It was at this precise moment of their
conversation that Heyst had intruded on Mr. Jones
and his secretary with his warning about Wang, as
he had related to Lena. When he left them, the
two looked at each other in wondering silence.
My Jones was the first to break it.
“I say, Martin!”
“What does this mean?”
“It’s some move. Blame me if I can
“Too deep for you?” Mr. Jones inquired
“It’s nothing but some
of his infernal impudence,” growled the secretary.
“You don’t believe all that about the Chink,
do you, sir? ’Tain’t true.”
“It isn’t necessary for
it to be true to have a meaning for us. It’s
the why of his coming to tell us this tale that’s
“Do you think he made it up to frighten us?”
Mr Jones scowled at him thoughtfully.
“The man looked worried,”
he muttered, as if to himself. “Suppose
that Chinaman has really stolen his money! The
man looked very worried.”
“Nothing but his artfulness,
sir,” protested Ricardo earnestly, for the idea
was too disconcerting to entertain. “Is
it likely that he would have trusted a Chink with
enough knowledge to make it possible?” he argued
warmly. “Why, it’s the very thing
that he would keep close about. There’s
something else there. Ay, but what?”
“Ha, ha, ha!” Mr. Jones
let out a ghostly, squeaky laugh. “I’ve
never been placed in such a ridiculous position before,”
he went on, with a sepulchral equanimity of tone.
“It’s you, Martin, who dragged me into
it. However, it’s my own fault too.
I ought to but I was really too bored to
use my brain, and yours is not to be trusted.
You are a hothead!”
A blasphemous exclamation of grief
escaped from Ricardo. Not to be trusted!
Hothead! He was almost tearful.
“Haven’t I heard you,
sir, saying more than twenty times since we got fired
out from Manila that we should want a lot of capital
to work the East Coast with? You were always
telling me that to prime properly all them officials
and Portuguese scallywags we should have to lose heavily
at first. Weren’t you always worrying about
some means of getting hold of a good lot of cash?
It wasn’t to be got hold of by allowing yourself
to become bored in that rotten Dutch town and playing
a two-penny game with confounded beggarly bank clerks
and such like. Well, I’ve brought you here,
where there is cash to be got and a big
lot, to a moral,” he added through his set teeth.
Silence fell. Each of them was
staring into a different corner of the room.
Suddenly, with a slight stamp of his foot, Mr. Jones
made for the door. Ricardo caught him up outside.
“Put an arm through mine, sir,”
he begged him gently but firmly. “No use
giving the game away. An invalid may well come
out for a breath of fresh air after the sun’s
gone down a bit. That’s it, sir. But
where do you want to go? Why did you come out,
Mr Jones stopped short.
“I hardly know myself,”
he confessed in a hollow mutter, staring intently
at the Number One bungalow. “It’s
quite irrational,” he declared in a still lower
“Better go in, sir,” suggested
Ricardo. “What’s that? Those
screens weren’t down before. He’s
spying from behind them now, I bet the
dodging, artful, plotting beast!”
“Why not go over there and see
if we can’t get to the bottom of this game?”
was the unexpected proposal uttered by Mr. Jones.
“He will have to talk to us.”
Ricardo repressed a start of dismay,
but for a moment could not speak. He only pressed
the governor’s hand to his side instinctively.
“No, sir. What could you
say? Do you expect to get to the bottom of his
lies? How could you make him talk? It isn’t
time yet to come to grips with that gent. You
don’t think I would hang back, do you? His
Chink, of course, I’ll shoot like a dog the
moment I catch sight of him; but as to that Mr. Blasted
Heyst, the time isn’t yet. My head’s
cooler just now than yours. Let’s go in
again. Why, we are exposed here. Suppose
he took it into his head to let off a gun on us!
He’s an unaccountable, ’yporcritical skunk.”
Allowing himself to be persuaded,
Mr. Jones returned to his seclusion. The secretary,
however, remained on the veranda for the
purpose, he said, of seeing whether that Chink wasn’t
sneaking around; in which case he proposed to take
a long shot at the galoot and chance the consequences.
His real reason was that he wanted to be alone, away
from the governor’s deep-sunk eyes. He
felt a sentimental desire to indulge his fancies in
solitude. A great change had come over Mr. Ricardo
since that morning. A whole side of him which
from prudence, from necessity, from loyalty, had been
kept dormant, was aroused now, colouring his thoughts
and disturbing his mental poise by the vision of such
staggering consequences as, for instance, the possibility
of an active conflict with the governor. The
appearance of the monstrous Pedro with his news drew
Ricardo out of a feeling of dreaminess wrapped up in
a sense of impending trouble. A woman? Yes,
there was one; and it made all the difference.
After driving away Pedro, and watching the white helmets
of Heyst and Lena vanishing among the bushes he stood
lost in meditation.
“Where could they be off to
like this?” he mentally asked himself.
The answer found by his speculative
faculties on their utmost stretch was to
meet that Chink. For in the desertion of Wang
Ricardo did not believe. It was a lying yarn,
the organic part of a dangerous plot. Heyst had
gone to combine some fresh move. But then Ricardo
felt sure that the girl was with him the
girl full of pluck, full of sense, full of understanding;
an ally of his own kind!
He went indoors briskly. Mr.
Jones had resumed his cross-legged pose at the head
of the bed, with his back against the wall.
Ricardo walked about the room as if
he had no care in the world. He hummed snatches
of song. Mr. Jones raised his waspish eyebrows,
at the sound. The secretary got down on his knees
before an old leather trunk, and, rummaging in there,
brought out a small looking-glass. He fell to
examining his physiognomy in it with silent absorption.
“I think I’ll shave,” he decided,
He gave a sidelong glance to the governor,
and repeated it several times during the operation,
which did not take long, and even afterwards, when
after putting away the implements, he resumed his walking,
humming more snatches of unknown songs. Mr. Jones
preserved a complete immobility, his thin lips compressed,
his eyes veiled. His face was like a carving.
“So you would like to try your
hand at cards with that skunk, sir?” said Ricardo,
stopping suddenly and rubbing his hands.
Mr Jones gave no sign of having heard anything.
“Well, why not? Why shouldn’t
he have the experience? You remember in that
Mexican town what’s its name? the
robber fellow they caught in the mountains and condemned
to be shot? He played cards half the night with
the jailer and the sheriff. Well, this fellow
is condemned, too. He must give you your game.
Hang it all, a gentleman ought to have some little
relaxation! And you have been uncommonly patient,
“You are uncommonly volatile
all of a sudden,” Mr. Jones remarked in a bored
voice. “What’s come to you?”
The secretary hummed for a while, and then said:
“I’ll try to get him over
here for you tonight, after dinner. If I ain’t
here myself, don’t you worry, sir. I shall
be doing a bit of nosing around see?”
“I see,” sneered Mr. Jones
languidly. “But what do you expect to see
in the dark?”
Ricardo made no answer, and after
another turn or two slipped out of the room.
He no longer felt comfortable alone with the governor.