Over the desk, on the wall, was a map of the South Pacific archipelagoes, embossed by a number of little circles drawn in red ink. O’Higgins eyed it thoughtfully.
“That’s your hunting ground,” said the doctor.
“It’s a whale of a place. Ten thousand islands, and each one good for a night’s rest. Why, that boy could hide for thirty years—without the girl. She’s my meal-ticket. What are those little red circles?” O’Higgins asked, rising and inspecting the map. A film of dust lay upon it; the ink marks were ancient. For a moment O’Higgins had hoped that the ink applications would be recent. “Been to those places?”
“No. Years ago I marked out an intinerary for myself; but the trip never materialized. Too busy.”
“That’s the way it goes. Well, I’ll take myself off. But if I were you, I shouldn’t warn Spurlock. Let him have his honeymoon. So long.”
For a long time after O’Higgins had gone the doctor rocked in his swivel chair, his glance directed at the map. In all his life he had never realized a dream; but the thought had never before hurt him. The Dawn Pearl. It did not seem quite fair. He had plugged along, if not happy, at least with sound philosophy. And then this girl had to sweep into and out of his life! He recalled McClintock’s comment about Spurlock being the kind that fell soft. Even this man-hunting machine was willing to grant the boy his honeymoon.
Meantime, O’Higgins wended his way to the Victoria, mulling over this and that phase, all matters little and big that bore upon the chase. Mac’s. In one of the little red circles the doctor had traced that abbreviation. That could signify nothing except that the doctor had a friend down there somewhere, on an island in one of those archipelagoes. But the sheer immensity of the tract! James Boyle was certainly up against it, hard. One chance in a thousand, and that would be the girl. She wouldn’t be able to pass by anywhere without folks turning their heads.
Of course he hadn’t played the game wisely. But what the deuce! He was human; he was a machine only when on the hunt. He had found Spurlock. In his condition the boy apparently had been as safe as in the lock-up. Why shouldn’t James Boyle pinch out a little fun while waiting? How was he to anticipate the girl and the sea-tramp called The Tigress? Something that wasn’t in the play at all but had walked out of the scenery like the historical black cat?
“I’ll have to punish a lot of tobacco to get the kinks out of this. Sure Mike!”
At the hotel he wrote a long letter to his chief, explaining every detail of the fizzle. Later he dispatched a cable announcing the escape and the sending of the letter. When he returned to Hong-Kong, there was a reply to his cable:
“Hang on. Find that boy.”
Some order. South America was big; but ten thousand islands, scattered all over the biggest ocean on the map! Nearly all of them clear of the ship lanes and beaten tracks! The best thing he could do would be to call up the Quai d’Orsay and turn over the job to Lecocq. Only a book detective could dope this out.