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    Chapter 37

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    Chapter 37
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    A Yachting Trip

    Ralph Hamon rose to his feet, his hands in his pockets, his jaw out-thrust.

    "My Moor, as you call him, doesn't interest, and this yarn about a stolen letter doesn't even amuse me."

    "I didn't come here at this hour of the night to make you laugh," said Jim. "I want that letter."

    He took two strides across the room, and then, with an oath, Hamon sprang between him and the dressing-table.

    "It's there, is it? Get out of my way!"

    He brushed the man aside as though he were a child, and pulled open the drawer. On the top was a pocket-book, and this he took out.

    "You thief!" howled Hamon, and leapt at him.

    Again he reeled back from the outstretched hand.

    "Here is the letter," said Jim. "Now, if----"

    He did not finish his sentence. Grinning with rage, Hamon saw him make a rapid search of the pocket-book, but the thing he sought was not there.

    "Found it?" he said exultantly.

    "I've found the letter--that was enough," said Jim, as he slipped it into his pocket and dropped the case back into the drawer. "You can call the police if you like. I don't mind--I'm used to it. There's a fine charge for you--breaking and entering!"

    Hamon said nothing.

    "If your Moor talks, there will be some sad hearts on Wall Street--nothing depreciates the stock of a Corporation more than the hanging of its president!"

    Still Hamon made no reply. He flung open the window, and, leaning out, watched the tall man till he disappeared into the night, and then he went back to his interrupted reflections, but now they were on another plane. And invariably his thoughts came back to the starting point, which was Joan Carston--the married Joan. Joan, linked in some indefinable way with Jim Morlake. Lydia had told him they were engaged, and he had laughed at the idea. Was he the real barrier? If he could be sure...!

    He left the next morning for London and went to Victoria to meet Lydia in the afternoon. She had read of the murder of Marborne in the Paris newspapers, and was a little frightened and nervous--he was amazed to note how the news had affected her.

    "How did it happen, Ralph?" she asked in the car on the way home. "How dreadful! Was he really killed by a Moor? You know nothing about it, do you, Ralph?" She gripped his hand in both of hers and peered into his face. "You didn't, did you? It would be horrible if I thought otherwise. Of course you didn't!"

    "You're getting hysterical, Lydia. Of course I know no more about this poor devil's death than you. It was a great shock to me. I don't pretend I liked the man, and I liked him less after he got so fresh with you."

    "What are you going to do, Ralph?"

    "I'm going to get away out of this country," he said. "I'm sick of it."

    "To Morocco?"

    He saw the corners of her mouth droop.

    "Yes, to Morocco. We'll go there for Christmas: it is the best time of the year."

    "Not for good?"

    "Of course not. If you're bored you can run over to Gibraltar or Algeciras. You needn't stay in the place," he soothed her. "Maybe I won't go there at all. I ought to go to New York to finish off a business deal. You were telling me last week, when you were over here, about a swell French friend of yours who was hiring a yacht to take some people to the South Sea Islands. It fell through, didn't it?"

    "Yes," she said, looking at him wonderingly.

    "Do you think you could go along and charter the yacht for the winter?"

    "Why not go by the usual route, Ralph? It is more comfortable," she said.

    "I prefer the sea."

    She did not answer him, knowing that he was a bad sailor.

    "Will you see what you can do in this matter?" he asked impatiently.

    "Yes, Ralph. Count Lagune is in London at this moment, I think. It could easily be arranged."

    She came to him in the evening with a story of accomplishment. She had chartered the yacht provisionally, and the Count had telegraphed to Cherbourg to have the vessel sent to Southampton. She found her brother in a jubilant mood, for the Moor had escaped from the little Sussex lock-up to which he had been taken, and had half-killed a policeman in the process.

    "Your Moor will talk!" he mimicked Jim. "Let him. I guess he's talking!"

    She was staring at him, wide-eyed with horror.

    "Ralph!" she gasped. "It isn't true--you knew nothing about this?"

    "Of course I didn't, you fool!" he said roughly. "They thought I did. That swine Morlake practically accused me--said the man was in my service, which was a lie. I've never heard of him."

    That night he wrote a letter to the Earl of Creith, and it was both conciliatory and logical.

    "I must say," said his lordship, wagging his head, "this fellow isn't as bad as he looks. He has written a most charming letter, and I'm rather sorry I was such a pig."

    "The only man you could talk about so offensively is Mr. Hamon," said the girl with a smile.

    She took the letter from her father's hand and read it.

    I'm afraid I have been rather a boor these last few days [it ran] but so many things have happened to get on my nerves and I know I have not been quite normal. I hope you will not think too badly of me, and that in a year or two's time we shall both be amused at the absurd suggestion that I was in any way responsible for poor Marborne's death. I have been called unexpectedly to America, which has changed my plans considerably, for I had contemplated a yachting cruise in the Mediterranean and I find myself with a yacht on my hands. I wonder if I can persuade you to take the trip? You would be quite alone, and I am sure you would have an enjoyable time. I only regret that neither myself nor my sister can be with you. The yacht is the "L'Esperance," and will be at Southampton on Tuesday. May I beg of you, as a very great favour, to use the yacht as if she were yours, and save me from what, to a financier, is a misery--a sense of having wasted my money.

    "H'm!" mused the Earl. "Of course, if he'd been going on a trip, I should have written him a very polite letter, telling him that in no circumstances should I share the voyage with him. But this is different, don't you think, my love?"

    Again he shook his head at the letter.

    "I'm not so sure that the trip wouldn't be good for us all," he said.

    Knowing how strong were her prejudices against Hamon, he expected some opposition. He was therefore agreeably surprised when she fell in with his view. Creith was on her nerves too--Creith and the sick man at Mrs. Cornford's, and Jim, whom she never saw and ached to see.

    The first news of the intended trip came, as usual, ex Binger, and the divers junctions of intelligence that met in the tap-room of the Red Lion.

    "It appears that this yacht--it is hon loan to Hamon."

    "What do you mean by 'on loan'--has it been chartered?"

    "Yes, sir. If my information is haccurate."

    "Which in all likelihood it isn't--where are they going?"

    "To the Mediterranean, sir. Mr. Hamon and sister are hoff to America. Which they are welcome to."

    "To the Mediterranean?"

    Jim looked into the bowl of his pipe thoughtfully.

    "That means.... When do they go?"

    "On Saturday, sir."

    "Indeed!" said Jim.

    For the Mediterranean meant Tangier, and Tangier stood in his mind for Sadi Hafiz and the beautiful hell in the Rifi Hills.
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