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´╗┐Title: Dead Man's Rock
Author: Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas, Sir, 1863-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dead Man's Rock" ***

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DEAD MAN'S ROCK.

A Romance.

by

Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (Q).

1887

[This e-text prepared from an edition published in 1894]



To the Memory of My Father I dedicate this book.



CONTENTS.


BOOK I.--THE QUEST OF THE GREAT RUBY.

Chapter.

I.       TELLS OF THE STRANGE WILL OF MY GRANDFATHER, AMOS TRENOWETH.

II.      TELLS HOW MY FATHER WENT TO SEEK THE TREASURE; AND HOW MY
         MOTHER HEARD A CRY IN THE NIGHT.

III.     TELLS OF TWO STRANGE MEN THAT WATCHED THE SEA UPON POLKIMBRA
         BEACH.

IV.      TELLS HOW A SONG WAS SUNG AND A KNIFE DRAWN UPON DEAD MAN'S
         ROCK.

V.       TELLS HOW THE SAILOR GEORGIO RHODOJANI GAVE EVIDENCE AT THE
        "LUGGER INN"

VI.      TELLS HOW A FACE LOOKED IN AT THE WINDOW OF LANTRIG; AND IN
         WHAT MANNER MY FATHER CAME HOME TO US.

VII.     TELLS HOW UNCLE LOVEDAY MADE A DISCOVERY; AND WHAT THE TIN
         BOX CONTAINED.

VIII.    CONTAINS THE FIRST PART OF MY FATHER'S JOURNAL: SETTING FORTH
         HIS MEETING WITH MR. ELIHU SANDERSON, OF BOMBAY; AND MY
         GRANDFATHER'S MANUSCRIPT.

IX.      CONTAINS THE SECOND PART OF MY FATHER'S JOURNAL: SETTING
         FORTH HIS ADVENTURES IN THE ISLAND OF CELON.

X.       CONTAINS THE THIRD AND LAST PART OF MY FATHER'S JOURNAL:
         SETTING FORTH THE MUTINY ON BOARD THE _BELLE FORTUNE_

XI.      TELLS OF THE WRITING UPON THE GOLDEN CLASP; AND HOW I TOOK
         DOWN THE GREAT KEY.



BOOK II--THE FINDING OF THE GREAT RUBY.

Chapter.

I.       TELLS HOW THOMAS LOVEDAY AND I WENT IN SEARCH OF FORTUNE.

II.      TELLS OF THE LUCK OF THE GOLDEN CLASP.

III.     TELLS AN OLD STORY IN A TRADITIONAL MANNER.

IV.      TELLS HOW I SAW THE SHADOW OF THE ROCK; AND HOW I TOLD AND
         HEARD NEWS.

V.       TELLS HOW THE CURTAIN ROSE UPON "FRANCESCA: A TRAGEDY"

VI.      TELLS HOW THE BLACK AND YELLOW FAN SENT A MESSAGE; AND HOW I
         SAW A FACE IN THE FOG.

VII.     TELLS HOW CLAIRE WENT TO THE PLAY; AND HOW SHE SAW THE
         GOLDEN CLASP.

VIII.    TELLS HOW THE CURTAIN FELL UPON "FRANCESCA: A TRAGEDY"

IX.      TELLS HOW TWO VOICES LED ME TO BOARD A SCHOONER; AND WHAT
         BEFELL THERE.

X.       TELLS IN WHAT MANNER I LEARNT THE SECRET OF THE GREAT KEY.

XI.      TELLS HOW AT LAST I FOUND MY REVENGE AND THE GREAT RUBY.



DEAD MAN'S ROCK.



BOOK I.



THE QUEST OF THE GREAT RUBY.



CHAPTER I.



TELLS OF THE STRANGE WILL OF MY GRANDFATHER, AMOS TRENOWETH.

Whatever claims this story may have upon the notice of the world,
they will rest on no niceties of style or aptness of illustration.
It is a plain tale, plainly told: nor, as I conceive, does its native
horror need any ingenious embellishment.  There are many books that
I, though a man of no great erudition, can remember, which gain much
of interest from the pertinent and appropriate comments with which
the writer has seen fit to illustrate any striking situation.
From such books an observing man may often draw the exactest rules
for the regulation of life and conduct, and their authors may
therefore be esteemed public benefactors.  Among these I, Jasper
Trenoweth, can claim no place; yet I venture to think my history will
not altogether lack interest--and this for two reasons.  It deals
with the last chapter (I pray Heaven it be the last) in the
adventures of a very remarkable gem--none other, in fact, than the
Great Ruby of Ceylon; and it lifts, at least in part, the veil which
for some years has hidden a certain mystery of the sea.  For the
moral, it must be sought by the reader himself in the following
pages.

To make all clear, I must go back half a century, and begin with the
strange and unaccountable Will made in the year of Grace 1837 by my
grandfather, Amos Trenoweth, of Lantrig in the County of Cornwall.
The old farm-house of Lantrig, heritage and home of the Trenoweths as
far as tradition can reach, and Heaven knows how much longer, stands
some few miles N.W. of the Lizard, facing the Atlantic gales from
behind a scanty veil of tamarisks, on Pedn-glas, the northern point
of a small sandy cove, much haunted of old by smugglers, but now left
to the peaceful boats of the Polkimbra fishermen.  In my
grandfather's time however, if tales be true, Ready-Money Cove saw
many a midnight cargo run, and many a prize of cognac and lace found
its way to the cellars and store-room of Lantrig.  Nay, there is a
story (but for its truth I will not vouch) of a struggle between my
grandfather's lugger, the _Pride of Heart_, and a certain Revenue
cutter, and of an unowned shot that found a Preventive Officer's
heart.  But the whole tale remains to this day full of mystery, nor
would I mention it save that it may be held to throw some light on my
grandfather's sudden disappearance no long time after.  Whither he
went, none clearly knew.  Folks said, to fight the French; but when
he returned suddenly some twenty years later, he said little about
sea-fights, or indeed on any other subject; nor did many care to
question him, for he came back a stern, taciturn man, apparently with
no great wealth, but also without seeming to want for much, and at
any rate indisposed to take the world into his confidence.
His father had died meanwhile, so he quietly assumed the mastership
at Lantrig, nursed his failing mother tenderly until her death, and
then married one of the Triggs of Mullyon, of whom was born my
father, Ezekiel Trenoweth.

I have hinted, what I fear is but the truth, that my grandfather had
led a hot and riotous youth, fearing neither God, man, nor devil.
Before his return, however, he had "got religion" from some quarter,
and was confirmed in it by the preaching of one Jonathan Wilkins, as
I have heard, a Methodist from "up the country," and a powerful mover
of souls.  As might have been expected in such a man as my
grandfather, this religion was of a joyless and gloomy order, full of
anticipations of hell-fire and conviction of the sinfulness of
ordinary folk.  But it undoubtedly was sincere, for his wife Philippa
believed in it, and the master and mistress of Lantrig were alike the
glory and strong support of the meeting-house at Polkimbra until her
death.  After this event, her husband shut himself up with the
tortures of his own stern conscience, and was seen by few.  In this
dismal self-communing he died on the 27th of October, 1837, leaving
behind him one mourner, his son Ezekiel, then a strong and comely
youth of twenty-two.

This brings me to my grandfather's Will, discovered amongst his
papers after his death; and surely no stranger or more perplexing
document was ever penned, especially as in this case any will was
unnecessary, seeing that only one son was left to claim the
inheritance.  Men guessed that those dark years of seclusion and
self-repression had been spent in wrestling with memories of a sinful
and perhaps a criminal past, and predicted that Amos Trenoweth could
not die without confession.  They were partly right, from knowledge
of human nature; and partly wrong, from ignorance of my grandfather's
character.

The Will was dated "June 15th, 1837," and ran as follows:--

    "I, Amos Trenoweth, of Lantrig, in the Parish of Polkimbra and
     County of Cornwall, feeling, in this year of Grace Eighteen
     hundred and thirty-seven, that my Bodily Powers are failing and
     the Hour drawing near when I shall be called to account for my
     Many and Grievous Sins, do hereby make Provision for my Death
     and also for my son Ezekiel, together with such Descendants as
     may hereafter be born to him.  To this my son Ezekiel I give and
     bequeath the Farm and House of Lantrig, with all my Worldly
     Goods, and add my earnest hope that this may suffice to support
     both him and his Descendants in Godliness and Contentment,
     knowing how greatly these excell the Wealth of this World and
     the Lusts of the Flesh.  But, knowing also the mutability of
     earthly things, I do hereby command and enjoin that, if at any
     time He or his Descendants be in stress and tribulation of
     poverty, the Head of our Family of Trenoweth shall strictly and
     faithfully obey these my Latest Directions.  He shall take ship
     and go unto Bombay in India, to the house of Elihu Sanderson,
     Esquire, or his Heirs, and there, presenting in person this my
     last Will and Testament, together with the Holy Bible now lying
     in the third drawer of my Writing Desk, shall duly and
     scrupulously execute such instructions as the said Elihu
     Sanderson or his Heirs shall lay upon him.

    "Also I command and enjoin, under pain of my Dying Curse, that
     the Iron Key now hanging from the Middle Beam in the Front
     Parlour be not touched or moved, until he who undertakes this
     Task shall have returned and have crossed the threshold of
     Lantrig, having duly performed all the said Instructions.
     And furthermore that the said Task be not undertaken lightly or
     except in direst Need, under pain of Grievous and Sore
     Affliction.  This I say, knowing well the Spiritual and worldly
     Perils that shall beset such an one, and having myself been
     brought near to Destruction of Body and Soul, which latter may
     Christ in His Mercy avert.

    "Thus, having eased my mind of great and pressing Anguish, I
     commend my soul to God, before Whose Judgment Bar I shall be
     presently summoned to stand, the greatest of sinners, yet not
     without hope of Everlasting Redemption, for Christ's sake.
     Amen.

    "AMOS TRENOWETH."

Such was the Will, written on stiff parchment in crabbed and
unscholarly characters, without legal forms or witnesses; but all
such were needless, as I have pointed out.  And, indeed, my father
was wise, as I think, to show it to nobody, but go his way quietly as
before, managing the farm as he had managed it during the old man's
last years.  Only by degrees he broke from the seclusion which had
been natural to him during his parents' lifetime, so far as to look
about for a wife--shyly enough at first--until he caught the dark
eyes of Margery Freethy one Sunday morning in Polkimbra Church,
whither he had gone of late for freedom, to the no small tribulation
of the meeting-house.  Now, whether this tribulation arose from the
backsliding of a promising member, or the loss of the owner of
Lantrig (who was at the same time unmarried), I need not pause here
to discuss.  Nor is it necessary to tell how regularly Margery and
Ezekiel found themselves in church, nor how often they caught each
other's eyes straying from the prayer-book.  It is enough that at the
year's end Margery answered Ezekiel's question, and shortly after
came to Lantrig "for good."

The first years of their married life must have been very happy, as I
gather from the hushed joy with which my mother always spoke of them.
I gather also that my first appearance in this world caused more
delight than I have ever given since--God forgive me for it!
But shortly after I was four years old everything began to go wrong.
First of all, two ships in which my father had many shares were lost
at sea; then the cattle were seized with plague, and the stock
gradually dwindled away to nothing.  Finally, my father's bank
broke--or, as we say in the West, "went scat!"--and we were left all
but penniless, with the prospect of having to sell Lantrig, being
without stock and lacking means to replenish it.  It was at this
time, I have since learnt from my mother, that Amos Trenoweth's Will
was first thought about.  She, poor soul! had never heard of the
parchment before, and her heart misgave her as she read of peril to
soul and body sternly hinted at therein.  Also, her best-beloved
brother had gone down in a squall off the Cape of Good Hope, so that
she always looked upon the sea as a cruel and treacherous foe, and
shuddered to think of it as lying in wait for her Ezekiel's life.
It came to pass, therefore, that for two years the young wife's tears
and entreaties prevailed; but at the end of this time, matters
growing worse and worse, and also because it seemed hard that Lantrig
should pass away from the Trenoweths while, for aught we knew,
treasure was to be had for the looking, poverty and my father's wish
prevailed, and it was determined, with the tearful assent of my
mother, that he should start to seek this Elihu Sanderson, of Bombay,
and, with good fortune, save the failing house of the Trenoweths.
Only he waited until the worst of the winter was over, and then,
having commended us both to the care of his aunt, Elizabeth Loveday,
of Lizard Town, and provided us with the largest sum he could scrape
together (and small indeed it was), he started for the port of
Plymouth one woeful morning in February, and thence sailed away in
the good ship _Golden Wave_ to win his inheritance.



CHAPTER II.


TELLS HOW MY FATHER WENT TO SEEK THE TREASURE; AND HOW MY MOTHER
HEARD A CRY IN THE NIGHT.

So my father sailed away, carrying with him--sewn for safety in his
jersey's side--the Will and the small clasped Bible; nor can I think
of stranger equipment for the hunting of earthly treasure.  And the
great iron key hung untouched from the beam, while the spiders
outvied one another in wreathing it with their webs, knowing it to be
the only spot in Lantrig where they were safe from my mother's broom.
It is with these spiders that my recollections begin, for of my
father, before he sailed away, remembrance is dim and scanty, being
confined to the picture of a tall fair man, with huge shoulders and
wonderful grey eyes, that changed in a moment from the stern look he
must have inherited from Amos to an extraordinary depth of love and
sympathy.  Also I have some faint memories of a pig, named Eleazar
(for no well-explained reason), which fell over the cliff one night
and awoke the household with its cries.  But this I mention only
because it happened, as I learn, before my father's going, and not
for any connection with my story.   We must have lived a very quiet
life at Lantrig, even as lives go on our Western coast.  I remember
my mother now as she went softly about the house contriving and
scheming to make the two ends of our small possessions meet.  She was
a woman who always walked softly, and, indeed, talked so, with a low
musical voice such as I shall never hear again, nor can ever hope to.
But I remember her best in church, as she knelt and prayed for her
absent husband, and also in the meeting-house, which she sometimes
attended, more to please Aunt Elizabeth than for any good it did her.
For the religion there was too sombre for her quiet sorrow; and often
I have seen a look of awful terror possess her eyes when the young
minister gave out the hymn and the fervid congregation wailed forth--

    "In midst of life we are in death.
        Oh! stretch Thine arm to save.
     Amid the storm's tumultuous breath
        And roaring of the wave."

Which, among a fishing population, was considered a particularly
appropriate hymn; and, truly, to hear the unction with which the word
"tu-mult-u-ous" was rendered, with all strength of lung and rolling
of syllables, was moving enough.  But my mother would grow all white
and trembling, and clutch my hand sometimes, as though to save
herself from shipwreck; whilst I too often would be taken with the
passion of the chant, and join lustily in the shouting, only half
comprehending her mortal anguish.  It was this, perhaps, and many
another such scene, which drew upon me her gentle reproof for
pointing one day to the text above the pulpit and repeating,
"How dreadful is this place!"  But that was after I had learned to
spell.

It had always been my father's wish that I should grow up
"a scholar," which, in those days, meant amongst us one who could
read and write with no more than ordinary difficulty.  So one of my
mother's chief cares was to teach me my letters, which I learnt from
big A to "Ampusand" in the old hornbook at Lantrig.  I have that
hornbook still:--

                      "Covered with pellucid horn,
     To save from fingers wet the letters fair."

The horn, alas! is no longer pellucid, but dim, as if with the
tears of the many generations that have struggled through the
alphabet and the first ten numerals and reached in due course the
haven of the Lord's Prayer and Doxology.  I had passed the Doxology,
and was already deep in the "Pilgrim's Progress" and the "Holy War"
(which latter book, with the rude taste of childhood, I greatly
preferred, so that I quickly knew the mottoes and standards of its
bewildering hosts by heart), when my father's first letter came home.
In those days, before the great canal was cut, a voyage to the East
Indies was no light matter, lying as it did around the treacherous
Cape and through seas where a ship may lie becalmed for weeks.
So it was little wonder that my father's letter, written from Bombay,
was some time on its way.  Still, when the news came it was good.
He had seen Mr. Elihu Sanderson, son of the Elihu mentioned in my
grandfather's Will, had presented his parchment and Testament, and
received some notes (most of which he sent home), together with a
sealed packet, directed in Amos Trenoweth's handwriting: "To the Son
of my House, who, having Counted all the Perils, is Resolute."
This packet, my father went on to say, contained much mysterious
matter, which would keep until he and his dear wife met.  He added
that, for himself, he could divine no peril, nor any cause for his
dear wife to trouble, seeing that he had but to go to the island of
Ceylon, whence, having accomplished the commands contained in the
packet, he purposed to take ship and return with all speed to
England.  This was the substance of the letter, wrapped around with
many endearing words, and much tender solicitude for Margery and the
little one, as that he hoped Jasper was tackling his letters like a
real scholar, and comforting his mother's heart, with more to this
effect; which made us weep very sorrowfully when the letter was read,
although we could not well have told why.  As to the sealed packet,
my father would have been doubtless more explicit had he been without
a certain distrust of letters and letter-carriers, which, amid much
faith in the miraculous powers of the Post Office, I have known to
exist among us even in these later days.

Than this blessed letter surely no written sheet was ever more read
and re-read; read to me every night before prayers were said, read to
Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Loveday, read (in extracts) to all the
neighbours of Polkimbra, for none knew certainly why Ezekiel had gone
to India except that, somewhat vaguely, it was to "better hisself."
How many times my mother read it, and kissed it, and cried over it,
God alone knows; I only know that her step, which had been failing of
late, grew firmer, and she went about the house with a light in her
face like "the face of an angel," as the vicar said.  It may have
been: I have never since seen its like upon earth.

After this came the great joy of sending an answer, which I wrote
(with infinite pains as to the capital letters) at my mother's
dictation.  And then it was read over and corrected, and added to,
and finally directed, as my father had instructed us, to "Mr. Ezekiel
Trenoweth; care of John P. Eversleigh, Esq., of the East India
Company's Service, Colombo, Ceylon."  I remember that my mother
sealed it with the red cornelian Ezekiel had given her when he asked
her to be his wife, and took it with her own hands to Penzance to
post, having, for the occasion, harnessed old Pleasure in the cart
for the first time since we had been alone.

Then we had to wait again, and the little store of money grew small
indeed.  But Aunt Elizabeth was a wonderful contriver, and tender of
heart besides, although in most things to be called a "hard" woman.
She had married, during my grandfather's long absence, Dr. Loveday,
of Lizard Town--a mild little man with a prodigious vanity in brass
buttons, and the most terrific religious beliefs, which did not in
the least alter his natural sweetness of temper.  My aunt and uncle
(it was impossible to think of them except in this order) would often
drive or walk over to Lantrig, seldom without some little present,
which, together with my aunt's cap-box, would emerge from the back
seat, amid a _duetto_ something after this fashion:--

  _My Aunt_.   "So, my dear, we thought as we were driving in this
                direction we would see how you were getting on; and
                by great good fortune, or rather as I should say
                (Jasper, do not hang your head so; it looks so
                deceitful) by the will of Heaven (and Heaven's will
                be done, you know, my dear, which must be a great
                comfort to you in your sore affliction), as Cyrus was
                driving into Cadgwith yesterday--were you not,
                Cyrus?"

  _My Uncle_.  "To be sure, my dear."

  _My Aunt_.   "Well, as I was saying, as Cyrus was driving into
                Cadgwith yesterday to see Martha George's husband,
                who was run over by the Helston coach, and she such a
                regular attendant at the Prayer-meeting, but in the
                midst of life (Jasper, don't fidget)--well, whom
                should he see but Jane Ann Collins, with the finest
                pair of ducks, too, and costing a mere nothing.
                Cyrus will bear me out."

  _My Uncle_.  "Nothing at all, my dear.  Jasper, come here and talk
                to me.  Do you know, Jasper, what happens to little
                boys that tell lies?  You do?  Something terrible,
                eh?  Soul's perdition, my boy; soul's ev-er-last-ing
                perdition.  There, come and show me the pig."

What agonies of conscience it must have cost these two good souls
thus to conspire together for benevolence, none ever knew.  Nor was
it less pathetic that the fraud was so hollow and transparent.
I doubt not that the sin of it was washed out with self-reproving
tears, and cannot think that they were shed in vain.

So the seasons passed, and we waited, till in the late summer of 1849
(my father having been away nineteen months) there came another
letter to say that he was about to start for home.  He had found what
he sought, so he said, but could not rightly understand its value,
or, indeed, make head or tail of it by himself, and dared not ask
strangers to help him.  Perhaps, however, when he came home, Jasper
(who was such a scholar) would help him; and maybe the key would be
some aid.  For the rest, he had been stricken with a fever--a malady
common enough in those parts--but was better, and would start in
something over a week, in the _Belle Fortune_, a barque of some 650
tons register, homeward bound with a cargo of sugar, spices, and
coffee, and having a crew of about eighteen hands, with, he thought,
one or two passengers.  The letter was full of strong hope and love,
so that my mother, who trembled a little when she read about the
fever, plucked up courage to smile again towards the close.  The ship
would be due about October, or perhaps November.  So once more we had
to resume our weary waiting, but this time with glad hearts, for we
knew that before Christmas the days of anxiety and yearning would be
over.

The long summer drew to a glorious and golden September, and so
faded away in a veil of grey sky; and the time of watching was nearly
done.  Through September the skies had been without cloud, and the
sea almost breathless, but with the coming of October came dirty
weather and a strong sou'-westerly wind, that gathered day by day,
until at last, upon the evening of October 11th, it broke into a
gale.  My mother for days had been growing more restless and anxious
with the growing wind, and this evening had much ado to sit quietly
and endure.  I remembered that as the storm raged without and tore at
the door-hinges, while the rain lashed and smote the tamarisk
branches against the panes, I sat by her knee before the kitchen fire
and read bits from my favourite "Holy War," which, in the pauses of
the storm, she would explain to me.

I was much put to it that night, I recollect, by the questionable
morality at one point of Captain Credence, who in general was my
favourite hero, dividing that honour with General Boanerges for
the most part, but exciting more sympathy by reason of his wound--so
grievously I misread the allegory, or rather saw no allegory at
all.  So my mother explained it to me, though all the while, poor
creature, her heart was racked with terror for _her_ Mansoul, beaten,
perhaps, at that moment from its body by the fury of that awful
night.  Then when the fable's meaning was explained, and my
difficulty smoothed away, we fell to talking of father's home-coming,
in vain endeavours to cheat ourselves of the fears that rose again
with every angry bellow of the tempest, and agreed that his ship
could not possibly be due yet (rejoicing at this for the first time),
but must, we feigned, be lying in a dead calm off the West Coast of
Africa; until we almost laughed--God pardon us!--at the picture of
his anxiety to be home while such a storm was raging at the doors of
Lantrig.  And then I listened to wonderful stories of the East Indies
and the marvels that men found there, and wondered whether father
would bring home a parrot, and if it would be as like Aunt Loveday as
the parrot down at the "Lugger Inn," at Polkimbra, and so crept
upstairs to bed to dream of Captain Credence and parrots, and the
"Lugger Inn" in the city of Mansoul, as though no fiends were
shouting without and whirling sea and sky together in one devil's
cauldron.

How long I slept I know not; but I woke with the glare of a candle in
my eyes, to see my mother, all in white, standing by the bed, and in
her eyes an awful and soul-sickening horror.

"Jasper, Jasper! wake up and listen!"

I suppose I must have been still half asleep, for I lay looking at
her with dazzled sight, not rightly knowing whether this vision were
real or part of my strange dreams.

"Jasper, for the love of God wake up!"

At this, so full were her words of mortal fear, I shook off my
drowsiness and sat up in bed, wide awake now and staring at the
strange apparition.  My mother was white as death, and trembling so
that the candle in her hand shook to and fro, casting wild dancing
shadows on the wall behind.

"Oh, Jasper, listen, listen!"

I listened, but could hear nothing save the splashing of spray and
rain upon my window, and above it the voice of the storm; now moaning
as a creature in pain, now rising and growing into an angry roar
whereat the whole house from chimney to base shook and shuddered, and
anon sinking slowly with loud sobbings and sighings as though the
anguish of a million tortured souls were borne down the blast.

"Mother, I hear nothing but the storm."

"Nothing but the storm!  Oh, Jasper, are you sure you hear nothing
but the storm?"

"Nothing else, mother, though that is bad enough."

She seemed relieved a little, but still trembled sadly, and caught
her breath with every fresh roar.  The tempest had gathered fury, and
was now raging as though Judgment Day were come, and earth about to
be blotted out.  For some minutes we listened almost motionless, but
heard nothing save the furious elements; and, indeed, it was hard to
believe that any sound on earth could be audible above such a din.
At last I turned to my mother and said--

"Mother dear, it is nothing but the storm.  You were thinking of
father, and that made you nervous.  Go back to bed--it is so cold
here--and try to go to sleep.  What was it you thought you heard?"

"Dear Jasper, you are a good boy, and I suppose you are right, for
you can hear nothing, and I can hear nothing now.  But, oh, Jasper!
it was so terrible, and I seemed to hear it so plainly; though I
daresay it was only my--Oh, God! there it is again! listen! listen!"

This time I heard--heard clearly and unmistakably, and, hearing, felt
the blood in my veins turn to very ice.

Shrill and distinct above the roar of the storm, which at the moment
had somewhat lulled, there rose a prolonged wail, or rather shriek,
as of many human voices rising slowly in one passionate appeal to the
mercy of Heaven, and dying away in sobbing, shuddering despair as the
wild blast broke out again with the mocking laughter of all the
fiends in the pit--a cry without similitude on earth, yet surely and
awfully human; a cry that rings in my ears even now, and will
continue to ring until I die.

I sprang from bed, forced the window open and looked out.  The wind
flung a drenching shower of spray over my face and thin night-dress,
then tore past up the hill.  I looked and listened, but nothing could
be seen or heard; no blue light, nor indeed any light at all; no cry,
nor gun, nor signal of distress--nothing but the howling of the wind
as it swept up from the sea, the thundering of the surf upon the
beach below; and all around, black darkness and impenetrable night.
The blast caught the lattice from my hand as I closed the window, and
banged it furiously.  I turned to look at my mother.  She had fallen
forward on her knees, with her arms flung across the bed, speechless
and motionless, in such sort that I speedily grew possessed with an
awful fear lest she should be dead.  As it was, I could do nothing
but call her name and try to raise the dear head that hung so heavily
down.  Remember that I was at this time not eight years old, and had
never before seen a fainting fit, so that if a sight so like to death
bewildered me it was but natural.  How long the fit lasted I cannot
say, but at last, to my great joy, my mother raised her head and
looked at me with a puzzled stare that gradually froze again to
horror as recollection came back.

"Oh, Jasper, what could it be?--what could it be?"

Alas! I knew not, and yet seemed to know too well.  The cry still
rang in my ears and clamoured at my heart; while all the time a dull
sense told me that it must have been a dream, and a dull desire bade
me believe it so.

"Jasper, tell me--it cannot have been--"

She stopped as our eyes met, and the terrible suspicion grew and
mastered us, numbing, freezing, paralysing the life within us.
I tried to answer, but turned my head away.  My mother sank once more
upon her knees, weeping, praying, despairing, wailing, while the
storm outside continued to moan and sob its passionate litany.



CHAPTER III.


TELLS OF TWO STRANGE MEN THAT WATCHED THE SEA UPON POLKIMBRA BEACH.

Morning came at last, and with the first grey light the storm had
spent its fury.  By degrees my mother had grown calmer, and was now
sleeping peacefully upon her bed, worn out with the passion of her
terror.  I had long ago dressed; but even had I wished to sleep
again, curiosity to know the meaning of that awful cry would have
been too strong for me.  So, as soon as I saw that my mother was
asleep, I took my boots in my hand and crept downstairs.  The kitchen
looked so ghostly in the dim light, that I had almost resolved to
give up my plan and go back, but reflected that it behoved me to play
the man, if only to be able to cheer mother when I came back.
So, albeit with my heart in my mouth, I drew back the bolt--that
surely, for all my care, never creaked so loudly before or since--and
stepped out into the cool air.  The fresh breeze that smote my cheeks
as I sat down outside to put on my boots brought me back to the
everyday world--a world that seemed to make the events of the night
unreal and baseless, so that I had, with boyish elasticity of temper,
almost forgotten all fear as I began to descend the cliff towards
Ready-Money Cove.

Before I go any further, it will be necessary to describe in a few
words that part of the coast which is the scene of my story.
Lantrig, as I have said, looks down upon Ready-Money Cove from the
summit of Pedn-glas, its northern arm.  The cove itself is narrow,
running in between two scarred and rugged walls of serpentine, and
terminating in a little beach of whitest sand beneath a frowning and
precipitous cliff.  It is easy to see its value in the eyes of
smugglers, for not only is the cove difficult of observation from the
sea, by reason of its straitness and the protection of its projecting
arms, but the height and abruptness of its cliffs also give it
seclusion from the land side.  For Pedn-glas on the north rises sheer
from the sea, sloping downwards a little as it runs in to join the
mainland, but only enough to admit of a rough and winding path at its
inmost point, while to the south the cove is guarded by a strange
mass of rock that demands a somewhat longer description.

For some distance the cliff ran out as on the north side, but,
suddenly breaking off as if cleft by some gigantic stroke, left a
gloomy column of rock, attached to it only by an isthmus that stood
some six or seven feet above high-water mark.  This separate mass
went by the name of Dead Man's Rock--a name dark and dreadful enough,
but in its derivation innocent, having been but Dodmen, or "the stony
headland," until common speech perverted it.  For this reason I
suppose I ought not to call it Dead Man's Rock, the "Rock" being
superfluous, but I give it the name by which it has always been
known, being to a certain extent suspicious of those antiquarian
gentlemen that sometimes, in their eagerness to restore a name, would
deface a tradition.

Let me return to the rock.  Under the neck that joins it to the main
cliff there runs a natural tunnel, which at low water leads to the
long expanse of Polkimbra Beach, with the village itself lying snugly
at its further end; so that, standing at the entrance of this curious
arch, one may see the little town, with the purple cliffs behind
framed between walls of glistening serpentine.  The rock is always
washed by the sea, except at low water during the spring tides,
though not reaching out so far as Pedn-glas.  In colour it is mainly
black as night, but is streaked with red stains that bear an awful
likeness to blood; and, though it may be climbed--and I myself have
done it more than once in search of eggs--it has no scrap of
vegetation save where, upon its summit, the gulls build their nests
on a scanty patch of grass and wild asparagus.

By the time I had crossed the cove, the western sky was brilliant
with the reflected dawn.  Above the cliffs behind, morning had edged
the flying wrack of indigo clouds with a glittering line of gold,
while the sea in front still heaved beneath the pale yellow light, as
a child sobs at intervals after the first gust of passion is
over-past.  The tide was at the ebb, and the fresh breeze dropped as
I got under the shadow of Dead Man's Rock and looked through the
archway on to Polkimbra Sands.

Not a soul was to be seen.  The long stretch of beach had scarcely
yet caught the distinctness of day, but was already beginning to
glisten with the gathering light, and, as far as I could see, was
desolate.  I passed through and clambered out towards the south side
of the rock to watch the sea, if perchance some bit of floating
wreckage might explain the mystery of last night.  I could see
nothing.

Stay!  What was that on the ledge below me, lying on the brink just
above the receding wave?  A sailor's cap!  Somehow, the sight made me
sick with horror.  It must have been a full minute before I dared to
open my eyes and look again.  Yes, it was there!  The cry of last
night rang again in my ears with all its supreme agony as I stood in
the presence of this silent witness of the dead--this rag of clothing
that told so terrible a history.

Child as I was, the silent terror of it made me faint and giddy.
I shut my eyes again, and clung, all trembling, to the ledge.
Not for untold bribes could I have gone down and touched that
terrible thing, but, as soon as the first spasm of fear was over, I
clambered desperately back and on to the sands again, as though all
the souls of the drowned were pursuing me.

Once safe upon the beach, I recovered my scattered wits a little.
I felt that I could not repass that dreadful rock, so determined to
go across the sands to Polkimbra, and homewards around the cliffs.
Still gazing at the sea as one fascinated, I made along the length of
the beach.  The storm had thrown up vast quantities of weed, that
lined the water's edge in straggling lines and heaps, and every heap
in turn chained and riveted my shuddering eyes, that half expected to
see in each some new or nameless horror.

I was half across the beach, when suddenly I looked up towards
Polkimbra, and saw a man advancing towards me along the edge of the
tide.

He was about two hundred yards from me when I first looked.  Heartily
glad to see any human being after my great terror, I ran towards him
eagerly, thinking to recognise one of my friends among the Polkimbra
fishermen.  As I drew nearer, however, without attracting his
attention--for the soft sand muffled all sound of footsteps--two
things struck me.  The first was that I had never seen a fisherman
dressed as this man was; the second, that he seemed to watch the sea
with an absorbed and eager gaze, as if expecting to find or see
something in the breakers.  At last I was near enough to catch the
outline of his face, and knew him to be a stranger.

He wore no hat, and was dressed in a red shirt and trousers that
ended in rags at the knee.  His feet were bare, and his clothes clung
dripping to his skin.  In height he could not have been much above
five feet six inches, but his shoulders were broad, and his whole
appearance, cold and exhausted as he seemed, gave evidence of great
strength.  His tangled hair hung over a somewhat weak face, but the
most curious feature about the man was the air of nervous expectation
that marked, not only his face, but every movement of his body.
Altogether, under most circumstances, I should have shunned him, but
fear had made me desperate.  At the distance of about twenty yards I
stopped and called to him.

I had advanced somewhat obliquely from behind, so that at the sound
of my voice he turned sharply round and faced me, but with a
terrified start that was hard to account for.  On seeing only a
child, however, the hesitation faded out of his eyes, and he advanced
towards me.  As he approached, I could see that he was shivering with
cold and hunger.

"Boy," he said, in an eager and expectant voice, "what are you doing
out on the beach so early?"

"Oh, sir!" I answered, "there was such a dreadful storm last night,
and we--that is, mother and I--heard a cry, we thought; and oh!
I have seen--"

"What have you seen?"--and he caught me by the arm with a nervous
grip.

"Only a cap, sir," I said, shrinking--"only a cap; but I climbed up
on Dead Man's Rock just now--the rock at the end of the beach--and I
saw a cap lying there, and it seemed--"

"Come along and show it to me!" and he began to run over the sands
towards the rock, dragging me helpless after him.

Suddenly he stopped.

"You saw nothing else?" he asked, facing round and looking into my
eyes.

"No, sir."

"Nor anybody?"

"Nobody, sir."

"You are sure you saw nobody but me?  You didn't happen to see a tall
man with black hair, and rings in his ears?"

"Oh, no, sir."

"You'll swear you saw no such man?  Swear it now; say, 'So help me,
God, I haven't seen anybody on the beach but you.'"

I swore it.

"Say, 'Strike me blind if I have!'"

I repeated the words after him, and, with a hurried look around, he
set off running again towards the rock.  I had much ado to keep from
tumbling, and even from crying aloud with pain, so tight was his
grip.  Fast as we went, the man's teeth chattered and his limbs
shook; his wet clothes flapped and fluttered in the cold morning
breeze; his face was drawn and pinched with exhaustion, but he never
slackened his pace until we reached Dead Man's Rock.  Here he stopped
and looked around again.

"Is there any place to hide in hereabouts?"  he suddenly asked.

The oddness of the question took me aback: and, indeed, the whole
conduct of the man was so strange that I was heartily frightened, and
longed greatly to run away.  There was no help for it, however, so I
made shift to answer--

"There is a nice cave in Ready-Money Cove, which is the next cove to
this, sir.  The smugglers used to use it because it was hidden so,
but--"

I suppose my eyes told him that I was wondering why he should want to
hide, for he broke in again--

"Well, show me this cap.  Out on the face of this rock, you say--
what's the name?  Dead Man's Rock, eh?  Well, it's an ugly name
enough, and an ugly rock enough!" he added, with a shiver.

I climbed up the rock, and he after me, until we gained the ledge
where I had stood before.  I looked down.  The cap was still lying
there, and the tide had ebbed still further.

My companion looked for a moment, then, with a short cry, scrambled
quickly down and picked it up.  To me it had looked like any ordinary
sailor's cap, but he examined it, fingered it, and pulled it about,
muttering all the time, so that I imagined it must be his own, though
at a loss to know why he made so much of recovering it.  At last he
climbed up again, holding it in his hands, and still muttering to
himself--

"His cap, sure enough; nothing in it, though.  But he was much too
clever a devil.  However, he's gone right enough; I knew he must, and
this proves it, curse him!  Well, I'll wear it.  He's not left behind
as much as he thought, but mad enough he'd be to think I was his
heir.  I'll wear it for old acquaintance' sake.  Sit down, boy," he
said aloud to me; "we're safe here, and can't be seen.  I want to
talk with you."

The rocky ledge on which we stood was about seven feet long and three
or four in breadth.  On one side of it ran down the path by which we
had ascended; the other end broke off with a sheer descent into the
sea of some forty feet in the present state of the tide.  High above
us rose an unscaleable cliff; at our feet lay a short descent to the
ledge on which the cap had rested, and after that another precipice.
It was not a pleasant position in which to be left alone with this
strange companion, but I was helpless, and perhaps the trace of
weakness and a something not altogether evil in his face, gave me
some courage.  Little enough it was, however, and in mere desperation
I sat down on the side by the path.  My companion flung himself down
on the other side, with his legs dangling over the ledge, and so sat
for a minute or two watching the sea.

The early sun was now up, and its oblique rays set the waves dancing
with a myriad points of fire.  Above us the rock cast its shadow into
the green depths below, making them seem still greener and deeper.
To my left I could see the shining sands of Polkimbra, still
desolate, and, beyond, the purple line of cliffs towards Kynance; on
my right the rock hid everything from view, except the open sea and
the gulls returning after the tempest to inspect and pry into the
fresh masses of weed and wreckage.  I looked timidly at my companion.
He was still gazing out towards the sea, apparently deep in thought.
The cap was on his head, and his legs still dangled, while he
muttered to himself as if unconscious of my presence.  Presently,
however, he turned towards me.

"Got anything to eat?"

I had forgotten it in my terror, but I had, as I crossed the kitchen,
picked up a hunch of bread to serve me for breakfast.  This, with a
half-apologetic air, as if to deprecate its smallness, I produced
from my pocket and handed to him.  He snatched it without a word, and
ate it ravenously, keeping his eye fixed upon me in the most
embarrassing way.

"Got any more?"

I was obliged to confess I had not, though sorely afraid of
displeasing him.  He turned still further towards me, and stared
without a word, then suddenly spoke again.

"What is your name?"

Truly this man had the strangest manner of questioning.  However, I
answered him duly--

"Jasper Trenoweth."

"God in heaven!  What?"

He had started forward, and was staring at me with a wild surprise.
Unable to comprehend why my name should have this effect on him, but
hopeless of understanding this extraordinary man's behaviour, I
repeated the two words.

His face had turned to an ashy white, but he slowly took his eyes off
me and turned them upon the sea, almost as though afraid to meet
mine.  There was a pause.

"Father by any chance answering to the name of Ezekiel--Ezekiel
Trenoweth?"

Even in my fright I can remember being struck with this strange way
of speaking, as though my father were a dog; but a new fear had
gained possession of me.  Dreading to hear the answer, yet wildly
anxious, I cried--

"Oh, yes.  Do you know him?  He was coming home from Ceylon, and
mother was so anxious; and then, what with the storm last night and
the cry that we heard, we were so frightened!  Oh! do you know
--do you think--"

My words died away in terrified entreaty; but he seemed not to hear
me.  Still gazing out on the sea, he said--

"Sailed in the _Belle Fortune_, barque of 600 tons, or thereabouts,
bound for Port of Bristol?  Oh, ay, I knew him--knew him well.
And might this here place be Lantrig?"

"Our house is on the cliff above the next cove," I replied.
"But, oh! please tell me if anything has happened to him!"

"And why should anything have happened to Ezekiel Trenoweth?
That's what I want to know.  Why should anything have happened to
him?"

He was still watching the waves as they danced and twinkled in the
sun.  He never looked towards me, but plucked with nervous fingers at
his torn trousers.  The gulls hovered around us with melancholy
cries, as they wheeled in graceful circles and swooped down to their
prey in the depths at our feet.  Presently he spoke again in a
meditative, far-away voice--

"Ezekiel Trenoweth, fair, broad, and six foot two in his socks; why
should anything have happened to him?"

"But you seem to know him, and know the ship he sailed in.  Tell me--
please tell me what has happened.  Did you sail in the same ship?
And, if so, what has become of it?"

"I sailed," said my companion, still examining the horizon, "from
Ceylon on the 12th of July, in the ship _Mary Jane_, bound for
Liverpool.  Consequently, if Ezekiel Trenoweth sailed in the _Belle
Fortune_ we couldn't very well have been in the same ship, and that's
logic," said he, turning to me for the first time with a watery and
uncertain smile, but quickly withdrawing his eyes to their old
occupation.

But he had lifted a great load from my heart, so that for very joy at
knowing my father was not among the crew of the _Mary Jane_ I could
not speak for a time, but sat watching his face, and thinking how I
should question him next.

"Sailed in the _Mary Jane_, bound for Liverpool," he repeated, his
face twitching slightly, and his hands still plucking at his
trousers, "sailed along with--never mind who.  And this boy's Ezekiel
Trenoweth's son, and I knew him; knew him well."  His voice was
husky, and he seemed to have something in his throat, but he went on:
"Well, it's a strange world.  To think of him being dead!" looking at
the cap--which he had taken off his head.

"What!  Father dead?"

"No, my lad, t'other chap: him as this cap belonged to.  Ah, he was a
devil, he was.  Can't fancy him dead, somehow; seemed as though the
water wasn't made as could have drowned him; always said he was born
for the gallows, and joked about it.  But he's gone this time, and
I've got his cap.  'Tis a hard thought that I should outlive him;
but, curse him, I've done it, and here's his cap for proof--why, what
the devil is the lad staring at?"

During his muttered soliloquy I had turned for a moment to look
across Polkimbra Beach, when suddenly my eyes were arrested and my
heart again set violently beating by a sight that almost made me
doubt whether the events of the morning were not still part of a wild
and disordered dream.  For there, at about fifty yards' distance, and
advancing along the breakers' edge, was another man, dressed like my
companion, and also watching the sea.

"What's the matter, boy?  Speak, can't you?"

"It's a man."

"A man!  Where?"

He made a motion forwards to look over the edge, but checked himself,
and crouched down close against the rock.

"Lie down!" he murmured in a hoarse whisper.  "Lie down low and look
over."

My arm was clutched as though by a vice.  I sank down flat, and
peered over the edge.

"It's a man," I said, "not fifty yards off, and coming this way.
He has on a red shirt, and is watching the sea just as you did.
I don't think that he saw us."

"For the Lord's sake don't move.  Look; is he tall and dark?"

His terrified excitement was dreadful.  I thought I should have had
to shriek with pain, so tightly he clutched me, but found voice to
answer--

"Yes, he seems tall, and dark too, though I can't well see at--"

"Has he got earrings?"

"I can't see; but he walks with a stoop, and seems to have a sword or
something slung round his waist."

"God defend us! that's he!  Curse him, curse him!  Lie down--lie
down, I say!  It's death if he catches sight of us."

We cowered against the rock.  My companion's face was livid, and his
lips worked as though fingers were plucking at them, but made no
sound.  I never saw such abject, hopeless terror.  We waited thus for
a full minute, and then I peered over the ledge again.

He was almost directly beneath us now, and was still watching the
sea.  At his side hung a short sheath, empty.  I could not well see
his face, but the rings in his ears glistened in the sunlight.

I drew back cautiously, for my companion was plucking at my jacket.

"Listen," he said--and his hoarse voice was sunk so low that I could
scarcely catch his words--"Listen.  If he catches us it's death--
death to me, but perhaps he may let you off, though he's a
cold-blooded, murderous devil.  However, there's no saying but you
might get off.  Any way, it'll be safest for you to have this.
Here, take it quick, and stow it away in your jacket, so as he can't
see it.  For the love of God, look sharp!"

He took something out of a pocket inside his shirt, and forced it
into my hands.  What it was I could not see, so quickly he made me
hide it in my jacket.  But I caught a glimpse of something that
looked like brass, and the packet was hard and heavy.

"It's death, I say; but you may be lucky.  If he does for me, swear
you'll never give it up to him.  Take your Bible oath you'll never do
that.  And look here: if I'm lucky enough to get off, swear you'll
give it back.  Swear it.  Say, 'Strike me blind!'"

He clutched me again.  Shaking and trembling, I gave the promise.

"And look, here's a letter; put it away and read it after.  If he
does for me--curse him!--you keep what I've given you.  Yes, keep it;
it's my last Will and Testament, upon my soul.  But you ought to go
half shares with little Jenny; you ought, you know.  You'll find out
where she lives in that there letter.  But you'll never give it up to
him.  Swear it.  Swear it again."

Again I promised.

"Mind you, if you do, I'll haunt you.  I'll curse you dying, and
that's an awful thing to happen to a man.  Look over again.
He mayn't be coming--perhaps he'll go through to the next beach, and
then we'll run for it."

Again I peered over, but drew back as if shot; for just below me was
a black head with glittering earrings, and its owner was steadily
coming up the path towards us.



CHAPTER IV.


TELLS HOW A SONG WAS SUNG AND A KNIFE DRAWN UPON DEAD MAN'S ROCK.

There was no escape.  I have said that the ascent of Dead Man's Rock
was possible, but that was upon the northern side, from which we were
now utterly cut off.  Hemmed in as we were between the sheer cliff
and the precipice, we could only sit still and await the man's
coming.  Utter fear had apparently robbed my companion of all his
faculties, for he sat, a stony image of despair, looking with
staring, vacant eyes at the spot where his enemy would appear; while
as for me, dreading I knew not what, I clung to the rock and listened
breathlessly to the sound of the footsteps as they came nearer and
nearer.  Presently, within about fifteen feet, as I guess, of our
hiding-place, they suddenly ceased, and a full, rich voice broke out
in song--

    "Sing hey! for the dead man's eyes, my lads;
        Sing ho! for the dead man's hand;
     For his glittering eyes are the salt sea's prize,
     And his fingers clutch the sand, my lads--
        Sing ho! how they grip the land!

    "Sing hey! for the dead man's lips, my lads;
        Sing ho! for the dead man's soul.
     At his red, red lips the merrymaid sips
     For the kiss that his sweetheart stole, my lads--
        Sing ho! for the bell shall toll!"

The words were full and clear upon the morning air--so clear that
their weird horror, together with the strangeness of the tune (which
had a curious catch in the last line but one) and, above all, the
sweetness of the voice, held me spellbound.  I glanced again at my
companion.  He had not changed his position, but still sat
motionless, save that his dry lips were again working and twitching
as though they tried to follow the words of the song.  Presently the
footsteps again began to advance, and again the voice broke out--

    "So it's hey! for the homeward bound, my lads,
        And ho! for the drunken crew.
     For his messmates round lie dead and drowned,
     And the devil has got his due, my Lads--
        Sing ho! but he--"

He saw us.  He had turned the corner, and stood facing us; and as he
faced us, I understood my companion's horror.  The new-comer wore a
shirt of the same red colour as my comrade, and trousers of the same
stuff, but less cut and torn with the rocks.  At his side hung an
empty sheath, that must once have held a short knife, and the handle
of another knife glittered above his waistband.  But it was his face
that fascinated all my gaze.  Even had I no other cause to remember
it, I could never forget the lines of that wicked mouth, or the
glitter in those cruel eyes as their first sharp flash of surprise
faded into a mocking and evil smile.

For a minute or so he stood tranquilly watching our confusion, while
the smile grew more and more devilishly bland.  Not a word was
spoken.  What my comrade did I know not, but, for myself, I could not
take my eyes from that fiendish face.

At last he spoke: in a sweet and silvery voice, that in company with
such eyes was an awful and fantastic lie, he spoke--

"Well, this is pleasant indeed.  To run across an old comrade in
flesh and blood when you thought him five fathom deep in the salt
water is one of the pleasantest things in life, isn't it, lad?
To put on sackcloth and ashes, to go about refusing to be comforted,
to find no joy in living because an old shipmate is dead and drowned,
and then suddenly to come upon him doing the very same for you--why,
there's nothing that compares with it for real, hearty pleasure; is
there, John?  You seem a bit dazed, John: it's too good to be true,
you think?  Well, it shows your good heart; shows what I call real
feeling.  But you always were a true friend, always the one to depend
upon, eh, John?  Why don't you speak, John, and say how glad you are
to see your old friend back, alive and hearty?"

John's lips were trembling, and something seemed working in his
throat, but no sound came.

"Ah, John, you were always the one for feeling a thing, and now the
joy is too much for you.  Considerate, too, it was of you, and really
kind--but that's you, John, all over--to wear an old shipmate's cap
in affectionate memory.  No, John, don't deprive yourself of it."

The wretched man felt with quivering fingers for the cap, took it
off and laid it on the rock beside me, but never spoke.

"And who is the boy, John?  But, there, you were always one to
make friends.  Everybody loves you; they can't help themselves.
Lucy loved you when she wouldn't look at me, would she?  You were
always so gentle and quiet, John, except perhaps when the drink was
in you: and even then you didn't mean any harm; it was only your
play, wasn't it, John?"

John's face was a shade whiter, and again something worked in his
throat, but still he uttered no word.

"Well, anyhow, John, it's a real treat to see you--and looking so
well, too.  To think that we two, of all men, should have been on the
jib-boom when she struck!  By the way, John, wasn't there another
with us?  Now I come to think of it, there must have been another.
What became of him?  Did he jump too, John?"

John found speech at last.  "No; I don't think he jumped."  The words
came hoarsely and with difficulty.  I looked at him; cold and
shivering as he was, the sweat was streaming down his face.

"No?  I wonder why."

No answer.

"You're quite sure about it, John? Because, you know, it would be a
thousand pities if he were thrown up on this desolate shore without
seeing the faces of his old friends.  So I hope you are quite sure,
John; think again."

"He didn't jump."

"No?"

"He fell."

"Poor fellow, poor fellow!"  The words came in the softest, sweetest
tones of pity.  "I suppose there is no mistake about his melancholy
end?"

"I saw him fall.  He just let go and fell; it's Bible oath, Captain--
it's Bible oath.  That's how it happened; he just--let go--and fell.
I saw it with my very eyes, and--Captain, it was your knife."
To this effect John, with great difficulty and a nervous shifting
stare that wandered from the Captain to me until it finally rested
somewhere out at sea.

The Captain gave a sharp keen glance, smiled softly, set his thin
lips together as though whistling inaudibly, and turned to me.

"So you know John, my boy?  He's a good fellow, is John; just the
sort of quiet, steady, Christian man to make a good companion for the
young.  No swearing, drinking, or vice about John Railton; and so
truthful, too--the very soul of truth!  Couldn't tell a lie for all
the riches of the Indies.  Ah, you are in luck to have such a friend!
It's not often a good companion is such good company."

I looked helplessly at the model of truth to see how he took this
tribute; but his eyes were still fixed in that eternal stare at the
sea.

"And so, John, you saw him fall?  'Who saw him die?'--'I,' said the
soul of truth, 'with my little eye'--and you have very sharp eyes,
John.  However, the poor fellow's gone; 'fell off,' you say?  I don't
wonder you feel it so; but, John, with all our sympathy for the
unfortunate dead, don't you think this is a good opportunity for
reading the Will?  We three, you know, may possibly never meet again,
and I am sure our young friend--what name did you say?  Jasper?--I am
sure that our young friend Mr. Jasper would like the melancholy
satisfaction of hearing the Will."

The man's eyes were devilish.  John, as he faced about and caught
their gaze, looked round like a wild beast at bay.

"Will?  What do you mean? I don't know--I haven't got no Will."

"None of your own, John, none of your own; but maybe you might know
something of the last Will and Testament of--shall we say--another
party?  Think, John; don't hurry, think a bit."

"Lord, strike me--"

"Hush, John, hush!  Think of our young friend Mr. Jasper.  Besides,
you know, you were such a friend of the deceased--such a real
friend--and knew all his secrets so thoroughly, John, that I am sure
if you only consider quietly, you must remember; you who watched his
last moments, who saw him--'fall,' did you say?"

No answer.

"Come, come, John; I'm sorry to press you, but really our young
friend and I must insist on an answer.  For consider, John, if you
refuse to join in our conversation, we shall have to go--reluctantly,
of course, but still we shall have to go--and talk somewhere else.
Just think how very awkward that would be."

"You devil--you devil!"

John's voice was still hoarse and low, but it had a something in it
now that sounded neither of hope nor fear.

"Well, yes; devil if you like: but the devil must have his due, you
know--

    "And the devil has got his due, my lads--
        Sing hey! but he waits for you!

"Yes, John, devil or no devil, _I'm_  waiting for you.  As to
having my due, why, a lucky fellow like you shouldn't grudge it.
Why, you've got Lucy, John: what more can you want?  We both wanted
Lucy, but you got her, and now she's waiting at home for you.
It would be awkward if I turned up with the news that you were
languishing in gaol--I merely put a case, John--and little Jenny
wouldn't have many sweethearts if it got about that her father--and I
suppose you are her father--"

Before the words were well out of his mouth John had him by the
throat.  There was a short, fierce struggle, an oath, a gleam of
light--and then, with a screech of mortal pain and a wild clutch at
the air, my companion fell backwards over the cliff.


It was all the work of a moment--a shriek, a splash, and then
silence.  How long the silence lasted I cannot tell.  What happened
next--whether I cried or fainted, looked or shut my eyes--is to me an
absolute blank.  Only I remember gradually waking up to the fact that
the Captain was standing over me, wiping his knife on a piece of weed
he had picked up on the rock, and regarding me with a steady stare.

I now suppose that during those few moments my life hung in the
balance: but at the time I was too dazed and stunned to comprehend
anything.  The Captain slowly replaced his knife, hesitated, went to
the ledge and peered over, and then finally came back to me.

"Are you the kind of boy that's talkative?" His voice was as sweet as
ever, but his eyes were scorching me like live coals.

I suppose I must have signified my denial, for he went on--

"You heard what he called me?  He called me a devil; a devil, mark
you; and that's what I am."

In my state of mind I could believe anything; so I easily believed
this.

"Being a devil, naturally I can hear what little boys say, no matter
where I am; and when little boys are talkative I can reach them, no
matter how they hide.  I come on them in bed sometimes, and sometimes
from behind when they are not looking; there's no escaping me.
You've heard of Apollyon perhaps?  Well, that's who I am."

I had heard of Apollyon in Bunyan; and I had no doubt he was speaking
the truth.

"I catch little boys when they are not looking, and carry them off,
and then their fathers and mothers don't see any more of them.
But they die very slowly, very slowly indeed--you will find out how
if ever I catch you talking."

But I did not at all want to know; I was quite satisfied, and
apparently he was also; for, after staring at me a little longer, he
told me to get up and go down the rock in front of him.

The agonies I suffered during that descent no pen can describe.
Every moment I expected to feel my shoulder gripped from behind, or
to feel the hands of some mysterious and infernal power around my
neck.  Close behind me followed my companion, humming--

    "And the devil has got his due, my lads--
        Sing hey! but he waits for you!"

And though I was far from singing hey! at the prospect, I felt that
he meant what he said.

Arrived at the foot of the rock, we passed through the archway on to
Ready-Money Cove.  Turning down to the edge of the sea, the Captain
scanned the water narrowly, but there was no trace of the hapless
John.  With a muttered curse, he began quickly to climb out along the
north side of the rock, just above the sea-level, and looked again
into the depths.  Once more he was disappointed.  Flinging off his
clothes, he dived again and again, until from sheer exhaustion he
crept out, bundled on his shirt and trousers, and climbed back to me.

"Curse him! where can he be?"

I now saw for the first time how terribly worn and famished the man
was: he looked like a wolf, and his white teeth were bare in his
rage.  He had cut his foot on the rock.  Still keeping his evil eye
upon me, he knelt down by the water's edge and began slowly to bathe
the wound.

"By the way, boy, what did you say your name was?  Jasper?  Jasper
what?"

"Trenoweth."

"Ten thousand devils!"

He was on his feet, and had gripped me by the shoulder with a furious
clutch.  I turned sick and cold with terror.  The blue sky swam and
circled around me: then came mist and black darkness, lit only by the
gleam of two terrible eyes: a shout--and I knew no more.



CHAPTER V.


TELLS HOW THE SAILOR GEORGIO RHODOJANI GAVE EVIDENCE AT THE
"LUGGER INN."

I came gradually back to consciousness amid a buzz of voices.
Uncle Loveday was bending over me, his every button glistening with
sympathy, and his face full of kindly anxiety.  What had happened, or
how I came to be lying thus upon the sand, I could not at first
remember, until my gaze, wandering over my uncle's shoulder, met the
Captain's eyes regarding me with a keen and curious stare.

He was standing in the midst of a small knot of fishermen, every now
and then answering their questions with a gesture, a shrug of the
shoulders, or shake of the head; but chiefly regarding my recovery
and waiting, as I could see, for me to speak.

"Poor boy!" said Uncle Loveday.  "Poor boy! I suppose the sight of
this man frightened him."

I caught the Captain's eye, and nodded feebly.

"Ah, yes, yes.  You see," he explained, turning to the shipwrecked
man, "your sudden appearance upset him: and to tell you the honest
truth, my friend, in your present condition--in your present
condition, mind you--your appearance is perhaps somewhat--startling.
Shall we say, startling?"

In answer to my uncle's apologetic hesitation the stranger merely
spread out his palms and shrugged his shoulders.

"Ah, yes.  A foreigner evidently.  Well, well, although our coast is
not precisely hospitable, I believe its inhabitants are at any rate
free from that reproach.  Jasper, my boy, can you walk now?  If so,
Joseph here will see you home, and we will do our best for the--the--
foreign gentleman thus unceremoniously cast on our shores."

My uncle seemed to regard magnificence of speech as the natural due
of a foreigner: whether from some hazy conception of "foreign
politeness," or a hasty deduction that what was not the language of
one part of the world must be that of another, I cannot say.  At any
rate, the fishermen regarded him approvingly as the one man who
could--if human powers were equal to it--extricate them from the
present deadlock.

"You do not happen, my friend, to be in a position to inform us
whether any--pardon the expression--any corpses are now lying on the
rocks to bear witness to this sad catastrophe?"

Again the stranger made a gesture of perplexity.

"Dear, dear! I forgot.  Jasper, when you get home, read very
carefully that passage about the Tower of Babel.  Whatever the cause
of that melancholy confusion, its reality is impressed upon us when
we stand face to face with one whom I may perhaps be allowed to call,
metaphorically, a dweller in Mesopotamia."

As no one answered, my uncle took silence for consent, and called him
so twice--to his own great satisfaction and the obvious awe of the
fishermen.

"It is evident," he continued, "that this gentleman (call him by what
name you will) is in immediate need of food and raiment.  If such, as
I do not doubt, can be obtained at Polkimbra, our best course is to
accompany him thither.  I trust my proposition meets with his
approval."

It met, at any rate, with the approval of the fishermen, who
translated Uncle Loveday's speech into gestures.  Being answered with
a nod of the head and a few hasty foreign words, they began to lead
the stranger away in their midst.  As he turned to go, he glanced for
the last time at me with a strange flickering smile, at which my
heart grew sick.  Uncle Loveday lingered behind to adjure Joe to be
careful of me as we went up the cliff, and then, with a promise that
he would run in to see mother later in the day, trotted after the
rest.  They passed out of sight through the archway of Dead Man's
Rock.

For a minute or so we plodded across the sand in silence.  Joe
Roscorla was Uncle Loveday's "man," a word in our parts connoting
ability to look after a horse, a garden, a pig or two, or, indeed,
anything that came in the way of being looked after.  At the present
moment I came in that way; consequently, after some time spent in
reflective silence, Joe began to speak.

"You'm looking wisht."

"Am I, Joe?"

"Mortal."

There was a pause: then Joe continued--

"I don't hold by furriners: let alone they be so hard to get
along with in the way of convarsing, they be but a heathen lot.
But, Jasper, warn't it beautiful?"

"What, Joe?"

"Why, to see the doctor tackle the lingo.  Beautiful, I culls it; but
there, he's a scholard, and no mistake, and 'tain't no good for to
say he ain't.  Not as ever I've heerd it said."

"But, Joe, the man didn't seem to understand him."

"Durn all furriners, say I; they be so cursed pigheaded.  Understand?
I'll go bail he understood fast enough."

Joe's opinions coincided so fatally with my certainty that I held my
tongue.

"A dweller in--what did he call the spot, Jasper?"

"Mesopotamia."

"Well, I can't azacly say as I've seen any from them parts, but they
be all of a piece.  Thicky chap warn't in the way when prettiness was
sarved out, anyhow.  Of all the cut-throat chaps as ever I see--Mark
my words, 'tain't no music as he's come after."

This seemed so indisputable that I did not venture to contradict it.

"I bain't clear about thicky wreck.  Likely as not 'twas the one I
seed all yesterday tacking about: and if so be as I be right, a
pretty lot of lubbers she must have had aboard.  Jonathan, the
coast-guard, came down to Lizard Town this morning, and said he seed
a big vessel nigh under the cliffs toward midnight, or fancied he
seed her: but fustly Jonathan's a buffle-head, and secondly 'twas
pitch-dark; so if as he swears there weren't no blue light, 'tain't
likely any man could see, let alone a daft fule like Jonathan.
But, there, 'tain't no good for to blame he; durn Government! say I,
for settin' one man, and him a born fule, to mind seven mile o' coast
on a night when an airey mouse cou'dn' see his hand afore his face."

"What was the vessel like, Joe, that you saw?"

"East Indyman, by the looks of her; and a passel of lubberin'
furriners aboard, by the way she was worked.  I seed her miss stays
twice myself: so when Jonathan turns up wi' this tale, I says to
myself, 'tis the very same.  Though 'tis terrible queer he never
heard nowt; but he ain't got a ha'porth o' gumption, let alone that
by time he's been cloppin' round his seven mile o' beat half a dozen
ships might go to kingdom come."

With this, for we had come to the door of Lantrig, Joe bid me
good-bye, and turned along the cliffs to seek fresh news at
Polkimbra.

Instead of going indoors at once I watched his short, oddly-shaped
figure stride away, and then sat down on the edge of the cliff for a
minute to collect my thoughts.  The day was ripening into that mellow
glory which is the peculiar grace of autumn.  Below me the sea, still
flaked with spume, was gradually heaving to rest; the morning light
outlined the cliffs in glistening prominence, and clothed them, as
well as the billowy clouds above, with a reality which gave the lie
to my morning's adventure.  The old doorway, too, looked so familiar
and peaceful, the old house so reassuring, that I half wondered if I
had not two lives, and were not coming back to the old quiet everyday
experience again.

Suddenly I remembered the packet and the letter.  I put my hand into
my pocket and drew them out.  The packet was a tin box, strapped
around with a leathern band: on the top, between the band and the
box, was a curious piece of yellow metal that looked like the half of
a waist-buckle, having a socket but without any corresponding hook.
On the metal were traced some characters which I could not read.
The tin box was heavy and plain, and the strap soaking with salt
water.

I turned to the letter; it was all but a pulp, and in its present
state illegible.  Carefully smoothing it out, I slipped it inside the
strap and turned to hide my prize; for such was my fear of the man
who called himself Apollyon, that I could know no peace of mind
whilst it remained about me.  How should I hide it?  After some
thought, I remembered that a stone or two in the now empty cow-house
had fallen loose.  With a hasty glance over my shoulder, I crept
around and into the shed.  The stones came away easily in my hand.
With another hurried look, I slipped the packet into the opening,
stole out of the shed, and entered the house by the back door.

My mother had been up for some time--it was now about nine o'clock--
and had prepared our breakfast.  Her face was still pale, but some of
its anxiety left it as I entered.  She was evidently waiting for me
to speak.  Something in my looks, however, must have frightened her,
for, as I said nothing, she began to question me.

"Well, Jasper, is there any news?"

"There was a ship wrecked on Dead Man's Rock last night, but they've
not found anything except--"

"What was it called?"

"The _Mary Jane_--that is--I don't quite know."

Up to this time I had forgotten that mother would want to know about
my doings that morning.  As an ordinary thing, of course I should
have told her whatever I had seen or heard, but my terror of the
Captain and the awful consequences of saying too much now flashed
upon me with hideous force.  I had heard about the _Mary Jane_ from
the unhappy John.  What if I had already said too much?  I bent over
my breakfast in confusion.

After a dreadful pause, during which I felt, though I could not see,
the astonishment in my mother's eyes, she said--

"You don't quite know?"

"No; I think it must have been the _Mary Jane_, but there was a
strange sailor picked up.  Uncle Loveday found him, and he seemed to
be a foreigner, and he said--I mean--I thought--it was the name,
but--"

This was worse and worse.  Again at my wits' end, I tried to go on
with my breakfast.  After awhile I looked up, and saw my mother
watching me with a look of mingled surprise and reproach.

"Was this sailor the only one saved?"

"No--that is, I mean--yes; they only found one."

I had never lied to my mother before, and almost broke down with the
effort.  Words seemed to choke me, and her saddening eyes filled me
with torment.

"Jasper dear, what is the matter with you?  Why are you so strange?"

I tried to look astonished, but broke down miserably.  Do what I
would, my eyes seemed to be beyond my control; they would not meet
her steady gaze.

"Uncle Loveday is coming up later on.  He's looking after the Cap--I
mean the sailor, and said he would run in afterwards."

"What is this sailor like?"

This question fairly broke me down.  Between my dread of the Captain
and her pained astonishment, I could only sit stammering and longing
for the earth to gape and swallow me up.  Suddenly a dreadful
suspicion struck my mother.

"Jasper!  Jasper! it cannot be--you cannot mean--that it was _his_
ship?"

"No, mother, no!  Father is all right.  He said--I mean--it was not
his ship."

"Oh! thank God! But you are hiding something from me!  What is it?
Jasper dear, what are you hiding?"

"Mother, I think it was the _Mary Jane_.  But it was not father's
ship.  Father's all right.  And, mother, don't ask me any more; Uncle
Loveday will tell all about it.  And--I'm not very well, mother.  I
think--"

Want of sleep, indeed, and the excitement of the morning, had broken
me down.  My mother stifled her desire to hear more, and tenderly saw
me to bed, guessing my fatigue, but only dimly apprehensive of
anything beyond.  In bed I lay all that morning, but could get no
sleep.  The vengeance of that dreadful man seemed to fill the little
room and charge the atmosphere with horror.  "I come on them in bed
sometimes, and sometimes from behind when they're not looking"--the
words rang in my ears, and could not be muffled by the bed-clothes;
whilst, if I began to doze, the dreadful burthen of his song--

    "And the devil has got his due, my lads--
        Sing ho! but he waits for you!"--

With the peculiar catch of its lilt, would suddenly make me start up,
wide awake, with every nerve in my body dancing to its grisly
measure.

At last, towards noon, I dozed off into a restless slumber, but only
to see each sight and hear each sound repeated with every grotesque
and fantastic variation.  Dead Man's Rock rose out of a sea of blood,
peopled with hundreds of ghastly faces, each face the distorted
likeness of John or the Captain.  Blood was everywhere--on their
shirts, their hands, their faces, in splashes across the rock itself,
in vivid streaks across the spume of the sea.  The very sun peered
through a blood-red fog, and the waves, the mournful gulls, the
echoes from the cliff, took up the everlasting chorus, led by one
silvery demoniac voice--

    "Sing ho! but he waits for you!"

Finally, as I lay tossing and tormented with this phantom horror in
my eyes and ears, the sound died imperceptibly away into the soft
hush of two well-known voices, and I opened my eyes to see mother
with Uncle Loveday standing at my bedside.

"The boy's a bit feverish," said my uncle's voice; "he has not got
over his fright just yet."

"Hush! he's waking!" replied my mother; and as I opened my eyes she
bent down and kissed me.  How inexpressibly sweet was that kiss after
the nightmare of my dream!

"Jasper dear, are you better now?  Try to lie down and get some more
sleep."

But I was eager to know what news Uncle Loveday had to tell, so I sat
up and questioned him.  There was little enough; though, delivered
with much pomp, it took some time in telling.  Roughly, it came to
this:--

A body had been discovered--the body of a small infant--washed up on
the Polkimbra Beach.  This would give an opportunity for an inquest;
and, in fact, the coroner was to arrive that afternoon from Penzance
with an interpreter for the evidence of the strange sailor, who, it
seemed, was a Greek.  Little enough had been got from him, but he
seemed to imply that the vessel had struck upon Dead Man's Rock from
the south-west, breaking her back upon its sunken base, and then
slipping out and subsiding in the deep water.  It must have happened
at high tide, for much coffee and basket-work was found upon
high-water line.  This fixed the time of the disaster at about
4 a.m., and my mother's eyes met mine, as we both remembered that it
was about that hour when we heard the wild despairing cry.  For the
rest, it was hopeless to seek information from the Greek sailor
without an interpreter; nor were there any clothes or identifying
marks on the child's body.  The stranger had been clothed and fed at
the Vicarage, and would give his evidence that afternoon.  Hitherto,
the name of the vessel was unknown.

At this point my mother's eyes again sought mine, and I feared fresh
inquiries about the _Mary Jane_; but, luckily, Uncle Loveday had
recurred to the question of the Tower of Babel, on which he delivered
several profound reflections.  Seeing me still disinclined to
explain, she merely sighed, and was silent.

But when Uncle Loveday had broken his fast and, rising, announced
that he must drive down to be present at the inquest, to our
amazement, mother insisted upon going with him.  Having no suspicion
of her deadly fear, he laughed a little at first, and quoted Solomon
on the infirmities of women to an extent that made me wonder what
Aunt Loveday would have said had he dared broach such a subject to
that strong-minded woman.  Seeing, however, that my mother was set
upon going, he desisted at last, and put his cart at her service.
Somewhat to her astonishment, as I could see, I asked to be allowed
to go also, and, after some entreaty, prevailed.  So we all set out
behind Uncle Loveday's over-fed pony for Polkimbra.

There was a small crowd around the door of the "Lugger Inn" when we
drove up.  It appeared that the coroner had just arrived, and the
inquest was to begin at once.  Meanwhile, the folk were busy with
conjecture.  They made way, however, for my uncle, who, being on such
occasions a person of no little importance, easily gained us entry
into the Red Room where the inquiry was about to be held.  As we
stepped along the passage, the landlord's parrot, looking more than
ever like Aunt Elizabeth, almost frightened me out of my wits by
crying, "All hands lost! All hands lost! Lord ha' mercy on us!" Its
hoarse note still sounded in my ears, when the door opened, and we
stood in presence of the "crowner's quest."

I suppose the Red Room of the "Lugger" was full; and, indeed, as the
smallest inquest involves at least twelve men and a coroner, to say
nothing of witnesses, it must have been very full.  But for me, as
soon as my foot crossed the threshold, there was only one face, only
one pair of eyes, only one terrible presence, to be conscious of and
fear.  I saw him at once, and he saw me; but, unless it were that his
cruel eye glinted and his lips grew for the moment white and fixed,
he betrayed no consciousness of my presence there.

The coroner was speaking as we entered, but his voice sounded as
though far away and faint.  Uncle Loveday gave evidence, and I have a
dim recollection of two rows of gleaming buttons, but nothing more.
Then Jonathan, the coast-guardsman, was called.  He had seen, or
fancied he saw, a ship in distress near Gue Graze; had noticed no
light nor heard any signal of distress; had given information at
Lizard Town.  The rocket apparatus had been got out, and searchers
had scoured the cliffs as far as Porth Pyg, but nothing was to be
seen.  The search-party were returning, when they found a shipwrecked
sailor in company with a small boy, one Jasper Trenoweth, in
Ready-Money Cove.

At the sound of my own name I started, and for the second time since
our entry felt the eyes of the stranger question me.  At the same
time I felt my mother's clasp of my hand tighten, and knew that she
saw that look.

The air grew closer and the walls seemed to draw nearer as Jonathan's
voice continued its drowsy tale.  The afternoon sun poured in at the
window until it made the little wainscoted parlour like an oven, but
still for me it only lit up one pair of eyes.  The voices sounded
more and more like those of a dream; the scratching of pens and
shuffling of feet were, to my ears, as distant murmurs of the sea,
until the coroner's voice called--"Georgio Rhodojani."

Instantly I was wide awake, with every nerve on the stretch.  Again I
felt his eyes question me, again my mother's hand tightened upon
mine, as the stranger stood up and in softest, most musical tones
gave his evidence.  And the evidence of Georgio Rhodojani, Greek
sailor, as translated by Jacopo Rousapoulos, interpreter, of
Penzance, was this:--

"My name is Georgio Rhodojani.  I am a Greek by birth, and have been
a sailor all my life.  I was seaman on board the ship which was
wrecked last night on your horrible coast.  The ship belonged to
Bristol, and was homeward bound, but I know neither her name nor the
name of her captain."

At this strange opening, amazement fell upon all.  For myself, the
wild incongruity of this foreign tongue from lips which I had heard
utter such fluent and flute-like English swallowed up all other
wonder.

After a pause, seeing the marvelling looks of his audience, the
witness quietly explained--

"You wonder at this; but I am Greek, and cannot master your hard
names.  I joined the ship at Colombo as the captain was short of
hands.  I was wrecked in a Dutch vessel belonging to Dordrecht, off
Java, and worked my passage to Ceylon, seeking employment.  It is
not, therefore, extraordinary that I am so ignorant, and my mouth
cannot pronounce your English language, but show me your list of
ships and I will point her out to you."

There was a rustling of papers, and a list of East Indiamen was
handed up to him: he hastily ran his finger over the pages.  Suddenly
his face lighted up.

"Ah! this is she!--this is the ship that was wrecked last night!"

The coroner took the paper and slowly read out--"The _James and
Elizabeth_, of Bristol.  Captain--Antonius Merrydew."

"Ah, yes, that is she.  The babe here was the captain's child, born
on the voyage.  There were eighteen men on board, an English boy, and
the captain's wife.  The child was born off the African coast.
We sailed from Colombo on the 22nd of July last, with a cargo of
coffee and sugar.  Two days ago we were off a big harbour, of which I
do not know the name; but early yesterday morning were abreast of
what you call, I think, the Lizard.  The wind was S.W., and took us
into your terrible bay.  All yesterday we were tacking to get out.
Towards evening it blew a gale.  The captain had been ill ever since
we passed the Bay of Biscay.  We hoisted no signal, and knew not what
to do, for the captain was sick, and the mate drunk.  The mate began
to cry when we struck.  I alone got on to the jib-boom and jumped.
What became of the others I know not, but I jumped on to the rock by
which you found me this morning.  The vessel broke up in a very short
time.  I heard the men crying bitterly, but the mate's voice was
louder than any.  The captain of course was below, and so, when last
I saw them, were his wife and child, but she might have rushed upon
deck.  I was almost sucked back twice, but managed to scramble up.
It was not until daylight that I knew I was on the mainland, and
climbed down to the sands."

As this strange history proceeded, I know not who in that little
audience was most affected.  The jury, fascinated by the sweet voice
of the speaker, as well as the mystery about the vessel and its
unwitnessed disappearance, leant forward in their seats with strained
and breathless attention.  My mother could not take her eyes off the
stranger's face.  As he hesitated over the name of the ship, her very
lips grew white in agonised suspense, but when the coroner read "the
_James and Elizabeth_," she sank back in her seat with a low
"Thank God!" that told me what she had dreaded, and how terribly.
I myself knew not what to think, nor if my ears had heard aright.
Part of the tale I knew to be a lie; but how much?  And what of the
_Mary Jane?_ I looked round about.  A hush had succeeded the closing
words of Rhodojani.  Even the coroner was puzzled for a moment; but
improbable as the evidence might seem, there was none to gainsay it.
I alone, had they but known it, could give this demon the lie--I, an
unnoticed child.

The coroner put a question or two and then summed up.  Again the old
drowsy insensibility fell upon me.  I heard the jury return the
usual verdict of "Accidental Death," and, as my mother led me from
the room, the voice of Joe Roscorla (who had been on the jury)
saying, "Durn all foreigners! I don't hold by none of 'em."  As the
door slammed behind us, shutting out at last those piercing eyes, a
shrill screech from the landlord's parrot echoed through the house--

"All hands lost!  Lord ha' mercy on us!"



CHAPTER VI.


TELLS HOW A FACE LOOKED IN AT THE WINDOW OF LANTRIG; AND IN WHAT
MANNER MY FATHER CAME HOME TO US.

My mother and I walked homeward together by way of the cliffs.
We were both silent.  My heart ached to tell the whole story, and
prove that my tale of the _Mary Jane_ was no wanton lie; but fear
restrained me.  My mother was busy with her own thoughts.  She had
seen, I knew, the glance of intelligence which the stranger gave me;
she guessed that his story was a lie and that I knew it.  What she
could not guess was the horror that held my tongue fastened as with a
padlock.  So, both busy with bitter thoughts, we walked in silence to
Lantrig.

The evening meal was no better.  My food choked me, and after a
struggle I was forced to let it lie almost untouched.  But when the
fire was stirred, the candles lit, and I drew my footstool as usual
to her feet by the hearth, the old room looked so warm and cosy that
my pale fears began to vanish in its genial glow.  I had possessed
myself of the "Pilgrim's Progress," and the volume, a dumpy octavo,
lay on my knee.  As I read the story of Christian and Apollyon to its
end, a new courage fought in me with my morning fears.

"In this combat no man can imagine, unless he has seen and heard as I
did, what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all the time of
the fight: he _spake like a dragon_; and, on the other side, what
sighs and groans burst from Christian's heart.  I never saw him all
the while give so much as one pleasant look, till he perceived that
he had wounded Apollyon with his two-edged sword; then indeed he did
smile and look upward! but it was the dreadfullest sight that ever I
saw."

I glanced up at my mother, half resolved.  She was leaning forward a
little and gazing into the fire, that lit up her pale face and
wonderful eyes with a sympathetic softness.  I can remember now how
sweet she looked and how weary--that tender figure outlined in warm
glow against the stern, dark room.  And all the time her heart was
slowly breaking with yearning for him that came not.  I did not know
it then; but when does childhood know or understand the suffering of
later life?  I looked down upon the page once more, turned back a
leaf or two, and read:

"Then did Christian begin to be afraid, and to cast in his mind
whether to go back or stand his ground.  But he considered again that
he had no armour for his back, and therefore thought that to turn his
back to him might give him greater advantage, with ease to pierce him
with his darts; therefore he resolved to venture and stand his
ground."

"I come on them in bed sometimes, and sometimes from behind."
The words of my Apollyon came across my mind.  Should I speak and
seek counsel?--What was that?

It was a tear that fell upon my hand as it lay across my mother's
lap.  Since the day when father left us I had never seen her weep.
Was it for my deceit?  I looked up again and saw that her eyes were
brimming with sorrow.  My fears and doubts were forgotten.  I would
speak and tell her all my tale.

"Mother."

Somewhat ashamed at being discovered, she dried her eyes and tried to
smile--a poor pitiful smile, with the veriest ghost of joy in it.

"Yes, Jasper."

"Is Apollyon still alive?"

"He stands for the powers of evil, Jasper, and they are always
alive."

"But, I mean, does he walk about the world like a man?  Is he
_really_ alive?"

"Why, no, Jasper.  What nonsense has got into your head now?"

"Because, mother, I met him to-day.  That is, he said he was
Apollyon, and that he would come and carry me off if--"

Half apprehensive at my boldness, I cast an anxious look around as I
spoke.  Nothing met my eyes but the familiar furniture and the
dancing shadows on the wall, until their gaze fell upon the window,
and rested there, whilst my heart grew suddenly stiff with terror,
and my tongue clave to my mouth.

As my voice broke off suddenly, mother glanced at me in expectation.
Seeing my fixed stare and dropped jaw, she too looked at the window,
then started to her feet with a shriek.

For there, looking in upon us with a wicked smile, was the white face
of the sailor Rhodojani.

For a second or two, petrified with horror, we stood staring at it.
The evil smile flickered for a moment, baring the white teeth and
lighting the depths of those wolfish eyes; then, with a fiendish
laugh, vanished in the darkness.

He had, then, told the truth when he promised to haunt me.
Beyond the shock of mortal terror, I was but little amazed.
It seemed but natural that he should come as he had threatened.
Only I was filled with awful expectation of his vengeance, and stood
aghast at the consequences of my rashness.  By instinct I turned to
my mother for protection.

But what ailed her?  She had fallen back in her chair and was still
staring with parted lips at the dark pane that a minute ago had
framed the horrid countenance.  When at last she spoke, her words
were wild and meaningless, with a dreadful mockery of laughter that
sent a swift pang of apprehension to my heart.

"Mother, it is gone.  What is the matter?"

Again a few meaningless syllables and that awful laugh.

And so throughout that second awful night did she mutter and laugh,
whilst I, helpless and terror-stricken, strove to soothe her and
recall her to speech and sense.  The slow hours dragged by, and still
I knelt before her waiting for the light.  The slow clock sounded the
hours, and still she gave no sign of understanding.  The mice crept
out of their accustomed holes and jumped back startled at her laugh.
The fire died low and the candles died out; the wind moaned outside,
the tamarisk branches swished against the pane; the hush of night,
with its intervals of mysterious sound, held the house; but all the
time she never ceased to gaze upon the window, and every now and
then to mutter words that were no echo of her mind or voice.
Daylight, with its premonitory chill, crept upon us at last, but oh,
how slowly!  Daylight looked in and found us as that cruel sight had
left us, helpless and alone.

But with daylight came some courage.  Had there been neighbours near
Lantrig I should have run to summon them before, but Polkimbra was
the nearest habitation, and Polkimbra was almost two miles off,
across a road possessed by horrors and perhaps tenanted by that
devilish face.  And how could I leave my mother alone?  But now that
day had come I would run to Lizard Town and see Uncle Loveday.
I slipped on my boots, unbolted the door, cast a last look at my
mother still sitting helpless and vacant of soul, and rushed from the
house.  The sound of her laughter rang in my ears as the door closed
behind me.

Weak, haggard and wild of aspect, I ran and stumbled along the
cliffs.  Dead Man's Rock lay below wrapped in a curtain of mist.
Thick clouds were rolling up from seaward; the grey light of
returning day made sea, sky and land seem colourless and wan.
But for me there was no sight but Polkimbra ahead.  As I gained the
little village I ran down the hill to the "Lugger" and knocked upon
the door.  Heavens! how long it was before I was answered.  At last
the landlady's head appeared at an upper window.  With a few words to
Mrs. Busvargus, which caused that worthy soul to dress in haste with
many ejaculations, I raced up the hill again and across the downs for
Lizard Town.  My strength was giving way; my head swam, my sides
ached terribly, my legs almost refused to obey my will, and a
thousand lights danced and sparkled before my eyes, but still I kept
on, now staggering, now stumbling, but still onward, nor stopped
until I stood before Uncle Loveday's door.

There at last I fell; but luckily against the door, so that in a
moment or two I became conscious of Aunt Elizabeth standing over me
and regarding me as a culprit caught red-handed in some atrocious
crime.

"Hoity-toity!  What's the matter now?  Why, it's Jasper!  Well, of
all the freaks, to come knocking us up!  What's the matter with the
boy?  Jasper, what ails you?"

Incoherently I told my story, at first to Aunt Elizabeth alone, but
presently, in answer to her call, Uncle Loveday came down to hear.
The pair stood silent and wondering.

They were not elaborately dressed.  Aunt Elizabeth, it is true, was
smothered from head to foot in a gigantic Inverness cape, that might
have been my uncle's were it not obviously too large for that little
man.  Her nightcap, on the other hand, was ostentatiously her own.
No other woman would have had strength of mind to wear such a
head-dress.  Uncle Loveday's costume was even more singular; for the
first time I saw him without a single brass button, and for the first
time I understood how much he owed to those decorations.  His first
words were--

"Jasper, I hope you are telling me the truth.  Your mother told me
yesterday of some cock-and-bull story concerning the _Anna Maria_ or
some such vessel.  I hope this is not another such case.  I have told
you often enough where little boys who tell falsehoods go to."

My white face must have been voucher for my truth on this occasion;
for Aunt Elizabeth cut him short with the single word "Breakfast,"
and haled me into the little parlour whilst the pair went to dress.

As I waited, I heard the sound of the pony without, and presently
Aunt Elizabeth returned in her ordinary costume to worry the small
servant who laid breakfast.  Whether Uncle Loveday ever had that meal
I do not know to this day, for whilst it was being prepared I saw him
get into the little carriage and drive off towards Lantrig.  I was
told that I could not go until I had eaten; and so with a sore heart,
but no thought of disobedience, I turned to breakfast.

The meal had scarcely begun when the door opened and Master Thomas
Loveday sauntered into the room.  Master Thomas Loveday, a youth of
some eight summers, was, in default of a home of his own, quartered
permanently upon my uncle, whose brother's son he was.  His early
days had been spent in India.  After, however, both father and mother
had succumbed to the climate of Madras, he was sent home to England,
and had taken root in Lizard Town.  Hitherto, his life had been one
long lazy slumber.  Whenever we were sent, on his rare visits to
Lantrig, to "play together," as old age always rudely puts it, his
invariable rule had been to go to sleep on the first convenient spot.
Consequently his presence embarrassed me not a little.  He was a
handsome boy, with blue eyes, long lashes, fair hair, and a gentle
habit of speech.  When I came to know him better, I learnt the quick
wit and subtle power that lay beneath his laziness of manner; but at
present the soul of Thomas Loveday slept.

He was certainly not wide awake when he entered the room.  With a
sleepy nod at me, and no trace of surprise at my presence, he pursued
his meal.  Occasionally, as Aunt Elizabeth put a fresh question, he
would regard her with a long stare, but otherwise gave no sign of
animation.  This finally so exasperated my aunt that she addressed
him--

"Thomas, do not stare."

Thomas looked mildly surprised for a moment, and then inquired, "Why
not?"

"Does the boy think I'm a wild Indian?"  The question was addressed
to me, but I could not say, so kept a discreet silence.  Thomas
relieved me from my difficulty by answering, "No," thoughtfully.

"Then why stare so?  I'm sure I don't know what boys are made of,
nowadays."

"Slugs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails," was the dreamy answer.

"Thomas, how dare you?  I should like to catch the person who taught
you such nonsense.  I'd teach him!"

"It was Uncle Loveday," remarked the innocent Thomas.

There was an awful pause; which I broke at length by asking to be
allowed to go.  Aunt Elizabeth saw her way to getting rid of the
offender.

"Thomas, you might walk with Jasper over the downs to Lantrig.
It will be nice exercise for you."

"It may be exercise, aunt, but--"

"Do not answer me, but go.  Where do you expect little boys will go
to, who are always idle?"

"Sleep?" hazarded Thomas.

"Thomas, you shall learn the whole of Dr. Watts's poem on the
sluggard before you go to bed this night."

At this the boy slowly rose, took his cap, stood before her, and
solemnly repeated the whole of that melancholy tale, finishing the
last line at the door and gravely bowing himself out.  I followed,
awestruck, and we set out in silence.

At first, anxiety for my mother possessed all my thoughts, but
presently I ventured to congratulate Tom on his performance.

"She has read it to me so often," replied he, "that I can't help
knowing it.  I hate Dr. Watts, and I love to go to sleep.  I dream
such jolly things.  Sleep is ever so much nicer than being awake,
isn't it?"

I wanted sleep, having had but little for two nights, and could
therefore agree with him.

"You get such jolly adventures when you dream," said Tom,
reflectively.

I had been rather surfeited with adventures lately, so held my peace.

"Now, real life is so dull.  If one could only meet with
adventures--"

I caught the sound of wheels behind us, and turned round.  We had
struck off the downs on to the high road.  A light gig with one
occupant was approaching us.  As it drew near the driver hailed us.

"Hullo! lads, is this the road for Polkimbra?"

The speaker was a short, grizzled, seafaring man, with a kind face
and good-humoured mouth.  He drove execrably, and pulled his quiet
mare right back upon her haunches.

I answered that it was.

"Are you bound for there?  Yes?  Jump up then.  I'll give you a
lift."

I looked at Tom; he, of course, was ready for anything that would
save trouble, so we clambered up beside the stranger.

"There was a wreck there yesterday, I've heard," said he, after we
had gone a few yards, "and an inquest, and, by the tale I heard, a
lot of lies told."

I started.  The man did not notice it, but continued--

"Maybe you've heard of it.  Well, it's a rum world, and a fine lot of
lies gets told every day, but you don't often get so accomplished a
liar as that chap--what's his name?  Blessed if I can tackle it; not
but what it's another lie, I'll wager."

I was listening intently.  He continued more to himself than to us--

"An amazing liar, though I wonder what his game was.  It beats me;
beats me altogether.  The '_James and Elizabeth_,' says he, as large
as life.  I take it the fellow couldn't 'a been fooling who brought
the news to Falmouth.  Didn't know me from Adam, and was fairly put
about when he saw how I took it, and, says he, ''twas the _James and
Elizabeth_ the chap said, as sure as I stand here.'  Boy, do you
happen to know the name of the vessel that ran ashore here, night
afore last?"

I had grown accustomed to being asked this dreadful question, and
therefore answered as bravely as I could.  "The _James and
Elizabeth_, sir."

"Captain's name?"

"Captain Antonius Merrydew."

"Ah, poor chap! He was lying sick below when she struck, wasn't he?
And he had a wife aboard, and a child born at sea, hadn't he?
Fell sick in the Bay o' Biscay, like any land-lubber, didn't he?
Why, 'tis like play-actin'; damme! 'tis better than that."

With this the man burst into a shout of laughter and slapped his
thigh until his face grew purple with merriment.

"What d'ye think of it, boy, for a rare farce?  Was ever the likes of
it heard?  Captain Antonius Merrydew sick in the Bay o' Biscay!
Ho, ho! Where's play-actin' beside it?"

"Wasn't it true, sir?"

"True?  God bless the boy!   Look me in the face: look me in the
face, and then ask me if it's true."

"But why should it not be true, sir?"

"Because I am Captain Antonius Merrydew!"

For the rest of the journey I sat stunned.  Thomas beside me was wide
awake and staring, seeing his way to an adventure at last.  It was I
that dreamed--I heard without comprehension the rest of the captain's
tale:--how he had come, after a quick passage from Ceylon, to
Falmouth with the barque _James and Elizabeth_, just in time to hear
of this monstrous lie; how he was unmarried, and never had a day's
illness in his life; how, suspecting foul play, he had hired a horse
and gig with a determination to drive over to Polkimbra and learn the
truth; how a horse and gig were the most cursedly obstinate of
created things; with much besides in the way of oaths and
ejaculations.  All this I must have heard, for memory brought them
back later; but I did not listen.  My life and circumstances had got
the upper hand of me, and were dancing a devil's riot.

At last, after much tacking and porting of helm, we navigated
Polkimbra Hill and cast anchor before the "Lugger."  There we
alighted, thanked the captain, and left him piping all hands to the
horse's head.  His cheery voice followed us down to the sands.

We had determined to cut across Polkimbra Beach and climb up to
Lantrig by Ready-Money Cliffs, as in order to go along the path above
the cliffs we should have to ascend Polkimbra Hill again.  The beach
was so full of horror to me that without a companion I could not have
crossed it; but Tom's presence lent me courage.  Tom was nearer to
excitement than I had ever seen him; he grew voluble; praised the
captain, admired his talk, and declared adventure to be abroad in the
air--in fact, threw up his head as though he scented it.

Yes, adventure was in the air.  It was not exactly to my taste,
however, nor did the thought of my poor mother at home make me more
sympathetic with Tom's ecstasy; so whilst he chattered I strode
gloomily forward over the beach.

The day was drawing towards noon.  October was revelling in an
after-taste of summer, and smiled in broad glory over beach and sea.
A light breeze bore eastward a few fleecy clouds, and the waves
danced and murmured before its breath.  Their salt scent was in
our nostrils, and the glitter of the sand in our eyes.  Black and
sombre in the clear air, Dead Man's Rock rose in gloomy isolation
from the sea, while the sea-birds swept in glistening circles round
its summit.  But what was that at its base?

Seemingly, a little knot of men stood at the water's edge.  As we
drew nearer I could distinguish their forms but not their occupation,
for they stood in a circle, intent on some object in their midst
concealed from our view.  Presently, however, they fell into a rough
line as though making for the archway to Ready-Money Cove.  Something
they carried among them, and continually stooped over; but what it
was I could not see.  Their pace was very slow, but they turned into
the arch and were disappearing, when I caught sight of the uncouth
little figure of Joe Roscorla among the last, and ran forward,
hailing him by name.

At the sound of my voice Joe started, turned round and made a slow
pause; then, with a few words to his neighbour, came quickly towards
me.  As he drew near, I saw that his face was white and his manner
full of embarrassment; but he put on a smile, and spoke first--

"Why, Jasper, what be doin' along here?"

"I'm going home.  Has Uncle Loveday seen mother? And is she better?"

"Aw iss, he've a seen her an' she be quieter: leastways, he be bound
to do her a power o' good.  But what be goin' back for?  'Tain't no
use botherin' indoors wi' your mother in thicky wisht state.
Run about an' get some play."

"What were you doing down by the Rock just now, Joe?"

Joe hesitated for a while; stammered, and then said, "Nuthin."

"But, Joe, you were doing something: what were you carrying over to
Ready-Money?"

"Look-ee here, my lad, run an' play, an' doan't ax no questions.
'Tain't for little boys to ax questions.  Now I comes to think of it,
Doctor said as you was to stay over to Lizard Town, 'cos there ain't
no need of a passel of boys in a sick house: so run along back."

Joe's voice had a curious break in it, and his whole bearing was so
unaccountable that I did not wonder when Tom quietly said--

"Joe, you're telling lies."

Now Joe was, in an ordinary way, the soul of truth: so I looked for
an explosion.  To my surprise, however, he took no notice of the
insult, but turned again to me--

"Jasper, lad, run along back: do'ee now."

His voice was so full of entreaty that a sudden suspicion took hold
of me.

"Joe, is--has anything happened to mother?"

"Noa, to be sure: she'll be gettin' well fast enough, if so be as you
let her be."

"Then I'll go and see Uncle Loveday, and find out if I am really to
go back."

I made a motion to go, but he caught me quickly by the arm.

"Now, Jasper, doan't-'ee go: run back, I tell'ee--run back--I tell'ee
you _must_ go back."

His words were so earnest and full of command that I turned round and
faced him.  Something in his eyes filled me with sickening fear.

"Joe, what were you carrying?"

No answer.

"Joe, what were you carrying?"

Still no answer; but an appealing motion of the hand.

"Joe, what was it?"

"Go back!" he said, hoarsely.  "Go back!"

"I will not, until I have seen what you were carrying."

"Go back, boy: for God's sake go back!"

I wrenched myself from his grasp, and ran with all speed.  Joe and
Tom followed me, but fear gave me fleetness.  Behind I could hear
Joe's panting voice, crying, "Come back!" but the agony in his tone
set me running faster.  I flew through the archway, and saw the small
procession half-way across the cove.  At my shout they halted,
paused, and one or two advanced as if to stop me.  But I dashed
through their hands into their midst, and saw--God in heaven!
What?  The drowned face of my father!

Tenderly as women they lifted me from the body.  Gently and with
tear-stained faces, they stood around and tried to comfort me.
Reverently, while Joe Roscorla held me in his arms behind, they took
up the corpse of him they had known and loved so well, and carried it
up the cliffs to Lantrig.  As they lifted the latch and bore the body
across the threshold, a yell of maniac laughter echoed through the
house to the very roof.

And this was my father's "Welcome Home!"

Nay, not all; for as Uncle Loveday started to his feet, the door
behind him flew open, and my mother, all in white, with very madness
in her eyes, rushed to the corpse, knelt, caught the dead hand,
kissed and fondled the dead face, cooing and softly laughing the
while with a tender rapture that would have moved hell itself to
pity.

In this manner it was that these two fond lovers met.



CHAPTER VII.


TELLS HOW UNCLE LOVEDAY MADE A DISCOVERY; AND WHAT THE TIN BOX
CONTAINED.

An hour afterwards I was sitting at the bedside of my dying mother.
The shock of that terrible meeting had brought her understanding--and
death: for as her mind returned her life ebbed away.  White and
placid she lay upon her last bed, and spoke no word; but in her eyes
could be read her death-warrant, and by me that which was yet more
full of anguish, a tender but unfading reproach.  This world is full
of misunderstandings, but seldom is met one so desperate.  How could
I tell her now?  And how could she ever understand?  It was all too
late.  "Too late! too late!" the words haunted me there as the bright
sun struggled through the drawn blind and illumined her saintly face.
They and the look in her sweet eyes have haunted me many a day since
then, and would be with me yet, did I not believe she knows the truth
at last.  There are too many ghosts in my memories for Heaven to
lightly add this one more.

She was dying--slowly and peacefully dying, and this was the end of
her waiting.  He had returned at last, this husband for whose coming
she had watched so long.  He had returned at last, after all his
labour, and had been laid at her feet a dead man.  She was free to go
and join her love.  To me, child as I was, this was sorely cruel.
Death, as I know now, is very merciful even when he seems most
merciless, but as I sat and watched the dear life slowly drift away
from me, it was a hard matter to understand.

The pale sunlight came, and flickered, and went; but she lay to all
seeming unchanged.  Her pulse's beat was failing--failing; the broken
heart feebly struggling to its rest; but her sad eyes were still the
same, appealing, questioning, rebuking--all without hope of answer or
explanation.  So were they when the sobbing fishermen lifted her from
the body, so would they be until closed for the last sleep.  It was
very cruel.

My father's body lay in the room below, with Uncle Loveday and Mrs.
Busvargus for watchers.  Now and again my uncle would steal softly
upstairs, and as softly return with hopelessness upon his face.
The clock downstairs gave the only sound I heard, as it marked the
footsteps of the dark angel coming nearer and nearer.  Twice my
mother's lips parted as if to speak; but though I bent down to catch
her words, I could hear no sound.

So, as I sat and watched her waxen face, all the sweet memories of
her came back in a sad, reproachful train.  Once more we sat together
by the widowed hearth, reading: once more we stood upon the rocky
edge of Pedn-glas and looked into the splendours of the summer sunset
"for father's ship:" once more we knelt together in Polkimbra Church,
and prayed for his safe return: once more I heard that sweet, low
voice--once more?  Ah, never, never more!

Uncle Loveday stole into the room on tip-toe, and looked at her; then
turned and asked--

"Has she spoken yet?"

"No."

He was about to leave when the lips parted again, and this time she
spoke--

"He is coming, coming.  Hush! that is his step!"

The dark eyes were ablaze with expectation: the pale cheek aglow with
hope.  I bent down over the bed, for her voice was very low.

"He is coming, I know it.  Listen!  Oh, husband, come quicker,
quicker!"

Alas! poor saint, the step you listen for has gone before, and is
already at the gate of heaven.

"He is here! Oh, husband, husband, you have come for me!"

A moment she sat up with arms outstretched, and glory in her face;
then fell back, and the arms that caught her were the arms of God.


After the first pang of bereavement had spent itself, Uncle Loveday
got me to bed, and there at last I slept.  The very bewilderment of
so much sorrow enforced sleep, and sleep was needed: so that, worn
out with watching and excitement, I had not so much as a dream to
trouble me.  It was ten o'clock in the morning when I awoke, and saw
my uncle sitting beside the bed.  Another sun was bright in the
heavens outside: the whole world looked so calm and happy that my
first impulse was to leap up and run, as was my custom, to mother's
room.  Then my eyes fell on Uncle Loveday, and the whole dreadful
truth came surging into my awakened brain.  I sank back with a low
moan upon the pillow.

Uncle Loveday, who had been watching me, stepped to the bed and took
my hand.

"Jasper, boy, are you better?"

After a short struggle with my grief, I plucked up heart to answer
that I was.

"That's a brave boy.  I asked, because I have yet to tell you
something.  I am a doctor, you know, Jasper, and so you may take my
word when I say there is no good in what is called 'breaking news.'
It is always best to have the pain over and done with; at least,
that's my experience.  Now, my dear boy, though God knows you have
sorrow enough, there is still something to tell: and if you are the
boy I take you for, it is best to let you know at once."

Dimly wondering what new blow fortune could deal me, I sat up in bed
and looked at my uncle helplessly.

"Jasper, you think--do you not--that your father was drowned?"

"Of course, uncle."

"He was not drowned."

"Not drowned!"

"No, Jasper, he was murdered."

The words came slowly and solemnly, and even with the first shock of
surprise the whole truth dawned upon me.  This, then, explained the
effect my name had wrought upon those two strange men.  This was the
reason why, as we sat together upon Dead Man's Rock, the eyes of John
Railton had refused to meet mine: this was the reason why his
murderer had gripped me so viciously upon Ready-Money Beach.
These few words of my uncle's began slowly to piece together the
scattered puzzle of the last two days, so that I half guessed the
answer as I asked--

"Murdered!  How?"

"He was stabbed to death."

I knew it, for I remembered the empty sheath that hung at Rhodojani's
waist, and heard again Railton's words, "Captain, it was your knife."
As certainly as if I had fitted the weapon to its case, I knew that
man had prompted father's murder.  Even as I knew it my terror of him
faded away, and a blind and helpless hate sprang up in its stead:
helpless now, but some day to be masterful and worthy of heed.
That the man who called himself Georgio Rhodojani was guilty of one
death, I knew from the witness of my own eyes: that he had two more
lives upon his black account--for the hand that struck my father had
also slain my mother--I knew as surely.

    "And the devil has got his due, my lads!"

No, not yet: there was still one priceless soul for him to wait for.

"He was stabbed," repeated Uncle Loveday, "stabbed to the heart, and
from behind.  I found this blade as I examined your poor father's
body.  It was broken off close to the hilt, and left in the wound,
which can hardly have bled at all.  Death must have been immediate.
It's a strange business, Jasper, and a strange blade by the look of
it."

I took the blade from his hand.  It was about four inches in length,
sharp, and curiously worked: one side was quite plain, but the other
was covered with intricate tracery, and down the centre, bordered
with delicate fruit and flowers, I spelt out the legend "Ricordati."

"What does that word mean?" I asked, as I handed back the steel.
My voice was so calm and steady that Uncle Loveday glanced at me for
a moment in amazement before he answered--

"It's not Latin, Jasper, but it's like Latin, and I should think must
mean 'Remember,' or something of the sort."

"'Remember,'" I repeated.  "I will, uncle.  As surely as father was
murdered, I will remember--when the time comes."

They were strange words from a boy.  My uncle looked at me again, but
doubtless thinking my brain turned with grief, said nothing.

"Have you told anybody?" I asked at length.

"I have seen nobody.  There will be an inquest, of course, but in
this case an inquest can do nothing.  Murderer and murdered have both
gone to their account.  By the way, I suppose nothing has been seen
of the man who gave evidence.  It was an unlikely tale; and this
makes it the more suspicious.  Bless my soul!" said my uncle,
suddenly, "to think it never struck me before!  Your father was to
sail in the _Belle Fortune_, and this man gave the name of the ship
as the _James and Elizabeth_."

"It was the _Belle Fortune_, and the man told a falsehood."

"I suppose it must have been."

"I know it was."

"Know?  How do you know?"

"Because the _James and Elizabeth_ is lying at this moment in
Falmouth Harbour, and her captain is down at the 'Lugger.'"

Thereupon I told how I had met with Captain Antonius Merrydew.
Nay, more, for my heart ached for confidence, I recounted the whole
story of my meeting with John Railton, and the struggle upon Dead
Man's Rock.  Every word I told, down to the dead man's legacy--the
packet and letter which I hid in the cow-house.  As the tale
proceeded my uncle's eyes grew wider and wider with astonishment.
But I held on calmly and resolutely to the end, nor after the first
shock of wonderment did he doubt my sanity or truthfulness, but grew
more and more gravely interested.

When I had finished my narrative there was a long silence.  Finally
Uncle Loveday spoke--

"It's a remarkable story--a very remarkable story," he said, slowly
and thoughtfully.  "In all my life I have never heard so strange a
tale.  But the man must be caught.  He cannot have gone far, if, as
you say, he was here at Lantrig only the night before last.  I expect
they are on the look-out for him down at Polkimbra since they have
heard the captain's statement; but all the same I will send off Joe
Roscorla, who is below, to make sure.  I must have a pipe, Jasper, to
think this over.  As a general rule I am not a smoker: your aunt does
not--ahem!--exactly like the smell.  But it collects the thoughts,
and this wants thinking over.  Meanwhile, you might dress if you feel
well enough.  Run to the shed and get the packet; we will read it
over together when I have finished my pipe.  It is a remarkable
story," he repeated, as he slowly opened the door, "a most marvellous
story.  I must have a pipe.  A most--remarkable--tale."

With this he went downstairs and left me to dress.

I did so, and ran downstairs to the cow-shed.  No one had been there.
With eager fingers I tore away the bricks from the crumbling mortar,
and drew out my prize.  The buckle glittered in the light that stole
through the gaping door.  All was safe, and as I left it.

Clutching my treasure, I ran back to the house and found Mrs.
Busvargus spreading the midday meal.  Until that was over, I knew
that Uncle Loveday would not attack the mystery.  He was sitting
outside in the front garden smoking solemnly, and the wreaths of his
pipe, curling in through the open door, filled the house with
fragrance.

I crept upstairs to my mother's door, and reverently entered the
dim-lit room.  They had laid the two dead lovers side by side upon
the bed.  Very peacefully they slept the sleep that was their
meeting--peacefully as though no wickedness had marred their lives or
wrought their death.  I could look upon them calmly now.  My father
had left his heritage--a heritage far different from that which he
went forth to win; but I accepted it nevertheless.  Had they known,
in heaven, the full extent of that inheritance, would they not, as I
kissed their dead lips in token of my acceptance, have given some
sign to stay me?  Had I known, as I bent over them, to what the oath
in my heart would bring me, would I even then have renounced it?
I cannot say.  The dead lips were silent, and only the dead know what
will be.

Uncle Loveday was already at table when I descended.  But small was
our pretence of eating.  Mrs. Busvargus, it is true, had lost no
appetite through sorrow; but Mrs. Busvargus was accustomed to such
scenes, and in her calling treated Death with no more to-do than she
would a fresh customer at her husband's inn.  Long attendance at
death-beds seemed to have given that good woman a perennial youth,
and certainly that day she seemed to have lost the years which I had
gained.  Uncle Loveday made some faint display of heartiness; but it
was the most transparent feigning.  He covered his defection by
pressing huge helpings upon me, so that my plate was bidding fair to
become a new Tower of Babel, when Mrs. Busvargus interposed and swept
the meal away; after which she disappeared into the back kitchen to
"wash up," and was no more seen; but we heard loud splashings at
intervals as if she had found a fountain, and were renewing her youth
in it.

Left to ourselves, we sat silent for a while, during which Uncle
Loveday refilled and lit his pipe and plunged again into thought,
with his eyes fixed on the rafters.  Whether because his cogitations
led to something, or the tobacco had soothed him sufficiently, he
finally turned to me and asked--

"Have you got that packet?"

I produced it.  He took his big red handkerchief from his pocket,
spread it on the table, and began slowly to undo the strap.
Then after arranging apart the buckle, the letter, and the tin box,
he inquired--

"Was it like this when the man gave it to you?"

"No, the letter was separate.  I slipped it under the strap to keep
it safe."

"It seems to me," said my uncle, adjusting his spectacles and
unfolding the paper, "illegible, or almost so.  It has evidently been
thoroughly soaked with salt water.  Come here and see if your young
eyes can help me to decipher it."

We bent together over the blurred handwriting.  The letter was
evidently in a feminine hand; but the characters were rudely and
inartistically formed, while every here and there a heavy down-stroke
or flourish marred the beauty of the page.  Wherever such thick lines
occurred the ink had run and formed an illegible smear.  Such as it
was, with great difficulty, and after frequent trials, we spelt out
the letter as follows:--

                    "The Welc . . . Home, Barbican, Plymo."
    "My Deerest Jack,--This to hope it will find You quite well, as
     it leaves Me at present.  Also to say that I hope this voyage
      . . . _new Leaf_ with Simon as Companny, who is a _Good
     Friend_, though, as you well know, I did not think . . . came
     _courting me_.  But it is for the best, and . . . liquor . . .
     which I pray to Heaven may begin happier Days.  Trade is very
     poor, and I do not know . . . little Jenny, who is getting on
     _Famously_ with her Schooling.  She keaps the Books already,
     which is a great saving . . . looks in often and sits in the
     parlour.  He says as you have Done Well to be . . . _Wave_, but
     misdoubts Simon, which I tell him must be wrong, for it was him
     that advised . . . the fuss and warned against liquor, which he
     never took Himself.  Jenny is so Fond of her Books, and says she
     will _teech you to write_ when you come home, which will be a
     great _Comfort_, you being away so long and never a word.  And I
     am doing wonders under her teaching, which I dare say she will
     let you know of it all in the letter she is writing to go along
     with this . . . Simon to write for you, who is a . . . scholar,
     which is natural . . . in the office.  So that I wonder he left
     it, having no taste for the sea that ever I heard . . . be the
     making of you both.  I forgot to tell . . . very strange when he
     left, but what with the hurry and bussle it _slipped my mind_
     . . . wonderful to me to think of, my talking to you so natural
     . . . distance.  And so no more at present from your loving
     wife,"
              "LUCY RAILTON."

    "Jenny says . . . will not alter, being more like as if it came
     from me.  Munny is very scarce.  I wish you could get . . ."

This was all, and small enough, as I thought, was the light it threw
on the problem before us.  Uncle Loveday read it over three or four
times; then folded up the letter and looked at me over his
spectacles.

"You say this cut-throat fellow--this Rhodojani, as he called
himself--spoke English?"

"As well as we do.  He and the other spoke English all the time."

"H'm!  And he talked about a Jenny, did he?"

"He was saying something about 'Jenny not finding a husband' when
John Railton struck him."

"Then it's clear as daylight that he's called Simon, and not Georgio.
Also if I ever bet (though far be it from me) I would bet my buttons
that his name is no more Rhodojani than mine is Methuselah."

He paused for a moment, absorbed in thought; then resumed--

"This Lucy Railton is John Railton's wife and keeps a public-house
called the 'Welcome Home!' on the Barbican, Plymouth.  Simon, that is
to say Rhodojani, was in love with Lucy Railton, and his conduct,
says she, was strange before leaving; but he pretended to be John
Railton's friend, and, from what you say, must have had an
astonishing influence over the unhappy man.  Simon, we learn, is a
scholar," pursued my uncle, after again consulting the letter, "and I
see the word 'office' here, which makes it likely that he was a clerk
of some kind, who took to the sea for some purpose of his own, and
induced Railton to go with him, perhaps for the same purpose, perhaps
for another.  Anyhow, it seems it was high time for Railton to go
somewhere, for besides the references to liquor, which tally with
Simon's words upon Dead Man's Rock, we also meet with the ominous
words 'the fuss,' wherein, Jasper, I find the definite article not
without meaning."

Uncle Loveday was beaming with conscious pride in his own powers of
penetration.  He acknowledged my admiring attention with a modest
wave of the hand, and then proceeded to clear his throat
ostentatiously, as one about to play a trump card.

"As I say, Jasper, this fellow must have had some purpose to drag him
off to sea from an office stool--some strong purpose, and, from what
we know of the man, some ungodly purpose.  Now, the question is, What
was it?  On the Rock, as you say, he charged John Railton with having
a certain Will in his possession.  Your father started from England
with a Will in his possession.  This is curious, to say the
least--very curious; but I do not see how we are to connect this with
the man Simon's sudden taste for the sea, for, you know, he could not
possibly have heard of Amos Trenoweth's Will."

"You and aunt were the only people father told of it."

"Quite so; and your father (excuse me, Jasper) not being a born fool,
naturally didn't cry his purpose about the streets of Plymouth when
he took his passage.  Still, it's curious.  Your father sailed from
Plymouth and this pair of rascals sailed from Plymouth--not that
there's anything in that; hundreds sail out of the Sound every week,
and we have nothing to show when Simon and John started--it may have
been before your father.  But look here, Jasper, what do you make of
that?"

I bent over the letter, and where my uncle's finger pointed, read,
"He says as you have Done Well to be . . . _Wave_."

"Well, uncle?"

"Well, my boy; what do you make of it?"

"I can make nothing of it."

"No?  You see that solitary word '_Wave_'?"

"Yes."

"What was the ship called in which your father sailed?"

"The _Golden Wave_."

"That's it, the _Golden Wave_.  Now, what do you make of it?"

My uncle leaned back in his chair and looked at me over his
spectacles, with the air of one who has played his trump card and
watches for its effect.   A certain consciousness of merit and
expectancy of approbation animated his person; his reasoning
staggered me, and he saw it, nor was wholly displeased.
After waiting some time for my reply, he added--

"Of course I may be wrong, but it's curious.  I do not think I am
wrong, when I mark what it proves.  It proves, first, that these two
ruffians--for ruffians they both were, as we must conclude, in spite
of John Railton's melancholy end--it proves, I say, that these two
sailed along with your father.  They come home with him, are wrecked,
and your father's body is found--murdered.  Evidence, slight
evidence, but still worthy of attention, points to them.  Now, if it
could be proved that they knew, at starting or before, of your
father's purpose, it would help us; and, to my mind, this letter goes
far to prove that wickedness of some sort was the cause of their
going.  What do you think?"

Uncle Loveday cleared his throat and looked at me again with
professional pride in his diagnosis.  There was a pause, broken only
by Mrs. Busvargus splashing in the back kitchen.

"Good heavens!" said my uncle, "is that woman taking headers?
Come, Jasper, what do you think?"

"I think," I replied, "we had better look at the tin box."

"Bless my soul!  There's something in the boy, after all.  I had
clean forgotten it."

The box was about six inches by four, and some four inches in depth.
The tin was tarnished by the sea, but the cover had been tightly
fastened down and secured with a hasp and pin.  Uncle Loveday drew
out the pin, and with some difficulty raised the lid.  Inside lay a
tightly-rolled bundle of papers, seemingly uninjured.  These he drew
out, smoothed, and carefully opened.

As his eyes met the writing, his hand dropped, and he sank back--a
very picture of amazement--in his chair.

"My God!"

"What's the matter?"

"It's your father's handwriting!"

I looked at this last witness cast up by the sea and read, "The
Journal of Ezekiel Trenoweth, of Lantrig."



CHAPTER VIII.


CONTAINS THE FIRST PART OF MY FATHER'S JOURNAL; SETTING FORTH HIS
MEETING WITH MR. ELIHU SANDERSON, OF BOMBAY; AND MY GRANDFATHER'S
MANUSCRIPT.

It was indeed my father's Journal, thus miraculously preserved to us
from the sea.  As we sat and gazed at this inanimate witness, I
doubt not the same awe of an all-seeing Providence possessed the
hearts of both of us.  Little more than twenty-four hours ago had my
dead father crossed the threshold of his home, and now his voice had
come from the silence of another world to declare the mystery of his
death.  It was some minutes before Uncle Loveday could so far control
his speech as to read aloud this precious manuscript.  And thus, in
my father's simple language, embellished with no art, and tricked out
in no niceties of expression, the surprising story ran:--

"May 23rd, 1848.--Having, in obedience to the instructions of my
father's Will, waited upon Mr. Elihu Sanderson, of the East India
Company's Service, in their chief office at Bombay, and having from
him received a somewhat singular communication in my father's
handwriting, I have thought fit briefly to put together some record
of the same, as well as of the more important events of my voyage,
not only to refresh my own memory hereafter, if I am spared to end my
days in peace at Lantrig, but also being impelled thereto by certain
strange hints conveyed in this same communication.  These hints,
though I myself can see no ground for them, would seem to point
towards some grave bodily or spiritual peril; and therefore it is my
plain duty, seeing that I leave a beloved wife and young son at home,
to make such provision that, in case of misadventure or disaster,
Divine Providence may at least have at my hands some means whereby to
inform them of my fate.  For this reason I regret the want of
foresight which prevented my beginning some such record at the
outset; but as far as I can reasonably judge, my voyage has hitherto
been prosperous and without event.  Nevertheless, I will shortly set
down what I can remember as worthy of remark before I landed at this
city of Bombay, and trust that nothing of importance has slipped my
notice.

"On the 3rd of February last I left my home at Lantrig, travelling by
coach to Plymouth, where I slept at the 'One and All' in Old Town
Street, being attracted thither by the name, which is our Cornish
motto.  The following day I took passage for Bombay in the _Golden
Wave_, East Indiaman, Captain Jack Carey, which, as I learnt, was due
to sail in two days.  It had been my intention, had no suitable
vessel been found at Plymouth, to proceed to Bristol, where the
trade is much greater; but on the Barbican--a most evil-smelling
neighbourhood--it was my luck to fall in with a very entertaining
stranger, who, on hearing my case, immediately declared it to be a
most fortunate meeting, as he himself had been making inquiries to
the same purpose, and had found a ship which would start almost
immediately.  He had been, it appeared, a lawyer's clerk, but on the
death of his old employer (whose name escapes my memory), finding his
successor a man of difficult temper, and having saved sufficient
money to be idle for a year or two, had conceived the wish to travel,
and chosen Bombay, partly from a desire to behold the wonders of the
Indies, and partly to see his brother, who held a post there in the
East India Company's service.  Having at the time much leisure, he
kindly offered to show me the vessel, protesting that should I find
it to my taste he was anxious for the sake of the company to secure a
passage for himself.  So very agreeable was his conversation that I
embraced the opportunity which fortune thus threw in my way.
The ship, on inspection, proved much to our liking, and Captain Carey
of so honest a countenance, that the bargain was struck without more
ado.  I was for returning to the 'One and All,' but first thought it
right to acquaint myself with the name of this new friend.  He was
called Simon Colliver, and lived, as he told me, in Stoke, whither he
had to go to make preparation for this somewhat hasty departure, but
first advised me to move my luggage from the 'One and All' (the
comfort of which fell indeed short of the promise of so fair a name)
to the 'Welcome Home,' a small but orderly house of entertainment in
the Barbican, where, he said, I should be within easy distance of
the _Golden Wave_.  The walk to Old Town Street was not far in
itself, but a good step when traversed five or six times a day; and,
moreover, I was led to make the change on hearing that the landlord
of the 'Welcome Home' was also intending to sail as seaman in
this same ship.  My new acquaintance led me to the house, an
ill-favoured-looking den, but clean inside, and after a short
consultation with John Railton, the landlord, arranged for my
entertainment until the _Golden Wave_ should weigh anchor.
This done, and a friendly glass taken to seal the engagement, he
departed, congratulating himself warmly on his good fortune in
finding a fellow-traveller so much, as he protested, to his taste.

"I must own I was not over-pleased with John Railton, who seemed a
sulky sort of man, and too much given to liquor.  But I saw little of
him after he brought my box from the 'One and All.'  His wife waited
upon me--a singularly sweet woman, though sorely vexed, as I could
perceive, with her husband's infirmity.  She loved him nevertheless,
as a woman will sometimes love a brute, and was sorry to lose him.
Indeed, when I noticed that evening that her eyes were red with
weeping, and said a word about her husband's departure, she stared at
me for a moment in amazement, and could not guess how I came to hear
of it, 'for,' said she, 'the resolution had been so suddenly taken
that even she could scarce account for it.'  She admitted, however,
that it was for the best, and added that 'Jack was a good seaman, and
she always expected that he would leave her some day.'  Her chief
anxiety was for her little daughter, aged seven, whom it was hard to
have exposed to the rough language and manners of a public-house.
I comforted her as best I could, and doubt not she has found her
husband's absence a less misfortune than she anticipated.

"The _Golden Wave_ weighed anchor on the 6th of February, and reached
Bombay after a tedious voyage of 103 days, on the 21st of May, having
been detained by contrary winds in doubling the Cape.  I saw little
of Simon Colliver before starting, though he came twice, as I heard,
to the 'Welcome Home' to inquire for me, and each time found me
absent.  On board, however, being the only other passenger, I was
naturally thrown much into his society, and confess that I found him
a most diverting companion.  Often of a clear moonlight night would
we pace the deck together, or watch in a darker sky the innumerable
stars, on which Colliver had an amazing amount of information.
Sometimes, too, he would sing--quaint songs which I had never heard
before, to airs which I suspect, without well knowing why, were of
his own composition.  His voice was of large compass--a silvery tenor
of surpassing' purity and sweetness, inasmuch as I have seen the
sailors stand spellbound, and even with tears in their eyes, at some
sweet song of love and home.  Often, again, the words would be weird
and mysterious, but the voice was always delicious whether he spoke
or sang.  I asked him once why with such a gift he had not tried his
fortune on the stage.  At which he laughed, and replied that he could
never be bound by rules of art, or forced to sing, whatever his
humour, to an audience for which he cared nothing.  I do not know why
I dwell so long upon this extraordinary man.  His path of life has
chanced to run side by side with my own for a short space, and the
two have now branched off, nor in all likelihood will ever meet
again.  My life has been a quiet one, and has not lain much in the
way of extraordinary men, but I doubt if many such as Simon Colliver
exist.  He is a perfect enigma to me.  That such a man, with such
attainments (for besides his wonderful conversation and power of
singing, he has an amazing knowledge of foreign tongues), that such a
man, I say, should be a mere attorney's clerk is little short of
marvellous.  But as regards his past he told me nothing, though an
apt and ready listener when I spoke of Lantrig and of Margery and
Jasper at home.  But he showed no curiosity as to the purpose of my
voyage, and in fact seemed altogether careless as well of the fate as
of the opinions of his fellow-men.  He has passed out of my life; but
when I shook hands with him at parting I left with regret the most
fascinating companion it has been ever my lot to meet.

"Our voyage, as I have said, was without event, though full of
wonders to me who had seldom before sailed far out of sight of
Pedn-glas.  But on these I need not here dwell.  Only I cannot pass
without mention the exceeding marvels of this city of Bombay.  As I
stood upon deck on the evening before last and watched the Bhor
Ghauts (as they are called) rise gradually on the dim horizon, whilst
the long ridge of the Malabar Hill with its clustered lights grew
swiftly dyed in delicate pink and gold, and as swiftly sank back into
night, I confess that my heart was strangely fluttered to think that
the wonders of this strange country lay at my feet, and I slept but
badly for the excitement.  But when, yesterday morning, I disembarked
upon the Apollo Bund, I knew not at first whither to turn for very
dismay.  It was like the play-acting we saw, my dear Margery, one
Christmas at Plymouth.  Every sight in the strange crowd was
unfamiliar to my Cornish eyes, and I felt sorely tempted to laugh
when I thought what a figure some of them would cut in Polkimbra, and
not less when I reflected that after all I was just as much out of
place in Bombay, though of course less noticed because of the great
traffic.  As I strolled through the Bazaar, Hindoos, Europeans, Jews,
Arabs, Malays, and Negro men passed me by.  Mr. Elihu Sanderson has
kindly taught me to distinguish some of these nations, but at the
time I did not know one from another, fancying them indeed all
Indians, though at a loss to account for their diversity.  Also the
gaudy houses of red, blue, and yellow, the number of beautiful trees
that grew in the very streets, and the swarms of birds that crowded
every roof-top and ventured down quite fearlessly among the
passers-by, all made me gasp with wonder.  Nor was I less amazed to
watch the habits of this marvellous folk, many of them to me
shocking, and to see the cows that abound everywhere and do the work
of horses.  But of all this I will tell if Heaven be pleased to grant
me a safe return to Lantrig.  Let me now recount my business with Mr.
Elihu Sanderson.

"I said farewell to the captain of the _Golden Wave_ and my friend
Colliver upon the quay, meaning to ask Mr. Sanderson to recommend a
good lodging for the short time I intended to stay in Bombay.
Captain Carey had already directed me to the East India Company's
office, and hither I tried to make my way at once.  Easy as it was,
however, I missed it, being lost in admiration of the crowd.  When at
last I arrived at the doors I was surprised to see Colliver coming
out, until I remembered that his brother was in the Company's employ.
It seems, however, that he had been transferred to Trichinopoly some
months before, and my friend's labour was in vain.  I am bound to say
that he took his disappointment with great good-humour, and made very
merry over our meeting again so soon, protesting that for the future
we had better hunt in couples among this outlandish folk; and so I
lost him again.

"After some difficulty and delay I found myself at length in the
presence of this Mr. Elihu Sanderson, on whom I had speculated so
often.  I was ushered by a clerk into his private office, and as he
rose to meet me, judged him directly to be the son of the Elihu
Sanderson mentioned in my father's Will--as indeed is the case.
A spare, dry, shrivelled man, with a mouth full of determination and
acuteness, and a habit of measuring his words as though they were for
sale, he is in everything but height the essence of every Scotchman I
remember to have seen.

"'Good day,' said he, 'Mr.--I fancy I did not catch your name.'

"'Trenoweth,' said I.

"'Indeed!  Trenoweth!' he repeated, and I fancy I saw a glimmer of
surprise in his eyes.  'Do I guess your business?'

"'Maybe you do,' I replied, 'for I take it to be somewhat unusual.'

"'Ah, yes; just so; somewhat unusual!'--and he chuckled drily--
'somewhat unusual!  Very good indeed!  I suppose--eh?--you have some
credentials--some proof that you really are called Trenoweth?'--Here
Mr. Sanderson looked at me sharply.

"In reply I produced my father's Will and the little Bible from my
jersey's side.  As I did so, I felt the Scotchman's eyes examining me
narrowly.  I handed him the packet.  The Will he read with great
attention, glanced at the Bible, pondered awhile, and then said--

"'I suppose you guess that this was a piece of private business
between Amos Trenoweth, deceased, and my father, also deceased.
I tell ye frankly, Mr. Trenoweth--by the way, what is your Christian
name, eh?  So you are the Ezekiel mentioned in the Will?  Are you a
bold man, eh?  Well, you look it, at any rate.  As I was saying, I
tell ye frankly it is not the sort of business I would have
undertaken myself.  But my father had his crotchets--which is odd, as
I'm supposed to resemble him--he had his crotchets, and among them
was an affection for your father.  It may have been based on profit,
for your father, Mr. Trenoweth, as far as I have heard, was not
exactly a lovable man, if ye'll excuse me.  If it was, I've never
seen those profits, and I've examined my father's papers pretty
thoroughly.  But this is a family matter, and had better not be
discussed in office hours.  Can you dine with me this evening?'

"I replied that I should be greatly obliged; but, in the first place,
as a stranger, would count it a favour to be told of some decent
lodging for such time as I should be detained in Bombay.

"Mr. Sanderson pondered again, tapped the floor with his foot, pulled
his short crop of sandy whiskers, and said--

"'Our business may detain us, for aught I know, long into the night,
Mr. Trenoweth.  Ye would be doing me a favour if ye stayed with me
for a day or two.  I am a bachelor, and live as one.  So much the
better, eh?  If you will get your boxes sent up to Craigie Cottage,
Malabar Hill--any one will tell ye where Elihu Sanderson lives--I
will try to make you comfortable.  You are wondering at the name
'Craigie Cottage'--another crotchet of my father's.  He was a
Scotchman, I'd have ye know; and so am I, for that matter, though I
never saw Scotch soil, being that prodigious phenomenon, a British
child successfully reared in India.  But I hope to set foot there
some day, please God!  Save us! how I am talking, and in office
hours, too!  Good-bye, Mr. Trenoweth, and'--once more his eyes
twinkled as I thanked him and made for the door--'I would to Heaven
ye were a Scotchman!'

"Although verily broiled with the heat, I spent the rest of the day
in sauntering about the city and drinking in its marvels until the
time when I was due to present myself at Craigie Cottage.  Following
the men who carried my box, I discovered it without difficulty,
though very unlike any cottage that came within my recollection.
Indeed, it is a large villa, most richly furnished, and crowded with
such numbers of black servants, that it must go hard with them to
find enough to do.  That, however, is none of my business, and Mr.
Sanderson does not seem the man to spend his money wastefully; so I
suppose wages to be very low here.

"Mr. Sanderson received me hospitably, and entertained me to a most
agreeable meal, though the dishes were somewhat hotly seasoned, and
the number of servants again gave me some uneasiness.  But when,
after dinner, we sat and smoked out on the balcony and watched the
still gardens, the glimmering houses and, above all, the noble bay
sleeping beneath the gentle shadow of the night, I confess to a
feeling that, after all, man is at home wherever Nature smiles so
kindly.  The hush of the hour was upon me, and made me disinclined to
speak lest its spell should be broken--disinclined to do anything but
watch the smoke-wreaths as they floated out upon the tranquil air."

"Mr. Sanderson broke the silence.

"'You have not been long in coming.'

"'Did you not expect me so soon?'

"'Why, you see, I had not read your father's Will.'

"I explained to him as briefly as I could the reasons which drove me
to leave Lantrig.  He listened in silence, and then said, after a
pause--

"'You have not, then, undertaken this lightly?'

"'As Heaven is my witness, no, whether there be anything in this
business or not.'

"'I think,' said he, slowly, 'there is something in it.  My father
had his crotchets, it is true; but he was no fool.  He never opened
his lips to me on the matter, but left me to hear the first of it in
his last Will and Testament.  Oddly enough, our fathers seem both to
have found religion in their old age.  Mine took his comfort in the
Presbyterian shape.  But it is all the same.  There was some reason
for your father to repent, if rumours were true; but why mine, a
respectable servant of the East India Company, should want
consolation, is not so clear.  Maybe 'twas only another form of
egotism.  Religion, even, is spelt with an I, ye'll observe.

"'An odd couple,' he continued, musing, 'to be mixed up together!
But we'll let them rest in peace.  I'd better let you have what was
entrusted to me, and then, mayhap, ye'll be better able to form an
opinion.'

"With this he rose and stepped back into the lighted room, whilst I
followed.  Drawing a bunch of keys from his pocket, he opened a heavy
chest of some dark wood, intricately carved, which stood in one
corner, drew out one by one a whole pile of tin boxes, bundles of
papers and heavy books, until, almost at the very bottom of the
chest, he seemed to find the box he wanted; then, carefully replacing
the rest, closed and fastened the chest, and, after some search among
his keys, opened the tin box and handed me two envelopes, one much
larger than the other, but both bulky.

"And here, my dear Margery, with my hand upon the secret which had
cost us so much anxious thought and such a grievous parting, I could
not help breathing to myself a prayer that Heaven had seen fit to
grant me at last some means of comforting my wife and little one and
restoring our fallen house; nor do I doubt, dear wife, you were at
that moment praying on your knees for me.  I did not speak aloud, but
Mr. Sanderson must have divined my thoughts, for I fancied I heard
him utter 'Amen' beneath his breath, and when I looked up he seemed
prodigiously red and ashamed of himself.

"The small envelope was without address, and contained 50 pounds in
Bank of England notes.  These were enclosed without letter or hint as
to their purpose, and sealed with a plain black seal.

"The larger envelope was addressed in my father's handwriting--"

'TO THE SON OF MY HOUSE WHO, HAVING COUNTED ALL THE PERILS, IS
RESOLUTE.

'_Mem.--To be burned in one hundred years from this date, May 4th, in
the year of our Lord MDCCCV._'

"It likewise was sealed with a plain black seal, and contained the
manuscript which I herewith pin to this leaf of my Journal."

[Here Uncle Loveday, who had hitherto read without comment, save an
occasional interjection, turned the page and revealed, in faded ink
on a large sheet of parchment, the veritable writing of my
grandfather, Amos Trenoweth.  We both unconsciously leaned further
forward over the relic, and my uncle, still without comment,
proceeded to read aloud as follows:--]

    "From Amos Trenoweth, of Lantrig, in the Parish of Polkimbra and
     County of Cornwall; to such descendant of mine as may inherit my
     wealth.

    "Be it known to you, my son, that though in this parchment
     mention is made of great and surpassing Wealth, seemingly but to
     be won for the asking, yet beyond doubt the dangers which beset
     him who would lay his hand upon this accursed store are in
     nature so deadly, that almost am I resolved to fling the Secret
     from me, and so go to my Grave a Beggar.  For that I not only
     believe, but am well assured, that not with out much Spilling
     of Blood and Loss of Human Life shall they be enjoyed, I myself
     having looked in the Face of Death thrice before ever I might
     set Hand upon them, escaping each time by a Miracle and by
     forfeit of my Soul's Peace.  Yet, considering that the Anger of
     Heaven is quick and not revengeful unduly, I have determined not
     to do so wholly, but in part, abandoning myself the Treasure
     unrighteously won, if perchance the Curse may so be appeased,
     but committing it to the enterprise of another, who may escape,
     and so raise a falling House.

    "You then, my Son who may read this Message, I entreat to
     consider well the Perils of your Course, though to you unknown.
     But to me they are known well, who have lived a Sinful Life for
     the sake of this gain, and now find it but as the fruit of
     Gomorrah to my lips.  For the rest, my Secret is with God, from
     whom I humbly hope to obtain Pardon, but not yet.  And even as
     the Building of the Temple was withheld from David, as being a
     Shedder of Blood, but not from Solomon his son, so may you lay
     your Hand to much Treasure in Gold, Silver, and Precious Stones,
     but chiefly the GREAT RUBY OF CEYLON, whose beauty excels all
     the jewels of the Earth, I myself having looked upon it, and
     knowing it to be, as an Ancient Writer saith, 'a Spectacle
     Glorious and without Compare.'

    "Of this Ruby the Traveller Marco Polo speaks, saying, 'The King
     of Seilan hath a Ruby the Greatest and most Beautiful that ever
     was or can be in the World.  In length it is a palm, and in
     thickness the thickness of a man's arm.  In Splendour it
     exceedeth the things of Earth, and gloweth like unto Fire.
     Money cannot purchase it.'  Likewise Maundevile tells of it, and
     how the Great Khan would have it, but was refused; and so
     Odoric, the two giving various Sizes, and both placing it
     falsely in the Island of Nacumera or Nicoveran.  But this I
     know, that in the Island of Ceylon it was found, being lost for
     many Centuries, and though less in size than these Writers
     would have it, yet far exceeding all imagination for Beauty and
     colour.

    "Now this Ruby, together with much Treasure beside, you may gain
     with the Grace of Heaven and by following my plain words.
     You will go from this place unto the Island of Ceylon, and there
     proceed to Samanala or Adam's Peak, the same being the most
     notable mountain of the Island.  From the Resting House at the
     foot of the Peak you will then ascend, following the track of
     the Pilgrims, until you have passed the First Set of Chains.
     Between these and the Second there lies a stretch of Forest, in
     which, still following the track, you will come to a Tree, the
     trunk of which branches into seven parts and again unites.
     This Tree is noticeable and cannot be missed.  From its base you
     must proceed at a right angle to the left-hand edge of the track
     for thirty-two paces, and you will come to a Stone shaped like a
     Man's Head, of great size, but easily moved.  Beneath this Stone
     lies the Secret of the Great Ruby; and yet not all, for the rest
     is graven on the Key, of which mention shall already have been
     made to you.

    "These precautions I have taken that none may surprise this
     Secret but its right possessor; and also that none may without
     due reflection undertake this task, inasmuch as it is
     prophesied that 'Even as the Heart of the Ruby is Blood and its
     Eyes a Flaming Fire, so shall it be for them that would possess
     it: Fire shall be their portion and Blood their inheritance for
     ever.'

    "This prophecy I had from an aged priest, whose bones lie
     beneath the Stone, and upon whose Sacred clasp is the Secret
     written.  This and all else may God pardon.  Amen.

    "A. T."

    "He visiteth the iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children unto
     the third and fourth generation."

[To this extraordinary document was appended a note in another
handwriting.]

    "There is little doubt that the Ruby now in the possession of
     Mr. Amos Trenoweth is the veritable Great Ruby of which the
     traveller Marco Polo speaks.  But, however this may be, I know
     from the testimony of my own eyes that the stone is of
     inestimable worth, being of the rarest colour, and in size
     greatly beyond any Ruby that ever I saw.  The stone is spoken
     of, in addition to such writers as Mr. Trenoweth quotes, by
     Friar Jordanus (in the fourteenth century), who mentions it as
     'so large that it cannot be grasped in the closed hand'; and
     Ibn Batuta reckons it as great as the palm of a man's hand.
     Cosmos, as far back as 550, had heard tell of it from Sopater,
     and its fame extended to the sixteenth century, wherein Corsali
     wrote of 'two rubies so lustrous and shining that they seem a
     flame of fire.'  Also Hayton, in the thirteenth century,
     mentions it, telling much the same story as Sir John Maundevile,
     to the effect that it was the especial symbol of sovereignty,
     and when held in the hand of the newly-chosen king, enforced the
     recognition of his majesty.  But, whereas Hayton simply calls
     it the greatest and finest Ruby in existence, Maundevile puts it
     at afoot in length and five fingers in girth.  Also--for I have
     made much inquiry concerning this stone--it was well known to
     the Chinese from the days of Hwen T'sang downward.

    "Mr. Trenoweth has wisely forborne for safety from showing it to
     any of the jewellers here; but on the one occasion when I saw
     the gem I measured it, and found it to be, roughly, some three
     and a half inches square and two inches in depth; of its weight
     I cannot speak.  But that it truly is the Great Ruby of Ceylon,
     the account of the Buddhist priest from, whom Mr. Trenoweth
     got the stone puts out of all doubt."

     "E. S."

"As I finished my reading, I looked up and saw Mr. Sanderson watching
me across the table.  'Well?' said he.

"I pushed the parchment across to him, and filled a pipe.  He read
the whole through very slowly, and without the movement of a muscle;
then handed it back, but said never a word.

"'Well,' I asked, after a pause; 'what do you think of it?'

"'Why, in the first place, that my father was a marvellously honest
man, and yours, Mr. Trenoweth, a very indiscreet one.  And secondly,
that ye're just as indiscreet as he, and it will be lucky for ye if
I'm as honest as my father.'

"I laughed.

"'Aye, ye may laugh; but mark my words, Mr. Trenoweth.  Ye've a
trustful way with ye that takes my liking; but it would surprise me
very much, sir, did ye ever lay hands on that Ruby.'"



CHAPTER IX.


CONTAINS THE SECOND PART OF MY FATHER'S JOURNAL: SETTING FORTH HIS
ADVENTURES IN THE ISLAND OF CEYLON.

"Sept. 29th, 1848.--It is a strange thing that on the very next day
after reading my father's message I should have been struck down and
reduced to my present condition.  But so it is, and now, four months
after my first entry in this Journal, I am barely able to use the pen
to add to my account.  As far as I remember--for my head wanders
sadly at times--it happened thus: On the 23rd of May last, after
spending the greater part of the day in writing my Journal, and also
my first letter to my dear wife, I walked down in the cool of the
evening to the city, intending to post the latter; which I did, and
was returning to Mr. Sanderson's house, when I stopped to watch the
sun setting in this glorious Bay of Bengal.  I was leaning over a low
wall, looking out on the open sea with its palm-fringed shores, when
suddenly the sun shot out a jagged flame; the sky heaved and turned
to blood--and I knew no more.  I had been murderously struck from
behind.  That I was found, lying to all appearance dead, with a
hideous zig-zag wound upon the scalp; that my pockets had been to all
appearance rifled (whether by the assassin or the natives that found
me is uncertain); that I was finally claimed and carried home by Mr.
Sanderson, who, growing uneasy at my absence, had set out to look for
me; that for more than a month, and then again for almost two months,
my life hung in the balance; and that I owe my recovery to Mr.
Sanderson's unceasing kindness--all this I have learnt but lately.
I can write no more at present.

"Oct. 3rd.--I am slightly better.  My mental powers are slowly coming
back after the fever that followed the wound.  I pass my days mostly
in speculating on the reason of this murderous attack, but am still
unable to account for it.  It cannot have been for plunder, for I do
not look like a rich man.  Mr. Sanderson has his theory, but I cannot
agree with him, for nobody but ourselves knew of my father's
manuscript.  At any rate, it is fortunate that I left it in my chest,
together with this Journal, before I went down to Bombay.  Margery
must have had my letter by this time; Mr. Sanderson very wisely
decided to wait the result of my illness before troubling her.  As it
is she need know nothing about it until we meet.

"Oct. 14th.--Mr. Sanderson is everything that is good; indeed, had I
been a brother he could not have shown me more solicitude.  But he is
obstinate in connecting my attack with the Great Ruby of Ceylon; it
is certainly a curious coincidence that this dark chapter of my life
should immediately follow my father's warning, but that is all one
can say.  I shall give up trying to convince him.

"Oct. 31st.--I am now considerably better.  My strength is slowly
returning, and with it, I am glad to say, my memory.  At first it
seemed as though I could remember nothing of my past life, but now my
recollection is good on every point up to the moment of my attack.
Since then, for at least the space of three months, I can recall
nothing.  I am able to creep about a little, and Mr. Sanderson has
taken me for one or two excursions.  Curiously enough, I thought I
saw John Railton yesterday upon the Apollo Bund.  I was probably
mistaken, but at the time it caused me no surprise that he should
still be here, since I forgot the interval of three months in my
memory.  If it were really Railton, he has, I suppose, found
employment of some kind in Bombay; but it seems a cruel shame for him
to desert his poor wife at home.  I, alas! am doing little better,
but God knows I am anxious to be gone; however, Mr. Sanderson will
not hear a word on the subject at present.  He has promised to find a
ship for me as soon as he thinks I am able to continue my travels.

"Nov. 4th.--I was not mistaken.  It was John Railton that I saw on
the Apollo Bund.  I met him hovering about the same spot to-day, and
spoke to him; but apparently he did not hear me.  I intended to ask
him some news of my friend Colliver, but I daresay he knows as little
of his doings as I do.  Mr. Sanderson says that in a week's time I
shall be recovered sufficiently to start.  I hope so, indeed, for
this delay is chafing me sorely.

"Nov. 21st.--Mr. Sanderson has found a ship for me at last.  I am to
sail in five days for Colombo in the schooner _Campaspe_, whose
captain is a friend--a business friend, that is--of my host.  I shall
be the only passenger, and Mr. Sanderson has given Captain Dodge full
instructions to take care of me.  But I am feeling strong enough now,
and fit for anything.

"Nov. 23rd.--I have been down to look at the vessel, and find that a
most comfortable little cabin has been set apart for me.  But the
strangest thing is that I met Colliver also inspecting the ship.
He was most surprised at seeing me, and evidently imagined me home in
England by this time.  I told him of my meeting with John Railton,
and he replied--

"'Oh, yes; I have taken him into my service.  We are going together
to Ceylon, as I have travelled about India enough for the present.
I went to visit my brother at Trichinopoly, and have only just
returned to Bombay.  Unfortunately the captain of the _Campaspe_
declares he is unable to take me, so I shall have to wait.'

"I explained the reasons of the captain's reluctance, and offered him
a share of my cabin if Captain Dodge would consent to be burdened
with Railton's company.

"'Oh, for that matter,' replied he, 'Railton can follow; but he's a
handy fellow, and I daresay would make himself useful without
payment.'

"We consulted Captain Dodge, who admitted himself ready to take
another passenger, and even to accommodate Railton, if that were my
wish.  Only, he explained, Mr. Sanderson had especially told him that
I should wish to be alone, being an invalid.  So the bargain was
struck.

"Mr. Sanderson did not seem altogether pleased when I informed him
that I intended to take a companion.  He asked many questions about
Colliver, and was especially anxious to know if I had confided
anything of my plans to him.  So far was this from being the case
that Colliver, as I informed my host, had never betrayed the least
interest in my movements.  At this Mr. Sanderson merely grunted, and
asked me when I intended to learn prudence, adding that one crack in
the head was enough for most men, but he supposed I wanted more.
I admit that, pleasant companion as Colliver is, I should prefer to
be entirely alone upon this adventure.  But I could not deny the
invitation without appearing unnecessarily rude, and I owe him much
gratitude for having made the outward voyage so pleasant.  Besides,
we shall part at Colombo.

"Nov. 25th.--I make this entry (my last upon Indian soil) just before
retiring to rest.  To-morrow I sail for Colombo in the _Campaspe_.
But I cannot leave Bombay without dwelling once more on Mr.
Sanderson's great kindness.  To-night, as we sat together for the
last time upon the balcony of Craigie Cottage, I declare that my
heart was too full for words.  My host apparently was revolving other
thoughts, for when he spoke it was to say--

"'Visited his brother in Trichinopoly, eh?  Only just returned, too--
h'm!  What I want to know is, why the devil he returned at all?
There are plenty of vessels at Madras.'

"'But Colliver is not the man who cares to follow the shortest
distance between two points,' I answered.  'Why should he not return
to Bombay?'

"'I'll beg ye to observe,' said Mr. Sanderson, 'that the question is
not 'why shouldn't he?' but 'why should he?''

"'At any rate,' said I, 'I'll be on my guard.'

"This suspicion on my behalf has become quite a mania with my host.
I thought it best to let him grumble his fill, and then endeavoured
to thank him for his great kindness.

"'Don't say another word,' he interrupted.  'I owe ye some reparation
for being mixed up in this at all.  It's a serious matter, mark ye,
for a respectable clerk like myself to be aiding and abetting in this
mad chase; and, to tell the truth, Trenoweth, I took a fancy to ye
when first I set eyes on your face, and--Don't say another word, I'll
ask ye.'

"My friend's eyes were full of tears.  I arose, shook him silently by
the hand, and went to my room.

"Nov. 26th.--I am off.  I write this in my cabin, alone--Colliver
having had another assigned to him by Mr. Sanderson's express wish.
He saw Colliver for the first time to-day on the quay, and drew me
aside at the last moment to warn me against 'that fellow with the
devilish eyes.'  As I stood on deck and watched his stiff little
figure waving me farewell until it melted into the crowd, and Bombay
sank behind me as the city of a dream, I wondered with sadness on the
little chance we had of ever meeting on this earth again.  Colliver's
voice at my elbow aroused me.

"'Odd man, that friend of yours--made up of emotion, and afraid of
his life to show it.  Has he done you a favour?'

"'He has,' I replied, 'as great a favour as one man can do for
another.'

"'Ah,' said he, 'I thought as much.  That's why he is so full of
gratitude.'

"Dec. 6th.--Never shall I forget the dawn out of which Ceylon, the
land of my promise, arose into view.  I was early on deck to catch
the first sight of land.  Very slowly, as I stood gazing into the
east, the pitch-black darkness turned to a pale grey, and discovered
a long, narrow streak, shaped like the shields one sees in Bible
prints, and rising to a point in the centre.  Then, as it seemed to
me, in a moment, the sun was up and as if by magic the shield had
changed into a coast fringed with palms and swelling upwards in green
and gradual slopes to a chain of mighty hills.  Around these some
light, fleecy clouds had gathered, but sea and coast were radiant
with summer.  So clear was the air that I could distinguish the red
sand of the beaches and the white trunks of the palms that crowded to
the shore; and then before us arose Colombo, its white houses
gleaming out one by one.

"The sun was high by the time our pilot came on board, and as we
entered the harbour the town lay deep in the stillness of the
afternoon.  We had cast anchor, and I was reflecting on my next
course of action when I heard my name called from under the ship's
side.  Looking down, I spied a tall, grave gentleman seated in a
boat.  I replied as well as I could for the noise, and presently the
stranger clambered up on deck and announced himself as Mr.
Eversleigh, to whom Mr. Sanderson had recommended me.  I had no
notion until this moment--and I state it in proof of Mr. Sanderson's
kindness--that any arrangement had been made for entertaining me at
Colombo.  It is true that Mr. Sanderson had told me, on the night
when our acquaintance began, to send this gentleman's address to
Margery, that her letter might safely reach me; but beyond this I
knew nothing.  Mr. Eversleigh shook me by the hand, and, to my
unspeakable joy, handed me my dear wife's letter.

"I say to my unspeakable joy, for no words can tell, dear wife, with
what feelings I read your letter as the little boat carried me up to
the quay.  How often during the idle days of my recovery have I lain
wondering how you and Jasper were passing this weary time, and cried
out on the weakness that kept me so long dallying.  Patience, dear
heart, it is but a little time now.

"I have forgotten to speak of Colliver.  He has been as delightful
and indifferent as ever throughout the voyage.  Certainly I can find
no reason for crediting Mr. Sanderson's suspicions.  In the hurry of
landing I missed him, not even having opportunity to ask about his
plans.  Doubtless I shall see him in a day or two.

"Dec. 10th.--What an entrancing country is this Ceylon!  The monsoon
is upon us, and hinders my journey: indeed, Mr. Eversleigh advises me
not to start for some weeks.  He promises to accompany me to the Peak
if I can wait, but the suspense is hard to bear.  Meantime I am
drinking in the marvels of Colombo.  The quaint names over the shops,
the bright dresses of white and red, the priests with their robes of
flaming yellow--all these are diverting enough, but words cannot tell
of the beauty of the country here.  The roads are all of some strange
red soil, and run for miles beneath the most beautiful trees
imaginable--bamboos, palms, and others unknown to me, but covered
with crimson and yellow blossom.  Then the long stretches of rice
fields, and again more avenues of palms, with here and there a lovely
pool by the wayside--all this I cannot here describe.  But most
wonderful of all is the monsoon which rages over the country,
wrapping the earth sometimes in sheets of lightning which turn sea,
sky and earth to one vivid world of flame.  The wind is dry and
parching, so that all windows are kept carefully closed at night;
but, indeed, the mosquitoes are sufficient excuse for that.  I have
seen nothing of Colliver and Railton.

"Dec. 31st.--New Year's Eve, and, as I hope, the dawn of brighter
days for us, dear wife.  Mr. Eversleigh has to-night, been describing
Adam's Peak to me.  Truly this is a most marvellous mountain, and its
effect upon me I find hard to put into words.  To-day I watched it
standing solitary and royal from the low hills that surround it.
At its feet waved a very sea of green forest, around its summit were
gathered black clouds charged with lightning.  Mr. Eversleigh tells
me of the worship here paid to it, and the thousands of pilgrims that
wear its crags with their patient feet.  Can I hope to succeed when
so many with prayers so much more holy have failed?  Even as I write,
its unmoved face is mocking the fire of heaven.  I dream of the
mountain; night and day it has come to fill my life with dark terror.
I am not by nature timid or despondent, but it is hard to have to
wait here day after day and watch this goal of my hopes--so near, yet
seemingly so forbidding of access.

"On looking back I find I have said nothing about the house where I
am now staying.  It lies in the Kolpetty suburb, in the midst of most
lovely gardens, and is called Blue Bungalow, from the colour in which
it is painted.  I have made many excursions with Mr. Eversleigh on
the lagoon; but for me the only object in this land of beauty is the
great Peak.  I cannot endure this idleness much longer.  Colliver
seems to have vanished: at least, I have not seen him.

"Jan. 25th, 1849.--I have been in no mood lately to make any fresh
entry in my Journal.  But to-morrow I start for Adam's Peak.  At the
last moment my host finds himself unable to go with me, much as he
protests he desires it; but two of his servants will act as my
guides.  It is about sixty miles from Colombo to the foot of the
Peak, so that in four days from this time I hope to lay my hand upon
the secret.  The two natives (their real names I do not know, but Mr.
Eversleigh has christened them Peter and Paul, which I shall
doubtless find more easy of mastery than their true outlandish
titles) are, as I am assured, trusty, and have visited the mountain
before.  We take little baggage beyond the necessary food and one of
my host's guns.  I cannot tell how impatient I am feeling.

"Feb. 1st.--My journey to the Peak is over.  Whether from fatigue or
excitement I am feeling strangely light-headed to-day; but let me
attempt to describe as briefly as I can my adventure.  We set out
from Colombo in the early morning of Jan. 26th.  For about two-thirds
of our journey the road lies along the coast, stretching through
swampy rice-fields and interminable cocoanut avenues until Ratnapoora
is reached.  So far the scenery does not greatly differ from that of
Colombo.  But it was after we left Ratnapoora that I first realised
the true wonders of this land.  Our road rose almost continuously by
narrow tracks, which in some places, owing to the late heavy rains,
were almost impassable; but Peter and Paul worked hard, and so
reduced the delay.  We had not left Ratnapoora far behind when we
plunged into a tangled forest, so dense as almost to blot out the
light of day.  On either hand deep ravines plunged precipitately
down, or giant trees enclosed us in black shadow.  Where the sun's
rays penetrated, myriads of brilliant insects flashed like jewels;
yellow butterflies, beetles with wings of ruby-red or gold, and
dragonflies that picked out the undergrowth with fire.  In the shadow
overhead flew and chattered crowds of green paroquets and glossy
crows, while here and there we could see a Bird of Paradise drooping
its smart tail-feathers amid the foliage.  A little further, and deep
in the forest the ear caught the busy tap-tap of the woodpecker, the
snap of the toucan's beak, or far away the deep trumpeting of the
elephant.  Once we startled a leopard that gazed a moment at us with
flaming eyes, and then was gone with a wild bound into the thicket.
From tree to tree trailed hosts of gorgeous creepers, blossoming in
orange, white and crimson, or wreathing round some hapless monarch of
the forest and strangling it with their rank growth.  Still we
climbed.

"The bridle-track now skirted a torrent, now wound dizzily round
the edge of a stupendous cliff, and again plunged into obscurity.
Here and there the ruins of some ancient and abandoned shrine
confronted us, its graceful columns entwined and matted with
vegetation; or, again, where the forest broke off and allowed our
eyes to sweep over the far prospect, the guides would point to the
place where stood, hardly to be descried, the relics of some dead
city, desolate and shrined in desolation.  Even I, who knew nothing
of the past glories of Ceylon, could not help being possessed with
melancholy thoughts as I passed now a mass of deserted masonry, now a
broken column, the sole witnesses of generations gone for ever.
Some were very richly carved, but Nature's tracery was rapidly
blotting out the handiwork of man, the twining convolvulus usurping
the glories of the patient chisel.  Still up we climbed, where hosts
of chattering monkeys swung from branch to branch, or poised
screaming overhead, or a frightened serpent rose with hissing mouth,
and then glided in a flash back through the undergrowth.  One, that
seemed to me of a pure silver-white, started almost from under my
feet, and darted away before I could recover myself.  We hardly
spoke; the vastness of Nature hushed our tongues.  It seemed
presumption to raise my gun against any of the inhabitants of this
spot where man seemed so mean, so strangely out of place.  Once I
paused to cut back with my knife the creepers that hid in
inextricable tangle a solitary and exquisitely carved archway.
But the archway led nowhere, its god and temple alike had perished,
and already the plants have begun their tireless work again.

"Between the stretches of wilderness our road often led us across
rushing streams, difficult to ford at this season, or up rocky
ravines, that shut in with their towering walls all but a patch of
blue overhead.  Emerging from these we would find ourselves on naked
ledges where the sun's rays beat until the air seemed that of an
oven.  At such spots the plain below spread itself out as a crumpled
chart, whilst always above us, domed in the blue of a sapphire-stone,
towered the goal of our hopes, serene and relentless.  But such
places were not many.  More often a threatening cliff faced us, or an
endless slope closed in the view, only to give way to another and yet
another as we climbed their weary length.

"Yet our speed was not trifling.  We had passed a train of
white-clothed pilgrims in the morning soon after leaving Ratnapoora.
Since then we had seen no man except one poor old priest at the
ruined resting-house where we ate our mid-day meal.  The shadow of
the forest allowed us to travel through the heat of the day, and the
thirst of discovery would have hurried me on even had the guides
protested.  But they were both sturdy, well-built men, and suffered
from the heat far less than I did.  So we hardly paused until, in the
first swift gloom of sunset, we emerged on the grassy lawn of
Diabetne, beneath the very face of the cone.

"We had to rest for the night in the ruined _Ambulam_, as it is
called; and here, thoroughly tired but sleepless, I lay for some
hours and watched the innumerable stars creep out and crown that
sublime head which rose at first into a fathomless blue that was
almost black, and then as the moon swept up, flashed into unutterable
radiance.  Nothing, I am told, can compare with the moonlight of
Ceylon, and I can well believe it.  That night I read clearly once
again by the light of its rays my father's manuscript, that no point
in it should escape my memory; then sank down upon my rugs and slept
an uneasy sleep.

"In an hour or two, as it seemed, I was awakened by Peter, who shook
me and proclaimed it time to be stirring if we meant to see the
sunrise from the summit.  The moon was still resplendent as we
started across the three miles or 'league of heaven' that still lay
between us and the actual cone.  This league traversed, we plunged
down a gully and crossed a stream whose waters danced in the silver
moonlight until the eyes were dazzled, then swept in a pearly shower
down numberless ledges of rock.  After this the climb began in good
earnest.  After a stretch of black forest, we issued on a narrow
track that grew steeper at every step.  The moon presently ceased to
help us here, so that my guides lit torches, which flared and cast
long shadows on the rocky wall.  By degrees the track became a mere
watercourse, up which we could only scramble one by one.  So narrow
was it that two men could scarcely pass, yet so richly clothed in
vegetation that our torches scorched the overhanging ferns.
Peter led the way, and I followed close at his heels, for fear of
loose stones; but every now and then a crash and a startled cry from
Paul behind us told us that we had sent a boulder flying down into
the depths.  Beyond this and the noise of our footsteps there was no
sound.  We went but slowly, for the labour of the day before had
nearly exhausted us, but at length we scrambled out into the
moonlight again upon a rocky ledge half-way up the mountainside.

"Here a strong breeze was blowing, that made our heated bodies
shiver until we were fain to go on.  Casting one look into the gulf
below, deepened without limit in the moonlight, we lit fresh torches
and again took to the path.  Before we had scrambled, now we
climbed.  We had left vegetation behind us, and were face to face
with the naked rock that forms the actual Peak.  At the foot of this
Peter called a halt, and pointed out the first set of chains.
Without these, in my weak state I could never have attempted the
ascent.  Even as it was, my eye was dazed and my head swam and reeled
as I hung like a fly upon the dizzy side.  But clutching with
desperation the chains riveted in the living rock, I hauled myself up
after Peter, and sank down thoroughly worn out upon the brink.

"It now wanted but little before daybreak would be upon us.  As I
gathered myself up for a last effort, I remembered that amid the
growth into which we were now to plunge, stood the tree of seven
trunks which was to be my mark.  But my chance was small of noting it
by the light of these flaring torches that distorted every object,
and wreathed each tree into a thousand fantastic shapes.  Plainly I
must stake my hopes on the descent next day; at any rate, I would
scale the summit before I began my search.

"We had plunged into the thicket of rhododendrons, whose crimson
flowers showed oddly against the torches' gleam, and I was busy with
these thoughts, when suddenly my ankle gave way, and I fell heavily
forward.  My two guides were beside me in an instant, and had me on
my feet again.

"'All's good,' said Peter, 'but lucky it not happen otherwhere.
Only take care for last chain.  But what bad with him?'

"He might well ask; for there, full in front of my eyes that strained
and doubted, glimmered a huge trunk cleft into seven--yes, seven--
branches that met again and disappeared in a mass of black foliage.
It was my father's tree.

"So far then the parchment had not lied.  Here was the tree,
'noticeable and not to be missed,' and barely thirty-two paces from
the spot where I was standing lay the key to the treasure which I had
travelled this weary distance to seek.  But the time for search had
not yet come.  By the clear light of day and alone I must explore the
secret.  It would keep for a few hours longer.

"Dismissing my pre-occupied manner which had caused no small
astonishment to Peter and Paul, I fixed the position of the tree as
firmly as I could in my mind, and gave the word to advance.

"We then continued in the same order as before, whilst, to make
matters sure, I counted our steps.  I had reached six hundred and
twenty-though when I considered the darkness and the rough path I
reflected that this was but little help--when we arrived at the
second set of chains.  My foot was already beginning to give me pain,
but under any circumstances this would have been by far the worst of
the ascent.  All around us stretched darkness void and horrible,
leading, for all that we could see, down through veils of curling
mist into illimitable depths.  In front the rock was almost
perpendicular.  The fascination of gazing down was wellnigh
resistless, but Peter ahead continually cried 'Hurry!' and the voice
of Paul behind repeated 'Hurry!' so that panting, gasping, and fit to
faint, with fingers clinging to the chain until the skin was
blistered, with every nerve throbbing and every muscle strained to
its utmost tension, I clambered, clambered, until with one supreme
effort I swung myself up to the brink, staggered rather than ran up
the last few feet of rock, and as my guides bent and with
outstretched palms raised the cry '_Saadoo! Saadoo!_' I fell
exhausted before the very steps of Buddha's shrine.

"When I recovered, I saw just above me the open shrine perched on a
tiny terrace and surrounded by low walls of stone; a yard or two from
me the tiny hut in which its guardians live; and all around the
expanse of sky.  Dawn was stealing on; already its pale light was
creeping up the east, and a bar or two of vivid fire proclaimed the
coming of the sun.  The priests were astir to receive the early
pilgrims, and as Paul led me to the edge of the parapet I could see
far away below the torches of the new-comers dotted in thin lines of
fire down the mountain-side.  Some pilgrims had arrived before us,
and stood shivering in their thin white garments about the summit.

"Presently the distant sound of measured chanting came floating up on
the tranquil air, sank and died away, and rose again more loudly.
Paler and paler grew the heavens, nearer and nearer swept the
chanting; and now the first pilgrim swung himself up into our view,
quenched his torch and bowed in homage.  Others following did the
same, all adoring, until the terrace was crowded with worshippers
gazing eager and breathless into the far east, where brighter and
brighter the crimson bars of morning were widening.

"Then with a leap flashed up the sun, the dazzling centre of a flood
of golden light.  Godlike and resplendent he rode up on wreaths of
twirling-mist, and with one stroke sent the shadows quivering back to
the very corners of heaven.  As the blazing orb topped the horizon,
every head bent in worship, every hand arose in welcome, every voice
broke out in trembling adoration, '_Saadoo! Saadoo!_'  Even I, the
only European there, could not forbear from bowing my head and
lifting up my hands, so carried away was I with the aching fervour of
this crowd.  There they stood and bent until the whole fiery ball was
clear, then turning, paced to the sound of chanting up the rough
steps and laid their offerings on the shrine.  Thrice at each new
offering rang out a clattering gong, and the worshipper stepped
reverently back to make way for another; while all the time the
newly-risen sun blazed aslant on their robes of dazzling whiteness.

"As I stood watching this strange scene, Peter plucked me by the
sleeve and pointed westward.  I looked, and all the wonders I had yet
viewed became as nothing.  For there, disregarded by the crowd, but
plain and manifest, rose another Peak, graven in shadow upon the
western sky.  Bold and confronting, it soared into heaven and, whilst
I gazed in silent awe, came striding nearer through the void air,
until it seemed to sweep down upon me--and was gone!  For many a day
had the shadow of this mighty cone lain upon my soul; here, on the
very summit, that shadow took visible form and shape, then paled into
the clear blue.  Has its invisible horror left me now at last?
I doubt it.

"But by this time the sun was high, and the last pilgrim with a
lingering cry of '_Saadoo!_' was leaving the summit.  So, although
my ankle was now beginning to give me exquisite pain, I gave the
order to return.  Before leaving, however, I looked for a moment at
the sacred footprint, to my mind the least of the wonders of the
Peak, and resembling no foot that ever I saw.  We had gone but a few
steps when I plainly guessed from the state of my ankle that our
descent would be full of danger, but the guides assured me of their
carefulness; so once more we attacked the chains.

"How we got down I shall never fully know; but at last and after
infinite pain we stood at the foot of the cliff and entered the
forest of rhododendrons.  And here, to the wild astonishment of my
guides who plainly thought me mad, I bade them leave me and proceed
ahead, remaining within call.  They were full of protestations and
dismay, but I was firm.  Trusty they might be, but it was well in
this matter to distrust everything and everybody.  Finally,
therefore, they obeyed, and I sat watching until their white-clad
forms disappeared in the thicket.

"As soon as I judged them to have gone a sufficient distance, I arose
and followed, cautiously counting my footsteps.  But this was
needless; my father had described the tree as 'noticeable and not to
be missed,' nor was he wrong.  Barely had I counted five hundred
paces when it rose into view, uncouth and monstrous.  All around it
spread the crimson blossoms of huge rhododendrons; but this strange
tree was at once unlike any of its fellows and of a kind altogether
unknown to me.  Its roots were partly bare, and writhed in fantastic
coils across the track.  Above these rose and spread its seven trunks
matted with creepers, and then united about four feet below the point
where the branches began.  Its foliage was of a dark, glossy green,
particularly dense, and its height, as I should judge, some sixty
feet.

"Taking out my compass, I started from the left-hand side of the
narrow track, and at a right angle to it.  The undergrowth gave me
much trouble, and once I had to make a circuit round a huge
rhododendron; but I fought my way through, and after going, as I
reckoned, thirty-two paces, pulled up full in front of--another
rhododendron.

"There must be some mistake.  My father had spoken of a 'stone shaped
like a man's head,' but said nothing of a rhododendron tree, and
indeed this particular tree was in nowise different from its
companions.  I looked around; took a few steps to the right, then to
the left; went round the tree; walked back a few paces; returned to
the tree to see if it concealed anything; then sought the track to
begin my measurement afresh.

"I was just starting again in a very discomposed mood, when a thought
struck me.  I had been behaving like a fool.  The parchment said
'at a right angle to the left-hand edge of the track.'  I had started
from my left hand, but I was descending the mountain, whereas the
directions of course supposed the explorer to be ascending.
Almost ready to laugh at my stupidity, I tried again.

"Facing round, I got the needle at an angle of ninety degrees, and
once more began counting.  My heart was beginning to beat quickly by
this time, and I felt myself trembling with excitement.  The course
was now more easily followed.  True, the growth was as thick as ever,
but no rhododendrons blocked my passage.  Beating down the creepers
that swung across my face, twined around my legs, and caught at my
cap, I measured thirty-two paces as nearly as I could, and then
stopped.

"Before me was a patch of velvet grass, some twelve feet square and
bare of the undergrowth that crowded elsewhere; but not a trace of a
stone.  I looked right and left, crossed the tiny lawn, peered all
about, but still saw nothing at all resembling what I sought.

"As it began to dawn on me that all my hopes had been duped, my
journey vain, and my father's words an empty cheat, a sickening
despair got hold of me.  My knees shook together, and big drops of
sweat gathered on my forehead.  I roused myself and searched again;
again I was baffled.  Distractedly I beat the bushes round and round
the tiny lawn, then flung myself down on the turf and gave way to my
despair.  To this, then, it had all come; this was the end for which
I had abandoned my wife and child; this the treasure that had dangled
so long before my eyes.  Fool that I had been!  I cursed my madness
and the hour when I was born; never before had I heartily despised
myself, never until now did I know how the lust for this treasure had
eaten into my soul.  The secret, if secret indeed there were, and all
were not a lie, was in the keeping of the silent Peak.

"I almost wept with wrath.  I tore the turf in my frenzy, and felt as
one who would fain curse God and die.  But after a while my passion
spent itself.  I sat up and reflected that after all my first
direction might have been the right one; at any rate, I would try it
again and explore it thoroughly.  The instructions were precise, and
had been confirmed in the matter of the tree.  Evidently the person
that wrote them had been upon the Peak, and what, if they were lies,
was to be gained by the cheat?

"I pulled out the parchment again and read it through; then started
to my feet with fresh energy.  I was just leaving the little lawn and
returning down my path, when it struck me that the bush on my left
hand was of a curious shape.  It seemed a mere tangled knot of
creepers covered with large white blossom, and rose to about my own
height.  Carelessly I thrust my stick into the mass, when its point
jarred upon--stone!

"Yes, stone!  In a moment my knife was out and I was down on hands
and knees cutting and tearing at the tendrils.  Some of them were
full three inches thick, but I slashed and tugged, with breath that
came and went immoderately fast, with bleeding hands and thumping
heart, until little by little the stone was bared and its outlines
revealed themselves.

"But as they grew distinct and I saw what I had uncovered, I fell
back in terror.  The stone was about five feet ten inches in height,
and was roughly shaped to represent a human head and neck.  But the
face it was that froze my heated blood in horror.  Never until I die
shall I forget that hellish expression.  It was the smoothly-shaven
face of a man of about fifty years of age, roughly carved after the
fashion of many of the ruins on this mountain.  But whoever fashioned
it, the artist must have been a fiend.  If ever malignant hate was
expressed in form, it stood before me.  Even the blank pupils made
the malevolence seem but the more undying.  Every feature, every line
was horrible, every touch of the chisel had added a fresh grace of
devilish spite.  It was simply Evil petrified.

"As this awful face, bared of the innocent creeper that for years had
shrouded its ugliness from the light of day, confronted me, a feeling
of such repulsion overcame me that for several minutes I could not
touch it.  The neck was loosely set in a sort of socket fixed in the
earth; this was all the monster's pedestal.  I saw that it barely
needed a man's strength to send it toppling over.  Yet for a moment I
could summon up none.  At length I put my hands to it and with an
effort sent it crashing over amid the brushwood.

"The trough in which this colossal head had rested was about four
feet in depth, and narrowed towards the bottom.  I put down my hand
and drew out--a human thigh-bone.  The touch of this would have
turned me sick again, had not the statue's face already surfeited me
with horror.  As it was, I was nerved for any sight.  The passion of
my discovery was upon me, and I tossed the mouldering bones out to
right and left.

"But stay.  There seemed a great many in the trough.  Surely this was
the third thigh-bone that I held now in my hand.  Yes, and below,
close to the bottom of the trough, lay two skulls side by side.
There were two, then, buried here.  The parchment had only spoken of
one.  But I had no time to consider about this.  What I sought now
was the Secret, and as I took up the second skull I caught the gleam
of metal underneath it.  I put in my hand and drew out a Buckle of
Gold.

"This buckle is formed of two pieces, bound to either end of a thin
belt of rotten linen, and united by hook and socket.  Its whole
dimensions are but 3 inches by 2 inches, but inside its curiously
carved border it is entirely covered with writing in rude English
character.  The narrowing funnel of the trough had kept it from being
crushed by the statue, which fitted into a rim running round the
interior.  Beyond the buckle and the two skeletons there was nothing
in the trough; but I looked for nothing else.  Here, in my hands, lay
the secret of the Great Ruby of Ceylon; my fingers clutched the
wealth of princes.  My journey had ended and the riches of the earth
were in my grasp.

"Forgetful of my guides, forgetful of the flight of time, mindful of
nothing but the Golden Buckle, I sat down by the rim of the trough
and began to decipher the writing.  The inscription, as far as I
could gather, ran right across the clasp.  It could be read easily
enough and contained accurate directions for searching in some spot,
but where that spot was it did not reveal.  It might be close to the
statue; and I was about to start up and make the attempt when I
thought again of the parchment.  Pulling it from my pocket, I read:
'_ . . . beneath this stone lies the secret of the Great Ruby; and
yet not all, for the rest is graven on the Key which shall be already
entrusted to you.  These precautions have I taken that none may
surprise this Secret but its right possessor. . . ._'

"Now my father's Will had expressly enjoined, on pain of his dying
curse, that this key should not be moved from its place until the
Trenoweth who went to seek the treasure should have returned and
crossed the threshold of Lantrig.  Consequently the ruby was not
buried on Adam's Peak, or to return for the key would have been so
much labour wasted.  Consequently, also, the Golden Buckle was
valueless to anybody but him who knew the rest of my father's
injunctions.  Although not yet in my hand, the Great Ruby was mine.
I was folding up the buckle with the parchment before rejoining the
guides, when a curious thing happened.

"The sun had climbed high into heaven whilst I was absorbed in my
search, and was now flooding the little lawn with light.  In my
excitement I had heard and seen nothing, nor noted that the heat was
growing unbearable beneath the vertical rays.  But as I was folding
up the parchment a black shadow suddenly fell across the page.
I started and looked up.

"Above me stood Simon Colliver.

"He was standing in the broad light of the sun and watching me
intently, with a curious smile which grew as our eyes met.  How long
he had been there I could not guess, but the strangeness of meeting
him on this spot, and the occupation in which I was surprised,
discomposed me not a little.  Hastily thrusting back the buckle and
the parchment into my pocket, I scrambled to my feet and stood facing
him.  Even as I did so, all Mr. Sanderson's warnings came flashing
into my mind.

"For full a minute we stood confronting each other without a word.
He was still standing in the full blaze of the sunlight, with the
same odd smile upon his face, and a peculiar light in his dark eyes
that never swerved for a moment.  Finally he gave a low laugh and
nodding lightly, said--

"'Odd thing our meeting like this, eh?  Hand of Fate or some such
thing might be mixed up in it from the way we run across each other's
path.'

"I assented.

"'Queer too, you'll allow, that we should both be struck with the
fancy for ascending this mountain.  Very few Europeans do it, so I'm
told.  I'm on my way up, are you?  No?  Coming down and taking things
easily, to judge by the way I found you occupied.'

"Was the man mocking me?  Or had he, after all, no suspicions?
His voice was soft and pleasant as ever, nor could I detect a trace
of irony in its tone.  But I was on my guard.

"'This Peak seems strewn with the handiwork of the heathen,' he
continued.  'But really you seem to be in luck's way.  I congratulate
you.  What's this?  Skeletons, eh?  Upon my word, Trenoweth, you've
unearthed a treasure.  And this?  A statue?  Well, it's a queer place
to come hunting for statues, but you've picked up an ugly-looking
beggar in all conscience!'

"He had advanced to the head, which lay in the rank herbage staring
up in hideous spite to heaven.  Presently he turned to me and said--

"'Well, this is very remarkable.  The fellow who carved this seems to
have borrowed my features--not very complimentary of him, I must say.
Don't you see the likeness?'

"It was solemn truth.  Feature by feature that atrocious face was
simply a reproduction of Colliver's.  As I stared in amazement, it
seemed more and more marvellous that I had not noticed the
resemblance before.  True, each feature was distorted and exaggerated
to produce the utter malignity of its expression.  But the face was
the face of Colliver.  Nobody could have called him a handsome man,
but before this I had found Colliver not unpleasant to look upon.
Now the hate of the statue's face seemed to have reflected itself
upon him.  I leant against a tree for support and passed my hand
across my brow as if to banish a fearful dream.  But it was no dream,
and when he turned to speak again I could see lurking beneath the
assumed expression of the man all the evil passions and foul
wickedness engraved upon the stone.

"'Well,' he remarked, 'stranger things than this have happened, but
not much.  You seem distressed, Trenoweth.  Surely I, if any one,
have the right to be annoyed.  But you let your antiquarian zeal
carry you too far.  It's hardly fair to dig these poor remains from
their sepulchre and leave them to bleach beneath this tropical sun,
even in the interest of science.'

"With this he knelt down and began to gather--very reverently, as I
thought--the bones into a heap, and replace them in their tomb.
This done, he kicked up a lump or two of turf from the little lawn
and pressed it down upon them, humming to himself all the while.
Finally he rose and turned again towards me--

"'You'll excuse me, Trenoweth.  It's sentimental, no doubt, but I
have conceived a kind of respect for these remains.   Suppose, for
example, this face was really a portrait of one of this buried pair.
Why, then the deceased was very like me.  I forgive him for
caricaturing my features now; were he alive, it might be different.
But this place is sufficiently out of the way to prevent the
resemblance being noted by many.  By the way, I forgot to ask how you
chanced on this spot.  For my part, I thought that I heard something
moving in the thicket, so I followed the sound out of pure curiosity,
and came upon you.  Well, well! it's a strange world; and it's a
wonderful thought too, that this may be the grave of some primaeval
ancestor of mine who roamed this Peak for his daily food--an ancestor
of some importance too, in his day, to judge by the magnificence of
his tomb.  A poet might make something out of this: to-day face to
face with the day before yesterday.  But that's the beauty of
archaeology.  I did not know it was a pursuit of yours, and am glad
to see you are sufficiently recovered of your illness to take it up
again.  Good-bye for the present.  I am obliged to be cautious in
taking farewell of you, for we have such a habit of meeting
unexpectedly.  So, as I have to be up and moving for the summit, I'll
say 'Good-bye for the present.'  We may as well leave this image
where it is; the dead won't miss it, and it's handy by, at any rate.
_Addio_, Trenoweth, and best of luck to your future researches.'

"He was gone.  I could hear him singing as he went a strange song
which he had often sung on the outward voyage--

    "'Sing hey! for the dead man's lips, my lads;
      Sing ho! for the dead man's soul.
      At his red, red lips. . . .'

"The song died away in the distance before I moved.  I had hardly
opened my lips during the interview, and now had much ado to believe
it a reality.  But the newly-turfed grave was voucher enough for
this.  A horror of the place seized me; I cast one shuddering look at
the giant face and rushed from the spot, leaving the silent creepers
to veil once more that awful likeness from the eyes of day.

"As I emerged upon the track again I came upon Peter and Paul, who
were seeking me high and low, with dismay written upon their faces.
Excusing my absence as best I could, I declared myself ready, in
spite of my ankle, to make all haste in the descent.  Of our journey
down the Peak I need say little, except that, lame as I was, I
surprised and exhausted my guides in my hurry.  Of the dangers and
difficulties which had embarrassed our ascent I seemed to feel
nothing.  Except in the cool of the forest, the heat was almost
insufferable; but I would hear of no delay until we reached
Ratnapoora.  Here, instead of returning as we had come, we took a
boat down the Kalu-ganga river to Cattura, and thence travelled along
the coast by Pantura to Colombo.

"The object of my journey is now accomplished: and it only remains to
hasten home with all speed.  But I am feeling strangely unwell as I
write this.  My head has never fully recovered that blow at Bombay,
and I think the hours during which I remained exposed to the sun's
rays, by the side of that awful image, must have affected it.
Or perhaps the fatigue of the journey has worn me out.  If I am going
to sicken I must hide my secret.  It would be safer to bury it with
the Journal, at any rate for the time, somewhere in the garden here.
I have a tin box that will just answer the purpose.  My head is
giving me agony.  I can write no more."



CHAPTER X.


CONTAINS THE THIRD AND LAST PART OF MY FATHER'S JOURNAL: SETTING
FORTH THE MUTINY ON BOARD THE _BELLE FORTUNE_.

"June 19th.--Strange that wherever I am hospitably entertained I
recompense my host by falling ill in his house.  Since my last entry
in this Journal I have been lying at the gate of death, smitten down
with a sore sickness.  It seems that the long exposure and weariness
of my journey to the Peak threw me into a fever: but of this I should
soon have recovered, were it not for my head, which I fear will never
be wholly right again.  That cowardly blow upon Malabar Hill has made
a sad wreck of me; twice, when I seemed in a fair way to recovery,
has my mind entirely given way.  Mr. Eversleigh, indeed, assures me
that my life has more than once been despaired of--and then what
would have become of poor Margery?  I hope I am thankful to God for
so mercifully sparing my poor life, the more so because conscious how
unworthy I am to appear before Him.

"I trust I did not betray my secret in my wanderings.  Mr. Eversleigh
tells me I talked the strangest stuff at times--about rubies and
skeletons, and a certain dreadful face from which I was struggling to
escape.  But the security of my Journal and the golden clasp, which I
recovered to-day, somewhat reassures me.  I am allowed to walk in the
garden for a short space every day, but not until to-day have I found
strength to dig for my hoard.  I can hardly describe my emotions on
finding it safe and sound.

"Poor Margery!  How anxious she must be getting at my silence.
I will write her to-morrow--at least I will begin my letter
to-morrow, for I shall not have strength to finish it in one day.
Even now I ought not to be writing, but I cannot forbear making an
entry in my recovered Journal, if only to record my thankfulness to
Heaven for my great deliverance.

"June 22nd.--I have written to Margery, but torn the letter up on
second thoughts, as I had better wait until I hear news of a vessel
in which I can safely travel home.  Mr. Eversleigh (who is very kind
to me, though not so hearty as Mr. Sanderson) will not hear of my
starting in my present condition.  I wonder in what part of the world
Colliver is travelling now.

"July 1st.--Oh, this weary waiting!  Shall I never see the shores of
England again?  The doctor says that I only make myself worse with
fretting; but it is hard to linger so--when at my journey's end lies
wealth almost beyond the imagination, and (what is far more to me)
the sight of my dear ones.

"July 4th.--In answer to my entreaties, Mr. Eversleigh has consented
to make inquiries about the homeward-bound vessels starting from
Colombo.  The result is that he has at once allayed my impatience,
and compassed his end of keeping me a little longer, by selecting--
upon condition that I approve his choice--an East Indiaman due to
sail in about a fortnight's time.  The name of the ship is the _Belle
Fortune_, and of the captain, Cyrus Holding.  In spite of the name
the ship is English, and is a barque of about 600 tons register.
Her cargo consists of sugar and coffee, and her crew numbers some
eighteen hands.  To-morrow I am going down with Mr. Eversleigh to
inspect her, but I am prepared beforehand to find her to my liking.
The only pity is that she does not start earlier.

"July 6th.--Weak as I am, even yesterday's short excursion exhausted
me, so that I felt unable to write a word last night.  I have been
over the _Belle Fortune_, and am more than pleased, especially with
her captain, whose honest face took my fancy at once.  I have a most
comfortable cabin next to his set apart for me, at little cost, since
it had been fitted up for a lady on the outward voyage: so that I
shall still have a little money in pocket on my return, as my living,
both here and at Bombay, has cost me nothing, and the doctor's bills
have not exhausted my store.  I wrote to Margery to-day, making as
light of my illness as I could, and saying nothing of the business on
Malabar Hill.  That will best be told her when she has me home again,
and can hold my hand feeling that I am secure.

"July 8th.--I have been down again to-day to see the _Belle Fortune_.
I forgot to say that she belongs to Messrs. Vincent and Hext, of
Bristol, and is bound for that port.  The only other passengers are a
Dr. Concanen and his wife, who are acquaintances of Mr. Eversleigh.
Dr. Concanen is a physician with a good practice in Colombo, or was--
as his wife's delicate health has forced him to throw up his
employment here and return to England.  Mr. Eversleigh introduced me
to them this morning on the _Belle Fortune_.  The husband is almost
as tall as my host, and looks a man of great strength: Mrs. Concanen
is frail and worn, but very lovely.  To-day she seemed so ill that I
offered to give up my cabin, which is really much more comfortable
than theirs.  But she would not hear of it, insisting that I was by
far the greater invalid, and that a sailing vessel would quickly set
her right again--especially a vessel bound for England.  Altogether
they promise to be most pleasant companions.  I forgot to say that
Mrs. Concanen is taking a native maid home to act as her nurse.

"July 11th.--We start in a week's time.  I had a long talk with
Captain Holding to-day; he hopes to make a fairly quick passage, but
says he is short of hands.  I have not seen the Concanens since.

"July 16th.--We sail to-morrow afternoon.  I have been down to make
my final preparations, and find my cabin much to my liking.
Captain Holding is still short of hands.

"July 17th., 7.30 p.m.--We cast off our warps shortly after four
o'clock, and were quickly running homeward at about seven knots an
hour.  The Concanens stood on deck with me watching Ceylon grow dim
on the horizon.  As the proud cone of Adam's Peak faded softly and
slowly into the evening mist, and so vanished, as I hope, for ever
out of my life, I could not forbear returning thanks to Providence,
which has thus far watched over me so wonderfully.  There is a fair
breeze, and the hands, though short, do their work well to all
appearances.  There were only fifteen yesterday, three having been
missed for about a week before we sailed; but I have not yet seen
Captain Holding to ask him if he made up his number of hands at the
last moment.  Mrs. Concanen has invited me to their cabin to have a
chat about England.

"July 18th.--I am more disturbed than I care to own by a very curious
discovery which I made this morning.  As I issued on deck I saw a man
standing by the forecastle, whose back seemed familiar to me.
Presently he turned, and I saw him to be Simon Colliver.  He has most
strangely altered his appearance, being dressed now as a common
sailor, and wearing rings in his ears as the custom is.  Catching
sight of me, he came forward with a pleasant smile and explained
himself.

"'It is no manner of use, Trenoweth; we're fated to meet.  You did
not expect to see me here in this get-up; but I learnt last night you
were on board.  You look as though you had seen a ghost!  Don't stare
so, man--I should say 'sir' now, I suppose--it's only another of
fortune's rubs.  I fell ill after that journey to the Peak, and
although Railton nursed me like a woman--he's a good fellow, Railton,
and not as rough as you would expect--I woke up out of my fever at
last to find all the money gone.  I'm a fellow of resource,
Trenoweth, so I hit on the idea of working my passage home; by good
luck found the _Belle Fortune_ was short of hands, offered my
services, was accepted--having been to sea before, you know--sold my
old clothes for this costume--must dress when one is acting a part--
and here I am.'

"'Is Railton with you?' I asked.

"'Oh, yes, similarly attired.  I did not see you yesterday, being
busy with the cargo, so that it's all the more pleasant to meet here.
But work is the order of the day now.  You'll give me a good
character to the captain, won't you?  Good-bye for the present.'

"I cannot tell how much this meeting has depressed me.  Certainly I
have no reason for disbelieving the man's story, but the frequency
and strangeness of our meetings make it hard to believe them
altogether accidental.  I saw Railton in the afternoon: he is greatly
altered for the worse, and, I should think, had been drinking heavily
before he shipped; but the captain was evidently too short of hands
to be particular.  I think I will give the Concanens my tin box to
hide in their cabin.  Of course I can trust them, and this will
baffle theft; the clasp I will wear about me.  This is a happy idea;
I will go to their cabin now and ask them.  It is 9.30 p.m., and the
wind is still fair, I believe.

"July 20th.--We have so far kept up an average speed of seven and a
half knots an hour, and Captain Holding thinks we shall make even
better sailing when the hands are more accustomed to their work.
I spend my time mostly with the Concanens--who readily, by the way,
undertook the care of my tin box--and find them the most agreeable of
fellow-travellers.  Mrs. Concanen has a very sweet voice, and her
husband has learnt to accompany it on the guitar, so that altogether
we spend very pleasant evenings.

"July 21st, 22nd, 23rd.--The weather is still beautiful, and the
breeze steady.  Last night, at about six in the evening, it freshened
up, and we ran all night under reefed topsails in expectation of a
squall; but nothing came of it.  I trust the wind will last, not only
because it brings me nearer home, but also because without it the
heat would be intolerable.  The mention of home leads me to say that
Mrs. Concanen was most sympathetic when I spoke of Margery.  It is
good to be able to talk of my wife to this kind creature, and she is
so devoted to her husband that she plainly finds it easy to
sympathise.  They are a most happy couple.

"July 24th.--Our voyage, hitherto so prosperous, has been marred
to-day by a sad accident.  Mr. Wilkins, the mate, was standing almost
directly under the mainmast at about 4.30 this afternoon, when
Railton, who was aloft, let slip a block, which descended on the
mate's head, striking it with fearful force and killing him
instantly.  He was an honest, kindly man, to judge from the little I
have seen of him, and, as Captain Holding assures me, an excellent
navigator.  Poor Railton was dreadfully upset by the effects of his
clumsiness; although I dislike the man, I have not the heart to blame
him when I see the contrition upon his face.

"July 25th, midnight.--We buried Wilkins to-day.  Captain Holding
read the burial service, and was much affected, for Wilkins was a
great friend of his; we then lowered the body into the sea.  I spent
the evening with the Concanens, the captain being on deck and too
depressed to receive consolation.  Nor was it much better with us in
the cabin.  Although we tried to talk we were all depressed and
melancholy, and I retired earlier than usual to write my Journal.

"July 26th to August 4th.--There has been nothing to record.
The wind has been fair as yet throughout, though it dropped yesterday
(Aug. 3rd), and we lay for some hours in a dead calm.  We have
recovered our spirits altogether by this time.

"August 5th.--One of our hands, Griffiths, fell overboard to-day and
was drowned.  He and Colliver were out upon the fore-yard when
Griffiths slipped, and missing the deck, fell clear into the sea.
The captain was below at the time, but rushed upon deck on hearing
Colliver's alarm of 'Man overboard!'  It was too late, however.
The vessel was making eight knots an hour at the time, and although
it was immediately put about, there was not the slightest hope of
finding the poor fellow.  Indeed, we never saw him again."

[At this point the Journal becomes strangely meagre, consisting
almost entirely of disconnected jottings about the weather, while
here and there occurs merely a date with the latitude and longitude
entered opposite.  Only two entries seem of any importance: one of
August 20th, noting that they had doubled the Cape, and a second
written two days later and running as follows:--]

"August 22nd.--Dr. Concanen came into my cabin early this morning and
told me that his wife had just given birth to a son.  He seemed
prodigiously elated; and I congratulated him heartily, as this is the
first child born to them.  He stayed but a moment or so with me, and
then went back to attend to his wife.  I spent most of the day on
deck with Captain Holding, who is unceasingly vigilant now.
Wind continues steadily S.E."

[After this the record is again scanty, but among less important
entries we found the following:--]

"August 29th.--Mrs. Concanen rapidly recovering The child is a fine
boy: so, at least, the doctor says, though I confess I should have
thought it rather small.  However, it seems able to cry lustily.

"Sept. 6th.--Sighted Ascension Island.

"Sept. 8th, 9th.--Wind dropping off and heat positively stifling.
A curious circumstance occurred today (the 9th), which shows that I
did well to be careful of my Journal.  I was sitting on deck with the
Concanens, beneath an awning which the doctor has rigged up to
protect us from the heat, when our supply of tobacco ran short.
As I was descending for more I met Colliver coming out of my cabin.
He was rather disconcerted at seeing me, but invented some trivial
excuse about fetching a thermometer which Captain Holding had lent
me.  I am confident now that he was on the look-out for my papers,
the more so as I had myself restored the thermometer to the captain's
cabin two days ago.  It is lucky that I confided my papers to the
Concanens.  As for Railton, the hangdog look on that man's face has
increased with his travels.  He seems quite unable to meet my eye,
and returns short, surly answers if questioned.  I cannot think his
dejection is solely due to poor Wilkins' death, for I noticed
something very like it on the outward voyage."

[Here follow a few jottings on weather and speed, which latter--with
the exception of five days during which the vessel lay becalmed--
seems to have been very satisfactory.  On the 17th they caught a
light breeze from N.E., and on the 19th passed Cape Verde.
Soon after this the Journal becomes connected again, and so
continues.]

"Sept. 24th.--Just after daybreak, went on deck, and found Captain
Holding already there.  This man seems positively to require no
sleep.  Since Wilkins' death he has managed the navigation almost
entirely alone.  He seemed unusually grave this morning, and told me
that four of the hands had been taken ill during the night with
violent attacks of vomiting, and were lying below in great danger.
He had not seen the doctor yet, but suspected that something was
wrong with the food.  At this point the doctor joined us and took the
captain aside.  They conversed earnestly for about three minutes, and
presently I heard the captain exclaiming in a louder tone, 'Well,
doctor, of course you know best, but I can't believe it for all
that.'  Shortly after the doctor went below again to look after his
patients.  He was very silent when we met again at dinner, and I have
not seen him since.

"Sept. 25th.--One of the hands, Walters, died during the night in
great agony.  We sighted the Peak of Teneriffe early in the
afternoon, and I remained on deck with Mrs. Concanen, watching it.
The doctor is below, analysing the food.  I believe he is completely
puzzled by this curious epidemic.

"Sept. 26th.--Wind N.E., but somewhat lighter.  Three more men seized
last night with precisely the same symptoms.  With three deaths and
five men ill, we are now left with but nine hands (not counting the
captain) to work the ship.  Walters was buried to-day.  I learned
from Mrs. Concanen that her husband has made a _post mortem_
examination of the body.  I do not know what his conclusions are.

"I open my Journal again to record another disquieting accident.
It is odd, but I have missed one of the pieces of my father's clasp.
I am positive it was in my pocket last night.  I now have an
indistinct recollection of hearing something fall whilst I was
dressing this morning, but although I have searched both cabin and
state-room thoroughly, I can find nothing.  However, even if it has
fallen into Colliver's hands, which is unlikely, he can make nothing
of it, and luckily I know the words written upon it by heart.
Still the loss has vexed me not a little.  I will have another search
before turning in to-night.

"Sept. 27th.--Wind has shifted to N.W.  The doctor was summoned
during the night to visit one of the men taken ill two nights before.
The poor fellow died before daybreak, and I hear that another is not
expected to live until night.  The doctor has only been on deck for a
few minutes to-day, and these he occupied in talk with the captain,
who seems to have caught the prevailing depression, for he has been
going about in a state of nervous disquietude all the afternoon.
I expect that want of sleep is telling upon him at last.  The clasp
is still missing.

"Sept. 28th.--A rough day, and all hands busily engaged.  Wind mostly
S.W., but shifted to due W. before nightfall.  Three of the invalids
are better, but the other is still lying in a very critical state.

"Sept. 29th, 30th, Oct. 1st, 2nd.--Weather squally, so that we may
expect heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay.  All the invalids are by this
time in a fair way of recovery, and one of them will be strong enough
to return to work in a couple of days.  Doctor Concanen is still
strangely silent, however, and the captain's cheerfulness seems quite
to have left him.  Oh, that this gloomy voyage were over!

"Oct. 3rd.--Weather clearer.  Light breeze from S.S.W.

"Oct. 5th.--Let me roughly put down in few words what has happened,
not that I see at present any chance of leaving this accursed ship
alive, but in the hope that Providence may thus be aided--as far as
human aid may go--in bringing these villains to justice, if this
Journal should by any means survive me.

"Last night, shortly before ten, I went at Doctor Concanen's
invitation to chat in his cabin.  The doctor himself was busily
occupied with some medical works, to which, as his wife assured me,
he had been giving his whole attention of late.  But Mrs. Concanen
and I sat talking together of home until close upon midnight, when
the baby, who was lying asleep at her side, awoke and began to cry.
Upon this she broke off her conversation and began to sing the little
fellow to sleep.  'Home, Sweet Home' was the song, and at the end of
the first verse--so sweetly touching, however hackneyed, to all
situated as we--the doctor left his books, came over, and was
standing behind her, running his hands, after a trick of his,
affectionately through her hair, when the native nurse, who slept in
the next cabin and had heard the baby crying, came in and offered to
take him.  Mrs. Concanen, however, assured her that it was not
necessary, and the girl was just going out of the door when suddenly
we heard a scream and then the captain's voice calling, 'Trenoweth!
Doctor!  Help, help!'

"The doctor immediately rushed past the maid and up the companion.
I was just following at his heels when I heard two shots fired in
rapid succession, and then a heavy crash.  Immediately the girl fell
with a shriek, and the doctor came staggering heavily back on top of
her.  Quick as thought, I pulled them inside, locked the cabin door,
and began to examine their wounds.  The girl was quite dead, being
shot through the breast, while Concanen was bleeding terribly from a
wound just below the shoulder: the bullet must have grazed his upper
arm, tearing open the flesh and cutting an artery, passed on and
struck the nurse, who was just behind.  Mrs. Concanen was kneeling
beside him and vainly endeavouring to staunch the flow of blood.

"Oddly enough, the attack, from whatever quarter it came, was not
followed up; but I heard two more shots fired on deck, and then a
loud crashing and stamping in the fore part of the vessel, and judged
that the mutineers were battening and barricading the forecastle.
I unlocked the door and was going out to explore the situation, when
the doctor spoke in a weak voice--

"'Quick, Trenoweth! never mind me.  I've got the main artery torn to
pieces and can't last many more minutes--but quick for the captain's
cabin and get the guns.  They'll be down presently, as soon as
they've finished up there.'

"Opening the door and telling Mrs. Concanen--who although white as a
sheet never lost her presence of mind for a moment--to lock it after
me, I stole along the passage, gained the captain's cabin, found two
guns, a small keg of powder (to get at which I had to smash in a
locker with the butt-end of one of the guns), and some large shot,
brought I suppose for shooting gulls.

"I found also a large packet of revolver cartridges, but no revolver;
and it suddenly struck me that the shots already fired must have been
from the captain's revolver, taken probably from his dead body.
Yes, as I remembered the sound of the shots I was sure of it.
The mutineers had probably no other ammunition, and so far I was
their master.

"Fearful that by smashing the locker I had made noise enough to be
heard above the turmoil on deck, I returned swiftly and had just
reached the door of Concanen's cabin, when I heard a shout above, and
a man whom I recognised by the voice as Johnston, the carpenter, came
rushing down the steps crying, 'Hide me, doctor, hide me!'  As Mrs.
Concanen opened the door in answer to my call, another shot was
fired, the man suddenly threw up his hands and we tumbled into the
cabin together.  I turned as soon as I had locked and barricaded the
door, and saw him lying on his face--quite dead.  He had been shot in
the back, just below the shoulder-blades.

"The doctor also was at his last gasp, and the floor literally swam
with blood.  As we bent over him to catch his words he whispered,
'It was Railton--that--I saw.  Good-bye, Alice,' and fell back a
corpse.  I carried the body to a corner of the cabin, took off my
jacket and covered up his face, and turned to Mrs. Concanen.  She was
dry-eyed, but dreadfully white.

"'Give me the guns,' she said quietly, 'and show me how to load
them.'

"I was doing so when I heard footsteps coming slowly down the
companion.  A moment after, two crashing blows were struck upon the
door-panel and Colliver's voice cried--

"'Trenoweth, you dog, are you hiding there?  Give me up those papers
and come out.'

"For answer I sent a charge of shot through the cabin door, and in an
instant heard him scrambling back with all speed up the stairs.

"By this time it was about 3 a.m., and to add to the horrors of our
plight the lamp suddenly went out and left us in utter darkness.
I drew Mrs. Concanen aside--after strengthening the barricade about
the door--put her and the child in a corner where she would be safe
if they attempted to fire through the skylight, and then sat down
beside her to consider.

"If, as I suspected, the mutineers had only the revolver which they
had taken from the captain, they had but one shot left, for I had
already counted five, and it was not likely that Holding--who always,
as I knew, carried some weapon with him--would have any loose
cartridges upon him at a time when no one suspected the least danger.

"Next, as to numbers.  Excluding Captain Holding--now dead--and
including the cook I reckoned that there were fourteen hands on
board.  Of these, five were sick and probably at this moment
barricaded in the forecastle.  One, the carpenter, was lying here
dead, and from the shriek which preceded the captain's cry, another
had already been accounted for by the mutineers.

"This reduced the number to eight.  The next question was, how many
were the mutineers?  I had guessed at once that Colliver and Railton
had a hand in the business, for (in addition to my previous distrust
of the men) it was just upon midnight when we heard the first cry,
that is to say, the time when the watch was changed, and I knew that
these two belonged to the captain's watch.  But could they be alone?

"It seemed impossible, and yet I knew no others among the crew to
distrust, and certainly Davis, who was acting as mate at present,
was, although an indifferent navigator, as true as steel.  Moreover,
the fact that the mutineers' success in shooting the doctor had not
been followed up, made my guess seem more likely.  Certainly Colliver
and Railton were the only two of whom we could be sure as yet.
Nevertheless the supposition was amazing.

"I had arrived at this point in my calculations when a yell which I
recognised, told me that they had caught Cox the helmsman and were
murdering him.  After this came dead silence, which lasted all
through the night.

"I must hasten to conclude this, for we have no light in the cabin,
and I am writing now by the faint evening rays that struggle in
through the sky-light.  As soon as morning broke I determined to
reconnoitre.  Cautiously removing the barricade, I opened the cabin
door and stole up the companion ladder.  Arrived at the top I peered
cautiously over and saw the mutineers sitting by the forward hatch,
drinking.  They were altogether four in number--Colliver, Railton, a
seaman called Rogerson, who had lately been punished by Captain
Holding for sleeping when on watch, and the cook, a Chinaman.
Rogerson was not with the rest, but had hold of the wheel and was
steering.  The vessel at the time was sailing under crowded canvas
before a stiff sou'-westerly breeze.  I kept low lest Rogerson should
see me, but he was obviously more than half drunk, and was chiefly
occupied in regarding his comrades with anything but a pleasant air.
Just as I was drawing a beautiful bead however, and had well covered
Colliver, he saw me and gave the alarm; and immediately the three
sprang to their feet and made for me, the Chinaman first.  Altering
my aim I waited until he came close and then fired.  I must have hit
him, I think in the ankle, for he staggered and fell with a loud cry
about ten paces from me.  Seeing this, I made all speed again down
the ladder, turning at the cabin door for a hasty shot with the
second barrel, which, I think, missed.  The other two pursued me
until I gained the cabin, and then went back to their comrade.
The rest of the day has been quite quiet.  Luckily we have a large
tin of biscuits in the cabin, so as far as food goes we can hold out
for some time.  Mrs. Concanen and I are going to take turns at
watching to-night.

"Oct. 6th, 4 p.m.--At about 1.30 a.m.  I was sleeping when Mrs.
Concanen woke me on hearing a noise by the skylight.  The mutineers,
finding this to be the only point from which they could attack us
with any safety, had hit upon the plan of lashing knives to the end
of long sticks and were attempting to stab us with these clumsy
weapons.  It was so dark that I could hardly see to aim, but a couple
of shots fired in rapid succession drove them quickly away.  The rest
of the night was passed quietly enough, except for the cries of the
infant, which are very pitiable.  The day, too, has been without
event, except that I have heard occasional sounds in the
neighbourhood of the forecastle, which I think must come from the
sick men imprisoned there, and attempting to cut their way out.

"Oct. 7th.--We are still let alone.  Doubtless the mutineers think to
starve us out or to lull us into a false security and catch us
unawares.  As for starvation, the box of biscuits will last us both
for a week or more; and they stand little chance of taking us by
surprise, for one of us is always on the watch whilst the other
sleeps.  They spent last night in drinking.  Railton's voice was very
loud at times, and I could hear Colliver singing his infernal song--

    "'Sing hey! for the dead man's lips, my lads.'

"That man must be a fiend incarnate.  I have but little time to write,
and between every word have to look about for signs of the mutineers.
I wonder whither they are steering us.

"Oct. 8th.--A rough day evidently, by the way in which the vessel is
pitching, but I expect the crew are for the most part drunk.  We must
find some way of getting rid of the dead bodies soon.  I hardly like
to speak to Mrs. Concanen about it.  Words cannot express the
admiration I feel for the pluck of this delicate woman.  She asked me
to-day to show her how to use a gun, and I believe will fight to the
end.  Her child is ailing fast, poor little man!  And yet he is
happier than we, being unconscious of all these horrors.

"Oct. 9th, 3.30 p.m.--Sick of this inaction I made another expedition
up the companion to-day.  Rogerson was steering, and Railton standing
by the wheel talking to him.  He had a bottle in his hand and seemed
very excited.  I could not see Colliver at first, but on glancing up
at the rigging saw a most curious sight.  There was a man on the
main-top, the boatswain, Kelly, apparently asleep.  Below him
Colliver was climbing up, knife in mouth, and was already within a
couple of yards of him.  I fired and missed, but alarmed Kelly, who
jumped up and seized a block which he had cut off to defend himself
with.  At the same moment Railton and Rogerson made for me.  As I
retreated down the ladder I stumbled, the gun went off and I think
hit Rogerson, who was first.  We rolled down the stairs together, he
on top and hacking at me furiously with a knife.  At this moment I
heard the report of a gun, and my assailant's grasp suddenly relaxed.
He fell back, tripping up Railton who was following unsteadily, and
so giving me time to gain the cabin door, where Mrs. Concanen was
standing, a smoking gun in her hand.  Before we could shut the door,
however, Colliver, who by this time had gained the head of the
stairs, fired, and she dropped backwards inside the cabin.
Locking the door, I found her lying with a wound just below the
heart.  She had just time to point to her child before she died.
Was ever so ghastly a tragedy?

"Oct. 10th.--Awake all night, trying to soothe the cries of the
child, and at the same time keeping a good look-out for the
mutineers.  The sea is terribly rough, and the poor corpses are being
pitched from side to side of the cabin.  At midday I heard a cry on
deck, and judged that Kelly had dropped from the rigging in pure
exhaustion.  The noise in the forecastle is awful.  I think some of
the men there must be dead.

"Oct. 11th, 5 p.m.--The child is dying.  There is a fearful storm
raging, and with this crew the vessel has no chance if we are
anywhere near land.  God help--"



CHAPTER XI.


TELLS OF THE WRITING UPON THE GOLDEN CLASP; AND HOW I TOOK DOWN THE
GREAT KEY.

So ended my father's Journal--in a silence full of tragedy, a silence
filled in with the echo of that awful cry borne landwards on the
wings of the storm; and now, in the presence of this mute witness,
shaping itself into the single word "Murder."  Of the effect of the
reading upon us, I need not speak at any length.  For the most part
it had passed without comment; but the occasional choking of Uncle
Loveday's voice, my own quickening breath as the narrative continued,
and the tears that poured down the cheeks of both of us as we heard
the simple loving messages for Margery--messages so vainly tender, so
pitifully fond--were evidence enough of our emotion.

I say that we both wept, and it is true.  But though, do what I
could, my young heart would swell and ache until the tears came at
times, yet for the most part I sat with cold and gathering hate.
It was mournful enough when I consider it.  That the hand which
penned these anxious lines should be cold and stiff, the ear for
which they were so lovingly intended for ever deaf: that all the warm
hopes should end beside that bed where husband and wife lay dead--
surely this was tragic enough.  But I did not think of this at the
time--or but dimly if at all.  Hate, impotent hate, was consuming my
young heart as the story drew to its end; hate and no other feeling
possessed me as Uncle Loveday broke abruptly off, turned the page in
search of more, found none, and was silent.

Once he had stopped for a moment to call for a candle.
Mrs. Busvargus brought it, trimmed the wick, and again retired.
This was our only interruption.  Joe Roscorla had not returned from
Polkimbra; so we were left alone to the gathering shadows and the
horror of the tale.

When my uncle finished there was a long pause.  Finally he reached
out his hand for his pipe, filled it, and looked up.  His kindly face
was furrowed with the marks of weeping, and big tears were yet
standing in his eyes.

"Murdered," he said, "murdered, if ever man was murdered."

"Yes," I echoed, "murdered."

"But we'll have the villain," he exclaimed, bringing his fist down on
the table with sudden energy.  "We'll have him for all his cunning,
eh, boy?"

"Not yet," I answered; "he is far away by this time.  But we'll have
him: oh, yes, we'll have him."

Uncle Loveday looked at me oddly for a moment, and then repeated--

"Yes, yes, we'll have him safe enough.  Joe Roscorla must have given
the alarm before he had time to go far.  And to think," he added,
throwing up his hand, "that I talked to the villain only yesterday
morning as though he were some unfortunate victim of the sea!"

I am sure that my uncle was regretting the vast deal of very fine
language he had wasted: and, indeed, he had seldom more nobly risen
to an occasion.

"Pearls, pearls before swine!  Swine did I say?  Snakes, if it's not
an insult to a snake to give its name to such as Colliver.  What did
you say, Jasper?"

"We'll have him."

"Jasper, my boy," said he, scanning me for a second time oddly,
"maybe you'll be better in bed.  Try to sleep again, my poor lad--
what do you think?"

"I think," I answered, "that we have not yet looked at the clasp."

"My dear boy, you're right: you're right again.  Let us look at it."

The piece of metal resembled, as I have said, the half of a
waist-buckle, having a socket but no corresponding hook.  In shape it
was slightly oblong, being about 2 inches by one and a half inches.
It glittered brightly in the candle's ray as Uncle Loveday polished
it with his handkerchief, readjusted his spectacles, and bent over
it.

At the end of a minute he looked up, and said--

"I cannot make head or tail of it.  It seems plain enough to read,
but makes nonsense.  Come over here and see for yourself."

I bent over his shoulder, and this is what I saw--

The edge of the clasp was engraved with a border of flowers and
beasts, all exquisitely small.  Within this was cut, by a much
rougher hand, an inscription which was plain enough to read, though
making no sense whatever.  The writing was arranged in five lines of
three words apiece, and ran thus:--

              MOON      END      SOUTH.
              N.N.W.    22       FEET.
              NORTH     SIDE     4.
              DEEP      AT       POINT.
              WATER     1.5      HOURS.

I read the words a full dozen times, and then, failing of any
interpretation, turned to Uncle Loveday--

"Jasper," said he, "to my mind those words make nonsense."

"And to mine, uncle."

"Now attend to me, Jasper.  This is evidently but one half of the
clasp which your father discovered.  That's as plain as daylight.
The question is, what has become of the other half, of the hook that
should fit into this eye? Now, what I want you to do is to try and
remember if this was all that the man Railton gave you."

"This was all."

"You are quite certain?"

"Quite."

"You did not leave the other piece behind in the cow-shed by any
chance?"

"No, for I looked at the packet before I hid it, and there was only
one piece of metal."

"Very well.  One half of the golden clasp being lost, the next
question is, what has become of it?"

I nodded.

"To this," said Uncle Loveday, bending forward over the table, "two
answers are possible.  Either it lies at the bottom of the sea with
the rest of the freight of the _Belle Fortune_, or it is in
Colliver's possession."

"It may lie beneath Dead Man's Rock, in John Railton's pocket," I
suggested.

"True, my boy, true; you put another case.  But anyhow it makes no
difference.  If it lies at the bottom of the sea, whether in
Railton's pocket or not, the secret is safe.  If it is in Colliver's
possession the secret is safe, unless he has seen and learnt by heart
this half of the inscription.  In any case, I am sorry to tell you--
and this is what I was coming to--the secret is closed against us for
the time."

"That is not certain," said I.

"Excuse me, Jasper, it is quite certain.  You admit yourself that
this writing is nonsense.  Well and good.  But besides this, I would
have you remember," pursued Uncle Loveday, turning once more to my
father's Journal, "that Ezekiel expressly says, 'The inscription ran
right across the clasp.'  It could be read easily enough and
contained accurate directions for searching in some spot, but where
that spot was it did not reveal--"

"Quite so," I interrupted, "and that is just what we have to
discover."

"How?"

"Why, by means of the key, as the parchment and the Will plainly
show.  We may still be beaten, but even so, we shall know whereabouts
to look, if we can only catch Colliver."

"Bless the boy!" said Uncle Loveday, "he certainly has a head."

"Uncle," continued I, rising to my feet, "the secret of the Great
Ruby is written upon my grandfather's key.  That key was to be taken
down when he that undertook the task of discovering the secret should
have returned and crossed the threshold of Lantrig.  Uncle, my father
has crossed the threshold of Lantrig--"

"Feet foremost, feet foremost, my boy.  Oh, poor Ezekiel!"

"Feet foremost, yes," I continued--"dead and murdered, yes.  But he
has come: come to find my mother dead, but still he has come.
Uncle, I am the only Trenoweth left to Lantrig; think of it, the only
one left--"

"Poor Ezekiel!  Poor Margery!"

"Yes, uncle, and all I inherit is the knife that murdered my father,
and this key.  I have the knife, and I will take down the key.
We are not beaten yet."

I drew a chair under the great beam, and mounted it.  When first my
grandfather returned he had hung the iron key upon its hook, giving
strict injunctions that no one should touch it.  There ever since it
had hung, the centre of a host of spiders' webs.  Even my poor
mother's brush, so diligent elsewhere, had never invaded this sacred
relic, and often during our lonely winter evenings had she told me
the story of it: how that Amos Trenoweth's dying curse was laid upon
the person that should touch it, and how the spiders' days were
numbered with every day that brought my father nearer home.

There it hung now, scarcely to be seen for cobwebs.  Its hour had
come at last.  Even as I stretched out my hand a dozen horrid things
hurried tumultuously back into darkness.  Even as I laid my hand on
it, a big ungainly spider, scared but half incredulous, started in
alarm, hesitated, and finally made off at full speed for shelter.

This, then, was the key that should unlock the treasure--this,
that had from the first hung over us, the one uncleansed spot in
Lantrig: this was the talisman--this grimy thing lying in my hand.
The spiders had been jealous in their watch.

Stepping down, I got a cloth and brushed away the cobwebs.  The key
was covered thickly with rust, but even so I could see that something
was written upon it.  For about a minute I stood polishing it, and
then carried it forward to the light.

Yes, there was writing upon it, both on the handle and along the
shaft--writing that, as it shaped itself before my eyes, caused them
to stare in wrathful incredulity, caused my heart to sink at first in
dismay and then to swell in mad indignation, caused my blood to turn
to gall and my thoughts to very bitterness.  For this was what I
read:--

On the handle were engraved in large capitals the initials A. T.
with the date MDCCCXII.  Alone the shaft, from handle to wards, ran
on either side the following sentence in old English lettering:--

THY HOUSE IS SET UPON THE SANDS AND THY HOPES BY A DEAD MAN.

This was all.  This short sentence was the sum of all the vain quest
on which my father had met his end.  "Thy house is set upon the
sands," and even now had crumbled away beneath Amos Trenoweth's curse
"Thy hopes by a dead man," and even now he on whom our hopes had
rested, lay upstairs a pitiful corpse.  Was ever mockery more
fiendish?  As the full cruelty of the words broke in upon me, once
again I seemed to hear the awful cry from the sea, but now among its
voices rang a fearful laugh as though Amos Trenoweth's soul were
making merry in hell over his grim jest--the slaughter of his son and
his son's wife.

White with desperate passion, I turned and hurled the accursed key
across the room into the blazing hearth.

END OF BOOK I.



BOOK II.



THE FINDING OF THE GREAT RUBY.



CHAPTER I.



TELLS HOW THOMAS LOVEDAY AND I WENT IN SEARCH OF FORTUNE.

Seeing that these pages do not profess to be an autobiography, but
rather the plain chronicle of certain events connected with the Great
Ruby of Ceylon, I conceive myself entitled to the reader's pardon if
I do some violence to the art of the narrator, and here ask leave to
pass by, with but slight allusion, some fourteen years.  This I do
because the influence of this mysterious jewel, although it has
indelibly coloured my life, has been sensibly exercised during two
periods alone--periods short in themselves, but nevertheless long
enough to determine between them every current of my destiny, and to
supply an interpretation for my every action.

I am the more concerned with advertising the reader of this, as on
looking back upon what I have written with an eye as far as may be
impartial, I have not failed to note one obvious criticism that will
be passed upon me.  "How," it will be asked, "could any boy barely
eight years of age conceive the thoughts and entertain the emotions
there attributed to Jasper Trenoweth?"

The criticism is just as well as obvious.  As a solitary man for ever
brooding on the past, I will not deny that I may have been led to
paint that past in colours other than its own.  Indeed, it would be
little short of a miracle were this not so.  A morbid soul--and I
will admit that mine is morbid--preying upon its recollections, and
nourished on that food alone, cannot hope to attain the sense of
proportion which is the proper gift of varied experience.  I readily
grant, therefore, that the lights and shades on this picture may be
wrong, as judged by the ordinary eye, but I do claim them to be a
faithful reproduction of my own vision.  As I look back I find them
absolutely truthful, nor can I give the lie to my own impressions in
the endeavour to write what shall seem true to the rest of the world.

This must be, therefore, my excuse for asking the reader to pass by
fourteen years and take up the tale far from Lantrig.  But before I
plunge again into my story, it is right that I should briefly touch
on the chief events that occurred during this interval in my life.

They buried my father and mother in the same grave in Polkimbra
Churchyard.  I remember now that crowds of fisher-folk lined the way
to their last resting-place, and a host, as it seemed to me, of
tear-stained faces watched the coffins laid in the earth.  But all
else is a blurred picture to me, as, indeed, is the time for many a
long day after.

Colliver was never found.  Captain Merrydew raised the hue and cry,
but the sailor Georgio Rhodojani was never seen again from the moment
when his evil face leered in through the window of Lantrig.  A reward
was offered, and more than once Polkimbra was excited with the news
of his arrest, but it all came to nothing.  Failing his capture,
Uncle Loveday was wisely silent on the subject of my father's Journal
and the secret of the Great Ruby.  He had not been idle, however.
After long consultation with Aunt Elizabeth he posted off to Plymouth
to gain news of Lucy Railton and her daughter, but without success.
The "Welcome Home" still stood upon the Barbican, but the house was
in possession of new tenants, and neither they nor their landlord
could tell anything of the Railtons except that they had left
suddenly about two months before (that being the date of the wreck of
the _Belle Fortune_) after paying their rent to the end of the
Christmas quarter.  The landlord could give no reasons for their
departure--for the house had a fair trade--but supposed that the
husband must have returned from sea and taken them away.
Uncle Loveday, of course, knew better, but on this point held his
peace.  The one result of all his inquiries was the certainty that
the Railtons had vanished utterly.

So Lantrig, for the preservation of which my father had given his
life, was sold to strangers, and I went to live with Aunt and Uncle
Loveday at Lizard Town.  The proceeds of the sale (and they were
small indeed) Uncle Loveday put carefully by until such time as I
should be cast upon the world to seek my fortune.  For twelve
uneventful years my aunt fed me, and uncle taught me--being no mean
scholar, especially in Latin, which tongue he took great pains to
make me perfect in.  Thomas Loveday was my only companion, and soon
became my dear friend.  Poor Tom!  I can see his handsome face before
me now as it was in those old days--the dreamy eyes, the rare smile
with its faint suggestion of mockery, the fair curls in which a
breeze seemed for ever blowing, the pursed lips that had a habit of
saying such wonderful things.  In my dreams--those few dreams of mine
that are happy--we are always boys together, climbing the cliffs for
eggs, or risking our lives in Uncle Loveday's boat--always boys
together.  Poor Tom!  Poor Tom!

So the unmarked time rolled on, until there came a memorable day in
July on which I must touch for a moment.  It was evening.  I was
returning with Tom to Lizard Town from Dead Man's Rock, where we had
been basking all the sunny afternoon, Tom reading, and I simply
staring vacantly into the heavens and wondering when the time would
come that should set me free to unravel the mystery of this
ill-omened spot.  Finally, after taking our fill of idleness, we
bathed as the sun was setting; and I remember wondering, as I dived
off the black ledge, whether beneath me there lay any relic of the
_Belle Fortune_, any fragment that might preserve some record of her
end.  I had dived here often enough, but found nothing, nor could I
see anything to-day but the clean sand twinkling beneath its veil of
blue, though here, as I guessed, must still lie the bones of John
Railton.  But I must hasten.  We were returning over the Downs when
suddenly I spied a small figure running towards us, and making
frantic signals of distress.

"That," said I, "from the shape of it, must be Joe Roscorla."

And Joe Roscorla it was, only by no means the Joe Roscorla of
ordinary life, but a galvanised and gesticulating Joe, whereas the
Joe that we knew was of a lethargic bearing and slow habit of speech.
Still, it was he, and as he came up to us he stayed all questioning
by gasping out the word "Missus!" and then falling into a violent fit
of coughing.

"Well, what is amiss?" asked Tom.

"Took wi' a seizure, an' maister like a thing mazed," blurted Joe,
and then fell to panting and coughing worse than ever.

"What! a seizure? paralysis do you mean?" I asked, while Tom turned
white.

"Just a seizure, and I ha'n't got time for no longer name.  But run
if 'ee want to see her alive."

We ran without further speech, Joe keeping at our side for a minute,
but soon dropping behind and fading into distance.  As we entered the
door Uncle Loveday met us, and I saw by his face that Aunt Elizabeth
was dead.

She had been in the kitchen busied with our supper, when she suddenly
fell down and died in a few minutes.  Heart disease was the cause,
but in our part people only die of three complaints--a seizure, an
inflammation, or a decline.  The difference between these is purely
one of time, so that Joe Roscorla, learning the suddenness of the
attack, judged it forthwith a case of "seizure," and had so reported.

My poor aunt was dead; and until now we had never known how we loved
her.  Like so many of the Trenoweths she seemed hard and reserved to
many, but we who had lived with her had learnt the goodness of her
soul and the sincerity of her religion.  The grief of her husband was
her noblest epitaph.

He, poor man, was inconsolable.  Without his wife he seemed as one
deprived of most of his limbs, and moved helplessly about, as though
life were now without purpose.  Accustomed to be ruled by her at
every turn, he missed her in every action of the day.  Very swiftly
he sank, of no assigned complaint, and within six months was laid
beside her.

On his death-bed my uncle seemed strangely troubled about us.
Tom was to be a doctor.  My destiny was not so certain; but already I
had renounced in my heart an inglorious life in Lizard Town.
I longed to go with Tom; in London, too, I thought I should be free
to follow the purpose of my life.  But the question was, how should I
find the money?  For I knew that the sum obtained by the sale of
Lantrig was miserably insufficient.  So I sat with idle hands and
waited for destiny; nor did I realise my helplessness until I stood
in the room where Uncle Loveday lay dying.

"Tom," said my uncle, "Tom, come closer."

Tom bent over the bed.

"I am leaving you two boys without friends in this world.  You have
friends in Lizard Town, but Lizard Town is a small world, Tom.
I ought to have sent you to London before, but kept putting off the
parting.  If one could only foresee--could only foresee."

He raised himself slightly on his elbow, and continued with pain--

"You will go to Guy's, and Jasper, I hope, may go with you.
Be friends, boys; you will want friendship in this world.  It will be
a struggle, for there is barely enough for both.  But it is best to
share equally; _she_ would have wished that.  She was always planning
that.  I am doing it badly, I know, but she would have done it
better."

The chill December sun came stealing in and illumined the sick man's
face with a light that was the shadow of heaven.  The strange doctor
moved to the blind.  My uncle's voice arrested him--

"No, no.  Leave it up.  You will have to pull it down very soon--only
a few moments now.  Tom, come closer.  You have been a good boy, Tom,
a good boy, though"--with a faint smile--"a little trying at times.
Ah, but she forgave you, Tom.  She loved you dearly; she will tell me
so--when we meet."

My uncle's gaze began to wander, as though anticipating that meeting;
but he roused himself and said--

"Kiss me, Tom, and send Jasper to me."

Bitterly weeping, Tom made room, and I bent over the bed.

"Ah, Jasper, it is you.  Kiss me, boy.  I have been telling Tom that
you must share alike.  God has been stern with you, Jasper, to His
own good ends--His own good ends.  Only be patient, it will come
right at the last.  How dark it is getting; pull up the blind."

"The blind is up, uncle."

"Ah, yes, I forgot.  I have often thought--do you remember that day--
reading your father's paper--and the key?"

"Yes, uncle."

"I have often thought--about that key--which you flung into the
fire--and I picked out--your father Ezekiel's key--keep it.
Closer, Jasper, closer--"

I bent down until my ear almost touched his lips.

"I have--often--thought--we were wrong that night--and perhaps--
meant--search--in . . ."

For quite a minute I bent to catch the next word, then looking on his
face withdrew my arm and laid the grey head back upon the pillow.

My uncle was dead.


So it happened that a few weeks after Tom and I, having found Uncle
Loveday's savings equally divided between us, started from Lizard
Town by coach to seek our fortunes in London.  In London it is that I
must resume my tale.  Of our early mishaps and misadventures I need
not speak, the result being discernible as the story progresses.
We did not find our fortunes, but we found some wisdom.  Neither Tom
nor I ever confessed to disappointment at finding the pavements of
mere stone, but certainly two more absolute Whittingtons never trod
the streets of the great city.

But before I resume I must say a few words of myself.  No reader can
gather the true moral of this narrative who does not take into
account the effect which the cruel death of my parents had wrought on
me.  From the day of the wreck hate had been my constant companion,
cherished and nursed in my heart until it held complete mastery over
all other passions.  I lived, so I told myself over and over again,
but to avenge, to seek Simon Colliver high and low until I held him
at my mercy.  Thousands of times I rehearsed the scene of our
meeting, and always I held the knife which stabbed my father.  In my
waking thoughts, in my dreams, I was always pursuing, and Colliver
for ever fleeing before me.  In every crowd I seemed to watch for his
face alone, at every street-corner to listen for his voice--that
face, that voice, which I should know among thousands.  I had read
De Quincey's "Opium-Eater," and the picture of his unresting search
for his lost Ann somehow seized upon my imagination.  Night after
night it was to Oxford Street that my devil drove me: night after
night I paced the "never-ending terraces," as did the opium-eater, on
my tireless quest--but with feelings how different!  To me it was but
one long thirst of hatred, the long avenues of gaslight vistas of an
avenging hell, all the multitudinous sounds of life but the chorus of
that song to which my footsteps trod--

    "Sing ho! but he waits for you."

To London had Simon Colliver come, and somewhere, some day, he would
be mine.  Until that day I sought a living face in a city of dead
men, and down that illimitable slope to Holborn, and back again, I
would tramp until the pavements were silent and deserted, then seek
my lodging and throw myself exhausted on the bed.

In a dingy garret, looking out, when its grimy panes allowed, above
one of the many squalid streets that feed the main artery of the
Strand, my story begins anew.  The furniture of the room relieves me
of the task of word-painting, being more effectively described by
catalogue, after the manner of the ships at Troy.  It consisted of
two small beds, one rickety washstand, one wooden chair, and one tin
candlestick.  At the present moment this last held a flickering dip,
for it was ten o'clock on the night of May the ninth, eighteen
hundred and sixty-three.  On the chair sat Tom, turning excitedly the
leaves of a prodigiously imposing manuscript.  I was sitting on the
edge of the bed nearest the candle, brooding on my hate as usual.

Fortune had evidently dealt us some rough knocks.  We were dressed,
as Tom put it, to suit the furniture, and did it to a nicety.
We were fed, according to the same authority, above our income; but
not often.  I also quote Tom in saying that we were living rather
fast: we certainly saw no long prospect before us.  In short, matters
had reached a crisis.

Tom looked up from his reading.

"Do you know, Jasper, I could wish that our wash-stand had not a
hole cut in it to receive the basin.  It sounds hyper-critical.
But really it prejudices me in the eyes of the managers.  There's a
suspicious bulge in the middle of the paper that is damning."

I was absorbed in my own thoughts, and took no notice.  Presently he
continued--

"Whittington is an overrated character, don't you think?  After all
he owed his success to his name.  It's a great thing for struggling
youth to have a three-syllabled name with a proparoxyton accent.
I've been listening to the bells to-night and they can make nothing
of Loveday, while as for Trenoweth, it's hopeless."

As I still remained silent, Tom proceeded to announce--

"The House will now go into the Question of Supply."

"The Exchequer," I reported, "contains exactly sixteen and eightpence
halfpenny."

"Rent having been duly paid to-day and receipt given."

"Receipt given," I echoed.

"Really, when one comes to think of it, the situation is striking.
Here are you, Jasper Trenoweth, inheritor of the Great Ruby of
Ceylon, besides other treasure too paltry to mention, in danger of
starving in a garret.  Here am I, Thomas Loveday, author of
'Francesca: a Tragedy,' and other masterpieces too numerous to
catalogue, with every prospect of sharing your fate.  The situation
is striking, Jasper, you'll allow."

"What did the manager say about it?" I asked.

"Only just enough to show he had not looked at it.  He was more
occupied with my appearance; and yet we agreed before I set out that
your trousers might have been made for me.  They are the most
specious articles in our joint wardrobe: I thought to myself as
walked along to-day, Jasper, that after all it is not the coat that
makes the gentleman--it's the trousers.  Now, in the matter of boots,
I surpass you.  If yours decay at their present rate, your walks in
Oxford Street will become a luxury."

I was silent again.

"I do not recollect any case in fiction of a man being baulked of his
revenge for the want of a pair of boots.  Cheer up, Jasper, boy," he
continued, rising and placing a hand on my shoulder.  "We have been
fools, and have paid for it.  You thought you could find your enemy
in London, and find the hiding-place too big.  I thought I could
write, and find I cannot.  As for legitimate work, sixteen and
eightpence halfpenny, even with economy, will hardly carry us on for
three years."

I rose.  "I will have one more walk in Oxford Street," I said,
"and then come home and see this miserable farce of starvation out."

"Don't be a fool, Jasper.  It is difficult, I know, to perish with
dignity on sixteen and eightpence halfpenny: the odd coppers spoil
the effect.  Still we might bestow them on a less squeamish beggar
and redeem our pride."

"Tom," I said, suddenly, "you lost a lot of money once over
_rouge-et-noir_."

"Don't remind me of that, Jasper."

"No, no; but where did you lose it?"

"At a gambling hell off Leicester Square.  But why--"

"Should you know the place again?  Could you find it?"

"Easily."

"Then let us go and try our luck with this miserable sum."

"Don't be a fool, Jasper.  What mad notion has taken you now?"

"I have never gambled in my life," I answered, "and may as well have
a little excitement before the end comes.  It's not much of a sum, as
you say; but the thought that we are playing for life or death may
make up for that.  Let us start at once."

"It is the maddest folly."

"Very well, Tom, we will share this.  There may be some little
difficulty over the halfpenny, but I don't mind throwing that in.
We will take half each, and you can hoard whilst I tempt fortune."

"Jasper," said Tom, his eyes filling with tears, "you have said a
hard thing, but I know you don't mean it.  If you are absolutely set
on this silly freak, we will stand or fall together."

"Very well," said I, "we will stand or fall together, for I am
perfectly serious.  The six and eightpence halfpenny, no more and no
less, I propose to spend in supper.  After that we shall be better
prepared to face our chance.  Do you agree?"

"I agree," said Tom, sadly.

We took our hats, extinguished the candle, and stumbled down the
stairs into the night.

We ordered supper at an eating-house in the Strand, and in all my
life I cannot recall a merrier meal than this, which, for all we
knew, would be our last.  The very thought lent a touch of bravado to
my humour, and presently Tom caught the infection.  It was not a
sumptuous meal in itself, but princely to our ordinary fare; and the
unaccustomed taste of beer loosened our tongues, until our mirth
fairly astonished our fellow-diners.  At length the waiter came with
the news that it was time for closing.  Tom called for the bill, and
finding that it came to half-a-crown apiece, ordered two sixpenny
cigars, and tossed the odd eightpence halfpenny to the waiter,
announcing at the same time that this was our last meal on earth.
This done, he gravely handed me four half-crowns, and rose to leave.
I rose also, and once more we stepped into the night.

Since the days of which I write, Leicester Square has greatly
changed.  Then it was an intricate, and, by night, even a dangerous
quarter, chiefly given over to foreigners.  As we trudged through
innumerable by-streets and squalid alleys, I wondered if Tom had
not forgotten his way.  At length, however, we turned up a blind
alley, lit by one struggling gas-jet, and knocked at a low door.
It was opened almost immediately, and we groped our way up another
black passage to a second door.  Here Tom gave three knocks very loud
and distinct.  A voice cried, "Open," the door swung back before us,
and a blaze of light flashed in our faces.



CHAPTER II.


TELLS OF THE LUCK OF THE GOLDEN CLASP.

As the door swung back I became conscious first of a flood of light
that completely dazzled my eyes, next of the buzz of many voices that
confused my hearing.  By slow degrees, however, the noise and glare
grew familiar and my senses were able to take in the strange scene.

I stood in a large room furnished after the fashion of a
drawing-room, and resplendent with candles and gilding.  The carpet
was rich, the walls were hung with pictures, which if garish in
colour were not tasteless in design, and between these glittered a
quantity of gilded mirrors that caught and reflected the rays of a
huge candelabrum depending from the centre of the ceiling.
Innumerable wax candles also shone in various parts of the room,
while here and there rich chairs and sofas were disposed; but these
were for the most part unoccupied, for the guests were clustered
together beneath the great candelabrum.

They were about thirty in number, and from their appearance I judged
them to belong to very different classes of society.  Some were
poorly and even miserably attired, others adorned with gorgeous, and
not a few with valuable, jewellery.  Here stood one who from his
clothes seemed to be a poor artisan; there lounged a fop in evening
dress.  There was also a sprinkling of women, and not a few wore
masks of some black stuff concealing the upper part of their faces.

But the strangest feature of the company was that one and all were
entirely and even breathlessly watching the table in their midst.
Even the idlest scarcely raised his eyes to greet us as we entered,
and for a moment or two I paused at the door as one who had no
business with this strange assemblage.  During these few moments I
was able to grasp the main points of what I saw.

The guests were grouped around the table, some sitting and others
standing behind their chairs.  The table itself was oblong in shape,
and at its head sat the most extraordinary woman it had ever been my
lot to behold.  She was of immense age, and so wrinkled that her face
seemed a very network of deeply-printed lines.  Her complexion, even
in the candle-light, was of a deep yellow, such as is rarely seen in
the most jaundiced faces.  Despite her age, her features were bold
and bore traces of a rare beauty outlived; her eyes were of a deep
yet glittering black, and as they flashed from the table to the faces
of her guests, seemed never to wink or change for an instant their
look of intense alertness.

But what was most noteworthy in this strange woman was neither her
eyes, her wrinkles, nor her curious colour, but the amazing quantity
of jewels that she wore.  As she sat there beneath the glare of the
candelabrum she positively blazed with gems.  With every motion of
her quick hands a hundred points of fire leapt out from the diamonds
on her fingers; with every turn of her wrinkled neck the light played
upon innumerable facets; and all the time those cold, lustrous eyes
scintillated as brightly as the stones.  She was engaged in the game
as we entered, and turned her gaze upon us for an instant only, but
that momentary flash was so cold, so absolutely un-human, that I
doubted if I looked upon reality.  The whole assembly seemed rather
like a room full of condemned spirits, with this woman sitting as
presiding judge.

As we still stood by the door a hush fell on the company; men and
women seemed to catch their breath and bend more intently over the
table.  There was a pause; then someone called the number
"Thirty-one," and the buzz of voices broke out again--a mixture of
exclamations and disappointed murmurs.  Then, and not till then, did
the woman at the head of the table speak, and when she spoke her
words were addressed to us.

"Come in, gentlemen, come in.  You have not chosen your moment well,
for the Bank is winning; but you are none the less welcome."

Her eyes as she turned them again upon us did not alter their
expression.  They were--though I can scarcely hope that this
description will be understood--at once perfectly vigilant and
absolutely impassive.  But even more amazing was the voice that
contradicted both these impressions, being most sweetly and
delicately modulated, with a musical ring that charmed the ear as the
notes of a well-sung song.  The others, hearing us addressed, turned
an incurious gaze upon us for a moment, and then fastened their
attention anew upon the table.

Thus welcomed, we too stepped forward to the centre of the room and
began to watch the game.  I have never seen roulette played
elsewhere, so do not know if its accessories greatly vary, but this
is what I saw.

The table, which I have described as oblong, was lined to the width
of about a foot around the edge with green baize, and on this were
piled heaps of gold and silver, some greater, some less.  Sunk in the
centre was a well, in which a large needle revolved upon a pivot at a
turn of the hand.  The whole looked like a large ship's compass, but
instead of north, south, east, and west, the table around the well,
and at a level with the compass, was marked out into alternate spaces
of red and black, bearing--one on each space--the figures from 1 to
36, and ending in 0, so that in all there were thirty-seven spaces,
the one bearing the cipher being opposite to the strange woman who
presided.  As the game began again the players staked their money on
one or another of these spaces.  I also gathered that they could
stake on either black or red, or again on one of the three dozens--
1 to 12, 13 to 24, 25 to 36.  When all the money was staked, the
woman bent forward, and with a sweep of her arm sent the needle
spinning round upon its mission.

Thrice she did this, thrice the eager faces bent over the revolving
needle, and each time I gathered from the murmurs around me that the
bank had won heavily.  At the end of the third round the hostess
looked up and said to Loveday--

"You have been here before, and, if I remember rightly, were
unfortunate.  Come and sit near me when you have a chance, and
perhaps you may break this run of luck.  Even I am tiring of it.
Or better still, get that dark handsome friend of yours to stake for
you.  Have you ever played before?" she asked, turning to me.

I shook my head.

"All the better.  Fortune always favours beginners, and if it does I
shall be well recompensed to have so handsome a youth beside me," and
with this she turned to the game again.

At her right sat a grey-headed man with worn face and wolfish eyes,
who might have been expected to take this as a hint to make way.
But he never heard a word.  All his sense was concentrated on the
board before him, and his only motion was to bend more closely and
eagerly over the play.  Tom whispered in my ear--

"You have the money, Jasper; take her advice if you really mean to
play this farce out.  Take the seat if you get a chance, and play
your own game."

"You have been here before," I answered, "and know more about the
game."

"Here before!  Yes, to my cost. No, no, the idea of play is your own
and you shall carry it out.  I am always unlucky, and as for
knowledge of the game, you can pick that up by watching a round or
two; it's perfectly simple."

Again the bank had won.  At the left hand of our hostess stood a
stolid man holding a small shovel with which he gathered in the
winnings.  All around were faces as of souls in torture; even the
features of the winners (and these were few enough) scarcely
expressed a trace of satisfaction, but seemed rather cast into some
horrible trance in which they saw nothing but the piles of coin, the
spinning needle, and the flashing hands of the woman that turned it.
She all the while sat passionless and cold, looking on the scene as
might some glittering and bejewelled sphinx.

As I gazed, as the needle whirled and stopped and once more whirled,
the mad excitement of the place came creeping upon me.  The
glittering fingers of our hostess fascinated me as a serpent holds
its prey.  The stifling heat, the glare, the confused murmurs mounted
like strong wine into my brain.  The clink and gleam of the gold as
it passed to and fro, the harsh voice of the man with the shovel
calling at intervals, "Put on your money, gentlemen," the mechanical
progress of the play, confused and staggered my senses.  I forgot
Tom, forgot the reason of our coming, forgot even where I was, so
absorbed was I, and craned forward over the hurrying wheel, as intent
as the veriest gambler present.

I was aroused from my stupor by a muttered curse, as the grey-headed
man before me staggered up from his chair, and left the table with
desperate eyes and stupid gait.  As he rose the jewelled fingers made
a slight motion, and I dropped into the vacant seat.

The bank was still winning.  At our hostess' left hand rose a
swelling pile of gold and silver that time after time absorbed all
the smaller heaps upon the black and red spaces.  Meanwhile the woman
had scarcely spoken, but as the needle went round once more,
slackened and stopped--this time amid deep and desperate
execrations--she turned to me and said--

"Now is your time to break the bank if you wish.  Play boldly; I
should like to lose to so proper a man."

I looked back at Tom, who merely nodded, and put my first half-crown
upon the red space marked 19.  My neighbour, without seeming to
notice the smallness of the sum, bent over the table and sent the
wheel spinning on its errand.  I, too, bent forward to watch, and as
the wheel halted, saw the coin swept, with many more valuable, into
the great pile.

"A bad beginning," said the sweet voice beside me.  "Try again."

I tried again, and a third time, and two more half-crowns went to
join their fellow.

There was one more chance.  White with desperation I drew out my last
half-crown, and laid it on the black.  A flash, and my neighbour's
hand sent the needle whirling.  Round and round it went, as though it
would never cease; round and round, then slackened, slackened,
hesitated and stopped--where?

Where but over the red square opposite me?

For a moment all things seemed to whirl and dance before me.
The candles shot out a million glancing rays, the table heaved, the
rings upon the woman's fingers glittered and sparkled, while opposite
me the devilish finger of Fortune pointed at the ruin of my hopes,
and as it pointed past them and at me, called me very fool.

I clutched the table's green border and sank back in my seat.
As I did so I heard a low curse from Tom behind me.  The overwhelming
truth broke in upon my senses, chasing the blood from my face, the
hope from my heart.  Ruined! Ruined!  The faces around me grew
blurred and misty, the room and all my surrounding seemed to fade
further and yet further away, leaving me face to face with the
consequences of my folly.  Scarce knowing what I did, I turned to
look at Tom, and saw that his face was white and set.  As I did so
the musical voice beside me murmured--

"The game is waiting: are you going to stake this time?"

I stammered out a negative.

"What? already tired?  A faint heart should not go with such a face,"
and again she swept the pointer round.

"Is it," she whispered in my ear, "is it that you cannot?"

"It is."

"Ah, it is hard with half-a-sovereign to break the bank.  But see,
have you nothing--nothing?  For I feel as if my luck were going to
leave me."

"Nothing," I answered, "nothing in the world."

"Poor boy!"

Her voice was tender and sympathetic, but in her eyes there glanced
not the faintest spark of mercy.  I sat for a moment stunned and
helpless, and then she resumed.

"Can I lend to you?"

"No, for I have no chance of repaying.  This was my all, and it has
gone.  I have not one penny left in the world."

"Poor boy!"

"I thank you.  I could not expect you to pity me, but--"

"Ah, but you are wrong.  I pity you: I pity you all.  Fools, fools, I
call you all, and yet I make my living out of you.  So you cannot
play," she added, as she set the game going once again.  "What will
you do?"

"Go, first of all."

"And after?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"No, do not go yet.  Sit beside me for a while and watch: it is only
Fortune that makes me your enemy.  I would willingly have lost to
you."

She looked so curious, sitting there with her yellow face, her
wrinkles and her innumerable diamonds, that I could only sit and
stare.

"I have seen many a desperate boy," continued this extraordinary
woman, "sitting beside me in that very chair.  Ah, many a young life
have I murdered in this way.  I am old, you see, very old; older even
than you could guess, but I triumph over youth none the less.
Sometimes I feel as if I fed on the young lives of others."

She delivered these confidences without a change in her emotionless
face, and still I stared fascinated.

"Ah, yes, they sit here for a moment, and then they go--who knows
where?  You will be going presently, and then I shall lose you for
ever, without a thought of what happens to you.  Money is my blood:
you see its colour in my face.  Here they all come, and I suck their
blood and fling them aside.  They win sometimes; but I can wait.
I wait and wait, and they come back here as surely as there is a
destiny.  They come back, and I win in the end.  I always win in the
end."

She turned her attention to the game for a moment and then went on:--

"It is a rare drink, this yellow blood: and all the sweeter when it
comes from youth.  I have had but a drop from you, but I like you
nevertheless.  Oh, yes, I can pity, my heart is always full of pity
as I sit here drinking gold.  Your friend is a charming boy, but I
like you better: and now you will go.  These partings are very cruel,
are they not?"

There was not a trace of mockery in her voice, and her eyes were the
same as ever.  I merely looked up in reply, but she divined my
thoughts.

"No, I am not mocking you.  I should like you to win--once: I say it,
and am perfectly honest about it.  You would be beaten in the end,
but it would please me while it lasted.  Has your friend no money?"

"No, this was all we had between us."

"So he came back and got you to play with your money.  That was
strange friendship."

"You are wrong," I answered, "he was set against coming; but I
persuaded him--or rather, I insisted.  It is all my own fault."

"Well," she said, musingly, "I suppose you must, go; but it is a
pity.  You are too handsome a boy to--to do what you will probably
do: but the game does not regard good looks, or it would fare badly
with me.  Good-bye."

Still there was no shadow of pity in those unfathomable eyes.
I looked into them for a moment, but their shining jet revealed
nothing below the surface--nothing but inexorable calm.

"Good-bye," I said, and rose to go, for Tom's hand was already on my
shoulder.  I dared not look in his face.  All hope was gone now, all
wealth, all--Stay!  I put my fingers in my waistcoat-pocket and drew
out the Golden Clasp.  Worthless to me as any sign of the
hiding-place of the Great Ruby, it might yet be worth something as
metal.  I had carried it ever since the day when Uncle Loveday and I
read my father's Journal.  But what did it matter now?  In a few
hours I should be beyond the hope of treasure.  Might I not just as
well fling this accursed clasp after the rest?  For aught I knew it
might yet win something back to me--that is, if anyone would accept
it as money.  At least I would try.

I sank back into my chair again.  The woman turned her eyes upon me
carelessly, and said--

"What, back again so soon?"

"Yes," said I, somewhat taken aback by her coldness, "if you will
give me another chance."

"I give nothing, least of all chance," she replied.

"Well, can you tell me if this is worth anything?"

As I said this I held out the clasp, which flashed brightly as it
caught the rays of the large candelabrum overhead.  She turned her
eyes upon it, and as she did so, for the first time I fancied I
caught a gleam of interest within them.  It was but a gleam, however,
and died out instantly as she said--

"Let me look at it."

I handed it to her.  She bent over it for a moment, then turned to me
and asked--

"Is this all of it?  I mean that it seems only one half of a clasp.
Have you not the other part?"

I shook my head, and she continued--

"It is beautifully worked, and seems valuable.  Do you wish me to buy
it?"

"Not exactly that," I explained; "but if you think it worth anything
I should like to stake it against an equivalent."

"Very well; it might be worth three pounds--perhaps more: but you can
stake it for that if you will.  Shall it be all at once?"

"Yes, let me have it over at once," I said, and placed it on the red
square marked 13.

She nodded, and bending over the table, set the pointer on its round.

This time I felt quite calm and cool.  All the intoxication of play
had gone from me and left my nerves steady as iron.  As the needle
swung round I scarcely looked at it, but fell to watching the faces
of my fellow-gamblers with idle interest.  This stake would decide
between life and death for me, but I did not feel it.  My passion had
fallen upon an anti-climax, and I was even yawning when the murmur of
many voices, and a small pile of gold and silver at my side,
announced that I had won.

"So the luck was changed at last," said the woman.  "Be brave whilst
it is with you."

In answer I again placed the clasp upon the number 13.

Once more I won, and this time heavily.  Tom laid his hand upon my
shoulder and said, "Let us go," but I shook my head and went on.

Time after time I won now, until the pile beside me became immense.
Again and again Tom whispered in my ear that we had won enough and
that luck would change shortly, but I held on.  And now the others
surrounded me in a small crowd and began to stake on the numbers I
chose.  Put the clasp where I would the needle stopped in front of
it.  They brought a magnet to see if this curious piece of metal had
any power of attraction, but our hostess only laughed and assured
them at any rate there was no steel in the pointer, as (she added)
some of them ought to know by this time.  When eight times I had put
the buckle down and eight times had found a fresh heap of coin at my
side, she turned to me and said--

"You play bravely, young man.  What is your name?"

"Jasper Trenoweth."

Again I fancied I caught the gleam in her eyes; and this time it
even seemed as though her teeth shut tight as she heard the words.
But she simply laughed a tranquil laugh and said--

"A queer-sounding name, that Trenoweth.  Is it a lucky one?"

"Never, until now," said I.

"Well, play on.  It does my heart good, this fight between us.
But you are careful, I see; why don't you stake your pile as well
while this wonderful run lasts?"

Again Tom's hand was laid upon my shoulder, and this time his voice
was urgent.  But I was completely deaf.

"As you please," said I, coldly, and laid the whole pile down upon
the black.

It was madness.  It was worse than madness.  But I won again; and now
the heap of my winnings was enormous.  I glanced at the strange
woman; she sat as impassive as ever.

"Play," said she.

Thrice more I won, and now the pile beside her had to be replenished.
Yet she moved not a muscle of her face, not a lash of her mysterious
eyes.

At last, sick of success, I turned and said--

"I have had enough of this.  Will it satisfy you if I stake it all
once more?"

Again she laughed.  "You are brave, Mr. Trenoweth, and indeed worth
the fighting.  You may win to-night, but I shall win in the end.
I told you that I would readily lose to you, and so I will; but you
take me at my word with a vengeance.  Still, I should like to possess
that clasp of yours, so let it be once more."

I laid the whole of my winnings on the red.  By this time all the
guests had gathered round to see the issue of this conflict.  Not a
soul put any money on this turn of the wheel, so engrossed were they
in the duel.  Every face was white with excitement, every lip
quivered.  Only we, the combatants, sat unmoved--I and the strange
woman with the unfathomable eyes.

"Red stands for many things," said she, as she lightly twirled the
needle round, "blood and rubies and lovers' lips.  But black is the
livery of Death, and Death shall win them all in the end."

As the pointer of fortune circled on its last errand, I could catch
the stifled breath of the crowd about me, so deep was the hush that
fell upon us all.  I felt Tom's hand tighten its clutch upon my
shoulder.  I heard, or fancied I heard, the heart of the man upon my
right thump against his ribs.  I could feel my own pulse beating all
the while with steady and regular stroke.  Somehow I knew that I
should win, and somehow it flashed upon me that she knew it too.
Even as the idea came darting across my brain, a multitude of pent-up
cries broke forth from thirty pairs of white lips.  I scarcely looked
to see the cause, but as I turned to our hostess her eyes looked
straight into mine and her sweet voice rose above the din--

"Gentlemen, we have played enough to-night.  The game is over."

I had broken the bank.


I stood with Tom gathering up my winnings as the crowd slowly melted
from the room, and as I did so, cast a glance at the woman whom I had
thus defeated.  She was leaning back in her chair, apparently
indifferent to her losses as to her gains.  Only her eyes were
steadily fixed upon me as I shovelled the coin into my pockets.
As she caught my eye she pulled out a scrap of paper and a pencil,
scribbled a few words, tossed the note to the man with the shovel,
who instantly left the room, and said--

"Is it far from this place to your home?"

"Not very."

"That's well; but be careful.  To win such a sum is only less
dangerous than to lose it.  I shall see you again--you and your
talisman.  By the way, may I look at it for a moment?"

We were alone in the room, we three.  She took the clasp, looked at
it intently for a full minute, and then returned it.  Already the
dawn of another day was peering in through the chinks in the blinds,
giving a ghastly faintness to the expiring candles, throwing a grey
and sickening reality over the scene--the disordered chairs, the
floor strewn with scraps of paper, the signs and relics of the
debauchery of play.  Ghastlier than all was the yellow face of the
woman in the pitiless light.  But there she sat, seemingly untired,
in all the splendour of her flashing gems, as we left her--a very
goddess of the gaming-table.

We had reached the door and were stepping into the darkness of the
outer passage, when Tom whispered--

"Be on your guard; that note meant mischief."

I nodded, swung open the door, and stepped out into the darkness.
Even as I did so, I heard one quick step at my left side, saw a faint
gleam, and felt myself violently struck upon the chest.  For a moment
I staggered back, and then heard Tom rush past me and deal one
crashing blow.

"Run, run!  Down the passage, quick!"

In an instant we were tearing through the black darkness to the outer
door, but in that instant I could see, through the open door behind,
in the glare of all the candles, the figure of the yellow woman still
sitting motionless and calm.

We gained the door, and plunged into the bright daylight.  Up the
alley we tore, out into the street, across it and down another, then
through a perfect maze of by-lanes.  Tom led and I followed behind,
panting and clutching my bursting pockets lest the coin should tumble
out.  Still we tore on, although not a footstep followed us, nor had
we seen a soul since Tom struck my assailant down.  Spent and
breathless at last we emerged upon the Strand, and here Tom pulled
up.

"The streets are wonderfully quiet," said he.

I thought for a moment and then said, "It is Sunday morning."

Scarcely were the words out of my mouth when I heard something ring
upon the pavement beside me.  I stooped, and picked up--the Golden
Clasp.

"Well," said I, "this is strange."

"Not at all," said Tom.  "Look at your breast-pocket."

I looked and saw a short slit across my breast just above the heart.
As I put my hand up, a sovereign, and then another, rolled clinking
on to the pavement.

Tom picked them up, and handing them to me, remarked--

"Jasper, you may thank Heaven to-day, if you are in a mood for it.
You have had a narrow escape."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, that you would be a dead man now had you not carried that piece
of metal in your breast-pocket.  Let me see it for a moment."

We looked at it together, and there surely enough, almost in the
centre of the clasp, was a deep dent.  We were silent for a minute or
so, and then Tom said--

"Let us get home.  It would not do for us to be seen with this money
about us."

We crossed the Strand, and turned off it to the door of our lodgings.
There I stopped.

"Tom, I am not coming in.  I shall take a long walk and a bathe to
get this fearful night out of my head.  You can take the money
upstairs, and put it away somewhere in hiding.  Stay, I will keep a
coin or two.  Take the rest with you."

Tom looked up at the gleam of sunshine that touched the chimney-pots
above, and decided.

"Well, for my part, I am going to bed; and so will you if you are
wise."

"No.  I will be back this evening, so let the fatted calf be
prepared.  I must get out of this for a while."

"Where are you going?"

"Oh, anywhere.  I don't care.  Up the river, perhaps."

"You don't wish me to go with you?"

"No, I had rather be alone.  Tom, I have been a fool.  I led you into
a hole whence nothing but a marvellous chance has delivered us, and I
owe you an apology.  And--Tom, I also owe you my life."

"Not to me, Jasper; to the Clasp."

"To you," I insisted.  "Tom, I have been a thoughtless fool, and--
Tom, that was a splendid blow of yours."

He laughed, and ran upstairs, while I turned and gloomily sauntered
down the deserted street.



CHAPTER III.


TELLS AN OLD STORY IN THE TRADITIONAL MANNER.

When Tom asked me where I was going, I had suggested an excursion up
the river; though, to tell the truth, this answer had come with the
question.  Be that as it may, the afternoon of that same Sunday found
me on the left bank of the Thames between Streatley and Pangbourne;
found me, with my boat moored idly by, stretched on my back amid the
undergrowth, and easefully staring upward through a trellis-work of
branches into the heavens.  I had been lying there a full hour
wondering vaguely of my last night's adventure, listening to the
spring-time chorus of the birds, lazily and listlessly watching a
bough that bent and waved its fan of foliage across my face, or the
twinkle of the tireless kingfisher flashing down-stream in loops of
light, when a blackbird lit on a branch hard by my left hand, and,
all unconscious of an audience, began to pour forth his rapture to
the day.

Lying there I could spy his black body and yellow bill, and drink in
his song with dreamy content.  So sweetly and delicately was he
fluting, that by degrees slumber crept gently and unperceived upon my
tired brain; and as the health-giving distillation of the melody
stole upon my parched senses, I fell into a deep sleep.


What was that?  Music?  Yes, but not the song of my friend the
black-bird, not the mellow note that had wooed me to slumber and
haunted my dreams.  Music?  Yes, but the voice was human, and the
song articulate.  I started, and rose upon my elbow to listen.
The voice was human beyond a doubt--sweetly human: it was that of a
girl singing.  But where?  I looked around and saw nobody.  Yet the
singer could not be far off, for the words, though softly and gently
sung, dwelt clearly and distinctly upon my ear.  Still half asleep, I
sank back again and listened.

    "Flower of the May,
       Saw ye one pass?
     'Love passed to-day
       While the dawn was,
       O, but the eyes of him shone as a glass.'"

The low, delicate notes came tremulous through the thicket.
The blackbird was hushed, the trees overhead swayed soundlessly, and
when the voice fell and paused, so deep was the silence that
involuntarily I held my breath and waited.  Presently it broke out
again--

    "Bird of the thorn,
       What his attire?
     'Lo! it was torn,
       Marred with the mire,
       And but the eyes of him sparkled with fire.'"

Again the voice died away in soft cadences, and again all was
silence.  I rose once more upon my elbow, and gazed into the green
depths of the wood; but saw only the blackbird perched upon a twig
and listening with head askew.

    "Flower of the May,
       Bird of the--"

The voice quivered, trailed off and stopped.  I heard a rustling of
leaves to the right, and then the same voice broke out in prose, in
very agitated and piteous prose--"Oh, my boat! my boat!  What shall I
do?"

I jumped to my feet, caught a glimpse of something white, and of
two startled but appealing eyes, then tore down to the bank.
There, already twenty yards downstream, placidly floated the boat,
its painter trailing from the bows, and its whole behaviour pointing
to a leisurely but firm resolve to visit Pangbourne.

My own boat was close at hand.  But when did hot youth behave with
thought in a like case?  I did as ninety-nine in a hundred would do.
I took off my coat, kicked off my shoes, and as the voice cried,
"Oh, please, do not trouble," plunged into the water.  The refractory
boat, once on its way, was in no great hurry, and allowed itself to
be overtaken with great good-humour.  I clambered in over the stern,
caught up the sculls which lay across the thwarts, and, dripping but
triumphant, brought my captive back to shore.

"How can I thank you?"

If my face was red as I looked up, it must be remembered that I had
to stoop to make the boat fast.  If my eyes had a tendency to look
down again, it must be borne in mind that the water from my hair was
dripping into them.  They gazed for a moment, however, and this was
what they saw:--

At first only another pair of eyes, of dark grey eyes twinkling with
a touch of merriment, though full at the same time of honest
gratitude.  It was some time before I clearly understood that these
eyes belonged to a face, and that face the fairest that ever looked
on a summer day.  First, as my gaze dropped before that vision of
radiant beauty, it saw only an exquisite figure draped in a dress of
some white and filmy stuff, and swathed around the shoulders with a
downy shawl, white also, across which fell one ravishing lock of
waving brown, shining golden in the kiss of the now drooping sun.
Then the gaze fell lower, lighted upon a little foot thrust slightly
forward for steadiness on the bank's verge, and there rested.

So we stood facing one another--Hero and Leander, save that Leander
found the effects of his bath more discomposing than the poets give
any hint of.  So we stood, she smiling and I dripping, while the
blackbird, robbed of the song's ending, took up his own tale anew,
and, being now on his mettle, tried a few variations.  So, for all
power I had of speech, might we have stood until to-day had not the
voice repeated--

"How can I thank you?"

I looked up.  Yes, she was beautiful, past all criticism--not tall,
but in pose and figure queenly beyond words.  Under the brim of her
straw hat the waving hair fell loosely, but not so loosely as to hide
the broad brow arching over lashes of deepest brown.  Into the eyes I
dared not look again, but the lips were full and curling with humour,
the chin delicately poised over the most perfect of necks.  In her
right hand she held a carelessly-plucked creeper that strayed down
the white of her dress and drooped over the high firm instep.  And so
my gaze dropped to earth again.  Pity me.  I had scarcely spoken to
woman before, never to beauty.  Tongue-tied and dripping I stood
there, yet was half inclined to run away.

"And yet, why did you make yourself so wet?  Have you no boat?
Is not that your boat lying there under the bank?"  There was an
amused tremor in the speech.

Somehow I felt absurdly guilty.  She must have mistaken my glance,
for she went on:--"Is it that you wish--?" and began to search in the
pocket of her gown.

"No, no," I cried, "not that."

I had forgotten the raggedness of my clothes, now hideously
emphasised by my bath.  Of course she took me for a beggar.  Why not?
I looked like one.  But as the thought flashed upon me it brought
unutterable humiliation.  She must have divined something of the
agony in my eyes, for a tiny hand was suddenly laid on my arm and the
voice said--

"Please, forgive me; I was stupid, and am so sorry."

Forgive her?  I looked up for an instant and now her lids drooped in
their turn.  There was a silence between us for a moment or two,
broken only by the blackbird, by this time entangled in a maze of
difficult variations.  Presently she glanced up again, and the grey
eyes were now chastely merry.

"But it was odd to swim when your boat was close at hand, was it
not?"

I looked, faltered, met her honest glance, and we both broke out into
shy laughter.  A mad desire to seize the little hand that for a
moment had rested on my arm caught hold of me.

"Yes, it was odd," I answered slowly and with difficulty; "but it
seemed--the only thing to do at the time."

She laughed a low laugh again.

"Do you generally behave like that?"

"I don't know."

There was a pause and then I added--

"You see, you took me by surprise."

"Where were you when I first called?" she asked.

"Lying in the grass close by."

"Then"--with a vivid blush--"you must have--"

"Heard you singing?  Yes."

"Oh!"

Again there was a pause, and this time the blackbird executed an
elaborate exercise with much delicacy and finish.  The brown lashes
drooped, the lovely eyes were bent on the grass, and the little hand
swung the creeper nervously backward and forward.

"Why did you not warn me that I had an audience?"

"Because, in the first place, I was too late.  When you began I
was--"

"What?" she asked as I hesitated.

"Asleep."

"And I disturbed you.  I am so sorry."

"I am not."

I was growing bolder as she became more embarrassed.  I looked down
upon her now from my superior height, and my heart went out to
worship the grace of God's handiwork.  With a touch of resentment she
drew herself up, held out her hand, and said somewhat proudly--

"I thank you, sir, for this service."

I took the hand, but not the hint.  It was an infinitesimal hand as
it lay in my big brown one, and yet it stung my frame as with some
delicious and electric shock.  My heart beat wildly and my eyes
remained fixed upon hers.

The colour on the fair face deepened a shade: the little chin was
raised a full inch, and the voice became perceptibly icy.

"I must go, sir.  I hope I have thanked you as far as I can, and--"

"And what?"

"Forgive me that I was about to offer you money."

The hat's brim bent now, but under it I could see the honest eyes
full of pain.

"Forgive you!" I cried.  "Who am I to forgive you?  You were right:
I am no better than a beggar."

The red lips quivered and broke into a smile; a tiny dimple appeared,
vanished and reappeared; the hat's brim nodded again, and then the
eyes sparkled into laughter--

"A sturdy beggar, at any rate."

It was the poorest little joke, but love is not exacting of wit.
Again we both laughed, but this time with more relief, and yet the
embarrassment that followed was greater.

"Must you go?" I asked as I bent down to pull the boat in.

"I really must," she answered shyly; and then as she pulled out a
tiny watch at her waist--"Oh! I am late--so late.  I shall keep
mother waiting and make her lose the train.  What shall I do?
Oh, pray, sir, be quick!"

A mad hope coursed through me; I pointed to the boat and said--

"I have made it so wet.  If you are late, better let me row you.
Where are you going?"

"To Streatley; but I cannot--"

"I also am going to Streatley.  Please let me row you: I will not
speak if you wish it."

Over her face, now so beautifully agitated, swept the rarest of
blushes.  "Oh no, it is not that, but I can manage quite well"--her
manner gave the lie to her brave words--"and I shall not mind the
wet."

"If I have not offended you, let me row."

"No, no."

"Then I have offended."

"Please do not think so."

"I shall if you will not let me row."

Before my persistency she wavered and was conquered.  "But my boat?"
she said.

"I will tow it behind"--and in the glad success of my hopes I allowed
her no time for further parley, but ran off for my own boat, tied the
two together, and gently helped her to her seat.  Was ever moment so
sweet?  Did ever little palm rest in more eager hand than hers in
mine during that one heavenly moment?  Did ever heart beat so
tumultuously as mine, as I pushed the boat from under the boughs and
began to row?

Somehow, as we floated up the still river, a hush fell upon us.
She was idly trailing her hand in the stream and watching the ripple
as it broke and sparkled through her fingers.  Her long lashes
drooped down upon her cheek and veiled her eyes, whilst I sat
drinking in her beauty and afraid by a word to break the spell.

Presently she glanced up, met my burning eyes, and looked down
abashed.

"Forgive me, I could not help it."

She tried to meet the meaning of that sentence with a steady look,
but broke down, and as the warm blood surged across her face, bent
her eyes to the water again.  For myself, I knew of nothing to say in
extenuation of my speech.  My lips would have cried her mercy, but no
words came.  I fell to rowing harder, and the silence that fell upon
us was unbroken.  The sun sank and suddenly the earth grew cold and
grey, the piping of the birds died wholly out, the water-flags
shivered and whispered before the footsteps of night.  Slowly, very
slowly the twilight hung its curtains around us.  Swiftly, too
swiftly the quiet village drew near, but my thoughts were neither of
the village nor the night.  As I sat and pulled silently upwards,
life was entirely changing for me.  Old thoughts, old passions, old
aims and musings slipped from me and swept off my soul as the
darkening river swept down into further night.

"Streatley!  So soon!  We are in time, then."

Humbly my heart thanked her for those words, "So soon."  I gave her
my hand to help her ashore, and, as I did so, said--

"You will forgive me?"

"For getting wet in my service?  What is there to forgive?"

Oh, cruelly kind!  The moon was up now and threw its full radiance on
her face as she turned to go.  My eyes were speaking imploringly, but
she persisted in ignoring their appeal.

"You often come here?"

"Oh, no! Sunday is my holiday; I am not so idle always.  But mother
loves to come here on Sundays.  Ah, how I have neglected her to-day!"
There was a world of self-reproach in her speech, and again she would
have withdrawn her hand and gone.

"One moment," said I, hoarsely.  "Will you--can you--tell me your
name?"

There was a demure smile on her face as the moon kissed it, and--

"They call me Claire," she said.

"Claire," I murmured, half to myself.

"And yours?" she asked.

"Jasper--Jasper Trenoweth."

"Then good-bye, Mr. Jasper Trenoweth.  Goodbye, and once more I thank
you."

She was gone; and standing stupid and alone I watched her graceful
figure fade into the shadow and take with it the light and joy of my
life.


"Jasper," said Tom, as I lounged into our wretched garret, "have you
ever known what it is to suffer from the responsibility of wealth?
I do not mean a few paltry sovereigns; but do you know what it is to
live with, say, three thousand four hundred and sixty-five pounds
thirteen and sixpence on your conscience?"

"No," I said; "I cannot say that I have.  But why that extraordinary
sum?"

"Because that is the sum which has been hanging all day around me as
a mill-stone.  Because that is the exact amount which at present
makes me fear to look my fellow-man in the face."

I simply stared.

"Jasper, you are singularly dense, or much success has turned your
brain.  Say, Jasper, that success has not turned your brain."

"Not that I know of," I replied.

"Very well, then," said Tom, stepping to the bed and pulling back the
counterpane with much mystery.  "Oblige me by counting this sum,
first the notes, then the gold, and finally the silver.  Or, if that
is too much trouble, reflect that on this modest couch recline
bank-notes for three thousand one hundred and twenty pounds, gold
sovereigns to the number of three hundred and forty-two, whence by an
easy subtraction sum we obtain a remainder of silver, in value three
pounds thirteen and sixpence."

"But, Tom, surely we never won all that?"

"We did though, and may for the rest of our days settle down as
comparatively honest medical students.  So that I propose we have
supper, and drink--for I have provided drink--to the Luck of the
Golden Clasp."

Stunned with the events of the last twenty-four hours, I sat down to
table, but could scarcely touch my food.  Tom's tongue went
ceaselessly, now apologising for the fare, now entertaining imaginary
guests, and always addressing me as a man of great wealth and
property.

"Jasper," he remarked at length, "either you are ill, or you must
have been eating to excess all day."

"Neither."

"Do I gather that you wish to leave the table, and pursue your mortal
foe up and down Oxford Street?"

I shook my head.

"What! no revenge to-night?  No thirst for blood?"

"Tom," I replied, solemnly, "neither to-night nor any other night.
My revenge is dead."

"Dear me! when did it take place?  It must have been very sudden."

"It died to-day."

"Jasper," said Tom, laying his hand on my shoulder, "either wealth
has turned your brain, or most remarkably given you sanity."



CHAPTER IV.


TELLS HOW I SAW THE SHADOW OF THE ROCK; AND HOW I TOLD AND HEARD
NEWS.

A week passed, and in the interval Tom and I made several
discoveries.  In the first place, to our great relief, we discovered
that the bank-notes were received in Threadneedle Street without
question or demur.  Secondly, we found our present lodgings narrow,
and therefore moved westward to St. James's.  Further, it struck us
that our clothes would have to conform to the "demands of more
Occidental civilisation," as Tom put it, and also that unless we
intended to be medical students for ever it was necessary to become
medical men.  Lastly, it began to dawn upon Tom that "Francesca: a
Tragedy" was a somewhat turgid performance, and on me that a holiday
on Sunday was demanded by six days of work.

I do not know that we displayed any remarkable interest in the
_Materia Medica_, or that the authorities of Guy's looked upon us as
likely to do them any singular credit.  But Tom, who had now a
writing-desk, made great alterations in "Francesca," while I consumed
vast quantities of tobacco in the endeavour to reproduce a certain
face in my note-book; and I am certain that the resolution to take a
holiday on Sunday was as strong at the end of the first week as
though I had wrought my faculties to the verge of brain fever.

I did not see her on that Sunday, or the next, though twice my boat
explored the river between Goring and Pangbourne from early morning
until nightfall.  But let me hasten over heart-aching and bitterness,
and come to the blessed Sunday when for a second time I saw my love.

Again the day was radiant with summer.  Above, the vaulted blue
arched to a capstone of noonday gold.  Hardly a fleecy cloud troubled
the height of heaven, or blotted the stream's clear mirror; save here
and there where the warm air danced and quivered over the still
meadows, the season's colour lay equal upon earth.  Before me the
river wound silently into the sunny solitude of space untroubled by
sight of human form.

But what was that speck of white far down the bank--that brighter
spot upon the universal brightness, moving, advancing?  My heart gave
one great leap; in a moment my boat's bows were high upon the
crumbling bank, and I was gazing down the tow-path.

Yes, it was she!  From a thousand thousand I could tell that
perfect form as it loitered--how slowly--up the river's verge.
Along heaven's boundary the day was lit with glory for me, and all
the glory but a golden frame for that white speck so carelessly
approaching.  Still and mute I stood as it drew nearer--so still, so
mute, that a lazy pike thrust out its wolfish jaws just under my feet
and, seeing me, splashed under again in great discomposure; so
motionless that a blundering swallow all but darted against me, then
swept curving to the water, and vanished down the stream.

She had been gathering May-blossom, and held a cluster in one hand.
As before, her gown was purest white, and, as before, a nodding hat
guarded her fair face jealously.

Nearer and nearer she came, glanced carelessly at me who stood
bare-headed in the sun's glare, was passing, and glanced again,
hesitated for one agonising moment, and then, as our eyes met, shot
out a kindly flash of remembrance, followed by the sweetest of little
blushes.

"So you are here again," she said, as she gave her hand, and her
voice made exquisite music in my ear.

"Again?" I said, slowly releasing her fingers as a miser might part
with treasure.  "Again? I have been here every Sunday since."

"Dear me! is it so long ago?  Only three weeks after all.
I remember, because--"

The fleeting hope possessed me that it might be some recollection in
which I had place, but my illusion was swiftly shattered.

"Because," the pitiless sentence continued, "mother was not well that
evening; in fact, she has been ill ever since.  So it is only three
weeks."

"Only three weeks!" I echoed.

"Yes," she nodded.  "I have not seen the river for all that time.
Is it changed?"

"Sadly changed."

"How?"

"Perhaps I have changed."

"Well, I hope so," she laughed, "after that wetting;" then, seeing an
indignant flash in my eyes, she added quickly, "which you got by so
kindly bringing back my boat."

"You have not been rowing to-day?"

"No; see, I have been gathering the last of the May-blossom.  May is
all but dead."

"And 'Flower of the May'?"

"Please do not remind me of that foolish song.  Had I known, I would
not have sung it for worlds."

"I would not for worlds have missed it."

Again she frowned and now turned to go.  "And you, too, must make
these speeches!"

The world of reproach in her tone was at once gall and honey to me.
Gall, because the "you too" conjured up a host of jealous imaginings;
honey, because it was revealed that of me she had hoped for better.
And now like a fool I had flung her good opinion away and she was
leaving me.

I made a half-step forward.

"I must go now," she said, and the little hand was held out in token
of farewell.

"No! no! I have offended you."

No answer.

"I have offended you," I insisted, still holding her hand.

"I forgive you.  But, indeed, I must go."  The hand made a faint
struggle to be free.

"Why?"

My voice came hard and unnatural.  I still held the fingers, and as I
did so, felt the embarrassment of utter shyness pass over the bridge
of our two hands and settle chokingly upon my heart.

"Why?" I repeated, more hoarsely yet.

"Because--because I must not neglect mother again.  She is waiting."

"Then let me go with you."

"Oh, no! Some day--if we meet--I will introduce you."

"Why not now?"

"Because she is not well."

Even my lately-acquired knowledge of the _Materia Medico_, scarcely
warranted me in offering to cure her.  But I did.

She laughed shyly and said, "How, sir; are you a doctor?"

"Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, gentleman, apothecary,"  I said
lightly, "neither one nor the other, but that curious compound of the
two last--a medical student."

"Then I will not trust you," she answered, smiling.

"Better trust me," I said; and something in my words again made her
look down.

"You will trust me?" I pleaded, and the something in my words grew
plainer.

Still no answer.

"Oh, trust me!"

The hand quivered in mine an instant, the eyes looked up and laughed
once more.  "I will trust you," she said--"not to move from this spot
until I am out of sight."

Then with a light "Good-bye" she was gone, and I was left to vaguely
comprehend my loss.

Before long I had seen her a third time and yet once again.  I had
learnt her name to be Luttrell--Claire Luttrell; how often did I not
say the words over to myself?  I had also confided in Tom and
received his hearty condolence, Tom being in that stage of youth
which despises all of which it knows nothing--love especially, as a
thing contrary to nature's uniformity.  So Tom was youthfully
cynical, and therefore by strange inference put on the airs of
superior age; was also sceptical of my description, especially a
certain comparison of her eyes to stars, though a very similar trope
occurred somewhere in the tragedy.  Indeed therein Francesca's eyes
were likened to the Pleiads, being apparently (as I pointed out with
some asperity) seven in number, and one of them lost.

I had also seen Mrs. Luttrell, a worn and timid woman, with weak blue
eyes and all the manner of the professional invalid.  I say this now,
but in those days she was in my eyes a celestial being mysteriously
clothed in earth's infirmities--as how should the mother of Claire be
anything else?  Somehow I won the favour of this faded creature--
chiefly, I suspect, because she liked so well to be left alone.
All day long she would sit contentedly watching the river and waiting
for Claire, yet only anxious that Claire should be happy.  All her
heart centred on her child, and often, in spite of our friendliness,
I caught her glancing from Claire to me with a jealous look, as
though the mother guessed what the child suspected but dimly, if at
all.

So the summer slipped away, all too fleetly--to me, as I look back
after these weary years, in a day.  But nevertheless much happened:
not much that need be written down in bald and pitiless prose, but
much to me who counted and treasured every moment that held my
darling near me.  So the Loves through that golden season wound us
round with their invisible chains and hovered smiling and waiting.
So we drifted week after week upon the river, each time nearer and
nearer to the harbour of confession.  The end was surely coming, and
at last it came.

It was a gorgeous August evening.  A week before she had told me that
Saturday would be a holiday for her, and had, when pressed, admitted
a design of spending it upon the river.  Need it be confessed that
Saturday saw me also in my boat, expectant?  And when she came and
feigned pretty astonishment at meeting me, and scepticism as to my
doing any work throughout the week, need I say the explanation took
time and seemed to me best delivered in a boat?  At any rate, so it
was; and somehow, the explanation took such a vast amount of time,
that the sun was already plunging down the western slope of heaven
when we stepped ashore almost on the very spot where first I had
heard her voice.

As the first film of evening came creeping over earth, there fell a
hush between us.  A blackbird--the same, I verily believe--took the
opportunity to welcome us.  His note was no longer full and unstudied
as in May.  The summer was nearly over, and with it his voice was
failing; but he did his best, and something in the hospitality of his
song prompted me to break the silence.

"This is the very spot on which we met for the first time--do you
remember?"

"Of course I remember," was the simple answer.

"You do?"  I foolishly burned to hear the assurance again.

"Of course--it was such a lovely day."

"A blessed day," I answered, "the most blessed of my life."

There was a long pause here, and even the blackbird could hardly fill
it up.

"Do you regret it?"

(Why does man on these occasions ask such a heap of questions?)

"Why should I?"

(Why does woman invariably answer his query with another?)

"I hope there is no reason," I answered, "and yet--oh, can you not
see of what that day was the beginning?  Can you not see whither
these last four months have carried me?"

The sun struck slanting on the water and ran in tapering lustre to
our feet.  The gilded ripple slipped and murmured below us; the
bronzed leaves overhead bent carefully to veil her answer.  The bird
within the covert uttered an anxious note.

"They have carried you, it seems," she answered, with eyes gently
lowered, "back to the same place."

"They have carried me," I echoed, "from spring to summer.  If they
have brought me back to this spot, it is because the place and I have
changed--Claire!"

As I called her by her Christian name she gave one quick glance, and
then turned her eyes away again.  I could see the soft rose creeping
over her white neck and cheek.  Had I offended?  Between hope and
desperation, I continued--

"Claire--I will call you Claire, for that was the name you told me
just four months ago--I am changed, oh, changed past all remembrance!
Are you not changed at all?  Am I still nothing to you?"

She put up her hand as if to ward off further speech, but spoke no
word herself.

"Answer me, Claire; give me some answer if only a word.  Am I still
no more than the beggar who rescued your boat that day?"

"Of course, you are my friend--now.  Please forget that I took you
for a beggar."

The words came with effort.  Within the bushes the blackbird still
chirped expectant, and the ripple below murmured to the bank,
"The old story--the old story."

"But I am a beggar," I broke out.  "Claire, I am always a beggar on
my knees before you.  Oh, Claire!"

Her face was yet more averted--the sun kissed her waving locks with
soft lips of gold, the breeze half stirred the delicate draperies
around her.  The blackbird's note was broken and halting as my own
speech.

"Claire, have you not guessed? will you never guess?  Oh, have pity
on me!"

I could see the soft bosom heaving now.  The little hand was pulling
at the gown.  Her whole sweet shape drooped away from me in vague
alarm--but still no answer came.

"Courage! Courage!" chirped the bird, and the river murmured
responsive, "Courage!"

"Claire!"--and now there was a ring of agony in the voice; the tones
came alien and scarcely recognised--"Claire, I have watched and
waited for this day, and now that it has come, for good or for evil,
answer me--I love you!"

O time-honoured and most simple of propositions! "I love you!"  Night
after night had I lain upon my bed rehearsing speeches, tender,
passionate and florid, and lo! to this had it all come--to these
three words, which, as my lips uttered them, made my heart leap in
awe of their crude and naked daring.

And she?  The words, as though they smote her, chased for an instant
the rich blood from her cheek.  For a moment the bosom heaved wildly,
then the colour came slowly back, and ebbed again.  A soft tremor
shook the bending form, the little hand clutched the gown, but she
made no answer.

"Speak to me, Claire!  I love you!  With my life and soul I love you.
Can you not care for me?"  I took the little hand.  "Claire, my heart
is in your hands--do with it what you will, but speak to me.  Can you
not--do you not--care for me?"

The head drooped lower yet, the warm fingers quivered within mine,
then tightened, and--

What was that whisper, that less than whisper, for which I bent my
head?  Had I heard aright?  Or why was it that the figure drooped
closer, and the bird's note sprang up jubilant?

"Claire!"

A moment--one tremulous, heart-shaking moment--and then her form bent
to me, abandoned, conquered; her face looked up, then sank upon my
breast; but before it sank I read upon it a tenderness and a passion
infinite, and caught in her eyes the perfect light of love.

As the glory of delight came flooding on my soul, the sun's disc
dropped, and the first cold shadow of night fell upon earth.
The blackbird uttered a broken "Amen," and was gone no man knew
whither.  The golden ripple passed up the river, and vanished in a
leaden grey.  One low shuddering sigh swept through the trees, then
all was dumb.  I looked westward.  Towards the horizon the blue of
day was fading downwards through indistinguishable zones of purple,
amethyst, and palest rose, the whole heaven arching in one perfect
rainbow of love.

But while I looked and listened to the beating of that beloved heart
girdled with my arm, there grew a something on the western sky that
well-nigh turned my own heart to marble.  At first, a lightest
shadow--a mere breath upon heaven's mirror, no more.  Then as I
gazed, it deepened, gathering all shadows from around the pole,
heaping, massing, wreathing them around one spot in the troubled
west--a shape that grew and threatened and still grew, until I looked
on--what?

Up from the calm sea of air rose one solitary island, black and
looming, rose and took shape and stood out--the very form and
semblance of Dead Man's Rock!  Sable and real as death it towered
there against the pale evening, until its shadow, falling on my heart
itself and on the soft brown head that bent and nestled there, lay
round us clasped so, and with its frown cursed the morning of our
love.

Something in my heart's beat, or in the stiffening of my arm, must
have startled my darling, for as I gazed I felt her stir, and,
looking down, caught her eyes turned wistfully upwards.  My lips bent
to hers.

"Mine, Claire!  Mine for ever!"

And there, beneath the shadow of the Rock, our lips drew closer, met,
and were locked in their first kiss.

When I looked up again the shadow had vanished, and the west was grey
and clear.


So in the tranquil evening we rowed homewards, our hearts too full
for speech.  The wan moon rose and trod the waters, but we had no
thoughts, no eyes for her.  Our eyes were looking into each other's
depths, our thoughts no thoughts at all, but rather a dazzled and
wondering awe.

Only as a light or two gleamed out, and Streatley twinkled in the
distance, Claire said--

"Can it be true?  You know nothing of me."

"I know you love me.  What more should I know, or wish to know?"

The red lips were pursed in a manner that spoke whole tomes of
wisdom.

"You do not know that I work for my living all the week?"

"When you are mine you shall work no more."

"'But sit on a cushion and sew a gold seam'?  Ah, no; I have to work.
It is strange," she said, musingly, "so strange."

"What is strange, Claire?"

"That you have never seen me except on my holidays--that we have
never met.  What have you done since you have been in London?"

I thought of my walks and tireless quest in Oxford Street with a kind
of shame.  That old life was severed from the present by whole
worlds.

"I have lived very quietly," I answered.  "But is it so strange that
we have never met?"

She laughed a low and musical laugh, and as the boat drew shoreward
and grounded, replied--

"Perhaps not.  Come, let us go to mother--Jasper."

O sweet sound from sweetest lips!  We stepped ashore, and
hand-in-hand entered the room where her mother sat.

As she looked up and saw us standing there together, she knew the
truth in a moment.  Her blue eyes filled with sudden fear, her worn
hand went upwards to her heart.  Until that instant she had not known
of my presence there that day, and in a flash divined its meaning.

"I feared it," she answered at length, as I told my story and stood
waiting for an answer.  "I feared it, and for long have been
expecting it.  Claire, my love, are you sure?  Oh, be quite sure
before you leave me."

For answer, Claire only knelt and flung her white arms round her
mother's neck, and hid her face upon her mother's bosom.

"You love him now, you think; but, oh, be careful.  Search your heart
before you rob me of it.  I have known love, too, Claire, or thought
I did; and indeed it can fade--and then, what anguish, what anguish!"

"Mother, mother! I will never leave you."

Mrs. Luttrell sighed.

"Ah, child, it is your happiness I am thinking of."

"I will never leave you, mother."

"And you, sir," continued Mrs. Luttrell, "are you sure?  I am giving
you what is dearer than life itself; and as you value her now, treat
her worthily hereafter.  Swear this to me, if my gift is worth so
much in your eyes.  Sir, do you know--"

"Mother!"

Claire drew her mother's head down towards her and whispered in her
ear.  Mrs. Luttrell frowned, hesitated, and finally said--

"Well, it shall be as you wish--though I doubt if it be wise.
God bless you, Claire--and you, sir; but oh, be certain, be certain!"

What incoherent speech I made in answer I know not, but my heart was
sore for this poor soul.  Claire turned her eyes to me and rose,
smoothing her mother's grey locks.

"We will not leave her, will we?  Tell her that we will not."

I echoed her words, and stepping to Mrs. Luttrell, took the frail,
white hand.

"Sir," she said, "you who take her from me should be my bitterest
foe.  Yet see, I take you for a son."


Still rapt with the glory of my great triumph, and drunk with the
passion of that farewell kiss, I walked into our lodgings and laid my
hand on Tom's shoulder.

"Tom, I have news for you."

Tom started up.  "And so have I for you."

"Great news."

"Glorious news!"

"Tom, listen: I am accepted."

"Bless my soul!  Jasper, so am I."

"You?"

"Yes."

"When?  Where?"

"This afternoon.  Jasper, our success has come at last: for you the
Loves, for me the Muses; for you the rose, for me the bay.  Jasper,
dear boy, they have learnt her worth at last."

"Her!  Who?"

"Francesca.  Jasper, in three months I shall be famous; for next
November 'Francesca: a Tragedy' will be produced at the Coliseum."



CHAPTER V.


TELLS HOW THE CURTAIN ROSE UPON  "FRANCESCA: A TRAGEDY."

Again my story may hurry, for on the enchanted weeks that followed it
would weary all but lovers to dwell, and lovers for the most part
find their own matters sufficient food for pondering.  Tom was busy
with the rehearsals at the Coliseum, and I, being left alone, had
little taste for the _Materia Medica_.  On Sundays only did I see
Claire; for this Mrs. Luttrell had stipulated, and my love, too, most
mysteriously professed herself busy during the week.  As for me, it
was clear that before marriage could be talked of I must at least
have gained my diplomas, so that the more work I did during the week
the better.  The result of this was a goodly sowing of resolutions
and very little harvest.  In the evenings, Tom and I would sit
together--he tirelessly polishing and pruning the tragedy, and I for
the most part smoking and giving advice which I am bound to say in
duty to the author ("Francesca" having gained some considerable fame
since those days) was invariably rejected.

Tom had been growing silent and moody of late--a change for which I
could find no cause.  He would answer my questions at random, pause
in his work to gaze long and intently on the ceiling, and altogether
behave in ways unaccountable and strange.  The play had been written
at white-hot speed: the corrections proceeded at a snail's pace.
The author had also fallen into a habit of bolting his meals in
silence, and, when rebuked, of slowly bringing his eyes to bear upon
me as a person whose presence was until the moment unsuspected.
All this I saw in mild wonder, but I reflected on certain moods of my
own of late, and held my peace.

The explanation came without my seeking.  We were seated together one
evening, he over his everlasting corrections, and I in some
especially herbaceous nook of the _Materia Medica_, when Tom looked
up and said--

"Jasper, I want your opinion on a passage.  Listen to this."

Sick of my flowery solitude, I gave him my attention while he read:--

    "She is no violet to veil and hide
     Before the lusty sun, but as the flower,
     His best-named bride, that leaneth to the light
     And images his look of lordly love--
     Yet how I wrong her.  She is more a queen
     Than he a king; and whoso looks must kneel
     And worship, conscious of a Sovranty
     Undreamt in nature, save it be the Heaven
     That minist'ring to all is queen of all,
     And wears the proud sun's self but as a gem
     To grace her girdle, one among the stars.
     Heaven is Francesca, and Francesca Heaven.
     Without her, Heaven is dispossessed of Heaven,
     And Earth, discrowned and disinherited,
     Shall beg in black eclipse, until her eyes--"

"Stay," I interrupted, "unless I am mistaken her eyes are like the
Pleiads, a simile to which I have more than once objected."

"If you would only listen you would find those lines cut out," said
Tom, pettishly.

"In that case I apologise: nevertheless, if that is your idea of a
Francesca, I confess she seems to me a trifle--shall we say?--
massive."

"Your Claire, I suppose, is stumpy?"

"My Claire,"  I replied with dignity, "is neither stumpy nor
stupendous."

"In fact, just the right height."

"Well, yes, just the right height."

Tom paid no attention, but went on in full career--

"I hate your Griseldas, your Jessamys, your Mary Anns; give me
Semiramis, Dido, Joan of--"

"My dear Tom, not all at once, I hope."

"Bah! you are so taken up with your own choice, that you must needs
scoff at anyone who happens to differ.  I tell you, woman should be
imperial, majestic; should walk as a queen and talk as a goddess.
You scoff because you have never seen such; you shut your eyes and go
about saying, 'There is no such woman.'  By heaven, Jasper, if you
could only see--"

At this point Tom suddenly pulled up and blushed like any child.

"Go on--whom shall I see?"

Tom's blush was beautiful to look upon.

"The Lambert, for instance; I meant--"

"Who is the Lambert?"

"Do you mean to say you have never heard of Clarissa Lambert, the
most glorious actress in London?"

"Never.  Is she acting at the Coliseum?"

"Of course she is.  She takes Francesca.  Oh, Jasper, you should see
her, she is divine!"

Here another blush succeeded.

"So," I said after a pause, "you have taken upon yourself to fall in
love with this Clarissa Lambert."

Tom looked unutterably sheepish.

"Is the passion returned?"

"Jasper, don't talk like that and don't be a fool.  Of course I have
never breathed a word to her.  Why, she hardly knows me, has hardly
spoken to me beyond a few simple sentences.  How should I, a
miserable author without even a name, speak to her?  Jasper, do you
like the name Clarissa?"

"Not half so well as Claire."

"Nonsense; Claire is well enough as names go, but nothing to
Clarissa.  Mark how the ending gives it grace and quaintness; what a
grand eighteenth-century ring it has!  It is superb--so sweet, and at
the same time so stately."

"And replaces Francesca so well in scansion."

Tom's face was confession.

"You should see her, Jasper--her eyes.  What colour are Claire's?"

"Deep grey."

"Clarissa's are hazel brown: I prefer brown; in fact I always thought
a woman should have brown eyes: we won't quarrel about inches, but
you will give way in the matter of eyes, will you not?"

"Not an inch."

"It really is wonderful," said Tom, "how the mere fact of being in
love is apt to corrupt a man's taste.  Now in the matter of voice--I
dare wager that your Claire speaks in soft and gentle numbers."

"As an Aeolian harp," said I, and I spoke truth.

"Of course, unrelieved tenderness and not a high note in the gamut.
But you should hear Clarissa; I only ask you to hear her once, and
let those glorious accents play upon your crass heart for a moment or
two.  O Jasper, Jasper, it shakes the very soul!"

Tom was evidently in a very advanced stage of the sickness; I could
not find it in my heart to return his flouts of a month before, so I
said--

"Very well, my dear Tom, I shall look upon your divinity in November.
I do not promise you she will have the effect that you look forward
to, but I am glad your Francesca will be worthily played; and, Tom, I
am glad you are in love; I think it improves you."

"It is hopeless--absolutely hopeless; she is cold as ice."

"What, with that voice and those eyes?  Nonsense, man."

"She is cold as ice," groaned poor Tom; "everyone says so."

"Of course everyone says so; you ought to be glad of that, for this
is the one point on which what everyone says must from the nature of
things be false.  Why, man, if she beamed on the whole world, then I
might believe you."

From which it will be gathered that I had learned something from
being in love.


So sad did I consider Tom's case, that I spoke to Claire about it
when I saw her next.

"Claire," I said, "you have often heard me speak of Tom."

"Really, Jasper, you seldom speak of anybody else.  In fact I am
growing quite jealous of this friend."

After the diversion caused by this speech, I resumed--

"But really Tom is the best of fellows, and if I talk much of him it
is because he is my only friend.  You must see him, Claire, and you
will be sure to like him.  He is so clever!"

"What is the name of this genius--I mean the other name?"

"Why, Loveday, of course--Thomas Loveday.  Do you mean to say I have
never told you?"

"Never," said Claire, meditatively.  "Loveday--Thomas Loveday--is it
a common name?"

"No, I should think not very common.  Don't you like it?"

"It--begins well."

Here followed another diversion.

"But what I was going to say about Tom," I continued, "is this--he
has fallen in love; in fact, I have never seen a man so deeply in
love."

"Oh!"

"Anyone else," I corrected, "for of course I was quite as bad; you
understand that."

"We were talking of Thomas Loveday."

"Oh, yes, of Tom.  Well, Tom, you know--or perhaps you do not.
At any rate, Tom has written a tragedy."

"All about love?"

"Well, not quite all; though there is a good deal in it, considering
it was written when the author had no idea of what the passion was
like.  But that is not the point.  This tragedy is coming out at the
Coliseum in November.  Are you not well, Claire?"

"Yes, yes; go on.  What has all this to do with Tom's love?"

"I am coming to that.  Tom, of course, has been attending the
rehearsals lately.  He will not let me come until the piece is ready,
for he is wonderfully nervous.  I am to come and see it on the first
night.  Well, as I was saying, Tom has been going to rehearsals, and
has fallen in love with--guess with whom."

Claire was certainly getting very white.

"Are you sure you are well, Claire?" I asked, anxiously.

"Oh, yes; quite sure.  But tell me with whom--how should I guess?"

"Why, with the leading actress; one Clarissa Lambert, is it not?"

"Clarissa--Lambert!"

"Why, Claire, what is the matter?  Are you faint?"  For my love had
turned deathly pale, and seemed as though she would faint indeed.

We were in the old spot so often revisited, though the leaves were
yellowing fast, and the blackbird's note had long ceased utterly.
I placed my arm around her for support, but my darling unlocked it
after a moment, struggled with her pallor, and said--

"No, no; I am better.  It was a little faintness, but is passing off.
Go on, and tell me about Mr. Loveday."

"I am afraid I bored you.  But that is all.  Do you know this
Clarissa Lambert?  Have you seen her?"

"Yes--I have seen her."

"I suppose she is very famous; at least, Tom says so.  He also says
she is divine; but I expect, from his description, that she is of the
usual stamp of Tragedy Queen, tall and loud, with a big voice."

"Did he tell you that?"

"No, of course Tom raves about her.  But there is no accounting for
what a lover will say."  This statement was made with all the sublime
assurance of an accepted man.  "But you have seen her," I went on,
"and can tell me how far his description is true.  I suppose she is
much the same as other actresses, is she not?"

"Jasper," said Claire, very gently, after a pause, "do you ever go to
a theatre?"

"Very seldom; in fact, about twice only since I have been in London."

"I suppose you were taught as a boy to hate such things?"

"Well," I laughed, "I do not expect Uncle Loveday would have approved
of Tom's choice, if that is what you mean.  But that does not matter,
I fear, as Tom swears that his case is hopeless.  He worships from
afar, and says that she is as cold as ice.  In fact, he has never
told his love, but lets concealment like a--"

"That is not what I meant.  Do you--do you think all actors and
actresses wicked?"

"Of course not.  Why should I?"

"You are going to see--"

"'Francesca'?  Oh, yes, on the opening night."

"Then possibly we shall meet.  Will you look out for me?"

"Let me take you, Claire.  Oh, I am glad indeed!  You will see Tom
there, and, I hope, be able to congratulate him on his triumph.
So let me take you."

She shook her head.

"No, no."

"Why?"

"Because that is impossible--really.  I shall see you there, and you
will see me.  Is not that enough?"

"If you say so, it must be,"  I answered sadly.  "But--"

"'But me no buts,'" she quoted.  "See, it is getting late; we must be
going."

A most strange silence fell upon us on the way back to Streatley.
Claire's face had not yet wholly regained its colour, and she seemed
disinclined to talk.  So I had to solace myself by drinking in long
draughts of her loveliness, and by whispering to my soul how poorly
Tom's Queen of Tragedy would show beside my sweetheart.

O fool and blind!

Presently my love asked musingly--

"Jasper, do you think that you could cease to love me?"

"Claire, how can you ask it?"

"You are quite sure?  You remember what mother said?"

"Claire, love is strong as death.  How does the text run?
'Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if
a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would
utterly be contemned.'  Claire, you must believe that!"

"'Strong as death,'" she murmured.  "Yes, I believe it.  What a
lovely text that is!"

The boat touched shore at Streatley, and we stepped out.

"Jasper," she said again at parting that night, "you have no
doubt, no grain of doubt, about my question, and the answer?
'Strong as death,' you are sure?"

For answer I strained her to my heart.

O fool and blind!  O fool and blind!


The night that was big with Tom's fate had come.  The Coliseum was
crowded as we entered.  In those days the theatre had no stalls, so
we sat in the front row of the dress circle, Tom having in his
modesty refused a box.  He was behind the scenes until some five
minutes before the play began, so that before he joined me I had
ample time to study the house and look about for some sign of Claire.

Certainly, the sedulous manner in which the new tragedy had been
advertised was not without result.  To me, unused as I was to
theatre-going, the host of people, the hot air, the glare of the
gas-lights were intoxicating.  In a flutter of anxiety for Tom's
success, of sweet perturbation at the prospect of meeting Claire, at
first I could grasp but a confused image of the scene.  By degrees,
however, I began to look about me, and then to scan the audience
narrowly for sight of my love.

Surely I should note her at once among thousands.  Yet my first
glance was fruitless.  I looked again, examined the house slowly face
by face, and again was baffled.  I could see all but a small portion
of the pit, the upper boxes and gallery.  Pit and gallery were out of
the question.  She might, though it was hardly likely, be in the tier
just above, and I determined to satisfy myself after the end of Act
I.  Meantime I scanned the boxes.  There were twelve on either side
of the house, and all were full.  By degrees I satisfied myself that
strangers occupied all of them, except the box nearest the stage on
the right of the tier where I was sitting.  The occupants of this
were out of sight.  Only a large yellow and black fan was swaying
slowly backwards and forwards to tell me that somebody sat there.

Somehow, the slow, ceaseless motion of this pricked my curiosity.
Its pace, as it waved to and fro, was unaltered; the hand that moved
it seemingly tireless; but even the hand was hidden.  Not a finger
could I gain a glimpse of.  By some silly freak of fancy I was
positively burning with eagerness to see the fan's owner, when Tom
returned and took his seat beside me.

"It begins in five minutes; everything is ready," said he, and his
voice had a nervous tremor which he sought in vain to hide.

"Courage!" I said; "at least the numbers here should flatter you."

"They frighten me!  What shall I do if it fails?"

The overture was drawing to its close.  Tom looked anxiously around
the house.

"Yes," he said, "it is crowded, indeed.  By the way, was not Claire
to have been here?  Point her out to me."

"She was; but I cannot see her anywhere.  Perhaps she is late."

"If so, I cannot see where she is to find a place.  Hush! they are
ending."

As he spoke, the last strains of the orchestra died slowly and
mournfully away, and the curtain rose upon "Francesca: a Tragedy."

This play has since gained such a name, not only from its own merits
(which are considerable), but in consequence also of certain
circumstances which this story will relate, that it would be not only
tedious but unnecessary to follow its action in detail.  For the
benefit, however, of those who did not see it at the Coliseum, I here
subjoin a short sketch of the plot, which the better-informed reader
may omit.

Francesca is the daughter of Sebastian, at one time Duke of Bologna,
but deposed and driven from his palace by the intrigues of his
younger brother Charles.  At the time when the action begins,
Sebastian is chief of a band of brigands, the remains of his faithful
adherents, whom he has taken with him to the fastnesses of the
Apennines.  Charles, who has already usurped the duchy for some
sixteen years, is travelling with his son Valentine, a youth of
twenty, near the haunt of his injured brother.  Separated from their
escort, they are wandering up a pass, when Valentine stops to admire
the view, promising his father to join him at the summit.  While thus
occupied, he is startled by the entrance of Francesca, and, struck
with her beauty, accosts her.  She, sympathising for so noble a
youth, warns him of the banditti, and he hastens on only to find his
father lying at the foot of a precipitous rock, dead.  He supposes
him to have fallen, has the body conveyed back to Bologna, and having
by this time fallen deeply in love with Francesca, prevails on her to
leave her father and come with him.  She consents, and flies with
him, but after some time finds that he is deserting her for Julia,
daughter of the Duke of Ferrara.  Slighted and driven to desperation,
she makes her way back to her father, is forgiven, and learns that
Charles' death was due to no accident, but to her father's hand.
No sooner is this discovery made than Valentine and Julia are brought
in by the banditti, who have surprised and captured them, but do not
know their rank.  The deposed duke, Sebastian, does not recognise
Valentine, and consigns him, with his wife, to a cave, under guard of
the brigands.  It is settled by Sebastian that on the morrow
Valentine is to go and fetch a ransom, leaving his wife behind.
Francesca, having plied the guards with drink, enters by night into
the cave where they lie captive, is recognised by them, and offers to
change dresses with Julia in order that husband and wife may escape.
A fine scene follows of insistence and self-reproach, but ultimately
Francesca prevails.  Valentine and Julia pass out in the grey dawn,
and Francesca, left alone, stabs herself.  The play concludes as her
father enters the cave and discovers his daughter's corpse.

The first scene (which is placed at the court of Bologna) passed
without disaster, and the curtain fell for a moment before it rose
upon the mountain pass.  Hitherto the audience had been chilly.
They did not hiss, but neither did they applaud; and I could feel,
without being able to give any definite reason for the impression,
that so far the play had failed.  Tom saw it too.  I did not dare to
look in his face, but could tell his agony by his short and laboured
breathing.  Luckily his torture did not last long, for the curtain
quickly rose for Scene 2.

The scene was beautifully painted and awakened a momentary enthusiasm
in the audience.  It died away, however, as Sebastian and Valentine
entered.  The dialogue between them was short, and Valentine was very
soon left alone to a rather dull soliloquy (since shortened) which
began to weary the audience most unmistakably.  I caught the sound of
a faint hiss, saw one or two people yawning; and then--

Stealing, rising, swelling, gathering as it thrilled the ear all
graces and delights of perfect sound; sweeping the awed heart with
touch that set the strings quivering to an ecstasy that was almost
pain; breathing through them in passionate whispering; hovering,
swaying, soaring upward to the very roof, then shivering down again
in celestial shower of silver--there came a voice that trod all
conceptions, all comparisons, all dreams to scorn; a voice beyond
hope, beyond belief; a voice that in its unimaginable beauty seemed
to compel the very heaven to listen.

And yet--surely I knew--surely it could not be--

I must be dreaming--mad!  The bare notion was incredible--and even as
my heart spoke the words, the theatre grew dim and shadowy; the vast
sea of faces heaved, melted, swam in confusion; all sound came dull
and hoarse upon my ear; while there--there--

There, in the blaze of light, radiant, lovely, a glorified and
triumphant queen, stepped forward before the eyes of that vast
multitude--my love, my Claire!



CHAPTER VI.


TELLS HOW THE BLACK AND YELLOW FAN SENT A MESSAGE; AND HOW I SAW A
FACE IN THE FOG.

As I sat stupefied our eyes met.  It was but for an instant, but in
that instant I saw that she recognised me and mutely challenged my
verdict.  Then she turned to Valentine.

The theatre rang with tumultuous plaudits as her song ended.  I could
feel Tom's grasp at my elbow, but I could neither echo the applause
nor answer him.  It was all so wildly, grotesquely improbable.

This then was my love, this the Claire whom I had wooed and won in
the shy covert of Pangbourne Woods--this deified and transfigured
being before whom thousands were hushed in awe.  Those were the lips
that had faltered in sweet confession--those before which the breath
of thousands came and went in agitated wonder.  It was incredible.

And then, as Tom's hand was laid upon my arm, it flashed upon me that
the woman he loved was my plighted bride--and he knew nothing of it.
As this broke upon me there swept over me an awful dread lest he
should see my face and guess the truth.  How could I tell him?
Poor Tom!  Poor Tom!

I turned my eyes upon Claire again.  Yes, she was superb: beyond all
challenge glorious.  And all the more I felt as one who has betrayed
his friend and is angry with fate for sealing such betrayal beyond
revoke.

Whether Claire misinterpreted my look of utter stupefaction or not, I
do not know; but as she turned and recognised Valentine there was a
tremor in her voice which the audience mistook for art, though I knew
it to be but too real.  I tried to smile and to applaud, but neither
eyes nor hand would obey my will; and so even Claire's acting became
a reproach and an appeal to me, pleading forgiveness to which my soul
cried assent though my voice denied it.  Minute after minute I sat
beneath an agonising spell I could not hope to break.


"Congratulate me, Jasper.  What do you think of her?"

It was Tom's voice beside me.  Congratulate him!  I felt the meanest
among men.

"She is--glorious," I stammered.

"I knew you would say so.  Unbeliever, did ever man see such eyes?
Confess now, what are Claire's beside them?"

"Claire's--are--much the same."

"Why, man, Claire's were deep grey but a day or two ago, and
Clarissa's are the brownest of brown; but of course you cannot see
from here."

Alas!  I knew too surely the colour of Claire's eyes, so like brown
in the blaze of the foot-lights.  And her height--Tom had only seen
her walk in tragic buskin.  How fatally easy had the mistake been!

"Tom, your success is certain now."

"Yes, thanks to her.  They were going to damn the play before she
entered.  I could see it.  Did you see, Jasper?  She looked this way
for a moment.  Do you think she meant to encourage me?  By the way,
have you caught sight of Claire yet?"

Oh, Tom, Tom, let me spare you for this night!  My heart throbbed and
something in my throat seemed choking me as I muttered, "Yes."

"Then do not stay congratulating me, but fly.  Success spoils the
lover.  Ah, Jasper, if only Clarissa had summoned me!  Hasten: I will
keep my eye upon you and smile approval on your taste.  Where is
she?"

Again something seemed to catch me by the throat; I was struggling to
answer when I heard a voice behind me say, "For you, sir," and a note
was thrust into my hand.  With beating heart I opened it, expecting
to see Claire's handwriting.  But the note was not from her.  It was
scribbled hastily with pencil in a bold hand, and ran thus:--

    "An old friend wishes to see you.  Come, if you have time.
     Box No. 7."

At first I thought the message must have reached me by mistake, but
it was very plainly directed to "J. Trenoweth, Esq."  I looked around
for the messenger but found him gone, and fell to scanning the boxes
once more.

As before, they were filled with strangers; and, as before, the black
and yellow fan was waving slowly to and fro, as though the hand that
wielded it was no hand at all, but rather some untiring machine.
Still the owner remained invisible.  I hesitated, reflected a moment,
and decided that even a fool's errand was better than enduring the
agony of Tom's rapture.  I rose.

"I will be back again directly," I said, and then left him.

Still pondering on the meaning of this message, I made my way down
the passages until I came to the doors of the boxes, and stopped
opposite that labelled "No. 7."  As I did so, it struck me that this,
from its position, must be the one which contained the black and
yellow fan.  By this time thoroughly curious, I knocked.

"Come in," said a low voice which I seemed to remember.

I entered and found myself face to face with the yellow woman--the
mistress of the gambling-hell.

She was seated there alone, slightly retired from the view of the
house and in the shadow; but her arm, as it rested on the cushion,
still swayed the black and yellow fan, and her diamonds sparkled
lustrously as ever in the glare that beat into the box.  Her dress,
as if to emphasise the hideousness of her skin and form a staring
contrast with her wrinkled face and white hair, was of black and
yellow, in which she seemed some grisly corpse masquerading as youth.

Struck dumb by this apparition, I took the seat into which she
motioned me, while her wonderful eyes regarded my face with stony
impassiveness.  I could hear the hoarse murmurs of the house and feel
the stifling heat as it swept upwards from the pit.  The strange
woman did not stir except to keep up the ceaseless motion of her
wrist.

For a full five minutes, as it seemed to me, we sat there silently
regarding each other.  Then at last she spoke, and the soft voice was
as musically sympathetic as ever.

"You seem astonished to see me, Mr. Trenoweth, and yet I have been
looking for you for a long time."

I bowed.

"I have been expecting you to give me a chance of redeeming my
defeat."

"I am sorry," stammered I, not fully recovered from my surprise,
"but that is not likely."

"No?  From my point of view it was extremely likely.  But somehow
I had a suspicion that you would be different from the rest.
Perhaps it was because I had set my heart upon your coming."

"I hope," said I, "that the money--"

She smiled and waved her hand slightly.

"Do not trouble about that.  Had I chosen, I could have gone on
losing to you until this moment.  No, perhaps it was simply because
you were least likely to do so, that I wished you to come back as all
other young men would come back.  I hope you reached home safely with
what you won; but I need not ask that."

"Indeed you need.  I was attacked as I left the room, and but for a
lucky accident, should now be dead."

"Ah," she said placidly; "you suspect me.  Don't say 'no,' for
I can see you do.  Nevertheless you are entirely wrong.
Why, Mr. Trenoweth, had I chosen, do you think I could not have had
you robbed before you had gone three paces from the house?"

This was said with such composure, and her eyes were so absolutely
void of emotion, that I could but sit and gasp.  Once more I recalled
the moment when, as I fled down the dark passage, I had seen her
sitting motionless and calm in the light of her countless candles.

"But do you think I sent for you to tell you that?" she continued.
"I sent for you because you interested me, and because I want a talk
with you.  Hush! the curtain is rising for the second act.  Let us
resume when it has finished; you will not deny me that favour at
least."

I bowed again, and was silent as the curtain rose--and once more
Claire's superb voice thrilled the house.  Surely man was seldom more
strangely placed than was I, between the speech of my love and the
eyes of this extraordinary woman.  As I sat in the shadow and
listened, I felt those blazing fires burning into my very soul; yet
whenever I looked up and met them, their icy glitter baffled all
interpretation.  Still as I sat there, the voice of Claire came to me
as though beseeching and praying for my judgment, and rising with the
blaze of light and heated atmosphere of the house, swept into the box
until I could bear the oppression no longer.  She must have looked
for me, and seeing my place empty, have guessed that I condemned her.
Mad with the thought, I rose to my feet and stood for a minute full
in the light of the theatre.  It may not have been even a minute, but
she saw me, and once more, as our gaze met, faltered for an instant.
Then the voice rang out clear and true again, and I knew that all was
well between us.  Yet in her look there was something which I could
not well interpret.

As I sank back in my seat, I met the eyes of my companion still
impenetrably regarding me.  But as the curtain fell she said
quietly--

"So you know Clarissa Lambert?"

I stammered an affirmative.

"Well?  You admire her acting?"

"I never saw it until to-night."

"That is strange; and yet you know her?"

I nodded.

"She is a great success--on which I congratulate myself, for I
discovered her."

"You!"  I could only exclaim.

"Yes, I.  Is it so extraordinary?  She and I are connected, so to
speak; which makes it the more odd that she should never have
mentioned you."

The eyes seemed now to be reading me as a book.  I summoned all my
courage and tried to return their steady stare.  There was a pause,
broken only by the light_ frou-frou_ of the fan, as it still waved
slowly backwards and forwards.  Among all the discoveries of this
night, it was hard enough to summon reason, harder to utter speech.

"But you will be leaving me again if I do not explain why I sent for
you.  You are wondering now on my reasons.  They are very simple--
professional even, in part.  In the first place, I wished to have a
good look at you.  Do you wonder why an old woman should wish to look
upon a comely youth?  Do not blush; but listen to my other and
professional reason.  I should greatly like, if I may, to look upon
your talisman--that golden buckle or whatever it was that brought
such marvellous luck.  Is it on you to-night?"

I wore it, as a matter of fact, in my waistcoat pocket, attached to
one end of my chain; but I hesitated for a moment.

"You need not be afraid," she said, and there was a suspicion of
mockery in her tone.  "I will return it, as I returned it before.
But if you are reluctant to let me see it (and remember, I have seen
it once), do not hesitate to refuse.  I shall not be annoyed."

Reflecting that, after all, her curiosity was certain to be baffled,
I handed her the Golden Clasp, with the chain, in silence.

"It is a curious relic," said she, as she slowly examined it and laid
it on her lap for a moment.  "If the question be allowed, how did you
become possessed of it?"

"It belonged to my father," I answered.

"Excuse me," she said, deliberately, "that is hardly an answer to my
question."

During the silence that followed, she took up the clasp again, and
studied the writing.  As she did so she used her right hand only;
indeed, during the whole time, her left had been occupied with her
tireless fan.  I fancied, though I could not be certain, that it was
waving slightly faster than before.

"The writing seems to be nonsense.  What is this--'Moon  end
South--deep  at  point'?  I can make no meaning of it.  I suppose
there is a meaning?"

"Not to my knowledge," said I, and immediately repented, for once
more I seemed to catch that gleam in her eyes which had so baffled me
when first she saw the Clasp.  The curtain rose upon the third act of
"Francesca," and we sat in silence, she with the Clasp lying upon her
lap, I wondering by what possibility she could know anything about my
father's secret.  She could not, I determined.  The whole history of
the Golden Clasp made it impossible.  And yet I repented my rashness.
It was too late now, however; so, when the act was over I waited for
her to speak.

"So this belonged to your father.  Tell me, was he at all like you?"

"He was about my height, I should guess," said I, wondering at this
new question; "but otherwise quite unlike.  He was a fair man, I am
dark."

"But your grandfather--was he not dark?"

"I believe so," I answered, "but really--"

"You wonder at my questions, of course.  Never mind me; think me a
witch, if you like.  Do I not look a witch?"

Indeed she did, as she sat there.  The diamonds flashed and gleamed,
lighting up the awful colour of her skin until she seemed a very
"Death-in-Life."

"I see that I puzzle you; but your looks, Mr. Trenoweth, are hardly
complimentary.  However, you are forgiven.  Here, take your talisman,
and guard it jealously; I thank you for showing it to me, but if I
were you I should keep it secret.  Shall I see you again?  I suppose
not.  I am afraid I have made you miss some of the tragedy.  You must
pardon me for that, as I have waited long to see you.  At any rate,
there is the last act to come.  Good-bye, and be careful of your
talisman."

As she spoke, she shut her fan with a sharp click, and then it
flashed upon me that it had never ceased its pendulous motion until
that instant.  It was a strange idea to strike me then, but a
stranger yet succeeded.  Was it that I heard a low mocking laugh
within the box as I stepped out into the passage?  I cannot clearly
tell; perhaps it is but a fancy conjured up by later reflection on
that meeting and its consequences.  I only know that as I bowed and
left her, the vision that I bore away was not of the gleaming gems,
the yellow face, the white hair, or waving fan, but of two coal-black
and impenetrable eyes.

I sought my place, and dropped into the seat beside Tom.  The fourth
act was beginning, so that I had time to speculate upon my interview,
but could find no hope of solution.  Finally, I abandoned guessing,
to admire Claire.  As the play went on, her acting grew more and more
transcendent.  Lines which I had heard from Tom's lips and scoffed
at, were now fused with subtle meaning and passion.  Scenes which I
had condemned as awkward and heavy, became instinct with exquisite
pathos.  There comes a point in acting at which criticism ceases,
content to wonder; this point it was clear that my love had touched.
The new play was a triumphant success.

"So," said Tom, before the last act, "Claire carries a yellow fan,
does she?  I looked everywhere for you at first, and only caught
sight of you for an instant by the merest chance.  You behaved rather
shabbily in giving me no chance of criticism, for I never caught a
glimpse of her.  I hope she admired--Hallo! she's gone!"

I followed his gaze, and saw that Box No. 7 was no longer occupied by
the fan.

"I suppose you saw her off?  Well, I do not admire your taste, I must
confess--nor Claire's--to go when Francesca was beginning to touch
her grandest height.  Whew! you lovers make me blush for you."

"Tom." I said, anxious to lead him from all mention of Claire,
"you must forgive me for having laughed at your play."

"Forgive you!  I will forgive you if you weep during the next act;
only on that condition."

How shall I describe the last act?  Those who read "Francesca" in its
published form can form no adequate idea of the enthusiasm in the
Coliseum that night.  To them it is a skeleton; then it was clothed
with passionate flesh and blood, breathed, sobbed and wept in purest
pathos; to me, even now, as I read it again, it is charged with the
inspiration of that wonderful art, so true, so tender, that made its
last act a miracle.  I saw old men sob, and young men bow their heads
to hide the emotion which they could not check.  I saw that audience
which had come to criticise, tremble and break into tumultuous
weeping.  Beside me, a greyheaded man was crying as any child.
Yet why do I go on?  No one who saw Clarissa Lambert can ever
forget--no one who saw her not can ever imagine.

Tom had bowed his acknowledgments, the last flower had been flung,
the last cheer had died away as we stepped out into the Strand
together.  The street was wrapped in the densest of November fogs.
So thick was it that the lamps, the shop windows, came into sight,
stared at us in ghostly weakness for a moment, and then were gone,
leaving us in Egyptian gloom.  I could not hope to see Claire
to-night, and Tom was too modest to offer his congratulations until
the morning.  Both he and I were too shaken by the scene just past
for many words, and outside the black fog caught and held us by the
throat.

Even in the pitchy gloom I could feel that Tom's step was buoyant.
He was treading already in imagination the path of love and fame.
How should I have the heart to tell him?  How wither the chaplet that
already seemed to bind his brow?

Tom was the first to break the silence which had fallen upon us.

"Jasper, did you ever see or hear the like?  Can a man help
worshipping her?  But for her, 'Francesca' would have been hissed.
I know it, I could see it, and now, I suppose, I shall be famous.

"Famous!" continued he, soliloquising.  "Three months ago I would
have given the last drop of my blood for fame; and now, without
Clarissa, fame will be a mockery.  Do you think I might have any
chance, the least chance?"

How could I answer him?  The fog caught my breath as I tried to
stammer a reply, and Tom, misinterpreting my want of words, read his
condemnation.

"You do not?  Of course, you do not; and you are right.  Success has
intoxicated me, I suppose.  I am not used to the drink!" and he
laughed a joyless laugh.

Then, with a change of mood, he caught my hat from off my head, and
set his own in its place.

"We will change characters for the nonce," he said, "after the
fashion of Falstaff and Prince Hal, and I will read myself a
chastening discourse on the vanity of human wishes.  'Do thou stand
for me, and I'll play my father.'  Eh, Jasper?"

"'Well, here I am set,'" quoted I, content to humour him.

"Well, then, I know thee; thou art Thomas Loveday, a beggarly Grub
Street author, i' faith, a man of literature, and wouldst set eyes
upon one to whom princes fling bouquets; a low Endymion puffing a
scrannel pipe, and wouldst call therewith a queen to be thy bride.
Out upon thee for such monstrous folly!"

In his voice, as it came to me through the dense gloom, there rang,
for all its summoned gaiety, a desperate mockery hideous to hear.

"Behold, success hath turned thy weak brain.  But an hour agone
enfranchised from Grub Street, thou must sing 'I'd be a butterfly.'
Thou art vanity absolute, conceit beyond measure, and presumption out
of all whooping.  Yea, and but as a fool Pygmalion, not content with
loving thine own handiwork, thou must needs fall in love with the
goddess that breathed life into its stiff limbs; must yearn, not for
Galatea, but for Aphrodite; not for Francesca, but for--Ah!"

What was that?  I saw a figure start up as if from below our feet,
and Tom's hand go up to his breast.  There was a scuffle, a curse,
and as I dashed forward, a dull, dim gleam--and Tom, with a groan,
sank back into my arms.

That was all.  A moment, and all had happened.  Yet not all; for as I
caught the body of my friend, and saw his face turn ashy white in the
gloom, I saw also, saw unmistakably framed for an instant in the
blackness of the fog, a face I knew; a face I should know until death
robbed my eyes of sight and my brain of remembrance--the face of
Simon Colliver.

A moment, and before I could pursue, before I could even shout or
utter its name, it had faded into the darkness, and was gone.



CHAPTER VII.


TELLS HOW CLAIRE WENT TO THE PLAY; AND HOW SHE SAW THE GOLDEN CLASP.

Tom was dying.  His depositions had been taken and signed with his
failing hand; the surgeon had given his judgment, and my friend was
lying upon his bed, face to face with the supreme struggle.

The knife had missed his heart by little more than an inch, but the
inward bleeding was killing him and there was no hope.  He knew it,
and though the reason of that cowardly blow was a mystery to him, he
asked few questions, but faced his fate with the old boyish pluck.
His eyes as they turned to mine were lit with the old boyish love.

Once only since his evidence was taken had his lips moved, and then
to murmur _her_ name.  I had sent for her: a short note with only the
words "Tom is dying and wants to speak with you."  So, while we
waited, I sat holding my friend's hand and busy with my own black
thoughts.

I knew that he had received the blow meant for me, and that
the secret of this too, as well as that other assault in the
gambling-den, hung on the Golden Clasp and the Great Ruby.
Whatever that secret was, the yellow woman knew of it, and held it
beneath the glitter of her awful eyes.  She it was that had directed
the murderous knife in the hands of Simon Colliver.  Bitterly I
cursed the folly which had prompted my rash words in the theatre, and
so sacrificed my friend.  With what passion, even in my despair, I
thanked Heaven that the act which led to Colliver's mistake had been
Tom's and not mine!  Yet, what consolation was it?  It was I, not he,
that should be lying there.  He had given his life for his friend--a
friend who had already robbed him of his love.  O false and
traitorous friend!

In my humiliation I would have taken my hand from his, but a feeble
pressure and a look of faint reproach restrained me.  So he lay there
and I sat beside him, and both counted the moments until Claire
should come--or death.

A knock at the door outside.  Tom heard it and in his eyes shone a
light of ineffable joy.  In answer to his look I dropped his hand and
went to meet her.

"Claire, how can I thank you for this speed?"

"How did it happen?"

"Murdered!" said I.  "Foully struck down last night as he left the
theatre."

Her eyes looked for a moment as though they would have questioned me
further, but she simply asked--

"Does he want to see me?"

"When he heard he was to die he asked for you.  Claire, if you only
knew how he longs to see you; had you only seen his eyes when he
heard you come!  You know why--"

She nodded gravely.

"I suppose," she said slowly, "we had better say nothing of--"

"Nothing," I answered; "it is better so.  If there be any knowledge
beyond the grave he will know all soon."

Claire was silent.

"Yes," she assented at length, "it is better so.  Take me to him."

I drew back as Claire approached the bed, dreading to meet Tom's
eyes; but I saw them welcome her in a flash of thankful rapture, then
slowly close as though unable wholly to bear this glad vision.

Altogether lovely she was as she bent and lifted his nerveless hand,
with the light of purest compassion on her face.

"You have come then," said the dying man.  "God bless you for that!"

"I am come, and oh! I am so very, very sorry."

"I saw Jasper write and knew he had sent, but I hardly dared to hope.
I am--very weak--and am going--fast."

For answer, a tear of infinite pity dropped on the white hand.

"Don't weep--I can't bear to see you weeping.  It is all for the
best.  I can see that I have had hopes and visions, but I should
never have attained them--never.  Now I shall not have to strive.
Better so--better so."

For a moment or two the lips moved inaudibly; then they spoke again--

"It was so good of you--to come; I was afraid--afraid--but you are
good.  You saved my play last night, but you cannot save--me."
A wan smile played over the white face and was gone.

"Better so, for I can speak now and be pardoned.  Do you know why I
sent for you?  I wanted to tell something--before I died.  Do not be
angry--I shall be dead soon, and in the grave, they say, there is no
knowledge.  Clarissa! oh, pity me--pity me, if I speak!"

The eyes looked up imploringly and met their pardon.

"I have loved you--yes, loved you.  Can you forgive?  It need not
distress--you--now.  It was mad--mad--but I loved you.  Jasper, come
here."

I stepped to the bed.

"Tell her I loved her, and ask her--to forgive me.  Tell her I knew
it was hopeless.  Tell her so, Jasper."

Powerless to meet those trustful eyes, weary with the anguish of my
remorse, I stood there helpless.

"Jasper is too much--upset just now to speak.  Never mind, he will
tell you later.  He is in love himself.  I have never seen her, but I
hope he may be happier than I.  Forgive me for saying that.  I am
happy now--happy now.

"You do not know Jasper," continued the dying man after a pause; "but
he saw you last night--and admired--how could he help it?  I hope you
will be friends--for my sake.  Jasper is my only friend."

There was a grey shadow on his face now--the shadow of death.
Tom must have felt it draw near, for suddenly raising himself upon
his elbow, he cried--

"Ah, I was selfish--I did not think.  They are waiting at the
theatre--go to them.  You will act your best--for my sake.
Forget what I have said, if you cannot forgive."

"Oh, why will you think that?"

"You do forgive?  Oh, God bless you, God bless you for it!  Clarissa,
if that be so, grant one thing more of your infinite mercy.  Kiss me
once--once only--on the lips.  I shall die happier so.  Will you--can
you--do this?"

The film was gathering fast upon those eyes once so full of laughter;
but through it they gazed in passionate appeal.  For answer, my love
bent gravely over the bed and with her lips met his; then, still
clasping his hand, sank on her knees beside the bed.

"Thank God! My love--oh, let me call you that--you cannot--help--my
loving you.  Do not pray--I am happy now and--they are waiting for
you."

Slowly Claire arose to her feet and stood waiting for his last word--

"They are waiting--waiting.  Good-bye, Jasper--old friend--and
Clarissa--Clarissa--my love--they are waiting--I cannot come--Clar--"

Slowly Claire bent and once more touched his lips, then without a
word passed slowly out.  As she went Death entered and found on its
victim's face a changeless, rapturous smile.

So "Francesca" was played a second time and, as the papers said next
morning, with even more perfect art and amid more awed enthusiasm
than on the first night.  But as the piece went on, a rumour passed
through the house that its young author was dead--suddenly and
mysteriously dead while the dawn of his fame was yet breaking--struck
down, some said, outside the theatre by a rival, while others
whispered that he had taken poison, but none knew for certain.
Only, as Claire passed from one heart-shaking scene to another, the
rumour grew and grew, so that when the curtain fell the audience
parted in awed and murmured speculations.

And all the while I was kneeling beside the body of my murdered
friend.


A week had passed and I was standing with Claire beside Tom's grave.
We had met and spoken at the funeral, but some restraint had lain
upon our tongues.  For myself, I was still as one who had sold his
brother for a price, and Claire had forborne from questioning my
grief.

The coroner's jury had brought in a verdict of "Murder by a certain
person unknown," and now the police were occupied in following such
clues as I could give them.  All the daily papers assigned robbery as
the motive, and the disappearance of Tom's watch-chain gave
plausibility to the theory.  But I knew too well why that chain had
disappeared, and even in my grief found consolation in the thought of
Colliver's impotent rage when he should come to examine his prize.
I had described the face and figure of my enemy and had even
identified him with the long-missing sailor Georgio Rhodojani, so
that they promised to lay hands on him in a very short space.
But the public knew nothing of this.  The only effect of the
newspapers' version of the murder was to send the town crowding in
greater numbers than ever to see the dead man's play.

Since the first night of "Francesca," Claire and I had only met by
Tom's bedside and at his funeral.  But as I entered the gloomy
cemetery that afternoon I spied a figure draped in black beside the
yet unsettled mound, and as I drew near knew it to be Claire.

So we stood there facing one another for a full minute, at a loss for
words.  A wreath of _immortelles_ lay upon the grave.  In my heart I
thanked her for the gift, but could not speak.  It seemed as though
the hillock that parted us were some impassable barrier to words.
Had I but guessed the truth I should have known that, unseen and
unsuspected, across that foot or two of turf was stretched a gulf we
were never more to cross: between our lives lay the body of my
friend; and not his only, but many a pallid corpse that with its mute
lips cursed our loves.

Presently Claire raised her head and spoke.

"Jasper, you have much to forgive me, and I hardly dare ask your
forgiveness.  It is too late to ask forgiveness of a dead man, but
could he hear now I would entreat him to pardon the folly that
wrought this cruel mistake."

"Claire, you could not know.  How was it possible to guess?"

"That is true, but it is no less cruel.  And I deceived you.  Can you
ever forgive?"

"Forgive! forgive what?  That I found my love peerless among women?
Oh, Claire, Claire, 'forgive'?"

"Yes; what matters it that for the moment I have what is called fame?
I deceived you--yet, believe me, it was only because I thought to
make the surprise more pleasant.  I thought--but it is too late.
Only believe I had no other thought, no other wish.  My poor scheme
seemed so harmless at first: then as the days went on I began to
doubt.  But until you told me, as we stood beside the river, of--
_him_, I never guessed;--oh, believe me, I never guessed!"

"Love, do not accuse yourself in this way.  It hurts me to hear you
speak so.  If there was any fault it was mine; but the Fates blinded
us.  If you had known Tom, you would know that he would forgive could
he hear us now.  For me, Claire, what have I to pardon?"

Claire did not answer for a moment.  There was still a trouble in her
face, as though something yet remained to be said and she had not the
courage to utter it.

"Jasper, there is something besides, which you have to pardon if you
can."

"My love!"

"Do you remember what I asked you that night, when you first told me
about _him_?"

"You asked me a foolish question, if I remember rightly.  You asked
if I could ever cease to love you."

"No, not foolish; I really meant it seriously, and I believed you
when you answered me.  Are you of the same mind now?  Believe me, I
am not asking lightly."

"I answer you as I answered you then: 'Love is strong as death.'
My love, put away these thoughts and be sure that I love you as my
own soul."

"But perhaps, even so, you might be so angry that--Oh, Jasper, how
can I tell you?"

"Tell me all, Claire."

"I told you I was called, or that they called me Claire.  Were you
not surprised when you saw my name as Clarissa Lambert?"

"Is that all?" I cried.  "Why, of course, I knew how common it is for
actresses to take another name.  I was even glad of it; for the name
I know, your own name, is now a secret, and all the sweeter so.
All the world admires Clarissa Lambert, but I alone love Claire
Luttrell, and know that Claire Luttrell loves me."

"But that is not all," she expostulated, whilst the trouble in her
eyes grew deeper.  "Oh, why will you make it so hard for me to
explain?  I never thought, when I told you so carelessly on that
night when we met for the first time, that you would grow to care for
me at all.  And it was the same afterwards, when I introduced you to
my mother; I gave you the name Luttrell, without ever dreaming--"

"Was Luttrell not your mother's name?" I asked, perplexed.

"That is the name by which she is always called now; and I am always
called Claire; in fact, it is my name, but I have another, and I
ought to have told you."

"Why, as Claire I know you, and as Claire I shall always love you.
What does it matter if your real name be Lambert?  You will change
it, love, soon, I trust."

But my poor little jest woke no mirth in her eyes.

"No, it is not Lambert.  That is only the name I took when I went on
the stage.  Nor am I called Luttrell.  It is a sad story; but let me
tell it now, and put an end to all deception.  I meant to do so long
ago; but lately I thought I would wait until after you had seen me on
the stage; I thought I would explain all together, not knowing
that _he_--but it has all gone wrong.  Jasper, I know you will pity
poor mother, even though she had allowed you to be deceived.  She has
been so unhappy.  But let me tell it first, and then you will judge.
She calls herself Luttrell to avoid persecution; to avoid a man who
is--"

"A villain, I am sure."

"A villain, yes; but worse.  He is her husband; not my father, but a
second husband.  My father died when I was quite a little child, and
she married again.  Ever since that day she has been miserable.
I remember her face--oh, so well! when she first discovered the real
character of the man.  For years she suffered--we were abroad then--
until at last she could bear it no longer, so she fled--fled back to
England, and took me with her.  I think, but I am not sure, that her
husband did not dare to follow her to England, because he had done
something against the laws.  I only guess this, for I never dare to
ask mother about him.  I did so once, and shall never forget the look
of terror that came into her eyes.  I only guess he has some strong
reason for avoiding England, for I remember we went abroad hastily,
almost directly after that night when mother first discovered that
she had been deceived.  However that may be, we came to England,
mother and I, and changed our name to Luttrell, which was her maiden
name.  After this, our life became one perpetual dread of discovery.
We were miserably poor, of course, and I was unable to do anything to
help for many years.  Mother was so careful; why, she even called me
by my second name, so desperately anxious was she to hide all traces
from that man.  Then suddenly we were discovered--not by him, but by
his mother, whom he set to search for us, and she--for she was not
wholly bad--promised to make my fortune on the single condition that
half my earnings were sent to him.  Otherwise, she threatened that
mother should have no rest.  What could I do?  It was the only way to
save ourselves.  Well, I promised to go upon the stage, for this
woman fancied she discovered some talent in me.  Why, Jasper, how
strangely you are looking!"

"Tell me--tell me," I cried, "who is this woman?"

"You ought to know that, for you were in the box with her during most
of the first night of 'Francesca.'"

A horrible, paralysing dread had seized me.

"Her name, and his?  Quick--tell me, for God's sake!"

"Colliver.  He is called Simon Colliver.  But, Jasper, what is it?
What--"

I took the chain and Golden Clasp and handed them to Claire without
speech.

"Why, what is this?" she cried.  "He has a piece exactly like this,
the fellow to it; I remember seeing it when I was quite small.
Oh, speak! what new mystery, what new trouble is this?"

"Claire, Colliver is here in London, or was but a week ago."

"Here!"

"Yes, Claire; and it was he that murdered Thomas Loveday."

"Murdered Thomas Loveday!  I do not understand."  She had turned
a deathly white, and spread out her hands as if for support.
"Tell me--"

"Yes, Claire," I said, as I stepped to her, and put my arm about her;
"it is truth, as I stand here.  Colliver, your mother's husband,
foully murdered my innocent friend for the sake of that piece of
gold; and more, Simon Colliver, for the sake of this same accursed
token, murdered my father!"

"Your father!"

She shook off my arm, and stood facing me there, by Tom's grave, with
a look of utter horror that froze my blood.

"Yes, my father; or stay, I am wrong.  Though Colliver prompted, his
was not the hand that did the deed.  That he left to a poor wretch
whom he afterwards slew himself--one Railton--John Railton."

"What!"

"Why, Claire, Claire!  What is it?  Speak!"

"I am Janet Railton!"



CHAPTER VIII.


TELLS HOW THE CURTAIN FELL UPON "FRANCESCA: A TRAGEDY."

For a moment I staggered back as though buffeted in the face, then,
as our eyes met and read in each other the desperate truth, I sprang
forward just in time to catch her as she fell.  Blindly, as if in
some hideous trance, reeling and stumbling over the graves, I carried
her in my arms to the cemetery gate and stood there panting and
bewildered.

Cold and white as marble she lay in my arms, so that for one terrible
moment I thought her dead.  "Better so," my heart had cried, and then
I laughed aloud (God forgive me!) at the utter cruelty of it all.
But she was not dead.  As I watched the lovely ashen face, the slow
blood came trickling back and throbbed faintly at her temples, the
light breath flickered and went and came once more.  Feebly and with
wonder the dark eyes opened to the light of day, then closed again as
the lips parted in a moaning whisper.

"Claire!" I cried, and my voice seemed to come from far away, so
hollow and unnatural was it, "I must take you to your home; are you
well enough to go?"

I had laid her on the stone upon which the bearers were used to set
down the coffins when weary.  Scarcely a week ago, poor Tom's corpse
had rested for a moment upon this grim stone.  As I bent to catch the
answer, and saw how like to death her face was, I thought how well it
were for both of us, should we be resting there so together; not
leaving the acre of the dead, but entering it as rightful heirs of
its oblivion.

After a while, as I repeated my question, the lips again parted and I
heard.

I looked down the road.  The cemetery lay far out in one of the
northern suburbs, and just now the neighbourhood seemed utterly
deserted.  By good chance, however, I spied an old four-wheeler
crawling along in the distance.  I ran after it, hailed it, brought
it back, and with the help of the wondering driver, placed my love
inside; then I gave the man the address, and bidding him drive with
all speed, sprang in beside Claire.

Still faint, she was lying back against the cushion.  The cab crawled
along at a snail's pace, but long as the journey was, it was passed
in utter silence.  She never opened her eyes, and as for me, what
comfortable words could I speak?  Yet as I saw the soft rise and fall
of her breast, I longed for words, Heaven knows how madly!  But none
came, and in silence we drew up at length before a modest doorway in
Old Kensington.

Here Claire summoned all her strength lest her mother should be
frightened.  Still keeping her eyes averted, she stepped as bravely
as she could from the cab, and laid her hand upon the door-handle.

I made as if to follow.

"No, no," she said hastily, "leave me to myself--I will write
to-morrow and perhaps see you; but, oh, pray, not to-day!"

Before I could answer she had passed into the house.


Twenty-four hours had passed and left me as they found me, in
torture.  Despite my doubt, I swore she should not cast me off; then
knelt and prayed as I had never prayed before, that Heaven would deny
some of its cruelty to my darling.  In the abandonment of my
supplication, I was ready to fling the secret from me and forgive
all, to forgive my father's murderer, my life-long enemy, and let him
go unsought, rather than give up Claire.  Yet as I prayed, my
entreaties and my tears went up to no compassionate God, but beat
themselves upon the adamantine face of Dead Man's Rock that still
rose inexorable between me and Heaven.

That night the crowd that gathered in the Coliseum to see the new
play, went away angry and disappointed; for Clarissa Lambert was not
acting.  Another actress took her part--but how differently!  And all
the while she, for whose sake they had come, was on her knees
wrestling with a grimmer tragedy than "Francesca," with no other
audience than the angels of pity.

Twenty-four hours had passed, and found me hastening towards Old
Kensington; for in my pocket lay a note bearing only the words
"Come at 3.30--Claire," and on my heart rested a load of suspense
unbearable.  For many minutes beforehand, I paced up and down outside
the house in an agony, and as my watch pointed to the half-hour,
knocked and was admitted.

Mrs. Luttrell met me in the passage.  She seemed most terribly white
and worn, so that I was astonished when she simply said, "Claire is
slightly unwell, and in fact could not act last night, but she wishes
to see you for some reason."

Wondering why Claire's mother should look so strangely if she guessed
nothing of what had happened, but supposing illness to be the reason,
I stopped for an instant to ask.

"Am I pale?" she answered.  "It is nothing--nothing--do not take any
notice of it.  I am rather weaker than usual to-day, that is all--a
mere nothing.  You will find Claire in the drawing-room there."
And so she left me.

I knocked at the drawing-room door, and hearing a faint voice inside,
entered.  As I did so, Claire rose to meet me.  She was very pale,
and the dark circles around her eyes told of a long vigil; but her
manner at first was composed and even cold.

"Claire!"  I cried, and stretched out my hands.

"Not yet," she said, and motioned me to a chair.  "I sent for you
because I have been thinking of--of--what happened yesterday, and I
want you to tell me all; the whole story from beginning to end."

"But--"

"There is no 'but' in the case, Jasper.  I am Janet Railton, and you
say that my father killed yours.  Tell me how it was."

Her manner was so calm that I hesitated at first, bewildered.
Then, finding that she waited for me to speak, I sat down facing her
and began my story.

I told it through, without suppression or concealment, from the time
when my father started to seek the treasure, down to the cowardly
blow that had taken my friend's life.  During the whole narrative she
never took her eyes from my face for more than a moment.  Her very
lips were bloodless, but her manner was as quiet as though I were
reading her some story of people who had never lived.  Once only she
interrupted me.  I was repeating the conversation between her father
and Simon Colliver upon Dead Man's Rock.

"You are quite sure," she asked, "of the words?  You are positive he
said, 'Captain, it was your knife'?"

"Certain," I answered sadly.

"You are giving the very words they both used?"

"As well as I can remember; and I have cause for a good memory."

"Go on," she replied simply.

So I unrolled the whole chronicle of our unhappy fates, and even read
to her Lucy Railton's letter which I had brought with me.  Then, as I
ceased, for full a minute we sat in absolute silence, reading each
other's gaze.

"Let me see the letter," she said, and held out her hand for it.

I gave it to her.  She read it slowly through and handed it back.

"Yes, it is my mother's letter," she said, slowly.

Then again silence fell upon us.  I could hear the clock tick slowly
on the mantelpiece, and the beating of my own heart that raced and
outstripped it.  That was all; until at length the slow, measured
footfall of the timepiece grew maddening to hear; it seemed a symbol
of the unrelenting doom pursuing us, and I longed to rise and break
it to atoms.

I could stand it no longer.

"Claire, tell me that this will not--cannot alter you--that you are
mine yet, as you were before."

"This is impossible," she said, very gravely and quietly.

"Impossible?  Oh, no, no, do not say that!  You cannot, you must not
say that!"

"Yes, Jasper," she repeated, and her face was pallid as snow; "it is
impossible."

But as I heard my doom, I arose and fought it with blind despair.

"Claire, you do not know what you are saying.  You love me, Claire;
you have told me so, and I love you as my very soul.  Surely, then,
you will not say this thing.  How were we to know?  How could you
have told?  Oh, Claire! is it that you do not love me?"

Her eyes were full of infinite compassion and tenderness, but her
lips were firm and cold.

"You know that I love you."

"Then, oh, my love! how can this come between us?  What does it
matter that our fathers fought and killed each other, if only we
love?  Surely, surely Heaven cannot fix the seal of this crime upon
us for ever?  Speak, Claire, and tell me that you will be mine in
spite of all!"

"It cannot be," she answered, very gently.

"Cannot be!" I echoed.  "Then I was right, and you do not love, but
fancied that you did for a while.  Love, love, was that fair?
No power on earth--no, nor in heaven--should have made me cast you
off so."

My rage died out before the mute reproach of those lovely eyes.
I caught the white hand.

"Forgive me, Claire; I was desperate, and knew not what I was saying.
I know you love me--you have said so, and you are truth itself; truth
and all goodness.  But if you have loved, then you can love me still.
Remember our text, Claire, 'Love is strong as death.'  Strong as
death, and can it be overcome so easily?"

She was trembling terribly, and from the little hand within mine I
could feel her agitation.  But though the soft eyes spoke appealingly
as they were raised in answer, I could see, behind all their anguish,
an immutable resolve.

"No, Jasper; it can never be--never.  Do you think I am not
suffering--that it is nothing to me to lose you?  Try to think better
of me.  Oh, Jasper, it is hard indeed for me, and--I love you so."

"No, no," she went on; "do not make the task harder for me.  Why can
you not curse me?  It would be easier then.  Why can you not hate me
as you ought?  Oh, if you would but strike me and go, I could better
bear this hour!"

There was such abandonment of entreaty in her tones that my heart
bled for her; yet I could only answer--

"Claire, I will not give you up; not though you went on your knees
and implored it.  Death alone can divide us now; and even death will
never kill my love."

"Death!" she answered.  "Think, then, that I am dead; think of me as
under the mould.  Ah, love, hearts do not break so easily.  You would
grieve at first, but in a little while I should be forgotten."

"Claire!"

"Forgive me, love; not forgotten.  I wronged you when I said the
word.  Believe me, Jasper, that if there be any gleam of day in the
blackness that surrounds me it is the thought that you so love me;
and yet it would have been far easier otherwise--far easier."

Little by little my hope was slipping from me; but still I strove
with her as a man battles for his life.  I raved, protested, called
earth and heaven to witness her cruelty; but all in vain.

"It would be a sin--a horrible sin!" she kept saying.  "God would
never forgive it.  No, no; do not try to persuade me--it is
horrible!" and she shuddered.

Utterly beaten at last by her obstinacy, I said--

"I will leave you now to think it over.  Let me call again and hear
that you repent."

"No, love; we must never meet again.  This must be our last good-bye.
Stay!" and she smiled for the first time since that meeting in the
cemetery.  "Come to 'Francesca' to-night; I am going to act."

"What! to-night?"

"Yes.  One must live, you see, even though one suffers.  See, I have
a ticket for you--for a box.  You will come?  Promise me."

"Never, Claire."

"Yes, promise me.  Do me this last favour; I shall never ask
another."

I took the card in silence.

"And now," she said, "you may kiss me.  Kiss me on the lips for the
last time, and may God bless you, my love."

Quite calmly and gently she lifted her lips to mine, and on her face
was the glory of unutterable tenderness.

"Claire!  My love, my love!" My arms were round her, her whole form
yielded helplessly to mine, and as our lips met in that one
passionate, shuddering caress, sank on my breast.

"You will not leave me?" I cried.

And through her sobs came the answer--

"Yes, yes; it must be, it must be."

Then drawing herself up, she held out her hand and said--

"To-night, remember, and so--farewell."

And so, in the fading light of that grey December afternoon I left
her standing there.


Mad and distraught with the passion of that parting, I sat that
evening in the shadow of my box and waited for the curtain to rise
upon "Francesca."  The Coliseum was crowded to the roof, for it was
known that Clarissa Lambert's illness had been merely a slight
indisposition, and to-night she would again be acting.  I was too
busy with my own hard thoughts to pay much attention at first, but I
noticed that my box was the one nearest to the stage, in the tier
next above it.  So that once more I should hear my darling's voice,
and see her form close to me.  Once or twice I vaguely scanned the
audience.  The boxes opposite were full; but, of course, I could see
nothing of my own side of the theatre.  After a moment's listless
glance, I leaned back in the shadow and waited.

I do not know who composed the overture.  It is haunted by one
exquisite air, repeated, fading into variations, then rising once
more only to sink into the tender sorrow of a minor key.  I have
heard it but twice in my life, but the music of it is with me to this
day.  Then, as I heard it, it carried me back to the hour when Tom
and I sat expectant in this same theatre, he trembling for his play's
success, I for the sight of my love.  Poor Tom!  The sad melody
wailed upwards as though it were the voice of the wind playing about
his grave, every note breathing pathos or suspiring in tremulous
anguish.  Poor Tom!  Yet your love was happier than mine; better to
die with Claire's kiss warm upon the lips than to live with but the
memory of it.

The throbbing music had ended, and the play began.  As before, the
audience were without enthusiasm at first, but to-night they knew
they had but to wait, and they did so patiently; so that when at last
Claire's voice died softly away at the close of her opening song, the
hushed house was suddenly shaken to its roof with the storm and
tumult of applause.

There she stood, serene and glowing, as one that had never known
pain.  My very eyes doubted.  On her face was no sign of suffering,
no trace of a tear.  Was she, then, utterly without heart?  In my
memory I retraced the scene of that afternoon, and all my reason
acquitted her.  Yet, as she stood there in her glorious epiphany,
illumined with the blazing lights, and radiant in the joy and
freshness of youth, I could have doubted whether, after all, Clarissa
Lambert and Claire Luttrell were one and the same.

There was one thing which I did not fail, however, to note as
strange.  She did not once glance in the direction of my box, but
kept her eyes steadily averted.  And it then suddenly dawned upon me
that she must be playing with a purpose; but what that purpose was I
could not guess.

Whatever it was, she was acting magnificently and had for the present
completely surrendered herself to her art.  Grand as that art had
been on the first night of "Francesca," the power of that performance
was utterly eclipsed to-night.  Once between the acts I heard two
voices in the passage outside my box--

"What do you think of it?" said the first.

"What can I?" answered the other.  "And how can I tell you?  It is
altogether above words."

He was right.  It was not so much admiration as awe and worship that
held the house that night.  I have heard a man say since that he
wonders how the play could ever have raised anything beyond a laugh.
He should have heard the sobs that every now and then would break
uncontrollably forth, even whilst Claire was speaking.  He should
have felt the hush that followed every scene before the audience
could recollect itself and pay its thunderous tribute.

Still she never looked towards me, though all the while my eyes were
following my lost love.  Her purpose--and somehow in my heart I grew
more and more convinced that some purpose lay beneath this
transcendent display--was waiting for its accomplishment, and in the
ringing triumph of her voice I felt it coming nearer--nearer--until
at last it came.

The tragedy was nearly over.  Francesca had dismissed her old lover
and his new bride from their captivity and was now left alone upon
the stage.  The last expectant hush had fallen upon the house.
Then she stepped slowly forward in the dead silence, and as she spoke
the opening lines, for the first time our eyes met.

    "Here then all ends:--all love, all hate, all vows,
     All vain reproaches.  Aye, 'tis better so.
     So shall he best forgive and I forget,
     Who else had chained him to a life-long curse,
     Who else had sought forgiveness, given in vain
     While life remained that made forgiveness dear.
     Far better to release him--loving more
     Now love denies its love and he is free,
     Than should it by enjoyment wreck his joy.
     Blighting his life for whom alone I lived.

    "No, no.  As God is just, it could not be.
     Yet, oh, my love, be happy in the days
     I may not share, with her whose present lips
     Usurp the rights of my lost sovranty.
     I would not have thee think--save now and then
     As in a dream that is not all a dream--
     On her whose love was sunshine for an hour,
     Then died or e'er its beams could blast thy life.
     Be happy and forget what might have been,
     Forget my dear embraces in her arms,
     My lips in hers, my children in her sons,
     While I--
                Dear love, it is not hard to die
     Now once the path is plain.  See, I accept
     And step as gladly to the sacrifice
     As any maid upon her bridal morn--
     One little stroke--one tiny touch of pain
     And I am quit of pain for evermore.
     It needs no bravery.  Wert thou here to see,
     I would not have thee weep, but look--one stroke,
     And thus--"

What was that shriek far back there in the house?  What was that at
sight of which the audience rose white and aghast from their seats?
What was it that made Sebastian as he entered rush suddenly forward
and fall with awful cry before Francesca's body?  What was that
trickling down the folds of her white dress?  Blood?

Yes, blood!  In an instant I put my hand upon the cushion of the box,
vaulted down to the stage and was kneeling beside my dying love.
But as the clamorous bell rang down the curtain, I heard above its
noise a light and silvery laugh, and looking up saw in the box next
to mine the coal-black devilish eyes of the yellow woman.

Then the curtain fell.



CHAPTER IX.


TELLS HOW TWO VOICES LED ME TO BOARD A SCHOONER; AND WHAT BEFELL
THERE.

She died without speech.  Only, as I knelt beside her and strove to
staunch that cruel stream of blood, her beautiful eyes sought mine in
utter love and, as the last agony shook her frame, strove to rend the
filmy veil of death and speak to me still.  Then, with one long,
contented sigh, my love was dead.  It was scarcely a minute before
all was over.  I pressed one last kiss upon the yet warm lips,
tenderly drew her white mantle across the pallid face, and staggered
from the theatre.

I had not raved or protested as I had done that same afternoon.
Fate had no power to make me feel now; the point of anguish was
passed, and in its place succeeded a numb stupidity more terrible by
far, though far more blessed.

My love was dead.  Then I was dead for any sensibility to suffering
that I possessed.  Hatless and cloak-less I stepped out into the
freezing night air, and regardless of the curious looks of the
passing throng I turned and walked rapidly westward up the Strand.
There was a large and eager crowd outside the Coliseum, for already
the news was spreading; but something in my face made them give room,
and I passed through them as a man in a trance.

The white orb of the moon was high in heaven; the frozen pavement
sounded hollow under-foot; the long street stood out, for all its
yellow gas-light, white and distinct against the clear air; but I
marked nothing of this.  I went westward because my home lay
westward, and some instinct took my hurrying feet thither.  I had no
purpose, no sensation.  For aught I knew, that night London might
have been a city of the dead.

Suddenly I halted beneath a lamp-post and began dimly to think.
My love was dead:--that was the one fact that filled my thoughts at
first, and so I strove to image it upon my brain, but could not.
But as I stood there feebly struggling with the thought another took
its place.  Why should I live?  Of course not; better end it all at
once--and possessed with this idea I started off once more.

By degrees, as I walked, a plan shaped itself before me.  I would go
home, get my grandfather's key, together with the tin box containing
my father's Journal, and then make for the river.  That would be an
easy death, and I could sink for ever, before I perished, all trace
of the black secret which had pursued my life.  I and the mystery
would end together--so best.  Then, without pain, almost with ghastly
merriment, I thought that this was the same river which had murmured
so sweetly to my love.  Well, no doubt its voice would be just as
musical over my grave.  The same river:--but nearer the sea now--
nearer the infinite sea.

As I reflected, the idea took yet stronger possession of me.  Yes, it
was in all respects the best.  The curse should end now.  "Even as
the Heart of the Ruby is Blood and its Eyes a Flaming Fire, so shall
it be for them that would possess it: Fire shall be their portion and
Blood their inheritance for ever."  For ever?  No: the river should
wash the blood away and quench the fire.  Then arose another text and
hammered at the door of my remembrance.  "Many waters cannot quench
love, neither can the floods drown it."  "Many waters"--"many
waters":--the words whispered appealingly, invitingly, in my ears.
"Many waters."  My feet beat a tune to the words.

I reached my lodgings, ran upstairs, took out the key and the tin
box, and descended again into the hall.  My landlord was slipping
down the latch.  He stared at seeing me.

"Do not latch the door just yet: I am going out again," I said
simply.

"Going out!  I thought, sir, it was you as just now come in."

"Yes, but I must go out again:--it is important."

He evidently thought me mad; and so indeed I was.

"What, sir, in that dress?  You've got no hat--no--"

I had forgotten.  "True," I said; "get me a hat and coat."

He stared and then ran upstairs for them.  Returning he said, "I have
got you these, sir; but I can't find them as you usually wears."

"Those will do," I answered.  "I must have left the others at the
theatre."

This reduced him to utter speechlessness.  Mutely he helped me to don
the cloak over my thin evening dress.  I slipped the tin box and the
key into the pockets.  As I stepped out once more into the night, my
landlord found his speech.

"When will you be back, sir?"

The question startled me for a moment; for a second or two I
hesitated.

"I asked because you have no latch-key, as I suppose you left it in
your other coat.  So that--"

"It does not matter," I answered.  "Do not sit up.  I shall not be
back before morning;" and with that I left him still standing at the
door, and listening to my footsteps as they hurried down the street.

"Before morning!"  Before morning I should be in another world, if
there were another world.  And then it struck me that Claire and I
might meet.  She had taken her own life and so should I.  But no,
no--Heaven would forgive her that; it could not condemn my saint to
the pit where I should lie: it could not be so kindly cruel; and then
I laughed a loud and bitter laugh.

Still in my dull stupor I found myself nearing the river.  I have not
mentioned it before, but I must explain now, that during the summer I
had purchased a boat, in which my Claire and I were used to row idly
between Streatley and Pangbourne, or whithersoever love guided our
oars.  This boat, with the approach of winter, I had caused to be
brought down the river and had housed in a waterman's shed just above
Westminster, until the return of spring should bring back once more
the happy days of its employment.

In my heart I blessed the chance that had stored it ready to my hand.

Stumbling through dark and tortuous streets where the moon's frosty
brilliance was almost completely hidden, I came at last to the
waterman's door and knocked.  He was in bed and for some time my
summons was in vain.  At last I heard a sound in the room above, the
window was let down and a sulky voice said, "Who's there?"

"Is that you, Bagnell?"  I answered.  "Come down.  It is I, Mr.
Trenoweth, and I want you."

There was a low cursing, a long pause broken by a muttered dispute
upstairs, and then the street door opened and Bagnell appeared with a
lantern.

"Bagnell, I want my boat."

"To-night, sir?  And at this hour?"

"Yes, to-night.  I want it particularly."

"But it is put away behind a dozen others, and can't be got."

"Never mind.  I will help if you want assistance, but I must have
it."

Bagnell looked at me for a minute and I could see that he was cursing
under his breath.

"Is it serious, sir?  You're not--"

"I am not drunk, if that is what you mean, but perfectly serious, and
I must have my boat."

"Won't another do as well?"

"No, it will not."  I felt in my pockets and found two sovereigns and
a few shillings.  "Look here," I said, "I will give you two pounds if
you get this boat out for me."

This conquered his reluctance.  He stared for a moment as I mentioned
the amount, and then hastily deciding that I was stark mad, but that
it was none of his business, put on his hat and led the way down to
his boat-yard.

Stumbling in the uncertain light over innumerable timbers, spars, and
old oars, we reached the shed at length and together managed, after
much delay, to get out the light boat and let her down to the water.
I gave him the two sovereigns as well as the few shillings that
remained in my pocket, and as I descended, reflected grimly that
after all they were better in his possession; the man who should find
my body would have so much the less spoil.  We had scarcely spoken
whilst we were getting the boat out, and what words we used were
uttered in that whisper which night always enforces; but as I
clambered down (for the tide was now far out) and Bagnell passed down
the sculls, he asked--

"When will you be back, sir?"

The same question!  I gave it the same answer.  "Not before morning,"
I said, and with a few strokes was out upon the tide and pulling down
the river.  I saw him standing there above in the moonlight, still
wondering, until he faded in the dim haze behind.  My boat was a
light Thames dingey, so that although I felt the tide running up
against me, it nevertheless made fair progress.  What decided me to
pull against the tide rather than float quietly upwards I do not know
to this day.  So deadened and vague was all my thought, that it
probably never occurred to me to correct the direction in which the
first few strokes had taken me.  I was conscious of nothing but a row
of lights gliding past me on either hand, of here and there a tower
or tall building, that stood up for an instant against the sky and
then swam slowly out of sight, of the creaking of my sculls in the
ungreased rowlocks, and, above all, the white shimmer of the moon
following my boat as it swung downwards.

I remember now that, in a childish way, I tried to escape this
persistent brilliance that still clung to my boat's side with every
stroke I took; that somehow a dull triumph possessed me when for a
moment I slipped beneath the shadow of a bridge, or crept behind a
black and silent hull.  All this I can recall now, and wonder at the
trivial nature of the thought.  Then I caught the scent of white
rose, and fell to wondering how it came there.  There had been the
same scent in the drawing-room that afternoon, I remembered, when
Claire had said good-bye for ever.  How had it followed me?
After this I set myself aimlessly to count the lights that passed,
lost count, and began again.  And all the time the white glimmer hung
at my side.

I was still wrapped up in my cloak, though the cape was flung back to
give my arms free play.  Rowing so, I must quickly have been warm;
but I felt it no more than I had felt the cold as I walked home from
the theatre.  My boat was creeping along the Middlesex shore, by the
old Temple stairs, and presently threaded its way through more
crowded channels, and passed under the blackness of London Bridge.

How far below this I went, I cannot clearly call to mind; of
distance, as well as of time, I had lost all calculation.
I recollect making a circuit to avoid the press of boats waiting for
the early dawn by Billingsgate Market, and have a vision of the White
Tower against the heavens.  But my next impression of any clearness
is that of rowing under the shadow of a black three-masted schooner
that lay close under shore, tilted over on her port side in the low
water.  As my dingey floated out again from beneath the overhanging
hull, I looked up and saw the words, _Water-Witch_, painted in white
upon her pitch-dark bows.

By this time I was among the tiers of shipping.  I looked back over
my shoulder, and saw their countless masts looming up as far as eye
could see in the dim light, and their lamps flickering and wavering
upon the water.  I rowed about a score of strokes, and then stopped.
Why go further?  This place would serve as well as any other.  No one
was likely to hear my splash as I went overboard, and even if heard
it would not be interpreted.  I was still near enough to the
Middlesex bank to be out of the broad moonlight that lit up the
middle of the river.  I took the tin box out of my cloak and stowed
it for a moment in the stern.  I would sink it with the key before I
flung myself in.  So, pulling the key out of the other pocket, I took
off the cloak, then my dress-coat and waistcoat, folded them
carefully, and placed them on the stern seat.  This done, I slipped
the key into one pocket of my trousers, my watch and chain into the
other.  I would do all quietly and in order, I reflected.  I was
silently kicking off my shoes, when a thought struck me.  In my last
struggles it was possible that the desire of life would master me,
and almost unconsciously I might take to swimming.  In the old days
at Lizard Town swimming had been as natural to me as walking, and I
had no doubt that as soon as in the water I should begin to strike
out.  Could I count upon determination enough to withhold my arms and
let myself slowly drown?

Here was a difficulty; but I resolved to make everything sure.
I took my handkerchief out of the coat pocket, and bent down to tie
my feet firmly together.  All this I did quite calmly and
mechanically.  As far as one can be certain of anything at this
distance of time, I am certain of this, that no thought of hesitation
came into my head.  It was not that I overcame any doubts; they never
occurred to me.

I was stooping down, and had already bound the handkerchief once
around my ankles, when my boat grated softly against something.
I looked up, and saw once more above me a dark ship's hull, and right
above my head the white letters, _Water-Witch_.

This would never do.  My boat had drifted up the river again with the
tide, stern foremost, but a little aslant, and had run against the
warp by the schooner's bows.  I must pull out again, for otherwise
the people on board would hear me.  I pushed gently off from the warp
and took the sculls, when suddenly I heard voices back towards the
stern.

My first impulse was to get away with all speed, and I had already
taken half a stroke, when something caused my hands to drop and my
heart to give one wild leap.

What was it?  Something in the voices?  Yes; something that brushed
my stupor from me as though it were a cobweb; something that made me
hush my breath, and strain with all my ears to listen.

The two voices were those of man and woman, They were slightly
raised, as if in a quarrel; the woman's pleading and entreating, the
man's threatening and stern.  But that was not the reason that
suddenly set my heart uncontrollably beating and all the blood
rushing and surging to my temples.

For in those two voices I recognised Mrs. Luttrell and Simon
Colliver!

"Have you not done enough?" the woman's voice was saying.  "Has your
cruelty no end, that you must pursue me so?  Take this money, and let
me go."

"I must have more," was the answer.

"Indeed, I have no more just now.  Go, only go, and I will send you
some.  I swear it."

"I cannot go," said the man.

"Why?"

"Never mind.  I am watched."  Here the voice muttered some words
which I could not catch.  "So that unless you wish to see your
husband swing--and believe me, my confession and last dying speech
would not omit to mention the kind aid I had received from you and
Clar-"

"Hush! oh, hush!  If I get you this money, will you leave us in peace
for a time?  Knowing your nature, I will not ask for pity--only for a
short respite.  I must tell Claire, poor girl; she does not know
yet--"

Quite softly my boat had drifted once more across the schooner's
bows.  I pulled it round until its nose touched the anchor chain, and
made the painter fast.  Then slipping my hand up the chain, I stood
with my shoeless feet upon the gunwale by the bows.  Still grasping
the chain, I sprang and swung myself out to the jib-boom that, with
the cant of the vessel, was not far above the water: then pressed my
left foot in between the stay and the brace, while I hung for a
moment to listen.

They had not heard, for I could still catch the murmur of their
voices.  The creak of the jib-boom and the swish of my own boat
beneath had frightened me at first.  It seemed impossible that it
should not disturb them.  But after a moment my courage returned, and
I pulled myself up on to the bowsprit, and lying almost at full
length along it, for fear of being spied, crawled slowly along, and
dropped noiselessly on to the deck.

They were standing together by the mizzen-mast, he with his back
turned full towards me, she less entirely averted, so that I could
see a part of her face in the moonlight, and the silvery gleam of her
grey hair.  Yes, it was they, surely enough; and they had not seen
me.  My revenge, long waited for, was in my grasp at last.

Suddenly, as I stood there watching them, I remembered my knife--the
blade which had slain my father.  I had left it below--fool that I
was!--in the tin box.  Could I creep back again, and return without
attracting their attention?  Should I hazard the attempt for the sake
of planting that piece of steel in Simon Colliver's black heart?

It was a foolish thought, but my whole soul was set upon murder now,
and the chance of slaying him with the very knife left in my father's
wound seemed too dear to be lightly given up.  Most likely he was
armed now, whilst I had no weapon but the naked hand.  Yet I did not
think of this.  It never even occurred to me that he would defend
himself.  Still, the thought of that knife was sweet to me as I
crouched there beneath the shadow of the bulwarks.  Should I go, or
not?  I paused for a moment, undecided; then rose slowly erect.

As I did so Mrs. Luttrell turned for an instant and saw me.

As I stood there, bareheaded, with the moonlight shining full upon my
white shirt-sleeves, I must have seemed a very ghost; for a look of
abject terror swept across her face; her voice broke off and both her
hands were flung up for mercy--

"Oh, God!  Look! look!"

As I rushed forward he turned, and then, with the spring of a wild
cat, was upon me.  Even as he leapt, my foot slipped upon the greasy
deck; I staggered backward one step--two steps--and then fell with a
crash down the unguarded forecastle ladder.



CHAPTER X.


TELLS IN WHAT MANNER I LEARNT THE SECRET OF THE GREAT KEY.

As my senses came gradually back I could distinguish a narrow, dingy
cabin, dimly lit by one flickering oil-lamp which swung from a rafter
above.  Its faint ray just revealed the furniture of the room, which
consisted of a seaman's chest standing in the middle, and two gaunt
stools.  On one of these I was seated, propped against the cabin
wall, or rather partition, and as I attempted to move I learnt that I
was bound hand and foot.

On the other stool opposite me and beside the chest, sat Simon
Colliver, silently eyeing me.  The lamplight as it flared and
wavered cast grotesque and dancing shadows of the man upon the wall
behind, made of his matted hair black eaves under which his eyes
gleamed red as fire, and glinted lastly upon something bright lying
on the chest before him.

For a minute or so after my eyes first opened no word was said.
Still dizzy with my fall, I stared for a moment at the man, then at
the chest, and saw that the bright objects gleaming there were my
grandfather's key and my watch-chain, at the end of which hung the
Golden Clasp.  But now the clasp was fitted to its fellow and the
whole buckle lay united upon the board.

Though the bonds around my arms, wrists, and ankles caused me
intolerable pain, yet my first feeling was rather of abject
humiliation.  To be caught thus easily, to be lying here like any
rat in a gin! this was the agonising thought.  Nor was this all.
There on the chest lay the Golden Clasp united at last--the work
completed which was begun with that unholy massacre on board the
_Belle Fortune_.  I had played straight into Colliver's hand.

He was in no hurry, but sat and watched me there with those
intolerably evil eyes.  His left hand was thrust carelessly into his
pocket, and as he tilted back upon the stool and surveyed me, his
right was playing with the clasp upon the chest.  As I painfully
turned my head a drop of blood came trickling down into my eyes from
a cut in my forehead; I saw, however, that the door was bolted.
An empty bottle and a plate of broken victuals lay carelessly thrust
in a corner, and a villainous smell from the lamp filled the whole
room and almost choked me; but the only sound in the dead stillness
of the place was the monotonous tick-tick of my watch as it lay upon
the chest.

How long I had lain there I could not guess, but I noticed that the
floor slanted much less than when I first scrambled on deck, so
guessed that the tide must have risen considerably.  Then having
exhausted my wonder I looked again at Colliver, and began to
speculate how he would kill me and how long he would take about it.

I found his wolfish eyes still regarding me, and for a minute or two
we studied each other in silence.  Then without removing his gaze he
tilted his stool forward, slowly drew a short heavy knife from his
waist-band, slipped it out of its sheath--still without taking his
left hand from his pocket--laid it on the table and leant back again.

"I suppose," he said at last and very deliberately as if chewing his
words, "you know that if you attempt to cry out or summon help, you
are a dead man that instant."

"Well, well," he continued, after waiting a moment for my reply,
"as long as you understand that, it does not matter.  I confess I
should have preferred to talk with you and not merely to you.
However, before I kill you--and I suppose you guess that I am going
to kill you as soon as I've done with you--I wish to have just a
word, Master Jasper Trenoweth."

From the tone in which he said the words he might have been
congratulating me on some great good fortune.  He paused awhile as if
to allow the full force of them to sink in, and then took up the
Golden Clasp.  Holding the pieces together with the fore-finger and
thumb of his right hand, he advanced and thrust it right under my
sight--

"Do you see that?  Can you read it?"

As I was still mute he walked back to the chest and laid the clasp
down again.

"Aha!" he exclaimed with a short laugh horrible to hear, "you won't
speak.  But there have been times, Mr. Jasper Trenoweth, when you
would have given your soul to lay hands upon this piece of gold and
read what is written upon it.  It is a pity your hands are tied--a
thousand pities.  But I do not wish to be hard on you, and so I don't
mind reading out what is written here.  The secret will be safe with
you, don't you see?  Quite--safe--with--you."

He rolled out these last words, one by one, with infinite relish; and
the mockery in the depths of those eyes seared me far more than my
bonds.  After watching the effect of his taunt he resumed his seat
upon the stool, pulled the clasp towards him and said--

"People might call me rash for entrusting these confidences to you.
But I do not mind admitting that I owe you some reparation--some
anterior reparation.  So, as I don't wish you to die cursing me, I
will be generous.  Listen!"

He held the buckle down upon the table and read out the inscription
as follows:--


    START      AT      FULL      MOON      END      SOUTH.

    POINT      27      FEET      N.N.W.    22       FEET.

    W.         OF      RING      NORTH     SIDE     4.

    FEET       6       INCHES    DEEP      AT       POINT.

    OF         MEETING LOW       WATER     1.5      HOURS.

He read it through twice very slowly, and each time as he ceased
looked up to see how I took it.

"It does not seem to make much sense, does it?" he asked.  "But wait
a moment and let me parcel it out into sentences.  I should not like
you to miss any of its meaning.  Listen again."  He divided the
writing up thus:--

    "Start at full moon.
     End South Point 27 feet N.N.W.
     22 feet W. of Ring.  North Side.
     4 feet 6 inches deep at point of meeting.
     Low water 1.5 hours."

"You still seem puzzled, Mr. Trenoweth.  Very well, I will even go on
to explain further.  The person who engraved this clasp meant to tell
us that something--let us say treasure, for sake of argument--could
be found by anyone who drew two lines from some place unknown: one 27
feet in length in direction N.N.W.  from the South Point of that
place; the other 22 feet due West of a certain Ring on the North
side of that same place.  So far I trust I make my meaning clear.
That which we have agreed to call the treasure lies buried at a depth
of 4 feet 6 inches on the spot where these two lines intersect.
But the person (you or I, for the sake of argument) who seeks this
treasure must start at full moon.  Why?  Obviously because the spring
tides occur with a full moon, consequently the low ebb.  We must
expect, then, to find our treasure buried in a spot which is only
uncovered at dead low water; and to this conclusion I am also helped
by the last sentence, which says, 'Low water 1.5 hours.'  It is then,
I submit, Mr. Trenoweth, in some such place that we must look for our
treasure; the only question being, 'Where is that place?'"

I was waiting for this, and a great tide of joy swept over me as I
reflected that after all he had not solved the mystery.  The clasp
told nothing, the key told nothing.  The secret was safe as yet.

He must have read my thoughts, for he looked steadily at me out of
those dark eyes of his, and then said very slowly and deliberately--

"Mr. Trenoweth, it grieves me to taunt your miserable case; but do
you mind my saying that you are a fool?"

I simply stared in answer.

"Your father was a fool--a pitiful fool; and you are a fool.
Which would lead me, did I not know better, to believe that your
grandfather, Amos Trenoweth, was a fool also.  I should wrong him if
I called him that.  He was a villain, a black-hearted, murderous,
cold-blooded, damnable villain; but he was only a fool for once in
his life, and that was when he trusted in the sense of his
descendants."

His voice, as he spoke of my grandfather, grew suddenly shrill and
discordant, while his eyes blazed up in furious wrath.  In a second
or two, however, he calmed himself again and went on quietly as
before.

"You wonder, perhaps, why I call you a fool.  It is because you have
lived for fourteen years with your hand upon riches that would make a
king jealous, and have never had the sense to grasp them; it is
because you have shut your eyes when you might have seen, have been a
beggar when you might have ridden in a carriage.  Upon my word, Mr.
Jasper Trenoweth, when I think of your folly I have half a mind to be
dog-sick with you myself."

What could the man mean? What was this clue which I had never found?

"And all the time it was written upon this key here, as large as
life; not only that, but, to leave you no excuse, Amos Trenoweth
actually told you that it was written here."

"What do you mean?" stammered I, forced into speech at last.

"Ah! so you have found your voice, have you?  What do I mean?  Do you
mean to say you do not guess even now?  Upon my word, I am loth to
kill so fair a fool."  He regarded me for a moment with pitying
contempt, then stretched out his hand and took up my grandfather's
key.

"I read here," he said, "written very clearly and distinctly, certain
words.  You must know those words; but I will repeat them to you to
refresh your memory:--"

    "THY HOUSE IS SET UPON THE SANDS.  AND THY HOPES BY A DEAD MAN."

"Well?" I asked, for--fool that I was--even yet I did not understand.

"Mr. Jasper Trenoweth, did you ever hear tell of such a place as Dead
Man's Rock?"

The truth, the whole horrible certainty of it, struck me as one great
wave, and rushed over my bent head as with the whirl and roar of many
waters.  "Dead Man's Rock!"  "Dead Man's Rock!" it sang in my ears as
it swept me off my feet for a moment and passed, leaving me to sink
and battle in the gulf of bottomless despair.  And then, as if I
really drowned, my past life with all its follies, mistakes, wrecked
hopes and baseless dreams, shot swiftly past in one long train.
Again I saw my mother's patient, anxious smile, my father's drowned
face with the salt drops trickling from his golden hair, the struggle
on the rock, the inquest, the awful face at the window, the corpses
of my parents stretched side by side upon the bed, the scene in the
gambling-hell with all its white and desperate faces, Claire, my lost
love, the river, the theatre, Tom's death, and that last dreadful
scene, Francesca with the dark blood soaking her white dress and
trickling down upon the boards.  I tried to put my hands before my
eyes, but the cords held and cut my arms like burning steel.  Then in
a flash I seemed to be striding madly up and down Oxford Street,
while still in front of me danced and flew the yellow woman, her
every diamond flashing in the gas-light, her cold black eyes, as they
turned and mocked me, blazing marsh-lights of doom.  Then came the
ringing of many bells in my ears, mingled with silvery laughter, as
though the fiends were ringing jubilant peals within the pit.

Presently the sights grew dim and died away, but the chiming laughter
still continued.

I looked up.  It was Colliver laughing, and his face was that of an
arch-devil.

"It does me good to see you," he explained; "oh, yes, it is honey to
my soul.  Fool! and a thousand times fool! that ever I should have
lived to triumph thus over you and your accursed house!"

Once more his voice grew shrill and his eyes flashed; once more he
collected himself.

"You shall hear it out," he said.  "Look here!" and he pulled a
greasy book from his pocket.  "Here is a nautical almanack.  What day
is it?  December 23rd, or rather some time in the morning of December
24th, Christmas Eve.  On the evening of December 24th it is full
moon, and dead low water at Falmouth about 11.30 p.m.  Fate (do you
believe in fate, Mr. Trenoweth?) could not have chosen the time
better.  In something under twenty hours one of us will have his
hands upon the treasure.  Which will it be, eh?  Which will it be?"

Well I knew which it would be, and the knowledge was bitter as gall.

"A merry Christmas, Mr. Jasper Trenoweth!  Peace on earth and
good-will--You will bear no malice by that time.  So a merry
Christmas, and a merry Christmas-box! likewise the compliments of the
season, and a happy New Year to you!  Where are you going to spend
Christmas, Mr. Trenoweth--eh?  I am thinking of passing it by the
sea.  You will, perhaps, try the sea too, only you will be _in_ it.
Thames runs swiftly when it has a corpse for cargo.  Oho!

    "At his red, red lips the merrymaid sips
     For the kiss that his sweetheart stole, my lads--
        Sing ho! for the bell shall toll!

"I'm afraid no bell will toll for you, Mr. Trenoweth; not yet awhile
at any rate.  Not till your sweetheart is weary of waiting--

    "And the devil has got his due, my lads--
        Sing ho! but he waits for you!

"Both waiting for you, Mr. Trenoweth, your sweetheart and the devil--
which shall have you?  'Ladies first,' you would say.  Aha! I am not
so sure.  By the way, might I give a guess at your sweetheart's name?
Might it begin with a C?  Might she be a famous actress?  Claire
perhaps she calls herself?  Aha!  Claire's pretty eyes will go red
with watching before she sets them on you again.  Fie on you to keep
so sweet a maiden waiting!  And where will you be all the time, Mr.
Jasper Trenoweth?"

He stopped at last, mastered by his ferocity and almost panting.  But
I, for the sound of Claire's name had maddened me, broke out in
fury--

"Dog and devil! I shall be lying with all the other victims of your
accursed life; dead as my father whom you foully murdered within
sight of his home; dead as those other poor creatures you slew upon
the _Belle Fortune_; dead as my mother whose pure mind fled at sight
of your infernal face, whose very life fled at sight of your
handiwork; dead as John Railton whom you stabbed to death upon--"

"Hush, Mr. Trenoweth! As for your ravings, I love to hear them, and
could listen by the hour, did not time press.  But I cannot have you
talking so loudly, you understand;" and he toyed gently with his
knife; "also remember I must be at Dead Man's Rock by half-past
eleven to-night."

"Fiend!" I continued, "you can kill me if you like, but I will count
your crimes with my last breath.  Take my life as you took my friend
Tom Loveday's life--Tom whom you knifed in the dark, mistaking him
for me.  Take it as you took Claire's, if ever man--"

"Claire--Claire dead!"  He staggered back a step, and almost at the
same moment I thought I caught a sound on the other side of the
partition at my back.  I listened for a moment, then concluding that
my ears had played me some trick, went on again--

"Yes, dead--she killed herself to-night at the theatre--stabbed
herself--oh, God!  Do you think I care for your knife now?
Why, I was going to kill myself, to drown myself, at the very moment
when I heard your voice and came on board.  I came to kill you.
Make the most of it--show me no mercy, for as there is a God in
heaven I would have shown you none!"

What was that sound again on the other side of the partition?
Whatever it was, Colliver had not heard, for he was musing darkly and
looking fixedly at me.

"No, I will show you no mercy," he answered quietly, "for I have
sworn to show no mercy to your race, and you are the last of it.
But listen, that for a few moments before you die you may shake off
your smug complacency and learn what this wealth is, and what kind of
brood you Trenoweths are.  Dog!  The treasure that lies by Dead Man's
Rock is treasure weighted with dead men's curses and stained with
dead men's blood--wealth won by black piracy upon the high seas--gold
for which many a poor soul walked the plank and found his end in the
deep waters.  It is treasure sacked from many a gallant ship,
stripped from many a rotting corpse by that black hound your
grandfather, Amos Trenoweth.  You guessed that?  Let me tell you
more.

"There is many a soul crying in heaven and hell for vengeance on your
race; but your death to-night, Jasper Trenoweth, shall be the
peculiar joy of one.  You guessed that your grandfather had crimes
upon his soul; but you did not guess the blackest crime on his
account--the murder of his dearest friend.  Listen.  I will be brief
with you, but I cannot spare myself the joy of letting you know this
much before you die.  Know then that when your grandfather was a rich
man by this friend's aid--after, with this friend's help, he had laid
hands on the secret of the Great Ruby for which for many a year he
had thirsted, in the moment of his triumph he turned and slew that
friend in order to keep the Ruby to himself.

"That fool, your father, kept a Journal--which no doubt you have read
over and over again.  Did he tell you how I caught him upon Adam's
Peak, sitting with this clasp in his hands before a hideous, graven
stone?  That stone was cut in ghastly mockery of that friend's face;
the bones that lay beneath it were the bones of that friend.
There, on that very spot where I met your father face to face, did
his father, Amos Trenoweth, strike down my father Ralph Colliver.

"Ah, light is beginning to dawn on your silly brain at last!
Yes, pretending to protect the old priest who had the Ruby, he
stabbed my father with the very knife found in your father's heart,
stabbed him before his wife's eyes on that little lawn upon the
mountain-side; and, when my helpless mother called vengeance upon
him, handed the still reeking knife to her and bade her do her worst.
Ah, but she kept that knife.  Did you mark what was engraved upon the
blade?  That knife had a good memory, Mr. Jasper Trenoweth.

"Let me go on.  As if that deed were not foul enough, he caused the
old priest to carve--being skilful with the chisel--that vile
distortion of his dead friend's face out of a huge boulder lying by,
and then murdered him too for the Ruby's sake, and tumbled their
bodies into the trough together.  Such was Amos Trenoweth.  Are you
proud of your descent?

"I never saw my father.  I was not born until three months after
this, and not until I was ten years old did my mother tell me of his
fate.

"Your grandfather was a fool, Jasper Trenoweth, to despise her; for
she was young then and she could wait.  She was beautiful then, and
Amos Trenoweth himself had loved her.  What is she now?  Speak, for
you have seen her."

As he spoke I seemed to see again that yellow face, those awful,
soulless eyes, and hear her laugh as she gazed down from the box upon
my dying love.

"Ah, beauty goes.  It went for ever on that day when Amos Trenoweth
spat in her face and taunted her as she clung to the body of her
husband.  Beauty goes, but revenge can wait; to-night it has come;
to-night a thousand dead men's ghosts shall be glad, and point at
your body as it goes tossing out to sea.  To-night--but let me tell
the rest in a word or two, for time presses.  How I was brought up,
how my mad mother--for she is mad on every point but one--trained me
to the sea, how I left it at length and became an attorney's clerk,
all this I need not dwell upon.  But all this time the thought of
revenge never left me for an hour; and if it had, my mother would
have recalled it.

"Well, we settled in Plymouth and I was bound a clerk to your
grandfather's attorney, still with the same purpose.  There I learnt
of Amos Trenoweth's affairs, but only to a certain extent; for of the
wealth which he had so bloodily won I could discover nothing; and yet
I knew he possessed riches which make the heart faint even to think
upon.  Yet for all I could discover, his possessions were simply
those of a struggling farmer, his business absolutely nothing.
I was almost desperate, when one day a tall, gaunt and aged man
stepped into the office, asked for my employer, and gave the name of
Amos Trenoweth.  Oh, how I longed to kill him as he stood there!
And how little did he guess that the clerk of whom he took no more
notice than of a stone, would one day strike his descendants off the
face of the earth and inherit the wealth for which he had sold his
soul--the great Ruby of Ceylon!

"My voice trembled with hate as I announced him and showed him into
the inner room.  Then I closed the door and listened.  He was uneasy
about his Will--the fool--and did not know that all his possessions
would necessarily become his son's.  In my heart I laughed at his
ignorance; but I learnt enough--enough to wait patiently for years
and finally to track Ezekiel Trenoweth to his death.

"It was about this time that I fell in love.  In this as in
everything through life I have been cursed with the foulest luck, but
in this as in everything else my patience has won in the end.  Lucy
Luttrell loved another man called Railton--John Railton.  He was
another fool--you are all fools--but she married him and had a
daughter.  I wonder if you can guess who that daughter was?"

He broke off and looked at me with fiendish malice.

"You hound!" I cried, "she was Janet Railton--Claire Luttrell; and
you murdered her father as you say Amos Trenoweth murdered yours."

"Right," he answered coolly.  "Quite right.  Oh, the arts by which I
enticed that man to drink and then to crime!  Even now I could sit
and laugh over them by the hour.  Why, man, there was not a touch of
guile in the fellow when I took him in hand, and yet it was he that
afterwards took your father's life.  He tried it once in Bombay and
bungled it sadly: he did it neatly enough, though, on the jib-boom of
the _Belle Fortune_.  I lent him the knife: I would have done it
myself, but Railton was nearer; and besides it is always better to be
a witness."

What _was_ that rustling sound behind the partition?  Colliver did
not hear it, at any rate, but went on with his tale, and though his
eyes were dancing flames of hate his voice was calm now as ever.

"I had stolen half the clasp beforehand from the cabin floor where
that stupendous idiot, Ezekiel Trenoweth, had dropped it.  Railton
caught him before he dropped, but I did not know he had time to get
the box away, for just then a huge wave broke over us and before the
next we both jumped for the Rock.  I thought that Railton must have
been sucked back, for I only clung on myself by the luckiest chance.
It was pitch-dark and impossible to see.  I called his name, but he
either could not hear for the roar, or did not choose to answer, so
after a bit I stopped.  I thought him dead, and he no doubt thought
me dead, until we met upon Dead Man's Rock.

"Shall I finish?  Oh, yes, you shall hear the whole story.  After the
inquest I escaped back to Plymouth, told Lucy that her husband had
been drowned at sea, and finally persuaded her to leave Plymouth and
marry me.  So I triumphed there, too: oh, yes, I have triumphed
throughout."

"You hound!" I cried.

He laughed a low musical laugh and went on again--

"Ah, yes, you are angry of course; but I let that pass.  I have one
account to settle with you Trenoweths, and that is enough for me.
Three times have I had you in my power, Mr. Jasper Trenoweth--three
times or four--and let you escape.  Once beneath Dead Man's Rock when
I had my fingers on your young weasand and was stopped by those
cursed fishermen.  Idiots that they were, they thought the sight of
me had frightened you and made you faint.  Faint!  You would have
been dead in another half-minute.  How I laughed in my sleeve while
that uncle of yours was trying to make me understand--me--what was my
name then?--oh, ay, Georgio Rhodojani.  However, you escaped that
time: and once more you hardly guessed how near you were to death,
when I looked in at the window on the night after the inquest.
Why, in my mind I was tossing up whether or not I should murder you
and your white-faced mother.  I should have done so, but thought you
might hold some knowledge of the secret after your meeting with
Railton, so that it seemed better to bide my time."

"If it be any satisfaction to you," I interrupted, "to know that had
you killed me then you would never have laid hands on that clasp
yonder, you are welcome to it."

"It is," he answered.  "I am glad I did not kill you both: it left
your mother time to see her dead husband, and has given me the
pleasure of killing you now: the treat improves with keeping.
Well, let me go on.  After that I was forced to leave the country for
some time--"

"For another piece of villainy, which your wife discovered."

"How do you know that?  Oh, from Claire, I suppose: however, it does
not matter.  When I came back I found you: found you, and struck
again.  But again my cursed luck stood in my way and that damned
friend of yours knocked me senseless.  Look at this mark on my
cheek."

"Look at the clasp and you will see where your blow was struck."

"Ah, that was it, was it?" he said, examining the clasp slowly.
"I suppose you thought it lucky at the time.  So it was--for me.
For, though I made another mistake in the fog that night, I got quits
with your friend at any rate.  I have chafed often enough at these
failures, but it has all come right in the end.  I ought to have
killed your father upon Adam's Peak; but he was a big man, while I
had no pistol and could not afford to risk a mistake.  Everything,
they say, comes to the man who can wait.  Your father did not escape,
neither will you, and when I think of the joy it was to me to know
that you and Claire, of all people--"

But I would hear no more.  Mad as I was with shame and horror for my
grandfather's cruelty, I knew this man, notwithstanding his talk of
revenge, to be a vile and treacherous scoundrel.  So when he spoke of
Claire I burst forth--

"Dog, this is enough!  I have listened to your tale.  But when you
talk of Claire--Claire whom you killed to-night--then, dog, I spit
upon you; kill me, and I hope the treasure may curse you as it has
cursed me; kill me; use your knife, for I _will_ shout--"

With a dreadful snarl he was on me and smote me across the face.
Then as I continued to call and shout, struck me one fearful blow
behind the ear.  I remember that the dim lamp shot out a streak of
blood-red flame, the cabin was lit for one brief instant with a flash
of fire, a thousand lights darted out, and then--then came utter
blackness--a vague sensation of being caught up and carried, of
plunging down--down--



CHAPTER XI.  AND LAST.


TELLS HOW AT LAST I FOUND MY REVENGE AND THE GREAT RUBY.

"Speak--speak to me!  Oh, look up and tell me you are not dead!"

Down through the misty defiles and dark gates of the Valley of the
Shadow of Death came these words faintly as though spoken far away.
So distant did they seem that my eyes opened with vague expectation
of another world; opened and then wearily closed again.

For at first they stared into a heaven of dull grey, with but a
shadow between them and colourless space.  Then they opened once
more, and the shadow caught their attention.  What was it?  Who was
I, and how came I to be staring upward so? I let the problem be and
fell back into the easeful lap of unconsciousness.

Then the voice spoke again.  "He is living yet," it said.  "Oh, if he
would but speak!"

This time I saw more distinctly.  Two eyes were looking into mine--a
woman's eyes.  Where had I seen that face before?  Surely I had known
it once, in some other world.  Then somehow over my weary mind stole
the knowledge that this was Mrs. Luttrell--or was it Claire?
No, Claire was dead.  "Claire--dead," I seemed to repeat to myself;
but how dead or where I could not recall.  "Claire--dead;" then this
must be her mother, and I, Jasper Trenoweth, was lying here with
Claire's mother bending over me.  How came we so?  What had happened,
that--and once more the shadow of oblivion swept down and enfolded
me.

She was still there, kneeling beside me, chafing my hands and every
now and then speaking words of tender solicitude.  How white her hair
was!  It used not to be so white as this.  And where was I lying?
In a boat?  How my head was aching!

Then remembrance came back.  Strange to tell, it began with Claire's
death in the theatre, and thence led downwards in broken and
interrupted train until Colliver's face suddenly started up before
me, and I knew all.

I raised myself on my elbow.  My brain was throbbing intolerably, and
every pulsation seemed to shoot fire into my temples.  Also other
bands of fire were clasped about my arms and wrists.  So acutely did
they burn that I fell back with a low moan and looked helplessly at
Mrs. Luttrell.

Although it had been snowing, her bonnet was thrust back from her
face and hung by its ribbons which were tied beneath her chin.
The breeze was playing with her disordered hair--hair now white as
the snow-flakes upon it, though grey when last I had seen it--but it
brought no colour to her face.  As she bent over me to place her
shawl beneath my head, I saw that her blue eyes were strangely bright
and prominent.

"Thank God, you are alive!  Does the bandage pain you?  Can you
move?"

I feebly put my hand up and felt a handkerchief bound round my head.

"I was afraid--oh, so afraid!--that I had been too late.  Yet God
only knows how I got down into your boat--in time--and without his
seeing me.  I knew what he would do--I was listening behind the
partition all the time; but I was afraid he would kill you first."

"Then--you heard?"

"I heard all.  Oh, if I were only a man--but can you stand?  Are you
better now?  For we must lose no time."

I weakly stared at her in answer.

"Don't you see?  If you can stand and walk, as I pray you can, there
is no time to be lost.  Morning is already breaking, and by this
evening you must catch him."

"Catch him?"

"Yes, yes.  He has gone--gone to catch the first train for Cornwall,
and will be at Dead Man's Rock to-night.  Quick! see if you cannot
rise."

I sat up.  The water had dripped from me, forming a great pool at our
end of the boat.  In it she was kneeling, and beside her lay a heavy
knife and the cords with which Simon Colliver had bound me.

"Yes," I said, "I will follow.  When does the first train leave
Paddington?"

"At a quarter past nine," she answered, "and it is now about
half-past five.  You have time to catch it; but must disguise
yourself first.  He will travel by it, there is no train before.
Come, let me row you ashore."

With this she untied the painter, got out the sculls, sat down upon
the thwart opposite, and began to pull desperately for shore.
I wondered at her strength and skill with the oar.

"Ah," she said, "I see at what you are wondering.  Remember that I
was a sailor's wife once, and without strength how should I have
dragged you on board this boat?"

"How did you manage it?"

"I cannot tell.  I only know that I heard a splash as I waited under
the bows there, and then began with my hands to fend the boat around
the schooner for dear life.  I had to be very silent.  At first I
could see nothing, for it was dark towards the shore; but I cried to
Heaven to spare you for vengeance on that man, and then I saw
something black lying across the warp, and knew it was you.  I gave a
strong push, then rushed to the bows and caught you by the hair.
I got you round by the stern as gently as I could, and then pulled
you on board somehow--I cannot remember exactly how I did it."

"Did he see you?"

"No, for he must have gone below directly.  I rowed under the shadow
of the lighter to which we were tied just now, and as I did so,
thought I heard him calling me by name.  He must have forgotten me,
and then suddenly remembered that as yet I had not given him the
money.  However, presently I heard him getting into his boat and
rowing ashore.  He came quite close to us--so close that I could hear
him cursing, and crouched down in the shadow for fear of my life.
But he passed on, and got out at the steps yonder.  It was snowing at
the time and that helped me."

She pulled a stroke or two in silence, and then continued--

"When you were in the cabin together I was listening.  At one point I
think I must have fainted; but it cannot have been for long, for when
I came to myself you were still talking about--about John Railton."

I remembered the sound which I had heard, and almost in spite of
myself asked, "You heard about--"

"Claire? Yes, I heard."  She nodded simply; but her eyes sought mine,
and in them was a gleam that made me start.

Just then the boat touched at a mouldering flight of stairs, crusted
with green ooze to high-water mark, and covered now with snow.
She made fast the boat.

"This was the way he went," she muttered.  "Track him, track him to
his death; spare him no single pang to make that death miserable!"
Her low voice positively trembled with concentrated hate.
"Stay," she said, "have you money?"

I suddenly remembered that I had given all the money on me to Bagnell
for getting out my boat, and told her so.  At the same moment, too,
I thought upon the tin box still lying under the boat's stern.
I stepped aft and pulled it out.

"Here is money," she said; "money that I was to have given him.
Fifty pounds it is, in notes--take it all."

"But you?"  I hesitated.

"Never mind me.  Take it--take it all.  What do I want with money if
only you kill him?"

I bent and kissed her hand.

"As Heaven is my witness," I said, "it shall be his life or mine.
The soul of one of us shall never see to-morrow."

Her hand was as cold as ice, and her pale face never changed.

"Kill him!" she said, simply.

I turned, and climbed the steps.  By this time day had broken, and
the east was streaked with angry flushes of crimson.  The wind swept
through my dripping clothes and froze my aching limbs to the marrow.
Up the river came floating a heavy pall of fog, out of which the
masts showed like grisly skeletons.  The snow-storm had not quite
ceased, and a stray flake or two came brushing across my face.
So dawned my Christmas Eve!

As I gained the top, I turned to look down.  She was still standing
there, watching me.  Seeing me look, she waved her arms, and I heard
her hoarse whisper, "Kill him!  Kill him!  Kill him!"

I left her standing so, and turned away; but in the many ghosts that
haunt my solitary days, not the least vivid is the phantom of this
white-haired woman on the black and silent river, eternally
beckoning, "Kill him!"

I found myself in a yard strewn with timber, spars and refuse, half
hidden beneath the snow.  From it a flight of rickety stone steps led
to a rotting door, and thence into the street.  Here I stood for a
moment, pondering on my next step.  Not a soul was abroad so early;
but I must quickly get a change of clothes somewhere; at present I
stood in my torn dress trousers and soaked shirt.  I passed up the
street, my shoeless feet making the first prints in the newly-fallen
snow.  The first?  No; for when I looked more closely I saw other
footprints, already half obliterated, leading up the street.
These must be Simon Colliver's.  I followed them for about a hundred
yards past the shuttered windows.

Suddenly they turned into a shop door, and then seemed to leave it
again.  The shop was closed, and above it hung three brass balls,
each covered now with a snowy cap.  Above, the blinds were drawn
down, but on looking again, I saw a chink of light between the
shutters.  I knocked.

After a short pause, the door was opened.  A red-eyed, villainous
face peered out, and seeing me, grew blank with wonder.

"What do you want?" inquired at length the voice belonging to it.

"To buy a fresh suit of clothes.  See, I have fallen into the river."

Muttering something beneath his breath, the pawnbroker opened his
door, and let me into the shop.

It was a dingy nest, fitted up with the usual furniture of such a
place.  The one dim candle threw a ghostly light on chairs, clocks,
compasses, trinkets, saucepans, watches, piles of china, and suits of
left-off clothes arrayed like rows of suicides along the wall.
A general air of decay hung over the den.  Immediately opposite me,
as I entered, a stuffed parrot, dropping slowly into dust, glared at
me with one malevolent eye of glass, while a hideous Chinese idol,
behind the counter, poked out his tongue in a very frenzy of
malignity.  But my eye wandered past these, and was fixed in a moment
upon something that glittered upon the counter.  That something was
my own watch.

Following my gaze, the man gave me a quick, suspicious glance,
hastily caught up the watch, and was bestowing it on one of his
shelves, when I said--

"Where did you get that?"

"Quite innocently, sir, I swear.  I bought it of a gentleman who came
in just now, and would not pawn it.  I thought it was his, so that if
you belong to the Force, I hope--"

"Gently, my friend," said I; "I am not in the police, so you need not
be in such a fright.  Nevertheless, that watch is mine; I can tell
you the number, if you don't believe it."

He pushed the watch across to me and said, still greatly frightened--

"I am sure you may see it, sir, with all my heart.  I wouldn't for
worlds--"

"What did you give for it?"

He hesitated a moment, and then, as greed overmastered fear,
replied--

"Fifteen pounds, sir; and the man would not take a penny less.
Fifteen good pounds!  I swear it, as I am alive!"

Although I saw that the man lied, I drew out three five-pound notes,
laid them on the table, and took my watch.  This done, I said--

"Now I want you to sell me a suit of clothes, and aid me to disguise
myself.  Otherwise--"

"Don't talk, sir, about 'otherwise.'  I'm sure I shall only be too
glad to rig you out to catch the thief.  You can take your pick of
the suits here; they are mostly seamen's, to be sure; but you'll find
others as well.  While as for disguises, I flatter myself that for
getting up a face--"

Here he stopped suddenly.

"How long has he been gone?"

"About half an hour, sir, before you came.  But no doubt you know
where he'd be likely to go; and I won't be more than twenty minutes
setting you completely to rights."

In less than half an hour afterwards, I stepped out into the street
so completely disguised that none of my friends--that is, if I had
possessed a friend in the world--would have recognised me.  I had
chosen a sailor's suit, that being the character I knew myself best
able to sustain.  My pale face had turned to a bronze red, while over
its smoothly-shaven surface now grew the roughest of untrimmed
beards.  Snow was falling still, so that Colliver's footprints were
entirely obliterated.  But I wanted them no longer.  He would be at
Paddington, I knew; and accordingly I turned my feet in that
direction, and walked rapidly westward.

My chase had begun.  I had before me plenty of time in which to reach
Paddington, and the exercise of walking did me good, relaxing my
stiffened limbs until at length I scarcely felt the pain of the weals
where the cords had cut me.  It was snowing persistently, but I
hardly noticed it.  Through the chill and sullen morning I held
doggedly on my way, past St. Katharine's Wharf, the Tower, through
Gracechurch Street, and out into St. Paul's Churchyard.  Traffic was
already beginning here, and thickened as I passed down Ludgate Hill
and climbed up to Holborn.  Already the white snow was being churned
and trodden into hideous slush in which my feet slipped and stumbled.
My coat and sailor's cap were covered with powdery flakes, and I had
to hold my head down for fear lest the drifting moisture should wash
any of the colouring off my face.  So my feet carried me once more
into Oxford Street.  How well remembered was every house, every
lamp-post, every flag of the pavement almost!  I was on my last quest
now.

"To-night! to-night!" whispered my heart: then came back the words of
Claire's mother--"Kill him! Kill him!" and still I tramped westward,
as westward lay my revenge.

Suddenly a hansom cab shot past me.  It came up silently on the
slushy street, and it was only when it was close behind that I heard
the muffled sound of its wheels.  It was early yet for cabs, so that
I turned my head at the sound.  It passed in a flash, and gave me but
a glimpse of the occupant: but in that moment I had time to catch
sight of a pair of eyes, and knew now that my journey would not be in
vain.  They were the eyes of Simon Colliver.

So then in Oxford Street, after all, I had met him.  He was cleverly
disguised--as I guessed, by the same hands that had painted my own
face--and looked to the casual eye but an ordinary bagman.  But art
could not change those marvellous eyes, and I knew him in an instant.
My heart leapt wildly for a moment--my hands were clenched and my
teeth shut tight; but the next, I was plodding after him as before.
I could wait now.

Before I reached Paddington I met the cab returning empty, and on
gaining the station at first saw nothing of my man.  Though as yet it
was early, the platform was already crowded with holiday-makers: a
few country dames laden with countless bundles, careworn workers
preparing to spend Christmas with friends or parents in their village
home, a sprinkling of schoolboys chafing at the slowness of the
clock.  After a minute or so, I spied Simon Colliver moving among
this happy and innocent crowd like an evil spirit.  I flung myself
down upon a bench, and under pretence of sleeping, quietly observed
him.  Once or twice, as he passed to and fro before me, he almost
brushed my knee, so close was he--so close that I had to clutch the
bench tightly for fear I should leap up and throttle him.  He did not
notice me.  Doubtless he thought me already tossing out to sea with
the gulls swooping over me, and the waves merrily dashing over my
dead face.  The waiting game had changed hands now.

I heard him demand a ticket for Penryn, and, after waiting until he
had left the booking office, took one myself for the same station.
I watched him as he chose his compartment, and then entered the next.
It was crowded, of course, with holiday-seekers; but the only person
that I noticed at first was the man sitting directly opposite to me--
an honest, red-faced countryman, evidently on his way home from town,
and at present deeply occupied with a morning paper which seemed to
have a peculiar fascination for him, for as he raised his face his
round eyes were full of horror.  I paid little attention to him,
however, but, having the corner seat facing the engine, watched to
see that Colliver did not change his compartment.  He did not appear
again, and in a minute or two the whistle shrieked and we were off.

At first the countryman opposite made such a prodigious to-do with
his piece of news that I could not help watching him.  Then my
attention wandered from him to the country through which we were
flying.  Slowly I pondered over the many events that had passed
since, not many months before, I had travelled up from Cornwall to
win my fortune.  My fortune!  To what had it all come?  I had won a
golden month or two of love, and lo! my darling was dead.  Dead also
was the friend who had travelled up with me, so full of boyish hope:
both dead; the one in the full blaze of her triumph, the other in the
first dawn of his young success: both dead--and, but for me, both
living yet and happy.

Suddenly the countryman looked up and spoke.

"Hav'ee seen this bit o' news?  Astonishin'!  And her so pretty too!"

"What is it?" I asked vacantly.

For answer he pushed the paper into my hands, and with his thumb-nail
pointed to a column headed "TERRIBLE TRAGEDY IN A THEATRE."

"An' to think," he continued reflectively, "as how I saw her wi' my
own eyes but three nights back--an' actin' so pretty, too! Lord!
It made me cry like any sucking child: beautiful it was--just
beau-ti-ful! Here's a story to tell my missus!"

I took the paper and read--

    "TERRIBLE TRAGEDY IN A THEATRE.  SUICIDE OF A FAMOUS ACTRESS.--
     Last evening, the performance of the new and popular tragedy,
     _Francesca_, at the Coliseum, was interrupted by a scene
     perhaps the most awful that has ever been presented to the
     play-going public.  A sinister fate seems to have pursued this
     play from the outset.  It will be within the memory of all that
     its young and gifted author was, on the very night of its
     production, struck down suddenly in the street by an unknown
     hand which the police have not yet succeeded in tracing.
     Last night's tragedy was even more terrible.  Clarissa Lambert,
     whose name--"

But I wanted to read no more.  To the countryman's astonishment the
paper slipped from my listless fingers, and once more my gaze turned
to the carriage window.  On we tore through the snow that raced
horizontally by the pane, through the white and peaceful country--
homeward.  Homeward to welcome whom?  Whom but the man now sitting,
it might be, within a foot of me?  To my heart I hugged the thought
of him, sitting there and gloating over the morrow.

The morrow!  Somehow my own horizon did not stretch as far: it was
bounded by to-night.  Before to-morrow one of us two should be a dead
man; perhaps both.  So best: the world with its loves and hatreds
would end to-night.  So westward we sped in the grey light beneath
which the snowy fields gleamed unnaturally--westward while the sun
above showed only as a crimson ball, an orb of blood, travelling
westward too.  At Bristol it glared through a murky veil of smoke, at
Exeter and through the frozen pastures and leafless woodlands of
Devon dropped swiftly towards my goal, beckoning with blood-stained
hand across the sky.  Past the angry sea we tore, and then again into
the whitened fields now growing dim in the twilight.  In the carriage
the talk was unceasing--talk of home, of expectant friends, of
Christmas meetings and festivities.  Every station was thronged, and
many a happy welcome I witnessed as I sat there with no friend but
hate.  Friends!  What had I to do with such?  I had a friend once,
but he was dead.  Friend, parents, love--all dead by one man's hand,
and he--But a little while now; but a little while!

We reached Plymouth shortly after five--the train being late--and
here the crowd in the carriages grew greater.  It was dark, but the
moon was not yet up--the full moon by which the treasure was to be
sought.  How slowly the train dragged through Cornwall!  It would be
eight before we reached Penryn, and low water was at half-past
eleven.  Should we be in time?

The snow had ceased to fall: a clear north-east wind had chased the
clouds from heaven, and scarcely had we passed Saltash before a
silver rim came slowly rising above the black woods on the river's
opposite bank.  Clear into the frosty night it rose, and I fell to
wondering savagely with what thoughts Colliver saluted it.

It was already half-past eight as we changed our train at Truro, and
here again more time was wasted.  Upon the platform I saw him again.
He was heavily cloaked and muffled now, for it was freezing hard; but
beneath the low brim of his hat I saw the deep, black eyes gleaming
with impatience.  So at last once more we started.

"Penryn!"

I looked at my watch.  It was nine o'clock; more than an hour and a
half late.  By the light from the carriage window I saw him step out
into the shadow of the platform.  I followed.  Here also was a large
crowd bound for Helston, and the coach that waited outside was
quickly thronged inside and out.  Colliver was outside the station in
a moment, and in another had jumped into a carriage waiting there
with two horses, and was gone up the hill beneath the shadow of the
bridge.  In my folly I had forgotten that he might have telegraphed
for horses to meet him.  However, the coach was fast and I could post
from Helston.  I clambered up to the top, where for want of a better
seat I propped myself up on a pile of luggage, and waited whilst box
after box, amid vociferous cursing, was piled up beside me.
At length, just as I was beginning to despair of ever starting at
all, with a few final curses directed at the bystanders generally,
the driver mounted the box, shook his reins, and we were off.

The load was so heavy that at first five horses were used, but we
left one with his postillion at the top of the hill and swung down at
a canter into the level country.  The snow lay fairly deep, and the
horses' hoofs were soundless as we plunged through the crisp and
tingling air.  The wind raced past me as I sat perched on my rickety
seat, swaying wildly with every lurch of the coach.  With every gust
I seemed to drink in fresh strength and felt the very motion and
swiftness enter into my blood.  Across the white waste we tore, up a
stiff ascent and down across the moorland again--still westward; and
now across the stretches of the moor I could catch the strong scent
of the sea upon the wind.  Along the level we sped, silent and swift
beneath the moon.  Here a white house by the roadside glimmered out
and was gone; there a mine-chimney shot up against the sky and faded
back again.  We were going now at a gallop, and from my perch I could
see the yellow light of the lamps on the sweating necks of the
leaders.

There was a company of sailors with me on the coach-top--smoking,
talking, and shouting.  Once or twice one of them would address a
word or two to me, but got scanty answers.  I was looking intently
along the road for a sign of Colliver's carriage.  He must have
ordered good horses, for I saw no sign of him as yet.  Stay!  As we
swept round a sharp corner and swung on to the straight road again, I
thought I spied far in front a black object moving on the universal
white.  Yes, it must be he: and again on the wings of the wind I
heard the call, "To-night! to-night!  Kill him! kill him! kill--"

Crash!  With a heavy and sickening lurch sideways, the coach hung for
an instant, tottered, and then plunged over on its side, flinging me
clear of the luggage which pounded and rattled after.  As I struggled
to my feet, half dazed, I saw a confused medley of struggling horses,
frightened passengers and scattered boxes.  Collecting my senses I
rushed to help those inside the coach and then amid the moaning,
cursing and general dismay, sought out my bundle, grasped it tightly
and set off at a run down the heavy road.  I could wait now for no
man.

Panting, spent, my sore limbs weighted with snow, I gained the top of
the hill and plunged down the steep street into Helston.  There, at
"the Angel" I got a post-chaise and pair, and set off once more.
At first, seeing my dress and wondering what a sailor could want with
post-chaises at that hour, they demurred, but the money quickly
persuaded them.  They told me also that a gentleman had changed
horses there about half an hour before and gone towards the Lizard,
after borrowing a pickaxe and spade.  Half an hour: should I yet be
in time?

I leant back in the chaise and pondered.  I knew by heart the
shortest cuts across the downs.  When I reached them I would stop
the carriage and take to my feet once more.  The fresh horses
were travelling fast, and as we drew near the sea I dimly noted a
hundred familiar landmarks, and in each a fresh memory of Tom.
How affectionately we had taken leave of them, one by one, on our
journey to London!  Now each seemed to cry, "What have you done with
your friend?"  This was my home-coming.

At the beginning of the downs I stopped the carriage, paid and
dismissed the astonished post-boy and started off alone at a swinging
trot across the snow.  Southward hung the white moon, now high in
heaven.  It must be almost time.  Along the old track I ran, still
clutching my bundle, over the frozen ruts, stumbling, slipping, but
with set teeth and straining muscles, skirted the hill above
Polkimbra with just a glimpse of the cottage roofs shining in the
hollow below, and raced along the cliffs towards Lantrig.  I guessed
that Colliver would come across Polkimbra Beach, so had determined to
approach the rock from the northern side, over Ready-Money Cove.

Lantrig, my old home, was merrily lit up this Christmas Eve, and the
sight of it gave me one swift, sharp pang of anguish as I stole
cautiously downwards to the sands.  At the cliff's foot I paused and
looked across the Cove.

Sable and gloomy as ever, Dead Man's Rock soared up against the moon,
the grim reality of that dark shadow which had lain upon all my
life.  From it had my hate started; to it was I now at the last
returning.  There it stood, the stern warder of that treasure for
which my grandfather had sold his soul, my father had given his life,
and I had lost all that made both life and soul worth having.
"Blood shall be their inheritance, and Fire their portion for ever."
The curse had lain upon us all.

Creeping along the shadow, I crossed the little Cove and peered
through the archway on to Polkimbra Sands, now sparkling in the
moonlight.

Not a soul in sight!  As far as eye could see the beach was utterly
deserted and peaceful.  I stepped down to a small pool, left by the
receding tide in the rock's shadow, removed my false hair and beard,
and carefully washed away all traces of paint from my face.
This done, I slipped off my shoes and holding them with the bundle in
my right hand, began softly and carefully to ascend the rock.
I gained the first ledge; crept out along it as far as the ring
mentioned on the clasp, and then began to climb again.  This needed
care, for the ascent on the north side was harder at first than on
the other, and I could use but one hand with ease.  Slowly, however,
and with effort I pulled myself up and then stole out towards the
face until I could command a view of Polkimbra Beach.  Still I could
see nobody, only the lights of the little church-town twinkling
across the beach and, far beyond, the shadowy cliffs of Kynance.
I pulled out my watch.  It was close on half-past eleven, the hour of
dead low water.

As I looked up again I thought I saw a speck approaching over the
sands.  Yes, I was not mistaken.  I set my teeth and crouched down
nearer to the rock.  Over the sands, beneath the shadow of the cliffs
he came, and as he drew nearer, I saw that he carried something on
his shoulder, doubtless the spade and pickaxe.  A moment more and he
turned to see that no one was following.  As he did so, the moon
shone full in his face, and I saw, stripped now of all disguises, the
features of my enemy.

I opened the tin box and took out my knife.  I had caused the thin
sharp blade, found in my dead father's heart, to be fitted to a horn
handle into which it shut with an ordinary spring-clasp.  As I opened
it, the moonlight glittered down the steel and lit up the letters
"Ricordati."

Still in the shadow, he crept down by the rock, and once more looked
about him.  No single soul was abroad at that hour to see; none but
the witness crouching there above.  I gripped the knife tighter as he
disappeared beneath the ledge on which I hung.

A low curse or two, and then silence.  I held my breath and waited.
Presently he reappeared, with compass in one hand and measuring-tape
in the other, and stood there for a moment looking about him.
Still I waited.

About forty feet from the breakers now crisply splashing on the sand,
Dead Man's Rock suddenly ended on the southern side in a thin black
ridge that broke off with a drop of some ten feet.  This ridge was,
of course, covered at high water, and upon it the _Belle Fortune_ had
doubtless struck before she reeled back and settled in deep water.
This was the "south point" mentioned on the clasp.  Fixing his
compass carefully, he drew out the tape, and slowly began to measure
towards the north-west.  "End South Point, 27 feet," I remembered
that the clasp said.  He measured it out to the end, and then,
digging with his heel a small hole in the sand, began to walk back
towards the rock, this time to the north side.  And still I waited.

Again I could hear him searching for the mark--an old iron ring, once
used for mooring boats--and cursing because he could not find it.
After a minute or two, however, he came into sight again, drawing his
line now straight out from the cliff, due west.  He was very slow,
and every now and then, as he bent over his task, would look swiftly
about him with a hunted air, and then set to work again.  Still there
was no sight but the round moon overhead, the sparkling stretch of
sand, and the gleam of the waves as they broke in curving lines of
silver: no sound but the sigh of the night breeze.

Apparently his measurements were successful, for the tape led him
once more to the hole he had marked in the sand.  He paused for a
moment or two, drew out the clasp, which shot out a sudden gleam as
he turned it in his hand, and consulted it carefully.  Presumably
satisfied, he walked back to the rock to fetch his tools.  And still
I crouched, waiting, with knife in hand.

Arrived once more at the point where the two lines met, he threw a
hasty glance around, and began to dig rapidly.  He faced the sea now,
and had his back turned to me, so that I could straighten myself up,
and watch at greater ease.  He dug rapidly, and the pit, as his spade
threw out heap after heap of soft sand, grew quickly bigger.
If treasure really lay there, it would soon be disclosed.

Presently I heard his spade strike against something hard.  Surely he
had not yet dug deeply enough.  The clasp had said "four feet six
inches," and the pit could not yet be more than three feet in depth.
Colliver bent down and drew something out, then examined it intently.
As I strained forward to look, he half turned, and I saw between his
hands--a human skull.  Whose?  Doubtless, some victim's of those many
that went down in the _Belle Fortune_; or perhaps the skull of John
Railton, sunk here above the treasure to gain which he had taken the
lives of other men and lost in the end his own.  It was a grisly
thought, but apparently troubled Colliver little, for with a jerk of
his arm he sent it bowling down the sands towards the breakers.
A bound or two, a splash, and it was swallowed up once more by the
insatiate sea.

With this he fell to digging anew, and I to watching.  For a full
twenty minutes he laboured, flinging out the sand to right and left,
and every now and then stopping for a moment to measure his progress.
By this time, I judged, he must have dug below the depth pointed out
upon the clasp, for once or twice he drew it out and paused in his
work to consult it.

He was just resuming, after one of these rests, when his spade grated
against something.  He bent low to examine it, and then began to
shovel out the sand with inconceivable rapidity.

The treasure was found!

Like a madman he worked: so that even from where I stood I could hear
his breath coming hard and fast.  At length, with one last glance
around, he knelt down and disappeared from my view.  My time was
come.

Knife in hand, I softly clambered down the south side of the rock,
and dropped upon the sand.

The pit lay rather to the north, so that by creeping behind the ridge
on the south side I could get close up to him unobserved, even should
he look.  But he was absorbed now in his prize, so that I stole
noiselessly out across the strip of sand between us until within
about ten feet of him; then, on hands and knees, I crawled and pulled
myself to the trench's lip and peered over.

There, below me, within grasp, he sat, his back still turned towards
me.  The moon was full in front, so that it cast no shadow of me
across him.  There he sat, and in front of him lay, imbedded in the
sand, a huge iron chest, bound round with a broad band of iron, and
secured with an enormous padlock.  On the rusty top I could even
trace the rudely-cut initials A. T.

I held my breath as he drew from his pocket my grandfather's key and
inserted it in the lock, after first carefully clearing away the
sand.  The stubborn lock creaked heavily as at last and with
difficulty he managed to turn the key.  And still I knelt above him,
knife in hand.

Then, with a long, shuddering sigh, he lifted and threw back the
groaning lid.  We both gazed, and as we gazed were well-nigh blinded.

For this is what we saw:--

At first, only a blaze of darting rays that beneath the moon gleamed,
sparkled and shot out a myriad scintillations of colour--red, violet,
orange, green and deepest crimson.  Then by degrees I saw that all
these flashing hues came from one jumbled heap of gems--some large,
some small, but together in value beyond a king's ransom.

I caught my breath and looked again.  Diamonds, rubies, sapphires,
amethysts, opals, emeralds, turquoises, and innumerable other stones
lay thus roughly heaped together and glittering as though for joy to
see the light of heaven once more.  Some polished, some uncut, some
strung on necklaces and chains, others gleaming in rings and
bracelets and barbaric ornaments; there they lay--wealth beyond the
hope of man, the dreams of princes.

The chest measured some five feet by three, and these jewels
evidently lay in a kind of sunken drawer, or tray, of iron.  In the
corner of this was a small space of about four inches square, covered
with an iron lid.  As we gazed with straining eyes, Colliver drew one
more long sigh of satisfied avarice, and lifted this smaller lid.

Instantly a full rich flood of crimson light welled up, serene and
glorious, with luminous shafts of splendour, that, as we looked, met
and concentred in one glowing heart of flame--met in one translucent,
ineffable depth of purple-red.  Calm and radiant it lay there, as
though no curse lay in its deep hollows, no passion had ever fed its
flames with blood; stronger than the centuries, imperishably and
triumphantly cruel--the Great Ruby of Ceylon!

With a short gasp of delight, Colliver was stretching out his hand
towards it, when I laid mine heavily on his shoulder, then sprang to
my feet.  My waiting was over.

He gave one start of uttermost terror, leapt to his feet, and in an
instant was facing me.  Already his knife was half out of his
waist-band; already he had taken half a leap forwards, when he saw me
standing there above him.

Bareheaded I stood in the moonlight, the white ray glittering
up my knife and lighting up my bared chest and set stern face.
Bareheaded, with the light breeze fanning my curls, I stood there and
waited for his leap.  But that leap never came.

One step forward he took and then looked, and looking, staggered back
with hands thrown up before his face.  Slowly, as he cowered back
with hands upraised and straining eyeballs, I saw those eyeballs grow
rigid, freeze and turn to stone, while through his gaping, bloodless
lips came a hoarse and gasping sound that had neither words nor
meaning.

Then as I still watched, with murderous purpose on my face, there
came one awful cry, a scream that startled the gulls from slumber and
awoke echo after echo along the shore--a scream like no sound in
earth or heaven--a scream inhuman and appalling.

Then followed silence, and as the last echo died away, he fell.

As he collapsed within the pit, I made a step forward to the brink
and looked.  He was now upon his hands and knees before the chest,
bathing his hands in the gleaming heap of gems, catching them up in
handfuls, and as they ran like sparkling rain through his fingers,
muttering incoherently to himself and humming wild snatches of song.

"Colliver--Simon Colliver!" I called.

He paid no attention, but went on tossing up the diamonds and rubies
in his hands and watching them as they rattled down again upon the
heap.

"Simon Colliver!"

I leapt down into the pit beside him, and laid my hand upon his
shoulder.  He paused for a moment, and looked up with a vacant gleam
in his deep eyes.

"Colliver, I have to speak a word with you."

"Oh, yes, I know you.  Trenoweth, of course: Ezekiel Trenoweth come
back again after the treasure.  But you are too late, too late, too
late!  You are dead now--ha, ha! dead and rotting.

    "For his glittering eyes are the salt sea's prize,
        And his fingers clutch the sand, my lads.

"Aha! his fingers clutch the sand.  Here's pretty sand for you! sand
of all colours; look, look, there's a brave sparkle!"  And again he
ran the priceless shower through his fingers.

"Oh, yes," he continued after a moment, looking up, "oh, yes, I know
you--Ezekiel Trenoweth, of course; or is it Amos, or Jasper?
No matter, you are all dead.  I killed the last of you last year--no,
last night; all dead.

    "And the devil has got his due, my lads!

"His due, his due!  Look at it! look again! I had a skull just now.
John Railton's skull, no eyes in it though,

    "For his glittering eyes are the salt sea's--

"Where is the skull?  Let me fit it with a bonny pair of eyes here--
here they are, or here, look, here's a pair that change colour when
they move.  Where is the skull?  Give it me.  Oh, I forgot, I lost
it.  Never mind, find it, find it.  Here's plenty of eyes when you
find it.  Or give it this big, red one.  Here's a flaming, fiery
eye!"

As he stretched out his hand over the Great Ruby, I caught him by the
wrist.  But he was too quick for me, and with a sharp snarl and click
of his teeth, had whipped his hand round to his back.

Then in a flash, as I grappled with him, he thrust me back with his
left palm, and, with a sweep of his right, hurled the great jewel far
out into the sea.  I saw it rise and curve in one long, sparkling
arch of flame, then fall with a dropping line of fire down into the
billows.  A splash--a jet of light, and it was gone:--gone perhaps to
hide amid the rotting timbers of what was once the _Belle Fortune_,
or among the bones of her drowned crew to watch with its blood-red
tireless eye the extremity of its handiwork.  There, for aught I
know, it lies to-day, and there, for aught I care, beneath the waters
it shall treasure its infernal loveliness for ever.

Into its red heart I have looked once, and this was what I read:--of
treachery, lust and rapine; of battle and murder and sudden death; of
midnight outcries, and poison in the guest-cup; of a curse that said,
"Even as the Heart of the Ruby is Blood and its Eyes a Flaming Fire,
so shall it be for them that would possess it: Fire shall be their
portion, and Blood their inheritance for ever."  Of that quest and
that curse we were the two survivors.  And what were we, that night,
as we stood upon the sands with that last hellish glitter still
dancing in our eyes?  The one, a lonely and broken man; the other--

I turned to look at Colliver.  He was huddled against the pit's side,
with his dark eyes gazing wistfully up at me.  In their shining
depths there lurked no more sanity than in the heart of the Great
Ruby.  As I looked, I knew him to be a hopeless madman, and knew also
that my revenge had slipped from me for ever.

We were still standing so when a soft wave came stealing up the beach
and flung the lip of its foam over the pit's edge into the chest.
I turned round.  The tide was rising fast, and in a minute or so
would be upon us.  Catching Colliver by the shoulder, I pointed and
tried to make him understand; but the maniac had again fallen to
playing with the jewels.  I shook him; he did not stir, only sat
there jabbering and singing.  And now wave after wave came splashing
over us, soaking us through, and hissing in phosphorescent pools
among the gems.

There was no time to be lost.  I tore the madman back, stamped down
the lid, locked it, and took out the key; then caught Colliver in my
arms and heaved him bodily out of the trench.  Jumping out beside
him, I caught up the spade and shovelled back the wet sand as fast as
I could, until the tide drove us back.  Colliver stood quite tamely
beside me all this while and watched the treasure disappearing from
his view; only every now and then he would chatter a few wild words,
and with that break off again in vacant wonder at my work.

When all was done that could be, I took my companion's hand, led him
up the sands beyond high-water mark, and then sat down beside him,
waiting for the dawn.

And there, next morning, by Dead Man's Rock they found us, while
across the beach came the faint music of Polkimbra bells as they rang
their Christmas peal, "Peace on earth and goodwill toward men."


There is little more to tell.  Next day, at low ebb, with the aid of
Joe Roscorla  (still hale and hearty) and a few Polkimbra fishermen
whom I knew, the rest of my grandfather's treasure was secured and
carried up from the sea.  In the iron chest, besides the gems already
spoken of, and beneath the iron tray containing them, was a
prodigious quantity of gold and silver, partly in ingots, partly in
coinage.  This last was of all nationalities: moidores, dollars,
rupees, doubloons, guineas, crown-pieces, louis, besides an amount of
coins which I could not trace, the whole proving a most catholic
taste in buccaneering.  So much did it all weigh, that we found it
impossible to stir the chest as it stood, and therefore secured the
prize piecemeal.  Strangest of all, however, was a folded parchment
which, we discovered beneath the tray of gems and above the coins.
It contained but few words, which ran as follows--

     FAIR FORTUNE WRECKED, FAIR FORTUNE FOUND,
     AND ALL BUT THE FINDER UNDERGROUND.--A.T.

This, as, far as I know, was my grandfather's one and only attempt at
verse; and its apparent application to the wreck of the _Belle
Fortune_ is a coincidence which puzzles me to this day.

The reader will search the chronicles of wrecks in vain for the story
of that ill-fated ship.  But if he comes upon the record of a certain
vessel, the _James and Elizabeth_, wrecked upon the Cornish coast on
the night of October 11th, 1849, he may know it to be the same.
For that was the name given by the only survivor, one Georgio
Rhodojani, a Greek sailor, and as the _James and Elizabeth_ she
stands entered to this day.

If, however, his curiosity lead him further to inquire into the
after-history of this same Georgio Rhodojani, let him go on a fine
summer day to the County Lunatic Asylum at Bodmin, and, with
permission, enter the grounds set apart for private patients.
There he may chance to see a strange sight.

On a garden seat against the sunny wall sit two persons--a man and a
woman.  The man is decrepit and worn, being apparently about
sixty-seven or eight years old; but the woman, as the keepers will
tell, is ninety.  She is his mother, and as they sit together, she
feeds him with sweets and fruit as tenderly as though he were a
child.  He takes them, but never notices her, and when he has had
enough, rises abruptly and walks away humming a song which runs--

    "So it's hey! for the homeward bound, my lads!
        And ho! for the drunken crew,
     For his mess-mates round lie dead and drowned,
     And the devil has got his due, my lads--
        Sing ho! but he waits for you!"

This is his only song now, and he will walk round the gravel paths by
the hour, singing it softly and muttering.  Sometimes, however, he
will sit for long beside his mother and let her pat his hand.
They never speak.

Folks say that she is as mad as her son, but she lodges in the town
outside the walls and comes to see him every day.  Certainly she is
as remarkable to look upon, for her skin is of a brilliant and
startling yellow, and her withered hands are loaded with diamonds.
As you pass, she will stare at you with eyes absolutely passionless
and vague; but see them as she sighs and turns to go, see them as she
watches for a responsive touch of love on her son's face, and you may
find some meaning in them then.

Mrs. Luttrell was never seen again from the hour when she stood below
the river steps and waved her white arms to me, crying "Kill him!
kill him!"  I made every inquiry but could learn nothing, save that
my boat had been found floating below Gravesend, quite empty.
She can scarcely be alive, so that is yet one soul more added to the
account of the Great Ruby.

Failing to find her mother, I had Claire's body conveyed to
Polkimbra.  She lies buried beside my father and mother in the
little churchyard there.  Above her head stands a white stone with
the simple words, "In memory of C. L., died Dec. 23rd, 1863.
'Love is strong as death.'"

The folk at Polkimbra have many a fable about this grave, but if
pressed will shake their heads sagely and refer you to "Master
Trenoweth up yonder at Lantrig.  Folks say she was a play-actor and
he loved her.  Anyway you may see him up in the churchyard most days,
but dont'ee go nigh him then, unless you baint afeard of th'evil
eye."

And I?  After the treasure was divided with Government, I still had
for my share what I suppose would be called a considerable fortune.
The only use to which I put it, however, was to buy back Lantrig, the
home of a stock that will die out with me.  There again from the
middle beam in the front parlour hangs my grandfather's key, covered
with cobwebs as thickly as on the day when my father went forth to
seek the treasure.  There I live a solitary life--an old man, though
scarcely yet past middle age.  For all my hopes are buried in the
grave where sleeps my lost love, and my soul shall lie for ever under
the curse, engulfed and hidden as deeply as the Great Ruby beneath
the shadow of Dead Man's Rock.





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