Solomon’s HalfWay House
THE Portuguese doctor had binoculars; and, as usual, the telegraph line was broken, somewhere in the swamp to the southward toward Lourenço Marques. So all the other officials clustered around the doctor, on the sun-baked wharf, amid the sour stench of vino linto from the empty barrels in front of the government warehouse, to learn who was coming. They were a bit convivial. It was New Year's day. Miguel Braganza, for instance, was already two-thirds drunk. Most of the others were still sober enough to read the mail that they expected. They kept nudging the doctor for information, but all he could see yet was the steamer's masts threading a course along the winding Limpopo amid papyrus and mangroves, toward the pool that is Chai-Chai's one excuse for being.
Jack Hanno, tired of Miguel Braganza’s talk, although in a way he felt grateful to him, stood alone with his hands in his pockets, with plenty to think about. His little thirty-eight-foot ketch lay tied to a mooring on the far side of the pool against a background of papyrus. He had spent the previous day cleaning her up and she looked more spruce and lovely than anything else he had seen since he took departure from Nova Scotia and rounded the Cape of Good Hope all alone. He liked being alone. He was wondering what madness had induced him to listen to Charles Dumaurier and go looking for treasure away inland amid the Libomba Hills. He knew he was lucky to have come out with his life, lucky that the Portuguese had not looted the ketch during his absence, lucky that he had left most of his cash with Miguel, who hadn’t stolen it—he wondered why not.
Miguel strolled up—squat, fat, the sweaty black hair glistening on his chest through a buttonless shirt; three days’ growth of black beard on a puffy face; a coarse nose; soft, thoughtful, sly eyes, and a voice like a hippo’s:
“Car—rr—amba! What are you looking at? Your yacht again?” He t;x>k an amazingly active kick at a nigger and sent him staggering into the crowd of laughing stevedores. “Voelsak —filo do puta!” Then, with an equally sudden grin at Hanno: “Want to bet? I bet you, if you get a dredge and dig there, where your yacht is, you will find one of King Solomon’s ships or else the Queen of Sheba’s.”
“Dig all you like,” said Hanno. “Keep what you find. I’d be gone now if I could have got those niggers to load my fuel and water.” Suddenly the steamer appeared around the bend—a tug already ancient when the British sold her to the Portuguese, and that was donkey’s years ago. The lower deck was crowded with natives homeward bound from the Rand—strong-muscled, healthy, homesick, curiously quiet because of a week or two ahead of them on foot before they could reach their women.
On the upper deck were three white passengers. One was a Portuguese, who conveyed a vague impression of having been snubbed by the girl. She wasn’t Portuguese; you could teil that from a quarter-mile away. She created a stir on the wharf. Shirts were tucked into pants in a hurry. The customs officer spat on his brass buttons and polished them with his sleeve before fastening up his tunic. Miguel ran through the warehouse door to shave with the port doctor’s safety razor.
T)UT THE GIRL had eyes for nothing except Jack Hanno’s little yacht that nodded at its mooring in the wash as the steamer turned around in the pool and bumped the wharf. She didn’t see Jack Hanno. He had plenty of time to stare at her before they had made the tug fast and hoisted the heavy gangplank. He hadn’t spoken to a good-looking girl of his own race since he left Nova Scotia, and he was not sure he wanted to speak to this one. But a girl in a wide-brimmed hat—no spectacles, no sunshade, not much lipstick, no mascara—is a girl. He looked.
The third passenger was as obviously her father as he was from the Canadian Middle
West. He looked at first glance like a missionary, hut he couldn’t be one because he said "dammit !" when he tripped on the gangplank. Then he turned and grinned at his daughter. That changed his entire expression; he had a good-natured, obstinate, companionable, boyish grin. It made him look as if he had never grown up, for all his fiftyodd years. He looked like a man who rode a bicycle, and drank cold tea and collected butterflies. None of his features resembled the girl’s. He had a large, bony nose and a very long, mobile mouth. He was thin, dry, wrinkled, and wore gold-rimmed spectacles under a hat like a boy scout’s. He in no way resembled the girl, even in gesture; it was impossible to say why one knew she was his daughter, but so it was. One knew it.
She looked plucky. That was due to a sort of wistfulness. One could tell she was not where she wanted to he; she abandoned even the discomforts of that tug without enthusiasm. She looked not more than twenty-one or twenty-two good-looking, healthy—much too good for Gazaland, and too goixl to be tagging that fool of a father around. Jack Hanno wished he wasn’t wearing shorts and a khaki shirt.
They had lots of luggage. The first net-load from the lug's derrick was all bundles of tents. I lanno glanced at the name :
“Professor Elmer Girdlestone."
The Portuguese were making themselves Portuguesey agreeable and there was no getting near the gangway for several minutes. Even Miguel Braganza, with soap in his ear—steamship agent, magistrate and banker though he was, and even though everyone in Chai-Chai owed him money—had to kick and shove to get through to the front rank. But he knew more English than the others and soon got command of the situation. Hanno overheard him:
“No, there is no hotel—no boarding-house. To pitch a tent is suicidal. Snakes. Fever. You must stay at my house.”
Hanno approached. Miguel made nxnn for him, hut his cordiality had unaccountably vanished. He had changed toward Hanno as suddenly as the light d;x>s when a cloud passes over the sun. However, he put a hand on his shoulder:
“Ask this man; ask him if it isn’t nice at my place. A verandah, a beautiful garden, a bath.”
HANNO introduced himself.
"From Canada?” asked Professor Girdlestone. They shook hands, but Hanno’s eyes were on the girl. She was asking questions, entirely wordless but as eloquent as envy always is.
“Yes, that’s my yacht.” Then he had to answer the professor. "Senhor Braganza is right, there's nowhere else to stay. That's his house that you see on the hillside. I’ve been staying there. lie’s a good host and he doesn*t overcharge you.”
Two officers from the fort garrison were vying with the doctor for the girl's attention. The doctor pointedly asked Jack Hanno how soon he was leaving. That was a crass mistake. It was a cue. She snatched it.
“Oh, I was hoping -—I mean, are you going away? When?” "Tomorrow’s tide,” said Hanno, on the spur of the moment. One more day could hardly matter. He was out to look at the world, not to hurry around it.
“But my house will now be full,” said Miguel with one of his hippopotamus snorts. Ilis manner had changed even more perceptibly, it had become hostile. But a man who likes to sail the oceans of the world alone isn’t easily hectored. “I will sleep on my boat,” 1 lanno answered.
Then he grinned at Miss Girdlestone. He noticed she seemed to like his grin. He liked hers. But the native stevedores were swarming around them now, making such a din greeting their friends on the lower deck that you couldn’t hear anything else. Professor Girdlestone was shouting at the customs officer, who was demanding nonexistent and unnecessary papers in order to jx>se presently as a personage entitled to waive formalities a trick that was old in Noah's day but still works in out-of-the-way places. Jack Hanno had time to think before a moment’s lull in the uproar gave him another chance to speak. This girl wanted to confide in someone. She wasn’t pitying herself either. She looked okay. She had a sense of humor.
"Care to set* my boat?" he suggested. “Come this evening. Or shall I call on you up at the house?”
Miguel Braganza heard that. He let out another of his hippopotamus snorts.
“I will send your suitcase to your yacht!” he almost shouted. The word yacht sounded like a tin can dumped into the river, done with.
“Thanks,” said Hanno. He made up his mind that instant he would stay another week in Chai-Chai if he had to. Friendly Miguel had been, in his own way, a man of his word and a good host. But of the $400 that Charles Dumaurier had stolen, how much was Miguel’s share? Perhaps none. Perhaps half. No knowing.
Chai-Chai, he reflected, is no place for a good-looking girl with a fool for a father. Girdlestone must lxa ftxil or he wouldn’t have brought her there. The oftener he glanced at Girdlestone the more sure he felt that the man was an easy mark. Easy marks are out of luck anywhere between Lourenço Marques and Mozambique. He grinned, nodded, raised his hat and walked away to find a couple of natives to
get his gasoline and water loaded. No hurry. Life’s long. He had a hunch. That girl also had one, if he knew his stuff, Anyhow, if he waited for tomorrow morning's tide he might not have to anchor at the Bar to wait for high water.
rT'HE MOON shone on the misty Limpopo that sucked
at the sides of Hanno’s ketch. It turned the air into silvery gauze, through which papyrus loomed. Insects droned interminably, but there was a mosquito net over the cockpit, and beneath that, with a pipe in his teeth, Hanno sat and listened for the sleepy quack-and-squatter of wild ducks disturbed by dreams or enemies. He had paid off the Ronga watchman and was thoroughly enjoying solitude, Loneliness doesn’t exist for people who look and think and listen. He heard the snort of a hippo, half a mile up-river, An occasional drunken yell from Mendoza’s bar at the back of the custom shed only accented peace.
But it was Gazaland. He had a feeling of premonition,
He was nearly sure he had recognized Charles Dumaurier, just as night fell, in the stem of a rowboat, going upstream,
There was a riding light at the masthead, unnecessary though it might be. The steamer had gone and would not return for a week. A light did seem like a waste of kerosene, But when, at about ten o’clock, he caught the thump of rnufllcd oars on rowlocks he was pleased with himself, not only because of the light. He liked to be able to trust his
hunches. 1 íe fetched his automatic from the cabin, cocked it and resumed his seat beside the tiller. There was a boat coming much too silently along the shadow beneath the right bank. Anyone on honest business should be in midstream to take advantage of the current and moonlight.
Suddenly he got up and went forward with a boat hook—shouted, thrust, shoved. The oncoming boat’s bow missed its aim, but there was a clatter of oars alongside and an oath from the boat’s stern.
“You sawr my light. What are you doing to my mooring?”
No answer. A man in the boat’s stern growled in the Shironga dialect at three native rowers, who backed oars. The boat came back upstream stern first and a man jumped out of her. I íe had a rille. He clambered overside pretty actively and clung with his left hand to the port shrouds,
“Touch me with that boat hook and see what you get!” he snarled. “You know' me. You better know me. Charles Dumaurier—hah?”
The boat: retreated to the shadow beneath the bank, twenty-five feet away. Jack Hanno returned along the starboard deck to the cockpit, where he took the automatic off the seat and shoved it, cocked, into his belt.
“What do you want?” he asked then.
“You soon find out.”
Charles Dumaurier walked aft, rolling in his gait with the deliberate, calculated swagger that no mixed-breed bully can deny himself. Four strides, and he was near enough for the teeth to show beneath his black mustache.
“Well - are you going to raise that net for me?” he demanded.
Hanno had the drop on him. Dumaurier stood in full moonlight; like all brash outlaws he w'as counting on the normal man’s disinclination to sh;x>t first.
"No. Stay where you are.
What do you want, 1 )umaurier?’’
"You get away ! Understand that? Chai-Chai isn't safe for you. Get going! You’ve a tide, haven’t you? What’s keeping you a wench? You get downriver!”
Hanno heard the boat's oars
again. The rowers were creeping up to his m;x>ring to cut him adrift.
“Order your men away,
Dumaurier. I'll take a chance with the law.”
"You know me -and you say that?”
The rifle moved. So did Jack Hanno. He knew His boat by
dark or daylight. He was out under the net and along the narrow strip of deck with the speed of familiarity. The halfbreed stepped backward for room to use his rifle; he was still stepping backward when a fist struck him under the jaw. He clutched the shroud. A harder, better aimed blow broke his liold. He fell into the river backward, rifle and all. Hanno shouted to the rowers, but there was no need; they found their master by his splashing, hoisted him in, and vanished down-stream into a bank of mist and reeds.
XJ ANNO felt it was almost worth $400 to have punched * and ducked that swine. But he guessed he wasn't through with him yet. He picked up a knotted rope fender, returned to the cockpit and crouched on the cockpit floor.
After waiting a few minutes he slowly raised the fender above the level of the transom. The fender was about the size of a man’s head. The mosquito net jerked suddenly against the wind and a bullet knocked the fender out of his
hands. Charles Dumaurier’s reputation as a crack shot was true, even if there was no other truth in all Gazaland.
However, there was no need to flatter the brute. Ix't him think he had missed. There must be a limit to the amount of shooting he would dare to do so close to Chai-Chai. Hanno pushed up the fender again. It had hardly topped the transom when a second shot grazed it. Then, however, there was a hullabaloo on the far bank. Somebody came running with a lantern. A third shot smashed the riding light. A boat at the far bank clattered as oars were thrown in. Bare feet thumped on the thwarts. A sleepy Portuguese policeman had himself rowed to the yacht in a hurry, but there was ample time to unload the automatic and hide it
Hanno knew no Portuguese worth mentioning. The jxfliceman knew even less English, but he did know who
Charles Dumaurier was. At the mention of the name he laughed and shrugged his shoulders. He accepted a packet of cigarettes and gabbled Portuguese for two or three minutes. It appeared he was offering Hanno a place in his boat, and was puzzled or else disgusted by refusal of the offer.
However, he shrugged his shoulders again and was rowed
away, grumbling something about Manana—threat or promise, no knowing which. Night swallowed the sound of his oars, and in a few minutes African silence settled down again—a harmony of infinitely tiny sounds amid which a soft wind whispered, wreathing the thin mist into fantastic shapes. But the feeling of peace and independence had gone; not even the pleasure of having ducked the worst blackguard in Gazaland could recapture it.
Hanno found his spare riding light and sent it to the masthead. The lawless countries have the most law; that an outlaw’s bullet had smashed his light would make no difference if the Portuguese had decided to show their teeth; he would be heavily fined, and lord knew what else, and they would probably invent a lot of other infractions of laws that nobody remembered until someone was due for a dose of trouble. Dumaurier’s visit, taken by itself, might mean nothing, or next to nothing. He was probably capable of shooting anyone for mere amusement: or he might have acted from resentment at having failed to strip a sucker of all he owned. There was no doubt at all in Hanno’s mind that he had been a sucker. Maybe he still was one. If he had sense he would be down off the Bar already, thankful
to have escaped malaria and bullets. What was he waiting for? A girl’s smile?
But was he? Were those Girdlestones headed for the trap he had barely escaped? It might be. Girdlestone looked crazy enough. The girl had looked wistful—perhaps frightened. Should he go and call on them at Miguel Braganza's house? He had said he would. But he had no tender. You don’t swim the Limpoix), not if you’re sane. It only takes one crocodile to cheat the undertaker. Sharks, too; big ones.
He was silly to have invited the girl to visit him. How could she cross the river at night? He decided to start up the engine and cross over to the steamer wharf, but it wasn’t likely she would come alone, three quarters of a mile in the dark, to the wharf on the off chance of’finding him there. All the same he had better be there in case she did come. It was a nuisance to slip the mooring in the dark, but . . .
Suddenly he saw a lantern on the far bank and heard voices. One voice was a woman’s. Chai-Chai women are the crow-voiced native mis tresses of Indians and Portuguese, who know better than to disturb a policeman's slumber. There was a dickens of an argument going on. Someone—it must be Girdlestone—was stuttering Portuguese with a Middle-Western Canadian accent. Why didn't the fool offer
money and save his nervous energy for something worth while? If he could talk Portuguese, didn’t he know that whatever you want, it's only a question of price? He hojx-d Girdlestone wasn’t coming aboard.
Should he cross the river? Not yet. He decided it was better to wait awhile and see what happened. Presently he heard the oars being thrown into the jxjliceman’s boat, and then, after a minute or two, the steady, lazy thump and swish as the boat crossed the JXX>1 toward him. Warm, moist wind had begun to stream the mist down-river, so he could not see who was in the boat until it swung alongside.
“I hope we don’t intrude,” said Girdlestone.
INSTEAD of answering—it was the silence of antagonism, suspicion, dislike— Jack Hanno reached out his arm and helped the daughter aboard. Her silence was as determined as his. She sat down beside the tiller while he gave Girdlestone a hand. There was no policeman, only three native rowers. The boat returned to the wharf. Hanno fetched a lantern from the cabin, frowning at Girdlestone’s footprints on the clean deck. Then he looked straight at the girl. “You’d find it stuffy below. Better sit here. Well—?” “You invited us,” she answered.
“I invited you.”
DORIS GIRDLESTONE interrupted. She had probably heard the story too often; it plainly bored her.
“Did you believe Dumaurier?”
“Yes, I’m afraid I did. He’s a foul-looking brute, but he can talk like an insurance salesman.” Hanno glanced at Girdlestone. "See here,” he said, “supix>se / tell you the story. I met Dumaurier in the Greek bar at Lourenço Marques. He’s a mixed-breed bully, originally from Mauritius. There are three or four warrants out against him, for murder and one thing and another, but I didn t know that then. I was told he was tough but on the level. I have since learned that the Portuguese are afraid to arrest him because he has a Hock of outlaw brothers m the mountains who are quite capable of reprisals. And besides, he stands in with the jxilitical element. Dumaurier told me he has a stone tablet he calls it a plaque—inscribed with characters that he can't read.”
“He sent me a photograph of it,” said Girdlestone. ”1 can't read them either. They l;x)k to me like an attempt by a rather illiterate Phoenician to write pre-Mishnaic Hebrew in a hurry. I lis theory is - ”
“D*t Mr. Hanno tell.”
Girdlestone shut up savagely. His daughter grinned. I lanno continued :
“Dumaurier told me a Portuguese professor of ancient languages who is now dead examined that tablet and said it undoubtedly gives directions how to find a store of gold abandoned by someone because there were no men left alive to carry it. Dumaurier said lie’s afraid to show it to the Portuguese authorities, because they would probably set their troops to hunting for the treasure.”
“Yes,” said Girdlestone. “That's plausible, isn’t it? That’s why I have to keep secret what I know.”
“I’d say it’s a pretty open secret. IXimaurier invited me to come and see the tablet and some other tracesof Solomon’s men.”
“Why? Did he think you have money?”
“He got four hundred of my money. It was all I took with me. His proposal was that I should return home and get
“I couldn't let her come alone,” said Girdlestone. “This isn’t a white girl’s country, is it?"
“Or a white man’s either. Are you in trouble?”
“No. But Doris—"
“Let me tell him.” I>oris Girdlestone looked angry. But she looked good, too, in the lantern light. And she didn’t start in at once on her own troubles. Hanno liked that. “Did I hear shooting?” she asked.
"You may have. Someone shot my riding light.”
“For a joke?”
“I think not."
“Miguel Braganza tried to talk us out of coming to see you. He said you'd be gone already. He refused to come with us. Father says Miguel Braganza told him he likes you personally, but you’re a dangerous person to know. He says you make enemies.”
“Yes?” said Hanno.
“But 1 thought that perhaps you would be able to give us information.”
“Do you know who is Charles Dumaurier?"
"He is the man who shot my riding light. Why? What do you know about him?”
“Very little. He claims he has the key to King Solomon’s mine.”
“Well, he hasn’t.”
“But perhaps he has,” said Girdlestone. “Perhaps you know less about that than I do. It’s my subject. My researches have convinced me that Zimbabwe in Rhodesia was the headquarters of Solomon’s gold miners. Why shouldn’t Dumaurier have stumbled on something? We don’t know who Solomon was. He may be a myth. More probably the name Solomon represents a dynasty. No matter. Solomon sent out colonists who built Zimbabwe, settled there and dug gold. Later, they abandoned the place, nobody knows why ; there may have been an epidemic, conceivably due to a protracted drought. Or they may have been attacked and destroyed by enemies. In three places — Palestine, Arabia and Egypt— I have come across and checked up a legend, in one case documented, although the document probably dates from only about 400 B.C., that relates how Solomon’s men buried three years accumulation of gold before abandoning their mines.”
“So Dumaurier told me,” said Hanno.
“Did he mention my name?”
“Well, perhaps he wouldn’t. I have been in correspondence with him for more than three years, but this is my first chance to pay him a visit.” Girdlestone was all steamed up now for a monologue. I le ignored his daughter. His intellectual forehead and mobile mouth tweaked with excitement; behind his spectacles his eyes were jxx>ls of acquisitive eagerness. "I have visited Zimbabwe. Dumaurier’s story is very convincing. 1 le claims Solomon’s men’s route was from Chai-Chai across the Libomba Mountains, and that his house stands on the site of one of their more or less permanent camps.”
“Yes, he told me that,” said Hanno.
Continued on page 38
Continued from page 5
-Slaris on page 8 -
people interested who would know how to drive a bargain with the Portuguese Government in Lisbon. What Dumaurier asks is a lump sum down. Ten per cent for me. On receipt of the cash he would turn over the plaque and all his other information, subject to a twenty-five per cent share for himself of whatever’s found. Ten per cent of that for me, too.”
‘‘Fair enough,” said Girdlestone. “Worth looking into, isn’t it?”
“You agreed?” asked Doris.
“No. But I did look into it. I was curious. I bought a couple of mules from Miguel Braganza, hired a native guide and set out for Dumaurier’s place. The guide ran away. Not knowing the native language, I had a deuce of a time. The natives are afraid; they don’t dare direct you to where Dumaurier lives or say a word about him. However, I found him at last and spent a week with him.
“He showed me a photograph, not the tablet, and he wouldn’t let me have a copy of the photo. But he did show me around the hills. He pointed out what he said was the trail of King Solomon’s men. I decided he was a crook with a variation of the old Spanish prisoner racket. And I thought he thought I might be useful as a shill to interest the suckers. But I suppose 1 didn’t show enough enthusiasm to suit him. Anyhow, he stole my money and mules and gave me marching orders—said 1 ’d called him a liar. I was lucky he didn’t shoot me. I think he didn’t because he felt so confident I’d die on the march. I darned nearly did die of starvation; the natives are so scared of Dumaurier that more than half the time I couldn’t beg a bite to eat. It was a tough journey. I got lost in a swamp. I’ve been about three weeks recovering from malaria at Miguel Braganza’s house.”
“And he—?” asked Doris
“Oh, he made a profit on the mules, but not too much. He’s an honest crook— maybe. I don’t believe he'd murder anyone. I think he either stands in with Dumaurier, or else is so afraid of him that he daren’t disobey orders. It’s obvious he wants me out of the way for fear I’ll tell you too much.”
“We were not expected until next week,” said Doris. "That was my idea. I thought, if it’s a trap, we might find that out by coming ahead of time.’
“I know more than I care to tell,” said Girdlestone. He folded his arms and crossed his knees.
T_TANNO felt he would like to wring Girdlestone’s leathery neck. What sort of professor was he anyhow? Probably a chiropodist. In the shadowy lantern light he looked like a thin tortoise in cheaters. He felt good and mad at Girdlestone, and sorry for his daughter. No, that wasn’t it either. He felt —darned if he knew how he did feel. Romantic? Nights on the Limpopo are like a voluptuous dream without reason or logic. They go to a fellow’s head. Being shot at doesn’t help much. He had better be careful. These people were none of his business. He had done the decent thing by staying an extra night to tell what he knew.
‘‘I've warned you,” he said abruptly. He wished they would go. He wanted to sleep until daybreak, and then start down-river to catch the tide over the Bar.
"Who are you?” Girdlestone asked, equally abruptly.
It was an impudent question as a matter of fact. However, Hanno told him, in twenty words. Good country stock, no worse than others, and better than some.
“Who are you?” he retorted, not that he cared, but he wouldn’t mind some information to support prejudice.
“I haven’t a card,” said Girdlestone. "Until recently I had the chair of ancient history at E.U.”
So the man was a genuine highbrow after all. Well, what of it?
“Father wrote a History of Semitic Colonization,” said Doris. “It has reached the ten-cent boxes on its way to glory.” Trust a reedy old prof, not to know better than to bring his daughter to a place like Chai-Chai! The silence became strained. Hanno could think of nothing more worth saying. Girdlestone was staring at him through those saucer-size cheaters.
“I will tell you why I asked,” said Girdlestone suddenly. “But tell me first where you’re going—where next?”
“Lourenço Marques for clearance papers.” “And there isn’t a steamer from here in a week?”
“It’s an impossible journey overland, across t'he swamps and three rivers. But I have seen enough not to want Doris on this expedition. She’s against it, anyhow. How long will it take you to reach Lourenço Marques?”
“If I catch the morning tide and use the engine or pick up a fair wind, I might make it in a day. Day-and-a-half, I should say, at the outside.”
“If I pay for the gasoline, would it be too much to ask you to take Doris to Lourenço Marques? She could wait for me there at a hotel.”
“Delighted.” But he wasn’t. He had another hunch. He sensed predicament. But he didn’t see how to refuse. “I start at daybreak. How about her baggage?”
“Just two suitcases,” said Doris.
He decided after all he didn’t like her. She was too willing to desert the prof.—too darned willing to presume on a chance acquaintance.
“Can you get ’em aboard?”
“Yes,” said Girdlestone. He became astonishing. He stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled, so long and shrill that the birds awoke in the reeds and a hippo up river deserted dry land in a panic, plunging in off the bank with a noise like a landslide.
“You see,” he said, “if I should get shot it won’t much matter. But Doris—aha! Here they come.” The oars thumped in the boat on the far bank. “I thought that would wake ’em.”
XTO POLICEMAN again—just the rowboat and three natives. No one spoke until Girdlestone was seated in the boat’s stem. It occurred then to Hanno to get what he thought off his mind.
“See here,” he said, “bring your own bag. I’ll take you both to Lourenço Marques. If you go to the Libombas with Dumaurier you haven’t a chance.”
“Thanks. It’s kind of you. But I know what I’m doing.”
“He doesn't know,” said Hanno as the boat slid away across a patch of moonlight into streaming mist.
“He knows more than he tells,” Doris answered. “But the worst of it is, I agree with you.”
“Why should you? You don’t know me.” “Don’t let’s argue,” she retorted. “You’re being kind and I’m grateful. Y'ou don’t like either of us, and I don’t blame you. Senhor Braganza said you are sailing alone around the world, so of course you don’t want your solitude disturbed by an absolute stranger.”
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“Oh, you’re welcome all right.”
“Please. Don’t let s even pretend. I know I’m not welcome, and I hate imposing I on you. But it won’t be for long. I’m not going with you to Lourenço Marques. I want you to put me ashore a few miles down the river.”
“I will walk back to Chai-Chai.”
“It’s mean walking—snakes, ticks, as hot as Tophet. What for?”
“Well, I think I’ll be safe enough in Chai-Chai. They behave as if they haven’t i seen a white woman since they all left Lisbon, but I don’t think they’re dangerous. I j intend to risk that, and to make friends if I ! possibly can.”
“In a place like this they have only one use for a good-looking girl,” said Hanno.
“Well, I’d rather risk that than let father be murdered. He didn't tell you, but he had a conference with Charles Dumaurier ten days ago in Lourenço Marques, and Dumaurier returned here on last week’s boat to wait for us. Father is almost unmanageable. You see, he thinks I’m timid and have no imagination. Perhaps you don’t know how intense an antiquarian’s enthusiasm is to prove a theory. He will be gone tomorrow morning with two thousand pounds in an envelope pinned to his waistband.”
“Yes, if Dumaurier satisfies him.” “They’ll divide that money six or seven ways,” said Hanno. “When I was in Dumaurier’s house for a whole week, he boasted to me of how he used to make a steady income shooting blacks on their way from Kimberley with stolen diamonds for the Hindu buyers in Delagoa Bay. Your father has a fat chance.”
“Unless I’m clever.”
“I don’t know. I’m pretty desperate. I don’t care about the money. Let them have it. Are they all real bad men?”
“You mean in Chai-Chai? Oh, no. Just crooks, like our own politicians. They don’t do their own murdering—not as a rule. They hire that. Cheap as vino tinto. A couple of barrels of that stuff hires a halfbreed to do anything short of washing the back of his neck.”
“I thought of telling Miguel Braganza.” “What?”
“About father’s money.”
“He’d bite. Then what?”
“Isn’t he a magistrate?”
“I thought I would promise him half the money if he rescues father. I might even persuade him to follow up with enough witnesses to frighten Dumaurier. I’d go along, just to keep them moving. I f we were close behind, Dumaurier would hardly dare to commit murder, would he?”
“Probably not, but I wouldn’t bet. Twenty-five years of immunity have made him reckless. Either you have courage, i young woman, or else you're too dumb to judge danger.”
“What else could I do?”
“Darned if I know.”
“Will you put me ashore down river?” “I’ll think that over.”
SILENCE. If she had argued, Hanno very likely would have said no, but she had sense enough to let him smoke and think. It didn’t take much thought to imagine that if she went with her father she would be a fine catch for Dumaurier. Most of his women were black, but he boasted of having had three white ones who hadn’t known enough to keep out of reach.
“Won’t your father let you stay in ChaiChai?” he asked suddenly.
“No. He won’t hear of it. He doesn’t say so, but he doesn’t trust me not to try to have him brought back.”
Silence again, for a long time, with the water sucking at the boat's stem and the moon descending in luminous mist. Then a lantern in the distance—probably Girdlestone and the suitcases. Hanno had made up his mind. There was no use beating about the bush. He was a fool, but who isn’t? He said it bluntly:
“I will come back to Chai-Chai with you.”
He kicked the fender toward her. “Argue with that. It might change its mind.”
“I don't know what to say to you.”
“Why say anything?”
So he was to have one more crack at Dumaurier? Well, no bunk about it, he was glad of the chance. Dumaurier had won the first trick and lost the second. Let the third decide which was the fool.
"Do you know,” he said suddenly, knocking out his pipe on the palm of his hand, “I'm keen on this. I never killed a man. I’m going to find out what it feels like.”
“But if he kills you—”
"Bury me, bones and all. I'd not be fit to live if I’d let that Charles Dumaurier repeat. He’s for it.”
He was surly with Girdlestone—didn’t invite him aboard when he brought the suitcases. He took down the mosquito net and told I3oris to stow it below. Then he spoke in a low voice:
“Has she money for the hotel?”
“Well, we’re off now.”
“Take good care of her. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel for—”
“She’ll be all right. Steer clear, will you, or we’ll swing around on top of you when I let go.”
He started the engine, slipped the mooring and ran back to the helm.
“Good-by,” said Girdlestone. His voice seemed half-choked in the mist. Whatever else he said was drowned out by the motor’s exhaust. Doris didn’t realize they were under way until she stuck her head out of the cabin.
“Light the stove and make coffee,” said Hanno.
HE WAS taking chances. The reedy river banks slid by, vague shadows, formless, widened by their own reflection on the oily surface. It was next to impossible to see the channel marks. It was no moment for explanations. The main thing was to keep her from talking while he gave attention to the course. But it gave him a line on her. too. He had time to notice that she went right to work and found tilings without asking. When she had made coffee and discovered a tin of biscuits she brought them out to the cockpit, and then went forward without a word to coil down the mooring warp that he had had to leave for later. After that, she lit the running lights and hauled down the lamp from the masthead. Then she came aft and poured the coffee. No questions. Swell. It was he who spoke first: “How early does your father expect to get away?”
“In the heat?”
“Yes. Miguel Braganza promised nine o’clock—mules, ixjrters, everything all ready. Are three hours text few to allow for contingencies?”
“About right. Miguel can hustle if he’s well paid. Dumaurier?”
“Was to meet us at Pearson’s Place. Do you know where that is?”
“Two days journey. Listen. Well go halfway to the Bar, to a place where the river widens and we can moor among the mangroves. We’ll wait there for tomorrow afternoon’s tide. Back at Chai-Chai at moonrise, and find Miguel ; he’s the best bet. Turn in now and get some sleep; it’ll be hot in the cabin after sunrise.”
He still felt like a fool. Beyond the Bar the sea was waiting for him, and a whole wide world to wander over and enjoy. I íe liked exploring rivers, but lie hated tick-andmosquito-ridden fever lands. He hated the kind of people who live there and pose as heroes just because they can bully and exploit the blacks. There was no sensible reason why he should risk his boat and his neck for a fool like Girdlestone. Would Girdlestone do the same for him? Not likely! The thought of Girdlestone made him angry; he denied that he cared a hoot whether Girdlestone got killed or not. Very
well, why was he making an ass of himself?
He had not answered the question an hour after daybreak when he sluiced the deck to make it cooler below. Soon afterward he ran into a creek and moored to a mangrove root where he could not be seen from any boats that might happen to pass. Then he rigged the awning over the mizzen boom, hung the mosquito net and sat smoking until Doris awoke.
She called out that she was getting breakfast. He counted eleven crocodiles before she brought up the plates to the cockpit. She had put on a clean frock and looked as neat as the yacht. She could fry bacon and eggs. They were good. There was another thing about her that was darned good; she didn’t pull any gratitude stuff, or make out
she was embarrassed, or suggest that he wasn’t doing what he did because he chose to do it. He decided after all that he liked her; she was on the level, knew how to accept a fellow’s hospitality without making him wish she wasn’t there.
“Your turn,” she said presently. “I've made up the bunk.”
“Been sailing before?”
“Lots. I love it.”
He turned in. But before he fell asleep he heard her grope for the fishing tackle in the locker under the cockpit seat. Not bad that, either. She knew how to amuse herself. And he noticed she had taken a book on deck. The cabin was as tidy as she herself had looked when she showed up.
To be Continued