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Title: Miranda of the Balcony - A Story
Author: Mason, A. E. W. (Alfred Edward Woodle)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/mirandabalconya00masogoog

   2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



                        MIRANDA OF THE BALCONY



                               MIRANDA

                            OF THE BALCONY



                              _A STORY_



                                  BY

                            A. E. W. MASON

          AUTHOR OF "THE COURTSHIP OF MORRICE BUCKLER," ETC.



                               New York
                        THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                    LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., Ltd.
                                 1899
                        _All rights reserved_



                           Copyright, 1899,
                       By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY



                           _Norwood Press_
                _J. S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith_
                       _Norwood, Mass., U.S.A_.



                               CONTENTS


                              CHAPTER I

IN WHICH A SHORT-SIGHTED TAXIDERMIST FROM TANGIER MAKES A DISCOVERY
UPON ROSEVEAR.


                              CHAPTER II

PRESENTS THE HERO IN THE UNHEROIC ATTITUDE OF A SPECTATOR.


                             CHAPTER III

TREATS OF A GENTLEMAN WITH AN AGREEABLE COUNTENANCE AND OF A WOMAN'S
FACE IN A MIRROR.


                              CHAPTER IV

TREATS OF THE FIRST MEETING BETWEEN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA.


                              CHAPTER V

WHEREIN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA IMPROVE THEIR ACQUAINTANCESHIP IN A
BALCONY.


                              CHAPTER VI

WHILE CHARNOCK BUILDS CASTLES IN SPAIN, MIRANDA RETURNS THERE.


                             CHAPTER VII

IN WHICH MAJOR WILBRAHAM DESCRIBES THE STEPS BY WHICH HE ATTAINED HIS
MAJORITY AND GIVES MIRANDA SOME PARTICULAR INFORMATION.


                             CHAPTER VIII

EXPLAINS THE MYSTERY OF THE "TARIFA'S" CARGO.


                              CHAPTER IX

SHOWS THE USE WHICH A BLIND MAN MAY MAKE OF A DARK NIGHT.


                              CHAPTER X

M. FOURNIER EXPOUNDS THE ADVANTAGES WHICH EACH SEX HAS OVER THE OTHER.


                              CHAPTER XI

IN WHICH MIRANDA ADOPTS A NEW LINE OF CONDUCT AND THE MAJOR EXPRESSES
SOME DISCONTENT.


                              CHAPTER XII

THE HERO, LIKE ALL HEROES, FINDS HIMSELF IN A FOG.


                             CHAPTER XIII

WHEREIN THE HERO'S PERPLEXITIES INCREASE.


                             CHAPTER XIV

MIRANDA PROFESSES REGRET FOR A PRACTICAL JOKE.


                              CHAPTER XV

IN WHICH THE MAJOR LOSES HIS TEMPER AND RECOVERS IT.


                             CHAPTER XVI

EXPLAINS WHY CHARNOCK SAW MIRANDA'S FACE IN HIS MIRROR.


                             CHAPTER XVII

SHOWS HOW A TOMBSTONE MAY CONVINCE WHEN ARGUMENTS FAIL.


                            CHAPTER XVIII

IN WHICH THE TAXIDERMIST AND A BASHA PREVAIL OVER A BLIND MAN.


                             CHAPTER XIX

TELLS OF CHARNOCK'S WANDERINGS IN MOROCCO AND OF A WALNUT-WOOD DOOR.


                              CHAPTER XX

CHARNOCK, LIKE THE TAXIDERMIST, FINDS WARRINER ANYTHING BUT A
COMFORTABLE COMPANION.


                             CHAPTER XXI

COMPLETES THE JOURNEYINGS OF THIS INCONGRUOUS COUPLE.


                             CHAPTER XXII

IN WHICH CHARNOCK ASTONISHES RALPH WARRINER.


                            CHAPTER XXIII

RELATES A SECOND MEETING BETWEEN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA.


                             CHAPTER XXIV

A MIST IN THE CHANNEL ENDS, AS IT BEGAN, THE BOOK.



                        MIRANDA OF THE BALCONY



                              CHAPTER I

   IN WHICH A SHORT-SIGHTED TAXIDERMIST FROM TANGIER MAKES A DISCOVERY
      UPON ROSEVEAR


The discovery made a great stir amongst the islands, and particularly
at St. Mary's. In the square space before the Customs' House, on the
little stone jetty, among the paths through the gorse of the Garrison,
it became the staple subject of gossip, until another ship came ashore
and other lives were lost. For quite apart from its odd circumstances,
a certain mystery lent importance to Ralph Warriner. It transpired
that nearly two years before, when on service at Gibraltar, Captain
Warriner of the Artillery had slipped out of harbour one dark night in
his yacht, and had straightway disappeared; it was proved that
subsequently he had been dismissed from the service; and the coroner
of St. Mary's in a moment of indiscretion let slip the information
that the Home Office had requested him to furnish it with a detailed
history of the facts. The facts occurred in this sequence.

At seven o'clock of a morning in the last week of July, the St. Agnes
lugger which carries the relief men to and fro between the Trinity
House barracks upon St. Mary's and the Bishop Lighthouse in the
Atlantic, ran alongside of St. Mary's pier. There were waiting upon
the steps, the two lighthouse men, and a third, a small rotund Belgian
of a dark, shiny countenance which seemed always on the point of
perspiring. He was swathed in a borrowed suit of oilskins much too
large for him, and would have cut a comical figure had he not on that
raw morning looked supremely unhappy and pathetic. M. Claude Fournier
was a taxidermist by profession and resided at Tangier; he was never
backward in declaring that the evidences of his skill decorated many
entrance-halls throughout Europe; and some three weeks before he had
come holiday-making alone to the islands of Scilly.

He now stood upon the steps of the pier nervously polishing his
glasses as the lugger swung upwards and downwards on the swell. He
watched the relief men choose their time and spring on board, and just
as Zebedee Isaacs, the master of the boat, was about to push off with
his boat-hook, he nerved himself to speak.

"I go with you to the Bishop, is it not?"

Isaacs looked up in surprise. He had been wondering what had brought
the little man out in this dress and on this morning.

"There'll be a head-wind all the way," he said discouragingly, "and
wi' that and a heavy ground sea we'll be brave an' wet before we reach
the Bishop, brave an' wet."

"I do not mind," replied M. Fournier. "For the sea, I am _dévot_;" but
his voice was tremulous and belied him.

Isaacs shook his head.

"It's not only the sea. Look!" And he stretched out his arm. A
variable fog rolled and tumbled upon a tumbling wilderness of sea.
"I'ld sooner have two gales lashed together than sail amongst these
islands in a fog. I'ld never go to-day at all, but the boat's more'n
three weeks overdue."

Indeed, as M. Fournier looked seawards, there was no glimpse of land
visible. A fortnight of heavy weather had been followed by a week of
fog which enveloped the islands like a drenched blanket. Only to-day
had it shown any signs of breaking, and the St. Agnes lugger was the
first boat, so far as was known, to run the hazard of the sea. It is
true that two days before one man had run in to the bar of
Tregarthen's Hotel and told how he had stood upon the top of the
Garrison and had looked suddenly down a lane between two perpendicular
walls of mist, and had seen the water breaking white upon Great Smith
Rock, and in the near distance an open boat under a mizzen and a jib,
beating out through the heavy swell towards the west. But his story
was in no wise believed.

To all of Isaacs's objections M. Fournier was impervious, and he was
at last allowed to embark.

"Now!" cried Zebedee Isaacs, as the lugger rose. M. Fournier gave a
pathetic look backwards to the land, shut his eyes and jumped. Isaacs
caught and set him upon the floor of the boat, where he stood
clutching the runners. He saw the landing-steps dizzily rush past him
up to the sky like a Jacob's ladder, and then as dizzily shut
downwards below him like a telescope.

The boat was pushed off. It rounded the pier-head and beat out on its
first tack, across the Road. M. Fournier crouched down under the
shelter of the weather bulwark.

"As for the sea I am _dévot_," he murmured, with a watery smile.

In a little the boat was put about. From Sour Milk Ledge it was sailed
on the port tack towards Great Minalto, and felt the wind and felt the
sea. It climbed up waves till the red lug-sail swung over M.
Fournier's head like a canopy; and on the downward slope the heavy
bows took the water with a thud. M. Fournier knelt up and clung to the
stays. At all costs he must see. He stared into the shifting fog at
the rollers which came hopping and leaping towards him; and he was
very silent and very still, as though the fascination of terror
enchained him.

On the third tack, however, he began to resume his courage. He even
smiled over his shoulder towards Zebedee Isaacs at the tiller.

"As for the sea," he began to say, "I am--" But the statement, which
he was not to verify on this day, ended in a shriek. For at that
moment a great green wave hopped exultingly over the bows, and
thenceforward all the way to the Bishop the lugger shipped much water.

M. Fournier's behaviour became deplorable. As Isaacs bluntly and
angrily summarised it, "he lay upon the thwarts and screeched like a
rook;" and in his appeals to his mother he was quite conventionally
French.

He made no attempt to land upon the Lighthouse. The relief men were
hoisted up in the sling, the head-keeper and one of his assistants
were lowered, and the lugger started upon its homeward run before the
wind. The fog thickened and lightened about them as they threaded the
intricate channels of the western islands. Now it was a thin grey
mist, parting here and there in long corridors, driven this way and
that, twirling in spires of smoke, shepherded by the winds; now again
it hung close about them an impenetrable umber, while the crew in
short quick tones and gestures of the arms mapped out the rocks and
passages. About them they could hear the roar of the breaking waves
and the rush of water up slabs and over ledges, and then the "glumph
glumph" as the wave sucked away. At times, too, the fog lifted from
the surface and hung very low, massed above their heads, so that the
black hillocks of the islets stood out in the sinister light like
headstones of a cemetery of the sea, and at the feet of them the water
was white like a flash of hungry teeth.

It was at one such moment, when the boat had just passed through
Crebawethan Neck, that M. Fournier, who had been staring persistently
over the starboard bulwark, suddenly startled the crew.

"There's a ship on shore. _Tenez_--look!" he cried. "There, there!"
And as he spoke the mist drove between his eyes and what he declared
that he saw.

Zebedee Isaacs looked in the direction.

"On Jacky's Rock?" he asked, nodding towards a menacing column of
black rock which was faintly visible.

"No, no--beyond!--There!" And M. Fournier excitedly gesticulated. He
seemed at that moment to have lost all his terror of the sea.

"On Rosevear, then," said the keeper of the lighthouse, and he
strained towards Rosevear.

"I see nothing," he said, "and--"

"There's nothing to see," replied Isaacs, who did not alter his
course.

"But it's true," exclaimed the little Belgian. "I see it no more
myself. But I have seen it, I tell you. I have seen the mast above the
island--"

"You!" interrupted Isaacs, with a blunt contempt; "you are blind!" And
M. Fournier, before anyone could guess his intention, flung himself
upon Isaacs and jammed the tiller hard over to port. The boat came
broadside to the wind, heeled over, and in a second the water was
pouring in over the gunwale. Zebedee wrenched the main sheet off the
pin, and let the big sail fly; another loosed the jib. The promptitude
of these two men saved the boat. It ran its head up into the wind,
righted itself upon its keel, and lay with flapping sails and
shivered.

Isaacs without a word caught hold of M. Fournier and shook him like a
rat; and every man of the crew in violent tones expounded to the
Belgian the enormity of his crime. Fournier was himself well-nigh
frantic with excitement. He was undaunted by any threats of violence;
neither the boat, nor the sea, nor the crew had any terrors for him.

"There is a ship!" he screamed. "The fog was vanished--just for a
second it was vanished, and I have seen it. There may be men alive on
that rock--starving, perishing, men of the sea like you. You will not
leave them. But you shall not!" And clinging to the mast he stamped
his feet. "But you shall not!"

"And by the Lord he's right," said the lighthouse-keeper, gravely--so
gravely that complete silence at once fell upon the crew. One man
stood up in the bows, a second knelt upon the thwarts, a third craned
his body out beyond the stern, and all with one accord stared towards
Rosevear. The screen of haze was drawn aside, and quite clear to the
view over a low rock, rose the mast and tangled cordage of a wreck.

The sheets were made fast without a word. Without a word, Zebedee
Isaacs put the boat about and steered it into the Neck between
Rosevear and Rosevean. As they passed along that narrow channel, no
noise was heard but the bustle of the tide. For at the western end
they saw the bows of a ship unsteadily poised upon a ledge. There was
a breach amidships, the stern was under water, only the foremast
stood; and nowhere was there any sign of life.

Isaacs brought the boat to in a tiny creek, some distance from the
wreck.

"We can land here," he said, and the lighthouse-keeper and Fournier
stepped ashore.

On the instant that quiet, silent islet whirred into life and noise.
So startling was the change that M. Fournier jumped backwards while
his heart jerked within him.

"What's that?" he cried, and then laughed as he understood. For a
cloud of puffins, gulls, kittiwakes and shearwaters whirled upwards
from that nursery of sea-birds and circled above his head, their cries
sounding with infinite melancholy, their wings flickering like silver
in that grey and desolate light.

"It's so like your Robinson Crusoe," said M. Fournier.

"It is more like our islands of Scilly," said the lighthouse-keeper,
as he looked towards the wreck.

They climbed over the low rocks and walked along the crown of the
island towards the wreck. There was no tree or shrub upon the
barren soil, only here a stretch of sandy grass, there a patch of
mallows--mallows of a rusty green and whitened with salt of the sea.
In the midst of one such patch they came upon the body of a man. He
was dressed in a pilot coat, sea boots and thick stockings drawn over
his trousers to the hips, and he lay face downwards with his head
resting upon his arms in a natural posture of sleep.

Fournier stood still. The lighthouse-keeper walked forward and tapped
the sleeper upon the shoulder. But the sleeper did not wake. The
lighthouse man knelt down and gently turned the man over upon his
back; as he did so, or rather just before he did so, Fournier turned
sharply away with a shudder. When the sailor was lying upon his back,
the keeper of the lighthouse started with something of a shudder too.
For the sailor had no face.

The lighthouse man drew his handkerchief from his pocket and gently
covered the head. It seemed almost as if Fournier had been waiting,
had been watching, for this action. For he turned about immediately
and stood by the lighthouse-keeper's side. Above the lonely islet the
sea-birds circled and called; on the sea the mist was now no more than
a gauze, and through it the glow of the sun was faintly diffused.

"Strange that, isn't it?" said the lighthouse-keeper, in a hushed
voice. "The sea dashed him upon the rocks and drew him down again and
threw him up again until it got tired of the sport, and so tossed him
here to lie quietly face downwards amongst the mallows like a man
asleep."

Then he sat back upon his heels and measured the distance between the
mallows and the sea with some perplexity upon his forehead--and the
perplexity grew.

"It's a long way for the sea to have thrown him," he said, and as
Fournier shifted restlessly at his side, he looked up into his face.
"Good God, man, but you look white," he said.

"The sight is terrible," replied Fournier, as he wiped his forehead.

The lighthouse-keeper nodded assent.

"Yes, it's a terrible place, the sea about these western islands," he
said. "Did you ever hear tell that there are sunken cities all the way
between here and Land's End, the sunken cities of Lyonnesse? Terrible
sights those cities must see. I often think of the many ships which
have plunged down among their chimneys and roof-tops--perhaps here a
great Spanish galleon with its keel along the middle of a paved square
and its poop overhanging the gables, and the fishes swimming in and
out of the cabins through the broken windows; perhaps there a big
three-decker like Sir Cloudesley Shovel's, showing the muzzles of
her silent guns; or a little steam-tramp of our own times, its iron
sides brown with rust, and God knows what tragedy hidden in its tiny
engine-room. A terrible place--these islands of Scilly, dwelling
amongst the seas, as the old books say--dwelling amongst the seas."

He bent forward and unfastened the dead sailor's pilot jacket. Then he
felt in his pocket and drew out an oilskin case. This he opened, and
Fournier knelt beside him.

There were a few letters in the case, which the two men read through.
They were of no particular importance beyond that they were headed
"Yacht The Ten Brothers," and they were signed "Ralph Warriner," all
of them except one. This one was a love-letter of a date six years
back. It was addressed to "Ralph," and was signed "Miranda."

"Six years old," said the lighthouse-keeper. "For six years he has
carried that about with him, and now it will be read out in court to
make a sorry fun for people whom he never knew. That's hard on him,
eh? But harder on the woman."

At the words, spoken in a low voice, M. Fournier moved uneasily and
seemed to wince. The lighthouse-keeper held the letter in his hands
and thoughtfully turned over its pages.

"I have a mind to tear it up, but I suppose I must not." He returned
the papers to the oilskin case, and going back to the boat called for
two of the crew to carry the body down. "Meanwhile," said he to
Fournier, "we might have a look at 'The Ten Brothers.'"

They could not approach the bows of the ship, but overlooked them from
a pinnacle of rock. There was, however, little to be remarked.

"She is an old boat, and she has seen some weather from the look of
her," said the lighthouse-keeper. That, indeed, was only to be
expected, for "The Ten Brothers" had been a trader before Ralph
Warriner bought her, and two years had elapsed between the night when
he slipped from Gibraltar Harbour, and the day when this boat came to
its last moorings upon Rosevear.

The mist cleared altogether towards sunset. The sun shone out from the
edge of the horizon a ball of red fire, and the lugger ferried the
dead body back to St. Mary's over a sea which had the colour of
claret, and through foam ripples which sparkled like gold.

The Miranda who wrote the love-letter was Miranda Warriner, Ralph
Warriner's wife. Miranda Bedlow she had been at the date which headed
the letter. She was living now at Ronda in the Andalusian hills, a
hundred miles from Algeciras and Gibraltar, and had lived there since
her husband's disappearance. To Ronda the oilskin case was sent. She
heard the news of her Ralph's death with a natural sense of solemnity,
but she was too sincere a woman to assume a grief which she could not
feel. For her married life had been one of extraordinary unhappiness.



                              CHAPTER II

      PRESENTS THE HERO IN THE UNHEROIC ATTITUDE OF A SPECTATOR


It was Lady Donnisthorpe who two years later introduced Luke Charnock
to Mrs. Warriner. Lady Donnisthorpe was an outspoken woman with an
untameable passion for match-making, which she indulged with the
ardour and, indeed, the results of an amateur chemist. Her life was
spent in mingling incompatible elements and producing explosions to
which her enthusiasm kept her deaf, even when they made a quite
astonishing noise. For no experience of reverses could stale her
satisfaction when she beheld an eligible bachelor or maid walk for the
first time into her parlour.

She had made Charnock's acquaintance originally in Barbados. He sat
next her at a dinner given by the Governor of the Island, and took her
fancy with the pleasing inconsistency of a boyish appearance and a
wealth of experiences. He was a man of a sunburnt aquiline face, which
was lean but not haggard, grey and very steady eyes, and a lithe, tall
figure, and though he conveyed an impression of activity, he was still
a restful companion. Lady Donnisthorpe remarked in him a modern
appreciation of the poetry of machinery, and after dinner made
inquiries of the Governor.

"He is on his way homewards from Peru," answered the latter. "He has
been surveying for a railway line there during the last two years.
What do you think of him?"

"I want to know what you think."

"I like him. He is modest without diffidence, successful without
notoriety."

"What are his people?" asked Lady Donnisthorpe.

"I don't believe he has any. But I believe his father was a clergyman
in Yorkshire."

"It would sound improper for a girl without visible relations to say
that she was the daughter of a clergyman in Yorkshire, wouldn't it?"
said her ladyship, reflectively. "But I suppose it's no objection in a
man;" and in her memories she made a mark against Charnock's name. She
heard of him again once or twice in unexpected quarters from the lips
of the men who from East to West are responsible for the work that is
done; and once or twice she met him, for she was a determined
traveller. Finally, at Cairo, she sat next to Sir John Martin, the
head partner of a great Leeds firm of railway contractors.

"Did you ever come across a Mr. Charnock?" she asked.

The head partner laughed.

"I did; I knew his father."

"It's a strange thing about Mr. Charnock," said she, "but one never
hears anything of what he was doing before the last few years."

"Why not ask him?" said the North-countryman, bluntly.

"It might sound inquisitive," replied Lady Donnisthorpe, "and perhaps
there's no need to, if you know."

"Yes, I know," returned Sir John, with a great deal of provoking
amusement, "and, believe me, Lady Donnisthorpe, it's not at all to his
discredit."

Lady Donnisthorpe began thereafter to select and reject possible wives
for Charnock, and while still undecided, she chanced to pass one
December through Nice. The first person whom she saw in the vestibule
of the hotel was Luke Charnock.

"What in the world are you doing here?" she asked.

"Taking a week's holiday, Lady Donnisthorpe. I have been in Spain for
the last two years, and shall be for the next nine months."

"In Spain?"

"I am making a new line between Cadiz and Algeciras."

"God bless the man, and I never thought of it!" exclaimed Lady
Donnisthorpe. "I think you will do," she added, looking him over, and
nodding her head.

"I hope so," replied Charnock, cheerfully. "It's a big lift for me."

"In a way, no doubt," agreed her ladyship. "Though, mind you, the land
isn't what it was."

"The railway will improve it," said Charnock.

They happened to be talking of different subjects. Lady Donnisthorpe
pursued her own.

"Then you won't be in England for a year?" she said regretfully.

"The company building the line is an English one," replied Charnock.
"I shall have to see the directors in June. I shall be in London
then."

"Then you must come and see me. Write before you leave Spain.
Promise!" said Lady Donnisthorpe, who was now elated.

Charnock promised, and that day Lady Donnisthorpe wrote to her cousin,
Miranda Warriner, at Ronda, who was now at the end of the first year
of her widowhood, and of the third year of her ridiculous seclusion at
that little hill-town of Spain. Miranda was entreated, implored, and
commanded to come to London in May. There was the season, there was
Miranda's estate in Suffolk, which needed her attention. Miranda
reluctantly consented, and so Lady Donnisthorpe was the instrument by
which Charnock and Mrs. Warriner became acquainted. But the
foundations of that acquaintanceship were laid without her ladyship's
agency, and indeed without the knowledge of either Charnock or
Miranda.

A trifling defect in the machinery of a P. and O. boat began it. The
P. and O. stayed for four days at Aden to make repairs, and so
Charnock had four days to wait at Gibraltar before he could embark for
England. He did not, however, spend more than two of those four days
at Gibraltar, but picking up a yellow handbill in the lounge of the
hotel, he obeyed its advice, and crossing the sunlit straits early the
next morning saw the jealous hills about Tangier unfold and that
cardboard city glitter down to the sea.

He was rowed ashore to the usual accompaniment of shouts and yells by
a villainous boat's crew of Arabs. A mob of Barbary Jews screamed at
him on the landing-stage, and then a Moorish boy with a brown roguish
face who was dressed in a saffron jellabia, pushed his way forwards
and in a conversational voice said, "You English? God damn you, give
me a penny!"

Charnock hired that boy, and under his guidance sauntered through
Tangier where the East and the West rub shoulders, where the camel
snarls in the Sôk with an electric arc-lamp for a night-light, and all
the races and all the centuries jostle together in many colours down
the cobbles of its narrow streets. Charnock was shown the incidentals
of the Tangier variety entertainment: the Basha administering more or
less justice for less or more money at his Palace gate; the wooden
peep-hole of the prison where the prisoners' hands come through and
clutch for alms; a dancing-room where a Moorish woman closely veiled
leaned her back against a Tottenham Court Road chest of drawers under
a portrait of Mrs. Langtry, and beat upon a drum while another stamped
an ungainly dance by the light of a paraffin lamp; and coming out
again into the sunlight, Charnock cried out, "Hamet, take me somewhere
where it's clean, and there's no din, and there are no smells."

Hamet led the way up the hills, and every now and then, as he passed a
man better dressed than his fellows he would say in a voice of awe:

"That's a rich." He invariably added, "He's a Juice."

"Look here, Hamet," said Charnock, at length, "can't you show me a
rich who isn't a Jew?"

"These are the loryers," observed Hamet, after the fashion of the
March Hare when posed with an inconvenient question. He pointed to a
number of venerable gentlemen in black robes who sat in wooden hutches
open to the street. "I will show you," he continued, "a Moor who was
the richest man in all Tangier."

The pair walked up out of the town towards the Mazan, and came to a
lane shadowed by cedars and bordered with prickly pears. Here the
resounding din of the streets below was subdued to a murmurous
confusion of voices, from which occasionally a sharp cry would spirt
up clear into the air like a jet of water. Only one voice was definite
and incessant, and that voice came down to them from the trees higher
up the lane--a voice very thin, but on that hot, still afternoon very
distinct--a voice which perpetually quavered and bleated one
monotonous invocation.

"Hassan Akbar," said Hamet.

The invocation became articulate as they ascended. "Allah Beh!" the
voice cried, and again "Allah Beh!" and again, until the windless air
seemed to vibrate with its recurrence.

They came upon the Moor who uttered this cry at the gate of the
Moorish cemetery. A white, stubbly beard grew upon his chin and lips,
but his strength was not diminished by his years, and with every
movement of his body the muscles beneath the tough skin of his bare
legs worked like live things. He sat cross-legged in the dust with a
filthy sack for his only garment; he was blind, and his eyes stared
from their red sockets covered with a bluish film as though the
colours of the eyeballs had run.

"Allah Beh!" he cried, swaying his body backwards and forwards with
the regularity of an automaton and an inimitable quickness. He paid no
heed whatever to Charnock and the boy as they halted beside him.
"Allah Beh!" he cried, and his chest touched the cradle of his knees.
He marked the seconds with the pendulum of his body; he struck them
with his strident invocation.

"He was the richest man in Tangier," said Hamet, and he told Hassan
Akbar's story as though it was an affair of every day. Hassan had not
secured the protection of any of the European Legations. He had hoped
to hide his wealth by living poorly, and though he owned a house worth
three thousand dollars in Tangier, he did not dwell in it. But no
concealments had availed him. Someone of his familiars had told, and
no doubt had made his profit from the telling. The Basha had waited
his opportunity. It came when blindness left Hassan defenceless. Then
the Basha laid hands upon him, forced him to give up the gains of a
lifetime's trade, and so cast him out penniless to beg for copper
flouss at the gate of the cemetery.

"And Europe's no more than seven miles away," cried Charnock. Even
where he stood he could see the laughing water of the Straits, and
beyond that, the summit of Gibraltar. "Who was it that told?" he
asked.

"That is not known."

Charnock dropped some money into the blind man's lap, but Hassan did
not cease from his prayer to thank him.

"He is very strong," said Hamet, who saw nothing strange in the story
he had told. "He swings like this all day from seven in the morning to
five at night. He never stops." And at that moment, upon the heels of
Hamet's words, as though intentionally to belie them, Hassan Akbar
suddenly arrested the motion of his body and suddenly ceased from his
pitiable cry.

His silence and immobility came with so much abruptness that Charnock
was fairly startled. Then Hamet held up a finger, and they both
listened. Maybe the blind man was listening too, but Charnock could
not be certain. His face was as blind as his eyes, and there was no
expression in the rigid attitude of his body.

Charnock heard a faint sound higher up the lane. The sound became
louder and defined itself. It was the slap-slap of a pair of Moorish
slippers. Charnock drew Hamet back by the trunk of a tree, which
sheltered them both from the view of anyone who came down the hill. He
left the lane free, and into the open space there came a man who wore
the dress of a Moor of wealth, serwal, chamir, farajia, and haik,
spotless and complete. In figure he was slight and perhaps a trifle
under the middle height, and the haik was drawn close over his
forehead to shield him from the sun.

Hassan was seated in the dust with the sun beating full upon his head.
In front of him the newcomer stopped. "Peace be with you," he said, as
Charnock, who had some knowledge of Arabic, understood. But the beggar
made no answer, nor gave any sign that he heard. He sat motionless,
impassive, a secret figure of stone.

The newcomer laughed lightly to himself, and the laughter, within view
of the rags and misery of the once rich man, sounded unpleasant and
callous. Hamet shifted a foot at Charnock's side, and Charnock, whose
interest in this picturesque encounter was steadily growing, pressed a
hand upon the boy's shoulder to restrain him.

The stranger, however, had noticed neither of the two spectators. He
was still laughing softly to himself as he watched the beggar, and in
a little he began to hum between his teeth a tune--a queer, elusive
tune of a sweet but rather mournful melody; and it seemed to Charnock
by some indefinable hint of movement that Hassan Akbar was straining
his ears to catch and register that tune.

The stranger advanced to Hassan and dropped a coin in his lap. The
coin was not copper, for it sparkled in the air as it fell. Then with
another easy laugh he turned to go down into Tangier. But as he turned
he saw Charnock watching him. On the instant his hand went to his hood
and drew it close about his cheeks, but not before Charnock had seen a
scared face flashed at him for a moment, and immediately withdrawn.
The Moor went down the lane.

"Perhaps it was he who told?" said Charnock.

Hamet disagreed.

"He would not know. His beard was fair, so he comes from Fez."
Charnock, too, had remarked that the man was fair-haired. But
nevertheless this encounter of the rich Moor and the beggar remained
in his thoughts, and he allowed his imagination lazily to fix a
picture of it in his mind. Thus occupied, he walked through the
cemetery, taking in that way a short cut to the Sôk. But he was not
half-way across the cemetery when he turned sharply towards Hamet.

"Do you remember the tune the Moor hummed?"

Charnock's ear was slow to retain the memory of music. Hamet, however,
promptly whistled the melody from beginning to end, while Charnock
stood and took count of it.

"I shall have forgotten it to-morrow," said Hamet.

"I think now that I shall recollect it tomorrow," said Charnock, and
he walked on.

But in a moment or two he stopped again as though some new perplexity
was present to his mind.

"Hamet," he said, "before the Moor appeared at all, while his
footsteps were still faint, certainly before he spoke, Hassan Akbar
stopped his prayer, which you say he never stops. He knew then who was
coming. At all events he suspected. How did he know? How did he
suspect?"

"There is the Sôk," replied Hamet.

They had passed round the bend of the hill up which the cemetery
slopes, and were come within view of the market-place. Charnock was
puzzled by his unanswered question, and the question was forced to his
notice again that afternoon, and with yet greater force.

It was market-day. Charnock beheld stretched out beneath him a great
field, or rather a great plain, (for the grass was long since trampled
into mud,) which curved down to the yellow sun-baked wall of the city,
and whereon an innumerable throng, Negroes from Timbuctoo, Arabs,
Jews, and Moors, in all manner of raiment, from rags to coloured
robes, jostled and seethed, bawled and sweated, under a hot sun and in
a brilliant air. Here an old hag screamed aloud the virtues of her
merchandise, a few skinny onions and vegetables; there two men forced
a passage with blows of their sticks, and behind them a stately train
of camels brought in from the uplands their loads of dates. A Riffian
sauntered by with an indifferent air, his silver-mounted gun upon his
back, a pair of pistols in his belt, and a great coarse tail of hair
swinging between his shoulders. He needed no couriers to prepare his
way. At one spot a serpent-charmer thrust out his tongue, from which a
snake was hanging by the fangs; at another a story-teller, vivid in
narration, and of an extraordinary aptness in his gestures, held an
audience enchained. From every side the din of human voices rose into
the air, and to the din was added the snarling of camels, the braying
of donkeys, the bleating of sheep, the lowing of oxen, and all manner
of squeals and grunts, so that it seemed the whole brute creation had
combined to make one discordant orchestra.

Into this Babel Charnock descended.

"Those are the shoemakers," said Hamet. He pointed to a cluster of
tiny grimed gunny-bag tents in a corner of the highest part of the
Sôk. In the doorways of the tents a few men sat cobbling; one or two
wood fires crackled in the intervals between the tents; and in close
proximity a dead mule took its last unsavoury sleep.

"Hassan Akbar sleeps in the mud near to the tents," continued Hamet.
"Every evening he comes down to the Sôk, buys milk and bread from the
shoemakers, and sleeps--"

"Near to that mule!" interrupted Charnock. "And he was the richest man
in all Tangier."

A moment later there was shown to him the second picture which he was
to carry away from Tangier. Down the Sôk, through the crowd, came the
Moor, in his spotless robes, and a few yards behind him, striding
swiftly and noiselessly, the blind gaunt beggar of the cemetery gate
followed upon his trail. In and out amongst the shifting groups he
threaded and wound, and never erred in his pursuit. The man in whose
track he kept never spoke when all were shouting, yet Hassan never
faltered. The sound of his footsteps was lost in a multitude of the
like sounds, yet Hassan was somehow sensible of it, somehow to his
ears it emerged distinct.

Charnock was amazed; in a way too he was chilled. It seemed uncanny
that this sightless creature of the impassive face should be able to
follow, follow, follow relentlessly, unswervingly, one silent man
amongst the noisy hundreds. Charnock walked for a few yards by Hassan
Akbar's side, keeping pace with him. Even with his eyes fixed upon the
Moor in front, even though he saw his feet tread the ground, he could
not distinguish his footfalls. How then could Hassan?

Tracker and Tracked passed from the Sôk under the archway of the gate,
and Charnock dismissing Hamet walked down towards his hotel near the
waterside. However, he missed his road. He turned through the horse
market, descended the steep street, past the great Mosque, and walked
along a narrow, crooked alley between blank and yellow walls, which
ended in a tunnel beneath over-arching houses. Almost within the mouth
of this tunnel there was a shop, or so it seemed, for a stuffed jackal
swung above the door as a sign. Before this shop Charnock halted with
a thrill of excitement. The door of the shop was shut, the unglazed
window was shuttered. It was not on that account that Charnock
stopped; but underneath the shuttered window, his head almost touching
the sill, Hassan squatted on the cobbles fingering now and then a
silver dollar.

Inside the door a bolt grated, the door opened, and a stout,
undersized European appeared in the entrance, polished a pair of
glasses, set them upon his nose, glanced up and down the street,
closed the door behind him, and taking no heed whatever of the blind
man under his window, walked briskly into the tunnel. He walked with a
short, tripping, and jaunty step.

Charnock waited while the echo of it diminished and ceased, and the
moment it had ceased he saw Hassan, without any hurry, without any
sign of expectation or excitement, rise slowly to his feet and move
along the house wall towards the door. His right elbow scraped the
plaster; then his elbow touched nothing. He had come to the recess of
the door, and he stopped.

It flashed upon Charnock that he had not heard the bolt again grate
into its socket. The door was then only latched and--was Hassan's
quarry behind its panels?

The affair had ceased to be a toy with which Charnock's imagination
could idly play. He strode across the alley and planted himself face
to face with Hassan. Hassan quietly and immediately murmured a request
for alms and stretched out his left hand, a supple, corded hand, with
long sinuous fingers, a hand of great strength. But as he spoke he
drew within the recess of the door, and Charnock noticed his right
hand steal up the panels feeling for the latch.

Made by this seemingly passionless and apathetic man, the secret
movement shocked Charnock. It seemed to him at that moment so
cold-blooded as to be almost inhuman.

"Look out!" he shouted through the door and in broad English,
forgetting that the man for whom his warning was intended was a Moor.
But the warning had its effect. There was a heavy blow upon the door,
as though a man's shoulder lurched against it, and then the bolt
grated into the socket. Hassan Akbar walked on repeating his prayer
for alms, as if his hand had never for an instant stolen up the panel
and felt for the latch.

Charnock, to make his warning the more complete, rapped on the door
for admission, once, twice, thrice. But he got no answer. He leaned
his ear to the panel. He could detect not so much as a foot stirring.
Absolute silence reigned in that dark and shuttered room.

Charnock walked back to his hotel. On the way he passed the end of the
pier, where he saw the little Frenchman bargaining with the owner of a
felucca. His excitement gradually died down. It occurred to him that
there might have been no grounds at all for any excitement. Hassan
Akbar might have been following through the Sôk by mere accident. He
might have tried the door in pursuit of nothing more than alms; and in
a little the whole incident ceased to trouble his speculations. He
crossed the Straits to Gibraltar the next morning, and waited there
for two days until the P. and O. came in. It was on the P. and O. that
he first fell in with Major Wilbraham.



                             CHAPTER III

   TREATS OF A GENTLEMAN WITH AN AGREEABLE COUNTENANCE, AND OF A
      WOMAN'S FACE IN A MIRROR


Major Ambrose Wilbraham had embarked at Marseilles, and before the
boat reached Gibraltar he had made the acquaintance of everyone on
board, and had managed to exchange cards with a good many. The steamer
was still within sight of Gibraltar when he introduced himself to
Charnock with a manner of effusive jocularity to which Charnock did
not respond. The Major was tall and about forty years of age. A thin
crop of black hair was plastered upon his head; he wore a moustache
which was turning grey; his eyebrows were so faultlessly regular that
they seemed to have been stencilled on his forehead, and underneath
them a pair of cold beady eyes counterfeited friendliness. Charnock
could not call to mind that he had ever met a man on whom geniality
sat with so ill a grace, or one whose acquaintance he less desired to
improve.

Major Wilbraham, however, was not easily rebuffed, and he walked the
deck by Charnock's side, talkative and unabashed.

Off the coast of Portugal the boat made bad weather, and she laboured
through the cross-seas of the Bay under a strong south-westerly wind.
Off Ushant she picked up a brigantine which Charnock watched from the
hurricane deck without premonition, and indeed without more than a
passing curiosity.

"Fine lines, eh, Charnock old fellow!" said a voice at his elbow.

The brigantine dipped her head into a roller, lifted it, and shook the
water off her decks in a cascade of snow.

"I have seen none finer," answered Charnock, "except on a racing-yacht
or a destroyer."

"She's almost familiar to me," speculated the Major.

"She reminds me of some boats I saw once at the West Indies," returned
Charnock, "built for the fruit-trade, and so built for speed. Only
they were schooners--from Salcombe, I believe. The Salcombe clippers
they were called."

"Indeed!" said the Major, with a sharp interest, and he leaned forward
over the rail. "Now I wonder what her name is."

Charnock held a pair of binoculars in his hand. He gave them to the
Major. Wilbraham raised them to his eyes while the P. and O. closed
upon the sailing-boat. The brigantine slid down the slope of a wave
and hoisted her stern.

"The 'Tarifa,'" said the Major, and he shut up the binoculars. "What
is her tonnage, do you think?"

"About three hundred, I should say."

"My notion precisely. Would it be of any advantage to alter her rig,
supposing that she was one of the Salcombe schooners?"

"I should hardly think so," replied Charnock. "I rather understood
that the schooners were noted boats."

"Ah, that's interesting," said Wilbraham, and he returned the
binoculars. The steamer was now abreast of the brigantine, and in a
little it drew ahead.

"By the way, Charnock, I shall hope to see more of you," resumed Major
Wilbraham. "I haven't given you a card, have I?"

He produced a well-worn card-case.

"It's very kind of you," said Charnock, as he twirled the card between
his forefinger and his thumb. "Don't you," he added, "find cards
rather a heavy item in your expenses?"

Major Wilbraham laughed noisily.

"I take you, dear friend," he exclaimed, "I take you. But a friend in
this world, sir, is a golden thread in a very dusty cobweb."

"But the friendship is rather a one-sided arrangement," rejoined
Charnock. "For instance, the cards you give, Major Wilbraham, bear no
address, the cards you receive, do." And while showing the card to his
companion, he inadvertently dropped it into the sea.

Major Wilbraham blamed the negligence of a rascally printer, and made
his way to the smoking-room.

The P. and O. boat touched at Plymouth the next morning, and landed
both Major Wilbraham and Charnock. The latter remained in Plymouth for
two days, and on the morning of the third day hired a hansom cab, and
so met with the last of those incidents which were to link him in such
close, strange ties with the fortunes of men and women who even in
name were then utterly unknown to him.

A yellow handbill had led Charnock across the Straits to Tangier, and
now it was nothing more serious than a draft upon Lloyd's bank which
took him in a hansom cab through the streets of Plymouth. Spring was
in the air; Charnock felt exceedingly light-hearted and cheerful. On
the way he unconsciously worked his little finger into the eye of the
brass bracket which juts inwards on each side of the front window at
the level of the shoulder; and when the cab stopped in front of the
bank he discovered that his finger was securely jammed.

Across the road he noticed a chemist's shop, and descending the steps
of the bank a fair-haired gentleman of an agreeable countenance, who,
quite appropriately in that town of sailors, had something of a
nautical aspect.

"Sir," began Charnock, politely, as he leaned out of the window, "I
shall be much obliged--"

To Charnock's surprise the good-natured gentleman precipitately sprang
down the steps and began to walk rapidly away. Charnock was
sufficiently human and therefore sufficiently perverse to become at
once convinced that although there were others passing, this reluctant
man was the only person in the world who could and must help him from
his predicament.

So he leaned yet farther out of the cab.

"Hi, you sir!" he shouted, "you who are running away!"

The words had an electrical effect. The man of the agreeable
countenance stopped suddenly, and so stood with his back towards
Charnock while gently and thoughtfully he nodded his head. It seemed
to Charnock that he might perhaps be counting over the voices with
which he was familiar.

"Well," cried Charnock, who was becoming exasperated, "my dear sir, am
I to wait for you all day?"

The street was populous with the morning traffic of a business
quarter. Curious people stopped and attracted others. In a very few
moments a small crowd would have formed. The stranger thereupon came
slowly back to the hansom, showing a face which was no longer
agreeable. He set a foot upon the step of the cab, and fixed a blue
and watchful eye upon Charnock.

"I am afraid," said the latter, with severity, "that my first
impression of you was wrong."

An indescribable relief was expressed by the other, but he spoke with
surliness.

"You mistook me for someone else?"

"I mistook your disposition for something else," Charnock affably
corrected. "I expected to find you a person of great good-nature."

"You hardly made such a point of summoning a perfect stranger," and
here the blue eyes became very wary, "for no other reason than to tell
him that."

"Certainly not," returned Charnock; "I would not trespass upon your
time, which seems to be extremely valuable, without a better reason.
But my finger is fixed, as you can see, in this brass ring, and I
cannot withdraw it. So if you would kindly cross over to the chemist
and buy me a pennyworth of vaseline, I shall be more than obliged."
And with the hand which was free he felt in his pocket for a penny and
held it out.

A look of utter incredulity showed upon the listener's face.

"Do you mean to tell me--" he blurted out.

"That I ask you to be my good Samaritan? Yes."

The stranger's face became suddenly vindictive. "Vaseline!" he cried.

"A pennyworth," said Charnock, again offering the penny.

The man of the agreeable countenance struck Charnock's hand violently
aside, and the penny flew into a gutter. He stood up on the step and
thrust his face, which was now inflamed with fury, into the cab.

"I tell you what," he cried, "you are a fair red-hotter, you are. Buy
you vaseline! I hope your finger will petrify. I hope you'll just sit
in that cab and rot away in your boots, until you have to ante up in
kingdom come." He added expletives to his anathema.

"Really," said Charnock, "if I was a lady I don't think that I should
like to listen to you any longer."

But before Charnock had finished the sentence, the good Samaritan, who
was no Samaritan at all, had flung himself from the cab and was
striding up the street.

"After all," thought Charnock, "I might just as well have driven
across to the chemist, if I had only thought of it."

This he now did, got his finger free, cashed his draft, and took the
train to London.

During this journey the discourteous stranger occupied some part of
his thoughts. Between Charnock's eyes and the newspaper, against the
red cliffs of Teignmouth, on the green of the home counties, his face
obtruded, and for a particular reason. The marks of fear are
unmistakable. The man whom he had called, had been scared by the call,
nor had his fear quite left him when he had come face to face with
Charnock. Set features which strove to conceal, and a brightness of
the eye which betrayed emotion, these things Charnock remembered very
clearly.

In London he dined alone at his hotel, and over against him the
stranger's face bore him company. He went out afterwards into the
street, and amidst the myriad ringing feet, was seized with an utter
sense of loneliness, more poignant, more complete, than he had ever
experienced in the waste places of the world. The lights of a theatre
attracted him. He paid his money, took a seat in the stalls, and was
at once very worried and perplexed. He turned to his neighbour, who
was boisterously laughing.

"Would you mind telling me what this play is?" he asked.

"Oh, it's a musical comedy."

"I see. But what is it about?"

Charnock's neighbour scratched his head thoughtfully.

"I ought to remember," he said, "for I saw the piece early in the
run."

Charnock went out, crossed a street, and came to another theatre,
where he saw a good half of the tragedy of _Macbeth_. Thence he
returned to his hotel and went to bed.

The hotel was one of many balconies, situated upon the Embankment.
From the single window or his bedroom Charnock looked across the river
to where the name of a brewery perpetually wrote itself in red
brilliant letters which perpetually vanished. It was his habit to
sleep not merely with his window open, but with the blinds drawn up
and the curtains looped back, and these arrangements he made as usual
before he got into bed.

Now, the looking-glass stood upon a dressing-table in the window, with
its back towards the window-panes; and since the night was moonless
and dark, this mirror, it should be remembered, reflected nothing of
the room or its furniture, but presented only to the view of Charnock,
as he lay in bed, a surface of a black sheen.

Charnock recurred to his adventure of the morning, and thus the
abusive stranger was in his thoughts when he fell asleep. He figured
also in his dreams.

For, after he had fallen asleep, a curtain was raised upon a fantastic
_revue_ of the past week. Hassan Akbar strode quickly and noiselessly
behind his quarry, tracking him by some inappreciable faculty, not
through the muddy Sôk, but across the polished floor of the ball-room
in the musical comedy. Again Charnock shouted "Look out!" and the Moor
with one bound leapt from the ball-room, which was now become a
landing-stage, into a felucca. The crew of the felucca, it now
appeared, was made up of Charnock, Lady Macbeth, and Hassan Akbar, and
by casting lots with counters made of vaseline, Charnock was appointed
to hold the tiller. This duty compelled extraordinary care, for the
felucca would keep changing its rig and the bulk of its hull swelled
and dwindled. At last, to Charnock's intense relief, the boat settled
into a Salcombe clipper with the rig of a P. and O., but with
immeasurably greater speed, so that within a very few seconds they
sailed over a limitless ocean and anchored at Tangier. At once the
crew entirely vanished. Charnock was not distressed, because he saw a
hansom cab waiting for him at the Customs, though how the hansom was
to pass up those narrow cobbled streets he could not think. That
however was the driver's business.

"I hope your horse is good," said Charnock, springing into the cab.

"She comes of the great Red-hotter stock," replied the cabman, and
lifting the trap in the roof he showered packets of visiting cards,
which fell about Charnock like flakes of snow.

Charnock had not previously noticed that the cabman was Major
Wilbraham.

The cab shot up the hill through the tunnel, past the closed shop. A
figure sprang from the ground and thrust a face through the window of
the cab. The man was in Moorish dress, but the face was the face of
the abusive stranger of Plymouth--and all at once Charnock started up
on his elbow, and in the smallest fraction of a second was intensely
and vividly awake. There was no sound at all within the room. But in
the black sheen of the mirror he saw a woman's face.

He saw it quite clearly for perhaps five seconds, the face rising
white from the white column of the throat, the dark and weighty
coronal of the hair, the curved lips which alone had any colour, the
eyes, deep and troubled, which seemed to hint a prayer for help which
they disdained to make--for five seconds perhaps the illusion
remained, for five seconds the face looked out at him from the black
mirror, lit palely, as it seemed, by its own pallor, and so vanished.

Charnock remained propped upon his elbow. A faint twilight from the
stars crept timidly through the open window as though deprecating its
intrusion. Charnock looked into the dark corners of the room, but
nowhere did the darkness move. Nor could he hear any sound. Not even a
board of the floor cracked, and outside the door there was no noise of
a footstep on the stairs. Then from a great distance the jingle of a
cab came through the open window to his ears with a light
companionable lilt. Gradually the sound ceased, and again the silence
breathed about him. Charnock struck a match and looked at his watch.
It was a few minutes after three.

Charnock lay back in his bed wondering. For he had seen that face
once, he had once exchanged glances with those eyes, once only, six
years ago, and thereafter had entirely forgotten the incident--until
this moment. He had stopped for a night at Monte Carlo and had
seen--the girl--yes, the _girl_, though it was a woman's face which
had gleamed in the depths of his mirror--standing under the green
shaded lamps in the big gambling-room. His attention, he now
remembered, had been seized by the contrast between her amused
indifference and the feverish haste of the gamblers about the table;
between her fresh, clear looks and their heated complexions,--even
between her frock of lilac silk and their more elaborate toilettes.
The girl was entirely happy then, the red lips smiled, the violet eyes
laughed. Why should her face appear to him now, after these years, and
paled by this distress?

A queer fancy slipped into his mind--a fancy at the extravagance of
which he knew very well he should laugh in the sane light of the
morning, though he indulged it now--that somehow, somewhere, this
woman needed help, and that it was thus vouchsafed to her, a stranger,
to make her appeal to him in this way, which spared her the
humiliation of making any appeal at all. Charnock fell asleep
convinced that somehow, somewhere, he was destined to meet and know
her. As he had foreseen, he laughed at his fancies in the morning, but
nevertheless, he did meet her. It had, in fact, already been arranged
that he should. For the face which he saw in the mirror was the face
of Miranda Warriner.



                              CHAPTER IV

       TREATS OF THE FIRST MEETING BETWEEN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA


Lady Donnisthorpe, with a sigh of relief, retired from her position at
the head of the stairs, and catching Charnock in the interval between
two dances:--

"You kept some dances free," she said, "didn't you? I want to
introduce you to a cousin of mine, Miranda Warriner, because she lives
at Ronda."

"At Ronda. Indeed?"

"Yes." Her ladyship added with a magnificent air of indifference, "She
is a widow," and she led Charnock across the ball-room.

Miranda saw them approaching, noticed an indefinable air of
expectation in Lady Donnisthorpe's manner, and smiled. A few
excessively casual remarks concerning one Mr. Charnock, which Lady
Donnisthorpe had dropped during the last few days, had not escaped the
notice of Miranda, who was aware of her cousin's particular weakness.
This was undoubtedly Mr. Charnock. She raised her eyes towards him,
and had her ladyship been less fluttered, she might have remarked that
Miranda's eyes lit up with a momentary sparkle of recognition.

"Mrs. Warriner--Mr. Charnock."

Lady Donnisthorpe effected the momentous introduction and felt
immediately damped. She had not indeed expected that her two newest
victims would at once and publicly embrace. But at all events she had
decked out her ball-room as the sacrificial altar, and had taken care
that a fitting company and cheerful music should do credit to the
immolation. This tame indifference was less than she deserved.

Miranda, to whom Lady Donnisthorpe was looking, made the perfunctory
dip of the head and smiled the perfunctory smile, and Charnock--why in
the world did he not move or speak? Lady Donnisthorpe turned her eyes
from Miranda to this awkward cavalier, and was restored to a radiant
good-humour. "Dazzled," she said to herself, "absolutely dazzled!" For
Charnock stood rooted to the ground and tongue-tied with amazement.

It was fortunate for Lady Donnisthorpe that at this point she thought
it wise to withdraw. Otherwise she would surely have remarked an
unmistakable look of disappointment which grew within Charnock's eyes
and spread out over his face. Then the disappointment vanished, and as
he compared programmes with Miranda, he recovered his speech.

Four dances must intervene before he could claim her, and Charnock was
glad of the interval to get the better of his bewilderment. Here was
the woman whom his mirror had shown to him! After all, his nocturnal
fancy was fulfilled, or rather part of it, only part or it. He had met
her, he was to dance with her. Some miracle had brought them together.
From the corner by the doorway he watched Miranda, he remarked an
unaffected friendliness in her manner towards her partners. Candour
was written upon her broad white forehead and looked out from her
clear eyes. He had no doubt it was fragrant too in her hair. There
were heavy masses of that hair, as he knew very well from his mirror,
but now the masses were piled and woven about her head with a cunning
art, which to be sure they deserved. There was a ripple in her hair,
too, which caught the light--a most taking ripple. Here was a woman
divested of a girl's wiles and vanities. Charnock, without a scruple,
aspersed all girls up to the age of say twenty-four, that he might
give her greater praise.

He fell to wondering, not how it was that her face had appeared to
him, nor by what miracle he was now enabled to have knowledge of her,
but rather by what miracle of forgetfulness he had allowed her face,
after he had seen it that one time six years ago, ever to slip from
his thoughts, or her eyes after that one time he had exchanged a
glance with them.

The whirl of the dance carried her by his corner. She swung past him
with the lightest imaginable step, and he was suddenly struck through
and through with a chilling apprehension that by some unconscionable
maladroitness he would surely tread upon her toes.

At once he proceeded to count over the dances in which he had borne
himself with credit. He had danced with Spanish women, he assured
himself, and they had not objected. He was thus consoling himself when
the time came for him to lead her out. And the touch of her hand in
his, he remembers, turned him into a babbling idiot.

He recollects that they danced with great celerity; that they passed
Lady Donnisthorpe, who smiled at him with great encouragement, and
that he was dolefully humorous concerning Major Wilbraham and his
exchanges of cards, though why Major Wilbraham should have thrust his
bald head into the conversation, he was ever at a loss to discover.
And then Miranda said, "Shall we stop?"

"Oh, I didn't, did I?" exclaimed the horror-stricken Charnock, as he
looked downwards at her toes.

"No, you didn't," Miranda assured him with a laugh. "Do you usually?"

"No," he declared vehemently, "believe me, no! Never, upon my word! I
have danced with Spanish women,--not at all,--no--no--no--no."

"Quite so," said Miranda.

And they laughed suddenly each to the other, and in a moment they were
friends. Conversation came easily to their tongues, and underneath the
surface of their light talk, the deeps of character called steadily
like to like.

"I have seen you once before, Mrs. Warriner," said Charnock, as they
seated themselves in an alcove of the room.

"Yes," she returned promptly, "at Monte Carlo, six years ago," and her
face lost its look of enjoyment and darkened with some shadow from her
memories. The change was, however, unremarked by Charnock.

"It seems strange," he said in an absent voice, "that we should meet
first of all in a gambling-room, and the next time at a ball."

"Why?"

The question could not be answered. Charnock had a real but
inexplicable feeling that Miranda and he should have met somewhere
amidst the grandeur of open spaces, in the centre of the Sahara, and
for the moment he forgot to calculate the effect of the sand upon
Miranda's eyes. This feeling, however, he could hardly express at the
present point of their acquaintanceship; and, indeed, he immediately
ceased to be aware of it.

"Do you actually remember our meeting in that way six years ago?" he
exclaimed. "How wonderful of you!"

"Why?" again asked Mrs. Warriner. "Why is it wonderful, since you
remember it?"

"Ah, but I didn't remember it until"--he paused for a second or
two--"until I saw your face in a looking-glass."

Miranda glanced at him in considerable perplexity. Then she said with
a demure smile, "I have at times seen it there myself."

"No doubt," he replied with a glance at the cunning arrangement of her
hair.

"My maid does that," said she, biting her lip.

"No doubt, but you sit in front of the glass at the time. You're in
the room," he continued hastily; "but when I saw your face in my
mirror, you couldn't be. I was in bed,--I mean,--let me tell you!" He
stopped, overwhelmed with embarrassment. Miranda, with an air of
complete unconsciousness, carefully buttoned her glove; only the glove
was already buttoned, and her mouth twitched slightly at the corners.

"It was just a week ago to-day," Charnock began again. "I got home to
my hotel late."

"Ah!" murmured Mrs. Warriner, as though the whole mystery was now
explained to her.

"I assure you," he retorted with emphasis, "that I dined in the train
and drank nothing more serious than railway claret."

"I made no accusation whatever," Miranda blandly remarked, and seemed
very well pleased.

"After I had fallen asleep, I began to dream, but not about you, Mrs.
Warriner; that's the strange feature of the business. It wasn't that I
had been thinking of you that evening, or indeed, that I had ever been
at all in the habit of thinking--" Again Charnock was utterly
confused. "I don't seem to be telling the story with the best taste in
the world, do I?" he said ruefully.

"Never mind," she said in a soothing voice.

"Of course, I could have turned it into a compliment," he continued.
"Only I take it you have no taste for compliments, and I lack the
experience to put them tactfully."

"For a novice," said she, "you seem to be doing very well." Charnock
resumed his story. "I dreamt solely of people I had seen, and
incidents I had witnessed during the last week, at Tangier and at
Plymouth. I dreamed particularly of a man I quarrelled with at
Plymouth, and I suddenly woke up and saw your face in the mirror."

"As you fancied."

"It was no fancy. It was no dream-face that I saw--dream-faces are
always elusive. It was no dream-face, it was yours."

"Or one like mine."

"There cannot be two."

"For a novice," repeated Miranda, with a smile, "you _are_ doing very
well."

Charnock had watched her carefully while he told his story, on the
chance that her looks, if not her lips, might give him some clue to
the comprehension of his mysterious vision. But she had expressed
merely an unconcerned curiosity and some amusement.

"Shall I explain your vision?" said she. "You must have seen me in
London during the day: the recollection that you had seen me must have
lain latent, so that when you woke up you saw me in your mirror and
did not remember that you had seen me during the day."

"Were you at any theatre this day week?"

"No," said Miranda, after counting over the days.

"You did not see _Macbeth_ that night?"

"No."

"Then it is impossible I should have seen you. For I came up from
Plymouth only that afternoon. I drove from Paddington to my hotel;
from the hotel I went to the theatre; from the theatre I walked back
to the hotel. It is impossible."

"It is very strange," said Miranda, whose interest was increasing, and
whose sense of amusement had vanished; for she saw that her companion
was moved by something more than curiosity. It was evident to her from
his urgent tones, from the eagerness of his face, that he had some
hidden reason for his desire to fathom the mystery. It seemed to her
that he nourished some intention, some purpose in the back of his
mind, which depended for fulfilment upon whether or no there was any
feasible solution.

"Tell me your dream," she said.

"It was the oddest jumble,--it had neither sense nor continuity. Moors
figured in it, ships, Lady Macbeth, the Major with his card-case, and
the stranger who swore at me through the cab-window at Plymouth. The
phrases that man used came into it."

"What phrases?"

"I couldn't repeat to you the most eloquent. There were milder ones,
however. He called me a fair red-hotter amongst other things," said
Charnock, laughing at his recollections, "and expressed a wish that I
might--well, sit in that cab until I ante'd up in kingdom come."

Miranda leaned back in her seat and opened and shut her fan. "He was a
stranger to you, you say?"

"Quite."

"You are sure?"

"Quite."

"You had never seen him anywhere--anywhere? Think!"

Charnock deliberated for a few seconds. "Never anywhere," he replied.

There was a moment's silence. Mrs. Warriner gently fanned herself as
she leaned back in the shadow of the alcove. "Describe him to me," she
said quietly.

"A man of a slight figure, a little under the middle height, fair
hair, bright blue eyes, an open, good-natured face, and I should say a
year or so under forty. I took him to be a sailor."

The fan stopped. Miranda let it fall upon her lap. That was the only
movement which she made, and from the shadow of the recess, she said:
"There is no explanation."

Charnock drew a breath and leaned forward, his hands clasped, his
elbows on his knees. It seemed he had been waiting for just that one
sentence. As he sat now his face was in the light, and Miranda
remarked a certain timidity upon it, as though now that he had heard
the expected words, he dared not after all reply to them. He did not
look towards her. He stared at the dancers, but with vacant eyes. He
saw nothing of their jewels, or their coloured robes, or the flash of
their silver feet, and the noise of their chatter sounded very dimly
in his ears. He was quite occupied, indeed, with the hardihood of what
he had it on his tongue's tip to say--when he had gained sufficient
courage.

Miranda moved restlessly, unbuttoned a glove, drew it off her wrist
unconsciously, and then was still as Charnock began to speak.

"Is there no explanation?" he asked. "I imagined one. You know how
fancies come to one in the dark. That night I imagined one. I laughed
at it the next morning, but now, since I have talked with you, I have
been wondering whether by any miracle, it might be true. And if
there's an infinitesimal chance that it's true, I think that I ought
to tell you it, even though it may seem merely ridiculous, even though
it may offend you. But I have lived for the most part of my time,
since I was a man, in the waste places of the earth, and what may well
be an impertinence--for we are only these few minutes acquainted--you
will perhaps pardon on that account."

He received no encouragement to continue; on the other hand he
received no warning to stop, for Miranda neither spoke nor moved. He
did not look at her face lest he should read the warning there; but
from the tail of his eye, he could see the fan, the white glove lying
idle upon the black satin of her dress. The skirt hung from her knee
to her foot without a stir in its folds, nor did her foot stir where
it showed beneath the hem. She remained in a pose of most enigmatical
quietude.

"The face which my mirror showed to me," he went on, "was your face,
as I said; but in expression it was not your face as I see it
to-night. It was very troubled, it was very pale; the eyes haunted me
because of the pain in them, and because of--something else beside. It
was a tortured face I saw, and the eyes seemed to ask--but to ask
proudly--for help. Is it plain, the explanation which occurred to me?"
His voice sank; he went on, slowly choosing every word with care, and
speaking it with hesitation. "I imagined that out of all the millions
of women in the world, here was one who needed help--my help, who was
allowed to appeal to me for it, without, if you understand, making any
appeal at all, and the explanation was not ... unpleasant ... to a man
who lives much alone. In fact it has been so pleasant, and has become
so familiar during this last week, that when I saw you to-night
without a care, just as I saw you that night at Monte Carlo," and
indeed it seemed to Charnock that the black dress she wore alone
marked the passage of those six years,--"I am ashamed to say that I
was disappointed."

"Yes," said Miranda. "I noticed the disappointment, but there's a
simpler explanation of the troubled face than yours. You had been to
_Macbeth_ that evening; Lady Macbeth played a part in your dreams.
What if Lady Macbeth lent her pallor and her distress to the face
which you saw in your mirror?"

Charnock swung abruptly round towards her. It was not the explanation
which surprised him, but the altered voice she used. And if her voice
surprised him, he was shocked and startled by her looks. She was still
leaning back in the shadow of the alcove, and her head rested against
the dark wood-panels. She did not move when he looked towards her.

"My God," he said in a hushed and trembling whisper, and she gave no
sign that she heard. She might have fainted, but that her eyes
glittered out of the shadow straight and steadily into his. She might
be dead from the whiteness of her face against the panels, but that
her bosom rose and fell.

"What can I do?" he exclaimed.

"Hush!" she replied, and rose to her feet. "Here is Lady
Donnisthorpe." She walked abruptly past him across the room to the
open window. Charnock remained nailed to the ground, following her
with his eyes. For in that alcove, leaning against the dark panels, he
had seen not merely the features, but the expression on the features,
he had seen exact in every detail the face which he had seen in the
polished darkness of his mirror. The sheen of the dark polished panels
helped the illusion. His fancy had come true, was transmuted into
fact. Somewhere, somehow, he was to meet that woman. He had met her
here and in this way, and her eyes and her face uttered her distress
as with a piercing cry. Her eyes! The resemblance was perfect to the
last detail. For Charnock ventured to surmise in them the same
involuntary appeal which he had seen in the eyes that had looked out
from his mirror. What then if the rest were true? What if his
explanation was as true as the true facts which it explained? What if
it was given to him and to her to stand apart from their fellows in
this mysterious relation?...

He saw that Miranda was already near the window, that Lady
Donnisthorpe was approaching him. He followed instantly in Miranda's
steps, and Lady Donnisthorpe, perceiving his attention, had the
complaisance to turn aside. For the window opened on to a balcony
wherein discreet palms sheltered off a nook. There was one of Lady
Donnisthorpe's guests who did not share her ladyship's complacency. A
censorious dowager sitting near to the window had kept an alert eye
upon the couple in the recess during the last three dances; and each
time that her daughter--a pretty girl with hair of the palest possible
gold, and light blue eyes that were dancing with a child's delight at
all the wonders of a first season--returned to the shelter of her
portly frame, the dowager drew moral lessons for her benefit from the
text of the oblivious couple. She remarked with pain upon their
increasing infatuation for each other; she pointed out to her daughter
a hapless youth who tiptoed backwards and forwards before Mrs.
Warriner, with a dance-card in his hand, too timorous to interrupt the
intimate conversation; and when Mrs. Warriner dropped a glove as she
stepped over the window-sill on to the balcony, the dowager nudged her
daughter with an elbow.

"Now, Mabel, there's a coquette," she said.

Charnock was close behind, and overheard the triumphant remark.

"I beg your pardon," he said politely, "it was the purest accident."

The dowager bridled; her face grew red; she raised her tortoiseshell
glasses and annihilated Charnock with a single stare. Charnock had the
audacity to smile. He stooped and picked up the glove. Mrs. Warriner
had indeed dropped the glove by accident; but since it fell in
Charnock's way and since he picked it up, it was to prove, like the
handbill at Gibraltar and the draft on Lloyd's bank, a thing trivial
in itself, but the opportunity of strange events.



                              CHAPTER V

                 WHEREIN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA IMPROVE
                 THEIR ACQUAINTANCESHIP IN A BALCONY


Lady Donnisthorpe's house stood in Queen Anne's Gate, and the balcony
overlooked St. James's Park. There Charnock found Miranda; he leaned
his elbows upon the iron balustrade, and for a while neither of them
spoke. It was a clear night of early June, odorous with messages of
hedgerows along country lanes and uplands of young grass, and of bells
ringing over meadows. In front of them the dark trees of the Park
rippled and whispered to the stray breaths of wind; between the trees
one line of colourless lamps marked the footpath across the bridge to
the Mall; and the carriages on the outer roadway ringed that enclosure
of thickets and lawns with flitting sparks of fire.

Charnock was still holding the glove which he had picked up on the
window-sill.

"That's mine," said Miranda; "thank you," and she stretched out her
hand for it.

"Yes," said Charnock, absently, and he drew the glove through his
fingers. It was a delicate trifle of white kid; he smoothed it, and
his hand had the light touch of a caress. "Miranda," he said softly
but distinctly, and lingered on the word as though the sound pleased
him.

Miranda started and then sank back again in her chair with a quiet
smile. Very likely she blushed at this familiar utterance of her name,
and at the caressing movement of his hand which accompanied and
perhaps interpreted the utterance, or perhaps it was only at a certain
throb of her own heart that she blushed. At all events, the darkness
concealed the blush, and Charnock was not looking in her direction.

The freshness of the night air had restored her, but she was very
willing to sit there in silence so long as no questions were asked of
her, and Charnock had rather the air of one who works out a private
problem for himself than one who seeks the answer from another.

The clock upon Westminster tower boomed the hour of twelve. Miranda
noticed that Charnock raised his head and listened to the twelve heavy
strokes with a smile. His manner was that of a man who comes
unexpectedly upon some memento of an almost forgotten time.

"That is a familiar sound to you," said Mrs. Warriner, and she was
suddenly sensible of a great interest in all of the past life of this
man who was standing beside her.

"Yes," said Charnock, turning round to her.

"You lived in Westminster, then? At one time I used to stay here a
good deal. Where did you live?"

Charnock laughed. "You would probably be no wiser if I named the
street; it is not of those which you and your friends go up and down,"
he replied simply. "Yes, I lived in Westminster for three hard,
curious years."

"It's not only the years that are curious," said Miranda, but the hint
was lost, for Charnock had turned back to the balustrade. She was
still, however, inclined to persist. The details which Lady
Donnisthorpe had sown in her mind, now bore their crop. Interested in
the man, now that she knew him, she was also interested in his career,
in his hurried migratory life, in the mystery which enveloped his
youth, and all the more because of the contrast between her youth and
his. He had lived for three years in some small back street of
Westminster; very likely she had more than once rubbed shoulders
with him in the streets on the occasions when she had come up from her
home in Suffolk. That home became instantly very distinct in her
memories--an old manor-house guarded by a moat of dark silent water, a
house or broad red-brick chimneys whereon she had known the roses to
bloom on a Christmas-day, and of leaded windows upon which the boughs
of trees continually tapped.

"I should like to show you my home," she said with a sudden impulse,
and did not check herself before the words were spoken. "Perhaps some
day," she continued hurriedly, "you will tell me of those three years
you spent in Westminster." And she hoped that he had not heard the
first sentence of the two.

"I will make an exchange," said Charnock. "I will exchange some day,
if you will, the history of my three years for the history of your
trouble." He turned eagerly towards her, but she held up her hand.

"Please, please!" she said in a low, shaking voice, for her distress
had come back upon her. She had begun, if not to forget it, at all
events to dull the remembrance of it since she had come out upon the
balcony. She had, in a word, sought and found a compensation in the
new friendship of this man, and a relief in his very _naïveté_. But he
had brought her anxieties back to her, as he clearly understood, for
he said: "That is the second time this evening. I am sorry."

"The second time?" said Miranda, quickly. "Why do you say that?"

"Am I wrong?" he asked. "Am I wrong in fearing that I myself have
brought on you the trouble which I fancied I was to avert? I should be
glad to know that I was wrong, for since I have stood here on this
balcony, that fear has been growing. Your face so changed at the story
I told you. At what point of it I do not know. I was not looking. Did
I show you some misfortune you were unaware of, and might still be
unaware of, if I had only held my tongue? In offering to shield you,
did I only strike at you? I do not know, I am in the dark." He spoke
in a voice of intense remorse, pleading for a proof that his fear was
groundless, and Miranda did not answer him at all. "I do not ask you
to speak freely now," he continued; "but sometime perhaps you will.
You see, we shall be neighbours."

"Neighbours!" exclaimed Miranda, and her lips parted in a smile.

"You live at Ronda, Lady Donnisthorpe tells me; my headquarters now
are at Algeciras;" and he told her briefly of his business there.

"My cousin did not tell me that," said Miranda.

Lady Donnisthorpe, in the wisdom of her heart, had, in fact, carefully
concealed Charnock's place of abode, thinking it best that Miranda
should learn it from Charnock's lips, and be pleasantly surprised
thereby. That Miranda was pleasantly surprised might perhaps have been
inferred by a more experienced man, from the extreme chilliness of her
reply.

"Ronda is at the top," she said, "Algeciras at the bottom, and there
are a hundred miles of hillside and cork-forest between."

"There are also," retorted Charnock, "a hundred miles of railway."

"Shall we go back into the room?" suggested Miranda.

"If you wish. Only there is something else I am trying to say to you,"
said Charnock, and at that Miranda laughed, and laughed with a fresh
bright trill of amusement. It broke suddenly and spontaneously from
her lips and surprised Charnock, who was at a loss to reconcile it
with the signs of her distress. He turned towards her. "What is it?"
he asked.

"Nothing," she said hastily, "nothing at all."

"You wished to go in?"

"Not now,--not for the world."

She was genuinely amused. Her eyes laughed at him in the starlight.
Charnock was very content at the change in her, though he did not at
all understand it. It made what he meant to say easier, if he could
only find the means to say it. He held the means unwittingly in his
hand, for he held Miranda's glove. It was that glove which provoked
her amusement. Charnock, with a pertinacity which was only equalled by
his absence of mind, was trying to force his hand into Mrs. Warriner's
glove. He had already succeeded in slipping the long sleeve of it over
his palm; he was now engaged in the more strenuous task of fitting his
fingers into its slender fingers, as he leaned upon the balcony.

"You are laughing, no doubt, at my pertinacity, and it is true that
our acquaintanceship is very slight," said he.

"In a moment you will irretrievably destroy it," said she, looking at
the glove.

"I hope you don't mean that," he answered sadly, as he smoothed
the finger-tip of the forefinger down upon his own, and at once
proceeded to the other fingers. The little finger in particular needed
a deal of strenuous coaxing, and caused him to break up his words with
intervals of physical effort. "Because--as I say--we shall be
neighbours--there!"--The exclamation "there" meant that he was
satisfied with the third finger.--"A hundred miles of hill-side--in a
foreign country--on a map a thumb will cover it."

"Will it cover a thumb, though?" asked Miranda, who took a feminine
interest in the durability of her glove. She leaned forward in a
delighted suspense, as Charnock proceeded to answer her question by
experiment.

"There's the railway too," said he, as he struggled with the thumb of
the glove, "and as I say, a foreign country. Very likely, we shall be
nearer neighbours, though you are at Ronda and I am at Algeciras, than
if you lived in this house and I at the house next door. Because after
all there's one advantage in trouble of any kind. Trouble is the short
foot-path to friendship, don't you think? Like that line of lamps
across the Park."

Miranda forgot the glove. She was touched by the deep sincerity of his
voice, by the modesty of his manner. She rose from her chair and stood
by his side at the balustrade. "Yes," she answered, looking at the
circling lights on the outer rim of the Park. "I think that is true.
It spares one the long carriage-road of ceremonial acquaintanceship.
But," she said thoughtfully, "I do not know whether after all I shall
soon return to Ronda."

She heard a little sound of something tearing, and there was Charnock
contemplating in amazement upon his left hand a white kid glove of
which the kid was ripped across the palm. He felt in his pocket with
his right hand and drew out both of his own gloves, which he had taken
off while he was talking in the alcove. Then he looked at Miranda and
his amazement became remorse.

"It's yours!" he said. "Of course, I picked it up. I had forgotten
even that I was holding it. I had no notion that I was putting it on."

"I gave you fair warning," said Miranda, with a frank laugh, "but you
would not pay any attention."

Charnock looked at her with absolute incredulity. "You mean to say
that you don't mind? You are wonderful!"

"It seems almost too late to mind," said she, looking at the tattered
glove.

"Or to mend," said he, ruefully, drawing it off with extreme care, and
as a new thought struck him. "Oh!" he exclaimed, "suppose it had
belonged to anyone else, the dowager in the window, for instance." He
dangled the glove in the air. "Now that's a lesson!"

"Perhaps it's a parable," said Miranda, as she took the glove from
him.

Charnock saw that she had grown quite serious. "If so," said he, "I
cannot expound it."

"Shall I?" The smile had faded from her lips, her eyes shone upon his,
with no longer a sparkle of merriment, but very still, very grave.

"Yes."

"Well, then," she said slowly, "shall I say that no man can offer a
woman his friendship or help without doing her a hurt in some other
way?"

His eyes as steadily answered back to hers. "Do you believe that?" he
said. He spoke quite simply without raising his voice in any way, but
none the less Mrs. Warriner was certain that she had but to say "yes,"
and there would be an end, now and forever, of his questions, of his
help, of his friendship, of everything between them beyond the merest
acquaintanceship. Perhaps some day they might cross the harbour
together in the same ferry from Algeciras to Gibraltar, and bow and
exchange a careless word, but that would be all--and only that until
his work was finished there.

"Do you believe that?"

She was half tempted to say "yes"; but she had an instinct, a
premonition, that whatever answer she made would stretch out to
unknown and incalculable consequences. She seemed to herself to be
drawing the lots which one way or another would decide and limit all
her years to come. Upon the tiny "yes" or "no" between which she had
to make her choice, her whole life was destined to pivot. Accordingly,
she made up her mind to say neither, but to turn the matter into a
jest. "Here's the proof," said she, as lightly as she could, and she
flourished the glove.

But the man steadily held her to his question, with his eyes, with his
voice, with his very attitude. "Do you believe that?" he repeated.

"I don't know whether I believe it," she murmured resentfully. "I
don't see why I should be asked to mean what I say, or whether I mean
what I say.... But it might be so, I think.... I don't know.... I
don't know."

To her relief Charnock moved. If he had stood like that, demanding an
answer with every line of his body, for another instant, she knew she
would have been compelled to answer one way or another; and she felt
certain, too, that whatever answer she gave it would have been the one
she would have wished afterwards to take back. "Now if you are
satisfied," she added with a touch of petulance, "we will go in."

He moved aside for her to pass, but before she had time to step
forward, he moved back again and barred the way. "No, please," he said
quickly, and his voice thrilled as though he had hit upon an
inspiration.

"Lady Donnisthorpe told me you were rather unconventional," she
remarked with a sigh, which was only half of it a jest; and she drew
back as though she did not wish to hear what he had to say, as though
she almost feared to hear it.

But Charnock barely even remarked her reluctance. "That glove," he
said, and pointed to it. Miranda imagined that he was reaching out a
hand for it.

"I have _heaps_ of pairs," she exclaimed, whipping it behind her back;
"there is no need to trouble about it at all."

"I do not ask for it; I had no thought of that. On the contrary, I
would ask you to keep it if you will. There is something else which I
was trying to say, if you remember."

"Dear, dear!" said Miranda, ruefully, "I could wish after all that you
had trodden on my toes."

"I beg your pardon," said Charnock, and instantly he drew aside. He
left the way clear for her. She passed him, and went towards the
window, from which the lights and the music streamed out into the
night. Had he followed, she would have stepped into the room, amongst
the dancers; she would have been claimed by a partner, and she would
have seen no more of Charnock, and the only consequences of this
interview upon the balcony would have been a memory in her thoughts, a
curiosity in her speculations.

But Charnock did not follow her. He remained where she left him, and
her feet loitered more with every step she took. At the edge of the
window she stopped. For the second time that evening she became aware
that one way or other she must do the irrevocable thing. It was a mere
step to make across the sill of the window, from the stone of the
balcony to the parquet of the ball-room floor,--a thing insignificant
in itself and in its consequences most momentous. She stood for a
second undecided. The sight of her partner looking about the room
decided her. She came back to where Charnock stood in a soldierly
rigidity.

"You might have come half-way to meet me," she said in a whimsical
complaint, and then very gently: "I will hear what you wish to say, if
you will still say it."

"What I mean is this," he replied; "it is what I was trying to say.
The hardest thing, if one ever wants help, is--don't you think?--the
asking for it. I could not say that to you until I had hit upon a
means by which the asking, should it ever be necessary, might be
dispensed with. And it seemed to me that there was something
providential in my tearing that glove; for that torn glove can be the
means, if ever you see fit to use it. You live at Ronda; for the next
year I am to be found at Algeciras; you will only have to send that
torn glove to me in an envelope. I shall know without a word from you;
and when I answer it by coming up to you at Ronda, it will be
understood by both of us, again without a word, why I have come. I
shall not need to speak at all; you will only need to say the precise
particular thing which needs to be done."

Miranda stood with her eyelids closed, and her ungloved hand pressed
over her heart. The blood darkened her cheeks. Charnock saw her whole
face soften and sweeten. "I understand," she said in a low voice. "I
might appeal and be spared the humiliation of appealing, like the face
in your mirror."

"I believe," said he, "that my mirror sent me a message on that night.
I have tried to deliver it."

Miranda slowly raised her eyes and they glistened with something other
than the starlight. "Thank you," she said; "for the delicacy of the
thought I am most grateful. What woman would not be? But I do not
think that I shall ever send you the glove: not because I would not be
glad to owe gratitude to you, but just for the same reason which has
kept me from telling you anything of my troubles. Such as they are I
must fight them through by myself."

This time she passed over the sill into the ballroom; but she was
holding the glove tight against her breast, and she had a feeling that
Charnock very surely knew that at some time she would send it to him.



                              CHAPTER VI

               WHILE CHARNOCK BUILDS CASTLES IN SPAIN,
                        MIRANDA RETURNS THERE


The anxious dowager, who was preparing to depart with her daughter,
had just risen from her seat by the window as Miranda stepped over the
sill into the ball-room. She sat down again, however, for she had a
word or two to say concerning Miranda's appearance.

"Muriel," she observed, "take a good look at that woman, and remember
that if ever you sit out with one man for half-an-hour on a cool
balcony you can make no greater mistake than to return with a flushed
face."

"Thank you, mother," said Muriel, who was growing restive under this
instructional use of an evening party. "I will take the first
opportunity of practising your advice."

At this moment Charnock stepped over the sill. He stepped up to Mrs.
Warriner's side and spoke to her. Mrs. Warriner stopped within a
couple of yards of the dowager and gave her hand, and with her hand
her eyes, to her companion.

"Muriel, look!" said the censorious one. "How vulgar!"

"Shall I listen too?" asked Muriel, innocently.

"Do, my child, do!" said the dowager, who was impervious to sarcasm.

What was said, however, did not reach the dowager's ears. It was,
indeed, no more than an interchange of "good-nights," but the dowager
bridled, perhaps out of disappointment that she had not heard.

"An intriguing woman I have no doubt," said she, as through her
glasses she followed Miranda's retreat.

"Surely she has too much dignity," objected the daughter.

"Dignity, indeed! My child, when you know more of the world, you will
understand that the one astonishing thing about such women is not
their capacity for playing tricks but their incredible power of
retaining their self-respect while they are playing them. Now we will
go."

The dowager's voice was a high one. It carried her words clearly to
Charnock, who had not as yet moved. He laughed at them then with
entire incredulity, but he retained them unwittingly in his memory.
The next moment the dowager swept past him. The daughter Muriel
followed, and as she passed Charnock she looked at him with an
inquisitive friendliness. But her eyes happened to meet his, and with
a spontaneous fellow-feeling the girl and the man smiled to each other
and at the dowager, before they realised that they were totally
unacquainted.

Lady Donnisthorpe was lying in wait for Charnock. She asked him to
take her to the buffet. Charnock secured for her a chair and an ice,
and stood by her side, conversational but incommunicative. She was
consequently compelled herself to broach the subject which was at that
moment nearest to her heart.

"How did you get on with my cousin?" she asked.

Charnock smiled foolishly at nothing.

"Oh, say something!" cried Lady Donnisthorpe, and tapped with her
spoon upon the glass plate.

"Tell me about her," said Charnock, drawing up another chair.

Lady Donnisthorpe lowered her voice and said with great pathos: "She
is most unhappy."

Charnock gravely nodded his head. "Why?"

Lady Donnisthorpe settled herself comfortably with the full intention
of wringing Charnock's heart if by any means she could.

"Miranda comes of an old Catholic Suffolk family. She was eighteen
when she married, and that's six years ago. No, six years and a half.
Ralph Warriner was a Lieutenant in the Artillery, and made her
acquaintance when he was staying in the neighbourhood of the Pollards,
that's Miranda's house in Suffolk. Ralph listened to Allan Bedlow's
antediluvian stories. Allan was Miranda's father, her mother died long
ago. Ralph captured the father; finally he captured the daughter.
Ralph, you see, had many graces but no qualities; he was a bad stone
in a handsome setting and Miranda was no expert. How could she be? She
lived at Glenham with only her father and a discontented relation,
called Jane Holt, for her companions. Consequently she married Ralph
Warriner, who got his step the day after the marriage, and the pair
went immediately to Gibraltar. Ralph had overestimated Miranda's
fortune, and it came out that he was already handsomely dipped; so
that their married life began with more than the usual disadvantages.
It lasted for three years, and for that time only because of Miranda's
patience and endurance. She is very silent about those three years,
but we know enough," and Lady Donnisthorpe was for a moment carried
away. "It must have been intolerable," she exclaimed. "Ralph Warriner
never had cared a snap of his fingers for her. His tastes were
despicable, his disposition utterly mean. Cards were in his blood; I
verily believe that his heart was an ace of spades. Add to that that
he was naturally cantankerous and jealous. To his brother officers he
was civil for he owed them money, but he made up for his civility by
becoming a bully once he had closed his own front door."

"Yes, yes," interrupted Charnock, hurriedly, as though he had no heart
to hear more; "I understand."

"You can understand then that when the crash came we were glad. Two
years after the marriage old Allan Bedlow sickened. Miranda came home
to nurse him and Ralph--he bought a schooner-yacht. Allan Bedlow died;
Miranda inherited, and the estate was settled upon her. Ralph could
not touch a farthing of the capital, and he was aggrieved. Miranda
returned to Gibraltar, and matters went from worse to worse. The crash
came a year later. The nature of it is neither here nor there, but
Ralph had to go, and had to go pretty sharp. His schooner-yacht was
luckily lying in Gibraltar Bay; he slipped on board before gunfire,
and put to sea as soon as it was dark; and he was not an instant too
soon. From that moment he disappeared, and the next news we had of him
was the discovery of his body upon Rosevear two years afterwards."

Charnock hunted through the jungle of Lady Donnisthorpe's words for a
clue to the distress which Miranda had betrayed that evening, but he
did not discover one. Another question forced itself into his mind.
"Why does Mrs. Warriner live at Ronda?" he asked. "I have never been
there, but there are no English residents, I should think."

"That was one of her reasons," replied Lady Donnisthorpe. "At least I
think so, but upon that too she is silent, and when she will not speak
no one can make her. You see what Ralph did was hushed up,--it was one
of those cases which are hushed up,--particularly since he had
disappeared and was out of reach. But everyone knew that disgrace
attached to it. His name was removed from the Army List. Miranda
perhaps shrank from the disgrace. She shrank too, I think, from the
cheap pity of which she would have had so much. At all events she did
not return home, she sent for Jane Holt, her former companion, and
settled at Ronda." Lady Donnisthorpe looked doubtfully at Charnock.
"Perhaps there were other reasons too, sacred reasons." But she had
not made up her mind whether it would be wise to explain those other
reasons before her guests began to take their leave of her; and so the
opportunity was lost.

Charnock walked back to his hotel that night in a frame of mind
entirely strange to him. He was inclined to rhapsodise; he invented
and rejected various definitions of woman; he laughed at the worldly
ignorance of the dowager. "A woman, madam "--he imagined himself to be
lecturing her--"is the great gift to man to keep him clean and bright
like a favourite sword." He composed other and no less irreproachable
phrases, and in the midst of this exhilarating exercise was struck
suddenly aghast at the temerity of his own conduct that night, at the
remembrance of his persistency. However, he was not in a mood to be
disheartened. The dawn took the sky by surprise while he was still
upon his way. The birds bustled among the leaves in the gardens, and a
thrush tried his throat, and finding it clear gave full voice to his
song. The blackbirds called one to the other, and a rosy light struck
down the streets. It was morning, and he stopped to wonder whether
Miranda was yet asleep. He hoped so, intensely, for the sake of her
invaluable health.

But Miranda was seated by her open window, listening to the birds
calling in the Park, and drawing some quiet from the quiet of the
lawns and trees; and every now and then she glanced across her
shoulder to where a torn white glove lay upon the table, as though she
was afraid it would vanish by some enchantment.

But the next day Miranda packed her boxes, and when Charnock called
upon Lady Donnisthorpe, he was informed that she had returned in haste
to Ronda. Charnock was surprised, for he remembered that Mrs. Warriner
had expressed a doubt whether she would ever return to Ronda, and
wondered what had occurred to change her mind. But the surprise and
bewilderment were soon swallowed up in a satisfaction which sprang
from the assurance that Miranda and he were after all to be
neighbours.



                             CHAPTER VII

   IN WHICH MAJOR WILBRAHAM DESCRIBES THE STEPS BY WHICH HE ATTAINED
      HIS MAJORITY, AND GIVES MIRANDA SOME PARTICULAR INFORMATION


A month later at Ronda, and a little after midday. In the cool
darkness of the Cathedral, under the great stone dome behind the
choir, Miranda was kneeling before a lighted altar. That altar she had
erected, as an inscription showed, to the memory of Ralph Warriner,
and since her return from England she had passed more than an ordinary
proportion of her time in front of it.

This morning, however, an unaccountable uneasiness crept over her. She
tried to shake the sensation off by an increased devoutness, but
though her knees were bent, there was no prayer in her mind or upon
her lips. Her uneasiness increased, and after a while it defined
itself. Someone was watching her from behind.

She ceased even from the pretence of prayer. Her heart fluttered up
into her throat. She did not look round, she did not move, but she
knelt there with a sinking expectation, in the light of the altar
candles, and felt intensely helpless because their yellow warmth
streamed full upon her face and person, and must disclose her to the
watching eyes behind.

She knelt waiting for a familiar voice and a familiar step. She heard
only the grating of a chair upon the stone flags beyond the choir, and
a priest droning a litany very far away. Here all was quiet--quiet as
the eyes watching her out of the gloom.

At last, resenting her cowardice, she rose to her feet and turned. At
once a man stepped forward, and her heart gave a great throb of
relief, as she saw the man was a stranger.

He bowed, and with an excuse for his intrusion, he handed her a card.
She did not look at it, for immediately the stranger continued to
speak, in a cool, polite voice, and it seemed to her that all her
blood stood still.

"I knew Captain Warriner at Gibraltar," he said. "In fact I may say
that I know him, for he is alive."

Miranda was dimly aware that he waited for an answer, and then excused
her silence with an accent of sarcasm.

"Such good news must overwhelm you, no doubt. I have used all despatch
to inform you of it, for I was only certain of the truth yesterday."

And to her amazement Miranda heard herself reply:

"Then I discovered it a month before you did."

The next thing of which she was conscious was a thick golden mist
before her eyes. The golden mist was the clear sunlight in the square
before the Cathedral. Miranda was leaning against the stone parapet,
though how she was there she could not have told. She had expected the
news. She had even thought that the man standing behind her was her
husband, come to tell her it in person; but nevertheless the mere
telling of it, the putting of it in words, to quote the stranger's
phrase, had overwhelmed her. Memories of afternoons during which she
had walked out with her misery to Europa Point, of evenings when she
had sat with her misery upon the flat house-top watching the riding
lights in Algeciras Bay, and listening to the jingle of tambourines
from the houses on the hillside below--all the sordid unnecessary
wretchedness of those three years spent at Gibraltar came crushing
her. She savoured again the disgrace which attended upon Ralph's
flight. Her first instinct, when she learned Ralph was alive, had
urged her to hide, and at this moment she regretted that she had not
obeyed it. She regretted that she had returned to Ronda, where Ralph
or any emissary of his at once could find her.

But that was only for a moment. She had returned to Ronda with a full
appreciation of the consequences of her return, and for reasons which
she was afterwards to explain, and of which, even while she stood in
that square, she resumed courage to approve.

The stranger came from the door of the Cathedral and crossed to her.

"Your matter-of-fact acceptance of my news was clever, Mrs. Warriner,"
he said with a noticeable sharpness. "Believe me, I do homage to
cleverness. I frankly own that I expected a scene of sorts. I was
quite taken aback--a compliment, I assure you, upon my puff," and he
bowed with his hand on his breast. "You were out of the Cathedral door
before I realised that all this time you had been the Captain's--would
you mind if I said accomplice?"

That her matter-of-fact acceptance of the news was entirely due to the
fact that the news dazed her, Miranda did not trouble to explain.

"The altar," continued the stranger, in a voice of genuine admiration,
"was a master-stroke. To erect an altar to the memory of a husband
who is still alive, to pray devoutly before it, is highly ingenious
and--may I say?--brave. Religion is a trump-card, Mrs. Warriner, in
most of the games where you sit with law and order for your opponents;
but not many women have the bravery to play it for its value."

Miranda coloured at his words. There had been some insincerity in her
daily prayers before the altar, though the self-satisfied man who
spoke to her had not his finger upon the particular flaw,--enough
insincerity to cause Miranda some shame, now that she probed it, and
yet in the insincerity there had been also something sincere. The
truth is, Miranda could bring herself to wish neither that her husband
was dead if he was alive, nor that he should come to life again if he
was dead; she made a compromise--she daily prayed with great fervour
for his soul's salvation before the altar she had erected to his
memory. But this again was not a point upon which she troubled to
enlighten her companion. She was more concerned to discover who the
man was, and on what business he had come.

"You knew my husband at Gibraltar," she said, "and yet--"

"It is true," replied the man, in answer to her suspicion. "You need
not be afraid, Mrs. Warriner. I have not come from Scotland Yard. I
have had, I admit, relations with the police, but they have always
been of an involuntary kind."

"You assume," said she, with some pride, "that I have reason to fear
Scotland Yard, whereas nothing was further from my thoughts. Only you
say that you knew my husband at Gibraltar. You pretend to come from
him--"

"By no means. We are at cross-purposes, I fancy. I do not come from
him, though most certainly I did know him at Gibraltar. But I admit
that he never invited me to his house."

"In that case," said Miranda, with a cold bow, "I can do no more than
thank you for the news you give me and wish you a good day."

She walked by him. He turned and imperturbably fell into step by her
side. "Clever," said he, "clever!" Miranda stopped. "Who are you? What
is your business?" she asked.

"As to who I am, you hold my card in your hand."

Mrs. Warriner had carried it from the Cathedral, unaware that she held
it. She now raised it to her eyes and read, _Major Ambrose Wilbraham_.

Wilbraham noted, though he did not understand, the rapid, perplexed
glance which she shot at him. Charnock had spoken to her of a Major
Wilbraham, had described him, and undoubtedly this was the man. "As to
my business," he continued, "I give you the news that your husband is
alive, but I have also something to sell."

"What?"

"Obviously my silence. It might be awkward if it was known in certain
quarters that Captain Warriner, who sold the mechanism of the new
Daventry quick-firing gun to a foreign power; who slipped out of
Gibraltar just a night before his arrest was determined on, and who
was wrecked a year ago in the Scillies, is not only alive, but in the
habit of paying periodical visits to England."

Mrs. Warriner again read the name upon the card. "Major Ambrose
Wilbraham," she said, with an incredulous emphasis on the _Major_.

"Captains," he retorted airily, "have at times deviated from the
narrow path, so that a Major may well be forgiven a peccadillo. But I
will not deceive you, Mrs. Warriner. The rank was thrust upon me by a
barman in Shaftesbury Avenue, and I suffered it, because the title
after all gives me the entrance to the chambers of many young men who
have, or most often have not, just taken their degrees. So Major I am,
but my mess is any bar within a mile of Piccadilly Circus. Shall we
say that I hold brevet rank, and am seconded for service in the noble
regiment of the soldiers of fortune?"

"And the enemies you fight with," said Miranda, with a contemptuous
droop of the lips, "are women like myself."

"Pardon me," retorted Wilbraham, with unabashed good humour. "Women
like yourself, Mrs. Warriner, are the _vivandières_ whom we
regretfully impress to supply our needs upon the march. Our enemies
are the rozzers--again I beg your pardon--the gentlemen in blue who
lurk at the street corners, by whom from time to time we are worsted
and interned."

They walked across the square along a narrow street down towards the
Tajo, that deep chasm which bisects the town. The heat was intense,
the road scorched under foot, and they walked slowly. They made a
strange pair in the old, quaint streets, the woman walking with a
royal carriage, delicate in her beauty and her dress; the man defiant,
battered and worn, with an eye which from sheer habit scouted in front
and aside for the chance which might toss his day's rations in his
way.

Their talk was stranger still, for by an unexpressed consent, the
subject of the bargain to be struck was deferred, and as they walked
Wilbraham illustrated to Miranda the career of a man who lives by his
wits, and dwelt even with humour upon its alternations of prosperity
and starvation. "I have been a manager of theatrical companies in 'the
smalls,'" he said, "a billiard-marker at Trieste, a racing tipster, a
vender of--photographs, and I once carried a sandwich-board down Bond
Street, and saw the women I had danced with not so long before draw
their delicate skirts from the defilement of my rags. However, I
rose to a better position. It is funny, you know, to go right under,
and then find there are social degrees in the depths. I have had
good times too, mind you. Every now and then I have struck an A1
copper-bottomed gold mine, and then there were dress suits and meals
running into one another, and ormolu rooms on the first floor."

Dark sayings, unintelligible shibboleths, came and went among his
words and obscured their meaning; accents and phrases from many
countries betrayed the vicissitudes of his life; but he spoke with the
accent of a gentleman, and with something of a gentleman's good
humour; so that Miranda, moved partly by his recital and perhaps
partly because her own misfortunes had touched her to an universal
sympathy, began to be interested in the man who had experienced so
much that was strange to her, and they both slipped into a tolerance
of each other and a momentary forgetfulness of their relationship as
blackmailer and blackmailed.

"I could give you a modern edition of Don Guzman," he said. "I was a
money-lender's tout at Gibraltar at one time. It's to that I owed my
acquaintance with Warriner. It's to that I owe my present acquaintance
with you." He came to a dead stop in the full swing of narration. He
halted in his steps and banged the point of his stick down into the
road. "But I have done with it," he cried, and drawing a great breath,
he showed to Miranda a face suddenly illuminated. "The garrets and the
first floors, the stale billiard rooms, the desperate scouting for
food like a damned sea-gull--I beg your pardon, Mrs. Warriner. Upon my
word, I do! But imagine a poor beggar of a bankrupt painter who, after
fifteen years, suddenly finds himself with a meal upon the table and
his bills paid! I am that man. Fifteen years of what I have described
to you! It might have been less, no doubt, but I hadn't learnt my
lesson. Fifteen years, and from first to last not one thing done of
the few things worth doing; fifteen years of a murderous hunt for
breakfast and dinner! And I've done with it, thanks to you, Mrs.
Warriner." And his face hardened at once and gleamed at her, very
cruel and menacing. "Yes, thanks to you! We'll not forget that." And
as he resumed his walk the astounding creature began gaily to quote
poetry:


                                   "I resume
       Life after death; for 'tis no less than life
       After such long, unlovely labouring days.


A great poet, Mrs. Warriner. What do you think?"

"No doubt," said Miranda, absently. That one cruel glance had chilled
the sympathy in her; Major Wilbraham would not spare either Ralph or
herself with the memory of those fifteen years to harden him.

They came to the Ciudad, the old intricate Moorish town of tortuous
lanes in the centre of Ronda. Before a pair of heavy walnut doors
curiously encrusted with bright copper nails Wilbraham came to a stop.
"Your house, I think, Mrs. Warriner," and he took off his hat and
wiped his forehead.

"I should prefer," said she, "to hear what you have to say in the
Alameda."

"As you will. I am bound to say that I could have done with a soda and
I'm so frisky, but I recognise that I have no right to trespass upon
your hospitality."

They went on, crossed a small plaza, and so came down to the Tajo. A
bridge spans the ravine in a single arch; in the centre of the bridge
Miranda stopped, leaned over the parapet and looked downwards.
Wilbraham followed her example. For three hundred feet the walls of
the gorge fell sheer, at the bottom the turbulence of a torrent foamed
and roared, at the top was the span of the bridge. In the brickwork of
the arch a tiny window looked out on air.

"Do you see that window?" said Miranda, drily. "The prison is
underfoot in the arch of the bridge."

"Indeed, how picturesque," returned Wilbraham, easily, who was quite
untouched by any menace which Miranda's words might suggest. Miranda
looked across the road towards a guardia. Wilbraham lazily followed
the direction of her glance; for all the emotion which he showed
blackmail might have been held in Spain an honourable means of
livelihood. Miranda turned back. "That window," she said, "is the
window of the prison."

"The view," remarked Wilbraham, "would compensate in some measure for
the restriction."

"Chains might add to the restriction."

"Chains _are_ unpleasant," Wilbraham heartily agreed.

Miranda realised that she had tempted defeat in this little encounter.
She accepted it and walked on.

"You were wise to come off that barrow, Mrs. Warriner," Wilbraham
remarked in approval.

They crossed the bridge and entered the Mercadillo, the new Spanish
quarter of the town, ascended the hill, and came to the bull ring.
Before that Wilbraham stopped. "Why do we go to the Alameda?"

"We can talk there on neutral ground."

"It seems a long way."

"On the other hand," replied Miranda, "the Alameda is close to the
railway station. By the bye, how did you know where I lived?"

"There was no difficulty in discovering that. I learnt at Gibraltar
that you lived at Ronda, and the station-master here told me where.
When I saw your house I did not wonder at your choice. You were wise
to take a Moorish house, I fancy--the patio with the tamarisks in the
middle and the fountain and the red and green tiles--very pleasant, I
should think. A door or two stood open. The rooms seemed charming, low
in roof, with dark panels, of a grateful coolness, and so far as I
could judge, with fine views."

"You went into the house, then?" exclaimed Miranda.

"Yes, I asked for you, and was told that Miss Holt was at home. I
thought it wise to go in--one never knows. So I introduced myself, but
not my business, to Miss Holt--your cousin, is she not? A profound
sentimentalist, I should fancy; I noticed she was reading _Henrietta
Temple_. She complained of being much alone; she nurses grievances, no
doubt. Sentimentalists have that habit--what do you say?" Miranda
could have laughed at the shrewdness of the man's perceptions, had she
not been aware that the shrewdness was a weapon directed against her
own breast.

They reached the Alameda. Miranda led the way to a bench which faced
the railings. Wilbraham looked quickly and suspiciously at her, and
then walked to the railings and looked over. The Alameda is laid out
upon the very edge of the Ronda plateau, and Wilbraham looked straight
down a sheer rock precipice of a thousand feet. He remained in that
posture for some seconds. From the foot of that precipice the plain of
the Vega stretched out level as a South-sea lagoon. The gardens of a
few cottages were marked out upon the green like the squares of a
chess-board; upon the hedges there was here and there the flutter of
white linen. Orchards of apples, cherries, peaches, and pears,
enriched the plain with their subdued colours, and the Guadiaro, freed
from the confinement of its chasm, wound through it with the glitter
and the curve of a steel spring. A few white Moorish mills upon the
banks of the stream were at work, and the sound of them came droning
through the still heat up to Wilbraham's ears.

Wilbraham, however, was not occupied with the scenery, for when he
turned back to Miranda his face was dark and angry.

"Why did you bring me to the Alameda?" he asked sternly.

"Because I will not listen to you in my own, house," she answered with
spirit.

Wilbraham did not resent the reason, but he watched her warily, as
though he doubted it.

"Now," said Miranda, as she stood before him. "You tell me that my
husband is living. I have your bare word for it, and out of your lips
you have proved to me that your bare word has very little worth."

"The buttons are off the foils," said he; "very well. In the Cathedral
you corroborated my word. You know that he lives; I know it."

"How do you know it?"

"By adding two and two and making five, as any man with any savvy
always can," replied Wilbraham. "Indeed, by adding two and two, one
can even at times make a decent per annum."

Mrs. Warriner sat down upon the bench, and Wilbraham, standing at her
side, presented the following testimonial to his "savvy." First of
all, he drew from one pocket four pounds of English gold, and from the
other a handful of dollars and pesetas. "This is what is left of two
hundred and thirty pounds, which I won at Monte Carlo in the beginning
of May. There's a chance for philosophy, Mrs. Warriner. If I hadn't
won that money I shouldn't be standing here now with my livelihood
assured. For I shouldn't have been able to embark on the P. and O.
mail steamer _India_ at Marseilles, and so I shouldn't have fallen in
with my dear young friend Charnock."

Miranda fairly started at the mention of Charnock's name in connection
with Wilbraham's discovery. Instantly Wilbraham paused. Miranda made
an effort to look entirely unconcerned, but Wilbraham's eye was upon
her, and she felt the blood colouring her cheeks.

"Oho!" said Wilbraham, cocking his head. Then he whistled softly to
himself while he looked her over from head to foot. Miranda kept
silence, and he resumed his story, though every time he mentioned
Charnock's name he looked to surprise her in some movement.

"Off Ushant we came up with a brigantine, and I couldn't help fancying
that her lines were familiar to me. Charnock lent me his binoculars--a
dear good fellow, Charnock!--and I made out her name, the _Tarifa_. I
should not have given the boat another thought but for Charnock.
Charnock said she had the lines of a Salcombe clipper. Did you happen
to know that the _Ten Brothers_ was a Salcombe clipper? I did, and the
moment Charnock had spoken I understood why the look of her hull was
familiar; I had seen her or her own legitimate sister swinging at
Warriner's moorings in Algeciras Bay. I did not set any great store
upon that small point, however, until Charnock kindly informed me that
her owner could have gained no possible advantage by altering her rig
from a schooner's into a brigantine's. Then my interest began to rise,
for he had altered the rig. Why, if the change was to his
disadvantage? I can't say that I had any answer ready; I can't say
that I expected to find an answer. But since I landed at Plymouth,
from which Salcombe is a bare twenty miles, I thought that I might as
well run over. One never knows--such small accidents mean everything
for us--and, as a matter of fact, I spent a very pleasant half-hour in
the back parlour of the Commercial Inn, watching the yachts at anchor
and the little sailing boats spinning about the river, and listening
to an old skipper, who deplored the times when the town rang with the
din of hammers in shipbuilding yards, and twelve--observe, Mrs.
Warriner, twelve--schooners brought to it the prosperity of their
trade. The schooners had been sold off, but the skipper had their
destinies at his fingers' ends as a man follows the fortunes of his
children. Two had been cast away, three were in the Newfoundland
trade, one was now a steam-yacht, and the others still carried fruit
from the West Indies. He accounted for eleven of them, and the
twelfth, of course, was the _Ten Brothers_ wrecked upon Rosevear. I
eliminated the _Ten Brothers_, the two which had been cast away, and
the steam-yacht. Eight were left."

"Yes?" said Mrs. Warriner.

"I went back to Plymouth and verified the skipper's information. He
had given me the owners' names and the names of the vessels. I looked
them up in the sailing-lists and I proved beyond a shadow of doubt,
from their dates of sailing and arrival at various ports, that not one
of those eight schooners could have been the brigantine we passed off
Ushant. There remained, then, the four which I had eliminated, or
rather the three, for the steam-yacht was out of the question. Do you
follow?"

Miranda made a sign of assent.

"Those three boats had been cast away. Two of them belonged to
respectable firms, the third to Ralph Warriner. It would of course be
very convenient for Ralph Warriner, under the circumstances, to be
reputed dead and yet to be alive with a boat in hand, so to speak. On
the other side, would it profit either of the two respectable firms to
spread a false report that one of their boats had been cast away?
Hardly; besides, it would of course be to Warriner's advantage, from
the point of view of concealment, to change the rig and the name of
his boat. It was all inference and guess-work, no doubt. Charnock, for
instance, might have been entirely wrong; the _Tarifa_ might never
have been anything but the _Tarifa_ and a brigantine; but the
inference and the guess-work all pointed the one way, and I own that
my interest was rapidly changing to excitement. My suspicions were
strengthened by the behaviour of the _Tarifa_ herself. No news of her
approach was recorded in the papers. She didn't make any unnecessary
noise about the port she was bound for, nor had she the manners to
pass the time of day with any of Lloyd's signal-stations. The
_Tarifa's_ business began to provoke my curiosity. Here was (shall we
say?) a needless lack of ceremony to begin with. It didn't seem as if
the _Tarifa_ had many anxious friends awaiting her arrival. Besides
that, supposing that my suspicions were right, that the _Tarifa_ was
the _Ten Brothers_ masquerading under another name, and that perhaps
Ralph Warriner was on board, it stood to reason Ralph Warriner would
not risk his skin in an English port, without a better reason than a
cargo of trade. Comprenny, Mrs. Warriner? I was guessing,
conjecturing, inferring; I had no knowledge. So I thought the cargo of
the  _Tarifa_ was the right end of the stick to hang on to. If I could
know the truth about that, I should be in a better position to guess
whether it had anything to do with Ralph Warriner. Is that clear?"

It was clear enough to Miranda, who already felt herself enmeshed in
the net of this man's ingenious deductions. "Yes," she said.

"Very well. From the brigantine's course, she was evidently making for
one of the western harbours. I lay low in Plymouth for a couple of
days, and read the shipping news. That wasn't all I did during those
two days, though. I went to the Free Library besides, overhauled the
file of the _Western Morning News_ and assimilated information about
the inquest at St. Mary's. The faceless mariner chucked up on Rosevear
struck one as interesting. I noticed too that there had been a good
many wrecks in the Channel during the heavy weather and the fog just
about that time. But before I had come to any conclusion, I opened my
newspaper on the third morning and read that the _Tarifa_ had dropped
her anchor at Falmouth. I took the first train out of Plymouth, and
sure enough I picked the _Tarifa_ up in Falmouth docks. Then I made
friends with the port-officers, but I got never a glimpse of Ralph
Warriner."

Miranda's hopes revived. She knew very well that Ralph Warriner was
not at that time in Falmouth. For the moment, however, she let
Wilbraham run on.

"I frankly admit that my hopes sank a little," he continued. "Of
course Warriner might have been put ashore; but it seemed to me
impossible to obtain sufficient certainty of my suspicions unless I
actually clapped eyes on him."

Miranda agreed, and her prospects of escaping from this man's clutches
showed brighter; for she was not in a mood of sufficient calmness to
enable her to realise that Wilbraham would hardly have been so frank,
if he had not by now at all events acquired absolute certainty.

"My hopes were to sink yet more," Wilbraham continued. "The brigantine
passed for a tramp out from Tarifa with a cargo of fruit. I saw that
cargo unloaded. There was no pretence about it; it was a full cargo of
fruit. The boat was sailing back to Tarifa with a cargo of alkali, and
I saw that cargo stowed away in her hold. Mrs. Warriner, my spirits
began to revive. That cargo of alkali was most uncommon small; the
profit on it wouldn't have paid the decky's wages. Again I inferred. I
inferred that the alkali was a blind, and that the _Tarifa_ meant to
pick up a cargo of another sort somewhere along the coast, though what
the cargo would be I could not for the life of me imagine."

"But it is all guess-work," said Miranda, with an indifference which
she was far from feeling.

"I learned one piece of solid cheering information from my friends the
port-officers," retorted Wilbraham. "The _Tarifa's_ papers were all
quite recent, and yet she was an old boat. She was supposed to be
owned by her master."

"And no doubt was," added Miranda, with an assumption of weariness.

"It appeared that her saloon had caught fire; the saloon had been
gutted and the _Tarifa's_ papers destroyed a year before," Wilbraham
resumed, untroubled by Mrs. Warriner's objections. "A pretty careless
captain that, eh? A most uncommon careless captain, Mrs. Warriner? For
a boat to lose her papers--well, its pretty much the same as when a
girl loses her marriage lines in the melodramas. A most uncommon
careless captain! Or a most astute one, you say. What? Well, I'll not
deny but what you may be right. For that brigantine caught fire and
burned her papers just about the date when the _Ten Brothers_ went
ashore on Rosevear. How's that for the long arm?"

"But you did not see my husband," said Miranda, stubbornly.

"And why?" asked Wilbraham, and answered his question. "Because your
husband wasn't onboard."

"Then the whole story falls to the ground," exclaimed Miranda, as she
rose from her seat.

"Wait a bit, Mrs. Warriner," said Wilbraham, and he sat down on the
seat and nursed his leg. "The _Tarifa_ was supposed to belong to her
master, who went by the name of John Wilson. Now here's a funny thing.
I never saw John Wilson, though I prowled about the docks enough. The
port-officers described him to me, a grizzled seafaring man of fifty;
but he was always snug in his cabin, and a mate did the show business
with the cargo. I grew curious about John Wilson; I wanted to see John
Wilson. Accordingly I located the chart-room from the wharf, then I
put on a black thumb tie and a dirty collar so as to look like a
clerk, and I walked boldly down the gangway and stepped across the
deck. I chose my time, you understand. I knocked at the chart-room
door. 'Come in,' said a voice, and in I walked. Mrs. Warriner, you
could have knocked me down with that dainty parasol of yours if you
had been present when I first saw John Wilson.

"'What do you want?' says he, short and sharp.

"'Will you take a load of cotton to Valencia?' says I, and I quoted an
insignificant price.

"'I am not such a fool as you look,' said he, and out I went and shook
hands with myself on the quay. For John Wilson--"

"Was not my husband," exclaimed Miranda, with almost a despairing
violence. "He was not! He was not!"

"You are right, Mrs. Warriner, he was not. But he was a man whom you
and I knew as Thomas Discipline, first mate of the schooner-yacht the
_Ten Brothers_, of which Captain Ralph Warriner was the certificated
master. And observe, please, the whole crew of the _Ten Brothers_ was
reported lost upon Rosevear."

"Thomas Discipline might have left the _Ten Brothers_ before," argued
Miranda. "His presence on the _Tarifa_ does not connect my husband
with that boat."

"That's precisely the objection which occurred to me," said Wilbraham,
coolly. "But here was at last a fact which fitted in with my
guess-work, and I own to being uplifted. That evening I got the ticket
that the _Tarifa_ was to put to sea the next day, and sure enough in
the morning she swung out into the fairway and waited for the evening
ebb. I passed that day in an altogether unenviable state of anxiety,
Mrs. Warriner; for if by any chance I was wrong, if she did not mean
to take up another cargo of a more profitable kind by dark, if she
were to sail clean away for Ushant on the evening ebb, why, the boat
might be the _Ten Brothers_ or it might not, and the master might be
the late Captain Warriner or he might not. Any way the bottom fell
clean out of my little business. But she did not; she got her anchors
in about eight o'clock and reached out towards the Lizard in the dusk
with a light wind from the land on her beam."

"The story so far," Miranda interrupted, "seems nautical, but hardly
to the point."

"Think so?" said Wilbraham, indifferently. "Did I mention that at the
mouth of the harbour the _Tarifa_ passed a steam launch pottering
around the St. Anthony Light? Between you and me, Mrs. Warriner, I was
holding the tiller of that steam launch."

"You!" she exclaimed.

"Just poor little me," said he, smiling politely, "with a few paltry
thick-uns in my pocket to speculate in the hire of a steam launch. I
gave the _Tarifa_ a start and followed, keeping well away on her lee
with her red light just in view. That first half-hour or so was a
wearing time for me, Mrs. Warriner, I assure you," and he took off his
hat and wiped his forehead, as though the anxiety came back upon him
now. He laboured his breath and broke up his sentences with short
nervous laughter. He seemed entirely to forget his companion, and the
sun, and the Andalusian sierras across the plain; he was desperately
hunting the _Tarifa_ along the Spit to the Lizard point.

"I was certain of one thing: that no Captain Warriner had come aboard
at Falmouth. So if the _Tarifa_ kept out to sea, why, there was no
Captain Warriner to come aboard, and here was I spending my last
pounds in running down a will-o'-the-wisp, and the world to face again
to-morrow in the grim old way, without a penny to my purse. On the
other hand, if there was a Captain Warriner, he would come aboard with
the cargo somewhere that night, and I fancied I could lay my finger on
that somewhere. I had another cause for anxiety. Grant my guess-work
correct, and the last thing the _Tarifa_ was likely to hanker after
would be a wasp of a steam launch buzzing in her wake. The evening was
hazy, by a stroke of luck, but the wind was light and the sea smooth,
and my propeller throbbed out over the water until I thought it must
reverberate across the world, and the Esquimaux on Franz Josef Land
and the Kanaka in the Pacific would hear it plain as the pulsing of a
battleship. However, I slowed the launch down to less than half-speed,
and the crew of the _Tarifa_ made no account of me. The brigantine was
doing only a leisurely five knots--she was waiting for the dark, I
conjectured. Conjectured? I came near to praying it. And as if in
answer to my prayer--it sounds pretty much like blasphemy now, doesn't
it?--but at that moment I believed it--all at once her red light
vanished and my heart went jumping in the inside of me as though it
had slipped its moorings. For the _Tarifa_ had changed her course; she
was pointing closer to the wind and the wind came offshore; she was
showing me her stern instead of her port beam; on the course she was
lying now she couldn't clear the Manacles--not by any manner of means.
She was heading for the anchorage I hoped she would; she was standing
in towards Helford river. In a little she went about, and seeing her
green light, I slowed down again. I could afford to take it easy."

He drew a breath of relief and lolled back upon his seat. Miranda no
longer put questions; there was a look of discouragement upon her
face; she began bitterly to feel herself helpless in this man's hands,
as clay under the potter's thumb.

"Do you know the creek?" he asked, and did not wait for an answer. "I
hadn't anchored there for twenty years, but I had a chart of it in my
memories." His voice softened, with perhaps some recollection of a
yachting trip in the days before his life had grown sour. "Steep hills
on each side, and on each side woods. The trees run down and thrust
their knees into the water like animals at their watering places of an
evening. A mile or so up, a little rose and honeysuckle village
nestles as pretty as a poem. There's a noise of birds all day, and all
night and day the trees talk. Given a westerly wind, and the summer, I
don't know many places which come up to Helford river," and his voice
ceased, and he sat in a muse. A movement at his side recalled him.
"But that's not business, you say," he resumed briskly. "I left the
_Tarifa_ at the mouth of the creek. The little village a mile or more
up is on the southward side; opposite to it, on the Falmouth side, is
the coast-guard station; nearer to the mouth, and still on the
Falmouth side, a tiny dingle shelters a school-house and half-a-dozen
cottages, and still nearer, the road from Falmouth comes over the brow
of the hill and dips down along the hill-side. At one point the steep
hill-side is broken, there's an easy incline of sand and bushes and
soil between the water and the road. The incline is out of sight of
the coast-guard. Besides, it is only just round the point and close to
the sea. And for that reason I was in no particular hurry to follow
the _Tarifa_. I edged the launch close in under the point, waded
ashore, and scrambled along in the dark until I reached the break in
the hill-side. Then I lay down among the bushes and waited. All lights
were out on the _Tarifa_, but I could see her hull dimly, a blot of
solid black against the night's unsubstantial blackness. I waited for
centuries and æons. There was neither moon nor any star. At last I
heard a creaking sound that came from the other end of the world. It
was repeated, it grew louder, it became many sounds, the sounds or
cart wheels on the dry road. I looked at my watch; the glimmer of its
white face made it possible for me to tell the hour. It was five
minutes to eleven. For five minutes the sounds drew infinitesimally
nearer. Higher up the creek six bells were struck upon a yacht, and
then over the waters from the direction of the _Tarifa_ came
cautiously the wooden rattle of oars in the rowlocks of a boat. A
boat, I say, but it was followed by another and another. The three
boats grounded on the sand as the carts reached the break in the
hill-side. There were few words spoken, and no light shown. I lay in
the bushes straining my ears to catch a familiar voice, my eyes on the
chance that a match might be struck and light up a familiar face."

"Well?" said Miranda, breaking in upon his speech. She was strung to a
high pitch or excitement, and her face and voice betrayed it.

"I was disappointed," replied Wilbraham, "but I saw something of the
cargo which the waggons brought over the hill and the boats carried on
board. Backwards and forwards between the _Tarifa_ and the shore they
were rowed with unremitting diligence and caution, carrying first
longish packing-cases of some weight, as I could gather from the
conduct of the men who stumbled with them down the incline. And after
the packing-cases, square boxes, yet more unwieldy than the long
cases, if one takes the proportion of size. The morning was breaking
before the last boat was hoisted on board, and the last waggon had
creaked out of hearing over the hill."

"And what was the cargo?" asked Miranda.

"That was the question which troubled me," replied Wilbraham. "I lay
on the hill-side in the chill of the morning as disheartened a man as
you can imagine. Through a break in the bushes I watched the _Tarifa_
below me, her decks busy with the movement of her crew and from her
galley the comfortable smoke coiling up into the air. Breakfast! A
Gargantuan appetite suddenly pinched my stomach. Had Warriner gone on
board with the cargo? And what was the cargo? And into what harbour
would the _Tarifa_ carry it? I had found out nothing. Then on board
the brigantine men gathered at the windlass, a chain clinked musically
as the anchor was hove short, the gaff of her mainsail creaked up the
mast, and the festoons of her canvas were unfolded. The _Tarifa_ was
outward bound and I had discovered nothing. I was like a man tied hand
and foot and a treasure within his reach. I had had my fingers on the
treasure. Again the chain rattled on the windlass; she broke out her
foresail and her jib; I saw the water sparkle under her foot and
stream out a creaming pennant in her wake. I had lost. In the space of
a second I lived through every minute of my last fifteen years and
their dreary vicissitudes. I lived in anticipation through another
fifteen similar in every detail, and fairly shuddered to think there
might be another fifteen still to follow those. I stretched myself out
and ground my face in the sand and cursed God with all my heart for
the difference between man and man. And meanwhile the _Tarifa_, with a
hint of the sun upon her topsails, slipped out over the tide to sea."

Wilbraham's face was quite convulsed by the violence of his
recollections; and with so vivid a sincerity, with a voice so mutable,
had he described the growth and extinction of his hopes, that Miranda
almost forgot their object, almost found herself sympathising with his
endeavours, almost regretted their failure--until she remembered that
after all he had not failed, or he would not have been sitting beside
her in the Alameda.

"Well," she said in a hard voice, "you failed. What then?"

"I crawled down to my launch, the cheapest man in the United Kingdom.
My engineer was muffled up in a pilot jacket and uncommon surly and
cheap too. I hadn't the pluck left in me to resent his impudence, and
we crept back to Falmouth. All the way I was pestered with that
question, 'What was the cargo I had seen shipped that night in Helford
river?' I couldn't get it out of my head. The propeller lashed it out
with a sort of vindictiveness. The little waves breaking ashore
whispered about it, as though they knew very well, but wouldn't peach.
When I had landed in Falmouth, I found that I was walking towards the
Free Library. The doors, however, were still closed. I breakfasted in
a fever of impatience and was back again at the doors before they were
opened. You may take it from me, Mrs. Warriner, I was the first
student inside the building that morning. I read over again every
scrap of news and comment about the inquest in Scilly which I could
pester the Librarian to unearth; and points which in my hurry I had
overlooked before, began to take an air of importance. The old man
Fournier, for instance; it seemed sort of queer that a taxidermist of
Tangier should come all the way to Scilly for a month's holiday. Eh,
what? What was old man Fournier doing at Scilly? Scilly's a likely
place for wrecks. Was old man Fournier a hanger-on upon chance, a
nautical Mr. Micawber waiting for a wreck to turn up which would suit
his purpose? Or had he stage-managed by some means or other the _coup
de theater_ on Rosevear? It seemed funny that the short-sighted man
should spot the wreck on Rosevear before the St. Agnes men, eh?
Suppose M. Fournier and Ralph Warriner were partners in that pretty
cargo! I walked straight out of that library, feeling quite certain
that I held the right end of the skein. I had made a mistake in
following up Warriner. I ought to have followed up the taxidermist. I
walked about Falmouth all that day puzzling the business out; and I
came to the conclusion that the sooner I crossed to the Scillies the
better. I was by this time fairly excited, and I think I should have
spent my last farthing in the hunt even if I had known that when I had
run the mystery to earth, it would not profit me at all. I took a
train that very evening, and pottered about from station to station
all night. In the morning I got to Penzance, and kicked my heels on
the wharf of the little dock there until nine o'clock, when the
_Lyonnesse_ started for St. Mary's. Three hours later I saw the
islands hump themselves up from the sea, and I stared and stared at
them till a genial being standing beside me said, 'I suppose you
haven't been home for a good many years.'--By the way, Mrs. Warriner,"
he suddenly broke off, "I have heard that natural sherry is a drink in
some favour hereabouts. I can't say that it's a beverage I have ever
hankered after before, but what with the sun and the talk, the thought
of it is at the present moment most seductive. What if we rang down
the curtain for ten minutes and had an _entr'acte_, eh? Would you
mind?" And Wilbraham rose from his seat.

"No," said Miranda. "Please finish what you have to say now."

Wilbraham sighed, resumed his seat and at the same time his story.



                             CHAPTER VIII

             EXPLAINS THE MYSTERY OF THE "TARIFA'S" CARGO


"At St. Mary's," he continued, "I called at once upon the doctor.
'Ah,' said he, 'liver, I suppose.'

"'Permanently enlarged by excessive indulgence in alcohol,' said I. 'I
had once a very dear friend in the same case called Ralph Warriner.'"

Here Miranda interrupted with considerable indignation. "There is not
a word of truth in that."

"There is not," Wilbraham agreed pleasantly; "but I had to introduce
the subject some way, and my way was successful. 'Ralph Warriner!'
exclaimed the doctor. 'And what was he dismissed the service for?' I
winked very slowly, with intense cunning; 'I understand,' said the
doctor, with a leer, though Heaven only knows what he did understand;
I fancy he thought his reputation as a man of the world was at stake.
After that the conversation went on swimmingly.

"I was more than ever convinced that the discovery on Rosevear was a
put-up job. If so, old man Fournier must have been aware of that wreck
before he discovered it. He must have landed on the island and shoved
those papers into the dead man's pocket; and someone must have sailed
him out to the island. I determined to lay myself out to discover who
that someone was; but I went no farther than the determination. There
was not indeed any need that I should, for I sailed myself the next
day to Rosevear. I hired the _St. Agnes_ lugger, and Zebedee Isaacs,
as he sat at the tiller, gave me news of old man Fournier. Old man
Fournier was a desperate coward on the sea, yet he had put out to the
Bishop on a most unpleasing day. It was old man Fournier who insisted
that they should run through the Neck and examine Rosevear, and when
Zebedee Isaacs declined the risk, old man Fournier flung himself in a
passion on the tiller and nearly swamped the boat. All very queer, eh?
M. Fournier must have had some fairly strong motive to nerve him to
that pitch of audacity. And what that motive was I should discover
when I discovered the nature of the _Tarifa's_ cargo. I thought
perpetually about that cargo, all the way to Rosevear, and after I had
landed on that melancholy island. The truth came upon me in a moment
of inspiration. The ground I remember gave way under my foot. I had
trodden on a sea-bird's nest and stumbled forward on my knees, and
with the shock of the stumble came the inspiration. I remained on my
knees, with the gulls screaming overhead, and the grey wastes of ocean
moaning about the unkindly rocks. And I knew! The taxidermist from
Tangier, the longish packing-cases, the square boxes--Ralph Warriner
and old man Fournier were running guns and ammunition into Morocco!"

Miranda could not repress an exclamation. She had no doubt that
Wilbraham was right; the theory fitted in with Ralph's adventurous
character. M. Fournier no doubt made the arrangements, and provided
the capital; Ralph worked the cargo across from England to Morocco.
And to make it safe for himself to venture upon English soil, he had
altered the rig of the _Tarifa_ in some unfrequented port, and somehow
arranged the deception concerning his death.

"You think as I thought in Rosevear," said Wilbraham, looking shrewdly
into her face. "I only wish you could participate in the delight I
felt. I had my fingers on the secret now, and it was such a perfect,
profitable secret, for, quite apart from the other affair, gun-running
in Morocco is itself an offence against the law. I fairly hugged
myself. 'Ambrose,' said I, 'never in all your puff have you struck
anything like this. Fouché you shall trample under foot and Sherlock
Holmes shall be your washpot; you are the best in the world. The
faceless mariner was a fraud, a freak from Barnum's. Here at last is
Eldorado, and there's no fly anywhere upon the gilding.' Thus, Mrs.
Warriner, I soliloquised, and took the next boat back to Penzance;
from Penzance I travelled by train to Plymouth; from Plymouth I sailed
in an Orient boat to Gib, and from Gib I crossed to Tangier, where I
had a few minutes' conversation with one or two officers of the
custom-house.

"Morocco as a social institution has many points of convenience which
it is useful for men like Warriner and myself to know. Here's a small
case in point. If you wish to smuggle forbidden goods into the
country, you hire the custom-house officials to unload your cargo for
you at night somewhere on the beach. Thus you avoid much trouble, all
chance of detection and you secure skilled workmen. I had no doubt
that Warriner had followed this course. So I hired the custom-house
officials to tell me the truth, and out it came. The _Tarifa_ had
landed its cargo in the bay a mile and a half from Tangier a couple of
days before I arrived, and M. Fournier had supervised the unloading,
and the captain of the _Tarifa_ was no longer the grizzled sea-dog,
Mr. Thomas Discipline, but a gentleman of a slight figure, blue eyes,
and fair hair. That middle-aged cherub, in a word, with whom you and I
are both familiar, and who now calls himself Mr. Jeremy Bentham. When
I had derived this information I walked into M. Fournier's shop and
bought a stuffed jackal. There was a tourist making purchases, so I
asked my question quietly as I leaned my elbows on the counter.

"'How did you work the situation on Rosevear?' said I, 'and how's my
sweet friend, Ralph Warriner?'

"The little Frenchman turned white and sick. He babbled expostulations
and denials. He demanded my name--"

"You gave him your card, I hope," interrupted Miranda, biting her lip.
Wilbraham gazed at her with admiration. "Well, you have got some
spirit. I will say that for you, Mrs. Warriner."

"I am not in need of testimonials," said Miranda. "What of M.
Fournier?"

"He talked to me mysteries after that. 'You were in Tangier a month
ago,' said he. 'You shouted "Look out!" through the door; you startled
a friend of mine; you are a coward.' Would you believe it, the little
worm turned? He flew into a violent passion; I suppose it was in just
such a passion that he flung himself on Zebedee Isaacs at Scilly. A
plucky little man for all his cowardice! He called me a number of ill
names. However, I had got what I wanted. I crossed back to Gibraltar,
and here I am."

Wilbraham crossed his legs, and with a polite "You will permit me?"
lighted a cigarette.

"I see," said Miranda, with a contemptuous droop of her lips. "Having
failed to blackmail M. Fournier and my husband, you fall back upon
blackmailing a woman."

Wilbraham's answer to the sneer was entirely unexpected, even by
Miranda, who was prepared for the unexpected in this man. He showed no
shame; he did not try to laugh away the slur; but removing his
cigarette from his mouth, he turned deliberately his full face to her
and in a deliberate voice said: "I do not take the conventional view
upon these matters. And, all other things being equal, had I to choose
between a man and a woman, I should spare the man and strike the
woman."

He spoke without any bitterness, but in a hard, calm voice, as though
he had sounded the question to the bottom. Miranda gasped, the words
for a second took her breath away, and then the blood came warmly into
her cheeks, and her eyes softened and brightened and she smiled. A
sudden glory seemed to illuminate her face. Wilbraham wondered why. He
could not know that the brutal shock of his speech had sent her
thoughts winging back to a balcony overlooking St. James's Park, where
a man had held a torn glove in his hand and in a no less decided voice
than Wilbraham's had spoken quite other words.

"I never intended to address either Fournier or your husband upon the
subject of--shall we call it compensation? At the best I should have
got a lump sum now and again from them, and as I say, I have learnt my
lesson. If I had a lump sum, it would be spent, and I should again be
penniless. I apply to you because I propose a regular sum per annum
paid quarterly in advance."

Miranda was still uplifted by the contrast between her recollections
and Wilbraham's words. She had the glove at home locked up, an
evidence that succour was very near--a hundred miles only down the
winding valley which faced her--and she had not even to say a word in
order to command it. When she spoke again to Wilbraham she spoke
emboldened by this knowledge.

"And what if I were to refuse you even a shilling for your dinner?"

"I should be compelled to lay my information before the proper
authorities, that Ralph Warriner is alive and may at times be captured
in England."

"Would you be surprised to hear that Mr. Warriner committed no crime
for which he could be captured?"

"I should be surprised beyond words. Mr. Warriner sold the mechanism
of the Daventry gun to a foreign government."

"Are you so sure of that?"

"I was his agent."

"You! Then you are also his accomplice."

"True,--and I look forward to turning Queen's evidence."

Miranda withdrew from the contest. The discussion was hardly more than
academic, for she knew both that her husband was alive and that this
particular crime he had committed.

"What is your price?" she asked, and she sat down upon the bench.

Wilbraham did not immediately reply. He took a pocket-book from his
coat and a letter from the pocket-book.

"I should wish you fully to understand the strength of my position,"
he said. "This letter you will see is in your husband's handwriting.
This passage," and he folded the letter to show Miranda a line or two,
"enjoins me to be very careful about the plans. The gun is not
mentioned by name, but the date of the letter and the context leave no
possible doubt."

He fluttered the letter under Miranda's eyes and within reach of her
fingers.

"It is my one piece of evidence, but a convincing piece."

He made a pretence of dropping it at her feet and snatched it up
quickly. Then he replaced it in his pocket-book and shut up his
pocket-book with a snap.

"Why didn't you snatch at it?" he exclaimed with irritation.

"Why did you wish me to snatch at it?" she replied.

"Because--because," he said angrily, "you have made me feel real mean,
as mean as a man in the commission of his first dishonourable act
towards a woman, and I wanted you to look mean at all events; it would
have made my business easier to handle. Well, let's have done with it.
I know Ralph Warriner is alive. I can give information which may lead
to his capture; and there's always the disgrace to publish."

He blurted out the words, ashamed and indignant with her for the shame
he felt. Miranda, in spite of herself, was touched by Wilbraham's
manner, and she answered quite gently: "Very well. I will buy your
silence."

"Coals of fire!" he replied with a sneer. Miranda understood that he
was defying her to make him feel ashamed. "Is that the ticket, Mrs.
Warriner? It won't lessen the amount of the per annum I can assure
you. What I propose is to live for the future in some more or less
quiet hole, where none of my acquaintances are likely to crop up.
Tarifa occurred to me; for one thing I can reach you from Tarifa; for
another I can do the royal act at Tarifa on a moderate income; for a
third it is a quiet place where I can have a shot at--well, at what I
want to do," and his voice suddenly became shy. She looked at him and
he coloured under her glance, and he shifted in his seat and laughed
awkwardly.

Miranda was familiar with those signs and what they signified.
Wilbraham wanted her to ask him to confide in her. Many men at
Gibraltar had brought their troubles to her in just this way, with
just these marks of diffidence, this fear that the troubles would bore
her. She had been called upon to play the guardian-angel at times and
had not shrunk from the responsibility, though she had accepted it
with a saving modesty of humour at the notion of herself playing the
guardian-angel to any man.

"What is it you want to do?" she asked, and Wilbraham confided in her.
The position was strange, no doubt. Here was a woman whom he had
bullied, whom he meant to rob, and on whom he meant to live until he
died, and he was confiding in her. But the words tumbled from his lips
and he did not think of the relationship in which he stood to her. He
was only aware that for fifteen years he had not shared a single one
of his intimate thoughts with either man or woman, and he was
surcharged with them. Here was a woman, frank, reliable, who asked for
his confidence, and he gave it, with a schoolboy's mixture of
eagerness and timidity.

"Do you know," said he, "the Odes of Horace have never been well
translated into English verse by anyone? Some people have done an ode
or two very well, perhaps as well as it could be done--Hood for
instance tried his hand at it. But no one has done them all, with any
approach to success. And yet they ought to be capable of translation.
Perhaps they aren't--I don't know--perhaps they are too wonderfully
perfect. Probably I should make an awful hash of the job; but I think
I should like to have a shot. I began years and years ago when I was
an attaché at Paris, and--and I have always kept the book with me; but
one has had no time." As he spoke he drew from his side pocket a
little copy of Horace in an old light-brown cover of leather very much
frayed and scratched. "Look," said he, and half stretched it out to
her, as though doubtful whether he should put it into her hands or
refuse to let her take it at all. She held out her hand, and he made
up his mind and gave it into her keeping.

The copy was dated 1767; the rough black type, in which all the s's
looked like f's, was margined by paper brown with age and sullied with
the rims of tumblers and the stains of tobacco; and this stained
margin was everywhere written over with ink in a small fine hand.

"You see I have made a sort of ground-work," said Wilbraham, with a
deprecating laugh, as though he feared Miranda would ridicule his
efforts. The writing consisted of tags of verse, half-lines, here and
there complete lines, and sometimes, though rarely, a complete stanza.
"You must not judge by what you see there," he made haste to add. "All
I have written on the margin is purely tentative; probably it's no
good at all." Miranda turned over a page and came upon one ode
completely translated. "I did that," explained Wilbraham, "one season
when I shipped as a hand on a Yarmouth smack. We got bad weather on
the Dogger Bank, out in the North Sea at Christmas. We spent a good
deal of time hove to with the wheel lashed, and on night-watches I
used to make up the verses. Indeed, those night-watches seem the only
time I have had free during the last fifteen years. The rest of the
time--well, I have told you about it. I got through one complete ode
out in the North Sea, and did parts of others."

Mrs. Warriner began to read the ode. "May I?" she asked.

"Of course," said he, with a flush of pleasure, and he watched her
most earnestly for the involuntary signs of approval or censure. But
her face betrayed neither the one nor the other; and he was quick to
apologise for the ode's shortcomings.

"You mustn't think that I had a great deal of time on those
night-watches. For one thing we did not get over-much sleep on the
voyage, and so one's brains no doubt were a trifle dull. Besides,
there were always seas combing up above the bows and roaring along the
deck. You had to keep your eyes open for them and scuttle down the
companion before they came on board. Otherwise, if the weight of the
water took you, it was a case of this way to the pit. The whole hull
of the smack disappears, and you just see the foresail sticking up
from the hungry, lashing tumble of green water. So, you see, it stands
to reason that ode is subject to revision."

But Miranda was not thinking of the ode. She had a vision of the smack
labouring on a black night in the trough of a black sea flecked with
white, at Christmas time, and a man on the watch, who had been an
attaché at Paris, and was, even with the rude sailor-folk for his
companions, engaged in translating Horace; and the vision had an
exquisite pathos for her.

"What was the beginning of it all?" she asked in a low voice, and
since Wilbraham was in the train of confidences, he told her that too.

He told her perhaps more than he meant to tell. It was an old story,
the story of the faithless woman and the man who trusts her, and what
comes of it all. The story of Helen and Menelaus, but disfigured into
a caricature of its original by the paltriness of the characters and
the vulgarity of the incidents. The throb of primitive passion was
gone from the story, and therefore all dignity too. Subtle and
intricate trivialities of sentiment took the place of passion, and
made the episode infinitely mean. Menelaus was an attaché at Paris:
Helen lived at Knightsbridge, and the pair of them were engaged to be
married. Helen was faithless merely through a cheap vanity, and a
cheaper pose of wilfulness, and even so she was faithless merely in a
low and despicable way. It was an infidelity of innumerable
flirtations. She passed from arm to arm without intermission, and
almost allowed those who fondled her to overlap. Yet all the day she
talked of her pride, and was conscious of no inconsistency between the
vulgarity of her conduct and the high words upon her lips. She
practised all the small necessary deceits to conceal her various
meetings and appointments, and was unaware of the degradation they
involved; for still she talked loudly of her pride. And when Menelaus
lifted his hat and wished her good-morning, she only felt that she was
deeply aggrieved.

Menelaus, however, was in no better case. He had not the strength to
thrust her from his mind, but let his thoughts play sensuously with
his recollections, until he declined upon a greater and a greater
weakness.

"I went back to Paris," continued Wilbraham. "I had good prospects,
but they came to nothing. Even now men going in for Mods. have to get
up a book which I once wrote, and as for the service, if I were to
tell you my real name, it is just possible that you might have heard
it, for I was supposed to have done something quite decent at
Zanzibar. Well, I went back to Paris. It's a hard thing, you know, to
discover that the woman you have been working for, and in a way
succeeding for, isn't worth the nicotine at the bottom of your
pipe-bowl. At that time I reckon I would rather have been the wreck I
am now, and believed it was all my fault, for, you see, I might then
have imagined that if I had done all right, I should have won the
desirable woman.... Anyway, after I got back to Paris, a little while
after, there was trouble." Wilbraham examined his cane and drew
diagrams upon the ground. "The woman blabbed, in a moment of
confidence ... to her husband. There was a sort of a scandal.... I had
to go. I didn't blame the woman who blabbed; no, Mrs. Warriner, I
blamed the first woman, the woman in Knightsbridge. Was I right? I
came back to England. I was a second son, and my father slammed
the door in my face. Then, Mrs. Warriner, I blamed all women,
you--you--you amongst the others, even though I didn't know you." He
spoke in a gust of extraordinary violence, and so brought his
confidences to an end. "Now your income is--" he resumed, and fetched
out his pocket-book again. "I made a note about your estate when I was
doing business with Warriner," he said. "The note comes in usefully
now."

He found the details of which he was in search, and made a neat little
sum at the corner of the leaf, to which Miranda paid no attention
whatsoever. The queer inclination towards pity which had moved her to
ask for his confidence, had been entirely and finally destroyed by the
confidence she had asked for. The story was so utterly sordid; the
characters in it so utterly puny. Before he told it he had acquired in
her eyes even a sort of dignity, the dignity of a man battered and
defeated in a battle wherein his wits were unequally matched against
the solid forces of order; but in the telling he had destroyed that
impression. Miranda had no feeling now but one of aversion for the
wreck of a man at her side. She looked at the Horace, which still lay
open on her lap, and the contrast between the fine scholar's
handwriting and the stains of the pothouse had no longer any power to
touch her. She set the book down on the bench, and stood up.

Wilbraham stopped his calculations, and, with the stump of his pencil
in his mouth, looked at her alertly and furtively. She took a step or
two towards the parapet of the Alameda. Wilbraham instantly laid his
pocket-book on the seat with the pencil to mark the place, and without
any noise, stood up. Miranda reached the railings at the edge of the
gardens and leaned her arms upon it. The next moment she felt a firm
grip upon her elbow. She turned round and saw Wilbraham's face ablaze
with passion. "I suspected that," he said fiercely, "when first I saw
where you had brought me," and he shook her elbow.

"Suspected what?" exclaimed Miranda, and she drew away to free herself
from his grasp. Wilbraham's next movement answered her question. For
he slipped between her and the railings with a glance at the precipice
below.

"But you shall not do it," he continued. "I was robbed that way once
before; I'll take care the robbery is not repeated." He leaned his
back against the railings and shook his finger at her.

"Besides, there's no sense in it," and he jerked his head backwards to
signify the abysm. "You are crying out before you are hurt. You don't
even know how much I want; I shan't ruin you. I made a mistake that
way once; I had the best secret conceivable, and ran my man down
across two continents. Then I was fool enough to put my hand too deep
in his sky, and I suppose he thought--well, he blew his brains out
that night, and then was I robbed."

Mrs. Warriner stared at him with a growing horror in her eyes. "You
murdered him," she said slowly.

"We won't quarrel over words," said Wilbraham, callously.

Miranda walked back to the bench. She was not troubled to explain
Wilbraham's misconception of her movement. She was only anxious to be
rid of him. "What income do you want?" she asked.

"You have three thousand a year," he returned. "Of that I take it
Warriner takes a largish slice."

Miranda flushed. "My husband has never asked for a farthing since the
_Ten Brothers_ slipped out of Gibraltar. He has never received a
farthing," she said angrily.

"An imprudent remark," said Wilbraham. "I might feel inclined to raise
my price."

"At all events you shall not slander him."

Wilbraham looked at her with his head cocked on one side. "You are
very loyal," said he, with genuine admiration. "I will not raise my
price."

Miranda did not, by any gesture or word, acknowledge his compliment.
She stood over against him with a face just as hard and white as he
had shown to her.

"I say seven hundred a year," he said briefly. "I will call for it
myself every quarter."

"I will send it to you," she interrupted.

"I prefer to call for it," said he; for so he concealed his own
address and kept her within his reach. "You will not leave Ronda even
for a week without giving me due notice of your destination. I will
take a quarter's payment to-day. You draw on a bank in Ronda, I
suppose, so a cheque will serve."

"If you will wait here, I will bring you the cheque."

Twenty minutes afterwards she returned with it to the Alameda, where
she found Wilbraham seated on the bench with his Horace in his hand.
He put down the book awkwardly, and rose. He had the grace to feel
some discomfort as he took the cheque, and that discomfort his manner
expressed.

Miranda had no word, no look, for him. He stood perhaps for the space
of a minute fingering the cheque. Then he said suddenly: "I can't
imagine what a woman like you sees in Ralph Warriner to trouble about.
In your place I should have let him go his own way, without paying to
keep him out of prison."

Miranda kept her reasons to herself, as she had done with the reason
of her return to Ronda. She waited for him to go, and he walked
sullenly away--for ten yards. Then he returned, for he had left his
copy of Horace lying upon the bench. He picked it up with a curious
and almost timorous glance of appeal towards Miranda. She did not move
but waited implacably for his departure. Wilbraham worked his
shoulders in discomfort.

"My clothes don't fit and God hates me," he cried irritably. Then this
jack-in-the-box of fortune slunk out of her sight.



                              CHAPTER IX

               SHOWS THE USE WHICH A BLIND MAN MAY MAKE
                        OF A DARK NIGHT A WEEK


A week after Wilbraham's departure from Ronda, the night fell very dark
at Tangier. In the Sôk outside the city gate, the solitary electric lamp
from its tall mast threw a pale light over a circle of the trampled
grass, but outside the circle all was black. There was no glimmer in
the tents of the shoemakers at the upper corner of the Sôk; nor was
there any stir or noise. For it was past midnight and the world was
asleep--except at one spot on the hill-side above the Sôk, and a
little distance to the right.

There a small villa, standing by itself, shone gaudily in the heart of
the blackness. From its open windows a yellow flood of light streamed
out, and besides the light, the music of a single violin and the
rhythmical beat of feet. There were other noises too, such as the
popping of corks, and much laughter.

Outside the villa, and beyond the range of its light, a man and a boy
sat patient and silent. The man for his sole clothing wore a sack, but
a dark cloak lay on the ground beside him. With his hands he
continually tested a cord twisted from palmetto fibres, as though
doubtful of its strength. At length the door of the villa opened.

"Who comes out?" asked the man.

"A man and a woman," answered the boy.

"Describe the man to me."

"Big, fat--"

"That is enough."

The man and the woman passed through the little garden of the villa,
and walked down across the Sôk towards the city gate. The door opened
again and again. There was a continual sound of leave-taking in
different languages, mostly German and French, and between the man and
the boy the same dialogue was repeated and repeated. Some wore evening
dress, others did not. Some walked across the Sôk, others rode.

"They are all gone," said the boy.

"Wait," commanded the man.

"They are putting out the lights."

"Are all the lights out?"

"No, one light is burning."

"Wait!"

The door opened again, and two men in evening dress came out on to the
steps.

"There are two men," said the boy, "but only one wears a hat."

"Describe him to me."

"He is not tall, he is thin, but I cannot see his face for his hat."

"Look! look well!"

"He goes back into the house. He takes off his hat. Wait! He is
smoking. He strikes a match and holds it to his mouth. I can see him
now."

"Well! Of what colour is his hair?"

"Very fair--yellow. His face is round, his eyes are light."

The man in the sack ceased from his questions, but he gave no sign of
either approval or disappointment. He sat still in the darkness until
a voice from the little garden cried out with a French accent: "I
cannot think what has come to the beast. He has got loose. And he was
hobbled, Jeremy. You did hobble him, _hein?_"

The boy began to laugh. "The little fat Christian is looking for the
mule in the garden," said he. "Hush!" whispered the man, laying his
hand upon the boy's mouth. "Listen! What does the other answer? Listen
for his voice."

"He does not answer," returned the boy. "He leans against the door,
and smokes and waits, while the little fat Room searches for the
mule."

"Help to find the mule!"

The boy laughed again, rose from the ground, and disappeared into the
darkness. In a few minutes he returned, driving the mule in front of
him. He drove it through the wicket of the garden. A few words passed
between the little Frenchman and the boy. Then the boy came back to
the man seated patiently outside the rim of the villa's lights.

"What did he say to thee?" said the man.

"He asked me if I had stolen the hobbles."

"And thou didst answer?"

"That I knew nothing of the hobbles. I said that I had found the mule
loose in the Sôk, and seeing the lights, brought it to the house."

"It is well. Now go, my son; go home and sleep, and forget the hours
we have waited in the darkness outside the villa of the Room. Forget,
so that in the morning they shall never have been. Go! God will reward
thee!"

The boy turned upon his heel, and ran down towards the town. The man
was left alone. He remained squatting on the ground. He heard the
French voice exclaim: "Good-night, Jeremy."

But no answering voice returned the wish. Jeremy indeed contented
himself with a careless nod of the head, mounted his mule, and passed
out of the wicket gate. Jeremy passed within ten yards of the man
seated upon the ground, who heard the padding of the mule's feet upon
the grass and smelt the cigar.

He did not move, however. A road ran between this stretch of grass and
the Sôk beyond, and he waited until the mule's hooves rang upon it.
Then he picked up the dark cloak by his side and ran swiftly and
noiselessly down the grass, across the road, over the trampled Sôk.
Ahead of him he heard the leisurely amble of the mule.

"Stop!" he cried out in the Moghrebbin dialect. "I have the hobbles of
the most noble one."

He heard the mule stop, and ran lightly forward.

"Who is it?" asked Jeremy, in the same tongue, as he bent round in his
saddle.

"Hassan Akbar," cried the other, leaping at the point from which the
voice came. "Bentham, it is Hassan Akbar."

The man addressed as Bentham turned quickly in his saddle with a cry
and gathered up the reins; but he was too late. Even the cry was
stifled upon his lips. For Hassan threw the cloak over his head,
gathered it in tight round his neck, and still holding him by the
neck, dragged him out of the saddle and flung him on to the ground.
Bentham, half-throttled, half-stunned, lay for a moment or two upon
his back, limp and unresisting. When he came to himself, it was no
longer within his power to resist, for Hassan knelt straddled across
his body, pinning him to the ground with the weight of his stature.
One bony knee pressed upon his chest insufferably. Bentham's ribs
cracked under it; he felt that his ribs were being driven into his
lungs. The other knee held down his thighs, and while he lay there
incapable of defence, Hassan bound his arms tightly together with the
cord of palmetto fibres.

Bentham tried to shout, but the cloak was over his mouth: the knee was
grinding and boring into his chest, and his shout was an exiguous wail
which, when it had penetrated the cloak, was no more than a sigh. He
waited for the moment when the knee would be removed, and waited
motionless without a twitch of his muscles, so that Hassan might be
deceived into the belief that he had swooned, and remove his knee and
the cloak.

Hassan removed his knees, bent down to Bentham, twined one arm about
his legs, thrust the other underneath his neck, and lifted him from
the ground as though he was a child. Bentham was now less able to
shout than before, for the hand of the arm which was about his neck
pressed the cloak close upon his mouth.

Bentham struggled for his breath; Hassan's arms only tightened their
grip and held him like a coil of wire. An utter terror seized upon
Bentham. He remembered the darkness of the night, the lateness of the
hour, the silence of the Sôk, and from the manner of Hassan's walk, he
knew that he was being carried up the hill and away from Tangier. He
was helpless in the hands of a Moor whom he had irreparably wronged.
Death he knew he must expect; the question which troubled him was what
kind of death.

Hassan's foot struck against a rope drawn tight across his path, and
in Bentham hope for a moment revived. The rope was the stay of a tent,
no doubt. What if Hassan had lost his way and stumbled among the tents
of the shoemakers? But Hassan loosened the grip of the arm which held
his legs, and Bentham heard him fumbling with his hand for the
door-flap of the tent. Plainly Hassan had not missed his way.

Hassan dropt him on the ground, thrust him through the small opening,
and crawled in after him. Then he knelt beside Bentham, turned back
the cloak from his face, but tied it securely about his mouth. Bentham
could now see, and the flap of the tent was open. The tent was indeed
one of the low, tiny gunny-bag tents of the shoemakers, but it was set
far apart from that small cluster, as Bentham recognized in despair,
for through the aperture he could see a long way below him and a long
way to his right the electric light in the middle of the Sôk.

Outside the tent there was a sound of something moving. Bentham sat up
and tore at his gag with his bound hands.

"Why cry for help to a mule?" said Hassan, calmly. "Will a mule help
thee?" He leaned forward and tightened the knot which fastened the
cloak at the back of his head. Then he crawled out of the tent and
Bentham heard him tethering the mule to one of the tent-pegs.

Bentham was thus left alone. He had a few seconds, and he had at once
to determine what use he would make of those seconds. There was not
enough time wherein to free his hands. It would have been sheer waste
of time to free his mouth from the cloak. For none was within earshot
of that tent who would be concerned to discover the reason of a cry,
and the cry would not be repeated, since Hassan outside the tent was
still within arm's reach.

Instead, he hitched and worked his white waistcoat upwards from the
bottom, leaning forward the while, until his watch fell from the
pocket and dangled on the end of the chain; after his watch a metal
pencil-case rolled out and dropped between his knees. One of the two
things he meant to do was done. Hassan had bound his hands not palm
to palm, but wrist across wrist; and raising his hands he was able
with the tips of his right-hand fingers to feel in the left-hand
breast-pocket of his dress-coat. His fingers touched a small
pocket-book, opened it, and plucked out a leaf of paper. This leaf and
the pencil-case he secreted in the palm of his hand.

Hassan crawled back into the tent and closed the flap. Bentham, with
his knees drawn up to his chin, crouched back against the wall of the
tent. Now that the flap was closed, it was pitch-dark; that, however,
made no difference to Hassan Akbar, who lived in darkness, and out of
the darkness his voice spoke.

"The ways of God are very wonderful. You gave me this tent. With the
dollar you dropped on my knees at the gate of the cemetery, I bought
this tent and set it up here apart, to keep you safe for the little
time before you start upon your journey."

Bentham took no comfort from the passionless voice, though his heart
leaped at the words. He was not then to be killed. He did not answer
Hassan, but remained crouched in his corner.

"Now the dog of a Christian will speak," said Hassan, quietly. Bentham
made no movement. Hassan crawled towards him, felt his feet, his
up-drawn knees, and reaching his face untied the cloak from his mouth.
"Now the dog of a Christian will speak," he repeated softly, in a low
gentle voice, "so that I may know it is indeed Bentham, who took
shelter with me at Tangier, and ate of my _kouss-kouss_, and
thereafter betrayed me."

Bentham did not reply. If Hassan had a doubt, then it was his part to
make the most of it to prolong the solution of the doubt, to defer it,
if it might be, till the morning came. This was summer--July--the
morning comes early in July, not so early as in June, but still early.
Would that this had happened one month back!

Hassan kneeled upon his hams by Bentham's side. "Will not the dog of a
Christian speak?" he asked in a wheedling voice, which daunted and
chilled the man he spoke to. "Let us see!" And again his sinuous hands
lingered and stole over Bentham's face. The thumbs lingered about
Bentham's eyes.

Bentham shivered; but still, though the desire to shout, to curse, to
relieve by some violence, if only of speech, the tension he was
suffering, was strong, he mastered himself, he held his tongue, for if
once he did speak he betrayed himself. His only chance lay in Hassan's
doubt, which lived upon his silence. Again Hassan's fingers returned
to his face. Bentham closed his eyes; the thumbs touched and retouched
them, now pressing gently upon the eyeballs, now working about the
corners of the sockets. Finally Hassan snatched his hands away. "If I
did that," he murmured, "they would not take him, for he would fetch
no price;" and Bentham understood the fate which was in store for
him--if he spoke.

Hassan left his side, and was busy in a corner of the tent, at what
Bentham could not for the moment discover. He heard a cracking of
twigs; what was to follow? One instant he dreaded, the next he burned
to know, and all the while he shivered with terror. Hassan struck a
match and lit the twigs, and breathed upon the little blue flames,
until they warmed to yellow, and spirted up into a fire.

Bentham watched Hassan's gaunt, disfigured, inexpressive face, as he
crouched over the twigs, and his terror increased. He saw that he held
something in each hand, something that flashed bright, like a disk of
iron. Hassan laid the disks upon the twigs; they were the hobbles
which Bentham had placed upon his mule early that evening.

Bentham began to count the seconds; at any moment the morning might
begin to break, surely, surely. As he watched the hobbles growing hot
and the sparks dance upon the iron, he continued to count the seconds,
not knowing what he did, and at an incredible speed.

Hassan picked up the hobbles, each with a cleft stick, and brought
them over to Bentham. "Now the dog of a Christian will speak," said
he.

Bentham summoned all his courage, all his strength, and was silent.
Hassan reached out his hands, and drew his legs from under him, and
fitted the hobbles over his slippers, and fixed them round his ankles
like a pair of fetters.

Bentham uttered a cry--it was almost a scream--as the iron burnt into
his flesh. He kicked, he struggled to free his legs, to free his
hands; but Hassan Akbar dragged him forward, thrust him down upon his
back, and pinned his shoulders to the ground. Bentham could do no more
than vainly writhe in convulsive movements of his limbs. The hot iron
rings clung to his ankles; the smoke from the wood fire choked him;
the smell of burning flesh was acrid in his nostrils. Agony redoubled
his strength, but even so, he was too crippled, and Hassan's grasp
upon his shoulders did not relax.

In the end Hassan had his heart's desire, and Bentham spoke. He spoke
too in the low voice which Hassan enjoined, though he used it without
thought to obey,--low, voluble, earnest prayers for mercy, and then
again voluble curses, and again voluble appeals for pity, and at the
end of it a broken whimpering, as though his strength was gone, and
the convulsive jerks which a fish makes in a basket.

All the while Hassan held him down, listening to the appeals, the
prayers, the curses, with an untouched gravity of face. "It is indeed
you; I have made no mistake," and he freed him from the burning
fetters, and opened the flap of the tent. Bentham rolled over on his
side with his face to the opening, and lay there shaking, moaning.
"Now I will tell you what I have planned for you," continued Hassan.
"I thought at first to kill you, but it is so small a thing. Then I
remembered words you once told me, that you had trouble with your own
people, and could not ask them for protection. So friends of mine from
Beni Hassan, who go upon their way to-night, will take you with them,
and sell you when they are far away. And for the rest of your days you
will carry loads upon your back up and down the inlands of Morocco,
and your masters will beat you, and if you faint and are tired, they
will do strange things to make you suffer, even as I did with the
hobbles. Lo, here my friends come!"

The sound of steps came to their ears. A few moments later a hand
fumbled at the flap of the tent, opened it, and a head was thrust in.
"Is it you, Hassan Akbar?"

"Yes," replied Hassan; "and here is the Room whom you promised to take
out of my path. He will fetch a price, and besides I give to you his
mule, which you will find tethered to the tent."

"And the saddle too, Hassan, is it not so?"

"It is."

Meanwhile Hassan cut Bentham's clothes from him as he lay upon the
ground, and taking off his own sack, cast it for a garment over
Bentham's shoulders, and wrapped himself in the dark cloak. In the
place of that cloak he tied over Bentham's mouth a thick rag. Then he
thrust him out of the tent, and jerked him on to his feet. Bentham
made no longer any resistance; he let them do with him as they were
pleased; and he stood tottering and swaying.

Five Arabs waited outside the tent. "He cannot walk, he shall ride the
mule this night," said the chief of them. "To-morrow he shall learn to
walk."

They hoisted Bentham on to the back of the mule, and tied him there
with leathern thongs. Then they started on their long journey.

The cool night air after the stifling tent revived the man who
perforce rode the mule. It did not give him strength to resist, or as
yet even the impulse to cry out; but it restored to him the power to
hear and to understand. What he heard was a distant clock below him in
Tangier striking an hour; what he understood was that the hour it
struck was only one o'clock.



                              CHAPTER X

              M. FOURNIER EXPOUNDS THE ADVANTAGES WHICH
                     EACH SEX HAS OVER THE OTHER


The long interview with Wilbraham in the Alameda of Ronda had
consequences for Miranda which she felt but did not trace to their
source. It was not merely that she sickened at the vulgar, futile
story of his ruin; that she saw in imagination the wretched victim he
had run to earth across two continents, closing the door and slipping
the pistol-barrel between his teeth; that she loathed the knowledge
that this man was henceforward her gaoler; but she took him and the
bitter years of her marriage together in her thoughts, and using them
as premisses began doubtfully to draw universal conclusions.

These conclusions Miranda hazarded at times in the form of questions
to her companion Jane Holt, and sought answers from her as from one
who had great experience of the tortuous conduct of men. Were men
trustworthy at all? If so, were there any means by which a woman could
test their trustworthiness? These two questions were the most constant
upon Miranda's tongue, and Jane Holt answered them with assurance, and
in her own way.

Wilbraham had not erred when he described her as a sentimentalist with
grievances. Sentimentalism was the shallows of her nature, and she had
no depths. Her conversation ran continually upon the "big things," as
she termed them, such as devotion, endurance, self-sacrifice, and the
rest, in which qualities men were singularly deficient. She meant,
however, only devotion to her, endurance of her, self-sacrifice for
her, of which it was not unnatural that men should tire, seeing who it
was that demanded them. Yet she had enjoyed her share, and more than
her share. For though incapable of passion herself, she had in her
youth possessed the trick of inspiring it, but without the power,
perhaps through her own incapacity, of keeping it alive, and no doubt
too because upon a moderate acquaintance she conveyed an impression of
inherent falsity. For, being a sentimentalist, she lived in a false
world, on the borders of a lie, never quite telling it perhaps, and
certainly never quite not telling it. She was by nature exigent, for
she was in her own eyes the pivot of her little world, and for the
wider world beyond, she had no eyes whatever. And her exigence took
amusing or irritating shapes according to the point of view of those
who suffered it. For instance, you must never praise her costumes, of
which she had many, and those worthy of praise, but the high qualities
of her mind, which were few and often of no taste whatever. It should
be added that she had always favoured an inferior before an equal. For
it pleased her above all things to condescend, since she secured thus
a double flattery, in the knowledge of her own condescension, and in
the grateful humility of those to whom she condescended.

It can be foreseen, then, what answers this woman,--who was tall, and
still retained the elegance of her figure, and would have still
retained the good looks of her face, but that it was written upon by
many grievances--would give to Miranda's questions.

"You can trust no men. You must bribe them with cajoleries; you must
play the coquette; you must enlist their vanity. They are all trivial,
and the big things do not appeal to them."

Miranda listened. She was accustomed to Jane Holt, and had no longer a
reasoned conception of her character. Habit had dulled her
impressions. She remembered only that Jane Holt had had much
experience of men wherein she herself was wofully deficient. Jane Holt
embroidered her theme; a pretty display of petulance, the seemingly
accidental disclosure of an ankle, a voluntary involuntary pressure of
the arm, these things had power to persuade the male mind, such as it
is, and to enmesh that worthless thing the male heart.

"One might have a man for a friend, perhaps," suggested Miranda,
hopefully.

"My poor Miranda!" exclaimed Miss Holt. "No wonder your marriage was a
failure. Men pretend friendship for a woman at times, but they mean
something else."

The moral was always that they were not to be trusted, and Miranda,
vividly recollecting Ralph Warriner and Wilbraham, listened and
wondered, listened and wondered, until she would rise of a sudden and
take refuge in her own parlour, of which the window looked out across
the valley to the hills, where she would sit with a throbbing forehead
pressed upon her palms, certain, certain, that the homily was not
true, and yet half distracted lest it should be true.

On the morrow of one such conversation, and one such flight, Miss Holt
came into the little parlour--a cool, dark-panelled, low-roofed room
of which the door gave on to the patio--and found Miranda searching
the room.

"Do you know what month this is?" Miss Holt asked severely.

"October."

"Quite so," and great emphasis was laid upon the words.

"I know," replied Miranda, penitently, as she crossed over to a table
and lifted the books. "We have been here all the summer; it has been
very hot. I am sorry, but I was compelled to stay. I did not know what
might occur, and," she anxiously turned over the letters and papers on
her writing-table in the window, "it was some comfort, I admit, to
feel that one was near--" She stopped suddenly and resumed in
confusion, "I mean I did not know what might happen."

Jane Holt looked at her with great displeasure, but said nothing
until Miranda began hurriedly to open and shut the drawers of her
writing-table. Then she said irritably: "What in the world are you
looking for?"

Miranda stood up and looked round the room. "There was a glove," she
said absently.

"Yes, I threw it away."

"Threw it away!" Miranda stared at Jane Holt with a look of complete
dismay. "You don't mean that. Oh, you can't mean it!"

"Indeed I do; it was torn across the palm."

"I left it lying there, on my writing-desk, yesterday, after you and I
had been talking--" She left the sentence unfinished.

"Yes, and I found it there. It was torn, so I had it thrown away."

Miranda rang a hand-bell, and ordered search to be made for the glove.
It could not be found; it had been burnt with the answered letters.

"Very well," said Miranda, and the servant retired. Miranda sat down,
and showed to Jane Holt a face of which the expression was almost
scared.

"What does it matter?" exclaimed Jane. "The glove was torn; you could
never have used it."

"No," answered Miranda, quickly, almost guiltily it seemed. "I should
never have used it; I never meant to use it. The glove was only a
symbol; it was no more than that, it represented a belief. I can
retain the belief, no doubt. No doubt, though, I have lost the
glove--"

"What in the world are you talking about?" interrupted Jane Holt.

"Nothing, nothing," answered Miranda, with a start. The loss of the
glove had so dismayed her that she had forgotten who it was she had
been speaking to, or indeed that she was speaking to anyone. She had
merely uttered her thoughts, for she had come to look upon that glove,
which, under no circumstances, would she use, as none the less a
safeguard, and of late, in particular, she had fallen into a habit of
taking it from the drawer in which it rested and setting it before her
eyes; of stating it, as it were, as a refutation of Jane Holt's ready
opinions.

Jane Holt shook her head. "You have changed very much towards me,
Miranda. You are growing secret. I don't want to know. I would not
press anyone for their confidence; but I may think it strange, I
suppose?" She folded her arms across her breast and tapped with her
fingers upon her elbows. "I suppose I may think it strange; and if
anyone took the trouble to give me a thought, perhaps anyone might
believe that I had a right to feel hurt. But I don't! Please don't run
away with that idea! No, I cannot allow you, Miranda, to fancy for a
moment that I should feel hurt. But I do notice that you jump whenever
there is a knock at the door. There! What did I say?"

The door of the parlour stood open to the patio; in the corner of the
opposite side of the patio there was the mouth of a passage which led
to the outer door; and upon that outer door just at this moment
someone rapped heavily, as though he came in haste. Miranda started
nervously, and to cover the movement, rose from her chair and closed
the door.

"And as for the glove," resumed Jane Holt, who found it difficult to
leave any subject alone when it was evident that it was unwelcome,
"you could never have used it."

"No," answered Miranda, thoughtfully. "Of course--of course, I could
never have used it;" and a servant entered the room and handed to her
a card on which was engraved M. Fournier's name and address.

Miranda held the card beneath her eyes for some little while. Then she
walked out into the patio, where M. Fournier awaited her. He came
towards her at once, in an extreme agitation, but she signed to him to
be silent, and opening a second door on the same side of the patio as
the door of her parlour, but farther to the right, she led the way
into a tiny garden rich with deep colours. Jonquils, camellias, roses,
wild geraniums, and pinks, tended with a care which bespoke a mistress
from another country, made a gay blaze in the sun, and sweetened the
air with their delicate perfumes.

The garden was an irregular nook with something or the shape of a
triangle, enclosed between the back wall of the house and a wing flung
out at a right angle. The base of the triangle was an old brick wall,
breast-high, which began at the end of the house wall and curved
outwards until it reached the wing. Over this wall the eye looked
through air to the olive-planted slope of a mountain. For the house
was built on the brink of the precipice, it was in a line with the
Alameda, though divided from it by the great chasm, and if one leaned
over the crumbling wall built long ago by the Moors, one had an
impression that one ought to see the waves churning at the foot of the
rock and to hear a faint moaning of the sea; so that the sight of the
level carpet of the plain continually surprised the eyes.

Into this garden Miranda brought M. Fournier. No windows overlooked
it, for those which gave light to Miranda's parlour were in the end
and the other side of the wing, and so commanded the valley without
commanding this enclosure. A little flagged causeway opened a path
between the flowers to the nook between the wing of the house and the
old wall, where two lounge chairs invited use.

Miranda seated herself in one of these chairs and with a gesture
offered the other to M. Fournier. M. Fournier, however, took no heed
of the invitation. He had eyes only for Miranda's face. He held his
hat in one hand, and with a coloured handkerchief continually mopped
his forehead, a dusty perspiring image of anxiety.

"You come from my husband?" said Miranda.

M. Fournier's face lightened. "Ah, then, you know--"

"That he is alive? Yes. You come from him?"

"From him, no; on his behalf, yes."

Miranda smiled at the subtle distinction. "You need money, of course,"
she said drily. "How much do you want? You have, no doubt, some
authority from my husband."

The little Belgian's anxiety gave place to offended pride. "We do not
need money, neither he nor I; but as for authority, perhaps this will
serve."

He drew from his pocket a soiled scrap of paper and handed it to
Miranda. The paper, as she could see from the blue lines, the shape,
and the jagged border, had been torn from a small pocketbook. It was
so crumpled and soiled that a few words scribbled with a pencil on the
outside in Arabic were barely visible. Miranda unfolded the paper
slowly, for the mere look of it was sinister. The words within were
written also in pencil, and her face altered as she read them.

"What does J. B. mean?" she asked.

"J. B. are the initials of the name he took."

"You are sure this comes from my husband? I do not recognise his
hand."

"Quite sure."

"Here is bad news," said she, and she conned the words over again, and
could nowhere pick out the familiar characteristics of Ralph
Warriner's handwriting. The words themselves were startling. _Reward
the bearer well, and for God's sake do quickly what you can_. But more
startling, more significant, than the words was the agitation of the
writer's hand. Haste and terror had kept the hand wavering. Here the
pencil had paused, yet even when pausing, its point had trembled on
the paper, as the blurred dots showed. Miranda imagined that so it had
paused and trembled, while someone walked by the writer's back and had
but to glance over his shoulder to discover the business he was
engaged upon. Then again the pencil had raced on, running the words
one into the other, fevered to get the message done. A whole tragedy
was indicated in the formation of the letters. Or a malady? Miranda
turned eagerly to the letter. The writing wavered up and down. The
small letters were clear; the capitals and the long letters, the
"f's," the "q's," the "y's," weak, as though the fingers could not
control the pencil. Illness might account for the message, and Miranda
chose that supposition.

"He is lying very ill somewhere," she said.

M. Fournier shook his head. "No. I tried to believe that myself at
first; but I never did believe it, and I thought and thought and
thought--_Tenez_, look!" He drew a piece of blank paper from one
pocket, a pencil from another. The paper he spread upon his knee, the
pencil he took between his teeth; then he held out his wrists.

"Now fasten them together."

Miranda uttered a cry. Her face grew very white. "What with?" she
asked.

"Your belt."

She unclasped her belt from her waist and strapped Fournier's wrists
together.

"Tighter," said he, "tighter. Now see!"

With great difficulty and labour he copied out Warriner's message on
the blank paper; and while he wrote Miranda saw the sentence wavering
up and down, the small letters coming out clear and small, the long
strokes and tails straggling. She seized the copy almost before he had
finished, and held it side by side with the original. There was a
difference, of course, the difference which stamped one man's hand as
Warriner's and the other as Fournier's, the difference of fear, but
that was the only difference. The method in each case was identical;
the same difficulties had produced the same results.

"There can be no doubt, _hein?_" asked Fournier, as Miranda unfastened
the belt.

"How did this come to you?" she returned.

"I tell you," said he, "from the beginning. Bentham--that is what M.
Warriner calls himself now, Bentham--Jeremy Bentham he calls himself,
because he says he's such an economist--well, he and I are partners in
a little business, and we have prospered. So when Bentham came back
from Bemin Sooar to Tangier a week ago, I give a dinner in my house to
a few friends and we dance afterwards. Perhaps ten or eleven of us and
Bentham. Bentham he came and danced and he was the last to go away. He
did not stay in my house--it was better for our little business that
we should not be thought more than mere friends. He had a lodging in
the town, while my house was outside up the hill. He rode away alone
on a mule, for he was in evening dress and one cannot walk across the
Sôk in dancing shoes, and he never reached his lodging. He
disappeared. I heard no word of him, until yesterday; yesterday about
mid-day, an Arab brought that scrap of paper to my shop."

"But the Arab told you how and where he got it?" said Miranda.

"Yes. He belonged to a douar, a tent village, you understand. The
village is three days from Tangier on the road to Mequinez. The Arab
was leading down his goats to the water a week ago, in the morning,
when six men passed him at a distance. They were going up into the
country; they had a mule with them. He watched them pass and noticed
that one of them would now and then loiter and fall a little behind,
whereupon the rest beat him with sticks and drove him again in front.
And he did not resist, Madame, I am afraid we know why he did not
resist."

Miranda pressed her hands to her forehead.

"Well," she said with an effort, and her voice had sunk to a whisper,
"finish, finish!"

"It seemed to the Arab," continued Fournier, whose anxiety seemed in
some measure to diminish, and whose face grew hopeful as he watched
Miranda's increasing distress, "that this victim made a sign to him,
and when the party had gone by he noticed something white gleaming on
the brown soil in the line of their march. He went forward and picked
it up. It was this piece of paper. He read the writing on it, these
marks." M. Fournier turned over the sheet, and pointed to the
indecipherable Arabic. "They mean, 'Take this to Fournier at Tangier
and you will get money.' He opened it, he could not read the inside,
but seeing that it was written in one of the languages of the
Nazarenes, he thought there might be some truth in the promise. So he
brought the paper to Tangier yesterday and I have brought it to you."

M. Fournier settled his glasses upon his nose and leaned forward for
his answer. Miranda sat with knitted brows, gazing out to the dark
mountains. Fournier would not interrupt her; he fancied she was
searching her wits for a device to bring help to Warriner; but,
indeed, she was not thinking at all.

Miranda had a trick of seeing pictures. She was not given to arguments
and inferences; but a word, a sentence, would strike upon her hearing,
and at once a curtain was rolled up somewhere in her mind, and she saw
men moving to and fro and things happening as upon a lighted stage.
Such pictures made up her arguments, her conclusions, even her
motives; and it was because of their instant vividness that she was so
rapidly moved to sympathy and dislike. So now there was set before her
eyes the picture of a man riding down the hill of Tangier at night in
the civilisation of evening dress, and, as she looked, it melted into
another in which the same man, clad in vile rags, with his hands
bound, was flogged forwards under a burning sun into the barbaric
inlands of Morocco. She saw that brutal party, the five gaolers, the
one captive, straggle past the tent village. She guessed at Ralph's
despairing glance as though it was directed towards herself, she saw
the scrap of paper flutter white upon the dark soil. And as she
contemplated this vision, she heard M. Fournier speaking again to her;
but the sound of his voice had changed. He was no longer telling his
story; he was pleading with a tenderness which had something
grotesquely pathetic, when she considered who it was for whom he
pleaded. His foreign accent became more pronounced, and the voluble
words tumbled one over the other.

"So M. Warriner does not ask you for money; that sees itself, is it
not? Nor even does he ask you for help. Be sure of that, Madame; read
the note again. He would not come to you for help; he is not so mean;
he has too much pride;" and as Mrs. Warriner smiled, with perhaps a
little bitterness, M. Fournier, noticing her smile, became yet more
astonishing and intricate in his apologies. "He take your money, oh
yes, I know very well, while he is with you; but then you get his
company in exchange. That make you both quits, eh? But once he has
gone away, he would not come back to you for money or help at all. He
has so much pride. Oh no! He just take it from the first person he
meet, me or anyone else. He has so much pride; besides, it would be
simpler. No! It is I who come to you. He often speak to me of you--oh,
but in the highest terms! And I say to myself: That dear Ralph, he is
difficult to live with. He is not a comfortable friend. We know that,
Mrs. Warriner and I, but we both love him very much--"

"No!"

The emphatic interruption fairly startled M. Fournier. Miranda had
risen from her seat and stood over him. He would not have believed
that so gentle a face could have taken on so vigorous an expression.
He stammered a protest. Miranda repeated her denial: "No, no, no!" she
cried. "Let us be frank!"

She turned aside from him, and leaning her elbows upon the crumbling
parapet of the wall, looked across the valley and down the cliff's
side where one road was cut in steep zigzags, and winding down to the
plain as to the water's edge, helped to complete the illusion that the
sea should fitly be breaking at the base.

M. Fournier's hopes dwindled in the face of this uncompromising
denial. He had come to enlist her help; he had counted upon her
affections, and had boldly counted, because Warriner had so surely
attracted his own. M. Fournier would have been at a loss to explain
his friendship for Warriner, to account for the causes or the
qualities which evoked it, but he felt its strength, and he now knew
that Mrs. Warriner had no lot or share in it.

He was therefore the more surprised when she turned back to him with
eyes which were shining and moist, and said very gently: "But of
course I will help." Her conduct was not at all inconsistent, however
much it might appear so to M. Fournier. She was acting upon the same
motive which had induced her, the moment she was aware of Ralph
Warriner's existence, to return to Ronda, the one spot where Warriner
would be sure to look for her if he needed her, and which had
subsequently persuaded her to submit to the blackmail of Major
Wilbraham. "Of course I will help. What can I do?"

M. Fournier's eyes narrowed, his manner became wary and cunning. "I
hoped that you might perhaps hit upon some plan," he suggested.

"I?" Miranda thought for a moment, then she said: "We must appeal to
the English Minister at Tangier."

M. Fournier sprang out of his chair. "No, that is the very last thing
we must do. For what should we say? That Mr. Ralph Warriner, who was
thought to be dead, has just been kidnapped in Morocco?"

"No, but that Mr. Bentham has," she returned quickly.

M. Fournier shrugged his shoulders. "Why am I here?" he exclaimed,
stamping his foot. "I ask you, why am I here? _Saperlipopette!_ Would
I have come to you if any so simple remedy had been possible? Suppose
we go politely to the English Minister and ask him to find Mr. Jeremy
Bentham! The Minister goes to the Sultan of Morocco, and after many
months, perhaps Mr. Bentham is found, perhaps he is not. Suppose that
he is found and brought down to Tangier,--what next, I beg you? There
will be talk about Mr. Bentham, there will be gentlemen everywhere,
behind bushes, under tables, everywhere, so that the great British
public may know the colours of the ties he wears, and at last be
happy. His name will be in the papers, and more, Mrs. Warriner, his
portrait too. His portrait; have you thought of that?"

"But he might escape the photographers."

"Suppose he do, by a miracle. Do you think there will be no inquiry as
to what is Mr. Bentham's business in Morocco? Do you think the English
Minister will not ask the inconvenient question? Do you think that you
can hide his business, once an inquiry is set on foot, in that
country? He might pass as a tourist, you think perhaps, _hein?_ And
any one man has only got to give a few dollars to some officer in the
custom-house, and he will know that Mr. Bentham is smuggling guns into
Morocco, and selling them to the Berbers of Bemin Sooar. What then? He
would be taken for trial to Gibraltar, where only two years ago he was
Captain Warriner."

Miranda had already heard enough from Wilbraham to confirm M.
Fournier's statement about the custom-house.

"No," continued Fournier, "the risk is too great. And I call it risk!"
He hunched his shoulders and spread out his hand. "It is a red-hot
cert, as he would say. His identity would be established, and he had
better, after all, be a captive in Morocco than a convict in England.
There is some chance of an escape in Morocco."

"There is also in Morocco some chance of a--" Miranda's lips refused
to speak the word. M. Fournier supplied it.

"Murder? I do not fear that. Had they intended murder, they would have
killed that night, then and there, in the Sôk of Tangier. There would
have been no letter dropped three days inland."

Miranda eagerly welcomed the argument. "Yes, yes," she exclaimed, and
the colour came back to her lips. "He is held for ransom then,
surely?"

M. Fournier shook his head. "Hardly. Had they captured him for ransom,
they would have got from him the names of his friends. They would have
used measures," said he, with some emphasis upon the word, at which
Miranda shivered; "sure measures to get the names, and Warriner would
have given mine. They would have come to me for the ransom, and I
should have given it--if it was everything I had--and Warriner would
be safe by now."

Fournier was aware that Miranda looked curiously and even with a sort
of compunction towards him, though he did not understand the reason of
her look. To him it was the most natural, simple thing in the world
that he should care for Warriner.

"No, it is not ransom," and he threw a cautious glance this way and
that, and then, even in that secret spot, continued in a whisper:
"Warriner has enemies, enemies of his own race. I do not wonder at
it," he explained impartially. "He treats me, yes, even me, who am his
one friend, as though--well, his own phrase is the best. He wipes the
floor with me. He has promised to do it many times, and many times he
has done it too. No doubt he has enemies, and they have arranged his
capture."

"Why?"

"Suppose they sell him for a slave, a long way off and a long way
inland. It would not be pleasant at all, and most of all unpleasant to
him, for he is particular. Of course you know that, Mrs. Warriner. He
likes his linen very clean and fine. He would not enjoy being a slave,
yet he could not appeal to his Government, even if he got the chance."

"Oh, don't, please!" cried Miranda. That intimate detail about Ralph's
habits brought home to her most convincingly his present plight. "But
what enemies?" she asked in a moment or two. "Is it a guess of yours,
or do you know of any?"

M. Fournier hitched his chair nearer. His voice became yet more
confidential.

"Three months ago an Englishman came to my shop."

"Three months ago?" interrupted Miranda. "He leaned over your counter
and he said, 'How did you work that little affair on Rosevear, and
how's my dear friend, Ralph Warriner?'"

"Ah, you know him!" cried Fournier, springing up in excitement.

"Yes, and he has nothing to do with Ralph's capture," replied Miranda.
"He only went that one time to Tangier." M. Fournier resumed his seat,
and she briefly explained to the Belgian the reason and the
consequence of Wilbraham's visit. Fournier's face fell as he listened.
He had hoped that the necessary clue had been discovered, and when
Miranda finished he sat silent in a glum despair. After a little his
face lightened.

"Only once you say he came to Tangier, this man you speak of--only
once?" he asked eagerly, stretching out his hand.

"Only the once."

"He was not there earlier in the year? He was not there in May? Think
carefully. Be very sure!"

Mrs. Warriner reflected for a second. "I am sure he was not," she
replied. "He travelled by train from Monte Carlo to Marseilles in May.
From Marseilles he came directly by boat to England."

"Good," said M. Fournier. He sat forward in his chair and rubbed the
palms of his hands together. "Now listen! There was another Englishman
who came in May. He came to my shop, though the shutter was on the
window and the shop closed."

"Who was he?" asked Mrs. Warriner.

"I cannot guess."

"Tell me what he was like."

"Ah! there's the trouble. Neither of us saw him. Warriner heard his
voice, that is all. And a voice? There is no clue more deceptive. The
one thing Warriner is sure of is that he had never heard the voice
before."

"But what was it that he heard?"

"I tell you. Warriner came down to Tangier that very morning from the
country. He travelled as always in the dress of a Moor, for he speaks
their tongues, no Moor better, and our little business, you
understand, needs secrecy. I closed my shop, shuttered the window,
locked the door. Warriner told me he had arranged with the sheikhs of
the Berber tribes to deliver so many Winchesters, so much ammunition,
within a certain period. The period was short; Warriner's boat, the
_Ten Brothers_, was waiting at Tarifa. I leave him to change his dress
and shave his beard, while I go down to the harbour and hire a felucca
to put him over to Tarifa. But Warriner forgot to lock the door behind
me. In a minute or two he hear a hand scrape softly, oh so softly, up
the door towards the latch. For a second he stood, with the razor in
his hand like this," and the Belgian, in the absorption of his
narrative began to act the scene, "looking at the latch, waiting for
it to rise, and listening. Then he remembered that he had not locked
the door. He crept on tip-toe towards it; just as he reached it he
heard a loud English voice shout to him violently, 'Look out!' That
phrase is a menace, eh?" he stopped to ask.

"It might be. It would more naturally be a warning," said Mrs.
Warriner.

"In either case it means an enemy. As he shouted Warriner's hand was
already on the key. Warriner turn the lock, and immediately the
Englishman batter and knock at the door, but he could not get in, and
after a little he went away. Ah! how often we have wondered who that
man was, and why he shouted out his threat and tried to force the
door. To know that you have one enemy at your heels, but you cannot
pick him out because you have not seen his face! That frightens me,
Madame Warriner. I am a coward, and it is no wonder that it frightens
me." The perspiration broke out on Fournier's forehead as he made his
frank confession. "But it frightens Warriner too, who is no coward.
Often and often have I seen him lift up a finger, so," he suited the
action to the word, "when a new voice speak within his hearing, and
listen, listen, listen, to make sure whether that was the voice which
shouted through the door or no. But a voice! You cannot be certain you
recognise it, unless you can recognise also the face of the man to
whom it belongs. A singer's voice, yes! Perhaps you might know that
again though you heard it for the first time blindfold. But a voice
that merely speaks or shouts, no!"

M. Fournier picked up his hat and rose from his chair. Miranda rose
too, and they stood face to face with one another under the awning.

"So I ask you this. Will you help to recover your husband?" he asked,
with a simplicity of appeal which went home to Miranda all the more,
because it did not presume to claim her help. "Either a search must be
made privately through Morocco until he is found and bought, and such
a search seems hopeless; or the unknown man who shouted through the
door must be discovered. That is the simplest way. For this I do
believe"--and he expressed his belief with a great solemnity and
conviction which sank very memorably into Miranda's mind--"I believe
that if we lay our hands upon that man we shall lay our hands also
upon the means to rescue Warriner from his servitude."

"But how can I help? I do not know the man who shouted through the
door." The words were flung at Fournier in a passion of impotence.
"You say you need no money. I cannot scour Morocco. How can a woman
help?"

M. Fournier hesitated. He took off his glasses. He found it easier to
speak the matter of his thoughts when he saw her face dimly, and could
not take note of its expressions.

"A woman very often has friends," he hinted.

He saw her face grow rosy and then pale.

"Yes, but I have lost the glove," she cried impulsively, and as she
turned towards the perplexed M. Fournier, the blood rushed back into
her cheeks. "I mean," she stammered, and broke off suddenly into a
question which was at once an accusation and a challenge.

"And men, have they no friends?"

Fournier did not affect to misunderstand her.

"Here and there, perhaps a man has one friend who will deliberately
risk much, even life, for him, but in those cases he has only one such
friend. Warriner has one, but alas! that one friend is myself.
Already, it is true, I have risked my life for him at the Scillies,
and I would gladly lose it for him now, if I could only lose it
without foreknowledge. But what can I do? A little fat Belgian
bourgeois, of middle age, who speaks no language correctly but his
own, and has only a few poor words of Arabic, a man of no strength,
and, Madame, a coward,--what could I do inland in Morocco?" He made no
parade of humility as he described himself; he used the simple,
straightforward tone of one who advances cogent arguments. Miranda was
moved by an impulse to hold out her hand to him.

"I beg your pardon," she said.

M. Fournier was encouraged to continue his plea.

"But to possess sufficient friends so that one may choose the adequate
instrument,--ah, that is the privilege of women!" He added timidly,
"Of women who have youth and beauty," but in a voice so low that the
words hardly reached Miranda's ears, and their significance was not
understood by her at all.

"I have not many friends," she returned frankly, "but I have one who
would be adequate. I cannot tell whether I can bring myself to--I mean
I cannot tell whether he could go; he has duties. It is asking much to
ask any man to set out into Morocco on such an errand. However, I must
think of it; I could at all events send for him and tell him of my
husband--"

M. Fournier interposed quickly: "He knows nothing of Ralph Warriner?"

"He believes my husband dead."

"Then why should he not continue to believe your husband dead?" asked
Fournier, with a sly cunning. "It is Mr. Jeremy Bentham he goes out to
find,--a friend of yours--a relation perhaps--is it not so? We can
keep Ralph Warriner dead for a while longer."

The little man's intention was becoming obvious.

"Why?" asked Miranda, sharply.

"It would be more prudent."

"I don't understand."

Her voice was cold and dangerous.

"A man has one friend, a woman many," explained M. Fournier; "but
there are compensations for the man in that his friend will serve him
for friendship's sake. But a man will not serve a woman for
friendship's sake. Not if he serve her well."

M. Fournier was prepared for an outburst of indignation; he was not
prepared for the expression which came over Miranda's face, and he
could not understand it. She looked at him fixedly and, as it seemed,
in consternation. "That is not true," she said; "it is not true.
Surely, surely it cannot be true."

M. Fournier made no answer. She turned away from him and walked along
the flagged pathway, turned at the end and came slowly back. "A man
will only serve a woman if he cares for her?"

M. Fournier bowed.

"And men can be made to care?"

M. Fournier smiled.

"But it needs time?"

M. Fournier shrugged his shoulders and spread out his hands.

"And it needs tricks?"

M. Fournier made a pun.

"Nature, Madame, has put the tricks in your hand."

Miranda nodded her head once or twice, and made a remark which M.
Fournier was at a loss to apply. "The old question," said she, "and
the old answer;" and at once an irrational anger flamed up within her,
anger with M. Fournier for posing the question again, anger with
herself for her perplexity, anger even against Charnock, because he
did not magically appear in the garden and answer the question and
dissolve her perplexity. But M. Fournier alone was in the garden with
her, and the full force of her anger broke upon him. "I am to throw
out my net," she cried, "and catch my friend! I am to trick him, to
lie to him, and to earn with the lie the use of his life and his
brains and his time and his manhood. How dare you come to me with such
a thought? A coward's thought indeed!"

"The thought of a man who loves his friend," said M. Fournier,
stubbornly; and he continued without any sarcasm: "Your sentiments,
Madame Warriner, are most correct; they do you honour, but I love my
friend."

To his surprise Miranda suddenly smiled at him, and then laughed. "I
was never treated with such absolute disregard in all my life," she
said. "No, don't apologise, I like you for it."

"Then you will do as I propose?" he exclaimed.

Miranda grew serious. "I cannot. If I ask my friend to go upon this
errand, he must know before he goes who it is I ask him to bring back.
I must think what can be done. You will go back to Tangier; perhaps
you may find Ralph there when you return. I will write to you at
Tangier."

M. Fournier had plainly no opinion of her plan; but he saw that he
could not dissuade her. He took the hand which she held out to him,
and returned sorrowfully through the patio to the street.



                              CHAPTER XI

   IN WHICH MIRANDA ADOPTS A NEW LINE OF CONDUCT AND THE MAJOR
      EXPRESSES SOME DISCONTENT


Miranda was left with two convictions, of which she was very certain.
Somehow, somewhither, help must be sent to Ralph; and if Charnock
carried the help, he must know why and for whom before he went.

She stood in the patio until the outer door closed behind M. Fournier.
A local newspaper lying upon a wicker chair caught her eye, and
harassed and unresolved as she was, she turned eagerly for rest to its
commonplaces. She read an anecdote about an unknown politician, and a
summary of Don Carlos's prospects, with extreme care and
concentration; for she knew that her perplexities lay in wait for her
behind the screen of the news sheet, and she was very tired.

She turned over the sheet, and in spite of herself, began to feel at a
third idea. She applied herself consequently to the first paragraph
which met her eye, and read it over with great speed, perhaps ten
times. But the words she read were not the printed words. They were
these:--

"Send me the glove, and when I come up to Ronda, it will be understood
without a word why I have come. There will be no need for me to speak
at all, and you will only have to tell me the particular thing that
wants doing."

And the idea became distinct. She could choose her own time for
telling Charnock the particular thing which wanted doing. He would ask
no questions; he had indeed hit upon that device of the glove to spare
her; she could send the glove, and she could tell him after he had
come in answer, but at her own discretion, why she had sent it.
Therefore she had time--she had time.

She turned to her paragraph again, read it with comprehension, and
from the paragraph her trouble sprang at her and caught her by the
heart. For what she read was the account of the opening of the branch
line to Algeciras. Charnock's work was done, then; he would be leaving
Algeciras. Even at that moment her first feeling was one of
approaching loneliness, so closely had the man crept into her
thoughts. She took a step towards her parlour, stopped, stood for a
moment irresolute, ran up the winding iron staircase to the landing
half-way up the patio, and fetched a new long white kid glove from her
dressing-room. She moulded it upon her hand, soiled it by a ten
minutes' wearing, ripped it across the palm, and sealed it up in an
envelope.

Jane Holt came into the patio while Miranda was still writing the
address.

"What's that?" she asked.

"A sham, Jane, a sham," said Miranda, in a queer, unsteady voice; "a
trick, the first of them."

Jane Holt shook her head. "You are very strange, Miranda," but
Miranda picked up the envelope, and putting on her hat hurried to the
post-office. As she crossed the bridge over the Tajo a man barred her
way. She tried to pass him; he moved again in front of her, and she
saw that the man was Wilbraham.

"I wish to speak to you."

"In ten minutes," said she, "in the Alameda. I have a letter to post."

"The letter can wait," said he.

"If it did, it would never be posted," said she, and she hurried past
him.

The Major followed her with inquisitive eyes; he felt a certain
admiration for her buoyant walk, her tall slight figure, which a white
muslin dress with a touch of colour at the waist so well set off, and
for the pose of her head under the wide straw hat. But business
instincts prevailed over his admiration. He lit a cigarette.

"What is the large sealed letter which must be posted at once, or it
will never be posted at all?" he asked himself. "Why must it be posted
at once?"

He strolled to the Alameda unable to find an answer. In the Alameda,
at the bench before the railings, Miranda was waiting for him. She
rose at once to meet him.

"Why have you come?" she asked. "It is not quarter-day. We made our
bargain. I have kept my part of it."

"Yes," said he. "But it was not a good bargain for me. I underrated my
necessities. I overrated my taste for a quiet life."

"And the Horace?" she asked scornfully. "One of the few things worth
doing, was it not?"

Wilbraham flushed angrily.

"So it is," he said. "But I find it difficult to settle down. I need,
in fact,--do we not all need them?--intervals of relaxation." He spoke
uneasily; he looked even more worn and tired than when he first came
to Ronda. Miranda understood that here indeed was the real tragedy of
the man's life.

"All these years, fifteen years," she said, "you have dreamed of doing
sooner or later this one thing. You have played with the dream. You
have kept your self-respect by means of it. It has set you apart from
your companions. And now, when the opportunity comes, you find that
you were only after all on the level of your companions, lower,
perhaps a trifle lower, by this trifle of delusion. For you cannot do
the work."

Wilbraham did not resent the speech, which was uttered without
reproach or accusation, but in the tone of one who notes a fact which
should have been foreseen.

"A topping fellow Horace, of course," Wilbraham began.

"And I trusted you to do it," she said suddenly, and looked at him for
a moment full in the face, not angrily, but with a queer sort of
interest in the mistake she had made. Then she turned from him and
walked away.

The Major followed quickly, but before he could come up with her she
turned round on him.

"Follow me for one other step," she said, "and I call that guardia
twenty yards away."

She meant to do it, too; this was unmistakable. She resumed her walk,
and the Major thought it prudent to remain where he was. He remained
in fact for some time on that spot, whistling softly to himself.
Wilbraham's menaces had sunk to a complete insignificance in Miranda's
mind, since she had been confronted with the actual positive disaster
which had befallen Ralph Warriner. Wilbraham, however, was not in a
position to trace Miranda's sudden audacity to its true source. He
fell therefore, and not unnaturally, into the error of imagining that
she drew her courage to refuse his demands from some new and external
support. His thoughts went back to the letter which must be posted at
once. Had that letter anything to do with that support? Had it
anything to do with her refusal?

Wilbraham asked himself these questions with considerable uneasiness,
for after all the seven hundred per annum was not so absolutely
assured. He came to the conclusion that it would be wise to transfer
his quarters from Tarifa to Ronda.



                             CHAPTER XII

          THE HERO, LIKE ALL HEROES, FINDS HIMSELF IN A FOG


At eight o'clock the next morning Charnock was crushing the remainder
of his clothes into a portmanteau. A couple of corded trunks stood
ready for the porters, while the manager of the line sat in the window
overlooking Algeciras Bay, and gave him gratuitous advice as to
totally different and very superior methods of packing.

The manager suddenly rose to his feet.

"Here's the P. and O. coming into the bay," he said. "Man, but you
have very little time. I'm thinking you'll miss it."

Charnock raised a flushed face from his portmanteau, and so wasted a
few seconds. He made no effort to catch them up.

"I'm thinking, too, you would not be very sorry to miss it," continued
the manager, sagely. "Though what charms you can discover in
Algeciras, it's beyond my powers to comprehend."

Charnock did not controvert or explain the manager's supposition. He
continued to pack, but perhaps a trifle more slowly than before.

"You have got my address, Macdonald?" he said. "You won't lose it,
will you?"

He shut up the portmanteau and knelt upon it.

"You will forward everything that comes--everything without fail?" he
insisted.

"In all human probability," returned Macdonald, "I will forward
nothing at all. For I am thinking you will lose the boat."

There was a knock on the door; Charnock's servant brought in a letter.
The letter lay upon its face, and the sealed back of the envelope had
an official look.

"Open it, will you, Macdonald?" said Charnock, as he fastened the
straps. "Well, what's it about?"

"I cannot tell. It's written in a dialect I do not understand," said
the manager, gravely, and Charnock, turning about, saw that he dangled
and deliberated upon a long white kid glove.

Charnock jumped up and snatched it away.

"It's a female's," said the manager, sagely.

"It's a woman's," returned Charnock, with indignation.

"You are very young," observed Macdonald. "And I'll point out to you
that you have torn your letter."

Charnock was turning the glove over, and showed the palm at that
moment. He smiled, but made no answer. He folded the glove, wrapped it
in its envelope, took it out again, and smoothed its creases. Then he
folded it once more, held it for a little balanced on his hand, and
finally replaced it in the envelope and hid the envelope in his
pocket.

"Man, but you are _very_ young," remarked Macdonald, "and I'm thinking
that you'll lose--"

"There's a train to Ronda pretty soon?" interrupted Charnock.

"There is," replied Macdonald, drily, "and I'll be particular to mind
your address, and forward everything that comes. Eh, but you have paid
your passage on the P. and O."

Charnock, in spite of that argument, took his seat in the train for
Ronda, and travelled up through the forest of cork trees whose foliage
split the sunshine, making here a shade, there an alley of light. The
foresters were at work stripping the trunks of their bark, and
Charnock was in a mood to make parables of the world, so long as they
fitted in with and exemplified his own particular purposes and plans.
He himself was a forester, and the rough bark he was stripping was
Miranda's distress, so it is to be supposed that the bare tree-trunk
was Miranda herself; and, to be sure, what simile could be more
elegant?

Charnock's dominant feeling, indeed, was one of elation. The message
of his mirror was being fulfilled. He had the glove in his pocket to
assure him of that, and the feel of the glove, of its delicate kid
between his strong fingers, pleased him beyond measure. For it seemed
appropriate and expressive of her, and he hoped that the strength of
his fingers was expressive of himself. But beyond that, it was a call,
a challenge to his chivalry, which up till now, through all his years,
had never once been called upon and challenged; and therein lay the
true cause of his elation.

The train swept out of the cork forest, and the great grass slopes
stretched upwards at the side of the track, dotted with white
villages, seamed with rocks. Charnock fell to marvelling at the apt
moment of the summons. Just when his work was done, when his mind and
his body were free, the glove had come to him. If it had come by a
later post on that same day, he would have been on his way to England.
But it had not; it had come confederate with the hour of its coming.

The train passed into the gorge of tunnels, climbing towards Ronda. He
was not forgetful that he was summoned to help Miranda out of a danger
perhaps, certainly out of a great misfortune. But he had never had a
doubt that the misfortune from some quarter, and at some time, would
fall. She had allowed him on the balcony in St. James's Park to
understand that she herself expected it. He knew, too, that it must be
some quite unusual misfortune. For had she not herself said, with a
complete comprehension of what she said, "If I have troubles I must
fight them through myself"? He had been prepared then for the
troubles, and he was rejoiced that after all they were of a kind
wherein his service could be of use.

At the head of the gorge he caught his first view of Ronda, balanced
aloft upon its dark pinnacle of rock. It was mid-day, and the sun
tinged with gold the white Spanish houses and the old brown mansions
of the Moors; and over all was a blue arch of sky, brilliant and
cloudless. At that distance and in that clear light, Ronda seemed one
piece of ivory, exquisitely carved and tinted, and then exquisitely
mounted on a black pedestal. Charnock was not troubled with any of
Lady Donnisthorpe's perplexities as to why Miranda persisted in making
that town her home. To him it seemed the only place where she could
live, since it alone could fitly enshrine her.

The train wound up the incline at the back of the town and steamed
into the station. Charnock drove thence to the hotel in the square
near the bull-ring, lunched, and asked his way to Mrs. Warriner's
house. He stood for a while looking at the blank yellow wall which
gave on to the street, and the heavy door of walnut wood.

For the first time he began to ponder what was the nature of the peril
in which Miranda stood. His speculations were of no particular value,
but the fact that he speculated at this spot, opposite the house,
opposite the door, was. For, quite unconsciously, his eyes took an
impression of the geometrical arrangement of the copper nails with
which it was encrusted, or rather sought to take such an impression.
For the geometrical figures were so intricate in their involutions
that the eyes were continually baffled and continually provoked.
Charnock was thus absently searching for the key to their
inter-twistings when he walked across the road and knocked. He was
conducted through the patio. He was shown into the small dark-panelled
parlour which overlooked the valley. The door was closed upon him; the
room was empty. A book lay open upon the table before the window.
Charnock stood in front of this table looking out of the window across
to the sierras; so that the book was just beneath his nose. He had but
to drop his eyes and he would have read the title, and known the
subject-matter, of the book, and perhaps taken note or some pencil
lines scored in the margin against a passage here and there, for the
book had been much in Miranda's hands these last few days. But he did
not, for he heard a light step cross the patio outside and pause on
the threshold of the door.

Charnock turned expectantly away from the table. The door, however,
did not open, nor on the other hand were the footsteps heard to
retreat. A woman then was standing, quite silent and quite motionless,
on the other side of that shut door; and that woman, no doubt, was
Miranda. Charnock was puzzled; he, too, stood silent and motionless,
looking towards the door and wondering why she paused there and in
what attitude she stood. For the seconds passed, and there must have
been a lapse of quite two minutes between the moment when the
footsteps ceased and the moment when the door was flung open.

For the door was flung open, noisily, violently, and with a great
bustle of petticoats an unknown woman danced into the room humming a
tune. She stopped with all the signs of amazement when she saw
Charnock. "Oh!" she exclaimed, "why didn't they tell me?" She cast
backwards over her shoulder that glance of the startled fawn which
befits a solitary maid in the presence of a devouring man. Then she
advanced timidly, lowered her eyes, and said: "So you have come to
Ronda, then?"

This unknown woman had paused outside the door, yet she had swung into
the room as though in a great hurry, and had been much surprised to
see her visitor. Charnock was perplexed. Moreover, the unknown woman
wore the semblance of Miranda. She was dressed in a white frock very
elaborate with lace, he noticed; there was a shimmer of satin at her
throat and waist, and to him who had not seen her for these months
past, and who had thought of her as of one draped in black,--since
thus only he had seen her,--she gleamed against the dark panels of the
room, silvered and wonderful.

"So you have come to Ronda?" said she.

"Of course."

She held out her hand with a gingerly manner of timidity, and pressed
his fingers when they touched hers, as though she could not help
herself, and then hastily drew her hand away, as if she was ashamed
and alarmed at her forwardness. Charnock could not but remember a
frank, honest hand-clasp, with which she had bidden him goodbye in
London.

"Is this your first visit to Ronda?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Sure?" She looked at him with her eyebrows raised and an arch glance
of provocation. "Sure you have not come up once or twice just to see
in what corner of the world I lived?"

"No; I have been busy."

Miranda shrugged her shoulders.

"I had no right to expect you would." She pushed out a foot in a
polished shoe beyond the hem of her dress, contemplated it with great
interest, and suddenly withdrew it with much circumstance of modesty.
Then with an involuntary gesture of repugnance which Charnock did not
understand, she went over to the window and stood looking out from it.
From that position too she spoke.

"You promised that night, if you have not forgotten, at Lady
Donnisthorpe's, on the balcony, to tell me about yourself, about those
years you spent in Westminster." And Charnock broke in upon her speech
in a voice of relief.

"I understand," said he.

"What?"

"You," he replied simply.

"Oh, I hope not," she returned; "for when a woman becomes intelligible
to a man, he loses all--liking for her," and she spoke the word
"liking" with extreme shyness as though there were a bolder word with
which he might replace it if he chose. "Is not that the creed?"

"A false creed," said he, and her eyes fell upon the open book. She
uttered a startled exclamation, threw a quick glance at Charnock,
closed the book and covered it with a newspaper.

"Let us go into the garden," said she; "and you shall talk to me of
those years in which I am most interested."

"That I can understand," said he, and she glanced at him sharply,
suspiciously, but there was no sarcasm in his accent. He had hit upon
an explanation of the change in her. She stood in peril, she needed
help, and very likely help of a kind which implied resource, which
involved danger. She knew nothing of him, nothing of his capacity. It
was no more than natural that he should require to know and that she
should sound his years for the knowledge, before she laid him under
the obligation of doing her a service.

He sat down on the chair in which M. Fournier had sat only yesterday.

"It will sound very unfamiliar to you," he said with a laugh. "My
father was vicar of a moorland parish on the hills above Brighouse in
Yorkshire. There I lived until I was twelve, until my father died. He
had nothing but the living, which was poor--the village schoolmaster,
what with capitation grants, was a good deal better off--so that when
he died, he died penniless. I was adopted by a maiden aunt who took me
to her home, a little villa in the south suburbs of London of which
the shutters had never been taken down from the front windows since
she had come to live there three years before."

"Why?" asked Miranda, in surprise.

"She was eccentric," explained Charnock, with a smile, and he resumed.
"Nor had the front door ever been opened. My aunt was afraid that
visitors might call, and, as she truly said, the house was not yet in
order. The furniture, partly unpacked, with wisps of straw about the
legs of the chairs, was piled up in the uncarpeted rooms. For there
was only a carpet down in one room, the room in which we lived, and
since the room was in the front and the shutters were up, we lived in
a perpetual twilight."

"But did the servants do nothing?" exclaimed Miranda.

"There were no servants," returned Charnock. "My aunt said that they
hampered her independence. Consequently of course we made our meals of
tinned meat and bottled stout, which we ate standing up by the kitchen
table in the garden if it was fine. But wet or fine the kitchen table
always stood in the garden."

Here Miranda began to laugh and Charnock joined with her.

"It was a quaint sort of life," said he, "but rather ghostly to a boy
of twelve."

"But you went to school?"

"No, my schooldays were over. I just lived in the twilight of that
house, and through the chinks of the shutters watched people passing
in the street, and lay awake at night listening to the creak of the
bare boards. The house was in a terrace, and since we went to bed as
soon as it grew dark to save the gas, I could hear through the wall
the sounds of people laughing and talking, sometimes too the voices of
boys of my own age playing while I lay in bed. I used to like the
noise at times; it was companionable and told me fairy stories of
blazing firesides. At times, however, I hated it beyond words, and
hated the boys who laughed and shouted while I lay in the dark amongst
the ghostly piles of furniture."

Miranda was now quite serious, and Charnock, as he watched her,
recognised in the woman who was listening, the woman he had talked
with on the balcony over St. James's Park, and not the woman he had
talked with five minutes since.

"Only to think of it," she exclaimed. "I was living then amongst the
Suffolk meadows, and the great whispering elms of the Park, and I
never knew." She spoke almost in a tone of self-reproach as she
clasped her hands together on her knees. "I never knew!"

"Oh, but we had our dissipations," returned Charnock. "We dug potatoes
in the garden, and sometimes we paid a visit to Marshall and
Snelgrove."

"Marshall and Snelgrove!"

"Yes, those were gala days. My aunt would buy the best ready-made
bodice in the shop, which she carried away with her. From Marshall and
Snelgrove's we used to go to Verrey's restaurant, where we dined
amongst mirrors and much gilding, and about nine o'clock we would
travel back to our suburb, creep into the dark house by the back door,
and go to bed without a light. Imagine that if you can, Mrs. Warriner.
The clatter, the noise, the flowers, the lights, of the restaurant,
men and women in evening dress, and just about the time when they were
driving up to their theatres, these people, in whose company we had
dined, we were creeping into the dark, close-shuttered villa of the
bare boards, and groping our way through the passage without a light.
I used to imagine that every room had a man hiding behind the door,
and all night long I heard men in my room breathing stealthily. It was
after one such night that I ran away."

"You ran away?"

"Yes, and hid myself in London. I picked up a living one way and
another. It doesn't cost much to live when you are put to it. I sold
newspapers. I ran errands--"

"You didn't carry a sandwich-board?" exclaimed Miranda, eagerly. "Say
you didn't do that!"

"I didn't," replied Charnock, with some surprise at her eagerness.
"They wouldn't have given a nipper like me a sandwich-board," and
Miranda drew an unaccountable breath of relief. "Finally I became an
office boy, and I was allowed by my employer to sleep in an empty
house in one of the small streets at the back of Westminster Abbey.
There weren't any carpets either in that house, but I was independent,
you see, and I saved my lodging. I wasn't unhappy during those three
years. I understood that very well, when I heard the big clock strike
twelve again on Lady Donnisthorpe's balcony. It was the first time I
had heard it since I lived in the empty house, and heard it every
night, and the sound of it was very pleasant and friendly."

"Then you left London," said Miranda.

"After three years. I was a clerk then; I was seventeen, and I had
ambitions which clerking didn't satisfy. I always had a hankering
after machinery, and I used to teach myself drawing. The lessons,
however, did not turn out very successful, when I put them to the
test."

"What did you do?" asked Miranda.

"I went up North to Leeds. There's a firm of railway contractors and
manufacturers of locomotives. Sir John Martin is the head partner, and
I had seen him once or twice at my father's house, for he took and
takes a great interest in the Yorkshire clergy."

"I see. You went to him and told him who you were," said Miranda,
who inclined towards Charnock more and more from the interest which
she took in a youth so entirely strange, and apart from her own
up-bringing, just as he on his part had been from the first attracted
to her by the secure traditional life of which she was the flower, of
which he traced associations in her simplicity, and up to this day, at
all events, her lack of affectations.

"No," replied Charnock, "it would have been wiser if I had done that;
but I didn't. I changed my name, and applied for a vacancy as
draughtsman. I obtained it, and held the post for three weeks. Why
they suffered me for three weeks is still a mystery, for of course I
couldn't draw at all. At the end of three weeks I was discharged. I
asked to be taken on as anything at thirteen shillings a week. I saw
Sir John Martin himself. He said I couldn't live on thirteen
shillings; I said I could, and he asked me how." Charnock began to
laugh at his own story. "I told him how," he said. "I lived
practically for nothing."

"How?" said Miranda. "Quick, tell me!" Charnock laughed again. "I had
been three weeks at the works, you see, where hands were continually
changing. I lived in a sort of mechanics' boarding-house, and I lived
practically for nothing, on condition that I kept the house full,
which I was able to do, for I got on very well with the men at the
works. Sir John laughed when I told him, and took me into the office.
So there I was a clerk again, which I didn't want to be; however, I
was not a clerk for long. One Sunday Sir John Martin came down to the
boarding-house and asked for me. It was dinner time, and he was shown
straight into the dining-room, where I was sitting, if you please, at
the head of the table, in my shirtsleeves, carving for all I was
worth. He leaned against the door and shook with laughter. 'You are
certain to get on,' he said; 'but I would like a few minutes with you
alone.' I put on my coat, and went out with him into the street. 'Is
your name Charnock?' he asked, and I answered that it was. 'I thought
I knew your face,' said he, 'and that's why I took you into my office,
though I couldn't put a name to you. So if you are proud enough to
think that I took you on your own merits, you are wrong. You might as
well have told me your real name, and saved yourself some time. Look
at that!' and he gave me a newspaper, and pointed out an
advertisement. A firm of solicitors in London was advertising for me,
and the firm, I happened to know, looked after my aunt's affairs. I
went to London that night. My aunt had died sixteen months before, and
had left me six hundred a year. The rest was easy. I took Sir John's
advice. 'Railways,' he said, 'railways; they are the white man's
tentacles;' and Sir John gave me my first employment as an engineer."

Miranda was silent for a long while after Charnock had ended his
story. Charnock himself had nothing further to say. It was for her to
speak, not for him to question. She had sent the glove. She knew why
he had come. Miranda, however, took a turn along the flagged pathway,
and leaned over the breast-high wall and pointed out a vulture above
the valley, and talked in inattentive, undecided tones upon any
impersonal topic. It was natural, Charnock thought, that she should
wish to con over what he had told her. So he rose from his chair.

"Shall I come back to-morrow?" he asked, and she rallied herself to
answer him.

"Will you?" she exclaimed. "I should be so glad," and checking the
ardour of her words, she explained, "I mean of course if you have
nothing better to do," and she examined a flower with intense
absorption, and then looked at him pathetically over her shoulder, as
he moved away. So again he lost sight of the Miranda of the balcony,
and carried away his first impression, that he had met that afternoon
with a stranger.

His fervour of the morning changed to a chilling perplexity. He
wondered at the change in her. Something else, too, seized upon his
thoughts, and exercised his fancies. Why had she stood so long outside
the door before she hurried in with her simulated surprise? How had
she looked as she paused there, silent and motionless? That question
in particular haunted him, for he thought that if only he could have
seen her through the closed door he would have found a clue which
would lead him to comprehend and to justify her.

Absorbed by these thoughts he sat through dinner unobservant of his
few neighbours at the long table. He was therefore surprised when, as
he stood in the stone hall, lighting his cigar, a friendly hand was
clapped down upon his shoulder, and an affable voice remarked:--

"Aha, dear friend! Finished the little job at Algeciras, I saw. What
are you doing at Ronda?"

"What are you?" asked Charnock, as he faced the irrepressible Major
Wilbraham.

"Trying to make seven hundred per annum into a thousand. You see I
have no secrets. Now confidence for confidence, eh, dear friend?" and
his eyes drew cunningly together behind the glowing end of his cigar.

"I am afraid that I must leave you to guess."

"Guessing's not very sociable work."

"Perhaps that's why I am given to it," said Charnock, and he walked
between the stone columns and up the broad staircase.

The Major looked after him without the slightest resentment.

"Slipped up that time, Ambrose, my lad," he said to himself, and
sauntered cheerfully out of the hotel.

Five minutes later Charnock passed through the square at a quick walk.
Wilbraham was meditating a translation of the Carmen Sæculare, but
business habits prevailed with him. He thrust the worn little Horace
into his breast-pocket and followed Charnock at a safe distance. By
means of a skill acquired by much practice, he walked very swiftly and
yet retained the indifferent air of a loiterer. There was another
picture of the tracker and the tracked to be seen that evening, but in
Ronda instead of Tangier, and Charnock was unable to compare it with
its companion picture, since, in this case, he was the tracked. The
two men passed down the hill to the bridge. Charnock stopped for a
little and stood looking over the parapet to the water two hundred and
fifty feet below, which was just visible through the gathering
darkness like a ridge of snow on black soil. Wilbraham halted at the
end of the bridge. It seemed that Charnock was merely taking a stroll.
He had himself, however, nothing better to do at the moment. He waited
and repeated a stanza of his translation to the rhythm of the torrent,
and was not displeased. Charnock moved on across the bridge, across
the Plaza on the farther side of the bridge, up a street until he came
to an old Moorish house that showed a blank yellow wall to the street
and a heavy walnut door encrusted with copper nails.

Then he stopped again and looked steadily at the house and for a long
while. Wilbraham began pensively to whistle a slow tune under his
breath. Charnock walked on, stopped again, looked back to the house,
as though he searched for a glimpse of the lights. But there was no
chink or cranny in that blank wall. The house faced the street, blind,
dark, and repellent.

Charnock suddenly retraced his steps. Wilbraham had just time to mount
the doorsteps of a house as though he was about to knock, before
Charnock passed him. Charnock had not noticed him. Wilbraham descended
the steps and followed Charnock back into the Plaza.

Charnock was looking for a road which he had seen that afternoon from
Miranda's garden, a road which wound in zigzags down the cliff. The
road descended from the Plaza, Charnock discovered it, walked down it;
behind him at a little distance walked Wilbraham. It was now falling
dark, but the night was still, so that Wilbraham was compelled to drop
yet farther and farther behind, lest the sound of his footsteps upon
the hard, dry ground should betray his pursuit. He fell so far behind,
in fact, that he ceased to hear Charnock's footsteps at all. He
accordingly hurried; he did more than hurry, he ran; he turned an
angle of the road and immediately a man seated upon the bank by the
road-side said:--

"_Buenas noches_."

The man was Charnock.

Wilbraham had the presence of mind not to stop.

"_Felices suenos_," he returned in a gruff voice and continued to run.
He ran on until another angle of the road hid him. Then he climbed on
to the top of the bank, which was high, and with great caution doubled
back along the ridge until Charnock was just beneath him.

Charnock was gazing upwards; Wilbraham followed his example, and saw
that right above his head, on the rim of the precipice, an open window
glowed upon the night, a square of warm yellow light empanelled in the
purple gloom.

The ceiling of the room was visible, and just below the ceiling a
gleam as of polished panels. At that height above them the window
seemed very small; its brightness exaggerated the darkness which
surrounded it; and both men looked into it as into a tiny theatre of
marionettes and expected the performance of a miniature play.

All that they saw, however, was a shadow-pantomime thrown upon the
ceiling, and that merely of a tantalising kind--the shadow of a
woman's head and hair, growing and diminishing as the unseen woman
moved away or to the candles. A second shadow, and this too the shadow
of a woman, joined the first. But no woman showed herself at the
window, and Charnock, tiring of the entertainment, returned to his
hotel.

Wilbraham remained to count the houses between that lighted window and
the chasm of the Tajo. He counted six. Then he returned, but not
immediately to the hotel. On reaching the Plaza he walked, indeed,
precisely in the opposite direction, away from the Tajo, and he
counted the houses which he passed and stopped before the seventh.

The seventh was noticeable for its great doors of walnut-wood and the
geometrical figures which were traced upon it with copper nails.

The Major cocked his hat on one side, and stepped out for the hotel
most jauntily. "These little accidents," said he, "a brigantine
sighted off Ushant; a man going out for a walk! If only one has
patience! Patience, there's the secret. A little more, and how much--a
great poet!" And he entered the hotel.

Charnock rose from a bench in the hall, "Pleasant night for a stroll,"
said he.

"Business with me, dear old boy," replied the Major. "I fancy that
after all I have made that seven hundred per annum into a thou. I am
not sure, but I think so. Good-night, sleep well, be good!" With a
flourish of his hand over the balustrade of the stairs, the Major
disappeared.

Charnock sat down again on the bench and reflected.

"Wilbraham's at Ronda. I find him at Ronda when I am sent for to
Ronda. Wilbraham said good-night to me on the road. Wilbraham was
following me; Wilbraham's clothes were dusty: it was Wilbraham who
kicked his toes into the grass on the top of the bank while I sat at
the bottom. Have I to meet Wilbraham? What has his seven hundred per
annum to do with Mrs. Warriner? Well, I shall learn to-morrow," he
concluded, and so went to bed.



                             CHAPTER XIII

               WHEREIN THE HERO'S PERPLEXITIES INCREASE


Charnock, however, learned nothing the next morning, except perhaps a
lesson in patience. For the greater part of his visit was occupied in
extracting a thorn from one of Mrs. Warriner's fingers. They chanced
to be alone in the garden when the accident occurred, and Miranda
naturally came to him for assistance. She said no word about the
glove, nor did he; it was part of the compact that he should be
silent. He came the next day, and it seemed that there was something
amiss with Miranda's hairpins, for the coils of her hair were
continually threatening to tumble about her shoulders; at least, so
she said, complaining of the weight of her hair. But again there was
no mention of the glove. That afternoon Charnock was introduced to
Miss Holt, whom Miranda kept continually at her side, until Charnock
took his leave, when she accompanied him across the patio.

"We never seem to get an opportunity of talking to each other," said
she, with the utmost innocence. "Will you ride with me to-morrow? Say
at two. We might ride as far as Ronda La Viega."

Charnock, who within the last half-hour had begun to consider
whether it would not be wise for him to return to Algeciras, eagerly
accepted the invitation. To-morrow everything would be explained. They
would ride out together, alone, and she would tell him of the dragon
he was required to slay, and no doubt explain why, for these last two
days, she had been marketing her charms. That certainly needed
explanation--for even at this moment in the patio, she was engaged in
kissing a kitten with too elaborate a preparation of her lips to avoid
a suspicion that the pantomime was intended for a spectator.

Charnock was punctual to the minute of his appointment, and in
Miranda's company rode through the town. As they passed the hotel,
Major Wilbraham came out of the doorway. He took off his hat. Charnock
nodded in reply and turned towards Miranda, remembering his suspicions
as to whether Wilbraham was concerned in the mysterious peril which he
was to combat. To his surprise Miranda instantly smiled at the Major
with extreme friendliness, and markedly returned his bow.

"Clever, clever!" muttered the Major, as he bit his moustache and
commended her man[oe]uvre. "A little overdone, perhaps; the bow a
trifle too marked; still, it's clever! Ambrose, you will have that
thousand."

Charnock was perplexed. "How long have you known Wilbraham?" he asked.

Miranda stammered, bent her head, and smiled as it were in spite of
herself.

"A long while," she answered, and then she sighed. "A long while," she
repeated softly. Charnock was exasperated to a pitch beyond his
control.

"If you want to make me believe that you are in love with him," he
returned sharply, almost roughly, "you will fail, Mrs. Warriner. I
should find it hard to believe that he is even one of your friends."

The words were hardly out of his lips before he regretted them. They
insulted her. She was hardly the woman to sit still under an insult;
but her manner again surprised him. He was almost prepared to be sent
curtly to the right about, whereas she made no answer whatever. She
coloured hotly, and rode forward ahead of him until they were well out
of the town and descending the hill into the bottom of the valley.
Then she fell back again by his side, and said: "Why is your face
always so--illegible?"

"Is it?" he asked.

"It's a lid--a shut lid," she said. "One never knows what you think,
how you are disposed." She spoke with some irritation perhaps, but
sincerely, and without any effort at provocation.

"I was not aware," returned Charnock. "You must set it down to habit,
Mrs. Warriner. I was brought up in a hard school, and learned, no
doubt, intuitively the wisdom of reticence."

"Is it always wisdom?" she asked doubtfully, and it seemed a strange
question to come from her whose business it was to speak, just as it
was his to listen. But very likely her doubt was in this instance
preferable to his wisdom. Some word of surprise at the change in her,
perhaps one simple gesture of impatience, would have broken down the
barrier between them. But he had taken the buffets of her provocations
and her advances with, as she truly said, an illegible face.

"Is it always wisdom?" she asked, and she added: "You were not so
reticent when I first met you;" and just that inconsistency between
his bearing at Lady Donnisthorpe's ball, and his inexpressive
composure of these few last days, might have revealed to her at this
moment what he thought, and how he was disposed, had she brought a
cooler mind to consider it. For the man was not chary of expression
when the world went well with him; it was only in the presence of
disappointments, rebuffs, and aversions that his face became a lid.

They left their horses at a farm-house, and climbed up the rough,
steep slope to the windy ridge on which the old Roman town was built.
They sat for a while upon the stones of the old wall, looking across
the great level plain of olive trees, and poplars, and white villages
gleaming in the sunlight. Here was a fitting moment for the story to
be told, Charnock thought, and expected its telling. But he only saw
that Miranda scrutinised his looks, and he only heard her gabbling of
this triviality and that with a feverish vivacity. And no doubt his
face betrayed less than ever what he thought and felt.

"Shall I see you to-morrow?" she asked as they parted that afternoon
outside her door.

"I will come round in the morning after lunch," he replied, and she
uttered a quick little sigh of pleasure, which made Charnock turn his
horse with a sharp, angry tug at the rein, and ride quickly away
across the bridge.

That first impulse to leave Ronda had gone from him. He was engaged,
through his own wish and action, to serve Mrs. Warriner, and he was
resolved to keep the engagement to the letter. But he was beginning to
realise that he should be serving a woman whom in the bottom of his
heart he despised. The message of his mirror became a fable; he
recalled what Miranda herself had suggested, that the look of distress
which he had seen upon the face was due to his chance visit to
_Macbeth_; and certain words which a woman had spoken at Lady
Donnisthorpe's dance as she sat by the window recurred to him.
"There's a coquette" was one phrase which on this particular evening
recurred and recurred to his thoughts.

However, he returned to the house upon the rim of the precipice the
next morning, and being led by a servant through the patio into the
garden, came upon Miranda unawares. She was busy amongst her flowers,
cutting the choicest and arranging them in a basket, and she did not
notice Charnock's appearance. Charnock was well content with her
inattention. For in the quiet grace of her movements, as she walked
amongst her flowers, he caught a glimpse of the Miranda whom he knew,
the Miranda of the balcony. The October sunlight was golden about
them, a light wind tempered its heat, and on the wind were borne
upwards to his ears the distant cries of peasants in the plain below.
He had a view now and then of her face, as she rose and stooped, and
he remarked a gentleness and a simplicity in its expression which had
been foreign to it since he had come to Ronda.

But the expression changed when she saw Charnock standing in the
garden.

"Who do you think I am cutting these flowers for?" she asked with an
intolerable playfulness. "You will never guess."

Charnock stepped over to her side.

"Mrs. Warriner," said he, "will you give me one?"

She looked at him with a whimsical hesitation.

"They are intended for Gibraltar," she said, as she caressed the bunch
which she held--but she spoke with a great repugnance, and the
playfulness had gone from her voice before she had ended the sentence.

"For Gibraltar?" he exclaimed, remembering the gentle look upon her
face as she had culled them. "For whom in Gibraltar? For whom?" He
confronted her squarely; his voice commanded her to answer.

She drew back from him; the colour went from her cheeks; her fingers
were interclasped convulsively; it seemed as though the words she
tried to speak were choking her. But her emotion lasted for no more
than a moment, though for that moment Charnock could not doubt that it
was real. He took a step forwards, and she was again mistress of
herself.

"Yes, I will give you one," she said hurriedly. "I will even fix it in
your button-hole. Will you be grateful if I do? Will you be very
grateful?" Charnock neither answered nor moved. He stood in front of
her with a face singularly stolid. But Miranda's hands touched his
breast, and at the shock of her fingers he drew in his breath, and his
whole body vibrated.

And how it came about neither of them knew, but in an instant the
flowers were on the ground between them, and her hands gripped his
shoulders as they stood face to face and tightened upon them in a
passionate appeal. He read the same passionate appeal in her eyes,
which now frankly looked up to his.

"You don't know," she cried incoherently, "you don't know."

"But I wish to know," he exclaimed, "tell me;" and his arms went about
her waist. She uttered a cry and violently tore and plucked his arms
from her.

"No," she cried, "no, not now," and she heard the latch of the door
click. Charnock heard it too.

"When?" said he, as he stood away, and the door opened and Major
Wilbraham with his hat upon his heart bowed, with great elegance, upon
the threshold. Miranda started. She looked from Charnock to Wilbraham,
from Wilbraham to Charnock.

"So he is one of your friends," said Charnock.

"Have you the right to choose my friends?" she asked, and she greeted
Wilbraham warmly.

The Major seemed very much at his ease. It was the first occasion on
which he had had the effrontery to push his way into the house, but
from his manner one would have judged him a family friend. He waved a
hand to Charnock.

"So you are there, dear old darling boy!" he cried. His endearments
increased with every meeting. "I saw you come in and thought I might
as well call at the same time, eh, Mrs. Warriner? So pleasant, I meet
Charnock everywhere. Destiny will have us friends. That dear Destiny!"
And as Charnock with an ill-concealed air of distaste turned from them
towards the valley, Wilbraham whispered to Miranda, "You need have no
fear. I shall not say a word--unless you force me to."

Miranda drew back. She stood for a moment with her hands clenched, and
her eyelids closed, her face utterly weary and ashamed. Then with a
gesture of revolt she turned towards Charnock.

Instantly the Major stepped in front of her.

"May I beg one?" said he, pointing to the basket of flowers. It was
all very well for him to threaten Miranda that he would tell Charnock
of her husband; but it would not suit his purpose at all for her
actually to tell him on an impulse of revolt against the deception and
the hold he himself had upon her. So he fixed his eyes steadily upon
her face.

"May I beg one?" and he bent towards the stool on which the basket was
set.

"Not of those!" she cried, "not of those!" and she snatched up the
basket and held it close.

"But you shall have one," she continued with a forced laugh, as over
Wilbraham's shoulder she saw Charnock watching them, and she snapped
off some flowers from their stems with her fingers until she held a
bunch. "There! Make your choice, Major. A flower sets off a man."

"Just as a wife sets off a husband, eh, Mrs. Warriner?" returned
the Major, with a sly gallantry, as he fixed the flower in his
button-hole. "Eh, Charnock, did you hear?"

He joined Charnock as he spoke, and Miss Holt coming from the house,
the talk became general. But Charnock noticed that at one moment
Miranda moved carelessly away from the group, and leaning carelessly
over the wall, carelessly dropped down the face of the cliff the whole
bunch of flowers from which Wilbraham had chosen one. As she lifted
her eyes, however, she saw Charnock watching her, and at once and for
the rest of the time during which her guests remained, she made her
court to Wilbraham with a feverish assiduity. She laughed immoderately
at his jokes, she was extremely confused by his compliments, she
displayed the completest deference to his opinions; so that even the
unobservant Miss Holt was surprised.

Charnock was the first to break up the gathering.

"I must be going," he said curtly to Miranda.

"It would almost seem that you were displeased with us," she answered
defiantly.

"I beg your pardon," said he, coldly. "I do not claim the privilege to
be displeased."

"Jolly afternoon," murmured the Major, in a cheery desire to make the
peace, "good company, dear old friends"--and he saw that Miranda was
unmistakably bowing good-bye to himself. He took the hint at once. The
Major was in a very good humour that afternoon, and as the party
walked back to the house, he fell behind to Miranda, who had already
fallen behind.

"Clever, clever," he remarked encouragingly, "to play me off against
the real man. A little overdone perhaps, but clever. I trust I did my
part. We'll make it a thousand per annum."

Miranda quickened her pace and took her leave of her visitors at the
door of the garden. Wilbraham was in no particular hurry to settle his
business; he was quite satisfied for that afternoon, and he entered
genially into conversation with Miss Holt upon the subject of her
grievances.

Thus Miss Holt and Wilbraham crossed the patio and entered the passage
to the outer door. Charnock followed a few steps behind them; and just
after Miss Holt with her companion had entered the passage, while he
yet stood in the patio, he heard a door slam behind him.

He turned, and walked round the tiny group of tamarisks in the centre
of the patio. It was not the door into the garden which had slammed,
because that now stood wide open, whereas he remembered he had closed
it behind him; and the only other door in that side of the house was
the door of Miranda's parlour. He had left Miranda in the garden; it
was plainly she who had slammed the door, and had slammed it upon
herself.

Charnock was alone in the empty patio. It was very quiet; the sunshine
was a steady golden glow upon the tiled floor, upon the tiled walls;
above in the square of blue there was no scarf of cloud. He stood in
the quiet empty patio, and the touch of her fingers tingled again upon
his breast. Again he saw her drop the flowers she had culled for
Wilbraham down the cliff. Amongst his doubts and perplexities those
two recollections shone. They were accurate, indisputable. Her
feverish vivacity, her coquetries, her friendliness to Wilbraham, her
silence towards himself, the basket of flowers for Gibraltar--these
things were puzzles. But twice that afternoon she had been true to
herself, and each time she had betrayed the reality of her trouble and
the reality of her need.

It was very still in the patio. A bee droned amongst the tamarisks. It
seemed to Charnock that, after much sojourning in outlandish corners
of the earth, he who had foreseen his life as a struggle with the
brutality of inanimate things was, after all, here in the still
noonday, within these four walls, to undergo the crisis of his
destiny. He gently turned the handle of the door and entered the room.



                             CHAPTER XIV

            MIRANDA PROFESSES REGRET FOR A PRACTICAL JOKE


He closed the door behind him. Miranda had neither seen nor heard him
enter. She sat opposite to the door, on the other side of the round
oak table, her arms stretched out upon the table, her face buried in
her arms. She was not weeping, and Charnock might have believed from
the abandonment of her attitude that she lay in a swoon, but for one
movement that she made. Her outstretched hands were clasped together
and her fingers perpetually worked, twisting and intertwisting. There
was no sound whatever in the room beyond the ticking of a clock, and
Charnock leaned against the door and found the silence horrible. He
would have preferred it to have been broken if only by the sound of
her tears. All his doubts, all his accusations, were swept clean out
of his brain by the sight of her distress, and, tortured himself, he
stood witness of her torture. He advanced to the table, and leaning
over it took the woman's clasped hands into his.

"Miranda!" he whispered, and again, "Miranda!" and there was just the
same tenderness in his voice, as when he had first pronounced the name
in the balcony over St. James's Park.

Miranda did not lift her head, but her hands answered the clasp of
his. She did not in truth know at that moment who was speaking to her.
She was only sensible of the sympathy of his touch and the great
comfort of his voice.

Charnock bent lower towards her.

"I love you," he said, "you--Miranda."

Then she raised her face and stared at him with uncomprehending eyes.

"I love you," he repeated.

She looked down towards her hands which he still held and suddenly she
shivered.

"I love you," he said a third time.

And she understood. She wrenched her hands away, she stretched out her
arms, she thrust him away from her, in her violence she struck him.

"No, it's not true," she cried, "it's not true!" and so fell to
pleading volubly. "Say that it's not true, now, at once. Say there's
no truth in your words. Say that pity prompted them and only pity,"
and her voice rose again in a great horror. Horror glittered too in
her eyes. "Say that you spoke more than you meant to speak!"

"I can say that," he answered. "When I came into this room I had no
thought of speaking--as I did. But I saw you--I watched your hands,"
and he caught his breath, "and they plucked the truth out from me. For
what I said is true."

"No!" she cried.

"Very true," he repeated quietly.

Her protesting arms fell limply to her sides. She nodded her head,
submitted to his words, acknowledged their justice.

"Yes," she said, "yes. I knew this afternoon. You told me in the
garden, and though I would not know, still I could not but know."

Then she rose from her chair and walked to the window. Charnock did
not speak. He hung upon her answer, and yet dreaded to hear it, so
that when her lips moved, he would have had them still, and when they
ceased to move, he was conscious of a great relief. After a long while
she spoke, very slowly and without turning to face him, words which he
did not understand.

"Love," she said, in a wondering murmur, "is it so easily got? And by
such poor means? Surely, then it's a slight thing itself, of no
account, surely not durable," and at once her calmness forsook her;
she was caught up in a whirl of passion. She raised a quivering face,
and cried aloud in despair: "It's the friend I wanted; I want no
lover!"

"But you have both," returned Charnock. With a hand upon the table he
leaned over it towards her. "You have both."

"Ah!" exclaimed Miranda. With extraordinary swiftness she swung round
and copied his movement. She leaned her hand upon the table, and bent
forward to him. "But to win the one I have had to create the other. To
possess the friend I have had to make the lover," and she suddenly
threw herself back and stood erect. "Well, then," and she spoke with a
thrill in her voice, as though she had this instant become aware of a
new and a true conviction, "I must use neither--I will use neither--I
want neither."

She faced Charnock resolute, and in her own fancy inflexible to any
appeal. Only he made no appeal; he drew his hand across his forehead
and looked at her with an expression of simple worry and bewilderment.

"My ways have lain amongst men, and men, and men," he said
regretfully. "I wish I understood more about women."

The simplicity of his manner and words touched her as no protestations
would have done, and broke down her self-control.

"My dear, my dear!" she cried, with a laugh which had more of tears in
it than amusement, "I am not so sure that we understand so very much
about ourselves;" and she dropped again into the chair and covered her
face with her hands. But she heard Charnock move round the table
towards her, and she dared not risk the touch of his hand, or so much
as the brushing of his coat against her dress. She drew her hands from
her face, held out her arms straight in front of her like bars, and
shrank back in the chair behind the protection of those bars.

"I do not want you," she said deliberately, with a quiet harshness.
"That, at all events, I understand and know. Go! Go away! I do not
want you!" and the words, spoken this time without violence or haste,
struck Charnock like a blow.

He stood dazed. He shook his head, as though it sang from the blow.
Miranda drew in a breath. "Go!" she repeated.

"You do not want me?" he asked, and somehow, whether it was owing to
his tone or his look, Miranda understood from the few words of his
question how much he had built upon the belief that she needed him;
and consequently the reply she made now cost her more than all the
rest to make. "I do not," she managed to say firmly, and dared not
hazard another syllable.

Charnock felt in his breast-pocket, took out an envelope, and from the
envelope a glove. "Yet this was sent to me." He laid the glove upon
the table. "It was sent by you." Miranda took it up. "It contradicts
your words."

Miranda turned the glove over, and stretched it out upon her knees.
"Does it?" she asked, with a slow smile, "does it contradict my
words?"

"You sent it to me?"

"No doubt."

"You summoned me by sending it."

"Surely."

"For some purpose, then?"

"Ah, but for what purpose?" said she, leaning forwards in her chair.
The cold smile was still upon her face, and seemed to Charnock
unfriendly as even her violence had not been. It had some cruelty too,
and perhaps, too, some cunning.

"For what purpose? You should know. It is for you to say," he answered
in a dull, tired voice. He had built more upon this unneeded service
than he himself had been aware.

"I will tell you," continued Miranda. "You have talked to my companion
Miss Holt?"

"Yes."

"She has no very strong faith in men. Perhaps you noticed as much."

"No."

"I did not agree with her. I had the glove. It would be--amusing to
know whether she was right or whether I was. I sent it to you."

"Just to prove whether I should keep my word or not?"

"Yes," said Miranda.

"Just for your amusement, in a word?"

"Amusement was the word I chose."

"I see, I see." His voice was lifeless, his face dull and stony.
Miranda moved uneasily as she watched him; but he did not notice her
movement or regard her with any suspicion. His thoughts and feelings
were muffled. He seemed to be standing somewhere a long way outside
himself and contemplating the two people here in the room with a deal
of curiosity, and with perhaps a little pity; of which pity the woman
had her share with the man. "I see," he continued. "It was all a
sham?"

Miranda glanced at him, and from him to the glove. "Even the glove was
a sham," she said quickly. "Look at it."

He bent down and lifted it from her knees. Then he drew up a chair to
the table, sat down, and examined the glove. Miranda hitched her chair
closer to the table, too, and propping her elbows there, supported her
chin upon her hands.

"You see that the glove is fresh," she said.

"It has been worn," answered Charnock. "The fingers have been shaped
by wearing."

"It was worn by me for ten minutes in this room the day I posted it to
you."

"But the tear?" he asked with a momentary quickening of speech.

"I tore it."

"I see." He laid the glove upon the table. "And the other glove--the
one you wore that night--the one I tore upon the balcony over St.
James's Park? It was you I met that night in London? Or wasn't it?"

The question was put without any sarcasm, but with the same dull
curiosity which had marked his other questions, and on her side she
answered it simply as she had answered the others. "Yes, it was I whom
you met, and the glove you speak of was thrown away."

It seemed that he had come to the end of his questions, for he sat for
a little, drumming with his fingers on the table. Once he looked up
and towards the window, as though his very eyes needed the relief of
the wide expanse of valley.

"Now will you go? Please," said Miranda, gently, and the next moment
regretted that she had spoken.

"Oh, yes, I will go," he answered. "I will go back to Algeciras, and
from Algeciras to England." He was not looking at her, and so noticed
nothing of the spasm of pain which for a second convulsed her face at
his literal acceptation of her prayer. "But before I go, tell me;" and
the questions began again.

"You say you need no one?"

"No one."

"Then why did you cry out a minute ago, 'It's the friend I want,
not the lover'? You were not amusing yourself then. Why, too, did
you--this afternoon in the garden, perhaps you remember--when the
flowers fell on to the ground between us? Neither were you amusing
yourself then."

Miranda drew the glove away from where it lay in front of him;
absently she began to slip it over her hand, and then becoming aware
of what she did, and of certain associations with that action at this
moment, she hurriedly stripped it off.

"Perhaps I have no right to press you," he said; "but I should like to
know."

Miranda spread the glove out on the table, and carefully divided and
spread out the fingers. "I will tell you," she said at length, with
something of a spirt in the quickness of her speech. "I am still
capable of remorse, though very likely you can hardly believe that. Do
you remember," she began to speak with greater ease, "when we rode out
to Ronda La Viega, I asked you why you never expressed what you felt?
I was then beginning to be afraid that you would take my--my trick too
much to heart--that you would really think I needed you. My fear
became certain this afternoon, when I--I was putting the flower in
your coat. I was sorry then, as you saw when you came into the room. I
was yet more sorry when you spoke to me as you did, for I thought that
if you hadn't cared, if you had never intended to be more than my
friend, the trick would not have mattered so much. And that was just
what I meant, when I said it was the friend I wanted, not the lover."

Charnock listened to the explanation, accepted it and put it away in
his mind.

"I see," he remarked, and her bosom rose and fell quickly. "All this
time you have been just playing with me as you played with Wilbraham
this afternoon."

"Just in the same way," she returned without flinching.

"Ah, but you dropped his flower down the cliff," he exclaimed
suddenly.

"You forget that yours had already fallen on to the ground."

"Yes, that's true," and the suspicion died out of his face. "And that
basket of flowers?" he asked.

This time, and for the first time since the questions had begun,
Miranda did flinch. She had a great difficulty in answering, "It has
already been sent off."

"To Gibraltar?" Miranda's difficulty increased. "To whom at Gibraltar?
A friend, a man?"

Miranda's face grew very white; she tried to speak and failed; her
throat, her lips, refused the answer. "At all events," she managed to
whisper hoarsely, "not to a woman," and thereupon she laughed most
mirthlessly, till the strange, harsh, strangled noise of it penetrated
as something unfamiliar to Charnock's dazed mind.

"I beg your pardon," he said; "I was forgetful. I had no right to ask
you," and he rose from his chair. She rose too. "I am glad," he
continued with a formal politeness, "that you do not after all stand
in need of anyone's help."

"Oh, no," she replied carelessly, "no one's;" and almost before she
was aware, he was holding her wrists, one in each of his hands, and
with his eyes he was searching her face, silently interrogating her
for the truth. Once before, upon the balcony, he had bidden her in
just this way answer him, and now, as then, she found herself under a
growing compulsion to obey.

"You hurt me," she had the wit to say, and instantly Charnock released
her wrists.

"I beg your pardon," said he, and he walked to the door. At the door
he turned. "Tell me," he said abruptly, "you dropped your glove--not
that one on the table, but the other--just as you stepped out on to
the balcony?"

"Yes," she answered, and wondered what was coming.

"Was that an accident?"

Miranda stepped back and lowered her head.

"You remember everything," she murmured.

"Was it an accident?"

"You are unsparing."

"Was it an accident?"

"No."

"It was a trick, a sham like all the rest?"

"Just like all the rest," said Miranda, wearily.

"I see," said Charnock. "Good-bye."

He went out of the room and closed the door behind him.

It was very quiet and still in the patio. In the square of blue sky
there was no cloud; the sunshine poured into the court, only in one
corner there was a shadow climbing the wall, where there had been no
shadow when he entered the room. He vaguely wondered what the time
was, and then someone laughed. Someone above him. He looked up. Jane
Holt was leaning over the railing of the balcony.

He made some sort of remark; and he gathered from her reply that he
had been asking why she laughed.

"Why did I laugh?" she said. "Do you believe in affinities?"

"No," he rejoined. "Why?"

She descended the stairs as she answered him.

"I saw you standing in the doorway there with your hand on your
throat, breathing hard and quick, and altogether a very tragical
picture."

Charnock was not aware whether the details were true or not. "Well?"
he asked.

"Well," she replied. "Do you remember the afternoon you came here? I
was in that lounge chair. You were shown into the parlour. You did not
notice me. Neither did Miranda when she followed you. But she stopped
on the threshold."

"Yes, I remarked it. She stopped for some while. Well?"

"Well, she stood just as you were standing a minute ago, in that
precise attitude, with her hand to her throat, breathing hard and
quick, and with a face not less tragical."

Charnock's face now at all events ceased to look tragical. Jane Holt
saw it brighten extraordinarily. Miranda, had she been there, would
not at this moment have complained of its lack of expression.

"That's true?" he asked eagerly. "What you tell me is true? She stood
here, and in that attitude?"

"Yes."

"That's the one point unexplained. I forgot to ask. She did not refer
to it. She stood here breathing hard and quick, you say, before she
entered the room--with all that appearance of surprise--she stood
here! Mere remorse does not account for that, does not account for her
manner. On her own showing it cannot account, since the remorse was
only felt this afternoon. There _is_ something more." He was talking
enigmas to Miss Holt, who went into the parlour and left him in the
patio to talk to himself if he would. She was not greatly interested
in his relationship towards Miranda. However, Charnock was not the
only person to talk enigmas to her that afternoon. She found Miranda
standing just as Charnock had left her. Miranda remained standing,
with any absent answer to Jane Holt's remarks, until the big
outer-doors clanged to, and made the house tremble.

Then she started violently. The sound of those doors shook her as no
word or look of Charnock's had done. Her ears magnified it. It seemed
to her that the doors swung to from the east and from the west, clean
across the world, shutting Charnock upon the one side, and herself
upon the other. It seemed to her too that as they clanged together,
her heart was caught and broken between them.

"You were wrong, Jane," she said. "There are men who would be friends
if we would only let them. Possibly we always find it out too late; I
only found it out this afternoon." The clock struck the hour as she
was speaking. "Four o'clock; the train for Algeciras leaves at
six-fifteen," she said.



                              CHAPTER XV

         IN WHICH THE MAJOR LOSES HIS TEMPER AND RECOVERS IT


All that evening Miranda's imagination followed the 6.15 train from
Ronda to Algeciras. She looked at the clock at half-past ten. The
ferry would be crossing from Algeciras to Gibraltar, and no doubt
Charnock was crossing upon it. She felt a loneliness of which she had
never had experience. And when she woke up in the morning from a
troubled sleep, it was only to picture some stately mail steamer
marching out from Algeciras Bay. She was conscious to the full of the
irony of the situation. If she had only met this man years ago, seven
years ago--that regret was a continual cry at her heart, and not the
least part of her loneliness was made up from her clear remembrance of
the picture of herself which she had given him to carry away.

She ordered her horse to be brought round early that morning, and rode
out past the hotel a few minutes before nine. Major Wilbraham saw her
pass. He was down betimes as a rule when he stayed in a hotel, since
it was his habit, as often as possible, to look over the letters which
came for the different visitors. The mere postmark he had known upon
occasion to give him quite valuable hints. There was only, however, a
telegram for Charnock, which he genially offered to deliver himself
and did deliver, running into Charnock's bedroom for that purpose.
Charnock thanked him and read the telegram. It seemed to raise his
spirits.

"Good news, old friend?" asked the Major.

"Well--interesting news," replied Charnock, as he lathered his face.

"Well, you shall give me it another time," said the Major, as he saw
Charnock put the telegram in his pocket. "So long!"

The Major went downstairs and kept an eye upon the road. At ten
o'clock he noticed Miranda returning slowly. He put on his hat and
followed her. When he reached the house the horse was still at the
door, but Miranda had gone in. He observed that Charnock was
hesitating upon the other side of the road. Charnock was in fact
debating his plan of action; the Major's was already prepared. The
door stood open. Wilbraham put ceremony upon one side, the more
readily since ceremony would very likely have barred the door in his
face. He walked straight into the patio where Miranda stood before a
little wicker table drawing off her gloves.

"Had a pleasant ride?" said the Major. "Nice horse; I am partial to
roans myself--"

"What do you want?" asked Miranda.

"To so uncompromising a question, I must needs give an uncompromising
reply. I want one thousand jimmies per annum," and the Major bowed
gracefully.

"No," said Miranda.

"But excuse me, yes, very much yes. You see, there is my excellent
young friend, the locomotive-man."

"Can't you keep his name out of the conversation?" she suggested, but
with a dangerous quietude of voice.

"Indeed no," replied the Major, who was entirely at his ease. He
looked sympathetically at her face. "You look pale; you have not slept
well; you are tired, and so you do not follow me. Charnock is my God
of the machine, a blind unconscious God--shall we say a Cupid, but a
Cupid in the machine? Let me explain! May I be seated? No? So sorry!
On the first night of Charnock's stay at Ronda, I had the honour to
follow him while he took a stroll."

"You followed him unseen, of course?" said Miranda, contemptuously, as
she tossed her gloves on to the wicker table.

"You take me, you take me perfectly," returned the Major. "I followed
him unseen, a habit of mine, and at times a very profitable habit.
Charnock walked--whither? Can you guess? Can't you tell?" He hummed
with unabashed impertinence. "He walked down a certain road which
winds down the precipice under your windows. Ah!"--he uttered the
exclamation in a playful raillery, for Miranda's hand had gone to her
heart; "he walked down that road until he came to an angle from which
he could see your lighted window."

"Show me," said Miranda, suddenly. She walked round the patio, threw
open the door of her parlour, and crossed to the window. The window
was open, and the Major looked out. The window was in the outer wall
of the wing, and was built on the very rim of the precipice. Wilbraham
looked straight down on to the road.

"That was the angle, Mrs. Warriner," said he, pointing with his
finger. "By that heap of stones he sat him down." Mrs. Warriner leaned
out of the window with something of a smile parting her lips. "At the
bottom of the bank he sat and aspired. Little Ambrose reclined on the
top."

Miranda turned from the window abruptly. "Let us go back." She
returned to the patio and took her former position by the wicker
table. Wilbraham, upon the other side of it, faced her.

"We could only see the ceiling of the room," he continued, "and the
shadow of your head. But so little contents an amorous engineer. He
sighed, and what a sigh, and yet how typical! So hoarse it seemed the
whistle of an engine; so deep, it surely came from a cutting. He went
home singing beneath the stars. He did not tread the ground. How
should he? Love was his permanent way."

Miranda had listened so far without interruption, though the Major,
had he been less pleased with his flowery description, might have
noticed something ominous in the still depths of her dark eyes. "Mr.
Wilbraham," she said, "there is a little wicker table between us."

"I see it."

"And on the table?"

"A pair of gloves."

"Not only a pair of gloves."

"Ah true! A riding-whip."

"I was sure that you had not noticed it before."

The Major picked it up and examined the mounting of the handle. "It is
very pretty," he remarked with emphasis, and laid it down again. "As I
was about to say,"--he proceeded with his argument,--"I thus obtained
on the night of Charnock's arrival a very clear knowledge of his
sentiments towards you, while you, on the other hand, have been
obliging enough to favour me with some hint of your own towards him,
not merely this morning, when you asked me to point out the precise
point of the road from which he worshipped your window, but yesterday
when, in order to give an impetus to his bashfulness, you ingeniously
courted myself. If I were, then, at all disposed to make
unpleasantness, you see that all I have to do is to walk out of your
house and inform the trustful Charnock that Mrs. Warriner is carefully
concealing the existence of her husband from the man with whom she is
in love."

Miranda took up the riding-whip. The Major did not give ground. If
anything, he leaned a little towards her. His eyebrows drew together
until they joined; his bird-like eyes narrowed.

"Drop it! Drop that whip," he commanded sharply. "I warn you, Mrs.
Warriner. I have dealt with you gently, though you are a woman; be
prudent. What if I took the gloves off? Eh?"

"You would place me in a better position," replied Miranda, who still
held the whip, "to point out to you that your hands are not clean."

Wilbraham stepped back, stared at her, and burst into a laugh. "I will
never deny that you are possessed or an admirable spirit," said he.

"I would rather have your threats than your compliments," said she.
"For your threats I can answer with threats; I cannot do the same with
your compliments."

"Threat for threat, then," said the Major; "but there's a difference
in the threats. You cannot put yours into practice since I have my
eyes upon the whip, whereas I can mine."

"Can you?" said Miranda, with a suspicion of triumph.

"I can," returned the Major. "I can walk straight out of your house
and tell Luke Charnock," and he banged his hand upon the table and
leaned over it. "Now what do you say?"

"I say that you cannot, for Mr. Charnock is at Gibraltar, if he is not
already on the sea."

"Mr. Charnock is at Ronda, and contemplating the ornaments of your
door at this very moment," said the Major, triumphantly.

But never did a man get less visible proofs of his triumph. Miranda,
it is true, was evidently startled; her bosom rose and fell quickly;
but she was pleasurably startled, as her face showed. For it cleared
of its weariness with a magical swiftness, the blood pulsed warmly in
her cheeks, her eyes sparkled and laughed, her contemptuous lips
parted in the happiest of smiles.

Wilbraham construed her reception of his news in his own fashion.

"You may smile, my lady," said he, brutally. "It's gratifying no doubt
to have your lover hanging about your doors, a wistful Lazarus for the
crumbs of your favour. It's pleasant no doubt to transform a man into
a tame whipped puppy-dog. There's not one of you, from Eve to a modern
factory-girl, but envies Circe her enchantments, and imitates them to
the best of her ability. Circes--Circes in laced petticoats and
open-worked stockings--to help you in the dainty work of making a man
a beast." The Major's vindictiveness had fairly got hold of him. "But
in the original story, if you remember, the men resumed their shape;
now what if I play Ulysses in our version of the story!--" There was a
knock upon the outer door. The Major paused, and continued hurriedly:
"Do you understand? That knock may have been Charnock's. Do you
understand? He may be entering the house at this moment."

"He is," said Miranda, quietly.

The Major listened. He distinctly heard Charnock's voice speaking to
the servant; he dropped his own to a whisper. "Then what if I told
him, your lover, now and here, the truth about Ralph Warriner?"

"You shall," said Miranda.

Major Wilbraham was completely taken aback. She had spoken in no gust
of passion, but slowly and calmly. Her face, equally calm, equally
resolute, showed him that she intended and understood what she had
said. The Major was in a predicament. The drawback to blackmailing as
a profession is that the blackmailer's secret is only of value so long
as he never tells it, his threats only of use so long as they are
never enforced; and here he was in imminent danger of being compelled
to tell his secret and execute his threat. If Charnock knew the truth,
he would certainly lose his extra three hundred per annum. Moreover,
since Charnock was a man, and not a woman, he would very likely lose
his original seven hundred into the bargain. These reflections flashed
simultaneously into the Major's mind; but already he heard Charnock's
step sounding in the passage. "I don't wish to push you too far," he
whispered. "Tomorrow, to-morrow."

"No, to-day," said Miranda, quietly. "You shall tell my lover the
truth about Ralph Warriner, and to help you to tell it him
convincingly you shall tell it with this mark across your face."

Charnock did not see the blow struck, but he heard Wilbraham's cry,
and as he entered the patio, he saw the wheal redden and ridge upon
his face. He stood still for a second in amazement. Wilbraham had
reeled back from the table against the wall, with his coat-sleeve
pressed upon his smarting cheeks. Miranda alone seemed composed. There
was indeed even an air of relief about her; for she was at last to be
lightened of the deception.

"Major Wilbraham," she said as she dropped the whip upon the table and
walked away to a lounge chair, "Major Wilbraham,"--she seated herself
in the chair as though she was to be henceforward a spectator,--"Major
Wilbraham has a confidence to make to you," she said.

"And by God I have!" snarled the Major as he started forward. It would
be told for a certain thing, either by Mrs. Warriner or himself, and
since the slash of the whip burned intolerably upon his face, he meant
to do the telling himself.

"That woman's husband is alive."

Charnock's face was a mask. He did not start; he did not even look at
Miranda; only he was silent for some seconds. Then he said, "Well?"
and said it in a quite commonplace, ordinary voice, as though he
wondered what there was to make any pother about.

Miranda was startled, the Major utterly dumbfoundered. His blow had
seemingly failed to hurt, and his anger was thereby redoubled.

"A small thing, eh?" he sneered. "A husband more or less don't matter
in these days of the sacred laws of passion? Well, very likely. But
this husband is a peculiar sort of a husband. He slipped out of
Gibraltar one fine night. Why? Because he had sold the plans of the
new Daventry gun to a foreign government, being stony."

"Well?" said Charnock, again.

"Well, I know where he is."

"Well?" asked Charnock, for the third time, and with an unchanged
imperturbability.

Wilbraham suddenly ceased from his accusations. He looked at Miranda,
who was herself looking on the ground, and gently beating it with her
foot. From Miranda he looked to Charnock. Then he uttered a long
whistle, as if some new idea had occurred to him. "So you are both in
the pretty secret, are you?" he said, and stopped to consider how that
supposition affected himself. His hopes immediately revived. "Why,
then, you are both equally interested in keeping it dark! I can't say
but what I am glad, for I can point out to you precisely what I have
pointed out to Mrs. Warriner. I have merely to present myself at
Scotland Yard, observe that Ralph Warriner is alive, and mention a
port in England where he may from time to time be found, and--do you
follow me?--there is Ralph Warriner laid by the heels in a place which
not even a triple-expansion locomotive, with the engineer from
Algeciras for the driver, will get him out of."

"And how does that concern me?" asked Charnock.

"The consequences concern you. It will be known, for instance, that
Mrs. Warriner has a real live husband."

"I see," said Charnock. He looked at Wilbraham with a curious
interest. Then he spoke to Miranda, but without looking towards her at
all. "It is blackmail, I suppose?"

"Yes," said she.

"It is a claim for common gratitude," Wilbraham corrected.

"What's the price of the claim?" asked Charnock, pleasantly.

"One thousand jimmies per annum is the minimum figure," replied the
Major, whose jauntiness was quite restored. Since his affairs
progressed so swimmingly towards prosperity, he was prepared to
forgive, and, as soon as his looking-glass allowed, to forget that
hasty slash of the riding-whip.

"And up till now how much have you received?" continued Charnock, in
the same pleasant business-like voice.

"A beggarly two hundred and fifty."

"Then if for form's sake you will give Mrs. Warriner an I O U for that
amount she can wish you good-day."

Wilbraham smiled gaily, and with some condescension. "Is it bluff?"
said he. "Where's the use? My dear Charnock, I have a full hand,
and--"

"My dear Major," replied Charnock, "I hold a royal straight flush."

He produced a telegram from his pocket. The Major eyed it with
suspicion. "Is that the telegram I brought into your room this
morning?"

"It is. To keep up your metaphor, you dealt me my hand. Do you call
it?"

The Major cocked his head. Charnock's ease was so very natural; his
good temper so complete. Still, he might be merely playing the game;
besides, one never knew what there might be in a telegram. "I do," he
said.

"Very well," said Charnock. He sat down upon a chair, and spread out
the telegram on his knee. "You talk very airily, Major, of dropping in
upon Scotland Yard. Would it surprise you to hear that Scotland Yard
would welcome you with open arms, for other reasons than a mere
gratitude for your information?"

The Major was more than disappointed; he confessed to being grieved.
"I expected something more subtle, I did indeed. Really, my dear
Charnock, you are a novice! Sir, a novice."

"But a novice with a royal straight flush. Major, why have you been
living for four months at an out-of-the-way and unentertaining place
like Tarifa?"

"I will answer you with frankness. I wished to keep my fingers upon
Mrs. Warriner. An occasional tweak of the fingers, dear friend, is
very useful if only to show that you are awake."

"Was that the only reason?"

"No," interposed Miranda. "He wanted quiet; he is translating Horace."

The Major actually blushed, for the first and last time that morning.
Accusations, even proofs of infamy, he could accept without a stir of
the muscles; but to be charged, perhaps to be ridiculed, with his one
honourable project--the Major was hurt.

"A little mean!" he said gently to Miranda. "You will agree with me
when you think it over. A little mean!"

"But there was a third reason beyond those two," resumed Charnock.
"When I saw you dining at the hotel on the night of my arrival, when I
remembered that you had been living for four months at Tarifa, where
from time to time I had the pleasure to come across you, I began, for
reasons which there's no need to explain, to wonder whether you were
causing any trouble to Mrs. Warriner. That night, too, if you
remember, when I went for a stroll"--here Charnock faltered for a
second, and Miranda looked quickly up--"you followed me, Major. When I
sat down at the foot of the bank, you crouched upon the top. You made
a mistake there, Major, for I at once thought it wise to learn what I
could of your history and character. I accordingly wrote a letter that
night to a friend of mine, who also happens to be an official at
Scotland Yard. His answer, you see, comes by telegraph, and you will
see that a reply is prepaid."

He handed the telegram to the Major. The Major read it through and
glanced anxiously towards the door, taking up his hat from the table
at the same time.

"I think so, too," said Charnock.

"What does the telegram say?" asked Miranda.

"Nothing definite, but every word of it is suggestive," answered
Charnock. "I asked my friend if he knew anything of Major Ambrose
Wilbraham. He wires me: 'Yes. Is he at Ronda?' and prepays the reply.
If there's a warrant already issued, Major, I don't think I should
waste time, but you of course are the best judge."

"Did you answer it?" asked the Major.

"I have not answered it yet. Do you think Scotland Yard will wait for
an answer? It does not interest me very much. The one point which does
interest me is this. You are hardly in a position to enter into
communication with Scotland Yard in order to revenge yourself on Mrs.
Warriner for not paying you blackmail."

Major Wilbraham tugged at his moustache. His jauntiness had vanished,
and his face had grown very sombre and tired during the last few
minutes.

"I get nothing, then?"

"Not one depreciated Spanish dollar."

There was a knock at the door. The Major started; he looked from
Charnock to Miranda, his mouth opened, his eyes widened, he became at
once a creature scared and hunted. The door was opened; the three
people in the patio held their breath; but it was merely the postman
with a letter for Miranda.

"I must get out of here," said Wilbraham. "I must get out of Ronda. My
God, I have to begin it again, have I--the hunt for breakfast and
dinner?"

He showed a dangerous face at that moment. His lips were drawn back
from his teeth, his eyes furtive and murderous. Miranda felt very glad
of Charnock's presence.

However, the Major mastered himself. He might have taken some sort of
revenge by insulting Miranda, on account of her disposition towards
Charnock; but he did not, and it was not fear of Charnock which
restrained him.

"I go back to the regiment, Mrs. Warriner," he said, "the regiment of
the soldiers of fortune. I have had my furlough--four months'
furlough. I cannot complain." He endeavoured to speak gaily and to bow
with grace.

"Good-bye," said Charnock.

Miranda was implacably silent.

"And they call women the softer sex," said the Major.

"One moment," exclaimed Miranda, taking no notice of his remark. "Mr.
Wilbraham has a letter from my husband about the Daventry gun."

"It is mine," answered the Major; "it was written to me."

"I will buy it," said Charnock.

"For a thousand--?"

"No; for permission to answer this prepaid telegram to Scotland Yard."

"In your name?"

"In my name."

"You're not a bad fellow, Charnock," said the Major as he drew out his
pocket-book. He handed the letter to Charnock, looked at him
curiously, and then laughed softly, without malice.


                "O lover of my life! O soldier-saint!"


he quoted. "A great poet, what? Do you know Ralph Warriner? Will you
play Caponsacchi to his Guido? You might; very likely you will." The
Major took the reply form and turned away.

"It is not always a profitable habit, it seems," said Miranda, "that
habit of following."

"A little mean!" said the Major, gently. "Perhaps, too, a little
overdone," and as he went out of the patio Miranda flushed and felt
ashamed. Then the flush faded from her cheeks and left her white, for
she was alone with Charnock and had to make her account with him.



                             CHAPTER XVI

        EXPLAINS WHY CHARNOCK SAW MIRANDA'S FACE IN HIS MIRROR


Miranda rose nervously from her chair. She made an effort to speak,
which failed, and then yielding to a peremptory impulse she ran away.
It was only, however, into her parlour that she ran, and thither
Charnock followed her. She stood up rather quickly in the farthest
corner of the room as soon as he entered, drew a pattern with her foot
upon the floor, and tried to appear entirely at her ease. She did not
look at Charnock, however; on the contrary she kept her eyes upon the
ground, and felt very much like a school-girl who is going to be
punished.

"Your husband is alive." Charnock's voice was cold and stern. Miranda
resented it all the more because she knew she deserved nothing less
than sternness. "Did you," he continued, "learn that from Wilbraham
for the first time this morning?"

"No," she answered, and since she had found her voice, she added
rebelliously, "No, teacher," and was at once aware that levity was not
in the best of taste. Charnock perhaps was not at that moment in a
mood for jocularities.

"How long have you known that your husband was alive?" he asked.

"Five months," she answered.

"Who told you?"

"You."

There was a moment's pause. Miranda's foot described more figures on
the floor, and with great assiduity.

"I beg your pardon," said Charnock. "It is very humorous, no doubt,
but--"

"It is true," interrupted Miranda. "If I had wished to evade you, to
deceive you, I should have answered that Mr. Wilbraham brought me the
news this morning."

"I should have disbelieved it."

"You could not at all events have disproved it. You would have had not
a single word to say." She raised her eyes now and confronted him
defiantly.

"Yes," said Charnock, "I admit that," and a great change came over
Miranda. She stepped out of her corner. She raised her arms above her
head like one waking from sleep. "But I have had my fill of
deceptions. I am surfeited. Ask what you will, I'll answer you, and
answer you the truth. And for one thing, this is true: you told me
Ralph Warriner was alive, that night, at Lady Donnisthorpe's."

"I told you? On the balcony?"

"No, before. In the ball-room. You described him to me. You quoted his
phrases. You had seen him that very morning. He was the stranger you
quarrelled with in the streets of Plymouth."

"And you knew him from my description!" cried Charnock. All the anger
had gone from his face, all the coldness from his voice. "I remember.
Your face grew so white in the shadow of the alcove I should have
believed you had swooned but for the living trouble in your eyes. Your
face became through its pallor and distress the face which I had seen
in my mirror. Oh, that mirror and its message!" He broke into a harsh
bitter laugh, and seating himself at the table, beat upon his forehead
with his clenched fists. "A message of appeal! A call for help! Was
there ever such a fool in all the world? Here's one woman out of all
the millions who needs my help, I was vain enough to think, and the
first thing, the only thing that I did, was to tell her that her
outcast bully of a husband was still alive to bully her. A fine way to
help! But I guessed correctly even that night. Yes, even on that night
I was afraid that I had revealed to you some misfortune of which you
were unaware. Oh, why wasn't I struck dumb before I spoke? But you
could not have been sure from my description," he cried eagerly,
grasping in his remorse at so poor a straw as that subterfuge. "For
men are not all unlike, and they use the same phrases. You could not
have been certain. You must have had some other proof before you were
convinced."

"Yes, that is true."

"And that other proof you got from someone else?" he said, and his
voice implored her to assent.

Miranda only shook her head. "I promised to speak nothing but the
truth. I got that other proof from you."

"No, no," he exclaimed. "Let me think! No, I told you nothing else but
just my meeting with the man, my quarrel with him."

"Yes," said Miranda. "You told me how you woke up from dreaming of
Ralph, and saw my face in your mirror. Don't you see? There is the
convincing proof that the man you described to me, the man you
quarrelled with, the man you dreamed of, was Ralph, for when you woke
with that dream vivid in your mind, you saw my face vivid in your
mirror. You yourself were at a loss to account for it, you had never
so much as thought of me during the seven years since--since our eyes
met at Monte Carlo. You could not imagine why on that particular
night, after you had dreamed of someone else, unassociated with me, my
face should have come back to you. But it was no mystery to me. The
man you dreamed of was not unassociated with me; it was my husband,
and the husband recalled to you the wife, by an unconscious trick of
memory."

"But I did not know he was your husband," cried Charnock. "I had never
seen him with you; I had never seen him at all before that day I
quarrelled with him in the streets of Plymouth."

"You had," answered Miranda, gently. "He was with me that night at
Monte Carlo seven years ago. We were on our honeymoon," she added,
with a queer melancholy smile.

Charnock remembered the look of happiness upon her young face, and
compared it with the tired woman's face which he saw now. "He was with
you!" he exclaimed.

"Yes. You forgot us both. You met him again; you did not remember that
you had ever seen him, but none the less, the memory was latent in
you, and recalled me to you too. You could not trace the association,
but it was very clear to me."

"Wait, wait!" said Charnock. He sat with his elbows on the table and
the palms of his hands tightly pressed upon his eyes. "I can see you,
as clearly as I saw you then at Monte Carlo, as though you were
standing there, now, in the room and I in the room was watching you.
You were a little apart from the table, you were standing a few feet
behind the croupier at one end of the table. But Ralph Warriner! Was
he amongst the players? Wait! Let me think!"

Charnock remained silent. Miranda did not interrupt him, and in a
little he began again, piecing together his memories, revivifying that
scene in the gambling-room seven years ago. "I can see the lamps with
their green shades, I can see the glow of light upon the green table
beneath the lamps. I can see the red diamond, the yellow lines upon
the cloth, the three columns of numbers in the middle, the crowd about
the table, some seated, others leaning over their chairs. But their
faces! Their faces!" and then he suddenly cried out, "Ah! He was
seated, in front of you, next to the croupier. You were behind him,"
and in his excitement he reached out his arm towards her, and with
shaking fingers bade her speak.

"Yes," said she, "I was behind him."

"You moved to him. I understand now. His back was towards me at the
first--when I first saw you, when our eyes met. It was that vision of
you, the first, which I carried away, it was that only which I
remembered--you standing alone there. It was that which came back to
me when I saw your face in my mirror, just the picture of you as you
stood alone, distinct from the flowers in your hat to the tip of your
shoe, before you moved to the table, before you laid your hand on
Ralph Warriner's shoulder, before he turned to answer you and so
showed me his face. I remember, indeed. I saw his hand first of all.
It was reached out holding his stake. I can even remember that he laid
his stake on _impare_ and then he turned to you. Yes, yes, it's true,"
and Charnock rose from the table in his agitation, and walked once or
twice across the room. "It was Ralph Warriner I met at Plymouth, and
because of that trivial, ridiculous quarrel, I told you that he
lived!"

He stopped suddenly in front of the writing-table, and stood staring
out through the window, while his fingers idly played with a newspaper
which lay upon the desk.

"But Major Wilbraham," said Miranda, thinking to lessen his remorse,
"Major Wilbraham told me too, and only a month later; he came to me in
the Cathedral at Ronda here, and told me. He would have told me in any
case."

"Wilbraham!" said Charnock. "Yes, that's true. How did he find out?
Who told Wilbraham?" and he turned eagerly towards Miranda.

Miranda stammered and faltered. She had not foreseen the question, and
she tried to evade it. "He found out. He used his wits. He saw there
was profit in the discovery if he could--"

"If he could make the discovery. I understand that; but how did he
make the discovery?"

"Why, what does it matter?" cried Miranda. "He followed up a clue."

Charnock noticed her hesitation, her effort to evade his question.
"But who gave him the clue?"

Miranda moved restlessly about the room. "He set his wits to work--he
found out," she repeated. She sat down in the same chair in which
Charnock had sat. "What does it matter?" she said, and even as
Charnock had done, she pressed her hands upon her face.

"You promised me to answer truly whatever question I put to you," said
he, who, the more she hesitated, was the more resolved to know. "I ask
you this question. Who gave him the clue?"

"Since you will have it then,"--Miranda drew her hands from her
face,--"my poor friend, you did," she answered gently.

Charnock was more than startled. His face changed. There was something
even of horror in his eyes as he leaned across the table towards her.
"I?" he gasped. "I did?"

"I would have spared you the knowledge of that," she said with a
smile, "if only you would have allowed me to; but you would not. You
pointed out to him a brigantine, which you passed off Ushant."

"Yes, the _Tarifa_."

"The _Tarifa_ was once the _Ten Brothers_, Ralph's yacht which was
supposed to have been wrecked on Rosevear."

"But the _Ten Brothers_ was a schooner," urged Charnock. "I was told
only a few weeks ago at Gibraltar--one of the Salcombe--oh yes, that's
true too. I suggested to Wilbraham--to Wilbraham who said he was
familiar with the look of the boat--I suggested to him that the
_Tarifa_ was one of the Salcombe clippers."

"Yes. Wilbraham had known Ralph at Gibraltar, had seen the _Ten
Brothers_, very likely had been aboard of her. That was why the look
of the _Tarifa_ was familiar to him. When you told him the _Tarifa_
was a Salcombe boat he understood why it was familiar. It was the
merest clue; but he followed it up and found out."

"And blackmailed you!" continued Charnock.

He turned back to the writing-table and the window. Again his fingers
played idly with the newspaper. For a while he was silent; then he
said slowly, "Do you remember what you said to me on the balcony? That
no man could offer a woman help without doing her a hurt in some other
way."

"I spoke idly," interrupted Miranda.

"You spoke very truly, for here's the proof."

"I spoke to elude you," said Miranda, stubbornly. "It was a mere idle
fancy which came into my head, and the next moment was forgotten."

"But I remembered it," cried Charnock. "It was more true than you
thought."

"It was no more true than"--she hesitated. However, Charnock was not
looking at her; she found it possible to proceed--"than another belief
which led me astray, as this one is leading you."

"What other belief?"

Miranda nerved herself to answer him. "That no man would serve a woman
well, except for--for the one reason."

The nature of that reason was apparent to Charnock from the very
tone in which she spoke the word. "And you believed that?" he asked.
In a movement of surprise he had knocked the newspaper off the
writing-table. Underneath the newspaper was a book.

"I did believe it," she replied, her face rosy with confusion, "for a
few mad miserable days," and she checked herself suddenly, for she saw
that Charnock had absently opened and was absently turning over the
leaves of the book.

"Was the message of your mirror after all so false?" she whispered. He
turned towards her, with a face quite illumined. He did not, however,
leave the table, and he kept the pages of the book open with his
fingers.

"Then after all you do need help?" he cried.

"Need it?" she returned with a loud cry, and she stretched out hands
across the table towards him. "Indeed, indeed I need it, I desperately
need it! I sent the glove because I needed it."

"Then the glove was no sham?"

"It was not the glove that you tore; that was thrown away, but not by
me. I searched for it, it was not to be found. So I tore the other and
sent it as a substitute."

"And when I came, waited to discover," he added, "whether the one
reason held me to your service. I understand."

"You see," she agreed, "really, in my heart, all the time I trusted
you, for I knew you would keep your word. I knew you would say
nothing, but would just wait and wait until I told you what it was I
needed done."

Charnock turned abruptly towards her, and as he turned the book
slipped off the table and fell to the ground. "But yesterday," he
exclaimed in perplexity, "yesterday, here in this room, I gave you the
assurance which you looked for. You believed a man would only help you
for the one reason. Well, I told you that the one reason held with me;
yet, at that moment, you rejected all help and service. You cried out,
'It's the friend I want, not the lover.'"

"Because just at that moment I understood that my belief was wrong. I
understood the shame, the horror, of the tricks I had played on you."

"Tricks?" said Charnock. "Oh!" and as he stooped down to pick up the
book he added in a voice of comprehension, "At last! You puzzled me
yesterday when you said, 'To possess the friend you had had to _make_
the lover.'"

"Yes," she said eagerly, "you understand? I want you to. I want you to
understand to the last letter, so that you may decide whether you will
help me or not, knowing what the woman is who asks your help. I sat
down to trick you into caring for me if by any means I could. I did it
deliberately, how deliberately you will see if you only open the book
you hold. And it wasn't until I had won that I realised that I had
cheated to win and could not profit by the gains. I won yesterday and
yesterday I sent you away. Perhaps God kept you here."

Charnock made no answer. He sat down at the table opposite to Miranda
and turned over the leaves of the book, whilst Miranda watched him,
holding her breath. He was not angry yet, but she dreaded the moment
when he should understand the subject-matter of the book.

The book was a collection of letters written by a great French lady at
the Court of Louis XV. to a young girl-relative in Provence, and the
letters were intended to serve as a guide to the girl's provincial
inexperience. There was much sage instruction as to the best methods
of handling men, "ces animaux effroyables, dont nous ne pouvons ni ne
voudrons nous débarrasser," as the great lady politely termed them. In
the margin of the book Miranda's pencil had scored lines against
passages here and there. Charnock read out one:--

"Et prends bien garde de tellement diriger la conversation qu'il parle
beaucoup de lui-même."

"That accounts for the history of my life which I gave you in your
garden," said Charnock. He was not angry yet; he was even smiling.

"Yes," said Miranda, seriously; "but there's worse! Go on!"

"Soyez sage, ma mie," he read, turning over a page. "On ne possede
jamais un de ces animaux sans qu'on peut bien disposer d'un autre.
Celui que tu aimes, t'aimera aussi si tu fais la cour a un deuxième.
Ils ont bien tort qui disent qu'il ne faut que deux pour faire
l'amour. Il faut au moins trois."

"That accounts for Wilbraham, and the basket of flowers for
Gibraltar."

"For Wilbraham, yes," said Miranda.

Charnock did not notice that she excluded the basket of flowers from
her assent. He read out other items, still without any appearance of
anger. A foot carelessly exhibited and carefully withdrawn, the young
lady in the country was informed, might kick a hole in any male heart,
so long as the foot was slim, and the shoe all that it should be.
Charnock closed the book and sat opposite to Miranda with a laughing
face, enjoying her intense earnestness.

"So you won by cheating?" he said, "and this book taught you how to
cheat?"

"Yes, but I don't think you have grasped it," she replied seriously,
"and I want you to. I want you to understand the horrible, hateful way
in which I made you care for me. I now know that I ought to have
relied upon your friendship when you first came to Ronda. But I chose
the worse part, and if you say that you will not help me, why, I must
abide by it, and Ralph must abide by it too. But there shall be
nothing but truth now between you and me. I was not content with
friendship, I had the time I knew to try to make you care for me in
the other way, and I did try hatefully, and hatefully I succeeded--"
and to Miranda's surprise Charnock leaned back in his chair, and
laughed loudly and heartily for a long while. The more perplexed
Miranda looked, the more he laughed.

"Believe me, Mrs. Warriner," he said, and stopped to laugh again, "if
I had met you for the first time at Ronda, I should have taken the
first train back to Algeciras. Your tricks! I noticed them all, and
they drove me wild with indignation."

"Do you mean that?" exclaimed Miranda, and her downcast face
brightened.

"I do indeed," answered Charnock. "Oh, your tricks! I almost hated you
for them." He began to laugh again as he recollected them.

"I am so glad," replied Miranda, in the prettiest confusion, and as
Charnock laughed, in a little her eyes began to dance and she laughed
too.

"Shall I tell you what kept me at Ronda?" he said. "Because, in spite
of yourself, every now and then yourself broke through the tricks.
Because, however much you tried, you could not but reveal to me, now
and then, some fleeting glimpse of the woman who once stood beside me
in a balcony and looked out over the flashing carriage-lights to the
quiet of St. James's Park. It was in memory of that woman that I
stayed."

He was speaking with all seriousness now, and Miranda uttered a long
trembling sigh of gratitude. "Thank you," she said, "thank you."

"Now what can I do for you?" he asked, and Miranda made haste to
reply.



                             CHAPTER XVII

        SHOWS HOW A TOMBSTONE MAY CONVINCE WHEN ARGUMENTS FAIL


She showed him the scribbled note which M. Fournier had brought; she
told him M. Fournier's story; how that Ralph had run guns and
ammunition from England into Morocco on board the _Tarifa_; how that
he had been kidnapped between M. Fournier's villa and the town-gate;
how that he was not held to ransom, since no demand for ransom had
come to the little Belgian; and finally how that it was impossible to
apply for help to the Legation, since Ralph was already guilty of a
crime, and would only be rescued that way in order to suffer penal
servitude in England.

"What a coil to unravel!" said Charnock. "I know some Arabic. I could
go to Morocco. I went there once, but only to Tangier. But Morocco?
How shall one search Morocco without a clue?"

He rested his chin upon his hand, and stared gloomily at the wall.
Miranda was careful not to interrupt his reflections. If there was a
way out, she confidently relied upon this man to find it. Once she
shivered, and Charnock looked inquiringly towards her. She was gazing
at the soiled note which lay beneath her eyes upon the table, and saw
again the picture of Ralph being beaten inland under the sun. She
began to recall his acts and words, that she might make the best of
them; she fell to considering whether she had not herself been in a
measure to blame for the shipwreck of their marriage. And so, thinking
of such matters, she absently hummed over a tune, a soft plaintive
little melody from an _opéra-bouffe_. She ended it and hummed it over
again; until it came upon her that Charnock had been silent for a long
time, and she looked up from the note into his face.

He was not thinking out any plan. He was watching her with a singular
intentness, his head thrust forward from his shoulders, his face very
strained. It seemed that every fibre of his body listened and was
still, so that it might hear the better.

"Who taught you that tune?" he asked in a voice of suspense.

"Ralph," said she, in some surprise at the question; "at least I
picked it up from him."

And Charnock fell back in his chair; he huddled himself in it, he let
his chin drop upon his breast. He sat staring at her with eyes which
seemed suddenly deep-sunk in a face suddenly grown white. And slowly,
gradually, it broke in upon Miranda that he held the clue after all,
that that tune was the clue, that in a word Charnock knew how Ralph
had disappeared.

"You know!" she cried in her elation. "You know! Oh, and I sent you
away yesterday! What if you had gone! Only to think of it! You know!
That tune has given you the clue? It was Ralph's favourite! You heard
it--when? Where? Tell me!"

To her eager, joyous questions Charnock was silent. He did not move.
He still sat huddled in his chair, with his chin fallen on his breast,
and his eyes fixedly staring at her. Miranda's enthusiasm was chilled
by his silence; it was succeeded by fear. She became frightened; she
picked up the note and held it out to him and bade it speak for her.

Charnock did not take the note or change his position. But he said:--

"Even on your honeymoon, you see, he left you to stand alone, while he
gambled at the tables."

"But you mustn't think of that," she cried. "It's so small a thing."

"But so typical," added Charnock, quietly.

Miranda gave a moan and held her head between her hands. That Charnock
might refuse to help her, because with tears in her eyes she had
played the sedulous coquette, she had been prepared to acknowledge.
But that he would refuse to help, out of a mistaken belief that, by
refusing to help, he was helping best--that supposition had not so
much as occurred to her.

"Read the note again," she implored him. "_Do quickly what you can!_
And see, it is a week and more since M. Fournier was here. It is a
fortnight and more since Ralph was kidnapped in the Sôk. Quickly! And
nothing is done, and nothing will be done, unless you do it. Oh, think
of him--driven, his hands tied, beaten with sticks, sold for a slave
to trudge with loads upon his back, barefooted, through Morocco! You
will go," and her voice broke and was very tender as she appealed to
him. "Please! You will have pity on me, and on him." And she watched
Charnock's face for a sign of assent, her heart throbbing, her foot
beating the ground, and every now and then a queer tremulous moan
breaking from her dry lips.

Charnock, however, did not soften at the imagined picture of Ralph's
misfortunes, and he hardened his heart against the visible picture of
her distress.

"When I was at Algeciras, I asked many questions about Ralph Warriner.
I listened to many answers," he said curtly.

"Exaggerated answers," she returned, and as Charnock opened his mouth
to reply, she hastened to continue: "Listen! Listen! Here's the
strange thing! Not that I should need help, not that you should help
me, not that I should come to you for help. Those three things--they
are most natural. But that coming to you, I should come to the one man
who can help, who already knows the way to help. Don't you understand?
It is very clear to me. You were _meant_ to help, to help me in this
one trouble, so you were shown the means whereby to help." And seeing
Charnock still impenetrable, she burst out: "Oh, he will not help! He
will not understand!" and she took to considering how it was that he
knew, how it was that he recognised the tune.

"You were in Tangier once," she argued. "Yes. You told me that not
only to-day, but at Lady Donnisthorpe's. You crossed from Gibraltar?"

"Yes, just before I came to England and met you."

"Just before! Still you won't understand? You find out
somehow--somehow in Tangier you come across a tune, an incident,
something. Immediately after you meet a woman, at the first sight of
whom you offer her your succour, and the time comes when she needs it,
and that one incident you witnessed just before you met her gives you,
and you alone in all the world, the opportunity to help her. Don't you
remember, when you first were introduced at Lady Donnisthorpe's, what
was your first feeling--one of disappointment, because I did not seem
to stand in any need? Well, I do stand in need now--and now you turn
away. And for my sake too! Was there ever such a tangle! Such a
needless irony and tangle, and all because a man cannot put a woman
from his thoughts!" And then she laughed bitterly and harshly, and so
fell back again upon her guesses.

"You were in Tangier--how long?"

"For a day."

"When? Never mind! I know. I met you in June. You were in Tangier for
a day in May. In May!" she repeated, and stopped. Then she uttered a
cry. "May, that was the month. M. Fournier said May. You were the
man," and leaning forward she laid a clutching hand upon Charnock's
arm, which lay quiet on the table. "You were the unknown man who cried
'Look out!' through the closed door of M. Fournier's shop."

Charnock started. He was prepared to deny the challenge, if assent
threatened to disclose his clue. But it did not. M. Fournier knew
nothing of the blind beggar at the cemetery gate where Charnock had
first heard the comic opera tune and registered it in his memory. That
was evident, since in all M. Fournier's story, there was no mention
anywhere of Hassan Akbar.

"Yes," he admitted. "It was I."

"And you shouted it not as a menace--so M. Fournier thought and was
wrong--but as a warning to Ralph, my husband, whom you will not speak
a word to save. You spoke a word then, very likely you saved him then.
Well, do just as much now. I ask no more of you. Only speak the word!
Tell me the clue, I myself will follow it up. Oh, he will not speak!"
and in her agitation she rose up and paced the room.

Charnock rose too. Miranda flew to the door and leaned her back
against it.

"Just for a moment! Listen to what M. Fournier said! He said that if
once we could lay our hands upon the man who shouted through the door,
we should lay our hands upon the means to rescue Ralph. Think how
truly he spoke, in a truer sense than he intended. You know why he
disappeared. You know who captured him. And if you don't speak, I
shall have no peace until I die," and she sat herself again at the
table.

"Do you still care for him?" asked Charnock, with some gentleness.

Miranda, who was wrought almost to frenzy, drummed upon the table with
her clenched fists.

"Must we debate that question while Ralph--" Then she mastered
herself. "I know you," she said. "If I were to tell you that I loved
him heart and soul, you would go upon this errand, straight as an
arrow, for my sake. But I promised there should be nothing but truth
between you and me. I do not love him. Now, will you go to Morocco?
Or, if you will not go, will you speak?"

"No. Let him stay there! Where he cannot harm you. What if I was
_meant_ to keep you from rescuing him?"

"You do not know," she replied. "You can do me no greater service than
by rescuing Ralph, by bringing him back to me. Will you believe that?"

"No," said he, calmly, and she rose from her chair.

"But if I proved it to you?"

"You cannot."

"I will."

She looked at the clock.

"It is four o'clock," she said. "Two hours and a quarter before the
train leaves for Algeciras. Will you meet me on the platform? I had
thought to spare myself--this. But you shall have the proof. I will
not tell you of it, but I will show it to you to-morrow at Gibraltar."

She spoke now with great calmness. She had hit upon the means to
persuade. She was convinced that she had, and he was afraid that she
had.

"Very well," said he. "The 6.15 for Algeciras."

They travelled to Gibraltar that night. Miranda stayed at the Bristol,
Charnock at the Albion; they met the next morning, and walked through
the long main street. Here and there an officer looked at her with a
start of surprise and respectfully raised his hat, and perhaps took a
step or two towards her. But she did not stop to speak with anyone. It
was two years since she had set foot within the gates of Gibraltar,
and no doubt the stones upon which she walked had many memories
wherewith to bruise her. Charnock respected her silence, and kept pace
with her unobtrusively. They passed into the square with Government
House upon the one side and the mess-rooms upon the other. Charnock
sketched a picture of her in his fancies, the picture of a young girl
newly-come from the brown solitudes of Suffolk into this crowded and
picturesque fortress with the wonder of a new world in her eyes, and
contrasted it with the woman who walked beside him, and inferred the
increasing misery of her years. He was touched to greater depths of
sympathy than he had ever felt before even when she had lain with her
head upon her arms in an abandonment of distress; so that now the
uncomplaining uprightness of her figure made his heart ache, and the
sound of her footsteps was a pain. But of the most intolerable of all
her memories he had still to learn. She led him into the little
cemetery, guided him between the graves, and stopped before a
headstone on which Charnock read:--


                           RUPERT WARRINER,
                            Aged 2 Years.


and the date of his birth and death.

The headstone was of marble, and had been sculptured with a poetic
fancy; a boy, in whose face Charnock could trace a likeness to
Miranda, looked out and laughed between the open lattices of a window.

They both watched the grave silently for a while. Then Miranda said
gently, "Now do you understand? When Rupert was born, it seemed to me
that here was a blossom on the thorn bush of the world. But you see
the blossom never flowered. He died of diphtheria. It was hard when he
died;" and Charnock suddenly started at her side.

"Those flowers!" he said hoarsely.

Upon the grave were scattered jonquils, geraniums, roses, pinks,
camellias--all the rich reds and yellows of Miranda's garden.

"You were cutting them, packing them, that afternoon when Wilbraham
came?"

Mrs. Warriner shrank from looking at Charnock.

"Yes," she confessed in a whisper.

"My God!" he exclaimed. Miranda glanced at him in fear. So it was
coming; he was remembering the use to which she had put those flowers.
Would he loathe her sufficiently to withdraw his help?

"Do you know what I thought?" he continued. "No, you can't guess. You
could not imagine it. I actually believed that you were cutting those
flowers so that you might send them to--" and he broke off the
sentence. "But it's too odious to tell you."

"But I meant you should believe just that," she cried. "I meant you to
believe it. Oh, how utterly hateful! How could I have done it? I
wanted to hide that from you, but it was right you should know. I must
have been mad," and she convulsively clasped and unclasped her hands.

"I understand why you dropped that bunch from the cliff," said
Charnock, "after Wilbraham had picked a flower from it."

"I wanted to bring you here," said Miranda, "so that you might know
why I ask this service of you. As I told you, I have no love left for
Ralph, but he was that boy's father, and the boy is dead. I cannot
leave Ralph in Morocco a slave. He was Rupert's father. Perhaps you
remember that after I met you at Lady Donnisthorpe's I came back at
once to Ronda. I had half determined not to return at all, and when
you first told me Ralph was alive, my first absorbing thought was,
where should I hide myself? But it occurred to me that he might be in
need, and he was Rupert's father. So I came back, and when Wilbraham
blackmailed me, I submitted to the blackmail again because he was
Rupert's father; and because he was Rupert's father, when I learned in
what sore need he stood, I sent that glove to you."

"I understand," said Charnock, and they turned and walked from the
cemetery.

"Now will you speak?" she asked.

"No," he returned, "but I will go myself to Morocco."

"It is your life I am asking you to risk," said Miranda, who now that
she had gained her end, began at once to realise the consequences it
would entail upon her friend.

"I know that and take the risk," replied Charnock.

They walked out towards Europa Point, and turned into the Alameda.

"There is something else," said Miranda. "Your search will cost money.
Every farthing of that I must pay. You will promise me that?"

"Yes."

"I wrote to M. Fournier yesterday. He will supply you. There is one
thing more. This search will interrupt your career."

"It will, no doubt," he assented readily, and sitting down upon a seat
he spoke to her words which she never forgot. "The quaint thing is
that I have always been afraid lest a woman should break my career. I
lived as a boy high up on the Yorkshire hills, two miles above a busy
town. All day that town whirred in the hollow below. I could see it
from my bedroom window, and all night the lights blazed in the
factories; and when I went down into its streets there were always
grimed men speeding upon their business. There was a certain grandeur
about it which impressed me,--the perpetual shuffle of the looms, the
loud, clear song of the wheels. That seemed to me the life to live.
And I made up my mind that no woman should interfere. A brake on the
wheel going up hill, a whip in the driver's hand going down,--that
was what I thought of woman until I met you."

"And proved it true," cried Miranda.

"And learned that there are better things than getting on," said
Charnock.

Miranda turned to him with shining eyes, and in a voice which left him
in no doubt as to the significance of her words, she cried:--

"My dear, we are Love's derelicts, you and I," and so stopped and said
no more.

They went back to the hotel and lunched together and came out again to
the geraniums and bellas sombras of the Alameda. But they talked no
more in this strain. They were just a man and a woman, and the flaming
sword kept their lips apart. But they knew it and were not aggrieved,
for being a man and a woman they knew not grievances.

The evening came down upon Gibraltar, the riding lanterns glimmered
upon the masts in the bay; away to the left the lighthouse on Europa
Point shot out its yellow column of light; above, the Spanish sky grew
purple and rich with innumerable stars.

"The boat leaves early," said Charnock. "I will say good-bye now."

Miranda caught the hand which he held out to her and held it against
her breast.

"But I shall see you again--once--please, once," she said, "when you
bring Ralph back to me;" and so they separated in the Alameda.

Charnock walked away and left her standing there, nor looked back.
Stray lines and verses of ballads which he had heard sung by women in
drawing-rooms here and there about the world came back to him--ballads
of knights and cavaliers who had ridden away at their ladies' behests.
He had laughed at them then, but they came back to him now, and he
felt himself linked through them in a community of feeling with the
generations which had gone before. Men had gone out upon such errands
as he was now privileged to do, and would do so again when he was
dust, with just the same pride which he felt as he walked homewards on
this night through the streets of Gibraltar. He realised as he had
never realised before, through the fellowship of service, that in bone
and muscle and blood he was of the family of men, son of the men who
had gone before, father of the men who were to follow. The next
morning he crossed the straits to Tangier.



                            CHAPTER XVIII

                 IN WHICH THE TAXIDERMIST AND A BASHA
                       PREVAIL OVER A BLIND MAN


He went at once to the taxidermist's shop. M. Fournier expected him,
but not the story which he had to tell.

"You wish to discover the man who shouted through your door six months
ago," said Charnock. "It was I."

M. Fournier got together his account-books and laid them on the
counter of the shop. "I have much money. Where is my friend Mr. Jeremy
Bentham?"

"It is Hassan Akbar whom we must ask," said Charnock, and he told
Fournier of what he had seen on the day of his previous visit to
Tangier.

The two men walked up to the cemetery gate, where Hassan still sat in
the dust, and swung his body to and fro and reiterated his cry "Allah
Ben!" as on that day when, clothed as a Moor, Ralph Warriner had come
down the hill. It was the tune which that Moor had hummed, and which
Miranda had repeated, that had led Charnock to identify the victim and
the enemy.

Charnock hummed over that tune again as he stood beside the Moor, and
the Moor stopped at once from his prayer.

"Hassan Akbar, what hast them done with the Christian who hummed that
tune and dropped a silver dollar in thy lap at this gate?"

Hassan made no answer, and as though his sole anxiety had been lest
Warriner should have escaped and returned, he recommenced his cry.

"Hassan," continued Charnock, "was it that Christian who betrayed thy
wealth? Give him back to us and thou shalt be rich again."

"Allah Beh!" cried Hassan. "Allah Beh!"

"It is of no use for us to question him," said M. Fournier. "But the
Basha will ask him, and in time he will answer. To-morrow I will go to
the Basha."

Charnock hardly gathered the purport of Fournier's proposal. He went
back into the town, and that evening M. Fournier related to him much
about Ralph Warriner which he did not know.

The idea of running guns in Morocco had appealed to Warriner some time
before he put it into practice, and whilst he was still at Gibraltar.

"I did not know him then," said Fournier. "He had relations with
others, very likely with Hassan Akbar, but nothing came of those
relations. When he ran from Gibraltar in the _Ten Brothers_, he landed
at Tangier, and lay hid somewhere in the town, while he sent the _Ten
Brothers_ over to South America and ordered the mate to sell her for
as much as she would fetch. But in a little while Ralph Warriner met
me and asked me to be his partner in his scheme. He had a little money
then, and indeed it was just about the time when Hassan's fortune was
discovered. It is very likely that our friend told the Basha of
Hassan's wealth. If he knew, he would certainly have told," said M.
Fournier, with a lenient smile, "for there was money in it. Anyway, he
had some money then, I had some, I could get more, and I like him very
much. I say yes. He tells me of his ship. We want a ship to carry over
the guns. I telegraph to the Argentine and stop the sale. Warriner
sent orders to change her rig, as he call it, and her name, and she
comes back to us as the _Tarifa_. The only trouble left was this. The
most profitable guns to introduce are the Winchester rifles. But for
that purpose one of us must go between England and Tangier, must sail
the _Tarifa_ between England and Tangier. I could not sail a toy-boat
in a pond without falling into the water. How then could I sail the
_Tarifa?_ So Warriner must do it. But Warriner, my poor dear friend,
he has made little errors. He must not go to England, not even as
Bentham. To make it safe for Jeremy Bentham to go to England, Ralph
Warriner must be dead. You see?"

"Yes, I see. But why in the world did he call himself Jeremy Bentham?"
asked Charnock.

"Because he was such an economist. Oh, but he was very witty and
clever, my poor friend, when he was not swearing at you. At all events
he decided that Ralph Warriner must die, and that there must be proofs
that he was dead. So he packed up a few letters--one from his wife
before he was married to her--that was clever, _hein?_ A love-letter
from his _fiancée_ which he has carried about next to his heart for
six years! So sweet! So convincing to the great British public, eh? He
found that letter by chance among his charts. He gives it to me and
some others in an oilskin case, and sends me with one of his sailors
to the Scilly Islands. And then Providence helped us.

"All that we hoped to do was to hear of a wreck, in which many lives
were lost, to go out amongst the rocks, where the ship was wrecked,
and to pick up that little oilskin case. You understand? Oh, but we
were helped. There was a heavy storm for many days at Scilly, and
after the storm for many days a fog. On one day the sailor and I--we
go out in the fog to the Western Islands, to see if any ship had come
ashore. But it was dangerous! I can tell you it was very dangerous and
very wet. However, we come to Rosevear, and there was the remnant of a
ship, and no sailor anywhere. We landed on Rosevear, and just as I was
about to place the oilskin case among the rocks where it would be
naturally found, we came upon one dead sailor, lying near to the sea
just as if asleep. I slipped the oilskin case into his pocket, and
then with stones we broke in his face. Ah, but that was horrible! It
made me sick then and there. But we did it, until there was no face
left. Then for fear the waves might come up and wash him away, we
dragged him up the rocks and laid him amongst the grass, again as
though he was asleep. We made a little mistake there. We dragged him
too far from the sea. But the mistake did not matter."

"I see," said Charnock. "And that day I shouted through the door
Warriner sailed for England?"

"Yes," replied Fournier. "I hired that morning a felucca to sail
himself across to Tarifa."

"I remember."

"The boat lay at Tarifa. He set sail that night."

"Yes," said Charnock. "I spent the night here. I waited two days for
the P. and O. at Gibraltar, we passed the _Tarifa_ off Ushant, and
three days later I met Warriner in Plymouth. Yes, the times fit."

"It is very likely Ralph who told about Hassan," mused M. Fournier,
with a lenient smile. "If he knew, he would have been sure to have
told; for there was money in it. To-morrow I will see the Basha."

M. Fournier went down to the Kasbah and found the Basha delivering
justice at the gates. The suitors were dismissed, and M. Fournier
opened his business.

"We do not wish to trouble the Legation," said he. "The Legation would
make much noise, and his Shereefian Majesty, whom God preserve, would
never hear the end of it. Besides, we do not wish it." And upon that
money changed hands. "But if the Englishman told your nobility that
Hassan Akbar was hoarding his money in utter selfishness, then your
nobility will talk privately with Hassan and find out from him where
the Englishman is."

The Basha stroked his white beard.

"The Nazarene speaks wisely. We will not disturb the dignity of his
Majesty, whom Allah preserve, for such small things. I will talk to
Hassan Akbar and send for you again."

That impenetrable man was fetched from the cemetery gates, and the
Basha addressed him.

"Hassan, thou didst hide and conceal thy treasure, and truly the Room
told me of it; and since thy treasure was of no profit to thee, I took
it."

"When I was blind and helpless," said Hassan.

"So thou wast chastened the more thoroughly for thy profit in the next
world, and thy master and my master, the Sultan, was served in this,"
said the Basha, with great dignity, and he reverently bowed his head
to the dust. "Now what hast thou done with the Room?"

But Hassan answered never a word.

"Thou stubborn man! May Allah burn thy great-great-grandfather!" said
the Basha, and chained his hands and his feet, and had him conveyed to
an inner room, where he talked to him with rods of various length and
thickness. At the end of the third day the Basha sent a message to M.
Fournier that Hassan's heart was softened by the goodness of God, and
that now he would speak.

The Basha received Charnock and M. Fournier in a great cool domed room
of lattice-work and tiles. He sat upon cushions on a dais at the end
of the room; stools were brought forward for his visitors; and M.
Fournier and the Basha exchanged lofty compliments, and drank much
weak sweet tea. Then the Basha raised his hand; a door was thrown
open; and a blind, wavering, broken man crawled, dragging his fetters,
across the floor.

"Good God!" whispered Charnock; "what have they done to him?"

"They have made him speak, that is all," returned M. Fournier,
imperturbably. He kept all his pity for Ralph Warriner.

M. Fournier translated afterwards to Charnock the story which Hassan
told as he grovelled on the ground, and it ran as follows:--

"When the son of the English first came into Morocco I showed him
great kindness and hospitality, and how he returned it you know. So
after I was blind I waited. More than once I heard his voice in the
Sôk, and in the streets of Tangier, and I knew that he had quarrelled
with his own people the Nazarenes, and dared not turn to them for
help. I sit by the gate of the cemetery, and many Arabs, and Moors,
and Negroes, and Jews come down the road from the country to the
market-place, and at last one morning I heard the steps of one whose
feet shuffled in his _babouches_; he could not walk in the loose
slippers as we who are born to the use of them. And it was not an old
man, whose feet are clogged by age, for his stride was long; that my
ears told me which are my eyes. It was an infidel in the dress of the
faithful. It may be that if I had seen with my eyes, I should never
have known; but my ears are sharpened, and I heard. When he passed me
he gave me greeting, and then I knew it was the Room. He dropped a
dollar into my hands and whistled a tune which he had often whistled
after he had eaten of my _kouss-kouss_, and so went on his way. I rose
up and followed him, thinking that my time had come. Across the Sôk I
followed him, hearing always the shuffle of the slippers amidst the
din of voices and the hurrying of many feet. He did not see me, for he
never turned or stopped, but went straight on under the gate of the
town, and then turned through the horse-market, and came to a house
which he entered. I heard the door barred behind him, and a shutter
fixed across the window, and I sat down beneath the shutter and
waited. I heard voices talking quickly and earnestly within the room,
and then someone rose and came out of the door and walked down the
street towards the port. But it was not the man for whom I waited.
This one walked with little jaunty, tripping steps, and I was glad
that he went away; for the bolt of the door was not shut behind him,
and the dog of a Nazarene was alone. I rose and walked to the door. A
son of the English stood in the way: I asked him for alms with the one
hand and felt for the latch with the other; but the son of the English
saw what I was doing and shouted through the door."

"It was I," said Charnock.

Hassan turned his sightless face towards Charnock and reflected. Then
he answered: "It was indeed you. And after you had spoken the bolt was
shot. Thereupon I went back to the Sôk, and asking here and there at
last fell in with some Arabs from Beni Hassan with whom in other days
I had traded. And for a long while I talked to them, showing that
there was no danger, for the Room was without friends amongst his own
people, and moreover that he would fetch a price, every okesa of which
was theirs. And at the last they agreed with me that I should deliver
him to them at night outside the walls of Tangier and they would take
him away and treat him ill, and sell him for a slave in their own
country. But the Room had gone from Tangier and the Arabs moved to
Tetuan and Omara and Sôk-et-Trun, but after a while they returned to
Tangier and the Room also returned; and the time I had waited for had
come."

"What have you done with him?" said the Basha. "Speak."

"I besought a lad who had been my servant to watch the Room Bentham,
and his goings and comings. With the dollar which he had given me I
bought a little old tent of palmetto and set it up in the corner of
the Sôk apart from the tents of the cobblers."

"Well?" interrupted M. Fournier, "speak quickly."

"One evening the lad came to me and said the Room had gone up to a
house on the hill above the Sôk, where there were many lights and much
noise of feasting. So I went down the Sôk to where the Arabs slept by
their camels and said to them, 'It will be to-night.' And as God
willed it the night was dark. The lad led me to the house and I sat
outside it till the noise grew less and many went away. At last the
Nazarene Bentham came to the door and his mule was brought for him and
he mounted. I asked the boy who guided me, 'Is it he?' and the boy
answered 'Yes.' So I dismissed him and followed the mule down the hill
to the Sôk, which was very quiet. Then I ran after him and called, and
he stopped his mule till I came up with him. 'What is it?' he asked,
and I threw a cloth over his head and dragged him from the mule. We
both fell to the ground, but I had one arm about his neck pressing the
cloth to his mouth so that he could not cry out. I pressed him into
the mud of the Sôk and put my knee upon his chest and bound his arms
together. Then I carried him to my tent and took the cloth from his
head, for I wished to hear him speak and be sure that it was Bentham.
But he understood my wish and would not speak. So I took his
mule-hobbles which I had stolen while he feasted, and made them hot in
a fire and tied them about his ankles and in a little while I made him
cry out and I was sure. Then I stripped him of his clothes and put
upon him my own rags. The Arabs came to the tent an hour later. I
gagged Bentham and gave him up to them bound, and in the dark they
took him away, with the mule. His clothes I buried in the ground under
my tent, and in the morning stamped the ground down and took the tent
away."

"And the chief of these Arabs? Give me his name," said the Basha.

"Mallam Juzeed," replied Hassan.

The Basha waved his hand to the soldiers and Hassan was dragged away.

"I will send a soldier with you, give you a letter to the Sheikh of
Beni Hassan, and he will discover the Room, if he is to be found in
those parts," said the Basha to M. Fournier.

Charnock spent the greater part of a month in formalities. He took the
letter from the Basha and many other letters to Jews of importance in
the towns with which M. Fournier was able to provide him; he hired the
boy Hamet who had acted as his guide on his first visit, and getting
together an equipment as for a long journey in Morocco, rode out over
the Hill of the Two Seas into the inlands of that mysterious and
enchanted country.



                             CHAPTER XIX

              TELLS OF CHARNOCK'S WANDERINGS IN MOROCCO
                      AND OF A WALNUT-WOOD DOOR


In the course of time Charnock came to a village of huts enclosed
within an impenetrable rampart of cactus upon the flank of the hills
southward of Mequinez and there met the Sheikh. The Sheikh laid his
hands upon Mallam Juzeed and bade him speak, which he did with a wise
promptitude. It was true; they had taken the Christian from Tangier,
but they had sold him on the way. They had chanced to arrive at the
great houseless and treeless plain of Seguedla, a day's march from
Alkasar, on a Wednesday; and since every Wednesday an open market is
held upon two or three low hills which jut out from the plain, they
had sold Ralph Warriner there to a travelling merchant of the Mtoga.
Mallam supplied the merchant's name and the direction of his journey.
Charnock packed his tents upon his mules and disappeared into the
south.

For two years he disappeared, or almost disappeared; almost, since
through the freemasonry of the Jews, that great telephone across
Barbary by which the Jew at Tangier shall hear the words which the Jew
speaks at Tafilet, M. Fournier was able to obtain now and again rare
news of Charnock, and, as it were, a rare glimpse of him at Saforo, at
Marakesch, at Tarudant, and to supply him with money. Then came a long
interval, until a Jew of the Waddoon stopped Fournier in the Sôk of
Tangier, handed him a letter, and told him that many months ago, as he
rode at nightfall down a desolate pass of the Upper Atlas mountains,
he came to an inhospitable wilderness of stones, where one in Moorish
dress and speaking the Moorish tongue was watching the antics of a
snake-charmer by the light of a scanty fire of brushwood. The Moor had
two servants with him but no escort, and no tent, and for safety's
sake the Jew stayed with him that night. In the morning the Moor had
given him the letter to M. Fournier and had bidden him say that he was
well.

In that letter Charnock told in detail the history of his search. How
he had held to his clue, how he had missed it and retraced his steps,
how he had followed the merchant to Figuig on the borders of Algeria,
and back; how he had gone south into the country of Sus and was now
returning northwards to Mequinez. He had discarded the escort, because
if a protection to himself, it was a warning to the Arabs with whom he
fell in. They grew wary and shut their lips, distrusting him,
distrusting his business; and since he could speak Arabic before, he
had picked up sufficient of the Moghrebbin dialect, what with his dark
face and Hamet to come to his aid, to pass muster as a native. M.
Fournier sent the letter on to Mrs. Warriner at Ronda, who read it and
re-read it and blamed her selfishness in sending any man upon such an
errand, and wondered why she of all women in the world should have
found a man ready to do her this service. Many a time as she looked
from her window over the valley she speculated what his thoughts were
as he camped in the night-air on the plains and among the passes. Did
his thoughts turn to Ronda? Did he see her there obtruding a figure of
a monstrous impertinence and vanity? For she had asked of him what no
woman had a right to ask.

His frank confession of how he had defined women came back to her with
a pitiless conviction; "A brake on the wheel going up hill, a whip in
the driver's hand going down." It was true! It was true! She was the
instance which proved it true. There were unhappy months for Miranda
of the balcony.

At times Jane Holt would be wakened from her sleep by a great cry, and
getting from her bed she would walk round the landing half-way up the
patio, to Miranda's bedroom, only to find it empty. She would descend
the staircase, and coming into the little parlour, would discover
Miranda leaning out of the open window and looking down to a certain
angle of the winding road.

She had dreamed, she had seen in her dream Charnock with his two
servants encamped upon a hill-side or on a plain, and hooded figures
in long robes crawling, creeping, towards them, crouching behind
boulders, or writhing their bodies across fields of flowers. She saw
him too in the narrow, dim alleys of ruined towns, lured through a
doorway behind impenetrable walls, and then robbed for his money and
tortured for his creed.

At such times the sight of that road whence he had looked upwards to
her window was a consolation, almost a confutation of her dreams.
There at that visible corner of the road, underneath these same stars
and the same purple sky, Charnock had sat and gazed at this window
from which she leaned. He could not be dead! And carried away by a
feverish revulsion, she would at times come to fancy that he had
returned, that he was even now seated on the bank by the roadside,
that but for the gloom she would surely distinguish him, that in spite
of the gloom she could faintly distinguish him. And so her cousin
would speak to her, and with some commonplace excuse that the night
was hot, Miranda would get her back to her room.

These were terrible months for Miranda of the balcony. And the months
lengthened, and again no news came. Miranda began to wonder whether
she had only sent Charnock out to meet Ralph's disaster, to become a
slave beaten and whipped and shackled, and driven this way and that
through the barbarous inlands.

The months were piled one upon the other. The weight of their burden
could be measured by the changes in Miranda's bearing. Her cheeks grew
thin, her manner feverish. The mere slamming of a door would fling the
blood into her face like scarlet; an unexpected entrance set her heart
racing till it stifled her.


                          *   *   *   *   *


Meanwhile Charnock had long ceased to be troubled by the interruption
of his career. He moved now across wide prairies of iris and asphodel
under a blazing African sun, with perhaps a single palm tree standing
naked somewhere within view, or a cluster of dwarf olives; he halted
now for the night under a sinister sky on a dark plain, which
stretched to the horizon level as the sea; he would skirt a hill and
come unawares upon some white town of vast, gaunt, crumbling walls,
that ran out for no reason into the surrounding country, and for no
reason stopped. He passed beneath their ruined crenellations, under
the great gateways into the tortuous and dark streets where men
noiseless and sombre went their shrouded way. There were nights too
when he sat with a Mouser pistol in his hand, searching the darkness
until the dawn.

The continent he had left behind seemed very far away; the echo of its
clamours diminished; the hurry of its conflicts became unreasonable
and strange. He was in a country where the moss upon the palace roofs
was itself of an immemorial antiquity; where neither the face of the
country nor the ways of those who lived on it had changed. He had
waited as he turned his back upon a town in the violet sunset, to see
the white flags break out upon the tops of the minarets, and the
Mueddins appear. He had waited for their cry, "Allah Akbar!" and for
the great plaintive moan of prayer which rose to answer it from the
terraces, the bazaars, from every corner of the town, and which
trembled away with infinite melancholy over infinite plains, "Allah
Akbar! Allah Akbar!"

From those very minarets, during long successive centuries, a Mueddin
at just that hour had uttered just that cry; so that the Mueddin
became nothing, but the cry echoed down the years. And just that same
answer had risen and trembled out in just the same plaintive
mournfulness, so that those who prayed became of no account, and the
prayer repeated by the generations, the one thing which lived.

Charnock used to halt upon his road, turn his face backwards to the
town, and picture to himself that from East to West the whole
continent of Africa was murmurous with that one prayer, that the
Atlantic carried away the sound of it upon its receding waves, and
that the Nile floated it down from village to village through the
Soudan. He ceased to wonder at the indifference, the passivity, the
fatalism, of these mysterious men amongst whom he lived; for he felt
something of that fatalism invading himself.

He continued his search, northwards from the Atlas, escaping here a
band of robbers, there struggling in the whirl of a swollen stream,
listening at night to the cries of the jackals, and yielding to the
witchery of a monotonous Arab flute into which one servant blew a few
yards away, while Hamet, in a high strident voice, chanted a no less
monotonous song. He continued his search almost because "it was
written."

Until on a dull afternoon he came to Mequinez, with its palaces of
dead kings, which rise up one behind the other, draped in golden
lichens, vast roofs stretching away into the distance, green and grey
with the whipping of rains, tower overtopping tower, crumbling
crenellations of wall, silent, oppressive. Each palace shut and barred
after its master was dead, and left so, to frown into decay and make a
habitation for the storks.

To this city Charnock tracked the merchant, and taking up his abode in
the Mellah with a Jew to whom M. Fournier had recommended him, he
walked out through the streets beneath the walls of the palaces,
neither inquiring for the merchant nor scanning the faces of the
passers-by, but wrapped in his burnous, careless of any cry,
impenetrable, unobservant, until he came out of the darkness of a
bazaar, and saw, right before his eyes, a door.

The door was set in a wall perhaps sixty feet high. Charnock could not
see the top for the narrowness of the street. Blank, and menacing in
the sinister light, the wall towered up before his eyes, and reached
out to the right and to the left. And at the foot of the wall was the
door--a door of walnut wood, studded with copper nails, and the nails
were intricately ordered in a geometrical figure, impossible for the
eye to unravel.

That Charnock already knew; he had made trial before now to unravel
those geometrical figures, once, very long ago, and very far away in
the white sunlit street of a Spanish town. Charnock stood and stared
at the door, and the Spanish town loomed larger before his vision,
drew nearer, moved towards him, first slowly, then quickly, then in a
rush. Ronda! Ronda! The town, as it were, swept over him. He seemed to
wake; he seemed to stand again in the street. To his right was the
chasm of the Tajo, and the bridge, and the boiling torrent; behind
that door lived--and these two years slipped from him like a cloak.
With an unconscious movement of his hands he pushed the hood back from
his forehead, and stood bare-headed and alert. He was again one of the
hurrying, strenuous, curious folk who live beyond the Straits.

He gazed at the door. Behind that door's fellow Miranda lived and
waited. Even as the thought burned through his mind, the door opened.
For a moment Charnock imagined that Miranda herself would step out;
but only a Moor came forth from an interview with the Basha, and a
ragged, decrepit greybeard of a servant attended on the Moor and made
his path. Charnock was in an instant aware of a grey light filtering
between the squalid roof-tops, of the filth of the streets, of the
tottering walls of Mulai Ismail. He was in Mequinez.

And at Mequinez the long two years should end, and in ending bear
their fruit. That door, on which his eyes were set, augured as much,
nay promised it. "Not a sparrow shall fall...." Just for this reason,
centuries ago, a Moorish conqueror had taken these slabs of walnut
wood in Spain, and brought them back upon the shoulders of his slaves
and made his door from them and set it in his wall at Mequinez; just
that Charnock coming to this spot centuries afterwards might be
quickened in his service towards a woman, and gird himself about with
the memory of things which were growing dim, and be assured the
service should not fail! Charnock was uplifted to believe it.

He drew the hood again about his head, and the voice of the Mueddin
called the world to prayer. Through the open doors of the mosques,
from the white walls glimmering in the dimness within those doors,
from the streets, from the houses, the high-pitched tremulous prayer
rose and declined in an arc of sound.

Charnock felt his whole being throb exultantly. At Mequinez, yes, and
to-night, his search would end. Surely to-night! For the hour after
the evening prayer was the hour for the selling of slaves.

Charnock walked to the market and sat himself down in the first
dim corner. He did not choose a place prominent and visible,
inviting whosoever had wares to sell; he took the first seat which
offered--certain that wherever he sat Ralph Warriner would be brought
to him. He sat down and looked about him.

Some half a dozen men were grouped about the market talking; a young
negress from the Soudan, a white Moorish girl, a young negro from
Timbuctoo, were brought to them in turn. They examined their teeth,
their arms, their feet. The Moorish girl was bought; the others passed
on, each with the owner. They were followed by the Moor whom Charnock
had seen step from the Basha's door. He wished to sell his decrepit
greybeard, and was met with laughter wheresoever he turned. These were
all the slaves in the market.

Charnock did not lose heart. At any moment within the next few minutes
the narrow entrance to the market might darken, and Ralph Warriner's
owner thrust Ralph Warriner in--at some moment that would happen.

Did Warriner still shuffle in the Moorish slippers as he walked?
Charnock found himself asking the question with a curious
light-heartedness. The negress was offered to him, and then the negro;
he refused them with a gesture. He lent an ear to the rustling
whispering traffic of the streets outside. He listened patiently,
confidently, for the sound of a shuffling footstep to emerge, and grow
distinct and more distinct. The Moor brought his greybeard to
Charnock's corner. Charnock held his head aside and listened for the
loose slap-slap of the slipper upon the mud. The Moor spoke, was
importunate; Charnock waved him aside impatiently.

But as he waved his arm he turned his head; and then he suddenly
reached out a hand, while his heart leaped in his throat. "Ten
dollars," he said. The Moor began to expatiate on the merits of his
slave; he was still strong; he could carry heavy loads, and for far
distances. Charnock was impatient to interrupt, to pay the price. When
he had turned his head, suddenly, for an instant, he had looked
straight into the greybeard's eyes--and they were the blue eyes which
had stared into his--once, how many centuries ago?--through the window
of a hansom cab in a noisy street of Plymouth. Charnock had no doubt.
Other Moors had blue eyes, and in no other feature of this wizened,
haggard creature but his eyes could he trace a resemblance to Ralph
Warriner; but he had no doubt. All the intuitions of the last
half-hour came to his aid. He remembered the door, the call to prayer.
This was Ralph Warriner, and he had almost let him pass! Had he not
turned by mere accident just at the one moment when the greybeard's
eyes were raised, he would have lost his chance now and forever.
Warriner would have perished in his servitude, would have dropped
somewhere on the plain under a load too heavy, and lain there until
nightfall brought the jackals.

The thought took Charnock at the throat, left him struggling for his
breath. So near had he been to failing when he must not fail! He began
to fear at once that another purchaser might step in, while the Moor
was still exaggerating his goods. Yet he must not interrupt; he must
give no sign of anxiety lest he should awaken suspicion; he must
bargain with extreme indifference while a fever burnt in all his
blood.

"Thirty dollars," the Moor proposed.

Charnock shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. The Moor turned
away; the slave followed the master. Charnock clenched his hands
together under the folds of his sleeves to prevent them reaching out
and clasping the man. The merchant walked slowly for a few yards. At
the entrance of the market there was a sudden obscurity; a tall man
blocked the way, entered, and stopped before the merchant and his
slave. Charnock's heart died within him; but the man only laughed and
passed on.

Charnock felt all his muscles relax, as his suspense ended. For now
surely the slave would be brought back. The merchant turned slowly;
Warriner turned obediently behind him, and the obedience went to
Charnock's heart. It spoke of a discipline too hideous. Slowly the
owner returned to Charnock; it seemed that he would never speak.

"Twenty-five dollars," he said.

With an effort Charnock mastered his face and controlled his body.
"Twenty," he returned, and spoke of the slave's age, and how little
need he had of him. He heard the newcomer across the market haggling
over the negro from Timbuctoo. And at last,--at last the word was
spoken, the man he had come to search for was his, and his
inalienably, so long as he remained in any corner of Morocco.

Charnock paid the money; he did not so much as glance again at his
slave. He rose from his seat. "Follow me," he said to Warriner in
Moghrebbin; and one behind the other, Miranda's lover and Miranda's
husband, master and slave, passed out of the market and down the
street towards the gate of Mequinez.



                              CHAPTER XX

                   CHARNOCK, LIKE THE TAXIDERMIST,
         FINDS WARRINER ANYTHING BUT A COMFORTABLE COMPANION


On the way Charnock stopped at the _fondak_ where Hamet slept, and
bade the lad saddle the mules and bring them out of the town. Hamet
looked surprised, for nightfall was an ill time to start upon a
journey near the country of the Lemur tribes, but he was accustomed to
obey. Charnock's new slave did not even show surprise. Leaving Hamet
to follow him, Charnock passed through the gate. He dreaded to remain
in the town lest by some misfortune he might lose his slave; and,
besides, a nausea for its smells and its dirt began to gain upon him.
He walked down the slope of the hill to the olive trees and the mossy
turf. Lepers, of an unimaginable aspect, dragged by the side of the
beaten track and begged; robbers, who for their crimes had had their
eyes burnt out, kept pace with him, their eyelids closed upon red and
empty sockets; dead horses, mules, and camels were scattered by the
way, their carcases half devoured; everywhere were ruins, and things
decaying and things decayed; and over all was a sky of unbroken cloud,
and a chill lugubrious light.

Charnock observed his surroundings with newly-opened eyes and hurried
on till he reached the olives. Then he stopped and turned to watch for
Hamet's coming. He turned a trifle suddenly and his slave
instinctively shrank away and stood submissive and mute, stilled by a
long companionship with despair. And this was a captain of Her
Majesty's Artillery, who had sailed his yacht in and out of Gibraltar
Bay!

"My God, how you must have suffered!" cried Charnock, and he spoke in
the English tongue.

Warriner raised a dazed, half-witted face. "Say that again," he said
slowly, and he spoke in Arabic.

"My God, how you must have suffered!"

Warriner listened with one forefinger uplifted; he moved his finger
backwards and forwards sawing the air. "Yes," he answered, and this
time in English; but his mouth was awkward and the English came
rustily from his tongue. "Yes, it has been a hell of a time."

He spoke in a quite expressionless voice. But whether it was that the
forgotten sound of the tongue he used awoke in his dim mind faint
associations and a glimmer of memories, of a sudden he dropped upon
the turf amidst the olive trees and, burying his face in the moss,
sobbed violently like a child.

Charnock let him lie there until he saw Hamet leading the mules down
the beaten way from the town-gates. Then he bent down and touched
Warriner on the shoulder. "Here is my servant--do you understand?--my
servant."

The white man's pride answered the summons. Warriner got quickly to
his feet and drew a ragged sleeve across his face. Then he looked
round between the withered olives at that grey cruel ruin of a city
looming through the falling desolate light, and shivered. His eyes
lighted upon Hamet, and suddenly opened wide. "Those mules," he said
almost fiercely. "They are yours?"

"Yes!"

"Let us ride! O dear God, let us ride!" And until Hamet reached them,
his head darted this way and that, while his eyes searched the trees.
"Mind, you bought me," he said. "I belong to you; to no one else. How
far from here to the sea?"

"Nine days."

"Nine days," and he counted them over on his fingers.

Hamet brought up the mules. Charnock unrolled a burnous and a turban.
Warriner plucked off his rags and put on the dress. Then the three men
rode out between the olive trees, past the outer rampart of breached
walls, into the open plain.

"Shall we camp?" said Charnock.

Warriner cast a look across his shoulder. Mequinez was still visible,
a greyer blot upon the grey hillside. "No," said he.

They rode forward over carpets of flowers, between the hills. The
light fell; the marigolds paled beneath their mules' feet; the
gentians became any flower of a light hue. At last a toothed savage
screen of rock moved across Mequinez.

"Here," said Warriner. He tumbled rather than dismounted from his
mule, stretched his limbs out upon the grass, and in a moment was
asleep. Hamet gathered a bundle of leaves from a dwarf palm tree and a
few sticks, lit a fire, and cooked their supper. Charnock woke
Warriner, who ate his meal and slept again; and all that night, with a
Mouser pistol in his hand, Charnock sat by his side and guarded him.

The next morning they started betimes; they passed a caravan, farther
on a tent-village, and towards evening, from the shoulder of a hill
they looked down upon the vast plain of the Sebou. Level as a sea it
stretched away until the distinct colours of its flower-patches merged
into one soft blue.

"Eight days," said Warriner; and that night, as last night, he asked
no questions of Charnock, but ate his supper and so slept; and that
night again Charnock sat by his side and guarded him.

But the next morning Warriner for the first time began to evince some
curiosity as to his rescue and the man who had rescued him. The two
men had just bathed in a little stream which ran tinkling through the
grass beside their camp. Warriner was kneeling upon the bank of the
stream and contemplating himself in the clear mirror of its water,
when he said to Charnock: "How in the world did you know me?"

"By your eyes."

"We are not strangers, eh?"

"I hailed you from a hansom cab once outside Lloyd's bank in Plymouth.
You expressed an amiable wish that I should sit in that cab and rot
away in my boots. Lucky for you I didn't!"

"You were the man who jammed his finger? I remember; I thought you had
got a warrant in your pocket. By the way," and he lifted his head
quickly, "you never, I suppose, came across a man called Wilbraham?"

"Ambrose?"

"Yes, yes; when did you come across him?"

"He was blackmailing your wife."

"Oh, my wife," said Warriner, suddenly, as though it had only just
occurred to him that he had a wife. He turned his head and looked
curiously to Charnock, who was scrubbing himself dry some yards behind
him. "So you know my wife?"

"Yes."

"Ah!" Warriner again examined his face in the stream. "I think I might
walk straight up from the Ragged Staff," said he, wagging his grey
beard, "and shake hands with the Governor of Gibraltar and no one be a
penny the wiser." Then he paused. "So you know Wilbraham," he said
slowly, and paused again. "So you know my wife too;" and the pair went
to their breakfast.

Warriner walked in front of Charnock, and the latter could not but
notice how within these two days his companion had changed. His back
was losing its timid differential curve; there was less of a slink in
his walk; he no longer shrank when a loud word was addressed to him.
Moreover, his curiosity increased, and while they were at breakfast he
asked "How did you find me?"

And that morning as they rode forwards over the marigolds and irises,
Charnock told him of his first visit to Tangier and of Hassan Akbar.
"So when I came again," he said with perhaps a little awkwardness and
after a pause, "I had a clue, a slight one, but still a clue, and I
followed it."

"It was you who shouted through Fournier's shop-door, was it?" said
Warriner. "That's the second time a cry of yours has fairly scared me.
So you know Wilbraham," he added in a moment; "so you know my wife
too."

They halted at noon under a hedge of cactus, and Charnock, tired with
his long vigils, covered his head and slept. Through the long
afternoon, over pink and violet flowers, under a burning sun, they
journeyed drowsily, with no conversation and no sound at all but the
humming of the insects in the air and the whistle of birds and the
brushing of their mules' feet through the grass. That evening they
crossed the Sebou and camped a few yards from the river's bank in a
most lucid air.

It was after supper. Charnock was lying upon his back, his head
resting upon his arms, and his eyes upturned to the throbbing stars
and the rich violet sky. Warriner squatted cross-legged beside a dying
fire, and now and then, as a flame spirted up, he cast a curious
glance towards Charnock.

"How long have you been searching?" he asked.

"Two years," replied Charnock.

"Why?"

The question was shot at him, in a sharp challenging voice. Charnock
did not move from his position; he lay resting on that vast plain
under the fresh night sky and the kindly stars; but he was some little
while silent before he answered, "Your wife asked me to come."

Warriner nodded his head thoughtfully, but said no more. That night
Charnock did not keep watch, for they were across the Sebou and out of
the perilous country. The next morning they rode on towards Alkasar
with few words between them. Only Charnock noticed that Warriner was
continually glancing at him with a certain furtiveness, and it seemed
with a certain ill-will. Charnock grew restless under this
surveillance: he resented it; it made him vaguely uneasy.

They rode with no shadows to console them until the afternoon brought
the clouds over the top of the Atlas. Towards evening they saw far
ahead of them the town of Alkasar amongst its gardens of orange trees
and olives.

"We shall not reach it to-night," said Charnock, looking up at the
sky.

"No, thank God," answered Warriner, fervently. "No towns for me! What
if it does rain?"

So again they camped in the open, under a solitary wild fig tree, and
the rain held off. They talked indifferently upon this subject and
that, speculated upon news of Europe, and Charnock heard something of
Warriner's comings and goings, his sufferings and adventures. But the
talk was forced, and though now and again Wilbraham's name, and now
and again Miranda's, recurred, it died altogether away.

Warriner broke it suddenly. "You are in love with my wife," he said.

Charnock started up on his elbow. "What the devil has that got to do
with you?" he asked fiercely.

The two men eyed one another across the leaping flames of the fire.
"Well, you have a right to put it that way, no doubt," said Warriner.

Charnock sank down again. He felt resentment throbbing hot within him.
He was very glad that there were only five more days during which he
and Warriner must travel together alone, and during which he must keep
ward over the man he had rescued.

But the next day was one of peace. The mere proximity of a Moorish
town had terrors for Warriner. His eyes turned ever towards it, scared
and frightened. His very body shrank and took on a servile air.
Besides, it rained.

"We might sleep in Alkasar. There is a Jew I stayed with coming up;
you will be safe there," said Charnock.

"I would sooner shiver to death here," replied Warriner, and they
skirted the town.

But a little distance from the gates Charnock called a halt, and
taking Hamet and a mule he went up into the town. He sought out his
Jew, and bought a tent, which he packed upon the mule, and so returned
to where Warriner crouched and hid amongst the orange trees. Beyond
Alkasar they passed through a long stretch of stubble, whence acres of
wheat had been garnered, and at night the two men sat in the opening
of their tent, while the lad Hamet drew weird melancholy from his
pipe.

Warriner was silent; he was evidently turning over some thought in his
mind, and his mind, rusted by his servitude, worked very slowly. A man
of great vindictiveness and jealousy, he was not grateful for his
rescue; but he was brooding over the motives which had induced
Charnock to come in search of him, and which had persuaded Miranda to
send him in search. Warriner had never cared for his wife, but his
wife had never till now given him any cause for jealousy, and out of
his present jealousy there sprang and grew in his half-crazy and
disordered mind a quite fictitious passion.

He revealed something of it the next morning to Charnock. For after he
had waked up and yawned, after he had watched for a moment the busy
shadow of Hamet upon the tent-wall and heard the light crackle of the
breakfast fire, he roused Charnock with a shake of the shoulder and
resumed the conversation at the point where it had been broken off
when they sat by the camp-fire.

"But I'll tell you a question which has to do with me, Charnock," he
said. "Is my wife in love with you?"

"You damned blackguard!" cried Charnock.

"Thanks!" said Warriner, with a chuckle. "That's answer enough."

"It's no answer at all!" exclaimed Charnock, hotly, and he sat up
amongst his blankets and took refuge in subterfuges. "If what you say
were true, is it likely that your wife would have asked me to find you
out and bring you back?"

"That's the very point I have been considering," returned Warriner;
"and I think it uncommon likely. Women have all sorts of underground
scruples which it's difficult for a man to get upside with, and I can
imagine a woman would send off her fancy man on this particular
business as a kind of set-off and compensation. See?"

Charnock dared not trust himself to answer. He got up and walked to
the door of the tent, unfastened the flap, and let the sunlight in.

"Funny thing!" continued Warriner, "I never took much account of my
wife. She was a bit too stately for me. It was just as though someone
played symphonies to you all day when you hankered after music of the
music-hall type. But somehow,--I suppose it's seeing you doing the
heroic and all for her, don't you know?--somehow I am getting very
fond of her."

Charnock seemed to have heard not a single word. He stood at the door
of the tent, looking indifferently this way and that. His silence
spurred Warriner to continue. "I tell you what, Charnock," he said,
"you had better run straight with me. You'll find out your mistake if
you don't. I'll tell you something more: you had better let me find
when I get back to Ronda that you have run straight with me." He saw
Charnock suddenly look round the angle of the tent and then shade his
eyes with his hand. It seemed impossible to provoke him in any way.
"Mind, I don't say that I shall take it much to heart, if the affair
has stopped where you say it has." Charnock had said not a word about
the matter, as Warriner was well aware. "No," he continued, "on the
contrary; for no harm's actually done, you say, and my wife steps down
from her pedestal on to my level. Understand, sonny?--What are you up
to? Here, I say."

Charnock had stridden back into the tent. He stooped over Warriner and
roughly plucked him up from the ground. "Stand up, will you!" he
cried.

"Here, I say," protested Warriner, rather feebly; "you might be
speaking to a dog."

"I wish I was."

At that Warriner turned. The two men's faces were convulsed with
passion; hatred looked out from Warriner's eyes and saw its image in
Charnock's.

"Get out of the tent," said Charnock, and taking Warriner by the
shoulder, he threw rather than pushed him out.

"Now, what's that?" and he pointed an arm towards the east.

"That's a caravan."

"Quite so, a caravan. Perhaps you have forgotten what you said to me
outside the walls of Mequinez. You belong to me, you remember. You're
mine; I bought you, and I can sell you if I choose."

"By God, you wouldn't do that!" cried Warriner. His years of slavery
rushed back on him. He saw himself again tramping, under the sun, with
a load upon his back through the sand towards Algiers, over the hills
to the Sus country; he heard again the whistle of a stick through the
air, heard its thud as it fell upon his body, and felt the blow. "My
God, you couldn't do that!" And seeing Charnock towering above him,
his face hard, his eyes gloomy, he clung to his arm. "Charnock, old
man! You wouldn't, would you?"

"You'll fetch half a dozen copper _flouss_" said Charnock.

"Look here, Charnock, I apologise. See, old man, see? I am sorry; you
hear that, don't you? Yes, I'm sorry. It's my cursed tongue."

Charnock shook him off. "We left your rags behind, I believe, so you
can keep those clothes. The caravan will pass us in an hour." Then
Warriner fell to prayers, and flamed up in anger and curses and died
down again to whimpering. All the while Charnock stood over him silent
and contemptuous. There was no doubt possible he meant to carry out
his threat. Warriner burst out in a flood of imprecations, and Moorish
imprecations, for they came most readily to his tongue. He called on
God to burn Charnock's great-grandmother, and then in an instant he
became very cunning and calm.

"And what sort of a face will you show to Miranda," he said smoothly,
"when you get back to Ronda? You have forgotten that."

Charnock had forgotten it; in his sudden access of passion he had
clean forgotten it. Warriner wiped the sweat from his face; he did not
need to look at Charnock to be assured that at this moment he was the
master. He stuck his legs apart and rested his hands upon his hips.
"You weren't quite playing the game, eh, Charnock?" he said easily.
"Do you think you were quite playing the game?"

From that moment Warriner was master, and he was not inclined to leave
Charnock ignorant upon that point. Jealousy burnt within him. His mind
was unstable. A quite fictitious passion for his wife, for whom he had
never cared, and of whom he certainly would very quickly tire, was
kindled by his jealousy; and he left no word unspoken which could
possibly wound his deliverer. Charnock bitterly realised the false
position into which he had allowed passion to lead him; and for the
future he held his peace.

"Only one more day," he said with relief, as they saw the hills behind
Tangier.

"And what then, Charnock?" said Warriner. "What then?"

What then, indeed? Charnock debated that question during the long
night, the last night he was to spend under canvas in company with
Ralph Warriner. Sometime to-morrow they would see the minarets of
Tangier--to-morrow evening they would ride down across the Sôk and
sleep within the town. What then? Passion was raw in these two men. It
was a clear night; an African moon sailed the sky, and the interior of
the tent was bright. Warriner lay motionless, a foot or two away,
wrapped in his dark coverings, and Charnock was conscious of a fierce
thrill of joy when he remembered Miranda's confession that she had no
love left for her husband. He did not attempt to repress it; he hugged
the recollection to his heart. All at once Warriner began softly to
whistle a tune; it was the tune which he had whistled that morning at
the gates of Tangier cemetery, it was the tune which Miranda had
hummed over absently in the little parlour at Ronda, and which had
given Charnock the clue--and because of the clue Warriner was again
whistling the tune in the same tent with himself--a day's march from
Tangier.

Charnock began hotly to regret that he had ever heard it, that he had
charged Hamet to repeat it, and that so he had fixed it in his mind.
He kicked over on his rugs, and he heard Warriner speak.

"You are awake, are you? I say, Charnock," he asked smoothly, "did
Miranda show you the graveyard in Gib? That was my youngster,
understand?--mine and Miranda's."

Charnock clenched his teeth, clenched his hand, and straightened his
muscles out through all his body, that he might give no sign of what
he felt.

"Bone of my bone," continued Warriner, in a silky, drawling voice,
"flesh of my flesh,--and Miranda's." Perhaps some deep breath drawn
with a hiss through the teeth assured Warriner that his speech was not
spoken in vain; for he laughed softly and hatefully to himself.

Charnock lay quite still, but every vein in his body was throbbing. He
had one thought only to relieve him. Warriner had said the last
uttermost word of provocation; he had fashioned it out of the dust of
his child, when but for that child he would still be a slave; and out
of the wifehood of Miranda, when but for Miranda Charnock would never
have come in search of him. _Rupert Warriner, aged two_. The
gravestone, the boy looking out between the lattices, was very visible
to Charnock at that moment. He was in the mind to give Warriner an
account of how and why he was brought to see it; but he held his
peace, sure that whatever gibes or stings Warriner might dispense in
the future, they would be trifling and inconsiderable compared with
this monumental provocation.

He was wrong; Warriner's malice had yet another resource. Seeing that
Charnock neither answered him nor moved, he got up from his couch.
Charnock saw him rummaging amongst the baggage, hopping about the
tent in the pale moonlight; the shadow of his beard wagged upon the
tent-wall, and all the while he chuckled and whispered to himself.
Charnock watched his fantastic movements and took them together with
the man's fantastic words, and it occurred to him then for the first
time to ask whether Warriner's mind had suffered with his body. He had
come to this point of his reflections when Warriner, stooping over a
bundle, found whatever it was for which he searched. Charnock heard a
light snick, like the cocking of a pistol, only not so loud. Then
Warriner hopped back to Charnock's side, knelt down and thrust
something into the palm of Charnock's hand. Charnock's fingers closed
on it instinctively and gripped it hard; for this something was the
handle of a knife and the blade was open.

"There!" said Warriner. "You have to protect me. This is the last
night, so I give you the knife to protect me with."

He hopped back to his rugs, twittering with pleasure; and turning his
face once more towards Charnock, while Charnock lay with the open
knife in his hand, he resumed, "My boy, Charnock--mine and
Miranda's--mine and Miranda's."

The next evening they rode over the cobblestones of Tangier and halted
at M. Fournier's shop.



                             CHAPTER XXI

                  COMPLETES THE JOURNEYINGS OF THIS
                          INCONGRUOUS COUPLE


M. Fournier received the wanderers with an exuberant welcome. He fell
upon Warriner's neck, patted him, and wept over him for joy at his
return and for grief at his aged and altered looks. Then he grasped
Charnock with both hands. "The deliverer," he cried, "the friend so
noble!"

"Yes," said Warriner, pleasantly; "_ce bon_ Charnock, he loves my
wife."

Within half-an-hour the two travellers were shaved and clothed in
European dress.

"Would anyone know me?" asked Warriner.

"My poor friend, I am afraid not," answered Fournier, and Warriner
seemed very well pleased with the answer.

"Then we will go and dine, really and properly dine, at a hotel on
champagne wine," said he.

They dined at a window which looked out across the Straits, and all
through that dinner Warriner's face darkened and darkened and his gaze
was sombrely fixed towards Gibraltar.

"What are your plans?" asked Fournier.

"The first thing I propose to do is to walk up to the cemetery and
astonish my friend Hassan Akbar."

"You will not find him. The Basha thought it wise to keep him safe in
prison until you were found."

"He has been there two years then?" said Warriner. "He had no friends.
Then he is dead?" For the Moorish authorities do not feed the
prisoners in the Kasbah.

M. Fournier blushed. "No, he is not dead. He would have starved,
but,--you will forgive it, my friend? After all he had no great reason
to like you,--I sent him food myself every day,--not very much, but
enough," stammered M. Fournier, anxiously.

Warriner waved his hand. "It is a small thing; yes, I forgive you."

"And he may go free?"

"Why not? He will not catch me again."

M. Fournier's face brightened with admiration.

"Ah, but you are great, truly great," he exclaimed; "my friend, you
are _magnanime!_ Now tell me what you will do."

M. Fournier's magnanimous friend replied. "The boat crosses to
Algeciras to-morrow. I shall go up to Ronda. And you?" he asked,
turning to Charnock.

"I shall go with you," said Charnock.

"_Ce bon_ Charnock," said Warriner, with a smile. "He loves my wife."

"But afterwards?" Fournier hurried to interpose. "Will you stay at
Ronda?"

"No."

Warriner's eyes strained out across the water to where the topmost
ridge of Gibraltar rose against the evening sky. Since his rescue two
thoughts had divided and made a conflict in his mind; one was his
jealousy of Charnock, his unreal hot-house affection for Miranda; the
other had been represented by his vague questions and statements about
Wilbraham. He was now to speak more clearly, for as he looked over to
the Rock, Wilbraham was uppermost in his mind.

"You did not know Wilbraham," he resumed. "Charnock did, _ce bon_
Charnock. I have a little account to settle with Wilbraham, a little
account of some standing, and now there's a new item to the bill. The
scullion! Imagine it, Fournier. He blackmailed my wife; blackmailed
Miranda! Do you understand?" he cried feverishly. "Miranda! You know
her, Charnock. Fournier, how often have I spoken of her to you?
Miranda!" And words failed him, so inconceivable was the thought that
any man should bring himself to do any wrong to his Miranda.

M. Fournier stared. As he had once told Mrs. Warriner, Ralph had
spoken to him of Miranda; but it had not been with the startling
enthusiasm which at present he evinced.

"I shall settle my accounts with Wilbraham first," continued Warriner,
"after I have seen Miranda. Did you know it was Wilbraham who sold the
plans of the Daventry gun?"

"Was it?" exclaimed Charnock.

"It was," and the three men drew their chairs closer together.
"Wilbraham was a moneylender's tout at Gib. I had borrowed money and
renewed; I borrowed again, and again renewed. You see," he argued in
excuse, "I would not touch a penny of my wife's estate; that of course
was sacred. It was Miranda's--"

"And settled upon Miranda," Charnock could not refrain from
interposing.

"Don't you call my wife by her christian name, else you and I will
quarrel," exclaimed Warriner, banging his fist violently upon the
table, and M. Fournier anxiously signed to Charnock to be silent.

"It was a slip," said Fournier, and soothingly he patted Warriner on
the shoulder. "Here! have one or two fine champagne, eh? Now go on; we
are all of us good friends. You borrowed twice from Wilbraham and did
not pay; you would not, of course. Well?"

"I tried to borrow a third time," continued Warriner; "but Wilbraham
refused unless I could offer him good security. He himself suggested
the plans of the Daventry gun. He swore most solemnly that he would
not use them; he would keep them as a security for three weeks, and I
wanted his money. I had debts to pay, debts to my brother officers,
and I agreed. He lent me the money; I gave him the plans, and he went
off to Paris and sold them. I received a hint one afternoon that the
mechanism of the gun was known, and I ran out of Gibraltar that
evening. So, you see, I have an account with him; and it grows and
grows and grows upon me each time that I see that." He pointed a
shaking finger to where the sharp ridge of Gibraltar cut the evening
sky. "Now that I can go where I will and no one will know me, I will
get the account paid, and cut a receipt in full with a knife right
across Wilbraham's face."

His voice rose and quavered with a feverish excitement, his eyes shone
and glittered; it seemed to Charnock there was madness in them. M.
Fournier's eyes met his and they exchanged glances, so M. Fournier,
who was engaged in assiduously soothing Warriner, shared the
conjecture. Indeed, as M. Fournier took his leave, he said privately
to Charnock: "My poor friend! what will be the end of it for him? His
wife does not like him and he will follow this Wilbraham, and he is
not himself."

Charnock was lighting his candle at the hall-table.

"Yes," said he, slowly. "There is his wife, there is Wilbraham, there
is himself; what is to be the end of it all?"

He went up the stairs to his room. His room communicated with
Warriner's, and taking the key from the door, he left the door
unlocked. More than once as he tossed upon his bed vainly reiterating
the question, what was to be the end, he heard the latch of the door
click, he saw the door open slowly, he saw a head come cautiously
through the opening; and then, as he lay still, Warriner came hopping
across the room to his bed. Warriner came to assure himself that
Charnock had not stolen a march upon him during the night; he was
possessed by a crazy fear lest Charnock should see Miranda before
himself.

On the following afternoon they crossed together to Algeciras, through
a rough sea in a strong wind.

"It's the Levanter," said Warriner; "there'll be three days of it." He
looked earnestly at Gibraltar as the boat turned into the bay.
"Wilbraham, Wilbraham," he muttered in a voice of anticipation. Then
he turned to Charnock. "Mind, we go up to Ronda together! We shall
have to stay the night at Algeciras. Mind, you are not to charter a
special and go up ahead while I am asleep."

Charnock was sorely tempted to secure an engine, as he could have
done, but Miranda had asked to see him "once when he brought Ralph
back," and so the next morning they travelled together.

At noon Charnock saw again the walnut door encrusted with the copper
nails, and Warriner was already hammering upon it with his stick. The
moment it was opened he rushed through without a word, thrusting the
servant aside.

Charnock followed him, but though he followed he had the advantage,
for while Warriner gazed about the patio into which for the first time
he entered, Charnock ran across to the little room in which Miranda
was wont to sit. He opened the door.

"Empty," said Warriner, from behind his shoulder, and he pushed past
Charnock into the room. From the balcony above them Jane Holt spoke.
She spoke to Charnock as she ran down the stair.

"It's you at last! Miranda is at Gibraltar. She expected to hear of
you, and thought she would hear more quickly there. She has been ill,
besides; she needed doctors."

"Ill?" exclaimed Charnock.

"Who is that?" asked Miss Holt, glancing across Charnock's shoulder.

"Ralph."

"Ralph!" cried out Miss Holt. "But he's--"

"Hush!"

They followed Warriner into the room, and Charnock closed the door.

"Didn't you know?" he asked. "I went to find him."

"No," she replied, utterly bewildered. "It seems strange; but Miranda
is very secret. A little unkind, perhaps," and then her voice went up
almost in a scream as Warriner turned towards her. "Ralph! Is that
Ralph?"

"Yes, yes, it's Ralph," said Warriner, and all the time he spoke, he
trotted and hopped and danced about the room. "Ralph Warriner, to be
sure; a little bit aged, eh, Jane Holt? Little bit musty? Been lyin'
too long in the churchyard at Scilly--bound to alter your looks
that,--what?" He skipped over to the writing table and began with a
seeming aimlessness to pull out the drawers. "Where's Miranda? Does
she know her lovin' husband's here? Why don't she come? Tell me that,
Jane Holt!" He made a quick, and to Charnock an unintelligible,
movement at the writing table, shut up a drawer with a bang, and the
next moment he had a hand tight upon Jane Holt's wrist. "Where's
Miranda? Quick!" and he shook her arm fiercely, but with a sly look
towards Charnock; his other hand he thrust into his pocket. Charnock
just got a glimpse of a sheet of paper clenched in the fist. Warriner
withdrew his hand from his pocket empty. He had stolen something from
the writing drawer. But what it was Charnock could not guess, nor did
he think it wise, in view of Warriner's excitement, to ask.

"Miranda's at Gibraltar," said Miss Holt, quite alarmed by the man's
extravagance. "I told you, she is ill."

Warriner waited to hear no more. He dropped her arm. "At Gibraltar,"
he said, and ran out of the room across the patio. Charnock followed
him immediately. "He must not go alone," he cried over his shoulder to
Miss Holt, but the excuse was only half of his motive. Passion,
resentment, jealousy,--these too ordered him and he obeyed.

Charnock came up with Warriner at the railway station. The train did
not leave Ronda until three, as Charnock might have known and so
behaved with dignity before Miss Holt; but he was beyond the power of
argument or reflection. He hurried after Warriner and caught him up,
and during the two hours of waiting, the two men kept watch and ward
upon each other. Together they walked to the hotel, they lunched at
the same table, they returned side by side to the station, and seated
themselves side by side in the same carriage of the train. The train
which takes four hours to climb to Ronda runs down that long slope of
a hundred miles in two hours. Charnock and Warriner took their seats
in a _coupé_ at the end of the last carriage; they rushed suddenly
into the dark straight tunnels, and saw the mouths by which they had
entered as round O's of light which contracted and contracted until a
mere pin's-point of sunshine was visible far away, and then suddenly
they were out again in the daylight.

There were certain landmarks with which Charnock was familiar,--a
precipitous gorge upon the right, an underground river which flooded
out from a hillside upon the left, a white town far away upon a green
slope like a flock of sheep herded together, and finally the glades of
the cork forest with the gleam of its stripped tree-trunks. The train
drew up at Algeciras a few minutes after five.

Charnock and Warriner were met with the statement that the Levanter
of yesterday had increased in force, and by the order of the
harbour-master the port of Algeciras was closed. It was impossible to
make the passage to Gibraltar--and Miranda was ill. She had needed
doctors, Jane Holt had said. Charnock's fears exaggerated the malady;
she might be dying; she might die while he and Warriner waited at
Algeciras for the sea to subside. "We must reach Gibraltar to-night,"
he cried.

"And before gunfire," added Warriner. "But how?"

Charnock went straight to the office of the manager of the line. The
manager greeted him with warmth. "But, man, where have you been these
two years?" he exclaimed.

"There's a station at San Roque half-way round the bay," said
Charnock. "I must get into Gibraltar to-night. If I can have a special
to San Roque, I might drive the last nine miles."

Gibraltar is before everything a fortress, and the gates of that
fortress are closed for the night at gunfire, and opened again for the
day at gunfire in the morning.

"You will never do it," said the manager. "The gun goes off at seven."

"What's the month?" cried Warriner.

"July," answered the manager, in surprise.

"And the day of July?"

"The fifth."

"Good," cried Warriner. "You are wrong; on the fifth of July the gun
goes off at eight--from the fifth of July to the thirty-first of
August."

The manager uncoupled one carriage and the engine, coupled them
together and switched them on to the up-line. Meanwhile Charnock
telegraphed to the station-master at San Roque, to have a carriage in
readiness; but time was occupied, and it was six o'clock before the
engine steamed into San Roque.

San Roque is a wayside station; the village lies a mile away, hidden
behind a hill. Charnock and Warriner alighted amongst fields and
thickets of trees, but nowhere was there a house visible, and worst of
all, there was no carriage in the lane outside the station. The
station-master had ordered one, and no doubt one would arrive. He
counselled patience.

For half-an-hour the incongruous companions, united by a common
passion and a mutual hate, kicked their heels upon the lonely platform
of San Roque. Then at last a crazy, battered, creaking diligence,
drawn by six broken-kneed, sore-backed mules, cantered up to the
station with a driver and a boy upon the box, whooping exhortations to
the mules with the full power of their lungs.

Charnock and Warriner sprang up into the hooded seat behind the box,
the driver turned his mules, and the diligence went off at a canter,
along an unmade track across the fields.

It was now close upon a quarter to seven, and nine miles lay between
San Roque and the gates of Gibraltar. Moreover, there was no road for
the first part of the journey, merely this unmade track across the
fields. The two men urged on the driver with open-handed promises; the
driver screamed and shouted at his mules: "Hi! mules, here's a bull
after you!" He counterfeited the barking of dogs; but the mules were
accustomed to his threats and exhortations; they knew there were no
dogs at their heels, and they kept to their regular canter.

Charnock longed for the fields to end and for the road to begin; and
when the road did begin, he longed again for the fields. The road
consisted of long lines of ruts, ruts which were almost trenches, ruts
which had been baked hard by the summer suns. The mules stumbled
amongst them, the diligence tossed and pitched and rolled like a boat
in a heavy sea; Charnock and Warriner clung to their seats, while the
driver continually looked round to see whether a wheel had slipped off
from its axle. At times the boy would jump down from the box, and
running forward with the whip in his hand, would beat the mules with
the butt-end; the lash had long ceased to influence their movements.

"The road's infernal," cried Warriner.

"It will be when we get to the sea," replied the driver, and Charnock
groaned in his distress. There was worse to come, and Miranda was ill.

The diligence lurched between two clumps of juniper trees, swung round
a wall, and instantly the wheels sank into soft sand. The huge, sheer
landward face of Gibraltar Rock towered up before them as they looked
across the mile of neutral ground, that flat neck of land between the
Mediterranean and the Bay. They saw the Spanish frontier town of
Linea; but to Linea the sand stretched in a broad golden curve, soft
and dry, and through that curve of sand the wheels of the diligence
had to plough. The mules were beaten onwards, but the Levanter blew
dead in their teeth. The driver turned the diligence towards the sea,
and drove with the water splashing over the wheels; there the sand
bound, and the pace was faster.

It was still, however, too slow; Gibraltar seemed still as far away.
The travellers paid the driver, leaped from their seats, and ran over
the soft clogging sand to Linea. They reached Linea. They passed the
sentinel and the iron gates, they stood upon the neutral ground. They
had but one more mile to traverse.

A cab stood without the iron gates. They jumped into it and drove at a
gallop across the level; but the gun was fired from the Rock, while
they were still half-a-mile from the gate, and the cabman brought his
horses to a standstill.

"What now?" said Warriner.

"We might get in," said Charnock.

"The keys are taken to the Governor. There would be trouble; there
always is. I know there would be questions asked; it would not be
safe. I might slip in when the gates are open, but now it would not be
safe. And mind, Charnock, when you go in I go in too."

There was no doubt that Warriner meant what he said, every word of it.
For Miranda's sake Charnock could not risk Warriner's detection. They
must remain outside Gibraltar for that night, even though during the
night Miranda should die.

"Can we sleep at Linea?" said Charnock.

"No, Linea is a collection of workmen's houses and workmen's
pot-houses." The two men made their supper at one of these latter, and
for the rest of the night paced the neutral ground before Gibraltar.

A scud of clouds darkened the sky, and one pile of cloud, darker than
the rest, lowered stationary upon the summit of the Rock. All night
the Levanter blew pitilessly cold across that unprotected neck of land
between sea and sea. With their numbed hands in their pockets, and
their coats buttoned to the throat, Charnock and Warriner, accustomed
to the blaze of a Morocco sun, waited from nightfall until midnight,
and from midnight through the biting, dreary hours till dawn.

The gates were opened at three o'clock in the morning. Together the
two men went through; they had still hours to wait before they could
return to the hotel. They breakfasted together, and they let the time
go by, for now that they were within reach of, almost within sight of,
Miranda Warriner, they both began to hesitate. What was to be the end?
They looked at one another across the table with that question
speaking from their eyes. They walked down to the hotel and faced each
other at the door, and the question was still repeated and still
unanswered. They turned away together and strolled a few yards, and
turned and came back again. This time Charnock entered the hotel. "Is
Mrs. Warriner in?" he asked.

The waiter replied, "Yes."

Charnock drew a long breath. Surely if much had been amiss with her
the waiter would have told them; but he said nothing, he merely led
the way upstairs.



                             CHAPTER XXII

                  IN WHICH CHARNOCK ASTONISHES RALPH
                               WARRINER


The waiter threw open the door, the two men entered, and Warriner shut
the door. Miranda rose from a chair and stood looking from Charnock to
Warriner and back again from Warriner to Charnock; and as yet no word
was spoken by anyone of them. Charnock had time to note, and grieve
for, the pallor of her face and the purple hollows about her eyes.
Then she moved forward for a step or two quite steadily; she murmured
a name and the name was not Ralph; and then suddenly, without any
warning, she fell to the ground between Charnock and her husband, and
lay still and lifeless.

"My God, she's dead!" whispered Warriner. "We should have sent word of
our coming. We have killed her," and then he stopped. For Charnock was
standing by the side of Miranda and talking down to her as she lay, in
a low, soft, chiding voice.

"Come," he was saying, "it's what you wished. You will be glad when
you have time to think over it and understand. There is no reason why
you should--"

This intimate talking with the lifeless woman came upon Warriner as
something horrible. "Man, can't you see?" he whispered hoarsely.
"She's dead, Miranda is. We have killed her, you and I."

Charnock slowly turned his head towards Warriner and looked at him
steadily with his eyebrows drawn down over his eyes. Somehow Warriner
was frightened by that glance; he felt a chill creep down his spine;
he was more frightened than even on that morning when Charnock
threatened to sell him outside Alkasar. "She's dead, I tell you," he
babbled, and so was silent.

Charnock looked back to Miranda, sank upon one knee by her side, and
bending his head down began to whisper to her exhortations, gentle
reproaches at her lack of courage, and between his words he smiled at
her as at a wayward child.

"There is no reason to fear," the uncanny talk went on; "and it hurts
us! You don't know how much. You might as well speak, not be like
this--pretending." He reached over her and took her hand, cherished it
in his own, and entwined his fingers with her fingers and then
laughed, as though her fingers had responded to his own. "You are
rather cruel, you know."

Warriner moved uneasily. "Charnock, I tell you Miranda's--"

Charnock flung his other arm across her body and crouched over it,
glaring at Warriner like a beast about to spring.

"And I tell you she's not, she's not, she's not!" he hissed out.
"Dead!" and suddenly he lifted up Miranda's head, held it in the
hollow of his arm and kissed the face upon the forehead and the lips.
"Dead?" and he broke out into a laugh. "Is she? I'll show you. Come!
Come!" He forced his disengaged arm underneath her waist, and putting
all his strength into the swing lifted himself on to his feet, and
lifted Miranda with him. "Now don't you see?" Warriner was standing,
his mouth open, his eyes contracted; there was more than horror
expressed in them, there was terror besides.

"Don't you see?" cried Charnock, in a wild triumph. "Perhaps you are
blind. Are you blind, Ralph Warriner?"

He held Miranda supported against his shoulder, and swung her up and
tried to set her dangling feet firm-planted on the ground; but her
limbs gave, her head rolled upon his shoulder. He hitched her up
again, her head fell back exposing the white column of her throat. The
heavy masses of her hair broke from their fastenings, unrolled about
her shoulders, and tumbled about his. He tried again to set her on her
feet, and her head fell forward upon his breast, and her hair swept
across his lips. "There, man," he cried, "she can stand.... Can a dead
woman stand? Tell me that!" He held her so that she had the posture,
the semblance, of one who stands, though all her weight was upon his
arm. His laughter rose without any gradation to the pitch of a scream,
sank without gradation to a hoarse cry. "Why, she can walk! Can a dead
woman walk? See! See!" And suddenly he dropped his arm from her waist,
and stood aside from her, holding her hand in his. Instantly her
figure curved and broke. She swung round towards him upon the pivot of
his hand, and as she swung she stumbled and fell. Charnock caught her
before she reached the ground, lifted her up, strained her to his
breast, and held her so. One deep sob broke from him, shook him, and
left him trembling. He carried Miranda to a couch, and there gently
laid her down. Gently he divided her hair back from her temples and
her face; he crossed her hands upon her breast, watched her for a
second as she lay, her dress soiled with the dust of his journeyings;
and then he dropped on his knees by the couch, and with a set white
face, with his eyelids shut tight upon his eyes, in a low, even voice
he steadily blasphemed.

Some time later a hand was laid upon his shoulder and a strange voice
bade him rise. He stood up and looked at the stranger with a dazed
expression like one who comes out of the dark into a lighted room.
Warriner also was in the room. Charnock caught a word here and there;
the stranger was speaking to him; Charnock gathered that the stranger
was a doctor, and that Warriner had fetched him.

"But she's dead," said Charnock, resentfully. "Why trouble her? she's
dead." And looking down to Miranda, he saw that there was a faint
flush of pink upon her cheeks, where all had been white before. "But
you said she was dead," he said stupidly to Warriner, and as the
doctor bent over her, it broke in upon him that she was in truth
alive, that she had but swooned, and the shame of what he had done
came home to him. "I was mad," he said, "I was mad."

"Go," said the doctor, "both of you."

"I can stay," said Warriner. "This is Mrs. Warriner; I am her husband,
Ralph Warriner." The doctor looked up sharply. Warriner simply nodded
his head. "Yes, yes," he said; "and this is Charnock. _Ce bon_
Charnock. You see, he loves my wife."

Warriner spoke slowly and in an inexpressive voice, as though he too
was hardly aware of what he said. The conviction that Miranda was dead
had come with equal force to both of these two men, and the knowledge
that she was not brought an equal stupefaction. Warriner remained in
the room; Charnock went outside and down the stairs.

He came to his senses in the streets of Gibraltar, and looking
backwards, seemed to himself to have lost them weeks ago somewhere
between Mequinez and Alkasar, in a profitless rivalry for a woman who
could not belong to him. In the present revulsion of his feelings he
was conscious that he had lost all his enmity towards Warriner. He
walked down to the landing-stage at the Mole. The Levanter had spent
its force during the night; the sea had gone down; a steamer was
dropping its anchor in the bay. Charnock was in two minds whether or
no to cross the harbour to Algeciras, where Warriner and himself had
left their traps the day before, gather together his belongings, and
sail for England in that steamer. He had done all that he had been
enjoined to do; he had brought Warriner back; he had even, as he had
promised, paid the one last visit to Miranda. But,--but, he might be
wanted, he pleaded to himself, and so undecided he wandered about the
streets, and in the afternoon came back to the hotel.

The waiter was watching for his return. Mrs. Warriner wished to speak
with him. There was no sign of Warriner. Charnock mounted the stairs.
There was no sign of Warriner within the sitting-room. Miranda was
alone, and from the frank unembarrassed way with which she held out
her hand, Charnock understood that she knew nothing of what had passed
in the morning.



                            CHAPTER XXIII

              RELATES A SECOND MEETING BETWEEN CHARNOCK
                             AND MIRANDA


"I Was afraid you had gone without my thanks," she said; "and thanks
are the only coin I have to pay you with."

"Surely there needs no payment."

"I should have thanked you this morning; but your return overcame me,
I had hoped and prayed so much for it."

The scream of the P. and O.'s steam-whistle sounded through the room.
They both turned instinctively to the window, they saw the last late
boat-load reach the ship's side, and in a moment or so they heard the
rattle of the anchor-chain.

"And Ralph?" asked Charnock.

Miranda pointed to the steamer. Already the white fan of water
streamed away from its stern.

"He has sailed?"

"Yes. He could not stay here. His--" she paused for a second and then
spoke the word boldly, "his crime was hushed up, but it is of course
known here to a few, and all know that there is something. He told his
name to the doctor. It was not safe for him to stay over this
morning."

"He has gone to England?"

"Yes, but he will leave England immediately. He promised to write to
me, so that I may know where he is."

More of Warriner's interview with his wife, neither Charnock nor
anyone ever knew. Whether he asked her to come with him and she
refused, or whether, once he saw her and had speech with her, his
fictitious passion died as quickly as it had grown--these are matters
which Miranda kept locked within her secret memories. At this time
indeed such questions did not at all occur to Charnock. As he watched
the great steamer heading out of the bay, and understood that he must
be taking the same path, he was filled with a great pity for the
lonely woman at his side. The thought of her home up there in the
Spanish hills and of her solitary, discontented companion came to him
with a new and poignant sadness. Ronda was no longer a fitting shrine
for her as his first fancies had styled it, but simply a strange place
in a strange country.

"Why don't you go home to your own place, to your own people?" he
suggested rather than asked.

Miranda was silent for a while. "I have thought of it," she said at
length; "I think too that I shall. At first, there was the disgrace,
there was the pity--I could not have endured it; besides, there was
Rupert. But--but--I think I shall."

"I should," said Charnock, decidedly. "I should be glad, too, to know
that you had made up your mind to that. I should be very glad to think
that you were back at your own home."

"Why?" she asked, a little surprised at his earnestness.

"Of course, I wasn't born to it," he replied disconnectedly; "but now
and then I have stayed at manor-houses in the country; and such visits
have always left an impression on me. I would have liked myself to
have been born of the soil on which I lived, to have lived where my
fathers and grandfathers lived and walked and laughed and suffered, in
the same rooms, under the same trees, enjoying the associations which
they made. Do you know, I don't think that that is a privilege lightly
to be foregone." And for a while again they both were silent.

Then Miranda turned suddenly and frankly towards him: "I should like
so much to show you my home." She had said much the same on that first
evening of their meeting in Lady Donnisthorpe's balcony, as they both
surely remembered.

"I should like much to see it," returned Charnock, gently; "but I am a
busy man." Miranda coloured at the conventional excuse, as Charnock
saw. "But it was kind of you to say that. I was glad to hear it," he
added.

It was not to the addition she replied, but to his first excuse. "As
it is, you have lost two years. I have made you lose them."

"Please!" he exclaimed. "You won't let that trouble you. Promise me! I
am a young man; it would be a strange thing if I could not give two
years to you. Believe me, Mrs. Warriner, when my time comes, and I
turn my face to the wall, whatever may happen between now and then, I
shall count those two years as the years for which I have most reason
to be thankful."

Miranda turned abruptly away from him and looked out of the window
with intense curiosity at nothing whatever. Then she said in a low
voice: "I hope that's true; I hope you mean it; I believe you do. I
have been much troubled by an old theory of yours, that a woman was a
brake on the wheel going up hill, and a whip in the driver's hand
going down."

"I will give you a new theory to replace the old," he answered. "There
are always things to do, you know. Suppose that a man has cared for a
woman, has set her always within his vision, has always worked for
her, for a long while, and has at last come surely, against his will,
to know that she was ... despicable, why then, perhaps he might have
reason to be disheartened. But otherwise--well, he has things to do
and memories to quicken him in the doing of them."

"Thank you," she said simply. "I think what you say is true. I once
met a man who found a woman to be despicable, and the world went very
ill with him."

It was of Major Wilbraham she was thinking, who had more than once
written to Miranda during these two years, and whose last letter she
imagined to be lying then in a drawer of her writing-table at Ronda.



                             CHAPTER XXIV

               A MIST IN THE CHANNEL ENDS, AS IT BEGAN,
                               THE BOOK


But that letter was in Ralph Warriner's pocket, as he walked the deck
of the P. and O. It was dated from a hotel at Dartmouth, whence, said
the Major, he was starting on a little cruise westwards in the company
of a young gentleman from Oxford who owned a competence and a yacht.
The Major would be back at Dartmouth in some six weeks' time and
hoped, for Mrs. Warriner's sake, that he would find a registered
letter awaiting him. The Major was still upon his cruise, as Ralph
Warriner was assured from the recent date of the letter.

Warriner disembarked at Plymouth and took train to Dartmouth, where he
learned the name of the yacht by merely asking at the hotel. He tried
to hire a steam launch, for sooner or later in one of the harbours he
would be sure to come up with Wilbraham, if he only kept a sharp eye;
but steam launches are difficult to hire at this season of the year,
and in the end he had to content himself with chartering a ten-ton
cutter. He engaged one hand, by whose testimony the history of Ralph's
pursuit came to be known, and sailed out of Dartmouth to the west. He
sailed out in the morning, and coming to Salcombe ran over the bar on
the tail of the flood, but did not find his quarry there, and so beat
out again on the first of the ebb and reached past Bolt Head and Bolt
Tail, across Bigbury Bay with its low red rocks, to Plymouth.
Wilbraham had anchored in the Cattwater only two days before; the
yacht was a yawl, named the _Monitor_; and was making for the
Scillies. Warriner laughed when he picked up word about the
destination of the yacht, and thought it would be very appropriate if
he could overhaul the _Monitor_ somewhere off Rosevear. As to what
course he intended to pursue when he caught Wilbraham, he had no
settled plan; but on the other hand he had a new revolver in his
berth.

He put out from Plymouth under a light breeze, which failed him
altogether when he was abreast of Rame Head. Through the rest of the
day he drifted with the tide betwixt Rame Head and Plymouth. The night
came upon him jewelled with stars, and a light mist upon the surface
of the water; all that night he swung up and down some four miles out
to sea within view of Plymouth lights, but towards morning, a fitful
wind sprang up, drove the cutter as far as Polperro, and left it
becalmed on a sea of glass, in front of the little white village in
the wooded cliff-hollow, while the sun rose. Warriner opened the
narrow line of blue water which marks the mouth of the Fowey river at
eleven o'clock of the morning, and anchored in Fowey harbour about
twelve. It was a Sunday, and though the _Monitor_ was not at Fowey,
Warriner determined to stay at his anchorage till the morrow.

The Brixham fisherman who served him upon this cruise relates that
Warriner displayed no impatience or anxiety at any time. Of the
febrile instability which had set his thoughts flying this way and
that during the days of his companionship with Charnock, there was no
longer any trace in his demeanour. Perhaps it was that he was so
certain of attaining his desires; perhaps the long lesson of endurance
which he had been painfully taught in Morocco now bore its fruit;
perhaps too he had acquired something of the passive fatalism of the
Moorish race. During this Sunday afternoon, his last Sunday as it
proved, he quietly sculled the dinghy of his cutter, when the tide was
low, through the mud flats of the Fowey river to Lostwithiel; and
coming down again when the river was full, lay for a long time upon
his oars opposite a certain church that lifts above a clump of trees
on the river-bank. There he remained listening to the roll of the
organ and the sweet voices of the singers as they floated out through
the painted windows into the quiet of the summer evening; when the
service was over he bent to his sculls again and rowed back between
the steep and narrowing coppices, but it was dark before he turned the
last shoulder of hill and saw the long lines of riding-lights
trembling upon the water.

Warriner raised his anchor early on the Monday morning, and having the
wind on his quarter, made Falmouth betimes. At Falmouth he learned
that the _Monitor_ had put out past St. Anthony's light only the day
before and had sailed westwards to Penzance.

Warriner followed without delay, and when he was just past the Manacle
rocks, the wind dropped. With the help of the tide and an occasional
flaw of wind, he worked his cutter round the Lizard Point and laid her
head for Penzance across the bay; and it was then that the fog took
him. It crept out of the sea at about four of the afternoon, a thin
grey mist, and it thickened into a dense umber fog.

The fog hung upon the Channel for thirty hours. The cutter swung into
the bay with the tide. The Brixham fisherman could hear all along, to
his right hand, the muffled roar as the groundswell broke upon the
Lizard rocks, and the sucking withdrawal which told that those rocks
were very near. The Lizard fog-horn, which sounded a minute ago
abreast of them, sounded now quite faintly astern. The boat swung with
the tide and would not steer; yet Warriner betrayed no alarm and no
impatience at the check. He sat on the deck with a lantern by his side
and drew, said the fisherman, a little flute or pipe from his pocket,
on which he played tunes that were no tunes, and from which he drew a
weird shrill music of an infinite melancholy and of infinite
suggestions. Once the Brixham man crouched suddenly by the gunwale and
peered intently over the boat's side. At a little distance off,
something black loomed through the fog about the height of the mast's
yard,--something black which rapidly approached.

"It's not a squall," said Warriner, quietly interrupting his music.
"It's a rock. I know this coast well. We had better get the dinghy out
and row her head off."

When that was done, he squatted again upon the deck by the side of the
lantern, and played shrilly upon his pipe while the light threw a
grotesque reflection of his figure upon the fog.

After a while they heard the Lizard-horn abreast of them again.

"The tide has turned," said Warriner, and the Brixham man dived
hurriedly into the well for the poor fog-horn which the boat carried.
The cutter drifted out stern-foremost past the Lizard rocks, and in a
little, from this side and from that, ahead of them, astern, they
heard the throb of engines and the hoarse steam-whistles of the
Atlantic cargo-boats and liners. They had drifted across the track of
the ocean-going steamers. The Brixham man blew upon his horn till his
lungs cracked. He relates that nothing happened until three o'clock in
the morning, as he knows, since Warriner just at three o'clock took
his watch from his pocket and looked at the dial by the lantern-light.
He mentions too, as a detail which struck him at the time, that the
door of the lantern was open, and so still was the heavy air that the
candle burnt steadily as in a room. At three o'clock in the morning he
suddenly saw a glimmering flash of white upon the cutter's beam. For a
fraction of a second he was dazed. Then he lifted the horn to his
mouth, and he was still lifting it--so small an interval was there of
time--when a huge sharp wedge cut through the fog and towered above
the cutter out of sight. The wedge was the bows of an Atlantic liner.
No one on that liner heard the despairing, interrupted moan of the
tiny fog-horn beneath the ship's forefoot; no one felt the shock. The
Brixham man was hurled clear of the steamer, and after swimming for
the best part of an hour was picked up by a smack which he came upon
by chance. Warriner's body was washed up three days later upon the
Lizard rocks.

This history did not reach Charnock's ears for a full year afterwards;
for within a week of his arrival in London, where his unexplained
disappearance had puzzled very few, since he was known for a man of
many disappearances, he had started off to Asia Minor, there to survey
the line of a projected railway. The railway was never more than
projected, and after a year the survey was abandoned. Charnock
returned to London and heard the story of Warriner's death from Lady
Donnisthorpe's lips at her last reception at the end of the season.
Lady Donnisthorpe was irritated at the impassive face with which he
listened. She was yet more irritated when he said casually, without
any reference whatever to a word of her narrative, "Who is that girl?
I think I have seen her before."

Lady Donnisthorpe followed the direction of his eyes, and saw a young
girl with very pale gold hair. Lady Donnisthorpe rose from her chair.
"Perhaps you would like me to introduce you," she said with sarcastic
asperity.

"I should," replied Charnock.

Lady Donnisthorpe waved her hands helplessly and brushed away all
mankind. She led Charnock across the room, introduced him, and left
him with a manner of extreme coldness, to which Charnock at this
moment was quite impervious.

"I think I have seen you here before," said Charnock.

"Yes," said the girl, "I remember. It was some while since. Why have
you quarrelled?"

The meaning of that question dawned upon Charnock gradually. The girl
with the gold hair smiled at his perplexity, and laughed pleasantly at
his comprehension.

Charnock looked round the room.

"No," said she.

He looked towards the window, and the window was open.

"Yes," said the girl.

Charnock found Miranda upon the balcony.



                               THE END.





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