FICTION

Solomon’s Half-Way House

TALBOT MUNDY September 15 1934
FICTION

Solomon’s Half-Way House

TALBOT MUNDY September 15 1934

Solomon’s Half-Way House

TALBOT MUNDY

THE STORY: At Chai-Chai, in Portuguese Gazaland, Jack Hanno has been defrauded by Charles Dumaurier, who induced him to put money into a project for locating King Solomon’s mines.

Hanno, a Nina Scotian, had been sailing around the world, alone. He is about to resume his journey when Professor Girdlestone and his daughter, Doris, arrive; (he former anxious to join Dumaurier in the treasure hunt. The professor teil! not listen to Hanno’s statement that Dumaurier is a scoundrel, so Hanna remains in Chai-Chai, despite Dumaurier’s attempt to frighten him away, in order to protect Doris.

The professor goes ofl into the hills with Dumaurier, leaving Doris in Hanno s cure. At the house of Miguel Braganza Hanno meets Caption da Cuyaga, a Portuguese army officer without a command. Hanno finds that Doris has vanished, evidently kidnapped by Dumaurier ; and, with Miguel, he starts after Dumaurier. Cuyaga says he will join the rescue party later.

PART III

THE FORID was almost like a change of consciousness —a dream-place, shadowed by a wooded, dim bank, moonlit in the middle, and beyond that vague with reeds and flowing mist.

“A mule is not a yacht,” said Miguel. "A mule needs rest,”

They had ridden ten miles, fast. The mules were about finished. Hanno rode his into the water: it lay down and tried to roll on him. He struggled clear and got the mule up again, but it was only by sheer luck that he didn’t lose his rifle. Miguel laughed and said they had better wait there for Cuyaga.

"And besides,” he addl'd, "we must find someone with whom to leave a message for our porters.”

"Come on,” said I ianno. “Cross first, anyhow.”

He had no intention whatever of waiting there of waiting anywhere. He would walk if he had to. Loyalty to Cuyaga made him take Miguel’s áán and compel him to follow'. He had promised Cuyaga he would not trust Miguel. That

meant he must keep an eye on him, doubt his motives, oppose his wishes. That Miguel wished to wait was good reason for making him cross the river. The ford wras shallow. Hanno waded waist-deep, dragging both mules, feeling better for it; the wetting cooled his chafed skin. But the far bank looked mysterious—ominous. It was the kind of moonlit landscape that suggests dread— no place for a nervous man. No place for a native, either. Natives know w'here the dead men’s ghosts walk. It was all even Hanno could do to keep his nerves from going jumpy. Miguel protested.

“Fever,” he warned. “You don’t know' this country. Ague. Wait for sunlight and the day air.”

He might as well have begged the crocodiles for time out. Hanno tow'ed at the reins. He only paused at intervals to splash his face, to keep the sw'arms of mosquitos from stinging him raw. Luck, he knew, plays favorites; he gave his own luck opportunity to show' some stuff. He had a notion Dumaurier’s spies might be on the far bank, possibly in ambush. The only way to know' that was to go and find out. Two or three thousand to one are about the odds against a bullet on a misty night. It’s more risky to cross Fifth Avenue. Suddenly Miguel let out a frightened half-shout:

“Look out ! What’s that?”

He tried to snatch the reins and turn back. Failing, he slipped the rifle off his shoulder, opened the breach, fumbled, dropped the first load in the river.

OOATMEN remember boats. The moment he realized it wasn’t a shadow among the reeds, Hanno recognized the rowboat’s peculiar sheer and flair. It was Dumaurier’s. It was tied to a root on the far bank. There was someone in it—a native, cloaked in a cotton blanket. I íe stuck his head up, stared, made a big noise as he jumped on a thwart, upset the oars and leaped ashore. Miguel fired; missed him, probably on purpose, sw'ore unconvincingly.

Hanno was silent. No use saying anything. Miguel had done his damage. Anyone within a mile had heard that rifle shot. Hanno let go the mules’ heads and ran for the bank, took cover, crawled for high ground, lay still, listened, cursing the ants and thirty million mosquitos.

Someone swore a streak of Portuguese. A short, slight, wiry-looking figure in a slouch hat stepped out from behind a clump of bushes just as Miguel reached dry land wfith both mules.

"Miguel Braganza?”

“Anatole?”

Hanno knew no Portuguese. He had to guess. Miguel seemed to be urging something. Hanno guessed he was urging Anatole Dumaurier to go, or send and warn Charles. Anatole was in a raging temper. He wras threatening Miguel; seized his rein; appeared to be ordering him back across the river. Miguel seemed likely to obey him; he glanced toward the far bank.

That was good; if he had seen Hanno he might have betrayed him by a change of expression. Anatole heard Hanno’s footfall before Miguel saw him. He turned sharply. He had a Browning automatic. Hanno struck it out of his hand and followed up with a left-hand haymaker that missed because Miguel’s bullet spat into the mixed-breed’s brain. It was a bullet meant for Hanno. Nothing you could prove. You just knew it.

Hanno snatched the rifle from him with a twist of the wrist that made Miguel curse. He threw the Browning automatic into the river. Then he began to hunt for that nigger who had been in the boat. There was only one place where*he could be. Anatole had stepped out from behind a clump of bushes. Hanno rushed the bushes. Nigger, scared stiff; two mules, saddled, fresh by the look of them. He stuck the muzzle of his rifle in the nigger’s ribs and marched him back to where Miguel knelt, going through Anatole’s pockets.

"Findings keepings,” said Migue’ with a snarl like a dog’s at a kill. He was pocketing paper money.

“Sure. Your pickings. You killed him. Sharp now—

make this nigger talk. Charles Dumaurier came up-river in that boat. I know that much. There’s the dung of six or eight mules behind those bushes. So he’s gone westward on muleback, I know that. How long ago? And is Doris with him?”

IGUEL BRAGANZA tried two or three dialects before -LVT he hit on the click-cluck Shangaan-Zulu that the native understood.

“He says ‘Yes.’ ”

“Doris crying? Hurt? Look beaten?”

“He says ‘No,’ she was unhurt. She said nothing at all.” “How many men had Dumaurier?”

“Four.”

“Breeds?”

“Two of his brothers, Jacques and Henri, and two Nubians—ex-soldiers, bad ones w'ho deserted from the German army near Lake Nyassa before the Armistice. They left Anatole here to watch the ford and send word.”

Hanno gave him back his rifle. “You were lucky that time.”

“Lucky? I forgive you, senhor, on account of your youth. To witness death unaccountably sometimes causes nervous—”

“Cut that! Next time you take a shot at me, aim straighter, or you’ll get yours. Watch that nigger.”

There was a long rawhide riem on the ground beside Dumaurier’s mules. He fetched it; tied the nigger’s hands behind him. Then he drove him into Dumaurier’s boat and lashed him seamanly to two thwarts.

“Come on—fresh mules—leave these—get a move on !” “But our porters—”

“A loaded boat—they’ll have the tide against them before they’re halfway. We’ve come ten miles. What is it by river —fifteen? Twenty? Sun’ll be up before they get here. Cuyaga can give ’em orders. He’ll find that nigger in the boat and get the news from him. Dumaurier can’t be more than a few miles ahead of us.”

“Three Dumauriers! Two Nubians!”

“Step lively.”

"Senhor—”

“Pray as you go.”

They were splendid mules, those fresh ones—rangy lowveldt veterans that knew their job and how to do it with the least exertion. Even with his chafed skin, Hanno began to enjoy the luxury of motion. He felt, too, that the luck w'as flowing like a strong tide under him. He rode stirrup to stirrup with Miguel, hour after hour, until the sun rose and they could see the tracks of five mules at the edge of a swamp. There they breathed the mules, while Miguel bewailed the soft-boiled eggs, fruit, coffee, biscuits, for which his belly clamored.

“You don’t know this climate! On an empty stomach—” “We’ll eat in the enemy’s camp! Let’s get a move on. You understand mules. I don’t. So lead the way and set pace. I’ll ride behind you.”

“But what are we going to do, senhor?"

"Bust things wide open.”

“But Dumaurier—”

"Bah—that crook’s luck’ll crack. It can’t last. You’re wasting time. Ride!”

HE FELT safer behind Miguel, who couldn’t bolt now without warning; couldn’t shoot him in the back and gallop on to make his peace with Charles Dumaurier by claiming he had avenged Anatole. They both had Winchesters, of identical bore. Nobody could prove who shot Anatole. At the moment, as far as Hanno could judge, the worst risk was of Miguel’s treachery. Luckily there wasn’t much he could betray. The only plan in Hanno’s head was to come up with Charles Dumaurier and kill him, giving him no chance; kill him before he could think of a ruse, then trust to luck and Cuyaga to deal with Dumaurier’s gang.

But were they gaining on Dumaurier? There was no knowing. Part of the time they could follow his spoor, but not always. It took too long to dismount and go hunting

for dung and hoofprints in the tufty undergrowth. Did he know he was followed? Perhaps—else why did he pick such a curious course? Apparently he knew of short cuts through the swamps that Miguel dared not take. Riding around the edge of one swamp cost about two hours, according to Hanno’s estimate. What a land ! No villages? No natives? If there were any, the trail avoided them.

At about noon they reached a barren, burning-hot wilderness of sheet-rock and iron-hard earth on which hoofprints left no mark. But there were none at the edge. Dumaurier had turned off somewhere. They had missed him. They were halfway to Pearson’s Place now. Hanno wasn’t likely to forget the walk across that hot plain. He dismounted and blazed the last tree, hacking off bark with his clasp-knife, hoping Cuyaga would see it and guess which way they took.

He knew now he had no chance to overtake Dumaurier before he reached home. His first guess had been right. Dumaurier had followed a secret trail across the swamps. He would hide Doris somewhere up in the Libombas, and then head back by the regular road to Pearson’s Place to deal with Girdlestone. Well, he would be in time to save Girdlestone.

“No hurry now,” said Miguel. He said it blandly. “May as well take it easy.

Rest the mules, and get to Pearson’s Place at midnight.”

“Midnight, no! Sunset,” Hanno answered.

‘But the mules, senhor, they—”

‘We’ll take Girdlestone’s mules.”

‘Those also will be tired out.”

‘Then we’ll walk ! Let’s go. This isn’t a funeral—yet.”

It pleased him to make Miguel sweat across that fiery wilderness. He was more than hall sure Miguel knew the swamps, knew Dumaurier’s route; had purposely misled, to let Dumaurier gain time and get away to safety. He would have liked to spare the mules a bit. He enjoyed Miguel’s discomfort — hungry, thirsty, sleepy, saddle-weary, pestered by the flies, and scared sick. His thought was:

‘Shoot me, would you?”

THERE IS a telegraph line to Pearson’s Place across the swamps from ChaiChai. They came on the last section of it at nightfall—eighteen little heaps of stones where the steel rails had stood that did duty for poles. Miguel s¡x>ke for the first time in three hours:

“Charles Dumaurier took those steel rails long ago to build his place in the Libombas. But the telegrapher still draws his salary.”

The telegrapher ran a general store. It loomed in the deepening dusk—a big, round, thatch-roofed hut in a clearing amid weary trees. Not far beyond it was Girdlestone’s lamp-lit camp—-two small tents, three mules at a picket, red-cottonblanketed porters huddled in a group, a small, smoky fire. There were a few signs of cultivation, but the locusts had been busy, not huge swarms but enough to keep down vegetation; they had stripped the pawpaws. There were three trails meeting at the general store, outlined by the inevitable pineapple plants that mark all trails, all boundaries in Gazaland.

Girdlestone sat in a canvas chair with his shirt undone, exhausted, his feet on a pile of picks and shovels. He looked halfasleep. He jumped as if a snake had bitten him when Hanno and Miguel rode up almost silent in the deep dust. His jaw dropped.

“Where is Doris?”

No time to answer. Miguel, drythroated and half-dead from fatigue, made a noise as if he were being strangled. He almost fell out of the saddle and stepped quickly around his mule—crouched low, peering beneath the mule’s neck. Out from the general store came two men, bearded, in khaki. Rifles—no bandoliers—ammunition in duck-hunters’ bags, slung from their shoulders. They had the confident swagger of bullies. Gloom turned to utter darkness, as if they, too, had turned off the light. They were only dimly visible, with a light behind them through the open hut-door.

Aristide and Pierre Dumaurier!” said Miguel under his breath.

“Yes, yes,” said Girdlestone. “The Dumauriers. They are all right. Where is Doris?”

Suddenly the porters cleared out—shadows flitting into darkness, gone. Someone brought a lantern from the general store. Aristide and Pierre Dumaurier separated and approached from different angles to see who was behind that other mule. Hanno dismounted, hesitating between rifle and automatic; it was too dark now to see along the sights of a rifle, but he doubted his skill with a pistol. He chose the rifle. Its click startled Girdlestone.

“Doris has been carried off by Charles Dumaurier,” he said savagely. “Duck and run if you can’t fight. Look sharp!”

/GIRDLESTONE seemed hardly awake yet. Suddenly he ran for the tent. In another second he was out again with a loaded Winchester. The Dumaurier who was farthest from Hanno fired his rifle, hit Miguel’s mule and laughed— a loud, bold bully-laugh, up from the stomach. The mule staggered away and fell kicking.

“Oh, all right," said Hanno. He fired back, point-blank at the nearest Dumaurier—hit him, after which he drew

a head on the other, fired again, and this time, missed.

Miguel came out from Ixhind lus mule and began to shoot like a madman. The man Hanno had hit began to crawl toward the big hut. The other fired at Miguel and shot his hat off. Hanno returned the fire. So did Girdlestone. Hanno’s mule fell dead. Whoever had the lantern dropped it and ran. The unhit Dumaurier followed him, running around the hut. A moment later they just got a sight of him —a shadow, riding westward or the glimpse may have been imagination. They heard him anyhow.

"He goes to warn Charles,” said Miguel. “And now we are in trouble.” He hawked and tric'd to spit to get his mouth lit for speech. “We have shot two Dumauriers. The others will come and avenge them. You’ll see.”

Hanno turned and shot the wounded mule dead. Like an echo to that, a bullet spat from the d;x>r of the big hut. The man Hanno had shot had crawled there, set the door ajar and was shooting Ix'tween door and doorpost. He fired three times.

Hanno ran to the side of the hut and crept around it toward the door, going slowly for fear Miguel would hit him. Miguel kept up a rapid fire, not stopping even when the door slammed; his bullets thudded on the thick boards. Hanno set fire to the thatch. It blazed up instantly; the flame leajx'd, roared, crackled in a two-foot thickness of grass as dry as tinder. 'Hie heat drove him twenty yards away. The entire hut was a holocaust, stores and all. A powder-barrel blew up— -scattered burning thatch a hundred yards in all directions and set fire to Girdlestone’s tent; his three mules tore their picket loose and bolted, tied head to head, until a tree stopjied them. Girdlestone’s tent was a total loss. Hanno ran and recovered the mules; he had a hard time doing it, but he got them separated at last and tethered to the roots of the tree that had stopped them. The entire hut had collapsed by that time into a blazing heap beneath a red-bellied cloud of smoke.

“That was government property,” Miguel remarked. “For that the sentence is life imprisonment. You did it. I saw you.”

“Now what?” said Girdlestone. “For heaven’s sake, tell me about Doris.” Hanno told him, in words of one and two syllables, slowly, to save having to rejx-at it.

“And now a drink. Quick, we’re parched.”

CMRDLKSTONE went to the unhurried tent, found a syphon, whisky and a tin cup. Hanno gave Miguel first drink, with the unconscious air of authority of a man in command. Then he swilled his own mouth, gargled, and drank half a cupful.

“Chai-Chai now," said Miguel, "before Charles comes!"

“Suit yourself,” Hanno answered. “Put your saddle on one of those mules and get going."

“Alone? Senhor, you mock me?”

{Hanno spoke straight at Girdlestone. “Are you game? This other brizo isn’t. Will you come with me, or go with him?” “My dear man, I wouldn’t dream of leaving you.”

"Since you choose to insult me, senhor," said Miguel, “I ride forward alone.”

“Not you!” Hanno turned to Girdlestone. “Give him another drink. He’s upset. He’ll be all right in a minute.” Miguel gulped straight whisky.

“Now,” said Hanno, “Any chance of rounding up those niggers?”

“None, senhor."

“Why not?”

“They know what to expect from Charles Dumaurier. Even their own homes are hardly far enough away. They know he will come here like a raging devil and—”

“Isn’t this a town? Is there no one else here?”

“The telegraphist. He, too, will not have waited for Charles Dumaurier.” “W’as he in that hut?”

"It may lx, senhor. Who knows?”

"He happens to lx.* hiding in my tent,” said Girdlestone. He went and fetched him —a fever-stricken Goanese, shaken with ague, straightening himself and trying to look dignified. I íe said something in Portuguese. Miguel interpreted.

"You are under arrest,” he said, "for setting lire to the post-office.”

"Where's your jail?” asked Hanno. "Go back and stay in the tent until El Senhor Capitán Don Vasco Jesus Maranhao da Cuyaga comes. And when lie d;x-s come, tell him we three have ridden forward. Tell him to ride hard and overtake us or he may come too late.”

Miguel translated that, chesting himself to impress the Goanese. One would have thought it was he who was giving orders. The Goanese did think so. He obeyed with a courteous bow and a murmur of Miguel’s name. He ignored the others. Girdlestone, his throat creaky with emotion, squeaked a question :

“Cuyaga?”

“You’ve met him—on the steamer. He’s our one bet. Nothing for us to do but crowd Dumaurier. Those niggers haven’t run far. They’re watching. The minute we ride forward, someone’s sure to hurry by short cuts to Dumaurier’s and w'artn him we’re coming.”

“We threejust we three?” said Girdlestone.

Miguel chimed in: “Tired out, and on

tired mules, senhor!"

“If you two are scared, I’ll go alone,” said 1 lanno. “If Dumaurier thought there were a dozen of us, he might take to the mountains. When he learns we are only three and who we are, he’ll think we’re crazy on Doris’s account—he’ll know it. He may elect to wait where he is and shoot us at daybreak as we ride through the gap to his hide-out. Much more likely he’ll come storming down the pass with some more of his brothers, to kill us on the march and blame our deaths on the natives. That ’s his usual trick. When he learns we’ve shot two of his brothers he’ll lx a raging maniac.”

“And you prefer to face him?” asked Girdlestone.

"Sure. Force a fight and hold him until Cuyaga can catch up. Keep him rattled.”

“But you look tired out,” said Girdlestone.

“I am. That cuts no ice. I need sleep. Guess I’ll get some if we find a likely ambush. Miguel’s asleep on his feet. Come on, help me saddle the mules."

npiIEY RODE fifteen miles, Hanno and **■ Girdlestone holding Miguel. He slept swaying like a sack in the saddle between them. Ten miles beyond the shallow tributary of the Umbuluzi River, where the trail starts winding upward between foothills of increasing size and ruggedness, Hanno reached about his limit of endurance. They had brought food from Girdlestone’s camp and ate as they rode, but Hanno felt his attention wandering ; the dark landscajx* faded into a dream and out again. His eyes ached, lie must depend for a while now on Girdlestone.

"Can you stay awake?” he asked him.

Girdlestone said lie had slept that afternoon. So Hanno stared alxmt him and used his last lees of wakefulness to prepare an ambush. There would be no moon for an hour yet, but there was lots of starlight. The landscape was all one shadow, crowded with darker detail very difficult to make out.

However, the trail just there looked innocent and therefore suitable for a trap. There were acres of slightly undulating level land between scrub-lined hills. There was a clump of trees at the edge of a hollow that did not l;x>k like a hollow until one reached it. He picketed the mules in the hollow, made a fire and heaped half-dead weeds on it to make it burn slowly with plenty of smoke.

1 íe set his hat on a lump of wood, so that it showed above the rim of the hollow. Then he led Girdlestone and Miguel across the trail to a shallower depression where there were no trees. It was unnoticeable; he didn't see it until he stumbled into it - good cover for three riflemen. It was a bit far from the

mules, and a bit far from where the way turned into a pass between sombre cliffs, but it commanded the trail both ways, and they could shoot from where they lay without much chance of being hit by anyone approaching. They were doing what the enemy wouldn't expect. Luck would have to do the rest of it.

They had brought some of Girdlestone’s blankets. Hanno threw one over Miguel, rolled himself in another and was asleep in a second. No trick that, for a man used to snatching sleep at the helm of a small yacht in dirty weather. As a rule, however tired, he could wake himself at half-hour intervals, take a look around and fall asleep again. He meant to do that now. But when Girdlestone shook him awake at last, the full moon, high overhead, was bathing the trail in weird, wan light, and he could see the jaw of the pass like a notch in a dark wall. He kicked Miguel awake and instantly smothered his face in a blanket to keep him silent.

1 I 'HERE WERE noises both ways. The one down-hill, in the direction they had come from, was far off and uncertain; it might be an animal prowling, perhaps a lion. But the other sound was quite definite. There were men on muleback in the throat of the pass. They were invisible just beyond the edge of moonlight. Bits jingled. Voices. Presently five men rode forward and spread out fanwise—not good targets, just a bit too far away and sketchy in the uncertain light. There was no knowing for certain who they were. It would be bad business to shoot chance travellers on their way to the coast. However, they didn’t behave like honest men. They advanced slowly toward the clump of trees, one leading by about twenty yards, who might be Charles Dumaurier. He looked a bit like him. The smoke was distinctly visible, rising straight up from the hollow. The hat was no good— too like a shadow and yet too sharp for a shadow. It would suggest a trick to anybody on the qui vive.

The man in the lead made signs with both arms. He had a rifle in his right hand. It was Charles Dumaurier—his gesture, his silhouette. What seemed to change the outline of his bullet head was probably a three-day growth of bristle. He appeared to intend to rush what he thought was a bivouac. His men manoeuvred to get behind him, riding along the trail in single file in order to make less noise.

That brought three of them in full moonlight within a range of about seventy yards.

“Let ’em have it!” said Hanno. He fired first, but he couldn’t see his fore-sight. He hit a mule. It fell and lay kicking. Miguel’s rifle dropped a man, whose scared mule bolted. The man with the shot mule caught its rein, remounted. That was all over in about five seconds.

Girdlestone fired last. The man who had just remounted reeled and fell from the saddle. Girdlestone ejected the empty shell.

“Is it still etiquette,” he asked, “to notch your butt?”

“You’ll do,” said Hanno. “Watch out!”

Two more riders spurred out from the pass. That made five again; and all five faced the real ambush. They let go a ragged volley—straight, but it whined too high. Then Charles Dumaurier—no mistaking his voice—yelled, and they wheeled and rode at full gallop into the hollow where Hanno had tethered the mules. Three shots pursued them. All three missed as far as anyone could judge.

“And now,” said Girdlestone, “the game

begins.”

“Spread !” said Hanno. “Girdlestone, you crawl to the right and find cover. Leave Miguel here. I’ll take the left wing.”

THEY WERE nearly fifty yards apart when four men crawled out of the hollow opposite—very difficult to see against the trees behind them. But there were sounds to the right. There was someone coming up the trail from Pearson’s Place. Hanno began shooting, more with the hope of giving Cuyaga information—if it was

Cuyaga—than of hitting anyone at that

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range. There were no answering shots. The enemy were crawling closer for a fight to the finish. But Girdlestone opened fire on the far right, imitating Hanno’s dodge of not firing twice from the same place. Then Miguel opened up, and that seemed to puzzle Dumaurier’s men; they didn’t know how many rilles they had to deal with. They halted, hugging cover. Plenty of time to reload and to choose a better position, between an anthill and a clump of scrub— until it occurred to Hanno he was making a mistake. He should take the offensive. He felt now he could count on Girdlestone. But how about Miguel?

He was about to shout to Girdlestone when Charles Dumaurier let out a yell like a wild beast’s roar from behind the clump of trees. His rifle stabbed the darkness downtrail. Three shots answered it from downtrail. Two of Dumaurier’s men joined their rifle fire to their chief’s. The other two fired at Hanno. Girdlestone began sniping steadily; then Miguel, then Hanno, from a new position. Six rapid shots again from down-trail. No hits apparently. One couldn’t tell what was happening.

Suddenly Charles Dumaurier let out another yell and rode up out of the hollow. There he roared at the top of his lungs, shook his rifle and rode along a diagonal line for the jaw of the shadowy pass, crouching on the mule’s back. He was too far off— moving too fast. Hanno missed him three times before he vanished in total darkness in the gut of the pass. He had loosed all the mules; they were scattering right and left, like goblins.

Hanno crawled forward. Dumaurier’s men were firing wildly. Better to go in close and make an end of it. But he had to be careful ; there were three men working their way uptrail in regular military style, two men firing while the other advanced. They were likely to shoot at anything they could see. 1 here was a good chance, too, of being shot in the back by Miguel, unless he has used up all his ammunition; he had seemed to be trying to imitate a machine gun for the last couple of minutes.

Suddenly Dumaurier’s men took to their heels; tried to catch the mules. Panic— sauve qui peut. It became a simple massacre —no guessing whose bullet had done the work—one mule shot dead as it crossed the line of someone s fire—a battue—a searing slit on Hanno s cheek—a ripped shirt-sleeve —four men dead of fourteen bullets. Then Cuyaga, with a flashlight.

T_TE WAS so weary, he swayed as he stood.

He could scarcely speak. Girdlestone gave him whisky from a flask. Miguel took his flashlight and examined the dead.

“All four of them Dumauriers,” said Miguel, crossing himself. “Six Dumauriers dead! Senhores, let this be a lesson to us.” j

“Charles?” asked Cuyaga.

Hanno answered him: “Gone.”

“It is just like Charles,” said Miguel, “to j loose the mules. It is a wonder he didn’t shoot them. He is a rat. I hoj)e I kill him. Imagine it—loosing the mules to compel his own brothers to stay and fight, while he escaped !”

Two Portuguese soldiers, leading three mules, staggered into the circle. They and their exhausted animals looked scarcely able to stand, but at a sign from Cuyaga they led the mules toward the trees and left them there as an inducement to tempt the runaways to come and be caught.

“No time to lose,” said Hanno.

"Less time than you think,” Cuyaga answered. But he didn’t say why. He was watching his two soldiers. They had found the rojx; and bridles in the hollow. One of them made a noose in the rope, and they were artfully catching the strayed mules, one by one, as they came up to nuzzle the new arrivals that were Ux> tired to move.

Cuyaga looked sharply at Hanno, then at Miguel. The glance was not exactly unfriendly; it was calculating. But he said nothing to explain it. He merely took back the flashlight from Miguel and glanced at his watch. Then:

“Charles Dumaurier will ride like the devil. He will wear out his mule. You have a chance to overtake him if you use your heads and spare your animals. There you are—there are three mules ready. Take them and ride on. And mind, now: kill him !”

Girdlestone coughed dryly.

“And you, senhor? You projX)se to look on?”

Cuyaga turned his back. He addressed Hanno :

“You know the way, I believe.”

“Me, I know the way,” said Miguel. He seemed suddenly to have become afraid of Cuyaga. He did everything short of touching his forelock. He ran to be first to climb into the saddle. Girdlestone stalked along behind Miguel. Hanno looked at Cuyaga.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing—yet, Senhor Hanno, except that you are wasting time. Adios, senhor.” To be Concluded