“That was a bit of canal bathing—our Arab put off with the canoe when I was needing it badly. I left him waiting here all right, however, and came here to find the motor gone.”
“Naturally—being paid in advance.”
“Only half paid.”
“Half pay was enough for him. I knew it would be.... The thing was all rot in the first place.”
Billy was too bitter of soul to reply. He was remembering what he ought to have done. He ought to have put that pistol to the Captain’s head and forced him through the palace inch by inch.... He wondered if it would do any good to go back. His arm was rousing from its numbness, however, and raising a little racket all its own.
“We might as well get out of this,” the Englishman advised, and Billy’s reason acquiesced in spite of his rage. In silence they went down to the water’s edge and embarked. The homeward course, from caution, was not past the palace but upstream through a remote and unknown region where they finally landed upon a bank and struck through unfamiliar and unfriendly looking byways toward the city.
Their walk was silent. Fierce gloom enveloped Billy; furious chagrin bestrode him. Chump that he was to have jumped at such positive conclusions! He ought to have stayed there. If only that second Turk had not been coming up behind him! He could think now of a number of brilliant ways out of his difficulties.... Morosely he trudged on through the interminable streets, his chilly wetness like an outward aspect of his gloom-soused mind.
He could not bear to think of Arlee. He felt now that, warned by Falconer’s approach from above, they had snatched her from her room and hidden her away. He wondered if he deceived the Captain about the motives for his presence. He wondered what in the world could be done now—if all effort was to resolve itself into the futility of an official search-party. He wondered where in all that baffling prison Arlee was hidden.
Upon that tormenting question he unlocked his lips. “Where is she?” he muttered worriedly. “That’s the question—where is she?”
Plainly the Englishman’s wrath had been smoldering. Billy turned upon him fiercely.
“In that palace, I tell you.”
“So you say.”
“And I say, too,” and Billy’s exasperation strained its bonds, “that if you don’t believe she was there—if you think I got up this little party to while away an idle evening, why it was most uncommonly good of you to come! But I can’t think why you did it if you weren’t convinced of the necessity. Certainly it was not from love of me.”
“That goes double.... But you couldn’t deny the facts and you did come. Because we failed doesn’t change the facts at all. She’s there—only where? Had we better go straight to the consul now?”
“I think,” said Falconer coldly, “that we had better telegraph the Evershams to see if they have had any word from her before we stir up any hue and cry.”