SYDNEY

Hakluyt, despite his appearance, was a very efficient schooner captain,
and as day followed day, Floyd’s respect for him as a sailor rose more
and more. As a man, he disliked him just as much as ever.

It was not an active dislike. His temper never rose against him, for
Hakluyt, to give him his due, was perfectly easy to get on with. He
neither swore at the hands nor heckled the subordinate officer. On
the contrary, he seemed always endeavoring to make himself agreeable,
always anxious for smooth water. The dislike that Floyd had for him
was instinctive and beyond the reach of reason, but he did not show it
outwardly as he would have done had Hakluyt been difficult to get on
with.

The _Southern Cross_ was a good deal of a Dutch ship. Hakluyt hailed
originally from Amsterdam, and he brought the Dutch flavor with him.
He was an eternal cigar smoker, and the food and drink on board were
reminiscent of Holland, especially the De Kuyper. There was a certain
slackness also, and a go-as-you-please method of doing this foreign to
an English ship.

Yet she made good way without taking any risk. The great art of
schooner sailing as laid down by Hakluyt was formulated by him as
follows: “Carry all the canvas that you can without danger to your
sticks.”

And this art implied not only good handling of your vessel, but
incessant weather watchfulness, at all events in the Pacific, where
squalls drop on you out of a perfectly fair sky.

Three weeks brought them to Sydney, and though it was not Floyd’s first
acquaintance with the harbor which seems to have been made when the
gods were making harbors for great fleets that have vanished, it still
filled him with the same wonder and admiration and surprise.

They anchored close to McGinnis’ wharf, and Floyd on the morning of his
arrival found himself a comparatively free man for a few days.

“Run round the town and amuse yourself,” said Hakluyt. “Id is worth
seeing. Id is good to stretch one’s legs after a voyage, but first come
to my place and I will show you over.”

Hakluyt had two places, one on the wharves and the other an office on
Market Street.

The office was a dingy-looking place with wire blinds to the windows
inscribed with the legend “Hakluyt & Son” done in dingy gold.

The place on the wharf was much more lively and pleasing to the mind.

It was an enormous emporium where everything was sold that could
be wanted by a shipmaster. Here you could buy an oilskin coat or
the provisions for a voyage round the world. It was all the same to
Hakluyt. He could put you in the way of a spare anchor or a barrel of
petroleum or a slush tub with the same hand that dealt out tobacco and
preserved fruit. His storehouses were enormous; he victualed his own
ships, and his influence in the maritime world was ubiquitous.

A man who can give you a job if you are out of work or if your board of
trade certificates are not quite clear is a power. A man who can lend
you money and who is willing to do it if you are on your beam ends is
also a power.

Hakluyt had helped many a man. He had established that reputation, yet
the men he helped had better have gone without his help, for once he
touched a man in this way he held him. The money he lent always, nearly
always, returned to him with heavy interest. Sometimes he made a dead
loss. He did not mind that, for he was a man who reckoned up things in
the large, and in the large he always profited, with this addition–he
could always put his hand on a man ready and able to do a dangerous or
dirty job for him.

Floyd, when Hakluyt had shown him over the wharfside store, took his
gear to the house recommended by Schumer, where he obtained rooms. Then
he went out to see the town, and finished up by dining at a restaurant
and going to the theater.

Next morning he went down to superintend the towing of the _Southern
Cross_ into dry dock for an overhaul. This business held him for most
of the day, and most of the next day he spent at the dock having a
good look at the vessel’s copper sheathing. It seemed to him that the
dry docking was a work of supererogation. The _Southern Cross_ was in
excellent condition, and Hakluyt was not the man to waste money in
frills. Why had he gone to this expense?

There were several of Hakluyt’s ships in the harbor, and chumming up
with one of the wharfside loafers, he managed to obtain a good deal of
information as to Hakluyt and his ships.

Said the broken-down sailorman, who was one reek of rum and navy twist:

“_Southern Cross_ in dry dock havin’ her bottom scraped? I dunno in
the nation what bee’s got into Hakluyt’s bonnet. There’s the _Mary and
Louise_–that’s her lyin’ by the oil tank–the weeds fathoms long on
her keel and the barnacles as big as saucers on her copper, yet she’s
good enough to put out o’ port without no dry dockin’. There’s the
_Boomerang_, another of his tubs. You can see her forrard, the yaller
one, beyond that point. She’s wrong from stem to rudder, she’s held
together mostly by her paint, she hasn’t seen a dry dock for years,
an’ the sight of one would make her spew her bolts. I reckon she’s
just held together by the salt water she floats in, yet he docks the
_Southern Cross_! Is that all his vessels? No, it ain’t. D’you see that
schooner out there by the whistlin’ buoy? She’s the _Domain_. She’s
Hakluyt’s. Just come back from the islands a month ago. Been lyin’
there waitin’ for I don’t know what ever since. The copra’s been out of
her this fortnight, and there she lays waitin’ her job.

“What sort o’ man is Hakluyt? Well, he’s no sort to speak of. He blew
in here twenty years ago out of a Dutch ship that was glad to get rid
of him, and here he’s stuck and prospered till he’s fair rotten with
money and has his thumb on the town and half the harbor side as well.
He’s owner and ship’s chandler both. I’ve heard folk say he’s sold his
soul to the devil, but that’s a lie, for he ain’t got a soul to sell.
The grub aboard his ships is most salt horse, and the bread bags has
to be tethered they’re that lively with the weevils. Go and ask any
sailorman on the front if you don’t believe me.”

Floyd did not need to confirm this view of Hakluyt by making inquiries
of sailormen on the front. He took a long look at the _Domain_, and
then turned away from the wharfside and walked uptown to Hakluyt’s
office.

Hakluyt was in, and they went over the list of stores together.

“You leave id all with me,” said Hakluyt. “I shall have them all aboard
by the date of sailing. Well, and how do you like Sydney?”

Floyd expressed his opinion of Sydney. The dullest place in the world
for a lone man unaddicted to bar-room festivity or horse-racing.
Hakluyt gave him a pass for the theater, regretted that he could
not ask him to dinner, as he was a lone bachelor, told him to enjoy
himself, and dismissed him.

During the next fortnight Floyd managed to amuse himself innocently
enough. He had never been much of a reading man, but, picking up a
cheap edition of the “Count of Monte Cristo,” he suddenly found a new
world open before him. He read it in bed at night, and he took it out
with him and read it by the sea front.

It occupied a good deal of his time, as he was a slow reader, and it
gave him a new horizon and new ideas and a new energy.

Monte Cristo’s discovery of the treasure, his escape from the Château
d’If, the girl he loved, his cruel separation from her, his revenge,
all these things appealed to his mind with the power of reality, as
they have appealed to minds all the world over and as they ever will
appeal.

When he had finished “Monte Cristo,” he bought a new novel. It was
about a young lady, who, starting life as a shop assistant, married a
duke at the end of the third chapter. The book did not hold him, and he
fell back on fishing.

There is good fishing to be had in the neighborhood of Sydney, and one
day toward the end of the third week and close now to the time of the
sailing of the _Southern Cross_, he met an individual on one of these
fishing excursions, a joyous and friendly personage who, returning with
him to Sydney, proposed drinks and led the way into a bar.

Floyd was not a drinking man, but the best of men make mistakes, and
the hot air of the bar, the friendliness of his new companion, the
pleasure of having some one to talk to, and the strength of the whisky
had their effect. He had not eaten since breakfast.

Presently he found himself one of a mixed company. His first
acquaintance had departed, yet he did not trouble about that. He
scarcely recognized the fact, and presently he recognized nothing. He
had been doped. One of these new friends had done the business, and an
hour later he found himself lying on a couch in Hakluyt’s inner office,
of all places in the world, his pockets empty and his throat like a
fiery furnace.

He recognized at once his position. He had been robbed and left in
the street and had managed to reach Hakluyt’s by that instinct for a
known place common to homing pigeons and drunken men, an instinct that
in the man is much more tricky than in the bird, as in the case of
Floyd, who, instead of finding himself in his rooms, found himself at
Hakluyt’s.

His mind, as he lay there on the couch, was terribly lucid. He
remembered everything up to a certain point.

It was still daylight, so that his intoxication must have passed away
very quickly, as it does in those instances where it is produced by
a doper and through the medium of a “knock-out drop” placed in the
victim’s drink; but Floyd knew nothing of this. He did not suspect that
he had been doped by some scoundrel for the purpose of robbery. He only
recognized that he had been drunk and incapable, and, to use the old
term so unfair to animals, had made a beast of himself.

The awful depression that comes after drink or drugs had a hold upon
him, and the unfair spirit that waits upon depression of this sort
began to exercise its power.

It showed him the vision of Isbel standing on the reef against a
background of blue and burning sea; it showed him the coconut trees and
breadfruits, their fronds and foliage moving in the wind; it showed
him all that was brilliant and fresh and pure in that extraordinary
life through which he had passed out there, away from civilization and
its dirt, and then it showed himself lying in Hakluyt’s dusty office
recovering from drink and fortunate in not having been jailed.

It seemed to his simple mind that he had sinned against Isbel and that
he never, never could rise from his degradation and look in her face
again. All his homesickness for the island came upon him like a wave,
and he was endeavoring to raise himself on his arm to leave the couch
when a voice from the outer office made him lie down again.

It was Hakluyt’s voice. He had just entered, and Floyd, as he lay,
heard the door of the outer office close.

“Well,” said Hakluyt, who seemed to be continuing a conversation begun
outside, “id is just so. There is noding to fear. Wait for a moment,
though.”

He came to the door of the inner office where Floyd was lying, pushed
it more widely open, and peeped in.

Floyd, more from shame than any other reason, lay with his eyes closed.

Hakluyt stood looking at him for a few seconds, then he closed the door.

Floyd instantly opened his eyes and sat up on the couch.

Hakluyt and the other man, whoever he might be, had been talking
about him. Of that he felt certain. He had no concrete evidence to
go upon, yet he felt sure that he had been under discussion and that
they were discussing him now. His ego had become abnormally sensitive,
fortunately for him. He felt sure that his disgraceful conduct was the
subject of their talk, and the overmastering desire to hear the worst
that could be said of him prompted him to leave the couch, approach the
door, and put his ear to the paneling. He heard Hakluyt’s voice and
every word that he said distinctly.

“Look here, Captain Luckman,” said Hakluyt, “when I say a thing I mean
id. You need have no fear. Schumer will see that there is no evidence
against you. You will dispose of the young man so that no trouble will
be made, no questions asked. You will not raise the price on me on that
account. You run no risk. That is all Schumer’s work, and no blood need
be spilled. Schumer is nod the man to make any blunder. Two hundred
pounds now and two hundred when you get back. That is my uldimatum, and
what have you to do for that–noding, _absolutely_ noding.”

“I’m not troubling about what Schumer does to the blighter,” came
Luckman’s voice. “I’m thinking of myself, and I say it’s not enough.
Two-fifty down and two-fifty when I get back is _my_ ultimatum, and
poor enough pay it is for a job like that.”

Floyd heard Hakluyt laugh. Just a single laugh, mirthless as a rap on a
coffin lid.

“So you would dictate terms to me,” said he. “Why, God bless my soul,”
his voice rising in inflection, “suppose I order you from my office,
suppose I say to you, ‘Get clear out of this place, Captain Luckman,
and never you ender id again,’ hey? Suppose I say to you, ‘Very well,
Captain Luckman, all those papers in my hands go to the owners of the
_Morning Star_. Sent anonymous.’ Suppose—-”

“Oh, stow that!” came Luckman’s voice. “Suppose I put the mouth of a
revolver at your head and blow out your dirty brains? I’d do that same
as I’d poison a rat, if you cut any capers with my affairs. You’re not
going to frighten me with threats. Put me beyond a certain point and
I’d do you up before the authorities could nab me, and if they did nab
me I’d croak you when I came out of quod. Talk like a man to a man or
I’ll leave your office and let you do your own dirty work. Who else is
there in Sydney you could get?”

“Hundreds,” said Hakluyt.

“Not one,” replied Luckman. “Not one who would not either mess it or
give the show away in drink sometime or another. Five hundred is my
price. Two-fifty down, two-fifty when I land back. Not a halfpenny less
will I take.”

In the momentary silence that followed, Floyd heard a drawer opened,
and then came Hakluyt’s voice counting: “One, two, three, four–_and_
five.”

Then Luckman’s:

“_And_ five. Right you are.”

The money was being paid over, and from the chinking sound it was being
paid in gold, five bags of fifty sovereigns each, evidently.

Floyd did not wait for any more. He went back to the couch. He had
forgotten his position, he had forgotten the drinking bout, he no
longer even felt the headache and the parching thirst that had
tormented him on waking. Hakluyt and Schumer had made a plan to get
rid of him. That was all he knew for the moment. The idea excluded
everything else by its monstrosity and strangeness.

The discovery that a plot is on foot against one’s life is the most
soul-stirring discovery that a man can make. The knowledge that one is
an object of enmity is always disturbing. It unsettles the placidity of
the ego, almost more than the discovery that one is an object of love.
It also raises the temperature of the soul.

But the discovery that one is plotted against with a view to one’s
removal from the world is a heart-chilling discovery which at all
events in the first moments reduces the temperature of the soul and
body both.

Floyd, taking his place on the couch again, closed his eyes. He heard
the two men go out; then after a moment he heard Hakluyt return.

Hakluyt opened the door and looked in on him, and Floyd, moving and
pretending to wake up, rubbed his eyes. Then he sat up, asked in a
confused manner where he was, got on his legs, pretended to stagger,
and made for the door.

Hakluyt, nothing loath to get rid of him, followed him to the stair top.

“Where are you off to now?” inquired Hakluyt, as the other went down
the stairs clutching the banister tightly.

“Going to have a drink,” replied Floyd. “See you in the morning.”

“Right,” said Hakluyt. “Take care of yourself.”

In the street Floyd turned into the nearest bar, drank a bottle of
soda water, and, having sat for a moment to collect his wits, started
for his rooms. He had now entirely recovered mastery of himself. His
discovery about Hakluyt was finer than any pick-me-up or tonic, and his
mind before the problem clearly stated by fate had little inclination
for sleep.

The problem itself, though clearly stated, was intricate and in some
respects obscure. If Hakluyt and Schumer wanted to clear him out of the
pearl business, if they were scoundrels enough to plot his destruction,
why did they not commit the act themselves without calling in a third
man? He could imagine no answer to this question that satisfied him,
yet there were two answers that might have been put forward by a man
with a knowledge of Schumer and Hakluyt, a knowledge of psychology and
a knowledge of the world.

Firstly, neither Schumer nor Hakluyt might be murderers in an active
sense. Very few men are capable–God be thanked–of taking a fellow
man’s life in cold blood with their own hands. Schumer was without
doubt a man of sensibility and parts. Hakluyt, though without parts or
sensibility, was not of the active type of scoundrel. Both of these
men might be capable of planning the destruction of another man, but
neither would be likely to do the work himself.

Secondly, in a business of this sort it is always safer for the
murderer to employ an agent than to act himself.

It is the assassin who leaves traces, the assassin who is followed, the
assassin who is hanged.

Of course, he may accuse his employer, but an employer of the type of
Schumer or of Hakluyt is not likely to give an agent any chance to make
evidence against him. He had paid Luckman in gold, and when the job was
finished he would pay him in gold. Gold cannot be traced–and that is
one of the greatest pities in the world.

Floyd could see nothing very clearly in the whole of this business with
the exception of the fact that foul play was to be used against him,
but he saw that fact clearly enough. Leaving the problem of Schumer and
Hakluyt aside, he tried to imagine what method Luckman might possibly
employ. The remainder of the money was not to be paid to Luckman until
his return. Return from where? There could be only one answer to
that–from the sea.

Luckman would sail with the _Southern Cross_, be put on board either as
mate or supercargo; and on the voyage he would do what he was paid to
do.

The _Southern Cross_ would most likely never reach the island. An
accident would happen to Floyd, and she would return to Sydney. Luckman
would be paid off for his job, and Hakluyt, taking charge of the
schooner, would sail for the island and shake hands with Schumer over
the fact that they two were the sole possessors of the place and its
wealth.

And what would happen to Isbel?

At this thought a wave of fury rose in his soul against the men whom he
imagined to be plotting his destruction.

He half rose from his bed, and had Hakluyt appeared at that moment it
would have been a very bad thing for the shipowner.

Then he lay down, a deep determination in his heart to deal with this
matter in the only way it could be dealt with satisfactorily, to match
cunning against cunning, and force, at the proper moment, against force.

He determined to say nothing and do nothing to arouse any uneasiness
or suspicion in Hakluyt, to welcome Luckman on board, and then to deal
with Luckman when they were clear of the Heads.

If Luckman were put on board as mate or supercargo the matter would be
easy, but if Luckman were placed over him as captain it would be much
more difficult.

If Hakluyt were to suggest such a thing he determined to oppose it, to
stand on his dignity and refuse utterly to give up his post as chief in
command to a stranger.

Then as he lay down again the thought came to him what a miraculous and
providential thing it was that he had gone out fishing that day and
fallen in with the bibulous stranger. He had been robbed, it is true,
of a few pounds, but that was a very cheap price to pay for his life.

Floyd, without being a professedly religious man, had a deep and
intuitive belief in a God that rules the world and deals out justice
and protects–though sometimes in a roundabout way–the innocent. He
felt that Providence had a hand in this affair, yet he was not of
the type that believes in a Providence who works single-handed. He
determined that in this matter he would give Providence all the help he
could, and having come to this determination he fell asleep.

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