Part 3 out of 5
but it suited him, and he went on to tell me this, Ernestine. If he
succeeded and he became wealthy, he was returning to England just
for a sight of you. He was so changed, he said, that no one in the
world would recognise him. Poor fellow! It was the last line I
had from him."
"And you are sure," Ernestine said slowly, "that Scarlett Trent was
"Absolutely. Trent's own story clinches the matter. The prospectus
of the mine quotes the concession as having been granted to him by
the King of Bekwando in the same month as your father wrote to me."
"And what news," she asked, "have you had since?"
"Only this letter - I will read it to you - from one of the
missionaries of the Basle Society. I heard nothing for so long that
I made inquiries, and this is the result."
Ernestine took it and read it out steadily.
"DEAR Sir,-In reply to your letter and inquiry, respecting the
whereabouts of a Mr. Richard Grey, the matter was placed in my
hands by the agent of Messrs. Castle, and I have personally visited
Buckoman, the village at which he was last heard of. It seems that
in February, 18- he started on an expedition to Bekwando in the
interior with an Englishman by the name of Trent, with a view to
buying land from a native King, or obtaining the concession to work
the valuable gold-mines of that country. The expedition seems to
have been successful, but Trent returned alone and reported that
his companion had been attacked by bush-fever on the way back and
had died in a few hours.
"I regret very much having to send you such sad and scanty news in
return for your handsome donation to our funds. I have made every
inquiry, but cannot trace any personal effects or letter. Mr. Grey,
I find, was known out here altogether by the nickname of Monty.
I deeply regret the pain which this letter will doubtless cause you,
and trusting that you may seek and receive consolation where alone
it may be found,
"Yours most sincerely,
Ernestine read the letter carefully through, and instead of handing
it back to Davenant, put it into her pocket when she rose up.
"Cecil," she said, "I want you to leave me at once! You may come
back to-morrow at the same time. I am going to think this out
He took up his hat. "There is one thing more, Ernestine," he said
slowly. "Enclosed in the letter from the missionary at Attra was
another and a shorter note, which, in accordance with his request,
I burnt as soon as I read it. I believe the man was honest when
he told me that for hours he had hesitated whether to send me those
few lines or not. Eventually he decided to do so, but he appealed
to my honour to destroy the note as soon as I had read it."
"He thought it his duty to let me know that there had been rumours
as to how your father met his death. Trent, it seems, had the
reputation of being a reckless and daring man, and, according to
some agreement which they had, he profited enormously by your
father's death. There seems to have been no really definite ground
for the rumour except that the body was not found where Trent said
that he had died. Apart from that, life is held cheap out there,
and although your father was in delicate health, his death under
such conditions could not fail to be suspicious. I hope I haven't
said too much. I've tried to put it to you exactly as it was put to me!"
"Thank you," Ernestine said, "I think I understand."
Dinner at the Lodge that night was not a very lively affair. Trent
had great matters in his brain and was not in the least disposed to
make conversation for the sake of his unbidden guests. Da Souza's
few remarks he treated with silent contempt, and Mrs. Da Souza he
answered only in monosyllables. Julie, nervous and depressed, stole
away before dessert, and Mrs. Da Souza soon followed her, very
massive, and frowning with an air of offended dignity. Da Souza,
who opened the door for them, returned to his seat, moodily flicking
the crumbs from his trousers with his serviette.
"Hang it all, Trent," he remarked in an aggrieved tone, "you might
be a bit more amiable! Nice lively dinner for the women I must say."
"One isn't usually amiable to guests who stay when they're not
asked," Trent answered gruffly. "However, if I hadn't much to say
to your wife and daughter, I have a word or two to say to you, so
fill up your glass and listen."
Da Souza obeyed, but without heartiness. He stretched himself out
in his chair and looked down thoughtfully at the large expanse of
shirt-front, in the centre of which flashed an enormous diamond.
"I've been into the City to-day as you know," Trent continued, "and
I found as I expected that you have been making efforts to dispose
of your share in the Bekwando Syndicate."
"I can assure you - "
"Oh rot!" Trent interrupted. "I know what I'm talking about. I
won't have you sell out. Do you hear? If you try it on I'll queer
the market for you at any risk. I won't marry your daughter, I
won't be blackmailed, and I won't be bullied. We're in this
together, sink or swim. If you pull me down you've got to come too.
I'll admit that if Monty were to present himself in London to-morrow
and demand his full pound of flesh we should be ruined, but he isn't
going to do it. By your own showing there is no immediate risk, and
you've got to leave the thing in my hands to do what I think best.
If you play any hanky-panky tricks - look here, Da Souza, I'll kill
you, sure! Do you hear? I could do it, and no one would be the
wiser so far as I was concerned. You take notice of what I say, Da
Souza. You've made a fortune, and be satisfied. That's all!"
"You won't marry Julie, then?" Da Souza said gloomily.
"No, I'm shot if I will!" Trent answered. "And look here, Da Souza,
I'm leaving here for town to-morrow - taken a furnished flat in
Dover Street - you can stay here if you want, but there'll only be
a caretaker in the place. That's all I've got to say. Make yourself
at home with the port and cigars. Last night, you know! You'll
excuse me! I want a breath of fresh air."
Trent strolled through the open window into the garden, and breathed
a deep sigh of relief. He was a free man again now. He had created
new dangers - a new enemy to face - but what did he care? All his
life had been spent in facing dangers and conquering enemies. What
he had done before he could do again! As he lit a pipe and walked
to and fro, he felt that this new state of things lent a certain
savour to life - took from it a certain sensation of finality not
altogether agreeable, which his recent great achievements in the
financial world seemed to have inspired. After all, what could
Da Souza do? His prosperity was altogether bound up in the success
of the Bekwando Syndicate - he was never the man to kill the goose
which was laying such a magnificent stock of golden eggs. The
affair, so far as he was concerned, troubled him scarcely at all
on cool reflection. As he drew near the little plantation he even
forgot all about it. Something else was filling his thoughts!
The change in him became physical as well as mental. The hard face
of the man softened, what there was of coarseness in its rugged
outline became altogether toned down. He pushed open the gate with
fingers which were almost reverent; he came at last to a halt in
the exact spot where he had seen her first. Perhaps it was at that
moment he realised most completely and clearly the curious thing
which had come to him - to him of all men, hard-hearted, material,
an utter stranger in the world of feminine things. With a pleasant
sense of self-abandonment he groped about, searching for its
meaning. He was a man who liked to understand thoroughly everything
he saw and felt, and this new atmosphere in which he found himself
was a curious source of excitement to him. Only he knew that the
central figure of it all was this girl, that he had come out here
to think about her, and that henceforth she had become to him the
standard of those things which were worth having in life. Everything
about her had been a revelation to him. The women whom he had come
across in his battle upwards, barmaids and their fellows, fifth-rate
actresses, occasionally the suburban wife of a prosperous City man,
had impressed him only with a sort of coarse contempt. It was
marvellous how thoroughly and clearly he had recognised Ernestine
at once as a type of that other world of womenkind, of which he
admittedly knew nothing. Yet it was so short a time since she had
wandered into his life, so short a time that he was even a little
uneasy at the wonderful strength of this new passion, a thing which
had leaped up like a forest tree in a world of magic, a live,
fully-grown thing, mighty and immovable in a single night. He
found himself thinking of all the other things in life from a
changed standpoint. His sense of proportions was altered, his
financial triumphs were no longer omnipotent. He was inclined even
to brush them aside, to consider them more as an incident in his
career. He associated her now with all those plans concerning the
future which he had been dimly formulating since the climax of his
successes had come. She was of the world which he sought to enter
- at once the stimulus and the object of his desires. He forgot
all about Da Souza and his threats, about the broken-down,
half-witted old man who was gazing with wistful eyes across the
ocean which kept him there, an exile - he remembered nothing save
the wonderful, new thing which had come into his life. A month ago
he would have scoffed at the idea of there being anything worth
considering outside the courts and alleys of the money-changers'
market. To-night he knew of other things. To-night he knew that
all he had done so far was as nothing - that as yet his foot was
planted only on the threshold of life, and in the path along which
he must hew his way lay many fresh worlds to conquer. To-night he
told himself that he was equal to them all. There was something
out here in the dim moonlight, something suggested by the shadows,
the rose-perfumed air, the delicate and languid stillness, which
crept into his veins and coursed through his blood like magic.
* * * * *
Yet every now and then the same thought came; it lay like a small
but threatening black shadow across all those brilliant hopes and
dreams which were filling his brain. So far he had played the game
of life as a hard man, perhaps, and a selfish one, but always
honestly. Now, for the first time, he had stepped aside from the
beaten track. He told himself that he was not bound to believe Da
Souza's story, that he had left Monty with the honest conviction
that he was past all human help. Yet he knew that such consolation
was the merest sophistry. Through the twilight, as he passed to
and fro, he fancied more than once that the wan face of an old man,
with wistful, sorrowing eyes, was floating somewhere before him
- and he stopped to listen with bated breath to the wind rustling
in the elm-trees, fancying he could bear that same passionate cry
ringing still in his ears - the cry of an old man parted from his
kin and waiting for death in a lonely land.
Ernestine found a letter on her plate a few mornings afterwards
which rather puzzled her. It was from a firm of solicitors in
Lincoln's Inn - the Eastchester family solicitors - requesting her
to call that morning to see them on important business. There was
not a hint as to the nature of it, merely a formal line or two and
a signature. Ernestine, who had written insulting letters to all
her relatives during the last few days, smiled as she laid it down.
Perhaps the family had called upon Mr. Cuthbert to undertake their
defence and bring her round to a reasonable view of things. The
idea was amusing enough, but her first impulse was not to go.
Nothing but the combination of an idle morning and a certain
measure of curiosity induced her to keep the appointment.
She was evidently expected, for she was shown at once into the
private office of the senior partner. The clerk who ushered her in
pronounced her name indistinctly, and the elderly man who rose from
his chair at her entrance looked at her inquiringly.
"I am Miss Wendermott," she said, coming forward. "I had a letter
from you this morning; you wished to see me, I believe."
Mr. Cuthbert dropped at once his eyeglass and his inquiring gaze,
and held out his hand.
"My dear Miss Wendermott," he said, "you must pardon the failing
eyesight of an old man. To be sure you are, to be sure. Sit down,
Miss Wendermott, if you please. Dear me, what a likeness!"
"You mean to my father?" she asked quietly.
"To your father, certainly, poor, dear old boy! You must excuse me,
Miss Wendermott. Your father and I were at Eton together, and I
think I may say that we were always something more than lawyer and
client - a good deal more, a good deal more! He was a fine fellow
at heart - a fine, dear fellow. Bless me, to think that you are
"It's very nice to hear you speak of him so, Mr. Cuthbert," she
said. "My father may have been very foolish - I suppose he was
really worse than foolish - but I think that he was most abominably
and shamefully treated, and so long as I live I shall never forgive
those who were responsible for it. I don't mean you, Mr. Cuthbert,
of course. I mean my grand-father and my uncle." Mr. Cuthbert shook
his head slowly.
"The Earl," he said, "was a very proud man - a very proud man."
"You may call it pride," she exclaimed. "I call it rank and brutal
selfishness! They had no right to force such a sacrifice upon him.
He would have been content, I am sure, to have lived quietly in
England - to have kept out of their way, to have conformed to their
wishes in any reasonable manner. But to rob him of home and friends
and family and name - well, may God call them to account for it,
and judge them as they judged him!"
I was against it," he said sadly, "always."
"So Mr. Davenant told me," she said. "I can't quite forgive you,
Mr. Cuthbert, for letting me grow up and be so shamefully imposed
upon, but of course I don't blame you as I do the others. I am only
thankful that I have made myself independent of my relations. I
think, after the letters which I wrote to them last night, they will
be quite content to let me remain where they put my father - outside
I had heard," Mr. Cuthbert said hesitatingly, "that you were
following some occupation. Something literary, is it not?"
"I am a journalist," Ernestine answered promptly, "and I'm proud to
say that I am earning my own living."
He looked at her with a fine and wonderful curiosity. In his way
he was quite as much one of the old school as the Earl of
Eastchester, and the idea of a lady - a Wendermott, too - calling
herself a journalist and proud of making a few hundreds a year was
amazing enough to him. He scarcely knew how to answer her.
"Yes, yes," he said, "you have some of your father's spirit, some
of his pluck too. And that reminds me - we wrote to you to call."
"Mr. Davenant has told you that your father was engaged in some
enterprise with this wonderful Mr. Scarlett Trent, when he died."
"Yes! He told me that!"
"Well, I have had a visit just recently from that gentleman. It
seems that your father when he was dying spoke of his daughter in
England, and Mr. Trent is very anxious now to find you out, and
speaks of a large sum of money which he wishes to invest in your
"He has been a long time thinking about it," Ernestine remarked.
"He explained that," Mr. Cuthbert continued, "in this way. Your
father gave him our address when he was dying, but the envelope on
which it was written got mislaid, and he only came across it a day
or two ago. He came to see me at once, and he seems prepared to
act very handsomely. He pressed very hard indeed for your name and
address, but I did not feel at liberty to disclose them before
"You were quite right, Mr. Cuthbert," she answered. "I suppose
this is the reason why Mr. Davenant has just told me the whole
"It is one reason," he admitted, "but in any case I think that Mr.
Davenant had made up his mind that you should know."
"Mr. Trent, I suppose, talks of this money as a present to me?"
"He did not speak of it in that way," Mr. Cuthbert answered, "but
in a sense that is, of course, what it amounts to. At the same
time I should like to say that under the peculiar circumstances of
the case I should consider you altogether justified in accepting it."
Ernestine drew herself up. Once more in her finely flashing eyes
and resolute air the lawyer was reminded of his old friend.
"I will tell you what I should call it, Mr. Cuthbert," she said, "I
will tell you what I believe it is! It is blood-money."
Mr. Cuthbert dropped his eyeglass, and rose from his chair, startled.
"Blood-money! My dear young lady! Blood-money!"
"Yes! You have heard the whole story, I suppose! What did it
sound like to you? A valuable concession granted to two men, one
old, the other young! one strong, the other feeble! yet the
concession read, if one should die the survivor should take the
whole. Who put that in, do you suppose? Not my father! you may
be sure of that. And one of them does die, and Scarlett Trent is
left to take everything. Do you think that reasonable? I don't.
Now, you say, after all this time he is fired with a sudden desire
to behave handsomely to the daughter of his dead partner.
Fiddlesticks! I know Scarlett Trent, although he little knows who
I am, and he isn't that sort of man at all. He'd better have kept
away from you altogether, for I fancy he's put his neck in the noose
now! I do not want his money, but there is something I do want
from Mr. Scarlett Trent, and that is the whole knowledge of my
Mr. Cuthbert sat down heavily in his chair.
"But, my dear young lady," he said, "you do not suspect Mr. Trent
of - er - making away with your father!'
"And why not? According to his own showing they were alone together
when he died. What was to prevent it? I want to know more about
it, and I am going to, if I have to travel to the Gold Coast myself.
I will tell you frankly, Mr. Cuthbert - I suspect Mr. Scarlett Trent.
No, don't interrupt me. It may seem absurd to you now that he is
Mr. Scarlett Trent, millionaire, with the odour of civilisation
clinging to him, and the respectability of wealth. But I, too, have
seen him, and I have heard him talk. He has helped me to see the
other man - half-savage, splendidly masterful, forging his way
through to success by sheer pluck and unswerving obstinacy. Listen,
I admire your Mr. Trent! He is a man, and when he speaks to you
you know that he was born with a destiny. But there is the other
side. Do you think that he would let a man's life stand in his way?
Not he! He'd commit a murder, or would have done in those days, as
readily as you or I would sweep away a fly. And it is because he
is that sort of man that I want to know more about my father's
"You are talking of serious things, Miss Wendermott," Mr. Cuthbert
"Why not? Why shirk them? My father's death was a serious thing,
wasn't it? I want an account of it from the only man who can
"When you disclose yourself to Mr. Trent I should say that he would
willingly give you - "
She interrupted him, coming over and standing before him, leaning
against his table, and looking him in the face.
"You don't understand. I am not going to disclose myself! You will
reply to Mr. Trent that the daughter of his old partner is not in
need of charity, however magnificently tendered. You understand?"
"I understand, Miss Wendermott."
"As to her name or whereabouts you are not at liberty to disclose
them. You can let him think, if you will, that she is tarred with
the same brush as those infamous and hypocritical relatives of hers
who sent her father out to die."
Mr. Cuthbert shook his head.
"I think, young lady, if you will allow me to say so that you are
making a needless mystery of the matter, and further, that you are
embarking upon what will certainly prove to be a wild-goose chase.
We had news of your father not long before his sad death, and he
was certainly in ill-health."
She set her lips firmly together, and there was a look in her face
which alone was quite sufficient to deter Mr. Cuthbert from further
"It may be a wild-goose chase," she said. "It may not. At any
rate nothing will alter my purpose. Justice sleeps sometimes for
very many years, but I have an idea that Mr. Scarlett Trent may yet
have to face a day of settlement."
* * * * *
She walked through the crowded streets homewards, her nerves
tingling and her pulses throbbing with excitement. She was
conscious of having somehow ridded herself of a load of uncertainty
and anxiety. She was committed now at any rate to a definite
course. There had been moments of indecision - moments in which
she had been inclined to revert to her first impressions of the man,
which, before she had heard Davenant's story, had been favourable
enough. That was all over now. That pitifully tragic figure - the
man who died with a tardy fortune in his hands, an outcast in a far
off country - had stirred in her heart a passionate sympathy - reason
even gave way before it. She declared war against Mr. Scarlett
Ernestine walked from Lincoln's Inn to the office of the Hour, where
she stayed until nearly four. Then, having finished her day's work,
she made her way homewards. Davenant was waiting for her in her
rooms. She greeted him with some surprise.
"You told me that I might come to tea," he reminded her. "If you're
expecting any one else, or I'm in the way at all, don't mind saying
She shook her head.
"I'm certainly not expecting any one," she said. "To tell you the
truth my visiting-list is a very small one; scarcely any one knows
where I live. Sit down, and I will ring for tea."
He looked at her curiously. "What a colour you have, Ernestine!"
he remarked. "Have you been walking fast?"
She laughed softly, and took off her hat, straightening the wavy
brown hair, which had escaped bounds a little, in front of the
mirror. She looked at herself long and thoughtfully at the
delicately cut but strong features, the clear, grey eyes and
finely arched eyebrows, the curving, humorous mouth and dainty chin.
Davenant regarded her in amazement.
"Why, Ernestine," he exclaimed, "are you taking stock of your good
"Precisely what I am doing," she answered laughing. "At that moment
I was wondering whether I possessed any."
"If you will allow me,' he said, "to take the place of the mirror,
I think that I could give you any assurances you required."
She shook her head.
"You might be more flattering," she said, "but you would be less
He remained standing upon the hearthrug. Ernestine returned to
"May I know," he asked, "for whose sake is this sudden anxiety
about your appearance?"
She turned away and sat in a low chair, her hands clasped behind
her head, her eyes fixed upon vacancy.
"I have been wondering," she said, "whether if I set myself to it
as to a task I could make a man for a moment forget himself - did
I say forget? - I mean betray!"
"If I were that man," he remarked smiling, "I will answer for it
that you could."
"You! But then you are only a boy, you have nothing to conceal,
and you are partial to me, aren't you? No, the man whom I want to
influence is a very different sort of person. It is Scarlett Trent."
He frowned heavily. "A boor," he said. "What have you to do with
him? The less the better I should say."
"And from my point of view, the more the better," she answered. "I
have come to believe that but for him my father would be alive
"I do not understand! If you believe that, surely you do not wish
to see the man - to have him come near you!"
"I want him punished!"
He shook his head. "There is no proof. There never could be any
"There are many ways," she said softly, "in which a man can be made
"And you would set yourself to do this?"
"Why not? Is not anything better than letting him go scot-free?
Would you have me sit still and watch him blossom into a millionaire
peer, a man of society, drinking deep draughts of all the joys of
life, with never a thought for the man he left to rot in an African
jungle? Oh, any way of punishing him is better than that. I have
declared war against Scarlett Trent."
"How long," he asked, "will it last?"
"Until he is in my power," she answered slowly. "Until he has
fallen back again to the ruck. Until he has tasted a little of the
misery from which at least he might have saved my father!"
"I think," he said, "that you are taking a great deal too much for
granted. I do not know Scarlett Trent, and I frankly admit that I
am prejudiced against him and all his class. Yet I think that he
deserves his chance, like any man. Go to him and ask him, face to
face, how your father died, declare yourself, press for all
particulars, seek even for corroboration of his word. Treat him if
you will as an enemy, but as an honourable one!"
She shook her head.
"The man," she said, "has all the plausibility of his class. He
has learned it in the money school, where these things become an
art. He believes himself secure - he is even now seeking for me.
He is all prepared with his story. No, my way is best."
"I do not like your way," he said. "It is not like you, Ernestine."
"For the sake of those whom one loves," she said, "one will do much
that one hates. When I think that but for this man my father might
still have been alive, might have lived to know how much I loathed
those who sent him into exile - well, I feel then that there is
nothing in the world I would not do to crush him!"
He rose to his feet - his fresh, rather boyish, face was wrinkled
"I shall live to be sorry, Ernestine," he said, "that I ever told
you the truth about your father."
"If I had discovered it for myself," she said, "and, sooner or
later, I should have discovered it, and had learned that you too
had been in the conspiracy, I should never have spoken to you again
as long as I lived."
"Then I must not regret it," he said, "only I hate the part you are
going to play. I hate to think that I must stand by and watch, and
"There is no reason," she said, "why you should watch it; why do you
not go away for a time?"
"I cannot," he answered sadly, "and you know why."
She was impatient, but she looked at him for a moment with a gleam
of sadness in her eyes.
"It would be much better for you," she said, "if you would make up
your mind to put that folly behind you."
"It may be folly, but it is not the sort of folly one forgets."
"You had better try then, Cecil," she said, "for it is quite
hopeless. You know that. Be a man and leave off dwelling upon the
impossible. I do not wish to marry, and I do not expect to, but if
ever I did, it would not be you!"
He was silent for a few moments - looking gloomily across at the
girl, loathing the thought that she, his ideal of all those things
which most become a woman, graceful, handsome, perfectly bred,
should ever be brought into contact at all with such a man as this
one whose confidence she was planning to gain. No, he could not
go away and leave her! He must be at hand, must remain her friend.
"I wonder," he said, "couldn't we have one of our old evenings
again? Listen - "
"I would rather not," she interrupted softly. "If you will persist
in talking of a forbidden subject you must go away. Be reasonable,
He was silent for a moment. When he spoke again his tone was
"Very well," he said. "I will try to let things be as you wish
- for the present. Now do you want to hear some news?"
"Of course "
"It's about Dick - seems rather a coincidence too. He was at the
Cape, you know, with a firm of surveyors, and he's been offered a
post on the Gold Coast."
"The Gold Coast! How odd! Anywhere near - ?"
"The offer came from the Bekwando Company!"
"Is he going?"
She was full of eager interest. "How extraordinary! He might be
able to make some inquiries for me."
"What there is to be discovered about Mr. Scarlett Trent, he can
find out! But, Ernestine, I want you to understand this! I have
nothing against the man, and although I dislike him heartily, I
think it is madness to associate him in any way with your father's
"You do not know him. I do!"
"I have only told you my opinion," he answered, "it is of no
consequence. I will see with your eyes. He is your enemy and he
shall be my enemy. If there is anything shady in his past out
there, depend upon it Dick will hear of it."
She pushed the wavy hair back from her forehead - her eyes were
bright, and there was a deep flush of colour in her cheeks. But
the man was not to be deceived. He knew that these things were
not for him. It was the accomplice she welcomed and not the man.
"It is a splendid stroke of fortune," she said. "You will write
to Fred to-day, won't you? Don't prejudice him either way. Write
as though your interest were merely curiosity. It is the truth I
want to get at, that is all. If the man is innocent I wish him no
harm - only I believe him guilty."
"There was a knock at the door - both turned round. Ernestine's
trim little maidservant was announcing a visitor who followed close
"Mr. Scarlett Trent."
Ernestine was a delightful hostess, she loved situations, and her
social tact was illimitable. In a few minutes Trent was seated in
a comfortable and solid chair with a little round table by his side,
drinking tea and eating buttered scones, and if not altogether at
his ease very nearly so. Opposite him was Davenant, dying to escape
yet constrained to be agreeable, and animated too with a keen,
distasteful curiosity to watch Ernestine's methods. And Ernestine
herself chatted all the time, diffused good fellowship and tea - she
made an atmosphere which had a nameless fascination for the man who
had come to middle-age without knowing what a home meant. Davenant
studied him and became thoughtful. He took note of the massive
features, the iron jaw, the eyes as bright as steel, and his
thoughtfulness became anxiety. Ernestine too was strong, but this
man was a rock. What would happen if she carried out her purpose,
fooled, betrayed him, led him perhaps to ruin? Some day her passion
would leap up, she would tell him, they would be face to face,
injured man and taunting woman. Davenant had an ugly vision as he
sat there. He saw the man's eyes catch fire, the muscles of his
face twitch, he saw Ernestine shrink back, white with terror and
the man followed her.
"Cecil! Aren't you well? you're looking positively ghastly!"
He pulled himself together - it had been a very realistic little
"Bad headache!" he said, smiling. "By the by, I must go!"
"If you ever did such a thing as work," she remarked, "I should say
that you, had been doing too much. As it is, I suppose you have
been sitting up too late. Goodbye. I am so glad that you were here
to meet Mr. Trent. Mr. Davenant is my cousin, you know," she
continued, turning to her visitor, "and he is almost the only one
of my family who has not cast me off utterly."
Davenant made his adieux with a heavy heart. He hated the hypocrisy
with which he hoped for Scarlett Trent's better acquaintance and the
latter's bluff acceptance of an invitation to look him up at his club.
He walked out into the street cursing his mad offer to her and the
whole business. But Ernestine was very well satisfied.
She led Trent to talk about Africa again, and he plunged into the
subject without reserve. He told her stories and experiences with
a certain graphic and picturesque force which stamped him as the
possessor of an imaginative power and command of words for which
she would scarcely have given him credit. She had the unusual gift
of making the best of all those with whom she came in contact.
Trent felt that he was interesting her, and gained confidence in
All the time she was making a social estimate of him. He was not
by any means impossible. On the contrary there was no reason why
he should not become a success. That he was interested in her was
already obvious, but that had become her intention. The task
began to seem almost easy as she sat and listened to him.
Then he gave her a start. Quietly and without any warning he
changed the subject into one which was fraught with embarrassment
for her. At his first words the colour faded from her cheeks.
"I've been pretty lucky since I got back. Things have gone my way
a bit and the only disappointment I've had worth speaking of has
been in connection with a matter right outside money. I've been
trying to find the daughter of that old partner of mine - I told
you about her - and I can't."
She changed her seat a little. There was no need for her to affect
any interest in what he was saying. She listened to every word
"Monty," he said reflectingly, "was a good old sort in a way, and
I had an idea, somehow, that his daughter would turn out something
like the man himself, and at heart Monty was all right. I didn't
know who she was or her name - Monty was always precious close, but
I had the address of a firm of lawyers who knew all about her. I
called there the other day and saw an old chap who questioned and
cross-questioned me until I wasn't sure whether I was on my head or
my heels, and, after all, he told me to call again this afternoon
for her address. I told him of course that Monty died a pauper and
he'd no share of our concession to will away, but I'd done so well
that I thought I'd like to make over a trifle to her - in fact I'd
put away 10,000 pounds worth of Bekwando shares for her. I called
this afternoon, and do you know, Miss Wendermott, the young lady
declined to have anything to say to me - wouldn't let me know who
she was that I might have gone and talked this over in a friendly
way with her. Didn't want money, didn't want to hear about her
"You must have been disappointed."
"I'll admit it," he replied. "I was; I'd come to think pretty well
of Monty although he was a loose fish and I'd a sort of fancy for
seeing his daughter."
She took up a screen as though to shield the fire from her face.
Would the man's eyes never cease questioning her - could it be that
he suspected? Surely that was impossible!
"Why have you never tried to find her before?" she asked.
"That's a natural question enough," he admitted. "Well, first, I
only came across a letter Monty wrote with the address of those
lawyers a few days ago, and, secondly, the Bekwando Mine and Land
Company has only just boomed, and you see that made me feel that
I'd like to give a lift up to any one belonging to poor old Monty
I could find. I've a mind to go on with the thing myself and find
out somehow who this young lady is!"
"Who were the lawyers?"
"Cuthbert and Cuthbert."
"They are most respectable people," she said. "I know Mr. Cuthbert
and their standing is very high. If Mr. Cuthbert told you that the
young lady wished to remain unknown to you, I am quite sure that you
may believe him."
"That's all right," Trent said, "but here's what puzzles me. The
girl may be small enough and mean enough to decline to have anything
to say to me because her father was a bad lot, and she doesn't want
to be reminded of him, but for that very reason can you imagine her
virtually refusing a large sum of money? I told old Cuthbert all
about it. There was 10,000 pounds worth of shares waiting for her
and no need for any fuss. Can you understand that?"
"It seems very odd," she said. "Perhaps the girl objects to being
given money. It is a large sum to take as a present from a stranger."
"If she is that sort of girl," he said decidedly, "she would at
least want to meet and talk with the man who saw the last of her
father. No, there's something else in it, and I think that I ought
to find her. Don't you?"
"I'm afraid I can't advise you," she said; "only if she has taken
so much pains to remain unknown, I am not sure - I think that if I
were you I would assume that she has good reason for it."
"I can see no good reason," he said, "and there is a mystery behind
it which I fancy would be better cleared up. Some day I will tell
you more about it."
Evidently Ernestine was weary of the subject, for she suddenly
changed it. She led him on to talk of other things. When at last
he glanced at the clock he was horrified to see how long he had
"You'll remember, I hope, Miss Wendermott," he said, "that this is
the first afternoon call I've ever paid. I've no idea how long I
ought to have stayed, but certainly not two hours."
"The time has passed quickly," she said, smiling upon him, so that
his momentary discomfort passed away. "I have been very interested
in the stories of your past, Mr. Trent, but do you know I am quite
as much interested, more so even, in your future."
"Tell me what you mean," he asked.
"You have so much before you, so many possibilities. There is so
much that you may gain, so much that you may miss."
He looked puzzled.
"I have a lot of money," he said. "That's all! I haven't any
friends nor any education worth speaking of. I don't see quite
where the possibilities come in."
She crossed the room and came over close to his side, resting her
arm upon the mantelpiece. She was still wearing her walking-dress,
prim and straight in its folds about her tall, graceful figure, and
her hair, save for the slight waviness about the forehead, was
plainly dressed. There were none of the cheap arts about her to
which Trent had become accustomed in women who sought to attract.
Yet, as she stood looking down at him, a faint smile, half humorous,
half satirical, playing about the corners of her shapely mouth, he
felt his heart beat faster than ever it had done in any African
jungle. It was the nervous and emotional side of the man to which
she appealed. He felt unlike himself, undergoing a new phase of
development. There was something stirring within him which he
could not understand.
"You haven't any friends," she said softly, "nor any education, but
you are a millionaire! That is quite sufficient. You are a
veritable Caesar with undiscovered worlds before you."
"I wish I knew what you meant," he said, with some hesitation.
She laughed softly.
"Don't you understand," she said, "that you are the fashion? Last
year it was Indian Potentates, the year before it was actors, this
year it is millionaires. You have only to announce yourself and you
may take any place you choose in society. You have arrived at the
most auspicious moment. I can assure you that before many months
are past you will know more people than ever you have spoken to in
your life before - men whose names have been household words to you
and nothing else will be calling you 'old chap' and wanting to sell
you horses, and women, who last week would look at you through
lorgnettes as though you were a denizen of some unknown world, will
be lavishing upon you their choicest smiles and whispering in your
ear their 'not at home' afternoon. Oh, it's lucky I'm able to
prepare you a little for it, or you would be taken quite by storm.
He was unmoved. He looked at her with a grim tightening of the
"I want to ask you this," he said. "What should I be the better
for it all? What use have I for friends who only gather round me
because I am rich? Shouldn't I be better off to have nothing to
do with them, to live my own life, and make my own pleasures?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"These people," she said, "of whom I have been speaking are masters
of the situation. You can't enjoy money alone! You want to race,
hunt, entertain, shoot, join in the revels of country houses! You
must be one of them or you can enjoy nothing."
Monty's words were ringing back in his ears. After all, pleasures
could be bought - but happiness!
"And you," he said, "you too think that these things you have
mentioned are the things most to be desired in life?"
A certain restraint crept into her manner.
"Yes," she answered simply.
"I have been told," he said, "that you have given up these things
to live your life differently. That you choose to be a worker.
You have rich relations - you could be rich yourself!"
She looked him steadily in the face.
"You are wrong," she said, "I have no money. I have not chosen a
profession willingly - only because I am poor!"
The monosyllable was mysterious to her. But for the wild
improbability of the thing she would have wondered whether indeed he
knew her secret. She brushed the idea away. It was impossible.
"At least," he said, "you belong to these people."
"Yes,"she answered, "I am one of the poor young women of society."
"And you would like," he continued, "to be one of the rich ones -
to take your place amongst them on equal terms. That is what you
are looking forward to in life!"
She laughed gaily.
"Of course I am! If there was the least little chance of it I
should be delighted. You mustn't think that I'm different from
other girls in that respect because I'm more independent. In this
country there's only one way of enjoying life thoroughly, and that
you will find out for yourself very soon."
He rose and held out his hand.
"Thank you very much," he said, "for letting me come. May I - "
"You may come," she said quietly, "as often as you like."
"Mr. Scarlett Trent, the Gold King, left for Africa on Thursday
last on the Dunottar Castle, to pay a brief visit to his wonderful
possessions there before the great Bekwando Mining and Exploration
Company is offered to the public. Mr. Trent is already a
millionaire, and should he succeed in floating the Company on the
basis of the Prospectus, he will be a multi-millionaire, and
certainly one of the richest of Englishmen. During his absence
workmen are to be kept going night and day at his wonderful palace
in Park Lane, which he hopes to find ready for occupation on his
return. Mr. Trent's long list of financial successes are too well
known to be given here, but who will grudge wealth to a man who is
capable of spending it in such a lordly fashion? We wish Mr. Trent
a safe voyage and a speedy return."
The paper slipped from his fingers and he looked thoughtfully out
seaward. It was only one paragraph of many, and the tone of all
was the same. Ernestine' s words had come true - he was already a
man of note. A few months had changed his life in the most amazing
way - when he looked back upon it now it was with a sense of
unreality - surely all these things which had happened were part
of a chimerical dream. It was barely possible for him to believe
that it was he, Scarlett Trent, who had developed day by day into
what he was at that moment. For the man was changed in a hundred
ways. His grey flannel clothes was cut by the Saville Row tailor
of the moment, his hands and hair, his manner of speech and
carriage were all altered. He recalled the men he had met, the
clubs he had joined, his stud of horses at Newmarket, the
country-houses at which he had visited. His most clear impression
of the whole thing was how easy everything had been made for him.
His oddness of speech, his gaucheries, his ignorances and
nervousness had all been so lightly treated that they had been
brushed away almost insensibly. He had been able to do so little
that was wrong - his mistakes were ignored or admired as
originality, and yet in some delicate way the right thing had been
made clear to him. Ernestine had stood by his side, always laughing
at this swift fulfilment of her prophecy, always encouraging him,
always enigmatic. Yet at the thought of her a vague sense of
trouble crept into his heart. He took a worn photograph from his
pocket and looked at it long and searchingly, and when he put it
away he sighed. It made no difference of course, but he would
rather have found her like that, the child with sweet, trustful
eyes and a laughing mouth. Was there no life at all, then, outside
this little vortex into which at her bidding he had plunged? Would
she never have been content with anything else? He looked across
the placid, blue sea to where the sun gleamed like silver on a white
sail, and sighed again. He must make himself what she would have
him. There was no life for him without her.
The captain came up for his morning chat and some of the passengers,
who eyed him with obvious respect, lingered for a moment about his
chair on their promenade. Trent lit a cigar and presently began to
stroll up and down himself. The salt sea-air was a wonderful tonic
to him after the nervous life of the last few months. He found his
spirits rapidly rising. This voyage had been undertaken in obedience
to a sudden but overpowering impulse. It had come to him one night
that he must know for himself how much truth there was in Da Souza's
story. He could not live with the thought that a thunderbolt was
ever in the skies, that at any moment his life might lie wrecked
about him. He was going out by one steamer and back by the next,
the impending issue of his great Company afforded all the excuse
that was necessary. If Da Souza's story was true - well, there were
many things which might be done, short of a complete disclosure.
Monty might be satisfied, if plenty of money were forthcoming, to
abandon his partnership and release the situation from its otherwise
endless complications. Trent smoked his cigar placidly and, taking
off his cap bared his head to the sweeping sea-wind, which seemed
laden with life and buoyancy. Suddenly as he swung round by the
companion-way he found himself confronted by a newcomer who came
staggering out from the gangway. There was a moment's recoil and
a sharp exclamation. Trent stood quite still and a heavy frown
darkened his face.
"Da Souza!" he exclaimed. "How on earth came you on board?"
Da Souza's face was yellower than ever and he wore an ulster
buttoned up to his chin. Yet there was a flash of malice in his
eyes as he answered -
"I came by late tender at Southampton," he said.
"It cost me a special from London and the agents told me I couldn't
do it, but here I am, you see!"
"And a poor-looking object you are," Trent said contemptuously.
"If you've life enough in you to talk, be so good as to tell me what
the devil you mean by following me like this!"
"I came," Da Souza answered, "in both our interests - chiefly in my
"I can believe that," Trent answered shortly, "now speak up. Tell
me what you want."
Da Souza groaned and sank down upon a vacant deck-chair.
"I will sit down," he said, "I am not well! The sea disagrees with
me horribly. Well, well, you want to know why I came here! I can
answer that question by another. What are you doing here? Why are
you going to Africa?"
"I am going," Trent said, "to see how much truth there was in that
story you told me. I am going to see old Monty if he is alive."
Da Souza groaned.
"It is cruel madness," he said, "and you are such an obstinate man!
Oh dear! oh dear!"
"I prefer," Trent said, "a crisis now, to ruin in the future.
Besides, I have the remnants of a conscience."
"You will ruin yourself, and you will ruin me," Da Souza moaned.
"How am I to have a quarter share if Monty is to come in for half,
and how are you to repay him all that you would owe on a partnership
account? You couldn't do it, Trent. I've heard of your
four-in-hand, and your yacht, and your racers, and that beautiful
house in Park Lane. I tell you that to part with half your fortune
would ruin you, and the Bekwando Company could never be floated."
"I don't anticipate parting with half," Trent said coolly. "Monty
hasn't long to live - and he ought not to be hard to make terms with."
Da Souza beat his hands upon the handles of his deck-chair.
"But why go near him at all? He thinks that you are dead. He has
no idea that you are in England. Why should he know? Why do you
risk ruin like this?"
"There are three reasons," Trent answered. "First, he may find his
way to England and upset the applecart; secondly, I've only the
shreds of a conscience, but I can't leave a man whom I'm robbing of
a fortune in a state of semi-slavery, as I daresay he is, and the
third reason is perhaps the strongest of all; but I'm not going to
tell it you."
Da Souza blinked his little eyes and looked up with a cunning smile.
"Your first reason," he said, "is a poor sort of one. Do you
suppose I don't have him looked after a bit? - no chance of his
getting hack to England, I can tell you. As for the second, he's
only half-witted, and if he was better off he wouldn't know it."
"Even if I gave way to you in this," Trent answered, "the third
reason is strong enough."
Da Souza's face was gloomy. "I know it's no use trying to move you,"
he said, "but you're on a silly, dangerous, wild goose-chase."
"And what about yourself?" Trent asked. "I imagine you have some
other purpose in taking this voyage than just to argue with me."
"I am going to see," Da Souza said, "that you do as little mischief
Trent walked the length of the deck and back. "Da Souza," he said,
stopping in front of him, "you're a fool to take this voyage. You
know me well enough to be perfectly assured that nothing you could
say would ever influence me. There's more behind it. You've a game
of your own to play over there. Now listen ! If I catch you
interfering with me in any way, we shall meet on more equal terms
than when you laughed at my revolver at Walton Lodge! I never was
over-scrupulous in those old days, Da Souza, you know that, and I
have a fancy that when I find myself on African soil again I may
find something of the old man in me yet. So look out, my friend,
I've no mind to he trifled with, and, mark me - if harm comes to
that old man, it will be your life for his, as I'm a living man.
You were afraid of me once, Da Souza. I haven't changed so much
as you may think, and the Gold Coast isn't exactly the centre of
civilisation. There ! I've said my say. The less I see of you
now till we land, the better I shall be pleased."
He walked away and was challenged by the Doctor to a game of
shuffleboard. Da Souza remained in his chair, his eyes blinking
as though with the sun, and his hands gripping nervously the sides
of his chair.
After six weeks' incessant throbbing the great engines were still,
and the Dunottar Castle lay at anchor a mile or two from the
African coast and off the town of Attra. The heat, which in motion
had been hard enough to bear, was positively stifling now. The sun
burned down upon the glassy sea and the white deck till the varnish
on the rails cracked and blistered, and the sweat streamed like
water from the faces of the labouring seamen. Below at the ship's
side half a dozen surf boats were waiting, manned by Kru boys, who
alone seemed perfectly comfortable, and cheerful as usual. All
around were preparations for landing - boxes were being hauled up
from the hold, and people were going about in reach of small parcels
and deck-chairs and missing acquaintances. Trent, in white linen
clothes and puggaree, was leaning over the railing, gazing towards
the town, when Da Souza came up to him -
"Last morning, Mr. Trent!"
Trent glanced round and nodded.
"Are you disembarking here?" he asked.
Da Souza admitted the fact. "My brother will meet me," he said.
"He is very afraid of the surf-boats, or he would have come out to
the steamer. You remember him?"
"Yes, I remember him," Trent answered. "He was not the sort of
person one forgets."
"He is a very rough diamond," Da Souza said apologetically. "He has
lived here so long that he has become almost half a native."
"And the other half a thief," Trent muttered.
Da Souza was not in the least offended.
"I am afraid," he admitted, "that his morals are not up to the
Threadneedle Street pitch, eh, Mr. Trent? But he has made quite a
great deal of money. Oh, quite a sum I can assure you. He sends
me some over to invest!"
"Well, if he's carrying on the same old game," Trent remarked, "he
ought to be coining it! By the by, of course he knows exactly where
"It is what I was about to say," Da Souza assented, with a vigorous
nod of the head. "Now, my dear Mr. Trent, I know that you will have
your way. It is no use my trying to dissuade you, so listen. You
shall waste no time in searching for Monty. My brother will tell
you exactly where he is."
Trent hesitated. He would have preferred to have nothing at all to
do with Da Souza, and the very thought of Oom Sam made him shudder.
On the other hand, time was valuable to him and he might waste
weeks looking for the man whom Oom Sam could tell him at once where
to find. On the whole, it was better to accept Da Souza's offer.
"Very well, Da Souza," he said, "I have no time to spare in this
country and the sooner I get back to England the better for all of
us. If your brother knows where Monty is, so much the better for
both of us. We will land together and meet him."
Already the disembarking had commenced. Da Souza and Trent took
their places side by side on the broad, flat-bottomed boat, and
soon they were off shorewards and the familiar song of the Kru boys
as they bent over their oars greeted their ears. The excitement
of the last few strokes was barely over before they sprang upon the
beach and were surrounded by a little crowd, on the outskirts of
whom was Oom Sam. Trent was seized upon by an Englishman who was
representing the Bekwando Land and Mining Investment Company and,
before he could regain Da Souza, a few rapid sentences had passed
between the latter and his brother in Portuguese. Oom Sam
advanced to Trent hat in hand -
"Welcome back to Attra, senor?"
Trent nodded curtly.
"Place isn't much changed," he remarked.
"It is very slowly here," Oom Sam said, "that progress is made!
The climate is too horrible. It makes dead sheep of men."
"You seem to hang on pretty well," Trent remarked carelessly.
"Been up country lately?"
"I was trading with the King of Bekwando a month ago," Oom Sam
"Palm-oil and mahogany for vile rum I suppose," Trent said.
The man extended his hands and shrugged his shoulders. The old
"They will have it," he said. "Shall we go to the hotel, Senor
Trent, and rest?"
Trent nodded, and the three men scrambled up the beach, across
an open space, and gained the shelter of a broad balcony, shielded
by a striped awning which surrounded the plain white stone hotel.
A Kru boy welcomed them with beaming face and fetched them drinks
upon a Brummagem tray. Trent turned to the Englishman who had
followed them up.
"To-morrow," he said, "I shall see you about the contracts. My
first business is a private matter with these gentlemen. Will you
come up here and breakfast with me?"
The Englishman, a surveyor from a London office, assented with
"I can't offer to put you up," he said gloomily. "Living out here's
beastly. See you in the morning, then."
He strolled away, fanning himself. Trent lit a long cigar.
"I understand," he said turning to Oom Sam, "that old Monty is alive
still. If so, it's little short of a miracle, for I left him with
scarcely a gasp in his body, and I was nearly done myself.
"It was," Oom Sam said, "veree wonderful. The natives who were
chasing you, they found him and then the Englishman whom you met in
Bekwando on his way inland, he rescued him. You see that little
white house with a flagstaff yonder?"
He pointed to a little one-storey building about a mile away along
the coast. Trent nodded.
"That is," Oom Sam said, "a station of the Basle Mission and old
Monty is there. You can go and see him any time you like, but he
will not know you."
"Is he as far gone as that?" Trent asked slowly.
"His mind," Oom Sam said, "is gone. One little flickering spark of
life goes on. A day! a week! who can tell how long?"
"Has he a doctor?" Trent asked.
"The missionary, he is a medical man," Oom Sam explained. "Yet he
is long past the art of medicine."
It seemed to Trent, turning at that moment to relight his cigar,
that a look of subtle intelligence was flashed from one to the
other of the brothers. He paused with the match in his fingers,
puzzled, suspicious, anxious. So there was some scheme hatched
already between these precious pair! It was time indeed that he
"There was something else I wanted to ask," he said a moment or
two later. "What about the man Francis. Has he been heard of
Oom Sam shook his head.
"Ten months ago," he answered, "a trader from Lulabulu reported
having passed him on his way to the interior. He spoke of visiting
Sugbaroo, another country beyond. If he ventured there, he will
surely never return."
Trent set down his glass without a word, and called to some Kru boys
in the square who carried litters.
"I am going," he said, "to find Monty."
An old man, with his face turned to the sea, was making a weary
attempt at digging upon a small potato patch. The blaze of the
tropical sun had become lost an hour or so before in a strange, grey
mist, rising not from the sea, but from the swamps which lay here
and there - brilliant, verdant patches of poison and pestilence.
With the mist came a moist, sticky heat, the air was fetid. Trent
wiped the perspiration from his forehead and breathed hard. This
was an evil moment for him.
Monty turned round at the sound of his approaching footsteps. The
two men stood face to face. Trent looked eagerly for some sign of
recognition - none came.
"Don't you know me?" Trent said huskily. "I'm Scarlett Trent - we
went up to Bekwando together, you know. I thought you were dead,
Monty, or I wouldn't have left you."
Monty mumbled for a moment or two and was silent. A look of dull
disappointment struggled with the vacuity of his face. Trent
noticed that his hands were shaking pitifully and his eyes were
"Try and think, Monty," he went on, drawing a step nearer to him.
"Don't you remember what a beastly time we had up in the bush - how
they kept us day after day in that villainous hut because it was
a fetish week, and how after we had got the concessions those
confounded niggers followed us! They meant our lives, Monty, and
I don't know how you escaped! Come! make an effort and pull
yourself together. We're rich men now, both of us. You must come
back to England and help me spend a bit."
Monty had recovered a little his power of speech. He leaned over
his spade and smiled benignly at his visitor.
"There was a Trentham in the Guards," he said slowly, "the Honourable
George Trentham, you know, one of poor Abercrombie's sons, but I
thought he was dead. You must dine with me one night at the
Travellers'! I've given up eating myself, but I'm always thirsty."
He looked anxiously away towards the town and began to mumble. Trent
was in despair. Presently he began again.
"I used to belong to the Guards, - always dined there till Jacques
left. Afterwards the cooking was beastly, and - I can't quite
remember where I went then. You see - I think I must be getting old.
I don't remember things. Between you and me," he sidled a little
closer to Trent, "I think I must have got into a bit of a scrape of
some sort - I feel as though there was a blank somewhere...."
Again he became unintelligible. Trent was silent for several
minutes. He could not understand that strained, anxious look which
crept into Monty's face every time he faced the town. Then he made
his last effort.
"Monty, do you remember this?"
Zealously guarded, yet a little worn at the edges and faded, he
drew the picture from its case and held it before the old man's
blinking eyes. There was a moment of suspense, then a sharp,
breathless cry which ended in a wail.
"Take it away," Monty moaned. "I lost it long ago. I don't want
to see it! I don't want to think."
"I have come," Trent said, with an unaccustomed gentleness in his
tone, "to make you think. I want you to remember that that is a
picture of your daughter. You are rich now and there is no reason
why you should not come back to her. Don't you understand, Monty?"
It was a grey, white face, shrivelled and pinched, weak eyes without
depth, a vapid smile in which there was no meaning. Trent, carried
away for a moment by an impulse of pity, felt only disappointment at
the hopelessness of his task. He would have been honestly glad to
have taken the Monty whom he had known back to England, but not this
man! For already that brief flash of awakened life seemed to have
died away. Monty's head was wagging feebly and he was casting
continually little, furtive glances towards the town.
"Please go away," he said. "I don't know you and you give me a
pain in my head. Don't you know what it is to feel a buzz, buzz,
buzzing inside? I can't remember things. It's no use trying."
"Monty, why do you look so often that way?" Trent said quietly.
"Is some one coming out from the town to see you?"
Monty threw a quick glance at him and Trent sighed. For the glance
was full of cunning, the low cunning of the lunatic criminal.
"No one, no one," he said hastily. "Who should come to see me?
I'm only poor Monty. Poor old Monty's got no friends. Go away
and let me dig."
Trent walked a few paces apart, and passed out of the garden to a
low, shelving bank and looked downward where a sea of glass rippled
on to the broad, firm sands. What a picture of desolation! The
grey, hot mist, the whitewashed cabin, the long, ugly potato patch,
the weird, pathetic figure of that old man from whose brain the
light of life had surely passed for ever. And yet Trent was puzzled.
Monty's furtive glance inland, his half-frightened, half-cunning
denial of any anticipated visit suggested that there was some one
else who was interested in his existence, and some one too with whom
he shared a secret. Trent lit a cigar and sat down upon the sandy
turf. Monty resumed his digging. Trent watched him through the
leaves of a stunted tree, underneath which he had thrown himself.
For an hour or more nothing happened. Trent smoked, and Monty, who
had apparently forgotten all about his visitor, plodded away amongst
the potato furrows, with every now and then a long, searching look
towards the town. Then there came a black speck stealing across
the broad rice-field and up the steep hill, a speck which in time
took to itself the semblance of a man, a Kru boy, naked as he was
born save for a ragged loin-cloth, and clutching something in his
hand. He was invisible to Trent until he was close at hand; it was
Monty whose changed attitude and deportment indicated the approach
of something interesting. He had relinquished his digging and,
after a long, stealthy glance towards the house, had advanced to
the extreme boundary of the potato patch. His behaviour here for
the first time seemed to denote the hopeless lunatic. He swung his
long arms backward and forwards, cracking his fingers, and talked
unintelligibly to himself, hoarse, guttural murmurings without
sense or import. Trent changed his place and for the first time
saw the Kru boy. His face darkened and an angry exclamation broke
from his lips. It was something like this which he had been
The Kru boy drew nearer and nearer. Finally he stood upright on
the rank, coarse grass and grinned at Monty, whose lean hands were
outstretched towards him. He fumbled for a moment in his loin-cloth.
Then he drew out a long bottle and handed it up. Trent stepped out
as Monty's nervous fingers were fumbling with the cork. He made a
grab at the boy who glided off like an eel. Instantly he whipped
out a revolver and covered him.
"Come here," he cried.
The boy shook his head. "No understand."
"Who sent you here with that filthy stuff?" he asked sternly. "You'd
best answer me."
The Kru boy, shrinking away from the dark muzzle of that motionless
revolver, was spellbound with fear. He shook his head.
There was a flash of light, a puff of smoke, a loud report. The
Kru boy fell forward upon his face howling with fear. Monty ran
off towards the house mumbling to himself.
"The next time," Trent said coolly, "I shall fire at you instead of
at the tree. Remember I have lived out here and I know all about
you and your kind. You can understand me very well if you choose,
and you've just got to. Who sends you here with that vile stuff?"
"Massa, I tell! Massa Oom Sam, he send me!"
"And what is the stuff?"
"Hamburgh gin, massa! very good liquor! Please, massa, point him
pistol the other way."
Trent took up the flask, smelt its contents and threw it away with
a little exclamation of disgust.
"How often have you been coming here on this errand?" he asked
"Most every day, massa - when him Mr. Price away."
"Very good," he said. "Now listen to me. If ever I catch you
round here again or anywhere else on such an errand, I'll shoot
you like a dog. Now be off."
The boy bounded away with a broad grin of relief. Trent walked up
to the house and asked for the missionary's wife. She came to him
soon, in what was called the parlour. A frail, anaemic-looking
woman with tired eyes and weary expression.
"I'm sorry to trouble you, Mrs. Price," Trent said, plunging at once
into his subject, "but I want to speak to you about this old man,
Monty. You've had him some time now, haven't you?"
"About four years," she answered. "Captain Francis left him with
my husband; I believe he found him in one of the villages inland,
"He left you a little money with him, I believe."
The woman smiled faintly.
"It was very little," she said, "but such as it is, we have never
touched it. He eats scarcely anything and we consider that the
little work he has done has about paid us for keeping him."
"Did you know," Trent asked bluntly, "that he had been a drunkard?"
"Captain Francis hinted as much," the woman answered. "That was
one reason why he wanted to leave him with us. He knew that we did
not allow anything in the house."
"It was a pity," Trent said, "that you could not have watched him
a little more out of it. Why, his brain is sodden with drink now!"
The woman was obviously honest in her amazement. "How can that be?"
she exclaimed. "He has absolutely no money and he never goes off
"He has no need," Trent answered bitterly. "There are men in Attra
who want him dead, and they have been doing their best to hurry him
off. I caught a Kru boy bringing him gin this afternoon. Evidently
it has been a regular thing."
"I am very sorry indeed to hear this," the woman said, "and I am
sure my husband will be too. He will feel that, in a certain
measure, he has betrayed Captain Francis's trust. At the same time
we neither of us had any idea that anything of this sort was to be
feared, or we would have kept watch."
"You cannot be blamed," Trent said. "I am satisfied that you knew
nothing about it. Now I am going to let you into a secret. Monty
is a rich man if he had his rights, and I want to help him to them.
I shall take him back to England with me, but I can't leave for a
week or so. If you can keep him till then and have some one to
watch him day and night, I'll give your husband a hundred pounds for
your work here, and build you a church. It's all right! Don't look
as though I were mad. I'm a very rich man, that's all, and I shan't
miss the money, but I want to feel that Monty is safe till I can
start back to England. Will you undertake this?"
"Yes," the woman answered promptly, "we will. We'll do our honest
Trent laid a bank-note upon the table.
"Just to show I'm in earnest," he remarked, rising. "I shall be
up-country for about a month. Look after the old chap well and
you'll never regret it."
Trent went thoughtfully back to the town. He had committed himself
now to a definite course of action. He had made up his mind to take
Monty back with him to England and face the consequences.
On the summit of a little knoll, with a pipe between his teeth and
his back against a palm-tree, Trent was lounging away an hour of
the breathless night. Usually a sound sleeper, the wakefulness,
which had pursued him from the instant his head had touched his
travelling pillow an hour or so back, was not only an uncommon
occurrence, but one which seemed proof against any effort on his
part to overcome it. So he had risen and stolen away from the
little camp where his companions lay wrapped in heavy slumber. They
had closed their eyes in a dense and tropical darkness - so thick
indeed that they had lit a fire, notwithstanding the stifling heat,
to remove that vague feeling of oppression which chaos so complete
seemed to bring with it. Its embers burnt now with a faint and
sickly glare in the full flood of yellow moonlight which had
fallen upon the country. From this point of vantage Trent could
trace backwards their day's march for many miles, the white posts
left by the surveyor even were visible, and in the background rose
the mountains of Bekwando. It had been a hard week's work for
Trent. He had found chaos, discontent, despair. The English agent
of the Bekwando Land Company was on the point of cancelling his
contract, the surveyors were spending valuable money without making
any real attempt to start upon their undoubtedly difficult task.
Everywhere the feeling seemed to be that the prosecution of his
schemes was an impossibility. The road was altogether in the clouds.
Trent was flatly told that the labour they required was absolutely
unprocurable. Fortunately Trent knew the country, and he was a man
of resource. From the moment when he had appeared upon the spot,
things had begun to right themselves. He had found Oom Sam
established as a sort of task-master and contractor, and had
promptly dismissed him, with the result that the supply of Kru boys
was instantly doubled. He had found other sources of labour and
started them at once on clearing work, scornfully indifferent to the
often-expressed doubts of the English surveyor as to possibility of
making the road at all. He had chosen overseers with that swift
and intuitive insight into character which in his case amounted
almost to genius. With a half-sheet of notepaper and a pencil, he
had mapped out a road which had made one, at least, of the two
surveyors thoughtful, and had largely increased his respect for the
English capitalist. Now he was on his way back from a tour almost
to Bekwando itself by the route of the proposed road. Already the
work of preparation had begun. Hundreds of natives left in their
track were sawing down palm-trees, cutting away the bush, digging
and making ready everywhere for that straight, wide thoroughfare
which was to lead from Bekwando village to the sea-coast. Cables
as to his progress had already been sent back to London. Apart from
any other result, Trent knew that he had saved the Syndicate a
fortune by his journey here.
The light of the moon grew stronger - the country lay stretched out
before him like a map. With folded arms and a freshly-lit pipe
Trent leaned with his back against the tree and fixed eyes. At
first he saw nothing but that road, broad and white, stretching to
the horizon and thronged with oxen-drawn wagons. Then the fancy
suddenly left him and a girl's face seemed to be laughing into his
- a face which was ever changing, gay and brilliant one moment,
calm and seductively beautiful the next. He smoked his pipe
furiously, perplexed and uneasy. One moment the face was Ernestine's,
the next it was Monty's little girl laughing up at him from the worn
and yellow tin-type. The promise of the one - had it been fulfilled
in the woman? At least he knew that here was the one great weakness
of his life. The curious flood of sentiment, which had led him to
gamble for the child's picture, had merged with equal suddenness
into passion at the coming of her later presentment. High above
all his plans for the accumulation of power and wealth, he set
before him now a desire which had become the moving impulse of his
life - a desire primitive but overmastering - the desire of a strong
man for the woman he loves. In London he had scarcely dared admit
so much even to himself. Here, in this vast solitude, he was more
master of himself - dreams which seemed to him the most beautiful
and the most daring which he had ever conceived, filled his brain
and stirred his senses till the blood in his veins seemed flowing
to a new and wonderful music. Those were wonderful moments for him.
His pipe was nearly out, and a cooler breeze was stealing over the
plain. After all, perhaps an hour or so's sleep would be possible
now. He stretched himself and yawned, cast one more glance across
the moonlit plain, and then stood suddenly still, stiffened into an
attitude of breathless interest. Yonder, between two lines of
shrubs, were moving bodies - men, footsore and weary, crawling
along with slow, painful movements; one at least of them was a
European, and even at that distance Trent could tell that they were
in grievous straits. He felt for his revolver, and, finding that
it was in his belt, descended the hill quickly towards them.
With every step which he took he could distinguish them more
plainly. There were five Kru boys, a native of a tribe which he
did not recognise, and a European who walked with reeling footsteps,
and who, it was easy to see, was on the point of exhaustion. Soon
they saw him, and a feeble shout greeted his approach. Trent was
within hailing distance before he recognised the European. Then,
with a little exclamation of surprise, he saw that it was Captain
They met face to face in a moment, but Francis never recognised him.
His eyes were bloodshot, a coarse beard disguised his face, and his
clothes hung about him in rags. Evidently he was in a terrible
plight. When he spoke his voice sounded shrill and cracked.
"We are starving men," he said; "can you help us?"
"Of course we can," Trent answered quickly. "This way. We've
plenty of stores."
The little party stumbled eagerly after him. In a few moments they
were at the camp. Trent roused his companions, packages were
hastily undone and a meal prepared. Scarcely a word was said or a
question asked. One or two of the Kru boys seemed on the verge of
insanity - Francis himself was hysterical and faint. Trent boiled
a kettle and made some beef-tea himself. The first mouthful Francis
was unable to swallow. His throat had swollen and his eyes were
hideously bloodshot. Trent, who had seen men before in dire straits,
fed him from a spoon and forced brandy between his lips. Certainly,
at the time, he never stopped to consider that he was helping back
to life the man who in all the world was most likely to do him ill.
"Better?" he asked presently.
"Much. What luck to find you. What are you after - gold?"
Trent shook his head.
"Not at present. We're planning out the new road from Attra to
Francis looked up with surprise.
"Never heard of it," he said; "but there's trouble ahead for you.
They are dancing the war-dance at Bekwando, and the King has been
shut up for three days with the priest and never opened his mouth.
We were on our way from the interior, and relied upon them for food
and drink. They've always been friendly, but this time we barely
escaped with our lives."
Trent's face grew serious. This was bad news for him, and he was
thankful that they had not carried out their first plan and
commenced their prospecting at Bekwando village.
"We have a charter," he said, "and, if necessary, we must fight.
I'm glad to be prepared though."
"A charter!" Francis pulled himself together and looked curiously
at the man who was still bending over him.
"Great Heavens!" he exclaimed, "why, you are Scarlett Trent, the
man whom I met with poor Villiers in Bekwando years ago."
"We waited for you," he said, "to witness our concession. I thought
that you would remember."
"I thought," Francis said slowly, "that there was something familiar
about you.... I remember it all now. You were gambling with poor
old Monty for his daughter's picture against a bottle of brandy."
Trent winced a little.
"You have an excellent memory," he said drily.
Francis raised himself a little, and a fiercer note crept into his
"It is coming back to me," he said. "I remember more about you now,
Scarlett Trent. You are the man who left his partner to die in a
jungle, that you might rob him of his share in the concession. Oh
yes, you see my memory is coming back! I have an account against
you, my man."
"It's a lie!" said Trent passionately. "When I left him, I honestly
believed him to be a dead man."
"How many people will believe that?" Francis scoffed. "I shall
take Monty with me to England. I have finished with this country
for awhile - and then - and then - "
He was exhausted, and sank back speechless. Trent sat and watched
him, smoking in thoughtful silence. They two were a little apart
from the others, and Francis was fainting. A hand upon his throat
- a drop from that phial in the medicine-chest - and his faint
would carry him into eternity. And still Trent sat and smoked.
It was Trent himself who kept watch through that last long hour of
moonlit darkness till the wan morning broke. With its faint, grey
streaks came the savages of Bekwando, crawling up in a semicircle
through the long, rough grass, then suddenly, at a signal, bounding
upright with spears poised in their hands - an ugly sight in the
dim dawn for men chilled with the moist, damp air and only
half-awake. But Trent had not been caught napping. His stealthy
call to arms had aroused them in time at least to crawl behind some
shelter and grip their rifles. The war-cry of the savages was met
with a death-like quiet - there were no signs of confusion nor
terror. A Kru boy, who called out with fright, was felled to the
ground by Trent with a blow which would have staggered an ox. With
their rifles in hand, and every man stretched flat upon the ground,
Trent's little party lay waiting. Barely a hundred yards separated
them, yet there was no sign of life from the camp. The long line
of savages advanced a few steps more, their spears poised above
their heads, their half-naked forms showing more distinctly as they
peered forward through the grey gloom, savage and ferocious. The
white men were surely sleeping still. They were as near now as they
could get. There was a signal and then a wild chorus of yells.
They threw aside all disguise and darted forward, the still morning
air hideous with their cry of battle. Then, with an awful
suddenness, their cry became the cry of death, for out from the
bushes belched a yellow line of fire as the rifles of Trent and his
men rang out their welcome. A dozen at least of the men of Bekwando
looked never again upon the faces of their wives, the rest hesitated.
Trent, in whom was the love of fighting, made then his first mistake.
He called for a sally, and rushed out, revolver in hand, upon the
broken line. Half the blacks ran away like rabbits; the remainder,
greatly outnumbering Trent and his party, stood firm. In a moment
it was hand-to-hand fighting, and Trent was cursing already the
bravado which had brought him out to the open.
For a while it was a doubtful combat. Then, with a shout of triumph,
the chief, a swarthy, thick-set man of herculean strength, recognised
Francis and sprang upon him. The blow which he aimed would most
surely have killed him, but that Trent, with the butt-end of a rifle,
broke its force a little. Then, turning round, he blew out the man's
brains as Francis sank backwards. A dismal yell from his followers
was the chief's requiem; then they turned and fled, followed by a
storm of bullets as Trent's men found time to reload. More than one
leaped into the air and fell forward upon their faces. The fight
was over, and, when they came to look round, Francis was the only
man who had suffered.
Morning had dawned even whilst they had been fighting. Little
wreaths of mist were curling upwards, and the sun shone down with
a cloudless, golden light, every moment more clear as the vapours
melted away. Francis was lying upon his face groaning heavily; the
Kru boys, to whom he was well known, were gathered in a little
circle around him. Trent brushed them on one side and made a brief
examination. Then he had him carried carefully into one of the
tents while he went for his medicine-chest.
Preparations for a start were made, but Trent was thoughtful. For
the second time within a few hours this man, in whose power it was
to ruin him, lay at his mercy. That he had saved his life went for
nothing. In the heat of battle there had been no time for thought
or calculation. Trent had simply obeyed the generous instinct of a
brave man whose blood was warm with the joy of fighting. Now it
was different. Trent was seldom sentimental, but from the first he
had had an uneasy presentiment concerning this man who lay now
within his power and so near to death. A mutual antipathy seemed
to have been born between them from the first moment when they had
met in the village of Bekwando. As though it were yesterday, he
remembered that leave-taking and Francis's threatening words. Trent
had always felt that the man was his enemy - certainly the power to
do him incalculable harm, if not to altogether ruin him, was his now.
And he would not hesitate about it. Trent knew that, although
broadly speaking he was innocent of any desire to harm or desert
Monty, no power on earth would ever convince Francis of that.
Appearances were, and always must be, overwhelmingly against him.
Without interference from any one he had already formulated plans
for quietly putting Monty in his rightful position, and making over
to him his share in the Bekwando Syndicate. But to arrange this
without catastrophe would need skill and tact; interference from
any outside source would be fatal, and Francis meant to interfere
- nothing would stop him. Trent walked backwards and forwards with
knitted brows, glancing every now and then at the unconscious man.
Francis would certainly interfere if he were allowed to recover!
A fortnight afterwards Trent rode into Attra, pale, gaunt, and
hollow-eyed. The whole history of those days would never be known
by another man! Upon Trent they had left their mark for ever.
Every hour of his time in this country he reckoned of great value
- yet he had devoted fourteen days to saving the life of John
Francis. Such days too - and such nights! They had carried him
sometimes in a dead stupor, sometimes a raving madman, along a wild
bush-track across rivers and swamps into the town of Garba, where
years ago a Congo trader, who had made a fortune, had built a little
white-washed hospital ! He was safe now, but surely never a man
before had walked so near the "Valley of the Shadow of Death." A
single moment's vigilance relaxed, a blanket displaced, a dose of
brandy forgotten, and Trent might have walked this life a
multi-millionaire, a peer, a little god amongst his fellows, freed
for ever from all anxiety. But Francis was tended as never a man
was tended before. Trent himself had done his share of the carrying,
ever keeping his eyes fixed upon the death-lit face of their burden,
every ready to fight off the progress of the fever and ague, as the
twitching lips or shivering limbs gave warning of a change. For
fourteen days he had not slept; until they had reached Garba his
clothes had never been changed since they had started upon their
perilous journey. As he rode into Attra he reeled a little in his
saddle, and he walked into the office of the Agent more like a ghost
than a man.
Two men, Cathcart and his assistant, who was only a boy, were
lounging in low chairs. As he entered they looked up, exchanging
quick, startled glances. Then Cathcart gave vent to a little
"Great Heavens, Trent, what have you been doing?" Trent sank into
a chair. "Get me some wine," he said. "I am all right but
Cathcart poured champagne into a tumbler. Trent emptied it at a
gulp and asked for biscuits. The man's recuperative powers were
wonderful. Already the deathly whiteness was passing from his cheeks.
"Where is Da Souza?" he asked.
"Gone back to England," Cathcart answered, looking out of the open
casement shaded from the sun by the sloping roof. "His steamer
Trent was puzzled. He scarcely understood this move.
"Did he give any reason?"
Cathcart smoked for a moment in silence. After all though a
disclosure would be unpleasant, it was inevitable and as well now
as any time. "I think," Cathcart said, "that he has gone to try
and sell his shares in the Bekwando concessions."
"Gone - to - sell - his - shares!" Trent repeated slowly. "You
mean to say that he has gone straight from here to put a hundred
thousand Bekwando shares upon the market?"
He said so!
"And why? Did he tell you that?"
"He has come to the conclusion," Cathcart said, "that the scheme
is impracticable altogether and the concessions worthless. He is
going to get what he can for his shares while he has the chance."
Trent drained his tumbler and lit a cigar. "So much for Da Souza,"
he said. "And now I should like to know, Mr. Stanley Cathcart,
what the devil you and your assistant are doing shacking here in
the cool of the day when you are the servants of the Bekwando
Company and there's work to be done of the utmost importance? The
whole place seems to be asleep. Where's your labour? There's not
a soul at work. We planned exactly when to start the road. What
the mischief do you mean by wasting a fortnight?"
Cathcart coughed and was obviously ill-at-ease, but he answered
with some show of dignity.
"I have come to the conclusion, Mr. Trent, that the making of the
road is impracticable and useless. There is insufficient labour
and poor tools, no satisfactory method of draining the swampy
country, and further, I don't think any one would work with the
constant fear of an attack from those savages."
"So that's your opinion, is it?" Trent said grimly.
"That is my opinion," Cathcart answered. "I have embodied it in a
report which I despatched to the secretary of the Company by Mr.
Trent rose and opened the door which swung into the little room.
"Out you go!" he said fiercely.
Cathcart looked at him in blank astonishment.
"What do you mean?" he exclaimed. "These are my quarters!"
"They're nothing of the sort," Trent answered. "They are the
headquarters in this country of the Bekwando Company, with which
you have nothing to do! Out you go!"
"Don't talk rubbish!" Cathcart said angrily. "I'm the authorised
and properly appointed surveyor here!"
"You're a liar!" Trent answered, "you've no connection at all with
the Company! you're dismissed, sir, for incompetence and cowardice,
and if you're not off the premises in three minutes it'll be the
worse for you!"
"You - you - haven't the power to do this," Cathcart stuttered.
"We'll see about that," he said. "I never had much faith in you,
sir, and I guess you only got the job by a rig. But out you go now,
sharp. If there's anything owing you, you can claim it in London.
"There are all my clothes - " Cathcart began.
Trent laid his hands upon his shoulders and threw him softly outside.
"I'll send your clothes to the hotel," he said. "Take my advice,
young man, and keep out of my sight till you can find a steamer to
take you where they'll pay you for doing nothing. You're the sort
of man who irritates me and it's a nasty climate for getting angry
Cathcart picked himself up. "Well, I should like to know who's
going to make your road," he said spitefully.
"I'll make it myself," Trent roared. "Don't you think a little
thing like some stupid laws of science will stand in my way, or the
way of a man who knows his own mind. I tell you I'll level that
road from the tree there which we marked as the starting-point to
the very centre of Bekwando."
He slammed the door and re-entered the room. The boy was there,
sitting upon the office stool hard at work with a pair of compasses.
"What the devil are you doing there?" Trent asked. "Out you go
with your master!"
The boy looked up. He had a fair, smooth face, but lips like
"I'm just thinking about that first bend by Kurru corner, sir," he
said, "I'm not sure about the level."
Trent's face relaxed. He held out his hand.
"My boy," he said, "I'll make your fortune as sure as my name is
"We'll make that road anyway," the boy answered, with a smile.
* * * * *
After a rest Trent climbed the hill to the Basle Mission House.
There was no sign of Monty on the potato patch, and the woman who
opened the door started when she saw him.
"How is he?" Trent asked quickly.
The woman looked at him in wonder.
"Why, he's gone, sir - gone with the Jewish gentleman who said that
you had sent him."
"Where to?" Trent asked quickly.
"Why, to England in the Ophir!" the woman answered.
Then Trent began to feel that, after all, the struggle of his life
was only beginning.
It was then perhaps that Trent fought the hardest battle of his