Brande was asleep when I entered his
cabin. His writing-table was covered with scraps
of paper on which he had been scribbling. My name
was on every scrap, preceded or followed by an unfinished
sentence, thus: “Marcel is thinking
When I was ill, Marcel thought Marcel
means to ” All these I gathered up
carefully and put in my pocket. Then I inoculated
him with as strong a solution of the drug I was using
on him as was compatible with the safety of his life.
Immediate danger being thus averted, I determined
to run no similar risk again.
For many days after this our voyage
was monotonous. The deadly secret shared by Edith
Metford and myself drew us gradually nearer to each
other as time passed. She understood me, or, at
least, gave me the impression that she understood
me. Little by little that capricious mood which
I have heretofore described changed into one of enduring
sympathy. With one trivial exception, this lasted
until the end. But for her help my mind would
hardly have stood the strain of events which were
now at hand, whose livid shadows were projected in
the rising fire of Brande’s relentless eyes.
Brande appeared to lose interest gradually
in his ship’s company. He became daily
more and more absorbed in his own thoughts. Natalie
was ever gentle, even tender. But I chafed at
the impalpable barrier which was always between us.
Sometimes I thought that she would willingly have
ranged herself on my side. Some hidden power held
her back. As to the others, I began to like the
boy Halley. He was lovable, if not athletic.
His devotion to Natalie, which never waned, did not
now trouble me. It was only a friendship, and
I welcomed it. Had it been anything more, it
was not likely that he would have prevailed against
the will of a man who had done murder for his mistress.
We steamed through the Malay Archipelago, steering
north, south, east, west, as if at haphazard, until
only the navigating officers and the director of the
Society knew how our course lay. We were searching
for an island about the bearings of which, it transpired,
some mistake had been made. I do not know whether
the great laureate ever sailed these seas. But
I know that his glorious islands of flowers and islands
of fruit, with all their luscious imagery, were here
eclipsed by our own islands of foliage. The long
lagoons, the deep blue bays, the glittering parti-coloured
fish that swam in visible shoals deep down amidst
the submerged coral groves over which we passed, the
rich-toned sea-weeds and brilliant anémones,
the yellow strands and the steep cliffs, the riotous
foliage that swept down from the sky to the blue of
the sea; all these natural beauties seemed to cry
to me with living voices to me bound on
a cruise of universal death.
After a long spell of apparently aimless
but glorious steaming, a small island was sighted
on our port bow. The Esmeralda was steered
directly for it, and we dropped anchor in a deep natural
harbour on its southern shore. Preparations for
landing had been going on during the day, and everything
was ready for quitting the ship.
It was here that my first opportunity
for making use of the gold I had brought with me occurred.
Anderson was called up by Brande, who made him a short
complimentary speech, and finished it by ordering his
officer to return to England, where further instructions
would be given him. This order was received in
respectful silence. Captain Anderson had been
too liberally treated to demur if the Esmeralda
had been ordered to the South Pole.
Brande went below for a few minutes,
and as soon as he had disappeared I went forward to
Anderson and hailed him nervously, for there was not
a moment to spare.
“Anderson,” I said hurriedly,
“you must have noticed that Mr. Brande is an
“Pardon me, sir; it is not my
business to comment upon my owner.”
“I did not ask you to comment
upon him, sir,” I said sharply. “It
is I who shall comment upon him, and it is for you
to say whether you will undertake to earn my money
by waiting in this harbour till I am ready to sail
back with you to England.”
“Have you anything more to say,
sir?” Anderson asked stiffly.
“I presume I have said enough.”
“If you have nothing more to
say I must ask you to leave the bridge, and if it
were not that you are leaving the ship this moment,
I would caution you not to be impertinent to me again.”
He blew his whistle, and a steward ran forward.
“Johnson, see Mr. Marcel’s
luggage over the side at once.” To me he
said shortly: “Quit my ship, sir.”
This trivial show of temper, which,
indeed, had been provoked by my own hasty speech,
turned my impatience into fury.
“Before I quit your ship,”
I said, with emphasis, “I will tell you how
you yourself will quit it. You will do so between
two policemen if you land in England, and between
two marines if you think of keeping on the high seas.
Before we started, I sent a detailed statement of this
ship, the nature of this nefarious voyage, and the
names of the passengers or as many as I
knew to a friend who will put it in proper
hands if anything befalls me. Go back without
me and explain the loss of that French fishing fleet
which was sunk the very night we sailed. It is
an awkward coincidence to be explained by a man who
returns from an unknown voyage having lost his entire
list of passengers. You cannot be aware of what
this man Brande intends, or you would at least stand
by us as long as your own safety permitted. In
any case you cannot safely return without us.”
Anderson, after reflecting for a moment,
apologised for his peremptory words, and agreed to
stand by night and day, with fires banked, until I,
and all whom I could prevail upon to return with me,
got back to his vessel. There was no danger of
his running short of coal. A ship that was practically
an ocean liner in coal ballast would be a considerable
time in burning out her own cargo. But he insisted
on a large money payment in advance. I had foolishly
mentioned that I had a little over L5000 in gold.
This he claimed on the plea that “in duty to
himself” a favourite phrase of his he
could not accept less. But I think his sense
of duty was limited only by the fact that I had hardly
another penny in the world. Under the circumstances
he might have waived all remuneration. As he
was firm, and as I had no time to haggle, I agreed
to give him the money. Our bargain was only completed
when Brande returned to the deck.
It was strange that on an island like
that on which we were landing there should be a regular
army of natives waiting to assist us with our baggage,
and the saddled horses which were in readiness were
out of place in a primeval wilderness. An Englishman
came forward, and, saluting Brande, said all was ready
for the start to the hills. This explained the
puzzle. An advance agent had made everything comfortable.
For Brande, his sister, and Miss Metford the best appointed
horses were selected. I, as physician to the
chief, had one. The main body had to make the
journey on foot, which they did by very easy stages,
owing to the heat and the primitive track which formed
the only road. Their journey was not very long perhaps
ten miles in a direct line.
Mounted as we were, it was often necessary
to stoop to escape the dense masses of parasitic growth
which hung in green festoons from every branch of
the trees on either side. Under this thick shade
all the riotous vegetation of the tropics had fought
for life and struggled for light and air till the
wealth of their luxuriant death had carpeted the underwood
with a thick deposit of steaming foliage. As we
ascended the height, every mile in distance brought
changes in the botanical growths, which might have
passed unnoticed by the ordinary observer or ignorant
pioneer. All were noted and commented on by Brande,
whose eye was still as keen as his brain had once
been brilliant. His usual staid demeanour changed
suddenly. He romped ahead of us like a schoolboy
out for a holiday. Unlike a schoolboy, however,
he was always seeking new items of knowledge and conveying
them to us with unaffected pleasure. He was more
like a master who had found new ground and new material
for his class. Natalie gave herself up like him
to this enjoyment of the moment. Edith Metford
and I partly caught the glamour of their infectious
good-humour. But with both of us it was tempered
by the knowledge of what was in store.
When we arrived at our destination
we dismounted, at Brande’s request, and tied
our horses to convenient branches. He went forward,
and, pushing aside the underwood with both hands,
motioned to us to follow him till he stopped on a
ledge of rock which overtopped a hollow in the mountain.
The gorge below was the most beautiful glade I ever
It was a paradise of foliage.
Here and there a fallen tree had formed a picturesque
bridge over the mountain stream which meandered through
it. Far down below there was a waterfall, where
gorgeous tree-ferns rose in natural bowers, while
others further still leant over the lotus-covered
stream, their giant leaves trailing in the slow-moving
current. Tangled masses of bracken rioted in
wild abundance over a velvety green sod, overshadowed
by waving magnolias. Through the trees bright-plumaged
birds were flitting from branch to branch in songless
flight, flashing their brilliant colours through the
sunny leaves. In places the water splashed over
moss-grown rocks into deep pools. Every drifting
spray of cloud threw over the dell a new light, deepening
the shadows under the great ferns.
It was here in this glorious fairyland;
here upon this island, where before us no white foot
had ever trod; whose nameless people represented the
simplest types of human existence, that Herbert Brande
was to put his devilish experiment to the proof.
I marvelled that he should have selected so fair a
spot for so terrible a purpose. But the papers
which I found later amongst the man’s effects
on the Esmeralda explain much that was then
incomprehensible to me.
Our camp was quickly formed, and our
life was outwardly as happy as if we had been an ordinary
company of tourists. I say outwardly, because,
while we walked and climbed and collected specimens
of botanical or geological interest, there remained
that latent dread which always followed us, and dominated
the most frivolous of our people, on all of whom a
new solemnity had fallen. For myself, the fact
that the hour of trial for my own experiment was daily
drawing closer and more inevitable, was sufficient
to account for my constant and extreme anxiety.
Brande joined none of our excursions.
He was always at work in his improvised laboratory.
The boxes of material which had been brought from
the ship nearly filled it from floor to roof, and from
the speed with which these were emptied, it was evident
that their contents had been systematised before shipment.
In place of the varied collection of substances there
grew up within the room a cone of compound matter in
which all were blended. This cone was smaller,
Brande admitted, than what he had intended. The
supply of subordinate fulminates, though several times
greater than what was required, proved to be considerably
short. But as he had allowed himself a large margin everything
being on a scale far exceeding the minimum which his
calculations had pointed to as sufficient this
deficiency did not cause him more than a temporary
annoyance. So he worked on.
When we had been three weeks on the
island I found the suspense greater than I could bear.
The crisis was at hand, and my heart failed me.
I determined to make a last appeal to Natalie, to
fly with me to the ship. Edith Metford would
accompany us. The rest might take the risk to
which they had consented.
I found Natalie standing on the high
rock whence the most lovely view of the dell could
be obtained, and as I approached her silently she was
not aware of my presence until I laid my hand on her
“Natalie,” I said wistfully,
for the girl’s eyes were full of tears, “do
you mind if I withdraw now from this enterprise, in
which I cannot be of the slightest use, and of which
I most heartily disapprove?”
“The Society would not allow
you to withdraw. You cannot do so without its
permission, and hope to live within a thousand miles
of it,” she answered gravely.
“I should not care to live within
ten thousand miles of it. I should try to get
and keep the earth’s diameter between myself
She looked up with an expression of
such pain that my heart smote me. “How
about me? I cannot live without you now,”
she said softly.
“Don’t live without me.
Come with me. Get rid of this infamous association
of lunatics, whose object they themselves cannot really
appreciate, and whose means are murder ”
But there she stopped me. “My
brother could find me out at the uttermost ends of
the earth if I forsook him, and you know I do not mean
to forsake him. For yourself do not
try to desert. It would make no difference.
Do not believe that any consideration would cause me
willingly to give you a moment’s pain, or that
I should shrink from sacrificing myself to save you.”
With one of her small white hands she gently pressed
my head towards her. Her lips touched my forehead,
and she whispered: “Do not leave me.
It will soon be over now. I I need
As I was returning dejected after
my fruitless appeal to Natalie, I met Edith Metford,
to whom I had unhappily mentioned my proposal for an
“Is it arranged? When do we start?”
she asked eagerly.
“It is not arranged, and we do not start,”
I answered in despair.
“You told me you would go with
her or without her,” she cried passionately.
“It is shameful unmanly.”
“It is certainly both if I really
said what you tell me. I was not myself at the
moment, and my tongue must have slandered me.
I stay to the end. But you will go. Captain
Anderson will receive you ”
“How am I to be certain of that?”
“I paid him for your passage, and have his receipt.”
“And you really think I would go and leave leave ”
“Natalie? I think you would be perfectly
At this the girl stamped her foot
passionately on the ground and burst into tears.
Nor would she permit any of the slight caresses I offered.
I thought her old caprices were returning.
She flung my arm rudely from her and left me bewildered.