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The LOCKED BOOK
FRANK L. PACKARD
By FRANK L. PACKARD
■ THE LOCKED BOOK
c ; THE FOUR STRAGGLERS
JIMMIE DALE AND THE PHANTOM CLUE
DOORS OF THE NIGHT
THE WHITE MOLL
FROM NOW ON
THE NIGHT OPERATOR
THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF JIMMIE DALE
THE ADVENTURES OF JIMMIE DALE
THE WIRE DEVILS
THE SIN THAT WAS HIS
THE BELOVED TRAITOR
GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN
THE MIRACLE MAN
FRANK L. PACKARD
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
\ \: i 3
BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
THE LOCKED BOOK *
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
SEP 23 *24
I While an Hour Passed. 9
II The Man with the Crimson Sash ... 22
IV Fellow Guests.49
V The Shot. 62
VI Pieces of a Puzzle.70
VII More Pieces.78
VIII Where No Man Lived.85
IX Itu Konchi-kan Kitab . 95
X The Keeper of the Book. 104
XI Major Peters of Salabam . . . . . 116
XII The Majesty of the Law . . . * . 125
XIII A Matter of Keys . . . . . . . 137
XIV A Prisoner at Large.. . 153
XV Moonlight and Match-Flamb . . . . 169
XVI “The Three Crooks” 190
XVII A Liar of Parts. . . 207
XVIII Hare and Hounds ..220
XIX The Outcasts.234
XX The Devil’s Throat ..253
XXI Crimson Sash... . 272
XXII Monsieur Nicholas Fouche . . * . 282
XXIII The Book Unlocked.299
THE LOCKED BOOK
THE LOCKED BOOK
WHILE AN HOUR PASSED
T HE W ar at an y a small cargo steamer of some
three thousand tons, lifted sluggishly, apatheti¬
cally to the swells. The bit of sail rigged
upon her gave her scarcely more than steerage-way.
She carried no lights. Her engine-room hatch was
carefully hooded with tarpaulins. From the depths
below, muffled, there came the incessant clangour
of hammers, of busy tools. The machinery was still.
A mist hung in the light, following breeze, a wet mist
that was almost a fine drizzle. There were no stars
above. To starboard and port there was land—
islands; many of them. They were there in the dark¬
ness—unseen. In the Malay Archipelago they are
In the combination chartroom and wheelhouse a
Lascar quartermaster, outlined against the blackness
by the faint light of the binnacle lamp, took on the
aspect of some grotesque heathen image as he stood
impassively at the wheel. Forward, along the lower
deck, there was the occasional movement of one or
more of the native crew; a movement like the uneasy
flitting here and there of shadows—half shadows
rather, the white of the nether garments alone dis-
THE LOCKED BOOK
cernible, the naked bodies from the waist up blending
into the darkness, lost.
On the bridge two men in oilskins stood motionless
at the rail, staring out over the weathercloth; big men
they were, and of a height, each well over six feet
in his sea boots. The elder of the two, known for
forty years from the China coast to the Coral Sea
as Old Man Wayne, a strong, grim-faced man, robust
beyond the years of his tell-tale white hair, spoke
“We’ll get it to-night, son,” he said quietly, “as
sure as I’m your father.”
Kenneth Wayne, the younger, answered as quietly:
“MacNee says he’ll have his engines turning over
again, and all shipshape by midnight. I’m counting
on that-—and the darkness.”
Old Man Wayne shook his head grimly.
“They see in the dark,” he said bluntly. “And as
for MacNee, he’ll be handling something besides a
spanner before midnight. It’s beyond reason to ex¬
pect anything else. Piracy ain’t stamped out of these
waters yet, and never will be. Steam’s done a lot for
it, more’n all the gunboats on the station; but when
it comes to the low type Malay of the Orang-laut you
can’t change ’em into anything but what they’ve always
been and always will be, and that’s a throat-cutting,
thieving lot of blood-letting savages. Gunboats!
Bah!” He thumped the rail in sudden and profound
contempt. “There’s something that ain’t human about
these devils. You let a gunboat start out from Singa¬
pore and they know it a thousand miles away—and
there’s nothing but peace and quiet waiting for the
gunboat when it comes along. I’m damned if I or any
one else knows how they do it—but they do.”
Kenneth Wayne nodded without comment.
WHILE AN HOUR PASSED
Old Man Wayne was silent for a moment, then he
took up the thread of his first remark:
“It’s beyond reason to expect anything else. We’ve
been in plain sight of first one island and then another
for the last two days, and don’t you make any mistake,
my boy, we’ve been watched by a thousand eyes. Those
rags of sails, that have given us just way enough to
creep along and keep off the reefs, ain’t nothing
more’n distress signals letting ’em know our engines
have broken down. And there’s been a thousand
tongues licking at as many dirty chops. They’ve only
been waiting to gather strength. But they weren’t to
be tricked either. That proa that sailed around us
this afternoon, the first sign of life we’ve seen, was
just making sure we weren’t something we didn’t
pretend to be—a gunboat disguised, or anything like
that. And, being satisfied, it’ll be to-night.”
Kenneth Wayne turned to face his father as he laid
his hand with a quick, intimate little grip on the other’s
“Oh, I don’t know, dad,” he smiled. “We may be
quite mistaken. It isn’t like the old days you hear
yarns about. Civilisation’s done a bit. You don’t
hear much of piracy here nowadays, and-”
“Steam’s done it, as I said,” interrupted Old Man
Wayne shortly. “Not civilisation! You can’t ever
civilise beasts. I know ’em—I’ve known ’em, aye, and
fought ’em for forty years. I know the treachery of
’em, and I’ve paid, by God, for what I know! I
wouldn’t look a captain of mine in the face if I sent
him to sea to-day anywhere in these parts unless he was
well armed, even if they haven’t got much chance
against a steamer. Accidents happen. Look at us
to-night. And as for not hearing much about them
these days, maybe you don’t; but there’s four sailing
THE LOCKED BOOK
vessels both of us can name that’ve disappeared in
these waters in the last twelve months. What became
“Storms,” suggested Kenneth Wayne.
“Scuttled and sunk,” said Old Man Wayne.
“Well, you may be right”—Kenneth Wayne’s
smile broadened, and he laughed quietly—“though I
hope you’re not. Anyway, I’ll gamble that proa
didn’t spot the couple of machine guns that were under
hatch. If they come they won’t catch us napping. As
you know, the Sevang’s had orders to arm the crew,
and everybody’s at stations. I’m not afraid of our
men—they’ve no truck with these chaps out here.
We’re ready. We can’t do anything more, except give
them the hottest reception of their lives if they show
Old Man Wayne fumbled inside his oilskin jacket,
pulled out a cigar and bit off the end. He chuckled a
little grimly as the younger man leaned quickly toward
“I ain’t going to light it, boy,” he said amusedly.
“I was at this business when you were cutting your
teeth, and your mother was-” He stopped
abruptly, his lips tightening on the protruding cigar.
“What time do you make it?” he demanded irrele¬
“It ought to be nine or thereabouts,” Kenneth
“MacNee’s making a bit of a row down there,” said
Old Man Wayne.
“It’s muffled, sir,” said Kenneth Wayne. “The
sound of a ship’s bell would carry a lot farther—that’s
why I ordered them not to strike it.”
“So it would,” agreed Old Man Wayne. He
sucked for a moment on the unlighted cigar. “Boy,”
WHILE AN HOUR PASSED
he asked suddenly, “do you remember your mother?”
Kenneth Wayne drew himself erect, he squared his
great shoulders back,and his hand stole up and touched
the dripping brim of his sou’wester. The gesture had
come spontaneously, out of the subconscious, out of
the years that were gone—a homage to memory taught
him as a child by this man here, his father.
“Not very well, sir,” he said in a low voice. “I was
only a kiddie then, you know.”
“She was a fine woman.” Old Man Wayne seemed
suddenly to be speaking to himself. “The finest mate
man ever had. God bless her! I-” His voice'
The young man’s hand found the other’s shoulder.
“What is it, dad?” he asked gently.
Old Man Wayne shook his head.
“Nothing, boy,” he said brusquely. “Maybe I’m
a bit queer to-night. You’ve got her eyes. I guess
that’s it. I thought I saw her smiling at me just now.”
He laughed gruffly as he jerked the cigar from his
lips. “I’ll go down and see how MacNee’s getting on
—and where I can light this damned thing.”
Kenneth Wayne made no answer, save for a tight¬
ened pressure of his hand on the old man’s shoulder;
then, as the other turned abruptly away, he leaned
against the rail, following his father with his eyes until
the latter was lost to sight in the darkness below the
head of the bridge ladder.
And then he turned again, his eyes seaward now,
and now his face was hard-set, his jaws clamped. He
was disturbed and anxious, and a sudden, cold, inde¬
finable fear seemed to be gnawing at his heart. He
brushed his hand across his eyes. His father’s words
had taken him back through the years almost to baby¬
hood, and there came before him the dimly remem-
THE LOCKED BOOK
bered face of a woman that bent over his crib at night,
and for a time had been associated with his every joy
and sorrow—and then had suddenly vanished out of
his life forever. After that, it had been the man who
had just left him. His father. More than father!
Like chums together—playing the game together.
Years of it! Until to-night he was twenty-eight and
in his first command. And that had been a sort of an
event between them. In command! Old Man
Wayne—he too called his father that because it always
seemed like a title that had been splendidly won, some¬
thing to be proud of, that stood for what men love
most, honour and strength and faith and unbroken
word—Old Man Wayne, though he had given up the
sea for ten years past, had come along on the voyage,
as he put it himself, to celebrate the event.
Kenneth Wayne’s lips moved. He spoke aloud
“But I wish to God he weren’t here to-night!”
To-night! Why to-night? Hadn’t he laughed and
smiled at the certainty with which his father had pre¬
dicted attack? Lord! There was humour in that!
Make light of it to reassure grim Old Man Wayne!
In half an hour, an hour, sometime before daybreak,
none knew better than himself that it was sure to
come—unless MacNee got his engines going. Perhaps
MacNee would make it a little sooner. . . .
A faint thudding came from aft, from the bowels
of the ship, the tap-tap^tap of a hammer—and now
he could just catch the sudden chatter of the auxiliary
on the steam steering gear as it answered to the wheel.
Those sounds could not be heard very far away, and
there were no others. There was a great stillness—
an uncanny stillness. No wash; if there was a ripple
WHILE AN HOUR PASSED 15
at the bow it was all the JVaratan was doing—barely
holding a course. No throb, no vibration; just a
quiet, a great, ugly quiet, as though the life had ebbed
out of her. And it was black. He could scarcely see
the foredeck. In the blackness she might elude them
—until MacNee got his engines going. He brushed
his hand again across his eyes. Old Man Wayne said
they could see in the dark.
He knew that. He, too, knew this part of the
world and its conglomerate races. Since a boy he had
lived here; since a boy he had sailed up and down the
China coast, along the Malay Peninsula, through the
Archipelago, trading, speaking the native tongues and
dialects as well perhaps, and as fluently, as any white
man had ever come to do. He knew. He knew what
was coming, and he would not be so futilely trying to
persuade himself otherwise if Old Man Wayne were
not aboard—no, not exactly that, though it was all of
a piece—if Old Man Wayne had not made that re¬
mark about seeing the mother’s eyes smiling at him.
What was the matter? What was there in that
remark to put him off his stroke?
Why should memories throng to-night? Why
should they come crowding in upon him now while he
waited for something out there in the blackness?—
memories not only of his younger days, but memories
of the tales in out of the way places that men had told
him of his father, and for the father’s sake had done
honour to the son—memories that made a sort of out¬
line, as it were, of the forty years since Old Man
Wayne had come from Gloucester in far away America.
A trading brig out here first ... all the savings
invested in it . . . its loss ... a grim uphill fight
. . . another brig . . . and then a bit of a steamer
THE LOCKED BOOK
. . . then a bigger one . . . and money. And then,
ten years ago, the little fleet of three vessels that to-day
numbered five. This was one of them. He was in
command. The smallest of them all. That was like
Old Man Wayne. A master’s ticket didn’t mean a
ship for the son if it meant stepping over another
man’s head. He had held a master’s ticket almost
from the time he had been twenty. There hadn’t been
any vacancies when there hadn’t been some one to
fill them. There had been a wharf rat from Singa¬
pore, for instance, who had found refuge on the old
brig. There was a queer story in that. He re¬
membered a chap telling him about it in Kutjing up
the Sarawak River—a long way from Singapore!
What made him think of that? Oh, yes, of course!
That was why he had got the Waratan, his first ship.
The man had been senior captain. He had died a few
months ago. The chap on the JVaratan had moved
It was ten years ago that Old Man Wayne had given
up the sea and had settled ashore to handle his ships
and his trading stations—this was virtually the first
time of any account that he had been afloat since then.
And this, too, was like Old Man Wayne. It had not
been put into words. Both understood. A milestone
had been reached. It was the Godspeed of a friend
who goes a bit of the way with one on a long journey.
It was a toast to the first command. It was the ex¬
pression of comradeship ripened with the years be¬
tween father and son, between man and man. Old
Man Wayne wouldn’t have been here to-night other¬
wise—wouldn’t have been here but for him, Kenneth
Kenneth Wayne repeated that last phrase: # .
Wouldn’t have been here but for him.”
WHILE AN HOUR PASSED
Strange! It wasn’t a question of fear—not fear
pf those blighters out there. They would find the
War at an a hard nut to crack before they were through
—a nut, it was even money, they couldn’t crack at all.
He would have welcomed the attempt with a sort of
savage satisfaction ordinarily, as one would welcome,
with every primal instinct of retaliation aroused
against unprovoked attack, the certainty of annihi¬
lating some at least of a filthy and noxious rabble,
lower than the beasts, whose bared teeth were at one’s
throat. But in the last little while, something, a
prescience, a dread which he could not shake off,
seemed to have crept upon him and now lay heavy on
He was a fool ! He swore angrily at himself. He
lashed himself pitilessly with stinging, contemptuous
words. It wasn’t the way to play the game. Not
the way he had been taught! His head was up, his
shoulders squared. He was quite all right again—
quite all right-
A footstep sounded on the bridge ladder; a form
bulked in the darkness and came toward him. It was
Dorkin, the mate, a hard, tough product of the white
man’s outposts—like that wharf rat, somewhat, from
Singapore, whose story was told in that fly-blown
hostelry in Kutjing. Dorkin’s idea of heaven was a
fight. He was rubbing his hands together.
“They’re out-there now, sir,” he said. “The serang
says he hears them. He’s got ears, that chap! He
says they’re all around us—sneaking down on us with
the drift, I take it, and figuring to cut our throats
before we know what’s happened. About half a mile
off, he makes it; not more’n another ten minutes or so
before they’re fair alongside.”
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Many of them?” demanded Captain Kenneth
„ “The serang says yes—a regular wasps’ nest of
small proas.” Dorkin answered with a low, throaty
laugh. “Like a cloud settling on the sea, as he puts it.
Blimy, sir, I fancy it’ll be a night!”
“I fancy it will,” said Kenneth Wayne as tersely as
before. “Keep the bridge for a moment, Mr.
He turned away abruptly without waiting for a
response, entered the chartroom, and called the engine
room through the tube. The chief engineer’s voice
“They’re closing in on us now, Mr. MacNee,” said
Kenneth Wayne quietly. “Bring your crew up on
deck and fight.”
“Mon,” said Mr. MacNee in a pettish voice, “I’m
only wantin’ another half-hour, an’ we’ll be under
way. It’s a verra sma’ request, sir!”
“I’ve no wireless with which to transmit it to them,”
said Captain Kenneth Wayne with grim sarcasm.
“Tush! Listen to that!” grumbled the voice at
the other end of the tube. “A chip o’ the old block!”
“Tumble up—with every man you can spare 1”
Kenneth Wayne ordered crisply. “You know your
station. The after gun. And look lively, Mr.
He swung from the speaking tube to the chart
spread out on the top of the locker, picked up a
flashlight, and, shading the latter carefully with his
oilskin jacket which he unbuttoned for the purpose,
studied the chart critically for an instant. Those
proas out there were not the only danger that the dark¬
ness held. He manoeuvred quickly with dividers and
parallel ruler. He was amidst a nest of islands. It
WHILE AN HOUR PASSED
was almost worse than dead reckoning, for the ship
was logging practically nothing. But the breeze,
what there was of it, was almost dead astern. There
was a bit more sea room to port. He changed the
course slightly, but not enough in any sense to bring
the breeze abeam.
“Southwest by west, Pir Lai,” he said curtly. “And
hold her there whatever happens.”
“Sou’west by west,” answered the impassive figure
at the wheel. “It shall be held, O master.”
Kenneth Wayne, with a nod, stepped out on the
bridge again, and rejoined the mate.
“Heard anything yourself yet?” he inquired in a
“I think I did, sir. Just a moment gone. Out
there.” Dorkin pointed out over the starboard
“And there!” added Kenneth Wayne, pointing to
port. “The serancfs right; they’re all around us.”
Dorkin was rubbing his hands—great, huge, hairy
hands—together again, almost it seemed in a sort of
unholy impatience. Kenneth Wayne smiled in the
darkness. Dorkin, in a tight hole, was a heartening
sort of a chap.
“It’ll be a fight, sir,” whispered Dorkin. “Man,
but it’ll be a fight! Them with a couple of hundred,
or maybe more; and us with twenty-four all told on
the articles, and-”
“Twenty-five,” a voice amended quietly.
Kenneth Wayne swung around. It was Old Man
Wayne. He had not heard his father come up on the
bridge. Old Man Wayne was casually testing the
mechanism of a revolver.
“Twenty-five, Mr. Dorkin,” said Old Man Wayne
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Oh, aye!” said Dorkin heartily. “And worth near
the lot of us put together, you are, sir, in a bit of a
scrimmage like this, I’d say.”
Kenneth Wayne turned his head away. Impulse,
sudden, almost uncontrollable, bade him cry out pas¬
sionately: “Dad, for God’s sake, keep out of this!”
He bit at his lips as though literally to hold back the
words. Impulse! Impulse would have prompted Old
Man Wayne to make instant reply with a clenched fist
full to the jaw. That would have been a man’s
answer—and especially that of a man like Old Man
Wayne. He knew his father. Old Man Wayne
probably, certainly, would not have yielded to that
impulse—but the impulse would have been there. Old
Man Wayne to skulk, to hide, to keep under shelter
when other men were fighting for their lives—and his!
And what would he, Kenneth Wayne, have thought of
the other for such an act, even though he himself
should have been the one who prompted it? His
hands clenched until the nails bit into the palms. It
wasn’t that ... it wasn’t that . . . ! God in
heaven, what was wrong with him to-night? These
were men, these two, standing here before him, the
type of Anglo Saxon unbeaten against whatever odds,
the type that had brought honour and dominion to
their race—as proud of their race as their race was
proud of them. Men unafraid. And he was like a
child to-night—like a child very near to tears.
Faint sounds came drifting out of the darkness now,
up from the sea, from all around; a medley almost
indefinable, yet strangely sinister—the low whine of
the breeze through cordage as though in complaint
of unwarrantable obstructions in its path, of tres¬
passers upon its domains—the breaking of a wave that
WHILE AN HOUR PASSED
should still have rolled unbroken as a little swell on
its trackless way.
A voice in the native tongue floated up out of the
darkness from somewhere below the bridge:
“They come, O master! Give us light that we may
“Presently, Sevang Kenneth Wayne answered in
the same tongue. “Let them gather for the hunger
of the guns of many bullets. Look only to it, thou,
that they do not board amidships, either to starboard
or to port.”
“That’s my job,” said Old Man Wayne. “Mine
and the Sevang’s. Come on, Mr. Dorkin—or Mac-
Nee back there ’ll be getting in the first shot on you!”
“No fear!” growled Dorkin, already at the bridge
ladder. “Not him!”
Old Man Wayne lingered for an instant to put out
“They’re poor shots mostly,” said Old Man Wayne
off-handedly; “but don’t forget, son, that that weather-
cloth on the bridge here ain’t bullet proof.”
“Look here, dad,” Kenneth Wayne said hoarsely,
But he was alone on the bridge.
THE MAN WITH THE CRIMSON SASH
F OR an instant Kenneth Wayne stood motionless.
Somehow he couldn’t see very well. And then
with a jerk he swung to the rail. He wasn’t a
son —he was in command.
His fingers felt along the rail and touched an elec¬
tric-light switch. Not yet! There were: shapes show¬
ing out there in the darkness now, moving shapes—
but it wasn’t time yet. That wasn’t what the lights,
strung high up above the ship’s sides fore and aft
since yesterday afternoon, were for. They weren’t
making any sound out there, save what was stealthy
and unavoidable. It was as though, close in even as
they now were, they still counted their presence
There was a strange, stern quiet in Kenneth
Wayne’s face as, swiftly, his mind busied itself in a
last minute rehearsal of the disposition of the Wara-
tan’s little force. The low, flush fore- and afterdecks
would naturally be the first and main points of attack
—but there wasn’t a man of the crew on either of
those lower decks. Dorkin’s and MacNee’s machine
guns from the boat deck must take care of those points.
The weak point in the defence, though it was harder
to board there, was amidships where the main deck
made a sort of little alleyway on either side of the
ship, and where the machine guns, as now placed,
could not be made effective. His lips drew a little
THE MAN WITH THE CRIMSON SASH 23
more tightly together. The main companionways
opened on that deck—there was grave peril there.
The alternative had been to mount the two guns, one
forward on the forecastle, the other aft on the lower
deck, where in a measure they might have commanded
something of the lower amidships deck—but that
would have been to divide forces, with inevitable
disaster as the result if anything went wrong at either
point. As it was, the crew were all on the boat deck
below the bridge here, those not needed with the
machine guns lying flat along the amidships’ edge of
the deck, themselves in a large sense protected by the
boats, chocks and davit tackles, and where they could
fire down the sides of the ship at point-blank range
upon any attempt to board the War at an from below
Kenneth Wayne’s finger toyed again with the
electric-light switch. Not yet—not for a second yet
—maybe two—or three—not until the bulwarks
swarmed thick with the Orang-laut and the machine
guns sweeping port and starboard could do most
deadly execution. “Like a cloud settling on the sea.’’
That was what the serang had said according to
Dorkin, wasn’t it? And that was what it seemed to
be like out there now—a cloud low on the sea, dividing,
uniting into many shapes, superimposing itself on the
night, stealing down upon the ship—closer—closer—
A yell, murderous, exultant, bestial, chorused by a
horde of throats rent the air. It rose in volume. It
pierced the eardrums. It was demoniacal.
Kenneth Wayne flung the switch over. A blaze of
light ran along the ship, throwing the decks into sharp
relief; and in the sudden transition from darkness
there fell, as suddenly, a bated stillness, a silence, an
THE LOCKED BOOK
eerie and uncanny silence. And to Kenneth Wayne it
seemed to last interminably, and the climbing forms,
some half naked, some in fuller, if more fantastic
dress, swarming over the ship’s sides, clustering upon
the rails for the leap to the deck, seemed for that
same long, interminable space of time to have been
robbed of movement, to have been transformed, as
though at some supernatural touch, into grotesquely
poised, inanimate things. The mind is swift in the
etching of a picture. He was conscious of an impres¬
sion of gargoyles . , the whites of eyes out of
myriad dark faces . . , the glint of a light ray on the
naked blade of a kris . . . the lewd gayness of a
And then a white man’s laugh, full, throaty—and
Dorkin’s gun was in action, its roar echoed on the
instant by MacNee’s gun aft. Screams, a hell’s babel,
suddenly filled the air. The foredeck was a seething
mass of shrieking fiends as they came in a flood over
the sides of the ship—and as suddenly, too, the fore¬
deck became a shambles. Some fell, some rose again
—and rushed forward—and fell. The machine gun
under the bridge sprayed its murderous rain of lead
from port to starboard, from starboard to port, swept
the ship’s rails, played full along the deck.
Kenneth Wayne leaned over the weathercloth and
calmly emptied his revolver. There was a tall man
in white garb with a great crimson sash, quite evidently
the leader. The man seemed to bear a charmed life.
Blamed queer! The man’s followers were going
down like swatted flies around him. Good old Dor-
kin ! They’d had enough of it for a first dose—they
were springing back over the rails again.
Kenneth Wayne reloaded his revolver, and fired
again—at the crimson sash. No luck! The man had
THE MAN WITH THE CRIMSON SASH 25
disappeared over the side. It was a strange sight out
there. The light rays did not penetrate very far, and
at their extreme edge they merged in a weird, filmy,
misty way into a wall of blackness; but as far as one
could see innumerable small proas were massed
solidly together like some bizarre pontoon bridge sur¬
rounding the ship, and upon this a horde of fantastic
figures ran hither and thither, yelling and screaming.
There was Crimson Sash again! Kenneth Wayne
fired with steady, deliberate aim. Damn it, why
couldn’t he hit the fellow! The man was leaping from
proa to proa, shouting furiously, rallying his men.
And now he had vanished from sight again.
The fire from the machine guns slackened.
From aft a Scotch voice bellowed suddenly forth
in uproarious and exultant song:
“The Campbells are coming . . . Hurrah . . .
Hurrah . . .”
Above the tumult came Dorkin’s voice hailing the
“That’s giving ’em what’s o’clock, sir! I fancy
they’ve got their bellies full. S’help me, if the old
Waratan ain’t got a carpet for her foredeck out of
the swine. Look at ’em out there! Artistic colour
scheme, I calls it, and-”
“Stand by!” Old Man Wayne’s voice broke in
sharply. “Here they come—amidships!”
Kenneth Wayne jumped for the end of the bridge
nearer him—the port side—and looked over. From
a black, seething mass below and amidships came a
burst of firing, while from the edge of the mass figures
kept constantly detaching themselves to take the places
of those who, leaping upward, snatching at the ship’s
rail, fell squirming, writhing things under the steady
ripple of revolver and rifle fire that had now been
26 THE LOCKED BOOK
begun by the Sevang*s men lying flat along the boat
And they were attacking on the starboard side too.
The firing from there was quite as heavy as here. And
now from aft MacNee’s gun was in action again—but
Dorkin’s gun was silent. Kenneth Wayne swung
quickly around to stare forward. Figures were creep¬
ing up over the forecastle head again, others were
showing themselves cautiously at the rail sides—and
Dorkin’s gun was silent. Was the man insane enough
to have left his gun with the idea of beating off the
amidships attack against the serang!
“Dorkin!” he shouted., “What are you about?
They’re boarding for’ard again! D’ye hear!
Above the din, above the shrieks, above the hideous
squeals of stricken wretches, came Dorkin’s bull-like
roar, not in answer, but in a sort of volcanic sponta¬
neity, as in a blind madness, the man blasphemed his
gun. Kenneth Wayne caught the sense of it in the one
word “jammed.” Dorkin’s gun was jammed. They
were gathering there in greater numbers on the fore¬
castle head, but crouching, hesitating, as though sur¬
prised at being unmolested. It was meant as a feint
attack, of course, to keep all hands engaged—like the
one now in progress at the stern, no doubt; but there
was every chance that it would develop into the most
serious one of all. He could not bring MacNee’s gun
forward—the same situation would then obtain aft.
No fool, that Crimson Sash! There he was now—
the centre of a constantly shifting little rgroup that
came and went across the decks of the intervening
proas as though receiving and executing his orders.
Kenneth Wayne levelled his revolver and pulled
the trigger. The hammer fell with an impotent little
THE MAN WITH THE CRIMSON SASH 27
click. Yes, of course; he had emptied it into that mob
below there for the second time. And now Crimson
Sash was gone again—this time to disappear, ap¬
parently, under the JVaratan’s bow.
The group on the forecastle head, much larger now,
and evidently grown bolder, even arrogant in its
immunity from attack, was beginning to crowd for¬
ward. Erom oversides the rails were once more
swarming with climbing figures.
Loading as he ran, Kenneth Wayne made for the
bridge ladder, and gained the boat deck below.
“Every man you can spare, Sevang!” he shouted.
“Half to the port and htlf to the foredeck starboard
ladders! Quick! Look lively! Take the starboard
ladder yourself. Keep ’em from getting into the
alleyways below at any cost!”
He heard the Sevang’s voice, sharp, imperative,
giving orders; and as he dashed forward now under
the bridge to take his place on the ladder leading
down to the foredeck, he was conscious that Dorkin
still blasphemed his gun as he worked over it. He
sensed, rather than saw, that a little knot of the crew
was following him closely to the ladder—but it was
the foredeck below that was dominant before his
eyes. It was thronged now with a solid mass of half-
naked things that' came rushing forward with kris
blades waving, 9 with the flame-tongues of weapons
spurting in vicious little flashes, with ferocious, up¬
turned, inhuman, working faces, with ear-piercing and
abominable juries. And they were almost at the foot
of the ladder—no, on it now—swarming up.
He met the rush—firing. A man dropped before
him—another. He struck with his fists—gained a step.
A kris blade swun^f and missed his shoulder. He
laughed as he fought. There was Crimson Sash once
THE LOCKED BOOK
more—just at the bottom of the ladder. He could see
the man’s face now—a handsome face for a native—
smiling—smiling with cool malignancy. Why ? What
was the man smiling for? Yes, quite so! Over a
naked, intervening shoulder the man was drawing a
bead on him with a revolver. He felt himself suddenly
pushed violently to one side from behind, half flung
against the ladder rail. A spit of flame was in his
face, scorching his cheek, but Crimson Sash had
missed. Lucky push, by God—lucky push—
A body from behind fell against him, slithered
curiously past him and lay sprawled upon the ladder,
face upturned—a white man’s face. And something
took possession of Kenneth Wayne that seemed to
blast asunder the soul itself within him. He screamed
as a maniac screams, and as a maniac he launched
himself into the ruck down the ladder. He struck and
struck with his knotted fist, and fired until his revolver
was empty—and then used the butt of it to smash
the faces that danced before his eyes. And they gave
before his advance, slashing at him. And he became
not a goodly thing to see—his clothing torn and
hanging from him—his body bloody. He pressed on.
He wanted Crimson Sash . . . Crimson Sash . . .
for a white man’s face lay upturned back there upon
the ladder . . . and it was the face of Old Man
Wayne. . . .
“Come back, sir! For the love of God, come
He heard the words. But they meant nothing. It
was just Dorkin shouting. A great lust was upon
him. There were more to kill—still more to kill.
Many of them—but not enough. Not enough—all of
them would not pay for Old Man Wayne—for Old
Man Wayne was dead.
THE MAN WITH THE CRIMSON SASH 29
They closed around him, hanging to him, grappling
with him, like a wolf pack with fastened teeth worry¬
ing its prey to earth. And they closed over him. But
the great shoulders of the man heaved upward once
again, and in his hands he held and wielded with a
strength that only madness gave a shrieking, squirm¬
ing thing of life. And for a moment he cleared a
space around him with this human bludgeon that
he swung by the naked legs—and then a blow fell—
and darkness came upon him.
When he opened his eyes he was in his cabin. The
one light burning was shaded. He struggled up to a
sitting posture on his bunk. He was bandaged in
many places, and the bandages were red where the
blood had oozed through. He heard the steady throb
of the engines. He felt the vibration, the movement,
the life of the ship.
He was conscious, even acutely aware of all these
things, but they seemed to be extraneous, apart, of no
moment. There was a sense of profound depression
upon him that took precedence. He cupped his chin
in his hands. What was it? Ah, yes; he knew! For
what had been fullest, best, of greatest worth in life
had been substituted something that gnawed now with
bitter agony at his heart. Yes; he knew! He had
known it all through the night—long before it had
happened. He had known that it was to be up there
on the bridge when—
The door opened. Dorkin came in.
“Oh, you’ve come around, have you, sir!” the mate
cried cheerily. “But you’d better lie down, sir. I’ll
carry on till you’re fit. MacNee’s got his engines going,
as you can tell, and everything’s all right. It was the
jamming of that gun, after all, I’m thinking, that
saved us. You see, they thought they had us then, and
THE LOCKED BOOK
the whole bally lot of ’em left off everywhere else to
have a go at us from the foredeck. Packed full, it
was, of ’em—thick till there wasn’t standing room.
And then I got the gun cleared—they’d left you
for dead on the deck, sir—and it mowed ’em down,
and they broke and ran, those of ’em as could,
“Where is Old Man Wayne?” Kenneth Wayne
had not lifted his head from hifc cupped hands; he
spoke in a monotone, abruptly, as though unconscious
of the other’s words.
Dorkin’s hand, raised in his excitement to punctuate
his story, dropped with a sudden, queer irresponsi¬
bility to his side. He coughed deep in his throat. He
made no other answer.
Kenneth Wayne spoke again in the same monotone:
“He is dead. I know that. I knew it all along.
He told me he saw my mother’s eyes smiling at him up
there on the bridge. I knew it then. Why don’t
you answer my question? It’s simple enough, isn’t it?
Where is Old Man Wayne?”
“In—in his cabin, sir,” said Dorkin huskily.
Kenneth Wayne got up from the bunk, staggered,
and then steadied himself on his feet.
“Stop, sir!” Dorkin cried out. “You mustn’t
get up, sir! You’re not lit. You’ve near bled to
death as it is.”
Kenneth Wayne started for the door. He kept
swinging his right hand in front of him mechanically
as though to sweep some obstruction from his path.
His other hand he kept brushing across his forehead.
He began to mumble to himself.
“My God!” whispered Dorkin—and reached out
to block the way.
But Kenneth Wayne turned with a snarl, with both
THE MAN WITH THE CRIMSON SASH 31
hands clenched, with both hands raised above his head.
And then he laughed as the mate fell back. He went
on again—out on deck, and around to the port deck-
cabin just aft of the bridge. He opened the door and
stepped inside, fumbled for the electric-light switch
and found it. A form covered with a sheet lay on the
settee. He drew back the sheet and stared at Old
Man Wayne. He made no sound. His face was
expressionless in the sense that it seemed incapable of
anything but fixed immobility—its lines drawn,
pinched, sharp, as though chiselled there upon some
pallid, stone-like surface. His only movement was
a slight swaying of the body from unsteady feet.
After a time he replaced the sheet and went on deck
He lifted his face to the breeze. It was grateful.
It was dark along the decks now. But there were
shadows dodging here and there. That was Dorkin
there—and for some reason the man seemed to be
trailing him. Damn Dorkin! And besides Dorkin
there was the Sevang over there. What was the
serang up to, messing around under one of the boats
there, and making a worrying noise like a dog at a
Kenneth Wayne called out querulously:
“What are you doing there, sevangV }
“It is but one of the pigs’ litter, O master, hiding
and wounded unto death,” the Sevang answered.
Kenneth Wayne lunged forward across the deck.
The Sevang , a knife in his hand, was dragging clear
of the boat chocks a Malay who was evidently very
badly wounded, but who still snarled defiance as he
gasped for breath. Kenneth Wayne stared for a
moment at the Malay in a puzzled way. He was
conscious of a great confusion in his head—and then,
THE LOCKED BOOK
through the confusion, in a rush of passion that would
brook no denial of its purpose, there seemed suddenly
to be revealed to him the fact that this gasping thing
at his feet possessed something of inestimable worth
that must be yielded up. He snatched the knife from
the Sevang’s hand, and held it against the Malay’s
“Speak!” he said hoarsely in the native tongue.
“What island do you come from? Give me its name,
and the name of your chief!”
The Malay shook his head.
“I have no mercy!” Kenneth Wayne shouted out.
“You hear, you devil’s spawn? The name of your
island and your chief! Quick! Tell all, or you die!”
The Malay now made a weak effort to raise his
head. He spat at the hand that held the knife.
“Am I a fool?” The man’s voice rattled in his
throat; his features worked with mingled ferocity and
hate. “Great is the white man, but this he will never
know! Am I a fool that I should tell? I die to-night
of my wounds—or I go to be hanged—or I die by that
knife. I die. Strike! Who is the fool?”
For a moment, his fingers twitching, Kenneth
Wayne held the knife pricking at the other’s throat
—and then suddenly he flung it upon the deck.
“There are others, Sevang’’ he said, in a queer,
confidential way. “Others who ave fools, and will
talk. Take me to them.”
“There are none, O master,” answered the
Sevang. “Those of the wounded who had the strength
threw themselves overboard.”
“But the others—who had not the strength—like
The Sevang shook his head.
“When the leash is slipped,” he said tonelessly,
THE MAN WITH THE CRIMSON SASH 33
“it may not always be replaced until the scent is cold.
As thou hast said, O master, this man hid; but unless
there be also those that have done likewise— and who
have not yet been found —there are no others alive.
Such toll as could has been taken for a certain thing
of which thou knowest.” He stopped and looked
down. The Malay with a convulsive movement had
stiffened out and now lay still. “And now this one
too”—he prodded the form with his foot—“is like¬
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne—and rocked a little on
his feet. His own voice sounded a long way off.
Queer about that! He gripped suddenly at the
Sevang’s arm. “Listen!” he said. “There was Crim¬
son Sash. Did you mark a man amongst all those you
speak of, a tall man with a crimson sash—like the
colour of blood—like a band of blood around his
The serang nodded gravely.
“Him I saw in the fighting, O master,” he said;
“and once afterwards on the deck of a proa as it
“It is well!” said Kenneth Wayne. He rubbed his
hand across his eyes. What made the deck keep
rising up and down like that—like a cursed see-saw?
And here was Dorkin again! “Go away!” he
mumbled—and reeled heavily against the mate. “Go
away, I tell you ! I—I-”
And then for the second time that night darkness
fell upon Kenneth Wayne.
— Ill —
A UTHORITY took prompt action. A gunboat
steamed with all speed to the latitude and
longitude indicated by a little red cross on the
Warataris chart—all that marked, or ever could
mark, the grave of Old Man Wayne. The lieutenant-
commander in charge of the punitive expedition was
a man of experience, resource, and infinite determina¬
tion. He had been chosen for those qualities. He
visited many islands, for there were many in that
neighbourhood, and he found a score or more of
peaceful native villages nestling upon the shores—but
he found no stronghold. There were proas in every
village, but nowhere in number more than were re¬
quired for the fishing upon which the livelihood of the
villagers depended. He met with open-handed
hospitality—which did not deceive him. His ques¬
tions, some none too gently pressed, brought him small
reward. There was no head chief, no rajah over all
the villages—only the head man of each village. Of
what profit was it that there should be more than a
headman over each village? They were of the Orang-
laut, it was true; but they were not robbers. If there
had been evil done, which was not to be questioned
since the ship with the guns that spoke with a great
noise had come, then it must have been those of the
Orang-laut who lived always on the sea, and who had
come far from the east, or the west, or the south, or
the north. The anger of the white men was greatly to
be feared. They were not madmen to desire that
anger. The great white chief had eyes with which to
see that they spoke only the truth.
The lieutenant-commander was not deceived—he
was beaten. He returned to his base. His official
report was couched in language that accorded with
the regulations; but verbally, as man to man in the
admiral’s cabin, he permitted himself more license:
“If I’d had a shred of evidence, sir, I’d have made
an example of some of them that wouldn’t be for¬
gotten for two generations—and I wish to God I’d
had it! We’ll never get them this way, sir. To
begin with, they’re all in it together; and in the
second place there’s not one of them dares talk because
they’ve most unpleasant methods of putting a man
to death. I’m positive they’ve a secret rendezvous
somewhere out there, and that there’s a head swine
running the job who has every last one of them under
his thumb—but, damn it, sir, it’s uncanny the way
word passes about amongst them. They’re ready
for a gunboat ages before she reaches their waters.
It’s not much of a trick to divide up a fleet of proas
among a couple of dozen islands, or metamorphose
overnight—their architecture being a bit primitive—
what might have been their murdering metropolis into
a stinking, poverty-stricken fishing village!” He
smiled grimly by way of preface to his peroration.
“There’s only one way I know of to put an end to it,
and that’s to wipe the lot of them off the earth—and
let the evidence go hang!”
And so officially the matter was at an end when
Kenneth Wayne became convalescent from the wounds
of that night of some two months ago. He had no
quarrel with the official result. What else could have
THE LOCKED BOOK
been expected? The lieutenant-commander had made
no mistake in his summing up of the situation. The
function of a gunboat was to punish; and where a
thousand eyes watched in derision, and a thousand
tongues lied in unison, it almost inevitably defeated its
own ends if at one and the same time it must secure
for itself the evidence necessary to justify the infliction
of that punishment. Also there was a “head swine”
as the lieutenant-commander supposed. There was
Crimson Sash. Crimson Sash had lived in all those
weeks and days and hours of delirium during which he,
Kenneth Wayne, had hovered with his wounds and
fever between life and death, as a figure sometimes
shadowy and ghostlike in a vague and filmy way,
sometimes towering over him in monstrous reality,
but always elusive, a malignant thing that robbed
him of rest in his great weariness because he constantly
sought to follow it that he might crush it, strike it,
kill it, obliterate it—but just why all this should be
so he could never quite make out. And then, with
returning consciousness, convalescence had set in and
it had become very plain and very clear, and he had
understood. He had a rendezvous with Crimson Sash
—for Old Man Wayne was dead, and the gunboat
And it was a rendezvous that he would keep. It
was a silent pledge. He made the pledge to Old Man
Wayne, and thereby it became irrevocable. It was a
rendezvous that he would keep.
Kenneth Wayne left Singapore ostensibly to rest
and recuperate. As Old Man Wayne would have
done, he gave his senior captain the shore manage¬
ment of the little fleet, and Dorkin moved up to the
command of the War at an. Kenneth Wayne, in this
reorganisation which he inaugurated, contented him-
self personally with the acquisition of a small mining-
prospector’s kit, which consisted in the main of a bottle
each of hydrochloric and sulphuric acid, a magnifying
glass and a prospector’s hammer, to which he added a
few text books for the sake of “colour,” and notably
amongst these a rather ponderous volume on metal¬
lurgy. Thus armed, from Singapore he went to Palem-
bang—not by one of his own boats—where he was
little known, and where very many vessels of strange
register and description come and go. And here
among the rakits, or floating houses of the River
Moesi, he disappeared. Thereafter, by devious ways,
while a month and still another went by, he journeyed
many miles, now by this boat and now by that, until,
satisfied that trace of him was lost, he took passage on
a small and frowsy tramp steamer whose immediate
itinerary coincided with his own, and one afternoon
followed his gear over her rusty side as she dropped
anchor in the little harbour of Salabam.
He had reached what might be called his pivotal
From the native boat that carried him ashore, he
took stock of the little town, shimmering in the heat
haze, as it straggled at loose ends along the shore line
of the bay. In its general appearance it differed in no
way from any other town on any other island below
the equator. Kenneth Wayne’s dark eyes, clear now
with restored health, lighted with a flicker of grim
humour. Its table-legs, for instance, would be im¬
mersed in water containers in the same old abortive
effort to check the onslaught of ants upon one’s food!
And there was the hotel—all, or nearly all, bar down¬
stairs, no doubt; sleeping rooms off the verandah
above. The same man had built them all—thousands
of ’em! And there was the population of the town on
THE LOCKED BOOK
the beach—the arrival of even the woe-begone, cock¬
roach-laden tramp out there was an event. Mostly na¬
tives, of course! All sorts—Bugis, Negritoes, Klings,
the lighter brown Battas, a goodly sprinkling of
Chinese. And a few whites—the expatriates! A riot
of colour—both in complexion and dress!
A slim little man in a rather dirty white suit pressed
“Ah, monsieur! Permit me!” The man removed
a gun-case from Kenneth Wayne’s hand. “Monsieur
is for the hotel, is he not?”
Kenneth Wayne found himself inspecting the other
somewhat too critically perhaps, and therefore smiled
disarmingly. The Frenchman—the man was obvi¬
ously a Frenchman—had a shrewd, thin face with a
goatee, which latter seemed to give a sort of Mephis-
tophelesian touch to his features. Not very old—bor¬
dering forty, at a guess. Noticeably small eyes—jet
black, and most amazingly restless.
Kenneth Wayne nodded.
“Yes,” he said.
“Excellent P’ cried the Frenchman. “Leave all to
me, monsieur. I am the proprietor.” He turned and
shrieked at some natives in a vernacular most atro¬
ciously mispronounced and stilted, but which, however,
seemed to be understood without difficulty for it re¬
sulted in an immediate scurry for the baggage. “This
way, monsieur! Permit me to introduce myself. My
name is Fouche, Nicholas Fouche, monsieur, at your
“Mine’s Wayne,” said Kenneth Wayne briefly, as
he followed his self-appointed guide through the little
“Yes!” said Monsieur Nicholas Fouche. “I am
delighted! And monsieur, no doubt, has come to buy
or sell. Naturally! Well, he will find good business
here in resin, and pepper, and edible nests, and woods
of all kinds, and many other things, to say nothing of
beche-de-mer. Salabam, as monsieur must know very
well, is renowned for its beche-de-mer. Many proas
are engaged in the trade. Or, if monsieur has not
come to buy, then-”
“No,” said Kenneth Wayne quietly; “or to sell,
“Ah!” exclaimed the Frenchman. “I see! Mon¬
sieur, then, is a tourist.”
“God forbid!” ejaculated Kenneth Wayne with fer¬
vent spontaneity. “Imagine any one sight-seeing in
“Heh?” Monsieur Nicholas Fouche halted on the
beach, and turned around to stare into Kenneth
Wayne’s face. Then he began to laugh softly. “Ah!”
said he. “Yes, monsieur, yes! Monsieur has a sense
of humour. It was like a prayer, monsieur—like a
prayer. Monsieur has his own opinion of tourists.
They flit, flit, flit—do they not?” He waved his hand
in a series of jerky little motions. “Like that, eh?
And they never stay long enough anywhere to remem¬
ber where they are, or the place they last came from.
Is it not so? And they all speak the same language.
How very interesting! How extraordinary! I ask
monsieur’s pardon. Certainly monsieur is not a
Kenneth Wayne did not argue the question. It was
evident that the revenue from Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche’s hotel was not over-much swollen by the class
of trade in question.
“I am interested in mining,” he said.
“Mining? Ah!” Monsieur Nicholas Fouche laid
THE LOCKED BOOK
the length of his forefinger thoughtfully against his
nose. “Mining, you said? But in all Salabam there
are no mines, monsieur.”
“But in the hills there may be minerals,” returned
“But, yes!” cried Monsieur Fouche with instant and
encouraging enthusiasm. “Why not? Undoubtedly!
And time it was looked into, too! Monsieur, no
doubt, has a government concession which he-”
Kenneth Wayne interrupted the other with a ready
laugh and a shrug of the shoulders. It in no way
suited his book to offend this Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche. The man might prove to be useful—but in
the meanwhile Monsieur Fouche was beginning to bore
a bit with his damned, and apparently ingenuous in¬
quisitiveness. He had played up to the man enough.
There was such a thing as overdoing it.
“Time enough for a concession when there’s any¬
thing found to make a concession worth having,” said
Kenneth Wayne in a pleasantly confidential way; and
then, abruptly: “Hello, Monsieur Fouche, I see you
have an invalid as a guest!”
They had reached the road in front of the hotel,
and on the wide verandah, which ran around the sec¬
ond story, Kenneth Wayne had caught sight of a cot,
or bed of some kind, in which a grey-haired man was
propped up with pillows, and from which a thin and
emaciated face stared out over the railing, evidently
intent upon the bustle incident to the boat’s arrival.
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche’s finger again went to
the side of his nose; and his voice dropped to a whis¬
per, though by no possibility could his ordinary tones
have been overheard from the verandah.
“That is Monsieur Merwood,” whispered Mon¬
sieur Nicholas Fouche. “He is a great English savant.
He is a member of some royal society—how do you
say it?—ah, yes!—of the F. R. S. Imagine, monsieur,
his accursed luck! Three weeks ago he arrived with
his daughter, and immediately he is sick with dengue
fever—what you call the break-bone fever. And he
is no sooner on his feet again, when—would you
believe it!—he falls and breaks his leg. Incroyable,
is it not, monsieur?”
“A bit tough, at any rate,” said Kenneth Wayne, as
they crossed the road and entered the hotel. “What’s
he doing here ?”
“He is writing a book, monsieur—a scientific book
—about the natives and the islands. He has been
everywhere, and he is a man of great learning.”
“I see,” said Kenneth Wayne—and halted suddenly.
The door through which they had entered gave on
a huge and rather bare room. The bar ran the length
of it, and here and there a few tables were scattered
about. At one of these tables, the sole occupant of
the room except for a grinning white-coated native
behind the bar—the law evidently not being too rig¬
orously observed—sat a bedraggled and scare-crow
specimen of white humanity, his face a reddish purple,
his battered pith helmet draped over one eye, his
mouth wide open in inebriate song, his fists abusing the
table as he strove to keep the tempo. The words came
An’ when I die,
Don’t bury me at all,
Just pickle my bones
Put a bottle of booze
At my head and-
He broke off with a hiccough.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Why, here’s Nicky Fouche himself!” he cried
boisterously. “Bloomin’ luck, I calls it! ’Elio, Nicky,
“Sacre nom!” spluttered the Frenchman, with dark¬
ened face. “You are still here !”
“Nicky,” said the man in grave complaint, “that
cary-carycashure behind the bar shays he’s run out of
chalk. Give him ’nothser piece. You savvy me,
Nicky”—he dropped a knowing eyelid—“my credit
ain’t all used up yet.”
“Sacre nom!” exploded the Frenchman again. “I
will talk to you in a minute!” He turned to Kenneth
Wayne. “This way, monsieur!” And then, as they
passed on into a hallway and began to mount the
stairs: “A beachcomber, monsieur—an English one—
a—a”—he was still spluttering in his wrath—“a
maudlt leech! He will die some day with the gin. I
hope it will be soon!”
Kenneth Wayne made no answer. The genus
beachcomber was ubiquitous, and, in view of that fact,
the only curious thing about the incident was an ex¬
pression—gone on the instant—that he had caught
in Monsieur Fouche’s eyes. A bit sinister, it had
seemed—hardly warranted under the circumstances.
It was none of his business, however!
They emerged on one side of the wide verandah.
He was ushered into a room. His belongings followed
him. The Frenchman appeared suddenly to have lost
his garrulity, and to be in a hurry to depart.
“If monsieur desires anything,” said Monsieur
Nicholas Fouche, backing toward the door, “he need
“Not a thing,” said Kenneth Wayne pleasantly.
The door closed.
Kenneth Wayne had need of but a cursory survey
of his surroundings. The room, with its mosquito-
nettejd bed, its bit of mat upon the floor, the wash-
stand of inexpensive make—shipped knock-down, prob¬
ably, like the chairs—was but the counterpart of every
other room in every island hotel he had ever been in.
The thin partitions, of course, offered a certain pri¬
vacy—but at once mocked it by echoing every sound
both from within and without. It was airy and com¬
fortable enough when there was any breeze to blow
through the window shutters or the slatted door; but
at the present moment it was hot—insufferably hot—
the worst of the afternoon.
He flung himself down on the bed. Well, he was
this far! Salabam! The town here itself perhaps
held the information he wanted, but a white man could
not prowl around the native quarters of a town with¬
out arousing suspicion and instantly, like the gunboat,
defeating his own ends. The flicker of a smile in which
there was no humour crossed his lips. To-morrow, or
the next day, he would begin—prospecting! Not far
inland, but along the coast where it would bring him
into contact with the native villages bordering on the
sea. Here on this island first—and thereafter God
knew where! Salabam was the nearest civilised point,
if it could be called civilised, to that red cross marked
on the Warataris chart. That was all. Salabam was
headquarters; it established him, as it were, in the eyes
of the natives. He was the white man from the hotel
in Salabam who sought gold in the rocks of the hills.
He would not find it— but all white men were mad.
Old Man Wayne was dead. He turned on his side,
and stared in a blank, introspective way at the wall.
That was why he was in Salabam—to find Crimson
Sash. He was conscious it struck him as incongruous
that he experienced no degree of either mental or
THE LOCKED BOOK
physical hysteria—no, that was not quite what he
meant—rather, that he knew no marked outbursts of
passion, no moments when he was stirred into outward
expression by an onrush of either grief or fury. Some¬
thing cataclysmic had taken place in his life with the
murder of Old Man Wayne, and yet he knew only a
calm resolve to bring Old Man Wayne’s murderer to
account; something implacable about that resolve,
though—something final, absolute—something that
neither knew nor brooked denial. And it was fed by
something, always fed by something; something, he
recognised subconsciously, that smouldered always be¬
neath the surface; something that, in those vague
snatches of delirium which he remembered out of his
illness, had so often burst suddenly, in violence and
fury, into raging flame, and that—he knew this as he
knew he breathed, or moved, or spoke, or saw—some
day would again.
Crimson Sash 1 Somewhere here in these islands was
the man the gunboat could not find. The natives
knew; but the natives did not talk to white men. They
talked amongst themselves, though! And if a white
man listened, a white man who had known the native
tongue from infancy, he might learn many things—if
it were not known that the white man, who needed an
interpreter that he might ask even for food and drink,
could understand even as one of themselves.
It was insufferably hot, a sticky heat—full of drowsi¬
ness. The drowsiness was gradually stealing over him.
His thoughts came more in snatches—mental ramblings
on the verge of dreams.
That little red cross on the Waratan’s chart was
many miles away from Salabam; but the proas that
had gathered at that little red cross had, too, come
from many miles away—gathered from many islands.
. . . Salabam was not so far but that there should be
huts even on this island here where women waited for
men who would never return. . . . He must find an
interpreter—ought not to be very difficult. . . . And
men to carry the bits of rock that he chipped off with
his prospector’s hammer. . . . Organise the little
expedition—boat, and all that sort of thing. . . No
chance of being personally known here—none of the
Wayne boats had ever touched at Salabam, and the
Waratan had only been in the neighbourhood because
she had been on special charter. . . . Like the other
end of the world so far as the Archipelago went. . . .
And besides it was nearly four months ago now. . . .
No one would associate a mining prospector with a
sea captain. . . . The name meant nothing—Wayne
was a common name. . . , He might have changed it,
of course—but he had had an antipathy to that. . . .
Impossible to imagine Old Man Wayne changing his
name. . . . Queer thing, native telepathy—damned
queer thing—ahead of the white man’s wireless—un¬
canny. . . . But at least it wouldn’t have heralded his
coming the way it had the gunboat’s—that was why
he had taken so much trouble in getting here. . . .
There would be talk in the native huts—whispers.
, . . They wouldn’t call the man Crimson Sash, of
course. . . . Perhaps the man didn’t wear it any
more. . . . But the face could not change. ... It
would be the same face—Crimson Sash. . . .
His eyes closed.
It was late afternoon when he awoke. Still heavy
with sleep, he raised himself on his elbow under the
impression that some one was talking to him. He
looked around the room. There wasn’t any one here,
but decidedly there were voices. He sat suddenly up¬
right now. There were low voices—voices in earnest
THE LOCKED BOOK
whisper. It was hard to tell where they came from—
whether from outside the door on the verandah, or
from an adjoining room. The thin partitions were
nothing but veritable sounding-boards anyway—con¬
He caught bits of the conversation:
. . Pouf! There is but one safe way, sacre nom!
“But your safe way is dangerous.”
The first speaker was obviously Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche; but something in the other voice brought a
perplexed frown to Kenneth Wayne. The English
was faultless; but there was something in the vowel
sounds, an almost indistinguishable gutturalness, as he
defined it to himself, that denied a native-born English
tongue. Ah, yes—he had it. German !
“Bah! Is any fuss made over a stray dog? Well,
is it not the same, mon ami? Listen! If he knows a
little, a very little about me—it matters very little.
He but cuts off his own nose if he talks. He is not fool
enough for that. But if he finds out something else—
eh? Something that he can sell for money—eh?
That is different. Mille cochons! It is not only dif¬
ferent, it is dangerous for some one that perhaps you
“Are you sure?” demanded the German voice.
“How do you know?”
“I will tell you,” said Monsieur Nicholas Fouche—
and still further lowered his voice.
And thereafter there was only an unintelligible
murmur, which presently died away.
Kenneth Wayne was frowning in perplexity again.
A Frenchman and a German—with English as the
common medium of expression between them. Neither
the termination of the war nor the years that had
followed had yet made bed-fellows of the two again.
It would require a very strong motive, or a very
shabby one, for that! Yes, that was it—a very shabby
one. Who ever heard of a Frenchman and a German
in these days hobnobbing together out of mutual
admiration and esteem!
None of his business, of course! Their talk, what
he had sensed of it, had been shabby; but they certainly
had not been talking about him. He had other busi¬
ness in Salabam than to concern himself with an in¬
trigue—a shabby intrigue—between a Frenchman and
Nicky Fouche! That’s what the beachcomber, full
to the guards, had called the proprietor. Intimate
sort of appellation—Nicky! Nicky Fouche! The
name had a flavour. It smacked of Things! Sounded
a bit apache-like, somehow. Perhaps it would be just
as well if he kept an eye on his bill. He had thought
of enlisting Nicky Fouche’s assistance in securing a
man to act as interpreter for the mining trip. He
decided now he wouldn’t. He looked at his watch.
It was dinner-time.
He flung one leg out over the bed preparatory to
getting up—and remained for a little while in that
position motionless. Salabam seemed to be teeming
with extraneous little incidents that, so to speak, kept
brushing shoulders with him. For the second time
that afternoon he was listening to a song. Not at all
like the first one! And there was no trouble in telling
where it came from, as there had been with the whis¬
pering voices. It floated in from around the corner of
the verandah from about where the English scientist
with the broken leg lay on his cot. But it wasn’t the
old man who was singing. It was a girl’s voice. He
listened. The voice was sweet, clear and true; but
THE LOCKED BOOK
there was something else in it, too—sincerity, feeling.
Perhaps it was the home-song itself that accounted for
that. He listened until the last notes died away:
. . . Devon . . .
He swung his other leg to the floor.
“That’s the old chap’s daughter, of course,” he
informed himself. “Miss Merwood.”
He fell to humming as he plunged his face in a
basin of water:
. . . Devon . . .
T HE food was not heartily inviting. Kenneth
Wayne, as his piece de resistance, ate an alli¬
gator pear. It seemed to distinguish him, set
him apart, as it were, from the ants and flies that
appeared to like his choice less than any other item
of the fare set before them. They were not, how¬
ever, above showing a certain friendly community of
interest even in this, though each in turn eventually
and politely retreated from the vinegar with which he
mixed his dressing.
He found himself experiencing a vague sense of
disappointment—not at all definable—and in no way
connected with the unpalatable viands. He was fully
acclimatised to such a table. He had known what he
would have to eat, or not eat, before he sat down.
Nicky Fouche’s hotel in Salabam, as he had before
remarked to himself, could not be expected to differ—
at least for the better, being in a most out-of-the-way
place—from a hundred other hostelries on a hundred
other islands that were themselves alike.
The dining room itself was a reproduction of every
other dining room—even to its adjacent location to
the bar on the ground floor. It held six or seven
tables. They expressed optimism. They were all
vacant except his own and one, a little larger than the
others, that stood over against the side wall. There
were five men at this table, ranging from youth to
THE LOCKED BOOK
well over middle age. He knew who they were; he
knew all about them. They were in every dining room.
They were the White Bachelors of the Tropics. They
were clerks and planters’ agents and that sort of thing,
and perhaps one had a government job. They drank
gin and tonic because the climate induced thirst, and
they drank it until they came to like it too well, which
was bad for the liver. They quarrelled a good bit
because they saw too much of each other and no one
else and couldn’t help it. They called their jobs vile
names and the place of their sojourn still viler ones,
and swore they would sell their souls for a sight of
old Piccadilly—and stayed to dice with a game of
strange lure and seductiveness that was rarely beaten.
They were going home next year. Rather! They had
all nodded to him with the easy camaraderie of white
men in far places.
Kenneth Wayne dug unenthusiastically at his alli¬
gator pear. There was no one else in the dining room.
He had rather expected to find the girl with the voice
here. He had glanced around the corner of the
verandah when he had left his room, and she had not
been there with her father. She hadn’t sung any more,
though he had listened. The thought of song brought
to mind the inebriated beachcomber. Not very com¬
plimentary to the girl! The beachcomber wasn’t here,
either. Perhaps his credit didn’t extend this far; or
perhaps the point of physical inability had been reached
—temporarily indisposed. He wasn’t singing in the
Kenneth Wayne pushed his chair back finally, and,
with a nod to the table of five, strolled out in front of
the hotel. He lighted a cigarette, and, as he crossed
the road toward the beach, glanced back. She was up
there on the verandah now with her father. They
were being served there, he could see. That accounted
for her not having been in the dining room. He caught
a glimpse of fair hair—nothing of the face which was
bent over the table, and likewise partially hidden by
the verandah railing.
He went on along the beach. According to Nicky
Fouche, Mr. Merwood and his daughter had been
here a number of weeks. In a purely impersonal way,
he very much wanted to see Miss Merwood, talk to
her, and talk to her father—but particularly to her.
Perhaps that was really the cause of that sense of dis¬
appointment in the dining room. Mr. Merwood had
been ill ever since he had been here, and probably
wouldn’t be of much help; but Miss Merwood, who
had had to do everything for the two of them, must
have picked up a lot of information that would prove
valuable. There were the questions he had now
decided not to ask Nicky Fouche, for instance.
Kenneth Wayne finished his cigarette and lighted
another. He walked up and down the beach, his hands
in his pockets, and finally stood still for a long time
watching the tramp steamer on which he had arrived
put out to sea again. And then, as he watched, a grim
smile came to his lips, and a grim wonder to his mind.
By to-morrow, or the next day, and through many to¬
morrows thereafter, he would be in a situation where
a slip on his part, a very little slip indeed, would be
the end of it all. He wondered when and by what
means he would eventually leave Salabam—if ever?
He laughed outright suddenly, in a low, harsh way.
Why wonder? He had no quarrel with the price that
he might have to pay, had he? He might not get out
of it alive; he was not at all sure that he would—but
he was conscious of a sure and certain foreknowledge
that even so he would not have failed because he
THE LOCKED BOOK
would have for company the man he had come to find.
It was only a question of price and he was prepared to
pay. Old Man Wayne’s grave could never be found
again either, for that matter!
He swung sharply on his heel, and returned to the
hotel. And on the verandah, a few moments later,
noticing that their table had been cleared away, he
bowed to the white-haired man on the cot, and to the
girl sitting beside it, whose face he saw now for the
first time—and yet he could not say it was precisely a
face he saw—it was more the impression of a wisp of
gold-red hair attractively truant in the light breeze,
and blue eyes that smiled calmly into his in uncon¬
“I hope I am not intruding,” he said, addressing the
occupant of the cot. “My name is Wayne—Kenneth
Wayne. Monsieur Fouche told me of the uncommonly
bad luck you’ve had, sir, here.”
The white-haired man extended his hand.
“On the contrary, Mr. Wayne,” he said cordially,
“you are very welcome. My daughter, Miss Merwood
Laughingly she, too, extended her hand.
“We’ve heard all about you, too—from Monsieur
Fouche,” she said. “Father saw you coming from the
steamer this afternoon. An arrival in Salabam is an
event, and we were wondering if you were going to
ignore us utterly. Won’t you sit down, Mr. Wayne?”
Kenneth Wayne drew up a chair.
“It’s good of you to put it that way,” he smiled.
“I have to confess I slept.”
“Well, so did father, and so did I,” she returned.
“There’s very little else to do here under the circum¬
stances. You are absolved, Mr. Wayne. And so you,
too—according to the informative Monsieur Fouche
—propose going into the interior?”
“Too?” Kenneth Wayne, obtaining permission,
lighted a cigarette.
“We were,” amended Mr. Merwood. “But now I
am almost beginning to despair.”
Miss Merwood shook her finger chidingly.
“Now, father! It’s only a matter of a few weeks
before you’ll be quite as fit as ever, and you know per¬
fectly well that the work will be finished in plenty of
time after all.”
“Humph!” said Mr. Merwood doubtfully. “I hope
so, Dorothy. I sincerely hope so.” He turned to
Kenneth Wayne. “I am engaged in writing a book: on
Malaysia, which will perhaps in a measure account”—
he smiled—“for finding us here in this place out of
the beaten path of tourists. But you, I suppose, are
very well acquainted with this part of the world, Mr.
Wayne—particularly this section of the Archipelago?”
Kenneth Wayne shook his head.
“Not nearly so well as I would wish,” he answered.
“In fact, that must really be my excuse for having
introduced myself. This is my first visit to Salabam,
and, knowing you had been here some time, I was
anxious to talk to you. I am going to do a bit of
prospecting—mining, you know.”
“So Monsieur Fouche said!” laughed Dorothy
Kenneth Wayne turned a sober face.
“ ‘Nicky’ Fouche, I think,” he corrected, with
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “How do you know that?”
“Chap in the bar when I came in this afternoon,”
he replied. “Slightly under the weather, and perhaps
therefore unduly intimate.”
THE LOCKED BOOK
Her face became at once serious.
“That’s Glover,” she said. “I’m very sorry for
him. I—I think he was a gentleman once.” She
smiled suddenly again. “Then you must have heard
“And another’s,” said Kenneth Wayne.,
“Oh!” she exclaimed again. A little flush came to
her cheeks. “Comparisons, sir, are—no, I shan’t say
it. Father, I interrupted you.”
“No,” said Mr. Merwood, “I was merely going on
to say that this country—and I am speaking of the
Malay Archipelago in general—is, I think, one of the
places of the earth most worth knowing, and, at the
same time, one of the least known. Certainly, and
without qualification, I think I would be safe in saying
it is one of the most maligned.”
“Maligned?” Kenneth Wayne repeated question-
“Why, yes; don’t you think so?” Mr. Merwood,
suddenly absorbed in his subject, gesticulated earnestly
with his hands. “Amidst our own so-called civilisation
what is the common conception of Malaysia? Pre¬
cisely what De Barros described as ‘a vile people,
dwelling more on the sea than on the land, and living
by fishing and robbing.’ But he was merely describing
what he called the Cellates, or ‘people of the Straits,’
the ‘Sea Gipsies,’ the Orang-laut; and, though it is
utterly unwarrantable, that is the popular idea of all
Malaysia to-day. Whereas, as you no doubt know,
the Malays proper have long been divided socially into
three distinct groups: the Orang Benua,, or ‘Men of
the Soil,’ that is, the uncivilised wild tribes; the
Orang-laut, or ‘Men of the Sea,’ that is, the semi-civi¬
lised floating population—and the Orang Malayu, or
‘Malay men.’ And these latter possess not only a
civilisation of long standing, but both culture and
religion, together with a literature rich in ethics, fic¬
tion and legendary lore, some of which displays much
descriptive and poetic power.”
“I’ve heard they’re very keen on legends,” said
Kenneth Wayne quietly. “But apart from that, sir,
I’m afraid I’ve held the popular belief pretty strongly
myself. I’ve heard of a massacre or two, and a bit of
filthy work here and there at their hands. One doesn’t
forget that, sir. And I’ve heard that even to-day on
sailing ships, or even steamers, they won’t sign on more
than two or three Malays at the most on account of
their treachery and what might come of the spread of
it amongst the native crews.”
Mr. Merwood nodded his head gravely.
“I admit all that,” he said. “And that is the pity
of it—that a whole people should be damned by its
wretches. But that is merely the sordid side of it, and
I am very anxious to show the picture in its entirety.
It is work well worth while, I believe, and that is why
I have undertaken it. But in reference to yourself,
Mr. Wayne—and mining. I am very much interested.
Gold, of course?”
Kenneth Wayne stared reflectively at the end of his
cigarette. The ground beneath him appeared sud¬
denly to be not altogether too safe. It was quite true
that he possessed a prospector’s kit with bottles of
hydrochloric and sulphuric acid, and several highly
scientific books, but, apart from the few generalities
he had been able to read, he was dismally ignorant and
was not prepared to discuss the subject in any degree
of comfort with a Fellow of the Royal Society.
“Yes,” he said—and coughed over his cigarette
smoke. “Yes—gold. There should be gold here.”
“And tin,” added Mr. Merwood promptly. “Geo-
THE LOCKED BOOK
logically, why not? Take the Peninsula. As, of
course, you know better than I do, the rich stannifer¬
ous granites that form its backbone render it perhaps
the most extensive storehouse of tin in the world.
And gold, whence the land was known to the ancients
as the Aurea Chersonesus, is also found, I believe, in
considerable quantities, both in quartz and in alluvial
deposits, especially about Mount Ophir, in Pahang,
Gomichi, Tringganu and Kemaman. Geologically, as
I said, I do not see why it should not be here. The
question, I should say, would be whether or not it
existed in sufficiently paying quantities to warrant
“Exactly, sir,” agreed Kenneth Wayne easily—he
had the bit in his teeth again. “There’s gold here—
no doubt of it. But Pm bound to confess the rest of
it is something of a gamble.”
“Father’s monopolising the conversation,” com¬
plained Dorothy Merwood laughingly. “Do tell us,
Mr. Wayne, how you propose to find the gold. I
suppose you’ll go inland and disappear for weeks at a
Kenneth Wayne shook his head.
“No,” he said; “I think the work can be done more
easily by boat—the longer distances, I mean. The
hills, where I think there’s the best chance of quartz,
rise quite abruptly from the shore on this side of the
island, you know; and by travelling along the coast by
boat it would be only a very short trip inland from
any point where I wanted to stop off.”
“I see,” she said. “And when do you propose to
Again Kenneth Wayne shook his head,
“Ah, that!” he smiled. “As soon as I can, of
course. To-morrow if I could. But it will take a bit
of doing to get ready. There’s a boat to be obtained,
and supplies to buy, and a crew of five or six boys to
hire, and a native to be found who can speak enough
English to voice the complaints of the others—a sort
of prime minister, or grand vizier, or boss foreman of
the gang, or something like that.”
“Grand Vizier!” Dorothy Merwood leaned im¬
pulsively forward in her chair and clapped her hands
together. “Oh, I wish I had thought of calling him
that myself! Father, why didn’t I think of it—or why
didn’t you? Gulab Singh would make a perfectly
lovely Grand Vizier, turban and all, and-” She
paused suddenly, and cast a quick, questioning glance
at her father. “I wonder!” she exclaimed.
Mr. Merwood nodded.
“Not a bad idea at all, Dorothy,” he said; “pro¬
vided, of course, Mr. Wayne isn’t going to be away
longer than it is going to take me to get about again.
Under those conditions he is heartily welcome to
Kenneth Wayne stared in perplexity from one to
Dorothy Merwood laughed vivaciously.
“Grand Viziers, and the Arabian Nights, and the
Land of Enchantment!” she cried. “You’ve conjured
them all up, Mr. Wayne.” She waved her hand airily.
“You are to imagine that to be a wand. Now, sir—
presto! You are in possession of your desires—a
boat, supplies, a native crew, and your Grand Vizier
who can speak English. And I think you may even
start to-morrow, if you wish.”
“My word!” said Kenneth Wayne a little help¬
lessly, as he joined in her laugh. “I wouldn’t dare
presume to question your powers of magic, but-”
“Oh, it’s quite simple!” she said naively. “All
. THE LOCKED BOOK
magic is—when you know how it’s done. You see,
though we were going into the interior, we had much
the same idea of travel as you have. There’s a river
—I never can pronounce its name-
“The Cheruchuk,” supplied Mr. Merwood.
“Yes—what father said,” she laughed. “It’s about
half a day’s journey along the coast. You can follow
it back for a long way until you come to what they call
an inland lagoon—a lake, I suppose. Well, we de¬
cided that was the easiest way of getting as far inland
as we really wanted to go, so we made all arrange¬
ments, boat, supplies and native crew.”
“Dorothy did,” interposed Mr. Merwood. “I was
down with dengue fever.”
“Yes,” said Dorothy Merwood. “Father’s had the
most poisonous luck. Everything was ready when he
got over the fever—and then his accident. So I’m
sure everything is still ready; that is, with a few hours’
notice. Gulab Singh secured the boat in the first place,
so he should know where to get it again, or, at least,
another, and he has had charge of the stores ever since
they were bought. We don’t want to drive you away,
Mr. Wayne”—she puckered a piquant little face into
a roguish smile—“but, well, you see, there’s nothing,
to prevent you from going at once.”
“Oh, but I can’t do that!” protested Kenneth Wayne
earnestly. “It’s altogether too good of you.”
“Nonsense!” said Mr. Merwood cordially. “You
are really under no obligation. I certainly cannot go
for some weeks yet. You can replace the stores; and,
as a matter of fact, you will actually be breaking the
men in for us at your expense. Indeed, it’s rather a
“That’s a mighty nice way of putting it,” smiled
“Not at all—it’s merely the truth,” returned Mr.
Merwood. “The only objection I can possibly see is
that you might want to be away much longer than the
several weeks in question.”
Kenneth Wayne hesitated. From staring out over
the verandah rail to the sea, flooded now with the gold
and purple of the setting sun, his glance travelled to
Dorothy Merwood’s fate. Her blue eyes were fixed
upon him, a frank and ingenuous smile lurking in their
depths. And suddenly, and a little uneasily, he fum¬
bled in his pocket for his cigarette case. Damn it, he
hadn’t bargained for this! He wasn’t quite playing
fair—quite playing the game the way they were. He
wasn’t going after gold. But then, he wasn’t doing
them any injury either, was he? There wasn’t any
question about not being back within Mr. Merwood’s
time limit—from this trip. A week or ten days was
all he had ever planned to be away at one time, because
he meant to establish himself beyond suspicion upon
the island—come and go from the town here. Many
trips, perhaps, unless he had luck—but this would save
time now, and, besides this Gulab Singh would then be
all the more ready to get other men for him next trip
if necessary. Rather curious about that Cheruchuk
“Dear me!” sighed Dorothy Merwood. “And I
thought I was magic-ing so wonderfully.”
Kenneth Wayne experienced a sort of mental squar¬
ing of his shoulders.
“You are!” he said quickly. “And I accept with
pleasure, though I’m bound to say I do not know how
to thank you. It’s tremendously fine of both of you.”
“Good!” said Mr. Merwood approvingly.
“Also,” said Kenneth Wayne,” I promise that your
Grand Vizier shall be back here by the time you
THE LOCKED BOOK
need him. And, speaking of that high functionary,
who is this Gulab Singh and where is he to be found?”
“Oh, just outside the town,” said Dorothy Mer-
wood. “There’s a Kling settlement about two miles
from here—you know, of course, what that is?”
“Oh, yes!” said Kenneth Wayne gravely. “That’s
what the natives of India are called here, isn’t it?”
“Yes, all through the Archipelago,” she said.
“Well, that’s where Gulab Singh lives. And that’s
who he is—an East Indian. I don’t know very much
more about him, except that he is undoubtedly very
capable, and, so far, has proved honest and trust¬
worthy. He applied for the position almost as soon
as it was known we wanted an interpreter—though
father really doesn’t get along badly at all with the
language—and we engaged him. His English—well,
I shall leave you to judge that for yourself—but I am
sure you won’t find any fault with it.”
“He sounds almost too good to be true,” laughed
Kenneth Wayne. “I shall send a summons to the
Grand Vizier to present himself here on the instant.”
“Better still,” smiled Mr. Merwood, “I would sug¬
gest that you two walk out there this evening, and my
daughter will present you, Mr. Wayne.”
“I should be delighted,” agreed Kenneth Wayne
heartily, “if it isn’t too far for Miss Merwood.”
“I’d love to go,” said Dorothy Merwood.
“Yes,” said Mr. Merwood, “and it will do her good.
To be frank with you, Mr. Wayne, that is why I sug¬
gested it. She has not been getting enough exercise—
tied hand and foot to the invalid, you know.”
Dorothy Merwood laughed.
“You’re not to imagine I need sympathy, Mr.
Wayne. Shall we say half an hour from now? Father
FELLOW GUESTS 61
usually goes in about this time, and then reads until
all hours, but-”
“I have to be tucked away first,” chuckled Mr. Mer-
wood. “Mothered a bit, you know.”
Kenneth Wayne stood up.
“Then I’ll clear out,” he said laughingly. “I shall
be ready whenever you are, Miss Merwood. And I’ll
say good-night to you, sir”—he held out his hand to
Mr. Merwood—“and very many thanks again.”
“Not at all!” said Mr. Merwood. “A pleasure,
Mr. Wayne. Good-night!”
Kenneth Wayne walked briskly away along the
length of the verandah; but, turning the corner, he
halted suddenly, and, with hands thrust deep in his
pockets, stood staring unseeingly down at the road
“The Cheruchuk River,” said Kenneth Wayne to
himself. “And an inland lagoon! Cheruchuk means
stockade. I wonder why it’s called the Stockade
— V —
HE twilight had merged into night. But it was
not dark. It was a night of starlight, a soft,
still, languorous night of the tropics, with the
promise of a moon. And Kenneth Wayne, as he
walked now beside Dorothy Merwood, could see her
face and note its changing moods, now gay, now
grave, now suddenly gay again, as, he plying her with
questions, she talked of her home in England, her
amusements, her friends, the many strange, out-of-the-
way places where she had been with her father since
her mother’s death some years ago. And he found
himself watching her face, liking its gaiety and its
more serious moments—liking her laughter and her
vivacity. And then, from one thing, they talked of
another, until somehow it seemed to Kenneth Wayne
a fact most utterly absurd that it was scarcely more
than an hour ago he had seen her for the first time.
They had left the town by a very fair road running
inland, which they had followed for perhaps a mile
and a half or more, and now, Dorothy Merwood guid¬
ing, they branched ofi abruptly into what was little
more than a by-path through a heavily wooded tract
“This is a short cut,” she explained. “The road
goes up to the ford before it swings around. There’s
a little rivfcr between us and the Kling village, you
know. Typical, isn’t it? And yet, why not? Where
THE SHOT 63
time and a mile are of no account, why build a bridge
“Quite right!” laughed Kenneth Wayne. “And,
besides, the natives would probably continue to use
the ford. But how do we get across?”
“Oh, there’s a foot-bridge,” she answered. “One
of those swinging affairs that look so treacherous but
which are really quite safe. It’s just a little way on,
and that will bring us at once to the Kling village.”
“I see,” said Kenneth Wayne; and then: “You were
going to tell me something of Salabam, when we
turned off from the road a moment ago. I wish you
“Why, there isn’t very much to tell,” she said. “In
fact, as you walked up the beach this afternoon when
you landed, you became as intimate with it almost as
it is possible to be.”
“I mean your own life here—the people,” he said.
“Oh, the whites! There are not very many. Let
me see.” She began to check them off on her fingers.
“Just the usual few traders and their clerks; and old
Doctor Pearson; and a very crabbed old gentleman
named Major Peters, who acts as a sort of Resident
and port official and general factotum for the British
Government; and the missionary and his wife, Mr.
and Mrs. Keene—and, oh, dear, that’s about all!”
“Except the guests at the hotel,” suggested Kenneth
“Apart from a few clerks and ourselves,” she said,
“there’s only one, an Englishman from some cloth
house in Manchester, whose name is Mr. Walters. I
really don’t see how Mr. Fouche makes it pay.
There’s no tourist trade, and the cargo boats that
touch here are few and far between.”
“There’s the bar,” said Kenneth Wayne.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“But he’s not supposed to sell the natives, and there
are too few of the whites for him to make much money
that way,” she objected.
“Unless,” said Kenneth Wayne, “they were all as
good customers as that chap we were speaking about
on the verandah—what did you say his name was?—
Glover? A few like Glover-”
She turned toward him quickly.
“Don’t!” she said earnestly. “I’m frightfully sorry
for Glover, as I told you. I don’t know what has
brought him to this, but it is a terrible thing to see a
man, who you instinctively feel was once, as I said, a
gentleman, committing moral suicide with a sort of
debonairly steadfast determination to accomplish that
purpose and his own physical destruction at the same
time. Nobody has anything to do with him. He dis¬
appears for days—and then he comes back to the hotel
bar. They say he has a hut somewhere in the woods
where he lives in some very primitive fashion. I spoke
to him one day and inveigled him up on the verandah,
and father tried to talk to him—but there was some¬
thing about him that just simply raised a barrier against
anything personal being said, if you know what I
“I think I know what you mean,” said Kenneth
Wayne. “A gentleman gone to seed, but still true to
“Which differentiates him from the ordinary run of
beachcombers,” she said slowly. “He avoided us after
that, and so-” She broke off abruptly. “But here’s
the river and the bridge. I’ll go first; I’ve been over
They stood now in a little clearing, and he could
make out a narrow foot-bridge, of perhaps fifty or
sixty feet in length, spidery in outline against the night,
fibre-swung from bank to bank. From below this there
came the gurgle of swiftly running water; and beyond,
on the other side of the stream, he could see a light
twinkling here and there amongst the trees.
Dorothy Merwood had already stepped out upon
the bridge. He followed—not too closely behind. It
would, no doubt, bear their combined weights, but it
nevertheless gave him the impression of being a
deucedly flimsy affair. Halfway across, he heard her
speak as he lost momentary view of her on the opposite
bank. He caught only snatches of her words:
“. . . The Miss Sahib . . . Gulab Singh . . .
And then, a moment later, as he rejoined her, she
“I met one of the villagers,” she explained, “and
sent him for Gulab Singh.” Her laugh rippled out
suddenly. “Do you know,” she said, “I’d forgotten
all about it, but I’m afraid we’ve made a very serious
faux pas in coming here. Mohammed should never
go to the mountain, you know. It lessens one’s dignity
and authority. However, I think we’ve retrieved our¬
selves a bit by turning that villager into an emissary.”
“Lose caste, you mean,” said Kenneth Wayne.
They were standing close together, and now, in the
starlight and the shadows and the clustering trees, as
her laughter rippled out again, she seemed like some
mischievous little white woodland sprite, slim and
dainty and graceful. And he had a strange impulse
to rub his eyes. “My word, Miss Merwood,” he
ejaculated involuntarily, “I don’t think you’ll ever need
to worry about that!” And then hurriedly, to cover
a sudden and quite unaccountable self-confusion: “But
where did you pick up the vernacular I heard you
speaking just now?”
THE LOCKED BOOK
“I didn’t—I mean, I wasn’t,” she replied, still
laughing. “Kipling taught the whole world that word.
Don’t you remember, he said it was the word that
moved all India— Challol-^—Go on! I’m afraid it’s
about the only one I know. It’s amazing, though,
what it will do.” She put a cautioning finger suddenly
to her lips, as the sound of an approaching footstep,
unhurried, deliberate, reached them. “Here’s my
Grand Vizier now,” she whispered. “I wish it were
lighter so that you might see him better; he’s rather
an imposing looking personage.”
A figure in white came out of the shadows, and
bowed low before them; the figure of a man of great
stature. Kenneth Wayne stared. As the figure bowed
and slowly drew itself up, seeming almost to grow to
its full height again, he found himself suddenly think¬
ing of a picture in one of his fairy-tale books of child¬
hood that was all about Grand Viziers too—the picture
of a figure in oriental raiment which, being released
from its captivity brought about by enchantment, was
emerging from the neck of a great, wide-mouthed jar,
its erstwhile prison, and was elongating itself in air as
it resumed human shape. A geni—or something.
Utterly absurd! It was the shadows, of course, that
lent a touch of the unreal and the fantastic to the
scene; that, and Dorothy Merwood’s mention of a
Grand Vizier again just a moment gone. He could not
see much of the man’s face, not only on account of the
light, but because the head was swathed in an enor¬
mous turban that covered the ears and likewise a
goodly portion of the forehead; but what little he
could distinguish gave him the impression of an olive-
brown mask of strange immobility—or was it mysti¬
cism ? The figure had a little beard, thin and patchy—
THE SHOT 67
so essentially Eastern. It was streaked with grey, he
“The Miss Sahib,” said the figure respectfully in a
deep, quiet voice.
“Good evening, Gulab Singh,” returned Dorothy
Merwood pleasantly. “We have come to see you on
some very important business. Is it well, Gulab
“The Miss Sahib knows that it is well,” Gulab
Singh answered gravely.
“Yes,” said Dorothy Merwood brightly. “Well,
then, listen! The sahib here is a friend of Merwood
Sahib, my father, and myself. His name is Wayne
Sahib. He wishes to make a trip very much like the
one my father and I had prepared to make, and he is
anxious to go at once. Father thought you might be
willing to go with him to act as headman and inter¬
preter, and in that case he said you were to use the
stores that you purchased and that are now ready.
When you return and Merwood Sahib is well again,
you will make the other trip with my father and my¬
self. Meanwhile Wayne Sahib will pay you as father
arranged to do. Can this be done, Gulab Singh?”
Gulab Singh remained thoughtful for a moment.
“Where does the sahib desire to go?” he asked.
“The Miss Sahib says it is like the trip of Merwood
Sahib and the Miss Sahib. They were going up the
Cheruchuk River. Will the sahib also go up the
The Stockade River! Kenneth Wayne smiled
coolly. Since two hours ago he had become particu¬
larly interested in this Stockade River!
“Oh, yes,” said Kenneth Wayne off-handedly. “A
bit of the way anyhow. I think that will do excellently
for a starter.”
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Wayne Sahib searches for gold,” explained Doro¬
“I have heard that at one time there was gold in the
hills of the Cheruchuk River,” said Gulab Singh
slowly. “I do not know. When is it the sahib’s will
“At once,” said Kenneth Wayne. “To-morrow, if
it’s possible. Miss Merwood tells me you secured a
suitable boat for them and that you’ve already got the
supplies, so I don’t suppose you’ll have any difficulty
in getting whatever men you think are necessary for
the trip. I shall have to leave everything to you, for
you will have to do the talking, of course.”
Again Gulab Singh remained thoughtful for a
“To-morrow is very soon, sahib,” he said. “There
will be much to do—but there remains the night.” He
spread out his hands. “It shall be as the sahib wills,
and I will go with him. To-morrow at an hour after
midday the boat will be ready on the beach, and the
men will come to the hotel for the sahib’s things.”
“Good!” said Kenneth Wayne heartily. “I am very
much pleased, Gulab Singh; and I, too, shall be ready.”
He turned to Dorothy Merwood. “With the details
in Gulab Singh’s hands, there doesn’t seem to be any¬
thing more to be said. Shall we go back, Miss Mer¬
“Yes,” she said. She smiled at the tall figure in
white. “Good-night, Gulab Singh. I am so glad
everything is arranged satisfactorily. I will tell
“The Miss Sahib is very kind,” answered Gulab
Singh. “Good-night, Miss Sahib. Good-night, sahib.”
He bowed profoundly, and disappeared in the shadov/s.
They retraced their steps across the bridge.
“What do you think of him?” Dorothy Merwood
asked, as they gained the other side and started back
along the by-path.
“I think he’s decidedly a lucky find,” Kenneth
Wayne replied. “He strikes me as a chap who’s got
a lot more push and action to him than the average
of his kind; and, besides, he speaks English well, which
is a most important factor.”
“Yes, of course,” she agreed; “and I-” She
broke off abruptly, and grasping at Kenneth Wayne’s
arm stood still, her face almost ghostlike in its sudden
It had come without warning, quick, unheralded,
sinister out of the blackness of the woods beside them
—a shot, a gasping cry, the tear and crackle of yielding
brush and undergrowth ending in the thud of some¬
thing heavy as it struck the ground.
“Who’s there? What’s wrong?” Kenneth Wayne
called out tensely.
There was no answer save a sudden and instant
crashing of the brush and undergrowth again, but this
time unmistakably due to some one running in desper¬
ate haste. And then, as this receded, there came a low
pulsing sound like the sighing of the wind.
Only there was no wind.
PIECES OF A PUZZLE
T HERE’S some one moaning in there—in the
woods,” Dorothy Merwood whispered.
Kenneth Wayne laid his hand reassuringly
over the one that, trembling a little now, still clasped
“Yes,” he said quietly. “I’m afraid there’s some¬
thing wrong. Would you mind going back and getting
Gulab Singh, Miss Merwood?”
“And you?” she asked.
He had drawn a revolver from his pocket.
“I’m going in there,” he said.
“At once, Miss Merwood, please!” There was
unconscious command in his voice. “And please
He was already in amongst the trees as he saw her
turn then and run back along the path toward the river.
The shot and the ensuing sounds had seemed to be
quite near at hand. He plunged forward, crashing
his way through the branches, the foliage, the thick
vegetation underfoot. And now he paused—^listening
intently. Nothing! He went on again. He was
fairly sure of his direction. And suddenly he stumbled
over something that was neither creeper nor entan¬
gling undergrowth. He felt out with his hands—over
a man’s legs outsprawled, a man’s body limp on its
PIECES OF A PUZZLE
He struck a match—and stared in the tiny flame
into the face of a man across whose right temple there
trickled a little rivulet of blood. A horrible jangle
went through his mind—horribly apposite:
An’ when I die,
Don’t bury me at all,
Just pickle my bones
In alcohol . . .
It was Glover, the beachcomber.
The match went out. He lighted another, and, as
he bent down over the man, through his mind, dis¬
possessing that horrible doggerel, flashed ugly snatches
of a whispered conversation between a Frenchman and
a German: “There is only one safe way, sacre nom.
... Is any fuss made over a stray dog? ...”
But the man wasn’t dead. Kenneth Wayne whipped
his handkerchief from his pocket, and swabbed the
blood away from the other’s temple. The crude sur¬
gery of shipboard, the years of more or less intimate
acquaintance with a ship’s medicine chest, had not
qualified Kenneth Wayne either as surgeon or practi¬
tioner, but they had left him roughly expert. The
man was not even seriously wounded. The bullet had
grazed the temple, tearing the skin just enough to
make it bleed. The man was stunned, of course,
unconscious, and naturally very badly shocked; but
with a little attention and a day or so of quiet he
probably wouldn’t be any the worse for it. He was
coming around now.
Again Kenneth Wayne lighted a match.
Glover’s eyes opened, blinked at the match-flame,
then stared into Kenneth Wayne’s face—first in a
puzzled way, and then with a dawning light of recogni¬
tion. The man’s lips moved—he spoke thickly:
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Hello—hello, old top—didn’t expect to see you in
No Man’s Land.”
“Better?” said Kenneth Wayne quietly. “We’ll
have some help here in a minute. How did this
Glover eyed the match as though deep in thought.
He hiccoughed slightly, and touched his lips with his
“Got pinked, didn’t I?” He spoke more feebly
now, as though his previous effort had been too much
for him. “Somebody out shooting birds—stray shot.”
“It’s hardly customary, is it?” said Kenneth Wayne
dryly. “Bird shooting in the dark?”
“By Jove!” Glover’s eyes suddenly held a
bland and innocent smile; but he was struggling in
his attempt to speak, and he hiccoughed again.
“Never thought of that—eh, what? Never—hie!—
thought-” His voice grew weaker, and trailed off.
The match flickered and went out. Kenneth
Wayne’s lips were compressed. He amended his
original diagnosis. Apart from the wound, the man
was drunk. Naturally! Been at it all afternoon, of
course—and Heaven knew how much longer! But he
wasn’t so drunk that he hadn’t his wits about him.
And a cool and steady nerve, too! He admired that.
The man was trying to hide the authorship of that
shot. Why? A possible explanation suddenly oc¬
curred to Kenneth Wayne. He struck still another
match and searched around on the ground. The man
might have come out here to chuck up the sponge—
sick of it all—not an uncommon end under the circum¬
stances. And then he shook his head sharply. There
wasn’t any weapon here; and, besides, the theory paid
his, Kenneth Wayne’s, intelligence no compliment.
He had heard some one running away immediately
PIECES OF A PUZZLE
after the shot had been fired when he had cailed out
from the path back there.
“Glover!” he said, touching the man.
There was no reply. The man’s eyes were closed.
He was breathing stertorously. Kenneth Wayne
frowned. He was not sure whether it was more the
drink or the wound that was responsible, but the man
was again in a comatose condition—a combination of
the two, probably. But there was something else.
The man presented a bit of a problem. What was to
be done with him—literally? Though the wound was
not serious, murder had nevertheless been attempted.
Whoever had fired that shot would undoubtedly have
fired another on discovering the first had not proved
fatal—if “whoever it was” had not been scared off.
Nicky Fouche for one, was it? Who w’as the Ger¬
man? Stray shot—stray dog! There wasn’t any
doubt about who the stray dog was. What was to be
done? There probably wasn’t a hospital of any kind
in the town. Not the hotel—good God!—with Nicky
Fouche for nurse ! Damn it, it was a bit of a problem.
The man had a hut of his own somewhere—out-of-
the-way—lonely—the kennelling of a stray dog. He
wouldn’t be safe there—just inviting the coup de
grace. Glover wouldn’t be in a position to protect
himself for a few days—helpless—a mark.
Kenneth Wayne tied his handkerchief around the
other’s head; then he sat in the darkness, his knees
drawn up, his hands clasped over them. Then after a
while he unclasped one hand and pulled meditatively
at his lower lip.
“Why not?” said he suddenly to himself. “The
doctor had better see him as a precautionary measure,
but he’s quite all right—quite fit for it. Do him good,
THE LOCKED BOOK
too. Get the hootch out of his system. It wouldn’t
interfere any, either.”
He heard sounds of voices, of footsteps from the
direction of the path. And now his name was called
“. . . Mr. Wayne! . . . Mr. Wayne! . . .”
“This way, Miss Merwood!” he answered back.
There was a thrashing through the undergrowth,
the glimmer of a light; and then, a lantern swinging
in his hand, there appeared the turbaned figure of
Gulab Singh. Close behind the East Indian came
Dorothy Merwood, and behind the girl again there
followed several other men who were evidently
Gulab Singh’s fellow villagers.
The lantern rays fell upon the figure on the ground.
Dorothy Merwood gave a low, startled cry.
“It’s—it’s Glover!” she cried. “Is he—is he-”
“No,” Kenneth Wayne answered quietly. “He’ll
be quite all right in a day or so. There’s nothing to
be alarmed about, Miss Merwood.”
“Oh!” she said. “I’m so glad—so glad!”
She knelt down beside the wounded man.
Kenneth Wayne touched Gulab Singh on the arm.
“Look here, Gulab Singh,” he said in an undertone,
“somebody’s been shooting at him—and will again if
they get the chance. I think that to-morrow Glover
Sahib will be safest with us in the boat—and that
meanwhile wagging tongues are more dangerous than
Gulab Singh’s face was impassive.
“The sahib knows best,” he said simply.
“Yes, in this case, I think I do,” said Kenneth
Wayne. “You can take care of him out here in your
village to-night, can’t you? Without talk?”
PIECES OF A PUZZLE
“If the sahib wills,” Gulab Singh answered gravely.
“Good!” said Kenneth Wayne. “He is not seri¬
ously wounded, but nevertheless I will send the doctor
Gulab Singh shook his head.
“The Doctor Sahib was here to-night,” he said, “on
his way to some villages far back on the island. He
will not return for three days.”
“H’m!” said Kenneth Wayne. “Well, after all, it’s
not at all necessary. It’s merely a flesh wound.
You’ve only to keep it clean and bandaged.”
“In such matters,” replied Gulab Singh, “the sahib
need have no fear.”
“Good!” said Kenneth Wayne again. “Then tell
your men to carry him to the village.”
Gulab Singh gave a low order, and as the men
moved forward to pick up their burden, Dorothy Mer-
wood rose and came to Kenneth Wayne’s side.
“Do you think it is perfectly safe to move him?”
she asked anxiously.
“Yes,” he answered reassuringly, as the little pro¬
cession began to make its way out of the woods. “I’m
quite sure it is, Miss Merwood.”
“But what are you going to do?” she questioned.
“How are you going to get Glover back to the town?”
Kenneth Wayne had her arm and was helping her
through the bush, and for a moment he did not answer.
His mind was in a bit of a turmoil. Dirty business,
this! Queer! Strange! She had a part in it—part
of the problem. As they bent together to pass under
a branch, her hair brushed his cheek. He remem¬
bered a truant wisp of it—back there on the verandah.
Mentally, he swore savagely. Hell of a place for a
girl like—like Dorothy Merwood, with only an invalid
father—in a hotel kept by a man like Nicky Fouche!
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Well?” she prompted. “You haven’t answered
“We’re not going to take him to the town, Miss
Merwood,” he said. “They are going to look after
him in Gulab Singh’s village here.”
“Here!” she exclaimed in surprise. “I—I don’t
quite see why. If it’s safe to move him, the sooner we
get him to the doctor the better.”
“The doctor’s not to be had,” said Kenneth Wayne.
“Gulab Singh says he passed through the village to¬
night—to be gone for three days somewhere in the
They had reached the path. Gulab Singh and his
lantern had halted.
“But we—you can’t leave him here!” she said a
little sharply. “Think of the accommodation—and
no proper attention. And the very fact that Doctor
Pearson cannot be reached would seem to make it all
the more necessary to me that he should be taken to
the hotel, say, where he can be looked after far better
than he could in the village here.”
He was disturbed. How much, for her own sake,
was it wise to tell her?
“Yes, I know,” said Kenneth Wayne quietly; “but
really I think he will be quite as well off here, Miss
In the lantern light he saw a little flush creep into
“I am afraid I cannot agree with you,” she said
stiffly. “But if it is all quite decided, as it seems to
be, then I shall stay too and look after him. I am sure
father will be all right. Will you please tell him, Mr.
“But, Miss Merwood,” protested Kenneth Wayne,
“that’s all nonsense—er”—he stumbled awkwardly
PIECES OF A PUZZLE
before the sudden tilt of the little chin and the cold
stare in the blue eyes—“I—I beg your pardon, I mean
it’s not at all necessary. Really, it isn’t.”
“Indeed?” she said uncompromisingly.
“Oh, look here, Miss Merwood,” he said desper¬
ately, “quite apart from any other consideration, if
you want the frank and brutal truth, Gulab Singh is
a far more proper person to look after him than you
are, for the simple reason that Glover is more drunk
She did not speak for an instant.
“Is that quite true?”
A voice, somewhat feeble, decidedly thick in utter¬
ance, began to intone what sounded like a dirge. The
voice emanated from the burden in the arms of the
natives. A word only here and there was distin¬
“. . . An’ when I . . . don’t bury . . . just pickle
. . . in alcohol . . .”
The flush on Dorothy Merwood’s cheeks deepened.
“Quite,” said Kenneth Wayne.
Dorothy Merwood turned sharply to Gulab Singh.
“Let it be as Wayne Sahib has ordered,” she said.
“Go, Gulab Singh!”
The head with the massive turban bowed in
obeisance; and a moment later Gulab Singh, his men
and their burden had disappeared along the path in
the direction of the village.
— VII —
P LEASE, will you take me back to the hotel, Mr.
With the lantern gone, it was black here in the
pathway under the arched trees. He could not see
her face. Her voice was small and meek, but he had a
suspicion she was smiling—perhaps even laughing at
him. It would be quite like her. That was exactly
what she would do. She had been angry, very angry
with him a moment ago. He knew her quite well. He
had known her a long time. Since dinner! Amazing!
He answered mechanically, as he led the way along
“Yes, all right! Of course, Miss Merwood!”
His mind was suddenly off at a tangent. The night
was like a picture puzzle—an ugly one—with hope¬
lessly scattered pieces. He was confused, anxious,
puzzled, groping mentally for his way as in a maze.
Glover, to begin with, was a queer card. Had the
man heard, been listening to, the conversation, and
for pure deviltry, or for a purpose of his own, played
his part with that wretched doggerel just now—or was
it genuinely the mutterings of semi-consciousness?
What difference did it make? How much should he
tell Dorothy Merwood? That was what had been
bothering him all along. He wasn’t sure Nicky Fouche
had had a hand in this. Nicky Fouche and his Ger¬
man ally might have been talking about something
quite different and far removed from Glover. Piffle!
It was Glover they had been talking about. But he
couldn’t prove it. He didn’t like the idea of Dorothy
Merwood being there at the hotel with Nicky Fouche.
If a man would commit murder— But Glover was
one thing and Dorothy Merwood another. She was
quite safe, it was absurd to think anything else—if
Nicky Fouche did not have reason to suspect that she
knew too much. Now he was coming to it! For her
own sake it was much better to tell her nothing of his
suspicions. It was impossible, of course, to hide the
fact that Dorothy Merwood and himself had been the
ones who had found Glover. Gulab Singh perhaps
might be trusted—but the whole Kling village would
know of it. Still, that would have no significance for
Nicky Fouche. Anybody might have found Glover.
The mere finding of Glover did not associate Nicky
Fouche with the affair as the guilty man. Naturally!
His brows drew together in heavy furrows. There was
another thing. It annoyed him intensely. He hadn’t
come to Salabam to get mixed up in a miserable,
sordid, local affair that had nothing to do with—his
lips twitched suddenly—with Crimson Sash. Nor did
‘ he intend now that it should interfere. He laughed
harshly to himself at that. Interfere! To-morrow
he would be away—and Glover with him. After¬
His mind mulled on, and, furiously at work, un¬
consciously set the pace for his legs. They had left
the path behind them and were out upon the road.
A voice spoke a little breathlessly at his elbow:
“I—I can’t keep up with your seven-league boots,
He slackened his pace instantly.
“Good Lord!” he ejaculated contritely. “I’m
THE LOCKED BOOK
sorry, Miss Merwood. Upon my word, I am. I”—
a trifle lamely—“I was thinking.”
“Yes, you gave me that impression,” she said a little
frigidly. “And I have been wondering if I am not
perhaps entitled to some share of your thoughts.”
“You have had a very large share of them—in fact,
the major share, Miss Merwood,” he said gravely.
“Oh, I didn’t mean that!” she retorted, suddenly
furious. “I mean, Mr. Wayne, that I am not a child.
It may be quite true that Glover was—had been drink¬
ing too much, but the fact nevertheless remains that
somebody shot him—tried to murder him.”
“Yes,” Kenneth Wayne answered. “And it has been
a beastly experience for you. That has been con¬
stantly in my mind, Miss Merwood; and I have been
trying to think out the best thing to do. I was just
going to suggest that we say nothing about it until
to-morrow, except, of course, what you may see fit to
tell your father.”
“Nothing about it?”
She stood still in the middle of the road; and in the
lighter, moon-flecked spaces here, he saw amazement
and a hint of indignation in her face.
Kenneth Wayne shrugged his shoulders.
“There are no police here, are there, to be set at
once upon the trail before it grows cold?” he asked
She began to walk on again.
“No,” she said, “there are no police; but—but I
do not understand you, Mr. Wayne.”
“I mean,” said Kenneth Wayne simply, “that
nothing is lost by a little delay; and, on the other hand,
it may mean a good deal to Glover. In a word, Miss
Merwood, somebody tried, as you say, to murder him.
The man’s peculiar habits render him an easy prey to a
second attempt. Our presence to-night, I think, pre-
vented—excuse me if I speak bluntly—the job from
being finished on the spot. Now, whoever fired that
shot ran away before he could have ascertained what
the actual result of it was. I do not think he would
dare return there to-night under the circumstances,
and until he hears something about it he may even
think it took fatal effect. And so you see if nothing is
said now it sort of guarantees Glover’s safety for
to-night—and to-morrow I have told Gulab Singh to
bring him along with me on the trip.”
She made no comment—only walked a little faster.
Glancing at her he saw the colour come and go from
her cheeks, and that she was biting at her lips.
“Do you agree, Miss Merwood?” he asked quietly.
She looked up at him, and a smile, sudden, quick
and demure, was in her eyes.
“You know I do,” she said. “But I’m not going to
say I’m sorry, or that I think you’re splendid—because
I really think you’re just a man-brute all the same.”
“I’d much rather you’d put it that way,” he laughed.
They went on down the road, and yet, strangely,
with the entente re-established, they walked for a long
time in silence.
It was Kenneth Wayne who at last spoke abruptly.
“I suppose there are a number of Germans here in
Salabam?” he said.
Dorothy Merwood shook her head.
“I don’t think so,” she answered. “Not since the
war. At least, I do not know of any.” And then,
archly: “What a ridiculous attempt at conversation!”
“Yes; isn’t it?” he smiled. “Well, it’s your turn
They had turned into the main street of the town,
and were approaching the hotel. She nodded in the
direction of the hotel porch where two men were
sitting in chairs tilted back against the wall.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“I shall be quite as original,” she said. “That man
sitting there beside Monsieur Fouche is Mr. Walters,
the Englishman from Manchester, I was speaking
“Oh!” said Kenneth Wayne. “Really?”
His eyes were on the two men, who had risen now
and were lifting their pith helmets in salute. Mr.
Walters was smiling at Dorothy Merwood—kept
smiling at her—something that jarred in it—as
though hungry—as though the man were on the point
of licking his lips. It was in the man’s eyes, too.
Kenneth Wayne glanced quickly at the girl. She
was apparently unconscious of it. He returned the
salute of the two men calmly, and passed on into the
hotel with his companion.
Upstairs on the verandah, Dorothy Merwood held
out her hand.
“Good-night, Mr. Wayne,” she said. “I-” And
then suddenly her face was thoughtful, and the blue
eyes grave, and her voice was low. “As it is now,
Mr. Wayne, you cannot go to-morrow without letting
me know what-”
“I won’t,” he promised.
He was still holding her hand.
She made no effort to withdraw it, but now she was
as suddenly all laughter again, and roguishness was in
“Good-night, Mr. Wayne,” she said.
He knew that a flush was on his cheek. He told
himself that his mind had been engrossed with that
Englishman from Manchester. And then, as he found
himself stammering awkwardly in reply, he was aware
that a slim little figure in white was disappearing around
the corner of the verandah, and that he was alone.
He went slowly to his room, and, locking the door,
lighted a lamp. He looked at his watch. It was eleven
o’clock. He had been eight hours in Salabam. As he
undressed he smiled a little grimly. He was not at
all sure that his advent had been auspicious. It seemed
as though, in spite of himself, he was being dragged
into some infernal machination that was not only
utterly foreign to his own interests, but seemed bent
on interfering with him, waylaying him on his road,
like Fate in ambush, as it were, juggling with him.
Mr. Walters, the Englishman from Manchester, for
instance, when he had risen from his chair to bow to
Dorothy Merwood downstairs, had almost clicked his
heels together! So! Mr. Waiters and Monsieur
Nicholas Fouche! That was the alliance, was it—the
German and the French of it!
And then there was Dorothy Merwood.
He blew out the light, and got into bed. After a
moment his hand under the pillow clenched into a
There was Old Man Wayne—and Crimson Sash.
. . . The rest was none of his affair. . . . He
would be off in the morning. . . •
His fist was still clenched under the pillow when he
But he was not to sleep through the night undis¬
turbed. He awoke in the darkness with the conscious¬
ness that some one was knocking softly on his door.
“Who’s there?” he called.
“Sahib,” a voice answered, “it is Gulab Singh.”
Kenneth Wayne sprang out of bed and opened the
“What the devil brings you here at this hour?” he
demanded crossly and but half awake, as the moon¬
light fell on the turbaned head and impassive features
of the East Indian.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Sahib,” Gulab Singh replied unemotionally, “it is
to tell you that Glover Sahib has gone.”
Kenneth Wayne stared.
“Gone!” he ejaculated. “What do you mean—
“That I do not know, sahib.” Gulab Singh extended
his hands helplessly. “I sat beside him and I thought
he slept. I left his side for but a few minutes. When
I returned Glover Sahib had gone. It is less than an
hour ago, sahib.”
“Gone—eh?” Kenneth Wayne was not in a good
humour. “Playing ’possum with you, was he—and
walked out? That’s what I thought he was doing out
there on the path when he began to sing. I’m sure of
“It is even so, sahib, as I see it,” agreed Gulab
“I’m damned!” said Kenneth Wayne. “Well
there’s nothing to do, is there?”
“That is for the sahib to say,” replied Gulab Singh
gravely. “I did not know if the sahib still desired to
go now without Glover Sahib, or whether he would
Fate juggling again in ambush, was it! Kenneth
Wayne’s face hardened. He knew a sudden, fierce
“Not for a dozen Glover Sahibs—if that’s his
game!” he said savagely. “We go as it has been
arranged, Gulab Singh.”
“It is well, sahib,” said Gulab Singh.
The man seemed to fade into the night—silently—
like a shadow.
Kenneth Wayne closed the door and returned to
But it was a long time before he fell asleep again.
— VIII —
WHERE NO MAN LIVED
T HERE was an awning at the stern of the boat,
and under this Kenneth Wayne, as he smoked,
lay outstretched. At his feet, in a sort of little
cockpit, Gulab Singh squatted on his haunches,
motionless. Forward, six Malays tugged at as many
oars. Astern, the little town of Salabam was just
disappearing from view behind the headland at the
end of the bay.
Kenneth Wayne raised himself on his elbows for a
last glimpse of the place, stared at it indeed until
the headland completely shut it out, and then dropped
back to his former position. He half closed his eyes
and frowned heavily. Queer business, that of Glover
—dashed queer! What was the man’s game ? He had
quite agreed with Dorothy Merwood, who had been
uncommonly upset over the fellow’s disappearance,
that authority in the person of Major Peters should be
informed of what had happened. Not that he had
considered it would amount to much in results—but
the proper thing to do, of course. He had seen
Major Peters himself. Irritable sort of a brute!
Liver, of course! Too long in the islands. Didn’t
rank Glover of much account: “Wasters like Glover
were a disgrace to the community. . . . No credit to
their race, sir. . . . Bad effect on the natives. . . .
Too many of them.”
Quite so! Kenneth Wayne watched a spiral of
THE LOCKED BOOK
smoke curl upward from his cigarette. He had not,
however, told Major Peters about the Franco-German
alliance. Ethically, he might have been wrong in that.
Perhaps he was—but nevertheless he had said nothing
about it. There had seemed to be a dozen good
reasons why he shouldn’t, and no very cogent single
reason why he should. In the first place, while he was
perfectly satisfied himself that it was either Nicky
Fouche or Mr. Walters, the Englishman from Man¬
chester, who had fired the shot, he had not a shred of
actual proof—nothing on which any action could be
taken against them. They had even been sitting on
the hotel porch when he had returned with Dorothy
Merwood. An alibi or two up their sleeves, of course 1
He smiled grimly. A wily pair of birds! He couldn’t
have had them apprehended on what he had to offer;
and it came down then to a question, ethical again, of
making an accusation for the sake of a certain amount
of protection it might possibly afford Glover. But
Glover, he had a very good idea, knew a lot more
about who had fired that shot than he pretended, and
Glover had elected, rather coolly and unceremoniously,
it would seem, to look out for himself. There were
other reasons. He did not, in a moral sense, rank
his own affairs above his obligations to society and
duty, but it was too serious a matter for him at the
outset to saddle himself with a couple of implacable
and unscrupulous enemies in Salabam if justice, for
instance, gained nothing by it. And then there was
Dorothy Merwood. It would have been deucedly
awkward for her back there in the hotel— dangerous,
perhaps, was the better word. A pair of human
jackals parading honesty was one thing; exposed, and
with their teeth bared, they became quite another His
hand clenched suddenly. Damn it, he didn’t like the
WHERE NO MAN LIVED
look that swine Walters, whose name should be pro¬
nounced as though spelt with a “V,” had given
Dorothy Merwood last night!
His eyes shifted from his cigarette to the back of
Gulab Singh’s turbaned head. Dashed queer, as he
had said! The whole thing was dashed queer, and,
now that he came to think of it, it was dashed queer
He raised himself suddenly on his elbow again.
“Gulab Singh,” he said abruptly, “how did you
know where my room was at four o’clock in the
Gulab Singh turned and regarded him gravely.
“Sahib,” he said, “I awoke one of the hotel boys.”
Kenneth Wayne subsided on his back once more.
He felt as though he had been rebuked—for child¬
He was tired of thinking about Glover. Why the
devil should he, anyhow? His glance travelled for¬
ward now to the Malays at the oars.
“These are good men you’ve got, Gulab Singh,” he
said approvingly. “They row well together. I had
rather expected you would have had your own men
from your village instead of Malays.”
“Sahib,” Gulab Singh answered, “these men are
better in a boat; and, as the sahib knows, we go
amongst their people and not mine. It is well, I think,
sahib, that it should be so.”
“Right!” said Kenneth Wayne promptly. “I name
you Gulab Efficiency Singh!”
“It pleases the sahib perhaps to laugh at me,” said
“Not a bit of it!” returned Kenneth Wayne heartily.
“You’re a man in a thousand. Not a hitch. No fuss.
Everything ready to start at the hour named. I like
THE LOCKED BOOK
that. And now about this Cheruchuk River. I haven’t
had much chance to talk to you > but I think you said
before starting that it wasn’t very far and that we
should make it this evening?”
“Yes, sahib,” Gulab Singh replied. “At an hour
before dark we shall be at the mouth of the river,
where, if the sahib wills, we will make camp for the
Kenneth Wayne nodded.
“There’s a village there, I suppose?”
“No, sahib,” said Gulab Singh. “Once there was
a great village there, but now there has been none for
many years. The mind of those living does not go
back to the time. It is a tale that is told, sahib.”
“Tell it then, Gulab Singh,” said Kenneth Wayne.
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh, “thus it is that I have
heard the tale. Once at the mouth of the river was a
strong village with great stockades around it, and up
the river on both banks were other villages, and all
villages had stockades, and it was even so until the
river entered a lagoon at a distance it would take a
fast rowing proa two hours to reach from the sea.
Sahib, they who lived in the villages were pirates, and
their leader was a great chief who was called the
Rajah Kana-ee-a. And then, sahib, there came a
mighty trembling of the earth and the lagoon was
split in twain, and there rushed down the river the
waters of the lagoon, and from the sea there arose a
great wave to meet the down-rush of waters, and
there were no more villages, and only a few escaped.
And since then, sahib, what was left has been rotting
with the years, and no man dwells there.”
“But the lagoon,” said Kenneth Wayne, “is that
“Sahib, there is no longer any lagoon.”
WHERE NO MAN LIVED 89
“The Miss Sahib spoke of one,” said Kenneth
“Yes, sahib,” Gulab Singh answered; “but that is
another one. Far up where the river begins, sahib.
It is a three days’ journey in the boat. Does the
sahib deem it easier to find gold where there are
Kenneth Wayne smiled at the unconscious irony in
“No; not necessarily,” he said calmly. “Perhaps we
shall not go up the river at all. We will see after we
have camped to-night. I can tell better when I have
had a look at the place.”
“The sahib has only to command,” said Gulab Singh
Kenneth Wayne lapsed into silence. So that was
why it was called the “Stockade” River. He was a
little disappointed—and now completely disinterested.
Where there was no village, there was no gold—of
the kind he sought! They would camp there to-night,
and he would make a pretence of examining the rocks
for quartz, and then they would push on along the
coast—where there were villages.
He listened now to the chatter of the Malays at the
oars. It was the little talk of the little circle in which
they lived. They would probably have discussed him,
serene in the belief that he would have understood
nothing of what they said, had it not been for the
restraining presence of Gulab Singh. It would perhaps
have been amusing, and he would undoubtedly have
heard some plain truths about himself which he might
have swallowed as he would—much of the sort that
children so ingenuously and gratuitously offer to their
elders. In a sense they were children ... his face
THE LOCKED BOOK
of a sudden hardened . - . but they would better
never have been born!
The mood passed. Protected from the sun, it was
cool under the awning in the light breeze. He began
to hum softly under his breath. There seemed some¬
how to be a haunting lilt to the air he hummed. He
hummed it over and over again without consciously
recognising it. And then, presently, words seemed to
fit themselves quite naturally into the rhythm and
. . Devon . . . Glorious Devon . .
He stopped abruptly as though taken aback. That
was the song Dorothy Merwood had been singing on
the verandah yesterday. Well, what of it? She had
a corking voice—and it was a corking song. He’d get
her to sing it again, for that matter.
He clasped his hands behind his head, and stared
up at the awning. A piquant little face, very charm¬
ingly so, a face of quick changing expression, now all
a-ripple with laughter and roguish merriment, now
grave and sober like a cloud-shadow suddenly thrown
on a sunlit sea, visualised itself before him. He stared
very hard at the awning. He could not remember
ever having met a girl quite like Dorothy Merwood
before. Her laughter was as something that she
seemed to love, that was very dear to her, but it did
not rob her of a deep-seated seriousness equally
sincere, nor this latter in turn deprive her of the joy
of living. The kind one could trust. He liked her
hair with the glint of gold in it. Her eyes could be
very angry—as well as soft. Blue eyes particularly
had that faculty. She had been a brick in that affair
last night. Not a nice thing for a girl. No hysterics
or anything of that sort. Cool—plenty of nerve. She
should have been a man.
WHERE NO MAN LIVED
He sat up with a jerk.
“No—good God—no!” he ejaculated aloud.
Gulab Singh turned around.
“The sahib spoke?” he asked.
“It was nothing,” said Kenneth Wayne; “nothing,
He lay back again, frowning now. His thoughts
had been errant. He was a little surprised, puzzled
somewhat, that he should have been so completely en¬
grossed of late with people and events which had ab¬
solutely nothing to do with what was, in the last
analysis, the paramount object in his life now. But
instantly he shook his head. Why should it puzzle
him? It was but natural. He was not fanatical in
this thing he had set out to do. He was not running
amuck. It was a pledge to be kept—a pledge to Old
Man Wayne. He would keep it without any fuss. He
might be killed. Quite possible. In that case it was
at an end; otherwise he would go on—that was all
there was to it. But because in the meantime he
joined in the smiles of others, or experienced likes
and dislikes for those with whom he came in contact,
or took an interest in what went on around him,
especially when extraordinary happenings such as last
night were involved, it did not mean that he was
either breaking faith with Old Man Wayne, if he
could put it that way, or that it was an evidence of
weakening resolve even though he might physically
still be carrying on—as he was doing now—at this
Queer thoughts! . . . Strange! . . . There was
only one ending . . . Crimson Sash. . . ,
The cigarette between his lingers crumpled and
broke. He saw a foredeck ladder jammed with ugly
naked things out of the pit of hell—mad with blood
THE LOCKED BOOK
lust. And there stared up at him from under tram¬
pling feet upon that ladder a white man’s face—the
face of a man who had died that another might live.
Lucky push. . . . Oh, God!
He turned suddenly on his face, and, with it buried
in his hands, lay motionless.
And, lying there, the afternoon passed in silence
until at the end Gulab Singh touched him respectfully
upon the shoulder.
“The sahib has slept long,” said Gulab Singh. “See
here is the river.”
And Kenneth Wayne, who had not slept, nodded as
he sat up.
“Right!” he said.
The boat, turning in from the coast line, was begin¬
ning to skirt the near bank of a stream which here, at
its mouth, was perhaps half a mile in width, and
Kenneth Wayne, as he stared at the shore, nodded his
head again. If this had once been the site of a village,
all trace of it had certainly long since been obliterated
for the shore was dense with foliage and vegetation,
save for a little stretch of sand ahead with a slightly
more open space behind it—a good place for the
night’s camp—toward which the boat was heading.
Kenneth Wayne stretched himself. He would be
glad to get his feet on land, though the prospect
wasn’t particularly inviting—what he could see of it.
And then suddenly his eyes, from roving aimlessly
around him, held, as he caught sight of it, upon a thin
grey wreath of smoke rising from amongst the tree9
and apparently quite some little distance inland from
the shore. In view of what Gulab Singh had said this
was rather curious, for it could hardly be due to some
other party journeying either up or down the river and
making camp for the night, since in that case, rather
WHERE NO MAN LIVED
than invite the labour of forcing a way into what
looked like little less than a jungle, the camp would
logically have been pitched on the shore itself. He
turned to Gulab Singh. Gulab Singh was staring at
the same object.
The boat grounded on the beach.
“I thought you said this place had been deserted for
years, Gulab Singh,” said Kenneth Wayne, pointing
to the smoke; “that, as you put it, no man dwells
“Even so, sahib,” Gulab Singh answered in a
puzzled way. “And even so I believed. For so it
was as the tale ran.”
He turned to the Malays and began to question
Kenneth Wayne listened to their replies. He waited
patiently and quite blank of face for the translation
which he could have made with far more facility
“No man has lived here, sahib, in their knowledge
for all the years of that tale which I told you,” said
Gulab Singh. “They say that when the death-water
of the spirits came in anger upon the place it left the
ground accursed and no longer good to dwell upon.”
“Which means, I suppose,” said Kenneth Wayne
quietly, “that with the lagoon gone, which was a sort
of natural dam, and the banks being low and flat, the
ground becomes more or less of a swamp in the rainy
season and when the river is high.”
“Mayhap that is true,” replied Gulab Singh
thoughtfully. “I do not know, sahib.”
Kenneth Wayne stepped ashore.
“Well, there’s some one here now anyhow,” Fe said
coolly. “And under the circumstances the unknown
inhabitant ought to be distinctly worth while. That
THE LOCKED BOOK
smoke can’t be more than a quarter of a mile away at
the outside, and I’ll take a look-see while you are
“As the sahib wills,” said Gulab Singh. “But it is
not well that he should go alone. I do not need all
the men for the making of the camp. Let him take
two. They will make a path for him; and, as the
sahib knows, three are stronger than one. Also, sahib,
if it be those of their own people who are here and in
whose tongue the sahib is dumb, they will speak for
Kenneth Wayne nodded.
“Yes, perhaps you’re right,” he agreed. “Send ’em
— IX —
ITU KONCHI-KAN KITAB
K ENNETH WAYNE crossed the little stretch
of sand to the fringe of the trees; and here the
two Malays detailed by Gulab Singh took the
lead and began to force a way for him through the
woods. It was not easy. The ground was very
soggy, the undergrowth thick with tough and en¬
tangling creepers, the trees and branches close to¬
gether, the latter annoyingly low and intertwined.
Once, underfoot, he thought he detected the remains
of one of the old stockades—a few small tree trunks,
rotten, that crumbled to the touch, and that from a
certain uniformity in which they still lay upon the
ground might once have been posts.
But after what he judged to be a distance of some
two hundred yards, the woods began to thin abruptly;
so much so, in fact, that the belt of extremely thick
growth through which he had just passed, suggested
a stockade in itself. The idea intrigued him, for some
of the trees must have been very old. He wondered,
with a grim smile, if it were not more than merely a
freak of nature that had been at work here in the days
gone by to form a screen, quite innocent in appearance,
serving both as a source of defence and a trap for the
unwary, and behind which had been hidden one of the
piratical and marauding villages of Gulab Singh’s
And a few minutes later he became quite convinced
THE LOCKED BOOK
that this was so. He was standing in what was, com¬
paratively, a clearing of considerable extent. The
undergrowth was still wild, thick, tangled, luxuriant,
but there were scarcely any trees, while still plainly in
evidence, though for the most part mere heaps of
decay overrun with vegetation, were to be seen the
ruins of native huts—though here and there yet re¬
mained a few that, even in their dissolution, were
more upstanding. And it was from one of these
latter, over at the extreme opposite end of the clear¬
ing, that, rising straight upward in the still air, he
caught sight again of the thin column of grey smoke
he had noticed from the shore.
He made his way forward in that direction, the
Malays following behind him now, chattering in low
tones to each other. He could not catch any more
than fragments of what they said:
“. . . Here surely had been one of the villages of
the great Rajah Kana-ee-a. ... It was as their
fathers had told them. . . . The smoke was not to
be understood. ... It would be better if the white
man went more carefully. . . . Who could tell what
was the meaning of that smoke? . . .”
He paid no further attention to them. He reached
the hut without having seen any one, or having heard
any sound. But now as he stood for a moment in
front of it he frowned a little in perplexity. It was
a bit queer! A most strange place of habitation! The
hut could hardly be said to be still standing. It had
fallen from the upright posts upon which, like most
Malay houses, it had originally been built, and the
walls, what were left of them, canted at many perilous
and unsafe angles. Also, he could see that, save for
a very small and sagging portion in front, and this
quite rotten, the roof was entirely gone.
ITU KONCHI-KAN KITAB
Kenneth Wayne peered in now through the opening
that had once evidently been the doorway. And then
suddenly he rubbed his eyes in utter amazement, and
stepped inside. At the back of the hut on the floor,
or, rather, on the ground, where there was no longer
any roof above or wall behind, two huge earthenware
bowls, apparently filled with damp leaves or burning
vegetation of some sort, emitted thick columns of
smoke that spiralled together as they rose in the air.
Behind these bowls were two grotesque, crude and
quite hideous, wooden, squatting idols, some three feet
in height, whose arms, extended to meet each other,
supported between them an object of apparently still
greater worship, for this latter had two little bowls
of smoke incense all to itself which were suspended
from the idols’ arms. Kenneth Wayne, from where
he stood a few paces away, could not quite make out
through the smoke just what this object was, but it
appeared to have some sort of a dragon scroll upon
it and to be in shape much like a book.
There was a half whimsical, half grim little smile on
his lips, as he stepped nearer and picked up this
object of peculiar adoration from its weird and bar¬
baric altar. He was probably committing a sacrilege
unforgivable and of great enormity. Undoubtedly!
For he heard quick and smothered ejaculations from
the two Malays, who, having followed him inside
the hut, now stood behind him. They were staring
in a sort of incredulous wonder, a wonder mingled
with suppressed excitement, at the object in his hand.
He stared at it now, too. It was a book—quite a
large book. In size it reminded him of the old
family Bible at home. And it was a most curious
book. It was bound in leather, spotted, mildewed
and worn in spots; and the whole was covered with
THE LOCKED BOOK
an open-work design of a dragon in thick, solid brass,
very strong and heavy, turned greenish-coloured now,
evidently with age.
“Itu Konchi-kan Kitab!” he heard one of the
Malays whisper breathlessly.
What did they mean by that?—“The Locked Book.”
He turned it over. Yes, it was locked. He could not
open it. But there did not seem to be any lock on it.
Perhaps a spring clasp, then? No. Ah, he had it
now! The dragon’s tail and the dragon’s mouth met
over the edges of the cover, and the tail was solidly
brazed into the mouth. He could not move the covers
by the fraction of an inch, nor could-
A scream, wild, demoniacal, rang suddenly and
without warning almost in his ears, it seemed. And
on the instant, quick—quick as the winking of an eye
—the book was snatched from his hands. He was
conscious that the gaunt, stark-naked figure of a man,
a native, with long, matted hair, with shrieking lips,
with eyes that blazed in a demented way, had bounded
in through the broken wall of the hut, and, snatching
the book to hug it tightly to a bony breast, had
bounded back through the opening, still screaming in
rage and fury, and was now running for the woods,
close at hand again here at this end of the clearing,
and where almost instantly he disappeared.
“Good God!” gasped Kenneth Wayne helplessly.
He looked at the Malays. They had drawn back
toward the front of the hut and stood close together,
startled, shaken, their eyes riveted on the opening
through which had come and gone what had indeed
seemed like little less than an apparition. What the
devil did it all mean? They had appeared to recog¬
nise the book—called it “The Locked Book.” But he
could not question them. He was not supposed to
ITU KONCHI-KAN KITAB
know a w r ord of their language, much less to have
understood what they had said.
For a moment he stood hesitant. Then he motioned
the Malays out of the hut, and, following them,
started on the way back to camp. He had found out
what the smoke meant—some wild devotee with un¬
hinged mind, a mad hermit worshipping a dragon-
covered book. He was a bit sorry he had desecrated
the poor creature’s shrine. Rather curious, though,
that Itu Konchi-kan Kitab! The two Malays weren’t
talking very much now, and then only in low voices.
He couldn’t catch anything they said. He would
question them, of course—through Gulab Singh.
Some native superstition or other—they were all full
of that sort of thing.
He walked on at a sharp pace, but the light was
fading before he reached the camp. Here he found
his small tent—part of the Merwoods’ equipment—
already pitched, and his personal belongings, a canvas
kit bag, a leather valise and his gun case, deposited
inside. A meal was in process of cooking over the fire.
He called Gulab Singh to him.
“We found a ruined hut over there,” he said con¬
versationally, “and inside there were two idols and
a book covered with the brass design of a dragon
whose mouth and tail fastened the book together so
that it could not be opened. The smoke was the
incense from burning leaves. I picked up the book
from where it lay on the idols’ arms to examine it,
and a native, naked as the day he was born, rushed
in and seized the book from me, and ran screaming
away into the woods again. The man was insane, I
believe, and that I can understand—a madman’s
worship of it be no matter what. But the two men
THE LOCKED BOOK
with me seemed to recognise the book. Ask them
about it, Gulab Singh. I am curious.”
Gulab Singh for a moment remained thoughtful.
“All this is very strange, sahib,” he said slowly at
last. “A book that is covered in brass like a dragon,
and that cannot be opened because of the tail and the
mouth which fastens it together. It is in my mind that
in the tale of Kana-ee-a and the trembling of the
earth and the uprising of the waters that I related to
the sahib there is also such a book spoken of. But,
sahib, I do not know these tales as the men of their
own land know them. As the sahib has ordered, I
will speak to them.”
The two Malays had joined the others around the
fire. Kenneth Wayne with Gulab Singh beside him
walked over to them. The whole group appeared
greatly excited. Gulab Singh began to question the
two men—and again, appearing only to gain an inkling
of what was said from the expression of their faces
and the gestures that they made, Kenneth Wayne
stood by and listened. And at the end Gulab Singh,
for the second time that evening, translated some¬
what imperfectly what had already been very perfectly
“Sahib,” he said, “it is as I thought. It is such a
book, as the tale goes, that the Rajah Kana-ee-a was
said to have. For many years he fought in many
places, and took much booty from the white men’s
ships, and so much wealth did he amass, and in so
many places, that he could not take it from place to
place, and therefore much of it he hid in the different
islands, and in such treasure he became rich beyond the
wealth of any other man. So it is told, sahib, and so
it is believed. And that he might find again when he
would these treasures, he fashioned a book locked
ITU KONCHI-KAN KITAB
with the mouth and tail of a dragon, and on the pages
of this book he wrote down the secrets of where the
treasures were concealed. And no man might open
the book, sahib, not even himself, except by the cutting
of the dragon’s tail; and when he himself opened it
to write within another hiding place of treasure, the
book was locked once more by the fusing together of
the metals. That is the tale, sahib. The body of the
Rajah Kana-ee-a was found washed up on the ocean
shore many miles from here when death came with
the trembling of the earth and the flood of waters,
but the book was never found. Men searched for it,
sahib, until they died, and after them their sons, until,
with the passing of the years men searched no longer,
though all, even as these men here, knew the tale.”
Kenneth Wayne stared at the restless group of
Malays around the fire, and found every pair of eyes
fixed upon him. He stared at the great turbaned
head of Gulab Singh. All this was bizarre. Dorothy
Merwood had already dubbed Gulab Singh a Grand
Vizier, and he himself had likened the man to the
figure in his fairy book elongating itself from the
mouth of the jar as it escaped from enchantment.
The Arabian Nights in real life! This tale of the
buccaneering Rajah Kana-ee-a of many years ago, with
his book of treasure secrets, might well have been one
told by Shahrazad herself. He could imagine it all as
a legend, embellished and enlarged upon as it passed
from mouth to mouth, the imaginative faculties of
those who related it adding a picturesque detail here
and there, for Malaysia was indeed, he knew, a land
of legends by which great store was set; but beyond
this as a mere legend, as far as he was concerned, it
was hard to go. A book that no living man had ever
seen, that was supposed to have existed, and that dis-
THE LOCKED BOOK
appeared with the death of its possessor some two
generations or more ago, to turn up now—here!
And yet there was a sense of reality about it, too—
one that would not be denied. The legendary ac¬
count, and that all the more amazing for the span of
years it bridged, coincided in every particular with
the description of “the locked book” that had now
been metamorphosed into a pagan deity, or at least
symbolised one, and as such was being worshipped by
a naked and demented savage. In brief, he had seen
“Gulab Singh,” he said in a puzzled way, “what
do you make of it? These men, I suppose, believe it
is the original book?”
“Yes, sahib; they say that it is surely so.”
Gulab Singh remained silent for a moment.
“It is in my mind, sahib,” he said slowly, “that the
book as the sahib has told of it is like unto the one
that has come down in the mouths of men since the
time of Kana-ee-a. How, O sahib, could there be two
“True,” said Kenneth Wayne. “But, granting its
existence in the first place, it’s incredible that it should
turn up here after all these years.”
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh gravely, “we travel upon
the Wheel, and strange is Fate. What is written is
written. If it be here that the Kitab should come
again to the eyes of men, who shall gainsay it?”
“Oh, yes, that’s right enough, I suppose,” said
Kenneth Wayne. “If it was ever to come to light
again, it had to come to light somewhere. Well,
anyway, the matter’s easily settled. It’s dark now,
and there’s no use going back there to-night. If he
heard us coming he’d probably only take to the woods
ITU KONCHI-KAN KITAB
again, and we’d never find him. I don’t know whether
it was fear or fanatical fury that possessed him the
more. We’ll go over in the morning and see if we
can’t pacify the chap, and get him to let us have a look
at the book. It is evident, at any rate, that to him it
means only a sacred object of worship—a god of some
sort, on account of the dragon, I fancy—for certainly
it has not been opened.”
Gulab Singh inclined his head.
“It is well, sahib,” he said; “and as the sahib
directs, so shall it be done.”
With a gesture, as though dismissing the entire
matter, Kenneth Wayne turned away from the fire¬
“Bring me food, Gulab Singh,” he said, and walked
back to his tent.
But the matter was not to be so easily dismissed.
He could not shake it from his thoughts. It clung
persistently. It was with him when he turned in for
the night. He even summed it up aloud—rather
unsatisfactorily—just before he fell asleep.
“Damned queer yarn, that!” said Kenneth Wayne
— X —
THE KEEPER OF THE BOOK
K ENNETH WAYNE slept heavily—but not
restfully. It was a night of dreams—a toilsome
night. He worked very hard—Gulab Singh
was a hard taskmaster. At first they went in a boat
over a great expanse of water until they came to a
gloomy and forbidding shore; and then they began to
walk vast distances, now through almost impenetrable
forests, now over what seemed unscalable mountain
heights, and now through valleys and ravines, and now
they crawled on hands and knees through long, dark
caverns that went down into the bowels of the earth.
And always Gulab Singh carried a book that had a
dragon on it. And always they seemed to be followed
though nothing took shape behind them. And some¬
times they ran from this thing that followed them
until he thought they had eluded it, and then he was
conscious that it was still there and still watching them.
And sometimes they overturned huge boulders and
dug beneath them because Gulab Singh said it was
written in the book that what they sought was there.
But there was never anything beneath the boulders.
And they went on, and on, and on, and always Gulab
Singh’s monstrous turban led the way, and always the
stealthy, unseen thing that followed was near at hand.
And finally, through a strange passage hewn out of
solid rock, whose walls were of such enormous height
that the top could not be seen, they came to a sub-
THE KEEPER OF THE BOOK
terranean lagoon, and because the book was a magical
talisman they could walk under the water; and here
they came upon a magnificent chamber that was filled
with chests of gold, and great heaps of jewelry and
precious stones, and priceless cloths of great beauty,
and wondrous treasures of all kinds. And Gulab
Singh kept calling out to him to gather these together.
But he did not do so because, looking down on them
from above through the transparent water as through
a window, he could see a man’s face that was full of
sardonic humour, a face that he knew—and then he
knew who it was who had been following them because
that was Crimson Sash up there. And Gulab Singh
kept on calling out—calling out—calling out-
Kenneth Wayne sat suddenly upright. Gulab Singh
was calling out. The turbaned head filled the entrance
to the tent.
“Well, what’s up?” growled Kenneth Wayne
sleepily. “It’s beastly early yet, isn’t it?”
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh, “it is barely dawn, but
I have ill news. In the night all the stores have been
stolen. There remains nothing, even so much as I
could carry in the hollow of my hand—only the boat.”
“What’s that!” exclaimed Kenneth Wayne sharply.
He jumped to his feet and began to fling himself into
his clothes. “All right,” he jerked out; “I’ll be there
in a second!”
It was just getting light as he stepped outside the
tent. The Malays, a little way off on the beach,
seemed to be huddled together in an awe-struck,
frightened group. Gulab Singh stood waiting for
him a pace away. He stared into Gulab Singh’s face
—it was nearer to showing emotion than he had ever
thought it capable of—it mirrored a sort of help¬
less and dumfounded anxiety.
106 THE LOCKED BOOK
“Now, then!” he snapped. “You’re sure of this,
Gulab Singh spread out his hands.
“The sahib has only to look,” he said. He bowed
his head. “And, sahib, I am ashamed.”
“Never mind about that,” said Kenneth Wayne
tersely. “When did you find it out?”
“But a little while ago, sahib, when I awoke. But
first we searched in all directions before I brought
the news to the sahib.”
“And the men, there—what do they say?”
“No man heard anything through the night, sahib.
They say the place is accursed.”
“Accursed nothing!” said Kenneth Wayne savagely.
“But it’s a bit thick—by God!” His eyes fell on the
boat. “Left that, eh? And took all the provisions
and stores! A rather broad hint, I’d say, to vacate the
premises—what? Well, I don’t imagine we’ll have
far to look for the thief, or the stores either. It’s
probably that mad devotee whose shrine I violated
yesterday; and he’s taken a very effective way of
telling us he doesn’t want us around here.” He smiled
grimly. “We’ll go over there a little earlier than we
intended, Gulab Singh. In fact, we’ll breakfast with
him, since we no longer have any of our own here.”
“It may well be that the sahib is right,” said Gulab
Singh earnestly. “Does the sahib mean that we go at
“Yes—at once,” Kenneth Wayne answered crisply.
“And the men, sahib—shall all go?”
“No,” said Kenneth Wayne. “Leave one man
here to look after what’s left—my tent and belongings.
Take all the rest—the fellow has probably hidden our
things as well as himself, and there’ll be a bit of
searching to do. Come along, now! Follow me!”
THE KEEPER OF THE BOOK
He turned abruptly, and, striking into the woods,
began to break his way through the thick belt of
growth in the direction of the mad fanatic’s hut. He
was angry, incensed, and in no gentle mood. He was
perfectly convinced that the mad fool was the author
of the theft, but he was not at all convinced that he
would ever see the man, or, what was far more vital,
any of the stores again. If he were right, the man
would keep under cover and the stores would be hidden
with all a madman’s craftiness. It was a serious
matter. Without provisions he could not continue
the trip, and it would be a case of going back to
Salabam to replenish. It would not have been im¬
possible, or even difficult, for one man to have got
away with all the stores, given a night to do it in.
Leaving out the tent and his, Kenneth Wayne’s, per¬
sonal baggage, there were only the provisions, and
these consisted solely of the essentials and were in
small, compact and not over-many packages—
especially packed, in fact, to facilitate handling. There
could be no question on that score. He swore aloud.
“Damn the old idiot and his infernal book!” he
He broke through into the clearing. There was no
smoke—no incense rising from the shrine this morn¬
ing! Exactly what he had expected! The man had
decamped. He heard the Malays chattering behind
him. They were commenting on the same fact. And
now Gulab Singh brought it to his attention.
“So, I see!” said Kenneth Wayne curtly. “And
I’ve an idea breakfast isn’t ready here, either.” And
then, still more curtly: “Make a dash for it! If he’s
there and hasn’t seen us, don’t give him a chance to
get out of reach!”
He was running now with Gulab Singh and the
THE LOCKED BOOK
Malays at his heels. He crossed the intervening
space, watching as he ran, but saw no sign of life or
movement from the hut. Then, panting and a little
breathless, he drew up, not before the opening that
evidenced the existence of what had once been a door¬
way, but at the rear where, with the walls and roof
crumbled away, the madman’s shrine stood, as it were,
in the open air, and such as might be called the interior
of the wretched place was in full view.
And for a moment he stood still, his square jaw
outthrust a little, his face hard, his lips drawn together
in a tight, straight line. He heard a strange, quick
grunt as though of mingled shock and abhorrence from
Gulab Singh behind him; he heard a low flutter of
exclamations from the little body of Malays. And
then, without a word, he stepped forward into the
It was not a pleasant sight. On the floor in a pool
of blood lay the naked body of the mad fanatic. He
stooped and touched the body. It was cold. The
man had been dead at least several hours—been
stabbed in half a dozen places. He stared at the
other’s face—he hadn’t seen it clearly yesterday. The
man wasn’t pure Malay . . . there seemed to be a
Mongolian cast to the features . . . the narrower
eyes, the yellowish tinge to the skin ... a man well
past middle age. What difference did all that make?
The man had been murdered.
His eyes, making a circuit of the hut now, rested
on the two wooden idols. They had not been dis¬
turbed; they still extended their arms to each other—
but the book with the brass dragon was gone.
The Malays, who had edged forward, drawn as if
almost against their will by morbid curiosity, retreated
again until they stood outside now, a little whispering
THE KEEPER OF THE BOOK 109
crowd, with several yards between themselves and the
Gulab Singh alone remained. He stood with folded
arms, immovable, his eyes fixed on the huddled form
on the floor.
Kenneth Wayne’s eyes drifted to the knot of whis¬
pering Malays, and for a moment he studied them
with a sort of cold deliberation; and then he turned
abruptly and began a thorough and painstaking search
of the hut. It was perhaps futile—he rather expected
it would be—but it would at least set one doubt at
rest. He dug out the rubbish from the corners with
his hands, overturned the few miserable bits of mat
that were strewn about the ground that made the
floor, examined the floor itself, and then the rotting
walls. There was no sign of the dragon-covered
He returned finally to where Gulab Singh stood.
The man had not moved; but he raised his eyes now,
and his lips twitched queerly as he spoke.
“Sahib,” he said hoarsely, “no man has said to
Gulab Singh that he was a child to tremble or cry out
with fear; but, sahib, it is in my mind that these men
have spoken truth, and that this place is indeed ac¬
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne grimly, “there’s no
doubt about it—it’s accursed with a damned
murderer and a thief, and I’d give something to get
my hands on the devil who did this! It was that
book, of course, this chap was murdered for—and it’s
gone, all right. And unless I miss my guess, it was
some one, or all of those swine out there who are at
the bottom of it.”
“Sahib,” cautioned Gulab Singh in a whisper, “do
not speak so loud.”
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Why?” demanded Kenneth Wayne brusquely, but
lowering his voice none the less. “Do any of them
“I do not know, sahib. But it may well be that they
have learned from the white men in Salabam perhaps
this word or that—enough to bring evil upon the
sahib. What is the sahib’s will? Shall search still
be made here for the stores?”
“No,” said Kenneth Wayne tersely; “nor for the
book—for neither are here. See that this poor devil
is as decently disposed of as you can, and when it is
done bring the men back to the camp. You will find
Gulab Singh bowed his head in assent.
“It is well, sahib,” he said.
The little group of Malays were watching intently.
Kenneth Wayne was conscious of that, but without a
glance in their direction he turned and left the hut
by the opening in front, and started back toward the
He wanted to think if he could—get his mind
clear. It was clogged with the shock of that brutal
and hideous thing that had been done back there.
Malays! Malays, with their culture and religion and
ethics and legends! His hands clenched. What
would Mr. Merwood say to this? Who knew them
the better? A Fellow of the Royal Society, or—or
—No; that wasn’t fair. What had Mr. Merwood
to do with this anyway? Mr. Merwood did not know
Old Man Wayne. . . . The popular belief. . . . God
in heaven! . . .
This wouldn’t do! This got him nowhere. It was
one of the two Malays, or both of them, who had
accompanied him to the hut yesterday evening, or all
of them banded now together, wasn’t it?—their greed,
THE KEEPER OF THE BOOK
their cupidity, their superstition, the worst that was
in them, where theft and murder was a trade for
generations, aroused by that book with its promise of
riches, its fabled store of enormous wealth—and only
an old madman to stab in the night in order to acquire
It wasn’t the old madman who had stolen the stores.
The matter took on a very different complexion now.
The theft and the murder both had almost certainly
been committed within his own party. There was only
one alternative theory—that it was some one else. He
laughed harshly aloud at himself. Brilliant! It
sounded like the mouthing of a fool. But that was
exactly what he meant—that perhaps a boat party
had passed up or down the river in the night and-
But what would such a party know of the book or
the old fanatic, and why should such a party have
risked the invasion of the camp after the stores? It
didn’t ring true. Was it possible that others besides
the maniac lived here? If so, why hadn’t the maniac
been murdered and the book taken long ago? That
didn’t ring true, either.
It came back, like running around a circle, to the
Malays. They possessed the motive, the opportunity,
and a hideous eagerness of character for just such
bloody and abominable work. It was the Malays.
There remained no doubt in his mind.
The theft of the book, the theft of the stores, the
murder of the old madman were all of a piece. Having
stolen the book, they didn’t want to spend ten days
or two weeks rowing up and down the coast when
treasure greater than they had ever dreamed of was
theirs somewhere else for the taking.
Naturally! They wanted to end the trip—and taking
the supplies would end it very effectually! They were
THE LOCKED BOOK
clever enough to do it that way. To desert would have
invited suspicion; hut to disband at Salabam and
refuse to start off again when the stores were re¬
plenished on the score of the white man taking them
to places that were accursed, and all that sort of
fetish that they could get away with, was too charac¬
teristic of a native to arouse, ordinarily, even
But they wouldn’t get away with it if he could help
it! His hands clenched tightly again. These were
the brothers and the kin and the ilk of those fiends out
of hell who had swarmed the deck of the War at an that
night. God, if there were only a machine gun for
these too, and-
His passion was rising. No use in that! He forced
coolness back upon himself.
He had no proof.
He mulled over this factor of the problem for a
space. And then a smile came—not a pleasant smile.
Perhaps that proof wasn’t so hard to obtain, after all!
And if he got that proof, perhaps he’d have his stores
back at the same time. No—hardly! He’d have the
lot of them at his throat. Well, even so! The trip
was at an end, in any case. There wasn’t any use
inaugurating a search for the stores that the searchers
themselves did not intend should be found. He might
as well dismiss all thought of them utterly from his
mind. They were gone—and that was the end of it.
But it was quite a different matter with that book.
Itu Konchi-kan Kitab! The Locked Book! It was
not a question of whether he believed in it or not—as
a matter of fact, he wasn’t at all sure what he believed.
But the natives believed in it—had murdered for it
—would murder again for it if necessary. And the
point was* that, once it was in their possession, they
THE KEEPER OF THE BOOK 113
weren’t likely to let it get very far away from them
He came out on the b$ach, and without a word to
the lone Malay who had been left to guard the camp,
he went down to the boat and swung himself over the
gunwale. He searched every inch of her, ransacked
through every locker, and lifted every grating. The
boat was absolutely empty.
The Malay eyed him askance. Kenneth Wayne,
grim-lipped, got out of the boat at the end of his
search, and sat down on the sand, his back against
the boat’s bow.
He sat there for a long time. Finally he heard the
men returning, breaking their way through the trees.
And then, Gulab Singh at their head, they appeared
on the beach.
Kenneth Wayne rose to his feet, but he did not
move away from the boat. His hand was in the side
pocket of his coat.
“Gulab Singh,” he jcalled out sharply, “let the
men strike that tent, and bring my things down here
to the boat!”
“Yes, sahib,” Gulab Singh answered.
Kenneth Wayne was smiling again—and again not
pleasantly—as, a few minutes later, the Malays,
carrying the tent and his personal effects, all that was
left from the raid upon the camp, trooped down the
beach to the boat.
“Tell them to put the things here on the sand,
Gulab Singh,” directed Kenneth Wayne evenly; and
then, as he was obeyed: “Now tell them to stand in
There was a sullen murmur as Gulab Singh trans¬
lated the order. Kenneth Wayne’s hand came from
his pocket, and, outflung, pointed a revolver.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Strip!” he rasped in English.
They began to obey slowly, angrily.
“It is well, sahib,” said Gulab Singh impassively,
“that I should do likewise.”
Kenneth Wayne nodded curtly.
Seven naked men stood before him.
He bit his lip. There was no sign of the book
with the dragon cover.
“Tell them to dress again, put the things in the
boat, and shove off, Gulab Singh,” he said harshly.
“We’ll get back to Salabam.”
He turned his back upon them and clambered into
the stern of the boat under the awning, his jaws
clamped hard. There was no sign of the book, but he
had scored at any rate. They had not expected an
abrupt departure such as this. That was the obvious
explanation. They had hidden the book somewhere,
not daring to carry it around on their persons and con¬
cealed in the few clothes they wore, but they had not
counted on having no opportunity to retrieve it before
leaving the place. And since it wasn’t hidden in the
boat—he’d made sure of that!—they would come
back for it— if they could! Well, that remained to
be seen! Was there any other possible explanation?
Yes—one. They might never have found it them¬
selves after murdering the old fanatic. The old
fanatic, fearful for its safety after what had happened
last evening, might have hidden it himself before he
was attacked. Well, in that case also they would
come back to make a further search for it —if they
The boat was pushed off. The Malays took
sullenly to the oars. Kenneth Wayne did not recline
on his back now under the awning. He sat upright
with his hand in the side pocket of his coat.
THE KEEPER OF THE BOOK
Gulab Singh, squatting in the little cockpit, turned
“They are very angry, sahib,” he said in a low
voice. “But also they are afraid, though we be but
two to six. Will the sahib make report of this thing
“That’s what I am going back for,” Kenneth Wayne
answered shortly—and added in grim facetiousness:
MAJOR PETERS OF SALABAM
T HE Malays pulled sullenly at the oars. That
they pulled at all was because, when their lower¬
ing glances lifted, the white man under the
awning always had his hand in the pocket of his coat.
They muttered to themselves. At times their mur-
murings x rose in unison and became like the ugly
snarling of a beast as it shows its teeth. But their
physical defiance lay only in the apathy with which
they laboured. The boat made slow progress. It was
the middle of the afternoon when it reached Salabam.
As it grounded on the beach, Kenneth Wayne
nodded curtly to Gulab Singh, and motioned with an
out-flung hand toward the boat’s crew.
“Warn them again to stay where they are,” he said
tersely; “and then get Major Peters down here as
quickly as you can.”
Gulab Singh repeated the order, and, getting out of
the boat, hurried across the beach and disappeared
behind the trees that fringed the road in front of
Kenneth Wayne in turn stepped out on the beach,
and stood a few paces off watching the six men. They
were morosely obedient to the command not to leave
their seats, but there was now added to the sullen
behaviour they had exhibited since leaving the camp
that morning an obvious uneasiness. They moved
MAJOR PETERS OF SALABAM 117
about restlessly, casting furtive glances at him, glanc¬
ing from one to another, glancing apprehensively
across the beach in the direction taken by Gulab Singh.
Their mutterings were low, angry, confused—and
these, if he approached at all nearer to the boat,
ceased entirely and gave place to still darker looks.
He could catch nothing of what they said, but it could
be readily understood for all that: “What was the
white man going to do?”
Perhaps ten minutes elapsed, and then a tall,
angular figure in white, which Kenneth Wayne recog¬
nised as that of Major Peters, appeared through the
fringe of trees, and, followed by Gulab Singh, came
down across the beach to the boat.
“Sorry to have knocked you up, Major Peters,”
said Kenneth Wayne quietly, as the other halted
before him. “Think perhaps you were having your
afternoon sleep, but there’s a bit of bad business here
that had to be reported.”
Major Peters had a thin face and deeply-socketed
black eyes, and these now in turn stared ungraciously
from Kenneth Wayne to the Malays in the boat and
back to Kenneth Wayne again.
“Humph!” he said testily. “A bit of bad business,
eh? I must say, Mr. Wayne, that you’re something
of a bird of ill omen. You only arrived the day before
yesterday, and yesterday you bring me the report of
an attempted murder; and to-day you’re back again,
according to this fellow here”—he jerked a thumb in
the direction of Gulab Singh—“with the tale of the
killing of some wild man down along the coast.”
Mentally, Kenneth Wayne had already, from his
previous meeting, classified the other as an irritable
brute. He reiterated that opinion now—mentally.
He did not like the man; but the sallow skin spoke
THE LOCKED BOOK
eloquently of liver, as he had before noted, and in the
tropics much is forgiven—the liver.
“Sorry again, sir,” said Kenneth Wayne a little
tartly; “but in your official position-”
“Well, well!” interrupted Major Peters. “What’s
the story, and what have these men got to do with it?”
Briefly, Kenneth Wayne recounted the facts.
“Humph!” grunted Major Peters at the end. “Saw
the wild man and the book, found the wild man mur¬
dered next morning, the book gone and also your
stores; searched these men and found nothing. That’s
it in a nutshell, I take it?”
The man was dictatorial, his tone brusque almost to
offensiveness. Kenneth Wayne’s lips tightened.
“Oh, quite!” he said.
Major Peters pushed his pith helmet back on his
head, and mopped with a handkerchief at his brow.
“Well,” he snapped, “what, exactly, do you want
me to do about it?”
“That is for you to say,” returned Kenneth Wayne.
“Personally, I believe they’ve got the book hidden
back there somewhere, and will return for it at the
“Arrest them, or keep them under surveillance, I
suppose, is what you mean,” said Major Peters gruffly.
“Well, in the first place, Salabam is endowed with
neither a jail nor a police force; and, furthermore, if
you knew the natives as well as I do, sir, you would
at once see the futility of any such a course. I’ve heard
of that book—everybody who has lived in this section
of the Archipelago has, as a matter of course—but it
is what we call at home a nursery tale and-”
“These chaps, however, believe it, right enough,”
Kenneth Wayne cut in dryly.
“Precisely what I am driving at,” said Major Peters
MAJOR PETERS OF SALABAM 119
curtly. “So much so, in fact, that, having once seen
what they believe to be the actually existent book itself,
they’d go to any length to get it. But what good
would it do to arrest these men, or watch them, even
if it were possible? They’ve all got innumerable rela¬
tives in the settlement here, and as the mouth of the
river is quite accessible by land, they’d only pass the
word out and the place would be visited just the same,
and, if your theory is correct, the book taken from its
hiding place in any case. I can’t mount guard over
the Cheruchuk River. You can see the absurdity of
such an idea.”
Kenneth Wayne selected a cigarette from his case,
and lighted it. Major Peters was not without reason;
it was the man’s manner, the utter lack of cordiality,
that rubbed the wrong way and invited retort.
“Preposterous, of course!” he murmured with a thin
smile. “But, just the same, it seems to me something
ought to be done.”
“Damn it!” exploded Major Peters. “I don’t like
your tone, sir! Are you insinuating that I do not
know my duty, or, knowing it, am not anxious to
“Never entered my head,” said Kenneth Wayne
blandly. “I was merely thinking that I had most
unaccountably lost all my stores.”
Major Peters glared.
“I have already explained to you,” he said angrily,
“that the physical means at my disposal of upholding
authority are extremely limited; but I want to say to
you, sir, that, by God, they would be exercised, such
as they are, to the fullest possible extent whenever such
action were warranted. Have you any proof against
Kenneth Wayne shrugged his shoulders. There was
THE LOCKED BOOK
no use in prolonging the conversation. It was now up
to Major Peters—that was all.
“None,” he said. “I thought the matter should be
brought to your attention—and I have done so. The
rest is in your hands.” He turned to Gulab Singh.
“Bring my things up to the hotel, Gulab Singh,” he
ordered; and then, with a nod to Major Peters: “Good
Major Peters returned the salutation with a
Kenneth Wayne started toward the hotel. Half¬
way across the beach he looked back. Gulab Singh
had shouldered the bags and belongings, and was fol¬
lowing him. The Malays had climbed out of the
boat, and, surrounding Major Peters, were gesticu¬
lating and chattering excitedly. Kenneth Wayne
smiled a little grimly. What satisfaction there was
in the whole affair was there. Major Peters’ irri¬
tability was not in the way of being appeased! Rather
meagre satisfaction, though—with stores gone, and
the trip worse than a failure!
He gained the road, and continued on toward the
hotel. It was only a short distance. Dorothy Mer-
wood and her father, he could see, were on the front
of the verandah. He looked back once more. Gulab
Singh was still following a little way behind; and
Major Peters, who had now reached the road, was
still surrounded by the group of Malays—only there
seemed to be more of these latter now than the original
six who had composed the boat’s crew. And again
Kenneth Wayne smiled. He wished Major Peters a
very pleasant afternoon!
From the railing above, Dorothy Merwood waved
her hand, and, as he bowed in return, called out
MAJOR PETERS OF SALABAM 12 1
“Why, Mr. Wayne, whatever brings you back?
Do come up here at once and tell us!”
“Coming, Miss Merwood !” he called back smilingly.
Two stairways led to the second story of the hotel,
opening on opposite sides of the verandah. He took
the nearer one in order to pass Dorothy Merwood and
her father on the way to his room. As he turned the
corner of the verandah, she rose from her chair to
“It isn’t possible, is it,” she asked a little breath¬
lessly, “that you have already found just what you
were looking for? I do hope you have though!
What wonderful luck that would be!”
He smiled gravely as he shook hands with her, and,
in turn, with Mr. Merwood—and nodded curtly to a
man who had risen from a chair beside the one Doro¬
thy Merwood had been occupying. It was Mr.
Walters, the Englishman from the cloth house in
“Mr. Wayne—Mr. Walters,” said Dorothy Mer¬
Both of Kenneth Wayne’s hands were occupied—
with match-box and cigarette case. He nodded again.
“Glad to meet you—not being in the same line of
business,” said Mr. Walters effusively—and laughed
at his own idea of humour. “Can’t cut into the other
chap, you see,” he explained, finding that no one
echoed his laugh. And then, without change of in¬
flexion in his voice, but with something in the eyes
beneath the drooping, over-puffy lids that was curi¬
ously snake-like: “You’re the mining chap that’s come
out after the gold, Miss Merwood says.”
“Yes,” said Dorothy Merwood quickly; “and he
hasn’t answered my question yet.” She turned to
Kenneth Wayne. “Did you find it?”
THE LOCKED BOOK
Kenneth Wayne shook his head slowly.
“I’m afraid it’s the other way around, Miss Mer-
wood,” he replied. “Instead of finding anything, I’ve
lost about everything I started out with. All the
stores were stolen last night.”
“Stolen!” ejaculated Mr. Merwood.
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne; “and, on top of that,
a bit of ugly business connected with the murder of a
mad fanatic we found worshipping a book that, accord¬
ing to Gulab Singh, is the original of some legend built
around an ancient piratical chief named Kana-ee-a.”
“What’s that!” exclaimed Mr. Merwood in sudden
excitement. “I know that tale! They call the book
the Itu Konchi-kan Kitab —The Locked Book. Per¬
fectly amazing! You don’t mean to say it’s actually
come to light! Good heavens, man, where is it? I’d
give my head to authenticate a thing like that!”
“Gone—like the stores,” said Kenneth Wayne.
“But here’s Gulab Singh with all that’s left of my
possessions. He can tell you more about it than I
“Yes!” cried Mr. Merwood eagerly, as Gulab
Singh appeared around the corner of the verandah.
“Come here, Gulab Singh!”
Gulab Singh unshouldered his burdens, laid them
down on the verandah, and salaamed gravely.
Mr. Merwood fell to questioning the man, his ex¬
citement constantly growing; while Mr. Walters from
Manchester became an intimate listener, standing
close to the cot. But Dorothy Merwood’s interest
was suddenly elsewhere. She touched Kenneth Wayne
on the arm, and pointed down along the street.
“Look at Major Peters!” she said. “Whatever is
the matter, do you suppose? He seems to have every
native in Salabam at his heels.”
MAJOR PETERS OF SALABAM 123
Kenneth Wayne looked. It was almost literally
true. Out of the nucleus formed by the original six
of the boat’s crew had grown a surging crowd, that
not only overflowed the road, but entirely surrounded
Major Peters until all that was to be seen of the man
was a bobbing white helmet above a sea of dark
heads. The crowd gesticulated and talked as it came
scuffling on toward the hotel; and the sound of many
voices, reaching now to the verandah, was like the
buzzing of a swarm of angry bees.
There was a grim twist to Kenneth Wayne’s lips.
“It looks as though Major Peters wasn’t through
with the thing after all,” he said.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well,” he said, “I am pretty well convinced that
some, or all of my crew are guilty on every one of
three counts—the murder of that mad fanatic, the
theft of my stores, and the theft of that book. I sent
for Major Peters the moment the boat reached the
beach here and told him what had happened. He
seemed to think there wasn’t any proof to go on, in
which, to be honest, I have to agree with him more or
less, and that he couldn’t do anything under the cir¬
cumstances—in which I do not agree at all. As I say,
it’s rather evident, however, that he hasn’t washed
his hands entirely of the affair, though what’s up now
is beyond me.”
Dorothy Merwood was staring down into the road
in a perturbed way now.
“The natives seem to be very angry,” she said a
little uneasily. “And they seem to be coming here.
Look, some of them are pointing at us now!”
“At me, I imagine,” corrected Kenneth Wayne
“But why?” she asked in a quick, low way.
124 THE LOCKED book
There was something in her voice, an unconscious
earnestness, a strange dismay that made him turn and
look at her. He caught his breath. It was all over
come and gone in the fleeting of an instant just a
troubled something in the wide blue eyes, a fear not for
herself. And in that instant she seemed as one who,
hidden from him before, stood suddenly revealed, and
he knew an amazement that set his pulse to throbbing
at the golden beauty of her with her fair face uplifted
and the sun upon her hair to make it shine in strands
of burnished copper.
And he stumbled for his words.
“I do not know,” he said.
Mr. Merwood had ceased his questioning of Gulab
Singh, and the little group around the cot was now,
too, staring down upon the road.
“Oh, I say!” ejaculated Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester. “What’s all the bally row about?”
With a mental wrench, Kenneth Wayne pulled him¬
self together. He glanced at the speaker, his lips
suddenly tight. Mr. Walters was very English—in
No one made any answer.
The crowd of natives had halted in front of the
hotel now, packing the road in a solid mass; and now,
in a sort of ugly and expectant silence, stood staring
up at the verandah. And from different directions,
from the beach, from the opposite ends of the road,
stragglers, men, women and children, came running,
merging with the outskirts of the crowd, swelling it.
And then Mr. Walters from Manchester answered
his own question.
“There’s trouble here,” he said uncomfortably, his
puffy eyes contracted; “and it’s got a nasty look to it
—eh, what?—by Jove!”
— XII —
THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW
K ENNETH WAYNE stepped to the verandah
rail, and, leaning over, saw the boat’s crew
detach itself from the rest of the crowd, and
followed by Major Peters enter the hotel. The next
instant he faced around again, his puzzled expression
deepened, as from somewhere in the interior of the
hotel below came Monsieur Nicholas Fouche’s voice
shouting in strident tones:
“Mille diables! What is this—eh? What is this?
Out of here, } ere nom! I do not allow natives in
It was Major Peters’ voice that answered in equally
“Then you’ll make an exception to your rule to-day,
“Oh, pardon, monsieur!” Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche’s voice underwent an instant change. It
became at once ingratiating and apologetic. “I did
not see monsieur. But certainly, monsieur, they shall
enter—as many as you wish.”
Footsteps sounded on the stairs—the patter of bare
feet, the heavier tread of shoes. Then Major Peters
appeared on the verandah, the six men of the boat’s
crew behind him, and in the rear Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche, his little black eyes darting amazed and
curious glances in all directions.
Major Peters lifted his pith helmet, obviously in a
purely mechanical concession to the amenities as his
THE LOCKED BOOK
eyes rested for an instant on Dorothy Merwood, then
he stepped directly up to Kenneth Wayne.
“Well,” he snapped out, “I trust you’re satisfied,
Mr. Wayne! You’ve stirred up a regular hornets’
nest.” Major Peters removed his helmet once more,
this time to mop again and again at a heated brow.
“A hornets’ nest, sir!” he repeated. “And, let me
tell you, they’re in a deucedly ugly temper!”
“I grant you the latter,” said Kenneth Wayne
coolly; “but I am afraid I cannot quite see where my
responsibility for all this”—he waved his hand toward
the road—“excitement comes in.”
“I’ve had occasion once already this afternoon to
tell you that you apparently know nothing of the native
character,” said Major Peters harshly. “You stripped
these six men here naked—er, pardon me, Miss Mer¬
wood, but there’s no other word for it—naked, didn’t
“I did,” said Kenneth Wayne laconically; “and
Gulab Singh with them.”
“And you have accused them of murder and theft?”
“In a strictly legal sense, no,” replied Kenneth
Wayne. “But, virtually, I suppose I have, since I told
you I believed, as I may say I still believe, that they
“Exactly!” said Major Peters gruffly. “And there¬
by you have forced a very unpleasant duty upon me—a
very unpleasant one. They say that you saw this so-
called Locked Book even before they did, that you
even had it in your possession, and that you know all
about the story connected with it.”
Kenneth Wayne stared.
“Look here!” said he curtly. “Would you mind
telling me just what you are driving at, sir?”
“I am not driving at anything, Mr. Wayne,” said
THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW 127
Major Peters stiffly. “My language, I fancy, is fairly
clear and direct. You have placed the onus of a crime
upon these men. They reply that you were equally in
a position, and equally possessed of the same incentive
to commit the crime yourself; and that, while each and
every one of them was searched for the evidence of
that crime, you alone were not. Is that plain enough,
For a moment Kenneth Wayne gazed helplessly into
the other’s face—then he burst into a roar of laughter.
“Good God!” he gasped. “You mean, you want to
search me for that book? You’re joking, sir!”
Major Peters motioned toward the sullen, working
faces of the six Malays behind him, and with a sweep
of his hand indicated the tense, up-staring mob in the
“Does it look like a joke?” he demanded grimly.
“It doesn’t to me. Yes, that is precisely what they
want—and they must be satisfied for the sake of every
white resident in this town. If this isn’t settled, they’ll
get out of hand, and I would not care to invite the
consequences. But quite apart from that, there is no
more than justice and fair play in their demand. Have
you any objection to a search being made?”
“Not in the slightest!” said Kenneth Wayne causti¬
cally. “Though I think it’s a bit of a gratuitous insult,
and that, if you had wanted to, you could have nipped
this idiotic demand in the bud down there before you
left the beach. Shall I begin by turning my pockets
out, sir; or will you have some of those wily chaps at
your back paw my stuff over first—it’s all there in
front of you just as it came up from the boat. Or
perhaps”—he paused significantly—“you would prefer
to do it yourself?”
THE LOCKED BOOK
Major Peters flushed. He had never “pawed” any
man’s things over in his life.
“We will begin with the luggage,” he said evenly.
He glanced around him tentatively, and as his eyes fell
upon Mr. Walters he coughed slightly. “Mr. Wal¬
ters,” he said, “will you be good enough to open those
bags on the floor there so that everybody may see the
“With pleasure,” said Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester promptly. “Er”—hastily, as he caught Ken¬
neth Wayne’s eye—“that is—er—I mean anything to
Kenneth Wayne smiled.
“That’s quite understood, Mr. Walters,” he said
softly. “It’s perfectly jolly well all right. In fact,
it’s quite all right!”
Mr. Walters from Manchester missed the fling.
He got down on his knees and began to open the kit
Kenneth Wayne watched the other. He was pos¬
sessed of two impulses that were extremely hard to
restrain. One to apply the toe of his boot to an objec¬
tive now most conveniently and temptingly displayed;
the other to jam the smug face, now peering into the
bag, down in amongst the contents and then close the
bag around the other’s neck. But the next instant the
impulses were swept away in a whirl of conflicting emo¬
tion—and in mingled amazement, incredulity, a surge
of passionate anger and a sense of childish helplessness,
he felt the colour leave his cheeks.
A cry burst from the natives on the verandah:
“ ItuKonchi-kanKitab! . . . Itu Konchi-kan Kitab!"
It was taken up by the crowd below, that pushed
and struggled and surged now as each of its individual
units strove for a better vantage point:
THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW 129
“ItuKonchi-kan Kitab! . « . ItuKonchi-kanKitab /”
Mr. Walters from Manchester was holding up
“The Locked Book” which he had extracted from the
Kenneth Wayne stared at it. There wasn’t any
mistake. He wasn’t dreaming. It wasn’t an halluci¬
nation. It was the book, right enough, that the mad
fanatic had snatched out of his hands. The brass
dragon on the cover was a damned and hideous look¬
ing thing! And those devils behind Major Peters
glared a bit, didn’t they!
Major Peters, with a command for silence to the
boat’s crew on the verandah, took the book, stepped
to the rail, and held it up for those in the road to see.
This brought forth a renewed outburst, but it also had
the effect of pacifying them into quiet a moment later,
as he harangued them in the vernacular, demanding
order. He turned to Kenneth Wayne.
“So!” he said sternly. “It seems——”
“Let me see it!” Mr. Merwood was leaning for¬
ward from the cot, his outstretched hand trembling
with excitement. “Amazing! Dumbfounding! Gra¬
cious heavens, Major Peters, fancy a thing like this
coming to light! A priceless contribution, sir, to our
present knowledge of the Malay erudition of half a
century or more ago—and unique in the annals of any
race; substantiating traditions, sir, and all that sort
of thing! Let me see it, man! Let me see it!”
Major Peters frowned, hesitated, then handed the
book to Mr. Merwood.
“Your viewpoint and mine, Mr. Merwood,” he said
tartly, “appear to be somewhat apart! I cannot lose
sight of the fact that a man has been brutally mur¬
dered for that book, and that the most serious conse-
THE LOCKED BOOK
quences attach to another in whose possession it has
just been found.’’
Mr. Merwood did not reply. He perhaps did not
hear. He was engaged in an eager examination of the
book, his eyes alight and burning with a feverish,
Major Peters turned again to Kenneth Wayne.
“So!” he repeated. “It seems these men were
right. What have you to say?”
Kenneth Wayne’s eyes travelled from Major Peters
to the group of six Malays, and held steadily for a
moment on each face in turn. And on each face he
read a vicious, ugly greed, a sinister and murderous
lust. But not one of them was looking at him. Their
eyes, as though held by a common magnet, were one
and all centred on the book in Mr. Merwood’s hands.
And then his glance met Major Peters’ again. The
shock of the thing was over. He was quite in command
of himself once more.
“There’s only one explanation,” he said calmly.
“One of those fellows must have put the thing where
you found it.”
“Really!” said Major Peters icily. “And why, may
“To hide it, of course. Afraid they’d be searched—
as they were.”
“Indeed!” Major Peters’ voice was still more
frigid. “And so, then, they committed a murder in
order to obtain this book, then hid it in order to get
away with it—and then insisted on their own hiding
place being searched with the inevitable consequence
that they would thereby lose possession of it! I had
hoped for something better than that from you, sir.
Something that, in a measure at least, might exonerate
THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW 131
you, instead of damning you utterly out of your own
“But good Lord above, Major Peters,” exclaimed
Kenneth Wayne, “you can’t think I did it! I’d never
heard of the beastly legend before, though everybody
else seems to have known all about it. It wasn’t any
priceless find to me 1”
“You may never have heard of it prior to the first
time you saw it,” said Major Peters sharply. “That
is quite possible. I do not know where you came from,
or where you have lived. These legends are often
more or less localised. In this section of the Archi¬
pelago this legend is known to every native from child¬
hood; whereas on the Peninsula, for instance, it might
be quite probable that it is scarcely known at all. But
that is not the point. The point is that, according to
your own story to me, you knew all about the legend
and the enormous value attributed to the book before
the murder was committed.”
“But this is preposterous!” Kenneth Wayne burst
“That is the second time this afternoon you have
used that expression,” observed Major Peters bitingly.
“Yes!” cried Kenneth Wayne hotly. “And I repeat
it! It’s preposterous! Do you mean to say that I
stole out in the middle of the night and murdered that
old madman, and then stole back and hid the book in
my bag? And I suppose I stole my own stores, too!”
“Some one stole out in the night , and murdered that
old madman,” said Major Peters evenly. “And the
theft of the stores, no matter how or by whom com¬
mitted, does not appear to me to affect the fact that
the book has been found in your bag.”
“Good God!” Kenneth Wayne’s hands clenched at
his sides. “Then why did I search these natives ? And
i 3 2 THE LOCKED BOOK
why did I come back and lay information voluntarily
“Because I think you are rather clever—in a low
way.” There was ill-concealed contempt in Major
Peters’ voice now, “The report of the murder was
bound to come out—all these men would spread the
news. Under the circumstances, I should say that a
guilty man with any brains would believe his safest
move was to forestall the story, especially when he
could lodge an accusation elsewhere that, even without
proof, would sound plausible in view of the fact that
it was directed against some defenceless natives of
whom anything was likely to be believed. What you
evidently did not count on was a countercharge and a
dose of your own medicine. As it is now, I have no
choice but to believe the story these men tell, and-”
“Been a long time in the—hie!—islands,” broke
in a voice suddenly. “Never heard of a native’s word
being taken against a—hie!—white man’s before.”
Kenneth Wayne, as did Major Peters, turned
sharply in the direction of the voice. Glover, the
beachcomber, his scarecrow and dishevelled appear¬
ance enhanced by a dirty bandage tied around his head
and upon which his pith helmet was ludicrously and
precariously perched, was leaning against the wall,
staring around with owl-like gravity upon the assem¬
“Ah!” exclaimed Major Peters angrily, with a
glance at Kenneth Wayne. “I see you have an ally!
One of our most respectable citizens! Quite the right
sort to be of service to you, too. A friend of yours,
I take it! This is the man you said some one tried to
murder the night before last, didn’t you?”
“Look here,” said Kenneth Wayne in a low, tense
voice, “so far I’ve respected your official position—-
THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW 133
and your age. But there’s a certain amount of decent
consideration due to any man, and I’m going to tell
you now that if you propose to act like a cur I shall
feel free to treat you as one literally.”
“Threats will not help your case, sir!” retorted
Major Peters furiously. “You are getting all the con¬
sideration you deserve. And as for you”—he whirled
on Glover—“I will not tolerate your drunken inter¬
“ ’S ’all right 1 ” said Glover. He waved his arm
grandiloquently. “Been a long time in the—hie!—
islands. Never heard of a native’s word being taken
against a—hie!—white man’s before.”
“It is not a question of any man’s word,” rasped
Major Peters. “It is a question of evidence of the
most damning character. That book-”
“It’s undoubtedly authentic,” announced Mr. Mer-
wood in an absorbed way. “Kana-ee-a’s beyond ques¬
tion. Amazing! But I cannot open it. It’s most
ingeniously locked. One of the most interesting
features about it—the tail fused in the dragon’s mouth.
I think a file will be the best thing. Will some one
please get me a file?”
Major Peters stepped over to the cot and took the
book somewhat brusquely from the scientist’s hands.
“I will take charge of this,” he said with finality.
“And it will not be opened with a file or anything else,
Mr. Merwood, until it is opened by the proper au¬
thorities in court. This is no longer a book whose
antiquity may be interesting, or whose contents may
be an ‘open sesame’ to great wealth; it is a piece of
evidence to be preserved precisely in the condition in
which it has been found until such time as it is in the
hands of those qualified to deal with it on that basis.
Meanwhile, it makes not the slightest difference what
THE LOCKED BOOK
the book actually contains; the motive for the murder
that has been committed still remains in the presump¬
tion that the book does contain the information with
which it is credited.”
Mr. Merwood’s eyes lingered on the book regret¬
“Too bad!” he murmured. “Too bad! A glance,
a mere glance inside would have outweighed all the
work I have already done. But I suppose you are
right, Major Peters~h’m—er—yes, couldn’t do
Mutterings, voices beginning to rise impatiently, a
stir and movement in the crowd below, took Major
Peters to the verandah rail for the second time. Once
more he commanded order, and holding up the book
again in corroboration of his words, announced that
it would remain safe and unopened in his hands until
all should have been justly dealt with by the law of
the Great White Rajah across the seas.
The crowd stood mute again, gazing upward.
Major Peters turned and faced Kenneth Wayne
“Have you anything to say?” he demanded. “Any
further explanation to give? Anything to offer in
“Simply,” replied Kenneth Wayne steadily, “that I
know nothing about how that book got into my bag.”
“That is all?”
Major Peters cleared his throat.
“The situation,” he said gruffly, “is, I am well aware,
somewhat incongruous. I am vested with the powers
of a magistrate, and my .duty demands that I should
exercise those powers to the best of my ability, and in
view of the evidence I must place you under arrest for
THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW 135
murder, pending the time when you can be sent from
here for trial. As I informed you this afternoon, this
little town has no jail—we have never until now, thank
God, in any such way as this, required one—nor have
we any police, though every man resident here is
legally qualified to act as an officer of the law if so
deputed by me. I shall therefore order Monsieur
Fouche to lock you in your room until we can make
more adequate dispositions concerning you.” He
turned and nodded curtly to the hotel proprietor.
“You understand, Monsieur Fouche?”
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche came forward, and
bowed in his best hotel style. He needed only a
napkin over his arm.
“Parfaitement, monsieur” he said.
“And a word of warning to you, Wayne!” Major
Peters clipped off his words. “If you are tempted to
make light of an hotel room because it has neither
steel doors nor barred windows, I want to tell you that
it is far safer, and particularly so for your own per¬
son, than you may perhaps imagine. You cannot leave
this island in any case. Every white resident here will
be informed of what has happened—they will respect
the law if you do not, and if you attempt to break
loose you will receive a short shrift at their hands.
And as for the natives, you have had ample evidence
this afternoon of their feelings and temper toward
you. I hope I have made this clear?”
Kenneth Wayne looked around him. Glover, the
beachcomber, was making his way somewhat unsteadily
along the verandah in the direction of the stairs—the
bar, probably, as his objective. Mr. Walters from
Manchester, smiling smugly, hurriedly composed his
features and turned his head away as Kenneth Wayne’s
glance fell upon him. Mr. Merwood did not look up.
THE LOCKED BOOK
The Malays were merely ugly and malicious. Doro¬
thy Merwood had walked a few yards away, and was
standing at the verandah rail looking down at the
crowd below, her back turned.
“Quite clear, thank you!” said Kenneth Wayne in
a monotone. “Gulab Singh, take my things to my
He swung on his heel and started along the veran¬
dah—but opposite Dorothy Merwood he paused.
She turned slowly around and faced him. There
was a heightened colour in her cheeks, but the blue
eyes were very steady—coldly so.
“I am very sorry for you, Mr. Wayne,” she said
without inflexion in her voice.
“Good God!” he said in a low way. “You, too?”
“Too?” Her eyebrows lifted slightly. “Is there
any reason why I-”
“No,” He said bitterly. “None.” And went on
again along the verandah.
Monsieur Fouche, his jailor, fell into step behind
“Sacre nom!” said Monsieur Fouche confidentially.
“I am not a policeman. You understand that, eh,
monsieur? C’est evident!”
Kenneth Wayne made no reply.
Nicky Fouche lowered his voice. There was sug¬
gestion in it.
“It was hard luck, monsieur. Godam, it was hard
luck—a hundred fortunes in your hand!”
Kenneth Wayne stared at the other levelly for an
“You go to hell!” said Kenneth Wayne.
— XIII —
A MATTER OF KEYS
I T had grown dark, but Kenneth Wayne had not
lighted the lamp in his room. Hours ago—at
least it seemed hours ago—Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche in person had brought in the evening meal.
Monsieur Fouche had been gruff and unfriendly. Per¬
haps he, Kenneth Wayne, had not been altogether
tactful in his treatment of the Frenchman on the way
to “j a il-” Perhaps not; but at least he had refrained
from bashing in the fellow’s face—which, under the
circumstances, was saying a good deal for his self-
restraint. Since Monsieur Fouche’s departure he had
alternately sat on the edge of his bed, as he sat now,
like a prisoner in a veritable cell, or paced, in moments
of restlessness, up and down within the narrow con¬
fines of his room.
There was a farcical side to it. Monsieur Fouche
had locked the door and secured the window in some
fashion, but a well directed kick would demolish in
short order any of the flimsy fastenings that barred
the way to freedom. The whole thing, Major Peters
and his authority and his means of enforcing the
majesty of the law, this hotel room as a prison cell, and
all the rest of it, smacked of the opera-bouffe. And
yet, if there was a farcical side to it, there was also one
in which there was neither humour nor room for de¬
rision. Major Peters, with such means as were at his
command to enforce his orders, was in deadly earnest.
THE LOCKED BOOK
It was not Major Peters’ fault that there were neither
jail nor police. There were perhaps not more than
twenty-five or thirty whites on the entire island; and
these, as it were, represented the law through a sort
of community of interest—the natives, in the main,
of course, being governed by their headmen.
His thoughts reverted to a conversation he had had
with Mr. Merwood yesterday morning while waiting
to start away on his trip. Mr. Merwood had got off
on the topic of Salabam itself, and Mr. Merwood’s
remarks in reference thereto seemed peculiarly perti¬
nent now. They explained a great deal. Salabam
was, so to speak, a place decadent. When first settled
years before it had shown promise of a prosperous
future, and in the initial flush of enthusiasm this hotel,
for instance, had been built; but the place was too
isolated and too unimportant to make it profitable as
a regular port of call for ships, there had been great
trouble with labour, the plantations had not proved
overly productive, and Salabam, instead of growing,
had gradually dwindled to its present insignificant
status of mere existence. And it had erected, as Mr.
Merwood put it, numerous monuments to its blasted
hopes. There were, for example, plantation bunga¬
lows back in the interior long since boarded up and
deserted by those who, not having invested their all,
could still shake the dust of the place from off their
feet. The hotel itself was yet another example. It
had become no more than a collection of empty rooms,
save for those occupied by a few permanent boarders.
Long a white elephant on its owner’s hands, Monsieur
Nicholas Fouche, an event in himself because he was
comparatively a newcomer, had acquired it for a pit¬
tance less than a year ago. No one came to Salabam.
A MATTER OF KEYS
It drowsed its life away in a deadly monotony that was
That brought the circle around to Major Peters
and his authority again. And it accounted very ade¬
quately for the locked door and barred window of an
hotel room! But, all this apart, what now? For the
hundredth time the same question came hammering
back at Kenneth Wayne’s brain. What was he going
to do? Break out of here—or stay cooped up, because
he respected the law, and wait with what patience and
equanimity he could until such time as some ship came
in and bore him away to stand trial for murder?
Murder! Good Lord. He jumped to his feet and
began to pace the room again. He was accused of
murder! The accusation still brought a stunned
amazement—as though it were something that he had
dreamed had happened to him. Only he hadn’t
dreamed it at all. It was most damnably true. And
the worst of it was that the more he thought of it the
more conclusive the evidence against him appeared to
be. Major Peters flicked a bit upon the raw and
wasn’t exactly what one would call a likeable chap,
but he, Kenneth Wayne, was willing to admit in com¬
mon honesty now, that Major Peters had not only
been warranted in making the arrest, but, indeed,
could not very well have acted otherwise.
His mind began to wrestle anew with the problem
that it had already wrestled with for the last few
hours. What did it mean? There were three possible
theories—he could think of only three.
If it were the Malays who had committed the mur¬
der and stolen the book, it was almost certainly the
fellow that had been left alone in camp that morning
who had placed the book in the kit bag. The man
would have had ample opportunity for doing so; and
THE LOCKED BOOK
the man, he remembered, was one of the original two
who had accompanied him on the previous evening to
the mad fanatic’s hut where the book had been seen
for the first time. But if the Malays had committed
the murder—and there could have been no other
motive on their part but to obtain possession of the
book—why had they, or one of them, as Major Peters
had pointed out, placed the book in the kit bag in the
first place, and demanded that a search be made in
the second? The answer he had made to Major
Peters in the heat of the moment on this score had
been worse than none; he regretted now that he had
made it at all. He was forced to admit that, if. guilty,
the Malays had acted most illogically; so much so,
indeed, that they seemed to be exonerated.
Well, then, there was Gulab Singh. Gulab Singh
hadn’t suggested that any search of the kit bag should
be made, and presumably had had no reason to expect
that any search of it would be made; and Gulab Singh
could undoubtedly have found an opportunity of slip¬
ping the book into the bag. But why? Kenneth
Wayne shook his head. Why? There must be reason¬
able motive for an act. Granting the value of the
book to be such that a man would commit murder for
it, the man wasn’t likely to take any chance of losing
it once it was in his possession if he could help it. To
hide it temporarily—yes. But securely! Gulab Singh
had had no guarantee that he, Kenneth Wayne, would
not, for instance, have wanted something in the kit
bag at almost any moment On the way back in the boat,
and the book would then naturally have blen found
and Gulab Singh’s work would have been in vain. It
was childish to imagine that Gulab Singh counted on
getting the book back to Salabam in this fashion, and
then on getting it out of the bag before the latter was
A MATTER OF KEYS
unpacked and when he, Kenneth Wayne, wasn’t look¬
ing! It wouldn’t hold water.
There remained, then, one other theory, or possi¬
bility—quite at variance in motive with the other two:
That the murder had not primarily been committed in
order to obtain the book; and that the book had been
used merely to throw the onus of the crime on some
one else’s shoulders—and that he, Kenneth Wayne,
had been selected as that “some one else.” But this
demanded as a premise that the identity, the priceless
intrinsic value accredited to the book, was unknown to
the murderer. And this in turn suggested a decidedly
ugly corollary. It suggested the more than probability
that, following this theory, the murderer was a white
man, since, from all appearances, there was not a
native in the whole region but knew all about the book.
Kenneth Wayne stood still in the middle of the room
to mull over the different phases of this theory again.
There were white men here quite capable of commit¬
ting murder. There was Nicky Fouche, and there was
Mr. Walters from Manchester. Suspicion at least,
in no way maligned their reputations! And the
Cheruchuk River was quite accessible by land as well
as by boat. It would be interesting to know how and
where, separately or collectively, these two men had
spent the last twenty-four hours. In fact, it might be
very much worth while. The boat, thanks to the
sullen behaviour of the Malays, had made a very slow
return passage; whereas any o$e, leaving the old
fanatic’s hut during the night, and after the murder,
either by land or water, could have been back in
Salabam hours ahead of it.
So much for Nicky Fouche and Mr. Walters from
Manchester! But, if this theory was to be followed
to its logical conclusion, the Frenchman and the Ger-
THE LOCKED BOOK
man were not the only white men upon whom suspi¬
cion, with at least some degree of justification, might
rest. There was Glover. But in Glover’s case it was,
however, quite a different matter—there was no crimi¬
nal “history,” as it were, to point the man out as one
not only capable of such a crime, but as one who would
not hesitate to commit it; it was, rather, the character
of the man, coupled with a series of very strange and
wholly unexplainable acts that in themselves invited,
to put it mildly, a good deal of speculation. Glover,
the beachcomber! The thought of Glover had cropped
up in his mind a good many times during the past few
hours. Who was Glover, anyway? The man was
certainly up to some game—he had feigned altogether
too much. Why had he slipped away from Gulab Singh
the night before last? And where the devil had he
gone that night? Glover hadn’t been badly wounded
—less so evidently from his subsequent actions than
even he, Kenneth Wayne, who had never rated the
injury as anything but slight at most, had originally
believed. Glover, from a physical standpoint, could
have been at the ruined village on the Cheruchuk
All very well! But if the book, the greed of it, had
not been the incentive to the murder of the old fanatic,
why should any one of the three, Fouche, or Walters,
or Glover, have murdered the man? Why should any
one of the three have been there at all? Why
He flung out his clenched hand in an angry, impo¬
tent gesture. He couldn’t answer those questions.
And on top of all that none of his theories explained
still another point—the theft of the stores. Why had
they been stolen? Why? His hand clenched again.
No, he couldn’t answer! He couldn’t, standing here,
A MATTER OF KEYS
reconstruct the crime, could he? If he could, he
wouldn’t be standing here!
Well, what was he to do?
It was not merely the fact of being charged with
murder that troubled him so much, for somehow it
seemed so absurd, so impossible in his own eyes, that
he could not as yet accept that phase of the situation
seriously. There was far more involved than all that.
He had come to Salabam for a purpose—that was
what mattered, what was vital, and on account of
which it was so imperative that he should clear him¬
self at any cost and in any way he could. Any way he
could! Was there any way? He could kick down
that door and run for it—Nicky Fouche, so far as he,
Kenneth Wayne, could make out, had considered his
duties as a jailor performed when he had removed all
weapons and locked both door and window, for there
had been no evidence of any special watch being put
upon the room. Nicky Fouche evidently shared the
opinion of Major Peters that, since a prisoner could
not get away from the island in any case, the prisoner’s
common sense would lead him to choose an hotel room
with the assurance of food rather than a hopeless
existence in the woods where, even if he eluded imme¬
diate pursuit, he could live only as a hunted beast from
day to day.
Kenneth Wayne was pacing the room again in
quick, nervous strides. In God’s name, what was he
to do ? Suppose he did break down the door and run
for it ? With every white man and every native hunt¬
ing him, what chance had he to hunt—Crimson Sash?
Also, to run for it would remove the last shade of
doubt that might remain in any one’s mind as to his
guilt. That wasn’t the way—the only way was to
clear himself so that with untied hands he could carry
THE LOCKED BOOK
on with his work again. But walking up and down
this room in idleness, inactive, save that his brain was
working itself into a frenzy, wasn’t the way either.
He heard voices from around the corner on the
front of the verandah. One was Dorothy Merwood’s.
He didn’t know whose the other’s was—probably one
of the boarder’s. He found himself listening eagerly
—and strangely enough with no idea of attempting to
discover the sense of what was said. It was Dorothy
Merwood’s voice. And then slowly a hard smile came
to his lips. He had forgotten. She, too, had found
the evidence against him conclusive of guilt. He had
been a vain optimist to expect anything else. He
didn’t know why he had expected it—and yet somehow
her attitude stabbed and hurt. He did not blame her
—and yet— What did it mean ? Had this quest upon
which he had come brought something else into his
life, something not antagonistic to the pledge he had
made to Old Man Wayne, not a thing that would
swerve him from his path, but something else of a
far different tenor, something that stirred his pulse,
bringing an intense yearning that evidenced itself now
in an eagerness to catch the tones of a voice ?
And that somehow brought the sense of ignominy
suddenly and acutely into his present condition!
He swept a hand across his forehead. It came away
wet with sweat beads. God, it was hot in here, insuf¬
ferably hot—strange, he had not noticed the heat
before! Well? He hadn’t answered his own ques¬
tion! Was he afraid of it? Or wasn’t he sure? Or
would he beg it on the ground that any answer was
useless—that if this something new had come into his
life, it, like the pledge to Old Man Wayne, was a shat¬
tered, hopeless thing now? No ! It wasn’t shattered,
it wasn’t broken—nor was his pledge—not yet! He
A MATTER OF KEYS
wasn’t so easily beaten as that. And if that inquisitive
inner consciousness of his demanded an answer so
insistently it should have it. It was true. It had
come unbidden, unsought. He did not know just
where, or how, or whether it was but a moment gone
that it had crystallised itself into the thing of glory
that it now was, to be possessed and cherished, if God
so willed it, as a sacred, holy gift—the gift of love.
The voices died away.
A footstep, quick, so light and almost soundless as
to be stealthy, came along the verandah t*?id halted
outside the door. A key that seemed to fumble most
curiously for a moment or so finally turned in the lock.
And then the door of Kenneth Wayne’s room opened
and closed again cautiously.
Still standing motionless, as he had stood watching
and listening, Kenneth Wayne stared now at a tall
figure in white that, in the darkness, looked almost
ghostlike—like a ghost with an enormous beehive
balanced upon its head.
“Gulab Singh!” he ejaculated.
“Yes,” Gulab Singh answered; “but speak low,
sahib, for the walls have many ears. Whisper even
as I do, sahib.”
Kenneth Wayne nodded.
“Right!” he said; then quickly: “But what brings
you here, Gulab Singh? And where did you get the
key to that door?”
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh, “there are many rooms
in the hotel that are empty, but each has a lock. But
they are cheap locks, sahib, and the key to one door
fits many others. Sahib, I took four in number of
these keys, and the second one opened the sahib’s
“Yes, I see,” said Kenneth Wayne. “I heard you
THE LOCKED BOOK
fumbling with the lock. And now what? You have
not answered my other question.”
“I came to open the sahib’s door,” said Gulab
Singh simply, “and to bring him the key.”
“Good Lord!” exclaimed Kenneth Wayne. “You
mean you’ve come to let me escape?”
The great turban seemed to flutter like some weird,
detached thing in the darkness as Gulab Singh bowed
low his head.
“It is even so, sahib,” he said. “It is not well that
the sahib should be here, for I know that the sahib has
not done this thing that they say he has- Sahib, I
know of a certainty that it is not so.”
“Well, you seem to be the only one of that opinion,
then,” said Kenneth Wayne a little bitterly; “and,
upon my soul, I thank you for it, Gulab Singh. I
suppose what you mean is that you don’t believe it.”
“No, sahib. Belief is one thing; knowledge is
another. I know that it was not the sahib-”
“The devil, you say!” Kenneth Wayne flung out.
“You know who did it, then?”
“No, sahib,” Gulab Singh answered. “That I do
not know. I know only that it could not have been the
“But how, then, do you know that?” demanded
Kenneth Wayne tersely.
“Because, sahib,” Gulab Singh replied, “I slept that
night, as it was well for me to do, at the door of the
sahib’s tent, and no man could have entered, and the
sahib could not have left the tent that night without
“And yet,” said Kenneth Wayne, after a moment’s
thought, “all the stores were taken from the camp
without your knowledge. Why could I not have
stepped out of the tent without awaking you?”
A MATTER OF KEYS
“Between a yard and a full two hundred paces from
a sleeper’s ear, sahib, there is a great difference,” said
Gulab Singh. “As the sahib knows, the stores were
across the beach near the boat.”
“Yes; that is so,” agreed Kenneth Wayne; and then,
with a sudden frown: “Why didn’t you say ail this on
the verandah this afternoon?”
“Sahib,” Gulab Singh answered gravely, “it was in
my mind to do so, and it may be that in the holding
of my tongue I have brought evil upon the sahib where
I would bring only good; but, sahib, I do not think
that it is so. Sahib, the Major Sahib was very angry
and very sure because of the finding of the book, and
it came to me that, even if I spoke, the Major Sahib
would still do to the sahib what has been done, because
it did not explain how the Kitab came into the bag.
Also, the Major Sahib was not a judge who sat in the
courts and could say that the sahib was guilty, and
that his life should pay forfeit, and so bring the end
at once upon the sahib. Thus, sahib, my thoughts
ran. But the Major Sahib spoke truly when he said
that even if the sahib escaped from this room here it
would be worse for him because of the white men and
of the natives. Alone, the sahib could do nothing.
But if the door were opened, and there was one to
help and to find shelter and to bring the sahib food,
then all might go well. But the one who helped must
not be watched, or thought of him enter men’s minds,
because then he would be of no avail to the sahib.
And so, sahib, I did not speak, for it was in my mind
to open the sahib’s door to-night, and the fear was
upon me that if I spoke for the sahib this afternoon
men would say to-night when the sahib had gone that
it could be no one but Gulab Singh who would befriend
him, and I, Gulab Singh, would be watched, and I
THE LOCKED BOOK
could not then bring the sahib food without delivering
him again into their hands. Will the sahib say that
I have done ill?”
“No, by Jove; certainly not from your standpoint,
at any rate!” said Kenneth Wayne promptly. “You
took it for granted, of course, that, given the oppor¬
tunity, I would get out of here?”
“Yes, sahib, to-night. The way is clear now. The
Sahib Fouche has gone out. Let the sahib say what
things he will take with him, and I will carry them.
And if so be, sahib, it is written that this thing shall
come at last before the judges and the sahib shall stand
before the judges to answer, then will I bear testimony
for the sahib of that which I know.”
Kenneth Wayne reached out his hand and laid it on
Gulab Singh’s shoulder.
“That’s mighty decent of you, Gulab Singh,” he
said; “but there’s a point about that evidence of yours
that may not have occurred to you. I am inclined to
agree with you that I would be here just the same
whether you had spoken this afternoon or not; and,
that being so, isn’t it rather probable that when it
came to a court of law your testimony would be more
likely to do you harm than to do me any good? I
know it to be true because I did not leave my tent;
but the more impossible it would appear to be for me
to have gone out of the tent without your knowledge,
the less likely they are to believe you—for it is an
irrefutable fact that the book was in my bag. They
are more likely to believe that you are either an
accomplice or are perjuring yourself in an effort to
save me. And in that case, Gulab Singh, it would go
very ill with you indeed.”
There was a long silence, and then Gulab Singh’s
grave voice came out of the darkness:
A MATTER OF KEYS
“What is written, sahib, is written. And if it
should be even as the sahib says, then I would still
journey to the place of the judges and bear witness.
Does the sahib think that Gulab Singh would do less
“No—my word, I don’t!” said Kenneth Wayne
heartily. “And I thank you, Gulab Singh. But we
will see! We cannot tell what is best to do until the
“May it never come for the sahib’s sake!” said
Gulab Singh earnestly. “And now will the sahib not
say what I am to carry so that we may go?”
Again Kenneth Wayne laid his hand on the other’s
shoulder. He shook his head.
“Go where, Gulab Singh?” he asked quietly. “To
be the chase of men? To be hunted in the woods from
one end of the island to the other? And even if that
were not so, how can I run from this thing? It is bad
enough as it is, without men saying that I ran from it
because I was guilty and afraid.”
“Sahib,” Gulab Singh answered, “my people will
help and the sahib would not be found, and there
would come a time when we could get the sahib to
another island, and after that to still another until the
sahib was far away and could go where he would.
All that, sahib, could be done. And that they should
say because of it that the sahib is guilty is no more
than is said now. It is in my mind, sahib, that it is
better to be an innocent man who is free, than an inno¬
cent man who has a rope tied around his neck and is
hanged like a dog.”
Run for it? Kenneth Wayne had already debated
that idea in his mind—debated it, though, as one who
subconsciously knew from the beginning what his de¬
cision would be. Well, what was that decision? Here
THE LOCKED BOOK
was a chance beyond anything he could have hoped
for, and there was truth in what Gulab Singh said.
His shoulders squared back. Run? He had never
run from anything, or any man in his life. Run for
it? It would be the surrender of everything decent in
him to a craven, panicky impulse to save his skin—a
grovelling thing to do. And suddenly he laughed out
shortly. On this count Old Man Wayne would not
hold him to his pledge. There was something that
came before that after all. And Old Man Wayne
himself, thank God, typified that sort of thing!
There was only one answer.
“No, Gulab Singh,” he said steadily, “I cannot go.
I shall not forget what you have done; but what I
have just said is final. And because it is final it is my
wish that we talk no more about it. I owe you more
for this than I can pay, Gulab Singh; but I cannot go.”
It was very dark in the room, and for a time very
silent. Then the turban seemed to waver again gro¬
tesquely in the blackness, and Kenneth Wayne felt his
hand lifted and pressed against the other’s forehead.
“Grief is in my heart, sahib, and the fear of great
evil,” said Gulab Singh. “But when the sahib speaks
like that I know it is his will. I go, sahib.”
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne.
In the darkness Gulab Singh moved over to the
door. And once more for an instant there was a
fumbling at the lock, and then Gulab Singh spoke
“Sahib,” he said, “in Salabam to-night there is much
talk, and in the Malay houses there is no quiet. And
the talk is not all good to hear. And the news of the
finding of the Kitab of Kana-ee-a has spread as though
it were told by a great voice on the mountain-top of
the world that reached to the ears of all people. And
A MATTER OF KEYS
men have come from the ends of the island already.
And I cannot read the end of it, for all men desire
the book. Also, there is anger against the sahib. All
this, sahib, is to be remembered. And so, see, sahib,
I have left the key in the door, and when I have gone
the sahib will lock the door again and take out the
key, and it will not be known that the door has been
unlocked, and the sahib will have the key—for what
may come to pass and what need the sahib may be in,
who can tell? Is it well, sahib?”
“It is well, Gulab Singh,” Kenneth Wayne answered.
For a moment Gulab Singh stood listening at the
door. Then a whispered, “Good-night, sahib,” floated
back into the room, and Gulab Singh was gone.
Mechanically Kenneth Wayne walked over to the
door, turned the key in the lock, and put the key in
his pocket. After that for a long time he did not
move. Then he took the key out of his pocket again,
and weighed it tentatively in his hand.
This was an entirely different thing from running
away, this idea that was formulating itself in his brain!
Here was an opportunity to go and come with almost
a guarantee of several hours of uninterrupted freedom
—-and those hours were worth the risk that Nicky
Fouche might pay a turnkey’s visit in the meantime,
weren’t they? Anything was better than inaction. If
he could steal in on the outskirts of the Malay quar¬
ters, for instance—and listen! And there was always
the chance of a lucky break that might set him on the
track of Glover perhaps, on Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester, or even—he smiled grimly—Nicky Fouchc
Well, why not? There was, after all, nothing to
lose. He wasn’t running away, or attempting to
escape. In an hour, or two, or three, he would come
THE LOCKED BOOK
back. If his absence was discovered, they would not
have to hunt for him. He would know of it by the
uproar that would be raised, and he would return that
much sooner—that was all. They could make what
they chose out of that. He stood square with himself
on that score—that was what mattered most. It all
resolved itself into a question of luck—luck that for
a few hours his absence would not be noticed; luck
that during those few hours he might accomplish some¬
thing in his own behalf, something that by sitting here
inside these four walls it was certain he never could do.
Yes, he would go!
He opened the door noiselessly—an inch at a time.
The moon was hardly up yet, and the verandah was
all shadows; but here at the side it seemed deserted,
though from around the corner in front low voices in
conversation and the occasional clink of a glass
reached him. An instant more he stood listening,
watching—then the door closed behind him as silently
as it had opened, and Kenneth Wayne stepped out on
— XIV —
A PRISONER AT LARGE
H UGGED close against the wall where the
shadows were blackest, Kenneth Wayne began
to make his way cautiously along the verandah
with the lower end of it at the rear as his objective.
The principal risks of discovery lay, of course, in some
one coming around the corner of the verandah from
the front, or appearing suddenly ahead of him from
the stairway door that opened on the verandah; in
either of which cases there was no shelter except the
very untrustworthy one afforded by the shadows.
There were two rooms to pass before he could get by
the stairway door; but the nearer of the two was, he
knew, unoccupied, which gave him no concern, and the
other, though it belonged to Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester, showed no light through its window blind, and
should not, therefore, give him any concern either.
Beyond the stairway door, if he remembered correctly,
there were no more rooms, and once at the rear end
of the verandah any one of the supporting posts would
furnish an easy mode of access to the ground.
He passed the first door, treading on tiptoe, reached
the second one—and paused involuntarily. There
wasn’t any light in the room, but the Englishman from
Manchester was evidently there none the less. He
could hear the sound of movement from within, very
faintly it was true, almost indeed as though it were
intentionally secretive, but it was nevertheless distin¬
guishable. Mr. Walters could hardly be going to bed,
THE LOCKED BOOK
or be in bed, at this hour—it couldn’t be more than
half-past eight. Rather curious that the man should
elect to be in there in the dark, and-
Kenneth Wayne glanced swiftly around him. The
sound of movement from within was approaching the
door itself. There was no protection anywhere other
than the shadows—except the stairway door, which,
just a few yards away, he could see was open. He
sprang quickly, silently toward it. It was the one
chance—even if he were forced to the risk of going
downstairs in case the other should come here too.
But perhaps, anyway, he was displaying exaggerated
caution; perhaps there had been no intention of open¬
ing that door just because the sounds from within had
approached it. He glanced sharply back over his
shoulder as he reached the stairway entrance. No;
there wasn’t any mistake! He saw a dark form step
from the threshold of Mr. Walters’ room to the
Without a sound Kenneth Wayne slipped through
the stairway door, and for an instant hesitated at the
head of the stairs, weighing his chances. Then sud¬
denly he drew his body into the angle of the wall at
the far corner of the landing, and stood still, smiling
in grim satisfaction. The landing, due to the right-
angled turn necessary to an exit to the verandah, was
generously wide, and it was intensely dark here—dark
enough! Thanks to the enclosed staircase and the
very commendable economy in the absence of lamps on
the part of Monsieur Nicholas Fouche, he could
scarcely see his hand before his eyes. He was fairly
sure that Mr. Walters of Manchester had not seen
him, and, that being the case, the man, even if he
turned in here to go downstairs, would almost cer¬
tainly not see him now. This would do excellently!
A PRISONER AT LARGE 155
He could have continued on down the stairs himself,
of course; but that was precisely what he did not want
to do. There was far too much risk of being discov¬
ered there on the ground floor before he could gejgout
of the hotel—likely to be some one coming or going
from the bar, for instance. A verandah post at the
rear was infinitely the better and safer way.
Queer! What had become of the man? There was
no sound of footsteps either going toward the front of
the verandah, or coming this way. The man must
have stepped back into his room for some reason.
There didn’t seem to any other-
Kenneth Wayne felt his muscles grow suddenly
rigid; mechanically he found himself attempting to
squeeze his body deeper into the angle of the wall.
The oblong of the door opening on the verandah, less
opaque with the filmy murk of the night-light behind
it, blurred with a shadowy form that made no sound.
The fraction of a second passed as Kenneth Wayne
watched; and then, still without sound, the shadow
came through the doorway—and halted at the head
of the stairs. And now an interminable time seemed
to pass, and the man still stood there—stood there
until, to Kenneth Wayne’s ears, his own breathing
sounded hideously loud and stertorous. Why didn’t
the man go on down the stairs? What was he waiting
for? He appeared, from a slight rustling sound
which he made now, to be fumbling for something.
With a sharp crackle it burst into flame. The man
held it between his cupped hands, facing the stairs, and
lighted a cigarette. He did not turn his head; he
puffed with slow deliberation. The match went out.
And then suddenly out of the darkness there came a
low, drawling voice.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Out for a bit of an airing, old top, I take it,”
observed the man casually.
Kenneth Wayne straightened up with a jerk—but
he made no answer. The shock of discovery, the cool
insouciance of the other held him, as it were, tongue-
tied; but there was more than that to hold him silent,
tight-lipped, staring at the glowing tip of the ciga¬
rette. It wasn’t Mr. Walters from Manchester who
had come out of Mr. Walters’ room—this wasn’t
Walters! The face he had seen in the flame of the
match was the face of Glover, the beachcomber!
“Saw me come out of that room, eh?” Glover
drawled again. “I thought you did. Thought,
though, you might keep a secret if some one kept one
of yours—what? Well, I’ll be getting along. Good¬
night, Mr. Wayne!”
Kenneth Wayne was himself in an instant. He
stepped sharply forward. Quite apart from this new
incident, which alone was more than ever suspicious in
itself, Glover was one of those with whose movements
in the last twenty-four hours he was keenly concerned.
He hadn’t expected this—to be discovered himself.
But since that was now an accomplished fact, he meant
to have it out with this man here and now.
“Wait a minute!” he said curtly. “There’s a little
more than that to be said on the subject of secrets.
Queer things have been going on around here, and
some of them seem to be pretty well centred in you.
There are some questions to which I want an answer.”
“Look here,” said Glover confidentially, “it’s going
to be a wonderful night—wonderful! Soft airs and
all that—and a glorious moon. Just the night for a
walk. Miss Merwood’s just started off all alone for
a visit to Mrs. Keene, the missionary’s wife.”
A PRISONER AT LARGE
Kenneth Wayne bit his lips as he stared at the
“Facetiousness won’t get you anywhere!” he
snapped. “And in any case, leave Miss Merwood’s
name out of this! I want to know, to begin with, why
you gave Gulab Singh the slip the night before last,
where you went, and-”
“Listen!” said Glover in the same confidential tone.
“Nicky Fouche isn’t anywhere around, and about all
of the native boys of the hotel here have sneaked off
to join in the excitement with their brothers and sisters
over that unique little volume you carted back here
from the Cheruchuk River—you couldn’t have chosen
a better time for your airing. It would be too bad to
wait until the luck turned!”
Kenneth Wayne’s anger was rising.
“That’s my affair!” he said evenly. “And this sort
of thing won’t go! I want a straight answer to my
“Lord!” expostulated Glover heavily. “I’ve given
you a lot of information already—and very valuable
information too, I’d say. And if I were in your shoes
I know what I’d do with it.”
“You mean,” Kenneth Wayne flung out sharply,
“that you refuse to answer me?”
“That’s it, old top!” The drawl was still in
Glover’s voice, but there was something else in it too
now—a sort of cold finality. “You’ve got it—exactly.
What you know about me to-night, and what I know
about you to-night makes it what you might call an even
break. You mind your business—and I mind mine.
Couldn’t be anything fairer than that, could there?”
Kenneth Wayne choked‘back a hot retort.
“You are evidently labouring under the impression
that I am trying to run away,” he said, steadying his
THE LOCKED BOOK
voice. “I’m not. It was in the hope of an opportunity
more or less like this, though not necessarily with you,
the chance of picking up a clue of some sort that would
help me to the bottom of this mess rather than sit in
there and do nothing, that brought me out. In an
hour, or so, I shall go back.”
“Really,” said Glover softly, “I haven’t the slightest
doubt of it—not the slightest! But I haven’t asked
any questions, have I? Now this afternoon I’m afraid
I didn’t help matters along any, but I thought you’d
understand in a kind of friendly way that I hadn’t
forgotten the night before last—what? And it’s none
of my business—but don’t you think it’s a little
dangerous for you to stand talking around here?”
“I’ve told you,” said Kenneth Wayne brusquely,
“that I am going-”
“Yes,” said Glover with a chuckle. “And so am I.
Kenneth Wayne’s hand shot out and fastened with
a grip like steel on the other’s arm.
“That won’t do any good,” said Glover coolly.
“Suppose we’re fools enough to mix it up in a rough
and tumble, and roll down the stairs in each other’s
arms! Whoever heard the racket and came to pick
us up would be almost certain to think you were trying
to escape, instead of just being out for—er—a short
constitutional. And the result would be that, even if
you said I had been in Walters’ room, you would have
to go back to yours at once without having even been
out of the hotel, and they might be unpleasant enough
to tie you up this time. That would be rotten luck,
Kenneth Wayne’s hand fell away from the other’s
arm. It was quite true. Glover, of course, did not
believe him—who would? Also, it was quite certain
A PRISONER AT LARGE
that if Glover would not talk, and it was obvious
enough that Glover wouldn’t, he, Kenneth Wayne,
was in no position to make the other do so. He felt
suddenly childish—that his whole escapade was
childish. Glover was up to some game, of course; but
he couldn’t follow Glover like some fiction detective
with a pair of gum-shoes—even if he had had the gum¬
shoes. With a short laugh, he turned abruptly away
—but at the doorway to the verandah he paused again,
as Glover’s voice came in a whisper from the head of
“Rum go, that book! Whole island’s a bally insane
asylum. There isn’t a native will sleep for a week.
Take a tip from me, old bucko, and look out where
Glover’s footsteps receded down the stairs and died
Kenneth Wayne stepped out on the verandah and
made his way along to the rear; and here, selecting one
of the posts, he slid down to the ground. He did this
in a wholly mechanical way, and because, as it were,
that was what he had set out to do and he might as
well carry on. But he found himself apathetic and
listless about it—robbed of incentive. His meeting
with Glover had put a damper on his enthusiasm—had
brought him a sense of futility. The start had not
been propitious; and that wholly apart from the fact
that one man already knew he had left his room, for
he was not at all afraid that Glover would say any¬
thing. Quite aside from the fact that Glover appeared
to be not unmindful of that other night, Glover had
obviously some axe of his own to grind; and Glover,
far from being swayed by any sense of moral obliga¬
tion to the law that would cause him to make an effort
to frustrate what he undoubtedly believed to be an
160 THE LOCKED BOOK
attempt at escape, was apparently only too anxious
that a mutual silence should be observed.
There were no lights of any kind here at the back
of the hotel. But there was Glover’s moon now just
coming up over the trees behind some kind of a store¬
house, or out-building belonging to the hotel, a
hundred yards or so farther in the rear. He stared
about him. His thoughts and, yes, too, his emotions,
seemed to run together now in a jumble. The
night was very quiet, even if the natives all over
the lot were keyed up with excitement. He couldn’t
hear anything; not even the voices of pedestrians
from the road in front—if there were any. Damn
that infernal sense of futility that kept sneaking in¬
sidiously upon him! He wasn’t without purpose, or
an objective either. Certainly, he need not be idle.
The natives, for instance, knew a lot—and they must
be talking amongst themselves to-night. There was
something more about Glover that kept bothering
him. What the devil was it? Oh, yes! Glover
to-night, in both manner and conversation, had
appeared to be amazingly sober!
He drew back suddenly under the over-hang of the
verandah, and stood quite still now. What was that
out there—or, rather, who was it? Over at the far
corner of what might be called the back yard of the
hotel was a little clump of palms, and, just emerging
from these, he had caught sight of the figure of a man
in white. He watched now, his interest more and
more aroused. The figure, half-crouching, hurrying,
something furtive in its movements, seemed to be
making for the storehouse, or whatever the building
was, out there in the clearer space. It might be a
native, or it might even be Glover again, he could not
tell; but, whoever it was, the man would have had to
A PRISONER AT LARGE 161
make a wide detour from the road in front to have
reached his present position, instead of coming in an
ordinary and direct way past the side of the hotel
itself where there was a roadway for precisely that
purpose. Why the detour—coupled with the stealth
that the man was obviously exhibiting?
Too bad the moon wasn’t higher! The figure was
only a blur of white flitting along out there. And
now it passed beyond the out-building and disappeared.
Kenneth Wayne watched for its reappearance on the
other side. Nothing. A minute went by. And then
from the out-building itself it seemed as though, if his
eyes were not playing him tricks, there were suddenly
emanating from here and there along its length a
number of tiny and almost indiscernible chinks of
Kenneth Wayne, with a sudden, twisted smile,
stepped quietly out from under the verandah, and
began to make his way noiselessly toward the out¬
building. Whatever the outcome of his stolen hours
of freedom, and however valueless they might prove
to be in results, they were obviously not to lack for
interest. First Glover—and now this! There was
something in the wind here beyond a doubt, something
going on under cover—and anything that went on
under cover to-night had a very decided claim on his
He was treading softly now, working around to¬
ward the rear of the out-building. There wasn’t any
mystery about the chinks of light. The out-building,
windowless, was in very bad repair, and in places the
walls, as he could see now, actually gaped open. A
lamp had obviously been lighted inside.
A voice reached him now from within. It was
harsh, raised a little in anger, the foreign accent
THE LOCKED BOOK
strongly marked. Kenneth Wayne recognised it at
once as that of Nicky Fouche. He slipped around the
rear corner of the building, and, edging along until he
found one of the wider apertures in the warped
boarding, applied his eye to the opening.
He was possessed of an almost unobstructed view.
The place, obviously a storehouse, contained a number
of packing cases, some of very large size. He was
instantly conscious that there was something familiar
about these cases—that, if not the same ones, they
were, at least, very similar to those that he remem¬
bered now, though he had paid no attention to them at
the time, he had seen slung over the ship’s side for
lightering ashore on the afternoon of his arrival here.
The cover of one of the cases had been removed, and
on the floor beside it were scattered fifteen or twenty
bolts of cloth, and upon this pile there sprawled the
form of Mr. Walters, the cloth merchant from Man¬
chester. At Mr. Walters’ elbow was a partially
emptied gin bottle; while over Mr. Walters’ prostrate
form stood Monsieur Nicholas Fouche with a lighted
lamp in his hand.
Kenneth Wayne smiled in a hard-faced way as he
stared within. Quite an intriguing little scene! And
from all appearances Mr. Walters’ cloth business was
conducted on not at all an insignificant scale!
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche was speaking.
“Sacre mille cochons!” swore Monsieur Fouche
with a snarl in his voice. “Are you crazy, that you get
drunk to-night? To-night —mon Dieu!” He bent
down and shook Mr. Walters from Manchester
roughly. “Heh? Are you crazy, I say?”
Mr. Walters, after a moment or two, raised him¬
self on his elbow, blinked at the light-—and suddenly
A PRISONER AT LARGE 163
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche was dancing from toe to
toe in his excitement.
“You’ve missed your calling, Frenchy!” said Mr.
Walters with an ugly sneer. “You ought to have been
a ballet master! And as for the rest, you mind your
own business! I don’t get drunk! But”—he reached
for the bottle and took an enormous gulp—“‘I take
a drink when I want one. Understand? But I don’t
Nicky Fouche set the lamp down on top of one of
“Damn!” said he fervently. “You let that alone!
I know you too well! You do not get drunk? Mon
Dieu! Well, then, call it what you like! That you do
not stagger around like most men and talk with a
tongue that is too big for your mouth, is true; but you
become worse than that, and at such times the devil
himself is not uglier than you. A little fire burns in
your brain—eh? Do I not know? You have the
passions of hell, mon ami —and they run loose.”
“Look out you don’t get in their road, then!” said
Mr. Walters with a vicious laugh, rising to his feet.
“Listen!” The Frenchman’s voice became suddenly
placating. “It is perhaps that I have said too much.
But offence—no! We do not quarrel—we two. And
perhaps it will not make so much difference after all
to-night. I think it was the bad luck that set my
tongue going, and-”
Mr. Walters from Manchester, his puffy eyes
narrowed, took an abrupt step forward.
“What do you mean—bad luck?” he growled.
“That to-night the plans are no longer safe,” said
Nicky Fouche in a sort of tense and quavering earnest¬
ness. “They are dangerous. That we cannot go on.”
“Glover—eh!”' exclaimed Mr. Walters with a
THE LOCKED BOOK
savage oath. “The swine! That’s it, eh? He’s
tumbled even to what’s going on to-night, has he?”
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche shook his head.
“That I do not know. I do not worry about Glover
to-night. If he knew the plan, it would be his game
to wait until it was over and then demand a share.”
“Right! So he would! ” Mr. Walters’ lips curled
maliciously. “And he’d get it, too! And this time
there wouldn’t be any blooming error about his getting
all that was coming to him, either! That suits me!
Well, what’s the trouble then, if it’s not Glover?”
“That book!” Monsieur Nicholas Fouche was
speaking quickly, excitedly again. “The book that
Wayne had hidden in his bag. Clever—what you call
smooth, eh?—that fellow Wayne!”
“No!” grunted Mr. Walters from Manchester con¬
temptuously. “He is a fool. If he’d kept his mouth
shut in the first place, and not tried to be so clever in
slipping it over on the natives, he’d have got away
with it; or, at least, he’d have got a chance to get it
out of his bag before it was seen.” Mr. Walters
reached suddenly for the bottle and took another
generous gulp. “I wish I’d had his luck to cop it!
If that old pirate bird only had a little of what they
say he had, that book would be worth”—he slapped
one of the cases heavily with the palm of his hand—
“ten years of this sort of thing.”
“More than that, mon ami!” Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche’s voice seemed suddenly to take on a hungry
tone. “We would be rich—rich! It is not fable—it
is history. The old pirate sank many ships—very
many of them. Ah, you make me dream! Wealth-
luxury—a lifetime of it—and all between the covers
of one little book, eh? But”—he sucked in his breath
A PRISONER AT LARGE 165
in a long-drawn sigh—“we have not got the book—
and it is gone again!”
“I’m not so sure about that!” said Mr. Walters,
with a low, unpleasant laugh.
A queer little breathless sound came from Monsieur
“What did you say, mon ami —what did you say?”
“Bah!” sneered Mr. Walters from Manchester.
“You heard what I said! Now see if you can hear
this too! What would you do to get the book, little
Kenneth Wayne could not catch the reply—he was
merely conscious of a low, prolonged, passionate mur¬
mur. Then Mr. Walters from Manchester laughed
“I thought so!” said Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester. “Well, it should not be so difficult, then. I
have cracked harder nuts myself. But there is some¬
thing else first. What has the book got to do with
what you were saying about not moving this stuff here
“It’s the natives,” said Nicky Fouche—and launched
suddenly into an excited flood of profanity in his
mother tongue. “That is what kept me for the last
hour. You see! I began to be suspicious when I saw,
not once, but twice, some of my boys whispering to¬
gether in the corners. Then, instead of coming out
here to join you at once, I thought I would see—how
do you call it?—what was blowing in the wind. Yes?
You understand? *Cre nom d’un nom, it was well I
did! For an hour I have been everywhere amongst
the natives. And everywhere it is The Locked Book
—the Konchi-kan Kitab of Kana-ee-a. They are ex¬
cited. They talk. They whisper. They gather to¬
gether. They go from hut to hut. There is a rest-
THE LOCKED BOOK
lessness upon them like a disease. There is not one
that will sleep to-night. Talamori and his men could
move nothing down to the proas. It is impossible.
They would be seen.”
Mr. Walters’ countenance darkened with obvious
anger and chagrin; and in turn he blasphemed with
“You agree then,” said Monsieur Nicholas Fouche,
“that we must attempt nothing to-night?”
“Agree!” Mr. Walters flung back in an ugly tone.
“If what you say is true, even a fool would know we’d
got to sit tight. Talamori ’ll have to get back to the
Cheruchuk again for cover for a night or two. D’you
suppose he’s here yet?”
“How should I know?” Nicky Fouche answered a
little helplessly. “Since he was only to leave the
Cheruchuk so as to get the proas into the cove behind
the headland when it was dark! There was no time
arranged. That would be impossible—eh? He may
be here any minute—or maybe not for hours. I would
have gone down there instead of coming here only—■
you can see, eh, tonnerre !—I might have missed him,
and he would come here, and you would know nothing
and would start to load the men, and we would be
“Great intelligence, Frenchy!” applauded Mr.
Walters from Manchester, with an ill-tempered grin.
“Well, we’ve got to head him off now, haven’t we?”
“Yes,” said Monsieur Nicholas Fouche quickly,
“and one of us must go to the cove, and the other
must stay here in case Talamori is already on his way.
Whoever goes must take the road, though naturelle -
merit Talamori will come by the woods; but for you
or me to go that way would take too much time and
there would be too much chance of missing him, and
A PRISONER AT LARGE
nothing would be gained, and”—with a sudden
grimace, as Mr. Walters reached again for the gin
bottle and tilted it to his lips—“I think—it is an idea,
mon ami —it will be better for me to go to the cove.”
“Oh, you do—do you!” There was a snarl in Mr.
Walters’ voice. He glared for a moment at the
other; then he laughed raspingly. “Well, I’ve been
thinking about that, too—and I think you won’t!
Seeing there isn’t going to be anything pulled to-night,
I’ll take you far enough into my confidence to let you
know that a walk down the road in that particular
direction has got a special attraction for me. You’ll
stay here, Frenchy!”
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche shrugged his shoulders.
“We will not quarrel about that,” he murmured,
“but”—with a quick, furtive glance at the other—
“but what is this special attraction?”
“My business!” said Mr. Walters from Manchester
with a leer.
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche appeared to be suddenly
both excited and ill at ease. He fingered nervously at
“Mow Dieu!” he whispered anxiously. “Is it that?
I am afraid for what you might do when you are like
this. Major Peters lives on the way to the cove.”
“So do a lot of other people,” snapped Mr. Walters
from Manchester. “Don’t you worry about what I’m
going to do. All you’ve got to know is that”—he held
up the gin bottle, then slipped it into his pocket—“I’m
taking this along to call Talamori’s bluff on how good
a Mohammedan he is! Savvy?”
Mr. Walters walked with no sign of unsteadiness
to the rear door of the storehouse.
“But,” cried out Monsieur Nicholas Fouche, “I—
sacre nom !—I-”
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Shut your face!” shouted Mr. Walters from
Manchester with a rush of temper. “Understand?
I do what I please!”
He opened the door and looked out. The moon,
higher above the trees now, was flooding the clearing.
Mr. Walters from Manchester stepped outside and
shut the door behind him.
There was no one in sight.
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME
T HE native huts, singly and in groups, strung out
until they overlapped what might be called the
limits of the town, lay in amongst the trees
behind the houses of the whites, which latter bordered
the road. To reach the “cove” behind the headland
by making a circuit around the Malay quarters would
necessitate too wide a detour; and, besides, the going
would be very difficult. It would take much too long.
Kenneth Wayne lay flat on his stomach a few feet
back from the roadside. A hundred yards away to
his right were the lights of the hotel. Figures passed
up and down on the road—for the most part Malays.
Sometimes they halted in little groups whispering
The road, too, was obviously impracticable.
There was one other way—the beach. It was de¬
serted, and, though bright now with moonlight, the
line of trees that fringed the road would serve quite
admirably as a screen to protect one from observation.
Besides, even if noticed, a figure walking on the beach
would be nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to
attract or arouse particular attention—provided the
figure were not recognised. Kenneth Wayne nodded to
himself. From a distance that was hardly likely to
He stirred impatiently. He had been lying here
fully ten minutes now waiting for an opportunity to
THE LOCKED BOOK
steal across the road. Neither Glover nor Nicky
Fouche had exaggerated the natives’ restlessness. If
they were humming around in their own quarters, they
were also abroad in force—or else they were possessed
by some infernal fascination to mass and congregate
upon this particular section of the road!
Kenneth Wayne stood up suddenly. For the first
time there was no one in his immediate vicinity upon
the road. He crossed it quickly, and darted in behind
the shelter of the line of trees on the other side.
The long sweep of beach lay ahead of him—a mile
of it, at least, to the end of the bay—deserted, empty,
white in the moonlight. With the protecting screen
of trees between himself and the road now, he hurried
forward. Where the trees were thick together he
ran at top speed; where they thinned and the road
came into view he went more cautiously, even strolling
nonchalantly at times, that a hurrying figure might not,
if seen, invite comment or investigation.
The location of the cove did not trouble him. It
was behind a headland, and, from the conversation
between Nicky Fouche and Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester, Major Peters’ house had to be passed in order
to reach it. Therefore its direction was fixed. For
the rest, it was merely a question of following the
shoreline until it was reached.
Who was this Talamori who had been hiding in
the Cheruchuk River? The question thudded at
Kenneth Wayne’s brain as he ran, and walked, and
ran again in turn. He was down past Major Peters’
house now. Who was this man who waited for dark¬
ness to come with his proas? A wild thought flashed
upon him. No; not that! Hardly that! Luck was
perhaps breaking for him—but hardly to that extent.
He found himself laughing harshly under his breath.
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 171
He did not expect to find that the man was Crimson
Sash, did he?
He answered himself savagely: No; he did not!
His interest in the man consisted in the fact that, as
late as this afternoon at any rate, the other had been
hiding in the Cheruchuk River. And on that score
alone this Talamori at once assumed a position of very
considerable importance in his mind.
He frowned now as he ran. Queer game, this,
that was being played here! What was there in
common between Nicky Fouche and Mr. Walters on
the one hand, and this Talamori with his proas, who¬
ever he might be, on the other? Why were Nicky
Fouche and Mr. Walters so anxious that a string of
this Talamori’s followers, presumably, should not be
seen carrying bolts of cloth?—since Mr. Walters from
Manchester was in the cloth business! Where did
Glover fit into this?
Kenneth Wayne halted suddenly, and shrugged his
shoulders. These things were apart, not of his im¬
mediate concern. They had nothing to do with the
murder of the old fanatic that had been laid at his
door—the only connection they had with the dragon-
covered book was that this Talamori had been hiding
in the Cheruchuk River. But Talamori wasn’t a white
man, was he? And if a native, Talamori would have
known all about the book—and would have kept it for
himself. That was his, Kenneth Wayne’s, own argu¬
ment, wasn’t it? Well, then? What was the answer?
Was this trail he was following now only another one
that led up against a blind wall? Neither Nicky
Fouche nor Mr. Walters from Manchester, from what
he had overheard back there, appeared to have had
any hand in the crime.
He swept a clenched hand across a heated brow.
THE LOCKED BOOK
His lips tightened doggedly. That wasn’t why he had
halted and stood hesitating now—just because his
thoughts had run riot a little. He was going through
with this anyway. The question was whether he dared
risk taking the open road itself now? He was now
beyond the end of the town in this direction. A little
way back on the road he could see the lights of the last
house, which stood quite alone, like a farflung outpost
from its fellows. Ahead, the short section of the road
that was in view was apparently quite deserted. On
the seaward side a thickly wooded headland ran out
to close the bay. The cove, obviously, was still farther
on. Would he better take the road, or keep on as he
had been going and cut across the headland?
There was always the chance, perhaps more than a
chance to-night with disquiet prevailing everywhere,
of stray parties of natives cropping up unexpectedly
on the road; and, besides, there was still Mr. Walters
of Manchester to consider. Mr. Walters had taken
the road; but Mr. Walters would not have run at any
stage of his errand, and, even with the other’s initial
start, it was a question whether the man was now
ahead, or close at hand. There was a bend in the road
here, and, though the moonlight lay soft and clear
upon it, Kenneth Wayne could not see far in either
Why take any chance? The woods on the head¬
land could not be very thick—and even if they were,
it was certainly the safer way.
His decision made, he entered the tract of wooded
growth, and began to cut across the point or headland.
It was not so bad after all. He made good progress
—not so good as though he had come by the road, of
course, but better than he had expected.
Nor was it as far as he had expected—for after
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 173
some five minutes of steady going he suddenly stood
still. A voice, ahead of him through the trees, but out
a little in the direction of the seaward end of the point,
was calling in a low, guarded way. He listened. The
voice became impatient in tone—much louder. He
caught the words now:
“Hey, there! I say, you, out there! Damn it,
what’s the matter with you? Want ’em to hear me
It was the voice of Mr. Walters from Manchester!
Kenneth Wayne, picking his way softly, turned in
the direction of the voice. And then a few yards
farther on he found himself suddenly at the edge of
the wooded stretch—and once more stood still. He
had been lucky again! If he had come any other way
than across the headland, he would without question
have missed both the cove and Mr. Walters. The
cove, he could see now, was nothing more than a little
indentation in the headland itself, and, being almost
surrounded by trees, would certainly have been hidden
to view from the road.
Back in a little amongst the trees and secure from
observation, he stared now at the scene before him.
A few yards away on a narrow, circular strip of sand
stood Mr. Walters from Manchester—and out a short
distance from this strip of sand, as though they had
grounded in shallow water, bulked the shapes of three
proas. Mr. Walters had ceased to call; he was en¬
gaged now in extracting from his pocket the bottle
with which he had armed himself before leaving the
storehouse. There was no sign of life from any of
And now Mr. Walters from Manchester raised the
bottle to his lips, drank—and apostrophised the moon¬
THE LOCKED BOOK
“What d’you know about that!” exclaimed Mr.
Walters heavily. “Gone! On their way up there
already! Devil of a hurry about it—eh?—what?”
Mr. Walters from Manchester drank again—then
held the bottle up to the moonlight and laughed
“And so’s that—gone!” said Mr. Walters. He
flung the bottle out into the water. “Well, it T s all
right! Frenchy ’ll look after them. Can’t say I’m
sorry—saves the waste of time standing palavering
around here. Nothing like having two irons in the
fire, and other fish to fry! What?” He laughed rau¬
cously again. “Well, I guess I’ll go fry ’em!” he
said—and turning abruptly, disappeared through the
trees in the direction of the road.
Kenneth Wayne passed his hand a little wearily
across his eyes. His luck, after all, hadn’t amounted
to much. He had had his struggle to get here for
nothing—there was nothing to do but go back again.
The man from the Cheruchuk River wasn’t here—he
was, or would be, at the storehouse behind the hotel!
Too bad he, Kenneth Wayne, hadn’t waited there—
unless he was interested in that last remark of Mr.
Walters from Manchester.
He shook his head, as he started back across the
point. Mr. Walters, according to his own statement,
might not be drunk; but Mr. Walters had consumed at
least the major portion of a bottle of gin in the last
few hours and could not help but be, unless he were
a superman, somewhat fuddled of brain. This Tala-
mori was the more interesting—and promising.
Kenneth Wayne emerged from the woods again
close to the point where he had entered them—near
the edge of the road. Mr. Walters, this time, would,
without any question, be ahead of him, thanks to the
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 175
easier going on the road—but not very far ahead.
He moved cautiously still nearer to the edge of the
road, and peered out. He was not so much interested
in Mr. Walters’ movements, as he was in seeing that
his own should not interest Mr. Walters! Yes, there
was Mr. Walters, right enough—just passing around
the bend beyond the house that stood alone here at
this end of the town.
Kenneth Wayne nodded. So long as he kept Mr.
Walters ahead of him it was all right. He went on
again along the beach, skirting the fringe of trees at
the roadside, passed the house that stood alone, and,
reaching a point beyond the bend of the road, edged
in through the trees again for a second reconnaisance.
Here was another long straight stretch of vacant
road before the houses began to nestle, as it were,
more compactly together in the town proper. In the
moonlight he could see the road stretching like a grey
ribbon before him for a considerable distance—much
farther, it was certain, than the distance that had
previously intervened between himself and Mr.
Walters. But Mr. Walters was no longer in sight.
Kenneth Wayne rubbed his eyes and looked again.
The road was empty and deserted—even the restless
natives hadn’t come down this far.
Perhaps Mr. Walters from Manchester had taken
suddenly to the beach! Kenneth Wayne drew away
from the roadside, and in turn searched the long,
white reach of sand. Nothing here, either—as far
as he could see! Strange! The man seemed to have
vanished in a most amazing fashion.
Kenneth Wayne returned to the roadside—and
again rubbed his eyes. This was some absurd now-
you-see-me-and-now-you-don’t sort of game, wasn’t it?
Mr. Walters was standing in the middle of the road
THE LOCKED BOOK
not a hundred yards away, and was peering back in
his, Kenneth Wayne’s direction. And then Mr.
Walters from Manchester disappeared again—but
this time there was no mystery in the man’s move¬
ments. Mr. Walters had simply drawn back behind
a tree at the edge of the road.
Kenneth Wayne’s lips tightened. Had the man
discovered that he had been followed? It looked
like it. And, worse still, Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester now occupied a strategical position that he,
Kenneth Wayne, did not like at all. He could neither
go on along the beach nor along the road without
being seen by Mr. Walters.
The man was a damned Jack-in-the-box! There
he was out in the road again—and now he appeared to
be sauntering leisurely back this way. A bit cool of
the man, if he knew he had been followed! Kenneth
Wayne smiled grimly. He hadn’t given the puffy-
eyed representative of the cloth house in Manchester
credit for that much nerve. Perhaps it was the gin,
Kenneth Wayne crouched suddenly down behind
a tree trunk. There was a light, quick step on the
road almost in front of him. He had not heard it
before; he had not been looking in the opposite direc¬
tion—his attention had been concentrated on Mr.
Walters from Manchester. A figure in white passed
by ... a trim, graceful, little figure . . . without
any hat on . . . the hair that glinted gold in the
sun turned now to bronze in the moonlight.
Glover’s words came back to mind in a flash. That
must be the Keenes’ house back there. And through
Kenneth Wayne’s brain too there flashed Mr. Walters’
“special attraction in this particular direction,” and
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 177
Mr. Walters’ “fish to fry.” And he remembered,
too, a look he had once seen in Mr. Walters’ eyes.
Kenneth Wayne sprang to his feet, took a step for¬
ward—and stopped short, choking back a savage
laugh. Mr. Walters might not be welcome, else he
would have called for her at that house to accompany
her back, but at least Dorothy Merwood wasn’t in any
danger—and he, Kenneth Wayne, was supposed to be
a prisoner, confined and charged with murder. And
perhaps more unwelcome still!
He saw Mr. Walters from Manchester hurrying
forward now, saw Dorothy IVIerwood halt in evident
surprise and hesitation—and then Kenneth Wayne’s
face hardened suddenly. They were scarcely twenty-
five yards away. It was not merely a pantomime that
he was witnessing—he could hear their voices, catch
something of what was said. Her cool tones reached
him now, as she drew back her arm from the man’s
attempt to slip it through his own.
“Thank you, Mr. Walters,” she said; “but that is
not at all necessary.”
“Oh, I say!” protested Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester ingratiatingly. “You don’t mean that! Come
along now, don’t be stand-offish!”
The man was trying to take her arm again. Kenneth
Wayne moved forward behind the shelter of the trees.
He could not see so well now, and for a moment only
a confused murmur of voices came to him. Then he
heard Dorothy Merwood’s voice again, still cool and
contained, but with a ring of anxiety in it:
“Kindly let me pass, Mr. Walters. You’re not
yourself. I—I think you’ve been drinking.”
“I don’t get drunk”—the man’s voice was suddenly
raised in a surly tone—“and I don’t get thrown down
either! Since that nigger-killing crook landed in here
i 7 8 THE LOCKED BOOK
a few days ago you haven’t had eyes for any one else
—though maybe you’ve got over that after this after¬
noon. You were sweet enough before he came—and
I fancy you can be again.”
Kenneth Wayne was at a vantage point where he
could see again. He was quite close to the two now.
“I think you’re mad!” Dorothy Merwood cried
“Don’t you be a little fool!” Mr. Walters’ tones
were sullen and ugly. “Come on now, be chummy!
Give me that pretty little arm of yours.”
Mr. Walters reached for the girl’s arm again, and
this time imprisoned it; but in an instant Dorothy
Merwood wrenched it loose, and, seemingly with all
her strength, struck Mr. Walters from Manchester
full across the face.
An oath purled from Mr. Walters’ lips.
“You’ll pay for that!” he snarled. “You’ll pay
for it with your lips, my beauty! You’re the kind
that’s got to be taught”—he had caught her up in his
arms despite her struggles—“and I’ll teach you-
A cry came from Dorothy Merwood.
It was a matter of yards—very few of them. Ken¬
neth Wayne, a fury upon him that maddened his
senses, his lips white with passion, flung himself for¬
ward. Six feet in height he stood, and he was a man
of great strength. Before they saw him he was upon
them. His hands snatched at Mr. Walters’ neck,
closed around it, tightened, and tightened again until
there came a strangling, choking sound—and then Mr.
Walters from Manchester seemed to rise straight up
from the ground, and the next instant went hurtling
through the air and crashed upon his face in the middle
of the road a good half dozen paces away.
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 179
“Get out of here!” said Kenneth Wayne hoarsely.
“Get out—while you can!”
For a moment, fists clenched, he eyed the other;
and then, suddenly become hesitant in his actions, he
turned his back upon the man and faced Dorothy
Merwood. Her hands held tightly to her breast, her
breath coming in short, panting little gasps, she was
staring at him wide-eyed, startled, amazed.
“You— here?” she said, and relief, anxiety, a
troubled wonder, all seemed mingled in her tones.
“I-” And then her voice rose in a quick, wild cry.
“Look out!” she screamed. “Oh, look out! He-”
Kenneth Wayne whirled around. Mr. Walters
from Manchester was still lying in the road, but he
had raised himself on one elbow now, and with his
other hand was tugging at the pocket of his coat. He
was laughing like a man bereft of reason.
“Legal, by God, legal to shoot an escaped prisoner
—eh!” he laughed.
But the laugh died in a flood of profanity as Ken¬
neth Wayne jumped toward him. The revolver had
caught in the pocket. He was still wrenching at it,
still pouring out his blasphemies, in an almost maniacal
way now, as Kenneth Wayne caught his wrist.
“I’ll help you!” said Kenneth Wayne with a grim
smile. “Stand up!”
Still clasping the man’s wrist, Kenneth Wayne, with
the other hand, jerked Mr. Walters from Manchester
to his feet by the collar of the coat. Mr. Walters
cried out in pain as his wrist was sharply twisted. The
revolver clattered to the road.
Kenneth Wayne stooped, picked up the weapon
and put it in his own pocket. And then for a moment
he stood again with clenched fists fighting the impulse
to launch himself upon the other.
THE LOCKED BOOK
He caught his breath sharply.
“You can thank your God we’re not alone here!”
He heard himself speaking. It did not sound like his
own voice though. There was something very hollow,
very strained in it. “Now get out!” He pointed
down the road in the direction of the missionary’s
house. “Get out!”
Mr. Walters from Manchester raised both fists.
He shook them like a madman.
“Yes, I’ll get outt” In his passion the saliva
drooled from his lips. “But I’ll make you wish you
hadn’t got out, you damned murderer! I’ll see about
your case! Yes, and you’ll find out I’m not through
with either of you!” He turned and started off along
the road—then stopped abruptly. “You two had
better make the most of the few minutes you’ve got
together!” he flung back with a vicious laugh—and
went on again.
The colour came flooding Dorothy Merwood’s
cheeks to crimson.
“He has been drinking,” said Kenneth Wayne
hurriedly; and then, a sudden unsteadiness in his voice:
“Shall we walk on”—he hesitated—“or perhaps you
would rather not? I—I would like to see you far
enough on the way to be sure that nothing of this sort
happened again. And besides”—again he hesitated
—for her own protection now she must know the truth
about Walters and that shot at Glover, even if he
must tell her standing here in the road—“and besides,
there is something I want to say to you.”
“But you?” she asked quickly.
“I am going that way—by the beach,” he answered.
She looked at him for a moment, and in her eyes,
half veiled by their long lashes, he read a strange
anxiety and indecision, a troubled questioning.
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 181
And then she spoke.
“Yes,” she said in a low voice—and led the way
across the road and through the bordering trees to the
He fell into step beside her. She walked with her
head a little lowered, a little averted—walked quickly,
with nervous haste—walked in silence. And in silence,
too, he watched her for a long time—the moonlight on
her uncovered head, the bronze of her hair again, the
play of her features, a little quiver that came and
went on the half-parted lips.
“Miss Merwood,” he said abruptly, “I’m not very
good at saying just the right thing at the right time in
the right way, I’m afraid. There hasn’t been much
‘drawing-room’ in my life. But I know you’re fright¬
fully ill at ease. And at least I can understand why.
You feel perhaps under a little sense of obligation for
what has just happened, and because of that you are
willing to accept the natural embarrassment of—of—
how shall I say it?—of my being here with you now
after what took place this afternoon. But I-”
She halted on the instant, and, facing him, stamped
her foot angrily upon the sand.
“You are a very poor analyst then—and a most un¬
fair one!” she said vehemently. “My ‘little sense of
obligation,’ as you call it, is very heavy—and not alone
on my own account. If it had not been for me, no
one would have known that you—that you-” She
bit at her lips, stumbling for her words.
“That I had escaped?” he supplied quietly.
“Yes,” she said, the anger gone now, her voice a
little tremulous; “and also that I shall now be respon¬
sible for you being retaken, or at least for a hunt
being started for you all over the island.”
He leaned a little toward her.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“You approve, then, of jail breaking?” he asked
—and striving to speak lightly found a quick eager¬
ness in his voice instead.
“Oh, I don’t know!” she cried sharply—and started
on along the beach again. “I—I don’t know! You
have no right to ask me that. One has human feelings
that are not always ethical. I wanted to tell you to
go when we were back there on the road. But I was
afraid that you wouldn’t have understood—as I know
now you wouldn’t from what you have said. But now
—why don’t you go now—while there is a little time
—before it is too late?”
“Not yet,” he said, and shook his head. “Presently,
when we get a little farther up the beach where there
Is a chance of being seen, I am going to let you go on
alone—for your own sake; but first, as I’ve said,
there is something I want to say to you—and there is
also a question that I want to ask. The question is a
bit blunt, Miss Merwood; but I’ve already warned
you that my tongue has never been taught to stand on
ceremony. Do you really believe what you gave me
to understand you believed on the verandah this
The colour came sweeping into her cheeks again.
“Why should you ask me that!” she exclaimed pro-
testingly. “It isn’t fair! It isn’t fair after what has
happened! What possible difference can it make what
I think or believe?”
“It makes a great deal of difference to me, Miss
Merwood,” said Kenneth Wayne steadily. “Do you
think I’m the sort of man who could go and butcher
an old mad native for the sake-”
“No,” she said quickly. “I—I don’t think I ever
thought that. Since you force an answer from me, it
was more that you were somehow implicated, or knew
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 183
more than you had admitted—that there was some¬
thing else behind it all. It was that book in your bag,
and no explanation of, not how, but why it came to
be there. It would be so easy to understand that there
would be plenty of opportunity for some one to put it
there. But why? No one who has committed a
crime is going to give over the fortune so obtained to
another—unless—unless to an accomplice. I’ve
thought and thought about it all afternoon and eve¬
ning. And—and I can’t find any answer. If it weren’t
for that ‘why’ everybody would have laughed at the
thought of you having had anything to do with it even
if the book were in your bag.”
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne with a faint smile.
“It’s a bit damning, isn’t it? I’ve thought a little
about that myself. And now that I have broken out
She did not answer his question.
“What are you going to do now?” she asked
Kenneth Wayne laughed a little shortly.
“I’m going back to my cell,” he said.
Again she came to a sudden halt.
“Because you have been seen?” she said, her voice
breaking a little. “Because there isn’t time now to
get far enough away before a hue and cry is raised?
“No,” said Kenneth Wayne simply. “Because I
always intended to go back.”
“Go back?” she repeated—and again, as though she
had not quite understood: “Go back?”
He looked at her for a moment before he answered.
Her eyes were wide. There was something of eager¬
ness, something of fear in them—as there had been
that afternoon before this miserable accusation had
184 THE LOCKED BOOK
been flung at him—something of anxiety not for her¬
“It’s almost as unbelievable as the defence I made
on the verandah,” he said. “An hour ago—or two
—I’ve lost track of time—I found an opportunity to
get out of my room unobserved. I decided to take
it in the hope that I might stumble on some clue to
that ‘why’ you were just speaking about. Sometime
before morning I intended to return to my room; but
having just been seen, and my leave of absence being
thereby curtailed, I am going back now—before the
bloodhounds start baying. Sounds a bit lame, doesn’t
Again she did not answer his question directly.
“Then you must hurry,” she said, beginning to walk
on again; “or the alarm will be raised before you get
Kenneth Wayne shook his head.
“I hardly think so,” he said. “Walters can’t past
us without making a circuit around by the woods on
the other side of the road, and that would take time;
and, besides, I have reason to feel sure he won’t start
what he must believe would be a man-hunt until he
has first given certain friends of his to-night time to
disperse and get under cover. I’m sure I’ve at least
a good fifteen minutes’ leeway.”
“Oh!” she cried quickly. “Then you have dis¬
covered something to-night!”
Again he shook his head.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “Perhaps.”
“Yet!” She caught up the word instantly. “Which
means that, after all, I have cost you a great deal to¬
night—that, if it had not been for me, you might
have been able to find out a great deal more, instead of
being forced back at once now to your room.”
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 185
“Well, for to-night, yes—if you will have it so,”
he said, and smiled gravely. “But it might not have
amounted to anything at all; and, in any case, I happen
to know that what was going on here was to be post¬
poned for a night or two anyway—until the natives’
excitement over what occurred to-day has died down.
So you see my chances are as good as ever.”
“If you are ever able to get out again!” she said
under her breath, and as though more to herself than
to him. “You will be closely watched after this.”
It was very true. He was fully aware of it. It was,
in fact, in the last analysis, little short of disaster.
But somehow he wasn’t sorry. He didn’t regret it.
In the moonlight her face showed very white and
strained—damn that swine Walters!
“Don’t you believe it!” he said cheerily. “I’ll find
There were beginning to be signs of movement on
the road now, and after a few steps farther Kenneth
“I think you would better go on alone from here,
Miss Merwood,” he said abruptly. “It would be ex¬
tremely unpleasant for you if any one, native or white,
saw and recognised me, and you were in my company.
But before you go there is that matter I said I wanted
to speak to you about. It is something I wanted to tell
you; something that, after what has happened to-night,
you must be told for your own protection, though
there are still reasons why I do not think it would be
well to make it public yet. It was Walters and Fouche
who tried to murder Glover the night before last.”
“Walters—Fouche!” she gasped in a startled way,
“Are—are you sure?”
“Yes,” he said. “That much to-night, at least, I
made sure of. But the point now is that if Walters is
THE LOCKED BOOK
capable of murder he is capable of anything—and
having once gone so far with you as he did to-night
because he had been drinking, he becomes reckless of
any further restraint upon himself. I do not want to
alarm you unduly, I do not want to frighten you; I
only want you to realise that there is more than merely
a drunken brute to deal with. Couldn’t you get your
father to pull out of here?”
“Father!” She laughed a little nervously. “Why,
quite apart from his leg, he wouldn’t go now for any¬
thing on account of that book. He is nearly crazy
with excitement over it; and I think he would do
almost anything in the world to get his own hands on
it. I know he’s going to try and get Major Peters to
let him take a photograph of it to-morrow. And
besides all that—how could we go ? There’s no
steamer expected—and no one knows when the next
one will call here.”
“Yes; that’s true,” said Kenneth Wayne heavily.
“But I wish to God you were out of here!” He held
out his hand. “I don’t want to presume,” he said—
and found his voice husky, “I’m under a bit of a cloud
myself; but before I say good-night I wish you would
promise me to be very careful—not to go out again
alone anywhere. Will you?”
She had taken his hand without looking up.
“Yes,” she said almost inaudibly.
“Good-night,” said Kenneth Wayne.
But now she raised her eyes, and he saw that they
were suddenly full of tears.
“Oh, what am I say—what am I to say?” she
whispered miserably. “About to-night—the thanks I
owe you; about—about everything else! I—I-”
“Nothing,” said Kenneth Wayne simply. “There
isn’t anything to say—now. Please don’t try. For
what has happened in the road back there I am happier
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 187
in a personal way than I can tell you, though I regret it
just as strongly the other way on account of you. And
for the rest”—he smiled down at her quietly—“I do
not think I can do better than quote Gulab Singh, that
amazing Grand Vizier of yours: ‘We travel upon the
Wheel, and strange is Fate. What is written is
written. We shall see!’ But you must go, Miss
Merwood! See, there are a lot of natives coming
along the road there. We are too much exposed here.
Quick!” His voice was suddenly tense. “Walk
straight along as though you were simply out for a
He heard a smothered, helpless little cry, like the
sob of a child almost it sounded, as he dropped her
hand and moved swiftly back closer in against the
tree trunks—and then he saw the slim figure in white
move slowly on along the beach. He watched her—
watched her until he could see her no longer. And
suddenly he buried his face in his hands.
“Oh, God!” he cried brokenly.
Presently he lifted his face to the moonlight, to
the myriad stars blending in exquisite beauty into a
cloudless sky of royal blue, and, beneath them, stared
at the rippling fringe of tiny waves breaking silver all
along the crescent beach—and to his nostrils came the
fragrance, the rare, tropical perfume from the wood¬
lands of a thousand growing things. And then he
laughed a little, but it was the laugh of one whose
heart was over-sore. Glover had not exaggerated.
It was a wondrous night—a wonderful night for a
walk. Well, he had had his walk.
He walked on along the beach. There was no
special reason to preserve secrecy in his movements
now. As soon as Walters had warned Fouche and this
Talamori, and the latter had had an opportunity to
THE LOCKED BOOK
get to cover, the fact that he, Kenneth Wayne, had
“broken jail” would be known. Whether, therefore,
it were known now on the way back, or ten or fifteen
minutes later, made no material difference.
And so he went on. He made no studied effort to
escape observation. But no one seemed to pay any
attention to a lone figure walking on the beach, much
less recognise who it was. Opposite the hotel there
was no one particularly near on the road, and, crossing
the latter, he entered the hotel and climbed the stairs,
still without challenge or hindrance. There seemed
something almost ironical in this now—since now he
was indifferent as to whether he were seen or not.
He entered his room, and shut the door behind
him. He did not lock it. What was the use! He
sat down in the darkness on the edge of the bed. They
would be along here shortly—to view the empty cage.
Rather neat, that! It would give Mr. Walters from
Manchester a jolt at least. He hadn’t thought of
that before. He was glad now he hadn’t been seen
on the way back.
His head dropped into his hands. There was a
great deal to think about—so much that the thoughts
came tumbling, tossing and crowding one upon another
—confusing him. No, he was tired, that was all—
mentally fagged out. Anyway, what was the good
of trying to think now—subconsciously his mind would
be centred only on the fact that he was waiting for
Mr. Walters’ storm to break.
Five minutes passed—another five.
And then suddenly Kenneth Wayne rose to his feet.
Here they were now! There was a rush of feet along
the front verandah, the heavy knocking upon door
panels, excited voices crying out—a sudden babel. And
then from some voice raised above this babel he caught
a few coherent words:
MOONLIGHT AND MATCH-FLAME 189
. „ Turn out, I tell you! Don’t you understand?
Major Peters has been done in—murdered—the
book’s gone again. . „
Heavy footsteps came racing around from the front
of the verandah; a heavy fist pounded on Kenneth
Kenneth Wayne passed his hand in a dull way
across his forehead.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“Just wanted to know you were there!” a voice
answered gruffly—and the footsteps raced away again.
Kenneth Wayne stood motionless for a moment
staring through the black at the door; and then once
more he passed his hand in helpless fashion across his
forehead. Good God, they hadn’t thought of accusing
him of this too, had they! There was a limit to— He
became suddenly tense again. He had been out—and
it would soon be known by everybody that he had
The hotel was growing quiet—footsteps running
down the stairs were receding, dying away. That
would be the white boarders running, all running, God
knew why! for the scene of the crime! Well, they
would be back here presently—when they knew he had
His shoulders squared back. Not in the dark!
That wasn’t the way he cared to face them.
The lamp was on the little table over there against
the wall. He stepped forward, struck a match,
reached for the lamp chimney—and his hand, half
extended, remained in that position as if suddenly
stricken numb and incapable of further movement.
The match burned on, burned his fingers, and fell in
a tiny, glowing ember upon the floor.
Beside the lamp on the table lay the dragon-covered
— XVI —
“the three crooks”
A STILLNESS, almost eerie by comparison with
the confusion of a moment gone, had settled
upon the hotel. The exodus had seemingly
been complete. The White Bachelors of the Tropics,
in pajamas and half-dressed, if one could judge by the
haste in which, on being aroused from slumber, they
had scurried away, were gone, responding to a man
to the cry of murder.
But the dragon-covered book was here.
That was why Major Peters had been murdered.
Or was it?
If Major Peters had been murdered for the Konchi-
kan Kitah of Kana-ee-a, why hadn’t the murderer kept
it? Why was the book here?
But why, also, had it been placed in the kit bag
after the murder of the old fanatic in the ruined
village on the banks of the Cheruchuk River?
For a space of time that endured as some strange,
isolated period in his life, set off, apart, unmeasured
whether by so many seconds or so many minutes be¬
cause differentiation had ceased between them, Kenneth
Wayne stood there in the darkness. Emotions, the
gamut of them, like vultures swooping upon their prey
assailed his brain, and their screeching became his own
mental hubbub. Shock, anger, surprise, confusion, be¬
wilderment, an impotent passion seeking impotently
for the source of what had befallen him that he might
THE THREE CROOKS’
wreak vengeance upon it—he knew them all. But
dominant was an hysterical impulse to a mad outburst
of laughter—to let the place rock with it. An insane
man would—because there was insane humour in it.
They had all scurried away . . . scurried away
. . . and the book was here. . . .
He jerked his shoulders back, fighting for self-
It was a trick of the imagination, an hallucination
born out of the fanciful obsessions of his own brain.
How the devil could the book be here?
He struck another match—and this time lighted the
And now, instead of laughter, a smile came twitch¬
ing at his lips—not one of mirth, but rather of self-
pitying mockery. He knew very well that it had been
neither hallucination nor a trick of the imagination,
but he was conscious that he had almost half expected
to find the book had vanished again as mysteriously as
it had appeared.
It lay there on the table beside the lamp.
A sinister thing!
He stared at it for a moment, his face suddenly
grown old and strained; and then he picked it up, and
began to turn it over and over in his hands.
Two generations old—inside, the key to the wealth
amassed two generations gone! Fabulous wealth—
the hidden treasures of a lifetime of piracy in the days
when piracy was most profitable! God knew how
many lives it had cost, or how many lives the secrets
written within the covers had cost—two generations
He had called it a sinister thing. It was. There
was something baleful about its appearance. Its
mildewed leather worn entirely off in spots, its moldy-
THE LOCKED BOOK
greenish brass, its bestial dragon’s mouth gluttonously
closed upon its own writhing tail, all seemed horribly
in keeping with the two murders for which it was
responsible in the last two nights. And yet, too, it
possessed an insidious fascination.
He found himself tugging at it mechanically—to
open it. But the mouth and tail of the dragon brazed
together over the edges of the book were of thick and
heavy brass; and, as on that first and only other
occasion when he had held the volume in his hands,
it resisted, indeed mocked at his attempts. A tool of
some sort was required. That was old Kana-ee-a’s
object when he had conceived the idea in the first
place, wasn’t it? Mr. Merwood had suggested a file.
Kenneth Wayne looked around him as though he
expected his eyes to light upon some suitable in¬
strument placed ready to his hand—and finding none,
his gaze fixed on the book again. His brows furrowed
deeply. Suppose he did open it . . . opened, it
would add weight to the evidence of guilt against him
. . . that was why he had murdered Major Peters—
to get the book . . . and on this occasion, unlike the
last, he had lost no time in possessing himself of the
secrets it contained, and in making sure that, at least,
it should not again get away from him as a locked
All this if it were found, here, now, to-night, in
this room, damning him for the second time as a ruth¬
less and cold-blooded murderer.
His brain for an instant seemed to grow numb, to
become incapable of performing its functions, to be
robbed of its reasoning powers, to be inert, as though
stunned by some sudden and crushing blow physically
He felt the colour leave his cheeks. He had been
THE THREE CROOKS 1
out—a prisoner at large all evening. He had no alibi
between the time he had met Glover and the time, long
afterwards, when he had encountered Dorothy Mer-
wood and Walters back there, beyond Major Peters 9
house , on the road; and here was the book, here in his
hands, here in his possession.
What was he to do with it? Like a trip-hammer,
his mental faculties virile again, restored, the question
thudded at his brain. What was he to do with it . . •
what . . . what . . . ?
Say that he had found it here? That’s what he
had said about the kit bag. They might begin to have
suspicions regarding his sanity, if that would do any
good; but to expect them to believe any such story was
to pronounce himself here and now as worse than
insane. Hide it, then? No good! They knew, or
would know, that he had broken jail, and they would
turn the place inside out in a search for it. Well, then,
destroy it? How was he going to destroy it? He
had no means of destroying it. He couldn’t burn it
over a lamp chimney—brass wouldn’t burn. He
couldn’t tear it to pieces because he couldn’t open it
to get at the leaves—and, even if he could, he couldn’t
tear up the brass.
Why couldn’t he open it? There must be something
here with which he could force that voracious beast to
disgorge its own tail! He laughed out shortly. A
lot of difference it would make as far as evidence
against him was concerned whether it were opened
or not! That was merely a brain vagary of his own.
And, anyhow, there was a way of getting rid of the
book. He could step out there on the verandah and
pitch it away, and let who would find it. But if he
were going to do that, why not open it first—if he
THE LOCKED BOOK
Once more his eyes began to travel speculatively
around the room—when suddenly, without warning,
without any premonitory sound, the door of his room
was flung wide open. A quick, startled exclamation
came from his lips. And then he remembered that he
had intentionally left the door unlocked when he had
come in, and thereafter had given it no second thought.
He was staring into the faces of Nicky Fouche and
Mr. Walters from Manchester.
For a moment they stood there scowling in vicious
menace; then slowly their expressions seemed to
change in common to one of rapacious fascination, as
though dawning upon them were something that they
savagely wanted to believe in spite of the amazement
that made them, as it were, suspicious of their own
eye-sight. They were not looking at him any more.
Their eyes were fixed on the dragon-covered book
which he held in his hands.
The Frenchman circled his lips with the tip of his
tongue as if on the instant they had become very dry.
“Mon Dieu!” he whispered hoarsely.
Mr. Walters from Manchester swallowed hard, the
Adam’s-apple suddenly protruding as though he were
attempting to gulp down something much too large
for his throat.
“My God!” he mumbled—and laughed—and,
pushing Monsieur Nicholas Fouche ahead of him into
the room, followed and closed the door behind them.
Kenneth Wayne did not move.
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche began to smile and play
caressingly with his little goatee. But it was Mr.
Walters from Manchester who spoke first.
“Caught with the goods—eh?” he said in an ugly
tone. “So that’s the pleasant little job you were up
“THE THREE CROOKS” 195
to while you were out! Croaked the poor old major,
did you ? Well, hand it over!”
Kenneth Wayne deliberately laid the book back on
the table behind him.
“Walters,” he said in a low voice, “if you attempt
to put a finger on that book, we’ll begin where we left
off on the road back there a little while ago. But I
think I’d advise you to get out of here—both of you!”
Mr. Walters’ puffy eyes narrowed.
“Quite so!” he sneered. “But there’s two of us
“So I perceive,” said Kenneth Wayne curtly. “Two
of as yellow a pair of crooks as are as yet unhanged!”
“Crooks! Unhanged! Sacre nom!” Monsieur
Nicholas Fouche’s face was screwed up. He screeched
out his words as though labouring under some deadly
and unmerited insult. “That is too much! I, Nicholas
Fouche, to be called a crook—and by a murderer, a
—how do you say it?—a twice murderer of whom I
am the keeper! Monsieur, I-”
“Ah, shut up!” snarled Mr. Walters. “He’s dead
right!” Mr. Walters appeared suddenly to have
changed his tactics. He stuck his tongue in his cheek
and smirked at Kenneth Wayne. “That s what we all
are—crooks—the three of us. Might as well admit
it. That’s the only way to get anywhere. And that
being the case I fancy it isn’t going to be necessary to
have any fuss. It’s just a matter of a little business
arrangement—eh—what? Nicky and I want to get
that book without having to tell any lies to keep the
whole of Salabam from knowing about it and we re
willing to pay on the nail. That’s fair enough, isn’t
“Pay for it!” Again Nicky Fouche’s voice rose
THE LOCKED BOOK
shrilly. “No! Jamais de la vie! Why should we
pay? We have him—how do you say?—cold.”
Mr. Walters whirled savagely on his companion.
“Blast you!” he said fiercely. “Hold your tongue!
You screech like an Australian cockatoo! Any one
within half a mile could hear you.”
“So!” retorted Monsieur Nicholas Fouche hotly,
but in a more guarded voice. “I screech, do I? But
nevertheless we will pay nothing!”
Kenneth Wayne smiled coldly at the two. He w’as
leaning back against the table now, his hands thrust
with apparent nonchalance into the pockets of his
coat—in one of which pockets reposed the revolver he
had taken from Mr. Walters of Manchester half an
hour ago. It would come to a fight, of course, unless
some or all of the boarders returned in the meantime.
Also it would make a rather pretty fight—Fouche,
lithe and wiry, was not to be despised; and, besides,
neither of the two would hesitate to use weapons if
they possessed them. His brows drew together sud¬
denly. He thought he had caught, very faintly,
an extraneous sound from somewhere, an irregular,
almost inaudible tap-tap-tap, it seemed, like some one
knocking on a wall perhaps, or driving a nail, or-
Mr. Walters from Manchester was speaking again.
“Frenchy always goes up in the air when he thinks
anything’s going to cost him something that he could
get out of paying for,” said Mr. Walters of Man¬
chester with ingratiating confidence to Kenneth Wayne.
“They’re an excitable race. Now, you listen—and
you, too, Frenchy. I haven’t made it public yet that
you’ve been out of here to-night, Wayne, and I fancy
she hasn’t either. On the way back I heard what had
happened to Peters and I twigged why you had been
out, but I had a little business of my own to attend to
“THE THREE CROOKS” 197
with Nicky Fouche here first. See? Then, never mind
where we’d come from, Nicky and I spotted the light
shining out of your window blind, and we thought it
was blasted queer, and sneaked up here to see what
was what, and-” He paused abruptly. “What’s
that?” he demanded sharply.
The faint tap^tap-tap had become audible again. It
lasted for a moment, and then ceased.
Kenneth Wayne still leaned negligently against the
table, the dragon-covered book behind him. It mat¬
tered very little what the sound was, except perhaps
that it might delay Mr. Walters from Manchester in
reaching that point in the negotiations where a show
of force would succeed mere words. Personally, he
inclined toward a conclusion of a physical nature. But
in the scuffle it was quite on the cards that one of the
two might be able to snatch the book and get away
with it, and, wherever else it went, he did not propose
that it should pass into the possession of either of
these two if he could help it; so, rather than force the
issue now, since the book was in evidence in any case,
it seemed the better judgment to spar, if possible, for
time. It couldn’t be very long before some of the men
anyhow would be coming back from Major Peters’.
“You heard it, didn’t you?” Mr. Walters from
Manchester demanded again. “Like some one knock¬
ing somewhere, eh? What was it?”
Kenneth Wayne shrugged his shoulders.
“I really don’t know,” he said indifferently.
“There it is again!” exclaimed Mr. Walters from
“Pouf!” said Nicky Fouche, a sullen displeasure still
in evidence in his voice. “For me it is a hammock
stick that knocks itself with the breeze against the
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Maybe it is,” agreed Mr. Walters. “But take a
look outside anyway.”
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche opened the door and
thrust out his head.
“There’s nothing out here,” he said tersely after a
moment, and shut the door again.
“All right!” said Mr. Walters. “It’s not of much
account anyhow, I fancy. We’ll carry on. It won’t
take long coming to terms, I’ll stake a bet or two at
odds, but we want to get through before any of ’em
come back—from you know where. I haven’t got any
love for you, you understand”—he scowled suddenly
at Kenneth Wayne—“but I never let personal feelings
interfere with business, and I don’t put you down for a
fool. You know the mess you’re in”—he circled his
finger with a lugubrious motion around his neck—
“that’s plain as a pike-staff. Very good! Here’s the
bargain, and here’s how we pay. You hand over the
book and keep your mouth shut about it, and we’ll get
you out of the mess.”
Kenneth Wayne selected a cigarette and lighted it.
Then his hands went back into his pockets again.
“I don’t quite follow you,” he observed caustically
Mr. Walters from Manchester accepted the remark
“Well, maybe you don’t—at least not all the way,”
he admitted. “But I’ll make it plain enough in two
breaths. When I saw you out to-night I thought at
first you were trying to escape, and I thought you were
a fool because you’d ought to have known you hadn’t
a ghost of a chance of getting away in the long run.
But now I’ve tumbled to your game. Pretty neat!
Slip out and croak old Peters, and cop the book, and
get back here with it—which you did. But I must say
“THE THREE CROOKS’
I wouldn’t have thought you’d have let a girl put the
crimp into a swell job that was already done.”
Kenneth Wayne straightened up slightly. His face
w r as set a little harder; something seemed to be setting
his blood curiously a-tingle.
“No; I don’t suppose you would,” he said in a
“But that’s done now,” said Mr. Walters from
Manchester, with a coarse laugh; “and we’re here, and
so’re you, and so’s the book. You haven’t got a hope
of not being strung up for one of the two murders
unless you make your escape now—and that’s what
we’re offering you.”
“Really!” Kenneth Wayne shrugged his shoulders
again. “But I thought you just said I wouldn’t have
any chance of getting away in the long run anyhow.”
“And neither you would,” said Mr. Walters quickly.
“Not alone. That’s what’s up to us. We’ll take care
of that. We’ve got means of getting you off the
island, and no one the wiser. You don’t think we’re
trying to play you for a sucker, do you? There’s a
lot of things going on around here you don’t know
“I’m not so sure of that,” said Kenneth Wayne,
with a thin smile.
“Of what?” There was exaggerated patience in
Mr. Walters’ tones, as though he were striving to deal
in fatherly fashion with a refractory child. “About
our not playing straight with you? Say, I-”
“No,” said Kenneth Wayne, and his eyes roved with
studied insolence over the other’s face. “About the
things—I don’t know anything about.”
Mr. Walters from Manchester thrust his head for'
ward from between his shoulders with a sudden,
THE LOCKED BOOK
“What d’ye mean?” he snarled.
“What I say,” said Kenneth Wayne curtly.
For a moment, fists clenched, the red flaming into
his cheeks, his face working in ugly fashion, Mr.
Walters stared at Kenneth Wayne. Then he gulped,
swallowed hard, and indulged in a croaking laugh.
“Well, maybe you do, and maybe you don’t,” he
said. “If you do, so much the better, because then
you’ll know we’re able to get you out of this the way
we said. So hand that book over and we’ll make a
Kenneth Wayne was engaged in a critical examina¬
tion of the toe of his shoe.
“And if I refuse?” he inquired without looking up.
u Tonnerre!” Monsieur Nicholas Fouche burst out.
“Refuse! Then we will do what I wanted to do at
the first. Eh—you understand? We will take it!”
“Of course!” agreed Kenneth Wayne softly. “But
doesn’t it strike you that you could hardly expect under
the circumstances, if you took it, that this little world
of Salabam here would remain in ignorance of your
possession of the volume? Or perhaps you and Mr.
Walters propose to take advantage of the same
method of getting away from here that you offer me—
disappear, in a word, to-night?”
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche edged forward, placing
himself now between his companion and Kenneth
Wayne. He was smiling in a tolerant, supercilious
way, fondling again his goatee.
“No, monsieur; not at all!” he said blandly. “Mon¬
sieur pretends to be more dense than he is, eh? We
will not disappear—it is not necessary. And for the
other point, it was of that I was talking when we began
our very pleasant little conversation. Is it not so?
We take the book—but monsieur will understand that
THE THREE CROOKS 1
we deny taking it. There was no book to take. Who
will say there was? Not monsieur, I am sure. If mon¬
sieur says he had the book here, monsieur confesses
that he cut the throat of that estimable citizen, Major
Peters. Quelle affaire deplorable! And monsieur, I
am certain, will not forget that he is already accused
of murder, and that mademoiselle will be obliged to
swear that she saw him out there on the road. So,
monsieur”—he extended his hand—“the book, if you
Kenneth Wayne’s smile was not inviting.
“No!” he said laconically.
“No?” repeated Monsieur Nicholas Fouche. His
eyebrows went up pityingly. “Ah, too bad!”
“You’d better think it over!” Mr. Walters broke
in roughly. “Frenchy’s right! We’ll give you another
chance. The book’s no good to you if you’re hanged,
and all you’ve got to do to save your precious neck is
to hand it over. We’ll get you away from here.
What do you say—for the last time?”
Kenneth Wayne’s hands came suddenly from his
pockets, the revolver in one of them.
“No!” he flung out—and shoved the revolver sav¬
agely into their faces. “I’ll keep the book—at least
from you! And I’ll stay here !”
Before the levelled weapon, Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche with a startled exclamation, bumped back
against Mr. Walters.
“Sacre nom!” he cried out. “Where did you get
Mr. Walters was mumbling half under his breath.
“Damn it,” mumbled Mr. Walters, “I’d forgotten
he had it. I-” And then Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester acted characteristically. Quite safe himself
from the bite of a bullet, with a sudden, violent shove
THE LOCKED BOOK
he sent Monsieur Nicholas Fouche flying against Ken¬
neth Wayne. “Grab him, Frenchy! Hold him!” he
screamed out. “Hold him, while I get the book!”
With the impact, quick, unexpected, Kenneth Wayne,
half thrown from his feet, was flung back against the
table, and, his wrist striking sharply against the table’s
edge, the revolver was knocked from his hand to the
floor. But even as he staggered, he struck and struck
again, jabbing short-arm blows with his left hand into
the face and neck of the Frenchman, who, taken by
surprise himself, was clinging more as a dead-weight
than anything else to Kenneth Wayne in an effort to
preserve his own balance.
In a moment it became a melee.
Mr. Walters made a leap for the book on the table,
but Kenneth Wayne, managing to fling the Frenchman
aside, met the rush with a right to Mr. Walters’ jaw.
And then they were on him together. They caught at
his legs, they caught at his neck, they clawed at him,
rained their blows upon him. Once they circled him
around away from both the book and the revolver,
which latter lay just beside one of the table legs, and
each in turn made a frantic grab for the book—and
missed. He fought his way back again to a position
in front of the table.
Queer! Perhaps it was the trickle of blood over
his eyes that distorted his vision. A face seemed to
be thrust close against the window blind—the slats
seemed to move. Ridiculous—absurd—impossible!
It was Mr. Merwood’s face. How could it be Mr.
Merwood’s face. . . . only it was Mr. Merwood’s
face just the same. . . .
He was panting, gasping for his breath as he fought
now. In and out his arms worked like steel piston-
rods battering at his antagonists. If he could only
THE THREE CROOKS’
keep them from closing in on him together again!
Ah, that was better! Monsieur Nicholas Fouche went
reeling back from a smashing blow behind the ear.
And Frenchy had evidently had enough of it, for he
was sending a curious whining note, like that of a hurt
puppy, throbbing through the room. Now there was
only Walters! A sort of unholy joy rose in Kenneth
Wayne’s soul. Just Walters ! No—here was Frenchy
—the whine gone—screaming like a maniac—a chair
uplifted above his head! And at the same moment,
with a yell, Mr. Walters lunged forward viciously.
The chair crashed downward, broke through the
guard of Kenneth Wayne’s upflung arm, and struck
him with terrific force across the head. He felt his
knees sag. He heard a sort of chorused howl of tri¬
umph, and then, as he lurched sideways, his eyes fell
upon the revolver on the floor not a yard away. Again
the Frenchman struck with the chair, but now Kenneth
Wayne, pretending to evade the blow, dropped full to
the floor, snatched at the revolver, and, without aim,
Mr. Walters from Manchester, his hand stretched
out, clawing fingers almost grasping the coveted book,
drew back instinctively at the shot. Monsieur Nicho¬
las Fouche, the chair poised above his head for still
another blow, dropped it with a startled cry, and
leaped backward toward the door.
And then Kenneth Wayne was on his feet again, the
revolver muzzle thrust into Mr. Walters’ face. His
head was swimming, going around like a top. He was
fighting, not so much against, these two men now, as
against a sense of giddiness that came surging upon
him in swiftly recurring waves.
“I made a mistake in not using this in the first
THE LOCKED BOOK
place,” he said thickly. “I—I’ll give you one minute
to get on the other side of that door!”
Mr. Walters from Manchester, one of his puffy
eyes quite closed, his face working in ungovernable
rage, began to retreat slowly. Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche was already at the door, pawing at the knob
to open it.
“Come on!” he screamed frantically. “Quick!
Sacre nom—sacre nom — sacre nom! It is in his face!
He will shoot to kill!”
The Frenchman wrenched the door open, and
Mr. Walters in his retreat had reached the thresh¬
old. His fury found words.
“You think you’ve won, eh?” His voice rose and
fell dementedly, out of control. “Well, you’ve lost!
You fool—you damned fool! You had your chance
and you wouldn’t take it. Now I’ll get you, you gold¬
hunting, damsel-protecting swine, and I’ll get that book
—and God help any white man or woman on this
island who gets in the road or tries to stop it! I’ll let
hell loose, you understand? And you won’t have long
The doorway was empty.
Kenneth Wayne was dimly conscious of the sound
of Mr. Walters’ and Nicky Fouche’s footsteps running
together along the verandah and then down the stairs.
He was very unsteady on his feet. His head was
swimming around worse than ever. He wasn’t going
to faint, was he—like a woman! Won! Of course,
he’d won! There was the book on the table. What
had Walters meant? White man or woman ... let
hell loose . . . Talamori—was that it? . . . turn
Talamori loose. . . . God, if he did that!
Kenneth Wayne reached out suddenly for support,
THE THREE CROOKS
to steady himself—and knocked the lamp over. It
smashed on the floor. That would set the hotel on
lire ... he must put it out . . . no, it went out of
itself ... it was dark . . . everything was dark. . . .
He was first conscious that he was struggling to
raise himself on his elbow. Pieces of the broken lamp
chimney crackled beneath his body. Queer! Infer¬
nally queer sensation! He hadn’t seemed to have lost
consciousness completely because he seemed to have
heard a lot of sounds—swishing sounds, tap-tap-tap¬
ping sounds all around him. Perhaps he had lost con¬
sciousness though, perhaps that was what it was like
when one keeled over—he had been hopelessly dazed
anyway. Nasty crack, that! But his head was clearing
now—like a prize fighter, he told himself, coming to
after a knock-out.
How long had he been lying here on the floor?
Idiotic question! How could he tell? It might have
been a minute, or it might have been ten—or more.
Anyway, he was quite all right again except for a
severe, throbbing ache in his head, and there was
no mistake or doubt about hearing sounds now—some
one was running along the verandah, and there was a
light coming—Walters probably—Walters back with
Talamori—hell let loose— He groped about for the
revolver, found it, succeeded in getting to his feet, and,
finding himself beside the bed, leaned against the foot¬
board for support.
A light showed in the doorway. No; it wasn’t
Walters—nor Talamori, nor Fouche. It was Dorothy
Merwood, and in her hand she carried a lamp. She
seemed to be uncommonly agitated. She held the lamp
unsteadily; her eyes were wide and frightened, staring
out of a face that was almost deathly pale.
“Mr. Wayne! Mr. Wayne!” she called out.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Father is—” She checked herself with a quick, low
cry, as her glance travelled swiftly around the room
and over Kenneth Wayne himself. “Oh, what has
happened here?” she cried wildly.
Kenneth Wayne smiled faintly.
“Not very much, Miss Merwood,” he said. “Just
Mr. Walters and Monsieur Fouche after The Locked
She stared at him helplessly.
“The Locked Book!” The exclamation seemed to
come involuntarily, as though she had not heard
aright. “The Locked Book!” She took a step for¬
ward into the room. “Where?”
“There,” said Kenneth Wayne, and pointed to the
table—and his hand, extended, remained grotesquely
inert in that position.
The Locked Book was gone.
A LIAR OF PARTS
T HE desire to laugh insanely possessed Kenneth
Wayne. He gave vent to it.
“It’s gone!” he said, and his voice made a
harsh, croaking sound.
She seemed to shiver a little as she looked at him.
“But it couldn’t ever have been here—it couldn’t!”
she cried out.
“It was,” he said.
“I don’t believe it!” she declared with suddenly
quivering lips. “You’ve been hurt—you don’t know
what you are saying. It just simply couldn’t! Major
Peters was murdered for that book while we were out,
and—” She stopped, a sort of dumb, helpless terror
and dismay in her face.
“Yes, that’s it—while we were out.” He caught
up her words with almost brutal emphasis. “I was
out. Once it was in my kit bag after an old native
fanatic had been murdered; to-night it was in my room
here after Major Peters had been murdered—and I
had been out.”
For an instant she turned her head away, and then
she faced him steadily.
“You are trying to put the worst complexion on it
you can,” she said, a sudden spirited defiance in her
voice. “It isn’t true. I don’t believe it. I don’t
believe that it was ever here at all.”
Kenneth Wayne took an impulsive step forward.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Do you mean that, Miss Merwood?” he said in a
quick, eager way. “I—” And then he choked back
the words on his lips, and the harsh laugh was in his
voice again. “And if it were? Would you still stand
here in this room with me—trust yourself that far
with a man who will certainly now be accused of two
murders instead of one?”
“After what has happened to-night—a little while
ago,” she said in a low voice, “I could hardly have any
personal fears. But—but—oh, I do not understand!”
Kenneth Wayne passed his hand heavily across his
“Nor I,” he said. “The book was here in this room
when I got back. Mr. Walters and Monsieur Fouche
will need no pressing to corroborate that—since they
were unable to get away with it themselves. But you
must have heard the row in here for yourself.”
She shook her head.
“No,” she said. “I’ve been downstairs at the back
of the hotel—in the kitchen.”
“But I thought that was why you had come here,”
“No,” she said quickly. “It’s father. Something
has happened to him. There isn’t any one in the hotel;
they’re all down at—at Major Peters’. I—I came for
help. I—I thought if you had got out of your room
once you—you could come to him.”
“Your father!” He was standing close beside her
now. Mr. Merwood’s face at the window! The book
gone! His voice rose unconsciously in an abrupt and
peremptory tone: “Where is he?”
She drew back a little, startled.
“Why do you look at me like that?” she asked
tremulously. “Is—is anything else the matter? He’s
in bed, of course. Why do you ask?”
A LIAR OF PARTS
In bed! Kenneth Wayne swept his hand again back
and forth across his eyes. In bed! It was all very
“My God,” he mumbled, “I don’t know!” Then
quickly, forcing a smile: “But we shouldn’t be standing
here, Miss Merwood, if he needs help.”
“Oh, I know! I know that!” she said a little piti¬
fully. “But I’ve no right to ask it now. I didn’t know
what had happened here. You are hurt yourself, and
—and the book-”
“Nonsense!” he answered quietly. “I’m all right
now. It was just a little attention of Frenchy’s—a
crack on the head with a chair. I keeled over a bit
after they had taken to their heels, that’s all. And as
for the book—it’s gone. It isn’t under the bed, or
anything like that. There’s no good hunting for it.
It’s been taken while I was seeing stars. We’ll go to
your father at once, Miss Merwood.”
For just an instant she hesitated, then she turned
and led the way out of the room.
“It’s very good of you,” she said in little above a
whisper, “for I am very, very anxious.”
He found himself, a little to his own surprise, walk¬
ing quite steadily along the verandah beside her; he
experienced a slight sense of weakness, but that
appeared to be wearing off rapidly.
“Tell me what happened,” he said.
“There isn’t very much that I can tell,” she said,
speaking hurriedly now. “When the news came about
Major Peters and everybody was running about—as
you know, for I heard Mr. Tomlinson go to your
room—father became terribly excited. He is very
excitable anyway, and at times, especially since he has
been ill, works himself up into a nervous state that
quite frightens me. It sounds absurd of course, but
THE LOCKED BOOK
tea, a cup of strong, hot tea, always seems to have a
more quieting effect on him than anything else. I
couldn’t find any of the native boys, and there didn’t
seem to be any one left in the hotel. So I went down¬
stairs—by the staircase on the other side—to boil some
water. There wasn’t any fire, and I had to make one.
I must have been down there quite a long while. Once
I thought I heard a shot fired, but I wasn’t sure where
it came from. I thought it was from outside some¬
where ; I even thought I might be mistaken altogether.
It was still quite a little while after that when I came
upstairs again, and—” She broke off abruptly as,
reaching the door of Mr. Merwood’s room, she
opened it, and, entering, faced Kenneth Wayne in an
agitated way. “There isn’t anything more to tell,”
she said in a suddenly lowered voice. “I—I found him
just as you see him now. And—and I was terribly
frightened. I spoke to him and he did not answer;
and then I tried to give him a little brandy, but I
couldn’t make him take it—and then I ran for you.”
As she set the lamp down on the table, Kenneth
Wayne’s first glance fell upon the figure on the bed.
Mr. Merwood was breathing very heavily, and was
obviously in a comatose condition. And then Kenneth
Wayne gave a sudden and involuntary start as he
caught sight of a pair of crude and rather clumsy
crutches that were leaning against the wall near the
head of the bed. He glanced quickly at Dorothy
Merwood. She was bending over her father, begging
him to speak to her.
There was no response.
Kenneth Wayne, too, leaned over the bed.
“Doctor Pearson isn’t back yet, I suppose?” he said.
“No,” she answered. “Not unless he came back
A LIAR OF PARTS
late to-night, for otherwise he would have come to see
father this evening.”
Kenneth Wayne nodded.
“We’ll try a little more brandy,” he said quietly.
“Will you give it to me, please, Miss Merwood—and
a spoon if you have one.” And then, as she complied
and he forced a spoonful of spirits through Mr. Mer-
wood’s .shut teeth: “I had no idea your father was so
far recovered that he was able to get about again.”
“Why, what do you mean?” she asked in a sort of
helpless amazement. “He isn’t—very far from it.”
Kenneth Wayne indicated the crutches with a slight
movement of his head.
“Oh, those!” she exclaimed. “One of the natives
made them for him and brought them here two or
three days ago; it will be another week yet before he
can even attempt to use them. And now—oh, I—I am
so anxious! The brandy doesn’t seem to have any
effect. What—what do you think is the matter, Mr.
The blue eyes were full of tears; her lips, though
she strove bravely to control them, were quivering.
She seemed all at once to be a very lonely and forlorn
little figure. An impulse, a great, yearning impulse,
came to him to put his arm around the drooping shoul¬
ders, and draw her to him and comfort her. Impulse!
What right had he to any impulse such as that! He
swung his hand swiftly across his eyes. He was being
stirred by something wide of impulse now. He was
suddenly conscious that in some way or other he must
manage to get her out of the room for a few minutes
—that there was something here she must not discover.
He leaned closer over Mr. Merwood, hiding his
own face from the girl. His brain seemed to be work¬
ing in quick, stabbing thrusts, as he gave Mr. Merwood
THE LOCKED BOOK
more brandy. The tap^tap^tap of a little while ago
wasn’t any hammock stick swaying in the breeze and
knocking against the verandah; and it wasn’t absurd,
or fanciful, or visionary, that face at the window. It
was all quite logical and clear now in view of those
crutches. He could reconstruct every detail of the
scene almost as though he had played Mr. Merwood’s
part in it himself. And he remembered, too, for they
came flashing back now, Dorothy Merwood’s words on
the beach that evening in reference to her father and
The Locked Book; they had been spoken nervously,
but there had been an element of seriousness underlying
them that seemed now to have made them almost pro¬
phetic. “He is nearly crazy with excitement over it,
and I think he would do almost anything in the world
to get his own hands on it.” Not for its intrinsic
value—the “pull” of science was as strong as vulgar
cupidity. He remembered also Mr. Merwood’s eager¬
ness to get hold of the book that afternoon on the
verandah, and his extreme reluctance to let go of it
again. And to-night, already excited by the news of
Major Peters’ murder, Mr. Merwood must have
heard, while he lay in bed and while Dorothy Mer¬
wood had gone downstairs, enough of what was going
on in his, Kenneth Wayne’s room, to tempt him to
what he did. He had managed to get on his crutches,
gone down the verandah, looked through the window,
seen what was going on, seen Mr. Walters and Nicky
Fouche run for it after the revolver shot, seen the lamp
knocked over as he, Kenneth Wayne, had gone down
on the floor, stolen in, got the book, and returned here.
And here was the result. Weak from a long illness,
together with Heaven alone knew what damage he
had done to his leg and the perhaps excruciating pain
incident thereto, the man was in a state of utter ex-
A LIAR OF PARTS
haustion, of acute prostration—the only marvel was
that he had managed to get back into bed again before
he had collapsed !
But where was the book?
“What—what do you think is the matter, Mr.
Wayne?” Dorothy Merwood repeated her question
anxiously. “You said the other night that—that you
knew something about medicine.”
“Only in a very general way,” he answered. “But
I do not think you need to be seriously alarmed. I
think that over-excitement has been too much for him
in his weakened condition. I am sure that he will come
around all right.” He felt Mr. Merwood’s hands.
They were quite cold. Where had the man hidden the
book? Where was it? “His hands seem to be a little
cold, and you said you were heating some water”—he
did not look at Dorothy Merwood as he spoke—“do
you think there is any more downstairs?”
“Yes,” she said. “I left some. It should still be
“I wonder, then, if you wouldn’t fill a hot-water
bottle—you’ve got one, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” she said quickly. “I’ll go at once.”
He heard her open the door hurriedly, and go out.
He did not look up.
A hot-water bottle! Kenneth Wayne gnawed a
little at his lips. Well, he had got her out of the
room! His subterfuge had succeeded—for, at bottom,
it was nothing but a subterfuge, though medicinally it
was genuinely the best suggestion he had to offer. He
didn’t like it. He hadn’t cared to meet her eyes. It
seemed a mean sort of thing to do, as though he were
trading on her anxiety, taking advantage of her fears
for her father. But what else could he have done?
He did not want her to know. That would have hurt
THE LOCKED BOOK
her. He did not want any one else to know. There
was no end to the miserable possibilities that might
result. But above all there was Mr. Walters and
Nicky Fouche. They would search everywhere for
that accursed book—and stop at nothing to obtain it.
If they found it here, or, worse still perhaps, came by
any ill chance to even a suspicion that the old scientist
had it, they-
Kenneth Wayne’s hands were searching up and
down the length of the bed beneath the covers. Mr.
Merwood still lay prostrate, motionless, breathing
heavily. Kenneth Wayne frowned a little anxiously
as, while he searched, his eyes rested on the other.
The man must have been like this for a good fifteen
minutes now, if not more. He did not like the other’s
The book wasn’t hidden in the bed or under the
Hastily he began to search elsewhere.
There was a trunk standing against the wall. He
found it unlocked and lifted the lid. The book was
not in the top compartment. He removed the tray.
The result was the same. He replaced the tray, closed
the trunk, and one after another opened the bureau
drawers. There was no sign of the book.
He was working quickly now.
The washstand was equally bare of results. In the
corner a cretonne hanging curtained off a space that
did duty as a wardrobe. He searched here hurriedly
amongst a heterogeneous assortment of boots, clothes
and other belongings. Nothing!
And yet the book must be here somewhere. The
old scientist had hidden it very craftily—that was
obvious—but it must be here somewhere.
Kenneth Wayne was down on his hands and knees
A LIAR OF PARTS
now, peering under the bed. Still nothing! He was
becoming desperate in his hurry. There wasn’t much
time left. Dorothy Merwood ought even to have been
back by now. Where was it ? It couldn’t be anywhere
else but here in the room somewhere.
He jumped suddenly to his feet. Some one was
coming. And not Dorothy Merwood alone. He
heard the footsteps of at least three or four people.
She had left the door open. He sprang across the
room to close it—and stopped. What was the use?
They were coming along the verandah now. The light
was streaming out from this room here. To close the
door was little less than silly. They would see the
light shut off, and they would know in any case that it
wasn’t Dorothy Merwood who had done it, for he
could hear her voice among the others now. Quite
so! He nodded a little grimly to himself. She had
met whoever it was, or they had met her, coming up
the stairs. Well, at any rate, the book was well
hidden—if he could find any consolation in that fact!
He stepped out over the threshold. In the moon¬
light he recognised the faces of the little group coming
toward him. There were three of the White Bache¬
lors. They were half clad, as he had supposed they
would be in their hurry to respond to the call to Major
Peters’ house. The tall, cadaverous looking chap was
Tomlinson, the store-keeper; the short chap was
Therber; and the one with the red hair was Donohue.
Besides these there was Mr. Walters. Mr. Walters
of Manchester was at their head. That was curious.
He did not quite understand that. Behind them all
was Dorothy Merwood. He was conscious of an
inner twinge, a recurring prick of conscience, as he
noticed she was carrying a hot-water bottle.
216 THE LOCKED BOOK
A sort of triumphant and relieved yelp came from
“There he is! I was afraid he would have bolted
and taken his chances in the woods,” shouted Mr.
Walters raucously. “Go on—get him! And this
time he’d better be put where he can’t do any more
But Mr. Walters did not attempt to participate in
the course of action that he advocated. As the others
halted before the door, Mr. Walters hurried on along
the verandah. Kenneth Wayne’s lips twitched in grim
amusement. Mr. Walters’ objective was obviously
his, Kenneth Wayne’s, room—and the book!
Dorothy Merwood came forward, as the others
stepped aside to allow her to pass. She paused for an
instant beside Kenneth Wayne.
“The doctor has come back,” she said quickly. “He
is at Major Peters’. One of the men has gone for
“I am so glad,” Kenneth Wayne answered gravely,
as she passed on to the bedside.
Tomlinson, the tall man, stared for a moment with
puckered brow at Kenneth Wayne.
“I say,” he said sharply, “what’s all this about—
this story of Walters? We were coming back up the
road from Major Peters’ house when we met Walters
and Fouche. They say you’ve got The Locked Book,
that you’re the man who killed Major Peters, and that
you tried to shoot them as well. It’s a bit of an ugly
indictment, Wayne—worse than the previous one.
What have you got to say?”
Kenneth Wayne shrugged his shoulders.
“Before I answer your question,” he said coolly,
“I’d like to ask one myself. I saw Walters here, but
A LIAR OF PARTS
I haven’t seen his partner in this charge against me.
Where is Monsieur Fouche?”
“He went on down the road to tell the others,”
replied Tomlinson curtly.
“Oh!” said Kenneth Wayne a little blankly. He
could not quite piece it together. He had interpreted
Mr. Walters’ threat literally. He had expected the
two to bring this native ally of theirs on the scene—not
their fellow-whites. What else could one have under¬
stood by “letting hell loose on the island,” and in¬
cluding in the threat any white man or woman who
Donohue, the red-haired man, pressed forward.
“Well, we’re waiting!” he snapped. “What have
you got to say?”
But Kenneth Wayne had no opportunity to answer
—it was Mr. Walters from Manchester who spoke,
as he came running back along the verandah.
“He’s hidden it somewhere!” cried Mr. Walters
savagely. He halted, panting, in front of Kenneth
Wayne. “Where is it? Where did you put it?” he
Kenneth Wayne pushed the man contemptuously
away, and turned abruptly to the others.
“Mr. Merwood has been taken ill,” he said coldly.
“Can’t we settle this somewhere else, and allow Miss
Merwood to close the door?”
“No, we can’t!” It was Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester again. “She’s mixed up a bit in this herself,
and I’m not so sure she couldn’t put her hands on the
book itself right now if she wanted to.” He sneered
suddenly. “The two of them seem to have been a lot
Dorothy Merwood had quite obviously overheard.
She appeared now in the doorway. Her face had no
2 I 8
THE LOCKED BOOK
colour in it, but her head was thrown back and her
small fists were clenched. She looked steadily at Mr.
Walters from Manchester.
“How dare you say that!” she cried passionately.
“I have not seen the book. I know nothing about it.
My father was taken ill. If Mr. Wayne is here, it is
because I asked him to come and help me.”
“Yes; quite so!” sneered Mr. Walters again.
“Well, whether you know where it is or not, Major
Peters was murdered and the book taken; and, whether
you like it or not, you’ll do your bit in proving who
committed the murder. Did Wayne here break out
of his room to-night, or didn’t he; and did you see him,
say, an hour ago down on the road there just past
Major Peters’ house?”
Dorothy Merwood’s face seemed to go still whiter.
She passed her hand as though in sudden weariness
across her forehead.
But it was Kenneth Wayne who spoke.
“You need not answer, Miss Merwood,” he said
quietly. He faced the others. “It is quite true. I
did break out. And I was where he says I was.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Walters, “and-”
“You beast!” Dorothy Merwood seemed suddenly
to have been metamorphosed into another being. The
blood was sweeping in a great crimson flood into her
cheeks; the blue eyes, wide, were flashing, full of fire.
“You beast!” she cried. “You coward! Tell all the
truth, then! Tell them you attacked me on the road,
and that I called for help, and that Mr. Wayne came
and knocked you down! Tell them that you tried to
shoot him! Tell them everything!”
She stood breathless, panting heavily. The White
Bachelors looked from one to another, and then none
too pleasantly at Mr. Walters.
A LIAR OF PARTS
But Mr. Walters from Manchester did not lose his
“Oh, yes,” he said with oily tolerance. “In a sense
that’s true. But ‘attacked’ is a strong word. I had
no intention whatever of doing Miss Merwood the
slightest harm. She was alone and walking back
from the missionary’s. The trouble started over
nothing. She got huffy and on her high horse
because I offered to take her arm. I dare say I
shouldn’t have done it, but I persisted more to tease
her than anything else. And as for the shooting,
Wayne was an escaped prisoner. He had been warned
by Major Peters. I didn’t know what had happened
then, and it was the only way, at the revolver point,
which was the idea I had in mind, of getting him back
into confinement again.”
“Oh!” Dorothy Merwood cried out abhorrently.
And then she was struggling helplessly for words:
Kenneth Wayne turned toward her.
“Please go into your room, Miss Merwood,” he
pleaded. “Please do. You have quite enough to
worry you without this. And, besides, I think I hear
some of the others coming. Yes”—as another little
group of four men appeared on the verandah—“and
that’s the doctor there, too, isn’t it?”
She did not answer—only nodded her head.
A moment later the newcomers reached the door,
and one of them, obviously Doctor Pearson, with a
low, quiet greeting to Dorothy Merwood, drew her at
once inside the room, and the door was closed behind
_ XVIII —
HARE AND HOUNDS
T HE augmented group, as though by common
consent, began to move away in the direction
of that corner of the verandah just around
which was Kenneth Wayne’s room.
Kenneth Wayne’s lips were straight and hard.
Walters! He had a new side-light on Walters—and
one that augured for himself anything but good. Mr.
Walters, as a liar, an accomplished, versatile and
smooth-tongued liar, was more dangerous in that role
than any other—and Mr. Walters wasn’t through yet.
Kenneth Wayne looked around him, frowning sud¬
denly. Where was Nicky Fouche? It was strange, if
Nicky Fouche had gone to carry the story to these
men who had just arrived, that he had not come back
with them! Well, did it matter? Mr. Walters was a
host—of a sort-—in himself. Kenneth Wayne braced
his shoulders back a little. He was already con¬
demned, of course. These men, as they looked at him,
made no attempt to disguise the savage repugnance
that was in their eyes and faces. He noticed that, as
they moved along, they kept him surrounded, well in
their midst. He heard Tomlinson explaining to the
new arrivals what had transpired. And then as they
reached the corner of the verandah, they halted of
one accord as Mr. Walters’ voice broke out loudly
“What happened back there on the road hasn’t got
HARE AND HOUNDS
anything to do with it anyway,” said Mr. Walters
viciously, “except that it’s proof he broke out of his
room and was down there. And when I tell you, on
top of that, that Fouche and I caught him in his room
a little later with the book in his hands, it’s enough,
isn’t it? He’s as guilty as hell! He broke out of here,
went down and killed Major Peters, and got the book.
He’s got it now—only he’s hidden it somewhere. It’s
up to you to make him tell you where it is.”
“Wayne,” said Tomlinson sternly, “this looks pretty
bad. If you’ve got anything to say, we’re willing to
They were pressing in closer about him. Kenneth
Wayne looked around on the ring of unfriendly faces
steadily for an instant before he answered.
“If I broke out of my room, and murdered Major
Peters, and got the book,” he demanded, “why should
I have come back here and brought the book with me
after having been seen?”
“Because,” sneered Mr. Walters promptly, “you
didn’t expect any one to find you with the book in your
hands. And here was the safest place for it—and the
last place any one would look. The fact that you
were seen away from here to-night wouldn’t alone
prove you the murderer—but the book, with that
There was a muttered growl of assent from the
men gathered around Kenneth Wayne.
“How did you come to find Wayne with the book,
Walters?” Tomlinson asked brusquely.
“It’s simple enough,” Mr. Walters replied smoothly.;
“I didn’t hear anything about the murder until I was
almost back here at the hotel—that was after the row
on the road, you understand? Fouche was still here—
everybody else seemed to have gone. Fouche had
THE LOCKED BOOK
been out somewhere and he hadn’t heard about the
murder either. I told him about it, and we were just
going down to Major Peters’ place ourselves when
we noticed a light in Wayne’s window. I thought that
was infernally queer after what had happened because
I believed then that he had only broken out in order to
bolt, being fool enough to think he’d have a chance to
escape by hiding somewhere on the island in spite of
what Major Peters had told him. So we went up
softly to his room, opened the door—it wasn’t locked
—and found him with the book in his hands. He
seemed to be trying to get it open. We tried to take
it away from him, and our intention was, too, to tie
him up. He put up a fight, and finally he began firing
with the revolver he’d got away from me down there
on the road, and drove us from the room. That’s all.”
“Is it!” Kenneth Wayne, a sudden fury flaming in
his face, launched himself toward Mr. Walters—and
found himself thrown roughly back by several pairs of
hands. He struggled for his voice that was choked
with passion. “It’s all, is it?” he cried. “Your
memory’s poor, Walters, you lying hypocrite! What
did you offer me for the book, if I-”
“Ah!” bawled Mr. Walters in jeering triumph.
“So you admit you had it, eh?”
“I have not denied it,” Kenneth Wayne answered
furiously. “I have no intention of denying it. I had
it—and you and Fouche offered me my liberty for it
if I would hand it over to you and say nothing. You
told me you had means of getting me away from this
island that no one else knew anything about. It was
only when I refused that you tried to take it—figuring
that if you got it I would still say nothing because I
wouldn’t dare do anything else, because it would only
be to point myself out as Major Peters’ murderer if
HARE AND HOUNDS
I sa’d anything. But you didn’t want to fight for it if
you could get it by promises. If I murdered Major
Peters why didn’t I, when caught, accept your offer
and your help to escape?”
Mr. Walters from Manchester burst into a coarse
“Bah!” he snorted contemptuously. “That sort of
dust wouldn’t stick in anybody’s eyes! And the proof
that there isn’t a word of truth in what you say—that
we wanted to get it for ourselves—is that when you
drove us out with the revolver we ran at once for
Tomlinson and all the rest here. Tell us instead how,
if you didn’t murder Major Peters, you came to have
Kenneth Wayne braced himself as though for a
blow. What answer was there to make save the truth
—and the truth would sound like the mouthing of a
cornered fool. But there was no other answer.
“When I went back to my room,” he said steadily,
“I found the book on my table.”
There was an instant’s ominous silence. Mr.
Walters from Manchester broke it.
“Oh, hell!” said Mr. Walters caustically.
Tomlinson stepped a little closer to Kenneth Wayne.
“That’s what you said about the kit bag, I believe,”
he said sharply. “It’s a bit thin, Wayne. It will
hardly hold water. You might as well make a clean
breast of it. Where is it now?”
“I don’t know,” Kenneth Wayne answered in the
same steady tone.
“You don’t know!” Tomlinson’s voice was still
more curt and sharp.
“No! I don’t. During the fight in my room Fouche
hit me over the head with a chair. I was groggy when
I drove them out, and after they’d gone I went under
THE LOCKED BOOK
myself for a bit, knocking the lamp over with me as I
fell on the floor. When I came to again the book was
“He’s a liar!” shouted Mr. Walters savagely.
“He’s a liar on the face of it! There wasn’t anything
groggy about him, or you can bet your last bob he’d
never have got us out of that room. That’s only a
yarn, and a rotten bad one, to cover up the fact that
he’s hidden it somewhere. He’s got it, right enough.
He had to hide it. There was nothing else he-”
Mr. Walters stopped abruptly.
There was a patter of feet along the verandah, a
figure in white racing toward the little group of men,
the grotesque, jerky bobbing up and down of a great
turban, and then Gulab Singh’s voice, hoarse, gasping
for lack of breath.
“Sahibs! Sahibs!” he cried. “Look! Look down
the road, sahibs ! They come !”
There was a concerted rush to the verandah rail, a
moment of strange, hushed silence over which from
the distance there came a sudden outburst of yells and
cries, and then a harsh, quick ejaculation from Tom¬
“My God, what’s the meaning of this!” he cried
out. “A native uprising?”
“No, sahib,” Gulab Singh’s voice answered. “But
who can foresee the end? All night there has been
much talk, and men’s minds have been turned as
though touched with fever. And still more has it been
thus, sahib, since the Major Sahib has been killed. It
is the book, sahib, the Konchi-kan Kitab of Kana-ee-a.
But these who come are not men of the village here.
They are strangers who have come in. Sahib, I have
run fast to warn you. They have heard that Wayne
Sahib has the book. It is the book they want, and—•”
HARE AND HOUNDS
His voice died away in a renewed uproar, nearer now,
approaching from the road below.
Kenneth Wayne was leaning out over the verandah
rail. For the moment no one seemed to be paying any
attention to him. He stared down the road. In the
moonlight he could make out a band of leaping, run¬
ning figures—twenty or thirty of them, perhaps. They
were coming on toward the hotel. They made hideous
outcries; and they seemed to be brandishing weapons in
the air, whether rifles or the native kris he could not
tell—the light was too indistinct at that distance.
Gulab Singh’s words were pounding through his
brain: “These who come are not men of the village
here.” He wanted to question Gulab Singh, to ask
him how he knew, to ask him what had incited this
outbreak, to ask him how these men had come to know
that the Konchi-kan Kitab had been in his, Kenneth
Wayne’s, possession to-night? But Gulab Singh had
been crowded away from him, and four or five of the
others now stood between.
It didn’t matter! He knew the answers to those
questions—perhaps better than Gulab Singh did! It
was becoming clear enough now. This was Walters’
and Fouche’s work! This was what Walters had
threatened; and this accounted for the non-appearance
of Monsieur Nicholas Fouche. The two men had had
to save their own faces in the eyes of their fellow
whites, even while they called Upon their native accom¬
plice to play a part. They had run down the road,
told their story to the first group of white men they
had met, and Fouche had gone on to tell the others—
but Fouche had gone further. Fouche had gone to
find the man they had called Talamori—the man who
had come to Salabam to-night in the darkness with
three proas. He did not know who Talamori was,
THE LOCKED BOOK
and he had been frustrated in his efforts to get even a
look at the man, but that was undoubtedly Talamori
out there coming along the road. Talamori would
take by force what Mr. Walters from Manchester and
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche had been unable to take,
and, afterwards, being already engaged in some under¬
hand business together, they would divide the spoils.
Kenneth Wayne’s eyes became suddenly riveted on
the leading figure on the road. As something quite
outside of his own environment, in a subconscious way,
he heard Tomlinson’s voice:
“I don’t like the looks of this! You chaps had
better slip into your rooms and arm yourselves.”
He heard a voice answer:
“Most of us are armed, I think. I know I took my
revolver when I started out for Major Peters’.”
Kenneth Wayne heard no more—was not even con¬
scious of what was passing around him. That leading
figure was coming nearer and nearer, and it was
dressed in white and it wore a sash. He felt his hands
grip the verandah rail until the muscles cracked.
What colour was the sash? He couldn’t see yet. The
moonlight played tricks with colours, changed them,
made them seem what they were not. Yes, he could
see—now! It was like blood—like the colour of blood
—like a band of blood around the waist. Somewhere,
once—where was it?—he had said that before—used
those words. The sash was crimson—crimson—
crimson. And now the face! Eyes strained, he
watched. Figures, yelling and screaming, were danc¬
ing up and down on the road just below him now; but
there was one, just one, that, weaving itself in and out
amongst the others, his eyes never left.
And then suddenly Kenneth Wayne drew back a
little. He felt curiously weak, as though his strength
HARE AND HOUNDS
had been sapped and drained away from him. Great
drops of sweat from his forehead were trickling into
his eyes. He flirted them away with an uncertain
movement of his hand. The figure in white stood full
in the moonlight now, the face upturned. Talamori!
Yes, of course, it was Talamori. It couldn’t be any
one else. But Talamori wasn’t Crimson Sash.
He felt a sudden apathy, a let-down from high ten¬
sion settle upon him. Everything else, if there was
anything else, was insignificant since that was not
Crimson Sash. Not very logical! He hadn’t thought
of Crimson Sash when he had stepped to the verandah
rail—but for a moment, whether he were warranted
or not, he had been so sure.
Everybody was intent upon the road below. Ken¬
neth Wayne moved back across the verandah and
leaned against the wall where, here, it made the corner
of the building. And then slowly the sense of apathy
and indifference to his surroundings left him. Some
one, this Talamori obviously, was haranguing in the
native tongue from the road. Words, their meaning
and significance, began to filter through his brain.
Talamori demanded the book. ... It did not belong
to the white men anyway, it belonged to the Malay
people. . . . They knew that the man called Wayne
had it. . . . Let the white men give up the book and
they would go peaceably away again. ... If the book
was not given up it would be taken if every house was
burned and every white man and woman killed to
get it. . . ”
A burst of demoniacal applause greeted the con¬
clusion of the harangue.
Kenneth Wayne heard Gulab Singh translating to
Tomlinson and the others.
And then Tomlinson’s voice:
THE LOCKED BOOK
“They mean business, right enough. They’re five
or six to one against us, and once started this sort of
thing will spread—every Malay on the island will be
“Yes; right, you are!” agreed another voice quickly.
“The only thing to do is make Wayne tell us where it
is, and give it to them. A dozen books wouldn’t pay
for our lives, and that’s what it means.”
There was comparative quiet from the road—the
Malays evidently waiting the reply to their ultimatum.
“Where is Wayne?” Tomlinson’s voice demanded.
“Oh, there you are J” He came toward Kenneth
Wayne. “You understand what’s going on here, don’t
you?” he said gruffly. “Those devils down there are
threatening what will practically mean a massacre here
if they are not given the book. Where is it?”
Kenneth Wayne shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Tomlinson stared for an instant, his eyes full of
anger and contempt.
“Damn it, you rotter,” he flung out, “don’t you
understand that’s the only chance you’ve got for your
A flush, hot and burning, swept across Kenneth
Wayne’s cheeks. His hands clenched—and dropped
again to his sides. His voice was husky as he spoke:
“I haven’t got the book. I don’t know where it is.
I’ve told you that before.”
Tomlinson swung on his heel.
“Tell them that, Gulab Singh,” he called out; “that
Wayne says he doesn’t know where the book is.”
A chorus of angry and threatening shouts answered
Gulab Singh’s compliance with this order.
Then Talamori cried back furiously from the road;
HARE AND HOUNDS
and Kenneth Wayne’s face grew set, and unconsciously
he drew himself up to his full height as he listened.
“That is a lie!” the Malay shouted. “We know
that it is a lie! If he will not tell, give him to us, and
we will make him tell. Give us the man, or give us
the book, and we will be satisfied.”
Again Gulab Singh translated.
“Yes!” It was Mr. Walters in quick, eager ap¬
proval. “Yes; that’s the thing to do. Why should
we have our throats cut for him? He’s only a damned
murderer anyway! I say, hand him over and let’s do
it quick before this thing gets out of hand.”
Once more an ominous silence from both the
verandah and the road below. Then Tomlinson’s
voice, strangely quiet:
“What he is and what he deserves is one thing; but
to hand a white man over to the torture of savages is
another. It isn’t done, you know.”
There was a gruff ripple of assent from the men
lined along the verandah rail.
Again Tomlinson spoke.
“Watch them!” he cautioned in a low tone. “If
they make a rush, you’ll have to fire.” He raised his
voice. “Wayne,” he called, “are you going to let this
thing go on ? The blood of every man here is on your
head—and there is a woman, too.”
Kenneth Wayne answered mechanically. He was
not quite sure what his reply was except that in some
form or other he reiterated what he had said before.
He was obsessed only with a sense of ( crisis, imminent,
upon him; and though he was aware that the Malay
leader was haranguing from the road again, and now
more angrily than ever, he no longer attempted to
follow the man’s words. His mind and brain were
feverishly at work.
THE LOCKED BOOK
The place would be a shambles. . . . What was it
Old Man Wayne had said about knowing and fighting
these devils of the Orang-laut for forty years? . . .
He knew them, too. . . . God, he had had cause to
know them, cause to know that there would be worse
than murder here. . . . White men. . . . White men.
... It had been rather decent of Tomlinson. . . .
And there was Dorothy Merwood. . . . Himself, or
the book. . . . But if they got him and he couldn’t
tell where the book was they would still attack the
hotel in an effort to find it. . . . Fouche and Walters
had told them it was here. . . . That wasn’t any good.
. . . Mr. Merwood couldn’t talk, and there wasn’t
any time. . . . The blood of every one here on his
head, that’s what Tomlinson had said . . . The book
. . . The book. . .
He gave a sudden, inarticulate cry, too low to be
heard. What was this thing that was formulating,
germinating in his brain?
There was a book, a big book, the treatise on metal¬
lurgy that he had brought amongst others to give
colour to his “mining” activities ... It was almost
the size of the Konchi-kan Kitab . . . The moon¬
light and a little distance would complete the illusion.
... If they saw him with that ... It was in one of
the large bags he had left in his room when he had
started off on his trip with Gulab Singh. . . .
Scarcely more than a few seconds had passed. He
looked sharply around him. Of them all, Walters
had been watching him most assiduously—but Mr.
Walters, too, just for the moment, was occupied with
the Malays on the road.
His room was only a few yards away along the side
verandah here. He turned, and, on tiptoe, made
swiftly toward it. It was the only chance—a bit slim!
HARE AND HOUNDS
But if he wasn’t downed before he could make this
Talamori think he had got away with the book, the
rest didn’t matter. His brain began to pound with a
single phrase, over and over again: Hare and hounds.
. . . Hare and hounds. . . .
Yes, that was it. If Walters had brought Talamori
here, Walters would jump greedily at the bait. Walters
had searched the room, but Walters’ search had been
very short and cursory because he had probably made
up his mind before he began that the book hadn’t been
left there—also, the search had probably been made
by match-light. Walters wouldn’t question for an
instant but that it had been hidden there all the time.
Kenneth Wayne glanced over his shoulder as he
reached his doorway. He was in plain view, especially
of Walters, but he hadn’t been noticed yet. It was
better than he had hoped for—it was the maximum
lead he could expect.
He jumped through the doorway now and across
the room. After an instant’s groping he found the
bag, opened it, and his hands closed on the volume he
sought. A grim inward laugh possessed him, as, in a
flash now, he recrossed the room, leaped through the
doorway—and deliberately dropped the book on the
verandah floor. It fell with a crash. It brought a
quick, surprised yell in Mr. Walters’ voice. And then,
as Kenneth Wayne snatched up the book again, Mr.
Walters from Manchester bawled out frantically at
the top of his lungs:
“He’s bolting with it! By God, he’s got the book!
There he goes! There he goes—along the verandah
to the back!”
Kenneth Wayne was running at top speed. And
again his brain was working feverishly—in snatches.
The White Bachelors weren’t likely to fire ... It
THE LOCKED BOOK
was their way out if he got away, wasn’t it? . . .
And Walters couldn’t fire unless he had got another
revolver somewhere . . . The Malays would, though,
and they’d come sweeping around the side of the
hotel ... He had to let them see him carrying the
book . . . No good without that . . . But if he
could get to the woods and hide this metallurgical
volume under a rock . . . Ha, ha! . . . Metallurgical
volume under a rock! . . . That was funny! . . . But
if he could do that, get rid of it, hide it, so as to keep
up the illusion, even if they winged him and got him
afterwards . . . Talamori wouldn’t have any more
interest in the hotel, or those there . . . That was
the game. . . .
Wild yells, shrieks and cries came from the direction
of the road. There was the pounding of feet in
pursuit along the verandah itself.
He reached the rear railing, swung himself over,
and, as he had done once before that night, slid down
one of the supporting posts to the ground. Here he
headed across the clearing in the direction of the
storehouse—it seemed to be the straightest line, the
shortest distance to where the woods showed beyond
—and yards were counting. He heard the Malays
coming along the side of the hotel, heard a sudden,
louder outburst of cries—and knew he had been seen.
They couldn’t be more than forty yards behind—but
there was some one much nearer—some one who was
firing at him now. The bullets were whining by his
He shot a backward glance over his shoulder. Not
ten yards behind, far in advance of all the others,
was a figure with a great turbaned head, and from this
figure now came the flash of another revolver shot.
Gulab Singh! Gulab Singh—the man who only a
HARE AND HOUNDS
little while ago had been so speciously anxious for his
welfare, anxious to aid him to escape! A surge of
fury swept over him—and then in a sorf of stunned
amazement he was conscious of Gulab Singh’s voice.
“To the right, sahib! To the right—the store¬
house !” called Gulab Singh. “Run close to the end
wall, sahib, then slip around and get inside. They are
too close behind—you could not get far enough into
the woods to escape. I will lead the chase, sahib, and
they will think you are in the woods, but they will not
find you. Quick now, sahib, and wait until I return.
Now, sahib— now!”
Gulab Singh was firing again.
Kenneth Wayne obeyed mechanically. Gulab Singh !
He might have known! Clever devil, Gulab Singh!
There was hope for it now. He hadn’t thought there
was much before—not for himself—only to fool them
with the book. He swerved suddenly around the end
of the storehouse and gained the door on the far side.
Out of the tail of his eye he saw a white figure running,
firing, heading on in imaginary pursuit toward the
woods—and then panting, gasping for his breath,
Kenneth Wayne wrenched the door open, flung him¬
self within, and closed the door behind him.
And past the storehouse he heard a screaming,
shrieking mob surge onward.
— XIX —
T HE shouts, the yells, the conglomerate sounds
of pursuit, came from farther off now, from
the edge of the woods—but Kenneth Wayne
was no longer intent upon them. There was some¬
thing much nearer at hand. He jerked his revolver
from his pocket, and, still panting violently from his
exertions, fought to quiet his heavy breathing. There
was some one here inside the storehouse besides him¬
self. He was sure of it. It wasn’t imagination. It
wasn’t because he was overwrought or excited. He
could have sworn he had heard a board in the flooring
creak almost at the instant that he had closed the door
But there was no sound now, save the distant and
constantly receding yells of the Malays. It was
brutally dark. He could not see a yard in front of
him. It must be one of the native boys attached to
the hotel who had come in here for some purpose or
other, and, terrified at the shots and cries, was trying
to hide his presence now. Yes, that was probably it;
and the boy had probably been after kerosene—there
was an unusually strong smell of it about. This was
the storehouse, of course. It obviously wasn’t Mr.
Walters from Manchester, and he was satisfied in his
own mind that it wasn’t Nicky Fouche. He wasn’t
going to stand here and be baited by a native boy.
“Who’s there?” he demanded sharply.
From almost at his elbow there came a sudden
“Well, I’m damned if it isn’t the prisoner still out
for an airing,” drawled a voice. “You, Wayne—eh?”
Glover! Glover, the beachcomber! It came as a
shock of surprise, but in an instant Kenneth Wayne
had recovered his composure. Glover! He found
himself trying to decide just what this man’s presence
meant to him. It was evidently Gulab Singh’s in¬
tention, once the chase had been led far enough afield,
to come back here, and in that case, even if nothing
happened in the meantime, Glover became a complica¬
tion, an awkward complication—unless the man could
be trusted—and he had good reasons for not being at
all sure as to what Glover would, or would not, do at
any time irrespective of circumstances.
“Yes; it’s Wayne,” he said tersely.
“H’m!” said Glover. “Quite a pleasant little row
going on! I take it that two and two make four.
They found the cage empty, and, from the racket, I
fancy the whole of Salabam is out to pot the bird. In
view of the immediate circumstances and with an eye
to the welfare of my own skin, I’m a bit interested.
Are they going blind, or did they see you?”
“They saw me—very much so!” said Kenneth
“And you doubled on them and came in here. A
rather inviting prospect! How long do you think it
will be before they twig your game and come back to
dig you out?”
Kenneth Wayne did not answer. He was still
frankly at a loss just how to act toward the other.
Glover was an enigma—and a bit of a rascal too, as
far as he, Kenneth Wayne, had been able to make out.
“Look here!” said Glover abruptly, after a
THE LOCKED BOOK
moment’s silence. “This won’t do at all! We’ve got
to get down to some common basis of what’s-what.
You’re obviously in a mess, and—I might as well admit
it—you’re in a fair way toward getting me into one
too. Deuced awkward, you butting in here!”
“Is it!” said Kenneth Wayne crisply. “Well, what
are you doing here, anyway?”
“That’s a fair question,” returned Glover coolly;
“but it doesn’t help the situation any, and so I don’t
think I’ll answer it. For the moment we’re not far
from being a pair of cornered rats—that’s the point at
issue. What are we going to do about it?”
“You don’t seem to be as drunk as usual,” observed
Kenneth Wayne irrelevantly. “I noticed that before
“Frightfully observant of you!” drawled Glover.
“What you mean is, of course—why? Suppose I say
that my good friend Fouche has been inconsiderate
enough to cut off my supply.”
“Did you expect to find any in Walters’ room?”
inquired Kenneth Wayne instantly.
“We’re getting farther apart.” There was a sudden
new and quiet note in Glover’s voice. “Major Peters
has been murdered. Has that anything to do with
you being here ?”
Kenneth Wayne frowned a little in the darkness.
“You’ve rather a bit of nerve!” he said curtly.
“However, as it is something that everybody else
knows, I can’t see any harm in you knowing it too. I
suppose in a way it’s got a whole lot to do with me
being here, since Walters and Fouche saw me with
The Locked Book in my room.”
“The Locked Book! Saw you with it!” ejaculated
Glover. “Good God, you—” He checked himself
sharply. “Where did you get it?”
“I found it in my room.” Kenneth Wayne flung
out the reply brusquely, conscious that, since he did not
expect it to be believed, he was irritated with himself
for being led into making any reply at all—and
especially, somehow or other, a reply to a man like
“Found it in your room?” The round, white ray
of a flashlight cut suddenly through the blackness and
played on Kenneth Wayne. “You don’t mind, do
you?” said Glover quietly. “I’d like to see your face,
and—” The light had become focused on the book
under Kenneth Wayne’s arm. “The Locked Book!”
Glover’s voice had taken on a note of uncertainty, a
sort of amazed perplexity. “But that’s not The
Locked Book!” The light came nearer. “That’s a
book on—on metallurgy, according to the title.”
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne briefly.
“What’s the answer?” Glover’s tones were quick,
low, serious. “I’m not asking idly. There’s a hell of
a lot at stake here, Wayne! For God’s sake open up,
man! You look as though you had been in a fight.”
“I was,” said Kenneth Wayne. “With your friends
Walters and Fouche.”
He felt his arm grasped tensely.
“Yes!” Glover breathed. “Go on—go on,
There was something in Glover’s voice and actions,
despite the fact that the little he knew about the man
had only given rise to one suspicion after another,
that inspired Kenneth Wayne now with a sense of the
other’s deadly earnestness. Well, why not tell him!
If the Malays came back to the storehouse, if any
stragglers for instance stumbled in here, Glover was
likewise trapped, for he, Kenneth Wayne, was not
going to give the man a chance to turn informant by
238 THE LOCKED BOOK
letting him get out now, or any time, before he him¬
“I drove them out of the room,” said Kenneth
Wayne; “but I’d got a bit hurt in doing it. I suppose
I fainted. When I came to the book was gone again.”
“You mean they came back and got it?”
“No,” said Kenneth Wayne. “They didn’t come
back—and they didn’t get it.”
“How do you know they didn’t—if you had
fainted?” Glover demanded bluntly.
“Because,” said Kenneth Wayne, and laughed
shortly, “they went for a native named Talamori who
had landed in here to-night, and who, I fancy, you
know quite a bit about. They turned him loose on the
hotel. That’s what all the row’s about. They thought,
of course, I still had the book. Talamori threatened
to attack the hotel unless the book were given to him.
I couldn’t produce it, but that didn’t satisfy him. He
demanded that I be turned over to his tender mercies
in order to freshen up my memory a bit. Tomlinson
was rather decent about it—couldn’t stomach a white
man, even a suspected murderer, being thrown to the
dogs. I—well, I had the good luck to remember this
book I’ve got here—about the right size, you know,
and nothing but moonlight to give it away; and I had
the good luck to win out—so far. And I might add
that Mr. Walters and Talamori are quite sure I’ve
still got The Locked Book with me somewhere out
there in the woods.”
For a moment Glover did not answer—save to
whistle low under his breath. Then Kenneth Wayne
felt a hand clapped impulsively on his shoulder, and
“Wayne,” said Glover gruffly, “I don’t know any¬
thing about that dirty business at the Cheruchuk, or
the old major’s killing to-night—but, by God, I know
a man! I may be compounding a felony”—he
chuckled grimly—“but I’ll take a chance on you.”
“You’ll take a chance!” Kenneth Wayne laughed a
little harshly. “That’s rather good of you! On the
basis of birds of a feather, I suppose? I happen to
know you are mixed up in some shady affair here with
Walters and Fouche, though you appear to be on your
own in it, and trying to double-cross them.”
“I am,” said Glover coolly. “Come here!”
The electric torch in Glover’s hand flung out its ray
again—and fell on the huge cases strewn about the
place, the cluttered bolts of cloth upon the floor that
Kenneth Wayne, though under quite different circum¬
stances, had already seen once before that night.
Glover led the way to the largest case of all.
Mechanically Kenneth Wayne followed. He noticed
that the covers of all the cases had been removed.
Glover directed the ray of light into the interior of
the case beside which he had halted.
“Do you recognise the contents?” he inquired
Kenneth Wayne looked in. The object in the case
required no label to establish its identity; but the
case itself was saturated with kerosene, and the reek
of it assailed his nostrils.
“It’s a machine gun—or part of one !” he ejaculated.
“Yes,” said Glover, “and there’s another in that
case over there, and the rest are full of rifles—”
“Gun-running!” interjected Kenneth Wayne, his lips
tightening a little.
“Exactly!” said Glover. “Gun-running to the
piratical scum of the Archipelago—to help murder a
few more whites! And part of the German disarma¬
ment, too! There was an amazing amount of this sort
THE LOCKED BOOK
of stuff that became mysteriously non-existent after
the war, and that the allies didn’t get. Here’s some
Kenneth Wayne stared again into the case.
“But it didn’t come packed in kerosene, did it?” he
inquired with a grim smile.
Glover sent the flashlight’s ray along the length of
the storehouse. It held on a barrel that stood against
the end wall.
“No; that was Fouche’s hotel supply,” he said
calmly. “I’ve been busy for the last half hour soaking
the inside of these cases with it. I was just going to
touch the fireworks off when that row broke out.”
Kenneth Wayne stared.
“Look here,” he said sharply, “who the devil are
Glover laughed quietly.
“Well,” he said, “during the war I was an intel¬
ligence officer in Paris a good bit of the time. That’s
where I met the delectable Monsieur Fouche—and
since then I’ve had the honour to serve the British
Government in much the same capacity.”
Kenneth Wayne said nothing. The flashlight was
switched off again, and he was conscious that he was
staring a little helplessly and foolishly at the other
through the darkness; conscious, too, that distant
sounds from the woods still came faintly to his ears,
that in the immediate neighbourhood of the store¬
house there was utter silence—but his mind seemed to
be in a sudden whirl as though striving to adjust itself
to some new and wholly amazing situation. Dimly he
began to see, as one sees the first steps in the decipher¬
ing of a cryptogram when the elusive key comes sud¬
denly into one’s possession. Quite uninvited, quite
unexplainably, the refrain of Glover’s ubiquitous and
ribald song began to run through his brain:
“An’ when I die,
Don’t bury me at all,
Just pickle ...”
“Now,” said Glover abruptly, “you can see a little
more clearly, can’t you, what I meant by saying I’d
take a chance on you, Wayne? This stuff has got to
be destroyed, and destroyed at once—that’s impera¬
tive. I fancy that, as it is, they nearly got the better
of me, but this was the first chance I’d had. There’s
no other way to prevent its delivery—no authority
here strong enough to do anything but start trouble
which would probably only result in all of the whites
being wiped out. There are two or three oil-soaked
bolts of cloth around every case, and a match or two
will do the trick; besides, the place itself will burn
like tinder. We’ll carry on now and touch it off
before they tumble to the fact that you must have
doubled on them. They’re bound to search this place
when they come back—and they seem to be far enough
away now to give us a fair chance to run for it.”
Kenneth Wayne smiled a little whimsically. His
brain was quite normally cool, logically active again.
“Us?” he said. “A British intelligence officer and
a suspected murderer make a rather strange and un¬
usual partnership, don’t they?”
“Maybe,” said Glover with a short laugh, “but
with a community of interest based on saving our lives,
if we can, it’s strong enough, I fancy; for once I set
this stuff afire, and with Talamori amuck, and Walters
and Fouche behind him, I become as much an outcast
and a menace to our fellow whites as you are, if I
THE LOCKED BOOK
stick around and they are faced with having to protect
me. But that apart, from what experience I’ve had
with murderers a man who would do what you have
just done is about as much a murderer as I am. That’s
the way I feel about it. Besides, to put it bluntly, you
saved my life the other night—and you know it. I’ve
got to keep under cover for the sake of everybody
until Talamori goes away from here again with his
crew, and we’ll stick the rest of this out together if
you say the word—pal it together.”
“You mean that?” demanded Kenneth Wayne
He found a hand-clasp in the darkness.
“To the last hurdle, old top!” said Glover earn¬
estly. “And now, first of all, you see that this stuff’s
got to go—don’t you?”
“Yes, I see it!” Kenneth Wayne shot the words out
from between suddenly tightened lips. Before him
rose the scene of a ship’s foredeck—the piratical scum
of the Archipelago, Glover had said—the murder of
more whites—this was the way Old Man Wayne had
been murdered. “I’ll help you burn it”—he laughed
in a low, grim way—“you need have no doubt on that
“I thought not!” said Glover, tersely. “Well, then,
we’ll get at it—and then run for it at once.”
But now Kenneth Wayne shook his head slowly.
“Run where?” he asked quietly.
“God knows!” Glover answered bluntly. “To some
other part of the woods, if we can make it. We’re
better off in the open anyway, than to have them come
running back and trap us here. As I say, they’re
bound to tumble to the fact that you’ve doubled on
“No; they’re not.” Kenneth Wayne’s voice was
deliberate, still quiet. “And they won’t come back.
They’ll search the whole island before they do that.”
“What do you mean?” demanded Glover quickly.
“I don’t understand.”
“This,” said Kenneth Wayne—and in a few words
he described his race across the clearing from the
hotel, and the ruse employed by Gulab Singh.
“And Gulab Singh’s coming back here, you say?”
said Glover, as Kenneth Wayne finished.
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne.
“TFm!” said Glover gruffly. “How do you know
you can trust him?”
“I think I’d trust any man who had saved my life
and risked his own in doing it,” replied Kenneth
Wayne with a faint smile.
“Yes, that’s all right,” returned Glover. “You
saved mine. But that’s a different matter entirely.
How do you know Gulab Singh was disinterested?
How do you know it wasn’t the book, and not you,
he was trying to save; and that what he did was all
a game, a risky one if you like, but a game just the
same to get you and the book away—where he could
get the book for himself?”
Kenneth Wayne did not answer for a moment.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said at last; “but
I’m quite sure it isn’t so. He tried before to help
me escape when the book wasn’t in question at all.
Anyway, there’s this about it: They’ll search the
island for days, and there isn’t a native in the place
that will need any pressing to join the hunt with that
book as the lure. It seems to have crazed them.
And every individual one of them, apart perhaps from
Talamori’s crowd, will be hoping he can get it for
himself—do me in, you understand, and reap the re¬
ward unknown to his fellows. What chance have we
THE LOCKED BOOK
got without help or food? If it’s a case of two evils
at all, which I refuse to believe, one man in the person
of Gulab Singh is certainly the lesser of the two.”
“Right!” agreed Glover after an instant’s hesita¬
tion. “We’ll wait, then; but just the same we’ll keep
an eye on him, even if”—he began to chuckle suddenly
—“he is a bit innocuous as a nurse!”
Kenneth Wayne leaned back against the packing
case beside him.
“Speaking of that,” he said, “perhaps you wouldn’t
mind telling me now a little about that night?”
“Not in the least!” said Glover heartily. “There’s
no further reason for concealment. I’ve got Walters
and Fouche dead to rights nc y, and, though I’ve got
to lay low and can’t touch them while Talamori’s
crowd is at their backs, my work here is finished when
this stuff is destroyed, except to see that when those
two precious birds leave Salabam they leave it with a
pair of handcuffs on their wrists. And, besides, you’re
entitled to know, for I haven’t forgotten that if it
hadn’t been for you they would have put another shot
into me that night and finished me.”
“Oh,” observed Kenneth Wayne. “So you know
who it was that fired at you, after all!”
“Yes, rather!” said Glover dryly. “I think I said,
didn’t I, that I knew Fouche—in Paris? He had a
nice record there, but he was clever enough to keep
the police from bringing anything home to him in a
definite enough way to put him behind the bars, though
their fingers itched to get him. I fancy it finally must
have got too hot for him and he had to get out, since
he’s here. I can’t say as to that, however, for I had
lost track of the man until a few months ago.” Glover
laughed suddenly again under his breath. “We were
very chummy in Paris, Fouche and I—that’s how we
came to be chummy here when I first landed. Mon¬
sieur Nicholas Fouche was very anxious to keep my
mouth shut about ancient indiscretions. He was really
very generous with his liquor until he began to be a
little afraid that I was going to prove an incubus on
his hands—when these cases showed up.”
Glover paused abruptly.
“They seem to be a long way off in the woods now,”
he said after a moment’s silence. “I can scarcely hear
them. Where the devil’s this Gulab Singh?”
Kenneth Wayne, aware for the first time that he
was still clinging tenaciously to the somewhat ponder¬
ous volume on metallurgy, laid it down on the floor.
“He hasn’t got it all his own way,” he said. “He’s
got to give them the slip without raising any suspicion
before he can come back. There’s nothing to do but
sit tight. What do you mean about being chummy
with Fouche in Paris?”
“Oh, that!” said Glover. “Nothing mysterious
about it. I was, as I said, an intelligence officer and
stationed a good bit in Paris during the war. Paris
was full of draft evaders, deserters, spies and rotters
generally. I was one of them, you understand—
played three-quarters drunk most of the time, just as
Pve done here. Fouche ran a sink-hole, a rat’s nest;
harboured the above class—and sold the beggars out
to the authorities when their money was gone and he
could do it with safety to himself. That’s one thing
that enabled him to keep his face with the police.”
Again Glover chuckled. “I was arrested there one
night myself as a deserter! But that was only a small
part of monsieur’s activities. He had another place
especially devoted to the Tommies on leave—a cafe
with doctored drinks, and a highly trained and seduc¬
tive staff of female pickpockets. They never got
THE LOCKED BOOK
that home on Fouche either. If the victim com¬
plained, the girl ducked and the Tommy went back to
the trenches with empty pockets. Fouche simply
wrung his hands and was desolated that such a thing
should have happened. But all girls of that class
were thieves. What could he do? He’s a rare bird,
is Monsieur Nicholas Fouche!”
“And Walters?” asked Kenneth Wayne, as Glover
paused again. “Mr. Walters from Manchester? He’s
a German, isn’t he?”
“Yes—originally. And that accounts a lot for
these German guns here. But I haven’t got his
record in anything like the same detail I have Fouche’s
—yet. I had to go warily. He’s no fool. And it
wasn’t until to-night when I saw things coming to a
head that I—but I fancy you know now quite well
what I did.”
“Searched his room,” said Kenneth Wayne, and in
the darkness smiled a little self-deridingly. He had
been woefully astray in his estimate of Glover the
“Yes,” said Glover. “I already knew he was Ger¬
man born and a naturalised British subject. I found
that out in Singapore about six months ago. But
that was all I knew about him personally. He was
being ‘looked up’ when I started for Salabam after
Fouche. Fouche was all I needed to go on. It’s quite
all right, however. I ran across a code to-night in
Walters’ room that our people will get to the bottom
of quick enough; and several European addresses—
like the old-time German spy stuff—that I fan'cy will
throw a bombshell into the headquarters over there of
this gun-running business and end it at last for good
and all. I’ll admit they’ve given us a chase though.
This little lot here is merely a flea bite, but it’s the
first time we’ve actually caught the goods in transit.
India had been getting out of hand a bit, and we dis¬
covered that in certain parts the natives were amaz¬
ingly well armed—with German war rifles. It looked
bad; and it wasn’t only India. Reports began to come
in from all over the lot, especially from down in this
section of the world—I’m speaking of British posses¬
sions, you understand?—that the natives were getting
a lot of arms from somewhere. It was becoming
extremely serious and widespread—first here, then
there. Well, in a general way, that’s the story. And
then I heard that a Frenchman named Nicholas Fouche
had taken over a hotel in Salabam —where there
couldn’t possibly be any hotel business —and I was
thrown off here as a penniless, destitute and unregener¬
ate stowaway a little more than a month ago. The
idea was eventually, I imagine, if it worked out, to
make a sort of storage-supply and general distributing
“I see,” said Kenneth Wayne. “And was Walters
here when you came?”
“Yes,” said Glover, “but nothing happened until
the day you put in and these cases were unloaded; that
is, nothing except a number of visits made by this
Talamori to Walters and Fouche, on one of which, by
lying doggo, I discovered that the reason for the
frequent conferences was that a lot of haggling was
going on because some one that Talamori was acting
for wasn’t satisfied with the price of what Walters
called the ‘cloth’ he was selling. Then, as I say, the
cases arrived, and I wanted to get a look at them.
They caught me at it that afternoon before I could
get a peek inside any one of them—that is, they caught
me in here. I pretended I was only sleeping off a
drunk—and they pretended to believe me. And then
THE LOCKED BOOK
they got me rather neatly—or would have, if it hadn’t
been for you. I know now that they must have found
out in some way that I knew of, and had been watch¬
ing, their meetings with Talamori. By the aid of a
native, they planted a fake meeting with Talamori in
the woods that evening—and I fell for it. You know
what happened. I had to get away from the nurse
you’d installed—Gulab Singh. I had to get the proof
of what I was morally certain was in these cases. I
slipped out of the Kling village and came back here—
only to be bilked! I found Walters and Fouche both
camped out here. The next day one or the other of
them was always in the storehouse. Last night both
of them slept here again. To-day it was the same
thing. And then to-night Talamori came and brought
his crowd intending to carry the arms away; but be¬
tween the excitement over that book of yours and
Major Peters’ murder, the whole of them, Walters,
Fouche, Talamori, gave me the first chance I’d had to
do anything in here alone—and that brings us up to
Kenneth Wayne said nothing. He was conscious of
a certain disappointment. Glover had made clear a
great deal—about Glover. But it had not helped in
any way toward clearing up the mystery of the night
before at the Cheruchuk River, or thrown light upon
what had happened later pertaining to The Locked
Book. He had hoped it would. Glover had simply
eliminated himself as a possible source of information.
Glover spoke again.
“I hope we’re not making fools of ourselves,” he
said seriously. “We would have had time to have got
a long way from here by now.”
“It’s the same answer,” Kenneth Wayne replied.
“There’s less risk in waiting than in going. There’s
almost no chance at all that they’ll come back here.
It’s the last spot they’ll search. It isn’t as though we
knew of any place to go—we’ll be no worse off even
if we have to run blindly for it at the last.”
“Oh, well,” said Glover, “all right! Are you
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne.
“Good!” said Glover. “That’s something, any¬
A silence fell in the storehouse. From the woods
there was no longer any sound at all. The minutes
passed—draggingly, exaggerating their own length
seemingly a hundredfold. The silence became heavy,
palpitating—an obsession. Kenneth Wayne began to
grow restless, and, with restlessness, to become
anxious. Unless something had happened to Gulab
Singh, the man would come. He was sure of it, and
He felt Glover’s hand suddenly touch his arm.
There was a faint scratching sound at the door. It
Both men stepped forward together in that direc¬
“Who’s there?” demanded Kenneth Wayne in a
“Sahib,” a voice answered instantly from without,
“it is Gulab Singh. The way is clear, sahib, to a place
that I know of; but let the sahib come quickly.”
“Wait a minute,” whispered Glover in Kenneth
Wayne’s ear. “You may be sure of him, but I still
can’t say that I am altogether. Remember, keep your
eye on him anyway. We’ll have to explain to him
what we are going to do.”
Kenneth Wayne nodded, as he opened the door
and bade Gulab Singh enter.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Glover Sahib is here, Gulab Singh/’ he said; “and
he is going with us.”
Gulab Singh’s tall figure, motionless, stood out¬
lined murkily now just inside the open doorway.
“It is as the sahib wills,” said Gulab Singh un¬
“Good!” said Kenneth Wayne quietly. “Listen,
then, Gulab Singh! Glover Sahib says—and he is
right—that before we go we must set this place on
“On fire?” Gulab Singh’s voice was neither raised
It was Glover who answered now.
“Yes,” he said quickly. He sent the flashlight
sweeping over three or four of the packing cases, then
switched it off again. “These cases are full of arms—
rifles, guns, machine guns, you understand?—and it
was for these that Talamori came to-night. He must
not get them.”
“Even so, sahib,” said Gulab Singh gravely. “It is
well. And it can be done if it is done quickly, for the
flames will not begin to show until we have reached a
good distance in the woods. But it is even a greater
matter that Talamori should not get the book that
Wayne Sahib brought here, for it is in my mind that if
it were found it would bring great evil upon those at
the hotel. Let the book, too, be burned, sahib.”
Kenneth Wayne stared in a puzzled, uncertain way
at the dimly outlined figure of the East Indian. He
heard a sudden, smothered ejaculation from Glover;
and then Glover’s voice came prodding quickly,
“What!” exclaimed Glover sharply. “Burn that!
Burn a fortune! Destroy The Locked Book! Are
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh in the same grave tone,
“I did not speak of the Konchi-kart Kitab, but of the
book that Wayne Sahib carried from the hotel. The
book with which Wayne Sahib saved the Miss Sahib
and the sahibs at the hotel was not the Konchi-kan
“How do you know?” demanded Glover.
“Sahib,” replied Gulab Singh, “I have eyes. When
I ran close to Wayne Sahib in the chase from the hotel,
I saw that it was not the book with the dragon cover.”
“You are right, Gulab Singh!” Kenneth Wayne’s
voice was curiously gruff. “And it shall be left here to
burn. Well, Glover?”
“I’m stumped, Wayne,” said Glover heartily;
“bowled clean—middle wicket. Have you got
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne.
“Then start two or three of those bolts going,” said
Glover coolly. “Quick now!”
There was a scuffle of swiftly moving feet, spurts of
match-lights coming out of the darkness, and then a
little ripple of flame from half a dozen different points
up and down the length of the storehouse as the bolts
of oil-saturated cloth began to catch fire.
Kenneth Wayne, from the floor, picked up the
volume on metallurgy, and, still further to assure its
destruction, pitched it into one of the cases. The next
instant he had joined Glover and Gulab Singh at the
“The woods to the right, sahibs—follow me,”
whispered Gulab Singh.
Running, they gained the woods at the right-hand
edge of the clearing—and still ran on without pause,
but stumbling now, groping their way, plunging on
through the thick and obstructing undergrowth.
THE LOCKED BOOK
Kenneth Wayne was breathing heavily as, after
what he judged to be perhaps five minutes, Gulab
Singh halted suddenly.
“Sahibs,” said Gulab Singh, “we are far enough now
to be out of the way of those who will come back
because of the fire. And now we must go with great
quiet and take no more risk of noise. But still we must
go quickly, for the place where the sahibs must hide
is a long way off. And see, sahibs, there is the fire!”
Kenneth Wayne turned his head. The sky behind
him over the tree-tops seemed suddenly to burst into
And then, as of one accord, the three men went on
again, still swiftly, but with almost uncanny silence
now, twisting, turning, weaving in and out amongst the
trees; went on and on like men, it seemed at last, who
strove futilely but always in strange haste to reach
some elusive goal—and an hour passed, and still the
great bobbing turban, looming faintly white ahead, led
Once Glover spoke—a little querulously—almost in-
audibly, as though to himself:
“Where’s he taking us, anyway?”
And out of the darkness, instantly, Gulab Singh’s
voice floated back:
“Sahib, among my people the place is called The
— XX —
THE DEVILS THROAT
K ENNETH WAYNE shifted his position a
little. His quarters were none too comfort¬
able ! The shelf of rock upon which he lay,
besides being extremely narrow, was wet and pre¬
cariously slimy; while almost at his elbow, and almost
on a level with his outstretched body, a great stream
of water rushed by with the force of a mill-race.
Overhead the damp and dripping walls made an arch
of solid rock. Here, at the mouth of what, with the
ages, or by earthquake, or volcanic disturbance, had
become a subterranean channel, like a hole bored
through the base of the hillside, the morning sunlight
filtered in for a few yards—and became engulfed in
a blackness so utter and profound as to give the
impression that its further progress had been suddenly
barred by an impenetrable wall.
It was a strange place, this Devil’s Throat! He
had been here two days, and he had not yet overcome
a sort of incredulous amazement at all about him.
He lay now in the very orifice of the “Throat” itself.
A yard in front of him, out in the broad sunlight, was
a wide platformlike ledge of rock—and then the eye
caught next, thirty or forty feet below, a glade of
tropical magnificence, a little amphitheatre built with
all of nature’s art and craft, whose walls were foliage
with tree-tops traced in exquisite design against the
skyline, and whose floor was a great pool of clearest
water in which the passing, fluffy clouds, seeming to
THE LOCKED BOOK
stay their vagrant wanderings, appeared to preen them¬
selves as in a mirror. And the water that rushed past
at his side, a stream that was a good twenty feet in
width, but how deep he did not know, swept along
as though in a frenzy to obtain its freedom and, eager
to disgorge itself, plunged downward in a cataract to
the pool below where, he knew, though he could not
see it now from where he lay, it broke into creamy
foam and iridescent spray, and from it a mist floated
upwards that fancy might have likened to thin, rolling
clouds of steam.
His eyes fixed on the far end of the glade where the
pool narrowed into a ribbon of water and the river
passed on out of sight. He was on guard, the out¬
post of the little camp that was near the opening of
the subterranean passage on the other side of the hill.
It was not so alluring there; nature had not been so
generous. There, the river swept around the base of
a series of rugged hills in a gorge of high, precipitous
walls, and for the most part the country, by com¬
parison, was barren, ugly, lifeless to the eye. But the
camp was there, rather than here, because the river,
which was the same one that ran past the Kling village
near the town, formed, as it were, a natural pathway
up from the coast, and invited almost an inevitable
search of this spot; and also because the glade here
made a sort of natural defence for the other side, for,
except by the subterranean river passage, or by a long
circuit around through the valley to the left of the hill¬
side, further progress was here arrested, unless one
attempted the difficult and forbidding task of scaling
the hillside itself.
He nodded to himself. Gulab Singh had chosen
well. The Devil’s Throat was not in itself a hiding
place, but it possessed, unless under extraordinary con-
THE DEVIL’S THROAT
ditions, a means of escape in case of discovery or
attack. The subterranean river passage was not in
any sense a habitable cave; it was not even passable in
high water. At the present time, however, with care,
one could make one’s way through—a distance, as
nearly as he could judge on account of the river’s
many twists and turns, of some five hundred yards—
and so, unless attacked from both sides at once, escape
from one end of the passage through to the other, and
thereafter a good start toward another hiding place,
was always possible. In fact, almost that very situa¬
tion had arisen yesterday, except that, not being
actually discovered, he and his companions had been
able to return here when a band of Malays, who for
an hour had swarmed about the glade, had gone away
Two nights and two days of it now—not counting
the night when they followed Gulab Singh through
the woods until almost the breaking of the dawn!
Not that this place was so far away from the town; it
wasn’t. According to Gulab Singh it was scarcely
more than an hour’s journey; but that night, to avoid
the natives who were searching through the intervening
woods, they had been obliged to make a great detour
of many miles, so many that at the end, he remem¬
bered, he had flung himself down, heedless of where
he lay, in utter weariness.
Outstretched, his elbows on the rock, his chin in his
hands, he stared down into the glade, keeping watch on
the farther end where the last sparkle of the river was
lost in the converging forest. But his mood was not
in consonance with his physical inactivity. He was
disturbed, anxious, goaded by a sense of impotence,
harassed by that old feeling, become all too familiar
now, that Fate was juggling with him, laughing at
256 THE LOCKED BOOK
him, making mockery of all the plans he had so care¬
fully laid, deriding as a ludicrous effort what he had
striven to do—and challenging him at every turn, as
it were, to show cause to the contrary!
Nor was this mood upon him now because of any
degree of physical distress or hardship. Gulab Singh
had not stopped at being merely a guide—he had pro¬
vided every necessity. Selim Ali, one of Gulib Singh’s
fellow-villagers, who spoke a little English, had joined
the party, and each night made an excursion to the
village and returned with a basket of food. There
was even an abundance of cigarettes for Glover and
At the thought of cigarettes, Kenneth Wayne
reached into his pocket, secured one and lighted it.
He inhaled it deeply. It wasn’t in any sense his
immediate surroundings; it was the when and the
where and the how all this was to end. It was as
though, with scarcely a choice of moves, he were
struggling against an apparently inevitable checkmate.
Suppose this search for him and for The Locked Book
died down, and Talamori went away and-
The Locked Book! His thoughts were suddenly
off at a tangent. Where had Mr. Merwood hidden
it? Where had the man put it? How had he
managed to dispose of it? The old scientist hadn’t
said anything, hadn’t been able to—at least up to last
night. Gulab Singh, in the role of one of those who,
too, searched for him, Kenneth Wayne, had gone each
day to the town and had moved freely about, both
for the purpose of obtaining information and as a sort
of prima facie evidence that he was innocent of guile,
and Gulab Singh had said last night that Merwood
Sahib was very sick, and that the Miss Sahib said her
THE DEVIL’S THROAT
father had not regained full consciousness since that
Again Kenneth Wayne’s thoughts were wayward.
There had been no other news of Dorothy Merwood
—no message. Of course not! How could there be?
Gulab Singh, playing his role, had very wisely confided
in no one—not even the Miss Sahib. His reports had
been of a far different nature: more natives flocking
into Salabam, more searchers scouring the island, an
epidemic of hysterical excitement, and always, every¬
where, on every tongue, the Konchi-kan Kitab of
Kenneth Wayne’s lips drew together. The Miss
Sahib! In one sense, perhaps, it was as well that Mr.
Merwood had been unable to attempt any explanation.
It might not have been a good one! As it was, Tala-
mori counted the book to be in his, Kenneth Wayne’s,
sole possession and there was no trouble in Salabam.
But Dorothy Merwood! Her father’s condition made
it a bitterly hard situation for her. Suppose something
happened to her father? Her present anxiety, alone,
amongst strangers, facing that possibility! Her grief
afterwards! And he could do nothing for her—noth¬
Would she want him to?
He flung the cigarette away, watched it swirl for
an instant—and then shoot, a puny thing in the might
of the current, out over the edge of the fall and
He laughed suddenly, harshly, as he cupped his chin
in his hands again. He was like that—just as puny
as that bit of cigarette, and the fates against which he
strove just as remorseless as the current. That
brought him back again to the when and the where
and the how all this was to end. As long as Talamori
THE LOCKED BOOK
remained he, Kenneth Wayne, could not return to the
town, for he then became at once a menace to his
fellow-whites again. And even if Talamori were
gone, he was not so sure but the natives of the place,
augmented by new arrivals, the excitement amongst
them constantly on the increase, as Gulab Singh re¬
ported, would make it equally dangerous for the
white residents if he showed himself there. But even
suppose all that were cleared away—what then? He
went back only to face a charge of murder—two
murders. What hideous irony—when he had set out
to find Crimson Sash!
Crimson Sash! Crimson Sash! Crimson Sash!
The name began to throb at his brain. How the man
would laugh if he only knew! The Nemesis that set
out upon his trail itself bound, fettered, gagged—and
charged with murder! He wouldn’t hunt for Crimson
Sash any more—he would be sent away to trial. The
thing was monstrous! It was unbelievable !
His hands clenched over his jowls. No, it wasn’t
at an end; it never would be! God, that night on the
Waratan! Murder! Aye, there had been murder!
There had been a white face upturned on the foredeck
ladder—the face of Old Man Wayne. And a fiend
out of the pit of hell had done it! It wasn’t at an end!
Unless they hanged him, he would come back. Not
here perhaps . . . somewhere else . . . Salabam
was the last place now . . . but somewhere in the
islands . . . somehow ... if it took years ... if
he were an old man at the end . . . older than Old
Man Wayne had been—at the end ... he and Crim¬
son Sash would stand face to face.
Unless meanwhile he were hanged!
Yes—unless meanwhile he were hanged! His
laugh, low, harsh, jangling, rang out again. And then
THE DEVIL’S THROAT 259
slowly his hands unclenched, releasing the folds of
flesh that, angry with the imprisonment they had en¬
dured, burned in blotched, red ridges on either cheek.
He forced his mind into calmer channels. Presently,
Glover, or Selim Ali, or Gulab Singh would come
along through the passage from the camp to relieve
him, and later on Gulab Singh would make his way into
the town. Perhaps by nightfall there would be more
news. News! He shook his head. He was just
wheedling his mind into a state of composure. The
news wouldn’t be any different than that of the day
before, would it? Just a sort of standstill in the
town, a sort of deathly hush, hardly a native in sight
save the women and the children—the men away,
scouring the island, scouring it everywhere—as though
—well, as though there were a gold-rush on! He
smiled whimsically. ’Forty-nine had turned men of
his own race and colour mad—gold mad. It had crazed
men. The lure of old Kana-ee-a’s fabulous wealth
would probably have crazed some of them too, let
alone a murdering and rapacious lot like the Orang-
laut f that for generations had made piracy and theft
and greed both their worship and their craft. There
was nothing strange in what was happening here. In¬
deed, far from being strange, it was only the expected,
the logical effect from cause, the working out of the
only law they knew, where, in the last analysis, each in¬
dividual was a law unto himself. It was only a wonder
that, as they spread out over the island in their search,
more had not come here to this spot—more would
come undoubtedly, in spite of those who had gone
away empty-handed yesterday. That was why he
watched. There was comparatively little danger at
night, the blackness and the thick woods did not
THE LOCKED BOOK
promise well for searchers; but in the daylight, even
if it were only a single straggler-
Kenneth Wayne became suddenly tense, alert.
There was one now! At least, he thought it was. He
thought he had caught sight of something white, some¬
thing that moved, far down there at the end of the
glade. But it was gone now. No—there it was again!
There was a figure coming through the trees—in
white—a white sarong, wasn’t it? It was just on the
river bank now—coming toward the pool.
For a moment he watched, a strained expression in
his face and eyes; at first in incredulity, and then in
wondering amazement—and then his blood seemed to
rush through his veins as though afire, and there was
a fierce and sudden pounding of his heart. He sprang
to his feet, gained the ledge of rock outside, and began
to scramble downward in mad haste over the rough,
and even perilous descent beside the waterfall.
It wasn’t a native! It wasn’t even a man! It was
a woman—a white woman, with fluttering skirt, who
seemed to run a little unsteadily—to stumble and re¬
cover herself and come on again. And he could see
her face in the sunlight now. Dorothy Merwood . . .
Dorothy . . . Dorothy . . .
She saw him, cried out to him, came on running
And midway in the glade they met.
“Dorothy! You here!” Her name came sponta¬
neously to his lips. She did not seem to notice it.
“Oh, I thought—I thought I would never come to
the waterfall,” she answered, and her voice broke a
little. “I thought I would never, never come to it—
and then I was afraid that even if I did I wouldn’t be
able to find you.” An hysterical little laugh came
suddenly into her voice. “Where did you come from?
THE DEVIL’S THROAT 261
You seemed to appear from nowhere—out—out of
the waterfall itself.”
She was trembling, obviously near the limit of her
Kenneth Wayne took her arm to support her.
There was a queer twitching of his lips. Her blouse
was torn across the shoulder, and the flesh was red
with great ugly scratches; her feet and ankles were
wet; her skirt soggy, with a huge rent in it. A yearn¬
ing came—one that fought fiercely against denial—to
draw her close to him, and hold her there, and quiet
and soothe her.
“And so I did.” He found his own voice unsteady,
and tried to quiet it—how else could he quiet her?
“See!” He pointed up the heavily wooded face of the
hillside to where, some forty feet above them, the
river gushed from the orifice. “There’s a passage
through there when the river is as low as it is now.”
She was trying to arrange her disordered hair, and,
in her effort, from nervous fingers a great golden mass
of it cascaded down her back.
“Oh!” she cried out, her face crimson.
“Please don’t mind that—please don’t,” Kenneth
Wayne pleaded gravely. “Tell me what has hap¬
pened. What is it?”
“It’s Walters—and Fouche,” she answered quickly.
Instinctively Kenneth Wayne glanced around behind
“They’ve dared—Walters has dared again!” he
“No, no! Not that!” she said hurriedly. “They
don’t know I’m here. It’s you!”
“But how did they know!” he exclaimed. “How
THE LOCKED BOOK
did you know? How-” He checked himself
sharply. “Where are they? Close behind?”
She shook her head.
“I don’t know!” She smiled a little wanly. “They
may be. They may be here any minute, and they may
not be here for hours.”
“I see!” Kenneth Wayne’s voice was composed,
cool, reassuring now. “Well, we’ll get under cover in
any case. Shall we?” He began to lead her quietly
along. “It’s a bit of a stiff climb up there, but I’ll
help you. Do you feel up to telling me all about it
now, or shall we wait until we’ve-”
“No, I—I’m quite all right,” she interrupted.
“And, besides, there isn’t very much to tell, though I
don’t understand it at all, because Walters and Fouche
must have had something to do with that Malay brute
they call Talamori—and that seems impossible.”
Kenneth Wayne laughed shortly.
“Far from being impossible, it happens to be a fact,”
he said. “I can explain that—and will later- Go on,
She glanced up at him quickly in a puzzled way, then
shook her head a little helplessly.
“That seems almost as impossible, too,” she said.
“I—I am afraid I don’t understand anything except—
except that the whole world seems to have gone wrong,
and—and one doesn’t laugh any more.”
“Don’t! For God’s sake, don’t say that!” he
begged anxiously. “Things are bound to come out—
somehow. Just think about what you were telling
She turned her head away for an instant to hide, he
was certain, sudden tears.
“Yes,” she said. “Well, early this morning, I went
downstairs to get something for father—it was hardly
THE DEVIL’S THROAT 263
daylight. And I heard Mr. Walters and Fouche
talking just inside the bar. They did not think any
one was up, of course, and they probably weren’t as
cautious as they might have been. I—I heard your
name, and I listened. Fouche was telling Mr. Walters
that he had been down to see Talamori—I don’t know
where that would be—and that somebody else had
come. Somebody, as nearly as I could make out, that
seemed to be in authority over Talamori, and that
while they were talking, I suppose through an inter¬
preter, a native came in in great excitement. Fouche
told Walters he did not understand much of what was
said, but he caught enough to make sure you were up
the river where there was a waterfall. Then Fouche
said that Talamori and the other man asked him if he
had understood, and he said no. And then the two
talked together once more in Malay, and Fouche
caught enough again to understand that they would
wait until to-night when it was dark to come after
Dorothy Merwood paused. Her breath was coming
heavily. She stumbled a little as she walked.
“I think I can guess the rest,” said Kenneth Wayne
grimly. “Mr. Walters and Monsieur Fouche believe
in the old adage of the early bird getting the worm.
Is that it?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “That’s it—to get you, and
get the book, and no one but themselves would know
anything about it. To get in ahead of Talamori and
his crowd, Fouche said. And so—and so they’re
“Yes?” prompted Kenneth Wayne, as she paused
“That’s all,” she said. “There wasn’t any time to
lose, so I sent a message to Mrs. Keene to come and
THE LOCKED BOOK
stay with father this morning, because there’s hardly
any change in him and he couldn’t be left alone—
Doctor Pearson says it will be several days yet before
he is at all himself, that in some way or other his
nervous system has received a very severe shock. I
hadn’t any excuse to give Mrs. Keene. I haven’t any
yet. I sent word that I would explain when I saw her.
I—I don’t know what explanation I can make.”
“And you’ve done this for me!” Kenneth Wayne’s
voice was husky.
She did not answer.
They had come to the foot of the steep, rock-strewn
ascent to The Devil’s Throat above, and instinctively
she halted, even drew back a little from before it.
She swayed slightly.
Kenneth Wayne leaned toward her.
“Why?” he asked.
“There was no one else to come,” she answered.
Her voice was unsteady; she was trying obviously to
control it. “There was no native but would have
turned it treacherously to his own account; no white
man because—because—oh, you know why!”
It seemed almost as though Kenneth Wayne had
not heard her; or, if he had, had but brushed away her
explanation as inconsequent.
“Why did you come?” His voice was very low.
Her head was turned away.
“I heard Walters and Fouche say that, with all the
day before them, they were bound to get a shot at you
if you were here.”
“Did it matter?” His blood was racing madly. It
was unfair—unfair. But—God!—if it were only
true! That something in her eyes! “I am an escaped
prisoner—accused of murder! Did it matter? Why
did you come?”
THE DEVIL’S THROAT
She made no answer.
He leaned closer to her, forced her to turn her head.
Her eyes were full of tears, her lips were quivering.
And as he held her arm he felt her sway again weakly.
“Why? Why did you come?” There was a great
pleading in his voice now. “Tell me! Was it only—
only to repay a debt that you perhaps felt you owed
for that other night, only that, or-”
She interrupted him in almost a panic-stricken way :
“Oh, please! Please don’t! And—and mustn’t we
hurry ? You said we must get out of sight. And I am
afraid I will have to rest a little before I go back.
Is—is it up here?” She took a step forward, reeled—
and caught at an overhanging branch to save herself.
“It’s so stupid of me ! I-”
“My God,” he cried out in sudden contrition,
“you’re all played out, and I didn’t realise it! And
I’ve been a blind, blundering, awkward brute! You’ll
never manage that. It’s too much for you. I’ll carry
“No I” she protested quickly. “You—you mustn’t!”
“I will!” he said—and gathered her up in his arms.
He saw the colour come flooding her cheeks in deep
crimson waves as her head, on his shoulder, was hur¬
riedly averted. He began to climb, holding her, en¬
folding her with both his arms as he struggled upward.
And suddenly it seemed as though he must cry out
aloud, shout out to the sunlight, and the splash of
water, and the trees and rocks, because the soul of him
was filled with a great ecstasy. He felt her heart beat
against his own, the thrill of her yielding body as she
lay passive in his arms. And for the moment no other
thing in all the world mattered save that he held her
thus; and for the moment he defied the fact, as indeed
he had come near to defying it just a few instants gone,
266 THE LOCKED BOOK
that he had no right to take advantage of her for this
thing she had done for him, much less claim response
to any love of his for he was a man who stood accused
of crime before his fellows, a man whose name with
its ugly blot against it made of him but a pariah and
an outcast. But he would not think of that now! Not
now! Not now! She need not know—but for just this
moment, for this little space of time snatched out of all
eternity, if never it were to come again, she was his.
And the glory of it, and the joy of it beat down and
conquered and trampled underfoot the knowledge that
it was but a cup of rarest nectar held sparingly to his
lips that he might taste—and thereafter desire it the
more as it was taken from him. And so he lingered a
little as he climbed, not making the haste he might
have made—and as he climbed he stumbled needlessly
again and again that in his stumbling she might not
know that again and again his lips had brushed her
And so they came to the flat ledge of rock before
The Devil’s Throat.
He set her down. There was a great pulsing in his
throat. He did not dare trust his voice—or for a
moment look at her, though he was conscious that she,
too, had turned away a little, and, uncertain and con¬
fused, stood gazing down at the mist from the breaking
water as it rolled upward from the pool below.
And then he spoke, trying to infuse lightness into
“We mustn’t stand here,” he said. “W e are * n
plain view from the entire length of the glade. See—
this way!” He led her in under the overhanging roof
of the orifice. “Now”—he laughed in an effort to
guarantee the lightness of his tones—“we can’t be
seen, but we can see. I am afraid it is a little damp,
THE DEVIL’S THROAT 267
but there is room there to sit down. Please do. It
will rest you.”
She was staring about her in a startled and amazed
“What—what a strange, strange place!” she said.
“Does it frighten you?” he asked quickly.
“Frighten me?” She shook her head, as she sat
down on the rock floor. “No! Why should it? Why
do you ask that?”
“Because,” he said, “I am afraid I must leave you
here for a few minutes alone. I must let Glover and
Gulab Singh know about this at once.”
“Glover ! Gulab Singh!” she exclaimed. “What—
what do you mean? They’re not here, are they?”
“Yes,” Kenneth Wayne answered quietly. “And
another besides—one of Gulab Singh’s men from the
village, a chap named Selim Ali. They’re back there
at the other end of this tunnel—where the river comes
out into the open again—a matter of a few hundred
yards. It’s not an easy passage, but one can get
“But I don’t understand,” she said heavily. “Gulab
Singh not only knows where you are—but is here him¬
self? Why, he has been down in Salabam mingling
with everybody ever since the night Talamori came.
I’ve seen him a number of times myself.”
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne. “It was the safest
thing he could do for me—and for himself. He’s a
great chap, is Gulab Singh. He’s about the cleverest
and most resourceful fellow I think I’ve ever met, and
nothing seems to shake his nerve. The sort of beggar,
you know, that would be the first you’d choose to have
with you in a tight hole if he were a friend—and the
last man on earth, from what I’ve seen of him, that
I’d advise any one to pick out as an enemy. It was
THE LOCKED BOOK
Gulab Singh who led the chase away from me that
night and gave me a chance to escape, and then brought
me here and fed me ever since.”
“And Glover?” she questioned a little numbly.
“Glover came with us. He was in the storehouse
that night. I had ducked in there,” said Kenneth
Wayne. “He’s a rather amazing individual too—
turns out to be a British intelligence officer on a gun-
running investigation. Walters and Fouche had the
storehouse full of rifles and that sort of stuff—for
Dorothy Merwood laughed a little uncertainly.
“I see!” she said. “And he set fire to it. Well, you
can tell him everything was burnt to a cinder—but
perhaps Gulab Singh has already told you so?”
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne. “Gulab Singh told
us.” He hesitated an instant. “Do you mind if I go
now? It must be a good half hour or more since you
reached the glade here, and, as you said yourself,
you’ve no idea how far or how close behind Walters
and Fouche are. I shan’t be long—only a few min¬
utes. I don’t like to leave you, but I wouldn’t attempt
to get you through except in a case of dire necessity.
It’s very bad going. Besides being extremely treacher¬
ous in places, one has to crawl in water part of the
way. Do you mind?”
“No,” she said quietly. “It’s rather an eerie place,
but I don’t think I mind.”
“Splendid!” he said approvingly. He took his
revolver from his pocket and laid it in her lap. “I
haven’t the faintest idea you’ll have any occasion to
use this, but perhaps you’ll feel a little safer for its
companionship. If Walters and Fouche are following
the river to find the waterfall, as they naturally would
be, you’ll see them the minute they come into the lower
THE DEVIL’S THROAT 269
end of the glade down there—so you must play at
being on guard. I’ll be back before they could get
here, even if they made at once for this place, which,
as they probably know nothing about it, they are not
at all likely to do.”
“Yes,” she said. “I understand. And I will
“And I promise to hurry.” He turned and began
to make his way into the interior of the cavernous
passage. “Just a few minutes!” he called back
cheerily over his shoulder.
He had said it was “bad going,” and that it was
treacherous and dangerous, but he had scarcely done
the passage justice. Through the inky blackness the
flashlight borrowed from Glover pointed the way. At
times, on his belly, Kenneth Wayne crawled through
water that almost submerged him; at times he clawed
with his fingers at little rock crevices in the wall to pre¬
serve his balance; at times the footing was no more
than a bare few inches of slippery rock, with the rush
of water boiling and foaming at his boot soles. He
had never timed himself in going to and fro. He only
knew that this time, as he came out into the daylight
on the other side, he had negotiated it far more
quickly than ever before.
He stood now in the open waving his arms rapidly
in semaphore fashion—the prearranged signal that
there was danger at the other end and that his com¬
panions were to come at once. He dared not shout.
There was always the chance of a native lurking some¬
where in the woods. But either Glover, or Gulab
Singh, or Selim Ali would be watching, and one of
them would see him.
Fronting him, trending to the right, was a gorge
with high, precipitous walls that made the river bed;
THE LOCKED BOOK
to his left the woods ran parallel with a bald, rocky
ridge which formed the crest of the left wall of the
gorge—and now, from the edge of these woods, some
two hundred yards away, a turbaned figure stepped
suddenly into sight and waved its arms in response.
“Gulab Singh,” muttered Kenneth Wayne, with a
smile of satisfaction—and, turning abruptly, plunged
back again into the passage.
He found Dorothy Merwood sitting where he had
“I hope I haven’t been an unconscionable time,” he
called out, as he came up. “Any sign of them?”
“No,” she answered. “Nothing. I’ve never taken
my eyes off that spot down there where the river leaves
the glade, and I haven’t seen a thing.”
“Good!” ejaculated Kenneth Wayne. “The others
will be along presently, and then we’ll do a little stalk¬
ing ourselves. Glover’ll be immensely pleased, I fancy
—more so than Mr. Walters and Monsieur Fouche
before we’re through with them! We’ll have to vacate
this place before nightfall though, since you say Tala-
mori and his crowd are going to raid it then, and that’s
a pity; but meanwhile we’ll attend to those two-”
He broke off abruptly. Outside, a shadow seemed
to fall athwart the platform-like ledge of rock, and
then another. A bit queer! The sun flirting with one
of those little flapper clouds perhaps—or was it the
other way around? There wasn’t any sound—only
the dull, constant roar of water. But the shadows
moved very quickly.
He took a step forward—and stopped as though
he had been turned to stone in his tracks. Two forms
blocked the opening. One was Talamori—he was
merely subconsciously aware of that; he was staring
into the face of the other. A great quiet seemed to
THE DEVIL’S THROAT
settle upon him, a great stillness of mind and soul and
body, as though something within him were gathering
itself together, garnering its forces for some cata¬
He was staring into the face of Crimson Sash.
HERE was no longer any rock wall, any stream
of rushing water, any opening out into the sun-
light, any glade beyond. All these had van¬
ished. It was as though invisible scene-shifters at work
had spirited these things away, and the face and form
of a man that alone remained stood forth on a re-set
stage. Yellowish-white the man’s face was, and
around the man’s waist was a band of crimson; and
the face, every lineament, every feature of which was
seared, and burned, and branded on Kenneth Wayne’s
brain, rose up now out of a rush of other faces, hideous
faces, contorted faces, wide-mouthed with screams, out
of a rush of half-naked fiends who brandished mur¬
derous weapons and hurled themselves along the fore¬
deck of a crippled cargo boat—it rose up behind the
shoulders of a snarling pack that jammed a narrow
ladderway, and smiled, and with the smile a white-
haired man pitched downward and stared with dead
eyes up into the night.
This was Crimson Sash. Old Man Wayne was
dead. This was Crimson Sash. Kenneth Wayne’s
brain reiterated that over and over. This was Crim¬
Slowly Kenneth Wayne’s hands began to creep out¬
ward from his sides—and there was something im¬
placable, remorseless, something of deadly, irrevocable
purpose in the movement of his hands. His eyes never
left the other’s face. It was a face in colour very near
to a white man’s face, a cold face, a strong face, but
cruelty and superciliousness were stamped upon it, and
craft was in the eyes.
He heard Crimson Sash speak in Malay to Tala-
“Is this the man?”
And Talamori answered:
And then Crimson Sash stepped forward, his lingers,
in his sash, playing with the handle of a revolver.
And there was but a yard between them.
And then Crimson Sash spoke again—in English—
in polished, fluent English—with poison in his words:
“A lady, too! It is more than I had expected! I
came only for you, who have the Konchi-kan Kitab —
you, who, they tell me, bring us the good news that our
islands here are rich in gold, the which, I understand,
is what you came to seek.”
The footing was narrow here; there was scarcely
room, because of the rock wall on the one side and the
racing water on the other, for two to stand abreast—
but it was a good place. Talamori, behind Crimson
Sash, and those shadows gathering out there on the
rock ledge that proclaimed the presence of many men,
could not come between or interfere. It was a good
place. Kenneth Wayne’s lips moved in a twisted
smile. There was no room to pass him. They could
not get at Dorothy—not before she had time to run
back and meet Gulab Singh and Selim Ali and Glover,
and in the darkness they would be able to protect her
and make their own escape. He asked no more. For
himself he was satisfied. The end would come here.
But first he had to tell Crimson Sash that Old Man
Wayne was dead. There was no recognition in Crim¬
son Sash’s eyes. Crimson Sash did not know him; he,
THE LOCKED BOOK
Kenneth Wayne, had only been one of the many elected
for butchery that night. Well, Crimson Sash would
not die without knowing—for a man should know why
“Gold!” It was his own voice, wasn’t it? It was
the acoustics of the cavernous place that made it sound
so hollow, so dead in its tone. “Yes, thatv is what I
wanted them to tell you. But it was not ^oid I came
to find. I could not find it, I would not be able to rec¬
ognise it even if this rock here were full of it. It was
not gold I came to find—it was you.”
The Malay, fingers always playing in his sash,
“I am honoured,” he said ironically. “Well, you
are fortunate then, for here I am—unless, perhaps,
you are mistaking me for some one else. And”—his
voice was suddenly malicious, baiting—“how could it
be otherwise? How can you know I am the one you
are seeking, since my name has not been mentioned,
and you never saw me until a moment ago?”
“You are wrong,” said Kenneth Wayne monoto¬
nously. “I have seen you before. I saw you the night
Old Man Wayne was murdered.”
A startled expression, gone in an instant, flashed
across the Malay’s features.
“Riddles!” he said with catlike softness. “I am not
good at riddles.”
“No,” said Kenneth Wayne in the same flat tone,
“butchery and theft and the murder of men is what
you excel in, and-”
With an oath, the other whipped the revolver from
“You won’t fire,” said Kenneth Wayne without
change in his voice. “Not yet. You couldn’t expect
me to tell you where The Locked Book is—if I were
dead. But there is something else first that is far
more important. You do not know Old Man Wayne?
That is perhaps possible. Well, I will tell you about
him. That is what I came to tell you. There was
a ship called the War at an, and she was owned by Old
Man Wayne, and I was in command.”
He stc 'oed. He heard a quick and sudden little
cry from Dorothy Merwood behind him. It brought
a strange smile to his lips. Yes, he was glad—glad
that she should know before the end. Crimson Sash’s
face was ugly with menace, with awakening fury. The
man’s brows were gathered in deep, angry ridges, and,
too, as though still a little puzzled.
“Perhaps you did not know the ship’s name either,”
Kenneth Wayne went on, “for you attacked her in the
night. To you she was only a helpless thing—at your
mercy, as you thought—with broken engines. Ah!
You remember! It was not so very long ago—just a
“God!” the Malay roared out suddenly. “That
was your ship, was it!” And then laughter came, a
laughter of mocking fury, and the encircling walls of
rock caught it up and amplified it into a hideous din.
“Your ship, was it? Then there is no man I would
rather meet! There is a payment to be made, a score
to settle—yes? That is what you came for? You are
right! And the score is heavy. You killed many of
my men that night.”
“But not enough,” said Kenneth Wayne, “for Old
Man Wayne was murdered that night. Murdered by
you. You shot him down on the foredeck ladder—
and you smiled.” Kenneth Wayne’s hands were open,
the fingers wide apart, fixed, rigid, curved like claws.
His voice was breaking hoarsely. “He took the shot
you meant for me. And so I have come—because the
THE LOCKED BOOK
gunboat could not find you—because I am the son of
Old Man Wayne—because I-”
His voice was drowned out. There was a great
roaring in his ears. The vaulted place echoed and
re-echoed with it. For an instant it seemed to stun
both mind and body. From somewhere behind him a
shot had come—not from Dorothy—farther back.
Yes, he understood now. Gulab Singh and the others
were coming. He saw Crimson Sash clap his hand to
his cheek—and, behind Crimson Sash, he saw one of
the figures that were crowding the entrance reel back¬
wards. It was quick, almost instantaneous, as though
it had all happened in the winking of an eye. Some¬
thing of unholy joy surged upon him. The shot had
only grazed Crimson Sash—his was the reckoning
with Crimson Sash! He leaped forward. Crimson
Sash’s revolver jerked upward—but the man had no
time to fire. With a blow, lightning swift, Kenneth
Wayne knocked the weapon from the other’s hand.
“This is between you and me,” he heard his voice
cry out—and his arms locked around Crimson Sash.
He heard cries and shouts from all around him.
He caught sight of faces, Malay faces, peering from
craned necks in through the opening; forms massed on
the rock ledge without—but they could not come at
him—there was only room here for Crimson Sash and
himself. He heard a girl’s voice behind him, heard
other voices, heard Gulab Singh constantly crying out
something that was unintelligible.
Kenneth Wayne laughed out suddenly.
„ . . Old Man Wayne and Crimson Sash. • » .
Old Man Wayne and Crimson Sash. . . .
His brain was singing the refrain.
He was body to body with Crimson Sash, straining
the other to him in an embrace that made the muscles
crack; he was face to face with Crimson Sash—he
could look into the whites of the other’s eyes. And
the feel of the other’s body was good—like this place
in which they had met—it was all good. It wriggled,
that body, and twisted and squirmed, but it could not
get away; and it panted heavily, and fierce, gasp¬
ing breaths fanned Kenneth Wayne’s cheeks, and
snarls and curses were in his ears-—like music—
music to which his soul listened greedily—greedily—
The man was lithe and strong as a panther, and
with the fury of one. And underfoot there was little
room, and the rock, shelving, narrow, on which they
swayed and lurched, straining at each other until the
sweat beads poured out upon their faces, was wet and
treacherous. And Crimson Sash slipped, and for an
instant in strange immobility, like figures poised, they
hung together out over the swirl of water that, as it
raced along, seemed to lick hungrily at their feet.
And they tottered there.
And a girl’s voice from somewhere in the darkness
rang out in a scream of agony and fear.
And Kenneth Wayne’s answer was another laugh—
a great laugh. It welled up from the soul of him—a
peal of it. It was dawning in the other’s eyes at last!
That was why he laughed. Fear—there was fear
They swung back from the brink, and like some
ungainly pendulum out of adjustment smashed up
against the wall.
Higher up the other’s body Kenneth Wayne’s hands
worked their way remorselessly. The man was strug¬
gling to break the hold, struggling frantically, madly,
with panic strength now to break away. Higher, just
a little higher—to that naked throat. His fingers
THE LOCKED BOOK
crept inward along the other’s shoulders, his hugging
arms pinioning those of Crimson Sash as in a vise—
an inch—another—still another. And then his hands
locked suddenly together, and the fingers were in-
meshed in flesh—all of them—tightening—boring
their way into the other’s throat.
And again they hung tottering over the water’s
edge, far over, bending outward, farther and farther
—and swayed as a toppling wall sways for that
breathless instant before its fall.
And a gurgling cry—of terror—of wild, mad fear
—came from Crimson Sash.
And Kenneth Wayne’s fingers tightened—and
“This is between you and me,” said Kenneth Wayne,
as beneath him foothold was gone as though it had
been snatched away, “between you and me—and Old
A rush of waters closed over his head. But a wrig¬
gling thing was still in his grasp. It would always be
in his grasp. Tighter—tighter—something, not the
thing itself, seemed to be striving to tear his fingers
He was being twisted and turned and rolled over
and over, and being swept along with tremendous
impetus. He was conscious of a sudden flash of sun¬
light as he was shot out through the opening to the
crest of the falls; conscious of figures on a rocky plat¬
form, of cries—and then he was falling—falling with
incredible swiftness—and yet ever swifter. There
was the sense of being hurled downward—hurled
downward encased in some enveloping thing in which
he could not breathe.
His fingers tightened—tightened—the nails bit into
flesh. There was a roaring in his brain, but what he
held should not be torn away from him—that was the
one thing—the one thing—the one thing— Gone!
Was it gone? The flesh that his nails bit into was
the flesh of his own hands. He was being pounded
and struck as though by mighty hammers— thud, thud,
thud —by mighty hammers of mighty weight— thud,
thud,, thud —and his body turned as though rotating
on a spit.
It was relenting now. It wasn’t so merciless—only
his lungs were bursting. A mental fog seemed to be
clearing away. He began to understand. An eddy was
carrying him away from beneath the bottom of the
falls where the water had pounded upon him. He was
shot suddenly into still water. He felt himself rising to
the surface. His lungs were bursting. Air! He must
breathe. Air! But he remembered those figures on
the ledge. They would still be peering down—peering
down. He must not be seen. But air—air! God, he
must have air! He was rising upward. He turned on
his back—just his face above the water—he wasn’t so
far gone but that he could manage that.
He drew great breaths into his lungs. Seen! What
matter did that make if Crimson Sash were here too!
But there was no sign of Crimson Sash—only a mist
rising from where the water thundered at the bottom
of the falls a dozen yards away from him now. He
had forgotten about that mist.
There wasn’t any sign of Crimson Sash. He
couldn’t find the man under water anyway, could he?
He was a fool to lie here—even if only his face
showed above the surface. Resting? He was rested
enough. He’d drift out beyond that curtain of mist
presently, and they’d get him with a rifle shot. There
was only one side of the pool by which the actual ori¬
fice of The Devil’s Throat was accessible—and obvi-
THE LOCKED BOOK
ously that was where Crimson Sash’s men were. He
must reach the opposite bank—that was the only
He managed to get his bearings and began to swim
under water. Dorothy—Gulab Singh—the others.
He must reach them now—if he could. They would
be trapped like rats in there if the Orang-laut got
around first and blocked the other end. But Gulab
Singh wouldn’t let them do that—neither would
Glover—good men—good men both of them—they
wouldn’t waste any time in getting through to the open
on the other side. The open! What then—with the
woods thick with the Orang-laut! He must get to
them—somehow—quickly—take his place with them
His hands touched something, a large rock, it
seemed—and reaching out farther touched what must
be the bank of the pool. He raised his head cau¬
tiously. Luck! It was a rock, a huge rock, that rose
several feet out of the water just at the edge of the
shore. Yes, it was luck! He could crawl out behind
it with very little chance of being seen—and just a
yard beyond was the sure shelter of heavy foliage.
Sounds reached him now—queerly muffled by the
roar of the falls: cries, shouts, and—he could not be
sure—rifle shots as though at a great distance away.
He drew himself out of the water behind the rock,
wriggled like a snake on its belly over the bank, and
gained the protecting screen of bush and trees.
And then for an instant he paused to take note of
the scene around him. High up above him, on the
rocky platform before The Devil’s Throat, two figures
stood shading their eyes with their hands, as though
searching intently the waters of the pool. On the
opposite bank other figures were running up and down,
now pausing, now running on again, undoubtedly en¬
gaged in the same search as their fellows above them.
He saw nothing else. For the moment he was safe.
They had not seen him.
He rose to his feet and began to make his way as
rapidly as he could through the entangling growth and
up the steep ascent of the thickly wooded hillside. He
reached the summit, far above The Devil’s Throat.
Then on! Underneath him, deep down in the dark¬
ness, they were fighting probably. It spurred him to
greater effort. The Orang-laut would not all be forc¬
ing their way through the underground passage, driving
Gulab Singh and the others back; some of them would
make a circuit around over there on the left—not up
here where he was—over there around the base of the
hill—it was farther—but the natural way to go.
And now he heard a shot, sharp, clear—another—
and another. He had crossed the top of the hill and
was scrambling downward now, clinging to rocks and
bushes, half falling, half sliding in desperate haste.
Below him, he saw Gulab Singh standing on the edge of
the river bank and apparently just abreast of the spot
where the river on this side entered the underground
passage—saw the man raise his arm and fire again and
again. And farther off, running toward the barren
ridge that paralleled the woods and also made the
outer wall of the river gorge, he saw three figures'—a
woman and two men.
— XXII —
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE
S TUMBLING, falling, scrambling, Kenneth
Wayne went on down the hillside toward Gulab
Singh. He could see those three figures still
making for the top of the ridge, not more than four
hundred yards away—a woman’s figure, and the
figures of two men—and one of the men was aiding
the woman, and the other man carried a great basket.
Strange that details, little details, should stand out so
sharply in his mind. Queer! That was Selim Ali
tenaciously clinging to the basket of food. Of course
they couldn’t live up there without food. Gulab Singh
was the rear guard—but Gulab Singh might wait too
long. It wasn’t only those who had followed through
the underground river passage; the bulk of the Orang-
laut would come circling around the hillside to the left,
and out through the woods here and trap Gulab Singh.
They ought to have been here by now, for, though it
was longer than the way he had come, it was a far
easier way. Perhaps they had lost time in searching
the pool—perhaps they had all at first attempted to
force the passage from the other end—but they would
come—any minute now-
He came down beside Gulab Singh.
Gulab Singh did not turn his head.
“My heart was heavy with a great fear, sahib,” he
said, and fired across the face of the dark, yawning
opening beside him, where the water rushed, plunging
madly away, as eager here, it seemed, to evade the sun-
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE 283
light as on the other side it was to welcome it once
more. “But now it is light again for the sahib lives.”
“Yes, but I won’t live long, and neither will you, if
we stay here,” said Kenneth Wayne with a short laugh.
“I know there can’t any more than one man come out
of there at a time because there’s no footing inside,
and I know they can’t fire at us here at this angle with¬
out coming out to do it—but it’s not only those chaps
inside there. The others are bound to come around
upon us through the woods.”
“That I know, sahib,” Gulab Singh answered—and
fired again. “And it is because of that, sahib, that
there was no shelter for us in the woods. And up
there from whence you came, sahib, it was too difficult
for the Miss Sahib and we would be overtaken; and
along the river bed there is no shelter either, for from
each side we would be fired down upon. There was
only the ridge over there, sahib; but between here and
there a bullet may fly straight for there is nothing
between, even as it will be, sahib, in our favour, if,
when we are there, they try to come upon us. When
the Miss Sahib is at the top and is hidden by the rocks,
I will go. But go you now, sahib, for there is need
for no more than one here.”
And then Kenneth Wayne laughed again—but there
was a strange throatiness in his laugh.
“We’ll go together, Gulab Singh,” he said, “or not
at all. I wouldn’t care to face the Miss Sahib without
her Grand Vizier after this.”
“As the sahib wills.” Gulab Singh fired coolly once
more. “And of the other, sahib,” he asked in a grave
voice, “he with whom the sahib fought? Does he
“I don’t know.” Kenneth Wayne was scanning the
edge of the woods intently. “We were torn apart by
THE LOCKED BOOK
the water. I didn’t see him when I came up.” He
touched Gulab Singh on the arm. “I think I heard
something in there just now, Gulab Singh.”
“Yes, sahib,” Gulab Singh answered. “Look, then,
and see if the Miss Sahib is at the top.”
Kenneth Wayne swung around.
“I can’t see any of them now,” he said.
“It is well,” said Gulab Singh. “Listen, then, sahib
—and we will go. One man I shot, the first man, as
he tried to come out of here. It has made the others
careful. We will have a minute, sahib, and one can
run far in the space of a minute; but that they may not
know at once we are gone when there are no more
shots, we must run without noise. Is the sahib ready?”
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne tersely.
“Run, then, sahib!” said Gulab Singh, as he fired
another shot and a little fountain of water spurted up
from his bullet in front of the opening. “Run, sahib—
and run fast!”
With Gulab Singh beside him, Kenneth Wayne
turned and ran. A minute! Yes, one could go far in
a minute—but it was all open here, and bare rock, and
there was a stiff rise even to the base of the ridge. He
ran—ran with all that was in him. He was conscious
that Gulab Singh was running much more smoothly
than he was, more easily, far more in hand, as though,
indeed, without effort the man might have streaked by
him like an arrow. It was on account of Crimson
Sash, of course, that fight with Crimson Sash—and
the afterwards. He was a bit shaken up—not quite
fit. The pace was telling.
A shot came from somewhere behind him—and then
a ripple of fire. He thought he heard the spat of a
flattening bullet somewhere near him. And then from
above him, in front, answering shots rang out. That
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE 285
would be Glover and Selim Ali, of course. He glanced
back over his shoulder. Whether it was from those
who had been held in check by Gulab Singh and who
could now have easily taken cover in the woods,
or from the rest of the Orang-laut who might have
arrived upon the scene, he could not tell, but in any
case, whoever it was, they were firing from the edge of
the trees—not attempting to come out or give chase
across the open stretch under Glover’s and Selim Ali’s
He was at the foot of the ridge now, with Gulab
Singh still beside him. There was not much farther
to go, but it was a steep, uneven ascent. He began to
zigzag his course—the Orang-laut weren’t particu¬
larly good marksmen—or else he was in luck—in luck.
The firing grew brisker, both from above him and
from the trees behind. Just a few more yards to go—
“Oh, well run, old man!” Glover’s voice shouted
out cheerily. “Here, get down behind that rock!”
Panting, gasping, Kenneth Wayne flung himself
down. He dashed the sweat out of his eyes, and
stared around him. He was on a small plateau, one
of a series probably extending all along the ridge. It
was perhaps a hundred yards square, its surface fur¬
rowed with rock crevices, and strewn here and there
with little upstanding ledges and loose boulders.
Dorothy Merwood’s face, from close beside him where
she lay flat on the ground, smiled up into his—a
strange, tremulous smile. She was white—looked
utterly done out as she lay there behind the little
.ledge, like a rampart, that sheltered them all. . He
leaned quickly toward her. And his surroundings,
Gulab Singh’s great turban shaking with the man’s
exertions, Selim Ali, Glover, all crouching here, be-
THE LOCKED BOOK
came for the moment apart, extraneous. He saw only
the blue eyes that looked at him through a sudden
mist, and lips that quivered with that strange,
“Thank God,” he said hoarsely in a broken way,
“thank God, thank God, that you are safe!”
And then he saw the colour begin to mount a little
and drive the deathly whiteness from her cheeks.
“That 1 am safe!” Her voice was very low. She
shook her head. “It was you. I—we—we did not
think we would ever see you again. We—we thought
that you were dead.”
There was something in her eyes, a great wistful¬
ness, a glorious shyness, that set his blood to racing
madly. Words, burning, eager, passionate, were on
his lips,* the soul of him was crying out for expression.
But he had no right—no right. He was a pariah
among men. He wanted her—out of all the world he
wanted her—wanted to hold her in his arms—close
to him—tenderly. He had held her once-
He was a pariah.
His hands clenched until the knuckles were chalky
“Yes—I—I fancy you did,” he said inanely. There
was a great choking in his throat.
He turned his head away, and lay staring out
through a fissure in the rock—staring down the slope
of the ridge. There was no sign of the Orang-laut;
just the green of the trees in the sunlight across the
short, barren stretch of ground, and, farther to the
left, the up-sweep of the hillside through which the
river bored its way; just a glimpse of the river itself
where for an instant it glinted in the light before it
plunged out of sight on its subterranean way—no sign
of any living man. Something was the matter. He
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE 287
was living in a world of unreality. There was peace
here, a perfect peace, over which nature presided in
cheery, beauteous, smiling mood. No conflict! The
conflict, then, could only be within himself—his soul
in strife and turmoil, battling to throttle, to strangle,
to destroy something that stood between it and its
impulse and its yearning to plead his cause. Well, why
shouldn’t he plead it—why shouldn’t he? If she
cared, love rose above this thing men said of him, love
transcended accusation, ignored it, and in its loyalty
swept aside the thought of consequences, would not
falter before ruin, disgrace, the brand of murder.
And in return it was repaid with—what? His love?
God pity him for a coward, then! He swept his
clenched hand across his eyes. Madness ! Unreality!
That was a shot, wasn’t it—the ping of a bullet
through the air?
Glover’s voice came from a few yards away.
“I think the sport’s over for the moment. They’ll
waste a bit of ammunition from time to time from
behind the trees, and we’ll have to keep our heads
down; but they’ll think twice about trying to cross that
open stretch and climb up here. The floor’s yours,
Wayne. We heard a little of what you said to that
chap you carried over the falls with you—and about
you having come here to find him—something about
your father. It sounded queer—my word! Miss
Merwood, I think, heard it all—but I’m jolly curious.
If it isn’t flicking on the raw, old chap, do you mind
telling it again, while we’re waiting for those beggars
to make the next move?”
Kenneth Wayne was still staring through the fissure
in the rock. He was glad of Glover’s intervention—
he wasn’t sure enough of himself yet to pick up the
THE LOCKED BOOK
thread of his conversation with the girl beside him.
He smiled a little wanly as he shook his head.
“No,” he said, “I don’t mind now. There’s nothing
to hide any more. If he’s dead—he’s dead. If he’s
alive, he knows I’m here and what I came for. I do
not know his name—I called him Crimson Sash.”
He paused a moment; and then, his chin in his
hands, he told his story. And as he spoke he was
conscious again of an acute sense of unreality. The
story of Old Man Wayne here on this rocky ridge,
with Crimson Sash’s followers out there, perhaps even
Crimson Sash himself, mad again with blood-lust, as
they had been that night on the War at an; the same
quiet, the stillness over all that had formed the same
prelude to that other attack! He was conscious that
Gulab Singh, listening, lay like some carved figure,
utterly inert, utterly motionless, as though it possessed
no life; conscious that Selim Ali had drawn nearer,
and that the man’s dark, swarthy face was intent,
eager, and at times a little troubled as though he
understood imperfectly; conscious that Glover kept on
interminably packing down the tobacco in the bowl of
his pipe with the ball of his thumb and made no
attempt to light it. He did not look at Dorothy Mer-
wood. And at the end he was absurdly conscious of
something else—that his throat was dry, that he
craved water, that the sun was beating down pitilessly
A silence fell as his voice died away. It endured
for a long time. It was Gulab Singh who spoke.
“Sahib,” he said gravely, “it is a strange tale that
the sahib has told; and it is in my mind that yet a
stranger thing will come of it if this man that the sahib
calls Crimson Sash still lives. But the sahib does not
know what happened in the water?”
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE 289
“No,” said Kenneth Wayne. “Unless I had the
breath out of him before we went over, he had as much
chance as I had.”
Glover lighted his pipe coolly now.
“A rum go, Wayne!” he ejaculated. “He’s the
bird, of course, that Talamori was buying that stack
of arms for, and, whether he’s alive or dead, I wish to
God I knew where his headquarters were! We’d
clean up this bunch of followers of his here when they
went back—even if you haven’t much faith in gun¬
Kenneth Wayne shook his head.
“I think we’d better look for some way of getting
out of this first ourselves,” he said a little grimly.
“We appear to be all right for the time being; but we
also seem to be perched up here on the top of a sort
of pinnacle that is as much a trap as it is a refuge.
What do you say, Gulab Singh?”
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh, “we have food, for
Selim Ali has brought the food basket, but we have
no water. They cannot come upon us from behind
because of the wall of the gorge which cannot be
climbed; and from in front we can shoot them as they
come unless they are brave enough to come all at once
and lose many in the coming. And, sahib, I do not
think they will do that. While it is daylight, sahib,
we are safe.”
“And after that?” demanded Kenneth Wayne
Gulab Singh did not answer for a moment.
“What is written is written, sahib,” he said at last.
“Sahib, I do not know.”
Kenneth Wayne’s lips set hard together. He
looked around him more critically now. They were
on the top of a narrow ridge that extended for a long
THE LOCKED BOOK
distance following the river’s course, but everywhere
it was barren and without shelter save, as where he
now lay, for loose boulders and out-cropping ledges
of rock; and everywhere, facing the ridge, leaving as
it were a sort of No Man’s Land between, the woods
ran on to where, far to the right, the ridge tapered
down again, and ridge, woods and river seemed to
meet and mingle once more. One could not go that
way. To lift one’s head was to invite a shot; and,
even by crawling, one would be seen in the sparcer
places where there were no protecting ledges and no
protecting rocks. And even if one gained the far end
of the ridge, the Orang-laut, watching the manoeuvre,
would be waiting there, just as they were waiting here
—amongst the trees.
He moved suddenly from his position, and on hands
and knees crawled across to the rear of the little pla¬
teau on which they had taken refuge, and, peering
over, looked down into the gorge below. There was a
sheer drop here, not of many feet, perhaps not more
than thirty-five or forty to where the river boiled
below, but the rock wall was as smooth and perpen¬
dicular as though it had been sliced off with a knife.
It was unscalable from below. In that, Gulab Singh
had been right.
Kenneth Wayne’s eyes searched the opposite bank
or wall of the river. He nodded sharply to himself.
The other side was much lower. There was very little
to warrant optimism in the situation—the most favour¬
able factor of all was that they could not be fired
down upon from the opposite bank.
It was bad! He felt a whiteness creep into his face.
As long as daylight lasted and they could see, they
could probably hold off the Orangdaut; but with dark¬
ness, with Heaven knew how many creeping up the
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE 291
face of the ridge and spread out over several hundred
yards, the end was inevitable. And the Orang-laut
were not fools—they knew that too.
He lay quiet for a moment, outstretched, his back
to the others, apparently gazing out across the gorge
—but his head was buried in his arms, and his hands
were tightly clenched. Dorothy! There must be a
way, some way to get her out of this. She had come
here for his sake—for him. Get help? How?
Where? What help was there to get even if one of
them here managed by some miracle to get through
to the town? A handful of white men! What was a
handful of white men! These were the devils, the
same shrieking, piratical spawn that had swarmed the
decks of the Waratan that night; these were Crimson
Sash’s followers who lived by murder, outrage and pil¬
lage. He did not know how many. Talamori had
between twenty and thirty with him, judging from the
numbers in the road in front of the hotel the other
night. How many had Crimson Sash brought? A
handful of white men! The handful of white men
would be murdered too.
“Dorothy!” Kenneth Wayne whispered. “Oh,
This quest of his! This was the end of it, wasn’t
it—whether Crimson Sash were dead or not? Strange !
Queer! Something, a sinister irony, seemed to have
mocked him, toyed with him, made sport of him from
the beginning—and now at the end it had reserved for
itself the most diabolical thrust of all. He had
counted, as he had thought, all the cost when he had
set out, he had neither shut his eyes nor been blind to
his own risk and peril; but in it and through it all he
had considered only the personal equation. He had
not counted on this—that a woman should pay too—
THE LOCKED BOOK
that a woman should come into his life—that it should
be that woman who was to pay—she who was innocent
of all this, still glorying in her youth, joyous, glad that
God had given her life—and perhaps—perhaps—
who knew?—glad of a dawning love—glad that-
He lifted his head suddenly at a shout from Glover ;
and, turning, scrambled back to rejoin the others.
“Look!” Glover cried. “Look! That’s Walters
and Fouche, isn’t it? Or am I crazy? What’s it
mean? Where did they come from?”
Kenneth Wayne flung himself down behind the
ledge of rock, and stared out again through the fissure.
Just opposite him, two men, two white men, had
burst out from the edge of the woods and were coming
toward the rise of the ridge, running in mad haste
across the open space. He stared incredulously. It
was Walters and Fouche! He did not understand.
How had they got through the Orang-laut there—the
Orang-laut were all massed in the woods at exactly
An outburst of yells, shrieks, screams, wild laughter,
peals of it, peals on peals of it, came suddenly from
the woods, from scores, it seemed, of hidden and in¬
human throats—and then the crackle of rifle fire—
little white whifls of smoke spurting from along the
line of trees.
The two men came on desperately—ten—twenty—
thirty yards. And then Mr. Walters from Man¬
chester flung up his hands in a queer, spasmodic, jerky
way, pitched forward on his face—and lay still.
Nicholas Fouche still ran. He ran like a man
crazed with fear; he leaped from side to side; he ran
half doubled up; and as he came nearer his face showed
grey, ashen, the eyes strained, fixed, seeming almost
to be protruding from their sockets.
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE 293
Nearer the man came with slithering gait up the
slope, spurred on by the yells and demoniacal laughter
behind him, the shots, the bullets that chipped bits
from the ground and rocks beneath his feet—-and his
screams now arose above all other sounds, for he
screamed in terror, his mouth wide open.
It was a miserable thing to see. Kenneth Wayne’s
jaws were clamped and set.
“Lie down! Take cover behind the rocks, and
crawl the rest of the way!” he shouted. “Lie down!
And it seemed almost as though the man had heard
and obeyed, for on the instant Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche, with a great despairing cry, fell forward, and,
with both hands clutching at his side, lay twisting and
writhing upon the ground.
He lay twenty yards from the top of the ridge.
“My God!” cried Kenneth Wayne, and started up,
“we can’t leave him out there!”
“Wait!” Glover’s voice answered hoarsely. “He’s
coming on again. He’ll make it.”
The man crawled now, one yard and then another—
painfully, slowly. And then the fusilade of shots
ceased abruptly, the cries and shrieks and laughter
from the woods died away—and Monsieur Nicholas
Fouche lay gasping in Kenneth Wayne’s arms behind
the little rampart-like ledge of rocks.
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche did not speak. He lay
with closed eyes.
Glover, leaning forward, tore the man’s clothing
There was the sound of cloth being ripped; and
then Dorothy Merwood’s voice in a half sob as she
extended a portion of her skirt:
“Can—can you do anything with this?”
THE LOCKED BOOK
Glover took the piece of skirt, but shook his head
as he began to staunch the flow of blood in Monsieur
“No use, I’m afraid, Miss Merwood,” he said
gruffly. “I don’t think he’s got more than a few
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche opened his eyes, stared
around him vacantly for a moment, and then a strange
and sudden fury seemed to sweep into his face, to domi¬
nate him, to imbue him with unnatural strength. He
wrenched himself almost free from Kenneth Wayne’s
supporting arms, and struggled into a sitting posture.
His face was contorted; his lips worked as though out
of all muscular control; he raised his hand and shook
it, clenched, frantically.
“Messieurs,” he screamed out, “he is a fiend!
There is no greater fiend in hell! Dieu! Nom de
Dieu! He said that since Walters and I started first
this morning for The Locked Book it was but fair—
fair, that is what he said, and laughed—that we
should have the first chance to come up here to you
and get it. And he drove us out from the woods, and
shot us down as we ran.”
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche sank back, struggling for
Gulab Singh’s voice came gravely out of a mo*
“Is it of the man Wayne Sahib calls Crimson Sash
that he speaks ?”
“Crimson Sash? Yes —sacre nom de Dieu —a sash
of blood! Eh—yes—that is it! The man who fell
over the falls into the pool,” cried Monsieur Nicholas
“Ah!” Gulab Singh drew a deep breath. “He
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE 295
“Yes! Yes, he lives! He-” Monsieur Nicho¬
las Fouche’s voice choked. “Give—give me water,”
Kenneth Wayne shook his head.
“We have none, Fouche,” he said gently.
“No water! Tonnerre, that is strange! No water!
I ask only for a little water, and there is no water.”
He was mumbling. His voice died out. He lay
passive for a moment; then suddenly into his face
again swept the surge of fury, and again he struggled
upward in Kenneth Wayne’s arms. “I die, messieurs
—eh, I die?” he cried out. “Yes, I see it in your
eyes. I die—and he lives ! But he will die too—he
and Talamori. You will get out of here. You must
get out of here, and then you will hang them, mes¬
sieurs—eh—you will see to that—hang them! I will
tell you. Quick! Listen! I will tell you so that they
may be hanged. He is a murderer. He murdered
Walters out there—eh—you saw that! And Tala¬
mori is a murderer—Talamori murdered Major
Peters—and I ”
He fell weakly back again.
Kenneth Wayne heard a low cry in a girl’s voice; a
quick, gruff, throaty exclamation from Glover. He
felt a sudden cessation of his own heartbeats.
“Talamori!” he cried out. “You know that?”
“Yes,” said Monsieur Nicholas Fouche. “I know
that. I swear it—before God I swear it. They said
it was you. But it was Talamori. Talamori told me.
I had business with Talamori that night. Talamori
came to Salabam that night, but he did not come at
once to me. You understand? It was The Locked
Book that everybody talked of. He went first to
Major Peters and some of his men were with him, and
THE LOCKED BOOK
he murdered Major Peters, but he did not get the book
—it—it was gone.”
Once more his voice died away—the man was per¬
ceptibly growing weaker.
“And afterwards,” said Kenneth Wayne quickly,
“you arranged with Talamori to attack the hotel be¬
cause you thought I still had it?”
“Yes,” said Monsieur Nicholas Fouche. “That is
true. But there is more. Quick! Listen! I do not
speak fast enough. The man that is with Talamori
—Talamori’s chief. They call him Malatea. He too
had heard that The Locked Book was found. He
came fast to Salabam to get it, to—to take it from
whoever had it. He came very early this morning.
I was at the place where Talamori’s proas were when
he came. He came with two more proas. Every one
seemed to be in great fear of him. Talamori speaks
a little English. I have always talked to Talamori in
English. Malatea and Talamori spoke together in
Malay. I pretended that I did not understand what
they said, but I understood well enough. I—wait!
For the pity of God, hold me tighter! Let—let me
rest a minute.”
Monsieur Nicholas Fouche closed his eyes. He
fought for his breath, his fingers clutching at his
throat. When he spoke again it was feebly, little
above a whisper:
“Malatea wanted to make sure that there was no
mistake about The Locked Book. He sent for the
Malays who had gone with Wayne to the Cheruchuk
River. They came and—and grovelled before him.
They were afraid of him. They described the book,
and—and—don’t let me go, Wayne—hold me tighter
—this—this is for you—you’re—you’re clear, Mon¬
sieur Wayne. Before God I swear this too is true.
MONSIEUR NICHOLAS FOUCHE 297
They said they had murdered the old priest to get the
book, but they couldn’t find it.”
Again Monsieur Nicholas Fouche from sheer weak¬
ness had ceased speaking; but it was Kenneth Wayne
now who closed his eyes. Clear! There was a great
throbbing in his brain. Clear! It perhaps did not
make any material difference now—it was too late.
There wasn’t much chance that it would do him any
good, much chance of getting out of here alive—much
more chance than this dying man had. But she had
heard. She knew. Strange and confused wonder was
in his mind. He wondered if that helped any—or
made it the harder? Was it easier to face the end
because he had the right now to speak, and, if she
cared, glimpse for an instant what the years might
have held—or was it the bitterer, the harder thing?
He heard Glover speak in a low, strained voice:
“Thank God, for your sake, Wayne!” And then,
a moment later, in a still lower tone: “I think he’s
gone. Gulab Singh will help me carry him across to
the other side there. You see what you can do for
Miss Merwood. She’s about at the end, I’d say—
been through more than most women could stand.”
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne briefly.
He relinquished his burden to Gulab Singh, and
turned around. Dorothy Merwood was lying out¬
stretched, her face buried in her arms, her shoulders
shaking with convulsive sobs. And as he looked at
her, he covered his own face for a moment with his
hands. Death! Life! God, not death for her—
Dorothy—not that! He loved her.
His lips moved—his voice was full of yearning,
full of anguish, as he drew close to her side.
“Dorothy!” he whispered. “Dorothy!” he said
298 THE LOCKED BOOK
again—and his voice broke—and his arm crept around
His head was close to hers, his lips touched her hair.
He drew her nearer to him. She had made no answer,
but his hand, encircling her shoulders, had found one
of hers—and suddenly found it held very tightly, as
though clasped by a frightened child—held very
tightly against a tear-wet cheek.
Subconsciously he was aware that Selim Ali lay
motionless a little way off, a sentinel, keeping watch
down the face of the ridge; while, farther off, near
the edge of the gorge, Gulab Singh and Glover still
bent over a form that now lay prone upon theground.
“Dorothy, you care! You care!’ , It was his heart
crying out to her. “You came here to this—because
And then for an instant she raised her head, and
in her eyes through the tears a great glory shone.
“I care,” she answered—and hid her face. “Oh,
I care so much—so much! And—and I am not afraid
— XXIII —
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
^TT^HEY had begun firing again. There was a
desultory spat of bullets as they struck the
rocks, little spurts of dust when they flicked
the softer ground. Kenneth Wayne had secured a
revolver from Selim Ali now, and lay watching the
line of trees at the foot of the ridge intently. It
might be merely an effort to inspire fear or keep fear
alive, or the chance of a bullet finding its mark, or the
prelude to a rush up the slope.
He fingered his revolver grimly. As Gulab Singh
had said, the Orang-laut could carry the ridge if they
came on with enough determination and were willing
to pay the price. But, so far, there was no sign of
movement from below.
Glover crawled up beside him and lay down. Their
eyes met—Glover had been a long time over there
“Yes,” said Glover, answering the unspoken query
in Kenneth Wayne’s face. “He’s gone, poor beggar;
but he was able to say a few more words—came
around a bit first. Practically Miss Merwood’s story.
A native came in to tell this Crimson Sash of yours
that you were hiding up the river. Crimson Sash
asked Fouche if he had understood what the native
had said, and Fouche said he didn’t. But Crimson
Sash was the cleverer trickster of the two. He wasn’t
taking any chances, and he gave Fouche the prover¬
bial rope with which to hang himself if Fouche were up
THE LOCKED BOOK
to any double play. Crimson Sash said he would wait
until dark and then set out after you, but what he
really did was to set a watch on Fouche. He caught
the two of them, Fouche and Walters, before they
were a mile up the river. After that, he marched
them along with him—and you know the end of it.”
Kenneth Wayne nodded without comment.
“What are the blighters up to now?” queried Glover
abruptly. “Merely wasting ammunition—or what?”
Kenneth Wayne forced a laugh.
“Beyond me!” he said lightly. “Anyway, they’re
not doing us any harm.” And then, his voice lowered
so that Dorothy Merwood on his other side might
not hear: “Glover, what are we going to do —when
it gets dark?”
Glover’s face was set. He echoed Kenneth Wayne’s
“God alone knows!” he said heavily. “If it weren’t
for her, I’d say we might as well make up our minds
to go out with our boots on; and, as it is, I can’t see
any other answer. We’ll give her what chance there
is, of course. Some of us will hold on here while she
runs for it. She might make it, if it’s dark enough.”
Kenneth Wayne shook his head.
“They’re not to be fooled that way. They’ll take
care that no one gets off the ridge. That’s no good.”
“No,” said Glover simply. “I know it. That’s no
The firing grew more desultory—and died away.
Gulab Singh, lying next beyond Glover, was talking
earnestly with Selim Ali. Once or twice Kenneth
Wayne caught the name of Malatea—that was Crim¬
son Sash’s name. Kenneth Wayne smiled suddenly
and bitterly to himself. There was not even the
consolation of having at the end kept his pledge to
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
Old Man Wayne. Crimson Sash was still alive.
Worse than that! More than merely alive! It
wouldn’t be Old Man Wayne this time; it would be—
He gnawed at his lips as though his thoughts were
audible and he were striving to crush them back and
refuse them utterance. Some way! Some way!
There must be some way! He had brought her to
this. He had brought love into her life, and the
penalty was- No! It was unbearable. The
thought was hideous. He knew his face was drawn,
haggard, grey and full of fear. He hid it from both
Glover and Dorothy Merwood.
And then he heard Gulab Singh’s grave, unemo¬
“Sahib, Selim Ali and I have talked together, and
we have drawn lots. Will the sahibs listen?”
Gulab Singh had pushed the food basket in between
Glover and himself. Food! Kenneth Wayne laughed
out harshly, involuntarily, in spite of himself. The
thought seemed to plumb the depths of irony. Food!
It was like the condemned being given breakfast a
few minutes before they were led out to execution.
But some of them ate it! Damned queer! Damned
morbid! He mustn’t lose his grip—that was the only
“I’m not hungry,” said Glover quietly: “but perhaps
“No,” Dorothy Merwood said. “I don’t think
I care for any just now, thank you.”
“It was not of that we talked,” said Gulab Singh.
“Sahibs, it was of that which was left for us to do.
The man that Wayne Sahib calls Crimson Sash still
lives and he is out there with many of his men, and we
are few and powerless against force; 'but, sahibs,
THE LOCKED BOOK
perchance if that which he came for were given to him,
the lives of the Miss Sahib and the sahibs would be
saved. It is in my mind, sahibs, that we give him
— this /”
With a sharp cry, Kenneth Wayne sat bolt upright.
He stared incredulously. It was absurdly chimerical
—the East Indians were great at that sort of thing.
He’d seen one once do the rose-bush trick—make it
grow out of the earth before his eyes. The cleverest
magicians in the world! Of course! That was what
Gulab Singh was doing—but it wouldn’t fool Crimson
Sash. Apparently, in Gulab Singh’s hands, extracted
from the food basket that Selim Ali had so sedulously
guarded, lay The Locked Book, dragon-covered, the
Konchi-kan Kitah of Kana-ee-a. He heard a sudden
burst of firing—the spatter of lead against the rocks.
“The sahib must not lift his head like that,” said
Gulab Singh in grave reproval.
Glover had said nothing. Jaw dropped, he was
gazing helplessly at Gulab Singh. Kenneth Wayne
mechanically resumed his recumbent position. He felt
Dorothy Merwood’s hand clasp and hold his arm
tightly. The Locked Book! He reached suddenly
over Glover’s back and snatched it from Gulab Singh’s
hands. He stared at it again. He felt it. It wasn’t
trickery. It was real—the mildewed leather, worn in
spots—the heavy brass superimposed scroll—the tail
over the edges fast locked in the dragon’s mouth.
“By God, it was you, then, who stole it out of my
room the other night!” he burst out. His face set like
iron. “This will require some explaining, Gulab
“It is true, sahib, that I took the book that night,”
said Gulab Singh quietly; “and it is also true that the
tale of it should be told—but first, sahib, there is the
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
matter of bargaining with Malatea, whom the sahib
calls Crimson Sash, in order that the Miss Sahib’s and
the sahibs’ lives be saved.”
“To say nothing of your own and Selim Ali’s!”
added Glover, with a sharp and sudden laugh. “Better
to lose the book than your own two precious skins, eh?
Never mind about the Miss Sahib, or Wayne and
myself! I fancy we wouldn’t be much of a factor if
you could still get away with it again yourself!”
Gulab Singh bowed his head. The great turban
almost hid his face.
“Those are hard words, sahib,” he said in a low
voice. “Does the sahib forget that it was Gulab
Singh who led the way to safety that night? Does
Wayne Sahib forget?”
Glover coughed suddenly, uncomfortably.
Kenneth Wayne pushed his hand across a wet brow.
It was pitilessly hot. There was no shade, no shelter.
Perhaps it was the sun pouring down so mercilessly
that confused him.
“It’s damned queer!” he said helplessly. “No; I
don’t forget. You saved my life that night. And
there wasn’t any need of it so far as this thing is
concerned, as you already had the book. But it’s
damned queer, just the same!”
“I think Gulab Singh is right,” said Dorothy Mer-
wood earnestly. “If he has some plan, that is the
Glover had taken the book from Kenneth Wayne’s
hands and was examining it now minutely.
“All right, then, for my part!” he grunted. “Go
on, Gulab Singh—tell us what you propose to do.”
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh, “we will put up a white
flag, and Selim Ali, because of the drawing of the lots,
will go down to Malatea and bargain with him. If
THE LOCKED BOOK
Malatea will draw off all his men into the little open
space down there near where the river enters the
hill, so that we may see them all together, and so that
we may know they are not lying in wait for us else¬
where, and will promise to let us go, we will give him
“H’m!” commented Glover. “A bit nervy, isn’t it?
—when he has already got us in his power!”
“But the book he has not got, sahib,” Gulab Singh
answered quickly. “And it is the Konchi-kan Kitab
of Kana-ee-a that he desires more than all else. And
he knows he cannot get the book unless we give it to
him, for the book we can destroy before he destroys
us—and in that manner Selim Ali will talk with him.”
“By Jove!” ejaculated Glover. “You’re right
Kenneth Wayne frowned.
“I’ve no doubt he’d agree, and agree like a flash,”
he said, “and, to pretend to keep faith, draw all his
men together in the opening of the gorge there where
we can see them; but after that—what? Once he’s
got the book he’s in just as good a position as ever to
do us in. True, we could run a little way farther along
the top of this ridge and be no worse off then we are
now, but we wouldn’t have enough start to get clear
away. There’s no guarantee that he’ll keep faith.
Faith!” He laughed harshly. “That man! Good
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh with a strange smile, “I
do not say that he is one who loves to keep faith, and
yet it may be that having got what he desires so
greatly he will ask for nothing more. Does the sahib
know of any better thing to do ?”
It was Glover who answered.
“No,” he said bluntly. “I agree with you, Wayne,
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
that it’s a slim chance, but any kind of a chance is
better than none. And, as you say yourself, we won’t
be any worse off anyway, for if they start after us we
can take cover again farther on along the ridge. We’re
not going to walk down into their arms in any case.
The idea, as I understand it, would be to keep along
the ridge to the other end of the gorge, and take to
the woods up there. What do you say, Wayne? 1 ’
The frown was still on Kenneth Wayne’s face.
“Well, all right!” he said tersely. He took off his
white jacket, emptied the pockets, and handed it to
Gulab Singh. “Here’s your flag. Wave it at them.”
Gulab Singh held the jacket up at arm’s-length
above the ledge of rock, and circled it to and fro in
the air. Presently an answering signal, something
white, was waved in return from the edge of the
Gulab Singh turned to Selim AIL
“It is well,” he said. “Go now; but see that you
speak only face to face with Malatea for his word
alone is law.”
Selim Ali stood up without comment, stepped out
into plain view, and composedly, without haste, began
to descend the face of the ridge.
Dorothy Merwood spoke suddenly.
“It—it seems like sending the man to his death,”
she said in a low, tremulous voice.
Gulab Singh shook his head.
“The Miss Sahib need not fear,” he said. “Selim
Ali is safe now because they will say to themselves:
‘Why does he do this thing?’ and afterwards he will
be safe too because they will send him back for the
Kenneth Wayne nodded assent.
THE LOCKED BOOK
“Yes, I fancy, as far as that end of it is concerned,
he’s safe enough.”
They watched the man descend the ridge, cross the
intervening open space beyond, and, passing in
amongst the trees, disappear from sight.
There had been no sound—only a sort of breathless
silence from all around.
Glover, who still held The Locked Book in his
hand, grunted suddenly as he began to examine it
“It’s a positive crime to hand this over without
getting a look inside!” He was twisting at the
dragon’s mouth and tail that held the covers to¬
gether. “It’s infernally strong, though! Maybe we
could prise it apart with a bit of rock.”
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh, “if the book is opened
it cannot be closed again for the metal cannot be
joined together, and Malatea will know that it has
been opened, and in such case that which Selim Ali
has gone to do will be set at naught. It was for the
secrets of the Konchi-kan Kitab that Malatea came to
Salabam. If its secret are known to others, Malatea
would destroy those others that their knowledge might
die with them. Sahib, would he let us go from here if
what is written in the book were written on our
Glover for a moment more turned the dragon-
covered book over in his hands, then, with a shrug of
his shoulders, laid it down on the ground beside him.
“No; I don’t suppose he would!” he agreed, with a
short laugh. “You’re a queer beggar, Gulab Singh!
Deucedly logical in some respects—and equally incom¬
prehensible in others.”
“Yes!” exclaimed Kenneth Wayne suddenly. “And
especially the latter! I can understand you taking the
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
book that night, because everybody seems mad to lay
their hands on it—but not your subsequent actions.”
His voice hardened abruptly. “And I don’t know of
any better time, Gulab Singh, for an explanation.”
“It is well, sahib”—Gulab Singh inclined his head
gravely—“for the time has indeed come.” He looked
for a moment from one to the other of the little group
around him, but in a strange, introspective way as
though he saw none of them. “I have listened to
Wayne Sahib’s tale,” he said, “and k is a strange tale.
Truly we travel upon the Wheel, and the Hand of
Fate is beyond all comprehension, for my tale is not
unlike the sahib’s tale, and my tale, too, is strange.
Listen, then, sahibs! We were three. I, and Selim
Ali, and Lalla Dass—and Lalla Dass was he who was
murdered, we know now by the Malays, in the hut at
the Cheruchuk River.”
“What!” Kenneth Wayne almost shouted, as he
stared at Gulab Singh. “Say that again! You knew
who he was all the time, you-”
“Wait, sahib! There is more before the sahib can
understand. And there is something that it is not good
for the Miss Sahib to see. Will the Miss Sahib hide
“That’s a strange request!’ growled Kenneth
Wayne. “This is getting a bit-”
“Let him go on,” interposed Dorothy Merwood
quietly. “He would not make such a request without
good reason, I am sure. I will not look, Gulab Singh !”
“It is only to save the Miss Sahib pain,” said Gulab
Singh. “Once, as Wayne Sahib knows, I stood naked
before him, but there was that which he did not see,
because my back was not toward him. Look, then,
Wayne Sahib—and look thou, too, O Glover Sahib!”
With a deft, quick movement Gulab Singh removed his
THE LOCKED BOOK
upper garments and bared his back. “Look!” he
cried—and lifted the huge turban from his head.
“My God!” It came in a low, shocked cry from
Glover. It was repeated: “My God!”
Kenneth Wayne felt his lips twitch. Mechanically
he moved his body to form a screen before Dorothy
Merwood that she might not, even inadvertently, see
what, hardened as he was, revolted and sickened him.
The man’s ears were gone—sliced off close to the
head. Great gouges out of the flesh, hideous hollows,
dull red excoriations criss-crossed the back in a mass of
healed scars; there was not an inch but must at one
time have been literally mangled by some barbarous
and inhuman instrument of torture—a steel whip
He turned his head away.
“What’s it mean, Gulab Singh?” he cried out.
“Sahib,” said Gulab Singh, as he replaced his cloth¬
ing and turban, “it was the man that the sahib calls
Crimson Sash. But this is little, sahib, very little, and
it is in my heart that this perhaps I might have for¬
given—but not the other. It is a black tale, sahib-
will the sahibs and the Miss Sahib listen?”
“Speak on, Gulab Singh,” said Kenneth Wayne
hoarsely. “We listen.”
“In my country, sahibs, I was a merchant and not
poor.” Gulab Singh’s face had suddenly lost its im¬
passiveness; it was strained and curiously haggard,
the black eyes burning feverishly as though full of
some strange unquenchable fire. “I loaded a vessel,
and with me was my wife, and a child, sahibs, that was
at breast and had not yet known a year. And one
night the wind failed us, and we were set upon by this
Malatea with his proas, and many were killed—and
amongst them the child whose head was severed by
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
the blow of a kris in the hands of Malatea that my
wife might know thereafter that he was her master.”
Gulab Singh’s voice had grown thick, almost in¬
coherent. He paused, staring at the ground. He in¬
terlaced his fingers and twisted them, and the muscles
cracked. There was no other sound.
Kenneth Wayne felt Dorothy Merwood draw closer
to him; felt her hand, trembling, creep into his.
“Sahibs, Malatea took my wife, and for a year my
wife lived while Malatea mocked me, and then she
died. And for five years I, and Selim Ali, and Lalla
Dass were slaves in the hidden village of Malatea.
So, O sahibs, runs the tale. And one night we stole a
proa that lay broken on the shore and made our
escape, but we had no water and no food, and the proa
scarce held upon the surface of the sea. And we were
prepared to die, sahibs, for four days passed, and we
were as men who had gone mad. Then a ship came
upon us and we were saved. And when the weakness
was gone, I asked of the captain of the ship where he
had found us, and he showed me on the chart, and I
made note of it, because none knew where the hidden
village of Malatea was; but I knew then, Wayne
Sahib, even in the same way as the sahib’s chart told
him, that Malatea was somewhere near that marking
on the chart for in our four days the proa had not
travelled far. Did I not tell the sahib that our tales
wove strangely together?”
“Yes!” said Kenneth Wayne beneath his breath.
“Good God! Go on—go on, Gulab Singh!”
Gulab Singh laughed.
Kenneth Wayne started involuntarily. It was the
first time he had ever heard the man laugh. Laugh!
It wasn’t laughter! It was a horrible sound. He felt
Dorothy Merwood’s hand close convulsively in his.
THE LOCKED BOOK
Gulab Singh reached out suddenly and picked up the
“It was in the village of Malatea that I first heard
the tale of the Konchi-kan Kitab of Kana-ee-a,” he
said. “And it was there, too, sahibs, that I learned
the soul of Malatea, and came to the knowledge that
it was a slave to greed above all other things. And
so, sahibs, because I could not find Malatea so that
I might do to him that which must be done, I fashioned
this book so that Malatea should seek it, and in the
seeking of it we two should meet.”
“You did—what!” Kenneth Wayne ejaculated
with a sort of helpless gasp. “You made that book?
Is that what you said? You mean it isn’t the real
thing at all? Just—just bait?”
“Even so, sahib,” Gulab Singh answered. “But
not the book itself—that I did not make. I searched
long, a year, sahibs, in the shops where the sahibs’
people sell books that I might come upon one that in
size and in its looks was like unto the Konchi-kan Kitab
as the tale described it. But the brass dragon I
fashioned, and in the fashioning of the dragon I was
another year; and then, sahibs, the finding of the
Konchi-kan Kitab had only to come to Malatea’s ears.
That is the tale, sahibs.”
v Glover had jerked himself up on his elbows.
“I’m damned!” he exclaimed. “Well, at least,
you’re a subtle bird, Gulab Singh! The East and the
West, I take it! Wayne goes out bull-headed after
his man, and Gulab Singh patiently whistles his game
to him. Well”—he laughed shortly—“so far as
present results go, I can’t see that one method has
anything over the other. This Malatea, or Crimson
Sash, or whatever you choose to call him, seems to
have come out top-dog. And instead of either of you
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
getting him, he’s more likely than ever to get us.
When he opens that book and, instead of the secrets of
this Kana-ee-a, finds he’s been hoaxed, we’re done
brown—to a turn.” His voice rasped suddenly. “I
don’t follow you there, Gulab Singh. You must have
gone mad! The last thing in the world to do is to
hand that book over to him now as a bribe to let us
out of this.”
Gulab Singh’s face had become imperturbable again,
his voice grave and unemotional once more.
“Sahib,” he said, “all that also was in my mind in
the fashioning of the book. I did not know in what
manner the book might come into the hands of Mala-
tea. It is true that the book does not hold the secrets
of Kana-ee-a; but I did not say, sahib, that it did not
hold other secrets. How will Malatea say they are
not the secrets of Kana-ee-a until he has gone afar in
search of them?”
“Oh—right!” exclaimed Glover, with a quick and
humble smile. “You win again, Gulab Singh. I’m
sorry I spoke! Well, then, go on with your story—
you came here to Salabam, just as Wayne did, on ac¬
count of its location in respect of the positions you
both had marked down on your charts.”
“Yes,” added Kenneth Wayne quickly, “there’s a
lot that’s far from clear to me—beginning with' that
night on the Cheruchuk.”
“Sahibs,” Gulab Singh answered, “it was necessary
that the finding of the book should be beyond the
questioning or the doubt of any man; and it was
necessary that in men’s minds there should be no doubt
but that it was indeed the Konchi-kan Kitab of Kana-
ee-a. Sahibs, that a native should find it would be of
no avail, for he would hide his secret in his heart that
he might profit by it himself, and word of the finding
3 1 2
THE LOCKED BOOK
would not spread abroad and reach the ears of Mala¬
tea. Also, sahibs, the word of a native was not alone
enough, for Malatea is a man of great craftiness and
not easily deceived. And so, sahibs, it was arranged
between us, between Lalla Dass whom the Malays
killed, and Selim Ali, and I, Gulab Singh, that Mer-
wood Sahib, a man of great learning, who had come
here to Salabam and desired to visit the interior,
should find the book. And all things were prepared in
the ruined village on the Cheruchuk. But Merwood
Sahib was stricken with a sickness, and you, Wayne
Sahib, came, and the Miss Sahib brought you to me.
Does the sahib remember that I asked him if he, too,
would journey to the Cheruchuk?”
“Yes, I remember,” said Kenneth Wayne tersely.
“Thus, then, was it done, sahibs,” Gulab Singh
went on. “That night after Wayne Sahib and the
Malays had seen the book, Lalla Dass brought me the
book, and I and Lalla Dass hid the stores that the
sahib might be forced to return to Salabam quickly;
and I hid the book in the sahib’s kit bag that it might
be found on the return to Salabam, and the word of its
finding leap from mouth to mouth and spread from
island to island until it should come to the ears of
Malatea. But, sahibs, after Lalla Dass no longer
had the book, the Malays of the sahib’s crew, unknown
to me, but as Fouche Sahib has related, set upon Lalla
Dass for the book and murdered him.”
Gulab Singh paused, and stared for a moment down
the face of the ridge.
“It is a tale of many words,” he said without
inflexion in his voice; “but Selim Ali does not yet
return, and the time is ripe for the telling. Sahibs,
the murder of Lalla Dass changed many things. I
had made plans with Selim Ali to take the book again
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
by theft as soon as it was shown in Salabam, and
before it could be opened, because, sahibs, if it were
unopened Malatea’s eagerness would be increased a
thousandfold in that none save himself should possess
its secrets. And then, as the sahibs know, the Major
Sahib took the book and said it should not be opened,
and it was well, for then all men knew that the Major
Sahib had the book and that it was not opened. And
then, sahibs, word came to me of three proas creeping
in the evening light along the coast, and we watched,
Selim Ali and I, and it was Talamori, and we knew
him for a man we had seen in Malatea’s village—but
the book was not for Talamori.
“And we feared greatly what Talamori would do,
for word of the finding of the book would not be long
in reaching his ears; and we feared both for the Major
Sahib and the book. Sahibs, we went to the Major
Sahib’s house; but I alone did he see enter. I talked to
him of the danger and told him he should bring the
white men around him lest evil came upon him quickly,
but he would not believe—and so, while I talked, Selim
Ali stole the book, for only Malatea must have it.
Then I took to Wayne Sahib the key of his room,
and this I did because when it became known that the
book was gone from the Major Sahib and that Wayne
Sahib had fled all men would say Wayne Sahib had
it, and in the excitement of the search for the white
man the news would travel still faster to Malatea’s
ears, and Malatea would come the more quickly while
he still knew who had the Konchi-kan Kitab and
before Wayne Sahib could leave the island. And
meanwhile, as the sahib knows, I would have hid him.
But the sahib would not go. And the evil that I feared
came to pass, and the Major Sahib was murdered,
THE LOCKED BOOK
Gulab Singh broke off abruptly. He pointed down¬
ward across the ridge to where a single figure, the
only one in sight, had suddenly emerged from the
“See!” he said. “It is well! Selim Ali comes.
And the tale is almost at an end. The sahib did go
out, and he was out while the Major Sahib was
murdered. And so, sahibs, I took the book and put it
in Wayne Sahib’s room because I did not think the
sahib would accuse himself of murder by facing the
white men with the book, but instead that it would at
last make the sahib flee, and I wanted him to flee be¬
cause of the reasons I have told the sahib, and now
I wanted him to flee still more for I feared greatly
for the sahib’s life when the white men and the natives
should learn of the murder of Major Sahib and that
Wayne Sahib had been out. But while I and Selim Ali
watched, there came to Wayne Sahib’s room Fouche
Sahib and Walters Sahib. Sahibs, we watched the
fight, but it was not well that we should be seen if
afterwards we would be of help to the sahib, or unless
the fight went against the sahib and the book was
taken by the other two. And as we watched, Mer-
wood Sahib came with great slowness on crutches
along the verandah and-”
“My father!” Dorothy Merwood cried out
sharply. “Did you say Merwood Sahib, Gulab
“It was even so,” Gulab Singh answered. “Mer¬
wood Sahib came at last to the window, and through
the window he watched the end of the fight.”
Dorothy Merwood was no longer looking at Gulab
Singh—she was staring up into Kenneth Wayne’s face,
her lips trembling.
“You-” Her voice broke. “That was what
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
you meant when you asked me where my father was,
and afterwards spoke about the crutches! You—you
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne quietly. “I saw him.”
“And—and you thought he had the book when you
—you saved us all that night?”
“Dorothy, it doesn’t matter now,” Kenneth Wayne
answered gently. “See, Selim Ali is here. Let Gulab
Singh finish. Go on, Gulab Singh.”
“Yes,” she said in a choked way, “go on, Gulab
“The tale is almost at an end,” said Gulab Singh, as
Selim All’s figure appeared above the ledge of rock.
“When the lamp went out, Merwood Sahib tried to
get into the room, but he fell down and sickness came
upon him because of great weakness. And Selim Ali
took the book, and I carried Merwood Sahib to his
room again and put him in bed. That is all, for the
rest is known to the Miss Sahib and the sahibs—
except that I would tell Wayne Sahib that it was I,
Gulab Singh, who fired the shot at Malatea in the
Devil’s Throat, for it was the first time in the years
that have passed that I had come face to face with
Malatea. As the sahib knows, I missed the shot, and
I could not fire again because the sahib stood be¬
He turned abruptly to Selim Ali, and for a moment
the two spoke rapidly together in their native tongue.
And then the great turban nodded a sort of grim
“It is well,” said Gulab Singh in English; “though
Malatea showed great anger to find in Selim Ali one
who had escaped from him. Look!” He pointed
quickly down and across the ridge to the right, where,
in the sort of little cup-like hollow formed by the
THE LOCKED BOOK
3 x 6
entrance to the gorge, figures, defiling from the trees,
were beginning to gather. “Malatea says that he will
stand all his men in there that we may see that none
are in hiding, even as we said that he must do, and
that he will stand amongst them, and that if the book
be truly the Konchi-kan Kitab of Kana-ee-a, and if
when he shall have looked therein that which he reads
is indeed the great secret, then he will make signal
to us, and we shall go.”
Glover’s face was suddenly hard.
“And if not—if he smells a rat?” he asked grimly.
“Then, sahib, we die,” Gulab Singh answered
“Yes, that’s just it—we die!” Glover laughed a
little harshly. “You’re clever, Gulab Singh, I’ll admit
that; but you took on a bit of a contract. A book
two generations old—changes in the language, and all
that! You said this Malatea, or, as Wayne calls
him, Crimson Sash, is a man of great craftiness and
not easily fooled. I wonder what the odds are—
“The sahib need have no fear,” Gulab Singh
answered as gravely as before. “I was long in the
making of the book, and it was made with great care.
He will not know. Is it well that Selim Ali should
go now with the book? See—they wait!”
“Yes,” said Kenneth Wayne abruptly. “It’s the
only chance we’ve got. Let him go!”
Gulab Singh handed the dragon-covered book to
“Go thou, then, Selim Ali, with whom I have drawn
lots,” he said, “and deliver the book into the hands of
Malatea, and return.”
“If it is so written, I will return,” Selim Ali
THE BOOK UNLOCKE1
answered and, taking the book, began to descend the
Gulab Singh stood up.
“They will not fire upon us while Selim Ali goes
to them with the book,” he said quietly.
It was a relief to stand up. Kenneth Wayne helped
Dorothy Merwood to her feet. Her face was pale,
drawn. She stood unsteadily. He put his arm around
her, and held her close to him.
She made a brave attempt to smile.
“Kenneth,” she said, “what is the end? Will—will
he let us go?”
Kenneth Wayne shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We might as well face
the truth. I am far more afraid of the fiend’s
treachery than I am of what Glover seems to fear
most—that the book will be unmasked.”
“You mean,” she said, “that he wouldn’t let us go in
Kenneth Wayne nodded*
“Yes,” he said simply.
A silence fell on the top of the ridge.
Kenneth Wayne’s arm tightened around the girl as
he watched the scene below him. And upon him sud¬
denly there came surging a maddening conflict of emo¬
tions; a sense of great fear for this woman that he
loved; a sense of utter and abysmal futility in all that
he had done. His free hand clenched at his side. He
felt the blood rush in a sweep of fury to his cheeks.
Before his eyes there swam the blood-stained decks of
the Waratan, the dying men, wantonly murdered, the
face of Old Man Wayne—his father. And there,
down there, crowded together in that little hollow
against the hillside, were the murderers, the same men
who had swarmed the decks that night, the same men
THE LOCKED BOOK
who had killed at the bidding of Crimson Sash. They
were before him at last—but his effort to run them to
earth had only brought another life, one grown dearer
now to him than his own, into jeopardy. And there,
too, was Crimson Sash himself! A lane had opened
through the massed figures, and at the end of the lane
stood a tall figure in white, and Selim Ali was standing
now beside this figure.
And the sight of the man brought added madness
to Kenneth Wayne’s brain. He knew! Mad, wild,
insane folly to dream for an instant that such a man
would let them go! This was the end of his pledge
to Old Man Wayne—death. Not his own—that
didn’t matter. Hers!
He cried out aloud suddenly in his agony.
“What is it, Kenneth?”
He heard her voice, but he did not answer.
He was watching intently now. He saw Selim Ali
coming back. At the rear of the massed figures he
could still make out the figure of Crimson Sash. The
man had something in his hands, seemed to be working
with it—and the crowd of Malays were turned with
their faces toward Crimson Sash, and were paying no
attention to Selim Ali.
And then suddenly a great stillness seemed to fall,
as though all nature had ceased to breathe, as though
its very pulse had stopped—and then, almost instanta¬
neously, shattering this silence, there came a roaring
in Kenneth Wayne’s ears, a detonation that seemed to
split the ear-drums, a terrific explosion, and the
ground rocked beneath his feet, and below him a mass
of men, a debris of rock and human fragments were
flung upward in the air—and he recoiled backward
THE BOOK UNLOCKED
with a strangled cry, and, catching at Dorothy Mer-
wood, hid her face hurriedly on his shoulder.
“Don’t look!” he cried out hoarsely. “Don’t look!
My God, don’t look!”
And, holding her, he swept his other hand across
his eyes. It was like a charnel house. A few forms
ran shrieking from it—but not many. The dead lay
there—scattered—grouped—flung about. Bits of
rock still rolled down the hillside. A tree, uprooted,
tottered and crashed earthward. A pall, greyish-
black, rose upward and floated sinuously in the air.
He turned and looked about him, and his eyes held
on Gulab Singh. The man was drawn up to his full
height, his arms folded across his breast, his eyes
under the great, towering turban fixed in a strange
brooding expression upon the scene before him.
Kenneth Wayne heard himself cry out in a jerky,
unhinged, discordant way:
“In God’s name, what is this, Gulab Singh?”
Gulab Singh did not turn his head.
“Sahib,” he answered, and spoke as one aroused
from reverie, “it is the secret of the book. For thus
it was that I fashioned it for those things that were
done to me and to the child and to the woman. Only
the edges of the leaves in the book I left, sahib, and
in the space, three hand-breadths long and two across,
thus made, I placed that which would rend flesh and
earth apart when the book was opened. For that
which was in the book was an explosive of secret and
great strength, sahib, that was given to me by one
amongst my own people who is wise beyond other men
in such matters; and, even as he said, nothing would
remain of him who held the book, and those within a
great compass around would also die. And even so
it was, sahib; even as the sahib’s eyes have seen. That
THE LOCKED BOOK
is all, sahib, for now when the sahib wills, we will go,
for the few who live have no strength against us, and
their hearts are weak with fear and they flee.
Kenneth Wayne made no answer.
But Gulab Singh seemed to expect none, seemed to
be oblivious again of any presence there save his own,
for abruptly he flung out both hands and raised them,
palms outward, until they were outstretched to full
arm’s-length above his head. And for a space he
stood there in the sunlight, and his face, upturned,
seemed in that moment to grow old, and his eyes
closed, and only his lips moved.
And suddenly he cried out, and the figure of Selim
Ali climbing the ridge stood still with head bent low,
for Gulab Singh’s cry was in a mighty voice that
carried to a far distance:
“It is done, O Malateal It is done! What is
written is written, and thus has it come to pass! It
is done, O Malatea—it is done 1 ”
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