“The _Liverpool Post_,” said Mrs. Craven, “allows itself to hint gently
that you’ve been rather persecuting Mr. Carter, Kate. Now, I don’t
call the _Post_ a sensational paper, nor is it given to introducing
personal matters, as a rule.”

“I wish it would mind its own business and leave mine alone,” said Kate

“‘The oppression of nations or individuals,'” read Mrs. Craven, “‘may
begin by being a matter of merely domestic importance, but when it
assumes sufficient dimensions it forces itself into public notice.'”

“Do they couple my name with that?”

“They leave you to do that yourself,” said the old lady dryly.

“Well, I don’t mind. They may say what they like. I’m entirely within
my rights.”

“The _Post_ admits that. Here, I’ll read you what it says, my dear.
‘Mr. George Carter, whose name has been so prominently before the
public of late in connection with his splendid efforts in winning over
the King of Okky to the side of humanity, has himself been the victim
of some very high-handed oppression. He has discovered a most valuable
vein of tin in a part of the back country where no European explorer
had ever trod before, and with toil and care, and in fact with genius,
had brought cargo after cargo of the valuable ore down mysterious
African creeks and rivers to a spot where the ocean steamers could
conveniently ship it. To be precise, he hired from Messrs. Edmondson’s
small factory on the Smooth River a piece of waste-cleared ground,
dumped his ore on that as he towed it tediously down those unknown
creeks in a string of dugouts, and there let it accumulate so as not to
flood the markets, and cause ruin to the tin industries in England–‘
Shall I go on?”

“Please do, Aunt.”

“‘But presently an interviewer arrived in the shape of a well-known
firm of West African merchants and financiers, who bought out Messrs.
Edmondson’s interest in their Smooth River factory, found that Mr.
Carter had no lease, and gave him notice to quit within forty-eight
hours. As an alternative to removal they demand an annual rent which
amounts to more than fifteen per cent. of the value of the ore stacked
there. In other words, they are endeavoring, in a manner that almost
smacks of piracy, to force themselves into partnership with him.'”

“Sneak,” said Miss O’Neill, “to go and tittle-tattle to the papers like

Mrs. Craven looked at the girl over her spectacles, and then said she,
“Wait a minute till I read you a little more. ‘We should add that what
gives these proceedings a more unpleasant flavor than would appear at
first sight is the fact Mr. Carter is unable to defend himself. He had
left West Africa when action was first taken, and it has been
discovered that he was still in ignorance of what had occurred when his
steamer called at Las Palmas. The whole thing will be sprung upon him
with a shock of unpleasant surprise when he lands in Liverpool

“Ah,” said Kate.

Mrs. Craven folded the paper, stood up, and walked towards the door.
“As usual, my dear, you have carried out your plan very perfectly.”

“What plan?” asked Kate incautiously.

“Of treating Mr. Carter so badly,” said Mrs. Craven, turning the
handle, “that presently when he hits you back you will be able to bring
yourself to hate him. But then you are always successful, Kitty dear,
in everything you set your hand to–tryingly successful sometimes,”
Mrs. Craven added, and went out, and shut the door softly behind her.

Kate nodded at the door. “Aunt Jane,” she said viciously, “there are
moments when you are a perfect cat. But I will make him detest me for
all that, and then I can truly and comfortably hate him. It’s all very
well their calling him a martyr. Why should everybody’s feelings be
consulted except mine?”

All the same, Kate bowed in a certain degree to public sentiment. One
thinks also that she had not toughened herself sufficiently to meet
Carter face to face. Anyway, she discovered that urgent affairs called
her to London, and whirled off Aunt Jane to her flat that very night.
She left Crewdson to fight the invader when he landed in Liverpool, and
gave the old man definite instructions in writing that he was not to
budge an inch from the firm’s rights. “Show Mr. Carter this letter,”
she ordered, “if there is the least occasion for it.”

But it seemed that West Africa pursued her. The telephone rang as soon
as she got to the flat.

“That London? That Miss Head? This is Liverpool, Crewdson. London’s
just been calling you up. Will you ring Four-owe-seven-three Pad.
What’s that? No. Four-naught-seven-three Pad. Yes, that’s it.
Good-night, Miss.”

Kate had more than half a mind to let 4,073 Pad alone. She was tired,
and somehow in spite of all her successes she was a good deal
dispirited. The British public had bought no less than four great
rubber companies that she had offered them; the shares were all at a
premium; everybody was pleased; and she had transferred her own profits
safely into land and trustee securities. Since her first burst of
success, money had simply rolled in on her, and already it had ceased
to give her amusement. Success lay sour in her mouth. She asked
Fortune for just one thing more. Because she was a woman she could not
go and get it for herself. She told herself that it was only a
convention that held her back–but she shuddered and chilled all over
at the thought of breaking that convention.

She sat in a deep soft chair, twisting her long gloves into a hard
string, and staring into the glow of the fire, and then with a “Faugh”
at her own weakness, she threw the gloves onto the fender, and walked
across to a telephone that stood on a side-table.

“Four-owe-seven-three Pad, please. No, Forty-seventy-three Paddington.
Yes. Hullo? Hullo? Is that Four-nought-seven-three? This is Miss
O’Neill. Liverpool rang up to say you wanted to speak to me. Who is
that, please?”

“No one you know,” came in the small clear voice of the telephone.
“One of those sort of people who writes letters to the papers above
some such signature as ‘Well-Wisher.'”

“If you don’t give me your name,” said Kate sharply, “I shall ring off.”

“I don’t think you will when I tell you I’m going to give you some news
about your father.”

“My father unfortunately is dead. You’ve got hold of the wrong Miss

The telephone laughed. “Not a bit of it, it’s the lady who is known
generally as Kate O’Neill I’m speaking with, but whose real name is
Katherine Meredith.”

Now Kate knew that Mrs. Craven was only “Aunt Jane” by courtesy and
adoption, and had naturally wondered many times over who her real
people might have been. She had always been a very practical young
woman, and had not worried herself unduly over the matter; but still
being human, she had her share of curiosity, and though the subject had
always been strictly taboo at the house in Princes’ Park, still that
did not hinder her from discussing it with her own thoughts. And now,
“Katherine Meredith!”

“I think you had better tell me who you are,” she said to the telephone.

“I prefer anonymity. Do you know Day-Pearce?”

“No. Yes, perhaps I do, if you mean Sir Edward Day-Pearce, the West
African man. I don’t know him personally.”

“All the better,” rasped the telephone. “Anyway, he is lecturing
to-night in a non-Conformist temple in Westbourne Grove–the Athenæum,
they call it. Begins at eight. He’s certain to say something about
Meredith. I should try to go if I were you.”

“I shouldn’t dream–” Kate began, when whizz went the bell, and she was
cut off. She rang again, got the inquiry office, found that 4,073 was
a hairdresser’s shop, once more got 4,073, spoke to the proprietor,
learned that the telephone had been hired for an hour by a gentleman
who had some business to transact. No, the gentleman had just gone.
No, they didn’t know who he was: never seen him before–Miss O’Neill’s
ring off had a touch of temper in it.

She went back to the deep soft chair and tried to bring her thoughts
once more to the subject that had been in hand before the interruptions
came. She was a business woman, and had trained herself to concentrate
the whole of her mind on any matter she chose. But somehow those two
little words “My father” kept cropping up; and presently she began
trying to picture what her mother was like. She went to the telephone
and called up a theatre agency. She had to say three times over
“Athenæum–Westbourne Grove” before the young man at the other end
grasped the name, and she was rewarded by hearing him laugh as he said
he had no seats for Sir Edward Day-Pearce’s lecture that evening.

“Where can I get one?” she demanded.

“At the door, madam,” was the polite response. “I believe the prices
of entrance are threepence, sixpence, and one shilling, unless you
happen to be a subscriber.”

Supposing the whole thing were a hoax to draw her there, and by some
means to make her look ridiculous? It was quite likely. She was a
successful woman, and had already learned that one of the prices of
success is the spitting of spite and envy. But difficulties did not
often stay long in the path of Miss Kate O’Neill. She picked up a
telephone directory, turned the pages, found a number, called it up,
and made certain arrangements. Thereafter she dressed, dined, and took
Mrs. Craven to laugh over the new piece at the Gaiety.

But poor Kate found even the Gaiety dull that night. There was a man
on the stage with a red head. He was not in the least like Carter
either in looks, speech, or manner, but–well, it must have been the
hair which persisted in calling up that unpleasant train of thought
which kept her vaguely irritated throughout all the evening.

There was a bundle of type script waiting for her when she got back to
the flat, which happened to be the verbatim report of Sir Edward
Day-Pearce’s lecture which she had arranged that two stenographers
should go and take down for her, but she did not choose to open this
before the keen eyes of Aunt Jane. Instead she waited till that astute
old lady should see fit to go to bed, and watched her eat sandwiches,
drink a tumbler of soda-water lightly laced with whiskey, and listened
to a résumé of all the other plays that had filled the Gaiety boards
since the house was opened. At the end of which Kate had the final
satisfaction of being laughed at.

“You’ve been itching to be rid of me ever since we got back, my dear,
and as a general thing you don’t in the least mind saying when you want
to be alone. I wonder what’s in those mysterious papers you’re so
anxious I shouldn’t ask about. Good-night, Kitty dear.”

“Good-night, Aunt Jane,” said Kate, and opened the package.

The lecture was unexciting. It was the dull record of a dull but
capable man, who knew his work thoroughly, did it accurately, and in
the telling of it left out all the points that were in the least
picturesque or interesting. Sir Edward had spent half a lifetime in
Colonial administration, and the only times he rose into anything
approaching eloquence was when he had to tell of some colonial interest
that was ruthlessly sacrificed by some ignorant official at home for
the sake of a vote or a fad. Four several instances he gave of this,
and these stood out warmly against the gray background of the rest of
the speech.

But to Kate, who knew her West Africa by heart, it was all dull enough
reading till he came to almost the last paragraph.

“It is by a peculiar irony,” the type report read, “that an agreement
should recently have been come to by which the notorious King of Okky
promises to discontinue his practice of human sacrifice. It is
six-and-twenty years since I first went out to West Africa, and my
immediate superior then was Major Meredith. He was a man of the
highest ideals, and we all thought of tremendous capabilities. He saw
what was wanted on the spot, and carried out his theories with small
enough regard for ignorant criticism at home. By the exercise of
tremendous personal influence, and at a fearful risk, he made his way
to Okky City itself, saw its unspeakable horrors, and made a treaty
with the then king. In return for certain concessions the king was to
come under British protection, and of course give up objectionable
practices. Well, I don’t know whether there are any of the
Anti-British party here, but I daresay most of you will think that the
addition of a quarter of a million of square miles of rich country to
the empire was no mean gift. Ladies and gentlemen, you little know
what the Government was then. ‘Perish West Africa’ was one of their
many creeds, and with Exeter–” [here the reporter had written the word
“Disturbance,” and evidently missed the next few sentences]–“I don’t
care whether you like it or whether you are decently ashamed, the
thing’s true. They refused to ratify the treaty, and my poor chief was
censured for exceeding instructions. Well, the backers of the
high-minded potentate, as I believe they called themselves, got their
way, and I wish they were not too ignorant to realize what their mean
little action caused in human lives. Putting the human sacrifice in
Okky City at the very low estimate of eight thousand a year, in
five-and-twenty years that brings the figure up to two hundred thousand
black men and women whose blood lies at the door of those unctuous
hypocrites who made it their business to break Major Meredith because
he was an Imperialist.”

Again the reporter put in the word “Disturbance,” but he apparently
managed to catch the next sentence. “Aye, you may yap,” the old
administrator went on, “and I dare say from the snug looks of some of
you you’re own sons of the men who did it, and I hope you feel the
weight of their bloodguiltiness. Two hundred thousand lives,
gentlemen, and all thrown away to pander to the fads of some ignorant
theorists who had never been beyond the shores of England. If Major
Meredith could have held out against the clamor, I believe that he
would have been a man to stand beside Clive, and Rhodes, and Hastings,
in the work he would have done for the Empire; but as it was he left
the service in disgust, and drifted away into the savage depths of that
Africa he knew so well, and had so vainly tried to help. His wife went
with him, and, so I heard, bore him a daughter before she died. A
rumor reached me that some trader brought the child to England and
adopted her, but poor Meredith–well, he has disappeared from the

The lecture closed, a few paragraphs farther on, again with

Kate folded the sheets and put them on the table. She was somehow
conscious of a queer thrill of elation. One of the discomforts that an
adopted child who does not know her history must always carry through
life, is the feeling of having been bred of parents that were probably
discreditable. She had vague memories of her babyhood. There was a
village of thatched houses and shade trees. She had clear recollection
of one day playing in the dust with the village dogs and the other
babies–black babies, they were–when a huge spotted beast sprang
amongst them, roared, and for a moment stood over her, the white baby.
At intervals she had dreamed of that beast ever since. From maturer
knowledge she knew it must have been a leopard, and leopards do not
grow beyond a certain normal size. But in dreamland that leopard was
always enormous…. She could never remember whether in the dusty
village street under the heat and the sunshine it had done damage, or
whether the pariah dogs had frightened it away.

Try how she would, she could remember no mother. The women of the
village were all black, and she lived, so faint memory said, first with
one and then with another. She had no clear recollection of any of
them…. And, indeed, there might have been many villages, because
there were hammock journeys, with a pet monkey riding on the pole, and
walls of thick green bush on either hand that held dangers…. She
still had a scar just below the nail on the first finger of her right
hand where the monkey bit her one day when she teased it.

But plainest of all these dim pictures of the memory was one of a white
man who at rare intervals came into the scene and took her on his knee.
He had iron-gray hair and beard which were shaggy and matted, and he
always had a pipe between his lips and a glittering eye-glass on a
black watered-silk ribbon for her to play with. Furthermore, he always
brought some present when he came to see her, and gave another present
also, if he was pleased, to the black women with whom she lived. It
was he who hung round her neck the Aggry bead that she still had locked
away in the bottom tray of her jewel case.

She remembered this man with a vague kindness. But if Godfrey O’Neill
cut her off from him with such completeness it must have been for some
profoundly good reason. Uncle Godfrey had been far from squeamish.
Uncle Godfrey in his lazy way stuck to friends when everybody else
voted them far outside the pale. And therefore, she had argued, the
iron-gray haired man with the eyeglass must have done something
peculiarly disgraceful.

That he was her father she was entirely sure. Occasionally she had
tried to argue with herself that she was little more than a babe when
she saw him last, and was no judge, and that possibly the iron-gray man
was her father’s friend. But something stronger than mere human reason
always rose up in arms against such a suggestion.

Sir Edward’s halting lecture had roused up one recollection in her head
that heretofore had persistently eluded her. A thousand times in those
dreams of Africa, and the hot villages, and the pet monkey with its red
seed necklace, and all the other old dim scenes, she had on the tip of
her memory the name of the iron-gray man with the eyeglass, and a
thousand times she had missed catching it by the smallest hair. In a
flash it came back–he was Meredith.

Was he alive still? She could not tell; but that she would find out
now. For once she adjudged old Godfrey O’Neill to be wrong. She was
not going to let the discreet veil remain any longer over a man who,
whatever his subsequent career had been, at any rate was a martyr once,
and her father.

“Well, Carter-me-lad,” said Captain Image, coming into the room, “they
tell me you’re the most unpopular man in Liverpool. They want to give
you dinners, and put your photo in the papers, and hear you make a
speech, and you won’t have anything to do with anybody. What’s broke?
Tin troubling you?”

“Oh! tin’s all right. But I’ve got a constitutional dislike to
marching along at the tail of a brass band, that’s all. Besides I feel
an awful humbug when all these silly stay-at-home people insist on
believing that the one and only reason I went up country was to chop
down old Kallee’s private crucifixion tree. Have a cigar?”

“Not me in here, me lad. I came home from the Islands with the old
_M’poso_ full of passengers, and I’ve smoked myself half sick on
cigars. I’ll suck at a pipe. By the way, I’ve got a message for you
from Kallee. The old sinner came on board himself when we were lying
off Edmondson’s factory trying to get your ore, and nearly drank the
ship dry before I could get quit of him. Owe-it Slade’s been palming
off I.O.U.’s on him. He’d got quite a sheaf of them. He says when you
marry Laura he’ll give them to you as a wedding present, or words to
that effect. But in the meanwhile if he can catch Slade he’s just
going to chop his head off to prevent him putting any more paper into


“Well, you see, me lad, Slade owes our fo’c’sle shop a matter of four
pounds odd which we can’t collect, and he’s got a Holland gun of mine
that I shouldn’t really like to lose. Besides, come to thinking of it,
I suppose Laura’s fond of him anyway. Couldn’t you do something for

Carter stared. “Has he left O’Neill and Craven’s, then?”

Captain Image stopped down the tobacco in his pipe with a horny
forefinger. “Why, no, and you’ll have to pay to get him away.”

“But what mortal use is he to me?”

Captain Image’s pipe worked hard and he spoke in jerks. “Rubber
palaver. Owe-it Slade’s the smartest man at dem rubber palaver on the

“Pooh! That slackster!”

“That’s where you’re making the usual mistake. Slade’s got his faults.
He wastes his money, he never pays his bills, he sponges for all
eternity, and he makes out he was born lazy. But don’t you believe
him. Who got Miss Kate all these rubber properties that she’s floated
off into such whacking big companies?”

“Miss Kate O’Neill.”

“No more than you did, me lad. It was just Owe-it Slade. And to
think,” Captain Image added with a sigh, “I always put that man down as
a borrowing waster, and never even hustled him to collect cargo for me.
Why, if I’d known then what I know now, I could have bought rubber
lands through him, for a half surf boat full of gin, that I might have
sold to a company myself, and dined off turkey in my own house ashore
every day for all the rest of my natural life. Why, my Christian Aunt!
I might even have married, if I’d worked him properly.”

Captain Image dabbed with his forefinger on Carter’s coat sleeve and
left a print of tobacco ash. “You buy up Owe-it Slade, me lad, and not
only is your fortune made, but–well,” he added rather lamely, “you buy
him up and just remember I told you to.”

“But–what were you going to say?”

“Well,” said Image desperately, “I didn’t intend to tell you, but all
up and down the Coast, and in the hotels in Las Palmas, and even in the
bars and offices here, the boys don’t like the way Miss Kate is playing
it on you. It’s all right for a girl to take to business, if she’s
built that way, but she ought to play the game. Of course the general
idea is, me lad, that you and she started sweet-hearting and had a
turn-up, but of course I’m in the know, and I’ve called ’em dam’ liars
every time they’ve started that tale, and told ’em about Laura and how
you were fixed up long before Miss Kate came down onto the Coast. Why,
Carter-me-lad, I’ve backed up my words with bets to that extent that if
you were to marry the lady now by any kind of accident, I should stand
to lose what with one fiver and another, a matter of two hundred and
fifty pounds.”

Carter laughed. “That puts it finally out of the region of
possibility, doesn’t it? I can’t let you lose a pile like that. But
all the same I’m not going to interfere with Miss O’Neill. If Slade’s
useful to her, let her keep him. I’m much obliged to a lot of
officious idiots for sympathizing with me, but really they’re moving on
a lot too fast. It will be quite time for other people to be sorry for
me when I start in to be sorry for myself. Besides, I thought you, at
any rate, were a strong admirer of Miss O’Neill’s?”

“I am,” said Captain Image patiently. He always flattered himself that
he left the more eloquent parts of his speech at Sierra Leone on each
trip north, and picked them up again there next voyage for vigorous use
on the Coast. It was his pride that he conformed most suitably to
Liverpool’s sedate atmosphere. “I admire Miss Kate as a lady more than
anyone I know, and if she were only twenty years older, and I could
afford it, I wouldn’t mind going in for her myself. But it’s her
business ideas, as she showed them over that factory of Edmondson’s,
that I can’t stand. The way she stuck up the rent on you, me lad, is
the limit. Why, if that sort of thing went on, nobody would be safe.
It’s Oil-Trust morals. I’m Welsh myself, but I do draw the line

“What, Welsh?” said Carter politely. “I should never have guessed it.”

“I am,” said Captain Image with sturdy truth, “and many times, look
you, I am proud of it. Which reminds me that little red-bearded Kettle
that you employed to run your launch and the mine is Welsh also. I
don’t want to go against a fellow-countryman who’s down on his luck,
but I saw him with my own eyes give old Kallee an illustrated methody
tract on bigamy when he was on the _M’poso_, and if His Portliness
finds anyone kind enough to translate it for him, there’ll be the devil
to pay. Kallee’s black, but he’s a king, and he’s not the kind to let
any man tamper with his domestic happiness. Now about Slade—-”

“We’ll drop Slade. He’s Miss O’Neill’s man. If Miss O’Neill chooses
to amuse herself by gunning for me, that’s her concern. But I don’t
shoot back.”

Captain Image shook his head sadly. “Well, me lad, if you won’t lift a
hand to help yourself, I don’t see there’s anything more to be said.”
He put his pipe in his pocket, stood up and prepared to go. “Oh, by
the way, did anyone tell you about old Swizzle-Stick Smith?”

“Not dead, is he?”

“Lord bless you, no, me lad. Very much the reverse. Look here, what
was your idea of that man?”

“In what way?”

“What was he before he became the disreputable old palm oil ruffian you
first knew at Malla-Nulla?”

“Oh, I suppose he was less disreputable once. He’d let himself drift,
that’s all. One does get into frightfully slack ways in those lonely

“Did he strike you as the usual type of man a factory agent’s made of?”

“Why, no.”

“Gentleman, wasn’t he, or had been once? Always used to hitch up the
knees of his pyjamas when he sat down; spoke well; knew Latin; could
swear round any man on the Coast when he was that side out; and had a
pleasant way of making you feel you were dirt when the mood took him
that way?”

Carter laughed. “He had some characteristic little ways.”

“Ever strike you he’d been a soldier once?”

“I suppose it did.”

“Well, me lad, when I was tied up by that Edmondson factory, a boat
swung up to my ladder and a military party stepped out. Quite the
swell, I can tell you: nobby white helmet, hair cut with scissors,
smart gray mustache, gray imperial bristling underneath it,
clean-shaved chin, white drill coat with concertina pockets, white
drill pants with a crease down the shin, latest thing in pipe-clayed
shoes. If it hadn’t been for the old trick with the eye-glass and the
black ribbon, I take my dick I shouldn’t have known him.

“‘Hullo Swizzle-Stick Smith,’ said I, ‘you are a howler. Whose kit
have you been robbing?’

“‘Captain Image,’ says he, ‘allow me–ar–to present to you Mr. Smith,
a new acquaintance. It is not–ar–my wish to be mistaken for any of
your discreditable–ar–pot companions of the past.’ That to me, and
on my own deck, me lad. What do you think of that?”

“I bet you boiled.”

Captain Image scratched his head vexedly. “The rum part of it is, I
didn’t. Somehow I took the man at his own valuation. There didn’t
seem anything else left to do. He went into my chart house, and sat
there as solid as if he’d been the governor of a colony with six
letters after his name. Just drank one cocktail and took three
swallows at it, I’ll trouble you, and actually left a second to stand
by itself on the tray. When I handed him the tobacco tin to see if
he’d got that frowsy old pipe in his pocket, I’m hanged if he didn’t
pull out a book of cigarette papers and roll himself a smoke with
those. Well, me lad, when I remembered Swizzle-Stick Smith’s opinion
of cigarettes, you might have knocked me down with a teaspoon.”

“He scared me out of cigarette smoking at Malla-Nulla,” said Carter.
“He was pretty emphatic over the weak-kneed crowd (as he called them)
who only smoked cigarettes. But why all this revolution in Mr. Smith’s
habits? Did he give any reason for it?”

“That’s the amazing thing, he didn’t–at least not a proper reason. He
just let me see that the new Mr. Smith–I got to calling him Major, by
the way–was no relation to the Swizzle-Stick Smith that was, and then
went back over the side to his boat.”

“I suppose,” said Carter thoughtfully, “he wanted the reformation to be

“Well, you don’t think I’d keep a choice bit like that to myself,” said
Captain Image. “Naturally I spread the news, though I certainly didn’t
tell all the Coast, as I’ve told you, the way that the late
Swizzle-Stick Smith made me feel second man in my own chart house. But
that man doesn’t need any advertising; the most genial drunk wouldn’t
take liberties with him, and you’d fall into calling him Major yourself
if you sat with him for ten minutes. My Christian Aunt! just think
what a filthy old palm oil ruffian he used to be.”

“Did he give any reason for pulling up?”

“Oh, I asked him that. Managed to slip it in, you know. And he
answered as dry as you please, ‘Urgent private affairs, Captain Image,’
and then tagged on some Latin, which, as he remarked would be the case,
I didn’t understand. You know, me lad,” said the sailor thoughtfully,
“he’s a gentleman right through, but I shouldn’t think that even in his
palmy days he was a man who would have got on particularly well with
the people. A bit superior, I should call it, with those who hadn’t
been birched in the same public school where he was birched.”

“I suppose,” said Carter, “this is another instance of Miss O’Neill’s

“As to that,” said Image, “I can’t say, me lad; but this I can tell
you, the Major’s what he calls ‘sent in his papers’ to O’Neill and

“The deuce he has. What on earth for?”

“Can’t tell you. Old Crewdson gave me the news. I said to him I
didn’t suppose the loss of Swizzle-Stick Smith, even now that he had
changed himself into Major Smith, would make their firm put up the
shutters. But Crewdson wouldn’t take it as a joke. He told me Miss
Kate was very sorry indeed to lose him, and had herself written to ask
him to come and see her here in England. Now, me lad, what’s her game
in that?”

“I didn’t know,” said Carter resolutely, “and I don’t want to know. As
I tell you, I flatly refuse to interfere in any of Miss O’Neill’s

The fisherman was discontented.

The reasons for his discontent were not plain to the eye. There had
been as good a fly water as anyone could want; there had been enough
breeze to ruffle the surface, enough cloud to prevent glare; he had
picked just the right flies from his book to suit the river, and the
fish rose freely to them. He was carrying home as fine a dish of trout
as any man could wish for, and had scrupulously thrown back everything
under ten and a half inches. But even these things did not please him.
He sucked hard at his cold pipe, and bit at fate as he tramped on
inn-wards through the gathering dusk.

He came to a cross-roads once, and abused the Welsh authorities for not
putting up a sign-post for his guidance. The district was new to him;
indeed he had come there for that reason: he wanted to be alone for
these last days in England. He had fished his way up stream all day,
and instead of following the water windings back again, was making his
return journey by road. And here, it appeared, were three roads to
choose from. But he was a man of resource. He depicted mentally a map
of the country, found the newly risen North star, and got his bearings,
and then trudged on again with confidence among towering mountains.

It was night now, moonless, chill, and dark, and the mountains hung on
either side like great walls of blackness. The road was white and
faintly visible. But for all that he had presently to pull up sharply
to avoid an obstruction. “Hullo,” he said, “a motor car.” And then
aloud, “Anybody here?”

A grumbling voice answered him from the ditch. “Yes, I’m the driver,
and I’m here bathing my confounded wrist.”

“Had a smash? Can I help? What is it? Bone broken?”

“No, only a bad sprain”–the man peered at Carter through the dusk and
added “sir.”

“Your car seems to be standing up all right on her four wheels. How
did you get pitched out?”

“Oh, it wasn’t that sort of an accident. She was misfiring badly, and
then she stopped. When I tried to start her again, she back-fired on
me and I thought my arm had gone. It’s the jet in the carburetter
that’s choked, I believe, but I can’t take the thing down with one

“I could,” Carter thought, and remembered certain episodes with his own
first motor boat in Africa. But he did not mention this aloud. “Owner
gone for help?” he asked.

“Yes, sir. But there’s none round here. At least there’s no such
thing as a mechanic within twenty miles. A hay-motor and a tow to the
nearest barn is the best one can expect.”

“Where’s your tool kit?”

“But do you understand motors, sir?” the man asked doubtfully.

“I had to. Just unship a light, and hold it with your sound hand so
that I can see what I’m about. That’s the ticket. You’re sure it’s
the carburetter? Tried your spark and all four plugs?”

“Yes, sir, both the magneto and high tension. That’s all right. She’s
getting no gas; that’s the trouble. It’s the gasolene feed that’s
choked somewhere. I saw the fellow that filled us up this morning pour
in from a red-rusty tin before I could stop him, and it’ll be a flake
of oxide from that jammed in the carburetter nozzle. If you could take
it down for us, sir, I’m sure it would be a very great favor.”

“Wait a bit. Before we begin to pull the car to pieces, suppose we
just make sure of one or two other things. Got a stick or anything to
sound your gasolene tank with?”

“Oh, that’s all right. We haven’t run sixty miles since I put in eight

But Carter straightened out a length of copper wire, unscrewed the cap,
and sounded the tank. He pulled out the wire and examined it at the
lamp. He wiped it carefully and tried a second time.

“Moses!” said the driver, “dry as a bone. Now, who’s been playing
pranks here? Must have been some of that nasty Welsh crowd that was
hanging round whilst we was having lunch.”

“Why, there’s the union underneath the tank half unscrewed. That would
account for the leak, anyway. Here, hold the lamp. Not too close.
Yes, and the vibration has cracked the feed pipe. There’s a gap I can
get my finger nail into. Now, first of all, have you got any spare

“Yes, sir. Two tins.”

“Good. Then it’s worth while mending this feed pipe. I suppose you
haven’t a soldering iron?”

“Afraid not, sir. There’s rubber solution—-”

“Which gasolene melts. Here, let’s go through your stock. Ah, here’s
a tube of seccotine. Now I’ll show you a conjuring trick. If we give
the crack three coats of that, and let each dry well before the next is
put on–Good Lord! Kate!”

Miss O’Neill came up out of the darkness and bowed. “It’s really very
good of you, Mr. Carter, to trouble over my car.”

“I didn’t know it was yours. I didn’t know you were in this
neighborhood. In fact I did not know where you were.”

Kate shrugged her shoulders. “Didn’t some sapient person once record
that coincidences were the commonest things in life? A minute ago I
didn’t know whether you were in England, or West Africa, or Grand
Canary; and you didn’t know or care whether I was alive or dead; and
here we meet in the dark on an unnamed roadside in Wales. It’s just
one of those ordinary, every-day, impossible coincidences, which the
vogue of motor cars is making a little more common than usual. I’m
glad you’re letting business differences sink for the moment.”

“I didn’t know it was your car.”

“Or you’d have bitten off your hand sooner than have touched it?”

He laughed rather dryly. “I’m afraid I should have yielded to the
temptation of meddling. You see, internal combustion engines are
rather a fad of mine.”

“Excellent reason. How long is this ingenious repair going to take?”

“H’m; three coats of seccotine–have to allow each twenty minutes to
dry–call it an hour. After that I think if we couple up the union,
and put in the spare gasolene your man says he’s got, you should go
sailing off without a hitch. By the way, I didn’t know you motored.”

“I’m full of unpleasant surprises.”

“Yes, Cascaes, for instance.”

“Well, why shouldn’t I open up an O’Neill and Craven agency in Las
Palmas, pray?”

“No reason whatever. I wasn’t referring to Cascaes’ business

“Wagner,” said Miss O’Neill to her man, “there’s a farm about a mile
down this road where they’ll bandage up your wrist, and make you some
sort of a sling. Don’t be away longer than you can help. Mr. Carter
and I will look after the car till you get back.”

“Thank you’m,” said the driver, and marched off into the night. They
stared after him till the sound of his footfalls on the hard road died
away, and then said Miss O’Neill, “Why doesn’t Mr. Cascaes answer when
I cable?”

“You can hardly expect me to overlook the work of your Las Palm as

“Don’t quibble. Do you know why he is silent?”

“I can make a guess.”

“Well, go on.”

“He’s probably too busy picking aloe thorns out of his carcass to find
time for writing cables.”

“Oh, so you threw him into an aloe hedge, did you? What did Laura say
to that?”

“Well, as she knew nothing about it, she naturally did not comment.”

“I see; and did Mr. Cascaes object?”

“Not obtrusively. He took the best licking I ever gave to man or dog
without a whimper, and when I tossed him amongst those aloe hooks, he
lay there just as he fell.”

“Ah,” said Kate, and drew a long breath.

“Keen on motoring?” Carter asked after a pause.

“I am, yes.”

“I’m taking a light four-cylinder back to the Islands with me.”

“Let me see, I promised you a wedding present, didn’t I? Let me know
when it’s for, and what you’ll have. By the way, talking of
coincidences, I was motoring in the Yorkshire dales a week or so ago,
and coming down out of Wensleydale into Wharfedale, we dropped down
over a perfectly terrific piece of road that cost me a back tire.
Well, unluckily we’d used up the only other spare cover on the car
already, so the only thing left was to go slowly on the rim on into the
village below and wire for another.

“Such a dear old village it was, of gray stone houses, tucked away
under the gray limestone hills, with all the gardens as bright with
flowers as you find them in a story-book. The parson saw us when we
came in from skating down that awful hill, and when he saw me
afterwards strolling round looking at the flowers, he very nicely asked
me to go in and look at his roses. A splendid old man he was, and such
gorgeous roses. He likes big blooms, and he snips off the superfluous
buds on the sly, and Mrs. Parson likes lots of blooms to cut at and to
give away, and she’s always on the watch after him to see he doesn’t
steal those buds. I met her, too, and they took me in and gave me tea.

“They’d some Okky war horns on the wall of their draw-ing-room, and I
told them I’d a very fine one on mine, and so naturally we got to
talking ‘Coast.’ They’ve a son out there–or to be more accurate, they
had, because he seems to be in England now–and they’re a good deal
troubled about him. He keeps on making excuses instead of going to see
them. Mrs. Parson, who by the way is a perfect dear, said they were
afraid he had done something foolish and was shy about coming home—-”

“Well?” said Carter.

“Oh, I’m pretty certain the prodigal would have no trouble with her.”

“But the Parson? He said nothing about providing veal, I suppose?”

“He did not. To be precise he confined his conversation to roses, and
the dale, and a very charming old gentleman he was.”

“As you may guess,” said Carter savagely, “I don’t thank you for going
to inspect my people like that.”

“I don’t recollect,” said Miss O’Neill with much sweetness, “ever
asking you to thank me. By accident I stumble across some delightful
people; I have the opportunity of enjoying their society, and for the
sake of seeing more of them I lived in the village for three whole
days. They’ve asked me to go and stay with them next summer, and I’m
going. I don’t see how that can annoy you, as you’ve given up going
near them.”

“I think that crack in the gasolene pipe will stand another coat of
seccotine now,” said Carter, and moved the lamp and knelt once more in
the dusty road.

“It seems a pity,” said Miss O’Neill musingly.

“I don’t see what business it is of yours anyway,” Carter snapped.

“Oh, but surely it’s my car that you’re so kindly working at. And I do
think it’s a pity you should have all that trouble with that nasty,
smelling, sticky seccotine, when it will all have to be scratched off
to-morrow, and the hole soldered up.”

Carter laughed in spite of his rage. “You didn’t mean that in the
least, but I’ll own up you drew me smartly enough. It is a pity–I
mean the other thing–I love the dale, and I’m about as fond as a man
can be of my people. But when you’re in love with a girl, and you’ve
promised to marry her, well, other things have to slide.”

“Ah, love,” said Kate thoughtfully. “I wonder what being in love is
really like? I must try it some day as an experience. It seems to
alter one’s obligations. I should like you to hear my friend the
Parson on obligations.”

“I can tell you his creed in the matter as he taught it to me as far
back as I can remember. The rule, according to him, is: First, keep
your word; second, go on keeping it; third, don’t let any other
considerations whatever interfere with your keeping it.”

“Spartan, simple, admirable,” said Kate, and then could have bitten out
her tongue for sending the words past her lips. She took Carter’s hand
impulsively enough, and, “I beg your pardon for that,” she said. “I
may think you’re a fool, but I know you are also the most honorable man