Now to give Carter full due, his weaning of the King of Okky from the
habit of human sacrifice had been brought about more by accident than
design. By a further working of the law of chance, the circumstance
brought him out of modest obscurity into a very strong notoriety in a
little less than six short months.

“A private trader,” so ran the gist of the newspaper leaders, “has
brought to pass a thing which Government authorities, both civil and
military, not to mention missionaries and miscellaneous
philanthropists, have been trying for ineffectually ever since the
British rule was set up in West Africa. Throughout all our possessions
on that sickly Coast the natives have been addicted to human sacrifice;
and when instances of this from time to time leak out, civilization is
on each occasion chilled with a fresh douche of horror. The West
African Kingdom of Okky, though little known for other qualities, has
acquired a certain detestable celebrity for these red orgies…. Mr.
Carter, though he was brought up in his father’s vicarage in
Wharfedale, has not been noted heretofore for any special benevolence
in dealing with native questions. Those who know him describe him as
essentially a strong man…. In fact, Mr. Carter, in his modesty, most
emphatically disclaims any such high motives, and avers that he took
his now celebrated journey into the bush merely for his own business
purposes, and nothing beyond. On this subject we prefer to hold our
own opinions. Explorers of his rare type–the almost unknown type that
does not advertise–carry with them a modesty that delights in
belittling its own triumphs. But even Mr. Carter’s modesty cannot
explain away certain cold facts. The King of Okky till recently had a
most black reputation for human sacrifice. Many Europeans have gone up
to his horrible city to expostulate. Some he has sent back; some have
not been heard of again since they left the Coast, and one can only
shudder and guess at their fates; but none have effected any change.
The ‘Customs,’ as these orgies of slaughter are named locally, still
endured: indeed, evidence clearly showed that they were increasing
under the present reign of King Kallee both in frequency and
importance. Nothing, it was said by those on the spot, but a British
army, and a great outlay in life and treasure, could bring these
horrors of the hinterland to a close. Mr. Carter, however, thought
otherwise. He went up country practically unattended. He bearded the
king in his own fetich grove, and he achieved what experts called the
impossible. He has induced King Kallee to abandon human sacrifice now
and for always.

“As will be seen by the two interviews which appear in our news
columns, the information on these points did not come from Mr. Carter
himself. Mr. Carter is that man so rare to find in these pushing days,
a man who does not care one jot for anything the press can do towards
his own self-advancement, a man, moreover, who does not mind saying so
in strong, rude Anglo-Saxon. But fortunately we have another mine of
information more easily tapped. The sensational rise into a new
prosperity of the old West African firm of O’Neill and Craven has been
one of the features of the year’s finance, and it is now an open secret
that the sole partner and manager of the ‘firm’ is a young, attractive,
and unmarried lady. This Miss Kate O’Neill has so far evaded the
interviewer, but on the Okky topic she has volunteered the fullest
information. It is to her that we are indebted for our description of
Mr. Carter and his great achievement.”

On such lines ran the leaders in most of the great newspapers, though,
of course, they varied in their facts and their point of view. They
all paid graceful compliments to the pretty girl who had appeared of
late with such success in the field of larger finance. One paper alone
had the impudence to refer in cold print to a matter that the other
newspaper men smiled over quietly in the privacy of their offices.

“We wish,” wrote this sentimental journalist, “that we could indicate a
romance that would finish up this episode fittingly. But truth compels
us to record that Miss O’Neill, along with the rest of the biographical
matter which she so kindly supplied, mentioned the detail of Mr.
Carter’s engagement to a Miss Laura Slade, who at present resides in
Grand Canary. We understand that a marriage will shortly take place.”

As it happened, this journal was the one of Mrs. Craven’s daily
reading. She indicated the paragraph with a prim forefinger, and
called her niece to read it.

“Did you say that, Kate, or is it one of the fellow’s impudent

“Oh, I told him that with the rest just to–well, to quiet him. He
seemed to think I was very interested in Mr. Carter.”

“And I suppose suggested you were in love with him?”

“Well, he didn’t put it exactly like that,” said Kate thoughtfully.
“He was a very dashing young man, and rather gave me the idea that he
wanted to see if the coast was clear for himself.”

“I see. And so you told him about the engagement between Mr. Carter
and Laura, just to encourage him?”

“I suppose so. He really was very amusing and pushing. He wanted me
to go out to lunch with him there and then.”

“Kate, are you going to let Mr. Carter marry Laura?”

“My dear Aunt Jane, what an extraordinary question! What possible
influence can I have over either of them? I offered them both a
wedding present, and asked them each what they would like. Could I go
further than that?”

“And each of them,” suggested the old lady, “said ‘there was time
enough for that,’ or they’d ‘let you know when the wedding day was
fixed,’ or put you off, somehow, like that.”

“Look here, Aunt, what are you driving at?”

“I am looking.”

“Well, speak, you irritating old person.”

“My dear, I am waiting for you to look back at me. You have carefully
avoided meeting my eye ever since I showed you the paper.”

Kate looked up, and Mrs. Craven read something in the girl’s face that
made her sigh. “You will go your own way, I know, Kitty dear. You are
very capable, and very clever, and that has naturally made you very
self-reliant. You have shown yourself so wonderfully successful over
your business matters that I shouldn’t dream of advising you there.
But do you ever bring up into mind that there is something more in life
than mere financial success?”

“Of course I do, Aunt. But I suppose I am different from the other
girls. They look forward to their domestic pleasures. I have made
myself other interests.”

The old lady shook her head decisively. “You are not at all abnormal
in that way. You are the most entirely human person I ever saw. And
to prove it, I’ll just instance to you the way you’ve fallen in love
with George Carter.”

“I refuse to admit it.”

“Even to me, Kitty?”

“Even to myself. I like the man, and there it must end. He is engaged
elsewhere, and if you call me human, you must allow me pride. I run
after no man, nor do I lure any man away from another girl who has been
my friend, whatever my inclinations may be. And now, if you please, we
will drop that subject and talk of rubber. Our third company was
subscribed once and a half times over by lunch time to-day, and we’ve
closed the lists. How’s that for a real solid triumph?”

Mrs. Craven lay back in her chair and methodically folded the paper.
“Do the profits on that bring up your score to the million you arrived

“Oh no, no. But they will help it along very nicely.”

“When you get a million will you stop?”

“When I get my million, which, mark you, Aunt, is more than any girl of
my age has ever done, why, then, I shall start to make my second. It’s
a most fascinating amusement.”

“But it doesn’t make you happy. You are no better for it. You can’t
spend it.”

“My dear Aunt, where have your eyes been? Haven’t you seen my clothes
since I came back from the Coast? Why, I never knew what it was to
dress before. I’m seriously thinking I shall have to start a maid to
look after me.”

“My dear, you’ve a knack of carrying clothes.”

“That I learned from you, you extremely smart person.”

“Well, you got the knack somewhere, and you always were nicely turned
out. Now I know your wardrobe as well as you do yourself, and, let me
see”–Mrs. Craven took a pencil from her chatelaine, and made
calculations on the edge of a newspaper–“Since you came back to
England you’ve not spent, at a liberal estimate, above two hundred and
twenty-seven pounds ten on your own adornment.”

Kate laughed. “I give in to you, Aunt. I quite believe you know my
wardrobe better than I do myself. Well, perhaps I shall buy pearls,
then. I never had one, but I believe I’m prepared to adore a necklace
of big, smooth, delicately graded pearls, with shimmery skins, and a
fat, pear-shaped black pearl drop to dangle below it. Yes, that’s the
real reason I’m making money, Aunt–to buy and wear great ropes of
pearls. Or, who knows, I may have a fancy for a peer. Now, with a
million, I’m told one can buy for marrying purposes a really fine
specimen of peer.”

“There are moments,” said Mrs. Craven sharply, “when I’m very sorry
you’re grown up.”

Kate went across and sat on the arm of the old lady’s chair. “Do you
want to smack me and put me to bed?”

“I’ve done it many a time when you’ve been in this mood.”

“Can you see the black dog on my shoulder?”

“Larger than ever. Kate, you should try and control yourself.”

“Oh, be just, Aunt. I didn’t lie down on the floor and kick or do
anything like that.”

“No, thanks to me you can keep your temper under more decent control
now. Now, don’t you kiss me, and think I’m a silly old woman, and try
to get round me that way–I know exactly how you’re feeling. Oh, you’d
lead any man a dance who married you.”

“I’m certain I should,” said Kate cheerfully, “unless he was the right
one. But, Auntie dear, don’t you think it would be safer not to press
me to marry anyone at all? I give you my word for it that there’s no
one marriageable I want to marry. And if you leave me alone with my
other amusement, that keeps me out of worse mischief.”

At the Prince’s Park house in the old days there had been a room known
as the Master’s study. It had no books in it whatever, because the
excellent Godfrey disliked books. It had a writing-desk certainly, but
never even an inkpot on it to indicate use. There was just a
card-table and some early Victorian furniture of hard, uncompromising
ugliness. In short, it was not the Master’s study at all, but it
emphatically was his card-room.

It remained in its original state till Kate’s return from the Coast,
and then she begged it from her Aunt, who gave it gladly.

“I want a place where I can type a letter,” Kate had said, “and have a
copying press, without going down to Water Street. They begin to stare
at me down there, and I hate it. No one objects to a girl being in
business if she is merely a clerk, but if she gets hold of big
successes, well, the men aren’t nice about it. If I find it answers, I
may lay on a secretary.”

So she emptied the room and furnished it afresh, and Mrs. Craven’s
heart warmed as she saw the girl’s natural craving for a home express
itself in chairs and pictures, in pretty wall hangings and dainty
carpets, in graceful flower-bowls, and all those little touches of
domesticity which are the mysterious outcome of sex. There was, it
turned out, a small box-room alongside, which was never used, and which
could be linked up by a door knocked through the wall. This could be
the secretary’s room, and hold the letter files, and the copying press,
and the typewriter, and all the other crude machinery of commerce; and
so “Miss Kate’s room,” as it came to be called, fulfilled in appearance
little enough of its original intention of office.

One can hardly associate walls panelled in rose-pink brocade with the
much-abused art of company promotion. But Kate sat in that pretty
room, and thought out there all those tremendous schemes, which brought
her such brilliant success. She felt she had retired from the firing
line; she schemed and planned in secure cover outside the battle; and
when any idea eluded her for too long she went out and drove her motor
car, or played golf, till the idea arrived. In the season she
sometimes went away on butterfly-hunting trips. At the same time she
had great ideas of buying an estate where she could have a private golf
course of her own. She had grown so strangely sensitive to stares
these days, and, people said, unsociable. Her engagement to Mr. Austin
had been broken off long ago, and to tell the truth Austin was well
enough pleased to be rid of her. Africa, he felt, had eliminated from
her all the points which beforetime had caught his admiration. And
then again she was so enormously rich one could not, he told himself,
marry a woman with such an unwieldy amount of riches. At least he
could not. Nor did he intend that the future Mrs. Austin, if ever
there was one, should have more practice in high finance than was
necessary to manage her own accounts and the household weekly bills.

In fact, it was over this question that he flattered himself had come
their split. She had given him, to be sure, a pretty broad hint that
day on the landing stage, but the actual rupture of their engagement
had not come till a week later, and Kate was clever enough to make Mr.
Austin think that the idea was his and his alone. Still they had
parted on excellent terms, and any service, professional or otherwise,
that Austin could render her in the future was one that he should look
forward to, as he promised, most keenly.

“Though you cannot see your way to be my husband,” she had said to him
lightly, “you will still upon occasion act as my solicitor?”

“Let’s call it ‘friend,’ Kate,” he had answered, and they parted on

But that day, after Aunt Jane had showed her the Carter leader in the
paper, Kate went to her room, and somehow her thoughts went back to
Henry Austin. She tried to analyze why she had ever got engaged to
him. As far as she could define it, a sort of empty space, a partial
vacuum, had come into her life, and Austin appeared, and in a tentative
way seemed to fill it. Now that he was gone, the vacuum returned. It
did not exactly ache, but it caused a vague discomfort that annoyed
her, and when she demanded a cure, something within her kept repeating,
“Carter, Carter, Carter!”

She resented this clamor. She told herself that she was a strong
woman. She refused to have her hand forced. She declined to allow an
ex-employe of her own to be forced into her life as its only
complement. And still that inner something, with irritating
persistency, kept repeating, “Carter, Carter,” and then got
unpleasantly familiar, and began to murmur: “George.”

She stood it for an hour, stood for that time persistent, inward voices
urging her, with never a falter, to one narrow course, and then she got
up from her great cushioned chair and went to an old Sheraton bureau.
Only one narrow drawer in it was locked, and she carried the key of
that amongst the charms on her watch-bangle. She opened the drawer and
took from it a photograph.

It was only a steamer group, crudely taken by an amateur on a kodak
film, a very imperfect thing at its best, and mottled now by the
persistent West African mildew. A piece of brown paper with a hole in
it was in the same drawer, a mask so cut that it blocked out all of the
group except one individual. She fitted this into place and gazed her
fill on this very crude presentment of George Carter.

[Illustration: She gazed her fill on this very crude presentment of
George Carter.]

Well, at any rate he was not a handsome man. But there was something
about even this indifferent photograph that gave her a great thrill.
It touched some inward chord that no other power on earth could set
into vibration, and she was discomforted thereby.

The gong went for dinner. She ignored it. A servant came
presently–she had added to the number of servants at the Prince’s Park
house and Mrs. Craven accepted the alteration passively–and the
servant most respectfully stated that dinner would be served in ten
minutes, and was not Miss Kate going up to dress? But Miss Kate was
busy and would have a cup of tea and a sandwich.

Mrs. Craven below got the news, smiled grimly, and ate an extremely
good dinner. She felt a fine satisfaction in having set to work
exactly the right influences which would bring that ridiculous Kitty to
her senses.

But upstairs, in the prettiest room in Liverpool, Kate wrestled with
Fate. She pictured the man that the mask singled out of the group: Red
hair, a dogged jaw, ill-cut clothes, and, upon occasion, a man who used
the language more fitted to an underpaid stevedore. She had overheard
Carter discoursing to the factory at large that night of the false
alarm at Mokki, when he chided the Portuguese and the factory boys in
phrases learned from Swizzle-Stick Smith. Was this the man she had
ever fancied for a husband? No, a thousand times no.

She locked the group and the mask once more into its drawer, and went
back to her cushions and a novel. There was still another great rubber
company on the brink of flotation. This time the pugilistic Mr. Smith
had procured for her the grant of the land, and had assured her that
the King of Okky, thanks to his recent improvement in morals, would see
that the title remained unchallenged. The proposition was, she
honestly believed, commercially sound, but the risk lay in the British
Public. Were they loaded up with rubber stock? That was the point to
decide. So far she had not had a share of her companies underwritten,
in spite of abundant and pressing offers. But here was an awkward
question to decide: Should she insure this issue, or should she risk
having it not taken up, and invite a fiasco?

She tried with cold logic to reason out the arguments for and against,
and to strike a balance between them. But for once her brain refused
to act. Even the novel, which she read and did not absorb, did not
offer her the necessary hint. It was an old trick of hers, this
reading of a dozen chapters of weak fiction, to get an inspiration, and
so far it had never failed her. She was an omnivorous novel reader.
She went through quite two-thirds of the fiction brought out annually
by British publishers, and could never, next morning, have passed the
easiest examination in a novel she had read the night before. But all
her clever business ideas were evolved when she was reading these
paltry books.

At last she could endure the vague things that oppressed her no longer.
She dropped the book on the floor. And then she got up and went into
the secretary’s narrow room next door. She found cable forms and sat
at a table. Then she wrote glibly enough this message.

“_Burgoyne, Monk River, West Africa, Forward this to Cascaes Mokki
special runner want you act our agent Las Palmas_ 2,400 _commence cable
acceptance or refusal, O’Neill._”

She counted up the words, laid down her pencil, and laughed. “At any
rate,” she said, “that will give one a chance. And George was fool
enough to think that Mr. Cascaes was running after me. Oh, I have no
patience with men who can’t see further through the fog than that.”

It was Captain Image returning red and wrathful from an unsuccessful
cargo foray amongst the southern and eastern factories that Carter met
the day after his arrival at the Coast. The mariner had heard of the
deal at Mokki, and felt personally affronted that a nest of cargo which
he had already looked upon as his own should have been handed over once
more to the Germans.

“So you’re on the beach, are you,” said he, looking Carter up and down
with vast disapproval. “I must say you look it. I’ve seen old
Swizzle-Stick Smith come down after a jaunt in the bush and I thought
he couldn’t be beat for general shagginess and rags. But you give him
points. What did Miss Kate bounce you for?”

“I believe I resigned.”

“Same thing. And now you’ve come to ask me to take you home as a
distressed British subject, I suppose. Well, Carter-me-lad, a deck
passage is your whack according to consular understanding, but you’ve
sat in my chart house and you’ve sent me cargo, and so I’m going to put
my hand in my own breeches pocket and take you home in the second
class. And I tell you what: Chips and the bo’s’n have got a shop in
the foc’s’le that I’m not supposed to know about, and if you care to go
in there and get enough rig out to see you home, I’ll foot the bill.”

“You’re very good—-”

“I know I am. It puts me about five weeks further off that hen farm
outside Cardiff that I want to retire onto, being good like this.
There, run away out of this chart house, me-lad, and tell the chief
steward to give you a square blow-out of white-man’s chop one-time.
I’m sure you need it. I never saw a man with so much of the lard
stewed off him.”

Carter laughed. “Will you let me slip a word in? I’ve cargo for you.”

“What! You!”

“I’m afraid you won’t hook much commission out of it, Cappie, as you’ll
have to take it at ballast rates.”

“Catch me.”

“But there’ll be about seventy tons of it as far as I can reckon.”

“My Christian Aunt! do you tell me, Carter-me-lad, that you’ve
scratched up seventy tons of cargo? Here, sit down. No, sit down.
Don’t talk. I’m not going to have you going away and calling the
_M’poso_ a dry ship.”

Captain Image had no tariff rate for tin ore, but he invented one with
great readiness, and then knocked off ten per cent. by way of
encouraging a new industry. “Now, where is this mine of yours?” he
asked genially. “Tell me, and I warrant I’ll find you an easier way to
bring your produce than paddling it in dugouts.”

“Up the river.”

“Well, let’s look at your charts, me-lad.”

Carter shook his head.

“Why, how’s that? Haven’t you made one?”

“Oh, I’ve made one right enough, but it’s inside my skull and out of
public view.”

“H’m,” said Image. “Don’t want any competitors, eh, Carter-me-lad?”

“Why should I?”

“Well, drink up, and let me fill your glass. Here, have another squirt
of bitters.”

“No, thanks, Cappie, no more. I drank enough champagne with the King
of Okky to last me months. I’ve got a lot of big business ahead of me
and I want a clear head. Now, if you take this consignment of tin ore
home for me, and rob me as little as you can help over freight, what’s
next? Swansea and a smelter, I suppose?”

“They’re a bit Welsh down in Swansea,” said Captain Image, who came
from Cardiff himself. “They’ll do with a trifle of looking after.
What you want’s a smart agent.”

“The thing I want first and soonest is cash. Now, look here, Cappie,
you know Swansea, and you’re fond, by the Coast account, of a bit of
commission. Well, here’s a nice lump of it on offer. If you’ll get
some smelter firm to buy this parcel of ore on assay, and pay cash for
it, I’ll give you five per cent. on what you raise.”

“It’s a deal. You couldn’t have come to a better man, Carter-me-lad.
I’ll open you an account at the Bank of West Africa—-”

“And get the whole balance cabled out here?”

“I was going to suggest that,” said Captain Image, doubtfully, “if you
hadn’t rushed me so. But you won’t want the lot. Now, with fifty
pounds or so—-”

“I want every sixpence. Man, do you think I’m going to nibble at my
cake now it’s been given me? Kallee’s straight, I firmly believe. But
what’s his life worth?”

Captain Image shook his head. “Very heavy drinker even for a darky,
and of course he hasn’t a white man’s advantages in knowing the use of

“Besides, there are the usual risks of kings and of Africa. He’s put
down the local anarchist. He cooked the only two who tried to
assassinate him, and took a day about it over slow fire, and that
discouraged the breed in Okky. But still there are risks. So that
altogether he’s not a good life, and if he was to go out, it’s quite on
the cards his heirs, successors, and assigns might not recognize my

“You’re right, me-lad. What you’ve got to do is to rip the guts out of
that mine at the biggest pace possible, and I’ll bring in the _M’poso_
round here to load every time I come along the Coast.”

Carter nearly laughed. He knew the capacity of his mine–quarry, it
was, rather–and the hold space of the little _M’poso_. Tin was
wavering about just under £176 per ton just then; he had reckoned that
he could produce for £10 a ton; and the more profit he could get, the
more pleased he would be. But he was not afraid of bringing down the
price; he had plenty of margin for a cut. His only fear was that the
river road might be stopped before he had made his fortune. And he
intended to empty the veins of Tin Hill at the highest speed that all
the strained resources of Africa were capable of, and if necessary to
keep three steamers the size of the little _M’poso_ ferrying his riches
across to the markets. But he did not let out any word of this to
Image. If the locality and the enormous wealth of this mine were to
leak out, nothing could prevent a rush. At the existing moment he was
penniless, and in any great influx of capital and men must inevitably
be swamped. Secrecy was essentially his game for the present.

So he accepted Captain Image’s proposal in the spirit in which it was
made, and then put forward feelers for a steam launch. Was there such
a thing already on the Coast that one could pick up cheap just then?

Captain Image lit a thoughtful pipe. “I don’t know of any little
steamboat that you could buy just now out here, cheap or dear. There
are one or two in Sarry Leone, certainly, but they are all either too
big for your job or too tender to bring round the Coast.”

“I’m a bit of mechanic, you know. I wouldn’t mind nursing engines. My
boy, White-Man’s-Trouble, too, would make, according to his own
account, a pretty decent second engineer.”

“Oh, I know him. Used to be stand-by-at-crane boy on the _Secondee_,
and stole everything that wasn’t nailed down. But you’d never get one
of those Sarry Leone wrecks round here without being drowned in the
process. I tell you what, though. D’ye know anything about motor
cars, me lad?”

“Why?” asked Carter, who had never handled one in his life.

“Because at Dutton and Maidson’s factory at Copper River they’ve got an
old wreck of an oil launch, if she hasn’t rotted and sunk at moorings,
that you could have cheap.”

“Everything cheap is dear to me just now. I haven’t a penny in my
pocket. But what do you mean by cheap?”

“Well, she certainly wasn’t out in the river the last three times I
called, but I did hear they’d hauled her up a creek. But if she hasn’t
sunk at moorings, and the ants haven’t walked off with her, I should
think you could get the bits that rust couldn’t eat for three ten-pound

“Does she burn gasolene?”

“No, ordinary canned paraffin. I know that was supposed to be the
great point about her when she was brought out. Only trouble was, she
didn’t seem to be an amateurs’ boat at all, and after the first week or
so there wasn’t a soul in the factory that could get her to steam at
all. So they tied her up to a buoy and did their business in the old
dugouts and the surf boats as formerly.”

“I wonder if the old chief has got an emery wheel down in your engine

Captain Image stared at this change of subject, and ran a finger round
inside his collar to shift the perspiration. “What do you want an
emery wheel for? Sharpen your wits on?”

“No, my razor. If I go and try and buy a motor launch with this red
wool on my chin, they’ll take me for the wild man down from the back of
beyond and stick up the price.”

“Quite right. You’ve a very sound business mind, Carter-me-lad. You
can, I believe, get a very sound thing in razors for a shilling at that
fo’c’sle shop if Chips is still keeping one, and whilst I was buying I
should get a bottle or two of Eno, if I were you. Capital thing to
keep your liver down to gauge.”

“I want to get all these things,” said Carter emphatically. “I
daresay, indeed, I should like to buy up practically the whole of
Chips’ remaining stock, partly for my own use and partly to take up
country. But the fact still remains unaltered that until I can get an
advance against bills of lading, I am without a copper in my pocket. I
suppose that greedy hound Balgarnie is the man to see about finance,

“He is a greedy hound, Carter-me-lad, between you and me. Let me fill
up your glass. No, don’t put your hand across it. Well, I’ll finish
the bottle if you won’t. You’re open, just as a matter of form, to
giving a lien on that cargo you’re shipping? Just as a matter of form,
of course, in case you peg out before things can be squared up?”

“Certainly, and I’m willing to give five per cent. per month for the

“Oh, come now, me-lad, ten per cent.’s the usual. But I don’t want to
be stiff with an old friend like you, so we’ll call it seven and a
half.” Captain Image went to the drawer under the chart table and
unlocked it. “Come, now, say what you want. Anywhere up to fifty

“I couldn’t possibly do with less than a hundred,” said Carter
definitely, and with that they began openly to wrangle. But it turned
out that Captain Image, even with the help of his financial partner,
Mr. Balgarnie, could only raise seventy-four sovereigns, and with that
the other had to be content. He gave his bond, and stood at the head
of the _M’poso’s_ ladder ready to go back to his boat. But Captain
Image with genuine hospitality dragged him back.

“I’m not going to let you go like this, me lad. I’ve one turkey left
in the refrigerator, and if you peg out afterwards up those beastly
rivers, I’d always like to think I’d stood you one good dinner when the
chance came in my way. Come now, Carter-me-lad; turkey-chop? There’s
not another skipper on the Coast that would make you an offer like

Carter laughed and gave in, and turned towards the flesh-pots. He did
not like turkey. Once in Upper Wharfedale his father had come home
from Skipton with thirty turkey poults, which the family reared with
very vast care, and thereafter had to eat. Turkey once per annum is a
luxury; twice cloys; but thirty times, when legs follow breast, and
wings are succeeded by side-bones, would weary any man living. But by
custom in West Africa, turkey from a steamer’s refrigerator is the
height of luxury, and Carter recognized the hospitable motive.

Captain Image, when mellowed by food and wine that night, talked of
Miss Kate O’Neill, and Carter behind an elaborate indifference listened
with a hungry interest. She was floating rubber companies it appeared
with enormous success. She had very nearly been engaged to a law-sharp
named Austin, but had got out of it in time. She was reported in
Liverpool to be struck on some palm oil clerk on the Coast, but Captain
Image proclaimed that to be rot, and what did Carter-me-lad think?

“Well, of course, there was Cascaes,” said Carter judicially, “but I
don’t see there was anyone else. All the rest of the men she met out
here were either married or engaged.”

But George Carter whistled cheerfully to the stars as his boat-boys
paddled him up through the steaming mangroves to his abiding place that
night, and Mr. Balgarnie and Captain Image nudged one another
delightedly as they listened to his music.

Button and Maidson’s launch, that ought to have served the factory in
Copper River, turned out upon inspection to be even worse than Captain
Image had forecasted, and the agent in charge was most enthusiastic in
accepting the two five-pound notes that were offered for her. And
thereafter for Carter and White-Man’s-Trouble began a period of savage

The white man was a mechanic born, but he had never seen an oil engine
in his life, knew nothing of clutch, water-jackets, or reversing gear,
and had to make his first acquaintanceship with a carburetor. The men
at the factory were frankly ignorant of the launch’s mechanism; said so
indeed before they sold her.

“But I know we have got a plan-thing of the works stowed away
somewhere,” the agent stated. “Can you understand a machine from
seeing a drawing?”

“Rather,” said Carter.

“Well, we’ll find it,” said the agent, and they wasted two days in
turning over every scrap of paper the factory contained, but the blue
prints refused to discover themselves.

“Let you off your bargain if you like,” said the agent ruefully, when
the place had been searched through without success.

“Not a bit,” said Carter. “Lend me a couple of boys and I’ll take
those engines down and learn ’em for myself.”

Now, to anyone who does not know the hot, steamy climate of a West
African river from personal experience, the manner in which unguarded
ironwork can decay would sound beyond the borderland of fact. A nut
left long enough on a bolt in that moist stew of heat does not always
rust fast. As often as not, when one takes hold of it with a spanner,
the whole thing crumbles away into oxide.

The forty-five-foot launch, when Carter first took her over, lay half
water-logged in the middle of a slimy creek. She was an open boat with
her engines housed under a wooden hutch aft, which had been further
reinforced by some rotten tarpaulin. She had no in-board reversing
gear, but was fitted with a feathering propeller, which if all went
well would drive her astern.

As she lay there she was a perfect picture of what could be done by
neglect and ignorant handling, and there was not another man then
resident under that enervating West African climate who would have
thought her worthy of salvage. But Carter had got just that dogged
drop in him that brings men out to the front, and he proceeded to clean
up the launch’s meagre tools and her spares, to borrow what others he
could from the factory, and then to attack the engines. It was here
that the prodigiousness of his job first displayed itself. The
brasswork was sound enough–even West Africa could not eat into
that–but everything iron was spongy with rust, and he had to set up a
forge, and weld and shape afresh, out of any scrap he could find about
the factory, each part as he destroyed it.

There was no such thing as a lathe about the place; there were not even
taps and dies. He had to punch slots through his bolts and tighten
them up with forged and filed wedges. For the out-board work on the
feathering propeller he put the launch on the bank and worked up to his
armpits in the stinking slime, fitting, drilling, and rivetting with
his imperfect tools.

The labor and the exposure very naturally brought its reward in a sharp
dose of fever, but White-Man’s-Trouble attended to that after the
manner of the heathen, and he emerged from it little the worse, and
bore with composure the derision of the other Europeans at the factory
when they saw his whitened eyesockets.

The engines were not ornamental when he had finished with them, and
they were cumbered with a hundred make-shifts; but when he gave the
whole a final inspection, he told himself that no vital part had
escaped a satisfactory repair. By a merciful chance there was tube
ignition, and after a good deal of manipulation he got the burners to
light. Then when the bunsens roared and the tubes glowed hot in their
cage, he and the Krooboys ground at the starting handle and turned the
engines till the sweat ran from them in rivulets. In England Carter
had heard without understanding that internal combustion liked their
“right mixture.” He was thoroughly practised in finding the right
mixture for that elderly oil engine before it coughed itself into any
continuous activity.

The heavy oil for lubricating that had originally been sent out,
Messrs. Dutton and Maidson’s agent still had in stock because, as he
explained, he had found no possible means of disposing of it, and the
ordinary commercial square tins of paraffin were part of the wares they
always held in quantity. So Carter was able to buy fuel, in all
abundance, for his voyage. Food also he laid in, and a great roll of
canvas, and then turned to his host to say good-bye.

“Wait a bit, man,” said the agent, “and we’ll build you a cabin out of
that canvas that will keep at least the thick of the dew off you at
nights. There are sockets along the gunwales for awning stanchions
that will carry bamboo side-poles capitally, and we can lash duplicate
roof-plates across and rig you a double-roofed tent in style.”

“Very much obliged,” said Carter, “but I won’t wait for that now. I
intend to do it as we go up river. You’ll notice I have shipped a big
bundle of bamboos for the woodwork. Good-bye.”

“You seem in the devil of a hurry.”

“I am. Good-bye. Now then, Trouble, shove over that reversing lever
to make the boat go ahead. Confound you, that’s astern, you bushman.
There, that’s better. Good-bye all.”

“Good-bye, and good luck,” said the agent, and he told his subordinates
at supper that night that another good, keen man had gone off to
disappear in Africa.

But Carter was developing into one of those tough, tactful fellows that
people call lucky because they always seem to succeed in whatever they
set a hand to. When the flood tide was under her, the launch coughed
her way up the great beer-colored river at a rate that sometimes
touched ten knots to the hour. She added her own scents of half-burned
paraffin and scorched lubricating oil to the crushed-marigold odor of
the water, and disgusted all the crocodiles who pushed up their ugly
snouts to see what came between the wind and their nobility. On the
ebb she still hauled up past the mangroves at a good steady two miles
every hour.

The engine, with rational treatment, seemed a very decent sort of
machine, though the feathering propeller, even till its final days, was
always liable to moods of uncertainty, and after twenty-four hours of
sending the launch ahead, would without any warning suddenly begin to
pull her astern. Still these erratic moods always yielded to
treatment, and, considering that she had been bought without a rag of
reputation, Carter was always full of surprise at prolonged spells of
good behavior.

He did not go up direct as he had come down in the King of Okky’s sixty
man-power war canoe. He prospected the labyrinth of waterways for
other channels, and charted them out with infinite care. He intended
to take every possible precaution for preserving the secrecy of his
mine. Even if he was followed, and he took it for granted that on some
future voyage he presently would be followed, he wanted to be able to
puzzle pursuit.

At a point agreed upon he put into a village which sprawled along the
bank, and presented the King’s mandate, and demanded canoes. The
villagers gave them without enthusiasm and without demur. He took
these in tow, great cotton-wood dugouts that would hold a hundred men
apiece, and hauled them after him, winding through great tree-hedged
waterways where twilight reigned half the day, and then coming out
between vast park-like savannas where the sun scorched them unchecked
and grazing deer tempted the rifle.

When he arrived at Tin Hill again, the King’s finger had left a visible
mark. Great heaps of picked ore lay along the waterside ready for
loading the flotilla. “Good man, Kallee!” said the Englishman
appreciatively. “I’ll dash you a new state umbrella for that.”

The water-bellows organ that he had set up at the foot of the waterfall
bellowed out its _boo-paa-bumm_, and against each of the great bamboo
pipes there fluttered a bunch of red-dyed feathers to show that that
other ju-ju man, his majesty of Okky, countersigned the warning not to
unduly trespass.

* * * * *

Cargo after cargo Carter rushed down to the Coast, and dumped on land
he had hired behind a factory. Ever and again he sent a tidy parcel of
ore to a smelter in England and in due time had more money put to his
credit at the Bank of West Africa. But he did not try any expensive
tricks with the home tin market just then. He had got out a new
launch, a more solid affair this time, driven by a sixty horse-power
gasolene engine that had low-tension magneto ignition, and so many
other improvements on its predecessor, that White-Man’s-Trouble, who
had it in charge, tied a dried monkey’s paw to the compression cock on
each cylinder head, as an extra special protective ju-ju.

He carried a cook and an oil-stove galley, and at last even bought two
tin plates and a knife and fork to assist his meals. He felt it was
pandering to luxury, but he did it all the same. When he made that
purchase he wondered how he would behave in a woman’s society after so
long living as a savage. As an after-thought he told himself that
Laura was the woman he had in his mind, and hoped he would not shock
her with his crudities. By way of carrying out good intentions to the
full, he sat down there and then and wrote to her, and marvelled to
find how little he had to say.

Then one day he came across Slade.

A canoe drew in alongside as he was towing down river with his tenth
cargo, and brought off a note which said that there was a white man
ashore who had run out of everything and would be eternally grateful
for any European food that could be spared, and would gladly give him
I.O.U. for same, as he was out of hard cash at the moment of writing,
and had mislaid his check-book.

Carter had his misgivings, but sent off a goodly parcel of food and
tobacco, and continued his way down stream. But the channel was new to
him–he had a suspicion of being watched on his ordinary route–and he
ran on a sandbar on an ebbing tide, and the heavily laden dugouts were
soon perched high and dry. So White-Man’s-Trouble switched off his
magneto and stopped the engines, and Carter put a hand under the gauze
net to greet his prospective father-in-law.

Slade looked curiously at both the launch and her tow. “You’ve been
getting hold of a gold mine of sorts, I hear. By the way, as you’ve
arranged to start work as my son-in-law, I suppose I ought to get more
familiar and call you Henry, or whatever it is.”

“George, as a matter of fact.”

“I believe you’re right. George is what Laura did say. My mistake.
Where is your gold mine?”

“It’s tin. And it’s up the rivers.”

“Oh, keep it dark, my dear fellow, if you like. Not that it makes the
smallest odds as far as I am concerned. You’d never catch me sweating
after a mine. Besides, as a point of fact, I’m doing pretty well at my
present job. Getting rubber properties, you know, for the mysterious

“Miss O’Neill.”

“Oh, certainly, Miss O’Neill, if you prefer it, though I don’t see why
you need be a prig with me.”

“My late employer, you know.”

“Ah, of course. And you admired her more than a little, so I gathered
from Laura’s letters, though she carefully refrained from saying so.”

Carter pulled himself through the mosquito bar and hit the edge of the
bunk. “Now, look here, Slade, I’ve known you ever since I’ve been on
the Coast, but this is the first time we’ve met on the new footing. I
don’t want to quarrel with my prospective father-in-law, but, by
Christopher, if you don’t leave Miss O’Neill out of the tale as far as
I’m concerned, there’s going to be a row. Kindly remember I’m engaged
to Laura, and intend to marry her whether you like it or whether you

Slade laughed. “Nice filial sort of statement, that; but don’t mind
me. If you suit Laura’s taste, I’ll swallow you, too. I’m sure you’ll
be pleased to hear that I’m making a goodish thing of it myself just
now. Kate–I beg your pardon–Miss O’Neill pays me my regular screw,
and in addition gives me a nice sum down on every property I’ve bought
for her, and a tidy block of shares when there’s a company floated. I
shall be able to give you and Laura a decent wedding present–in
script. By the way, is she at Smooth River?”

“No, Grand Canary.”

Slade stiffened. “How’s that?”

“Africa wasn’t safe for her. You ought to be dam’ well ashamed of
yourself for leaving her here. You knew the danger from old Kallee a
big sight better than she did. And you left her without a cent to get
away with and not an ounce of credit.”

“Then,” said Slade stiffly, “do I understand that she’s gone to the
islands at your expense?”

“You can understand what you please,” said Carter truculently.

“Are you married to her?”

“I am not at present. I shall be as soon as it suits Laura’s
convenience and my own.”

“You will kindly understand that I resent your interference with my
finances and my daughter’s.”

“You may resent,” said the prospective son-in-law, “till you’re black
in the face, and I shan’t lose sleep over it.”

Bang went something outside, and Slade started. “Good Lord,” he said,
“there’s somebody firing at us. Sit down, man, on the floor.”

“Nothing of the kind,” said Carter testily. “My boy Trouble has got
the engines going to try to work us off this bank, and with his usual
cleverness he has contrived a back fire, that’s all. There–you can
smell it. Now, I don’t think you are a quarrelsome man as a general

“Not I. Too much trouble to quarrel with people.”

“Well, I’ll just ask you to give Laura and myself your benediction, and
leave the rest to us.”

Slade let off his limp laugh. “If a wedding present of such dubious
value will please you, I’m most pleased to give it. Especially as I
see you’re inclined to stick to my little girl. To tell the truth, I’d
heard you were after somebody else and it made me rather mad. You know
how rumors float about in the bush.”

Carter’s lips tightened. “Who’s the other person, please?”

“Oh, just my present employer–and your late one. But I’ve no doubt
it’s all a mistake.”

“If you’ll apply to her, I’ve no doubt she’ll endorse that sentiment
most thoroughly. I don’t think Miss O’Neill’s a person to throw
herself away on one of her own ex-servants.”

Slade chuckled. “If you put it that way, I’m sure she isn’t. By the
way, do you know who she is?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I suppose you’ve discovered by this time that the late Godfrey
O’Neill was a bachelor, and Kate’s no relation to him at all. He and
his sister Jane, who married a hopeless blackguard called Craven,
adopted her between them and brought her up. I’ve never fagged myself
to find out how she was bred, but you’re one of these energetic fellows
that like to dig into pedigrees, and I thought probably you’d know.”

“I don’t know, and I shan’t inquire.”

“All right, don’t get excited about it, neither shall I. D’ye know I
think if you could soften that genial manner without straining
yourself, it would be an improvement. I’m led to believe that
fathers-in-law expect a civility and even at times a certain mild
amount of deference.”

“Did you defer to your father-in-law?” asked Carter brutally.

The tone was insulting and the meaning plain, and ninety-nine men out
of a hundred in a similar place would have resented it fiercely. But
Slade merely yawned. His sallow face neither twitched nor changed its
tint. He got up and stretched himself lazily. “So that’s the trouble,
is it? Well, you didn’t ask me to consult you when I chose a wife, and
I didn’t ask you to fall in love with my daughter.” He turned his head
and eyed Carter thoughtfully–“You are in love with her, I suppose?”

“Can you suggest any other possible reason why I should ask her to
marry me?”

“Well, I can hardly imagine you did it for the honor of an alliance
with me. I suppose if I were an energetic man I should try and worry
out what it is you’re so sore about. It must be something beyond the
detail that Laura’s got a touch of color in her, because of course you
knew that from the first moment you met her. But I guess the something
else will show itself in its own good time. In the meanwhile if you’ll
give me an account of what you advanced to Laura for this Grand Canary
trip, I’ll give you an I.O.U. for it. I don’t care to be indebted to
anyone for things like that.”

“I’ll perhaps send in the bill when I hear there’s a possibility of
getting cash payment,” said Carter dryly.

And then for the first time Slade lost his temper, and he cursed his
future son-in-law with all an old Coaster’s point and fluency. Every
man has his tender point, and here was Owe-it Slade’s. Throughout all
his life he had never paid a bill if he could help it, and he had
accepted the consequent remarks of injured parties with an easy
philosophy. But it seemed he owned a nice discrimination; some items
were “debts of honor,” and these he had always sooner or later
contrived to settle. And the account which he decided he owed Carter
for Laura’s maintenance in Grand Canary he set down as one which no
gentleman could leave unpaid without besmirching his gentility.

Now, as the servant of O’Neill and Craven, Carter had done his work
well and indeed enthusiastically, and after he had left the firm’s
employ he had neither competed with them in business nor done them harm
in any way whatever. It is true that at his memorable interview with
the King of Okky with a little persuasion he could have got that
grateful monarch to take off the embargo which he had laid on the
factories at Monk, Malla-Nulla, and Smooth River, though the fact that
he did not put forward pressure on this point could hardly have reached
the ear of Miss O’Neill. Indeed it is to be doubted if she ever knew
that any reference to her name or affairs cropped up at all.

But be that as it may, she certainly from the date of sending her cable
to Cascaes began to interest herself in opposing Carter’s schemes.

The first he knew of it was a typewritten letter from Liverpool on the
firm’s note-paper beginning “Dear sir,” and ending “O’Neill & Craven,
per K. O’Neill.” In arid business sentences it understood he had “a
tin-mining proposition up Smooth River,” it pointed out that “our firm
for many years has had very far-reaching interests in this
neighborhood,” and it suggested that O’Neill and Craven should buy the
mine “to prevent any clash of interests.”

Carter replied to this curtly enough that Tin Hill was not in the
market, and took the next boat home to Liverpool. He had picked up a
distressed merchant skipper named Kettle, and put him in charge of the
motor boat, and the canoes, and the mining work generally, and though
in their short interview he decided that Kettle was the most tactless
man in Africa, he believed him to be honest, and instinctively knew him
to be capable.

“One thing I must ask,” he said at the end of their talk, “and that is
that you do not try any proselytizing up here. Your creed, I have no
doubt, is very excellent at home, but out here where they are either
Moslemin or nothing it will only stir up disputes, and that I won’t
have. Is that quite agreed?”

“I have learned, sir,” said the sailor, “to obey orders to the letter
even though I know them to be against an owner’s best interests.”

“Um,” said Carter, and stared at him thoughtfully. “Well, Captain, I
think it would be safest if you went on those lines. You will find
your chief engineer, who carries the name of White-Man’s-Trouble,
beautifully unreliable in most things, but he understands the launch’s
engines wonderfully, and I like him. I’d take it as a favor if you’d
deal with him as lightly as possible.”

“I’ll bear your words in mind, sir, though, as a man who has handled
everything colored that serves afloat, I’d like to point out that
pampering spoils them.”

“The only other point to remember is that I’ve made my name up these
rivers mainly by being known as a ju-ju man–sort of wizard, in fact.
You’ll have no difficulty, I suppose, in following up that line now
I’ve given you the hint?”

“You’ll pardon me, sir, but if that’s made an essential, I must chuck
up the job, sorely in need of employment as I am at the moment. I have
my conscience to consider. And besides as a liar I am the poorest kind
of failure.”

“Pooh, man, it’s only a little acting that’s required.”

“Mr. Carter,” said the sailor still more stiffly, “you see in me a man
who’s sunk very low, but I’ve never descended yet to working as a
theatrical. According to our Persuasion, we hold that play acting is
one degree less wicked than bigamy, and indeed often leads to it.”

“Well,” said Carter, “that mail-boat sails in half an hour’s time, and
I’ve got to go by her. I’ve been building on you, Captain, as the most
trustworthy man now knocking about in West Africa.”

“I’m all that, sir.”

“So I shall have to respect your scruples and give you the billet.”

“You shall never regret it for one minute, sir. You’ll find the
address of Mrs. Kettle on this slip of paper, and if you’ll post
three-quarters of my wages to her as they fall due, I’d take it as a
favor. I’ve been out of–well, I won’t pester you with domestic
matters, sir, but the fact is I’m afraid she must be in very poor
circumstances just at the moment.”

“She shall have a check posted the day after I land in Liverpool. I
give you my word for that.”

“I thank you, Mr. Carter. Now, if you wanted another officer, there’s
a Mr. McTodd, an engineer who’s just now at Akassa, that I could get.”

“Thanky, Captain, but not for me.”

“I believe I could persuade him to take a low wage.”

“Not for me, Captain. I know McTodd. He’s far too thirsty and far too
cantankerous. You’d find him a ugly handful.”

“Me! By James, sir, I can handle that swine in a way that would
surprise you. He’s had a bad up-bringing; he belongs to the Free Kirk;
but after I’ve had the manipulation of Mr. McTodd for a week, I can
make him as mild as Norwegian Swiss milk.”

“Well, we’ll say ‘not for the present,’ at any rate. With the
organization I’ve got together, and the backing from the King of Okky
that I’ve told you about, you’ll be able to haul down all the available
ore if you follow out my instructions, and when it comes to bonus,
Captain, if you’ve been successful, you’ll find me a generous
paymaster. I don’t toil for nothing myself. I work about ten times as
hard as my neighbors, and draw in about seventeen times as much pay. I
like a man who has got the same ambitions.”

The little sailor sighed. “I’ve always done ten times the normal whack
of work, sir, but somehow I’ve missed fingering the dibs. I tell you
flat, fourteen pounds a month has been good for me, and month in and
month out I’ve not averaged ten.”

“Then, if that’s the case,” said Carter briskly, “just here should come
the turn in your fortunes. Shake hands, Captain. Good-bye to you,
good health and good luck. Here’s my surf boat. The steamer’s heaving

“Good-bye, sir,” said Kettle, “I’m sure you’ll remember to send that

* * * * *

The mail-boat called as usual at Las Palmas and was boarded on arrival
by the usual batch of invalids and Liverpool trippers for the run home.
Carter landed as soon as the port doctor gave clearance papers, rowed
to the mole and chartered a tartana, between whose shafts there drooped
a mouse-colored mule. In it he bumped over the badly laid tram lines
from the Isleta to the city, and then left the city by the Telde road.

Las Palmas is the meeting place of all West Africa, and if one is there
long enough, one expects to meet sooner or later every man who has
business or other interests on the Coast. Carter waved his hand to a
Haûsa constabulary officer in the gateway of the Catalina, and to a
Lagos branch boat skipper who was standing on the steps of the Elder
Dempster office. Coming down from the telegraph station he saw one of
the Germans who had been frightened out of Mokki, and under a café
awning by the dry river bed no less a personage than Burgoyne of Monk
River waved a hospitable hand and invited him to try a glass of Bass.

But further on, where the Telde road leaves the city, he saw a man
whose walk he knew, and instinctively leaned out from the tartana’s
awning to show himself, and to wave a greeting. The man was Cascaes.
But the Senhor Cascaes stared him coolly in the face, and–cut him dead.

The tartana rattled on, and Carter nodded after the Portuguese
thoughtfully. “You have always hated me pretty tenderly,” he mused.
“I wonder why. I’ve hammered you a dozen times, but it’s only been in
the ordinary way of business, and what any half-baked Portuguese has
got to expect. You surely can’t be up against me for that.”

Laura was not living in the convent, but lodged in the house of a
banana farmer just beyond. Carter found her in the garden. She was
sitting on the end of a bench overhung with great lavender clots of
wistaria at one end and shaded by a purple mass of bougainvillea at the
other. He noted with a queer thrill that there was something cold in
the outward form of her greeting.

She returned his kiss accurately enough, but without enthusiasm.
Still, from the moment she saw him, the light came into her eyes that
he had grown to know so well. The two things did not seem somehow or
other to tally. Carter sat himself on the bench and took a good hold
on his nerves. Then he slid an arm round her waist and drew her to
him. “Well,” he said, “out with it. What’s the trouble?”

She dropped her head on his shoulder contentedly enough. “Oh, the
usual. When you’re away from me, dear, I never feel quite certain if I
ought to marry you.”

“Now, that’s awkward, isn’t it? But as I have been up country
colloguing with your other suitor, old Kallee, you couldn’t very well
have been with me there.”

“I wish you hadn’t gone.”

“How delightfully unreasonable! We’d nothing to boil the pot on
before, and now we’ve plenty, and neither of us is a bit the worse.
What’s broke since I’ve been away?”

“The world, I think,” said Laura miserably.

“Then I hope I’m the sticking plaster that will mend it. Now, I want
to hear all about Las Palmas, and what you have been doing. I see most
of West Africa’s here. Great Christopher! but it is fine to smell even
the outside edge of civilization once more. My mother used to get
tired of Wharfedale occasionally–ah, well, but that wouldn’t interest

“No, you always cut yourself short when you begin to talk about your

“Do I? Well, what’s sauce for the gander’s sauce for the goose and
you’re the goose. Did you ever speak to me about your folk? Not one
word, unless I dragged it out. Look here, Laura, are you trying to
wrangle? Because if so, and if it’s my fault, just say what’s the
crime, and give me my licking and get it over. I’ve got a clear
conscience, and I’ll be as penitent as you please.”

“My dear, you’ve been perfect.”

“Oh, I say,” said Carter, “not too sudden. That sort of thing brings
on heart attacks.”

“I know your temptations, and you’ve been an honorable gentleman all

“I wish,” said Carter whimsically, “you could persuade other people to
look at me in that light. A missionary on the steamer yesterday called
me a gin-selling ruffian because I happened to be sitting in his deck
chair; one of the Protectorate officials a week ago accused me of being
a smuggling gun-runner, because I’ve been up country and happened to
get on with the native local headmen instead of scrapping with them,
and Miss K. O’Neill, of our mutual acquaintance, has given me to
understand that if I don’t quit poaching on what she’s pleased to call
O’Neill and Craven’s territory, she’ll run me out of business. To give
her her due I gather she proposes to pay me something to clear out.”

“And you’re going to take it from her?”

“Don’t say ‘her’ so tragically. I’m not going to take anything from
her, or from anyone else. I’ve got a mine, and it’s a nailing good
mine, and I’m going to run it by my lone or bust. It isn’t a thing you
could sell to a company, and besides it isn’t one of those mines one
would care to sell. It’s too good for that. It’s just a fortune for
two people, and one of them is presently going to sign herself Laura

“George, you’re quite the best man on earth.”

“I doubt it myself at times. By the way, who should I see down in Las
Palmas just now but Cascaes. He did me the honor of ignoring my
existence. It wasn’t the unshaved Coast Cascaes either; he’d got a
clean blue chin, and the rest of him was dressed fit to kill. Now,
what is the mysterious Cascaes doing here?”

“He’s O’Neill and Craven’s agent for Grand Canary. I thought you’d

“No, it’s news to me. It’s news, moreover, that they had any business
here that required an agent.”

“They haven’t.”

“Hum,” said Carter. “Miss O’Neill doesn’t pay a salary without getting
value for it. Now this is one of her deep-laid schemes.”

Laura looked at him queerly. “Yes,” she said, “this is one of Kate’s
deep-laid schemes, George. I wonder if you can see through it.”

The sun above them scorched high, and the cool white buildings of the
banana farmer threw the shortest of purple shadows. The fresh breath
of the trade rustled the ferns and the palm leaves of the garden, and
stirred the great masses of the bougainvillea into rhythmical movement.
“It’s grand to be in a place like this after a spell on the Coast,”
said Carter.

“Do you prefer it to England?” Laura asked pointedly.

Carter held down a sigh. “I believe I do,” he said steadily. “Come,
now, old lady, what do you say? Shall we buy a property here in Grand
Canary, and settle down, and grow the finest flower garden in the

“But roses are your favorite flower and they don’t do well here in the

“Oh, it’s roses that my father cares for, at least he and the mater
together run the roses at home. But I think my taste runs more to
bougainvillea, say–and great trees of scarlet geranium with stalks as
thick as one’s leg, and palms, and tree ferns. Besides, a garden means
irrigation here, and I’ve never had a real water-works scheme of my own
to play with since I was a kid and worked out a most wonderful system
by the old smelt mill at home. Yes, we should have great times
gardening out here.”

They had never said so in words, but both of them knew that George
Carter would never take Laura back to England when once he had married
her, and the girl through all her fierce tropical love for him
recognized what this self-denial must cost and valued it to the full.
But presently she brought him back to the matter they had been talking
of before.

“Can’t you see why Kate sent Senhor Cascaes here, George?”

“I haven’t given him another thought. Besides, although Miss O’Neill
is seeing fit to interfere with me, I don’t intend to meddle with her.”

“I think you ought to defend what’s your own.”

“Certainly I shall. Can anyone accuse me of not doing so? But I don’t
see why you keep harping on Cascaes. The man is an open admirer of
Miss O’Neill’s, and I suppose she’s tickled thereby. Anyway that’s the
only reason I can see why she should have provided him with a job.”

“Do you mean to say you think it is Kate the Senhor Cascaes is running

“Certainly I do. Who else was there at Mokki?”

“Do you think I’ve so few attractions then?”

“But, my good girl, you’re engaged to me, and he knew it all along.
There was no secret about our engagement. Everybody about the factory
knew of it.”

“And because a girl is engaged, or even married, do you think that’s
any bar to another man admiring her?”

Carter whistled. “I’ve been a blind ass, and I must say I did refuse
to listen to the highfalutin’ nonsense Cascaes wanted to pour into my
sympathetic ear. How often have you seen him here in Grand Canary?”

“He has called every day.”

“That’s not answering my question.”

“George, dear, give me credit for loyalty. He told me one day when you
were building that fort at Mokki that he liked me, and that if the
Okky-men came he would die cheerfully before any harm should come to
me; and I told him that he had no right to say such things to a girl
who was engaged to you.”

“Why wasn’t I told of this?”

“Because he said to me he had nearly shot you once, and I was afraid
that if there was any trouble, dear, you might be hurt.”

“You could have trusted me,” said Carter dryly, “to keep my end up with
a dago like that. Besides, if you’d given me the tip, I could have
seen to it that I had the drop on him first.”

Laura shivered. “You are rather mediæval. I don’t want to be fought

“Still, I gather from what you say that you’ve been seeing the fellow

“Never when I could help it. Each day I’ve refused to see him when he
came to the house. But he has waited for me when I went out into the
country, and once he was here in the garden, sitting on this very seat,
when I came out after lunch.”

“Does he always tell the same old tale?”

“He says always he wants to marry me.”

“I thought you said you refused to listen to him?”

“George, don’t be unreasonable. I’ve told him over and over again it’s
no use; I’ve gone away every time we’ve met; but it seems to be the one
occupation of his life.”

“Except for running after you, I can imagine he does have plenty of
time on his hands out here.”

“Don’t you think, George, he was sent to the island to have nothing to
do except that?”

“Sent here who by? By Miss O’Neill, do you mean? Great Christopher!
Laura, what morbid idea will you have in your head next? I don’t
flatter myself that outside business Miss O’Neill cares whether I’m
alive or dead, and as for you, well, the pair of you may be friendly
enough when you were kids, but you seemed to have outgrown any past
civilities last time I saw you together on the Coast. Don’t you go and
run away with any wild cat notions about Miss O’Neill. She’s got one
amusement in the world, and that’s business, and if she’s sent Cascaes
here to Las Palmas, you can bet your best frock the only job he’s got
in view so far as she’s concerned is dividend hunting. Apropos of
which, I nearly forgot. Here’s something to practise your autograph

“Why, it’s a check-book.”

“Clever girl. Guessed it in once. I just opened a credit for you down
at the bank in Las Palmas for £500 to be going on with. That’s for
chocolate, and hairpins, and a mantillina, and the latest thing in
Spanish slippers. I say, Laura, you must get a pair of those tan ones,
with the laces tied in a bow just down over the toe. And if you don’t
go through the lot whilst I’m away squaring mine matters up in England,
I shall take you solemnly round the shops when I come back here, and
buy you a trousseau of all the ugliest and most unbecoming garments
they have in stock.”

“You are good to me, dear. But I can never spend all that.”

“If you’ve any balance you find unwieldy, buy Cascaes a smile with it,
if you can find one that will fit. No, seriously, old lady, you will
be marrying a rich man, although you did not know it when you took him,
and you may as well get used to spending. It’s no use for us preparing
to save.”

“No use preparing to save,” poor Laura repeated miserably to herself.
“There will be no–no one except ourselves to look forward to.” But
she said nothing of this aloud. She just thanked him, and snuggled in
to his shoulder and patted his sleeve.

Far away over the corner of the isle a steamer hooted in the harbor of
the Isleta, and the sound came to them dimly through the foliage
plants. Carter looked at his watch. “Hullo, I must go, or the
criminal who drives my tartana will flog that poor beast of a mule to
death in his effort to catch the boat. So now, Miss Slade, just please
give me a sample of your best good-bye.”

Twilight does not linger in the summer months, even so far north as
Grand Canary. The sun was balanced in lurid splendor on the rocky
backbone of the isle as Carter said his last words of farewell, making
the dead volcanoes look as though at a whim they could spring once more
into scarlet life. It was dark when he got on the road, and the
evening chill rode in on the Trade. The mouse-colored tartana mule
sneezed as he pressed his galled shoulders into the collar.

Carter wedged himself in a corner of the carriage and resolutely looked
on life with a reckless gayety. After all, what was this ache called
Love? To the devil with it! Hereafter he would eat, and drink, and
work, especially work, and–well, Laura was a good sort, and he
intended to play the game, and please her. He had given his word to
Laura, he forgot exactly why, but he had given it, and that was enough.
For good or evil he was one of those dogged Englishmen who keep to a
promise that had once been given.

Then with an equal doggedness he thrust all these things from his mind,
and resolutely clamped down his thoughts to Tin Hill and the details of
its working. No news had reached him of the importance which the
freakish British public had placed upon his little arrangement about
that detail of the human sacrifices. He saw himself merely as an
unknown business man who in the near future would be able to sway a
thing which at present he knew nothing about, and that was the tin
market. The idea unconsciously fascinated him. He had no enmity
against the present producers of tin, did not know indeed who they
were, but he smiled grimly as he thought of the way in which presently
he would govern them. It was the lust for power, which is latent in so
many men, leaping up into life.

The brilliant stars shone down on him from overhead, and the cool Trade
carried to him salt odors of the sea, but they got from him no
attention. His mind was journeying away in the African bush, on
spouting river-bars, in offices, on metal exchanges….

He was roused from these dreams with much suddenness. In his up
country journeying in Africa he had developed that animal instinct for
the nearness of danger which is present in us all, but in nine hundred
and ninety-nine men out of the thousand becomes atrophied for want of
use. In the river villages the natives had given him a name which
means Man-with-eyes-at-the-back-of-his-head.

It was this slightly abnormal sense that sprang into quick activity,
and Carter made so sudden a stoop that his face smacked against the
shabby cushions on the opposite side of the tartana. But
simultaneously he turned and clutched through the night, and seized a
wrist, and held it with all his iron force. A moment later he found
with his other hand that the wrist was connected with a long
bright-bladed knife, so he twisted it savagely till that weapon fell
onto the dirty carpet on the floor. And all the time, be it well
understood, no sounds had been uttered, and the mouse-colored mule
jogged steadily on with the tartana through the dust and the night.

Then Carter began to haul in on the wrist, and the man to whom it was
attached came over into the body of the vehicle, bumping his knees
shrewdly against the wheel-spokes en route.

“Ah, Cascaes, that’s you, is it? And I thought once you claimed to be
a gentleman, and agreed not to go at me from behind? Well, I’m afraid
there’s only one kind of medicine that will suit you, and that’s the
kind one gives to dogs that turn treacherous. Have you got any
suggestions to make?”

The Portuguese held his tongue.

“Ready to take your gruel, are you? Well, I propose to give you a full
dose. Hi there, driver, pull up. Wake, you sleepy head! What is it?
Why, I’ve picked up a passenger whilst you’ve been nodding, and now we
want to get down for a minute. Here, give me your whip.”

* * * * *

Carter’s arm was lusty and his temper raw. Moreover, the whip, being
the property of a Las Palmas tartana driver, was made for effective use.

“I may not cure you,” said Carter between thumps, “of a taste for
cold-blooded assassination, but I’m going to make the wearing of a coat
and breeches an annoyance to you for the next three weeks at any rate.”
After which statement, as the whip broke, he flung the patient into the
aloe hedge at the side of the road, got back into the tartana and told
the driver to hurry on to the Isleta, or they’d miss the boat.