
magistrate, Sergeant Stitt thought it fit to consult with me. He has
suspicions that there has been foul play.”

“Stitt is a meddlesome idiot,” said Tony. “It seemed quite evident to me
that Davidson struck his head when he fell off the bridge.”

The elder man made a gesture of negation. “Unfortunately he left his gun
behind him. There was a dent on one barrel, and Stitt fancied that the
grass round the spot where he found it had been trampled. That, and the
condition of Davidson’s clothing, points to a scuffle.”

Tony gasped, for he had not expected this. “There is not a man in the
neighborhood who would have injured Davidson,” he said.

Godfrey Palliser flashed a quick glance at him. “Do you know when
Bernard left the hall the night before it happened?”

Tony braced himself with an effort. “I don’t quite remember, sir.”

“Then I can tell you. It was a few minutes after eleven, and he took the
path to the footbridge. When he came back his clothes were muddy.”

Tony sat still a moment, horribly conscious that Godfrey Palliser was
watching him. Then he broke out: “It’s wholly impossible, sir,
unutterably absurd! Nobody would kill a man without the least motive.”

Godfrey Palliser’s face grew a trifle grimmer. “There may have been a
motive. Lucy Davidson was pretty, and, I understand, vain and flighty,
while she disappeared, I think, a little too suddenly. You will remember
when Bernard was last here.”

Tony stood up, with a dampness on his face and his hands trembling.
“Good Lord, sir, you can’t believe that!” he said. “Bernard never had
any failings of the kind. It must”—and Tony gasped and stared round the
room—“have been poachers. You will remember Evans said Davidson had gone
out to look for somebody who had been laying snares.”

To his vast relief he saw that Palliser clutched at the suggestion. It
would perhaps not have appeared very conclusive to another man, but
Palliser was anxious as well as willing to be convinced, which makes a
difference.

“Yes,” he said. “That is the most sensible thing you have said for a
long while, and I sincerely hope events will prove you right. I am
getting an old man, and if a connection of the family and a guest in my
house had been guilty of such an intrigue and crime, I think I could
scarcely have held up my head again. No breath of scandal has touched
our name, and I could not forgive the man who brought a shadow of ill‐
repute upon it.”

The speech had its effect, for Tony was aware that he had nothing to
expect if he forfeited Godfrey Palliser’s good opinion. He also quite
realized the fact that he was singularly devoid of the qualities
essential to the man who finds it necessary to make his own way in the
world, and very much in love with Violet Wayne. These considerations
made for silence. Tony, however, did not discover until later that the
next person Palliser sent for was the girl. It was with reluctance he
did so, and he stood up leaning against the mantel when he had drawn her
out a chair.

“I understand that you saw Bernard Appleby immediately before he left
the house the night before last,” he said.

The girl appeared perplexed. “I do not know how you came to hear of it,
but as a matter of fact I did,” she said.

“Then “—and Palliser made a little deprecatory gesture—“I feel sure,
when I tell you that they are necessary, you will excuse me asking you a
question or two. You met him in the corridor, I think with intent. What
had he to say to you?”

A little flush crept into the girl’s face. “He asked me to give him ten
pounds. This will no doubt astonish you!”

It certainly did, and had Godfrey Palliser been a little less
punctilious he might have betrayed it. As it was, he said in a perfectly
level voice, “May I ask you for what purpose?”

There was no hesitation about the answer, and as he met Violet Wayne’s
eyes the unpleasant thoughts which momentarily obtruded themselves upon
the man vanished again, and left him with a faint sense of shame.

“I had asked him to do me a favor which would entail some little
expenditure,” she said. “It was, in fact, to do a kindness to somebody I
wanted to benefit, and could not have any bearing on your object in
making this inquiry. I know you will take my word for that.”

Godfrey Palliser was not gifted with much penetration, but the girl’s
composure had its effect on him, and he made her a little respectful
inclination. “It would go a long way with me, my dear, even if the
testimony of my eyes were against it; and Tony never did a thing that
pleased me more than when he told me he had succeeded in inducing you to
marry him,” he said. “It is quite evident that you can throw no light on
the affair.”

Violet Wayne left him, a little perplexed, but relieved. As he believed
what she had told him implicitly, his thoughts fixed themselves upon
Tony’s suggestion, and he commenced to sift what he had heard for
anything that would confirm the poacher theory. He meant to do his duty
as a magistrate, but he had made a fetish of the family honor, and the
man who knows exactly what he is looking for has the better chance of
finding it. Accordingly he almost convinced himself, and proceeded to
another conference with Sergeant Stitt, who was a little more obtuse
than superior.

Violet Wayne was, however, not relieved at all. Only one hypothesis
suggested itself to her, and that was that the unfortunate keeper had
had some hold upon Appleby, but she promptly dismissed it as wholly
untenable. She felt convinced that the man who had been Tony’s loyal
friend could have done nothing that he need blush for, and the fact that
he had been willing to take ten pounds from her was an additional proof
of his innocence rather than evidence against it. She felt absolutely
convinced that he would never have abused her confidence by asking her
for the money had he desired it for his own purposes. This conclusion
naturally led to the supposition that he had involved himself on Tony’s
behalf, but she would not harbor that thought for a moment; while
Appleby, whom she believed implicitly, had told her that Tony had done
nothing wrong.

Still, it was evident that Tony was in trouble, and as he did not go
shooting with the rest she found him idling in an empty room when dusk
was closing down. He was standing by the hearth looking down into the
flickering flame; but the fashion in which he started when she gently
touched his shoulder was significant.

“You might have something upon your conscience, Tony,” she said, with a
little smile. “Sit down and talk to me. I have scarcely seen you to‐
day.”

She sank into a low chair, and the uncertain firelight forced up her
face and gleaming hair against the shadowy background. The pose, wholly
unstudied as it was, also suited her, and she smiled as she saw the
appreciation in the eyes of her companion. Tony’s regard for her was
respectfully deferential, but he was a man, and she did not disdain at
times to profit by the advantages nature had endowed her with.

“I never saw you look better than you do just now,” he said, and laughed
as he found a place on the stool he placed at her feet.

“Turn your head a little, Tony; I want to see you,” the girl said
softly. “Now, what has made you so quiet today?”

Tony looked at her, and the effect was unfortunate. He saw the calm eyes
shining with unusual tenderness, and felt the full influence of her
beauty, even while he remembered that Appleby had said she would find
out the story sooner or later and then it would be bad for him. He also
determined, foolishly, that if the revelation must come at all it
should, at least, be delayed as long as possible.

“I have my little worries, but they vanish when you appear,” he said.

Violet Wayne shook her head. “That was pretty, but not quite sincere,”
she said. “In some respects I am older than you—and you are in trouble,
dear. Perhaps if you told me everything I could help you.”

Tony turned his head away, and checked a groan as he stared at the fire.
“I have been a little thoughtless, and one must pay for that kind of
thing,” he said. “Still, it would be most unfitting to trouble you with
my trifling difficulties.” He felt a little constraining touch on his
shoulder, and a low voice said, “Is it money? You must not be proud,
dear, for I have plenty, and it could buy me no greater pleasure than to
see your cares melt away.”

Tony flushed a little. “That is out of the question, Violet, and you
exaggerate,” he said. “I haven’t any real cares, you know.”

The girl smiled at him. “Only very good imitations, Tony; but perhaps
you are right. I should dearly like to give you whatever you have need
of, but it would not please me to see you willing to take it. Still, why
did Appleby go out at eleven o’clock that night?”

It was a chance shot, but it told, and had results Violet Wayne could
not have anticipated. Tony started a little.

“Why should you ask me?” he said.

Violet Wayne was not as a rule demonstrative. Indeed, her behavior that
evening would have astonished those who thought they knew her best, but
the touch of her hand on the man’s shoulder was caressing, and as she
leaned forward nearer him there was a curious softness in her eyes.

“I want you to listen, Tony, and I am not going to find fault with you,”
she said. “When you showed your preference for me people who I know are
wise talked to me of you. They had very little to urge against you
except one thing, which I think is true. They said you were a trifle too
fond of shirking a difficulty.”

“I hope you thanked them for their kindness,” said Tony dryly.

The girl pressed his shoulder. “Tony,” she said, “shall I tell you why I
liked you? Well, it was because I fancied the respect you showed me was
genuine, and you were open and generous. That, at least, was one of the
reasons, for I detest a cunning man. I am ready to give you everything,
but I shall expect a good deal from you; and now you see why I am not
pleased with your answer to my question.”

It was an unexpected opportunity, and, though the man aid not know this,
the last he would have. The girl, as she had said, was willing to give
him all she had to offer, of which her faith in him was not the least,
but he had not the courage to put it to the test. Had he done so she
would have taken his word, and believed in it against all other
testimony; but the story he had to tell was not a pleasant one, and he
dreaded her incredulity, in which he wronged her past forgiveness.
Meanwhile, looking up at her he saw, not the love and strength which
would have saved him from his weaknesses, but the calm, proud face which
was tender, too, just then, the gleaming red‐gold hair, and the
beautifully moulded form. In place of speaking he gazed at her a moment
with passion in his eyes.

“I can never understand how you came to think of me at all,” he said. “I
am not fit to dust your shoes; but if I lost you now I think it would
kill me.”

The girl checked him with a little quiet gesture, and laid the hand she
raised from his shoulder on his forehead. “I like to hear you tell me
so, but there are times when the man who is willing to lose everything
gains the most. I wonder if you understand that, Tony? There are men who
do.”

“No,” said Tony in honest bewilderment, “I’m afraid I can’t.”

“Still,” said the girl softly, “it is true; but perhaps it isn’t seemly
that I should preach to you. Am I to conclude that if any odium follows
your friend because he went out that night you could not dispel it?”

This left a loophole, which was unfortunate, because the man reflected
that he could offer no convincing testimony as to what had really
happened at the fir spinny.

“No,” he said a trifle hoarsely, “I could not.”

Violet Wayne looked at him steadily, and Tony, who saw the gravity in
her eyes, felt his heart thumping furiously. Then she said very slowly:
“Since you have given me your word we will never mention this again.”

Tony drew in his breath as he turned his head away. The crisis had
passed, and he knew that Violet Wayne believed him; but a little shiver
ran through him, for he felt that he was committed to a course of
deception now, and that if exposure came he could not face her scorn.
She was a proud woman, who seldom unbent even to him as she had done
that evening, and his one impulse was to lead her thoughts as far from
the question she had asked him as he conveniently could.

“You hinted that you had met men who would give up everything for—a
fancy,” he said. “Do I know them?”

“You know one. I think Bernard Appleby would sacrifice a good deal for a
friend—or a woman he respected.”

“He could not help it in your case. You could compel most men to do
almost anything for you.”

The girl shook her head. “Even if that is true it would not gratify me
much,” she said. “It is only those nearest and dearest to me I expect
the most from, and that I am not worthy of it does not affect the case.
Still, I think we have talked sufficiently in this strain.”

Tony rose and stooped over her chair, but the girl made a little
restraining gesture, and he straightened himself again.

“No,” she said quietly. “Not now, Tony. We are strange creatures; but I
think if you had made me a confession a little while ago I could have
forgiven you anything and kissed you afterwards.”

Tony said nothing, and a maid came in with a light; but he spent a very
unpleasant half‐hour when Violet Wayne left him. Now it had slipped away
unprofited by, he saw what that opportunity would have meant for him.
Tony was not clever, but he realized that fate does not give men such
chances frequently.



IV — THE VERDICT


THE inquest on keeper Davidson was duly held, and at the commencement
seemed likely to cause Tony Palliser less anxiety than he had expected.
There were reasons for this, and among them was the fact that the
Pallisers had lived at Northrop for generations, and the fathers of the
men who served them had watched their game and groomed their horses.
Godfrey Palliser was also a liberal master, who seldom put an embargo on
any man’s perquisites; while Tony scattered pleasant words and silver
with a tactful kindliness that made either doubly acceptable.

There was accordingly a desire to spare them unpleasantness in the minds
of those who attended the informal courts of inquiry held at the “Black
Bull,” as the result of which the men who appeared to testify at the one
sanctioned by the law of the land came there with convictions already
formed, for Northrop village had thrashed out the question. Northrop
knew all about Tony’s flirtation with Lucy Davidson, but it also knew a
good deal more about that lady than Tony did, and exculpated him. He
had, it was true, been seen to give Davidson five pounds, but that was
not an astonishing thing when the friends he brought down had been
enthusiastic over, the partridge shooting provided them; while there
were not many men in his uncle’s service he had not given sovereigns to.
The men remembered this, and hoped for more.

It was also known that he had not left his room on the eventful night,
and though everybody was aware that Appleby had gone out, the guests at
the hall were occasionally addicted to taking nocturnal strolls after an
evening in the billiard room. Northrop accordingly knew just how much it
meant to admit when it attended the inquest, and when the rustic mind
adopts that attitude there is nothing further to be extracted from it.

The coroner did not elucidate a great deal when he commenced his
inquiry. Tony, who appeared distressed by the recollection, as indeed he
was, deposed to the finding of the body and was corroborated by two of
his friends. He was listened to sympathetically. Sergeant Stitt
testified that he had found signs which apparently suggested a scuffle,
but could not be certain there had been one. Then a hush of attention
followed the appearance of the doctor. He alluded to certain bruises.

“The one upon the head was evidently caused by a fall upon a stone,
which would, I think, alone have produced insensibility,” he said. “The
one upon the cheek was apparently the result of a blow from a stick, but
it might have been occasioned by a fall.”

“Would either of the blows alone have occasioned death?” asked a
juryman.

“Not directly,” said the doctor. “The cause of death was exhaustion
resulting from immersion. A man who fell upon the boulders beneath the
bridge and rolled into the water would be very likely to succumb in that
fashion.”

Two servants from the hall were called, and then Tony’s man. “I saw Mr.
Appleby go out,” he said. “It was about eleven o’clock, but might have
been later. He took something from a rack which held sticks and riding‐
whips. He usually did take a stick. What do I mean by usually? Well, he
would walk down the avenue and home by the footpath now and then just
before he went to his room at night. I heard him come in about half an
hour later. I noticed mud on his shoes and trousers next morning; but he
would have to cross a wet place before he reached the lawn.”

Everybody seemed satisfied; but there was a little murmur when Miss
Wayne appeared, and somewhat indignant glances were cast upon Sergeant
Stitt. She wore a veil, but she removed it when she turned to the jury;
and it was in a clear, cold voice, which had a trace of haughtiness in
it, she answered the questions asked her.

“I am. I believe, the last person Mr. Appleby spoke to before he went
out,” she said. “So far as I noticed he did not appear disturbed or in
any way irritated. I met him at the head of the stairway.”

“Was the meeting accidental?”

A faint trace of color crept into the girl’s cheek, but it was in a
clear, even voice she said: “He had given me to understand that he
wished to see me.”

“Had he anything in particular to say to you?”

One or two of the jury made it evident that they considered the question
in bad taste, but there was a curious silence when it was seen that the
witness hesitated.

“He asked me for ten pounds,” she said.

Tony gasped when this was told him, and felt his face grow a trifle
warm, while a little thrill of indignation ran through him. He had been
pleased to see his friend and sweetheart on good terms, but that one
should borrow ten pounds from the other suggested a degree of intimacy
he had not contemplated.

“Do you know why he wanted the money?” asked the coroner.

The girl looked at him steadily, and nobody saw that her hands were
trembling. “No,” she said coldly. “That is, I do not know exactly. I
had, however, asked him to do me a favor which might cost a little
money, and surmised that he needed some. It was not quite certain that I
should see him on the morrow.”

“What was the favor?”

Violet Wayne straightened herself with an almost imperceptible movement,
but there was a change in her pose, and she held her shapely head
higher. “It had nothing to do with anything that could concern this
inquiry,” she said.

“You are on oath, Miss Wayne,” said the coroner. “Remembering that, you
are willing to repeat the assurance you have just given me?”

“Yes,” said the girl, standing very still, though every nerve in her was
tingling. She long remembered the strain she underwent just then, but it
was not until afterwards she was sorry that she had submitted to it. She
did nothing by half, and her love for Tony carried an obligation with
it. There were only one or two people, and Tony was not among them, who
realized all that Violet Wayne was, but they paid her a respectful
homage they offered to no other woman.

The coroner had not seen her until that morning, but her bearing, and
perhaps her beauty, had an effect, for he signified that he was
contented, and Godfrey Palliser was called. He carried himself a trifle
stiffly, and was as usual immaculate in dress while it was with a
suggestion of carefully suppressed annoyance, which some of those
present sympathized with, he gave his evidence.

Davidson had served him four years, he said. He frequently went round
the woods at night, and had of late suspected that poachers had been at
work about the fir spinny. So far as he knew, and he had made inquiries,
nobody but Bernard Appleby, a relation of his own, and a young man of
unimpeachable character, had gone out of his house on the night in
question. Appleby had spent fourteen days at the hall and it was at
least twelve months since he had stayed there before. It appeared
unlikely that he should have intended to meet Davidson.

Palliser was followed by a teamster, whose evidence made an impression.
“I came out of the ‘Black Bull’ with Davidson at ten minutes to eleven,”
he said. “He wasn’t exactly what one would call sober, though a man who
didn’t know him wouldn’t have noticed it. He told me he was going round
by the fir spinny to see if he could catch somebody who’d been laying
snares. I told him to be careful he didn’t pitch over the footbridge.”

Most of those present were sensible of a little relief. Nothing
unpleasant could, it seemed, transpire now, and the jury, who waited for
Appleby to inform them that he had seen nothing of Davidson during his
stroll, began to see what their verdict would be. There was also no
great show of interest when the coroner asked for Bernard Appleby.

He asked twice, however, and there was no answer, while the jury
exchanged significant glances when five minutes passed and the witness
did not appear. Then there was a curious silence as Sergeant Stitt,
flushed with haste, came in.

“Mr. Appleby was duly summoned, sir,” he said. “I have just received
this telegram from the solicitors he is engaged with.”

Nobody moved while the coroner opened the message, and there was deep
stillness as he read aloud: “In reply to inquiry Appleby has not resumed
his duties here as expected. Have no clue to his whereabouts. Anxious
for information.”

“It will be the duty of the police to discover them as soon as
possible,” he said. “Have you any notion, Sergeant Stitt?”

Stitt led in a young man whom everybody recognized as the booking clerk
from the station four miles away. “Mr. Appleby bought a ticket for
Liverpool just in time to catch the train on the evening Davidson’s body
was found,” he said. “He came into the office and sat down about a
minute. I noticed he turned up the steamer sailings in the paper he
borrowed.”

“A mail‐boat left for New York the following afternoon,” said Sergeant
Stitt.

The effect was evident. Men looked at one another with suspicion in
their eyes, the coroner sent for Palliser and conferred with him and
Stitt, while the heavy stillness the murmur of their voices emphasized
was curiously significant. Hitherto nobody had seriously thought of
connecting Appleby with Davidson’s death, but it now appeared that there
could be only one meaning to the fact that he had sought safety in
flight. Then the coroner stood up.

“It is unfortunate that more precautions were not taken to secure the
attendance of so important a witness as Mr. Appleby,” he said. “As it
appears tolerably certain that he is no longer in this country, there
is, I think, nothing to be gained by postponing the inquiry, and it is
for you to consider whether you can arrive at a decision without his
testimony.”

The jury were not long over the work, and the Northrop carpenter and
wheelwright made their decision known. “We find,” he said, “that the
deceased died of exhaustion as the result of a fall from the footbridge,
during, or very soon after, a struggle with a person, or more than one
person, by whom he was injured. We recommend that a double fence be
placed on the said bridge, with three by two standards and two rails
well tennoned in.”

“I am afraid that is a trifle too ambiguous,” said the coroner.

There was another consultation, and this time the verdict was concise.
“Manslaughter by some person or persons unknown.”

“It will now be the duty of the police to find them,” said the coroner.

Northrop Hall was almost empty of its guests that evening. They, of
course, knew what everybody’s suspicions now pointed to, and while it
was unpleasant to leave abruptly, felt that it would be an especially
tactful thing to Godfrey Palliser accepted their excuses with dry
concurrence, but he pressed Violet Wayne and her aunt to remain. It
would be a kindness, he said, because Tony seemed considerably
distressed by the affair. The girl fancied that he appeared so when he
came into the room where she sat beside a sinking fire. Only one lamp
was lighted and the room was dim; while a cold wind wailed outside, and
the rain beat upon the windows. Tony shivered, and his face seemed a
trifle haggard when he stopped and leaned on the back of her chair.

“It is a wild night, he said.

“Tell me what you are thinking, Tony,” said the girl, “I fancy I know.”

“I was thinking of the big liner driving through the blackness with
Bernard on board. She will be plunging forecastle under into the
Atlantic combers now. I almost wish I were on board her too.”

“But I should be here,” the girl said softly. “Do you want to leave me,
Tony?”

Tony laughed. “Oh, I talk at random now and then, and I’m not quite
myself to‐day. That confounded coroner made me savage for one thing. Did
you feel it very much?”

“Can’t you see that I am tired, dear?”

Tony, who moved a little, saw it plainly by the pallor of her face and
the weariness in her eyes.

“I felt I could have killed the officious beast,” he said, and stood
still, looking down on her irresolutely. “But whatever did you give
Bernard ten pounds for, Violet?”

“Is there any reason why I should tell you?”

“Yes”—and the man’s tone suggested that he felt his grievance was
warranted. “I think there is. Of course, I’m not a censorious person—I
can’t afford to be—but it really didn’t seem quite the thing, you know.”

The protest was perhaps natural, but Violet Wayne checked a little sigh.
She was in love with Tony, and that meant a good deal, but he was trying
now and then, and she had discovered that his views were narrow, and now
and then somewhat mean. Indeed, she had once or twice received an almost
painful astonishment when he had made them plain to her.

In the present case his reproaches were especially ill‐timed after what
she had suffered on his behalf. Tony was in difficulties, and she had
desired to free him of them; but it had been clear that he must be
helped surreptitiously, lest his self‐respect should suffer, which was
why she had passed on the task to a man she had confidence in, and had
so feared the coroner would force a revelation from her.

“You don’t wish to vex me?” she said.

“No,” said the man, still with a trace of petulance. “That is the last
thing I would like to do; but if you ever want ten pounds when you
haven’t got them I wish you would come to me. You see, it really isn’t
flattering to me that you would sooner borrow from Tom, Dick, and Harry,
and it sets the confounded idiots talking.”

A faint light crept into Violet Wayne’s eyes, and Tony knew he had gone
far enough.

“The one thing I resent is that it apparently sets you thinking,” she
said. “I can’t be satisfied with less than I offer you, Tony, and the
man who loves me must believe in me implicitly. I did not get angry when
you would not share your troubles with me.”

Tony softened. “I’m sorry, Violet, but the fact is I don’t feel very
pleased about anything to‐night. Nobody could expect it!”

“Is it Davidson’s death that is troubling you?”

She looked at him with a curious intentness, for Tony’s face was
haggard, and a horrible fear came upon the man as she did so. Her gaze
disconcerted him, and he fancied he saw suspicion in it. Accordingly he
clutched at the first excuse that presented itself.

“Not altogether! It’s Bernard,” he said.

Another irretrievable step was taken. Tony had waited as usual for
events, instead of choosing a path to be adhered to in spite of them. As
the result he was forced into one by which he had not meant to go, and
it led rapidly down hill. Violet Wayne, however, straightened herself a
trifle in her chair.

“Tony,” she said, “it is quite impossible that you should think what
your words suggest.”

The man’s face flushed, for her quiet assurance stirred the bitterness
of jealousy that had hitherto lain dormant in him, and again he answered
without reflection, eager only to justify himself.

“When a man borrows money, and goes out at night to meet another who may
have been blackmailing him, and then disappears when that man is found
dead with marks of violence on him, what would anybody think?” he said.

“Blackmailing him!” said Violet Wayne, and then sat very still a moment
while the blood crept into her pale cheek, for the meaning of one or two
vague allusions she had heard concerning Lucy Davidson flashed upon her.

“It slipped out. Of course, I should not have mentioned it to you.”

“You have done so, but the thing is so utterly hateful that it carries
its refutation with it”; and there was a portentous sparkle in the
girl’s eyes as she fixed them upon him.

Tony saw it, and trembled inwardly. He had been favored with glimpses of
Violet Wayne’s inner self before, and could discern the difference
between a becoming prudery and actual abhorrence.

“Still,” he said slowly, realizing that he was committed, “he
disappeared. Of course, the affair may not be as black as it looks, and
perhaps he was driven into it. Men with really good intentions are
forced into doing what they never meant to now and then.”

Violet Wayne laughed a little scornful laugh. “Isn’t the cowardice which
leads a man into meanness he is ashamed of more contemptible than bold
iniquity?”

“Well,” said Tony, “I don’t quite know. I don’t worry over those
questions, but it seems to me there is something to be said for the man
who does what he shouldn’t when he can’t help it.”

“Can’t help it?”

“Yes,” said Tony. “I mean when it would only cause trouble to everybody
if he did the correct thing.”

The girl looked at him curiously. “I think we had better abandon that
subject, Tony,” she said. “We will go back to the other. Your friend
could have had no hand in Davidson’s death—because he is your friend,
and because I know what kind of man he is. Is there nothing you could do
to clear him?”

Tony shook his head. “No; I wish I could,” he said.

“Still, you see, it doesn’t matter quite so much in his case. He leaves
nobody to worry about it behind him, and had no prospects. He told me he
was going out to try his fortune in another land, anyway.”

“It doesn’t matter! Is it nothing that he should go out with a brand of
that kind upon him?”

“Well,” said Tony reflectively, “I really don’t think it counts for very
much where he is going to. You see, they are not remarkably particular
in America.”

Violet Wayne rose. “You are not in a pleasant mood tonight, Tony, and I
am tired. We will not stay here and vex each other.”

Tony endeavored to slip his arm about her. “I know I’m a bad‐tempered
beast now and then. I can only tell you that you are ever so much too
good for me again.”

The girl did very little to repulse him, in fact scarcely more than lift
her eyes, but Tony’s arm fell to his side. Then she smiled somewhat
curiously. “Don’t make too determined an effort to convince me,” she
said. “I should not like to believe you.”

She went out, leaving Tony alone with a horror of himself. He realized
that there could be no turning back now. He must go on by the path he
had taken, and standing with hand clenched on the mantle he groaned a
little.



V — APPLEBY MAKES A FRIEND


IT was blowing a moderate gale, and the “Aurania,” steaming at full
speed into it, rolled viciously. A half‐moon shone out low down beneath
wisps of whirling cloud, and the big black seas shook their frothing
crests high aloft against the silvery light as they swept in long
succession out of the night. The steamer met them with dipping
forecastle from which the spray blew aft in clouds, lurched and hove her
streaming bows high above the froth, rolled until one rail seemed level
with the sea, and slid down into the hollow, out of which her head swung
slowly up to meet the onslaught of the next. Bitter spray was flying
everywhere, her decks ran water; but it was only between foremast and
forecastle head she shipped it in cascades, and little groups of
passengers stood where they could find shelter. They had finished their
dinner with some difficulty, and because the vessel rolled so that it
was not an easy task to keep one’s seat or footing had found their
attempts to amuse themselves below a waste of effort.

Bernard Appleby stood a little apart from one group of them under the
lee of a deck‐house. Tony had lent him fifty pounds, and he had taken
the cheapest berth obtainable which would permit him to travel saloon.
This was apparently a reckless extravagance, but Appleby had inherited a
certain shrewdness from his father, who had risen from the ranks, and
decided that the risk was warranted. He would, he told himself,
certainly make acquaintances, and possibly a friend, during the passage,
while he knew that the majority of those who travelled by those vessels
were Americans who had acquired a competence by commerce, and could
therefore direct him how to find an opening for his energies if they
felt inclined. He had already made the acquaintance of five or six of
them, and acquired a good deal of information about the great Republic,
which did not, however, promise to be of much use to him.

Still, he was by no means dejected. Bernard Appleby had a good courage,
and there was in him a longing for adventure which he had hitherto held
in check. He knew that the gates of the old life were closed against
him, but this caused him no regret, for he had not the least desire to
go back to it. Indeed, he wondered how he had borne the monotonous
drudgery he detested, and practised an almost Spartan self‐denial so
long, and it was with a curious content he looked forward into the night
over the plunging bows. The throb of hard‐driven engines, roar of wind,
and crash of shattered seas that fell back seething from the forecastle,
stirred the blood in him. It all spoke of stress and effort, but there
was a suggestion of triumph in it, for while the white‐crested phalanxes
arrayed themselves against her the great ship that man had made went on,
battered and streaming, but irresistible. Appleby felt that there were
in him capacities for effort and endurance equal to those of other men
who had fought their way to fortune, if he could find a field for them.

Then he became interested in his companions. There were two women among
them, and he could see the figure of one silhouetted against the blue
and silver of the night when the steamer rolled. It was a dainty figure
in spite of the big cape that fluttered about it; while the loose wisps
of hair that blew out from under the little cap in no way detracted from
the piquancy of the half‐seen face and head. Appleby recognized the girl
as Miss Nettie Harding, whom he sat opposite to at the saloon table.

“Keep a good hold, Miss Harding!” said one of the men beside her. “This
boat is trying to roll her funnels out of her, and it seems to me quite
possible for one to pitch right over the rail.”

The girl’s laugh reached Appleby through the roar of the gale, as she
stood, poised lightly, with one hand on the guardrail that ran along the
deck‐house, and the deck slanting like a roof beneath her, while the
white chaos of a shattered sea swirled by, as it seemed, directly
beneath her. Then she fell against the deck‐house as the steamer rolled
back again until her streaming plates on that side were high above the
brine, and a woman said, “Can’t you be careful, Nettie?”

There was a crash beneath the dipping bows, a great cloud of spray
whirled up, and a man’s voice said: “Hold on, everybody! She has gone
slap into an extra big one.”

There was a few seconds interval while the wet deck rose up before the
roll began, and then the “Aurania” swung back with a vicious jerk.
Appleby heard a faint cry, and saw Miss Harding reel away from the deck‐
house. The sea lay apparently straight beneath her, with the steamer’s
slanted rail a foot or two above it. Almost simultaneously he sprang,
and felt the girl’s shoulder under his hand. How he span her round and
thrust himself behind her he did not know, but next moment he struck the
rail a heavy blow, and the girl crushed him against it. He afterwards
decided that they could scarcely have fallen over it; but that fact was
not apparent just then, and flinging himself on hands and knees he
dragged the girl down with him. As he did so two of her companions came
sliding down to their assistance, and the four glissaded back to the
deck‐house amidst several inches of very cold water as the following
roll began. Appleby helped Miss Harding to her feet, and into the
lighted companion, where she turned to him, flushed, gasping, and
dripping, with a grateful smile.

“That was awfully good of you,” she said. “I should have been hurt
against the rail, anyway, if you hadn’t got in front of me. But your
face is bleeding. I hope I didn’t hurt you.”

Appleby said he was not hurt in the least, though his shoulder felt
unpleasantly sore; and leaving her with an elder lady who came in with
the rest he hastened to his state‐room, where he struggled into dry
clothing, an operation which is not altogether simple on board a rolling
steamer. There was also a lacerated bruise on his forehead which
required some little attention, and while he was occupied with it a man
who tapped upon the door came in. He was apparently of middle age, and
had a shrewd, lean face, with blue eyes that had a twinkle in them. He
sat down and waited until Appleby turned to him. Then he held out a
card.

“I guess you will know my name, but there’s my address. Put it in your
wallet,” he said.

“Mr. Cyrus P. Harding,” said Appleby. “What can I do for you?”

The man laughed pleasantly. “That is rather what I should ask you.
Anyway, I want to thank you for the help you rendered my daughter.”

Appleby made a little whimsical gesture. “The conventional answer fits
the case. It was nothing, sir.”

“Well,” said Harding dryly, “it would have been a good deal to me if my
girl had gone out over the rail.”

“I don’t think that could have happened.”

Harding nodded, but the twinkle snowed more plainly in his eyes. “I
don’t either, but I guess you were not quite sure of it then, and there
are men who would have made the most of the thing. I understand you got
between her and the rail, anyway, and that is what gave you the bruise
on the head.”

“I’m glad I had so much sense. I have, however, had more serious
bruises, and may get them again. I hope Miss Harding is none the worse.”

“No,” said Harding. “She seems quite pleased with herself. It’s an
adventure, and she likes them. She will thank you to‐morrow, and I don’t
want to intrude on you. Still, you haven’t told me what to call you, and
I hope to see more of you.”

Appleby was a young man, and the fall against the rail had shaken him,
or his answer would have been more prompt and decided.

“Walthew Broughton,” he said.

Harding, he fancied, looked at him curiously, and then smiled as he went
out; but there was a trifle more color than usual in Appleby’s face when
he took up the card. It bore a business address in New York, but there
was written across it, apparently in haste, “Sonoma, Glenwood, Hudson
River.”

“I wonder if that has any special significance,” he said. “I will not
force myself upon the man, but it’s quite evident I can’t afford to
stand off if he means to be friendly.”

He met Miss Harding on deck next morning, and she graciously allowed him
to find her a chair, pack her wraps about her, and then sit close by
talking to her for half an hour, which he had cause for surmising
excited the indignation of other passengers. He found her vivacious,
witty, and almost astonishingly well‐informed, for Nettie Harding had
enjoyed all the advantages the great Republic offers its daughters, and
these are many. Still, he knew that it is a mistake to overdo anything,
and, though Miss Harding still appeared contented with his company, took
himself away when two or three of her feminine companions appeared. They
had questions to ask and Nettie Harding laughed.

“Then the Englishman can talk?” said one.

“Yes,” said Nettie Harding reflectively, “he can. Still, he’s sensible,
and doesn’t say too much. I’m rather fond of those quiet men. There was
another point that pleased me. He didn’t hang about where he would be
sure to meet me, and then appear astonished when what he expected
happened, as some men would have done, but waited until I walked up to
him.”

“After all, he only picked you up off the deck. There was really no
danger; and I would like to have kodaked you holding on to each other.
In daylight it would have made quite an amusing picture.”

“Anyway, I must have hurt him, because he put himself between the rail
and me,” said Nettie Harding. “You see, I do weigh something, though I’m
a good deal lighter than you are, Miriam.”

Miriam, whose proportions were not exactly sylph‐like, appeared slightly
nettled, but the others laughed.

“He is quite good‐looking,” said one of them. “Now, such a send‐off
would make a good beginning for a romance. Quite sure you don’t mean to
fall in love with him, Nettie? No doubt he’s poor but distinguished, or
he wouldn’t be coming out to us.”

Miss Harding smiled, but there was a trace of softness in her eyes,
which were of a fine deep tint of blue. “I don’t think so, and there is
a difficulty. I’m in love already—with the man I’m going to marry.”

A girl who had not spoken nodded sympathetically, for she knew the story
of Nettie Harding’s engagement to an officer of the United States navy
who was far from rich.

“This year—next year, Nettie?” she said.

Miss Harding smiled a little. “This one’s nearly through, and I’m going
to Cuba early in the next.”

“Cuba can’t be a nice place just now, with the patriots and filibusters
running loose all over it,” said the girl called Miriam. “What do you
want to go there for?”

“My father’s going. He has a good many dollars planted out there, and I
fancy he is getting anxious about them. I quite often go round with him;
and Julian will be away in the Bering Sea.”

She rose, for a cold wind still swept the sun‐flecked Atlantic; but she
spoke to Appleby at lunch, and also at dinner that evening, after which
her father carried him off to the smoking‐room. There was a considerable
difference between their ages and views of life, but a friendship that
was free alike from patronage or presumption sprang up between them in
spite of it. Cyrus Harding was an American, and what is usually termed a
self‐made man, but he did not attempt to force his belief in himself and
his country upon everybody else, though it was sincere enough. He was
typically lean in face and frame, but his dress was as unostentatious as
his speech, and he wore no diamonds, which are, indeed, not usually
displayed by men of substance in his country. The little glint in his
keen blue eyes, together with the formation of his mouth and chin,
however, hinted that he possessed a good deal of character.

Being a man who noticed everything, he was quite aware that Appleby
spent at least an hour in the aggregate in his daughter’s company every
day, and said nothing. Nettie was, he knew, a very capable young woman,
and Appleby, he fancied, a gentleman, which was, in the meanwhile,
sufficient for him. A friendship may also be made rapidly at sea, and on
the seventh day out he asked Appleby a question. They were leaning on
the rail together cigar in hand while the ship rolling her mastheads
athwart the blue swung with an easy lurch over the long smooth heave of
shining sea.

“What is bringing you out to our country?” he said.

Appleby laughed. “What I expect is quite the usual thing. The difficulty
of getting a living in the old one.”

Harding looked him over. “Army too expensive?”

Appleby flushed a little. “I have never been in it, though I think I was
meant for a soldier.”

“One can’t always be what he was meant for,” said Harding, with a little
dry smile. “It’s a general belief among young men in my country that
they were specially designed for millionaires, but only a few of them
get there. Got any dollars?”

Appleby made a calculation. “Taking the rate at 4.80, I have about one
hundred and twenty.”

He had expected his companion to show signs of astonishment at his
rashness, but Harding nodded. “I began with five but I was younger than
you are,” he said. “Business pays best yonder. What are you strongest
at?”

“I can ride and shoot a little, which is what seems most likely to
further my intentions, and speak Spanish reasonably well. These, I
surmise, are very doubtful advantages, but I have no liking for business
whatever. Is there anything to be made out of horses or cattle?”

“Oh yes,” said Harding dryly. “There are men who make a good deal, but
you want ten or fifteen thousand dollars to begin with, anyway. It’s
only a big ranch that pays. Quite sure you wouldn’t like to try your
hand at business? I could introduce you to one or two men if you came
out to Glenwood and stayed a week with me.”

Appleby felt that the keen blue eyes were quietly scrutinizing him.
“No,” he said. “There is a fact I must mention which I also think would
prevent you wishing to entertain me. A business man hiring anybody would
have questions to ask, and I left the old country suddenly. I am not
sure that a charge of manslaughter has not been brought against me by
this time.”

Harding did not seem in the least astonished; in fact, his very
impassiveness had its humorous aspect, as Appleby recognized.

“Did you kill the man?” he asked.

“No,” said Appleby, “I did not even attempt it; though in the face of
circumstances I think nobody would believe me. Still, that’s a story I
can’t go into, though it seemed the correct thing to mention it to you.”

Harding nodded gravely. “The straight road is the shortest one, though
it’s quite often steep,” he said. “Now, I had a notion you had some
difficulty of that kind.”

“I don’t know that there is anything in my appearance which especially
suggests the criminal.”

“Well,” said Harding, with a little laugh, “you didn’t seem quite sure
of your own name when you told it me; but I’ve handled a good many men
in my time, and found out how to grade them before I began. I wasn’t
very often wrong. Now, it seemed to me there was no particular meanness
about you, and homicide isn’t thought such a serious thing in my
country, when it’s necessary. Before I was your age I had to hold on to
all I had in the world with the pistol one night down in New Mexico—and
I held on.”

His face grew a trifle grim, but Appleby was glancing out towards the
saffron glare of sunset on the ocean’s rim. “I want to live in the open,
and see what the life men lead outside your cities is like,” he said.
“There is nobody to worry about me, and I don’t mind the risks. Can you
suggest anything with a chance of dollars in it a little outside the
beaten track?”

“You speak Spanish?”

“I was born at Gibraltar, and lived in Spain until I was ten years old.”

“Well,” said Harding, “as it happens, I can suggest something that might
suit you, though I would rather, in spite of what you told me, have
found you a business opportunity. The men who play the game will want
good nerves, but there are dollars in it for the right ones. It’s
running arms to Cuba.”

A little gleam crept into Appleby’s eyes, and he flung up his head. “I
think,” he said quietly, “that is the very thing I would have wished
for.”

“Then,” said Harding, “I’ll give you a letter to some friends of mine in
Texas.”

He went away by and by, and Appleby decided that the cost of his saloon
passage had been a good investment. Still, he wondered what Harding
could have to do with such a risky business as he surmised the smuggling
of arms into Cuba must be, until he strolled round the deck with his
daughter in the moonlight that evening.

“I think you have made a useful friend to‐day,” she said.

Appleby looked at her with a little astonishment, and the girl smiled
when he said, “I don’t understand.”

“I mean Cyrus P. Harding. There are quite a number of men with dollars
anxious to be on good terms with him.”

“What have I done to please him?”

“You wouldn’t come to Glenwood,” and the girl laughed again. “No, I
don’t mean that exactly, but I need not explain. Cyrus P. Harding never
did a mean thing in his life, you see.”

Appleby smiled at her. “So one would surmise. In my country we rather
believe in heredity.”

“Pshaw!” said the girl. “There really isn’t much in compliments when
they’re served out all round. But if you are going to Cuba I may see you
there.”

“Will you be in Cuba?”

Nettie Harding nodded. “My father has no end of dollars there—in tobacco
and sugar.”

“I wonder if one could ask what induced Mr. Harding to invest money in
such an unsettled country as Cuba is just now?”

Nettie Harding looked up at him confidentially. “It’s a thing I wouldn’t
tell everybody, and if I did I shouldn’t be believed,” she said. “Well,
Cyrus Harding can see ever so far ahead, and I never knew him mistaken
yet. Some day something will happen in Cuba that will give us an excuse
for turning the Spaniards out and straightening things up. They need
it.”

“But if the thing doesn’t happen?”

Nettie Harding laughed. “Then I shouldn’t wonder if he and a few other
men made it.”

Some of her companions joined them, and she said nothing more to
Appleby; but they met again that evening, and she induced him to promise
that he would spend at least one day at Glenwood, while when they
disembarked in New York Harding walked down the gangway with his hand on
Appleby’s shoulder as though on excellent terms with him. He also kept
him in conversation during the Customs searching, and when a little
unobtrusive man sauntered by said to the officer, “Can’t you go through
this gentleman’s baggage next? He is coming to Glenwood with me.”

The unobtrusive man drew a little nearer, glancing at Appleby, and then
touched Harding’s shoulder.

“Is that gentleman a friend of yours, Mr. Harding?” he asked.

“Of course,” said Harding. “He is staying with me. We have business on
hand we couldn’t fix up at sea.”

Appleby caught his warning glance, and stood very still with his heart
thumping, apparently gazing at something across the shed, go that the
man could only see the back of his head.

“In that case, I guess I’m wasting time,” said the man, who laughed.
“Still, you understand we have to take precautions, Mr. Harding.”

He went away, and Appleby turned to Harding with a little flush in his
face as he asked, “Who is that man?”

“That,” said Harding, with a dry smile, “is one of the smartest of our
New York detectives.”

They reached his house at Glenwood that afternoon, and Appleby spent two
pleasant days there. On the third he left for New York, and Nettie
Harding smiled as she shook hands with him.

“I wonder whether we shall see you in Cuba?” she said.

“It will not be my fault if you do not,” said Appleby. “I am heavily
indebted to you and your father.”

As it happened, he afterwards saw Nettie Harding in Cuba, and paid his
debt; for Appleby, who had gone out under a cloud that Tony’s sweetheart
might retain her faith in him, was one of the men who do not take the
kindness that is offered them and immediately forget.



VI — THE SCHOONER “VENTURA”


THE night was considerably clearer than anybody on board her desired
when the schooner “Ventura” headed for the land. It rose in places,
black and sharp against the velvety indigo, over her dipping bows,
though most of the low littoral was wrapped in obscurity. Harper, the
American skipper, leaned upon the helm watching the growing brightness
in the east, and a man whose white garments cut against the dusky sea
sat upon the rail close beside him. They were both anxious, for there
were no lights on that strip of Cuban coast, and the “Ventura” had
drifted with the stream in a calm which had complicated Harper’s
reckoning. He had to find a certain reef‐studded bay, and run the
schooner into a creek among the mangroves without being seen by the
gunboat which he had reason to surmise was looking out for him.

Forward, a cluster of men were sitting about the windlass and leaning on
the rail. They were of diverse nationality and doubtful character—
American, Castilian, and African by extraction, though in the case of
some of uncertain color it would have been difficult to decide which
blood predominated in their veins. It was their task to supply the
insurgents with the munitions of war, and they undertook it
dispassionately, without any patriotic convictions, for the dollars it
would bring. Indeed, most of them were not held in much esteem in the
countries they belonged to, or they would not in all probability have
been there on board the “Ventura.”

Appleby watched them languidly from where he sat behind the wheel, and
wondered what lay before him when he glanced towards the dusky coast‐
line. He was, however, not unduly anxious, for he had cut himself adrift
from the cramped life he had led, and as yet found the new one pleasant.
It needed qualities he felt he possessed, and which, indeed, he had with
difficulty held in due subjection in England; while the fact that it
might at any time terminate suddenly caused him no great concern. In the
meanwhile the risks and opportunities attached to it had their charm for
one who had long found poverty and the restraints of conventionality
irksome.

“We’ll have the moon up in ten minutes,” said Harper, as the “Ventura”
swung up on a frothing sea. “That would suit us if we were in the bay,
but I’m not certain where we’re heading for just now. You still think
that was Sparto Point we saw at dusk, Rosendo?”

The man who sat upon the rail shook his head. “Who knows!” he said. “If
she is not the Sparto she may be the Playa Santiago, or the Cameron.”

Harper turned to Appleby with a little gesture of resignation. “You hear
him. He’s talking,” he said. “Thirty miles more or less don’t count with
them. If we don’t get in to‐day, we may to‐morrow, and if it’s next week
nobody’s going to worry. They’ve nice business‐like notions in their
country.”

Rosendo laughed. “We not find the Sparto? Good! It is simple. She is
farther on. We find her in two or three more hour.”

“Oh yes!” said Harper. “Still, what I want to know is, what’s going to
happen if the gunboat comes along while we’re looking for her? I’ve a
notion it might mean a white wall and a firing party.”

Rosendo shrugged his shoulders, and Appleby glanced towards the east.
There was a bank of cloud in that quarter, but the sky above it was a
pale luminescent blue. Then he looked astern, and saw the white tops of
the seas heave against the darkness, for it was blowing fresh from the
north. The “Ventura,” rolling lazily, was running before it with only
her boom‐foresail and two jibs set, but now and then the crest of a sea
that surged past lapped her rail.

“Wouldn’t she stand more sail?” he said.

“Oh yes!” said Harper, pointing to the mainsail which lay loose beneath
the big boom that swung, banging a little, above them. “It’s there
ready. Still, it will be ’most three hours yet before there’s water in,
and if the gunboat came along I’d sooner be here, where I’ve room to
run, than jammed right up between her and a lee shore. If I was sure
that was the high ground behind Point Sparto I’d feel considerably
happier.”

They rolled on awhile, and then a half‐moon sailed up. The sea changed
to flashing silver, and Harper, leaving the wheel to Rosendo, went up
the foremast hoops and swung perched on the cross‐trees, black against
the night. He came down by and by, and there was relief in his voice.

“That’s the Point sure enough! We’ll have the mainsail on her, boys,” he
said.

The men came aft in haste. There was a rattle of blocks, and Appleby
bent his back among the rest, while the folds of dusky canvas rose
thrashing up the mast. They swelled into shape and became at rest, while
the schooner, slanting over suddenly, put on speed, and drove away
towards the land with a great frothing beneath her rail. She rolled
little now, but there was a thud when her bows went down and the spray
whirled half the height of her foresail. Appleby felt the exhilaration
of swift motion, and his pulses throbbed a trifle faster as he watched
the great breadths of canvas that gleamed silver now sway athwart the
blue, and the froth swirl past the slender strip of hull that was
dwarfed by comparison beneath them. The “Ventura” was very fast, but she
could not compete with steam; and he noticed that Harper, who had taken
the helm again, every now and then glanced over the rail. He appeared to
be staring persistently towards one quarter of the horizon.

Suddenly a man standing high on the cross‐trees shouted, and Appleby,
springing to his feet, saw a faint, dusky smear drift athwart the blue
and silver, where a minute earlier there had only been sky and water.

“Smoke!” said Harper. “I don’t know that it’s the ‘Enseñada,’ but I’m
taking no chances of meeting her, We’ll have the gaff‐topsails up, boys,
and the foresail over.”

He pulled at the wheel. There was a bang as the boom‐foresail lurched
over, so that it and the big mainsail now swelled on either hand. Then
the men swarmed about the deck again, and Appleby wondered a little when
amidst a clatter of blocks two more strips of sail went thrashing aloft,
for it seemed to him that the “Ventura” was already carrying a risky
press of canvas. He, however, pulled among the rest, and it was not
until the schooner was clothed with canvas to her topmast heads that he
straightened his back and looked about him. As he did so she dipped her
bows into a sea, and a cascade poured in forward. It came aft frothing
when her head went up, and then as she plunged into the hollow another
mass of foam came up astern and surged by a foot above her rail. Harper
laughed.

“Wet feet don’t count in this trade,” he said. “She’s not going to scoop
in too much of it if I can keep her running, but you’ll see something
very like chaos if we have to put her on the wind. Is that smoke rising
any?”

Appleby fancied it was, for the dusky smear had lengthened, and it
seemed to him there was something more solid than vapor in the midst of
it. The skipper, however, in view of the inadvisability of bringing the
great mainsail crashing over, could not turn his head.

“Still, even if it is a gunboat, we should be well in with the land
before she overhauls us,” said Appleby.

“Yes,” said Harper grimly. “The trouble is there’s no water yet into the
creek, and there’ll be a blame nasty surf running into the bay. Still,
there’s a place where we could hold her to it with two anchors down, and
it would take good eyes to make us out against the land. It’s just a
question whether those fellows yonder see us first.”

It appeared to Appleby a somewhat important one, but he had to wait for
the answer with the rest, and by and by it came. The man on the cross‐
trees shouted, the smear of smoke seemed to break in two, as though the
vessel beneath it had changed her direction, and she became visible in a
moment or two, a faint dark blur upon the moonlit water. Harper turned
his head swiftly, and his face showed very grim in the moonlight when he
stared in front of him again.

“I guess our chances have gone down fifty cents in the dollar,” he said.
“Get a range of cable up on deck. Then we’ll have the boat cleared handy
and the hatch‐wedges out.”

The men became busy amidst a rattle of chain, and then stood where it
was a little dryer between the masts, with their shadows lying black
upon the silvery cloths of the foresail. They were watching the steamer,
which was rising upon one quarter with the smear of smoke blowing away
from her. Appleby could see her plainly now, a strip of black hull that
rolled with slanted spars across the harmonies of blue and silver—and
she seemed to him portentous in her shadowiness, for there was no blink
of light on board her.

“The ‘Enseñada’?” said Harper.

“Si, señor!” said Rosendo, with a little gesture which was very
expressive.

Harper pulled at the wheel, and Appleby saw that he was addressing him.

“There are two of their gunboats on this coast, and it’s quite in the
usual course that it’s the one I don’t want to see that turns up,” he
said. “Her commander has a little grievance against me.”

Appleby did not ask him what it was. He had something else to think of,
and the swift upward lurches and wisps of spray that blew about the
“Ventura” made conversation difficult. The seas also seemed to be
growing steeper as she closed with the land, and washed in as they went
smoking past. Still, but for that sinister shape steadily rising higher
on one quarter he could have found pleasure in the scene. The wail of
wind, the humming of the shrouds, patter of spray, and roar of frothy
seas stirred the blood in him, while the swift reeling rush when the
bows went up brought him a curious sense of exultation.

It was stress and effort of muscle and body he had hungered for in the
sleepy English town, for slow endurance was nothing new to him, and he
was apparently to get it now. There was a meaning in the tense black
figures of the men, and the grim impassiveness of Harper’s face as he
stiffened his grasp on the wheel, for human fibre was under strain as
well as hemp and wood and metal, which groaned under the pressure which
racked them to the uttermost limit. Yet while the gunboat crept up
astern Appleby felt at home, as though this was not a novel sensation,
and he had been through it all, or something very similar, more than
once before. The fixed look in the eyes that gleamed in the moonlight,
the set faces, and the rigidity of the men’s pose appeared in a curious
fashion familiar.

A flash from the steamer roused him, there was a detonation, and a
quarter of a mile beyond them a little white cloud rose from the sea.
Some of the black figures swung round, but Appleby looked straight in
front of him. He did not know why he avoided any abrupt movement, but he
felt without reflection that it was incumbent on him. It was, however,
not the first time a man of his or his mother’s name had stood outwardly
unmoved, at least, under artillery fire.

There was also something to see ahead—a dim, forest‐shrouded littoral
across which the vapors were streaming, and a faint white line of beach.
In the foreground were broad streaks of froth, and the long blur of a
jutting point with a yeasty seething about the end of it. Away on the
other hand lay a smear of dusky trees, and the gap between them and the
point was, he surmised, the bay they had been looking for. It held no
shelter for them that he could see. Then Harper called the Spaniard
Rosendo.

“There’s not going to be water in for an hour yet, anyway,” he said.

Rosendo shook his head. “There is much tree on the Point,” he said.

Harper appeared reflective. “Yes,” he said, “that’s what I was thinking.
Well, with this wind the Point would break the sea, and she mightn’t
bump the bottom out of her if we did put her on the bar. Those fellows
couldn’t get a clear shot at us across the trees, and they wouldn’t be
anxious to send boats in considering the sea that’s running. Still,
there’s a thing that’s worrying me.”

He glanced forward towards one of the streaks of froth which Appleby
surmised showed where a reef lay below, and Rosendo made an expressive
grimace.

“Los Dientes!” he said, and spread his arms out as though to indicate a
measure. “One brazo a half now.”

Harper nodded. “I can’t run for the gut behind it without bringing that
fellow too close,” he said. “If I go round to weather we’ll have to
close‐haul her, and he’d come up near enough to sink us if we took sail
off her. Still, she’ll scarcely carry what she has got now on the wind.”

Rosendo shrugged his shoulders as he said in Castilian, “Between the
fire and the cooking pot there is not much choice, my friend!”

Then the men between the masts came aft together, and one of them, whose
color was not exactly white, stopped in front of Harper.

“We have no use for being run slap on the Dientes, and she’s not going
to work off it if we hold on much longer.”

Harper swung a hand up commandingly. “When I’m not fit to sail this boat
I’ll ask your help,” he said. “I’ve a good deal less use for showing the
Spaniard just what I mean to do while he could spoil my hand by altering
his course a point or two. Get your boom‐foresail over, and the staysail
on to her!”

It was done, though the “Ventura” rolled her rail in when the big sail
swung banging over. By and by Harper brought the wind abeam, and she
drove along at an angle to her previous course, with one side hove high,
while the sea came in in cataracts over either bow. Appleby clutched the
rail, for the deck slanted away beneath him, and he wondered how the
barefooted men kept their footing. The other rail was apparently level
with the sea, and the brine that sluiced down the incline washed knee‐
deep inside it. The masts sloped as the deck did, with the spray beating
like grapeshot into the foresail between them; but the topmasts above
them slanted further, and Appleby understood why Harper’s face was
anxious when he glanced aloft. The gunboat was within easy range now,
and it was evident there would be no escape for them if anything yielded
under the strain. In fact, Appleby was wondering whether her commander
felt sure of them since he was not firing, when there was another flash
followed by the roar of a gun. An unseen object that could be heard
through the sound of wind and sea passed between the masts, and Harper
nodded.

“I guess that decides the thing. What she can’t carry she’ll have to
drag,” he said.

She dragged it for another five minutes, staggering under a press of
sail, and then there was a crash aloft, and topmast and mainsail gaff
fell to leeward together. A clamor of voices went up, and the
“Ventura’s” bows swung round a little further off the wind; while
Appleby, who saw Harper’s face in the moonlight, noticed that it was set
and very grim.

“You can run down the staysail and outer jib so she’ll not fall to
leeward all at once,” he said.

The men went forward floundering amidst the spray, and the plunges grew
a trifle easier, while the seas swung the “Ventura” aloft instead of
deluging her; but a glance made the position unpleasantly plain to
Appleby. To leeward lay the white frothing on the Dientes reef, and he
surmised that the “Ventura” could not clear it without her after canvas;
to windward the gunboat, coming down on them rapidly. There was, it
seemed, no escape, and he wondered vaguely what would happen. Harper
said nothing whatever, but stood with his lean figure casting a black
shadow upon the crippled mainsail, grasping the wheel. So they drove on
for another five minutes, and then, with a glance at the gunboat, the
skipper straightened himself.

“They’re not going to have the guns, and the schooner might fetch ten
dollars when I’m through with her,” he said. “Get the foresail off her,
and stand by to swing out the boat!”

The sail came down thrashing, and the men stood very still and silent
when they had hooked the tackles on the boat. Their faces were turned
forward, and Appleby guessed that they were watching the white upheavals
that showed where the seas rolled across the submerged reef. This was
not astonishing, for the “Ventura’s” bows had swung further round, and
it was evident that Harper was running them upon it. Appleby was
sensible of a curious admiration for him. He still stood at the wheel,
slouching over it, now suspense had gone and certainty had come, a most
unimpressive figure, in old duck jacket and brine‐soaked trousers that
were both too loose for him, but it was evident that the spirit which
disdains dramatic expression and often burns most clearly in unexpected
places was in him.

“Hold on!” he said quietly as the bows went up.

Then she struck, with a crash that sent two men reeling across her deck,
and the sea that rolled up behind her surged frothing on board. It went
forward waist deep; the “Ventura” lifted, and came down again, with
everything in her rattling and her crew holding fast for their lives.
Then she twisted round, so that the next comber foamed across her and
ground her on the reef, hove herself up, scraped forward, grinding and
groaning, a few more fathoms, and stopped again; while a negro and a
Cuban shaken from their hold rolled down the slanting deck clutching at
each other until they fell into the water pent up by the lower rail. The
din was bewildering, for every block and spar banged and rattled amidst
the dull roar of the seas, but it was rent by the crash of a gun.

Grasping the rail with both hands, Appleby saw the gunboat rolling black
athwart the moonlight, while a smear of vapor broadened about her; but
there was another sound beneath him as he gazed, and while the splinters
flew in showers a great rent opened in the deck. Nobody said anything,
or could have been heard if he had, and Appleby clung tighter still when
once more a sea crested with spouting white came along. It lifted the
“Ventura” up, and then there was a curious quietness as it dropped her
clear of the reef. Through the sudden silence Harper’s voice rose evenly
and almost expressionless.

“I guess there’s some of the rudder left, though it’s jammed. Give me a
hand,” he said.

Appleby sprang to help him, and between them they dragged the helm over.
The “Ventura” lurched on more smoothly with a gurgling sound inside her,
for the reef broke the sea; but ten minutes later she struck again, and
remained this time immovable. Nobody waited for orders, and in swift
silence the boat was got over, while a fire commenced to twinkle on the
beach. Wooden cases were passed up from the hold, and—for the water was
smoother there—the boat got away. Four men went in her, and the rest
dropped into the hold, where they tore out boxes and cases and passed
them from man to man. While they worked the gun boomed again, but the
gasping men toiled the more fiercely, and Appleby did his part with
them. He was dripping with perspiration and spray, his hands were
bleeding, and his duck jacket rent up the back, but, gasping and
panting, he labored on with a fierce pleasure that seemed wholly
illogical.

Once he lifted his head above the hatch, as he tore the jacket which
impeded him off his shoulders, and saw that the gunboat had stopped. She
was not firing now, and his comrades had, he fancied, sent three loads
ashore by that time; but he had scarcely glanced at her when Harper saw
him. “Hustle!” he said. “The boats are coming.”

How long they toiled in the hold Appleby could never remember, but
though it appeared no more than a few minutes to him the moon had moved
across a broad strip of sky when he crawled on deck again. The boat lay
beneath him, half full of cases, and the men were dropping into her. Two
other boats showed for a moment to windward, and then sank from sight
again.

“Hold on!” said Harper, pointing to the cases still on deck. “Into the
sea with them!”

Appleby and another man threw them over, though there were impatient
cries from the boat below, and the rest were shoving off when they
dropped into her. Somebody was baling furiously, two men tugged and
thrust, Spanish fashion, at every oar, and they reeled away shorewards
with the water lapping into her. Then a fire grew brighter above the
roaring beach, men came floundering waist‐deep through the surf, those
in the boat sprang over, and they went up with the wash of a sea.
Appleby, scrambling out of the backwash, stood up, dripping, breathless,
and aching all over, and saw Harper not far away and a host of dusky
figures flitting about the fire. Then there was a flash from seawards, a
crash in the forest behind them, and they disappeared.

“Well,” said the skipper quietly, “the ‘Ventura’ isn’t going to sea any
more. You have to take your chances in this business; and we got most of
the inside out of her, anyway.”



VII — THE DESCENT OF SANTA MARTA


A LITTLE fire burned in a hollow of the dusty barranco that fissured the
face of the hill, a clear red fire of the kind that gives little light
and makes no smoke, and its pale glow showed but feebly against the rock
behind. This was still flushed with a warm lustre caught from the
western sky, though the sun had dipped and the fleecy mists were
creeping across the dusky plain below.

A group of weary men lay about the fire, dusty and ragged, for they had
spent most of twelve weary hours forcing a path through thickets and
climbing like goats from rock to rock under the heat of the tropics. Two
of them wore garments of cotton, which hung about them rent by thorns;
three others jackets of American make, looted from a loyalist store; and
one trousers of English tweed, through which his knees protruded, and a
jacket of alpaca of a kind esteemed in Spain. He had, however, a red
silk sash of beautiful texture, which had cost somebody else a good many
dollars, round his waist; and his face, which was bronzed to a coffee
color, had once been of paler complexion than those of most of his
companions. He raised himself a trifle, and glanced about him with a
little whimsical smile.

“They are a choice collection of scarecrows to take a city with,” he
said in English.

A man who lay close by looked up with a twinkle in his eyes. “I have
seen smarter soldiers,” he drawled. “Still, they’re a hard crowd, and
I’d feel kind of sorry for Colonel Morales if his cazadores don’t put up
a good fight to‐night. What we have on hand isn’t quite the thing I came
out to do, but I guess it’s better than catching fever down there in the
mangrove swamps. That’s how it strikes me, though it will scarcely be
the kind of business you’ve been used to, Appleby.”

Appleby laughed again as he glanced at the ragged men sprawling in
attitudes that were rather easy than picturesque a little farther up the
gorge. They were of various shades of color, from pale Castilian olive
to African jet, and a good many of them were barefooted, while the shoes
of the rest were burst. The arms scattered about them were as curiously
assorted—American Marlin rifles, old English Sniders, Spanish service
weapons, and cutlass‐like machetes with a two‐foot blade, which proved
as efficient when, as quite frequently happened, there was a difficulty
in obtaining the right kind of cartridges.

They were for the most part men with wrongs, individual as well as
national; for the Spanish system of checking disaffection was sharp and
stern, and the man who has seen brother or comrade butchered to bolster
up an effete authority is apt to remember it. Those who had no wrongs
possessed a lust of plunder which served almost as well as animus; but
there were a few who had been driven to join them by patriotic
convictions. They had already made themselves a terror to the conscript
troops of Spain, as well as peaceful peasants with loyalist sympathies,
who called them the Sin Verguenza—the men without shame. It was not from
choice that Appleby had cast in his lot with them, but because it seemed
to him preferable to falling into the Spaniards’ hands. He had, however,
by daring in one encounter, and shrewd counsel, already made himself an
influence, and had been endowed with the rank of Teniente.

“No,” he said a trifle dryly, “it is not. When I plundered folks in my
country I did it for other people with a bill, and I had the law behind
me. I was trained to it, you see.”

“It’s quite a good trade,” said Harper, who had joined the Sin Verguenza
because the coast was too strictly watched to leave him any chance of
getting away again. “Kind of pity to let up on it. It was a woman sent
you here?”

Appleby laughed, and then sat silent a moment or two staring straight
before him. The dusty gorge seemed to fade, and he could fancy himself
standing once more at the head of a shadowy stairway in an English hall
looking into a woman’s eyes. They were big gray eyes that seemed to read
one’s thoughts, set most fittingly in a calm, proud face, above which
clustered red‐gold hair, and he had seen them often since that eventful
night, on many a weary march, as well as in his sleep.

“Yes,” he said; “but not in the way I think you mean. She was my best
friend’s sweetheart, and nothing to me. No doubt she has married him by
now.”

Harper’s smile seemed to express incredulity, and for the first time a
doubt flashed into his comrade’s mind. Would he have done so much for
Tony if the woman had been any one else than Violet Wayne? The question
almost startled him and though he strove to answer it in the affirmative
no conviction came. Tony had been his friend, and until he came to
Northrop he had never seen the girl; while it was, of course,
preposterous to suspect that he had gone out under a cloud for her sake;
and yet the doubt remained to be afterwards grappled with. In the
meanwhile he brushed the question aside as of no moment. Violet Wayne
would marry Tony, and in all probability he had already passed out of
her memory. He was, however, glad when a man with an olive face stood up
beside the fire and glanced at him with a smile.

“Among comrades it is not good courtesy to speak apart, and the English
is a difficult tongue to me,” he said in Castilian. “I have apprehended
no more in the Havana than the response discourteous, ‘You bedam.’”

Appleby laughed. “I fancy you others can beat us in that line,” he said.
“Shall we get in to‐night, Maccario?”

The Insurgent captain made a little expressive gesture. “Who knows!” he
said. “They have two companies of cazadores, but there is this in our
favor—they do not expect us. Four days’ march—for troops—from Adeje, and
we have come in two! Yes, I think we shall get in, and then there will
be trouble for those others in Santa Marta and the Colonel Morales.”

Appleby glanced down the barranco, and saw framed, as it were, in its
rocky gateway the sweep of plain below. The tall green cane and orange
groves had faded to a blur of dusky blueness now, but in one place he
could still discern the pale gleam of white walls. That was Santa Marta,
and he remembered how they had been welcomed there when, weary and dusty
with travel, they had last limped that way. There were no troops in
Santa Marta then, and the Sin Verguenza, who did not know that an
infantry battalion lay close by, had accepted the citizens’ hospitality,
and borrowed much less from them than they usually did when their
entertainers had loyalist sympathies. While they slept the deep sleep of
weariness the cazadores fell upon the town, and the Colonel Morales
allowed a very short shrift to those who failed to escape from it.
Therefore Santa Marta was anathema to the Sin Verguenza, and, what was
almost as much to the purpose, it was rich.

While he watched the white walls faded, and the fire in the barranco
grew brighter as darkness closed down. A negro, who removed a kettle
from it, carefully put it out, and served them with a meal, though
Harper sighed disgustedly as he lighted a maize‐husk cigarette when he
had consumed his portion.

“Well, I guess we’ll get breakfast to‐morrow, if we’re alive,” he said.
“I’ve lived on some kind of curious things in Cuba, including fricassee
of mule, but onions, bad guavas, and half‐ripe mangoes, as a mixture for
fighting on, doesn’t suit my taste at all. No, sir. I want to lie down
nice and quiet, and not worry anybody, when I’ve got dysentery.”

His companions, however, did not complain. Perhaps they were accustomed
to scarcity, though the Sin Verguenza lived well when they could do so
at other men’s expense; and there is a capacity for patient endurance in
most of the peoples of Spain. They lay smoking cigarettes instead, while
a little cool breeze came down out of the soft darkness that now veiled
the hills above. Beneath them lights twinkled dimly like clustering
fireflies in the misty plain, and once a faint elfin ringing of bugles
came up. The Sin Verguenza answered it with a hoarse murmur, and then
lay still, patiently biding their time.

The dew settled heavily as the rocks grew cooler; Appleby’s alpaca
jacket grew clammy, but he lay motionless beside the embers, once more
grappling with the question what was he, an Englishman of education,
doing there? Violet Wayne’s eyes seemed to ask it of him reproachfully,
and he could not find a fitting answer. The plea that he was there
because he could not help it did not occur to him, for he was young, and
believed that a determined man can shape his own destiny. Instead, he
admitted vaguely that the reckless life, the testing of his bodily
strength, the close touch with human nature stripped of its veneer, and
the brief taste of command, all appealed to him. This, he knew, was no
defence; but he felt that he at least owed the Sin Verguenza something,
for they had come upon him while he hid from the troops of Spain, and,
finding that he had nothing but his life to part with, had incontinently
given him what they had, which was just then very little.

At last the Captain Maccario rose to his feet and called aloud. There
was a murmur of voices, a clatter of arms, a rattle of stones, and a
patter of feet, and the Sin Verguenza came out from the barranco like
beasts from their lairs. The hillside fell steep beneath them, but they
went down, flitting noiselessly, half‐seen shadows, while each man chose
his own path, and not as troops would have done. Here and there the
machetes cleared a way where it would take too long to go round, or
there was a crackle of undergrowth when they plunged into a belt of
trees. Then a mule track led them down to the level, and with a shuffle
of broken boots and soft patter of naked feet they swung along the dusty
carretera road. It wound away before them smelling of dew‐cooled earth,
a faint white riband, past the shadowy tobacco and dusky sugar cane, and
there was no stoppage when here and there a flat‐roofed house loomed up
beside it. Then there was a murmur of warning, a drowsy “Viva la
libertad!” and the column passed on; for the insurrection had taken
hold, and the enemies of the Sin Verguenza were the men who had
something to lose.

Still, a dozen men with rifles, and cartridges to match, stayed behind
when they filed through a white aldea lying silent amidst the cane, and
the Sin Verguenza swung into slightly quicker stride. If the Colonel
Morales was to be caught at all he must be caught napping, and, as they
knew, he usually slept with one eye open. Still, Appleby fancied it
might be accomplished, for he had discovered already that the Castilian
has a disdain for petty details, and frequently leaves a good deal to
chance.

By degrees the dust grew thicker and the little flat‐topped houses more
plentiful, while here and there white haciendas grew into shape among
the trees. There were no lights in any of them; but by and by the Sin
Verguenza stopped where the white orange flowers lay crushed upon the
road and consulted with their guide. The Colonel Morales, they believed,
did not expect them, but it was likely that he had pushed forward a
section or two of cazadores to watch the road. The leaders also argued
softly for some little time, and Appleby listened with his Marlin rifle
under his arm, noticing how the fireflies sparkled in the leaves
meanwhile. There were great stars above him in the sweep of cloudless
indigo, and the low murmur of voices emphasized the stillness, while the
heavy scent of the orange flowers was in his nostrils. Long afterwards a
vision of the long, straggling column waiting in the dim white road
would rise up before him when he breathed that scent.

Then they went on again, by paths that led through tobacco fields and
amidst breast‐high cane dripping with the dew that brushed them as they
passed. This was, however, the work the Sin Verguenza were accustomed
to, and no one saw them flit through the misty fields file by file. The
cazadores, on their part, marched with bugles and wagons and loaded
mules; and there was perhaps some excuse for their leader, the Colonel
Morales, who believed the Sin Verguenza to be hiding some ten leagues
away.

They stopped for the last time within sight of the white‐walled town,
which lay dark and silent girdled by thin wisps of mist, and the Captain
Maccario spoke to those who could hear him. His words were not eloquent
or especially patriotic, but they were answered by a portentous murmur;
and Appleby surmised that there would be wild work if the Sin Verguenza
sacked the town. He, however, moved forward as he was bidden with his
ragged half‐company, realizing that in the meanwhile he was rather going
with than leading them. Where the rest went he could not see, for his
attention was occupied in getting into and out of enclosures
noiselessly, and once he fell into an aloe hedge and pricked himself
grievously. Then he wondered what had happened to the barefooted men,
but none of them at least said anything, and the dim, flitting forms
went on. It all seemed unreal to him—white walls that rose higher,
shadowy figures, and the silence they scarcely disturbed; but once more
he was vaguely conscious that it was curiously familiar.

Then there was no more cover, for they straggled out, not in ranks, but
clusters, from among orange trees and tall, flowering shrubs, which he
fancied by their scent were oleanders, with a bare strip between them
and the flat‐topped houses. Santa Marta lay before him scarcely two
hundred yards away, and he felt his heart throb painfully. His guide
whispered something, and Appleby nodded, though he could not remember
what the man had said, and they went forward at a run. The patter of
feet, and clatter of strap and swivel, seemed to swell into a
bewildering din, but they were almost upon the fielato offices, where
the carretera entered the town, before a rifle flashed.

It was answered by a bugle behind them, for it seemed that the cazadores
had watched the road; another rang out in the town. But it was in grim
silence the Sin Verguenza ran, though there were now pale flashes along
the parapet of the flat roofs in front of them. A man—a negro, he
fancied—clutched at Appleby’s arm, loosed it, and reeled backwards with
a shrill scream. Another staggered, and Appleby trod on him as he fell
under his feet. He scarcely saw the man, only the white walls that
seemed to come no nearer, though he knew by the way his heart was
thumping that he was running savagely. A curious din was going on,
bugles ringing, the patter of desultory riflery; but he caught the words
of somebody who ran behind him, and cried out breathlessly in Castilian
as he swung up his hand.

Swinging past the fielato offices they swept under a white wall, and
plunged into a shadowy calle, where pale faces peered out at them from
the lattices. They went down it at a run, and would have gained the
broad plaza it led to but that the blast of a volley met them in the
face. Men went down, but not many, for Appleby heard the click of the
bullets on the walls and stones, and surmised that it was conscript
troops shipped off half trained in haste from Spain that fired. He could
dimly see more of them flocking into the calle, and it became evident to
him that his men must go through them.

With a hoarse shout he sprang forward, though he could never remember
whether it was in English or Castilian he cried, and the Sin Verguenza
came on with a roar behind. This was not the kind of fighting they
preferred, but they had the best of reasons for surmising that no mercy
would be shown them if they did not succeed. They were in among the
huddled men before the rifles could flash again, barrel and butt
rattling among the bayonets of those who had found opportunity of fixing
them, and machetes swinging.

Almost to Appleby’s astonishment they also went through; and when,
swinging the Marlin rifle by the muzzle, he reeled out into the plaza
the cazadores fled across it like sheep. There was a breathless howl as
they did so, a fresh trampling of feet, and the rest of the Sin
Verguenza poured out from another calle with a half‐company of cazadores
retiring before them, and firing as they went. Some of them were less
than half dressed, but they gave back unwillingly, with the spitting of
their rifles showing red against the walls that shut in the shadowy
square.

It seemed to Appleby that if the others rallied and joined them the Sin
Verguenza would have their work cut out, and when one who carried a
sword in place of a rifle made a stand he shouted in Castilian. He spoke
the words that came to him, without reflection; but he was the son of a
ranker, and the grandson of a colonel on his mother’s side. There was a
flicker of riflery from the calle where Maccario’s men were, but the
officer with the sword was standing still, and men who turned by twos
and threes closing in on him. The first mob of beaten men were also
halting, when Appleby hurled his ragged handful like a wedge in between.

They went in with clubbed rifle and red machete; the officer went down,
and for a few wild, moments cazador and rebel fought hand to hand. Then
the drilled men broke and fled, half of them to meet the other band of
Sin Verguenza pouring from the street, and the rest up the dark calle
that led out of the plaza with Appleby and his followers hard upon their
heels. It was a fierce chase, but a short one, for the cazadores
vanished into a great archway, and streaks of red sparks lighted the
windows above. Appleby glanced over his shoulder and saw the rest of the
ragged column running down the street, and then that some of them were
going down. He had no leisure for reflection, but it was borne in upon
him that if they were to carry Santa Marta it must be accomplished
before the scattered infantry had recovered from the surprise, for he
had seen already that there is very little cowardice amongst the troops
of Spain.

What he said or in which tongue he spoke he did not know, but in another
moment he and a negro with a machete sprang into the smoke of the rifles
that whirled in the archway, and, howling like beasts now, the Sin
Verguenza followed them. Men he could scarcely see broke away before
them, though he fancied some remained and were trampled on; and then
they were in a broad patio with lights shining behind the lattices about
him, and the negro was no longer beside him. A door crashed to in front
of them, pale flashes shone at the windows; but in another moment the
door went down, and they were pressing up a stairway through stinging
smoke, with half‐seen men firing down on them. There was dust in the
smoke, and the plaster came raining down until Appleby could scarcely
see anything at all; but the Sin Verguenza went on, and he was borne
forward in front of them when they poured tumultuously out upon a flat
roof at the head of the stairway. Then there was a roar of exultation,
and he dimly saw men in uniform floundering over the low walls that
divided roof from roof, while from other openings there poured out more
of the Sin Verguenza.

Appleby wondered why he could not see them clearly, and then his hearing
also seemed to fail him. He was conscious of a confused shouting in the
street below, but it grew curiously faint, and he staggered clear of the
rest, and, scarcely knowing why he did so, groped his way back to the
patio, where he sat down beside a bush of heliotrope or some other
flower that had a heavy sickly smell. He did not know how long he sat
there feeling cold and faint, but at last somebody shook him and held
something to his lips. He drank, gasped, and saw Harper smiling gravely
down on him.

“I guess you feel better now!” he said.

Appleby blinked at him. “I don’t quite know what’s the matter with me,
but I feel—dazed,” he said. “What are the boys doing?”

Harper gravely felt his head, for Appleby had lost his hat. “Well,
that’s not astonishing—and it’s a good one,” he said. “The whack that
sergeant gave you would ’most have felled a bullock. As to the other
question, the Sin Verguenza have the town. Morales’ men hadn’t a show at
all, though they might have made a stand if you hadn’t kept them on the
hustle. Take another drink.”

Appleby drank again, and his scattered senses came back to him. “I don’t
seem to remember very much,” he said.

“No?” said Harper, with a curious little laugh. “Now it’s my business to
get the most out of men, but I haven’t seen anything much smarter than
the way you took hold and handled the Sin Verguenza. Say, who taught you
soldiering?”

Appleby stared at him, and then laughed softly when he saw that the man
was perfectly serious.

“I never saw a shot fired at a man in my life until I joined the Sin
Verguenza,” he said. “Still, though I don’t know that it has anything to
do with the case, most of my folks had their share of fighting, and one
was with the Cristinos in Spain.”

Harper shook his head. “Never heard of them,” he said. “Anyway, if you
feel fit for walking you had better come along and get some food. I
guess you’ll want it, and onions and mangoes don’t go very far with me.
This place will be very like the pit with the blast on when the Sin
Verguenza get their work in.”



VIII — APPLEBY’S PRISONER


THE night was pleasantly cool when Cyrus Harding sat with his daughter
and the Colonel Morales on the veranda which ran round the patio of the
“Four Nations” hostelry in Santa Marta. The hotel was, as usual, built
in the shape of a hollow square, and the space enclosed formed a
pleasant lounging place when the only light was furnished by the soft
glow from the latticed windows surrounding it. That night it fell upon
pink‐washed walls, clusters of purple Bougainvillea that climbed the
trellis, the white blossoms of a magnolia, and a row of carved pillars,
while the square of indigo above was set with silver stars. It is true
that the stables opened into the patio, as did the kitchen, next door to
them, but that was not unusual, and the curious musky smell that hangs
over most Spanish towns was tempered by the scent of flowers.

Harding lay in a cane chair, with the blue cigar smoke drifting about
him and a little thoughtful smile in his lean face. He was a widower,
and though he now enjoyed a very respectable competence, desired a
fortune to bequeath his daughter, which was why he had sunk good money
in what his friends considered reckless ventures in Cuba. Harding had,
however, taken risks all his life, and knew there is not usually very
much to be made by the business man who follows the beaten track. He
looked further ahead than his fellows, and taking the chances as they
came played for heavier stakes.

His daughter sat a little apart, daintily fresh and cool, in a long
white dress, with the soft light of the lamp above her gleaming on her
hair, which was of warm brown, and emphasizing the little sparkle in her
eyes. The cold of New York did not suit her, and she had accompanied her
father to Cuba before. Opposite Harding, across the little table on
which stood a flask of wine, sat a spare, olive‐faced officer, with a
sword girt to his waist. He had keen dark eyes with a hint of sternness
in them, and a straight, thin‐lipped mouth; while he was already known
in that country as El Espada, Morales the Sword. His mission was to put
down the insurrection in that district, and the means he employed were
draconic.

“You ask a good many questions, señor,” he said in Castilian. “There is
no difficulty with respect to some of them and the information in my
possession is at your service; but it is different with those that
concern the situation political. We are not sure yet who you Americans
sympathize with; and I am, you understand, an officer of Spain.”

Harding made a little deferential gesture, but he also smiled. “One can
usually obtain political information of importance in my country—when
one is rich enough,” he said, as it were, reflectively. “Of course, one
avoids hurting anybody’s feelings, but it seems to me that the best
guarantee we can give of our good will is the fact that some of us are
investing our money here.”

Morales shook his head. “It is not quite enough,” he said. “There are
men without money in your country, my friend, and it is those who have
nothing that love the revolution. I have also a little affair with two
of your estimable countrymen.”

Nettie Harding, who understood him, looked up. “Now,” she said, “that is
interesting! You will tell us about it?”

Morales nodded. “It is a month since we marched east with a strong
company and a little machine‐gun,” he said. “We march by night, and it
is sunrise when we climb the Alturas gorge. Above, three leagues away,
hides a company of the Sin Verguenza, and the Captain Vincente who
marches round will take them in the rear. I have scouts thrown forward,
and we march silently, but by and by the front files come running back
and there is firing in the pass. The Sin Verguenza, it seems, are upon
us, but that is not wise of them. Figure you the place—the rock one
cannot climb above us, a barranco, very deep, below, and the machine‐gun
to sweep the track. Pouf! It is swept. The Sin Verguenza melt away, and
we go forward to conclude the affair.”

“Well,” said Harding a trifle impatiently, “where do the Americans come
in?”

Morales’ face grew wicked. “Down the rock, my friend. Perhaps they are
sailors; for where there is no footing for any man they slide down the
lianas, and others follow them. The cazadores do not look above; there
is still firing, and they do not hear me. The Americans are upon the
gun, and more of the Sin Verguenza arrive behind them. I see one
American who is young with his shoulder at the wheel of the gun, and in
another minute it is gone, and there is a crash in the barranco. Then
the Sin Verguenza come back again, and we go home, my friend; but it is
not all my company who come out of Alturas Pass. One waits, however, and
by and by my turn comes.”

Nettie Harding said nothing, but there was a significant sparkle in her
blue eyes, while her father’s nod was deprecatory.

“They are not friends of mine, and I have a good deal to lose,” he said.
“What I want to know is, if you had money to spare would you buy the San
Cristoval hacienda? There should be a profit in it at the price, but not
if the patriots are likely to burn the sugar mill, or the administration
to quarter troops there. You are responsible for this district!”

“Money is very scarce with me, my friend,” said Morales dryly.

Harding nodded sympathetically, and dropped his voice to a lower tone.
“One would be content with a little less profit if it meant security,”
he said. “It would pay me to make certain that the hacienda would not be
meddled with—by the Sin Verguenza.”

There was a little gleam of comprehension in the officer’s eyes, and he
thoughtfully flicked the ash from his cigar. “I think I could promise
that,” he said. “We will talk again, senor, but now—if I have your
excuses—I think I will be wanted at the cuartel.”

He rose, made Miss Harding a little punctilious inclination, and moved
away, while the lamplight flung his shadow black upon the pink‐washed
walls. It seemed to the girl suggestively sinister.

“I do not like that man,” she said. “He has wicked eyes, and his face is
cruel!”

Harding laughed. “Anyway, it’s evident he has his price, and I think
I’ll buy the hacienda, though I’ll want a man to run it, since I can’t
stay here. He will have to be the right kind of man.”

Nettie Harding appeared reflective. “I wonder what has become of Mr.
Broughton whom we met on board the ‘Aurania’?” she said.

“The folks I gave him letters to told me he was here in Cuba; but I’m
not quite sure his name was Broughton. He had got himself mixed up in
some kind of trouble in England.”

“Then,” said the girl decisively, “somebody else made the trouble.”

“It’s quite likely. I don’t think there’s any meanness in that man; but
I wouldn’t worry about him. It wouldn’t please Julian.”

The girl laughed. “Julian,” she said, “knows me too well to be jealous.”

Harding said nothing, and the two sat silent awhile. There were few
guests in the “Four Nations” just then, and only a faint murmur rose
from the plaza beyond the pink‐washed walls. Somebody, however, was
singing, and now and then a soft tinkle of guitars came musically
through the stillness with the chorus of the “Campanadas.” Nettie
Harding listened vacantly, while glancing up at the blue above she
wondered whether the same clear stars shone down on a certain naval
officer, and if he thought of her as the big warship rolled across the
wastes of the Pacific. It was very still, and cool, and peaceful, and
she lay, languidly content to dream, in the cane chair, until she
straightened herself with a little gasp as the ringing of a rifle came
sudden and portentous out of the darkness. It was followed by a crash of
firing, and Harding looked up sharply.

“Winchesters—but those are Spanish rifles now!” he said. “It seems the
Insurgents must have got in behind the pickets.”

“The Insurgents!” said the girl, with a shiver.

Harding rose, and stood looking down upon her curiously grave in face.
“This is a thing I never expected. Morales told me there wasn’t a rebel
within ten leagues of us; but he has men enough to whip them off,” he
said. “Put on a jacket, Nettie. We can see what is going on from the
roof.”

In another minute they stood looking down over the low parapet into the
shadowy plaza. There was not a light in it now, but through the ringing
of the bugles there rose a confused clamor and the patter of running
feet, and Nettie Harding could dimly see clusters of citizens apparently
making the best pace they could towards the calle that led out of Santa
Marta. As she watched a line of figures broke through them and by their
rhythmic tramp she guessed that these were soldiery. Then a fresh mob of
citizens poured into the plaza, and the rifles crashed again.

“What does it mean?” she asked.

Harding, stooping over the parapet, listened a moment to the confused
voices, and then shook his head. “I’m afraid it’s the Sin Verguenza
coming,” he said. “They have a little account against Santa Marta, and I
wouldn’t like to be Morales when they send in the bill.”

His attitude betokened strained attention, and the girl fancied he was
endeavoring to ascertain how the troops had fared. Then the clamor grew
suddenly louder, and she grasped his arm.

“Oh!” she said. “They are in the town!”

“Yes,” said Harding curtly, “I guess they are. The sooner we leave them
and the Santa Martans to it the better! Get your little trinkets
together, Nettie; I’ll have the mules we hired ready inside five
minutes.”

He plunged down the stairway, burst through the negroes already
clamoring about the stable, and dragged the mules out. There was a crowd
in the archway leading out of the patio when the girl joined him.

“We can’t mount here,” he said. “Keep close behind me until we make the
plaza.”

It was accomplished with difficulty, but the men who pressed upon them
saw the glinting pistol; and Nettie Harding stood ready to mount in the
plaza when a mob of fugitives surged about them. There was a crash of
riflery very close at hand, the mule plunged, and she reeled backwards
with a little cry. For a moment she felt her father’s grasp upon her
shoulder, then the mules seemed to vanish and Harding with them, and she
was driven forward amidst the press. A voice she recognized was shouting
a few yards away, but it ceased suddenly, and she was jostled this way
and that with the little breath she had left almost crushed out of her.
She could only wove as the crowd did, and it bore her onward into a dark
calle, where screaming women were pouring from the doorways, and here
and there a pale light shone down upon the terrified faces about her,
but there was no sign of Harding anywhere.

She could never remember how long this lasted; but by and by the crowd
seemed to melt away where two or three streets branched off from a
smaller plaza, and she stood still, breathless, striving to draw the
thin jacket, whose buttons had been torn away, over the trinkets she had
hastily clasped into her bodice and cast about her neck. Then the
venomous clanging of rifles commenced again, and when something zip‐
zapped along the stones and struck the white walls with a curious
splashing sound she turned to run and saw a dusky archway in front of
her. Stumbling into it, she flung back the great leather curtains, and
found herself in a little church. It smelt of stale incense, and a few
pale lights that only intensified the darkness blinked here and there;
but she could hear low rustlings which seemed to indicate that others
had taken refuge in it, and shrank into a corner.

She fancied she spent at least an hour in the church, listening with
apprehension to the clamor that broke out and sank again outside. There
were murmurs inside the building, and an occasional rustling of the
leather curtains, but this told her nothing; and at last, unable to bear
the suspense any longer, she moved softly towards the door. The town was
almost silent when she reached it, and there was a light burning in what
appeared to be a wine shop across the plaza. She could also hear
laughter as well as the tinkle of a guitar; and as this did not indicate
fear she decided to enter the shop and endeavor to hire somebody to
search for her father. Unfortunately, however, she did not remember a
saying common in Spain respecting the fondness of evil‐livers for the
sound of church bells.

She flitted across the plaza without molestation, and then stopped in
front of a building which bore a scroll announcing that it was a café. A
blaze of light shone out from it, and looking in between the wooden
pillars she could see the little tables and wine barricas. Then she
gasped, for in place of reputable citizens the tables were occupied by
women with powdered faces in cheap bravery and ragged men with rifles
slung behind them. The light also showed her standing white in face with
torn garments and the jewels sparkling at her neck to the revellers; and
a man of dusky skin, with a machete hanging at his belt, sprang up with
a shout.

There was a burst of laughter, and Nettie Harding fled, with the patter
of several pairs of feet growing louder behind her, until two men came
forward to meet her. They, however, let her pass; there was an
altercation, and she stood still, trembling, when a cry in English
reached her. Then she saw three or four dim figures moving back towards
the café and the two men coming towards her. One of them also raised a
hand to his big shapeless hat.

“I scarcely think they will trouble you any more,” he said in Castilian,
which Nettie could understand.

She said nothing for a moment, but stood still looking at the men, and
wondering whether they could be trusted. She could, however, see very
little of them, and found a difficulty in expressing herself in
Castilian.

“Can you tell me whether the Hotel Cuatro Naciones is safe?” she asked
in faltering English. “I lost my companion leaving it.”

“I scarcely think it is,” said one of the men, whose accentuation was
unmistakably English. “You were staying there?”

“Yes,” said Nettie. “My father was separated from me by the crowd.”

One of the men said something she did not hear to his comrade, while
just then a cry of alarm came out of the darkness, and was followed by a
rush of feet. Then the man who had spoken turned to her again.

“I’m afraid you can’t stay here,” he said, with evident perplexity.

As he spoke a crowd of shadowy men surged about them, but he called out
angrily in Castilian, and before she quite realized what he was doing
drew the girl’s hand beneath his arm. Then there was laughter and a
shout: “Excuses, Don Bernardino. Pass on, comrades!”

Nettie would have snatched her hand free, but the man held it fast with
a little warning pressure, and she went on with him, partly because his
voice had been deferential and puzzlingly familiar, and also because it
was evident that she could not get away. They went up a calle, where
another band of roysterers came clamoring to meet them, until the man
led her under an archway where a lamp was burning. Then he gravely
dropped her hand, and Nettie gasped as she stared at him. He was burned
to the color of coffee, his shoes were burst, and his garments, which
had evidently never been intended to fit him, were mostly rags, but his
face reminded her of the man she had met on board the “Aurania.”

“It is perhaps not astonishing that you don’t seem to recognize me, Miss
Harding,” he said. “You have no idea where your father can have gone
to?”

“No,” said the girl, with a little tremor of relief. “He must be in the
town, and I would be very grateful if you could take me to him. Of
course, I know you now.”

“Is your father Cyrus Harding—Sugar Harding—of New York?” the other man
broke in.

“Yes,” said the girl, and the man drew his comrade aside.

“You and I have got to see her through, and your quarters would be the
safest place,” he said.

Appleby stared at him as he asked, “Have you taken leave of your senses,
Harper?”

“No,” said his companion dryly. “I guess they’re where they are of most
use to me. Everybody’s entitled to what he can pick up to‐night, and
there are not many of the Sin Verguenza would dispute your claim. It’s
beginning to strike you?”

“I hope it will not strike Miss Harding too,” said Appleby, whose face
flushed. “Still, I can think of nothing else.”

Then he went back slowly to where the girl was standing.

“I fancy I can find you shelter if you will trust yourself to me; and
when your father asks any of my men about you they will send him to
you,” he said. “It is, however, necessary that you should take my arm.”

Nettie flashed a swift glance at him, but the man was regarding her
steadily with gravely sympathetic eyes, and it was with a curious
intuitive confidence she moved away with him. They passed bands of
roysterers and houses with shattered doors, and finally entered a patio
littered with furniture. An olive‐faced man with a rifle stood on guard
in it, and the color swept into the girl’s face as she saw his grin; but
he let them pass, and Appleby went on, moving stiffly, and very grim in
face, up a stairway that led to a veranda. There he took down a lantern
that hung on a lattice, and gave it the girl as he pointed to a door.

“There is a strong bolt inside,” he said in a curiously even voice. “I
do not know of any other place in Santa Marta where you would be as safe
to‐night.”

Nettie turned with a little shiver, and looked down into the patio.
There were lights behind most of the lattices, and she could hear loud
laughter and the clink of glasses, while here and there ragged figures
with rifles showed up on the veranda. Then she straightened herself with
an effort and looked steadily at Appleby. He stood wearily before her,
very ragged, and very disreputable as far as appearance went, but he did
not avoid her gaze.

“Where am I?” she asked, with a faint tremor in her voice.

“I believe this was the Alcalde’s house. It is occupied by the Insurgent
leaders now.”

“Then,” said the girl, with a little gasp, “why did you bring me here?”

“I can escort you back to the plaza if you wish it,” said Appleby
quietly. “Still, you would be running serious risks, and I believe I can
answer for your security here. You see, I am an officer of the Sin
Verguenza.”

Nettie gasped again, and once more shot a swift glance at him. Appleby
was standing very still, and save for the weariness in it his face was
expressionless. Then without a word she turned and went into the room,
while Harper smiled softly when he heard the bolt shot home. The room,
she found, was evidently a sleeping chamber, for there was a cheap iron
bedstead in it, and articles of male attire were scattered about the
floor. From the quantity of them, and the manner in which they were
lying, it also appeared that somebody had been endeavoring to ascertain
which would fit him. Then Nettie, remembering the rags the man wore, sat
down somewhat limply with burning cheeks in the single chair, until a
little burst of meaningless laughter that was tinged with hysteria shook
her.

In the meanwhile Appleby dropped into a cane chair further along the
veranda and laid his rifle across his knees. “My head’s aching, and I
can’t see quite straight,” he said. “See if you can get me a little wine
somewhere, Harper. Then you had better go along and find out what those
rascals of mine are after, and if anybody has seen Harding.”

Harper shook his head. “I guess I’ve had ’bout enough of them for one
night, and if any indignant citizen slips a knife into one of them it’s
not going to be a great loss to anybody,” he said. “You know who that
girl is?”

“Miss Nettie Harding. I met her on the ‘Aurania’ coming out.”

Harper smiled. “Well,” he said reflectively, “it’s not every day one of
the Sin Verguenza is honored with the custody of a young woman who lives
in one of the smartest houses on the Hudson. It strikes me there’s money
in the thing, and I’m going to stop right here, and be handy when Sugar
Harding comes along, though I don’t know that he’d think much of me as a
chaperon in this outfit.”

“Get me some wine,” said Appleby, while the bronze deepened in his
forehead. “I have got to keep awake, and don’t feel inclined for any
foolery.”

Harper went away chuckling, and Appleby sat still. The blow he had
received in the attack had shaken him, and he had spent that day and
most of the night before it in forced marching. It was some time before
Harper returned, and in the meanwhile the Captain Maccario came up the
stairway. He stopped in front of Appleby, and shrugged his shoulders
expressively.

“The senorita is disdainful, then?” he said.

Appleby devoutly hoped Miss Harding did not understand Castilian, and
attempted no explanation. He had more than a suspicion that it would not
be credited, but his face was a trifle grim when he looked up at his
comrade.

“There are times when a wise man asks no questions, my friend,” he said.
“If any one tries to get into the room I have taken to‐night he will be
sorry.”

Maccario, who was an easy‐going Andalusian, laughed somewhat
significantly, and Appleby, glancing at the half‐opened lattice,
wondered with unpleasant misgivings whether Miss Harding had heard him.
As it happened, she had, and clenched her hands as she listened. Still,
even then she remembered that the man who had brought her there had said
there was no place in Santa Marta where she would be more secure. It
seemed a bold assertion, but she felt that it could be credited.

“Well,” said the Spaniard, whose eyes still twinkled, “we march at
sunrise, and there are richer prizes than pretty faces to be picked up
to‐night. The others are busy collecting them. Is it wise to lose one’s
chances for a señorita who is unsympathetic?”

The humorous Maccario came very nearly receiving a painful astonishment
just then, but by an effort Appleby kept his temper. “My money is my
friend’s, but not my affairs,” he said. “Tell your men if they can find
an American with blue eyes to bring him here. It will be worth their
while.”

Maccario tossed a handful of cigars into his comrade’s knees. “The
Colonel Morales smokes good tobacco, and they were his. If we find the
American we will send him to you. It is by misfortune we do not find the
Colonel Morales.”

He went away, and by and by Harper came back with a flask of red wine
and a roll of matting, which he spread out at the top of the stairway.

“I’m pretty big, and anybody who treads on me will get a little
surprise,” he said. “You have just got to say ‘Gunboat’ if you want me.”

He was apparently asleep in five minutes, but Appleby lay motionless in
his chair with every sense alert. The laughter and hum of voices had
died away, and only an occasional hoarse shouting rose from the town.
His eyes were fixed on the patio, and his hands, which were hard and
brown, clenched on the rifle; but his thoughts were far away in a garden
where the red beech leaves strewed the velvet grass in peaceful England,
and it was not Nettie Harding’s blue eyes, but Violet Wayne’s calm gray
ones that seemed to look into his. Harper’s words by the camp fire were
bearing fruit, and he was ready to admit now that it was a woman who had
sent him there. There was also satisfaction in the thought that he was
serving her, which was the most he could look for, since his part was to
give and not expect, but he felt that she would approve of what he was
doing then. So the time slipped by; while Nettie Harding, still sitting
behind the lattice, now and then raised her head and looked at him. His
attitude betokened his watchfulness, and with a little sigh of relief
she sank back into her chair again. That ragged figure with the grim,
brown face seemed an adequate barrier between her and whatever could
threaten her.

At last there was a trampling below, and several dusky men staggering
suggestively came up the stairway. The girl heard the sound, and
shivered as she watched them, until a gaunt figure rose up from beneath
their feet. Then they stopped, and one of them fell down the steps and
reeled with a crash against a pillar at the bottom.

“You can stop there. There is plenty of room in the stable,” said a
voice; and when Appleby flung up a hand commandingly the men went away,
and there was quietness again.

How long it lasted Nettie did not know, for, though she had no intention
of doing so, she went to sleep, and did not hear a man come up the
stairway. He had a lean face and keen blue eyes, but there was tense
anxiety in them now. Appleby, who rose up, signed Harper to step aside,
and in another moment the two men stood face to face—one of them dusty
and worn and ragged, the other in what had been a few hours earlier
immaculate dress.

“Where is my daughter?” said the latter. “There’s five hundred dollars
for any one who will bring her to me.”

Appleby smiled a little. “She is here.”

The other man shook visibly and clenched his hand, but Appleby moved out
of the shadow so that his face was visible, and the American’s grew
quietly stern.

“Then you shall pay for this,” he said.

“Hadn’t you better speak to Miss Harding first?” said Appleby. “Knock at
the door in front of you. I believe it is bolted inside.”

Harding struck the door. There was a little cry of terror that changed
to one of joyful surprise, the door swung open, and the man went inside.
It was five minutes later when he came out again, and he had a wallet in
his hand when he stopped before Appleby. Then he started.

“Good Lord!” he said. “It’s Broughton.”

Appleby nodded, and saw that Harding was fumbling at the wallet. “No,”
he said. “I would not like you to spoil the acquaintance I am rather
proud of, sir.”

Harding’s face was flushed as he grasped his hand. “Well,” he said, “I
guess the bills aren’t printed that could pay you for what you have done
for me. Can’t you say something that’s appropriate, Nettie?”

“No,” said the girl quietly, though there was a faint gleam in her eyes.
“That contract is too big for me. Still, I hope you did not lose many
opportunities, Mr. Broughton, through taking care of me.”

Appleby turned to Harding hastily. “I hope you did not have any trouble
with our men?”

“No,” said Harding. “It was some time before I saw them. A mob of
citizens swept me away, and when I got clear of them one of Morales’
officers came up mounted with a few men. He went off at a gallop, but
shouted to a sergeant to take care of me, and the fool did it too
efficiently. He was from Mallorca, and couldn’t understand my Spanish,
but dragged me along with him. It was an hour before I could get away,
and I spent the rest of the night running up and down the town until
some of your comrades found me.”

Appleby nodded. “My friend here will take a few files and go with you to
your hotel,” he said. “Our men will have loaded themselves with all they
can carry, and are scarcely likely to trouble you now. We leave at
sunrise.”

Harding stood silent for a moment or two, and then said slowly, “Can’t
you find anything better than this to do?”

“The Sin Verguenza took me in, and treated me tolerably well,” said
Appleby. “I feel bound to stay with them until they have made their
footing good, anyway.”

Harper nodded. “When you feel that you can leave them come to me,” he
said. “I don’t want to lose sight of you.”

He shook hands again, and went away with Harper and the girl; but it was
scarcely two hours later when his daughter and he stood upon the flat
roof of the “Four Nations,” while a long line of men with rifles, who
were no longer ragged, marched out of Santa Marta. One who marched with
the second company looked up and waved his hand to them.

“That,” said Harding gravely, “is a straight man, and he will do
something by and by when he has an opportunity. It is not going to be my
fault if he doesn’t get one.”



IX — THE BREAKING OF THE NET


THERE was no wind, and the night was very still, when Appleby lay aching
in every limb behind an aloe hedge which cut off the dim white road.
Harper sat on the steaming earth close beside him contemplatively
munching the end of a cigar, for smoking was distinctly inadvisable just
then, and he was in need of something to stay the pangs of hunger. Here
and there a dusky figure showed among the leaves, and now and then a low
murmur or a soft rustling rose from the black shadow of the overhanging
palms; but the scarcely audible sound sank once more into the silence,
and a muleteer had just passed along the dusty road apparently without
the faintest suspicion that rather more than a hundred famishing men had
watched him with fingers tightening on their rifle barrels. He saw and
heard nothing, which was fortunate for him, and now his voice and the
tramp of his team came back faintly across the cane.

The dew was heavy, as it usually is in the tropics when a clear, still
night follows a day of scorching heat, and Appleby could have wrung it
from the garments he had borrowed from the Alcalde’s wardrobe at Santa
Marta. That, however, did not trouble him, for they rested with a
pleasant coolness upon his sun‐scorched skin; and he was mainly
conscious of a sense of emptiness and a distressful stitch in his side
as he watched the strip of road. It wound out from the inky shadows of
the palms, led by the hedge of aloes, and was lost again in the cane
that stretched away, a dim sweep of dusky green, under the moon. It was
at least a week since he had had an adequate meal, and he had passed
that day crawling through a mangrove swamp, where pits of foul black
mire lay beneath the great slimy roots.

Haste and concealment had, however, appeared advisable to the Sin
Verguenza; for their success at Santa Marta had brought two strong
battalions upon their trail, and Morales had decreed their
extermination. Cut off from the hills, they had taken to a belt of
reeking mangrove swamps, and Morales, who was too wise to venture his
raw troops in those dim haunts of fever, had persistently drawn his net
tighter about them. They had accordingly divided when supplies ran out,
and the Captain Maccario, who did not know whether the rest had
succeeded in breaking through, had halted those who remained with him to
wait until the moon sank before making a dash for another tract of
jungle. They were, indeed, almost too weary to drag themselves any
further just then, and their leader had reason for believing there was a
company of cazadores somewhere upon the road.

He lay a little apart from Appleby, and raised his head so that the
moonlight shone into his face, which showed intent and anxious, when a
palm frond rustled behind them. There was nothing astonishing in this,
but when the rustle repeated itself it seemed to Appleby that there was
something curiously persistent in the sound. He glanced at the Spaniard,
who saw him, and raised one hand as if in warning. The sound ceased, and
there was once more an impressive silence, which lasted for some
minutes. Then Appleby felt Harper’s hand upon his shoulder.

“Look!” he said in a hoarse whisper, and his comrade set his lips as he
turned his head.

A man who had appeared without a sound stood in the white road, his
rigid figure forced up sharp and black against it, and it was evident
that he was peering about him. Then, with a swiftness that had its
significance, he slipped back into the shadow, and moved through it,
stopping a second or two now and then as though to listen. Appleby could
just see him, and felt a little shiver run through him, for he knew the
loyalist scout was running a horrible risk. He hoped the man would see
nothing, for the last thing the Sin Verguenza desired was to chance a
rifle shot just then. He, however, came on, treading softly and stooping
as though to observe the dew‐clogged dust, until he stopped again where
a little pathway led in among the aloes.

Then he straightened himself, looked behind him, and turning his head
stared into the shadow of the palms that lay black and impenetrable
beyond the aloes, while the moonlight shone down into his face. It
showed white and set against the dusky background; and Appleby, who
could see the intent eyes, held his breath, for he knew the man’s life
hung trembling in the balance. One step would take him to his death, for
another face that was drawn and haggard and had the stamp of hunger on
it showed amidst the leaves behind him. The suspense lasted for a space
of seconds, and Appleby felt himself quivering under the tension, until
the man made a sudden movement as though something suspicious had caught
his eyes. Then there was a rustle of leaves, a shadowy form sprang, and
the scout went down; while Appleby, who saw a flash in the moonlight,
turned his head away. He heard a strangled groan and a struggling amidst
the leaves, and then there was once more an impressive silence.

“Two dollars, senor!” said a dusky man breathlessly, as he came up to
the Captain Maccario; and the Spaniard made a curious little gesture as
he glanced at Appleby.

“You can keep them. Drag him away!” he said in Castilian. “It is the
fortune of war, Don Bernardino!”

Appleby said nothing, but Harper turned to the officer. “The troops will
not be far behind,” he said. “Will we get through?”

Maccario shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows?” he said. “It is certain
the cazadores come, but if they march past us the road is open. It is by
misfortune we do not know how many there are of them.”

“Where are we going if we do get through?” asked Harper.

Maccario stretching out a brown hand swept it vaguely round the horizon.
“Here and there and everywhere. The Sin Verguenza will vanish until they
are wanted again. There are too many troops in this country, and it is
not difficult to find a hundred men when they are together; but it is
different when you chase them one by one. So Morales stamps out the
insurrection, and when he sends half his troops away we come back
again.”

“It is not very evident how we are going to live in the meanwhile,” said
Appleby dryly.

Maccario laughed. “What is mine is my friend’s, and there is a poor
house at your service. One could reach it in a week’s march, and once
there we are short of nothing. This is, you understand, a grateful
country.”

There was light enough for Appleby to see the roguish twinkle in the
Spaniard’s dark eyes, and he shook his head. “No,” he said. “While I
fought with the Sin Verguenza I lived as they did, but it would not suit
me to lie idle and levy contributions upon the country.”

“Well,” said Maccario reflectively, “in the meanwhile you come with me,
and we may, perhaps, find means of sending you back to the sea. Just now
I do not know whether any of us will get very far. We have two leagues
to make by the carretera before we find cover, and there are cazadores
on the road; while the Captain Vincente will be upon us by daylight if
we stay here.”

The others understood as much already, and it was because they did not
know exactly where the cazadores were they were lying there. It was also
a somewhat important question, and they lay still waiting for an answer
until a faintly rhythmic sound came out of the silence. It sank beyond
hearing, but rose again, a trifle louder; and Appleby’s heart throbbed
as he recognized the tramp of marching men, while a half‐articulate
sound rose from the Sin Verguenza. They were hungry and very weary, and
starvation waited them if they crawled back into the swamps; while the
road that led to safety was closed by the troops. It was, however,
evident that their leader knew his business, and Appleby fancied that if
the detachment was not a strong one they might still break through.

In the meanwhile the rhythmic tramp was steadily growing louder, and he
could tell by the stirring of those about him that they were waiting in
strained expectancy, until there was a patter of footsteps, and a man
came running down the road. He flung himself down gasping beside
Maccario, and his voice was breathless as he said, “It is one company
only.”

“Good!” said Maccario dryly. “If they see nothing it is also well. Then
the road will be open from here to Adeje. On the other hand, if they
have good eyes it is unfortunate for them.”

There was a faint rattle and clicking as the men fidgeted with magazine
slide, or snapped open breaches to make sure that a cartridge lay in the
chamber. Then an impressive silence followed, which seemed to grow more
intense as the tramp of marching men came ringing sharply down the dim
white road. Perhaps the officer who led them trusted to the scout who
would never bring him a warning back again, or had lately arrived from
Spain, and did not know that the man who sought the Sin Verguenza was
apt to find them where he least expected. Then a faintly musical
jingling and the rattle of wheels became audible too, and Appleby shook
his weariness from him as, with the dust rolling about them, dim figures
swung into sight round a bend of the road. The carretera was a broad
one, and they appeared to be marching carelessly in open fours, for
laughter and the hum of voices came out of the dust.

Raising his head a little he glanced behind him, but the Sin Verguenza
were ominously still and silent now, and he could only see Maccario’s
shoulder, and in places a glint of metal where the moonlight sifted
down. Again a quiver ran through him, and his heart thumped painfully as
he watched the men below through the openings between the aloes. Then he
set his lips and grappled with an almost uncontrollable desire to cry
out and warn them. He had been hunted by them, and had seen their
handiwork in the ashes of burnt aldeas that had given his comrades
shelter; but for that Morales was responsible, and the men were for the
most part conscripts reft from their homes in Spain, and going with
laughter on their lips to their doom. The Sin Verguenza struck at night,
in silence, and were seldom contented with a strategetical victory.
Still, because the rattle of riflery carries far, they held their hand
while several loose fours shuffling through the dust went by, and
Appleby felt a trifle easier.

Then there was another space of waiting before the dust that had
commenced to sift down grew thicker again as the head of the company
swung round the bend. They were also marching easily with gaps between
the files, and the jingle of sling, swivel, scabbard, and canteen rang
through their trampling, while the rifles twinkled as the fours swung
across the breadths of moonlight between the shadows of the palms. They
were young men, most of them, and some little more than boys; while here
and there one or two, still unprovided with tropical outfit, wore the
kepi and the cazadores, green; but Appleby had seen the men of the
Peninsula fight before, and checked a groan. He was one of the Sin
Verguenza, and knew what awaited him if Morales was successful, but the
work on hand seemed horrible to him just then.

The tension grew almost insupportable, when one of the soldiers who had
a clear voice started the “Campanadas,” and the refrain, that spoke of
grapes and kisses, rolled from four to four. Melodious as it was it
seemed to jar with a horrible discordance upon the silence. Still, there
was a chance that the troops might pass unscathed yet if their officers
saw nothing, and it was with tingling nerves Appleby watched the fours
swing by. Half the company had passed him now.

Then there was a shout from one of the leading fours, and a sharp order,
while a man came running along the line; and the files in front of
Appleby stood still looking about them. He felt his eyes grow dim, and
his fingers quiver on the rifle stock, while his heart throbbed
painfully. Then a mounted officer appeared, apparently on a mule; there
was another order, though Appleby had no notion what it was, and while
the feet commenced to shuffle Maccario cried out.

Appleby felt the rifle butt jar on his shoulder and the barrel jump in
his hand, but saw nothing for a moment beyond wisps of drifting smoke.
It hung about the aloes and obscured the road, but cries and execrations
and orders came out of it, until the rifles of the Sin Verguenza flashed
again. What happened to the cazadores was not apparent then, but it was
evident that some at least survived, for there was a rush of feet in the
smoke, and men with bayonets plunged in among the aloes. They failed to
force a passage through the horrible spines, and another blast of
riflery met them in the face as they floundered and rent themselves.
They had done what men could do, for it was usually a leader’s blunder
that involved the troops of Spain in defeat, but no flesh and blood
unsheltered could face that withering fire, and some went down among the
aloes, while the rest flung themselves upon the murderous rifles.

Then the Sin Verguenza came out from their lair, and Appleby swung his
hat off as he ran with a mob of ragged men behind him towards a slim,
white‐clad officer who was standing in the road. It was in Castilian he
shouted, but a bitter laugh and the flash of a pistol answered him, and
there was a glint of steel as half‐seen men rallied about their leader.
The rifles, however, flashed again, and the cluster of cazadores melted
away as the Sin Verguenza poured out into the road. Appleby sprang over
the fallen officer, and stood still gasping and conscious for the first
time that his foot was paining him. Shadowy men were flying round the
bend of the road but there were, so far as he could see, very few of
them; while the glance he cast round him showed what had happened to the
rest.

“It doesn’t look nice,” said Harper, who appeared at his side. “Still,
there’s a mule team down, and I’m kind of anxious to find out if they
brought anything to eat along.”

He disappeared again, and Appleby circumspectly took off one of the
Alcalde of Santa Marta’s shoes. His foot felt hot, and the patches of
stocking that clung about it were saturated, but the light was too dim
to show him exactly where it was injured; so he shook the moisture from
the shoe through a place where the stitches had parted and put it on
again, and was standing stiffly with his weight on one leg when Maccario
came by.

“You have five minutes to look for anything you may have a fancy for
in,” he said. “There is, however, it seems, a lamentable scarcity of
pesetas among the troops of Spain.”

Appleby turned from him with a little gesture of disgust, and Maccario,
who shrugged his shoulders, went away again. But the Sin Verguenza were
expeditious, and within ten minutes had grouped themselves, with bulging
pockets and haversacks made for other men, in straggling fours. Then the
word was given, and they swung away at the best pace they could compass
down the carretera. It cost Appleby an effort to limp along with his
half company, but he managed it for a time, and nobody except Harper
seemed to notice when he lagged behind. Then when they were straggling
behind the rearmost files those in front halted as a man came up, and a
murmur ran along the line.

“Morales with four companies!” said somebody. “Marching by the Adeje
cross‐road. If they are not deaf, those cazadores, they have heard the
firing!”

“Forward!” Maccario’s voice came back. “With Vincente behind us there
will be masses needed if we do not pass the Adeje road before Morales.”

Then the pace grew faster, and Appleby dropped farther behind, with
Harper hanging resolutely at his side. There was very little discipline
among the Sin Verguenza at any time, and every man’s first care was to
save his own neck just then. So little by little the distance grew
greater between them and the two lonely men, until when the last of them
swept round a bend Appleby stopped altogether and looked at Harper.

“I can’t go any farther on one foot. Push on,” he said.

Harper laughed a little. “I’ve a stitch in my side myself, and this kind
of gallop takes it out of one. I feel kind of tired of the Sin Verguenza
after to‐night’s work, anyway.”

Appleby made a little impatient gesture. “Go on,” he said, “go on.”

“No, sir. I guess I told you I couldn’t run.”

“I’m dead lame,” said Appleby. “You can’t carry me.”

“Well, I’m not going to try. We’ll hustle along, and it’s quite likely
we’ll get somebody to take us in.”

Appleby made a last effort, but his voice shook a little as he said,
“This is not your business, Harper. You can’t do anything for me. Don’t
be a fool!”

Harper laid a hard hand on his shoulder. “Now, I have no use for
arguing. We are white men alone in a heathen country, and you can’t help
not being an American, anyway. When he’s in a tight place I don’t go
back on my partner. You lean on me, and we’ll come to a hole we can
crawl into by and by.”

He slipped his arm under Appleby’s shoulder, and they shuffled on alone
down the dim white road. There was silence all about them, and the tramp
of the Sin Verguenza came back more and more faintly out of the distance
until it ceased altogether.



X — AN UNEXPECTED MEETING


IT was almost cold and very still when Appleby looked out from his lair
among the cane. Morning had not come but the clump of trees that had
been a mere blur of shadow when he last awakened had grown into definite
form, and rose black and solemn against the eastern sky. This was no
longer dusky indigo, but of a softer color tinged with a faint pearly
gray, while detached stalks of cane seemed to be growing into
visibility. Then he stood up with a little shiver, his torn garments
clinging about him wet with the dew, and became vaguely conscious that
he was very uncomfortable. His limbs ached with weariness, and there was
a distressful stiffness in his hip‐joint which those who have slept on
damp ground are acquainted with, while his foot throbbed painfully.

These sensations, however, vanished, and left him intent and alert, for
a sound he recognized came quivering through the still, cool air. It was
evident that Harper heard it also, for he rose stiffly, and his face
showed faintly white as he turned in the direction of the carretera
which ran through the cane some fifty yards away.

“Troops! It’s kind of fortunate we crawled in here,” he said.

Appleby nodded, for he had passed the greater part of six months hiding
from the troops of Spain, and the tramp of marching men was unpleasantly
familiar to him, while now, as it grew louder in a dull staccato, it
seemed unusually portentous and sinister. The earth lay still and
peaceful, wrapped in shadow, while the pearly grayness changed to a pale
ruby gleam in the eastern sky; but that beat of human feet jarred
dissonantly through nature’s harmonies.

It swelled in slow crescendo, a rhythm of desecration, while the thin
jingle of steel and a confused rattling that had still a measured
cadence also became audible. The two men who heard it sat very still
among the cane, until Appleby, who was not usually a prey to
apprehensive fancies, started at the clack of Harper’s rifle as he
snapped down the lever and closed the breach again. The sound seemed to
ring about them with a horrible distinctness.

“They seem in a hurry, and that’s quite fortunate for us,” said Harper.
“Anyway, if they see us they’re not going to get me while there’s
anything in the magazine. I’ve no use for being stood up with my hands
tied against a wall.”

Appleby said nothing, but his brown fingers stiffened on the wet Marlin
rifle, and Harper smiled in a somewhat sardonic fashion when he saw the
glint in his half‐closed eyes. Reticence is not accounted a virtue in
his country, but the Englishman’s immobility was eloquent, and his
comrade was satisfied that if the worst came they would not start out on
the unknown trail alone. Then four by four dim figures swung out of the
shadows, and the cane seemed to shiver in unison with their trampling as
they went by with a forest of sloped rifles wavering above them. Here
and there a mounted officer showed above the rest; while even when the
leading fours were lost again in the shadows there seemed no end to
them, and there was still no slackening in the sonorous beat of feet. At
last, however, laden beasts appeared with men who straggled about them,
then two or three more sections with rifles trailed; and Appleby drew in
a deep breath when once more the gap between the cane was empty.

“There will be no room for the Sin Verguenza now, and nobody will be
likely to take us in,” he said. “What is to be done, Harper?”

“Go to sleep!” said the American tranquilly. “I wouldn’t worry about the
Sin Verguenza. Quite a few of them have picked up enough to retire on. I
wish I hadn’t handed my haversack to black Domingo when I went back for
you. That’s what’s troubling me.”

Appleby laughed, and rolled into the little hollow he had made for
himself with the careless disregard of the future which is not
infrequently the adventurer’s most valuable possession. He also slept
soundly, and the sun was high when he awakened with a start to see a man
looking down on him. He was dressed in unstarched linen, frayed but very
clean, and a big straw hat, while he held a hoe and a basket in one
hand, and stood regarding Appleby with grave curiosity.

“There is much sun to‐day, señor,” he said.

Appleby shifted his hand from the rifle and laid it restrainingly on
Harper, who staggered to his feet, for there was something that inspired
him with confidence in the man’s dark eyes.

“Are there troops on the road?” he asked.

“No,” said the man. “None between here and Arucas. The señores are—”

“Friends of liberty!” and Harper grinned as he straightened himself and
turned to Appleby. “Hadn’t you better tell him the question is where can
two patriots get anything to eat?”

The man glanced at their haggard faces and torn garments, which were
white with dust and clammy with dew.

“Ave Maria!” he said softly, and taking a small loaf from the basket
broke it into two pieces. One he held out with a bottle of thin red
wine, while he glanced at the other half of the loaf deprecatingly.

“One must eat to work,” he said, as if in explanation. “There is always
work for the poor, and between the troops and the Sin Verguenza they
have very little else here.”

A flush crept into Appleby’s forehead, and Harper pulled out a few
pesetas, which was all he had, but the man shook his head.

“No, señor,” he said. “It is for the charity, and one cannot have the
liberty for nothing. Still, there are many contributions one must make,
and I cannot do more.”

Appleby, who understood the significance charity has in Spain, took the
provisions and lifted his battered hat as the man turned away; but when
he had taken a pace or two he came back again and dropped a little
bundle of maize‐husk cigarettes and a strip of cardboard matches beside
them. Then, without a word, he plodded away down a little path while
Harper looked at Appleby with wonder in his eyes.

“I guess there are men like him in every nation, though they’re often
quite hard to find,” he said. “More style about him than a good many of
our senators have at home. Well, we’ll have breakfast now, and then get
on again.”

They ate the half loaf and drank the wine; but Harper looked grave when
Appleby took off his shoe. His foot seemed badly swollen, but he
desisted from an attempt to remove the torn and clotted stocking with a
wry smile, and put on the shoe again. Then he limped out into the road
and plodded painfully down it under the scorching sun all that morning
without plan or purpose, though he knew that while it lay not far from
Santa Marta the Insurgents had friends and sympathizers in the aldea of
Arucas, which was somewhere in front of them. They met nobody. The road
wound away before them empty as well as intolerably hot and dusty,
though here and there a group of men at work in the fields stopped and
stared at them; and they spent an hour making what Harper called a
traverse round a white aldea they were not sure about. Then they lay
down awhile in a ruined garden beside the carretera.

There was a nispero tree in the garden laden with acid yellow fruit, and
Appleby ate the handful Harper brought him greedily, for he was slightly
feverish and grimed with dust. Then they smoked the peasant’s maize‐husk
cigarettes and watched the purple lizards crawl about the fire‐blackened
ruins of the house. They could hear the rasp of machetes amidst the cane
and the musical clink of hoes, while now and then a hum of voices
reached them from the village; and once, with a great clatter, a mounted
man in uniform went by.

Harper lay still, drowsily content to rest; but those sounds of human
activity troubled Appleby. The men who made them had work to do, and a
roof to shelter them when their toil was done, but he was drifting
aimlessly as the red leaves he had watched from the foot‐bridge one
winter day in England. Tony stood beside him then, and he wondered
vaguely what Tony was doing now—playing the part of gentleman steward to
Godfrey Palliser with credit to himself and the good will of his uncle’s
tenants, riding through English meadows, meeting men who were glad to
welcome him in London clubs, or basking in the soft gleam of Violet
Wayne’s eyes. It was the latter only that Appleby envied him; and he
wondered whether Tony, who had so much, knew the full value of the love
that had been given him as the crown of all, and then brushed the
thoughts away when Harper rose.

“We have got to make Arucas by to‐night, or lie out starving, which is a
thing I have no use for,” he said. “It’s a long hustle.”

Appleby rose, and staggered as he placed his weight upon his injured
foot, and then, while Harper laid a steadying hand on his shoulder,
limped out into the carretera. It stretched away before them, white, and
hot, and straight, with scarcely a flicker of shadow to relieve its
blinding glare; and Appleby half closed his eyes, while the perspiration
dripped from Harper’s face.

“And it’s quite often I’ve sworn I’d turn farmer and never go to sea
again! Well, I guess there are more fools like me!”

Appleby had no observation to make, and they plodded on through a land
of silence and intolerable heat. No Latin who can help it works at that
hour of the afternoon, and peon and soldier alike lay where there was
coolness and shadow wrapped in restful sleep. Only the two aliens
crawled on with aching heads and dazzled eyes down the dusty road which
rolled back interminably to their weary feet. The cane was no longer
green to Appleby, but steeped in yellow glare, the dust gleamed
incandescent white, and the sky seemed charged with an overwhelming
radiancy.

Still, he limped on, dreaming, while each step cost him agony, of the
brown woods at Northrop and the sheen of frost on the red brier leaves
in the English lanes, for all that he had seen during that last eventful
fortnight there flashed into his memory. He could recall the chill of
the night air when he stood looking into the future from the face of the
hill as he went to meet keeper Davidson; the sweep of velvet lawn, the
song of the robin on the lime bough in the bracing cold of morning, and
plainer than all the face of the woman he had made a promise to under
the soft light in the conservatory. He did not know what that promise
would cost him when he made it; but the woman had read his character,
and was warranted in deciding that it would be kept.

No road, however, goes on interminably, and the white aldea of Arucas
rose before them when the sun was low. They plodded into it, limping and
stumbling over the slippery stones, and frightening the dark‐eyed
children with their grim faces; for there was a hum of life behind the
lattices now, and a cooking of the comida in the patios and in front of
the open doors. Harper sniffed hungrily—for the pungent odors of the
dark green oil and garlic hung about the flat‐topped houses—and finally
halted before an archway leading into a shadowy patio. There was a
legend above it.

“‘The Golden Fleece’!” he said. “Well, they’ll have some wine here, and
I’ve got five pesetas.”

They went in, and when they limped into the guest chamber a man dressed
in unstarched linen stared at them aghast.

“Madre de Dios!” he said.

He would apparently have backed away in consternation had not Harper,
who slipped between him and the door, stood with his back to it; while
Appleby spoke two words softly in Castilian. They were without
connection and apparently meaningless, but they carried weight with
those who had any hand in the insurrection, and the landlord sat down,
evidently irresolute.

“Would you ruin me? The Sin Verguenza are scattered, and Espada Morales
is not far away,” he said.

“Still,” said Appleby dryly, “they are not dead, my friend, and it is
only those who are buried that never come back again.”

The innkeeper nodded, for the delicacy of the hint as well as the man’s
accent were thoroughly Castilian.

“Well,” he said reflectively, “here one is ruined in any case, and what
one gives to the friends of liberty Morales will not get. After all, it
is but a handful of beans or an omelet, and it is golden onzas those
others would have from me.”

“If eggs are not too dear here we can pay,” said Appleby, with a laugh,
and turned to see that Harper was glancing at him reproachfully.

It was evident that the innkeeper saw him, too, for a little smile came
into his eyes. “Then it is seldom so with the Sin Verguenza,” he said.
“Doubtless your companion is one of them.”

“Silver is scarce with the Sin Verguenza,” said Appleby. “Still, there
are debts they pay with lead.”

The innkeeper set food before them—beans and oil, an omelet, and a
bottle of thin red wine from the Canaries. He also somewhat reluctantly
produced a few cigars of a most excellent tobacco; and Harper sighed
with pure content when he dropped into a big raw‐hide chair when the
meal was over.

“Now I could ’most be happy if I knew when we would strike another place
like this,” he said. “Still, it’s quite plain to me that we can’t stay
here. There are too many cazadores prowling up and down this carretera.”

It was equally evident to Appleby, but, crippled as he was he could find
no answer to the question how he was to drag himself any farther, and he
lay still, considering the chances of their being given a hidden bed in
a forage loft, until there was a great clatter on the stones outside.
Harper was on his feet in a moment, and sprang to the window grim in
face, but once there he laughed.

“Only a carriage with a man and a woman in it,” he said, “You let me do
the talking if old yellow‐face wants to turn us out of here. Anyway, if
I go, what’s left of the wine goes with me.”

To make sure of this he slipped the bottle into his pocket, and turned
discreetly when the landlord came in.

“By permission, gentlemen, I will show you another room,” he said.

“This one will serve quite well,” said Harper in Castilian.

The landlord concealed his impatience by a gesture of deprecation.
“Comes a rich American and a lady,” he said. “These people are, it
seems, fastidious, but they pay me well.”

“An American,” said Harper condescendingly. “Well, we are equal there in
my country, and I do not object to his company. You can show him in.”

It was too late for the innkeeper to expostulate, for a man in white
duck and a girl in a long white dress came into the room, while Appleby
set his lips when he recognized the latter. He was ragged, dirty, and
unkempt, while one shoe was horribly crusted, and it was very much
against his wishes to encounter Nettie Harding a second time in much the
same condition. Harper, however, appeared in no way disconcerted, and
stepped forward, a dilapidated scarecrow, with the bottle neck
projecting suggestively from his pocket.

“Come right in, Mr. Harding,” he said. “It’s quite pleasant to meet a
countryman in this forlorn land.”

Harding smiled dryly, but his daughter turned to Appleby with a gleam of
compassion in her eyes and held out her hand.

“We are very glad to meet you, Mr. Broughton,” she said.

Appleby felt grateful for the tactful kindness which restrained any sign
of astonishment, but Harding laughed.

“I never go back upon anything my daughter says, but I don’t know that
I’m sorry we shall not be honored with the company of any more of the
Sin Verguenza,” he said. “We have ordered comida, and should be pleased
if you will sit down with us.”

Appleby would have excused himself, but Harper broke in, “The Sin
Verguenza have gone, and it’s not going to worry me if they never come
back again. As to the other question, I can generally find a use for a
dinner, and if my company’s any pleasure be glad to throw it in.”

Appleby would have offered an explanation, but Harper silenced him by a
gesture, and the landlord came in with the viands.

“Bring more plates. These gentlemen will eat with me,” said Harding.

The landlord appeared astonished, and stared at Harper with bewildered
incredulity, until Nettie Harding, who was quick‐witted, laughed, and
the bronze grew deeper in Appleby’s cheeks. Harper, however, was by no
means disconcerted.

“Well,” he said naively, “out of compliment to your father I’ll worry
through another one. You see, it may be quite a long while before we get
a meal again.”

They sat down, and while Appleby said very little Harding talked
tactfully of England and America, and made no allusion to anything that
concerned Cuba. Harper seconded him ably, for there was, as usual with
his countrymen, no diffidence in him; and Appleby wondered whether there
was any reason for Miss Harding’s curious little smile. Then when the
fruit was removed Harding closed the door and took out his cigar case.

“Take a smoke. Miss Harding does not mind!” he said.

Appleby made excuses, but Harper laid the cigars the landlord had
supplied them with on the table.

“You’ll try one of these,” he said. “I think they’re good.”

Harding lighted a cigar, and then it seemed to Appleby that a change
came over his attitude, though he also fancied that Miss Harding had
expected it.

“They are,” he said. “You got them cheap?”

There was no mistaking the significance of his tone, and Appleby
straightened himself a trifle. Still, he felt he could not well rebuke
the man whose dinner he had just eaten.

“Isn’t that a little beyond the question, sir?” he asked quietly.

“I don’t quite know that it is. I’m going to talk now, and it may save
time and worry if I put it straight. What’s the matter with the Sin
Verguenza?”

“Busted!” said Harper. “Smashed up a company of cazadores, and lit out.
Nobody’s going to worry over them.”

“Which is why you are here?”

“You’ve hit it right off,” said Harper.

“If you feel inclined to tell me anything more I’ll listen.”

Appleby, who resented the man’s tone as much as he was astonished at it,
was about to observe that he felt no inclination to trespass further on
his host’s patience, but he fancied there was a warning in Nettie
Harding’s eyes, and Harper did not wait for him. He at once launched
into an ornate account of the affray, and discreetly mentioned their
present difficulties. Harding listened gravely, and then turned to
Appleby.

“I have a Spanish sugar grower to visit, and you will excuse me, but I
would like to see you again before you leave the hotel,” he said.
“Anyway, it wouldn’t be quite safe for you to take the road just now.”

He went out with his daughter, and when they were in the patio the girl
looked at him. “You have got to do something for them,” she said
quietly.

“Yes,” said Harding, with a little nod, “I am going to. As it happens,
it will suit me.”

It was an hour later when they came back, and as the light was fading
Harding bade the landlord bring a lamp before he sat down, and turned to
Appleby and Harper, who were somewhat anxiously waiting him.

“You are scarcely likely to know anything about growing or crushing
sugar, Mr. Broughton?” he said.

“No, sir. Nothing whatever.”

“Thank you!” said Harding, and glanced with a little smile at Harper. “I
guess it’s not necessary to ask you.”

“No,” said Harper tranquilly. “I know a little about anything there’s
money in, and what I don’t I can learn. Bernardino’s going to show
himself ’most as quick as me. It’s only modesty that’s wrong with him.”

“Well,” said Harding dryly, “he’s an Englishman. Now, Mr. Broughton, in
one sense your friend is right. Adaptability is the quality we most
appreciate; and a good many men in my country, including myself, have
made quite a pile out of businesses they knew very little about when
they took hold of them. Well, I want a straight man, with good nerves
and a cool head, to run a sugar estate for me. I don’t want him to cut
the cane or oil the machinery—that will be done for him; but he will
have to hold my interests safe, and see I’m not unduly squeezed by the
gentlemen who keep order here. If he robs me on his own account he will
probably hear of it. Are you willing to take hold on a six months’
trial?”

“There is a difficulty.

“Your partner? That got over, you would be willing?”

“Yes,” said Appleby. “I should be devoutly thankful, too.”

Harding turned to Harper. “I have a kind of notion I have seen you
before. I don’t mean in Santa Marta.”

“Oh yes,” said Harper, grinning. “You once had a deal with me. I ran you
in a load of machinery without paying duty.”

“You did. I fancied you would have had reasons for preferring not to
remember it.”

Harper laughed. “Now, it seems to me the fact that I came out ahead of
Cyrus Harding ought to be a testimonial. I was fighting for my own hand
then, but I never took anything I wasn’t entitled to from the man who
hired me—at least, if I did I can’t remember it.”

“Don’t try it again,” said Harding, with a little grim smile. “In this
case, I think it would be risky. Well, I guess I can find a use for you
too, but the putting you together increases the steepness of the chances
you are taking. Does that strike you?”

“Yes, sir,” said Appleby. “Still, I am afraid you must take both or
neither.”

Harding laughed. “Then I’ll show you the place and what your business
will be before we argue about the salary. In the meanwhile here are five
dollars. Go out and buy hats, but no clothing yet. We’ll get that later.
Then walk out of the village, and wait for me out of sight along the
carretera. You needn’t be bashful about taking the dollars. They will be
deducted from your salary.”

They went out and bought the hats, and had just time to spring clear of
the road when two or three mounted officers trotted by. Five minutes
later the officers pulled up at the hotel, and Harding, who met them in
the patio, recognized Espada Morales in one who saluted him.

“You have had a pleasant drive?” he said. “The Señorita Harding I trust
is well?”

Harding nodded, though he was not pleased to notice that the officer’s
dark eyes wandered round the patio and as though in search of somebody.

“She will be gratified to hear of your inquiry,” he said. “We are going
back now, and there is a kindness you could do me. I am taking two new
servants to the San Cristoval sugar mill, and you may have troops or
pickets who would stop us on the road.”

Morales tore a slip from a little pad he took from his pocket, scribbled
across it, and handed it to Harding.

“If you are questioned show them that,” he said. “When you desire any
other service I am at your command.”

Harding took the paper and told his driver to get the mules out, while
ten minutes after he and his daughter left the hotel he bade the man
pull up beside two figures standing in the road. They got into the
carriage when he signed to them.

“If you had waited a little longer you might have met Morales face to
face, Mr. Broughton, and that foot of yours would probably have
convicted a more innocent man,” he said. “As it is, I have a pass from
him that will prevent anybody worrying you until we reach San
Cristoval.”

Then the driver flicked the mules, and they rolled swiftly forward into
the soft darkness that now hid the cane and dimmed the long white road.



XI — THE ALCALDE’S BALL


CYRUS HARDING thoroughly understood the importance of trifles, and
possessed a quick insight, which went far to insure the success of
whatever he took in hand. It was because of this he picked Appleby and
Harper up by the roadside in place of driving away with them from the
“Golden Fleece,” and seized the opportunity of obtaining a pass from
Colonel Morales. The driver was in his service, and Harding had
discovered one or two facts concerning him which rendered a hint that
his silence would be advisable tolerably effective. Thus no questions
were asked them when they were twice stopped by a patrol, and skirting
Santa Marta in the darkness they reached the San Cristoval hacienda
without attracting undesirable attention.

Next morning Harding also drove back to Santa Marta and purchased
clothing, apparently for himself, so that when his new assistants made
their appearance there was nothing about them that was likely to excite
anybody’s curiosity; while the doctor who dressed Appleby’s foot was
allowed to surmise that it had been injured in the crushing mill. He
had, it was suspected, liberationist sympathies, so that it was of no
great importance that he was not quite convinced. Appleby, being
installed as general manager, showed a facility of comprehension and an
administrative ability that would probably have astonished any one who
had not Harding’s talent for handling men; and when some little time had
passed the latter left him in charge without misgivings while he made a
business visit to New York. As he purposed to return promptly he also
left his daughter with the wife of the Spanish banker at Santa Marta,
and it was about that time the Alcalde of the latter place gave a ball
to celebrate certain successes of the Spanish arms. The Sin Verguenza
had disappeared, and there was at least every outward sign of
tranquillity in that district.

That was how it came about that Appleby and Miss Harding, who had seen a
good deal of each other in the meanwhile sat out in the moonlight on a
veranda of the Alcalde’s house overlooking the patio. It was filled with
flowers, and in place of the Sin Verguenza’s revelry the tinkle of
guitars, swish of costly dresses, light patter of feet, and decorous
laughter came out from the open windows that blazed with light. Nettie
Harding was also now attired as became her station, and the soft shimmer
of pearls emphasized the whiteness of her neck. Still, she remembered
the last time she had entered that patio, and a faint tinge of color
came into her cheek as her eyes rested for a moment on the veranda above
them. As it happened, Appleby, without intending it, met her eyes a
moment later, and each realized what the other’s thoughts were. The man
turned his head suddenly, but he felt he could not gaze across the patio
indefinitely, and when he looked round again he saw the girl had laid
her fan upon her knee and was regarding him curiously.

“There is a difference, is there not?” she said.

Appleby sat still, feeling distinctly uncomfortable, and wondering what
was expected of him, though he was not altogether astonished, because he
knew Nettie Harding’s spirit.

“Yes,” he said. “The place is a good deal prettier now. These folks have
quite an artistic taste, you know.”

The girl laughed softly. “Oh yes. Still, do you never come out of your
shell? We, as you may have noticed, are rather fond of doing so, and at
least occasionally say what we think.”

Appleby hoped he appeared unconcerned, for, though he knew Miss Harding
could be daring, he could not quite decide whether she had quite
understood the position on that eventful night, and hoped she had not.

“The difference you mention is at least to my advantage,” he said. “You
may remember that I was a ragged outcast then.”

“And now, I think, you are on the way to prosperity. You have made a
good friend—Mr. Appleby.”

Appleby started. He had felt it incumbent on him to give Harding an
outline of his story, and had, at the latter’s recommendation, applied
for a cedilla personale, or certificate of nationality, which it was
desirable for aliens to possess just then in his own name; but it had
not occurred to him that Harding might be communicative. Still, a
curious friendship or camaraderie, of a kind that would have been
scarcely possible in England, had sprung up between him and the girl,
and he saw that she expected something of him.

“I hope I have made two,” he said. “Indeed, I fancy I owe the
improvement in my affairs to the second one.”

“Wouldn’t it be more flattering to consider how much was due to your own
abilities?”

Appleby laughed. “I was never considered clever, but I am not quite a
fool. There is, one surmises, no scarcity of talented young Americans,
and I fancy a good many of them would be glad to serve Cyrus Harding.
Still, I don’t know anybody I would sooner take a kindness from.”

“You will have to deserve it, and that implies a question. The Sin
Verguenza may come back again?”

“You want the question answered?” said Appleby.

“Yes,” said Nettie. “There are disadvantages in a divided allegiance.”

“Well,” said Appleby slowly, “I hope the decision I think you are
alluding to will never be forced on me, for I have had sufficient of the
Sin Verguenza. While I take Cyrus Harding’s money I accept the
obligation that goes with it; but when I was starving, and did not know
where I would be safe from the cazadores, the Sin Verguenza fed me, and
I think I owe them something.”

Nettie Harding smiled and shook her head reproachfully, but there was a
little gleam in her eyes. “They fed you!” she said. “Now, there are men
in my country who would have expressed themselves much more
artistically. Still, you would have felt ashamed, wouldn’t you, if you
had given yourself away? Do you know there is one reason why you made a
second friend? You are like Julian, and when you meet him you will have
a third who will, though he may not tell you so eloquently, remember
what you have done for him.”

Appleby sat silent, as he usually did when in doubt. He was not a vain
man or apt to lose his head, while the one woman he might have fallen in
love with was far away in England; but he knew who Julian was, and
wondered whether Miss Harding had meant to supply him with a useful
hint. In the meanwhile the swish of dresses, patter of feet, and tinkle
of guitars grew louder, and drowned the soft splashing of the fountain
among the flowers.

“That sounds very pretty,” he said. “Have you noticed that there is
something curious but alluring in Spanish music? They got it from the
East, I think.”

Nettie laughed. “The shell fits you very close. Still, you told me you
had made a second friend, and that implies a good deal, I think. That is
why I am going to ask you a question. What brought you out from the old
country? I want to know more than my father does.”

She looked him steadily in the eyes, and though Appleby was never quite
sure why he did so he told her. Once or twice she asked an apposite
question, and there was something in her close attention and unexpressed
sympathy that wiled from him more than he had ever meant to communicate
to any one, for Nettie Harding knew her influence and could direct it
well. She sat thoughtfully silent for at least a minute when he had
finished, and then once more looked at him.

“I don’t know if you expect appreciation—but I think you were very
foolish,” she said.

“No,” said Appleby slowly. “Not in this case. You see, he was very fond
of her.”

Again the little gleam showed in the girl’s eyes, but she shook her
head. “I have paid you too many indirect compliments, though you
naturally did not notice them, to waste any more on you, and I am going
to talk straight,” she said. “The Deus ex machina is quite too big a
part for you. To put it differently—why did you meddle with affairs
altogether beyond your comprehension?”

“I think I told you she was very fond of him.”

“You didn’t,” said Nettie. “Still, we are getting considerably nearer
the truth now. Do you know you hit off that girl’s character with an
insight I never suspected you had in you? You made me understand her.
And you had seen her for just fourteen days.”

“One can come to a conclusion about a man or woman in even a shorter
time.”

“Of course! In a good deal less. In one fateful moment—some folks
believe!”

Appleby saw the little mocking smile fade from the girl’s lips and
something he could not quite fathom in her eyes, though it in a fashion
suggested comprehension and sympathy. If he was right, Miss Harding’s
penetration appeared astonishing. He would not, however, betray himself,
and his voice was even when he said, “You have not shown me yet where I
was mistaken.”

“In trying to bring folks together who were best apart; and when you
thought she was fond of him you were wrong.”

“No,” said Appleby doggedly.

Nettie laughed in a curious fashion. “She does not know your friend as
you do, for you gave him away by the excuses you made for him. The girl
you have pictured to me could never be fond of that kind of man. She is
in love with the man she thinks he is. You can appreciate the
difference, but she will find him out sooner or later.”

Appleby started. “No,” he said. “I think he will tell her, and she will
forgive him; though he did nothing very wrong.”

“That man will never tell her—or speak a word to clear you. Still, I
think you can do without friends of that kind. You have good ones in
this country.”

Appleby was glad that he was relieved of the necessity of answering,
because the banker’s wife waddled out, clad in black from heel to crown—
for she wore a lace mantilla there—with powdered face, into the veranda;
and since the camaraderie that existed between him and the girl was not
likely to be understood or appreciated by a lady of Castilian extraction
he went away. He also wanted to think, and descending to a nook of the
patio where there was a seat lighted a cigar.

If Miss Harding was right, and he had seen already that she was a young
woman of singular penetration, he had made his sacrifice—which had,
however, not cost him very much—in vain; but what disconcerted him was
the fact that she had forced the truth he had strenuously striven to
close his eyes to upon him. Still, even that, he told himself, did not
count for very much just then. Even if she did not love Tony, Violet
Wayne was patrician to her finger tips and he an outcast adventurer.
That was a very convincing reason why he should think no more of her,
and yet even then her face rose up before his fancy and would not be
driven away. It was almost a relief when he heard a step behind him, and
turning sharply saw a little olive‐faced officer in tight green uniform
smiling at him.

“You do not find the women of this country sympathetic—though you dance
our dances well?” he said.

Appleby was on his guard, and regretted he had figured in the many‐
stepped dances he had been taught at Algeciras at all, for he had
hitherto deemed it wise to evince no close acquaintance with Castilian
customs; and Espada Morales had very keen eyes.

“That is a little astonishing, unless it is the national courtesy which
prompts you to tell me so,” he said.

Morales shrugged his shoulders. “The nice articulation of our ‘jota’ and
‘zeta,’ which are embarrassing to strangers, is even more astonishing.
One does not overcome that difficulty in the two months you have spent
in this country. Still, what is that to me? It is not my business to
inquire where my friends acquired Castilian.”

Appleby wondered whether this was meant as a hint that the prosecution
of such an inquiry might not be desirable to him. He had seen the
Colonel Morales twice in battle, and while he had little fear of
recognition in his present guise had been told a good deal which by no
means pleased him about the man. Morales had, it was believed, the scent
of a sleuth‐hound and the jaguar’s voracity.

“It is at least an honor to be counted among a distinguished soldier’s
friends,” he said.

Morales made a little gesture of deprecation. “Soldiering is an ill‐paid
trade, and you others are to be envied,” he said. “This is why I appeal
to you as the Senor Harding’s superintendent and a well‐wisher of Spain.
Mine is a poor country, and our troops are short of clothing and
necessaries. The loyalists of this district have responded to the appeal
we made them generously, and it seemed only fitting to give you an
opportunity.”

Appleby knew that the troops were wretchedly supplied with commissariat
and drugs, and the affair was within the discretion Harding allowed him.
Still, he decided to make an experiment.

“If a hundred dollars would be of any service they will be paid to the
treasurer of the fund,” he said.

Morales fixed his dark eyes upon him for a moment, and gratitude was not
exactly what he read in them. Appleby, however, met them steadily, and
the officer smiled.

“Two hundred would be more useful, but we come begging and not making a
demand,” he said. “The treasurer is, however, at Havana, and it would be
a convenience if you gave the silver to me.”

“Well,” said Appleby, “I will give you one hundred dollars.”

Morales expressed his thanks, but he did not go away. Indeed, Appleby
felt that he was watching him covertly as he took out a cigar.

“There is another affair in which you could be of service to me,” he
said. “We have all our little shortcomings, and I have been unfortunate
at the Casino. What would you? One has to ingratiate himself with these
Cubans, and I have lost a good deal of money. Holding command as I do, I
cannot ask one of them for a loan.”

“Would that be a great disadvantage?” said Appleby.

Morales smiled again, not altogether pleasantly. “They might lend under
fear of reprisal, which would be distasteful to me. Men’s tongues, my
friend, are very censorious in this country; but one could confide in
your discretion, and I should be grateful if you could show me how to
negotiate a small loan until the Administration remembers that our pay
is due.”

Appleby sat silent a space, for he appreciated the delicacy of the
officer’s hint. Morales had, however, made his horseleech nature
tolerably plain already, and Appleby decided to stand firm.

“I will mention it to Mr. Harding when he comes back,” he said.

“To wait would be especially inconvenient to me.”

“Still, that is the most I can do,” said Appleby.

Morales shrugged his shoulders, discoursed about the dancing, and then
moved away; but Appleby realized that his firmness would probably cost
him something. He knew that Morales would for several reasons be chary
of any attempt to hamper the prosperity of the San Cristoval hacienda,
but he felt that its manager might be made to feel his resentment
individually. Still, he was in Harding’s service, and that fact carried
an obligation with it.

Some time had now passed since he had left the dancers and deciding that
it would be advisable to make another appearance among them he had risen
to his feet, when there was a trampling under the archway that led into
the patio, and three men came into the light. Two of them carried rifles
and wore the cazadores’ uniform, but the third was hatless and ragged,
and walked with difficulty, with a strip of hide between his ankles and
his hands lashed behind him. Appleby started a little when he saw him.
The man’s face was drawn and haggard, but he was one who had fought well
with the Sin Verguenza.

It also became evident that he saw Appleby and recognized him, for he
looked straight at him with an appeal in his eyes, and then, turning his
head away, plodded apathetically into the patio between his captors.
That alone would probably have decided Appleby. The man had asked for
help, but he had also made it plain that he had no intention of
betraying a comrade; and Appleby knew that while the Castilian has his
shortcomings, they are very seldom evident when he meets his end.

The cazadores led the man towards one of the basement rooms, which
served now and then as a place of detention when the Alcalde desired to
question suspected persons, and thrust him in. Then one came out
grumbling, and stopped his companion as with a gesture he crossed the
patio.

“There is no key, and one of us must stay here,” he said. “Now, if I
could have found the little Tomasa we should have had a flask of wine.
There is plenty here to‐night.”

The other man glanced up at the lighted windows, and Appleby, who
slipped back out of sight into the shadow, saw that he was white with
dust, and surmised that he was correspondingly thirsty.

“There will be no chance of that when we have told the Alcalde,” he
said. “It is a misfortune. The wine would have been welcome.”

They looked at each other, and then back at the closed door. “That man
can scarcely hobble, and his hands are tied,” said one. “Go back and
rattle at the lock, and he will think it is the key. Then if you are
quick you may find Tomasa while I tell the Alcalde.”

The soldier went back and did something to the lock with his bayonet,
and then made a sign to his comrade, who went up the stairway. Then he
disappeared through a door which apparently led to the kitchen, and
Appleby, treading softly, slipped forward through the shadows. There was
nobody in the patio now, and the streets were silent, while it only took
him a moment or two to reach the door. In another he had slashed the
man’s bonds through, and a ragged object glided silently across the
patio. Appleby stood still a few seconds with beating heart until the
swiftly moving shadow vanished through the arch, and then went up the
stairway in haste, but as softly as he could. He, however, stopped
suddenly when he reached the veranda, for Nettie Harding was leaning
over the balustrade, and the banker’s wife sitting in a cane chair
behind her. She saw the question in his eyes and nodded.

“Yes,” she said, “I saw you. The Señora Frequilla saw nothing. She is
half asleep. Why did you do it?”

“He would have been shot to‐morrow,” said Appleby.

The girl laid her hand upon his arm, and led him into the lighted room,
where, as it happened, a dance was just commencing. They took their
places among the rest, and nothing unusual happened for several minutes.
Then there was a shout from the patio and a tramp of feet, and the
dancing ceased. Asking vague questions, the guests streamed down the
stairway, and when Appleby and Nettie Harding, who followed, stopped
among the rest at a turning Morales was standing in the patio very grim
in face beside the Alcalde, with two dusty and evidently very
apprehensive cazadores before him.

“To the cuartel, and tell the Sergeant Antonio to turn out ten men at
once. I will consider your reward to‐morrow,” he said, and turned to the
Alcalde. “It would be well, señor, if you sent word to the civiles.”

Then he smiled at the guests, who made room for him as he approached the
stairway and stopped close by Appleby, who felt the girl’s hand tremble
a little on his arm.

“I am sorry that you should be disturbed by this affair,” he said; and
Appleby wondered whether it was altogether by chance that the officer’s
glance was turned in his direction.

“Two of my men have allowed an Insurgent to escape them, for which they
will be rewarded. It is, however, evident that he had a friend who cut
his bonds, and when we find him that man will also be duly compensated.”

The little vindictive flash in the dark eyes was very significant, and
one or two of the guests, Loyalists as they were, moved rather further
out of Morales’ way than was necessary as he went back up the stairway.



XII — PANCHO’S WARNING


A WEEK had passed since the Alcalde’s ball, when Appleby awakened late
one night from a restless sleep at the hacienda San Cristoval. He had
shut the lattices of his window because the moonlight streamed in, and
it is not advisable for white men to sleep under that pale radiance in
the tropics; and the room was almost insufferably hot, which Appleby
surmised was the cause of his awakening. He was, however, anxious to get
to sleep again, for his post was no sinecure, and he usually rose in the
early morning.

Cuba was in a very unsettled state just then, steeped in intrigue and
overrun with spies, while among Loyalists and Insurgents alike faction
plotted against faction. Both were divided by internecine jealousies,
and the mixed population of native‐born Cubans of Iberian blood,
Spaniards from the Peninsular and the Canaries, Chinamen, negroes, and
mulattoes, appeared incapable of cohesion. Stability of purpose is not a
prominent characteristic of the Latins, and while the country drifted in
discord towards anarchy, a similar state of affairs existed on a smaller
scale at the hacienda San Cristoval. The men who by the favor of the
military rulers were allowed to take Harding’s pay apparently disdained
continuous effort, and desisted from it to discuss politics on every
opportunity; while knives were not infrequently drawn in defence of
their somewhat variable convictions.

It was with annoyance he found he could not sleep, and resigned himself
to pass the weary hours waiting for daylight as he had frequently done
before. The perspiration dripped from him, and there was a pain in his
joints, for the insidious malarial fever he had contracted in the swamps
troubled him now and then, and finding no relief in any change of
posture lay rigidly still. A mosquito hovered about him with a thin,
persistent droning—and one mosquito is occasionally sufficient to drive
a sleepless man to frenzy—but the building was very silent. Appleby
could see the faint gleam of moonlight deflected by the lattice on the
floor, but the rest of the room was wrapped in inky blackness. He was
glad of that for there was a dull ache at the back of his eyes, which he
surmised was the result of standing for most of twelve hours in the
glare of the whitewashed sheds the previous day. By and by, however, the
dead stillness which the droning of the mosquito emphasized grew
oppressive, and he found himself listening with a curious intentness for
any sound that would break it. He did not know why he did so, but he
obeyed the impulse with a vague feeling that watchfulness was advisable.

Five minutes passed, as it were, interminably, while he only heard the
strident ticking of the watch beneath his pillow, and then the stairway
leading to the veranda outside his window creaked softly. That was
nothing unusual, for the timber not infrequently groaned and cracked
under the change of temperature in the stillness of the night; but there
was something that stirred Appleby’s suspicions in the sound, and he
raised himself softly when he heard it again. The room he slept in
opened into a larger one, which Harding had fitted up as an office,
where the safe was kept, but the door between it and the veranda was
barred, and Appleby had himself made fast the lattice of the window.

He could hear nothing further for a space, and was annoyed to feel the
hand he laid on the pillow trembling and his hair wet with perspiration.
Then it was with difficulty he checked a gasp, for the door handle
seemed to rattle, and the bolt of the lock slid home with a soft click.
The smooth sound was very suggestive, for Appleby had found the lock
stiff and hard to move. Somebody had apparently oiled it
surreptitiously, and it was evident that he would not have done so
without a purpose. For a moment he was almost dismayed. He was shut in,
and there were a good many pesetas in Harding’s safe; but the unpleasant
nervous strain he had hitherto been sensible of had gone and left him
with faculties sharpened by anger. Then an inspiration dawned on him,
and his lips set in a little grim smile. The Latin has usually no great
regard for trifles, and it was not very astonishing that the man who
oiled and locked the door had overlooked the fact that the lattice was
fastened within.

Appleby was out of bed in a moment, and moving with silent deliberation,
slipped a duck jacket over his pajamas and softly pulled out a bureau
drawer. Here, however, he had another astonishment, for the pistol he
kept under his clothing had gone, and he stood still a moment reflecting
with the collectedness which usually characterized him in an emergency.
Harper slept in a distant wing of the building; the major‐domo, or house
steward, in a room by the kitchen across the patio; and he could not
waken either without giving a general alarm, which did not appear
advisable. Appleby had no great confidence in any of his retainers, and
considered it likely that some of them were in the plot, and would in
all probability contrive the escape of the prowler in the confusion. He
must, it seemed, see the affair through alone, and, what was more to the
purpose, unarmed. Then he remembered the bar which, when dropped into
two sockets, locked the two halves of the lattice, and treading softly
made for the window. It was quite certain now that somebody was moving
about the adjoining room.

The lattice swung open with scarcely a sound, and if Appleby made any
noise crawling through the opening the intruder apparently did not hear
him. In another few moments he had gained the adjoining door which stood
just ajar, and dimly saw the black figure of a man who held a small
lantern bending over the American office bureau. This astonished
Appleby, who had expected the iron safe beside it would have claimed his
attention.

He pushed the door a little farther open, and stood close against it
with his fingers tightening on the bar, while the man whose face he
could not see flung several bundles of documents out of a drawer, and
held them near the lantern, as though he would read the endorsements
upon them, which Appleby remembered were in English. He had, however,
apparently no difficulty in understanding them, for he took up each
bundle and glanced at it before he laid it down, and then, pulling the
drawer out, thrust his hand into the opening.

Appleby started as he watched him, for that drawer was shorter than the
rest, and there was a hidden receptacle behind it. It was difficult for
any one to remain impartially neutral in Cuba just then, and Appleby had
surmised already that Harding only retained his footing there by the
exercise of skilful diplomacy, while communications reached him now and
then which he showed to nobody. He had, however, taken the contents of
the receptacle away with him.

It was a very slight movement that Appleby made, but the door he leaned
against creaked, and the man swung sharply round. Perhaps he was afraid
of the light of the lantern being seen from the windows opposite, for he
did not raise it, but stood still, apparently glancing about him, while
Appleby waited motionless with every nerve in his body tingling. It
seemed to him that there was a faint sound behind him on the stairway.

He fancied the almost intolerable tension lasted for nearly a minute,
and then the man, who failed to see him, turned again with a little
half‐audible ejaculation, and opening another drawer bent over it with
his back to Appleby, who moved silently in his direction. He made two
strides and stopped, with his fingers quivering on the bar; but the man
was still stooping over the drawer, and he made another stride and
stopped again. He could almost reach the stranger with the bar, but
remembering the Cuban’s quickness with the steel he decided it would be
advisable to make quite certain.

A board creaked as he made the next step, the man swung round again, and
there was a pale flash in the light of the lantern as he sprang
backwards. He was on the opposite side of the bureau and out of reach
when Appleby swung up the bar, but the latter, who recognized the fact,
stood between him and the door. They stood still for what seemed an
interminable space in the black darkness, for the faint blink of light
from the lantern was cut off by the displaced drawer, and then Appleby
moved a foot or two as the dim shadowy figure, which he fancied had
drawn itself together, sidled round the bureau. He surmised that his
adversary was bracing himself for a spring, and knew that unless he met
it with the bar he would be at the mercy of the steel. Still, he meant
at any cost to hold the position that commanded the door.

The two stopped again, a trifle nearer each other, and Appleby felt his
right arm tingle. Still, a rash move would probably prove fatal, and he
remembered even then that because silent endurance is not a
characteristic of the Latins his adversary was the more likely to yield
beneath the strain and do something that would equalize the advantage
his skill with the knife conferred upon him. The man with colder blood
could wait. He, however, found it sufficiently harassing, for in the
meanwhile he could feel in fancy the sting of the knife, and remembered
with unpleasant distinctness the feinting play with the steel he had now
and then seen his peons indulge in. One thrust, he fancied, would
suffice, for the Cuban knows just how and where to strike. He could feel
his heart beating, and the perspiration streaming down his face.

Then the door behind him was flung wide open, a blink of light flashed
into the room and shone upon an olive‐tinted face; while, when Appleby,
uncertain what this boded, swung up the bar to force an issue, the man
flung down a knife.

“Carramba!” he said hoarsely. “It is too unequal.”

Appleby glanced over his shoulder, and saw Pancho, his major‐domo,
standing half dressed not far behind him with a lantern and a big
machete in his hand. He stooped, picked up the knife, and with a flick
of his fingers slid it into his sleeve. Then he held the lantern higher,
and Appleby recognized his adversary as a weight clerk in the sugar
mill. He blinked with his eyes, and the damp dripped from his face,
which showed haggard and drawn; but Appleby, who wondered if his own
wore that look, surmised that this was not due to cowardice, and
understood why the man breathed in gasps.

“Leave the light, and go for the Señor Harper, Pancho,” he said, and his
voice sounded curiously harsh and uneven.

The major‐domo, however, shook his head. “With permission, I will stay
here, señor,” he said. “Ask him what he has come for.”

The other man sat down somewhat limply on the table and essayed to
laugh. “The question is not necessary, Don Pancho,” he said. “One has
always a use for silver.”

Appleby glanced at the safe, which had not been tampered with, and
fancied as he did so that Pancho made a sign to him.

“You were looking for it in a curious place,” he said. “One does not
keep silver loose in a drawer. At least, not in Cuba. It would be better
if you told us plainly what brought you here.”

“To what purpose, when you do not believe me?” said the man, with an
attempt at tranquillity. “Still, the Señor Harding is only liberal to
his countrymen; and I have been unfortunate at the Casino.”

Appleby saw the major‐domo’s smile of incredulity, and felt a mild
astonishment at the fact that he was quietly arguing with a man who
would, he knew, have killed him without compunction a few minutes
earlier had the opportunity been afforded him.

“Well,” he said a trifle impatiently, “you can explain it to the
Alcalde. Will you go for the Senor Harper, and unlock the cellar next
the stables as you come back, Pancho? He would be safe there until to‐
morrow.”

The major‐domo shook his head. “It would be better if you let him go,”
he said. “The law is troublesome and expensive in this country.”

Appleby, who was already aware of this, reflected. He knew the
insecurity of his own position, and Harding had warned him especially to
keep clear of any complications with the officials; while he had
confidence in Pancho and recognized the significance of his tone. Still,
he was unwilling to let their captive go scot‐free and gazed at him
steadily.

The man, who met his gaze, smiled a little. “It is good advice Don
Pancho has given you. I tell you so with all sincerity.”

“Well,” said Appleby, “you can go, but you will not get off so easily if
you ever come back again. Still, I want the pistol you stole from me.”

The man raised his shoulders. “It is an unpleasant word, señor, and you
will find the pistol in the drawer beneath the one where you usually
keep it. It is too noisy a weapon to be much esteemed in Cuba. Still, to
requite a courtesy, you will take a hint from me. When a man is in
charge of a good many pesetas it is not wise of him to keep his pistol
in a drawer.”

He slipped down from the table, asked Pancho for his knife, and took off
his hat with grave politeness when it was handed him. Then he went down
the stairway, and sitting down at the foot of it apparently put his
shoes on before he strode away along the tram‐line. Appleby laid his
hand on the major‐domo’s shoulder.

“You came opportunely, comrade,” he said. “I am grateful.”

It was not by accident he employed the Castilian word which implies a
kindly regard as well as familiarity, and the man seemed to recognize
it, for he smiled curiously.

“It is nothing, señor,” he said. “I did not sleep well, and saw the man
creep into the veranda from my bed, which is near the window. In not
sending him to the Alcalde you were wise.”

“I am not sure that I was,” said Appleby.

Pancho made a little gesture. “It is a turbulent country, and the man
who escapes trouble is the one who lives the most quietly.”

He turned away, as though to avoid further questions, while Appleby went
back to bed, and, contrary to his expectations, slept until the morning.

It was some days later when he rode over to Santa Marta and, leaving the
mule at the “Four Nations,” called at the banker’s house, where he found
Nettie Harding sitting with her host and hostess on the flat roof. It
was, though still early in the evening, dark, and the after‐dinner
coffee, the choicest product of Costa Rica, was set out in very little
cups on the table before them; while the banker, who was stout and
elderly, lay drowsily in a big chair. His wife had also little to say,
and Appleby drew his chair up to Nettie Harding’s side. The lamp on the
table burned without a flicker in the still air, and a cloudless vault
of indigo stretched above the sun‐scorched town. Beyond the rows of
roofs a band was playing in the plaza, and a hum of voices rose from the
shadowy streets beneath. It was a little cooler now, and a pleasant
scent of heliotrope came up from the patio.

Nettie Harding raised her head as though to listen to the music, and
then glanced at the stars above. “All this,” she said, “is distinctly
Cuban, isn’t it?”

Appleby nodded. “It’s Spanish, which is the same thing. They’re a
consistent people,” he said. “Still, I’m not sure that I quite catch
your meaning.”

Nettie laughed, and turned so that the lamplight touched her face. “Oh,
I talk quite casually now and then. I meant that being Cuban it couldn’t
be English.”

“That is apparent.”

“Well, I was wondering if, bearing in mind the difference you were
content with it.”

Appleby laughed. “I am, you will also remember, an adventurer, and the
country that feeds me is, as they say in yours, quite good enough for
me. A little to eat, a little sunshine, a comrade’s smile, and enough
kindly earth to cover one at the last, is all, I believe, that one is
entitled to expect.”

He had meant to answer lightly, but a curious little inflection crept
into his voice against his will, and he sat still a moment while the
memories crowded upon him, with a longing that would not be shaken off.
Once more he seemed to be gazing down on the red beech woods and palely
flashing river from the terrace at Northrop Hall, though he recognized
that in the meanwhile Nettie Harding was watching him with a gleam of
sympathetic comprehension in her eyes. It was significant that he did
not feel impelled to speak, for they had arrived at a degree of intimacy
which made silence admissible, and still were comrades, and nothing
more.

“If you had said that with a purpose I wouldn’t have been in the least
sorry for you,” she said. “It would have been cheap, but that’s just why
I know you didn’t. Still, are you quite sure there is nothing you long
for over there? I mean, of course, in England.”

Appleby was on the roof in Santa Marta in body, and noticed that Miss
Harding made a very effective picture in her long white dress as she
glanced at him with the little smile, but he was at the same time dually
sensible of the crimson flush on the English beech woods and the meadows
streaked with wisps of mist, while once more the alluring vision he had
fought against glided into the scene. It was a girl with gray eyes and
ruddy hair, graver, deeper of thought and emotion, and more imperious
than Nettie Harding.

“Nothing that I am ever likely to get,” he said.

Nettie laughed, but there was a faint ring in her voice, and long
afterwards Appleby remembered her words, which then appeared prophetic.

“Well,” she said, “do you know that if I could I would get it you, and
there is very little an American girl can’t get when she sets her heart
on it? Now that sounds bombastic, but I’m not sure that it is. Anyway,
I’m going to England presently.”

Appleby looked up sharply. “To England!”

“Yes; you heard me. You will be sorry, but, of course, I’m coming back
again.”

“I know I can tell you that I certainly shall without its appearing
presumption,” said Appleby.

The girl nodded. “We haven’t any use for that word in our country. In
fact, we have rather a liking for a presumptuous man so long as he is
sensible,” she said. “Then there is nothing I can do for you there?”

“No,” said Appleby.

Nettie leaned a little nearer him, and though she smiled a faint flush
crept into her cheek. “If there were, you would tell me? I can’t help
remembering what you did for me.”

“I think I would. Still, you see there is nothing.”

“Well, I’m not quite sure, and one never knows who they may meet in
England. It’s quite a small place, anyway.”

Then there was a ringing of steel on stone, and she looked round with a
little impatient gesture as she said, “Here is that odious Morales
again!”

The banker rose, and brought a chair as the colonel came forward, but
the little pressure of the girl’s hand on his arm warned Appleby that
she desired him to remain, and for an hour they discussed the campaign.
Then Appleby decided to relate what had happened at the hacienda a few
nights earlier, though he said very little about the papers and nothing
concerning the hidden receptacle. Morales, he fancied, listened with
eagerness, and once his dark eyes flashed.

“You were wrong when you let him go,” he said. “If it happens again I
should suggest the pistol. One gains nothing by showing those gentlemen
toleration.”

Then he shrugged his shoulders, and turned to the banker’s wife with a
smile; but Appleby had noticed the vindictiveness in his tone, and as he
surmised it was not accounted for by the fact that the man had broken
into Harding’s office, wondered whether it was because he had failed to
accomplish his purpose. He, however, felt that Nettie Harding desired
him to outstay the colonel, and was content with the little grateful
glance she cast at him when Morales went away. Ten minutes later Appleby
also rose, but the banker detained him a minute or two.

“You have a consignment of sugar to be shipped,” he said “Some one will
go down to the port. Yourself, I think?”

“Yes,” said Appleby.

“Then it would be a kindness if you would hand this letter to the
captain to post in America,” he said. “It is of some importance to the
Señor Harding and others.”

“With pleasure, but why not post it here?”

The banker laid his hand on Appleby’s shoulder, and shook his head
significantly. “One does not trust anything of importance to the post
just now,” he said. “This is an affair in which the greatest discretion
is necessary. When one puts anything he does not wish the administration
to know in a letter he burns the blotting paper.”

Appleby was not altogether astonished, but he took the packet the banker
handed him; and when they shook hands the latter once more glanced at
him warningly.

“The discretion!” he said. “You will remember—the discretion.”



XIII — THE SECOND ATTEMPT


IT was at a brisk walk Appleby left the banker’s house, but he stopped a
few minutes later where several streets branched off from a little
plaza. He had some trifling business with a tobacco merchant who lived
in one of them, but he decided after a moment’s reflection that it was
scarcely likely he would find the man, who probably spent the evenings
at a café, at home just then. Appleby had, however, stopped somewhat
suddenly, and noticed that the footsteps he had heard behind him also
ceased a second or two later. This, he surmised, had in all probability
no special significance; but he raised his hand to an inner pocket where
the letter the banker had given him lay. It was evidently of some
importance, and he remembered that it was not money the man he had
surprised at the hacienda was in search of.

As it happened he carried another letter, which he meant to ask somebody
at the “Four Nations” to post. It was of very little consequence, and
contained only a list of American tools and machinery which Harding
dealt in, and Appleby smiled as he slipped it into the lower pocket of
his jacket. Then he took out his cigar‐case and slowly lighted a cigar,
so that anybody who might be watching him should find a motive for his
delay. He looked about him cautiously as he did so.

The plaza was small and dark, though a thin crescent moon was just
rising over the clustering roofs. Its faint light silvered the higher
portions of the two square church towers that rose blackly against the
velvety indigo with one great star between them, but the rest of the
building, which was the one Nettie Harding had found shelter in, was
blurred and shadowy. Beyond it a few lights blinked in the calle he had
just passed through, but they only intensified the darkness of the
narrow gap between the flat‐roofed houses, and—for it was getting late—
the street seemed utterly silent. Yet Appleby had certainly heard
footsteps, and no closing of a door to account for their cessation. The
houses were large in that vicinity, and built, for the most part, round
a patio, the outer door of which not infrequently consisted of a heavy
iron grille which could scarcely be closed noiselessly. In front of him
two streets branched off, one broad and well paved, the other narrow and
very dark. The latter, however, led straight to the “Four Nations,” past
the carniceria, or butchery, and two or three of the little wine‐shops
of shady repute which are usually to be found close to the principal
church in a Spanish town. Here and there a blink of light streamed out
from the open lattice of one of them.

Appleby stood still a moment, and then, reflecting that anybody who
might be following him would expect him to take the broader way, slipped
into the narrow street. A day or two earlier he would have laughed at
the notion, but the footsteps which had stopped so abruptly troubled
him. He had passed one wine‐shop when he heard them again, and, though
it seemed at least possible that they were those of some citizen going
home, there was an unpleasant suggestiveness in them, and when the light
of the second wine‐shop fell across the street he decided to enter it.
If the man behind him also stopped, his motive would be apparent.

Two or three men sat in the wine‐shop with little glasses of caña before
them, and Appleby was reassured when he glanced at them. They were
evidently of the humbler orders, men who earned a meagre two or three
pesetas a day; but their garments of cotton and coarse unstarched linen
were, as usual, spotlessly clean, and he surmised from their shade of
complexion that they had emigrated to Cuba from the Canaries. They
saluted him courteously when he took off his hat on entering, and one
laid down the torn and wine‐stained journal he was reading.

“The war is making sugar dearer, señor,” he said.

Appleby was not altogether pleased at being recognized, as the
observation implied, but the man seemed civil, and he smiled.

“It also puts up the cost of making it,” he said, turning to the
landlord, as an excuse for remaining a little occurred to him. “You have
Vermouth in an open bottle?”

“No, señor,” said the other, as Appleby had expected. “Since the war
makes pesetas scarce one drinks the thin red wine and caña here. Still,
I have a few bottles with the seal on.”

Appleby laughed. “Well,” he said, “as it has been observed, sugar is
dear, and Vermouth is a wine I have a liking for. It is conceivable that
these gentlemen would taste it with me.”

The men appeared quite willing, and one of them brought out a handful of
coarse maize‐husk cigarettes when the host laid down the bottle with the
white Savoy cross upon it and a few little glasses.

“It is not the tobacco the senor usually smokes, but his cigar has gone
out, and one offers what he has with the good will,” he said.

The man was clearly a peon, a day laborer, but Appleby fancied his
manner could not have been improved upon, for it was free alike from
undue deference or any assertion of equality. He took one of the
cigarettes, and when he had handed round the little glasses sat with his
face towards the door. The light from it, as he was pleased to notice,
fell right across the narrow street, and he sat with his back to it. He
had also not long to wait, for a patter of footsteps flung back by the
white walls grew louder, and Appleby noticed that while they had rung
sharp and decided they appeared to slacken as the man approached the
wine‐shop. This appeared significant, since it suggested that the man
did not wish to cross the stream of light.

It was, however, evident that he must either stop or pass through it,
and in another moment Appleby saw him. There was nothing especially
noticeable about him except that the broad felt hat was pulled down a
trifle lower than seemed necessary, and Appleby wondered if his
suspicions were causeless, until the man turned his head a trifle. The
movement was almost imperceptible, but Appleby felt that the dark eyes
had rested on him a moment. Then as the stranger passed on he saw one of
the men in the wine‐shop glance at his companion, who made a little
gesture of comprehension. It was, however a few moments later, and there
was once more silence in the shadowy street when he turned to Appleby.

“It is getting late, señor,” he said significantly. “You sleep at the
‘Four Nations’?”

“No,” said Appleby, who wondered if this was intended as a hint. “Still,
I am going there.”

The peon, he fancied, glanced at the landlord. “Then it would perhaps be
better to go round by the calle Obispo.”

Appleby reflected a moment, for he fancied there was a meaning in this,
but he knew the calle Obispo would be almost deserted at that hour;
while by going through the carniceria he would shorten the distance,
and, at least, have the man he suspected in front of him.

“I think I will go straight on,” he said.

“Then you will find it convenient to walk in the middle of the road,”
said the peon.

Appleby glanced sharply at the man. He had seen sufficient of Spanish
towns to know that there were reasons quite unconnected with the safety
of foot passengers or their property which warranted the warning; but
the olive face was expressionless, and with a punctilious salutation he
left the wine‐shop. Glancing over his shoulder a moment or two later, he
saw the men silhouetted black against the light as they stood in the
doorway, and swung into faster stride. He felt he had nothing to fear
from them, but their hints had been unpleasantly suggestive.

In two or three minutes he reached the dark slaughterhouses, which were
faced by a wall with one or two unlighted windows high up in it, and as,
treading softly, he strained his ears he once more caught a faint patter
behind him. This was somewhat astonishing, as it was evident that if the
man who passed the wine‐shop still desired to keep him in view he must
have made a considerable round. Appleby stopped suddenly, and made up
his mind when the footsteps ceased too. The spot was lonely, and shut in
by the slaughter‐houses and high blank walls; while the feeling that
somebody was creeping up behind him through the darkness was singularly
unpleasant, so much so, in fact, that it changed the concern he was
sensible of into anger. He had also distinct objections to being stabbed
in the back, and decided that if an affray was inevitable he would, at
least, force the assailant’s hand, and to do that cover of some kind was
necessary. Sooner or later he would find a doorway he could slip into,
and he went on again softly and hastily.

He had made another fifty yards, and the footsteps were plainer still
behind, when a pillar partly bedded in it broke the bare line of wall,
and pulling out the little pistol from his hip pocket he turned sharply
and flung himself into the gloom behind it. Then he realized his
blunder, and that he had two men to deal with instead of one, for a
strip of heavy fabric was flung about his head, and hard fingers
fastened on his throat. Appleby gasped, and drew the trigger
convulsively, while there was a crash as the pistol exploded. Then he
felt it slip from his fingers, for the strength seemed to go out of him,
and he was only sensible that he was fighting hard for breath. How long
the tense effort lasted he did not know, but his faculties had almost
deserted him when a cry he could scarcely hear rose from the street, and
was followed by a sound of running feet.

Then he was flung against the pillar, and there was a crash as a shadowy
object leapt into the doorway. A man reeled out of it in a blundering
fashion, another sped down the street, and Appleby, staggering out,
leaned, gasping, against the wall. It was some moments before he could
make anything out, and then he saw two men standing close in front of
him. One held something in his hand, and by their voices he fancied they
were the peons he had met in the wine‐shop. Looking round him as his
scattered senses came slowly back, he saw another man apparently
crawling out of the gutter. Then there was a rapid tramp of feet further
up the street, and one of the men seemed to look at his companion, who
made a sign of agreement.

“The civiles!” he said.

Then they fell upon the man in the gutter, dragged him to his feet,
drove him before them with kicks, and stood still again while he reeled
away in an unsteady fashion which suggested that he was at least half
dazed. In the meanwhile the rapid tramp behind them had been growing
louder, and the shuffling steps had scarcely ceased when a light was
flashed into Appleby’s face, and he saw a man with a lantern in trim
white uniform standing a few paces away, and another who carried a
pistol behind him. Then the light was turned aside, and revealed the two
peons from the wine‐shop waiting quietly to be questioned.

Appleby recognized the men in uniform as civil guards, and knew that
almost every man in that body had won distinction in the military
service.

The street was now very silent again, and it was evident that the peons
did not consider it advisable to put the civiles on the track of the
fugitive just yet. The one who held the lantern looked at them, standing
erect, with knee bent a trifle and a big pistol projecting from the
holster at his belt.

“There was a shot, and by and by a shout,” he said. “An explanation is
desired. You are warned to be precise.”

“It is simple,” said one of the peons. “Comes this señor the American,
into the wine‐shop of Cananos where we are sitting. There he takes a
glass of Vermouth and goes away. Then comes a man slipping by where it
is darkest, and we go to warn the señor taking the caña bottle. It
appears there is another man waiting in this doorway, there is a
struggle, and Vincente strikes down one of the prowlers with the bottle.
He gets to his feet again, and they go in haste when they hear you
coming. Then we find the señor faint and short of breath.”

The civile stretched out his hand for the caña bottle, which was
apparently corked, and balanced it. “It would serve—a man might be
killed with it,” he said. “But you had a knife!”

“With excuses,” said the peon. “We respect the law. The knife is
forbidden.”

There was a little grim twinkle in the civile’s eyes, but he fixed them
on Appleby. “I will not ask you to shake your sleeve, or question your
comrade, because his tale would be the same,” he said. “That is what
happened, señor?”

“Yes,” said Appleby, “so far as I can remember. I was going from the
banker’s to the ‘Four Nations’ when I became aware that there was a man
following me. To avoid him I slipped into this doorway, where another
man was waiting. It was my pistol you heard, but the other man, whom I
had not expected, had his fingers on my throat, and I was helpless when
these others appeared.”

The civile made a little gesture of comprehension, and then, tilting up
his chin, laid his fingers on his throat. “The head drawn back—and the
thumb so! With the knee in the back at the same time it was as sure as
the knife. The señor is to be felicitated on his escape. But the motive?
Even in Santa Marta men do not fall upon a stranger without a purpose.”

Appleby, who was on his guard at once, felt his pockets, and was
sensible of a vast relief when he found the letter the banker had given
him was still in his possession. The other in his outer pocket had,
however, as he expected, disappeared.

“I think their purpose was evident. It is for money one usually goes to
a banker’s,” he said. “It is also known that I have dealings with the
Señor Suarez. Still, thanks to the promptness of the gentlemen here,
nothing of importance has been taken from me.”

The civile with the lantern glanced at his comrade, who nodded.

“It would be wiser to go there in the daylight another time,” said the
latter as he held out Appleby’s pistol, which he had unobtrusively
looked for and picked up. “One cartridge burned—it confirms the story!
You would not recognize the men who attacked you?”

“No,” said Appleby, and the peon whom the civile turned to shook his
head emphatically.

“It was very dark,” he said.

The civiles asked a few more questions, and then one of them insisted on
escorting Appleby, who apparently failed to make the peons understand
that he desired a word with them, to the “Four Nations.” The man,
however, left him outside the hotel, and Appleby had spent a few minutes
there waiting for his mule when one of the peons came quietly up to him
in the patio.

“The señor lost this letter not long ago?” he said.

“I did,” said Appleby, taking the envelope. “Where did you find it?”

The peon smiled in a curious fashion. “It seems you know our country. I
took it from the man Vincente felled, but it did not seem wise to
mention it before the civiles. They have sharp eyes, those gentlemen.”

“I am indebted,” said Appleby. “It is, however, of no importance.”

The peon smiled again. “And yet you knew you had lost it, and said
nothing. Why would one run a risk to seize a letter?”

“I don’t know,” said Appleby. “Nor am I sure why you and your companion
should take so much trouble to guard a stranger. I would not, of course,
offend you by suggesting that you did it to repay me for a glass of
Vermouth.”

“For the charity then?” said the peon, smiling.

“I do not think so,” said Appleby, who looked at him steadily.

The man laughed. “Well,” he said reflectively, “there may have been
another reason. It is known to a few that Don Bernardino is a friend of
liberty.”

Appleby was a trifle astonished, but not sufficiently to show it, since
he had already had vague suspicions.

“It is,” he said, “a thing one does not admit in Santa Marta, but if one
might reward a kindness with money I have a few dollars.”

“It is not permissible, señor—not from a comrade,” and the man
straightened himself a trifle. “Still, one might be grateful for a
little bottle.”

Appleby laughed, though he was not quite at ease, and entering the hotel
came back with two bottles of somewhat costly wine, which he thrust upon
the man.

“If I can be of service I think you know where I am to be found,” he
said.

Again the curious little smile showed in the man’s face, but he took off
his hat and turned away; while ten minutes later Appleby rode out of
Santa Marta somewhat troubled in mind. It was tolerably plain to him
that Harding’s affairs were being watched with interest by the
Administration or somebody who desired to gain a hold on him, and that
his own connection with the Sin Verguenza was at least suspected by the
peons who had befriended him. That being so, it appeared likely that
others were aware of it too.



XIV — APPLEBY PROVES OBDURATE


THE hot day was over, and the light failing rapidly when Appleby, who
had just finished comida, sat by a window of the hacienda San Cristoval
with an English newspaper upon his knee. The room behind him, where
Harper lay in a cane chair, was already shadowy, but outside the saffron
sunset still flamed beyond the cane, and here and there a palm tuft cut
against it hard and sharp in ebony tracery. Inside the air was hot, and
heavy with the smell of garlic‐tainted oil; but a faint cool draught
flowed in between the open lattices, and Appleby, who had been busy
since sunrise that day, sighed contentedly as he breathed it in. Beneath
him the long white sheds still glimmered faintly, and a troop of men
were plodding home along the little tram‐line that wound through the
cane; while in the direction they came from the smoke of the crushing‐
mill floated, a long, dingy smear, athwart the soft blueness, out of
which here and there a pale star was peeping.

Appleby was dressed in spotless duck, with a gray alpaca jacket over it,
and the thin garments showed his somewhat spare symmetry as he lay
relaxed in mind and body in his chair. He felt the peaceful stillness of
the evening after the strain of the day, for Harding had left him in
sole charge for some months now, and the handling of the men who worked
for him had taxed all his nerve and skill. By good‐humored patience and
uncompromising grimness, when that appeared the more advisable, he had
convinced his swarthy subordinates that they would gain little by
trifling with him, though he had wondered once or twice when an open
dispute appeared imminent why it was that certain peons had so staunchly
supported him against their discontented comrades. It was not, however,
his difficulties with the workmen which caused him most concern, but the
task of keeping on good terms with an administration that regarded
aliens, and especially Americans, with a jealous eye, and appeasing the
rapacity of officials whose exactions would, if unduly yielded to, have
absorbed most of Harding’s profits. To hit the happy medium was a
delicate business, but hitherto Appleby had accomplished it
successfully.

The cigar he held had gone out, but he had not noticed it for the paper
on his knee had awakened memories of the life he had left behind him. He
could look back upon it without regret, for its trammels had galled him,
and the wider scope of the new one appealed to him. In it the qualities
of foresight, quick decision, daring, and the power of command were
essential, and he had been conscious without vanity that he possessed
them. Also, though that counted for less, his salary and bonus on the
results of the crushing was liberal.

Still, he was thinking of England, for a paragraph in the paper had
seized his attention. There was nothing to show who had sent it him,
though two or three had reached him already, and he knew that Nettie
Harding was in England. He could scarcely see, but he held up the
journal to the fading light, and with difficulty once more deciphered
the lines:—

“The electrical manufacturing company have been very busy since the
consummation of their agreement with Mr. Anthony Palliser. Already their
factory at Dane Cop is in course of construction, and they have an army
of workmen laying the new tramway and excavating the dam. It is also
rumored that negotiations are in progress for the establishment of
subsidiary industries, and it is evident that Northrop will make a
stride towards prosperity under the enterprising gentleman who has
recently succeeded to the estate.”

Appleby smiled curiously as he laid the paper down. Tony, it was
evident, would no longer be hampered by financial embarrassments, and
Appleby did not envy him the prosperity he had not hitherto been
accustomed to. Still, he wondered vaguely why Tony had never written to
the address in Texas, from which letters would have reached him,
especially since it appeared that Godfrey Palliser was dead. He was also
curious as to whether Tony was married yet, and would have liked to have
heard that he was. That, he felt, would have snapped the last tie that
bound him to the post, and made it easier to overcome the longing he was
sensible of when he remembered Violet Wayne. It would, he fancied, be
less difficult if he could think of her as Tony’s wife. Then he brushed
away the fancies as Harper noisily moved his chair.

“Hallo!” he said. “Another of their blamed officers coming to worry us!”

Appleby heard a beat of hoofs, and looking down saw a man riding along
the tramway on a mule. It was too dark to see the stranger clearly, and
he sat still until there was a murmur of voices below, and a patter of
feet on the stairway.

“He is coming up,” he said, with a trace of displeasure in his voice. “I
fancied I had made it plain that nobody was to be shown in until I knew
his business. Still, we can’t turn him out now. Tell Pancho to bring in
the lights.”

Harper rose, but as he did so the major‐domo flung the door open, and
stood still with a lamp in his hand as a man walked into the room. He
made a little gesture of greeting, and Appleby checked a gasp of
astonishment. The major‐domo set the lamp on the table, and then slipped
out softly, closing the door behind him.

“Don Maccario!” said Harper, staring at the stranger. “Now, I wonder
where he got those clothes.”

Maccario smiled, and sat down uninvited. He was dressed in broadcloth
and very fine linen, and laid a costly Panama hat on the table. Then he
held out a little card towards Appleby.

“With permission!” he said. “Don Erminio Peralla, merchant in tobacco,
of Havana!”

Harper laughed when he had laid out a bottle and glasses, and the faint
rose‐like bouquet of Canary moscatel stole into the room.

“That’s a prescription you are fond of,” he said. “The tobacco business
is evidently flourishing.”

The last was in Castilian, and Maccario delicately rolled up the brim of
the hat and let it spring out again to show the beauty of the fabric,
while his dark eyes twinkled.

“It seems that one’s efforts for the benefit of his countrymen are
appreciated now and then, but my business is the same,” he said. “One
does not look for the patriot Maccario in the prosperous merchant of
tobacco, for those who would make mankind better and freer are usually
poor. That is all—but I am still a leader of the Sin Verguenza, and as
such I salute you, comrade.”

He made Appleby a little inclination, which the latter understood, as he
drank off his wine. It implied that he, too, was still counted among the
Sin Verguenza.

“There is business on hand?” he said quietly, signing to Harper, who
moved towards the door.

Maccario, somewhat to his astonishment, checked Harper with a gesture.
“It is not necessary,” he said. “There is nobody there. Morales is
sending his troops away, and by and by we seize the Barremeda district
for the Revolution.”

“You want me?” asked Appleby very slowly.

A curious little smile crept into Maccario’s eyes. “Where could one get
another teniente to equal you?”

Appleby sat very still. He had, he fancied, started on the way to
prosperity when he became Harding’s manager, and while he sympathized
vaguely with the aspirations of the few disinterested Insurgents who
seemed to possess any he had seen sufficient of the Sin Verguenza. If he
could cling to the position it seemed not unlikely that a bright future
awaited him; and while free from avarice, he had his ambitions. On the
other hand, there were privations relieved only by the brief revelry
that followed a scene of rapine, weary marches, hungry bivouacs, and
anxious days spent hiding in foul morasses from the troops of Spain.
Still, he had already surmised that he would sooner or later have to
make the decision, and while he remembered the promise the ragged
outcasts had required of him a vague illogical longing for the stress of
the conflict awoke in him.

“Well,” he said quietly, “when I am wanted I will be ready.”

Maccario made him a very slight inclination, which was yet almost
stately and expressive, as only a Spaniard’s gesture could be.

“It is as one expected, comrade; but perhaps we do not want you to carry
the rifle,” he said. “It is the silver we have in the meanwhile the most
need of.”

“What I have is my friends’, to the half of my salary.”

“We do not take so much from you. A little, yes, when the good will goes
with it; but there is more you can do for us.”

“No!” and Appleby’s voice, though quiet, had a little ring in it. “There
is nothing else.”

Maccario lifted one hand. “It is arms we want most, my friend, and now
the patriotic committee are liberal we are getting them. There remains
the question of distribution and storage for the rifles as they some
from the coast, which is difficult. Still, I thing Morales would not
search one place, and that is the hacienda San Cristoval. It is evident
how you could help us.”

“No,” said Appleby grimly. “Not a single rifle shall be hidden here.
When the Sin Verguenza send for me I will join them, but in the
meanwhile I serve the Señor Harding. That implies a good deal, you
understand?”

Maccario appeared reflective. “A little hint sent Morales would, I
think, be effectual. Arrives a few files of cazadores with bayonets, and
the Señor Harding will want another manager.”

“Oh yes,” said Harper dryly as he sprang towards the door. “That’s quite
simple, but the hint isn’t sent yet. A word from me, and I guess the Sin
Verguenza would be left without a leader!”

Maccario looked round, and laughed softly as he saw the American
standing grim in face with his back to the door and a pistol glinting in
his hand.

“It is Don Bernardino I have the honor of talking with,” he said.

“You have heard all I have to tell you,” said Appleby. “I cannot embroil
the Señor Harding with Morales.”

Maccario rose, and smiled at Harper. “It saves trouble when one has an
understanding; and now, my friends, I will show you something. The
major‐domo had orders not to send up anybody without announcing him, but
he admitted me. Will you come out with me into the veranda?”

“Put your pistol up, Harper,” said Appleby; but Maccario shook his head.

“Not yet, I think,” he said. “Open that lattice so the light shines
through. Will you send for the men I mention, Don Bernardino?”

They did as he directed, and when they went out into the veranda Appleby
blew a whistle. It was answered by a patter of feet, and Appleby spoke
swiftly when a man appeared below.

“I have sent for the men. They are among the best we have, and supported
me when I had a difference with the rest,” he said.

Maccario smiled. “They did as they were told, my friend.”

Appleby could not see his face because the light from the room was
behind them, but his tone was significant, and he waited in some
astonishment until the patter of feet commenced again, and half‐seen men
flitted into the patio. The latter could, however, see the men above
them, for a threatening murmur went up when they caught the glint of
Harper’s pistol, and two of them came running to the foot of the
stairway. Maccario laughed, and laid his hand on Harper’s shoulder. Then
the murmurs died away, and the men stood still below, while Maccario
turned with a little nod to Appleby.

“One would fancy they would do what I wished,” he said. “The Sin
Verguenza have, it seems, friends everywhere. It is permissible for one
to change his mind.”

“Yes,” said Appleby, who hid his astonishment by an effort. “Still, in
this case you have not been as wise as usual, Don Maccario. There are
men who become more obdurate when you try to intimidate them. You have
already heard my decision.”

Maccario laughed, and waved his hand to the men below. “I commend these
two gentlemen to your respect. They are good friends of mine. There is
nothing else,” he said. “Now we will go back again, Don Bernardino.”

The men apparently went away, and Maccario, who walked back into the
room, smiled when he seated himself again.

“The Señor Harding is to be congratulated upon his manager,” he said.
“Still, there is a difficulty about the rifles. There are ten cases of
them here already. They are marked hardware and engine fittings.”

Harper gasped. “Well, I’m blanked!” he said. “I guess it’s the only time
any kind of a greaser got ahead of me.”

“Then they must be taken away,” said Appleby. “Where are they, Don
Maccario? If you do not tell me I shall certainly find them.”

“In the iron store shed, I understand. They would have been sent for at
night to‐morrow.”

“Get them out,” said Appleby, turning to Harper. “They will be safer
lying on the cane trucks in the open than anywhere.”

Harper went out, and Maccario poured out a glass of wine. “It is
fortunate you are a friend of mine, and one in whom I have confidence,”
he said. “Had it been otherwise you would have run a very serious risk,
Don Bernardino.”

Appleby laughed, though he was glad that he sat in the shadow. “I can at
least, let you have four hundred pesetas if the Sin Verguenza want them;
but you will remember that if more rifles arrive here I will send them
to Morales.”

“In silver?” said Maccario. “I have samples of tobacco to carry, and a
mule.”

Appleby brought out two bags of silver from the chest in his office, for
golden coin was almost as scarce in Cuba then as it usually is in Spain,
and the two talked of different subjects with a frankness that concealed
their thoughts, until there was a rattle of wheels as Harper passed
below with several men pushing a little truck along the cane tramway. By
and by he came in and sat down.

“The cases are marked as he told us, and I’ve left them on the line,” he
said. “I guess nobody would think of looking for rifles there. When are
your friends coming for them, Maccario?”

“I think that is better not mentioned,” said Maccario. “Those cases
will, however, not be there to‐morrow.”

“And your men?” said Appleby. “I cannot have them here.”

“You will listen to reason, my friend. I know you are one who keeps his
word, and we will send no more rifles here. Still, those men work well,
and the Señor Harding is not a Loyalist. He is here to make the dollars,
and because the Spaniards are masters of Cuba he will not offend them.
By and by, however, there is a change, and when it is we who hold the
reins it may count much for him that he was also a friend of ours.”

“You know he is not a Loyalist?” said Appleby.

Maccario laughed a little. “Can you doubt it—while the hacienda of San
Cristoval stands? There are many burnt sugar mills in Cuba, my friend.”

“Now,” said Harper dryly, “it seems to me he’s talking the plainest kind
of sense. Make him promise he’ll give you warning, and take his men out
quietly when he wants them for anything.”

Maccario gave his promise, and they sat talking for awhile until there
was a knocking at the door below, and Pancho, who came up the stairway
in haste, stopped where the light showed the apprehension in his olive
face.

“Comes the Colonel Morales, and there are cazadores in the cane,” he
said.

There was a sudden silence, and Maccario, who started to his feet,
seized one of the bags of silver. He, however, nodded and sat down again
when Appleby’s hand fell on his shoulder. There was, it was evident, no
escaping now, for a quick tread showed that the officer was already
ascending the stairway. Maccario made a little gesture of resignation.

“He has never seen me as a merchant of tobacco, and if he notices too
much it is assuredly unfortunate for him,” he said. “Pancho will already
have the affair in hand.”

Appleby said nothing, but he could feel his heart thumping painfully as
he leaned on the table until Morales came in. He carried his kepi in one
hand, and though he greeted Appleby punctiliously there was a little
gleam in his eyes, while for just a moment he glanced keenly at
Maccario. In the meanwhile Appleby saw Pancho’s face at the lattice
behind his shoulder, and surmised that Morales was running a heavy risk
just then. He had little esteem for the Spanish colonel, but it seemed
to him that the fate of the San Cristoval hacienda, as well as its
manager, depended upon what happened during the next five minutes.

“You will take a glass of wine, and these cigars are good,” he said.

Though every nerve in his body seemed to be tingling his voice was even;
but while the officer poured out the wine Maccario laid a bundle of
cigars before him, and smiled at Appleby.

“Your pardon, señor—but this is my affair,” he said. “It is not often I
have the opportunity of offering so distinguished a soldier my poor
tobacco, though there are men of note in Havana and Madrid who
appreciate its flavor, as well as the Señor Harding.”

Morales glanced at him, and lighted a cigar; but Appleby fancied he was
at least as interested in the bag of silver on the table.

“The tobacco is excellent,” he said.

Maccario took out a card. “If you will keep the bundle it would be an
honor,” he said. “If you are still pleased when you have smoked them
this will help you to remember where more can be obtained. We”—and he
dropped his voice confidentially—“do not insist upon usual prices when
supplying distinguished officers.”

“That is wise,” said Morales, who took the cigars. “It is not often they
have the pesetas to meet such demands with. You will not find business
flourishing in this country, which we have just swept clean of the Sin
Verguenza. They have a very keen scent for silver.”

“No,” said Maccario plaintively. “There are also so many detentions and
questions to be answered that it is difficult to make a business
journey.”

Morales laughed, “It is as usual—you would ask for something? Still,
they are good cigars!”

“I would venture to ask an endorsement of my cedula. With that one could
travel with less difficulty.”

He brought out the strip of paper, and Morales turned to Appleby. “This
gentlemen is a friend of yours?”

Appleby nodded, and the officer scribbled across the back of the cedula,
and then, flinging it on the table, rose with a faint shrug of
impatience.

“A word with you in private!” he said.

Appleby went out with him into the veranda, and set his lips for a
moment when he saw, though Morales did not, a stealthy shadow flit out
of it. He also surmised there were more men lurking in the patio
beneath, and felt that a disaster was imminent if Maccario’s
apprehensions led him to do anything precipitate. Then it seemed
scarcely likely that the colonel of cazadores would leave the place
alive. Still, his voice did not betray him.

“I am at your service, señor.” he said.

“The affair is serious,” said Morales dryly. “I am informed that there
are arms concealed in your factory. Ten cases of them, I understand, are
in your store shed.”

If he had expected any sign of consternation he did not see it, for
Appleby smiled incredulously.

“If so, they were put there without my consent or knowledge, but I fancy
your spies have been mistaken,” he said.

“Will you come with me and search the shed?”

Morales made a little gesture of assent. “I have men not far away, but I
am a friend of the Señor Harding’s, and it seemed to me the affair
demanded discretion,” he said. “That is why I left them until I had
spoken with you. Still, if we do not find those arms nobody will be
better pleased than me.”

They went down the stairway, and Appleby bade a man in the patio summon
his comrades. Then they walked along the tramway towards an iron shed,
where there was a delay while one of the men lighted a lantern and
opened the door When this was done they went in, and for almost an hour
the peons rolled out barrels and dragged about boxes and cases of which
they opened one here and there. Still, there was no sign of a rifle, and
when they had passed through two or three other sheds Morales’ face was
expressionless as he professed himself satisfied. They walked back
silently side by side, until the officer stopped by a cane truck and
rubbed off the ash from his cigar on one of the cases that lay upon it.
He also moved a little so that he could see Appleby’s face in the light
of the lantern a dusky workman held. The latter was eyeing Morales
curiously, and Appleby fancied by the way he bent his right hand that
very little would bring the wicked, keen‐pointed knife flashing from his
sleeve.

“It seems that my informants have been mistaken,” said the colonel. “I
can only recommend you the utmost discretion. It is—you understand—
necessary.”

He turned with a little formal salutation and walked down the tram‐line,
while the dusty workman smiled curiously as he straightened his right
hand. Appleby gasped and went back slowly, while he flung himself down
somewhat limply into a chair when he reached his living‐room, where
Harper sat alone.

“Where is Maccario?” he asked.

“Lit out!” said Harper dryly. “He’d had ’bout enough of it, though I
guess his nerves are good. Kind of a strain on your own ones too?”

Appleby’s face showed almost haggard, and he smiled wearily.

“It is evident that if we have much more of this kind of thing I shall
earn my salary, though the Sin Verguenza will apparently get most of
it,” he said.



XV — TONY’S LAST OPPORTUNITY


THE sun shone pleasantly warm, and a soft wind sighed among the
branches, when Violet Wayne pulled up her ponies where the shadows of
the firs fell athwart the winding road that dipped to Northrop valley.
There had been a shower, and a sweet resinous fragrance came out of the
dusky wood. Godfrey Palliser, who sat by the girl’s side, however,
shivered a little, and buttoned the big fur‐trimmed coat that lay loose
about him, which did not escape his companion’s attention.

“Shall we drive out into the sun?” she asked.

“No,” said the man, “I think I should be just as chilly, and the view
from here pleases me. It is scarcely likely that I shall see it very
often again.”

Violet Wayne shook her head reproachfully as she glanced at him, though
she felt that the prediction might be verified, for Godfrey Palliser had
never been a strong man in any respect, and though he sat stiffly
upright he looked very worn and frail just then. The pallor of his face
also struck a little chill through her, for her pulses throbbed with the
vigor of youth, and all the green world about her seemed to speak of
life and hope. Yet there was a gravity in her eyes, which suggested that
the shadow of care also rested upon her.

“That is not the spirit to hasten one’s recovery, and you have been ever
so much better lately,” she said.

There was a curious wistfulness in Godfrey Palliser’s smile, and he laid
a thin hand upon her arm. “I should like a little longer respite, if it
was only to see you Tony’s wife,” he said. “Then I should know that what
I had striven for so long would be worthily accomplished. Still, since
my last illness I have other warnings than those the eminent specialist
gave me, and I do not know at what hour the summons may come.”

At the mention of Tony the shadow deepened for a moment in the girl’s
face, for it seemed to her there was a meaning behind what the old man
had said which chimed with the misgivings that had troubled her of late.
Still, she was loyal, and would not admit it even to herself.

“Tony would have made you a worthy successor in any case,” she said.

Godfrey Palliser smiled curiously. “Tony has many likable qualities, but
he is weak,” he said. “That, my dear is one reason I am glad that he is
going to marry you, for it is a burden I shall, I think very shortly,
bequeath him. You will help him to lighten it, as well as bear it
honorably.”

“There are, as you know, women in this country who would not consider it
a burden,” said the girl.

Godfrey Palliser stretched out his hand and pointed to the vista of
sunlit valley which, framed by the dark fir branches, opened up before
them. Green beech wood, springing wheat, and rich meadow rolled away
into the blue distance under a sky of softest azure, with the river
flashing in the midst of them. Across the valley, under its sheltering
hill‐slope the gray front of Northrop Hall showed through embowering
trees, and the tower of a little time‐worn church rose in the
foreground. It was this, Violet Wayne noticed, the old man’s eyes rested
longest on.

“It will all be yours and Tony’s from this bank of the river as far as
the beech woods where Sir George’s land breaks in, and it is a burden I
have found heavy enough these thirty years,” he said. “The debt was
almost crushing when it came to me, and rents were going down, while one
can look for very little from agricultural property. I did what I could,
and thanks to the years of economy the load is a little lighter now; but
once I betrayed the trust reposed in me, and failed in my duty.”

Violet Wayne could not quite hide her astonishment, for no shadow of
reproach had ever touched the punctilious Godfrey Palliser. He smiled
when he saw the incredulity in her eyes.

“It is quite true, and yet the temptation to deceive myself was almost
irresistible,” he said. “For thirty years I had lived at Northrop with
the good will of my tenants and my neighbors’ esteem, and if that
counted for too much with me it was because I felt I held the honor of
the name in trust to be passed on unblemished to you and Tony, and those
who would come after you. That was why I yielded, and it is only because
you will be Tony’s wife I make confession now.”

“You are cold,” said the girl hastily. “We will drive out into the
sunshine.”

Godfrey Palliser nodded, but he turned to her again as the ponies went
slowly down the hill. “It is necessary that you should listen, because
the man may live to trouble you,” he said. “It never became apparent who
killed Davidson—for killed he was—but Tony and I knew, though I strove
to convince myself the man I should have exposed might be innocent.
Bernard Appleby would not have escaped to America if I had done my duty.
Had the warrant been signed when it should have been Stitt would have
arrested him.”

“You cannot believe that Bernard Appleby was guilty!”

“I am sure, my dear. I would not admit it, but I knew it then—and still,
perhaps, I had excuses. The man was of my own blood, and I had meant,
when he had proved his right to it, to do something for him. Tony is
generous, and would not have grudged what I purposed to spare for him.
It was a crushing blow, and left me scarcely capable of thinking, while
before I quite realized it the thing was done, and I had become an
accessory to the escape of a criminal.”

He stopped, gasped a little, for he had spoken with a curious intensity
of expression; but the girl looked at him steadily.

“Still,” she said quietly, “I am not convinced yet.”

“No? It is quite plain to me that it could only have been him or Tony,
and the latter suggestion is preposterous.”

“Yes,” said the girl, who shivered a little, though the sun was warm.
“Of course it is! Still, I cannot believe that the culprit was Bernard
Appleby.”

Palliser smiled faintly. “One could envy you your charity, my dear, but
I have a charge to lay on you. That man may come back—and Tony would
temporize. You, however, will show him no mercy. Not one penny of the
Northrop rents must be touched by him—and now we will talk of something
pleasanter.”

Violet Wayne shook the reins, and made an effort; but the old man
appeared exhausted, and she was glad that he evinced no great interest
in her conversation. What he had told her had left its sting, for she
had already been almost driven to the decision he had come to. Appleby,
she felt,—why she did not exactly know, though the belief was
unshakable,—could not have done the horrible thing, and all the love and
loyalty she possessed revolted against the suggestion that Tony was
guilty. Yet the brightness seemed to have gone out of the sunlight, and
the vista of wood and meadow lost its charm while the shadow deepened in
her face as they drove down into the valley.

Her mother was waiting on the terrace when they reached Northrop Hall,
and when Palliser had gone into the house leaning on a man’s shoulder
she looked at the girl curiously.

“You are a trifle pale, Violet,” she said. “Of course, it is almost a
duty, and he seems more tranquil in your company; but I have fancied
lately that you spend too much time with Godfrey Palliser. He seems
unusually feeble.”

“I do not think he is as well to‐day,” said the girl.

“He has sent for lawyer Craythorne,” said her mother thoughtfully.
“Well, you must shake off any morbid fancies he may have infected you
with. You have Tony to consider, and he has been moody lately. I
scarcely like to mention it, my dear, but I wonder if you have noticed
that he is not quite so abstemious as he was a little while ago.”

A flush of crimson crept into the girl’s cheek, and once more the little
chill struck through her, but she met the elder lady’s eyes.

“I think you must be mistaken, mother,” she said.

She turned and went into the house, but Mrs. Wayne sighed as she walked
thoughtfully up and down the terrace, for she had noticed more than she
had mentioned, and had fancies that were not pleasant to her. She had
borne much sorrow in her time with a high courage, but she was anxious
that afternoon, for it seemed to her that there might be a grim reality
behind those fancies.

Godfrey Palliser insisted on dining with his guests that evening, which
he had seldom done since his illness, and his four companions, among
whom was the lawyer who had done his business for thirty years, long
remembered that meal. Their host was dressed with his usual precision,
and sat stiffly erect, as though disdaining the support the high‐backed
chair that had been brought him might afford, but the sombre garments
emphasized the pallor of his face, until, as the glow of the sinking sun
streamed in through the colored lights above the western window, a ruddy
gleam fell upon it. In that forced brilliancy its hollowness and
fragility became more apparent, and it was almost a relief to those who
sat at meat with him when the hall grew shadowy. He ate very little, and
scarcely spoke to any one but Violet, though his voice was curiously
gentle when he did so; and when he sat silent his eyes would rest on her
and Tony with a little contented smile.

Though they did what they could to hide it, there was a constraint upon
the party which the very servants seemed to feel, for Tony fancied they
were more swift and noiseless in their movements than usual. He also
noticed the curious look in one man’s eyes when, though the light was
scarcely fading outside, Godfrey Palliser signed to him.

“Bring lights. I cannot see,” he said.

The lights were brought, naked wax candles in great silver holders, and
their pale gleam flung back from glass and silver had a curious effect
in the lingering daylight. There was silence for awhile, and Tony was
grateful to Mrs. Wayne, who broke it tactfully; but the vague uneasiness
remained, and more than one of those who saw the strained expression in
his eyes wondered whether it was the last time Godfrey Palliser would
dine in state at Northrop Hall. Nobody was sorry when Mrs. Wayne rose,
but Palliser smiled at his nephew when Violet went out of the room with
her.

“You will spare me a few minutes, Tony. I have something to ask you,” he
said. “We need have no diffidence in speaking before Mr. Craythorne.”

The elderly lawyer bent his head, and Tony felt uneasy. “I shall be glad
to tell you anything I can, sir,” he said.

“It is rather your opinion than information I want,” said Palliser.
“Some time ago you tried to convince me of Bernard’s innocence, while
to‐day Violet persisted that she could not believe him guilty—even when
I pointed out that so far as I could see the culprit was either you or
he. Are you still as sure Bernard was not the man responsible for
Davidson’s death as you were then? I am not asking without a purpose,
and the fact that we are honored with Craythorne’s company will show you
that I consider it necessary to set my house in order. It may be yours
very soon now, Tony.”

His low, even voice jarred upon one listener, and Tony spoke no more
than the truth when he broke out, “I hope you will hold it a good many
years yet, sir!”

“Yes,” said Palliser, with a little smile, which something in his eyes
redeemed from being coldly formal, “I believe you though I scarcely
think it likely. Still, you have not answered my question.”

“My opinion is not worth much, sir.”

“I have asked you for it,” said Palliser. “Nobody knows Bernard so well
as you do, and while I have scarcely a doubt in my own mind, Violet’s
faith in him had its effect on me. After all, he belongs to us, and I
would like to believe him innocent, incredible as it seems, or at least
to hear something in extenuation. You will think me illogical in this,
Craythorne?”

Craythorne smiled. “Then I admit that, being a lawyer, I am more so, for
I would believe in Bernard Appleby against the evidence of my eyes. It
also seems to me that the intuitions of young women of Miss Wayne’s kind
merit more respect than they usually receive.”

“I am still waiting, Tony,” said Palliser.

Tony sat silent almost too long, for the words “either you or he”
troubled him. Had Godfrey Palliser not spoken them he might have
answered differently, but as it was his apprehensions overcame him.

“It is a hard thing to admit, but I am afraid my views have changed
since then,” he said.

The lawyer regarded him covertly, and noticed the furtiveness of his
eyes, but Palliser sighed. “You have,” he said, “nothing to urge in
extenuation?”

“No, sir,” said Tony. “I wish I had!”

“Then you will be so much the richer,” said Palliser dryly. “Now Violet
will be waiting, and Craythorne and I have a good deal to do. I shall
retire when we have finished. Good night, Tony!”

He held out his hand when Tony rose, and the younger man noticed how
cold his fingers felt. “Good night, sir,” he said. “I trust you will
feel brighter in the morning.”

The chilly fingers still detained him and Palliser said very quietly,
“One never knows what may happen, Tony; but it would be my wish that you
and Violet did not wait very long.”

Tony went out with a curious throbbing of his pulses and a horrible
sense of degradation, for he knew that he had perjured himself to a
dying man who trusted him. The room he entered was dimly lighted, but he
knew where the spirit stand and siphon were kept, and a liberal measure
of brandy was frothing in the glass, when there was a light step behind
him and a hand touched his arm.

“No!” said a low voice with a little ring of command in it.

Tony started, and swinging round with a dark flush in his face saw
Violet Wayne looking at him. There was also a little more color than
usual in her cheeks, but her eyes were steady, which Tony’s were not.

“I never expected you, Violet,” he said. “You made me feel like a boy
caught with his hand in the jam‐pot. It’s humiliating as well as
ludicrous!”

The girl smiled very faintly. “I am afraid it is,” she said. “Do you
know, Tony, that this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life?”

Tony saw the slight trembling of her lips, and laughed somewhat inanely
as he held out his hands.

“I think I needed it!” he said; and in a sudden fit of rage seized the
glass and, moving a few steps forward, flung it crashing into the grate.
Then he turned and faced the girl, flushed to the forehead, but stirred
to almost unwilling respect.

“There is not one woman of your station in a thousand who would have had
the courage to do that,” he said. “Still, it is preposterous to think
that there was the least reason for it.”

“Tony,” said the girl very slowly, “I fancy I should hate you if you
ever made it necessary for me to do as much again, but we will try not
to remember it. What has been troubling you?”

Tony was glad of the opening, though under different circumstances he
would not have availed himself of it.

“I’ll try to tell you,” he said. “I am afraid Godfrey Palliser is very
shaky. In fact he was oppressively morbid to‐night.”

“No,” said the girl. “I know what you mean, but morbid is not the right
word. Your uncle is now and then pedantic but one could only feel
respect for him to‐day.”

“Of course!” said Tony. “I shall be very genuinely sorry if his fancies
turn out right. That, however, is not the question. He asked me if I
still believed in Bernard, and I had a difficult thing to do. It seems
that your faith in the man had almost convinced him. He wanted to
believe him innocent, and leave him something in his will.”

“And you told him—”

“What could I tell him? Only that I was not so sure of Bernard as I had
been.”

There was a gleam of something very like anger in Violet Wayne’s eyes.
“So you shattered the faint hope he clung to, and turned the
forgiveness, which, mistaken or not, would have been a precious thing
just now, into vindictive bitterness!”

“He asked me,” said Tony. “What could I do?”

“You could have defended your friend—the man who has done so much for
you.”

Tony stared at her, and once more the girl felt a little shiver of
apprehension when she saw his face, but in a moment he recovered
himself.

“I want to know exactly what you mean by that?” he said.

“Isn’t it evident from what you have told me of your early days?”

Tony’s apprehension disappeared, for it seemed he had been mistaken. “Of
course!” he said. “Still, the difficulty was that I couldn’t urge
anything. I can’t see why you believe in Bernard, Violet. Isn’t it plain
that—it must have been either he or I?”

Tony was not devoid of a certain cunning, and the boldness of the
question had its effect, but the girl’s eyes gleamed as she said, “I
could almost as soon believe you guilty as Bernard Appleby.”

“Then,” said Tony with a quietness which served him very well, “I am
sorry you have so little confidence in me!”

Violet stood still a moment, a trifle pale in face, and very erect. Then
she made a little gesture, and her lips trembled.

“Tony,” she said simply, “you will forgive me that, though I scarcely
deserve it. If I could have meant it would I have done—what I did a
little while ago?”

Tony caught her hands, and would have drawn her to him, but the girl
shook off his grasp and slipped away, while the man stood still until
the door closed behind her, and then shook his head.

“Angry yet!” he said. “If one could only understand her—but it’s quite
beyond me, and I’ve no inclination for further worries of any kind just
now.”

He turned towards the cupboard again, stopped a moment, and then, with a
little impatient gesture, went out of the room. He did not see Violet
again that night, and went to bed early, though it was long before he
slept. It was early morning when he was awakened by the sound of a door
being opened suddenly and a hasty running up and down. In a few minutes
there were voices beneath him in the hall, while he huddled on his
clothes; and going out he stood a moment, irresolute, in the corridor. A
man who seemed to tread in a curious fashion was coming down the stairs,
and passed apparently without noticing him. Then Tony gasped as the
Darsley doctor he had sent for touched his arm, for he could see the
man’s face dimly in the faint gray light.

“Yes,” said the doctor quietly, answering the unspoken question. “I
never expected it would come so suddenly, or I would have sent for you.
Godfrey Palliser passed away ten minutes ago.”



XVI — DANE COP


IT was a dismal wet afternoon when Tony Palliser stood bareheaded beside
a dripping yew tree under the eastern window of Northrop church. His
head was aching, for the last few days and nights had not passed
pleasantly with him, and confused as his thoughts were he realized what
he owed to the man the bearers were then waiting to carry to his resting
place. Godfrey Palliser had been autocratic and a trifle exacting, but
he had taken his nephew into the place of his dead son, and bestowed all
he had on him, while Tony remembered what his part had been. He had with
false words hindered the dying man making a reparation which would have
lightened his last hours.

Tony was not usually superstitious, or addicted to speculation about
anything that did not concern the present world, but as he glanced at
the faces close packed beyond the tall marble pillar with its gleaming
cross, and heard the words of ponderous import the surpliced vicar read,
he was troubled by a vague sense of fear. Godfrey Palliser had gone out
into the unknown, unforgiving, and with heart hardened against his
kinsman who had done no wrong, but it seemed to Tony that the man who
had deceived him would be held responsible.

By and by somebody touched his arm, the droning voice died away, there
was a shuffle of feet, and he watched the bearers, who vanished with
their burden beyond a narrow granite portal. Then the voice that seemed
faint and indistinct went on again, there was a grinding of hinges, an
iron gate closed with a crash, and though Tony felt the damp upon his
forehead he straightened himself with a little sigh of relief. He need,
at least, no longer fear the righteous indignation of Godfrey Palliser,
who had gone down into the darkness with his trust in him unshaken.

Still, it was with an effort he met the rows of faces that were turned
in his direction as he walked slowly between them to the gate. They were
respectfully sympathetic, for Godfrey Palliser had held the esteem of
his tenants and neighbors, who had only good will for the man who would
succeed him. They still stood bareheaded, for the most part, in the
rain, and Tony closed the fingers of one hand tight, for he had erred
from fear and weakness and not with deliberate intent, and the men’s
silent homage hurt him.

It was but a short drive back to the hall, and bracing himself for a
last effort he met the little group of kinsmen and friends who were
assembled about lawyer Craythorne in the great dining‐room. Nobody
desired to prolong the proceedings, and there was a little murmur of
approbation when the elderly lawyer took out the will. He read it in a
low, clear voice, while the rain lashed the windows and the light grew
dim. Providing for certain charges and a list of small legacies it left
Tony owner of the Northrop property. His nearest kinsman shook hands
with him.

“It is a burdened inheritance, Tony, and perhaps the heaviest obligation
attached to it is that of walking in its departed owner’s steps,” he
said. “There are not many men fit to take his place, but you have our
confidence, and, I think, the good will of everybody on the estate.”

There was a little murmur, and a gray‐haired farmer, who was a legatee,
also shook Tony’s hand.

“I’ve lived under your uncle, and his father too,” he said. “They were
gentlemen of the right kind, both of them, and this would have been a
sadder day for Northrop if we hadn’t a man we trusted to step into
Godfrey Palliser’s shoes!”

Tony did not know what he answered, but his voice broke, and he stood
leaning silently on a chair back while the company filed out and left
him with the lawyer. The latter was, however, a little puzzled by his
attitude, for he had seen other men betray at least a trace of content
under similar circumstances, while there was apparently only care in
Tony’s face.

“I would not ask your attention just now, only that the affair is
somewhat urgent, and I must go back to town this evening,” he said. “As
you know, the electrical manufacturing company have been desirous of
purchasing a site for a factory at Dane Cop, and I expect the manager
to‐morrow. The price he is willing to pay is, I think, a fair one; and
as they will get their power from the river there will be little smoke
or other nuisance, while the establishing of this industry cannot fail
to improve the value of the adjacent land. I have their proposals with
me, and I fancy we could see the suggested site for the dam and factory
from the window.”

Tony went with him and looked out on the dripping valley which lay
colorless under the rain and driving cloud. The swollen river which had
spread across the low meadows flowed through the midst of it, and all
the prospect was gray and dreary.

“Of course we need the money, but I do not feel greatly tempted,” he
said. “Rows of workmen’s dwellings are scarcely an ornament to an
estate, and there are other drawbacks to the introduction of a
manufacturing community. I am not sure that it would not rather be my
duty to make up for what we should lose through letting them find
another site by personal economy.”

The lawyer nodded. “Your point of view is commendable, but as the
company seem quite willing to agree to any reasonable stipulations as to
the type of workmen’s dwellings, and would do what they could to render
the factory pleasant to the eye, I should urge you to make the bargain,”
he said. “I wonder if you know that your uncle had for a long while
decided that Dane Cop should go to Bernard Appleby. It has but little
agricultural value, and is almost cut off from the estate by Sir
George’s property, but he realized that with its abundant water power it
would, now the local taxation in the cities is growing so burdensome,
sooner or later command attention as a manufacturing site. It is
somewhat curious that this offer should come just when it has passed out
of Appleby’s hands.”

Tony made a little abrupt movement. “This is the only time I have heard
of it,” he said. “Well, if you are convinced it would be a wise thing
you may sell.”

The lawyer looked at him curiously, and wondered what had so swiftly
changed his views. “You have until to‐morrow afternoon to consider it
in,” he said. “In any case, I should not commit myself until you have
approved of all conditions and stipulations.”

“If you consider them reasonable you can sell, but I would have the
purchase money invested separately, and whatever dividend or interest I
derive from it kept apart in the accounts. You understand?”

“It is only a question of book‐keeping. You have no doubt a reason for
wishing it?”

“I think you would call it a fancy,” said Tony, with a curious smile.
“Still, I want it done.”

The lawyer went out, and for half an hour Tony sat alone with a haggard
face in the gloomy room listening to the patter of the rain. It had
ceased, however, when he drove Violet Wayne, who had remained at
Northrop with her mother, home. Mrs. Wayne was to follow with a
neighbor, and Tony and the girl were alone in the dog‐cart, which went
splashing down the miry road until he pulled the horse up where the
river came roaring down in brown flood under a straggling wood on the
side of a hill. Tony glanced at the flying vapors overhead, wet trees,
and dimly gleaming water that spread among the rushes on the meadow
land, while the hoarse clamor of the flood almost drowned his voice when
he turned to his companion.

“That force will no longer go to waste. I told Craythorne to‐day he
could let the people who want to put up their mill have the land,” he
said. “He told me something I have not heard before. It appears that
Godfrey Palliser had intended this strip of the property for Appleby. It
could be converted into money without any detriment to the rest, you
see.”

“Hopkins always complained that Dane Cop was not worth the rent, but it
will bring you in a good revenue now,” said the girl. “Still, doesn’t
that seem a little hard upon the man who has lost it?”

Tony flicked the horse with the whip. “The land was Godfrey Palliser’s,
and he did what he thought was right with it.”

“I almost fancy he would not have left it to you if you had only had a
little more faith in your friend.”

Tony turned his head away. “You mean if I had defended Bernard when
Godfrey sent for me? Still, I would like you to believe that if he had
left the land to Bernard it would have pleased me.”

“Of course! Could you have urged nothing in his favor, Tony?”

“No,” said Tony, and Violet noticed how his fingers tightened on the
reins. “Nothing whatever. I don’t want to remember that night. What took
place then hurt me.”

“Have you ever heard from Appleby?”

“Once. He was then in Texas.”

“You answered him?”

“No,” said Tony slowly, “I did not. The whole affair was too painful to
me. I thought it would be better if I heard no more of him.”

Violet said nothing, but she turned and looked back at the flooded
meadows and dripping hillside that should have been Appleby’s, and a
vague feeling of displeasure against Tony for his unbelief came upon
her. She knew that everybody would agree with his attitude, but she
could not compel herself to admit that it was warranted. When she turned
again she saw that he was looking at her curiously.

“Godfrey Palliser told me another thing that night I have not mentioned
yet,” he said. “It was his wish that what he seems to have known would
happen should not keep us waiting. Now, I feel the responsibility thrust
upon me, and know that he was right when he foresaw that you would help
me to bear it as he had done. I want you, Violet—more than I can tell
you.”

Tony’s appeal was perfectly genuine. Godfrey Palliser could ask no more
questions, Appleby’s silence could be depended upon, and the cautious
inquiries he had made through a London agency respecting Lucy Davidson
had elicited the fact that she had taken to the stage and then
apparently sailed for Australia. He had, he admitted, done wrong, but he
resolved that he would henceforward live honorably, and, if it were
permitted him, make Appleby some convenient reparation. Violet, who
noticed the wistfulness in his eyes, responded to the little thrill in
his voice, and but for what had passed a few minutes earlier might
perhaps have promised to disregard conventionalities and hasten the
wedding. As it was, however, she felt a curious constraint upon her, and
a hesitation she could not account for.

“No,” she said quietly. “We must wait, Tony.”

“Why?” said the man. “It was his wish that we should not.”

His companion looked at him, and there was something he failed to attach
a meaning to in her eyes. “I can’t tell you,” she said slowly. “Still,
you must not urge me, Tony. I feel that no good can come of it if we
fail to show respect to him.”

“But—” said the man; and Violet laid her hand upon his arm.

“Tony,” she said, “be patient. I can’t make what I feel quite plain, but
we must wait.”

“Well,” said Tony with a sigh, “I will try to do without you until your
mother thinks a fitting time has come.”

“Then, if nothing very dreadful happens in the meanwhile, I will be
ready.”

Tony flicked the horse until it endeavored to break into a gallop, and
then viciously tightened his grip on the reins.

“You put it curiously,” he said. “What could happen?”

“I don’t know,” said the girl. “Perhaps what took place so unexpectedly
a few days ago has shaken me, for I feel vaguely apprehensive just now.
I know of no reason why this should be, but we are all a prey to fancies
now and then.”

Tony looked down on her compassionately. “The last few days at Northrop
have been too much for you—and I was a selfish brute for not sending you
home,” he said.

Violet made no answer, and there was silence between them while the dog‐
cart splashed on down the muddy road.

It was some weeks later when one afternoon Violet Wayne, who had
undertaken the embroidery of an altar cloth, entered Northrop church. It
was little and old and shadowy, but the colored lights of the high west
window drove a track of brilliancy through its quiet duskiness. Nobody
knew the exact history of Northrop church, but it had evidently once
been larger than it was then, for the spacious chancel with its carved
stalls and rood screen bore no proportion to the contracted nave. Violet
entered it softly, with eyes still partly dazzled by the contrast with
the sunlit meadows she had crossed, and then stopped in faint
astonishment as she saw a girl of her own age standing in evident
admiration before an effigy on a tomb. It had been hewn in marble by an
unknown sculptor centuries ago, but there was a rude grandeur in his
conception, and the chivalric spirit of bygone ages seemed living in the
stone.

The girl who stood before it started visibly when Violet walked up the
aisle. She was slight and spare, with vivacious blue eyes and fluffy
brown hair.

“I am afraid I startled you,” said Violet.

“Yes,” said the stranger, “you did. I was too intent on the sculpture to
hear you coming. It’s—just lovely. I wonder whether you could tell me
who he was, or what it means, if you live round here.”

There was very little accent in her speech, but it was quick and Violet
knew that most Englishwomen would not have expressed themselves so
frankly to a stranger. Still, it was evident that the girl had artistic
tastes, for the effigy had often stirred her own appreciation. It
portrayed a mailed knight, not recumbent, but kneeling on one knee, with
hands clenched on the hilt of a sword. A dinted helm lay beside him, and
though it and his mail had suffered from iconoclastic zeal or time, the
face was perfect, and almost living in its intensity of expression. It
was not, however, devotional, but grim and resolute, and it had seemed
to Violet that there was a great purpose in those sightless eyes.

“I am afraid I can’t,” she said. “He is supposed to have been one of the
Pallisers, but it is not certain that he is even buried here, and nobody
knows what he did. The sculpture may be purely allegorical. Still, the
face is very suggestive.”

The blue‐eyed girl looked at it fixedly. “Yes,” she said. “One would
call it Fidelity. We have nothing of the kind in our country, and that
is partly why it appeals to me. Yet I once met a man who looked just
like that.”

“In America!” and Violet Wayne was vexed with herself next moment
because she smiled.

The stranger straightened herself a trifle, but there was rather
appreciation than anger in her eyes.

“Well,” she said, “I am proud of my country, but he was an Englishman,
and it was in Cuba—in the rebellion.”

She turned and looked curiously at her companion, in a fashion that
almost suggested that she recognized the finely moulded figure, grave
gray eyes, and gleaming hair, while Violet made a slight deprecatory
gesture.

“I can show you another memorial which is almost as beautiful,” she
said. “In this case, however, what it stands for is at least authentic.
A famous artist designed it.”

The girl turned and gazed backwards along the shafts of light that
pierced the dusky nave until her eyes caught the gleam of the gilded
Gloria high up the dimness, above the west window. Then they rested with
awed admiration on the face of a great winged angel stooping with
outstretched hand. She drew in her breath with a little sigh of
appreciation which warmed Violet’s heart to her, and then glancing down
from the flaming picture read: “To the glory of God, and in memory of
Walthew Palliser, killed in the execution of his duty in West Africa.”

“Yes,” she said, “it’s beautiful. But they should be together. The great
compassionate angel over the effigy. It makes you feel the words, ‘Well
done!’”

Violet smiled gravely, “I think I understand, and one could fancy that
they were spoken. The man to whom they raised that window went, unarmed,
sick of fever, and knowing the risk he ran, to make peace with a
rebellious tribe, because it was evident that it would provoke
hostilities if he took troops with him. He found a stockade on the way,
and, though his bearers tried to hinder him, went forward alone to
parley. He was shot almost to pieces with ragged cast iron.”

“He was splendid,” said the stranger. “And his name was Walthew—it is a
curious one. I must thank you for telling me the story.”

She would apparently have said more, but that a girl in light dress and
big white hat came in through a little door behind the organ, and
laughed as she approached them.

“So you have been making friends with Nettie, Violet! I was going to
bring her over one of these days,” she said. “Netting Harding of
Glenwood on the Hudson—Violet Wayne! Nettie is staying with me, and as
she is enthusiastic over antiquities I was bringing her here when Mrs.
Vicar buttonholed me. They are short of funds for the Darsley sewing
guild again. Will you come over to‐morrow afternoon? Tea on the lawn.”

Violet promised and took her departure, while when the other two went
out into the sunshine again Nettie Harding’s companion glanced at her.

“How did Violet Wayne strike you,—which I think is how you would put
it?” she said.

Nettie appeared reflective. “I think I should like her. The curious
thing is that a friend of mine pictured her to me almost exactly, though
he did not tell me who she was. Still, at first I fancied she meant me
to feel my inferiority.”

“That is a thing Violet Wayne would never do,” said her companion. “I
don’t know where she got that repose of hers—but it’s part of her, and
she doesn’t put it on. Who was the man who spoke about her?”

“He didn’t speak of her—he only told me about somebody who must have
been like her,” said Nettie Harding, who considered it advisable not to
answer the question. “The Pallisers are evidently big people here. Is
Walthew a usual name in the family? Miss Wayne seemed to know a good
deal about them.”

The other girl laughed. “I believe there were several Walthews, and
Violet is, perhaps, proud of the connection,” she said. “They are an old
family, and she is going to marry one of them.”



XVII — TONY IS PAINFULLY ASTONISHED


THE cool shadows were creeping across the velvet grass next afternoon
when Nettie Harding lay languidly content in a canvas chair on the Low
Wood lawn. Behind her rose a long, low, red‐roofed dwelling, whose gray
walls showed only here and there through their green mantle of creeper,
but in front, beyond the moss‐covered terrace wall, wheatfield, coppice,
and meadow flooded with golden sunlight melted through gradations of
color into the blue distance. It was very hot, and the musical tinkle of
a mower that rose from the valley emphasized the drowsy stillness.
Opposite her, on the other side of the little table whereon stood dainty
china and brass kettle, sat her hostess’s daughter, Hester Earle, and
she smiled a little as she glanced at Nettie.

“You are evidently not pining for New York!” she said.

Nettie Harding laughed as she looked about her with appreciative eyes.
“This is quite good enough for me, and we don’t live in New York,” she
said. “Nobody who can help it does, and it’s quite a question how to
take out of it the men who have to work there. Our place is on the
Hudson, and it’s beautiful, though I admit it is different from this. We
haven’t had the time to smooth down everything and round the corners off
in our country, though when we are as old as you are we’ll have
considerably more to show the world.”

Hester Earle nodded tranquilly. She was typically English, and
occasionally amused at Nettie, with whom she had made friends in London.
Her father was chairman of a financial corporation that dealt in
American securities, and having had business with Cyrus Harding, thought
it advisable to show his daughter what attention he could.

“You were enthusiastic over Northrop church and the Palliser memorials
yesterday,” she said.

“Yes,” said Nettie, “I was, but I should like to see the kind of men to
whom they put them up. From what you said there are still some of them
living in this part of your country?”

“There is one at Northrop just now, and it is rather more than likely
that you will see him this afternoon if he suspects that Violet Wayne is
coming here. I think I hear her now.”

There was a beat of hoofs and rattle of wheels behind the trees that
shrouded the lawn, and five minutes later Violet and Tony Palliser
crossed the strip of turf. Miss Earle lighted the spirit lamp, and for a
space they talked of nothing in particular, while the pale blue flame
burnt unwaveringly in the hot, still air. Then when the dainty cups were
passed round Violet Wayne said—

“I think you told me yesterday the effigy reminded you of somebody you
had seen, Miss Harding.”

“Yes,” said Nettie, “it did. I don’t mean that the face was like his,
because that would be too absurd, but it was the expression—the strength
and weariness in it—that impressed me. The man I am thinking of looked
just like that when he kept watch one long night through.”

“How do you know he did?” asked Hester.

“Because I was there. I sat by a little lattice and watched him, knowing
that my safety depended upon his vigilance.”

“That was why Miss Harding was anxious to see you, Tony,” said Hester
Earle. “I almost fancy she is disappointed now.”

Tony, who sat with half‐closed eyes, teacup in hand, in his chair,
looked up and smiled languidly. “I think it is just a little rough on me
that I should be expected to emulate the fortitude an unknown sculptor
hewed into a marble face hundreds of years ago,” he said. “I wonder if
Miss Harding would tell us about the man she is thinking of.”

Nettie glanced at Violet Wayne, and fancied that she showed signs of
interest. Besides Miss Harding was not averse to discoursing to an
attentive audience.

“Well,” she said, “I’ll try. It was in Cuba, and he was an Englishman. A
little while before the night I am going to speak about he and his
American partner captured a Spanish gun.”

“Then I don’t see why you should have expected me to resemble him,” said
Tony plaintively. “As everybody knows I should never have done such a
thing! Will you tell us about the engagement?”

Nettie flashed a keen glance at him, and Violet Wayne, who saw it, felt
a slight thrill of impatience, but not with the girl. It was, she
fancied, evident that Nettie Harding agreed with Tony.

“It was in a hot barranco among the hills, and the Spaniards had turned
the gun on the Sin Verguenza, and were sweeping them away, when he and
the American lowered themselves down the rock side by creepers right
into the middle of the loyalist troops. They hurled the gun over a
precipice into the barranco, and when it had gone the rest of the Sin
Verguenza drove the troops off with rifle fire. It was their colonel
told me this. I did not see it.”

“Would you mind telling us who the Sin Verguenza were?” said Tony.

“The men without shame—that’s what it means in Spanish—an insurgent
legion. They took the town in which my father and I were staying—a
handful of ragged men, with two companies of drilled troops against
them—and I lost my father in the crowd of fugitives. Then I hid in a
church, and some drunken brigands were chasing me through the dark
streets when I met the Englishman, who took care of me. The Sin
Verguenza were breaking into the houses, and I was alone, horribly
frightened and helpless, in that Cuban town. He was one of their
officers, and he took me to the house they had made their headquarters.”

“You went with him?” asked Hester Earle.

“Yes,” said Nettie slowly, while a faint flush crept into her face, “I
did. Nobody was safe from the Sin Verguenza then, and I felt I could
trust him. There are men who make one feel like that, you know.”

For no apparent reason she glanced at Violet Wayne, who sat with a
curious expression in her eyes, looking—not at Tony, as Miss Harding
noticed—but across the valley.

“Yes,” she said, “there are. Go on, please!”

“I went with him to the rebel headquarters, and then very nearly tried
to run away again, because it was like walking into the lion’s den. The
patio was littered with the furniture they had thrown out of the
windows, and I could hear the men roystering over their wine. Still,
when I looked at the man with me, I went in.”

She stopped and sat silent a space of seconds, while none of the others
spoke. They felt it might not be advisable to ask questions.

“Well,” she continued, “he hid me in a room, and then sat down on the
veranda that ran round the patio outside it where I could see him from
the lattice. The city was in a turmoil, the insurgent leaders were
carousing in the house and you will remember they were the Sin
Verguenza. There was only that man and his American comrade between me
and those horrors. I think he fancied I rested, but all that awful night
I scarcely took my eyes off him. He was very like the marble knight just
then.”

“Isn’t that a little rough on the effigy?” said Tony with a smile. “The
man was, I think you told us, a leader of shameless brigands.”

Violet Wayne saw the gleam in Nettie’s eyes, and noticed the faint ring
in her voice as she said, “There are not many men who could lead the Sin
Verguenza, but you would understand what I mean if you had seen him. He
was ragged and very weary, and had been hurt in the fighting, but he sat
there keeping himself awake, with his rifle across his knees, and every
time I looked at his face it reassured me. It was haggard, but it was
grim and strong—and I knew that man would have to be torn to pieces
before any harm could come to me. He was keeping vigil with something
entrusted to him which he would guard with his life—and that, I think,
is the fancy that stirs one when one looks at your marble knight.”

Hester smiled as she admitted that this was probably what the sculptor
had wished to express, but it was in Violet Wayne’s eyes that Nettie saw
the most complete comprehension.

“That man almost deserved so stanch a champion,” said Tony. “Eventually
your father found you?”

“Yes,” said Nettie. “The Sin Verguenza marched out in the early
morning.”

Then there was silence until Tony rose languidly. “I think I’ll go and
bring some more cake,” he said. “You sit still, Hester. I’ll ask Mrs.
Grantly for it.”

Hester Earle laughed. “She is out. Perhaps you had better show him where
it is, Violet.”

The two who were left were silent for awhile, and then Hester Earle
smiled at her companion as she said, “You wanted to see Tony Palliser.”

Nettie glanced suggestively towards Tony, who was then coming back
across the lawn, carrying a tray.

“There is no reason why he should not do that kind of thing—but the
trouble is that it seems quite natural to him, as though it was what he
was meant to do,” she said.

“Don’t you think he could do anything else?”

Nettie appeared reflective. “It strikes me he wouldn’t want to.”

“Tony is a very good fellow,” said Hester. “He has never done an
ungraceful thing.”

“Well,” said Nettie, “I expect that is just what is wrong with him. It
seems to me that the men who do what is worth doing can’t always be
graceful. The knight in the chancel had his helmet beaten in, while I
fancy his mail was battered and dusty, and if the great glittering angel
waited for the Palliser who was shot in Africa it wasn’t because he
carried tea trays prettily.”

“And yet Violet, who expects a good deal, is content with him.”

“Well,” said Nettie gravely, “I’m almost afraid she’s giving herself
away. I have seen the man who would have suited her—and he was a ragged
leader of the Sin Verguenza.”

“Had that man no taste?” asked Hester with a little laugh.

Nettie glanced down at the white hand she moved a little so that there
was a flash from the ring. “That was there already. It was a man of the
same kind who put it on.”

Tony and Violet Wayne came up just then, and when they sat down Hester
turned to the man. “We are getting up a concert in the Darsley assembly
rooms for the sewing guild,” she said. “We are, as usual, short of
money. You will bring your banjo, and sing a coon song.”

“It’s too hot,” said Tony. “Besides, folks expect a decorum I haven’t
been quite accustomed to from me now, and I’m not going to black my face
for anybody. I would a good deal sooner give you the money.”

“That’s very like you, Tony, but it’s too easy, though we will take the
money too. It’s a good cause, or it would not be in difficulties. You
will come and sing.”

Tony made a gesture of resignation. “Well,” he said “it would take too
much trouble to convince you that you had better get somebody else, and,
anyway, I can have a cold.”

Then the conversation turned on other topics until Tony and Violet took
their leave, but when she shook hands with him Hester reminded Tony of
his promise. It was, however, almost a month later when he was called
upon to keep it and finding no excuse available drove into the
neighboring town one evening. He was welcomed somewhat effusively when
he entered an ante‐room of the assembly hall, and then taken to a place
that had been kept for him beside Violet and her mother. The concert
very much resembled others of the kind, and neither Tony nor his
companions paid much attention to the music until Mrs. Wayne looked up
from her programme.

“Thérèse Clavier. Costume dance!” she said. “No doubt they called it
that to pacify the vicar. Well, she is pretty, if somewhat elaborately
got up. Doesn’t she remind you of somebody, Violet?”

Tony glanced at the stage, and gasped. A girl with dark hair in
voluminous flimsy draperies came on with a curtsey and a smile, and a
little chill ran through him before he heard Violet’s answer.

“Lucy Davidson. But of course it can’t be she,” she said. “This woman is
older and has darker hair, though that, perhaps, does not count for very
much, while Lucy could never have acquired her confidence.”

Tony said nothing. He was staring across the rows of heads and watching
the girl. She appeared older, bolder, and harder than Lucy Davidson had
done, but the likeness was still unpleasantly suggestive. She danced
well, but it was not the graceful posing or the swift folding and
flowing of light draperies that held Tony’s attention. His eyes were
fixed upon the smiling face, and he scarcely heard the thunder of
applause or Mrs. Wayne’s voice in the silence that followed it.

“Effective, and yet nobody could take exception to it,” she said. “But
don’t you come on next, Tony?”

Tony, who had not remembered it, stood up suddenly, knocking down the
hat of a man beside him, and trod upon the girl’s dress as he passed.
She glanced up at him sharply, for he was seldom awkward in his
movements, but he was looking another way. The audience was also getting
impatient, and there was a clapping of hands and stamping of feet before
he appeared upon the stage. Then he sat down fingering his banjo pegs,
and twice asked the accompanist for a note on the piano.

“Any other man would have done that before,” said Mrs. Wayne. “Still, I
suppose Tony cannot help it, and he seems contented now.”

There was a tinkle from the banjo followed by a chord on the piano, but
Tony did not face the audience until the introduction had dragged
through. Then Violet noticed that his voice, which was a sweet tenor,
was not so clear as usual, and the silence of the piano emphasized his
feebler touch on the strings. Still, Tony sang such songs as usually go
with the banjo well, for the mingling of faint pathos and mild burlesque
was within his grasp, which was, perhaps, not without its significance,
and nobody appeared to find any fault with the performance. There was,
in fact, enthusiastic applause, though Violet was glad when Tony
persisted in leaving the stage, and her mother glanced at her.

“I have heard Tony put much more spirit into that song,” she said.

Tony in the meanwhile was endeavoring to make his way quietly through
the green‐room when one of the committee touched his shoulder.

“Can’t you spare us a few minutes?” he said. “Miss Clavier seemed to
like your singing, and I think she would be pleased if you noticed her.
When she heard it was a charity she came down for half her usual fee.”

Tony was not grateful to the man who had detained him, and could it have
been done without exciting comment would have shaken off his grasp. As
it was, however, there was no avoiding the introduction, and he suffered
himself to be led forward with unpleasant misgivings. Miss Clavier made
him a somewhat dignified bow, but she also made room for him beside her,
while something in her dark eyes warned Tony that it would be wise of
him to accept the unspoken invitation. He sat down, wondering what she
wanted, until she smiled at him.

“There are coffee and ices in the other room, Tony,” she said. “Will you
take me there?”

The man realized that this mode of address had its significance, for it
had been Mr. Palliser in the old days; but he rose gravely and held out
his arm, knowing that what he did would not pass without comment. The
feeling was also warranted, for one of the men who watched them pass out
into the corridor smiled as he turned to his companion.

“Tony seems bent on doing rather more than was expected of him,” he
said. “No doubt she knows his standing in the neighborhood, and intends
this as a delicate compliment to one or two of our lady amateurs who
were not exactly pleasant to her. It’s quite certain she can’t be
hungry.”

As it happened, there was nobody but the attendant in the buffet when
they reached it, and Lucy Davidson flung herself down with a curious,
lithe gracefulness in a big chair in a corner.

“Bring me some coffee for the look of the thing,” she said.

Tony did it, and then stood beside her while she toyed with her cup.
Lucy Davidson was distinctly pretty in spite of her get up, but it was
unpleasantly evident to her companion that she was not the girl he had
flirted with. She seemed to have changed into a capable, determined
woman, and there was something that suggested imperiousness in her dark
eyes when she looked up at him.

“I want to know why you brought me here,” he said.

The girl laughed. “That wasn’t civil, Tony. You should have let me think
you came because you wanted to.”

“I didn’t,” said Tony doggedly. “Nor can I stay here long. Don’t you
know that some of these people might recognize you?”

“I don’t see why that should worry me, though I don’t think they will.
They are Darsley folk, and I fancy I have changed. You are going to be
married I hear!”

Tony set his lips as he saw the mocking smile in his companion’s face.

“Yes,” he said. “We may as well talk plainly. You know of no reason why
I shouldn’t.”

Lucy Davidson made a little reproachful gesture. “Tony,” she said, “have
I objected?”

“No. The question is, do you mean to?”

“That depends. I really don’t want to cause you trouble. You see, I was
fond of you once, Tony—and would you like me to tell you that I am
still?”

Tony stood rigidly still with the blood in his forehead until the girl
laughed.

“You needn’t meet trouble before it comes,” she said. “I only wanted to
see you.”

Again there was silence, until Tony, who felt he must say something,
broke it.

“Where have you been since you left Northrop?” he asked.

“In London. Music‐hall stage. I took there, and was in Melbourne, too.
Just now I’m resting a little, and only came down here out of
curiosity.”

“Still,” and Tony’s voice trembled a little, “you will have heard—”

“Sit down,” said the girl almost sharply. “I want to talk to you. Yes, I
heard in Melbourne. I read it all in a Darsley paper, and thought what
fools the folks were to blame Mr. Appleby.”

Tony gasped. “It is a painful thing to talk about, and I don’t want to
distress you, but—”

Lucy Davidson looked at him steadily. “What I felt about it doesn’t
concern anybody but myself. I told you they were fools, Tony. You and I
know who it was that circumstances really pointed to.”

Tony’s cheeks turned a trifle gray, but this time he met her gaze.
“Listen to me, Lucy. On my word of honor I had no hand in what
happened,” he said. “The solemn truth is that your father had an
altercation with Appleby, and afterwards fell over the bridge.”

The girl’s eyes flashed, and she slowly straightened herself. “It is
fortunate for you that I can take your word, because I had formed my own
conclusions,” she said. “Don’t suppose I should sit here talking to you
if I had thought you were guilty. This, however, is quite between
ourselves.”

There was a significance in the last words which was not lost upon the
man. “Well,” he said slowly, “we come back to the point again. What do
you want from me?”

“Just a little kindness. I was, I don’t mind telling you again, fond of
you, perhaps because—but we don’t always give reasons, Tony. There is
nothing I want to ask you for in the meanwhile.”

“I am to be married soon,” the man said in desperation.

Lucy Davidson rose with a curious mocking smile. “Well,” she said, “I
wish her joy of you. You are, you know, very poor stuff, Tony, and
haven’t nerve enough to make either a good man or a rascal. The last, at
least now and then, gets something for his pains. Now, you may take me
back again.”



XVIII — NETTIE ASKS A QUESTION


NETTIE HARDING had spent at least six weeks at Low Wood when she sat one
afternoon on the lawn, gazing before her reflectively, with a book
turned upside‐down upon her knee. She had at one time wondered why she
lingered there, though she found the company of Hester Earle congenial,
and Hester’s father had pressed her to extend her visit, while other
reasons that appeared more or less convincing had not been wanting. The
Northrop valley was very pretty, and the quiet, well‐ordered life her
English friends led pleasant, as a change from the turmoil of commercial
enterprise and the fierce activity of the search for pleasure she had
been accustomed to in America. The tranquillity of the green, peaceful
country appealed to her, and she found interesting the quietly spoken
men and women who so decorously directed what was done in it, partly
because the type was new to her.

That, however, was at the beginning, for by and by she was willing to
admit that Northrop might grow wearisome if she saw too much of it, and
she could no longer hide from herself the fact that she had a more
cogent reason for dallying there. She felt, though as yet it appeared
quite likely that she might be mistaken, she was picking up the threads
of a drama, the plot of which had been imperfectly revealed to her. This
in itself was interesting, for she had at least as much inquisitiveness
as most of her sex, and she was sensible of a little thrill of
pleasurable excitement when the scent grew hotter. Still, she never
asked an indiscreet question, and waited with a patience that is not
usually a characteristic of the women of her nation until she was
certain.

Miss Wayne, she decided, was at least very like the woman Appleby had
pictured to her; but she was difficult to understand, for Violet seldom
displayed her feelings, and her cold serenity baffled the observer. Tony
Palliser, of whom she had contrived to see a good deal, was an easier
and less interesting study. Nettie was naively witty, and could assume
American mannerisms with excellent effect when she chose while Tony was
fond of being amused, and Violet Wayne apparently devoid of any small
jealousy. Thus he spent a good deal of time hanging about Miss Harding,
and would have been painfully astonished had he discovered what she
thought of him. Languid good nature and the faculty of idling time away
very gracefully did not appeal to her, for even pleasure is pursued with
grim strenuousness in her country. He was, she fancied, just such a man
as the one Appleby had sacrificed himself for; but she surmised that
there were a good many men of that kind in England, and Appleby had told
his story in a fashion that made the identification of the scene and the
persons concerned in it difficult. Nettie felt also that should
conviction be forced upon her she would still have to decide what her
course would be.

She felt for Appleby a quiet esteem and a kindliness which just stopped
short of tenderness. She was an American, and could hold her own with
most men in the art of flirtation, but she was also capable of a
camaraderie that was characterized by frank sincerity and untainted by
any affectation of love‐making for one of the opposite sex. That being
so, she felt it was incumbent upon her to discharge the obligation she
owed him if opportunity afforded, though she knew that the indiscreet
meddler not infrequently involves in disaster those she would benefit.
By and by there was a step behind her, and she saw Hester Earle
regarding her with a twinkle in her eyes.

“If there had been anybody else to see you—Tony Palliser, for example—
one could almost have fancied you had assumed that becomingly pensive
pose,” she said. “You would make a picture of ingenuous contemplation.”

Nettie laughed. “Well,” she said, “I feel very like a torpedo. Anyway, I
didn’t put it on, though I’m open to admit that there’s quite a trace of
the peacock about me.”

“That is evidently American hyperbole,” said Hester. “Talk English,
Nettie. I don’t understand.”

She seated herself on the mossy wall close by, and noticed that her
companion was meditatively watching two figures approaching by a path
through a wheatfield. They were just recognizable as Tony and Violet
Wayne, and were evidently unaware of being observed, for the man
stooped, and, plucking what appeared to be a poppy from among the corn,
offered it to his companion. The pair stopped a moment, and the man
seemed to be desirous of fastening it in the girl’s dress.

“The peacock,” said Nettie in the drawl she assumed only when it suited
her, “is easy. They’re vain, you know, and I wouldn’t figure it was
worth while to spread out my best tail before men like Tony Palliser.
I’m quite fond of being looked at, too.”

“One would fancy you could scarcely find fault with him on that
account,” said Hester dryly. “But the torpedo?”

“That’s a little harder. I suppose you never felt as if you were full of
explosives, and could go off when you wanted and scatter destruction
around. A torpedo doesn’t appear a very terrible thing, you know. It’s
nice and round and shiny. I’ve seen one. Julian showed it me.”

“Nobody goes off in England—at least not among the people we care to mix
with,” said Hester. “We send those who seem inclined to behave in that
fashion out to the colonies or America. People appear to rather like
explosions there.”

“Still, you must get a little shake up now and then. Did nothing
startling and unexpected ever happen at Northrop?”

Hester Earle was English, and proud of the decorous tranquillity of the
life she led. “No,” she said. “That is, nothing really worth mentioning.
Where did you get charged with explosives, Nettie?”

Nettie felt that one of the stoutest threads she had laid her fingers
upon had snapped in a most unexpected manner, but she had observed the
British character, and was not quite convinced. It was, she reflected,
after all a question of what Hester Earle considered worthy of mention.

“In Cuba,” she said. “Now, I was worrying about something, and because
you are one of those quiet persons who think a good deal I’d like your
opinion. Suppose you or somebody else had a friend who was in trouble
through other people’s fault, and would not say a word to clear himself,
and you found how you could make things straight for him? The answer to
that seems easy, but it gets complicated by the fact that to do it you
would have to stir up no end of mud and startle quite a few nice easy‐
going people.”

“Speaking generally, I should leave the mud alone, and feel that the
friend knew best. After all, he may have been to blame.”

“No,” said Nettie. “The man I was thinking of never did a mean thing in
his life.”

“Then you can ask Violet Wayne. She is even quieter than I am, and I
believe she thinks a good deal.”

Tony and his companion joined them then, and Violet took her place
beside Nettie, while the man sat down on the smooth strip of turf that
sloped to the sunken tennis lawn.

“You seem to have been discussing something serious,” he said.

“Yes,” said Hester. “Nettie has been comparing herself with a torpedo,
and wished to know whether it would be desirable for her to go off or
not. I recommended her to submit the case to Violet. Hadn’t you better
begin, Nettie? You rather like an audience.”

Nettie was seldom abashed, and the position appealed to her. She had
only vague surmises to go upon, and one of the clues had snapped, but
the rest might hold, while such an opportunity of discovering the
sentiments of the woman who might prove to be most involved could
scarcely occur again. It was accordingly with a little thrill of
excitement she put the question a trifle more concisely than she had
done to Hester, and though she smiled at the others, watched Tony
closely. He was certainly astonished, though the case was so outlined
that it could scarcely be identified with his own; but his indolent
carelessness stood him in good stead, and he sat still, listening with
no great show of interest until Nettie concluded.

“Of course, what I have told you concerns somebody in Cuba and not
England,” she said. “Now, the point is, would it be better to leave the
people alone who seem quite content with everything as it is? One of
them would be hurt considerably if the truth came out!”

There was a little silence, and once more Violet Wayne was sensible of
the vague apprehension which had troubled her more frequently of late,
but she met Nettie’s inquiring glance with steady eyes.

“Still, I think it would be better for that person to know the truth,”
she said.

“I am not quite sure,” said Hester reflectively. “We will surmise that
he or she is happy in the deception, and it would last all her life. In
that case would it be a kindness to undeceive her?”

“I think so. If, as you seem to assume, the person were a woman she
would probably discover the truth herself. Deceptions seldom continue,
and if the awakening must come it would come better sooner than later.”

Nettie was watching Tony, who lay now endeavoring to pluck a daisy out
of the turf. The task seemed to occupy all his attention. “You haven’t
decided yet?” she said.

Tony assumed an attitude of languid reflection, though it was evident to
Nettie that his fingers, stained a little with the soil, were not quite
steady. He may have realized this, for he rubbed them in the grass with
slow deliberation.

“Well,” he said, “it seems to me that if one is dreaming something very
nice it would be better to let him sleep as long as possible, and a
blunder to waken him to unpleasant realities. There’s another point,
too. You seem to have overlooked the person who did the wrong.”

“I don’t think I mentioned that there was one!”

“Still, you led us to believe that wrong had been done. That, of course,
implies that somebody must have perpetrated it, and I expect you will
think me warranted in assuming it was a man. Well, you see, he mayn’t
have meant to do any harm at all, and be sincerely sorry. Wouldn’t he
deserve a little consideration? People are forced into doing a thing
they don’t want to now and then.”

Nettie watched him thoughtfully. Tony’s face was indifferent, but she
fancied that he, at least, desired to convince himself.

“Tony’s question is unnecessary,” said Violet Wayne. “If the man were
sincerely sorry there would be an end of the difficulty. He would put it
straight by making reparation.”

“He might find it difficult,” said Hester.

Tony seemed to wince, and once more turned his attention to the daisy,
but when the rest sat silent he glanced at Violet.

“I rather think we are getting away from the point, but since you seem
to expect it I’ll take up that man’s brief,” he said. “Well, we will
assume that he is a well‐intentioned person who has only slipped up
once, and is trying to make up for what he has done. Now, if he were
left alone, such a man might go straight all the rest of his life.”

“That’s specious, but distinctly unorthodox,” said Hester. “Who had
those beautifully illuminated tables of the law put up in Northrop
church, Tony?”

Nettie laughed to conceal her interest. “But John P. Robinson, he says
they didn’t know everything down in Judee. That’s latter day American,
but it’s what a good many people seem to think. Please go on, Mr.
Palliser.”

“I can’t go very far. Still, we’ll try to picture such a man giving
liberally where it’s wanted, going straight, and doing what good he can
all round. We’ll say the lives of other people who believe in him are
bound up in his, and their happiness depends upon his holding their
confidence. Now, would it be a kindness to anybody to bring everything
down crashing about his head?”

He stopped, and glanced with a curious half‐veiled appeal in his eyes at
Violet, but she shook her head, and the gravity Nettie had once or twice
wondered at crept into her face. It showed perfect in its contour and
modelling under the big hat, but its clear pallor was more noticeable
just then, and it seemed to Nettie very cold. Then she smiled faintly.

“It is a very old question. Can a man be pardoned and retain the
offence? Still, I think it was answered decisively,” she said.

Tony said nothing, and, as none of the others appeared inclined to talk,
the stillness of the afternoon made itself felt. The pale yellow
sunshine lay hot upon the lawn, and the soft murmur of the river came up
across the corn, which, broken by dusky woodlands steeped in slumbrous
shadow and meadow no longer green, rolled back in waves of ruddy bronze
into the valley. Beyond it the hillsides, narrowing in, faded blurred
and dim into the hazy distance. Still, the eyes of Tony and Violet Wayne
were fixed upon the raw blotch of brickwork rising against the green
woods above a flashing pool of the river. The rushy meadows and barren
hillside environing it were now worth the best plough land on the
Northrop estate, and, as both of those who looked at them remembered
then, they had been intended as Appleby’s inheritance.

It was Hester who broke the silence. “Your question has been answered,
Nettie,” she said. “It is decided that the person who did the wrong is
the one to right it; and now we’ll change the topic. The entertainment
we had at Darsley was, as you know, an immense success, so great,
indeed, that as we still want money we have decided to have another.”

“Still, it seems to me you can’t consistently inflict any more tickets
on the Darsley tradesmen,” said Tony, who appeared desirous of
concealing his relief. “The fact is, I was rather sorry for one or two
of them. Rawley told me he had to buy at least two half‐crown tickets
from each of his leading supporters. I don’t think it would be decent to
bleed them any more.”

Hester laughed. “That difficulty has been provided for, and I told
everybody that I sent tickets to that it would be conducive to success
if when they broached the subject they paid their bills. This time we
intend to put the screw on our friends. You see, it is some time since
we had any little relaxation among ourselves.”

“A concert isn’t really very amusing,” said Tony. “Anyway, not when you
have to sing at it.”

“That depends. This one will be; and since it isn’t exactly a concert it
will have the virtue of novelty. We intend to hold it here by moonlight
and limelight on the lawn. The tickets will be invitation ones at half‐
a‐guinea.”

“Where will you get your limelights from? I believe that kind of thing
costs a good deal,” said Tony.

“I don’t know. The privilege of being allowed to supply them has been
allotted to Mr. Anthony Palliser. He is also put down for a song.”

Tony made a gesture of resignation. “It will most likely rain.”

“Still, the tickets will have been sold, and if it does rain the people
who can’t get into the big billiard room can sit out in couples in the
hall, which will probably please them just as well. We, however, mean to
have it outside if we can. We want the limelights for the tableaux and
costume dancing.”

“Who have you got to dance?” said Tony with evident concern.

“Miss Clavier—the young woman who pleased everybody that night at
Darsley. The vicar doesn’t mind. Have you very strong objections to
skirt dancing, Tony?”

“No,” said Tony slowly, and Nettie fancied his voice was a trifle
strained. “Of course I haven’t. Still, you must not depend too much on
me. I mean I’ll get the limelights, and buy as many tickets as can be
reasonably expected of me, but whether I’ll be there or not is another
affair. I have to go up to London now and then, you see.”

The last was so evidently an inspiration that Hester laughed as she
glanced at him. “We will contrive to fix a night that will suit you,”
she said. “I fancy you had better submit quietly, Tony.”

Tony murmured something which was not wholly flattering to the promoters
of such entertainments, and when he and Violet Wayne took their leave
Hester glanced at Nettie.

“I wonder why Tony is anxious not to meet Miss Clavier again,” she said.

As it happened, Nettie was asking herself the same question, but she
decided that there was nothing to be gained by mentioning it.

“The girl who dances! You think he didn’t want to meet her?” she said.

“Of course! He showed it. Everybody can tell what Tony is thinking. He
is almost painfully transparent.”

“Well,” said Nettie slowly, “I don’t quite know. I have come across
other men like him and found that they take one in. You fancy you can
look right through them, and yet you see very little of what is inside
them.”

“The trouble is that there is nothing in Tony except good nature,” said
Hester.

Nettie appeared reflective, and once more expressed herself in the same
fashion. “I don’t quite know. Still, I hope you are right,” she said.
“You see, I’m quite fond of Violet Wayne.”



XIX — POSITIVE PROOF


HESTER EARLE’S entertainment promised to prove as successful as the
other had been, for a clear moon hung low above the hillside when Tony
drove Violet Wayne and her mother to Low Wood down the Northrop valley.
The night was pleasantly warm, and the murmur of the river which slid in
and out of the mist wisps in the hollow beneath the white road rose
faintly musical out of the silence. Beyond the long hedgerows the
stubble lay steeped in silvery light save where the long shadows lay
black as ebony in the wake of the gleaming sheaves. A smell of
honeysuckle drifted out from the blackness of a coppice they flitted
through, and Tony turned with a little laugh to the girl beside him,
while the clip‐clop of the hoofs rang amidst the trees.

“I wonder if you and I are thinking of the same thing,” he said. “It
happened just about this hour a year ago, and it was such another
night.”

His voice had a faint thrill in it, and Violet laughed softly as she
glanced at her left hand.

“You were horribly nervous that evening, Tony,” she said. “I don’t think
I ever mentioned it, but when you put the ring on it scarred my finger.
That might have had a significance with superstitious people.”

Tony glanced over his shoulder, and saw that Mrs. Wayne, who sat behind
them, was apparently interested in something her companion was saying.

“I think that was quite natural,” he said lightly. “You see, the
situation was disconcertingly novel to me.”

“So you told me!” said the girl with a little laugh. “If I remember, you
laid some stress upon the fact. It was also a proof of my credulity that
I believed you.”

It was one of Tony’s disadvantages that he was now and then unduly
sensitive, for the deception he had been guilty of on the night in
question was by comparison trifling. Still, he remembered with
unpleasant distinctness another incident of a somewhat similar
description, in which it was a little brooch that figured and not an
engagement ring, and the red lips he had stooped to were not those of
Violet Wayne. Tony could recall their tempting curve, and the gleam in
the dark eyes that met his own, as well as the little lodge garden that
was very still and shady that drowsy afternoon. It was perhaps the
memory of it which made him flick the horse viciously with the whip.
Then he felt that his companion’s eyes were fixed upon him.

“The brute is afraid of shadows,” he said.

Violet turned her eyes on him, and there was a curious little smile in
them. “I wonder if the complaint is infectious. He goes steadily with
me,” she said. “Tony, you haven’t the hands you had.”

Tony flushed visibly, for the moonlight was on his face now they had
left the copse behind, and he remembered what had passed between him and
the girl in a room at Northrop the night Godfrey Palliser died.

“Well,” he said a trifle dryly, “if you are right it’s due to worry,
which, as everybody knows, never did agree with me. While agricultural
property brings in what it does just now, keeping everything straight at
Northrop isn’t quite so easy as some folks seem to fancy.”

“Still, the sale of that land to the electrical company and the ground
rent you are getting from the other concern should simplify it,” said
the girl.

“You can’t quite understand these affairs”; and Tony, who raised the
whip, let it drop again.

Violet once more looked at him steadily, and her voice was low as she
said, “If they were explained to me I think I could, but we will let
that pass. What you said a little while ago reminds me of the weeks that
followed the night you put that ring on. You had more cause for anxiety—
and yet we had no cares then.”

“No,” said Tony. “I will remember those weeks while I live. Nothing
could take them away from me.”

“And now there is a difference! A little shadow that dims the
brightness. Tony, you feel it, too?”

The man, who did not answer, laid both hands on the reins, for, and he
recognized the significance of it, they swung round a bend of the road
into sight of Appleby’s inheritance just then. A pile of harsh brickwork
rose in front of them, jarring upon the harmonies of the night; there
was a ringing of hammers, and their eyes were dazzled by the glare of a
great light under which a swarm of bent black figures were toiling. The
horse broke into a gallop, the dog‐cart jolted furiously, and for five
anxious minutes Tony, who set his lips, dragged at the reins. Then, as
the startled beast was forced into a trot again, he laughed petulantly.

“You are a little fanciful, Violet,” he said. “I have not been quite up
to my usual form lately, and singing at these confounded concerts
worries me. Hester will keep me busy, too, and I shall scarcely get a
moment near you.”

Now Violet Wayne was seldom troubled by trifling jealousies, but she was
a little anxious about Tony, and watched him as she said, “Your duties
seemed to consist in entertaining Miss Clavier on the last occasion!”

The color showed in Tony’s forehead, but it was the vague apprehension
in his face that astonished his companion, who noticed the sudden
tightening of his fingers on the reins. Still, the only answer she
caught was an indistinct “Confound the woman!”

Violet made no comment, for she had noticed already that the anxieties
Tony had evidently decided on concealing from her were affecting his
temper, and when five minutes later they rattled up the Low Wood avenue
there was no longer any opportunity for questions. Tony had contrived to
arrive just as the entertainment was commencing, and Hester Earle
promptly despatched him to the performers’ room.

The long windows were wide open, and the soft night air flowed in with
the faint scent of flowers, and a murmur of voices from the specially
invited audience Miss Earle had bestowed in the tennis green, which was
sunk a few feet on one side below the level of the sweep of lawn. Tennis
was not a game she was fond of, and she had pacified the gardener by
placing the chair legs on boards. Tony could see the shadowy mass of
humanity showing black against a dazzling glare, for the big oxyhydrogen
lights he had provided were then blazing in front of the proscenium,
which had been extemporized on the verge of the higher level. The path
that led to it wound along the edge of a tall shrubbery where colored
lights blinked here and there amidst the dusky leaves.

He was never certain afterwards as to whom he talked with or what he
said, though he surmised that his observations had not been especially
apposite, for some of those about him appeared a trifle astonished, and
two of them laughed. Tony was somewhat apt to lose his head when brought
face to face with a difficulty, and the fact that Lucy Davidson was
sitting a few yards away disconcerted him. A glance at his programme
showed him that she was to figure in two pieces of mimicry instead of
dancing, and she was dressed simply and tastefully, but while the room
was crowded there were only two very young men in her vicinity, and that
fact with something in their laughter seemed to differentiate their
companion from the rest of the company. Tony, however, fancied that they
were favored with scanty encouragement from the girl. She looked at him
once, but Tony turned his head away, and it was not until he was about
to go out that he felt himself compelled to speak to her.

“The others will take a lead from you, and those young asses are only
making the thing more unpleasant for the girl,” said a man he was
talking to.

Tony said nothing. He could think of no excuse, but remembering what
Violet had mentioned he shrank from the encounter. The good‐natured
committee‐man’s meaning had been perfectly plain to him, and he knew
that he could save the girl the unpleasantness of being met with chilly
aloofness or undue familiarity. His disposition was also a kindly one,
and the decision that she must be left to fight her own battles caused
him a little flush of confusion. As it happened, she saw it, and a
portentous sparkle showed in her dark eyes. Tony noticed this, and
remembered that weak complaisance had once placed him under the thumb of
keeper Davidson. He did not mean to repeat the blunder, and his fears
made him slightly venomous.

“I think you have met Mr. Anthony Palliser already, Miss Clavier,” said
his companion.

Tony knew that every eye in the room was upon him, and that his words
would not be lost, but he felt he could not afford to be gracious, and
while he hesitated the girl rose up and made him a little curtsey with
quiet ironical insolence.

“I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Palliser—once or twice,” she
said in a voice that was intended to reach the rest.

Tony stood still a moment fingering his watch chain, and looking down at
her with something his masculine companion had never seen there before
in his face. It almost suggested vindictive cruelty, but he murmured a
conventional word or two that was scarcely audible, and passed on with
the slightest of inclinations. There was also a little silence when he
went out, and the color faded a trifle in Miss Clavier’s face, leaving
her cheeks alone red, while a gleam that implied a good deal crept into
her eyes.

Tony, however, sang brilliantly when his turn came a few minutes later.
He had at last made a decided stand, and felt a trifle exhilarated by
the novelty of it. Still, he was without stability, and it was much
against his wishes that, wandering about between the songs after
spending some time with Nettie Harding, he met Miss Clavier again. He
had just seated himself upon the sloping bank of turf not far from the
stage when he became aware that a seat above him was occupied, and
glancing round at a sound saw the girl looking down on him. Then he
would have turned away, but she stopped him with a little derisive
laugh.

“Get up, Tony, and come and sit beside me,” she said.

Tony rose, but noticing that one or two colored lights which hung from
the branches of a copper beech above them rendered the seat visible
stood still.

“To be frank, I would sooner be excused,” he said. “After the little
exhibition in the green‐room it’s a trifle difficult to understand why
you want me.”

“You deserved it! A word or two wouldn’t have cost you anything, and I
wanted you to keep those boys away.”

“One would have fancied that you were quite capable of fighting your own
battles.”

The girl made a curious little gesture. “I think you are taking the
wrong way,” she said. “Now I don’t want very much from you to‐night, but
I don’t like being left out in the cold. You see, I am not accustomed to
it, and you could have made this evening a good deal pleasanter to me.”

She, however, blundered when she said to‐night. Tony’s fears had made
him brutal, and it is the terror of the unknown that grows most
oppressive. He did not know what she wanted, and it had unfortunately
never dawned on him that she might, after all, want very little, and
have had no hand in Davidson’s scheme of extortion.

“Your meaning is tolerably plain, but I have been under the screw once,”
he said. “Now, I don’t wish to rake up anything that would be painful,
but you know just as well as I do that if I posed as an old friend of
yours it would strengthen your hand. You will excuse me putting it
plainly, but that is just what I don’t intend to do.”

A curious faint smile flickered into his companion’s eyes. “It’s
unfortunate you haven’t a little more sense,” she said. “When you should
be obstinate you are soft, and when a pleasant word or two would pay you
well you bully. Has it ever struck you that I mayn’t be—what you
evidently think I am—or have any designs on you?”

Tony still went the wrong way, for it seemed to him that a resolute
attitude would at least tend to moderate any claim the girl might
contemplate making. “I don’t think I ever worried about the question,”
he said. “You see, it’s necessary to be quite frank, and it really
wasn’t of any importance to me.”

“Well, I don’t want to argue,” and Miss Clavier laughed. “You told me
you were going to be married, but you didn’t tell me who to. Of course,
I could find out, but you should feel a little easier when you hear that
I haven’t tried to.”

Tony did not believe her, and she recognized it. “I was once driven too
hard, but this time I’ll fight,” he said. “Anything you might feel
tempted to do to annoy me would most certainly recoil upon yourself.”

“That really isn’t necessary, Tony. Well, one could make a guess. It is
the very pretty girl with the blue eyes I saw you talking to. An
American, too. They’re generally rich, and, of course, you must have
money!”

Tony seized the opportunity of at least starting her on the wrong track.
“Money,” he said chillingly, “would be a very small recommendation in
Miss Harding’s case.”

“Yes,” said his companion, “I daresay it would. She saw I was lonely,
and I think meant to be kind, because she came up and spoke to me. Don’t
you think it’s my duty to give her a hint after that?”

“I am not going to stay to be baited,” and Tony slowly straightened
himself. “I shall have pleasure in leaving you to your youthful
admirers. I see them coming.”

He swung round upon his heel, and Miss Clavier braced herself for an
effort, as the result of which the two condescending youths retreated
somewhat precipitately with flushed faces. Then she did a thing that
would have astonished Tony, for she leaned back in the garden seat and
with an abrupt movement passed her handkerchief across her eyes. It was
a moment or two later when, looking up at the sound of a footstep, she
saw Nettie Harding gravely regarding her, and to her vexation as well as
astonishment felt the blood tingle in her cheeks.

“Yes,” said Nettie quietly. “I heard what you told them. They deserved
it, and you did it very well. Now, I’ve been talking about nothing for
most of two hours, and this place seems nice and quiet. You don’t mind
my sitting here with you a little?”

Nettie Harding’s directness was usually assumed, because she found it
convenient in England when she had anything delicate to do, and Miss
Clavier, who read sympathy in her face, was grateful to her. She also
hoped her companion would not notice the moisture on her long dark
lashes.

“I am paid for coming here, you understand?” she said. “I dance and
mimic people on the stage.”

“Of course!” said Nettie. “Well, my father once peddled oranges on the
trains; and they make quite a fuss over people who are on the stage in
London, while I don’t think many of them could have done that last piece
of yours half as cunningly. Anyway, I haven’t laughed as much since I’ve
been in England. If you did it in New York you’d coin money.”

She sat down smiling, and Miss Clavier regarded her out of half‐closed
eyes. There was nobody very near them, and only two dim colored lights
above their heads. Somebody was singing, and a sweet tenor voice floated
away into the stillness of the moonlit night. Miss Clavier glanced
swiftly round into the shadows of the copper beech that fell blackly
athwart the seat.

“You like frankness in your country,” she said. “Now I am, perhaps,
going to offend you, but I don’t mind if I do. I saw you talking a good
deal to Mr. Tony Palliser at Darsley and here to‐night.”

Nettie contrived to hide her astonishment, but she felt that another
thread was being placed in her hand.

“Well,” she said, “American young women are permitted to talk to gilt‐
edge Englishmen, and even to marry them now and then. It really isn’t
astonishing.”

“No,” said her companion. “Still, it would be a blunder for an American
girl who hadn’t seen many Englishmen to marry Tony Palliser.”

Nettie felt a thrill of pleasurable excitement, and her little show of
anger was very well assumed.

“Are you quite sure you ought to talk to me like that?” she said.

“Yes. You will understand what I mean when I tell you that I was Lucy
Davidson. I fancied some of the people here would have recognized me,
but it seems they haven’t.”

“Oh!” said Nettie sharply, and sat still, wondering what meaning she was
to attach to this since she had never heard of Lucy Davidson, until her
companion leaned forward a trifle.

“I have told nobody else, but it was not Bernard Appleby who came to
meet me at Northrop lodge,” she said.

Nettie’s gasp of astonishment was perfectly genuine this time, for
though the story Appleby had told her had been very vague in respect to
the part played by Lucy Davidson she had been able to supply the
deficiencies in it, and she was sure of her companion now.

“And you let them think—how could you?” she said with flashing eyes.

Miss Clavier was evidently almost as astonished as her listener, but she
had committed herself.

“It was too late to do any good by speaking when I heard they suspected
him—and I was just a little fond of Tony once,” she said. “Of course, he
wasn’t worth it—he never was—and that’s why I tried to warn you. You
made me feel you wanted to be kind to me.”

Nettie laughed a little, almost scornfully. “Now, I don’t know if that
was nice of you. If you only meant to punish Mr. Palliser it wasn’t.”

Miss Clavier’s face was faintly flushed all over now, but she regarded
her companion steadily. “I don’t quite know why I did it—but it wasn’t
altogether to make Tony smart,” she said. “It was, at least, a little
because I seemed to feel you were too good for him. Oh, I know I have
done a good deal of harm—and it’s a change to do the other thing now and
then. I don’t want Tony. Any one can have him and welcome—they’ll get a
very poor bargain, and I wouldn’t like you to think I meant to pluck
him—though that would have been easy.”

“No,” said Nettie, “I did not think that of you. What did you mean to do
with him?”

“I don’t know. To amuse myself by watching him wriggle, I think. It was
nice to feel I could frighten him horribly. If you had been like the
rest, and he had only shown me a little kindness, I fancy I would have
let him go. But he couldn’t do the right thing if it would cost him a
trifle—he hasn’t it in him; and he made me believe you meant to marry
him.”

“No,” said Nettie, with a faint ring in her voice. “The man I’m going to
marry is worth—several hundred Tony Pallisers. Still, I’m glad you told
me, and you’ll tell me the rest of the story.”

Miss Clavier sat still for at least a minute, and then obeying an
impulse told her tale. Her voice was also a little strained as she said,
“Clavier was bad—bad all through—and he left me before he died in
Melbourne; but though my father never knew it I was married to him all
the time. I found the—‘Madame’—a disadvantage.”

Then there was silence until a burst of applause greeted the conclusion
of the song; and while the two sat in the shadows Nettie Harding laid
her hand sympathetically on her companion’s arm.



XX — FOUND GUILTY


TWO or three weeks had passed since the concert on the Low Wood lawn,
and Thérèse Clavier had gone back into the obscurity she came from, when
Nettie Harding once more stood beside the effigy in Northrop church. It
was then late in the afternoon, and the little ancient building was
growing shadowy. Hester Earle and Violet Wayne were moving about the
aisle with bundles of wheat‐ears and streamers of ivy, for the harvest
thanksgiving was shortly to be celebrated, while the vicar stood waiting
their directions on the chancel steps with a great handful of crimson
gladioli.

Nettie, however, noticed none of them. She was lost in reflection, and
her eyes were fixed on the grim stone face. She had gazed at it often
with a vague sense of comprehension and a feeling that the contemplation
of it brought within her grasp the spirit of the chivalrous past.
Loyalty, she felt, was the predominative motive in the sculptured face,
though it bore the stamp of stress and weariness; and she stood very
still struggling with a half‐formed resolution as she gazed at it.

Hester’s voice rose softly from the aisle, and there was a patter of
feet and swish of draperies, but it was low, as though the girl who made
it felt the silence of the place. The door beside the organ was open
wide, and Nettie could hear a faint rustle of moving leaves, and the
sighing of a little warm wind about the church, while, lifting her head,
she caught a brief glimpse of the dusky beech woods and sunlit valley.
It was all very still, impressively quiet, and she felt the peace of it;
but it was not peace, but something born of strife and yet akin to it
her fancy strained after, and once more she seemed to hear the strident
crackle of riflery and the shouts of the Sin Verguenza. The green
English valley faded, and she saw in place of it the white walls of the
Cuban town rise against the dusky indigo. Then once more she could dimly
realize the calm that came of a high purpose, and was beyond and greater
than the peace of prosperity. She had seen it beneath the stress and
weariness in the faces of the marble knight and a living man.

Then with a little swift move of her shoulders she shook off the
fancies, and fell to considering the task which it seemed was laid
before her. She had made a friend of Bernard Appleby and that meant much
with her; while ever since she had heard Miss Clavier’s story the desire
to right him had been growing stronger, but she had unpleasant
misgivings. She felt the responsibility of breaking the smooth course of
other lives almost too great for her, and wondered vaguely whether if
she declared the truth in that sheltered land where nothing that was
startling or indecorous ever seemed to happen anybody would believe her.
She might even have kept silent had Violet Wayne been different, but
Nettie already entertained an affection that was largely respectful for
her, and determined that if she married Tony Palliser she should at
least do so knowing what kind of man he was. Once more, however, her
resolution almost failed her, and she glanced at the great glittering
angel in the west window with a sense of her presumption in venturing to
meddle with the great scheme of destiny. Still, Nettie was daring, and
turning suddenly she looked down into the stone face again.

“I think you would understand, and at least you would not be afraid.
Well, the man who is very like you shall have his rights,” she said.

The stillness seemed to grow more intense, the calm face more resolute,
while the spirit of the dead sculptor’s conception gripped the girl as
it had never done before. She felt that her duty was plain before her,
and that fears and misgivings must be trampled on. Then there was a step
behind her, and she saw Hester looking at her with a little smile.

“Were you talking to the effigy, Nettie?” she said.

“Yes,” said Nettie quietly. “I think I was. There is no reason you
shouldn’t laugh if you want to, but I seem to fancy that man understands
me. What you will not believe, however, is that he answered me.”

Hester appeared a trifle astonished, but she smiled again. “I saw you
turn and look at the figure in the west window,” she said. “Were you
holding communion with the angel too?”

“No,” said Nettie with a curious naive gravity. “I’m quite open to admit
I don’t know much about angels—I’ve only seen pictures of them. Still, I
sometimes think there’s a little of their nature in the hearts of men.
That man must have had it, and the Palliser who was killed in Africa had
it too. Of course, that’s not the kind of talk you would expect from an
American.”

Hester realized by the last trace of irony that Nettie did not desire to
pursue the topic, and looking round saw that the vicar had joined them
unobserved. He was a quiet man with an ascetic face, but there was a
little twinkle in his eyes.

“Yes,” he said. “I admit I overheard. It seems to me that Miss Harding’s
attitude is perfectly comprehensible.”

Hester laughed. “That,” she said, “is convincing, coming from you. In
the meanwhile I am positively thirsty, and tea will be waiting at Low
Wood. You may as well come over with us now since we expect you at
dinner.”

It was, however, half an hour later when they left the rectory and
walked through the fields to Low Wood with Tony, who had been waiting
them. Nettie laughed and talked to the vicar with her usual freedom, but
she was also sensible of a quiet resolution. Violet Wayne should know
the truth and Appleby’s name be cleared, but she was shrewd, and saw the
difficulty of attesting it convincingly. She was also very fair, and
decided that Tony must have an opportunity of defending himself or
admitting his offence. Now and then she felt her heart throbbing as she
wondered whether she would fail at her task, but she shook off her
misgivings, and it was only afterwards the vicar guessed at the struggle
that went on within his companion.

They were sitting about the little table on the lawn when an opportunity
was made for her, and the scene long remained impressed on Nettie’s
memory. The old house showed cool and gray between its wrappings of
creepers that were flecked with saffron now, while here and there a
tendril gleamed warm crimson against the stone. Its long shadow lay
black upon the velvet grass, and there were ruddy gleams from the
woodlands from which the yellow light was fading beyond the moss‐crusted
wall. Still, the river shone dazzlingly where it came rippling out of
the gloom of a copse, and a long row of windows blinked in the building
beside its bank.

Nettie noticed this vacantly, for it was Tony and Violet Wayne she was
looking at. The man lay with a curious languid gracefulness in his
chair, his straw hat on the back of his head and a smile on his lips,
though Nettie fancied that she saw care in his face. Violet sat erect
looking down the valley with thoughtful eyes, and though every line of
her figure suggested quiet composure it seemed to Nettie that her face
was a trifle too colorless, and that her big gray eyes lacked
brightness. She could almost fancy that the shadow of care which rested
on Tony had touched his sweetheart too. Opposite them sat the vicar, who
had, Nettie understood, been a close friend of the Pallisers, and Hester
Earle was busy with her spirit kettle close beside him. The latter
looked up suddenly.

“I can’t help thinking that the Americans are a somewhat inconsistent
people,” she said. “It is only a little while since Nettie fancied
herself a torpedo, and yet I found her explaining her sentiments to the
marble knight this afternoon.”

“Well,” said Nettie with a little smile, though she could feel her heart
beating, “I feel more like a torpedo than ever just now.”

Hester nodded. “That is more or less comprehensible,” she said. “A
torpedo is an essentially modern thing stored with potential activities
and likely to go off and startle everybody when they least expect it,
all of which is characteristically American. The marble knight—and I
fancy some people would include the angel—belongs to the past, to the
old knightly days when women were worshipped, men believed in saints and
guardian angels, and faith wrought miracles.”

The vicar glanced at Nettie as he said, “Extremes meet now and then.”

“Well,” said Nettie, “women are made much of in my country still, even
by impecunious Englishmen who claim descent from men who did their share
in those days of chivalry. That is, when they have money enough, but
just now I’m not going to be too prickly. You haven’t much voice,
Hester, but you sing that little jingly song about the fairies quite
prettily, and the notion it’s hung upon gets hold of me. I can feel it
better in Northrop church than anywhere. You know what I mean. There is
very little to keep us out of fairyland. You have but to touch with your
finger tips the ivory gate and golden!”

“If Hester understands your meaning I admit that it’s more than I do,”
said Tony.

“Still,” said Nettie naively, “I didn’t think you would. You have too
many possessions, and, you see, there are limitations in the song. You
might knock a long while at those ivory gates before they let you in.”

There was a little laughter, in which Tony joined, and the vicar said,
“Excellent! He deserved it. Please don’t stop. Miss Harding.”

“That’s not necessary,” said Hester. “Once Nettie gets started she
generally, as she would express it, goes straight through.”

“Yes,” said Nettie, “I quite often do. I’m not in the least afraid, like
you, of being thought sentimental. In fact, we are fond of telling
people what we think in my country. Still, I’m not sure about those
limitations. The gates should open to everybody, even business men and
heiresses—but I don’t want to go trespassing while the vicar’s here.”

The vicar nodded. “I claim you as an ally,” he said, “The idea you have
taken up is not, however, exactly a novel one.”

“Well,” said Nettie, “what I feel is this. The old loyal spirit is
living still—because it belongs to all time and can never die. It’s with
us now in these days of steam engines and magazine rifles. Those old‐
time men wore their labels—the monk’s girdle, the red‐cross shield, the
palmer’s shell, and some, according to the pictures, the nimbus too; but
can’t modern men, even those who play poker, which is a game of nerve as
well as chance, and smoke green cigars, be as good as they? Now, I don’t
like a man to be ostensibly puritanical and ascetic—unless, of course,
he’s a clergyman.”

There was a little laughter, and the vicar shook his head. “I’m afraid
they don’t all come under that category,” he said.

“Still, there are men who never did a mean thing or counted the cost
when they saw what was expected of them. Can’t one fancy their passing
the gates of that fairyland the easier because they are stained with the
dust of the strife, and reaching out towards communion with the spirits
of those old loyal folk who went before them—they, and the women they
believe in?”

There was a moment’s silence. Nettie’s face was a trifle flushed, and a
faint gleam showed in Violet Wayne’s gray eyes.

“I think,” said the vicar reflectively, “you might go further and say—
with all angels and archangels! We will take it that fairyland is only a
symbol.”

Tony, however, laughed indolently. “One would feel tempted to wonder
whether there are many men who never did a mean thing.”

A curious anger came upon Nettie. Tony Palliser seemed the embodiment of
all that her simple strenuous nature despised, and he who had everything
had taken from a better man the blameless name which was his one
possession. He sat before her honored and prosperous, while she
remembered Appleby’s weariness and rags, and obeyed the impulse that
drove her to unmask him. Her answer was coldly incisive.

“There are. You know one of them,” she said.

“No,” said Tony, and there was a trace of anxiety in his glance, “I am
not sure that I do, though I have some passable friends.”

“Well,” said Nettie, “I certainly met one, and he did not wear a label.
In fact, he was a smuggler of rifles and a leader of the Shameless
Legion, but he was very loyal to his comrades, and when he was wounded
and weary with battle he risked and lost a good deal to take care of a
woman who had no claim on him. She had, he felt, been committed to his
trust, and he would have been torn to pieces before he failed in it.
That was why the knight’s face reminded me of his—but I have told you
about him already.”

Tony’s face expressed relief, and Nettie sat silent a moment until the
vicar said, “It was a generous impulse, but it may have been a momentary
one, while in the crusader’s case there must have been a sustaining
purpose, and a great abnegation, a leaving of lands and possessions he
might never regain.”

Nettie realized that her task must be undertaken now, and wondered that
she felt so quietly and almost mercilessly collected.

“Still,” she said, “the man I mentioned did as much—not to win fame or a
pardon for his sins, but to save a comrade who was not worthy of the
sacrifice. You would like me to tell you about it?”

Hester smiled in languid approbation, and the vicar’s face showed his
interest; but Tony sat very still, with the fingers of one hand
quivering a little, and Violet’s eyes seemed curiously grave as she
fixed them upon the girl.

“Then,” said Nettie, “I will try, though it isn’t exactly a pleasant
story. There was a man in England who involved himself with a girl whom,
because of your notions in this country, he could not marry. It was only
a flirtation, but the girl’s father made the most of it, and raised
trouble for the man when he wanted to marry a woman of his own degree.
He had done nothing wrong as yet, but he was weak—so he sent his friend
to bluff off the man who had been squeezing money out of him.”

Tony made a little abrupt movement, and a tinge of gray showed in his
cheek, but it passed unnoticed by all save Nettie Harding. The vicar was
watching her with a curious intentness, and there was apprehension in
Violet’s face, while Hester gazed steadily at Nettie with growing
astonishment.

“It was at night the friend met the blackmailer,” she said. “There was
an altercation, and then a struggle. Still, the blackmailer was not
seriously hurt, and the other man saw him walk away. It was not until
next day they found he had fallen into a river from the bridge.”

She stopped a moment, and Violet turned to her, very white in face, with
a great horror in her eyes.

“You venture to tell me this?” she said.

“Yes,” said Nettie, glancing at Tony. “It hurts me, but it’s necessary.
If you do not believe me ask the man who sent his friend to meet the man
he dared not face.”

There was a sound that suggested a gasp, and a dress rustled softly as
Violet, moving a little, closed one hand, while Tony’s face showed gray
and drawn as he leaned forward in his chair. It was, however, the vicar
who broke the tense silence.

“Since you have told us so much, Miss Harding, I must ask you to go on,”
he said.

“Then,” said Nettie, “the friend gave up everything, and took the blame
that his comrade might marry the woman he loved, He went to America—and
when he comes back there from Cuba we will find room for him.”

“I think,” said the vicar very slowly, “in order to make quite sure one
of us should ask you for his name.”

Nettie glanced at Violet, who made a little sign.

“It was Bernard Appleby,” she said.

Then Violet turned to Tony, and her voice, which was low and strained,
sent a little thrill through the listeners.

“Speak!” she said. “Tony, you can, you must, controvert it!”

Tony rose very slowly to his feet, and the courage of desperation was
his. “I can’t. Miss Harding is quite correct,” he said. “I must ask the
rest to leave us. This affair is ours—mine and Violet’s only, you see.”

“He is right,” said the vicar, rising. “I will ask you to let the story
go no further in the meanwhile, Miss Harding. There is, I think, only
one thing Mr. Palliser can do, but the responsibility is his.”

The others went away with him, and for a moment or two Violet and Tony
stood face to face. Then when the man would have spoken the girl turned
from him with a little gesture of repulsion.

“No,” she said faintly. “It is too horrible. I can bear nothing further
now.”

She swept away from him, and Tony, standing rigidly still with hands
clenched, let her go. Then he turned and strode with bent head across
the lawn.

Five minutes later Hester Earle, entering one of the rooms quietly with
the vicar, found Nettie lying in a chair and apparently shivering. She
looked up when she saw them, and then turned her head away.

“Oh, I know you don’t want to talk to me!” she said. “Still, though I
feel most horribly mean, I did it because I had to.”

“Yes,” said the vicar gently, “I think I understand. It must have cost
you a good deal—and I fancy you were warranted.”

“Then go away, both of you, and leave me alone,” said Nettie faintly.

They turned away, and met Violet Wayne in the hall. She made a little
gesture when she saw their faces, as though to warn them from any
expression of sympathy.

“You will excuse me, Hester,” she said very quietly. “I think I would
sooner walk home alone. I will not ask you to remember that what you
heard concerns only Tony and me.”

Then she turned and left them, walking slowly, and holding herself very
straight with an effort.



XXI — TONY’S DECISION


TONY PALLISER walked home to Northrop, and was glad when he reached it,
for he found even the slight physical effort difficult. He felt half‐
dazed, and brushed past two of his tenants who greeted him on the road
without recognizing them. He did not remember whether he offered any
explanation as to why he had not remained at Low Wood, as he had
purposed, but by and by he found himself sitting in Godfrey Palliser’s
chair at the head of the great dinner‐table. The big candles were
lighted, for the evenings were drawing in, and as he vacantly noticed
the glitter of the light on the glass and silver he remembered the
opportunity that had been given him there. He had let it pass, and now
another had spoken.

Still, as he strove to eat because he felt the servants’ eyes upon him
it was the loneliness of the shadowy hall that most troubled him. He had
noticed it often since Godfrey Palliser died, for Tony was not fond of
his own company; but he had pictured Violet Wayne sitting opposite him
then, and now it was borne in upon him that she would never smile at him
across his table. As yet he scarcely realized the depth of his
humiliation, for it was the result of it which must be faced, and not
the thing itself that filled him with horror.

It was a relief when somebody took his plate away, and he went out with
a cigar he did not remember lighting into the cool night air and flung
himself down in a seat on the terrace. There was no moon in the sky, but
the stars were clear, and—for the night was still—a chilly dampness
settled on everything. He felt it pleasantly cold upon his skin, and lay
still huddled limply in the garden chair, trying to realize the
position, but found the attempt almost useless, for his thoughts had no
cohesion. It was, however, evident that the love of the woman he desired
could never be his. She had given him her promise, and he fancied that
if he insisted she would redeem it, for he vaguely understood her sense
of responsibility; but it was evident that he could not insist, and with
the courage of desperation he nerved himself to face the fact that he
must let her go. He could think of nothing else, for he was still
bewildered by the blow, and could only realize what had been taken from
him.

He did not know how long he lay there, but it was very late when he rose
with a little shiver and went back into the hall, where he wrote a note.

“Tell John to ride over with that early to‐morrow morning, and ask Miss
Wayne for an answer,” he said to the servant, who wondered at his face,
and then walked slowly with hopelessness in his very pose towards his
room, where, as it happened, he slept heavily until late next morning.

The next day, however, brought him further misery, for his perceptions
were clearer now, and the difficulties he must meet more apparent, while
he had also a horrible suspense to struggle with when the man he had
sent with the note brought him an answer. It was very brief: “I will try
to see you this evening.”

Somehow the day dragged through, and Tony was glad when at last he left
Northrop as darkness came, for the uncertainty was growing
insupportable. It was, however, Mrs. Wayne who greeted him when he
reached her house, and she looked at him gravely without shaking hands.

“Yes,” she said, answering his unspoken question, “Violet has told me,
and it is she who must decide. She will come down in a minute or two.”

Tony was weak, but he had now the courage of hopelessness, and he met
the lady’s eyes.

“I will not try to influence her, madam, and can only thank you for
allowing me to speak to her,” he said.

Mrs. Wayne made no answer, but opened the door of a lighted room, and
Tony, who sat down, waited for what seemed an interminable time until
Violet came in. There was a curious hardness in her eyes, and her face
was pale, so pale that it had an ivory gleam in the soft light, which
the bronzy clusters of warm‐tinted hair emphasized, but she was dressed
with more than her accustomed taste, and held herself very straight.
Tony rose when he saw her.

“I was almost afraid you would not see me,” he said.

The girl sank into the chair he drew out, and he stood in front of her,
with the hand he rested on the table trembling a little.

“I am not sure that it was wise,” she said. “In a case like this one can
only say nothing—or too much.”

“I could bear the latter more easily,” said Tony. “You know what I have
done. We must have an understanding now.”

His voice was hoarse, but it was even, and Violet Wayne regarded him
with dispassionate interest. Tony, it seemed, had risen in his
desperation, and his face was, as she had never seen it, set and almost
grim.

“Then,” she said quietly, “you have no excuse to make—nothing to urge in
extenuation?”

“No. It is all true. There was only my love for you—and you must feel
that a humiliation now.”

Violet Wayne made a little gesture of weariness. “Tony,” she said, “I
don’t quite catch your meaning, and we must speak plainly to‐night.”

“Well,” said the man, in a voice that was curiously expressionless, “you
heard Miss Harding’s story. She was very fair—about Lucy Davidson—but
you can realize how difficult it is for me to go into that?”

A trace of color crept into Violet Wayne’s face, but her eyes were fixed
upon her companion as she said slowly, “Still, I think it is necessary.”

“Then I gave the girl a brooch—and once or twice talked nonsense with
her—but it went no further. I can only give you my word for that—and
nobody would blame you if you could not credit it. Her father did not,
and I could not let you hear the story he built up.”

Violet’s face was faintly flushed with anger now. “That,” she said, “is
the one thing I could never forgive you, Tony. I know it is a trifle by
comparison, but it hurts the most, and would have killed the confidence
that would have drawn us together. You were afraid I would not believe
you?”

“Yes, I was afraid.”

The girl’s anger seemed to melt away, and left her face pale again,
while it was with a curious wistfulness she answered him.

“I evidently expected too much, but if you had told me I would have
believed you had everybody testified your guilt,” she said. “Can’t you
understand that love without confidence is a worthless thing—and that
had you trusted me I would have borne any suspicion or obloquy with
you?”

Her voice broke, but there was once more a faintly scornful ring in it
when after a few moments’ silence she spoke again. “But you were afraid—
afraid to trust me! Oh, it is almost unendurable!”

Tony stood still looking at her, with his heart throbbing painfully and
vague wonder in his eyes. Then he moved forward with swift impulsiveness
as though he would have flung himself upon his knees beside her chair,
but she checked him with a gesture. Still, he stooped and laid a
quivering hand upon her shoulder.

“I might have known,” he said. “If I had had the courage you would have
saved me from everything, but is it too late now? I did it because I
loved you, Violet—and you will give me the chance to redeem myself. You
can’t destroy my last hope by casting me off?”

The girl looked up at him wearily. “A little more restraint, Tony. What
has been done can never be undone—and I want to face the position
quietly. Last night I struggled with the horror and bitterness of it,
and one needs calmness now. We can never reopen the subject again.”

Tony moved away from her, and once more leaned upon the table. His
susceptibilities were curiously dulled, but still her coldness stung him
like the lash of a whip, for he could see the contempt beneath it and
could more easily have borne scathing reproaches.

“Well,” he said very slowly, “nothing can happen to me that I have not
deserved. I make no defence.”

He saw the little gleam in the girl’s eyes, and there was something in
her face which suggested faint approbation.

“I promised to marry you—and that carries an obligation, but you
destroyed the love I had for you,” she said.

“It would be a very hard thing, but I can give you that promise back. I
haven’t fallen quite so far that I would take you when you have only
contempt for me. I have done wrong, but there may be a faint chance left
me, in spite of my worthlessness. Is it quite out of the question that I
should redeem the past?”

Violet sat motionless for the space of several minutes, and Tony felt
the throbbing of his heart as he watched her. Then she said very slowly,
“I cannot see my duty—and so it would be presumption to show you yours,
but I am not the person you have wronged most grievously.”

“No. You mean Bernard Appleby? Well, it would be almost too much to
expect you to believe in me again; but I can, at least, show you I am
sorry for what I have done—and if I brought him back—”

The girl slowly shook her head. “I can make no promise now,” she said.

“Still, you would wish me to make it right with him?” and Tony stood
still looking at her with a faint gleam of hope in his eyes.

“Not because I wish it, Tony. Can’t you realize that you must make him
reparation?”

Tony slowly straightened himself, but his face was quietly resolute.
“Yes,” he said. “I wonder if Miss Harding will tell me where he is? I am
going to Cuba. Of course, it can never give me back your esteem. That I
threw away—but perhaps as the days go by you will not think of me so
bitterly. You will try? That is all I can ask for in the meanwhile.”

Violet rose, outwardly very calm and cold, though her heart was
throbbing painfully. There was something in the man’s face she had never
seen there before, and though he spoke very quietly the little thrill in
his voice was not without its effect on her.

“I think Miss Harding is here now,” she said. “She asked if she might
come, and I fancied I heard her voice a little while ago, but I do not
know if she will tell you. I am glad you are going, Tony.”

Tony looked down on her gravely, with a curious wistfulness in his eyes,
and then, before she quite grasped his intentions, laid his hands on her
shoulders and kissed her cheeks.

“My only excuse is that I may never see you again,” he said. “If Miss
Harding will not tell me I will find him myself. I leave for London to‐
morrow, and go straight to Havana. I will not come back to England
unless Bernard Appleby comes with me.”

He turned abruptly, as though he feared his resolution might fail him,
and it was not until Violet heard the door swing to behind him that she
realized she was alone. A minute or two later he was shown into a room
where Hester Earle sat with Nettie Harding, and smiled a little when he
saw the latter’s heightened color.

“I have come to ask you a favor, Miss Harding,” he said. “I want you to
tell me where to find Bernard Appleby.”

“Why?” said the girl chillingly.

Tony made a little deprecatory gesture. “I deserve your suspicions, but
I think you can trust me,” he said. “I want to repair the wrong I did
him, and bring him back to England.”

Nettie looked at him steadily, though her face was flushed. “I don’t
know that he will come,” she said. “He has a good deal to do there—and
he has good friends in America.”

Tony smiled curiously. “I was not asking you to do Appleby a kindness. I
was thinking of myself.”

Nettie appeared to understand him, for she took out a card and scribbled
across it.

“I am sorry—and I think I know what you mean,” she said as she handed it
him. “If my father is in Cuba now—and I think he is—he will tell you
just what to do.”

Tony thanked her gravely, and with a little formal goodbye, which
included Hester Earle, went out of the room. In another minute they
heard the outer door close behind him, and Nettie’s color grew a trifle
deeper as she glanced at her companion.

“I couldn’t help it, but I’m sorry I wasn’t quite sure of him now,” she
said. “There’s a great difference in that man since yesterday. He has
had a rough shaking up, but it has brought all that’s good in him up on
top.”

Hester nodded. “There is a good deal that’s very nice at least in Tony,”
she said. “It is Violet I am most sorry for. She believed in him. I
wouldn’t worry her just yet, Nettie.”

Violet Wayne in the meanwhile lay very still in her chair. The blow had
blunted her susceptibilities, too, and the pain was less intense. She
felt numb and passionless, and only realized that the man she had
striven to believe in had never existed. The actual Tony had been shown
to her, and it was with difficulty she had overcome the sense of disgust
and horror which accompanied the revelation. Still, the evident
sincerity of his desire to make reparation had touched her, and she was
sensible of a curious pity for him. The tenderness was, however, alloyed
with contempt, and she wondered vaguely whether that would pass with
time. In the meanwhile she was glad he was going to Cuba, for she would
be more sure of herself, and where her duty lay, when he came back with
his task accomplished, though she realized with a curious unconcern that
she might never see him again. Then there was a little tapping at the
door, and it was almost a relief to her when Nettie Harding came in.

“I feel horribly mean, and want to ask you to forgive me because I am
going away in a day or two,” she said. “Still, I felt I had to tell that
story, and if it was necessary I think I would tell it again. I knew it
would hurt you, but I couldn’t help it.”

Violet smiled a trifle wearily. “It was a little painful. One can’t hide
it. Still, I don’t think anybody would blame you.”

Nettie came forward and seized her hands impulsively. “My dear,” she
said, “it would almost have killed me, and I’m ever so sorry—but what
could I do? And you know you told me when I tried to ask you that it was
better to know the truth. Can’t you understand that if it was only
because you didn’t know what kind of man he was I had to tell you?”

“And that was your only reason?”

“No. There was the other man who took the blame! I didn’t tell you, but
the insurrection has broken out around Santa Marta where he is again,
and he has left all he had and gone back to his comrades because he
promised he would when they wanted him, though he knew my father would
have made him rich if he had stayed with him. When I thought of him,
ragged, hungry, and thirsty, and perhaps wounded, too, while Tony
Palliser had everything, I could not sit still and say nothing.”

Violet’s gaze grew steadier as she said, “What is that man to you?”

“Nothing. Only a friend. Oh, of course, you can’t understand, but a girl
in America can be quite fond of a man without falling in love with him.
Bernard Appleby never tried even the mildest flirtation with me, and
he’d have been sorry if he had. He’s nice, and makes one trust him, but
he’s ’way behind the man I’m going to marry.”

Her tone carried conviction with it, and Violet made a little gesture.
“Yes,” she said slowly, “it is not astonishing that you believe in him.”

Then Nettie yielded to impulse, and made a venture “There was nothing
more,” she said reflectively. “If I had thrown myself and my money at
his feet he wouldn’t have had me. I think, though he never told me,
there was somebody in England he would always remember.”

The big gray eyes were perfectly steady, but a faint trace of color
showed in Violet’s cheek.

“Well,” she said slowly, “Tony is going out to find him.”

Nettie felt a little thrill at what she had noticed, but she rose and,
somewhat to her companion’s astonishment, kissed her.

“I’ll feel happier now I know you have forgiven me,” she said.

She had gone in another minute, and Violet Wayne lay still with half‐
closed eyes and a weary face, while Tony drove home up the Northrop
valley with a faint hope in his heart.

It was about the same hour next day when he laid several papers down on
the table at which he sat in lawyer Craythorne’s office with a little
smile of content.

“It’s all straight now and I’m glad,” he said. “I can make Dane Cop over
to Appleby because it never was an integral part of the estate, and it
is worth a good deal to anybody now. It should, as you know, have been
his in any case, while in the event of my dying unmarried he will get a
share of the other property. I would have made it more only that Esmond
Palliser has nearer claim.”

Craythorne folded the will just signed. “It is wise to take precautions,
but one would certainly expect you to marry,” he said.

Tony rose, and smiled curiously as he straightened himself. “Well,” he
said, “one can never be sure of anything—and, you see, I am going to
Cuba to‐morrow. Travelling there must be a trifle risky just now. Still,
I fancy I shall find Appleby.”



XXII — MORALES MAKES A PROPOSAL


THE night was clear and hot when Appleby sat with Harper in the Café
Salamanca looking out upon the plaza at Santa Marta. The big room was
open‐fronted, and only divided from the pavement by a row of wooden
pillars and a balustrade. It was also, as usual, crowded with citizens
who assembled there in the evening to discuss politics and the progress
of the campaign, which accounted for the fact that Appleby sat quietly
in a corner with a little glass of wine on the table in front of him. He
realized it was highly desirable that he should obtain some insight into
what was going on, for there was then a growing distrust of American
imperialism which was perhaps not altogether unwarranted among the Cuban
loyalists. Aliens were being watched with a jealous eye, and Appleby,
who had already had difficulties with the petty officials, was aware
that there was little the Administration contemplated that was not known
in the cafés. Most men of Iberian extraction are apt at intrigue, and
since the journals for excellent reasons usually maintained a discreet
reticence popular discontent and factional bitterness found another
vent.

It seemed to him that there was a vague expectancy and uneasiness upon
everybody that evening, for the voices were lower than usual, and here
and there a group sat silent turning over the latest journals from
Spain, though at times a man would express himself with almost
passionate vehemence and then stop abruptly, as though uncertain of his
audience. It was known that American warships had been sighted on the
Cuban coast, and one great vessel was even then lying in Havana harbor,
and the men’s dark eyes grew suspicious as they asked what it foretided.
Appleby heard enough to convince him that if he hoped to carry on the
business of the hacienda considerable discretion would be necessary, and
then turned his eyes upon the plaza.

The cazadores’ band was playing there, and the patter of feet, swish of
light dresses, jingle of steel, and murmur of voices broke through the
music, for the citizens were as usual taking their evening promenade
with their wives and daughters. The plaza was well lighted, and the
mixture of broadcloth, uniform, white duck, and diaphanous draperies
caught the eye; and Appleby, who had artistic perceptions, found
pleasure in watching the concourse stream through the light that shone
out from the café. Grave merchant, portly señora draped in black, with
powdered face, and slim, olive‐cheeked señorita went by, smiling not
infrequently over a lifted fan at an officer of cazadores with clinking
sword, or a youthful exquisite from Havana in costly hat of Panama and
toothpick‐pointed shoes. Still, even where the press was thickest there
was no jostling, for the assembly was good‐humored and characterized by
a distinguished courtesy. The men were Latins, and they could take their
pleasure unconcernedly, though the land lay desolate and strewn with
ashes only a few leagues away. Santa Marta was, for the most part,
loyal, and, in spite of official corruption, and not infrequent abuse of
authority, Spanish domination produced at least an outward decorum and
sense of security in the tropics.

By and by the music stopped, and a murmur seemed to run round the plaza.
It grew louder, and there was a clamor in one of the streets, then a
shout and a bewildering hum of voices broke out. The men in the café
rose to their feet, but Appleby, who laid his hand on Harper warningly,
sat still. Something was evidently happening, and he knew the uncertain
temper of the Latins. Then a man who pushed through the crowd sprang
into the café flourishing what appeared to be a Havana journal and was
seized by those about the door. A sudden tense silence, which was
heightened by the clamor outside, followed the babel of questions, while
one of the men who had grasped the paper opened it. Then he flung
disjointed sentences at the rest in a voice which was hoarse with
passion and apprehension.

“The American warship sunk at Havana with all her crew!” he said. “No, a
few, it seems, were saved. American suggestions that she was destroyed
by a torpedo insulting to Spain. It is believed to be an explosion in
the magazine. There will be demands for compensation. Attitude of the
Americans unreasonable.”

[Illustration: “THE BIG GAUNT AMERICAN AND SLIM LATIN REELED THROUGH THE
CAFÉ.”]

Harper rose up suddenly, a tall, commanding figure, with his face very
grim, and brought a great fist crashing down upon the table.

“Good Lord!” he said hoarsely. “They’ve sunk the ‘Maine’!”

Then striding forward he rent half of the journal from the man who held
it. He thrust it upon Appleby, who followed him, and his face was almost
gray with anger as he waved the rest aside.

“Read it! I can’t trust my eyes,” he said.

Appleby took the journal, and there was once more silence in the café,
for Harper stood with his big hand clenched on the neck of a heavy
decanter while his comrade read aloud in Castilian. The account was
brief, and had evidently been written tactfully, but there were mixed
with its expression of regret vague hints that in case of unwarranted
American demands the Administration would remember what was due to
Spanish dignity.

“It’s horrible, Harper! Still, it must have been an accident,” he said.

Harper stood very straight, with a blaze in his eyes and the veins on
his forehead swelling.

“No,” he said, and his voice rang through the café, so that men swung
round and stared at him outside. “The devils sunk her. By the Lord,
we’ll whip them off the earth!”

He spoke in English, but his voice and attitude were significant, and a
slim young officer of cazadores rose up at a table close beside him, and
glanced at the rest.

“We shall know how to answer the insolence of these Americans, señores,”
he said, and held up his wine‐glass as he turned to Harper. “It is
demanded that you join us—Viva la España!”

The table went over, and the glass fell in shivers as Harper sprang.
Next moment a frantic clamor broke out, and he had the officer by the
waist and arm. A brown hand clutched at the sword, but dropped inert
again, and the big gaunt American and slim Latin reeled through the
café, overturning seats and tables as they went. Then they fell with a
crash against the balustrade, and, though even Appleby could not quite
understand how his comrade accomplished it, the officer of cazadores was
swung from his feet, and went down full‐length upon the pavement
outside. A roar went up from the crowd, but while Appleby, who set his
lips, wondered what the result of Harper’s folly would be, two of the
lights went out suddenly, and a hand touched his arm.

“It is not advisable to stay here,” a low voice said. “There is a door
at the back. Come with me.”

The place was almost dark now, and Appleby contrived to seize Harper’s
shoulder and drag him back as the crowd poured in from the plaza. Once
more somebody touched him, and a man overturned a larger table, which
brought down three or four of those who made at them most fiercely,
while in another moment or two he found himself, still clutching Harper,
in a shadowy calle behind the café. He turned to thank the two men he
saw beside him, but one ran up the street, and the other, slipping back
into the café, slammed the door in his face. Harper stared at him,
gasping.

“Let go of me. I’m going back to kill two or three of them,” he said.

Appleby thrust him forward into the street. “You are not while I can
hold you,” he said. “It seems to me you have done quite enough!”

Harper turned and glared at him, but Appleby still clutched his shoulder
resolutely, and his face relaxed. “Well,” he said more calmly, “I guess
I’ve hurt more than the feelings of one of them. What did that fellow
shove us out for, anyway?”

“I don’t know,” said Appleby. “Perhaps he was afraid of their wrecking
the café, or he didn’t want us hurt. We seem to have more friends than
we are aware of in Santa Marta. It is apparently convenient at times to
be connected with the Sin Verguenza.”

Harper, who shook off his anger, followed him down the street, but he
stopped again when they crossed another one that led back to the plaza.
They could see the wide opening, with the white walls that hemmed it in
cutting against the soft indigo of the sky, and hear the confused
murmurs that rose out of it. Then there was a crash of music that rang,
as it were, exultantly across the shadowy town until a tumultuous roar
of voices drowned the Royal March of Spain.

Harper clenched one hand. “You hear them!” he said. “Well, they’ll get
their answer by and by, and they’re not going to feel like shouting when
we’re through with them.”

Appleby said nothing. He understood the hot Castilian temperament, and
the outburst of sentiment was comprehensible, but the news of the
disaster had also sent a chill of horror and suspicion through him.
Still, he laid his hand with a restraining grasp on Harper’s arm, and
they went on silently to the “Four Nations,” where they had left the
vehicle in which they had driven out from the hacienda.

It was, somewhat to Appleby’s astonishment, next evening before they
heard anything more of the affair, and then, as he sat in the big barely
furnished general room at San Cristoval, Pancho, the major‐domo, came up
to say that the Colonel Morales was waiting below. Appleby bade him
bring out cigars and wine, and rose from his seat when Morales came in.
He shook hands urbanely, unbuckled his sword, and laid his kepi on the
table, and then sat down with an expression of concern in his olive face
which Appleby fancied was assumed. It was then about eight o’clock in
the evening, and had been dark two hours, but it was very hot, and the
door and window lattices which opened on the veranda had been flung
wide. There was, however, no moon, and black shadows closed in upon the
scanty strip of light that shone outside.

“I have come as a friend on a somewhat delicate business,” said Morales,
pouring out a glass of wine. “The affair is, as you will realize, a
serious one.”

Appleby, who fancied he understood his man, smiled. “I scarcely think it
is. Nobody attaches much importance to a trifling dispute in a café. One
has also to make allowances in moments of political excitement.”

“It is not a trifle brutally to assault a Spanish officer, as you would
have discovered had I not held back the order for your friend’s arrest,”
said Morales dryly.

“Still, one would scarcely fancy the officer in question would wish
everybody to hear of it. He had, if I remember correctly, his sword with
him. I am only suggesting this because it seems to me that in his case I
would prefer the affair arranged quietly.”

The color appeared to grow a trifle warmer in Morales’ cheek, and there
was a faint sparkle in his eyes, but though it seemed to cost him an
effort he smiled.

“You have, as I surmised, considerable discretion,” he said. “Well, I
will admit that the view I urged upon the Teniente Pinillo much
resembled yours. In fact, it is conceivable that he would be willing to
entertain any honorable amend your comrade should think fit to make
him.”

Appleby decided that he would gain nothing by showing any special
eagerness to straighten out the difficulty, since he had reasons for
believing that it was not mere friendliness which had brought Morales
there.

“Of course, that is the sensible view,” he said. “Still, knowing the
delicate pride of your countrymen, I am a trifle astonished that the
Teniente Pinillo proved so amenable to reason.”

A little grim twinkle crept into Morales’ eyes. “It was at my
suggestion. When I venture to make a recommendation it is apt to prove
convincing.”

Appleby knew that this was the case, for the little olive‐faced soldier
was more dreaded in that country than the Sin Verguenza. He also felt
that it was not without a reason the dark eyes were fixed upon him
searchingly.

“That is not astonishing,” he said. “Well, I fancy the one I intend to
make will also be considered by the Señor Harper. I will send for him by
and by.”

Morales sat still a minute or two fingering his cigar, with his back to
the window, and the light upon his face. Appleby had foreseen this when
he drew out a chair for him, but he could himself follow the stream of
light that shone out across the veranda, and fancied that a shadowy
object was crouching just outside it. His ears were also keen, and he
had once or twice caught an almost imperceptible sound. Then Morales
turned to him.

“Your comrade was concerned in another affair which cannot be arranged
so easily,” he said. “It is not so very long ago since he was seen
carrying arms in the Alturas Pass.”

It was only by a strenuous effort that Appleby sat very still, and
strove to keep his face expressionless. “That is your contention!” he
said. “You do not expect me to admit it?”

The two men looked at each other steadily for almost a minute, and then
Morales smiled. “It is of no importance. Here are no witnesses,” he
said. “He had, however, a companion, Señor Appleby.”

Appleby had expected this, and was prepared. He was also by no means as
sure as Morales seemed to be that there were no witnesses, but the
uncertainty on that point did not trouble him. He had a quiet confidence
in Pancho, and the only men the latter allowed near the house had,
Appleby felt certain, at least a suspicion of his connection with the
Sin Verguenza. He listened intently, and though everything seemed very
still, again fancied he heard a very faint sound on the veranda.

“How long have you known this?” he said.

“Since you came to the hacienda, I think,” said Morales dryly. “It was a
very poor compliment you paid me when you fancied that you had deceived
me.”

“Then would it be too much to ask exactly how much you know?”

Morales laughed. “I will put my cards on the table. There was the attack
on Santa Marta, the affair at Alturas, and the escape of a prisoner the
night of the Alcalde’s ball. There are, I think, other counts one could
urge against you, but those I have mentioned would be sufficient.”

Appleby decided to make an experiment. “It seems to me,” he said, “that
so much knowledge is apt to prove dangerous to the man who possesses
it.”

“You mean—”

“I have but to raise my voice, and you would find it difficult to get
out of the hacienda San Cristoval alive.”

It was evident that the little officer’s nerves were good, for he smile
contemptuously.

“That difficulty has been provided against,” he said. “There are two or
three files of infantry not very far away, my friend, and two of my
officers have precise instructions as to what o do in case I am absent a
suspicious time.”

Appleby laughed, for, though he fancied there was something behind it,
the man’s frankness was not without its effect on him. His fearlessness
he took as a matter of course, for it was not without a reason Morales
bore the title of the Sword.

“Then,” he said, “we come to the question what do you want from me?”

“As a commencement it would be pleasanter to mention what I can offer
you, and that would be employment on special service by the
Administration at a reasonable remuneration. I may admit that you have
abilities. Still, should you prefer it, you could be sent to the coast
with a permit that would take you safely out of Cuba instead. You are
here to make money, which is, however, scarce in Cuba just now, and the
revolution is no affair of yours.”

“Well,” said Appleby, “we will come back to my question.”

“Then I ask very little. Certain papers of the Senor Harding’s which are
in your possession, and the perusal of the communications that pass
through your hands.”

Appleby was glad he had his back to the light, for he felt his face grow
hot, but, though it cost him an effort, he maintained an outward
tranquillity, and sat still, rolling in his fingers the cigar he took
up. Morales’ purpose was plain to him. He was known to be a loyal
soldier, but he was also a man with an insatiable greed, and Appleby was
aware that Harding, perhaps forecasting an American occupation, had been
making overtures to the insurgents. Indeed, though Harding had never
entirely taken him into his confidence, he had seen enough to convince
him that he was playing a very risky game. Morales, it seemed, suspected
it, and apparently desired sufficient proof to bring Harding within his
grasp, which, Appleby surmised, would only relax when the American had
been largely denuded of his possessions. Then another thought flashed
into his mind. He had once or twice seen Morales’ dark eyes fixed on
Nettie, and knew that he was one who usually obtained what he set his
heart upon, while Harding was on his way to Cuba even then. If he proved
obdurate, and Morales had anything to support his demands with, it might
go hard with him.

This was plain to Appleby, though his perceptions were somewhat blunted
by the anger he felt. Morales’ suggestion that he was capable of such
treachery stung him to the quick, but he was quite aware that the retort
incisive would be puerile folly, and that if he was to prove he realized
his obligation to Harding he must proceed circumspectly. As affairs
stood just then Morales held him beneath his thumb.

“It is a proposal that must have consideration. There are difficulties,”
he said, and hoped his voice did not betray him.

“I think,” said Morales dryly, “that haste would be advisable.”

“Still, I must have until this time to‐morrow.”

Morales rose, put on his kepi, and buckled on his sword. Then he turned
to Appleby with a little significant smile.

“Until then, though it is quite unnecessary,” he said. “I think a very
few minutes’ reflection will convince you that my proposal should be
acceded to. In that case you will find me at the cuartel any time to‐
morrow.”

Appleby went out with him, and as they descended the stairway the
officer stopped.

“I fancy I heard somebody in the shadows yonder,” he said.

“Yes,” said Appleby dryly, raising his voice a trifle, “it is quite
likely that somebody is there. In this country one takes precautions.
You, however, have my word that in your case there is no necessity for
apprehension.”

Morales laughed a little. “It is well that I took mine, but I will ask
you for your company as far as the carretera, Señor Appleby. One does
not attach too much importance even to the word of a gentleman just
now.”

They walked through the dusky cane together, and parted with punctilious
salutations when they reached the dim white road. Then Appleby went back
to the house, and met Harper at the foot of the stairway.

“Colonel Morales came to demand an apology from you, and I promised him
that you would make it,” he said.

Harper seemed hoarse with anger. “I could scarcely keep my hands off him
as it was. It would have pleased me to pound the life out of him.”

“Well,” said Appleby dryly, “I scarcely think it will be necessary to
make the apology now, but I can’t tell you anything more until to‐
morrow. There is a good deal I must think over.”

He went up the stairway, and sat for at least an hour staring straight
before him with an unlighted cigar in his hand. Then he rose with a
little weary smile, and tapped a suspended strip of tin, which rang
dissonantly until the major‐domo came in.

“You know where Don Maccario is?” he said.

Pancho’s eyes twinkled. “I think I could find him.”

“Then remember what I tell you,” said Appleby, who laid his hand on the
man’s shoulder, spoke softly and rapidly, until the latter nodded.

“With permission, I will give the message to three other men who can be
trusted and start at once,” he said.

“Is it necessary?” said Appleby, with a faint trace of astonishment.

Pancho smiled significantly. “I think it is,” he said. “Morales makes
certain. He leaves nothing to chance.”



XXIII — APPLEBY TAKES A RISK


IT was early next morning when Appleby and Harper sat at breakfast on
the veranda. The white wall across the patio already shone dazzlingly
against a strip of intense blue, and a patch of brightness grew broader
across the veranda, but it was pleasantly cool as yet. From beyond the
flat roof there rose the rasping thud of machetes swinging amidst the
cane and the musical clink of hoes, with the dull rumble of the crushing
machinery as an undertone.

Appleby had apparently not slept very well, for there was weariness in
his face, and he lay a trifle more limply than usual in his chair, with
a morsel of bread and a very little cup of bitter black coffee in front
of him, for in Spanish countries the regular breakfast is served later
in the morning. Harper seemed to notice the absence of the major‐domo.

“Bread and coffee! Well, when he can’t get anything else one can live on
them, but if Pancho had been around he’d have found us something more,”
he said. “Their two meals a day never quite suited me. We have steak and
potatoes three times in my country.”

“I have seen you comparatively thankful to get one,” said Appleby. “I’m
not sure that we will even have bread and coffee to fall upon in another
day or two.”

Harper glanced at him sharply. “Where’s Pancho?”

“I sent him away last night with a message for Maccario.”

“As the result of Morales coming round?”

Appleby nodded. “Yes,” he said. “He made a demand I could not
entertain.”

“About me?”

“Not exactly. I told him you felt sorry you had wounded the
susceptibilities of his officer.”

Harper laughed. “Well,” he said, “there’s only one thing I’m sorry for,
and that is that I let up before I’d put the contract through. Still, I
guess there’s more behind it.”

“There is,” said Appleby gravely. “If you can keep quiet a minute or two
I’ll tell you.”

He spoke rapidly and concisely, and Harper’s face flushed as he
listened. “You let him go!” he said. “Pancho and I were hanging round on
the stairway.”

Appleby smiled a trifle wearily. “I suspected it, but Morales is a good
deal too cunning to take any unnecessary risks. If he had not come back
we should have had half a company of cazadores turning up to ask what
had become of him. Now I want you to understand the position. What are
your countrymen likely to do about the ‘Maine’?”

Harper’s eyes gleamed, and his voice was hoarse. “Make the Spaniards
lick our boots or wipe them off the earth!”

“Well,” said Appleby dryly, “you may do the last, but, if I know the
Spaniards, you will never extort anything from them that would stain
their national dignity. Still, I think you are right about your
countrymen’s temper, and you see what it leads to. Every battalion of
Spanish infantry will be wanted on the coast, and that will give the
insurgents a free hand. It means they will once more be masters of this
district, and that Santa Marta must fall. Believing that, I’m going to
take a risk that almost frightens me.”

“I don’t quite understand,” said Harper.

“Harding is on his way to Cuba, and he has large sums sunk in San
Cristoval and other places up and down the island. Once he gets here
Morales will grind them out of him. Now, it is evident that Harding has
as much sympathy with the insurgents as he has with the loyalists, and
perhaps rather more, while just now he must stand in with one of them.
It seems to me that if your people can’t be pacified the Spaniards will
be driven out of Cuba.”

“Still,” said Harper reflectively, “I don’t quite see why we should
worry about that. Since you can’t sell Harding—and that’s quite plain—
all we have to do is to light out quietly.”

Appleby smiled. “I scarcely think we could manage it; and while I take
Harding’s money there’s an obligation on me to do what I can for him.
That is why I’m going to commit him definitely to standing in with the
insurgents.”

Harper stared at him in astonishment, and then brought his fist down
with a bang on the table. “You are going to bluff the Spaniards, and
play Sugar Harding’s hand?” he said with wondering respect. “You have
’most nerve enough to make a railroad king—but if it doesn’t come off,
and they patch up peace again?”

“Then,” said Appleby very quietly, “what I am going to do will cost
Harding every dollar he has in Cuba, though that doesn’t count for so
much since Morales means to ruin him, anyway. I can only make a guess,
and stake everything on it. Your countrymen will ask too much, the
Spaniards will offer very little. Still, it’s an almost overwhelming
decision.”

Again Harper looked at him with a faint flush in his face, for the
boldness of the venture stirred the blood in him. “It’s the biggest
thing I’ve ever had a hand in,” he said. “Still, wherever it leads to,
I’m going through with you!”

“It is quite likely that it will lead us in front of a firing party,”
said Appleby. “I have reasons for believing that Maccario is not far
away, and I have asked him to occupy the hacienda. It commands the
carretera to Santa Marta, and I fancy a handful of determined men could
hold it against a battalion, while with it in their possession the Sin
Verguenza would dominate this part of the country, in spite of Morales.
He has, as you know, been sending troops away. The one thing that
troubles me is the uncertainty whether Maccario can get here to‐night.”

“Well,” said Harper, “it’s quite an important question, and I don’t
understand why we’re staying here. I’d far sooner light out at once and
meet him. If Morales turns up in the meanwhile we’re going to have
trouble.”

Appleby smiled dryly. “I’m afraid we would not get very far,” he said.
“Still, if it’s only to find out whether my notion is correct, we can
try it.”

Harper picked up what was left of the bread, and with characteristic
caution slipped it into his pocket. “It may come in handy. I’ve been out
with the Sin Verguenza before,” he said.

They went down the stairway, along the tram‐line, and out upon the Santa
Marta road, but they had scarcely made half a mile when they came upon a
sergeant and several files of cazadores sitting in the shadow by the
roadside. Harper stopped abruptly and Appleby smiled.

“The road is closed, then, Sergeant?” he said.

“No, señor,” said the man. “Still, it is not very safe.”

“Not even as far as Santa Marta?”

The sergeant shook his head. “If you are going there I will send two
files with you,” he said.

Appleby glanced at Harper, who clenched a big hand, and appeared to have
some difficulty in restraining himself. “I don’t think we will trouble
you,” he said. “You had instructions from the Colonel Morales?”

“He seemed anxious about your safety, señores,” said the man.

Appleby turned upon his heel, and walked back the way he had come with
Harper, murmuring anathemas upon Morales beside him, until the sergeant
was out of sight.

“I expected it!” he said.

“Well,” said Harper dryly, “this is not the only way out of the place.
We’ll try another.”

They walked back to the hacienda, passed the sugar mill, and followed
the little tram‐line that wound through the cane until once more Harper
came to a standstill, and his face grew a trifle grim. It was very hot,
and the rails flung back the light dazzlingly between the tall green
blades, but there was another suggestive blink of brightness among the
long banana leaves in front of them.

“More of them!” he said hoarsely.

They walked on a few paces, and then a non‐commissioned officer of
cazadores in dusty white uniform moved out on to the line.

“Well,” said Harper brusquely, “what are you wanting here?”

The man made a little deprecatory gesture as he said, “We were sent.”

Appleby made as though he would brush past him, but the soldier, moving
a trifle, stood in front of him.

“With permission, señor, it is safer about the hacienda,” he said.
“Still, if you wish to go out into the country I will send a man or two
with you.”

Appleby laughed. “Then you are not alone?”

The soldier called softly, and three or four men in uniform appeared
amidst the banana leaves. “It seems,” he said, “the Colonel Morales is
anxious about the hacienda.”

Harper glanced at his comrade ruefully, but an inspiration dawned on
Appleby. “One appreciates his solicitude. It is conceivable that your
comrades would know what to do with a bottle or two of caña. A little is
beneficial when one has passed the night in the open. There was, I
think, a heavy dew.”

“With thanks, but it is not permitted,” said the man. “We did not,
however, leave Santa Marta until there was a little light in the sky.”

“Colonel Morales was good enough to send a strong detachment?”

The soldier shook his head. “A section of the Barremeda company,” he
said. “The Sergeant Hernando was to follow with a few files when he came
in from picket duty. One does not understand it, for the country is
quiet now, but one asks no questions of an officer.”

“It is not usually advisable,” said Appleby with a smile. “Still, if you
change your mind about the caña you can come up to the hacienda and ask
for me.”

He swung round, and five minutes later sat down on a truck on the tram‐
line. Harper leaned against it, and looked at him.

“I guess Morales means to make sure of us,” he said. “Well, we can only
hope for Maccario. You couldn’t ask him if the men you sent got
through?”

“I made the venture, and he told me. It was last night I sent the men
out, and the cazadores only started this morning. Morales blundered
then, but it is rather more than likely he couldn’t help himself. Nobody
would call him timid, but just now it would have been a risky thing for
him to go back to Santa Marta alone.”

Harper nodded. “There’s not much you don’t think of,” he said. “Still,
it seems to me quite likely that Maccario can’t get through.”

“Then so far as you and I are concerned I’m afraid the game is played
out,” said Appleby.

Harper pulled out his cigar case and wrenched it open. “Take a smoke,”
he said. “I don’t feel like talking just now.”

He sat down on a sleeper with his back to a wheel, while Appleby lay
upon the truck with a cigar, which went out in his hand, gazing across
the sunlit cane. It rose about him breast‐high, a crude glaring green,
luminous in its intensity of color, against the blueness above it, but
Appleby scarcely saw it, or the gleaming lizard which lay close by
suspiciously regarding him. He had made a very bold venture, and though
Harding might yet benefit by it, he could realize the risk that he and
his comrade ran.

There was, however, consolation in the thought that Morales could not
have known he had sent for the Sin Verguenza, or he would have flung a
company of cazadores into the hacienda. A few resolute men could,
Appleby fancied, hold it against a battalion, for there were no openings
but narrow windows, and those high up, in the outer walls, while, if the
defenders tore the veranda stairway up, the patio would be apt to prove
a death‐trap to the troops that entered it. It also seemed to him that,
now the prospect of complications with the Americans would everywhere
stir the insurgents to activity, Morales would scarcely have men to
spare for a determined assault upon the hacienda.

The longer Appleby reflected the more sure he felt that he had made a
wise decision. It had, however, cost him an effort to face the risk, and
now he wondered a little at his own fearlessness. He who had hitherto
haggled about trifles and pored over musty papers in a country
solicitor’s office had been driven into playing a bold man’s part in the
great game of life, and the reflection brought him a curious sense of
content. Even if he paid the forfeit of his daring, as it seemed he
would in all probability do, he had, at least, proved himself the equal,
in boldness of conception and clearness of vision, of men trained to
politics and war, and he found the draught he had tasted almost
intoxicating.

The exhilaration of it had vanished now, but the vague content remained
and blunted the anxieties that commenced to creep upon him. Still, he
fell to wondering where Maccario was, and how long it would take him to
reach San Cristoval, for Morales would demand his answer soon after
nightfall He lay very still while the shadow of the cane grew narrower,
until the sun shone hot upon his set brown face, and then slowly stood
up.

“I think we will go back and pay the men,” he said. “The few pesetas
mean a good deal to them, and I would sooner they got them than
Morales.”

They went back together silently, and the whistle shrieked out its
summons when the mill stopped for the men’s ten o’clock breakfast.
Appleby drew them up as they came flocking in and handed each the little
handful of silver due to him.

“You will go back to work until the usual hour,” he said. “If all goes
well you will begin again to‐morrow, but this is a country in which no
one knows what may happen.”

The men took the money in grave wonder, and Appleby, who did not eat
very much, sat down to breakfast, but both he and Harper felt it a
relief when the plates were taken away.

“You will keep them busy, if it is only to stop them talking,” he said.
“I have wasted too much time already, and if I am to straighten up
everything by this evening there is a good deal to do.”

Harper went out, and Appleby, sitting down in his office, wrote up
accounts until the afternoon. He dare leave no word for Harding, but
that appeared unnecessary, for if Harding found San Cristoval in the
possession of the Sin Verguenza he would, Appleby felt certain,
understand and profit by the position. The room resembled an oven, and
no more light than served to make writing possible entered the closed
lattices; but with the perspiration dripping from him Appleby toiled on,
and the last Spanish dollar had been accounted for when Harper and the
man who carried the comida came up the stairway. Then it was with a
little sigh he laid down his pen and tied the neatly engrossed documents
together. The life he led at San Cristoval suited him, and now he was to
turn his back on it and go back once more, a homeless and penniless
adventurer, to the Sin Verguenza. Glancing up he saw Harper leaning on a
bureau and looking at him.

“That’s another leaf turned down,” he said. “A good deal may happen to
both of us before to‐morrow.”

Harper nodded gravely. “Oh yes,” he said. “That’s why I’m going to make
a kind of special dinner. I don’t think I had much breakfast, and I
don’t quite know when we may get another.”

The dinner he had given the cook instructions concerning was rather more
elaborate than usual, and flasks of red and amber wine stood among the
dishes and the piled‐up fruit. Neither of them had much to say, but they
ate, and when very little remained on the table Harper leaned back in
his chair with a smile of content.

“That’s one thing Morales can’t take away from me, and I guess it should
carry me on quite a while,” he said.

They lay still, cigar in hand, for the most part of an hour and then as
the sunlight faded from the patio Harper appeared to grow restless.
Appleby watched him with a little smile.

“You don’t seem quite easy,” he said.

Harper stared at him, and then broke into a somewhat hollow laugh. “It’s
a fact,” he said. “I was kind of wondering if it wasn’t time Pancho or
one of the other men came back. I guess one could see them on the tram‐
line from the roof. Morales will be here in an hour or two.”

He went out, and Appleby sat still, not because that was pleasant, but
because he felt the necessity of holding himself in hand. He desired to
retain a becoming tranquillity, and now he could only wait found that
the tension was growing unendurable. There was no sound in the patio,
where the light was failing, but he could hear Harper’s footsteps on the
flat roof above, and found himself listening eagerly as his comrade
paced up and down. He stopped once, and Appleby felt his heart beating,
for it seemed that something had seized Harper’s attention. The
footsteps, however, commenced again, and then Harper, who appeared to
stop once more for a second, came hastily down the outside stairway.
Appleby felt his fingers trembling, and it was only by effort he sat
still instead of moving to the door to question him. If Harper had seen
anything it was evident his comrade would hear of it in a moment or two.

He came on down the stairway, and when he reached the veranda Appleby
closed one hand as he moved in his chair, but Harper passed on down the
lower stairway, and Appleby sat still again, while a curious little
shiver ran through him. Half an hour had elapsed before his comrade came
in again and flung himself down in the nearest chair. He shook his head
disgustedly, and his face was very grim.

“No sign of Pancho, and I’m not going back,” he said. “I guess watching
for folks who don’t come gets kind of worrying. There’s another thing. I
went prospecting down the tram‐line, and found that sergeant had brought
his men closer in.”

“I could have told you that,” said Appleby. “If I had thought we could
have got away I would scarcely have been quietly sitting here.”

Harper’s face flushed. “Well,” he said, “it’s Maccario or Morales now.”

He lighted a cigar and sat still, though his big hands quivered now and
then, and the veins showed swollen on his forehead. The light grew
rapidly dim, and at last Appleby moved sharply when a man came up the
stairway with a lamp. Harper laughed unpleasantly.

“It can’t last very long now,” he said. “We’ll know what’s going to
happen in the next half‐hour.”

Appleby glanced at him languidly. “There is,” he said, “one thing that
would induce Morales to let us slip through his fingers.”

Harper stood up and straightened himself, clenching his hands on the
chair back as he stared at Appleby.

“If I thought you meant it I’d stop your talking for ever now,” he said.
“Oh, I’ve now and then done a smart thing, and nobody expects too much
from me, but I haven’t sold a countryman to the Spaniards yet—the devils
who sunk the ‘Maine’!”

Appleby laughed. “I think,” he said quietly, “you had better sit down.”

Harper said nothing, but when he turned and flung himself into the chair
his eyes were eloquent, and there was for almost an hour a tense silence
in the room. It seemed interminable to Appleby, but at last there was a
tramp of feet outside, and they rose simultaneously, Harper flushed and
Appleby a trifle gray in face. Then there were footsteps on the
stairway, and Morales came in with two or three files of cazadores
behind him. He glanced at the two men, and his face grew a trifle
harder, while a little vindictive sparkle crept into his eyes. Still,
his voice was coldly even.

“I had the honor of making you a proposal last night, Senor Appleby,” he
said.

Appleby nodded. “I am sorry that I found I could not entertain it,” he
said.

Morales let his hand fall on the hilt of his sword. “Then there is only
one course open to me. I place these men in your custody, sergeant, and
until you hand them over in the guardroom at Santa Marta you will be
answerable for them.”

The sergeant made a little sign, two men moved forward, and in another
minute Appleby and Harper went down the stairway and saw a section of
cazadores waiting in the patio.

XXIV — RESPITED


A FAINT light was creeping in through the narrow window when Appleby
awoke in a little upper room in the cuartel at Santa Marta. Worn out by
the tense anxiety he had undergone he had at last slept restlessly, and
for a moment or two he was only sensible that his surroundings were
unfamiliar. Simply as he had lived at San Cristoval the room seemed
unusually bare, while his limbs ached a little, and he wondered why he
was lying on a thin strip of matting, and what Harper, who lay close
beside him, apparently asleep, was doing there.

Then he shook himself into wakefulness as memory came back, and the
events of the preceding night arranged themselves before him. He
remembered his brief trial by Morales and a handful of officers, who
deferred to him—for Santa Marta was under martial law—the written
process declaring his offences, and the smile in Morales’ dark eyes when
he admitted that he had nothing to urge in extenuation. One point alone
he contested, and that was that he and Harper had supplied the
insurgents with arms from San Cristoval, but the process proved that
rifles had been carried into the factory, and his assertion that it was
done without his knowledge only called forth a smile of incredulity.
Then came the sentence, which Appleby listened to with the unconcern of
desperation, and Harper, standing with great hands clenched and face
dark with passion, answered with a torrent of furious invective in
luminous American and Castilian, until two cazadores dragged him away.

Appleby shivered, and rising softly walked to the window as he
remembered that the day that was breaking was the last he would ever
see. He flung the lattice open, and his face grew grim as he looked out
upon the town. It was as yet, for the most part, dim and shadowy, and
two square church towers rose blackly against a sky of paling indigo,
but here and there a white wall glimmered faintly, and a pearly lustre
suffused the east. While he watched it became streaked with crimson, for
in the tropics dawn comes suddenly, and by and by a long shaft of
brightness streamed up into the sky. Then the city emerged from the
shadow, and once more shone dazzlingly white in the morning sun.

It awoke as suddenly, for men rise early in that country to work while
it is cool, and a ringing of bugles rose from beyond the flat roofs
clear and musical, while the white walls flung back the patter of feet,
and the hum of voices became audible. Appleby listened with a dull
hopelessness that was too intense for bitterness to the stir of
reawakening life, though the contrast between his lot and that of the
men whose voices he heard had its effect on him. They were going out to
their toil, and would in due time sleep again, but before that day was
over he would be at rest forever. Then as somebody went by below singing
a little light‐hearted song he turned away with a groan, and saw that
Harper was watching him.

“You haven’t much use for singing,” he said.

Appleby sat down with his back against the wall, and laughed somewhat
hollowly. “No,” he said. “The only appropriate music would be a
requiem.”

“Well,” said Harper reflectively, “I don’t quite know, though I’m free
to admit that I’m feeling a good deal more anxious than I care about. I
was thinking, and didn’t sleep much last night, and it kind of seems to
me the Spaniards have about enough on their backs just now.”

Appleby shook his head. “The trouble is that Morales will take care that
all anybody of consequence knows is that two of the Sin Verguenza were
extinguished in Santa Marta,” he said.

“Still, there’s another point. Morales doesn’t let up too easily on
anything he means to put through, and he wouldn’t get very much out of
either of us when we’re dead.”

Appleby turned upon him almost savagely. “Stop,” he said. “You know the
thing is decided as well as I do. Yesterday took a good deal of the
stiffening out of me—and in another hour or two we shall have a
tolerably difficult part to play.”

Harper’s face grew suddenly grim. “Well,” he said a trifle hoarsely, “I
guess we can face what is coming as well as a Spaniard can, and—I’ve got
to admit it—nobody could expect any more from any man.”

Appleby made no answer, but it was by an effort that, feeling his
comrade’s eyes upon him, he sat still, when the door opened and a
cazadore came in. He laid down a piece of bread and a bottle of thin red
wine, and then glanced at them compassionately.

“When will it be?” asked Appleby very quietly.

The man made a little gesture. “Soon, I think. There is a parade fixed
in an hour from now.”

He went out, and Harper’s hands quivered a little as he held up the wine
and glanced at Appleby.

“It’s not often I don’t feel inclined to eat, but I don’t seem to have
much use for breakfast now,” he said. “Here’s to the folks who’ll wonder
what has happened to us back there in the country we came from!”

He drank, and handed the wine to Appleby, who stood up as he put the
bottle to his lips. It was, however, not Tony Palliser or Nettie
Harding, but a woman with grave gray eyes, that now when the shadows
were closing round him he drank to as it were reverently. She would, as
Harper had suggested, never even know what had befallen him, but she
seemed very near him then, and he felt the influence of her serenity
upon him.

He laid down the bottle, and Harper took out two cigars. “Now,” he said,
“I guess when they come for me I’ll be ready.”

The hour that followed seemed interminable, but at last there was a
tramp of feet on the stairway, and a sergeant of cazadores who came in
made a sign to them. They rose in silence, and were thrust amidst a
cluster of other prisoners in the patio, while an officer reading from a
paper called their names aloud. Then a guard with bayonets fixed closed
in about them, and they passed out through an archway into the street.
Appleby blinked about him with half‐closed eyes, for he had come out of
the shadow, and the white walls were dazzlingly bright, while from out
of the press of close‐packed humanity beneath them came the flash of
steel.

Then the crowd opened up, and a company of cazadores, that filed out of
another opening halted a moment to wait for the prisoners’ guard.
Appleby was driven forward and took his place among the rest, there was
a ringing of bugles that drowned the hum of voices from the crowd, and
they had started on their last journey to the doleful tapping of the
drums. Morales, it seemed, understood his countrymen, and meant to
gratify the Iberian lust of sensation which finds vent in the bull‐ring,
and is akin to that which packed the amphitheatres in the days of
ancient Rome. Still, Appleby noticed vacantly that the loyalist city
seemed curiously unresponsive for the shout that went up when the troops
moved forward died away, and the tapping of the drums broke sharply
through a brief silence that was almost portentous.

It was followed by a low murmuring that suggested the sound of the sea,
and gazing at the rows of intent faces Appleby noticed that hats were
swept off as the prisoners passed, and that here and there a man crossed
himself. Once a burst of Vivas went up, but the murmurs that answered
them were hoarse and angry, and for a space of minutes there was once
more a heavy silence that seemed intensified by the beat of marching
feet and the tapping of the drums.

Appleby saw the faces at the windows and upon the roofs, swept a glance
along the crowd that lined the pavement, and with a little tingling of
his nerves turned his eyes away. He felt a horror of these men who had
come to watch him die, and set his lips and struggled with an almost
overwhelming impulse to fling bitter jibes or anathemas at them as he
stared straight before him. Harper was walking quietly at his side, and
a pace or two in front were four of their companions in misfortune—a lad
who limped, an old man, and two peons who laughed now and then. Beyond
them he could see a forest of wavering rifles crested with flashing
steel, and the figure of a mounted officer silhouetted sharply against a
strip of sky.

Way was made for them, and the march went on. The trampling feet clashed
rhythmically upon the stones, the rows of crowded windows and long white
walls slid behind, and then while a blast of the bugles rang across the
town Appleby found himself plodding into the smaller plaza. There was a
long flash of sunlight on steel, the leading company split up and
wheeled, and while the files tramped past he and the guard were left
standing with a double rank of cazadores behind them at one end of the
plaza. In another two or three moments it was lined two deep by men with
bayonets holding back the crowd; but the church with the two towers
closed the opposite end, and Appleby noticed vacantly how dazzlingly
white the empty space shone in the sun, save where the long black shadow
of the cross above fell athwart it. The church door was, as usual, open,
and the sound of an organ came out from it dolefully. Except for that,
there was for almost a minute a silence that grew horribly oppressive.

Then a voice was raised, and read what appeared to be a list of the
prisoners’ offences, but Appleby could attach no meaning to it, and set
his lips when the man with the paper called three names aloud. It was
with a revulsion of feeling that left him very cold he realized that
none of them was his or Harper’s, but next moment he almost wished that
they had been included in the summons. He had no hope now, and found the
task of standing there unmoved before those swarming faces becoming
insuperably difficult.

The lad who limped shuffled forward across the plaza, with the two peons
and a guard behind, until they stopped and turned again a foot or two
from the church wall. The peons were men with patient brown faces
dressed simply in white cotton and unstarched linen, and Appleby fancied
that their offence was in all probability the smuggling of arms or
communications for the insurgents. Then he became aware by a sudden hum
of voices that something unexpected was going on, and turning his eyes
saw two priests appear in the porch of the church, and a sergeant
standing somewhat sheepishly before them. One was little and portly, in
shabby cassock, but he spoke in a shrill vehement voice, and his face
was flushed; the other stood on the step above him, a tall man in ornate
vestments that made a blaze of color in the porch, and he held one arm
up commandingly.

Appleby could not hear what they said, for only his visual senses seemed
to have retained their efficiency, but he fancied they were protesting
when the sergeant moved slowly back across the plaza. Appleby turned and
watched him stop with lifted hand before the colonel, but Morales did
what few other men in that country would have ventured on when, making a
contemptuous gesture, he sent the sergeant back with his answer, and sat
still in his saddle with one hand his hip.

Still, the priests persisted, and would apparently have moved forward
from the church, when there was a flash of steel and tramp of feet, and
four or five files of infantry who had evidently little liking for their
task halted in front of the porch. This time there was a hoarse
portentous note in the murmurs of the crowd, and Appleby had another
token of Morales’ courage when he saw him glance at the hemmed in
priests with a little sardonic smile.

He made a sign with his gloved hand, somebody called out sharply, a line
of men moved forward a pace or two, and there was a jingle and clatter
as the rifles went up to the hip. Appleby saw the lame lad shrink back
towards the wall, and one of the peons with bound hands awkwardly pull
forward his hat over his eyes, but the other stood bolt upright with his
at his side.

Once more a voice rang sharply through the stillness, the rifles went up
to the shoulder, and Appleby, who set his lips and clenched his hands,
turned his eyes aside. For a second or two it was horribly and intensely
still, and then a hoarse, strained voice, one of the peons’ Appleby
fancied, cried, “Viva la libertad!”

It was followed by a crash, a whisp of smoke drifted past him, there was
an inarticulate cry from the crowd, and he dimly saw the firing party
moving through the smoke. Beyond them he had a blurred glimpse of a
figure that swayed upon its knees, and another lying full length clawing
at the stones. Then he shivered and gazed up at the crowded housetops
and dazzling sky, and by a grim effort held himself stiffly erect.
Harper’s voice reached him through the murmur of horror from the crowd.

“Lord!” he said hoarsely. “They’ve bungled it!”

Again the rifles crashed, and the men came back, two of them, Appleby
noticed, walking a trifle unsteadily. The faces of the rest were set and
grim, and he braced himself for an effort as the man with the paper
moved forward again. His turn and Harper’s was coming now, but what he
had seen had stirred him to a fierce anger that drove out physical fear,
and it was impotent fury he strove to hold in check. Then he saw Morales
apparently conferring with one or two of his officers who seemed to be
glancing towards him and Harper, while the latter gripped his shoulder
until he winced.

“Why can’t they be quick?” he said. “I’ll take one of those soldiers’
rifles and empty the magazine into them in another minute.”

Then there was a louder hum of voices and a surging of the crowd, for
the men of the firing party, waiting no order, brought their rifles down
with a crash. They were young men of the Barremeda company, which, as
Appleby had heard, was not above suspicion, though that was, perhaps,
why Morales had appointed them the task. A lieutenant appeared to be
gesticulating in front of them, but the men stood immovable, with
ordered rifles and set brown faces, and there was now a murmur from the
ranks behind them, while a great cry went up from the crowd.

Santa Marta was a loyalist town, that is, the men who had anything to
lose supported the rule of Spain, but they were for that reason mostly
men of position and refinement, and what they had seen had proved almost
too much for them. The rest who had nothing were, for the most part,
insurgents at heart, even if they refrained from actively expressing
their sympathies, which was not certain, and the last cry of the
butchered peon coupled with the affront put upon the priests had stirred
them to fury. When the hot Iberian blood takes fire events are apt to
happen somewhat rapidly, and Morales, it seemed, had gone a trifle too
far.

He flung himself from the saddle, and moved forward with gleaming sword,
which he brandished in front of the flank man of the firing party, but
the set faces were resolutely turned upon him, and now the brown fingers
were convulsively tightening on the rifles. The tumult was growing
louder, and shouts of “Libertad!” and “Viva la revoluçion!” came out of
the clamor. In one place the double line of men with bayonets bent in,
and a section of the Barremeda company broke their ranks.

“Lord!” said Harper hoarsely. “With ten of the Sin Verguenza I’d take
Santa Marta now.”

It was not altogether an empty boast. The Iberian is impulsive and
unstable, and a word spoken in season will stir to any rashness a Latin
crowd. The troops were disaffected, part of them, at least, openly
mutinous, but Morales the Sword could grapple with a crisis. He was in
the saddle in a moment, his voice rang clear and commanding above the
tumult, and the men who wavered, uncertain what course to take, obeyed.
The ranks wheeled, broke up, and grouped again in fours, the bugles rang
shrilly, there was a roll of drums, and almost before Appleby quite
realized what was happening the head of the leading company was filing
out of the plaza, and Morales’ swift decision had saved the situation.
Then a man touched Appleby’s shoulder, and he and Harper and another man
stepped into an opening between the files.

“You are to be felicitated. There are few who offend Morales he does not
crush,” said the sergeant of the guard.

Appleby made no answer. He was a trifle dazed, and his thoughts were in
a whirl, but he noticed vacantly that there was a curious portentous
silence as the troops marched back to the cuartel, and was glad when
they reached it and he and Harper were thrust into the same room again.
He sat down, somewhat limply, on the floor.

“It was a trifle horrible—and I’m sorry we drank all the wine. Still, of
course, no one could have guessed,” he said.

He felt that his face was a little colorless, for his forehead was
clammy and his lips were cold, but Harper’s was flushed, and he paced up
and down the room until he stopped in front of Appleby.

Then he said hoarsely, “I had a notion. That man never meant to wipe us
out to‐day. We were to taste death, and live with the grit crushed out
of us, because he figured we would be of some use to him. If I could get
my hands on him I’d kill him.”

Appleby had felt much the same anger, but he was calmer now. What he had
witnessed had filled him with horror, and while he could have blamed
Morales little for his sentence, since his life was a risk of the game,
the attempt to crush his manhood by making him taste the anguish of
death was unforgivable and an abomination.

“Well,” he said very quietly, “our turn may come.”

Harper once more strode up and down the room, and then stopped abruptly
with a little laugh. “It’s kind of senseless talking just now,” he said.
“We’re not going to worry Morales much while he has got us here. I
wonder if anybody will remember to bring us our dinner.”

Appleby smiled, and the tension relaxed, but his hands were trembling,
and it cost him two or three matches to light the cigar Harper threw
him.



XXV — MORALES SITS STILL


IT was late at night when Appleby, who felt no inclination for sleep,
looked out into the soft darkness from a window of the cuartel where he
had now passed six anxious days Here and there a light blinked dimly in
the gulf of blacker shadow that marked the narrow street beneath him,
for there was no moon that night, and the steamy dampness the faint warm
wind drove before it obscured the stars. A hot, musky smell rose from
the silent town.

Still, Appleby, who had keen eyes, fancied he had seen a shadowy form
pass twice beneath the nearest light, and then turn as though looking up
at the cuartel, and he called Harper softly when it appeared again.

“Can you make out that man?” he said. “This is the third time I have
seen him. It is noticeable that he shows himself just under the lamp.”

“Well,” said Harper reflectively, “I guess you wouldn’t have seen him
anywhere else.”

The shadowy form slipped away into the obscurity, and there was silence
for at least five minutes while the pair stood very still, wondering
with a vague sense of expectation what it meant, until Appleby said
sharply, “There he is again.”

“No,” said Harper. “That’s another one. He’s taller, and, so far as I
can make out, dressed quite different. Still, he’s looking up. It seems
to me he means us or somebody else to see him.”

Appleby felt his heart throb, and his voice was not quite steady as he
said, “Morales has, at least, a half‐company in the cuartel.”

“Well,” said Harper, “I don’t quite know. He sent most of the Barremedas
away—though there’s a section or two here still. They are the men that
showed signs of kicking in the plaza, and it’s quite likely he figures
they’d be safer with Vincente’s Peninsular battalion. Then counting up
the pickets, outposts, and patrols he’ll have on the carretera, there’ll
scarcely be forty men in this barracks now.”

Appleby nodded. “Perhaps you are right,” he said. “I have been wondering
why nothing has apparently happened to the section which ordered arms.
Morales is not the man to let a thing of that kind pass.”

Harper was quite aware that his comrade had little interest in the
question, and surmised that he desired to conceal the fact that the
appearance of the man below had stirred him to a state of tense
expectancy.

“No,” he said. “Still, I guess he has quite a good reason for holding
his hand, and those cazadores will be sorry for themselves when he’s
through with them. He’ll keep them wondering where he’s going to hit
them until it grinds all the grit out of them, and then start in.”

He stopped somewhat abruptly at the sound of feet on the stairway, and
had his hand on the lattice when a soldier came in. It was evident that
he noticed the half‐closed window, and he looked at them curiously.

“The Colonel Morales sends for you,” he said, and though there was
apparently nobody within hearing dropped his voice a little. “If he asks
you questions let him wait for your answer. It is necessary that you
should keep him talking at least ten minutes.”

Appleby felt a little quiver run through him, and saw that Harper’s face
had grown suddenly intent.

“Why?” he asked.

The man made a little gesture expressive of indecision. “The guard is
changed then—and who knows what may happen? The men who come on duty are
my comrades of the Barremedas—and they are afraid. This Morales is most
terrible in his quietness. There is also below a merchant of tobacco.”

Appleby saw the sudden sparkle in Harper’s eyes, but he put a strong
constraint upon himself, for he dared not hope too much. He knew
Maccario’s daring, but it was difficult to believe that he would venture
into the cuartel where there were men who could scarcely fail to
recognize him. Still, he remembered the signs of disaffection among the
troops, and that Cuba was steeped in intrigue.

“We are ready,” he said very quietly.

The soldier signed to them, and they followed him—down the outer
stairway, and up another, along a corridor where two guards were
stationed, and into a room where their guide, who raised his hand and
swung round, left them. The room was small, with one lattice in it that
apparently opened on to the street and not the patio, and Morales sat
alone, with his sword and kepi on the table before him, which was
littered with papers. He looked up with expressionless eyes, and then
while they stood quivering a little with suspense went on writing for
the space of four minutes by the clock behind him. Appleby, who
understood his purpose, felt that this would count for a good deal if
ever there was a reckoning between them, but seeing the flush of passion
in Harper’s lean face he once more put a grim constraint upon himself.
Knowing the Castilian temperament he also fancied that at this game he
could hold his own with Morales. At last the soldier shook a little sand
over what he had written, and carefully cleaned his pen before he turned
to them.

“It seemed to me you might have concluded that the decision you made was
a trifle hasty, Senor Appleby,” he said.

“You gave me no opportunity of changing it,” said Appleby as quietly as
he could, though he realized that his voice was not quite his usual one.
“In any case I do not see what I gain. We are under sentence, and one
has usually a motive for what he does in Cuba.”

Morales glanced at him steadily with keen dark eyes, and Appleby
wondered whether he had assumed too great an eagerness by suggesting
that he might be willing to treat with a man who had hitherto found him
obdurate. Then the officer smiled.

“It is evident that the man who passed the sentence could commute it,”
he said.

Appleby appeared to reflect. He did not know what was going on below,
but he desired at least to hold Morales’ attention until the change of
the guard.

“Of course!” he said. “Still, he had apparently no intention of doing
so. It seems to me we are under no obligation to Colonel Morales in one
respect.”

“No?” and Morales’ smile was sardonic.

Appleby shook his head. “I fancy that we owe rather more to certain
disaffected cazadores,” he said. “That little display was, of course,
unexpected.”

He saw the dark eyes flash, but next moment the officer’s face was once
more expressionless.

“One cannot foresee everything, but I think there will not be another
display of the kind,” he said. “Well, I will make an admission. Would it
astonish you to hear that, in spite of the sentence, it was not intended
that you should face the firing party?”

Appleby, who heard a soft crunching under his comrade’s foot, glanced at
him warningly. Harper’s eyes were glowing, and the fingers of one hand
were tightly clenched, but meeting Appleby’s gaze he controlled himself.

“One would not presume to question the word of Colonel Morales,” said
Appleby with rather more than a trace of irony. “In this case there was
also the fact that your distinguished countrymen have already incurred a
serious responsibility. Spain cannot afford to offer any unnecessary
provocation to two other nations just now.”

The contempt in Morales’ little laugh was not assumed. “Pshaw! It is
evident you do not understand the Castilians, Señor Appleby. One would
almost fancy that you were trifling with me.”

“I am afraid you rate my courage too high,” said Appleby, who glanced at
the clock. “It is, however, difficult to decide. The thing suggested was
unpleasant, and you understand that one has prejudices. Perhaps that is
because I have not lived very long in Cuba. Still, I admit that what we
saw in the plaza was suggestive, but there is the difficulty that I
cannot commit my comrade, who may have different notions.”

Once more Morales fixed his dark eyes upon him, and Appleby, who could
feel his heart throbbing, wondered if he had blundered in not assuming
at least a trace of anxiety. He fancied that Morales must suspect that
there was something behind his indifferent attitude, but, tingling with
suspense as he was, the role was very difficult to play. It was
essential that he should lead the officer on with the hope of making
terms until the guard was changed. The minute finger of the little clock
scarcely seemed to move, while he could feel that the damp was beaded on
his forehead.

Morales, however, laughed. “I fancy he could be left you. Still, I
wished him to hear—that he should know whom he was indebted to in case
we did not arrive at an understanding. Well, I will be frank. We will
assume that the offer I made you is open still.”

Appleby stood silent for almost half a minute, which appeared
interminable, feeling that Morales’ eyes never left his face. Then there
was a tramp of feet in the patio, followed by a tread on the stairway,
and it was only by strenuous effort that he retained his immobility. The
guard was being changed a minute or two earlier than he had expected.

A voice rose from outside, somebody tapped at the door and Morales
appeared to check an exclamation of impatience when a man came in. He
was dressed immaculately in white linen and spotless duck, and carried a
costly Panama hat in his hand.

“With many excuses, señor, I venture to do myself this honor,” he said.
“You may remember you were once pleased to express your approbation of
my poor tobacco.”

Appleby contrived to smile, though it cost him an effort, but Harper
gasped, and there was for a moment a silence they both found it
difficult to bear. Appleby in the meanwhile saw the gleam in Morales’
eyes, but was quite aware that a Castilian gentleman rates his own
dignity too highly to consider it necessary to impress it upon every
stranger.

“It is an intrusion,” he said quietly. “I do not understand why the
sentries admitted you.”

The tobacco merchant made a little deprecatory gesture, and Appleby felt
his hands tremble as he watched the man move a step nearer the officer’s
chair.

“It was not their fault. I slipped by when the guard was changed,” he
said. “One would make excuses for such boldness, but you understand the
necessities of business. Now, I have here examples of a most excellent
tobacco.”

Morales turned, apparently to summon one of the guards. “Still, the man
who let you pass will be sorry!”

Then there was a little click‐clack that sounded horribly distinct, and
as he swung round again a pistol glinted in the tobacco merchant’s hand.

“Señor,” said the latter, “it would be advisable to sit very still.”

Morales became suddenly rigid, but his eyes were very steady as he
glanced at the stranger. “One begins to understand,” he said. “Are you
not, however, a little indiscreet, señor? There is a guard scarcely
thirty feet away. A sound also travels far in this building.”

The tobacco merchant laughed. “Will you open the door, Señor Harper,
that Colonel Morales may see his guard?”

Harper rose, and when he flung the door open the sentry was revealed. He
stood in the corridor gazing into the lighted room, but though the
situation must have been evident to him, his face was expressionless,
and his erect figure showed motionless against the shadow behind him.
Then for just a moment a flush of darker color swept into Morales’ olive
cheek, and Appleby fancied that he winced.

“That man is taking a heavy risk,” he said. “There is a half‐company of
his comrades in the cuartel.”

The tobacco merchant smiled. “Then one would fancy, señor, that some of
them had mutinied.”

Morales said nothing for a moment, and Appleby surmised that he was
wondering how many of his men had remained loyal. Then he made a little
impatient gesture.

“Well,” he said, “what do you want from me?”

“A very little thing, señor. No more than the liberty of a certain peon,
Domingo Pereira. I do not ask the freedom of these friends of mine.
That, as you can comprehend, is unnecessary.”

A little gleam crept into the officer’s dark eyes. “It is a trifle
difficult to understand why you place yourself under an obligation to me
in respect to the peon Pereira. If there is a mutiny in the cuartel, why
not take him?”

“It is simple. The affair is one that we wish to arrange quietly, but
there are one or two sections who will take no part with us, and the
Sergeant Suarez is an obdurate loyalist. All we ask is an order for the
handing over of the prisoner to the guard. That, since it will not be
known when they mutinied, will cast no discredit upon the Colonel
Morales.”

“And if I should not think fit to sign it?”

The tobacco merchant shrugged his shoulders. “One would recommend you to
reflect,” he said. “Between two Spanish gentlemen who have no wish for
unpleasantness that should be sufficient. Still, you see before you
three determined men and you have proof that your guard has mutinied. It
is convenient that you write the order.”

“You want nothing more?”

“No, señor. To be frank, my friends have no intention of seizing the
cuartel. We are not in a position to hold it just now.”

Morales tore a strip of paper from a pad, scribbled upon it and flung it
across the table to the tobacco merchant, who passed it to Appleby.

“You will hand that to the soldier outside,” he said. “He will come back
and report when he has delivered the prisoner to the guard.”

Appleby went out, and the tobacco merchant laid the pistol down. “It was
an unpleasant necessity,” he said. “Still, one can dispense with it now
we have arrived at an understanding.”

Harper laughed as he clenched his big hands on the back of the chair he
leaned upon.

“If the distinguished gentleman tries to get up something will happen to
him,” he said. “I have been figuring just where I could get him with the
leg of this.”

Morales made a little gesture of disgust. “The Señor Harper does not
understand us. One has objections to anything unseemly, señor. I have a
fancy that I have seen you in other places than the hacienda San
Cristoval.”

“In Alturas Pass—and elsewhere,” said the tobacco merchant with a smile.
“I once had the honor of meeting the Colonel Morales in the street below
us. At that time he had a sword in his hand.”

Morales’ face grew very grim, but he held himself in hand. “Yes. I
remember now,” he said. “The leader of the Sin Verguenza—Don Maccario?”

The tobacco merchant made him a little half‐ironical inclination.
“Colonel Morales will appreciate the consideration I have shown him in
coming myself,” he said. “The affair might have been arranged
differently had I sent one or two of my men who have a little account
with him.”

Morales said nothing, and there was silence for a space of minutes. What
he thought was not apparent, for though his color was a trifle darker
now, he sat rigidly still, but Appleby felt himself quivering a little,
and saw that Harper’s lips were grimly set, while Maccario moved the
fingers of one hand in a curious nervous fashion. Appleby scarcely dared
wonder what was happening in the patio, though he surmised that if the
Sergeant Suarez questioned the order it would go very hard with all of
them, for there were, he remembered, fifty men in the cuartel, and only
a handful of them had mutinied. He could feel his heart beating, and
anathematized the loquaciousness of Maccario and his deference to
Castilian decorum which had kept them so long. It was evident to him
that any trifling unexpected difficulty would result in their
destruction. At last, when every nerve in him was tingling, a man came
hastily up the stairway.

“We have Domingo Pereira,” he said. “The others are getting impatient,
señor!”

Maccario rose and turned to Morales. “Take warning, señor. No one is
safe from the Sin Verguenza, and we may not extend you as much
consideration when we next meet,” he said. “In the meanwhile I ask your
word on the faith of a soldier of Spain that you will sit here silent
for the next ten minutes.”

Again Morales’ eyes gleamed. “Now,” he said ironically, “comes your
difficulty. I will promise nothing—and a pistol is noisy. I am not sure
about the extent of the mutiny.”

Maccario very suggestively shook his sleeve. “In this country one
carries a little implement which is silent and effective, but there is
another means of obviating the difficulty. This sash of mine is of ample
length and spun from the finest silk, though one would not care to
subject a distinguished officer to an indignity.”

“Take it off,” said Harper. “I’ll fix him so half his cazadores couldn’t
untie him. You’re not going to take his word he’ll sit there.”

Maccario stopped him with a gesture, and turned to Morales. “It would,
it seems, be wiser to promise, señor. We ask no more than ten minutes.”

For a moment the officer’s olive face became suffused, but the blood
ebbed from it, leaving it almost pale, and it was very quietly he
pledged himself. Then they turned and left him, and Harper gasped when
they went out into the corridor.

“Well,” he said shortly, “I don’t want to go through an thing like that
again. It was ’most as hard as what happened in the plaza, and it seems
to me the sooner we light out of this place the better.”

In another minute they reached the great patio, where a handful of men
in uniform were eagerly waiting them. They formed about the released
prisoners, and one of them ironically saluted the loyalist sentry who
sat in his box with a cloth bound about his head as they passed out into
the silent street. The hot walls flung back the tramp of their feet with
a horrible distinctness, but the citizen of Santa Marta had grown
accustomed to the passing of the rounds, and when Maccario, stopping
beneath a light, pulled out his watch they were close to the outside of
the town.

“Haste would be advisable, I think,” he said.

Then they broke into a run, but Maccario swung round as they sped down a
street and flung himself into a shadowy patio. They swept through it
into an open door, and out through one at the back of the building,
while Appleby gasped with relief as he found himself in a garden with
the town at last behind him.

Maccario laughed a little as he touched his shoulder. “There is a path
here,” he said. “The Sin Verguenza have friends everywhere.”

They were quickly clear of the garden, and as they blundered through a
grove of trees shadowy objects clustered about them, while when Maccario
stopped again there appeared to be a swarm of them. A growing clamor,
through which the ringing of the bugles came stridently, rose from the
town.

“We will stop and adopt a convenient formation,” he said. “You will, I
think, find a few of your friends here, Don Bernardino. It is scarcely
likely that Morales will risk a pursuit in the darkness.”

“If anybody had told me he would have sat there because he promised I
guess I wouldn’t have believed him,” said Harper.

Maccario laughed. “There is apparently still a little you do not
understand,” he said. “That is a great rascal, but he is also a brave
soldier and a Castilian gentleman. Had he not known his own value to
Spain it is conceivable that—”

He stopped with a little expressive gesture, and Harper felt something
very like a shiver run through him. He, however, said nothing further,
but took his place among the rest, for already Appleby was forming the
men. Then marching silently they swung through the tobacco fields until
they came out upon the carretera that led to San Cristoval.


XXVI — THE SEIZING OF SAN CRISTOVAL


FOR a time the tramp of marching feet throbbed softly along the
carretera that wound, a black thread of shadow, through the dusky cane.
The dust was clogged with moisture and deadened the sound, while the Sin
Verguenza were not shod after the fashion of British infantry. Some of
them, indeed, wore no shoes at all, and as he watched the dim, half‐seen
figures flit almost silently through the night Appleby could have
fancied he was marching with a company of shadows through a land of
dreams.

The sensation was, however, by no means new to him. He had felt it now
and then before on a long night march when the mind, as it were,
released itself from the domination of the worn‐out, but it was plainer
now than it had ever been. He had during the last few days been living
under a heavy strain, and now there crowded upon him vague perplexing
fancies and elusive memories which he could almost believe had been
transmitted him by the soldiers whose blood was in his veins. It was
only by an effort that, plodding along with half‐closed eyes, he shook
them off and roused himself to attention. Shadowy men moved on into the
blackness in front of him, and more were winding out of the gloom
behind. Now and then a clump of palms went by, showing a mere patch of
obscurity against the clouded sky, and where the road was harder the
beat of weary feet rang through the silence hollowly. He did not feel
drowsy, but wondered if he was wholly awake when he heard Harper’s voice
beside him.

“You seem kind of quiet. I guess you’re thinking hard,” he said.

“No,” said Appleby, with a little laugh. “I could scarcely remember
clearly what happened yesterday. I don’t know, however, that I want to
especially.”

“Well,” said Harper reflectively, “it must be the same kind of thing
that is wrong with me. My thoughts keep going round in rings, and bring
up at the same place every time, as though somebody had put a peg in. I
can see that peon in the plaza clawing at the stones, and the cazadores
standing still with ordered rifles. That seems to slide away, and it’s
the ‘Maine’ going under, bows down. I wasn’t there, but the big swirl in
the water is quite plain to me, and I can see the bodies coming up
through the green heave by twos and threes. Then I wonder how I came
away from the cuartel and left Morales sitting there, and I want to live
until I meet him, when he isn’t alone, again.”

His voice sank into a faint hoarse murmur that was more significant than
any declamation, but Appleby, who had his own score against Morales,
said nothing. He felt that a time would come when he and the Spanish
soldier would once more stand face to face, and that to let his
vindictive passions run riot in the meanwhile would be puerile. Then
Maccario’s voice came sharply across the wavering rifles, and the
shuffle of feet grew still. There was a murmur of voices until the head
of the column moved again, and the men who left the carretera plodded
along a narrow pathway and then flung themselves down among the cane,
while Appleby, who did not quite know how he got there, found himself
sitting in a little open space with Maccario and two or three of the
leaders. There was blackness and silence about them.

“Morales will wait until the dawn,” said Maccario. “We have taught him
that one gains little by chasing the Sin Verguenza at night, and the men
have marched a long way. We will seize the hacienda when the light is
just creeping into the sky.”

“There are troops there?” asked Appleby.

“A section or two. Morales is a clever man, but one is apt to believe
what one wishes to, and it is some little time since he drove out the
Sin Verguenza.”

“He has spies,” said Appleby.

Maccario laughed softly. “It is dangerous to spy upon the Sin Verguenza,
and there are men who go out and are not seen again. One also brings a
tale of what he has not seen now and then, and when one has friends
everywhere it is not difficult to contrive that the cazadores shall find
reasons Morales should believe him.”

“Pancho brought you my message?” said Appleby.

“Next day. He came in staggering. It was a long way and a mule could
scarcely have made the journey faster. Another man came, but where the
rest are I do not know. Perhaps the pickets saw them, and they are lying
among the cane. It was, however, morning when I had gathered thirty men,
and I knew you were in Santa Marta then. We moved slowly until another
thirty came up with me, but one could not assault the cuartel with sixty
men. So we scattered, and the Sin Verguenza hid where the patrols would
not find them, while a merchant of tobacco who has friends there came
into Santa Marta. He saw what was happening, and how one might profit by
Morales’ little blunder.”

“I don’t quite understand,” said Appleby. “Only a handful of men had
actually mutinied.”

“Morales would have shot them, only he is cunning, and had seen the
temper of the people. A dead man cannot feel, but one can hold fear over
a living one until he crushes him, and those cazadores knew what to
expect. One can, however, be too cunning, my friend.”

“The men could have deserted.”

“It is also conceivable that, in spite of the pickets, you could have
got out of San Cristoval, but what then? There is only the cane to hide
in, starving, until the patrols find one. It was when they heard the Sin
Verguenza were coming the affair became simple.”

“Still, they shot three of your friends.”

Maccario’s voice sank a little. “That is counted to Morales, and they
will have the opportunity of doing a good deal for us in an hour or two.
There will be no fighting when we occupy San Cristoval. Comes a patrol
with an order from Morales, and no one is very alert at that hour. The
patrol is admitted, there is a seizing of rifles, and the Sin Verguenza,
who have crept up behind, are in. With a little contrivance there is no
difficulty.”

“One could hold the hacienda with sixty men.”

Maccario laughed. “With six hundred one could be sure; and in a few
weeks we shall have a battalion, for our time is coming soon. When the
American troops have landed there will be work for those of Spain. You
have our felicitations on your clear sight, Don Bernardino. A little
thing makes a quarrel when the suspicion and the dislike are there.”

There was a murmur from the rest, and Harper stood up among the cane.

“A little thing!” he said hoarsely. “The devils sunk the ‘Maine’!”

Appleby said nothing. He was worn out and limp from the strain, and
fancied he must have gone to sleep, for when he was next conscious of
anything the men about him had risen to their feet. It was a little
lighter, and a faint cool breeze was blowing, while he shivered as he
stood up with his thin damp garments clinging to his limbs.

Maccario spoke sharply, there was a shuffling of feet, and before
Appleby quite realized what was happening the Sin Verguenza were once
more plodding down the road to San Cristoval. Then he shook the
stiffness and lassitude from him, and braced himself to face the work on
hand. Maccario’s plan might fail, and he knew it would in that case be
no easy task to drive Morales’ cazadores out of the hacienda. The sleep
had, however, refreshed him, the vague memories had vanished, and his
head was clear, while a faint sense of exhilaration came upon him. There
was something inspiriting in the tramp of feet that grew brisker now,
and in the thin musical jingle of steel. He had, for what seemed a very
long time, played a risky game alone, and it was a relief to face actual
visible peril with trusty comrades about him and a good rifle in his
hand.

By and by there was another brief stoppage, and the handful of cazadores
went on alone when the rest plunged into a path among the cane.
Maccario, it was evident, did not care to take the risk of blundering
upon a picket, and a man led them by twisting paths until at last the
hacienda rose blackly before them. Appleby could see it dimly, a blur of
shadowy buildings with the ridge of roof parapet alone cutting hard and
sharp against the clearing sky. Beyond it rose the gaunt chimney of the
sugar mill, a vague spire of blackness that ran up into the night, but
though a few lights blinked in the lower windows there was no sound from
the house. The men were standing silent and impassively still, so that
he could scarcely distinguish them from the cane, but he made out
Maccario few paces away from him.

“We will have to wait. It is farther by the road,” he said “Can you
trust the cazadores? They have already deserted one leader.”

Maccario seemed to laugh. “They know what to expect from Morales. It
would, of course, not be difficult to warn their comrades, but what
then? Comes a sergeant to Morales with a tale that they have led the Sin
Verguenza into a trap. Morales is not likely to be grateful, or place
much value on the men who change their masters twice in one night.
Still, one takes precautions in Cuba, and while they trample down the
road a few men who wear no shoes follow close behind them. Then if there
is to be another change it is not the cazadores who will walk into the
trap.”

Appleby said nothing. He had been afforded another glimpse of the
complex Spanish character, which is marked by an intellectual astuteness
and a swift cunning that is beyond the attainment of the average
Englishman or American, and yet rarely avails the Castilian much when
pitted against them. He had seen enough in Cuba to realize that it was
seldom shortsighted folly and never lack of valor that had blighted the
hopes of Spain, but the apathy and indecision when the eventful moment
came, and the instability which when the consummation was almost brought
about not infrequently changed the plan. Nor were there many Iberians or
Cubans like Maccario who seldom overlooked the trifles that make the
difference.

The latter made a little sign with his lifted hand, there was a low
rustling, and the Sin Verguenza had vanished among the cane. Appleby
smiled as he flung himself down, and realized that a battalion of
cazadores might march past without seeing one of them. Then the soft
rustling and crackling died away, and it became very still. There was no
sound yet from the tram‐line which ran between them and the hacienda,
and he began to wonder how long the cazadores sent on would be, or if
they had after all deceived their new friends and eluded the vigilance
of those who watched them. The latter, however, appeared very
improbable. In the meanwhile the sky was growing a little lighter, the
buildings blacker and sharper in outline, while there was a faint
illusory brightness in the east. Still, no sound rose from the hacienda,
and there was only silence upon the unseen carretera.

Then he started as a faint rhythmic throbbing came out of it. It
suggested marching feet, and grew louder while he listened, until he
heard the men stumbling among the sleepers of the tram‐line. Maccario
said something, and the Sin Verguenza moved in nearer the building by
little paths among the cane, while when they stopped again Appleby found
himself on the verge of the tram‐line with the outer wall of the
hacienda close in front of him. A few shadowy objects that stumbled
among the sleepers were growing into visibility a little farther along
the line. They stopped and stood still a moment when a hoarse shout rose
from the building, and then moved on again when somebody flung them a
low warning from amidst the cane. Then they stopped close in front of
the gate of the patio, and Appleby felt a little quiver run through him
as he heard the question of the sentry.

The voice of the man who answered reached him distinctly.

“Friends. Orders from the cuartel! We have come from Santa Marta, and it
is a long way. Let us in.”

There was another question, and an answer. The big iron grille grated on
its hinges as it swung open, and Appleby fancied that one dim figure
detached itself from the rest as they disappeared into the patio.
Discipline is seldom unnecessarily rigid among the troops of Spain, and
it was not astonishing that a man should stop a moment and speak to the
sentry.

Then for a minute or two there was a silence. Now and then a man moved
amidst the cane, and the low rustling sounded horribly distinct, but
while Appleby wondered what was taking place within the hacienda
Maccario touched his shoulder, and rising softly he slipped across the
tram‐line and into the gloom beneath the high wall, with Harper and a
cluster of crouching men close behind him. Moving circumspectly they
crept forward nearer the gate, until there was a shout from the sentry
followed by a struggle and the sound of a fall, and a man stood in the
opening shouting to them.

Then they went on at a run, and sprang through the gate, stumbling over
a man who crawled out from among their feet. There was a clamor in a
lighted room close by, and a pistol shot rang out. Then a rifle flashed,
and as they swept in through a doorway a wisp of acrid smoke met them in
the face. They had a brief glimpse of a few figures in uniform flying
through another door, and two men who stood alone in a corner with the
mutinous cazadores in front of them. One of the latter was by his
emphatic gestures apparently urging them to consider the recommendation
he was making.

The two men, however, stood grimly still, one, who was young and slim,
with delicate olive‐tinted face and the blue eyes one finds now and then
among the Castilians, clenching a big pistol, while the dusky, grizzled
sergeant beside him held a rifle at his hip. A little blue smoke was
still curling from the muzzle, and a man with a red smear growing
broader down one leg sat looking at him stupidly in the middle of the
room. Appleby grasped the meaning of the scene at a glance, and then he
was driven forward as the Sin Verguenza poured into the room. Harper
sprang past him.

“It’s the fellow I hove over the balustrade at the café,” he said.
“You’ve got no use for that pistol, señor.”

There was a bright flash, and a flake of plaster fell from the wall
close behind Appleby’s shoulder, but even as the brown fingers tightened
on the trigger again Harper gripped the young officer. He hove him
bodily off his feet, and there was a yell from the Sin Verguenza as he
flung him upon the grizzled sergeant. The man staggered, and the pair
went down heavily in the corner. Then Harper, who tore one of his
comrade’s rifles away from him, stood in front of them.

“I guess you had better keep moving in case the rest light out,” he
said.

There was an angry murmur, and though some of the men had already swept
through the room the rest stared at Harper, who grinned at them.

“Well,” he said, “it’s not your fault you’re not Americans. Rustle. Hay
prisa. Adelante! Tell them I’ll put this contract through, Appleby.”

Those of the Sin Verguenza who had remained appeared a trifle undecided,
until Appleby, who had no desire to witness a purposeless piece of
butchery, joined his comrade. Then, with the exception of two or three,
they turned and went out to head off any of the defenders who might
escape by an outer window from the tram‐line. Appleby secured the
officer’s pistol, while Harper, apparently with no great effort, dragged
him to his feet, and holding him by the shoulder gravely looked him
over.

“Well,” he said in English, and his voice expressed approbation, “you
have grit in you. Now stand still a little. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”

The young officer’s face was dark with passion, but he writhed futilely
in his captor’s grasp, while the sergeant, who stood up, handed Appleby
his rifle.

“Tell him not to wriggle,” said Harper, grinning. “Oh, let up, you
senseless devil!”

Then while the Sin Verguenza laughed he backed his captive against the
wall and gravely proceeded to pull his tunic straight and dust him. When
this had been accomplished to his satisfaction he stepped back a pace or
two, and surveyed his work smiling.

“There’s not much harm done, señor,” he said. “Now, I felt it would have
been a pleasure to shake the life out of you a minute or two ago.”

The officer stared at him in blank astonishment, and then looked at the
sergeant, who gravely laid a finger on his forehead.

“They are born that way, these Americans,” he said.

The officer made a curious little gesture, and would apparently have
unbuckled his sword, but while the men of the Sin Verguenza, unstable
even in their fierceness, laughed, Harper seized him by the shoulder,
and, signing to the sergeant, propelled him violently to the door.

“Out you go while you’ve got the chance!” he said in English.

The officer turned, and stood still a moment as though undecided, and
then vanished into the night, while in another second the sergeant
sprang after him. Appleby laughed as he turned to Harper.

“I scarcely fancy that was wise,” he said. “We could have kept him to
play off against any of our men who fall into Morales’ hands.”

“Well,” said Harper reflectively, “I don’t quite know why I let him go,
but he had grit in him, and it seemed to me that if I hadn’t let up on
taking a life or two after getting out of the plaza in Santa Marta it
would have been mean of me. Anyway, I don’t figure we’d have kept him.
He has the kind of temper that would have stirred up the Sin Verguenza
into sticking knives in him.”

Appleby nodded gravely, for he was astonished at very little that Harper
did, while though the big skipper’s sentiment were crude there was
something in his vague notion of thank‐offering that appealed to his
fancy. Then Maccario came in.

“The cazadores have left two men behind, but the rest got away, except a
few who submitted,” he said. “We will find a place in the stables for
them. It will induce Morales to be more considerate with his prisoners.”

Appleby told him about the officer. “It was perhaps a blunder, but we
can afford it just now,” he said.

Maccario’s face grew a trifle grim, but in another moment he made a
little gesture of resignation.

“If it was the wish of the Senor Harper! It is sometimes a trifle
difficult to understand an American,” he said. “Now if we can find any
peons they shall cut the cane back from the hacienda. Morales will be
here in two or three hours with at least a company.”



XXVII — HARDING’S APPROBATION


THE red sunrise found the Sin Verguenza already toiling with fierce
activity about the hacienda. This was significant, because they were not
addicted to unnecessary physical effort, but they had reasons for
knowing it was advisable for the men who incurred the displeasure of
Morales to take precautions, and the cane that rolled close up to the
hacienda would in case of an assault afford convenient cover to the
cazadores. It went down crackling before the flashing steel, while the
perspiration dripped from swarthy faces, and the men gasped as they
toiled. Appleby, who stripped himself to shirt and trousers before an
hour had passed, wondered how long his arms, unused to labor, would
stand the strain as he strove to keep pace with the men he led. Harper,
almost naked, led another band, and stirred up the spirit of rivalry by
rude badinage in barbarous Castilian. It was characteristic that both
found the stress of physical effort bracing, and Maccario, attired in
hat of costly Panama and spotless duck, watched them with a little
twinkle in his dark eyes. There were, he said, sufficient men to do the
work without him, and no gentleman of Iberian extraction toiled with his
hands unless it was imperatively necessary.

Pickets came in and took up the machetes, gasping men, dripping with
perspiration, flung themselves down in the shadow until their turn came
again, the sun climbed higher until it was almost overhead, and the
juice exuded hot upon the toilers’ hands from the crackling stems, while
the faint breeze seemed to have passed through a furnace, and the
brightness was bewildering.

Still, while the space where the stalks stood scarcely knee‐high widened
rapidly there was no sign of Morales, and the men grew silent, and now
and then cast wondering glances at one another. They had expected the
cazadores several hours ago, and their uneasiness was made apparent by
the stoppages that grew more frequent while they gazed across the cane.
Morales was, as they knew, not a man who wasted time, and his
dilatoriness troubled them, for they felt certain that he would come.

The hour of the siesta arrived, and it was hotter than ever and
dazzlingly bright, but no one laid his machete down; and Appleby’s hands
were bleeding, while his head reeled as he staggered towards the tram‐
line with great bundles of cane. Morales, it seemed evident, was
hatching some cunning plan for their destruction, and though arms and
backs ached intolerably they toiled on. It was not until the hour of the
comida they desisted, and by then sufficient cane had been cut to leave
a space round the hacienda that would be perilous for the cazadores to
cross, and those of the Sin Verguenza who had magazine rifles surveyed
it with grim complacency. Then bags of soil were placed here and there
along the parapet of the roof and piled behind the patio gate, and the
men trooped in to eat. When Morales came they would at least be in a
position to welcome him fittingly.

Still, he did not come, and when the shadows of the building which lay
long and black across the cleared space crept into the growing cane a
man walked into the patio. Pancho led him up to where Appleby and
Maccario sat upon the roof gazing across the green plain towards the
wavy thread of carretera.

“There is little news, señor,” he said. “Morales sits close in Santa
Marta and has drawn his outposts in. One is not allowed to go into or
out of the city without a pass, and the civiles watch the wine‐shops.”

Maccario appeared thoughtful, but Appleby said, “You had a pass?”

The man shrugged his shoulders. “It is not always necessary—to me, but
as it happens, I have two or three. There are little persuasive tricks
known to the friends of liberty, and one can now and then induce a loyal
citizen to part with his.”

“In Cuba one does not suggest too much,” said Maccario dryly. “Your good
offices will be remembered when we have taken Santa Marta. There are
dollars in that city, and they are scarce just now at San Cristoval.
Morales has been here, you understand. In the meanwhile it is likely
that Don Pancho will find you a bottle of wine and a little comida.”

The man withdrew, and Maccario contemplated the cigar he lighted. “There
is a good deal I do not understand,” he said. “Morales does nothing
without a motive, and it is quite certain he is not afraid. There is,
however, a little defect in his character which has its importance to
us.”

“One would fancy that there were several,” said Appleby.

Maccario smiled, and showed himself, like most men of his nationality,
willing to moralize. “Strength comes with unity of purpose,” he said. “I
am, as an example, anxious only to do what I can to promote Cuban
independence, and a very little on behalf of a certain patriot Maccario.
The latter, you understand, is permissible, and almost a duty. Morales,
one admits, has at heart the upholding of Spanish domination, and it is
at least as certain that any opportunity of profiting one Morales is
seized by him. It would not, however, become me to censure him, but the
defect is this—Morales always remembers the man who has injured him.”

“One would fancy it was a shortcoming which is not unknown among the Sin
Verguenza!”

Maccario made a little gesture. “In reason, it is scarcely a defect, but
with Morales it is a passion which is apt to betray into indiscretions a
man who should have nothing at heart but the good of his country and the
good of himself.”

“I think I understand. You mean—‐”

“That Morales will endeavor to crush us even if he knows it will cost
him a good deal. Cuba is not large enough for a certain three men to
live in it together.”

“Then his slowness is the more inexplicable.”

“I have a notion that there may be an explanation which would not quite
please me. It is conceivable that our comrades from beyond the mountains
are moving, and he fears an assault upon Santa Marta.”

“In that case you could seize the town by joining hands with them.”

Maccario smiled. “If we wait a little we can drive Morales out
ourselves; and this district belongs to us, you understand. We have
watched over it for a long while, and it would not be convenient that
others who have done nothing should divide what is to be gained with us
when we have secured its liberty.”

Appleby laughed, for his companion’s naive frankness frequently
delighted him. “Then,” he said, “the only thing would be a prompt
assault upon the town, but that is apparently out of the question.”

“Who knows!” said Maccario, with a little expressive movement of his
shoulders, and sat thoughtfully silent looking down towards Santa Marta
across the cane.

Appleby, who asked no more questions, lay still in his chair vacantly
watching the strip of road that was growing dimmer now. He had toiled
with fierce activity under the burning sun since early morning, and a
pleasant lassitude was creeping over him, while the faint coolness and
deepening shadow was curiously refreshing after the scorching heat and
glare. The sun had dipped behind a hill shoulder far away, the peaks
grew sharp in outline against a gleam of saffron, and the long waves of
cane were fading to a soft and dusky green. Still though night comes
swiftly in that region, the road still showed faintly white where it
wound in sinuous curves across the darkening plain, and held his gaze.
What he was watching for he did not know, but he was sensible of a vague
expectancy. At last, when the road had faded, and the soft darkness
closed down, Maccario raised his head suddenly, for a drumming sound
rose from the cane.

“Somebody is coming this way, riding hard,” he said.

The sound grew a trifle plainer, sank, and rose again, and the two men
strained their ears to listen. The darkness was growing denser, but
Appleby glanced at his companion.

“The sound commenced suddenly just beyond the spot where our outer
picket is,” he said.

Maccario nodded. “Morales will certainly watch the road. It is a friend
who has ridden by one of the paths through the cane with news for us,”
he said.

In another few minutes the beat of hoofs was unmistakable, and when it
rang loudly down the unseen road the two descended to the big living‐
room where Pancho had lighted the lamps. Maccario laughed as he sat
down, and lighted a cigarette.

“When one assumes the tranquillity it not infrequently comes to him, and
if the news is bad we shall hear it soon enough,” he said.

Appleby said nothing, for there were times when he found his comrade’s
sage reflections a trifle exasperating, and he was glad when there was a
trampling of hoofs in the patio, and he heard Harper greeting somebody.
Then he sprang to his feet as a man came in.

“Harding!” he said.

Maccario laughed softly. “Now I think you have a little explanation to
make, Don Bernardino, and it is conceivable that the Señor Harding may
not be grateful to you,” he said.

Harding evidently understood him, for he stood still just inside the
doorway, dressed in white duck, looking at Appleby with a little grim
smile in his eyes. The dust was grimed upon his face, which was almost
haggard, and his pose suggested weariness.

“Since I find my hacienda in the possession of the Sin Verguenza I fancy
Don Maccario is right, but I can wait a little for the explanation,” he
said dryly in Castilian. “I have ridden a long way, and as it is twenty‐
four hours since I had anything worth mentioning to eat, I wonder
whether it would be permissable to ask for a little comida?”

Maccario, whose eyes twinkled, summoned Pancho, and sent him for food
and wine. Harding ate with an avidity which told its own story, and then
turned to Appleby.

“It was not until I reached Havana that I heard about the ‘Maine,’ and
then as I had a good deal of business to put through in this country it
seemed advisable to get myself up as a Cuban,” he said. “I had evidence
that the Administration were watching me, and I would never have got
here at all if it hadn’t been for the help of a few friends among the
Liberationists. Now, I fancy you and Don Maccario have something to tell
me.”

Appleby sat still a moment looking at him gravely, while Harper, who
came in, leaned upon a chair. Then he said slowly: “As you may wish for
Don Maccario’s corroboration I think I had better tell the story, which
is a little involved, in Castilian. You will find patience necessary.”

He commenced with his interview with Morales on the night of the
Alcaldes’ ball, and while Harding watched him with expressionless eyes
recounted briefly the two attempts upon the papers made by the spies.
Then as he came to Morales’ proposition the American’s face grew grim.

“That is a clever man,” he said. “Go on!”

Appleby proceeded quietly, and while his low voice broke monotonously
through the silence of the room Harding’s face lost its grimness, and
became intent and eager, while a sparkle crept into his eyes.

“So you staked all I had in Cuba on the chance of war and committed me
to backing the Sin Verguenza!” he said.

“Yes,” said Appleby. “It was a heavy responsibility, but I could think
of no other means of overcoming the difficulty. That I should agree to
Morales’ terms was out of the question.”

“Of course!” said Harding simply. “That is, to a man like you.”

Appleby flushed a little. “I had no opportunity of warning you, while it
seemed to me that it would go very hard with you if you were seized by
Morales. That appeared almost inevitable unless you had friends behind
you. The only ones that could be of service in this instance are the Sin
Verguenza.”

“And so you took your chances of Morales shooting you?”

“I think,” said Appleby quietly, “there was, under the circumstances,
very little else that one could do.”

Harding looked at him steadily, and then, nodding gravely, turned to
Maccario.

“The Señor Appleby has thrown me on the patriots’ hands,” he said. “I
have already done them several small services, as you perhaps know. They
will remember that?”

Maccario’s eyes twinkled. “I believe they will. The Señor Harding’s
generosity is well known,” he said. “In this country friends who are
liberal with their money are scarce, and one is willing to do a little
now and then to retain their good will. That, I think, is
comprehensible. One has usually a motive.”

“Yet, when two men who had not a dollar between them were in peril, a
merchant of tobacco ventured into the cuartel at Santa Marta!” said
Appleby quietly.

Maccario lifted one shoulder expressively. “One is not always discreet,
my friend. There is, however, an important question. The Señor Harding
who knows his own countrymen believes there will be war?”

“I believe it is inevitable,” said Harding dryly.

A trace of darker color crept into the Cuban’s olive face, while Harper,
who slowly straightened himself, tapped him on the back with a big hand.

“Then you’ll get your liberty! You’re not going to find a Spaniard in
Cuba when we’re through,” he said.

There was a brief silence, but the intentness in the men’s eyes and the
hardening of their lips were significant. Then Harding, reaching across
the table, grasped Appleby’s hand. “I am in your debt, and it’s not
going to hurt me to remember it,” he said. “There are not many men who
could have taken up my hand, and played it out for me as you have done,
but I’m not astonished. I had my notions about you when I left you in
charge at San Cristoval. Well, that leads up to something. My affairs in
this country are ’most getting too big for me, and I’m open to take a
partner and deal with him liberally. It’s not money I want, but daring
conception, and the nerve to hold on and worry through a risky plan. I
guess you know the man who would suit me, Mr. Appleby.”

A little gleam crept into Appleby’s eyes, but it faded again as he
glanced at Maccario.

“It is a tempting offer, but I belong to the Sin Verguenza yet,” he
said. “Can you leave it open, Mr. Harding?”

“For how long?”

“Until Santa Marta has fallen, and the Sin Verguenza are undisputed
masters of this region.”

He spoke in Castilian, feeling that Maccario’s dark eyes were upon him,
and Harding smiled.

“Well,” he said a trifle dryly, “I guess you couldn’t help it, and I
can’t afford to let any of the other men who will follow my lead when
we’re through with the war get hold of you. When you have taken Santa
Marta come straight along to me, and if we can’t fix up something that
will suit both parties it will astonish me. Now, I’m feeling sleepy, and
I’ve a good deal of figuring to go through with you to‐morrow.”

Appleby rose and went with him to the room Pancho had made ready, while
when they reached it Harding sat down wearily.

“I have another thing to tell you, Appleby,” he said. “My daughter
Nettie seems to think a good deal of you.”

“Miss Harding was kind enough to permit me to call upon her once or
twice at the banker’s house,” said Appleby quietly.

Harding’s eyes twinkled. “If you had gone there every day it wouldn’t
have worried me. Your head is tolerably level, and Nettie has rather
more sense than most young women, but that is not the point, anyway.
When she was leaving England she wrote to me, and told me I might let
you know there were people over there, and one, I believe in particular,
who had heard the truth about you.”

Appleby stood still a moment, with a flush on his forehead and a curious
glow in his eyes.

“Miss Harding told you nothing more, sir?” he said.

“No,” said Harding reflectively. “It wasn’t very explicit but she seemed
to fancy it would be sufficient. Now, I don’t think you need worry about
the thing, Appleby. Nettie has a good deal of discretion, and if she
decided to take up your hand it’s no more than you did with mine.”

Appleby made no answer, but went out, and leaned upon the veranda
balustrade looking up into the soft blueness of the night, while once
more an alluring vision seemed to materialize before his eyes. He had a
curious faith in Nettie Harding’s capabilities, and remembered the
promise she had made him that what he longed for should be his.



XXVIII — TONY MAKES AMENDS


THE moon hung low above the clump of cottonwoods that flung their black
shadows across the road when Appleby with Harper and four of the Sin
Verguenza crept in among the roots which, rising like buttresses,
supported the great columnar trunks. Beyond the trees the road wound
faintly white towards Santa Marta through the cane that stretched away a
vast sweep of dusky blueness, under the moon. The night was hot and
almost still, though a little breeze that was heavy with a spicy, steamy
smell now and then shook a faint sighing from the cane.

The men sank into the blackest of the shadow with ears strained to catch
the slightest sound, while Appleby lay in a hollow with his rifle across
his knees where he could follow the strip of road until it twisted
sharply. He also fancied that the light was clear enough to make it
risky for any of Morales’ cazadores to venture round that bend, and
there was, he felt tolerably certain, a handful of them not far away,
for certain supplies which had been sent the Sin Verguenza had failed to
reach the hacienda. Supplies were also necessary, for, as Maccario had
predicted, adherents had flocked in daily. They, however, had travelled
by paths through the cane, and Appleby had gone out to locate one of the
pickets which were watching the road.

It was not exactly his business, and both Maccario and Harding, who had
remained at the hacienda because he could not well get away, had
protested against his undertaking it, but since the latter had given him
Nettie’s message Appleby had been curiously restless, and felt that the
excitement might help him to shake off the thoughts and fancies that
troubled him. It had, however, signally failed to do so as yet, and
while he lay with hot fingers clenched on the rifle barrel he once more
found himself wondering anxiously what had come about in England.

It was with a thrill of satisfaction, that was mixed with disgust at his
own infirmity of purpose, he realized that Nettie Harding must have
meant that she had vindicated him in Violet Wayne’s eyes, but in that
case it was evident that he had gone away in vain, since Nettie could
not have proved his innocence without inculpating Tony. It also appeared
out of the question that anybody would believe Tony if he told the truth
now, and Appleby flushed with anger at himself as he pictured the effect
of the blow upon the girl. He knew at last that it was to save her the
pain of the discovery he had borne the blame, and yet he could not
overcome a curious sense of relief and content at the thought that she
had heard he was innocent. Then he wondered what had befallen Tony, and
decided with a trace of bitterness that it was no affair of his. Tony
had had his chances, and if he had thrown them away had only himself to
blame.

At last he shook himself to attention when a distant patter of feet came
faintly across the cane. The sound grew plainer as he listened, while
here and there a shadowy figure rose up among the roots and sank from
sight again. It was evident that two or three men were moving down the
road in haste, but the soft patter of their feet did not suggest the
approach of the cazadores. Still, it seemed advisable to take
precautions, and he sent out two men, who, crossing the road, faded
again into invisibility on the edge of the cane.

“Now we’re going to find out where that picket is,” said Harper. “Those
fellows are coming right here, and I guess by the noise they’re making
they don’t belong to the Sin Verguenza.”

Appleby repeated the observation in Castilian, and a man unseen among
the roots laughed softly.

“The Señor Harper has reason,” he said. “Our friends do not travel on a
white road with their shoes on when the moon is shining.”

In another moment a hoarse cry rose from the cane, the patter of feet
quickened suddenly, and Appleby stood up when he heard the sharp ringing
of a rifle. Another shot followed, but the men unseen beyond the cane
were evidently running still, and there was a little murmur from the Sin
Verguenza. Appleby made a restraining gesture with his hand.

“I think the cazadores are coming too,” he said.

Then there was silence among the cottonwoods, but hard brown fingers
stiffened on the rifle barrels, and while the patter of feet grew
rapidly louder the strip of white road was swept by watchful eyes. Still
nothing moved upon it, until a man appeared where it twisted into the
cane. A moment later another showed behind him, and then a third, who
seemed to reel a little in his stride.

It was evident that they saw the cottonwoods, and hoped to find
concealment there, but the Sin Verguenza lay still watching the three
blurred shadowy objects with dispassionate curiosity. What befell the
strangers was no concern of theirs, but they were doing excellent
service in leading on the cazadores. Then there was a very faint murmur
as a cluster of men in uniform appeared, for there were rather more of
them than the Sin Verguenza had expected, and it became apparent that
they were running faster than the fugitives. Appleby could almost see
the faces of the latter now, and a moment later Harper, who was
crouching close by, dropped his hand on his comrade’s arm.

“That last one’s not quite like the rest,” he said.

Appleby stiffened his fingers on the rifle at his hip, and stared at the
last figure with growing astonishment.

“No. The man’s complexion is as light as mine,” he said.

Then there was another rifle shot, and a little spurt of dust leapt up
from the road. The third man swung suddenly round and a pistol twice
flashed in his hand, while his companions flung themselves gasping into
the shadow of the cottonwoods. Hands were stretched out that seized them
and pulled them down, and a little quiver ran through Appleby as he
watched the lonely figure that now showed clear in the moonlight by the
edge of the road. Close behind it the cazadores were coming on at a run,
and there were considerably more of them than there were of the Sin
Verguenza.

Still, the fugitive stood tense and immovable. He was dressed simply in
white duck, with a wide felt hat on his head, but there was something
curiously familiar in his pose that perplexed Appleby, until turning
half round suddenly he looked over his shoulder. Then as his face showed
white in the moonlight Appleby gasped and flung up his rifle.

“Keep still!” he cried in English.

He felt the jar on his shoulder, there was a thin red flash and the
smoke was in his eyes. Then spurts of pale flame blazed out from among
the trees, and when the soft vapor slid away the road was empty save for
one man, who ran straight in towards the cottonwoods with uneven
lurching stride. Then while the Sin Verguenza looked on wondering
Appleby stepped out from the shadow.

“Tony!” he said. “By all that’s wonderful, Tony!”

The stranger stood still gasping, and stared at him, ignoring his
outstretched hand. Then he drew back a pace.

“I have found you at last,” he said. “I’ve a good deal to tell you, but
it scarcely seems likely those fellows yonder will give me the
opportunity now. It’s specially unfortunate, because there does not seem
to be many of you, and I’m a trifle lame.”

Appleby glanced up the road, and saw enough to convince him that the
cazadores were slipping forward circumspectly through the shadow of the
cane, while it became evident from their murmurs that his companions had
decided it was advisable to retire while the way was open. He slipped
his arm through Tony’s, and they started down a little path through the
cane, while Tony endeavored to shake his grasp off, and finding that he
could not do so limped along clumsily, leaning heavily upon him. The
cazadores, however, apparently knew the ways of the Sin Verguenza too
well to venture far from the open in pursuit of them, and finally they
came gasping and perspiring into sight of the hacienda. Maccario stood
at the gate of the patio waiting them, and glanced curiously at the
stranger.

“A prisoner?” he said.

“No,” said Appleby. “A friend of mine!”

Maccario swung off his hat, but when he begged Appleby to explain that
any friend of his was welcome there he saw that the stranger winced.

They went up to Appleby’s room, where there was an awkward silence for a
moment or two, when Tony dropped limply into the nearest chair and
averted his eyes from Appleby, who leaned upon the table looking down on
him compassionately. He was worn with travel, and his face showed pallid
and haggard under the lamplight.

“How did you chance upon the cazadores?” said Appleby, who felt that the
question was trivial as he asked it.

“They were watching the road”; and Tony laughed in a curious hollow
fashion, though there was apparently no cause for it. “They nearly got
me. I was a little lame, you see. Tore my foot with one of those
condemned aloe spikes a day or two ago.”

“Well,” said Appleby, “you were about the last person I expected to come
across. What, in the name of wonder, brought you here?”

Tony looked at him a moment and smiled, while Appleby felt the blood
rise to his forehead, and grew angry with himself. The constraint that
was evidently upon Tony had extended to him, and would not be shaken
off. Why this was so he did not know, but he could not greet his comrade
with fitting friendliness.

“I came to find you,” said Tony hastily. “Landed at Havana with
Harding’s address as my only guide. He had, I found out, left the city,
but I came across two or three men who seemed to know him, and one of
them passed me on to his friends, who contrived to get me here. We
travelled, for the most part, at night, hiding in the daytime, and got
very little to eat, but most of the men I met did what they could for me
when I told them that I had business with a leader of the Sin
Verguenza.”

Appleby laughed a little. “You will find a bath yonder, and I’ll send
you up some food,” he said. “Then come down when you are ready. You will
find me on the veranda.”

He spent half an hour pacing up and down the veranda before Tony
reappeared, and as it happened Harding came out from his room just then.
The moon, which had risen higher now, flooded the veranda with silvery
light. Harding glanced at the stranger and pointed to a cane chair,
while Appleby, who was not sure whether he was glad or displeased to see
him at the moment, introduced them. Tony, however, did not shake hands.

“I had the pleasure of meeting your daughter in England, Mr. Harding,
and it was only owing to that fact I managed to get here at all,” he
said. “You have evidently a good many friends in this country.”

“I am glad I have been of service,” said Harding, with a smile. “In the
meanwhile I haven’t the slightest doubt that you and Appleby will excuse
me.”

Tony looked at him gravely. “I understood from Miss Harding that you had
reposed a good deal of trust in Appleby and that he had taken you into
his confidence respecting something which happened in England.”

“You have surmised correctly,” said Harding.

“Then I would sooner you sat down and listened to me. It is, I fancy,
likely that he has not told you all the story. You are not altogether
unconcerned in it, since your daughter was the means of sending me
here.”

Appleby made a little impatient gesture. “Tony,” he said sharply, “is it
necessary?”

“I believe it is”; and Tony leaned forward in his chair. “It would be a
favor if you sat down, sir.”

Harding did so, and for ten minutes Tony, who stared straight in front
of him at the blue Bougainvillea on the moonlit wall, spoke with quiet
conciseness, while Harding sat in the shadow watching him. At last he
turned to Harding.

“I think you will see that your confidence in the man I have injured was
fully warranted, sir,” he said. “If I have made you understand that, it
is, at least, a little in reparation. I can’t ask you to forgive,
Bernard, but I want to straighten out what I can.”

Harding for some reason moved uneasily in his chair, but Appleby,
leaning across the table, held out his hand.

“You can’t look past it now, Tony,” he said. “Can’t we still be
friends?”

Tony glanced at him, and made a curious little sound which resembled a
groan, then a red flush crept into his face as he took Appleby’s hand.
An unpleasant silence followed until Harding spoke.

“I shall hope for your better acquaintance, Mr. Palliser,” he said.

Tony looked at him in wonder. “You realize what I have done, sir?”

Harding nodded gravely. “I have heard how you have tried to make it up,”
he said. “Well, I guess I’ve seen and handled a good many men, and
there’s more hope of those who trip up and get on their feet again than
for quite a few of the others who have never fallen at all. Now, I’m
glad you’ve told me, though, so far as my belief in Mr. Appleby goes, it
was not by any means necessary.”

Tony made a little movement with his head. “I’ve made over Dane Cop to
you, Bernard,” he said. “It is yours by right, and you can take it
without feeling that you owe anything to me. Godfrey Palliser meant it
for you—until I deceived him.”

Appleby said nothing, but his set face showed what he was bearing for
his comrade, and Harding quietly touched his shoulder.

“It seems to me that Mr. Palliser is right,” he said. “The land is
yours, anyway, and you would only hurt him by not taking it.”

Tony raised his head, and looked at him gratefully. “Thank you, sir,” he
said. “It would hurt me, Bernard.”

Appleby smiled a little, though it apparently cost him an effort.
“Well,” he said, “I’m not burdened with money yet, and I think you can
afford it.”

A light crept into Tony’s eyes. “That is one thing accomplished. When
will you come back?”

“I don’t quite know. I may find an opportunity in a year or two.”

“You must come now.”

“I can’t.”

“You must,” said Tony, almost hoarsely. “Bernard, can’t you see that to
bring you over, and to prove that I have made amends is the last chance
for me?”

“The last chance. You must be more explicit, Tony.”

They were both apparently oblivious of the fact that Harding was
watching them, and Tony’s voice trembled a little with eagerness.

“It’s the only way I can make my peace with Violet,” he said. “Can’t you
understand what she is to me? She would promise nothing until I had made
all straight with you—and I can’t let her go.”

Appleby’s face was compassionate, but he shook his head. “It is out of
the question, Tony. I can’t—even for you,” he said. “I have got to stay
here, and see this trouble through.”

“Mr. Appleby is right,” said Harding. “He has work to do.”

Tony seemed to groan, and sat still a pace. Then he looked up with a
little flush in his face.

“Well,” he said very quietly, “in that case I’ll stay with you.”

Appleby laughed. “The thing is palpably absurd. A Palliser of Northrop
consorting with the Sin Verguenza!”

“Still,” said Tony doggedly, “I’m not going back to leave you in peril
here. I couldn’t face Violet, and tell her that tale. Nor am I as sure
as you seem to be that the thing is so absurd. It’s only the moral
courage that has been left out of me.”

“Try to realize what it is you wish to do,” said Appleby almost sternly.

Tony smiled curiously. “It is quite plain to me already. I’m going to
stay here and see the affair through with you; then when the insurgents
will let you go you’ll come with me, if it’s only for a week or two, and
tell Violet that you have forgiven me. In the meanwhile Craythorne and
my agent will take better care of Northrop than ever I could do. There
is another point you don’t seem to have remembered. I should almost
certainly be made a prisoner by the Spaniards if you sent me away.”

“There is a good deal of sense in that,” said Harding.

Appleby sat silent for almost a minute, and then seeing that Tony was
resolute made a little gesture of resignation.

“Well,” he said slowly, “we will talk to Maccario. Mr. Harding, I may
ask you for a month’s leave when we have taken Santa Marta.”

“You shall have it,” said Harding quietly.

Just then, as it happened, Maccario strolled into the veranda, and
Appleby, who stood up, laid his hand on Tony’s shoulder.

“I have the honor of presenting you another comrade,” he said.



XXIX — TONY PERSISTS


FOUR of the Sin Verguenza girt with bandoliers were waiting in the patio
while Harding made hasty preparations for his journey when Appleby and
Tony stood on the veranda. The night was a trifle clearer than any of
them desired, though the half‐moon had dipped behind the flat roof which
was projected sharply against the luminescent blueness of the sky. A
stream of light shone out from the open window of Harding’s room, and
Pancho’s voice rose suggestively now and then as he watched him
dressing. Harding, who had affairs of importance with the banker, was
going into Santa Marta, and since it appeared more than likely that
Morales knew he had arrived at San Cristoval, it was essential that, in
order to avoid observation, he should be attired correctly in Cuban
fashion.

Appleby, however, scarcely heard the major‐domo, for he was making
another attempt to induce Tony to leave with Harding, who purposed to
head for the coast in the hope of finding a steamer there when he had
made what arrangements he could respecting his Cuban possessions. Tony
listened with a quiet smile, and then resolutely shook his head.

“We have been through it all before, and you are only wasting breath,”
he said. “I am going home with you when you have taken Santa Marta, but
until then I stay here.”

Appleby lost his patience. “It’s a piece of purposeless folly. What have
you to do with the fall of Santa Marta?”

“It is also my last chance,” said Tony, with a curious little smile.
“You could understand that if you wished to.”

“No,” said Appleby doggedly. “I don’t think I could. Nor do I believe
you would convince any reasonable man.”

Tony smiled curiously. “One has objections to stripping himself, so to
speak, before even a friend’s eyes. It really isn’t decent, but—since
you are persistent—what I went through at Northrop was getting
insupportable. The anxiety was crushing the life out of me, and it’s out
of the question that I should go back there while you are carrying the
load that should have been upon my shoulders here. I’m not claiming any
virtue I don’t possess. Indeed, it’s selfishness and what is most likely
superstitious cowardice that decides me to stay, but I feel that until I
have made all right with you there can be no peace for me.”

“I do not want to live in England, and you are taking too personal a
view of the thing. Since there is Violet to consider your life is not
your own to throw away, and I am not sure you know how much she would
forgive you.”

Tony’s face grew a trifle grim, and the light that streamed from the
window showed the weariness in it.

“The trouble is that Violet was never in love with—me,” he said very
slowly. “I have a gift for deceiving people, even when I don’t mean to,
and it was not until the truth came out she saw me as I am. It is
difficult to admit it, but there the fact is. She gave her heart to the
man she supposed me to be, but I loved her for herself, and because I
know she is the one woman who could make an honorable man of me. I lose
my last hope if I let her go.”

He stopped a moment with a little groan, while Appleby regarded him
compassionately, and then continued in a low strained voice.

“Now you see the selfishness of it, and why I mean to stay. I must prove
I’m not wholly worthless by making amends to you.”

Appleby stood silent a moment. He knew Tony’s unstable nature well, and
that his passion for Violet Wayne, which was almost reverential, might
yet lift him to a higher level. It was also evident that in desiring to
make amends Tony was wise, and Appleby felt a curious sympathy for the
man who clung so desperately to his last hope of vindicating himself in
her eyes. That Tony’s motive was, as he had admitted, largely selfish,
and his contrition by no means of the highest order, did not trouble
him. It was his part to help and not censure him, and with a little
swift movement he laid his hand upon his shoulder.

“Well,” he said quietly, “you may be right, and since nothing else will
content you, you must stay.”

Just then Harding, attired in white duck and a big Panama hat, came out
into the veranda, and glanced at them.

“If you are coming with me, Mr. Palliser, you have no time to lose,” he
said. “You may, however, find my company dangerous, especially if we
can’t get into Santa Marta and reach the banker’s house while it’s
dark.”

Tony smiled. “I’m not coming, sir.”

“Well,” said Harding, glancing at him curiously, “I guess you know your
own affairs best. Maccario sent that fellow word to be ready to smuggle
me in, Appleby.”

“He will be waiting, and you are not likely to have much difficulty with
the patrols when you are inside the town. Still, it is a big risk, sir.”

Harding laughed. “I have been taking steep chances all my life, and I
have quite a few dollars scattered up and down this country which I
can’t afford to throw away. They’re not exactly mine, since it seems to
me that I’m holding them in trust for my daughter Nettie. Now, I guess
I’ve kept those men of yours long enough already.”

He shook hands with Tony, and the men below flung up their rifles to the
slope when he and Appleby went down the stairway. Maccario walked down
the tram‐line with them, and then stopped a moment when they reached the
road, where Harding laid his hand on Appleby’s arm.

“I leave you in charge of San Cristoval and my affairs here with every
confidence,” he said.

“I shall endeavor to deserve it, sir,” said Appleby. “Still, it is not
quite out of the question that Morales may burn the hacienda.”

Harding smiled. “The hacienda can be built again, and they can’t blow up
the land. It will stop right there all the time, in spite of them.”

“Still, they could seize it.”

“Well,” said Harding, with quiet confidence, “when we have chased every
Spanish soldier out of Cuba I’ll get it back again, and that is just
what is going to happen before very long. It’s quite difficult to freeze
a citizen of my country out of his property.”

“Unless an American trust casts covetous eyes upon it,” said Appleby.

Harding laughed as he shook hands with him and Maccario, and then turned
away with a smile still upon his The four Sin Verguenza plodded behind
him down the road, and Maccario glanced at his companion.

“One would not have fancied the Señor Harding knew he was taking a heavy
risk,” he said.

“Still, I think it was quite plain to him.”

Maccario glanced across the cane towards Santa Marta. “I had many
friends there, and he has one or two at most. Morales is a daring and
clever man—but it is his misfortune that in this affair he has others of
the same kind against him.”

“That is an admission,” said Appleby, with a little smile “If you count
the Señor Harper, two of them come from America.”

Maccario laughed. “And one from England! Men of that kind are not
confined to any one country, my friend. Still, they are perhaps more
plentiful in the Peninsula—and Cuba—than elsewhere.”

Appleby said nothing, and they walked slowly back to the hacienda.

Rather more than a fortnight passed uneventfully, and save for a few
affairs between outposts and patrols there was no outbreak of
hostilities. Morales lay in Santa Marta with the country rising against
him, and Maccario patiently waited his time, for the Sin Verguenza were
growing stronger every day. The insurrection was still largely sporadic
and indifferently organized, and since each leader acted for the most
part independently what was happening elsewhere only concerned the Sin
Verguenza indirectly, while the struggle had become almost a personal
question between them and Morales. In the meanwhile Appleby heard that
Harding had eluded the latter’s vigilance and left Santa Marta.

Then late one night a man came gasping up the veranda stairway, and
Appleby and Maccario descended half‐dressed to meet him in the big
living‐room. The dust was white upon him, and he blinked at them out of
half‐closed eyes, while Appleby noticed that he limped a little.
Maccario pointed to a chair, and poured him out a glass of wine.

“You have come a long way?” he said.

“From Brena Abajo. I left there in the afternoon the day before
yesterday.”

“On a mule?”

The man smiled grimly as he pointed to his broken shoes.

“I came on these,” he said.

Maccario turned to Appleby. “Our friend walks fast. It is counted a four
days’ journey. Still, I think he knows that one seldom gains anything by
trifling with the Sin Verguenza.”

A little gleam crept into the man’s dark eyes. “One walks fast when he
is eager for vengeance,” he said. “I had a little wine‐shop, and a
comrade who I trusted, four days ago. Comes a column of Candotto’s
Peninsulares, and there is an asking of questions of the Alcalde, who is
not a friend of mine. Andres, it is discovered, has smuggled rifles to
the friends of liberty in the mountains.”

Maccario made a little gesture. “It went hard with your friend?”

“He died with a jibe at Candotto, who would discover where our comrades
were. The wine‐shop is a heap of ashes now, but that night the friends
of liberty came out from the barrancos and crept in upon Brena Abajo.”

“They drove the soldiers out?”

“No,” said the man very quietly. “The Peninsulares fought well. There
are many dead patriots in the streets of Brena Abajo, and only
Candotto’s men left to bury them.”

Maccario straightened himself suddenly in his chair. “It was a strong
column?”

“No, señor. Four companies only. It seems Morales had sent for them.”

Maccario turned to Appleby. “Now we know why Morales, who does nothing
without a motive, was waiting. Well, they will march slowly, fearing
another attack, with a section or two thrown forward in case there were
friends of ours waiting them among the cane. The Colonel Candotto would,
however, send messengers to Morales.”

The man laughed in a curiously grim fashion. “Then they would never
reach him. The paths are watched, and the friends of liberty are bold
now there is to be war with America.”

“I think our friend is right,” said Maccario, who stood up with a little
smile. “The service he has done us will be remembered in due time.
Señor, the major‐domo whom you will find below will give you food and
show you where you can sleep.”

The man went out, and Appleby glanced at his comrade with a little flush
in his face.

“I think our time has come,” he said.

Maccario’s dark eyes sparkled. “We march in an hour. Candotto’s men will
march circumspectly, and lie behind the walls of an aldea at night. When
they reach Santa Marta it will be to‐morrow evening, and they will not
find Morales then.”

“No,” said Appleby. “I think we can get in, but it will be a risk. It
would have been certain in another week or two. We were growing stronger
every day.”

Maccario smiled dryly. “There are times when one cannot wait too long,
my friend.”

He went out upon the veranda, a man called out sharply in the shadows
below, there was a hum of voices, and dim figures swarmed into the
patio. Then there was a tramp of feet and a jingling of steel, lights
flashed in the windows, and Appleby, slipping clear of the bustle,
entered Tony’s room. He lighted the little lamp, and then sat down on
the bed. Tony lay close beside him sleeping quietly, and Appleby felt a
curious little thrill as he looked down on him. The man had wronged him
grievously, but the bond which had grown strong in happier days bound
them together still.

The room was very hot, and the quiet face that was almost boyish yet was
beaded with perspiration, but Appleby saw there was a stamp upon it
which it had not borne in England. Tony, it seemed, had changed, and
Appleby felt that he might still do his work with credit, and be the
stronger because of his fall. Then as he struggled with a faint sense of
envy and bitterness Tony opened his eyes and smiled.

“You there, Bernard? I was back at Northrop with you and Violet a moment
ago,” he said drowsily.

“Still, you are in Cuba now,” said Appleby.

Tony appeared to be endeavoring to collect his thoughts. “It is
difficult to realize it, and I can’t quite persuade myself I’m awake
yet,” he said. “The sun was shining on the lawn, and I could see the red
geraniums and the little blue lobelia round the border as clearly as I
ever saw anything in my life. You were talking to Violet, and the
trouble between us seemed to have gone. Why couldn’t you let me sleep
on?”

“I felt tempted to,” said Appleby gravely. “Still, you see, we are
marching to assault Santa Marta almost immediately.”

Tony sprang out of bed, and was half dressed when he turned to Appleby
again with a sparkle in his eyes.

“I’m taller than most of these Cubans. You’ll have to put me at the head
of your company,” he said.

“No,” said Appleby dryly. “We are leaving a handful of men behind us to
hold the hacienda, and I mean you to stay with them.”

Tony laughed a clear, ringing laugh. “Did you think for a moment that I
would? Now, you will gain nothing by insisting, and you don’t command.
If I can’t get your permission I’ll get Maccario’s.”

“There is very grim work on hand, and the rest are more fitted for it
than you.”

Tony turned with a trace of stiffness which became him. “There was a
time when you apparently took pleasure in pointing out my slackness,
Bernard,” he said. “Still, while I’m willing to admit it, I think it’s
moral,—and not physical.”

“Of course!”

Tony’s face relaxed, and he laughed. “That’s devilishly complimentary—
but I’m coming. I’ve never been in a fight, and the sensation will be a
pleasant novelty, but there’s something else. You see, it may happen
that one of us gets hurt.”

“It is, I believe, quite likely.”

“Well,” said Tony very quietly, “that is just why I’m coming. I don’t
wish to be uncivil—but while Maccario’s willing I think it’s evident
that you can’t stop me.”

Appleby looked at him a moment with a curious softness in his eyes, and
then made a little gesture of resignation, while Maccario, who opened
the door quietly, smiled as he glanced at them.

“The Señor Palliser will march with us?” he said.

“Of course!” said Tony lightly, but Appleby, who felt a little shiver
run through him, said nothing at all.

Twenty minutes later the Sin Verguenza went stumbling down the tram‐line
file by file, and when they swung out into the carretera Tony Palliser
marched with the leading four at the head of one company. The night was
still and dark and the tramp of feet alone rang through the silence of
the dusky cane, for the Sin Verguenza knew there was grim work before
them, and marched with portentous quietness. Their time had come, but
they realized with an unpleasant distinctness that if they failed very
few of them would escape the vengeance of Morales.



XXX — MORALES PRESERVES HIS FAME


THERE was a pale shining in the eastern sky when the Sin Verguenza came
into sight of Santa Marta. The town lay, a smear of deeper shadow, upon
the dusky levels in front of them, but the transition from darkness to
light is swift in that country, and here and there a flat roof higher
than those it stood among grew out of the obscurity into definite form.
Save for the rhythmic beat of marching feet, there was stillness among
the cane, and nothing moved on all the dim levels but the long black
column that crawled down the shadowy road.

Then the distant peaks stood out in sharper contour against the paling
blueness of the western sky, and Tony, marching outside man of one four,
glanced over his shoulder. He could dimly see the lines of men behind
him plodding through the dust, and their sloped rifles led his gaze
aloft. The sky was now shining with a pearly lustre like the inside of a
shell, and low down upon a cane the flush of crimson blazed into
brilliancy. The rifles of the rearguard cut against it as they rose and
fell, and the faces of the men behind him became suddenly
distinguishable. He could also make out Appleby swinging along a few
paces away an his right hand. Then he glanced in front of him, and saw
that the great peaks were now flushed with a warm pink, until the dust
rolled thicker and blotted out everything. It thinned as they swung
through a white aldea, and the light which had swept down the hillsides
touched Santa Marta when they came out again, so that the city shone
immaculately white upon a setting of luminescent green.

He gazed at it in wonder, for the long night march through a silent
land, the thrill of excitement, and the unwonted bracing of his nerves
to face a physical peril had not been without their effect on him. Tony
was usually somewhat materialistic but just then the bodily part of him
was under the domination of the spirit, and he was sensible of a curious
exaltation Turning his head he glanced at Appleby with a little laugh.

“It is beautiful!” he said. “It came upon one so suddenly out of the
night that one could almost fancy it a vision—of the everlasting city.”

“The one upon the Tiber?” said Appleby.

“The one seen in Patmos nearly two thousand years ago.”

Appleby laughed curiously. “I’m afraid Santa Marta will be much more
like the other place before the day is through, and it is not a very
appropriate simile, Tony. One cannot storm those gates of precious
stones.”

“Well,” said Tony reflectively, “it’s not a subject either of us know
very much about, but Nettie Harding seemed to think one could. We were
lounging on the lawn at Low Wood that afternoon, and she was so sure
about it that she almost convinced me. She said the gates were made of
gold and ivory, and she got the fancy from the song you have heard
Hester sing—but no doubt it means the same thing!”

Appleby glanced at him sharply, for the light was clearer now, and saw a
look in Tony’s face which was new to him. It was curiously quiet in
spite of his little smile. Still, he made no answer, and there was
silence, until from beyond the dust cloud rose the strident crackle of
riflery.

“The advance guard are driving in the pickets. We’ll be in the thick of
it directly,” he said, and a murmur passed along the company, while the
rhythmic tread swelled in a sharp staccato.

It was evident to the Sin Verguenza that they had difficult work before
them, while a direct attack in daylight was not a manoeuvre they had any
great liking for. In this case, however, there was no evading it, for
while they knew adherents would flock in from every aldea once they held
Santa Marta, it was equally clear that should Candotto’s Peninsulares
join hands with Morales they could never seize the town. Haste was also
advisable since he would know that an attack was imminent now, and when
Maccario’s voice rang out of the dust the pace grew faster while the
column drew out in length.

Twice a half‐company swung clear and vanished amidst the scattered
gardens, and at last the rest flung themselves into the little
enclosures between the aloe hedges close outside Santa Marta. Then there
was a flashing of pale flame from the crest of every white wall, and
Tony stared in astonishment when he saw none of the Sin Verguenza beyond
the little handful of men about him in a garden. They were crouching
beneath a low wall apparently made of blocks of sun‐baked soil, while
Appleby lay behind a clump of aloes close in front of him.

Beyond the aloes, the white walls rose glaringly bright with smears of
bluish vapor drifting from every opening, though the smoke was thickest
about one wide gap between them. As he watched it, oblivious of the
rifle in his hand, there was a thin whirling of flame in the midst of
the vapor, and a sound that resembled a rapid hammering came sharply
through the din. Then a strip of the mud wall crumbled into dust, which
made a haze about the garden, and a spurt of flung‐up soil struck him in
the face. A man behind him screamed, and while there was a pattering
among the bananas close on his right Appleby crawled past him.

“A quick‐firer! Morales has two of them, and he has found our range.
We’ll get on,” he said.

Tony said nothing, but he could still see the portentous flashing amidst
the smoke, and next moment felt the jar of his rifle upon his shoulder.
He did not remember pressing the trigger but he could shoot well, and
his fingers seemed to move without any prompting from him, for he saw
the empty shell flung out and heard the snap of the lever as another
cartridge slid into the chamber. Then while he pressed his cheek down on
the stock and stiffened his left hand on the barrel he heard Appleby’s
voice raised in Castilian, and saw that his comrades were flitting
forward. The rifle muzzle tilted upwards, and in another moment he was
on his feet, and clambering over a low wall, ran past several small
houses, and then dropped behind an aloe screen again.

Appleby, who knelt on one knee close beside him with a pair of glasses
which had once belonged to an officer of cazadores in his hand, was
still speaking sharply in Castilian, and Tony fancied that the men about
them were all gazing towards the gap in the high walls where the
carretera entered Santa Marta. Then there was a blast of riflery that
set the aloes quivering and rolled away to the right of him, while, when
a minute or two later nothing followed the click of the striker, he
found the magazine was empty and the rifle barrel hot in his hand It was
an American Marlin, and while he dropped fresh cartridges in through the
slide Appleby rose to his feet and the Sin Verguenza were once more
scrambling through enclosures nearer to the town.

The cluster Tony was attached to stopped among tall shrubs with crimson
flowers of a heavy scent, with nothing between them and the white houses
but a bare strip of dusty soil, and it became evident that they were
waiting for something, for the firing slackened. Then further away to
the right men sprang out into the open, straggling by twos and threes as
they ran towards the town. The smoke grew thicker along the white walls,
and some went down, while the dust they fell in splashed and spurted as
a still pool would do under a driving hail. Still, more came on behind
them, and Tony was struggling with an impulse to shout aloud when, from
the whole front of the Sin Verguenza, there broke out a crash of
riflery. He gasped as the smoke rolled down, for his desire to see had
become almost overwhelming, and then as the firing slackened again it
became evident that the little white forms were running still.

There were, however, not many of them now, and Tony grasped their
purpose when they swept in close beneath the dazzling wall, while
Appleby, who stood upright, with the glasses at his eyes, said something
hoarsely in evident approbation. Once more there was a crackle of
firing, and the smoke grew thick, while when it cleared the dusty strip
was empty save for the white objects which lay still here and there.
Tony surmised that the others had found entrance into the town by a
narrow lane, or through the house of a friendly citizen.

A minute or two later this became evident, for the crash of firing grew
furious on the roofs above the gap, and Appleby, who thrust his glasses
into their case, was shouting hoarsely. Rising by twos and threes the
men sprang out from among the flowering shrubs, and Tony saw the low
walls and clumps of aloes become alive with scurrying forms. They seemed
to move independently and without formation, though Appleby, with hand
swung up, was shouting in Castilian, and Maccario went by pointing with
a Spanish infantry officer’s sword. The gleam of it in the intense
sunlight dazzled Tony’s eyes, and he stood still, uncertain what was
going on, and gasping with excitement, when Appleby’s hand fell on his
shoulder.

“I can’t tell you to hold off now we’re going in,” he said. “Still, it’s
devilishly risky. You’ll not be unnecessarily rash, Tony.”

He sprang forward with three or four more at his heels, and Tony found
himself running a few yards behind him. He could see that the Sin
Verguenza were following, but save that they ran with wide spaces
between them they seemed to keep no order, and to have only one purpose,
to cross the perilous bare space as rapidly as they could.

The time that cost them appeared interminable, but it became evident
that a few at least of those who had gained an entry into the town were
firing on the cazadores who held the mouth of the carretera, and in
another minute or two they swept up to it and stopped again, gasping in
the smoke, with high white walls above them, and a mound of soil and
torn‐up pavement meshed with wires close in front of them. Tony
remembered he had heard that in these days of magazine rifles and
hopper‐fed guns an attack of the kind was foredoomed to fail, but it
seemed that the Sin Verguenza meant to try it, for already Maccario was
half‐way up the slope, with Appleby, pistol in hand, close behind him,
and while a savage cry went up a wave of scrambling men seemed to toss
together and roll on. It swept up to the crest of the barrier, and
plunged into the smoke, and the cazadores wavered, turned, and fled.
They were outnumbered, and, as it transpired later, had been galled by a
fire from the roofs above, while Appleby eventually discovered a
cartridge partly torn to pieces stuck immovably in the chamber of their
quick‐firing gun.

In the meanwhile Appleby was grimed with perspiration, smoke, and dust,
while his hand was blackened by the fouling from the pistol. Strung to a
tension that was too great for nervous excitement, he moved, as it were,
with an automatic precision and collectedness, grasping the import of
each turn of the struggle with a dispassionate perspicacity, which in
less eventful moments he would have been incapable of. The faculty of
swift deduction and decision may have been born in him, but it was, at
least, evident to the Sin Verguenza, for even then in the stress of
desperate effort they seemed to comprehend and obey him. Now and then
Maccario had shouted hoarse questions to him, and though the answers
apparently came without reflection the leader of the Sin Verguenza
concurred when he grasped their purport.

It was by his order the shattered leading company flung itself into the
houses when the Sin Verguenza were met by an enfilading volley as they
reeled into the calle. The street might have proved a death‐trap while
the cazadores held the windows, but one could pass along the roofs, and
the troops came out headlong when the Sin Verguenza descended upon them
from above. Then they in turn found the calle too hot to hold them when
they faced the fire of the second company which had taken shelter in the
doorways. It was strewn with huddled objects lying upon the hot stones
when they fled out of it, and a few minutes later Appleby stopped close
by where Tony stood in the larger plaza. Tony’s face was set and white,
though there was a curious gleam in his eyes, and he seemed to shiver a
little as he glanced back up the glaring street. It was very still now,
a narrow gap between the white walls that were ridged with shattered
green lattices, but filmy wisps of vapor still drifted out of the
doorways.

“We have got in, but it has cost you a good deal,” he said.

Appleby said nothing, but Maccario, who came up, and following Tony’s
gaze glanced at the huddled figures on the stones, made a little
comprehensive gesture.

“There is a price to everything, but in this case it would have been
heavier had not your countryman been quick to copy Morales’ plan,” he
said. “Still, I think by the firing our friends who went on in front are
also in, and as they will close the way out Morales will be waiting us
in the cuartel.”

“It stands alone,” said Appleby. “One cannot get in by the roofs.”

He pointed to a ridge of flat roof that, rising above the others, cut
the blue of the sky. A streak of gold and crimson flaunted above it from
a towering staff.

“We have perhaps four hours,” said Maccario; “but if that flag is flying
when the Peninsulares march in it may never come down again.”

“I think one will be enough,” said Appleby quietly. “We will wait two or
three minutes until the rest come up.”

The stragglers were formed into their companies in the plaza, and
Maccario, impressing a citizen whom he dragged out of his dwelling, sent
him on with a scribbled summons to Morales to deliver up the cuartel.
The message was terse and laconic, and Maccario smiled dryly when the
man departed very much against his wishes bearing a white handkerchief
on a cane.

“One complies with civilized customs; it is required of him. And a rest
of a few minutes will not hurt my men,” he said. “Still, it is a waste
of courtesy when it is known beforehand what Morales’ answer will be.”

While they waited there was a little derisive laughter as, with Harper
on the flank of the first four, another band of the Sin Verguenza
tramped into the plaza. They had, he explained disgustedly, found a
feebly defended entrance by a narrow alley, and had lost their way
during the pursuit of the handful of cazadores who had attempted to hold
it. He had already left the ranks, and grinned at Maccario suggestively
as he laid a bottle of red wine in Tony’s hands.

“The boys struck a place where they sell it, and you’re not an officer,
anyway,” he said. “It might come in handy, and if the others are stuck
on discipline they needn’t have any.”

The men had refilled the magazines by this time, and were growing
impatient when the citizen came back again. He carried a strip of paper
torn across the middle, and made a little deprecatory gesture as he
passed it to Maccario.

“That is the only answer the Colonel Morales sends,” he said.

Appleby smiled dryly, but a faint flush crept into Maccario’s face.

“It is what one would have expected—and it is evident he understands,”
he said. “There is no room in Cuba for him and the Sin Verguenza.”

Then he spoke sharply, there was a passing of orders, and the Sin
Verguenza swung forward down the broad highway that led to the cuartel.
The street was silent and empty under the scorching sun, with green
lattices closed, and doors shut, but the men could see the square mass
of the building towering white and grim, with the crimson and gold of
Spain flaunting over it on the faint hot breeze. They marched in due
formation now, but behind them came a rabble long held down by terror,
men with bitter wrongs who carried rifles torn from the fallen
cazadores, machetes, and iron bars. They had also a long score against
Morales, and their time had come.

They were close on the cuartel, and still the white building was silent,
when the Sin Verguenza stopped a moment or two and men with iron bars
beat down the door of a house Maccario pointed to. Then the most part of
one company vanished within it, and it was not until they poured out on
the flat roof the rest went on. It seemed to Appleby that save for the
tramp of feet the street was curiously still, though he noticed that now
a green lattice was open every here and there.

Then the silence was suddenly broken by a crash of riflery, and the
front of the houses was smeared by drifting smoke! Morales, it was
evident, did not mean to hold his hand until they reached the cuartel.
Here and there a man staggered and reeled from the ranks, there was a
sharp snapping upon the stones, but Maccario’s voice rang through the
din, and the Sin Verguenza went on at a furious run. They were met by
the flash of a volley when they swept into the open space in front of
the cuartel, shrank back, and reeled into the sliding smoke again, while
the rifles of their comrades swept the windows from the houses opposite.
Twice they beat the great door in the archway almost down, but those who
swung the hammers and machetes melted away under the rifle flame, and
then Harper went shouting at the door with a great iron bar. There were,
however, men with grim faces from the alleys of Santa Marta behind him
now, striking with torn‐up railings, pounding with paving stones, while
from roof and windows the rifles crashed.

Then the door bent inwards, and with a shout of triumph and execration
the Sin Verguenza poured in across the barricade of stones and soil in
cases. The din had grown bewildering, and the men seemed oblivious of
sight and sound in their passion, while Appleby, who shouldered his way
through the press, noticed only the closed inner door of the patio, and
the ruins of the torn‐up veranda stairway. Again it cost the Sin
Verguenza a heavy price to break that door down, but nothing would have
stopped them or those who followed them now, and they fought their way
up the wide stairway, driving the cazadores back until they poured out
on to the higher veranda where Morales stood with a bright sword in his
hand at the foot of the big flagstaff. There was a little cluster of
cazadores about him, but Appleby did not know where the rest had gone,
for the struggle had become general, and scattered handfuls of men were
fighting independently all over the building. He, however, fancied by
the shouts and the confused din that most of them and the Sin Verguenza
had swept on up the higher stairway to the roof above, for he and
Maccario and Tony were almost alone.

[Illustration: “THEY WERE MET BY THE FLASH OF A VOLLEY.”]

Maccario stopped suddenly and swung off his hat.

“The cuartel is ours how, and it would serve no purpose to waste more
men. Your sword, señor,” he said.

Morales made him a little punctilious salutation, and glanced at the
bright blade in his hand. Then he turned to the men about him, and
smiled grimly, as though in answer to the murmur that rose from them.

“Never while I live. It belongs to Spain,” he said.

The little drama scarcely lasted a minute, but it forced itself into
Appleby’s memory, and he could long afterwards picture Morales standing
very straight with set lips and a gleam in his dark eyes, the handful of
men with rifles behind him, and the grim face of the slim young officer
Harper had spared at the hacienda. Tony was gasping close at his side,
and the flag of Spain streamed, a strip of gold and crimson, above them
all.

Then more men grimed with dust and smoke poured into the veranda, and
Maccario, who made a little deprecatory gesture, raised his sword.

“Then, with excuses, señor! Comrades, we must have that flag,” he said.

A man beside Morales whose head was bound with a crusted bandage flung
up his rifle, there was a flash, and one of the Sin Verguenza reeled and
plunged down from the shattered stairway into the patio. Then there was
a shout, a crash, and a whirling haze of smoke, and as Appleby sprang
towards the flagstaff a cazador lunged at him with his bayonet. His
finger closed on the pistol trigger, but there was no answering flash,
and another shadowy figure seemed to slip in between him and the
soldier. The latter went down with a man upon him, while Appleby pressed
on through the acrid haze. A man whom he recognized as Harper seemed to
reach the staff simultaneously with himself, a knife flashed, and a
hoarse voice cried in English as a rope was thrust into his hand.

“Haul!” it said. “Down she comes.”

A moment or two later the limp folds of red and gold fell into Appleby’s
hands, and it was evident that other men on the roofs and in the patio
had seen the flag come down, for a shout of exultation rolled across the
town. Then Appleby who flung the flag from him, turned and glanced along
the veranda with a little shiver.

Save for two or three who lay still in the glaring sunlight the
cazadores had melted away, and he fancied they had been driven through
the gap in the torn‐up balustrade or had flung themselves into the
patio. The slim young lieutenant held himself up by a railing, with his
face horribly awry, while Maccario stood still looking down on the
olive‐faced officer who lay close in front of him. His kepi had fallen
off, but his brown fingers were still clenched upon his sword, and he
stared back at the leader of the Sin Verguenza with sightless eyes.
Maccario, who apparently saw Appleby, stooped, and pointed to a little
blue mark on the side of the officer’s head.

“It is what one would have expected. A brave soldier!” he said.

Appleby said nothing, but looked round for Tony, and felt suddenly
chilly when he did not see him. Then with horrible misgivings he turned
towards a man who lay partly upon a fallen cazador with a rifle beside
him. Just then the man lifted his head, and it was with a gasp he
recognized the drawn, white face as Tony Palliser’s.

“Tony, you’re not hurt?” he said, with hoarse anxiety.

Tony smiled wryly. “I think I am,” he said. “This fellow got his bayonet
into me, and I have a notion that I’m bleeding internally. I suppose
there is a doctor in Santa Marta.”

Appleby turned and seized Maccario by the shoulder. The latter, leaning
over the balustrade, called out sharply, and in a moment or two three or
four of the Sin Verguenza came up and lifted Tony. As they moved away
with him Maccario stooped and laid Morales’ kepi over his face. Then he
touched Appleby gently.

“I have seen a good many wounds, and I think the Señor Palliser will not
fight again,” he said.



XXXI — STRUCK OFF THE ROLL


IT was with difficulty a handful of the Sin Verguenza cleared a way for
Tony’s bearers through the clamorous mob below, and an hour had passed
when Appleby, who had seen his comrade safely bestowed there, came out,
grave in face, from the Spanish banker’s house. The doctor Maccario sent
had, it was evident, no great hope of his patient’s recovery, though he
insisted that he should be left in quietness.

A messenger from Maccario was waiting when Appleby reached the patio,
and it was a relief to find that he had in the meanwhile work to do.
Still, he stood almost a minute blinking about him with eyes that were
dazzled by the change from the dimness of the hot room behind the closed
lattices where Tony lay. The patio was flooded with glaring sunlight,
and a confused din rose from every corner of Santa Marta. The hot walls
flung back the tramp of feet and the exultant vivas of the mob, while
from the tall church towers the clash of jangling bells rang across the
town drowning the occasional crackle of riflery, for it was evident that
scattered handfuls of the cazadores were fighting still.

Then the brown‐faced man beside him made a little gesture of impatience
when there was a crash of firing louder than the rest.

“Those cazadores are obstinate, and Don Maccario waits,” he said.

Appleby went with him vacantly, for now the strain had slackened he felt
limp and his thoughts were in a whirl. Tony, it seemed, was dying, and
the almost brotherly affection Appleby had once cherished for his
comrade came back to him. As yet he could only realize the one painful
fact with a poignant sense of regret.

Maccario, however, had work waiting him, and the day dragged through,
though Appleby never remembered clearly all that happened during it. It
was noon when they had cleared the town of the last of the cazadores,
and bestowed those who had the wisdom to yield themselves in the
cuartel. The rest leapt to destruction from windows and roofs, or went
down, grimly clenching their hot rifles, in barricaded patios and on
slippery stairways. Appleby was thankful when the work was done, though
he had taken no part in it for Maccario, with a wisdom his comrade had
not expected, bade him organize a guard, and see that there was no
purposeless destruction of property. It was not, he said, a foray the
Sin Verguenza had made, but an occupation they had effected, and there
was nothing to be gained by pushing the wealthy loyalists to
desperation. He also observed dryly that their dollars might fail to
reach the insurgent treasury at all if collected independently by the
rank and file.

The task was more to Appleby’s liking than the one he had anticipated,
and it was necessary, since the smaller merchants in Cuba and also in
parts of Peninsular Spain have no great confidence in bankers, and
prefer a packet of golden onzas or a bag of pesetas to the best
accredited check. He also contrived to accomplish it with success,
somewhat to the astonishment of those whose property he secured to them,
when they found he demanded nothing for himself, while he fancied there
was reason in his companion’s observation as they went back to report to
Maccario when there was quietness in the town. Harper sighed as they
came out of the last loyalist’s house.

“I guess Maccario knew what he was about when he sent you to see this
contract through,” he said.

“Well,” said Appleby, “it was a trifle more pleasant than turning out
the cazadores.”

Harper grinned somewhat ruefully. “That’s not quite what I mean. Any one
else with our opportunities would have been rich for life. Now, you
didn’t seem to notice the diamond brooch the señora took out from her
laces when she asked you to keep the rabble out of the house. It would
have brought two hundred dollars in New York.”

Appleby looked at him with a little dry smile. “I have asked you no
questions, but your pockets are suspiciously bulky.”

“Cigars,” said Harper disgustedly, pulling out a handful.

“Worth a dollar a piece in my country by the smell of them, but I’m not
setting up a tobacco store! If I ever get hold of another contract of
this kind I’ll take somebody else along.”

Appleby laughed a little, but his face grew grave again as they turned
towards the banker’s house to inquire how Tony was progressing. There
was no change, they were told, but the doctor, who was busy elsewhere,
had left imperative instructions that no one was to see him.

Appleby was glad he had little leisure for reflection during the rest of
the day, which was passed in strenuous activity. There were defences to
be improvised, and ambulance corps to organize, barricades built, and
men driven to their posts from the wine‐shops, for Candotto’s
Peninsulares would shortly arrive. They never came, however, but instead
of them two hundred dusty men with rifles from Brena Abajo marched in,
and a horde of peons from every aldea in the vicinity armed with staves
and machetes followed them when dusk was closing down. Then once more
the bells clashed exultantly above the clamorous town.

The soft darkness had descended upon Santa Marta, and there was
quietness again, when Appleby and Harper took their places at the
banquet in the Alcalde’s house where Maccario had decided he would
establish the provisional administration. The great room blazed with
light, the tables were piled with such luxuries as could be found in the
city, fruits and flasks of wine, and Appleby, who was seated at
Maccario’s right hand, gazed with a vague interest down the long rows of
faces. They were exultant, eager, inscrutable, and anxious, for the
loyalist citizens had evidently considered it advisable to comply with
the leader of the Sin Verguenza’s invitation.

Maccario was now dressed immaculately, and the handful of loyalists with
Castilian taste and precision, but there were also men with the grime of
conflict still upon their brown faces, and garments foul with smoke and
dust. It seemed to Appleby that he would never again sit down with so
incongruous a company. At last, when all had eaten or made a pretence of
it, there was a curious stillness as Maccario stood up at the head of
the table. Every eye was turned upon him, and the olive‐tinted faces
grew intent, for among those who watched him were men who knew that
their ruin or prosperity depended upon what he had to say.

“What we have accomplished to‐day will last,” he said “The flag of Spain
will never float over Santa Marta again.”

There was a murmur from the Sin Verguenza, and Appleby saw the faces of
one or two of the loyalists harden, while the rest grew anxious.
Maccario, however, smiled as he proceeded.

“A wise man yields to the inevitable,” he said. “The Sin Verguenza hold
this town, and you have seen that from here to the mountains the country
has declared for liberty. Men are flocking in, and there are rifles to
arm the battalions we are raising in the cuartel. War with the Americans
is now certain, and there can be only one result of that war, my
friends, while Santa Marta stands alone, a place of no importance to the
Spanish generals, who will be too busy to trouble about what happens
there. Now you comprehend the position.”

He stopped, and it was evident that none of the loyalists could
controvert him, though one rose to his feet.

“It is admitted, señor,” he said gravely. “What follows?”

“That,” said Maccario, “is for you and the others to decide. Martial law
that will grind those who rebel against it into the dust, or, I think,
prosperity, with due submission to a provisional administration. You see
before you the head of it, and, at least, there will not be anarchy
while he has two or three strong battalions to do his bidding. In the
meanwhile the direction of affairs will be placed in the hands of ten
men. Five will be nominated by myself, and I will ask your Alcalde to
summon four others when he has consulted the wishes of the citizens.”

There was a murmur of relief and astonishment, for this was apparently
the last thing the loyalists had expected, while Appleby, who glanced at
Maccario, was sensible of a slight embarrassment, when he saw the little
dry smile on his comrade’s face. The leader of the Sin Verguenza had, it
seemed, guessed his thoughts, and he was glad when the Alcalde, a gray‐
haired, courtly man, stood up.

“It is not what we looked for, señor, and on behalf of Santa Marta you
have our gratitude,” he said. “Still, while others may be willing, I, at
least, can hold no office under an insurgent usurpation.”

There was an angry murmur from the Sin Verguenza, but the Alcalde stood
very erect, gazing at them disdainfully, and Maccario raised his hand.

“The Alcalde is, I think, scarcely wise, but he is a loyal gentleman,”
he said. “We will pass over him. The Senor Sanchez who, I am told, is
regarded with respect in Santa Marta, will, perhaps, recommend five
citizens of integrity.”

A slight, olive‐faced gentleman in white duck stood up. “Since we have
been beaten I agree,” he said. “One has, however, questions to ask.
There will be an amnesty to those who have supported Morales, and their
possessions will be made secure to them?”

A little grim twinkle crept into Maccario’s eyes. “Every citizen of
means will be required to contribute to the equipment of the new
battalions to be raised and the cost of administration, in proportion to
his income, as the council shall decide. If there are any who desire to
show their contrition for past hostility by being generous now they will
have an opportunity. There are also one or two to whom such a course is
recommended.”

More than one of the company glanced at his neighbor uneasily, but the
man who had spoken turned to Maccario with a little expressive gesture.
“Then I will go now to consult with and spread the good news among the
citizens,” he said.

Maccario laughed softly. “They will no doubt be astonished. To them the
Sin Verguenza have been as wolves, but that was the fault of Morales,
who made them so. Now they are the bloodhounds who, while the household
sleep in peace, keep watch in the patio. Still, the bloodhound is a
beast that one would do well to beware of, my friend. Well, I will not
keep the gentlemen who have honored us with their company, but there is
a toast to drink, and you who have made plantations and built
warehouses, and we who have marched and fought, can join in it equally.
To the prosperity of Cuba!”

The men rose as one, the loyalists with evident relief that nothing more
had been asked of them, and as they swung, up their glasses the building
rang with the shout.

Then in the silence that followed the Alcalde filled his glass again.

“And,” he said, “to Spain!”

Maccario made him a little ceremonious inclination. “Señor,” he said,
“with ten such men on the council one would have no fear concerning the
prosperity of Santa Marta.”

Then the citizens went out, and Maccario smiled as he turned to Appleby.

“It seems that the time of the friends of liberty has come,” he said.
“There will no doubt be preferment for those who have fought well, but
the promise you made us was to hold only until Santa Marta had fallen.”

Appleby was almost astonished to find himself troubled by a keen sense
of regret. “I take it back,” he said quietly. “You will now find plenty
of other men willing to take my place with the Sin Verguenza.”

“It is likely, but none that one could trust so well. Still, you will
not be hasty. It is a good life, Bernardino—ours of the march and
bivouac. Would you be happier counting the dollars in American cities
than watching the Cuban highways or lying on the hillsides by the red
fires? To gain one thing one must always give up another, and would not
such a man as you are prefer to decide the fate of cities and battalions
than haggle over a bargain? It is command, the stress of effort, and the
untrammelled joy of life, sunshine, and wine, we offer you, while one
lives in bonds and sadly in your Northern cities.”

Appleby sighed a little, for the temptation was alluring, but he knew
the shadowy side of the life the Sin Verguenza led, and he kept his
head.

“I have made my decision, and the Señor Harding waits for me,” he said.

Maccario smiled. “Then I shall gain nothing by objecting. After all, it
is of no great importance whether a man trades as a merchant or fights
as a soldier. That will be as fate arranges it for him. He is born what
he is.”

“The Señor Appleby will leave us?” asked one of the men.

“Yes,” said Maccario, who stood up, “when it pleases him, and I think it
is scarcely likely we shall sit at meat with him again. You will pledge
a faithful comrade and a valiant soldier, without whom we might never
have been the masters of Santa Marta.”

The men were on their feet in a moment, and Appleby felt his heart throb
as he glanced down the long row of faces. Many were still grimed with
dust, and the brown hands that held the glasses stained with the black
fouling from the rifles, but there was no mistaking the good will in the
dark eyes. Then the glasses went up with a shout that filled the great
room and rang out through the open windows across the silent town, and
Appleby, who never remembered what he said, found himself speaking
hoarsely.

He sat down while the shouting broke out again, and saw a man in the
doorway signing to him.

“The Senor Palliser is permitted to see you. It is recommended that you
lose no time,” he said when there was silence.

Maccario laid his hand sympathetically upon Appleby’s arm. “It is well
to be prepared,” he said. “I am afraid that by to‐morrow there will be
another of your countrymen struck off the roll of the Sin Verguenza.”

Appleby rose and followed the man with his heart beating painfully, and
it was only by an effort he retained his tranquillity when he was led
into a room in the banker’s house where a lamp was burning. Its flame
flickered in the draught, for the lattices were open wide, but it showed
the drawn white face that was turned expectantly towards the door.

“I am glad you have come,” said the wounded man. “I don’t think I
realized what was going to happen, or where I was, until an hour ago,
and then I was horribly afraid the man wouldn’t find you. You see, I
don’t suppose there’s more than another hour or two left me now.”

Appleby set his lips as he glanced down at the white face, and felt that
this was true. Then his eyes grew a trifle dim as he laid his hand on
Tony’s arm.

“Why,” he said hoarsely, “did I ever let you go?”

Tony smiled. “There is no necessity to reproach yourself. You know just
as well as I do that you could not have stopped me, and I’m not sure
that after all I’m very sorry. There is nobody who will not get on just
as well without me.”

“You are wrong. There is not a man at Northrop who will not feel the
blow—and there is Violet.”

Tony’s fingers seemed to quiver. “Still!” he said very slowly, “I think
she will get over it.”

Appleby said nothing for a few moments, for there was something he could
not understand in his comrade’s face Then he said softly, “How did it
happen, Tony?”

Tony shook his head. “I can’t quite remember. I saw that cazador with
the bayonet, and went for him with the butt,” he said. “The only thing I
am sure about is that he got me instead.”

Appleby gasped as the vague memories of the struggle on the veranda grew
clearer. “Tony, you thrust yourself in between him and me?”

Tony smiled a little. “Well,” he said slowly, “it seemed even chances
that I could reach him with the butt, and I owed you a good deal, you
see.”

Appleby clenched one hand, and turned his face away, and there was for a
full minute silence in the dimly lighted room while he looked out
through the square of open casement at the dusky blueness of the night.
Then through the hum of voices in the street below there came a rhythmic
tramp of feet and a thin jingle of steel, while as it grew louder the
glare of waving torches shone into the room. Tony watched it flicker
upon the wall.

“What is going on?” he said.

“They are carrying Morales to his burial,” said Appleby. “Maccario has
sent a half‐company of the Sin Verguenza.”

Tony smiled curiously. “That man has good taste. I liked him,” he said.
“Well, there is one of the Sin Verguenza who will never march again. I
wonder if you remember that two of our family once fought with the
Legitimatists in Spain. Still, I think they would have looked down upon
the Sin Verguenza.”

Again Appleby, struggling with tense emotion, found words failed him,
and sat silent until Tony laid his hand on his.

“It might have been better if I had never fallen in love with Violet,”
he said.

“Why?” said Appleby, who fancied that Tony was watching him curiously.
“She was in love with you.”

“I think not,” and Tony feebly shook his head. “It isn’t necessary to
discuss that again.”

He stopped with a little shiver, and Appleby’s fingers closed tightly on
his hand.

“If I could only bring you back to her you would find out how mistaken
you are.”

“That is evidently out of the question. Nobody could, and I think if a
little longer life had been granted me I would have tried to give her
up. I know now that she would never have been happy with me. Still, you
will tell her, Bernard—what has happened to me.”

Appleby only pressed his hand, and it was a minute or two later when
Tony spoke again.

“There is one man who would please Violet—and I don’t think I would
mind,” he said.

Again Appleby felt the blood in his forehead. “She never thought of me,
and I have nothing to offer her,” he said.

“No,” said Tony with a visible effort. “Still, I think, Bernard—if you
saw much of her she would. You have both done a good deal for me.”

He stopped with a gasp, and seemed to sink into sleep or partial stupor,
while Appleby sat very still listening to the voices in the street below
while half an hour dragged by. Then Tony opened his eyes, and looked
about him vacantly.

“I think I’ve been dreaming, and that song Hester was fond of is running
in my head,” he said. “The one about the gates—it got hold of my fancy—I
think they were of precious stones. She and Violet were out on the lawn
of Low Wood—where you look down into the valley, you know—and Nettie was
trying to convince the vicar those gates could be stormed. There was
something I couldn’t quite understand about the marble knight in
Northrop church.”

Appleby saw that Tony’s thoughts were wandering.

“Of course!” he said soothingly, though his voice was strained. “I
wouldn’t worry about it, Tony.”

Tony looked at him as though he scarcely recognized him, and smiled.

“I think you’re wrong, and perhaps it isn’t necessary. That song is
jingling in my head again. ‘If you but touch with your finger tips those
ivory gates and golden.’ It sounds easy,” he said.

His head sank back on the pillow, and for five long minutes there was
silence in the room. Then Tony sighed, and his fingers closed feebly on
Appleby’s hand.

“It’s very hot in the sun here, and it was yesterday when I had a meal,”
he said. “Still, I shall find Bernard. Now they’re marching on Santa
Marta in open fours. They’re going in—nothing could stop the Sin
Verguenza—but you can’t open those gates with a volley. It isn’t
necessary.”

He said nothing more, and when another half‐hour had dragged by Appleby
rose, and with gentle force drew his hand away. Then he went out,
shivering a little and treading softly, for he knew that the soul of
Tony Palliser, who had sinned and made such reparation as was permitted
him, was knocking at the gates which are made of precious stones.



XXXII — APPLEBY LEAVES SANTA MARTA


THE sun was low, and the town lay in grateful shadow when Appleby walked
slowly down the calle that leads out of Santa Marta. He was dressed
plainly in white duck, and no longer carried a rifle, while he scarcely
seemed to hear the observations of Harper, who walked at his side. His
brown face was a trifle grave, and Maccario, who went with them, smiled
dryly when he noticed that once or twice he sighed.

Stone pavements and white walls were hot still, but the dazzling glare
had faded, and the street was thronged with citizens enjoying the faint
coolness of the evening. Here and there one of them greeted the little
group with signs of respect, but Appleby scarcely noticed them. Looking
straight before him he saw the shattered lattices, and the scars and
stains of smoke on the white walls which marked the scene of the last
grim struggle with Morales. Morales lay at rest in the little campo
santo, and in a few more minutes Appleby would in all probability have
turned his back forever on Santa Marta. It was with confused feelings,
through which there ran a keen regret, he remembered what had befallen
him there.

Then, as they approached the strip of uneven pavement hastily flung down
on the spot where the Sin Verguenza had only a few days ago swept over
the barricade, he stopped a moment as brown‐faced men with rifles,
regardless of discipline—which was, however, seldom much in evidence
among the Sin Verguenza—thronged about him. Amidst cries and
gesticulations they thumped his shoulders and wrung his hands, while
once more Appleby wondered whether he had decided wisely as he
recognized the sincerity of the good will in their dark eyes. He had
fought with them, faced imminent peril, borne with anxiety and short‐
comings, and feasted riotously, in their company, and now he found it
harder to part from them than it would have been from more estimable
men.

Maccario, it seemed, understood what he was thinking, for his face was
sympathetic as he glanced at his companion.

“One would fancy that they were sorry to let you go,” he said. “It is a
good life, a man’s life, the one you are leaving. Will you find better
comrades in your smoky cities?”

Appleby smiled a trifle wistfully, and did not answer for a moment. The
vivid, untrammelled life appealed to him, and for a time he had found
delight in it, but he was wise, and knew that once peace was established
there would be no room in Cuba for the Sin Verguenza. They must once
more become toilers, or descend to intrigue and conspiracy, and he knew
the Castilian jealousy of the alien, and that past services are lightly
remembered in the day of prosperity. He and his comrades had borne the
stress and the strain, and it seemed wiser to leave them now before the
distrust and dissension came.

“None better to face peril or adversity with, but a change is coming,
and one cannot always wear the bandolier,” he said. “If I go now they
will only think well of me.”

A little gleam of comprehension came into Maccario’s dark eyes. “Still,”
he said slowly, “the Sin Verguenza will be remembered, and you with
them.”

Then a man leading two mules on which their baggage was strapped came
up, and Maccario held out his hand.

“Good‐bye,” said Appleby simply. “I shall hope for your prosperity.”

He laid his foot in the stirrup, and Maccario swept off his hat.

“While there is one of the Sin Verguenza left you will never be without
a friend in Cuba,” he said.

Appleby swung himself to the saddle, Harper mounted clumsily, and there
was a beat of hoofs; but in a minute or two Appleby drew bridle, and
twisted himself round in his saddle. With the two church towers rising
high above it against the paling sky Santa Marta lay, still gleaming
faintly white, upon the dusky plain behind him, and he fancied he could
see Maccario standing motionless in the gap between the houses where the
last fight had been. A cheerful hum of voices and a tinkle of guitars
drifted out with a hot and musky smell from the close‐packed town, and
he turned his eyes away and glanced at the tall black cross on a rise
outside the walls. Anthony Palliser of Northrop slept beneath it among
the Sin Verguenza.

Then the crash of the sunset gun rose from the cuartel, and there was a
roll of drums, the drums of the cazadores beaten by insurgent hands, and
with a little sigh Appleby shook his bridle. He could picture his
comrades laughing over their wine in the cafés, or mingling with the
light‐hearted crowd in the plaza, but he would never meet their badinage
or see them sweeping through the smoke and dust again.

“It was pleasant while it lasted, and who knows what is in front of us
now?” he said.

Harper, lurching in his saddle, laughed a little. “Well,” he said, “one
gets accustomed to changes in this country, and I can hear the sea.”

“Then you have good ears. We may have trouble before we reach it,” said
Appleby dryly.

They pushed on through the coolness of the night until the stars were
growing dim in the eastern sky, and then rested in a little aldea until
dusk came round again. The Sin Verguenza were masters of the country
round Santa Marta, but sympathies were as yet divided in the region
between it and the sea, and Appleby decided that it was advisable to
travel circumspectly. Events proved him right, for two days later they
narrowly avoided an encounter with a company of loyalist troops, and
spent the next week lying close by day, and plodding by bypaths through
the cane at night, while it became evident to both of them that they
would never have reached the coast without the credentials with which
Maccario had supplied them.

They found it was watched by gunboats when at last they reached a lagoon
among the mangrove swamps, and were assured that it would be perilous to
attempt to get on board a steamer in any of the ports. A small vessel
with arms was expected, but when Appleby heard that she might not arrive
for a month, and perhaps land her freight somewhere else, he decided to
buy a fishing barquillo and put to sea at once. Harper concurred in
this, and said there was little doubt that they would intercept one of
the steamers from Havana.

The night was clearer than they cared about when with the big latine set
they slipped out of the lagoon, but the land breeze which was blowing
fresh, drove steamy vapors across the moon and it was almost dark when
they reeled into the white surf on the bar. They went through it
shipping water at every plunge, Harper sitting high on the boat’s
quarter with his hand on the tiller and the sheet of the latine round
his other wrist, while Appleby crouched among the ballast and bailed.
Then the sea grew smooth again, save for the little white ripples made
by the hot breeze, and Appleby, standing up ankle‐deep in water, looked
about him.

The mangroves lay behind him, a dusky blur streaked with a thick white
steam which trailed out in long wisps across the sea that heaved blackly
beneath the boat. Then the trees were blotted out as she ran into a
denser belt of mist that was heavy with a hot, sour smell, and there was
nothing to be seen but a strip of shining water shut in by sliding haze
when she came out again. Appleby glanced at the froth that swirled past
the gunwale, and turned to Harper.

“She is travelling fast, and we should be clear of the land by sunrise,”
he said.

Harper glanced up at the moon. “If it had been darker it would have
suited me just as well,” he said. “The trouble is that if a gunboat came
along you wouldn’t see her in the mist.”

“Still, that should cut both ways.”

Harper shook his head. “It’s not easy to make a boat out until you’re
close up with her, but you can see a steamer quite a long way off,” he
said.

Appleby said nothing further for a while, and the boat’s gunwale became
level with the froth that splashed about it, for the breeze freshened as
they drew out from the land. A thin wisp of haze had stretched across
the moon and dimmed the silvery light, but there was a wide strip of
faintly shining water in front of them when he fancied he caught a
faint, pulsating sound.

“You hear it?” he said.

“Oh yes,” said Harper dryly. “It’s a steamer’s engines. I kind of fancy
she’s outside of us.”

They strained their ears to listen, but it is difficult to locate a
sound among belts of haze, and when at last the measured throbbing was
unpleasantly distinct Harper held up his hand.

“They’re shoving her along, and she’s not far away, but that’s ’bout all
I know,” he said. “Get forward, and drop the latine.”

Appleby did as he was bidden, and stood staring forward in the bows when
the sail came down. The boat lay plunging on the heave that was streaked
with flecks of froth, and there was a long trail of sliding haze not far
away from them. From out of it came the sound of water parting under
iron bows. Then two tall spars that swung a little rose out of the
vapor, and next moment a blur of shadowy hull grew into visibility. It
lengthened rapidly, a smear of smoke streamed across the sea, but there
was no blink of light beneath it, and with the froth piled up at her
bows the vessel came down upon them, portentous in her blackness and
silence.

“A gunboat sure!” said Harper. “Lie down.”

Appleby crouched at the foot of the mast with straining eyes. He could
see the long black strip of hull swing with the heave until all the
deck, which caught a flash of the dim moonlight, was visible. Then it
swung back with slanted spars and funnel, and there was a white frothing
about the tip of the lifted screw. It was evident that the gunboat would
pass them unpleasantly close, and already the black shape of the man
upon her forecastle was discernible against the sky, while hazy figures
upon her slanting bridge grew into sharper form, and it seemed to
Appleby that they could scarcely escape observation. Still, a boat lying
low on the dusky water is difficult to see, and while he held his breath
the war vessel drew abreast of them.

The roar of flung‐up water and the pounding of engines throbbed about
him, he could see a man upon the inclined deck clutch at something as
she rolled, and now the funnel was level with him and a strip of
streaming plates was lifted from the brine. It swept by, there was a
swirl and a thudding beneath the lifted stern, and then the steamer grew
dimmer while the boat lurched on the wake of throbbing screw.

“Now,” said Harper with a little gasp, “when you can get the latine up
we’ll go on again.”

It cost Appleby an effort to hoist the thrashing sail, but when it was
set and the sheet hauled aft Harper laughed softly as the boat swung
away buoyantly with her gunwales dipping in the foam.

“We’ll be in the steamboat track by sun‐up, and there’ll be no wind
then,” he said. “Considering that each time you see a trail of smoke you
may have to pull two or three miles, it would be kind of sensible to
sleep when you can.”

Appleby lay down on the wet floorings with an old sail over him, and for
a time felt the swift swing of the little craft, and heard the gurgling
swirl of brine, for the breeze she sped before was now breaking the
heave into splashing seas. Then he became oblivious to everything save
when a little shower of spray blew into his face. At last he fancied
that Harper was trying to stir him with his foot, and blinked at him
vacantly, until Harper kicked him harder.

“Get up!” he said.

There was a tone in his voice which roused Appleby suddenly, and
standing up he stared about him.

“Another gunboat?” he said.

“Look!” said Harper, pointing with his hand. “It can’t do much good, but
you may as well get the sail off her.”

Appleby swung round, and saw that the moon was dim and low, though a
faint light still shone down upon the white‐flecked sea. Then he made
out a black smear that moved across it amidst a turmoil of foam and a
haze of smoke. It grew larger while he watched it, and there was a red
streak of flame from one of the two funnels that took shape rapidly, but
he could see no masts or hull, and the speed with which the smoke haze
was coming on appeared incredible. Then he sprang forward, and lowered
the latine into the boat.

“A big torpedo boat, or a destroyer,” said Harper. “She’ll pass ’bout
quarter of a mile off, and we’re going to make nothing by running away
from her. It’s just a question whether they see us or not.”

The dim shape had grown clearer while he spoke, and a strip of something
black appeared between the smoke cloud and the piled‐up froth. Then a
slender whip of mast stood out against the sky, and from the crown of
the after funnel there poured another gush of flame. The craft was
almost level with them now, but it was evident that in another minute or
two she would have passed and be fading again, and Appleby felt his
heart throb painfully as he watched her. Then the white wash about her
seemed to swirl higher, funnels and mast slanted sharply, and the half‐
seen hull shortened. Appleby looked at Harper, who made a little gesture
of resignation.

“Yes,” he said. “They’ve seen us. She’s coming round.”

A moment later a whistle rang out, and while Appleby sat down grim in
face the white wave that frothed about the stranger’s hull grew less
noticeable. The smoke cloud also sank a little, and in a minute or two
more a strip of lean black hull slid smoothly past them. Then he gasped
as a voice came down across the waters.

“Boat ahoy? Get your oars out, and pull up alongside,” it said.

They had the balanced sweeps out in a moment, and pulled with a will,
while when they reached the craft that lay waiting them an officer stood
by an opening in her rail. He spoke to them in Castilian, but Harper
laughed, for he had recognized his uniform.

“I’ve no use for that talk,” he said. “Get your ladder over!”

It was done, and in another moment he and Appleby stood on the torpedo
boat’s deck, where a couple of officers stared at them.

“Since you’re not Cubans, where were you going in that boat?” said one.

“I guess you’d better take us right along to your commander,” said
Harper. “Aren’t you going to shake hands with a countryman, anyway?”

The officer laughed. “I’ll wait,” he said dryly, “until I’ve heard what
you have to say. Didn’t you make your boat fast before you left her?”

“No, sir,” said Harper. “We have no more use for her. We’re coming along
with you.”

“Well, I guess we can pick her up again if that doesn’t suit our
commander,” said the officer.

He led them aft to a little cabin, and left them there until a young
officer came in. He sat down on the opposite side of the little table
and looked at them.

“You haven’t the appearance of Cubans, in spite of your clothes,” he
said. “Now, I’ll ask you for a straight tale. What brought you off the
land in a boat of that kind?”

“A wish to get as far away from Cuba by sunrise as we could,” said
Appleby.

“What did you want to get out of Cuba for?”

“Is there any special reason why I should tell you?” asked Appleby, who
was a trifle nettled.

“It seems to me there is. Anyway, back you go into your boat unless you
satisfy me.”

Appleby looked at the man a moment, and was pleasantly impressed, in
spite of the abruptness of his manner. He had a quiet bronzed face and
steady eyes, while the faint ring of command in his voice did not seem
out of keeping with them.

“Then if you will listen for a minute or two I will try to tell you,” he
said.

“Quick as you can!”

Appleby spoke rapidly, disregarding Harper, who seemed anxious to tell
the story too, and the commander nodded.

“Who is the American that employed you?” he said.

“Cyrus P. Harding.”

The commander, who started, cast a swift glance at him, and then rising
abruptly signed to a man at the door.

“Tell Lieutenant Stalker he may go ahead, as we were steering, full
speed,” he said.

The man went away, and in another moment or two the frail hull quivered
until the deck beams rattled above them. Then while the splash of flung‐
off water swelled into a deep pulsating sound it seemed to leap onward
under them, and the commander sat down again, looking at Appleby with a
curious little smile in his eyes.

“I haven’t asked your name yet, and scarcely think it’s necessary,” he
said. “So far as my duty permits, you can count upon my doing everything
I can to meet your wishes, Mr. Appleby.”

Appleby stared at him. “I appreciate your offer, though I don’t quite
understand it yet,” he said.

“Well,” said the commander with a pleasant laugh, “my name is Julian
Savine, and I have been hoping that I should come across you for a long
while. It is quite likely you have heard Miss Harding mention me.”

Appleby felt the blood creep into his face, and recognized that this was
the last thing he could have wished for, but he met Savine’s gaze
steadily.

“I have,” he said slowly. “I fancy Miss Harding has shown herself a good
friend to me.”

Savine stretched out a brown hand. “Well,” he said, “I hope you will
also count me in. And now, if you will excuse me, I have something to
tell my lieutenant. In the meanwhile I’ll send the steward along.”

He went out, and Harper grinned at Appleby. “That,” he said
reflectively, “is the kind of man we raise in my country. He has heard
about the night you took her in. The question is how much did Miss
Harding know or think fit to tell him?”

“Yes,” said Appleby grimly, “it is just that point which is worrying
me.”

The steward brought them in a meal, but it was a little while before
Savine appeared again. He opened a box of cigars, and though he said
nothing that seemed to indicate that Harper’s company was not altogether
necessary the latter rose.

“I guess I’ll go out and see how she’s getting along,” he said.

Then there was a little silence, until Appleby glanced at the commander.

“I have been thinking hard during the last half‐hour, and I am now going
to tell you exactly what happened on the night I met Miss Harding in
Santa Marta,” he said. “I scarcely think you have heard it in quite the
same shape before, and I was not sure that it would have been altogether
advisable a little while ago.”

“I don’t know that it is necessary. Still, you might go on.”

Appleby told his story with almost brutal frankness, and then looked the
commander in the eyes.

“If you have the slightest doubt on any point you may never have such an
opportunity of getting rid of it again,” he said.

Savine smiled a little, though there was the faintest tinge of darker
color in his bronzed cheek.

“I never had any, and now there is nothing I could do which would quite
wipe out the obligation I feel I am under to you,” he said.

He stopped with a curious little gleam in his eyes, and Appleby felt
that he had made another friend who would not fail him. Then he turned
the conversation, and Savine told him that he was engaged on special
service on the Cuban coast when he saw the boat and decided to intercept
her in the hope of acquiring information. Hostilities were certain, but
he hoped to put his guests on board a steamer he expected to fall in
with on the morrow.



XXXIII — VIOLET REGAINS HER LIBERTY


THE light was fading when Violet Wayne lay in a low chair by the fire in
Hester Earle’s drawing‐room. A bitter wind wailed dolefully outside
among the swaying trees, and the room was growing dusky, but now and
then a flickering blaze from the hearth forced up the girl’s face out of
the shadow. It was, so Hester who sat opposite her fancied, curiously
weary, and there was a suggestive listlessness in her attitude. She had,
though few of those who met her would have suspected it, been living
under a constant strain during the last two or three months, and it was
a relief to feel that for the time at least she could relax her efforts
to preserve her customary serenity. Hester evidently understood this,
for she was a young woman of discernment, and the two were close
friends.

“I am glad you have asked the Cochrane girls to stay with you, Violet,”
she said. “I think you need stirring up, and though there is not a great
deal in Lily Cochrane or her sister, nobody could accuse them of undue
quietness. They are coming?”

“I believe so, but Lily seemed uncertain whether she could get away, and
was to telegraph us to‐night. Still, I almost fancy I would rather be
without them. There are times when one scarcely feels equal to
entertaining anybody.”

Hester nodded sympathetically. “Of course, but it is in just such cases
the effort is most likely to prove beneficial,” she said. “Have you had
any word from Tony since he left?”

“Two or three lines written in pencil from Havana. He was going into the
country to find Mr. Appleby.”

Hester gazed thoughtfully at the fire for awhile, and then suddenly
fixed her eyes upon her companion’s face.

“We have been friends since the time we wore short frocks, and that
implies a good deal,” she said. “Now, it is a little more difficult to
deceive me than the rest—and I have been concerned about you lately. I
wonder if I dare ask you if you have quite forgiven Tony?”

“I don’t know”; and Violet’s voice was a trifle strained. “I feel that I
should—but it is difficult, and I can’t convince myself. It may be a
little easier by and by.”

Hester made a little sympathetic gesture, though she was almost
astonished, for it was seldom that Violet Wayne revealed her feelings.

“Still, we understood that you would marry him when he came back,” she
said.

Her companion sat still for almost a minute, while the flickering
firelight showed the pain in her face. Ever since the shock of Nettie
Harding’s disclosure had passed she had grappled with the question
Hester had suggested, and striven to reconcile herself to the answer.
Tony had been suddenly revealed to her as he was, and the love she had
once cherished had not survived her belief in him, but there was in her
a depth of almost maternal tenderness and compassion which few
suspected, and the man’s feebleness appealed to it. She knew how he
clung to her, and that if she cast him off he would inevitably sink.
There was a trace of contempt in her compassion as she realized it, and
yet she had been fond of him, and he had many lovable qualities. She had
also made him a promise, and his ring was still upon her hand, while she
reflected with a tinge of bitterness that it is not wise to expect too
much, and that men of stainless character were doubtless singularly
scarce. The joy of life had vanished, but she felt that Tony’s fate was
in her hands, and the duty, at least, remained.

“Yes,” she said very slowly. “If he still wishes it when he comes back.”

Hester nodded gravely. “I think you are right,” she said. “Tony will
wipe the blunder out when he has you to prompt him, but I think he would
go to pieces if you sent him away. Of course, it is not everybody who
would feel it—but it is—a responsibility. You can, you see, make
whatever you wish of him.”

“One would esteem a man with the qualities which make that easy?” said
Violet, with a little weary smile.

“They might occasionally prove convenient in one’s husband,” said
Hester, with a faint twinkle in her eyes.

Her companion seemed to shiver. “I wonder what Tony is doing now,” she
said. “It is, at least, hot and bright in Cuba, and if I had only known
when he was coming back we would have gone away to the Riviera.” Then
she straightened herself a little. “Isn’t it time your father arrived?”

Hester smiled, and wondered if Violet was already sorry that she had
unbent so far.

“He should be here at any minute unless the train is late,” she said,
and, feeling that her companion would prefer it, plunged into a
discussion of Northrop affairs.

While she made the most of each triviality there was a rattle of wheels
outside, and Mr. Earle came in. He shook hands with Violet, and stood a
moment or two by the fire.

“I had expected to find your mother here,” he said.

“It was a bitter afternoon, and I persuaded her to stay at home.”

The man took a pink envelope out of his pocket, and handed it her.

“I passed the post‐office lad walking his bicycle over a very soft piece
of road, and pulled up to ask if he had anything for me,” he said. “When
I found he had only a telegram for your mother I offered to bring it on,
and he seemed quite willing to let me. The vicar hasn’t turned up yet,
Hester?”

“No,” said Hester. “I am expecting him.”

Earle went out, and Hester proceeded with the account of a recent dance
which she had been engaged in when he came in, while Violet turned over
the telegram.

“It will be from Lily Cochrane to tell us she is coming, and I think
I’ll open it,” she said.

Hester nodded. “Ada Whittingham in green—there are people who really
have no sense of fitness,” she said. “The effect was positively
startling.”

Violet tore open the envelope, and gasped, while the words she read grew
blurred before her eyes. For a moment or two she could scarcely grasp
their meaning, and sat staring at the message, and trying vainly to read
it again. The branch of a trailer rose rapped upon the window as it
swayed in the moaning wind, and Hester ran on.

“Lottie had out her diamonds, the whole of them—somewhat defective taste
considering the character of the affair. Mrs. Pechereau was there with
Muriel in a black gown I’ve seen already—one would never fancy she was
that girl’s mother.”

Violet closed her fingers tight upon the telegram, for her companion’s
prolixity was growing unendurable, and she wanted quietness to realize
what had befallen her. The firelight had died away, and, now her senses
were rallying, she could not read the message. Then a faint flicker
sprang up again, and Hester, glancing round, saw the tension in her
face.

“You’re not listening,” she said. “Why, what is the matter? Isn’t Lily
coming?”

Violet rose up with a curious slow movement, and her face showed almost
as pallid as the white marble of the mantle she leaned against. Then a
little quiver ran through her, and the fingers of one hand trembled upon
the stone.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Let me be quiet for a moment, Hester!”

Hester rose, and laid a hand restrainingly upon her arm. “Can’t you tell
me? What has gone wrong?”

Violet let the telegram fall, and turned a cold, still face towards her.

“Tony is dead,” she said, and sank back, shivering, into her chair.

“Oh,” said Hester, “I am so sorry!”

The words were sincere enough, but just then the conventionality of them
appeared incongruous, and when Violet made no answer Hester picked up
the telegram and held it near the fire.

“Anthony Palliser killed in action, Santa Marta, Cuba. Particulars
personally. Sailing New York Saturday, Bernard Appleby,” she read.

Then for the space of minutes there was silence in the room save for the
wail of the bitter wind outside, and Violet lay staring at the fire with
vacant eyes. Hester found it becoming unendurable, and touched her
companion gently.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” she said.

“No,” said Violet, with a visible effort as she rose. “I think I will go
home. You will tell your father and the vicar, Hester. I can get my hat
and wraps myself. I don’t wish you to come with me.”

She straightened herself slowly and passed out of the room, while when
she entered it again dressed for the drive Mr. Earle laid his hand upon
her shoulder.

“You have our sincere sympathy, but I can’t help fancying that it is not
altogether hopeless yet,” he said.

The girl looked up at him with incredulity in her eyes. “You must know
it is. What do you mean?” she said.

“Well,” said Earle, with a glance at the vicar, who had come in and
heard the news, “it is a little difficult to make clear. Still, you see,
my dear, that men who do not answer to the roll after a battle now and
then turn up again. A blunder may have been made in the confusion, while
we do not after all know anything very much to the credit of Mr.
Appleby. I would suggest that your mother ask lawyer Craythorne to meet
him. Men are apt to believe what they wish to now and then.”

“I don’t in the least understand you.”

Earle appeared disconcerted. “If this distressful news were true Appleby
would be the gainer.”

Once more the girl looked up with a chilling serenity that unpleasantly
affected him.

“There is no hope left,” she said. “The man who sent the message made
absolutely certain or he would never have written it.”

Earle glanced at the vicar, who nodded gravely.

“I wish I had not to admit it, but I feel that Violet is right,” he
said. “Would you like me to drive over with you, my dear?”

“No,” said the girl quietly. “I would much sooner be alone.”

She passed out from among them, and Earle turned to the vicar again.

“It does not sound charitable, and I fancy you and Hester know rather
more about the affair than I do, but I can’t help believing that Tony
could not have done Violet a greater kindness,” he said. “I am, however,
a trifle astonished that you seem to participate in the curious belief
she evidently has in Appleby. You can’t be well acquainted with him, and
he is taking a serious risk in coming here since there is still a
warrant out for him.”

The vicar smiled. “I have heard a little about him, and I scarcely think
he would let the fact you mention stop him carrying out what he felt was
his duty.”

The vicar’s faith was warranted, for while Violet Wayne was driven home
that evening with her thoughts in a whirl, and a remorseful tenderness
which overlooked the dead man’s shortcomings bringing a mist to her
eyes, Appleby sat under the electric lights in a room of a great New
York building. He felt the pulsations of a vast activity about him, for
the thick doors and maple partitions could not shut out the whir of the
elevators, tinkle of telephone bells, murmur of voices, and patter of
hasty feet, though his eyes were on the agreement bond he was attaching
his name to.

Harding, who sat opposite him, smiled as he laid down the pen.

“Now I guess that’s all fixed up, and I don’t think I’m going to be
sorry I took you into the business,” he said. “You’ll draw ’most enough
already to live out on the Hudson if it pleases you, and, so far as I
can figure, we’ll roll in money once we get the sugar trade going again.
You’ll go right back and straighten up when we’ve whipped the Spaniards
out of Cuba.”

“I’m afraid I have scarcely deserved all you have offered me, sir,” said
Appleby, whose fingers trembled a little as he took up the document.
“Nobody could have anticipated this result when I came across you on
board the ‘Aurania.’”

Harding rose, and opening a cupboard took out a bottle and two glasses,
which he filled to the brim.

“I’ve no great use for this kind of thing in business hours as a rule,
but the occasion warrants it, and I believe only Austrian princes and
their ministers drink that wine,” he said. “Well, here’s my partner’s
prosperity!”

They touched glasses, and a flush crept to Appleby’s forehead, while
there was a little kindly gleam in Harding’s eyes.

“I’m grateful, sir,” said Appleby, and stopped abruptly.

Harding laughed. “Now, don’t worry,” he said. “I’ve no use for speeches,
and am going to get my money out of you. This is a business deal, and
there’s something else to go into. You have quite fixed to sail in the
‘Cunarder’ on Saturday?”

“Yes. Still, I should not be much more than three weeks away.”

“Well,” said Harding a trifle dryly, “I don’t quite know. I think Nettie
told me there was a warrant out for you, and I believe it’s quite
difficult to get round the police in your country.”

“I must take my chances. There is a woman in England that Tony Palliser
was to have married. He expected me to go.”

Harding looked at him curiously. “Oh, yes,” he said.

“Nettie told me about her. Well, I guess if you feel that way I have got
to let you go, and I don’t quite know I’m sorry you have these notions.
They’re a kind of warranty, and it wasn’t altogether because you’ve got
in you the snap and grit that makes a man who can handle big affairs I
made you my partner. Still, time’s getting on, and Nettie is expecting
us at Glenwood.”

He summoned two clerks, who attested the agreement, and in another ten
minutes they were waiting for the elevator, while late that night
Appleby contrived to find Nettie Harding, who had been very gracious to
him, alone. She was standing by the marble hearth in the great drawing‐
room where snapping logs of scented wood diffused a warmth and
brightness which would, however, scarcely have kept the frost out but
for the big furnace in the basement.

“What happened to‐day has your approbation?” he said.

Nettie smiled. “Now, I think that is quite unnecessary when you know it
has,” she said.

“Perhaps it is. I can’t help fancying you were not greatly astonished at
your father’s decision.”

“Still,” said the girl quietly, “I don’t think I could coax Cyrus P.
Harding into making a bad bargain. Besides, if I had a finger in it, is
it more than any one would have expected?”

“I don’t quite understand.”

“No?” and Nettie smiled incredulously. “Well, you picked me up one night
when I might have gone out over the rail on the ‘Aurania.’”

“I don’t think you could have managed it had you tried.”

Nettie stood silent a moment, and then a little flush crept into her
face, as she glanced down at the diamonds on her white wrists, and her
long trailing dress. It was, Appleby fancied, of as costly fabric as the
looms in Europe could produce.

“Well,” she said with a curious little sparkle in her eyes, “there was
another night I met you when I wasn’t got up like this, and you were
dressed in rags. Still, I knew that I could trust you. Do you believe
that I should have been here, with everything that a woman could wish
for, now, if I had not had that confidence?”

Appleby turned his eyes away, for certain fancies which had once or
twice troubled him became certainties, and he recognized that the regard
the girl had for him alone warranted the almost daring speech.

“I really don’t remember very much about the night in question,” he
said. “Nobody in my place could. I was wounded slightly and almost
dazed, you see.”

Nettie smiled curiously. “That is, of course, just what one would have
expected from you.”

Appleby showed a faint trace of embarrassment. “I have been waiting most
of the night to ask you a question,” he said. “What did you say to Tony
Palliser and Miss Wayne about me in England?”

“You will never find out—unless she tells you.”

“That is most unlikely.”

Nettie smiled in a curious fashion, and then looked him in the eyes.

“Well,” she said reflectively, “I don’t quite know. You have already got
more than you ever expected, Mr. Appleby. Anyway, it is getting late,
and you will excuse me now.”

She moved away, and then, turning, stood smiling at him a moment by the
door.

“Can’t you tell me what you mean?” said Appleby, moving towards her with
a little flush of color in his cheeks.

“You are going to England on Saturday,” said Nettie, and slipped out of
the door.



XXXIV — THE RIGHT MAN


IT was on the Saturday morning the “Cunarder’s” passengers disembarked
at Liverpool, and within an hour of the time the answer to the telegrams
he despatched came to hand Appleby had started for Darsley. It was,
however, late in the afternoon when he arrived there, and proceeded
straight to Craythorne’s office. The clerk’s manner made it evident that
he was expected, but he was a trifle astonished to find two other men
beside the lawyer waiting him when he was shown into a lighted room.

Craythorne closed a little sliding window before he shook hands with
him, and then turned to the others.

“This is Colonel Melton, appointed joint trustee with me by the will
Anthony Palliser made the night he left for Cuba,” he said. “I think you
have met Mr. Earle. He came here with the sanction of Colonel Melton,
and Esmond Palliser, on behalf of Miss Wayne, in case anything you have
to tell us concerns her. He will, of course, withdraw if you wish it,
though both he and Colonel Melton have long been confidential friends of
the Palliser family.”

Appleby greeted the two men, and then sat down with a little gleam in
his eyes when Craythorne pointed to a chair.

“I should like to tell you that I left my business in New York and came
here against my partner’s wishes because I felt it was a duty I owed
Miss Wayne and my late comrade’s relatives,” he said. “That was my only
motive, and it seems to me desirable that you should realize it.”

“You apparently do not know that you are a legatee under Anthony
Palliser’s will,” said Craythorne.

“I was not even aware that he had made one, though he told me that he
had made over Dane Cop to me.”

Colonel Melton looked at Earle, and Craythorne, who took a document from
a drawer, passed it to Appleby.

“Then you will be astonished to hear that the personal estate scheduled
here was bequeathed to you?”

“I certainly am. I am also not sure that Tony had exactly the right to
leave this property to me. Traditionally, and, I think, ethically, it
belongs to the estate, and should revert to Esmond Palliser.”

Colonel Melton appeared a trifle astonished, but Craythorne smiled
dryly. “That is also Esmond Palliser’s opinion, and he informed me that
he intends to act upon it.”

“He is, of course, at liberty”; and Appleby showed a trace of
impatience. “His intentions do not, however, in the least concern me.
Now, gentlemen, I have come here to tell you of my comrade’s death, and
I have another appointment to keep this evening.”

Melton glanced at Craythorne, who nodded. “We will ask you to be as
explicit as you can,” he said.

Appleby spoke for rather more than ten minutes, and when he came to the
assault upon Santa Marta it was evident that Colonel Melton was
listening with eager interest. He turned to Appleby abruptly with a
trace of embarrassment.

“I knew your father, Mr. Appleby,” he said. “In fact, I once offended
Godfrey Palliser by expressing my opinion of the fashion in which he
treated him, and now I can only hope you will excuse the attitude I
thought necessary when you came in. You did a thing not many drilled
troops would have accomplished. A frontal attack in daylight, with a
coverless strip to cross! They would have swept you out of existence
with shrapnel.”

“They hadn’t any”; and Appleby laughed.

“Still, they had two quick‐firers, and your attack was directed at one
narrow entrance,” said Melton. “Now—”

Craythorne raised his hand. “I fancy it would be advisable to discuss
these points later on,” he said. “What we are immediately concerned with
is the proof of Anthony Palliser’s death.”

“Precisely!” said Earle.

Melton flashed an angry glance at the lawyer, and Appleby’s face became
a trifle grim.

“I have here the depositions of two men who saw him buried attested by a
Spanish notary, and am willing to make another now before a commissioner
for oaths,” he said. “My partner in New York will also testify to Tony’s
connection with the Sin Verguenza.”

“And Miss Wayne, that he told her he was leaving for Cuba to find Mr.
Appleby, if Craythorne is unwilling,” said Melton.

Craythorne smiled and opened the little window. “Ask Mr. Gordon, the
notary, to come here at once,” he said.

“May we ask your partner’s name?” said Earle.

“Cyrus P. Harding, New York,” said Appleby.

Earle appeared astonished, and almost disconcerted. “I think that fact
is sufficiently convincing,” he said. “I am sure you will understand
that it was necessary for us to proceed circumspectly, Mr. Appleby.”

Again Craythorne smiled curiously. “I think Mr. Appleby understands the
obligation placed on a trustee. In that respect alone our attitude was
necessary.”

Appleby flushed a trifle. “Still,” he said, “I am glad you sent for a
notary.”

“Well,” said Craythorne. “Dane Cop was not bequeathed to you in the
event of his death by Anthony Palliser, but made over to you before he
left for Cuba. It is yours absolutely, but in regard to the legacy it
will be necessary to prove the will, and Esmond Palliser requested me to
inform you that he purposed to contest your claim. I should suggest that
you instruct a lawyer to confer with me.”

“It will not be necessary, since I waive any right I may have. I do not
intend to live in England, but to go back to New York almost
immediately.”

There was a murmur of astonishment, and Melton said, “I think that is
unreasonably generous.”

“No,” said Appleby. “I scarcely fancy it is. Dane Cop is mine, and I
shall hold on to it, but it would be difficult to get anything worth
while out of the other property, which is after all of no great value,
without personal supervision, and you may remember that there is still a
warrant out for my apprehension.”

Melton looked at his companions, and it was evident that they concurred
with Craythorne when he said, “In the event of a trial you could clear
yourself.”

“Yes,” said Appleby quietly, “I believe I could, but I have reasons for
deciding not to run any risk of being compelled to do so. My partner,
who is acquainted with them, does not consider it necessary, and it is
more than probable that the police have no longer any expectations of
tracing me.”

“You understand what you are purposing to do?” said Craythorne.

“It is, of course, quite clear to me. Still, I intend to remain in
America.”

There was a curious silence, and then Melton, moving forward, shook
hands with Appleby.

“I have seldom heard of a finer thing than your decision, though after
what I had seen of your father’s life I should have expected it from
you,” he said. “With all respect to the Pallisers, none of them ever
made so good a match as the one who married the ranker. While you remain
at Northrop you will stay with me.”

Earle smiled a little. “I must tell you, Mr. Appleby, that we understand
your reasons—and appreciate them. Colonel Melton has, however,
anticipated my intentions of offering you hospitality.”

“You have evidently heard more than I hoped you would have done,” said
Appleby quietly.

“No,” said Melton. “I, at least, know nothing, but I surmise a good
deal. If I had not been your father’s friend I should, however, never
have grasped your motive.”

Then the notary was shown in, and Earle rose. “We will wait in the other
room,” he said. “Mr. Appleby will no doubt have affairs to talk over
with Craythorne.”

It was half an hour later when Appleby came out, and found them waiting
still. “I understand you are going on to see Miss Wayne, and I should be
glad to drive you over,” said Melton. “Then as you can’t get back here
to‐night you will have to decide which of us shall have the pleasure of
entertaining you. I don’t wish to be unfair to Earle, but I think I am
entitled to a preference.”

Appleby felt curiously grateful to the gray‐haired officer, but he
smiled a little.

“I wonder if you realize what you are taking upon yourself, sir?” he
said.

“If everybody at Northrop heard you were staying with me I should be
especially pleased,” said Melton gravely.

“Still, in case you did not consider that convenient we will contrive to
arrange it differently.”

Appleby went with him, and an hour or two later was shown into Mrs.
Wayne’s drawing‐room. He waited a little, with unpleasant misgivings,
and his heart beating a trifle more rapidly than usual, and then felt a
slight relief when Violet and her mother came in. The girl was dressed
in a long robe of black that emphasized her pallor, but Appleby was
reassured when he noticed her quiet composure.

“I felt that you would wish to see me, though I am afraid I can only
cause you distress,” he said.

Mrs. Wayne pointed to a chair. “You have come a long way,” she said. “We
appreciate the consideration for us that brought you.”

“I had business with Mr. Craythorne,” said Appleby, with a trace of
embarrassment.

Then there was a silence he felt horribly unpleasant until Violet Wayne
turned her eyes upon him.

“Will you tell us—everything—from the time you met Tony in Cuba? There
is so much we wish to know,” she said quietly.

Appleby, who wished that the obligation had not been laid on him,
commenced abruptly in disjointed sentences, but the memories crowded
upon him as he proceeded, and he became oblivious of everything but the
necessity of making the most of Tony’s part in them. The scenes he
pictured became almost more real to him than when they were happening.
He was once more in Cuba, and made his listeners see the sun‐scorched
hacienda, the long column crawling in the moonlight down the dim white
road, the waves of dusky cane, and the glaring streets of Santa Marta.
He felt they realized with him the tension of the silence until the
rifles flashed, the flitting shadow that brushed through the cane, the
tramp of weary feet, and the exultant shouts of the Sin Verguenza.

In the meanwhile the color appeared and faded in the girl’s face, while
now and then her lips would tremble and again set tight. Then as he came
to the last struggle on the veranda he saw a glow in her eyes, and felt
her intent gaze draw the picture out of him. At last she sank back in
her chair with a little gasp, and Appleby, who knew he had never spoken
in that fashion before, felt suddenly nerveless and embarrassed. For
almost a minute he sat staring vacantly in front of him, and then
straightened himself with a little abrupt movement.

“I am afraid I have distressed you—but it seemed due to Tony that I
should tell you this,” he said.

Violet slowly raised her head, and looked at him with hazy eyes. “I
think we shall always be grateful—and you must have felt it—you were his
friend,” she said. “I can’t ask the questions I wish to know—you will
come back again?”

Appleby rose, and Mrs. Wayne, who went out with him, turned to him in
the hall.

“Are you staying any time at Darsley, Mr. Appleby?” she said. “We shall
be pleased to see you.”

“It was good of you to permit me to come once, madame,” said Appleby.
“It will be a week, at least, before I can get away, but I think a
little reflection will convince you that it would be better if I did not
come here again.”

Mrs. Wayne looked at him quietly. “There is no reason why you should
not. You will, of course, understand that Violet told me Miss Harding’s
story.”

Appleby did not remember what he answered, but he drove away with a
curious feeling of content, and Mrs. Wayne went back to the room where
her daughter sat very still in her chair. Stooping down she kissed her
gently.

“Did it hurt very much, Violet?” she said.

The girl seemed to shiver. “No,” she said in a strained voice. “Not so
much as I expected—in the way you mean. It was a splendid reparation
Tony made.”

Mrs. Wayne laid her hand caressingly on her daughter’s hair. “You have
told me very little, Violet—and people with your reserve find their
troubles the harder to bear.”

For a moment or two the girl gazed at the fire. “Mother. I must talk at
last. I have almost a horror of myself,” she said. “I was wickedly hard
to Tony when Nettie Harding told me, and I felt very bitter against him
when he went away. I could not overcome the feeling, though I tried—and
now when I should ask it of him—he cannot forgive me.”

Mrs. Wayne did not appear altogether astonished. “And yet I think he
understood that you would marry him when he came back.”

“I made him an implied promise—and I would have kept it. I am glad I did
so now.”

“It would have been difficult? Still, you loved him once.”

Violet turned her eyes away, and once more seemed to shiver. “No,” she
said with a little quaver in her voice. “I seem to have realized since
he went away that I never did. Still, until Nettie Harding told me, I
fancied I did—and I believed in him. He was so generous, and light‐
hearted—and, though I am wickedly exacting, I am not hard all through. I
can’t shake off the horror I feel because I am not more sorry now.”

Mrs. Wayne bent down and kissed her again. “My dear, I do not think the
right man would find you hard,” she said. “Still, I am afraid you will
die single. You expect too much.”

Appleby, who saw Violet and her mother twice before the week was out,
found that the negotiations for an extension of building sites and water
rights at Dane Cop which Craythorne had undertaken would delay him
another week. The lawyer had urged him to wait in London, and pointed
out the risk of recognition or an encounter with Sergeant Stitt; but
Colonel Melton lived at a distance of several miles from Northrop, and
Appleby for no very apparent reason preferred that vicinity. Then when
the affair was decided, and there was nothing to delay his sailing for
New York, he set out on foot on a farewell visit to Mrs. Wayne’s house,
and, as it happened, did not find her or her daughter in. He went on to
Low Wood, and discovering that Hester Earle half expected Violet spent
an hour there in fierce impatience. The afternoon was rapidly wearing
through, and as he had taken his passage by the “Cunarder” to sail from
Liverpool on the following day it was essential that he should leave
Darsley that night.

Still, Violet did not come, and he was proceeding ruefully towards
Colonel Melton’s when he overtook her walking home. The light was
growing dim, but he almost fancied that she started when she saw him.
Her voice was, however, as quiet and low as usual when she greeted him.

“I am very glad I met you, because I could not find you at home, and I
am going away to‐night,” he said.

There was the slightest trace of astonishment and concern in the girl’s
eyes. “Then you will come back with me,” she said.

“I’m afraid I can’t,” said Appleby, with a glance at his watch. “Still,
with your permission, I will walk a little of the way with you.”

They went on together, and it was not because they desired it that Tony
Palliser held a leading place in their thoughts, and twice at least
Appleby mentioned him. Then the girl said slowly, “I have heard from Mr.
Earle that you do not mean to clear yourself. That is very generous but—
one must mention it—is it wise?”

Appleby showed a trace of disconcertion. “I do not know why he told you,
but as I shall, I think, spend most of my life in America it could do me
little good to vindicate myself,” he said. “Only a few people know the
truth, and they will keep my confidence, while the rest would not
believe it. Tony made reparation for the wrong he did me, and if he had
not risked the cazador’s bayonet I do not think I should be here now.”

“Still, did it never occur to you that you might marry?”

Appleby stopped without intending it, and both stood still. The saffron
and green of the sunset was shining low down between the bare branches
of a copse close by, and there was still a little light in the sky, and
the man, lifting his eyes, looked at his companion. It was evident that
she had spoken without reflection and was sorry for it, for he could see
a tinge of color in her face, but it was the vague apprehension in her
eyes that seized his attention. For a moment he stood silent, and felt
his heart beating. Then an impulse which rose from the depth of his
nature swept restraint away.

“Yes,” he said almost grimly. “Still, that may never happen. I have too
great aspirations, you see—and if it ever came about the woman would
understand my motives.”

“Then you have seen her—she is not a fancy?”

Violet had not meant to say this, but the words seemed forced on her,
and it was almost with a sense of confusion she realized that they had
escaped her. Still, she stood looking at the man quietly, and saw the
little quiver that ran through him. Then it was with a strenuous effort
she preserved her tranquillity, for she knew.

“Yes,” he said in a strained voice, “I have seen her. Her face was with
me on many a weary march in Cuba—though I tried to drive it away.”

The color was a trifle more evident in the girl’s cheeks. “You found it
difficult? But would not the stain of an offence you did not commit
prove an insuperable barrier?”

“No,” said Appleby with a quietness that cost him an effort, “I do not
think it would. The story would not be known in America.”

There was silence for a space, and while both stood very still the truth
was plain between them. Then it was the girl who spoke.

“You have great faith,” she said.

Appleby made a little forceful gesture. “It is warranted,” he said. “I
am going away to‐morrow. You know why it is necessary—but if I come back
again will you listen to what I shall have to tell you?”

Violet Wayne regarded him with eyes that shone softly.

“Yes,” she said very quietly.

Then with a grasp of her hand Appleby turned away, and Violet went on
slowly down the dusky lane.

THE END



[Transcriber’s Note: Inconsistencies in application of accents and
hyphenation have been preserved as in the original.]





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