The mystery of the howling dog and the girl who wanted to know the truth
THE DESK clerk telephoned up to Ryan’s room that a girl had just come into the lobby asking what his name was and what room he had.
“Thought you’d like to know. Might be worth looking into.”
Larry Ryan was mystified. If someone had asked him to go out in the street and fight, it would have been less disconcerting. He was prepared for that contingency. He had a cartridge belt cinched around his lanky waist and some of the tiny looped compartments held cartridges. Others, however, held a different commodity; something worth fighting for.
The phone call from the desk caught him checking over the belt’s contents. He left the cartridges in place. The rest he counted, separating the misshapen perle $ baroques from the half-spherical "buttons,” making a third pile of those gems that were perfect.
Some years ago native divers of the Tuamotus had told him of a reef where a tapeworm attacked the oysters black-lip oysters they were, and the reef was hunted by many traders. They said the larva of the tapeworm would start an irritation so that in due time the oyster would conceive treasure. Some traders found the motu, but they did not find pearls ready to be scooped up by the bushel. They had to be grubbed for. Out of a thousand black-lips one might be diseased and yield a pearl of fine skin and lustre, sometimes baroque, sometimes pear-shaped, sometimes perfect.
Here was the work of years which he balanced now in a frowsy waterfront hotel. A strange girl asking his name and the number of his room meant trouble enough.
But Larry Ryan was satisfied that she had not learned much. He had registered as Tom Spratt, Honolulu; the name being an alias, the address partially true, for he had spent a few hours in Honolulu on his way here from Papeete. He had thought some of hiding the belt ’s contents in the mattress or under the loose boards beneath the mothy carpet. But he concluded they were safer about his waist, just beneath the gun under his armpit.
He went downstairs intending to slip out into the street : that is to say, after he had had a glimpse of the girl. But one glimpse was not enough. She had to be stared at. His eyes, sprayed with fine wrinkles by tropic suns and the trades, fixed on her. She was alone, so what was there to fear? She was only a slip of a youngster, not out of her teens. If she pulled a gun on him he would twist her neck. But she had a very lovely neck, and the thought in his mind made it seem all the more fragile and lovely.
Ryan let her stare back at him a moment. “Asking for me? My name’s Spratt.”
“I made a mistake,” she said. “I was looking for someone else. A man from a schooner out there in China Basin.” “Guess maybe it’s my mistake,” the clerk said. “She kind of described you. She saw you come in here from the waterfront.”
“The man I was waiting for was anchor watch but it’s time for him to get off. I was on the pier waiting for him and I thought I’d missed him. He said he’d stay at this hotel.”
Ryan gave a grunt of relief. That certainly explained it. It was nice to discover that the girl was not after what he had in that belt. She reminded him of girls he had seen in Samoa; dark-skinned with clouded black hair and a slight slant to her eyes. A feeling wild and warm went through him, as it had when he grubbed for pearls on lonely barrier reefs. It was the same hunger sharpened by drowsy winds and the eternal moan of combers; the longing when alone to hunt for a mate. He was lonelier now than he had ever been on an uncharted atoll.
A man came into the lobby, a longshoreman probably, and Ryan gave a nervous start. But the man merely went to the desk, cut a cigar on the desk clipper, then lolled in an old leather chaii reading a paper. Ryan would have given a start at anything.
“What ship’s your friend on?” Ryan asked. He got a cigarette out so that his hands could have something to do. They felt clumsy, for the girl was looking at them, impressed with their nervous bony strength.
She answered: “The Mahope.”
Ryan’s cigarette did not light even though the match was on it, for he was holding his breath. He himself had just come ashore from the Mahope in a skiff he had rented from a boatman between China Basin and Mission Rock. The girl, watching for her sailor, had seen Ryan rowing ashore. That made it quite clear why she had mistaken his identity. She had seen him cross the railroad tracks and go to this lodginghouse, which stood out alone between empty lots.
"L-TE COVERED his excitement by saying casually: * “Yes, the Mahope cargo of sandalwood and copra. Read she’s to take on potash for Japan.”
"I was worried,” she said, “because the dog on the Mahope was barking. He howled for a while and then he barked. He only barks when a stranger comes aboard. He’s the skipper’s dog. He can tell when a man’s been aboard, they say, even though it was months before. He’s blind.”
Yes, Ryan knew that very well. He had seen the lift of hair on that mongrel’s back, the ragged monumental thing sitting in the shadow of a capstan, “watching” him if that could be said of a blind dog. He had seen him a very short while ago, the grisly head just out of the shadow, showing eyes of moonshot marble.
Ryan merely said: “Must be pretty hard on a dog to be blind.”
“Not on that dog. They say he can run around the decks without touching a hatch coaming or winch.”
“Oh no. He’ll run around a scuttle-butt that’s been moved over to windward for ballast. He feels something in
the air when he comes close to it. Like a bat zigzagging between wires.”
Ryan caught the hard stare in her eyes. He was convinced that she knew what he had done. He thought that no one in the world knew—except that dog. It made him mad—being trapped by a blind dog and this young snip. The thought, or rather the impossibility, of choking her struck him again. He was that furious. Perhaps he was just fascinated with her throat. He noticed that it gleamed because it was wet as if from some sudden exertion.
“Sorry I’m not the man you were looking for,” he said. “Guess I better be going.”
“What’s your hurry?”
Behind him at the front door he was aware of men.
He lit another cigarette, his hand unnaturally steady.
Two men stepped to the desk, one with a visored cap and long arms. The clerk’s face went white when they said something to him. He hurried over to the cigar smoker who was reading a paper and nodded to him to get out.
“The Mahope’s skipper was found murdered just now,” the man with the cap said to the clerk. “No police in this. Get me?”
The clerk swallowed. “Sure.”
Ryan whirled at the gill in a blaze and found her eyes slanting at him through smoke. "Not going?”
He gulped. His hands twitched but he held them stiff.
“You know what Mahope means?”
He was thinking which way to duck, and to give himself time, he laughed casually. “It means, by and by.”
“That’s when you can go.”
"POUR or five men were in the lobby now. They had just -*■ drifted in as if no one knew another. They had hair in their ears and anchors tattooed on their leather skin. They were big, Ryan thought, measuring them, but without his lean deceptive strength in their chunky frames. He could fight them.
“Is this the man?” one of them said to the girl.
All she had to do was to nod, but Ryan saw her slim hands knotting together.
They all turned to him. One said: “What were you doing aboard the Mahope?”
“Never was aboard.”
Ryan faced them squarely. No doubt they all belonged to the Mahope's crew. The girl must have phoned to some waterside bar or poolroom, collecting them. Their coming seemed very natural, in a way inevitable. They were grim and calm like a bunch of striking stevedores coming to a union meeting. The only excited ones were the clerk and the girl who had trapped Ryan.
The spokesman said: “This girl here saw you come
ashore from the Mahope which I’m bosun of. She saw you luff into this joint.”
“What about it?” Ryan stalled a minute. “And who’s this girl anyway?”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“Nothing, except she’s crazy. I was out fishing.”
The bosun showed astonishing patience. “Call Jo Castine.” One of the seamen went out. “She’s Jo Castine’s girl,” the bosun said. “We all know her. Her father has a chandler shop down the street. What she says we take stock in.”
The man called Jo Castine was brought in. He was younger than the others, and handsome in a rough-hewn, sea-tanned way. Ryan remembered him very well, especially the glassy eyes. The last time he saw him, he was lying on the forecastle deck of the Mahope in a knockout. Now his head was bandaged under the woollen cap.
The bosun asked him: “Is this the guy brained you?”
The pale eyes had to squint. It had been a good knock-
out. His head rocked groggily in affirmation. “He’s the one.”
“How can you tell, Jo, if his shot hit you on the back of the head?” the girl asked. They all growled at her to stay out of it.
“I saw him when he was stooping over me after he’d dropped me." He slumped to a chair. The girl got a paper cup from the ice-water stand. “I came to,” he went on, “and followed him ashore. I told her to shadow him. She’d spotted him too. on account of the dog’s barking. She phoned you from here, while I got my head fixed in a drugstore.”
Satisfied, the bosun said: “Take him aboard.”
The girl broke in gasping. “You’re doing this on my word. Jo’s too groggy to know what he saw. I’m not sure. I trailed him here, but there were others in this street.”
“If that ain’t like a girl!” the man with the bandaged head snorted. “What are you doing, feeling sorry for the lubber?”
“We won’t take your word, or Castine’s either,” the bosun said. “The dog saw it all. We don’t trust Castine’s eyes, but we trust the dog.”
"DYAN stood without a tremor of a
^ muscle, waiting for them to step closer. They were on every side of him. The clerk was crouched behind his desk, as if he were sitting on a chair, watching over the rim. The bosun just happened to notice him. “Say, you there. You never saw any of this. Nothing for you to worry about if you keep your mouth shut.”
“Listen, mister,” the clerk stammered. “I never tell what I’ve seen here. And I’ve never even seen it anyway.”
All the dim dusty light of the lobby gathered in the girl’s eyes when she saw Ryan buck those odds. Her eyes were glorious for that one swift flare as the fight broke and subsided. Ryan did not draw, for they all watched for that. He could only swing. Two of them stretched. Then Ryan was down, his arms knotted. Those he had floored were given ice water. Then he found himself sitting by the girl’s side.
It took him quite a long time to understand that they were in a longboat. He did not get the idea clearly until she poured whisky through his lips. He had no pain, but his whole body throbbed like one giant pulse, puffing, shrinking, beating. The only particular feeling was in his neck as it was pressed against the girl’s hot soft arm. They had taken his gun and cartridge loeit.
She asked him how he was doing now. “Pelea oe?”
A man laughed, a high-pitched Hawaiian hoot. It was not until then that Ryan knew there were a lot of men in the longboat. It looked like a mob, except that some of the stiller forms, he made out finally, were the piles of a wharf moving away.
The girl left him after she had brought him to. She went to the two men who were slumped on a thwart aft. having their faces doctored. They reminded Ryan of dogs licking their wounds after a bad fight. Dogs were on his mind.
He heard them talking about the dog on the ship. He understoml that they had locked him up because of his howling. Most of the crew had gone out to the ship upon hearing the news, all except the bosun and five men who went for Ryan.
The Mahope, not yet unloaded, rode low with her ballast of coral. The bosun called up to the men lining the rail and asked if either of the mates were aboard. No, the mates were not yet found. They had not been hanging around China Basin with the crew. To his dismay, Ryan learned that the bosun and the forecastle bunch had this whole thing in their hands.
The bosun i an up the ladder first. They hoisted Ryan by a rope made fast under his armpits, and he found himself standing on deck but still bound.
The bosun, standing behind him. said: “Let the dog out on deck. Then everyone get down forward.”
Ryan heard the click of toenails, the rattle of a small chain as the dog scam-
pered in his new freedom. But there was no woof or yelp. He was a silent glum creature, a dog of few words.
The bosun gave no order to the prisoner to walk that deck. If he had. the dog would have heard his voice. And the prisoner was not the sort who would obey anyway. The bosun merely shoved him. With his arms bound. Ryan had to stagger a few steps or else fall on his face.
Abaft the foremast he saw the dog. sitting on his haunches, watching him with unseeing eyes as he had done hardly more than an hour ago.
Those eyes, by reason of the tense moment as well as their uncanny gleam, had a hypnotic effect on Ryan. He relived in one brief flash every detail of his first visit on this tramp schooner.
AT THAT time the dog’s howling, rather than scaring him off. had made his coming aboard easier. He did not bark until Ryan stepped on deck. It was the footfall of a stranger that he always waited for. before barking. Previous to that he was just howling— that doleful and
almost human utterance which has been called a moon-howl.
Ryan had climbed aboard on that first visit by the Jacob's ladder. He found only the anchor watch on deck lying near the rail. Apparently the man was asleep in drink — not a bad guess inasmuch as the schooner, having stotxl up from the South Seas, had a thirsty crew. He seemed so dead drunk that not even the dog’s barking aroused him.
The dog himself had just sat there as he was sitting now —a wolfish mongrel, but somehow patriarchal as old dogs can be. the moon lighting the silver of his trembling snout. With the watch stretched and snoring, the dog continued to yelp but he did not take a step. He only turned his head like an owl, never quite facing the intruder. He stopped between yelps to cock his shaggy head, listening.
Ryan remembered all this because he had watched the dog very carefully and for a long time, lest he attack. He had wondered, on that first encounter, why the frantic barking did not summon someone else above. The skipper
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perhaps thought little of it, leaving the matter to the anchor watch. Ryan knew the skipper was aboard. He had found that out by snooping around the China Basin saloons. Assured that the dog was too decrepit or else too well trained to attack a man, Ryan had gone below.
It looked as if not even a Kanaka forecastle hand had remained aboard. Ryan could not be sure, for he did not search the vessel. On that visit an hour ago he went no farther at first than the foot of the companion ladder, where he found Captain Sondergard slumped on the lower deck, his short shag of beard clotted with the blood from a knife wound just under his Adam's apple.
Ryan could not forget the shake that came to his knees. He had boarded this schooner prepared to kill Sondergard if it were necessary, and now he found Sondergard dead.
It might be best to go above and bring that anchor watch out of his stupor. He must announce this murder lest he himself be accused. On second thought, he had realized this would not clear him of suspicion at all. Besides, the anchor watch might not be in a stupor. Like the vessel’s master, he might be dead.
The only hope was to get ashore as he had come—surreptitiously. But he had not forgotten his quest. He searched the body, found nothing. He searched the cabin abaft the mizzen. He knew this must be the skipper’s for it was a fancy cabin, finished in Hawaiian koa wood. There was but one bunk and under the fan of the hanging lamp the table showed its logbook and manifests. To search the cabin was a hopeless task. Ryan merely went through such drawers as he could open. Empty-handed, he returned to the body.
No one who did not suspect that the skipper was carrying treasure on his person would have noticed anything out of the way about that cartridge belt on his waist. Ryan did. Some of the tiny compartments of looped canvas bulged, even though empty of cartridges. He ripped one open with his knife. Five flawless gems popped out. Eight pearl grains each was an easy guess.
Someone had murdered the skipper, and whoever he was he must have been scared off before completing his theft. It might have been the dog’s hullabaloo which made a prolonged search too risky. It might have been Ryan’s coming down the companionway that frightened him off. He was probably hiding on hoard right now. And in that event he would be watching Ryan. He would put a shot into him when he tried to go ashore.
It was such a reasonable surmise, that Ryan was astonished to find himself ashore unharmed. Before leaving the ship, he had knelt down to see if the anchor watch were dead. He guessed that he had been sandbagged on the head and was just beginning to come to, squirming in the scuppers as if the deck were too hot.
The dog howled his moon howl, looking in the direction of the escaping man hut staring beyond him, fixedly at the moon, low over the hills. Ryan wished the old beast would make some move instead of
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just sitting there looking through him, watching, judging.
TARRY RYAN snapped out of his reveriethat moment of hypnotic trance. He was standing here now, bound, the bosun behind him, the crew peeping over rail and hatch coaming. And there was the dog. as before, staring at him.
The Ala hope's crew waited for the answer.
A small voiceless woof, drinking in every scent, a cock of the ear reaching for the sound of footfalls—that was all. He did not bark.
“The dog knows you,” the bosun said simply.
The girl and the rowers of the longboat, coming over the rail, saw and heard the judgment. The crew nodded. The thing was settled.
The bosun took them all in with a glance. “Everyone’s satisfied. I reckon. Take him below.”
Ryan was stunned. He had a pretty definite notion that they were going to kill him.
“I was aboard an hour ago,” he said. He had raised his voice, but with that one statement he found there was no reason for shouting. The statement silenced them all. They listened.
“I came aboard to get back what I worked for down in the Tuamotus. Sondergard stole the pearls from my partner who was lying sick of the dengue. I was in Papeete where I had gone for medicines.”
Jeers stopped him. But the girl’s voice was calm above the jeers. She stood by the anchor watch, Jo Castine. She clutched his arm. “Jo, is this true?”
“Part of it's true. There was a sick man the skipper treated. The rest is a galley yarn.”
The bosun said: "Sondergard went
ashore at a rnotu when some pearl divers put off to us in a surf boat and asked for help. Sondergard went ashore, being the only one of us knowing of medicine. We can all vouch for it me and Castine and the two gugus who put the skipper ashore. The man died. We logged his name-Spratt.”
“The skipper did what he could,” others protested. “What sort of lies are you spewing up to blacken him with!”
Ryan answered. “An old Kanaka who worked for us got to Paítete and told me Spratt was raving with the dengue so that the skipper learned where he had cached our pearls. The pearls were gone when your tub made sail. I took steamer to Honolulu and then here, and waited for your cursed tub.”
“A forecastle yarn and a pretty poor one at that,” they all laughed. “Make up a better one if you think to save yourself. You admit coming aboard to get some pearls from Sondergard. We find him dead.”
“He was dead when I went below,” Ryan said.
They hooted. This was the best yet ! 1 íe came to roh, and the man he would rob was found dead but he didn’t do it!
“And you explain it all with a yarn about pearls and the word of a Kanaka in the South Seas we never saw nor heard of !”
Ryan caught the girl’s eyes. They were fixed on him, big with pity. “If you show them the pearls, they may believe you," she said.
“Pretty bright!” the others laughed. The bosun told them to search him. They did. They found what they expected— nothing.
“Get the plank !” a voice piped up. Others echoed.
“None of that stuff,’’ the bosun said. “This will be in a report—Sondergard’s death. When the mates come they will report it to the police.”
“The police!” several objected. “They’ll
bungle it. If the lubber goes to trial he’ll get off. No one else will believe a blind dog —exdept this crew.”
‘They’ll put him in jail and parole him, which is what landsmen do in this country. We’ve given him a fair trial as seamen. What would we do to him down there in the South Seas?”
“But it’ll have to go in the report: Sondergard’s death, and”—the bosun’s voice stayed level—“and the death of the robber who came aboard. The report will say the anchor watch shot him in accordance with his duties.”
“What do you mean!” the girl gasped. “He means let the anchor watch shoot him now,” the ship’s carpenter said. “But why the anchor watch? I’ve sailed with Cap Sondergard ten year, longer than any. Let me do it.”
“No, let me !” said the oldest of them all who was “Sails.” “I have a nest egg, thanks to Sondergard. I have more to thank him for.”
“All of us on lays have something to thank him for. If anyone wants to shoot him, let the doughboy have the chance, since he is Sondergard’s kin.”
The bosun was adamant. “It’ll be reported, as I’ve told you, that he was caught in his thieving by the anchor watch and was shot down. The anchor watch is the only one who has an excuse by law.” “I’ll use his own gun,” the anchor watch said. “I got it here.”
“The rest of you bear a hand,” the bosun ordered. “Take this man below and make him fast to a stanchion. We’ll finish him down there so the shot’s not heard on the bay.”
As they shoved him to the companionway, the girl stepped in front of Ryan. There was a frenzy in her eyes as she faced him.
“Now what do you want?” he said. “Where are the pearls?”
“I’d tell you, wouldn’t I?”
“Maybe, if you had sense. I’m the only one on board that thinks you’re not lying.”
RYAN knew he had but a few minutes * to live. It was a pretty tough crew that had banged around for many years in those South Sea ports. Most of them being on lays, their fortunes were part and parcel of the skipper’s. They were hard drinkers. They had some loyalty, and with a blind dog for mascot they doubtless had some sentiment. One was even Sondergard’s kin. And all were tough.
Ryan could see no way out. If he told them that the pearls were in that cartridge belt it might help substantiate his story. On the other hand, it would merely prove that he came aboard to rob their skipper. Nothing would be gained, the pearls would be lost. He must wait until the last moment before playing that card.
The girl followed them below and watched them bind him to a stanchion. The skipper’s body had been taken to his stateroom. This crew did not bother about formalities. The skipper was dead and they were convinced that they had the murderer. Clues were superfluous. Besides, they found nothing in the companionway that could be regarded as a clue. They only found the skipper’s gun which he had dropped in the attempt to defend himself. He had managed to fire one shot somehow before he died.
Made fast to the stanchion at one end of the passageway, Ryan looked at the crew stepping away from him and out of range. Only the girl remained, facing him. He saw her face under the swinging lamp which turned it haggard, skull-like. But her eyes blazed. He called to her caustically.
‘Thanks, you over there, for everything you’ve done.”
“You’ll thank me before it’s over.” “Who’s telling galley yams now?”
She turned her back on him. The crew had lined up on both sides of the passageway, the prisoner at one end, Castine at the other ready to lift his gun. But the girl stepped between.
“Don’t fire that gun, Castine,” she said in a queer voice.
“What the devil!” everyone growled. “A woman down here! She don’t belong in this.”
Her voice cut clear against these shouts. “Castine, you killed Sondergard. Down there in the Tuamotus you went ashore with him, the bosun said so just now. You knew about those pearls. Why did he let everyone go ashore tonight except you? You were going to divide that loot, but you weren’t satisfied. You knifed him.”
She had grabbed the gun with both hands, but he shook her off. “Say, listen,” he laughed. “Of all the blowsy—”
“You let me talk, all of you ! You knifed him, but then he got a shot at you and knocked you out. There’s one shot fired in Sondergard’s gun.”
“Don’t fire yet, Castine,” the bosun said, “not till she has her say.”
✓^ASTINE laughed with one side of his mouth. He looked at the crew as if begging them to laugh with him. “Pretty good logic, eh, men? It takes a woman to figure things out with logic. I get shot and she takes that as proof I’m a killer.”
“The dog’s the proof!” she went on wildly. “You and Sondergard were the only ones aboard when the dog was howling. He didn’t bark until this stranger came aboard the first time. He was howling because his master was dead.”
Ryan saw the truth of it all in a flashThe skipper, dying from a knife wound, managed to throw a shot at Castine when the latter fled to the topside. The shot, fired from the companion ladder, was defiladed by the companion door both in flash and sound. No one saw or heard it. Castine fell on the forecastle deck, the skipper fell back down the companion ladder.
“Who’s going to believe a breed like her?” Castine grinned hard. “I always figured she was a half-breed. Now I know it.”
The crew had already crowded up on all sides of him. It needed but a silent nod from the bosun for three of them to jump Castine from behind.
He glared at the girl, striking her hard with his bloodless eyes. “You believe that yarn he made up out of whole cloth. You believe his word against mine!”
“If we find the pearls maybe that’ll prove his yam,” the girl said.
Castine’s eyes shifted. It was he who had taken that cartridge belt when they disarmed Ryan in the hotel. He awoke to the fact that the less said about that the better.
“A couple of you go ashore and hunt up the mates,” the bosun said. “This thing is beyond us. There’s many of us would as lief right a wrong, even going as far as killing this stranger. But when it comes to Jo Castine, we can’t take the law in our hands.”
“But the mates will call the police.” The crew was disorganized. They all wanted justice. One or two of the Kanakas still wanted the malihini shot—for the fun of it. But most of them wanted to be sure they had the right man.
“We’ll hold them both,” the bosun said. “None of us believe this yam about pearls. We do believe the dog. According to the way the dog acted, the stranger couldn’t of killed Sondergard. The girl figured it out. If she accuses Castine, there’s truth in it. We all know her—since she was a babe. We know she’s not the kind who’d go back on her own lover without conviction.”
It was all that could be done. As the Kanaka forecastle rats said, the fun and the feast were pau.
“Put Castine in the brig and this man in the glory-hole till the police get here.”
“That satisfies me.” Ryan said. “I won’t ask for my gun which Castine got from me. But he kept my belt. too. appropriating it for himself. It’s a keepsake. A girl in the Tuamotus made it for me. I’d like it back.”
This was the height of arrogance. The bosun did not even listen. A belt was the last thing he’d be bothered about. Obviously it was just a plain cartridge belt. No one had seen anything different about it. Even Ryan himself, who believed the skipper would be carrying the pearls ori his body, had overlooked the possibility of the cache at first. As for the crew, they did not believe there were any pearls to begin with. Later they would put two and two together. But right now, inasmuch as they had been on the verge of killing an innocent man, they leaned in the other direction. Taking care of a blind dog on their voyages had softened them.
“Give the swobhead his belt back,” they snarled at Castine. “Besides murdering, you take to measly pilfering as well !”
TYYAN, sitting on the cook’s bunk in the -LN. glory-hole, was desperately anxious lest they guess the truth about that belt before the police came. The old carpenter had thrown it at his feet, and it felt as if his boots were on a stove. When the girl came and looked through the glory-hole he was thoroughly frightened.
She spoke softly. “Pretty lucky, your getting those pearls back.” His eyes dropped to her throat which had fascinated him from the first. Dulcet tones coming from just such a throat as that must have started the ancient sea lore about sirens.
“What the devil are you talking about !” He checked his anger. “Thanks anyway for helping me out.”
“If you didn’t get the pearls, then what did Castine chase you ashore for?” she asked,crooning.
“You tell me.”
“All right, I will. He came out of his knockout.” Now her voice was a pleasant cadence which soothed him like breakers on a shoal, a lulling sound which at the same time means disaster to a mariner. “He saw you climbing over the rail. He didn’t have a gun, so he couldn’t hold you up. He ran down to the skipper to see if you had stolen the pearls.”
“And then what?”
“He found you had stolen them.”
“As good a guess as any.” His hands opened and closed as he stared at the gleaming shine of her throat.
“I’m not guessing. He came ashore, trailing you. I was there. He didn’t call the crew, of course. It was I who did that.”
“For which I’ve already thanked you. For that and for saving my life.”
“You might thank me for some advice I’m giving you: Someone might get the hunch that it was funny Castine took the trouble to keep that cartridge belt. If they get the hunch before the police come, it’ll be too bad. Better take the pearls out and think of somewhere else to hide them.”
He groaned. “I give up.”
“Did a girl in the Tuamotus really give you that belt?”
“That’s where your woman’s logic sprung a good leak. If Castine wanted the belt, it must have belonged to the skipper.” A blush shone on her throat spreading up over her face. She turned to go.
“Wait a minute.”
He looked at her so long without saying why she was to wait that she asked, “Why are you staring at me so hard?” Her hand went to her throat to ward off his eyes.
“I was just thinking,” he said, grinning. “A pearl necklace would go well on skin of that color.”
TO REDUCE the loss of fall-planted bulbs commonly experienced by gardeners through the ravages of rats and other rodents, a new compound with a slight odor has been developed. Its odor is not unpleasant to human beings but drives rodents away so that they do not eat parts of bulbs treated with it. It is non-toxic and is applied to the bulbs before planting in the fall.—Scientific American.