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ALBERT DORRINGTON

THE GOLD SQUID

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As published in
The Sydney Mail, 6 June 1928

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"WE'LL buy no more wrecks," Stark shouted across the board-room. "The tin hull of that crook liner has cost us sixty thousand pounds. I hope you're listening, Gait? Sixty thousand golden goblets chucked into mud!"

Jeremy Sark was chairman of directors in the White Reef Salvage Company, and David Gait, who had supervised the recent unsuccessful attempts to recover specie contained in the hull of the SS Lismore, trembled slightly as he read his report.

The Lismore, a steamer of 8,000 tons burden, trading between Sydney, Macassar, and Hong Kong, had struck a reef in the Fanuti group of islands and had become a total wreck. Out of a crew and passenger list of seventy-five souls not one had survived the terrific seas that had driven the vessel to her undoing. In her bullion tank the Lismore had carried nearly 200,000 sovereigns, together with a quantity of bar silver from the Broken Hill mines.

Within a few weeks of the catastrophe the White Reef Salvage Company had sent Gait in charge of a salvage corps to the scene of the wreck. Gait and his party had been absent for six months. His report now showed that the heavy seas had pounded the vessel to driftwood. Not a pound's worth of salvage had been recovered, although Gait showed how he had blasted the surrounding reefs and shoals in his attempts to locale the missing bullion tank.

To Jeremy Stark it was unthinkable that an iron-bolted tank the size of a henhouse could disappear from a reef in mid- Pacific. Yet the reputation of David Gait stood by the report, and Gait's name among Sydney underwriters and marine surveyors was not to be trifled with. The acid test of thirty years' experience was behind the man. And Gait spoke his mind.

"It wasn't a wreck you bought, sir; it was a washaway pile of planks with the reef sharks swimming in between. We did what men could do. We tore up the banks for half a mile on each side of the hull for days on end, when the tide allowed, the gang worked without food or rest. I repeat, Mr. Stark, we found nothing. As for the bullion tank"—Gait snapped his fingers derisively—"beyond a cartload of copper stew pans, and a cask of nails, there wasn't enough gold on the Lismore to buy a haircut."

In an office adjoining the board-room Teddy Helmore sat listening to the storms of argument that blew over Gait's head. He was sorry for Gait and the little band of investors who had pinned their faith in his ability to bring the specie home. Now it was more than probable that the White Reef Salvage Company would go into liquidation. Sixty thousand pounds gone and not a tin of beans to show for it!

Teddy Helmore, at 5 a week in Stark's office, was weary of the wood he sat on. Months ago his boyish imagination had burned white over the details of this particular wreck. He had visioned a whaleback reef in the lonely Pacific tides where the Lismore had belched and strewn her valuable cargo of sandalwood, silver, and gold across the coral floor of the atoll.

After Gait and the directors had left the board-room Teddy rose from his stool and passed inside. Stark was seated at his desk, his big, fighting chin cupped in the palms of his hands. He cast a sidelong glance in Helmore's direction, a kind of wolf stare he reserved for office boys and insurance touts.

"What the devil do you want?" he demanded wearily. "Have you sent out the Bellman Tug Company's accounts yet?"

"I sent them in yesterday, sir," Teddy informed him. "I want to say that I'm going out to Fanuti to have a look at that heap of timber on the reef. Gait's through with the job, and I'm done with mine."

Stark pivoted in his chair to glare at Teddy. "You confounded ass!" he almost bellowed. "Get back to your desk."

Helmore braced his well-knit shoulders, glanced at his wrist watch, and then stepped to the rack where his hat and overcoat hung.

Stark's voice reached him as he gained the dark passage outside. "Come back! How dare you visit Fanuti without a word of permission from the company? Are you mad?"

Teddy halted in the passage, a broad grin on his good-natured face. For days he had tried to overcome the overwhelming desire to explore the locality of the wreck. He did not doubt Gait's report or his honesty of purpose. He felt now that something had happened which Gait had overlooked. All through the long weeks of waiting for David's report he had been moved to a premonition of failure awaiting the salving of the wreck. Three years in Stark's office had taught him many things relating to ships and shoals, and the white-faced city men who gamble on the shifting tides.

Teddy was strong because he was alone in the world. There were no sick aunts or crippled brothers to tie him to his office stool. He had missed the loving hands and lips of his mother, but Nature had endowed him with a courage and vision that overleaped the city slave-lines.

"I am going to Fanuti, Mr. Stark," he repeated with a smile. "A few moments ago I heard you tell Charnley and Bream, the underwriters, that you'd gladly cut your losses for 500. If I heard rightly, Bream replied that you'd be lucky if you ever saw five hundred pence."

Jeremy Stark made fresh mental valuations of Helmore as he surveyed his swank, boyish figure. Then his eyes batted owlishly as he completed his sinister scrutiny.

"Mr. Helmore, you can please go to the devil!" he exploded at last. "From this moment your salary ceases. The company is satisfied with Gait's report. Go to Fanuti by all means. I can lend you some photographs of the wreck," he added with a covert sneer. And the office door banged in Teddy's face.


TEDDY had invested 300 in war loans. He sold it and booked a passage to Honolulu. He was informed at the shipping office that a fortnightly service of cargo and copra tramps existed between Honolulu and the Fanuti group of islands. He was warned, however, of the difficulties of sea travel among the remote outlying islands. A glance at a navigators chart would show him the impossibility of maintaining direct communications with the thousand and one pinhead reefs in the archipelago. Teddy thanked the shipping clerk for the information, and hurried away to get his kit on board.

The mate of the schooner Cutty Sark threw Teddy's belongings into the forepart as the gangway rattled down to the shelf of reef under their bows.

"All ready, sir!" he called out. "You'll need a Lick telescope to see the nearest hotel," he added banteringly. "But there's enough darned driftwood to build a dozen. Hope you'll enjoy your holiday, sir. We'll be back in a fortnight. Cheerio!"

The reefs at Fanuti sprawled to the uttermost sky-line. They were ugly reefs that threw up white plumes from the smoky surf, and there were reefs that grinned at him with the camaraderie of tombstones. Beyond the reef on which he stood lay a coastline of wind-torn palms and flame-crested trees. He counted a score of small tidal creeks that penetrated the jungle-covered flats and marshes. But chiefly his thoughts were centred about the forbidding whaleback shoal that had torn a brave ship to piecemeal.

It lay on the northern extremity of the atoll, its coral flukes thrust far out into the dazzling sheen of sapphire. The eternal thunder of breakers ran in a hoarse murmur along the fifty-mile front of beach and lagoon edge. The crying of sea-fowl wheeling and drowsing above the wreck struck sharply on his tingling nerves. Never in his life had Helmore dreamed of such loneliness and immensity of sea and forest line. He was sorry now to leave the homely little schooner that had brought him from Honolulu. Not a hut or a roof broke the unending monotony of reefs and palms crests. But somewhere in the far west lay the village of Takananeena, which, according to the mate of the Cutty Sark, was peopled by a score or so of Bhugis men and Malay trepang fishers.

Teddy turned to the task he had planned to accomplish in Stark's office. He had enough stores to last him a month, without relying on game or food to be had in or about the lagoons. Piling his belongings between some reef boulders, he marked the place with a stone cross and bent his steps in the direction of the wreck. The shoal itself sprawled whale-like in the white smother of brine and spindrift. At low tide a man could wade hip-deep on its smooth, wave-worn crest.

The hull of the Lismore had become a roost for squalling sea-birds and gannets. Never had Teddy seen so many beaks and wings hovering around a dead ship. All along the shoal was the mark of Gait's labours. The sea floor had been blasted with gelignite in the hope of locating the lost bullion tank. Gait in his desperation had evidently imagined that the heavy bullion box had slid through the torn strake of the ship's bottom to the shoal-gutter below.

The more Teddy gazed at the wreck the more convinced he became of foul work on the part of someone who had survived the horrors of the hurricane. Why had the sea left the engines intact, the kettles and pans and oil drums that littered the edge of the shoal? A storm capable of obliterating a tank full of metal sovereigns, and bar silver would surely have destroyed the galley pots and tinware. All around the shoal the water showed clear at ten fathoms. The great holes blasted in the vessel's sides by Gait's party revealed only the swarms of parrot-billed fishes swimming in and out.

Teddy was a good diver, but the sight of a score of swift- moving sharks on the ocean side of the wreck kept him within bounds. The night brought only the big white stars and a sky of velvet softness. His small tent proved sufficient for his needs. His oil stove and his saucepan gave him hot soup, toast, and coffee. Fresh water leaped from a spring not twenty yards from his camping ground. The mate of the Cutty Sark had dropped a dozen big bundles of bananas for his eating. And for the first time in many weeks Teddy Helmore enjoyed a pipe of tobacco outside the flap of his cosy tent.

The days passed slowly. Stripped to the waist and flayed by a merciless sun, he worked within the body of the hull, his feet safe from the saw-toothed sharks that haunted the reefs with the persistence of wolves. Once, while examining a breach outside the hull, he had slipped from his foothold on the planks and had fallen into the seething tide. Instantly a long torpedo body struck in his direction. Only by the width of a hand did he escape the sabre-toothed jaws that snapped on the plank he was quick enough to grasp. Teddy shivered as he struck down with an iron stanchion at the swinish eyes watching him from the water. Everywhere these grey-backed monsters stalked in his shadow, shepherding his movements with the silent ferocity of tigers. Above him screamed the senseless sea-hawks and terns, their wings beating and flashing near his body at times as he sat astride the reef-torn boilers inside the hull.

It was now evident to Helmore that the wreck was not worth fifty dollars as a side-line. After all, he had been a fool to dream of finding the bullion tank where experts had failed. He would return to Sydney with barely enough money to cover expenses.


TURNING his back on the wreck he ventured inland, for the first time, among the stunted palms and guava patches. Again his eye was attracted by the scores of tide-water channels that intersected the low-lying spaces. Subconsciously he became aware that he was following a well-worn track from the wreck. Human feet had trodden the grass and coral! Nearing the edge of a deep channel his eye fell on a scrap of newspaper, pulped into the coral trash by a heavy foot, Teddy examined the paper carefully, and came to the conclusion that Gait or one of his men had wandered inshore and dropped it. Halting with the scrap of paper crushed in his palm, he glanced downward. At his feet, half- covered in coral dust, lay an Australian sovereign! Teddy choked in surprise as he examined the coin. It was from the Australian mint, pale yellow and new.

"And that's that!" he exclaimed, kneeling in the coral slush and scooping it with his hands. Through the tangle of lianas and ferns he crawled, searching feverishly for a trace where men had dug and buried. He found none. Helmore lay quite still in the cool, wet sand, and his thoughts went out to the late captain of the Lismore, Ben Mole by name. Mole's record was good, although he had a trick of cutting loose with a rattan or belaying pin whenever his coolie crew got stale or sulked. No nonsense about Ben, except when he allowed the October hurricane to dish him for good and all, Teddy ruminated.

A faint footfall reached the listening Teddy. It seemed to come from the forest side of the land, and was evidently made by a sandal on a limestone floor. It came nearer, stopped, and then, after a pause, advanced quickly in his direction. Turning slightly on his elbow, Helmore suppressed a cry of astonishment.

A girl of eighteen was crawling along the channel edge. At times she paused and lay still, as though waiting for a sound to reach her. She was dressed in a smock of peacock blue. Her heavily braided hair was drawn back over her brow, revealing a type of beauty that was distinctly European. The tawny gleam in her hair disproved any suggestion of a Malay ancestry, although the smock and the rich golden tan of her skin made it difficult to judge her nationality. She was certainly most attractive.

"In the name of Pat and Mike," Helmore breathed, "what fool game is she playing?"

Slowly, painfully she crawled through the sand until the edge of the channel was reached. Here she paused and drew breath sharply as she stared into the water below her elbow. With face set and pretty teeth clenched she plunged, her naked arm down and out of sight. Unable to control his curiosity, he slid through the undergrowth until he lay within a dozen yards of the channel bank. Slowly he raised his eyes to the level of the stiff grass.

She was lying full stretch, her face bent to the water's level, her body writhing in her efforts to retain her position on the bank. It occurred to Helmore that something was tugging her arm, drawing her with irresistible force into the channel. A smothered cry of pain escaped her as the soft muscles of her arm quivered under the terrific strain. Then with a shout of relief she shook her arm free. Helmore saw that her tight-clenched hand was holding something. Crawling nearer, he stared in amaze as her tiny fist opened, allowing a score of gold coins to roll in the coral dust beside her.

A tense, hot silence followed her movement. She lay breathing heavily before turning again to the channel bank. In her face Helmore detected a look of revulsion and fear. Her lips seemed to be framing a long-forgotten prayer.

Helmore controlled himself with a fierce effort as her hand slid again into the water. She made plunging, groping strokes to right and left, her, sandalled toes hooked in some outlying palm roots to prevent a sudden header into the water. This time her arm did not return so hastily. Her young limbs seemed to writhe in an agony of muscular activity. Deeper into the palm-roots went her toes, while her straight, boyish figure quivered like a breaking ash plant.

"My God! I... will not come here again! Not for gold or the pain of his blows.... Never, never!"

It was evident to Teddy that she could not free her arm. This fact was made clear by the paroxysm of terror that suddenly overcame her. Again she took breath, and this time her hand jerked free, but held only a few strands of weed and sea-grass. She remained quite still on the ground, chafing her wrist and moaning in a sobbing underbreath.

Very quietly Helmore stepped beside her, anger, curiosity, and pity showing in his eyes. His soft footfall brought her into a sitting posture, panic terror in her wide eyes, horror of a man's unexpected presence stamped on her young face. She was plainly greatly unnerved.

"I am sorry," he began gently, "but, like you, I imagined I was alone here. Are you hurt? And what is it that's—"

She leaped to her feet and regarded him with short, frightened glances that plainly revealed her intention to be gone at the earliest moment. Her eyes fell guiltily on the gold coins scattered in the dust. She did not speak. Teddy smiled reassuringly and lit a cigarette; then, as an afterthought, offered her his case. She shrank away with a gesture of refusal, her glance wandering in the direction of the wooded hills.

"Please don't run away;" he begged. "Maybe we can help each other. Of course, you may go if you like," he assured her; "but before you go I'd like to save you from repeating this performance. Isn't there an easier way of getting what you want?" he added, indicating the black, mud-stirred channel and the gold coins at her feet.

Her lips parted slightly; the fear in her eyes vanished as she gazed into his smiling face.

"Rabaul sends me to get the gold," she confessed, with a slight shudder. "He is blind through fishing with dynamite. He helped the English captain, Mole, to hide the money just here."


Illustration

"Rabaul sends me to get the gold," she confessed


Helmore's brow cleared suddenly. This quick-witted girl knew everything. Curiously enough, he was more interested in her presence on the island than in the gold that lay in the mysteriously muddy depths of the tidal inlet beside him.

"My father was a ship's captain," she went on with a touch of sadness in her voice. "He, too, was wrecked off these reefs many years ago. My mother lived with him at Takananeena. She died of fever a year after my father was drowned. Rabaul's wife sent me to school at the Mission House. They call me Anita," she added simply.

Helmore was staring pensively into the turgid waters of the channel. Anita followed his glance, but not for a moment did she cease to rub and massage the livid weal on her wrist that showed like a whip stroke. '


"THE iron money-house is buried in the mud," she explained. "After the storm that brought the ship to the reef, the captain got ashore with three of his coolie men. All the others were drowned. Rabaul's wife saw the wreck, and watched the Australian captain carry all the gold and silver ashore. Then he made a raft from the broken timbers, and with the coolies to help he placed the empty gold tank on the raft and brought it to this channel. At low tide he dropped it into the mud. Next day he carried all the money and silver on the raft and brought it here. With the coolies he counted the gold and dropped it into the tank.

"Two nights after, they saw Rabaul's wife come down and try to get some of the coins from the tank. Rabaul says the coolies killed her. We never saw her again."

"Although Rabaul is blind," she went on sadly, "he is no fool. He told one of the parani head-hunters in the hills that four foreign dogs from a wreck had killed Nayla, his wife. But Rabaul said nothing of the gold that the captain and coolies had sunk in the creek." Anita paused and drew breath sharply, as though the pain of her thoughts had become unendurable. Helmore bound a silk kerchief about her wrist, and then drew away to a respectful distance. "No one saw the three coolies or the Australian captain again." Anita spoke with head averted, her eyes fixed thoughtfully on the kerchief.

"And this Rabaul sends you here every day, I suppose, to get handfuls of money?" Teddy broke in at last. "And by the look of your shoulders, Anita, and those red stripes showing above your smock, I should say he persuaded you with a bamboo cane," he added with rising anger.

Anita's silence seemed to verify the fact that Rabaul had driven her with blows and threats to the task of snatching coins from the tank in the creek. The rusted edges of the big bullion box were visible now above the swirling outgoing tide.

Teddy became suddenly aware of a flat, black tentacle stretching across the surface of the tank. It seemed to search the air for a moment, before it sank in the muddy depths.

Teddy swore under his breath. "A beastly squid!" he flung out. "How did it get into the lank, Anita? And why did you risk putting in your arm when you knew it was there?" he demanded with growing amazement.

"It crawls in and out at high water," she explained. "The sharks drive it up the channels, and it sought shelter from them by climbing into the iron box. They could not reach it there."

"And you stick your arm in while the squid is there?" he exploded in genuine anger.

Anita shrugged. "I have fished off the reefs with Rabaul before the dynamite blinded him. I have killed reef eels with a stone and bathed among the sharks," she answered simply. "Someone had to get money for blind Rabaul. There was no food, and he has taken to drinking arrak. He must have gold. And, .... the squid in the tank may go away next tide. It is not very dangerous yet. It is only half-grown."

Helmore was busy exploring the tank. The top had been removed by Ben Mols and his coolies. The four sides and bottom remained, with the silver and gold evidently intact within. As for the invading squid, he would prefer to have it killed outside the tank.

"Anita," he said thoughtfully, "the money and silver inside this tank belong to people in Sydney. They took a sporting chance when they bought it, and some of them are as poor as ourselves."

Anita flinched, while her lips quivered at his statement.

"I am very sorry," she began with child-like humility, "but I did not know."

"That's all right, Anita. Rabaul will have to do his own groping if he wants another handful of Australian gold. I'll see him do it, too."

Teddy smote the corner of the tank a violent blow with the stick he carried, as a gentle reminder that things were about to happen. The impact of the stick caused a terrific commotion within the tank. Instantly the squid's dish-shaped body floated to the surface, its slimy tentacles outspreading like the branches of a tree. From the centre of the furious, clawing mass of muscles and venom a slug-like aperture showed and blinked in Helmore's direction.

"It is looking at us," Anita said hurriedly. Then a mischievous twinkle lit her dark eyes. "If we had a bar we could force down one of the sides of the tank. Then I would show you how to make this little octopus move into another house.

Teddy laughed at the prospect of a little sport after the weary days spent within the wreck, alone. Begging Anita to await his return, he hurried back to his camp and selected a crowbar from the pile of tools scattered along the beach. Guessing what was in Anita's mind regarding the squid's eviction from the tank, he collected several tins of preserved beef he had salved from the wreck. He then returned with his load to the waiting Anita.


THE tide was flooding the inlet. In a little while the water would be well over the tank. A few hefty strokes of the crowbar dislodged a couple of rusty bolts that held the seaward side of the tank into place. It fell with a loud splash to the floor of the channel. The tank was now like a lidless box with one of the sides gone.

Anita clapped her hands as Teddy broke open several of the beef tins and scattered their contents into the channel at distances of fifty feet apart, until the sea entrance was reached and similarly baited. Then he returned to the tank to watch results with Anita. They had not long to wait.

The scent of the newly-opened beef brought a couple of grey dorsal fins scouting near the channel opening. Swiftly these two livid, torpedo shadows turned and entered the channel, their great snouts scooping up the beef baits like shovels. Warily the saw-toothed monsters approached the tank, their jaws clashing in the flowing tide. Anita sat in the dry grass clasping her hands, her eyes dancing at the Homeric spectacle in full view.

For the squid there was no retreat except past the sabre- toothed sharks flashing nearer and nearer. Instinct warned it that the eternal enemy was at the gate. Instantly the viscid mass of tentacles became a mill-wheel of activity that beat and slogged the tank entrance with the force of a hundred hammers. The two reef sharks swept up to the opening like hounds scenting a badger. The slogging tentacles stayed them only for a moment. Then a blue-grey snout that had torn drowning men from the shoals slid like a battering-ram into the tank. Swift as light the viscid tentacles closed on the scissor-point jaws of the shark, enveloping it in a stranglehold of living muscle and flesh.

In the shift of one eye Helmore saw that a twelve-foot shark could not attack an octopus. The squid's hold pinned the head to the floor of the channel. In a second or two the reef shark would be a gasping mass of pulp and bone. But the sea-wolves of the Pacific know the squid from infancy to old age. The channel was now alive with bullhead sharks, frantic for food and scenting it in the open bullion box.

Their jaws snatched down at the dish-shaped body that still gripped the twelve-foot greyback to the floor. They tore the outstretched feelers, dragging the flat body to the surface. Like gluttons at a feast they hauled and towed the kicking, squirming mass into the open tide. In a moment, it seemed to the wide-eyed Anita, the channel was silent again, with the slowly rising waters washing and breaking into the bullion tank.

"A great scrap," Helmore laughed to the silent Anita sitting in the grass. "I'll drop into the tank now, before the tide gets higher."

Standing almost shoulder-deep in the submerged tank, Helmore's bare feet touched the milled edges of the closely packed gold coins. They were ranged in long columns along the bottom, where Ben Mole had placed them after emptying them from the wooden boxes supplied by the Mint. The silver ingots were packed like bricks against the sides.

The sun flamed over the western skyline, and Anita knew that within an hour the darkness would prevent her returning to the village.

Helmore was not without imagination. He saw what it meant for her to go back without money. There would be more beatings and ill-usage. It needed no effort on his part to envisage the living hell she must endure when the rascally Rabaul learnt that the rightful owners had taken away the gold and silver from the creek.

He gathered from what Anita had told him that fear of his neighbours had kept the blind old fisherman from descending upon the gold and silver and transferring it to his house. But Rabaul could trust no one, not even his relations. And so Anita had borne his terrible secret alone, together with the unenviable task of snatching gold coins from the retreat of a shark-hunted octopus.

"Anita," he said cheerfully, "you cannot go back to the village. A schooner will call here for me in a day or so to take me to Honolulu. I will take you to Sydney. I regard you as a partner in this important salvage operation," he added gravely.

"But Rabaul will find his way here," she warned. "If he suspects the presence of a white man he will bring those horrible people who killed Captain Mole and his coolies."

"We must risk it. Anita, and trust to these." He drew a pair of flat-faced automatics from the coat he had left on the bank. "Sixty a minute," he added through his slightly clenched teeth, "and plenty to follow."

His quiet bearing calmed Anita's tense-drawn nerves. She decided without further questions to accept his generous offer.


THE shock of his life awaited Helmore as he neared the beach. A strange schooner was anchored within biscuit throw of the wreck. Seated outside his tent was the dour figure of Jeremy Stark, of the White Reef Salvage Company. At sight of Helmore and Anita he rose from his camp-stool with something of the baulked tiger in his stooping shoulders.

"Hands off the wreck, Mr. Helmore!" he shouted, without a word of greeting. "My party is in possession."


Illustration

"Hands off the wreck, Mr. Helmore!" he shouted.


"You've possessed yourself of my camp, at any rate," Teddy answered, unruffled.

"This is not your island, nor your Sydney office. The darned wreck was any man's property the moment Gait abandoned it. Shall we have supper first, or the scrap?"

Jeremy wolfed the frayed edges of a cigar for a moment. Then he looked up slowly at the sun-tanned clerk in the canvas suit, and the wrath that had borne him across three oceans died.

"Helmore," he began with an effort, "I feel that you've got me, and... I'm a ruined man. I put everything into this venture, including my wife and my daughter's little fortune. In cities men are apt to forget themselves. Here"—his shaking hand indicated the jungle-darkened skyline—"men may confess their sins. I never took you seriously, and I'm man enough to ask pardon."

Anita drew a deep breath. Teddy's lips quirked strangely as he noted the sharp misery in the twitching face and mouth. It was a face that had once driven and heckled him without mercy. But here, on the reef, he—

Teddy took a bright new Australian sovereign from his pocket and flung it down on the coral floor. It rang clear as a bell in the still, warm air. With bent, quaking knees Jeremy stooped and snatched it up, his eyes bulging, his body swaying in an agony of doubt.

"One that the robbers left here," he almost sobbed. "My God, what beasts men are! They lie in wait to plunder ships. They hide and burrow, and run like the devil when you're cleaned out."

Helmore exchanged swift glances with Anita. An unforgettable smile illumined her beautiful features.

"Yes, they steal and run," she agreed.

"Mr. Stark," Teddy broke in at last, "a few pounds—fifty, a hundred, maybe—have been taken from the tank. The rest is intact, as far as one can judge. We'll pass over the conduct of Captain Mole in removing the specie. Dead men cannot defend their actions."

"My dear Helmore," Stark interrupted in a sudden gust of good- humour, "I trust you completely. In the presence of this young lady"—he indicated Anita with, parental solicitude—"you are at liberty to quote your own terms for the excellent service you have rendered the company. To be candid, I'd written off the wreck as a dead loss. You may now stand in to claim 50 per cent of the whole amount."

Helmore shook his head.

"I'm thinking of the other shareholders, Mr. Stark. But if you'll sign up to help this young lady in Sydney, on account of help rendered in recovering the specie, I'll swap cigars with you and hand over the tank."

Stark thrust out his hand, his eyes kindling strangely.

"Hang it, Helmore, you're decent. If you don't sign up to come into the firm with me I—I—upon my word, I won't touch the stuff."


AT noon the following day the schooner cleared the island, after the last ounce of specie had been stowed safely away. Anita and Stark watched the fading jungle-line and the white-winged birds crying over the wreck. There were tears in Anita's eyes. With all the pain and anguish of her past, the reefs and skies of the lonely atolls were very dear to her.

When Teddy joined them at dinner in the little stateroom aft, the shadow of grief and the memory of blind Rabaul had gone from her eyes. She held out her hand to him. Teddy bent over it for an instant, while Jeremy Stark whispered in his ear.

"Some girls bring trouble, but I'm predicting that this island waif will bring more happiness than all the yellow dough we lifted from that old tank. She's your find my boy, so watch your luck."

From Teddy Helmore's point of view Stark's well-meant advice was utterly superfluous, a fact that was borne upon Anita long before they reached Sydney.


THE END


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