DIALSTONE LANE, W. W. Jacobs (also wrote Monkey's Paw), 1911 ed. (tho Twain liked it as of 1906-?)
Mr. Edward Tredgold sat in the private office of Tredgold and Son, real
estate agents, gazing through the prim wire blinds at the peaceful High
Street of Binchester. Tredgold senior, who believed in work for
the young, had left early. Tredgold junior, glad at an
opportunity of sharing his father's views, had passed most of the work
on to a clerk who had arrived in the world exactly three weeks after
"Binchester gets duller and duller," said Mr.
Tredgold to himself, wearily. "Two skittish octogenarians, one
gloomy baby, one gloomier nursemaid, and three dogs in the last five
minutes. If it wasn't for the dogs — hello!"
He put down his pen and, rising, looked over the top
of the blind at a girl who was glancing from side to side of the road
as though in search of an address.
"A visitor," continued Mr. Tredgold,
critically. "Girls like that only visit Binchester, and then take
the first train back, never to return."
The girl turned at that moment and, encountering the
forehead and eyes, gazed at them until they sank slowly behind the
protection of the blind.
"She's coming here," said Mr. Tredgold, watching
through the wire. "Wants to see our timetable, I expect."
He sat down at the table again, and taking up his
pen took some papers from a pigeonhole and eyed them with severe
"A lady to see you, sir," said a clerk, opening the door.
Mr. Tredgold rose and placed a chair.
"I have called for the key of the cottage in
Dialstone Lane," said the girl, still standing. "My uncle,
Captain Bowers, has not arrived yet, and I am told that you are the
Mr. Tredgold bowed. "The next train is due at
six," he observed, with a glance at the timetable hanging on the wall;
"I expect he'll come by that. He was here Monday seeing the last
of the furniture in. Are you Miss Drewitt?"
"Yes," said the girl. "If you'll kindly give me the key, I can go in and wait for him."
Mr. Tredgold took it from a drawer. "If you
will allow me, I will go down with you," he said, slowly; "the lock is
rather awkward for anybody who doesn't understand it."
The girl murmured something about not troubling him.
"It's no trouble," said Mr. Tredgold, taking up his
hat. "It is our duty to do all we can for the comfort of our
tenants. That lock — "
He held the door open and followed her into the
street, pointing out various objects of interest as they went along.
"I'm afraid you'll find Binchester very quiet," he remarked.
"I like quiet," said his companion.
Mr. Tredgold glanced at her shrewdly, and, pausing
only at the horse-trough installed for Victoria's jubilee to point out
beauties which might easily escape any but a trained observation,
walked on in silence until they reached their destination.
Except in the matter of window blinds, Dialstone
Lane had not changed for generations, and Mr. Tredgold noted with
pleasure the interest of his companion as she gazed at the crumbling
roofs, the red brick doorsteps, and the tiny lattice windows of the
cottages. At the last house, a cottage larger than the rest, one
side of which bordered the old churchyard, Mr. Tredgold paused and,
inserting his key in the lock, turned it with thoughtless ease.
"The lock seems all right; I need not have bothered you," said Miss Drewitt, regarding him gravely.
"Ah, it seems easy," said Mr. Tredgold, shaking his head, "but it wants knack."
The girl closed the door smartly, and, turning the
key, opened it again without any difficulty. To satisfy herself —
on more points than one — she repeated the performance.
"You've got the knack," said Mr. Tredgold, meeting
her gaze with great calmness. "It's extraordinary what a lot of
character there is in locks; they let some people open them without any
trouble, while others may fumble at them till they're tired."
The girl pushed the door open and stood just inside the room.
"Thank you," she said, and gave him a little bow of dismissal.
A vein of obstinacy in Mr. Tredgold's disposition,
which its owner mistook for firmness, asserted itself. It was
plain that the girl had estimated his services at their true value and
was quite willing to apprise him of the fact. He tried the lock
again, and with more bitterness than the occasion seemed to warrant
said that somebody had been oiling it.
"I promised Captain Bowers to come in this afternoon
and see that a few odd things had been done," he added. "May I
come in now?"
The girl withdrew into the room, and, seating
herself in a large armchair by the fireplace, watched his inspection of
doorknobs and window fastenings with an air of grave amusement, which
he found somewhat trying.
"Captain Bowers had the walls panelled and these
lockers made to make the room look as much like a ship's cabin as
possible," he said, pausing in his labors. "He was quite pleased
to find the staircase opening out of the room — he calls it the
companion-ladder. And he calls the kitchen the pantry, which led
to a lot of confusion with the workmen. Did he tell you of the
crows nest in the garden?"
"No," said the girl.
"It's a fine piece of work," said Mr. Tredgold.
He opened the door leading into the kitchen and
stepped out into the garden. Miss Drewitt, after a moment's
hesitation, followed, and after one delighted glance at the trim old
garden gazed curiously at a mast with a barrel fixed near the top,
which stood at the end.
"There's a fine view from up there," said Mr.
Tredgold. "With the captain's telescope one can see the sea
distinctly. I spent nearly all last Friday afternoon up there,
keeping an eye on things. Do you like the garden? Do you
think these old creepers ought to be torn down from the house?"
"Certainly not," said Miss Drewitt, with emphasis.
"Just what I said," remarked Mr. Tredgold.
"Captain Bowers wanted to have them pulled down, but I dissuaded
him. I advised him to consult you first."
"I don't suppose he really intended to," said the girl.
"He did," said the other, grimly; "said they were
untidy. How do you like the way the house is furnished?"
The girl gazed at him for a few moments before replying. "I like it very much," she said, coldly.
"That's right," said Mr. Tredgold, with an air of
relief. "You see, I advised the captain what to buy. I went
with him to Tollminster and helped him choose. Your room gave me
the most anxiety, I think."
"My room?" said the girl, starting.
"It's a dream in the best shades of pink and green,"
said Mr. Tredgold, modestly. "Pink on the walls, and carpets and
hangings green; three or four bits of old furniture — the captain
objected, but I stood firm — and for pictures I had two or three little
things out of an art journal framed."
"Is furnishing part of your business?" inquired the girl, eyeing him in bewilderment.
"Business?" said the other. "Oh, no. I
did it for amusement. I chose and the captain paid. It was
a delightful experience. The sordid question of price was waived;
for once expense was nothing to me. I wish you'd just step up to
your room and see how you like it. It's the one over the kitchen."
Miss Drewitt hesitated, and then curiosity, combined
with a cheerful idea of probably being able to disapprove of the lauded
decorations, took her indoors and upstairs. In a few minutes she
came down again.
"I suppose it's all right," she said, ungraciously, "but I don't understand why you selected it."
"I had to," said Mr. Tredgold, confidentially.
"I happened to go to Tollminster the same day as the captain and went
into a shop with him. If you could only see the things he wanted
to buy, you would understand."
The girl was silent.
"The paper the captain selected for your room,"
continued Mr. Tredgold, severely, "was decorated with branches of an
unknown flowering shrub, on the top twig of which a hummingbird sat
eating a dragonfly. A rough calculation showed me that every time
you opened your eyes in the morning you would see fifty-seven
hummingbirds, all made in the same pattern, eating fifty-seven ditto
dragonflies. The captain said it was cheerful."
"I have no doubt that my uncle's selection would have satisfied me," said Miss Drewitt, coldly.
"The curtains he fancied were red, with small yellow
tigers crouching all over them," pursued Mr. Tredgold. "The
captain seemed fond of animals."
"I think that you were rather ... venturesome," said
the girl. "Suppose that I had not liked the things you selected?"
Mr. Tredgold deliberated. "I felt sure that
you would like them," he said at last. "It was a hard struggle
not to keep some of the things for myself. I've had my eye on
those two Chippendale chairs for years. They belonged to an old
woman in Mint Street, but she always refused to part with them. I
shouldn't have got them, only one of them let her down the other day."
"Let her down?" repeated Miss Drewitt, sharply. "Do you mean one of the chairs in my bedroom?"
Mr. Tredgold nodded. "Gave her rather a nasty
fall," he said. "I struck while the iron was hot, and went and
made her an offer while she was still laid up from the effects of
it. It's the one standing against the wall; the other's all
right, with proper care."
Miss Drewitt, after a somewhat long interval, thanked him.
"You must have been very useful to my uncle," she
said, slowly. "I feel sure that he would never have bought chairs
like those of his own accord."
"He has been at sea all his life," said Mr.
Tredgold, in extenuation. "You haven't seen him for a long time,
"Ten years," was the reply.
"He is delightful company," said Mr. Tredgold.
"His life has been one long series of adventures in every quarter of
the globe. His stock of yarns is inexhaustible. And here he
comes," he added, as a dilapidated carriage drew up at the house and an
elderly man, with a red, weatherbeaten face, partly hidden in a cloud
of gray beard, stepped out and stood in the doorway, regarding the girl
with something almost akin to embarrassment.
"It's not — not Prudence?" he said at length, holding out his hand and staring at her.
"Yes, uncle," said the girl.
They shook hands, and Captain Bowers, reaching up
for a cage containing a parrot, which had been noisily entreating the
cabman for a kiss all the way from the station, handed that flustered
person his fare and entered the house again.
"Glad to see you, my lad," he said, shaking hands
with Mr. Tredgold and glancing covertly at his niece. "I hope you
haven't been waiting long," he added, turning to the latter.
"No," said Miss Drewitt, regarding him with a puzzled air.
"I missed the train," said the captain. "We
must try and manage better next time. I — I hope you'll be
"Thank you," said the girl.
"You — you are very like your poor mother," said the captain.
"I hope so," said Prudence.
She stole up to the captain and, after a moment's
hesitation, kissed his cheek. The next moment she was caught up
and crushed in the arms of a powerful and affectionate bear.
"Blest if I hardly knew how to take you at first,"
said the captain, his red face shining with gratification.
"Little girls are one thing, but when they grow up into" — he held her
away and looked at her proudly — "into handsome and dignified looking
young women, a man doesn't quite know where he is." He took her in his
arms again and, kissing her forehead, winked delightedly in the
direction of Mr. Tredgold, who was affecting to look out of the window.
"My man'll be in soon," he said, releasing the girl,
"and then we'll see about some tea. He met me at the station and
I sent him straight off for things to eat."
"Your man?" said Miss Drewitt.
"Yes; I thought a man would be easier to manage than
a girl," said the captain, knowingly. "You can be freer with 'em
in the matter of language, and then there's no followers or anything of
that kind. I got him to sign articles shipshape and proper.
Mr. Tredgold recommended him."
"No, no," said that gentleman, hastily.
"I asked you before he signed on with me," said the
captain, pointing a stumpy forefinger at him. "I made a point of
it, and you told me that you had never heard anything against him."
"I don't call that a recommendation," said Mr. Tredgold.
"It's good enough in these days," retorted the
captain, gloomily. "A man that has got a character like that is
hard to find."
"He might be artful and keep his faults to himself," suggested Tredgold.
"So long as he does that, it's all right," said
Captain Bowers. "I can't find fault if there's no faults to find
fault with. The best steward I ever had, I found out afterwards,
had escaped from jail. He never wanted to go ashore, and when the
ship was in port almost lived in his pantry."
"I never heard of Tasker having been in jail," said
Mr. Tredgold. "Anyhow, I'm certain that he never broke out of
one; he's far too stupid."
As he paid this tribute the young man referred to
entered laden with parcels, and, gazing awkwardly at the company,
passed through the room on tiptoe and began to busy himself in the
pantry. Mr. Tredgold, refusing the captain's invitation to stay
for a cup of tea, took his departure.
"Very nice youngster that," said the captain,
looking after him. "A little bit light-hearted in his ways,
perhaps, but none the worse for that."
He sat down and looked round at his
possessions. "The first real home I've had for nearly fifty
years," he said, with great content. "I hope you'll be as happy
here as I intend to be. It shan't be my fault if you're not."
Mr. Tredgold walked home deep in thought, and by the
time he had arrived there had come to the conclusion that if Miss
Drewitt favored her mother, that lady must have been singularly unlike
Captain Bowers in features.
In less than a week Captain Bowers had settled down comfortably in his
new command. A set of rules and regulations by which Mr. Joseph
Tasker was to order his life was framed and hung in the pantry.
He studied it with care, and, anxious that there should be no possible
chance of a misunderstanding, questioned the spelling in three
instances. The captain's explanation that he had spelled those
words in the American style was an untruthful reflection upon a great
and friendly nation.
Dialstone Lane was at first disposed to look askance
at Mr. Tasker. Old-fashioned matrons clustered round to watch him
cleaning the doorstep, and, surprised at its whiteness, withdrew
discomfited. Rumour had it that he liked work, and scandal said
that he had wept because he was not allowed to do the washing.
The captain attributed this satisfactory condition
of affairs to the rules and regulations, though a slight indiscretion
on the part of Mr. Tasker, necessitating the unframing of the document
to add to the latter, caused him a little annoyance.
The first intimation he had of it was a loud
knocking at the front door as he sat dozing one afternoon in his easy
chair. In response to his startled cry of "Come in!" the door
opened and a small man, in a state of considerable agitation, burst
into the room and confronted him.
"My name is Chalk," he said, breathlessly.
"A friend of Mr. Tredgold's?" said the captain. "I've heard of you, sir."
The visitor paid no heed. "My wife wishes to
know whether she has got to dress in the dark every afternoon for the
rest of her life," he said, in fierce but trembling tones.
"Got to dress in the dark?" repeated the astonished captain.
"With the blind down," explained the other.
Captain Bowers looked him up and down. He saw
a man of about fifty nervously fingering the little bits of fluffy red
whisker which grew at the sides of his face, and trying to still the
agitation of his tremulous mouth.
"How would you like it yourself?" demanded the
visitor, whose manner was gradually becoming milder and milder.
"How would you like a telescope a yard long pointing — "
He broke off abruptly as the captain, with a
smothered oath, dashed out of his chair into the garden and stood
shaking his fist at the crows nest at the bottom.
"Joseph!" he bawled.
"Yes, sir," said Mr. Tasker, removing the telescope from his eye, and leaning over.
"What are you doing with that spyglass?" demanded
his master, beckoning to the visitor, who had drawn near. "How
dare you stare in at people's windows?"
"I wasn't, sir," replied Mr. Tasker, in an injured
voice. "I wouldn't think o' such a thing — I couldn't, not if I
"You'd got it pointed straight at my bedroom
window," cried Mr. Chalk, as he accompanied the captain down the
garden. "And it ain't the first time."
"I wasn't, sir," said the steward, addressing his master. "I was watching the martins under the eaves."
"You'd got it pointed at my window," persisted the visitor.
"That's where the nests are," said Mr. Tasker, "but
I wasn't looking in at the window. Besides, I noticed you always
pulled the blind down when you saw me looking, so I thought it didn't
"We can't do anything without being followed about
by that telescope," said Mr. Chalk, turning to the captain. "My
wife had our house built where it is on purpose, so that we shouldn't
be overlooked. We didn't bargain for a thing like that sprouting
up in a back garden."
"I'm very sorry," said the captain. "I wish
you'd told me of it before. If I catch you up there again," he
cried, shaking his fist at Mr. Tasker, "you'll remember it. Come
Mr. Tasker, placing the glass under his arm, came slowly and reluctantly down the ratlines.
"I wasn't looking in at the window, Mr. Chalk," he
said, earnestly. "I was watching the birds. O' course, I
couldn't help seeing in a bit, but I always shifted the spyglass at
once if there was anything that I thought I oughtn't — "
"That'll do," broke in the captain, hastily.
"Go in and get the tea ready. If I so much as see you looking at
that glass again we part, my lad, mind that."
"I don't suppose he meant any harm," said the
mollified Mr. Chalk, after the crestfallen Joseph had gone into the
house. "I hope I haven't been and said too much, but my wife
insisted on me coming round and speaking about it."
"You did quite right," said the captain, "and I
thank you for coming. I told him he might go up there
occasionally, but I particularly warned him against giving any
annoyance to the neighbors."
"I suppose," said Mr. Chalk, gazing at the structure
with interest — "I suppose there's a good view from up there?
It's like having a ship in the garden, and it seems to remind you of
the North Pole, and whales, and Northern Lights."
Five minutes later Mr. Tasker, peering through the
pantry window, was surprised to see Mr. Chalk ascending with infinite
caution to the crows nest. His high hat was jammed firmly over
his brows and the telescope was gripped tightly under his right
arm. The journey was evidently regarded as one of extreme peril
by the climber; but he held on gallantly and, arrived at the top,
turned a tremulous telescope on the horizon.
Mr. Tasker took a deep breath and resumed his
labors. He set the table, and when the water boiled made the tea,
and went down the garden to announce the fact. Mr. Chalk was
still aloft, and even at that height the pallor of his face was clearly
discernible. It was evident to the couple below that the terrors
of the descent were too much for him, but that he was too proud to say
"Nice view up there," called the captain.
"B - b - beautiful," cried Mr. Chalk, with an attempt at enthusiasm.
The captain paced up and down impatiently; his tea
was getting cold, but the forlorn figure aloft made no sign. The
captain waited a little longer, and then, laying hold of the shrouds,
slowly mounted until his head was above the platform.
"Shall I take the glass for you?" he inquired.
Mr. Chalk, clutching the edge of the cask, leaned over and handed it down.
"My — my foot's gone to sleep," he stammered.
"Ho! Well, you must be careful how you
get down," said the captain, climbing on to the platform. "Now,
He put the telescope back into the cask, and,
beckoning Mr. Tasker to ascend, took Mr. Chalk in a firm grasp and
lowered him until he was able to reach Mr. Tasker's face with his
foot. After that the descent was easy, and Mr. Chalk, reaching
ground once more, spent two or three minutes in slapping and rubing,
and other remedies prescribed for sleepy feet.
"There's few gentlemen that would have come down at
all with their foot asleep," remarked Mr. Tasker, pocketing a shilling,
when the captain's back was turned.
Mr. Chalk, still pale and shaking somewhat, smiled
feebly and followed the captain into the house. The latter
offered a cup of tea, which the visitor, after a faint protest,
accepted, and taking a seat at the table gazed in undisguised
admiration at the nautical appearance of the room.
"I could fancy myself aboard ship," he declared.
"Are you fond of the sea?" inquired the captain.
"I love it," said Mr. Chalk fervently. "It was
always my idea from a boy to go to sea, but somehow I didn't. I
went into my father's business instead, but I never liked it.
Some people are fond of a stay-at-home life, but I always had a
hankering after adventures."
The captain shook his head. "Ha!" he said, impressively.
"You've had a few in your time," said Mr. Chalk,
looking at him, grudgingly; "Edward Tredgold was telling me so."
"Man and boy, I was at sea forty-nine years,"
remarked the captain. "Naturally things happened in that time; it
would have been odd if they hadn't. It's all in a lifetime."
"Some lifetimes," said Mr. Chalk, gloomily.
"I'm fifty-one next year, and the only thing I ever had happen to me
was seeing a man stop a runaway horse and cart."
He shook his head solemnly over his monotonous
career, and, gazing at a war club from Samoa which hung over the
fireplace, put a few leading questions to the captain concerning the
manner in which it came into his possession. When Prudence came
in half an hour later he was still sitting there, listening with rapt
attention to his host's tales of distant seas.
It was the first of many visits. Sometimes he
brought Mr. Tredgold and sometimes Mr. Tredgold brought him. The
terrors of the crows nest vanished before his persevering attacks, and
perched there with the captain's glass he swept the landscape with the
air of an explorer surveying a strange and hostile country.
It was a fitting prelude to the captain's tales
afterwards, and Mr. Chalk, with the stem of his long pipe withdrawn
from his open mouth, would sit enthralled as his host narrated
picturesque incidents of hairbreadth escapes, or, drawing his chair to
the table, made rough maps for his listener's clearer
understanding. Sometimes the captain took him to palm-studded
islands in the Southern Seas, sometimes to the ancient worlds of China
and Japan. He became an expert in nautical terms. He walked
in knots, and even ordered a new carpet in fathoms — after the
shopkeeper had demonstrated, by means of his little boy's arithmetic
book, the difference between a fathom and a furlong.
"I'll have a voyage before I'm much older," he
remarked one afternoon, as he sat in the captain's sitting room.
"Since I retired from business time hangs very heavy sometimes.
I've got a fancy for a small yacht, but I suppose I couldn't go a long
voyage in a small one?"
"Smaller the better," said Edward Tredgold, who was sitting by the window watching Miss Drewitt sewing.
Mr. Chalk took his pipe from his mouth and eyed him inquiringly.
"Less to lose," explained Mr. Tredgold, with a
scarcely perceptible glance at the captain. "Look at the dangers
you'd be dragging your craft into, Chalk; there would be no satisfying
you with a quiet cruise in the Mediterranean."
"I shouldn't run into unnecessary danger," said Mr.
Chalk, seriously. "I'm a married man, and there's my wife to
think of. What would become of her if anything happened to me?"
"Why, you've got plenty of money to leave, haven't you?" inquired Mr. Tredgold.
"I was thinking of her losing me," replied Mr. Chalk, with a touch of acerbity.
"Oh, I didn't think of that," said the other. "Yes, to be sure."
"Captain Bowers was telling me the other day of a
woman who wore widow's weeds for thirty-five years," said Mr. Chalk,
impressively. "And all the time her husband was married again and
got a big family in Australia. There's nothing in the world so
faithful as a woman's heart."
"Well, if you're lost on a cruise, I shall know
where to look for you," said Mr. Tredgold. "But I don't think the
captain ought to put such ideas into your head."
Mr. Chalk looked bewildered. Then he scratched
his left whisker with the stem of his churchwarden pipe and looked
severely over at Mr. Tredgold. "I don't think you ought to talk
that way before ladies," he said, primly. "Of course, I know
you're only joking, but there's some people can't see jokes as quick as
others and they might get a wrong idea of you."
"What part did you think of going to for your cruise?" interposed Captain Bowers.
"There's nothing settled yet," said Mr. Chalk; "it's
just an idea, that's all. I was talking to your father the other
day," he added, turning to Mr. Tredgold; "just sounding him, so to
"You take him," said that dutiful son, briskly. "It would do him a world of good; me, too."
"He said he couldn't afford either the time or the
money," said Mr. Chalk. "The thing to do would be to combine
business with pleasure — to take a yacht and find a sunken galleon
loaded with gold pieces. I've heard of such things being done."
"I've heard of it," said the captain, nodding.
"Bottom of the ocean must be paved with them in
places," said Mr. Tredgold, rising, and following Miss Drewitt, who had
gone into the garden to plant seeds.
Mr. Chalk refilled his pipe and, accepting a match
from the captain, smoked slowly. His gaze was fixed on the
window, but instead of Dialstone Lane he saw tumbling blue seas and
islets far away.
"That's something you've never come across, I suppose, Captain Bowers?" he remarked at last.
"No," said the other.
Mr. Chalk, with a vain attempt to conceal his
disappointment, smoked on for some time in silence. The blue seas
disappeared, and he saw instead the brass knocker of the house opposite.
"Nor any other kind of craft with treasure aboard, I suppose?" he suggested, at last.
The captain put his hands on his knees and stared at
the floor. "No," he said, slowly, "I can't call to mind any
craft; but it's odd that you should have got on this subject with me."
Mr. Chalk laid his pipe carefully on the table.
"Why?" he inquired.
"Well," said the captain, with a short laugh, "it is odd, that's all."
Mr. Chalk fidgeted with the stem of his pipe.
"You know of sunken treasure somewhere?" he said, eagerly.
The captain smiled and shook his head; the other watched him narrowly.
"You know of some treasure?" he said, with conviction.
"Not what you could call sunken," said the captain, driven to bay.
Mr. Chalk's pale blue eyes opened to their fullest extent. "Ingots?" he queried.
The other shook his head. "It's a secret," he remarked; "we won't talk about it."
"Yes, of course, naturally, I don't expect you to
tell me where it is," said Mr. Chalk, "but I thought it might be
interesting to hear about, that's all."
"It's buried," said the captain, after a long
pause. "I don't know that there's any harm in telling you that;
buried in a small island in the South Pacific."
"Have you seen it?" inquired Mr. Chalk.
"I buried it," rejoined the other.
Mr. Chalk sank back in his chair and regarded him
with awestruck attention; Captain Bowers, slowly ramming home a charge
of tobacco with his thumb, smiled quietly.
"Buried it," he repeated, musingly, "with the blade
of an oar for a spade. It was a long job, but it's six foot down
and the dead man it belonged to atop of it."
The pipe fell from the listener's fingers and smashed unheeded on the floor.
"You ought to make a book of it," he said at last.
The captain shook his head. "I haven't got the
gift of storytelling," he said, simply. "Besides, you can
understand I don't want it noised about. People might bother me."
He leaned back in his chair and bunched his beard in
his hand; the other, watching him closely, saw that his thoughts were
busy with some scene in his stirring past.
"Not a friend of yours, I hope?" said Mr. Chalk, at last.
"Who?" inquired the captain, starting from his reverie.
"The dead man atop of the treasure," replied the other.
"No," said the captain, briefly.
"Is it worth much?" asked Mr. Chalk.
"Roughly speaking, about half a million," responded the captain, calmly.
Mr. Chalk rose and walked up and down the
room. His eyes were bright and his face pinker than usual.
"Why don't you get it?" he demanded, at last, pausing in front of his
"Why, it ain't mine," said the captain, staring. "D'ye think I'm a thief?"
Mr. Chalk stared in his turn. "But who does it belong to, then?" he inquired.
"I don't know," replied the captain. "All I
know is, it isn't mine, and that's enough for me. Whether it was
rightly come by I don't know. There it is, and there it'll stay
till the crack of doom."
"Don't you know any of his relations or friends?" persisted the other.
"I know nothing of him except his name," said the
captain, "and I doubt if even that was his right one. Don Silvio
he called himself — a Spaniard. It's over ten years ago since it
happened. My ship had been bought by a firm in Sydney, and while
I was waiting out there I went for a little run on a schooner among the
islands. This Don Silvio was aboard her as a passenger. She
went to pieces in a gale, and we were the only two saved. The
others were washed overboard, but we got ashore in the boat, and I
thought from the trouble he was taking over his bag that the danger had
turned his brain."
"Ah!" said the keenly interested Mr. Chalk.
"He was a sick man aboard ship," continued the
captain, "and I soon saw that he hadn't saved his life for long.
He saw it, too, and before he died he made me promise that the bag
should be buried with him and never disturbed. After I'd
promised, he opened the bag and showed me what was in it. It was
full of precious stones — diamonds, rubies, and the like; some of them
as large as birds' eggs. I can see him now, propped up against
the boat and playing with them in the sunlight. They blazed like
stars. Half a million he put them at, or more."
"What good could they be to him when he was dead?" inquired the listener.
Captain Bowers shook his head. "That was his
business, not mine," he replied. "It was nothing to do with
me. When he died I dug a grave for him, as I told you, with a bit
of a broken oar, and laid him and the bag together. A month
afterwards I was taken off by a passing schooner and landed safe at
Mr. Chalk stopped, and mechanically picking up the pieces of his pipe placed them on the table.
"Suppose that you had heard afterwards that the things had been stolen?" he remarked.
"If I had, then I should have given information, I think," said the other. "It all depends."
"Ah! But how could you have found them again?"
inquired Mr. Chalk, with the air of one propounding a poser.
"With my map," said the captain, slowly.
"Before I left I made a map of the island and got its position from the
schooner that picked me up; but I never heard a word from that day to
"Could you find them now?" said Mr. Chalk.
"Why not?" said the captain, with a short laugh. "The island hasn't run away."
He rose as he spoke and, tossing the fragments of
his visitor's pipe into the fireplace, invited him to take a turn in
the garden. Mr. Chalk, after a feeble attempt to discuss the
matter further, reluctantly obeyed.
Mr. Chalk, with his mind full of the story he had just heard, walked
homewards like a man in a dream. The air was fragrant with spring
and the scent of lilac revived memories almost forgotten. It took
him back forty years, and showed him a small boy treading the same
road, passing the same houses. Nothing had changed so much as the
small boy himself; nothing had been so unlike the life he had pictured
as the life he had led. Even the blamelessness of the latter
yielded no comfort; it savored of a lack of spirit.
His mind was still busy with the past when he
reached home. Mrs. Chalk, a woman of imposing appearance, who was
sitting by the window at needlework, looked up sharply at his
entrance. Before she spoke he had a dim idea that she was excited
"I've got her," she said, triumphantly.
"Oh!" said Mr. Chalk.
"She didn't want to come at first," said Mrs. Chalk;
"she'd half promised to go to Mrs. Morris. Mrs. Morris had heard
of her through Harris, the grocer, and he only knew she was out of a
job by accident. He — "
Her words fell on deaf ears. Mr. Chalk, gazing
through the window, heard without comprehending a long account of the
capture of a new housemaid, which, slightly altered as to name and
place, would have passed muster as an exciting contest between a
skilful angler and a particularly sulky salmon. Mrs. Chalk,
noticing his inattention at last, pulled up sharply.
"You're not listening!" she cried.
"Yes, I am; go on, my dear," said Mr. Chalk.
"What did I say she left her last place for, then?" demanded the lady.
Mr. Chalk started. He had been conscious of
his wife's voice, and that was all. "You said you were not
surprised at her leaving," he replied, slowly; "the only wonder to you
was that a decent girl should have stayed there so long."
Mrs. Chalk started and bit her lip. "Yes," she said, slowly. "Ye-es. Go on; anything else?"
"You said the house wanted cleaning from top to bottom," said the painstaking Mr. Chalk.
"Go on," said his wife, in a smothered voice. "What else did I say?"
"Said you pitied the husband," continued Mr. Chalk, thoughtfully.
Mrs. Chalk rose suddenly and stood over him. Mr. Chalk tried desperately to collect his faculties.
"How dare you?" she gasped. "I've never said
such things in my life. Never. And I said that she left
because Mr. Wilson, her master, was dead and the family had gone to
London. I've never been near the house; so how could I say such
Mr. Chalk remained silent.
"What made you think of such things?" persisted Mrs. Chalk.
Mr. Chalk shook his head; no satisfactory reply was
possible. "My thoughts were far away," he said, at last.
His wife bridled and said, "Oh, indeed!" Mr. Chalk's
mother, dead some ten years before, had taken a strange pride —
possibly as a protest against her only son's appearance — in hinting
darkly at a stormy and checkered past. Pressed for details she
became more mysterious still, and, saying that "she knew what she
knew," declined to be deprived of the knowledge under any
consideration. She also informed her daughter in law that "what
the eye don't see the heart don't grieve," and to "let bygones be
bygones," usually winding up with the advice to the younger woman to
keep her eye on Mr. Chalk without letting him see it.
"Peckham Rye is a long way off, certainly," added
the indignant Mrs. Chalk, after a pause. "It's a pity you haven't
got something better to think of, at your time of life, too."
Mr. Chalk flushed. Peckham Rye was one of the nuisances bequeathed by his mother.
"I was thinking of the sea," he said, loftily.
Mrs. Chalk pounced. "Oh, Yarmouth," she said, with withering scorn.
Mr. Chalk flushed deeper than before. "I wasn't thinking of such things," he declared.
"What things?" said his wife, swiftly.
"The — the things you're alluding to," said the harassed Mr. Chalk.
"Ah!" said his wife, with a toss of her head.
"Why you should get red in the face and confused when I say Peckham Rye
and Yarmouth are a long way off is best known to yourself. It's
very funny that the moment either of these places is mentioned you get
uncomfortable. People might read a geography book out loud in my
presence and it wouldn't affect me."
She swept out of the room, and Mr. Chalk's thoughts,
excited by the magic word geography, went back to the island
again. The half-forgotten dreams of his youth appeared to be
materializing. Sleepy Binchester ended for him at Dialstone Lane,
and once inside the captain's room the enchanted world beyond the seas
was spread before his eager gaze. The captain, amused at first at
his enthusiasm, began to get weary of the subject of the island, and so
far the visitor had begged in vain for a glimpse of the map.
His enthusiasm became contagious. Prudence,
entering one evening in the middle of a conversation, heard sufficient
to induce her to ask for more, and the captain, not without some
reluctance and several promptings from Mr. Chalk when he showed signs
of omitting vital points, related the story. Edward Tredgold
heard it, and, judging by the frequency of his visits, was almost as
interested as Mr. Chalk.
"I can't see that there could be any harm in just
looking at the map," said Mr. Chalk, one evening. "You could keep
your thumb on any part you wanted to."
"Then we should know where to dig," urged Mr.
Tredgold. "Properly managed there ought to be a fortune in your
Mr. Chalk eyed him fixedly. "Seeing that the
latitude and longitude and all the directions are written on the back,"
he observed, with cold dignity, "I don't see the force of your remarks."
"Well, in that case, why not show it to Mr. Chalk, uncle?" said Prudence, charitably.
Captain Bowers began to show signs of annoyance. "Well, my dear," he began, slowly.
"Then Miss Drewitt could see it too," said Mr. Tredgold, blandly.
Miss Drewitt reddened with indignation. "I could see it any time I wished," she said, sharply.
"Well, wish now," entreated Mr. Tredgold. "As
a matter of fact, I'm dying with curiosity myself. Bring it out
and make it crackle, captain; it's a banknote for half a million."
The captain shook his head and a slight frown marred
his usually amiable features. He got up and, turning his back on
them, filled his pipe from a jar on the mantelpiece.
"You never will see it, Chalk," said Edward
Tredgold, in tones of much conviction. "I'll bet you two to one
in golden sovereigns that you'll sink into your honored family vault
with your justifiable curiosity still unsatisfied. And I
shouldn't wonder if your perturbed spirit walks the captain's bedroom
Miss Drewitt looked up and eyed the speaker with
scornful comprehension. "Take the bet, Mr. Chalk," she said,
Mr. Chalk turned in hopeful amaze; then he leaned
over and shook hands solemnly with Mr. Tredgold. "I'll take the
bet," he said.
"Uncle will show it to you to please me," announced Prudence, in a clear voice. "Won't you, uncle?"
The captain turned and took the matches from the
table. "Certainly, my dear, if I can find it," he said, in a
hesitating fashion. "But I'm afraid I've mislaid it. I
haven't seen it since I unpacked."
"Mislaid it!" exclaimed the startled Mr.
Chalk. "Good heavens! Suppose somebody should find
it? What about your word to Don Silvio then?"
"I've got it somewhere," said the captain brusquely;
"I'll have a hunt for it. All the same, I don't know that it's
quite fair to interfere in a bet."
Miss Drewitt waved the objection away, remarking that people who made bets must risk losing their money.
"I'll begin to save up," said Mr. Tredgold, with a
lightness which was not lost upon Miss Drewitt. "The captain has
got to find it before you can see it, Chalk."
Mr. Chalk, with a satisfied smile, said that when the captain promised a thing it was as good as done.
For the next few days he waited patiently, and,
ransacking an old storeroom, divided his time pretty equally between a
volume of "Captain Cook's Voyages" that he found there and "Famous
Shipwrecks." By this means and the exercise of great self control
he ceased from troubling Dialstone Lane for a week. Even then it
was Edward Tredgold who took him there. The latter was in high
spirits, and in explanation informed the company, with a cheerful
smile, that he had saved five and ninepence, and was forming habits
which bade fair to make him a rich man in time.
"Don't be in too much of a hurry to find that map, captain," he said.
"It's found," said Miss Drewitt, with a little note of triumph in her voice.
"Found it this morning," said Captain Bowers.
He crossed over to an oak bureau which stood in the corner by the
fireplace, and taking a paper from a pigeonhole slowly unfolded it and
spread it on the table before the delighted Mr. Chalk. Miss
Drewitt and Edward Tredgold advanced to the table and eyed it curiously.
The map, which was drawn in pencil, was on a piece
of ruled paper, yellow with age and cracked in the folds. The
island was in shape a rough oval, the coastline being broken by small
bays and headlands. Mr. Chalk eyed it with all the fervor usually
bestowed on a holy relic, and, breathlessly reading off such terms as
"Cape Silvio," "Bowers Bay," and "Mount Lonesome," gazed with
breathless interest at the discoverer.
"And is that the grave?" he inquired, in a trembling voice, pointing to a mark in the northeast corner.
The captain removed it with his fingernail.
"No," he said, briefly. "For full details see the other side."
For one moment Mr. Chalk hoped; then his face fell
as Captain Bowers, displaying for a fraction of a second the writing on
the other side, took up the map and, replacing it in the bureau, turned
the key in the lock and with a low laugh resumed his seat. Miss
Drewitt, glancing over at Edward Tredgold, saw that he looked very
"You've lost your bet," she said, pointedly.
"I know," was the reply.
His gaiety had vanished and he looked so dejected
that Miss Drewitt was reminded of the ruined gambler in a celebrated
picture. She tried to quiet her conscience by hoping that it
would be a lesson to him. As she watched, Mr. Tredgold dived into
his left trouser pocket and counted out some coins, mostly brown.
To these he added a few small pieces of silver gleaned from his
waistcoat, and then after a few seconds' moody thought found a few more
in the other trouser pocket.
"Eleven and tenpence," he said, mechanically.
"Any time," said Mr. Chalk, regarding him with awkward surprise. "Any time."
"Give him an IOU," said Captain Bowers, fidgeting.
"Yes, any time," repeated Mr. Chalk; "I'm in no hurry."
"No; I'd sooner pay now and get it over," said the
other, still fumbling in his pockets. "As Miss Drewitt says,
people who make bets must be prepared to lose; I thought I had more
There was an embarrassing silence, during which Miss
Drewitt, who had turned very red, felt strangely uncomfortable.
She felt more uncomfortable still when Mr. Tredgold, discovering a
banknote and a little collection of gold coins in another pocket,
artlessly expressed his joy at the discovery. The simple-minded
captain and Mr. Chalk both experienced a sense of relief; Miss Drewitt
sat and simmered in helpless indignation.
"You're careless in money matters, my lad," said the captain, reprovingly.
"I couldn't understand him making all that fuss over
a couple o' pounds," said Mr. Chalk, looking round. "He's very
free, as a rule; too free."
Mr. Tredgold, sitting grave and silent, made no
reply to these charges, and the girl was the only one to notice a faint
twitching at the corners of his mouth. She saw it distinctly,
despite the fact that her clear, gray eyes were fixed dreamily on a
spot some distance above his head.
She sat in her room upstairs after the visitors had
gone, thinking it over. The light was fading fast, and as she sat
at the open window the remembrance of Mr. Tredgold's conduct helped to
mar one of the most perfect evenings she had ever known.
Downstairs the captain was also thinking.
Dialstone Lane was in shadow, and already one or two lamps were lit
behind drawn blinds. A little chatter of voices at the end of the
lane floated in at the open window, mellowed by distance. His
pipe was out, and he rose to search in the gloom for a match, when
another murmur of voices reached his ears from the kitchen. He
stood still and listened intently. To put matters beyond all
doubt, the shrill laugh of a girl was plainly audible. The
captain's face hardened, and, crossing to the fireplace, he rang the
"Yessir," said Joseph, as he appeared and closed the door carefully behind him.
"What are you talking to yourself in that absurd manner for?" inquired the captain with great dignity.
"Me, sir?" said Mr. Tasker, feebly.
"Yes, you," repeated the captain, noticing with surprise that the door was slowly opening.
Mr. Tasker gazed at him in a troubled fashion, but made no reply.
"I won't have it," said the captain, sternly, with a
side glance at the door. "If you want to talk to yourself go
outside and do it. I never heard such a laugh. What did you
do it for? It was like an old woman with a bad cold."
He smiled grimly in the darkness, and then started
slightly as a cough, a hostile, challenging cough, sounded from the
kitchen. Before he could speak the cough ceased and a thin voice
broke carelessly into song.
"WHAT!" roared the captain, in well-feigned
astonishment. "Do you mean to tell me you've got somebody in my
pantry? Go and get me those rules and regulations."
Mr. Tasker backed out, and the captain smiled again
as he heard a whispered discussion. Then a voice clear and
distinct took command. "I'll take 'em in myself, I tell you," it
said. "I'll rules and regulations him."
The smile faded from the captain's face, and he
gazed in perplexity at the door as a strange young woman bounced into
"Here's your rules and regulations," said the
intruder, in a somewhat shrewish voice. "You'd better light the
lamp if you want to see 'em; though the spelling ain't so noticeable in
The impressiveness of the captain's gaze was wasted
in the darkness. For a moment he hesitated, and then, with the
dignity of a man whose spelling has nothing to conceal, struck a match
and lit the lamp. The lamp lighted, he lowered the blind, and
then seating himself by the window turned with a majestic air to a thin
slip of a girl with pale yellow hair, who stood by the door.
"Who are you?" he demanded, gruffly.
"My name's Vickers," said the young lady.
"Selina Vickers. I heard all what you've been saying to my
Joseph, but, thank goodness, I can take my own part. I don't want
nobody to fight my battles for me. If you've got anything to say
about my voice you can say it to my face."
Captain Bowers sat back and regarded her with
impressive dignity. Miss Vickers met his gaze calmly and, with a
pair of unwinking green eyes, stared him down.
"What were you doing in my pantry?" demanded the captain, at last.
"I was in your kitchen," replied Miss Vickers, with
scornful emphasis on the last word, "to see my young man."
"Well, I can't have you there," said the captain,
with a mildness that surprised himself. "One of my rules — "
Miss Vickers interposed. "I've read 'em all over and over again," she said, impatiently.
"If it occurs again," said the other, "I shall have to speak to Joseph very seriously about it."
"Talk to me," said Miss Vickers, sharply; "that's
what I come in for. I can talk to you better than what Joseph
can, I know. What harm do you think I was doing your old
kitchen? Don't you try and interfere between me and my Joseph,
because I won't have it. You're not married yourself, and you
don't want other people to be. How do you suppose the world would
get on if everybody was like you?"
Captain Bowers regarded her in open-eyed
perplexity. The door leading to the garden had just closed behind
the valiant Joseph, and he stared with growing uneasiness at the slight
figure of Miss Vickers as it stood poised for further oratorical
efforts. Before he could speak she gave her lips a rapid lick and
"You're one of those people that don't like to see
others happy, that's what you are," she said, rapidly. "I wasn't
hurting your kitchen, and as to talking and laughing there — what do
you think my tongue was given to me for? Show? P'r'aps if
you'd been doing a day's hard work you'd — "
"Look here, my girl — " began the captain, desperately.
"Don't you my girl me, please," interrupted Miss
Vickers. "I'm not your girl, thank goodness. If I was you'd
be a bit different, I can tell you. If you had any girls you'd
know better than to try and come between them and their young
men. Besides, they wouldn't let you. When a girl's got a
young man — "
The captain rose and went through the form of ringing the bell. Miss Vickers watched him calmly.
"I thought I'd just have it out with you for once
and for all," she continued. "I told Joseph that I'd no doubt
your bark was worse than your bite. And what he can see to be
afraid of in you I can't think. Nervous disposition, I
s'pose. Good evening."
She gave her head a little toss and, returning to
the pantry, closed the door after her. Captain Bowers, still
somewhat dazed, returned to his chair and, gazing at the "Rules," which
still lay on the table, grinned feebly in his beard.
To keep such a romance to himself was beyond the powers of Mr.
Chalk. The captain had made no conditions as to secrecy, and he
therefore considered himself free to indulge in hints to his two
greatest friends, which caused those gentlemen to entertain some doubts
as to his sanity. Mr. Robert Stobell, whose work as a contractor
had left a permanent and unmistakable mark upon Binchester, became
imbued with a hazy idea that Mr. Chalk had invented a new process of
making large diamonds. Mr. Jasper Tredgold, on the other hand,
arrived at the conclusion that a highly respectable burglar was
offering for some reason to share his loot with him. A
conversation between Messrs. Stobell and Tredgold in the High Street
only made matters more complicated.
"Chalk always was fond of making mysteries of things," complained Mr. Tredgold.
Mr. Stobell, whose habit was taciturn and
ruminative, fixed his dull brown eyes on the ground and thought it
over. "I believe it's all my eye and Betty Martin," he said, at
length, quoting a saying which had been used in his family as an
expression of disbelief since the time of his great-grandmother.
"He comes in to see me when I'm hard at work and
drops hints," pursued his friend. "When I stop to pick 'em up,
out he goes. Yesterday he came in and asked me what I thought of
a man who wouldn't break his word for half a million. Half a
million, mind you! I just asked him who it was, and out he went
again. He pops in and out of my office like a figure on a cuckoo
Mr. Stobell relapsed into thought again, but no
gleam of expression disturbed the lines of his heavy face; Mr.
Tredgold, whose sharp, alert features bred more confidence in his own
clients than those of other people, waited impatiently.
"He knows something that we don't," said Mr. Stobell, at last; "that's what it is."
Mr. Tredgold, who was too used to his friend's mental processes to quarrel with them, assented.
"He's coming round to smoke a pipe with me tomorrow
night," he said, briskly, as he turned to cross the road to his
office. "You come too, and we'll get it out of him. If
Chalk can keep a secret he has altered, that's all I can say."
His estimate of Mr. Chalk proved correct. With
Mr. Tredgold acting as cross examining counsel and Mr. Stobell enacting
the part of a partial and overbearing judge, Mr. Chalk, after a display
of fortitude which surprised himself almost as much as it irritated his
friends, parted with his news and sat smiling with gratification at
their growing excitement.
"Half a million, and he won't go for it?" ejaculated Mr. Tredgold. "The man must be mad."
"No; he passed his word and he won't break it," said
Mr. Chalk. "The captain's word is his bond, and I honor him for
it. I can quite understand it."
Mr. Tredgold shrugged his shoulders and glanced at
Mr. Stobell; that gentleman, after due deliberation, gave an assenting
"He can't get at it, that's the long and short of
it," said Mr. Tredgold, after a pause. "He had to leave it behind
when he was rescued, or else risk losing it by telling the men who
rescued him about it, and he's had no opportunity since. It wants
money to take a ship out there and get it, and he doesn't see his way
quite clear. He'll have it fast enough when he gets a
chance. If not, why did he make that map?"
Mr. Chalk shook his head, and remarked mysteriously
that the captain had his reasons. Mr. Tredgold relapsed into
silence, and for some time the only sound audible came from a briar
pipe which Mr. Stobell ought to have thrown away some years before.
"Have you given up that idea of a yachting cruise of
yours, Chalk?" demanded Mr. Tredgold, turning on him suddenly.
"No," was the reply. "I was talking about it
to Captain Bowers only the other day. That's how I got to hear of
Mr. Tredgold started and gave a significant glance
at Mr. Stobell. In return he got a wink which that gentleman kept
for moments of mental confusion.
"What did the captain tell you for?" pursued Mr.
Tredgold, returning to Mr. Chalk. "He wanted you to make an
offer. He hasn't got the money for such an expedition; you
have. The yarn about passing his word was so that you shouldn't
open your mouth too wide. You were to do the persuading, and then
he could make his own terms. Do you see? Why, it's as plain
"Plain as the alphabet," said Mr. Stobell, almost chidingly.
Mr. Chalk gasped and looked from one to the other.
"I should like to have a chat with the captain about
it," continued Mr. Tredgold, slowly and impressively. "I'm a
business man and I could put it on a business footing. It's a big
risk, of course; all those things are ... but if we went shares ... if
we found the money ... "
He broke off and, filling his pipe slowly, gazed in
deep thought at the wall. His friends waited expectantly.
"Combine business with pleasure," resumed Mr.
Tredgold, lighting his pipe; "sea air ... change ... blow away the
cobwebs ... experience for Edward to be left alone. What do you
think, Stobell?" he added, turning suddenly.
Mr. Stobell gripped the arms of his chair in his
huge hands and drew his bulky figure to a more upright position.
"What do you mean by combining business with pleasure?" he said, eyeing him with dull suspicion.
"Chalk is set on a trip for the love of it," explained Mr. Tredgold.
"If we take on the contract, he ought to pay a bigger share, then," said the other, firmly.
"Perhaps he will," said Tredgold, hastily.
Mr. Stobell pondered again and, slightly raising one
hand, indicated that he was in the throes of another idea and did not
wish to be disturbed.
"You said it would be experience for Edward to be left alone," he said, accusingly.
"I did," was the reply.
"You ought to pay more, too, then," declared the contractor, "because it's serving of your ends as well."
"We can't split straws," exclaimed Tredgold,
impatiently. "If the captain consents we three will find the
money and divide our portion, whatever it is, equally."
Mr. Chalk, who had been in the clouds during this
discussion, came back to earth again. "If he consents," he said,
sadly; "but he won't."
"Well, he can only refuse," said Mr. Tredgold; "and,
anyway, we'll have the first refusal. Things like that soon get
about. What do you say to a stroll? I can think better
while I'm walking."
His friends assenting, they put on their hats and
sallied forth. That they should stroll in the direction of
Dialstone Lane surprised neither of them. Mr. Tredgold leading,
they went round by the church, and that gentleman paused so long to
admire the architecture that Mr. Stobell got restless.
"You've seen it before, Tredgold," he said, shortly.
"It's a fine old building," said the other.
"Binchester ought to be proud of it. Why, here we are at Captain
"The house has been next to the church for a couple o' hundred years," retorted his friend.
"Let's go in," said Mr. Tredgold. "Strike
while the iron is hot. At any rate," he concluded, as Mr. Chalk
voiced feeble objections, "we can see how the land lies."
He knocked at the door and then, stepping aside,
left Mr. Chalk to lead the way in. Captain Bowers, who was
sitting with Prudence, looked up at their entrance, and putting down
his newspaper extended a hearty welcome.
"Chalk didn't like to pass without looking in," said
Mr. Tredgold, "and I haven't seen you for some time. You know
The captain nodded, and Mr. Chalk, pale with
excitement, accepted his accustomed pipe from the hands of Miss Drewitt
and sat nervously awaiting events. Mr. Tasker set out the whisky,
and, Miss Drewitt avowing a fondness for smoke in other people, a
comfortable haze soon filled the room. Mr. Tredgold, with a
significant glance at Mr. Chalk, said that it reminded him of a fog at
It only reminded Mr. Chalk, however, of a smoky
chimney from which he had once suffered, and he at once entered into
minute details. The theme was an inspiriting one, and before Mr.
Tredgold could hark back to the sea again Mr. Stobell was discoursing,
almost eloquently for him, upon drains. From drains to the
shortcomings of the district council they progressed by natural and
easy stages, and it was not until Miss Drewitt had withdrawn to the
clearer atmosphere above that a sudden ominous silence ensued, which
Mr. Chalk saw clearly he was expected to break.
"I — I've been telling them some of your
adventures," he said, desperately, as he glanced at the captain;
"they're both interested in such things."
The latter gave a slight start and glanced shrewdly at his visitors. "Aye, aye," he said, composedly.
"Very interesting, some of them," murmured Mr.
Tredgold. "I suppose you'll have another voyage or two before
you've done? One, at any rate."
"No," said the captain, "I've had my share of the
sea; other men may have a turn now. There's nothing to take me
out again — nothing."
Mr. Tredgold coughed and murmured something about breaking off old habits too suddenly.
"It's a fine career," sighed Mr. Chalk.
"A manly life," said Mr. Tredgold, emphatically.
"It's like every other profession, it has two sides to it," said the captain.
"It is not so well paid as it should be," said the
wily Tredgold, "but I suppose one gets chances of making money in
outside ways sometimes."
The captain assented, and told of a steward of his
who had made a small fortune by selling Japanese curios to people who
didn't understand them.
The conversation was interesting, but extremely
distasteful to a business man intent upon business. Mr. Stobell
took his pipe out of his mouth and cleared his throat. "Why, you
might build a hospital with it," he burst out, impatiently.
"Build a hospital!" repeated the astonished captain, as Mr. Chalk bent suddenly to do up his shoelace.
"Think of the orphans you could be a father to!"
added Mr. Stobell, making the most of an unwonted fit of altruism.
The captain looked inquiringly at Mr. Tredgold.
"And widows," said Mr. Stobell, and, putting his
pipe in his mouth as a sign that he had finished his remarks, gazed
stolidly at the company.
"Stobell must be referring to a story Chalk told us
of some precious stones you buried, I think," said Mr. Tredgold,
reddening. "Aren't you, Stobell?"
"Of course I am," said his friend. "You know that."
Captain Bowers glanced at Mr. Chalk, but that
gentleman was still busy with his shoelace, only looking up when Mr.
Tredgold, taking the bull by the horns, made the captain a plain,
straightforward offer to fit out and give him the command of an
expedition to recover the treasure. In a speech which included
the benevolent Mr. Stobell's hospitals, widows, and orphans, he pointed
out a score of reasons why the captain should consent, and wound up
with a glowing picture of Miss Drewitt as the heiress of the wealthiest
man in Binchester. The captain heard him patiently to an end and
then shook his head.
"I passed my word," he said, stiffly.
Mr. Stobell took his pipe out of his mouth again to
offer a little encouragement. "Tredgold has broke his word before
now," he observed; "he's got quite a name for it."
"But you would go out if it were not for that?" inquired Tredgold, turning a deaf ear to this remark.
"Naturally," said the captain, smiling; "but, then, you see I did."
Mr. Tredgold drummed with his fingers on the arms of
his chair, and after a little hesitation asked as a great favor to be
permitted to see the map. As an estate agent, he said, he took a
professional interest in plans of all kinds.
Captain Bowers rose, and in the midst of an
expectant silence took the map from the bureau, and placing it on the
table kept it down with his fist. The others drew near and
"Nobody but Captain Bowers has ever seen the other side," said Mr. Chalk, impressively.
"Except my niece," interposed the captain.
"She wanted to see it, and I trust her as I would trust myself.
She thinks the same as I do about it."
His stubby forefinger traveled slowly round the
coastline until, coming to the extreme southwest corner, it stopped,
and a mischievous smile creased his beard.
"It's buried here," he observed. "All you've got to do is to find the island and dig in that spot."
Mr. Chalk laughed and shook his head as at a choice piece of waggishness.
"Suppose," said Mr. Tredgold, slowly — "suppose
anybody found it without your connivance, would you take your share?"
"Let 'em find it first," said the captain.
"Yes, but would you?" inquired Mr. Chalk.
Captain Bowers took up the map and returned it to
its place in the bureau. "You go and find it," he said, with a
"You give us permission?" demanded Tredgold.
"Certainly," grinned the captain. "I give you
permission to go and dig over all the islands in the Pacific; there's a
goodish number of them, and it's a fairly common shape."
"It seems to me it's nobody's property," said
Tredgold, slowly. "That is to say, it's anybody's that finds
it. It isn't your property, Captain Bowers? You lay no
claim to it?"
"No, no," said the captain. "It's nothing to
do with me. You go and find it," he repeated, with enjoyment.
Mr. Tredgold laughed too, and his eye traveled
mechanically towards the bureau. "If we do," he said, cordially,
"you shall have your share."
The captain thanked him and, taking up the bottle,
refilled their glasses. Then, catching the dull, brooding eye of
Mr. Stobell as that plainspoken man sat in a brown study trying to
separate the serious from the jocular, he drank success to their
search. He was about to give vent to further pleasantries when he
was stopped by the mysterious behavior of Mr. Chalk, who, first laying
a finger on his lip to ensure silence, frowned severely and nodded at
the door leading to the kitchen.
The other three looked in the direction
indicated. The door stood half open, and the silhouette of a
young woman in a large hat put the upper panels in shadow. The
captain rose and, with a vigorous thrust of his foot, closed the door
with a bang.
"Eavesdropping," said Mr. Chalk, in a tense whisper.
"There'll be a rival expedition," said the captain,
falling in with his mood. "I've already warned that young woman
off once. You'd better start tonight."
He leaned back in his chair and surveyed the company
pleasantly. Somewhat to Mr. Chalk's disappointment Mr. Tredgold
began to discuss agriculture, and they were still on that theme when
they rose to depart some time later. Tredgold and Chalk bade the
captain a cordial good night; but Stobell, a creature of primitive
impulses, found it difficult to shake hands with him. On the way
home he expressed an ardent desire to tell the captain what men of
sense thought of him.
The captain lit another pipe after they had gone,
and for some time sat smoking and thinking over the events of the
evening. Then Mr. Tasker's second infringement of discipline
occurred to him, and, stretching out his hand, he rang the bell.
"Has that young woman gone?" he inquired, cautiously, as Mr. Tasker appeared.
"Yessir," was the reply.
"What about your articles?" demanded the captain, with sudden loudness. "What do you mean by it?"
Mr. Tasker eyed him forlornly. "It ain't my fault," he said, at last. "I don't want her."
"Eh?" said the other, sternly. "Don't talk nonsense. What do you have her here for, then?"
"Because I can't help myself," said Mr. Tasker,
desperately; "that's why. She's took a fancy to me, and, that
being so, it would take more than you and me to keep 'er away."
"Rubbish," said his master.
Mr. Tasker smiled wanly. "That's my reward for
being steady," he said, with some bitterness; "that's what comes of
having a good name in the place. I get Selina Vickers after me."
"You — you must have asked her to come here in the first place," said the astonished captain.
"Ask her?" repeated Mr. Tasker, with respectful scorn. "Ask her? She don't want no asking."
"What does she come for, then?" inquired the other.
"Me," said Mr. Tasker, brokenly. "I never
dreamed o' such a thing. I was going 'er way one night — about
three weeks ago, it was — and I walked with her as far as her road —
Mint Street. Somehow it got put about that we were walking
out. A week afterwards she saw me in Harris's, the grocer's, and
waited outside for me till I come out, and walked 'ome with me.
After she came in the other night I found we was keeping company.
Tonight — tonight she got a ring out o' me, and now we're engaged."
"What on earth did you give her the ring for if you
don't want her?" inquired the captain, eyeing him with genuine concern.
"Ah, it seems easy, sir," said the unfortunate; "but
you don't know Selina. She bought the ring and said I was to pay
it off a shilling a week. She took the first shilling tonight."
His master sat back and regarded him in amazement.
"You don't know Selina, sir," repeated Mr. Tasker,
in reply to this manifestation. "She always gets her own
way. Her father ain't 'it 'er mother not since Selina was
seventeen. He das'nt. The last time Selina went for him
tooth and nail; smashed all the plates off the dresser throwing 'em at
him, and ended by chasing of him up the road in his shirtsleeves."
The captain grunted.
"That was two years ago," continued Mr. Tasker; "and
his spirit's quite broke. He 'as to give all his money except a
shilling a week to his wife, and he's not allowed to go into
pubs. If he does it's no good, because they won't serve
'im. If they do Selina goes in next morning and gives them a
piece of 'er mind. She don't care who's there or what she says,
and the consequence is Mr. Vickers can't get served in Binchester for
love or money. That'll show you what she is."
"Well, tell her I won't have her here," said the captain, rising. "Good night."
"I've told her over and over again, sir," was the
reply, "and all she says is she's not afraid of you, nor six like you."
The captain fell back silent, and Mr. Tasker,
pausing in a respectful attitude, watched him wistfully. The
captain's brows were bent in thought, and Mr. Tasker, reminding himself
that crews had trembled at his nod and that all were silent when he
spoke, felt a flutter of hope.
"Well," said the captain, sharply, as he turned and caught sight of him, "what are you waiting there for?"
Mr. Tasker drifted towards the door which led upstairs.
"I — I thought you were thinking of something we
could do to prevent her coming, sir," he said, slowly. "It's hard
on me, because as a matter of fact — "
"Well?" said the captain.
"I — I've 'ad my eye on another young lady for some time," concluded Mr. Tasker.
He was standing on the bottom stair as he spoke,
with his hand on the latch. Under the baleful stare with which
the indignant captain favored him, he closed it softly and mounted
heavily to bed.
Mr. Chalk's expedition to the Southern Seas became a standing joke with
the captain, and he waylaid him on several occasions to inquire into
the progress he was making, and to give him advice suitable for all
known emergencies at sea, together with a few that are unknown.
Even Mr. Chalk began to tire of his pleasantries, and, after listening
to a surprising account of a Scotch vessel which always sailed
backwards when the men whistled on Sundays, signified his displeasure
by staying away from Dialstone Lane for some time.
Deprived of his society the captain consoled himself
with that of Edward Tredgold, a young man for whom he was beginning to
entertain a strong partiality, and whose observations of Binchester
folk, flavored with a touch of good natured malice, were a source of
never failing interest.
"He is very wide awake," he said to his niece. "There isn't much that escapes him."
Miss Drewitt, gazing idly out of window, said that she had not noticed it.
"Very clever at his business, I understand," said the captain.
His niece said that he always appeared to her — when
she happened to give the matter a thought — as a picture of indolence.
"Ah! that's only his manner," replied the other,
warmly. "He's a young man that's going to get on; he's going to
make his mark. His father's got money, and he'll make more of it."
Something in the tone of his voice attracted his
niece's attention, and she looked at him sharply as an almost
incredible suspicion as to the motive of this conversation flashed on
"I don't like to see young men too fond of money," she observed, sedately.
"I didn't say that," said the captain,
eagerly. "If anything, he is too openhanded. What I meant
was that he isn't lazy."
"He seems to be very fond of coming to see you," said Prudence, by way of encouragement.
"Ah!" said the captain, "and — "
He stopped abruptly as the girl faced round. "And?" she prompted.
"And the crows nest," concluded the captain, somewhat lamely.
There was no longer room for doubt. Scarce two
months ashore and he was trying his hand at matchmaking. Fresh
from a world of obedient satellites, and ships responding to the
lightest touch of the helm, he was venturing with all the confidence of
ignorance upon the most delicate of human undertakings. Miss
Drewitt, eyeing him with perfect comprehension and some little
severity, sat aghast at his hardihood.
"He's very fond of going up there," said Captain Bowers, somewhat discomfited.
"Yes, he and Joseph have much in common," remarked
Miss Drewitt, casually. "They're somewhat alike, too, I always
"Alike!" exclaimed the astonished captain.
"Edward Tredgold like Joseph? Why, you must be dreaming."
"Perhaps it's only my fancy," conceded Miss Drewitt, "but I always think that I can see a likeness."
"There isn't the slightest resemblance in the
world," said the captain. "There isn't a single feature
alike. Besides, haven't you ever noticed what a stupid expression
Joseph has got?"
"Yes," said Miss Drewitt.
The captain scratched his ear and regarded her closely, but Miss Drewitt's face was statuesque in its repose.
"There — there's nothing wrong with your eyes, my
dear?" he ventured, anxiously — "short sight or anything of that sort?"
"I don't think so," said his niece, gravely.
Captain Bowers shifted in his chair and, convinced
that such a superficial observer must have overlooked many things,
pointed out several admirable qualities in Edward Tredgold which he
felt sure must have escaped her notice. The surprise with which
Miss Drewitt greeted them all confirmed him in this opinion, and he was
glad to think that he had called her attention to them ere it was too
"He's very popular in Binchester," he said,
impressively. "Chalk told me that he is surprised he has not been
married before now, seeing the way that he is run after."
"Dear me!" said his niece, with suppressed viciousness.
The captain smiled. He resolved to stand out
for a long engagement when Mr. Tredgold came to him, and to stipulate
also that they should not leave Binchester. An admirer in London
to whom his niece had once or twice alluded — forgetting to mention
that he was only ten — began to fade into what the captain considered
Mr. Edward Tredgold reaped some of the benefits of
this conversation when he called a day or two afterwards. The
captain was out, but, encouraged by Mr. Tasker, who represented that
his return might be looked for at any moment, he waited for over an
hour, and was on the point of departure when Miss Drewitt entered.
"I should think that you must be tired of waiting?" she said, when he had explained.
"I was just going," said Mr. Tredgold, as he resumed
his seat. "If you had been five minutes later you would have
found an empty chair. I suppose Captain Bowers won't be long now?"
"He might be," said the girl.
"I'll give him a little while longer if I may," said
Mr. Tredgold. "I'm very glad now that I waited — very glad
There was so much meaning in his voice that Miss Drewitt felt compelled to ask the reason.
"Because I was tired when I came in and the rest has
done me good," explained Mr. Tredgold, with much simplicity. "Do
you know that I sometimes think I work too hard?"
Miss Drewitt raised her eyebrows slightly and said,
"Indeed! — I am very glad that you are rested," she added, after
"Thank you," said Mr. Tredgold, gratefully. "I
came to see the captain about a card table I've discovered for
him. It's a Queen Anne, I believe; one of the best things I've
ever seen. It's poked away in the back room of a cottage, and I
only discovered it by accident."
"It's very kind of you," said Miss Drewitt, coldly,
"but I don't think that my uncle wants any more furniture; the room is
pretty full now."
"I was thinking of it for your room," said Mr. Tredgold.
"Thank you, but my room is full," said the girl, sharply.
"It would go in that odd little recess by the
fireplace," continued the unmoved Mr. Tredgold. "We tried to get
a small table for it before you came, but we couldn't see anything we
fancied. I promised the captain I'd keep my eyes open for
Miss Drewitt looked at him with growing indignation,
and wondered whether Mr. Chalk had added her to his list of the victims
of Mr. Tredgold's blandishments.
"Why not buy it for yourself?" she demanded.
"No money," said Mr. Tredgold, shaking his
head. "You forget that I lost two pounds to Chalk the other day,
owing to your efforts."
"Well, I don't wish for it," said Miss Drewitt,
firmly. "Please don't say anything to my uncle about it."
Mr. Tredgold looked disappointed. "As you please, of course," he remarked.
"Old things always seem a little bit musty," said
the girl, softening a little. "I, should think that I saw the
ghosts of dead and gone players sitting round the table. I
remember reading a story about that once."
"Well, what about the other things?" said Mr.
Tredgold. "Look at those old chairs, full of ghosts sitting piled
up in each other's laps — there's no reason why you should only see one
sitter at a time. Think of that beautifully carved four poster."
"My uncle bought that," said Miss Drewitt, somewhat irrelevantly.
"Yes, but I got it for him," said Mr.
Tredgold. "You can't pick up a thing like that at a moment's
notice — I had my eye on it for years; all the time old Brown was
bedridden, in fact. I used to go and see him and take him
tobacco, and he promised me that I should have it when he had done with
"Done with it?" repeated the girl, in a startled voice. "Did — did he get another one, then?"
Mr. Tredgold, roused from the pleasurable
reminiscences of a collector, remembered himself suddenly. "Oh,
yes, he got another one," he said, soothingly.
"Is — is he bedridden now?" inquired the girl.
"I haven't seen him for some time," said Mr.
Tredgold, truthfully. "He gave up smoking and — and then I didn't
go to see him, you know."
"He's dead," said Miss Drewitt, shivering. "He died in — Oh, you are horrible!"
"That carving — " began Mr. Tredgold.
"Don't talk about it, please," said the indignant
Miss Drewitt. "I can't understand why my uncle should have
listened to your advice at all; you must have forced it on him.
I'm sure he didn't know how you got it."
"Yes, he did," said the other. "In fact, it
was intended for his room at first. He was quite pleased with it."
"Why did he alter his mind, then?" inquired the girl.
Mr. Tredgold looked suddenly at the opposite wall,
but his lips quivered and his eyes watered. Miss Drewitt, reading
these signs aright, was justly incensed.
"I don't believe it," she cried.
"He said that you didn't know and he did," said Mr.
Tredgold, apologetically. "I talk too much. I'd no business
to let out about old Brown, but I forgot for the moment — sailors are
always prone to childish superstitions."
"Are you talking about my uncle?" inquired Miss Drewitt, with ominous calm.
"They were his own words," said the other.
Miss Drewitt, feeling herself baffled, sat for some
time wondering how to find fault politely with the young man before
her. Her mind was full of subject matter, but the politeness
easily eluded her. She threw out after a time the suggestion that
his presence at the bedside of sick people was not likely to add to
Captain Bowers entered before the aggrieved Mr.
Tredgold could think of a fitting reply, and after a hasty greeting
insisted upon his staying for a cup of tea. By a glance in the
visitor's direction and a faint smile Miss Drewitt was understood to
endorse the invitation.
The captain's satisfaction at finding them together
was complete, but a little misunderstanding was caused all round, when
Mr. Tasker came in with the tea, by the series of nods and blinks by
which the captain strove to call his niece's attention to various
facial and other differences between his servant and their
visitor. Mr. Tredgold, after standing it for some time, created a
little consternation by inquiring whether he had got a patch of dirt on
The captain was practically the only talker at tea,
but the presence of two attentive listeners prevented him from
discovering the fact. He described his afternoon's ramble at such
length that it was getting late by the time they had finished.
"Stay and smoke a pipe," he said, as he sought his accustomed chair.
Mr. Tredgold assented in the usual manner by saying
that he ought to be going, and instead of one pipe smoked three or
four. The light failed and the lamp was lit, but he still stayed
on until the sound of subdued but argumentative voices beyond the drawn
blind apprised them of other visitors. The thin tones of Mr.
Chalk came through the open window, apparently engaged in argument with
a bear. A faint sound of hustling and growling, followed by a
gentle bumping against the door, seemed to indicate that he — or
perhaps the bear — was having recourse to physical force.
"Come in," cried the captain.
The door opened and Mr. Chalk, somewhat flushed,
entered, leading Mr. Stobell. The latter gentleman seemed in a
surly and reluctant frame of mind, and having exchanged greetings
subsided silently into a chair and sat eyeing Mr. Chalk, who, somewhat
nervous as to his reception after so long an absence, plunged at once
"I thought I should find you here," he said, pleasantly, to Edward Tredgold.
"Why?" demanded Mr. Tredgold, with what Mr. Chalk thought unnecessary abruptness.
"Well — well, because you generally are here, I suppose," he said, somewhat taken aback.
Mr. Tredgold favored him with a scowl, and a somewhat uncomfortable silence ensued.
"Stobell wanted to see you again," said Mr. Chalk,
turning to the captain. "He's done nothing but talk about you
ever since he was here last."
Captain Bowers said he was glad to see him; Mr.
Stobell returned the courtesy with an odd noise in his throat and a
strange glare at Mr. Chalk.
"I met him tonight," continued that gentleman, "and nothing would do for him but to come on here."
It was evident from the labored respiration of the
ardent Mr. Stobell, coupled with a word or two which had filtered
through the window, that the ingenious Mr. Chalk was using him as a
stalking horse. From the fact that Mr. Stobell made no denial it
was none the less evident, despite the growing blackness of his
appearance, that he was a party to the arrangement. The captain
began to see the reason.
"It's all about that island," explained Mr. Chalk; "he can talk of nothing else."
The captain suppressed a groan, and Mr. Tredgold
endeavoured, but without success, to exchange smiles with Miss Drewitt.
"Aye, aye," said the captain, desperately.
"He's as eager as a child that's going to its first pantomime," continued Mr. Chalk.
Mr. Stobell's appearance was so alarming that he broke off and eyed him with growing uneasiness.
"You were talking about a pantomime," said Mr. Tredgold, after a long pause.
Mr. Chalk cast an imploring glance at Mr. Stobell to remind him of their compact, and resumed.
"Talks of nothing else," he said, watching his friend, "and can't sleep for thinking of it."
"That's bad," said Mr. Tredgold, sympathetically. "Has he tried shutting his eyes and counting sheep?"
"No, he ain't," said Mr. Stobell, exploding
suddenly, and turning a threatening glance on the speaker. "And
what's more," he added, in more ordinary tones, "he ain't going to."
"We — we've been thinking of that trip again,"
interposed Mr. Chalk, hurriedly. "The more Stobell thinks of it
the more he likes it. You know what you said the last time we
The captain wrinkled his brows and looked at him inquiringly.
"Told us to go and find the island," Mr. Chalk
reminded him. "You said, 'I've shown you a map of the island; now
go and find it.'"
"Oh, aye," said the captain, with a laugh, "so I did."
"Stobell was wondering," continued Mr. Chalk,
"whether you couldn't give us just a little bit more of a hint, without
breaking your word, of course."
"I don't see how it could be done, "replied the captain, pondering; "a promise is a promise."
Mr. Chalk's face fell. He moved his chair
aside mechanically to make room for Mr. Tasker, who had entered with a
tray and glasses, and sat staring at the floor. Then he raised
his eyes and met a significant glance from Mr. Stobell.
"I suppose we may have another look at the map?" he said, softly; "just a glance to freshen our memories."
The captain, who had drawn his chair to the table to preside over the tray, looked up impatiently.
"No," he said, brusquely.
Mr. Chalk looked hurt. "I'm very sorry," he
said, in surprise at the captain's tone. "You showed it to us the
other day, and I didn't think — "
"The fact is," said the captain, in a more gentle voice — "the fact is, I can't."
"Can't?" repeated the other.
"It is not very pleasant to keep on refusing
friends," said the captain, making amends for his harshness by pouring
a serious overdose of whisky into Mr. Chalk's glass, "and it's only
natural for you to be anxious about it, so I removed the temptation out
of my way."
"Removed the temptation?" repeated Mr. Chalk.
"I burned the map," said the captain, with a smile.
"Burned it?" gasped Mr. Chalk. "Burned it?"
"Burned it to ashes," said the captain, jovially.
"It's a load off my mind. I ought to have done
it before. In fact, I never ought to have made the map at all."
Mr. Chalk stared at him in speechless dismay.
"Try that," said the captain, handing Mr. Stobell his glass.
Mr. Stobell took it from mere force of habit, and
sat holding it in his hand as though he had forgotten what to do with
"I did it yesterday morning," said the captain,
noticing their consternation. "I had just lit my pipe after
breakfast, and I suppose the match put me in mind of it. I took
out the map and set light to it at Cape Silvio. The flame ran
halfway round the coast and then popped through the middle of the paper
and converted Mount Lonesome into a volcano."
He gave a boisterous laugh and, raising his glass,
nodded to Mr. Stobell. Mr. Stobell, who was just about to drink,
lowered his glass again and frowned.
"I don't see anything to laugh at," he said, deliberately.
"He can't have been listening," said Mr. Tredgold, in a low voice, to Miss Drewitt.
"Well, it's done now," said the captain, genially. "You — you're not going?"
"Yes, I am," said Mr. Stobell.
He bade them good night, and then pausing at the
door stood and surveyed them; even Mr. Tasker, who was gliding in
unobtrusively with a jug of water, shared in his regards.
"When I think of the orphans and widows," he said, bitterly, "I — "
He opened the door suddenly and, closing it behind
him, breathed the rest to Dialstone Lane. An aged woman sitting
in a doorway said, "Hush!"
Miss Drewitt sat for some time in her room after the visitors had
departed, eyeing with some disfavor the genuine antiques which she owed
to the enterprise, not to say officiousness, of Edward Tredgold.
That they were in excellent taste was undeniable, but there was a
flavor of age and a suspicion of decay about them which did not make
She rose at last, and taking off her watch went
through the nightly task of wondering where she had put the key after
using it last. It was not until she had twice made a fruitless
tour of the room with the candle that she remembered that she had left
it on the mantelpiece downstairs.
The captain was still below, and after a moment's
hesitation she opened her door and went softly down the steep winding
The door at the foot stood open, and revealed the
captain standing by the table. There was an air of perplexity and
anxiety about him such as she had never seen before, and as she waited
he crossed to the bureau, which stood open, and searched feverishly
among the papers which littered it. Apparently dissatisfied with
the result, he moved it out bodily and looked behind and beneath
it. Coming to an erect position again he suddenly became aware of
the presence of his niece.
"It's gone," he said, in an amazed voice.
"Gone?" repeated Prudence. "What has gone?"
"The map," said the captain, tumbling his
beard. "I put it in this end pigeonhole the other night after
showing it and I haven't touched it since; and it's gone."
"But you burned it!" said Prudence, with an astonished laugh.
The captain started. "No; I was going to," he said, eyeing her in manifest confusion.
"But you said that you had," persisted his niece.
"Yes," stammered the captain, "I know I did, but I
hadn't. I was just looking ahead a bit, that was all. I
went to the bureau just now to do it."
Miss Drewitt eyed him with mild reproach. "You
even described how you did it," she said, slowly. "You said that
Mount Lonesome turned into a volcano. Wasn't it true?"
"Figure o' speech, my dear," said the unhappy
captain; "I've got a talent for description that runs away with me at
His niece gazed at him in perplexity.
"You know what Chalk is," said Captain Bowers,
appealingly. "I was going to do it yesterday, only I forgot it,
and he would have gone down on his knees for another sight of it.
I don't like to seem disobliging to friends, and it seemed to me a good
way out of it. Chalk is so eager — it's like refusing a child,
and I hurt his feelings only the other day."
"Perhaps you burned it after all and forgot it?" said Prudence
For the first time in her knowledge of him the
captain got irritable with her. "I've not burned it," he said,
sharply. "Where's that Joseph? He must know something about
He moved to the foot of the staircase, but Miss Drewitt laid a detaining hand on his arm.
"Joseph was in the room when you said that you had
burned it," she exclaimed. "You can't contradict yourself like
that before him. Besides, I'm sure he has had nothing to do with
"Somebody's got it," grumbled her uncle, pausing.
He dropped into his chair and looked at her in
consternation. "Good heavens! Suppose they go after it," he
said, in a choking voice.
"Well, it won't be your fault," said Prudence. "You haven't broken your word intentionally."
But the captain paid no heed. He was staring
wild-eyed into vacancy and rumpling his gray hair until it stood at all
angles. His face reflected varying emotions.
"Somebody has got it," he said again.
"Whoever it is will get no good by it," said Miss Drewitt, who had had a pious upbringing.
"And if they've got the map they'll go after the island," said the captain, pursuing his train of thought.
"Perhaps they won't find it after all," said Prudence.
"Perhaps they won't," said the captain, gruffly.
He got up and paced the room restlessly. Prudence, watching him with much sympathy, had a sudden idea.
"Edward Tredgold was in here alone this afternoon," she said, significantly.
"No, no," said the captain, warmly. "Whoever
has got it, it isn't Edward Tredgold. I expect the talk about it
has leaked out and somebody has slipped in and taken it. I ought
to have been more careful."
"He started when you said that you had burned it,"
persisted Miss Drewitt, unwilling to give up a theory so much to her
liking. "You mark my words if his father and Mr. Chalk and that
Mr. Stobell don't go away for a holiday soon. Good night."
She kissed him affectionately under the left eye — a
place overlooked by his beard — and went upstairs again. The
captain filled his pipe and, resuming his chair, sat in a brown study
until the clock of the neighboring church struck two.
It was about the same time that Mr. Chalk fell
asleep, thoroughly worn out by the events of the evening and a
conversation with Mr. Stobell and Mr. Tredgold, whom he had met on the
way home waiting for him.
The opinion of Mr. Tredgold senior, an opinion in
which Mr. Stobell fully acquiesced, was that Mr. Chalk had ruined
everything by displaying all along a youthful impetuosity sadly out of
place in one of his years and standing. The offender's plea that
he had thought it best to strike while the iron was hot only exposed
him to further contumely.
"Well, it's no good talking about it," said Mr.
Tredgold, impatiently. "It's all over now and done with."
"Half a million clean chucked away," said Mr. Stobell.
Mr. Chalk shook his head and, finding that his
friends had by no means exhausted the subject, suddenly bethought
himself of an engagement and left them.
Miss Vickers, who heard the news from Mr. Joseph
Tasker, received it with an amount of amazement highly gratifying to
his powers as a narrator. Her strongly expressed opinion
afterwards that he had misunderstood what he had heard was not so
"I suppose I can believe my own ears?" he said, in an injured voice.
"He must have been making fun of them all," said Selina. "He couldn't have burned it — he couldn't."
"Why not?" inquired the other, surprised at her vehemence.
Miss Vickers hesitated. "Because it would be
such a silly thing to do," she said, at last. "Now, tell me what
you heard all over again — slow."
Mr. Tasker complied.
"I can't make head or tail of it," said Miss Vickers when he had finished.
"Seems simple enough to me," said Joseph, staring at her.
"All things seem simple when you don't know them," said Miss Vickers, vaguely.
She walked home in a thoughtful mood, and for a day
or two went about the house with an air of preoccupation which was a
source of much speculation to the family. George Vickers, aged
six, was driven to the verge of madness by being washed. Three
times in succession one morning; a gag of soapy flannel being applied
with mechanical regularity each time that he strove to point out the
unwashed condition of Martha and Charles. His turn came when the
exultant couple, charged with having made themselves dirty in the
shortest time on record, were deprived of their breakfast. Mr.
Vickers, having committed one or two minor misdemeanors unchallenged,
attributed his daughter's condition to love, and began to speak of that
passion with more indulgence than he had done since his marriage.
Miss Vickers' abstraction, however, lasted but three
days. On the fourth she was herself again, and, having spent the
day in hard work, dressed herself with unusual care in the evening and
The evening was fine and the air, to one who had
been at work indoors all day, delightful. Miss Vickers walked
briskly along with the smile of a person who has solved a difficult
problem, but as she drew near the Horse and Groom, a hostelry of
retiring habits, standing well back from the road, the smile faded and
she stood face to face with the stern realities of life.
A few yards from the side door Mr. Vickers stood
smoking a contemplative pipe; the side door itself had just closed
behind a tall man in corduroys, who bore in his right hand a large mug
made of pewter.
"Ho!" said Selina, "so this is how you go on the moment my back is turned, is it?"
"What d'ye mean?" demanded Mr. Vickers, blustering.
"You know what I mean," said his daughter, "standing
outside and sending Bill Russell in to get you beer. That's what
Mr. Vickers turned, and with a little dramatic start
intimated that he had caught sight of Mr. Russell for the first time
that evening. Mr. Russell himself sought to improve the occasion.
"Wish I may die — " he began, solemnly.
"Like a policeman," continued Selina, regarding her father indignantly.
"I wish I was a policeman," muttered Mr. Vickers. "I'd show some of you."
"What have you got to say for yourself?" demanded Miss Vickers, shortly.
"Nothing," said the culprit. "I s'pose I can stand where I like? There's no law agin it."
"Do you mean to say that you didn't send Bill in to get you some beer?" said his daughter.
"Certainly not," said Mr. Vickers, with great indignation. "I shouldn't think of such a thing."
"I shouldn't get it if 'e did," said Mr. Russell, virtuously.
"Whose beer is it, then?" said Selina.
"Why, Bill's, I s'pose; how should I know?" replied Mr. Vickers.
"Yes, it's mine," said Mr. Russell.
"Drink it up, then," commanded Miss Vickers, sternly.
Both men started, and then Mr. Russell, bestowing a
look of infinite compassion upon his unfortunate friend, raised the mug
obediently to his sensitive lips. Always a kind-hearted man, he
was glad when the gradual tilting necessary to the occasion had blotted
out the picture of indignation which raged helplessly before him.
"I 'ope you're satisfied now," he said severely to
the girl, as he turned a triumphant glance on Mr. Vickers, which that
gentleman met with a cold stare.
Miss Vickers paid no heed. "You get off home,"
she said to her father; "I'll see to the Horse and Groom tomorrow."
Mr. Vickers muttered something under his breath, and then, with a forlorn attempt at dignity, departed.
Miss Vickers, ignoring the remarks of one or two
fathers of families who were volunteering information as to what they
would do if she were their daughter, watched him out of sight and
resumed her walk. She turned once or twice as though to make sure
that she was not observed, and then, making her way in the direction of
Mr. Chalk's house, approached it cautiously from the back.
Mr. Chalk, who was in the garden engaged in the
useful and healthful occupation of digging, became aware after a time
of a low whistle proceeding from the farther end. He glanced
almost mechanically in that direction, and then nearly dropped his
spade as he made out a girl's head surmounted by a large hat. The
light was getting dim, but the hat had an odd appearance of
familiarity. A stealthy glance in the other direction showed him
the figure of Mrs. Chalk standing to attention just inside the open
French windows of the drawing room.
The whistle came again, slightly increased in
volume. Mr. Chalk, pausing merely to wipe his brow, which had
suddenly become very damp, bent to his work with renewed vigor.
It is an old idea that whistling aids manual labor; Mr. Chalk,
moistening his lips with a tongue grown all too feverish for the task,
began to whistle a popular air with much liveliness.
The idea was ingenious, but hopeless from the
start. The whistle at the end of the garden became piercing in
its endeavour to attract attention, and, what was worse, developed an
odd note of entreaty. Mr. Chalk, pale with apprehension, could
bear no more.
"Well, I think I've done enough for one night," he
observed, cheerfully and loudly, as he thrust his spade into the ground
and took his coat from a neighboring bush.
He turned to go indoors and, knowing his wife's
objection to dirty boots, made for the door near the kitchen. As
he passed the drawing room window, however, a low but imperative voice
pronounced his name.
"Yes, my dear," said Mr. Chalk.
"There's a friend of yours whistling for you," said his wife, with forced calmness.
"Whistling?" said Mr. Chalk, with as much surprise
as a man could assume in face of the noise from the bottom of the
"Do you mean to tell me you can't hear it?" demanded his wife, in a choking voice.
Mr. Chalk lost his presence of mind. "I thought it was a bird," he said, assuming a listening attitude.
"Bird?" gasped the indignant Mrs. Chalk. "Look down there. Do you call that a bird?"
Mr. Chalk looked and uttered a little cry of astonishment.
"I suppose she wants to see one of the servants," he
said, at last; "but why doesn't she go round to the side
entrance? I shall have to speak to them about it."
Mrs. Chalk drew herself up and eyed him with superb disdain.
"Go down and speak to her," she commanded.
"Certainly not," said Mr. Chalk, braving her, although his voice
"Because if I did you would ask me what she said,
and when I told you you wouldn't believe me," said Mr. Chalk.
"You — you decline to go down?" said his wife, in a voice shaking with emotion.
"I do," said Mr. Chalk, firmly. "Why don't you go yourself?"
Mrs. Chalk eyed him for a moment in scornful
silence, and then stepped to the window and sailed majestically down
the garden. Mr. Chalk watched her, with parted lips, and then he
began to breathe more freely as the whistle ceased and the head
suddenly disappeared. Still a little nervous, he watched his wife
to the end of the garden and saw her crane her head over the
fence. By the time she returned he was sitting in an attitude of
careless ease, with his back to the window.
"Well?" he said, with assurance.
Mrs. Chalk stood stock still, and the intensity of
her gaze drew Mr. Chalk's eyes to her face despite his will. For
a few seconds she gazed at him in silence, and then, drawing her skirts
together, swept violently out of the room.
Mr. Chalk made but a poor breakfast next morning, the effort to display
a feeling of proper sympathy with Mrs. Chalk, who was presiding in
gloomy silence at the coffeepot, and at the same time to maintain an
air of cheerful innocence as to the cause of her behavior, being almost
beyond his powers. He chipped his egg with a painstaking attempt
to avoid noise, and swallowed each mouthful with a feeble pretense of
not knowing that she was watching him as he ate. Her glance
conveyed a scornful reproach that he could eat at all in such
circumstances, and, that there might be no mistake as to her own
feelings, she ostentatiously pushed the toaster and egg cup away from
"You — you're not eating, my dear," said Mr. Chalk.
"If I ate anything it would choke me," was the reply.
Mr. Chalk affected surprise, but his voice
quavered. To cover his discomfiture he passed his cup up for more
coffee, shivering despite himself, as he noticed the elaborate care
which Mrs. Chalk displayed in rinsing out the cup and filling it to the
very brim. Beyond raising her eyes to the ceiling when he took
another piece of toast, she made no sign.
"You're not looking yourself," ventured Mr. Chalk, after a time.
His wife received the information in silence.
"I've noticed it for some time," said the thoughtful husband, making another effort. "It's worried me."
"I'm not getting younger, I know," assented Mrs.
Chalk. "But if you think that that's any excuse for your goings
on, you're mistaken."
Mr. Chalk murmured something to the effect that he did not understand her.
"You understand well enough," was the reply.
"When that girl came whistling over the fence last night you said you
thought it was a bird."
"I did," said Mr. Chalk, hastily taking a spoonful of egg.
Mrs. Chalk's face flamed. "What sort of bird?" she demanded.
"Singin' bird," replied her husband, with nervous glibness.
Mrs. Chalk left the room.
Mr. Chalk finished his breakfast with an effort, and
then, moving to the window, lit his pipe and sat for some time in moody
thought. A little natural curiosity as to the identity of the
fair whistler would, however, not be denied, and the names of
Binchester's fairest daughters passed in review before him.
Almost unconsciously he got up and surveyed himself in the glass.
"There's no accounting for tastes," he said to himself, in modest explanation.
His mind still dwelt on the subject as he stood in
the hall later on in the morning, brushing his hat, preparatory to
taking his usual walk. Mrs. Chalk, upstairs listening, thought
that he would never have finished, and drew her own conclusions.
With the air of a man whose time hangs upon his
hands Mr. Chalk sauntered slowly through the narrow byways of
Binchester. He read all the notices pasted on the door of the
Town Hall and bought some stamps at the post office, but the morning
dragged slowly, and he bent his steps at last in the direction of
Tredgold's office, in the faint hope of a little conversation.
To his surprise, Mr. Tredgold senior was in an
unusually affable mood. He pushed his papers aside at once, and,
motioning his visitor to a chair, greeted him with much heartiness.
"Just the man I wanted to see," he said,
cheerfully. "I want you to come round to my place at eight
o'clock tonight. I've just seen Stobell, and he's coming too."
"I will if I can," said Mr. Chalk.
"You must come," said the other, seriously. "It's business."
"Business!" said Mr. Chalk. "I don't see — "
"You will tonight," said Mr. Tredgold, with a
mysterious smile. "I've sent Edward off to town on business, and
we shan't be interrupted. Goodbye. I'm busy."
He shook hands with his visitor and led him to the
door; Chalk, after a vain attempt to obtain particulars, walked slowly
Despite his curiosity it was nearly half past eight
when he arrived at Mr. Tredgold's that evening, and was admitted by his
host. The latter, with a somewhat trite remark about the virtues
of punctuality, led the way upstairs and threw open the door of his
"Here he is," he announced.
A slender figure sitting bolt upright in a large
high-backed chair turned at their entrance, and revealed to the
astonished Mr. Chalk the expressive features of Miss Selina Vickers;
facing her at the opposite side of the room Mr. Stobell, palpably
ruffled, eyed her balefully.
"This is a new client of mine," said Tredgold, indicating Miss Vickers.
Mr. Chalk said "Good evening."
"I tried to get a word with you last night," said
Miss Vickers. "I was down at the bottom of your garden whistling
for over ten minutes as hard as I could whistle. I wonder you
didn't hear me."
"Hear you!" cried Mr. Chalk, guiltily conscious of a
feeling of disappointment quite beyond his control. "What do you
mean by coming and whistling for me, eh? What do you mean by it?"
"I wanted to see you private," said Miss Vickers,
calmly, "but it's just as well. I went and saw Mr. Tredgold this
"On a matter of business," said Mr. Tredgold,
looking at her. "She came to me, as one of the ordinary public,
about some — ha — land she's interested in."
"An island," corroborated Miss Vickers.
Mr. Chalk took a chair and looked round in amazement. "What, another?" he said, faintly.
Mr. Tredgold coughed. "My client is not a rich woman," he began.
"Chalk knows that," interrupted Mr. Stobell.
"The airs and graces that girl will give herself if you go on like that
"But she has some property there which she is
anxious to obtain," continued Mr. Tredgold, with a warning glance at
the speaker. "That being so — "
"Make him wish he may die first," interposed Miss Vickers, briskly.
"Yes, yes; that's all right," said Tredgold, meeting Mr. Chalk's startled gaze.
"It will be when he's done it," retorted the determined Miss Vickers.
"It's a secret," explained Mr. Tredgold, addressing
his staring friend. "And you must swear to keep it if it's told
you. That's what she means. I've had to and so has Stobell."
A fierce grunt from Mr. Stobell, who was still
suffering from the remembrance of an indignity against which he had
protested in vain, came as confirmation. Then the marvelling Mr.
Chalk rose, and instructed by Miss Vickers took an oath, the efficacy
of which consisted in a fervent hope that he might die if he broke it.
"But what's it all about?" he inquired, plaintively.
Mr. Tredgold conferred with Miss Vickers, and that
lady, after a moment's hesitation, drew a folded paper from her bosom
and beckoned to Mr. Chalk. With a cry of amazement he recognised
the identical map of Bowers's Island, which he had last seen in the
hands of its namesake. It was impossible to mistake it, although
an attempt to take it in his hand was promptly frustrated by the owner.
"But Captain Bowers said that he had burned it," he cried.
Mr. Tredgold eyed him coldly. "Burned what?" he inquired.
"The map," was the reply.
"Just so," said Tredgold. "You told me he had burned a map."
"Is this another, then?" inquired Mr. Chalk.
"P'r'aps," said Miss Vickers, briefly.
"As the captain said he had burned his, this must be another," said Tredgold.
"Didn't he burn it, then?" inquired Mr. Chalk.
"I should be sorry to disbelieve Captain Bowers," said Tredgold.
"Couldn't be done," said the brooding Stobell, "not if you tried."
Mr. Chalk sat still and eyed them in perplexity.
"There is no doubt that this map refers to the same
treasure as the one Captain Bowers had," said Tredgold, with the air of
one making a generous admission. "My client has not volunteered
any statement as to how it came into her possession — "
"And she's not going to," put in Miss Vickers, dispassionately.
"It is enough for me that we have got it," resumed
Mr. Tredgold. "Now, we want you to join us in fitting out a ship
and recovering the treasure. Equal expenses; equal shares."
"What about Captain Bowers?" inquired Mr. Chalk.
"He is to have an equal share without any of the
expense," said Tredgold. "You know he gave us permission to find
it if we could, so we are not injuring anybody."
"He told us to go and find it, if you remember," said Stobell, "and we're going to."
"He'll have a fortune handed to him without any
trouble or being responsible in any way," said Tredgold,
impressively. "I should like to think there was somebody working
to put a fortune like that into my lap. We shall have a fifth
"That'll be five thousand pounds for you, Selina," said Mr. Stobell, with a would-be benevolent smile.
Miss Vickers turned a composed little face upon him and languidly closed one eye.
"I had two prizes for arithmetic when I was at
school," she remarked; "and don't you call me Selina, unless you want
to be called Bobbie."
A sharp exclamation from Mr. Tredgold stopped all
but the first three words of Mr. Stobell's retort, but he said the rest
under his breath with considerable relish.
"Don't mind him," said Miss Vickers. "I'm half
sorry I let him join, now. A man that used to work for him once
told me that he was only half a gentleman, but he'd never seen that
Mr. Stobell, afraid to trust himself, got up and leaned out of the window.
"Well, we're all agreed, then," said Tredgold, looking round.
"Half a second," said Miss Vickers. "Before I
part with this map you've all got to sign a paper promising me my
proper share, and to give me twenty pounds down."
Mr. Tredgold hesitated and looked serious. Mr.
Chalk, somewhat dazed by the events of the evening, blinked at him
solemnly. Mr. Stobell withdrew his head from the window and spoke.
"TWENTY POUNDS!" he growled.
"Twenty pounds," repeated Miss Vickers, "or four
hundred shillings, if you like it better. If you wait a moment
I'll make it pennies."
She leaned back in her chair and, screwing her eyes
tight, began the calculation. "Twelve noughts are nought," she
said, in a gabbling whisper; "twelve noughts are nought, twelve fours
are forty — "
"All right," said Mr. Tredgold, who had been
regarding this performance with astonished disapproval. "You
shall have the twenty pounds, but there is no necessity for us to sign
"No, there's no necessity," said Miss Vickers,
opening her small, sharp eyes again, "only, if you don't do it, I'll
find somebody that will."
Mr. Tredgold argued with her, but in vain; Mr.
Chalk, taking up the argument and expanding it, fared no better; and
Mr. Stobell, opening his mouth to contribute his mite, was quelled
before he could get a word out.
"Them's my terms," said Miss Vickers; "take 'em or
leave 'em, just as you please. I give you five minutes by the
clock to make up your minds; Mr. Stobell can have six, because thinking
takes him longer. And if you agree to do what's right — and I'm
letting you off easy — Mr. Tredgold is to keep the map and never to let
it go out of his sight for a single instant."
She put her head round the side of the chair to make
a note of the time, and then, sitting upright with her arms folded,
awaited their decision. Before the time was up the terms were
accepted, and Mr. Tredgold, drawing his chair to the table, prepared to
draw up the required agreement.
He composed several, but none which seemed to give
general satisfaction. At the seventh attempt, however, he
produced an agreement which, alluding in vague terms to a treasure
quest in the Southern Seas on the strength of a map provided by Miss
Vickers, promised one fifth of the sum recovered to that lady, and was
considered to meet the exigencies of the case. Miss Vickers
herself, without being enthusiastic, said that she supposed it would
have to do.
Another copy was avoided, but only with great
difficulty, owing to her criticism of Mr. Stobell's signature. It
took the united and verbose efforts of Messrs. Chalk and Tredgold to
assure her that it was in his usual style, and rather a good signature
for him than otherwise. Miss Vickers, viewing it with her head on
one side, asked whether he couldn't make his mark instead; a question
which Mr. Stobell, at the pressing instance of his friends, left
unanswered. Then Tredgold left the room to pay a visit to his
safe, and, the other two gentlemen turning out their pockets, the
required sum was made up, and with the agreement handed to Miss Vickers
in exchange for the map.
She bade them good night, and then, opening the door, paused with her hand on the knob and stood irresolute.
"I hope I've done right," she said, somewhat
nervously. "It was no good to anybody laying idle and being
wasted. I haven't stolen anything."
"No, no," said Tredgold, hastily.
"It seems ridiculous for all that money to be
wasted," continued Miss Vickers, musingly. "It doesn't belong to
anybody, so nobody can be hurt by our taking it, and we can do a lot of
good with it, if we like. I shall give some of mine away to the
poor. We all will. I'll have it put in this paper."
She fumbled in her bodice for the document, and walked towards them.
"We can't alter it now," said Mr. Tredgold, decidedly.
"We'll do what's right," said Mr. Chalk, reassuringly.
Miss Vickers smiled at him. "Yes, I know you
will," she said, graciously, "and I think Mr. Tredgold will, but — "
"You're leaving that door open," said Mr. Stobell,
coldly, "and the draft's blowing my head off, pretty near."
Miss Vickers eyed him scornfully, but in the absence
of a crushing reply disdained one at all. She contented herself
instead by going outside and closing the door after her with a
sharpness which stirred every hair on his head.
"It's a most extraordinary thing," said Mr. Chalk,
as the three bent exultingly over the map. "I could ha' sworn to
this map in a court of justice."
"Don't you worry your head about it," advised Mr. Stobell.
"You've got your way at last," said Tredgold, with
some severity. "We're going for a cruise with you, and here you
are raising objections."
"Not objections," remonstrated the other; "and,
talking about the voyage, what about Mrs. Chalk? She'll want to
"So will Mrs. Stobell," said that lady's proprietor, "but she won't."
"She mustn't hear of it till the last moment," said
Tredgold, dictatorially; "the quieter we keep the whole thing the
better. You're not to divulge a word of the cruise to
anybody. When it does leak out it must be understood we are just
going for a little pleasure jaunt. Mind, you've sworn to keep the
whole affair secret."
Mr. Chalk screwed up his features in anxious perplexity, but made no comment.
"The weather's fine," continued Tredgold, "and
there's nothing gained by delay. On Wednesday we'll take the
train to Biddlecombe and have a look round. My idea is to buy a
small, stout sailing craft secondhand; ship a crew ostensibly for a
pleasure trip, and sail as soon as possible."
Mr. Chalk's face brightened. "And we'll take
some beads, and guns, and mirrors, and trade with the natives in the
different islands we pass," he said, cheerfully. "We may as well
see something of the world while we're about it."
Mr. Tredgold smiled indulgently and said they would
see. Messrs. Stobell and Chalk, after a final glance at the map
and a final perusal of the instructions at the back, took their
"It's like a dream," said the latter gentleman, as they walked down the High Street.
"That Vickers girl 'd like more dreams o' the same
sort," said Mr. Stobell, as he thrust his hand in his empty pocket.
"It's all very well for you," continued Mr. Chalk,
uneasily. "But my wife is sure to insist upon coming."
Mr. Stobell sniffed. "I've got a wife too," he remarked.
"Yes," said Mr. Chalk, in a burst of unwonted
frankness, "but it ain't quite the same thing. I've got a wife
and Mrs. Stobell has got a husband — that's the difference."
Mr. Stobell pondered this remark for the rest of the
way home. He came to the conclusion that the events of the
evening had made Mr. Chalk a little lightheaded.
Until he stood on the platform on Wednesday morning with his brother
adventurers, Mr. Chalk passed the time in a state of nervous
excitement, which only tended to confirm his wife in her suspicions of
his behavior. Without any preliminaries he would burst out
suddenly into snatches of sea shanties, the "Bay of Biscay" being a
special favorite, until Mrs. Chalk thought fit to observe that, "if the
thunder did roar like that she should not be afraid of it." Ever
sensitive to a fault, Mr. Chalk fell back on "Tom Bowling," which he
thought free from openings of that sort, until Mrs. Chalk, after
commenting upon the inability of the late Mr. Bowling to hear the
tempest's howling, indulged in idle speculations as to what he would
have thought of Mr. Chalk's. Tredgold and Stobell bought papers
on the station, but Mr. Chalk was in too exalted a mood for
reading. The bustle and life as the train became due were
admirably attuned to his feelings, and when it drew up and they
embarked, to the clatter of milk cans and the rumbling of trolleys, he
was beaming with satisfaction.
"I feel that I can smell the sea already," he remarked.
Mr. Stobell put down his paper and sniffed; then he
resumed it again and, meeting Mr. Tredgold's eye over the top of it,
sniffed more loudly than before.
"Have you told Edward that you are going to sea?" inquired Mr. Chalk, leaning over to Tredgold.
"Certainly not," was the reply; "I don't want
anybody to know till the last possible moment. You haven't given
your wife any hint as to why you are going to Biddlecombe today, have
Mr. Chalk shook his head. "I told her that you
had got business there, and that I was going with you just for the
outing," he said. "What she'll say when she finds out — "
His imagination failed him and, a prey to
forebodings, he tried to divert his mind by looking out of
window. His countenance cleared as they neared Biddlecombe, and,
the line running for some distance by the side of the river, he amused
himself by gazing at various small craft left high and dry by the tide.
A short walk from the station brought them to the
mouth of the river which constitutes the harbor of Biddlecombe.
For a small port there was a goodly array of shipping, and Mr. Chalk's
pulse beat faster as his gaze wandered impartially from a stately bark
in all the pride of fresh paint to dingy, sea-worn ketches and tiny
Uncertain how to commence operations, they walked
thoughtfully up and down the quay. If any of the craft were for
sale there was nothing to announce the fact, and the various
suggestions which Mr. Chalk threw off from time to time as to the
course they should pursue were hardly noticed.
"One o'clock," said Mr. Stobell, extracting a huge
silver timepiece from his pocket, after a couple of wasted hours.
"Let's have something to eat before we do any more,"
said Mr. Tredgold. "After that we'll ferry over and look at the
They made their way to the "King of Hanover," an old
inn, perched on the side of the harbor, and, mounting the stairs,
entered the coffee room, where Mr. Stobell, after hesitating for some
time between the rival claims of roast beef and grilled chops, solved
the difficulty by ordering both.
The only other occupant of the room, a short, wiry
man, with a close shaven, hardbitten face, sat smoking, with a glass of
whisky before him, in a bay window at the end of the room, which looked
out on the harbor. There was a maritime flavor about him which at
once enlisted Mr. Chalk's sympathies and made him overlook the small,
steel-gray eyes, and large and somewhat brutal mouth.
"Fine day, gentlemen," said the stranger, nodding
affably to Mr. Chalk as he raised his glass. Mr. Chalk assented,
and began a somewhat minute discussion upon the weather, which lasted
until the waiter appeared with the lunch.
"Bring me another drop o' whisky, George," said the
stranger, as the latter was about to leave the room, "and a little
stronger, d'ye hear? A man might drink this and still be in the
Band of Hope."
"We thought it wouldn't do for you to get the chuck
out of it after all these years, Cap'n Brisket," said George,
calmly. "It's a whisky that's kept special for teetotalers like
Captain Brisket gave a hoarse laugh and winked at
Mr. Stobell; that gentleman, merely pausing to empty his mouth and
drink half a glass of beer, winked back.
"Been here before, sir?" inquired the captain.
Mr. Stobell, who was busy again, left the reply to Mr. Chalk.
"Several times," said the latter. "I'm very fond of the sea."
Captain Brisket nodded, and, taking up his glass,
moved to the end of their table, with the air of a man disposed to
"There's not much doing in Biddlecombe nowadays," he
remarked, shaking his head. "Trade ain't what it used to be;
ships are more than half their time looking for freights. And
even when they get them they're hardly worth having."
Mr. Chalk started and, leaning over, whispered to Mr. Tredgold.
"No harm in it," said the latter. "Better
leave it to me. Shipping's dull, then?" he inquired, turning to
"Dull?" was the reply. "Dull ain't no name for it."
Mr. Tredgold played with a saltshaker and frowned thoughtfully.
"We've been looking round for a ship this morning," he said, slowly.
"As passengers?" inquired the captain, staring.
"As owners," put in Mr. Chalk.
Captain Brisket, greatly interested, drew first his
glass and then his chair a yard nearer. "Do you mean that you
want to buy one?" he inquired.
"Well, we might if we could get one cheap," admitted
Tredgold, cautiously. "We had some sort of an idea of a cruise to
the South Pacific; pleasure, with perhaps a little trading mixed up
with it. I suppose some of these old schooners can be picked up
for the price of an old song?"
The captain, grating his chair along the floor, came
nearer still; so near that Mr. Stobell instinctively put out his right
"You've met just the right man," said Captain
Brisket, with a boisterous laugh. "I know a schooner, two hundred
and forty tons, that is just the identical article you're looking for,
good as new and sound as a bell. Are you going to sail her
"No," said Mr. Stobell, without looking up, "he ain't."
"Got a master?" demanded Captain Brisket, with growing excitement. "Don't tell me you've got a master."
"Why not?" growled Mr. Stobell, who, having by this
time arrived at the cheese, felt that he had more leisure for
"Because," shouted the other, hitting the table a
thump with his fist that upset half his whisky — "because if you
haven't Bill Brisket's your man."
The three gentlemen received this startling
intelligence with such a lack of enthusiasm that Captain Brisket was
fain to cover what in any other man might have been regarded as
confusion by ringing the bell for George and inquiring with great
sternness of manner why he had not brought him a full glass.
"We can't do things in five minutes," said Mr.
Tredgold, after a long and somewhat trying pause. "First of all
we've got to get a ship."
"The craft you want is over the other side of the
harbor waiting for you," said the captain, confidently. "We'll
ferry over now if you like, or, if you prefer to go by yourselves, do;
Bill Brisket is not the man to stand in anyone's way, whether he gets
anything out of it or not."
"Hold hard," said Mr. Stobell, putting up his hand.
Captain Brisket regarded him with a beaming smile; Mr. Stobell's two friends waited patiently.
"What 'd a schooner like that fetch?" inquired Mr. Stobell.
"It all depends," said Brisket. "Of course, if I buy — "
Mr. Stobell held up his hand again. "All
depends whether you buy it for us or sell it for the man it belongs to,
I s'pose?" he said, slowly.
Captain Brisket jumped up, and to Mr. Chalk's horror
smote the speaker heavily on the back. Mr. Stobell, clenching a
fist the size of a leg of mutton, pushed his chair back and prepared to
"You're a trump," said Captain Brisket, in tones of
unmistakable respect, "that's what you are. Lord, if I'd got the
head for business you have I should be a man of fortune by now."
Mr. Stobell, who had half risen, sat down again,
and, for the first time since his last contract but one, a smile played
lightly about the corners of his mouth. He took another drink
and, shaking his head slightly as he put the glass down, smiled again
with the air of a man who has been reproached for making a pun.
"Let me do it for you," said Captain Brisket,
impressively. "I'll tell you where to go without being seen in
the matter or letting old Todd know that I'm in it. Ask him a
price and bate him down; when you've got his lowest, come to me and
give me one pound in every ten I save you."
Mr. Tredgold looked at his friends. "If we do
that," he said, turning to the captain, "it would be to your interest
to buy the ship in any case. How are we to be sure she is
"Ah, there you are!" said Brisket, with an expansive
smile. "You let me buy for you and promise me the master's berth,
provided you are satisfied with my credentials. Common sense'll
tell you I wouldn't risk my own carcass in a rotten ship."
Mr. Stobell nodded approval and, Captain Brisket
with unexpected delicacy withdrawing to the window and becoming
interested in the harbor, conferred for some time with his
friends. The captain's offer being accepted, subject to certain
conditions, they settled their bill and made their way to the ferry.
"There's the schooner," said the captain, pointing,
as they neared the opposite shore; "the Fair Emily, and the place she
is lying at is called Todd's Wharf. Ask for Mr. Todd, or, better
still, walk straight on to the wharf and have a look at her. The
old man'll see you fast enough."
He sprang nimbly ashore as the boat's head touched
the stairs, and after extending a hand to Mr. Chalk, which was coldly
ignored, led the way up the steps to the quay.
"There's the wharf just along there," he said,
pointing up the road. "I'll wait for you at the Jack Ashore
here. Don't offer him too much to begin with."
"I thought of offering a hundred pounds," said Mr.
Tredgold. "If the ship's sound we can't be very much out over
Captain Brisket stared at him. "No; don't do
that," he said, recovering, and speaking with great gravity.
"Offer him seventy. Good luck."
He watched them up the road and then, with a
mysterious grin, turned into the Jack Ashore, and taking a seat in the
bar waited patiently for their return.
Half an hour passed. The captain had smoked
one pipe and was half through another. He glanced at the clock
over the bar and fidgeted as an unpleasant idea that the bargain,
despite Mr. Tredgold's ideas as to the value of schooners, might have
been completed without his assistance occurred to him. He took a
sip from his glass, and then his face softened as the faint sounds of a
distant uproar broke upon his ear.
"What's that?" said a customer.
The landlord, who was glancing at the paper, put it
down and listened. "Sounds like old Todd at it again," he said,
coming round to the front of the bar.
The noise came closer. "It is old Todd," said
another customer, and hastily finishing his beer moved with the others
to the door. Captain Brisket, with a fine air of indifference,
lounged after them, and peering over their shoulders obtained a good
view of the approaching disturbance.
His three patrons, with a hopeless attempt to appear
unconcerned, were coming down the road, while close behind a
respectable looking old gentleman with a long, white beard and a voice
like a foghorn almost danced with excitement. They quickened
their pace as they neared the inn, and Mr. Chalk, throwing appearances
to the winds, almost dived through the group at the door. He was
at once followed by Mr. Tredgold, but Mr. Stobell, black with wrath,
paused in the doorway.
"FETCH'EM OUT," vociferated the old gentleman as the
landlord barred the doorway with his arms. "Fetch that
red-whiskered one out and I'll eat him."
"What's the matter, Mr. Todd?" inquired the landlord, with a glance at his friends. "What's he done?"
"Done?" repeated the excitable Mr. Todd.
"Done? They come walking on to my wharf as if
the place — FETCH HIM OUT," he bawled, breaking off suddenly.
"Fetch him out and I'll skin him alive."
Captain Brisket took Mr. Stobell by the cuff and after a slight altercation drew him inside.
"Tell that red-whiskered man to come outside," bawled Mr. Todd. "What's he afraid of?"
"What have you been doing to him?" inquired Captain Brisket, turning to the pallid Mr. Chalk.
"Nothing," was the reply.
"Is he coming out?" demanded the terrible voice, "or
have I got to wait here all night? Why don't he come outside, and
I'll break every bone in his body."
Mr. Stobell scratched his head in gloomy perplexity;
then, as his gaze fell upon the smiling countenances of Mr. Todd's
fellow townsmen, his face cleared.
"He's an old man," he said, slowly, "but if any of
you would like to step outside with me for five minutes, you've only
got to say the word, you know."
Nobody manifesting any signs of accepting this
offer, he turned away and took a seat by the side of the indignant
Tredgold. Mr. Todd, after a final outburst, began to feel
exhausted, and forsaking his prey with much reluctance allowed himself
to be led away. Snatches of a strong and copious benediction,
only partly mellowed by distance, fell upon the ears of the listeners.
"Did you offer him the seventy?" inquired Captain Brisket, turning to Mr. Tredgold.
"I did," said Mr. Chalk, plaintively.
"Ah," said the captain, regarding him thoughtfully;
"perhaps you ought to ha' made it eighty. He's asking eight
hundred for it, I understand."
Mr. Tredgold turned sharply. "Eight hundred?" he gasped.
The captain nodded. "And I'm not saying it's
not worth it," he said, "but I might be able to get it for you for
six. You'd better leave it to me now."
Mr. Tredgold at first said he would have nothing
more to do with it, but under the softening influence of a pipe and a
glass was induced to reconsider his decision. Captain Brisket,
waving farewells from the quay as they embarked on the ferryboat later
on in the afternoon, bore in his pocket the cards of all three
gentlemen, together with a commission entrusting him with the
preliminary negotiations for the purchase of the Fair Emily.
The church bells were ringing for morning service as Mr. Vickers, who
had been for a stroll with Mr. William Russell and a couple of ferrets,
returned home to breakfast. Contrary to custom, the small front
room and the kitchen were both empty, and breakfast, with the exception
of a cold herring and the bitter remains of a pot of tea, had been
"I've known men afore now," murmured Mr. Vickers,
eyeing the herring disdainfully, "as would take it by the tail and
smack 'em acrost the face with it."
He cut himself a slice of bread, and, pouring out a
cup of cold tea, began his meal, ever and anon stopping to listen, with
a puzzled face, to a continuous squeaking overhead. It sounded
like several pairs of new boots all squeaking at once, but Mr. Vickers,
who was a reasonable man and past the age of self-deception, sought for
a more probable cause.
A particularly aggressive squeak detached itself
from the others and sounded on the stairs. The resemblance to the
noise made by new boots was stronger than ever. It was new
boots. The door opened, and Mr. Vickers, with a slice of bread
arrested halfway to his mouth, sat gazing in astonishment at Charles
Vickers, clad for the first time in his life in new raiment from top to
toe. Ere he could voice inquiries, an avalanche of squeaks
descended the stairs, and the rest of the children, all smartly clad,
with Selina bringing up the rear, burst into the room.
"What is it?" demanded Mr. Vickers, in a voice husky with astonishment, "a party?"
Miss Vickers, who was doing up a glove which
possessed more buttons than his own vest, looked up and eyed him
calmly. "New clothes — and not before they wanted 'em," she
"New clothes?" repeated her father, in a scandalized voice. "Where'd they get 'em?"
"Shop," said his daughter, briefly.
Mr. Vickers rose and, approaching his offspring,
inspected them with the same interest that he would have bestowed upon
a waxworks. A certain stiffness of pose combined with the glassy
stare which met his gaze helped to favor the illusion.
"For once in their lives they're respectable," said
Selina, regarding them with moist eyes. "Soap and water they've
always had, bless 'em, but you've never seen 'em dressed like this
Before Mr. Vickers could frame a reply a squeaking
which put all the others in the shade sounded from above. It
crossed the floor on hurried excursions to different parts of the room,
and then, hesitating for a moment at the head of the stairs, came
slowly and ponderously down until Mrs. Vickers, looking somewhat
nervous, stood revealed before her expectant husband. In scornful
surprise he gazed at a blue cloth dress, a black velvet cape trimmed
with bugles, and a bonnet so aggressively new that it had not yet
accommodated itself to Mrs. Vickers's style of hairdressing.
"Go on!" he breathed. "Go on! Don't mind me. What, you — you — you're not going to church?"
Mrs. Vickers glanced at the books in her hand — also new — and trembled.
"And why not?" demanded Selina. "Why shouldn't we?"
Mr. Vickers took another amazed glance round and his brow darkened.
"Where did you get the money?" he inquired.
"Saved it," said his daughter, reddening despite herself.
"Saved it?" repeated the justly astonished Mr.
Vickers. "Saved it? Ah! out of my money; out of the money I
toil and moil for — out of the money that ought to be spent on
food. No wonder you're always complaining that it ain't
enough. I won't 'ave it, d'ye hear? I'll have my rights;
I'll — "
"Don't make so much noise," said his daughter, who
was stooping down to ease one of Mrs. Vickers's boots. "You would
have fours, mother, and I told you what it would be."
"He said that I ought to wear threes by rights," said Mrs. Vickers; "I used to."
"And I s'pose," said Mr. Vickers, who had been
listening to these remarks with considerable impatience — "I s'pose
there's a bran' new suit o' clothes, and a pair o' boots, and 'arf a
dozen shirts, and a new hat hid upstairs for me?"
"Yes, they're hid all right," retorted the dutiful
Miss Vickers. "You go upstairs and amuse yourself looking
for'em. Go and have a game of hide and seek all by yourself."
"Why, you must have been stinting me for years,"
continued Mr. Vickers, examining the various costumes in detail.
"This is what comes o' keeping quiet and trusting you — not but what
I've 'ad my suspicions. My own kids taking the bread out o' my
mouth and buying boots with it; my own wife going about in a bonnet
that's took me weeks and weeks to earn."
His words fell on deaf ears. No adjutant
getting his regiment ready for a review could have taken more trouble
than Miss Vickers was taking at this moment over her small
company. Caps were set straight and sleeves pulled down.
Her face shone with pride and her eyes glistened as the small fry,
discoursing in excited whispers, filed stiffly out.
A sudden cessation of gossip in neighboring doorways
testified to the impression made by their appearance. Past little
startled groups the procession picked its way in squeaking pride, with
Mrs. Vickers and Selina bringing up the rear. The children went
by with little set, important faces; but Miss Vickers's little bows and
pleased smiles of recognition to acquaintances were so ladylike that
several untidy matrons retired inside their houses to wrestle grimly
with feelings too strong for outside display.
"Pack o' prancing peacocks," said the unnatural Mr. Vickers, as the procession wound round the corner.
He stood looking vacantly up the street until the
gathering excitement of his neighbors aroused new feelings.
Vanity stirred within him, and leaning casually against the door frame
he yawned and looked at the chimney pots opposite. A neighbor in
a pair of corduroy trousers, supported by one suspender strap worn
diagonally, shambled across the road.
"What's up?" he inquired, with a jerk of the thumb in the direction of Mr. Vickers' vanished family.
"Up?" repeated Mr. Vickers, with an air of languid surprise.
"Somebody died and left you a fortin?" inquired the other.
"Not as I knows of," replied Mr. Vickers, staring. "Why?"
"Why?" exclaimed the other. "Why, new clothes all over. I never see such a turnout."
Mr. Vickers regarded him with an air of lofty
disdain. "Kids must 'ave new clothes sometimes, I s'pose?" he
said, slowly. "You wouldn't 'ave'em going about of a Sunday in a
ragged shirt and a pair of trowsis, would you?"
The shaft passed harmlessly. "Why not?" said the other. "They gin'rally do."
Mr. Vickers's denial died away on his lips. In
twos and threes his neighbors had drawn gradually near and now stood by
listening expectantly. The idea of a fortune was common to all of
them, and they were anxious for particulars.
"Some people have all the luck," said a stout
matron. "I've 'ad thirteen and buried seven, and never 'ad so
much as a chiney teapot left me. One thing is, I never could make
up to people for the sake of what I could get out of them. I
couldn't not if I tried. I must speak my mind free and
"Ah! that's how you get yourself disliked," said another lady, shaking her head sympathetically.
"Disliked?" said the stout matron, turning on her
fiercely. "What d'ye mean? You don't know what you're
talking about. Who's getting themselves disliked?"
"A lot o' good a chiney teapot would be to you,"
said the other, with a ready change of front, "or any other kind o'
Surprise and indignation deprived the stout matron of utterance.
"Or a milk jug either," pursued her opponent, following up her advantage. "Or a coffeepot, or — "
The stout matron advanced upon her, and her mien was
so terrible that the other, retreating to her house, slammed the door
behind her and continued the discussion from a second floor
window. Mint Street, with the conviction that Mr. Vickers's
tidings could wait, swarmed across the road to listen.
Mr. Vickers himself listened for a little while to
such fragments as came his way, and then, going indoors, sat down amid
the remains of his breakfast to endeavour to solve the mystery of the
He took a short clay pipe from his pocket, and,
igniting a little piece of tobacco which remained in the bowl,
endeavoured to form an estimate of the cost of each person's
wardrobe. The sum soon becoming too large to work in his head, he
had recourse to pencil and paper, and after five minutes' hard labor
sat gazing at a total which made his brain reel. The fact that
immediately afterwards he was unable to find even a few grains of
tobacco at the bottom of his box furnished a contrast which almost made
He sat sucking at his cold pipe and indulging in
hopeless conjectures as to the source of so much wealth, and, with a
sudden quickening of the pulse, wondered whether it had all been
spent. His mind wandered from Selina to Mr. Joseph Tasker, and
almost imperceptibly the absurdities of which young men in love could
be capable occurred to him. He remembered the extravagances of
his own youth, and bethinking himself of the sums he had squandered on
the future Mrs. Vickers — sums which increased with the compound
interest of repetition — came to the conclusion that Mr. Tasker had
been more foolish still.
It seemed the only possible explanation. His
eye brightened, and, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, he crossed to
the tap and washed his face.
"If he can't lend a trifle to the man what's going
to be his father in law," he said, cheerfully, as he polished his face
on a dishtowel, "I shall tell 'im he can't have Selina, that's
all. I'll go and see 'im afore she gets any more out of him."
He walked blithely up the road, and, after shaking
off one or two inquirers whose curiosity was almost proof against
insult, made his way to Dialstone Lane. In an unobtrusive fashion
he glided round to the back, and, opening the kitchen door, bestowed a
beaming smile upon the startled Joseph.
"Busy, my lad?" he inquired.
"What d'ye want?" asked Mr. Tasker, whose face was flushed with cooking.
Mr. Vickers opened the door a little wider, and,
stepping inside, closed it softly behind him and dropped into a chair.
"Don't be alarmed, my lad," he said, benevolently. "Selina's all right."
"What d'ye want?" repeated Mr. Tasker. "Who told you to come round here?"
Mr. Vickers looked at him in reproachful surprise.
"I suppose a father can come round to see his future
son in law?" he said, with some dignity. "I don't want to do no
interrupting of your work, Joseph, but I couldn't 'elp just stepping
round to tell you how nice they all looked. Where you got the
money from I can't think."
"Have you gone dotty, or what?" demanded Mr. Tasker,
who was busy wiping out a saucepan. "Who looked nice?"
Mr. Vickers shook his head at him and smiled waggishly.
"Ah! Who?" he said, with much enjoyment.
"I tell you it did my father's 'art good to see 'em all dressed up like
that; and when I thought of its all being owing to you, sit down at
home in comfort with a pipe instead of coming to thank you for it I
could not. Not if you was to have paid me I couldn't."
"Look 'ere," said Mr. Tasker, putting the saucepan
down with a bang, "if you can't talk plain, common English you'd better
get out. I don't want you 'ere at all as a matter o' fact, but to
have you sitting there shaking your silly 'ead and talking a pack o'
nonsense is more than I can stand."
Mr. Vickers gazed at him in perplexity. "Do
you mean to tell me you haven't been giving my Selina money to buy new
clothes for the younguns?" he demanded, sharply. "Do you mean to
tell me that Selina didn't get money out of you to buy herself and 'er
mother and all of 'em — except me — a new outfit from top to toe?"
"D'ye think I've gone mad, or what?" inquired the
amazed Mr. Tasker. "What d'ye think I should want to buy clothes
for your younguns for? That's your duty. And Selina, too; I
haven't given 'er anything except a ring, and she lent me the money for
that. D'ye think I'm made o' money?"
"All right, Joseph," said Mr. Vickers, secretly
incensed at this unforeseen display of caution on Mr. Tasker's
part. "I s'pose the fairies come and put'em on while they was
asleep. But it's dry work walking; 'ave you got such a thing as a
glass o' water you could give me?"
The other took a glass from the dresser and,
ignoring the eye of his prospective father in law, which was glued to a
comfortable-looking barrel in the corner, filled it to the brim with
fair water and handed it to him. Mr. Vickers, giving him a surly
nod, took a couple of dainty sips and placed it on the table.
"It's very nice water," he said, sarcastically.
"Is it?" said Mr. Tasker. "We don't drink it
ourselves, except in tea or coffee; the cap'n says it ain't safe."
Mr. Vickers brought his eye from the barrel and glared at him.
"I s'pose, Joseph," he said, after a long pause,
during which Mr. Tasker was busy making up the fire — "I s'pose Selina
didn't tell you you wasn't to tell me about the money?"
"I don't know what you're driving at," said the other, confronting him angrily. "I ain't got no money."
Mr. Vickers coughed. "Don't say that, Joseph,"
he urged, softly; "don't say that, my lad. As a matter o' fact, I
come round to you, interrupting of you in your work, and I'm sorry for
it — knowing how fond of it you are — to see whether I couldn't borrow
a trifle for a day or two."
"Ho, did you?" commented Mr. Tasker, who had opened the oven door and was using his hand as a thermometer.
His visitor hesitated. It was no use asking
for too much; on the other hand, to ask for less than he could get
would be unpardonable folly.
"If I could lay my hand on a couple o' quid," he
said, in a mysterious whisper, "I could make it five in a week."
"Well, why don't you?" inquired Mr. Tasker, who was
tenderly sucking the bulb of the thermometer after contact with the
side of the oven.
"It's the two quid that's the trouble, Joseph,"
replied Mr. Vickers, keeping his temper with difficulty. "A
little thing like that wouldn't be much trouble to you, I know, but to
a pore man with a large family like me it's a'most impossible."
Mr. Tasker went outside to the larder, and returning
with a small joint knelt down and thrust it carefully into the oven.
"A'most impossible," repeated Mr. Vickers, with a sigh.
"What is?" inquired the other, who had not been listening.
The half-choking Mr. Vickers explained.
"Yes, o' course it is," assented Mr. Tasker.
"People what's got money," said the offended Mr.
Vickers, regarding him fiercely, "stick to it like leeches. Now,
suppose I was a young man keeping company with a gal and her father
wanted to borrow a couple o' quid — a paltry couple o' thick'uns — what
d'ye think I should do?"
"If you was a young man — keeping company with a gal
— and 'er father wanted — to borrow a couple of quid off o' you — what
would you do?" repeated Mr. Tasker, mechanically, as he bustled to and
Mr. Vickers nodded and smiled. "What should I do?" he inquired again, hopefully.
"I don't know, I'm sure," said the other, opening the oven door and peering in. "How should I?"
At the imminent risk of something inside giving way
under the strain, Mr. Vickers restrained himself. He breathed
hard, and glancing out of window sought to regain his equilibrium by
becoming interested in a blackbird outside.
"What I mean to say is," he said at length, in a
trembling voice — "what I mean to say is, without no roundaboutedness,
will you lend a 'ard-working man, what's going to be your future father
in law, a couple o' pounds?"
Mr. Tasker laughed. It was not a loud laugh,
nor yet a musical one. It was merely a laugh designed to convey
to the incensed Mr. Vickers a strong sense of the absurdity of his
"I asked you a question," said the latter gentleman, glaring at him.
"I haven't got a couple o' pounds," replied Mr.
Tasker; "and if I 'ad, there's nine hundred and ninety-nine things I
would sooner do with it than lend it to you."
Mr. Vickers rose and stood regarding the ignoble
creature with profound contempt. His features worked and a host
of adjectives crowded to his lips.
"Is that your last word, Joseph?" he inquired, with solemn dignity.
"I'll say it all over again if you like," said the
obliging Mr. Tasker. "If you want money, go and earn it, same as
I have to; don't come round 'ere cadging on me, because it's no good."
Mr. Vickers laughed; a dry, contemptuous laugh, terrible to hear.
"And that's the man that's going to marry my
daughter," he said, slowly; "that's the man that's going to marry into
my family. Don't you expect me to take you up and point you out
as my son in law, cos I won't do it. If there's anything I can't
abide it's stinginess. And there's my gal — my pore gal don't
know your real character. Wait till I've told 'er about this
morning and opened 'er eyes! Wait till — "
He stopped abruptly as the door leading to the front
room opened and revealed the inquiring face of Captain Bowers.
"What's all this noise about, Joseph?" demanded the captain, harshly.
Mr. Tasker attempted to explain, but his explanation
involving a character for Mr. Vickers which that gentleman declined to
accept on any terms, he broke in and began to give his own version of
the affair. Much to Joseph's surprise the captain listened
"Did you buy all those things, Joseph?" he inquired, carelessly, as Mr. Vickers paused for breath.
"Cert'nly not, sir," replied Mr. Tasker. "Where should I get the money from?"
The captain eyed him without replying, and a sudden
suspicion occurred to him. The strange disappearance of the map,
followed by the sudden cessation of Mr. Chalk's visits, began to link
themselves to this tale of unexpected wealth. He bestowed another
searching glance upon the agitated Mr. Tasker.
"You haven't sold anything lately, have you?" he inquired, with startling gruffness.
"I haven't 'ad nothing to sell, sir," replied the
other, in astonishment. "And I dare say Mr. Vickers here saw a
new pair o' boots on one o' the younguns and dreamed all the rest."
Mr. Vickers intervened with passion.
"That'll do," said the captain, sharply. "How
dare you make that noise in my house? I think that the tale about
the clothes is all right," he added, turning to Joseph. "I saw
them go into church looking very smart. And you know nothing
Mr. Tasker's astonishment was too genuine to be
mistaken, and the captain, watching him closely, transferred his
suspicions to a more deserving object. Mr. Vickers caught his eye
and essayed a smile.
"Dry work talking, sir," he said, gently.
Captain Bowers eyed him steadily. "Have we got any beer, Joseph?" he inquired.
"Plenty in the cask, sir," said Mr. Tasker, reluctantly.
"Well, keep your eye on it," said the captain. "Good morning, Mr. Vickers."
But disappointment and indignation got the better of Mr. Vickers's politeness.
"Penny for your thoughts, uncle," said Miss Drewitt, as they sat at dinner an hour or two after the departure of Mr. Vickers.
"H'm?" said the captain, with a guilty start.
"You've been scowling and smiling by turns for the last five minutes,"
said his niece.
"I was thinking about that man that was here this
morning," said the captain, slowly; "trying to figure it out. If
I thought that girl Selina — "
He took a draft of ale and shook his head solemnly.
"You know my ideas about that," said Prudence.
"Your poor mother was obstinate," commented the
captain, regarding her tolerantly. "Once she got an idea into her
head it stuck there, and nothing made her more angry than proving to
her that she was wrong. Trying to prove to her, I should have
Miss Drewitt smiled amiably. "Well, you've
earned half the sum," she said. "Now, what were you smiling
"Didn't know I was smiling," declared the captain.
With marvellous tact he turned the conversation to
lighthouses, a subject upon which he discoursed with considerable
fluency until the meal was finished. Miss Drewitt, who had a long
memory and at least her fair share of curiosity, returned to the charge
as he smoked half a pipe preparatory to accompanying her for a walk.
"You're looking very cheerful," she remarked.
The captain's face fell several points. "Am I?" he said, ruefully. "I didn't mean to."
"Why not?" inquired his niece.
"I mean I didn't know I was," he replied, "more than
usual, I mean. I always look fairly cheerful — at least, I hope I
do. There's nothing to make me look the opposite."
Miss Drewitt eyed him carefully and then passed
upstairs to put on her hat. Relieved of her presence the captain
walked to the small glass over the mantelpiece and, regarding his
telltale features with gloomy dissatisfaction, acquired, after one or
two attempts, an expression which he flattered himself defied analysis.
He tapped the barometer which hung by the door as
they went out, and, checking a remark which rose to his lips, stole a
satisfied glance at the face by his side.
"Clark's farm by the footpaths would be a nice walk," said Miss Drewitt, as they reached the end of the lane.
The captain started. "I was thinking of Dutton
Priors," he said, slowly. "We could go there by Hanger's Lane and
home by the road."
"The footpaths would be nice today," urged his niece.
"You try my way," said the captain, jovially.
"Have you got any particular reason for wanting to go to Dutton Priors this afternoon?" inquired the girl.
"Reason?" said the captain. "Good gracious,
no. What reason should I have? My leg is a trifle stiff
today for climbing over fences, but still — "
Miss Drewitt gave way at once, and, taking his arm,
begged him to lean on her, questioning him anxiously as to his fitness
for a walk in any direction.
"Walking'll do it good," was the reply, as they proceeded slowly down the High Street.
He took his watch from his pocket, and, after
comparing it with the town clock, peered furtively right and left,
gradually slackening his pace until Miss Drewitt's fears for his leg
became almost contagious. At the old stone bridge, spanning the
river at the bottom of the High Street, he paused, and, resting his
arms on the parapet, became intent on a derelict punt. On the
subject of sitting in a craft of that description in midstream catching
fish he discoursed at such length that the girl eyed him in amazement.
"Shall we go on?" she said, at length.
The captain turned and, merely pausing to point out
the difference between the lines of a punt and a dinghy, with a
digression to sampans which included a criticism of the Chinese as
boat-builders, prepared to depart. He cast a swift glance up the
road as he did so, and Miss Drewitt's cheek flamed with sudden wrath as
she saw Mr. Edward Tredgold hastening towards them. In a somewhat
pointed manner she called her uncle's attention to the fact.
"Lor' bless my soul," said that startled mariner, "so it is. Well well!"
If Mr. Tredgold had been advancing on his head he could not have exhibited more surprise.
"I'm afraid I'm late," said Tredgold, as he came up
and shook hands. "I hope you haven't been waiting long."
The hapless captain coughed loud and long. He
emerged from a large red handkerchief to find the eye of Miss Drewitt
"That's all right, my lad," he said, huskily.
"I'd forgotten about our arrangement. Did I say this Sunday or
"This," said Mr. Tredgold, bluntly.
The captain coughed again, and with some pathos
referred to the tricks which old age plays with memory. As they
walked on he regaled them with selected instances.
"Don't forget your leg, uncle," said Miss Drewitt, softly.
Captain Bowers gazed at her suspiciously.
"Don't forget that it's stiff, and put too much strain on it," explained his niece.
The captain eyed her uneasily, but she was talking
and laughing with Edward Tredgold in a most reassuring fashion. A
choice portion of his program, which, owing to the events of the
afternoon, he had almost resolved to omit, clamored for
production. He stole another glance at his niece and resolved to
"Hah!" he said, suddenly, stopping short and feeling
in his pockets. "There's my memory again. Well, of all the
"What's the matter, uncle?" inquired Miss Drewitt.
"I've left my pipe at home," said the captain, in a desperate voice.
"I've got some cigars," suggested Tredgold.
The captain shook his head. "No, I must have
my pipe," he said, decidedly. "If you two will walk on slowly,
I'll soon catch you up."
"You're not going all the way back for it?" exclaimed Miss Drewitt.
"Let me go," said Tredgold.
The captain favored him with an inscrutable
glance. "I'll go," he said, firmly. "I'm not quite sure
where I left it. You go by Hanger's Lane; I'll soon catch you up."
He set off at a pace which rendered protest
unavailing. Mr. Tredgold turned, and, making a mental note of the
fact that Miss Drewitt had suddenly added inches to her stature, walked
on by her side.
"Captain Bowers is very fond of his pipe," he said, after they had walked a little way in silence.
Miss Drewitt assented. "Nasty things," she said, calmly.
"So they are," said Mr. Tredgold.
"But you smoke," said the girl.
Mr. Tredgold sighed. "I have often thought of
giving it up," he said, softly, "and then I was afraid that it would
look rather presumptuous."
"Presumptuous?" repeated Miss Drewitt.
"So many better and wiser men than myself smoke,"
exclaimed Mr. Tredgold, "including even bishops. If it is good
enough for them, it ought to be good enough for me; that's the way I
look at it. Who am I that I should be too proud to smoke?
Who am I that I should try and set my poor ideas above those of my
superiors? Do you see my point of view?"
Miss Drewitt made no reply.
"Of course, it is a thing that grows on one,"
continued Mr. Tredgold, with the air of making a concession. "It
is the first smoke that does the mischief; it is a fatal
precedent. Unless, perhaps — How pretty that field is over there."
Miss Drewitt looked in the direction
indicated. "Very nice," she said, briefly. "But what were
you going to say?"
Mr. Tredgold made an elaborate attempt to appear
confused. "I was going to say," he murmured, gently, "unless,
perhaps, one begins on cheap flavored tobacco rolled in a piece of the
margin of the Sunday newspaper."
Miss Drewitt suppressed an exclamation. "I wanted to see where the fascination was," she indignantly.
"And did you?" inquired Mr. Tredgold, smoothly.
The girl turned her head and looked at him. "I
have no doubt my uncle gave you full particulars," she said,
bitterly. "It seems to me that men can gossip as much as women."
"I tried to stop him," said the virtuous Mr. Tredgold.
"You need not have troubled," said Miss Drewitt,
loftily. "It is not a matter of any consequence. I am
surprised that my uncle should have thought it worth mentioning."
She walked on slowly with head erect, pausing
occasionally to look round for the captain. Edward Tredgold
looked too, and a feeling of annoyance at the childish stratagems of
his well-meaning friend began to possess him.
"We had better hurry a little, I think," he said,
glancing at the sky. "The sooner we get to Dutton Priors the
"Why?" inquired his companion.
"Rain," said the other, briefly.
"It won't rain before evening," said Miss Drewitt, confidently; "uncle said so."
"Perhaps we had better walk faster, though," urged Mr. Tredgold.
Miss Drewitt slackened her pace deliberately.
"There is no fear of its raining," she declared. "And uncle will
not catch us up if we walk fast."
A sudden glimpse into the immediate future was
vouchsafed to Mr. Tredgold; for a fraction of a second the veil was
lifted. "Don't blame me if you get wet through," he said, with
They walked on at a pace which gave the captain
every opportunity of overtaking them. The feat would not have
been beyond the powers of an athletic tortoise, but the most careful
scrutiny failed to reveal any signs of him.
"I'm afraid that he is not well," said Miss Drewitt,
after a long, searching glance along the way they had come.
"Perhaps we had better go back. It does begin to look rather
"Just as you please," said Edward Tredgold, with
unwonted caution; "but the nearest shelter is Dutton Priors."
He pointed to a lurid, ragged cloud right ahead of
them. As if in response, a low, growling rumble sounded overhead.
"Was — was that thunder?" said Miss Drewitt, drawing a little nearer to him.
"Sounded something like it," was the reply.
A flash of lightning and a crashing peal that rent
the skies put the matter beyond a doubt. Miss Drewitt, turning
very pale, began to walk at a rapid pace in the direction of the
The other looked round in search of some nearer
shelter. Already the pattering of heavy drops sounded in the
lane, and before they had gone a dozen paces the rain came down in
torrents. Two or three fields away a small shed offered the only
shelter. Mr. Tredgold, taking his companion by the arm, started
to run towards it.
Before they had gone a hundred yards they were wet
through, but Miss Drewitt, holding her skirts in one hand and shivering
at every flash, ran until they brought up at a tall gate, ornamented
with barbed wire, behind which stood the shed.
The gate was locked, and the wire had been put on by
a farmer who combined with great ingenuity a fervent hatred of his
fellow men. To Miss Drewitt it seemed insurmountable, but, aided
by Mr. Tredgold and a peal of thunder which came to his assistance at a
critical moment, she managed to clamber over and reach the shed.
Mr. Tredgold followed at his leisure with a strip of braid torn from
the bottom of her dress.
The roof leaked in twenty places and the floor was a
puddle, but it had certain redeeming features in Mr. Tredgold's eyes of
which the girl knew nothing. He stood at the doorway watching the
"Come inside," said Miss Drewitt, in a trembling voice. "You might be struck."
Mr. Tredgold experienced a sudden sense of solemn
pleasure in this unexpected concern for his safety. He turned and
"I'm not afraid," he said, with great gentleness.
"No, but I am," said Miss Drewitt, petulantly, "and I can never get over that gate alone."
Mr. Tredgold came inside, and for some time neither
of them spoke. The rattle of rain on the roof became less
deafening and began to drip through instead of forming little
jets. A patch of blue sky showed.
"It isn't much," said Tredgold, going to the door again.
Miss Drewitt, checking a sharp retort, returned to
the door and looked out. The patch of blue increased in size; the
rain ceased and the sun came out; birds exchanged congratulations from
every tree. The girl, gathering up her wet skirts, walked to the
gate, leaving her companion to follow.
Approached calmly and under a fair sky the climb was much easier.
"I believe that I could have got over by myself
after all," said Miss Drewitt, as she stood on the other side. "I
suppose that you were in too much of a hurry the last time. My
dress is ruined."
She spoke calmly, but her face was clouded.
From her manner during the rapid walk home Mr. Tredgold was enabled to
see clearly that she was holding him responsible for the captain's
awkward behavior, the rain, her spoiled clothes, and a severe cold in
the immediate future. He glanced at her ruined hat and the wet,
straight locks of hair hanging about her face, and held his peace.
Never before on a Sunday afternoon had Miss Drewitt
known the streets of Binchester to be so full of people. She
hurried on with bent head, looking straight before her, trying to
imagine what she looked like. There was no sign of the captain,
but as they turned into Dialstone Lane they both saw a huge, shaggy,
gray head protruding from the small window of his bedroom. It
disappeared with a suddenness almost startling.
"Thank you," said Miss Drewitt, holding out her hand as she reached the door. "Goodbye."
Mr. Tredgold said "Goodbye," and with a furtive
glance at the window above departed. Miss Drewitt, opening the
door, looked round an empty room. Then the kitchen door opened
and the face of Mr. Tasker, full of concern, appeared.
"Did you get wet, miss?" he inquired.
Miss Drewitt ignored the question. "Where is Captain Bowers?" she asked, in a clear, penetrating voice.
The face of Mr. Tasker fell. "He's gone to bed with a headache, miss," he replied.
"Headache?" repeated the astonished Miss Drewitt. "When did he go?"
"About 'arf an hour ago," said Mr. Tasker; "just
after the storm. I suppose that's what caused it, though it seems
funny, considering what a lot he must ha' seen at sea. He said
he'd go straight to bed and try and sleep it off. And I was to
ask you to please not to make a noise."
Miss Drewitt swept past him and mounted the
stairs. At the captain's door she paused, but the loud snoring of
a determined man made her resolve to postpone her demands for an
explanation to a more fitting opportunity. Tired, wet, and angry,
she gained her own room, and threw herself thoughtlessly into that
famous old Chippendale chair which, in accordance with Mr. Tredgold's
instructions, had been placed against the wall.
The captain started in his sleep.
Mr. Chalk's anxiety during the negotiations for the purchase of the
Fair Emily kept him oscillating between Tredgold and Stobell until
those gentlemen fled at his approach and instructed their retainers to
make untruthful statements as to their whereabouts. Daily letters
from Captain Brisket stated that he was still haggling with Mr. Todd
over the price, and Mr. Chalk quailed as he tried to picture the scene
with that doughty champion.
Three times at the earnest instigation of his
friends, who pointed out the necessity of keeping up appearances, had
he set out to pay a visit to Dialstone Lane, and three times had he
turned back halfway as he realized the difficult nature of his
task. As well ask a poacher to call on a gamekeeper the morning
after a raid.
Captain Bowers, anxious to see him and sound him
with a few carefully prepared questions, noted his continued absence
with regret. Despairing at last of a visit from Mr. Chalk, he
resolved to pay one himself.
Mr. Chalk, who was listening to his wife, rose
hastily at his entrance, and in great confusion invited him to a chair
which was already occupied by Mrs. Chalk's workbasket. The
captain took another and, after listening to an incoherent statement
about the weather, shook his head reproachfully at Mr. Chalk.
"I thought something must have happened to you," he said. "Why, it must be weeks since I've seen you."
"Weeks?" said Mrs. Chalk, suddenly alert.
"Why, he went out the day before yesterday to call on you."
"Yes," said Mr. Chalk, with an effort, "so I did,
but halfway to yours I got a nail in my shoe and had to come home."
"Home!" exclaimed his wife. "Why, you were gone two hours and thirty-five minutes."
"It was very painful," said Mr. Chalk, as the
captain stared in open-eyed astonishment at this exact
timekeeping. "One time I thought that I should hardly have got
"But you didn't say anything about it," persisted his wife.
"I didn't want to alarm you, my dear," said Mr. Chalk.
Mrs. Chalk looked at him, but, except for a long,
shivering sigh which the visitor took for sympathy, made no comment.
"I often think that I must have missed a great deal
by keeping single," said the latter. "It must be very pleasant
when you're away to know that there is somebody at home counting the
minutes until your return."
Mr. Chalk permitted himself one brief wondering
glance in the speaker's direction, and then gazed out of window.
"There's no companion like a wife," continued the
captain. "Nobody else can quite share your joys and sorrows as
she can. I've often thought how pleasant it must be to come home
from a journey and tell your wife all about it: where you've
been, what you've done, and what you're going to do."
Mr. Chalk stole another look at him; Mrs. Chalk, somewhat suspicious, followed his example.
"It's a pity you never married, Captain Bowers," she
said, at length; "most men seem to do all they can to keep things from
their wives. But one of these days — "
She finished the sentence by an expressive glance at
her husband. Captain Bowers, suddenly enlightened, hastened to
change the subject.
"I haven't seen Tredgold or Stobell either," he said, gazing fixedly at Mr. Chalk.
"They — they were talking about you only the other
day," said that gentleman, nervously. "Is Miss Drewitt well?"
"Quite well," said the captain, briefly. "I
was beginning to think you had all left Binchester," he continued;
"gone for a sea voyage or something."
Mr. Chalk laughed uneasily. "I thought that
Joseph wasn't looking very well the last time I saw you," he said, with
an imploring glance at the captain to remind him of the presence of
"Joseph's all right," replied the other, "so is the parrot."
Mr. Chalk started and said that he was glad to hear
it, and sat trying to think of a safe subject for conversation.
"Joseph's a nice parrot," he said at last. "The parrot's a nice lad, I mean."
"Thomas!" said Mrs. Chalk.
"Joseph-is-a-nice-lad," said Mr. Chalk, recovering himself. "I have often thought — "
The sentence was never completed, being interrupted
by a thundering rat-tat-tat at the front door, followed by a pealing at
the bell, which indicated that the visitor was manfully following the
printed injunction to "Ring also." The door was opened and a
man's voice was heard in the hall — a loud, confident voice, at the
sound of which Mr. Chalk, with one horrified glance in the direction of
Captain Bowers, sank back in his chair and held his breath.
"Captain Brisket," said the maid, opening the door.
The captain came in with a light, bustling step,
and, having shaken Mr. Chalk's hand with great fervor and acknowledged
the presence of Captain Bowers and Mrs. Chalk by two spasmodic jerks of
the head, sat bolt upright on the edge of a chair and beamed brightly
upon the horrified Chalk.
"I've got news," he said, hoarsely.
"News?" said the unfortunate Mr. Chalk, faintly.
"Ah!" said Brisket, nodding. "News! I've got her at last."
Mrs. Chalk started.
"I've got her," continued Captain Brisket, with an
air of great enjoyment; "and a fine job I had of it, I can tell
you. Old Todd said he couldn't bear parting with her. Once
or twice I thought he meant it."
Mr. Chalk made a desperate effort to catch his eye,
but in vain. It was fixed in reminiscent joy on the ceiling.
"We haggled about her for days," continued Brisket; "but at last I won. The Fair Emily is yours, sir."
"The fair who?" cried Mrs. Chalk, in a terrible voice. "Emily who? Emily what?"
Captain Brisket turned and regarded her in amazement.
"Emily who?" repeated Mrs. Chalk.
"Why, it's — " began Brisket.
"H'sh!" said Mr. Chalk, desperately. "It's a secret."
"It's a secret," said Captain Brisket, nodding calmly at Mrs. Chalk.
Wrath and astonishment held her for the moment
breathless. Mr. Chalk, caught between his wife and Captain
Bowers, fortified himself with memories of the early martyrs and gave
another warning glance at Brisket. For nearly two minutes that
undaunted mariner met the gaze of Mrs. Chalk without flinching.
"A — a secret?" gasped the indignant woman at last,
as she turned to her husband. "You sit there and dare to tell me
"It isn't my secret," said Mr. Chalk, "else I should tell you at once."
"It isn't his secret," said the complaisant Brisket.
Mrs. Chalk controlled herself by a great effort and,
turning to Captain Brisket, addressed him almost calmly. "Was it
Emily that came whistling over the garden wall the other night?" she
"Whis — ?" said the hapless Brisket, making a noble
effort. He finished the word with a cough and gazed with
protruding eyes at Mr. Chalk. The appearance of that gentleman
sobered him at once.
"No," he said, slowly.
"How do you know?" inquired Mrs. Chalk.
"Because she can't whistle," replied Captain
Brisket, feeling his way carefully. "And what's more, she
wouldn't if she could. She's been too well brought up for that."
He gave a cunning smile at Mr. Chalk, to which that
gentleman, having decided at all hazards to keep the secret from
Captain Bowers, made a ghastly response, and nodded to him to proceed.
"What's she got to do with my husband?" demanded Mrs. Chalk, her voice rising despite herself.
"I'm coming to that," said Brisket, thoughtfully, as
he gazed at the floor in all the agonies of composition; "Mr. Chalk is
trying to get her a new place."
"New place?" said Mrs. Chalk, in a choking voice.
Captain Brisket nodded. "She ain't happy where
she is," he explained, "and Mr. Chalk — out o' pure good nature and
kindness of heart — is trying to get her another, and I honor him for
He looked round triumphantly. Mr. Chalk,
sitting open-mouthed, was regarding him with the fascinated gaze of a
rabbit before a boa constrictor. Captain Bowers was listening
with an appearance of interest which in more favorable circumstances
would have been very flattering.
"You said," cried Mrs. Chalk — "you said to my husband: 'The fair Emily is yours.'"
"So I did," said Brisket, anxiously — "so I
did. And what I say I stick to. When I said that the — that
Emily was his, I meant it. I don't say things I don't mean.
That isn't Bill Brisket's way."
"And you said just now that he was getting her a place," Mrs. Chalk reminded him, grimly.
"Mr. Chalk understands what I mean," said Captain
Brisket, with dignity. "When I said 'She is yours,' I meant that
she is coming here."
"O-oh!" said Mrs. Chalk, breathlessly. "Oh, indeed! Oh, is she?"
"That is, if her mother'll let her come," pursued
the enterprising Brisket, with a look of great artfulness at Mr. Chalk,
to call his attention to the bridge he was building for him; "but the
old woman's been laid up lately and talks about not being able to spare
Mrs. Chalk sat back helplessly in her chair and
gazed from her husband to Captain Brisket, and from Captain Brisket
back to her husband. Captain Brisket, red-faced and confident,
sat upright on the edge of his chair as though inviting inspection; Mr.
Chalk plucked nervously at his fingers. Captain Bowers suddenly
"What's her tonnage?" he inquired abruptly, turning to Brisket.
"Two hundred and for — "
Captain Brisket stopped dead and, rubbing his nose
hard with his forefinger, gazed thoughtfully at Captain Bowers.
"The Fair Emily is a ship," said the latter to Mrs. Chalk.
"A ship!" cried the bewildered woman. "A ship
living with her invalid mother and coming to my husband to get her a
place! Are you trying to screen him, too?"
"It's a ship," repeated Captain Bowers, sternly, as
he sought in vain to meet the eye of Mr. Chalk; "a craft of two hundred
and something tons. For some reason — best known to himself — Mr.
Chalk wants the matter kept secret."
"It — it isn't my secret," faltered Mr. Chalk.
"Where's she lying?" said Captain Bowers.
Mr. Chalk hesitated. "Biddlecombe," he said, at last.
Captain Brisket laughed noisily and, smacking his
leg with his open hand, smiled broadly upon the company. No
response being forthcoming, he laughed again for his own edification,
and sat good-humoredly waiting events.
"Is this true, Thomas?" demanded Mrs. Chalk.
"Yes, my dear," was the reply.
"Then why didn't you tell me, instead of sitting there listening to a string of falsehoods?"
"I — I wanted to give you a surprise — a pleasant
little surprise," said Mr. Chalk, with a timid glance at Captain
Bowers. "I have bought a share in a schooner, to go for a little
cruise. Just a jaunt for pleasure."
"Tredgold, Stobell, and Chalk," said Captain Bowers, very distinctly.
"I wanted to keep it secret until it had been
repainted and done up," continued Mr. Chalk, watching his wife's face
anxiously, "and then Captain Brisket came in and spoilt it."
"That's me, ma'am," said the gentleman mentioned,
shaking his head despairingly. "That's Bill Brisket all
over. I come blundering in, and the first thing I do is to blurt
out secrets; then, when I try to smooth it over — "
Mrs. Chalk paid no heed. Alluding to the
schooner as "our yacht," she at once began to discuss the subject of
the voyage, the dresses she would require, and the rival merits of
shutting the house up or putting the servants on board wages.
Under her skilful hands, aided by a few suggestions of Captain
Brisket's, the Fair Emily was in the short space of twenty minutes
transformed into one of the most luxurious yachts that ever sailed the
seas. Mr. Chalk's heart failed him as he listened. His
thoughts were with his partners in the enterprise, and he trembled as
he thought of their comments.
"It will do Mrs. Stobell a lot of good," said his wife, suddenly.
Mr. Chalk, about to speak, checked himself and blew
his nose instead. The romance of the affair was beginning to
evaporate. He sat in a state of great dejection, until Captain
Bowers, having learned far more than he had anticipated, shook hands
with impressive gravity and took his departure.
The captain walked home deep in thought, with a
prolonged stare at the windows of Tredgold's office as he passed.
The present whereabouts of the map was now quite clear, and at the top
of Dialstone Lane he stopped and put his hand to his brow in
consternation, as he thought of the elaborate expedition that was being
fitted out for the recovery of the treasure.
Prudence, who was sitting in the window reading, looked up at his entrance and smiled.
"Edward Tredgold has been in to see you," she remarked.
The captain nodded. "Couldn't he stay?" he inquired.
"I don't know," said his niece; "I didn't see him. I was upstairs when he came."
Captain Bowers looked perturbed. "Didn't you come down?" he inquired.
"I sent down word that I had a headache," said Miss Drewitt, carelessly.
Despite his sixty odd years the captain turned a
little bit pink. "I hope you are better now," he said, at last.
"Oh, yes," said his niece; "it wasn't very
bad. It's strange that I should have a headache so soon after
you; looks as though they're in the family, doesn't it?"
Somewhat to the captain's relief she took up her
book again without waiting for a reply, and sat reading until Mr.
Tasker brought in the tea. The captain, who was in a very
thoughtful mood, drank cup after cup in silence, and it was not until
the meal was cleared away and he had had a few soothing whiffs at his
pipe that he narrated the events of the afternoon.
"There!" said Prudence, her eyes sparkling with
indignation. "What did I say? Didn't I tell you that those
three people would be taking a holiday soon? The idea of Mr.
Tredgold venturing to come round here this afternoon!"
"He knows nothing about it," protested the captain.
Miss Drewitt shook her head obstinately. "We
shall see," she remarked. "The idea of those men going after your
treasure after you had said it wasn't to be touched! Why, it's
The captain blew a cloud of smoke from his mouth and
watched it disperse. "Perhaps they won't find it," he murmured.
"They'll find it," said his niece,
confidently. "Why shouldn't they? This Captain Brisket will
find the island, and the rest will be easy."
"They might not find the island," said the captain,
blowing a cloud so dense that his face was almost hidden. "Some
of these little islands have been known to disappear quite
suddenly. Volcanic action, you know. What are you smiling
at?" he added, sharply.
"Thoughts," said Miss Drewitt, clasping her hands
round her knee and smiling again. "I was thinking how odd it
would be if the island sank just as they landed upon it."
Mr. Chalk, when half awake next morning, tried to remember Mr.
Stobell's remarks of the night before; fully awake, he tried to forget
them. He remembered, too, with a pang that Tredgold had been
content to enact the part of a listener, and had made no attempt to
check the somewhat unusual fluency of the aggrieved Mr. Stobell.
The latter's last instructions were that Mrs. Chalk was to be told,
without loss of time, that her presence on the schooner was not to be
With all this on his mind Mr. Chalk made but a poor
breakfast, and his appetite was not improved by his wife's enthusiastic
remarks concerning the voyage. Breakfast over, she dispatched a
note to Mrs. Stobell by the housemaid, with instructions to wait for a
reply. Altogether six notes passed during the morning, and Mr.
Chalk, who hazarded a fair notion as to their contents, became
"We're to go up there at five," said his wife, after
reading the last note. "Mr. Stobell will be at tea at that time,
and we're to drop in as though by accident."
"What for?" inquired Mr. Chalk, affecting surprise. "Go up where?"
"To talk to Mr. Stobell," said his wife,
grimly. "Fancy, poor Mrs. Stobell says that she is sure he won't
let her come. I wish he was my husband, that's all."
Mr. Chalk muttered something about "doing a little gardening."
"You can do that another time," said Mrs. Chalk,
coldly. "I've noticed you've been very fond of gardening lately."
The allusion was too indirect to contest, but Mr.
Chalk reddened despite himself, and his wife, after regarding his
confusion with a questioning eye, left him to his own devices and his
Mr. Stobell and his wife had just sat down to tea
when they arrived, and Mrs. Stobell, rising from behind a huge teapot,
gave a little cry of surprise as her friend entered the room, and
kissed her affectionately.
"Well, who would have thought of seeing you?" she cried. "Sit down."
Mrs. Chalk sat down at the large table opposite Mr.
Stobell; Mr. Chalk, without glancing in his wife's direction, seated
himself by that gentleman's side.
"Well, weren't you surprised?" inquired Mrs. Chalk, loudly, as her hostess passed her a cup of tea.
"Surprised?" said Mrs. Stobell, curiously.
"Why, hasn't Mr. Stobell told you?" exclaimed Mrs. Chalk.
"Told me?" repeated Mrs. Stobell, glancing
indignantly at the wide open eyes of Mr. Chalk. "Told me what?"
It was now Mrs. Chalk's turn to appear surprised,
and she did it so well that Mr. Chalk choked in his teacup.
"About the yachting trip," she said, with a glance at her husband that
made his choking take on a ventriloquial effect of distance.
"He — he didn't say anything to me about it," said Mrs. Stobell, timidly.
She glanced at her husband, but Mr. Stobell, taking
an enormous bite out of a slice of bread and butter, made no sign.
"It'll do you a world of good," said Mrs. Chalk,
affectionately. "It'll put a little color in your cheeks."
Mrs. Stobell flushed. She was a faded little
woman; faded eyes, faded hair, faded cheeks. It was even
whispered that her love for Mr. Stobell was beginning to fade.
"And I don't suppose you'll mind the seasickness
after you get used to it," said the considerate Mr. Chalk, "and the
storms, and the cyclones, and fogs, and collisions, and all that sort
"If you can stand it, she can," said his wife, angrily.
"But I don't understand," said Mrs. Stobell, appealingly. "What yachting trip?"
Mrs. Chalk began to explain; Mr. Stobell helped
himself to another slice, and, except for a single glance under his
heavy brows at Mr. Chalk, appeared to be oblivious of his surroundings.
"It sounds very nice," said Mrs. Stobell, after her
friend had finished her explanation. "Perhaps it might do me
good. I have tried a great many things."
"Mr. Stobell ought to have taken you for a voyage
long before," said Mrs. Chalk, with conviction. "Still, better
late than never."
"The only thing is," said Mr. Chalk, speaking with
an air of great benevolence, "that if the sea didn't suit Mrs. Stobell,
she would be unable to get away from it. And, of course, it might
upset her very much."
Mr. Stobell wiped some crumbs from his moustache and looked up.
"No, it won't," he said, briefly.
"Is she a good sailor?" queried Mr. Chalk, somewhat astonished at such a remark from that quarter.
"Don't know," said Mr. Stobell, passing his cup up. "But this trip won't upset her — she ain't going."
Mrs. Chalk exclaimed loudly and exchanged glances of
consternation with Mrs. Stobell; Mr. Stobell, having explained the
position, took some more bread and butter and munched placidly.
"Don't you think it would do her good?" said Mrs. Chalk, at last.
"Might," said Mr. Stobell, slowly, "and then, again, it mightn't."
"But there's no harm in trying," persisted Mrs. Chalk.
Mr. Stobell made no reply. Having reached his
fifth slice he was now encouraging his appetite with apricot jam.
"And it's so cheap," continued Mrs. Chalk.
"That's the way I look at it. If she shuts up
the house and gets rid of the servants, same as I am going to do, it
will save a lot of money."
She glanced at Mr. Stobell, whose slowly working
jaws and knitted brows appeared to indicate deep thought, and then gave
a slight triumphant nod at his wife.
"Servants are so expensive," she murmured.
"Really, I shouldn't be surprised if we saved money on the whole
affair. And then think of her health. She has never quite
recovered from that attack of bronchitis. She has never looked
the same woman since. Think of your feelings if anything happened
to her. Nothing would bring her back to you if once she went."
"Went where?" inquired Mr. Stobell, who was not attending very much.
"If she died, I mean," said Mrs. Chalk, shortly.
"We've all got to die some day," said the philosophic Mr. Stobell. "She's forty-six."
Mrs. Stobell interposed. "Not till September, Robert," she said, almost firmly.
"It wouldn't be nice to be buried at sea," remarked
Mr. Chalk, contributing his mite to the discussion. "Of course,
it's very impressive; but to be left down there all alone while the
ship sails on must be very hard."
Mrs. Stobell's eyes began to get large. "I'm feeling quite well," she gasped.
"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Chalk, with a threatening
glance at her husband. "Of course, we know that. But a
voyage would do you good. You can't deny that."
Mrs. Stobell, fumbling for her handkerchief, said in
a tremulous voice that she had no wish to deny it. Mr. Stobell,
appealed to by the energetic Mrs. Chalk, admitted at once that it might
do his wife good, but that it wouldn't him.
"We're going to be three jolly bachelors," he
declared, and, first nudging Mr. Chalk to attract his attention,
deliberately winked at him.
"Oh, indeed!" exclaimed Mrs. Chalk, drawing herself up; "but you forget that I am coming."
"Two jolly bachelors, then," said the undaunted Stobell.
"No," said Mrs. Chalk, shaking her head, "I am not
going alone; if Mrs. Stobell can't come I would sooner stay at home."
Mr. Stobell's face cleared; his mouth relaxed and
his dull eyes got almost kindly. With the idea of calling the
attention of Mr. Chalk to the pleasing results of a little firmness he
placed his foot upon that gentleman's toe and bore heavily.
"Best place for you," he said to Mrs. Chalk.
"There's no place like home for ladies. You can have each other
to tea every day if you like. In fact, there's no reason — " he
paused and looked at his wife, half doubtful that he was conceding too
much — "there's no reason why you shouldn't sleep at each other's
He helped himself to some cake and, rendered polite by good nature, offered some to Mrs. Chalk.
"Mind, I shall not go unless Mrs. Stobell goes,"
said the latter, waving the plate away impatiently; "that I am
Mr. Chalk, feeling that appearances required it, ventured on a mild — a very mild — remonstrance.
"And he," continued Mrs. Chalk, sternly, indicating
her husband with a nod, "doesn't go without me — not a single step, not
an inch of the way."
Mr. Chalk collapsed and sat staring at her in
dismay. Mr. Stobell, placing both hands on the table, pushed his
chair back and eyed her disagreeably.
"It seems to me — " he began.
"I know," said Mrs. Chalk, speaking with some
rapidity — "I know just how it seems to you. But that's how it
is. If you want my husband to go you have got to have me too, and
if you have me you have got to have your wife, and if — "
"What, is there any more of you coming?" demanded Mr. Stobell, with great bitterness.
Mrs. Chalk ignored the question. "My husband
wouldn't be happy without me," she said, primly. "Would you,
"No," said Mr. Chalk, with a gulp.
"We — we're going a long way," said Mr. Stobell, after a long pause.
"Longer the better," retorted Mrs. Chalk.
"We're going among savages," continued Mr. Stobell, casting about for arguments; "cannibal savages."
"They won't eat her," said Mrs. Chalk, with a
passing glance at the scanty proportions of her friend, "not while
"I don't like to take my wife into danger," said Mr.
Stobell, with surly bashfulness; "I'm — I'm too fond of her for
that. And she don't want to come. Do you, Alice?"
"No," said Mrs. Stobell, dutifully, "but I want to share your dangers, Robert."
"Say 'yes' or 'no' without any trimmings," commanded
her husband, as he intercepted a look passing between her and Mrs.
Mrs. Stobell trembled. "I don't want to prevent Mr. Chalk from going," she murmured.
"Never mind about him," said Mr. Stobell.
"Do — you — want — to — come."
"Yes," said Mrs. Stobell.
Her husband, hardly able to believe his ears, gazed
at her in bewilderment. "Very well, then," he said, in a voice
that made the teacups rattle. "COME!"
He sat with bent brows gazing at the table as Mrs.
Chalk, her face wreathed in triumphant smiles, began to discuss
yachting costumes and other necessities of ocean travel with the
quivering Mrs. Stobell. Unable to endure it any longer he rose
and, in a voice by no means alluring, invited Mr. Chalk into the garden
to smoke a pipe; Mr. Chalk, helping himself to two pieces of cake as
evidence, said that he had not yet finished his tea. Owing partly
to lack of appetite and partly to the face which Mr. Stobell pressed to
the window every other minute to entice him out, he made but slow
The matter was discussed next day as they journeyed
down to Biddlecombe with Mr. Tredgold to complete the purchase of the
schooner, the views of the latter gentleman coinciding so exactly with
those of Mr. Stobell that Mr. Chalk was compelled to listen to the same
Under this infliction his spirits began to droop,
nor did they revive until, from the ferry, his eyes fell upon the masts
of the Fair Emily, and the trim figure of Captain Brisket standing at
the foot of the steps awaiting their arrival.
"We've had a stroke of good luck, gentlemen," said
Brisket, in a husky whisper, as they followed him up the steps.
"See that man?"
He pointed to a thin, dismal-looking man, standing a
yard or two away, who was trying to appear unconscious of their
"Peter Duckett," said Brisket, in the same satisfied whisper.
Mr. Stobell, ever willing for a free show, stared at
the dismal man and groped in the recesses of his memory. The name
"The man who ate three dozen hardboiled eggs in four
minutes?" he asked, with a little excitement natural in the
Captain Brisket stared at him. "No; Peter
Duckett, the finest mate that ever sailed," he said, with a
flourish. "We're lucky to have the chance of getting him, I can
tell you. To see him handle sailormen is a revelation; to see him
handle a ship — "
He broke off and shook his head with the air of a
man who despaired of doing justice to his subject. "These are the
gentlemen, Peter," he said, introducing them with a wave of his hand.
Mr. Duckett raised his cap, and tugging at a small
patch of reddish-brown hair strangely resembling a doormat in texture,
which grew at the base of his chin, cleared his throat and said it was
a fine morning.
"Not much of a talker is Peter," said the genial
Brisket. "He's a doer; that's what he is — a doer. Now, if
you're willing — and I hope you are — he'll come aboard with us and
talk the matter over."
This proposition being assented to after a little
delay on the part of Mr. Stobell, who appeared to think Mr. Duckett's
lack of connection with the hardboiled eggs somewhat suspicious, they
proceeded to Todd's Wharf and made a thorough inspection of the
schooner. Mr. Chalk's eyes grew bright and his step
elastic. He roamed from forecastle to cabin and from cabin to
galley, and, his practice with the crows nest in Dialstone Lane
standing him in good stead, wound up by ascending to the masthead and
waving to his astonished friends below.
Mr. Todd came on board as he regained the deck, and,
stroking his white beard, regarded him with an air of benevolent
"There's no ill feeling," he said, as Mr. Chalk eyed
his outstretched hand somewhat dubiously. "You're a hard nut,
that's what you are, and I pity anybody that has the cracking of
you. A man that could come and offer me seventy pounds for a
craft like this — seventy pounds, mind you," he added, with a rising
color, as he turned to the others "seventy pounds, and a face like a
baby. Why, when I think of it, DAMME IF I DON'T — "
Captain Brisket laid his hand on his arm and with
soothing words led him below. His voice was heard booming in the
cabin until at length it ended in a roar of laughter, and Captain
Brisket, appearing at the companion, beckoned them below, with a
whispered injunction to Mr. Chalk to keep as much in the background as
The business was soon concluded, and Mr. Chalk's eye
brightened again as he looked on his new property. Captain
Brisket, in high good humor, began to talk of accommodation, and, among
other things, suggested a scheme of cutting through the bulkhead at the
foot of the companion-ladder and building a commodious cabin with three
berths in the hold.
"There are two ladies coming," said Mr. Chalk.
Captain Brisket rubbed his chin. "I'd forgotten that," he said, slowly. "Two, did you say?"
"It doesn't matter," said Mr. Stobell, fixing him
with his left eye and slowly veiling the right. "You go on with
them alterations. One of the ladies can have your stateroom and
the other the mate's bunk."
"Where are Captain Brisket and the mate to sleep?" inquired Mr. Chalk.
"Anywhere," replied Mr. Stobell. "With the crew if they like."
Captain Brisket, looking suddenly very solemn, shook
his head and said that it was impossible. He spoke in moving
terms of the danger to discipline, and called upon Mr. Duckett to
confirm his fears. Meantime, Mr. Stobell, opening his right eye
slowly, winked with the left.
"You go on with them alterations," he repeated.
Captain Brisket started and reflected. A nod
from Mr. Tredgold and a significant gesture in the direction of the
unconscious Mr. Chalk decided him. "Very good, gentlemen," he
said, cheerfully. "I'm in your hands, and Peter Ducket'll do what
I do. It's settled he's coming, I suppose?"
Mr. Tredgold, after a long look at the anxious face
of Mr. Duckett, said "Yes," and then at Captain Brisket's suggestion
the party adjourned to the Jack Ashore, where in a little room
upstairs, not much larger than the schooner's cabin, the preparations
for the voyage were discussed in detail.
"And mind, Peter," said Captain Brisket to his
friend, as the pair strolled along by the harbor after their principals
had departed, "the less you say about this the better. We don't
want any Biddlecombe men in it."
"Why not?" inquired the other.
"Because," replied Brisket, lowering his voice,
"there's more in this than meets the eye. They're not the sort to
go on a cruise to the islands for pleasure — except Chalk, that
is. I've been keeping my ears open, and there's something
afoot. D'ye take me?"
Mr. Duckett nodded shrewdly.
"I'll pick a crew for 'em," said Brisket. "A
man here and a man there. Biddlecombe men ain't tough
enough. And now, what about that whisky you've been talking so
Further secrecy as to the projected trip being now useless, Mr.
Tredgold made the best of the situation and talked freely concerning
it. To the astonished Edward he spoke feelingly of seeing the
world before the insidious encroachments of age should render it
impossible; to Captain Bowers, whom he met in the High Street, he
discussed destinations with the air of a man whose mind was singularly
open on the subject. If he had any choice it appeared that it was
in the direction of North America.
"You might do worse," said the captain, grimly.
"Chalk," said Mr. Tredgold, meditatively "Chalk
favors the South. I think that he got rather excited by your
description of the islands there. He is a very — "
"If you are going to try and find that island I
spoke about," interrupted the captain, impatiently, "I warn you
solemnly that you are wasting both your time and your money. If I
had known of this voyage I would have told you so before. If you
take my advice you'll sell your schooner and stick to business you
Mr. Tredgold laughed easily. "We may look for
it if we go that way," he said. "I believe that Chalk has bought
a trowel, in case we run up against it. He has got a romantic
belief in coincidences, you know."
"Very good," said the captain, turning away.
"Only don't blame me, whatever happens. You can't say I have not
He clutched his stick by the middle and strode off
down the road. Mr. Tredgold, gazing after his retreating figure
with a tolerant smile, wondered whether he would take his share of the
treasure when it was offered to him.
The anxiety of Miss Vickers at this period was
intense. Particulars of the purchase of the schooner were
conveyed to her by letter, but the feminine desire of talking the
matter over with somebody became too strong to be denied. She
even waylaid Mr. Stobell one evening, and, despite every
discouragement, insisted upon walking part of the way home with
him. He sat for hours afterwards recalling the tidbits of a
summary of his personal charms with which she had supplied him.
Mr. Chalk spent the time in preparations for the
voyage, purchasing, among other necessaries, a stock of firearms of all
shapes and sizes, with which he practiced in the garden. Most
marksmen diminish gradually the size of their target; but Mr. Chalk,
after starting with a medicine bottle at a hundred yards, wound up with
the greenhouse at fifteen. Mrs. Chalk, who was inside at the time
tending an invalid geranium, acted as marker, and, although Mr. Chalk
proved by actual measurement that the bullet had not gone within six
inches of her, the range was closed.
By the time the alterations on the Fair Emily were
finished the summer was nearly at an end, and it was not until the 20th
of August that the travelers met on Binchester platform. Mrs.
Chalk, in a smart yachting costume, with a white-peaked cap, stood by a
pile of luggage discoursing to an admiring circle of friends who had
come to see her off. She had shut up her house and paid off her
servants, and her pity for Mrs. Stobell, whose husband had forbidden
such a course in her case, provided a suitable and agreeable subject
for conversation. Mrs. Stobell had economised in quite a
different direction, and Mrs. Chalk gazed in indignant pity at the one
small box and the Gladstone bag which contained her wardrobe.
"She don't want to dress up on shipboard," said Mr. Stobell.
Mrs. Chalk turned and eyed her friend's costume — a
plain tweed coat and skirt, in which she had first appeared the spring
"If we're away a year," she said, decidedly, "she'll be in rags before we get back."
Mr. Stobell said that fortunately they would be in a
warm climate, and turned to greet the Tredgolds, who had just
arrived. Then the train came in, and Mr. Chalk, appearing
suddenly from behind the luggage, where he had been standing since he
had first caught sight of the small, anxious face of Selina Vickers on
the platform, entered the carriage and waved cheery adieus to
To the eyes of Mr. Chalk and his wife Biddlecombe
appeared to have put on holiday attire for the occasion. With
smiling satisfaction they led the way to the ferry, Mrs. Chalk's
costume exciting so much attention that the remainder of the party hung
behind to watch Edward Tredgold fasten his bootlace. It took two
boats to convey the luggage to the schooner, and the cargo of the
smaller craft shifting in midstream, the boatman pulled the remainder
of the way with a large portion of it in his lap. Unfortunately,
his mouth was free.
Mr. Chalk could not restrain a cry of admiration as
he clambered on board the Fair Emily. The deck was as white as
that of a man of war, and her brasswork twinkled in the sun.
White paint work and the honest and healthy smell of tar completed his
satisfaction. His chest expanded as he sniffed the breeze, and
with a slight nautical roll paced up and down the spotless deck.
"And now," said Captain Brisket, after a couple of
sturdy seamen had placed the men's luggage in the new cabin, "which of
you ladies is going to have my stateroom, and which the mate's bunk?"
Mrs. Chalk started; she had taken it for granted
that she was to have the stateroom. She turned and eyed her
"The bunk seems to get the most air," said Mrs.
Stobell. "And it's nearer the ladder in case of emergencies."
"You have it, dear," said Mrs. Chalk, tenderly. "I'm not nervous."
"But you are so fond of fresh air," said Mrs.
Stobell, with a longing glance at the stateroom. "I don't like to
"You're not," said Mrs. Chalk, with conviction.
"Chalk and I will toss for it," said Mr. Stobell,
who had been listening with some impatience. He spun a coin in
the air, and Mr. Chalk, winning the bunk for his indignant wife, was at
some pains to dilate upon its manifold advantages. Mrs. Stobell,
with a protesting smile, had her things carried into the stateroom,
while Mrs. Chalk stood by listening coldly to plans for putting her
heavy luggage in the hold.
"What time do we start?" inquired Tredgold senior, moving towards the companion-ladder.
"Four o'clock, sir," replied Brisket.
Mr. Stobell, his heavy features half-lit by an
unwonted smile, turned and surveyed his friends. "I've ordered a
little feed at the King of Hanover at half past one," he said,
awkwardly. "We'll be back on board by half past three, captain."
Captain Brisket bowed, and the party were making
preparations for departure when a hitch was caused by the behavior of
Mrs. Chalk, who was still brooding over the affair of the
stateroom. In the plainest of plain terms she declared that she
did not want any luncheon and preferred to stay on board. Her
gloom seemed to infect the whole party, Mr. Stobell in particular being
so dejected that his wife eyed him in amazement.
"It'll spoil it for all of us if you don't come," he
said, with bashful surliness. "Why, I arranged the lunch more for
you than anybody. It'll be our last meal on shore."
Mrs. Chalk said that she had had so many meals on
shore that she could afford to miss one, and Mr. Stobell, after eyeing
her for some time in a manner strangely at variance with his words,
drew his wife to one side and whispered fiercely in her ear.
"Well, I shan't go without her," said Mrs. Stobell,
rejoining the group. "What with losing that nice, airy bunk and
getting that nasty, stuffy stateroom, I don't feel like eating."
Mrs. Chalk's countenance cleared. "Don't you
like it, dear?" she said affectionately. "Change, by all means,
if you don't. Never mind about their stupid tossing."
Mrs. Stobell changed, and Mr. Tredgold senior, after
waiting a decent interval for the sake of appearances, entreated both
ladies to partake of the luncheon. Unable to resist any longer,
Mrs. Chalk gave way, and in the ship's boat, propelled by the brawny
arms of two of the crew, went ashore with the others.
Luncheon was waiting for them in the coffee-room of
the inn, and the table was brave with flowers and bottles of
champagne. Impressed by the occasion George the waiter attended
upon them with unusual decorum, and the landlady herself entered the
room two or three times to see that things were proceeding properly.
"Here's to our next meal on shore," said Mr. Chalk, raising his glass and nodding solemnly at Edward.
"That will be tea for me," said the latter. "I
shall come back here, I expect, and take a solitary cup to your
memory. Let me have a word as soon as you can."
"You ought to get a cable from Sydney in about six or seven months," said his father.
His son nodded. "Don't trouble about any
expressions of affection," he urged; "they'd come expensive. If
you find me dead of overwork when you come back — "
"I shall contest the certificate," said his father, with unwonted frivolity.
"I wonder how we shall sleep tonight?" said Mrs.
Stobell, with a little shiver. "Fancy, only a few planks between
us and the water!"
"That won't keep me awake," said Mrs. Chalk,
decidedly; "but I shouldn't sleep a wink if I had left my girls in the
house, the same as you have. I should lie awake all night
wondering what tricks they'd be up to."
"But you've left your house unprotected," said Mrs. Stobell.
"The house won't run away," retorted her friend,
"and I've sent all my valuables to the bank and to friends to take care
of, and had all my carpets taken up and beaten and warehoused. I
can't imagine what Mr. Stobell was thinking of not to let you do the
"There's a lot as would like to know what I'm
thinking of sometimes," remarked Mr. Stobell, with a satisfied air.
Mrs. Chalk glanced at him superciliously, but,
remembering that he was her host, refrained from the only comments she
felt to be suitable to the occasion. Under the tactful guidance
of Edward Tredgold the conversation was led to shipwrecks, fires at
sea, and other subjects of the kind comforting to the landsman, Mr.
Chalk favoring them with a tale of a giant octopus, culled from Captain
Bowers's collection, which made Mrs. Stobell's eyes dilate with horror.
"You won't see any octopuses," said her husband. "You needn't worry about them."
He got up from the table, and crossing to the window
stood with his hands behind his back, smoking one of the "King of
"Very good smoke this," he said, taking the cigar
from his mouth and inspecting it critically. "I think I'll take a
box or two with me."
"Just what I was thinking," said Mr. Jasper Tredgold. "Let's go down and see the landlord."
Mr. Stobell followed him slowly from the room,
leaving Mr. Chalk and Edward to entertain the ladies. The former
gentleman, clad in a neat serge suit, an open collar, and a knotted
necktie, leaned back in his chair, puffing contentedly at one of the
cigars which had excited the encomiums of his friends. He was
just about to help himself to a little more champagne when Mr. Stobell,
reappearing at the door, requested him to come and give them the
benefit of his opinion in the matter of cigars.
"They don't seem up to sample," he said, with a growl; "and you're a good judge of a cigar."
Mr. Chalk rose and followed him downstairs, where,
to his great astonishment, he was at once seized by Mr. Tredgold and
"Anything wrong?" he demanded.
"We must get to the ship at once," said Tredgold, in an excited whisper. "The men!"
Mr. Chalk, much startled, clapped his hands to his head and spoke of going back for his hat.
"Never mind about your hat," said Stobell, impatiently; "we haven't got ours either."
He took Mr. Chalk's other arm and started off at a rapid pace.
"What is the matter?" inquired Mr. Chalk, looking from one to the other.
"Message from Captain Brisket to go on board at
once, or he won't be answerable for the consequences," replied
Tredgold, in a thrilling whisper; "and, above all, to bring Mr. Chalk
to quiet the men."
Mr. Chalk turned a ghastly white. "Is it mutiny?" he faltered. "Already?"
"Something o' the sort," said Stobell.
Despite his friend's great strength, Mr. Chalk for
one moment almost brought him to a standstill. Then, in a
tremulous voice, he spoke of going to the police.
"We don't want the police," said Tredgold,
sharply. "If you're afraid, Chalk, you'd better go back and stay
with the ladies while we settle the affair."
Mr. Chalk flushed, and holding his head erect said
no more. Mr. Duckett and a waterman were waiting for them at the
stairs, and, barely giving them time to jump in, pushed off and pulled
with rapid strokes to the schooner. Mr. Chalk's heart failed him
as they drew near and he saw men moving rapidly about her deck.
His last thoughts as he clambered over the side were of his wife.
In blissful ignorance of his proceedings, Mrs.
Chalk, having adjusted her cap in the glass and drawn on her gloves,
sat patiently awaiting his return. She even drew a good-natured
comparison between the time spent on choosing cigars and bonnets.
"There's plenty of time," she said, in reply to an
uneasy remark of Mrs. Stobell's. "It's only just three, and we
don't sail until four. What is that horrid, clanking noise?"
"Some craft getting up her anchor," said Edward,
going to the window and leaning out. "WHY! Hello!"
"What's the matter?" said both ladies.
Edward drew in his head and regarded them with an expression of some bewilderment.
"It's the Fair Emily," he said, slowly, "and she's hoisting her sails."
"Just trying the machinery to see that it's all
right, I suppose," said Mrs. Chalk. "My husband said that Captain
Brisket is a very careful man."
Edward Tredgold made no reply. He glanced
first at three hats standing in a row on the sideboard, and then at the
ladies as they came to the window, and gazed with innocent curiosity at
the schooner. Even as they looked she drew slowly ahead, and a
boat piled up with luggage, which had been lying the other side of her,
became visible. Mrs. Chalk gazed at it in stupefaction.
"It can't be ours," she gasped. "They — they'd never dare! They — they — "
She stood for a moment staring at the hats on the
sideboard, and then, followed by the others, ran hastily
downstairs. There was a hurried questioning of the astonished
landlady, and then, Mrs. Chalk leading, they made their way to the
stairs at a pace remarkable in a woman of her age and figure.
Mrs. Stobell, assisted by Edward Tredgold, did her best to keep up with
her, but she reached the goal some distance ahead, and, jumping heavily
into a boat, pointed to the fast-receding schooner and bade the boatman
"Can't be done, ma'am," said the man, staring, "not without wings."
"Row hard," said Mrs. Chalk, in a voice of sharp encouragement.
The boatman, a man of few words, jerked his thumb in
the direction of the Fair Emily, which was already responding to the
motion of the sea outside.
"You run up the road on to them cliffs and wave to 'em," he said, slowly. "Wave 'ard."
Mrs. Chalk hesitated, and then, stepping out of the
boat, resumed the pursuit by land. Ten minutes' hurried walking
brought them to the cliffs, and standing boldly on the verge she
enacted, to the great admiration of a small crowd, the part of a human
The schooner, her bows pointing gradually seawards,
for some time made no sign. Then a little group clustered at the
stern and waved farewells.
Mrs. Chalk watched the schooner until it was a mere white speck on the
horizon, a faint idea that it might yet see the error of its ways and
return for her chaining her to the spot. Compelled at last to
recognise the inevitable, she rose from the turf on which she had been
sitting and, her face crimson with wrath, denounced husbands in general
and her own in particular.
"It's my husband's doing, I'm sure," said Mrs.
Stobell, with a side glance at her friend's attire, not entirely devoid
of self congratulation. "That's why he wouldn't let me have a
yachting costume. I can see it now."
Mrs. Chalk turned and eyed her with angry disdain.
"And that's why he wouldn't let me bring more than
one box," continued Mrs. Stobell, with the air of one to whom all
things had been suddenly revealed; "and why he wouldn't shut the house
up. Oh, just fancy what a pickle I should have been in if I
had! I must say it was thoughtful of him."
"Thoughtful!" exclaimed Mrs. Chalk, in a choking voice.
"And I ought to have suspected something," continued
Mrs. Stobell, "because he kissed me this morning. I can see now
that he meant it for goodbye! Well, I can't say I'm
surprised. Robert always does get his own way."
"If you hadn't persuaded me to come ashore for that
wretched luncheon," said Mrs. Chalk, in a deep voice, "we should have
been all right."
"I'm sure I wasn't to know," said her friend,
"although I certainly thought it odd when Robert said that he had got
it principally for you. I could see you were a little bit
Mrs. Chalk, trembling with anger, sought in vain for a retort.
"Well, it's no good staying here," said Mrs. Stobell, philosophically. "We had better get home."
"Home!" cried Mrs. Chalk, as a vision of her bare
floors and dismantled walls rose before her. "When I think of the
deceitfulness of those men, giving us champagne and talking about the
long evenings on board, I don't know what to do with myself. And
your father was one of them," she added, turning suddenly upon Edward.
Mr. Tredgold disowned his erring parent with some
haste, and, being by this time rather tired of the proceedings,
suggested that they should return to the inn and look up trains — a
proposal to which Mrs. Chalk, after a final glance seawards, silently
assented. With head erect she led the way down to the town again,
her bearing being so impressive that George the waiter, who had been
watching for them, after handing her a letter which had been entrusted
to him, beat a precipitate retreat.
The letter, which was from Mr. Stobell, was short
and to the point. It narrated the artifice by which Mr. Chalk had
been lured away, and concluded with a general statement that women were
out of place on shipboard. This, Mrs. Stobell declared, after
perusing the letter, was intended for an apology.
Mrs. Chalk received the information in stony
silence, and, declining tea, made her way to the station and mounted
guard over her boxes until the train was due. With the exception
of saying "Indeed!" three or four times she kept silent all the way to
Binchester, and, arrived there, departed for home in a cab, in spite of
a most pressing invitation from Mrs. Stobell to stay with her until her
own house was habitable.
Mr. Tredgold parted from them both with
relief. The voyage had been a source of wonder to him from its
first inception, and the day's proceedings had only served to increase
the mystery. He made a light supper and, the house being too
quiet for his taste, went for a meditative stroll. The shops were
closed and the small thoroughfares almost deserted. He wondered
whether it was too late to call and talk over the affair with Captain
Bowers, and, still wondering, found himself in Dialstone Lane.
Two or three of the houses were in darkness, but
there was a cheerful light behind the drawn blind of the captain's
sitting room. He hesitated a moment and then rapped lightly on
the door, and no answer being forthcoming rapped again. The door
opened and revealed the amiable features of Mr. Tasker.
"Captain Bowers has gone to London, sir," he said.
Mr. Tredgold drew his right foot back three inches, and at the same time tried to peer into the room.
"We're expecting him back every moment," said Mr. Tasker, encouragingly.
Mr. Tredgold moved his foot forward again and
pondered. "It's very late, but I wanted to see him rather
particularly," he murmured, as he stepped into the room.
"Miss Drewitt's in the garden," said Joseph.
Mr. Tredgold started and eyed him
suspiciously. Mr. Tasker's face, however, preserving its usual
appearance of stolid simplicity, his features relaxed and he became
"Perhaps I might go into the garden," he suggested.
"I should if I was you, sir," said Joseph, preceding
him and throwing open the back door. "It's fresher out there."
Mr. Tredgold stepped into the garden and stood
blinking in the sudden darkness. There was no moon and the night
was cloudy, a fact which accounted for his unusual politeness towards a
cypress of somewhat stately bearing which stood at one corner of the
small lawn. He replaced his hat hastily, and an apologetic remark
concerning the lateness of his visit was never finished. A trifle
confused, he walked down the garden, peering right and left as he went,
but without finding the object of his search. Twice he paced the
garden from end to end, and he had just arrived at the conclusion that
Mr. Tasker had made a mistake when a faint sound high above his head
apprised him of the true state of affairs.
He stood listening in amazement, but the sound was
not repeated. Ordinary prudence and a sense of the fitness of
things suggested that he should go home; inclination suggested that he
should seat himself in the deck chair at the foot of the crows nest and
await events. He sat down to consider the matter.
Sprawling comfortably in the chair he lit his pipe,
his ear on the alert to catch the slightest sound of the captive in the
cask above. The warm air was laden with the scent of flowers, and
nothing stirred with the exception of Mr. Tasker's shadow on the blind
of the kitchen window. The clock in the neighboring church chimed
the three-quarters, and in due time boomed out the hour of ten.
Mr. Tredgold knocked the ashes from his pipe and began seriously to
consider his position. Lights went out in the next house.
Huge shadows appeared on the kitchen blind and the light gradually
faded, to reappear triumphantly in the room above. Anon the
shadow of Mr. Tasker's head was seen wrestling fiercely with its back
"Mr. Tredgold!" said a sharp voice from above.
Mr. Tredgold sprang to his feet, overturning the chair in his haste, and gazed aloft.
"Miss Drewitt!" he cried, in accents of intense surprise.
"I am coming down," said the voice.
"Pray be careful," said Mr. Tredgold, anxiously; "it is very dark. Can I help you?"
"Yes — you can go indoors," said Miss Drewitt.
Her tone was so decided and so bitter that Mr.
Tredgold, merely staying long enough to urge extreme carefulness in the
descent, did as he was desired. He went into the sitting room
and, standing uneasily by the fireplace, tried to think out his line of
action. He was still floundering when he heard swift footsteps
coming up the garden, and Miss Drewitt, very upright and somewhat
flushed of face, confronted him.
"I — I called to see the captain," he said, hastily,
"and Joseph told me you were in the garden. I couldn't see you
anywhere, so I took the liberty of sitting out there to wait for the
Miss Drewitt listened impatiently. "Did you know that I was up in the crows nest?" she demanded.
"Joseph never said a word about it," said Mr.
Tredgold, with an air of great frankness. "He merely said that
you were in the garden, and, not being able to find you, I thought that
he was mistaken."
"Did you know that I was up in the crows nest?" repeated Miss Drewitt, with ominous persistency.
"A — a sort of idea that you might be there did occur to me after a time," admitted the other.
"Did you know that I was there?"
Mr. Tredgold gazed at her in feeble indignation, but
the uselessness of denial made truth easier. "Yes," he said,
"Thank you," said the girl, scornfully. "You
thought that I shouldn't like to be caught up there, and that it would
be an amusing and gentlemanly thing to do to keep me a prisoner.
I quite understand. My estimate of you has turned out to be
"It was quite an accident," urged Mr. Tredgold,
humbly. "I've had a very worrying day seeing them off at
Biddlecombe, and when I heard you up in the nest I succumbed to sudden
temptation. If I had stopped to think — if I had had the faintest
idea that you would catechise me in the way you have done — I shouldn't
have dreamed of doing such a thing."
Miss Drewitt, who was standing with her hand on the
latch of the door leading upstairs, as a hint that the interview was at
an end, could not restrain her indignation.
"Your father and his friends have gone off to secure
my uncle's treasure, and you come straight on here," she cried,
hotly. "Do you think that there is no end to his good nature?"
"Treasure?" said the other, with a laugh.
"Why, that idea was knocked on the head when the map was burned.
Even Chalk wouldn't go on a roving commission to dig over all the
islands in the South Pacific."
"I don't see anything to laugh at," said the girl;
"my uncle fully intended to burn it. He was terribly upset when
he found that it had disappeared."
"Disappeared?" cried Mr. Tredgold, in accents of
unmistakable amazement. "Why, wasn't it burned after all?
The captain said it was."
"He was going to burn it," repeated the girl, watching him; "but somebody took it from the bureau."
"Took it? When?" inquired the other, as the
business of the yachting cruise began to appear before him in its true
"The afternoon you were here waiting for him," said Miss Drewitt.
"Afternoon?" repeated Mr. Tredgold, blankly.
"The afternoon I was — " He drew himself up and eyed her angrily.
"Do you mean to say that you think I took the thing?"
"It doesn't matter what I think," said the
girl. "I suppose you won't deny that your friends have got it?"
"Yes; but you said that it was the afternoon I was here," persisted the other.
Miss Drewitt eyed him indignantly. The
conscience-stricken culprit of a few minutes before had disappeared,
leaving in his stead an arrogant young man, demanding explanations in a
voice of almost unbecoming loudness.
"You are shouting at me," she said, stiffly.
Mr. Tredgold apologised, but returned to the
charge. "I answered your question a little while ago," he said,
in more moderate tones; "now, please, answer mine. Do you think
that I took the map?"
"I am not to be commanded to speak by you," said Miss Drewitt, standing very erect.
"Fair play is a jewel," said the other. "Question for question. Do you?"
Miss Drewitt looked at him and hesitated. "No," she said, at last, with obvious reluctance.
Mr. Tredgold's countenance cleared and his eyes softened.
"I suppose you admit that your father has got it?"
said the girl, noting these signs with some disapproval. "How did
he get it?"
Mr. Tredgold shook his head. "If those three
overgrown babes find that treasure," he said, impressively, "I'll doom
myself to perpetual bachelorhood."
"I answered your question just now," said the girl,
very quietly, "because I wanted to ask you one. Do you believe my
uncle's story about the buried treasure?"
Mr. Tredgold eyed her uneasily. "I never
attached much importance to it," he replied. "It seemed rather
"Do you believe it?"
"No," said the other, doggedly.
The girl drew a long breath and favored him with a look in which triumph and anger were strangely mingled.
"I wonder you can visit him after thinking him
capable of such a falsehood," she said, at last. "You certainly
won't be able to after I have told him."
"I told you in confidence," was the reply. "I
have regarded it all along as a story told to amuse Chalk; that is
all. I shall be very sorry if you say anything that might cause
unpleasantness between myself and Captain Bowers."
"I shall tell him as soon as he comes in," said Miss
Drewitt. "It is only right that he should know your opinion of
him. Good night."
Mr. Tredgold said "good night," and, walking to the
door, stood for a moment regarding her thoughtfully. It was quite
clear that in her present state of mind any appeal to her better nature
would be worse than useless. He resolved to try the effect of a
"I am very sorry for my behavior in the garden," he said, sorrowfully.
"It doesn't matter," said the girl; "I wasn't at all surprised."
Mr. Tredgold recognised the failure of the new
treatment at once. "Of course, when I went into the garden I
hadn't any idea that you would be in such an unlikely place," he said,
with a kindly smile. "Let us hope that you won't go there again."
Miss Drewitt, hardly able to believe her ears, let
him go without a word, and in a dazed fashion stood at the door and
watched him up the lane. When the captain came in a little later
she was sitting in a stiff and uncomfortable attitude by the window,
He was so tired after a long day in town that the
girl, at considerable personal inconvenience, allowed him to finish his
supper before recounting the manifold misdeeds of Mr. Tredgold.
She waited until he had pushed his chair back and lit a pipe, and then
without any preface plunged into the subject with an enthusiasm which
she endeavoured in vain to make contagious. The captain listened
in silence and turned a somewhat worried face in her direction when she
"We can't all think alike," he said, feebly, as she
waited with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes for the verdict. "I
told you he hadn't taken the map. As for those three idiots and
their harebrained voyage — "
"But Mr. Tredgold said that he didn't believe in the
treasure," said the wrathful Prudence. "One thing is, he can
never come here again; I think that I made him understand that.
The idea of thinking that you could tell a falsehood!"
The captain bent down and, picking a used match from
the hearthrug, threw it carefully under the grate. Miss Drewitt
watched him expectantly.
"We mustn't quarrel with people's opinions," he
said, at last. "It's a free country, and people can believe what
they like. Look at Protestants and Catholics, for instance; their
belief isn't the same, and yet I've known 'em to be staunch friends."
Miss Drewitt shook her head. "He can never
come here again," she said, with great determination. "He has
insulted you, and if you were not the best natured man in the world you
would be as angry about it as I am."
The captain smoked in silence.
"And his father and those other two men will come
back with your treasure," continued Prudence, after waiting for some
time for him to speak. "And, so far as I can see, you won't even
be able to prosecute them for it."
"I shan't do anything," said Captain Bowers,
impatiently, as he rose and knocked out his half-smoked pipe, "and I
never want to hear another word about that treasure as long as I
live. I'm tired of it. It has caused more mischief and
unpleasantness than — than it is worth. They are welcome to it
Mr. Chalk's foot had scarcely touched the deck of the schooner when Mr.
Tredgold seized him by the arm and, whispering indistinctly in his ear,
hurried him below.
"Get your guns out of the cabin as quick as you can," he said, sharply. "Then follow me up on deck."
Mr. Chalk, trembling violently, tried to speak, but
in vain. A horrid clanking noise sounded overhead, and with the
desperation of terror he turned into the new cabin and, collecting his
weapons, began with frantic haste to load them. Then he dropped
his rifle and sprang forward with a loud cry as he heard the door close
smartly and the key turn in the lock.
He stood gazing stupidly at the door and listening
to the noise overhead. The clanking ceased, and was succeeded by
a rush of heavy feet, above which he heard Captain Brisket shouting
hoarsely. He threw a despairing glance around his prison, and
then looked up at the skylight. It was not big enough to crawl
through, but he saw that by standing on the table he could get his head
out. No less clearly he saw how easy it would be for a mutineer
to hit it.
Huddled up in a corner of the cabin he tried to
think. Tredgold and Stobell were strangely silent, and even the
voice of Brisket had ceased. The suspense became
unbearable. Then suddenly a faint creaking and straining of
timbers apprised him of the fact that the Fair Emily was under way.
He sprang to his feet and beat heavily upon the
door, but it was of stout wood and opened inwards. Then a bright
idea, the result of reading sensational fiction, occurred to him, and
raising his rifle to his shoulder he aimed at the lock and pulled the
The noise of the explosion in the small cabin was
deafening, but, loud as it was, it failed to drown a cry of alarm
outside. The sound of heavy feet and of two or three bodies
struggling for precedence up the companion-ladder followed, and Mr.
Chalk, still holding his smoking rifle and regarding a splintered hole
in the centre of the panel, wondered whether he had hit anybody.
He slipped in a fresh cartridge and, becoming conscious of a partial
darkening of the skylight, aimed hastily at a face which appeared
there. The face, which bore a strong resemblance to that of Mr.
Stobell, disappeared with great suddenness.
"He's gone clean off his head," said Captain Brisket, as Mr. Stobell staggered back.
"Mad as a March hare," said Mr. Tredgold, shivering;
"it's a wonder he didn't have one of us just now. Call down to
him that it's all right, Stobell."
"Call yourself," said that gentleman, shortly.
"Get a stick and raise the skylight," said Tredgold.
A loud report sounded from below. Mr. Chalk
had fired a second and successful shot at the lock. "What's he
doing?" inquired Stobell, blankly.
A sharp exclamation from Captain Brisket was the
only reply, and he turned just as Mr. Chalk, with a rifle in one hand
and a revolver in the other, appeared on deck. The captain's cry
was echoed forward, and three of the crew dived with marvellous skill
into the forecastle. The boy and two others dashed into the
galley so hurriedly that the cook, who was peeping out, was borne
backwards on to the stove and kept there, the things he said in the
heat of the moment being attributed to excitement and attracting no
attention. Tredgold, Brisket, and Stobell dodged behind the
galley, and Mr. Chalk was left to gaze in open-mouthed wonder at the
shrinking figure of Mr. Duckett at the wheel. They regarded each
other in silence, until a stealthy step behind Mr. Chalk made him turn
round smartly. Mr. Stobell, who was stealing up to secure him,
dodged hastily behind the mainmast.
"Stobell!" cried Mr. Chalk, faintly.
"It's all right," said the other.
Mr. Chalk regarded his proceedings in
amazement. "What are you hiding behind the mast for?" he
inquired, stepping towards him.
Mr. Stobell made no reply, but with an agility
hardly to be expected of one of his bulk dashed behind the galley again.
A sense of mystery and unreality stole over Mr.
Chalk. He began to think that he must be dreaming. He
turned and looked at Mr. Duckett, and Mr. Duckett, trying to smile at
him, contorted his face so horribly that he shrank back appalled.
He looked about him and saw that they were now in open water and
drawing gradually away from the land. The stillness and mystery
became unbearable, and with an air of resolution he cocked his rifle
and proceeded with infinite caution to stalk the galley. As he
weathered it, with his finger on the trigger, Stobell and the others
stole round the other side and, making a mad break aft, stumbled down
the companion-ladder and secured themselves below.
"Has everybody gone mad?" inquired Mr. Chalk, approaching the mate again.
"Everybody except you, sir," said Mr. Duckett, with great politeness.
Mr. Chalk looked forward again and nearly dropped
his rifle as he saw three or four tousled heads protruding from the
galley. Instinctively he took a step towards Mr. Duckett, and
instinctively that much-enduring man threw up his hands and cried to
him not to shoot. Mr. Chalk, pale of face and trembling of limb,
strove to reassure him.
"But it's pointing towards me," said the mate, "and you've got your finger on the trigger."
Mr. Chalk apologized.
"What did Tredgold and Stobell run away for?" he demanded.
Mr. Duckett said that perhaps they were — like
himself — nervous of firearms. He also, in reply to further
questions, assured him that the mutiny was an affair of the past, and,
gaining confidence, begged him to hold the wheel steady for a
moment. Mr. Chalk, still clinging to his weapons, laid hold of
it, and the mate, running to the companion, called to those
below. Led by Mr. Stobell they came on deck.
"It's all over now," said Tredgold, soothingly.
"As peaceable as lambs," said Captain Brisket,
taking a gentle hold of the rifle, while Stobell took the revolver.
Mr. Chalk smiled faintly, and then looked round in
trepidation as the inmates of the galley drew near and scowled at him
"Get for'ard!" cried Brisket, turning on them
sharply. "Keep your own end o' the ship. D'ye hear?"
The men shuffled off slowly, keeping a wary eye on
Mr. Chalk as they went, the knowledge of the tempting mark offered by
their backs to an eager sportsman being apparent to all.
"It's all over," said Brisket, taking the wheel from
the mate and motioning to him to go away, "and after your
determination, sir, there'll be no more of it, I'm sure."
"But what was it?" demanded Mr. Chalk. "Mutiny?"
"Not exactly what you could call mutiny," replied
the captain, in a low voice. "A little mistake o'
Duckett's. He's a nervous man, and perhaps he exaggerated a
little. But don't allude to it again, for the sake of his
"But somebody locked me in the cabin," persisted Mr. Chalk, looking from one to the other.
Captain Brisket hesitated. "Did they?" he
said, with a smile of perplexity. "Did they? I gave orders
that that door was to be kept locked when there was nobody in there,
and I expect the cook did it by mistake as he passed. It's been a
chapter of accidents all through, but I must say, sir, that the
determined way you came on deck was wonderful."
"Extraordinary!" murmured Mr. Tredgold.
"I didn't know him," attested Mr. Stobell, continuing to regard Mr. Chalk with much interest.
"I can't make head or tail of it," complained Mr. Chalk. "What about the ladies?"
Captain Brisket shook his head dismally and pointed
ashore, and Mr. Chalk, following the direction of his finger, gazed
spellbound at a figure which was signalling wildly from the highest
point. Tredgold and Stobell, approaching the side, waved their
handkerchiefs in response.
"We must go back for them," said Mr. Chalk, firmly.
"What! In this wind, sir?" inquired Brisket,
with an indulgent laugh. "You're too much of a sailor to think
that's possible, I'm sure; and it's going to last."
"We must put up with the disappointment and do without 'em," said Stobell.
Mr. Chalk gazed helplessly ashore. "But we've got their luggage," he cried.
"Duckett sent it ashore," said Brisket.
"Thinking that there was men's work ahead, and that the ladies might be
in the way, he put it over the side and sent it back. And mind,
believing what he did, I'm not saying he wasn't in the right."
Mr. Chalk again professed his inability to make head
or tail of the proceedings. Ultimately — due time having been
given for Captain Brisket's invention to get under way — he learned
that a dyspeptic seaman, mistaking the mate's back for that of the
cook, had first knocked his cap over his eyes and then pushed him
over. "And that, of course," concluded the captain, "couldn't be
allowed anyway, but, seeing that it was a mistake, we let the chap off."
"There's one thing about it," said Tredgold, as
Chalk was about to speak; "it's shown us the stuff you're made of,
"He frightened me," said Brisket, solemnly. "I
own it. When I saw him come up like that I lost my nerve."
Mr. Chalk cast a final glance at the dwindling
figure on the cliff, and then went silently below and stood in a
pleasant reverie before the smashed door. He came to the same
conclusion regarding the desperate nature of his character as the
others; and the nervous curiosity of the men, who took sly peeps at
him, and the fact that the cook dropped the soup tureen that evening
when he turned and found Mr. Chalk at his elbow, only added to his
He felt less heroic next morning. The wind had
freshened during the night, and the floor of the cabin heaved in a
sickening fashion beneath his feet as he washed himself. The
atmosphere was stifling; timbers creaked and strained, and boots and
other articles rolled playfully about the floor.
The strong, sweet air above revived him, but the
deck was wet and cheerless and the air chill. Land had
disappeared, and a tumbling waste of gray seas and a leaden sky was all
that met his gaze. Nevertheless, he spoke warmly of the view to
Captain Brisket, rather than miss which he preferred to miss his
breakfast, contenting himself with half a biscuit and a small cup of
tea on deck. The smell of fried bacon and the clatter of cups and
saucers came up from below.
The heavy clouds disappeared and the sun came
out. The sea changed from gray to blue, and Tredgold and Stobell,
coming on deck after a good breakfast, arranged a couple of chairs and
sat down to admire the scene. Aloft the new sails shone white in
the sun, and spars and rigging creaked musically. A little spray
came flying at intervals over the bows as the schooner met the seas.
"Lovely morning, sir," said Captain Brisket, who had
been for some time exchanging glances with Stobell and Tredgold; "so
calm and peaceful."
"Bu'ful," said Mr. Chalk, shortly. He was
gazing in much distaste at a brig to starboard, which was magically
drawn up to the skies one moment and blotted from view the next.
"Nice fresh smell," said Tredgold, sniffing. "Have a cigar, Chalk?"
Mr. Chalk shook his head, and his friend, selecting
one from his case, lit it with a wooden match that poisoned the
"None of us seem to be seasick," he remarked.
"Seasickness, sir," said Captain Brisket —
"seasickness is mostly imagination. People think they're going to
be bad, and they are. But there's one certain cure for it."
"Cure?" said Mr. Chalk, turning a glazing eye upon him.
"Yes, sir," said Brisket, with a warning glance at
Mr. Stobell, who was grinning broadly. "It's old-fashioned and
I've heard it laughed at, but it's a regular good old remedy. Mr.
Stobell's laughing at it," he continued, as a gasping noise from that
gentleman called for explanation, "but it's true all the same."
"What is it?" inquired Mr. Chalk, with feeble impatience.
"Pork," replied Captain Brisket, with impressive
earnestness. "All that anybody's got to do is to get a bit o'
pork fat, mind you — and get the cook to stick a fork into it and
frizzle it, all bubbling and spluttering, over the galley fire.
Better still, do it yourself; the smell o' the cooking being part of — "
Mr. Chalk arose and, keeping his legs with
difficulty, steadied himself for a moment with his hands on the
companion, and disappeared below.
"There's nothing like it," said Brisket, turning
with a satisfied smile to Mr. Stobell, who was sitting with his hands
on his knees and rumbling with suppressed mirth. "It's an odd
thing, but, if a man's disposed to be queer, you've only got to talk
about that to finish him. Why talking about fried bacon should be
so bad for 'em I don't know."
"Imagination," said Tredgold, smoking away placidly.
Brisket smiled and then, nursing his knee, scowled fiercely at the helmsman, who was also on the broad grin.
"Of course, it wants proper telling," he continued,
turning to Stobell. "Did you notice his eyes when I spoke of it
bubbling and spluttering over the galley fire?"
"I did," replied Mr. Stobell, laying his pipe carefully on the deck.
"Some people tell you to tie the pork to a bit o'
string after frying it," said Brisket, "but that's what I call
overdoing it. I think it's quite enough to describe its cooking,
"Plenty," said Stobell. "Have one o' my
matches," he said, proffering his box to Tredgold, who was about to
relight his cigar with a wooden match.
"Thanks, I prefer this," said Tredgold.
Mr. Stobell put his box in his pocket again and,
sitting lumpily in his chair, gazed in a brooding fashion at the side.
"Talking about pork," began Brisket, "reminds me — "
"What! ain't you got over that joke yet?"
inquired Mr. Stobell, glaring at him. "Poor Chalk can't help his
"No, no," said the captain, staring back.
"People can't help being seasick," said Stobell, fiercely.
"Certainly not, sir," agreed the captain.
"There's no disgrace in it," continued Mr. Stobell,
with unusual fluency, "and nothing funny about it that I can see."
"Certainly not, sir," said the perplexed captain
again. "I was just going to point out to you how, talking about
pork — "
"I know you was," stormed Mr. Stobell, rising from
his chair and lurching forward heavily. "D'ye think I couldn't
hear you? Prating, and prating, and pra — "
He disappeared below, and the captain, after
exchanging a significant grin with Mr. Tredgold, put his hands behind
his back and began to pace the deck, musing solemnly on the folly of
trusting to appearances.
Seasickness wore off after a day or two, and was
succeeded by the monotony of life on board a small ship. Week
after week they saw nothing but sea and sky, and Mr. Chalk, thirsting
for change, thought with wistful eagerness of the palm-girt islands of
the Fijian Archipelago to which Captain Brisket had been bidden to
steer. In the privacy of their own cabin the captain and Mr.
Duckett discussed with great earnestness the nature of the secret which
they felt certain was responsible for the voyage.
It is an article of belief with some old-fashioned people that children
should have no secrets from their parents, and, though not a model
father in every way, Mr. Vickers felt keenly the fact that his daughter
was keeping something from him. On two or three occasions since
the date of sailing of the Fair Emily she had relieved her mind by
throwing out dark hints of future prosperity, and there was no doubt
that, somewhere in the house, she had a hidden store of gold.
With his left foot glued to the floor he had helped her look for a
sovereign one day which had rolled from her purse, and twice she had
taken her mother on expensive journeys to Tollminster.
Brooding over the lack of confidence displayed by
Selina, he sat on the side of her bed one afternoon glancing
thoughtfully round the room. He was alone in the house, and now,
or never, was his opportunity. After an hour's arduous toil he
had earned tenpence-halfpenny, and, rightly considering that the sum
was unworthy of the risk, put it back where he had found it, and sat
down gloomily to peruse a paper which he had found secreted at the
bottom of her box.
Mr. Vickers was but a poor scholar, and the
handwriting was deplorable. Undotted "i"s traveled incognito
through the scrawl, and uncrossed "t"s passed themselves off
unblushingly as "l"s." After half an hour's steady work, his
imagination excited by one or two words which he had managed to
decipher, he abandoned the task in despair, and stood moodily looking
out of the window. His gaze fell upon Mr. William Russell,
standing on the curb nearly opposite, with his hands thrust deep in his
trouser pockets, and, after a slight hesitation, he pushed open the
small casement and beckoned him in.
"You're a bit of a scholar, ain't you, Bill?" he inquired.
Mr. Russell said modestly that he had got the name for it.
Again Mr. Vickers hesitated, but he had no choice,
and his curiosity would brook no delay. With a strong caution as
to secrecy, he handed the paper over to his friend.
Mr. Russell, his brow corrugated with thought, began
to read slowly to himself. The writing was certainly difficult,
but the watching Mr. Vickers saw by the way his friend's finger moved
along the lines that he was conquering it. By the slow but steady
dilation of Mr. Russell's eyes and the gradual opening of his mouth, he
also saw that the contents were occasioning him considerable surprise.
"What does it say?" he demanded, anxiously.
Mr. Russell paid no heed. He gave vent to a
little gurgle of astonishment and went on. Then he stopped and
looked up blankly.
"Well, I'm d — d!" he said.
"What is it?" cried Mr. Vickers.
Mr. Russell read on, and such exclamations as "Well,
I'm jiggered!" "Well, I'm blest!" and others of a more complicated
nature continued to issue from his lips.
"What's it all about?" shouted the excited Mr. Vickers.
Mr. Russell looked up and blinked at him. "I
can't believe it," he murmured. "It's like a fairy tale, ain't
it? What do you think of it?"
The exasperated Mr. Vickers, thrusting him back in
his chair, shouted insults in his ear until his friend, awaking to the
true position of affairs, turned to the beginning again and proceeded
with much unction to read aloud the document that Mr. Tredgold had
given to Selina some months before. Mr. Vickers listened in a
state of amazement which surpassed his friend's, and, the reading
finished, besought him to go over it again. Mr. Russell complied,
and having got to the end put the paper down and gazed enviously at his
"You won't have to do no more work," he said, wistfully.
"Not if I 'ad my rights," said Mr. Vickers. "It's like a dream, ain't it?"
"They bought a ship, so I 'eard," murmured the
other; "they've got eight or nine men aboard, and they'll be away
pretty near a year. Why, Selina'll 'ave a fortune."
Mr. Vickers, sitting with his legs stretched out
stiffly before him, tried to think. "A lot o' good it'll do me,"
he said, bitterly. "It's young Joseph Tasker that'll get the
benefit of it."
Mr. Russell whistled. "I'd forgot him," he
exclaimed, "but I expect she only took him becos she couldn't get
Mr. Vickers eyed him sternly, but, reflecting that
Selina was well able to fight her own battles, forbore to reply.
"She must ha' told him," pursued Mr. Russell,
following up a train of thought. "Nobody in their senses would
want to marry Selina for anything else."
"Ho! Indeed," said Mr. Vickers, coldly.
"Unless they was mad," admitted the other. "What are you going to do about it?" he inquired, suddenly.
"I shall think it over," said Mr. Vickers, with
dignity. "As soon as you've gone I shall sit down with a quiet
pipe and see what's best to be done."
Mr. Russell nodded approval. "First thing you
do, you put the paper back where you got it from," he said, warningly.
"I know what I'm about," said Mr. Vickers. "I
shall think it over when you're gone and make up my mind what to do."
"Don't you do nothing in a hurry," advised Mr. Russell, earnestly. "I'm going to think it, over, too."
Mr. Vickers stared at him in surprise. "You?" he said, disagreeably.
"Yes, me," replied the other. "After all, what's looks? Looks ain't everything."
His friend looked bewildered, and then started
furiously as the meaning of Mr. Russell's remark dawned upon him.
He began to feel like a miser beset by thieves.
"What age do you reckon you are, Bill?" he inquired, after a long pause.
"I'm as old as I look," replied Mr. Russell, simply,
"and I've got a young face. I'd sooner it was anybody else than
Selina; but, still, you can't 'ave everything. If she don't take
me sooner than young Joseph I shall be surprised."
Mr. Vickers regarded him with undisguised astonishment.
"I might ha' married scores o' times if I'd liked," said Mr. Russell, with a satisfied air.
"Don't you go doing nothing silly," said Mr.
Vickers, uneasily. "Selina can't abear you. You drink too
much. Why, she's talking about making young Joseph sign the
pledge, to keep 'im steady."
Mr. Russell waved his objections aside. "I can
get round her," he said, with cheery confidence. "I ain't kept
ferrets all these years for nothing. I'm not going to let all
that money slip through my fingers for want of a little trying."
He began his courtship a few days afterwards in a
fashion which rendered Mr. Vickers almost helpless with
indignation. In full view of Selina, who happened to be standing
by the door, he brought her unfortunate father along Mint Street,
holding him by the arm and addressing him in fond but severe tones on
the surpassing merits of total abstinence and the folly of wasting his
children's money on beer.
"I found 'im inside the 'Horse and Groom,"' he said
to the astonished Selina; "they've got a new barmaid there, and the
pore gal wasn't in the house 'arf an hour afore she was serving him
with beer. A pot, mind you."
He shook his head in great regret at the speechless
Mr. Vickers, and, pushing him inside the house, followed close behind.
"Look here, Bill Russell, I don't want any of your larks," said Miss Vickers, recovering herself.
"Larks?" repeated Mr. Russell, with an injured
air. "I'm a teetotaler, and it's my duty to look after brothers
that go astray."
He produced a pledge card from his vest pocket and,
smoothing it out on the table, pointed with great pride to his
signature. The date of the document lay under the ban of his
"I'd just left the Temperance Hall," continued the
zealot. "I've been to three meetings in two days; they'd been
talking about the new barmaid, and I guessed at once what brother
Vickers would do, an' I rushed off, just in the middle of brother
Humphrey's experiences — and very interesting they was, too — to save
him. He was just starting his second pot, and singing in between,
when I rushed in and took the beer away from him and threw it on the
"I wasn't singing," snarled Mr. Vickers, endeavouring to avoid his daughter's eye.
"Oh, my dear friend!" said Mr. Russell, who had made
extraordinary progress in temperance rhetoric in a very limited time,
"that's what comes o' the drink; it steals away your memory."
Miss Vickers trembled with wrath. "How dare
you go into pubs after I told you not to?" she demanded, stamping her
"We must 'ave patience," said Mr. Russell,
gently. "We must show the backslider 'ow much happier he would be
without it. I'll 'elp you watch him."
"When I want your assistance I'll ask you for it,"
said Miss Vickers, tartly. "What do you mean by shoving your nose
into other people's affairs?"
"It's — it's my duty to look after fallen brothers," said Mr. Russell, somewhat taken aback.
"What d'ye mean by fallen?" snapped Miss Vickers, confronting him fiercely.
"Fallen into a pub," explained Mr. Russell, hastily;
"anybody might fall through them swinging doors; they're made like that
"You've fell through a good many in your time," interposed Mr. Vickers, with great bitterness.
"I know I 'ave," said the other, sadly; "but never
no more. Oh, my friend, if you only knew how 'appy I feel since
I've give up the drink! If you only knew what it was to 'ave your
own self respeck! Think of standing up on the platform and giving
of your experiences! But I don't despair, brother; I'll have you
afore I've done with you."
Mr. Vickers, unable to contain himself, got up and
walked about the room. Mr. Russell, with a smile charged with
brotherly love, drew a blank pledge card from his pocket and, detaining
him as he passed, besought him to sign it.
"He'll do it in time," he said in a loud whisper to
Selina, as his victim broke loose. "I'll come in of an evening
and talk to him till he does sign."
Miss Vickers hesitated, but, observing the striking
improvement in the visitor's attire effected by temperance, allowed a
curt refusal to remain unspoken. Mr. Vickers protested hotly.
"That'll do," said his daughter, indecision
vanishing at sight of her father's opposition; "if Bill Russell likes
to come in and try and do you good, he can."
Mr. Vickers said that he wouldn't have him, but
under compulsion stayed indoors the following evening, while Mr.
Russell, by means of colored diagrams, cheerfully lent by his new
friends, tried to show him the inroads made by drink upon the human
frame. He sat, as Miss Vickers remarked, like a wooden image, and
was only moved to animation by a picture of cirrhosis of the liver,
which he described as being very pretty.
At the end of a week Mr. Vickers's principles
remained unshaken, and so far Mr. Russell had made not the slightest
progress in his designs upon the affections of Selina. That lady,
indeed, treated him with but scant courtesy, and on two occasions had
left him to visit Mr. Tasker; Mr. Vickers's undisguised amusement at
such times being hard to bear.
"Don't give up, Bill," he said, encouragingly, as
Mr. Russell sat glum and silent; "read over them beautiful 'Verses to a
Teapot' agin, and try and read them as if you 'adn't got your mouth
full o' fish bait. You're wasting time."
"I don't want none o' your talk," said his
disappointed friend. "If you ain't careful I'll tell Selina about
you going up to her papers."
The smile faded from Mr. Vickers's face. "Don't make mischief, Bill," he said, uneasily.
"Well, don't you try and make fun o' me," said Mr.
Russell, ferociously. "Taking the pledge is 'ard enough to bear
without having remarks from you."
"I didn't mean them to be remarks, Bill," said the
other, mildly. "But if you tell about me, you know, Selina'll see
through your little game."
"I'm about sick o' the whole thing," said Mr.
Russell, desperately. "I ain't 'ad a drink outside o' my own
house for pretty near a fortnight. I shall ask Selina tomorrow
night, and settle it."
"Ask her?" said the amazed Mr. Vickers. "Ask 'er what?"
"Ask 'er to marry me," said the other, doggedly.
Mr. Vickers, thoroughly alarmed, argued with him in
vain, the utmost concession he could wring from the determined Mr.
Russell being a promise to give him a hint to get out of the way.
"I'll do that for my own sake," he said,
frankly. "I can do it better alone, and if your old woman is in
you get her out too. Ask 'er to go for a walk; that'll please
Selina. I don't know what the gal does want. I thought
turning teetotaler and setting a good example to you would do the
trick, if anything would."
Mrs. Vickers's utter astonishment next evening, when
her husband asked her to go for a walk, irritated that gentleman almost
beyond endurance. Convinced at last that he was not joking, she
went upstairs and put on her bonnet, and then stood waiting for the
reluctant Mr. Vickers with an air of almost bashful diffidence.
"Joseph is coming in soon," said Selina, as her
parents moved to the door. "I'm expecting him every minute."
"I'll stop and see 'im," said Mr. Russell. "There's something I want to speak to him about partikler."
Mr. Vickers gave a warning glance at him as he went
out, and trembled as he noted his determined aspect. In a state
of considerable agitation he took hold of his wife by the elbow and
propelled her along.
It was a cold night, and a strong easterly wind had
driven nearly everybody else indoors. Mr. Vickers shivered, and,
moving at a good pace, muttered something to his astonished wife about
"a good country walk." They quitted the streets and plunged into
dark lanes until, in Mr. Vickers's judgment, sufficient time having
elapsed for the worst to have happened, they turned and made their way
to the town again.
"There's somebody outside our house," said Mrs.
Vickers, who had been in a state of amazed discomfort the whole time.
Mr. Vickers approached warily. Two people were
on the doorstep in the attitude of listeners, while a third was making
strenuous attempts to peep through at the side of the
windowblind. From inside came the sound of voices raised in
dispute, that of Selina's being easily distinguishable.
"What — what's all this?" demanded Mr. Vickers, in
trembling tones, as he followed his wife inside and closed the door.
He glanced from Selina, who was standing in front of
Mr. Tasker in the manner of a small hen defending an overgrown chicken,
to Mr. Russell, who was towering above them and trying to reach him.
"What's all this?" he repeated, with an attempt at pomposity.
The disputants all spoke at once: Mr. Russell
with an air of jocular ferocity, Miss Vickers in a voice that trembled
with passion, and Mr. Tasker speaking as a man with a grievance.
Despite the confusion, Mr. Vickers soon learned that it was a case of
"two's company and three's none," and that Mr. Russell, after turning a
deaf ear to hints to retire which had gradually increased in bluntness,
had suddenly turned restive and called Mr. Tasker a "moldy image," a
"walleyed rabbit," and diverse other obscure and contradictory
things. Not content with that, he had, without any warning,
kissed Miss Vickers, and when Mr. Tasker, obeying that infuriated
damsel's commands, tried to show him the door, had facetiously offered
to show that gentleman the wall and taken him up, and bumped him
against it until they were both tired.
"Anybody would ha' thought I was hurting 'im by the noise he made," said the impenitent Mr. Russell.
"I — I'm surprised at you, Bill," said Mr. Vickers, nervously.
"Put him outside," cried Selina, stamping her foot.
"You'd better get off 'ome, Bill," said Mr. Vickers, with a persuasive wink.
"While you're safe," added his daughter, with a threatening gesture.
"Go and get yourself 'arf a pint o' warm lemonade," chimed in the voice of the daring Joseph.
Mr. Russell stepped towards him, but Mr. Vickers,
seizing him by the coat, held him back and implored him to remember
where he was.
"I'd bump the lot of you for two pins," said the
disappointed Mr. Russell, longingly. "And it 'ud do you good;
you'd all be the better for it. You'd know 'ow to behave to
people when they come in to see you, then. As for Selina, I
wouldn't marry her now for all her money."
"Money?" said the irate Selina, scornfully. "What money?"
"The money in the paper," said Mr. Russell, with a
diabolical leer in the direction of the unfortunate Mr. Vickers.
"The paper what your father found in your box. Didn't he tell
He kicked over a chair which stood in his way and,
with a reckless swagger, strode to the door. At the "Horse and
Groom," where he spent the remainder of the evening, he was so original
in his remarks upon women that two unmarried men offered to fight him,
and were only appeased by hearing a full and true account of the
circumstances responsible for so much bitterness.
"TRIED!" said Captain Bowers, indignantly. "I have tried, over and over again, but it's no use."
"Have you tried the right way?" suggested Edward Tredgold.
"I've tried every way," replied Captain Bowers, impatiently.
"We must think of another, then," said the
imperturbable Edward. "Have some more beef?" The captain
passed his plate up. "You should have seen her when I said that I
was coming to supper with you this evening," he said,
impressively. Mr. Tredgold laid down the carving knife and
fork. "What did she say?" he inquired, eagerly. "Grunted,"
said the captain. "Nonsense," said the other, sharply.
"I tell you she did," retorted the captain. "She didn't say a word; just grunted."
"I know what you mean," said Mr. Tredgold; "only you are not using the right word."
"All right," said the captain, resignedly; "I don't
know a grunt when I hear it, then; that's all. She generally does
grunt if I happen to mention your name."
Mr. Tredgold resumed his meal and sat eating in
silence. The captain, who was waiting for more beef, became
"I hope my plate isn't in your way," he said, at last.
"Not at all," said the other, absently.
"Perhaps you'll pass it back to me, then," said the captain.
Mr. Tredgold, still deep in thought, complied.
"I wish I could persuade you to have a little more," he said, in tones
of polite regret. "I've often noticed that big men are small
eaters. I wonder why it is?"
"Sometimes it is because they can't get it, I expect," said the indignant captain.
Mr. Tredgold said that no doubt that was the case
sometimes, and was only recalled to the true position of affairs by the
hungry captain marching up to the beef and carving for himself.
"I'm sorry," he said, with a laugh. "I was
thinking of something else. I wonder whether you would let me use
the crows nest for a day or two? There's a place we have got on
our hands, a mile or two out, and I want to keep my eye on it."
The captain, his good humor quite restored,
preserved his gravity with an effort. "I don't see that she could
object to that," he said, slowly. "It's a matter of business, as
you might say."
"Of course, I could go straight round to the back
without troubling you," resumed Mr. Tredgold. "It's so awkward
not to be able to see you when I want to."
Captain Bowers ventured a sympathetic wink.
"It's awkward not to be able to see anybody when you want to," he said,
Two days later Miss Drewitt, peeping cautiously from
her bedroom window, saw Mr. Tredgold perched up in the crows nest with
the telescope. It was a cold, frosty day in January, and she
smiled agreeably as she hurried downstairs to the fire and tried to
imagine the temperature up aloft.
Stern in his attention to duty, Mr. Tredgold climbed
day after day to his post of observation and kept a bored but whimsical
eye on a deserted cowhouse three miles off. On the fourth day the
captain was out, and Miss Drewitt, after a casual peep from the kitchen
window, shrugged her shoulders and returned to the sitting room.
"Mr. Tredgold must be very cold up there, Miss,"
said Mr. Tasker, respectfully, as he brought in the tea. "He
keeps slapping his chest and blowing on his fingers to keep 'imself
Miss Drewitt said "Oh!" and, drawing the little
table up to her easy chair, put down her book and poured herself out a
cup of tea. She had just arranged it to her taste — two lumps of
sugar and a liberal allowance of cream — when a faint rap sounded on
the front door.
"Come in!" she said, taking her feet from the fender and facing about.
The door opened and revealed to her indignant gaze
the figure of Mr. Tredgold. His ears and nose were of a brilliant
red and his eyes were watering with the cold. She eyed him
"Good afternoon," he said, bowing.
Miss Drewitt returned the greeting.
"Isn't Captain Bowers in?" said Mr. Tredgold, with a
shade of disappointment in his voice as he glanced around.
"No," said the girl.
Mr. Tredgold hesitated. "I was going to ask
him to give me a cup of tea," he said, with a shiver. "I'm half
frozen, and I'm afraid that I have a taken a chill."
Miss Drewitt nearly dropped her teacup in surprise
at his audacity. He was certainly very cold, and she noticed a
little blue mixed with the red of his nose. She looked round the
cosy room and then at the open door, which was causing a bitter draft.
"He is not in," she repeated.
"Thank you," said Mr. Tredgold, patiently. "Good afternoon."
He was so humble that the girl began to feel
uncomfortable. His gratitude for nothing reminded her of a
disappointed tramp; moreover, the draft from the door was abominable.
"I can give you a cup of tea, if you wish," she
said, shivering. "But please make haste and shut that door."
Mr. Tredgold stepped inside and closed it with
alacrity, his back being turned just long enough to permit a
congratulatory wink at the unconscious oak. He took a chair the
other side of the fire, and, extending his numbed fingers to the blaze,
thanked her warmly.
"It is very kind of you," he said, as he took his cup from her. "I was half frozen."
"I should have thought that a brisk walk home would have been better for you," said the girl, coldly.
Mr. Tredgold shook his head dolefully. "I
should probably only have had lukewarm tea when I got there," he
replied. "Nobody looks after me properly."
He passed his cup up and began to talk of skating
and other seasonable topics. As he got warmer and his features
regained their normal coloring and his face its usual expression of
cheerfulness, Miss Drewitt's pity began to evaporate.
"Are you feeling better?" she inquired, pointedly.
"A little," was the cautious reply. His face
took on an expression of anxiety and he spoke of a twinge, lightly
tapping his left lung by way of emphasis.
"I hope that I shall not be taken ill here," he said, gravely.
Miss Drewitt sat up with a start. "I should hope not," she said, sharply.
"So inconvenient," he murmured.
"Quite impossible," said Miss Drewitt, whose experience led her to believe him capable of anything.
"I should never forgive myself," he said, gently.
Miss Drewitt regarded him in alarm, and of her own
accord gave him a third cup of tea and told him that he might
smoke. She felt safer when she saw him light a cigarette, and,
for fear that a worse thing might befall her, entered amiably into
conversation. She even found herself, somewhat to her surprise,
discussing the voyage and sympathizing with Mr. Tredgold in his anxiety
concerning his father's safety.
"Mrs. Chalk and Mrs. Stobell are very anxious, too,"
he said. "It is a long way for a small craft like that."
"And then to find no treasure at the end of it," said Miss Drewitt, with feminine sweetness.
Mr. Tredgold stole a look at her. "I did not
mean to say that the captain had no treasure," he said, quietly.
"You believe in it now?" said the girl, triumphantly.
"I believe that the captain has a treasure," admitted the other, "certainly."
"Worth half a million?" persisted Miss Drewitt.
"Worth more than that," said Mr. Tredgold, gazing steadily into the fire.
The girl looked puzzled. "More?" she said, in surprise.
"Much more," said the other, still contemplating the fire. "It is priceless."
Miss Drewitt sat up suddenly and then let herself
back slowly into the depths of the chair. Her face turned scarlet
and she hoped fervently that if Mr. Tredgold looked at her the earth
might open and swallow him up. She began to realize dimly that in
the absence of an obliging miracle of that kind there would never be
any getting rid of him.
"Priceless," repeated Mr. Tredgold, in challenging tones.
Miss Drewitt made no reply. Rejoinder was
dangerous and silence difficult. In a state of nervous
indignation she rang for Mr. Tasker and instructed him to take away the
tea things; to sweep the hearth; and to alter the position of two
pictures. By the time all this was accomplished she had regained
her wonted calm and was airing some rather strong views on the subject
of two little boys who lived with a slingshot next door but one.
Month by month the Fair Emily crept down south. The Great Bear
and other constellations gave way to the stars of the southern skies,
and Mr. Chalk tried hard not to feel disappointed with the arrangement
of those in the Southern Cross. Pressed by the triumphant
Brisket, to whom he voiced his views, he had to admit that it was at
least as much like a cross as the other was a bear.
As they got farther south he had doffed his jersey
and sea boots in favor of a cotton suit and bare feet. In this
costume, surmounted by a Panama hat, he was the only thing aboard that
afforded the slightest amusement to Mr. Stobell, whose temper was
suffering severely under a long spell of monotonous idleness, and whose
remarks concerning the sea and everything in connection with it were so
strangely out of keeping with the idea of a pleasure cruise that Mr.
Tredgold lectured him severely on his indiscretion.
"Stobell is no more doing this for pleasure than I
am," said Captain Brisket to Mr. Duckett. "It's something big
that's brought him all this way, you mark my words."
The mate nodded acquiescence. "What about Mr.
Chalk?" he said, in a low voice. "Can't you get it out of him?"
"Shuts up like an oyster directly I get anywhere
near it," replied the captain; "sticks to it that it is a yachting trip
and that Tredgold is studying the formations of islands. Says he
has got a list of them he is going to visit."
"Mr. Tredgold was talking the same way to me," said
the mate. "He says he's going to write a book about them when he
goes back. He asked me what I thought 'ud be a good title."
"I know what would be a good title for him," growled
Brisket, as Mr. Stobell came on deck and gazed despondently over the
side. "We're getting towards the end of our journey, sir."
"End?" said Mr. Stobell. "End? I don't
believe there is an end. I believe you've lost your way and we
shall go sailing on and on for ever."
He walked aft and, placing himself in a deckchair,
gazed listlessly at the stolid figure of the helmsman. The heat
was intense, and both Tredgold and Chalk had declined to proceed with a
conversation limited almost entirely on his side to personal
abuse. He tried the helmsman, and made that unfortunate thirsty
for a week by discussing the rival merits of bitter ale in a pewter and
stout in a china mug. The helmsman, a man of liberal ideas, said,
with some emotion, that he could drink either of them out of a
Mr. Chalk became strangely restless as they neared
their goal. He had come thousands of miles and had seen nothing
fresh with the exception of a few flying fish, an albatross, and a
whale blowing in the distance. Pacing the deck late one night
with Captain Brisket he expressed mild yearnings for a little
"You want adventure," said the captain, shaking his
head at him. "I know you. Ah, what a sailorman you'd ha'
made. With a crew o' six like yourself I'd take this little craft
anywhere. The way you pick up seamanship is astonishing.
Peter Duckett swears you must ha' been at sea as a boy, and all I can
do I can't persuade him otherwise."
"I always had a feeling that I should like it," said Mr. Chalk, modestly.
"Like it!" repeated the captain. "O' course
you do; you've got the salt in your blood, but this peaceful cruising
is beginning to tell on you. There's a touch o' wildness in you,
sir, that's always struggling to come to the front. Peter Duckett
was saying the same thing only the other day. He's very uneasy
"Uneasy!" repeated Mr. Chalk.
"Aye," said the captain, drawing a deep
breath. "And if I tell you that I am too, it wouldn't be outside
"But why?" inquired Mr. Chalk, after they had paced once up and down the deck in silence.
"It's the mystery we don't like," said Brisket, at
last. "How are we to know what desperate venture you are going to
let us in for? Follow you faithful we will, but we don't like
going in the dark; it ain't quite fair to us."
"There's not the slightest danger in the world," said Mr. Chalk, with impressive earnestness.
"But there's a mystery; you can't deny that," said the captain.
Mr. Chalk cleared his throat. "It's a secret," he said, slowly.
"From me?" inquired the captain, in reproachful accents.
"It isn't my secret," said Mr. Chalk. "So far as I'm concerned I'd tell you with pleasure."
The captain slowly withdrew his arm from Mr.
Chalk's, and moving to the side leaned over it with his shoulders
hunched. Somewhat moved by this display of feeling, Mr. Chalk for
some time hesitated to disturb him, and when at last he did steal up
and lay a friendly hand on the captain's shoulder it was gently shaken
"Secrets!" said Brisket, in a hollow voice. "From me! I ain't to be trusted?"
"It isn't my doing," said Mr. Chalk.
"Well, well, it don't matter, sir," said the
captain. "Bill Brisket must put up with it. It's the first
time in his life he's been suspected, and it's doubly hard coming from
you. You've hurt me, sir, and there's no other man living could
Mr. Chalk stood by in sorrowful perplexity.
"And I put my life in your hands," continued the
captain, with a low, hard laugh. "You're the only man in the
world that knows who killed Smiling Peter in San Francisco, and I told
you. Well, well!"
"But you did it in self defense," said the other, eagerly.
"What does that matter?" said the captain, turning
and walking forward, followed by the anxious Mr. Chalk. "I've got
no proof of it. Open your mouth — once — and I swing for
it. That's the extent of my trust in you."
Mr. Chalk, much affected, swore a few sailorly oaths
as to what he wished might happen to him if he ever betrayed the
"Yes," said the captain, mournfully, "that's all
very well; but you can't trust me in a smaller matter, however much I
swear to keep it secret. And it's weighing on me in another
way: I believe the crew have got an inkling of something, and
here am I, master of the ship, responsible for all your lives, kept in
"The crew!" exclaimed the startled Mr. Chalk.
Captain Brisket hesitated and lowered his
voice. "The other night I came on deck for a look round and saw
one of them peeping down through your skylight," he said, slowly.
"I sent him below, and after he'd gone I looked down and saw you and
Mr. Tredgold and Stobell all bending over a paper."
Mr. Chalk, deep in thought, paced up and down in silence.
"That's a secret," said Brisket. "I don't want
them to think that I was spying. I told you because you
understand. A shipmaster has to keep his eyes open, for
"It's your duty," said Mr. Chalk, firmly.
Captain Brisket, with a little display of emotion,
thanked him, and, leaning against the side, drew his attention to the
beauty of the stars and sea. Impelled by the occasion and the
charm of the night he waxed sentimental, and with a strange mixture of
bluffness and shyness spoke of his aged mother, of the loneliness of a
seafarer's life, and the inestimable boon of real friendship. He
bared his inmost soul to his sympathetic listener, and then, affecting
to think from a remark of Mr. Chalk's that he was going to relate the
secret of the voyage, declined to hear it on the ground that he was
only a rough sailorman and not to be trusted. Mr. Chalk,
contesting this hotly, convinced him at last that he was in error, and
then found that, bewildered by the argument, the captain had consented
to be informed of a secret which he had not intended to impart.
"But, mind," said Brisket, holding up a warning
finger, "I'm not going to tell Peter Duckett. There's no need for
him to know."
Mr. Chalk said "Certainly not," and, seeing no way
for escape, led the reluctant man as far from the helmsman as possible
and whispered the information. By the time they parted for the
night Captain Brisket knew as much as the members of the expedition
themselves, and, with a rare thoughtfulness, quieted Mr. Chalk's
conscience by telling him that he had practically guessed the whole
affair from the beginning.
He listened with great interest a few days later
when Mr. Tredgold, after considering audibly which island he should
visit first, gave him the position of Bowers's Island and began to
discuss coral reefs and volcanic action. They were now well in
among the islands. Two they passed at a distance, and went so
close to a third — a mere reef with a few palms upon it — that Mr.
Chalk, after a lengthy inspection through his binoculars, was able to
declare it uninhabited.
A fourth came into sight a couple of days
later: a small gray bank on the starboard bow. Captain
Brisket, who had been regarding it for some time with great care,
closed his glass with a bang and stepped up to Mr. Tredgold.
"There she is, sir," he said, in satisfied tones.
Mr. Tredgold, who was drinking tea, put down his
cup, and rose with an appearance of mild interest. Mr. Stobell
followed suit, and both gazed in strong indignation at the undisguised
excitement of Mr. Chalk as he raced up the rigging for a better
view. Tredgold with the captain's glass, and Stobell with an old
pair of binoculars in which he had great faith, gazed from the
deck. Tredgold was the first to speak.
"Are you sure this is the one, Brisket?" he inquired, carelessly.
"Certainly, sir," said the captain, in some
surprise. "At least, it's the one you told me to steer for."
"Don't look much like the map," said Stobell, in a low aside. "Where's the mountain?"
Tredgold looked again. "I fancy it's a bit
higher towards the middle," he said, after a prolonged inspection;
"and, besides, it's 'mount,' not 'mountain.'"
Captain Brisket, who had with great delicacy drawn a
little apart in recognition of their whispers, stepped towards them
"I don't know that I've ever seen this particular
island before," he said, frankly; "likely not; but it's the one you
told me to find. There's over a couple of hundred of them, large
and small, knocking about. If you think you've made a mistake we
might try some of the others."
"No," said Tredgold, after a pause and a prolonged inspection; "this must be right."
Mr. Chalk came down from aloft, his eyes shining with pure joy, and joined them.
"How long before we're alongside?" he inquired.
"Two hours," replied the captain; "perhaps three," he added, considering.
Mr. Chalk glanced aloft and, after a knowing
question or two as to the wind, began in a low voice to converse with
his friends. Mr. Tredgold's misgivings as to the identity of the
island he dismissed at once as baseless. The mount satisfied him,
and when, as they approached nearer, discrepancies in shape between the
island and the map were pointed out to him he easily explained them by
speaking of the difficulties of cartography to an amateur.
"There's our point," he said, indicating it with a
forefinger, which the incensed Stobell at once struck down. "We
couldn't have managed it better so far as time is concerned.
We'll sleep ashore tonight in the tent and start the search at
Captain Brisket approached the island
cautiously. To the eyes of the voyagers it seemed to change shape
as they neared it, until finally, the Fair Emily anchoring off the reef
which guarded it, it revealed itself as a small island about three
quarters of a mile long and two or three hundred yards wide. A
beach of coral sand shelved steeply to the sea, and a background of
coconut trees and other vegetation completed a picture on which Mr.
Chalk gazed with the rapture of a devotee at a shrine.
He went below as the anchor ran out, and after a
short absence reappeared on deck bedizened with weapons. A small
tent, with blankets and provisions, and a long deal box containing a
couple of spades and a pick, were put into one of the boats, and the
three friends, after giving minute instructions to the captain,
followed. Mr. Duckett took the helm, and after a short pull along
the edge of the reef discovered an opening which gave access to the
smooth water inside.
"A pretty spot, gentlemen," he said, scanning the
island closely. "I don't think that there is anybody on it."
"We'll go over it first and make sure," said
Stobell, as the boat's nose ran into the beach. "Come along,
He sprang out and, taking one of the guns, led the
way along the beach, followed by Mr. Chalk. The men looked after
them longingly, and then, in obedience to the mate, took the stores out
of the boat and pitched the tent. By the time Chalk and Stobell
returned they were seated in the boat and ready to depart.
A feeling of loneliness came over Mr. Chalk as he
watched the receding boat. The schooner, riding at anchor half a
mile outside the reef, had taken in her sails and presented a
singularly naked and desolate appearance. He wondered how long it
would take the devoted Brisket to send assistance in case of need, and
blamed himself severely for not having brought some rockets for
signalling purposes. Long before night came the prospect of
sleeping ashore had lost all its charm.
"One of us ought to keep watch," he said, as
Stobell, after a heavy supper followed by a satisfying pipe, rolled
himself in a blanket and composed himself for slumber.
Mr. Stobell grunted, and in a few minutes was fast
asleep. Mr. Tredgold, first blowing out the candle, followed
suit, while Mr. Chalk, a prey to vague fears, sat up nursing a huge
The novelty of the position, the melancholy beat of
the surge on the farther beach, and faint, uncertain noises all around
kept him awake. He fancied that he heard stealthy footsteps on
the beach, and low, guttural voices calling among the palms.
Twice he aroused his friends and twice they sat up and reviled him.
"If you put your bony finger into my ribs again,"
growled Mr. Stobell, tenderly rubbing the afflicted part, "you and me
won't talk alike. Like a bar of iron it was."
"I thought I heard something," said Mr. Chalk. "I should have fired, only I was afraid of scaring you."
"Fired?" repeated Mr. Stobell, thoughtfully.
"Fired? Was it the barrel of that infernal pistol you shoved into
my ribs just now?"
"I just touched you with it," admitted the other. "I'm sorry if I hurt you."
Mr. Stobell, feeling in his pocket, struck a match
and held it up. "Full-cocked," he said, in a broken voice; "and
he stirred me up with it. And then he talks of savages!"
He struck another match and lit the candle, and
then, before Mr. Chalk could guess his intentions, pressed him
backwards and took the pistol away. He raised the canvas and
threw it out into the night, and then, remembering the guns, threw them
after it. This done he blew out the candle, and in two minutes
was fast asleep again.
An hour passed and Mr. Chalk, despite his fears,
began to nod. Half asleep, he lay down and drew his blanket about
him, and then he sat up suddenly wide awake as an unmistakable footstep
For a few seconds he sat unable to move; then he
stretched out his hand and began to shake Stobell. He could have
sworn that hands were fumbling at the tent.
"Eh?" said Stobell, sleepily.
Chalk shook him again. Stobell sat up angrily,
but before he could speak a wild yell rent the air, the tent collapsed
suddenly, and they struggled half suffocated in the folds of the canvas.
Mr. Stobell was the first to emerge, and, seizing the canvas, dragged
it free of the writhing bodies of his companions. Mr. Chalk
gained his feet and, catching sight of some dim figures standing a few
yards away on the beach, gave a frantic shout and plunged into the
interior, followed by the others. A shower of pieces of coral
whizzing by their heads and another terrible yell accelerated their
Mr. Chalk gained the farther beach unmolested and,
half crazy with fear, ran along blindly. Footsteps, which he
hoped were those of his friends, pounded away behind him, and presently
Stobell, panting heavily, called to him to stop. Mr. Chalk,
looking over his shoulder, slackened his pace and allowed him to
"Wait — for — Tredgold," said Stobell, breathlessly, as he laid a heavy hand on his shoulder.
Mr. Chalk struggled to free himself. "Where is he?" He gasped.
Stobell, still holding him, stood trying to regain
his breath. "They — they must — have got him," he said, at
last. "Have you got any of your pistols on you?"
"You threw them all away," quavered Mr. Chalk. "I've only got a knife."
He fumbled with trembling fingers at his belt;
Stobell brushing his hand aside drew a sailor's knife from its sheath,
and started to run back in the direction of the tent. Mr. Chalk,
after a moment's hesitation, followed a little way behind.
"Look out!" he screamed, and stopped suddenly, as a
figure burst out of the trees on to the beach a score of yards
ahead. Stobell, with a hoarse cry, raised his hand and dashed at
"Stobell!" cried a voice.
"It's Tredgold," cried Stobell. He waited for
him to reach them, and then, turning, all three ran stumbling along the
They ran in silence until they reached the other end
of the island. So far there were no signs of pursuit, and
Stobell, breathing hard from his unwonted exercise, collected a few
lumps of coral and piled them on the beach.
"They had me over — twice," said Tredgold, jerkily;
"they tore the clothes from my back. How I got away I don't
know. I fought — kicked — then suddenly I broke loose and ran."
He threw himself on the beach and drew his breath in
long, sobbing gasps. Stobell, going a few paces forward, peered
into the darkness and listened intently.
"I suppose they're waiting for daylight," he said at last.
He sat down on the beach and, after making a few
disparaging remarks about coral as a weapon, lapsed into silence.
To Mr. Chalk it seemed as though the night would
never end. A dozen times he sprang to his feet and gazed
fearfully into the darkness, and a dozen times at least he reminded the
silent Stobell of the folly of throwing other people's guns away.
Day broke at last and showed him Tredgold in a tattered shirt and a
pair of trousers, and Stobell sitting close by sound asleep.
"We must try and signal to the ship," he said, in a hoarse whisper. "It's our only chance."
Tredgold nodded assent and shook Stobell
quietly. The silence was oppressive. They rose and peered
out to sea, and a loud exclamation broke from all three. The
"Fair Emily" had disappeared.
Stobell rubbed his eyes and swore softly; Tredgold
and Chalk stood gazing in blank dismay at the unbroken expanse of
"The savages must have surprised them," said the
latter, in trembling tones. "That's why they left us alone."
"Or else they heard the noise ashore and put to sea," said Tredgold.
They stood gazing at each other in
consternation. Then Stobell, who had been looking about him, gave
vent to an astonished grunt and pointed to a boat drawn upon the beach
nearly abreast of where their tent had been.
"Some of the crew have escaped ashore," said Mr. Chalk.
Striking inland, so as to get the shelter of the
trees, they made their way cautiously towards the boat. Color was
lent to Mr. Chalk's surmise by the fact that it was fairly well laden
with stores. As they got near they saw a couple of small casks
which he thought contained water, an untidy pile of tinned provisions,
and two or three bags of biscuit. The closest search failed to
reveal any signs of men, and plucking up courage they walked boldly
down to the boat and stood gazing stupidly at its contents.
The firearms which Stobell had pitched out of the
tent the night before lay in the bottom, together with boxes of
cartridges from the cabin, a couple of axes, and a pile of clothing,
from the top of which Mr. Tredgold, with a sharp exclamation, snatched
a somewhat torn coat and waistcoat. From the former he drew out a
bulky pocketbook, and, opening it with trembling fingers, hastily
inspected the contents.
"The map has gone!" he shouted.
The others stared at him.
"Brisket has gone off with the ship," he continued,
with desperate calmness. "It was the crew of our own schooner
that frightened us off last night."
Mr. Stobell, still staring in a stony fashion, nodded slowly; Mr. Chalk after an effort found his voice.
"They've gone off with the treasure," he said, slowly.
"Also," continued Tredgold, "this is not Bowers's
Island. I can see it all now. They've only taken the map,
and now they're off to the real island to get the treasure. It's
as clear as daylight."
"Broad daylight," said Stobell, huskily. "But how did they know?"
"Somebody has been talking," said Tredgold, in a
hard voice. "Somebody has been confiding in that honest,
open-hearted sailor, Captain Brisket."
He turned as he spoke and gazed fixedly at the
open-mouthed Chalk. In a slower fashion, but with no less venom,
Mr. Stobell also bent his regards upon that amiable but erring man.
Mr. Chalk returned their gaze with something like
defiance. Half an hour before he had expected to have been killed
and eaten. He had passed a night of horror, expecting death every
minute. Now he exulted in the blue sky, the line of white
breakers crashing on the reef, and the sea sparkling in the sunshine;
and he had not spent twenty-five years with Mrs. Chalk without
acquiring some skill in the noble art of self-defense.
"Ah, Brisket was trying to pump me a week ago," he said, confidentially. "I see it all now."
The others glared at him luridly.
"He said that he had seen us through the skylight
studying a paper," continued Mr. Chalk, shaking his head. "I
thought at the time you were rather rash, Tredgold."
Mr. Tredgold choked and, meeting the fault-finding eye of Mr. Stobell, began to protest.
"The thing Brisket couldn't understand," said Chalk,
gaining confidence as he proceeded, "was Stobell's behavior. He
said that he couldn't believe that a man who grumbled at the sea so
much as he did could be sailing for pleasure."
Mr. Stobell glowered fiercely. "Why didn't you tell us before?" he demanded.
"I didn't attach any importance to it," said Mr.
Chalk, truthfully. "I thought that it was just curiosity on
Brisket's part. It surprised me that he had been observing you
and Tredgold so closely; that was all."
"Pity you didn't tell us," exclaimed Tredgold, harshly. "We might have been prepared, then."
"You ought to have told us at once," said Stobell.
Mr. Chalk agreed. "I ought to have done so,
perhaps," he said, slowly; "only I was afraid of hurting your
feelings. As it is, we must make the best of it. It is no
good grumbling at each other.
"If I had had the map instead of Tredgold, perhaps this wouldn't have happened."
"It was a crazy idea to keep it in your coat
pocket," said Stobell, scowling at Tredgold. "No doubt Brisket
saw you put it back there the other night, guessed what it was, and
laid his plans according."
"If it hadn't been for your grumbling it wouldn't
have happened," retorted Tredgold, hotly. "That's what roused his
suspicions in the first instance."
Mr. Chalk interposed. "It is no good you two
quarrelling about it," he said, with kindly severity. "The
mischief is done. Bear a hand with these stores, and then help me
to fix the tent up again."
The others hesitated, and then without a word Mr.
Stobell worked one of the casks out of the boat and began to roll it up
the beach. The tent still lay where it had fallen, but the case
of spades had disappeared. They raised the tent again and carried
in the stores, after which Mr. Chalk, with the air of an old
campaigner, made a small fire and prepared breakfast.
Day by day they scanned the sea for any signs of a
sail, but in vain. Coconuts and a few birds shot by Mr. Stobell —
who had been an expert at pigeon shooting in his youth — together with
a species of fish which Mr. Chalk pronounced to be edible a few hours
after the others had partaken of it, furnished them with a welcome
change of diet. In the smooth water inside the reef they pulled
about in the boat, and, becoming bolder and more expert in the
management of it, sometimes ventured outside. Mr. Stobell
pronounced the life to be more monotonous than that on board ship, and
once, in a moment of severe depression, induced by five days' heavy
rain, spoke affectionately of Mrs. Stobell. To Mr. Chalk's
reminder that the rain had enabled them to replenish their water supply
he made a churlish rejoinder.
He passed his time in devising plans for the capture
and punishment of Captain Brisket, and caused a serious
misunderstanding by expressing his regret that that unscrupulous
mariner had not rendered himself liable to the extreme penalty of the
law by knocking Mr. Chalk on the head on the night of the attack.
His belated explanation that he wished Mr. Chalk no harm was pronounced
by that gentleman to be childish.
"We can do nothing to Brisket even if we escape from this place," said Tredgold, peremptorily.
"Do nothing?" roared Stobell. "Why not?"
"In the first place we shan't find him," said
Tredgold. "After they have got the treasure they will get rid of
the ship and disperse all over the world."
Mr. Stobell, with heavy sarcasm, said that once, many years before, he had heard of people called detectives.
"In the second place," continued Tredgold, "we can't
explain. It wasn't our map, and, strictly speaking, we had no
business with it. Even if we caught Brisket, we should have no
legal claim to the treasure. And if you want to blurt out to all
Binchester how we were tricked and frightened out of our lives by
imitation savages, I don't."
"He stole our ship," growled Stobell, after a long pause. "We could have him for that."
"Mutiny on the high seas," added Chalk, with an important air.
"The whole story would have to come out," said
Tredgold, sharply. "Verdict: served them right. Once
we had got the treasure we could have given Captain Bowers his share,
or more than his share, and it would have been all right. As it
is, nobody must know that we went for it."
Mr. Stobell, unable to trust himself with speech, stumped fiercely up and down the beach.
"But it will all have to come out if we are rescued," objected Mr. Chalk.
"We can tell what story we like," said
Tredgold. "We can say that the schooner went to pieces on a reef
in the night; we got separated from the other boat and made our way
here. We have got plenty of time to concoct a story, and there is
nobody to contradict it."
Mr. Stobell brought up in front of him and frowned
thoughtfully. "I suppose you're right," he said, slowly; "but if
we ever get off this chicken perch, and I run across him, let him look
out, that's all."
To pass the time they built themselves a hut on the
beach in a situation where it would stand the best chance of being seen
by any chance vessel. At one corner stood a mast fashioned from a
tree, and a flag, composed for the most part of shirts which Mr. Chalk
thought his friends had done with, fluttered bravely in the
breeze. It was designed to attract attention, and, so far as the
bereaved Mr. Stobell was concerned, it certainly succeeded.
Nearly a year had elapsed since the sailing of the Fair Emily, and
Binchester, which had listened doubtfully to the tale of the treasure
as revealed by Mr. William Russell, was still awaiting news of her
fate. Cablegrams to Sydney only elicited the information that she
had not been heard of, and the opinion became general that she had
added but one more to the many mysteries of the sea.
Captain Bowers, familiar with many cases of ships
long overdue which had reached home in safety, still hoped, but it was
clear from the way in which Mrs. Chalk spoke of her husband and the
saintlike qualities she attributed to him that she never expected to
see him again. Mr. Stobell also appeared to his wife through
tear-dimmed eyes as a person of great gentleness and infinite self
"All the years we were married," she said one
afternoon to Mrs. Chalk, who had been listening with growing impatience
to an account of Mr. Stobell which that gentleman would have been the
first to disclaim, "I never gave him a cross word. Nothing was
too good for me; I only had to ask to have."
Mrs. Chalk couldn't help herself. "Why don't you ask, then?" she inquired.
Mrs. Stobell started and eyed her indignantly.
"So long as I had him I didn't want anything else," she said,
stiffly. "We were all in all to each other; he couldn't bear me
out of his sight. I remember once, when I had gone to see my poor
mother, he sent me three telegrams in thirty-five minutes telling me to
"Thomas was so unselfish," murmured Mrs.
Chalk. "I once stayed with my mother for six weeks and he never
said a word."
An odd expression, transient but unmistakable, flitted across the face of the listener.
"It nearly broke his heart, though, poor dear," said
Mrs. Chalk, glaring at her. "He said he had never had such a time
in his life."
"I don't expect he had," said Mrs. Stobell, screwing up her small features.
Mrs. Chalk drew herself up in her chair. "What do you mean by that?" she demanded.
"I meant what he meant," replied Mrs. Stobell, with a little air of surprise.
Mrs. Chalk bit her lip, and her friend, turning her
head, gazed long and mournfully at a large photograph of Mr. Stobell
painted in oils, which stared stiffly down on them from the wall.
"He never caused me a moment's uneasiness," she said, tenderly. "I could trust him anywhere."
Mrs. Chalk gazed thoughtfully at the portrait.
It was not a good likeness, but it was more like Mr. Stobell than
anybody else in Binchester, a fact which had been of some use in
allaying certain unworthy suspicions of Mr. Stobell the first time he
"Yes," said Mrs. Chalk, significantly, "I should think you could."
Mrs. Stobell, about to reply, caught the staring eye
of the photograph, and, shaking her head sorrowfully, took out her
handkerchief and wiped her eyes. Mrs. Chalk softened.
"They both had their faults," she said, gently, "but
they were great friends. I dare say that it was a comfort to them
to be together to the last."
Captain Bowers himself began to lose hope at last,
and went about in so moody a fashion that a shadow seemed to have
fallen upon the cottage. By tacit consent the treasure had long
been a forbidden subject, and even when the news of Selina's promissory
note reached Dialstone Lane he had refused to discuss it. It had
nothing to do with him, he said, and he washed his hands of it — a
conclusion highly satisfactory to Miss Vickers, who had feared that she
would have had to have dropped for a time her visits to Mr. Tasker.
A slight change in the household occurring at this
time helped to divert the captain's thoughts. Mr. Tasker while
chopping wood happened to chop his knee by mistake, and, as he did
everything with great thoroughness, injured himself so badly that he
had to be removed to his home. He was taken away at ten in the
morning, and at a quarter past eleven Selina Vickers, in a large apron
and her sleeves rolled up over her elbows, was blacking the kitchen
stove and throwing occasional replies to the objecting captain over her
"I promised Joseph," she said, sharply, "and I don't
break my promises for nobody. He was worrying about what you'd do
all alone, and I told him I'd come."
Captain Bowers looked at her helplessly.
"I can manage very well by myself," he said, at last.
"Chop your leg off, I s'pose?" retorted Miss Vickers, good-temperedly. "Oh, you men!"
"And I'm not at home much while Miss Drewitt is away," added the captain.
"All the better," said Miss Vickers, breathing
noisily on the stove and polishing with renewed vigor. "You won't
be in my way."
The captain pulled himself together.
"You can finish what you're doing," he said, mildly, "and then — "
"Yes, I know what to do," interrupted Miss
Vickers. "You leave it to me. Go in and sit down and make
yourself comfortable. You ought not to be in the kitchen at all
by rights. Not that I mind what people say — I should have enough
to do if I did — but still — "
The captain fled in disorder and at first had
serious thoughts of wiring for Miss Drewitt, who was spending a few
days with friends in town. Thinking better of this, he walked
down to a servants' registry office, and, after being shut up for a
quarter of an hour in a small room with a middle aged lady of Irish
extraction, who was sent in to be catechized, resolved to let matters
remain as they were.
Miss Vickers swept and dusted, cooked and scrubbed,
undisturbed, and so peaceable was his demeanor when he returned from a
walk one morning, and found the front room being "turned out," that she
departed from her usual custom and explained the necessities of the
case at some length.
"I dare say it'll be the better for it," said the captain.
"O' course it will," retorted Selina. "You
don't think I'd do it for pleasure, do you? I thought you'd sit
out in the garden, and of course it must come on to rain."
The captain said it didn't matter.
"Joseph," said Miss Vickers, as she squeezed a wet
cloth into her pail — "Joseph's got a nice leg. It's healing very
The captain, halting by the kitchen door, said he was sorry to hear it.
"Though there's worse things than bad legs,"
continued Miss Vickers, soaping her scrubbing brush mechanically;
"being lost at sea, for instance."
Captain Bowers made no reply. Adopting the
idea that all roads lead to Rome, Miss Vickers had, during her stay at
Dialstone Lane, made many indirect attempts to introduce the subject of
the treasure seekers.
"I suppose those gentlemen are drowned?" she said, bending down and scrubbing noisily.
The captain, taking advantage of her back being
turned towards him, eyed her severely. The hardihood of the girl
was appalling. His gaze wandered from her to the bureau, and, as
his eye fell on the key sticking up in the lid, the idea of reading her
a much needed lesson presented itself. He stepped over the pail
towards the bureau and, catching the girl's eye as she looked up,
turned the key noisily in the lock and placed it ostentatiously in his
pocket. A sudden vivid change in Selina's complexion satisfied
him that his manoeuvre had been appreciated.
"Are you afraid I shall steal anything?" she demanded, hotly, as he regained the kitchen.
The captain quailed. "No," he said,
hastily. "Somebody once took a paper of mine out of there,
though," he added. "So I keep it locked up now."
Miss Vickers dropped the brush in the pail, and,
rising slowly to her feet, stood wiping her hands on her coarse
apron. Her face was red and white in patches, and the captain,
regarding her with growing uneasiness, began to take in sail.
"At least, I thought they did," he muttered.
Selina paid no heed. "Get out o' my kitchen," she said, in a husky voice, as she brushed past him.
The captain obeyed hastily, and, stepping inside the
dismantled room, stood for some time gazing out of window at the
rain. Then he filled his pipe and, removing a small chair which
was sitting upside down in a large one, took its place and stared
disconsolately at the patch of wet floor and the general disorder.
At the end of an hour he took a furtive peep into
the kitchen. Selina Vickers was sitting with her back towards
him, brooding over the stove. It seemed clear to him that she was
ashamed to meet his eye, and, glad to see such signs of grace in her,
he resolved to spare her further confusion by going upstairs. He
went up noisly and closed his door with a bang, but although he opened
it afterwards and stood listening acutely he heard so sound from below.
By the end of the second hour his uneasiness had
increased to consternation. The house was as silent as a tomb,
the sitting room was still in a state of chaos, and a healthy appetite
would persist in putting ominous and inconvenient questions as to
dinner. Whistling a cheerful air he went downstairs again and put
his head in at the kitchen. Selina sat in the same attitude, and
when he coughed made no response.
"What about dinner?" he said, at last, in a voice which strove to be unconcerned.
"Go away," said Selina, thickly. "I don't want no dinner."
The captain started. "But I do," he said, feelingly.
"You'd better get it yourself, then," replied Miss
Vickers, without turning her head. "I might steal a potato or
"Don't talk nonsense," said the other, nervously.
"I'm not a thief," continued Miss Vickers. "I
work as hard as anybody in Binchester, and nobody can ever say that I
took the value of a farthing from them. If I'm poor I'm honest."
"Everybody knows that," said the captain, with fervor.
"You said you didn't want the paper," said Selina,
turning at last and regarding him fiercely. "I heard you with my
own ears, else I wouldn't have taken it. And if they had come
back you'd have had your share. You didn't want the treasure
yourself and you didn't want other people to have it. And it
wasn't yours, because I heard you say so."
"Very well, say no more about it," said the
captain. "If anybody asks you can say that I knew you had
it. Now go and put that back in the bureau."
He tossed the key on to the table, and Miss Vickers,
after a moment's hesitation, turned with a gratified smile and took it
up. The next hour he spent in his bedroom, the rapid evolutions
of Miss Vickers as she passed from the saucepans to the sitting room
and from the sitting room back to the saucepans requiring plenty of sea
A week later she was one of the happiest people in
Binchester. Edward Tredgold had received a cable from
Auckland: "All safe; coming home," and she shared with Mrs. Chalk
and Mrs. Stobell in the hearty congratulations of a large circle of
friends. Her satisfaction was only marred by the feverish
condition of Mr. Tasker immediately on receipt of the news.
Fortunately for their peace of mind, Mr. Chalk and his friends, safe on
board the SS Silver Star, bound for home, had no idea that the story of
the treasure had become public property. Since their message it
had become the principal topic of conversation in the town, and, Miss
Vickers being no longer under the necessity of keeping her share in the
affair secret, Mr. William Russell was relieved of a reputation for
untruthfulness under which he had long labored.
Various religious and philanthropic bodies began to
bestir themselves. Owing to his restlessness and love of change
no fewer than three sects claimed Mr. Chalk as their own, and,
referring to his donations in the past, looked forward to a golden
future. The claim of the Church to Mr. Tredgold was regarded as
flawless, but the case of Mr. Stobell bristled with difficulties.
Apologists said that he belonged to a sect unrepresented in Binchester,
but an offshoot of the Baptists put in a claim on the ground that he
had built that place of worship — at a considerable loss on the
contract — some fifteen years before.
Dialstone Lane, when it became known that Captain
Bowers had waived his claim to a share, was besieged by people seeking
the reversion, and even Mint Street was not overlooked. Mr.
Vickers repelled all callers with acrimonious impartiality, but Selina,
after a long argument with a lady subaltern of the Salvation Army,
during which the methods and bonnets of that organization were hotly
assailed, so far relented as to present her with twopence on account.
Miss Drewitt looked forward to the return of the
adventurers with disdainful interest. To Edward Tredgold she
referred with pride to the captain's steadfast determination not to
touch a penny of their ill gotten gains, and with a few subtle strokes
drew a comparison between her uncle and his father which he felt to be
somewhat highly colored. In extenuation he urged the rival claims
of Chalk and Stobell.
"They were both led away by Chalk's eloquence and
thirst for adventure," he said, as he walked by her side down the
Miss Drewitt paid no heed. "And you will benefit by it," she remarked.
Mr. Tredgold drew himself up with an air the
nobleness of which was somewhat marred by the expression of his
eyes. "I will never touch a penny of it," he declared. "I
will be like the captain. I am trying all I can to model myself
on his lines."
The girl regarded him with suspicion. "I see no signs of any result at present," she said, coldly.
Mr. Tredgold smiled modestly. "Don't flatter me," he entreated.
"Flatter you!" said the indignant Prudence.
"On my consummate powers of concealment," was the
reply. "I am keeping everything dark until I am so like him — in
every particular — that you will not know the difference. I have
often envied him the possession of such a niece. When the
likeness is perfec — "
"Well?" said Miss Drewitt, with impatient scorn.
"You will have two uncles instead of one," rejoined Mr. Tredgold, impressively.
Miss Drewitt, with marked deliberation, came to a pause in the centre of the path.
"Are you going to continue talking nonsense?" she inquired, significantly.
Mr. Tredgold sighed. "I would rather talk sense," he replied, with a sudden change of manner.
"Try," said the girl, encouragingly.
"Only it is so difficult," said Edward, thoughtfully, "to you."
Miss Drewitt stopped again.
"For me," added the other, hastily. His
companion said that she supposed it was. She also reminded him
that nothing was easy without practice.
"And I ought not to find it difficult," complained
Mr. Tredgold. "I have got plenty of sense hidden away somewhere."
Miss Drewitt permitted herself a faint exclamation
of surprise. "It was not an empty boast of yours just now, then,"
"Boast?" repeated the other, blankly. "What boast?"
"On your wonderful powers of concealment," said Prudence, gently.
"You are reverting of your own accord to the
nonsense," said Mr. Tredgold, sternly. "You are returning to the
subject of uncles."
"Nothing of the kind," said Prudence, hotly.
"Before we leave it — forever," said Mr. Tredgold,
dramatically, "I should like, if I am permitted, to make just one more
remark on the subject. I would not, for all the wealth of this
world, be your uncle. Where are you going?"
"Indoors," said Miss Drewitt, briefly.
"One moment," implored the other. "I am just going to begin to talk sense."
"I will listen when you have had some practice," said the girl, walking towards the house.
"It's impossible to practice this," said Edward,
following. "It is something that can only be confided to
yourself. Won't you stay?"
"No," said the girl.
"Not from curiosity?"
Miss Drewitt, gazing steadfastly before her, shook her head.
"Well, perhaps I can say it as well indoors," murmured Edward, resignedly.
"And you'll have a bigger audience," said Prudence,
breathing more easily as she reached the house. "Uncle is
She passed through the kitchen and into the sitting
room so hastily that Captain Bowers, who was sitting by the window
reading, put down his paper and looked up in surprise. The look
of grim determination on Mr. Tredgold's face did not escape him.
"Mr. Tredgold has come indoors to talk sense," said Prudence, demurely.
"Talk sense?" repeated the astonished captain.
"That's what he says," replied Miss Drewitt, taking
a low chair by the captain's side and gazing composedly at the
intruder. "I told him that you would like to hear it."
She turned her head for a second to hide her
amusement, and in that second Mr. Tredgold favored the captain with a
glance the significance of which was at once returned fourfold.
She looked up just in time to see their features relaxing, and moving
nearer to the captain instinctively placed her hand upon his knee.
"I hope," said Captain Bowers, after a long and
somewhat embarrassing silence — "I hope the conversation isn't going to
be above my head?"
"Mr. Tredgold was talking about uncles," said Prudence, maliciously.
"Nothing bad about them, I hope?" said the captain, with pretended anxiety.
Edward shook his head. "I was merely envying
Miss Drewitt her possession of you," he said, carelessly, "and I was
just about to remark that I wished you were my uncle too, when she came
indoors. I suppose she wanted you to hear it."
Miss Drewitt started violently, and her cheek flamed at the meanness of the attack.
"I wish I was, my lad," said the admiring captain.
"It would be the proudest moment of my life," said Edward, deliberately.
"And mine," said the captain, stoutly.
"And the happiest."
The captain bowed. "Same here," he said, graciously.
Miss Drewitt, listening helplessly to this fulsome
exchange of compliments, wondered whether they had got to the
end. The captain looked at Mr. Tredgold as though to remind him
that it was his turn.
"You — you were going to show me a photograph of
your first ship," said the latter, after a long pause. "Don't
trouble if it's upstairs."
"It's no trouble," said the captain, briskly.
He rose to his feet and the hand of the indignant
Prudence, dislodged from his knee, fell listlessly by her side.
She sat upright, with her pale, composed face turned towards Mr.
Tredgold. Her eyes were scornful and her lips slightly
parted. Before these signs his courage flickered out and left him
speechless. Even commonplace statements of fact were denied
him. At last in sheer desperation he referred to the loudness of
the clock's ticking.
"It seems to me to be the same as usual," said the girl, with a slight emphasis on the pronoun.
The clock ticked on undisturbed. Upstairs the
amiable captain did his part nobly. Drawers opened and closed
noisily; doors shut and lids of boxes slammed. The absurdity of
the situation became unbearable, and despite her indignation at the
treatment she had received Miss Drewitt felt a strong inclination to
laugh. She turned her head swiftly and looked out of window, and
the next moment Edward Tredgold crossed and took the captain's empty
"Shall I call him down?" he asked, in a low voice.
"Call him down?" repeated the girl, coldly, but without turning her head. "Yes, if you — "
A loud crash overhead interrupted her
sentence. It was evident that in his zeal the captain had pulled
out a loaded drawer too far and gone over with it. Slapping
sounds, as of a man dusting himself down, followed, and it was obvious
that Miss Drewitt was only maintaining her gravity by a tremendous
effort. Much emboldened by this fact the young man took her hand.
"Mr. Tredgold!" she said, in a stifled voice.
Undismayed by his accident the indefatigable captain
was at it again, and in face of the bustle upstairs Prudence Drewitt
was afraid to trust herself to say more. She sat silent with her
head resolutely averted, but Edward took comfort in the fact that she
had forgotten to withdraw her hand.
"Bless him!" he said, fervently, a little later, as
the captain's foot was heard heavily on the stair. "Does he think
we are deaf?"
Much to the surprise of their friends, who had not expected them home
until November or December, telegrams were received from the
adventurers, one day towards the end of September, announcing that they
had landed at Liverpool and were on their way home by the earliest
train. The most agreeable explanation of so short a voyage was
that, having found the treasure, they had resolved to return home by
steamer, leaving the Fair Emily to return at her leisure. But
Captain Bowers, to whom Mrs. Chalk propounded this solution, suggested
He walked down to the station in the evening to see
the train come in, his curiosity as to the bearing and general state of
mind of the travelers refusing to be denied. He had intended to
witness the arrival from a remote corner of the platform, but to his
surprise it was so thronged with sightseers that the precaution was
unnecessary. The news of the return had spread like wildfire, and
half Binchester had congregated to welcome their fellow townsmen and
congratulate them upon their romantically acquired wealth.
Despite the crowd the captain involuntarily shrank
back as the train rattled into the station. The carriage
containing the travelers stopped almost in front of him, and their
consternation and annoyance at the extent of their reception were
plainly visible. Bronzed and healthy looking, they stepped out on
to the platform, and after a brief greeting to Mrs. Chalk and Mrs.
Stobell led the way in some haste to the exit. The crowd pressed
close behind, and inquiries as to the treasure and its approximate
value broke clamorously upon the ears of the maddened Mr.
Stobell. Friends of many years who sought for particulars were
shouldered aside, and it was left to Mr. Chalk, who struggled along in
the rear with his wife, to announce that they had been shipwrecked.
Captain Bowers, who had just caught the word, heard
the full particulars from him next day. For once the positions
were reversed, and Mr. Chalk, who had so often sat in that room
listening to the captain's yarns, swelled with pride as he noted the
rapt fashion in which the captain listened to his. The tale of
the shipwreck he regarded as a disagreeable necessity: a piece of
paste flaunting itself among gems. In a few words he told how the
Fair Emily crashed on to a reef in the middle of the night, and how,
owing to the darkness and confusion, the boat into which he had got
with Stobell and Tredgold was cast adrift; how a voice raised to a
shriek cried to them to pull away, and how a minute afterwards the
schooner disappeared with all hands.
"It almost unnerved me," he said, turning to Miss Drewitt, who was listening intently.
"You are sure she went down, I suppose?" said the captain; "she didn't just disappear in the darkness?"
"Sank like a stone," said Mr. Chalk,
decidedly. "Our boat was nearly swamped in the vortex.
Fortunately, the sea was calm, and when day broke we saw a small island
about three miles away on our weather beam."
"Where?" inquired Edward Tredgold, who had just
looked in on the way to the office. Mr. Chalk explained.
"You tell the story much better than my father
does," said Edward, nodding. "From the way he tells it one might
think that you had the island in the boat with you."
Mr. Chalk started nervously. "It was three
miles away on our weather beam," he repeated, "the atmosphere clear and
the sea calm. We sat down to a steady pull, and made the land in
a little under the hour."
"Who did the pulling?" inquired Edward, casually.
Mr. Chalk started again, and wondered who had done
it in Mr. Tredgold's version. He resolved to see him as soon as
possible and arrange details.
"Most of us took a turn at it," he said, evasively, "and those who didn't encouraged the others."
"Most of you!" exclaimed the bewildered captain; "and those who didn't — but how many?"
"The events of that night are somewhat misty,"
interrupted Mr. Chalk, hastily. "The suddenness of the calamity
and the shock of losing our shipmates — "
"It's wonderful to me that you can remember so much," said Edward, with a severe glance at the captain.
Mr. Chalk paid no heed. Having reached the
island, the rest was truth and plain sailing. He described their
life there until they were taken off by a trading schooner from
Auckland, and how for three months they cruised with her among the
islands. He spoke learnedly of atolls, copra, and missionaries,
and, referring for a space to the Fijian belles, thought that their
charms had been much overrated. Edward Tredgold, waiting until
the three had secured berths in the SS Silver Star, trading between
Auckland and London, took his departure.
Miss Vickers, who had been spending the day with a
friend at Dutton Priors, and had missed the arrival in consequence,
heard of the disaster in a mingled state of wrath and despair.
The hopes of a year were shattered in a second, and, rejecting with
fierceness the sympathy of her family, she went up to her room and sat
brooding in the darkness.
She came down the next morning, pale from want of
sleep. Mr. Vickers, who was at breakfast, eyed her curiously
until, meeting her gaze in return, he blotted it out with a teacup.
"When you've done staring," said his daughter, "you can go upstairs and make yourself tidy."
"Tidy?" repeated Mr. Vickers. "What for?"
"I'm going to see those three," replied Selina,
grimly; "and I want a witness. And I may as well have a clean one
while I'm about it."
Mr. Vickers darted upstairs with alacrity, and
having made himself approximately tidy smoked a morning pipe on the
doorstep while his daughter got ready. An air of importance and
dignity suitable to the occasion partly kept off inquirers.
"We'll go and see Mr. Stobell first," said his daughter, as she came out.
"Very good," said the witness, "but if you asked my advice — "
"You just keep quiet," said Selina, irritably; "I've not gone quite off my head yet. And don't hum!"
Mr. Vickers lapsed into offended silence, and,
arrived at Mr. Stobell's, followed his daughter into the hall in so
stately a fashion that the maid — lately of Mint Street — implored him
not to eat her. Miss Vickers replied for him, and the altercation
that ensued was only quelled by the appearance of Mr. Stobell at the
dining room door.
"Hello! What do you want?" he inquired, staring at the intruders.
"I've come for my share," said Miss Vickers, eyeing him fiercely.
"Share?" repeated Mr. Stobell. "Share? Why, we've been shipwrecked. Haven't you heard?"
"Perhaps you came to my house when I wasn't at
home," retorted Miss Vickers, in a trembling but sarcastic voice.
"I want to hear about it. That's what I've come for."
She walked to the dining room and, as Mr. Stobell
still stood in the doorway, pushed past him, followed by her
father. Mr. Stobell, after a short deliberation, returned to his
seat at the breakfast table, and in an angry and disjointed fashion
narrated the fate of the Fair Emily and their subsequent
adventures. Miss Vickers heard him to an end in silence.
"What time was it when the ship struck on the rock?" she inquired.
Mr. Stobell stared at her. "Eleven o'clock," he said, gruffly.
Miss Vickers made a note in a little red-covered notebook.
"Who got in the boat first?" she demanded.
Mr. Stobell's lips twisted in a faint grin. "Chalk did," he said, with relish.
Miss Vickers, nodding at the witness to call his attention to the fact, made another note.
"How far was the boat off when the ship sank?"
"Here, look here — " began the indignant Stobell.
"How far was the boat off?" interposed the witness, severely; "that's what we want to know."
"You hold your tongue," said his daughter.
"I'm doing the talking. How far was the boat off?"
"About four yards," replied Mr. Stobell. "And
now look here; if you want to know any more, you go and see Mr.
Chalk. I'm sick and tired of the whole business. And you'd
no right to talk about it while we were away."
"I've got the paper you signed and I'm going to know
the truth," said Miss Vickers, fiercely. "It's my right.
What was the size of the island?"
Mr. Stobell maintained an obstinate silence.
"What color did you say these 'ere Fidgetty islanders was?" inquired Mr. Vickers, with truculent curiosity.
"You get out," roared Stobell, rising. "At once. D'ye hear me?"
Mr. Vickers backed with some haste towards the door. His daughter followed slowly.
"I don't believe you," she said, turning sharply on
Stobell. "I don't believe the ship was wrecked at all."
Mr. Stobell sat gasping at her. "What?" he stammered. "W h-a-a-t?"
"I don't believe it was wrecked," repeated Selina,
wildly. "You've got the treasure all right, and you're keeping it
quiet and telling this tale to do me out of my share. I haven't
done with you yet. You wait!"
She flung out into the hall, and Mr. Vickers, after a lofty glance at Mr. Stobell, followed her outside.
"And now we'll go and hear what Mr. Tredgold has to
say," she said, as they walked up the road. "And after that, Mr.
Mr. Tredgold was just starting for the office when
they arrived, but, recognizing the justice of Miss Vickers's request
for news, he stopped and gave his version of the loss of the Fair
Emily. In several details it differed from that of Mr. Stobell,
and he looked at her uneasily as she took out pencil and paper and made
"If you want any further particulars you had better
go and see Mr. Stobell," he said, restlessly. "I am busy."
"We've just been to see him," replied Miss Vickers,
with an ominous gleam in her eye. "You say that the boat was two
or three hundred yards away when the ship sank?"
"More or less," was the cautious reply.
"Mr. Stobell said about half a mile," suggested the wily Selina.
"Well, perhaps that would be more correct," said the other.
"Half a mile, then?"
"Half a mile," said Mr. Tredgold, nodding, as she wrote it down.
"Four yards was what Mr. Stobell said," exclaimed
Selina, excitedly. "I've got it down here, and father heard
it. And you make the time it happened and a lot of other things
different. I don't believe that you were any more shipwrecked
than I was."
"Not so much," added the irrepressible Mr. Vickers.
Mr. Tredgold walked to the door. "I am busy," he said, curtly. "Good morning."
Miss Vickers passed him with head erect, and her
small figure trembling with rage and determination. By the time
she had cross examined Mr. Chalk her wildest suspicions were
confirmed. His account differed in several particulars from the
others, and his alarm and confusion when taxed with the discrepancies
Binchester rang with the story of her wrongs, and,
being furnished with three different accounts of the same incident,
seemed inclined to display a little pardonable curiosity. To
satisfy this, intimates of the gentlemen most concerned were provided
with an official version, which Miss Vickers discovered after a little
research was compiled for the most part by adding all the statements
together and dividing by three. She paid another round of visits
to tax them with the fact, and, strong in the justice of her cause,
even followed them in the street demanding her money.
"There's one comfort," she said to the depressed Mr.
Tasker. "I've got you, Joseph. They can't take you away
"There's nobody could do that," responded Mr. Tasker, with a sigh of resignation.
"And if I had to choose," continued Miss Vickers,
putting her arm round his waist, "I'd sooner have you than a hundred
Mr. Tasker sighed again at the idea of an article
estimated at so high a figure passing into the possession of Selina
Vickers. In a voice broken with emotion he urged her to persevere
in her claims to a fortune which he felt would alone make his fate
tolerable. The unsuspecting Selina promised.
"She'll quiet down in time," said Captain Bowers to
Mr. Chalk, after the latter had been followed nearly all the way to
Dialstone Lane by Miss Vickers, airing her grievance and calling upon
him to remedy it. "Once she realizes the fact that the ship is
lost, she'll be all right."
Mr. Chalk looked unconvinced. "She doesn't want to realize it," he said, shaking his head.
"She'll be all right in time," repeated the captain;
"and after all, you know," he added, with gentle severity, "you deserve
to suffer a little. You had no business with that map."
On a fine afternoon towards the end of the following month Captain
Brisket and Mr. Duckett sat outside the Swan and Bottle Inn, Holemouth,
a small port forty miles distant from Biddlecombe. The day was
fine, with just a touch of crispness in the air to indicate the waning
of the year, and, despite a position regarded by the gloomy Mr. Duckett
as teeming with perils, the captain turned a bright and confident eye
on the Fair Emily, anchored in the harbor.
"We ought to have gone straight to Biddlecombe,"
said Mr. Duckett, following his glance; "it would have looked
better. Not that anything'll make much difference."
"And everybody in a flutter of excitement
telegraphing off to the owners," commented the captain. "No,
we'll tell our story first; quiet and comfortable-like. Say it
"I've said it three times," objected Mr. Duckett; "and each time it sounds more unreal than ever."
"It'll be all right," said Brisket, puffing at his
cigar. "Besides, we've got no choice. It's that or ruin,
and there's nobody within thousands of miles to contradict us. We
bring both the ship and the map back to 'em. What more can they
"You'll soon know," said the pessimistic Mr.
Duckett. "I wonder whether they'll have another shot for the
treasure when they get that map back?"
"I should like to send that Captain Bowers out
searching for it," said Brisket, scowling, "and keep him out there till
he finds it. It's all his fault. If it hadn't been for his
cock and bull story we shouldn't ha' done what we did. Hanging's
too good for him."
"I suppose it's best for them not to know that there's no such island?" hazarded Mr. Duckett.
"O' course," snapped his companion. "Looks
better for us, don't it, giving them back a map worth half a
million. Now go through the yarn again and I'll see whether I can
pick any holes in it. The train goes in half an hour."
Mr. Duckett sighed and, first emptying his mug,
began a monotonous recital. Brisket listened attentively.
"We were down below asleep when the men came running
down and overpowered us. They weighed anchor at night, and
following morning made you, by threats, promise to steer them to the
island. You told me on the quiet that you'd die before you
betrayed the owners' trust. How did they know that the island the
gentlemen were on wasn't the right one? Because Sam Betts was
standing by when you told me you'd made a mistake in your reckoning and
said we'd better go ashore and tell them."
"That's all right so far, I think," said Brisket, nodding.
"We sailed about and tried island after island just
to satisfy the men and seize our opportunity," continued Mr. Duckett,
with a weary air. "At last, one day, when they were all drunk
ashore, we took the map, shipped these natives, and sailed back to the
island to rescue the owners. Found they'd gone when we got
there. Mr. Stobell's boot and an old pair of braces produced in
"Better wrap it up in a piece o' newspaper," said
Brisket, stooping and producing the relic in question from under the
"Shipped four white men at Viti Levu and sailed for
home," continued Mr. Duckett. "Could have had more, but wanted to
save owners' pockets, and worked like ABs ourselves to do so."
"Let'em upset that if they can," said Brisket, with
a confident smile. "The crew are scattered, and if they happened
to get one of them it's only his word against ours. Wait a
bit. How did the crew know of the treasure?"
"Chalk told you," responded the obedient
Duckett. "And if he told you — and he can't deny it — why not
Captain Briskett nodded approval. "It's all
right as far as I can see," he said, cautiously. "But mind.
Leave the telling of it to me. You can just chip in with little
bits here and there. Now let's get under way."
He threw away the stump of his cigar and rose,
turning as he reached the corner for a lingering glance at the Fair
"Scrape her and clean her and she'd be as good as
ever," he said, with a sigh. "She's just the sort o' little craft
you and me could ha' done with, Peter."
They had to change twice on the way to Binchester,
and at each stopping place Mr. Duckett, a prey to nervousness,
suggested the wisdom of disappearing while they had the opportunity.
"Disappear and starve, I suppose?" grunted the
scornful Brisket. "What about my certificate? And yours,
too? I tell you it's our only chance."
He walked up the path to Mr. Chalk's house with a
swagger which the mate endeavoured in vain to imitate. Mr. Chalk
was out, but the captain, learning that he was probably to be found at
Dialstone Lane, decided to follow him there rather than first take his
tidings to Stobell or Tredgold. With the idea of putting Mr.
Duckett at his ease he talked on various matters as they walked, and,
arrived at Dialstone Lane, even stopped to point out the picturesque
appearance its old houses made in the moonlight.
"This is where the old pirate who made the map
lives," he whispered, as he reached the door. "If he's got
anything to say I'll tackle him about that. Now, pull yourself
He knocked loudly on the door with his fist. A
murmur of voices stopped suddenly, and, in response to a gruff command
from within, he opened the door and stood staring at all three of his
victims, who were seated at the table playing whist with Captain Bowers.
The three gentlemen stared back in return.
Tredgold and Chalk had half risen from their seats; Mr. Stobell, with
both arms on the table, leaned forward, and regarded him open-mouthed.
"Good evening, gentlemen all," said Captain Brisket, in a hearty voice.
He stepped forward, and seizing Mr. Chalk's hand wrung it fervently.
"It's good for sore eyes to see you again, sir," he said. "Look at him, Peter!"
Mr. Duckett, ignoring this reflection on his
personal appearance, stepped quietly inside the door, and stood smiling
nervously at the company.
"It's him," said the staring Mr. Stobell, drawing a deep breath. "It's Brisket."
He pushed his chair back and, rising slowly from the
table, confronted him. Captain Brisket, red-faced and confident,
stared up at him composedly.
"It's Brisket," said Mr. Stobell again, in a voice of deep content. "Turn the key in that door, Chalk."
Mr. Chalk hesitated, but Brisket, stepping to the
door, turned the key and, placing it on the table, returned to his
place by the side of the mate. Except for a hard glint in his eye
his face still retained its smiling composure.
"And now," said Stobell, "you and me have got a word
or two to say to each other. I haven't had the pleasure of seeing
your ugly face since — "
"Since the disaster," interrupted Tredgold, loudly and hastily.
"Since the — "
Mr. Stobell suddenly remembered. For a few
moments he stood irresolute, and then, with an extraordinary contortion
of visage, dropped into his chair again and sat gazing blankly before
"Me and Peter Duckett only landed today," said
Brisket, "and we came on to see you by the first train we could — "
"I know," said Tredgold, starting up and taking his
hand, "and we're delighted to see you are safe. And Mr. Duckett?
He found Mr. Duckett's hand after a little trouble —
the owner seeming to think that he wanted it for some unlawful purpose
— and shook that. Captain Brisket, considerably taken aback by
this performance, gazed at him with suspicion.
"You didn't go down with your ship, then, after
all," said Captain Bowers, who had been looking on with much interest.
Amazement held Brisket dumb. He turned and
eyed Duckett inquiringly. Then Tredgold, with his back to the
others, caught his eye and frowned significantly.
"If Captain Brisket didn't go down with it I am sure
that he was the last man to leave it," he said, kindly; "and Mr.
Duckett last but one."
Mr. Duckett, distrustful of these compliments, cast an agonized glance at the door.
"Stobell was a bit rough just now," said Tredgold,
with another warning glance at Brisket, "but he didn't like being
Brisket gazed at the door in his turn. He had an uncomfortable feeling that he was being played with.
"It's nothing much to like," he said, at last, "but — "
"Tell us how you escaped," said Tredgold; "or,
perhaps," he continued, hastily, as Brisket was about to speak —
"perhaps you would like first to hear how we did."
"Perhaps that would be better," said the perplexed Brisket.
He nudged the mate with his elbow, and Mr. Tredgold,
still keeping him under the spell of his eye, began with great rapidity
to narrate the circumstances attending the loss of the Fair
Emily. After one irrepressible grunt of surprise Captain Brisket
listened without moving a muscle, but the changes on Mr. Duckett's face
were so extraordinary that on several occasions the narrator faltered
and lost the thread of his discourse. At such times Mr. Chalk
took up the story, and once, when both seemed at a loss, a growling
contribution came from Mr. Stobell.
"Of course, you got away in the other boat," said Tredgold, nervously, when he had finished.
Brisket looked round shrewdly, his wits hard at
work. Already the advantages of adopting a story which he
supposed to have been concocted for the benefit of Captain Bowers were
beginning to multiply in his ready brain.
"And didn't see us owing to the darkness," prompted
Tredgold, with a glance at Mr. Joseph Tasker, who was lingering by the
door after bringing in some whisky.
"You're quite right, sir," said Brisket, after a trying pause. "I didn't see you."
Unasked he took a chair, and with crossed legs and folded arms surveyed the company with a broad smile.
"You're a fine sort of shipmaster," exclaimed the
indignant Captain Bowers. "First you throw away your ship, and
then you let your passengers shift for themselves."
"I am responsible to my owners," said Brisket.
"Have you any fault to find with me, gentlemen?" he demanded, turning
on them with a frown.
Tredgold and Chalk hastened to reassure him.
"In the confusion the boat got adrift," said
Brisket. "You've got their own word for it. Not that they
didn't behave well for landsmen: Mr. Chalk's pluck was wonderful,
and Mr. Tredgold was all right."
Mr. Stobell turned a dull but ferocious eye upon him.
"And you all got off in the other boat," said Tredgold. "I'm very glad."
Captain Brisket looked at him, but made no
reply. The problem of how to make the best of the situation was
occupying all his attention.
"Me and Peter Duckett would be glad of some of our pay," he said, at last.
"Pay?" repeated Tredgold, in a dazed voice.
Brisket looked at him again, and then gave a
significant glance in the direction of Captain Bowers. "We'd like
twenty pounds on account — now," he said, calmly.
Tredgold looked hastily at his friends. "Come
and see me tomorrow," he said, nervously, "and we'll settle things."
"You can send us the rest," said Brisket, "but we want that now. We're off tonight."
"But we must see you again," said Tredgold, who was
anxious to make arrangements about the schooner. "We — we've got
a lot of things to talk about. The — the ship, for instance."
"I'll talk about her now if you want me to," said
Brisket, with unpleasant readiness. "Meantime, we'd like that
Fortunately — or unfortunately — Tredgold had been
to his bank that morning, and, turning a deaf ear to the expostulations
of Captain Bowers, he produced his pocketbook, and after a consultation
with Mr. Chalk, and an attempt at one with the raging Stobell, counted
out the money and handed it over.
"And there is an IOU for the remainder," he said, with an attempt at a smile, as he wrote on a slip of paper.
Brisket took it with pleased surprise, and the mate,
leaning against his shoulder, read the contents: "Where is the
"You might as well give me a receipt," said Tredgold, significantly, as he passed over pencil and paper.
Captain Brisket thanked him and, sucking the pencil,
eyed him thoughtfully. Then he bent to the table and wrote.
"You sign here, Peter," he said.
Mr. Tredgold smiled at the precaution, but the smile
faded when he took the paper. It was a correctly worded receipt
for twenty pounds. He began to think that he had rated the
captain's intelligence somewhat too highly.
"Ah, we've had a hard time of it," said Brisket,
putting the notes into his breast pocket and staring hard at Captain
Bowers. "When that little craft went down, of course I went down
with her. How I got up I don't know, but when I did there was
Peter hanging over the side of the boat and pulling me in by the hair."
He paused to pat the mate on the shoulder.
"Unfortunately for us we took a different direction
to you, sir," he continued, turning to Tredgold, "and we were pulling
for six days before we were picked up by a barque bound for
Melbourne. By the time she sighted us we were reduced to half a
biscuit a day each and two teaspoonfuls o' water, and not a man
grumbled. Did they, Peter?"
"Not a man," said Mr. Duckett.
"At Melbourne," said the captain, who was in a hurry
to be off, "we all separated, and Duckett and me worked our way home on
a cargo boat. We always stick together, Peter and me."
"And always will," said Mr. Duckett, with a little
emotion as he gazed meaningly at the captain's breast pocket.
"When I think o' that little craft lying all those
fathoms down," continued the captain, staring full at Mr. Tredgold, "it
hurts me. The nicest little craft of her kind I ever
handled. Well — so long, gentlemen."
"We shall see you tomorrow," said Tredgold, hastily, as the captain rose.
Brisket shook his head.
"Me and Peter are very busy," he said, softly.
"We've been putting our little bit o' savings together to buy a
schooner, and we want to settle things as soon as possible."
"A schooner?" exclaimed Mr. Tredgold, with an odd look.
Captain Brisket nodded indulgently.
"One o' the prettiest little craft you ever saw,
gentlemen," he said," "and, if you've got no objection, me and Peter
Duckett thought o' calling her the Fair Emily, in memory of old
times. Peter's a bit sentimental at times, but I don't know as I
can blame him for it. Good night."
He opened the door slowly, and the sentimental Mr.
Duckett, still holding fast to the parcel containing Mr. Stobell's old
boot, slipped thankfully outside. Calmly and deliberately Captain
Brisket followed, and the door was closing behind him when it suddenly
stopped, and his red face was thrust into the room again.
"One thing is," he said, eyeing the speechless
Tredgold with sly relish, "she's uncommonly like the Fair Emily we
lost. Good night."
The door closed with a snap, but Tredgold and Chalk
made no move. Glued to their seats, they stared blankly at the
door, until the rigidity of their pose and the strangeness of their
gaze began to affect the slower witted Mr. Stobell.
"Anything wrong?" inquired the astonished Captain Bowers, looking from one to the other.
There was no reply. Mr. Stobell rose and,
after steadying himself for a moment with his hands on the table,
blundered heavily towards the door. As though magnetized,
Tredgold and Chalk followed and, standing beside him on the footpath,
stared solemnly up Dialstone Lane.
Captain Brisket and his faithful mate had disappeared.