The Theft of the Ocean Queen

HENRY HOLT May 1 1923

The Theft of the Ocean Queen

HENRY HOLT May 1 1923

The Theft of the Ocean Queen

HENRY HOLT

THE trading schooner Ocean Queen, a clean cut craft with two masts set rakishly, lay tied up to the rickety pile wharf at Caldena, an island mid-way between Fiji and Bantole. Her skipper was a big good-natured creature with a lazy laugh and eyes that gave the lie to the laziness in his laughter. For they were gray and keen and saw things with amazing swiftness. That was why his Kanaka crew respected him. Also, they liked him, so far as Kanakas are capable of such emotion. Nobody in the trade ever dreamed of calling him anything but Long Jim. except the Kanakas and wharf rats, who varied it with "Cap'n Jim.”

The skipper stilt lingered on the pleasant side of thirty, but was old enough in experience of the South Seas to know that most of the romance we all unconsciously associate with the purple ocean and palm fringed isles beneath the Southern Cross is an alluring fiction. One cun be utterly swept off one's feet while strolling along the white, surf-kissed beach of a lonely isle, listening to the music of a girl's silvery' voice while the magic of the moon turns the sea into an arc of splendor and play's the very devil with one generally'.

But as a rule one doesn't find girls with silvery voices adrift on moon-bathed beaches in the Southern Seas, because,speaking broadly, a spot like that is no place for a clergyman's daughter.

Long Jim was sitting at the table in his cabin, cursing the heat and trying to rivet his attention on the ship’s papers spread before him. He picked a smouldering cigar from the edge of the table and, with a rising inflection, called over his shoulder ‘"Hullo?” as footsteps sounded on the companion ladder.

‘ Are you the captain?” The question came in a clear, brisk tone.

JIM put his cigar on the table again, getting up awkwardly. It was a girl who had spoken —the sort of girl with whom one would like to stroll along the white, surfkissed heach of a lonely isle while the moon-beams toyed with her hair and eyes, and played the very devil with one generally.

""Y-yes.”

"They told me I should find you aboard. When are you sailing?” the girl asked. She had tawny hair— apparently about a fathom of it, Jim guessed—twisted up in thick coils, eyes that had a suggestion of violet about them, even white teeth rimmed with lips none the less adorable because they lacked nothing in firmness. She was calm, if intent, but her eyes were troubled, which fact worried the skipper of the Ocean Queen.

“Sailing? Why—six o’clock to-night. I’m bound for Samoa,” he replied, and it wouldn’t have taken a detective to distinguish the regret in his tone. Then, noticing the girl’s attire, and remembering what he had heard only an hour or two before, he added: “It must have been you who piied her schooner up on the rocks ’way back of the island this morning.”

“A Kanaka helmsman piled the ship up,” the girl corrected instantly with emphasis. And that was the moment when the skipper of the Ocean Queen first learned that her eyes could express other things than the promise of a 3urf-kissed beach on which time was measured by heartbeats only.

‘"Of course I meant that,” Jim threw in hastily. “Can I offer you a passage?” This with frank eagerness. The Ocean Queen was trim enough to carry a duchess to sea, and -Jim's imagination was suddenly aflame.

They were regarding each other critically now, but from totally different view-points. He had had time to notice that her chin was inclined to squareness and she had the general air of one accustomed to giving commands. She would be no good as a ship’s captain otherwise, Jirn reflected. Besides, there was a sweetness about h er lips which redeemed all that. Meanwhile the girl ad appraised him to a nicety. He was amiable, he was bviously interested in her, and he was polite. By the

same token, no woman was going to twist him around her little finger easily.

“Not to Samoa,” she replied slowly. “I want to go south-east, to Bantole.”

THERE are moments when the perversity of fate becomes worse than a mockery. Long Jim had only just signed a contract to sail direct to Samoa, for a cargo which was wanted in a hurry at Caldena. He shook his head gloomily. The contract had come as balm in Gilead, for all had not gone well lately with the skipper of the Ocean Queen.

“Bantole?” There was a slight upward lift of his brows. “That’s at least four days away with this wind. Do you know anybody there? Not many people on the island.” A subtle change swept over the girl. Jim sensed it vaguely, without realizing that she had quickly thrown herself upon the defensive.

“I have never landed there,” she replied coldly. “But I’m going to. And as this happens to be the only vessel at Caldena capable of doing the trip, I’d be glad to make a bargain with you.” There was a crisp business-like air about her now.

“It can’t be done,” declared Jim ruefully. “Sorry, but it’s quite impossible. This run to Samoa is important—u “And my run to Bantole is important—to me.” The girl’s face was set. “Let me charter the Ocean Queen. It will pay you. Everything I had on board was lost in the wreck, unfortunately, but you can take my word that your charges will be paid the moment we reach Bantole.” “Why, I’d have been glad to,” the skipper began, feeling about as comfortable as a rhinoceros at a tea party, “if it hadn’t happened that this contract means steady business, one way and another, for a year. And .... and, well, if the schooner were mine I could do just as I like, but she isn’t, altogether—”

“You mean,” retorted the girl, pinning him down with her eyes like a giant blackbeetle, “you mean you’re afraid you mightn’t get your money?”

The thought occurred to Jim that he would give a week’s earnings cash down at that minute if only some full-grown man would step aboard the ship and make some similar remark. The skipper’s jaw tightened. No girl, pretty or otherwise, was going to dictate to him on his own vessel. Various pithy retorts came to the tip of his tongue but were checked by some influence he had not fathomed. ,

“You’re wrong,” he declared at length, quietly. “As a

matter of fact that notion hadn’t occurred to me. You’re no crook.... Wait! Wait! Don’t get mad.” Her face had quickly colored. “You see I’m right when I say that, and I was trying to show you you’d get hold’ of the wrong idea.”

BAB TRENTON was desperate, but only the slight nervous restlessness of her capable brown hands indicated it. She was a born fighter—a child of the sea, who had come into the world on a ship, the product of generations of fighting seamen stock. A rolling deck underfoot was inspiration to her. Her blood was the blood of men to whom quailing would have meant death when their puny strength was pitted against the storm torn flood. No compromise may be made with the welter of waters.

There came a significant movement of the girl’s shoulders. Backward they went, the barest shade.. And still the fingers were restless. Bab Trenton would have given much at that moment to hold a hasty conference with her brother. A curiously strong bond held her and Taddy Trenton together. Taddy’s judgment was almost uncannily correct when a bold stroke had to be played. Yes, especially in this tight corner would she have liked to consult Taddy. But vast leagues of water stretched between Bab and her brother.

Again that tell-tale movement of her shoulders. There came a tautness aboug her mouth. The fingers became steady. The spirit of that fighting sea-men stock behind her was rising to the surface. At the moment of defeat her resolution was strongest—blind resolution, in face of overwhelming odds.

“Are you going to stay on board until you sail?” she asked.

“I’ll have to go ashore for a while,” he replied, looking at her searchingly. Then, with sudden, surprising intentness he went on: “Listen. I don’t know you. I don’t even know your name. I haven’t the ghost of an idea what your business may be. I never saw you before in my life. And yet, even if there wasn’t any chance of. . of your liking me the better for doing it, there’s nothing on God’s earth I’d rather do than place this schooner at your disposal. But I’m not a free agent. In view of this contract, I’d be double-crossing the best man living if I didn’t go straight to Samoa. Now perhaps you realize how I feel about it. Perhaps you can see, too, that I’m not going to feel more than a foot high when the schooner leaves tonight. But to Samoa .she’s going, because she has to go there. I’m sorry—I’m a whole lot more than just sorry. But that’s my last word on the subject. There are some other things I could say to you, but I won’t, because in the circumstances you—you wouldn’t understand. I couldn’t expect you to. Probably I’ll always think afterwards I was a fool not to run you over to Bantole, but that can’t be helped.”

The girl’s teeth tortured her nether lip. There are some things before which even inflexible determination is left powerless.

“What time are you going ashore?”

Jim indicated the litter on the table.

“When I get through with these. Why?”

“I was just wondering about something,” said Bab with a curious little frown. “Perhaps after all this thing can be arranged. Good morning.”

JIM stood as motionless as an Egyptian pyramid when she turned. He was still staring through the cabindoorway at a blank wall while she mounted the companion steps and walked across the deck. She had actually crossed the gangway and was moving along the wharf when Jim came back to life. He turned, picked up one of the ship’s papers and flung it back on the table impatiently.

“Holy suffering cats!” he exclaimed, little dreaming of the expression of the capricious goddess of romance who was looking down on him just then. “Now, if only—if—” He picked up a hard cushion from the settee, held it in mid air with his left hand, and with his right delivered a

knock out blow into its geometrical centre. Then he kicked the lower part of the main-mast which ran through the cabin, and seemed to derive a certain degree of dismal pleasure from that, though he hurt his foot considerably. He screwed his neck round in striving to peer through the port-hole on to the wharf after the girl, but could see nothing because of an intercepting derrick.

So he tried to settle down to work on the papers, which were urgent, and for two hours concentration fequired a greater effort than he cared about. Finally he picked up his hat and walked ashore, where there was business to attend to. But that did not prevent him from keeping a keen lookout. He had rather gathered from what she last said that there was a prospect of their meeting again. Not that there was the faintest hope of Jim changing his mind on the subject of his next port of call, but it wasn’t often a fellow had a chance to talk to a really good looking girl in these back waters of the beyond.

HALF an hour later Foster, the mate of the Ocean Queen, received an urgent message on the schooner calling him up to the office of the shipping agent. Hurrying ashore, he found Long Jim engaged with the agent. “You want me?” the mate enquired.

Jm looked up, surprised. Then shook his head. “Somebody sent a message for me to come up here,” Foster declared peevishly; for the temperature was a hundred and five in the shade.

“J sent no message,” the shipping a'gent put in. “Somebody’s been stringing you.”

“That’s queer,” said the mate. “A nigger came aboard ‘saying I was wanted immediate up at the agent’s and gave me this note for you, Cap’n.”

While Foster was unburdening his soul and the skipper was lazily laughing at the foolish jest, the shipping agent, looking down at the wharf, half a mile or more away, suddenly became rigid.

“Why—why—” he began in a curious voice, “the schooner’s adrift! She’s sailing!”

“ What!” Jim roared, landing with one bound to the doôr where he could see the ship. “My God! They’ve stolen her!”

“Rubbish!” The agent was not overburdened with imagination. “You can’t steal a—”

“That be damned for a tale,” barked the skipper of the ship in question. ' “It’s done. What is there in this one-horse port big enough to catch up with the schooner? She’s got a fair wind: in a few minutes she’ll be making nine or ten knots.”

“There isn’t anything,” said the. agent. “Only little sail boats, and the Ocean Queen ’ll leave them standing still. Stop! There’s Ditson’s power boat. She’s tied up near the schooner’s berth.”

“Come on!” Jim barked, grabbing Foster’s arm and dragging him in the direction of the wharf.

“But,” the mate protested sterterously, oozing rivers of perspiration, “are you going to get Ditson to give you per—”

“Don’t blether!” rasped the skipper. “Ditson’s dead and buried so far as I’m concerned till we get away in that boat of his. I saw somebody put two great cans of gasoline aboard this morning.”

But the power boat was aggravatingly obstinate. She refused to start, and half a dozen miles lay between the Ocean Queen and the wharf before the engine began to

throb. Then Jim’s memory jumped back to the letter handed him by Foster, which he had thrust, unread, into a pocket. Before he opened the thing he knew who had written it.

Don’t worry about your precious schooner, (it began bluntly). She shall be returned safely in a few days, with all charges paid, providing they are reasonable. Next time you run up against a girl who’s in a tight corner don’t hint mysteriously at a shipload of sentiment with a string attached to it. Forget your own troubles, and see her through. She mightn’t despise you then.

There was no signature.

Jim folded up the missive slowly, thoughtfully. Then he re-opened and re-read it. After which his mouth became a thin straight line, and his fingers tightened on the wheel.

A CLEAR moon was rising, shooting a long silvery streak over the ocean. Jim smiled grimly. Their meeting would be amusing, in a way. Yes, actually amusing, because the girl could never explain what she had done. He wondered what her attitude would be— hers and his.

When at last the breeze dropped and the power boat chugged alongside the sailing ship, he managed to make the power boat’s painter fast and then hauled himself aboard, Foster following.

A white man—the mate off Bab’s lost schoonér—was steering.

“Get hold of that wheel, quick, Foster,” Jim ordered. The girl stood by, leaning.apathetically against the companion way, as the ship went about.

“Well?” Jim said, looking at her as soon as the Ocean Queen's course had been reversed.

“Are you sure there isn’t yet time to make a bargain?” Her question was meticulously deliberate. F or the life of him he could not help admiring her grit. At that stage of the game most men would have thrown up the sponge.

“When I say a thing, I mean it. This ship’s going to -Samoa,” he declared.

“Is that final?” \

“Absolutely.”

Again that almost imperceptible movement of Bab’s shoulders.

“Understand, I would feather avoid this part of the business,” she said. “I am neither a pirate by profession nor a cut-throat by inclination. Still, as this is the only alternative, I must ask you both to put up your hands.” From a pocket Bab had produced a revolver which she held steadily, face resolute.

To Jim’s lips there came a quick wordless sound of bitter surprise. He would have taken a step forward but on the instant the girl checked him.

“Don’t move,” she commanded. “Mr. Fergusson, my mate, is right behind you. He has you both covered and you can take it from me he’ll shoot if you don’t do exactly as you’re told.”

It is no act of cowardice to raise your hands heavenwards when a man is pointing a gun into the small of your back, and a perfect lady, training a gun on the pit of your stomach, is strongly recommending you to adopt that course.

Five minutes later Jim and Foster were lashed to the

poop rail and the schooner once more swung south east toward Bantole. Then the girl faced Jim.

“You’ve brought this on yourself,” she said bitingly. “You forced my hand: I had to do something, because you were so stupid. Now the whole thing has turned out more seriously than I intended. For the last time, will you hire the schooner to me?”

“Not feeling awfully happy about it all now, eh?” There was something particularly irritating in Jim’s smile. He intended it so.

“Not altogether, naturally. It won’t give me any satisfaction to keep two men trussed up for days.”

“I’ll make a bargain with you,” said Jim. “Turn the ship around and we’ll cry quits.”

The girl frowned and was silent for a few moments. Then: “Will you sell the schooner?”

Jim, convinced that he was aces high, grinned.

“Yes—for spot cash.”

“I see,” said Bab, turning away. “But I’m afraid you’ll get cramp. Don’t blame me, though.”

And suddenly Jim no longer felt aces high. He was at a decided disadvantage fastened to the rail; and peace negotiations were crumbling. He was silent for perhaps thirty seconds.

“You win,” he said. “You might let my moorings loose, please.”

Bab hesitated. She had blanched a trifle and though nobody would have guessed it, her knees were none too steady.

“Have I your word of honor that you won’t interfere with the navigation of the schooner?” she demanded.

“You have. And I mean that. I’ll land you safely at Bantole, and do anything else I can to help you, but it’s up to you to tell me what the game is. You can’t blame me for wanting to know just where I stand.” , Bab’s tense face relaxed a little. “You’re on parole now,” she said, unfastening the man’s bonds. “Remember, I’ve accepted your word.”

“Certainly. By the way, I’m starving. Do you invite me to supper’, or do I invite you?” he asked quizzically.

FOR the second time in her life Bab turned really critical eyes on this man. Illogically, she became sorry, in a way; not sorry that she had attained her object, but that she had been obliged to humiliate him in the process. He seemed, however, to regard it all more or less as fun.

“I wish,” she said in a low voice, “I wish you would do the inviting, if you don’t mind. Even in a case like this, there’s a sort of significance about an invitation, isn’t there?”

Jim’s mental process was automatic. This was no bold bad pirate, but a girl—a very human girl—who had some strong, doubtless good reason for being in a hurry, and had acted impulsively. The corners of her mouth had twisted as she spoke. She was resourceful, but sensitive, and infinitely proud. At that curious moment the man read some of her thoughts with amazing accuracy.

“Don’t worry about it-—child,” he replied with an attempt at lightness. “Don’t you remember, I told you once there was nothing I’d rather do than place the schooner at your disposal? I wasn’t in a position to do that. It’s been done for me. By you. If the folks you’re dealing with on Bantole can settle for the hire of the schooner, it’ll just be an ordinary commercial transaction.

Continued on page 74

The Theft of the Ocean Queen

Continued, from page 25

If they go back on you, well you don’t have to get upset about it. Accept my assurance on that please. Now are you at peace with your conscience?”

A little shyly she extended a small weather-tanned hand. It became engulfed firmly in that of the skipper.

AND for four days Jim was happy. It was not his way to turn from joy thrust on him by fate. Once only did he again seek tentatively to learn something of Bab Trenton’s mission. There was nothing of curiosity in his motive. The girl recognized that fact.

“Don’t tell me if you don’t want to,” he said. “I’m only thinking that maybe I might be able to help you a bit.”

“Thank you so much,” she replied, “but you can’t—not a scrap more than you are doing.”

“All right.” He was wondering wkat on earth her eyes recalled to him. “You needn’t say another word about it. I’ll even stand pat on what I told you once before, that I’d do this much gladly even ■—even if there wasn’t any chance of your liking me the better for it.”

They were leaning against the weather rail. The graceful schooner swayed gently in the swell. Jim’s shoulder touched the girl’s sleeve; he was so close that he could have kissed her cheek. Yet for a space neither of them moved. Jim was on parole, he felt himself on parole in every sense oí the word he knew, but the spirit of him was beating its wings against the cage bars. His hands gripped the rail until the knuckles whitened. Her eyes, fixed on the far horizon, were drawn to his. The pressure of his fingers slackened. One hand brushed gently against hers.

A delicate tinge of color rose from the girl’s throat, mounted to her cheeks. In those few seconds a new world was opening before her. The gates of the world she had always known clanged behind her—the world of a small New Hampshire town where she had spent all her days when ashore. There she had gone to school, fretting, chafing for the tang of salt air and the love of her seagoing father whose blood ran red in her veins. Then after the schooling, there were re-kindled the instincts handed down from her ancestors when, carefreee and filled with the fire of youthful romance, she returned on her father’s shi¿> to the wind swept ocean. He taught her the arts of navigation by stars and scent and sight. He taught her the mysteries of

canvas and halyards and gear. He taught her all that the sea meant to him until she feared that great restless waste, as alL true sailors must fear it before it enmeshes their imagination and draws them eternally back to its heaving bosom. And finally the old sea captain dropped his anchqr ashore. Now it was he who waited for Bab to return while he dreamed dreams of palm trees and coral islands—while he slept in a solid four-poster bed which always rode on an even keel.

But this new world opening before Bab at Jim’s touch, there on the swaying schooner, was a radiant thing, and some voice within her that had never spoken before, told her there could be no going back. It was her world—and his.

“Will you promise,” Jim asked huskily, “that you will let me know where I can find you—afterwards?”

Her shining eyes shot to a great albatross volplaning alongside.

“How on earth does that bird find itsway home again?” She broke the spell with a light laugh. “It must be hundreds, of miles from anywhere. Are—are you so* sure you want to know me afterwards? Only a little while ago, you know, I was running away with your ship?” In spite of herself, her heart was dancing: it told her their love was the more wonderful for the swiftness with which it had come crashing into their lives.

“Shall I find you at Bantole if I return there very soon?” the man persisted.

Bab shook her head uncertainly. Her affairs had indeed become topsy-turvy enough already through the wrecking of her vessel, but they were rapidly growing more so. The drama of life was unfolding itself too hurriedly for her to grasp the true significance of each quickly changing scene. The'future was shadowy.

“Perhaps. I cannot tell—yet,” she slowly answered.

And Jim, completely at sea as to the meaning of that “perhaps,” cursed himself for a bungler. He knew, precisely, what his feelings toward this girl were to be in the great afterward, even if she were to become a memory to him only. He knew. This was something he had been waiting for, always, without altogether being aware of it.

AWAY to windward a creamy carpet was spreading over the wrinkled sea —spreading and drawing nearer. Jim and the girl were intent on other vital things. The ebony hued Kanaka at the helm.

with one glued eye dùtifully on the leach of the to’gal-s’l, was a thousand miles away under swaying palms overlooking a coral reef, where he always pictured the same kinky haired girl beckoning, beckoning.

“Won’t you,” Jim began, “won’t you at least promise—”

A warning shout came from some brasslike throat, and the skipper of the Ocean Queen, spinning around on the instant, leaped across the poop to the wheel just in time to clutch it from the dreamy Kanaka and ease the ship into the teeth of the oncoming blast. For five fierce minutes there was tumult as the wind tore and snatched at the far flung canvas, while lithe sailors, driven by the man who held their fates in his hand, fought with halyards and slashing sails until the schooner rode easily under mains’l, fores’l, fore-topmast stays’l and lower-top-s’l.

Holding on to a stanchion, Bab had been a mute spectator. This, to her, was life. For a few moments there had been danger—real, imminent danger—of the schooner capsizing, until Jim, with one second to spare, saved the situation. Watching the man intently, she warmed to him. Yes, he was a sailor; a sailor who knew how to handle both a ship and a crew of blacks in a crisis. He had in him that which every Trenton cherished, secretly worshipped. Bab Trenton’s breast rose and fell more quickly as she watched. But beyond being a splendid sailor, Jim was something else. Something .... she half closed her eyes and saw a vision dimly. Then, just as Jim’s tension relaxed, the girl, with steps less steady than the movement of the ship warranted, descended the companion to her own state room. There, alone, she stared through the port hole at the spume flecked waste, but saw nothing of it. Her vision was upon the to-morrows of life.

THE sudden gale had vanished and the loom of land showed hazily on the bow before Jim found art opportunity of speaking to her again. Another hour or so only stretched ahead before their roads were to divide.

“It’s exactly four days since I met you,” he began awkwardly.

“Four days and ten minutes.” She was looking at the little watch on her wrist, at the dim coast line, at the flying-fish— anything but Jim.

“Better still,” he declared. “You’ll be less inclined to think me impetuous. If this trade wind had failed and we had drifted for weeks I’d have been delighted. But.... but here we are at Bantole and .... and you haven’t promised me a chance to see you again.”

He stopped, puzzled. The girl had not checked him, yet there was not an atom of encouragement in her manner. Less than an hour left! And was this to be the end? They were on deck, -with half the ship’s company ready to look on. Her hand rested on the rail. He covered it gently with his own, and cared not who saw. There was a tensing of her fingers but she did not withdraw them. It seemed a lifetime before she turned to him with infinite depths in her eyes. ,

“It’s funny,” she said a bit unsteadily, “but I never realized before how little it matters, in certain crises, who one may be. For instance, you are known as Long Jim, or Captain Jim, and you are the skipper of an island trading ship, and that’s absolutely all I know about you; and as for me. . . .And yet. . . .somehow .... all the rest doesn’t seem to count much, whatever it is. It isn’t really true, of course, that that’s all I know about you, because we’ve been on the Ocean Queen together for days. And I don’t suppose, when one comes right down to think of it, that there’s another ship’s captain afloat who would have taken the stealing of his vessel quite so calmly—” “If it had been anyone living but you,” he interrupted, “there’d have been fur and feathers flying.”

“Exactly. Somehow I felt that all along. Why did you take it so—so—well, as you did?”

“Because I love you,” he said simply. “I knew I loved you inside thirty seconds when you first entered the cabin of this ship at Caldena. Dear,” he went on more quickly, his hand tightening over hers, “time is getting very short—only a few minutes left. Can’t we... . can’t we take each other just a little bit on trust? For the present, I mean. I can’t let you go ashore now without putting up this fight for you.”

HER lips parted: her eyes were like two great shining stars. She swayed slightly toward him, but, with tightly clenched hand, recovered quickly.

“Dear man,” she said, “Fergusson is looking, and that big black at the wheel is taking it all in. You needn’t sail straight back, need you? Can’t you. wait until morning?”

“I’d wait till the crack of doom now if yqu said so. And yet, there’s this darn contract thing. I’ll sail in the morning and come back again like a rocket. It isn’t fair to rush you—-”

“It isn’t that,” she said softly, “but I don’t want you to go to-night.”

The schooner was luffing up into the breeze near a trim little sailing yacht anchored close to the shore. Before the Ocean Queen's cable had ceased to rattle in the hawse pipe a row-boat pushed off from the yacht, and headed for the schooner. Sitting in the stern was a man middle age in white duck and a pith helmet.

“Is Mr. Musgrove aboard?” hesang out. Jim’s brows contracted.

“Why, you back again!” he exclaimed. Had anyone been looking at the girl they would have seen that something had startled her amazingly. She became a living note of interrogation.

“I want to see you, on business,” said the man in the pith helmet, to Jim.

“Mr. Musgrove—Jim!” The girl’s words were like the crack of a whip. Jim turned swiftly, and looked at her.

“Quick. You must come down into the cabin with me. I want to speak to you,” she urged.

“One minute, Mr. Vandyke,” Jim called to the man in the pith helmet; and followed the girl down the companionway.

“Taddy Trenton is your partner, isn’t he?” Bab demanded the instant they were alone. - ■ • •

“He is,” Jim replied, puzzled. ,

The girl moistened, her lips. “I’m his sister, Bab Trenton.”

YOU! Why I knew there was something familiar about your face,” said Jim, beaming. “You are a bit like him, aren’t you? I remember once he told me he had a sister, but he didn’t—”

“Listen, please," Bab pleaded. “He’s * in hospital at Suva. He sent me herewith an urgent message for you. This Mr. Vandyke came to Bantole a month ago and said something about buying ’your place, didn’t he? Taddy told me everything. You two were doing badly and decided that if Mr. Vandyke came back and made any sort of offer that was halfway acceptable, you’d sell.”

“That’s right. Your brother signed the necessary papers before he went, in case this chap came back.”

“Exactly. That’s why I was ih such a terrific hurry to get here. You remember when Mr. Vandyke was here last he said he wanted to be sure what the sub-soil was, and he dug several holes. In the last place he dug ever so far.” ‘ •

“Probably. But go on.”

“He did, anyway. And Taddy wondered what he was after. Mr. Vandyke carefully filled .that last hole up, though he hadn’t taken the trouble to fill any of the others. Later Taddy dug it up again and took some specimens to Fifi with him. He didn’t know what they were, but he took them, just to find out. Jim, there’s platinum on this part of Bantole, and platinum is worth—”

“Help!” Jim ejaculated, sitting down heavily. “And of course, that’s why you were so—why you wouldn’t talk.”

“Taddy said I wasn’t to breath a word to any living soul but you. If you happened to be away when I got here I wasn’t even to tell anyone who I was. And I never suspected—I mean, everybody just called you Jim, and you didn’t tell me what your other name was—”

Jim straightened his shoulders.

“I’m going up on deck, to.'. ..to attend to a little matter of business,” he said. “But before I go—”

Even without the aid of a white surfkissed beach and moonbeams, her hair and her eyes were playing the very devil with Jim.

“You wonderful, wonderful girl!” he said softly, after time had stood still for ages there in the little cabin, and the grip of his arms about her slackened. “You wonderful, wonderful girl!”

And Mr. Vandyke, on deck, was lighting another cigar airily. “Gee!” he murmured under his breath. “It’s a cinch!"