CONCERNING MR JOSEPH GOBBITT, CAPTAIN BASIL HAYLE, AND THE HEAD OF ALBERT DUNK

Mr Joseph Gobbitt was tall and stout, and possessed a pair of
side-whiskers of which he was distinctly proud; consequently, though he
certainly did appear impressive when carrying the bag–he was vicar’s
churchwarden in a suburban church–he looked almost ridiculous when
he landed on the quay at Igut, attired in a very tight khaki suit,
with an immense khaki-coloured helmet on his head. At least, he
appeared ridiculous to Mrs Bush, who watched his arrival from the
balcony of her house, and, for the first time since Basil Hayle had
left, five weeks previously, her face lighted up with a smile.

Basil Hayle had not been dismissed in consequence of his crushing
defeat at the hands of Felizardo’s bolomen; in fact, greatly to his
surprise, he had not even been reprimanded. Commissioner Furber had
been quick to see that really he, himself, was to blame for having
sent the small force of Constabulary against the outlaws; and he was
not anxious to have Basil back in Manila, telling all men of what
had happened on the mountain-side. Consequently, he had sent Basil
fifty fresh men–from the Island of Samar, like those who had been
killed–and had ordered him to proceed to the northern side of the
range, and build a regular stockaded camp in the neighbourhood of
one of the villages; meanwhile, Captain Bush’s Scouts were to watch
the southern side of the range, learning the lay of the country,
endeavouring to obtain information concerning Felizardo and his band,
and, as far as possible, preparing the way for a large expedition,
which the Government intended to despatch in a few months’ time.

From first to last, Basil Hayle had only remained ten days in Igut,
but the time had sufficed to complete his infatuation for Mrs Bush, and
to confirm his detestation of her husband. At first by accident, then
by design, he had met Mrs Bush practically every day, whilst he had
barely spoken to Bush or his white associates. Old Don Juan Ramirez,
the Spanish merchant, had told him all about the lives they led–of
the mestiza girls at the other end of the town, and the drinking
bouts in the spirit shop at the corner of the plaza; with the result
that Basil had considered himself perfectly justified in taking the
part of Mrs Bush against all the others, in showing his respect for
her, and his scorn for them–which was very chivalrous in theory,
and very injudicious in practice, as he had realised the moment he
received orders to leave Igut. Still, in the end, his parting from
her had been admirably unemotional; and if she did cry for hours
after he had gone, and if his feelings did find vent in Language,
no one in Igut had been aware of these facts.

In Europe and America, where men and women are discreet, such things
do not happen–at least they are supposed not to happen–for fear of
the Law, or the Church, or of the Mightiest One of all, Mrs Grundy;
but in the Tropics, especially in the Philippines, and more especially
under the shadow of places like Felizardo’s mountains, where Death
is stalking by your side all day, squatting just outside the circle
of firelight at night, conventions are apt to lose much of their
force. Basil Hayle was in love with Mrs Bush. That would have been
very wicked elsewhere, possibly it was wicked in Igut; but what was
wholly admirable was that, in the circumstances, Basil Hayle did not
become an open convert to the Law of the Bolo, and deal with Captain
Bush according to that code. But this is a view of the case which few
could understand, unless they had lived with bolomen as the background
of their lives.

Basil Hayle had marched away up the valley to the end of Felizardo’s
range, over the pass which formed the boundary of the old outlaw’s
territory, and down into the rich hemp lands on the other side where,
near a village called Silang, he had built a stockaded post, after
the custom of the Islands–big nipa-covered shacks, surrounded at a
little distance by a high palisade, with a platform at a convenient
height, and little watch-towers at each corner; and then he had sat
down, and drilled his little brown men, and taught them to shoot,
and, incidentally, taught them to love him above everything else on
earth, and had waited patiently for the coming of Felizardo, or the
ladrones, or the head-hunters, or any one else who was in search of
trouble, being tired of looking for trouble for himself. Yet, all
the time, he was thinking of Mrs Bush, wishing he could write, but
not writing for fear of the letter going astray; though, had he but
known, she heard of him, of his safety and his continued good health,
every few days, and she concluded that the messages came from him,
never suspecting that the servant who delivered them received them
from a certain clerk in the Supervisor’s office, the same clerk who
had sent word concerning Basil and Mrs Bush to Felizardo; and whence
that clerk now obtained the messages it is not hard to guess. Old
Felizardo or Dolores Lasara could have told you….

When he landed at Igut and found that there was no hotel in the place,
Mr Joseph Gobbitt turned angrily to John Mackay. “Most scandalous
thing! You should have warned me about this. We may be here a day,
even two days. What are we going to do?”

The Scotchman answered without removing his cigar from his mouth–Mr
Gobbitt hated to see an employé, a mere paid person, smoking in his
presence, as Mackay had already divined. “I guess the Bushes will
put you up, whilst I shall go to old Don Juan’s,” he answered.

Mr Gobbitt snorted, not liking the casual disposal of himself, and his
temper was not improved when, without the slightest warning, he found
himself the centre of an unusually vigorous dog-and-pig fight, none
of the combatants in which was over-clean. “Most scandalous thing,”
he repeated, “most scandalous! I wonder what the police can be about to
allow it. I shall certainly summons the owners if I can…. I am sure
I see nothing to smile at, Mr Mackay,” he added with great dignity.

A moment later, Captain Bush lounged up, and nodded to Mackay. “Hullo,
John. What’s on now? Coming across soon?” indicating the spirit shop
with a jerk of his thumb. He was passing on, to see if there were any
mails on the launch, when Mackay stopped him. “Here, Captain. This
is Mr Joseph Gobbitt of London, who has a letter of introduction to
you from the Commission.”

Captain Bush pulled himself together. “Glad to meet you, sir. If
you’ll wait a moment, we might go up to the house together. It is
only a step. I suppose you’re not going on. No? Well, you must stay
with us. My wife will be delighted. Here, muchachos, take the Senor’s
luggage up to my house.”

Captain Bush was in an exceptionally good humour, having just won some
money off the Treasurer; but, in addition to that, he had understood
instantly that the stranger must be a man of position, probably a
wealthy English merchant and his own state of chronic insolvency made
it necessary for him to lose no chances.

Perhaps Mrs Bush was not favourably impressed with this
suddenly-arrived guest; certainly, he was not favourably impressed
with her, or at least he did not like her. Amongst men, even amongst
those of far better social position than himself, he was able to hold
his own by reason of a certain aggressive strength of character; but
when he found himself in the company of a lady, he was hopelessly at
a loss, and, as is the way of his kind, revenged himself by abusing
her afterwards.

Mrs Bush did not stay long in the room. “I see you have business to
discuss,” she said, “so I will leave you till dinner. Be sure and
look after Mr–Mr Gobbitt, John.”

At first, Mr Gobbitt was not very communicative, telling his host
little beyond what was contained in the letter of introduction; but
after a while, under the Scout officer’s skilful handling, he began
to thaw, and finally unfolded the whole of his scheme. After all,
he told himself, why not? This American had to give him active aid,
was bound to know everything very shortly, whilst his deposit of six
thousand dollars secured him against possible competitors.

Captain Bush was a little puzzled. He was an experienced soldier,
despite his recently-acquired habits; he knew the Islands well,
and therefore could see various weak points in the business; on the
other hand, this man Gobbitt obviously had capital, obviously had
the Government behind him; and it would be most unwise to venture
on any interference at that stage. Later on, perhaps, there might
be a chance of turning the affair to account; but at the moment it
was safer merely to provide the carriers and equipment for which Mr
Gumpertz asked, and detail half a dozen Scouts to go along with the
party and keep the carriers in order. Once the expedition was across
the pass, it would be Basil Hayle’s task to look after it, and Captain
Bush grinned to himself as he thought of the possible trouble which
this stout and pompous old man might cause the Constabulary officer.

At dinner, Mrs Bush made an attempt to talk to Mr Gobbitt, then,
finding they had no interests in common, relapsed into silence. When
she rose to leave the room, somehow she had to open the door for
herself, whereat she raised her eyebrows slightly. Mr Gobbitt, deep
in conversation with his host, never seemed to notice her go.

After a while, Captain Bush yawned. “It’s slow here. Ever seen a
Filipino town at night? No, I don’t suppose you have. Would you like
a walk round?”

They went first to the spirit shop, where the Englishman became almost
jovial. It may have been the sense of being free for once from his
frock-coat; it may have been the cocktails on which Captain Bush had
insisted before dinner; it may have been the native spirit which
the Supervisor suggested he should taste; but whatever the cause,
time seemed to pass very quickly indeed, and when, about midnight,
the school teacher suggested they should have a stroll down to the
lower end of the town, Mr Joseph Gobbitt, merchant and churchwarden,
had no objection to make.

When he awakened in the morning, in the big spare room which Mrs
Bush had prepared for him, he had rather a vague recollection of the
walk home. Other things were vague also, but of two things he was
certain–that he had a splitting headache, and that the beauty of the
mestizas was not overrated. When Captain Bush came in, the merchant
mentioned the former fact, whereat his host laughed, and went on to
refer to the latter, thereby making Mr Gobbitt rather uncomfortable.

Mrs Bush did not come down to breakfast that morning, and she did
not trouble to make any excuses. She had heard certain rumours from
her maid, which had sent her white with passion. She was used to
her husband’s ways–but her guest! It was absolutely abominable. Mr
Gobbitt, on his part, was thankful for her absence. He made no
reference to the fact, however, nor did his host; and as soon as
the meal was over, they went out together to make arrangements for
the carriers.

“There’s a road part of the way, twenty miles or so up the valley,
and you can ride so far in a bullock-cart”–Mr Gobbitt had declined the
offer of a horse–“but from there onwards it’ll be a case of walking,”
the Scout officer said.

The merchant sighed. He was not a good walker; then he thought of
the profits he would make out of the trip, and straightway became
reconciled to the idea.

The arrangements were quickly made, thanks to the help of the
Presidente, and Mr Gobbitt breathed more freely. He was anxious to
get away as soon as possible for various reasons, of which Mrs Bush
was one.

As they walked back to the house, the Englishman remembered a question
he had meant to ask before. “Did you ever meet a son of my late
partner, Dunk–Albert Dunk, who was our manager in Manila? He died
near Hippapad some months back.”

The Captain shook his head. “He never passed through here. Probably
he landed at Catarman, further round the bay. You might have gone in
that way, too. I wonder old Gumpertz didn’t suggest it…. No, very
little news of that sort drifts across the mountains to us. You see,
there’re so few white men on that side for a good many miles; then,
of course, you get plenty again.”

Meanwhile, John Mackay had strolled out of the town, carrying a small
switch as his sole weapon. About a mile past the last shack, he sat
down at the edge of the cocoa-nut grove, lit a cigar, and puffed away
contentedly. A few minutes later, a little man, clad in blue jean and
wearing two formidable-looking bolos, emerged from the bush some twenty
yards away, looked cautiously up and down the grove, then came forward.

“Good-morning, Senor,” he said.

John Mackay nodded. “Good-morning, Simon. Can a message go to the Senor
Felizardo? It is this–I am going round this side of his mountain and
across the pass with an Englishman. There will be six Scouts to look
after the carriers, that is all. He will leave us alone?”

The little man grinned. “Assuredly he will leave the Senor alone,
as always. Only he will ask–where does the Senor go there?”

“Down the northern valley. Not on to his mountains at all.”

“Very well, Senor. The message will go;” and the outlaw disappeared
as silently as he had come.

Felizardo said afterwards that John Mackay should have been more
explicit as to his exact destination, in which case the latter part
of this story would have been very different….

Mr Joseph Gobbitt did not like the twenty-mile ride in the cart,
which was drawn by a couple of water-buffalo, beasts for which he
seemed to entertain a most wholesome dread. He was absolutely shaken to
pieces, as he told John Mackay, with what that naturally-silent person
seemed to consider wearisome persistency; yet he liked the climb over
the pass still less; and when they reached the northern valley, he
insisted on a rest of two days, despite the protests of John Mackay,
who urged: “Why, it’s only some fifteen miles now to Hayle’s stockade
at Silang. He can put you up comfortably there, whilst I have a run
round and look at the land. From what I can see, it is all right. We
are at a fair elevation, even here, quite high enough above sea-level.”

But Mr Gobbitt was firm. “I will rest here, and then we will go
straight on. I see no reason for wasting time going to this stockade,
which appears to be well off our route.”

The Scotchman shrugged his shoulders, and rested too; then, on
the third morning, they moved down the valley slowly, cutting
across from one side to another, so as to get an accurate idea of
the whole area. On the fifth morning their task was practically
complete. Mackay’s verdict was wholly favourable. “It’s valuable
land,” he said–“as good as any I know, except, of course, that in
Samar. Only, it is curious no one has made use of it before. But I
suppose they were afraid of the ladrones or of old Felizardo.”

“Who is Felizardo?” the merchant demanded.

The Scotchman jerked his thumb in the direction of the mountains. “He’s
the chief up there. An outlaw.”

Mr Gobbitt flushed. “Rubbish! They assure me that all that sort of
thing has been put down, and I can see it now for myself.”

Mackay shrugged his shoulders. “Very well. I suppose you know best. You
are my employer, and I have come here merely to advise you on the
nature of the land;” and, from that point onwards, he declined to
discuss anything but hemp and hemp-growing.

The following morning they decided to turn back. Mr Gobbitt was
now in great good-humour. There was no question that, at the price
arranged, including the payment to Mr Gumpertz, or rather to Mr Hart
on behalf of Mr Gumpertz, he would be making an extra-ordinarily good
bargain. He forgot the trials of the journey, that horrible cart,
his sore feet and aching limbs; and thought only of what those trials
would bring him ultimately. They were then taking a route slightly
different from that by which they had come, and were just thinking
of making a halt for breakfast, when, to the surprise of every one,
they saw the roofs of some nipa-shacks through the trees.

The place proved to be the most miserable little village Mackay had
ever seen. There was not a soul in sight, and, as the carriers filed
in, they looked at one another with anxious, questioning faces.

John Mackay turned to the serjeant of the Scouts. “What is this?” he
asked. Then, as the man shook his head, a sudden thought struck the
Scotchman, and he clambered on to the veranda of the largest house,
a dilapidated place of some size, pulled aside the matting at the door
and went in, revolver in hand. Half a minute later he came out again,
a little pale. “As I thought,” he said. “Head-hunters.”

The natives looked at one another with wide-open eyes, whilst Mr
Gobbitt’s jaw dropped suddenly. “What … what do you mean?” he
quavered. “Head-hunters? What are they?”

“People who hunt heads–your head and mine, for instance.” The
Scotchman’s temper was up. “There’re a dozen heads hanging up inside,
if you want to see, including a white man’s. We must get out of this,
quick.”




However, it was already too late. As he spoke a score of practically
naked savages, armed with spears and primitive bolos, appeared on
the edge of the clearing. “Up here, all of you.” Mackay grasped
the situation instantly, but, even whilst the carriers and Scouts
were scrambling on to the platform of the shack, the enemy secured
two heads.

Mr Gobbitt was one of the last up; in fact, had not three carriers
assisted him, he would have been in a bad case, for the little ladder
had given way, and climbing was impossible for him.

Meanwhile, the Scouts had begun to blaze away, hitting no one, but
none the less preventing any rush; then Mackay himself took one of
the carbines, and dropped a head-hunter stone-dead–a lesson which
was not lost, for the rest promptly withdrew to cover.

“They will wait till evening now,” the serjeant remarked, “then they
will attack. They will not try and burn the place because of those,”
pointing towards the ghastly trophies hanging from the roof.

Mackay nodded, and went on with his task of making loopholes in the
walls, although, as he told himself, six carbines and a revolver
would not go very far as means of defence.

Mr Gobbitt was lying back against some of the hastily-thrown-down
packs, panting. He had lost his helmet, and both his coat and trousers
were torn. “It’s disgraceful,” he said, “absolutely disgraceful! I
shall report it to the Consul or to the Foreign Office. Why, I actually
saw them kill two of the men in my presence.”

He spoke to nobody in particular, but Mackay overheard him and smiled
grimly, thinking of the killing which was yet to come; but, in spite of
that, when the merchant had recovered sufficiently to ask questions,
he spoke hopefully, though he added: “You see now why no one has made
use of this hemp land, and why they offered it to you cheaply.”

Mr Gobbitt’s business instinct overmastered his fear, and he sat up
suddenly. “Do you mean that Mr Gumpertz knew?”

Once again the Scotchman shrugged his shoulders. “It is quite
possible,” he said dryly. “And if we had taken a slightly different
route, you would have bought it, not knowing.”

The merchant lay back again thinking of many things, of his present
danger, of his narrow escape from buying land having such undesirable
inhabitants, of his deposit which he might not return to claim. Then
he happened to glance upwards and received the greatest shock of
his life, for there, amongst those grisly treasures of the village,
was the head of Albert Dunk.

John Mackay looked round sharply at the cry, and hurried to his
employer’s side. As soon as the Scotchman could make sense out of the
other man’s almost incoherent utterance, he reached up and pulled
down the trophy, which he placed beneath a blanket in the corner;
then he gave Mr Gobbitt half a glass of neat brandy, the only liquid
they had, and strove, without much success, to calm him down.

“We shall get out of it all right, we shall get out of it,” he
repeated. “And then we’ll get Basil Hayle to come along, and clear
out this gang.”

“Can’t we go now?” the merchant asked feebly.

“And be cut to pieces before we’ve gone a quarter of a mile? No,
we must stay here, and chance beating them off when they attack
to-night. Then they’ll probably leave us alone altogether.”

It is always a weary job, waiting for savages to come and attempt
to kill you, but it becomes even more than a weariness when you are
half-mad with thirst, when you know there is water near by and you dare
not go to it. John Mackay found it long; and the Scouts and carriers
found it long; but it is doubtful whether Mr Joseph Gobbitt, lying in
the corner, was conscious of the passage of time. His thoughts were
just one long nightmare, in which Albert Dunk’s head, Commissioner
Gumpertz, two dead carriers outside, and a bearer cheque for six
thousand dollars played the principal parts. Once only was his mind
clear for a few minutes; and that was when he remembered Albert Dunk’s
bearer cheque for ten thousand pesos–five thousand dollars. That had
been cashed just as the drawer was starting for this same district. How
he wished that head could speak! Then he fell a-shuddering at the idea.

John Mackay watched the sun set with unusual interest, possibly because
he did not expect to see it rise again. “The attack will come soon
now,” he remarked to the serjeant, who was endeavouring to smoke,
despite his parched mouth.

The little man nodded. “Yes, Senor. I, for one, am glad I went to Mass
last Sunday. There was a girl who asked me to meet her afterwards”;
then, for the fiftieth time, he tried the action of his carbine….

“The head-hunters have them in the big shack. They will kill them all
soon after sunset.” There was a perfectly matter-of-fact ring in the
messenger’s voice.

Felizardo knit his brows. He had given certain orders to the
head-hunters, and he was not used to being disobeyed; moreover, he
had a very kindly feeling towards John Mackay, who had once done him
a good turn; consequently, he did not share the messenger’s cheerful
frame of mind.

“What are you at the outpost doing, that you allow this?” he
thundered. “You know the orders I have given to those savages, to
leave all Englishmen alone. I suppose they think that, because I left
them unpunished last time, I shall do the same again. Go down now,
at once, and tell Manuel to make them withdraw, and then go to the
Constabulario at Silang, and tell the Captain to come and fetch Senor
Mackay and the fat fool away. Of course, you will tell the Captain
you come from me. What else would you say? I can trust him.”

The result was that dawn found the little garrison, half-dead with
thirst, but still awaiting the attack; and an hour after dawn John
Mackay caught sight of Captain Hayle’s tall figure coming through
the trees, with thirty of his men at his heels.

When Mr Gobbitt had swallowed a quart or so of water, followed by
some brandy, his courage began to revive. “I told you we should be
all right,” he said peevishly to Mackay; “I never thought they were in
earnest”; then he remembered the two carriers, slain in his presence,
and that ghastly head, and he went a little pale, though the shuddering
had ceased.

They buried the heads–a useless formality, for the head-hunters
unearthed them within a few hours–and then Basil Hayle escorted the
party back to his stockade, to rest for a day or two. That evening,
whilst Mr Gobbitt was having a much-needed wash and change, Mackay
turned suddenly to his host. “By the way, I’ve got a message for
you from Mrs Bush. She says she is very well, and hears of you often
through the natives.”

Basil did not look up from the cigar he was cutting. “Thanks very
much,” he said briefly.

Mr Gobbitt felt much better after the evening meal, so much better,
in fact, that he could discuss matters calmly. “And did you know
anything of the fate of my late partner’s son?” he asked.

“Of course I did,” Hayle answered promptly. “Didn’t they tell you in
Manila? It was before I came to this side of the range; but Lieutenant
Stott at Catarman told me, and I saw the copy of the report he sent
to the Commission. He asked permission to hunt those savages down,
but he never got any reply. Oh, all the Commissioners knew, and I
supposed it had been made public.”

The merchant got up suddenly and began to pace the rather rickety
floor. “I see it now,” he growled, “I see it all. Either I am to buy
this land which no one else will look at, because of these abominable
persons who tried to take my head; or else I shall not come back at
all, and they will keep the deposit. I will lay the matter before
the Consul–no, I will lay it before the Foreign Office. I will have
compensation. I–I—-” and he spluttered with rage.

Mackay winked at Basil, who smiled in return, unseen by the merchant,
who went on. “It is scandalous, an outrage. I can see how I have been
misled. They say the Islands are at peace; and yet two men are killed
actually in my presence, and no arrests are made. Whilst the head of
my late partner’s son is used as a trophy! Abominable! Even in Igut,
when I wished to summons the owners of those most offensive pigs,
they laughed at me. Which is my quickest way back to Manila?”

“Through Catarman,” Basil answered. “That is the route you should
have come, only in that case Stott would have told you of Mr Dunk’s
death. Do you see?”

Mr Gobbitt’s first visit in Manila was to the Consulate, when he
demanded to see the Acting-Consul instantly. The Consul received him
without effusion.

“Had a good time in the bush, Mr Gobbitt? You look a bit thinner–yes,
a lot thinner. What can I do for you?”

“It is a long story,” Mr Gobbitt began; whereupon the Acting-Consul
put his feet on the table, and selected an extra large cigar.

“Fire away,” he said; but before the merchant had got very far
the cigar had been allowed to go out, and the official was all
attention. When it was finished, he drew a deep breath. “You had a
lucky escape, a very lucky escape;” there was no levity in his voice
now. “But you must admit that I warned you against Gumpertz. And I
am afraid we can do nothing in the matter.”

“Why? What are you here for then, sir?” It was the voice of the
British tax-payer talking to his employé.

The Consul explained patiently. “As regards the negotiations. You were
alone, were you not? Yes, your word, the word of an unknown man–pardon
me, I mean unknown in America–against that of a high official. And I
take it–I must speak plainly–you offered something in the nature of
a bribe. You did? A present.” He smiled a little grimly. “The price
asked shows that, and it comes to the same thing. Graft, they call
it here. That fact destroys your case at once.”

Mr Gobbitt breathed heavily. “And how about my deposit of six thousand
dollars? The receipt is at the bank.”

“Then ask the bank to collect it,” answered the Consul; “they may
succeed.”

“May succeed, sir! They must succeed.” Again there was the British
tax-payer note.

The Consul smiled. “We will say we hope they succeed. Still, after
your other experiences—-”

“They’ve had the old boy this time, Blackiston,” the Consul said
to the Vice-Consul, when the visitor had departed. “Proper murder
trick. Seems to have shaken his nerves badly. It would have shaken
mine, too. Head-hunters–ugh!”

The Vice-Consul closed the letter-book wearily. “Serve him right. He
shouldn’t be so cock-sure and pompous.”

One of the senior clerks from the bank took the receipt of Commissioner
Gumpertz to the Palace, presently returning with a grave face. “They
know nothing about any such sum, sir; and it is neither a regular
official receipt, nor is it the Commissioner’s signature.”

Mr Gobbitt gasped. “Why, he gave it to me himself! There must be
some mistake.”

The clerk shook his head. “They are positive, sir.”

“Did you see him sign it?” the manager asked, a little coldly.

The merchant mopped the perspiration off his forehead. “No, I cannot
say I did. He went into another room. But your cashier can identify
the messenger–one of those belonging to the Palace.”

When the cashier came, he remembered the incident perfectly. “It was
a large sum, and I should not have handed it to a strange native;
but I knew the porter at the hotel was reliable.”

It was the last straw, so far as Mr Gobbitt was concerned. “They have
swindled me out of twelve hundred pounds,” he groaned, fanning himself
with his handkerchief the while; then a thought struck him. “You have
the numbers of the notes? You can trace them?”

The manager looked doubtful. “Some, perhaps. We will do our best. Come
in again to-morrow, Mr Gobbitt. Meanwhile, if I were you, I should
say nothing, and stay indoors. You need rest.”

In the morning, the merchant found the bank manager very cold and
distant in his manner. “We have traced several of the notes,”
he said. “In each case they have come from most questionable
places–places of no repute, in fact. I presume you have witnesses
to prove where you were that night.”

“I was in my room at the hotel. I went to bed very early, as I was
starting early next morning.”

“Ah!” There was no mistaking the tone. “So no one saw you after
dinner. That is a pity.”

Mr Gobbitt brought his hand down on the table with a thump. “Do you
mean to insinuate, sir, that I myself passed those notes at those
infamous places? Never in my life”–he had forgotten Igut–“never in
my life was I in one.”

“I mean to insinuate nothing,” the manager answered wearily. “Only
you cannot prove that you were not out, and, if you make a fuss,
the Commissioners will quickly prove that you were. They will get
police, native officials, and perhaps even a native judge or two,
to remember having met you. You can do nothing, and I can do nothing,
and, if you will excuse me, I am very busy. Good-morning.”

Basil Hayle spent several hours in drawing up a report concerning
Mr Gobbitt, the head-hunters, and Felizardo, then he read it through
again, and straightway destroyed it.

“The less said, the better,” he muttered. “They’ll never believe
anything to the old man’s credit, and they might shift me over it.”

So, instead of sending the report, he marched out by night to the
head-hunters’ village, hoping to catch them there; but only found
the ashes of the houses, and had one of his men wounded by a spear
thrown in the darkness. Then he went back to his stockade at Silang,
where he sat down, and thought of Felizardo and of Captain Bush,
and most of all of Mrs Bush, and cursed at the dreary inaction,
and prayed that the ladrones would come along and give him a fight.