“You are afraid of that man, Barbara,” said Alan presently, guessing her thoughts.
“A little,” she answered, “so far as I can be afraid of anything any more. And you?”
“A little also. I think that he will give us trouble. He can be very malevolent and resourceful.”
“Resourceful, Alan; well, so can I. I’ll back my wits against his any day. He shan’t separate us by anything short of murder, which he won’t go in for. Men like that don’t like to break the law; they have too much to lose. But no doubt he will make things uncomfortable for you, if he can, for several reasons.”
Again they walked on lost in reflections, when Barbara suddenly saw her lover’s face brighten.
“What is it, Alan?” she asked.
“Something that is rare enough with me, Barbara—an idea. You remember speaking about that Asiki gold just now. Well, why shouldn’t I go and get it?”
She stared at him.
“It sounds a little speculative,” she said; “something like one of my uncle’s companies.”
“Not half so speculative as you think. I have no doubt it is there and Jeekie knows the way. Also I seem to remember that there is a map and an account of the whole thing in Uncle Austin’s diaries, though to tell you the truth the old fellow wrote such a fearful hand, that I have never taken the trouble to read it. You see,” he went on with enthusiasm, “it is the kind of business that I can do. I am thoroughly salted to fever, I know the West Coast, where I spent three years on that Boundary Commission, I have studied the natives and can talk several of their dialects. Of course there would be a risk, but there are risks in everything, and like you I am not afraid about that, for I believe that we have got our lives before us.”
“Read up those diaries, Alan, and we will talk the thing over again. I’ll pump Jeekie, who will tell me anything by coaxing, and try to get at the truth. Meanwhile what are you going to do about my uncle?”
“Speak to him, of course, and have the row over.”
“Yes,” she answered, “that is the best and the most honest. Of course he can turn you out, but he can’t prevent my seeing you. If he does, go home to Yarleys and I’ll come over and call. Here we are, let us go in by the back door,” and she pointed to her crushed hat, and laughed.
BARBARA MAKES A SPEECH
While Alan and Barbara, on the most momentous occasion of their lives, were seated upon the fallen oak in the woods that thrilled with the breath of spring, another interview was taking place in Mr. Champers-Haswell’s private suite at The Court, the decorations of which, as he was wont to inform his visitors, had cost nearly L2000. Sir Robert, whose taste at any rate was good, thought them so appalling that while waiting for his host and partner, whom he had come to see, he took a seat in the bow window of the sitting-room and studied the view that nobody had been able to spoil. Presently Mr. Haswell emerged from his bedroom, wrapped in a dressing gown and looking very pale and shaky.