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Title: Kit Musgrave's Luck
Author: Bindloss, Harold, 1866-1945
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kit Musgrave's Luck" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



KIT MUSGRAVE'S LUCK

by

HAROLD BINDLOSS

Author of Partners of the Out Trail, The Lure of the North, The
Wilderness Mine, etc.



[Illustration]

Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers   New York

Made in the United States of America

Copyright, 1921, by
Frederick A. Stokes Company

Published in England Under the Title
"Musgrave's Luck"

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America.



CONTENTS

PART I

THE WIDE HORIZON

 CHAPTER                 PAGE
       I.--KIT'S PLUNGE      3
      II.--OTHER RULES       12
     III.--A MOUNTAIN EXCURSION       20
      IV.--KIT'S OBSTINACY       28
       V.--MRS. AUSTIN'S VERANDA       35
      VI.--THE INJURED PASSENGER       44
     VII.--THE BULLET       52
    VIII.--A SWIMMING MATCH       60
      IX.--KIT GIVES HIS CONFIDENCE       69
       X.--MRS. AUSTIN MAKES SOME PLANS       79
      XI.--THE PLANS WORK       88


PART II

RESPONSIBILITY

       I.--OLIVIA'S EXPERIMENT       99
      II.--THE FIRST VOYAGE        108
     III.--KIT'S SURPRISE       116
      IV.--WOLF GIVES A FEAST       124
       V.--WOLF'S OFFER       133
      VI.--BETTY CARRIES A MESSAGE       140
     VII.--SHIPPING CAMELS       148
    VIII.--AN IDLE AFTERNOON       156
      IX.--THE THIRD VOYAGE       165
       X.--SMOKE ON THE HORIZON       173
      XI.--MIGUEL TAKES CONTROL       181
     XII.--THE RETREAT TO THE BOAT       189


PART III

KIT FINDS HIS LEVEL

       I.--ILLUMINATION       199
      II.--"CAYMAN'S" START       208
     III.--THE WADY       215
      IV.--KIT NEGOTIATES       222
       V.--THE RETURN TO THE BEACH       229
      VI.--BETTY DEMANDS HELP       236
     VII.--THE "LUCIA" ARRIVES       244
    VIII.--"CAYMAN'S" RETURN       253
      IX.--KIT'S REWARD       261
       X.--OLIVIA'S REFUSAL       270
      XI.--DAYBREAK       277



KIT MUSGRAVE'S LUCK



PART I

THE WIDE HORIZON



CHAPTER I

KIT'S PLUNGE


The morning was hot, and Kit Musgrave, leaning on the African liner's
rail, watched the volcanic rocks of Grand Canary grow out of the silver
haze. He was conscious of some disappointment, because on the voyage to
Las Palmas he had pictured a romantic white city shining against green
palms. Its inhabitants were grave Spaniards, who secluded their wives
and daughters in old Moorish houses with shady patios where fountains
splashed. Now he saw he had got the picture wrong.

Las Palmas was white, but not at all romantic. A sandy isthmus, swept by
rolling clouds of dust, connected the town and the frankly ugly port.
The houses round the harbor looked like small brown blocks. Behind them
rose the Isleta cinder hill; in front, coal-wharfs and limekilns, hidden
now and then by dust, occupied the beach. Moreover, the Spaniards on
board the boats about the ship were excited, gesticulating ruffians.
Bombay peddlers, short, dark-skinned Portuguese, and Canario dealers in
wine, tobacco, and singing birds, pushed up the gangway. All disputed
noisily in their eagerness to show their goods to the passengers.

Yet Kit was not altogether disappointed. Somehow the industrial
ugliness of the port and the crowd's businesslike activity were
soothing. Kit had not known much romantic beauty, but he knew the
Lancashire mining villages and the mean streets behind the Liverpool
docks. Besides, he was persuaded that commerce, particularly British
commerce, had a civilizing, uplifting power.

Seeing he would buy nothing, the peddlers left him alone, and he mused
about the adventure on which he had embarked. Things had happened
rapidly since he went one morning to Don Arturo's office in Liverpool
and joined the crowd in the great man's waiting-room. Don Arturo was not
Spanish, but at Grand Canary he was generally given the Castilian title
and the Spaniards declared the island would soon be his. He was an
English merchant of the new Imperialist school and he gave Kit exactly
one and a half minutes. Perhaps he approved the embarrassed lad, for
half an hour afterwards Kit had engaged to start for the Canaries and
take a _sobrecargo_'s post on board a Spanish steamer. The secretary
admitted the pay was small, but argued that since Don Arturo controlled
all the business worth controlling in the Canaries and West Africa, the
chances for promotion were remarkably good. In short, Kit could sail in
two days and was a fool if he did not go.

Kit agreed and signed the contract. He knew some Castilian, which he had
studied at evening classes conducted by the Liverpool Y.M.C.A. Since he
thought the association's motto, _Mens sana in corpore sano_, good, he
had also trained his muscles at the Y.M.C.A gymnasium. For a city clerk
he was healthy and strong.

The two days before he sailed were marked by new and disturbing thrills.
Kit was conservative, and sprang from cautious, puritanical stock. His
grandfather was a Cumberland sheep farmer, his father kept a shop and
had taught Kit the virtues of parsimonious industry. His mother was kind
but dull, and had tried not to indulge her son. Although Kit was honest
and something of a prig, he had the small clerk's respect for successful
business. He was raw and his philosophy was Smiles'. In order to make
progress one must help oneself.

Yet he had not altogether escaped the touch of romance, and when he
agreed to sail his first duty was to explain things to Betty. She kept
the books at a merchant's office, and sometimes they went to a tea-shop
and sometimes to a cheap concert. Betty did not go to theaters, but now
and then took Kit to church. She was high-church and wore a little
silver cross. Betty was thin, pale and quiet, and Kit's mother approved
her, although nothing had been said about their marrying. Kit saw that
in the meantime marriage was not for him. To marry on pay like his was
not fair to the girl. Yet he imagined he loved Betty; anyhow, he liked
her much.

When she left the office in the evening they went to a tea-shop. Kit
found a quiet corner and helped Betty to cakes. He was embarrassed and
his careless talk was forced. Betty studied him and did not say much.
Her quietness had some charm, and she was marked by a touch of beauty
that might have developed had she enjoyed fresh air, good food, and
cheerful society. Women had not then won much reward for their labor,
and Betty was generally tired. At length Kit, with awkward haste, told
her his plans. Betty drained her cup and gave him a level glance. Kit
thought her paler than before, but the electric light was puzzling.

"You are going to the Canaries and perhaps to West Africa! Are you going
for good?" she said.

"Why, no!" said Kit. "I expect I'll stop for a year or two. Anyhow, if
I make much progress, I'll come back then. You see, I'm forced to go.
There's no chance for me in Liverpool; you get old while you wait for
the men in front to move up the ladder. If I stop until I'm forty, I
might get up a few rounds."

"Is it necessary to get up?" Betty asked.

Kit looked at her with surprise. Sometimes Betty's philosophy was
puzzling, and he wondered whether she got it at church. Kit had not
heard another clergyman preach like the vicar and thought him privately
rather a fool. But Betty seldom argued and they did not jar.

"Of course!" he said. "So long as you can get up honestly, you have got
to get up. You can't stop in the pushing crowd at the bottom."

Betty was quiet for a few moments. She looked tired and Kit imagined she
knew all he knew about the pressure of the crowd. Then she said, "If
only we didn't push! Perhaps there's room enough, and we might make
things better."

"Oh, well," said Kit, rather comforted by her calm, but vaguely
disappointed because she could philosophise. "Anyhow, although it's
hard, I must seize my chance. I shall miss you. You have been much to
me; now I've got to go, I begin to see how much. Perhaps it's strange I
didn't see before. You don't argue, you belong to my lot, but somehow
one feels you're finer than other girls one meets--"

He stopped and Betty gave him a curious smile. "Do you know many girls,
Kit?"

"I don't," he admitted. "I haven't bothered about girls; I haven't had
time. They expect you to tell them they're pretty, to send them things,
to josh and make them laugh, and now and then to quarrel about nothing.
Rather a bore when you'd sooner be quiet; but you're not like that. We
have been pals, and now I wish you were going out with me."

"There's not much use in wishing."

"That is so," Kit agreed and hesitated for a moment or two while his
face got red. "You couldn't go now, but I'm coming back. Suppose I get
on and my pay is good? Will you marry me when I go out again?"

Betty gave him a long, level glance. For all that, he thought her hand
shook when she moved her cup and his heart beat.

"No," she said quietly. "Anyhow, I won't promise. Perhaps, if you do
come back, we'll talk about it, but you mustn't feel you're bound to
ask."

Kit got a jolt. That Betty liked him was obvious, and the girls he knew
were keen for a lover. Betty, of course, was not like them, but she was
human. In a sense, however, her refusal was justified. Perhaps he was a
dull fellow; a girl by whom he was once attracted declared he was as
gloomy as a funeral. Then, with his rather shabby clothes and small pay,
he was certainly not worth bothering about. For all that, Betty's
refusal strengthened his resolve.

She was firm, but he got a hint of strain. The thrill of his adventure
had gone and he was sorry for Betty. He knew how she lived; the dreary
shabby street she left in the morning for her nine hours' work, the
pinching to make her pay go round. All was dull and monotonous for her,
but he was going to a land of wine and sun. He could not move her, and
she left him, puzzled and unhappy, in the street.

The evening before he sailed they went to a concert, and Betty let him
come with her to the door of her lodgings. She opened the door and then
looked up the street. Nobody was about and when Kit advanced
impulsively, she put her arms round his neck and kissed him. Then she
firmly pushed him back.

"Good-bye!" she said, and the door shut.

Kit thought about it while he leaned against the rails on board the
African boat. Perhaps it was strange, but he had not kissed Betty
before. To hold her in his arms had rather moved him to a curious
tenderness than to passion. When he thought about Betty he felt gentle;
but he braced himself and forced a smile, for the new governor of an
African jail came up with Bones and Blades.

Considine was an old soldier, with a red face and twinkling eyes, who
had been long in India, but did not state his rank. Bones and Blades
were raw lads from Lancashire going out to a West African factory for
the yearly pay of eighty pounds. Their notion of life at the factory was
romantically inaccurate.

"The boat stops six hours," Considine remarked. "Long enough to see the
town, and they tell me wine is cheap. I'll go ashore with you, Musgrave.
Where's my money, Bones?"

"I'll keep t' brass until you come back," Bones rejoined.

Considine was fat and his hair was going white, but he turned with
unexpected swiftness and seizing the lad, took his cap.

"No time to get my boots, but your deck-shoes won't go on! Hand out my
pocket-book."

Bones gave up the book and went to the gangway with Kit.

"I expect that's your boat. We were pretty good pals on this voyage and
I hope we'll meet again. What do you say, Blades?"

"I'd like it," agreed the other and then his friendly grin vanished and
his freckled face got grave. "All the same, Africa's a queer country and
you can't have adventures without some risk. Well, good luck, Musgrave!
I'd better say good-bye!"

Kit gave him his hand and afterwards learned that Blades' dream of
romantic adventures was not realized. His job was to count bottles of
trade gin, and he and Bones died of fever before they earned their first
year's pay.

In the meantime, Considine jumped into the boat. He wore neat white
clothes, thin, red slippers, and Bones' cap, which was much too small.

"I ought to have stopped on board," he said with a twinkle. "All the
same, when I get to Africa I'll have long enough to play up to my job.
At Las Palmas I'm not important. When you want a frolic, go where you're
not known."

Kit did not want a frolic. He was thoughtful and rather daunted. All his
old landmarks were gone; he was in a new country where people did not
use the rules he had known at Liverpool. Besides, he was thinking about
Betty. For all that, when the Spanish boatman rowed him across the
harbor to a lava mole he roused himself. The _patron_ declared that
although the fare was fixed in pesetas English passengers paid with
shillings. It was, however, not for nothing Kit sprang from sternly
frugal stock. He stated in his best Castilian that the peseta was worth
ninepence and he would pay with Spanish money or would not pay at all.
The _patron_'s violent arguments did not move him, but when he heard a
laugh he looked up.

Two ladies occupied the pavement at the top of the steps. One was
little, dressed in white, with fine lace on her fashionable clothes, and
looked dignified. The other was young and wore a dress of corn-yellow.
Her eyes were brown and luminous, her hair was nearly black, and her
rather olive skin had something of a peach's bloom. Her type of beauty
was new to Kit, but when he saw she remarked his glance he turned to the
gesticulating boatman.

Mrs. Austin was an important lady at Las Palmas, where her husband, and
her father, Don Pancho Brown, carried on a merchant business. People
said Jacinta Austin ruled both. Olivia, her sister, had not long
returned from an English school.

Señor Don Erminio Martinez, captain of a small Spanish mail steamer,
engaged the ladies in talk, because Olivia was beautiful and he waited
for his boat. Don Erminio was big, brown-skinned and athletic. He wore
shabby English clothes and a small English cap, and looked something
like a bullfighter. On the whole, he was a trustful, genial ruffian,
although the Barcelona anarchists were his political models. He used a
little uncouth French and English.

Mrs. Austin noted her sister's glance at the boat. The tall young man
was obviously English, and had come to take a post; he was raw and did
not wear the tourist's stamp. Mrs. Austin knew men and there was
something honest and thoughtful about him that she approved. All the
same, she did not want Olivia to approve.

"Book Castilian; I think the accent's Lancashire," the girl remarked. "I
wonder where he's going; African shipping office: bananas, or coal?"

"It's not important," Mrs. Austin rejoined.

"Oh, well, unless he's a hermit, we are bound to meet him, and he's
fresh blood anyway. One gets very bored by the banana and coaling men.
Still I think he's their type."

"The type's plain, but I doubt if he's for the coaling wharf; the young
man looks honest," said Mrs. Austin, and turning to the captain, added:
"I expect he will join the _correillo_."

_Correillo_ is not classical Castilian, but the captain knew she meant a
small mail steamer and spread out his hands.

"Aha! Another animal. He come to me. All animales the Yngleses of Don
Arturo. _Verdad._ People without shame and education----"

"I am English, my friend," Mrs. Austin rejoined.

"One forgets; the thing looks impossible," said Don Erminio, with a bow.
"You have a charm and sympathy. But the others! With teeth and neck like
the camel, and the air commanding. They come on board my steamer. 'I am
Ynglesa. All the ship for me.' But another animal of a _sobrecargo_!
Señora, I am your servant. I go and tear my hair."

He went off, and Olivia laughed. "It's strange, but people don't like
us, and at the beginning I expect the young man will have some trouble
on board _Campeador_. All the same, Don Erminio's really a good sort.
Well, it looks as if the dispute about the fare had stopped. He's beaten
the _patron_."

She stepped back, for Kit came up the steps behind a boatman who carried
his tin box. Considine followed, and at the end of the mole the boatman
called a _tartana_. Kit got into the little trap, and Considine, pushing
the driver from his seat, seized the reins. The horse kicked, the
_tartana_ rocked, and they started for Las Palmas in a cloud of dust.

"At home, we're a sober lot," Mrs. Austin remarked. "In the South, we're
joyfully irresponsible. How do you account for it?"

"I don't account for it," said Olivia. "There's no use in bothering
about things like that. Besides, the young man looks remarkably sober."



CHAPTER II

OTHER RULES


After a collision with a steam tram, the _tartana_ reached Las Palmas
and Considine got down at a wine shop. He refused to pay for the damage
to the trap, and wishing Kit good luck, vanished among the barrels in
the dark shop. The _tartanero_ drove Kit to the steamship office, and
sitting on the doorstep declared he would not go away until his just
claim was met. Kit, somewhat embarrassed, was shown into the manager's
room and received by a little, fastidiously neat Spanish gentleman. The
driver's mournful voice pierced the lava walls, and when Kit narrated
the grounds for his complaint, Don Ramon shrugged.

"It is not important; when the tourists are about, such disputes are
numerous," he said in careful English, and gave a clerk some orders.

The _tartanero_'s clamour stopped and Don Ramon resumed: "We will send a
note to the purser, and if your countryman does not miss his ship, the
thing is finished. Many do miss their ships and there is trouble for us.
I have much admiration for the English, but they make disturbances."

"We are not all like that," Kit objected.

"You are not like that in England; I was at the Company's office," Don
Ramon agreed. "All was in stern order, but in this country you have
other rules. Well, it is not important. To-night you join your steamer;
I will tell you your duties."

He did so with kind politeness, and Kit liked the man then and
afterwards. By and by Don Ramon sent him to a Spanish hotel, and for a
time he wrote letters to his mother and Betty behind a bougainvillea
that climbed from the flagged _patio_ to a balcony. The creeper's
splendid purple shone against the yellow wall and on the opposite
balcony old bronze rails twinkled. The shade was cool, and all was quiet
but for the rumble of the Atlantic surf. While Kit wrote his frank,
boyish letters, he thought about Betty with shy tenderness. In a sense
she had refused him, but his normal mood was calm and he had not known
passion yet. He wrote to Betty very much as he wrote to his mother.

By and by he put up his writing case and went off to get some stamps at
a baker's shop. In Spanish countries one cannot, as a rule, buy stamps
at a post office. Then he looked at his watch, and seeing it was two
o'clock, walked across the town. Don Ramon had stated that he need not
go on board before midnight. The streets were strangely quiet and for
the most part nobody was about; Kit understood the citizens went to
sleep in the afternoon. He saw nothing romantic. Las Palmas rather
looked business-like and modern than picturesque. The houses had
straight, square fronts and the roofs were flat. Only the white belt of
surf and background of broken volcanic mountains relieved the
utilitarian ugliness.

The wine shops had no call for Kit, but he noted the splashed floors,
pungent smells, and swarms of flies. A girl on a balcony near the
cathedral dropped a red oleander and another smiled, but Kit did not
turn his head. He sprang from sober, puritanical stock, and his code was
austere; one earned one's pay and studied in order to earn more; one
shunned indulgence and trained one's body. Kit had trained his at the
gymnasium and a cheap swimming club. In summer he sailed races on board
cheap little boats. Although his horizon was not wide, his health and
nerve were good.

He followed the _carretera_ that runs south from the town. In Spain, a
road is often a bridle-track a mule can hardly climb, but the government
_carretera_ is wide and level. In the distance was Telde, where oranges
grow, and Kit set off in the dust and scorching heat. The Trade-breeze
blew behind him; on his left hand the Atlantic broke in shining foam
against black lava reefs; on his right, across the thin belt of
cultivation, dark rocks, melted by volcanic fire, rose like a giant
wall.

A few palms and fields of feathery sugar cane bordered the road. Then
Kit saw vines, tied to sticks and growing in hot dust, and by and by a
thread of water in a deep _barranco_. Washerwomen knelt by the channel,
beating wet clothes with stones, and Kit understood afterwards why his
shirts wore out. Some of the women were young, but when he stopped for a
moment at the bridge they did not look up. To beat the clothes was their
job, and maize flour and goat's milk cheese are dear. Farther on, Kit
saw others, carrying big earthen jars on their heads. They looked like
Moorish women, for their feet and arms were very brown, and long black
shawls half hid their faces. In the fields, barefooted men laboured
among the tomatoes and vines. It was obvious the _peons_ did not sleep
in the afternoon; but for the most part their white clothes were good
and they looked happy.

Soon after he passed a lava village, Kit got tired. This was strange,
but the sun was hot; and there was a wall about which lizards
ran. Behind, grew fleshy green bananas, with big flowers like
bleeding-hearts; and he sat down in the shade. He had meant to walk to
Telde; going four miles an hour, one could get back before nine o'clock,
but it was cool among the bananas and he had begun to feel the drowsy
calm of the islands where nothing is important and the sun always
shines.

He mused about Betty. She was thin and often looked tired. If he could
bring her out, to feel the sun and balmy wind and see the blaze of
colour! He pictured her bending over her account books in a dark office
and going home through the dreary streets. She knew no joy and
brightness; his horizon was getting wider, but hers was not. Then he
remembered Betty's silver cross. Betty went to church; perhaps she found
her romance there and saw things beyond his view. She had refused to
marry him and perhaps her kiss was meant for good-bye. He did not know,
but when he got promotion he was going back to try again. In the
meantime, for Betty's sake, he meant to keep his simple rules; to go
straight, do what he said, cheat nobody, and by diligence force his way
to fortune.

He heard shouts and mocking laughter, and looked up. The governor of the
African jail was running along the road, his face red, and wet by sweat;
Bones' small cap occupied ridiculously the back of his head. His white
jacket had lost some buttons and blew open; his thin, red slippers were
trodden down at the heels. He laboured on with stern resolution, looking
straight in front. Behind came a swarm of ragged children, pelting him
with soil and stones.

"Shilling, _penique_, _puerco_ Ynglisman!" they cried.

For a moment or two Kit gazed at Considine with angry impatience. He did
not know if the fellow was very drunk, but it was obvious he was not
sober, and his breathless panting jarred on the drowsy calm. Don Ramon
had said the English made disturbances. Yet the fellow was Kit's
countryman; and he got up. Driving off the children, he stopped
Considine.

"Where are you going?"

"Must catch my ship. Purser said five o'clock."

Kit looked at his watch. It was four o'clock, and Las Palmas was some
distance off. The port was three miles farther, but one could get a
_tartana_ at the town.

"You're heading the wrong way," he said. "Can you run?"

"Turn me round and see me go," Considine replied. "Beat you, anyway.
Loser pays for drinks."

Kit turned him round and they started, but when a piece of lava a boy
threw struck his head, it cost Kit something to use control. Now and
then Considine's red slippers came off and they were forced to stop.
Considine declared that if he stooped he could not get straight again,
and Kit resignedly put the slippers on his feet. He felt himself
ridiculous and wanted to leave the wastrel, but somehow could not. If
Considine lost his ship and got into trouble at Las Palmas, he might
lose his post. Kit saw his business was to help him out.

He got very hot. The Trade-breeze blew the dust in his face, and the
dust turned to mud on his wet skin; he saw dark patches on his white
jacket. Considine's slippers came off oftener, and Kit remarked that not
much of his stockings was left, but they made progress, and at length
the town was close in front. Kit wondered whether the citizens had
finished their afternoon sleep, and did not know if it was a relief or
not to find the first street empty and quiet. He did not want people to
see him, but he must find a _tartana_, and none was about. Considine,
going five miles an hour, was a yard or two in front. When he saw a wine
shop he stopped.

"Here we are!" he gasped. "The loser pays."

Kit pushed him across the pavement; Considine turned and knocked off his
hat. While Kit picked up his hat the other reeled towards the wine shop
and people came out. Kit seized him and drove him on. The market was
not far off and he had seen _tartanas_ in the square. He was breathless,
tired and dusty, and had trodden on his soft grey hat. People were
beginning to run after them, but he meant to put Considine on board a
_tartana_ and send him to the port.

The market was nearly deserted, for in the Canaries one buys food before
the sun is high, but a few stalls were occupied and three or four small
traps waited for hire. Kit waved to a driver and seized Considine. Then
he tried to get his breath, and wiping his hot face, smeared his skin
with muddy grit.

"Loser pays," said Considine. "What's good stopping in the sun? Let's
get some wine!"

He tried to make off, but Kit shook him angrily and glanced about. A
crowd had begun to gather and all the traps were coming. At the end of a
neighbouring street, the girl he had noted at the mole talked to a man
in English clothes. She was very handsome and looked cool and dignified.
Kit was young and got hotter when he saw her eyes were fixed on his
dishevelled companion. He felt humiliated and could have borne it better
had she looked amused, but she did not. She watched him and Considine
with grave curiosity, as if she studied people of another type than
hers. Kit got very angry.

Four traps arrived, the drivers gesticulating and cracking whips, and
Kit dragged Considine to the nearest. Considine struggled and tried to
push him back.

"Not going yet," he shouted. "Beat you easy. Where's my wine? Don't you
pay your debts?"

His jacket tore and he almost got away, but Kit got a better hold.

"You're going now! Get in!"

"Won't go with that fellow. Don't like his horse," Considine declared.

The crowd had got thicker and people jeered and laughed.

"_Todos animales. Gente sin verguenza!_" one remarked.

Kit frowned. He knew the Castilian taunt about people who have no shame,
but he held on to Considine. The drivers did not help; they disputed
noisily who should get the passenger. Then the man Kit had noted with
the girl came up.

"Put him on board. I'll lift his legs," he said.

They did so with some effort, for Considine was heavy and kicked.

"To the mole; African steamer's boat," said Kit; Considine occupied the
driver's seat.

"Show you how to drive!" he said, and shoving back the _tartanero_, used
the whip.

The horse plunged, the wheels jarred the pavement, there was a crash as
a stall overturned, and the _tartana_ rolled across the square and
vanished. Kit heard Considine's hoarse shout and all was quiet. He
looked about. The girl who wore the yellow dress was gone, but the man
stood close by and gave him a quiet smile. He had a thin, brown face and
Kit saw a touch of white in his hair. A mark on his cheek looked like an
old deep cut.

"You didn't go with your friend," he remarked.

"I did not; I've had enough," said Kit and added anxiously: "D'you think
he'll get the African boat?"

The other looked at his watch. "If he runs over nothing before he makes
the port, it's possible. A West-coast trader, I expect?"

"No," said Kit. "He's the governor of a jail. An old soldier, I
understand."

His companion smiled. "The British Colonial office uses some curious
tools, but if he sweated for you in India, their plan's perhaps as good
as handing out a job to a political boss."

"Then, you're not English?"

"I'm an American. I don't know if it's important, but since you'd had
enough of the fellow, why did you bother?"

"For one thing, I wanted to get rid of him," Kit said naïvely. "Then, of
course, since he is English, I felt I had to see him out."

The other nodded. "A pretty good rule, but if you stick to it at Las
Palmas, I reckon you'll be occupied! Which way do you go?"

"To the _Fonda Malagueña_," said Kit.

His companion indicated a shady street and left him at the top, and when
Kit loafed in the _patio_ after his six o'clock dinner, he pondered. Las
Palmas was not at all the romantic city he had thought, and the men he
had met going south on board the steamer were a new type. They were
business men, holding posts at African factories, but they were not the
business men he knew at Liverpool. He could not picture them punctual,
careful about small things, or remarkably sober. They had a touch of
rashness he distrusted but rather liked. Yet he understood some occupied
important posts. In fact, it looked as if the Liverpool small clerk's
rules did not apply everywhere; in the south men used others. Although
Kit was puzzled his horizon was widening.



CHAPTER III

A MOUNTAIN EXCURSION


Two weeks after Kit joined his ship, she returned to Las Palmas, and on
the whole he was satisfied with his occupation. _Campeador_ was fast and
built on a steam yacht's model, except that her bow was straight.
Although she rolled horribly across the combers the Trade-breeze piles
up, she shipped no heavy water. Then Kit thought it strange, but she was
kept as clear as a British mail-liner.

He had begun to like her crew; the grave bare-legged fishermen who rowed
the cargo launches, and the careless officers. All were Spanish but Don
Pedro Macallister, the chief engineer, for although the _roll_ stated
that his birthplace was Portobello, it was not in Spain. The rules
require that Spanish mail-boats be manned by Spanish subjects, but
government officials are generally poor and English merchant houses
sometimes generous.

For two weeks _Campeador_ steamed round the islands, stopping at
surf-hammered beaches to pick up cattle, camels, sheep and mules. Now
the livestock was landed and Kit, waiting for a boat to carry him
ashore, mused about his first encounter with the captain. _Campeador_
was steaming out from Las Palmas, rolling violently as she breasted the
long, foam-crested seas, and Kit staggered in the dark across the
lumbered deck where the crew were throwing cargo into the hold. She had,
as usual, started late, for in Spain nobody bothers about punctuality.

He reached the captain's room under the bridge. Don Erminio had pulled
off his uniform and now wore a ragged white shirt and shabby English
clothes. His cap, ridiculously shrunk by spray, was like a schoolboy's.
Kit inquired politely what he was to do about some goods not recorded in
the ship's manifest, and the blood came to the captain's olive skin.

"Another animal! All _sobrecargos_ are animals; people without honour or
education!" he shouted. "I am a Spanish gentleman, not a smuggler!"

Kit was half daunted by the other's theatrical fury, but his job was to
keep proper cargo lists, and what he undertook he did. It was not for
nothing his ancestors were hard sheep-farmers in the bleak North.

"Nevertheless, I want to know about the chemical manure for Palma," he
said.

Don Erminio seized the tin dispatch-box and threw it on the floor.

"Look for the documents! Do I count bags of manure? I am not a clerk.
When the company doubts my honour I am an anarchist!" He kicked the
tumbled papers. "If you find five pesetas short, I throw the manure in
the sea. People without education! I go and tear my hair!"

He went, and when the door banged Kit sat down and laughed. He had borne
some strain, but the thing was humorous. To begin with, Don Erminio's
hair was very short. Then, although his grounds for anger were not
plain, Kit thought it possible the cargo belonged to a relation of the
captain's. Picking up the papers, he returned to his office, and when
_Campeador_ reached port the bags of manure were entered on the
manifest. Don Erminio, however, bore him no grudge. In the morning he
met Kit with a friendly smile and gave him a list of the passengers, for
whom landing dues must be paid.

"Sometimes one disputes about the sum. It is human, but not important,"
he remarked. "You will write three lists for the robbers who collect the
dues."

Kit said the list obviously did not give the names of all on board, and
Don Erminio grinned.

"It is a custom of the country. If one pays all one ought, there is no
use in having official friends. I put down the names of people the
collectors know."

When the steamer was ready to leave Palma, Kit and Don Erminio went to
the agent's office and were shown a pile of bags of silver. There was a
bank at Las Palmas, but for the most part the merchants did not use its
cheques, and Kit's duty was to carry the money to their creditors. The
agent gave him a list.

"You will count the bags before you sign? It is the English habit!" he
said.

Kit saw Don Erminio studied him and imagined the agent's voice was
scornful. For a moment or two he thought hard, and then took up a pen.

"I expect all the money is here?"

"I have counted," said the agent and Kit signed the document.

He knew he had broken a sound business rule and perhaps had run some
risk, but he had begun to see the rules were different in Spain. When he
went out he heard the agent say, "_Muy caballero!_"

"This one is not altogether an animal," the captain agreed.

Kit afterwards counted the silver and found the list accurate. On the
morning he waited for his boat at Las Palmas, he mused about it, and
admitted that perhaps his philosophy did not cover all the complexities
of human nature. By and by Macallister joined him, and he asked: "Who is
the American with a scar on his cheek I met before we sailed?"

"I'm thinking ye mean Jefferson. A fine man! He was Austin's partner
and they transact some business together noo."

"Then who is Austin?"

"He was _sobrecargo_ and held your post, but he didna bother aboot the
freight. Pented pictures, until he and Jefferson salved the _Cumbria_
and I married him to Jacinta Brown."

"_You_ married him to the lady," Kit remarked.

"Weel, I reckon I had something to do with it. For a' that, Don Pancho
Brown is cautious, and although he's anither daughter, I doubt if I
could do as much again. Ony way, if ye trust old Peter, ye'll no go far
wrang."

Kit was frankly puzzled about his new friend. Macallister's hair was
going white, but his eyes twinkled humorously, and Kit often found it
hard to determine whether he joked or not. All the same, people did
trust Macallister. In the meantime, Kit wanted to know about Austin and
Jefferson. Macallister told him.

Jefferson was mate of an American sailing ship, and inheriting a small
legacy, undertook to float a wreck on the African coast. His money soon
ran out, his men fell sick, and when he fronted disaster Jacinta Brown
sent Austin to help. Austin was poor and not ambitious, but he had some
talent that Jacinta roused him to use. Macallister said Jacinta could
make any man do what she wanted and the girl Jefferson married was her
friend. Money was raised, Austin went to Africa, and he and Jefferson
salved the stranded ship. Their adventures made a moving tale and when
they returned Pancho Brown gave Austin a share in his merchant business.
Macallister repeated that he was really accountable for Jacinta's
marrying Austin, and when he stopped, studied Kit.

"I dinna ken what I can do for you," he said in a thoughtful voice.
"Ye're no like Austin. He was a lad o' parts. Aweel, ye're young and a'
the lassies are no' fastidious."

"Anyhow, I'm not an adventurer," Kit rejoined and hesitated. "Besides,
if I'm ever rich enough to marry, there's a girl at home----"

"Yin?" remarked Macallister. "Man, when I was young I had the pick o'
twelve! Then I'm thinking it was no' for nothing she let ye away. Maybe
ye have some talents, but ye're no' amusing."

He turned, for Juan the mate, who wore spectacles, and the captain came
on deck. Don Erminio carried an old pinfire gun, hung round his
shoulders by a strap; he wore a big cartridge belt and black leggings,
and looked like a brigand.

"_Vamos!_" he said. "Me, I am _cazador_. I go shoot the rabbit. If the
_patron_ is not about, perhaps I shoot the goat."

A boat came to the ladder and Kit, rather doubtfully, got on board. He
knew something about his companions and imagined the excursion might be
marked by adventures. For one thing, the goats that roamed among the
hills were not altogether wild but belonged to somebody. When the party
landed he thought his doubts were justified. Two horses, a big white
donkey, and a mule were waiting, and a violent dispute began, for the
muleteer declared he went with the animals and must be paid before they
started. He called his saint to witness that he knew the captain.

"_Buen!_" Don Erminio remarked at length and turned to Kit. "He is more
animal than the mulo, but it is not important. _Vamos!_ Now we start."

They set off in a dust cloud, but presently left the road and laboured
across a waste of hot sand. When the sand stopped they went by winding
paths to the hills, and when they pushed up a dry watercourse Kit's
troubles began. The track was rough, and dangerous in places where the
sharp lava blocks were piled in heaps, but Don Erminio rode his lean
horse like a _gaucho_. The fat mate rode like a sack, but his big,
cautious donkey knew the hills, and Macallister had the carriage and
balance of a cavalry soldier. He declared he had learned to ride in the
Greys, and Kit thought it possible, although Macallister's statements
were sometimes not accurate. He carried a sharp stick, with which at
awkward spots he pricked Kit's mule.

A Spanish mule is as surefooted as a cat, but riding is not a pastime
for small shipping clerks, and Kit had not mounted before. The
pack-saddle was very wide and galled his legs, the jolts shook him hard,
and when they reached the top of the watercourse his muscles ached
intolerably. The muleteer ran beside him, sometimes holding on by the
stirrup and sometimes by the animal's tail. At the top the path went
obliquely up a precipitous cinder bank and Macallister used his pointed
stick. The mule kicked and Kit, falling backwards, rolled for some
distance down the pitch. When he got up he was shaken, bruised and very
sore, but he saw Macallister's twinkle and heard Don Erminio's hoarse
laugh. His mouth went hard. He had engaged to ride to a hill village and
he was going to ride there.

The muleteer helped him up and they presently reached a row of square
lava houses standing among palms and sugar cane. There was a small, dark
wine shop, at which Don Erminio stopped.

"_Buen' caballero!_" he remarked to Kit. "Now we take a drink and then I
shoot the goat."

There was no glass in the wine shop windows and the Trade-breeze blew
through the room. After the glare outside, to sit in the shade and rest
one's aching muscles was soothing, and Kit drank two cups of red wine.
The captain drank _caña_, a raw rum, and presently picking up a guitar
began to sing. His voice was good and Kit liked the music, although he
did not know it was classic opera. He sang on, without embarrassment,
when Macallister began, "Gae bring to me a pint o' wine," and the
clashing melodies brought a group of _peons_ to the door.

"Ave Maria!" one exclaimed. "But they are strange, the men of the sea!"

By and by Kit noted the empty bottles and got up. He had had enough and
resolved he would not help Don Erminio to shoot another's goat.
Moreover, he imagined his companions had had too much. Starting for the
port, he left the village but soon afterwards sat down by a euphorbia
bush. Although his head was clear, his legs were a trifle unsteady; the
red wine was stronger than he had thought, but perhaps his coming out
from the cool, dark shop into the scorching sun accounted for something.
He frowned, and resolving he would not again indulge like that, began to
look about.

Overhead, a tremendous rampart of broken mountains cut the sky. In
places, the rocks, torn by volcanic heat, were black as ink; in places
they were red, and some belts shone in the searching light like polished
steel. In the hollow of a _barranco_ where water ran were tall palms and
luminous green cane, dotted by red oleanders and geraniums. The sky was
all blue and the Atlantic glimmered like a big turquoise.

Kit felt the landscape's charm, for he had not known much of Nature's
beauty. At Liverpool, when one went out with a bicycle on Saturdays, one
followed the tram-lines across a flat country stained by smoke and the
dust of traffic. He had once stopped for a week with his father's
relations in the North and remembered the quiet, green valley where the
river ran, but the moors about it were hidden by rain-clouds, and mist
rolled down the long wet slopes. Now sea and mountains were touched
with splendid colour by the Southern sun.

He mused about his companions. He thought Macallister a good sort, and
liked the Mate and Don Erminio. Their irresponsible carelessness had
charm, but Kit did not altogether approve; his friends and relations
were frugal, industrious folk. He had a vague notion that their
utilitarian virtues were sometimes shabby; for example, in Kit's circle,
one was sober because soberness paid. But at the same time, to waste his
youth and talents in indulgence was folly.

Yet he was not altogether moved by selfish caution; Kit's unconscious
asceticism was his by inheritance. The blood of yeomen flockmasters, who
by stern self-denial had held their sheep-walks on the bleak hills, was
in his veins. They were hard folk, who fronted bitter gales, took no
thought for their bodies, and lived that they might work.

But, since he was not a hermit, it was plain he must go with his new
friends as far as his code allowed, but when he had done so he would
stop. He thought, for example, he had stopped in time when he left the
wine shop after Macallister ordered another bottle. Then, looking at his
watch, he got up and started for Las Palmas.



CHAPTER IV

KIT'S OBSTINACY


When he had gone some distance Kit climbed down a ravine that promised a
short line to the harbour, and stopped as he crossed a field of maize at
the bottom. A girl, standing by a horse, was occupied by a strap, and
Kit knew her before she looked up. She wore a short linen riding-skirt,
a thin yellow jacket, and a big yellow hat that shone against the tall
green corn. Her olive skin had a warm tinge; her brown hair looked
burnished. She was Mrs. Austin's sister, and Kit admitted he had not in
England met a girl like this. He thought her vivid; it was the proper
word.

"Have you some bother about the harness?" he asked.

Olivia looked up and noted that he was tall and straight. His colour was
fresh, for Kit was not much sunburned yet, and his eyes were frank. In a
way, he was rather an attractive fellow, but not altogether her sort.
For one thing, he was Don Arturo's man and his white clothes were cheap.
All the same, when the winter tourists were gone, young men were not
numerous.

"A strap has broken," she replied. "Perhaps one could get a piece of
string through the hole. Have you some?"

"I have a leather bootlace," said Kit. "If you'll wait a minute----"

He was going off, but she stopped him. "You had better see how much we
need, because if you cut too much, you may have some trouble to reach
Las Palmas."

"That is so; you're rather clever," said Kit, who looked at the broken
strap. "Well, I'll find a block where I can take off my boot."

Olivia smiled. Lava blocks were all about, but she liked his
fastidiousness. In a minute or two he came back with a piece of the lace
and began to mend the strap.

"Let me help," said Olivia. "That loop is not very neat; I don't think
you are much of a workman."

"In England, I was a shipping clerk," Kit rejoined.

Olivia noted his frankness. As a rule, the young men from the coal wharf
and banana stores talked guardedly about their English occupations. Some
had come for a warmer climate and some for fresh experience, but none
admitted he had come for better pay. She helped Kit to pull the loop
straight and he remarked that it did not look very firm.

"It will hold," she said. "In Grand Canary harness is mainly string. You
are on board the _correillo_, are you not? I think I saw you land from
the African boat."

Kit said he had joined the ship two weeks since, and Olivia wondered
whether he was dull. He ought to have seen that her remembering his
arrival was flattering, but he obviously did not.

"Well," she resumed, "what do you think about the _correillo_'s
officers?"

"I don't know yet. You see, one doesn't meet men like these at
Liverpool. For one thing, _Campeador_ generally sails an hour or two
late. That's significant."

"In Spanish countries, punctuality is not a virtue and nobody is a slave
to rules. We do what we like, when we like, and let people wait."

"Sometimes it must make things awkward," Kit remarked. "However, if
you're satisfied about the harness, can I help you up?"

Olivia gave him a quick glance; it looked as if he were willing to let
her go. He was dull, but his dullness was intriguing. In fact, since
Olivia knew her charm, it was something of a challenge. She said she
would walk across the maize field and signed Kit to lead the horse.

"I expect you'll make for the _carretera_," he said "Isn't it the
easiest way to your side of the town?"

"If you know where I live, you know who I am."

"I do know. You are Mrs. Austin's sister. Macallister told me."

Olivia frowned. She was not jealous, but sometimes she felt as if
Jacinta's popularity swamped hers.

"What did Don Pedro tell you about my sister?"

"He said she ruled the English colony and at Las Palmas what she said
went."

"Oh, well! Perhaps he did not exaggerate very much. Macallister does
exaggerate, you know. But was this all?"

Kit was embarrassed. Macallister had said much more.

"He told me something about Mr. Austin and the wreck on the African
coast."

Olivia pondered. She knew Macallister and noted Kit's embarrassment.

He occupied the post Austin had occupied. On the whole, Olivia was
amused, but while she thought about it they passed the end of a path
that turned off through the corn.

Kit was quiet. He felt the vivid light and colour made a proper
background for his companion's exotic beauty, and not long since it was
unthinkable that a girl like this should engage him in friendly talk.
Yet, although one got a hint of pride and cultivation, she was frank and
he thought her kind. The dreariness he had known at Liverpool was gone;
walking in the splendid sunshine by Olivia's horse, he felt another
man. For all that, Olivia thought they had talked long enough and when
they came out from the maize she stopped. Then she saw with some
annoyance she had passed the proper path.

They had reached the edge of the narrow tableland, and in front a bank
of volcanic cinders ran down steeply and vanished, as if there was a
cliff not far below. The smooth surface was broken here and there by the
marks of horses' feet, and one saw in the distance a bridle path wind
among the rocks. A little cement channel, carrying water from the hills,
crossed the steepest pitch, and indicated how the horses had reached an
easier gradient. Yet to ride along the channel looked horribly risky,
and Kit thought the bank of cinders had recently slipped down and
carried away the path.

"Give me the bridle," said Olivia.

"You're not going to get up?"

Olivia smiled. She had pluck and rode like a Spaniard. Moreover, in the
Canaries, the hill roads are generally bad. Then perhaps she was willing
Kit should see her cross the awkward spot.

"My sister is waiting for me. Can you hold the stirrup?"

"I won't try! You mustn't ride along the channel."

The blood came to Olivia's skin. Jacinta ruled all the men she knew and
Olivia thought something of her sister's power was hers. Then she was
proud and young, and the fellow had told her she _must not_.

"Do you mean you won't help me up?" she said. "After all, I can get up
without you."

Kit went forward a few yards and then turned and fronted her. He blocked
the way and his mouth was firm. Olivia looked at him haughtily and her
eyes sparkled. His object was plain; he meant to stop and force her to
go another way.

"Move back, please!" she said sharply.

"Not yet," said Kit and indicated the watercourse. "You see, for a few
yards there's nothing but the channel. You couldn't walk across the
cinders and lead the horse. The pitch is very steep."

"One could ride along the channel."

"I think not. The top's rounded and the cement's smooth. The horse would
slip."

"Do you know much about horses?" Olivia asked.

Kit coloured, because he imagined he understood her taunt. "I know
nothing; until this morning I hadn't mounted a horse. All the same, the
risk is obvious."

Olivia looked at her wrist-watch. "My sister has some engagements for
the afternoon and needs me. I ought to be at home. This is the shortest
line to the town, but since you won't let me use it, perhaps you have
another plan."

"I have," said Kit. "I'll ride the horse across."

With an effort he got into the saddle. The saddle was a man's, but he
had not long since finished his first riding lesson, and all his muscles
ached. Olivia marked his awkwardness and hesitated, although she let him
go. The thing was not so risky as he thought and the horse was steady.
Still she admitted that the fellow's nerve was good.

Kit's heart beat and his look was strained. He expected to fall and
might roll over the cliff. Then he noted that the horse tried the
treacherous cinders with its feet as it climbed obliquely to the
watercourse. He thought the animal was used to the hill-tracks, and if
it knew how to get across, he would let it. One could not go up hill
because of the rocks, and on the other side the slope was precipitous.
Not far off, the bank of cinders stopped and one saw nothing but a
vulture poised against the sky. He left the bridle slack and the horse
went on. After a few minutes the animal stepped off the watercourse and
headed cautiously down the slope.

To brace himself back hurt horribly, but Kit did so. They had nearly
passed the top of the cliff and in front a slump of cactus grew beside a
winding path. If he could hold out until they reached the clump, he
could get down. In the meantime, his stiff, galled knees had no grip and
the animal's cautious movements jarred his aching back. He sat like a
sack until the horse stepped on a rolling stone, and then his feet came
out of the awkward Spanish stirrups. He struck the ground, and rolled
into the cactus. A cloud of dust marked his plunge.

When the dust blew away Kit was rather surprised to find he had stuck to
the bridle and the horse had not run off. Then he was conscious of a
strange pricking over much of his body, as if he had been stung by
nettles. He looked at his clothes and saw they were pierced by small
spines like needles. He pulled out a number, but they stuck to his hands
and it was plain both ends were sharp. Then he looked at the cactus and
understood why it was called prickly pear. The needles grew in tufts on
the round fruit and thick, fleshy leaves. He got up and shook his
clothes, but could not shake off the tormenting spines. While he was
occupied Olivia joined him.

"Since you have got across, I expect you see you're not very logical,"
she remarked.

"It looks like that," said Kit. "Nevertheless, I was logical as far as I
knew."

Olivia studied him quietly and Kit got embarrassed. His clothes and skin
were smeared by dust and he felt like a pincushion. The prickling was
intolerable and he wanted to rub his leg. Olivia's charm was strong,
but he wished she would go. In fact, he imagined she knew this, because
her eyes twinkled.

"Your logic's not very sound," she resumed. "For example, I began to
ride when I was eight years old, and you admitted you began this
morning. Why did you imagine you could ride along the channel when I
could not? However, you have kept me for some time and I mustn't stop."

Kit did not know what he ought to do, but he gave her the bridle and
held the stirrup.

"Not that way! Keep your hand firm and your arm stiff," she said, and
putting her foot on his hand, sprang to the saddle. Then she turned and
smiled. "You have pluck, but you had better get back on board and change
your clothes."

She started the horse, and leaning back in a strangely graceful pose,
let the animal go. The pitch was steep, and the soil was loose, but they
plunged down the hill. Kit knew nothing about a horse's paces; he rather
thought it skated. When Olivia had gone he tried to pull out the spines,
but finding that for the most part they stuck to his hands he gave it
up. Then he lighted a cigarette and reflected moodily.

To begin with, it looked as if Miss Brown knew all about prickly pear,
and her amused sympathy annoyed him. Then his battling her was obviously
not justified, and as he watched her speed down the slopes below he
frowned. He had refused to let a girl who rode like that undertake a
feat he had tried; and then had fallen into the prickly pear. The thing
was ridiculous. In the meantime, his skin was tingling; he must get off
his clothes, and he started for Las Palmas.



CHAPTER V

MRS AUSTIN'S VERANDA


Don Erminio and Kit were fishing in the bay behind the Isleta, the hill
of volcanic cinders that shelters the Port of Light. Off-shore, the
Trade-breeze was fresh, but in the bay the rocks broke the sea. The
captain had moored his _barquillo_ to a reef and stood in a pool, with
the warm, green water washing about his knees. His legs and arms were
bare, as were Kit's, but they wore rawhide sandals, because where the
sea-urchin grows one protects one's feet. Don Erminio carried a dripping
bag, in which something moved, and a pole with a sharp hook like a
salmon gaff. Kit carried a short fishing rod and was rather wet.
Stepping out on a dry ledge, he looked about.

A quarter of a mile off, the long, white-topped combers rolled across
the bay and then broke on the north shore of the island in a belt of
foam. Mist had begun to creep down the mountain wall, and in the
distance Galdar hill rose against the sunset. Farther off, across a belt
of shining sea, Teneriffe's snowy peak glimmered upon a background of
dull green and red. Some distance from land, a small ketch-rigged vessel
steered for the Isleta. It was nearly six o'clock and would soon be
dark.

"_Vamos!_" said Don Erminio. "One does not get rich while one looks
about, and the salt fish I sent home from San Sebastian is almost gone."

Kit remarked that the captain had sent a large box and asked if Señora
Martinez liked salt fish.

"She does not, but it is not important," said Don Erminio. "Children are
always hungry and meat costs much. When one is a sportsman, fish costs
nothing, and there is more money for me."

He stepped on some wet weed, and staggering across the ledge, declared
the man who made his sandals had no shame, but Don Erminio was seldom
angry long, and Kit admitted he was a sportsman. They were looking for
the big, yellow-striped eel, which in the Canaries is a delicacy, and
when the captain got his breath he plunged into the shallow water and
began to whistle.

"_Salta, morena!_" he called in a thin, high-pitched note.

The _morena_ feeds on pulps, the squid and octopus, which blow out air
with a whistling noise when the pools get dry. The Spaniards eat the
small pulps, but some are large and _morena_-fishers state they eat men.
After a time Don Erminio jumped into a chasm where the surge swung to
and fro, and presently stopped in front of a dark cave. Long weed tossed
about with the wash, and the light that touched the rock was broken by
puzzling reflections, in which the captain's legs shone lividly white.
Kit, standing behind him, rather wished he would leave the cave alone.
Somehow the dark hole looked forbidding, but Don Erminio declared he had
seen a _morena_ go in and Kit resigned himself to wait.

By and by he remarked, under water, a dark object stretched across a
rock. It was spotted and looked rather like a thick stalk of weed. He
thought it wavered, but the movement of the water might account for
this, and Don Erminio began to pull about the weed. When Kit looked down
again, the object was curved and thicker than he had thought. It
obviously moved and its outer end was getting near the captain's leg.
Then Kit saw another, and for a moment stood stiff and quiet while
something throbbed in his ears. He knew the objects were the arms of an
octopus.

He roused himself, and pushing the captain back, lifted his rod and
struck. Don Erminio saw and shouted, but turned to the cavern and his
pole jarred on Kit's. The weed tossed, the water got disturbed and
thick, and Kit saw indistinctly three or four waving arms. It looked as
if the thing was coming out, and he struck in savage panic at the spot
he thought it occupied. Then Don Erminio leaped on to a dry ledge and
pulled Kit up. When they looked back an indistinct, spotted horror
writhed about the mouth of the cave. For a few moments Kit fought
against a sense of nausea and the throbbing in his ears got worse.

"_Buen mozo!_" said the captain, beating his shoulder. "One has enough;
the big pulpo is the devil. _Vamos!_ In English, we get out."

While they pulled their boat to the rocks a man some distance off
crossed the reef, and waved a white jacket. It looked as if he signalled
and Kit saw the ketch he had noted was nearer land, but thought her too
far off for the crew to see. The man, however, saw the boat, for he
began to scramble across the rocks, shouting to Don Erminio.

"The ketch is Señor Jefferson's and they do not want her to make the
port, where she must pay some dues," the captain said to Kit. "She is to
go on to Africa, but the fellow says his boat is damaged and he cannot
carry the message. Me, I think the wind is too strong for him. However,
Señor Jefferson is very much a gentleman and the thing is possible."

Kit looked at the sea and doubted. The wind was fresh and outside the
shelter of the rocks the combers were white and big, but Don Erminio
could handle a small sailing boat. Kit signed agreement and the captain
turned to the fisherman.

"Go home, mackerel-eater, and say two sailors have taken on your job."

They got on board, and while the captain rowed Kit reefed the latine
sail. The boat plunged and spray began to blow about. When the sail was
hoisted Kit got on the windward gunwale and the captain took the helm.
The _barquillo_ was small and did not carry much ballast, and the reefed
sail pressed her, but in order to reach the ketch she must be driven to
windward boldly. The others saw her coming for they hove their vessel to
some distance off. Kit knew they durst not run far into the rocky bay.

The long yard began to bend and foam leaped about the gunwale. The
_barquillo_ was fast, and the latine sail took her well to windward, but
a small boat going to windward is generally wet. When she lurched
obliquely across the rollers the spray blew in clouds from her weather
bow, and now and then their tops broke on board. Kit durst not get down
to throw out the water; his weight was needed for a counterbalance on
her lifted side, and he presently imagined she could not stand much
more. Don Erminio's clothes and face were wet, but he met the big,
curling seas with cool confidence, and somehow the boat went across.

When Kit could look ahead he saw the ketch was not far off. Her mainsail
was lowered and, with jib and mizzen set, she swung her forefoot out of
the foam and sank until her rail was hidden. It was plain the boat could
not reach her on one tack, and by and by Don Erminio waved his cap.

"Let them do something. Now they must come to us," he said.

The ketch's helm went up, she swung round before the wind, and when she
luffed the boat was close under her lee. Don Erminio and the _patron_
shouted, a letter was thrown across, the ketch hoisted her mainsail, and
Kit slacked the latine sheet. Going back, the wind was fair and they
sped, with bows out of the water, across the long seas, while a wedge of
foam stood up above the depressed stern. When they landed behind a reef
it was nearly dark and Don Erminio studied Kit with a grin.

"Señor Jefferson is very much a gentleman and the letter is important,"
he said. "If you go by the _triana_ and do not stop near the lights,
nobody will see you. I must take the fish to my señora before she buys
some meat."

Kit did not want to go. For one thing, his thin, wet clothes stuck to
his body, he wore rawhide sandals, and could not find one sock. Yet he
would rather like to meet Jefferson, who no doubt expected the letter.
He started for the town and after a time stopped at a house in a quiet
street. Somebody opened an iron gate in a narrow arch and Kit crossed
the _patio_. He saw the stars shine over the court and shadowy
bougainvilleas trail from the balconies. A fountain splashed in the
gloom, and he smelt flowers. Then Jefferson came from a lighted room and
took him in. He gave Kit a quick glance and noted his wet clothes, but
did not look surprised. To look surprised was not Jefferson's habit.

"You have saved me some port dues and an awkward delay," he said when he
had read the letter. "Will you take a drink?"

Kit refused politely and Jefferson resumed: "My wife can't receive you;
she's at Palma, and there's something about which I ought to put Austin
wise. Will you come along? I expect you know Mrs. Austin?"

"Perhaps I can claim to know Miss Brown?" Kit replied and then indicated
his clothes.

"You're near my height and I can fix you; I didn't mean to let you go
off like that," said Jefferson smiling.

Kit wanted to go and when he had put on a white suit of Jefferson's they
started. Mrs. Austin's house was modern and occupied a natural terrace
on the hill behind the town. A veranda ran along the front, and Kit saw
a group of people in basket chairs. When Jefferson presented him Mrs.
Austin's smile was kind and Olivia gave him her hand. Presently Kit sat
down in a corner and looked about.

The veranda was wide and Mrs. Austin used it for a drawing-room. English
and Spaniards owned her influence, she meddled benevolently with other's
affairs, and presided over something like a salon of the old French
school. At one end of the veranda a lamp stood on a bronze pillar, and
bright beams shone out from the rooms behind, but Kit's corner was in
the gloom and he was satisfied, since he rather doubted the fit of
Jefferson's clothes. In front, one saw the clustered lights of the town
and the white belt of surf that ran back to the shadowy Isleta. The sea
sparkled in the moon's track, and then melted into the blue dark behind
which was the African coast.

Kit studied his hosts. Mrs. Austin was slender and small. Her skin was
olive and he noted some white in her hair. She was very graceful, but
her glance was rather thoughtful than commanding. Austin loafed in his
easy-chair. He was handsome, but looked languid--his hands were white
and finely-shaped, his glance was careless. Kit could hardly picture him
the hero of Macallister's romantic tale. In fact, Austin and Jacinta
rather disappointed Kit.

On the whole, it was easier to picture Jefferson doing something big. He
was thin, and although he was quiet, looked resolute and, so to speak,
rough-hewn. Kit thought his was the Abraham Lincoln type. The others,
however, were not really important when Olivia was about. She wore black
and amber; a Spanish dress of diaphanous material and lace. Her olive
skin was faintly touched, like a peach, by red. Kit thought her
strangely beautiful and got a hint of pride and conscious power. By and
by she crossed the floor and joined him.

"Have you gone for another ride?" she asked.

"Not yet," he said. "We have been at sea and one ride is enough for some
time."

"Do you mean, you were shaken by your fall? If so, I'm sorry."

"I don't mean the fall. Going up the _barranco_ to the hills shook me
worse. I think you know it was my first adventure on horseback. Anyhow,
you saw its inglorious close."

"But I rather thought you enjoyed adventures," Olivia replied with a
twinkle. "Shortly before you arrived I was at a shop in the _triana_,
and you crossed the front of the window."

Kit coloured, for he had seen his reflection in Jefferson's dressing
glass; he imagined Olivia knew his shoes pinched and the clothes he wore
were not his. Her quiet amusement jarred, but he reflected that clothes
were not really important.

"My last adventure was on board a boat not long since," he said.
"However, I do know a little about a boat."

"Mr. Musgrave certainly does know," Jefferson remarked. "He went off to
meet _Cayman_ in a fresh breeze that scared the fellow I sent."

"Now you ought to be satisfied!" said Olivia.

"I'm not satisfied. I didn't expect Mr. Jefferson to back my
statement."

"Then you didn't want to persuade me you can manage a boat?"

"Not at all," said Kit. "I wanted to state that when you stick to things
you know, you're not ridiculous. When I met you at the maize field I was
ridiculous, because it was pretty obvious I couldn't manage a horse. In
fact, I feel I ought to apologise."

"I wonder. You declared you were logical as far as you knew, and when I
thought about it I agreed. You imagined the channel wasn't safe and saw
I was obstinate. In consequence, you resolved to ride the horse across.
On the whole, I think you were nice!"

"Are you disputing?" Mrs. Austin asked.

"Oh, no," said Olivia. "I am trying to persuade Mr. Musgrave he was
rather noble. Not long since he rode my horse across a spot he didn't
think safe for me."

"Then I reckon his nerve is pretty good!" Jefferson remarked.

Austin laughed, Mrs. Austin said nothing, but looked interested, and the
blood came to Kit's skin. He almost thought Olivia shabby. Anyhow, he
had had enough. If he stopped, he might look like a fool again, and he
declared he must write out some cargo lists. Mrs. Austin told him he
might come back, and after a glance at Olivia he turned to Jefferson.

"Thank you for the clothes," he said in rather a loud voice. "I'll send
them home to-morrow."

He went off and Mrs. Austin said: "I don't altogether see----"

"It isn't very obvious," Olivia replied. "However, I imagine Mr.
Musgrave has some grounds for thinking I ought to understand." She
smiled and resumed: "Well, one gets rather tired of the banana men, and
although Mr. Musgrave has some drawbacks I think he's good stuff. What
do you think, Jake?"

"I reckon you _know_," said Jefferson, who looked at Mrs. Austin. "You
see, I brought the young fellow."

"Oh, well," said Olivia, "we will admit that is something, but perhaps
it's not important. Mr. Musgrave has engaged to return your clothes. If
you had trusted anybody else on board his ship, I expect you would not
have got them back. The _correilleros_ keep all they get."



CHAPTER VI

THE INJURED PASSENGER


The red sunset shone behind Lanzarote's broken hills, and the Trade-wind
had, for an hour or two, dropped to a light breeze. _Campeador_'s boat,
under jib and spritsail, was beating up the coast. Don Erminio held the
tiller; Kit sat on the gunwale and smoked and looked about. Between sea
and mountains ran an empty plain, crossed by lava ridges and covered by
sand that had blown, for sixty miles, from the Sahara. In the distance,
the little whitewashed port of Arrecife glimmered against the dark sea.
The landscape was clean-cut and arid. Kit thought it looked like
pictures of Palestine.

Rabbits and vividly-coloured fish occupied the bottom of the boat, for
Don Erminio was a keen sportsman and made his sport pay. As a rule, his
other ventures were not profitable, and he had taken Kit along the coast
to look at a new tomato farm, in which he had bought shares. They found
a rude wall, enclosing a belt of sand in which Kit imagined nothing
could be forced to grow, and the captain stormed about the knavery of
the people who had persuaded him to speculate, until he saw a goat. Now,
however, he was resigned and philosophical.

"Business is not for sailors, who are honest people," he remarked in
English. "You have seen the _finca de tomate_. _Buen' ejemplo!_"

Kit had seen, and sympathised with the captain.

"Did you invest much money?" he asked.

"Fifty-dollar. Money of my señora, and when I arrive at my house she
make _escandolo_. When they start the _finca_ there is a feast, mucho
talk and drinky. Me I say, '_Viva la industria._ Take my fifty-dollar.'
_Hombre_, when I calculate the vermouth fifty-dollar buy!"

Kit said it was hard luck and tried not to smile, for the captain's
speculations were something of a joke at Las Palmas.

"Other time I buy the mule cart," Don Erminio resumed. "I say, if the
merchant want his cargo, he must use my cart. The plan is good, I buy
more cart and get rich quick. _Vaya!_ The cart is on the mole, two good
mule in front. Comes the _locomotura_, pushing the concrete block. _Mal
rayo!_ The driver not look, and the mule is in the sea. I am no more
_commerciante_; I am anarchist!"

Kit thought he understood the accident, for the mole at Las Palmas is
narrow and the concrete blocks, carried on rails to its end, are large.
The captain paused and coughed.

"Don Pedro savvy much; he buy whisky," he went on. "Now I have seen the
_finca_ mi t'roat is like the lime pit."

Kit's throat did not bother him. He had inherited an ascetic vein and,
in a country where wine is cheap, he was abstemious. For all that, he
was hungry and he looked ahead to see if the little port got nearer. He
hoped the breeze would not freshen much before they arrived. Then he
heard blocks rattle and looked astern. A schooner had gone about behind
them and was overtaking the boat. Her forefoot swung out of the smooth
swell, and a thin streak of foam marked her waterline; her high sails
were black against the sunset. As she came up she swerved, a jib was
hauled aback to stop her, and her after-canvas flapped.

"_La Malagueña_," said Don Erminio. "Now we get a drink!"

When the schooner forged past somebody threw a rope, Kit pulled down the
boat's mast, and in a few minutes he and Don Erminio got on board. She
was a beautifully-modelled vessel, belonging to the fruit-carrying
fleet, but Kit understood an English merchant had recently chartered
her. When he jumped down from the bulwarks, Wolf, the merchant, crossed
the deck.

"If you'll come below and smoke, we'll tow your boat," he said and
addressed Don Erminio in good Castilian. "Hallo, my friend! How do
things go?"

"They do not go well," said the other. "I have seen the tomato farm."

Wolf laughed and took them to the small stern cabin, where he got out
two or three bottles, some figs, and cigars. Kit took a _copita_ of
sweet, white muscatel and studied his host. Wolf was dark-skinned and
wore white clothes, Canary rawhide slippers and a Spanish sash, but his
English was good. Although he was fat, his movements and glance were
quick.

"We'll put you on board your steamer when we anchor off the town," he
said presently.

"Then, you're not going in?" said Kit.

"I think not. Arrecife is an awkward port to make in the dark. If the
wind holds light, we'll anchor and wait for daybreak."

"The wind she freshen," said Don Erminio. "I know the reefs like a fish.
I pilot you."

A steward had lighted the swivelled lamp and Kit occupied a locker
behind the small swing table. Don Erminio and Wolf were opposite and Kit
thought the captain's offer embarrassed the merchant. He, however,
smiled and said they would wait. They could not land cargo until the
morning, the casino was dull, and to win three or four pesetas was not
exciting. Then he turned to Kit.

"Since you sail for Las Palmas soon, I'll give you a passenger. I expect
you know we are trying to start a trade with the tribes on the Sahara
coast. One of my men got hurt, and if he goes with you, the doctor will
look after him to-morrow. I'd like you to send on a note I'll give you
as soon as you arrive and keep the man on board until a boat comes. Then
perhaps you needn't register him in your passenger lists. He's not a
Spanish subject and we don't want the _commandancia_ officers to make
inquiries about the accident."

"The officers are animals. Me, I know them!" Don Erminio remarked.

"Sometimes they bother one," Wolf agreed. "However, I'll pay the
_sobrecargo_ for a first-class berth."

Don Erminio spread out his hands indignantly. "No, señor! A friend of
yours is a friend of mine. There is no use in being captain if one's
friends must pay."

"Oh, well," Wolf said, smiling. "I expect the _sobrecargo_ is
accountable for the passengers."

He put down an envelope and some money. Kit counted the coins and pushed
back three or four.

"You have given me too much."

Wolf looked at Don Erminio, and Kit thought he slightly lifted his
brows. Don Erminio shrugged, and Wolf leaned forward to pick up the
money. Kit did not know if he got it, for the schooner lurched and the
floor slanted. One heard the water rush along her side and a noise on
deck. Loose canvas banged, ropes and blocks rattled, and it was plain
the breeze had not kept light. As a rule, the boisterous north-easter
freshens after dark.

Don Erminio jumped for the ladder and a few moments afterwards Kit got
on deck. All was dark and showers of spray blew about, but he saw the
schooner was now lying-to, and the crew had partly lowered the big
mainsail. The indistinct figures hanging on to the long boom were trying
down a reef. Presently they rehoisted the sail and when the schooner
started, foam boiled about her lee bulwarks and all forward was lost in
a cloud of spray. Kit looked aft and saw _Campeador_'s boat, lifted half
her length out of water, at the end of the towrope.

They made two tacks and then hove the schooner to with the lights of the
little town abeam. The crew pulled up _Campeador_'s boat, and Kit,
balancing on the schooner's rail, waited for a minute before he jumped.
Long, white-topped combers ran in the dark, the schooner rolled, lifting
her wet side out of the foam. Sometimes the boat bumped her planks and
sometimes swung away on the backwash. At length Kit jumped, and held her
off while Don Erminio, rather unsteadily, came down a rope. Then two men
appeared at the gangway, carrying another. The boat swung towards the
vessel, Kit, bracing himself to bear a load, reached up, and next moment
the man fell upon him.

A rope splashed, he stepped the little mast and hoisted the jib. Don
Erminio seized the tiller, the schooner vanished, and the boat headed
for Arrecife. The passenger lay in her bottom and did not move. By and
by _Campeador_'s lights tossed in the dark ahead, for there was no moon
and the gloom was thickened by spray and blowing sand. The steamer
rolled savagely and Kit knew if they missed her, it would be awkward to
make the shallow, surf-swept port. One could not trust the captain's
pilotage; Wolf had been generous with his liquor.

Riding on a comber's crest, they sped past _Campeador_'s stern and Kit
saw her side, pierced by lights, lengthen out. He jumped for the mast
and dropped sail while Don Erminio shoved down the helm. The boat ran
on towards the illuminated square of the gangway under the saloon-deck,
and a rope came down. Then Kit, pulling out the mast, held her off with
the hook and the steamer rolled her bilge out of the water. Gangway and
ladder went up, her side looked like a high, slanted wall; and then she
rolled back and buried the ladder in swirling foam.

Indistinct figures cut against the light and scrambled down the ladder.
Kit let the boat swing in, and somebody seized the passenger and dragged
him out of the boat. Next moment Kit was on the platform at the bottom
of the ladder with the water about his knees, helping the others, who
pulled their load through the gangway. The officers' mess-room was
opposite, and carrying in the man they put him on the locker cushions.
He looked young, but his eyes were shut, he breathed heavily, and a
dirty bandage covered the lower part of his face. When they entered
Macallister got up.

"Wha's this? Where did ye get him?"

"His name's Scot and we brought him from Wolf's schooner. He's hurt."

"Maybe; the bandage indicates it," said Macallister, who studied the
man. "For a' that, I alloo he's drunk."

Kit was surprised and rather indignant, but Macallister grinned.

"I'm telling ye, and I ought to ken."

"_Verdad!_" said the captain. "Don Pedro savvy much. Me, I savvy
something too. _Es cierto._ The animal is drunk."

The ship was crowded by emigrants for Cuba and when they had put a
pillow under Scot's head, Kit went for his dispatch box and got to work.
At midnight he returned to the mess-room and found Scot sitting up with
his back against the bulkhead. His eyes were dull and his pose was
slack, but he awkwardly sucked up some liquor through a maize stalk.
Macallister sat opposite, looking sympathetic.

"Is that stuff good for him?" Kit asked.

"D'ye ken what the stuff is?" Macallister rejoined.

Kit admitted that he did not and remembered that the other sometimes
doctored the captain from the ship's medicine-chest. When Don Erminio
had friends on board his throat was generally bad.

"Anyhow," Kit added, "I only see one glass."

"He can hear ye, although he canna talk," Macallister resumed.

"Where were you when you got hurt?" Kit asked.

Scot moved his hand over his shoulder and Kit thought he meant to
indicate the African coast.

"How did you get hurt?"

The other felt in his pocket and taking out a piece of lead dropped it
on the table. Kit saw it was a bullet and the end was flattened.

"Hit a bone," Macallister remarked.

"But how did they get the bullet out? Wolf has not a doctor on board."

Macallister smiled scornfully. "When ye have gone to sea langer ye'll
ken a sailor's talents. For a' that, ye'll no trust the captain if the
boat carries an engineer. But I'm modest and will not boast."

_Campeador_, steaming before the big rollers, plunged violently. One
heard the measured beat of engines and roar of broken seas. The
mess-table slanted and Kit picked up the bullet, which rolled about and
struck the ledge. He wanted to ask Scot something, but Macallister waved
his hand.

"Dinna bother the puir fellow. Away and count your tickets!"

Kit went and got a bath, and was afterwards occupied until _Campeador_
steamed into the Port of Light, when he sent off Wolf's note. Some time
afterwards a boat with a Portuguese runner from a big hotel came
alongside and they put Scot on board. In the evening Kit went to ask for
him, but the clerk declared Scot had not arrived, and he doubted if
their runner had gone to meet the _correillo_. Muleteers and
camel-drivers from Arrecife did not stop at fashionable hotels. Kit was
forced to be satisfied, but he thought the thing was strange.



CHAPTER VII

THE BULLET


All the basket chairs on Mrs. Austin's veranda were occupied and two or
three young men leaned against the posts. Mrs. Austin used no formality.
People came and went when they liked. Jacinta had a smile for all; to
some she talked in a low voice and with some she joked. She knew things
her guests hid from everybody else, and held a clue to numerous
intrigues. The others revolved about her; Jacinta, so to speak, occupied
the middle of the stage.

Austin, as usual, was satisfied to leave his wife alone. The evening
reception was her business, and if she needed his help he would know. In
the meantime, he talked to Jefferson and Kit. Kit was half conscious
that he owed his hostess much. His clothes were better and the colours
did not clash. He had dropped one or two mannerisms Mrs. Austin quietly
discouraged, and had begun to take for models her husband and Jefferson.
Jefferson was thin and hard and often quiet, although his smile was
friendly. Austin was urbane and looked languid, but Kit now imagined he
was not. In fact, both had a calm and balance Kit admired. They had
risked and done much, but they did not talk down to him; to feel they
weighed his remarks was flattering.

Notwithstanding this, he was rather annoyed by the young man who talked
to Olivia. The fellow had returned from England and was telling her
about cricket and tennis matches and London restaurants. Olivia looked
interested, and Kit was jealous. His cricket was elementary and he knew
nothing about tennis, but he thought Olivia ought to see Nasmyth was a
fool. For one thing, he wore Spanish alpaca clothes, a black Spanish hat
and a red sash, and looked like a brigand from the opera. Kit
instinctively hated a theatrical pose, and wished Olivia had seen the
fellow crumple up after a few minutes' dispute with Macallister about
some coal.

He was not in love with Olivia; this was, of course, ridiculous. She did
not move him, as Betty had moved him, to a shy tenderness that was
mainly protective. When he was with Olivia he was romantic and
ambitious; she inspired him with vague resolves to make his mark and use
his talents. Her charm was strong, but Kit knew his drawbacks.

By and by Jefferson asked: "Did you see Wolf's schooner when you were on
the Lanzarote coast?"

"Why, yes," said Kit. "We went on board one evening and brought back a
hurt man."

He stopped for a moment. Wolf had asked him not to enter Scot on the
list of passengers, but then he had not asked him not to talk about it.
Besides, the thing was puzzling, and Kit was curious. He narrated their
getting Scot on board and sending him off with the hotel runner at Las
Palmas. When he stopped he thought Austin looked thoughtful.

"Do you know Wolf?" Austin asked.

"I do not," said Kit. "I hadn't met him before. He was polite, but, of
course, he knew my post."

"You mean, he reckoned you were not worth cultivating?" Jefferson
remarked. "Sometimes a mail-boat's _sobrecargo_ is a useful friend."

"I don't expect Wolf has much use for me. He's trading in North-west
Africa, is he not? What does he get?"

"The Sahara's not all desert. There are oases, and _wadys_ where water
runs. The Berber tribes have goods to trade and some of the stuff that
comes out of the hinterland is valuable. In fact, the caravan roads may
presently go west to the Atlantic and not north to Algiers."

"What sort of fellows are the tribesmen?"

"Physically, they're magnificent; I reckon it's the proper word. Six
feet tall, muscular and hard as rawhide. We don't know much about their
morals, but they're fearless, proud, and distrust strangers. Anyhow,
they're a pretty tough crowd to get up against."

"Have you got up against them?" Kit asked.

Jefferson smiled. "We have had disputes. I reckon you know Austin and I
send the _Cayman_ across now and then. Sometimes she brings back sheep
and barley and sometimes other goods. The trouble is the Spanish crew
are not keen about anchoring on the Sahara coast; they know the _Moros_.
But the fellows are not Moors, but Berbers of a sort. The true Berber is
rather short and light; these folk are big and dark."

"Whose is the country?"

"The Berbers'?" Austin replied with some dryness. "Nominally, the Rio de
Oro belt belongs to Spain. France claims the hinterland, the coast south
of Rio de Oro and some territory north. However, did you look up the
fellow Scot?"

"I tried. He was not at the hotel, and when I went to the house where
Wolf's note was sent, the old Spaniard I saw knew nothing about him."

"Where is the house?" Austin asked.

Kit told him and he looked at Jefferson, who knitted his brows.

"Oh, well," said Austin. "Do you know how Scot got hurt?"

Kit took out the bullet. "He couldn't talk, but when we asked about his
injury he put this on the table. The boat was rolling and I thought the
thing would jump off."

Jefferson examined the bullet and gave it to Austin, who said nothing
for a few moments and then lighted a cigarette.

"Strange and perhaps significant!" Austin remarked.

"Why is it strange? We know the man was shot," said Kit.

"The Berbers use long, smooth-bore, muzzle-loading guns; beautiful guns,
with inlaid stocks, probably made long since in Persia and India. I
don't know how they get them, but these people are not savages. They
have a pretty good trading system and caravan roads. This bullet was
fired from a modern rifle; a Mauser, I think. Do you want it?"

Kit said he did not and Austin glanced at Mrs. Austin, who presently
beckoned Jefferson. He went off, and Kit pondered. On the surface, the
others had been frank, but he doubted if they had told him all they
knew. Then it was perhaps strange Mrs. Austin had signed to Jefferson.

"Looks as if the bullet interested you," Kit ventured.

"That is so," Austin admitted with a smile. "We imagined we knew the
range of the Berbers' smooth guns. Since they make very good shooting,
we found this useful; but a modern rifle is another thing. In fact, I
begin to see----"

Kit was intrigued by the hint of romantic adventure, but Austin stopped
and got up, for Olivia advanced. Sitting down by Kit, she opened her
fan.

"Since you come to see us, I expect you're not bored," she said.

"Not at all," said Kit. "I feel I owe Mrs. Austin much for leave to
come. All's so new to me."

"The people? Well, I suppose we're rather a mixed lot."

"I didn't altogether mean the people, although they are new. At
Liverpool, my friends were of a type; the industrious clerk's type. We
had our rules; you must be sober and punctual, you must look important,
and your aim was to get on. At Las Palmas, you're not a type but
individuals, doing what you like. Still I think the new surroundings
count for more. After the shabby streets, the rows of little mean
houses, to come to this----"

He indicated the dark volcanic mountains whose broken tops cut the
serene sky, the Atlantic sparkling in the moon's track, and the
twinkling lights along the belt of surf. When he stopped he heard the
sea and the _Cazadores'_ band playing in the _alameda_. The smell of
heliotrope came from the dusty garden.

"All is really beautiful, anyhow at night, when you can't see the port,"
Olivia agreed. "It looks as if you felt its charm, but I think you
resist. Some people don't trust beauty!"

"In a sense, to come South was like coming out of a dark room when the
sun is bright. I'm, so to speak, dazzled and can't see which way to go."

"You're not emancipated yet," Olivia rejoined. "In Spain, we don't
bother where we go, so long as the road is easy and the sun does shine.
However, we won't philosophise. You did look bored not long since."

Kit had not imagined Olivia had noted his annoyance when she talked to
the young man in the theatrical clothes, but he was beginning to know
her.

"Don't you think I was justified?" he asked.

She laughed. "The charm of the South's insidious. When you arrived you
were a Puritan; something of Jefferson's stamp. Well, he doesn't flatter
one, but one trusts him."

"I think him and Austin fine," Kit declared. "They're quiet and Austin's
humorous, but you feel what they say goes. Then you know their
politeness is sincere. But since Jefferson's American, why does he live
at Las Palmas?"

"I'll tell you his story. He was mate of an American sailing ship, some
time since when sailing ships were numerous. She was wrecked and when
she was sinking the crew got at some liquor and tried to kill their
officers. I believe they did kill one or two, and then Jefferson got
control."

"You can picture his getting control," Kit remarked. "But this doesn't
account for----"

"The survivors' story was tragic and Jefferson lost his post. He came to
Las Palmas and went to the coaling wharf. In the meantime, he had met on
board a steamer the girl he married."

"Ah!" said Kit. "Calm nights in the tropics, with the moon on the sea!
The girl was romantic and liked adventure?"

"Not at all! Muriel Gascoyne was conventional; the daughter of a
remarkably disagreeable clergyman, who came out to stop the marriage,
but arrived too late. Macallister had something to do with that. He
delayed the _correillo_ when Gascoyne was crossing from Teneriffe. Then
Jefferson got a small legacy and bought the wreck of the _Cumbria_.
Austin went to help him and when they floated the ship, married my
sister. The doctors said Mrs. Jefferson could not stand a northern
climate and Jefferson stopped at Las Palmas; he and Austin had earned
rather a large sum by their salvage undertaking. I think that's all, but
the story's romantic. Doesn't it fire your ambition?"

"To begin with, I don't expect a legacy," Kit remarked. "Then I'm not
like Austin."

Olivia smiled and shut her fan. "No, you are something like Jefferson.
He married a clergyman's daughter! Well, I imagine Jacinta wants me."

She went off and Kit's heart beat. Olivia thrilled him, but he was not a
fool. For one thing, he knew she knew he was not her sort; then wrecks
that poor adventurers could float were not numerous. All the same, when
he talked to Olivia he was carried away, and wondered whether he could
not by some bold exploit mend his fortune. He frowned and lighted a
fresh cigarette.

Soon afterwards Wolf came up the steps. With his dark skin, soft black
sombrero and black silk belt, he looked like a Spaniard; his urbanity
was rather Spanish than English. When he stopped by Mrs. Austin, Kit
somehow imagined she was not pleased, but she laughed and they talked
for a few minutes. Then Wolf joined another group and afterwards pulled
a chair opposite Kit's.

"I must thank you for landing Scot. Looks as if you used some tact. Your
getting him quietly was an advantage."

"A hotel runner brought his boat, but when I went to look him up the
clerk knew nothing about him," Kit replied.

Wolf smiled. "A dollar carries some weight with a hotel tout, and I
didn't want to put the Port captain's men on the track. Since Scot
landed in the hotel boat, they'd take it for granted he was a sick
English tourist, and unless we're engaged in business, the Spanish
officials don't bother us."

Kit rather doubted if Wolf was English, as his remark implied, and
reflected that he had not much grounds for trusting him. For one thing,
when he paid Scot's passage he put down a larger sum than was required,
and Kit, thinking about it afterwards, imagined the fellow expected him
to keep the money. Then Macallister declared Scot was drunk, and Kit had
noted that he was strangely dull. To some extent, however, Wolf's
frankness banished his doubts.

"Is Scot getting better?" he asked.

"He's not making much progress. In fact, since the town is hot just now,
we have sent him away."

Kit noted that he did not state where Scot had gone, but perhaps this
was not important, and he wanted to be just.

"Are you satisfied with your post on board the _correillo_?" Wolf
resumed.

"In a way," said Kit "I like my job, but the pay is small."

Wolf looked thoughtful. "Perhaps you ought to stop until you know the
country and the Spanish merchants, but I might help you by and by. We'll
talk about it again."

He crossed the floor and by and by Kit got up. Mrs. Austin gave him her
hand and Olivia went with him to the steps.

"Is Mr. Wolf a friend of yours?" she asked.

"I don't know," said Kit. "I think he's friendly."

Olivia knitted her brows. "Jacinta receives him, but sometimes I
wonder---- Anyhow, I imagine she approves you and you might find her a
useful friend. People come to her when they can't see their way."

She let him go, and Kit returned to his ship, wondering whether her
remarks indicated that he ought to consult Mrs. Austin before he made
friends with Wolf.



CHAPTER VIII

A SWIMMING MATCH


A light breeze touched the long swell that splashed about the coaling
mole, for the range that runs down the middle of Teneriffe cut off the
Trade-wind. The sun was near the mountain tops and cool shadow touched
Santa Cruz. The houses on the hillside had faded to grey, but the lower
town shone dazzlingly white, and the sea was like wrinkled silver. At
the end of another mole, across the flatly-curving bay, a beach of black
sand and a green house with balconies marked the citizens' bathing
place. The _correillo_ rode at anchor near the mole's seaward end, and
an African mail boat rolled upon the sparkling swell between her and the
coaling station.

Kit, standing in the shade of a truck, pulled off his clothes and
glanced at the water. The strong light pierced the smooth undulations
and he saw the stones three or four fathoms down. A young clerk from a
merchant house, half undressed, sat upon a lava block, and three or four
others were stripping in the shadow of a neighbouring truck. One
bantered Macallister, who wore a towel and talked at large.

"I was a swimmer before ye were born," the engineer rejoined. "Weel, I
alloo ye're soople and a bonny pink, but ye're saft. When I get in the
water, I'll let ye see!"

"You're not really going in?" remarked another, and a lad seized
Macallister's arm.

"Put on your clothes, Mac. We'll let you off your bet."

"Ye're generous, but it's possible ye canna pay. Though I'd feel shame
to rob ye, I never made a bet I didna try to win," Macallister replied
and, stretching his arms above his head, balanced on his toes. "Thirty
years sin' ye would not have seen me go, but the cares o' the world have
worn me, no' to talk aboot keeping steam wi' short-weight coal."

Kit turned to his companion. "Perhaps it's curious, but I haven't seen
Macallister in the water. Since he started the match, I suppose he can
swim?"

"You can't argue like that about Don Pedro," said the other. "Anyhow, I
think Nelson doubts; he tried to stop him."

Kit glanced with some curiosity at the young man who had meddled.
Crossing the plaza on the evening before, he stopped in front of a hotel
and heard somebody singing. Perhaps it was because the song was English
and, heard among the tall, white Spanish houses, had an extra charm, but
Kit was moved by the music and thought the voice very fine. Entering the
hotel, he found Macallister in the group about the piano, and when the
engineer admitted that Nelson's song was good, but declared he, himself,
could beat any Englishman, singing, riding, or swimming, the match was
arranged.

"Nelson's at the coaling sheds, I think?" Kit remarked.

"That is so," agreed the other. "Don Arturo heard him sing in a church
choir at home and gave him the coaling job."

"Because he can sing?"

The other laughed. "Doesn't look very logical, but Don Arturo's
reasoning isn't always obvious. You don't know why he likes you and this
has some advantages."

Kit threw off his shirt, and when he walked to the edge of the mole in
his thin swimming suit, the other gave him an approving glance. His head
was well poised on his sunburned neck, his figure was tall,
finely-lined, and muscular. He looked hard and athletic but he was
tired, for it was not long since he had laboured with Don Erminio across
the high rocks of Gomera to look for suppositious wild goats.

"The sun's hot and I wish they'd send us off, but I don't see the launch
to take our clothes across," he said.

"That's Nelson's job and Nelson forgets. They tell you in the sheds he
sometimes forgets how many bags of coal go to a ton, which leads to
complications, since they don't fix the weight by scale and beam. But
Don Juan is coming. Get ready to start."

A man carrying a watch jumped on a truck, shouted a warning, and began
to count. White figures leaped from the wall, and for a moment Kit
turned his head. He saw Macallister advance to the edge of the mole and
the _Campeador_'s mate seize him from behind. There was a struggle and
the mate and Macallister fell, but next moment Kit heard his number and
threw himself forward in a long flat plunge. He came up on top of a
roller, and shaking the water from his eyes, saw the African boat and
_Campeador_ cut the dazzling sky. Then a long green slope rose in front.

He swung out his left arm and dropped his hand in front of his head. His
head went under with the impetus he got, and when he came up he saw
Santa Cruz glimmer pearly-grey. The shadow had crept across the town and
was moving out to sea. Kit did not see the others; when one uses the
overhand stroke one does not see much, and for the most part he was down
in the hollow of the trough. He made the best possible speed he could,
but after a time found the effort hard. Kit was not a mountaineer, and
climbing across broken lava for eight or nine hours is strenuous work.
Besides, the water was colder than he had thought, and when he swung up
on a long undulation he stopped and looked about.

The sun had gone and the sea was dark. Between him and the beach a small
white object broke the surface and vanished; farther back, he saw a dot
like a swimmer's head. He was too far out: the bathing house looked a
long way off, he could not see the launch. Then he sank into the hollow
and the view was lost.

Kit changed his stroke and swam on his chest. He must economise his
strength, because he doubted if he could reach the sandy beach, and to
land on the reefs would be awkward. In fact, it began to look as if he
was not altogether swimming for sport. Perhaps he ought to steer for the
_correillo_, but she was some distance off. By and by he heard a faint
shout and paddled easily until a man overtook him.

"Hallo, Nelson!" he said. "Are you trying to get past?"

"Not at all," gasped the other. "I've had enough. Saw you were going
away and made a spurt."

Kit, swimming slowly, could talk without much effort, and asked:
"Where's Macallister?"

"On the mole; wish I was! Where are you heading?"

"I thought about the _correillo_."

Nelson blew the water from his sinking lips. "Too far. I'm going to the
African boat."

"We have got no clothes."

"It's not important. Let's get out of the water."

"Clothes are important," Kit rejoined. "I expect she has a crowd of
tourists on board and don't see myself walking about the saloon-deck in
a bathing suit."

"Get on and stop talking," Nelson spluttered.

"Now I'm going easy, I can talk all right."

"_Don't!_" growled Nelson. "You'll have to help me before long."

Kit got level with him. "Brace up, go slow, and keep stroke with me."

They went on; sometimes seeing for a few moments the slanted hull and
white deck-houses of the African boat, sometimes nothing but sky and
heaving water. Still the ship was getting near, and by and by her
whistle shrieked.

"Wants the water-barge," said Nelson. "She can't start yet."

Kit was relieved to know this. The steamer had finished coaling, and if
she started before they reached her, it would be awkward. After a few
minutes he lifted his head and looked about. The liner, rolling on the
long swell, was now close in front. He saw her wet plates shine as she
lifted them from the sea and the groups of passengers about her rail.
Some had glasses and he thought they were watching him and his
companion. The vessel was obviously taking home the last of the winter
tourists, and Kit frowned when he noted women's dresses. It did not look
as if he could get on board quietly. All the same, he must get on board,
because he could go no farther.

He encouraged Nelson, and passing her high bow, they swam along her
side. The ladder was aft and all the passengers on the saloon-deck came
to the rail. Kit seized the ladder and when he had pulled Nelson on to
the platform hesitated. No shore boats were about and he could not swim
to the beach.

"Embarrassing, but let's get up," gasped Nelson.

Kit set his mouth and went up. A steward who wore neat uniform met him
at the top.

"Have you got a ticket, sir?"

"I have not," said Kit; "do I look like a passenger?"

"Ship's cleared, sir. All visitors sent off. We're only waiting for the
water-boat."

Kit made an effort for control. To get savage would not help and the
fellow had no doubt been ordered to let nobody come on board. For all
that a number of amused passengers were watching the dispute. The thing
was ridiculous, and he was cold. He thought he knew one of the
passengers and tried to signal, but the fellow went behind a boat.
Although an iron ladder a few yards off led to the well-deck, the
steward resolutely blocked the way. Then a very smart mate crossed the
deck.

"Why have you come on board? What do you want?" he asked.

"Clothes, to begin with," said Kit. "Anyhow, we have got on board and
we're going to stop until we get a boat."

The whistle shrieked and drowned the other's reply. He turned, Nelson
pushed Kit, and they ran for the ladder. Plunging down, they reached an
alleyway and Nelson laughed.

"I don't expect the fellow will come after us; a liner's mate has got to
be dignified. If you want help when things are awkward, try the
engineer."

They went up the alleyway and met a short, thin man, wearing a stained
blue jacket and greasy trousers. He stopped and studied them, without
surprise.

"Weel?" he said. "Are ye going to a fancy ball?"

"We want to borrow some clothes; dungarees, overalls, anything you've
got," said Kit. "We had to give up a swimming match and couldn't reach
my ship, astern of you."

"The little Spanish mailboat? Ye're with Macallister?"

"Of course. He got up the match, although I think he didn't start."

"It's verra possible," said the other dryly. "Mack canna swim. But if ye
are friends o' his, I must get ye clothes."

Kit thanked him, and then, looking at the man thoughtfully, added that
he doubted if the things would fit.

"I wasna meaning to lend ye my clothes," the engineer replied. "If ye're
no fastidious, the second's aboot your size. Since he's occupied below,
I dinna think he'll mind."

He took them into the mess-room, gave them some white clothes, and went
off, remarking: "Ye'll be ready to go ashore with the water-boat. When
they've filled my tanks we start."

"He won't start for some time," said Nelson. "You see, until we were on
the mole, I forgot to tell Felix they wanted water. Jardine sent the
coal, but the water's my job."

"You seem to forget rather easily," Kit remarked.

"Oh, well," said Nelson, "Don Arturo gave me the post because I can
sing." He paused and added apologetically: "I really can sing, you
know."

Kit laughed. He thought he liked Nelson. "Where do you think the others
went?"

"There's a sandy spot near the _barranco_ and I expect they crawled out.
Of course, the distance was too long, but Macallister insisted we should
go right across."

"Yet the engineer declared he can't swim."

"He can't swim; I have gone in with him at the bathing beach. All the
same, I don't think this would bother Mack. If your mate had not
meddled, he'd have started."

"But the thing's ridiculous!" Kit exclaimed. "If you can't swim and jump
into deep water, you drown."

"Unless somebody pulls you out. Anyhow, Mack is like that, and I forget
things; Don Arturo's men are a fantastic lot. A number of us have
talents that might be useful somewhere else, and, so far as I can see, a
number have none, but we keep the business going and beat Spaniards,
French and Germans at jobs they've studied. I don't know if it's good
luck or unconscious ability. However, we'll go on deck and look for the
water-boat."

They went up the ladder and saw a tug steaming for the ship with a barge
in tow. A few minutes afterwards the passenger Kit thought he knew
crossed the deck.

"Mr. Scot?" said Kit, looking at him hard.

"I am Scot," said the other. "Met you on board the _correillo_. Come to
the smoking-room and let's get a drink."

The smoking-room was unoccupied and they sat down in a corner. Kit
thought Scot had not wanted to meet him, and was curious. The fellow
talked awkwardly and the side of his face was marked by a red scar.

"You picked up my bullet," he said.

"I did," Kit admitted. "Meant to give it you back, but I forgot. Do you
want the thing?"

"I'd like to know what you did with it."

"Austin got the bullet. I gave it him one evening when we were talking
about Africa."

"You gave it Austin!" Scot exclaimed. "After all, perhaps, it doesn't
matter. I have had enough and am not going back."

"How did you get hurt?"

"For one thing, I'd put on a cloth jacket--the evenings are pretty
cold--and dark serge doesn't melt into a background of stones and sand.
I imagined the tribe knew me."

"Perhaps a stranger fired the shot."

"There are no strangers about the Wady Azar. I carried an automatic
pistol, but I reckoned the other fellows knew it wouldn't pay to shoot.
In fact, I don't yet see why I was shot."

"The bullet was not from a smooth-bore, but a rifle," said Kit.

Scot gave him a keen glance and smiled. "Oh, well, I've had enough of
Africa. Suppose we talk about something else."

Nelson and Scot talked about London until the tug's whistle blew and
they ran to the gangway. The ladder was hauled up, but Kit and Nelson
went down a rope to the water-boat, and as she sheered off the engineer
came to the steamer's rail.

"Ye'll mind aboot the clothes when we come back," he shouted.



CHAPTER IX

KIT GIVES HIS CONFIDENCE


_Campeador_, bound for Teneriffe, rolled with a languid swing across the
shining swell. Her slanted masts and yellow funnel flashed; her boats
and deck were dazzling white, and Kit, coming out of his dark office,
looked about him with half-shut eyes. When he joined the _correillo_ he
had not expected to find the Spanish crew kept her clean, but she was as
smart as an English mail-boat, and Kit admitted that some of his British
prejudices were not altogether justified. Now, however, she was not
steaming at her proper speed. The throb of engines harmonised in a
measured rhythm with the roar at the bows, but the beat was slow. Kit
turned and saw Macallister watching him with a grin.

"Ye look glum," said the engineer.

"It's possible. We are late again, and I don't see how I'm to finish my
business at Santa Cruz before we start for Orotava. Have your muleteer
firemen got too much rum? Or did you forget to chalk the clock?"

Macallister smiled. "Ye're hipped. I'm thinking Olivia wasna kind; but
ye have not much notion o' amusing a bonny lass. They're no' all
satisfied to be looked at. Man, when I was young---- But ye needna tell
me ye didna go til Mrs. Austin's. I saw ye, stealing off, with your new
silk belt and your shoes fresh chalked."

"Miss Brown has nothing to do with the boat's arriving late."

"I mind a trip when her sister had much to do with our arriving verra
late indeed. Gascoyne, Mrs. Jefferson's father, was on board, going to
stop the wedding, and Jacinta gave me a bit hint, but that's anither
tale. The trouble is, when ye're short o' fuel ye cannot keep steam. I
allood I kenned a' the tricks o' the coaling trade, but a lad with the
looks and voice o' a cherub let me down two hundred-weight a ton. Weel,
I might have kenned, after the innocent set on Juan to hold me so I
couldna win the swimming match."

"You're near the limit, Mack," Kit remarked and went off.

He was disturbed, but _Campeador_'s slowness did not account for all.
Before she sailed a letter arrived from his mother, who stated in a
postscript that Betty did not look well. The girl felt the cold of an
unusually bleak spring and worked too hard. Mrs. Musgrave understood the
doctor thought she ought to go South, but Betty, of course, could not.

Kit walked up and down the deck and pondered. Betty had refused him and
he had resigned himself to let her go. In fact, he had begun to think he
had not really loved her much. Now, however, to know she was ill, hurt.
He wanted to help, but it was impossible.

Then he remembered that Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Jefferson were on board.
Perhaps he ought to see if they were comfortable; besides, to talk to
them might banish his moodiness. He found them sitting to lee of the
deck-house, and leaned against the rail opposite. Beneath him, in the
moving shadow of the ship, the water was a wonderful blue; farther back,
the long undulations, touched here and there by white, melted into the
shining plain of the Atlantic. In the distance, Teneriffe's high range
was streaked by silver mist, from which projected a glittering cone.

Mrs. Austin held a book and rings sparkled on her hand. Mrs. Austin was
fond of rings. Kit knew she was the daughter of a merchant who began his
business career by selling sailors cheap tobacco, but he thought her
like an old French marquise; a marquise with a salon where plots were
made.

Mrs. Jefferson was not like that. She was not fashionable and one felt
her gentle calm. Somehow Kit knew the calm was inherited; one could not
altogether get it by cultivation. She had quiet eyes, her sympathetic
voice moved him. Now and then he was rather afraid of Mrs. Austin; he
loved Mrs. Jefferson. He owned it strange he should enjoy the society of
ladies like these.

In the meantime, Mrs. Austin studied Kit. Although he was very raw when
he arrived, he was, so to speak, toning down. She had taught him
something. Mrs. Austin had educated a number of raw young men, but since
it looked as if Olivia were interested in his progress, she wondered
whether she was rash to meddle with Kit. For one thing, he was rather
handsome; he carried himself well, and his figure was good. He was
honest, and his frank look had some charm. Then he had begun to choose
his clothes properly; Mrs. Austin admitted she had given him some hints.
Now, however, he was obviously disturbed and she had grounds for
curiosity. She knew she could persuade him to give her his confidence
and she did so with a cleverness Kit did not note. By and by he gave her
impulsively his mother's letter.

"I'm bothered about the thing," he said.

Mrs. Austin passed on the letter to Mrs. Jefferson. On the whole, she
was conscious of some satisfaction, because she thought Mrs. Musgrave's
use of the postscript significant.

"One doesn't like to hear one's relations are ill," she remarked in a
sympathetic voice.

For a moment or two Kit hesitated. Mrs. Austin was Olivia's sister and
he had not meant to talk about Betty. Sometimes he did talk when he
ought to be quiet.

"Betty is not a relation, but I'm bothered about her being ill," he said
and indicated the snowy peak, silver mist and shining Atlantic. "I feel
shabby, as if the thing's not just. You see, I've got so much and Betty,
who needs all I've got more, is shivering in the cold. You don't know
Liverpool when the east winds blow in spring."

"I know other English, and some American, towns in winter," said Mrs.
Jefferson. "When my husband found I could not stand the cold, he brought
me back to the Canaries. I think I can sympathise with Betty."

"Not altogether," Kit rejoined. "When you are tired, you can rest; Betty
can't. You have not to go to an office at nine o'clock, knowing that if
you're ill for a week or two you may lose your job. You are not forced
to stop until nine o'clock in the evening, without extra pay, when trade
is good."

"Are office girls paid nothing extra for extra work?"

"All I know are not," said Kit. "Perhaps five pounds at Christmas, if
the house is remarkably prosperous; but I don't think Betty minded this.
You feel the dreariness most; the poor food you eat in the middle of a
crowd; the fight for the tram-cars when it rains, and the long walk
through muddy streets when you can't get on board. I expect a girl hates
to sit all day in wet clothes. Besides, it isn't good. Then Betty's
office is dark, and she writes entries in a book until her eyes ache.
The thing's, so to speak, hopeless. You feel you've got to go on like
that for ever----"

He paused and his look was very gentle when he resumed: "Betty bore it
cheerfully. She has pluck, but I knew she was tired, and now she's
ill!"

"Was she going to marry you?" Mrs. Austin asked.

"No," said Kit, blushing like a girl. "When I got my post I wanted her
to promise she would marry me when I came back, but she refused."

"This was just before you sailed?" Mrs. Austin remarked thoughtfully.

"Of course. Until Don Arturo sent for me, I knew it might be long before
I could support a wife. Betty knew, but she went about with me.
Sometimes we went to small concerts and sometimes, on Saturday
afternoons, across the river. On the Cheshire side you can get away from
the streets. There's a wood one can reach from a station, and primroses
and hyacinths grow in the dead leaves. Betty was happy among the
flowers; she loves things like that. She used to watch the thin birch
sprays swing across the white trunks. I didn't know they were birches
until she told me, but I sometimes thought her eyes were like the
hyacinths. However, I've talked a lot and I'm boring you."

"We are not bored," said Mrs. Jefferson, and Mrs. Austin mused.

Kit's voice was very gentle; it looked as if he had not known passion,
and Mrs. Austin thought Betty had qualities. One could picture a girl
whose life was dreary using all her charm to get a lover; but Betty
obviously had not. She had refused Kit, although nothing he had said
indicated that she was calculating and ambitious. Well, one sometimes
met a girl whose thought was not for herself.

"After all, a _sobrecargo_'s pay on board the _correillo_ is not large,"
she said.

"That is so," Kit agreed. "But one has so much besides; the sea, the
sunshine, friends I could not have got at Liverpool. One feels
confident; there are better jobs, and perhaps one is not forced to be
poor always. Anyhow, Betty didn't bother about the pay; she can go
without things, but when I tried to persuade her she was firm. Well, I
think it's done with, she won't marry me. All the same, if I could bring
her out to rest and get strong in the sun----"

He stopped, with some embarrassment, and resumed: "I have bored you and
must get the captain to sign the manifests."

He went off and Mrs. Austin looked at Mrs. Jefferson.

"Well?" she said.

"I like him," said Mrs. Jefferson. "I think I'd like the girl. One feels
he drew her better than he knew."

"Yet he's not her lover."

"He doesn't know he is her lover, but it's important that when he thinks
about her being ill he's strongly moved. To know she might get well here
but he can't help, hurts. I'm sorry she can't come."

"I don't know that it's impossible," Mrs. Austin replied.

Mrs. Jefferson gave her a thoughtful glance. Jacinta was generous and
often helped people, but Mrs. Jefferson imagined she had an object now.

"You don't know her and I expect she's independent."

"For all that, I don't imagine she would refuse a good post, and a post
where the work is light might be got. We'll talk about it again."

When _Campeador_ arrived at Santa Cruz, Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Jefferson
drove across the island to Orotava and Kit went round with the ship.
Orotava is open to the Atlantic and landing is sometimes awkward, but
onions were cheap and the company had engaged to load a barque for Cuba.
Kit sent off a quantity on board the cargo launches and then went to the
agent's office to pay for the goods. In Spanish countries, business is
not transacted with much speed and when he started for the harbour it
was dark. He wore deck-shoes and thin white clothes, and his pockets
bulged with documents. At the _marina_ he met Mrs. Austin, Olivia, and
Jefferson.

"We came down after dinner to see the surf; it's rather grand to-night,"
Olivia remarked. "I suppose you are going on board?"

Kit said he was going. He carried the ship's papers, and she could not
sail until he arrived. Then he asked Jefferson: "Have you seen my boat?"

"They ran her up when the sea began to break. I reckon you'll have some
trouble to get off."

This was obvious. At Orotava the surf is not quiet long, and while Kit
was engaged at the agent's the rollers had got high and steep. For a
moment or two he looked up the famous horseshoe valley. Mist floated
about the shoulders of the giant Peak, but the mist was still, and
lights high up on the shadowy slopes did not twinkle. The illumination
about the big hotel on the cliff was steady. One got no hint of wind;
the night was calm and hot. For all that, the Atlantic was disturbed,
and the crash of breakers rolled about the little town. The air throbbed
with the measured roar.

Kit looked seawards. Two short moles enclosed a break in the lava rocks,
but their ends were lost in phosphorescent foam, and a white turmoil
marked the gap between. Now and then most part of a wall vanished and a
yeasty flood ran far up the beach. Kit saw a group of indistinct figures
standing about a boat and left the party.

"Can one get a boat off?" Mrs. Austin asked Jefferson.

"It's risky. Musgrave means to try. The danger spot is where the rollers
break on the shallows at the harbour mouth. Beyond that, they're
smooth."

After a few minutes Kit returned and Jefferson said, "Well?"

Kit laughed. "They're not keen about going, but the promise of a bottle
of _caña_ carries some weight and old Miguel is a useful man at the
steering oar. Anyhow, I've got to try. Keeping up steam costs something,
and a barque at Palma waits for the onions."

"D'you reckon a _sobrecargo_'s pay covers the risk?" Jefferson asked.

They stood near a lighted wine shop and Kit gave him a puzzled look.
"Perhaps we ought to get paid for an extra awkward job, but in a sense,
the pay has nothing to do with it. When you sign on, you engage to do
what's required. But you ought to see----"

Jefferson saw and his eyes twinkled. Kit was embarrassed, because he had
remembered the others and thought he was talking like a prig. All the
same, the young fellow was staunch.

"Miguel will come to the steps for me," Kit resumed, and they went with
him along the wall. A quarter of a mile off, the _correillo_'s lights
tossed in the dark.

The boat was a thirty-foot cargo launch, rowed double banked by sturdy
fishermen, but swinging about on the white turmoil, she looked small.
Sometime when a thundering roller broke across the mole she vanished. To
get on board was awkward, but when she stopped opposite some steps Kit
ran forward and stood, stiffly posed, at the top.

"_Ahora, señor!_" somebody shouted.

Kit jumped. The others saw his white figure plunge and vanish. A crash,
half drowned by the roar of the sea, indicated that he had got on board,
and the boat went out on the backwash that rolled down the harbour like
an angry flood. There was no moon, but one could see her dark hull
against the phosphorescent foam. The men were pulling hard; their bodies
swung and fiery splashes marked the big oars' path. At the mouth of the
harbour she lurched up, almost perpendicular, over a white sea, plunged,
and melted into the dark.

"They have got out," said Olivia. "It was very well done!"

"Then we'll go back to the hotel," Mrs. Austin remarked, rather coolly.
"You are wearing your dinner dress and the spray is thick!"

"I'm not going yet," Olivia declared.

Mrs. Austin knew her sister and waited, although she was annoyed. One
could not blame Kit for doing what he ought, but the thing was unlucky.
After a minute or two, Jefferson jumped on a lava block and Olivia cried
out. Just outside the harbour a long dark object rolled about in the
foam. The object was like a boat, but it was obviously not the proper
side up.

"She may clear the head of the mole," said Jefferson, and he and Olivia
plunged into the spray.

Mrs. Austin hesitated and was too late. A sea washed across the wall,
the others had vanished, and she durst not go alone. Men began to run
about and she saw the boat was coming back extraordinarily fast. She was
upside down, but two or three white objects clung to her, and swimmers'
heads dotted the frothing surge that carried her along. Jefferson and
Olivia ran back and Mrs. Austin went with them to the beach. The boat
struck the lava and was pulled up. A group of dripping men pushed
through the crowd and Jefferson stopped the _patron_.

"Have you all got back?" he asked.

"All but Señor Musgrave," said the other, "We held on to the boat; he
went on."

"He went on!" Olivia broke in. "Do you mean swimming? Where did he go?"

"To the ship, señorita. He shouted he must get on board."

The man went off and Jefferson remarked: "I reckon Musgrave will make
it. The surf-belt's narrow and there's nothing to bother him after he
gets through. If he'd come back, he might have washed past the harbour
and hit the rocks. I'll wait at the agent's office and see if the
_correillo_ starts."

"I'll stop with you," said Olivia firmly.

They waited for half an hour and then _Campeador_'s whistle pierced the
roar of the surf. Her lights began to move and Jefferson said, "She's
steaming off. Musgrave has made it!"

Olivia thrilled, but said nothing. Mrs. Austin said they had better go
back to the hotel and pondered while they climbed the steep path to the
cliff. Kit had tried to get on board because he thought he must; he had
not, consciously, wanted to persuade Olivia he had pluck. All the same,
he had done a bold thing, with an object that justified his rashness,
and Olivia had seen the risk he ran. Mrs. Austin however was rather
sorry she had suggested their going to the mole.



CHAPTER X

MRS. AUSTIN MAKES SOME PLANS


Mrs. Austin's veranda was not as crowded as usual. For one thing, a
steamer that touched at Las Palmas regularly had arrived from the
Argentine and her captain was giving a ball, to which Mrs. Austin had
resolved she would not go. Captain Farquhar's friends were numerous but
rather mixed; his feasts were not marked by the strict observance of
conventional rules, and at Las Palmas Jacinta Austin was something of a
great lady. When Kit came up the steps she gave him a gracious smile.

"I'm flattered because you have not, like the others, deserted me," she
said.

"You are kind to hint you would note if I came or not," Kit replied.
"However, I must own I don't dance."

"Then, if you did dance, you would have gone to Captain Farquhar's
ball?"

Kit smiled. "I think not. To begin with, I'd sooner come here, and I
went on board _Carsegarry_ when she called on her outward run. Captain
Farquhar's kind, but I had enough. In another sense, so had Macallister
and Don Erminio."

"You would be nicer if you knew where to stop," Mrs. Austin remarked.

"If you'll let me stop now for half an hour, I'll be satisfied," said
Kit.

"Satisfied?" said Mrs. Austin. "Oh, well, I know you're frank.
Frankness has advantages, but perhaps it's not always necessary."

She noted that his glance wandered to Olivia, and she began to talk
about something else. He was not going to join Olivia, but while she
talked she studied Kit. He was an honest, sober young fellow, and had
recently begun to make allowances for others, and had learned to laugh.
In the meantime, however, she thought his laugh was forced.

"If you are not amused, you needn't make an effort to be polite," she
said. "When you arrived I knew you were moody."

"Then I'm duller than I thought," Kit rejoined. "You oughtn't to have
known. On your veranda one's bothers vanish."

"Why were you bothered?"

"I got another letter and Betty's worse," said Kit. "My mother states
she has been warned she must give up her post. Her work's too hard; she
must get the sun and fresh air. I feel I ought to help, but it's
impossible. Thinking about this, I've begun to see my job on board the
_correillo_ leads nowhere. Perhaps they'll let me stop when my
engagement's up, but there's no promotion."

Mrs. Austin knew the Spanish manager was satisfied and meant him to
stop.

"All the same, you like your job?" she said.

"For the most part, but one gets some jars. Recently we have been buying
onions. A ship is going to Cuba, the freight is low, and Havana
merchants give a good price for onions, but the _peons_ who grow them in
the mountains know nothing about this. They have got a big crop that
nobody wants to buy and the price has fallen to a very small sum. The
poor folks are a remarkably frugal, industrious lot."

"I don't know a country with finer peasants," Mrs. Austin agreed.
"Still, if they're willing to sell you the onions, why should you not
buy?"

"We are buying too cheap."

Mrs. Austin turned to Jefferson. "Mr. Musgrave puzzles me. He grumbles
because he's buying onions too cheap."

"Let him state his case," said Jefferson.

"I'll try. Our plan's like this," said Kit. "At daybreak _Campeador_
steams up to a beach from which cargo can be shipped. Don Erminio and I
get horses and go off to the hills, where nobody knows about the
steamer. Don Erminio stops at a village wine shop and plays the guitar
while I talk to the _peons_. They're an unsophisticated lot with the
manners of fine gentlemen, and live on maize, bananas, and goat's milk
cheese. Yet, for all their poverty, I must eat membrillo jelly and drink
a cup of wine before we get to business. They have stacks of onions, and
at Havana onions are short, but the _peons_ don't know and my job's to
buy their crop very cheap. The worst is, the fellows are grateful and
try to make us a feast. If they got half the sum their goods are worth,
they'd be rich. It's rather like robbing a trustful child."

"I am a merchant's daughter and doubt if I ought to sympathise," said
Mrs. Austin. "To buy at the lowest price the seller will take is a sound
business plan. Were you not a business man at Liverpool?"

"At Liverpool nobody I knew made a profit of a hundred per cent," Kit
rejoined. "The thing's not honest; besides, one feels it's not sound."

Jefferson laughed. "On the whole, I reckon Musgrave's justified. You can
fool people once or twice; you can't fool them all the time. When they
find you out, they charge you double or sell to another."

Kit looked at Olivia. She was talking to two or three young men and the
position of their chairs would make it awkward for him to join the
group. Moreover, he imagined Mrs. Austin had not meant him to do so. By
and by he looked at his watch.

"I must go. It's later than I thought, and I've got to stop at the
_Carsegarry_."

"You said you were not going to the ball."

"I'm not going to dance. We sail at ten o'clock and I must get
Macallister and Don Erminio on board."

"Then I allow you have undertaken something of a job," Jefferson
remarked.

"That is so," Kit agreed. "The last time I went for them I got rather
damaged and they tore my clothes. Don Erminio's excitable and
Macallister is big. All the same, somebody must go. Don Ramon at the
office is patient, but I've known him firm. After all, he's accountable,
and we carry the Spanish mail."

He went off and Mrs. Austin laughed. "Kit's naïve, but I like him. He's
a good sort."

Olivia sent off the young men and stopped for a moment by her sister's
chair.

"Kit Musgrave is a very good sort, but his luck is to get a knock-about
part."

"One's luck turns," said Jefferson. "If Musgrave gets another part, I
reckon he'll play up."

Olivia went into the house and Mrs. Austin said to Jefferson: "If Harry
has finished his writing, bring him to me."

When Jefferson went for Austin she knitted her brows. Kit was obviously
attracted by Olivia and Mrs. Austin did not approve, although in other
ways she meant to be his friend. She had married a poor man, and rousing
him to use his talent, had helped him to get rich; but she doubted if
Kit had much talent. Moreover, she had qualities Olivia had not, and Kit
was not like Harry.

Mrs. Austin did not know about Olivia. She thought her sister saw Kit's
drawbacks, but the tourists only stopped for a few months in the winter,
and for the most part, the coaling and banana men were dull. In fact,
Mrs. Austin resolved to run no risk.

When Jefferson returned with Austin she said, "You work too long, Harry.
You began this morning as soon as you got up."

"I'm forced to work," Austin replied. "Since Jake and I started the
African business I'm pretty closely occupied. For one thing, he won't
write the English letters, and my Spanish clerks can't."

"Viñoles speaks good English."

"That is so," Austin said with a smile. "You speak good Castilian, but
to write a foreign language is another thing. In fact, I remember a note
of yours that embarrassed a sober Spanish gentleman. Anyhow, Viñoles'
method of addressing an English merchant house is, _Señor Don Bought of
Thomas Dash_."

"What about engaging an English clerk?"

Austin shook his head. "The experiment's risky. When the pay's not
large, you must get them young and don't know your luck until they
arrive. Some come out for adventure--I imagine these are worst--and some
come to loaf. If Musgrave wanted another job, I might engage him."

"I think not," said Mrs. Austin firmly. "Why not try an English business
girl? She wouldn't lose her pay at the casino and borrow from you. She
wouldn't make disturbances at cock-fights."

"It might work," Austin replied. "In fact, I begin to see where I'm
being gently led. I expect you know a candidate, but she mustn't be
pretty. Modern business has nothing to do with romance."

"The girl I thought about is a friend of Musgrave's."

"Ah!" said Austin, with a twinkle, "the plot thickens!"

"Now you're ridiculous!" Mrs. Austin rejoined. "Anyhow, my plan has some
advantages."

She indicated the advantages and enlarged upon Betty's business talents,
about which Kit had not said much. When Mrs. Austin felt her cause was
good she was not fastidious. Moreover, she knew her husband and
Jefferson, and felt she was on firm ground when she drew a moving
picture of Betty's struggle against failing health and poverty. It
counted for much that Muriel Jefferson could not stand the winter in the
North. When she stopped Jefferson glanced at Austin.

"Perhaps we might risk it. Muriel would look after the girl."

Austin agreed and Mrs. Austin let them go. Her plans had worked, but she
was not altogether selfish. She liked to help people and thought Betty
needed help. In the meantime, however, Kit must not know; she would
write to Mrs. Musgrave, for when Kit gave her the letter she had noted
where his mother lived. Mrs. Austin's habit was to note things like
that. So far, the scheme went well, but she had not gone far enough.
After all, Betty had refused Kit and the _correillo_ stopped at Las
Palmas for three or four days every two weeks. Betty would be occupied
by her business duties, but Olivia had none. Mrs. Austin admitted that
her supposition about the girl's grounds for refusing Kit might not be
accurate, and imagined a longer voyage for Kit was indicated. By and by
Wolf entered the veranda and she saw a plan. Yet she hesitated. She had
no logical grounds for doubting Wolf, but she did doubt him.

"Mr. Scot, whom you sent home after his injury, has not come back," she
said presently.

Wolf said he did not think Scot would come back, and waited.

"Are you not embarrassed without him?"

"To some extent," Wolf replied. "I can't, however, go to England, and to
engage a young man you haven't seen is risky. Then I don't know a
coaling clerk I'd care to hire."

"But you do want help?"

Wolf agreed and Mrs. Austin looked thoughtful.

"Perhaps it's lucky, because I'd like to get Mr. Musgrave a good post. I
expect you know I'm a meddler and managing people's affairs is my
habit."

"I know you are kind and a number of people owe you much," Wolf replied.

Mrs. Austin gave him a gracious smile. "Well, I really think Mr.
Musgrave is the man you want. He's honest and resolute, and although I
don't know if he's very clever, he's not a fool."

Wolf thought his luck was good. He did want a resolute young man, but
did not want him clever, and had for some time thought about Kit. Then
he had an object for satisfying Mrs. Austin, who did not disown her
debts.

"Well," he said, "I imagine I could give Musgrave a post he'd be willing
to take. In fact, when my schooner comes back from Africa I'll probably
send for him----"

He stopped and Mrs. Austin waited with quiet amusement. She knew Wolf
did nothing for nothing.

"Señor Ramirez arrived from Madrid a few days since," he resumed. "I
understand Don Arturo comes from Liverpool by the next boat. I would
like to meet them."

"But this ought not to be difficult."

"In a way, not at all difficult. One can go to a public function and, if
one is lucky, talk for a few minutes to the honoured guest, who forgets
one immediately afterwards. There is not much use in this; but to meet
an important man at a friend's house is another thing."

Mrs. Austin pondered. Ramirez was a Spanish officer of high rank and
came to the Canaries now and then on the government's business. Don
Arturo had invested much money in the islands and West Africa. Austin
knew both gentlemen and Wolf wanted to meet them at her house. It looked
as if he knew Ramirez was going to dine with Austin. On the whole, Mrs.
Austin did not want to indulge him, and imagined Austin would not
approve. Yet Wolf had promised to give Kit a post.

"Why do you want to meet Señor Ramirez?" she asked.

"I rather think it's obvious. The Spaniards are jealous about the Rio de
Oro belt, and I am a foreigner. There are rules about trading with the
Berbers that stand in my way. A quiet talk to Ramirez might help me
much, and I imagine he would be interested."

Jacinta saw something must be risked, and after all Ramirez knew men. He
would not take Wolf's honesty for granted because he was her friend.

"Very well," she said. "Señor Ramirez will dine with us one evening, and
I will tell you when the time is fixed. I don't know about Don Arturo
yet."

"You are very kind," said Wolf. "I had meant to send for Musgrave, but
now I feel I must use an extra effort to give him a good post."

He went off and soon afterwards Mrs. Austin told Austin, who frowned.

"I don't know if I altogether approved the fellow's coming to the
veranda, but this didn't imply much; his coming to dinner does."

"He promised he'd give Kit a post," Mrs. Austin replied.

Austin looked at her rather hard.

"You might have helped Musgrave at a cheaper cost. However, one doesn't
cheat Ramirez easily and so long as you are satisfied----"

"Do you imagine Wolf will try to cheat him?"

"It's possible," said Austin dryly.

Mrs. Austin laughed. "Anyhow, Ramirez is just and won't make you
accountable. Besides, if he is cheated, Wolf is cleverer than I think."



CHAPTER XI

THE PLANS WORK


Dinner was over, the night was hot, and Mrs. Austin had taken her party
to the veranda. Wolf had gone; he declared he could not put off another
engagement, but Mrs. Austin wondered. The fellow was clever and knew
when to stop. A man like that did not go farther than was necessary and
risk losing ground he had won. All the same, Mrs. Austin was satisfied.
She had paid her debt, and although she had hesitated about asking Wolf,
she now felt her doing so was justified. He had interested her famous
guests; the dinner party had gone well.

Señor Ramirez occupied a chair by a table that carried some fine glass
_copitas_ from which one drinks the scented liquors used in Spain. His
family was old and distinguished, and his post important. He was thin,
dark-skinned and marked by an urbane dignity. As a rule, he looked
languid, but sometimes his glance was keen.

Don Arturo sat opposite. He was strongly built and getting fat. Although
his hair and eyes were very black, he was essentially British. He had
known poverty, but now controlled large commercial undertakings and
steamship lines. Don Arturo was loved and hated. Some found him
strangely generous, and some thought him hard and careless about the
tools he used and broke. He made bold plans, and had opened wide belts
in Africa to British trade.

Mrs. Jefferson, Austin, and two or three others occupied the background.
They were, so to speak, the chorus, and in the meantime not important.
Austin knew when to let his wife play the leading part.

"When I was honoured by your opening your house to me I knew my
entertainment would be good, but I must own it was better than I
thought," Ramirez presently remarked.

"Ah," said Mrs. Austin, "I hesitated. You have public duties; I doubted
if you could come."

"Duties are always numerous and pleasures strangely few. Besides, at Las
Palmas, you command. But if one is allowed to talk about your other
guest----"

"Señor Wolf wanted to meet you. I hope you were not bored."

Ramirez smiled. "Some people want to meet me and some do not, but I was
not bored at all. Your friend is an interesting man; he told me much
about which I must think. You have known him long?"

"Not long," said Mrs. Austin. She wanted to hint that she did not
altogether make herself accountable for her guest, and resumed: "Still,
at Las Palmas, we are foreigners, and since he is English----"

"Then you imagine Señor Wolf is English?"

"I have imagined so," said Mrs. Austin with some surprise. "However, his
skin is rather dark."

"Darker than mine, for example?" Ramirez rejoined with a twinkle. "Well,
the colour of one's skin is not important. In Spain there are
descendants of the Visi-Goths whose colors is white and pink. One must
rather study mental characteristics."

"Then you think Wolf's mentality is foreign?" said Don Arturo.

"It is not English. One notes a touch of subtlety, an understanding of
one's thoughts, a keen intelligence----"

Don Arturo laughed and Mrs. Austin waved her fan.

"But, señor, I am patriotic. Are we very dull?"

"My lady, your grounds for patriotic pride are good. Your people have
qualities. Let me state an example. In these islands our _peons_ are
frugal, sober, and industrious; a fine race. Our merchants are
intellectual and cultivated. In mathematics, philosophy, and argument I
think no brains are better than ours. It is possible we got much from
the Moors----"

"My coaling and banana clerks are not philosophical, and I doubt if many
are cultivated," Don Arturo remarked.

Ramirez spread out his hands. "You use my argument! I admit you have
qualities. These raw English lads do things we cannot. They load in a
night bananas we cannot load in two days, they get the best fruit, they
use our fishermen and labourers to coal your ships. The profit and all
that is good in Grand Canary goes to you. At the hill villages where the
_peons_ went to bed at dark, your mule carts arrive with cheap candles
and oil. The shops are full of English clothes and tools. When the
_peon_ finds he needs your goods he grows things to sell. Sometimes we
are jealous, but we trust you."

"It looks as if you trusted Wolf, although you imagine he is not
English," Don Arturo said dryly.

"He is the señora's guest," said Ramirez, bowing to Mrs. Austin.

"Ah," said Mrs. Austin, "this does not carry much weight! I am not a
clever politician, and perhaps my judgment is not very sound."

"All the same, I did trust Señor Wolf. He wanted some concessions; a
little slackening of our rules about trading on the African coast."

"Your rules are rather numerous," Don Arturo remarked.

"It is so, my friend. Our possessions in Africa are small and the Moors
of Rio de Oro are fierce and troublesome, but I think that belt of
Atlantic coast will some time be worth much. Valuable goods cross the
Sahara from the West Soudan, and when we have made harbours, caravans
that now go to Morocco and Algiers will arrive. Well, perhaps we are
cautious. We have greedy neighbours, and when one has not got much, one
keeps what one has."

Don Arturo looked thoughtful. "West Africa's my field, and I don't know
the North, but now France has got all the hinterland, I sometimes think
the dispute about the Atlantic coast may be reopened. I imagine the
Spanish Government is not a friend of Islam."

"When we are not anarchists we are staunch Catholics," Ramirez agreed.
"Well, in North Africa the sun and the tribesmen's blood are hot. A
strange, wild country, where the agreements diplomatists make do not go.
But this is not important. I think the señora's talented friend
interested you."

"I promised to charter him a steamer," said Don Arturo dryly.

"A Spanish steamer?"

"She is now an English cargo-boat of two thousand tons. I do not know if
Wolf will hoist the Spanish flag. Perhaps this might be allowed."

Ramirez's eyes twinkled. "It is possible. We are poor and cannot pay our
officers much. But two thousand tons? To carry a few sheep!"

"I understand Wolf will send her to Mojador and Saffi for maize and
beans."

"Oh, well," said Ramirez, "we will talk about something else." He turned
to Mrs. Austin. "My lady, you have seen our politeness is not as deep as
people think, but you will make allowances. When one meets a famous
English merchant, and a man of talent who knows the Rio de Oro, like
Señor Wolf----"

"Although he is not English," Mrs. Austin remarked, but Ramirez smiled
and turned to the others, who played up.

After a time the guests went off and Mrs. Austin said to her husband.
"Somehow I feel I've meddled with a bigger thing than I knew. In fact, I
rather wish I had not."

"Your object's good," said Austin. "You have got Kit a job. I suppose
this was all you wanted?"

Mrs. Austin smiled. "I didn't want to help Wolf, and if I have helped,
it's because one gets nothing unless one pays. However, we'll let it
go."

When Kit returned to Las Palmas he found a note from Wolf, and in the
evening went to a house in an old quarter of the town. The street was
narrow, quiet and dark, but the moon touched one side with misty light.
Kit heard the throbbing rumble of the surf, and coming from the noisy
steam tram and the lights of the main street, he got a hint of mystery
in the quietness and gloom. The houses had flat tops and looked like
forts. Their straight fronts were pierced by a few narrow slits and a
low arch. The slits were high up and barred. Kit thought that part of
the city looked as if it had not been built by Europeans; it rather
belonged to Egypt or Algiers. There was something romantic but sinister
about it.

He knocked at a door and an old man took him across a _patio_ where a
ray of moonlight fell. The man showed him into a room furnished like an
office, and Kit waited and looked about. There was no window, but an
arch opened on to a passage with dark wooden pillars supporting a
balcony. A few maps occupied the wall, and Kit began to study one of the
Rio de Oro belt. Maps drew him; they called one to countries one had not
seen, and this map pictured a wild land white men did not know much
about. For all that, Kit thought it good. Green rings marked the oases,
blue threads the wadys where water sometimes runs, and the red lines
were the tracks by which loaded camels came from the Soudan. The marks,
however, were not numerous, and Kit mused about the blank spaces.

Then he turned with a start and saw Wolf. He had not heard the fellow
come in, and noted that he wore slippers of soft red leather. His shirt
and trousers were white, but he wore a red silk sash and a Fez cap.

"My map interests you?" he said. "Well, I doubt if the Spanish
government owns one as good. I expect to have noted that for the most
part it is not printed?"

Kit had noted that the caravan roads and wadys were drawn by a pen.

"I was studying the unmarked spaces," he replied.

Wolf smiled and indicated a chair. "The explorer's instinct; there's
something about the unknown that pulls. All the same, more is known
about the country than some people think, and in one sense, it is not a
desert. Then the people are not savages, although their rules are the
rules the Arabs brought a thousand years since. They spring from famous
stocks; Carthaginian, Roman; Saracen adventurers who pushed across the
Atlas range and vanished. The country's intriguing, but to know it one
must be resolute."

"I suppose the tribes are Mohammedans?" Kit remarked.

Wolf gave him some scented wine and a cigarette with a curious taste,
and while he smoked Kit heard the measured beat of the surf. Somebody on
a neighbouring roof played a guitar and the music was strange and
melancholy.

"Some of the tribes are fanatics," Wolf replied. "Islam was born in the
desert and its driving force comes from the wilds. When the prophets
were made caliphs they lost their real power. The Turk has got slack and
meddles with forbidden things, but the faith lives and has spread far
recently. Its missionaries, however, do not come from Constantinople.
Lean John Baptists appear in the desert and found fierce, reforming
sects. One has grounds for imagining their job is something like this."

"Ah," said Kit. "Do they expect a new Mohammed?"

"I think they expect a new prophet," Wolf said quietly. "Not a political
caliph, but a man from the wilds who will re-enforce the ancient Arab
laws. They have waited for him long and have sometimes been cheated.
Their habit is to wait. It is possible they will be cheated again."

Kit was young, and romance and mystery appealed. "Well," he said, "I'd
like to see something of North-west Africa."

"Then the chance is yours. I am sending a steamer to the Morocco coast
and want a man I can trust to meet the Jew merchants and put on board
the maize and beans I've bought. Then she'll steam south to pick up
goods at Rio de Oro, and my agent must go inland with an interpreter to
meet the tribesmen. If you like, you can go."

Kit's eyes sparkled. "I'll take the post," he said, and then stopped and
frowned. "I forgot," he resumed. "My engagement with the _correos_ runs
for some time."

"This is not much of an obstacle. I am chartering the steamer from the
company and expect Don Ramon will let you off."

"If Don Ramon is willing, there is no obstacle," Kit declared, and when
Wolf told him about his pay and duties his resolve was keener. He would
use a power and responsibility he had not yet known and be richer than
he had thought.

"Very well," said Wolf. "When you come back from Palma you had better
see Don Ramon. In the meantime, I'll get things in trim."

Kit went down the street with a light step. The old Spanish house, the
map, and Wolf's talk had fired his imagination. Adventure called. In a
week or two he was going to see the desert and try his powers.



PART II

RESPONSIBILITY



CHAPTER I

OLIVIA'S EXPERIMENT


When the _correillo_ returned from Palma and Kit went to the company's
office he was bothered by doubts. Don Ramon, the Spanish manager, had
been kind, and Kit felt shabby. He had engaged to serve the company for
twelve months and doubted if his asking the other to release him was
justified. For all that he wanted to go to Africa.

He was shown into the private office, and Don Ramon, after indicating a
chair, occupied himself for a few minutes with the papers on his desk.
Kit's embarrassment was obvious, and the manager was amused.

"I have studied your notes about business at the ports _Compeador_
touched on her new round," he said presently. "Some of your suggestions
are useful. I expect you wanted to talk to me about this?"

"Not altogether," Kit replied.

"Then, perhaps, you meant to talk about painting the passengers' rooms?"

"No," said Kit. "The rooms need painting, but I really meant to ask you
to let me off my engagement. I have heard about another post."

Don Ramon studied him quietly for a few moments. Kit's glance was
direct, but the blood had come to his skin. The Spaniard was very subtle
and knew something about young Englishmen; he rather approved Kit.

"A better post?" he said.

"It is better, but I'm not altogether influenced by this," Kit replied
awkwardly. "I haven't much scope on board _Campeador_. One likes to feel
one is responsible and doing something worth while."

"Ah," said Don Ramon, "a number of your countrymen arrive at this office
with the resolve to do as little as possible. However, I imagined you
were satisfied on board."

"In a way I am satisfied. The captain and engineer are my friends, I
like the company's agents, and your clerks make things easy. In fact, if
you think I ought to stop, I will stop."

"You imply that you are willing to give up the better post unless we
agree to your leaving us?"

"Of course!" said Kit. "I won't urge you to agree."

Don Ramon smiled. "After all, your joining Mr. Wolf has some advantages,
particularly since the steamer he has chartered is ours, and I don't
know that it is necessary for you to break your engagement with us. If
it is not broken, you could go back to _Campeador_ after the other
boat's return, and, in the meantime, will get your pay. I expect Mr.
Wolf did not state how long he wanted you."

"He did not," said Kit and pondered.

Perhaps it was strange, but he had not stipulated that he must be
employed for a fixed time. He ought to have stipulated. Then he was
surprised because Don Ramon knew his object for wanting to go. Don Ramon
was clever and his remarks hardly indicated much confidence in Wolf.

"You are generous," Kit resumed. "However, I doubt if I can honestly
work for you and Wolf. You see, the office now and then buys corn at the
Moorish ports."

"I think I see," Don Ramon replied with a twinkle. "You imply that so
long as you take Wolf's pay you are his man, and we must not expect you
to study his business for our benefit? Well, we do not expect this, and
you will find Wolf's business is, for the most part, transacted at a
neighbourhood we leave alone. All the same, the chartered steamer is
valuable, and although we have asked for some guarantees, we would like
a company's servant on board. Don Erminio and Macallister will join the
ship."

Kit's hesitation vanished. His luck was strangely good, and he thanked
Don Ramon, who presently sent him off. While his double engagement
lasted he would be rich, and when he returned to the _correillo_ he
wrote to his mother, asking her to make some plan for helping Betty. For
example, Betty might take a holiday and, if Mrs. Musgrave used proper
tact, need not know Kit had borne the cost. He wanted Betty to get a
holiday that would brace her up. Yet it was obvious he was not in love.

His reflections were disturbed. A fowl, cackling in wild alarm, came
down the ventilator shaft that pierced the ceiling of his small room. It
struck the rack above the folding washstand, and Kit's hairbrush and a
box of brass buttons fell. The buttons rolled about the floor and under
his berth. Then the fowl swept his desk with fluttering wings and the
inkpot overturned. Kit frowned and put his letter in the envelope. His
friends on board liked a rude joke, and a fowl had come down the shaft
before. Kit had thought he had spoiled the joke by painting the inside
of the bowl-head on deck, but the paint did not long keep wet. He tried
to catch the fowl, with the object of putting it in Macallister's bed,
and finding he could not, opened the door, and drove it out. Soon
afterward Macallister came in and indicated the stained desk.

"She's no' rolling, but it looks as if ye couldna' keep your inkpot
right-side-up," he said. "Weel, I've kenned Garcia's sherry account for
stranger things than yon."

"I've known it account for your losing your boots," Kit rejoined.

Macallister grinned. "The night was balmy. I was tired and my feet were
sair. Ye'll mind I scalded them, saving the ship when the boiler tubes
burst----"

"I was not on board," said Kit. "Anyhow, Don Erminio states Felix, your
stoker, stopped the tubes. But you certainly lost your boots."

"How was I to ken the Spaniards would rob me while I slumbered? And I
have my doubts. Mills o' the _Estremedura_ was tacking along the mole,
and they're no' a' gentlemen aboard yon boat. But we'll let it go. Ye
dinna ken what auld Peter has done for ye?"

"My notion is, you have done enough," Kit remarked. "It's some time
since the mate and you sold my clothes when I was ashore, but you
haven't paid me yet."

"If my luck is good, ye will be paid, and ye have not heard my news. The
company is chartering the old _Mossamedes_ and ye're to gang to Africa
on board. I got ye the job."

"Go on," said Kit dryly. "I expect it's a romantic tale."

Macallister lighted his pipe and put his coaly boots on the locker
cushions.

"It was like this. Don Ramon called me to the office. 'We have chartered
_Mossamedes_ for a run to the Morocco coast,' says he. 'Captain Erminio
is no' much o' a navigator and the mate's eyes are no' very good, but if
ye're in the engine-room, I'll ken all's weel. Then we need a
_sobrecargo_. Whom would ye like?'

"'Maybe Mr. Musgrave would suit,' says I. 'He's slow and dour, but for a
crabbit Englishman, he has some parts. Besides, when he gangs ashore the
lassies will not bother him. He's no' the sort to charm a fastidious
e'e. If ye send Mr. Musgrave, ye'll not go far wrang.'"

"Did you argue in Scots or Castilian?" Kit inquired.

"In Edinburgh Scots; better English than ye use. What for would I use
Castilian?"

"I see one important obstacle," said Kit. "When a man who has long been
chief-engineer on board a Spanish ship is forced to paint the pressure
gauge and chalk the clock, in order to let his firemen know what steam
must be raised----"

"There's no' a shabby hotel tout who canna speak six languages,"
Macallister rejoined. "Don Arturo and I use English. Since I dinna
convairse with foreigners, what for would I learn their language? If
they want to talk to me, they must use mine."

He went off and Kit laughed. He owned that his conventional notion of
the grim, parsimonious Scot was strangely inaccurate. The Scots he knew
in the Canaries were marked by freakish humour and rash generosity. They
were kind with the kindness of a benevolent Puck. In fact, all the
_correilleros_ were to some extent like that, a reckless, irresponsible
lot, but Kit had known men with virtues shabbier than the sailors'
faults.

A week afterwards, he got up one evening from his revolving chair in the
_Mossamedes'_ saloon. She was going to sea at daybreak, and Don Erminio
had brought his friends on board. All the chairs were occupied, and
cigarette smoke drifted about the green trailers of a sweet-potato that
grew across the beams. The empty bottles were numerous, and at the end
of the table Don Erminio made a speech. Kit heard something about
animals and anarchists, and noted that the wine dripped from the glass
in the captain's hand. At the other end of the table Macallister sang.

Kit had had enough. He thought he had done all politeness required, and
the noisy revels jarred. It was a relief to go on deck and breathe the
cool night breeze. _Mossamedes_ was a larger boat than the _correillo_.
Riding near the harbour mouth, her masts and funnel swung languidly, and
her lights threw trembling reflections on the black water. A long
deckhouse ran aft from the captain's room and pilot house at the bridge,
and a row of stanchions carried its top level with the rail. Luminous
smoke rolled from the funnel; one heard the clank of shovels and hiss of
steam. In the background were glimmering surf, lights that twinkled in
clusters against dark rocks, and then a gap where the Atlantic rolled
back to Africa.

When he ordered his boat Kit's heart beat. His last duty before the
vessel sailed was to get some documents from the _commandancia_, and
then he was going to Mrs. Austin's. Mrs. Austin was not at home, but
Olivia received him on the veranda.

"Harry and Jacinta will not be very long," she said.

"I'm sorry," said Kit. "I can't stop, but I wanted to say good-bye, and
thank your sister."

"Then you waited for some time. Didn't you know Jacinta was going to the
Metropole?"

"Not altogether," Kit replied with some awkwardness. "I think I knew she
might go, but the captain was giving a party and I couldn't get off."

Olivia smiled. She knew her charm, and Kit was rather obvious.

"When his guests started I was at the mole and I expect the port-guards
will get some amusement when they come back," she said. "But why do you
want to thank Jacinta?"

"I imagine she had something to do with my getting the new post."

Olivia gave him a keen glance and was quiet for a few moments. Then she
said, "It's possible! You feel you ought to thank her?"

"Of course," said Kit and pondered. It looked as if Olivia were angry,
and this was puzzling.

"The post is good," he resumed. "I could get no farther on board the
_correillo_ and my work was not important. On the bigger boat I'll have
some responsibility. Wolf is not going with her and gives me control.
You see----"

"I think I do see," Olivia interrupted with a touch of scornful
impatience. "You imagine you are going to force people to own your
talents? This, of course, is enough for you, and you see nothing else.
You imagine Jacinta knew your ambition and wanted to help?"

"I'm satisfied she did want to help, and she has helped. Mrs. Austin's
kind."

Olivia laughed. Kit was very dull, but Jacinta's firm rule was sometimes
galling. Olivia saw her object and wanted to baffle her. Besides, she
doubted Wolf and knew Austin did not like him.

"Kit," she said, "suppose I asked you to do something for me?"

"Try!" he said, rather tensely, and waited.

"Then don't go to Africa. Stop at Las Palmas."

Kit's heart beat. Olivia had come nearer him; if he moved his hand he
would touch her. Her voice had a strange, soft note, and she fixed her
eyes on his. For a moment he hesitated and then braced himself to
resist. It was not for nothing he sprang from Puritan stock.

"But this is not for you, and I am forced to go. _Mossamedes_ sails in
the morning, and Wolf cannot get another man. Besides, the company
ordered me on board, and I have the ship's papers. I can't break my
engagement when the boat is ready to start."

Olivia gave him a glance that fired his blood, and then turned her head.
At the beginning she had meant to baffle Jacinta, but she had another
object now. Kit's stubbornness was a challenge, and if she could not
move him, she must own her charm was weak. Vanity accounted for
something, but not for all. His resistance moved her to passion.

"Is it a drawback that the thing I ask is rather for your sake than
mine?" she said, looking up. "Would you sooner I didn't care if you ran
a risk or not?"

Kit used stern control. Olivia was very alluring, and he noted the
tremble in her voice. He was strongly tempted, but although he thrilled
he was not a fool. She did not belong to his circle; he was poor and her
sister, with careless kindness, had tried to help him. By and by
perhaps, if he got a good post---- He pulled himself up. If he meant to
be honest and justify Mrs. Austin's kindness, he must stick to his job.
Besides, if there was a way at all, this was the way that led to Olivia.

"I think you know I'd like you to care," he said and paused. To talk
like this was dangerous. "But why do you want me to stop?" he resumed
with an effort for calm.

"Are you very dull, Kit?" Olivia asked quietly.

Kit coloured and got up. After all, he was human and knew he could not
hold out long. He thrilled and his hands shook as he turned his soft
hat. Mrs. Austin trusted him, and since he could not see another plan,
he must run away.

"If my luck is good and I get promotion, I won't refuse another time.
Now, because your sister got me the post, I must stick to it and go on
board."

Olivia gave him a cool, level glance. "Oh, well! I know your obstinacy;
you baffled me before." Then her look got softer and she added: "But be
cautious Kit! I don't like Wolf."

She let him go and when he went down the steps he frowned. He had tried
to take the proper line, but he was young and wondered whether his
scruples were extravagant.



CHAPTER II

THE FIRST VOYAGE


To some extent, Kit's first voyage on board _Mossamedes_ was
disappointing, and he felt as if he had been cheated. Nothing romantic
marked the run; the boat was large, her roll was slow and regular, and
while her big engines pushed her north against the Trade-breeze, one
could without much balancing walk the deck. On board _Campeador_ one
could not. Her sharp plunges sent one staggering about, and one must
dodge the spray that swept her like a hailstorm when the white surges
burst against her forecastle. The spray and violent motion had some
drawbacks, but Kit got a sense of man's struggle with the sea.

On the whole, he thought the Morocco coast dreary. The towns were like
the Spanish towns, dazzlingly white on the water-front, but meaner and
dirtier. In fact, to walk about the narrow streets in the dark was rash,
and Kit was satisfied by his first experiment. The hot, foul-smelling
cafes by the harbour had no charm for him, and he lost himself in a
network of alleys between straight walls. The alleys were very dark;
sometimes an indistinct figure stole past, and sometimes he saw a yellow
gleam in a high and narrow window. This was all, and it was a relief to
get back to the beach and feel the fresh Trade-breeze.

As a rule, they moored _Mossamedes_ some distance from the beach, and
she rode uneasily, rolling on the long swell while her cable jarred
against the stem. Boats came off with her cargo of beans, barley and
maize, and Kit, watching the dust-clouds roll along the parched coast,
wondered where the produce grew. When he asked Yusuf, Wolf's agent, the
Jew vaguely indicated the hinterland. He was, he said, a merchant, and
the merchants stopped in the towns. The Moors of the back country were
strange people, and one left them alone. Notwithstanding this, Yusuf was
obviously a good business man, for the quantity of grain he sent on
board was large and when _Mossamedes_ weighed anchor, Kit thought Wolf
would find her first voyage profitable.

Getting off was not easy. She had swung, and her cable, sweeping the
bottom, had fouled the anchor. They hove all on board in a horrible
tangle, and for hours the barefooted crew were occupied in dragging the
ponderous links about. In the meantime _Mossamedes_ steamed slowly
south, with a yellow smear on her port hand that stood for the coast.
The shallows run far to sea, and the charts are not remarkably good.
Yusuf had sent her to load sheep at the mouth of a wady, but stated that
she might wait some days before the animals arrived.

Miguel, the old quartermaster, steered her in. He had long sailed on
board a fishing schooner and knew the shoals, for where the African
coast-shelf drops to the deep Atlantic, fish are numerous. Fish, lightly
salted and dried in the sun, make the Spanish _baccalao_, and the
_peons_, whose main food it is, are sometimes touched by leprosy. Miguel
never wore boots and stockings, although when he went home on feast days
he carried raw-hide sandals. Kit rather doubted if he put the sandals
on. His clothes were strangely patched, and he could not read, but his
manners were the manners of a Spanish grandee. He was something of a
mystic and believed in miracles. He told Kit the Moors were cruel and
treacherous, but his saint was king of angels, and he was not afraid.
The mate was a Catalan Freethinker, and believed in nothing he could
not touch and see. Since he wore spectacles, his vision was limited.

When they reached the spot agreed upon, Miguel went to the bridge, and
they rigged the deep-sea lead and stopped the ship. Miguel, posed like a
Greek statue, stood on top of the pilot-house; his thin clothes
wind-pressed against his body, and his white hair blown about his red
cap. There were no shore marks, and Don Erminio's reckoning was not
always accurate. Across a belt of blue sea one saw a brown and yellow
streak. Its outline was vague and broken; only the colour was distinct.

"The _Punta_!" said Miguel. "The _barranco_ is a league south. A bad
place, captain, and the people are without shame."

Kit knew _barranco_ in Castilian and _wady_ in Arabic mean a stony
hollow where water sometimes flows. He looked for an anchorage, but saw
none. In places, the belt of blue was broken by patches of pale green,
and farther on, by glistening white lines. These marked ridges on the
coast-shelf and shallow spots where the long rollers broke. The wind was
fresh but blew obliquely off the coast.

"How much water?" Don Erminio asked, and when Miguel answered, signed to
a man on the forecastle.

"_Veremos._ We will see," he said.

The lead plunged, the line ran aft, and stopping swung upright at the
poop. Two men began to haul and one shouted the depth.

"Half a _brazo_ too much. It is very good," the captain remarked.

Then the screw began to throb and _Mossamedes_, going half-speed, forged
ahead. Sometimes she crossed green belts and sometimes went round
patches where the water was yellow and the swell curled as if the
Atlantic waves ran up an inclined bottom. Kit thought Miguel did not
hesitate; his lined face was imperturbable, and he directed the helmsman
with a firm movement of his hand. Yet it was obvious they crept round
banks where a ship like _Mossamedes_ would not float. When Miguel nodded
and the captain rang his telegraph, all felt some relief.

"_Fondo!_" the captain shouted and the anchor leaped from the
forecastle.

The splash was drowned by the roar of running cable that presently
stopped with a jar. She brought up, swung to the wind, and there was a
strange quietness on board.

"We are arrived," said Don Erminio. "If Miguel's saint does not guard
him until the sheep come, I do not think we will get to sea again. In
the meantime, we will catch fish and make _baccalao_ for my señora."

In the morning they launched a boat and rowed to the coast. The point
was low and stony, and farther along the hammered beach a shallow hollow
ran down to the sand. In the background one saw a sandy waste dotted by
thick-stalked euphorbia. One could land by jumping overboard into the
surf while the others held off the boat, and Don Erminio shot a
partridge and got some bait. Then they went back to the steamer, and for
three days Kit and the captain fished.

Shoals surrounded the basin where _Mossamedes_ rode two miles from land.
From her deck it looked as if she were at sea, for the banks that
sheltered her were only marked by lines of foam. Although she rolled,
the motion was not violent, and Kit got a sense of space and freedom. He
liked the lonely anchorage better than a noisy port. In the morning they
hoisted the boat's lugsail, and following the edge of the sands, stopped
where fish were numerous. A disturbed swell crossed the shoals, and
spray blew about. Sometimes when the boat sank in the trough they could
not see the ship, but the fresh breeze tempered the heat and drove along
a thin haze that softened the light. Kit caught strange, deep-bodied
fish with square heads, and was content.

One day, however, the breeze backed North and the boat could not leave
the ship. It blew hard, and big, hollow-fronted seas rolled along the
coast. In the distance, their ragged crests cut the sky, and the horizon
was indented like the edge of a saw. In the foreground they crashed upon
the shoals, and all about _Mossamedes_ one saw spouting foam. Brown
dust-clouds tossed behind the yellow streak that marked the coast, and
the sky was darkened as if by smoke. Macallister was ready to start his
engines, but the lead-line that crossed the steamer's rail ran straight
down. Although she plunged, her anchor held.

Kit, sitting behind the deckhouse, smoked and mused. He saw that since
he arrived at Las Palmas he had taken greedily all his new life offered;
sports he could not enjoy before, the society of cultivated people,
fresh excitements and emotional thrills. Now, however, a reaction had
begun; he must pause and try to see where he was going.

To begin with, he thought he had not neglected his duties. It looked as
if Don Ramon at the office approved him, and if they got the sheep on
board, Wolf ought to be satisfied. _Mossamedes_ carried a paying cargo,
and Kit had kept the cost of shipment low. He was making good, and now
he had been given some responsibility, found he could, without much
effort, carry his load. In a sense, however, this was not important; he
really meant to think about Olivia. Olivia had carried him away and
after a half-hearted struggle he had let himself go. She had beauty,
pluck, and a cultivation higher than his. Sometimes she was gracious,
and when they jarred he thought she found the jars amusing. She laughed
at him afterwards and he did not mind. He would sooner she laughed than
let him alone. He could not think about her without a disturbing thrill.

Yet the thing was ridiculous! Olivia was rich and extravagant, but he
was poor; and not like Austin, who had married her sister. But suppose
he somehow made his mark? If Don Arturo, for example, gave him a good
post? Kit lighted a fresh cigarette and frowned, for he began to see his
doubts would not be banished then. After all, he was not Olivia's sort.
He understood half-consciously that for him her charm was mainly
physical, and he had tried to resist. He had an inherited distrust for
all that appealed to his senses. With Olivia he would get excitement,
shocks and thrills. He would live at high tension, and she would take
him far; but his vein was sober, and perhaps he would not want to go.
Yet he was flesh and blood, and her beauty called.

The others left him alone, and when a cloud of spray, sweeping over the
deck-house, drove him aft, he looked for another quiet spot. The sea was
getting worse, and spindrift blew across the turmoil like a fog.
_Mossamedes_ rolled until her scuppers dipped, and when she swung to the
savage gusts the jar of her cable pierced the rumble of the sea. The
water in her bilges splashed, and a ragged plume of smoke, blown flat
from her funnel, indicated that Macallister kept keen watch. For all
that, the anchor held, and Kit, sheltering behind the after wheel-house,
thought about Betty.

Betty was his sort. She understood him, although he did not always
understand her. She did not ask much and would not urge one far; Betty's
plan was to brighten the spot she occupied. Kit had doubted its wisdom,
but he began to see it had some advantages. Yet if Betty did not urge,
now he thought about it, he had felt her gently lead and had known her
way was better than his. He did not see all she saw, but sometimes he
was dull. Betty was calm and kind and did not think about herself. She
had, however, refused him, and he had let her go. All the same, he was
glad he could help her, and if his mother had used some tact----

The swinging stern lifted, and the iron deck throbbed. The foam was torn
in a frothy patch; Kit saw the screw spin, and the throbbing stopped.
Macallister had turned his engines to satisfy himself they were ready to
start. On the surface he was careless and irresponsible, but when the
strain came one could trust old Mack.

On the whole, the break in his disturbing thoughts was a relief to Kit.
His philosophy was rude, and he did not understand that he was moved by
two antagonistic forces. One was altogether of the flesh; the other was
not. He did, however, see that his business on board _Mossamedes_ was
with her cargo, and he began to speculate about the sheep. If the
animals did not arrive soon, they ought not to stop. The anchorage was
dangerous, and _Mossamedes_ was the company's boat. He got up and went
off to talk to Don Erminio.

In the night the wind veered to the north-east and got lighter, and soon
after daybreak a streak of smoke blew along the beach. Juan, the mate,
hove out a thirty-foot cargo launch, and Kit went down the rope with
Miguel, the interpreter, and some sailors. A flock of sheep occupied the
wady and five or six men, mounted on tall camels, moved the animals to
the beach. The shepherds were big men, but their bodies and for the
most part their dark faces, were covered by blue and white cloth. Kit's
job, however, was to count the flock and see all were got on board. He
let the interpreter talk and helped Miguel.

They dropped an anchor and the boat rode in the shallow surf a few yards
from the beach. When a large roller ran in they hauled her off and
waited; and then, letting her drift back, jumped over and picked up as
many sheep as possible before another roller broke. The work was
exhausting and sometimes men and sheep washed about in the surf. When
they pulled off, the boat held much water and now and then the sea-tops
splashed on board. Alongside _Mossamedes_, the sheep were thrown into a
tub, swung out by a derrick when for a few moments she stopped rolling.
The tub went up and came down empty, but after the most part of the
flock was on board one plunged out through the gangway and the others
followed. Don Erminio stormed, and Miguel with stolid patience steered
the heavy launch in chase of the animals.

She went back and brought off a number of loads, but when the last was
on board Kit's muscles were sore, and his burned skin smarted with salt.
He had, however, got all the flock, and when he went below to bathe in
fresh water the screw began to throb. Miguel climbed to the top of the
pilot-house and _Mossamedes_ steamed out slowly between the shoals.



CHAPTER III

KIT'S SURPRISE


Soon after his arrival at Las Palmas, Kit started for Jefferson's
office. He had passed an hour with Wolf, who declared himself altogether
satisfied about the voyage and gave Kit some compliments. Kit's mood was
cheerful; his employer's frank praise was encouraging, and he felt he
was making good. Besides, Wolf would not want him again until next day
and, if he were lucky, he might find Olivia at home. It was about four
o'clock in the afternoon, and as a rule Mrs. Austin's visitors did not
arrive before the evening. On the voyage he had begun to see his
haunting Mrs. Austin's veranda was rash, but as he got nearer Las Palmas
his good resolutions melted.

Nevertheless he must first see Jefferson. When they steamed along the
Morocco coast they met the _Cayman_. She hove to and signalled, the
steamer's engines stopped, and a message was shouted through a
megaphone. Since Kit was keen to get to Mrs. Austin's to carry the
message was rather a bore, but he admitted that Jefferson ought to know
what his captain wanted.

In Spanish towns a merchant's office generally occupies the ground floor
of his house, and Kit liked Jefferson's. The narrow street was very hot,
and the reflections from the white walls hurt his eyes. To enter the
tunnel, guarded by a fine iron gate, and cross the shady _patio_ was a
relief. In the middle, a little fountain splashed, the walls were
lemon-yellow and a splendid purple bougainvillea trailed about the
pillars that carried a balcony. The dark spaces behind the posts looked
like cloisters. In front big heliotrope bushes occupied green tubs.

As he crossed the _patio_ Kit met Jefferson going to the gate.

"Hallo!" said Jefferson. "Got back all right? Sorry I can't stop. I've
fixed it to meet a customer at the Metropole."

Kit told him about their meeting the _Cayman_ and pulled out a folded
paper. "I made a note----"

"Thanks! I must order the truck the captain wants," said Jefferson, who
did not take the paper. "The port doctor allowed you had loaded up the
boat and brought a good flock of sheep. What did you trade for them?"

"We landed no goods; I imagined the sheep would be paid for afterwards.
Looks as if Wolf had an agreement with somebody in the interior."

"It's not usual. Nobody trusts us like that," Jefferson remarked in a
thoughtful voice. "You carried an interpreter. Did you talk to the
Berbers?"

"Not at all," said Kit. "You see----"

He stopped. Jefferson was his friend, but after all he was to some
extent his employer's antagonist. The other noted his pause.

"Oh, well, I reckon Wolf knows his job, but I'd watch out for those
fellows. They're a pretty hard crowd. Anyhow, I must get along. Do you
mind giving my English clerk the note?"

He smiled as if something amused him, and went off, and Kit crossed the
flags. At the arch that opened on Jefferson's office, he stopped
abruptly and wondered whether his imagination had cheated him.

A few yards off Betty sat in front of a writing-table. Her head was
bent; Kit saw her face in profile against the coloured wall and noted
the clean, flowing line. After a moment or two she looked up and Kit's
heart beat. His advance was impetuous, and when she gave him her hand he
pulled himself up with an effort. When he last saw Betty in the shabby
street at Liverpool, he had kissed her. It was strange and disturbing,
but he had come near to kissing her again. Betty, however, was very calm
and her hand was cool and steady.

"Why Kit! You looked startled!" she said.

"I'm very much surprised," he admitted. "You see, I thought you were at
Liverpool."

"At Liverpool? Then you didn't think I'd gone for a holiday to the South
Coast?"

Kit was embarrassed. It looked as if his mother had not used much tact,
but Betty's smile was gentle.

"Sometimes you're rather nice, Kit, but all the same you ought to see I
couldn't go."

"We won't talk about it," Kit replied. "When I came in you didn't look
at all--surprised."

Betty gave him a calm glance, but he thought she had noted his
hesitation. Surprised was not altogether what he had meant.

"I was not," she said. "I knew you were on board a ship that had just
arrived. Then I heard you talking to Mr. Jefferson."

He pulled up a chair and studied her while she neatly folded some
documents. Betty was thin, but if she had been ill, she was obviously
getting better. A faint colour had come to her skin, and her eyes were
bright. At Liverpool she had worn very plain, dark clothes, because they
were economical; now her dress was white and she had pretty grey shoes.
In fact, Betty was prettier than he had thought. Perhaps her escape from
monotonous labour and the dark Liverpool office accounted for much, but
she was not the tired girl he had known.

Kit looked about the room. There was not much furniture, and all was
made of Canary pine that polishes a soft brown. The wall was yellow, and
blue curtains hung across the arch; Kit knew they were needed to keep
out the morning sun. A rug was on the floor, and it was like the
curtains, the dull blue one saw in Morocco. Betty had fastened a spray
of heliotrope in her white dress.

"Do you like my room?" she asked.

"It's just right. The strange thing is, I hadn't noticed this before; I
don't think--Jefferson bothered about his office. Anyhow the room was
his."

"Now it's mine. Mrs. Jefferson gave me the rug. I think it came from
Africa. She said you were a friend of hers. Isn't she nice?"

"She is a very good sort," Kit agreed. "I'm glad you have got an office
like this; the dark stuffy hole at Liverpool wasn't fit for you. I
haven't asked if you're getting better, because I can see. Somehow you
are another girl."

Betty said nothing, but rather thought Kit another man. He looked
stronger and his skin was brown. Then something about his voice and
carriage indicated quiet confidence. At Liverpool when Kit was resolute
he was, so to speak, aggressive, as if he wanted others to remark his
firmness. Now his glance was calm, his nervous jerkiness had gone. All
the same, she thought he had not got fresh qualities but developed those
he had. Betty knew Kit.

"But where do you live?" he resumed. "In a Spanish town it's
awkward----"

"I live with Mrs. Jefferson. Before I came we agreed on this. She's very
nice and takes me about; sometimes for a drive to the mountains and
sometimes in the sailing boat. When I remember my other post, I feel as
if I'd got out of prison."

Kit was satisfied. To know Betty was happy was much; she deserved the
best. Then she gave him a thoughtful glance.

"It's strange you didn't know I was coming. Mr. Jefferson wrote to me a
month since."

"Jefferson wrote?"

"Of course. He stated he wanted somebody to answer his English letters
and undertake general office work, and he understood from you I might
take the post."

"I certainly did not tell Jefferson anything like this," said Kit. "I
gave Mrs. Austin my mother's letter, in which she said you were ill and
must leave the office. But Mrs. Jefferson was with Mrs. Austin, and
perhaps they talked about it afterwards."

"Then, giving me the post was _Mrs. Austin's_ plan?" Betty remarked and
Kit thought her voice was rather hard.

"I expect it was," he agreed. "Mrs. Austin does things like that. I
imagine she persuaded Wolf to send me on board _Mossamedes_."

Betty studied him. She did not think he saw the light he had given her.
Sometimes Kit was dull.

"Don't you like Mrs. Austin?" he asked.

"I like Mrs. Jefferson better," Betty replied. She stopped and noting
that Kit was puzzled, resumed: "She is kind. So is Mr. Jefferson. When
he comes into his office he throws away his cigar. He asks me--Won't I
write a note for him and count up the bills. He doesn't think because
I'm paid it doesn't matter how he talks. But why did you give Mrs.
Austin your mother's letter?"

"Now I think about it, I don't altogether know. She's sympathetic and I
was bothered because you were ill. I imagine she saw I was bothered."

"Were you bothered very much?"

"Of course," said Kit. "You were breaking down, and must stop at
Liverpool in the rain and cold; I had the sea and sun. Sometimes I was
savage because I couldn't help."

"Then you didn't think Mrs. Austin might persuade her husband to give me
a post at Las Palmas?"

"I did not. I gave her the letter, that's all. Mrs. Austin likes helping
people, and Austin and Jefferson wanted an English clerk. I expect this
accounts for their engaging you."

Betty doubted. For one thing, she had met Olivia and two or three young
men from the coaling wharfs, who had tried to amuse her by humorous
gossip about the English people at Las Palmas. Then Mrs. Austin had sent
Kit on board Wolf's steamer, which made longer voyages than the
_correillo_, and had persuaded Jefferson to engage her for his clerk.
Betty thought Mrs. Austin's object was plain, but wondered much what Kit
had said to her. Since she could not find out, she began to talk about
Liverpool, and Kit presently narrated his adventures on the African
coast.

Nobody disturbed them and the shady room was cool. The smell of
heliotrope floated in; one heard the fountain splash and the languid
rumble of the surf. Betty leaned back in her revolving chair and Kit
lighted a cigarette.

Jefferson was occupied for some time at the Metropole, but when he
crossed the _patio_ he slackened speed in front of the arch. He was a
sober merchant, but it was not very long since he was a romantic sailor,
and the picture that met his glance had some charm. His pretty clerk
rested her cheek in her hollowed hand; her pose was unconsciously
graceful, and she studied Kit with thoughtful eyes. Kit talked and his
face wore a strangely satisfied smile; Jefferson imagined he did not
know his cigarette had gone out. His thin figure was athletic, he looked
keen and virile. Jefferson approved them both. They had not his wife's
and Austin's cultivation, but they were honest, red-blooded people. In
fact, they were good stuff.

For all that he was puzzled; he had not thought Musgrave a philanderer.
Besides his office was not a drawing-room and he advanced rather
noisily. Kit pulled out his watch and got up with a start, but Betty did
not plunge into her proper occupation. Betty was generally marked by an
attractive calm; then she knew her employer.

"I expect you gave Miss Jordan the note about the stores for _Cayman_?"
Jefferson said to Kit.

Kit took out the paper. "Sorry, but I did not. I must get on board.
Perhaps I ought to have gone before."

"You can go now. Come back for supper, if you like," Jefferson replied
with a twinkle and put down some documents. "If you can give me a few
minutes, Miss Jordan----"

When Betty got to work at her typewriter he went to Mrs. Jefferson's
drawing-room.

"I have asked young Musgrave to supper and reckon he'll come," he said.

"Don't you know if he is coming?" Mrs. Jefferson rejoined.

"He didn't state his plans. I imagine he was rattled when I fired him
out. It had probably dawned on him he'd been loafing about my office
most part of the afternoon."

"You knew he was a friend of Miss Jordan's," Mrs. Jefferson remarked.

"I knew Jacinta Austin was pretty smart, but it begins to look as if she
was smarter than I thought."

Mrs. Jefferson smiled. "Oh, well, you have got a good clerk and Kit has
got a post he likes."

"But what about Olivia?"

"I don't think you need be disturbed about Olivia," said Mrs. Jefferson,
dryly. "Anyhow, you mustn't meddle. Your touch is not light."

"That is so," Jefferson agreed. "Jacinta's touch is surely light; she
can pull three or four wires at once, without your knowing how she's
occupied. For all that, I've a notion she'll some time snarl the wires
in a nasty tangle. Can't you give her a hint she's got to leave my clerk
and Kit alone?"

"I doubt. The thing is puzzling. You see, Betty refused Kit," Mrs.
Jefferson remarked in a thoughtful voice. "However, I think two of the
leading actors in the comedy know what they want. The others do not."

"It rather looks as if three didn't know."

"I think my calculation's accurate. However, I see no useful part for
us. Ours is to look on and smile when the play's amusing."

"If Jacinta hurts Miss Jordan, I won't smile," Jefferson rejoined. "I'm
fond of the girl, because in a way she's like you."

"Sometimes you're very nice," said Mrs. Jefferson, and went off to talk
to the Spanish cook in the kitchen that had, when Jefferson got the
house, adjoined the stable.



CHAPTER IV

WOLF GIVES A FEAST


Kit returned for _comida_, which in Spanish countries is the second
proper meal. At Jefferson's it was served about five o'clock, and when
Kit arrived Mrs. Jefferson indicated a chair opposite Betty's at the
table in a big cool room.

"Now we can begin," she said and Jefferson clapped his hands for the
major-domo. In old Spanish houses there are no bells, and one uses
customs the Moors brought long since from the East.

"If I'm late, I'm sorry," Kit replied. "I had to call at the
_Commandancia_ and they kept me longer than I thought."

"I expect the _ayutante_ was getting his _comida_," Jefferson remarked.
"Anyhow, you didn't hold up our meal. Miss Jordan hadn't finished some
letters I wanted sent off by the Castle boat."

"That's some relief," Kit said to Mrs. Jefferson. "Although I hurried, I
was afraid----"

"To wait for one's dinner is not much relief," Jefferson rejoined.
"Then, since you know the Spanish rules, my notion is you ought to have
got on a hustle earlier."

Mrs. Jefferson gave him a quiet glance and he began to move some plates.
Betty did not look up, but Kit thought she was not at all embarrassed.

"I forgot about the _ayutante_'s _comida_. In fact----" he said, and
stopped. It was strange, but he had forgotten he had meant to go to Mrs.
Austin's.

"Give me the hot plates," said Mrs. Jefferson, and when Jefferson did so
one slipped and rattled.

"Perhaps it's lucky my touch is not light," he remarked. "If it had been
lighter, I'd have broken some crockery."

Kit imagined there was a joke, but since the joke was not obvious he
studied Betty. She now wore a thin black dress, made in the Spanish
fashion with black lace at the short sleeves and neck. Her skin was very
white and smooth and Kit thought she looked as if she had always worn a
dinner dress.

The room was spacious. Mrs. Jefferson's china and silver were good. A
bowl of splendid roses occupied the middle of the table, and although
they had no smell, the little _tierra_ roses, half hidden by the others,
were seductively sweet. Decanters of red and yellow wine shone among
coloured fruit, and in front of Betty a cluster of white Muscatel grapes
glimmered against dark vine leaves.

One got a hint of taste and cultivation, and Kit remembered that for a
time after his arrival he had felt raw and awkward at houses like his
host's. At Liverpool Betty had worn rather shabby clothes, and often
when he met her going home from the office her boots were wet and muddy.
Now she looked as if she belonged to Mrs. Jefferson's circle. Kit did
not know if this was strange or not; he began to think he had not really
known Betty.

All the same, he was conscious of keen satisfaction. Betty had fronted
poverty and smiled, but her smile was no longer forced. She had escaped,
like Cinderella, from dreary servitude, and Kit was very glad, although
he doubted if his analogy were good. Cinderella was splendidly
conspicuous when she went to the ball, but Betty was not. Her charm was
her gracious quietness; she did not stand out from her background, she
harmonised with it. Kit thought her like the Muscatels that glimmered
with pearly tints among the leaves.

"I guess you are thinking about Wolf's cargo," Jefferson remarked.

"Not at all," said Kit. "I was thinking about Liverpool. And Muscatel
grapes."

He imagined Betty's glance rested on him for a moment and was gone, but
Jefferson looked amused.

"Don't you get things mixed? When we towed out on board the old
_Orinoco_ in the sooty fog, Liverpool wasn't much like a vineyard.
However, I allow the Muscatel's a pretty good fruit. Doesn't catch your
eye like the red grapes, but when you put the _colorado_ in the press
the wine has a bite and some is mighty sour. The white wine's sweet and
fragrant. All the same, you don't get the proper bouquet until the
grapes are in the press. What d'you think about my philosophy, Miss
Jordan?"

"Sometimes the press hurts," Betty remarked quietly.

"It hurts all the time," said Jefferson and his thin face got grave.
"You know this when you have felt the screws. Well, I guess it's done
with, but when I hear them sing their Latin psalm _In exitu_, I
understand. Some of us have been in Egypt----"

"Now you are mixing things! You were not in Egypt," Mrs. Jefferson
rejoined, and Kit thought she meant to banish her husband's sombre mood.

"Anyhow, Egypt's in Africa and considerably cooler than the swamp where
the _Cumbria_ lay. Then I reckon Harry Austin and I made some bricks
without much straw."

"Jacinta helped. She has helped a number of people."

"Mrs. Austin has helped me," Kit agreed and looked at Betty. It was
strange, but he imagined she did not own her debt to Mrs. Austin.

Soon afterwards it got dark and they went to the flat roof. There was no
moon, but the stars were bright and the sky was clear. The soft
land-breeze had begun to blow and stirred the mist that rolled down the
dark rocks behind the town. Lights twinkled along the sweep of bay and
two that swung across a lower group marked _Mossamedes_ rolling at the
harbour mouth. Footsteps and broken talk echoed along the narrow street;
one heard guitars and somebody began to sing the _Africana_.

Kit was strangely content. Betty was getting strong again, and he
thought her happy; he, himself, had a post he liked, and all went well.
His ambitions were not important; he was not moved, as he was moved at
Mrs. Austin's, to efforts that would force people to own his talents. In
fact, he recovered something of the tranquillity that had marked the
afternoons when Betty and he gathered primroses in the woods.

Jefferson talked about the strain and suffering on board the sailing
ships. He pictured a battered wooden vessel, stripped to her topsails
and staysails and kept afloat by the windmill pump, beating round Cape
Horn while her exhausted crew got mutinous, and food got short. The
story harmonised with the languid rumble of the surf, for Jefferson's
voice was quiet, as if he talked about things that were done with. Man
had come out of bondage and steam was his deliverer.

Kit did not want to talk; he was satisfied to be near Betty and Mrs.
Jefferson. It was plain that they were friends, and he thought them
alike. Neither urged her rules on one, but one felt the rules were good.
One could do nothing shabby when one had been with them.

In the morning, Kit went to Wolf's office with some documents. Perhaps
it was the contrast between his employer and his recent hosts, but
somehow Wolf jarred. Kit began to feel vague doubts about the fellow.
Nevertheless, he admitted that Wolf's approval was flattering, and they
planned a dinner to be given on board _Mossamedes_.

The dinner was not like the captain's feast. It was served with much
ceremony, and the guests were important people, for the most part
Spanish merchants and government officers. All the chairs at the long
tables in the saloon were occupied, and Don Erminio, sitting at the end
of one, did not look comfortable. The captain liked old English clothes,
but now wore his tight, blue _correo_ uniform. Moreover, since Don
Ramon, the company's manager, was not far off, and his neighbors were
_Commandancia_ officials, he could not talk about animals and
anarchists.

Kit's chair was next to Jefferson's and opposite Austin's, and he was
satisfied to look on. He was rather interested by the captain of a
French gunboat that had recently anchored behind the mole. Captain
Revillon did not talk, but he looked about thoughtfully, and Kit
imagined he knew Castilian.

The giver of the loyal toast was a high official, who said the Spanish
crown stood for justice and steady progress. One lost much by rash
experiments, and to modify cautiously old traditions was a better plan.
A country's prosperity was built upon the efforts of all its citizens,
and men must know the reward of their labour was theirs. Just laws were
needed and the loyal _Canarios_ knew the Spanish laws were good. But
this was not all. Effort must be made for cultivation and commerce.
Although the islanders were industrious, much of the soil was barren and
sometimes food was short. Spain owned a belt of Africa with fertile
oases where corn was grown and flocks were fed. The country was richer
than people thought; it must be developed and extended until it made up
for the territories Spain had lost. This was why he wished the new
venture, launched under the Spanish flag, good luck.

There was a shout and a rattle of glasses, but Kit thought the little
French captain pondered.

"Since France claims the back country, I expect Revillon wonders how
they're going to extend the Rio de Oro," Jefferson remarked.

Don Ramon, urbane and smiling, got up. The islanders must live by trade,
he said. They were a virile race of sailors and small farmers, but since
modern ships and machines cost much, they could not refuse foreign help.
With English help they had made much progress and might go farther. They
had built up Cuba and now Cuba was gone they must build up their African
colony. The _Mossamedes_, flying the Spanish flag, was opening a new,
rich field. Don Ramon was proud he had some part in sending her out.

"He has struck the same note," Austin observed. "In a way it's the note
one would strike, but somehow I imagine Wolf has used the tuning fork.
When you make a speech to order, you rather like a hint about the line
you ought to take. However, the fellow is going to talk."

Kit afterwards thought Wolf's speech clever. To begin with, he indicated
the richness of the Rio de Oro belt and its hinterland. His venture was
small, but when he had opened the way, Spanish effort would make the
African oases another Cuba. He paused and turned to the high official,
who smiled as if he agreed. Then Wolf hinted at a community of interest
and talked as if his gains would be his guests'. Kit felt that a
stranger might imagine the merchants were shareholders and the others
had given the undertaking official patronage.

"Looks as if we were all in it," Jefferson commented. "On the whole, I'm
satisfied our house is not. I'd rather like to know what Revillon
thinks."

"Revillon's thoughts are not very obvious. Since he has stopped at Las
Palmas before, I expect he knows our friends are patriotic
sentimentalists," Austin replied.

Soon afterwards Kit went on deck. Wolf did not want him and the saloon
was hot. Leaning against the rails, he looked across the harbour, and
his glance rested on the French gunboat. She was a small, two-masted
vessel, of a type that was getting out of date but was used by French
and British for police duty on the African coast. Sometimes she touched
at Las Palmas for coal, and Kit understood she cruised from Morocco to
Senegal. She was not fast, and he thought her rather deep for use in
shallow water. When he was on board the _correillo_ he had seen her
hauled up on the beach after grounding. Hearing a step he turned and saw
Wolf.

"I came up for a few minutes to get away from Revillon; the fellow's
rather curious about your voyage," said Wolf. "Besides, I want to talk
to you. Let's go into the captain's room."

The captain's room was on the boat-deck below the bridge. One reached it
by a ladder, and nobody was about. Wolf turned on the electric light and
gave Kit a cigarette.

"I haven't told you much about your cargo for this run, but I had some
grounds for not doing so."

"The cargo's ready to put on board," said Kit.

"Not all," Wolf replied meaningly. "Yusuf, my agent in Morocco, will
supply or tell you where to get the rest. You will carry out his orders,
unless, of course, you resolve to turn down the job."

"Then, we are to carry goods the Spaniards would not allow us to land?"

Wolf smiled. "Now you, perhaps, see why I gave the feast. My guests, so
to speak, have given my venture the government's sanction. In Spain it
pays to have official friends, and a tactful present carries weight. The
officers are not as fastidious as yours----"

He stopped and Kit wondered whether he had said _yours_ unconsciously.
Kit had thought Wolf claimed to be English, but there was a hint of a
sneer in his voice.

"What are we to carry?" he asked.

"Cartridges! If you don't like the job, I think I can get another man."

Kit imagined all traffic with native Africans in breach-loading guns and
ammunition was forbidden. Moreover, it was obvious the Spanish
government would not approve Wolf's supplying the Berber tribes with
cartridges. This, however, was the government's business, and Kit was
young. Romantic smuggling had some charm; but he hesitated.

"Why do the Berbers want the cartridges?" he asked.

Wolf shrugged. "I don't know their plans. They're a turbulent,
independent lot, and sometimes quarrel with their neighbours who are
supposed to belong to France. I expect they have a dispute with another
tribe in the back country about an oasis, or perhaps the control of a
caravan road. Anyhow, I'm sending a small quantity of ammunition,
because I want to keep a good customer. Well, I won't persuade you. Are
you going?"

"I'll risk it," said Kit, rather doubtfully. "Does the captain know?"

"Of course," said Wolf, smiling. "Don Erminio's not scrupulous and sees
a chance of earning something besides his pay. All the same, he
understands that while he is navigator you are my representative. But I
mustn't leave the others long."

He went off and Kit smoked a fresh cigarette. The adventure had some
charm, but he was not altogether satisfied. He had, however, agreed to
go, and presently he banished his doubts.



CHAPTER V

WOLF'S OFFER


Jefferson sat in the shade of the bougainvillea and pondered some
letters. Austin lounged in a basket-chair opposite and read the
_Diario_. They had combined their business as far as possible, but
Pancho Brown would not agree to a formal amalgamation. All was quiet.
One heard the fountain splash and Betty's typewriter rattle. Sometimes a
voice came from the room where Jefferson's Spanish clerks were occupied,
but this was all.

Presently Austin put down the newspaper.

"The tomato crop was light and the vines are doing badly. It's ominous
that the Palma import houses are cutting down their orders."

"Martinez allowed he wanted to get out of the deal in chemical
fertilisers. Trade is looking sick," Jefferson agreed.

"When I joined Pancho Brown I used to study the accounts and
congratulate myself when I saw our credits going up," Austin remarked
with a smile. "To feel I could write a cheque for a good sum was
something very new. Now I'm bothered because we have money at the bank.
I don't see how it's going to be usefully employed."

"You want to keep money moving. Well, I met Wolf a day or two since, and
he hinted he knew about a deal. I wasn't keen, but he said he might come
around and see us. I rather expect him."

"You don't trust the fellow?"

"Sure thing! Reckon it's instinctive. I like straightforward folks.
Wolf's a mystery man."

Austin looked up and laughed. "He's coming."

Wolf crossed the flags, and when he stopped by the bougainvillea his
face was red. He was fat and his thin, black alpaca jacket looked very
tight.

"Sun's fierce. Will you take a drink?" said Jefferson, and clapping his
hands for a servant, ordered _Cerveza_.

As a rule, in hot countries, cautious white men do not drink much beer,
but Wolf drained his glass of pale yellow liquor with obvious
satisfaction.

"The Glasgow stuff is good," he said. "In fact, for British lager, it's
very nearly right."

"Where d'you reckon to get it exactly right? Chicago or Munich?"
Jefferson inquired.

Wolf laughed. "It's good at both cities. At Munich there's a _garten_.
But I'm not going to bore you by talking about lager."

Betty's typewriter stopped. The light in the _patio_ was strong and to
sit in her dark office and study the group outside was like watching a
play on an illuminated stage. The curtains at the arch narrowed her
view, and the figures of the actors, sharply distinct, occupied the
opening. Betty's sense of the dramatic was keen, and she had remarked
that Wolf sat down where a beam shone over his shoulder. Then when
Jefferson talked about Chicago and Munich she thought he tried to study
Wolf's face, but could not. Wolf had hesitated for a moment before he
admitted that he knew the cities. Betty rested her face in her hand and
resolved to watch. For one thing, Wolf was Kit's employer.

"Trade is slack," Wolf resumed. "The Spanish merchants see they can't
ship much produce and are cutting their orders. I don't know if you feel
the slump, but my African speculation promises well. The trouble is, I
can't finance it properly, and if you would like to come in----"

"Pancho Brown is old-fashioned and not keen about new undertakings,"
Austin replied cautiously. "Do you expect to get larger lots of sheep?"

"It's possible, but I thought about buying camels. I reckon I can get
them for a low price, paid in trade goods, and I expect you know what
they are worth just now."

Austin pondered. The single-humped camel is used in the Canaries,
particularly in the dry Eastern islands, and the animals cost much. All
the same, Austin knew his partner doubted.

"Where do your customers get the camels?" Jefferson asked.

"I frankly don't know. The Berbers are not the people to give you their
confidence. It's possible they steal the camels. Anyhow, they state they
can get them."

"Well, if you are short of money, we might perhaps supply the goods you
want and take the camels at a price agreed."

"I can get credit for the trade-goods and sell the camels to Spanish
buyers as soon as they arrive. In fact, I see no particular advantage in
your plan."

"Then, what is your proposition?"

"Something like this: I want you to join me in the speculation and take
your share of the profit and the risk. There is some risk. The business
is going to be bigger than I thought, and my capital is not large. I
want partners who will help me seize all the chances that come along and
will back me if I get up against an obstacle."

Austin lighted a cigarette and Betty imagined he weighed the plan, but
Jefferson did not. Wolf drank some beer and when he put down his glass
Betty thought the glance he gave the others was keen. He looked cunning,
and she thought if she were Austin she would let his offer go. After a
few moments Jefferson looked up.

"Harry and I will talk about it and send you a note. Will you take
another drink?"

Wolf drained his glass and went off. When he had gone Jefferson turned
to Austin and smiled.

"I reckon nothing's doing!"

"Then why did you promise to talk about it?"

"I am talking about it," Jefferson rejoined. "I didn't want Wolf to
imagine I'd resolved to turn down his proposition."

"After all, I don't think he meant to cheat us."

"Not in a sense. He knows you're not a fool and Don Pancho's very keen."

"Then what does he want?" Austin asked.

"I don't know; I'm curious. Anyhow, he doesn't want me, although if you
and Don Pancho joined, he reckoned I'd come in. I'm not a British
merchant; I'm an American."

"But what has this to do with it?"

"I allow I don't altogether see. Anyhow, Wolf's a German." Austin looked
puzzled and Jefferson smiled. "You don't get me yet? The fellow has
cultivated out his accent and claims he's English. That's important,
because he got his English in the United States and doesn't claim he's
American. When I talked about Chicago and Munich I made an experiment."

"He admitted he knew the cities."

"That is so. He saw I was on his track and he mustn't bluff. If I'd met
Wolf in the United States, I mightn't have been prejudiced, but I met
him at Grand Canary, starting a trade with Spanish Africa. I reckon the
Spaniards are sore about Morocco. At the grab-game, France and Britain
scooped the pool; Germany and Spain got stung. Anyhow, I've no use for
taking a part in world politics, and when Musgrave has gone a voyage or
two in _Mossamedes_ I'll try to get him off the ship."

"I wonder whether you know Jacinta sent him on board?"

Jefferson smiled. "Does Jacinta trust Wolf? Talk to her about the deal,
and if she approves I'll come in."

"Very well," said Austin, and they started for the town.

When Jefferson returned to his office a clerk brought in a note. "From
Don Enrique, sir."

Jefferson opened the envelope and laughed, for the note ran: "Nothing
doing in camels. Jacinta does not approve."

"Sometimes a woman's judgment is sound, Miss Jordan," he remarked. "Mrs.
Austin doesn't know all I know, but she gets where I get, and I think
she got there first."

"It is strange," Betty said quietly.

"One doesn't know when you're amused and when you're not," Jefferson
rejoined. "However, I want you to send Wolf a note."

"_Dear Mr. Wolf?_" Betty suggested.

"I reckon _dear sir_ will meet the bill," said Jefferson dryly. "Then
let's see, 'In reference to our conversation this morning, after careful
consideration, we regret we cannot see our way to entertain your
proposition.' Pretty good office English?"

"There are three _'tions_," Betty observed.

"Proposition's all right," said Jefferson thoughtfully. "Fix the others
as you like. You know the sort of thing."

He went up the outside stair and found Mrs. Jefferson on the balcony.

"If Musgrave's not a philanderer, he's mighty dull," he said. "I'd like
you to have seen Miss Jordan just now. A model clerk, very cool and
business-like, manner exactly right. All the same, before I got started
she saw where I was going and I guess she smiled."

"It's very possible," Mrs. Jefferson agreed. "Well, perhaps it's lucky
I'm not jealous!"

"You're not jealous, but if I've got an eye for fine and pretty things,
you're accountable. Once on a time I reckoned a big sailing ship,
close-hauled on the wind with all she'd carry set, was beautiful; I
hadn't seen you talking to our guests across the fruit and flowers. Now
I'm thankful for all beauty; things men made like sailing ships, and
pretty girls. Betty in white by the bougainvillea, Olivia on the veranda
in her black and gold. This old world is charming since you opened my
eyes."

"For a business man, you're sometimes extravagant," Mrs. Jefferson
replied. "All the same, you are a dear."

Jefferson turned and looked over the balcony. A young man who wore
spotless white flannel and a red silk belt crossed the flags. He stopped
abruptly when Jefferson shouted: "Hello!"

"We thought if you were going to haul up _Cayman_ for scraping, you'd
like to know our tug is off the slip," the other remarked.

"Thanks!" said Jefferson dryly. "You needn't bother Miss Jordan about
it. _Cayman_'s gone to Palma."

The young man recrossed the flags and Jefferson laughed. "His last brain
wave was to see if _Cayman_ would take coal across for ballast and he
could keep us some hefty lumps. Yesterday two banana men blew in with a
fool proposition about my sending fruit to Africa, and before they were
through, Walters from the cold store arrived. Looks as if I'd got to put
up barbed wire."

"Oh, well," said Mrs. Jefferson, "I don't suppose a sailing ship is
their standard of beauty. Besides, the big sailing ships are gone."

Betty, studying some figures in the office, heard Jefferson stop the
coaling clerk and smiled. Young men from the coal wharfs and fruit
stores arrived rather often when they thought her employer was not
about, and if she was not occupied she sometimes let them talk. For the
most part they were a careless, good-humoured lot and she liked their
cheerfulness, but this was all. When she refused Kit at Liverpool she
was resolved he must get his chance; now it looked as if she had got
hers she was not moved.

She contrasted him with the others. They frankly amused her, and
sometimes Kit was dull. Yet she sensed in his soberness something fine
that did not mark the rest. They joked and did not bother; Kit bothered
much. Betty liked his tight-mouthed, thoughtful look. His habit was to
weigh things, but when he was satisfied he went stubbornly ahead. Betty
wondered whether he was satisfied about Olivia. Then, with something of
an effort, she resumed her calculations.



CHAPTER VI

BETTY CARRIES A MESSAGE


The morning was hot and Betty had pulled the curtains across the arch.
She typed an English letter and thought about Kit. Although she knew he
had gone to Mrs. Austin's, it was some days since she had seen him and
his steamer would soon sail. Betty had expected him to say good-bye to
her and was hurt because he had not. Presently she heard Jefferson's
step in the _patio_. He stopped and somebody crossed the flags.

"Come inside, the sun is pretty fierce," he said, and Olivia went
through the arch.

"I think you know Miss Jordan," Jefferson resumed.

Betty stopped her typewriter. She was in the shadow and studied Olivia,
who stood where the strong light shone into the room. Betty thought her
clothes were made in London or Paris; they were in the latest
exaggerated fashion, but she admitted that Miss Brown's beauty justified
her wearing clothes like that. Betty, herself, wore plain white, and a
cheap, Spanish sewing woman had helped her to make the dress.

"It looks as if you had got up before Harry, although you kept him for
some time last night," Olivia said to Jefferson, and took out a small
packet. "He had not begun his breakfast when the mail arrived with some
samples you want for Morocco. Harry thought Mr. Musgrave might leave
them for your agent at Saffi, but our man was not about and I was going
to the shops."

Jefferson pulled out his watch. "Thanks, I'll send the thing on board.
I'm going up town. Will you come along?"

"I'll stop in your cool office for a few minutes," Olivia replied, and
Jefferson turned to Betty.

"Felix will be around soon. Send him off with the packet. I expect
Musgrave will be at the _Commandancia_. You have about half an hour."

He went off and Olivia lighted a cigarette. She threw the match on the
floor, and although people smoke in Spanish offices Betty was annoyed.
She wondered whether Miss Brown's carelessness was studied, but after a
few moments Olivia gave her a thoughtful look.

"I understand Kit Musgrave is an old friend of yours."

"He is my friend," said Betty.

"Then I expect you know he's satisfied with his post. All the same, he
ought to give it up."

Betty said nothing. She thought she saw why Miss Brown had brought the
packet, but did not see where she led. Besides, she was conscious of a
subtle antagonism. The girl was not the type whose friendship was good
for Kit. In the meantime, Olivia occupied herself with her cigarette.
She had meant to make an experiment and satisfy her curiosity, for Kit
had not come to the veranda much since his return and she had missed him
when he was away.

"He ought to go back to the _correillo_," she resumed. "However, I
expect you know he's obstinate."

"Sometimes he's firm," said Betty, quietly, although quietness was hard.

She did know Kit was obstinate, but to allow Miss Brown to talk about it
was another thing. Besides, she was bothered about the other's object
for stating Kit ought to go back.

"Oh, well, it's really not important," Olivia replied as if she were
bored. "I thought perhaps you might persuade Kit to rejoin the
_Campeador_." She paused and smiled carelessly. "I can't, I admit I
tried."

"Why do you want Mr. Musgrave to leave his ship? I understand your
sister got him the post."

Olivia was embarrassed, although her embarrassment was not obvious. She
had begun by wanting to baffle Mrs. Austin, whose object for sending Kit
on board _Mossamedes_ was plain. This, however, was some time since, and
now she did not know what she did want. She would not acknowledge Kit
her lover, but she liked to know he was about. All the same, her efforts
to separate him from Wolf were to some extent unselfish.

"I don't want Kit to leave the _Mossamedes_; I think it better for him
to do so," she rejoined. "It's possible my sister did get him the post.
Jacinta does things like that, but sometimes her plans do not work as
she hoped."

"Then, when Mrs. Austin sent Kit to Africa she had a plan?"

Olivia looked up sharply and threw her cigarette on the floor. She had
not found out much and did not mean to argue with Jefferson's clerk.

"We don't get forward, and I can't stop," she said. "I'll tell you all I
know. I think my sister doubts Wolf; Jefferson frankly distrusts him. He
was talking to Harry on the veranda and I was in the room behind. It was
plain they were puzzled about Wolf. Jefferson said the fellow was
playing a crooked game, and Kit ought to quit. Anyhow, he ought to know
his boss's African scheme was a cover for something else, and he was
going to use the French captain. Wolf meant to give Revillon a part in
the plot."

Olivia got up. "That's all, but I rather agree with Jefferson."

"If you think Mr. Musgrave ought to be warned, why didn't you warn him?"

"For one thing, I imagined you were his friend," Olivia rejoined with a
careless smile. "To write a note is sometimes awkward, the steamer sails
very soon, and it's obvious I can't go on board and ask for the
_sobrecargo_. Well, you are Jefferson's clerk and have the packet of
samples. You can go--if you like!"

The curtain swung back, and for a minute or two Betty pondered. Her
curiosity was excited, and she wondered much how far Olivia's interest
in Kit went; that it went some distance was plain. Betty felt a keen
antagonism for the fashionable and rather scornful girl. Yet to some
extent the other's object was good; Betty thought Kit ought to be warned
about his employer. All the same, Miss Brown's statement that Betty
could warn him was hardly accurate. Spanish conventions were strict and
Betty knew the gossip that marked the English circle. If she went on
board the steamer, people would talk and Mrs. Jefferson would be
annoyed. But Felix, Jefferson's boatman, did not arrive, and Betty
looked at her watch. Something must be risked and perhaps she might meet
Kit outside the _Commandancia_ office. Picking up the packet, she got
her hat.

A _tartana_ waited for passengers at the end of the street, and she got
down at the Catalina mole. _Mossamedes'_ windlass rattled, and her cable
was coming in, but a boat with the African house-flag painted on the bow
lay against the wall, and Betty knew Kit had not gone on board. For all
that, she did not see him, and the steamer's anchor would soon be up. If
he did not come in a minute or two, she would have no time for talk.
Then he ran out of the office, pushing some papers into his pocket, and
stopped.

"Hallo!" he said. "You are kind to see me off."

"I didn't come to see you off. At least, that wasn't all," Betty
replied.

"Oh, well," Kit said, laughing, "you're generally frank. I'd rather have
liked to think you did want to see me off. Anyhow, I'm glad you have
arrived."

Betty gave him the packet and he noted the address.

"All right, I'll land it at Saffi. I wish you had come sooner. They've
broken the anchor out."

She went across the mole with him and stopped at the top of the steps.
He looked keen, alert and handsome. His white clothes were well made,
his thin figure was athletic, and Betty liked his smile. She felt
rewarded; Kit was glad she had come. The trouble was, she could not send
him off like that.

"There's another thing," she said. "Jefferson thinks you ought not to
stop on board _Mossamedes_. He declares Wolf is not to be trusted."

"Ah!" said Kit, rather sharply. "But how do you know?"

Betty braced herself. She must be honest, although it was plain honesty
might cost her something.

"Miss Brown came to the office half an hour since and brought the
packet. She heard Jefferson talk to Austin about Wolf, and thought you
ought to be warned."

"She came to the office!" Kit exclaimed, and Betty saw his satisfaction.
"Well, she's very kind. But she sent a message?"

"Wolf is plotting something in Africa. His business isn't what it looks.
Captain Revillon has some part in it."

Kit laughed. "Miss Brown meant well, you mean well, but you don't
understand. Wolf is cheating the French captain. He'd an object for
asking him to the feast. In fact, I see his plan."

"I don't think Miss Brown was cheated," Betty urged.

_Mossamedes'_ whistle shrieked, foam splashed about her stern and she
began to forge ahead. Kit shouted to the men in the boat and Betty gave
him her hand.

"Don't bother about the thing," he said. "Perhaps Wolf is rather tricky,
but I know him and I won't get hurt. Anyhow, Miss Brown was kind to let
me know, and you're a good sort to carry the message."

"Still, you'll use some caution, Kit," said Betty, but he waved his hand
and ran down the steps.

_Mossamedes_ circled slowly and forged by the end of the mole, her white
deck-houses shining in the sun. Kit's boat vanished round her stern,
smoke rolled from her funnel, and with a white wave breaking at her bows
she steamed out of the harbour. For a time Betty watched the ship and
her thoughts were moody.

She had refused Kit at Liverpool because both were poor. Tired, as she
was, of badly-rewarded labour, she might have been satisfied to occupy
her self with frugal housekeeping, had she not seen that for Kit to
marry meant bondage for him. A married clerk with Kit's pay durst run no
risks, he must stick to his job, indulge his employers and wait for them
to offer him better wages. She might have promised to marry Kit and let
him go to try his luck; but she knew girls whose lovers had gone away.
One had come back another man, and Betty imagined he saw the girl he
dutifully married was not the girl he had thought. The others had not
come back at all.

It was not that Betty doubted Kit. He was staunch and did all he engaged
to do, but he was young. Betty imagined his was a boy's romance and she
did not want him to return for her because he thought he ought. Besides,
he had some talent and might make his mark abroad. If he did so, she was
not going to embarrass him. In fact, she, so to speak, resolved that
Kit must have his chance.

Now he was obviously attracted by Miss Brown, and Betty knew Olivia was
not the girl for him. Moreover, she was persuaded Olivia saw his
drawbacks. Kit was poor, his infatuation was ridiculous, and to find it
out would hurt, but Kit would find out. Betty frowned because she could
not help.

By and by she noted that _Mossamedes'_ masts and funnel were getting
indistinct. The ship's hull had melted to a dark streak, seen for a
moment when she plunged across a roller's crest, and Betty got up. She
had stopped longer than she ought and must hurry back to the office. As
she went along the mole she remembered that she had been willing to risk
something in order to warn Kit, and he had laughed. Sometimes one's fine
resolutions were rewarded like that. Perhaps the thing was amusing, but
her smile was dreary.

At the office she found Jefferson reading a newspaper.

"I see you haven't begun the English letters," he remarked. "Did Olivia
stop long?"

Betty said the boatman had not arrived, and she had taken the packet to
the mole.

"Well, I wanted the thing to go across. I reckon you gave it to
Musgrave?"

"I did so," said Betty and noted Jefferson's twinkle. All the same, she
thought his taking out his watch was unconscious.

"Perhaps you had better go ahead with the letters," he said.

Betty started her typewriter, but her thoughts were not fixed on what
she wrote. She pondered about Wolf and was vaguely disturbed. Kit had
laughed at Olivia's warning, but sometimes Kit was confident and rash.
After all, it was possible Miss Brown was justified. Then Betty glanced
at a letter she took from the machine and tore the sheet across.
Jefferson was not fastidious, but he liked his customers to know what he
meant. She could think about Wolf and Kit again, and in the meantime
must concentrate on her proper duty. Olivia Brown could indulge her
romantic imagination when she liked, but Betty was a merchant's clerk.



CHAPTER VII

SHIPPING CAMELS


_Mossamedes_ dropped anchor as near as was safe to the flat-roofed
Moorish town. The roadstead was open and the harbour was only deep
enough for boats, but so long as the wind did not back to the North one
could ship cargo, and the agent sent off a quantity of maize and beans.
In the Canaries corn is scarce, and the _peons_ roast and grind such
grain as they can get for their coarse _gofio_ meal. Kit was rather
disturbed about the cartridges, although Wolf's Jewish agent had so far
refused to state when they would go on board. Kit was the steamship
company's servant, the ship was British, and he thought he ought to have
warned the manager how she might be used. The trouble was, he was Wolf's
servant, too. Besides, it was possible Don Ramon was informed.

When the grain was on board Kit went one evening to the agent's house.
Yusuf was old and yellow-skinned. His beard was thin and his long hair
greasy with scented oil, but he had a touch of dignity. Kit went through
a little dark shop to his office and sat on a low, flat-topped couch. An
iron chest stood against the opposite wall, and an open lamp hung by
chains from the roof. A door with a horseshoe arch and a leather curtain
led to the house; the door to the shop was strong and iron-bound. One
very narrow window pierced the wall. The Jews have long traded in
Morocco, but they know the risk, and Kit generally found it a relief to
finish his business and get back to the harbour. Yusuf transacted
Wolf's business in the evening, and when Kit arrived the copper lamp was
lighted.

Yusuf gave him a little cup of black coffee and a cigarette with a
strange, bitter taste. Then he talked about the grain, and presently
took a long roll of paper and some documents from the chest.

"This voyage we will give you camels," he said in good Castilian. "You
will get them where you got the sheep. Since you will not come back, I
will give you the bills of lading for the captain to sign."

"The rule is to sign the bills of lading when the goods are shipped,"
Kit remarked.

"In this country English rules do not go. A trader must run some risks
and you will need proper documents for the Spanish officers."

Kit agreed. Wolf had told him he must trust Yusuf, but he did not,
although he was willing to carry out his orders. There was something
secretive about the old fellow; one felt strange plans were made in his
small dark shop. In fact, Kit would have trusted nobody in the town. The
people were a strange, silent lot; the Moors stamped by an inscrutable
reserve. The Jews and half-breed Christians looked furtive and afraid.
To hear the negroes' noisy talk was a relief, but all was quiet after
dark.

"I understand you have some other cargo for us," he remarked.

"That is so. When you go back to your boat you will find the boxes are
on board."

Kit thought it strange. His boat lay alongside the little mole, where
people could see goods carried down, and since Yusuf had got the
cartridges Kit wondered why he had not smuggled them off overland. To
use a steamer like _Mossamedes_ to carry a few boxes along the coast
was a strange plan; but then the business was all strange.

"Where must we land the goods?" he asked.

"I will show you," said Yusuf, and when he unrolled the long paper Kit
saw with some surprise it was a good chart of the African coast.

"You will anchor here and signal," he said, marking a spot. "When you
see smoke among the sandhills send off your boat. Afterwards you will
steam back to the anchorage you know and wait for the camels."

"But we may wait for some time," Kit objected, noting the distance
between the spots.

"I think not. A messenger will be sent and a good camel travels fast,"
Yusuf replied, and Kit, picking up the chart, started for the harbour.

The night was not dark and when he jumped on board his boat he noted a
row of small boxes stowed in the bottom.

"But this stuff is heavy!" said old Miguel, striking a cardboard match.

Kit told him to put out the match, but was relieved to see the boxes
were not numerous. Then they had, so to speak, been put on board openly,
and Kit felt that after all he need not bother Don Ramon about the
thing.

"We will go. Push off," he said.

The men pulled down the harbour. A smooth swell rolled in and two or
three anchor lights tossed and swung. By and by engines throbbed in the
dark, and Kit saw moving beams of red and green. The French gunboat had
arrived the day before, and her launch was coming off from the mole. For
a minute or two Kit was disturbed, but the launch steamed by and
vanished in the dark. Kit steered for _Mossamedes'_ lights and when he
got on board went to the captain's room. Don Erminio, wearing his old
English clothes, fronted Macallister in greasy dungarees, and between
them some bottles and glasses balanced the swing-table. Kit put down the
bills of lading and remarked that he had agreed the captain would sign
the documents.

"But of course," said Don Erminio, "when I sign for Señor Wolf, I will
sign all you ask. When I sign for me, it is another thing. Then, if I am
not cautious, somebody gets my dollars."

"Where are we going?" Macallister asked.

Kit spread out the chart and indicated the spot Yusuf had marked on the
curve of a bay. It looked as if landing would not be hard, but although
the chart did not give the political frontiers, he imagined the bay was
outside the Spanish belt.

"I expect the coast is French. It's awkward; particularly since we carry
cartridges."

"Senegal's French," said Macallister. "The rest is nobody's; the
strongest tribe uses the ground it wants. Man, they're amusing fellows
at the foreign offices. Do they think they can parcel out Africa wi' a
gold fountain pen?"

"Sometimes the French foreign office uses the foreign legion."

"Must I teach ye geography? The legion leeves in Algeria, and that's
t'ither side the country o' Kaid Maclean."

"It is not important," Don Erminio remarked. "All politicians are
animals, and if the Moors shoot somebody with the cartridges, it is not
my affair. I will catch fish for _baccalao_ and then my señora will not
want much money."

Kit put away the chart and went on deck. He rather envied Don Erminio's
philosophical carelessness. The captain did not bother; if he could
catch fish and shoot rabbits, he was satisfied. Kit was not like that.
His job was to keep things going smoothly, but things did not go
smoothly when one left them alone. He was accountable to Wolf and the
owners of the ship, and began to see his duties might clash. Walking up
and down the boat-deck, he frowned when he heard the clink of glasses
and Don Erminio's laugh. Then Macallister began to sing, and Kit went
off impatiently to his room.

At daybreak they hove anchor and steamed South along the coast, until
one morning a dark line on the port bow indicated land. Then they turned
a quarter circle, the line got faint, as if it ran back to the East, and
after they took soundings _Mossamedes_ steamed into a wide, shallow bay.
Some time after she brought up a plume of smoke blew across the
sandhills, a boat was swung out and Kit and the interpreter went ashore.
Nothing romantic marked the landing of the cartridges. A few big,
dark-skinned men came down the beach, took the boxes from the sailors
and vanished in the sand. The boat pulled off and Kit began to think
smuggling in Africa was strangely flat.

Then _Mossamedes_, stopping now and then to use the lead, steamed North
dead-slow. They saw no ships, although at times a trail of smoke stained
the blue horizon. Liners bound for Cape Town kept deep water, and the
captains of the Guinea boats hauled off until they made Cape Verde. The
stream of traffic flowed along, but did not touch the forbidding coast.

At length Don Erminio headed cautiously for the beach and _Mossamedes_
dropped anchor in the pool among the sands. For two or three days the
captain and Kit went fishing and then, when the smoke signal wavered
about the mouth of the wady, Kit went ashore with Miguel in the big
cargo launch. In a sense, perhaps, the job was not his, but he felt his
responsibility. The camels were his employer's, and he must see them got
on board.

The morning was hot, the sea luminous green, streaked by dazzling lines
of foam. Sandhills and stony hummocks floated like a mirage in
quivering, reflected light. Farther off, dust storms tossed in spirals
and dissolved. Now and then the wind got light for a few minutes and Kit
felt he could not breathe, but there was no break in the steady beat of
the white surge on the beach.

When the rollers began to curl Miguel threw out an anchor, and the boat
drove in stern-foremost until the rope brought her up. This was possible
because the headland broke the sea, but Kit thought the launch would
soon be swamped if the wind backed farther North. The interpreter jumped
overboard, and by and by men in fluttering blue and white clothes drove
the camels from the wady. When the animals reached the beach all the
crew but Miguel went overboard, and the hardest work Kit had known
began. The camels knelt while the head-ropes were fixed, but some
stretched their long necks and tried to seize his arm with their yellow
teeth. They grunted and made savage noises, and when they were driven to
the water obstinately stopped.

The single-humped camel can swim, but will not, unless it is forced, and
to break the big animal's firm resolve is not easy. Moreover, the launch
leaped and plunged and must be hauled off when a large roller came in
like a glittering wall. Spray blew about; sometimes the men were
knee-deep, and sometimes buried to the shoulders, in angry foam. Now and
then Kit was knocked down and washed up the beach among the legs of a
floundering camel. In the background, the group of Moors sat on the
beach and watched; their dark skins and harshly-coloured clothes
distinct in the strong light.

When Miguel was satisfied he could take no more, they hauled off the
boat and tied the camels by the short head-ropes along her gunwale. Then
the anchor was got up and they began to row, but although they pulled
the long oars double-banked, did not make much progress. It looked as if
the camels, supported by their halters, were satisfied to be towed. The
animals floated awkwardly and their bodies were a heavy drag.

To drive the boat ahead was exhausting labour in the burning sun, and by
and by Kit relieved a man whose efforts got slack. His clothes had dried
stiff, his hair was full of sand, and the salt had crystallised on his
burned skin. At length they stopped abreast of the steamer's gangway and
somebody threw a rope. _Mossamedes_ rolled, lifting a long belt of rusty
side out of the foam. Sometimes she was high above the boat, and
sometimes she sank until the water splashed about the open iron doors. A
man, seizing a boathook, stood ready to fend-off the launch; the others
got canvas bands under the camels. Then a long derrick swung out and a
band was hooked to a wire rope.

"_Ahora! Llevadlo!_" shouted Miguel and a winch began to rattle.

The rope tightened with a jerk, a camel rose from the water, and for a
few moments swung wildly to and fro. The animal looked ridiculous, with
its outstretched neck and paddling legs. Then _Mossamedes_ steadied and
one heard running wire; the camel sank and vanished and the rope came
down again. When all were on board, Miguel started for the beach with a
fresh crew, and Kit went to see the animals fastened up and fed. The
mate was accountable for their stowing, but camels were worth much at
Grand Canary, and Kit imagined his employer's interest was his.
Sometimes when he thought about his efforts afterwards, he smiled.

He was occupied until the launch returned and he went ashore again. The
tide had risen and the surf was worse, but they got another load. The
launch came back half-swamped with the men exhausted and a broken oar,
and on her next voyage the crew kept her off the beach until the tide
fell. While she rolled and plunged at anchor Kit lay in her bottom and
watched the angry combers crash upon the beach.

They brought off the last few animals in the dark and Kit washed away
the sand and salt. Three or four dark bruises marked his skin, his hands
were blistered and he limped because a camel had stepped upon his foot.
All the same, when he put on soft clean clothes he was satisfied.
_Mossamedes_ would go to sea at daybreak and it was something to know
the job was done.



CHAPTER VIII

AN IDLE AFTERNOON


The veranda was shady, and Kit sat on the top step in the cool breeze
that blew between the posts. Olivia occupied a basket-chair farther
back; her pose was languidly graceful and sometimes she smiled. It was
not for nothing she had put on clothes she liked the best of all she
had, but she thought she knew why Kit for the most part looked at the
town and not at her. Sometimes his puritanical conscience bothered him.
Mrs. Austin's rule was to receive all her friends who liked to come
after six o'clock, but Kit had arrived two hours sooner, because Olivia
had hinted that he might. She knew Jacinta would not be about, and now
thought Kit imagined he ought to go.

The landscape he contemplated had some charm. The sun was behind the
mountains, and the dark rocks were a good background for the white town
and the cathedral towers. The white was not dead; the shadow had touched
it with elusive grey and blue, and the rows of houses glimmered, somehow
like pearls. In front the sea was a wonderful ultramarine.

In the meantime, Olivia studied Kit's figure and his face in profile.
She thought his profile good, there was something ascetic about its
cleanness of line. He was thin, but his white clothes rather emphasised
the firm modelling of his neck and shoulders and the curve to his waist.
All the same, Olivia thought his quietness tiresome.

"The view from the veranda _is_ rather fine," she said.

Kit looked up with an apologetic smile. "You imply I'm dull? Perhaps I
am dull. You see, I was pretty strenuously occupied not long since."

"Catching fish for the captain's señora?"

"We did catch some fish, but we shipped some camels through the surf,
and ran into bad weather coming home. To keep the animals alive was an
awkward job. The sea came on board, the fodder washed about, and the
scuppers were choked. The ship got a list, and two or three feet of
water splashed in the angle between her deck and side. Camels can't
stand getting wet, you know."

"I don't know," Olivia rejoined. "Besides, I don't see how the bad
weather accounts for your absorption in the view."

"Oh, well! After a job like ours you want a rest, and there's something
about Grand Canary that makes you satisfied to loaf. The Island of the
Golden Apples, the old explorers talked about! Then I think the nicest
spot in Grand Canary is Mrs. Austin's veranda. Anyhow, if I had talked,
you might have got bored. You are bored sometimes."

Olivia laughed. "You are modest, but if you know when I am bored you are
cleverer than I thought. However, when you first arrived you would have
been hurt."

"One gets philosophical and no doubt I was very raw. I hadn't known you
and Mrs. Austin."

"To know Jacinta is something of an education," Olivia agreed. "But you
talked about the old explorers. Have you ever seen the island of San
Borondon?"

"I have not," said Kit. "I'm a practical fellow and don't see things
like that. All the same, our quartermaster declares he has seen San
Borondon, and it's possible. Old Miguel's a mystic and the finest sailor
we have on board. The sort of fellow they'd have made a saint in
Columbus's days----"

He mused for a few moments and resumed: "Well, the story's curious. If
you leave out a few desert rocks, there are six Canary Islands; the
first explorers saw seven. The seventh was San Borondon, where it is
always calm. When the galleons came back to conquer it, the island was
gone, but now and then somebody sees the mountains against the sunset,
in the same spot as you steam West to Hierro. A mirage, no doubt, but
one can understand the sailors' weaving legends about San Borondon."

"I expect the monks wove the legends," Olivia remarked. "Their business
was to point a moral, and the Grail story's old. It looks as if they
could not find a knight-adventurer like Galahad. Yet you imagine your
quartermaster----"

"Old Miguel is something like Galahad," Kit said quietly, although a
touch of colour came to his skin. "Believes in his saints and keeps his
rules. As trustful as a child, polite as a Spanish hidalgo, and brave as
a lion! One does meet some fine gentlemen. Jefferson's another."

Olivia said nothing, but on the whole she agreed. Although Jefferson had
some drawbacks and Kit's were numerous, their puritanical sincerity had
charm. As a rule she had not found the type polite, but Kit was getting
sophisticated. His touch of colour indicated this.

"I expect you are going back on board _Mossamedes_?" she said by and by.

"For another run. After that I don't know," Kit replied.

He did not know and was rather disturbed. When he was going to Mrs.
Austin's he met Don Ramon, who stopped him.

"Has Wolf talked about his future plans?" the manager asked.

Kit said Wolf had not, and Don Ramon resumed:

"You see, the charter does not run long, and _Mossamedes_ is an
expensive boat for the Morocco trade."

Kit had thought this and was bothered about something else. He wondered
whether Don Ramon knew about the cartridges. In a way, perhaps, the
thing was not important, since the quantity was small, but Kit thought
Don Ramon ought to know. Yet so long as he took Wolf's pay he was Wolf's
man.

"Before you sailed on your last voyage I sent you a message," Olivia
resumed.

"I got the message. You were very kind."

"But this was all. You thought I exaggerated?"

"No," said Kit. "You stated Wolf meant to use Captain Revillon. Well, I
thought I saw his object."

"You mean, Wolf meant to cheat him?"

"In a way perhaps----" Kit agreed and stopped.

Olivia laughed. "You are very staunch. In fact, you have a number of
qualities one does not at first expect. All the same, I don't think you
ought to go to Africa often."

She was sincere, because she instinctively distrusted Wolf, but she
wanted to keep Kit about Las Palmas; to some extent because Jacinta had
planned to send him away. She did not know if she wanted him to stop for
good. His firmness intrigued her, she liked his honesty and his physical
attraction was strong. Sometimes she hesitated and sometimes resisted.
Olivia was calculating rather than romantic, and frankly did not see
herself marrying a steamship _sobrecargo_.

"I must go for another voyage," Kit replied. "I have engaged to go, and
for another thing, Mrs. Austin got me the post. I want her to think I'm
making good. It's obvious I owe her much."

Olivia knew he owed her sister less than he thought. Sometimes Kit was
very dull, but he had given her an opportunity to experiment.

"Jacinta likes helping people and as a rule it doesn't cost her much.
For example, when you told her about Miss Jordan, Harry and Jefferson
wanted an English clerk. I think Miss Jordan's satisfied, but I doubt if
she's as grateful as you."

"She's altogether satisfied----" Kit declared and stopped. Betty's
gratitude to Mrs. Austin was not very marked.

"Oh, well!" Olivia resumed, "Jefferson's a good sort and I think he's
lucky. Miss Jordan is a good clerk and an attractive girl. People like
her, and Jefferson's _patio_ is getting a fashionable spot in the
afternoon. You can study the latest styles in men's light clothes."

"Do you mean the coaling and banana men pretend they have some business
and hang about?"

"I don't know if they pretend, but they do hang about. Jefferson
declares if he wanted coal he could get an extra bag to the ton, and
Ritchie told him an ingenious plan by which he could cut down _Cayman_'s
fresh water bill."

"Ritchie's the theatrical fellow with the _sombrero_ and brigand's
sash?"

"He is theatrical," Olivia agreed and smiled. "Since he has neglected
me, his theatricalness is plainer. No doubt Miss Jordan finds him
amusing, but when _Cayman_ is in port he goes to the office. Looking for
orders, I believe."

"All the coal _Cayman_ burns goes on the galley fire," Kit remarked with
a frown. "A ton a voyage would see her out."

Olivia noted his frown. She admitted that her methods were crude, but
cleverness, so to speak, would be wasted on Kit. In some respects, he
was like a child.

"After all, I don't see why Miss Jordan should not marry a coaling
clerk," she said. "One or two are rather nice."

Kit set his mouth. He had not thought about Betty's marrying and owned
that it ought not disturb him, but it did so. His look was sternly
thoughtful, and Olivia touched his arm. She had made her experiment and
although she did not know if she wanted Kit for herself or not, she
resolved he was not for Betty.

"You have no grounds for meddling, and Miss Jordan is not a fool; I
think she's fastidious," she said. "When you come back we must try to
get you a post at Las Palmas. If you get a proper start, you might go
far, and perhaps the post can be got."

Kit's heart beat. Olivia wanted him to go far, and this implied much. He
forgot Betty, and then looking up, saw Mrs. Austin and her husband on
the steps.

"Hallo!" said Austin. "I imagined you were occupied on board. As a rule,
you stick to your job tighter than I stuck to mine. Anyhow, since you
have come ashore, you'll dine with us?"

Kit was somewhat embarrassed. He had seen Mrs. Austin give Olivia a keen
glance; moreover she had left her husband to ask him to stop. Signing to
Olivia, she went into the house.

"Why did you put on that dress?" she asked.

"It's light and cool," Olivia replied and added with a smile: "Sometimes
you're romantic and let your imagination go."

"I'd like to think I was romantic, but I doubt. Anyhow, Kit is flesh and
blood. Why can't you leave him alone?"

"My dear! You really ought to keep the conventions. The proper line is
to argue I oughtn't to let the young man bother me. However, it's
obvious you don't mean to be nice."

Mrs. Austin frowned and went off. She had controlled her husband and
others, but Olivia baffled her. If the girl resisted from obstinacy,
there was perhaps no need for disturbance; the trouble was, Mrs. Austin
did not know. Besides, Kit was trustful. She had meant to be his friend
and was angry because her plans had not worked.

Kit did not enjoy his dinner. Mrs. Austin was polite, but he felt she
was annoyed, and when he tried to talk to Olivia she firmly started
another subject. Olivia looked amused and her amusement jarred. Kit was
young and if he were being punished, thought Olivia ought to sympathise.
Soon after dinner he declared he must go on board and Olivia got up.

"Where are you going?" Mrs. Austin asked.

"I'm going to the gate with Kit," Olivia replied carelessly, and Mrs.
Austin knew her smile meant she could not meddle when the others were
about.

Olivia went down the path with Kit and stopped at the gate. It was
getting dark and some tamarisk grew between them and the house.

"You don't look very cheerful," she remarked.

"I'm not cheerful," Kit admitted. "I'm afraid I have annoyed Mrs.
Austin."

"Jacinta has her moods," Olivia agreed. "However, if she wasn't very
nice to you, she wasn't nice at all to me. Besides, you really ought not
to have stopped when she was not at home. Jacinta is conventional,
although she pretends she is not. We all are conventional, you know."

Kit looked hard at her and was hurt. Olivia, herself, had fixed the time
for him to come, and had kept him when he would have gone. For all that
he said nothing and she resumed in a gentle voice: "Well, you are going
back with the steamer and I will not see you before you sail. You'll use
caution, Kit?"

He thrilled, but said quietly: "I don't think much caution's indicated.
We have gone twice and nothing has bothered us."

"Oh well," said Olivia: "you are obstinate and I suppose you must go.
Perhaps I'm superstitious, but sometimes the third venture is unlucky."
She touched his arm. "I don't want you to run a risk!"

Kit tried to seize her hand but she was gone. He saw her figure melt
into the gloom among the tamarisk, and then, looking round, noted Wolf
coming up the path.

"Hallo, Musgrave!" said Wolf. "Have you gone to the _Commandancia_ for
your papers?"

"I went in the afternoon and got the documents," Kit replied, and
started for the road.

Wolf went to the veranda and talked to Mrs. Austin until some others
arrived; then he crossed the floor. A chair by Olivia was unoccupied,
and noting Wolf's advance, she gave a young man an inviting smile. The
young man did not remark this and Wolf got the chair.

"Malin deserves to pay for his dullness," he said.

"Then you saw me signal?" Olivia rejoined. "All the same, you came!"

"One sometimes gets a humorous satisfaction from baffling people.
Besides, I wanted to persuade you I'm not revengeful. It's obvious you
don't like me."

"Oh well," said Olivia, "I don't claim my prejudices are always logical.
Sometimes one likes people, and sometimes one does not."

"We'll let it go and I'll try to be resigned. However, I don't think you
ought to prejudice my _sobrecargo_."

Olivia's eyes sparkled. It looked as if Wolf had seen her touch Kit; he
was very keen.

"Do you know I have prejudiced Mr. Musgrave?" she asked.

"He has not hinted this; the young fellow is staunch, for all that, I
don't imagine you approve his sailing on board my ship. Do you approve?"

Olivia said nothing, and Wolf resumed: "If it will give you much
satisfaction, I'll discharge him after the next voyage."

For a few moments Olivia thought hard. She wanted Kit to leave
_Mossamedes_, but she did not know yet if she wanted him to stop about
Las Palmas altogether. Then she felt that Wolf was not the man to whom
she would like to owe a debt. The fellow was cunning.

"Oh no!" she said smiling, "it's really not important, and I wouldn't
like to feel accountable if he didn't get another post."

"Very well. If he wants to go, I'll use no arguments. If he wants to
stop, you won't try to persuade him he ought not?"

"I agree," said Olivia, and getting up, waited until Wolf went off.



CHAPTER IX

THE THIRD VOYAGE


_Mossamedes_ was hauling out from the mole, and Kit, on his way to his
room, stopped to look about. The deck was strewn with cargo, for a small
steamer that had tied up alongside had just moved astern. Winches
rattled and a gang of men lowered some heavy wooden cases into the hold.
Another gang got in the slack of a big rope made fast on the wall. There
was much shouting; the pilot in front of the wheel-house roared orders,
Don Erminio ran up and down the bridge and the mate was vociferous on
the forecastle.

Macallister looked out with ironical amusement from the door of the
engine-room. As a rule the Scot is not theatrical, and when others were
noisy Macallister's dour calm was marked.

"They're pretty clothes," he said, indicating Kit's white uniform. "For
a' that, if I had your figure, I'd wear something thick. I alloo Miss
Brown thought ye like a tablecloth on a pump. But why are ye no' helping
the ithers at the comic opera?"

"I have another job," Kit rejoined, putting a bundle of documents in his
pocket. "It doesn't look as if you bothered about yours!"

The engines had begun to throb, and the telegraph rang violently.
Macallister signed to somebody below and grinned.

"Yon's Don Erminio taking the floor. He means naething and I dinna mind
him. When the action kin' o' drags he shouts and gives the telegraph
handle a bit pull. When ye think aboot it, temperament's a curious
thing. Maybe ye have seen a big boat haul out on the Clyde? Noo an' then
an officer lifts his hand, ye hear a whistle, and a winch starts. All's
calm and quiate. She's away, ten thousand tons o' her, before ye ken
what's gaun on!"

"You're a grim, efficient lot," Kit remarked. "Just now it looks as if
the pilot meant to hit the coaling tug. I don't know if you can stop
him; that's your business and his. I'll get to mine before she starts to
roll."

He went to his room, pulled up his folding stool, and threw the
documents on his desk, for he was rather puzzled about some cases of
agricultural machinery and tools. Perhaps these were the boxes
transhipped from the other boat, but, so far as Kit knew, agricultural
machinery was not much used in Morocco. In fact, he thought the Moors'
methods were the methods of Abraham. In the meantime, the shouts got
louder, and Kit imagined Juan on the forecastle, disputed with the pilot
on the bridge.

"_Pero, Señor!_" the mate's expostulating cry pierced the turmoil, and
then Kit's inkpot jumped from the desk.

He saw a dark smear on his new clothes, _Mossamedes_ trembled, and he
felt a heavy shock. His stool tilted, and he went over backwards and
struck his head against the locker.

Getting up rather shakily, he remarked that the ship had listed, for the
floor of his room was sharply inclined. When she lurched upright with a
jerk he seized the doorpost and then, since it was obvious she was not
capsizing, put the cork in the inkpot and began to pick up his papers.
He had something of the sobriety that marks the puritan temperament, and
it was characteristic that he occupied himself with his proper job. The
papers for which he was accountable must not get stained by ink. When he
had put all straight he went on deck.

Not far off, the coaling tug circled back for the wharf. Her bulwarks
were broken, some plates were bent, and she had let go the string of
barges she towed. On board _Mossamedes_ Don Erminio leaned against the
bridge-screens and his face was very white. The pilot stated loudly the
course the tug's _patron_ ought to have steered, and the mate and a
number of sailors ran about the deck. Kit did not think they were
usefully employed.

Going to the forecastle, he found Macallister leaning over the rails. A
plate was bulged and the stem was bent, but it looked as if all the
damage were above the water. Lines of foam ran by and melted ahead, for
_Mossamedes_ was steaming stern-foremost out of port.

"She's no' much the worse; I dinna ken aboot the tug," Macallister
remarked, and took Kit to a spot beneath the bridge. "Tell the captain
to brace up and get away to sea," he resumed. "If he's no' quick, the
_Commandancia_ launch will come off and stop us to make reports. They'll
forget a' aboot it before we're back."

Kit translated and Don Erminio, pulling himself together, advanced upon
the pilot. A savage dispute began, but presently the captain stopped and
spread out his hands.

"The animal is not satisfied. He will not go."

"Aweel, I'll come up and pit him off," Macallister remarked and climbed
the ladder.

The pilot hesitated. His duty was to take the ship outside the mole, but
the engineer's look was resolute, and he retreated to the ladder at the
opposite end of the bridge. When Macallister reached the top the pilot
had reached the bottom, and a few moments afterwards, went down a rope
to his boat.

"Noo, if ye'll put the helm across, I'll give her a bit shove ahead and
we'll get away," Macallister said to the captain and rejoined Kit.

"Nane o' it was my job and maybe on board a British ship I'd no' ha'
done as much," he observed and vanished below.

_Mossamedes_ circled, the engines throbbed harder, the mole dropped
back, and Kit began to laugh. He agreed that Macallister would not have
done as much on board a British ship. For all that, his rude but cool
efficiency was rather fine.

Half an hour afterwards Kit took some documents to the captain's room.
Don Erminio was stretched on a locker, and a bottle of vermouth and some
Palma cigars balanced the swing-table. When he saw the documents he
frowned.

"Another day. Just now I am ill," he said. "When one has an assassin for
a pilot, to command a ship is not amusing. I bear much, but some time I
take Enrique Maria Contallan y Clavijo by the neck and throw him in the
sea. In the meantime, I have saved the ship and we will take a drink."

Kit refused politely and did not smile. He liked Don Erminio and the
captain was not a fool. Kit had known him calm and steady when things
were awkward, and sometimes his pluck was rash. All the same, he was
unstable; one could not foresee the line he would take. The Spanish
character frankly puzzled Kit. It was marked by sharp contrasts, and one
could use no rules. Macallister and Jefferson were not like that. Their
qualities, so to speak, were constant. When the strain was heavy one
knew they would be cool.

_Mossamedes_ steered for the eastern islands, and in the morning the
parched rocks of Lanzarote melted in the glitter on the horizon. Then
she headed for Africa and at sunset Don Erminio stopped the ship and
used the lead. He got soundings on the coast-shelf, and Kit, passing the
chart-room, imagined the mate and captain argued about the ship's
position, but when _Mossamedes_ went on again the compass indicated that
Don Erminio had hauled out to avoid shoals. When the moon rose one saw
nothing but sparkling water, the swell was long and measured, and the
leadsman, making another cast, got no bottom. It looked as if they had
left the hummocks on the coast-shelf astern, and _Mossamedes_ went
full-speed.

About midnight Kit lounged and smoked on a locker in the engine-room. He
was not sleepy, and since _Mossamedes_ sailed, had thought much about
Olivia. On the whole, his thoughts were disturbing. When he was with
Olivia he forgot his poverty; all he saw was her charm. She was
beautiful, she was clever and now and then he got a hint of tenderness
that gave him a strange thrill. The thrill moved and braced him; while
it lasted all looked possible. Somehow he would mend his fortune and
make his mark. Austin, who had held Kit's post, had done so and married
Olivia's sister.

Afterwards, when Olivia was not about, Kit knew himself to be a fool. To
begin with, he had not Austin's talents and must be satisfied to keep
his proper level. Then supposing he did get rich? After all, he was not
Olivia's sort. Kit was staunch and stopped there; he would not admit
that sometimes he vaguely doubted if Olivia were the girl for him.
Instincts he had inherited from sober and frugal ancestors were strong.
Yet for the most part he resisted unconsciously. When one is young and
carried away by an attractive girl one is not logical.

Lighting a fresh cigarette, he looked about. _Mossamedes_ rolled and
light and shadow played about the machinery. In front, the bright cranks
flashed and faded in a shallow pit, the crossheads slammed between their
guides and the connecting-rods, shining like silver, swung out of the
gloom. Above, the big cylinders throbbed and shook with the impulse that
drove the ship ahead. Men like shadows moved about with oilcans and
tallow-swabs, but now and then a moving beam touched a face beaded by
sweat. Macallister occupied the top of a tool box and smoked a black
pipe.

Kit liked the engine-room. The steady beat of the machine was soothing.
One got a sense of order, measured effort and strength that matched the
strain. Force was not wasted but sternly controlled. In the engine-room
Macallister was another man, quiet, keen, concentrated, and Kit
understood the Scots' satisfaction when all ran well. They sprang from a
stock that counted rule and effort to be worth more than beauty.

There was a crash, and Kit jumped from the locker. _Mossamedes_ stopped
and the shock threw him against a column. He seized the iron and held
on, conscious that he trembled. The jar was terrifying because it was
not expected. A sea broke about the vessel, she shook and water rolled
across the deck. A greaser shouted and Kit saw Macallister on the grated
platform above. He had not seen him go, but his hand was on the
throttle-wheel. He did not look disturbed, and signed a man to the
control of the reversing-gear. If the link were pulled across, the
engines would go astern. The telegraph, however, was silent and
Macallister did not turn the wheel.

The ship lifted, lurched forward, as if a sea had borne her up, and went
on. Macallister waited for a few moments and then went up to the door
with Kit. The door on the starboard side looked out towards Africa, but
nothing broke the furrowed plain of glittering sea.

"I'm thinking she bumped a bit hummock," Macallister remarked. "She got
a jolt, but the old boat was built by men who dinna scamp their job.
Where ye see yon house's name, ye ken the work is good."

"All the same, you have started the bilge pump," said Kit, for a sharp
throbbing pierced the beat of machinery.

"Pepe will let her rin a few minutes. Although I dinna expect she'll
draw much water, ye keep the rules," Macallister replied and turned to
Miguel, who came along the alleyway. "What do you think about it,
friend? The third voyage has not begun well."

Macallister's Castilian was uncouth, but Miguel understood. "It is not
good, Don Pedro! A bad coast and a treacherous people, but one is not
disturbed. Some of the saints were fishermen, and mine is king of all.
But I go to try the after well."

He went off, but Kit had noted that the line he carried was neatly
coiled and the sounding-rod was wet. He thought it typical that the old
quartermaster had tried the forward well a few moments after the ship
struck. Moreover his talk about his saint somehow was not extravagant.
One felt that Miguel knew and trusted his great patron.

"A most queer fellow," Macallister remarked. "A believer in wax images
and pented boards."

"Pented boards?" said Kit.

"Just that," Macallister rejoined. "Ye'll no ken the Scottish classics.
When the great reformer was a galley slave they gave him the image to
worship. 'A pented brod, mair fit for swimming than praying til,' says
he and threw't overboard. Weel, for Miguel, the images are not pented
things, and I've met weel-grounded Scots I wouldna trust like him. He
kens his job and his word goes. I alloo it's much."

Kit went on deck. The sea sparkled in the moon and long regular combers
rolled up from the north. One could not see land and nothing indicated
shoals ahead. _Mossamedes_ dipped her bows to the knight-heads and
showers of spray leaped about the rail. Then her stern went down and the
rising forecastle cut the sky. For a time Kit forgot Olivia and mused
about the engineer and Miguel.

Macallister's mood was sometimes freakish and his humour rude, but
behind this was a stern, honest efficiency. The quartermaster was a
mystic, but when the big white combers chased the cargo launch one could
trust him with the steering oar. After all to know one's job was much.



CHAPTER X

SMOKE ON THE HORIZON


An angry swell rolled along the coast, dust blew across the flat-roofed
town, and _Mossamedes_, with two anchors out, rode uneasily. She had
unloaded some cargo and Kit, going ashore in the evening, speculated
about the rest. He did not think he was superstitious, but the voyage
had not begun well, and he wanted to get it over. There was something
strange about the business in which he was engaged, and he resolved he
would talk to Wolf when he returned.

Moreover, he did not like the dirty Moorish town. When it got dark the
narrow streets were forbidding, but Yusuf declared he could not transact
the ship's business until he closed his shop. In the Canaries and
Morocco, rich merchants keep a shop. One could buy a shipload of their
goods or a few pesetas' worth.

Yusuf's little room was very hot. The dust had blown in, and the floor
was gritty. Flies hovered about the copper lamp which burned an aromatic
oil. The agent gave Kit coffee and a cigarette. The tobacco was bitter
but soothing and Kit imagined it was mixed with an Eastern drug. At
Yusuf's he generally felt dull; perhaps it was the smell of the lamp,
leather and spices. They began to talk, and presently Kit remarked: "If
you send your boats to-morrow, we will hoist out the last of the cargo.
Have you got much stuff for us?"

"I have got nothing," said Yusuf, smiling. "Your cargo is on board."

"All the goods we carry are consigned to the Greek merchant here and
you."

"That is so, but I will endorse the bill of lading, and file a statement
for the Customs officers that the cases of machinery will be landed at
another port."

"Ah!" said Kit who began to see a light. "Then we are to carry the cases
along the coast? I was puzzled about this lot of cargo; but we got it
from a Spanish ship at Las Palmas. The cases were put on board in
daylight when two of the port captain's men were on deck.

"The plan was good," Yusuf remarked. "When one does things openly nobody
is curious."

"All the same, the Moorish officers know machinery is not used in the
Sahara."

"It is not the officers' business. They are friends of mine, and in this
country a present carries some weight."

Kit knew Wolf and his agent were clever, but began to think they were
cleverer than he liked. He felt he was being used, and, so to speak,
kept in the dark. He did not know the others' plans, in which he was
involved, but if the plans did not work, he thought he ran some risk.
Yusuf was subtle, and Kit's instinctive antagonism hardened. For all
that, he was Wolf's servant and must carry out his agent's orders.

"I will endorse the bill of lading," the other resumed. "You will land
the boxes at the spot you got the camels, and the owner will take his
goods. Perhaps he will keep the document for a talisman. Some of these
people have a strange respect for all that is written on paper."

"Very well," said Kit, who got up.

Yusuf went with him to the door, and Kit starting along the street,
heard the heavy bolts shoot back. To know the business was over was
something of a relief. Although Yusuf was inscrutable at his house one
got a sense of fear and secrecy. In Morocco a Jew trader was perhaps
forced to use caution, but Kit thought he would sooner deal with the
wild Berbers who ruled the open desert. Yet he owned he had no firm
grounds for doubting Wolf's agent. When he got on board _Mossamedes_ he
went to the chart-room and found Don Erminio playing cards with the
mate. The captain had won two pesetas and was jubilant.

"Juan is clever and cautious. I am not clever, but I am bold," he said.

Kit noted the bottle on the table. When Don Erminio drank a few glasses
of _caña_ he philosophised. Kit narrated his interview with Yusuf, and
the captain looked thoughtful.

"It is plain the boxes hold guns," he said. "The Moors do not carry guns
to shoot the rabbit, and if we land the boxes somebody will get killed.
However, it is not important. The Moors are numerous and all are bad."

"I was not thinking about the Moors," Kit rejoined. "The business is
strange. The guns were on board a Spanish ship and if the Moors use them
to steal camels, the camels will no doubt be stolen on soil that is
claimed by France. There may be trouble afterwards. Our employer knows
this."

Don Erminio picked up the cards. Spanish cards are not marked like
English cards, but Kit thought the one the captain indicated stood for
the ace of clubs.

"_Bastones!_" Don Erminio remarked and shuffled the pack. "I put it at
the bottom. You see it is there? Now take three away and you will find
it at the top. A trick, but clever. Señor Wolf plays a game like this."

Kit carried out his instructions and laughed. "Wolf is, no doubt,
clever, but this is _not_ the card."

Don Erminio frowned and swept the pack on to the floor. The swing-table
tilted, but Juan stretched out his hand and seized the bottle.

"Señor!" he expostulated. "The _caña_ cost two pesetas!"

"I have forgotten something. All the same, you see the moral," Don
Erminio resumed. "Merchants are cheats and use cunning tricks. One
thinks one knows their plan, but one does not. One puts one's money on
the wrong card and it is gone. Sailors are honest and do not get rich.
Well, we will carry out our orders. That is enough for me. I have drunk
some _caña_ and in the morning my throat is bad."

Two days afterwards _Mossamedes_ hove her anchors and steamed south. As
a rule, the Trade-breeze blows steadily, but now and then its strength
varies. Sometimes a little rain falls and the day is nearly calm;
sometimes the wind backs north and blows hard. _Mossamedes'_ holds were
almost empty and her rolling was wild. When she plunged across the long
swell, half her screw came out of the water and one heard the top blades
thrash. Don Erminio followed the coast, steering as near land as he
durst. He wanted to avoid the traffic, and _Mossamedes_, going light,
did not draw much water. She was built to cross the sands at African
river mouths.

One morning Kit went to the bridge. The sun was not high and the air was
fresh. The wind had dropped, and the faint haze that generally softens
the light and glitter when the Trade-breeze blows had vanished. The sky
was a harsh, vivid blue, and the tops of the long rollers cut the
horizon with sharp distinctness. They did not break, but rose and
subsided, leaving here and there soft streaks of foam. For all that, the
swell ran high, _Mossamedes_ lurched about, and Kit thought wind was
coming. He was bothered about it. If the wind were fresh, they could
not land their dangerous cargo. The mate leaned against a stanchion and
searched the sky-line with his glasses. After a time he gave the glasses
to Kit.

"Look!" he said.

Kit saw a faint brown smear drawn across the sky. It was rather like a
thin cloud, but he thought it smoke. When the wind is light, a steamer's
smoke spreads far and floats for some time. The strange thing was, the
steamer was there, inside the proper track. He glanced at _Mossamedes'_
funnel but the last coal they had got was good and diaphanous vapour
rolled astern. Kit put down the glasses and went to the captain's room.
Don Erminio came out, studied the smoke, and frowned. He wore pyjamas
and a shooting jacket, torn at the back.

"The animals cannot see us, but a steamer ought not to be so near the
coast," he said. "Then we will soon reach the spot where we land the
guns."

"Perhaps the captain takes a drink," Juan remarked.

"It is possible. When I drink much _caña_, my calculations are not
good," Don Erminio agreed. "All the same, to run a risk is foolish. We
will stop and use the lead."

After he got a sounding he changed his course three or four points east
and steered obliquely for the land. In the meantime the smoke vanished
and Kit went down and told Macallister to keep his fires clean. To see
smoke where smoke ought not to be was disturbing, and if the others had
seen _Mossamedes_, they would speculate about her captain's object for
navigating shallow water.

When Kit went on deck again the swell had begun to break and ran
ominously high. The wind was not yet strong, but it strengthened and the
sky in the north was black. At noon, a sailor in the rigging thought he
saw smoke again. Don Erminio went up with his glasses, but saw nothing
and gave the glasses to Kit.

"The Norther begins," he said.

In the distance, a brown fog obscured the horizon and Kit knew it was a
dust-storm blowing off the coast. Spray leaped about _Mossamedes'_
forecastle, her plunges were violent and to hold on to the rigging while
the mast swung was hard. They went down and soon afterwards the look-out
hailed. Kit was on deck and joined Don Erminio on the bridge. When
_Mossamedes_ lifted, two masts and the top of a funnel cut the horizon.
Kit thought it ominous that he saw no smoke.

The sea had got up and long, white-topped combers rolled after the ship.
When her stern swung out of the water the engines ran away and their
savage throbbing shook the deck. With her rudder lifted, she did not
steer, and while the helmsman sweated at the wheel she yawed about until
her quarters sank and the screw got hold. One could not drive her fast,
but much of her side was above water and the savage wind helped. For a
time the other vessel's smoke vanished in the thickening spray. Then
they saw her again, sharp and distinct. The ominous thing was, they did
not, as they might have expected, see her on the quarter but abeam. It
was plain that when _Mossamedes_ changed her course, or soon afterwards,
the stranger had changed hers.

"The French gunboat!" Don Erminio said and clenched his fist. "Somebody
has sold us."

Going to the compass, he got the other's bearing, and Kit marked his
coolness. When the strain was steady the captain did not tear his hair.
He took Kit and the mate to the chart-room, and a few moments afterwards
Macallister came up. The rules of the British liners were not used on
board _Mossamedes_, and Don Erminio spread a chart on the table. Then he
lighted a cigarette and indicated the steamer's course along, but
converging on, the coast.

"The wady is not far ahead," he remarked and put a pin in the spot. "To
cross the shoals might be dangerous and I doubt if our anchor would
hold. However, if we do not cross, the animal will soon be nearer."

It was obvious when the captain sketched a triangle, of which the
gunboat occupied the apex and _Mossamedes'_ course was the base. In
order to clear the shoals she must shorten the base and, steaming out,
lessen the distance between them; if she turned and steamed the other
way the gunboat would come down obliquely and cut her line. The long
chase is the stern chase, but _Mossamedes_ could not make off like this
because she was jambed against the coast. Two things were plain: the
Frenchman commanded the faster vessel and had well chosen her position.

"The Jew has sold us, but just now it is not important," Don Erminio
resumed. "We cannot long run away from the French animal, but I have a
plan. We will throw the guns overboard and wait for him."

He looked at Kit, who hesitated for a few moments. The captain's plan
had marked advantages and some drawbacks. For one thing, the guns were
valuable and if they were sacrificed Wolf must front a heavy loss.
Moreover, if they were not delivered, the tribes with whom he traded
would refuse to trust him again. This counted for much, but Kit was not
altogether thinking about Wolf. His rule was to do what he undertook,
and to do so now might baffle the man who had cheated him.

"I think not," he said. "Our business is to deliver our cargo. If Yusuf
has plotted with the Frenchman, we must spoil the plot, and I don't know
a better plan than to carry out his orders. He sent us south to land
the guns and we will land them. It will soon be dark, and if we get
across the shoals there is some shelter behind the sands. Revillon durst
not cross."

"_Buen' muchacho!_" said the captain and looked at Macallister. "It will
be dark at six o'clock. Can we keep in front?"

Macallister knitted his brows. "I'll no' say it's easy. When the screw's
jumping oot o' water ye cannot get much grip to shove her along. For a'
that, yon stump-tail gunboat will jump worse, and the old engine's good.
If she does not shake off her screw, I'll keep ye ahead."

Kit began to translate, but the captain smiled. "Me, I know the English.
Don Pedro good ol' sport. _Bueno; muy bueno!_ I jump much _en caballo_;
now I jump the sandbank. If the other thinks he catch us, we drown the
animal."

Kit thought it possible. _Mossamedes_ was built with heavy bottom frames
to bump across African river bars, and was going light. He imagined the
gunboat's draught was some feet more than hers. All the same, the thing
was risky. If _Mossamedes_ touched the sand she might not come off.

"It is good! I go for Miguel Sænz," Juan, the mate, agreed.



CHAPTER XI

MIGUEL TAKES CONTROL


A black cloud rolled from _Mossamedes'_ funnel and blew across her bows.
The beat of engines quickened and when the stern swung up their furious
racing shook the ship. Kit pictured Macallister, sternly calm, at the
throttle wheel. Much depended on his skill, for if he were slow when the
spinning screw came down and the runaway machinery resumed its load,
something must break. Kit, however, did not go to the engine-room. He
stood at the door of the pilot-house, inside which Miguel Sænz gripped
the slanted gratings with his bare feet. His face was wet by sweat and
his brown hand was clenched on the steam-steering wheel.

Although the muscular effort was not great, steering was hard.
_Mossamedes_ rode high above water and the gale pressed upon her side;
the combers lifted her, and screw and rudder could not get proper hold.
Sometimes she came up to windward and rolled until the white seas swept
her rail; sometimes she yawed to lee. Kit saw the bows circle and
pictured the compass spinning in its bowl.

So far, Miguel steered by compass. Don Erminio had changed his course
and headed obliquely for the shoals. It was not the course the gunboat's
captain would expect him to steer. Revillon, no doubt, imagined the line
along which _Mossamedes_ travelled inclined at a small angle out to sea,
in order to clear the hammered sands, and he could steam down from his
commanding position and cut her off. The line, however, really slanted
the other way. Dark clouds obscured the sky, the light was bad, and the
driving spray made accurate observation hard. Kit thought Don Erminio's
plan was good, but longed for dark.

Sometimes he saw the gunboat's masts, and sometimes, when a comber
lifted _Mossamedes_, he saw her hull. She was getting indistinct and
dusk was not far off. Kit imagined she flew some signals, but one need
not bother about the flags. Revillon could not launch a boat, and there
was not much use in shooting from a rolling platform at a mark that for
the most part could not be seen. Besides, Kit thought Revillon would not
use his guns. Commanding the faster vessel, his plan was to pin
_Mossamedes_ to the coast and when the gale blew out come on board and
search her. Then, if the cargo was not jettisoned, she might perhaps be
seized. Kit did not know much about international rules, but if he threw
the guns overboard, Revillon would after all win the game. Guns lying at
the bottom of the sea could not be landed in Africa.

Kit felt his youth and responsibility. Standing for his employer, he had
urged the captain to hold on to the cargo. Yusuf's treachery had made
him savage; he felt he had been cheated like a child, but this was not
all. Kit did not mean to let the cunning brute rob his master. He was
Wolf's man and his business was to guard his interests. Moreover, he was
moved unconsciously by inherited stubbornness. He had engaged to land
the guns and was going to do so.

In the meantime he thought his luck strange. Not long since he was a
humble shipping clerk, occupied by tame, conventional duties; now he was
a smuggler, breaking rules ambassadors and men like that had drawn. All
the same, in a way, the adventure was not romantic. There was no
shooting, and for the most part one could not see the pursuing ship.
Before long, Kit hoped, one could not see her at all. The risk was
rather from the sea than the gunboat. For all that, Kit knew two men
bore a heavy strain; Macallister on his reeling platform, guarding his
engines from sudden shock; and Miguel at the wheel. When Kit looked into
the pilot-house the quartermaster's pose was rigid, his mouth was hard,
and his eyes were fixed on the revolving compass. Steam pulled across
the rudder, but one must use nerve and sound judgment to hold
_Mossamedes_ straight.

By and by another man climbed the ladder and went into the pilot-house.
Miguel came out and joined the captain. He looked slack, as if he felt
the reaction now the strain was gone, and held on by the rails while he
looked about. Kit saw his cotton clothes were stained by sweat; the wind
blew the thin material against his skin. He wore a tight red knitted
cap, and the spray beat upon his face. The captain talked, and
gesticulated when the turmoil of the sea drowned his voice.

The light was going fast and the gunboat had melted into the gloom, but
her smoke rolled in a thick black trail across the water. It looked as
if she were steaming hard and Revillon did not try to hide his advance.
Kit wondered whether he imagined he had pinned _Mossamedes_ against the
shoals and meant to shorten the distance in order not to lose her in the
dark. _Mossamedes_ made no smoke; Macallister kept his fires thin and
clean and it was important that the gunboat's smoke was now on her
quarter. This indicated that Revillon did not know she had swung off a
few points and steered for the land.

Kit waited until the ship went up on a comber's back, and then looked
ahead. The sea was angrier. Some distance in front were broad white
belts where the rollers broke in savage turmoil. Between the belts Kit
thought he saw a gap, in which the seas were regular. In the distance a
brown haze indicated a dust storm raging about the point. One might find
some shelter behind the point, but not much.

High-water was near, and although on the open Atlantic coast the rise of
tide is not marked, the moon was new and one might perhaps expect an
extra fathom's depth. Then, if _Mossamedes_ could get across to the
pool, when the ebb began to run the sands would lie like a breakwater
between her and the sea. Kit rather doubted if she could get across. One
could see no marks, the captain durst not stop for proper soundings and
the hand-lead, used from a platform that constantly changed its level,
was not much guide.

All the same, it looked as if old Miguel meant to try. For a few moments
he stood with his eyes fixed ahead and his lean, upright figure at an
angle with the slanted bridge; then he turned and went into the
wheel-house. His slackness was gone, his movements were somehow
resolute. The other man came out of the house, and Kit saw Macallister
at the top of the ladder. Holding on by rails, the engineer looked
about.

"If Miguel's saint is watching now we'll no' be independent and refuse
his help." he said. "For a' that, there's a line in the _Vaya_ that
betther meets our bill----"

He misquoted from the sailing permit of the Spanish _correo_, but Kit
knew the line and, with the raging shoals ahead, owned its force. When
one fronted the fury of the sea, words like that meant much.

"The mill's good and running weel, but if Miguel's no' sure and steady,
there's no much use in my keeping steam," Macallister resumed. "The bit
spark o' human intelligence ootweighs a' the power that's bottled in my
furnaces. I dinna see what's to guide him, but maybe the old fella
thinks like a _baccalao_."

"_Baccalao_ is salt fish," said Kit.

"It was swimming before it was sautit," Macallister rejoined. "Then ye
dinna get fish in deep water; they seek their meat in the channels and
the tides that run across the sands. Weel, Miguel has his job. I'll away
to mine."

He went down the ladder, but Kit clung to the rails. He had not a job;
his part was played when he urged Don Erminio to steer for the land, and
now as he watched the white seas curl and break he knew his rashness.
The steamer's course was a zig-zag; with the savage wind on her quarter,
her bows swerved about. All Miguel could do was to let one divergence
balance the other. In front was an ominous white crescent, running back
into the dark, but broken by a gap in the middle. A man, strapped
outside the bridge, hove the lead, but this was an obvious formality,
because if he got shallow water _Mossamedes_ could not steam out. If
Miguel tried to bring her round, she would drive, broadside on, against
the hammered sands.

There was no smoke astern. Revillon, no doubt, had seen the surf and
hauled off, but _Mossamedes_ went inshore fast. The horns of the
crescent enclosed her and Kit no longer saw a gap. The sea was all a
white turmoil and furious combers rolled up astern. One felt them run
forward, as if they travelled up an inclined plane, and the ship rode
dizzily on their spouting crests. Then for a time Kit saw nothing. Foam
enveloped _Mossamedes_, her deck vanished, and he was beaten and
blinded. He could hold on, but this was all; the spray came over the
wheel-house like a cataract. Kit knew _Mossamedes_ was swinging round
because the wind now blew across the house.

The plunges got less violent and the spray was thinner. One saw the
iron bulwarks, and the winches in the forward well, about which an angry
flood washed. At the end of the bridge, Don Erminio's figure, looking
strangely slanted, cut the sky. _Mossamedes_ had run through the gap and
was in deeper water behind the sands. Yet the water was not all deep.
Another shoal occupied part of the basin and Kit tried to recapture its
bearings as he had noted them when he went fishing in the boat. He found
he could not. When the light was strong and the swell slow, one could
judge distance and know the depth by the changing colour and the
measured line of foam. Now there was nothing but foam that tossed in the
dark.

_Mossamedes_ forged ahead, and Kit wondered whether Don Erminio knew
where he went. On the whole, he thought the captain did not know;
sometimes one must blindly trust one's luck. She came round again,
lurched by the turmoil on a sand, and steamed head to wind. Then Miguel
came to the door of the wheel-house.

"We are arrived, señor!"

Don Erminio signed to the leadsman, who swung the plummet round his head
and let go.

"Good! We have water enough," said the captain, and rang the telegraph.

The reversed engines shook the ship and the anchor plunged. She stopped,
and but for the roar of the breakers all was quiet. Somehow Miguel had
brought her across the sands. When she dragged out her cable the guns
were hoisted up and put near the gangway, where, if needful, one could
heave the boxes overboard. Miguel cleared the cargo launch ready for
launching and they stripped the covers from a lifeboat.

Since they had brought their dangerous cargo to the spot agreed, Kit was
resolved it must be landed. To carry out Yusuf's orders was perhaps the
best plan to defeat his treachery, and Kit thought his doing so had a
touch of humour. He felt he would like to see Yusuf again, but he need
not bother much about Revillon. The Frenchman had chased _Mossamedes_
and lost her; if he returned at daybreak, he would not venture across
the sands. Anyhow, they could get rid of the evidence against them soon
after they saw the gunboat's smoke. All the same, Kit meant to land the
guns.

When all was ready he went to the engineers' mess-room and smoked. He
was highly strung and could not sleep, but to wait for daybreak was
hard. The gunboat might arrive and he doubted if the cargo launch could
cross the surf. One must run some risk, but he was not going to drown
his men. He heard the wind, although its roar was dulled by other
noises. Then _Mossamedes_ rolled, the water in her bilges splashed
about, chains clanged on deck, and one heard hammers and shovels in the
stokehold. Strange echoes rolled about the empty iron hull.

Now and then Don Erminio came down and talked about shooting rabbits;
sometimes Macallister pulled back the curtain, lighted his pipe, and
philosophised, but did not stop long. Barefooted firemen and sailors
flitted along the alleyway; it looked as if nobody could rest. At
length, when Kit's mouth was parched from smoking, he got up, shivered,
and turned off the light. A pale glimmer pierced the glass, and putting
on a thick jacket, he went on deck.

Day was breaking and it was cold. The wind was dropping, but the swell
ran high, and the sand blew from the point like a brown fog. Under the
fog were white lines of surf. By and by Don Erminio climbed the rigging
and Kit joined him where the steel shrouds got narrow. The mast swung,
carrying them with it in a reeling sweep, until they could have dropped
into the sea. In the meantime the light had got stronger and presently
Don Erminio gave the glasses to Kit. So far as one could see, nothing
broke the horizon.

"It is good," said Don Erminio. "The animal is gone. We will get to
work."



CHAPTER XII

THE RETREAT TO THE BOAT


At the bottom of the wady it was very hot, and Kit lay on the sand
behind a rock. His smarting skin was crusted by salt, his clothes had
dried stiff, and his muscles were sore. He had landed the guns, and it
had not been easy to run the launch through the surf and hold her off
the roaring beach while the boxes were brought ashore. The boat was half
swamped, and the sailors laboured up to their waists in water.

After the cargo was landed, a few dark-skinned men arrived, and when
they loaded the boxes on their camels a dispute began. Kit understood
the Berbers declared the rifles were not the pattern they expected to
get, and Wolf had not sent the number agreed. The leader, a very big,
truculent fellow, had opened a box, and argued angrily with the
interpreter. Simon was a Syrian, and since he owned that the Morocco he
knew was the Mediterranean coast, Kit imagined he did not altogether
understand the other's dialect. The Berber's dissatisfaction was
obvious, and Kit agreed to go up the wady and meet the chief.

When he had gone two or three miles, the Berbers, stating that they
would bring the chief, left two of their party and vanished with the
loaded camels among the stones. Kit rather thought the two who stopped
were meant for guards. They carried long guns and refused to talk to the
interpreter. After waiting for some time, Kit began to get disturbed.
Since he had left some men on board the launch, his party was not large
and carried no weapons but their long Spanish knives. Moreover the
yellow haze round the sun and the pillars of sand that span about the
wady indicated a dust storm not far off. If the wind freshened much, the
launch could not ride in the surf. Kit resolved he would not stop long,
and lighting a cigarette began to ponder.

They had not seen the gunboat. It looked as if Revillon imagined
_Mossamedes_ had got away in the dark and was searching the coast for
her. He would, no doubt, come back, but since the incriminating cargo
was landed this was not important. Perhaps Revillon had come back. The
sea was hidden by the hot, stony banks, and Kit was tired and languid;
to climb to the parched table land was too much effort. He began to
think about the rifles. So far, the tribesmen had brought the sheep and
camels they had agreed to deliver; now it looked as if they thought they
had been cheated. This was strange, but Kit remembered that none of his
friends trusted Wolf. He must see the chief and if possible satisfy the
fellow. All the same, he would not wait much longer. Don Erminio would
get disturbed, and the wind was rising. If nobody arrived when his
cigarette was smoked, he would start.

"They are sulky fellows," he said, indicating the Berbers.

"The Moors are very bad people," Miguel agreed. "When a _baccalao_
schooner is wrecked on the coast one does not see the crew again. It is
possible all are not drowned, but they vanish."

Kit looked at the Berbers and thought their quietness sinister. Their
dark faces were inscrutable, and they did not move. One could hardly
distinguish them from the stones.

"This time they bring no sheep or camels," Miguel resumed meaningly.

"It is strange," said Kit. "We have brought them rifles, but perhaps
they have already paid for the lot."

"Some day they will get the rifles without payment," remarked Juan, the
mate. "So long as they expect another lot, they are honest, but when
they get all they want they will cut your throat. They will not cut
mine; I have had enough. Señor Wolf is clever, but the game is
dangerous. If he cheats, you will pay."

Kit looked at Simon, who knitted his brows. "I do not altogether
understand, but they are angry. Something is not as they had thought."

The haze about the sun was thicker. Puffs of fiery wind blew down the
wady, a whirling pillar of dust broke and fell near the group, and the
distant rumble of the surf got loud. It was very hot and the men were
languid, but a sailor pulled a knife with an ornamented handle from his
sleeve and began to sharpen it on his belt. Kit's cigarette had burned
to a stump, and he looked at his watch. Juan got up.

"_Vamos!_ We start now," he said. "Señor Wolf knows much; he stops at
Las Palmas and if his customers carry us off, it is our affair."

One of the Berbers began to talk in an angry voice but they set off, and
to start was some relief to Kit. Standing for his employer, he felt
himself accountable for his party, and he had waited long enough. In
fact, he wondered whether he had not waited too long, since the rising
surf might force the launch to return to the ship. Now he was going, he
wanted to go fast, but for a time did not. He was tired, the heat was
enervating, and the path was rough. Big stones lay about the dry river
bed, and the gaps were filled by soft sand, in which one's feet sank.
Besides, it was prudent to use control. The others were obviously
disturbed, and he must make an effort for calm.

For all that, when the sand began to blow down the wady his speed got
faster. The dust stuck to his hot skin and gathered on his eyelashes. He
could not see properly and his breath was laboured, but when a sailor
in front began to run he kept up. He frankly did not want to be left
behind. Perhaps it was imagination, but he began to feel as if somebody
followed him.

Turning his head, he looked about. He saw big stones and clumps of
tamarisk, but this was all. The dust might hide the Berbers' camels, and
a camel travels faster than a tired man. The strange thing was, although
he had gone up the wady to meet the Berbers, he now wanted to reach the
launch before they arrived. Kit admitted he was not logical, but to know
the launch might have gone bothered him.

At length the wady got wider, and peering through the dust-cloud, he saw
the sea. The launch had not gone and the lifeboat was coming from the
steamer. Kit thought this strange, since the launch would carry all, but
perhaps Don Erminio had sent to find out why they had not returned. The
surf was high and a man on board the launch stood up and waved his arms,
as if he signalled the party to be quick. Then the dust got very thick
and boats and surf vanished. Juan shouted, but Kit did not hear what he
said. They were all running as fast as possible, slipping and stumbling
across the stones.

They reached the open beach and the dust rolled by. For a few moments
the view was clearer and Kit saw the man on the launch was not waving to
him; he signalled to the lifeboat. Looking back, Kit understood. Camels
were coming down the wady. Then the dust rolled up again and he saw
nothing.

Breathing hard, he laboured across the beach. The sailors had paid out
cable and the launch, with her bows to the breakers, tossed about in the
surf. In a few moments he would reach her, but somebody behind seized
him. He staggered and tried to turn; and then a sailor swerved and
jumped. Kit saw the Spanish knife shine and next moment he was free. He
plunged into the water and the launch's stern struck the sand close by.
A broken sea rolled in and men jumped overboard. They carried oars and
knives, for the _baccalao_ fishers' quarrel with the Moors is old. Kit
seized the launch's tiller, a thick bar of African oak.

Men with darker skins than the Spaniards were in the water, but so far
as Kit could see, they did not shoot. It looked as if they meant to
capture the party. Kit, however, could not see much. Dust and sand
rolled across the beach and the spray was thick. The launch was half
swamped and he thought the Berbers would hold her until the surf beat in
her bilge. Long oars and stretchers swung, Miguel used an iron
anchor-stock, and the mate, crouched like a cat on the stern, thrust
with his knife. Perhaps the struggle had gone on for a minute when the
white lifeboat rode in on a comber's top. She swung to her anchor and
Don Erminio jumped overboard. To come ashore was not the captain's
business, but Don Erminio was a sportsman.

For the next few moments the struggle was savage, but Kit did not know
much about it. He was knocked down and washed against the lifeboat. His
head hurt, he could not get on his feet, and the surf rolled him up and
down the beach. Then, when he was going out with the backwash, somebody
dragged him on board, and while he lay in the water under the thwarts he
was dully conscious that the boat was off the beach. He knew this
because she lurched violently, but did not strike the sand. Spray blew
about and the tops of the seas splashed across the gunwale. She made
slow progress and Kit thought all the oars were not manned.

Crawling aft under the rowers' feet, he seized a thwart and pulled
himself up. Don Erminio lay on the sternsheets and groaned. His face
was very white and his leg was not its proper shape. The launch laboured
across the combers some distance off. Kit pushed a man from the tiller
and told him to row. His head ached, but he could steer.

They were long pulling off to _Mossamedes_, and then were forced to wait
for some minutes. She rolled, lifting her bilge-keels out of the water,
and one must watch for a chance to hook on the tackles. At length a
broken sea, smaller than the others, lifted the boat and Kit seized the
swinging hook. The bowman was quick and got the other hook, a winch
rattled, and the big boat went up. She struck the steamer's plates, but
did not stop, and in a few moments the swivelling davits dropped her on
the skids. Macallister and a steward lifted out the captain, and Kit
went aft to see the launch hove up. Then he went to his room and for a
time knew nothing more.

He was roused by Macallister's bathing his face, and gave him a dull
look.

"I'm thinking ye'll no be very bonny for a week or two," the engineer
remarked. "For a' that, ye're luckier than the captain."

"Is Don Erminio hurt?" Kit asked.

"His legs and some ribs are broken; maybe he was washed aneath the
launch. But yon's no a'. When the boats came off Juan and Miguel were
not on board."

Kit lifted himself awkwardly and leaned against the back of his bunk.
His head ached horribly and his brain was dull, but he felt the throb of
engines and heard water flow along the plates. _Mossamedes_ was steaming
hard and he must get up. He got his leg across the ledge, and then
Macallister pushed him firmly back.

"Ye'll bide! Felix and I have work enough wi' the captain and two or
three mair."

"But you must stop her. I'm going back for Miguel."

"Ye cannot go back. I dinna ken how we won out."

"Ah!" said Kit, who felt the steamer's regular rise and fall. "She has
crossed the shoals?"

"It looks like that. When I stopped to use the big lead, we got good
water."

"But who took her out? Miguel's not on board."

"Sometimes ye must trust your luck," Macallister replied. "Before the
lifeboat went away Don Erminio hove the cable short, and when ye brought
him off, unconscious, I broke the anchor out. There's no' a sound plank
in the launch, the lifeboat's sternpost's smashed, and the sea was
getting up. If Juan and Miguel are living, the Moors have carried them
off. Weel, since the second mate is damaged, I reckoned my job was to
get back to Grand Canary. I sent Salvador to the wheel, started the
mill, and let her gang."

"You went across blind?" Kit exclaimed with dull surprise.

"Just that! She hit the bottom, but came off and we got no extra water
in the wells."

The thing looked impossible; Kit had thought nobody but Miguel could
steer _Mossamedes_ across the shoals. For all that, her even movements
indicated that she had reached open sea, and Kit tried to brace himself.

"But if the captain and second mate are knocked out, we haven't a
navigator, and Grand Canary's small."

"Ye have a good engineer and a crew o' _baccalao_ fishermen,"
Macallister rejoined. "I alloo Grand Canary's small, but it's high, and
ye can see the Peak o' Teneriffe over a hundred miles. Weel, I ken where
we started and put over the patent log. When ye steer for an
archipelago ye needna bother about a few degrees."

Kit nodded. Six high volcanic islands rise from deep water, and
_Mossamedes'_ crew had manned the fishing schooners. On a short voyage
one could navigate by dead-reckoning.

"I'll away and look at the captain," Macallister resumed. "If ye'll no
promise to lie quiate until I let ye up, I'll lock ye in."

Kit promised, because he doubted if he could get out of his bunk, and
when Macallister had gone he turned awkwardly and looked at the glass on
the wall. A purple mark crossed his swollen forehead, and his jaw was
cut. Somebody had knocked him down with a gun, or perhaps he had got
under the plunging boat. All his body felt battered. For a few minutes
he leaned against the side of his bunk, and then slipped back and went
to sleep.



PART III

KIT FINDS HIS LEVEL



CHAPTER I

ILLUMINATION


_Mossamedes_ steamed into Las Palmas harbour one evening, and as soon as
she was moored Kit landed Don Erminio and filed the necessary documents
at the _Commandancia_ offices. He, however, said nothing about the
struggle on the beach, and accounted for the captain's injuries by
stating that he was washed under the boat. The sailors' hurts were not
serious, and Kit had not allowed the port doctor to see the men. His
visit was an embarrassment, but on the whole Kit and Macallister thought
they had not excited his curiosity.

While he lay in his bunk Kit had pondered and made his plans. He meant
to return and look for the mate and Miguel, but if the Spanish officers
knew, he was persuaded they would not let him go. They would, no doubt,
make exhaustive inquiries and reports, and then send a properly
organised search party. Speed, however, was important, and anything
undertaken by the Spanish Government was not done soon.

Although it cost him some effort, he went from the _Commandancia_ to the
mate's house and told his story to a startled woman with a powdered
face. When Señora Diaz was calm she asked Kit what he was going to do
about it, and he said: "In the morning I sail for Africa. I do not think
Juan is hurt; the Moors wanted prisoners to hold until they get
satisfaction. You must not be afraid. Somehow we will find him."

Señora Diaz was comforted. Kit was young, but he looked very resolute
and capable. Something in his quiet voice gave her confidence.

"_Vaya con Dios!_" she said and let him go.

Kit felt the señora had not used conventionally the polite good-bye;
anyhow he had not given her an empty promise. He was going to find her
husband, and Wolf was going to help. If it were necessary, Kit meant to
force him, for he had noted that _Cayman_ was in the harbour ready for
sea. Wolf must charter her in the next hour or two, and she must sail
before the Commandante knew about the fight on the beach. Responsibility
had developed Kit and brought into action qualities he had not
altogether known were his. He could front a crisis and saw he must front
one now. _Cayman_ was in port, and with the fresh Trade-breeze abeam,
would soon reach the wady. A few resolute men might find and make some
bargain with the Moors, but if a gunboat landed a strong party the tribe
would vanish in the desert.

After the lonely anchorage and desolate surf-beaten coast, the noise and
traffic in the streets were strange. Bright lights burned in the shops,
people crowded the pavements, enjoying the cool of the evening, and Kit
heard the band in the _alameda_. He felt he had nothing to do with the
careless loungers, and their cheerful voices jarred. His load was heavy
and he was highly strung.

To reach the quiet street where Wolf lived was some relief, but Kit went
slowly, trying to think. He had taken Yusuf's selling them to Revillon
for granted, but he doubted if this were all. Kit was satisfied Wolf had
not carried out his engagements with the Moors, and since the fellow had
cheated his customers he would not hesitate to betray his servants. He
had used them unscrupulously, and now two might be forced to pay for his
dishonesty, he must send them help.

For a few minutes Kit mused about something else. Mrs. Austin had got
him the post, and it looked as if she knew Wolf was a cheat. Anyhow,
Olivia knew, and she was not as clever as her sister. After he had seen
Wolf, he was going to see Mrs. Austin. If there was any difficulty about
Wolf's chartering _Cayman_, she must persuade her husband. Austin was
Jefferson's partner and owned some shares in the boat.

Kit stopped at the arch that led to Wolf's _patio_. All was dark inside
and the iron gate was fast. He rang a bell and a man crossed the flags
and pulled back the heavy bolt. His face was near the bars, and Kit
noted with some surprise that it was not Wolf's servant.

"What does your honor want?" he asked.

Kit said he wanted Wolf and would go to the office, but the other did
not open the gate.

"Señor Wolf is not here."

"Not here! Then, where is he?" said Kit, with an effort for calm.

The other spread out his hands. "_Quien sabe?_ Many are curious, but
nobody knows. The señor went some days since. I am the landlord's
servant and take care of the house."

"Ah!" said Kit sharply. "Did he leave a letter for his _sobrecargo_?"

"He left nothing, señor. The boxes in the office were empty. There was a
heap of ashes, as if somebody had burned papers, but this was all."

Kit thanked the man and went off. He knew enough. Wolf was gone and one
saw what his going meant. Numerous steamers touched at Las Palmas and
the fellow had, no doubt, quietly got on board. Since he could buy his
ticket from the purser, there was no use in inquiring at the steamship
offices. Well, Kit must see Mrs. Austin.

The shortest way to the house was across the _alameda_. The band was
playing, lamps burned among the dusty trees, and as Kit approached a
group of people he stopped. Olivia talked to a Spanish lady, the lady's
husband, two or three young Spanish girls, and some coaling clerks stood
about, but when Olivia saw Kit she left the others. Going with him to a
bench at a quiet spot not far off, she sat down. Kit leaned against a
tree and a beam from a lamp touched his face. Olivia noted the dark
bruise and the hardness of his mouth. He looked very tired and his eyes
were dull.

"Why, Kit! What is the matter?" she said.

"I expect you know Wolf is gone?"

"Yes, I do know. But what does it mean?"

"For one thing, it means Wolf's a thief and I'm a trustful fool. In the
meantime, perhaps, that's enough----"

"I wouldn't bother about it," said Olivia soothingly. "You look ill and
you have hurt your head."

"I must bother," Kit rejoined. "I was Wolf's servant and have lost two
of his men. Since I stood for their employer, in a sense the men were
mine. The Moors have got them. Wolf cheated the fellows, they followed
us to the boats, and there was a fight. I got on board, but all the men
who'd gone with me did not. I was their leader; I ought to have gone off
last."

Olivia was moved by his distress and put her hand gently on his arm.

"Oh, Kit, I'm sorry! But you're not accountable. If it had been possible
to save the men you would have brought them off."

Her sympathy thrilled him. He was highly strung, and although he tried
for control he was carried away.

"The voyage was disastrous; all went wrong from the start," he said.
"You warned me and talked about bad luck, but I went. Perhaps I'm
obstinate, but I think you knew why I did go."

Olivia turned her head and thought. She had known why he went, but it
was plain the reserve he had used was gone. His control was broken and
he would be frank. She liked him, but now he forced her to choose her
line, she admitted this was all.

"I think you were rather ridiculous," she said, quietly looking up.

He tried to pull himself together, but could not. He had got a nasty
knock.

"It looks like that!" he said in a hoarse voice. "All the same, you knew
my ambition and didn't hint I was ridiculous!"

The blood came to Olivia's skin and her eyes sparkled.

To some extent she felt Kit's retort was justified, but she was modern
and had pluck.

"I thought you lonely and we were pals," she said. "Did you expect me to
warn you I didn't want a lover?"

"If you had warned me it would not have cost you much. Perhaps I am
dull, but sometimes I do understand. I thought I might, like Austin,
mend my fortune; he held my post and married your sister. You knew, and
I expect you were amused. The thing was a joke! Well, sometimes I saw I
was a fool, but I wasn't logical long. When you're about one isn't
logical. I _meant_ to mend my fortune."

"Are you logical now?"

Kit laughed harshly. "Oh, yes; my rashness is plain enough! You had long
since resolved to refuse me all I hadn't the pluck to ask. Well, my luck
is certainly not good. I have been refused before and in the
meantime----"

She stopped him by a proud gesture. "You are breaking rules, Kit, and
mustn't talk like this again. When you are cool you will know you ought
not. What have your love affairs to do with me?"

He gave her a steady look and his face got rather white. The dark bruise
was plainer and the blood left his lips.

"My rules are the rules of the humble folk to whom I belong. All the
same, I might have tried to use yours had I been my proper self. Well,
perhaps I deserve some punishment. I'm poor and have no talent to help
me along; I let Wolf use and cheat me like a schoolboy. Then, when I met
you a few minutes since, I forgot about the men I'd lost. However, I'm
going back to look for them and if I find them and some time get a
proper job, we'll talk about my rashness again. I'll go to Don Pancho
and state I mean to ask you to marry me. You'll no doubt refuse, but my
proposal will be regular, and to refuse an offer I've some right to make
won't humiliate you."

Olivia thought fatigue and strain accounted for much. He had got a bad
knock, and she had hurt him worse. She was half sorry and half angry,
but her anger was keenest against Mrs. Austin, who had sent him on board
the ship.

"You are ridiculous, Kit," she said gently. "But if you are in trouble
about Wolf and the men in Morocco, go to Jacinta. I think she ought to
help. That's all. You mustn't keep me. The others are curious."

She rejoined the party at the band and Kit went on to Mrs. Austin's. He
agreed with Olivia, but did not stop where she stopped. Mrs. Austin _was
going_ to help. When he reached the veranda she was talking to Mrs.
Jefferson, and nobody else was about. Kit remembered this was an evening
on which she did not receive guests. She glanced at him with some
surprise, noting his bruised face and disturbed look, and then indicated
a chair.

"I don't know that you'll urge me to stop when you have heard my tale,"
he said. "However, is Mr. Austin or Mr. Jefferson at home?"

"Harry is at Teneriffe, and Jefferson has gone to Madeira."

"Then my luck is bad again," said Kit. "All the same, I've come to ask
for something and meant to state that I expected your support. I meant
to see you anyhow."

Mrs. Austin was surprised, but said nothing. Kit had not talked to her
like this before. He was cool and very stern. Somehow he looked older
and she wondered about the bruise.

"Very well," he resumed. "I met Miss Brown at the _alameda_ and
understand you know Wolf is gone. I did not know until I arrived, but
begin to see light. It's possible his going did not surprise you. You
knew he was a rogue!"

"You are taking much for granted," Mrs. Austin remarked quietly.

"Not at all," said Kit. "Your sister knew and warned me. People declare
you're the cleverest woman at Las Palmas."

Mrs. Austin pondered. If Olivia had warned Kit, it was possible the girl
herself did not know as much as her elder sister had thought. About
Betty, for example.

"Well?" she said.

"I'll tell you my story," Kit replied, and narrated his adventures after
landing the guns.

"I begin to see," Mrs. Austin remarked. Then, for her line of argument
was sometimes not very obvious, she resumed: "You met Olivia not long
since by the band?"

"That is so," Kit replied with some dryness. "All the same, you have no
grounds to be disturbed; Miss Brown knows my drawbacks. In fact, when
you persuaded Wolf to give me the post your meddling wasn't necessary.
But you did get me the post, although you doubted Wolf. This is
important!"

At Las Palmas Mrs. Austin was a great lady, and Kit had gratefully owned
his debt to her. Now he took another line; a line that nobody she knew
durst use. For all that she was sorry for Kit. He looked ill and worn;
she saw that losing the men weighed hard on him.

"Suppose I admit I sent you to Wolf?" she said. "You feel you are
entitled to blame me because your adventure was not fortunate?"

"Not at all; my object's not to blame you," said Kit. "When I took the
post I thought you kind. To find out that all you wanted was to get me
away from Las Palmas hurt. However, we won't bother about this----"

He paused. Mrs. Austin's calm was beginning to embarrass him. In fact,
there was something very dignified about her quietness, although she
admitted that her plotting had cost him much. Kit, however, braced
himself.

"I meant to see you before I saw Mr. Austin," he resumed. "I'm going
back for the men and must get a boat at once. If the Commandante knew I
was going he wouldn't let me sail, and he will know soon. _Cayman_'s
ready for sea and you must lend me her."

Mrs. Austin smiled. "I don't think your argument is altogether sound.
_Cayman_ belongs to my husband and Jefferson and they are away."

"All that's Mr. Austin's is yours, and Mrs. Jefferson is here."

"I imagine I can promise for my husband," Mrs. Jefferson remarked.

"Very well," said Mrs. Austin. "You may have the boat. I will give you a
letter for the captain."

She went off, and Mrs. Jefferson turned to Kit. "Have you seen Betty?"

Kit started. He had forgotten Betty; he was again a fool. She would
understand his troubles and would sympathise. He was persuaded she would
agree he ought to go.

"I'd like to see her, but I cannot," he said. "We must sail at daybreak,
and I have much to do. All I can think about is getting back to Africa.
But, if you will tell her why I didn't go to the office----"

Mrs. Jefferson smiled. Betty had qualities, but Mrs. Jefferson doubted
if she would approve Kit's sending another to tell his tale. She said
nothing, and Mrs. Austin presently returned and gave Kit an envelope.

"This is an order for the captain. Your adventure's rash, and I really
ought not to agree," she said. "For all that, I wish you luck!"

Kit thanked her and when he went down the steps Mrs. Austin looked at
Mrs. Jefferson.

"If he wrecks _Cayman_ or the crew get hurt I shall have some trouble
with Harry. Sometimes he is firmer than people think."

Mrs. Jefferson smiled. "On the whole I imagine Jake will approve.
Perhaps Kit was rude, but in a way he was rather fine. He won't wreck
the boat, and I expect he will get the men. Kit is good stuff. However,
I suppose you're satisfied you were entitled to meddle?"

"About Olivia? Yes, so far as that goes, my plan was good. My father was
a steamship steward and began business at Las Palmas by selling tobacco
on board the ships. All the same, Kit Musgrave is not Olivia's sort. If
she doesn't know this now, he and she would soon find it out. Well, I'm
going to be firm."

"I doubt if firmness is indicated," Mrs. Jefferson rejoined with a
twinkle. "Sometimes the best plan is to leave things alone."



CHAPTER II

"CAYMAN'S" START


Soon after he left Mrs. Austin's, Kit rowed off to _Mossamedes_, got
some clothes and talked to the interpreter, who hesitated for a time
before he agreed to go with him. Then he picked out three men from the
crew, but ordered them to stop on board until he was ready. It was
obvious that his adventure must not be talked about before he left the
port.

Afterwards he was rowed to _Cayman_ and gave Mrs. Austin's letter to the
captain. _Cayman_ was a fast and strong ketch-rigged vessel of about
sixty tons. Four hands could sail her and relieve the watch, but she
carried six. When goods are not all landed at the ports, trading on the
Morocco coast has some drawbacks, and Jefferson ran no risks. The
captain was an old _baccalao_ fisherman and when he read the order he
asked: "Where do you want to go?"

Kit told him, and he looked thoughtful. "I know the spot. The sands are
dangerous and the Moors are bad."

"For all that you must anchor the ketch behind the banks and wait until
I come back from the desert," said Kit, and stated why he meant to
undertake the journey.

"Ah," said the captain, "that is another thing! My men will not grumble;
they know the Moors. Well, we are not allowed to carry guns, but I can
throw a knife, and Maccario can kill a jumping goat with his sling. Then
Andres, the wrestler, knows a trick. The Moor he seizes will drop with a
broken back."

"Your men will stop on board. They are Señor Jefferson's servants, and
the job is mine. When I land three or four from the steamer will go with
me."

"We will talk about this again. But you had anchored behind the sands
and had lost Miguel. How did you get to sea?"

"I don't know," said Kit. "I was in my bunk and Don Erminio was in his,
but we did get to sea. I understand Don Pedro took control."

The captain laughed. "_El maquinista? Ave Maria!_ Señor, for a good
sailor who is not a fisherman the thing was impossible! But I know Don
Pedro. I have seen him dance, strange dances of the North, at the
wineshop by the mole. Some say he is mad. All the same, the steamer is
not wrecked. _Ma!_"

Kit stopped him. It looked as if Macallister's friends were numerous,
but there was much to be done and he rowed the captain to the port
office and left him to file his papers. One could not, without complying
with some formalities, sail before daybreak, and Kit thought to send to
the ayutante's house was risky.

Engaging a _tartana_, he went to see Don Erminio. The captain's small
house smelt of salt fish, garlic, and burned olive oil, and Señora
Martinez received Kit in the court. She was fat and her brown skin was
thickly powdered.

"You will not excite my husband," she said. "When he is ill he is
sometimes difficult, and he has had a dispute with the doctor."

She took Kit up the outside stairs and along a balcony to a small, hot
room. Don Erminio occupied the old-fashioned bed, and when Kit came in
looked up with a savage frown, but the frown vanished.

"I thought it was the animal of a doctor coming back," he remarked. "Me,
I am a sailor, and he will not let me drink! The _anisado_ was on the
table, he put the bottle in his pocket, and I could not get up. Then he
looked in the cupboard. The animal is cunning, but another time I put
the bottle under the bed. However, the Moors have got Juan and Miguel.
We must do something!"

Kit stated his plans and the captain signed approval. He was tightly
bandaged and could hardly move his head.

"It is very good. But you will take Don Pedro?"

"I think not. In fact, he does not know I am going."

The captain urged, but Kit was firm. Caution and tact were indicated,
and although Macallister was generally cool, his coolness often masked a
freakish rashness.

"Very well," Don Erminio agreed at length. "Sometimes Don Pedro is
humorous, but the Moors are not people with whom one jokes. I will lend
you my gun."

He signed to Señora Martinez, who brought the old pinfire gun and gave
it to Kit.

"The gun is good. If you are careful she will not go off before you
want, but you must not shake her," he resumed, and frowned when he saw
the mark on the box of cartridges. "What is this?" he asked his wife.
"Bring the number B. Señor Musgrave does not shoot the rabbit."

Señora Martinez got another box and Don Erminio nodded. "It is good! If
Pepe has used the proper measure, she will kill a Moor at twenty yards.
But you must not shake her. The hammer-spring is loose."

Kit thanked him and soon afterwards went off. He had taken the gun in
order to indulge the captain, since it was obvious that when he met the
Moors he could not use force. For all that, he had not a pistol and to
some extent the old gun might give him moral support.

When he was rowed across the harbour he heard a guitar badly played, and
jumping down from _Cayman_'s bulwarks saw Macallister sitting under the
anchor light. The engineer held the guitar awkwardly, and the sailors
sat round and laughed.

"Hallo!" Kit said, frowning. "Why have you come on board?"

"Ye're a dour, crabbit Englishman and no' as clever as ye think,"
Macallister rejoined. "Ye had not been gone ten minutes when I kenned
what ye were after and reckoned I had got to see ye oot. Ye didna ken I
talk Aver-r-rack?"

"I doubt it now," said Kit and Macallister beckoned the interpreter, who
had come on board with him.

"Ye shall judge, Adjia Simonidas."

"Is this Arabic? It sounds like Greek," said Kit.

"Simon's from Aleppo," Macallister rejoined. "When ye trade in the
Levant, ye use Arabic, Turkish, Italian and Greek, and whiles ye mix the
lot. There's no' a sailor's café between Suez and Smyrna I dinna ken.
But ye're a doubting creature. Weel, Simon----"

He began to talk and the interpreter leaned against the mast and
laughed.

"He is truly droll," Simon remarked in French. "But I think he is safe
with the Moors. Good Moslems believe that Allah guards such as him."

Kit lighted a cigarette. He had undertaken an awkward job and was
sternly serious. Mack was, of course, a good sort, but when he was not
engaged in the engine-room his talents were for something like comic
opera. Kit would frankly sooner he had stopped on board _Mossamedes_.
For all that, he had known Mack's reckless humour useful when sober
thought was not, and he must be resigned. Mack was on board and would
not go back.

When Kit had smoked his cigarette he got two of the men to wash
_Cayman_'s boat and rowed across the harbour to a coaling wharf. The
clerks had gone, but Kit knew how the hose key worked and brought back
the boat loaded with fresh water as deep as she would float. Then he
looked at his watch and going to the _patron_'s small cabin tried to
sleep.

The rattle of chain woke him and he went on deck. Day was breaking and a
cold wind blew off the land. Mist rolled about the mountains and in the
background Las Palmas glimmered against dark volcanic rocks. Its outline
was blurred and the white houses were indistinct; the town looked
ghostly and unsubstantial. In the harbour, steamers with gently-swaying
masts floated on the smooth swell. Nobody moved about their decks and
all was very quiet but for the surf that beat against the mole.

Some of the crew began to hoist the mainsail. They moved slackly, as if
they were half-asleep, their bare feet made no noise, and Kit liked to
hear the thud of the canvas they threw off the boom. Then blocks began
to rattle, and when the gaff was up the sail flapped in the wind. They
left the peak hanging and went forward to hoist the jib. The noise of
running wire and chain halyard was cheerful, and Kit tried to rouse
himself.

There is something that moves the imagination about a large steamer
leaving port. One gets a sense of organised effort, of force in man's
control and the triumph of his inventions. Kit had vaguely felt that the
_correillo_'s sailing with the mails on board was, so to speak, a social
function of some importance to all. To mark a mail-boat's departure by a
gun or detonating rocket was proper. But _Cayman_'s start was flat and
dreary. She must steal out of harbour lest she be stopped; and Kit,
shivering in the cold wind, was daunted.

He had left his ship without leave and Macallister had frankly run away.
They had broken useful rules and would, no doubt, lose their posts, but
this did not much bother Kit. He had undertaken a job that, so far as he
could see, he could not carry out. In fact, the thing was ridiculous.
The Moors were fierce and cunning desert thieves, and he was going to
force them to agree with him. He knew no arguments they would admit, and
his only protection was Don Erminio's old pinfire gun.

Kit felt his youth, but his inheritance counted for much. His code was
the Puritans', and its rude simplicity had advantages. One must do this
because it was proper; the other was not. There was no use in arguing
when one knew what was right. Kit saw his duty and, if it cost him
something, he must pay. All the same, he shrank. To do what he ought
might cost much.

_Cayman_ rode to a buoy and when the jib was sheeted they brought the
mooring aft and let her swing. The _patron_ went to the long tiller and
wore her round, and the slack mainsail lurched across. Then all went to
the peak halyard and Kit's spirits rose. The rattle of blocks was
cheerful; he liked to see the straining figures rise and fall. The men's
laboured breath and rhythmic movements gave him a bracing sense of
effort.

_Cayman_ stole between a big cargo boat and a passenger liner, and by
contrast with their lofty hulls looked absurdly small. When she began to
list the water was nearly level with her covering board. The list got
sharper, she forged past the end of the mole and her bowsprit splashed
in the high, green swell. The _patron_ studied the mist that rolled
about the mountains and turned to Kit.

"The wind blows up there and we will get it when we get the sun. Well,
we must drive her off the coast before the Commandante knows why we have
gone. I think we will not steer the usual course."

They ran up the staysail and set the mizzen. _Cayman_ leaped forward and
the spray blew from her plunging bows. Her white wake trailed across the
tops of the seas astern, and the water that bubbled through the scuppers
crept up her lee deck. For all that, the captain was not satisfied and
he looked to windward, knitting his brows.

"One can see far with the telescope from the Isleta signal station," he
remarked. "The mist is clearing. We will risk the topsail."

The big sail was hoisted and _Cayman_'s list got very sharp. One could
not see how far the water crept up her inclined deck, because a
sparkling cascade splashed across her weather bow and swelled the flood.
They had hauled her on the wind and her channels dragged in the foam.
One heard the wire shrouds hum and the masts groan, and now and then a
sea rolled aft and broke against the boat on deck. For all that, the
captain held on, and when the sun rose Grand Canary had melted into the
silver mist.



CHAPTER III

THE WADY


The sun was nearly overhead, and Kit sat in the hot dust that lay about
the wady. A low bank rose behind him and shaded his head. His eyes hurt,
he was tired, and his burned skin was sore, for the dust stung as if it
were mixed with alkali. In the open one could hardly front the sun, but
the nights were keen, and at daybreak he had got up shivering from his
hard bed behind a stone.

Macallister, Simon, and three sailors from _Mossamedes_ occupied the
narrow belt of shade. Their poses were cramped and awkward, for all
tried to get some shelter from the sun. They had lunched frugally on
_gofio_, goat's-milk cheese, and a little sour wine. _Gofio_ is roasted
grain, ground and mixed with water. The gritty paste stuck to Kit's
parched mouth, for he tried to control his thirst. The skin in which
they had brought water from the ketch did not hold much.

The map in Wolf's office indicated an oasis not very far from the coast,
and Kit imagined that where water was he would find the Berbers. Since
the wady ran nearly straight inland, he resolved to use it for a guide,
and for three days the party had laboured across the dust and stones. As
a rule, the hollow was not deep or sharply marked. For the most part,
easy slopes led to a bare tableland where the soil, swept and
consolidated by the wind, looked like rock. In places, however, the
hollow pierced rolling ground and sank to a stony ravine.

The country was strangely desolate, but was not the level, sandy desert
Kit had thought. In fact, there was not much sand, and in spots it
looked as if the soil was sometimes cultivated. The bank behind Kit's
camp was sharply cut as if by an angry torrent, but since he had left
the beach he had not seen water. There was not a rabbit or a partridge,
although in the dry Canaries rabbits haunt the stony ravines and
red-legged partridges run in the prickly pear. Nothing but a pair of
buzzards, floating very high up, had crossed the sky.

Half closing his eyelids, Kit looked about. Strange reflections quivered
across the stones and distant objects were magnified. In the foreground,
the light was dazzling, and the hollow melted into a luminous belt of
brown and yellow. A euphorbia bush with stiff, thick stalks, however,
was harshly green and looked like a house, although it was but four or
five feet high. The euphorbia puzzled Kit; in a country where one found
no water, its stalks were tender with milky sap. He glanced at his
companions. Their cotton clothes had gone yellow, their skin was brown,
and he thought one could not distinguish them a short distance off. An
hour since he imagined somebody had looked out from behind a stone.
Although he wanted to meet the Berbers, he did not want to think they
cautiously followed his track.

He mused about the barrenness of the country. At Lanzarote, sixty miles
from the African coast, it sometimes did not rain for six or eight
months, and then, when the concrete cisterns were nearly dry, it rained
in floods. Perhaps it was like that in Morocco; sheep and camels could
not live if it did not rain at all. Kit began to think about the good
bishop who used all his fortune to send the people of Lanzarote water.

A sailor shouted, and Kit jumped up. A cloud of dust rolled down the
wady, and in the dust, about sixty yards off, men on camels rode for the
camp. Kit watched their advance with dull surprise. A few moments since
he had seen nobody and a camel is a large object to hide. It looked as
if the Berbers had sprung from the sand. Then he heard the humming
flight of a stone and a camel swerved. A sailor laughed hoarsely and
stooped to get another stone for his sling, but Kit stopped the man. He
had come to meet the Berbers and they carried long guns. Had they meant
to hurt him, they could have hidden behind the stones and shot the
party.

For all that, when they pulled up a few yards off, his heart beat and
coolness was hard. They were big, muscular fellows and the nearest
looked scornfully fierce; Kit could not see the others' faces because
they wore loose hoods. One or two of the Spaniards had drawn their
knives, but nobody moved. The little party stood against the bank and
looked at the Berbers. Then Kit braced himself and signed to the
interpreter.

For a few moments Simon and one of the others talked, but the Berber's
remarks were short. His pose was easy, but very still, and the long gun
he balanced somehow emphasised his height. He was like a bronze and blue
statue, and Kit thought his quietness forbidding. The camel moved its
long neck and grunted.

"He says we must go with him," Simon remarked. "His chief is waiting.
That is all."

Kit looked at Macallister, who calmly cleaned his pipe. "Aweel," he
said, "ye wanted to find the Moors and ye ought to be satisfied. Yon
fellow's no' for arguing. We'll just gang."

The Berber touched his camel and lifted his hand. His gesture was
commanding, and when the others moved forward Kit told the Spaniards to
put up their knives. The Berbers did not threaten; they pushed their
camels against the bank, and the men must move or be trampled.

"_Arrai!_" said the leader, his camel grunted, and Kit's men set off,
one behind the other between two rows of the clumsy animals.

The camels went fast, their necks moving backwards and forwards like
engine piston-rods. At the bottom of the wady the heat was intolerable,
and thick dust rolled up. Moreover, the ground was rough, but Kit pushed
on as fast as possible. He did not think the Berbers would argue about
the pace; it looked as if they thought his business was to keep up. He
heard Macallister breathe hard and sometimes Simon coughed. The sailors
went silently in their open rawhide shoes, the Berbers said nothing, and
one could not hear the camels' feet. In fact, all was strangely quiet,
and somehow flat.

Kit had started with high resolves, but owned he had not played a
romantic part. Things had not gone as he had vaguely planned; the
situation, so to speak, was not in his control. His party was driven
along rather like a flock of sheep. Although he had meant to negotiate
with the chief, it looked as if he was the fellow's prisoner.

The wady pierced a stony hill, and in the defile the heat got worse.
Kit's skin was scorched; the dust got into his nose and throat.
Sometimes he could hardly see; his eyes hurt and his head ached.
Nevertheless, it was obvious that he must keep up and he laboured on.

By and by the Berbers turned and climbed the side of the defile. To
climb was hard, for parched soil and loose stones rolled down the slope.
The camels, however, went up, and Kit saw he must keep in front of the
animals behind him. The track was narrow, and it did not look as if the
Berbers would stop. He could not see Macallister. Gasping men and
lurching camels moved in a yellow fog.

At the top they crossed a dazzling tableland where the soil was firm,
and to feel the wind was some relief. When they went down again, a few
miles farther on, Kit saw prickly pear, thorny aloes, and in one spot
short, white stubble, but there were no tents. The hollow was wide and
ran on straight in front, until stones and dust melted into the
quivering reflections. Nothing indicated that a camp was near.

The sun sank, and the camels threw grotesque shadows across the parched
soil. Kit began to lose the sense of feverish heat, and although he was
worn out, walking was easier. When the sky was luminous red and green
the wind got cool and the camels' pace was fast. Somehow he kept up, and
at length the Berbers stopped.

Dark tents dotted the wady and sheep occupied a belt of dry stubble. In
places an aloe lifted a tall shaft, tamarisk and prickly pear grew on
the banks, but Kit saw no palms. A few ruined stone huts, hardly
distinguishable from the background, occupied a bend of the hollow, and
a broken heap that might have been a watch tower on the ridge cut the
sky. Kit understood the Berbers were nomads, but it looked as if
somebody had long since built a village.

No excitement marked the party's arrival. The leader shouted "_Foocha!_"
and the camels knelt; the men got down and pushed Kit and the sailors
forward. Indistinct figures appeared at the tent doors, and he smelt
acrid smoke. In front of the middle tent the leader stopped and a man
came out.

It was getting dark, but Kit remarked that the man was not as big as the
camel drivers and his skin was lighter. His mouth and jaw were covered
and his blue clothes were clean. For a moment or two he studied the
group and his calm glance rather annoyed Kit. All the Berbers he had met
were marked by an imperturbable calm. Then the fellow said something to
a camel driver, who signed the party to go with him and took them to a
hut. The front was broken and the roof had fallen, but the building gave
some shelter from the keen wind. By and by another man brought them a
bowl of stuff like porridge, some dried meat Kit thought was goat's
flesh, and dates.

"What did the sheik say to the camel driver?" he asked Simon.

"He will talk to us in the morning; this was all. If he had meant to
hurt us, he would not have sent the food. When you go, call him
_Wazeer_. It is not his title, but he will like it."

Kit doubted if the Berber would be moved by flattery, but he said: "The
food is good. This porridge stuff is better than the Canary _gofio_.
What do they call it?"

"_Cous-cous_," said Simon. "From Morocco to Nigeria, all food that looks
like this is _cous-cous_. It may be made with sour milk, palm oil, or
water, and roasted grain, and some is very bad. In Africa they do not
use many names."

"I'm thinking to talk much would hurt them," Macallister remarked. "A
very reserved people, and yon sheik's the dourest o' the lot. For a'
that, when I try him wi' Avar-r-rack----"

Kit turned impatiently to the interpreter. "We have got to negotiate
with the man. Since we can't buy his friendship, I don't see my line."

"To be poor is not always a drawback," Simon replied. "Perhaps it is
better he does not think us rich. In Africa, one gives a present and we
have some wine left. It is not good, but when one has none----"

"But a Mohammedan is not allowed to drink wine."

Simon smiled. "I will use some caution. If the headman breaks the rules,
his people must not know. Those who got no wine would be horrified. In
this country one uses caution always. Frankness is dangerous."

"Do you know much about the country?"

"I know something," Simon replied. "A Levantine and a Jew may go where
an Englishman cannot and a Spaniard would be killed. In Egypt I was an
hotel servant, in Algiers a pedlar. I have sold wine to the Legion at
the outposts, and in Senegal I was major-domo for a French commandant. A
small, fat man, with a theatrical dignity, but the black soldiers loved
him. When they drilled well, he gave them sugar. He did not send an
orderly; the commandant went along the line with the sugar in his cap.
Some French are like that. Your officers are just, but one doubts if the
Africans love you much. Well, in Algiers one has adventures, but in
Morocco, south of Casablanca, one is lucky if one keeps one's life. If
you are not bored----"

Kit said he was not bored. To listen was some relief from his gloomy
thoughts, and Simon told a romantic tale. The fellow was obviously a
bold and unscrupulous vagabond, but Kit did not know when his narrative
stopped. He was very tired and presently his head dropped forward and
his shoulders slipped down the broken wall.

When he awoke the stars were shining and it was very cold. Two sailors
lay beside him and all was quiet. Kit put his head on another stone and
went to sleep again.



CHAPTER IV

KIT NEGOTIATES


In the morning before the sun was high, a Berber took Kit and his party
to the headman's tent and signed them to sit in the sand. Their clothes
were smeared by dust to which the dew had stuck, and Kit's boots were
broken. His fatigue had not worn off much, he felt horribly dirty and
dull, but he knew he must brace up. The headman and two or three others
occupied the open front of the tent. In the background a row of camels,
making strange noises, knelt beside a broken wall, and behind the
uncouth animals stones and clumps of tamarisk melted into the widening
bottom of the wady. The wind had dropped, it was not yet hot, and thin
smoke with a pungent smell floated about the camp.

Kit studied the headman with some curiosity, since he did not know if
the fellow was his host or captor, but got no hint from his inscrutable
face. He understood the people were Berbers, but at Las Palmas he had
borrowed a book that stated the Berbers were short and light-skinned.
The tribesmen Kit had met were big and dark, but the chief was lighter
in build and colours than the rest. He was obviously not a savage;
somehow Kit thought him well-bred.

"Why have you come to my camp?" he asked.

Simon translated and afterwards carried on the talk. As a rule, it
dragged, and Kit imagined the interpreter was sometimes puzzled and used
the _lingua franca_ of the Moorish ports.

"Tell him I have come for the men his people carried off from the
boats," said Kit.

"You thought to take them from us?"

"No," said Kit. "We knew this was impossible."

"Yet you brought a gun!"

Kit had missed the gun, but when the headman signed one of the others
brought Don Erminio's old double-barrel. The Berber studied it and Kit
thought him amused.

"Then you mean to buy the men?" he resumed.

Kit said he did not; he had no money, but if the men were not released,
it was possible the Spanish government would send soldiers to look for
them. The headman let this go and asked what his and Macallister's
occupation was. Simon replied, and the other was quiet for a few
moments. Then he said: "I have a better gun than yours, but sometimes it
does not shoot. If this man knows machines, let him mend it."

He clapped his hands and a Berber brought Macallister a big automatic
pistol.

"I doubt my luck's no' very good," Macallister remarked. "A watch I ken.
When ye can grip her in a vice and have tools to pick oot the works, she
need not puzzle ye lang, but a pistol ye must hold on your knee is
anither job. I'm thinking there might be trouble if I spoil her. For a'
that, if ye have a peseta, I'll try t'."

Kit, with some hesitation gave him the coin. He had known Macallister
spoil a useful watch, and return another bearing the marks of the
vice-jaws. Experimenting with watches had a strange charm for him, but
sometimes he made a good job, and if he mended the pistol it might help.
Macallister got to work with the coin and his big pocket knife, and the
headman turned to Kit.

"I seized the men because your master cheated me. If I let them go, I
will not get the goods he owes."

"You will not get the goods," Kit agreed. "My master is gone."

The headman and one of the others talked, and Simon said to Kit: "They
think it is so. They have found out that Yusuf is gone. I expected
something like this."

"Not long since I would have sold the men; I might have sold you all,"
the Berber resumed. "Now, however, this is perhaps not safe. We are not
afraid of the soldiers, but we have enemies, and sometimes our
neighbours take the white men's bribes."

"He is frank, but it is like that," Simon remarked. "In Africa, the
white man's power is not his native soldiers. One tribe hates the next
and foreign money rules the desert." He paused and shrugged. "It is
possible the fellow would have sold us. _Baccalao_ fishermen have
vanished. At the wineshops the Spaniards tell stories---- But he wants
to know why you bother about the sailors. They are not your servants."

Kit hesitated. He did not know the Berber's code and if he claimed his
object was unselfish the fellow might think he had another. Yet he was
not going to make up a plausible tale. Kit's anger was quick and hot.
The brute had pondered selling white men like camels.

"Tell him I saw somebody must look for them. When his people tried to
carry me off, I think one put me on board the boat. That's all," he
said.

"Then, they have no rich friends who would pay you if you brought them
back?" the chief asked.

"You have seen them!" Kit rejoined and indicated his companions. "They
are men like these. Rich men don't labour in a steamer's boats."

The Berber gave him a thoughtful glance. Kit was angry and his naive
honesty was obvious. The Berber was subtle, but it did not look as if he
doubted. Kit thought he weighed something; and then he looked up with a
start.

He had heard a sharp report, and a thin streak of smoke curled about the
automatic pistol. Sheep ran across the stubble, a camel got up, and Kit
saw a small hole in the tent.

"Noo I ken what's wrang with his gun," Macallister remarked.

Holding the pistol in front he advanced towards the Berbers. None moved
and the headman's look was imperturbable. Kit wondered whether the
magazine held another cartridge and hoped nobody would move. He knew
Macallister. The engineer stopped opposite the headman, and for a moment
their glances met. Then he held out the pistol, with the butt to the
other.

"For a camel thief, ye're a trustful person," he said dryly.

Kit had not seen a Berber laugh, but when Simon translated it looked as
if the headman smiled. He signalled and across the wady a man with a
modern rifle got up from behind a stone and another crawled out of the
sand. Kit thought they were picked shots and had marked the range. All
the same, he doubted if the headman knew there was a cartridge in the
magazine. Macallister, stopping by the other, opened the pistol.

"Noo," he said, "ye see----"

His _lingua franca_ was uncouth, but when he took some pieces from the
pistol with his pocket knife it looked as if the headman saw. He was
obviously interested, something of his reserve vanished, and presently
he signed one of the others back and Macallister sat down on the piece
of carpet by his side. The engineer gave Kit a smile he understood. It
was as if he had said, "Ye dinna ken old Peter yet!"

Kit mused. He had borne some strain and was languid, and the headman was
occupied. It was strange, but Macallister, by luck or talent, generally
took the middle of the stage. Kit was not like that, but now chance had
given him a leading part, the part must be played, and he weighed the
arguments he had used. He had stated that he was poor and Wolf had
vanished. If the chief were satisfied about this, there was obviously no
use in his holding the party for ransom or to force payment of Wolf's
debt. Then he had hinted that the Spanish government might send soldiers
to search the country, and the Berber admitted that he had enemies who
intrigued with the white men. Kit did not know another argument; perhaps
he had said enough, and he waited.

By and by the headman talked to the interpreter, who said: "He wants to
know why you landed the guns when you had not brought all."

"We thought we had brought all," Kit replied. "We didn't know until the
French gunboat came that Yusuf had cheated us. But he hasn't heard about
the gunboat yet. You must try to make him understand."

He narrated their escape from the gunboat. The story was long, for the
Berbers were not sailors and translation was difficult. Sometimes Simon
hesitated, but the headman did not look impatient. His face was
inscrutable and one got no hint about his thoughts. The sun got hot and
the wind began to blow the dust about the wady.

At length Kit stopped and for a few moments the headman pondered.

"You might have thrown the guns into the sea, but you did not," he
remarked.

"The guns were yours," said Kit. "When we knew the Jew had sold us, we
resolved to deliver them. You see, we had got the camels."

The headman gave him a searching look. "If I let you have the men we
took, you will be satisfied?"

"Yes," said Kit. "That is all we want."

"Very well," said the other. "Your master robbed me, but he is gone and
my debt will not be paid. I will let your men go; to keep them might be
dangerous." He paused, and although he did not smile, Kit imagined he
was amused. "All the camels with which I paid for the guns were not
mine," he went on. "Some belonged to people who are friends of the
French. I will send for your men. They are not here and you must wait
for two or three days."

He sent off a man to the camels and then touched Macallister.

"If you will stop with me, you shall take care of my guns and you may
get rich," he said, and turned to Kit. "If you can bring me the goods I
want, I will trade with you." Then he indicated the interpreter. "If
this fellow comes back, we will shoot him."

He got up, signed that the audience was over, and went into his tent.
Simon's eyes twinkled.

"Perhaps he thinks I know too much, and I know something. All the same,
I will not come back. In Morocco one runs risks and I have not got paid.
At Cairo the tourists are curious about the East and some are generous.
They know Simon at the big hotel. I will return."

Kit went off to the shade of the ruined hut. Perhaps it was strange, but
he trusted the haughty Berber and he had not altogether trusted Simon.
On the whole, he thought the fellow's plan was good. If the tourists at
Cairo were like some at Las Palmas, Simon would be a useful guide about
the town at night. Kit, himself, would sooner be a robber like the
dark-skinned chief. Then Macallister sat down opposite and began to
clean his pipe.

"If I kent where to steal a handy bit steamboat, yon headman and me
would make a bonnie pair o' pirates, but I've no' much use for camels,"
he remarked. "Weel. I alloo ye took a very proper line wi' him."

"I didn't see the line I ought to take. I was frank."

Macallister's eyes twinkled. "Just that! I'm no saying ye were
plausible, but the headman's no' a fool; he saw ye were a simple
weel-meaning body. Onyway, it's done with. We'll get off when Miguel
comes."

Three days afterwards Miguel and Juan arrived, riding in a frame hung
across a camel. The quartermaster got down awkwardly and stretched his
arms and legs.

"But I am sore! It is like beating to windward in a plunging boat," he
said and went up to Kit. "We were anxious, señor, the Moors are bad. But
I did not bother very much. I knew you would come back for us, and my
saint would guard you."

The blood came to Kit's skin. He said nothing, but gave Miguel his
hand.



CHAPTER V

THE RETURN TO THE BEACH


It was getting cooler, and long shadows marked the curves of the wady.
On the other side, oblique sunbeams touched the bank. The wind had
dropped, and as the dew began to fall the hot soil smelt like a
brick-kiln. In the distance the surf throbbed, and Kit thought its
measured beat soothing. He had had enough of the parched wilderness.

He was languid, for he had borne some strain, and when Miguel and the
mate arrived a reaction had begun. The Berbers gave the party a little
food and water before they broke camp and vanished in the desert, and
Kit started for the coast. Travelling as fast as possible, he had used
his short supplies with stern economy, and now, when he thought the
shore was three or four miles off, he was hungry and tired.

To some extent, dejection accounted for his fatigue. He had got the men
for whom he went, but the thrill he felt at first was gone. Wolf had run
away, his wages were not paid, and since he had left his ship without
leave, he expected Don Ramon would dismiss him when he got back.
Moreover, he had perhaps involved the company in trouble with Captain
Revillon and the Spanish officers. In fact, it looked as if he were
ruined and disgraced.

He was not going to think about Olivia. She had refused him, but he had
really known she would refuse. It was done with; he would be sent back
to Liverpool and would not see her again. There was one comfort; Betty
would stop. She was getting well and making progress; Jefferson trusted
her, and her pay was good. At Liverpool he would not see Betty, but,
like Olivia, she did not want him. In fact, nobody had much use for him.
He had been easily cheated and had muddled all he undertook. Still, he
had got Betty a good post and this was much.

After a time he imagined he ought to see the bay from the top of the
bank, and telling Macallister where he was going, he went up the slope.
The climb was laborious, and at the top he stopped for breath and shaded
his eyes from the level rays. The sun was near the Atlantic and in its
track the water was red; the broken ground about him shone like copper.
Outside the crimson reflections, the sea was wrinkled and marked by thin
white lines where the long rollers broke. The strong light hurt his
dazzled eyes, and with a vague sense of disturbance he turned his head.
When he looked again he could see the end of the point and the
anchorage, but _Cayman_ was gone.

Kit felt slack and sat down in the sand. He could not see all the bay,
but a vessel could only anchor at one spot and _Cayman_ was not there.
Kit had got a very bad jolt. The food and water would hardly last for
another day, the coast was an arid desert, and he did not think he could
reach the camp the Berbers had left. He did not know if he hoped
_Cayman_ had been blown ashore, but if she were wrecked, the crew might
have saved some stores. A mile or two farther on one ought to see the
beach from the top of ground that now broke his view, and he was anxious
to get there, but went down slowly. He must be cool and not alarm the
others yet.

At the bottom he joined Macallister, who had waited and gave him a keen
glance.

"Weel?" said the engineer.

"_Cayman_'s not riding in the pool," Kit replied.

Macallister was quiet for a moment or two. Then he said. "We have half a
gallon o' smelling water, and there are eight o' us! As a rule, I ha'
no' much use for water, but I mind when we broke the condensing plant on
a coolie pilgrim boat. Ye could not fill your tanks at every coaling
station then. I got some water from the hot well; tasting o' copper and
grease. We fed the boilers from the sea and drove her, with funnel
flaming and tubes caked wi' salt. Iron burns, ye ken, unless it's clean,
and I thought the softening furnaces would blow down. She was crowded
fore an' aft wi' sweating, gasping coolies, and we let her gang. When we
made port I swallowed maist a gallon o' lemonade, claret and ice. Man, I
hear the ice tinkling against the pail!"

"To talk about it makes one thirsty and we mustn't be thirsty yet," Kit
remarked, frowning. "Say nothing to the others. We'll push on for the
ridge."

To push on was some relief from suspense. The rest of the party had not
stopped and there was nobody but Macallister to note Kit's keen
impatience. He wanted to reach the high ground that commanded the beach,
because it was possible _Cayman_ had broken her cable and driven ashore.
Kit felt he must know, and the shadows got longer fast. Perhaps it would
be dark before he got to the ridge. His burned skin was wet by sweat,
and his breath was short, but he stubbornly laboured on.

At length he climbed a sloping bank, and from a high spot searched the
bay. The sun had gone, and the red on the sky and water was fading, but
behind the point _Cayman_'s mast cut the glow. Kit's heart beat. The
ketch was not at her anchorage, but she was not on the beach. He shaded
his eyes and looked again.

The mast was slightly inclined; in the glimmering reflections he could
hardly distinguish the boat's hull. The tide was ebbing and he thought
her keel touched bottom, but there was some water under her bilge.
Although the risk of hunger and thirst was gone, Kit was disturbed. When
he studied the water-line on the beach, it looked as if _Cayman_ would
presently fall over on her side. On a flat, open coast, the tides do not
rise much, but there was a difference of some feet in the level, and at
low ebb the boat would be nearly dry.

Kit wondered whether she was damaged, because one of two things had
happened. When it blew fresh _Cayman_ had broken her cable and driven
ashore; or the captain had slipped the anchor and tried to get to sea.
That he had not done so was plain, but since she had not broken up, Kit
imagined she lay in a hollow, sheltered to some extent by higher sands
outside. To get to sea she must wait for the big tides at the new moon,
and then perhaps one must land all heavy gear and ballast and put the
stuff on board again when she reached the anchorage. The job would be
awkward and long.

Pulling himself together, Kit went down to the wady and told the others
the ketch had grounded. The tired men saw all this implied and while the
light faded made the best speed they could. When they reached the beach
it was dark, but the captain had kept good watch and soon after they
arrived a boat came shorewards on a smooth-topped roller. Running into
the water, they pushed her off and Kit presently climbed on board the
ketch. _Cayman_'s deck was sharply slanted; sometimes she lifted her
lower side and one felt her bilge work in the sand. Some distance out to
sea the rollers crashed upon the shoals, but the waves that broke about
the ketch were small. Kit dined on salt fish, potatoes and sour red
wine. In the morning he would talk to the captain; now he was very tired
and must sleep.

He got up soon after daybreak and joined the captain on a plank hung
over the side. A man with a mallet caulked an open seam and indicated
three or four butt joints that were freshly tarred. When Kit had looked
about, the captain sat down on the plank and made a cigarette.

"It blew, señor, but it blew!" he said. "When the anchor dragged we
hoisted jib and mizzen, but she would not beat out. Then while we
hoisted the reefed mainsail she struck. A comber threw her up the sand;
we lowered all sail and let her drive, until we knew by the smoother
water she had crossed the shoal. Then two anchors brought her up."

Kit nodded. "What are you going to do about it?"

"When we have caulked some seams she will not leak much, and if it does
not blow again, she will lie here until the tides get high. In the
meantime, we will heave out the ballast and land it on the beach. Then
perhaps at the new moon we can kedge her across to the pool."

"The job will be long," said Kit. "My men must rest to-day. In the
morning we will get to work."

They began at sunrise next day, but the work was hard. _Cayman_ had been
built for speed and when sail was set would not stand up without a large
quantity of ballast. The ballast was iron kentledge, moulded to fit her
frames, and when the floors were up the men, crouching in the dark,
pulled the heavy blocks out of the bilge-water. Except for an hour or
two at low tide _Cayman_ did not lie quiet; when the water lifted her
she rolled. The blocks were sent up in a sling and lowered into the
boat, which did not carry much and must be rowed for half a mile across
angry waves. Near the beach an anchor was dropped, and when she swung
head to sea her crew jumped over and carried the iron through the surf.
Sometimes they were forced to wait, and sometimes to haul off the boat.

All hands were needed, and after a day or two Kit's muscles ached and
his bruised hands bled. When his limbs were cramped by crawling among
the timbers in the hold, he went off in the boat, and clasping a
fifty-six-pound lump of iron laboured up the hammered beach. Sometimes a
roller, frothing round his waist, urged him on, and sometimes he stopped
and braced himself against the backwash. The bottom was not firm; gravel
and sand rolled up and down and buried his sinking feet. Moreover, he
knew the iron he laboriously carried up must all be carried back.

When the ballast was out the captain hesitated. On the Moorish coast
sheltered ports are not numerous, and for the most part _Cayman_ landed
and shipped cargo from anchorages behind the sands and reefs. In
consequence, her main anchor and cable were very large and heavy, but
the captain thought the vessel must be further lightened in order to
float across the shoals. Now the iron was landed, she rolled violently,
and one hot afternoon, Kit, holding on by a runner, leaned against the
bulwarks. Macallister and Miguel occupied the hatch coaming, the captain
the grating by the tiller.

"If we do not land the anchor, she may strike when we kedge her across
the sand," he said. "If she gets across and it blows hard we will need
the big anchor and all the chain to hold her. We must run one of two
risks."

"If she strikes on the high sand she will stop for good," Miguel
remarked. "In two or three tides the surf would break her up."

"I think that is so," the captain agreed. "In the pool she might ride to
the small anchor and the kedge. It depends on the wind. I do not know
if we will get much wind or not."

Miguel shrugged and used the Castilian rejoinder, "_Quien sabe?_" which
implies that nobody knows.

The captain lighted a cigarette. He was obviously irresolute, and Kit
sympathised. One could not weigh the risks and the choice was hard.

"When you cannot see your way you trust your luck and drive ahead,"
Macallister remarked in uncouth Castilian. "If you do not get to the
spot you want, you get somewhere and the hardest road is often shortest.
Land your anchor and let us start."

"_Bueno!_" said the captain, who got up and went to the windlass.

At high tide, when _Cayman_ floated, they carried out the kedge, and
hove the main anchor and put it in the boat. Kit went with the landing
party and doubted if they could have got out the anchor had not Miguel
been on board. They had no mechanical help; while the boat plunged in
the foaming surf the ponderous lump of iron must be lifted by muscular
effort and when one struggles against an angry backwash one cannot lift
much. Kit was exhausted, his hands bled, and Miguel's arm was torn, but
they got the anchor over and returning to the ketch were fronted by
another obstacle.

In broken water the boat would not carry all the chain; they must take
it by fifteen-fathom lengths, and the connecting shackles had rusted
fast. Kit thought nobody but Macallister could have knocked out the
pins, but at length the cable was divided and they resumed their labour
in the surf.



CHAPTER VI

BETTY DEMANDS HELP


On the evening of Austin's return to Las Palmas he and Jefferson smoked
and talked on the veranda steps. Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Jefferson were
occupied with some sewing at a table near the lamp, but Olivia was not
about. She had gone to a concert at the Metropole with a young English
tourist whom Mrs. Austin approved. For all that, Mrs. Austin did not
know how far Olivia approved and she was bothered about Kit. He had been
longer than she had expected, and to some extent perhaps she was
accountable for him. Mrs. Austin generally meant well and as a rule her
plans to help people worked, but Kit was headstrong and had not left
much to her.

She wondered what Austin thought about her sending off the _Cayman_.
Harry did not say much and he had been occupied since his return.
Jefferson had, no doubt, talked to Muriel, but Muriel was sometimes
reserved. Now Jefferson and Harry were together, Mrs. Austin thought she
might, if she were cautious, get a useful hint.

"I would rather like to get up an excursion to the mountains for Mrs.
Gardner's party. She was Muriel's friend in England, and we have not
done much to amuse her," she said. "However, I expect you could not join
us?"

"You mustn't count on Jake and me," Austin replied. "We have let things
go long enough."

"Yet the business kept going. In fact, I imagine it went pretty well."

"That is so," Austin agreed with a smile. "We know where you got your
talents, and things do go well when Don Pancho resumes control. All the
same, he's had enough and I am needed."

Mrs. Austin was baffled. She had not learned much from Harry, and she
tried Jefferson.

"You have not a useful father-in-law. Did you find a bad tangle when you
got back?"

"I have known a worse tangle when I was about," Jefferson replied.
"Anyhow, I've a pretty good Spanish clerk and Miss Jordan's a wonder."
He paused and gave Mrs. Austin a thoughtful glance. "She's a girl to
reckon on, but she was glad to slacken up and let me get to work. Struck
me she was quiet. Something's bothering her, I guess."

Mrs. Austin let it go. If they would not talk about _Cayman_, she would
not talk about Betty, but she listened. After all, she had given them a
lead.

Jefferson lighted a cigarette and turned to Austin. "You met Don Ramon.
Were his remarks illuminating?"

"Don Ramon is sometimes discreet; I didn't get much from him. The
_Commandancia_ people are his friends and so far I reckon they have not
made trouble about the men Musgrave left in Africa. However, he stated
that Don Arturo would shortly arrive from Liverpool to see if he could
settle the coaling dispute, and I imagine Don Ramon would sooner leave
the thing to his chief."

"Do you think Revillon lodged a formal complaint?"

"On the whole, I think not. Revillon's a cautious fellow and didn't get
on board _Mossamedes_. In fact, he hasn't very much to go upon, and it's
possible the French foreign office don't want a dispute about the
Moorish Atlantic coast. But I don't know, and the situation's
interesting. My notion is, it will be handled pretty cautiously when
Musgrave comes back. Don Arturo's not a fool, and when a light touch is
indicated you can trust Don Ramon."

Jefferson smiled. "In a sense Musgrave's not important. His part's to
put across an awkward job the Spanish officers would sooner leave alone,
and when the log-rolling begins he drops out. If it pays, the others may
use his exploit, but we must try to see he does not get hurt. Anyhow, I
hope he has not piled up the boat. We'll want her soon."

"That is so," Austin agreed. "I've been closely engaged and haven't yet
bothered about the ketch. But are you going?"

Mrs. Jefferson said they had promised to meet some people at the
Catalina, and Austin went with them for a short distance. The night was
dark, but soon after they left the gate they met a girl going towards
the house with a quick, resolute step. It was not Olivia, and when she
vanished in the gloom Jefferson smiled.

"Miss Jordan, I think!" he said, and his voice was rather dry.

A few minutes afterwards, Mrs. Austin, looking up with some surprise,
saw Betty on the steps.

"If Mr. Jefferson is wanted you have missed him," Mrs. Austin said.

"I did not want Mr. Jefferson. I met him and the others in the road and
knew you were alone."

"Then you wished to see me?" said Mrs. Austin, in a careless voice,
although she would sooner Austin had turned back. She indicated a chair
and resumed: "Very well! Tell me what it is about."

Betty sat down. Her clothes were plain but very neat. She looked
business-like and resolute. Mrs. Austin thought her calm cost her
something, but her mouth was very firm.

"Kit has not come back," she said after a moment or two. "I waited
until a fishing schooner returned from the African coast. The _Lucia_
arrived this afternoon, but her crew had not seen the _Cayman_. The next
boat is not expected for some time, and I saw I must come to you."

Mrs. Austin noted that Betty had informed herself about the sailing of
the fishing fleet. She would sooner have sent the girl off, but since
she saw no way of doing so politely, resolved to give her a lead.

"I wonder why you came to me."

"Don't you _know_?" said Betty, who gave her a searching look. "For one
thing, when you persuaded Mr. Jefferson to engage me, you had an object.
You often have an object when people think you kind!"

"Then you imagine I am accountable for your getting the post?"

"Of course!" said Betty, with a touch of impatience. "Kit told me about
his giving you his mother's letter. I rather forced him to tell me; Kit
is trustful and he trusted you. Well, I expect you knew that when he
left Liverpool he wanted me to marry him. It's plain you thought I might
take him from your sister."

"Perhaps I did so," Mrs. Austin admitted. "Kit's an attractive fellow,
and when I was young I fought for my lover; in fact, I fought pretty
hard. Was it strange that I imagined you might take my line? We are all
human; but perhaps you were proud and felt that Kit must fight for you?"

Betty agreed that Mrs. Austin's humanity was obvious. In a way she was a
great lady, an acknowledged leader of fashionable people, but she, so to
speak, put off her dignity. Betty was a clerk, but the other talked to
her as if it were important that both were flesh and blood.

"You don't altogether understand," Betty rejoined. "At the beginning I
did not want to keep Kit away from your sister."

"At the beginning! You imply you would have liked to keep him away
afterwards?"

"Something like that," said Betty quietly. "I saw Miss Brown was not the
girl for Kit."

Mrs. Austin used some control, for Betty's frankness was embarrassing.

"Yet you refused Kit Musgrave at Liverpool!"

"That is so," said Betty and the blood came to her skin. "I'm a clerk
and not beautiful like Miss Brown. I have no advantages and knew nothing
but my business until Mrs. Jefferson began to teach me. Kit's pay was
small; I thought it might be long before he got more and our poverty
would keep him down. A young man who marries on very small pay is badly
handicapped. Kit has some talent; I thought if he was free and lucky, he
might go far. Well, I saw I mustn't stop him, and I let him go."

Mrs. Austin was moved. Betty, like Kit, was naively sincere, and her
unselfishness was plain. It looked as if she loved Kit, but her love was
marked by something motherly and protective. In spite of this, however,
she was now sternly resolute.

"Since you do not approve Olivia, you ought to have been satisfied when
I helped Kit to get a post on board a ship that was not often at Las
Palmas like the _correillo_," Mrs. Austin remarked.

"I was not satisfied. All your thought was for your sister. You did not
trust Wolf, but you saw Kit trusted you, and you let him run a risk. So
long as he was not at Las Palmas, the risk did not matter. Wolf was the
cheat you thought. When he'd done with Kit he sold him and the others to
the French captain."

Mrs. Austin was surprised that Betty knew so much. Moreover, she was
beginning to get angry, because the girl's accusation was just.

"What do you know about Wolf's selling them? You did not see Kit before
he went off," she rejoined.

"I did not," said Betty and coloured. "He saw Miss Brown and did not
bother about me, but Mrs. Jefferson told me why he wanted the boat, and
I went to Don Erminio's."

She was quiet for a few moments and Mrs. Austin saw her shot had reached
its mark. Her mood changed and she was sorry for the girl; Betty had
pluck and was very frank.

"But you did not know where to stop," Betty resumed and her eyes
sparkled. "When Kit wanted to go back you lent him the _Cayman_. You
knew he was rash, but this did not count. You thought the Moors might
carry him off and you would get rid of him for good. Kit took the boat
and thanked you. Perhaps it's strange, but he had not found you out!"

Mrs. Austin's face got red and to keep her self-control cost her
something. She was, however, calm.

"Perhaps I can't persuade you I am not as selfish as you think, but you
are not altogether just," she said. "At the beginning I did send Kit to
Wolf, although I doubted the fellow. But I did not know the risk he ran.
Afterwards, when Kit wanted the _Cayman_, he had found me out."

She stopped for a moment, and smiled when she resumed: "In fact, Kit was
very angry, and his statements were like yours; he declared I had
planned to get rid of him. If it is much comfort, he will not trust me
again. Well, I did not want him at Las Palmas, but I did want to help. I
liked Kit, I liked his honesty; the young fellow is good stuff. We will
let this go. I did not willingly let him take the _Cayman_. He was
resolved to get the boat, and Kit is obstinate. He talked about my
plotting against him, because he meant to force me to agree, and when I
saw his losing his men weighed on him I did agree. That was all. I had
no object then but to see him out."

Betty was persuaded. It looked as if she had exaggerated Mrs. Austin's
unscrupulousness, but this was not important. She had come to fight for
Kit and the battle was not won.

"Anyhow, you are accountable," she urged. "You let Kit go and he has not
come back. Perhaps he's wrecked and hiding on the coast; perhaps the
Moors have carried him off. We must find out, you must send another
boat----"

She stopped, for Austin came up the steps and leaned against a post.
Looking about with a smile, he noted that Mrs. Austin's colour was
rather high. Betty was white and highly strung. She was obviously
embarrassed by his arrival, but looked resolute.

"You want us to send another boat to Africa, Miss Jordan?" he remarked.
"Well, on the whole, I think we must try to indulge you. If you will
wait a few minutes, I will go back with you and see Jefferson about it."

He went into the house and Mrs. Austin went after him. When he sat down
at a writing table, she stood opposite.

"Were you long in the garden?" she asked.

"Not long, but perhaps long enough," he replied. "I wanted to go round
by the back, but to pass through the kitchen might have excited the
servants' curiosity. To feel I must steal into my house was rather
ridiculous."

Mrs. Austin gave him a searching look. "Then you know the situation!
It's awkward, and I'll own my trust in my cleverness has received a
nasty knock. You see what I have done? I liked Kit, and he thinks I
cheated him. I like Betty and she hates me!"

"Perhaps Miss Jordan has some grounds for annoyance, but I wouldn't
exaggerate."

"I did want to keep Kit from Olivia," Mrs. Austin resumed. "Now he's
gone back, she'll think him a hero; his going _was_ rather fine. To
leave things alone would have been very much better."

"Meddling is sometimes risky," Austin agreed. "On the other hand, Olivia
is really not romantic, and I imagine she is weighing young Lockwood's
advantages."

"After all, Olivia's not very important, and perhaps Betty's argument
was justified. I am accountable for Kit's sailing on board _Cayman_, and
it's possible the Moors have carried him off. I'm not as hard as people
think. He must not get hurt."

Austin smiled soothingly. "Exactly! Somebody must go to look for him and
I'll try to engage a fishing schooner. The _Lucia_'s fast. Well, I'll
talk to Jefferson."

Mrs. Austin put her hand on his arm. "You're a very good sort, Harry.
I've done some foolish things, but you haven't yet let me down."



CHAPTER VII

THE "LUCIA" ARRIVES


Jefferson, sitting under a lamp in his office, smoked a cigarette and
studied Austin with quiet amusement. He knew his partner rather well and
thought him embarrassed; in fact, he thought Harry had some grounds for
embarrassment. Jacinta Austin was clever and Jefferson admitted he owed
her much; for one thing, he might not have married Muriel had not
Jacinta helped. Unfortunately, however, meddling was her habit, and
sometimes her clever plans made trouble. Jefferson thought she was sorry
she had not left Kit Musgrave alone.

"I guess we had better send the _Lucia_ across," he said, when Austin
stopped. "_Cayman_ cost a pretty good sum, and since she has not
returned it's possible she has driven ashore. I'd expect the Moors to
get busy about a stranded vessel, and on the South coast they're not
friends of ours."

"Your argument's plausible, Jake," Austin remarked. "For all that, I
imagine you really don't want to let me down."

Jefferson smiled. "Sometimes your imagination's pretty fierce. We're
merchants, and when you're up against a possible loss, to spend a small
sum in order to get your money back is a useful plan. There's another
thing. The _patron_ of the _Lucia_ knows all about catching _baccalao_,
but he stops there. You wouldn't leave him to handle an awkward job, and
the Moors are a treacherous lot. Then Revillon may blow in. You see
where I lead?"

"It's obvious. One of us ought to go, and the job is mine."

"I think not. You know the sea, but you're a steamboat man. I'm a
sailor."

Austin had from the beginning seen that Jefferson knew the part Jacinta
had played and knew he himself was accountable for his wife and meant to
pay her debts. Jake, however, would not admit this and had taken another
line. He was a very good sort, in fact, he was the best. Anyhow, he was
a sailor, and somebody must stop at Las Palmas.

"Very well," said Austin. "Don Erminio's house is shut, and I understand
his friends don't know where he's gone. Don Ramon has, no doubt, sent
him off. Sometimes the captain talks and I expect the _Commandancia_
folks are getting busy. Don Ramon doesn't want any complications before
his chief arrives. Well, suppose you bring Musgrave back?"

"I reckon you can leave it to Don Arturo," Jefferson replied. "If
Musgrave has got the men, the Spaniards will be glad he's put across an
awkward job. Political jealousies are pretty keen, and they have no use
for sending Spanish soldiers outside Spanish soil. However, if Kit has
put it across, Don Arturo will soon fix up things with the Commandante.
I'd back Don Arturo and his manager to bluff Revillon."

Austin agreed, and to agree was some relief. _Cayman_ was his and
Jefferson's boat, and he had thought Kit's using her might involve them
in some trouble with the government officers. Nevertheless, he must
support Jacinta, and Jake would support him.

A few moments afterwards the door opened and Betty came in. Jefferson
got up as if he meant to fetch a chair, but Betty did not advance. She
stood by the door, looking very slender, straight and white. Her face
was quiet and her mouth was firm, but her hands moved nervously.
Jefferson stood by his desk and waited. His manner was the manner he
would have used had a great lady come in, and Austin thought that after
all Betty owed Jacinta much.

"Are you going to send off a schooner in the morning?" she asked.

"It's possible. We were talking about it," Jefferson replied.

"You _must_ send a boat," said Betty firmly.

Jefferson said nothing, but looked at Austin, who knew he must be quiet.

"I don't know if I'm much use and perhaps I'm not," Betty resumed.
"However, if a boat does not sail, I'm going back to Liverpool." She
paused and added with a hint of strain: "I don't want to go."

"Thank you," said Jefferson. "Well, I allow we want you to stop. There's
another thing. I understand my partner kind of promised a boat would go.
Sometimes he's rash, but I feel I've got to see him out."

For a moment Betty turned her head, but when she looked up again she was
calm and businesslike.

"I am sorry I disturbed you," she said. "If you think I took a line your
clerk ought not to take, I will give up my post. However, you are
occupied with Mr. Austin, and we can talk about this again----"

She hesitated and the blood came to her skin. "I ought to have known you
would not refuse; I really did know, but speed's important," she added,
and went off.

"I reckon I ought not to have kept her in suspense," Jefferson remarked.
"Miss Jordan's modest, but she has grit, and grit like hers is fine.
Muriel is fond of her, and I think she is happy with us. At Liverpool
her luck was pretty bad, but if she couldn't bluff me, she was going
back. Well, if Kit Musgrave----"

He stopped and Austin, understanding his embarrassment, smiled. Olivia
was his relation, but he agreed that if Kit, for her sake, let Betty go,
he was a fool. Austin thought he saw what Betty's staunchness cost. The
girl was proud, but when she imagined Kit was in danger she conquered
her pride. She knew Jefferson knew something about Kit's infatuation,
and that her demand for help indicated that she loved him; but she did
not count this important. Austin thought that after all Betty's sense of
values was just.

For a few minutes he and Jefferson resumed their talk, and then started
for the port. They found the _Lucia_'s captain on board, and before long
all was ready for her departure in the morning.

In the meantime, Kit and _Cayman_'s crew were strenuously occupied.
After they had landed the ballast, cable and all heavy stores, they took
careful soundings in the boat and marked the best line to the pool by
bearings from the shore. Then, when the moon was new and high water at
about twelve o'clock one hot morning they launched the boat. For about
two hours there would be water enough to float _Cayman_ across the
highest sands, but if she did not reach the pool before the tide ebbed
much she would strike and stop for good. Since the ballast was landed,
sail could not be used and she must, if possible, be towed by the boat.
Kit, however, doubted. There was some wind and towing would be hard. He
thought they would soon be forced to kedge; to carry out a small anchor
and heave the vessel forward by the rope. Perhaps the worst was the sun
was nearly overhead.

The windlass clanked until the cable ran nearly straight up and down,
and Kit jumped into the boat. It was not his business, but flesh and
blood could not long bear the strain and all must work by turns. For a
minute or two they waited, and he looked about. The light on the sea
was dazzling, and one saw nothing but glittering lines of foam that
marked the turmoil on the sands. To tow _Cayman_ across the belt of
broken water looked impossible, but they must try, since kedging is slow
and time was short. Moreover, the shoals beyond the pool to some extent
broke the sea.

The _patron_ signalled, they got out the oars, and the boat went ahead.
She did not go far. The tightening rope jerked her back, under
_Cayman_'s bowsprit, and, when they pulled ahead again, fouled the oars.
Then the boat sheered off at an angle and they struggled savagely to get
her in line. _Cayman_ floated high above water, exposing her side to the
wind, and the steep swell rolled her about. Her progress was not even;
she advanced by awkward leaps, running up on the boat and a few moments
afterwards dragging her back. When her bows swung up Kit saw her copper
sparkle with reflections of green and gold, but one did not see it long.
The bows went down, the boat ran back, and the plunging bowsprit was
over his head. He heard the others' laboured breath and set his mouth
and rowed.

_Cayman_ was moving, but her progress was horribly slow. The men's
bodies were tense with effort and the muscles on their arms swelled in
knots. Their legs were braced like iron, and the sweat glistened on
their brown skin. Kit could not see properly, and was conscious of a
salt taste in his mouth. In the desert his lips had cracked and he
thought they bled. Perhaps he had torn them when he clenched his teeth.
The others rowed stubbornly, but he knew they could not keep it up.

They did not keep it up. The tightening rope fouled the steering oar,
the boat was drawn back, and when she struck _Cayman_'s bow a man fell
off his thwart.

His oar went in the water and when it was recovered the _patron_ signed
them to come on board. Miguel and two or three more jumped down and Kit
leaned slackly against the bulwarks. There was no shade, the hold and
cabin were unthinkably hot, but he saw the short, thin shadow the
mainmast threw across the deck had moved. This meant the sun had passed
its highest point and the tide was ebbing. He could not judge the
progress they had made. Astern, all was dazzling white and yellow. Foam
and sand melted in a blaze of colour. The _patron_ stood on the steering
gratings and his brows were knit. He said nothing, but Kit thought he
knew they could not tow her across.

After a time the _patron_ signalled, a small anchor plunged, the boat
came alongside, and Kit helped a fresh crew to put the kedge anchor on
board. To carry it ahead was easier than towing, but when they got back
they must break out the other anchor and then heave _Cayman_ up to the
kedge. To heave by hand was fastest, and for a few minutes the row of
men, singing hoarsely, strained and swung. Then the singing stopped,
their bodies got upright and went no farther back. The veins stood out
on their brown foreheads, but the rope would not come in. They hung on,
tense and rigid, unwilling to own that they were beaten.

Perhaps the wind had freshed, for _Cayman_'s plunges were sharper.
Without her ballast, she rolled and jumped ridiculously like a cork, and
now and then her heavy masts lengthened the swing, until it looked as if
she were rolling over. There was not much sea, but on the sands its
movement was horizontal; it rolled across the bottom, and for the ketch
to advance she must overcome its backward impulse.

The men took the rope to the windlass and laboriously hove the levers up
and down. Sometimes the drum would not turn; and then the sharp clink of
the pawls indicated that the rope came in. When she was over the kedge
all were exhausted, but the anchor must be dropped to hold the ground
they had won while the boat took the kedge another cable's length ahead.

When the mast was for a moment upright Kit looked at the shadow and saw
it had moved across another plank. He doubted if they could get across
the sand, although the men were doing all men could do. The strange
thing was, they held out in the scorching heat. But if they did get
across, their labour would not be finished, and Kit owned he shrank from
reloading the ballast. When they landed the iron, the sea carried the
boat ashore; when they brought it off she must be driven against the
rollers. Moreover, the work must be done with speed, because the
anchorage was unsafe. _Cayman_ had driven ashore and, if it blew hard,
might drive ashore again. She could not, without her ballast, beat for
open sea.

Somebody shouted and Kit saw an object on the horizon. It was like a
sail, but he was dull and his satisfaction was not keen. The other boat
would not arrive for some time, and if they did not reach the pool
before her, the ebbing tide would strand them on the bank. Although help
was perhaps coming, it might come too late. They must concentrate on
getting across, and trying to brace himself, he jumped into the boat.

The wind freshened and progress was slower, but the heat did not get
less. Kit's head swam, his arms were cramped, and the backward swing
with the oar badly hurt his side. To heave at the windlass levers was
worse, and he did not bother about the sail. Time was going and he
thought he felt _Cayman_'s keel touch bottom. Perhaps the sand was
uneven and she had crossed a hummock. He laboured mechanically, seeing
nothing but the lever he pulled up and down. All the same, he knew the
kedge warp came in, because the pawls clinked; if they stopped, the men
were beaten, and _Cayman_ would soon strike. Kit did not know the depth
of water the _patron_ got, but the sea was smoother, and this indicated
that the tide had sunk behind the shoals. In fact, Kit thought he saw
shining sand in the foam. All must brace up for a last effort.

The rope came in faster, as if the resistance slackened, and when the
kedge was carried out the men left the windlass and walked aft along the
deck with the rope. Somebody said there was good water under the keel,
the long pole the captain used for sounding hardly touched bottom, and
then did not touch.

"_Basta!_" he shouted; they made the rope fast, and Kit sat down on
deck.

A two-masted vessel came up the channel. The sweep of her slanted green
hull, outlined by curling foam, and her high, shining canvas were
beautiful, but Kit hardly glanced at her. He was exhausted, and leaning
against the bulwarks, he shut his eyes.

Soon afterwards, Jefferson jumped on board and stopped by Kit. Kit's
skin was burned, and crusted by salt and sand where the spray had dried.
His lips were cracked, and his torn hands bled. Getting an anchor out of
a plunging boat is awkward work.

"Hallo!" said Jefferson. "You look as if you had got up against it
hard."

Kit opened his eyes and smiled. "I think we have had enough."

Jefferson nodded. "We'll put you on board _Lucia_; they have rigged an
awning under the mainboom. We've got some ice and Pepe knows how to mix
a long, cool drink." He turned to the _patron_. "If there is much sea
next high water, you cannot ride to the kedge. I see you have landed the
best anchor."

The _patron_ said he had done so and Jefferson ordered his boat to the
bow.

"Let your men rest; the _Lucia_'s are fresh. But what about Miguel and
Juan, the mate?"

"They are in the forecastle, getting up another warp."

Jefferson gave Kit a smile. "You brought them back! We'll talk about it
again. I must get the anchor while there's water across the sand, and
will put you on board _Lucia_ before I start."

Kit went on board and got into a hammock under the awning. He thought
Jefferson's getting to work typical; Jefferson's habit was to work and
talk afterwards. Now he had arrived Kit was not going to bother. His job
was finished, and things went smoothly when Jefferson took control. Pepe
brought him a cool drink, and soon after he drained the glass he went to
sleep.



CHAPTER VIII

"CAYMAN'S" RETURN


Don Arturo and his party occupied a corner of the glass-roofed _patio_
at the Metropole. For the most part, the tourists had gone when Las
Palmas got hot, and the big hotel was nearly empty, but the cook and
manager had given the party's ten o'clock breakfast careful thought. The
company's cold stores were searched and the finest fruit in the island
was ordered. Don Arturo's hospitality was famous at Las Palmas, London
and Liverpool, and people talk about the feasts he gave. Pioneers of
colonial industry, imperialist politicians, and leaders of commerce met
at the table.

His guests at the Metropole were a high civil officer, Don Ramon, Austin
and the _Commandante de Marina_. The coffee, and cigars carefully sealed
in glass, were brought from the Caribbean coast in the company's
steamers, and grown for the presidents of South American republics; the
wine was made for the rulers of central Europe. As a rule Don Arturo's
hospitality was extravagant. Perhaps he found it paid, for he himself
was a plain business man and had known poverty. Yet, although a
merchant, he was something of a prince; when famous shipbuilders and
financiers crowded his waiting-room, he would stop to weigh a ship's
cook's complaint. His humblest servant might appeal direct to him. He
gave all audience, and his knowledge and justice were rather like Haroun
a Raschid's.

Now he looked thoughtful and gave Austin a quiet glance. "To some
extent, Wolf was your antagonist, but I don't see why you took a part in
my purser's African adventure."

"At the beginning I don't know that I did take a part," Austin said with
a smile. "Mr. Musgrave demanded my boat, and since I was not at home, my
wife indulged him. When I sent off the other vessel, my object was
mainly to get my money back."

"You imagine Musgrave's resolve to go was, so to speak, spontaneous?"

"I don't think he was _prompted_. Losing his men--in a sense, they were
your men--weighed on him. All the same, if he brings them back, I
imagine his going was lucky."

"It is lucky," the civil officer agreed. "The men are Spaniards and we
cannot leave them in the hands of the Moors, but to rescue them might be
difficult. Expeditions to Africa are not popular just now, and to send a
gunboat would embarrass the government."

The Commandante nodded. "One must reckon on the opposition newspapers,
and the Catalan radicals are very keen. Fresh trouble about Morocco
would start an outcry. If one could send a small party to negotiate, it
would be easier, but this might be dangerous; the Moors are disturbed
and threatening. To land an armed force would mean fighting and the
force must be strong. Besides, the Moors are cunning. It is possible
they have retired across our border."

"I understand the French captain has not lodged a formal complaint," Don
Arturo remarked.

"Captain Revillon is discreet," said the civil officer. "Had he seized
your ship with the guns on board, it would have been another thing."

"Well, I suppose you are satisfied that I was cheated? You take it for
granted that when my ship was chartered I did not know she would be
used for smuggling?"

"We know you and we know your manager," the officer replied with a
polite bow. "We doubted the man who chartered the ship, but until she
came back and he vanished we did not see his plan."

"On the surface, his plan was obvious," Don Arturo remarked rather
dryly. "For a time he carried on a risky business and then, when he saw
the risks were greater than he thought, resolved to get a quantity of
goods without proper payment. When he had got the goods and knew he must
soon be found out, he intrigued with the French and tried to get some
money from them. The ship was not his, and I imagine the last lot of
guns were worthless. It looks plausible."

"Yet you think this was not all?" the Commandante suggested.

"I am a merchant, not a politician," Don Arturo rejoined. "I have got
back my ship and am satisfied."

"You have some grounds for satisfaction. The ship carried guns for
rebels and Señor Musgrave was your servant as well as Wolf's. I think
this was a mistake, but Don Ramon has used much discretion, and we do
not doubt your honesty."

"In the meantime, my purser and the Spanish sailors have not returned.
What are you going to do about it?"

The Commandante lighted a cigar. "You must use patience. I think you see
the situation is awkward, and Wolf is not a common cheat. Your manager
knows much about our politics."

"I imagine Wolf's object was not altogether to earn money by smuggling
and robbing the Moors," Don Ramon agreed meaningly.

The officer shrugged. "It is possible. One cannot be altogether frank,
but there is some jealousy about the African coast, and a country we
know feels she is shut out. Well, we will imagine a ship flying the
Spanish flag is seized by a foreign gunboat, and French subjects are
killed by the guns she landed. Perhaps Spanish subjects are killed; it
is not important which. Then the ship is really British. Picture for
yourself the complications! When a dispute begins, who knows where it
will end?"

"In Spain, we are old-fashioned, and our justice is not British
justice," said the Commandante, whose face got very stern. "One is given
some discretion. If I could find Señor Wolf----"

"For a few days we must wait," the civil officer resumed. "Perhaps the
English _sobrecargo_ and our sailors will return. If they do not, we
must think---- But we will talk about something else."

They talked for some time and then a messenger arrived and gave Don
Ramon a note.

"It is from the office," he remarked. "The signals on the Isleta are
going. A schooner and a ketch come from the East."

"Ah," said Austin with a smile, "I reckoned on something like this. I
think the situation has arranged itself."

"You mean, the ketch is yours?" said Don Arturo.

"I expect she is the _Cayman_ and the other is the _Lucia_. It looks as
if Musgrave had got the men. Shall we cross the harbour and see the
boats arrive?"

The others agreed, for all were keen to get the news, and soon
afterwards they landed on the long mole, which, built of ponderous
concrete blocks, runs for some distance out to sea. The morning was
bright, the Trade-breeze fresh, and outside the shelter of the Isleta
head big foam-tipped combers rolled south. Shining spray blew about the
mole, and one felt the surges beat the massive blocks. The echoes of
the measured shocks rolled among the coal wharfs across the harbour.

Some distance off two sails broke the dazzling sweep of blue. They
slanted, plunged and almost vanished, but they got larger, and at times
when they crossed a comber's top Austin saw a dark line of hull. He knew
_Cayman_; no other boat about the islands carried a mizzen like hers.
Moreover, he thought he knew Kit Musgrave, and since Kit was coming
back, was persuaded he had brought the men. He admitted that Jacinta had
used Kit rather shabbily, and he meant, if possible, to make some
amends.

"What are you going to do about Musgrave?" he asked Don Arturo.

"If he is willing, he can stop with us. Are you interested in the young
fellow?"

"Musgrave is rather a friend of ours and has some useful qualities,"
Austin replied. "For example, he undertook a very awkward job because he
felt he ought. Then it's important that he has carried out the job. One
trusts a man like that and my business is growing----"

Austin knew when to stop. Since he had indicated that he knew Kit's
value and was willing to engage him, he had perhaps gone far enough. Don
Arturo smiled.

"If Musgrave has straightened out the tangle that bothers our Spanish
friends, he deserves a reward. However, I must think about it and study
the fellow. Sometimes to push on a young man fast is not an advantage."

Austin agreed, and when they reached the end of the mole noted that
Betty occupied the last large block. The spray tossed about her, and her
dress streamed in the wind. She did not see Austin; her eyes were fixed
upon the boats. Austin was not surprised that she was there. When
vessels approached the port, the look-out on the Isleta signalled to the
town, and clerks at the shipping office knew the flags. Advancing
carefully, he touched Betty's arm.

"The smaller boat is _Cayman_. I expect Kit's on board."

She turned and Austin saw her look was strained. "You don't know yet!
Unless the men are with him, Kit is not on board."

"I know Jefferson," said Austin, smiling. "He went to look for Kit, and
the larger boat's the _Lucia_. You see what this implies? I'm using your
argument."

In the meantime, a crowd had begun to gather. Men from the fishing
vessels and women with black clothes and black shawls pushed towards the
end of the mole. Some talked and gesticulated; some were quiet, and
their dark faces were inscrutable like the Moors. All kept back a little
from Don Arturo's party, and the Commandante studied them with languid
interest.

"If their friends do not arrive, I think we shall have a
_demonstration_," he remarked to the civil officer. "We know Don Ramon
is discreet, and I gave the _Diario_ a useful hint, but it looks as if
the people knew the story we meant to keep dark."

"At Las Palmas nothing is long kept dark," Don Ramon replied. "I have
used some caution, but one cannot stop Don Erminio talking. It is
frankly impossible!"

The officer shrugged. He was a _Peninsular_ from Madrid. "In a few
minutes, perhaps, your islanders will curse the government and throw
stones at us. But a demonstration is not important, and at Barcelona
they use bombs and knives----"

He stopped, for the vessels were not far from the mole. _Lucia_ led. Her
high white canvas was sharply inclined and her hull listed until the
foam leaped about her rail. One saw her keen bows swing and cleave the
frothy seas. She was beautiful and strangely swift, for there are no
finer schooners than the Canary coasting fleet. Three or four small
figures began to run about her deck, the big gaff-topsail tilted,
fluttered and came down; a jib was lowered and the ketch behind her
forged ahead. Austin smiled and left the others, for he was now
altogether satisfied Jefferson was on board. Jake was a chivalrous
fellow.

"All has gone well," he said to Betty.

"But you cannot see the people yet. It's too far."

"We saw _Lucia_'s topsail hauled down," Austin rejoined.

Betty's eyes sparkled. "You mean, they want to let Kit make the harbour
first? Well, that's like Mr. Jefferson!"

"Jefferson's a good sort," Austin agreed. "Anyhow, I rather think Kit
deserves his triumph."

_Cayman_ did not shorten sail. Her topmast bent to leeward, her outer
jib was wet, and when she plunged, her straining bowsprit sank into the
sea ahead. Her deck was sharply slanted; one saw her copper glimmer
green, and now and then a fathom of the metal swung out of the foam. A
tattered red and yellow flag, hard like a board, blew from her mizzen
gaff; she leaped across the white seas as if her _patron_ felt he
carried important news.

The news was important. On the mole, people who did not know Kit and
Jefferson waited with keen suspense. They could not yet see the faces of
the crew and tried to count the figures, but the men moved about. Some
got the anchor ready and some threw down coils of rope. Then, listing to
a gust that buried her lee rail, _Cayman_ drove past the end of the mole
and the crowd began to shout.

"_Ambos! Los veo!_ They have brought them both!"

Betty thrilled. Her heart beat and her eyes were wet. She was moved by
keen emotion, and for a moment she had seen Kit. Then _Cayman_ went
about and he was hidden by the swinging canvas. She came up to the wind
again. Jibs and topsail ran down, she stopped, and the anchor splashed.
People shouted and pushed towards the landing steps.

_Cayman_'s boat was lowered. Betty saw Kit, Macallister and some others
jump on board. The boat pulled for the steps and the crowd surged along
the edge of the mole. When the boat stopped, hats were thrown up, and
Betty knew in Spain one throws one's hat to the _maestro_ after a great
exploit in the bull-ring. Hoarse shouts pierced the rumble of the sea.

"_Viva el Yngles! Buen' muchacho! Viva el Señor Jefferson._"



CHAPTER IX

KIT'S REWARD


On the morning after their arrival, Kit and Macallister went to the
Metropole. Macallister wore a neat blue uniform, a cap with the
company's badge, and spotless white deck-shoes. His talk was careless
and now and then his eyes twinkled. Kit's look was moody, and he wore
plain duck clothes. He did not know if he was the company's servant and
rather thought he was not; Don Arturo had sent for him, and he was
probably going to be dismissed.

When they went up the drive to the big square hotel Macallister looked
about.

"Don Arturo's a great man, but he has no' much eye for beauty," he
remarked. "When his architect built the Metropole his model was a block.
Maybe the cube style's economical. We get the maist room inside wi' the
least span o' wall, but if I was a Spaniard, I'd make a bomb and blow up
the ugly thing."

He stopped and putting his head on one side studied the hotel. "Bulk has
value, if it's properly relieved. The old Greeks kenned; they used the
square but they broke the line wi' pillars and cornices. Maybe, if ye
worked in two, three mouldings and ran a _loggia_ along the front----"

"I didn't know you were an architect," Kit said impatiently.

"Ye dinna ken a' old Peter's talents," Macallister rejoined with a grin.
"Architecture's useful and man has done fine work in stone, but for a
pattern o' lightness, strength and beauty ye'll need to take a modern
steel steamship. She must bear strains and stresses ye dinna bother
aboot on land. A town hall, for example, is no designed for plunging
through a steep head sea. Man! wi' a rule and a scriber, I'd design ye a
better building than yon hotel."

Kit frowned and pulled out his watch. "Don Arturo is waiting for us."

"Just that! He stated eleeven o'clock. There was no inquiry aboot my
convenience. Maybe the head o' a big steamship line likes to command,
and deck officers touch their hats and run, but when ye send for an
engineer ye use some manners."

Kit said nothing and started for the hotel. He was not an engineer, and
at the Liverpool shipping office had been drilled to prompt obedience.
The clerk, however, told him to wait and sent a page with Macallister to
a room above.

"You are some minutes late," said Don Arturo, indicating a chair.

Macallister noted that the open window commanded the front of the hotel.
In fact, when he stopped to criticise its architecture he imagined his
stopping might be remarked.

"Three minutes, sir," he admitted, pulling out a black-metal watch. "On
board a Spanish ship breakfast's no' very punctual."

Don Arturo knew something about Macallister; moreover he knew his type.
Sometimes one may bully a merchant captain, but not a Scots engineer.

"You left your ship without leave," he said. "Are you willing to state
your grounds for breaking the company's and the British Board of Trade's
rules?"

"To begin with, the ship was Spanish for the time," Macallister
rejoined. "Had there been work for me on board I might have stopped, but
the captain was sick and the office had no use for the boat. Then I
reckoned Mr. Musgrave might need me in Africa. In a sense, his business
was the company's."

Don Arturo pondered. It looked as if Musgrave had staunch friends, but
this was not important. He saw the engineer was not at all embarrassed.

"Mr. Musgrave has pairs," Macallister resumed. "For a' that, he's young
and had undertaken a verra awkward job. I thought he needed a man o'
sound judgment, in fact, a man like me."

"So you stole away and went with him? If this is an example, I don't
know that your judgment is very good, but I'm curious about your
adventures."

Macallister instinctively felt for his pipe. Don Arturo glanced at the
pipe and pushed across a cigar box. The cigars were packed in glass, but
Don Arturo was a great merchant and sometimes indulged his humour. It
was plain the other rather thought himself his guest than a servant who
deserved a reprimand.

"Thank you," said Macallister coolly. "Weel, if ye'll no' be bored----"

He narrated his journey up the wady and the encounter with the Moors,
but gave Kit the leading part. Macallister had some talent for
story-telling and used no reserve. When he talked about their interview
with the chief Don Arturo stopped him.

"Your carelessness with the pistol might have cost your party much," he
said.

Macallister smiled. "It might have cost the headman mair!"

"That's obvious," said Don Arturo, with a touch of impatience. "But
suppose the bullet had struck him? You don't imagine his people would
have let you go?"

"It's no' altogether obvious, until ye understand. When she exploded I
put my finger on the magazine. There was another cartridge. Had the
headman moved when I went up til him---- He didna move; he was wooden.
I'm thinking he kenned the magazine wasna empty."

"But you gave him the pistol?"

"Just that!" said Macallister. "Maybe the experiment was rash, but I was
justified. Yon Moor was proud and his nerve was good."

Don Arturo thought the engineer's was better and, allowing for the
strain, his judgment was strangely quick and accurate. He did not doubt
the tale; he knew much about his servants, and when some boiler tubes
had burst----

"For all that, I don't see how you persuaded him to release the men," he
said.

"Mr. Musgrave persuaded him. His argument was good, though it wasna
altogether his argument, but himself. The lad's honesty was plain. The
Moor couldna doubt him, although he might ha' doubted you or me."

"Sometimes frankness pays," Don Arturo remarked with a twinkle. "What
argument did Musgrave use?"

"His master had gone, naebody would ransom us and the ithers, and we had
naething worth the stealing. It carried weight, but no' a' the weight.
The Moor was a robber, but in the desert he was a kin' of prince, and a
prince cannot be shabby. Mr. Musgrave, wi' two, three ragged sailors and
a very old gun, had come seeking him. The thing was a joke, but I reckon
the Moor saw the joke was fine. He was a proud man and he let the
sailors go."

Don Arturo mused. He was not romantic, but, like the Moor, he was
sometimes generous. He pictured the little drama in the sands; the
English lad's naïve honesty, and the dark Moor's reserve. The tale was
moving, and he was forced to approve the part his servants had played.
But other business waited.

"Well," he said, "you have talked about Musgrave, but I don't know that
you have yet justified your leaving your ship."

"I dinna ken I tried," Macallister rejoined. "When I'm wanting it, I can
get anither post, but I doubt if ye could get an engineer like me."

"It's possible I could not," Don Arturo admitted with some dryness.
"Well, if you can satisfy Don Ramon, you may go back on board, and now
you might send up Mr. Musgrave."

Macallister went off, smiling, but when Kit entered he was highly
strung, since he expected to be told he must give up his post. He looked
worn, for fatigue and strain had left their mark. Don Arturo looked very
business-like, and his watch was on the table.

"Mr. Macallister has given me some particulars about your exploits and I
have not much to ask," he said. "To begin with, when the French gunboat
chased you, why did you resolve to land the guns?"

"I don't altogether know, sir," Kit replied. "It was plain Wolf's agent
had sold us and it looked as if he had cheated the Moors. They had paid
for goods they would not get, and although Yusuf made the bargain, in a
sense, they dealt with me."

"You felt your business was to deliver the goods?"

"Something like that, sir," Kit said awkwardly. "Then, since Wolf had
engaged to land the guns, I thought we could best baffle him by carrying
out his engagement."

Don Arturo saw the ironical justice that marked Kit's counterplot, but
he said dryly, "I expect you knew you risked my ship?"

"I knew this afterwards; when the gunboat steamed up I couldn't weigh
the risk. I didn't know how much Captain Revillon knew, and if he could
seize the ship had we thrown the guns overboard. It was obvious he
could not seize her if we crossed the shoals. The water was not deep
enough for him."

"We'll let it go. Why did you return for the men?"

"I thought the job was mine, sir. I was the company's servant, and the
captain was injured. If I'd told my story at the office and the
_Commandancia_---- But you can see the obstacles!"

Don Arturo nodded. "I imagine I do see. You thought you could handle the
thing better than Don Ramon and the Spanish officers? Rather a bold
claim, was it not?"

"They'd have been embarrassed by difficulties that did not bother me,"
Kit replied with some hesitation. "I thought speed and quietness
important; the plan was to steal off and get to work."

He had stood in front of the table, but Don Arturo now indicated a
chair.

"On the whole, I think your plan was good. All the same, if you stop
with us, you must run no more risks like that. Your business is to carry
out the company's orders."

Kit's heart beat, for his relief was keen. "Then I may go back, sir?"

"You will not go back on board the _correillo_, but Don Ramon is sending
_Mossamedes_ to Cuba and has a post for you. At sea, your duties will be
a purser's; at the Cuban ports you will be the company's agent. All the
cargo is not sold and you will negotiate with the merchants. The post
carries better pay, but Don Ramon will give you particulars. I believe
Mr. Macallister will join the ship, and the _correillo_'s captain takes
command."

Kit had not thought Don Arturo meant to promote him, and the blood came
to his skin.

"Thank you, sir," he said. "I'll try----"

Don Arturo smiled and looked at his watch.

"If you carry out your new duties with the resolution and honesty that
marked your dealings with the Moors, I expect we shall be satisfied. In
the meantime, they want you at the office."

Kit started for the office. He was promoted, and although his promotion
was perhaps not marked, he thought the head of the line had studied him
and meant to help his progress. Moreover, his supposition was accurate.

Soon after Kit had gone a page brought up Austin, and Don Arturo
remarked: "I have just given Musgrave rather a better post."

"Then I expect he will make good. If he had joined me, I'd have given
him the best post I'd got."

"Musgrave's friends believe in him," Don Arturo replied. "But we must
remember that caution is sometimes useful and the lad is young. I would
sooner his promotion was gradual. But we have something else to talk
about."

In the meantime, Kit went to the office and afterwards to a bench in the
_alameda_. His post was better than he had thought, and he felt he had,
so to speak, made a start. If he satisfied the company, he might go
ahead fast, and this was important because it was bound up with
something else. Since he saw Olivia he had pondered, and now he reviewed
his efforts and ambitions. It was getting plain that when he fell in
love with Olivia and tried to force himself above his proper level he
was rash. She had refused him and, from her point of view, she was
justified, but in a sense, his proposal was not regular, and he had
declared if his fortunes mended, he would renew it in proper form. He
owed Olivia this; the strange thing was he was rather conscious of his
duty than keen.

To begin with, he must see Mrs. Austin, since he now meant to keep the
rules. She was at home and when she received him he said: "You know we
got the men, and I must thank you for lending me _Cayman_ and sending
the schooner. If she had not arrived, I doubt if we could have brought
_Cayman_ home."

"Oh, well!" said Mrs. Austin, "to find you have forgiven me is some
relief, but after all I don't deserve your thanks. You see, Miss Jordan
sent the other boat!"

"Betty sent the _Lucia_?" Kit exclaimed.

"She bullied me and declared I had not used you well. While we talked
about it my husband arrived and rather agreed with Betty's argument.
Nevertheless, I imagine she doubted us, because soon afterwards she
bullied Jefferson. She stated that if he did not go to your rescue, she
would give up her post."

Kit coloured, and Mrs. Austin was amused by his embarrassment.

"Perhaps I did not use you well," she resumed.

"From the beginning you were very kind," Kit broke out. "When I last saw
you, I talked like a hot-tempered fool. I didn't see all I owed you, I
meant to force you to lend me the boat. The strange thing is, I hadn't
thought about Betty; but it was really she who helped. Betty is like
that----"

He was quiet for a moment or two, but Mrs. Austin waited and he went on:
"Well, I have done what I undertook, and Don Arturo has given me a
better post. Perhaps the post is not very good, but I am going to ask
Olivia if, when I have made some progress, she will marry me."

"Do you expect me to approve? Or do you feel I ought to know your
plans?" Mrs. Austin asked.

"I think I want to be honest," Kit replied, rather dryly.

Mrs. Austin smiled. "Your honesty is obvious. Well, I don't know that I
would approve, but if you can persuade Olivia, I'll try to be resigned."

"You don't expect I can persuade her?"

"Perhaps I don't. Do you?"

"I do not," said Kit. "For all that, I'm going to use some effort."

"You are an obstinate fellow," Mrs. Austin rejoined. "However, you will
understand my not wishing you good luck. In fact, I rather think you
don't know your luck!"

Kit went off. He was puzzled. Sometimes Mrs. Austin's remarks did puzzle
him, but he began to see a light. But the light was dim. Full
illumination had not yet come.



CHAPTER X

OLIVIA'S REFUSAL


After the five o'clock _comida_ Kit went to Jefferson's office. There
was no use in returning to Mrs. Austin's, because it was an evening she
received her friends, and Olivia would be surrounded by the guests.
Besides, he wanted to see Betty. He had not seen her yet, for when he
went to the office she was occupied with Jefferson, and he did not know
she had watched his arrival from the mole.

The room behind the arch was shady. A little cool breeze shook the
curtain and one smelt heliotrope. Kit noted the smooth polished floor,
the even rows of black boxes, and the neatly-sorted documents on the big
writing table. Tidiness is not the rule in Spain, but all was neat where
Betty was about. Betty herself wore a plain white dress, and Kit thought
she looked cool and businesslike. Turning her revolving chair, she gave
him her hand with a friendly smile.

"I was very glad to know you had got back," she said.

"If you had not sent Jefferson we might not have got back yet."

"I expect you have seen Mrs. Austin, but you mustn't exaggerate," Betty
said calmly. "When you forced her to lend you _Cayman_, she knew she was
doing what she ought."

"I imagined I forced her; now I doubt. She is kind and it looks as if
I'm not as clever as I thought. Anyhow, I didn't force her to send the
other boat; if force was needed, you did that. When the _Lucia_ arrived
we were worn out, but all the ballast must be brought off through the
surf. It had been calm unusually long, we knew the wind would soon come,
and if it blew fresh before we got the big anchor on board, _Cayman_
would be wrecked. I hardly durst think about the job."

"You had a bad time, Kit?"

"Perhaps I got as good a time as I deserved. When I arrived from
Liverpool I was very raw, but didn't know my rawness. People indulged
me, and I went ahead, satisfied I could pull off all I undertook. I
didn't know I was used and cheated; no doubt Wolf and Yusuf laughed!
They'd got a dull, self-confident simpleton to play their crooked game.
Well, in a way, perhaps, it was lucky I lost the men. I began to see my
level."

Betty mused. She rather liked Kit's humiliation. Perhaps it was
extravagant, for his rash return to Africa was very fine. Although his
venture looked hopeless, he had gone. The strange thing was, when at
length he saw Wolf had cheated him, he did not see another had done so.
Betty wanted to warn him, but knew she must not.

"You were sincere and nothing you did was shabby," she said. "Perhaps
your luck was bad, but this is not important. You didn't think about
yourself; you were not daunted----"

"I was daunted," Kit declared. "When I landed from _Cayman_ and started
for the desert with three or four sailors, I wanted to run back to the
boats. You see, the thing was ridiculous. All my fine romantic plans had
led to this. However, we'll let it go. You're staunch and you helped me
out. Now, when I'm hipped and moody you let me talk. I doubt if you know
what a very good sort you are."

Betty gave him a level glance. She was moved and calm was rather hard,
but calm was plainly indicated.

"Come in again when I'm not engaged, because I must send you off," she
said. "Jefferson goes to Orotava with Mrs. Jefferson in the morning and
some accounts must be made up before he starts." She paused and added:
"I think Mrs. Austin and Miss Brown mean to join Mrs. Jefferson."

Kit went off. It was strange, but Betty's news was something of a
relief. After all, if he did not see Olivia in the morning, he need not,
for some time, resign himself to her refusal. She would, no doubt,
refuse him, and he wondered whether his shrinking from the jolt
accounted for his moodiness. Perhaps the moodiness was not logical, but
he was moody. It would have been much better had Betty not refused him
at Liverpool. Betty was his sort and had she loved him he would not have
been carried away by Olivia. Of course, Betty was justified; she knew
his drawbacks, but from Olivia's point of view, he had others. But in
spite of this, after his rash talk in the _alameda_, he must ask her to
marry him. Mrs. Austin knew he was going to do so, and she had smiled.

In the morning he was forced to go to the office, and when Don Ramon
sent him off he saw the _correillo_ start for Teneriffe. A clerk told
him Mrs. Austin and Miss Brown were on board, but a few days afterwards
Kit thought his luck was good. _Mossamedes'_ cargo arrived slowly and
Don Ramon resolved to send a schooner to Orotava for a load. Kit got
leave to go, and one evening landed on the lava mole.

The evening was calm and light mist floated about the shoulders of the
Peak. The long swell broke in sheets of foam, but its beat was slow and
languid echoes rolled about the valley. One smelt oleanders and orange
flowers. When Kit went up the path to the hotel his look was thoughtful.
He wondered whether Mrs. Austin had an object for leaving Las Palmas;
but he was going to see Olivia. To know he was refused was better than
suspense. Anyhow, he must ask her in proper form, and she must decide.
If she would not frankly acknowledge him her lover, she must let him go.

His luck held good, for he found her on a bench behind a tall geranium
hedge. Olivia wore a black evening dress with yellow bands, and in the
background the red geraniums shone. Kit knew she liked colour, but
somehow he was jarred. Olivia was strangely beautiful; one could not see
her a poor man's wife.

She looked up and a touch of red came to her skin. Kit thought her
surprised and perhaps a little startled, but this was all. He himself
was very sober and looked rather grim.

"Kit!" she said. "When did you arrive?"

"I landed not long since from a schooner. The company sent me to buy
onions."

Olivia laughed. "You are dreadfully unromantic, but perhaps you thought
you had better state your object! Have you bought the onions?"

"Not yet. I wanted to see you first. Sometimes I am romantic. It might
be better if I were not."

"Well, perhaps romance cheats one now and then," Olivia rejoined,
smiling. "But we won't philosophise. If you had arrived two or three
minutes since, you would have seen Jacinta."

"I saw Mrs. Austin the afternoon before you sailed," said Kit. "I told
her I was going to ask if you would marry me."

Olivia turned, rather quickly, and gave him a level glance. "Oh, well! I
knew your pluck. But what did Jacinta remark?"

"She laughed," Kit replied with some dryness. "Nevertheless, she
declared if you were willing----"

"Jacinta is not often rash. I expect you doubted my willingness, but
after your extravagant talk in the _alameda_, you felt you ought to
ask."

Kit coloured, but his mouth was rather hard and his look was steady. "I
did feel something like that. In the _alameda_ you were amused and your
amusement hurt. I was carried away, but I wanted you. Well, I said if I
brought back the men and got another post---- I did bring back the men
and have got a better post."

Olivia stopped him, but her look was gentler. "Your venture was very
fine, Kit. I was proud of you, and if anything could have moved me----
But I'm not your sort."

"You are the most beautiful girl I have known," Kit declared.

"Yet you're a Puritan and ought to know beauty isn't all; I think you
really do know. Well, I won't marry you, Kit. We would risk too much.
People think me romantic, but I'm not. In fact, I'm cold and very
practical. It looks as if we had changed parts and you were the
sentimentalist."

"I loved you," Kit said quietly.

"I know," Olivia admitted. "It counted for much. Perhaps I liked you to
love me; I own I'm selfish. But your poverty wasn't altogether the
drawback. You're sober and quiet; I'm theatrical. I like the middle of
the stage; I want colour, movement, and the leading part. It's plain
that we would jar."

Kit frowned. He saw Olivia was firm, and saw, rather vaguely, that her
firmness was wise. In a sense, she was theatrical. Red geraniums,
oleanders and scented orange flowers were her proper background. Olivia
belonged to the South. Perhaps it was strange, but he pictured Betty in
her neat, cool office. Betty wore white clothes, sometimes with a touch
of the soft virgin blue. She stood for the reserve and staunchness of
the bracing North. But he had asked Olivia to marry him.

"If you were persuaded we would jar----" he said and stopped.

Olivia smiled, but her smile was kind. "You are trying to be nice, but
you want to know why I let you go on? Well, you were a new type. You
were fresh and sincere, and sometimes very obstinate. The others
indulged me; you did not. You had qualities I liked; perhaps because
they were not mine. Then romance called and sometimes I began to think I
might take the plunge, but I hesitated. I valued all I must give up and
I have not your pluck----"

She paused and gave Kit a quiet glance. "Well, I'm sorry, but you ought
to be grateful I was not rash. Although you're a very good sort, you are
not my sort. I could not use your rules, and you would not use mine. You
must let me go and marry somebody brave and honest----"

She got up and Kit heard steps on the path.

"Some of the people from the hotel," she said. "Will you come and see
Jacinta?"

"I think not," Kit replied and forced a smile. "My business is to buy
onions and I must get to work."

Olivia gave him her hand. "Perhaps I was shabby. In all you do, I wish
you good luck!"

She went to meet the others, and Kit went down the path. He was hurt,
but he had braced himself beforehand, and the hurt was less than he had
thought. Moreover, he knew Olivia's arguments were good. He loaded the
schooner and soon after he returned to Las Palmas Jefferson came to look
for him on board _Mossamedes_.

"If you're not altogether satisfied with the post Don Arturo gave you,
another could be got," he said. "A Spanish company is going to run two
or three small, fast boats to the islands and wants an agent. I've been
asked to find out if you would undertake the duties?"

"I'm not a Spaniard," Kit replied. "Why do they offer me the job?"

"I rather think it is a reward. In Spain, government approval pays, and
perhaps the new company got a hint. It's possible the Las Palmas
officials feel they owe you something, but can't openly acknowledge your
services. However, I'd better state the duties and pay."

When Kit knew the pay he lighted a cigarette and pondered. Then he said,
"The offer's good, but I can't take the post. For one thing, I've
engaged to go to Cuba for Don Arturo."

"The office would release you."

"I think that is so," Kit agreed. "All the same, I undertook the job;
and there's another thing. I'm young and begin to see I'm rawer than I
thought. In fact, I've begun to know my proper level and where I really
belong. Not long since I got a nasty knock and for a time I'm going
slow. Perhaps I may go higher, but when my chance comes I mean to be fit
for the better job."

Jefferson nodded. "On the whole, I reckon your plan is good, and we'll
let the agency offer go." He paused and resumed: "You were across at
Teneriffe. Did you make Orotava?"

"I did," said Kit, with a smile. "I saw Miss Brown and asked her to
marry me. She would not, but now I can think about it calmly, I see she
took a very proper line."

Jefferson said nothing, and soon afterwards went to his boat. For all
that, he approved Kit's philosophy. Musgrave could take a knock and was
good stuff. Jefferson thought the head of the line knew his value, and
Kit would presently find his sticking to the post he took would pay.



CHAPTER XI

DAYBREAK


_Mossamedes_ sailed from Cuba for Buenos Ayres, and on the ocean voyage
Kit enjoyed more leisure than he had known for long. When the sea was
calm and the ship steamed steadily across the shining swell, he lounged
under the awnings and gave himself to thought. Perhaps it was strange,
but he began to see that at Las Palmas he had hardly thought at all.
Events, so to speak, had followed each other fast; he had let himself go
and was carried along.

Now he could ponder quietly, he sometimes frowned. He had not done much
that he had meant to do and had no grounds for satisfaction, but when he
thought about Olivia he was calm. Olivia did not belong to his circle,
and he now admitted that he could not enter hers. Even if he became
rich, the thing was impossible. She liked, and in fact demanded,
excitement, power, and a leading part; he liked to go soberly and do
something useful. When she refused him she took the proper line, and he
owed her and Mrs. Austin much. They had given him a wider view and
helped him to conquer his aggressive priggishness. Then perhaps he had
captured something of their cultivation; anyhow they had taught him to
tolerate people who jarred.

For the most part, however, his thoughts dwelt on Betty; Betty in the
primrose wood and in the shady office with the blue curtains. Betty was
sober and quiet; when one was with her, one's mean ambitions vanished.
Yet she was hopeful and never daunted. She looked ahead with steady eyes
and held fast to all she knew was good. Like Olivia, she had refused
him, but while he was resigned to Olivia's refusal, he knew he was a
fool to let Betty go. Sometimes he wondered----; and then got up
impatiently and went off to study his manifests. There was no use in
brooding, and he durst not look forward yet. In the meantime, his job
was to see all was ready for unloading cargo when _Mossamedes_ reached
port.

At Buenos Ayres, he and Don Erminio stopped one hot afternoon in front
of an Italian café in a quiet square. Small tables occupied the pavement
in the shade, and Don Erminio ordering wine and ice and aerated waters,
mixed them in a bowl.

"It is not like _tinto granadilla_ and snow from the Peak when one has
eaten much salt fish," he said. "However, to a seaman, all wine is good,
and if Don Pedro were with us we would dance. But let us be happy, and
if I go to sleep you will carry me on board."

Kit was satisfied Macallister had not joined them. He was strenuously
occupied scaling the boilers, and when Kit left _Mossamedes_ strange
bi-lingual threats and exclamations echoed about her stokehold. By and
by Don Erminio began to glance about.

"_Vaya!_" he said. "Look at him! Now perhaps we can amuse ourselves. I
will talk to the animal."

He got up, and carrying the bowl of wine, crossed the pavement. A man in
white clothes occupied a chair at another table, and when he looked up
Kit saw it was Captain Revillon. Kit had noted a small French cruiser at
anchor in the roads.

"_Ola, señor!_ All sailors are friends," said Don Erminio. "Besides,
this bowl is large and my companion is sober and very dull. The wine is
not Spanish, but it will go, and when I drink your wormwood, in the
morning my throat is bad."

Revillon bowed and let him fill his glass, and Don Erminio resumed in
uncouth French: "We took you, my friend, that time on the Morocco
coast!"

"It looks like that," Revillon replied, with a touch of dryness. "Still
I do not see why you risked crossing the shoals. You had, no doubt,
thrown the guns overboard."

Don Erminio indicated Kit, who had joined him. "He is a boy, but very
obstinate. The English are obstinate and the Scots are worse. Me, I
know. Well, his bargain was to land the guns, and they were landed."

"Then, I think you did take me," Revillon remarked with a quick,
surprised glance. "Had I known----"

Kit was intrigued. He had sometimes wondered why Revillon had not looked
for _Mossamedes_ in the morning. The coast was dangerous and the gale
was fresh, but he had thought this did not account for all.

"The animal who loaded the ship sold us," said Don Erminio. "If you paid
him, you did not get much for your money."

Revillon drained his glass and smiled. "Your betrayer did not demand a
large reward; perhaps he expected to be paid in another way. However,
now it is done with, I may tell you something. To begin with I did not
trust Señor Wolf, although I knew the guns were on board and must not be
landed. To force you to throw them overboard would satisfy me."

"Was it not your duty to stop and search our ship?" Kit asked.

"In a sense, it was so. In fact, I think the man who sold you expected
me to seize her," Revillon agreed with some dryness. "Well, I followed
you and steered a course that would pin you against the shoals. I had
studied the chart and pilot book, and nothing indicated that a vessel
could get across." He paused and shrugged. "Well, what would you have? I
imagined the guns were overboard and you had run aground. My duty was
not to wreck my ship. I hauled off the coast."

"They have given you a larger vessel!" Don Erminio remarked meaningly.
"I wish you luck. All sailors are honest, but not many are discreet. The
politicians are animals, and I would drown the lot. Well, it is not
important now, and the wine is gone."

Kit began to understand. Revillon had not been cheated; he was not very
keen about seizing _Mossamedes_. It looked as if Wolf had engaged in
dark political intrigue, and meant to use the French officer in his
plot. Revillon, however, had seen his object. But the thing was done
with, and Kit went off to the office of a merchant who was loading
_Mossamedes_ with grain.

When her cargo was on board she sailed for Teneriffe, and anchored at
Santa Cruz to land a few barge-loads. Kit, going to the agent's in the
evening, met Jefferson in the plaza.

"Mrs. Jefferson and Miss Jordan are at the Golden Pine," he said. "They
went to Laguna for a holiday and I came over to bring them back. Will
you walk up to the hotel with me?"

Kit wanted to go, but said he could not: _Mossamedes_ would start for
Las Palmas when they had landed another load of maize. Santa Cruz,
sheltered by the volcanic range that cuts off the Trade-breeze, was very
hot, and he asked why Mrs. Jefferson had left Laguna, which occupies a
cool tableland behind the town.

"We meant to go back on board _Campeador_ this morning," Jefferson
replied. "The company, however, have altered the sailing bill, and Don
Maccario doesn't expect the boat to arrive for some days."

"If Mrs. Jefferson can get ready soon, we'll take you across," said Kit.
"We ought to make Las Palmas about daybreak and can give you good rooms
on deck."

Jefferson agreed and an hour afterwards his party arrived. Kit's boat
was waiting at the mole, and when they got on board, _Mossamedes_ went
to sea. For some time Kit was occupied with his dispatch box, but as
soon as he had sorted his manifests he went on deck.

There was no moon, the sea was phosphorescent, and the wind was light.
_Mossamedes_ rolled languidly and the foam that ran back from her bows
sparkled green and gold. Mrs. Jefferson, Jefferson and Don Erminio
occupied canvas chairs on the upper deck, but at first Kit could not
find Betty. Then he saw a white dress in the gloom by a boat and heard
Macallister's voice. Kit turned back and Betty laughed. He thought her
laugh had a note of protest and wondered what Macallister had said.

"You must really stop!" Betty exclaimed.

Macallister's reply was not distinct, but Kit heard part: "Weel, it's
for your ain good. Maybe ye might get better, but ye might get waur----"

"I'm going," said Betty firmly, and light steps indicated that she left
the boat.

Kit, meeting her across the deck, thought her embarrassed and when they
joined the others she did not talk much. He, however, was satisfied to
sit on the deck and smoke, knowing Betty was about. After a time
Macallister returned and leaned against the rails. He chuckled and Kit
noted that Betty did not look up.

"We're a humorous lot, though a' o' us dinna see the joke," he said.
"Noo I'm getting old I look on and laugh. When ye meddle ye get no
thanks. For a' that, philosophy is sometimes hard. Ye meet folks who
dinna ken their luck."

"It's possible, but I don't see where your remarks lead," Mrs. Jefferson
rejoined and turned to the captain. "Do you see?"

"I am a sailor," said Don Erminio. "Sailors are not philosophers. They
are honest people and some are fools. If they were not fools, they
would not go to sea. But perhaps it is better to be a fool than an
animal like the men who own the ships."

Mrs. Jefferson laughed, and they talked about something else until she
got up and glanced at Betty, who went with her to her room by the
bridge. When the others went off Kit stopped and smoked. Betty had kept
close to Mrs. Jefferson; it looked as if she did not mean to be left
alone with him.

At daybreak he went on deck. There was not much wind, and _Mossamedes_
went steadily through the dim blue water. Her mastheads swung, but one
felt no motion; the engines throbbed with an even rhythm. To starboard,
dark rocks pierced a bank of mist; ahead a thicker bank indicated the
Isleta hill and Kit looked at his watch. It was six o'clock. In half an
hour _Mossamedes_ would steam into the harbour, and his chance of
talking to Betty would be gone.

Kit wanted to talk to Betty, but was daunted. On the ocean voyage, he
had seen a light. Perhaps it was strange, but he knew now the light had
begun to burn one April day in the primrose wood; and then, for a time,
he had lost it, because Olivia had dazzled him. Betty knew. He thought
she knew all his follies, but she was kind.

Coming down from the bridge, he saw her by the rail. Her look was
thoughtful; her brows were knit and putting her hand on a stanchion, she
fixed her eyes ahead.

The mist was thinner and the sky above it began to gleam like an opal.
Soon the haze would roll back and the sun leap up. Kit advanced quietly,
but Betty turned as if she knew his step. Somehow Kit knew she had been
thinking about him. A touch of colour came to his skin and his heart
beat, but he was calm. When one talked to Betty, one was not moved by
strange, disturbing thrills; she did not dazzle one. Her light was
clear and steady, and Kit knew it had after all been his guide.

"Betty," he said, "why did you refuse me at Liverpool?"

She gave him a quick glance, and for a moment turned her head. When she
looked up her colour was rather high.

"We were very young, Kit."

"You mean, I was very young and rashly confident. You don't think about
yourself. It was for my sake you let me go."

"Aren't you taking something for granted?"

"I think not," said Kit. "I'm dull, but sometimes I do understand, and I
now see all I lost. You wanted me to have my chance; you thought to be
tied to you might keep me back? Yet I believe you loved me. Let's be
frank!"

"Suppose I did love you?" said Betty, with a blush, although her voice
was quiet.

"To begin with, you know how I used my freedom; you know my ridiculous
ambitions."

"You mean you were ridiculous when you fell in love with Olivia Brown?"

"Yes," said Kit. "Anyhow, it was ridiculous for me to imagine I could
marry her."

Betty gave him a keen glance, for she was human. She liked Kit's
staunchness, but nevertheless sometimes it jarred.

"Nevertheless you did not feel you were ridiculous, when you thought you
could marry me!"

"I was a fool. My wanting you was all the sense I had. The strange thing
was, from the beginning you were my guide, and I tried to use your
rules. When I lost the men in Africa, I went back to look for them
because I felt you would have me go. I was accountable, the job was
mine, but I would not have known this had I not known you. It was like
that before and afterwards----"

Betty was moved, but she thought Kit was not altogether just to himself.
His honesty was instinctive, and he paid his debts.

"But that's not all," he resumed. "At Liverpool you sometimes puzzled
me. You saw and followed a light I did not. Once when I talked about
climbing above the crowd, you said perhaps one need not climb. One ought
to stop at one's proper level, and try to make things better. Well, when
the Spaniards offered me a good post, I remembered. I'd had enough of
shabby ambitions and knew my level. In fact, so to speak, the light was
breaking."

He was quiet for a few moments and looked about, knitting his brows. The
surf was louder, the sky was red, and the mists glimmered, as if a glow
shone through. Betty waited and said nothing. She had waited long, but
Kit had returned to her.

"I was a fool," he broke out. "But you know all, dear, and are very
kind. Somehow I think you will take me back."

Betty gave him a gentle smile. "It looks as if I had never quite let you
go."

Kit took her in his arms and when he looked up a warm beam touched them
and moved across the deck. The mists were rolling back, day had broken
and all ahead was bright.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

The following typographical errors present in the original
edition have been corrected.

In Part I, Chapter I, a quotation mark was added after "I might get up a
few rounds."

In Part I, Chapter IV, a period was added after "he started for Las
Palmas".

In Part I, Chapter V, "the sale fish I sent home" was changed to "the
salt fish I sent home".

In Part I, Chapter X, a missing quotation mark was added after "I knew
you were moody.", "to note thinks like that" was changed to "to note
things like that", and a period was changed to a comma after "He
promised he'd give Kit a post".

In Part I, Chapter XI, "the caravan roads and wodys were drawn by a pen"
was changed to "the caravan roads and wadys were drawn by a pen".

In Part II, Chapter I, a missing quotation mark was added after "if you
think I ought to stop, I will stop.", a missing period was added after
"'Maybe Mr. Musgrave would suit,' says I", "Since I dinno convairse" was
changed to "Since I dinna convairse", and a period was changed to a
comma after "Then she said".

In Part II, Chapter II, "foul-smelling cafes by the horbour" was changed
to "foul-smelling cafes by the harbour", "sailed on beard a fishing
schooner" was changed to "sailed on board a fishing schooner", a comma
was added after "sports he could not enjoy before", a period was added
after "a cultivation higher than his", "they halued her off and waited"
was changed to "they hauled her off and waited", and "brought off a
number of loans" was changed to "brought off a number of loads".

In Part II, Chapter III, "'I'm very much surprised,' he admitte.d" was
changed to "'I'm very much surprised,' he admitted.", "Its not usual.
Nobody trusts us like that" was changed to "It's not usual. Nobody
trusts us like that", "his imaginatino had cheated him" was changed to
"his imagination had cheated him", and a quotation mark was added after
"he'd been loafing about my office most part of the afternoon."

In Part II, Chapter IV, "althought he doubted if his analogy were good"
was changed to "although he doubted if his analogy were good", "a
dispute with another tribe in the back country about an oases" was
changed to "a dispute with another tribe in the back country about an
oasis", and "When he was on board the _coreillo_" was changed to "When
he was on board the _correillo_".

In Part II, Chapter VI, "I think it better or him to do so" was changed
to "I think it better for him to do so", and a quotation mark was added
before "That's all, but I rather agree with Jefferson."

In Part II, Chapter VIII, "The view from the veranda" was changed to
"The view from the venranda".

In Part II, Chapter X, "Don Erminio spread a chart on the tabble" was
changed to "Don Erminio spread a chart on the table".

In Part II, Chapter XI, "It was swimming befoe" was changed to "It was
swimming before".

In Part II, Chapter XII, "She struck the steamers plates" was changed to
"She struck the steamer's plates", and "the lifeboat's sterpost's
smashed" was changed to "the lifeboat's sternpost's smashed".

In Part III, Chapter IV, "smoke curled about the automatic pistal" was
changed to "smoke curled about the automatic pistol", "I knew you would
came back for us" was changed to "I knew you would came back for us",
and periods were changed to commas after "Very well", after "he said"
and before "and turned to Kit", and after "I knew you would came back
for us".

In Part III, Chapter V, a period was changed to a comma after "he had
used his short supplies with stern economy", and a quotation mark was
removed before "We'll push on for the ridge".

In Part III, Chapter VI, a quotation mark was added before "You're a
very good sort, Harry."

In Part III, Chapter VII, "grit like her's is fine" was changed to "grit
like hers is fine", and a period was changed to a comma after "over the
kedge all were exhausted".

In Part III, Chapter VIII, a period was added after "Austin was not
surprised that she was there", and a quotation mark was added after "I
rather think Kit deserves his triumph."

In Part III, Chapter IX, "Somethink like that, sir" was changed to
"Something like that, sir".

In Part III, Chapter X, period were removed after "brought back the men
and got another post----" and "if anything could have moved me----",
"The others iindulged me" was changed to "The others indulged me", and a
period was changed to a comma after "Then he said" and before "The
offer's good".

In Part III, Chapter XI, "Ola, seuor!" was changed to "Ola, señor!", and
"a' o' us dinna see he joke" was changed to "a' o' us dinna see the
joke".

In addition, the heading for KIT MUSGRAVE'S LUCK which originally
followed the heading for PART I: THE WIDE HORIZON has been moved to
precede it.





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