HOW THE BOLO OF FELIZARDO CUT A KNOT

Many things which happen in the jungle can be kept secret; but a
matter like the burying of Dolores in the graveyard of San Polycarpio
must become known. They heard of it in Manila the following day,
from native sources, and the Press made out of it a great story,
which was also perfectly inaccurate, as is usually the case when the
information comes through mestizos, people to whom truth is a thing
either hateful or unknown.

Felizardo had descended on San Polycarpio with the whole of his band;
he had slain the local police, and confined the inhabitants to their
houses; had taken the parish priest from his bed, and compelled him,
at the point of the bolo, to read the Burial Service; then he had
hanged the Teniente of San Polycarpio over the grave, and after that
had departed, swearing to return and burn the village itself, if any
one dared to interfere with the body of his wife–such was the gist
of the first account circulated round Manila.

The insurrecto party, which had sorrowed greatly over the suspension
of operations against Felizardo, and over Commissioner Furber’s
new attitude of suspicion, held a special meeting to discuss the
situation, seeing a chance of forcing on a fresh campaign against the
Chief of the Mountains, who was such a deadly enemy of the Sovereign
People. It was even suggested that the Teniente of San Polycarpio
should actually be hanged, in order to give an air of reality to the
whole story. Unfortunately, however, the ex-general of the Army of
Liberty, who made the proposal, forgot, or did not know, that the
man sitting opposite to him happened to be a brother to that same
Teniente. They got the knife away from the Teniente’s brother before
any serious harm was done; but, none the less, the meeting broke up
in disorder, without having arrived at any definite decision.

The Herald and the Record seized on the story eagerly. Copy was short
that day, and this news seemed to offer such splendid opportunities
in the way of headlines; but Clancy of the Star was suspicious, and
would not use it without confirmation. “Get a launch and go across
to Calocan,” he said to his most reliable reporter. “You may induce
Basil Hayle to talk. He is sure to know all about it, in fact there’s
a rumour that he himself was at the burial. If he won’t tell you
anything, which is very probable, go on to San Polycarpio itself,
and see the priest. I would sooner have the right story to-morrow
than use any of this rubbish to-day.”

The news caused a good deal of commotion in official circles. The
Governor-General looked worried, thinking of the hopeless state into
which the finances had got–as was inevitable, considering the class of
man which the Party was sending out–and wondering whether it would
now be necessary to resume those ruinously expensive expeditions
against the outlaws, in which case some of the officials would have
to be content with their bare salaries, as there would be nothing
else left to divide; and that, of course, would mean trouble, and
complaints to the Party managers. Already, Commissioner Gumpertz was
showing a nasty spirit, as was also Commissioner Johnson, and it had
been necessary to give them, or rather their nominees, a contract for
a long and utterly useless road to the hills, in order to keep them
quiet. Moreover, as that road had to be paid for by loan, the Press
had got early information of it, and had said some things concerning
the contract which were very unpleasant, because perfectly true. Now,
if, as was rumoured, Felizardo was actually out on the warpath himself,
there would be fresh expenses, fresh anxieties about money matters.

Commissioner Gumpertz, on the other hand, having nothing to do with the
finances, except as regarded the share of them which he himself got,
was by no means displeased to hear of Felizardo’s supposed raid. He
had never given up hope of being able ultimately to sell that hemp
land on the northern side of the outlaw’s mountains; and if he could
revive the campaign against the old chief, he felt certain in his
own mind that this time it would be carried through to the end, even
though the President had to order the Army to assist. Incidentally,
too, the reopening of hostilities would be deadly to the prestige
of Commissioner Furber, and might possibly lead to his resignation,
in which case Mr Gumpertz was in hopes that the vacant post would
be filled by a certain ex-partner of his own, a most admirable
arrangement. As a result of these views, the Commissioner of Lands
and Registration was very ready to be interviewed by the Press on
the subject of Felizardo’s latest exploit, and expressed his opinions
most forcibly. He had always been opposed to the new policy of leaving
this brigand alone, he said; and this outrage at San Polycarpio went
to prove that he had been right. It would be necessary now to resume
operations on a larger scale than ever. The Regular Army would have
to be called upon to provide troops, its chiefs being shown plainly
that they were, after all, merely the servants of the State, and that
it was not for them to say whether they would, or would not, assist
the Civil Government. The Commission must be supreme. No individual
member of it must be allowed to dictate to his colleagues, and no
murderer and outlaw, like Felizardo, must be allowed to remain in a
state of insolent independence. The present state of affairs was an
insult to the Flag, a violation of all the great principles for which
the Party stood.

True, the Herald headed its report of the interview, “Commissioner
on the High Horse,” “Gumpertz gets on the Great Gee-Gee,” and thereby
spoilt a good deal of the effect; but still the Commissioner for Lands
and Registration had the satisfaction of knowing that he had got in
the first blows both at his own colleague and at Felizardo. Lower
down on the same page the Herald announced that Mr Furber declined
to be interviewed. “The Commissioner looked cross,” it stated, for
once telling the crude truth; but it did not dare to reproduce the
remarks which a certain highly-placed Army officer had made to its
reporter concerning Mr Gumpertz and his views.

Still, enough was published that day to set all Manila talking, and
when, on the following morning, a launch came in from Igut, bringing
Captain Bush’s report of the affair, the sensation was even greater;
for Bush, having conveniently forgotten the good turn Basil Hayle had
once done him in suppressing all mention of his absence from the great
fight in the plaza of Igut, now told the story of how the Constabulary
officer had been present at the burial of Dolores, actually assisting
Felizardo, instead of endeavouring to arrest him. It was a venomous,
damning report, full of the jealousy which the man who had been a
soldier felt of the man who would always be a soldier, and, more
important than that, of the jealousy which the man who had made Mrs
Bush’s life utterly miserable felt of the man who could have made her
happy. True, some of the details given in the first rumours, such as
the hanging of the Teniente and the holding up of the village, were
not mentioned in the Scout officer’s version; but these omissions
were hardly noticed in view of the intensely interesting character
of the rest.

“They will certainly give Hayle the sack, even if they do not bring
him to trial,” was the general opinion of Manila men who, in most
cases, added their conviction that Captain Bush was a low-down
cur, for, despite Basil’s reticence, it had long since leaked out
unofficially that the Scout officer had been missing on the occasion
of the insurrecto attack, and had only appeared after the killing was
finished. Moreover, they knew his character pretty well in Manila,
and did not admire it greatly.

Bush himself had acted deliberately in the matter. He intended to
ruin Basil Hayle’s career if possible, and the report had been the
result of the joint efforts of the Supervisor, the school teacher,
and himself. Its compilation had entailed the consumption of a good
deal of spirits, but when it had been finished, and sent down to the
skipper of the waiting launch, they all felt pleased with themselves,
for the Supervisor and the school teacher hated the man who had saved
their lives from Juan Vagas and his band almost as bitterly as did
the Scout officer, remembering what he had once said concerning white
men and mestizos. And then the school teacher said, jerking his head
in the direction of the lower end of the town: “Shall we go and tell
them? They’ll be mighty pleased to hear it.”

But Bush got up, a little unsteadily, perhaps. “No; that’ll do by
and by. I’m going to tell my wife first;” which seemed to the others
such a good idea that they laughed immoderately, and insisted that
he should have another drink first.

“You’ll need it, old man,” the Supervisor said; and the Treasurer, who
came in at that moment, and had the matter explained to him, agreed.

Mrs Bush listened to her husband in absolute silence, in fact so
still did she sit that he finished lamely, almost apologetically:
“It was my duty to report it,” he said.

Then her anger blazed out, and he cowered before it. “Oh, you
coward! Your duty! Did he feel it his duty to report you when he saved
the town you were supposed to be defending, when he saved your wife’s
honour at the hands of those brown fiends? Did he go into Manila and
tell where you had been that night, and why you were the last man
on the scene? To think I should have married you, when there are so
many real men in the world! Oh, go away, and never dare to speak to
me again. Go to the friends who are worthy of you–and to the woman
you have put in my place, the coloured woman.”

Possibly, for the first time, Bush realised something of the deadly
insult he had put on his wife, for he tried to defend himself in a
guilty man’s way, with a counter-charge.

“You are in love with Hayle. That’s what makes you so mad,” he growled.

She turned on him in superb scorn. “And if I am, have you any right to
complain? Have you any right to speak to a white woman–you cur!” And
then, in his rage, he struck her twice on the mouth. She staggered
back and sank into a chair, whilst he went out, with an attempt at a
swagger, forgetting that the natives in the plaza–there were three
sitting in the shade of the belfry–could have seen all that had
occurred on the balcony.

When he rejoined his friends in the spirit shop, they noticed that
he was flushed and his hand was a little shaky. “I told her, and
she didn’t like it,” he said briefly. The school teacher sniggered,
whereupon Bush turned on him savagely. “Confound you, what are you
laughing at?”

The others exchanged glances, and hastened to start some entirely
fresh topic of conversation. Obviously, Bush had one of his bad fits
coming on, and they knew by experience how nasty he could be. More than
once, they had feared that he was going to quarrel with them finally,
which might have resulted in his making peace with his wife, in which
case many privileges they now enjoyed would have been curtailed,
if not actually withdrawn. So they endeavoured to smooth him down,
and after a while succeeded in their aim.

Mrs Bush did not cry, at least not at first. Instead, she went to
her room, and, after dabbing a little blood off her mouth, examined
her lip to see how badly it was cut, doing it all very quietly, as
though she were dazed. Then she sat down to think it out, right from
the beginning.

In a way, she blamed herself. She had known when she married John Bush
that the curse of drink was in his family; but she had been very young
then; she had believed she loved him; and believed, too, that she could
keep him straight. But she had found out her mistake as soon as she
rejoined him in Manila after the war. He was a marked man even then,
in the Service, as the old General had told her very gently; and,
what was even worse, finding himself shunned by his brother-officers,
he had got into the hands of the baser class of civil officials,
who had not the slightest compunction about separating him from his
wife when it suited their ends to do so.

Mrs Bush had always made excuses for him to herself, so long as it
was only a case of that miserable hereditary tendency. She would get
him back to the States before long, and then she would be able to
reassert her influence over him; but when, through the introduction
of the school teacher, the other woman came on the scene, there, in
Igut itself, practically under her own eyes, she realised that any
further efforts of hers would be useless; the end of their married
life had come; although, until he came to boast to her that he had
ruined Basil Hayle’s career, no mention of that other woman had passed
her lips. Even now, she was sorry she had demeaned herself by having
spoken as she had done. Probably, he would glory in the knowledge of
how sorely he had wounded her pride.

As for the blows on her mouth, they seemed, somehow, to be matters
of secondary consideration; in fact, when she came to think of them,
she was almost glad he had struck her. Relations between them were
now on a definite basis, the most definite basis of all, for no
reconciliation was possible. There would be no more need to keep up
appearances, to meet him, if not as a husband or lover, at least on
terms of politeness. That stage had been passed, as she told herself
with a sigh of relief.

But when she thought of her own future movements the prospect was far
less satisfactory. She could see no way out of her difficulties. She
had not even the money to take her back to the United States; and even
if, as was probable, the General were to grant her free transportation,
she had no relatives who would give her a home. Two aunts and half a
dozen cousins were the only members of her family she knew, and with
these she had never been on good terms. She had very few acquaintances
in Manila, having been in the city but a few weeks; in fact, the only
friend she had, the only real friend, was Basil Hayle, and to him
she could not appeal, even though, in her own mind, she was certain
that his chivalry would prevent him from thinking any evil. It was
because she loved him, because she was not sure of herself, that she
could not ask him for aid.

She had promised to write to him “if necessary,” and now, when a
crisis which neither of them had foreseen had come, she could not
keep her promise.

There was one thing she could do, however, one thing she must do–write
and warn him concerning her husband’s report. She glanced out towards
the harbour. The launch had already gone, but the sea was like a
mill-pond, and it would not take a canoe long to reach Calocan.

She sat down and wrote hurriedly, in a tone very different from that
of her ordinary letters to Basil, for she was hot at the thought of how
her husband was repaying the other man’s services. The result was that,
quite unconsciously, she betrayed her feelings to the man she loved,
and showed him that the breach between her husband and herself was
now wider than ever, so wide that it could never be crossed. But she
did not say a word of his coming to Igut, nor hint at the terrible
problem of her future which now had to be faced.

Still, none the less, Basil understood, and cursed the fate which
made it impossible for him to offer assistance, at any rate at
the moment. He was by no means a poor man, even though he might be
serving as an officer in the Philippines Constabulary, and he had
but scant regard for most conventions. On the other hand, he had
the very greatest regard for Mrs Bush’s feelings, and he realised,
instinctively, that an offer from him might seem almost an insult,
a suggestion that she should put herself under his protection. When he
could see her it would be different, but that was also an impossibility
for the time being, especially as he felt certain he would be summoned
to Manila to explain the part he had played in the cemetery at San
Polycarpio.

For the greater part of the night, Basil sat, smoking innumerable
cigarettes, and conceiving, and then rejecting, innumerable plans. In
the end he wrote two letters, one to Mrs Bush and one to old Don Juan
Ramirez. The former was the most difficult he had ever attempted; he
wanted to say so much, and dared to say so little, the result being
that, as in her case, he unconsciously told everything, which was,
of course, extremely wrong, and must be attributed to the influence
of the Law of the Bolo.

To Don Juan he also told a great deal, this time with intention,
and, perhaps for that very reason, did not tell it well; although,
as he had foreseen, the old Spaniard knew most of it already, and was
deeply touched by the confidence. Basil wanted to learn exactly how
matters stood, what had occurred recently, how Mrs Bush looked, where
Bush spent his time and took his meals–a whole host of questions,
which caused Don Juan to knit his brows, and to wonder how many he
dare answer.

“If I tell him the whole truth, he will certainly come and kill the
Scout officer, which would be very foolish.” The Spaniard sighed–he
had heard what those natives who were sitting in the shadow of the
belfry had seen occur on the balcony–“So I will tell him part,
and leave the rest to fate. Who knows? Matters may adjust themselves.”

So he wrote discreetly, making the best of things, and after he
had sent the letter, called on Mrs Bush and tried to comfort her,
speaking as one who was almost old enough to be her grandfather,
and was also a gentleman of Spain, could speak; but when he came to
mention Basil Hayle he realised that this was a matter in which words
were not of much avail, for, possibly, again, because of that most
demoralising Law of the Bolo, Mrs Bush was losing all sense of the
sanctity of conventions. Still, the visit was not a waste of time,
for, when he took his leave, she knew that she had yet another very
sincere friend, one who was always close at hand.

Don Juan’s letter followed Basil to Manila, whither he had been
summoned to give an explanation of his doings on the night Felizardo
buried his wife. Basil smiled grimly as he opened the envelope. He
had been expecting something of the kind from the outset, and he was
quite ready to face the trouble. When Father Doyle came in later that
evening, Basil tossed the paper across to him. “What do you think of
that, Father?” he asked.

The priest’s face grew grave. “I am sorry. It may be unpleasant for
you. And you need not have gone. I was there because it was my duty;
but you—-”

Basil cut him short. “It was my duty, too. But for Felizardo, I do
not suppose I should be here now. They would have killed me that day
we hanged Juan Vagas, and–and there were other things as well.”

“Perhaps you are right. It does not follow that because you
seem indiscreet you are wrong,” Father Doyle answered, speaking
slowly. “They say, too, that I was indiscreet–and unpatriotic.”

The other looked up quickly. “Who says so? The Church?”

Father Doyle shook his head. “No–the Church understands, of
course. But Commissioner Gumpertz says I was wrong,” and he smiled,
possibly because he was thinking that the censure of the Head of
the Department of Lands and Registration was but a small matter when
one had the approval of the Church, as Mr Gumpertz himself presently
found to his cost, when, on his own authority, he made a statement
to the Press that the Commission would take steps against Father Doyle.

The following afternoon Basil called on Commissioner Furber, expecting
a stormy interview, but found himself mistaken. The Commissioner
was cold and severely official in manner, though, as the visitor was
quick to note, there was none of that personal hostility which had
marked their former meetings.

“I sent for you at the request of the Commission,” Mr Furber
said. “This is not a departmental matter, or, rather, they will
not have it treated as one. Therefore, I can say nothing about it
yet. Possibly, they may call you before them, or they may communicate
with you by letter at your hotel.”




Basil got up to take his leave, but, as he reached the door, the
Commissioner called him back. “Captain Hayle,” he said a little
haltingly. “We have not agreed too well in the past; and I will admit
that in some things I have been wrong, or unjust. But this is not
my doing. I, also, have met Felizardo, and–and I understand why you
went to San Polycarpio that night.”

In the end, they did not summon Basil before the Commission, for
what seemed to them a good and sufficient reason. Clancy of the Star
had cabled the story of the funeral at San Polycarpio to a certain
great newspaper in New York, and the editor of that paper had decided
forthwith to make Captain Hayle the hero of the hour. Consequently,
as even Commissioner Gumpertz had to acknowledge, it would have been
a most injudicious thing to take any steps against the Constabulary
officer; in fact, before the matter had come up again for discussion,
there had arrived peremptory cables from Washington ordering them to
leave Basil Hayle alone, not because Washington admired the conduct
of the latter, but because, as ever, Washington’s main consideration
was the question of the votes it might lose at the next election.

Still, Basil was not allowed to go scot-free. The Governor-General and
Commissioner Gumpertz saw to that; the former because he was galled
at the interference from Washington; the latter because it was Captain
Hayle who had rescued Mr Joseph Gobbitt, and so allowed possible buyers
to know that there were head-hunters living on that most desirable
tract of hemp land to the north of Felizardo’s mountains. Had Mr
Gobbitt’s head been permitted to hang from the ridge pole of a shack,
beside that of Albert Dunk, no one in Manila would have known his
fate, and the succession of would-be purchasers, willing to deposit
five or six thousand dollars each, might have remained unbroken,
greatly to the profit both of himself and of the head-hunters.

The result of the feeling against Basil was that he could not obtain
permission to return to his post. Day after day went by, and still he
was detained on futile excuses, until he began to realise that they did
not intend him to go back to duty at Calocan. Moreover, there had been
no further word out of Igut, either from Mrs Bush or from Don Juan,
and the silence was driving him mad. At last, in sheer despair, he
called on Commissioner Furber. That official looked at him curiously.

“You don’t know why they dropped all idea of open proceedings against
you?” he asked. “Well, it is because they have made a hero of you in
the States,” and the flicker of a smile crossed his face. “It wouldn’t
have been wise, you see. As regards the future, I may as well tell
you plainly. You are a marked man, and your chances in the Service
are nil. I have done what I can for you, because I believe I owe you
some reparation; but I must not strain things too far; in the end,
that would benefit neither of us. I may tell you that if you remain in
the Service you will be sent to one of the outlying islands, and that,
I believe”–he spoke meaningfully–“would not suit you. Moreover,
one is apt to meet with accidents in those places, as perhaps one of
my colleagues, Mr Gumpertz, could tell you. Speaking unofficially–in
fact you must regard all this as unofficial–I should advise you to
resign. It would be wiser–and safer.”

Basil drummed on the table with his fingers. At last, “Yes,” he said
slowly, “I think you are right. Can I do it now? I suppose it will
be to you that I hand my resignation?”

So Captain Hayle resigned, and his resignation was accepted
immediately, and then he went back with his successor to hand over
the Government property in his charge, and to bid farewell to his
plucky little men, who had fought under him on Felizardo’s mountain,
followed him in the forced march over the pass, carried out the great
killing in the plaza at Igut, and stood firm when the mob at Calocan
threatened to rescue Juan Vagas from the gallows. He had to do those
two things, and after doing them he would be a free man again, free
to go to Igut if he wished, or rather if he thought it wise so to do,
for his wish was always to be there.

It was not an easy thing to say good-bye to his men, after all. Like
so many of their kind, they had come to regard themselves as being in
his personal service; the State was a thing of which they knew nothing,
towards which they felt no kind of loyalty; consequently, his departure
filled them with absolute consternation; and though his successor was
as lax and easy-going as the most tired Filipino could wish an officer
to be, half his company was missing before the end of a fortnight,
greatly to his disgust. But when he reported the fact to Commissioner
Furber, the latter took it very quietly. “They were Hayle’s men,”
he said. “And, from the first, I was doubtful whether they would
stay with any one else. He was a man of rather an uncommon type;”
then, as if thinking he had said too much, he went on curtly. “Let
them go. Don’t worry to fetch them back, so long as they’ve taken no
carbines. I will send you some recruits to take their places.”

Basil Hayle did not actually break down after he had bidden farewell
to his men, but he went so near to it that he would not trust himself
to accept his successor’s offer, and stay the night in the barracks.

“No,” he said. “I’ve got through with it now, and it will only reopen
the sore if I stay here. I will go across to Father Doyle’s.”

The new officer, who had never got down to crude things, such as the
fight on Felizardo’s mountain, or the march over the pass, looked at
him in astonishment.

“I should have thought you would have been glad enough to be
clear of the outfit. I know if I could afford to resign I should go
to-morrow. There’s not much pleasure or glory in commanding a company
of savages, who will probably bolt at the first shot and leave you
to be boloed.”

Basil shrugged his shoulders, and then crossed the plaza to Father
Doyle’s house, where he took off his uniform for the last time,
presently coming down in civilian clothes.

“It’s over now,” he said briefly, as he selected a cigar from his
host’s box.

Father Doyle nodded. “When I first met you I knew it must come to
this before long. There was never room for you in the Service. What
are you going to do now?”

Basil stared out across the bay towards Felizardo’s mountains. “I
am not quite sure yet,” he answered slowly. “But I think–I think I
shall go to Igut first.”

The priest had been expecting that answer, and had given much thought
to the question of how Basil’s going was to be prevented. He had
conceived several good schemes for delaying him; but now that it
had come to the point, none of them seemed likely to be of the
slightest avail. It was not an easy matter in which to interfere,
especially as Basil, though perhaps his closest friend, was not one
of his flock. So finally he said nothing about it, trusting that by
the morning something might occur to make his intervention possible.

“I should like to see Felizardo again,” Basil went on: “It is curious
how he and I have come into one another’s lives,” and then, suddenly,
he began to tell the other man the whole story, beginning with the
fight on the slope of the volcano, when he surprised the outpost and
captured Felizardo’s daughter, and carrying it down to the time when
Father Doyle himself came into it; only, he omitted all mention of
Mrs Bush, though he did not gloss over the ways of Bush himself;
and both what he left out, and what he said, made the priest more
than ever anxious to stop him from going to Igut.

The sun was just setting when he finished, and a dozen or so tao
passed the house on their way up from the beach; then, following them,
came two strange natives, one of whom was carrying a heavy basket. A
moment later, “They are coming here. They look as if they wanted you,
Hayle,” the priest said.

They came on to the veranda of the house, took off their hats, then the
elder of them presented a letter to Basil. “From the Senor Felizardo,”
he said.

Basil opened it, wondering; then, as he read, the wonder changed to
utter astonishment, for it ran:–

“The Senor Felizardo sends his compliments to the Captain of
the Constabulary, who, as he hears, will no longer be his foe
in the field, but can now be his friend in all things. That is
good. But he hears with grief that the Captain will be leaving
the Islands; and that is bad. Therefore, Felizardo hastens to
pay his debts. Once, many months ago, the Captain returned to
him his daughter, whom, next to his wife, he loved best of all
things in this world; and Felizardo promised then to repay the
good deed. Now he sends, in this basket, the thing the Captain
most desires to have.”

Captain Hayle handed the note to the priest, then he turned to the
messengers. “Open the basket,” he said.

But they shook their heads. “Not here on the balcony, where the tao
can see. It should be taken inside the house, Senor.”

They set it on a table, and then they withdrew, whilst Basil was
undoing the cords, which held down the lid. First he came on a layer
of leaves, which he threw on the floor, then he raised a white linen
cloth, and sprang back with a cry of horror; for there, livid and
ghastly, was the head of John Bush, late of the Philippine Scouts. A
few minutes later, when he went to look for the messengers, they were
gone, although he could see a canoe with two men in it being paddled
in leisurely fashion across the bay.

Basil took the ghastly trophy to an outhouse, thinking as he went,
“The head-hunters would treasure this,” for there was not a spark of
pity in his mind, even though he had yet to hear of those two blows
which Mrs Bush had received on the mouth; then he went back to the
veranda where Father Doyle was waiting.

“It served him right,” he said curtly; and, after a pause, he added:
“I was going to kill him myself. Felizardo says the only law that
counts is the Law of the Bolo, and he is right.”

Father Doyle did not reply, having no answer ready, and knowing,
in his own heart, that what had happened was for the best.

“I must go to Igut,” Basil spoke suddenly; and now the priest nodded
in approval.

“Yes, you should go first thing in the morning. She will need you.”

But that was not Basil’s meaning. “I shall go to-night,” he said. “And
if the tao will not take me across in a canoe some of my men–some
of my old company, I mean–will do it.”

The tao refused, fearing the dark, and not loving him on account of
the hanging of Juan Vagas; but when, after obtaining the permission
of his successor, he asked for four men to paddle and one to steer,
every member of the company stepped forward to volunteer. He selected
the old serjeant, and four of those who had been with him on the
mountain-side when Felizardo’s bolomen killed three quarters of his
force; and they started out through the night to paddle to Igut.

After a while, he turned to the serjeant, who was steering. “The
Captain of the Scouts at Igut has been killed,” he said.

The serjeant nodded. “I know, Senor. I heard the news an hour ago. I
was expecting it,” he added calmly.

Basil looked at him in astonishment. “You were expecting it? Why?”

The little man smiled meaningfully. “Just after they buried the wife of
Felizardo, over there in San Polycarpio, Captain Bush struck his wife
twice on the mouth. They were on the balcony, and down in the plaza,
sitting in the shadow of the belfry, were three of Felizardo’s men,
who saw it all. Hearing that, and knowing how Felizardo had loved his
own wife, Dolores–did he not take to the hills for her sake?–I knew
that Captain Bush must die by the bolo.”

Basil clenched his hands. So he had struck her, in the sight of
natives, too! And she had never given him a hint of it, nor had Don
Juan Ramirez. Then, very reverently, he thanked God that he had not
known; for, had he heard of it before, he would assuredly have shot
Captain Bush like a dog; and that, as he realised now, would have
made matters infinitely worse.

The night seemed very beautiful as they paddled across the bay. Just
before they came to the entrance of Igut harbour, the moon rose from
behind Felizardo’s mountains, and Basil found himself wondering how
he could ever have regarded the range as a place of horror and death,
in which you set foot at the risk of your life. Surely all that must
have been an evil dream.

Igut was asleep when he landed there, and no light was showing in
Mrs Bush’s house; but old Don Juan was still sitting up. “I thought
you might come,” the Spaniard said. “Two men, who landed a couple of
hours ago, said they had seen you, and you had heard the news.”

But Basil wanted to hear one thing first. “How is she?” he demanded.

“They say she is better now, although the shock was great. It was
I who had to break the news to her…. They killed him down at the
lower end of the town, outside the mestizo’s house. We suppose it
was the head-hunters, for we never found the head.”

“I have the head, at Calocan,” Basil said and told him of Felizardo’s
letter.

Before they went to bed that night, they had arranged the
matter. Amongst white men, Basil and Father Doyle and Don Juan Ramirez
alone knew the truth, and there was no reason why any one else, save
perhaps Mrs Bush, need know. So, officially, Captain Bush met his
end at the hands of a stray party of head-hunters whilst going his
rounds; and they granted a pension to the widow, which, afterwards,
she refused to take.

Mrs Bush rose with a cry of glad surprise when they told her
Basil was downstairs; and she hurried into the room with hands
outstretched. “Oh! I was praying you would come when you heard of it,”
she said. “I should have gone mad with no one to speak to.”

He bent down and kissed her hands. “My Lady,” he said.

And then they understood one another at last, because the bar to
their understanding, that which would have made it a sin before,
had been removed, in accordance with the Law of the Bolo.

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