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   Chapter 5 No.5

Rodman The Boatsteerer And Other Stories / 1898 By Louis Becke Characters: 4578

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"Are you going over to Halaliko to-night, Prout?" asked Sherard, walking up to where his manager and Marie sat enjoying the cool of the evening. He threw himself in a cane chair beside them and puffed away at his cheroot, playing the while with the little Mercedes.

"Yes, I might as well go to-night and see how the Burtons have got on," and Prout arose and went to the stables.

Sherard remained chatting with Marie till Prout returned, and then, raising his hat to her, bade them good-night."

"Don't let Burton entice you to Halaliko, Prout," he said with a laugh; "he knows that your time here is nearly up."

Prout laughed too. "I don't think that Marie would like me to give up Kalahua for Halaliko-would you, old girl?"

She shook her head and smiled. "No, indeed, Mr. Sherard. I am too happy here to ever wish to leave."

* * *

Whistling softly to himself, Prout rode along the palm-bordered winding track. It was not often he was away from Marie, but he meant to take his time this evening. It was nearly five miles to Burton's plantation at Halaliko, and half an hour would finish his business there. He knew that, as soon as he left, Marie would tell the native servant to go to her bed in the coolie lines, and then she would herself retire; and when he returned he would find her lying asleep with her baby beside her.

* * *

To the right the road wound round a great jagged shoulder of rocky cliff, and clung to it closely; for on the left there yawned a black space, the valley of Maunahoehoe, and, as he rode, Prout could see the glimmer of the natives' fires below-fires that, although they were but distant a few hundred feet, seemed miles and miles away.

A slight sound that seemed to come from the face of the cliff above him caused him to look upwards, and the next instant a heavy stone struck him slantingly on the side of his head. Without a sound he fell to the ground, staggered to his feet, and then, failing to recover himself, vanished over the sloping side of the cliff into the valley beneath.

A shadowy, supple figure clambered down from the inky blackness of cliff that overhung the road, and peered over the valley of Maunahoehoe. It was Moreno, the Chilian.

"Better than a knife after all; Holy Virgin, he's gone now, and I

forgive him for all the blows he struck me."

* * *

Long before daylight, Prout, with his face and shoulders covered with gory stains, staggered into the native village at Maunahoehoe and asked the people to lend him a horse to take him back to Kalahua.

When within half a mile of Kalahua, almost fainting from loss of blood and exhaustion, he pulled up his horse at a hut on the borders of the estate and got off. There were some five or six natives inside, and they started up with quick expressions of sympathy when they saw his condition.

"Give me a weapon, O friends," he said. "Some man hath tried to kill me."

A short squat native smiled grimly, reached to the rafters of the dwelling, and took down a heavy carbine, which he loaded and then handed to the white man.

"'Tis Moreno who hath hurt thee," said the native; "at midnight he rode by here in hot haste."

With the native supporting him, Prout rode along the road to the Estate gates.

As he reeled through he heard a faint cry.

In another minute he was on the verandah and looking through the French lights into Marie's dimly-lighted bedroom. An inarticulate cry of anguish burst from him. Sherard and his wife were together.

Steadying himself against a post he took aim at the trembling figure of his wife, and fired. She threw up her arms and fell upon her face, and then Sherard, pistol in hand, dashed out and met him.

Ere he could draw the trigger, Prout swung the heavy weapon round, and the stock crashed into the traitor's brain.

"It is the death of a dog," said the native, spurning the body with his naked foot.

She was dying fast when Prout, with love and hate struggling for mastery in his frenzied brain, stood over her.

"He took my child away from me," she said.... "He said he would kill her before me,... and it was to save her. Only for that I would have died first. Oh, Ned, Ned--"

Then with a look of unutterable love from her fast-dimming eyes, she closed them in death.

* * *

That was why Prout, after two years of madness in a prison, had stepped on board Hetherington's schooner and asked the captain to take him away somewhere-he cared not where-so that he could be away from the ken of civilised and cruel mankind and try and forget the dreadful past.

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