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Presently Amber rose and quietly exchanged dressing-gown and slippers for his own shooting-jacket and boots--which by now were dry, thanks to Doggott's thoughtfulness in placing them near the fire.
The shabby tin clock had droned through thirty minutes since Rutton had spoken his last word. In that interval, sitting face to face, and for a little time hand in hand, with the man to whom he had pledged his honour, Amber had thought deeply, carefully weighing ways and means; nor did he move until he believed his plans mature and definite.
But before he could take one step toward redeeming his word to Rutton, he had many cares to dispose of. In the hut, Rutton lay dead of poison; somewhere amongst the dunes the babu lay in his blood, shot to death--foully murdered, the world would say. Should these things become known, he would be detained indefinitely in Nokomis as a witness--if, indeed, he escaped a graver charge.
It was, then, with a mind burdened with black anxiety that he went to arouse Doggott.
The rear room proved to be as cheerless as the other. Of approximately the same dimensions, it too had been furnished with little regard for anything but the barest conveniences of camp-life. It contained a small sheet-iron stove for cooking, a table, a rack of shelves, two chairs, and a rickety cot-bed in addition to another trunk. On the table a tin kerosene-lamp had burned low, poisoning the air with its bitter reek. On the cot Doggott sprawled in his clothing, his strained position--half reclining, feet upon the floor--suggesting an uncontemplated surrender to fatigue. His face was flushed and he was breathing heavily.
The Virginian stood over him for several minutes before he could bring himself to the point of awakening the man to the news of Rutton's death. Aware of that steadfast loyalty which Doggott had borne his master through many years of service, he shrank with conceivable reluctance from the duty. But necessity drove him with a taut rein; and finally he bent over and shook the sleeper by the shoulder.
With a jerk the man sat up and recognised Amber.
"Beg pardon, sir," he muttered, lifting himself sluggishly; "I didn't mean to fall asleep--I'd only sat down for a moment's rest. Has--has anything gone bad, sir?" he added hastily, remarking with troubled eyes the sympathy and concern in Amber's expression.
Amber looked away. "Mr. Rutton is dead, Doggott," he managed to say with some difficulty.
Doggott exclaimed beneath his breath. "Dead!" he cried in a tone of daze. In two strides he had left Amber and was kneeling by Rutton's side. The most cursory examination, however, sufficed to resolve his every doubt: the hanging head and arms, the livid face with its staring yet sightless eyes, the shrunken figure seeming so pitifully slight and unsubstantial in comparison with its accustomed strong and virile poise, hopelessly confirmed Amber's statement.
"Dead!" whispered the servant. He rose and stood swaying, his lips a-tremble, his eyes blinking through a mist, his head bowed. "'E always was uncommon' good to me, Mr. Amber," he said brokenly. "It's a bit 'ard, comin' this w'y. 'Ow--'ow did it--" He broke down completely for a time, and staggered away to the wall, there to stand with his head pillowed on his crossed forearms.
When he had himself in more control Amber told him as briefly as possible of the head at the window and of its sequel--Rutton's despairing suicide.
Doggott listened in silence, nodding his comprehension. "I've always looked for it, sir," he commented. "'E'd warned me never to touch that silver tube; 'e never said poison, but I suspected it, 'e being blue and melancholy-like, by fits and turns--'e never told me why."
Then, reverently, they took up the body and laid it out upon the hammock-bed, Doggott arranging the limbs and closing the eyes before spreading a sheet over the rigid form.
"And now, what, Mr. Amber?" he asked.
Amber had returned to the table. He pondered his problems for some time before answering; a distasteful duty devolved upon him of questioning the servant about his master's secrets, of delving into the mystery which Rutton had chosen always to preserve about himself--which, indeed, he had chosen to die without disclosing to the man whom he had termed his sole intimate. Yet this task, too, must be gone through with.
"Mr. Rutton spoke of a despatch-box, Doggott. You know where to find it?"
The servant brought from Rutton's leather trunk a battered black-japanned tin box, which, upon exploration, proved to contain little that might not have been anticipated. A bankbook issued by the house of Rothschild Freres, Paris, showed a balance to the credit of H.D. Rutton of something slightly under a million francs. There was American money, chiefly in gold certificates of large denominations, to the value of, roundly, twenty thousand dollars, together with a handful of French, German and English bank-notes which might have brought in exchange about two hundred and fifty dollars. In addition to these there was merely a single envelope, superscribed: "To be opened in event of my death only. H.D.R."
Amber broke the seal and read the enclosures once to himself and a second time aloud to Doggott. The date was barely a year old.
"For reasons personal to myself and sufficient," Rutton had written, "I choose not to make a formal will. I shall die, probably in the near future, by my own hand, of poison. I wish to emphasise this statement in event the circumstances surrounding my demise should appear to attach suspicion of murder upon any person or persons whatever. I am a widower and childless. What relations may survive me are distant and will never appear to claim what estate I may leave--this I know. I therefore desire that my body-servant, Henry Doggott, an English citizen, shall inherit and appropriate to his own use all my property and effects, providing he be in my service at the time of my death. To facilitate his entering into possession of my means, whatever they may be, without the necessity of legal procedure of any kind, I enclose a cheque to his order upon my bankers, signed by myself and bearing the date of this memorandum. He is to fill it in with the amount remaining to my credit upon my bank-book. Should he have died or left me, however, the disposition of my effects is a matter about which I am wholly careless."
The signature was unmistakably genuine--the formal "H.D. Rutton" with which Amber was familiar. It was unwitnessed.
The Virginian put aside the paper and offered Doggott the blank cheque on Rothschilds'. "This," he said, "makes you pretty nearly independently rich, Doggott."
"Yes, sir." Doggott took the slip of paper in a hand that trembled even as his voice, and eyed it incredulously. "I've never 'ad anything like this before, sir; I 'ardly know what it means."
"It means," explained Amber, "that, when you've filled in that blank and had the money collected from the Rothschilds, you'll be worth--with what cash is here--in the neighbourhood of forty five thousand pounds sterling."
Doggott gasped, temporarily inarticulate. "Forty-five thousand pounds!... Mr. Amber," he declared earnestly, "I never looked for nothin' like this I--I never--I--" Quite without warning he was quiet and composed again. "Might I ask it of you as a favour, sir, to look after this"--he offered to return the cheque--"for a while, till I can myke up my mind what to do with it."
"Certainly." Amber took the paper, folded it and placed it in his card-case. "I'd suggest that you deposit it as soon as possible in a New York bank for collection. In the meantime, these bills are yours; you'd better take care of them yourself until you open the banking account. I'll keep Mr. Rutton's bank-book with the cheque." He placed the book in his pocket with the singular document Rutton had called his "will," and motioned Doggott to possess himself of the money in the despatch-box.
"It'll keep as well in 'ere as anywheres," Doggott considered, relocking the box. "I 'aven't 'ardly any use for money, except, of course, to tide me over till I find another position."
"What!" exclaimed Amber in amaze.
"Yes, sir," affirmed Doggott respectfully. "I'm a bit too old to chynge my w'ys; a valet I've been all my life and a valet I'll die, sir. It's too lyte to think of anything else."
"But with this money, Doggott--"
"Beg pardon, sir, but I know; I could live easy like a gentleman if I liked--but I wouldn't be a gentleman, so what's the use of that? I could go 'ome and buy me a public-'ouse; but that wouldn't do neither. I'd not be 'appy; if you'll pardon my s'ying so, I've associated too long with gentlemen and gentlemen's gentlemen to feel at ease, so to speak, with the kind that 'angs round publics. So the w'y I look at it, there's naught for me but go on valeting until I'm too old; after that the money'll be a comfort, I dares'y.... Don't you think so, sir?" "I believe you're right, Doggott; only, your common-sense surprises me. But it makes it easier in a way...." Amber fell thoughtful again.
"'Ow's that, sir--if I m'y ask?"
"This way," said Amber: "Before he died, Mr. Rutton asked me to do him a service. I agreed. He suggested that I take you with me."
"I'm ready, sir," interrupted Doggott eagerly. "There's no gentleman I'd like to valet for better than yourself."
"But there will be dangers, Doggott--I don't know precisely what. That's the rub: we'll have to travel half-way round the world and face unknown perils. If Mr. Rutton were right about it, we'll be lucky to get away with our lives."
"I'll go, sir; it was 'is wish. I'll go with you to India, Mr. Amber."
"Very well...." Amber spoke abstractedly, reviewing his plans. "But," he enquired suddenly, "I didn't mention India. How did you know----?"
"Why--I suppose I must 'ave guessed it, sir. It seemed so likely, knowing what I do about Mr. Rutton."
Amber sat silent, unable to bring himself to put a single question in regard to the dead man's antecedents. But after a pause the servant continued voluntarily.
"He always 'ad a deal to do with persons who came from India--niggers--I mean, natives. It didn't much matter where we'd be--London or Paris or Berlin or Rome--they'd 'unt 'im up; some 'e'd give money to and they'd go aw'y; others 'e'd be locked up with in 'is study for hours, talking, talking. They'd 'ardly ever come the same one twice. 'E 'ated 'em all, Mr. Rutton did. And yet, sir, I always 'ad a suspicion--"
Doggott hesitated, lowering his voice, his gaze shifting uneasily to the still, shrouded figure in the corner.
"What?" demanded Amber tensely.
"I alw'ys thought per'aps 'e was what we call in England a man of colour, 'imself, sir."
"I don't mean no 'arm, sir; it was just their 'ounding him, like, and 'is being a dark-complected man the syme as them, and speakin' their language so ready, that made me think it. At least 'e might 'ave 'ad a little of their blood in 'im, sir. Things 'd seem unaccountable otherwise," concluded Doggott vaguely.
"It's impossible!" cried Amber.
"Yes, sir; at least, I mean I 'ope so, sir. Not that it'd myke any difference to me, the w'y I felt towards 'im. 'E was a gentleman, white or black. I'd've died for 'im any d'y."
"Doggott!" The Virginian had risen and was pacing excitedly to and fro. "Doggott! don't ever repeat one word of this to man or woman--while you're faithful to the memory of Mr. Rutton."
The servant stared, visibly impressed. "Very good, Mr. Amber. I'll remember, sir. I don't ordinarily gossip, sir; but you and him being so thick, and everything 'appening to-night so 'orrible, I forgot myself. I 'ope you'll excuse me, sir."
"God in Heaven!" cried the young man hoarsely. "It can't be true!" He flung himself into his chair, burying his face in his hands. "It can't!"
Yet irresistibly the conviction was being forced upon him that Doggott had surmised aright. Circumstance backed up circumstance within his knowledge of or his experience with the man, all seeming to prove incontestably the truth of what at the first blush had seemed so incredible. What did he, Amber, know of Rutton's parentage or history that would refute the calm belief of the body-servant of the dead man? Rutton himself had consistently kept sealed lips upon the subject of his antecedents; in Amber's intercourse with him the understanding that what had passed was a closed book had been implicit. But it had never occurred to Amber to question the man's title to the blood of the Caucasian peoples. Not that the mystery with which Rutton had ever shrouded his identity had not inevitably of itself been a provocation to Amber's imagination; he had hazarded many an idle, secret guess at the riddle that was Rutton. Who or what the man was or might have been was ever a field of fascinating speculation to the American, but his wildest conjecture had never travelled east of Italy or Hungary. He had always fancied that one, at least, of Rutton's parents had been a native of the European Continent. He had even, at a certain time when his imagination had been stimulated by the witchery of "Lavengro" and "The Romany Rye," gone so far as to wonder if, perchance, Rutton were not descended from Gipsy stock--a fancy which he was quick to dismiss as absurd. Yet now it seemed as if he had not been far wrong; if Doggott were right--and Amber had come to believe that the valet was right--it was no far cry from the Hindu to the Romany, both offshoots of the Aryan root.
And then Amber's intelligence was smitten by a thought as by a club; and he began to tremble violently, uncontrollably, being weakened by fatigue and the strain of that endless, terrible night. A strangled cry escaped him without his knowledge: "Sophia!"
Sophia Farrell, the woman he had promised to wed, nay even the woman he loved with all his being--a half-breed, a mulatto! His mind sickened with the horror of that thought. All the inbred contempt of the Southerner for the servile races surged up to overwhelm his passion, to make it seem more than impossible, revolting, that the mistress of his dreams should be a creature tainted by the blood of a brown-skinned people. Though her mother had been of noble Russian family, as her father had declared; though her secret were contained in his knowledge and Farrell's alone, and though it were to be preserved by them ever inviolate--could he, David Amber, ever forget it? Could he make her his bride and take her home to his mother and his sisters in Virginia--offer them as daughter and sister a woman who, though she were fairer than the dawn, was in part a product of intermarriage between white and black?
His very soul seemed to shudder and his reason cried out that the thing could never be.... Yet in his heart of hearts still he loved her, still desired her with all his strength and will; in his heart there was no wavering. Whatever Rutton had been, whatever his daughter might be, he loved her. And more, the honour of the Ambers was in pledge, holding him steadfast to his purpose to seek her out in India or wherever she might be and to bear her away from the unnamed danger that threatened her--even to marry her, if she would have him. He had promised; his word had passed; there could now be no withdrawal....
An hour elapsed, its passing raucously emphasised by the tin clock. Amber remained at the table, his head upon it, his face hidden by his arms, so still that Doggott would have thought him sleeping but for his uneven breathing.
On tiptoe the man-servant moved in and out of the room, making ready for the day, mechanically carrying out his dead master's last instructions, to pack up against an early departing. His face was grave and sorrowful and now and again he paused in the midst of his preparations to watch for an instant the sheeted form upon the hammock-bed, his head bowed, his eyes filling; or to cast a sympathetic glance at the back and shoulders of the living, his new employer. In his day Doggott had known trouble; he was ignorant of the cause, but now intuitively he divined that Amber was suffering mental torment indescribable and beyond his power to assuage.
At length the young man called him and Doggott found him sitting up, with a haggard and careworn face but with the sane light of a mind composed in his eyes.
"Doggott," he asked in an even, toneless voice, "have you ever mentioned to anybody your suspicion about Mr. Rutton's race?"
"Only to you, sir."
"That's good. And you won't?"
"Have you," continued Amber, looking away and speaking slowly, "ever heard him mention his marriage?"
"Never, sir. 'E says in that paper 'e was a widower; I fancy the lady must have died before I entered 'is service. 'E was always a lonely man, all the fifteen year I've been with 'im, keepin' very much to 'imself, sir."
"He never spoke of a--daughter?"
"No, sir. Didn't 'e say 'e was childless?"
"Yes. I merely wondered.... Tell me, now, do you know of any letters or papers of his that we should destroy? If there are any, he would wish us to."
"'E never 'ad many, sir. What letters 'e got 'e answered right away and destroyed 'em. There was a little packet in 'is trunk, but I see that's gone."
"He burned it himself this evening. There's nothing else?"
"Nothing whatever, sir."
"That's all right, then. We have nothing to do but ... see that he's decently buried and get away as soon as we can. There's no time to lose. It's after four, now, and as soon as it's daylight----You must have a boat somewhere about?"
"Yes, sir. Mr. Rutton 'ad me 'ire a little power launch before 'e came down. It's down by the bayside, 'alf a mile aw'y."
"Very well. The wind is dying down and by sunrise the bay will be safe to cross--if it isn't now. These shallow waters smoothe out very quickly. We'll--"
He cut his words short and got up abruptly with a sharp exclamation: "What's that?"
Doggott, too, had heard and been startled. "It sounded like a gun-shot, sir, and a man shouting," he said, moving toward the door.
But Amber anticipated him there.
As he stepped out into the bitter-cold air of early morning, he received an impression that a shadow in the hollow had been alarmed by his sudden appearance and had flitted silently and swiftly out upon the beaten eastward path. But of this he could not be sure.
He stood shivering and staring, waiting with attentive senses for a repetition of the sound. The wind had indeed fallen, and the world was very still--a hush that overspread and lay unbroken upon the deep, ceaseless growling of the sea, like oil on water. The moon had set and the darkness was but faintly tempered by the starlight on the snow--or was it the first wan promise of the dawn that seemed to quiver in the formless void between earth and sky?
In the doorway Doggott grew impatient. "You don't 'ear anything, sir?"
"Not a sound."
"It's cruel cold, Mr. Amber. 'Adn't you better come inside, sir?"
"I suppose so." He abandoned hope disconsolately and returned to the hut, his teeth inclined to chatter and his stomach assailed by qualms--premonitions of exhaustion in a body insufficiently nourished.
Doggott, himself similarly affected, perhaps, was quick to recognise the symptoms. "I'll get a bite of breakfast, sir," he suggested; "you 'aven't 'ad enough to eat, and 'unger's tyking 'old of you. If you'll pardon my saying so, you look a bit sickly; but a cup of hot coffee'll set that right in a jiffy."
"Thank you, Doggott; I believe you're right. Though disappointment has a good deal to do with the way I look. I'd hoped it might be Mr. Quain come to look for me."
Doggott disappeared to prepare the meal, but within five minutes a second gun-shot sounded startlingly near at hand. The Virginian's appearance at the door was coincident with a clear hail of "Aho-oy, Amber!"--unmistakably Quain's voice, raised at a distance of not over two hundred yards.
Amber's answering cry quavered with joy. And with a bear-like rush Quain topped the nearest dune, dropped down into the hollow, and was upon him.
"By the Lord Harry!" he cried, almost embracing Amber in his excitement and relief; "I'd almost given you up for good and all!"
"And I you," said Amber, watching curiously and somewhat distrustfully a second man follow Quain into the vale. "Who's that?" he demanded.
"Only Antone. We've him to thank. He remembered this old camp here--I'd completely forgotten it--and was sure you'd taken refuge in it. Come inside." He dragged Amber in, the Portuguese following. "Let's have a look at you by the light. Lord! you seem to be pretty comfortable--and I've been worrying myself sick for fear you--" He swept the room with an approving glance which passed over Doggott and became transfixed as it rested upon the hammock-bed with its burden; and his jaw fell. "What's this? What's this?" He swung upon Amber, appraising with relentless eyes the havoc his night's experience had wrought upon the man. "You look like hell!" he exploded. "What's up here? Eh?"
Amber turned to Doggott. "Take Antone out there with you and keep him until I call, please. This is Mr. Quain; I want to talk with him undisturbed.... But you can bring us coffee when it's ready."
Quain motioned to Antone; the Portuguese disappeared into the back room with Doggott, who closed the communicating door.
"You first," said Amber. "If you've fretted about me, I've been crazy about you--what time I've had to think."
Quain deferred to his insistence. "It was simple enough--and damned hard," he explained. "I caught the Echo by the skin of my teeth, the skimmy almost sinking under me. She was hard and fast aground, but I managed to get the motor going and backed her off. As soon as that was all right we got a wave aboard that soused the motor--like a fool I'd left the hatch off--and short-circuited the coil. After that there was hell to pay. I worked for half an hour reefing, and meanwhile we went aground again. The oar broke and I had to go overboard and get wet to my waist before I got her off. By that time it was blowing great guns and dead from the beach. I had to stand off and make for the mainland--nothing else to do. We beached about a mile below the lighthouse and I had the four-mile tramp home. Then after I'd thawed out and had a drink and a change of clothes, we had to wait two hours for the sea to go down enough to make a crossing in the launch practicable. That's all for mine. Now you? What's that there?"
"A suicide; a friend of mine--the man Rutton whom we were discussing the night I came down. And that's not half. There's a man out there somewhere, shot to death by Rutton--a Bengali babu.... Quain, I've lived in Purgatory ever since we parted and now ... I'm about done."
He was; the coming of Quain with the ease of mind it brought had snapped the high nervous tension which had sustained Amber. He was now on the edge of collapse and showed it plainly. But two circumstances aided him to recover his grip upon himself: Quain's compassionate consideration in forbearing to press his story from him, and Doggott's opportune appearance with a pot of coffee, steaming and black. Two cups of this restored Amber to a condition somewhat approaching the normal. He lit a cigarette and began to talk.
For all his affection for and confidence in his friend, there were things he might not tell Quain; wherefore he couched his narrative in the fewest possible words and was miserly of detail. Of the coming of the babu and his going Amber was fairly free to speak; he suppressed little if any of that episode. Moreover he had forgotten to remove the Token from his finger, and Quain instantly remarked it and demanded an explanation. But of the nature of the errand on which he was to go, Amber said nothing; it was, he averred, Rutton's private business. Nor did he touch upon the question of Rutton's nationality. Sophia Farrell he never mentioned.
Nevertheless, he said enough to render Quain thoughtful.... "You're set on this thing, I suppose?" he asked some time after Amber had concluded.
"Set upon it, dear man? I've no choice. I must go--I promised."
"Of course. That's you, all over. Personally, I think it'll turn out a fool's errand. But there's something you haven't told me--I'm not ass enough to have missed that and no doubt that influences you."
"I've told you everything that, in honor, I could."
"Hmm--yes; I dare say...." Quain scowled over the problem for some time. "It's plain enough," he asserted forcibly: "that man was involved in some infernal secret society. Just how and why's the question. Think I'll have a look at him."
Amber would have protested, but thought better of it and held his peace while Quain went to the hammock-bed, turned back the sheet, and for several minutes lingered there, scrutinising the stony, upturned face.
"So!" he said, coming back. "Here's news that'll help you some. You were blind not to see it yourself. That man's--was, I should say--a Rajput." He waited for the comment which did not come. "You knew it?"
"I ... suspected, to-night."
"It's as plain as print; the mark of his caste is all over him. But perhaps he was able to disguise it a little with his manner--alive; undoubtedly, I'd say. He was a genius of his kind--a prodigy; a mental giant. That translation of the 'Tantras'----! Wonderful!... Well, he's gone his own way: God be with him.... When do you want to start?"
"As soon as possible--sooner. I've not a day to lose--not an hour."
"Urgent as that, eh?" Quain peered keenly into his face. "I wish I knew what you know. I wish to Heaven I might go with you. But I'm married now--and respectable. If I ''ear the East a-callin'' and daren't answer, it's my own fault for ever being fool enough to have heard it. Well...." He proceeded to take charge of the situation with his masterful habit. "The morning train leaves Nokomis at seven-thirty. You can make that, if you must. But you need sleep--rest."
"I'll get that on the train."
"'Knew you'd say that. Very well. This is Tuesday. The Mauretania--or the Lusitania, I don't know which--sails to-morrow. You can catch that, too. It's the quickest route, eastwards--"
"But I've decided to go west."
"That means a week more, and you said you were in a hurry."
"I am; but by going westwards it's barely possible I may be able to transact or wind up the business on the way."
As a matter of fact Amber was hoping the Rolands, with Sophia Farrell, might linger somewhere en route, remembering that the girl had discussed a tentative project to stop over between steamers at Yokohama.
"Very well," Quain gave in; "you're the doctor. Now as for things here, make your mind easy. I'll take charge and keep the affair quiet. There's no reason I can see for its ever getting out. I can answer for myself and Antone; and the two of us can wind things up. That man Rutton is at peace now--'chances are he'd prefer a quiet grave here on the island. Then that devilish babu--he doesn't count; Antone and I'll get him under the ground in a jiffy. No one ever gets over here but me, now; come summer and there'll be a few wanderers, but by that time.... The dunes'll hold their secrets fast: be sure of that. Finally, if any one round here knows about this place being occupied, your departure'll be public enough to make them think it's being abandoned again. Keep your hat-brim down and your coat-collar up at the station; and they'll never know you aren't Rutton himself; and you'll have Doggott to back up the deception. So there'll be no questions asked.... Get ready now to trot along, and I'll take care of everything."
"There's no way of thanking you."
"That's a comfort. Call Doggott now and tell him to get ready. You haven't much time to lose. I'd land at the lighthouse dock, if I were you, and take the short-cut up to the station by the wood road. If you land at Tanglewood, Madge'll hold you up for a hot breakfast and make you miss your train. I'll cook up some yarn to account for your defection; and when you get back with your blooming bride you can tell her the whole story, by way of amends."
Amber wheeled upon him, colouring to the brows. "My bride! What do you mean by that? I said nothing--"
Quain rubbed his big hands, chuckling. "Of course you didn't. But I'm wise enough to know there's bound to be a woman in this case. Besides, it's Romance--and what's a romance without a woman?"
"Oh, go to thunder," said Amber good-naturedly, and went to give Doggott his orders.
While they waited for the servant to pack his handbag--it being obvious that to take the trunks with them was not feasible; while Quain was to care for Amber's things at Tanglewood until his return from India--Quain was possessed by an idea which he was pleased to christen an inspiration.
"It's this," he explained: "what do you know about Calcutta?"
"Little or nothing. I've been there--that's about all."
"Precisely. Now I know the place, and I know you'll never find this goldsmith in the Machua Bazaar without a guide. The ordinary, common-or-garden guide is out of the question, of course. But I happen to know an Englishman there who knows more about the dark side of India than any other ten men in the world. He'll be invaluable to you, and you can trust him as you would Doggott. Go to him in my name--you'll need no other introduction--and tell him what you've told me."
"That's impossible. Rutton expressly prohibited my mentioning his name to any one in India."
"Oh, very well. You haven't, have you? And you won't have to. I'll take care of that, when I write and tell Labertouche you're coming."
"Labertouche. Why? You don't know him."
"No; but Rutton did. Rutton got that poison from him."
Quain whistled, his eyes round. "Did, eh? So much the better; he'll probably know all about Rutton and'll take a keener interest."
"But you forget--"
"Hang your promise. I'm not bound by it and this is business--blacker business than you seem to realise, Davy. You're bent on jumping blindfold and with your hands tied into the seething pool of infamy and intrigue that is India. And I won't stand for it. Don't think for an instant that I'm going to let you go without doing everything I can to make things as pleasant as possible for you.... No; Labertouche is your man."
And to this Quain held inflexibly; so that, in the end, Amber, unable to move him, was obliged to leave the matter in his hands.
A sullen and portentous dawn hung in the sky when the little party left the cabin. In the east the entire firmament was ensanguined with sinister crimson and barred with long reefs of purple-black clouds in motionless suspense. Upon the earth the red glare fell ominously; the eastern faces of the snow-clad dunes shone like rubies; westward the shadows streamed long and dense and violet. The stillness was intense.
A little awed, it may be, and certainly more than a little depressed, they left the hollow by the beaten way, the Portuguese Antone leading with a pick and spade, Amber and Quain following side by side, Doggott with his valise bringing up the rear. Beyond the hollow the tracks diverged toward the bay shore; and presently they came to the scene of the tragedy.
Between two sandhills the Bengali lay supine, a huddled heap of garish colour--scarlet, yellow, tan--against the cold bluish-grey of snow. A veil of unmelted flakes blurred his heavy, contorted features and his small, black eyes--eyes as evil now, staring glassily up to the zenith, as when quickened by his malign intelligence. About him were many footprints, some recently made--presumably by his companion. The latter, however, kept himself discreetly invisible.
At a word from Quain the Portuguese paused and began to dig. Quain, Amber, and Doggott went on a little distance, then, by mutual consent, halted within sight of Antone.
"I wouldn't leave him if I were you," Amber told Quain, nodding back at the Portuguese. "It mightn't be safe, with that other devil skulking round--Heaven knows where."
"Right-O!" agreed Quain. His hand sought Amber's. "Good-bye, and God be with you," he said huskily.
Amber tightened his clasp upon the man's fingers. "I can't improve on that, Tony," said he with a feeble smile. "Good-bye, and God be with you." He dropped his hand and turned away. "Come along, Doggott."
The servant led the way baywards. Behind them the angry morning blazed brighter in the sky.
In the sedge of the shore they found a rowboat and, launching it, embarked for the power-boat, which swung at her mooring in deeper water. When they were aboard the latter, Doggott took charge of the motor, leaving to Amber the wheel, and with little delay they were in motion.
As their distance from the shore increased Amber glanced back. The island rested low against the flaming sky, a shape of empurpled shadows, scarcely more substantial to the vision than the rack of cloud above. In the dark sedges the pools, here and there, caught the light from above and shone blood-red. And suddenly the attention of the Virginian was arrested by the discovery of a human figure--a man standing upon a dune-top some distance inland, and staring steadfastly after the boat. He seemed of extraordinary height and very thin; upon his head there was a turban; his arms were folded. While Amber watched he held his pose, a living menace--like some fantastic statue bulking black against the grim red dawn.
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