The Man They Forgot
R. V. GERY
Wolves in sheep’s clothing—the despised one suspects the truth—a Dutchman to the rescue
The story: Tom Vickery, a wretched little Cockney, drinkwasted and emaciated, is put ashore by a disgusted sea captain on a pearling island in Flores Sea that is owned by an Englishman, Godfrey Lammiter. Vickery is set upon by Saul Kinch, Lammiter's brutal overseer, and beaten. Lammiter orders Kinch to desist, and Eve, Lammiter's daughter, sympathizes with Vickery.
The island, being under Dutch jurisdiction, is visited by Mynheer Inspector Van Tromp; and young Dr. Mallory, who is investigating South Sea diseases, leaves the inspector’s boat to stay with Lammiter until Van Tromp returns from an inspection cruise.
Seventy miles away, Stanislas Levine and Harry Marks approach the island on a yacht, apparently as gentlemen cruisers, really with the intention of stealing Lammiter’s stock of pearls. Saul Kinch is said to be a secret member of this nefarious gang.
Vickery is assaulted by Kinch again, and this time the overseer is knocked down by Dr. Mallory, who happens to be strolling past with Eve. Mallory encourages the little Cockney to brace up and become a man again, and Vickery votes that if ever he can do anything for Mallory or Ere he would not fail to do it.
IAMMITER was on the verandah as Eve and Mallory approached. He was ltxtking interestedly through a glass at the schooner.
“Something rather social there,” lie said. “We don’t often get craft like that in here.”
His face darkened as he listened to Mallory’s report of the Kinch incident.
“Ah!” he said. “Thanks. It's like that, is it? Well.he’s had his warning.”
He sent for the overseer, who arrived leisurely enough. He had removed most of the traces of the manhandling he had received from the doctor, and there was a marked change in his manner.
"Kinch,” said Lammiter. “I understand you've been at that man Vickery again.”
“Yes,” said Kinch shortly. “I have. And I’ll give him another dose if I have any more lip out of him.”
Lammiter stared at him. “What’s that?” he snapped. “I told you to leave him alone.”
“You did,” Kinch said truculently. “But that won’t
stop me from dressin’ the little swine down if I think he needs it.” The big man put his hands in his pockets and surveyed Kinch with his head on one side.
“Oh?” he said. “Well, Kinch, if that’s your view, of course, there’s only one way out of it. We’ll part,
Kinch shrugged his shoulders. “Suitsme,” he said indifferently. “I ain’t the sort to be monkeyed with by any snobs you may have about the place.” He threw a glance of savage contempt at Mallory.
“Serves you right,” Lammiter said. “I’d have given you the same myself.” “Oh, you would, would you?” Kinch demanded. “Well, mebbe you’d have got as good’s you gave and better. Mebbe you will yet—” He broke off. “Get out!” said Lammiter.
“I’m goin’,” Kinch said. “But as for you, Mister Doctor, you look to yourself. I ain’t done with you yet.”
He stnxle down the verandah steps and round to his* quarters, without so much as a glance behind him. Lammiter whistled.
“Whew!” he said. “Beauty, isn’t he?”
“I’m afraid of him.” Eve’s voice was shaky.
“Stuff and nonsense.” Her father broke into a booming laugh. “He’s not dangerous.”
“I —I don't care,” Eve hesitated. “I’m afraid of him all the same.”
Lammiter looked at her in some concern. “Why, this won’t do,” he said. “This isn’t like you at all, Eve. You'd better ask Dr. Mallory here to give you a tonic or something. There’s nothing to be nervous of in Saul Kinch.”
As if to change the topic, he swung the glass up again and focused it on the schooner now just outside the gap in the reef.
“I don’t know who this can be,” he said curiously. “But he seems to want to see me. He’s coming in.”
In fact, after a little hanging in stays and with a man at the crosstrees watching the channel, Marks was taking the schooner through the reef. In ten minutes she was in the lagoon, her anchor splashed over the bows into the mirrorlike water, and soon her boat was lowered and came smartly to the beach.
Levine sat in the stern sheets, dark, striking, easymannered, to his fingertips the artist in deception. There is this much to be said for Stannie Levine, he could throw himself into a part wholeheartedly, and his impersonation of a leisured young dilettante left little to the imagination.
Lammiter met him, as he stepped from the boat with a courteous raising of his helmet. Levine shook hands and produced a pleasant-looking leather pocket case.
“I’ve a note for you somewhere. Mr. Lammiter.” he said. “Jerry Courtauld gave it me down in Darwin, in case I happened to be up this way.”
“Jerry Courtauld!” Lammiter exclaimed. “Why, he’s one of my oldest friends. Any friend of his. of course . . .” He (licked open the letter and glanced through it perfunctorily. Then he looked up and shook hands once more, beaming. “Come along in, Mr. Levine,” he said. “You’ll be staying here for a few days anyhow, I hope. Come in and make yourself at home.”
Levine followed him up the beach, inwardly exulting. That letter of introduction, like Kinch’s recommendations from the Arus, had cost him a great deal of trouble to fabricate, but it seemed to have served its purpose admirably. He had at least an assured footing on the island.
On the verandah Lammiter introduced Eve and Mallory, and the silent Chinese served the evening cocktail. The sun was already dipping into the sea, and the schooner, furling her sails in the lagoon, made a beautiful picture in the failing light. Lammiter looked at her with approval. “She’s a lovely thing,” he said. “Fast?”
Levine smiled. “Pretty fast,” he admitted. Inwardly he was wondering whether she was going to be fast enough for the purpose for which the trio had in mind -a clean and finished getaway.
Meanwhile he looked unobtrusively about him. There was no sign of Saul Kinch. Out about his business as overseer, no doubt. There was time enough for him, anyway. He took in Lammiter, his size and easy-going demeanor. No trouble there. The tall lean doctor—well, there was a case that needed probably a little special treatment. There seemed to be no one else to worry over.
And then his eye rested again on the girl, and shone with an unpleasant glow for a second. He resumed his debonair conversation.
MIDNIGHT had come and gone when Saul Kinch decided that the coast was clear, and slipped cautiously out of his window in the bungalow. It was a dark and moonless night, with a tendency to cloud. There might very well be wind behind such weather, Kinch reflected, with his mind on the schooner and a little thrill of satisfaction. So much the better; escape would be all the easier in murk and a blow.
Softly, in rubber shoes, he made his way down to the beach, thrust a light canoe into the water and paddled gingerly out to the schooner. She was in darkness, with not even a watchman on her decks; but Kinch saw her spars, outlined lacelike against the glimmering sky. In a moment he was bumping quietly round her quarter.
Making the canoe fast, he climbed on deck. There was a light in the cabin, carefully shielded by drawn curtains. At the sound of his soft footstep the door was thrust open and Levine's face appeared.
“That you, Saul?” he whispered.
Kinch slipped within and shut the door behind him. Levine and Marks had been playing cards to pass the time, and there were bottles and glasses on the slung table. “Well?” asked Levine.
Kinch showed his teeth. “All right,” he said tersely. “All correct your end?”
“Excellent,” said Levine. “I’m an honored guestthanks to Mr. Jerry Courtauld. We owe him something. Lammiter nearly fell on my neck when he saw the note. But let’s have your news, Kinch.”
“The pearls are in the safe,” Kinch began. “He seems to keep them there all the time. Goes into Macassar with them every six months or so. He’s thinking of making the trip pretty soon, so there’ll be a good parcel waiting for us. We’re just in nice time.”
He went on to describe the visit of Cornelius Van Tromp, and his projected return in two weeks. Levine’s face grew serious at mention of the Dutchman’s name.
“I've heard of that little biter,” he said. “He’s got a reputation. We’ll have to look slippy out of this. Tomorrow night at latest.”
Kinch looked at the clock on the bulkhead. It was nearly one in the morning.
“Why not tonight?” he asked.
“Too much of a hurry altogether,” said Levine decidedly. “We’d make a mess of it. Besides,” he added, “there are more than the pearls to be thought of.”
“What d’ye mean?” Kinch asked.
Levine fixed him with his uncompromising stare. “There’s something else ashore I think I want, Saul,” he said quietly.
Kinch flung up his hands. “You fool, Stannie!” he said violently. “You’re not going to risk making a mess of the whole thing for that girl. No. I won’t have it. There’s too much risk as it is; and anyhow she’d be a packet of dynamite to carry about with us. It’s possible we may get clean away with the other stuff; but Lammiter’d spend every cent he’s got to lay us by the heels if you walked off with his daughter. Don’t be a fool!”
Marks cut in. “Ain't that what I’ve been telling him for a week or better?’’ he said aggrievedly. “He’ll have the whole boilin’ of us in chokey with ’is bloomin’ girls ...” Levine stretched himself lazily. He was quite unperturbed by the strictures of his associates.
“And I told Harry here.” he said to Kinch, “he’d better do what I ordered about this business, or the Dutch police down in New Guinea and the Frenchmen in Noumea would be hearing one or two things about him that wouldn’t do him any good at all. The same thing applies to you, Saul Kinch. Your own record isn’t any too healthy.”
"What about yours?” demanded Kinch thickly. “Sell us, my boy, and we sell you. It’s as broad as it’s long.” Levine spoke at the end of a tense little silence. “See here,” he said, “what’s the use of quarrelling? We’ll all end up in chokey, as Marks calls it, if we do. I’ll look after the question of this girl—trust me for that. You do your jobs, and leave me to mine. But,” he changed tone suddenly, “that doesn’t mean I’ve altered my mind; and you can make the most of that!”
Kinch and Marks subsided, grumbling. There was a magnetic quality about Levine that clashed with and overpowered their mentalities, as it had done often enough before. Levine produced a stub of pencil and a scrap of paper.
“Now,” he said easily, as if the recently threatened storm was forgotten. “Let’s see where we are.”
He drew a rough sketch of the bungalow. “That’s it,” he said. “Now—where’s the safe, Saul?”
“In the office.” Kinch pointed out its position surlily enough. “You’ll have to blow it,” he added.
Levine reached behind him into a locker and took out a flat box.
“Of course,” he said. “There’s nothing to that, once we’ve got the rest done.” He opened the lid and displayed a flat phial, that might hold about a pint, lying on its side in a nest of cotton wool. It appeared to contain a viscous, oily fluid. He took it out and held it up.
“See that?” he enquired. “That’s nitroglycerine, gentle-
men, and that'll do our business for us very nicely.” Kinch looked at the thing with interest, and Marks with his mouth open. Levine went on.
"Now, who else have we got to reckon with? Lammiter?” "Easy,” Kinch sneered. “He’s soft as putty—though he did give me my walking papers tonight.” He told briefly of the scene with the big man in the bungalow.
“Well,” said Levine. “I don’t know that that’s altogether a bad thing, if you ask me. You’ll be able to steer clear of him until we’re ready. But this other fellow you’re talking about—Vickery? Who’s he? Any risk from him?”
Kinch snorted. “About as much as there’d be from a dead mouse,” he said contemptuously. “I’ve thrown a scunner into him already, and I’ll be giving lam a bit more, maybe. Leave him out.”
The bearded man spat out an oath. “You leave Mister Mallory to me,” he said thickly. “I owe him more’n a little. He’s my meat.”
Levine looked at him with curiosity. “Ah,” he said. “I see. Had trouble with him already, eh?”
“Yes, I have,” said Kinch, knotting his great fists. “But it’s nothing to the trouble he’s going to have with me.” Levine was drawing idly on the comer of his paper. “And that reminds me,” he said, “there’s one thing we’ve got to settle yet. If these people—any of them—make a fuss ...”
For what seemed an interminable moment the three men looked at each other across the cabin table, Levine smiling faintly, Kinch with the glare of an angry bull, and Marks, the weak link, apprehensive but dominated by the remorseless Levine.
Then Levine smiled faintly. “That’s understood, eh?” he said. “And we’ll time it for tomorrow night.”
He set the phial of nitroglycerine carefully back, box and all, in its locker. “And now,” he said, “there’s just time for one drink, Saul, and then you’d better be getting out. Let’s run over things before you go.”
For another ten minutes they spoke in hushed whisrers.
as if the matter in hand had somehow affected their vocal cords. Then Kinch nodded in understanding and slipped from the cabin once again into the night.
^\N A PALLET in one of the huts, Vickery tossed ^ restlessly. His whole body was sore and racked with twinges from the toils and maltreatment of the day. and his head still ached and spun with the aftermath of bad liquor. All night he had been unable to sleep, and now in his dull and resigned way he was staring out through the open door into the dark.
Twenty yards from him the lagoon’s tiny wavelets rippled on the beach. He could see, beyond, a leaping glory of phosphorescence against the blackness, the line of surf playing continually on the reef, and very dimly, a mere imponderable something against the gloom of the lagoon’s waters, the bulk of the schooner.
Vickery was thinking. In his thoughts there were all manner of pictures; Macassar with its girls and liquor, ports up and down the East where similar entertainment had been his goal, Saigon, Singapore, Tandjong Priok across the water from him now, islands lost in the romantic seas to the south of him. A many-colored string of harbors, they flitted before his eyes, and then gave place to the greyer, less exotic watersides of his youth—Tyneside, the burr of West Country talk in Avonmouth, London River itself, with the Surrey docks and the garishly lighted pubs up and down Jamaica Road. In spirit he projected himself back to them once more, to their well-remembered wet pavements and the neighborly sound of English speech, the clink of glasses, the tang of English beer . . .
He licked dry lips and cursed, putting the thought from him. Not here—this was no place for such memories. He fell to considering his present surroundings and the folk with whom he had to deal just now. Saul Kinch—his pallid little rat’s face twisted into a futile grimace at the name. The tall doctor and the girl that evening, and the masterful trouncing Kinch had received. Vickery was grateful for that trouncing; one day he might show it somehow, who
knew? He went off into a half dream of these toffs and their life. It must be easy enough to be a toff. But cripes, it wasn’t easy to be a deckhand ! Gaw, no—it was a hard life!
He was indulging in a little self-pity, his eyes abstractedly on the lagoon, when the canoe’s stealing shape drew his attention. He blinked at it for a moment as it moved silently in toward the shore; then, as he observer! what it was—Saul Kinch was not a biscuit toss from him -he sat up, puzzled.
What was Kinch doing, slinking inshore this time of night? He’d been out to the schooner, of course; there was nowhere else he amid have been. But why? Queer, thought Vickery, mighty queer. He rose cautiously from the bed and stole to the doorway.
Kinch drove his little craft ashore and silently disembarked. Vickery watched him as he turned toward the bungalow and vanished into the darkness, moving like a great cat. Then he suddenly made up his mind and followed him.
He saw Kinch fling a leg over the sill of his window and heave himself inside. There followed the spurt and flare of a match, and then the steady glow of a lamp illuminated the glazed square. His heart pounding with excitement, the Cockney crept closer, until from the shelter of a pandanus clump he could look into the room.
Kinch had his back turned to him and was fumbling in a chest in the corner.
In a moment he stood erect and turned round, examining an object under the lamp. Vickery strained his eyes to get a glimpse of it, and then drew back into his place of concealment with a gasp and a muffled oath of surprise. The object in Kinch’s great hairy paw was a revolver. As Vickery watched he began to clean it with meticulous care.
For some time Vickery remained motionless where he was, while the overseer completed his work about the weapon and filled its chamber with shells.
Then, yard by yard, and with the greatest speed he could, the little man made his way back to his bed, and once more sat on the edge of it, an expression of complete bewilderment on his face in the darkness. He was still sitting there when the dawn came up out of the sea.
ON BOARD the schooner, Levine shaved himself with deliberate care as the sun sucked up the morning mists.
His narrow, olive-skinned face bore a smile as if he were looking forward to an enterprise which promised amusement of a gentlemanly sort, and he was choosing his dress for the day with circumspection, still in his part of leisurely yachtsman.
Marks was watching him, with the anxious expression still on his countenance.
“Lord love a duck!” he said with more than a shade of envy. “One'd think you were goin’ to a wedding,
Stannie. What’s the joke?”
Irvine stopped scraping at his face.
"Joke?” he said. “Isn’t sixty thousand ixjunds worth of pearls a joke and a lovely lady as well, Harry Marks?
Don’t forget the lovely lady,” he added maliciously.
“Stow it!” Marks growled. “You’ve got to be a bloomin’ fool, but you needn't make a song about it. You’ll have us hung yet.”
“Shouldn’t be surprised,” said Levine coolly. "You’ve been asking for it long enough, Harry. But it won’t be over this business here. This time tomorrow and we'll be out of sight of land, my boy, running free and with the pearlsand the lovely lady—under hatches. It’s easy.”
Marks shook his head. "I’ve heard that tale before,” he said gloomily. “Seems to me there’s a deal too many chances to be took first, even if you don’t count this crazy woman affair of yours.”
"Chances? Let’s hear ’em.” said Levine mockingly. “Well, there’s three of them against three of us, ain’t there?” Marks enquired. “Don’t seem to me you could call that a snip, whatever way you look at it.”
“Look at it this way, then,” said Levine. “There’s Lammiter, a fat old fool of fifty or better. He’ll be too surprised to do anything but gape; and if he does do anything he’ll get something that’ll stop his gaping for good. Then there’s this Mallory, and he’ll be attended to from the start - Saul Kinch’ll see to that. And that leaves the other man. Vickery. According to Kinch, he’s half silly and the other half scared out of his wits. Anyway, if he
starts anything He snapped his fingers in the air and went on with his toilet.
"Yes,” said Marks. ‘‘And that gets us out of here with the pearls, maybe -and it ain’t any more than maybe— with three murders logged down to us, as like as not, and a woman hangin’ about our necks as well. And then there’s that Dutch policeman Saul was talkin’ about. I tell you, Stannie, it’s not so slick and easy as it looks to you.”
Levine put down his brushes and turned on him angrily. ‘‘What’s the matter with you, Marks?” he demanded. "Are you in on this thing-or aren’t you? Because if you're not, just say so, and I’ll know how to handle you!”
The seaman quailed at once before the glare in Levine’s face. ‘‘No, no, Stannie,” he whimpered. “I didn’t mean it that way. I’m only thinkin’ things out in advance, like.” “Oh, you are, are you?” Ixivine asked with savage sarcasm. "Anything else you’ve got on your mind, Harry? Let’s have it!”
“Well,” said Marks, “there’s this safe business —blowin’ it up, I mean. S’pose that don’t come off—pretty hole we’d be in then, eh?”
“Yes, we would,” said Levine, reaching into the locker once more. But since I’m going to give it a fair share of
this, I don’t think you need worry too much about that. There’s enough here to blow this schooner to Singapore.” Marks looked at the phial with popping eyes. “It ain’t dangerous, is it?” he asked nervously. “I mean, not unless it’s fixed ready to go off?”
Irvine grinned at him. “Depends on what you call dangerous. Harry,” he said. “It’s pretty bad-tempered stuff, I’d call it. Just a bit of a jolt, now ...” He held the bottle up to the light, looking at the trickling liquid.
"What’s that?” Marks retreated hastily to the cabin door. “’Ere, you keep away from me, Stannie! Shove the stuff overside until you want it! Cripes, why’n’t you tell me you’d got it aboard before?”
“That’s enough, Harry,” said Levine, laughing outright. “I won’t let it bite you. But don’t you go fooling with it, all the same. It’s got a nasty temper, me lad—like me.” He put the phial back in its nest and restored it to the locker as a hail came from overside. A boat manned by a couple of Kanakas and with Lammiter sitting in the stem was backing water at the little gangway.
“Thought I’d ask you and Captain Marks to come
ashore for breakfast with me,” said Lammiter hospitably.
“Delighted,” said Levine. “I’ll be with you in a moment, sir. Come along, skipper, you can leave her for a while.”
Marks scrambled into the boat with more agility than was ordinary. He looked over his shoulder as he scrambled, and his nervous eye was on the cabin locker.
"DOR the better part of a day and a half Mynheer 4Inspector Cornelius Van Tromp had been puzzled. As he sat in the cockpit of the flying speed boat, or went about the humdrum and hated routine of his inspections here and there, he was displaying the alarm signal familiar to Sergeant Meintjes and the half-dozen stout constables with him. There was a small vertical wrinkle in his red forehead, straight between the eyes. They had seen it before, these honest Dutchmen, and they recognized it as portending something violent for someone, in all probability a hanging.
The question that was thus worrying the inspector concerned Lammiter’s pearling station and one Saul Kinch from the Arus. Something definitely what. Cornelius could not have told you if you had asked him—had clicked inside his brain when he met the bearded man with Lammiter; some minute and little-used wheel of his intelligence that moved suddenly and swung a lever to “Danger.” Cornelius had had it happen several times in his experience. Like many another of his trade, he owned a sixth or seventh sense of this kind. There was something about Kinch that made him very anxious to get on the end of a cable as soon as might be.
Straight ahead of him, low on the dawn horizon, lay such a place; the small mainland town of Celebes, where there was an operator in a tin hut who would be able to get Van Tromp the information he wanted in the course of half a day or so. Cornelius finished his breakfast of fried eggs and rice, cooked for him by one of the constables, lit a white cheroot, and summoned Meintjes from the wheel.
“You have how much gasoline?” he enquired.
“The half of the tank, mynheer, maybe,” said the sergeant. “We can get more here, if you require.”
Cornelius nodded. “I go ashore for maybe the morning,” he said. “You will have her refuelled and ready for sea in two hours from when I land. That is jxissible, eh? She is running well, I think?”
Meintjes—it was entirely of a piece with Van Tromp’s methods that the sergeant was the best internal-combustion mechanic in the Indies—cocked an ear at the full-throated roar of the engines. “She will do, mynheer,” he announced with a respectful grin.
“Be ready, then,” said Cornelius. “There may be a need, Meintjes.”
The sergeant had already experienced one or two of his superior’s “needs.” They usually implied driving machines and men to their uttermost and a good deal beyond, and his broad face was grave as he went back to his place and began to check over the running engines with the loving care of the true expert.
Van Tromp landed and went straight to the cable hut, where he scribbled a couple of messages and handed them in. They were marked “Clear Line, Urgent” and the Eurasian operator boggled a little at interfering with the placid flow of his routine stuff at the behest of a perspiring little policeman. Cornelius spent a couple of minutes in persuading him; and then, leaving the man sending the messages with one hand and mopping his astonished brow with the other, Cornelius strolled comfortably down the street to the main store of the place, whose proprietor was a crony of his.
Here he sat on the verandah all the morning, drinking schnapps and water and swapping gossip with his friend; while in his office at Surabaya, five hundred miles away, the clerks grew suddenly busy turning up records, and a man down in the Aru group, by name Eckhardt, jumped violently at receiving a cable, and hastened to compose a short, descriptive, and very grateful answer to it.
The answer \^s handed to Van Tromp on Schmidt’s verandah. He read it over and then swore to himself with more than his usual vigor.
“Goedverdoml” he said. “So that is what it is, eh? Somehow I thought so . . .”
He sprang to his feet and went off down the road, leaving
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his more phlegmatic friend staring after him and wondering at the idiosyncrasies of ■ the police.
At the tiny quay he found Meintjes and the crew solemnly awaiting him. A glance at the inspector’s face and rate of progress sent the sergeant to the starting lever, barking commands to the others. Van Tromp was hardly aboard before the power boat was in deep water, her engines purring at half speed. Meintjes turned over his shoulder to the inspector without a word.
Cornelius had dragged out a chart and was working on it with a pair of dividers. He was muttering things to himself—the ultimate sign of perturbation in him. Finally he raised his head.
“Course southeast. Full speed,” he snapped to the man at the wheel. “Meintjes, come here.”
For half an hour inspector and sergeant bent over the chart; then Cornelius sat back and looked at his subordinate.
“Well?” he asked. “When?”
Meintjes listened to the purring engines I once more, took a look over side at the sea ¡ and weather, and calculated on his fingers.
“Dawn, mynheer,’' he said. “If all goes . well.”
Van Tromp rolled on him an eye of doom.
; “It had better go well, Meintjes,” he said ; very quietly.
j TT WAS nine of the glittering morning I when Godfrey Lammiter left his guests ! and took his men and boats away down the j placid lagoon. Kinch was not visible. He j was sulking in his quarters, Lammiter j thought, although as a matter of fact he was very comfortably making up for his ! midnight call on Levine and the schooner.
I Down among the huts, Vickery still I remained in the unlovely doze into which he had fallen at dawn. He had given up the problem of Kinch’s nocturnal manoeuvres and ominous revolver, for the time at least. Sooner or later that day, he had thought, he would be able to get a word with the boss and tip him off that there were some queer doings at queer hours hereabouts; but just now he had found himself desperately weary, and the risen sun looked upon him asleep, huddled in a heap on a pallet.
It was eleven or more when he woke, and once more held his splitting head in agony. “Crikey!” he remarked at length, stagger! ing to his feet and feeling the full force of the sledgehammer sun. Then he went to ! the door and looked out.
The schooner’s boat was ashore, lying at i the water’s edge. Up in the verandah,
! stretched in a long chair, Levine was visible, talking apparently to Eve Lammiter and the doctor. Vickery could see the gleam of scarlet in his cummerbund and the graceful motions of his hand as he emphasized some point. The Cockney wondered what toff this might be that held assignations with Saul Kinch at unholy hours of the morning.
He turned bloodshot eyes on the schooner. She was by all seeming deserted, for her three Kanakas lay on the sand, playing some gambling game under the shade of a tree. As Vickery looked at her, however, Marks’shead appeared over the coaming and he climbed slowly into sight on deck and stared shoreward under his hand. The skipper had gone on board again after breakfast—he did not find that society suited him—but he was suffering a certain tedium at present, and moreover he did not like being alone with that dangerous phial in the locker.
Of Saul Kinch there was no sign anywhere, and Vickery imagined him away with Lammiter and the boats. He swore futilely to himself at the remembrance of his hammering at Kinch’s hands, and then indulged in a lopsided grin as he thought of the trimming Kinch had in his turn taken from the doctor. Then his mind swung back once more to Kinch’s midnight visit to the schooner, and he scratched his head in puzzledom.
Under the shady verandah, Mallory was watching Levine. The slim dark man was fanning himself idly and stealthily appraising Eve Lammiter. To the doctor’s eye there was no mistaking his attitude already, and Mallory found his own normal placidity being swamped by a sensation of resentment. There was an air of composed cocksureness about Levine that made him somehow think angrily of horsewhips.
Vickery emerged from his hut and went unsteadily round to Wing Lee’s kitchen. A drink was what he wanted, with a craving that would not be denied. Levine followed him with a patronizing smile.
“That’s the drunk your father was talking about, I suppose,” he said to Eve. “Looks a weed, poor chap.”
Eve nodded slowly. She herself was not unconscious of Levine’s steady scrutiny, and her manner toward him had been growing more and more distant for some time.
“Yes,” she said quietly. “He’s not very big, Mr. Levine, but he’s got pluck. He stood up to Saul Kinch yesterday, and Kinch is three times his size. If it hadn’t been for the doctor here—” She broke off and smiled at Mallory.
“Ah,” said Levine, with just the wrong intonation. “So the doctor’s a rescuer of the oppressed, eh?”
It was an innocent enough remark, but there was no mistaking the tone underlying it. Nevertheless, Mallory took it with a laugh. There was no particular sense in quarrelling with this smooth and unpleasant person.
“Whatever that may imply,” he agreed. “I’ll admit I don’t like seeing a shrimp like Vickery getting knocked about.”
“Very romantic,” said Levine, the least trace of a sneer in his voice. “And, of course. Miss Lammiter highly approves the attitude.”
"Of course,” Eve said. "Don’t you?” Levine shrugged airily. “Oh. you mustn’t catechize me, please,” he said. “I'm afraid I’m not altogether built on those chivalrous lines.”
“Do you mean to say,” Eve began, "that you’d stand by and see a poor little atom like Vickery there—”
Levine interrupted. “I don’t know,” he said. “Quite probably I should. Quite probably the man deserved it.”
Eve got up. This conversation was becoming a trifle too dangerous for her. “I think I’ll go in,” she said. “This heat is terrible.”
She passed into the house. Levine said nothing for some moments. Then he turned to Mallory.
“A pretty piece, doctor,” he said. “I commend your taste.”
Mallory was very rapidly losing his temper. “Mr. Levine,” he said stiffly, “I’ll trouble you to be a little more careful with your tongue.”
Levine broke into a light laugh. “Why, doctor,” he said, “what’s the trouble. A perfectly harmless remark, my dear sir— and I meant every word of it. I certainly congratulate you on your excellent taste.” Mallory was recovering himself. “Humph!” he said. “I’m sorry I don’t seem to be able to congratulate you on yours, sir.”
The other threw up his hand in a mock fencer’s gesture. “Touché!” he chuckled. “You hit hard, doctor.”
“I might hit harder, perhaps,” Mallory said dangerously.
“Sounds interesting,” murmured Levine. “Are you by any chance trying to frighten me?”
He sat up in his chair and faced the doctor, the smile gone from his lips. Not for the first time in his career, Stannie Levine was jeopardizing a scheme of promise for his own private feelings.
Mallory in his tum rose. "No,” he said. “Hardly that, Mr. Levine. Just telling you, that’s all.”
He went down the verandah steps into the blazing sunshine. Levine lit another cigarette and looked after him with a faint grimace on his dark features.
AT THE bungalow’s back door, Wing Lee, the Chinese cook, was regarding Vickery with an understanding and compassionate grin.
“You poor head plenty too much sore,” he commented feelingly. “Plenty too much gin, I think. So better you take cold drink, bitty breakfast.” He raked into his icebox and dragged out a bottle of beer, and Vickery’s dull eyes shone at the sight.
“Cripes, you’re a great boy, Chinkie,” he said, knocking the neck off the bottle with the certainty of long practice. “’Ere’s ’ow!” He poured the fluid down his throat and gasped.
Wing Lee eyed him with pity. The Chinese had seen broken men in plenty, but this wizened little chap was a peculiarity, even in that futile gathering. He heaped a plate with cold victuals, and Vickery picked at it half-heartedly.
The door from the bungalow opened and Eve came out, cool and fresh in white. Vickery jumped up awkwardly and touched his forehead.
“G’momin’, miss,” he said with great respect.
Eve smiled at him. There was something about the shattered wreckage of a man that stirred her oddly; a sense of the futility of an existence such as his, perhaps, rather than active pity or contempt. Unlike Wing Lee, she had not met the type before.
“Good morning, Vickery,” she said. “I hope you’re feeling better.”
The Cockney showed his yellow teeth in a woebegone effort at humor.
“No, miss,” he said lamentably. “Me head’s somethin’ fierce yet. Don’t s’pose it’ll improve much, neither, before I gets a good lay-down. That feller give me a shockin’ beltin’—been worse, too, if it ’adn’t been for the doctor. Like to thank him again, I would.”
He looked at Eve with the doglike
expression of one profoundly grateful for having notice taken of him bv a being unspeakably above him. There was nothing of the truculent waster about Vickery; an observer might have set his qualities down as being merely colorless, negative. He was scarcely a man, sitting there with the plate in one claw and the bottle in the other. Eve thought to herself.
“Dr. Mallory only did what any decent person would have done,” she said. “And the man deserved ail he got.”
For a moment Vickery considered whether to tell the girl anything of what he had seen the night before. Then, with the instinct of keeping women out of even possible trouble, he decided to hold his tdngue. Time enough for all that when the boss came home in the evening.
“Well, all I can s’y is,” he said, “I’m mighty grateful to ’im—and to you too, miss. ’Ere’s yer very good ’ealth, the two of yer!”
He poured the remainder of the beer down his parched gullet, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and stood up.
“Reckon I’ll be gettin’ on,” he said. “Otherwise Mister Kinch, ’e’ll be gettin’ on me tail again.”
“That’s not likely,” Eve told him. “Mr. Kinch is finished here.”
“Wot’s that, miss?” There was sudden interest in Vickery’s voice. “’As the boss give ’im the boot?”
Eve nodded and the Cockney whistled. “Coo!” he said. “So that’s it, is it? I was wonderin’—” He stopped abruptly as if about to say something to the girl, then seemed to think better of it once more. “Believe I’ll be movin’ along,” he said lamely. “Thankin’ you and this yeller gentleman ’ere very kindly, miss.”
He shambled off toward the huts, a lamentable figure. Eve turned, to find Mallory at her elbow.
“Poor devil,” the doctor said, watching the retreating Vickery. “He’s not much use to anyone, I’m afraid.”
“He’s more use than some other people I know,” said Eve warmly. “At least he’s polite.”
Mallory looked grave. “True enough,” he said. “Just what do you make of our friend in front there?”
Eve pulled a quaint face. “I don’t like him either,” she said. “He’s not honest— I’m sure of it. Any more than Saul Kinch is,” she added.
Mallory rubbed his chin. “I agree,” he said. “They’re neither of them very attractive, I’m afraid.”
There was a silence, and then the doctor shook his head. “No,” he went on. "I’m not taken at all with Mr. Saul Kinch or Mr. Levine. In fact, they seem to be pretty much of a pair. Good thing they aren’t hunting in couples.”
“I’m scared of them both,” Eve confessed. “Kinch is a cruel brute, we know; and the other—” She stopped with a half shudder.
“Here, here!” said Mallory reassuringly. ! “Things aren’t as bad as all that. You mustn’t let them get away with you or you’ll be worrying yourself ill. There’s nothing to be afraid of, anyhow. You’ve your father here to look after you—and there’s me as well.”
He became awkwardly tongue-tied, and the emotion seemed to transmit itself to the girl. For a minute they stood looking down at the ground, neither wishing to raise their eyes. Then Mallory pulled himself together.
“And besides,” he said, “there’s Vickery as well. Don’t forget him. He’s—another of your admirers, you know.”
Eve passed a hand over her forehead. “I think I’ll go in and lie down,” she said. “Keep—keep out of trouble with that man in front, won’t you?”
She went quickly inside, and Mallory stood for a long time deep in thought. Then he went round to the front of the house. There was no one on the verandah. Levine had gone and, looking out into the lagoon, Mallory saw him on the schooner’s deck, in deep and earnest conversation with Marks.
To be Concluded