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  • 1912
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Other’s–if he went to Wordling now. She could have forgiven a boyish carelessness in either, but Beth could not forgive in any man that unfinished humanity which has a love-token for the obviously common and sensuous…. She was ill with terror and tension. And how pitifully human she was! A greater faith or a lesser strength would have saved her. Beth failed in the first. It was her madness; her mortal enemy–this pride.

“I doubt if there could be such another day of June,” she observed at last, wondering if he caught the hard note in her voice…. This would bring his word. She would cry aloud with happiness–if the day had changed him.

“To-morrow—-” he answered. “Beth, is there anything to prevent to-morrow—-?”

“Riding together?”

“Yes.”

“Not to-morrow. The horses had better rest a day. We must have done twenty-five miles to-day…. But early next week—-“

She had turned away, as one averts the face from disaster. Even had she not turned from him, it was too dark to see his queer troubled smile, as he said:

“Monday, I go away. It’s that ocean matter. Three days will finish it, I’m sure.”

So this was her answer. Beth of the bestowals had not prevailed. This was the inner uprooting. Love-lady she had been–love-lady of thrilling arts this day–and yet his determination to go to the other was not altered…. She would not show him tears of rage and jealousy. She would not see him again. She meant to show him that the day had not stormed her heart of hearts. Her spirit was torn, and she was not above hurting him…. “Three days will finish it, I’m sure.” To her the sentence had the clang of a prison door…. It was through the Other that she proceeded now…. How he had struck her through another!….

They had walked for some time through the evergreens. His listening had become like a furious draught, her brain burning intensely beneath it. It had been hard for her to begin, but that was over…. “It was not until to-day that there was any need to tell you,” she was saying. “You were inspiring in other ways. I would have been stupid, indeed, not to have seen that, but somehow you seemed remote from everyday habiliments and workday New York–somehow inseparable from silences–until to-day–when you came singing _Invictus_. You did not let me tell you–out there–in the sunlight. You didn’t let me think of telling you…. You mustn’t judge me always so susceptible—-“

She halted, lost for an instant in the emptiness.

“Please tell me about him,” Bedient said.

“Why, he was only a working boy when he first came to our house–here,” she went on. “I was just back from Paris–after years. I remember with what a shock of surprise I noted the perfection of his face. The angle was absolutely correct as the old Hellenic marbles, and to every curve was that final warmth which stone can only distantly suggest. Then he was tall, but so light and lithe—-“

She knew he would not fail to see the flaw here–the artistic taint. She had heard him deplore the worship of empty line, saying that nature almost invariably travesties it.

“I was hasty, then, in my conclusion to-day,” he said, questioning, “when I asked if there was any reason why I should not tell you how great you are to me?”

“It did not seem the time to tell you,” she answered quickly. “I was wrong, but–it was not wrong to him! Please don’t think that! I sent him away.”

“Oh, I see better–thank you. And now go on, Beth, please—-“

“You see, he was my work—-“

Beth’s mother now called from the front door. She was going upstairs and would say good-night to Mr. Bedient.

“Go to her,” Beth whispered. “I shall see her later.”

… And now she stood alone by the gate, her mind seething. Forces within falteringly implored her to go no further. She found in his few brief questions that old fidelity to truth that had been one of his first charms. This helped to unsteady her. Was she not wrong to judge this man by the standards the world had made her accept for others?… The day came back. Why had Wordling been so far from her mind out there in the sunlight? Radiant with health, thrilling with mysteries, in the summit of her womanhood, she had been above fear, and he above evil. The Shadowy Sister, too, had gone forth to meet him, majestic and unashamed. What spell was that which had come over her, a perfect vein-dilation in the brilliant light? Why, it had seemed to her that she could feel the pulse of flower-stems, and paint the nervous systems of the bees. Painting–what a pitiful transaction was art (in the divine stimulus at that hour) compared to the supernal happiness of evolved motherhood! And what exquisite homage had he shown her! And the long talk, his mind crowded with pictures like memories of a world-voyage! Again and again, there had come over her, some inner uplift, as if she were rising upon a wave…. She heard his tones now, as he spoke to her mother on the porch, and his gentleness throughout recurred.

The Other had gone from her world, and now he was going. Her mind shrank from the new and utter desolation…. The night seemed closing about her, as she stood beside the gate. Like some great foreign elemental, it was, until she was near to screaming, and perceived herself captive to madness–a broken-nerved creature in a strange place, stifling among aliens, undone in the torment of strange stars…. And, another, the ancient terror to strong women, now fell upon her, to show Beth Truba how mighty she was to suffer. The sense of her own fruitlessness drove home to her breast, of living without solution, realizing that all her fluent emotions, lovely ideals, all her sympathies, dreams and labors, should end with her own tired hands; that she must know the emptiness of every aspiration, while half-finished women everywhere were girdled with children…. He was coming toward her.

That instant, a merciful blankness fell upon her mind. Out of the fury and maiming, her consciousness seemed lifted to some cool blackness. There was just one vague, almost primal, instinct, such as a babe must feel–the need to be taken in his arms. The wall between them would have fallen had Bedient done that, but nothing was further from his thoughts. He, too, was groping in terrible darkness. Her spirit was lost to him…. There was no moonlight, so he could not discern the anguish of her face, and the sense of her suffering blended with his own…. A very wise woman has said that it isn’t a woman’s mysteries which dismay and mislead a man, but her contradictions.

“And now tell me the rest, Beth,” he said quickly, looking down into the pale blur which was her face. “I must know.”

She shivered slightly. She was dazed. Hatred for the moment, hatred for self and the world, for him, imperiously pinning her to the old sorrow; his failure to make a child of her, as a lover of less integrity might have done–it was all a sickening botch, about Wordling’s pretty taunting face. She had not the strength of faculty to tear down and build again the better way.

“You were telling me that he was your work–of his face and all,” Bedient whispered.

“Oh, yes…. Oh, yes, and you went away—-“

“Yes,” he said strangely.

“I must have been dreaming…. It hurt me so–he hurt me so. I remember—-“

And now a cold gray light dawned in her brain, and the old story cleared–the old worn grooves were easily followed.

“Yes.”

“But I–perhaps–I was inexorable.” There was something eerie in that touch which held her for an instant.

“But you started to tell me more about him, I’m sure, at first,” Bedient said. The idea in his brain needed this.

“I helped him in his studies,” she answered angrily. There was something morbid to her in Bedient’s intensity. “I helped him in the world, or friends of mine did. Yes, I made his way among men until he could stand alone. And he did, quickly. He was bright. Even his refinements of dress and manner and English–I undertook at the beginning.”

Half-dead she had fallen into the old current, not comprehending a tithe of his suffering.

“Oh, I put love into it!” she said dully. “I thought it the most glorious work I ever did.”

“You tell me wonderfully about yourself, Beth, with these few sentences…. There is nothing finer in my comprehension than the mother-spirit in the maid which makes her love the boy or the man whom she lifts and inspires.”

The cool idealist had returned. Beth did not welcome him.

“I believe that every achievement which lifts a man above his fellows is energized by some woman’s outpouring heart. She bestows brave and beautiful things of her own, working in the dark, until the hour of his test, as those fine straws of the Tropics are woven under water—-“

“And what mockery to find,” she finished coldly, “after you have woven and woven, that the fabric finally brought to light is streaky and imperfect.”

Bedient’s business of the moment was to learn if she were right in being as she said, “inexorable”; if she did not sometimes think that a finely-human heart might have come since to that flashing exterior, which had filled the girlish eyes. He could only draw from the whole savage darkness that the Other still lived in her heart.

“But he will not stay forgotten–is that it, Beth?”

Into the cold gray light of her mind, came a curious parable that had occurred to her, as they started out to ride this morning, before the great moments of high noon. And thus she related it to Bedient in the hatred which filled her, last of all from his imperturbable coolness:

“I saddled a great deal, even as a girl. In New York, years ago, the desire came to possess a horse of my own. I bought a beautiful bay colt, pure saddle-bred, rare to look upon; but something always went wrong with him. He galled, threw a shoe and went lame, stumbled, invariably did the unexpected, and often the dangerous, thing. Truly he was brand new every morning. I worried as if he were a child, but I wasn’t the handler for him; he spoiled in my care; yet how I loved that colt–the first. He might have killed me, had I kept him…. It was over a year before I had the heart to buy again–Clarendon–big, courageous, swifter than the other, splendid in strength, yet absolutely reliable in temper. Day after day, in all roads and weathers, he never failed nor fell–until—-“

Beth halted. The parable faltered here. She foresaw a dangerous question, and finished it true to Clarendon.

“Until—-” Bedient repeated.

“Until now–and you have seen him to-day,” she said hastily. “Always he seems to be aiming at improvement with eager, unabated energy. In many ways, it was hard for me to realize that a horse could be so noble…. And yet I gave to the first something that I didn’t have for the second. Something that belonged to the second, was gone from me—-“

A moment passed. Beth glanced into Bedient’s face, but the darkness was too deep for her to see. When he spoke, it was as steadily as ever:

“I understand clearly, Beth. I should say, don’t do the first an injustice. It was those very uncertainties of his, those coltish frights and tempers, that made you so perfect a mistress of the second, for you invariably bring forth the _best_ from the second.”

Something big came to her from the utterance. But nothing of the truth–that his heart had just received a death-thrust to its love-giving…. He had left his gloves in the house. He asked for a cup of water…. It was strange–his asking for anything. She could remember only, besides this, his wish expressed that she might ride with him. He had asked nothing this day. And it was a _cup_ of water now…. They were in the lamplight, and he had drunk…. She was standing by the table, and he at the door waiting for her to lift her eyes…. Suddenly she felt, through the silence, his great strength pouring over her.

She looked up at last. There was a dazzling light in his eyes, as if some wonderful good to do had formed in his mind.

“Beth, was he the Other Man–who rested for one day on the mantel in the studio?”

“Yes.”… The question shocked her. She could not have believed that it was harder for him to ask, than for her to answer….

He came nearer. Like a spirit he came…. He seemed very tall and tired and white…. Her hand was lifted to his lips, but when she turned, he was gone.

Beth did not shut the door…. The sound of a shut door must not be the last so strange a guest should hear. Beth was cold. She could hardly realize….

Bedient turned and saw the light streaming out upon the porch. She was not visible, but her shadow stood forth upon the boards, arms strangely uplifted. The mortal within him was outraged, because he did not turn back–into that open door.

III

EQUATORIA

_Allegro Scherzo_

TWENTY-FIFTH CHAPTER

BEDIENT FOR _THE PLEIAD_

Bedient dreamed:

He was sitting in the dark, in a high, still place; and at last (through a rift in the far mountains), a faint ghost appeared, waveringly white. Just a shimmering mist, at first, but it steadied and brightened, until the snowy breast of old _God-Mother_ was configured in the midst of her lowly brethren on the borders of Kashmir…. And just as he was about to enter into the great peace, his consciousness beginning to wing with cosmic sweep, the rock upon which he sat started to creak and stir, and presently he was rolled about like a haversack in a heaving palanquin.

Thus he awoke, tossed in his berth aboard the _Hatteras_–and a gale was on. The ship, Southward bound, was far off the cape for which she was named, asking only wide sea-room, to take the big rollers with easy grace.

Bedient had not slept long. He had not slept for two consecutive hours during the past ten days. From the open door of _her_ mother’s house in Dunstan his whole life had felt the urge to India. But that could not be. It had the look of running away.

The little ocean matter had been happily ended…. The exact impulse to tell David Cairns of his intention to return to Equatoria, and the moment for it, had not offered, so Bedient had parted from his friend, as one going to a different room for the night. Nor had he seen Mrs. Wordling, the Grey One, Kate Wilkes or Vina Nettleton since the last ride; though for the latter, he left a page of writing she had asked.

Beth he had tried to see, four days after their parting in Dunstan, but she was not at her studio, nor with her mother. He did not seek further.

Bedient felt that he was needed in Equatoria, but there was another reason for his sudden return, than attention to the large financial interests. Though his home was there, Equatoria had no imperious call for him that his inner nature answered…. Only India had that. The very name was like water to a fevered throat. They would know in India. Old Gobind had always known:

“_You will learn to look within for the woman. You would not find favor in finding her without. It is not for you–the red desire of love_.”

How he had rebelled against the authority of those sentences, but his respect for the deep vision of Gobind was complete. Moreover, the old _Sannyasin_ had said he was not to return to India until he was ready to give up the body. No sense of the physical end had come to him, even in his darkest hour. There was much for him to do, and in New York, but the pith was gone from him. His desolation made the idea of returning to New York one of the hardest things he had ever faced. He had thought of Beth Truba in his every conception of service. She inspired a love which held him true to every ideal of woman, and kept the ideals flaming higher. And what form she had brought to his concepts! In expressing himself to her, direct world-values had attached to his thoughts. Through her he had seen the ways of work. Every hour, he blessed her in his heart–again and again; and every hour, the anguish deepened.

But work had a different look. Darkness covered his dreams of service. He was torn down; some great vitality was disintegrating. His projects would be carried out; he would continue to give, and continue to produce the things to give–but the heart, the love of giving, the spirit of outpouring to men–these were gone from him. There was a certain emptiness in following the old laws of his fuller nature. To give and serve now, was like obeying the commands of the dead. He had never turned to the past before. He would have been the first to tell another–that one who looks to his past for the sanction of some act of the present, has reached the end of growth.

Bedient could not lie to himself. He wanted to run away. He wanted to sit at the knees of some old Gobind. Never since the night his mother had taken him in her arms, had he so needed _to lean_…. Yes. he had failed to find favor–in finding the woman.

And now came to him the inevitable thought, and not without savagery to one of his nature: Was his high theme of uplift for women stimulated from the beginning by his need of a human mate? Was it a mere man-passion, which had charmed all his thoughts of women, from a boy? Was this the glow which had illuminated his work in the world, during the maturing silences of the Punjab? Was it physical, and not spiritual–this love of all women, until he had come into his love of one? And must he lose the broader love–in missing the love of one?

The answer lay dark in his consciousness. Ways to bring happiness to women had come to him, but to carry them out now was mere obedience to the old galvanism. He faced this realization with deadly shame….

“_You will learn to look within for the woman_.” And what was left within? In a kind of desperation, Bedient turned to this inventory. The old faith of the soul in God, in the Son, and in the Blessed Mother-Spirit still stood, apart and above the wreckage, unassailed. This was Light.

In these furious days of disintegration Bedient’s soul-faith was not brought to test. A woman’s might have fallen with her love…. But the mighty passionate being, that was roused to commanding actions in that high sunlit hour, died slowly and with agonies untellable.

The _Hatteras_ steamed out of the gale, as she had done out of many another, in the same riotous stretch of sea-water. Bedient had become known aboard from his association with Captain Carreras. It was during the first dinner of the voyage that certain interesting information transpired from the conversation of Captain Bloom.

“Insurrection was smoking down there when we left ten days ago. We expected to hear in New York that the shooting had begun. Celestino Rey very nearly got a body-blow over, while we were hung up in port before the last trip up. Jaffier, the old Dictator, had just stepped out of his dingy little capitol, when a rifle-ball tore through his sleeve, between his arm and ribs. His sentries clubbed the rifle-man to death in the street—-“

“It’s rather a peculiar situation as I understand it,” Bedient said. “The death of either leader—-“

“Would mean an end to his party. That’s it exactly,” said Captain Bloom.

A lively listener to this talk at the Captain’s table was a dark-haired young woman with dancing brown eyes–Miss Adith Mallory. She was slender, and not tall, but spirited in manner; exhibited a fine freedom with her new acquaintances at the table, mostly gentlemen, but with an elegance which repelled familiarity. Miss Mallory seemed to find great fun in these revolutionary affairs, and a deep interest in Andrew Bedient, and his vast holdings on the Island. Her eyes quickly recalled to Bedient’s mind a line of Tennyson’s–“_Sunset and evening star, and after that the dark_.”

He saw very little of her until the _Hatteras_ emerged into the warm, blue Caribbean, and he no longer had the excuse of rough weather to keep away from the dining-saloon. Miss Mallory favored every chance for a talk with Bedient, and once or twice he caught her regarding him with a strange, half-humorous depth of glance. One evening, as the ship was passing the northern coast of Porto Rico, they met on the promenade. The Island was a heavy shadow, off in the moon-bright South.

“… They say, Mr. Bedient, that if the revolution succeeds, it will make a great difference to you.”

“Perhaps it may,” he replied.

Miss Mallory had heard from the ship’s officers, something of his relations with Captain Carreras. He laughingly deprecated his adequacy as a money-master.

“That’s quite extraordinary,” she said thoughtfully. “New York has not taught me to expect such from a man. Then the American dollar is not the sign of the Holy of Holies–to you?”

… Her talk was blithe. Presently she chaffed him for absences from the saloon during the rough weather.

“And you are such an old sailor, too,” she finished.

“But my sailing was largely–sailing,” he said. “It’s different under steam.”

“But we have been nearly three days in a turquoise calm, and I have watched you. A goldfinch would pine away on the nourishment you have taken! How do you manage to live?”

“You see how well I am,” he said.

“You’re not nearly—-” Miss Mallory checked herself, and swallowed several times, before venturing again: “Do you know what I thought?”

“No.”

“That you were in the clutch of mortal fear, lest you lose your fortune in the fighting.”

“That _was_ a bit wide, Miss Mallory—-“

“In reparation for that injustice, I am going to tell you–what takes me to Coral City. I haven’t told anyone else…. It’s the prospect of a war. I’ve always wanted a revolution. You can never know how much…. You see, I’m an every-day working woman, a newspaper woman, but out of routine work. Some big things have fallen to me, but never war. Equatoria, the name and everything about it, has enchanted me for years—-“

Bedient liked her enthusiasm. He explained much about the Island, Jaffier, Celestino Rey, _The Pleiad_, and the manner of men who frequented this remarkable palace. He advised Miss Mallory not to be known as a newspaper woman, if she expected a welcome at _The Pleiad_.

The _Hatteras_ finally made the coral passage, and was steaming into the inner harbor. Miss Mallory left Captain Bloom, who was pointing out the line of reefs, to join Bedient on the promenade-deck.

“I’m surprised and disappointed,” she said. “I expected to hear shooting long before this.”

“It may not be started,” he suggested. “And now, Miss Mallory, we’d better not go ashore together. I’m known as a follower of Jaffier; and since you go to _The Pleiad,_ the only really suitable place to live, you’d only complicate your standing in the community by being seen with me. If _The Pleiad_ should happen to be invested in a siege, I’ll see you comfortably quartered elsewhere. In any case, I am at your service.”

Bedient was entirely unexpected at the _hacienda_, but a small caravan had come down to meet the steamer and carry back supplies. Coral City was feverish with excitement, although the revolutionists had not yet taken to gunning. Bedient dispatched a letter to Jaffier with greeting, a congratulation on his escape from death (regarded in the letter as a good omen), and among other matters, an inquiry in regard to the American Jim Framtree, whom he had met in Coral City, just before he embarked for New York. This done, Bedient procured a saddle-pony, and started alone up the trails to the _hacienda_.

He reached the great house in the early dusk. Such was the welcome Bedient met, that for a moment, he was unable to speak. It was spontaneous, too, for he was an hour ahead of the caravan. All was as he had left. Dozens of natives trooped in with flowers and fruits, and when he was alone upstairs, their singing came to him from the cabins…. Bedient did not realize how worn and near to breaking he was, until the outer door of his apartment was shut; and standing in the centre of the room, with a laugh on his lips, he had to wait two or three minutes, for the upheaval to subside in his breast…. A little later, he crossed to the Captain’s quarters, opened the door, and stood in the dark for several moments, his head bowed. And a breath of that faint sweet perfume, which never wearied nor obtruded, came to his nostrils, as if one of the old silk handkerchiefs were softly waved in the darkness.

* * * * *

A convoy, in the charge of Dictator Jaffier’s oldest and most trusted servant, reached the _hacienda_ at noon the next day. Thus the reply to his letter was borne to Bedient. The cumbersome efficiency clothed an imperative need for money first of all. Bedient expected this and was prepared to assist…. A revolution was inevitable, the communication further divulged. The point in Dictator Jaffier’s mind was just the hour to strike. He recognized the importance of striking first; but, he observed sententiously, there was an exact moment between preparedness and precipitation. Jaffier believed that Celestino Rey was looking for a shipload of rifles and ammunition; but the entire coast was guarded by the Defenders, especially _The Pleiad_ inlet, where the Spaniard’s rare yacht lay. A seizure of the contraband, it was naively stated, would be a most desirable stroke by the government…. The letter closed with the information Bedient had especially requested. The young American Jim Framtree, whose movements in part had been followed by Jaffier’s agents, was at _The Pleiad_ with his chief, Celestino Rey, and was doubtless an important member of the rebel staff….

Bedient read the letter carefully and glanced through it again. Jaffier’s reliable held out his hand for it.

“If the Senor has carefully digested the contents—-” he began.

“Yes, I have it all—-“

The other took the letter and touched a match to it, stepping upon the crisp, blackened shell of fibre that fell to the floor. He carried back a New York draft for a large amount.

Bedient slept; that is, his body lay moveless from mid-evening to broad daylight, that first night at the _hacienda_. His consciousness had taken long journeys to Beth, remarkable pilgrimages to India (and found Beth there in the tonic altitudes). Always she regarded him with some strange terror that would not let her speak. Home from these far flights, he would see his body lying still in the splendid, silent room, fanned by soft night-winds, and quickly depart again…. It must have been the beautiful welcome from Falk and the natives. He had broken down quite absurdly, all his furious sustaining force had relaxed. Perhaps it had been necessary for him to break down before he could sleep…. Many times before, he had seen his body lying asleep.

He was more than ever tired and torn this day. Every vista of the hills held poignant hurt, because Beth Truba could not see this beauty. He dared not touch the orchestrelle. Falk brought coffee and fruit after Jaffier’s servant had departed. Coffee at the _hacienda_ was a perfect achievement. Eight years of training under Captain Carreras, who had an ideal in the making, and who claimed the finest coffee in the world as the product of his own hills, had brought the beverage to a high point. Bedient drank with a relish almost forgotten, but instantly followed that crippling pang–that it was not for Beth; that she could not breathe the warm fragrant winds…. Bedient sprang up. Some hard, brain-filling, body-straining task was the cry of his mind. This was its first defensive activity against the tearing down of bitter loneliness. Until this moment, he had endured passively.

Bedient determined to go to _The Pleiad_. He had thought of various ways to get in contact with Jim Framtree, but there were obstacles in every path, from the point of view of one conceded by the whole Island to be Dictator Jaffier’s right hand, as Captain Carreras had been. The idea appealed more every second. It would startle all concerned, Jaffier and Celestino Rey especially. But the former had just received a large financial assurance of his loyalty, and there was value in giving the ex-pirate something formidable to cope with. Moreover, to meet Jim Framtree again was Bedient’s first reason for sudden return to Equatoria…. He called for a pony, and followed by a servant with a case of fresh clothing, rode down the trail to Coral City.

TWENTY-SIXTH CHAPTER

HOW STARTLING IS TRUTH

Bedient entered _The Pleiad_, and with relief breathed the coolness of the vast shadowed halls. One does not ride for pleasure on a June afternoon in Equatoria, and Bedient was far from fit…. There were no guests about. A pale, slender, sad-eyed gentleman appeared in a sort of throne of marble and mahogany, and perceiving the arrival, his look became fixed and glassy.

“Just give me your name, please, if you wish,” the pale one said, clearing as dry a throat as ever gave passage to words. Indeed, Bedient could only think of some one stepping upon nut-shells to compare with that voice. The sentence was spoken in answer to his glance about for a register or something of the sort…. No questions were asked regarding price, baggage, nor the nature of the quarters desired. A Chinese servant appeared, and took the case from Bedient’s man, who was sent down to quarter in the city. The guest followed the Oriental. The stillness and vast proportions of the structure; the endless darkened halls robed in tapestries and animate with oils; the heavy fragrance from the gardens, crushed out of blossoms by the fierce heat; rugs of all the world’s weaving, from the golden fleeces of Persia to fire-lit Navajos; a glimpse to the left, of a room walled with books, and sunk into an Egypt of silence; an acreage of covered billiard-tables through a vast door to the right–a composite of such impressions made the moment memorable. Bedient could only think of a king’s winter palace–in summer…. He left the servant to return a moment to the desk.

“Have you a list of the men-guests?” he asked.

The pale one looked disturbed; or possibly it was disappointment that his colorless features expressed, as if such affairs were for the lesser servants of the establishment, and not in the province of gentlemanly dealings.

“No, we have no such list,” he said. “Later in the day, when it is cooler, however, most of our guests are abroad, and you will doubtless have little difficulty in finding him whom you seek. You will become familiar in a few hours with our little peculiarities of management. There is little to complain of in the way of service, I believe—-“

Rejoining the Chinese, Bedient was led to an apartment, the elegance of detail and effect of which was imperial, no less. With relief he stepped out of his riding clothes, bathed in a deliciously tempered shower, and sat down to think. The chair folded about him like a cool soft arm. The whole atmosphere was to him embarrassingly sensuous. The city was below, shadowed in the swift-falling night; the harbor lay in purple silence, the sun had sunk in a blood-orange sky.

A smile came to his lips at the heavy seriousness of life all about him; vice clinging tenaciously to world-forms, and leaning upon the purchasable beauty of marble and figured walls, its hollowness sustained with the perfections of service. Then he looked across the dark harbor to the sweep of deep red which alone remained of the sunset, thinking of Beth and the dividing sea and the dividing world, and why it had happened so. He was ashamed because he could not think of the great work he had dreamed of doing for women, because Beth meant _Women_ to him now, and he was not for her…. Would the visions of service ever come back?

This brought his mind to the thing he had come to _The Pleiad_ to do, and the revolution all around it, in the very air. What a queer post–in the very fortress of insurrection. It was all boyish stuff. Many adventures might accrue. Would they be enough to keep his mind from realities?… He feared not. For an hour he sat there, regarding the lights of the city and harbor, until his thoughts grew too heavy, and the manacled lover within him was spent and blood-drawn from straining against his chains–the captive that would not die…. He arose wearily to find that a letter had been thrust beneath his door, and so silently that he had not been aroused from his thoughts. The paper was of palest blue and heavy-laid. His name was written with a blunt pen in an angular, eccentric hand, and the contents proved unique:

MR. ANDREW BEDIENT,

SIR: Many of my guests have caught the spirit of _The Pleiad_ more readily and pleasurably, after making the acquaintance of one elsewhere designated, I believe, the proprietor. We do not use the word here, as we are friends together. The fact that my manager showed you apartments is enough to make me glad to welcome you. He makes few mistakes. Will you not dine with me at eight this evening in the Shield Room. If you have a previous engagement, pray do not permit me to disturb it, as I shall be ready at your good time.

With unwonted regard,

CELESTINO REY.

Bedient sat down again. The systems of the house moved him to amusement and marvelling. To think that the pale creature at the desk had weighed him from all angles of desirability; and like some more or less infallible Peter had allowed him to enter into the abiding peace of _The Pleiad_. It was rather a morsel, that he had not been turned away. Then to be invited to dine the first evening with the establishment’s presiding individuality, who did not approve of the term, “proprietor.” There was a tropic, an orient, delight about the affair.

“To think a stranger must lose or win caste in Equatoria, on the glance of that Tired-eyed,” he mused. “I really must master this atmosphere.”

Bedient thought of _Treasure Island Inn_, in the lower city, where a stranger would probably go, if denied entrance at _The Pleiad_. “Infested” was the word Captain Carreras had once used to depict its denizens…. A few minutes before eight Bedient left the room and descended. From the staircase, he perceived that the guests had, indeed, gathered at this hour. The company was not large, but rather distinguished at first glance. So various were the nationalities represented that Bedient thought the picture not unlike a court-ball with attaches present. The hum of voices was quickened with half the tongues of Europe, and now and then an intonation of Asia. There were more men than women, but this only accentuated the attractions of the latter, of which there were two or three sense-stirring blooms.

For just an instant on the staircase, Bedient stood among the punkah-blown palms to scan the faces below. Framtree was not there, but Miss Mallory appeared in a discussion with an elderly gentleman, and her usual animation was apparent. Bedient was struck with the fact that he had been singularly remiss. In the thirty hours which had passed since their parting, her likeness had not once entered his mind, and he had offered to see that she was comfortably ensconced. Her eyes turned to him now, but as quickly turned away. He had tried to bow…. And at this moment, Bedient perceived the languid eye of the man at the desk, cooling itself upon him. Crossing the tiles from the stairs toward this gentleman, moreover, he was covered with glances from the guests, eyes of swift, searching intensity. “How interested they are in a stranger,” he thought. There was a sharpness of needles and acid in the air.

Low chimes from an indefinite source now struck the hour of eight. A Chinese stepped up to the desk beside Bedient.

“You are dining with Senor Rey?” the manager inquired lazily.

Bedient nodded, and turned to greet Miss Mallory. She caught his eye and intent, and promptly turned her back. For the first time, Bedient felt himself a little inadequate to cope with the psychological activities of this establishment. Reverting to the desk, the manager appeared dazed and absent-minded as usual.

“The boy,” he said, indicating the Chinese, “will show you to the Shield Room.”

Bedient trailed the soft-footed oriental through the bewildering hall, until he saw Senor Rey standing in a doorway–and behind him a low-lit arcanum of leather and metal…. The face of the Spaniard was startling, like the discovery of a crime. It was lean and livid as a cadaver. The pallor of the entire left cheek, including the corner of the lips, had the shine of an old burn, the pores run together in a sort of changeless glaze. In the haggard, bloodless face, eyes shone with black brilliance. The teeth were whole and prominent, as was the entire bony structure of the face and skull. Senor Rey had a tall, attenuated figure, with military shoulders. He moved with great difficulty, as if lacking control of his lower limbs, but in his hands was the contrast–long, white, swift and perfectly preserved. The scarred face and ruffled throat united to form in Bedient’s mind the hideous suggestion that the Spaniard had once been tortured _full-length_–his flesh once thrawned in machinery of the devil…. Bedient’s hand was grasped in a cold bony grip, and his eyes held for an instant in the bright unquiet gaze of the Spaniard.

“I welcome you, Mr. Bedient…. Do you plan to be with us some little time?” The Senor spoke in a low, monotonous way. His English was but little colored by native speech.

“I cannot tell yet,” said Bedient. “I have long wanted to see your wonderful house, but this particular moment, I came to find a certain man—-“

Bedient noted the yellow eyelids of the other droop a little. He understood perfectly that there were many men now at _The Pleiad_ who were badly wanted.

“Don’t mistake me, Senor Rey,” he added. “The man I wish to talk with can only prosper for my coming.”

“Frequently it happens that the one searched for in Equatoria–is the last found,” the Spaniard observed.

Linen, silver, crystal and candle-radiance were superbly blended upon the small round table between them. Rey, as a talker, was artful and inspiriting. His disordered body seemed an ancient classic volume, done in scarred vellum–a book of perils, named Celestino Rey–and all things about, the spears, guns, skins, shields, even the grim shadows, were but references to the text. The dinner was perfect. A tray of wines and a sheaf of cheroots were placed upon the balcony, at length, with two chairs covered with puma skins. The Chinese assisted Rey thither, and when they were alone, he said:

“Do you feel at all like discussing the affair which really brings you to _The Pleiad_?… You neither eat nor drink nor smoke–perhaps you talk.”

Bedient laughed. “Wouldn’t it be the simplest way to believe me?” he asked. “I want to see Jim Framtree, and I heard he was here. The matter has nothing to do with Equatoria, the present unrest, nor with any relation of his or mine to the Island or to _The Pleiad_. You can make it possible for me to see him at once.”

“Unfortunately, I cannot. My province in _The Pleiad_ is to cut down tension to a minimum. So many gentlemen present are of a highly nervous temperament. My best procedure many times is to act negatively…. Doubtless Dictator Jaffier was very glad of your return to the dreamiest of climates—-“

“Yes,” said Bedient.

“I noted this morning that he dispatched a convoy to your _hacienda_, bearing doubtless the official welcome—-“

“Yes, I met the party.”

Bedient perceived that the Spaniard missed little that was going on in the city and Island; also that he believed Jaffier’s convoy had something to do with his own presence at _The Pleiad_; and finally that Celestino Rey was not trained to truth. In fact, Bedient had done more to disconcert the master of the establishment by stating the exact facts, than by any strategy he might have evolved…. Bedient arose at length and took the cold hand. He could not forbear a laugh.

“I am flexible enough to appreciate your position,” he said. “As an acknowledged resource of the government, I suppose it is rather hard to see me–at this particular moment in the history of Equatoria–as carrying anything so simple as a friendly token.”

“You are very absorbing to me, Mr. Bedient,” the Senor said delicately. “An old man may express his fondness…. I am glad _The Pleiad_ pleases you. I have built it out of the clods that the world has hurled at me, and have preserved enough vitality to laugh at it all. I find it best to keep down the tension—-“

The younger man assisted the Spaniard to his feet.

“Ah, thank you,” said the Senor, bowing. “I am dead below the knees.”

Bedient strolled a bit in the gardens. Framtree, if anywhere in the establishment, did not show himself outside, nor in the buffet, library, billiard-hall, nor lobby. The extent and grandeur of the house was astonishing, as well as the extreme efficiency of the service. A Chinese was within hand-clap momentarily. There seemed scores of them, fleet, silent, immaculate, full of understanding. Their presence did not bore one, as a plethora of white servants might have done. Bedient reflected that the Chinese have not auras of the obtruding sort…. In his room finally, he drew a chair up to the window, and sat down without turning on light.

He had never felt wider awake than now, and midnight struck. He could not keep his thoughts upon the different facets of the present adventure, but back they carried him through the studio-days, one after another, steadily, relentlessly toward the end. It was like the beating of the bass in one of those remorseless Russian symphonies…. The ride–the halt upon the highway at high noon–the kiss in that glorious light–her wonderful feminine spirit … and then the blank until they were at her mother’s house. He never could drive his thoughts into that woodland path. From the first kiss to the tragedy and the open door, only glimpses returned, and they had nothing to do with his will … He felt his heart in an empty rapid activity, and his scalp prickled. The captive that would not die was full of insane energy that night….

Once Bedient went to the door, following an inexplicable impulse. At the far end of the hall, fully seventy yards away, stood Jim Framtree talking with a woman. A Chinese servant hurried forward to Bedient, as if risen from the floor…. Framtree and the woman separated. Bedient took a gold coin from his pocket, and thrust it hastily into the hand of the servant, saying: “Ask that gentleman to come here for a moment.” The Chinese did not return, nor did Framtree call that night.

But even this slight development could not hold his thoughts…. Bedient wondered if the captive would ever die; and if he should die, would he not rise again at the memory of that first kiss in the June sunlight?… And so he sat, until the day. Then he noted another letter had been slipped under his door. It was of course from Senor Rey:

May I trouble you, my really delightful friend (it read), not to bestow any favors larger than a _peso_ upon my servants? They are really very well paid, and do not expect it. Ten dollar gold-pieces for any slight service are disorganizing and increase the tension. I beg to be considered,

In a really mellowing friendship,

CELESTINO REY.

TWENTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER

THE ART OF MISS MALLORY

Bedient was not a student of disease. Perhaps he would have granted that destructive principles are pregnant with human interest in the abstract, but his intelligence certainly was not challenged by these dark systems of activity. He saw that even if his mind were not held in anguish, he lacked the equipment to cope with _Pleiad_ affairs. As it was, his attention positively would not concentrate upon the rapid undercurrents, where the real energy of the habitues seemed to operate. It was all like a game of evil children, or rather of queer unfinished beings, a whirring everywhere of the topsy-turvy and the perverse–sick and insane to his weary brain.

It was clear that the Chinese had not carried the message to Framtree, but had consulted the Spaniard instead. Had Bedient told Rey that he had come to _The Pleiad_ to find Jenkins, or Jones, or Judd, he would doubtless have been permitted to see Framtree at once.

None of the matters made the impression upon his mind as that one glimpse of Jim Framtree at the far-end of the hall. It was not that he was in the building, though this was of course important; but the magnificent figure of the man in evening wear was the formidable impression _The Pleiad_ furnished. This concerned his real life; the rest was without vitality.

By this time, however, Bedient was willing to grant that _The Pleiad_, and even Coral City, formed a nervous system of which Celestino Rey was the brain…. He had given up hope of writing a note to Jim Framtree, realizing it would have no more chance of getting past the Spaniard than a clicking infernal-box.

Framtree was nowhere abroad when Bedient went below. The former moved apparently in a forbidden penetralia of this house of mystery. But surely he could not continue miraculously to disappear…. Bedient strolled down into the city. He sadly faced the fact that the _hacienda_ had no call for him; little more than _The Pleiad._ He turned in _Calle Real_ to look back at the great dome of the Spaniard’s establishment. It was a gorgeous attraction of morning light…. A Chinese slipped into a fruit-shop–one of the house-servants. Bedient made his way to the water-front. The _Hatteras_ was out there in the harbor, surrounded by lighters, preparing for the return voyage to New York. This was the lure. It came with a pang that disordered all other mental matters for a space.

Presently he found himself wandering along the water-front. With an exoteric eye (for the deeps of the man were in communion) he regarded the faces of all nations. Coral City held as complete a record of crime, cruelty, and debauchery as one could find in the human indices of any port. Many were closing their annals of error in decrepitude and beggary; others were well-knit studies of evil, with health still hanging on, more or less, and much deviltry to do. A blue blouse, or a bit of khaki; British puttees and a flare of crimson; Russian boots and a glimpse of sodden gray; or an American campaign-hat crowning a motley of many services,–explained that the soldiers of the world found Equatoria desirable in not a few cases for finishing enlistments. It was quite as evident, too, that the criminal riff-raff of this world and hour found lodging in the lower city, as did its aristocracy in _The Pleiad_.

“A couple of hundred such as these,” Bedient reflected, “led by some cool devil of a humorist, could loot the Antilles and get away before the intervention of the States. What an army of incorrigibles–an industrious adventurer could recruit here!”

Then the truth came to his mind. These belonged to Senor Rey’s army. Only the Spaniard could command this part of the city to desperate endeavor. His _pesos_ and influence, like alcohol, penetrated and dominated the mass…. Signs vehemently proclaimed that American beer was important among the imports of Equatoria; and in a certain street he encountered pitiful smiles and furtive gestures from the upper balconies.

“Strange,” he thought, “wherever lawless men gather, their mates fly after them from court and slum. It is not men alone who love to venture–and venture to love!”

Bedient was ascending _Calle Real_ once more, when his cheek was flicked by a tiny wad of paper which fell at his feet. A _carometa_ was toiling up the slope from the water-front. He observed Miss Mallory’s profile in the seat. She had not deigned to look, but with the dexterity of a school-boy the pellet had been snapped from her direction. He pocketed the message and laughed at her innocent and unconcerned expression. A little later he managed to read at a glance:

Meet the old military man you saw me with last evening. Perhaps he’ll introduce us.

How quick she had been to sense the profundities of the Spaniard’s establishment! Bedient was glad that she held nothing against him, and a bit surprised again that he had forgotten all about her reversal of form at his approach the night before…. He had little difficulty in making the acquaintance of Colonel Rizzio during the day, and was formally presented to Miss Mallory at dinner that evening.

“I have heard it’s quite the mode here to have names as well as costumes for the climate,” she said. “My wardrobe is limited, and I am Miss Mallory–as in New York.”

It was an hour before they were alone together.

“My friend,” she said, “you are looking ill–more than ever ill…. Isn’t there anything I can do? Isn’t there something you might tell _me_?”

Bedient felt her real kindness. “You are good,” he answered. “I’m all right, hardly know what it means not to be fit…. And now tell me how you find things.”

They stood in the centre of the coffee-room, so no one could listen without being observed. Yet their voices were inaudible five feet away.

“It was clear to me at once,” she said, “that I had better not meet you as a friend. They probably knew we both came down on the _Hatteras_, but that’s no reason for our being acquainted.”

“And now we must be casual acquaintances–if your work would prosper,” Bedient said.

“I suppose so.”

“The more I think of it, the plainer it becomes that I’ve sort of disorganized Rey and his intimates. It really is odd for me to be here—-“

Miss Mallory searched his face in her keen, swift way.

“When I came to understand at all,” she said, “I didn’t expect to see you here…. It isn’t about the war, is it?”

“No,” he replied. Then it occurred to him that she might meet the man he wished to see, and he added: “I have a message for a man named Framtree. Senor Rey apparently thinks this man would not be safe in my hands. At least, I’m not allowed to see him alone—-“

“And he’s here?”

“Yes, I’m sure of that.”

“I haven’t met anyone of that name.”

“You couldn’t mistake. In my opinion, Miss Mallory, he’s easily the best-looking man on the Island.”

“I’m sure I haven’t met him.”… She hesitated, smiling-queerly. “But if I should, is there any way I can help you?”

“Not by speaking to him about me. That would yoke you with my fortunes.”

“How, then?”

Her eagerness appealed to him. “If you could tell me at any time just where I might find this Framtree–yes, that would help,” he said, with a laugh.

“I’d be proud to help you in any way…. It’s the most fascinating place I’ve ever been in,” she added with an effort. “I haven’t heard a thing about war, but the whole establishment is buzzing with conspiracies and mystery. There isn’t any rest. Everyone is afraid of his neighbor; no one trusts himself to fall asleep in peace, for fear someone will pry his secret away–a terrible atmosphere–but what an adventure if it breaks into war before my eyes…. And I’ve met the Glow-worm—-“

Her whole manner changed for an instant. Miss Mallory was now an emancipated creature, living to the very rim of her being. She belonged to the tropics, and was playing a game all spiced with enchantments…. Bedient remembered what Captain Carreras had said about the Glow-worm, on the day of his first coming to Equatoria. The story attached was that Celestino Rey had found this woman among the red lights of Buenos Aires, and had forced her to come with him. Bedient was not particularly interested, but Miss Mallory’s study of the hidden-flamed creature, Senora Rey, and what she told him, adjusted easily to what he had already heard of the woman from South America.

“She’s pure mother-earth and nothing besides,” Miss Mallory went on. “Olive skin, yellow eyes with languid lids, lazy gestures, and a regal head of yellow hair. Something about her suggests that she might turn into an explosive at certain contacts, but she’s horribly afraid. It really gives one a thrill to hear her speak of South America. She fondles the syllables and points strangely over her shoulder, at every mention of her land. She’s dying the slow terrible death of nostalgia—-“

“But of what is she ‘horribly afraid’?” Bedient asked.

“Of the Spaniard–her husband. Somehow he has managed to madden her with fear. She trembles at his name or approach like a horse that has been cruelly beaten.”

Only for a moment had Miss Mallory revealed the depth of her interest in the affairs of _The Pleiad_. An observer would have taken the pair for the merest acquaintances. The coffee-room murmured with many undertones. They arranged to meet at luncheon the following day and quickly separated. Miss Mallory was now aware that her avenues of action would be closed, if it were noted that she had more than a casual interest in Andrew Bedient.

The latter saw nothing further of Senor Rey for two days, and did not catch even a second glimpse of Jim Framtree. His hours of darkness and daylight were given over to the old destructive monotony–the dark drifting of his mind, all the constellations of love and labor and life shut off by the black mass of nimbus. His identity became lost to all order; the forces of his being seemed in some process of fermentation. His hours alone were animate with psychic experiences, but he attached no significance to them, because he believed them the direct result of physical weakness. Again and again he turned upon himself fiercely, discovering that an hour had passed, while he had been tranced in strange attention for the recurrence of some voice in his brain. Angrily, he would brush the whole phantasmagoria away, force himself back into the world of Equatoria, stride out of his rooms, if it were day, and down into the city; but the pressure of the deeper activities of his mind would steal back and command him. His physical nature was sunk into a great ennui, and the other forces were the mightier.

Bedient comprehended this descent; even wondered how far down a man could go–and live. It was the first thing that ever mastered him. The temptation to leave Framtree and to take even a flying trip to India–since New York was not for him–this was tangible, and he whipped it, though the conflict used up all his power. He had nothing left to combat the vague psychic thrall that appeared to be destroying his life. An understanding friend, as David Cairns had come to be, would have perceived startling changes in Andrew Bedient, and forthwith would have contended with the enemy for every inch of advance. Bedient was a bit awed by his great weakness. His physical deterioration did not trouble him, but his anchorage in the great work of his time had given way. He had to stop and think hard, to recall the least and simplest of his conceptions of service. His sense of shame was consuming in that all the good within him was gone, because he was destined to be denied a human mate.

As to his exterior fortunes, there was substance in the matters pertaining to the Glow-worm, which Miss Mallory brought, but they hardly held him past the moments of their telling. They had met for luncheon. She was unable to speak for a moment. Bedient wondered if he looked so badly as that. The woman summoned all her powers to compel his mind with what was so absorbing to her. He was not a little impressed by her exceeding kindness. They were seated opposite at a small table in the very centre of the luncheon-room.

“It’s all right,” she said lightly. “Senor Rey knows I am to have luncheon with you. We had a long talk this morning, and I think I left him in excellent spirits…. Oh, yes, he’s an artist with the probe. I didn’t give him a chance to talk about you, because I asked the first questions.”

Her resourcefulness was delightful. “A friend’s fortunes are truly safe in your hands,” he said. “And now please tell me all about it.”

TWENTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER

A FURTHER NOTE FROM REY

“I had a long mental work-out this morning in the room before breakfast,” she began. “I even thought about what brings you here, and about my long talk with the Glow-worm last night, which I’ll get to–if you are a very interested listener. After breakfast, I walked for an hour in the grounds. Have you been over to the Inlet, where Senor Rey’s beautiful sailing-yacht lies–the _Savonarola_?”

“I’ve seen it from the road,” Bedient answered.

“A stairway goes down from the bluff under the road, a hundred steps or more to the water of the cove. In fact, the tall spars of the _Savonarola_ aren’t nearly so high as the level of the bluff. I love a sailing-ship, and on the way back I met Senor Rey in his wheel-chair, and told him how the wonderful little harbor and his thorough-bred, lying there, had appealed to me. He inclined his head benignly. His yacht, I said, had the effective lines of her namesake’s profile–and that pleased him. Followed, a technical discussion of different sailing-ships that once swept the waters of the world, I furnishing enthusiasm and a text-book inquiry now and then. This brought not only an invitation to sail within a few days, but also an invitation to a private dinner this evening in the Flamingo Room, ‘with Senora Rey and a few most cherished guests.’ And–I must not forget–the Senor informed me that his wife was very fond of me….

“I observed that the ‘Flamingo Room’ had a most enticing sound. He hoped I would find it so; said the idea was his own, and that, to him, the tint of a flamingo feather was the fairest of all tints–save one, to be found in the cheeks of an American girl. I answered that it was very clear to me now whose sense of beauty had made _The Pleiad_ and its gardens the rarest delight of my travels.”

Miss Mallory regarded Bedient’s amusement appreciatively for a moment, and went on swiftly:

“Then I walked beside his wheel-chair through the shadowy, scented paths, and presently I mentioned you and Colonel Rizzio among the interesting people I had met. He declared you were a true gentleman–spoke feelingly–a stranger at _The Pleiad_, though not to the Island. I explained how you had kept aloof on the ship coming down, how you seemed to be the prey of some devouring grief…. All that I said, he regarded with that terribly bright attention of his. It made me think of a pack of hounds tossing and tearing at a morsel, the way his faculties caught my sentences, hounds playing a hare at the end of a run. Oh, devious and winding are the ways of the Spaniard–and past finding out! But I frankly confessed my interest in you, and that you were absolutely self-contained; indeed, it was because of that I appealed to him. I am sure he found that my sayings balanced in the most sensitive scales of his mind; and decided I was too young to be artistic with the fine tools of untruth.

“Finally, I asked about war, told him the New York papers predicted another war in Equatoria, and that I had never seen one. The Senor declared he was very sorry if my trip to Equatoria proved a disappointment in any way, but he didn’t see what there was to fight about; that no one deplored so much as he the recent attempt upon the life of Dictator Jaffier; and as for himself, he was identified with all the interests of Equatoria, which were moving forward exceedingly well…. Altogether it was an absorbing half-hour.”

* * * * *

“And now I must tell you about Senora Key,” Miss Mallory continued hurriedly, since they could not be seen talking together long…. “She asked me to come to her rooms, and I followed a servant. I couldn’t find the place now alone. A small room in orange lamplight! The Glow-worm was lying upon a tiger-rug; very tall and silken she looked, and her great yellow eyes settled upon me. It seemed to me that her emotions had no outlet, but turned back to rend and devour each other. I couldn’t help thinking that first moment, that some one must pay a big price for making her suffer. Queer, wasn’t it? And pitiful–how she seemed to need me. It is true, she trusted me from the beginning, seemed dying to leap into some one’s heart. And she told me her story in whispered fragments–heart-hunger, hatred, and mystery–these fragments. I’ve really been challenged to build a character out of her, and since I thought about her half the night, I ought to be able to make you see and feel her story. I wonder if I can? It came to me something like this:

“There had been a night–ah, long ago–in which Senor Rey summoned her from her companions. It was in a house in Buenos Aires. The Senor had come to that house before. The Senor was always feared. He was always obeyed. She, nor any of her companions, could _taste_ the wine he bought for them. It did not make them laugh like other wine. Oh, yes, they drank it, but they could not taste the flavor–with him in the room!… On this night the Senor had bade her come with him. She could not answer, but obey only. She remembered how hushed her companions became when she went away with the Senor; how strangely they had looked at her–what helpless sorrow was in their eyes…. Even now she could see the faces of her companions gathered about; the Senor smiling at the door; his carriage with black, restless ponies and shining lights; the driver upon his seat, like to whom she quickly became–never answering the Senor, and always obeying!… Ah, yes, there had been a hush in her house as she left it, laughter in all the other houses about; and away they had driven, past the last of the lights—-

“Such was the tale, whispered, overlapped with repetitions, a succession of touches like that, done lightly but with a passion–oh, you should have been there to understand! The meaning of a wild, sad life was in them. And her big yellow eyes were hungry upon me. I seemed to see the vast South American town, as old as Europe in sin and as new as Wyoming in heart.”

“You make me see it all,” Bedient said.

“Can you understand that the Glow-worm is expiring to get back to that old mad life?” Miss Mallory asked.

“Yes, from what you tell me of her.”

“It is true, only it must be so _he_ cannot follow…. It must be as it was before he came–when she could taste and feel and see–as it was before the chill settled down upon her senses, before the shuddering began. That’s how she expresses it…. She overpowered me a little at first. I was slow to realize how one’s intents and sensations could be absolutely physical. I could pity, but there was something actually creepy about her. I was inane enough to ask if she could not return for a visit. She sank back and shut her eyes and clenched her hands, saying:

“‘When he is dead or when he is tired of me, I shall go back–not for a visit, but to _stay_! He would not let me go for a visit, and I could not–oh, I wouldn’t dare to run from him! Always I’d think him after me. There would be no sleep for me. I’d think him after me–you know how it is in a dream, when you are like a ghost–all limp in the limbs, but trying to run! It would be like that, if I fled from him–always expecting him to clutch me from behind!… My God, if he would only make me mad! But he won’t–he won’t!’

“‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

“‘I mean,’ the Glow-worm whispered, drawing my head down to hers, ‘I mean I would kill him. Oh, he’s all but dead! I could kill him with my hands, if he would fill me with rage, so I could forget his eyes. He is all alive in his eyes!… But it shall never be. He will say–do this and come and go and rest and rise, and do that–and I shall obey like the Chinese…. Oh, tell me what you would do, if the Senor said to you, looking right into your skull, ‘Come with me to-night!'”

“I told her I should laugh at the Senor, and suggest possibly that he had drunk too much wine. She seemed unable to comprehend, and repeated, ‘If he should look right into your skull, could you say that?’ I assured her I could, and she tried to believe, but she concluded that I only _thought_ I could be that strong.

“Then she told me it had been months since she talked to anyone without being afraid; that she felt at once it would be safe to talk with me; that so much she wanted to tell had been shut up like a swelling in her throat–‘ah, God, so long!’… ‘And then you would say with a laugh–as you tell me,’ the Senora went on, as if memorizing my method. Her lips mumbled and trailed the words, so deep was the effort of her mind. ‘You would say, “Senor Rey, you have drunk too much wine!” and he would answer with a laugh, too, “It is true, no doubt, as you say. I am an old and a very foolish man, my dear Senorita Mallory!” and you would smile and think of it no more.’ The Glow-worm laughed in a lost, mirthless way, and held me tightly as she finished, ‘But that very night, just the same, you would find yourself with him! And he would laugh at you then and say, coming closer, “Forgive an old and foolish man.”‘

“I was startled at the way she said it,” Miss Mallory concluded. “‘You mean he would have me anyway?’ I said…. ‘Yes,’ the Glow-worm replied wearily. ‘My lord gets what he desires–all but his youth–he cannot get that–and his fear of hell–he cannot get rid of that! And he is afraid to die!’ She spoke the last triumphantly, as if it were the only happy thing she could think of…. That was last night–and that is all…. To-morrow evening join me in the lobby a little before eight…. Here comes the servant and we must talk about orchids–until I finish this sherbet—-“

The following evening Bedient met Miss Mallory in the main hall, and exceeding cleverness was required to impart her information, as they moved together among the crowd.

“The handsome man is here. I saw him last night,” she said, without the faintest trace of excitement. “I am beginning to share some of the Glow-worm’s fear of Senor Rey. It’s all tremendously thrilling. The place is a mine of terrors–all the worse for this beautiful setting and the gardens…. The Sorensons are the horrible Russian pair. I met them at dinner in the Flamingo Room, and after listening to the Senora, the courtesies of the Spaniard were like so many cold shuddery waves of dread. Again last night, after the dinner, the Glow-worm drew me into her boudoir and poured into my ears months of accumulated toxins of hate and fear—-“

“I’m sorry they have frightened you,” Bedient said. “Your kindness to me—-“

“Oh, I’m not really afraid,” she said hastily. “It’s all very wonderful. The Senora repays me with a most devoted attention–services of her own hand, and not a little sweet and endearing in their way…. Presently she asked me if I had met the imposing Senor Framtree. Of course I had not. She said he had been here for many weeks, but she had only met him a few times–always with the Senor…. ‘He is the sort of man I am not allowed to meet alone,’ she said languidly, her eyelids drawn against the yellow light. ‘But I have no choice–no choice here,’ she went on, ‘though I feel sorry for him.’

“I asked why, and she said he was alone in a strange country, and that it was dreadful to be young–and alone in a strange country. Plainly she had something more to say, so I told her to speak what was in her mind. The substance was that Mr. Framtree had lasted much longer than most, therefore he must be a very great artist with the cards. Many men had come with fortunes to _The Pleiad,_ and most of them were ready to gamble with her lord, who invariably got their money in the end. It was not only the money, but he had a vast pride in his mastery, and in the house he had built. It was not possible for him to continue to lose any length of time. Then Senora Rey informed me that the two were together now, and if she dared, she could show me some things about her lord’s house.

“I begged her to, though fearfully, you may believe. She said it was risking murder if we were caught, but I saw she wanted to show me. Also, I thought of many things, and it looked important–for one in my capacity not to miss. So I asked again…. ‘You see, I can refuse you nothing,’ she said. ‘I love you for coming to me. I am a woman again–even young and glad. Before you came, I was a snake crushed at midday–that could not die until the dark.’

“I think the adventure really fascinated her, because she hates the Senor so. Anyway, I followed through several inner rooms of oppressive magnificence which the Spaniard reserves for his own use. Then we entered a corridor. No lock could be seen, but the Senora touched the panel in a certain way. It closed of itself as we entered, with the sound of a lock indeed–a heavy, oiled, smooth-running click, but very soft. I hated to hear it behind. The corridor was narrow and dim. It was high, but the thickly shaded lamps were far apart and close to the rugs, so that one’s shoes were lit, but faces hardly recognizable. Low voices mingled in a bewildering complication throughout the corridor. There was a sliding ladder with carpeted steps, which could be pushed noiselessly along one wall. An arrangement like it is used in libraries to reach the upper shelves. The Glow-worm was trembling, and squeezed my hand repeatedly to insure silence, and slid the ladder along nearly to the end. I could hear her quick, frightened breathing. The thing was locked by some unseen turn of the Senora’s finger, and I was directed to climb. Up three steps, and I saw light through the wall on the level of my eyes. Closer, it appeared that only a dark gauze almost transparent hung between me and another room. The gauze covered a slit plenty large enough to look through.

“Senor Rey and the handsome man were facing each other in a dull green room. The latter’s back was toward me, and a table was between them, but they were not at cards. The young man’s profile was half-turned so I could see, and he moved restlessly in his chair. He lit a cigarette as I stood there, and the Senor observed that it was sad to be old. You could hear their words, as clearly as you hear mine. The Framtree gentleman laughed softly. He has a manner, I confess. He declared that he didn’t believe there was ever a time when the Senor could have solved the problem at hand.

“The Glow-worm was pulling at my skirts to come down, but I listened a moment longer. The Senor said he must have done Dictator Jaffier an injustice all these years in considering him the stupidest of men. The other replied that ‘four nights more’ would tell the story; that it was irksome to wait even that long. I had to leave, for the Senora was becoming frenzied, but I caught one more remark from Senor Rey, as mysterious as the rest. ‘_But he’ll be gone before that_,’ he said.”

“What an astonishing bit of work!” Bedient exclaimed.

“We reached the quarters from which we came–the orange lamplight room–in safety, but the Glow-worm’s face was livid with fear. I suppose mine was, too. She said the whole house was so arranged…. I told her they were not playing cards, and something of what I had heard. The Glow-worm was sure they were talking about ‘a young man, known to be one of the mainstays of the government,’ who had come to stay at _The Pleiad_–for some incomprehensible reason. Evidently, she has not seen you…. What do you suppose Rey meant by, ‘He’ll be gone before that,’–within four days?”

“I don’t appear able to learn anything by myself,” Bedient said. “It would seem the best way–to wait and see.”

“Oh, but I wouldn’t–please!… Is it worth that to see this Framtree, whom the Spaniard has probably commanded to keep in hiding? I am afraid–for you!… And the whole house, even the sleeping-rooms, are under that devilish eye. I dared not turn on the light last night—-“

They parted after less than twenty minutes. Bedient did not go in to dinner…. To him, the night was but a sorry repetition. Miss Mallory’s disclosures could not long hold his thoughts. He had no intention of telling Jaffier that something big was to happen within four days. What was strangest was the fate which made it so hard for him to come into contact with Framtree. He could not give up this thing–this last link to reality. He felt himself better off here–than alone at the _hacienda_.

This time, between two and three in the morning, he was so tense and animate that he heard the soft, swift tread of a Chinese in the hall and the faintest possible rustle of a paper thrust under his door. He waited a moment before turning on the light…. It was another missive from the Spaniard, and read:

MY ESTEEMED BEDIENT:

The request herein to be set forth may appear to you as a reflection upon the quality of my friendship, as it certainly is an indication of the force of your personality. You are felt in this establishment, my valued friend, like some tarrying Nemesis. Permit me to observe, and I am smiling as I write, that you have a wearing effect upon many of my guests. Personally, I should ask nothing finer of the Fates than the privilege to devote myself exclusively to you–but that is impossible now. To-morrow at noon my servants will assist you to any quarters elsewhere, that you may have chosen by that time–if, indeed, you are staying longer in Coral City. Believe me, when a certain tension is lifted, my house will be open to you again, as is always the heart of

CELESTINO REY.

TWENTY-NINTH CHAPTER

AT TREASURE ISLAND INN

The morning rode in grandly upon the sea. Bedient was early below, and overtook Miss Mallory in the gardens. She seemed particularly virile. A pair of Senora Rey’s toy-spaniels were frisking about.

“These are not my favorite kind, but I like dogs,” she said…. “How men reveal their earth-binding! A laugh is enough–or a fear, a word, a convention–and you have a complete discovery of limitations.”

Bedient fell into her mood. “And what manner of man would he be who could keep hidden from such very old and very wise eyes his covering of clay?”

“First, he would be without vanity,” she said readily. “Then, he would do noble things thoughtlessly and unwatched. He wouldn’t be dollar-poisoned, nor could he fail to help all who are poor and whipped, whether wicked or not. And he would have enough intelligence to enfold mine, so I wouldn’t be constantly banging against his walls…. In a word, he would be great without knowing it. Do you think I ask a great deal?”

“Yes, but I should like him,” Bedient answered.

“And now what is it?” she asked quickly. They had turned upon the main-drive, away from the trees. “I can see you have something to say.”

“I shall take up lodgings for the next few days in the city below–at _Treasure Island Inn_. Senor Rey has ordered me out of _The Pleiad_.”

Her face colored instantly, and yet she said, “I’m very glad to hear it. At least, you will be safe in _Treasure Island Inn_.”

“I had not considered that, Miss Mallory, though I’ve a great respect for all that you think important…. I still intend to see Jim Framtree–and before the end of ‘the four days’ spoken of night before last. The fact is, I have nothing else to do. Celestino Rey may mean to start his rebellion then, so there is only to-morrow and next day. It would be next to impossible for me to meet this man with hostilities begun.”

She was quite astonished at this stir of action.

“Can’t you tell me anything more?” Her appeal was penetrating.

“Only that I’ve got to see him. It’s not to do him harm,” he said. “The story isn’t altogether mine…. I can’t help laughing at this move of Senor Rey’s–and yet—-“

“It hurts, doesn’t it?” she urged.

“Not exactly that, but it makes me all the more determined to get to Framtree.”

“I’m glad if it does hurt,” she said hastily. “You look like death, but the apathy is gone. Even red rage is better than that. I think you are better. It was about your illness–that I wanted you to tell me…. Good-by.”

“I hope,” Bedient said suddenly, “that Rey isn’t afraid of _you_–that you are clear from the impulse that made him send me downtown.”

“I’ve been careful…. I’ll help, if I can. Good-by…. Aren’t ‘good-bys’ hideous?… But we can’t be too careful…. At _Treasure Island Inn_?”

“Yes, and where–_you_ couldn’t call!”

“But I shall know where you are.”

Bedient returned to his rooms, and Miss Mallory resumed her walk…. An hour and a half later, Bedient walked out of the big gate of _The Pleiad_, and down to the city…. For the first time in several days, Celestino Rey breathed long. Assassination was only one of the things he had feared….

Forty-eight unavailing hours passed in _Treasure Island Inn_. This night would bring an end to the mysterious four days. Bedient was at bay before the remnant of what had been and hoped. To his own eyes, he was an abject failure now, even in these physical affairs–he who had dared to arraign New York workers in almost every aspect of their life! The last beacon of his spirit was blown out in the storm; his mind had long since preyed upon itself, the pith gone from it, through drifting in dark dream-tides; and now he who had been trained from a boy to physical actions weakly succumbed before the old Spaniard’s will and strategy. Yet he could not find it within him greatly to care.

_Treasure Island Inn_ had interested him at first, not so much through its exterior contrast to _The Pleiad_ (which was complete enough for any city to furnish), but because its wretchedness in the sense of money-lack was less than in its moral poverty. Its evils were so open and self-reviling; its passages so angular, so suggestive of blood-drip and brooding horror; its rooms so peeled, meagre and creaking–depravity so sincere. Crime certainly had not been spared around the world to furnish its living actors for _Treasure Island Inn_. All the ragtag was there–not a lust nor a mannerism missing.

And now that life had cast him into this place, Bedient found himself utterly unable to contend with the squalor of fact and mind; indeed, he was quite as ineffectual as he had been in the midst of the glittering deviltry of _The Pleiad_…. Abased before realities; lost to the meaning of every excellence of his life-training; shattered by psychic revolts; his brain reflecting the strange mirages and singing the vague nothings of starvation–but enumeration only dulls the picture! In every plane of his nature, he was close to the end, forty-eight hours after his arrival at the Inn of the lower city.

Certain things had become mature, irrevocable: That he was a superfluous type in this Western world of his birth; that Beth Truba had left the highway, where pass the women of earth, to enter his most intimate environs and possess him entirely; that passing on, she had left but the stuff of death. The time had been when he would have depreciated in another man the utter weakness into which he had fallen.

Bedient unearthed a companion at _Treasure Island Inn_, one whom he did not doubt for an instant to be the chief of Rey’s agents assigned to watch his every movement. But even as a spy, old Monkhouse had helped him to sit tight, during that forty-eight hours. For Monkhouse talked alluringly, incessantly,–and asked only to be with the stranger–and many a time, all unknowing, he banished for the moment some devouring anguish with a tale of disruption told to a turn. The Island did not hold more loyal devotion than his for Dictator Jaffier, to hear Monkhouse tell it; and how Celestino Rey had reached his ripe years, with such hatred in the world, was by no means the least of Equatorian novelties…. Here was a desperado in the sere, shaking for the need of drink, when he first appeared to Bedient. On the final forenoon of the latter’s stay at the Inn, he sat with Monkhouse in the big carriage doorway on the street-level. The old man was elaborating a winsome plan to capture the Spaniard at sea; and though Bedient mildly interposed that he wouldn’t know what to do with Celestino if he had him,–the conspiracy was unfolded nevertheless:

“You’re a good lad,” Monkhouse communed. “I belave in you to the seeds. C’lestin’–an’ may Heaven deefin’ the walls as I speak his name–has nine an’ seventy ways of makin’ off with you. Boy, I’ve known the day in these seas when he’d do it for practice. But he’s old now an’ tender of hear-rt. He laves it to your good sense to lave him alone. ‘Tis well, you trusted no one save old Monkhouse. Adhere to it, lad, or I’ll be mournin’, one of these gay mornin’s, with you gone–an’ your name on no passenger list save–what’s the name of that divil of a pilot–Charybdus?”

“Charon?”

“True for you, lad. Charon it is. What with drink an’ the sinful climate, I’ve forgot much that many niver knew.”

Monkhouse winked his red lashless lids, and meditated the while, as he pressed the juice of an orange into the third of a cup of white rum, and stirred in a handful of soggy brown sugar.

“Hark to you, boy–come closer,” he whispered presently. “Nothin’ that sails in these par-rts can scrape the paint of the _Savonarola_. At the same time, you can do nothin’ by stayin’ ashore. What’s the puzzle? ‘Tis this, lad: you must get one of thim gasolin’ launches that move like the divil and smell like the sleepin’ sickness! You can get one at the Leeward Isles betchune here an’ sun-down…. Listen now, come back in good time, standin’ on your own deck, with old Monkhouse for a mate, and three or four clane-eyed American boys lookin’ for adventures–an’ hang out at sea waitin’ for the _Savonarola_. God save the day whin he comes! We’ll meet him on the honest seaboard in the natural way, where he can’t spring the tricks of _The Pleiad_, nor use the slather of yellow naygurs that live off the cold sweat of him—-“

Hereupon Monkhouse drained his already empty cup, the sign that another sirocco was sweeping his throat. His mind wandered until it was brought: “Many a man’s soul has filtered up through salt-water off these shores, lad, because he talked less of his memories than his troubles–but you won’t betray me, boy!… My Gawd, lad, to have C’lestin’ in the hold under ‘me feet–as he wanst had me–but let that pass–or lyin’ deeper still under the _Savonarola_ with the fishes tuggin’ at his carcass. Ah, ’tis deep fathims under the _Savonarola_, me lad—-“

Bedient had not been listening for a moment. A _carometa_ was moving slowly toward him, down the _Calle Real,_ and he fancied the flutter of a handkerchief from its side window. It was nearly noon. The dazzle of sunlight upon the glass of the _carometa_ was in his eyes, so he could not see the face within, but a slim hand signaled again. The vehicle approached with torturing slowness until the dazzle nickered out and he hurried forward to greet Miss Mallory, whose face blanched at the sight of him.

“You look as if you would fall!” she whispered. “But I’m so glad to see you again—-“

“I was just going to say it…. It’s been dull–and I haven’t done—-” He opened the door of the _carometa_.

“Quickly, they’re watching from your house,” she managed to say between commonplaces, “_pick up that crumpled letter at my foot_!… But it won’t do for you to follow the suggestion in it–you’re not able!”

“If there’s anything to do, I’m able,” he declared, tucking the paper into the hollow of his hand.

“We miss you at _The Pleiad_,” she said with her usual animation. “I wish I had time for a good talk now, but I’m actually rushed to-day. I’ll see you again, though—-“

Bedient sauntered back smiling, and sat down with Monkhouse for a little space. The eyes he saw were large, red-rimmed and troubled; tales and conspiracies flagged miserably. Bedient chaffed him for having become incoherent, and left shortly for his own room, where he pressed out two of the thinnest possible sheets of paper, closely written on both sides, and made them his own to the least detail:

DEAR MR. BEDIENT:

I hardly know how to begin, I am so excited and have so much to say. (The letter was dated less than two hours before.) Senor Rey, the Glow-worm, the couple known as “the Sorensons,” Mr. Framtree and myself are sailing to-night on the _Savonarola_. There will also be Chinese, probably three, two to manage the yacht and one for the cabin. I’m not quite sure, but I think we are to have supper aboard. I have been aboard the yacht. The cabin takes up a large part of the hold. There are two doors forward. The one to the left opens into the galley, and the one to the right opens into the forecastle, where there are three berths for the crew, a few ship’s stores, piles of cordage, tackle, chains, etc. The berths, of course, will not be occupied this trip, as we plan to be out only a few hours, and the sailors will be on deck.

There is a fine place for concealment in this forecastle. (Possibly under the lower bunk; numerous bedding-rolls lying about might be pulled in after one.) The difficulty will be in getting aboard. There is but a single companion-way to the cabin. It will not be locked this afternoon early, but doubtless there will be a servant or two making ready for the sail. Provisions will be boarded this afternoon, as Senor Rey is a bountiful entertainer. It may happen that the Chinese, in loading the provisions, will be a considerable distance off, or even up the steps to the cliff, for moments at a time. This is the random chance I think of.

The undergrowth is dense on the steep slopes which jut down to the water of the Inlet. One might conceal oneself there, and await the offered chance, not more than twenty or thirty feet from the cabin door. This is the really discouraging part of the whole preliminary, but I may be able to assist you further at the proper time. There seems absolutely no other way to arrange an interview for you with Mr. Framtree.

As for me, I have learned much at _The Pleiad_. The Spaniard’s systems are infamous–a fact that has been terribly impressed upon me. I shall lose my home in _The Pleiad_, but this is the last of the mysterious “four days.” It will be better and safer for me to follow the fortunes of the war after this, from the side of the Defenders.

A dangerous step, but I shall take the chance of the sail, even if you decide that your part is too uncertain. In any case be very sure to destroy this letter. If it should fall into the hands of Rey’s innumerable agents,–I’m afraid I shouldn’t come back from the party. There is operating in the city as well as in _The Pleiad_ as perfect a system of espionage as one would encounter in the secret service of a formidable nation.

Safely secreted in the forecastle during the early afternoon, you could not fail to hear, some hours later, a signal tapped on the deck forward. This signal would come after supper, when it was dark, and everything propitious as possible. The sailing party would be divided at this time, say half on deck and half below. The signal–three double taps–“tap-tap … tap-tap … tap-tap”–given sharply, unmistakably, with a heavy cane or something of the kind.

Emerging from the forecastle (with a look and a command behind, as if to your hidden compatriots), it would seem that you would have the occupants of the cabin rather neatly at your mercy. If the affair there were attended by luck, and managed quietly enough, you might continue and surprise the deck party, but let us not rely too far upon fair chances. There is a strong flavor of danger about the _coup_ at best. I do not consider here any aid which I _may_ render; so that you are one against eight–three white men, three (?) Chinese, and two women.

I have reasons for helping you.

You seem to want this meeting, and I believe war is imminent. Let me impress upon you: Take every precaution; think out every possible step before joining action. Senor Rey is a cultivated criminal. Sorenson may prove dangerous. Framtree looks big enough to laugh–if he is cornered. The Chinese are Chinese.

I am writing at crazy speed. You should have this by noon, and lose no time after that. Oh, yes, the _Savonarola_ carries two small boats. If the surprise is successful, these boats may be useful to eliminate the Chinese and the Sorensons. You will be armed, of course. I am just adding thoughts at random. A little red chalk-mark on the white frame of the companion-way will tell me that you are aboard, if I should miss seeing you.

Yours in excitement, but not without hope,

ADITH MALLORY.

I _know_ what you can do.

THIRTIETH CHAPTER

MISS MALLORY’S MASTERY

Bedient felt the blood warming in his veins. This was the last of “the four” nights. Miss Mallory’s determination to sail with the Spaniard was enough to spur him to attempt joining her; if, indeed, his absolute need to break the deadly ennui had not banished hesitation. He glanced through the letter again, and burned it.

“Monkhouse,” he said below, “I’ve had about enough of Coral City this time, and I’m riding back toward the _hacienda_ this afternoon. I’m leaving a little present for you with the management of the Inn. Some time I’ll send a pony trap down for you, when I’m hungry for more tales—-“

The old man was more mystified than ever, but the business of the Spaniard had to wait until he hunted up the management, with whom his relations had worn thin. Bedient found his servant, ordered the ponies, and the two rode up _Calle Real_, before one in the afternoon. They passed _The Pleiad_ bluffs, overlooking the Inlet, where the _Savonarola_ lay, and on for a mile or more into the solitude. Here Bedient sent forward his servant with both ponies and let himself down the bluff to follow the shore back.

The sand was white as paper and hot as fresh ashes. The muscles of his face grew lame from squinting in the vivid light. There was not a human being in sight on either length of curving shore, nor a movement in the thickly covered cliffs. The world was silent, except for the languorous wash of the little waves and the breathing of a soft wind in the foliage. For an hour he made his way mostly under cover around the shore to the mouth of the Inlet, from where he could see Jaffier’s gunboat on the watch.

The distance was about a thousand yards back to where the yacht lay. The cut was a natural stronghold, opening sidewise on the face of the shore, so as to be invisible from the open water. It was deep enough for an ocean-liner, but too narrow for a big steamer to enter with her own power. Bedient turned into the thick, thorny undergrowth, which lined the eastern wall of the Inlet, and made his way around its devious curvings, silently and slowly. The growth on the cliffs was so dense in places that he had to crawl. The heat pressed down upon the heavy moist foliage, and drained him like a steam-room. He had wobbled from weakness and the heat in the saddle, even on the breezy highway. Again and again, he halted with shut eyes until his reeling senses righted. The thousand yards from the mouth of the cove to the moorings of the _Savonarola_ wound like a Malay _creese_ with an interrogation point for a handle. The distance consumed an hour, and much of the vitality he had summoned by sheer force of will. He lay panting at last in the smothering thicket, thirty feet from the rear-deck of the _Savonarola_. Yet there was a laugh in his mind. It was altogether outlandish, when he considered his small personal interest in such an affair…. He thought of the listening eyes of Beth Truba–had he told her of such an adventure of his boyhood…. And he thought of the clever and intrepid Adith Mallory, and what she had meant by the last added line of her letter, “I know what you can do.”

Someone was already aboard, for the cabin-door was open. The sliding hatch connected with the thick upright door, so that a single lock sufficed for the cabin, which opened from the aft-deck. The still, deep water of the cove drew Bedient’s eyes constantly, and kept alive the thought of his terrible thirst. The words of old Monkhouse repeated often in his brain, “Ah, ’tis deep fathims under the _Savonarola_.” He slipped a little steel key from the ring, smiling because it was the key to one of the Carreras cabinets at the _hacienda_, and placed it in his mouth. He had done the same with a nail when in the small boat with Carreras, the only boat that reached shore from the _Truxton_. It started the saliva.

There was but one man in the cabin so far, as Bedient ascertained through the ports,–a Chinese, and he was sweeping industriously. Miss Mallory’s idea that he steal in, while the boat was being provisioned, seemed a far chance. He might have boarded the craft now, and surprised the oriental in the cabin, but he had no grudge against him, and Rey’s Chinese were not purchasable. He thought of the forlorn last chance–to creep back to the mouth of the Inlet where it was narrowest, and wait on a sheltered ledge there for the _Savonarola_ to be ejected with pikes from the crooked mouth. He might leap on the deck as she swung around, but he would then have to face the whole party.

After an interminable period–it was past three in the afternoon–the Chinese appeared from a cabin, and sat down on the low rail aft, mopping his shaven head. “I don’t wish you any harm, little yellow man,” Bedient thought, “but you’d be most accommodating if you would fall into a faint for a minute or two—-“

At this juncture, Bedient was startled by the clapping of hands from somewhere up the winding steps toward _The Pleiad_. The Chinese leaped up to listen for a repetition of the signal, which his kind answers the world over. The hands were clapped again, and then the voice:

“Oh, Boy, won’t you come up here for a moment? I’m afraid to climb down all these steps alone with this big package. It must be put aboard for to-night.”

“The unparalleled genius—-” Bedient breathed.

The Chinese understood, and stepped ashore quickly. Bedient began to roll forward with the first movement of the boy. The red chalk mark would hardly be needed. He had just torn his finger upon a thorn. Seeing the blood rise, it occurred that one is never without a bit of red. At the base of the bank he turned his eyes upward. The Chinese was plodding up the stairs, the woman holding his mind occupied with words.

Bedient leaped across to the deck, and sank into the cabin of the _Savonarola_. From the shaded roomy quarter then, he ventured a last look. John Chinaman’s broad back was still toward him, and Miss Mallory was laughing. “How good of you!” she said to the boy. “The steps looked so many and so rickety, and I was all alone. Here’s a _peso_ for you. We’ll be aboard about six.” She laughed again.

“What a bright light to shine upon a man!” Bedient thought, as he covered his bleeding finger with a handkerchief, to avoid leaving a trail in the spotless cabin. He moved forward toward the right compartment, unsteadily; then entered and closed the door.

* * * * *

This was Adith Mallory’s especial afternoon and evening. She was emphatically alive. One of her dearest desires, and one which had long seemed farthest from her, was to do some big thing for Andrew Bedient. The plan was hers, every thought of it, and now she saw him safely stored in the forecastle.

She tried to put away all thoughts of fear. The party, of which she was the blithest,–ah, how she loved sailing!–stepped on board at six. Framtree was brought to the meeting. Celestino Rey was beguiled from his _Pleiad_ throne, and helped to a seat in this floating Elba. Here, too, came the Sorensons and the Chinese–mob-stuff. There is a mob in every drama–poor mob that always loses, of untimely arousings, mere bewildered strength in the wiles of strategy. Poor undone mob–its head always in the lap of Wit, to be shorn like Samson…. And the Glow-worm–that incomparable female facing the South, her great yellow smoldering eyes, filled with the dusky Southern Sea, and who knows what lights and lovers of Buenos Aires, flitting across her dreams?… Had there been absolute need for an ally, Miss Mallory could almost have trusted the Senora.

“We didn’t care to heat up the cabin from the galley,” Senor Rey declared as they descended for supper, “so I have had our repast prepared at _The Pleiad_, save, of course, the coffee. You will not miss for once the _entree_, if the cold roast fowl is prime, I am sure. There are compensations.”

“Miss an _entree_!” Miss Mallory exclaimed. “I could live a week on pickles and lettuce-leaves, to stay at sea in such weather!”

“Astonishingly fine sailor is Miss Mallory,” the Spaniard enthused. “She talked ship with me like a pirate, and knew my _Savonarola_ from boom to steering gear at a glance. You all must thank Miss Mallory for our little excursion to-night.”

The lady in question wondered if the forecastle-door were proof against the voices in the cabin. She did not turn her eyes to it, but happened to note that the Spaniard caught a glance from Jim Framtree, as he spoke his last words; also that Framtree arose, looked aft from the cabin doorway, and turned back with a smile. Miss Mallory followed his eyes a moment later and discovered that Dictator Jaffier’s gunboat had moved. Steam was up; her nose was pointed their way; more still, she was leisurely trailing! Senor Rey did not miss the American woman’s interest.

“The Dictator is always so good about giving the _Savonarola_ armed convoy,” he said.

Miss Mallory became deeply thoughtful, but roused herself, realizing it did not become her in this company. She imagined that the great yellow eyes of the Glow-worm were regarding her with queer contemplative scrutiny. Sorenson felt the call to remark something, and the _Savonarola_ was obvious.

“Fine little craft for a honeymoon,” he observed, “that is, of course, if the lady in question enjoyed sailing. It’s amusing to picture some women on a sailing-trip—-“

“And some men on a honeymoon,” added Miss Mallory.

This delighted Framtree…. Sorenson was rather a ponderous Slav with languages. He was not accustomed to conserve his thirst until dinner-time. Indeed, he had brought aboard on this occasion an appreciation for sparkling refreshments, that had been assiduously cultivated during the long day. Already Sorenson had endangered his domestic peace, through attentions, delicate as you would expect from a bear that walked like a man. These were directed toward the American woman. She broke every shaft with unfailing humor, and girded her repugnance as added strength for the End. There were moments she did not relish. Strain settled with the darkening day. She thought of the face she had seen at her carriage at noon–a tortured face–and what he had passed through since, cramped in the forecastle! Perhaps he was unconscious from the heat and the suffocating place–and from the illness she could never understand…. But in Miss Mallory all these thoughts and conditions drew upon as perfect a nervous organization as could be found anywhere in these complicated days–and it was over at last.

Sorenson and his wife followed her on deck after supper, the other three tarrying below. There was no moon. The breeze abaft the beam was a warm, steady pressure that coaxed a whispering of secrets from the sails, and sent the willing craft forward with her bow down to work, and a business-like list. One Chinese was serving below. The remaining two were squatted aft by the wheel. Madame Sorenson took a chair on the cabin-deck, amidship. Miss Mallory moved past her and forward. The thought in her brain was: If Sorenson follows me now, anything that should happen to him is his own fault. She carried playfully a heavy cane, found in the cabin. Sorenson embraced his own disaster in joining her.

“How enticing the water looks!” she observed.

“It does ‘pon my word,” said the Russian.

Each noted that the foresail hid the face of Madame Sorenson, although her shoulders were expressive…. The look upon Sorenson’s flushed features held Miss Mallory true to her latest inspiration.

“You are a good swimmer?” she asked in a lowered tone, but carelessly.

“Ah, yes, there are many grand swimmers in my country among the coast men.”

“You must have been on shipboard a great deal, Mr. Sorenson…. One can always tell by the way one acts on a small craft. Many are afraid at first of the low gunwales on a yacht like this.”

Miss Mallory felt the disgust of Madame Sorenson for them both; felt it was deserved. “Ah, yes, Miss Mallory,” he declared, delighted with her and himself and the world.

He raised one foot to the railing, and his manner became all the more at home, as he lifted his cigar with a flourish. “Like our host, I have sailed many seas and not a few with him,” he added.

He was standing close to the rail, directly over the forecastle. Miss Mallory drew a step or two nearer, and announced, as if such a remark had never been thought of:

“What a perfect little thing of her kind the _Savonarola_ is!… I believe she is staunch enough to go anywhere…. Just listen how tight and solid her planking is!”

She would have signaled that instant, but her approach had been Sorenson’s cue for a certain fond attention and endearment, which ended in a briny obfuscation….

It had been such a little push, too. She tossed a lifering after him, saw him come up and catch his stroke–as she tapped the deck with her stick–the three doubles sharply….

And now a sunburst of small but striking events. Madame Sorenson had not seen, but she launched a scream with the splash. The Chinese, squatted aft, had not seen, but like good servants, with well-ordered minds, they rushed from the wheel to the davits, and proceeded to get a small boat into the water, a temperate thing to do with a man overboard. Miss Mallory did not scream, so as to disturb anybody, but hurried aft, urging the Chinese. “Both go!” she called. “He’s such a big man!”