There's No Such Word
Intrigue—Excitement—RomanceߞLaughter in every chapter of this Galloping Novel
OUT of the ragged, rust-colored sierra. fretting a sky of trembling blue, the road from the north twists tortuously to the frontier village of Humaytha, in
the republic of Sao Pedro. The actual frontiers are marked by a river, whose waters, spanned by a donkey-back bridge of corduroy, are rusty as the hills beyond.
Down the road and toward the bridge came an open fourseater touring car. It was a car of many horsepower and of rakish design. A gay and reckless car—gay and reckless as the young man who drove it. Both had the air of being swift, smooth and dangerous; both had the appearance of ■familiarity with the pleasant places of this earth. Car and owner were spiced with dash. They formed an adventurous combination. They looked as if things were likely to happen to them, and as if they hoped it might be so. From the way they took their corners it was apparent that they had no doubts about each other, and a total absence of dents or scars on either proved that this mutual trust was not misplaced. The car hummed and the man sang. The car was a Black Warrior, and the young man was the Honorable Larry Odell, but why and wherefore they had come to the republic of Sao Pedro, neither one nor the other could truthfully declare.
It would be vain to pretend that Larry was conducting a tour of the republics of South America in a spirit of topographical or political enquiry. His mind, an efficient machine and weapon, did not pursue those channels. Possibly a latent belief that he might stumble upon something amusing in those latitudes had persuaded him to make the trip. South America has a reputation for providing excitement of a wide and varied nature. An ardent spirit is more likely to find something doing in Sao Pedro than, let us say, in Bognor Regis, where such expressions of displeasure as the throwing of knives are of rare occurrence, where fortunes are not to be won on the wheel of chance, where few opportunities are afforded for taking part in revolutions, and where the atmosphere is not of that exotic kind which compels the serenading of lovely ladies with guitars and mandolins.
A few months before, Larry Odell had found himself at Bognor in company with his father, the seventh Earl of Oakford. and his elder brother Ronald.
Encouraged by the beneficent effects upon the health of the English monarch wrought by the airs of Bognor Regis, the earl and his elder son had rented a house facing the sea. It must be confessed that Lord Oakford, whose disposition led him in the direction of livelier surroundings than South Coast health resorts, would have been better pleased with a
villa in Monte Carlo. Ronald, however, his mind occupied with thoughts of succession, had taken a firm stand against any such extravagance. Ronald was by nature a congenital conservative who interested himself in local politics and income tax evasion. He had taken to wife a stale little woman who had borne him a single child, a girl, as white and lifeless as a stick of summer celery.
The whole of the Oakford dash and character, for which the family had once been famed, was invested in Larry. To his brother and many of his more sober relations, the young man’s desire to get a kick out of life was a source of constant anxiety. From their point of view, there had been no possible justification for him to have joined the Foreign Legion. His excuse that he had been too young to fight in the war was regarded not only as unacceptable but silly. They were filled with pious horror when he engaged himself as a working hand with the South Pole Whaling Company and disappeared from mortal ken for a matter of thirty months.
Truth to tell, Larry had not cared overmuch for that experience. Hardship had no horrors for him, but he had wearied of ice and grey sea. Also, it was a job that stank a stench that baffles description. Still, it was better than doing nothing and touching the old man for money. Larry Odell had an eccentric objection to touching anyone, the old man in particular. He possessed a trifle of money himself, enough to satisfy his adventurous needs, and he knew that, since the war. being a lord was no sinecure. Life for him was a great deal happier when he turned his back on familiar surroundings and, following impulse wheresoever it led him, pursued the gay pathways of
adventure into the tangled labyrinth of the vast unknown.
So it may have been one or a combination of these events, persons, places and impulses, which accounted for his presence on the frontiers of Sao Pedro. Then again, fate may have had something to do with it.
The Black Warrior swept over the donkey-backed bridge and bore down upon the barrier which spanned the roadway. Some sentries, in green tunics, white trousers and black patent leather hats, presented their rifles at him perfunctorily. The Honorable Larry Odell put his right foot upon the brake, the car pulled up in a cloud of dust, and he finished the song he was singing, with hands high above his head and the words, “I surrender.”
THE arrival of a stranger in Humaytha was not so common an event for the locals to have lost relish for it. No sooner had the car pulled up, than it was surrounded by a band of ragged, half-caste urchins, vendors of fruit, and guides with suggestions of divers entertainments. From the Customs House, a white building, emerged an officer, who called upon Larry to follow him inside.
“You speak Spanish?” he asked.
He was surprised at the fluency with which the question was answered. Larry's service in the Foreign Legion had made him adept in Mediterranean tongues.
One of the urchins, perceiving in the dust which had gathered on the panels of the Black Warrior a canvas suited to his talents, proceeded to execute a design upon it with a moistened forefinger.
“Write if you must,” said Larry, “but keep it clean.” Turning to the officer he shook hands with him warmly. “Good-by!” he said.
He entered the Customs House and found himself in a low. whitewashed room, with many notices upon the walls. At a table near the door was seated a most dignified official, with a pair of mustaches which would have ensured his immediate success in vaudeville. From the braided cockade upon his hat. it was apparent that this individual held a position of importance. He did not look up as Larry entered, for the reason that he was occupied in playing a game of patience and was exhibiting that air of concentration and thoroughness which the title of the game would seem to demand. Since there appeared to be no likelihood of the game terminating for some hours, Larry took a passport from his pocket and laid it on the table in an open space between the columns of cards.
Without looking up, the superintendent removed it, restored it to its owner, and pointed with a wandering forefinger at a green baize table occupied by three officials who, with their chairs tilted back and their eyes dosed, were enjoying a few moments of peaceful oblivion. A kindly nature is always reluctant to disturb a sleeper, and it must be regarded as an act of fate that one of the several urchins who had invaded the car should have chosen that moment to sound the horn. Its cacophonous voice, acting as a reveille, aroused the first officer to an unwilling sense of his duties. Taking Larry’s passport, he examined the photograph it contained with a frown of displeasure.
“I agree. It's libellous.” said Larry.
It is not, however, the fashion with customs officers to regard humor, or indeed any other human element, with anything but suspicion. Probably of all callings it is the most inimical and captious. The frown deepened into a statement which savored of denunciation.
“Your name is Larry Odell and you are a British subject?” Larry smiled. “I haven’t denied it. have I?”
The officer grunted: “Why have you come to Sao Pedro?” “For the pleasure.” said Larry, “of enjoying just the kind of welcome you, señor, are exhibiting.”
“And your destination?”
Larry nodded, and the officer busied himself with some entries on a pro forma.
“Can you tell me how far it is to Santarem?”
“Yes,” said the officer shortly, and proceeded with his task. After perhaps three-quarters of a minute he added : “Do you wish to know how far it is to Santarem?”
“No,” said Larry.
From the expression of dismay which spread over the officer’s face, Larry felt he had the best of the exchange, and wandered off to peruse the notices with which the walls were plastered. From one of these he learnt that there was an impost of $25 on foreign cars. He had just digested this fact when the second officer made a peremptory demand for $50 for the car. Larry pointed at the notice, whereon the second officer reluctantly and unblushingly bowed to the inevitable and reduced the demand by half.
“Twenty-five dollars,” he said, but added the warning: “And I hope for the senor’s sake that he has no contraband in his luggage.”
This pious hope proved, to his disappointment, to be realized. The search of Larry’s belongings resolved itself into a purely formal affair, since the third customs officer, to whom the task was allotted, was more substantially occupied in whispered suggestions into Larry’s ear for the guidance of his future entertainment. He even went so far as to offer to provide Larry with an address, and shook his head uncomprehendingly at Larry’s enquiry:
“On what? Purity?”
Despairing of doing business with one so obviously lacking in proper understanding, the officer scrawled a cabalistic sign on one of the panels of the Black Warrior and signalled to the sentries to remove the barrier.
The crowd of urchins swarming around and over the car were diverted from their occupation by a shower of coins scattered by Larry in the roadway. During the scramble after them, wherein the customs officers took a prominent and effective part, Larry jumped into the driving seat, gave the engine a lively spin and, passing through an ascending scale of gears, entered into the amiable and corrupt republic of Sao Pedro.
AT A MODEST TAVERN, bearing a swinging sign with the words “Café Rhonda” vignetted in a spandrel of grapes, he made his first halt. A small car of eccentric antiquity was standing at the curb, and as Larry was passing between two trees in tubs which defined the entrance to the café, he all but collided with its owner.
To a man whose eye was recently attuned to the sober suitings of Bognor Regis, the appearance of the individual who confronted Larry might well have occasioned feelings of surprise if not of admiration. The man stood well over six feet in height, an immense ramshackle figure adorned with a twenty-four-inch sombrero, a scarlet shirt, and Mexican trousers so tight over the hips and so voluminous over the ankles as to have excited the envy of any ablebodied seaman in the British Navy. An immense revolver with an ivory butt projected from a holster on his right side. Over one shoulder hung a tattered cloak of some black material, lined with silk which once had been royal purple but now was so bleached by the sun as to be almost colorless. Despite his tatterdemalion appearance, there was an air of swagger and importance about the man that could not be overlooked.
“Sorry.” said Larry.
“Señor.” said the man.
Bows were exchanged. Then the man swept his mustache into place with a single gesture, tilted his sombrero to an even more rakish angle, emitted a heartening belch, entered the small car and drove away. It was not until his departure was, so to speak, complete that Larry allowed his features to relax into a grin. Turning, he found that the patron of the café, a greasy little Mediterranean with black locks who had apparently lost his razor some days earlier, was standing beside him. Larry nodded in the direction of the departing car.
“Where’s the rest of the circus?” he asked.
The patron did not seem to be amused. Indeed, his voice assumed an expression almost of reproof.
“Carefully, señor, I beg,” he beseeched. “That is Señor
Larry accepted the information amiably. “What’s he do?” he asked.
Wiping the marble top of a table with a duster, the patron invited Larry to be seated.
“Señor Yacco,” he observed, “is most important. When
the gentlemen of the hills abduct one of our citizens, it is Señor Yacco’s privilege to carry their demands to the Ransom Department in Santarem; and afterward, when the money has been subscribed, to deliver it to the gentlemen.”
It is hardly surprising that Larry should have shaken his head.
“But it is the truth, señor,” the patron insisted. “And on that account Señor Yacco is assured of respect wheresoever he goes.”
Larry stretched out his legs and grinned.
“I’m going to enjoy myself in Sao Pedro.”
“What will the señor take?”
“Very good beer.”
“Let’s have a lot of it.”
“At once, señor.”
“Sao Pedro for me all the time,” said Larry.
He was reflecting upon the pleasant possibilities for entertainment which the future appeared to offer, when a half-caste Indian child with a shirt which was so short as to advertise complete lack of underwear, flung himself at Larry’s feet, and, armed with a brush almost innocent of bristles, attacked his shoes with fanatical intensity.
“Señor rich American,” whined the infant. “Juan very poor. Mother very good, father very bad. Give a dollar?” He had barely concluded this cameo of domestic misery when another infant, similarly equipped, took Larry in the rear and started with a brush upon his coat.
“Señor! Señor!” cried the new arrival with impassioned eagerness. “Mother very good—”
“And father very bad.” Larry interpolated.
Perceiving that the first arrival had stolen his lightning, the second produced a word in dialect of so provocative a kind that an altercation arose which bade fair to end in blows. At its height a luxurious automobile of primrose yellow pulled up before the café, and the chauffeur, a man in elaborate livery, alighted and called aloud for the patron.
Seated in the back of the car was a girl, and it needed no more than a single glance to convince Larry once and for all that she was the loveliest girl imaginable. Her face was in profile, and although her expression was the least bit remote, there was about it just that tinge of sadness which inspires in the heart of a man thoughts of remedial tenderness. Larry, who had been laughing at the altercation when the car arrived, locked an arm around the neck of the first child and put his foot upon the neck of the second. And thus for a matter of seconds he remained transfixed.
IT MAY have been the sudden silence after the storm of words which compelled the girl to look in his direction. Her head came round slowly in a half circle. Her eyes rested upon him for a split second, then turned away again. The veriest flicker of a smile disturbed the corners of her mouth. The corners moved upward a bare millimetre, hovered there a moment, then drooped to their former angle of sadness. Her head turned away, and she looked through the farther window. The curve of a cheek, a twist of honey-colored curls, and a white neck like the stem of a lily, was all that was left of her.
The chauffeur and patron came from the enfe, the latter with a can of water, with which the radiator was filled. The chauffeur returned to his place at the wheel. The engine hummed like the drone of insects on a summer’s day, and the fairest vision Larry had ever beheld was no more.
A man who at first sight has fallen completely and eternally in love is not a fruitful subject for the brushes of garrulous infants. Thrusting some coins into their hands, Larry cast them forth, and with his eyes upon the dust cloud which followed the car, addressed the patron, who by this time had placed a jug of beer and a stemmed glass upon the table.
“Who was she?”
“That,” said the patron, with the air of a man who served only the most distinguished customers, “is the Señorita Daryl Forsythe, daughter of Areal Pacheco, the President.”
From Larry’s next remark, it was clear to the patron that he could not have listened.
“I must know her.”
Something in the meaty quality of the patron’s laugh broke the spell which the girl had cast upon him.
“Well, what’s the joke?”
“The señor cannot have heard aright. I raid she was the daughter of the President.,”
“That’s not necessarily against her. is it?
“But, for a stranger to meet the daughter of the President is impossible.” the patron insisted.
Larry repeated the word “impossible” and added:
“There’s no such word.”
The patron filled his glass with beer.
“The señor does not understand. In Sao Pedro such an introduction might well occupy a matter of years.”
“Daryl,” said Larry meditatively, emptying his glass. “An English-sounding name.”
“The señorita is English.”
“But you said—”
“True. But the señorita is the stepdaughter of Pacheco.”
This information seemed to please the young man, for he refilled his glass.
“Tell me mare about her,” he said.
“But willingly. If the señor is staying in Santarem, he will witness in four days the wedding of the señorita to Señor Clive Lattimer.”
“What’s that?” The dreamy quality had vanished from Larry’s voice, to be replaced by a tone at once outraged and indignant.
“Señor Lattimer is also English. The richest gentleman in Santarem.”
So saying, the patron opened a newspaper and spread it on the table, revealing the photograph of an elderly gentleman with pouchy eyes, a twinkle of humor, and a general air of self-indulgence. Beneath the photograph was some reading matter, setting forth the arrangements that had been made for the forthcoming wedding of this distinguished citizen with the Señorita Daryl Forsythe. The editor had let himself go upon the subject, and among other phrases loud in praise of both parties was one which spoke of the affair as though it were a romance compared to which the loves of Abelard and Heloise were stale and trifling.
■yOUTH is notoriously impetuous and its judgments too _ often are marred by antipathy. There can, however, be little excuse for Larry in banging the heel of his fist, into the face of the portrait and demanding:
“How old is this baboon?”
The patron, as an older man, was frankly and justifiably shocked. Larry did not wait for his answer. His thoughts had fled away in pursuit of the primrose-colored automobile, which, leaving the main road and entering a side turning that was little more than a track, still was visible as a diminishing dust cloud upon the plains.
“Where has she gone?” he asked.
He was told that it was the senorita’s custom weekly to visit a holy father in a shrine upon the mountainside. The patron pointed at a tiny speck of white among the distant hills.
“The señor can see the shrine yonder.”
“And does she come back this way?”
“But yes. There’s no other.”
Larry Odell seemed to be digesting the problem.
“Is there much traffic on that side road?”
From a sudden lively expression which spread over his face, it appeared as if the problem had solved itself. He rose and threw some money on the table. The patron in the meantime had taken some shawls and scarves from a little heap upon the bench.
“The señor would like a souvenir of the Café Rhonda?” Ordinarily speaking, this suggestion had the effect of accelerating the departure of a guest, but not so now, for
Larry looked at the patron as though the question was inspired.
“Yes,” he said, “I would.” He picked up the stemmed glass from which he had been drinking and fingered it lovingly. “Some of these.”
“The señor cannot be serious. That is just common glass.”
“I’ll have twenty-four of them,” said Larry. “And I’ll have ’em quick.”
Nothing was said about the price. English and American visitors are notoriously odd in their tastes. If the señor had a fancy for rubbish of that kind, who was the patron to deny him? But he could not understand the dancing, mischievous light in his guest’s eyes as the latter waited impatiently for his purchase.
“The señor would wish each glass to be packed separately?”
Larry shook his head.
“No. Tumble ’em into the back of the car.”
“But if they break, señor?”
“So much the better,” said Larry Odell.
'T'HERE was a patio in the little house which adjoined -*■ the shrine, tucked away on the shelf among the mountains a cool, pleasant place, nestling in the shade of a pepper tree and the white walls of the house itself.
As Daryl and her confessor, Fra Anselmo, came from the shrine, he paused to pick an orange from a hanging bough. A gentle man was the priest, and for all that he lived the life of a hermit, at one with nature like St. Francis of Assisi, he was wise in the ways of the world. Distaste for the vice and corruption in the City of Santarem had driven him into this retreat; even as much as the same impulse persuaded Daryl each week to steal away from an atmosphere of shams, pretenses and political intrigue, and spend a quiet hour in the old man’s company.
She had seemed to him more than usually thoughtful and subdued that morning. Her confession had been formal and perfunctory and he felt, while he listened, that she was holding back a burning desire to lay bare a secret of the heart that had no association with venial or mortal sins.
Moving ahead of him, she sat upon a bench beneath the pepper tree, watching with unseeing eyes the pools of sunlight that pierced the foliage overhead and danced upon the flagstones at her feet. He did not wish to disturb her reverie, and, sitting beside her, put the orange in her lap. She thanked him with her eyes, rolled it between her palms, and, very like a child, drove an intrusive forefinger through its yellow skin and sucked the juice thoughtfully. At last she said :
“Sweet. Everything is sweet up here—you, the spirit of the place, its quietness—oh, everything.” She gave a little shiver. “Awful to think this is the last time I shall come—as myself.”
“But you won’t desert me altogether, Daryl?”
She shook her head and smiled.
“No, never that.” she said. “But me—the free me. I mean. Life’s funny, isn’t it? Oh. well.”
He leant forward and took one of her hands; a sticky hand, from the orange she had been eating.
“Are you unhappy, my daughter?”
“Because of my marriage? It has to be.”
Lines furrowed his brow.
“Why, Daryl? You’re young. Too young to marry so old a man. Oh, I’ve nothing against him. But it seems so unnatural a choice.”
"Necessity,” she said.
“But why?” he insisted. “You can trust me. You do trust me, I think, yet you’ve never told me why.”
“Of course, I trust you. More than anyone.” She had been looking at him, but she turned away. “I’ve always confessed my own sins.”
Ever so slightly she stressed the words “my own.” He leaned forward.
“Your own?” he said. “What does that imply?”
Daryl shook her head, as though to shake away an impulse of confidence.
“Forget I said that,” she begged.
“I don’t want you to think I pity myself. What I’m doing I’m doing with my eyes open. Because I must— must.” And then she added a rider which seemed to negative the conviction of her claim. “At least I suppose so.”
She looked at her watch and jumped to her feet.
“Look at the time. I must be going.”
He took her hand and. passing it through his arm, walked to where the car waited to carry her back to the corruption of civilization. Dropping her mouth to his hand, she kissed it before entering the car, then settled down on the cushions with a smile of farewell.
“I shall pray for your happiness,” he said.
Her smile twisted into a line that was half cynical.
“Then you must pray for a miracle,” she answered.
As the car moved off down the hill Fra Anselmo stood watching it from the roadway, shaking his head after the manner of a man sorely troubled and perplexed.
T_TALF a mile from where the track joined the main road,
-*■ Larry Odell reversed the Black Warrior and, filling his pockets with the glasses which he had bought as a souvenir of the Café Rhonda, he proceeded for a distance
of perhaps a hundred yards in the direction of the mountains. Here, at a curve in the road, he busied himself laying a barrage of broken glass in that part of the roadway over which the tires of Daryl’s automobile must inevitably pass. It would seem that he found in this destructive pastime occasion for happiness, for as he worked he sang, and the singing lent vigor to the work. But for a miracle, it would be impossible for the glass barrage to fail to produce a casualty. He was engaged in sprinkling clods of earth over his handiwork, when a faint and distant hum caused him to look sharply over his shoulder. A mile away a tiny speck of primrose rode the plain before a plume of dust.
With a final glance to assure himself that every eventuality had been legislated for, Larry Odell walked to his car and threw himself down on the back seat. It was characteristic of the man that he made no effort to witness the disaster for which he had prepared, but sat with his back toward it, smiling at the cornflowerblue sky and listening with an attent ear to the increasing hum of the approaching car. Nearer and nearer it droned; so near in fact that the smile was dying upon Larry’s face when the first explosion occurred.
“One,” he said. Two reports followed in quick succession. “Two, three ” he said.
The last report was very loud, and was followed by a wrangling rhythm of tireless rims bumping upon an uneven surface.
“The lot,” said Larry.
An expres si on so beatific spread over his countenance as to substantiate a belief that the pathways to heaven may well be paved with broken glass. He did not look around to watch the car bumping and swaying and coming to a standstill.
Francois, the chauffeur, was first to alight, and being a Frenchman, he expressed his opinion with Gallic volubility. Daryl Forsythe opened the door and stepped out.
“Qu’est ce que c’est?” she demanded.
Francois made a gesture which appeared to embrace the entire universe.
"Toutes les pneus sont faire éclater.”
Surprise occupied both too completely for them to be
aware of the arrival of a strange man until he made his presence known by the enquiry:
Daryl turned. She could not be sure, but there seemed something vaguely familiar about his features.
“Our tires have burst,” she answered.
With an air of concern and solemnity Larry made a circular tour of the car, and then gravely remarked: “You’re perfectly right. How very odd.”
“It’s frightfully inconvenient,” said Daryl.
“Any spares?” he asked.
It was Francois who answered that question.
Larry clicked his tongue.
“Too bad,” said he. “Rather stuck, aren’t you?”
Daryl can hardly be blamed for looking at him as one looks at a man who says, “Shaving” when he has lather on his chin.
Since first impressions in affairs öf the heart are of vital importance, Larry lost no time in trying to eradicate the effect of inanity which his last observation had implied. “Were you going far?”
Larry’s voice assumed a tone of the liveliest amazement. “Extraordinary,” he said. “So am I. Took a wrong turning and was having a nap. If I can be of any use, I have a car down the road.”
Daryl hesitated. After all, the young man seemed agreeable, and there was no getting away from the fact that he was terribly good looking.
“That’s very nice of you,” she said.
“Of me? No, for me. Come on. Your man can stay here and we’ll send back some spares.”
This arrangement, however, did not prove agreeable to Francois, who, drawing his mistress aside, whispered something warningly in her ear. Her frowning dismissal of the warning did Larry a world of good. He heard the sentence, “Pas nécessaire, monsieur est gentilhomme.”
“I hope so,” said Larry. “And I speak several languages.” It cannot be pretended that all his remarks met with general approval. The stepdaughter of a President must
observe conventions, and cannot respond recklessly to the addresses of strange young men. In her present predicament Daryl had no choice but to accept the invitation to accompany him, but the cold expression on her face was designed clearly to indicate that her acceptance did not in any way presage the promise of a joy ride. She was perfectly clear as to the correct line of action take with him, and was disappointed to find his personality so engaging to relax her severity the direction of a smile.
“Well, if you’re ready, let’s go. How about it?” he suggested.
Together they walked down the road in the direction of the Black Warrior.
“My name’s Larry Odell,” he announced.
Daryl accepted this information negatively; fact, she accepted it silence.
"Don’t bother to tell me yours,” he went on, “because I know it. was at the Café Rhonda when you stopped an hour ago.”
It was evident that something would have be said, so Daryl produced :
“I think I saw your
This being the highest pinnacle of intimacy their acquaintance had attained, Larry breezed in with characteristic impertinence:
“I saw yours too, and was enormously impressed by its profile ”
At that Daryl’s mouth closed a little tighter: there was no evidence that she had heard the remark. For several yards they pursued their way in silence.
"Quiet in these parts.” said Larry. “Very, very quiet. Too quiet, I sometimes think.”
Daryl said nothing. They reached the car and he opened the door beside the driving seat. Daryl perceived her opportunity and took it. She opened the door to the back seat, herself.
entered, closed it, and composed herself.
Some natures will not admit defeat, and Larry’s was one of them. After all, one doesn’t destroy two hundred dollars’ worth of pneumatics without making an effort to justify the extravagance. Closing the door in front. Larry half circled the car and planted himself on the back seat adjoining Daryl. He did not attempt to justify this
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There's No Such Word
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extraordinary conduct, but, folding his arms, he fixed his eyes upon the landscape with an expression of placid appreciation. How long he would have remained there without a word, it is impossible to foretell. Even the tapping of Daryl’s toe, momentarily increasing in rapidity and volume, failed to disturb his calm. She was at last driven to break the silence with the enquiry:
“Have you a chauffeur, then?”
He shook his head.
“But who’s going to drive?”
With an airy gesture he touched his breast and allowed his hand to fall. Two seconds passed before Daryl spoke again: “Then wouldn’t it be a good plan to get in front?”
He digested the proposal analytically. “Frankly, no.” he said. “No, it would not. I’m scared of falling asleep through sheer boredom.”
That he had won the round was evidenced by Daryl’s dignified removal of herself to the front seat, where she sat with her chin in the air, trying to look as if she had had the best of it. Larry disposed himself joyously at her side.
“You don’t know how grateful I am,” he said. “Unsociability in a motor car is one of the seven deadly sins."
He engaged the gears and they moved off down the road at little more than walking pace. Once again Daryl’s toe started to
“Is there anything the matter with this car?” she asked.
“Matter? Nothing I know of.”
“It goes very slowly.”
He nodded. “You’re right. I can get her down to five miles an hour on top. I ’ll show
“Please don’t.” There was anger in her voice at last. “I have an engagement.”
His reply was totally unexpected.
“That’s it. I know you have, and I don’t approve of it.”
“You disapprove of what?”
“Your engagement, of course. What’s a young girl like you want to get married to a man who’s—”
Daryl half rose. “Stop, please. I’m going to get out."
His foot came down hard on the gas, and the Black Warrior leapt forward like a shell from a gun.
“You can’t,” he said grimly. “It wouldn't be safe.”
A VILLAGE appeared and was left behind—a blurred streak of little white houses.
Daryl Forsythe struck the most human note in their exchange when she shouted above the roar of the engine :
“Must you drive like an idiot?”
“Must you act like one?” he came back. “Marrying a man old enough to be your grandfather?”
“How dare you talk to me like that !” “Have you seen him?” he bawled. “My dear girl, the whole thing’s a crime.”
He raised his foot and the car eased down to a sleek forty.
“Obviously your head isn’t used to the tropics,” she said.
It will not readily be believed that his reply sounded like a poem.
“It isn’t the sun that’s turning it.” The poem ended with the words: “You can’t be in love with that old fish. Of course not. I apologize for even suggesting it. Then why on earth? Why?”
She primmed her lips and, throwing a glance at her, he thought that so she would hold them when offered to a lover to kiss. “Why?” he repeated. “Money?”
“Money means a lot to most women.” She did not intend to talk about herself, but nevertheless answered:
“Not to me.”
Anger sparkled in her eyes; anger, and a desire to justify herself.
“Don’t say rubbish. It’s true.”
But he was definitely out to provoke her
“Seems like it.”
There was a keen and bitter edge to the words, which cut through the armor of her reserve and released a fragment of confidence.
“I could be happy on a few hundred a year.” She had not meant to say that. She had not meant him to hear it. It was an intimate thought spoken aloud, thoughtlessly.
Its effect upon Larry was instantaneous. His eyes swept over her, his voice warmed, all the unquenchable insolence of his nature bubbled to the surface.
“Oh, fine. I have that.”
“Oh!” said Daryl. “You are the most impossible—”
He shook his head, his eyes were still devouring her.
“Impossible? „ a ^ ,1 Word.
There’s no such woi^avana1 Happiness, disappointment, joy, rage, ecstasy, despair, are never far apart. Larry’s brows came down hard and he jammed his foot on the accelerator pedal. Once more the Black Warrior snatched at the ribbon of roadway.
“Who’s making you? Who thought of it? Your stepfather?”
It is hard to come across with a cliche in a car racing along fifty-five miles an hour and with a wind thrusting the words down one’s throat.
“It’s not unusual to honor one’s parent’s wishes,” Daryl shouted.
“But nothing was ever written about honoring one’s step-parent’s wishes,” he countered. “I’ll talk to him.”
DARYL laughed, but whether because his determination, pleased her, or at the absurdity of a total stranger boasting that he would talk to a President of Sao Pedro with whom he was totally unacquainted, is a question that she might have found some difficulty to decide.
Larry turned and looked at her, and the car wavered on the edge of an embankment. "My stars, you look grand when you
Daryl became instantly serious.
“You won’t talk to him,” she said.
Larry eased the car down, the better to
“Would you like a small bet on it?”
She shook her head.
“I have already told you I have no interest in money.”
“And what’s to stop me?”
“The President is a busy man, and doubly busy when he happens to be also Minister of Finance. Besides,” she added, “the national audit is early next week.”
Larry mused. “Minister of Finance,” he repeated. Somewhere at the back of his brain a memory stirred, dealing with the financial integrity of other gentlemen who had held that office in Sao Pedro.
“Odd, then, that he should be so anxious for you to marry money.”
He could not be sure, but he had an impression that Daryl looked almost scared. The impression was heightened by the fact that she took refuge in dignity.
“There are social barriers here, Mr. Odell, and without the right kind of introduc-
“Ah! But I have that,” he cut in quickly, “I have you. Even the busiest man can steal a moment from his duties to thank a stranger for the services he may have rendered to his daughter.”
The argument was specious and Daryl pursed her lips.
“Perhaps,” she admitted doubtfully.
“I wouldn’t have you think me ungrateful. But for you, I might have been stuck on that road for hours.”
She had said it quite nicely, and there was no possible excuse for Larry’s laughter. Witnessing her look of annoyance, he hastened to explain:
“You wouldn’t have been stuck at all. I had plastered that landscape with broken
“That can’t be true.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Does one burst four tires in ten yards?” “Oh!” said Daryl. And again, “Oh!” Curiosity got the better of her and she added: “What on earth did you do that for?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he replied. “You’re to be married in four days.”
He dropped his voice.
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t afford to lose any time, mia carissima.”
Once again, a sense of his overpowering sincerity swept over her. Only by effort of will did she manage to say:
“Don’t call me that.”
He nodded acceptance of the reproof, but looking sideways Daryl saw him shaping the words, mia carissima with his lips. Really, the whole thing was impossible.
The car swerved perilously and was snatched back to the crown of the road.
“Your driving is even worse than your manners,” she said.
Perhaps because he resented a charge against his driving, he sought to adjust the implication.
“Are you doing anything tonight?”
“Really!” said Daryl.
“Let’s meet. I’ve heaps to say to you.”
A longing to accept this outrageous invitation and listen to whatsoever he might wish to say all but mastered her. After the fashion of some great lady of the courts, she replied:
“I’m going to a reception at the Palazzo Vecchio.”
“Now isn’t that extraordinary,” said Larry, “for so am I.”
"You’ve been invited?”
Daryl contrived a very credible imitation of a pitying laugh.
“You poor young man. What a lot you have to leam !” She pointed to where the outline of a city fringed the sky. “There’s where you’ll get your lesson.”
CANTAREM, the capital of Sao Pedro, had not always boasted the beauties of architecture and town planning revealed to Larry when first his car sped over its white tessellated paving beneath an avenue of acacias. The main boulevard ran like a ruled line from the white Opera House to the Government House of marble and gold. This boulevard was bisected at two-thirds of its length by the Via Maria Puerta. These two main thoroughfares were responsible for making Santarem in the form of a cross.
It wasn’t perhaps the happiest emblem, for the citizens were not collectively a deeply religious people. It is doubtful if anywhere upon earth existed a community with a higher development of criminal instincts. In their business, politics, and even in their pleasure, chicanery flourished.
This fact notwithstanding. Sao Pedro boasted a judicial system unrivalled for the severity of its penalties. Capital punishment was of common occurrence. Even that devout ruler, Luis Sisal, the fourth President, he who had built Santarem in cruciform, had ended his days before a firing party.
Having regard to the hazardous nature of politics in that State, it is to be wondered that the man could be found with courage enough to enter the arena of Government. Yet there was never a shortage. The lure of office, with its attendant opportunities for personal aggrandizement, proved irresistible. But it is significant to remark that there is no recorded instance of an insurance company issuing a life policy to a Treasury Minister of Sao Pedro.
For the past four years, under the Presidency of Areal Pacheco, Sao Pedro had enjoyed an eccentric immunity from political scandal and revolutions.
Pacheco and his Ministers carried on the business of Government in' a manner that won the respect and amazement of the entire nation. The President’s palace was situated at the southern extremity of Via Maria Puerta. The palace was a white, two-story building of Moorish design, with a railed courtyard in front and a high walled garden at the back, profuse with flowers, trees and plants of tropical and exotic beauty.
6INCE Larry had steered the Black Warrior into the city, few words had been exchanged. Now and then Daryl had pointed a direction, and as they rolled down the Via Maria Puerta, she tilted her head toward the palace.
Some sentries at the gate moved forward to stop the car, but, recognizing Daryl, drew aside and saluted. Larry stopped the car before the main entrance to the palace. Servants descended the steps and came toward them. Daryl put out a hand.
“You’ve been quite mad, Mr. Odell. I suppose I ought to be angry with you, but it doesn’t seem very friendly to be angry and say good-by in a single breath.”
“But I'm coming in,” he said, taking her hand and nodding toward the palace.
A frown flickered across her forehead.
“No. You mustn’t. You can’t.”
"But I can,” he insisted. “I intend to.”
There was something pleading in her tone. He had not released the hand that she had put into his, and, still holding it, he tripped the car into gear.
“Very well. We’ll go for a ride.”
She felt the eager throb of the engine as his foot touched the accelerator.
“No. Please stop.” The car was creeping away. That was the only reason why she weakened. “Oh very well. If you insist, I’ll ask if he’ll see you.”
Not the least attractive part of Larry Odell was his total absence of any display of satisfaction in the victories he won. He took them, as if it were, naturally and in his stride. Jumping lightly to the ground, he ran to the other side of the car and, motioning away a servant who had come forward, helped Daryl to alight. Together they entered the palace and crossed the atrium to an anteroom beyond.
“Wait here,” said Daryl, and moved toward the door, where she turned. “And if he does see you. please try not to be”— She hesitated, and came out with it finally—
The door closed behind her. It was a melancholy apartment in w'hich Larry found himself; a veritable mausoleum of statues and portraits of the past Presidents of Sao Pedro. In practically every instance there was attached a tablet bespeaking death by violence to him whom the artist had perpetuated. The phrases “Assassinated May 14, 1888,” “Executed by Order of the People,” “Stabbed at confession in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart,” “Killed by a Bomb,” were testimony enough of the hazards which surrounded those personages who dwell in high places. Larry raised his eyebrows and, dropping on to a couch in a corner, fumbled for a cigarette.
Daryl was fortunate in having chosen an hour of the day when the President was occupied with no more urgent affairs of State than the smoking of innumerable cigarettes and drawing neat little pictures of revolvers upon the blotting paper spread before him on a huge buhl table. Areal Pacheco was a sleek little man whose sixty years of life were somewhat disguised by the discreet and liberal use of dye. He had once been described in a newspaper as resembling a perfectly new and small patent leather shoe. Everything about him, from the shiny bald dome of his head to his polished fingernails, glittered and gleamed like a jeweller’s display. A pair of very bright eyes shone out of caverns beneath black brows that almost met. His nose was thin and aquiline. A black pencil line of mustache fringed his curved Oriental mouth. His hands were white and small, and his manners, if a little precious, were always courtly and exquisite. When he moved he moved like a cat, picking his steps wdth the care of a tight-rope walker. His smile, which seldom deserted him, had its genesis in neither humor nor amiability. His voice was soft and velvety and murmurous. The clothes he wore fitted his neat little body as closely as a glove.
To offset a notable absence of height, the rooms in which he worked or entertained were each provided with a dais upon which he stood.
He listened without appearing to listen to Daryl’s account of the mishap to the car, nodding now and then when she paused, or running the tip of his tongue over the gummed edge of one of the chain of cigarettes which he constantly rolled and smoked.
When she had finished her account of what had happened, he was silent for an appreciable space of time.
“And so,” he said at last, “you are of opinion that I should see this Mr. Odell?” Then, without waiting for her reply: “You found him an agreeable young man?”
“He’s all right,” said Daryl, in perhaps a shade too offhand a manner.
As a lover of music, Areal Pacheco possessed a delicately attuned ear.
“He’s all right?” he repeated.
“A little peculiar,” said Daryl.
Pacheco lit another cigarette.
“A little peculiar. HmlWell!”
Stretching out a hand, he rang a silverytoned bell which stood upon a table. The double doors of the room opened immediately and his secretary, Luigi, passing between the two armed guards stationed outside, moved up to the table with a bow that was at once a compliment and an enquiry.
“The gentleman in the anteroom, Luigi,” said Pacheco. Luigi went out, and as the door closed Pacheco looked at Daryl and made the smallest gesture of dismissal with his hand.
“You wouldn’t rather I stayed?” she asked.
“No,” said Pacheco. “No.”
Daryl went to a smaller door and turned.
“If he is peculiar don’t take any notice, will you?”
“No,” said Pacheco. “Oh, no.”
"D EFORE being admitted to the President, -LJ Larry was subjected to a courteous, but none the less thorough, examination for concealed firearms.
They then passed down a corridor which terminated in double doors, before which two armed guards were standing. Luigi rapped lightly on a panel, opened the doors, and stood aside for Larry to enter. Pacheco was still at his table, and, without rising, he beckoned Larry to approach.
Quick to observe and sensitive to atmosphere, Larry was at once conscious of something antipathetic to himself in the smile which wreathed Pacheco’s countenance. He walked up to the table and bowed formally.
“Señor,” said Pacheco.
Larry found himself a chair and sat
“It was nice of you to see me.”
Pacheco lifted his shoulders, increased the voltage of his smile, and summed up his visitor critically. What he saw was an Englishman of more than average height, young, fit, and exceedingly well looking. In short, before him was a combination of physical attributes which in the present circumstances he could only deplore. It was not however, Pacheco’s fashion to speak his mind. Summoning up all his resources of courtliness, he expressed his gratitude for the services which Mr. Odell had been so kind as to render to his daughter. Larry murmured something about being very glad of the opportunity to help, and the conversation gave signs of drawing to an untimely end.
Pacheco leaned back in his chair and stroked his lower lip with a sensitive third
“A very unusual mishap, señor,” he remarked.
“The tires—incredible.” Pacheco’s eyes fixed themselves upon a garland of cherubs which, united by a briar of roses, spread themselves over one of the panels of the ceiling. “It was quite a coincidence you should have been at hand, señor.”
“One can almost see the finger of fate in it,” Larry agreed.
“Possibly,” said Pacheco. “Quite possibly.” But his affability failed to conceal the elements of a very real suspicion.
“With such a happy introduction,” said Larry, “I am looking forward to seeing a great deal more of the señorita, and, 1 hope, of your excellency.”
Pacheco nodded. “That is very charming of you, señor. But, alas, the life of a Minister is one of continuous labor.”
Larry’s reply, to judge by the expression that fleeted across Pacheco’s face, was definitely infelicitous.
“And of not a little hazard, sir, to judge by the fate of some of your predecessors.”
“At the moment,” said Pacheco, ignoring the remark, “we are more particularly occupied; myself preparing the national accounts for audit on Monday next, and daughter Daryl with duties connected
izine, October 1, with a very happ ch you
may have heard.’Havana. \L telephone rang and Pacheco picked up’vnh receiver. “Yes. I will speak to him myself.” Once more his eyes turned to Larry.
“You will, however, hardly lack for company and entertainment elsewhere, during your short stay in Santarem.”
Larry was about to reply that he had no thought of curtailing his visit, and indeed had discovered excellent reasons for spending the remainder of his life in Sao Pedro. He was, however, denied the opportunity by the fact that Pacheco was listening to someone on the telephone. Who that someone was, was revealed at the outset of the conversation.
“Francois? Oui? Le Café Rhonda. Umph huh.”
There followed a syncopation of excited but indistinct sounds from the receiver. To these Pacheco listened with his usual imperturbability, only once raising his eyes to glance curiously at his visitor.
“Oui, c’est extraordinaire!
Putting aside the telephone and ringing a bell, Pacheco apologized for the interruption.
“My daughter’s chauffeur,” he explained.
“Oh, yes. A nice fellow,” said Larry.
He was aware that since the call Pacheco’s suspicion had developed into certitude. Curiosity as to what would develop as a result caused a pleasant tingling of Larry’s nerves. He had conceived at first sight an instant dislike for Pacheco, and the thought of their inevitable clash excited him pleasantly. The engagement was, however, delayed by the appearance of Luigi, to whom Pacheco issued instructions for the immediate dispatch of fresh tires for the senorita’s car. He wound up his remarks by the statement that time did not permit him to extend his interview with Señor Odell any longer.
"Luigi, the señor is ready to accompany you. Before leaving, he would be interested perhaps to see my collection of Salviati and Waterford glass.” Once more his eyes came to rest upon Larry. “You are, I believe, a connoisseur on that subject.”
HTHE singular grace with which Pacheco I had revealed a grasp of what had taken place on that lonely road filled Larry with admiration.
“I should like just one minute to explain,” he said.
“One minute, then.” And Pacheco dismissed his secretary with a gesture.
After all, nothing was to be gained by beating about the bush. Besides, direct action was Larry’s stock-in-trade.
“How would you fancy me for a son-inlaw?” he asked.
Pacheco started to roll himself a fresh cigarette.
“I have never admired English humor.” he remarked. “I might add that I consider your suggestion in singularly bad taste.”
“You would be right,” said Larry, “if it
were not that I am perfectly serious.”
“Then you will allow me to be equally so, and, as an older man, to offer you some advice.”
“I’d very much rather you’d answer my question,” said Larry.
But it was not Pacheco’s habit to answer questions.
“In the event of your staying so long as four days in .Santarem, the question will answer itself,” he said. '“My daughter is to be married at the end of that time to Señor Clive Lattimer. Should you care to be present at the wedding, I shall be charmed to send you an invitation.”
The utterance was in his most suave manner, but Larry did not miss the challenge it contained. It was a challenge which he accepted with a characteristic disregard for consequences.
“I wouldn’t waste money printing those cards, your excellency.”
Pacheco rose, and, being upon a dais, stood fully two inches taller than Larry.
“Señor,” he said, “I can only assume that you are a little mad, and as such, deserve to be treated with tolerance. I would, however, warn you to make no further attempt to press your unwelcome attentions upon any member of this household. Good
But Larry was not to be dismissed so easily. The glove had been thrown and he picked it up. Both men were smiling, but there was a steely quality in their smiles.
“Your daughter’s happiness does not count with you, I suppose?”
“You are at liberty to your opinions on that subject,” said Pacheco. “I would only say that you, señor, are unlikely to contribute to it.”
“As to that,” said Larry, “I have only had the honor of knowing her for two
“Whereas,” said Pacheco, “she has been my constant companion for a great number of years; and believe it or not, señor, for her sake I would gladly walk barefoot around the world.”
There was a lot of the schoolboy in Larry Odell.
“Better start now,” he said.
There is, after all, a limit to anyone’s endurance of impertinence, and, half threateningly, Pacheco made a movement toward Larry which necessitated his stepping from the dais. The effect of his sudden loss of height was so pronounced that involuntarily Larry strode forward to catch him. In so doing, he caught sight of the dais and realized what had happened. The sparks of anger which had been in his eyes were fused into merriment.
“Gosh! I thought you’d gone clean through the floor,” he said.
Pacheco drew himself up and rang the bell.
“I wish you good day, sir.”
As Larry Odell followed Luigi out of the room, his shoulders were shaking with a most improper merriment.
To be Continued