The Island of Temptation
A stolen fortune and a stolen woman! Both his for the taking, but could he break his code?—A dramatic story of the South Seas
ALLAN VAUGHAN ELSTON
ON THIS seventh day adrift and the third without food or drink, Ligget could not bear to look toward Adam Starkey. Starkey, huddled at the other end of the boat, was babbling to himself and slowly going mad. The man’s face was a ghastly, swollen welt, with deep-sunk red eyes glaring from it at the sun and the sea. Only the two of them were there— Ligget and Starkey.
Apathy had seized Ralph Ligget. His shoulders drooped and his gaze across the swells had lost all lustre of hope. This morning the horizon had offered one fleecy cloud, but now even it was gone. Nothing was left; nothing but this silly boat with its cargo of despair, and with an empty, upheaving blue desert on all sides.
Islands? Ligget, sweltering there in the bow, had quit looking for them. Until yesterday he had felt fairly sure he and Starkey would wash up on some Samoan beach. But they’d sighted not even a reef.
“Will you please stop jabbering?” The admonishment to Starkey was weary rather than irritable. Ligget was beyond mere irritation. He simply wanted to close his eyes arid see nothing, hear nothing, until oblivion took command of his senses.
He did close his eyes. But he could not shut his ears against the outbursts of Starkey. Starkey, flat on his blistered back, was talking to himself and the sky. The man was beating a fist on the gunwale and kicking at a battered black satchel. It was a satchel Starkey had brought off the wrecked freighter last week, and Ligget presumed that it contained his personal belongings.
Starkey blasphemed the bag and the boat and all the universe. Then he turned a tirade of abuse upon himself. “Ï ’ad it cornin’,” he shrieked. “If yer don’t believe it, look !”
Ligget opened his eyes in a dull stare. He saw Starkey on his knees clawing at the satchel. The satchel came open and the man’s hand delved within. It came out with thick packages of currency. British bank notes of a hundred
pounds each! The bag was crammed with them. But Ligget’s wits just now were too sluggish to be more than mildly excited.
Derisive laughter came from Starkey. “Forty thousand quid !” he shrilled. “Stood up the Anglo-Chilian bank at Valpo, I did, and killed a bloke wot tried to stop me. And where does it get me? ’Ere I am tiking a boat ride to ’ell with it, out ’ere on this blarsted sea!”
Ligget stared without comment as the self-accused murderer crammed his loot back into the bag and snapped the lock.
An hour later Starkey died. The dead man’s eyes remained open. They fastened horribly upon Ligget until the survivor averted his face. When he looked again, near sundown, the glassy stare was still on him. The guilty bag lay just beyond the man’s outstretched hand. A thief with his futile loot ! A convulsion shook Ligget. He buried his face between his knees, kept it there until night darkened the boat.
Sultry dawn found Ligget in that same pose - with the corpse still staring at him from the stern. Only ten feet away, too close in this heat. The nearness of it was more than Ligget could endure. Inch by inch he dragged himself to it. With the last of his strength he rolled it up and over the gunwale, into the sea.
That left him alone with the black satchel. Ligget shrank away from it. It was blood money, he knew, and therefore untouchable. Ultimately someone would find it in this drifting boat, he hoped, and restore it to the Valparaiso bank.
CREEPING back to the bow, Ligget looked out again over the swells. Something brown floated atop one of them. Seaweed. Did that mean land? Ligget stood up, shading his eyes against the sun.
He imagined he saw a shimmering palm bank. Then, as the swells heaved up, it was gone. When the swells subsided,
Ligget failed to see anything but deep, swirling troughs. Exhaustion made him sink to his knees. Yet a faint spark of hope was lighted in him. Land?
His gaze focused on the black satchel. If he did make land, what should he do with that bag? An impish temptation began to whisper. But Ligget shook it off. No, he couldn’t keep that money. It would brand him for life.
“I won’t touch it,” he said hoarsely.
Traditions of honor were deeply ingrained in Ligget. At home, his father had been a judge of the court. And although six years on a Samoan plantation had loosened some of Ralph Ligget’s standards, he still prided himself that he was above any such foul dereliction as stealing loot from a dead thief.
If he got ashore, he resolved to make a full report on Starkey to the nearest insular consul.
NEAR NOON a motor launch hailed Ligget. Barely conscious and burning with fever, Ligget had no strength even to wave his hand. But the launch came chugging alongside, and a white-suited Englishman ordered his two Kanakas to bring the drifter aboard.
In a few minutes Ligget was placed gently on a deck cot. The Englishman held wine to his lips. He told Ligget that his name was Jefferson Ashton, and that he was cruising home toward his plantings on Uvolu Island. He was a decent sort, tall, thin and stooped, a homely fellow with ungainly gestures and yet with a kindly face which Ligget could at once trust.
Ashton looked back into the small boat and saw a battered black satchel. “Fetch it up,” he directed ; and one of the Kanakas promptly retrieved the bag, setting it on the deck beside Ligget’s cot.
Fever continued to bum Ligget. After a single murmur of thanks, he lay there in a semistupor while the launch cruised on toward Uvolu. Ashton did everything possible for his comfort.
“There we are, old chap,” Ashton announced cheerily. He was pointing toward a distant line of breakers. “My place is just beyond that cove. In no time at all I’ll have you in a white man’s bed.”
He kept up an encouraging chatter as they rode in through the reef. Ligget knew he couldn’t have fallen into more sympathetic hands. And yet a strange sense of peril began to haunt Ligget. For a while, with the fever pulsing through his blood, he could not define it.
Then his gaze came to rest upon the black satchel. Ashton and the Kanakas were paying no slight attention to that bag. To them it was just a shipwrecked man’s duffel. But to Ligget it was something else.
The peril, Ligget knew, was that he would be tempted to make no explanation. That he would say nothing about Starkey. That he would continue to permit an assumption
that the bag was his own. Forty thousand pounds! Ligget shut his eyes from it. He tried to force it from his brain. Yet he couldn’t. Constantly he was aware of it, sitting there on the deck beside his cot. It was his— until he renounced it. He must renounce it. He must tell Ashton all about Starkey.
But the imp of temptation was again whispering. Why tell Ashton anything at all? Lying there with his throat parched, he had a good excuse not to talk. In fact he could hear Ashton’s voice urging him to be quiet. Why not at least wait until Ashton began to ask questions?
Ashton asked no questions. The launch was now in a placid lagoon, coasting toward a bamboo pier. Gulls were piping on the beach, and beyond these, tired, listless palms were leaning toward the sea. A fat brown boy stood on the pier, ready to catch the mooring rope.
“Fetch a stretcher,” Ashton called to the boy as soon as they were moored. “And tell Mrs. Ashton to make ready for a guest.”
A stretcher arrived and Ligget was placed upon it. The two Kanaka sailors carried him down the pier and up a steep path toward a rock-walled bungalow. The charm of the bungalow was lost on Ligget. A blossomembowered verandah with long, cushioned chairs and striped awnings, a garden of roses and a sundial of shells, and even a slender blond lady who stood there holding a
parasol—all these made no immediate impression because of the black satchel. The brown boy, Ligget knew, was following with that bag in hand. The thing was dogging him. Not by word or sign had Ligget indicated that he wanted it brought along. Nevertheless here it came, inevitably presumed to be his personal luggage.
“The poor chap’s in rather a bad shape,” Ligget heard Ashton call out. Then he was aware that a woman of rare charm was looking down at him. Ashton said, "This is my wife,” and Ligget managed to murmur his own name.
HE LOOKED up and saw both sympathy and welcome in the woman’s eyes. They were narrow Eastern eyes with finely pencilled brows, and yet undoubtedly Ada Ashton was pure Saxon. Her pale yellow hair was brushed loosely back, and her face had a fine Nordic pinkness. Even
through the haze of his fever, Ligget saw that she was beautiful beyond anything he had seen in all the islands.
“We must do what we can for him, Jeff,” she said softly. “Come." She turned then and led the way into the house. The grace of her movement fascinated Ligget, made him forget all about the black satchel. In the guest room he was lifted from the stretcher to a bed.
The brown boy came in and put the satchel on a table near the bed. Ligget's gaze fell dismally upon it. He heard Ashton say heartily, “Our house is yours, old man.”
Ashton went out to send one of the Kanakas for a doctor.
A soothing voice said to Ligget. “You must be perfectly quiet, please.” He looked up and saw Ashton’s wife smiling compassionately down on him. When she laid a cool hand on his forehead, the touch was like a benediction. It made him forget again all about that satchel. He began thinking, instead, of his own lonely house over on Talua Island. From there his mind wandered. Vaguely he remembered a certain co-ed at home. This one was like her, he thought. She had the same fragrance, the same smile, the same soft hands. Lucky fellow, Ashton! And good as gold. No wonder this beautiful lady had come with him all the way to the South Seas. That girl at home—would she have come too, if he’d asked her?
Ligget stirred restlessly. The room was on fire. Everything burned him except that cool touch on his forehead.
“You won’t be strong again, unless you’re perfectly quiet,” the soothing voice said again.
Ashton came in to announce ruefully, “The doc might not get here until tomorrow. How’s he getting along?”
“A terrific temperature, Jeff. You stay with him and I’ll make an ice
It was twenty-four hours before a doctor came, and during that interval Ligget was at times delirious. Ashton sat constantly by the bed, holding ice to Ligget’s head.
When Ligget at last came out of it. weak and pallid, he found himself dressed in a pair of Ashton’s silk pyjamas. The doctor and Ashton were standing by.
“Crisis passed before I got here,” the doctor said briskly. “You can thank Jeff Ashton for that, young man.”
Ligget turned gratefully toward Ashton. “Yes, I know. And for picking me out of that boat.”
Ashton grinned. “Don’t give it a thought, old chap. The less you talkK about tliat boat ride, the quicker you’ll forget it.”
But Ligget had to talk about it. And he couldn’t forget it. That money bag of Starkey’s ! Ligget could see it over there on the table, exactly where the brown boy had placed it.
Should he tell them all about it? Again temptation came insidiously to Ligget. They thought it was his proper baggage, so why not let them keep on thinking it? He, Ligget, hadn’t stolen the money. He hadn’t even touched it. Nor was there any hue and cry.
“If you feel like it,” Ashton was saying, “we’ll let Fau shave you.”
Fau, the Samoan boy, shaved Ligget. Later, Ada brought him a bowl of broth.
DURING THE next week Ligget convalesced rapidly. At the doctor’s order, however, he remained abed. Ashton came in and out cheerily. When Ashton found that Ligget himself was an island planter, with a place on Talua not over two hundred miles away by boat, he was delighted. For hours he sat by, smoking his pipe, discussing with his guest the finer points of island horticulture.
Often Ada came in and read aloud from books of romance. Her charm grew upon Ligget. He found himself listening for her footsteps in the hall. More and more he envied Jeff Ashton. At the same time he couldn’t help wondering how a man as homely and ungainly as Ashton had ever won her in the first place. Gradually he began to wonder if she really loved her husband at all. Apparently the two had little in common. Ashton was a man’s man, hearty, yet practical and disciplined; while the woman was distinctly a creature of moods and poetry. Ligget divined that she had long been restless here, and that she cared nothing for the treadmill of Ashton’s life.
Continued on page 44
The Island of Temptation
Continued from page 13—Starts on page 12
“Jeff tells me you’re leaving on the next boat,” she said one day.
Once a month an interisland trading freighter touched at this cove, proceeding on to Talua Island.
Ligget smiled. “I’ve been a burden long enough, haven’t I?”
“Of course you haven’t. And I’ll miss you when you’re gone.” Ada gave a sigh which told Ligget plainly enough that she herself wanted to get away from this house. Inevitably she would, he guessed. Some day she would leave Ashton.
Her eyes were upon him, and there was a quality of wistfulness in them which gave him a guilty thrill. When he averted his own, they came to rest on the black satchel. The bag he had never touched! Suddenly, with a flush, he became aware that there were two of them in this roomtwo untouchable temptations.
He was glad when Fau came in. Later he
sent Fau to the village to bring back a suit of whites.
The next day, personable and immaculate, Ligget joined the others on the verandah. At home, the Ligget men had always been counted more than commonly handsome. Ada looked up at this one with quick commendation. “The invalid in all his glory!” she said:
Ashton knocked out his pipe, grinning. “You’d hardly know him for the bearded, burnt-out starveling I picked up at sea, would you, Ada? Steady, old man. Take it easy.”
Ashton placed a chair for his guest. But in a short while duty called him to the drying sheds. Then Ada came over and placed a cigarette between Ligget’s lips. She lighted it with her own as she sat on the arm of his chair and said, “Please don’t go on the next boat.”
“I must,” Ligget insisted. But he knew
with humiliating clarity that he did not want to go.
When he went inside, her eyes followed him. In the morning she took him for a drive down the beach. Returning, she wanted them all to go for a swim in the lagoon. Ashton was too busy.
“He’s always too busy,” Ada said. An hour later, hand in hand with Ligget, she was splashing into the surf.
That evening on the verandah, she brought out a guitar and sang. Her voice astonished Ligget with its vibrant appeal. A pale green sarong was wound tightly about her breast and hips, and in the moonlight, to Ligget she was breathtakingly beautiful. He wondered if she could tell that his eyes were saying so. Jeff sat on the steps, puffing at his pipe. He applauded when his wife finished, then remarked with a complacence which annoyed Ligget, “Ada studied for grand opera before I nipped her career in the bud.”
ON THE last night before his departure, Ligget was pacing the porch with his thoughts focused on the black satchel. The thing was still on the table in his room, untouched. Yet if he didn’t speak of it, he knew exactly what would happen. In this climate, a white man wasn’t usually allowed to carry anything heavier than a cigarette. So when he went to the boat in the morning, Fau would pick up the bag and follow. Fau would take it for granted that the departing guest’s baggage must be put aboard.
Which meant that he, Ligget, wouldn’t need to touch the satchel, or even mention it. ..It would go with him, inevitably. What then?
As he brooded over the problem, Ada’s voice spoke to him from the dark.
It startled him. He turned quickly and they were face to face. Her whispered words came as a shock. For a moment he couldn’t believe his ears.
“Take me with you, please,” she was urging desperately. “Don’t leave me here. I can’t bear it.”
Suddenly her arms were around his neck. The perfume of her hair filled Ligget, drenching him like wine. “We love each other, is it not true?” she whispered. “I have known it from the first. You’ll take me with you?”
He had no time to answer. For Ashton’s voice, calling out as he approached from the house, made her draw away. Then Ashton joined them, utterly without suspicion.
Ashton kept in their company all evening. There was no chance to speak aside with Ada, and Ligget wondered what he could say if there were. Definitely he couldn’t repay Jeff’s kindness by wrecking his home.
While Jeff’s hands were cupped over his pipe, Ada at last managed a breathless whisper: “You’ll take me with you?” Ligget shook his head slowly. “I can’t hurt Jeff,” he said.
■ Ashton missed that brief interchange. And to Ligget’s surprise, Ada’s face lighted up. Later, after he had retired to his room, he realized it was because she had put her own construction on his answer. To her it meant that he would like to take her with him, but couldn’t, simply because Jeff Ashton was his benefactor and friend.
To a woman in love that might mean everything. To be wanted would be enough, even though there were an insurmountable obstacle.
In the morning Ralph Ligget walked out of his room empty-handed. But as he went to the pier with the Ashtons, he looked back and noted that Fau followed him with the black satchel.
Conscience brought a flush to Ligget’s face. As he rode out to the ship in Ashton’s launch, he tried desperately to acquit himself of all wrongdoing. He hadn’t told Fau to bring that bag. Therefore he was blameless. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to look either at the bag or at Ada Ashton.
When they reached the ship’s deck
Ashton said heartily, “Two hundred miles isn’t far. You must run over and see us often, old man.”
“Thanks,” Ligget answered gravely. He turned toward Ada. Parting forced him to meet her eyes. They were unnaturally bright this morning. But her face was entirely serene as she shook hands and said good-by. Her hand lingered in his own for a moment. Ashton said: “Come, Ada. They’re upping anchor.”
She descended with Ashton and Fau into the launch. As the launch chugged toward the pier, Ashton looked back and waved his helmet. Ada neither turned nor waved. And Ligget, standing tensely on the freighter’s deck, knew why. His right hand was still warmly clenched over the note she had left in his pahn.
While the ship was slipping out with the tide he opened his hand and saw it there, small, pink and folded. He read it with a strange conflict of elation and dismay.
I understand. Perfectly. Of course you can’t take me right out of Jeff’s house. But I’ll come to you on the next boat.
The next boat! Ligget moved in a daze to his cabin. What he saw there, on the luggage rack where Fau had dutifully placed it, made him shrink back as from a coiled cobra. The black satchel! There were still two temptations. Ada was coming on the next boat; the untoucliable bag was on this one.
nrwo DAYS later the freighter dropped anchor at Fahu village, on Talua Island. Sight of his own sloping acres, with row on row of young cocoanut palms, brought a glow to Ligget’s eyes. Canoes of the villagers were already swarming about. They had seen him at the rail and were shouting greetings. There was Alfuo, his bushy-haired house boy. And fat old Levuka, the village chief, with his pretty brown wife, Fulaanu. Ligget had always been a favorite with these islanders, to whom he had been a just and generous neighbor.
Alfuo came scrambling up over the side, crying out, “We have hear you are lost at sea, master. It is good to see you home.” The boy scampered into Ligget’s stateroom to take possession of whatever baggage was there. With the battered black satchel, he followed Ligget to the mole. There the villagers chanted a •welcome and plump Samoan girls showered Ligget with blossoms. They moved on up the street, among domes of thatch resting on smooth white posts. Schultz, the German trader, waved a welcome from his store. Willie Wilson, the beachcomber, yelled for Ligget to come in and have a drink. Ukuleles strummed and dogs barked. Father Peret, the lame priest, limped down from the mission to bestow his blessing.
To Ligget it would have been a triumphant homecoming except for that accursed satchel. The agile Alfuo came along with it. When they had passed down a lane of palms to Ligget’s sprawling beach bungalow. Alfuo entered and put the bag on a table.
After the welcomers had all dispersed, Ligget sat alone, staring at it. Here it was, albeit by no bidding of his own. Blood money ! He couldn’t keep it, of course. He couldn’t even touch it. Tomorrow he must ship it to that Chilian bank.
But when tomorrow came, Ligget put the matter off. He grappled instead with his other dilemma, Ada Ashton. On the next boat, in exactly one month, she would come to this house. What must he do about it? She was a beautiful woman. In retrosjject she now seemed more desirable than ever. But—she was Jeff Ashton’s wife.
Ligget’s mind, moving in circles, always came back to that same inescapable focus. She was Ashton’s wife. It wouldn’t be his fault if she came, he argued. He hadn’t asked her to come. Then he remembered
that he hadn’t asked the black satchel to come either. Yet it was here. And he permitted it to remain. Would it be the same with the woman?
Reason warned him that it would.
Ligget fretted impotently through sultry days and nights. These marched swiftly by, with each unforgiving hour pushing him closer to decision. Hope and dread filled him. He knew he wanted her to come, yet he feared that she would. This was a lonely house and his was a lone-some life.
ADA ASHTON did come. When next ■ the interisland boat dropped anchor in the lagoon, Ligget saw her -standing at the rail. He was watching from his doorway. Back of him the black satchel stood on a table, still untouched and unrenounced.
He saw Ada coming ashore in a skiff. She carried a parasol, and when it tilted he saw the sun strike gold on her hair. As she skimmed toward him across the blue water, Ligget tightened his lips. He remembered the soft feel of her arms.
Then with an impatient sternness he remembered Jeff Ashton. Ashton whose own arms had lifted him tenderly from a drifting boat, and who had saved him from the furnace of mid-sea suns. Ashton who was the salt of the earth ! Ashton whose hearty voice kept saying, “Steady, old man; take it easy . . . Two hundred miles isn’t far. Come over and see us often.” Ligget pushed his wet hair hack from a forehead damp and cold. Suddenly he turned to a desk and pulled out a drawer. He rummaged there until he came to an old faded photograph. It was a picture of that yellow-haired co-ed at home ; the one of whom Ada had in some faint way reminded him. Ligget had forgotten her name; he had never written her, and didn’t even know if she were married.
He put the picture in his coat pocket and hurried from the house. Then he raced to the village and out upon the pier.
Ada was just stepping from the skiff. Rapture lighted her face as she saw Ligget. Ligget advanced to her like a man walking into flames. He began talking swiftly.
“Ada, you shouldn’t have come. I mean —we can’t do this—for two reasons. On account of Jeff; and on account of . . . ” Ligget groped for a name. Any name would do. “On account of Jeff,” he repeated desperately, “and on account of Edith.”
The color drained from Ada and she turned into white marble. All life seemed to leave her. “Edith?” she said.
“My wife,” Ligget went on wretchedly. “She’s on her way down from home. I— that is, you made me think of her, Ada. She’s so much like you, don’t you see?” As though to prove it, he exposed the picture.
Ada Ashton looked at it and said dully, “Oh!”
“Please go back to Jeff,” Ligget pleaded. Her lip trembled. “I can’t—now,” she said. He couldn’t tell whether she believed him or not.
Then she turned abruptly and stepped back into the skiff. Without looking at him again, she motioned toward the ship and the skiffman rowed her away. The parasol was dipped so that Ligget could not see her face.
He saw her board the freighter and disappear. That the dinginess of that old boat should claim her, made Ligget savage. All day he stood on the mole, hoping for one more sight of her. But she did not come on deck. At sundown the freighter drew anchor and slipped out through the reef. Ligget watched until its highest mast had faded beyond the sea.
He looked down at the photograph of a half-forgotten girl. Bitterly he tore it in two and tossed the pieces into the lagoon. They floated there, drifting out with the tide until they also were gone from his sight.
Then, in the gloom of evening, Ligget went home. He found the house drearily deserted. Nothing was there but his own empty heart—and a black satchel.
T'vUST FORMED over the satchel as weeks and months crept by. Always it sat there on the table, and to Ligget it became like a deadly trap baited for his soul. Murder money! Forty thousand pounds of it which he could neither touch nor renounce.
Each day Alfuo came in to sweep and to make the bed. But Alfuo was too stolidly honest to pry into baggage. The boy no doubt presumed that his master wanted the bag there, else he would have ordered it put away. Tulaa, who cooked for Ligget, kept to her kitchen. In no case would Ligget have worried about thievery. These sentimental Samoans were too busy making music and love.
Evenings he could hear them singing in the village. In the old days he had often joined them there, around a flowing Suva bowl, while moonlight filtered through the palms upon dancing maidens. Now, more and more often, he brooded restlessly at home. The bag shackled him there, holding him like a remorseless jailer. It cramped his life, marooning him desolately on an island narrower than this one—a dark and lonely island of temptation.
Days he patrolled his fields and groves, staring moodily at a lowland which needed draining. He had planned a canal from swamp to sea—but it would take money. Money, plenty of it, was in the black satchel. He was eager to set out a thousand more young cocoanut palms. The house needed a new roof, new furnishings, a verandah and a lawn. No reason he couldn’t fix it up like Ashton’s place. Most of all, he wanted a speed launch for quick runs to Apia. And a decent pier. All those things were in the black satchel.
Yet each time he reached for the bag, something seemed to paralyze his hand. One single touch of it would, he reasoned, make him a thief. As long as he did not touch it he could at least imagine himself decent. Who could accuse him of stealing that which he had never touched?
The stalemate preyed on him day and night. He grew gaunt and his eyes began to sink in his head. In the dark nights he lay sleepless, always conscious of the bag near by. Curse the bag ! Why couldn’t he send it to the despoiled Chilian bankers?
He had sent that other baggage of temptation away, hadn’t he? Why couldn’t he do the same with this one?
Two untouchable lures! And gradually a persistent obsession came to Ligget— that there would be a third. He felt a growing and curious premonition that some third moral hazard was in the offing, and would soon be stalking him. He tried to argue that this was pure superstition. Yet it persisted. Temptations came in threes. Even Christ, he remembered, had been thrice tempted.
In the abnormal warp of his sensibilities this idea took an unshakable grip on Ligget. He even found himself trying to predict the nature of this third temptation. Would it be an urge to take human life? What else was there?
Another man’s money. Another man’s wife. Another man’s life !
Or would it be his own life? Would an overwhelming urge for suicide sweep him finally from despair to perdition?
The thought recurred to Ligget on a hot grey dawn, hammering on his nerves as he lay there abed. Outside he could hear the dull roar of breakers on the reef. Inside, as always, he could see the black satchel. Just beyond it. on the wall, was a portrait of his father in the robes of a judge. Those judicial eyes seemed to accuse Ligget. He sat up with a hoarse cry: “I didn’t take it. I never touched it!” Pounding breakers mocked him from the beach.
Averting his eyes from the bag, he went to a window. He looked out at the lagoon and at a strip of foam which marked the reef. Suddenly he hated the scene and all its bleak blue brilliance. He would get away. He would take the bag with him. No. he’d leave the accursed thing here. He could go and let it rot on that table. But he couldn’t. He could neither take nor leave it. For his very desertion would
brand him as its thief. No, he’d send it to those Valparaiso bankers this very day. His hand, as he reached for it, grew numb and dead. Too late to send it back, he argued. A full year had passed now. If he sent it back, how could he explain?
He looked again from the window, and this time saw a lugger poking in through the reef. Coming to pick up copra, he supposed. But later, when the lugger dropped anchor, he saw that it was no copra boat. A tall, stoop-shouldered white man was being rowed from it to the mole.
Tulaa was serving breakfast when the tall white man knocked at Ligget’s door. Tulaa admitted him. Not until the caller spoke did Ligget, with a start, recognize Jeff Ashton.
A SHTON looked ten years older instead 4 of only one. His face was haggard and his hair was now almost white.
But his smile lacked none of the old warmth as Ligget greeted him. “Nice way to pop in on you, eh, Ligget? I have to stop here between boats and I hoped you might put me up.”
“Of course,” Ligget agreed readily. Thank God he could look Ashton in the eyes ! “On your way to Apia?”
“Right,” Ashton said. “And there I’m hopping a liner for England.”
A Kanaka from the lugger was standing outside with Ashton’s bag. Ligget asked him to bring it in and the man did so. putting it on the table beside the black satchel.
It was a new grey Gladstone. Sight of it there flanking his own untouched satchel brought a flush to Ligget’s face. Then, as the Kanaka withdrew, he turned back to his guest.
“Just in time for a spot of breakfast, Ashton.”
Tulaa brought in another service. Ligget, as the two men breakfasted, took opportunity to scrutinize the other carefully. Clearly the visit was a friendly one. At the same time Ashton appeared to be under some tension of restraint. Ligget’s guess was that he knew the destination of Ada’s elopement a year ago, but that he had heard the outcome of it and did not now hold Ligget to blame.
“You’re going to England?”
Ashton nodded. Then Ligget saw the muscles of his face grow taut. “To bring Ada back home. She wrote me from London.”
“Oh!” There was nothing else Ligget could say.
Breakfast was finished now. Ashton crossed to his grey bag, opened it, rummaged through the clothing there and brought out his pipe. An odd stab of envy pierced Ligget. Ashton wasn’t ashamed of his bag. Two bags on that table and he, Ligget, didn’t dare touch his own.
Ashton stoked his pipe and smoked through a long silence. Then he said
The Abdication Supplement
Maclean's now has available about 3,500 copies of the four-page rotogravure insert included in its January 15th
No complete copies of that issue are obtainable. The insert is that containing the full texts of the messages, speeches and documents recording the Abdication of Edward VIII, and photographs of the former King, the present King and Queen, the Queen Mother and her grandchildren, and the Right Honorable Stanley Baldwin.
The insert does not include Beverley Baxter's article, "Why Edward Quit," but as a historical record for preservation these pages will be of increasing interest and value as the years go by.
While they last, we will fill orders for them at 10c per copy, postpaid.
481 University Avenue Toronto 2, Ontario
Copies cannot be obtained elsewhere
abruptly: “She wrote me everything,
Ligget. That you’re entirely without blame. That she only stopped here long enough to find she wasn’t welcome.”
Ligget gasped. “She went into all that?”
“Of course. Naturally she had to explain, because when she ran away a year ago she left a note saying she was leaving me for you. During all this past year, until her letter came from London last week, I supposed she was here.” Ashton’s voice broke. Ligget could begin to understand why the man had grown haggard and grey in twelve months.
“A hellish thing happened to me, Ligget,” Ashton confessed, “and I’ve got to get it off my chest. Did you ever feel an overwhelming temptation to commit a crime—a stupid crime which could only result in making you a jailbird for the rest of your life?”
The pertinence of the question startled Ligget. Inevitably his eyes shifted to the black satchel. He did not answer.
“That’s exactly what happened to me,” Ashton said, “when I found the note from Ada a year ago. Know what I did, Ligget? I went out and bought a gun, loaded it, and stowed it away in that grey satchel.”
AGAIN LIGGET started. His gaze 4L moved from one satchel to the other, then back to Ashton’s deep-lined face.
“I was determined to come over here,” Ashton admitted, “and kill you both. For a month I sat by that packed bag in a frenzy of impatience, waiting for the next boat. When it came, a strange thing happened. I just couldn’t pick the bag up. The seed of murder was in it, and on a showdown I just couldn’t go through. Hated myself for it. Called myself ten kinds of a coward. The same thing happened again and again. Each month through all the year I waited for the next boat—and when it came, I funked it.”
Ligget stared at him. There had been a third temptation. But it had come to Ashton instead of to himself.
“Hang it, Ligget, you can’t imagine anything like it ! There I was with my crime all packed in a satchel, but I couldn’t—”
“You couldn’t touch it !” Ligget supplied fervidly. “I understand. You sat staring at it each day for a year, and at nights it kept you awake. You could see it in the dark. You couldn’t touch it. Yet you couldn't quite put it aside.”
“Not until I got Ada’s letter from London, last week,” Ashton admitted. “Then I knew how utterly useless it had all been.”
Useless? Ligget’s gaze came to rest once more on the black satchel. Ashton followed his stare and remarked casually: “That’s the same old bag you had the Valparaiso money in, isn’t it?”
Ligget turned with a jerk. “The Valparaiso money?” he gasped.
“Of course. By the way, I got the receipt all right. Here it is.”
Ashton produced a receipt from his pocket and exposed it to Ligget. It was dated ten months ago at Valparaiso, and certified that the Anglo-Chilian Bank there had received from Jefferson Ashton, by registered mail, the entire sum of money stolen by one Adam Starkey.
Ashton smiled reminiscently. “You remember, of course. That first day at my house you were out of your head most of the time. Feverish. But you made one thing perfectly clear. You told me to take all the money out of that satchel and ship it to the Anglo-Chilian Bank. Naturally I did, and here’s the receipt.”
Ligget stood up groggily. When he crossed to the black satchel and lifted it, its lightness amazed him. But since he had never touched it before this, there was no way he could have told whether it was heavy or light.
He opened it now. When he looked to the bottom of it, he saw that his own temptation had been no less futile than Ashton’s. Nothing at all was inside. The untouchable bag had been empty all this while.