Dialstone Lane, Part 4.
Produced by David Widger
By W.W. Jacobs
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
"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
"_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
"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 flattered."
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!" on three or four
occasions 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 thoughtful again.
"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 crow's-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 neighbouring 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.
[Illustration: "'Mr. Tredgold!' said a sharp voice from above."]
Mr. Tredgold sprang to his feet, overturning the chair in his haste, and
"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
"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 captain's return."
Miss Drewitt listened impatiently. "Did you know that I was up in the
crow's-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 crow's-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, slowly.
"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 correct."
"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 dreamt 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 burnt. 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?" cried Mr. Tredgold, in accents of unmistakable amazement.
"Why, wasn't it burnt 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 colours.
"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
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
"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
"Fair-play is a jewel," said the other. "Question for question. Do
Miss Drewitt looked at him and hesitated. "No," she said, at last, with
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
"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 romantic."
"Do you believe it?"
"No," said the other, doggedly.
The girl drew a long breath and favoured 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
"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 little humility.
"I am very sorry for my behaviour 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, still thinking.
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 had finished.
"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 sha'n'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 for me."
[Illustration: "'I never want to hear another word about that treasure as
long as I live.'"]
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 arms 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
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 trigger.
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.
[Illustration: "He aimed hastily at a face which appeared there."]
"He's gone clean off his head," said Captain Brisket, as Mr. Stobell
"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,
"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,
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."
[Illustration: "'It's pointing towards me,' said the mate."]
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 curiously.
"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
"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
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
"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, Chalk."
"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 satisfaction.
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
[Illustration: "He felt less heroic next morning."]
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 grey 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
grey 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 fusee that poisoned the atmosphere.
"None of us seem to be sea-sick," he remarked.
"Sea-sickness, 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 pork, 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, don't you?"
"Plenty," said Stobell. "Have one o' my matches," he said, proffering
his box to Tredgold, who was about to relight his cigar with a fusee.
"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 feelings."
"No, no," said the captain, staring back.
"People can't help being sea-sick," 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,
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.
Sea-sickness 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
[Illustration: "The captain and Mr. Duckett discussed with great
earnestness the nature of the secret."]
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" travelled 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 friend.
"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
"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 anybody else."
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
"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
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
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
[Illustration: "'I found 'im inside the Horse and Groom,' he said."]
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 waistcoat-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 little finger.
"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 floor."
"I wasn't singing," snarled Mr. Vickers, endeavouring to avoid his
"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 public-houses
after I told you not to?" she demanded, stamping her foot.
"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
"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
"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
"Fallen into a pub," explained Mr. Russell, hastily; "anybody might fall
through them swing-doors; they're made like that o' purpose."
"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
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 coloured
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
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 Tea-pot' agin, and try
and read them as if you 'adn't got your mouth full o' fish-bait. You're
"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
"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
"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 to-morrow 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 window-blind. From inside came the sound
of voices raised in dispute, that of Selina's being easily
"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.
[Illustration: "Selina was standing in front of Mr. Tasker in the manner
of a small hen defending an overgrown chicken."]
"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 "mouldy image," a "wall-eyed rabbit," and divers
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
"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 you?"
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 Ed ward 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
"I know what you mean," said Mr. Tredgold; "only you are not using the
"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 restless.
"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
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 crow's-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 humour 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
Captain Bowers ventured a sympathetic wink. "It's awkward not to be able
to see anybody when you want to," he said, softly.
Two days later Miss Drewitt, peeping cautiously from her bedroom window,
saw Mr. Tredgold perched up in the crow's-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
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 warm."
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 inquiringly.
"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."
[Illustration: "'I was going to ask him to give me a cup of tea,' he
Miss Drewitt nearly dropped her tea-cup 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 draught.
"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 draught 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
"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
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
colouring 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
"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,
"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 sympathising 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
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,
"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
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 catapult
next door but one.
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