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Title: The Watchers - A Novel
Author: Mason, A. E. W. (Alfred Edward Woodley), 1865-1948
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.

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/watchersnovel00masorich



                             THE WATCHERS



                                 THE

                               WATCHERS

                               A Novel


                                  BY

                            A. E. W. MASON

                 AUTHOR OF "THE COURTSHIP OF MORRICE
                            BUCKLER," ETC.



                               NEW YORK

                     FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY

                              PUBLISHERS



                          _Copyright, 1899_.

                  _By Frederick A. Stokes Company_.



                               CONTENTS


       CHAP.

         I. TELLS OF A DOOR AJAR AND OF A LAD WHO STOOD BEHIND IT.

        II. DICK PARMITER'S STORY.

       III. OF THE MAGICAL INFLUENCE OF A MAP.

        IV. DESCRIBES THE REMARKABLE MANNER IN WHICH CULLEN MAYLE
              LEFT TRESCO.

         V. THE ADVENTURE IN THE WOOD.

        VI. MY FIRST NIGHT UPON TRESCO.

       VII. TELLS OF AN EXTRAORDINARY INCIDENT IN CULLEN MAYLE'S
              BEDROOM.

      VIII. HELEN MAYLE.

        IX. TELLS OF A STAIN UPON A WHITE FROCK AND A LOST KEY.

         X. IN WHICH I LEARN SOMETHING FROM AN ILL-PAINTED PICTURE.

        XI. OUR PLANS MISCARRY UPON CASTLE DOWN.

       XII. I FIND AN UNEXPECTED FRIEND.

      XIII. IN THE ABBEY GROUNDS.

       XIV. IN WHICH PETER TORTUE EXPLAINS HIS INTERVENTION ON MY
              BEHALF.

        XV. THE LOST KEY IS FOUND.

       XVI. AN UNSATISFACTORY EXPLANATION.

      XVII. CULLEN MAYLE COMES HOME.

     XVIII. MY PERPLEXITIES ARE EXPLAINED.

       XIX. THE LAST.



                             THE WATCHERS



                              CHAPTER I

                TELLS OF A DOOR AJAR AND OF A LAD WHO
                           STOOD BEHIND IT


I had never need to keep any record either of the date or place. It
was the fifteenth night of July, in the year 1758, and the place was
Lieutenant Clutterbuck's lodging at the south corner of Burleigh
Street, Strand. The night was tropical in its heat, and though every
window stood open to the Thames, there was not a man, I think, who did
not long for the cool relief of morning, or step out from time to time
on to the balcony and search the dark profundity of sky for the first
flecks of grey. I cannot be positive about the entire disposition of
the room: but certainly Lieutenant Clutterbuck was playing at ninepins
down the middle with half a dozen decanters and a couple of silver
salvers; and Mr. Macfarlane, a young gentleman of a Scottish regiment,
was practising a game of his own.

He carried the fire-irons and Lieutenant Clutterbuck's sword under his
arm, and walked solidly about the floor after a little paper ball
rolled up out of a news sheet, which he hit with one of these
instruments, selecting now the poker, now the tongs or the sword with
great deliberation, and explaining his selection with even greater
earnestness; there was besides a great deal of noise, which seemed to
be a quality of the room rather than the utterance of any particular
person; and I have a clear recollection that everything, from the
candles to the glasses on the tables and the broken tobacco pipes on
the floor, was of a dazzling and intolerable brightness. This
brightness distressed me particularly, because just opposite to where
I sat a large mirror hung upon the wall between two windows. On each
side was a velvet hollow of gloom, in the middle this glittering oval.
Every ray of light within the room seemed to converge upon its
surface. I could not but look at it--for it did not occur to me to
move away to another chair--and it annoyed me exceedingly. Besides,
the mirror was inclined forward from the wall, and so threw straight
down at me a reflection of Lieutenant Clutterbuck's guests, as they
flung about the room beneath it.

Thus I saw a throng of flushed young exuberant faces, and in the
background, continually peeping between them, my own, very white and
drawn and thin and a million years old. That, too, annoyed me very
much, and then by a sheer miracle, as it seemed to me, the mirror
splintered and cracked and dropped in fragments on to the floor,
until there was only hanging on the wall the upper rim, a thin
curve of glass like a bright sickle. I remember that the noise and
hurley-burley suddenly ceased, as though morning had come unawares
upon a witches' carnival and that all the men present stood like
statues and appeared to stare at me. Lieutenant Clutterbuck broke the
silence, or rather tore it, with a great loud laugh which crumpled up
his face. He said something about "Old Steve Berkeley," and smacked
his hand upon my shoulder, and shouted for another glass, which he
filled and placed at my elbow, for my own had disappeared.

I had no time to drink from it, however, for just as I was raising it
to my lips Mr. Macfarlane's paper ball dropped from the ceiling into
the liquor.

"Bunkered, by God!" cried Mr. Macfarlane, amidst a shout of laughter.

I looked at Macfarlane with some reserve.

"I don't understand," I began.

"Don't move, man!" cried he, as he forced me back into my chair, and
dropping the fire-irons with a clatter on to the floor, he tried to
scoop the ball out of the glass with the point of Clutterbuck's
sword-sheath. He missed the glass; the sheath caught me full on the
knuckles; I opened my hand and----

"Sir, you have ruined my game," said Mr. Macfarlane, with considerable
heat.

"And a good thing too," said I, "for a sillier game I never saw in all
my life."

"Gentlemen," cried Lieutenant Clutterbuck, though he did not
articulate the word with his customary precision; but his intentions
were undoubtedly pacific. He happened to be holding the last of his
decanters in his hand, and he swung it to and fro. "Gentlemen," he
repeated, and as if to keep me company, he let the decanter slip out
of his hand. It fell on the floor and split with a loud noise. "Well,"
said he, solemnly, "I have dropped a brooch," and he fumbled at his
cravat.

Another peal of laughter went up; and while it was still ringing, a
man--what his name was I cannot remember, even if I ever knew it; I
saw him for the first time that evening, and I have only once seen him
since, but he was certainly--more sober than the rest--stooped over my
chair and caught me by the arm.

"Steve," said he, with a chuckle,--and from this familiarity to a new
acquaintance I judge he was not so sober after all,--"do you notice
the door?"

The door was in the corner of the room to my right. I looked towards
it: the brass handle shone like a gold ball in the sun. I looked back
at my companion, and, shaking my arm free, I replied coldly:

"I see it. It is a door, a mere door. But I do not notice it. It is
not indeed noteworthy."

"It is unlatched," said my acquaintance, with another chuckle.

"I suppose it is not the only door in the world in that predicament."

"But it was latched a moment ago," and with his forefinger he gently
poked me in the ribs.

"Then someone has turned the handle," said I, drawing myself away.

"A most ingenious theory," said he, quite unabashed by my reserve,
"and the truth. Someone _has_ turned the handle. Now who?" He winked
with an extreme significance. "My dear sir, who?"

I looked round the room. Mr. Macfarlane had resumed his game. Two
gentlemen in a corner through all the din were earnestly playing putt
with the cards. They had, however, removed their wigs, and their
shaven heads gleamed unpleasantly. Others by the window were
vociferating the chorus of a drinking song. Lieutenant Clutterbuck
alone was near to the door. I was on the point of pronouncing his name
when he lurched towards it, and instantly the door was closed.

"It was someone outside," said I.

"Precisely. Steve, you are not so devoid of sense as your friends
would have me believe," continued my companion. "Now, who will be
Lieutenant Clutterbuck's timorous visitor?" He drew his watch from
his fob: "We may hazard a guess at the sex, I think, but for the
rest---- Is it some fine lady from St. James's who has come in her
chair at half-past one of the morning to keep an appointment which her
careless courtier has forgotten?"

"Hardly," I returned. "For your fine lady would hurry back to her
chair with all the speed her petticoats allowed. She would not stay
behind the door, which, I see, has again been opened."

The familiar stranger laid his hand upon my shoulder and held me back
in my chair at arm's length from him.

"They do you wrong, my dear Steve," said he, gravely, "who say your
brains are addled with drink. Your"--his tongue stumbled over a long
word which I judged to be "ratiocination"--"is admirable. Never was
logician more precise. It is not a fine lady from St. James's. It will
be a flower-girl from Drury Lane, and may I be eternally as drunk as I
am to-night, if we do not have her into the room."

With that he crossed the room, and seizing the handle suddenly swung
the door open. The next instant he stepped back. The door was in a
line with the wall against which my chair was placed, and besides it
opened towards me so that I could not see what it was that so amazed
him.

"Here's the strangest flower-girl from Drury Lane that ever I saw,"
said he, and Lieutenant Clutterbuck turning about cried:

"By all that's wonderful, it's Dick Parmiter," and a lad of fifteen
years, with a red fisherman's bonnet upon his head and a blue jersey
on his back, stepped hesitatingly into the room.

"Well, Dick, what's the news from Scilly?" continued Clutterbuck. "And
what's brought you to London? Have you come to see the king in his
golden crown? Has Captain Hathaway lost his _Diodorus Siculus_ and
sent you to town to buy him another? Come, out with it!"

Dick shifted from one foot to another; he took his cap from his head
and twisted it in his hands; and he looked from one to another of
Lieutenant Clutterbuck's guests who had now crowded about the lad and
were plying him with questions. But he did not answer the questions.
No doubt the noise and the lights, and the presence of these
glittering gentlemen confused the lad, who was more used to the lonely
beaches of the islands and the companionable murmurs of the sea. At
last he plucked up the courage to say, with a glance of appeal to
Lieutenant Clutterbuck:

"I have news to tell, but I would sooner tell it to you alone."

His appeal was received with a chorus of protestations, and "Where are
your manners, Dick," cried Clutterbuck, "that you tell my friends flat
to their faces they cannot keep a secret?"

"Are we women?" asked Mr. Macfarlane.

"Out with your story," cried another.

Dick Parmiter shrank back and turned his eyes towards the door, but
one man shut it to and leaned his shoulders against the panels, while
the others caught at the lad's hesitation as at a new game, and
crowded about him as though he was some rare curiosity brought by a
traveller from outlandish parts.

"He shall tell his story," cried Clutterbuck. "It is two years since I
was stationed at the Scilly Islands, two years since I dined in the
mess-room of Star Castle with Captain Hathaway of his Majesty's
Invalids, and was bored to death with his dissertations on _Diodorus
Siculus_. Two years! The boy must have news of consequence. There is
no doubt trouble with the cray fish, or Adam Mayle has broken the head
of the collector of the Customs House----"

"Adam Mayle is dead. He was struck down by paralysis and never moved
till he died," interrupted Dick Parmiter.

The news sobered Clutterbuck for an instant. "Dead!" said he, gaping
at the boy. "Dead!" he repeated, and so flung back to his noise and
laughter, though there was a ring of savagery in it very strange to
his friends. "Well, more brandy will pay revenue, and fewer ships will
come ashore, and very like there'll be quiet upon Tresco----"

"No," interrupted Parmiter again, and Clutterbuck turned upon him with
a flush of rage.

"Well, tell your story and have done with it!"

"To you," said the boy, looking from one to other of the faces about
him.

"No, to all," cried Clutterbuck. The drink, and a certain anger of
which we did not know the source, made him obstinate. "You shall tell
it to us all, or not at all. Bring that table, forward, Macfarlane!
You shall stand on the table Dick, like a preacher in his pulpit," he
sneered, "and put all the fine gentlemen to shame, with a story of the
rustic virtues."

The table was dragged from the corner into the middle of the room. The
boy protested, and made for the door. But he was thrust back, seized
and lifted struggling on to the table, where he was set upon his feet.

"Harmony, gentlemen, harmony!" cried Clutterbuck, flapping his hand
upon the mantelshelf. "Take your seats, and no whispering in the side
boxes, if you please. For I can promise you a play which needs no
prologue to excuse it."

It was a company in which a small jest passed easily for a high stroke
of wit. They applauded Lieutenant Clutterbuck's sally, and drew up
their chairs round the table and sat looking upwards towards the boy,
with a great expectation of amusement, just as people watch a
bear-baiting at a fair. For my part I had not moved, and it was no
doubt for that reason that Parmiter looked for help towards me.

"When all's said, Clutterbuck," I began, "you and your friends are a
pack of bullies. The boy's a good boy, devil take me if he isn't."

The boy upon the table looked his gratitude for the small mercy of my
ineffectual plea, and I should have proceeded to enlarge upon it had I
not noticed a very astonishing thing. For Parmiter lifted his arm high
up above his head as thought to impress upon me his gratitude, and his
arm lengthened out and grew until it touched the ceiling. Then it
dwindled and shrank until again it was no more than a boy's arm on a
boy's shoulder. I was so struck with this curious phenomenon that I
broke off my protest on his behalf, and mentioned to those about me
what I had seen, asking whether they had remarked it too, and
inquiring to what cause, whither of health or malady, they were
disposed to attribute so sudden a growth and contraction.

However, Lieutenant Clutterbuck's guests were only disposed that night
to make light of any subject however important or scientific. For some
laughed in my face, others more polite, shrugged their shoulders with
a smile, and the stranger who had spoken to me before clapped his hand
in the small of my back as I leaned forward, and shouted some ill-bred
word that, though might he die of small-pox if he had ever met me
before, he would have known me from a thousand by the tales he had
heard. However, before I could answer him fitly, and indeed, while I
was still pondering the meaning of his words. Lieutenant Clutterbuck
clapped his hands for silence, and Dick Parmiter, seeing no longer any
hope of succour, perforce began to tell his story.

It was a story of a youth that sat in the stocks of a Sunday morning
and disappeared thereafter from the islands; of a girl named Helen; of
a negro who slept and slept, and of men watching a house with a great
tangled garden that stood at the edge of the sea. Cullen Mayle,
Parmiter called the youth who had sat in the stocks, son to that Adam
whose death had so taken Lieutenant Clutterbuck with surprise. But I
could not make head or tail of the business. For one thing I have
always been very fond of flowers, and quite unaccountably the polished
floor of the room blossomed into a parterre of roses, so that my
attention was distracted by this curious and pleasing event.

For another, Parmiter's story was continually interrupted by intricate
questions intended to confuse him, his evident anxiety was made the
occasion of much amusement by those seated about the table, and he was
induced on one excuse and another to go back to the beginning again
and again and relate once more what he had already told. But I
remember that he spoke with a high intonation, and rather quickly and
with a broad accent, and that even then I was extremely sensible of
the unfamiliar parts from which he came. His words seemed to have
preserved a smell of the sea, and through them I seemed to hear very
clearly the sound of waves breaking upon a remote beach--near in a
word to that granite house with the tangled garden where the men
watched and watched.

Then the boy's story ceased, and the next thing I heard was a sound of
sobbing. I looked up, and there was Dick Parmiter upon the table,
crying like a child. Over against him sat Lieutenant Clutterbuck, with
a face sour and dark.

"I'll not stir a foot or lift a finger," said he, swearing an oath,
"no, not if God comes down and bids me."

And upon that the boy weakened of a sudden, swayed for an instant upon
his feet, and dropped in a huddle upon the table. His swoon put every
one to shame except Clutterbuck; everyone busied himself about the
boy, dabbing his forehead with wet handkerchiefs, and spilling brandy
over his face in attempts to pour it into his mouth--every one except
Clutterbuck, who never moved nor changed in a single line of his face,
from his fixed expression of anger. Dick Parmiter recovered from his
swoon and sat up: and his first look was towards the lieutenant, whose
face softened for an instant with I know not what memories of days
under the sun in a fishing boat amongst the islands.

"Dick, you are over--tired. It's a long road from the Scillies to
London. Very like, too, you are hungry," and Dick nodded "yes" to each
sentence. "Well, Dick, you shall eat here, if there's any food in my
larder, and you shall sleep here when you have eaten."

"Is that all?" asked Parmiter, simply, and Clutterbuck's face turned
hard again as a stone.

"Every word," said he.

The boy slipped off the table and began to search on the ground. His
cap had fallen from his hand when he fell down in his swoon. He picked
it up from beneath a chair. He did not look any more at Clutterbuck;
he made no appeal to anyone in the room; but though his legs still
faltered from weakness, he walked silently out of the door, and in a
little we heard his footsteps upon the stone stairs and the banisters
creaking, as though he clung to them, while he descended, for support.

"Good God, Clutterbuck!" cried Macfarlane "he's but a boy."

"With no roof to his head," said another.

"And fainting for lack of a meal," said a third.

"He shall have both," I cried, "if he will take them from me," and I
ran out of the door.

"Dick," I cried down the hollow of the staircase, "Dick Parmiter," but
no answer was returned, save my own cry coming back to me up the well
of the stairs. Clutterbuck's rooms were on the highest floor of the
house; the stone stairs stretched downwards flight after flight
beneath me. There was no sound anywhere upon them; the boy had gone. I
came back to the room. Lieutenant Clutterbuck sat quite still in his
chair. The morning was breaking; a cold livid light crept through the
open windows, touched his hands, reached his face and turned it white.

"Good-night," he said, without so much as a look.

His eyes were bent upon memories to which we had no clue. We left him
sitting thus and went down into the street, when we parted. I saw no
roses blossoming in the streets as I walked home, but as I looked in
my mirror at my lodging I noticed again that my face was drawn and
haggard and a million years old.



                              CHAPTER II

                        DICK PARMITER'S STORY


I woke up at mid-day, and lay for awhile in my bed anticipating
wearily the eight limping hours to come before the evening fell, and
wondering how I might best escape them. From that debate my thoughts
drifted to the events of the night before, and I recollected with a
sudden thrill of interest, rare enough to surprise me, the coming of
Dick Parmiter, and his treatment at Clutterbuck's hands and his
departure. I thought of his long journey to London along strange
roads. I could see him tramping the dusty miles, each step leading him
farther from that small corner of the world with which alone he was
familiar. I imagined him now sleeping beneath a hedge, now perhaps, by
some rare fortune, in one of Russell's waggons with the Falmouth
mails, which at nightfall he had overtaken, and from which at daybreak
he would descend with a hurried word of thanks to get the quicker on
his way; I pictured him pressing through the towns with a growing fear
at his heart, because of their turmoil and their crowds; and I thought
of him as hungering daily more and more for the sea which he had left
behind, like a sheep-dog which one has taken from the sheep and shut
up within the walls of a city. The boy's spirit appealed to me. It was
new, it was admirable; and I dressed that day with an uncommon
alertness and got me out to Clutterbuck's lodgings.

I found the lieutenant in bed with a tankard of small ale at his
bedside. He looked me over with astonishment.

"I wish I could carry my liquor as well as you do," said he, taking a
pull at the tankard.

"Has the boy come back?" I asked.

"What, Dick?" said he. "No, nor will not." And changing the subject,
"If you will wait, Steve, I will make a shift to get up."

I went into his parlour. The room had been put into some sort of
order; but the shattered remnant of the mirror still hung between the
windows, and it too spoke to me of Dick's journey. I imagined him
coming to the great city at the fall of night, and seeking out his way
through its alleys and streets to Lieutenant Clutterbuck's lodgings. I
could see him on the stairs pausing to listen to the confusion within
the rooms, and in the passage opening and closing the door as he
hesitated whether to go in or no. I became all at once very curious to
know what the errand was which had pushed him so far from his home,
and I cudgelled my brains to recollect his story. But I could remember
only the youth Cullen Mayle, who had sat in the stocks on a Sunday
morning, and the girl Helen, and a negro who slept and slept, and a
house with a desolate tangled garden by the sea, and men watching the
house. But what bound these people and the house in a common history,
as to that I was entirely in the dark.

"Steve," said Clutterbuck--I had not remarked his entrance--"you look
glum as a November morning. Is it a sore head? or is it the sight of
your mischievous handiwork?" and he pointed to the mirror.

"It's neither one nor the other," said I. "It's just the recollection
of that boy fumbling under the table for his cap, and dragging himself
silently out of the room, with all England to tramp and despair to
sustain him."

"That boy!" cried Clutterbuck, with great exasperation. "Curse you,
Berkeley. That boy's a maggot, and has crept into your brains. We'll
talk no more of him, if you please." He took a pack of cards from a
corner cupboard, and, tossing them on the table, "Here, choose your
game I'll play what you will, and for what stakes you will, so long as
you hold your tongue."

It was plain that I should learn nothing by pressing my curiosity upon
him. I must go another way to work. But chance and Lieutenant
Clutterbuck served my turn without any provocation from myself.

I chose the game of picquet, and Clutterbuck shuffled and cut the
cards; whereupon I dealt them. Clutterbuck looked at his hand
fretfully, and then cried out:

"I have no hand for picquet, but I have very good putt cards."

I glanced through the cards I held.

"Make it putt, then," said I. "I will wager what you will my hand is
the better;" and Clutterbuck broke into a laugh and tossed his cards
upon the table.

"You have two kings and an ace," said he, "I know very well; but I
have two kings and a deuce, and mine are the better."

"It is a bite," said I.

"And an ingenious one," he returned. "It was Cullen Mayle who taught
it to us in the mess at Star Castle. For packing the cards or knapping
the dice I never came across his equal. Yet we could never detect him,
and in the end not a soul in the garrison would play with him for
crooked pins."

"Cullen Mayle," said I; "that was Adam's son."

Clutterbuck had sunk into something of a reverie, and spoke rather to
himself than to me.

"They were the strangest pair," he continued; "you would never take
them for father and son, and I myself was always amazed to think there
was any relationship between them. I have seen them sitting side by
side on the settle in the kitchen of the 'Palace Inn' at Tresco. Adam,
an old bulky fellow, with a mulberry face and yellow angry eyes, and
his great hands and feet twisted out of all belief. His stories were
all of wild doings on the Guinea coast. Cullen, on the other hand, was
a stripling with a soft face like a girl's, exquisite in his dress,
urbane in his manners. He had a gentle word and an attentive ear for
each newcomer to the fire, and a white protesting hand for the oaths
with which Adam salted his speech. Yet they were both of the same
vindictive, turbulent spirit, only Cullen was the more dangerous.

"I have watched the gannets often through an afternoon in Hell Bay
over at Brehar. They would circle high up in the air where no fish
could see them, and then slant their wings and drop giddily with the
splash of a stone upon their prey. They always put me in mind of
Cullen Mayle. He struck mighty quick and out of the sky. I cannot
remember, during all the ten years I lived at the Scillies, that any
man crossed Cullen Mayle, though unwittingly, but some odd accident
crippled him. He was the more dangerous of the pair. With Adam it was
a word and a blow. With Cullen a word and another and another, and all
of them soft, and the blow held over for a secret occasion. But it
fell. If ever you come across Cullen Mayle, Berkeley, take care of
your words and your deeds, for he strikes out of the sky and mighty
quick."

This Clutterbuck said with an extreme earnestness, leaning forward to
me as he spoke. And even now I can but put it down to his earnestness
that a shiver took me at the words; for nothing was more unlikely than
that I should ever come to grips with Cullen Mayle, and the next
moment I answered Clutterbuck lightly.

"Yet he sat in the stocks in the end," said I, with as much
indifference as I could counterfeit; for I was afraid lest any display
of eagerness might close his lips. Lieutenant Clutterbuck, however,
was hardly aware that he was being questioned. He laughed with a
certain pleasure.

"Yes. A schooner, with a cargo of brandy, came ashore on Tresco.
Cullen and the Tresco men saved the cargo and hid it away, and when
the collector came over with his men from the Customs House upon St.
Mary's, Cullen drove him back to his boats with a broken head. Cullen
broke old Captain Hathaway's patience at the same time. Hathaway took
off his silver spectacles at last and shut up his _Diodorus Siculus_
with a bang; and so Cullen Mayle sat in the stocks before the Customs
House on the Sunday morning. He left the islands that night. That was
two years and a month ago."

"And what had Dick Parmiter to do with Cullen Mayle?" said I.

"Dick?" said he. "Oh, Dick was Cullen Mayle's henchman. But it seems
that Dick has transferred his allegiance to----" And he stopped
abruptly. His face soured as he stopped.

"To the girl Helen?" said I, quite forgetting my indifference.

"Yes!" cried Clutterbuck, savagely, "to the girl Helen. He is fifteen
years old is Dick. But at fifteen years a lad is ripe to be one of
Cupid's April fools." And after that he would say no more.

His last words, however, and, more than his words, the tone in which
he spoke, had given me the first definite clue of the many for which
my curiosity searched. It was certainly on behalf of the girl, whom I
only knew as Helen, that Dick had undertaken his arduous errand, and
it was no less certain that just for that reason Lieutenant
Clutterbuck had refused to meddle in the matter. I recognised that I
should get no advantage from persisting, but I kept close to his side
that day waiting upon opportunity.

We dined together at Locket's, by Charing Cross; we walked together to
the "Cocoa Tree" in St. James's Street, and passed an hour or so with
a dice-box. Clutterbuck was very silent for the most part. He handled
the dice-box with indifference; and, since he was never the man to
keep his thoughts for any long time to himself, I had no doubt that
some time that day I should learn more. Indeed, very soon after we
left the "Cocoa Tree" I thought the whole truth was coming out; for he
stopped in St. James's Park, close to the Mall, which at that moment
was quiet and deserted. We could hear a light wind rippling through
the leaves of the poplars, and a faint rumble of carriages lurching
over the stones of Pall Mall.

"It is very like the sound of the sea on a still morning of summer,"
said he, looking at me with a vacant eye, and I wondered whether he
was thinking of a tangled garden raised above a beach of sand,
wherein, maybe, he had walked, and not alone on some such day as this
two years ago.

We crossed the water to the Spring Gardens at Vauxhall, where we
supped. I was now fallen into as complete a silence and abstraction as
Clutterbuck himself, for I was clean lost in conjectures, I knew
something now of Adam Mayle and his son Cullen, but as to Helen I was
in the dark. Was her name Mayle too? Was she wife to Cullen? The sight
of Clutterbuck's ill-humour inclined me to that conjecture; but I was
wrong, for as the attendants were putting out the lights in the garden
I ventured upon the question. To my surprise, Clutterbuck answered me
with a smile.

"Sure," said he, "you are the most pertinacious fellow. What's come to
you, who were content to drink your liquor and sit on one side while
the world went by? No, she was not wife to Cullen Mayle, nor sister.
She was a waif of the sea. Adam Mayle picked her up from the rocks a
long while since. It was the only action that could be counted to his
credit since he came out of nowhere and leased the granite house of
Tresco. A barque--a Venetian vessel, it was thought, from Marseilles,
in France, for a great deal of Castile soap, and almonds and oil was
washed ashore afterwards--drove in a northwesterly gale on to the
Golden Bar reef. The reef runs out from St. Helen's Island, opposite
Adam Mayle's window. Adam put out his lugger and crossed the sound,
but before he could reach St. Helen's the ship went down into fourteen
fathoms of water. He landed on St. Helen's, however, and amongst the
rocks where the reef joins the land he came across a sailor, who lay
in the posture of death, and yet wailed like a hungry child. The
sailor was dead, but within his jacket, buttoned up on his breast, was
a child of four years or so. Adam took her home. No one ever claimed
her, so he kept her, and called her Helen from the island on which she
was wrecked. That was a long time since, for the girl must be twenty."

"Is she French?" I asked.

"French, or Venetian, or Spanish, or what you will," he cried. "It
matters very little what country a woman springs from. I have no doubt
that a Hottentot squaw will play you the same tricks as a woman of
fashion, and with as demure a countenance. Well, it seems we are to go
to bed sober;" and we went each to his lodging.

For my part, I lay awake for a long time, seeking to weave into some
sort of continuous story what I had heard that day from Lieutenant
Clutterbuck and the scraps which I remembered of Parmiter's talk. But
old Adam Mayle, who was dead; Cullen, the gannet who struck from the
skies; and even Helen, the waif of the sea--these were at this time no
more to me than a showman's puppets; marionettes of sawdust and wood,
that faced this way and that way according as I pulled the strings.
The one being who had life was the boy Parmiter, with his jersey and
his red fisherman's bonnet; and I very soon turned to conjecturing how
he fared upon his journey.

Had he money to help him forward? Had he fallen in with a kindly
carrier? How far had he travelled? I had no doubt that, whether he had
money or no, he would reach his journey's end. His spirit was evident
in the resolve to travel to London, in his success, and in the
concealment of any weakness until the favour he asked for had been
refused.

I bought next morning one of the new maps of the Great West Road and
began to pick off the stages of his journey. This was the second day
since he had started. He would not travel very fast, having no good
news to lighten his feet. I reckoned that he would have reached the
"Golden Farmer," and I made a mark at that name on the map. Every day
for a week I kept in this way an imagined tally of his progress,
following him from county to county; and at the end of the week,
coming out in the evening from my lodging at the corner of St. James's
Street, I ran plump into the arms of the gentleman I had met at
Clutterbuck's, and whose name I did not know. But his familiarity was
all gone from him. He bowed to me stiffly, and would have passed on,
but I caught him by the arm.

"Sir," said I, "you will remember a certain night when I had the
honour of your acquaintance."

"Mr. Berkeley," he returned with a smile, "I remember very much better
the dreadful morning which followed it."

"You will not, at all events, have forgotten the boy whom you
discovered outside the door, and if you can repeat the story which he
told, or some portion of it, I shall be obliged to you."

He looked at his watch.

"I have still half an hour to spare," said he; and he led the way to
the "Groom Porters." The night was young, but not so young but what
the Bassett-table was already full. We sat down together in a dark
corner of the room, and my companion told me what he remembered of
Parmiter's story.

It appeared that Cullen Mayle had quarrelled with his father on that
Sunday night after he had sat in the stocks and had left the house. He
had never returned. A year ago Adam Mayle had died, bequeathing his
fortune, which was considerable, and most of it placed in the African
Company, to his adopted daughter Helen. She, however, declared that
she had no right to it, that it was not hers, and that she would hold
it in trust until such time as Cullen should come back to claim it.

He did not come back, as has been said; but eight months later Dick
Parmiter, on an occasion when he had crossed in his father's fishing
boat to Cornwall, had discovered upon Penzance Quay a small crowd of
loiterers, and on the ground amongst them, with his back propped
against a wall, a negro asleep. A paper was being passed from hand to
hand among the group, and in the end it came to Dick Parmiter. Upon
the paper was written Adam Mayle's name and the place of his
residence, Tresco, in the Scilly Islands; and Dick at once recognised
that the writing was in Cullen Mayle's hand. He pushed to the front of
the group, and stooping down, shook the negro by the shoulder. The
negro drowsily opened his eyes.

"You come from Mr. Cullen Mayle?" said Dick.

"Yes," said the negro, speaking in English and quite clearly.

"You have a message from him?"

"Yes."

"What is it?" asked Dick; and he put a number of questions eagerly.
But in the midst of them, and while still looking at Dick, the negro
closed his eyes deliberately and fell asleep.

"See," cried a sailor, an oldish white-haired man, with a French
accent; "that is the way with him. He came aboard with us at the port
of London as wide awake as you or I. Bound for Penzance he was, and
the drowsiness took him the second day out. At first he would talk a
little; but each day he slept more and more, until now he will say no
more than a 'Yes' or a 'No.' Why, he will fall asleep over his
dinner."

Dick shook the negro again.

"Do you wish to cross to Tresco?"

"Yes," said the negro.

Dick carried him back to Scilly and brought him to the house on
Tresco, where Helen Mayle now lived alone. But no news could be got
from him. He would answer "Yes" or "No" and eat his meals; but when it
came to a question of his message or Cullen Mayle's whereabouts he
closed his eyes and fell asleep. Helen judged that somewhere Cullen
was in great need and distress, and because she held his money, and
could do nothing to succour him, she was thrown into an extreme
trouble. There was some reason why he could not come to Scilly in
person, and here at her hand was the man sent to tell the reason; but
he could not because of his mysterious malady. More than once he tried
with a look of deep sadness in his eyes, as though he was conscious of
his helplessness, but he never got beyond the first word. His eyelids
closed while his mouth was still open to speak, and at once he was
asleep. His presence made a great noise amongst the islands; from
Brehar, from St. Mary's, and from St. Martin's the people sailed over
to look at him. But Helen, knowing Cullen Mayle and fearing the nature
of his misadventure, had bidden Parmiter to let slip no hint that he
had come on Cullen's account.

So the negro stayed at Tresco and spread a great gloom throughout the
house. They watched him day by day as he slept. Cullen's need might be
immediate; it might be a matter of crime; it might be a matter of life
and death. The gloom deepened into horror, and Helen and her few
servants, and Dick, who was much in the house, fell into so lively an
apprehension that the mere creaking of a door would make them start, a
foot crunching on the sand outside sent them flying to the window. So
for a month, until Dick Parmiter, coming over the hill from New
Grimsby harbour at night, had a lantern flashed in his face, and when
close to the house saw a man spring up from the gorse and watch him as
he passed. From that night the house was continually spied upon, and
Helen walked continually from room to room wringing her hands in sheer
distraction at her helplessness. She feared that they were watching
for Cullen; she feared, too, that Cullen, receiving no answer to his
message, would come himself and fall into their hands. She dared
hardly conjecture for what reason they were watching, since she knew
Cullen. For a week these men watched, five of them, who kept their
watches as at sea; and then Dick, taking his courage in his hands, and
bethinking him of Lieutenant Clutterbuck, who had been an assiduous
visitor at the house on Tresco, had crossed over to St. Mary's and
learned from old Captain Hathaway where he now lived. He had said
nothing of his purpose to Helen, partly from a certain shyness at
speaking to her upon a topic of some delicacy, and partly lest he
should awaken her hopes and perhaps only disappoint them. But he had
begged a passage in a ship that was sailing to Cornwall, and, crossing
thither secretly, had made his way in six weeks to London.

This is the story which my acquaintance repeated to me as we sat in
the "Groom Porters."

"And Clutterbuck refused to meddle in the matter," said I. "Poor lad!"

I was thinking of Dick, but my companion mistook my meaning, for he
glanced thoughtfully at me for a second.

"I think you are very right to pity him," he said; "although, Mr.
Berkeley, if you will pardon me, I am a trifle surprised to hear that
sentiment from you. It is indeed a sodden, pitiful, miserable dog's
life that Clutterbuck leads. To pass the morning over his toilette, to
loiter through the afternoon in a boudoir, and to dispose of the
evening so that he may be drunk before midnight! He would be much
better taking the good air into his lungs and setting his wits to
unknot that tangle amongst those islands in the sea. But I have
overstayed my time. If you can persuade him to that, you will be doing
him no small service;" and politely taking his leave, he went out of
the room.

I sat for some while longer in the corner. I could not pretend that
he had spoken anything but truth, but I found his words none the less
bitter on that account. A pitiful dog's life for Lieutenant
Clutterbuck, who was at the most twenty-four years of age! What, then,
was it for me, who had seven years the better of Lieutenant
Clutterbuck, or rather, I should say, seven years the worse? I was
thirty-one that very month, and Clutterbuck's sodden, pitiful life had
been mine for the last seven years. An utter disgust took hold of me
as I repeated over and over to myself my strange friend's words. I
looked at the green cloth and the yellow candles, and the wolfish
faces about the cloth. The candles had grown soft with the heat of the
night, and were bent out of their shape, so that the grease dropped in
great blots upon the cloth, and the air was close with an odour of
stale punch. I got up from my corner and went out into the street,
and stood by the water in St. James's Park, If only some such
summons had come to me when I was twenty-four as had now come to
Clutterbuck!--well, very likely I should have turned a deaf ear to
it, even as he had done! And--and, at all events, I was thirty-one and
the summons had not come to me, and there was an end of the matter.
To-morrow I should go back to the green cloth and not trouble my
head about the grease blots; but to-night, since Clutterbuck was
twenty-four, I would try to do him that small service of which the
stranger spoke, and so setting out at a round pace I made my way to
Clutterbuck's lodging.



                             CHAPTER III

                  OF THE MAGICAL INFLUENCE OF A MAP


I did not, however, find Lieutenant Clutterbuck that night. He was out
of reach, and likely to remain so for some while to come. He had left
his lodgings at mid-day and taken his body-servant with him, and his
landlady had no knowledge of his whereabouts. I thought it probable,
however, that some of his friends might have that knowledge, and I
thereupon hurried to those haunts where of an evening he was an
habitual visitor. The "Hercules Pillars" in Piccadilly, the "Cocoa
Tree" in St. James's Street, the "Spring Gardens" at Vauxhall,
"Barton's" in King Street, the "Spread Eagle" in Covent Garden,--I
hurried from one to the other of these places, and though I came upon
many of Clutterbuck's intimates, not one of them was a whit better
informed than myself. I returned to my lodging late and more
disheartened than I could have believed possible in a matter wherein I
had no particular concern. And, indeed, it was not so much any
conjecture as to what strange tragical events might be happening about
that watched and solitary house in Tresco which troubled me, or even
pity for the girl maddened by her fears, or regret that I had not been
able to do Clutterbuck that slight service which I purposed. But I
took out the map of the Great West Road, and thought of the lad
Parmiter trudging along it, doing a day's work here among the fields,
begging a lift there upon a waggon and slowly working his way down
into the West. I had a very clear picture of him before my eyes. The
day was breaking, I remember, and I blew out the candles and looked
out of the window down the street. The pavement was more silent at
that hour than those country roads on which he might now be walking,
or that hedge under which he might be shaking the dew from off his
clothes. For there the thrush would be calling to the blackbird with
an infinite bustle and noise, and the fields of corn would be
whispering to the fields of wheat.

I came back again to my map, and while the light broadened, followed
Parmiter from the outset of his journey, through Knightsbridge, along
the Thames, between the pine-trees of Hampshire, past Whitchurch, and
into the county of Devon. The road was unwound before my eyes like a
tape. I saw it slant upwards to the brow of a hill, and dip into the
cup of a valley; here through a boskage of green I saw a flash of
silver where the river ran; there between flat green fields it lay, a
broad white line geometrically straight to the gate of a city; it
curved amongst the churches and houses, but never lost itself in that
labyrinth, aiming with every wind and turn at that other gate, from
which it leaped free at last to the hills. And always on the road I
saw Dick Parmiter, drunk with fatigue, tottering and stumbling down to
the West.

For awhile he occupied that road alone; but in the end I saw another
traveller a long way behind--a man on horseback, who spurred out from
London and rode with the speed of the wind. For a little I watched
that rider, curious only to discern how far he travelled, and whether
he would pass Dick Parmiter; then, as I saw him drawing nearer and
nearer, devouring the miles which lay between, it came upon me slowly
that he was riding not to pass but to overtake; and at once the fancy
flashed across me that this was Clutterbuck. I gazed at my map upon
the table as one might gaze into a magician's globe. It was no longer
a map; it was the road itself imprisoned in hedges, sunlit, and
chequered with the shadows of trees. I could see the horseman, I could
see the dust spirting up from beneath his horse's hoofs like smoke
from a gun-barrel. Only his hat was pushed down upon his brows because
of the wind made by the speed of his galloping, so that I could not
see his face. But it was Clutterbuck I had no doubt. Whither had he
gone from his lodging? Now I was convinced that I knew. There had been
no need of my night's wanderings from tavern to tavern, had I but
looked at my map before. It was Clutterbuck without a doubt. At some
bend of the road he would turn in his saddle to look backwards, and I
should recognise his face. It was Lieutenant Clutterbuck, taking the
good air into his lungs with a vengeance. He vanished into a forest,
but beyond the forest the road dipped down a bank of grass and lay
open to the eye. I should see him in a second race out, his body bent
over his horse's neck to save him from the swinging boughs. I could
have clapped my hands with sheer pleasure. I wished that my voice
could have reached out to Parmiter, tramping wearily so far beyond; in
my excitement, I believed that it would, and before I knew what I did,
I cried out aloud:

"Parmiter! Parmiter!" and a voice behind me answered:

"You must be mad, Berkeley! What in the world has come to you?"

I sat upright in my chair. The excitement died out of me and left me
chilly. I looked about me; I was in my own lodging at the corner of St
James's Street, outside in the streets the world was beginning to
wake, and the voice which had spoken to me and the hand which was now
laid upon my shoulder were the voice and the hand of Lieutenant
Clutterbuck.

"What's this?" said he, leaning over my shoulder. "It is a map."

"Yes," I answered, "it is a mere map, the map of the Great West Road;"
and in my eyes it was no longer any more than a map.

Clutterbuck, who was holding it in his hand, dropped it with a
movement and an exclamation of anger. Then he looked curiously at me,
stepped over to the sideboard and took up a glass or two which stood
there. The glasses were clean and dry. He looked at me again, his
curiosity had grown into uneasiness; he walked to the opposite side of
the table, and drawing up a chair seated himself face to face with me.

"I hoped you were drunk," said he. "But it seems you are as sober as a
bishop. Are you daft, then? Has it come to a strait-waistcoat? I come
back late from Twickenham. I stopped at the 'Hercules Pillars.' There I
heard that you had rushed in two hours before in a great flurry and
disorder, crying out that you must speak to me on the instant. The
same story was told to me at the 'Cocoa Trees.' My landlady repeated
it. I conjectured that it must needs be some little affair to be
settled with sharps at six in the morning; and so that you might not
say your friends neglect you, I turn from my bed, and hurry to you at
three o'clock of the morning. I find that you have left your
front-door unlatched for any thief that wills to make his profit of
the house. I come into your room and find you bending over a map in a
great excitement and crying out aloud that damned boy's name. Is he to
trouble my peace until the Judgment Day? Are you daft, eh, Steve?" and
he reached his hand across the table not unkindly, and laid it on my
sleeve. "Are you daft?"

I was staring again at the map, and did not answer him. He shifted his
hand from my sleeve and took it up and away from my eyes. He looked at
it himself, and then spoke slowly, and in quite a different voice:

"It is a curious, suggestive thing, the map of a road, when all's
said," he observed slowly. "I'll not deny but what it seizes one's
fancies. Its simple lines and curves call up I know not what pictures
of flowering hedgerows; a little black blot means a village of stone
cottages, very likely overhung with ivy and climbed upon with roses."
He suddenly thrust the map again under my nose, "What do you see upon
the road?" said he.

"Parmiter," I answered.

"Of course," he interrupted sharply. "Well, where is Parmiter?" and I
laid a finger on the map.

"Between Fenny Bridges and Exeter," said he, leaning forward. "He has
made great haste."

He spoke quite seriously, not questioning my conjecture, but accepting
it as a mere statement of fact.

"That is a heath?" he asked, pointing to an inch or so where the map
was shaded on each side of the high-road. "Yes, a heath t'other side
of Hartley Row; I know it. There should be a mail-coach there, and the
horses out of the shafts, and one or two men in crape masks and a lady
in a swoon, and the driver stretched in the middle of the road with a
bullet through his crop."

"I do not see that," I returned. "But here, beyond Axminster----"

"Well?"

He leaned yet further forward.

"There is a forest here."

"Yes."

"I saw a man on horseback ride into it between the trees. He has not
as yet emerged from it."

"Who was he? Did you know him?"

"I thought I did. But I could not see his face."

Clutterbuck watched that forest eagerly, and with a queer suspense in
his attitude and even in his breathing. Every now and then he raised
his eyes to mine with a question in them. Each time I shook my head,
and answered:

"Not yet," and we both again stared at the map.

Then Clutterbuck whispered quickly:

"What if his horse had stumbled? What if he is lying there at the
roadside beneath the tree?" He tore himself away from the
contemplation of the map. "The thing's magical!" he cried. "It has
bewitched you, Steve, and by the Lord it has come near to bewitching
me!"

"I thought the horseman was yourself. Why don't you go?" said I,
pointing to the map.

Lieutenant Clutterbuck rose impatiently from his chair.

"There must be an end of this. Once for all I will not go. There is no
reason I should. There is reason why I should not. You do not know in
what you are meddling. You are taken like a schoolboy by an old wife's
tale of a lonely girl trapped in a net. You are too old for such
follies."

"I was too old a fortnight ago," I returned, "but, by the Lord, these
last days I have grown young again--so young that----"

I stopped suddenly. Not until this instant had the notion occurred to
me, but it came now, it thrilled through me with a veritable shock. I
leaned back in my chair and stared at Clutterbuck. He understood, for
he in his turn stared at me.

"The rider!" said he breathlessly, tapping the map with his
forefinger, "the man whose face you did not see!"

I nodded at him.

"What if the face were mine?" said I.

"You could never believe it."

"I believe that I have even enough youth for that," I cried, and I
bent over the map, trying again to fashion from its plain black and
white my picture of the great high-road, climbing and winding through
a country-side rich with all the colours of the summer. But it was
only a map of lines and curves, nor could I any longer discover the
horseman who spurred along it--though I had now a particular reason to
wish for a view of his face,--or the wood into which he disappeared.

"Well, has your cavalier galloped into the open yet?" asked
Clutterbuck.

He spoke with sarcasm, but the sarcasm was forced. It was but a cloak
to cover and excuse the question.

I shook my head.

"No, and he will not," said Clutterbuck.

"Is that so sure?" I asked. "What if the face were mine?"

"You are serious!" he cried. "You would go a stranger and offer your
unsought aid? It would be an impertinence."

"Suppose life and death are in the balance, would they weigh
impertinence?"

"It might be _your_ life and _your_ death!"

And as he spoke, it seemed to me that all my last seven years rose up
in their shrouds and laughed at him.

"And what then?" I cried. "Would the world shiver if I died? Would
even a tavern-keeper draw down his blinds? Perhaps some drunkard in
his cups would wish I lived, that he might take my measure in a
drinking-bout. There's my epitaph for you! Good Lord, Clutterbuck, but
I would dearly love to die a clean death! There's that boy Parmiter
tramping down his road. He does a far better thing than I have ever
done. You know! Why talk of it? You know the life I have lived, and
since that boy flung his example in my eyes, upon my word I sicken to
think of it. Twelve years ago, Clutterbuck, I came to London, a cadet
with a cadet's poor portion, but what a wealth of dreams! A fortune
first, if I slaved till I was forty, and then I would set free my soul
and live! The fortune came, and I slaved but six years for it. The
treaty of Aix and a rise of stocks, and there was my fortune. You know
how I have lived since."

Clutterbuck looked at me curiously. I had never said so much to him or
to any man in this strain. Nor should I have said so much now, but I
was fairly shaken out of my discretion. For a little Clutterbuck sat
silent and motionless. Then he said gently:

"Shall I tell you why I will not go? Yes, I will tell you," and he
told me the history of that Sunday, two years ago, when Cullen Mayle
sat in the stocks, or at least as much of it as had come within his
knowledge. The events of that day were the beginning of all the
trouble, indeed, but Lieutenant Clutterbuck never knew more of it than
what concerned himself, and as I sat over against him on that July
morning and listened to his story while the world awoke, I had no
suspicion of what the passage of that Sunday hid, or of the
extraordinary consequences which it brought about.



                              CHAPTER IV

               DESCRIBES THE REMARKABLE MANNER IN WHICH
                       CULLEN MAYLE LEFT TRESCO


"It was my business," he began, "to fetch Cullen Mayle from Tresco
over to St. Mary's where the stocks were set. It was an unpleasant
business, and to me doubly and damnably unpleasant."

"I understand!" said I, thinking of how he had before spoken to me of
Adam Mayle's adopted daughter.

"I took a file of Musquets, found the three of them at breakfast, and,
with as much delicacy as I could, explained my errand. Helen alone
showed any distress or consciousness of disgrace. Cullen strolled to
the window, and seeing that I had placed my men securely about the
house and that my boat was ready on the sand not a dozen yards away,
professed himself, with an inimitable indifference, willing to gratify
my wishes; while Adam, so far from manifesting any anger, broke out
into a great roar of laughter.

"'Cullen, my boy,' he shouted, like a man highly pleased, 'here's a
nasty stumble for your pride. To sit in the stocks of a Sunday
morning, when all the girls can see you as they come from church! To
sit in the stocks like a common drunkard; and you that sets up for a
gentleman! Oh, Cullen, Cullen!' He wagged his head from side to side,
and so brought his fist upon the table with a bang which set all the
plates dancing. 'Devil damn me,' said he, 'if I don't sail to church
at St. Mary's myself and see how you look in your wooden garters.'
Cullen glanced carelessly towards me. 'An unseemly old man,' said he;
and we left Adam still shaking like a monstrous jellyfish, and crossed
back to St. Mary's from Tresco.

"Sure enough Adam kept his word. They were singing the _Nunc Dimittis_
in the church when Adam stumped up the aisle. He had brought Helen
with him, and she looked as though she wished the brick floor to open
and let her out of sight. But Adam kept his head erect and showed a
face of an extraordinary good humour. You may be certain that the
parson got the scantiest attention imaginable to his discourse. For
one thing, Adam Mayle had never set foot in St. Mary's Church before,
and for another, every one was agog to see how he would bear himself
afterwards, when he passed on his way to the quay across the little
space before the Customs House.

"There was a rush to the church door as soon as the benediction was
pronounced, and it happened that I was one of the last to come out of
the porch. The first thing that I saw was Adam walking a little way
apart amongst the gravestones with a stranger, and the next thing,
Helen talking to Dick Parmiter."

Here I interrupted Clutterbuck, for I was anxious to let no detail
escape me.

"Had Dick crossed with Adam Mayle from Tresco?"

"I think not," returned Clutterbuck. "He was not in the church. I do
not know, but I fancy he brought the stranger over to St. Mary's
afterwards."

"And who was this stranger?"

"George Glen he called himself, and said he had been quartermaster
with Adam Mayle at Whydah. He was a squat, tarry man, of Adam's age or
thereabouts, and the pair of them walked through the gates and crossed
the fields over to the street of Hugh Town. I made haste to join
Helen," Clutterbuck continued, and explained his words with an
unnecessary confusion. "I mean, I would not have it appear that she
shared in the disgrace which had befallen Cullen Mayle. So I walked
with her, and we followed Adam down the street to the Customs House,
where it seemed every inhabitant was loitering, and where Cullen sat,
with his hat cocked forward over his forehead to shield him from the
sun, entirely at his ease.

"It was curious to observe the behaviour of the loiterers. Some
affected not to see Cullen at all; some, but those chiefly maidens,
protested that it was a great shame so fine a gentleman should be so
barbarously used. The elders on the other hand answered that he had
come over late to his deserts, while a few, with a ludicrous pretence
of unconsciousness, bowed and smiled at him as though it was the most
natural thing in the world for a man in a laced coat to take the air
in the stocks of a Sunday morning.

"Into the midst of this group marched Adam Mayle, and came to a halt
before his son. He had composed his face to an unexceptionable
gravity, and as he prodded thoughtfully with his stick at the sole of
Cullen's shoe,

"'This is the first time,' he said, 'that ever I saw a pair of silk
stockings in the stocks.'

"'One lives and learns,' replied Cullen, indifferently; and the old
man lifted his nose into the air and said dreamily:

"'There is a ducking-chair, is there not, at the pier head?' and so
walked on to the steps where his boat was moored. He went down into it
with Mr. Glen, and the two men set about hoisting the sail. I was
still standing on the pier with Helen.

"'You will come too?' she said with a sort of appeal. 'I do not know
what may happen when Cullen is set free and comes back, I should be
very glad if you would come.'"

Lieutenant Clutterbuck broke off his story and walked uneasily once or
twice across the room as though he was troubled even now with the
recollection of her appeal and of how she looked when she made it.

"So I went," he continued suddenly, and with a burst of frankness.
"You see, Steve, she and I were very good friends; I never saw
anything but welcome in her eyes when I crossed over to Tresco, and
the kindliness of her voice had a warmth, and at times a tenderness,
which I hoped meant more than friendship. Indeed, I would have staked
my life she was ignorant of duplicity; and with Cullen she seemed
always at some pains to conceal a repugnance. Well, I was young, I
suppose; I saw with the eyes of youth, which see everything out of its
due proportion. I crossed to Tresco, and while we were seated at
dinner, about two hours later, Cullen Mayle strolled in and took his
chair. Dick Parmiter had waited for him at St. Mary's until such time
as he was set free, and had brought him across the Road.

"I cannot deny but what Cullen Mayle bore himself very suitably for
the greater part of the time we were at table. Adam's blatant jests
were enough to set any man's teeth on edge, yet Cullen made as though
he did not hear a word of them, and talked politely upon indifferent
topics to us and Mr. Glen. Adam, however, was not to be silenced that
way. His banter became coarse and vindictive; for one thing he had
drunk a deal of liquor, and for another he was exasperated that he
could not provoke his son. I forget what particular joke he roared out
from the head of the table, but I saw Cullen stretch his arm out over
the cloth.

"'I see what is amiss,' he said, wearily, and took away the brandy
bottle from his father's elbow. He went to the window, and opening it,
emptied the bottle on to the grass beneath the sill. Then he came back
to his seat and said suavely to Mr. Glen: 'My father cannot get the
better of his old habits; he is drunk very early on Sundays--an
unregenerate old put of a fellow as ever I came across.'

"The quarrel followed close upon the heels of that sentence, and
occupied the afternoon and was renewed at supper. Adam very violent
and blustering; Cullen very cool and composed, and only betraying his
passion by the whiteness of his face. He used no oaths; he sat staring
at his father with his dark sleepy eyes, and languidly accused him of
every crime in the Newgate Calendar, with a great deal of detail as to
time and place, and adding any horrible detail which came into his
mind. The old man was routed at the last. About the middle of supper
he got up from his chair, and going up the stairs shut himself into a
room which he had fitted up as a cabin, and where he was used to sit
of an evening.

"We were all, as you may guess, inexpressibly relieved when Adam left
the parlour, for here it seemed was the quarrel ended. We counted,
however, without Cullen. He looked for a moment or two at his father's
empty chair, and stood up in his turn.

"'Here's an old rogue for you,' he said in a gentle voice. 'He has no
more manners than a nasty pig. I'll teach him some,' and he followed
his father up the stairs and into the cabin above. What was said
between them we never heard, but we gathered at the foot of the stairs
in the hall and listened to their voices. The old man bellowed as
though he was in pain, and shook the windows with his noise; Cullen's
voice came to us only as a smooth, continuous murmur. For half an hour
perhaps we stood thus in the hall--interference would have only made
matters worse--and I own that this half hour was not wholly unpleasant
to me. Helen, in a word, was afraid, and more than once her hand was
laid upon my coat-sleeve, and, touching it, ceased to tremble. She
turned to me, it seemed, in that half hour of fear; I was fool enough
to think it.

"At length we heard a door opening. Cullen negligently came down the
stairs; Adam rushed out after him as far as the head of the stairs,
where he stopped.

"'Open the door, one of you!' he bawled. 'Kick him out, Clutterbuck,
and we'll see what damned muck-heap his fine manners will lead him
to.'

"The outcry brought the servants scurrying into the hall. Adam
repeated his order and one of the servants threw open the door.

"'Will you fetch me my boots?' said Cullen, and sitting down in a
chair he kicked off his shoes. Then he pulled on his boots
deliberately, stood up and felt in his pockets. From one pocket he
drew out five guineas, from a second two, from a third four. These
eleven guineas he held in his open hand.

"'They belong to you, I think,' he said, softly, poising them in his
palm; and before any one could move a step or indeed guess at his
intention, he raised his arm and flung them with all his force to
where his father stood at the head of the stairs. Two of the guineas
cut the old man in the forehead, and the blood ran down his face; the
rest sparkled and clattered against the panels behind his head, whence
they fell on to the stairs and rolled one by one down into the hall.
No one spoke; no one moved. The brutal violence of the action for the
moment paralysed every one; even Adam stood shaking at the stair head
with his wits wandering. One by one the guineas rolled down the
staircase, leaping from step to step, rattling as they leaped; and for
a long time it seemed, one whirred and sang in a corner as it span
round and settled down upon the boards; and when the coin had ceased
to spin, still no one moved, no one spoke. A murmur of waves breaking
lazily upon the sand, a breath of air stirring a shrub in the garden,
the infinitesimal trumpeting of a gnat, came through the window,
bringing as it were tales of things which lived into a room of
statues.

"Cullen himself was the first to break the enchantment. He took his
watch from his fob and holding it by the ribbon twirled it backwards
and forwards. It was a big silver watch, and as he twirled it this way
and that, it caught the light, seemed to throw out little sparks of
fire, and flashed with a dazzling brightness. The eyes of the company
were caught by it; they watched it with a keen attention, not knowing
why they watched it; they watched it as it shone and glittered in its
revolutions, almost with a sense of expectation, as though something
of great consequence was to happen from the twirling of that watch.

"'This, too, is yours,' said Cullen, 'but it was no doubt some dead
sailorman's before you stole it;' and ceasing to twirl the watch he
held it steady by the ribbon. Then he looked round the hall and saw
Helen staring at the watch with a queer intentness. I remember that
her hand was at that moment resting upon my sleeve, and I felt it grow
more rigid. I looked at her; her face was set, her eyes fixed upon
Cullen and his glittering watch. I spoke to her; she did not answer,
she did not hear."

Clutterbuck interrupted his story and sat moodily lost in his
recollections, and when he resumed it was with great bitterness.

"I think," he continued, "that when Cullen spoke, he spoke with no
other end than to provoke his father yet more. You must know that the
old man had just one tender spot in his heart. Cullen could have no
other aim but to set his heel on that.

"'I will come back for you, Helen,' he said, bending his eyes upon her
and making as if there was much love between them; and to everybody's
surprise Helen lifted her eyes slowly from the watch until they met
Cullen's, and kept them there. She did not answer him in words, there
was no need she should, every line of her body expressed obedience.

"Even Cullen was puzzled by her demeanour. Boy and girl, maid and
youth, they had lived side by side in the house with indifference upon
his part and all the appearance of aversion upon hers. Yet here was
she subdued in an instant at the prospect of his departure! It seemed
that the mere thought that Cullen was henceforth an outcast tore her
secret live and warm from her heart.

"Cullen was plainly puzzled, as I say, but he was not the man to miss
an advantage in the gratification of his malice. He shot one
triumphant look at his father and spoke again to Helen.

"'You will wait for me?'

"Her eyes never wavered from his.

"'Yes!' she answered.

"It was a humiliating moment for me as you may imagine. It must have
been more humiliating for Adam. With a hand upon the rail he lumbered
heavily down a couple of the stairs.

"'No!' he cried, with a dreadful oath and in a voice which was
strangely moved.

"'But I say yes,' said Cullen, very quietly. The smile had gone from
his face; a new excitement kindled it. He was pitting his will against
his father's. I saw him suddenly draw himself erect. 'Or, better
still, you shall come with me now,' he cried. He reached out his arm
straight from the shoulder towards her.

"'Come! Come with me now.'

"His voice rang out dominant like the clang of a trumpet, and to the
consternation of us all, Helen crossed the floor towards him. I tried
to detain her. 'Helen,' I cried, 'you do not know what you are doing.
He will drag you into the gutter.'

"'Lieutenant Clutterbuck,' said Cullen, 'you are very red in the face.
You cannot expect she will listen to you, for you do not look well
when you are red in the face.'

"I paid no heed to his gibes.

"'Helen,' I cried, again. She paid no more heed to my prayers. 'What
will you do? Where will you go?' I asked.

"'We shall go to London,' answered Cullen, 'where we shall do very
well, and further to the best of our means Lieutenant Clutterbuck's
advancement.'

"Humiliation and grief had overset my judgment or I should not have
argued at this moment with Cullen Mayle. I flung out at him hotly, and
like a boy.

"'When you are doing very well in London, Cullen Mayle, Lieutenant
Clutterbuck will not be so far behind you.'

"'He will indeed be close upon my heels,' returned Cullen as
pleasantly as possible, 'for most likely he will be carrying my
valise.'

"With that he turned again to Helen, beckoned her to follow him, and
strode towards the open door. She did follow him. Cullen was already
in the doorway; in another second she would have crossed the
threshold. But with a surprising agility Adam Mayle jumped down the
stairs, ran across the hall, and caught the girl in his arms. She did
not struggle to free herself, but she strained steadily towards
Cullen. The old man's arms were strong, however.

"'Shut the door,' he cried, and I sprang forward and slammed it to.

"'Lock it! Bolt it!'

"Adam stood with his arms about the girl until the heavy bar swung
down across the door and dropped into its socket with a clang. Now do
you understand why I will not go down to Tresco? I can give you
another reason if you are not content. When I spoke to Helen two days
later, and taxed her with her passion for Cullen,--would you believe
it?--she was deeply pained and hurt. She would not have it said that
she had so much as thought of following Cullen's fortunes. She
outfaced me as though I had been telling her fairy tales, and not what
my own eyes saw. No, indeed, I will not go down to Tresco! I am not
the traveller who has ridden into your wood upon the Great West Road."

Lieutenant Clutterbuck took up his hat when he had finished his story,

"The girl, besides, is not worth a thought," said he.

"I am not thinking of her," said I. Of Lieutenant Clutterbuck, of
myself, above all of Dick Parmiter, I was thinking, but not at all of
Helen Mayle. I drew the map towards me. Clutterbuck stopped at the
door, came back and again leaned over my shoulder.

"Has your traveller come out from that wood?" he asked.

"No," I answered.

"It is an allegory," said he. "The man who rides down on this business
to the West will, in very truth, enter into a wood from which he will
not get free."



                              CHAPTER V

                      THE ADVENTURE IN THE WOOD


A loud roll of drums beneath my windows, the inspiriting music of
trumpets, the lively measured stamp of feet. The troops with General
Amherst at their head were marching down St. James's Street on their
way to embark for Canada, and the tune to which they marched sang in
my head that day as I rode out of London. The beat of my horse's hoofs
kept time to it, and at Brentford a girl singing in a garden of
apple-trees threw me a snatch of a song to fit to it.

She sang, and I caught the words up as I rode past. The sparkle of
summer was in the air, and an Indian summer, if you will, at my heart.
I slept that night at Hartley Row, and the next at Down House, and the
third at a little inn some miles beyond Dorchester. A brook danced at
the foot of the house, and sang me to sleep with the song I had heard
at Brentford, and, as I lay in bed, I could see out of my window the
starlight and the quiet fields white with a frost of dew and thickets
of trees very black and still; and towards sunset upon the fourth day,
I suddenly reined in my horse to one side and sat stone-still. To my
left, the road ran straight and level for a long way, and nowhere upon
it was there a living thing; on each side stretched fields and no one
moved in them, and no house was visible. That way I had come, and I
had remarked upon the loneliness. To my right, the road ran forward
into a thick wood, and vanished beneath a roof of overhanging boughs.
It was the aspect of that wood which took my breath away, and it
surprised me because it was familiar. There was a milestone which I
recognised just where the first tree overhung the road; there was a
white gate in the hedge some twenty paces this side of the milestone.
I knew that too. Just behind where I sat there should be three tall
poplars ranged in a line like sentinels, the wood's outposts; I
turned, and in the field behind me, the poplars reached up against the
sky. I had no doubt they would be there, yet the sight of them fairly
startled me. I had seen them--yes, but never in my life had I ridden
along this road before. I had seen them only on the map in my lodging
at St. James's Street.

The sun dropped down behind the trees, and the earth turned grey. I
sat there in the saddle with I know not what superstitious fancies
upon me. I could not but remember that the traveller had ridden into
the wood, and had not ridden out and down the open bank of grass upon
the other side. "What if his horse has stumbled?" Clutterbuck had
asked. "What if he is lying at the roadside under the trees?" I could
see that picture very clearly, and at last, very clearly too, the
rider's face. I looked backwards down the road with an instinctive
hope that some other traveller might be riding my way in whose company
I might go along. But the long level slip of white was empty. All the
warmth seemed to have gone from the world with the dropping of the
sun. A sad chill twilight crept over the lonely fields. A shiver
caught and shook me; I gathered up the reins and rode slowly among the
trees, where already it was night.

I rode at first in the centre of the highway, and found the clatter of
my horse's hoofs a very companionable sound. But in a little the
clatter seemed too loud, it was too clear a warning of my approach, it
seemed to me in some way a provocation of danger. I drew to one side
of the road where the leaves had drifted and made a carpet whereon I
rode without noise. But now the silence seemed too eerie--I heard, and
started at, the snapping of every twig. I strained my ears to catch
the noise of creeping footfalls, and I was about to guide my horse
back to the middle of the road, when I turned a corner suddenly, and
saw in front of me in a space where the forest receded and let the sky
through, lights gleaming in a window.

I set spurs to the horse and galloped up to the door. The house was an
inn; the landlord was already at the threshold, and in a very short
while I was laughing at my fears over my supper in the parlour.

"Am I your only guest to-night?" I asked.

"There is one other, sir," returned the landlord as he served me, and
as he spoke I heard a footstep in the passage. The door was pushed
open, and a young man politely bowed to me in the entrance.

"You have a very pretty piece of horseflesh, sir," said he, as he came
into the room. "I took the liberty of looking it over a minute ago in
the stables."

"It is not bad," said I. There was never a man in the world who did
not relish praise of his horse, and I warmed to my new acquaintance.
"We are both, it seems, sleeping here to-night, and likely enough we
are travelling the same road to-morrow."

The young man shook his head.

"I could wish indeed," said he, "that we might be fellow-travellers,
but though it may well be we follow the same road, we do not, alas,
travel in the same way," and he showed me his boots which were thickly
covered with dust. "My horse fell some half-a-dozen miles from here
and snapped a leg. I must needs walk to-morrow so far as where I trust
to procure another--that is to say," he continued, "if I do not have
to keep my bed, for I have taken a devilish chill this evening," and
drawing up his chair to the empty fireplace, he crouched over an
imaginary fire and shivered.

Now since he sat in this attitude, I could not but notice his boots,
and I fell to wondering what in the world he had done with his spurs.
For he wore none, and since he had plainly not troubled to repair the
disorder of his dress, it seemed strange that he should have gone to
the pains of removing his spurs. However, I was soon diverted from
this speculation by the distress into which Mr. Featherstone's cold
threw him. Featherstone was his name, as he was polite enough to tell
me in the intervals of coughing, and I told him mine in return. At
last his malady so increased that he called for the landlord, and
bidding him light a great fire in his bedroom said he must needs go to
bed.

"I trust, however," he continued politely to me, "that you, Mr.
Berkeley, will prove a Samaritan, and keep me company for a while. For
I shall not sleep, upon my word I shall not sleep a wink," and he was
so positive in his assurances that, though I was myself sufficiently
tired, I thought it no more than kindness to fall in with his wishes.

Accordingly I followed him into his bedroom, where he lay in a great
canopied bed, with a big fire blazing upon the hearth, and a bottle of
rum with a couple of glasses upon a table at the bedside.

"It is an ague," said he, "which I caught upon the Gambia River, and
from which I have ever since suffered many inconveniences;" he poured
out the rum into the glasses, and wished me with great politeness all
prosperity.

It was no doubt, also, because he had voyaged on the Gambia River that
he suffered no inconvenience from the heat of the room. But what with
the hot August night, and the blazing fire, and the closed window, I
became at once so drowsy that I could hardly keep my eyes open, and I
wished him good-night.

"But you will not go," said he. "We are but this moment acquainted,
and to-morrow we shall wave a farewell each to the other. Let us, Mr.
Berkeley, make something of the meanwhile, I beg you."

I answered him that I did not wish to appear churlish, but that I
should most certainly appear so if I fell asleep while we talked,
which, in spite of myself, I was very likely to do.

"But I have a bottle of salts here," said he, with a laugh, as he
reached out of bed and fumbled with his coat. "I have a bottle of
salts here which will infallibly persuade you from any thought of
sleep," and he drew out from the pocket of his coat a pack of cards.
"Well, what do you say?" he continued, as I did not move.

"It is some while since I handled a card," said I slowly.

"A game of picquet," he suggested.

"It is a good game," said I.

He flipped the edges of the cards with his thumb. I drew nearer to the
bed.

"Well, one game then," said I.

"To be sure," said he, shuffling the cards.

"And the stakes must be low."

"I hate a gambler myself."

He cut the cards. I sat down on the bedside and dealt them.

"It is your elder," said I.

He looked disconsolately at his hand.

"Upon my word," said he. "Deuce take me if I know what to discard. I
have no hand for picquet at all, though as luck will have it I have
very good putt cards."

I glanced through my hand.

"I have better putt cards than you," said I.

"It is not likely," he returned.

"I'll make a wager of it," I cried.

"Your horse," said he, leaning up on his elbow. He spoke a trifle too
eagerly, he sprang up on his elbow a trifle too quickly. I looked
again through my hand, and I laid the cards down on the counterpane.

"No," said I quietly. "It is very likely you are right: I have two
treys and an ace, but you may have two treys and a deuce."

"Why, this is purely magical," he exclaimed, with the most natural
burst of laughter imaginable. "Two treys and a deuce! Those are indeed
the cards I hold."

He fell back again in the bed, and we played our single game of
picquet. He won the game. Indeed, he could not but win it, for I paid
no attention whatever to the cards which I held, or to how I should
draw, or--and this perhaps was my most important omission--to how Mr.
Featherstone shuffled and dealt. The truth is, I had suddenly become
very curious about Mr. Featherstone. I had recalled his great
politeness of manner. I remarked his face, which was of an almost
girlish delicacy. I reflected that here was a man in a great hurry to
travel by the same road as myself, and I remembered how I had learned
that trick by which he had tried to outwit me of my horse. Even as it
was I had all but fallen into the trap. I should most certainly have
done so had not Lieutenant Clutterbuck once explained it to me on a
particular occasion. I remembered that occasion very clearly as I sat
on the bed playing this game of picquet by the light of a single
candle, and I wondered whether I could fit Mr. Featherstone with
another name.

"I am afraid," said he, "that this is a capote," as I played my last
card.

"But the loss is trifling," said I, "and I have kept my horse."

"Very true," said he, whistling softly between his teeth. "You have
kept your horse," and as I wished him good--night, he added, "you will
be careful to shut the door behind you, won't you?"

But before the words were out of his mouth, he was seized with so
violent a paroxysm of shivering that he could barely stammer out the
end of the sentence.

"These infernal fevers," said he, with a groan.

"I notice, however," I returned, "that they are intermittent," and
latching the door as he again requested me, I went off to my own room.

I could not but wonder what trickery the fire was intended to help,
for until the last fit of the ague had seized him, he had given no
sign of any sickness since he had brought out the cards. However,
there was a more important question to occupy my mind. I had little
doubt that Mr. Featherstone was Cullen Mayle: I had little doubt that
he was hurrying as fast as he could to the Scillies, since he had
received no answer to the message which he sent with the negro. But
should I tell him of the men who watched for his coming, keeping their
watches as at sea? On the one side their presence meant danger to
Cullen Mayle, it could hardly mean anything else; and since it meant
danger he should be warned of it.

On the other hand, the watchers might have tired of their watching and
given it up as profitless. Besides I was by no means sure in what
light Cullen himself was to be regarded. Was his return to Tresco, a
prospect to be welcomed or deplored? Did he come as a friend to that
distracted girl alone in the lonely house by the sand? I could not
answer these questions. I knew Cullen to be a knave, I knew that the
girl cared for him, and these two items made the sum of my knowledge.
I turned over in my bed and fell asleep, thinking that my course might
be clear to me in the morning.

And in the morning it was clear. I woke up with a mind made up. I had
a horse; Cullen travelled on foot; since he had come so far on foot,
it was not likely that he had the money to purchase a horse, for the
story of the stumble and the broken leg I entirely disbelieved, and
with the best of reasons. I had travelled myself along that road
yesterday, and I had passed no disabled horse upon the way. I had
therefore the advantage of Cullen. I would journey on without saying a
word to him of my destination. I would on arriving take council with
Dick Parmiter and Helen Mayle and seek to fathom the trouble. I should
still have time to cross back to the mainland and hinder Cullen from
attempting the passage.

Thus I planned to do, but the plan was never put to the test of
action. For while I was still dressing, a loud hubbub and confusion
filled the house. I opened my door. The noise came from the direction
of Cullen's room. I hastily slipped on my coat and ran down the
passage. I could hear Cullen's voice very loud above the rest, a woman
or two protesting with a shrill indignation and the landlord trying to
make all smooth, though what the bother was about I could not
distinguish.

It seemed that the whole household was gathered in the room, though
Mr. Featherstone still lay abed. The moment that I appeared in the
doorway,

"Ah! here's a witness," he cried. "Mr. Berkeley, you were the last to
leave me last night. You closed the door behind you? I was particular
to ask you to close the door?"

"I remember that very well," said I, "for I was wondering how in the
world you could put up with the door closed and a blazing fire."

"There!" cried Featherstone turning to the landlord. "You hear? Mr.
Berkeley is a gentleman beyond reproach. He shut the door behind him,
and this morning I find it wide open and my breeches gone. There is a
thief, sir, in your inn, and we travellers must go on our way without
breeches. It is the most inconsiderate theft that ever I heard of."

"As for the breeches, sir," began the landlord.

"I don't care a button for them," cried Featherstone. "But there was
money in the breeches' pockets. Fifteen guineas in gold, and a couple
of bills on Mr. Nossiter, the banker at Exeter."

"The bills can be stopped," said the landlord. "We are but eighteen
miles from Exeter."

"But how am I to travel those miles; do you expect me to walk there in
my shirt tails. No, I stay here in bed until my breeches are found,
and, burn me, if I don't eat up everything in the house," and
immediately he began to roar out for food. "I will have chops at once,
and there's a great sirloin of beef, and bring me a tankard of small
ale."

Then he turned again to me, and said pathetically,

"It is not the breeches I mind, though to be sure I shall cut a
ridiculous figure on the highroad; no, nor the money, though I have
not a stiver left. But I woke up this morning in the sweetest
good-humour, and here am I in a violent passion at nine o'clock in the
morning, and my whole day spoilt. It is so discouraging," and he lay
back upon the pillow as though he would have wept.

The landlord offered him his Sunday breeches. They were of red cloth,
and a belted earl might wear them without shame.

"But not without discomfort," grumbled Mr. Featherstone, contemplating
the landlord who was of a large figure. "They will hang about me in
swathes like a petticoat."

"And as for the fifteen guineas," said I, "my purse is to that amount
at your disposal."

"That is a very gentlemanly offer, Mr. Berkeley," said he, "from one
stranger to another. But I have a horror of borrowing. I cannot accept
your munificence. No, I will walk in my host's red cloth breeches as
far as Rockbere, which to be sure is no more than twelve miles, quite
penniless, but when I reach my friends, upon my word, I will make such
a noise about this inn as will close its doors, strike me dead and
stiff, if don't."

His threat had its effect. The landlord, after the usual protestations
that such an incident had never occurred before, that he had searched
the house even to the servants' boxes, and that he could make neither
head nor tail of the business, wound up his harangue with an offer of
five guineas.

"It is all I have in the house, sir," said he, "and of course I shall
charge you neither for food nor lodging."

"Of course not," said Mr. Featherstone indignantly. "Well, I must make
the best of it, but oh! I woke up with so happy a disposition towards
the world;" and dismissing the women he got up and dressed. The
landlord fetched the five guineas and his red cloth breeches, which
Featherstone drew on.

"Was ever a man so vilely travestied?" he said. "Sure, I shall be
taken for a Hollander. That is hard for a person of some elegance,"
and he tied his cravat and went grumbling from the room.

"This is a great misfortune, sir, for me," said my host. "I have lived
honest all my days. There is no one in the house who would steal; on
that I would stake my life. I can make nothing of it."

"Mr. Featherstone is quite recovered from his ague," said I slowly. I
crossed over to the empty fireplace heaped with the white ashes of the
logs which had blazed there the night before.

"The fire no doubt did him some benefit."

"That is precisely what I was thinking," said I, and I knelt down on
the hearth-rug and poked amongst the ashes with the shovel. Suddenly,
the landlord uttered an exclamation and threw up the window. I heard
the clatter of a horse's hoofs upon the road. I got up from my knees
and rushed to the window. As I leaned out Mr. Featherstone rode
underneath and he rode my horse.

"Stop!" I shouted out.

"Mr. Berkeley," he cried, airily waving his hand as he rode by, "you
may hold very good putt cards, but you haven't kept your horse."

"You damned thief!" I yelled, and he turned in his saddle and put out
his tongue. It is, if you think of it, a form of repartee to which
there is no reply. In any case I doubt if I could have made any reply
which would have reached his ears. For he had set the horse to a
gallop and was far down the road.

I went back to the hearth where the landlord joined me. We both knelt
down and raked away the ashes.

"What's that?" said I, pointing to something blackened and scorched.
The landlord picked it up.

"It is a piece of corduroy."

"And here's a bone button," said I. "The ague was a sham, the fire a
device to rob you. He came here without a penny piece and burnt his
breeches last night. He has robbed you, he has robbed me, and he will
reach the Scilly Islands first. How far is it to Rockbere?"

"Twelve miles."

"I must walk those twelve miles?"

"Yes."

"Will I get a horse there?"

"It is doubtful."

"He has a day's start then at the least."

So after all, though the horse did not stumble, nor the rider lie
quiet by the roadside, he did not ride out of the forest at a gallop,
and down the green bank into the open space beyond.



                              CHAPTER VI

                      MY FIRST NIGHT UPON TRESCO


I walked that day into Rockbere, and taking the advice of the
innkeeper with whom I lodged, I hired a hack and a guide from him the
next morning and struck across country for the sea; for he assured me
that I should most likely find a fishing smack at Topsham whose master
would put me over to the Scillies, and that if the wind did but favour
me I should reach the islands sooner that way than if I had the
quickest horse under me that was ever foaled. It was of the greatest
urgency that I should set foot on Tresco before Cullen Mayle. I had to
risk something to achieve that object, and I risked the wind. It was
in the northeast when I started from Rockbere and suited my purpose
finely if it did but hold; so that I much regretted I was not already
on the sea, and rode in a perpetual fear lest it should change its
quarter. I came to Honiton Clyst that night, and to Topsham the next
day, where I was fortunate enough to find a boat of some thirty tons
and to come to an agreement with its master. He had his crew ready to
his hand; he occupied the morning in provisioning the smack; and we
stood out of the harbour in the evening, and with a steady wind on our
quarter made a good run to the Start Point. Shortly after we passed
the Start the wind veered round into the north, which did us no great
harm, since these boats sail their best on a reach. We reached then
with a soldier's breeze, as the saying is, out to the Eddystone Rock
and the Lizard Point.

It was directly after we had sighted the Lizard that the wind began to
fall light, and when we were just off the Point it failed us
altogether. I remember that night as well as any other period in the
course of these incidents. I was running a race with Cullen Mayle, and
I was beginning to think that it was not after all only on account of
his peril that it was needful for me to reach Tresco before he did.
These last two days I had been entirely occupied with the stimulation
of that race and the inspiriting companionship of the sea. The waves
foaming away from the bows and bubbling and hissing under the lee of
the boat, the flaws of wind blistering the surface of the water as
they came off the land towards us, making visible their invisible
approach; the responsive spring of the boat, like a horse under the
touch of a spur--these mere commonplaces to my companions had for me
an engrossing enchantment. But on that evening at the Lizard Point the
sea lay under the sunset a smooth, heaving prism of colours; we could
hear nothing but the groaning of the blocks, the creaking of the
boom's collars against the masts; and the night came out from behind
the land very peaceful and solemn, and solemnly the stars shone out in
the sky. All the excitement of the last days died out of me. We swung
up and down with the tide. Now the lights of Falmouth were visible to
us at the bottom of the bay, now the Lizard obscured them from us. I
was brought somehow to think of those last years of mine in London.
They seemed very distant and strange to me in this clean air, and the
pavement of St. James's Street, which I had daily trodden, became an
unacceptable thing.

About two o'clock of the morning a broad moon rose out of the sea, and
towards daybreak a little ruffing breeze sprang up, and we made a
gentle progress across the bay towards Land's End; but the breeze sank
as the sun came up, and all that day we loitered, gaining a little
ground now and then and losing it again with the turn of the tide. It
was not until the fifth evening that we dropped anchor in the road
between St. Mary's Island and Tresco.

I waited until it was quite dark, and was then quietly rowed ashore
with my valise in the ship's dinghy. I landed on Tresco near to the
harbour of New Grimsby. It was at New Grimsby that Dick Parmiter
lived, Clutterbuck had told me, and the first thing I had to do was to
find Dick Parmiter without arousing any attention.

Now on an island like Tresco, sparsely inhabited and with no commerce,
the mere presence of a stranger would assuredly provoke comment. I
walked, therefore, very warily towards the village. One house I saw
with great windows all lighted up, and that I took to be the Palace
Inn, where Adam Mayle and Cullen used to sit side by side on the
settle and surprise the visitors by their unlikeness to one another.
There was a small cluster of cottages about the inn with a lane
straggling between, and further away, round the curve of the little
bay, were two huts close to the sea.

It would be in one of these that Dick Parmiter lived, and I crept
towards them. There was no light whatever in the first of them, but
the door stood open, and a woman and a man stood talking in the
doorway. I lay down in the grass and crawled towards them, if by any
chance I might hear what they said. For a while I could distinguish
nothing of what they said, but at last the man cried in a clear voice,
"Good-night, Mrs. Grudge," and walked off to the inn. The woman went
in and closed the door. I was sure then that the next cottage was the
one for which I searched. I walked to it; there was a light in the
window and the sound of voices talking.

I hesitated whether to go in boldly and ask for Dick. But it would be
known the next morning that a stranger had come for Dick; no doubt,
too, Dick's journey to London was known, and the five men watching the
house on Merchant's Point would be straightway upon the alert. Besides
Dick might not have reached home. I walked round the hut unable to
decide what I should do, and as I came to the back of it a light
suddenly glowed in a tiny window there. I cautiously approached the
window and looked through. Dick Parmiter was stripping off his jersey,
and was alone.

I tapped on the window. Dick raised his head, and then put out the
light, so that I could no longer see into the room; but in a moment
the window was slowly lifted, and the boy's voice whispered:

"Is that you, Mr. Mayle?"

I drew a breath of relief. I was ahead of Cullen Mayle, though he had
stolen my horse.

"No," said I; "but I have come on Cullen Mayle's business."

The boy leaned out of the window and peered into my face. But voices
were raised in the room beyond this cupboard, and a woman's voice
cried out, "Dick, Dick!"

"That's mother," said Dick to me. "Wait! I will come out to you."

He closed the window, and I lay down again in the grass, and waited
there for perhaps an hour. A mist was coming up from the sea and
thickening about the island; the starlight was obscured; wreaths of
smoke, it seemed, came in puffs between myself and the house, and at
last I heard the rustling of feet in the grass.

"Dick," said I in a whisper, and the lad came to me.

"I remember you," he said. "You were at Lieutenant Clutterbuck's. Why
have you come?"

"Upon my word," said I, "I should find it difficult to tell you."

Indeed, it would have taken me half the night to explain the motives
which had conjoined to this end.

"And now that you are come, what is it you mean to do?"

"Dick," I returned, "you ask the most disconcerting questions. You
tramp up to London with a wild story of a house watched----"

"You come as a friend, then," he broke in eagerly.

"As your friend, yes."

Dick sat silent for a moment.

"I think so," he said at length.

"And here's a trifle to assure you," I said. "Cullen Mayle is not very
far behind me. You may expect him upon Tresco any morning."

Dick started to his feet.

"Are you sure of that? You do not know him. How are you sure?"

"Clutterbuck described him to me. I overtook him on the road, and
stayed the same night with him at an inn. He robbed me and robbed the
landlord. There was a trick at the cards, too. Not a doubt of it,
Cullen Mayle is close on my heels. Are those five men still watching
the house?"

"Yes. They are still upon Tresco. They lodge here and there with the
fishermen, and make a pretence to burn kelp or to fish for their
living; but their business is to watch the house, as you will see
to-night. There are six of them now, not five."

He led me as he spoke towards the "Palace Inn," where a light still
burned in the kitchen. The cottages about the inn, however, were by
this time dark, and we could advance without risk of being seen. Dick
stopped me under the shadow of a wall not ten yards from the inn. A
red blind covered the lower part of the window, but above it I could
see quite clearly into the kitchen.

"Give me a back," whispered Dick, who reached no higher than my
shoulder. I bent down and Dick climbed on to my shoulders, whence he
too could see the interior of the kitchen.

"That will go," said he in a little, and slid to the ground. "Can you
see a picture on the wall?"

"Yes."

"And a man sitting under the picture--a squat, squabby man with white
hair and small eyes very bright?"

"Yes."

"That is the sixth man. He came to Tresco while I was in London. I
found him here when I came back two days ago. But I had seen him
before. He had come to Tresco before. His name is George Glen."

"George Glen!" said I. "Wait a bit," and I took another look at the
man in the kitchen. "He was quartermaster with Adam Mayle at Whydah,
eh? He is the stranger you brought over to St. Mary's Church on the
day when Cullen Mayle sat in the stocks."

"Yes," said Dick, and he asked me how I knew.

"Clutterbuck told me," I replied.

From the inn we walked some few yards along a lane until we were free
of the cottages, and then leaving the path, mounted inland up a hill
of gorse. Dick gave me on the way an account of his journey homewards
and the difficulties he had surmounted. I paid only an indifferent
attention to his story, for I was wholly occupied with George Glen's
presence upon the island. Glen had come first of all to visit Adam
Mayle, and was now watching for Cullen. What link was there between
his two visits? I was inclined to think that George Glen was the clue
to the whole mystery. In spite of my inattention, I gathered this much
however from Dick. That tramp of his to London was well known
throughout the islands. His mother had given him up for dead when he
went away, and had thrashed him soundly when he returned, but the next
day had made him out a great hero in her talk. She did not know why he
went to London, for Dick had the discretion to hold his tongue upon
that point.

So much Parmiter had told me when he suddenly stopped and listened. I
could hear nothing, however much I strained my ears, and in a moment
or two Dick began to move on. The mist was very thick about us--I
could not see a yard beyond my nose; but we were now going down hill,
so that I knew we had crossed the ridge of the island and were
descending towards the harbour of New Grimsby and the house under
Merchant's Rock.

We had descended for perhaps a couple of hundred yards; then Dick
stopped again. He laid a hand upon my arm and dragged me down among
the gorse, which was drenched with the fog.

"What is it?" said I.

"Hush," he whispered; and even as he whispered I saw a sort of brown
radiance through the fog a long way to my left. The next instant a
speck of clear light shone out in the heart of this radiance: it was
the flame of a lantern, and it seemed miles away. I raised myself upon
my elbows to watch it. Dick pulled my elbow from beneath me, and
pressed me down flat in the grass; and it was fortunate that he did,
for immediately the lantern loomed out of the fog not a dozen yards
away. I heard it rattle as it swung, and the man who carried it
tramped by so near to me that if I had stretched out my hand I could
have caught him by the ankle and jerked him off his feet. It was the
purest good fortune that he did not detect us, and we lay very still
until the rustle of the footsteps had altogether died away.

"Is that one of them?" I asked.

"Yes; William Blads. He lodges with Mrs. Crudge next to our cottage."

We continued to descend through the gorse for another quarter of an
hour or so until an extraordinary sound at our feet brought us both to
an halt. It was the strangest melancholy screeching sound that ever I
had heard: it was so harsh it pierced the ears; it was so wild and
eerie that I could hardly believe a voice uttered it. It was like a
shrill cry of pain uttered by some live thing that was hardly human.
It startled me beyond words, and the more so because it rose out of
the fog directly at our feet. Dick Parmiter trembled at my side.

"Quick," he whispered in a shaking voice; "let us go! Oh, let us go!"

But he could not move for all his moaning. His limbs shook as though
he had the fever; terror chained him there to the ground. Had I not
known the boy under other circumstances, I should have set him down
for a coward.

I took a step forward. Dick caught hold of my arm and muttered
something, but his voice so wavered and gasped I could not distinguish
what he said. I shook his arm off, and again stepped forward for one,
two, three paces. As I took the third pace the ground suddenly sloped,
my feet slipped on the wet grass; I let go of my valise, and I fell to
my full length upon my back, and slid. And the moment I began to slide
my feet touched nothing. I caught at the grass, and the roots of it
came away in my hands. I turned over on my face. Half my body was now
hanging over the edge. I hung for a second by my waist, and as I felt
my waist slipping, I struck out wildly upon each side with my arms. My
right arm struck against a bush of gorse; I seized hold of it, and it
bent, but it did not break. I lifted a knee carefully, set it on the
edge, and so crawled up the slope again.

Dick was lying on his face peering down towards me.

"My God," said he, "I thought you had fallen;" and reaching out his
hands, he caught both my arms as though he was afraid I should slip
again. "Oh, quick," he said, "let us go!"

And again I heard the shrill screech rise up from that hollow into
which I had so nearly fallen. It was repeated and repeated with a
regular interval between--an interval long enough for Dick to
reiterate his eager prayer.

"It has begun again," said I.

"It has never ceased since we first heard it," said Dick, and no doubt
he spoke the truth; only I had been deaf to it from the moment my foot
slipped until now. "Let us go," and picking up my valise he hurried me
away, turning his head as he went, shuddering whenever he heard that
cry.

"But it may be some one in distress--some one who needs help."

"No, no," he cried; "it is no one. I will tell you to-morrow."

We skirted the top of the hollow, and once more descended. The fog
showed no sign of clearing, but Parmiter walked with an assured tread,
and in a little time he began to recover his spirits.

"We are close to the house," said he.

"Dick, you are afraid of ghosts," said I; and while I spoke he uttered
a cry and clung to my arm. A second later something brushed past my
hand very quickly. I just saw it for an instant as it flitted past,
and then the darkness swallowed it up.

Dick blurted out this fable: the souls of dead drowned sailormen kept
nightly tryst on Castle Down.

"That was no spirit," said I. "Play the man, Dick. Did you ever meet a
spirit that trod with the weight of a body?"

I could hear the sound of feet rustling the grass beneath us. Dick
listened with his hand to his ear.

"The tread is very light," said he.

"That is because it is a woman who treads."

"No woman would be abroad here in this fog at this time," he
protested.

"Nevertheless, it was a woman; for I saw her, and her dress brushed
against my hand. It was a woman, and you cried out at her; so that if
there is any one else upon the watch to-night, it is very likely we
shall have him upon our heels."

That argument sobered him, and we went forward again without speaking
to each other, and only halting now and again to listen. In a very
short while we heard the sea booming upon the beach, and then Dick
stepped forward yet more warily, feeling about with his hands.

"There should be a fence hereabouts," said he, and the next moment I
fell over it with a great clatter. A loud whistle sounded from the
beach--another whistle answered behind us, and I heard the sound of a
man running up from the sand. We both crouched in the grass close by
the palisade, and again the fog saved us. I heard some one beating
about in the grass with a stick, but he did not come near us, and at
last he turned back to the sea.

"You see," said Dick, "I told Lieutenant Clutterbuck the truth. The
house is watched."

"Devil a doubt of it," said I. "Do you go forward and see if you can
get in."

He came back to me in a little space of time, saying that the door was
barred, and that he could see no light through any chink. He had
stolen all round the house; he had rapped gently here and there at a
window, but there was no one waking.

"And what are we to do now?" said he. "If I make a clatter and rouse
the house, we shall rouse Cullen's enemies, too."

"It would not be wise to put them on the alert, the more particularly
since Cullen Mayle may be here to-morrow. I will go back to the
'Palace' Inn, sleep the night there, and come over here boldly in the
morning." And I got up and shouldered my valise again. But Dick
stopped me.

"I have a better plan than that," said he, "for George Glen is staying
at the 'Palace' Inn. What if you slept in the house here to-night! I
can come over early to-morrow and tell Miss Helen who you are, and why
you have come."

"But how am I to get into the house, without you rouse the household?"

"There is a window. It is the window of Cullen Mayle's room. You could
get through it with my help."

It seemed in many ways the best plan that could be thought of, but
certain words of Clutterbuck's that my meddling at all in the matter
would be nothing but an impertinence came back very forcibly to me.
But I heard Dick Parmiter speaking, and the thought slipped instantly
from my mind.

"I helped Cullen Mayle through the window, the night his father drove
him from the house," said he, "and----"

"What's that you say?" I asked eagerly. "The night that Cullen Mayle
was driven from the house, he climbed back into his room!"

"Yes!"

"Tell me about it, and be quick!" said I. I had my own reason for
urging him, and I listened with all my attention to every word he
spoke. He told me the sequel of the story which Clutterbuck had
related in my lodging at St. James's Street.

"I was waiting for him outside here on the beach," said he; "and when
the door was closed behind him, he came straight towards me. 'And
where am I to sleep to-night, Dick?' said he. I told him that he could
have my bed over at New Grimsby, but he refused it. 'I'm damned if I
sleep in a rat-hole,' he said, 'when by putting my pride in my pocket
I can sleep in my own bed; and with my help he clambered on to an
outhouse, and so back into his own room."

"When did he leave the island, then?" I asked. "The next morning? But
no one saw him go?"

"No," answered Dick. "I sailed him across the same night. About three
o'clock of the morning he came and tapped softly upon my window, just
as you did to-night. It was that which made me think you were Cullen
come back. He bade me slip out to him without any noise, and together
we carried my father's skiff down to the water. I sailed him across to
St. Mary's. He made me swear never to tell a word of his climbing back
into his room."

"Oh, he made you swear that?"

"Yes, he said he would rip my heart out if I broke my oath. Well, I've
kept it till to-night. No one knows but you. I got back to Tresco
before my father had stirred."

"And Cullen?"

"A barque put out from St. Mary's to Cornwall with the first of the
ebb in the morning. I suppose he persuaded the captain to take him."

Parmiter's story set me thinking, and I climbed over the palisade
after him without further objection. He came to a wall of planks; Dick
set himself firmly against it and bent his shoulders.

"This is an outhouse," said he. "From my shoulders you can reach the
roof. From the roof you can reach the window. You can force the catch
of the window with a knife."

"It will be an awkward business," said I doubtfully, "if I wake the
house."

"There is no fear of that," answered Dick. "With any other window I
would not say no. The other rooms are separated only by a thin
panelling of wood, and at one end of the house you can almost hear a
mouse scamper at the other. Mr. Cullen's room, however, is a room
built on, its inner wall is the outer wall of the house, it is the one
room where you could talk secrets and run no risk of being overheard."

"Very well," said I slowly, for this speech too set me thinking. "I
will risk it. Come over early to-morrow, Dick. I shall cut an awkward
figure without you do," and getting on to his shoulder, I clambered up
on to the roof of the outhouse. He handed my valise to me; I pushed
back the catch of the window with the blade of my knife, lifted it,
threw my leg over the sill and silently drew myself into the room. The
room was very dark, but my eyes were now accustomed to the gloom. I
could dimly discern a great four-poster bed. I shut the window without
noise, set my valise in a corner, drew off my boots and lay down upon
the bed.



                             CHAPTER VII

                TELLS OF AN EXTRAORDINARY INCIDENT IN
                        CULLEN MAYLE'S BEDROOM


I was very tired, but in spite of my fatigue it was some while before
I fell asleep. Parmiter had thrown a new light upon the business
tonight, and by the help of that light I arrayed afresh my scanty
knowledge. The strangeness of my position, besides, kept me in some
excitement. Here was I quietly abed in a house where I knew no one;
Clutterbuck might well talk about impertinence, and I could not but
wonder what in the world I should find to say if Dick was late in the
morning. Finally, there was the adventure of that night. I felt myself
again slipping down the wet grass and dangling over the precipice. I
heard again that unearthly screeching which had so frightened Dick and
perplexed me, It perplexed me still. I could not for a moment
entertain Dick's supposition of a spirit. This was the middle of the
eighteenth century, you will understand, and I had come fresh from
London. Ghosts and bogies might do very well for the island of Tresco,
but Mr. Berkeley was not to be terrified with any such old-wives'
stories, and so Mr. Berkeley fell asleep.

At what precise hour the thing happened I do not know. The room was so
dark that I could not have read my watch, even if I had looked at it,
which I did not think to do. But at some time during that night I woke
up quite suddenly with a clear sense that I had been waked up.

I sat up in my bed with my heart beating very quick; and then with as
a little noise as I could I gathered myself up in the shadow of the
bed-hangings, at the head. The fog was still thick about the house, so
that hardly a glimmer of light came from the window. But there was
some one in the room I knew, for I could hear a rustle as of stealthy
movements. And then straight in front of me between the two posts of
the bed-foot, I saw something white that wavered and swayed this way
and that. Only an hour or so before I had been boasting to myself that
I was London-bred and lived in the middle of the eighteenth century.
But none the less my hair stirred upon my head, and all the moisture
dried up in my throat as I stared at that dim white thing wavering and
swaying between the bed-posts. It was taller than any human being that
I had seen. I remembered the weird screeching sound which I had heard
in the hollow; I think that in my heart I begged Dick Parmiter's
pardon for laughing at his fears; I know that I crouched back among
the hangings and shuddered till the bed shook and shook again. And
then it made a sound, and all the blood in my veins stood still. I
thought that my heart would stop or my brain burst. For the sound was
neither a screech like that which rose from the hollow, nor a groan,
nor any ghostly noise. It was purely human, it was a kecking sound in
the throat, such as one makes who gasps for breath. The white thing
was a live thing of flesh and blood.

I sprang up on the bed and jumped to the foot of it. It was very dark
in the room, but through the darkness, I could see, on a level with my
face, the face of a woman. Her eyes were open and they stared into
mine. I could see the whites of them; our heads were so near they
almost touched.

Even then I did not understand. I wondered what it was on which she
stood. I noticed a streak of white which ran straight up towards the
ceiling from behind her head, and I wondered what that was. And then
suddenly her body swung against my legs. She was standing on nothing
whatever! Again the queer gasping coughing noise broke from her lips,
and at last I understood it. It was a gasp of a woman strangling to
death. That white stiff streak above her head--I knew what it was too.
I caught her by the waist and lifted her up till her weight rested
upon my arm. With the other arm I felt about her neck. A thick soft
scarf--silk it seemed to the touch--was knotted tightly round it, and
the end of the scarf ran up to the cross-beam above the bed-posts. The
scarf was the streak of white.

I fumbled at the knot with my fingers. It was a slip knot, and now
that no weight kept it taut, it loosened easily. I slipped the noose
back over her head and left it dangling. The woman I laid down upon
the bed, where she lay choking and moaning.

I flung up the window and the cold fog poured into the room. I had no
candle to light and nothing wherewith to light it. But I remembered
that my foot had knocked against a chair to the right of the window,
as I climbed into the room. I groped for the chair and set it to face
the open night. Then I carried the woman to the window and placed her
in the chair, and supported her so that she might not fall. Outside I
could hear the surf booming upon the sand almost within arm's reach,
and the air was brisk with the salt of the sea.

Such light as there was, glimmered upon the woman's face. I saw that
she was young, little more than a girl indeed, with hair and eyes of
an extreme blackness. She was of a slight figure as I knew from the
ease with which I carried her, but tall. I could not doubt who it was,
for one thing the white dress she wore was of some fine soft fabric,
and even in that light it was easy to see that she was beautiful.

I held her thus with the cold salt air blowing upon her face, and in a
little, she began to recover. She moved her hands upon her lap, and
finally lifted one and held her throat with it.

"Very likely there will be some water in the room," said I. "If you
are safe, if you will not fall, I will look for it."

"Thank you," she murmured.

My presence occasioned her no surprise and this I thought was no more
than natural at the moment. I took my arm from her waist and groped
about the room for the water-jug. I found it at last and a glass
beside it. These I carried back to the window.

The girl was still seated on the chair, but she had changed her
attitude. She had leaned her arms upon the sill and her head upon her
arms. I poured out the water from the jug into the tumbler. She did
not raise her head. I spoke to her. She did not answer me. A horrible
fear turned me cold. I knelt down by her side, and setting down the
water gently lifted her head. She did not resist but sank back with a
natural movement into my arms. Her eyes were closed, but she was
breathing. I could feel her breath upon my cheek and it came steadily
and regular. I cannot describe my astonishment; she was in a deep
sleep.

I pondered for a moment what I should do! Should I wake the household?
Should I explain what had happened and my presence in the house? For
Helen Mayle's sake I must not do that, since Helen Mayle it surely was
whom I held in my arms.

I propped her securely in the chair, then crossed the room, opened the
door and listened. The house was very still; so far no one had been
disturbed. A long narrow passage stretched in front of me, with doors
upon either side. Remembering what Dick Parmiter had told me, I mean
that every sound reverberated through the house, I crept down the
landing on tiptoe. I had only my stockings upon my feet and I crept
forward so carefully that I could not hear my own footfalls.

I had taken some twenty paces when the passage opened out to my right.
I put out my hand and touched a balustrade. A few yards farther on the
balustrade ceased; there was an empty space which I took to be the
beginning of the stairs, and beyond the empty space the passage closed
in again.

I crept forward, and at last at the far end of the house and on the
left hand of the passage I came to that for which I searched, and
which I barely hoped to find--an open door. I held my breath and
listened in the doorway, but there was no sound of any one breathing,
so I stepped into the room.

The fog was less dense, it hung outside the window a thin white mist
and behind that mist the day was breaking. I looked round the room. It
was a large bedroom, and the bed had not been slept in. A glance at
the toilette with its dainty knick-knacks of silver proved to me that
it was a woman's bedroom. It had two big windows looking out towards
the sea, and as I stood in the dim grey light, I wondered whether it
was from one of those windows that Adam Mayle had looked years before,
and seen the brigantine breaking up upon the Golden Ball Reef. But the
light was broadening with the passage of every minute. With the same
caution which I had observed before I stole back on tiptoe to Cullen
Mayle's room. Helen Mayle was still asleep, and she had not moved from
her posture. I raised her in my arms, and still she did not wake. I
carried her down the passage, through the open door and laid her on
the bed. There was a coverlet folded at the end of the bed and I
spread it over her. She nestled down beneath it and her lips smiled
very prettily, and she uttered a little purring murmur of content; but
this she did in her sleep. She slept with the untroubled sleep of a
child. Her face was pale, but that I took to be its natural
complexion. Her long black eyelashes rested upon her cheeks. There was
no hint of any trouble in her expression, no trace of any passionate
despair. I could hardly believe that this was the girl who had sought
to hang herself, whom I had seen struggling for her breath.

Yet there was no doubt possible. She had come into the empty
room--empty as she thought, and empty it would have been, had not a
fisher-boy burst one night into Lieutenant Clutterbuck's lodging off
the Strand--when every one slept, and there she had deliberately stood
upon the bed, fastened her noose to the cross-bar and sprang off.
There was no doubt possible. It was her spring from the bed which had
waked me up, and as I returned to Cullen's room, I saw the silk noose
still hanging from the beam.



                             CHAPTER VIII

                             HELEN MAYLE


A loud rapping on the door roused me. The mist had cleared away, and
out of the open window I could see a long sunlit slope of gorse all
yellow and purple stretching upwards, and over the slope a great space
of blue sky whereon the clouds sailed like racing boats in a strong
breeze. The door was thrust open and Dick Parmiter entered.

"You keep London hours, sir," said he, standing at the foot of the
bed, and he happened to raise his eyes. "What's that?" he asked.

_That_ was the silk scarf still dangling from the cross-bar, and the
sight of it brought back to me in a flash my adventure of the night.
With the clear sunlight filling the room and the bright wind chasing
the clouds over the sky, I could hardly believe that it had really
occurred. But the silk scarf hung between the posts.

"My God," I cried out. "What if I had never waked up!"

There would have been the sunlight and the wind in the sky as now,
but, facing me, no longer swaying, but still, inert, horrible, I
should have seen--and I clapped my hands over my face, so distinct was
this unspeakable vision to me, and cried out again: "What if I had not
waked up!

"You have not waked up very early," said Dick, looking at me
curiously, and recovering my self-possession I hasten to explain.

"I have had dreams, Dick. The strange room! I am barely awake yet."

It appeared that I was not the only one to keep London hours that
morning. It was close upon mid-day and Dick had not waked me before,
because he had not before had speech with the mistress of the house.
Helen Mayle had risen late. But she knew now of my presence in the
house and what had brought me, and was waiting to offer me her thanks.

In spite of this news that she was waiting, I made my toilette very
slowly. It would be the most awkward, embarrassing meeting imaginable.
How could one bow and smile and exchange the trivial courtesies with a
girl whom one had saved from that silk noose some eight hours before?
With what countenance would she greet me? Would she resent my
interference? Dick, however, had plainly noticed nothing unusual in
her demeanour; I consoled myself with that reflection. He noticed,
however, something unusual here in my room, for as I tied my cravat
before the mirror I saw that he was curiously looking at the silk
scarf.

"Perhaps you have seen it before," said I without turning round. Dick
started, then he coloured.

"I was wondering why it hung there," said he.

"It _is_ curious," said I calmly, and I stood upon the bed and with
some trouble, for the knots were stiff, I took it down and thrust it
into the pocket of my coat.

"It is yours?" cried Dick.

"One silk scarf is very like another," said I, and he coloured again
and was silent. His silence was fortunate, since if he had asked to
what end I had hung it above my bed, I should have been hard put to it
for an answer.

"I am ready," said I, and we walked along the passage to the
balustrade, and the head of the stairs where I had crept on tiptoe
during the night.

I noticed certain marks, a few dents, a few scratches on the panels of
the wall at the head of the stairs, and I was glad to notice them, for
they reminded me of the business upon which I had come and of certain
conjectures which Dick had suggested to my mind. It was at the head of
the stairs that Adam Mayle had stood when he drove out his son. The
marks no doubt were the marks of that handful of guineas which Cullen
had flung to splatter and sparkle against the wall behind his father's
head. I was glad to notice them, as I say, for the tragical incident
in which I had borne a share that night had driven Cullen Mayle's
predicament entirely from my thoughts.

I saw the flutter of a dress at the foot of the stairs, and a face
looked up to mine. It was the face which I had seen on a level with
mine in the black gloom of the night, and as I saw it now in the clear
light of day, I stopped amazed. It wore no expression of
embarrassment, no plea for silence. She met me with a grateful welcome
in her eyes as for one who had come unexpectedly to do her a service,
and perhaps a hint of curiosity as to why I should have come at all.

"Dick has told me of you," she said, as she held out her hand. "You
are very kind. Until this morning I did not even know the reason of
Dick's journey to London. I was not aware that he had paid a visit to
Lieutenant Clutterbuck."

There was a trifle of awkwardness in her voice as she pronounced his
name. I could not help feeling and no doubt expressing some
awkwardness as I heard it. Lieutenant Clutterbuck had not hesitated to
accuse her of duplicity; I at all events could not but acknowledge
that she was excellently versed in the woman's arts of concealment.
There was thus a moment's silence before I answered.

"You will accept me I hope as Lieutenant Clutterbuck's proxy."

"We had no right," she returned, "to expect any service from
Lieutenant Clutterbuck, much less from----" and she hesitated and
stopped abruptly.

"From a stranger you would have said," I added.

"We shall count you a stranger no longer," she said, with a frank
smile, and that I might not be outdone in politeness, I said:

"If Dick had lacked discretion and told you all that he might have
told, you would understand that the obligation is upon my side. For
whereas I do not know that I can render you any service whatever, I do
know that already you have rendered me a great one."

"That is very prettily said," she returned, as she walked into the
parlour.

"Truth at times," I answered lightly as I followed her, "can be as
pretty as the most ingenious lie."

So that first awkward meeting was past. I took my cue from her
reticence, but without her success. I could not imitate her complete
unconsciousness. It seemed she had no troubles. She sat at the table
in a flow of the highest spirits. Smiles came readily to her lips, and
her eyes laughed in unison. She was pale and the pallor was the more
marked on account of her dark hair and eyes, but the blood came and
went in her cheeks, and gave to her an infinite variety of expression.
I could hardly believe that this voice which was now lively with
contentment was the voice which had uttered that kecking sound in the
night, or that the eyes which now sparkled and flashed were the eyes
which had stared at me through the gloom. No doubt I looked at her
with more curiosity than was convenient; at all events she said, with
a laugh:

"I would give much to know what picture Dick painted of me, for if I
may judge from your looks, Mr. Berkeley, the likeness is very unlike
to the original."

I felt my cheeks grow hot, and cast about for a reason to excuse my
curiosity. Her own words suggested the reason.

"Dick told me," I said, "of a woman in great distress and perplexity,
whose house was watched, who dreaded why it was watched----"

"And you find a woman on the top of her spirits," she broke in, and
was silent for a little, looking at the cloth. "And very likely," she
continued slowly, "you are disposed to think that you have been misled
and persuaded hither for no more than a trivial purpose."

"No," I protested. "No such thought occurred to me," and in my anxiety
to free myself from the suspicion of this imputation I broke through
that compact of silence upon which we seemed silently to have agreed.
"I have no reason for pride, God knows, but indeed. Madam, I am not so
utterly despicable as to regret that I came to Tresco and crept into
your house last night. Already,--suppose there was nothing more for
me to do but to wish you a good-morning and betake myself back to
town--already I have every reason to be glad that I came, for if I had
not come----" and I stopped.

Helen Mayle listened to me with some surprise of manner at the
earnestness with which I spoke and when I stopped so abruptly, she
blushed and her eyes again sought the table.

"Yes," she said quietly, "Mr. Berkeley, you have guessed the reason of
my good spirits. If you had not come, a woman in great distress and
perplexity would be wandering restlessly about the house, as she did
yesterday."

Her eyes were still fixed upon the table, or she must have remarked my
astonishment and the pretence would at once and for all have been torn
away from between us. I leaned back in my chair; it was as much as I
could do to stifle an exclamation. If I had not come, a woman's spirit
might be wandering to-day restlessly from room to room, but the
woman--I had the silk scarf in my coat-pocket to assure me she would
not.

"The distress and perplexity," she continued, "are not done with, but
to-day a hand has been stretched to me out of the dark, and I must
think, to some good end. It could not be otherwise," and she lifted
her eyes to mine. I did not doubt their sincerity. "And--shall I tell
you?" she continued with a frank smile. "I am glad, though I hardly
know why--I am glad that the man who stretched out his hand was quite
unknown to me and himself knew nothing of me, and had not so much as
seen my face. He helps a woman, not _one_ woman. I am more grateful
for that, I take it to be of good augury." And she held her hand to
me.

I took the hand; I was tempted to let her remain in her
misapprehension. But sooner or later she would learn the truth, and it
seemed to me best that she should learn something of it from me.

"Madam," I said, "I should account myself happy if I could honestly
agree, but I fear it was not on a woman's account that I travelled
down to Tresco. Dick I think had something to do with it, but chiefly
I came to do myself a service."

"Well," she answered as she rose and crossed to the window "that may
be. You are here at all events, in the house that is watched" and then
she suddenly called me to her side. "Look," said she, "but keep well
behind the curtain."

I looked across the water to a brown pile of rocks which was named
Norwithel, and beyond Norwithel over St. Helen's Pool to the island of
St. Helen's.

"Do you see?" she asked.

I saw the bare rock, the purple heather of St. Helen's, to the right a
wide shining beach of Tean, and to the left stretching out into the
sea from the end of St. Helen's a low ridge of rocks like a paved
causeway. I pointed to that causeway.

"That is the Golden Ball Reef," said I.

"Yes," she answered, "Dick told you the story. You would not see the
reef, but that the tide is low. But it is not that I wanted to show
you. See!" and she stretched out her hand towards the rock pile of
Norwithel.

I looked there again and at last I saw a man moving on the rocks close
by the sea.

"He is cutting the weed," said I.

"That is the pretence," said she. "But so long as he stays there no
one can enter this house without he knows, no one can go out without
he knows."

"Unless one goes in or out by the door I used."

"That door is within view of the Castle Down. There will be some man
smoking his pipe, stretched on the grass of the Castle Down."

"You have never spoken to them?"

"Yes! They wanted nothing of me. They only watch. I know for whom they
watch. I could learn nothing by questioning them."

"Have you asked Captain Hathaway's help?"

Helen smiled.

"No. What could he do? They do no one any hurt. They stand out of my
way when I pass. And besides--I am afraid. I do not know. If these men
were questioned closely by some one in authority, what story might
they have to tell and what part in that story does Cullen play?"

I hesitated for a few moments whether to risk the words which were on
my lips. I made an effort and spoke them.

"You will pardon the question--I have once met Cullen Mayle--and is he
worth all this anxiety?"

"He had a strange upbringing in this house. There is much to excuse
him in the eyes of any one. And for myself I cannot forget that all
which people say is mine, is more rightly his."

She spoke very gently about Cullen, as I had indeed expected that she
would, but with sufficient firmness to prove to me that it was not
worth while to continue upon this strain.

"And the negro?" I asked. "He has not spoken?"

For answer she led me up the stairs, and into a room which opened upon
the landing. The negro lay in bed and asleep. The flesh had shrivelled
off his bones, his face was thin and peaked, and plainly his days were
numbered. Helen leaned over the bed, spoke to him and pressed upon his
shoulder. The negro opened his eyes. Never in my life had I seen
anything so melancholy as their expression. The conviction of his
helplessness was written upon them and I think too an appeal for
forgiveness that he had not discharged his mission.

"Speak to him," said Helen. "Perhaps a stranger's voice may rouse him
if only to speak two words."

I spoke to him as she bade me; a look of intelligence came into the
negro's face; I put a question to him.

"Why does George Glen watch for Cullen Mayle?"--and before I had
completed the sentence his eyelids closed languidly over his eyes and
he was asleep. I looked at him as he lay there, an emaciated
motionless figure, the white bedclothes against his ebony skin, and as
I thought of his long travels ending so purposelessly in this
captivity of sleep, I was filled with a great pity. Helen uttered a
moan, she turned towards me wringing her hands.

"And there's our secret," she cried, "the secret which we must know
and which this poor negro burns to tell and it's locked up within him!
Bolts and bars," she burst out, "what puny things they seem! One can
break bolts, one can sever bars, but a secret buried within a man, how
shall one unearth it?"

It just occurred to me that she stopped with unusual abruptness, but I
was looking at the negro, I was still occupied with pity.

"Heaven send my journey does not end so vainly as his," I said
solemnly. I turned to Helen and I saw that she was staring at me with
a great astonishment, and concern for which I could not account.

"I have a conjecture to tell you of," said I, "I do not know that it
is of value."

"Let us go downstairs," she replied, "and you shall tell me," but she
spoke slowly as though she was puzzled with some other matter. As we
went downstairs I heard Dick Parmiter's voice and could understand the
words he said. I stopped.

"Where is Dick?"

"Most likely in the kitchen."

When we were come to the foot of the stairs I asked where the kitchen
was?

"At the end of that passage across the hall," she answered.

Upon that I called Dick. I heard a door open and shut, and Dick came
into the hall.

"The kitchen door was closed," said I, "I do not know but what my
conjecture may have some value after all."

Helen Mayle walked into the parlour, Dick followed her. As I crossed
the hall my coat caught on the back of a chair. Whilst I was
disengaging my coat, I noticed that an end of the white scarf was
hanging from my pocket and that the initials "H. M." were embroidered
upon it. I recollected then how Helen Mayle had abruptly ended her
outcry concerning the bolts and bars, and how she had looked at me and
how she had spoken. Had she noticed the scarf? I thrust it back into
my pocket and took care that the flap of the pocket should hide it
completely. Then I, too, went into the parlour. But as I entered the
room I saw then Helen's eyes went at once to my pocket. She had, then,
noticed the scarf. It seemed, however, that she was no longer
perplexed as to how I came by it. But, on the other hand, it was my
turn to be perplexed. For, as she raised her eyes from my pocket, our
glances crossed. It was evident to her that I had detected her look
and understood it. Yet she smiled--without any embarrassment; it was
as though she thought I had stolen her scarf for a favour and she
forgave the theft. And then she blushed. That, however, she was very
ready to do upon all occasions.



                              CHAPTER IX

               TELLS OF A STAIN UPON A WHITE FROCK, AND
                              A LOST KEY


Helen drew a chair to the table and waited with her hands folded
before her.

"Dick," said I, turning to the lad, who stood just within the door,
"that oath of yours."

"I have broken it already," said he.

"There was never priest in the world who would refuse to absolve you.
The virtue of it lies in the forswearing. Now!" and I turned to Helen.
"But I must speak frankly," I premised.

She nodded her assent.

"Very well. I can make a consecutive sort of story, but I may well be
at fault, for my knowledge is scanty, and if I am in error over the
facts, I beg you. Miss Mayle, to correct me. Old Mr. Mayle's talk ran
continually about his wild doings on the Guinea coast, in Africa.
There can be no doubt that he spent some considerable portion of his
life there, and that he managed to scrape together a sufficient
fortune. It is likely, therefore, that he was engaged in the slave
trade, and, to be quite frank, Miss Helen, from what I have gathered
of his manner and style, I am not indisposed to think that he found an
occasional diversion from that pursuit in a little opportune piracy."

I made the suggestion with some diffidence, for the old man, whatever
his sins, had saved her life, and shown her much affection, of which,
moreover, at his death he had given her very tangible proofs. It was
necessary for me, however, to say it, for I had nothing but suspicion
to go upon, and I looked to her in some way, either by words or
manner, to confirm or confute my suspicions. And it seemed to me that
she confirmed it, for she simply pressed the palms of her hands to her
forehead, and said quietly,

"You are very frank."

"There is no other way but frankness, believe me," I returned. "Now
let us come to that Sunday, four years ago, when Cullen Mayle sat in
the stocks and George Glen came to Tresco. It was you who took George
Glen to St. Mary's Church," I turned to Dick Parmiter.

"Yes." said he. "I was kicking my heels in the sand, close to our
cottage, when he came ashore in a boat. He was most anxious to speak
with Mr. Mayle."

"So you carried him across to St. Mary's, and he told you, I think,
that he had been quartermaster with Adam Mayle at Whydah, on the
Guinea coast?"

"Yes."

"Did he name the ship by any chance?"

"No."

"He did once, whilst we were at supper," interrupted Helen, "and I
remember the name very well, for my father turned upon him fiercely
when he spoke it, and Mr. Glen immediately said that he was mistaken
and substituted another name, which I have forgotten. The first name
was the _Royal Fortune_."

"The _Royal Fortune_," said I, thoughtfully. The name in a measure was
familiar to me; it seemed familiar too in precisely this connection
with the Guinea coast. But I could not be sure. I was anxious to
discover George Glen's business with Adam Mayle, and very likely my
anxiety misled me into imagining clues where there were none. I put
the name away in my mind and went on with my conjecture.

"Now on that Sunday George Glen met Adam Mayle in the churchyard, you,
Miss Mayle, and Lieutenant Clutterbuck were of the party. Together you
sailed across to Tresco. So that George Glen could have had no private
word with Mr. Mayle."

"No," Helen Mayle agreed. "There was no opportunity."

"Nor was there an opportunity all that afternoon and evening, until
Cullen left the house."

"But after Cullen had gone," said she, "they had their opportunity and
made use of it. I left them together in my father's room.

"The room fitted up as a cabin, where every word they spoke could be
heard though the door was shut and the eavesdropper need not even
trouble to lay his ear to the keyhole."

"Yes, that is true," said Helen. "But the servants were in bed, and
there was no one to hear."

At that Dick gave a start and a jump, and I cried:

"But there was some one to hear. Tell your story, Dick!" and Dick told
how Cullen Mayle had climbed through the window, and how some hours
after he had waked him up and sworn him to secrecy.

"Now, do you see?" I continued. "Why should Cullen Mayle have sworn
Dick here to silence unless he had discovered some sort of secret
which might prove of value to himself, unless he had overhead George
Glen talking to Adam Mayle? And there's this besides. Where has Cullen
Mayle been these last two years? I can tell you that."

"You can?" said Helen. She was leaning across the table, her face all
lighted up with excitement.

"Yes. There's the negro above stairs for one thing, Cullen's servant.
For another I met Cullen Mayle on the road as I was travelling here.
He counterfeited an ague, which he told me he had caught on the Guinea
coast. The ague was counterfeit, but very likely he has been on the
Guinea coast."

"Of course," cried Dick.

"Not a doubt of it," said Helen.

"So this is my theory. George Glen came to enlist Adam Mayle's help
and Adam Mayle's money, in some voyage to Africa. Cullen Mayle
overheard it, and got the start of George Glen. So here's George Glen
back again upon Tresco, and watching for Cullen Mayle."

"See!" cried Helen suddenly. "Did I not tell you you were sent here to
a good end?"

"But we are not out of the wood yet," I protested. "We have to
discover what it was that Glen proposed to Mr. Mayle. How shall we do
that?"

"How?" repeated Helen, and she looked to me confidently for the
answer.

"I can think of but one way," said I, "to go boldly to George Glen and
make terms with him."

"Would he speak, do you think?"

"Most likely not," I answered, and so in spite of my fine conjecture,
we did not seem to have come any nearer to an issue. We were both of
us silent for some while. The very confidence which Helen displayed
stung me into an activity of thought. Helen herself was sunk in an
abstraction, and in that abstraction she spoke.

"You are hurt," she said.

My right hand was resting upon the table. It was cut in one or two
places, and covered with scratches.

"It is nothing," said I, "I slipped on the hill yesterday night and
cut it with the gorse;" and again we fell to silence.

"What I am thinking is this," she said, at length. "You overtook
Cullen upon the road, and you reached the islands last night. At any
moment then we may expect his coming."

"Why, that's true," said I, springing up to my feet. "And if Dick will
sail me across to St. Mary's, we'll make a shift to stop him."

Helen Mayle rose at that moment from her seat. She was wearing a white
frock, and upon one side of it I noticed for the first time a red
smear or two, as though she had brushed against paint--or blood. I
looked at my hand scratched and torn by the gorse bush. It would have
been bleeding at the time when a woman, coming swiftly past us in the
fog, brushed against it. The woman was certainly hurrying in the
direction of this house.

"You have told me everything, I suppose," I said--"everything at all
events that it concerns me to know."

"Everything," she replied.

We crossed that afternoon to St. Mary's. There was no sign of Cullen
Mayle at Hugh Town. No one had seen him or heard of his coming. He had
not landed upon St. Mary's. I thought it possible that he might not
have touched St. Mary's at all, but rowed ashore to Tresco even as I
had done. But no ship had put into the Road that day but one which
brought Castile soap from Marseilles. We sailed back to Tresco, and
ran the boat's nose into the sand not twenty yards from the door of
the house on Merchant's Point. A man, an oldish, white-haired man,
loitering upon the beach very civilly helped us to run the boat up out
of the water. We thanked him, and he touched his hat and answered with
something of a French accent, which surprised me. But as we walked up
to the house,

"That's one of the five," Dick explained. "He came on the boat with
the negro to Penzance. Peter Tortue he is called, and he was loitering
there on purpose to get a straight look at you."

"Well," said I, "it is at all events known that I am here," and going
into the house I found Helen Mayle eagerly waiting for our return. I
told her that Cullen Mayle could not by any means have yet reached the
Scillies, and that we had left word with the harbour master upon St.
Mary's to detain him if he landed; at which she expressed great
relief.

"And since it is known I am here," I added, "it will be more suitable
if I carry my valise over to New Grimsby and seek a bed at the
'Palace' Inn. I shall besides make the acquaintance of Mr. George
Glen. It is evident that he and his fellows intend no hurt to you, so
that you may sleep in peace."

"No," said she, bravely enough. "I am not afraid for myself."

"And you will do that?"

"What?" she asked.

"Sleep in peace," said I; and putting my hand into my pocket as if by
accident, I let her see again the corner of her white scarf. Her face
flushed a little as she saw it.

"Oh, yes," she answered, and to my surprise with the easiest laugh
imaginable. "I shall sleep in peace. You need have no fear."

I could not understand her. What a passion of despair it must have
needed to string her to that act of death last night! Yet to-day--she
could even allude to it with a laugh. I was lost in perplexity, but I
had this one sure thing to comfort me. She was to-day hopeful, however
much she despaired yesterday. She relied upon me to rescue Cullen from
his peril. I was not sure that I should be doing her the service she
imagined it to be, even if I succeeded. But she loved him, and looked
to me to help her. So that I, too, could sleep in peace without fear
that to-night another scarf would be fetched out to do the office this
one I kept had failed to do.

I gave Dick my valise to carry across the island, and waited until he
was out of sight before I started. Then I walked to the palisade at
the end of the house. I found a spot where the palisade was broken;
the splintered wood was fresh and clean; it was I who had broken the
palisade last night. From that point I marched straight up the hill
through the gorse, and when I had walked for about twenty minutes I
stopped and looked about me. I struck away to my left, and after a
little I stopped again. I marched up and down that hill, to the right,
to the left, for perhaps the space of an hour, and at last I came upon
that for which I searched--a steep slope where the grass was crushed,
and underneath that slope a sheer descent. On the brink of the
precipice--for that I judged it to be--I saw a broken gorse-bush. I
lay down on my face and carefully crawled down the slope. The roots of
the gorse-bush still held firmly in the ground. I clutched it in my
left hand, dug the nails of my right through the grass into the soil
and leaned over. My precipice was no more than a hollow some twenty
feet deep, and had I slipped yesterday night, I should not have fallen
even those twenty feet; for a sort of low barn was built in the
hollow, with its back leaning against the perpendicular wall. I should
have dropped perhaps ten feet on to the roof of this barn.

I drew myself up the hill again and sat down. The evening was very
quiet and still. I was near to the summit of the island. Over my left
shoulder I could see the sun setting far away in the Atlantic, and the
waves rippling gold. Beneath me was the house, a long one-storied
building of granite, on the horn of a tiny bay. The windows looked
across the bay; behind the house stretched that tangled garden, and at
the end of the garden rose the Merchant's Rock. As it stood thus in
the evening light, with the smoke curling from its chimneys, and the
sea murmuring at its door, it seemed quite impossible to believe that
any story of turmoil and strife and tragedy could have locality there.
That old buccaneer Adam Mayle, and his soft-voiced son Cullen, whom he
had turned adrift, seemed the figures of a dream and my adventure in
Cullen's room--a hideous nightmare.

And yet even as I looked footsteps brushed through the grass behind
me, and turning I saw a sailor with a brass telescope under one arm
and a black patch over one eye; who politely passed me the time of day
and went by. He was a big man, with a great beard and hair sprouting
from his ears and nostrils. He was another of the five no doubt, and
though he went by he did not pass out of sight. I waited, hoping that
he would go, for I had a great desire to examine the barn beneath me
more closely. It was from the barn that the unearthly screeching had
risen which had so terrified Dick Parmiter. It was between the barn
and the house that a girl had brushed against my wounded hand and
taken a stain of blood upon her dress.

The hollow was only a break in the steep slope of the hill. The barn
could easily be approached by descending the hill to the right or the
left, and then turning in. I was anxious to do it, to try the door, to
enter the barn, but I dared not, for the sailor was within sight, and
I had no wish to arouse any suspicions. Helen had told me everything,
she had said--everything which it concerned me to know. But had she? I
found myself asking, as I got to my feet and crossed the hill down
towards New Grimsby.

The sun had set by this time, a cool twilight took the colour from the
gorse, and numberless small winged things flew and sung about one's
face; all round a grey sea went down to a grey sky, and sea and sky
were merged; and at my feet the lights began to twinkle in the little
fishing village by the sea. I hired a bed at the "Palace" Inn, bade
them prepare me supper and then walked on to Parmiter's cottage for my
valise.

There was a great hubbub going on within; Dick's voice was explaining,
and a woman's shrill voice overtopped his explanation. The cause of
his offence was twofold. He had not been near the cottage all day, so
that it was thought he had run away again, and the key of the cottage
was gone. It had not been seen since yesterday, and Dick had been
accused of purloining it. I explained to Mrs. Parmiter that it was my
fault Dick had kept away all day, and I made a bargain with her that I
should have the lad as my servant while I stayed upon the island. Dick
shouldered my valise in a state of considerable indignation.

"What should I steal the key for?" said he. "It only stands in the
door for show. No one locks his door in Tresco. What should I steal
the key for?" and he was within an ace of whimpering.

"Come, Dick," said I, "you mustn't mind a trifle of a scolding. Why,
you are a hero to everybody in these parts, and to one man at all
events outside them."

"That doesn't hinder mother from chasing me about with an oar," he
answered.

"It is the fate of all heroes," said I, "to be barbarously used by
their womenfolk."

"Then I am damned if I want to be a hero," said Dick, violently. "And
as for the key--of what consequence is it at all if you never lock
your door?"

"Of no more consequence than your bruises, Dick," said I.

But I was wrong. You may do many things with a key besides locking a
door. You can slip it down your back to stop your nose bleeding, for
instance; if it's a big key you can weigh a line with it, and perhaps
catch a mackerel for your breakfast. And there's another use for a key
of which I did not at this time know, or I should have been saved from
considerable perplexity and not a little danger.



                              CHAPTER X

                  IN WHICH I LEARN SOMETHING FROM AN
                         ILL-PAINTED PICTURE


I took my supper in the kitchen of the Palace Inn, with a strong reek
of tobacco to season it, and a succession of gruesome stories to make
it palatable. The company was made up for the most part of fishermen,
who talked always of wrecks upon the western islands and of dead men
drowned. But occasionally a different accent and a different anecdote
of some other corner of the world would make a variation; and doing my
best to pierce the haze of smoke, I recognised the speaker as Peter
Tortue, the Frenchman, or the man with the patch on his eye. George
Glen was there too, tucked away in a corner by the fireplace, but he
said very little. I paid, therefore, but a scanty attention, until,
the talk having slid, as it will, from dead men to their funerals,
some native began to descant upon the magnificence of Adam Mayle's.

"Ay," said he, drawing a long breath, "there _was_ a funeral, and all
according to orders dictated in writing by the dead man. He was to be
buried by torchlight in the Abbey Grounds. I do remember that! Mortal
heavy he was, and he needed a big coffin."

"To be sure he would," chimed in another.

"And he had it too," said a third; "a mortal big coffin. We carried
him right from his house over the shoulder of the island, and down
past the Abbey pond to the graveyard. Five shillings each we had for
carrying him--five shillings counted out by torchlight on a gravestone
as soon as the grave was filled in. It was all written down before he
died."

Then the first speaker took up the tale again.

"A queer, strange man was Adam Mayle, and queer strange sights he had
seen. He would sit in that corner just where you be, Mr. Glen, and
tell stories to turn a man cold. Crackers they used to call him on
board ship, so he told us--'Crackers.'"

"Why Crackers?" asked George Glen.

"'Cause he was that handy with a marlinspike. A queer man! And that
was a queer notion of his about that stick"; and then he appealed to
his companions, who variously grunted their assent.

"What about the stick?" asked Glen.

"You may well ask, Mr. Glen. It was all written down. The stick was to
be buried with him in his coffin. It was an old heavy stick with a
great brass handle. Many's the time he has sat on the settle there
with that stick atween his knees. 'Twas a stick with a sword in't, but
the sword was broken. I remember how he loosened the handle once while
he was talking just as you and I are now, and he held the stick upside
down and the sword fell out on to the ground, just two or three inches
of steel broken off short. He picked it up pretty sharp and rammed it
in again. Well, the stick was to be buried with him, so that if he
woke up when we were carrying him over the hill to the Abbey he might
knock on the lid of his coffin."

"But I doubt if any one would ha' opened the lid if he had knocked,"
said one, with a chuckle, and another nodded his head to the
sentiment. "There was five shillings, you see," he explained, "once
the ground was stamped down on top of him. It wasn't quite human to
expect a body to open the lid."

"A queer notion--about that stick."

And so the talk drifted away to other matters. The fishermen took
their leave one by one and tramped heavily to their homes. Peter
Tortue and his companion followed. George Glen alone remained, and he
sat so quiet in his corner that I forgot his presence. Adam Mayle was
the only occupant of the room for me. I could see him sitting on the
settle, with a long pipe between his lips when he was not holding a
mug there, his mulberry face dimly glowing through the puffs of
tobacco, and his voice roaring out those wild stories of the African
coast. That anxiety for a barbaric funeral seemed quite of a piece
with the man as my fancies sketched him. Well, he was lying in the
Abbey grounds, and George Glen sat in his place.

Mr. Glen came over to me from his corner, and I called for a jug of
rum punch, and invited him to share it, which he willingly did. He was
a little squabby man, but very broad, with a nervous twitting laugh,
and in his manner he was extremely intimate and confidential. He could
hardly finish a sentence without plucking you by the sleeve, and every
commonplace he uttered was pointed with a wink. He knew that I had
been over at the house under Merchant's Rock, and he was clumsily
inquisitive about my business upon Tresco.

"Why," said I, indifferently, "I take it that I am pretty much in the
same case with you, Mr. Glen."

At that his jaw dropped a little, and he stared at me utterly
discountenanced that I should be so plain with him.

"As for me," said he in a little, "it is plain enough. And when
you say"--and here he twitched my sleeve as he leaned across the
table--"'here's old George Glen, that battered about the world in
ships for fifty years, and has come to his moorings in a snug harbor
where rum's cheap, being smuggled or stole', says you--well, I am not
denying you may be right;" and here he winked prodigiously.

"And that's just what I said," I returned; "for here have I battered
about London, that's worse than the sea, and ages a man twice as
fast----"

Mr. Glen interrupted me with some astonishment, and, I thought, a
little alarm.

"Why," says she, "this is no place for the likes of you--a crazy
tumbledown of a tavern. All very well for tarry sailor folk that's
never seen nothing better than forecastle. But you'll sicken of it in
a week. Sure, you have not dropped your anchor here."

"We'll call it a kedge, Mr. Glen," said I.

"A kedge, you say," answered Mr. Glen, with a titter, "and a kedge
we'll make it. It's a handy thing to get on board in a hurry."

He spoke with a wheedling politeness, but very likely a threat
underlay his words. I thought it wise to take no notice of them, but,
rising from my seat, I wished him good night. And there the
conversation would have ended but for a couple of pictures upon the
wall which caught my eye.

One was the ordinary picture which you may come upon in a hundred
alehouses by the sea: the sailor leaving his cottage for a voyage, his
wife and children clinging about his knees, and in the distance an
impossible ship unfurling her sails upon an impossible ocean. The
second, however, it was, which caught my attention. It was the picture
of a sailor's return. His wife and children danced before him, he was
clad in magnificent garments, and to prove the prosperity of his
voyage he carried in his hand a number of gold watches and chains; and
the artist, whether it was that he had a sense of humour or that he
merely doubted his talents, instead of painting the watches, had cut
holes in the canvas and inserted little discs of bright metal.

"This is a new way of painting pictures, Mr. Glen," said I.

Mr. Glen's taste in pictures was crude, and for these he expressed a
quite sentimental admiration.

"But," I objected, "the artist is guilty of a libel, for he makes the
sailor out to be a sneak-thief."

Mr. Glen became indignant.

"Because he comes home with wealth untold?" he asked grandly.

"No, but because he comes home with watches," said I.

Whereupon Mr. Glen was at some pains to explain to me that the watches
were merely symbolical.

"And the picture's true," he added, and fell to pinching my arm.
"There's many a landsman laughs; but sailors, you says, says you,
'comes home with watches in their 'ands more than they can 'old and
sets up for gentle-folk,' says you."

"Like old Adam Mayle, I adds," said I; and Mr. Glen dropped my arm and
stood a little way off blinking at me.

"You knew Adam?" he said, in a fierce sort of way.

"No," I answered.

"But you know of him?"

"Yes," said I, slowly, "I know of him, but not as much as you do, Mr.
Glen, who were quartermaster with him at Whydah on the ship _Royal
Fortune_."

I spoke at random, wondering how he would take the words, and they had
more effect than I had even hoped for. His face turned all of a
mottled colour; he banged his fist upon the table and uttered a
horrible oath, calling upon God to slay him if he had ever set foot on
the deck of a ship named the _Royal Fortune_.

"And when you says, says you," he added, sidling up to me, "Old George
never see'd a _Royal Fortune_, says you--why, you're saying what's
right and fair, and I thanks you, sir. I thanks you with a true
sailor's 'eart "; at which he would have wrung my hand. But I had no
hand ready for him; I barely heard his words. Whydah--the Guinea
coast--the ship _Royal Fortune!_ The truth came so suddenly upon me
that I had not the wit to keep silence. I could have bitten off my
tongue the next moment. As it was I caught most of the sentence back.
But the beginning of it jumped from my mouth.

"At last I know"--I began and stopped.

"What?" said Mr. Glen, with his whole face distorted into an
insinuating grin. But he was standing very close to me and a little
behind my back.

"That my father thrashed me over twenty years ago," said I, clapping
my hand to my coat tails and springing away from him.

"And you have never forgotten it," said he.

"On the contrary," said I, "I have only just remembered it."

Mr. Glen moved away from the table and walked towards the door. Thus
he disclosed the table to me, and I laughed very contentedly. Mr. Glen
immediately turned. He had reached the door, and he stood in the
doorway biting shreds of skin from his thumb.

"You are in good spirits," said he, rather surlily.

"I was never in better," said I. "The motions of inanimate bodies are
invariably instructive."

I was very willing he should think me half-witted. He went grumbling
up the stairs; I turned me again to the picture of the sailor's
return. Whydah--the Guinea coast--the ship _Royal Fortune!_ It may
have been in some part the man's eagerness to deny all knowledge of
the ship; it was, no doubt, in some part the picture of those gold
watches, which awakened my memories. Watches of just such gold were
dangling for sale on a pedler's stall when first I heard of the ship
_Royal Fortune_. The whole scene came back to me most vividly--the
market-place of an old country town upon a fair day, the carts, the
crowds, the merry-go-rounds, the pedler's stall with the sham gold
watches, and close by the stall a ragged hawker singing a ballad of
the _Royal Fortune_, and selling copies of the ballad--a ballad to
which was added the last confessions of four men hung for piracy at
Cape Coast Castle within the flood-marks. It was well over twenty
years since that day, but I remembered it now with a startling
distinctness. There was a rough woodcut upon the title-page of the
ballad representing four men hanging in chains upon four gibbets. I
had bought one that afternoon, and my father had taken it from me and
thrashed me soundly for reading it. But I had read it! My memory was
quickened now to an almost supernatural clearness. I could almost turn
over the pages in my mind and read it again. All four men--one of them
was named Ashplant, a second Moody--went to the gallows without any
sign of penitence. There was a third so grossly stupid--yes, his name
was Hardy--so stupid that during his last moments he could think of
nothing more important than the executioner's tying his wrists behind
his back, and his last words were before they swung him off to the
effect that he had seen many men hanged, but none with their hands
tied in this way. The fourth--I could not recall his name, but he
swore very heartily, saying that he would rather go to hell than to
heaven, since he would find no pirates in heaven to keep him company,
and that he would give Roberts a salute of thirteen guns at entrance.
There was the story of a sea-fight, too, besides the ballad and the
confessions and it all cost no more than a penny. What a well-spent
penny! The fourth man's name, by-the-bye, was Sutton.

But the sea-fight! It was fought not many miles from Whydah between
His Majesty's ship _Swallow_ and the _Royal Fortune_; for the _Royal
Fortune_ was sailed by Captain Bartholomew Roberts, the famous pirate
who was killed in this very encounter. How did George Glen or Adam
Mayle or Peter Tortue (for he alone of Glen's assistants was of an age
to have shipped on the _Royal Fortune_) escape? I did not care a
button. I had my thumb on George Glen, and was very well content.

There was no doubt I had my thumb on the insinuating George. There was
Adam Mayle's fortune, in the first place; there was Adam's look when
George Glen let slip the name of the ship when he first came to
Tresco; there was Glen's consternation this evening when I repeated it
to him, and there was something more than his convincing than his
consternation--a table-knife.

He had come very close to me when I mentioned the _Royal Fortune_, and
he had stood a little behind me--against the table at which I had
eaten my supper. I had eaten that supper at the opposite side of the
table, and how should a table-knife have crawled across the table and
be now lying so handily on this nearer edge unless George had doubts
of my discretion? Yes, I had my thumb upon him and as I went upstairs
to bed I wondered whether after all Helen would be justified of her
confidence in believing that I had been sent to Tresco to some good
end. Her face was very present to me that night. There was much in her
which I could not understand. There was something, too, to trouble
one, there were concealments, it almost seemed there was a trace of
effrontery--such as Lieutenant Clutterbuck had spoken of; but to-night
I was conscious chiefly that she set her faith in me and my
endeavours. Does the reed always break if you lean upon it? What if a
miracle happened and the reed grew strong because some one--any
one--leaned upon it! I kept that trustful face of hers as I had seen
it in the sunlight, long before my eyes in the darkness of the room.
But it changed, as I knew and feared it would,--it changed to that
appalling face which had stared at me out of the dark. I tried to
drive that picture of her from my thoughts.

But I could not, until a door creaked gently. I sat up in my bed with
a thought of that knife handy on the table edge to the grasp of George
Glen. I heard a scuffle of shoeless feet draw towards my door, and I
remembered that I had no weapon--not even a knife. The feet stopped at
my door, and I seemed to hear the sound of breathing. The moon had
already sunk, but the night was clear, and I watched the white door
and the white woodwork of the door frame. The door was in the wall on
my right; it was about midway between the head and the foot of my bed,
and it opened inwards and down towards the foot; so that I should
easily see it opening. But suddenly I heard the stair boards creaking.
Whoever it was then, had merely stopped to listen at my door. I fell
back on my bed with a relief so great as to surprise me. I was
surprised, too, to find myself cold with sweat. I determined to buy
myself a knife in the morning, for there was the girl over at
Merchant's Point who looked to me. I had thus again a picture of her
in the sunlight.

And then I began to wonder at that stealthy descent of the stairs. And
why should any one wish to assure himself I slept? This was a question
to be looked into. I got out of bed very cautiously, as cautiously
opened the door and peered out.

There was a light burning in the kitchen--a small yellow light as of a
candle, but I could hear no sound. I crept to the head of the stairs
which were steep and led directly to the very threshold of the
kitchen. I lay down on the boards of the landing and stretching my
head down the stairs, looked into the room.

George Glen had taken the sailor with the watches, down from the wall.
He was seated with the candle at his elbow, and minutely examining the
picture. He looked up towards the stairs, I drew my face quickly back;
but he was gazing in a complete abstraction, and biting his thumb,
very much puzzled. I crept back to bed and in a little I heard him
come shuffling up the stairs. He had been examining that picture to
find a reason for my exclamation. It was a dull-witted thing to do and
I could have laughed at him heartily, only I had already made a
mistake in taking him to be duller-witted than he was. For he was
quick enough, at all events, to entertain suspicions.



                              CHAPTER XI

                 OUR PLANS MISCARRY UPON CASTLE DOWN


The next morning, you may be sure, I crossed the hill betimes, and
came down to the house under Merchant's Rock with my good news. I told
her the news with no small elation, and with a like elation she began
to hear it. But as I related what had occurred at the Palace Inn, she
fell into thought, and now smiled with a sort of pride, and now
checked a sigh; and when I came to the knife upon the table's edge she
shuddered.

"But you are in danger!" she cried. "Every minute you are in danger of
your life, and on my account!"

"Nay," said I lightly, "you exaggerate. The best of women have that
fault."

But she did not smile. She laid a hand upon my arm, and said, very
earnestly:

"I cannot have it. I am very proud you count the risk so little, but
you must go."

"No," said I, "they must go, and we have the means to make them march.
We have but to inform Captain Hathaway at the Garrison that here are
some of Bartholomew Robert's fry, and we and the world will soon be
quit of them for ever."

"But we cannot," she exclaimed, "for then it would be known that
my"--she hesitated for a second, or rather she paused, for there was
no hesitation in her voice, as she continued--"my father also was of
the band. It may be justice that it should be known. But I cannot help
it; I guard his memory. Besides, there is Cullen."

It was to Cullen that she always came in the end, and with such
excuses as a girl might make who was loyal to a man whom she must know
not to be worth her loyalty. The house in which she lived, the money
which she owned were his by right. She dreaded what story these men,
if captured, might have to tell of Cullen--she could not be persuaded
that Glen and his friends had not a motive of vengeance as well as of
gain,--and that story, whatever it was, would never have been enacted,
had not Cullen been driven penniless from Tresco. It did not occur to
her at all that this house was not Cullen's by any right, but belonged
to the scattered sons of many men with whom the ship _Royal Fortune_
had fallen in.

She repeated her arguments to me as we walked in the grass-grown
garden at the back of the house. A thick shrubbery of trees grew at
the end of the garden, and behind the trees rose the Merchant's Rock.
On one side the Castle Down rolled up towards the sky, on the other a
hedge closed the garden in, and beneath the hedge was the sea. Over
the hedge I could see the uninhabited island of St. Helen's and the
ruined church upon the summit, and a ship or two in St. Helen's Pool;
and this side of the ships the piled boulders of Norwithel. It was at
Norwithel that I looked as she spoke, and when she had done I
continued:

"I do not propose that we should tell Captain Hathaway, but I can make
a bargain with Glen. I can find out what he wants, and strike a
bargain with him. We have the upper hand, we can afford to speak
freely. I will make a bargain with him to-night, of which one
condition shall be that he and his party leave Tresco and nowhere
attempt to molest Cullen Mayle."

But she stopped in front of me.

"I cannot have it," she said, with energy. "This means danger to you
who propose the bargain."

"I shall propose it in the inn kitchen," said I.

"And the knife on the table's edge?" she asked; "that too was in the
inn kitchen. Oh, no! no!" she cried, in a voice of great trouble.
There was great trouble too in her eyes.

"Madam," I said, gently, "I never thought that this would prove a
schoolboy's game. If I had thought so, I should be this instant
walking down St. James's. But you overrate my peril."

I saw her draw herself erect.

"No; it is I who will propose the bargain and make the conditions. It
is I who will charge them with their piracy."

"How?" I asked.

"I will go this morning to the Palace Inn."

"George Glen went out this morning before I rose."

She looked over to Norwithel.

"There is no one to-day on Norwithel," said I.

"I shall find Peter Tortue on the Castle Down."

"But I crossed the Castle Down this morning----" and I suddenly
stopped. There had been no one watching on the Castle Down. There was
no one anywhere upon the watch to-day. The significance of this
omission struck me then for the first time.

"What if already we are quit of them!" I cried. "What if that one tiny
word _Royal Fortune_ has sent them at a scamper into hiding?"

Helen caught something of my excitement.

"Oh! if it only could be so!" she exclaimed.

"Most like it _is_ so," I returned. "No man cutting ore-weed upon
Norwithel! No man lounging on the Castle Down! It must be so!" and we
shook hands upon that likelihood as though it was a certainty. We
started guiltily apart the next moment, for a servant came into the
garden with word that Dick Parmiter had sailed round in a boat from
New Grimsby, and was waiting for me.

"There is something new!" said Helen, clasping her hands over her
heart, and in a second she was all anxiety. I hastened to reassure
her. Dick had come at my bidding, for I was minded to sail over to St.
Mary's, and discover if there was anywhere upon that island a record
of the doings of the _Royal Fortune_. To that end I asked Helen to
give me a letter to the chaplain there, who would be likely to know
more of what happened up and down the world than the natives of the
islands. I was not, however, to allow that I had any particular
interest in the matter, lest the Rev. Mr. Milray should smell a rat as
they say, and on promising to be very exact in this particular and to
return to the house in time for supper, I was graciously given the
letter.

I found the Rev. Mr. Milray in his parsonage at Old Town, a small,
elderly man, who would talk of nothing but the dampness of his house
since the great wave which swept over this neck of land on the day of
the earthquake at Lisbon. I left him very soon, therefore, and went
about another piece of business.

I had travelled from London with no more clothes and linen than a
small valise would hold. On setting out, I had not considered, indeed,
that I should be thrown much into the company of a lady, but only that
I was journeying into a rough company of fisher-folk. Yesterday,
however, it had occurred to me that I must make some addition to my
wardrobe and the necessity was yet more apparent to-day. I was
pleased, therefore, to find that Hugh Town was of greater importance
than I had thought it to be. It is much shrunk and dwindled now, but
then ships from all quarters of the world were continually putting in
there, so that they made a trade by themselves, and there was always
for sale a great store of things which had been salved from wrecks. I
was able, therefore, to fit myself out very properly.

I sailed back to the Palace Inn, dressed with some care, and walked
over to sup at Merchant's Rock--little later perhaps. Helen Mayle was
standing in the hall by the foot of the stairs. I saw her face against
the dark panels as I entered, and it looked very white and strained
with fear.

"There is no news of Cullen at St. Mary's," I said, to lighten her
fears; and she showed an extravagant relief, before, indeed, she could
barely have heard the words. Her face coloured brightly and then she
began to laugh. Finally she dropped me a curtsey.

"Shall I lend you some hair-powder?" she asked, whimsically; and when
we were seated at table, "How old are you?"

"I was thirty and more a month ago," said I, "but I think that I am
now only twenty-two."

"As much as that?" said she, with a laugh, and grew serious in an
instant. "What did you discover at St. Mary's besides a milliner?"

"Nothing," said I, "except that the Rev. Milray suffers from the
rheumatics."

She remained in the same variable disposition during the whole of that
supper, at one moment buoyant on a crest of light-heartedness and her
eyes sparkling like stars, at another sunk into despondency and her
white brows all wrinkled with frowns. But when supper was over she
went to a cabinet, and taking from it a violin, said:

"Now, I will play to you."

And she did--out in that tangled garden over the sea.

"The violin came to the Scillies in a ship that was wrecked upon the
Stevel Rock one Christmas. But the violin will tell you," she said,
with a smile. "My father bought it at St. Mary's and gave it to me,
and an old pilot now dead taught me;" and she swept the bow across the
strings and the music trembled across the water, through the lucent
night, up to the stars, a voice vibrating with infinite wisdom and
infinite passion.

It seemed to me that I had at last got the truth of her. All my
guesses, my suspicions of something like duplicity, even my
recollection of our first meeting were swept out of my mind. She sat,
her white face gleaming strangely solemn under her black wealth of
hair, her white hand flashing backwards and forwards, and she made the
violin speak. It spoke of all things, things most sad and things most
joyous; it spoke with complete knowledge of the heights and the
depths; it woke new, vague, uncomprehended hungers in one's heart; it
called and called till all one's most sacred memories rose up, as it
were from graves, to answer the summons. It told me, I know, all my
life, from my childhood in the country to the day when I set out with
my cadet's portion to London. It sang with almost a pæan of those
first arduous years--set them to a march,--and then with a great pity
told of those eight wasted years that followed--years littered with
cards, stained with drink; years in which, and there was the
humiliation of it, my fellow-drunkards, my fellow-gamblers had all
been younger than myself--years in which I grew a million years old.
That violin told it all out to me, until I twisted in my chair through
sheer shame, and I looked up and the girl's eyes were fixed upon me.
What it was that compelled me to speak I could never tell, unless it
was the violin. But as she looked at me, and as that violin sobbed out
its notes, I cried in a passionate excuse:

"You asked me how old I was. Do you know I never was young--I never
had the chance of youth! When the chance came, I had forgotten what
youth can do. That accounts, surely, for those eight years. I was
tired then, and I was never young."

"Until to-night," she said quietly, and the music quickened. I suppose
that she was right, for I had never spoken so intimately to any one,
whether man or woman; and I cursed myself for a fool, as one does when
one is first betrayed into speaking of one's secret self.

She took the violin from her shoulder, and the glory of the music died
off the sea, but lingered for a little faintly upon the hills. I rose
up to go and Helen drew a breath and shivered.

"This afternoon," said I, "a brig went out from the islands through
Crow Sound, bound for Milford. I'll wager the five were on it."

"But if not?"

"There's the 'Palace' kitchen."

"Speak when there are others by, not within hearing, but within reach!
You will? Promise me!"

I promised readily enough, thinking that I could keep the promise, and
she walked back with me through the house to the door. There is a
little porch at the door, four wooden beams and a slate roof on the
top, and half a dozen stone steps from the porch to the garden. Helen
Mayle stood in the porch, with her violin still in her hand. She
wished me "Good-night" when I was at the bottom of the steps, but a
little afterwards, when I had passed through the gateway of the
palisade and had begun to ascend the hill, she drew the bow sharply
across one of the strings and sent a little chirp of music after me,
which came to my ears, with an extraordinarily friendly sound. The air
was still hereabouts, though from the motion of the clouds there was
some wind in the sky, and the chirp came very clear and pretty.

It was a few minutes short of ten when I left the house, and I
set off at a good pace, for I was anxious to keep my promise and
make my bargain with George Glen, quietly in a corner, before the
fishing-folk had gone home to bed. A young moon hung above the crest
of the hill, a few white clouds were gathering towards it, and the
gorse at my feet was black as ink. I walked upwards then steadily. I
had walked for perhaps a quarter of an hour, when I heard a low, soft
whistle. It came to me quite as clearly as the chirp of the violin,
but it had not the same friendly sound. It sounded very lonesome, it
set my heart jumping, it brought me to a stop. For I had heard
precisely that whistle on one occasion before, on the night when I
first crossed this hill with Dick Parmiter down to Merchant's Rock.

The whistle had sounded from below me and from no great distance away.
I turned and looked down the slope, but I could see no one. It was
very lonely and very still. Whoever had whistled lay crouched on the
gorse. And then the whistle sounded again, but this time it came from
above me, higher up the slope. Immediately I dropped to the ground.
The gorse which hid them from me might well hide me from them. A few
paces above me the gorse seemed thicker than it was where I lay. I
crawled laboriously, flat upon my face, till I reached this patch. I
forced myself into it, holding my face well down to keep the thorns
out of my eyes, until the bushes were so close I could crawl no
further. Then I lay still as a mouse, holding my breath, listening
with every nerve. I had eluded them before in just this way, but I got
little comfort from that reflection. There had been a fog on that
night, whereas to-night it was clear. Moreover, they had a more urgent
reason now for persevering in their search. I possessed some dangerous
knowledge about them as they were aware--knowledge, too dangerous;
knowledge which would harden into a weapon in my hand if--if I reached
the Palace Inn alive.

I lay very still, and in a little I heard the brushing of their feet
through the grass. They were closing down from above, they were
closing up from below; but they did not speak or so much as whisper. I
turned my head sideways, ever so gently, and looked up to the sky. I
saw to my delight that the clouds were over the moon. I buried my face
again in the grass, lest they should detect me by its pallor against
the black gorse. I was very thankful indeed that I had not accepted
that proffered loan of hair-powder--I was dressed in black, too, from
head to foot; I blessed the good fortune which had led me to buy black
stockings at St. Mary's, and, in a word, my hopes began to revive.

The feet came nearer, and I heard a voice whisper:

"It was here." The voice was Peter Tortue's, as I knew from the French
accent, and the next instant a stick fell with a heavy thud not a foot
from my head. If only the clouds hung in front of the moon! Round and
about they tramped--the whole five of them. For in a little they began
in low tones to curse, first of all me, and afterwards Peter Tortue,
who had whistled from below. Let them only quarrel amongst themselves,
I thought, and there's a good chance they will forget the reason of
their quarrel. It seemed that they were well on the road to a quarrel
at last; a man, quite young as I judged from his voice, flung himself
down on the grass with an oath.

"But he is here, close to us," said Peter. "I heard the girl thrum
good-night to him on her fiddle, and then I saw him, and followed him,
and whistled."

"Well, it is your business, not mine. Yours and George Glen's," the
other returned. I learned later that his name was Nathaniel Roper. "I
was never on no _Royal Fortune_, devil damn me."

"Whist, you lousy fool"--and this was George Glen speaking. I am sure
he was winking and pinching the fellow's arm,--"we are all in the same
boat whether we've sailed in the _Royal_----" and he stopped.

All at once there was a dead silence. I have never in my life
experienced anything so horrible as that sudden, complete silence. I
could not see what caused it, for my face was buried in the grass, and
I dared not move. One moment I had a sensation that they were gazing
at my back, and I felt--it is the only way I can express it--I felt
_naked_. Another moment I imagined it to be a ruse to beguile me into
stirring; and it lasted for ever and ever.

At length one sound--not a voice--broke the silence: the man who had
thrown himself down was getting to his feet. But when he had stood up
he made no further movement; he stood motionless, like the others, and
the silence began again and again it lasted for ever and ever.

All sorts of tremors began to creep over my body; the muscles of my
back jerked of their own accord. The suspense was driving me mad. I
had to move, I had to see, if only to hinder myself from leaping to my
feet and making a headlong rush. Very slowly I turned my head
sideways; I looked backwards along the ground, until I saw. The moon
had swum out from the clouds, and the five men were standing in
arrested attitudes with their eyes fixed upon something that glittered
very bright upon the ground. I could see it myself through the gorse
glittering and burning white, like a delicate flame, and my heart gave
a great leap within me as I understood what it was. It was a big
silver shoe-buckle that shone in the moonlight, and the shoe-buckle
was on my foot.

The game was up. I thought that I might as well make a fight of it
at the last, and I jumped to my feet suddenly, with a faint hope that
the suddenness of the movement might startle them and let me through.
But there was to be no fighting for me that night. It is true that
the men all scattered from about me, but a voice a few yards to my
right thundered, "Stand!" and I stood stock-still, obedient as a
charity-school boy.

For Peter Tortue was standing stock still too, with his right arm
stretched out in a line with his shoulder and the palm of his hand
upturned. On the palm of that hand was balanced a long knife with an
open blade, and the moonlight streaked along that blade in flame, just
as it had burned upon my shoe-buckle.

George Glen rubbed his hands together.

"You will lie down, Mr. Berkeley," said he, with his most insinuating
smile. "You will down, 'flat on my face,' says you."

"But I have only just got up," said I.

Glen tittered nervously, but no one else showed any appreciation of my
sally. I thought it best to lie down flat on my face.

"Cross your hands behind your back," said George Glen, and I knew he
was winking.

"Any little thing like that, I am sure," I murmured, as I obeyed.
"Only too happy," and in a trice I was nothing more than a coil of
rope. It cut into my wrists, it crushed my chest, it snaked round my
legs, it bit my ankles.

"To be sure," said I, "they mean to send me somewhere by the post."

Mr. George Glen sniggered and mentioned my destination, which was
impolite, though he mentioned it politely; but Roper thumped me in the
small of the back, and thrust my handkerchief into my mouth. So I had
done better to have kept silence.

Two of the men lifted me up on their shoulders and staggered up hill.
In a moment or two they descended a small incline, and I saw that I
was being carried into the hollow where the shed stood. Glen pushed at
the door of the shed and it fell open inwards. A great cavern of
blackness gaped at us, and they carried me in and set me down
unceremoniously on the floor.

"Brisk along with that lantern, Nat Roper," said Glen, and the young
fellow who had flung himself down on the grass struck a light and set
fire to the candle. The shed was divided by a wooden partition, in
which was a rickety door hardly hanging on its hinges.

"In there!" said Glen, swinging the lantern towards the inner room. My
bearers picked me up again and carried me to the door. One of them
kicked at the door, but it did not yield.

"It's jammed," said the other, "there's some-thing 'twixt it and the
floor," and raising a great sea boot, he kicked with all his might.

I heard a metallic clinking, as though a piece of iron was hopping
across the stone floor, and the door flew open.

They carried me into the inner room and set me down against the
partition. There was no furniture of any sort, not even a bucket to
sit upon; there was no window either, a thatched roof rested upon
heavy beams over my head. They placed the lantern at my feet, four of
them squatted down about me, the fifth went out of the shed to keep
watch.

It was, after all, not in the inn kitchen of the Palace Inn that any
bargain was to be struck. I could not deny that they had chosen their
place very well. Not a man in Tresco but would give this shed the
widest of berths, and if he saw the glint of this lantern through a
chink, or heard, perhaps, as he was like to do, one loud cry--why, he
would only take to his heels the faster. The ropes, too, made my bones
ache.

I would have preferred the kitchen at the Palace Inn.



                             CHAPTER XII

                     I FIND AN UNEXPECTED FRIEND


Glen bade Roper take the handkerchief from my mouth, and when that was
done his creased face smiled at me over the lantern.

"About the _Royal Fortune?_" he said smoothly.

Peter Tortue nodded, and absently cleaned the blade of his knife upon
the thighs of his breeches. There was no reply for me to make, and I
waited.

"You were over to St. Mary's to-day?"

"Yes."

"What did you do there?"

"I bought a pair of silk stockings and some linen."

George Glen sniggered like a man that leaves off a serious
conversation to laugh politely at a bad joke.

"But it's true," I cried.

"Did you speak of the _Royal Fortune?_"

"No," and, as luck would have it, I had not--not even to the Rev. Mr.
Milray.

"Not to a living soul?"

"No."

"Did you go up to Star Castle?"

"No."

"Did you speak to Captain Hathaway?"

"No."

"'There's poor old George,' you said. 'Old George Glen,' says you,
'what was quartermaster with Cap'n Roberts on the _Royal_----'"

"No," I cried.

"Did you mention Peter Tortue?" said the Frenchman.

"No. Would you be sitting here if I had? There would be a company of
soldiers scouring the island for you."

"That's reasonable," said Tortue, and the rest echoed his words. In a
little there was silence. Tortue set to work again with his knife. It
flashed backwards and forwards, red with the candle light as though it
ran blood. It shone in my eyes and dazzled me, and somehow, there came
back to me a recollection of that hot night in Clutterbuck's rooms
when everything had glittered with an intolerable brightness, and Dick
Parmiter had been set upon the table to tell his story. I was vaguely
wondering what they were all doing at this moment in London,
Clutterbuck, Macfarlane, and the rest, when the questions began again.

"You came back from St. Mary's to New Grimsby?"

"Yes."

"Did you tell Parmiter?"

"No."

"From St. Mary's you crossed the island to Merchant's Point?"

"Yes."

"Did you tell the girl?"

Here a lie was obviously needful, and I did not scruple to tell it.

"No."

Peter Tortue leaned forward to me with a shrewd glance in his keen
eyes.

"You are her lover," he said. "You told her."

I lifted my eyes from his knife, looked him in the eyes, and sustained
his glance.

"I am not her lover," I said; "that is a damned lie."

He did not lose his temper, but repeated:

"You told her," and George Glen looked in again with his whole face
screwed into a wink.

"You said to her, 'My dear,' says you, 'there's old George,'" and at
that I lost my temper.

"I said nothing of the kind," I cried. "Am I a parrot that I cannot
open my lips without old George popping out of them? But what's the
use of talking. Do what you will, I have done. If I had betrayed your
secret, do you think I should be walking home alone, and you upon the
island? But I have done. I had a bargain to strike with you, I thought
to find you all at the inn--but I have done."

To tell the truth, I had no longer any hope of life. Glen, for all his
winks and smiles, would stop short of no cruelty. Peter Tortue quietly
polished his knife upon his thigh. He was a big Brittany man, with
shrewd eyes and an unchanging face. The rest squatted and stared
curiously at me. The light of the lantern fell upon their callous
faces, they were lookers-on at a show, of which perhaps, they had seen
the like before, they were not concerned in this affair of the _Royal
Fortune_ nor how it ended.

"So you told no one."

"No one."

I closed my eyes and leaned back against the partition. I was utterly
helpless in their hands, and I hoped they would be quick. I remember
that I regretted very much I could send no word to the girl at
Merchant's Rock, and that I was very glad she had not delayed her
music till tomorrow night, but both regret and gladness were of a
numbed and languid kind.

Then Glen asked me another question, and it spurred my will to
alertness.

"How did you know that I was quartermaster on the _Royal Fortune?_"

I could not remind him that he had let the ship's name drop from his
lips four years ago. It would be as much as to say that Helen had told
me. It would confess that I had spoken with her of the _Royal
Fortune_. Yet I must answer, and without the least show of hesitation.
I caught at the first plausible reason which occurred to me. I said:
"Cullen Mayle told me," and that answer saved my life. For Glen
remarked, "Yes, he knew," and nodded to Tortue: Tortue lifted the
knife in his hand, and again I closed my eyes. But the next thing I
heard was a snap as the blade shut into the handle, and the next thing
after that Tortue's voice deliberately speaking:

"George Glen, you never had the brains of a louse. You can smirk and
wriggle, and you're handy with a weapon, but, you never had no
brains."

I opened my eyes pretty wide at that, and I saw that the three younger
faces were now kindled out of their sluggishness. It was that mention
of Cullen Mayle which had wrought the change. These three took no
particular interest in the _Royal Fortune_, but they had every
interest in the doings of Cullen Mayle, and they now alertly followed
all that Tortue said. George Glen leaned forward.

"Who's cap'en here, Peter Tortue?" said he. "Was you with us on the
Sierra Leone River? Nat Roper there, Blads, you James Skyrm, speak up,
lads, was he with us?"

"My son was," said Tortue calmly.

"And what sort of answer is that? 'Tis lucky for you Cap'en Roberts
isn't aboard this shed. He wouldn't have understood that language, not
he--and he wouldn't have troubled you for an explanation neither.
Here's a fine thing, lads! If a man dies, his father, what's been
lying in the lap of luxury at home, is to have his share. That's a
nice new rule for gentlemen adventurers, and not content with his
share, wants to set up for cap'en. I have a good mind to learn you
modesty, Peter, just as Roberts would have learnt you."

He was talking quite smoothly, with a grin all over his face, but I
never saw a man that looked so dangerous. Peter Tortue, however, was
in no way discomposed.

"Why, you blundering fool," he answered, "where would you ha' been but
for me? No, I wasn't on the Sierra Leone River with you, or you
wouldn't be eating your hearts and your pockets empty upon Tresco. No,
I am not your captain, or you wouldn't never have lost track of Cullen
Mayle at Wapping."

There were four faces now alertly watching Peter Tortue, and the
fourth was mine. It was not merely that my life hung upon his
predominance, but there was the best of chances now that I might get
to the bottom of the mystery of their watching.

"You talk of Roberts," he continued, "well you're not the only man
that knew Roberts, and would Roberts have let Cullen Mayle slip
through his fingers--at Wapping too? Good Lord, it makes me sick to
look at you, George Glen!" and he turned to Roper, "Who was it found
the track for you; was it him or me?" he cried. "Who was it found the
nigger and sailed from the port o' London to Penzance, ay, and would
ha' found out the nigger's message if he hadn't had the sickness on
him. Was it him or was it me? Why the nigger knowed you all! Would he
ha' sailed to Penzance on that boat if he had seen a face on board
that he had known? not he."

"That's true," said Roper.

"Who brought you all to Tresco, eh? Who hindered you from rushing the
house, ay, hindered you in the face of your captain, and a deal you'ld
ha' found if you had rushed the house. A lot he knows, your captain.
P'raps he thought Adam Mayle was the man to leave a polite note on his
mantelshelf, telling us where to look. Who told you to wait for Cullen
Mayle?"

"We have waited," answered Glen. "How long are we to wait? Where is
Cullen Mayle?"

Peter Tortue threw up his hands.

"No wonder you all dry in the sun at the end of it," he cried, "my
word! We haven't got Cullen Mayle, but haven't we got the man as knows
him? What's he doing at Tresco if he wasn't sent by Cullen Mayle who
daren't show his face because we're here? Not worth my share, ain't I?
and you that can't add two and two! See here! Dick Parmiter goes to
London, don't he? He goes after the nigger come; what for, but to find
Cullen Mayle, and say as we're here? He knows where Cullen's to be
found, and down comes the stranger here. And we ha' got him tucked up
comfortable, and we know tricks that Roberts taught us to make him
speak, don't we? And you want to jab a knife into him. You make me
sick, George Glen--fair sick! Suppose you do jab a knife into him, and
bury him here under the stones, do you think the girl'll take it quite
easy and natural? Or will you go down the hill and rush the house? And
then if you please, what'll you all be doing to-morrow? Well, you are
captain, George Glen, but what has your crew to say to this? Come! Am
I to talk to Mr. Berkeley, or will you set your own course, and steer
for execution dock?"

There was no hesitation in the answer. With one accord they leaned to
Tortue's proposal.

I could not see that I was in a much better case. Tortue was to put to
me questions, the very questions which I wished to ask, and I was
expected to answer them. I should have to answer them if I was to come
off with my life. The men sat hungrily about me awaiting my answers.
It would not take them long to discover that I was tricking them, that
I had no knowledge whatever about their concerns beyond that one
dangerous item that Glen and Tortue had sailed on the _Royal Fortune_,
and when that discovery was made, why, out of mere resentment they
would let Glen have his way.

However, I was still alive, and the girl was still at Merchant's
Point. These men were plainly growing impatient of their long stay
upon the island; and once I was out of the way, who was to stand
between them and the girl?

I summoned my wits together, and ran quickly over my mind what I did
know. I had a few fresh hints from Tortue's arguments to add to my
knowledge. I knew why they were watching for Cullen Mayle. He was to
show them where to look for something. It was that something about
which Glen had talked to Adam Mayle the night Cullen was driven away;
Cullen had overheard, and he had gone out in search of it to the
Sierra Leone River. Glen and his companions had done likewise. It was
in some degree apparent now what that something was: namely, treasure
of some sort from the Royal Fortune, and buried on the banks of the
Sierra Leone River. They had not found it, and their presence here,
and certain words, told me why. Adam Mayle had been first with them.

So much I could venture to think of. For the rest I must wait upon the
questions; and, fortunately for me. Glen was a man of much garrulity.

"You spoke of a bargain," said Tortue. "What do you propose?"

"Halves!" said I, as bold as brass.

There was an outcry against the proposal, and it mightily relieved me,
for it proved to me I was right. It was treasure they were after, but
of what kind? I had now to puzzle my brains over that. Was it specie?
Hardly, I thought, for Adam Mayle would not have hidden money upon
Tresco. Was it a treasure of jewels, then?

"Halves," said George Glen with a titter. "A very good proposal, Mr.
Berkeley, by daylight, with a company of soldiers within call."

Jewels, I thought: yes, jewels--jewels that might be recognized,
jewels that Adam Mayle would keep hidden to himself so long as there
was no pressing need to dispose of them.

"As it is," continued Glen, "we take all, but we give you your life.
That's a fair offer."

"Yes, that's fair," said Roper.

I hazarded it.

"Very well," said I. "You can find your jewels for yourselves."

I expected an explosion of wrath; I met with only mute surprise.

"Jewels!" said Roper at length.

"Well, isn't the cross thick with them?" said Tortue to Roper.

"It wouldn't be of much use to us without," sniggered Glen. "Lord, but
that was a clever stroke of Roberts'--the cleverest thing he ever
done. Right under the guns of the African Comp'ny's fort she lay in
Sierra Leone harbour--a Portuguese ship of twenty guns. At a quarter
to eleven there was her crew, as many as might be--we could hear 'em
singing and laughing as we pulled across the water to 'em--and at ten
minutes past three there wasn't a mother's son of them all alive; and
no noise, mind you. Rich she was, too. Sugar--we had run short of
sugar for our punch, and welcome it was--sugar, skins, tobacco, ninety
thousand moidors, and this cross with the diamonds for the King of
Portugal. Roberts himself said he had never seen stones like it, and
he was a good judge of stones was Roberts. He was quick, too. Why,
we had that cross on the dinghy and were well up the Sierra Leone
River before daybreak, just the three of us--Roberts, me, and Adam
Mayle--Kennedy he called himself then, being a gentleman born and with
more sense than the rest of us. He buried the cross, two days sail up
the Sierra Leone River, and Roberts made a chart of its bearings. He
gave it to me on the deck of the _Royal Fortune_ when he was mortally
wounded, and I kept it all the time we were in prison. I showed it to
Adam Mayle when we escaped, but we had no means to get at it--at
least, I hadn't. Adam, he was a gentleman born, and had got his
savings placed all safe in his own name."

I hoped Glen would go on in this strain until my slip was forgotten. I
was, besides, acquiring information. But Roper cut him short.

"It was a cross--it wasn't jewels," said he, suspiciously; and
suddenly Tortue interrupted.

"'Halves' was what you said, I think," he remarked, rather quickly,
and I could almost have believed that he was trying to cover up my
mistake. I took advantage of his interruption as quickly as he had
made it.

"Half for you, half for Cullen," said I; and immediately Tortue flung
out in an extravagant passion. He threatened me, he threatened Cullen,
he opened his knife and gesticulated, he cursed, until I began to
wonder: was he acting? Was this anger a pretence to divert attention
finally from my unlucky guess? I could not be sure. I could conceive
no reason for such a pretence. But certainly, whether he intended it
or not, he brought about that result; for his companions began to fear
he would make an end of me before they had got the information where
the cross was hid, and so busied themselves with appeasing him. He
permitted himself at the last to be appeased, and George Glen took up
the argument.

"Look you here, Mr. Berkeley," said he, "we're reasonable men, and
it's no more than fair you should be reasonable too, seeing as how you
are uncomfortably placed. That was took up by Adam Mayle, and he never
meant his son to finger it. 'A damned ungrateful, supercilious whelp,'
says he to me in the lad's own bedroom; yes, in his own bedroom"--for,
as may be imagined, I had started. Here was the explanation of how
Cullen discovered George Glen's business. I hoisted myself up against
the partition as well as I could. How I prayed that Glen would go on!
He was sufficiently garrulous, if only he was not interrupted, and he
was arguing for all of them. "'A damned ungrateful, supercilious
whelp,' he said; 'and George,' said he, as I read out the chart, 'I'd
sooner let the cross rot to pieces in the Sierra Leone mud than fetch
it home for him to have a share of. I've enough for myself and the
girl. I'll not stir a finger,' says he, 'and if it was here now I'd
have it buried with me.' Those were his very words, which he spoke to
me not half an hour after he had driven Cullen from the house, and in
the lad's own bedroom, where we couldn't be overheard."

"But you were overheard," said I, "Cullen Mayle overheard you." Glen
jumped on to his feet, his mouth dropped, he stood staring at me in a
daze, and then he thumped one fist down into the palm of the other.

"By God it's true," he said, "he was in the curtains."

"He was in bed," said I.

"By God it's true," repeated Glen, and he sat down again on the floor.
"So that's how Cullen Mayle found out. I was mightily astonished to
find him at Sierra Leone on the same business as ourselves. But it's
true. I remember there was a noise, and I cried out, 'What's that?'
with a sort of jump, and Adam he says, pleasant like, 'It's the
hangman, George;' but it wasn't, it was Cullen Mayle."

I think that every one laughed as Glen ended, except myself. I could
even at that moment, but be sensible what a strange picture it made;
those two old ruffians sitting over against each other in the bedroom,
and Cullen waked up from his sleep in bed to lie quiet and overhear
them.

"So you see, it isn't reasonable Cullen should have half since his
father never meant him to have any," he continued.

"But without Cullen you would get nothing at all," said I.

"Why not since we have you?"--and then I made a slip--I answered: "But
Cullen Mayle told me where the cross is."

"But Cullen Mayle doesn't know," said Roper, "else would he have gone
hunting to Sierra Leone for it?"

"Told him where to look for the plan, he means." Tortue interrupted
again. This time I could not mistake. He glanced at me with too much
significance. For some reason, he was standing my friend.

"Of course," said I, "where to look for the plan."

So it was a plan they needed, a plan of the spot where Adam Mayle had
buried the cross. Where could that plan be, in what unlikely place
would Adam have hid it?

I ran over my mind the rooms, and the furniture of the house. There
was no bureau, no secretaire. But I had to make up my mind. This last
slip had awakened my captor's suspicions. The faces about me menaced
me.

"Well, where is the plan?"

I thought over all that Glen had said to-night--was a clue to be got
there?

"I haven't it," said I, to gain time.

"But where are we to look for it?" again asked Roper, and he put his
hand in his coat-pocket.

"Speak up," said Tortue, and I read his meaning in the glance of his
eyes. He meant--"Name some spot, any spot!" But I knew! It had come
upon me like an inspiration, I had no shadow of doubt where that plan
was. I said:

"Where are you to look for the plan? Glen has told you. Adam Mayle
would rather have had the cross buried with him than that Cullen
should have it. He couldn't have the treasure buried with him, but he
could and did the plan. Look in Adam Mayle's grave. You will find a
stick with a brass handle to it--a sword stick, but the sword's broken
off short. In the hollow of that stick you'll find the plan." Tortue
nodded at me with approval. The rest jumped up from the ground.

"We have time to-night," said Roper, and stretching out a hand he
pulled my watch from my fob. "It is eleven o'clock," and he put the
watch in his own pocket. "Where's Adam Mayle buried?" asked another.

"In the Abbey Grounds," said I.

"But we want spades," objected Tortue, "we want a pick."

"They are here," said Glen, with an evil smile, "we had them ready,"
and he grinned at me. "Mr. Berkeley comes with us, I think," said he
smoothly, "untie his legs."

"Yes," said Roper with an oath. He was in a heat of excitement. "And
if he has told us wrong, good God, we'll bury him with Adam Mayle."

But I had no doubt that I was right. I remembered what Clutterbuck had
told me of Adam's vindictiveness. He would hide that plan if he could,
and he could have chosen no surer place. No doubt he would have
destroyed that plan when he knew that he was dying, but he was struck
down with paralysis, and could not stir a finger. He could only order
the stick to be buried with him.

They unfastened my legs. Roper blew out the lantern, and we went out
of the shed, on to the hillside. Glen despatched Blads upon some
errand, and the man hurried up the hill towards New Grimsby. Glen
leisurely walked along the slope of the hill. I followed him, and the
rest behind me. The moon had gone down, and the night, though clear
enough, was dark. We walked on for about five minutes, until some one
treading close upon my heels suddenly tripped me up. My hands were
still tied behind my back, so that I could not save myself from a
fall. But Tortue picked me up, and as he did so whispered in my ear:

"Is the plan there?"

I answered, "Yes."

I would have staked my life upon it; in fact, I was staking my life
upon it.



                             CHAPTER XIII

                         IN THE ABBEY GROUNDS


We kept along the ridge of hill towards the east of the island, and
met no one, nor, indeed, were we likely to do. I could look down on
either side to the sea. I saw the cottages on the shore of New Grimsby
harbour on the one side, and on the other the house at Merchant's
Point, and the half-dozen houses scattered on the grass at Old
Grimsby, that went by the name of Dolphin Town, and nowhere was there
a twinkle of light.

Tresco was in bed.

We descended a little to our left, and rounded the shoulder of the
hill at the eastern end of the island, through a desolate moorland of
gorse; but once we had rounded the shoulder, we were in an instant
amongst trees of luxuriant foliage, and in a hollow sheltered from the
winds. The Abbey ruins stood up from a small plateau in the bosom of
the trees, its broken arches and columns showing very dismal against
the sky, and everywhere fragments of crumbling wall cropped up
unexpected through the grass.

The burial ground was close to an eel pond, which glimmered below,
nearer to the sea, and a path overgrown with weeds wound downwards to
the graves.

I could not tell in which corner Adam Mayle was buried, so Roper was
sent forward with the lantern to look amongst the headstones. For half
an hour he searched; the flame of the candle danced from grave to
grave as though it were the restless soul of some sinner buried there.
The men who remained with me grew impatient, for opposite to us,
across the road, lay St. Mary's and the harbour of Hugh Town; and on
this clear night the speck of light in the Abbey grounds would be
visible at a great distance. I was beginning to wonder whether Adam
had a headstone at all to mark his resting-place, when a cry came
upwards to our ears and the lantern was swung aloft in the air.

One loud, unanimous shout answered that cry.

"Come," shouted Glen, and seizing hold of the end of the rope where it
went round my chest, he began to run down the path. The others jostled
and tumbled after him in an extreme excitement. All discretion was
tossed to the winds. They laughed, shouted, and leaped while they ran
as though they already had the cross in their keeping. What with Glen
tugging at the end in front and the others pushing and thrusting at me
from behind, it was more than I could do to keep my feet. Twice I fell
forward on my knees and brought them to a stop. Glen turned upon me in
a fury.

"Loose his hands then, George," said Tortue.

"No," returned George, with an oath, and he plucked on the rope until
somehow I stumbled on to my feet, and we all set to running again.

Things were taking on an ugly look for me. Those men were growing ten
times more savage since the grave had been discovered; they were in a
heat of excitement. In their movements, in their faces, in their
words, a violent ferocity was evident. They had made their bargain
with me, but would they keep it once they had the plan in their hands?
I had no doubt their arrangements were made for an instant departure
from the islands. One could not be a day upon Tresco without hearing
some hint of the luggers which did a great smuggling trade between
Scilly and the port of Roscoff in Brittany. No doubt Glen and Tortue
had made their account with one of these to carry them into France. I
was the more sure of this when Blads returned. I could not but think
he had been sent so that a boat might be ready, and it seemed unlikely
they would leave me alive behind them when the mere scruple of a
bargain only held their hands.

We were now come to the grave. It had a headstone but no slab to cover
it; only a boulder from the seashore by which Adam had lived was with
a pretty fancy imposed upon the mound.

Roper hung the lantern on to a knob of the headstone; and already Glen
had snatched the pick and thrust it under the boulder. It needed but
one heave upon the pick, and the boulder tottered and rolled from the
grave with a crash. It stopped quite close to my feet. I looked at it,
then I looked at the grave, and from the grave to the sailors. But
they had noticed nothing; they were already digging furiously at the
grave. In their excitement they had noticed nothing; even Tortue was
kneeling in the lantern-light watching the gleam of the spades,
sensible of nothing but that each shovelful cast up on the side
brought them by a shovelful nearer to their prize. And they dug with
such furious speed, taking each his turn, each anticipating his turn!
For before one man had stepped, dripping with sweat from the trench,
another had leaped in, and the spade fell from one man's grasp into
the palm of another. Once a spade jarred upon a piece of rock, and the
man who drove it into the earth cursed. I had a sudden flutter of hope
that the spade was broken, and that by so much the issue would be
delayed, but the digger resumed his work. I looked over to St. Mary's,
but the town was quiet; one light gleamed, it was only the light at
the head of the jetty. And even in Tresco such infinitesimal chance of
interruption as there had ever been had disappeared. For the men had
ceased even from their oaths. There was not even a whisper to be
shared amongst them; there was no sound but the laboured sound of
their breathing. They worked in silence.

I had no longer any hope. I saw now and again Roper, as he slapped
down a spadeful of earth beside me, look with a grim significant smile
at me, and perhaps his fellow would catch the look and imitate it. I
noticed that George Glen, as he took down the lantern from time to
time and held it over the trench, would flash it towards me; and he,
too, would smile and perhaps wink at Roper in the trench. The winks
and smiles were easy as print to read. They were agreeing between
themselves: the unspoken word was going round; they did not mean to
keep their part of the bargain, and when they left the Abbey grounds
the mound upon Adam's grave would be a foot higher than when they
entered them.

But this unspoken understanding had no longer any power to frighten
me. I tried to catch Peter Tortue's attention; I shuffled a foot
upon the ground; but he paid no heed. He was on all fours by the
grave-side peering into the trench, and I dared not call to him. I
wanted to contradict what I had said outside the shed upon the
hillside. I wanted to whisper to him:

"The plan you search for is not there."

If they were meaning to break their part of the bargain it mattered
very little, for I was unable to keep mine.

I had suspected that from the moment the boulder was uprooted; I knew
it a moment after the lantern was hung upon the headstone. The stone
had rested on that grave for two years, yet at the fresh pressure of
the pick it had given and swayed and rolled from its green pedestal.
It had tumbled at my feet, and there was not even a clot of earth or a
pebble clinging to it. Moreover, on the grave itself there was grass
where it had rested. For all its weight, it had not settled into the
ground or so much as worn the herbage. Yet it had rested there two
years!

The lantern was hung upon the headstone, and its light showed to me
that close to the ground the headstone had been chipped. It was as
though some one had swung a pick and by mistake had struck the edge of
the headstone. Moreover, whoever had swung the pick had swung it
recently. For whereas the face of the granite was dull and
weatherbeaten, this chipped edge sparkled like quartz.

The aspect of the grave itself confirmed me. Some pains had been taken
to replace the sods of grass upon the top, but all about the mound,
wherever the lantern-light fell, I could see lumps of fresh clay.

The grave had been opened, and recently--I did not stop then to
consider by whom--and secretly. It could have been opened but for the
one reason. There would be no plan there for Glen to find.

Roper uttered an exclamation and stopped digging. His spade had struck
something hard. Glen lowered the lantern into the trench, and the
light struck up on to his face and the face of the diggers.

I hazarded a whisper to Tortue, and certainly no one else heard it,
but neither did Tortue. Roper struck his spade in with renewed vigour,
and a stifled cry which burst at the same moment from the five mouths
told me the coffin--lid was disclosed. I whispered again the louder:

"Tortue! Tortue!" and with no better result.

The pick was handed down at Roper's call. I _spoke_ now, and at last
he heard. He turned his head across his shoulder towards me, but he
only motioned me to silence. The pick rang upon wood, and now I
called:

"Tortue! Tortue!"

Still no one but Tortue heard. This time, however, he rose from his
knees and came to me. Glen looked up for an instant.

"See that he is fast!" he said, and so looked back into the grave.

"What is it?" asked Tortue.

"The plan has gone. Loose my hands!"

I could no longer see Roper; he had stooped down below the lip of the
trench.

"Gone!" said Tortue. "How?"

"Some one has been here before you, but within this last week, I'll
swear. Loose my hands."

"Some one!" he exclaimed savagely. "Who? who?" and he shook me by the
arms.

"I do not know."

"Swear it."

"I do. Loose my hands."

"Remember it is I who save you."

His knife was already out of his pocket; he had already muffled it in
his coat and opened it; he was making a pretence to see whether the
end was still fast. I could feel the cold blade between the rope and
my wrist, when, with a shout. Roper stood erect, the stick in one
hand, a sheet of paper flourishing in the other.

He drew himself out of the trench and spread the paper out on a pile
of clay at the graveside. Glen held his lantern close to it. There
were four streaming faces bent over that paper. I felt a tug at my
wrists and the cord slacken as the knife cut through it.

"Take the rope with you," whispered Tortue.

The next moment there were five faces bent over that paper.

"On St. Helen's Island," cried Glen.

"Let me see!" exclaimed Tortue, leaning over his shoulder.
"Three--what's that?--chains. Three chains east by the compass of the
east window in the south aisle of the church."

And that was the last I heard. I stepped softly back into the darkness
for a few paces, and then I ran at the top of my speed westwards
towards New Grimsby, freeing my arms from the rope as I ran. Once I
turned to look back. They were still gathered about that plan; their
faces, now grown small, were clustered under the light of the lantern,
and Tortue, with his flashing knife-blade, was pointing out upon the
paper the position of the treasure. Ten minutes later I was well up
the top of the hill. I saw a lugger steal round the point from New
Grimsby and creep up in the shadow towards the Abbey grounds.

I spent that night in the gorse high up on the Castle Down. I had no
mind to be caught in a trap at the Palace Inn.

From the top of the down, about an hour later, I saw the lugger come
round the Lizard Point of Tresco and beat across to St. Helen's. As
the day broke she pushed out from St. Helen's, and reaching past the
Golden Ball into the open sea, put her tiller up and ran by the
islands to the south.

There was no longer any need for me to hide among the gorse. I went
down to the Palace Inn. No one was as yet astir, and the door, of
course, was unlocked. I crept quietly up to my room and went to bed.



                             CHAPTER XIV

                  IN WHICH PETER TORTUE EXPLAINS HIS
                      INTERVENTION ON MY BEHALF


As will be readily understood, when I woke up the next morning I was
sensible at once of a great relief. My anxieties and misadventures of
last night were well paid for after all. I could look at my swollen
wrists and say that without any hesitation, the watchers had departed
from their watching, and what if they had carried away the King of
Portugal's great jewelled cross? Helen Mayle had no need of it,
indeed, her great regret now was that she could not get rid of what
she had; and as for Cullen, to tell the truth, I did not care a snap
of the fingers whether he found a fortune or must set to work to make
one. Other men had been compelled to do it--better men too, deuce take
him! We were well quit of George Glen and his gang, though the price
of the quittance was heavy. I would get up at once, run across to
Merchant's Point, and tell Helen Mayle---- My plans came to a sudden
stop. Tell Helen Mayle precisely what? That Adam Mayle's grave had
been rifled?

I lay staring up at the ceiling as I debated that question, and
suddenly it slipped from my mind. That grave had been rifled before,
and quite recently. I was as certain of that in the sober light of the
morning as I had been during the excitement of last night. Why? It was
not for the chart of the treasure, since the chart had been left. And
by whom? So after all, here was I, who had waked up in the best of
spirits too, with the world grown comfortable, confronted with
questions as perplexing as a man could wish for. It was, as Cullen
Mayle had said, at the inn near Axminster, most discouraging. And I
turned over in bed and tried to go to sleep, that I might drive them
from my mind. I should have succeeded too, but just as I was in a doze
there came a loud rapping at the door, and Dick Parmiter danced into
the room.

"They are gone, Mr. Berkeley," he cried.

"I know," I grumbled; "I saw them go," and stretched out my arms and
yawned.

"Why, you have hurt your wrist," Dick exclaimed.

"No," said I, "it was George Glen's shake of the hand."

"They are gone," repeated Dick, gleefully, "all of them except Peter
Tortue."

"What's that?" I cried, sitting up in the bed.

"All of them except Peter Tortue."

"To be sure," said I, scratching my head.

Now what in the world had Peter Tortue remained behind for? For no
harm, that was evident, since I owed my life to his good offices last
night. I was to remember that it was he who saved me. I was, then, to
make some return. But what return?

I threw my pillow at Parmiter's head.

"Deuce take you, Dicky! My bed was not such a plaguey restful place
before that it needed you to rumple it further. Well, since I mayn't
sleep late i' the morning like a gentleman, I'll get up."

I tried to put together some sort of plausible explanation which would
serve for Helen Mayle while I was dressing. But I could not hit upon
one, and besides Parmiter made such a to-do over brushing my clothes
this morning that that alone was enough to drive all reasoning out of
one's head.

"Dick," said I as he handed me my coat, "you have had, if my memory
serves me, some experience of womenfolk."

Dick nodded his head in a mournful fashion.

"Mother!" said he.

"Precisely," said I. "Now, here's a delicate question. Do you always
tell womenfolk the truth?"

"No," said he, stoutly.

"Do you tell them--shall we say quibbles,--then?"

"Quibbles?" said Dick, opening his mouth.

"It is not a fruit, Dicky," said I, "so you need not keep it open. By
quibbles I mean lies. Do you tell your womenfolk lies, when the truth
is not good for them to know?"

"No," said Dick, as steadily as before, "for they finds you out."

"Precisely," I agreed. "But since you neither tell the truth nor tell
lies, what in the world do you do?"

"Well," answered Dick, "I say that it's a secret which mother isn't to
know for a couple of days."

"I see. And when the couple of days has gone?

"Then mother has forgotten all about the secret."

I reflected for a moment or two.

"Dick."

"Yes."

"Did you ever try that plan with Miss Helen?"

"No," said he, shaking his head.

"I will," said I, airily, "or something like it."

"Something like it would be best," said Dick.

The story which I told to Helen was not after all very like it. I
said:

"The watchers have gone and gone for ever. They were here not for any
revenge, but for their profit. There was a treasure in St. Helen's
which Cullen Mayle was to show them the way to--if they could catch
him and force him. They had some claim to it--I showed them the way."

"You?" she exclaimed. "How?"

"That I cannot tell you," said I. "I would beg you not to ask, but to
let my silence content you. I could not tell you the truth and I do
not think that I could invent a story to suit the occasion which would
not ring false. The consequence is the one thing which concerns us,
and there is no doubt of it. The watchers did not watch for an
opportunity of revenge and they are gone."

"Very well," she said. "I was right after all, you see. The hand
stretched out of the dark has done this service. For it is your doing
that they are gone?"

I did not answer and she laughed a little and continued, "But I will
not ask you. I will make shift to be content with your silence. Did
Dick Parmiter come with you this morning?"

"Yes," I answered with a laugh, "but he was not with me last night."

Helen laughed again.

"Ah," she cried! "So it was your doing, and I have not asked you."
Then she grew serious of a sudden. "But since they are gone"--she
exclaimed, in a minute, her whole face alight with her thought--"since
they are gone, Cullen may come and come in safety."

"Oh! yes, Cullen may come," I answered, perhaps a trifle roughly.
"Cullen will be safe and may come. Indeed, I wonder that he was not
here before this. He stole my horse upon the road and yet could not
reach here first. I trudged a-foot, Cullen bestrode my horse and yet
Tresco still pines for him. It is very strange unless he has a keen
nose for danger."

My behaviour very likely was not the politest imaginable, but then
Helen's was no better. For although she displayed no anger at my rough
words--I should not have cared a scrape of her wheezy fiddle if she
had, but she did not, she merely laughed in my face with every
appearance of enjoyment. I drew myself up very stiff. Here were all
the limits of courtesy clearly over-stepped, but I at all events would
not follow her example, nor allow her one glimpse of any exasperation
which I might properly feel.

"Shall I go out and search for him in the highways and hedges?" I
asked with severity.

"It would be magnanimous," said she biting her lip, and then her
manner changed. "He rode your horse," she cried, "and yet he has
fallen behind. He will be hurt then! Some accident has befallen him!"

"Or he has wagered my horse at some roadside inn and lost! It was a
good horse, too."

She caught hold of my arm in some agitation.

"Oh! be serious!" she prayed.

"Serious quotha!" said I, drawing away from her hand with much
dignity. "Let me assure you, madam, that the loss of a horse is a
very serious affair, that the stealing of a horse is a very serious
affair----"

"Well, well, I will buy it from you, saddle and stirrup and all," she
interrupted.

"Madam," said I, when I could get my speech. "There is no more to be
said."

"Heaven be praised!" said she. "And now it may be, you will condescend
to listen to me. What am I to do? Suppose that he is hurt! Suppose
that he is in trouble! Suppose that he still waits for my answer to
his message! Suppose in a word that he does not come! What can I do?
He may go hungering for a meal."

I did not think the contingency probable, but Helen was now speaking
with so much sincerity of distress that I could not say as much.

"Unless he comes to Tresco I am powerless. It is true I have
bequeathed everything to him, but then I am young," she said, with a
most melancholy look in her big dark eyes. "Neither am I sickly."

"I will go back along the road and search for him," and this I spoke
with sincerity. She looked at me curiously.

"Will you do that?" she asked in a doubtful voice, as though she did
not know whether to be pleased or sorry.

"Yes," said I, and a servant knocked at the door, and told me Parmiter
wished to speak with me. I found the lad on the steps of the porch,
and we walked down to the beach.

"What is it?" I asked.

"The Frenchman," said he, with a frightened air.

"Peter Tortue?"

"Yes."

I led him further along the beach lest any of the windows of the house
should be open towards us, and any one by the open window.

"Where is he?"

Dick pointed up the hill.

"At the shed?" I asked.

"Yes. He was lying in wait on the hillside, and ran down when he saw
that I was alone. He stays in the shed for you, and you are to go to
him alone."

"Amongst the dead sailor-men?" said I, with a laugh. But the words
were little short of blasphemy to Dick Parmiter. "Well, I was there
last night, and no harm came to me."

"You were there last night?" cried Dick. "Then you will not go?"

"But I will," said I. "I am curious to hear what Tortue has to say to
me. You may take my word for it, Dick, there's no harm in Peter
Tortue. I shall be back within the hour. Hush! not a word of this!"
for I saw Helen Mayle coming from the house towards us. I told her
that I was called away, and would return.

"Do you take Dick with you?" she asked, with too much indifference.
She held a big hat of straw by the ribbons and swung it to and fro.
She did that also with too much indifference.

"No," said I, "I leave him behind. Make of him what you can. He cannot
tell what he does not know."

The sum of Dick's knowledge, I thought, amounted to no more than
this--that I had last night visited the shed, in spite of the dead
sailor-men. I forgot for the moment that he was in my bedroom when I
rose that morning.

The door of the shed was fastened on the inside; I rapped with my
knuckles, and Tortue's voice asked who was there. When I told him, he
unbarred the door.

"There is no one behind you?" said he, peering over my shoulder.

"Nay! Do you fear that I have brought the constables to take you? You
may live in Tresco till you die if you will. What! Should I betray
you, whose life you saved only last night?"

Peter opened the door wide.

"A night!" said he, with a shrug of the shoulders. "One can forget
more than that in a night, if one is so minded."

I followed him into the shed. Here and there, through the chinks in
the boards, a gleam of light slipped through. Outside it was noonday,
within it was a sombre evening. I passed through the door of the
partition into the inner room. The rafters above were lost in
darkness, and before my eyes were accustomed to the gloom I stumbled
over a slab of stone which had been lifted from its place in the
floor. I turned to Tortue, who was just behind me, and he nodded in
answer to my unspoken question. The spade and the pick had stood in
that corner to the left, and this slab of stone had been removed in
readiness. The darkness of the shed struck cold upon me all at once,
as I thought of why that slab had been removed. I looked about me much
as a man may look about his bedroom the day after he has been saved
from his grave by the surgeon's knife. Everything stands as it did
yesterday--this chair in this corner, that table just upon that
pattern of the carpet, but it is all very strange and unfamiliar. It
was against that board in the partition that I leaned my back; there
sat George Glen with his evil smile, here Tortue polished his knife.

"Let us go out into the sunlight, for God's sake!" said I, and my foot
struck against a piece of iron, which went tinkling across the stone
floor. I picked it up. "They are gone," said I, with a shiver, "and
there's an end of them. But this shed is a nightmarish sort of place
for me. For God's sake, let us get into the sun!"

"Yes, they are gone," said Tortue, "but they would have stayed if they
dared, if I hadn't set you free, for they went without the cross."

I was still holding that piece of iron in my hand. By the feel of it,
it was a key, and I slipped it into my pocket quite unconsciously, for
Tortue's words took me aback with surprise.

"Without the jewelled cross? But you had the plan," said I, as I
stepped into the open. "I heard you describe the spot--three chains in
a line east of the east window in the south aisle of the church."

"There was no trace of the cross."

"It was true then!" I exclaimed. "I was sure of it, even after Roper
had found the stick and the plan. It was true--that grave had been
rifled before."

"Why should the plan have been put back, then?"

"God knows! I don't."

"Besides, if the grave had been rifled, the spot of ground on St.
Helen's Island had not. There had been no spade at work there."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Yes."

"And you followed out the directions?"

"To the letter. Three chains east by the compass of the eastern window
in the south aisle of St. Helen's Church, and four feet deep! We dug
five and six feet deep. There was nothing, nor had the ground been
disturbed."

"I cannot understand it. Why should Adam Mayle have been at such pains
to hide the plan? Was it a grim joke to be played on Cullen?"

There was no means of answering the problem, and I set it aside.

"After all, they are gone," said I. "That is the main thing."

"All except me," said Tortue.

"Yes. Why have you stayed?"

Tortue threw himself on the ground and chewed at a stalk of grass.

"I saved your life last night," said he.

"I know. Why did you do it? Why did you cover my mistakes in that
shed? Why did you cut the rope?"

"Because you could serve my turn. The cross!" he exclaimed, with a
flourish. "I do not want the cross." He looked at me steadily for an
instant with his shrewd eyes. "I want a man to nail on the cross, and
you can help me to him. Where is Cullen Mayle?"

The words startled me all the more because there was no violence in
the voice which spoke them--only a cold, deliberate resolution. I was
nevermore thankful for the gift of ignorance than upon this occasion.
I could assure him quite honestly,

"I do not know."

"But last night you knew."

"I spoke of many things last night of which I had no knowledge--the
cross, the plan----"

"You knew where the plan was. Flesh! but you knew that!"

"I guessed."

"Guess, then, where Cullen Mayle is, and I'll be content."

"I have no hint to prompt a guess." Tortue gave no sign of anger at my
answer. He sat upon the grass, and looked with a certain sadness at
the shed.

"It does not, after all, take much more than a night to forget," said
he.

"I am telling you the truth, Tortue," said I, earnestly. "I do not
know. I never met Cullen Mayle but once, and that was at a roadside
inn. He stole my horse upon that occasion, so that I have no reason to
bear him any goodwill."

"But because of him you came down to Tresco?" said Tortue quickly.

"No."

Tortue looked at me doubtfully. Then he looked at the house, and

"Ah! It was because of the girl."

"No! No!" I answered vehemently. I could not explain to him why I had
come, and fortunately he did not ask for an explanation. He just
nodded his head, and stood up without another word.

"I do not forget," said I pointing to the shed. "And if you should be
in any need----" But I got no further in my offer of help; for he
turned upon me suddenly, and anger at last had got the upper hand with
him.

"Money, is it not?" he cried, staring down at me with his eyes ablaze.
"Ay, that's the way with gentlefolk! You would give me as much as a
guinea no doubt--a whole round gold guinea. Yes, I am in need," and
with a violent movement he clasped his hands together. "Virgin Mary,
but I am in need of Cullen Mayle, and you offer me a guinea!" and then
hunching his shoulders he strode off over the hill.

So Helen Mayle's instinct was right. Out of the five men there was one
who waited for Cullen's coming with another object than to secure the
diamond cross. Would he continue to wait? I could not doubt that he
would, when I thought upon his last vehement burst of passion. Tortue
would wait upon Tresco, until, if Cullen did not come himself, some
word of Cullen's whereabouts dropped upon his ear. It was still
urgent, therefore, that Cullen Mayle should be warned, and if I was to
go away in search of him, Helen must be warned too.

I walked back again towards Merchant's Point with this ill news heavy
upon my mind, and as I came over the lip of the hollow, I saw Helen
waiting by the gate in the palisade. She saw me at the same moment,
and came up towards me at a run.

"Is there more ill-news?" I asked myself. "Or has Cullen Mayle
returned?" and I ran quickly down to her.

"Has he come?" I asked, for she came to a stop in front of me with her
face white and scared.

"Who?" said she absently, as she looked me over.

"Cullen Mayle," I answered.

"Oh, Cullen," she said, and it struck me as curious that this was the
first time I had heard her speak his name with indifference.

"Because he must not show himself here. There is a reason! There is a
danger still!"

"A danger," she said, in a loud cry, and then "Oh! I shall never
forgive myself!"

"For what?"

She caught hold of my arm.

"See?" she said. "Your coat-sleeve is frayed. It was a rope did that
last night. No use to deny it. Dick told me. He saw that a rope too
had seared your wrists. Tell me! What happened last night? I must
know!"

"You promised not to ask," said I, moving away from her.

"Well, I break my promise," said she. "But I must know," and she
turned and kept pace with me, down the hill, through the house into
the garden. During that time she pleaded for an answer in an extreme
agitation, and I confess that her agitation was a sweet flattery to
me. I was inclined to make the most of it, for I could not tell how
she would regard the story of my night's adventures. It was I after
all who caused old Adam Mayle's bones to be disturbed; and I
understood that it was really on that account that I had shrunk from
telling her. She had a right to know, no doubt. Besides there was this
new predicament of Tortue's stay. I determined to make a clean breast
of the matter. She listened very quietly without an exclamation or a
shudder; only her face lost even the little colour which it had, and a
look of horror widened in her eyes. I told her of my capture on the
hillside, of Tortue's intervention, of the Cross and the stick in the
coffin. I drew a breath and described that scene in the Abbey grounds,
and how I escaped; and still she said no word and gave no sign. I told
her of their futile search upon St. Helen's, and how I had witnessed
their departure from the top of the Castle Down. Still she walked by
my side silent, and wrapped in horror. I faltered through this last
incident of Tortue's stay and came to a lame finish, amongst the trees
at the end of the garden. We turned and walked the length of the
garden to the house.

"I know," I said. "When I guessed the stick held the plan, I should
have held my tongue. But I did not think of that. It was not easy to
think at all just at that time, and I must needs be quick. They spoke
of attacking the house, and I dreaded that.... I should not have been
able to give you any warning.... I should not have been able to give
you any help ... for, you see, the slab of stone was already removed
in the shed."

"Oh, don't!" she cried out, and pressed her hands to her temples. "I
shall never forgive myself. Think! A week ago you and I were
strangers. It cannot be right that you should go in deadly peril
because of me."

"Madam," said I, greatly relieved, "you make too much of a thing of no
great consequence. I hope to wear my life lightly."

"Always?" said she quickly, as she stopped and looked at me.

I stopped, too, and looked at her.

"I think so," said I, but without the same confidence. "Always."

She had a disconcerting habit of laughing when there was no occasion
whatever for laughter. She fell into that habit now, and I hastened to
recall her to Tortue's embarrassing presence on the island.

"Of course," said I, "a word to the Governor at Star Castle and we are
rid of him. But he stood between me and my death, and he trusts to my
silence."

"We must keep that silence," she answered.

"Yet he waits for Cullen Mayle, and--it will not be well if those two
men meet."

"Why does he wait? Do you know that, too?"

I did not know, as I told her, though I had my opinion, of which I did
not tell her.

"The great comfort is this. Tortue did not make one upon that
expedition to the Sierra Leone River, but his son did. Tortue only
fell in with George Glen and his gang at an ale-house in Wapping, and
_after_--that is the point--after Glen had lost track of Cullen Mayle.
Tortue, therefore, has never seen Cullen, does not know him. We have
an advantage there. So should he come to Tresco, while I go back along
the road to search for him, you must make your profit of that
advantage."

She stopped again.

"You will go, then?"

"Why, yes."

She shook her head, reflectively.

"It is not right," she said.

"I am going chiefly," said I, "because I wish to recover my horse."

She always laughed when I mentioned that horse, and her laughter
always made me angry.

"Do you doubt I have a horse?" I asked. "Or rather _had_ a horse?
Because Cullen Mayle stole it, stole it deliberately from under my
nose--a very valuable horse which I prized even beyond its value--and
he stole it."

The girl was in no way impressed by my wrath, and she said,
pleasantly:

"I am glad you said that. I am glad to know that with it all, you are
mean like other men."

"Madam," I returned, "when Cullen Mayle stole my horse, and rode away
upon it, he put out his tongue at me. I made no answer. Nor do I make
any answer to the remark which you have this moment addressed to me."

"Oh, sir!" said she, "here are fine words, and here's a curtsey to
match them;" and spreading out her frock with each hand, she sank
elaborately to the very ground.

We walked for some while longer in the garden, without speech, and the
girl's impertinence gradually slipped out of my mind. The sea murmured
lazily upon the other side of the hedge, and I had full in view St.
Helen's Island and the ruined church upon its summit. The south aisle
of the church pointed towards the house, and through the tracery of a
rude window I could see the sky.

"I wonder who in the world can have visited the Abbey burial-ground
and rifled that grave?"

The question perplexed me more and more, and I wondered whether Helen
could throw light upon it. So I asked her, but she bent her brows in a
frown, and in a little she answered:

"No, I can think of no one."

I held out my hand to her. "This is good-bye," said I.

"You go to-day?" she asked, but did not take my hand.

"Yes, if I can find a ship to take me. I go to St. Helen's first. Can
I borrow your boat; Dick will bring it back. I want to see that east
window in the aisle."

A few more words were said, and I promised to return, whether I found
Cullen Mayle or not. And I did return, but sooner than I expected, for
I returned that afternoon.



                              CHAPTER XV

                        THE LOST KEY IS FOUND


It happened in this way. I took Dick Parmiter with me and sailed
across to St. Helen's. We beached the boat on the sand near to the
well and quarantine hut, and climbed up eastwards till we came to the
hole which Glen's party had dug. The ground sloped away from the
church in this direction; and as I stood on the edge of the hole with
my face towards the side of the aisle, I could just see over the grass
the broken cusp of the window. It was exactly opposite to me.

It occurred to me, however, that Glen had measured the distance wrong.
So I sent Dick in the boat across to Tresco to borrow a measure, and
while he was away I examined the ground there around; but it was all
covered with grass and bracken, which evidently had not been
disturbed. Here and there were bushes of brambles, but, as I was at
pains to discover, no search for the cross had been made beneath them.

In the midst of my search Dick came back to me with a tape measure,
and we set to work from the window of the church. The measure was for
a few yards, so that when we had run it out to its full length,
keeping ever in the straight line, it was necessary to fix some sort
of mark in the ground, and start afresh from that; and for a mark I
used a big iron key which I had in my pocket. Three chains brought us
exactly to the hole which had been dug, and holding the key in my
hand, I said:

"They made no mistake. It is plain the plan was carelessly drawn."

And Dick said to me: "That's the key of our cottage."

I handed it to him to make sure. He turned it over in his hand.

"Yes," said he, "that's the key;" and he added reproachfully, with no
doubt a lively recollection of his mother's objurgations: "So you had
it all the time."

"I found it this morning, Dick," said I.

"Where?"

"In the shed on the Castle Down. Now, how the deuce did it get there?
The dead sailormen had no use for keys."

"It's very curious," said Dick.

"Very curious and freakish," said I, and I sat down on the grass to
think the matter out.

"Let me see, your mother missed it in the morning after I came to
Tresco."

"That's three days ago." And I could hardly believe the boy. It seemed
to me that months had passed. But he was right.

"Yes, three days ago. Your mother missed it in the morning. It is
likely, then, that it was taken from the lock of the door the night
before."

"That would be the night," said Dick, suspiciously, "when you tapped
on my window."

"The night, in fact, when I first landed on Tresco. Wait a little."

Dick sat still upon the grass, and I took the key from his hand into
mine. There were many questions which at that moment perplexed
me--that hideous experience in Cullen Mayle's bedroom, the rifling of
Adam Mayle's grave, the replacing of the plan in it and the
disappearance of the cross, and I was in that state of mind when
everything new and at all strange presented itself as a possible clue
to the mystery. It seemed to me that the key which I held was very
much more than a mere rusty iron key of a door that was never locked.
I felt that it was the key to the door of the mystery which baffled
me, and that feeling increased in me into a solid conviction as I held
it in my hand. I seemed to see the door opening, and opening very
slowly. The chamber beyond the door was dark, but my eyes would grow
accustomed to the darkness if only I did not turn them aside. As it
was, even now I began to see dim, shadowy things which, uncomprehended
though they were, struck something of a thrill into my blood, and
something of a chill, too.

"The night that I landed upon Tresco," I said, "we crossed the Castle
Down, I nearly fell on to the roof of the shed, where all the dead
sailormen were screeching in unison."

"Yes!" said Dick, in a low voice, and I too looked around me to see
that we were not overheard. Dick moved a little nearer to me with an
uneasy working of his shoulders.

"Do you remember the woman who passed us?" I asked.

"You said it was a woman."

"And it was."

I had the best of reasons to be positive upon, that point. I had
scratched my hand in the gorse and I had seen the blood of my
scratches the next day on the dress of the woman who had brushed
against me as she passed. That woman was Helen Mayle. Had she come
from the shed? What did she need with the key?

"Is that shed ever used?" I asked.

"Not now."

"Whom does it belong to?"

He nodded over towards Merchant's Rock.

"Then Adam Mayle used it?"

"Cullen Mayle used it."

"Cullen!"

I sprang up to my feet and walked away; and walked back; and walked
away again. The shadowy things were indeed becoming visible; my eyes
were growing indeed accustomed to the darkness; and, indeed, the door
was opening. Should I close, slam it to, lock it again and never open
it? For I was afraid.

But if I did shut it and lock it I should come back to it perpetually,
I should be perpetually fingering the lock. No; I would open the door
wide and see what was within the room. I came back to Dick.

"What did Cullen Mayle use it for?"

"He was in league with the Brittany smugglers. Brandy, wine, and lace
were landed on the beach of a night and carried up to the shed."

"Were they safe there?"

Dick laughed. Here he was upon firm ground, and he answered with some
pride:

"When Cullen Mayle lived here, the collector of customs daren't for
his life have landed on Tresco in daylight."

"And at night the dead sailormen kept watch."

"There wasn't a man who would go near the shed."

"So Cullen Mayle would not have needed a key to lock the shed?"

"No, indeed!" and another laugh.

"Could he have needed a key for any other purpose? Dick, we will go
slowly, very slowly," and I sat for some while hesitating with a great
fear very cold at my heart. That door was opening fast. Should I push
it open, wide? With one bold thrust of the hand I could do it--if I
would. But should I see clearly into the room--so clearly that I could
not mistake a single thing I saw. No, I would go on, gently forcing
the door back, and all the while accustoming my vision to the gloom.

"Has that shed been used since Cullen Mayle was driven away?"

"No."

"You are certain? Oh, be certain, very certain, before you speak."

Dick looked at me in surprise, as well he might; for I have no doubt
my voice betrayed something of the fear and pain I felt.

"I am certain."

"Well, then, have you, has any one heard these dead sailormen making
merry--God save the mark--since that shed has been disused?"

Dick thought with considerable effort before he answered. But it did
not matter; I was certain what his answer would be.

"I have never heard them," he said.

"Nor have met others who have?"

"No," said he, after a second deliberation, "I don't remember any one
who has."

"From the time Cullen Mayle left Tresco to the night when we crossed
the Down to Merchant's Rock? There's one thing more. Cullen was in
league with the Brittany smugglers. He would be in league, then, with
smugglers from Penzance, who would put him over to Tresco secretly, if
he needed it?"

"He was very good friends with all smugglers," said Dick.

"Then," said I, rising from the ground, "we will sail back, Dick, to
Tresco, and have another look into that shed."

I made him steer the boat eastwards and land behind the point of the
old Grimsby Harbour, on which the Block House stands, and out of sight
of Merchant's Point. It was not that I did not wish to be seen by any
one in that house. But--but--well, I did not wish at that moment to
land near it--to land where a voice now grown familiar might call to
me.

From the Block House we struck up through Dolphin Town on to the empty
hill, and so came to the shed. I pushed open the door and went in.
Dick followed me timidly.

The floor was of stone. I had been thinking of that as we sailed
across from St. Helen's. I had been thinking, too, that when I was
carried into the inner room the door of the partition was jambed
against the floor, that Roper had kicked it open, and that, as it
yielded, I had heard some iron thing spring from beneath it and jingle
across the floor. That iron thing was, undoubtedly, the key which I
held in my hand.

I placed it again under the door. There was a fairly strong wind
blowing. I told Dick to set the outer door wide open to the wind,
which he did. And immediately the inner door began to swing backwards
and forwards in the draught. But it dragged the key with it, and it
dragged the key over the stone floor. The shed was filled with a
harsh, shrill, rasping sound, which set one's fingernails on edge. I
set my hand to the door and swung it more quickly backwards and
forwards. The harsh sound rose to a hideous inhuman grating screech.

"There are your dead sailormen, Dick," said I. "It was Cullen
Mayle who took the key from your door on the night I landed on
Tresco--Cullen Mayle, who had my horse to carry him on the road and
smuggler friends at Penzance to carry him over the sea. It was Cullen
Mayle who was in this shed that night, and used his old trick to scare
people from his hiding-place. It was Cullen Mayle who was first in the
Abbey burial ground. No doubt Cullen Mayle has that cross. And it was
Cullen Mayle whom the woman---- But, there, enough."

The door was wide open now, and this key had opened it. I could see
everything clearly. My eyes were, indeed, now accustomed to the
gloom--so accustomed that, as I stepped from the shed, all the
sunlight seemed struck out of the world.

It was all clear. Helen Mayle had come up to the shed that night. She
had told Cullen of the stick in the coffin--yes, she must have done
that. She told him of the men who watched. What more had passed
between them I could not guess, but she had come back with despair in
her heart, and, in the strength of her despair, had walked late at
night into his room--with that silk noose in her hand.

That she loved him--that was evident. But why could she not have been
frank with me? Cullen had spoken with her, had been warned by her, had
left the island since. Why had she kept up this pretence of anxiety on
his account, of fear that he was in distress, of dread lest he return
unwitting of his peril and fall into Glen's hand? Clutterbuck's word
"duplicity" came stinging back to me.

I sent Dick away to sail the boat back to Merchant's Point, and lay
for a long while on the open hillside, while the sun sank and evening
came. It was only yesterday that she had played in her garden upon the
violin. I had felt that I knew her really for the first time as she
sat with her pale face gleaming purely through the darkness. Why could
she not have been frank to me? The question assailed me; I cried it
out. Surely there was some answer, an answer which would preserve my
picture of her in her tangled garden, untarnished within my memories.
Surely, surely! And how could such deep love mate with duplicity?

I put the scarf into my pocket, and crossed the hill again and came
down to Merchant's Point. I could not make up my mind to go in. How
could I speak of that night when I slept in Cullen Mayle's bedroom? I
lay now upon the gorse watching the bright windows. Now I went down to
the sea and its kindly murmurings. And at last, about ten o'clock of
the night, a white figure came slowly from the porch and stood beside
me.

"You have been here--how long?--I have watched you," she said very
gently. "What is it? Why didn't you come in?"

I took both her hands in mine and looked into her eyes.

"Will you be frank with me if I do?"

"Why, yes," she said, and her face was all wonder and all concern.
"You hurt me--no, not your hands, but your distrust."



                             CHAPTER XVI

                    AN UNSATISFACTORY EXPLANATION


We went into the house, but no farther than the hall. For the moment
we were come there she placed herself in front of me. I remember that
the door of the house was never shut, and through the opening I could
see a shoulder of the hill and the stars above it, and hear the long
roar of the waves upon the beach.

"We are good friends, I hope, you and I," she said. "Plain speech is
the privilege of such friendship. Speak, then, as though you were
speaking to a man. Wherein have I not been frank with you?"

There must be, I thought, some explanation which would free her from
all suspicion of deceit. Else, how could she speak with so earnest a
tongue or look with eyes so steady?

"As man to man, then," I answered, "I am grieved I was not told that
Cullen Mayle had come secretly to Tresco and had thence escaped."

"Cullen!" she said, in a wondering voice. "He was on Tresco! Where?"

I constrained myself to answer patiently.

"In the Abbey grounds, on St. Helen's Island, and--" I paused,
thinking, nay hoping, that even at this eleventh hour she would speak,
she would explain. But she kept silence, nor did her eyes ever waver
from my face.

--"And," I continued, "on Castle Down."

"There!" she exclaimed, and added, thoughtfully, "Yes, there he would
be safe. But when was Cullen upon Tresco? When?"

So the deception was to be kept up.

"On the night," I answered, "when I first came to Merchant's Point."

She looked at me for a little without a word, and I could imagine that
it was difficult for her to hit upon an opportune rejoinder. There was
one question, however, which might defer her acknowledgments of her
concealments, and, to be sure, she asked it:

"How do you know that?" and before I could answer, she added another,
which astonished me by its assurance. "When did you find out?"

I told her, I trust with patience, of the key and the various steps by
which I had found out. "And as to when," I said, "it was this
afternoon."

At that she gave a startled cry, and held out a trembling hand towards
me.

"Had you known," she cried, "had you known only yesterday that Cullen
had come and had safely got him back, you would have been spared all
you went through last night!"

"What I went through last night!" I exclaimed, passionately. "Oh, that
is of small account to me, and I beg you not to suffer it to trouble
your peace. But--I do not say had I known yesterday, I say had I been
_told_ yesterday--I should have been spared a very bitter
disappointment."

"I do not understand," she said, and again she put out her hand
towards me and drew it in and stretched it out again with an
appearance of distress to which even at that moment I felt myself
softening. However, I took no heed of the hand. "In some way you blame
me, but I do not understand."

"You would, perhaps, find it easier to understand if you were at the
pains to remember that on the night I landed upon Tresco, I came over
Castle Down and past the shed to Merchant's Point."

"Well?" and she spoke with more coldness, as though her pride made her
stubborn in defiance. No doubt she was unaware that I was close to her
that night. It remained for me to reveal that, and God knows I did it
with no sense of triumph, but only a great sadness.

"As I stood in the darkness a little this side of the shed, a girl
hurried down the hill from it. She was dressed in white, so that I
could make no mistake. On the other hand, my dark coat very likely
made me difficult to see. The girl passed me, and so closely that her
frock brushed against my hand. Now, can you name the girl?"

She looked at me with the same stubbornness.

"No," she said, "I cannot."

"On the other hand," said I, "I can. One circumstance enables me to be
certain. I slipped on the grass that night, and catching hold of a
bush of gorse pricked my hand."

"Yes, I remember that."

"I pricked my hand a minute or two before the girl passed me. As I
say, she brushed against my hand, which was bleeding, and the next day
I saw the blood smirched upon a white frock--and who wore it, do you
think?"

"I did," she answered.

"Ah! Then you own it. You will own too that I have some cause of
discontentment in that you have played with me, whose one thought was
to serve you like an honest gentleman."

And at that the stubbornness, the growing resentment at my questions,
died clean out of her face.

"You would have!" she cried eagerly. "You would indeed have cause for
more than discontent had I played with you. But you do not mean that.
You cannot think that I would use any trickeries with you. Oh! take
back your words! For indeed they hurt me. You are mistaken here. I
wore the frock, but it was not I who was on Castle Down that night. It
was not I who brushed past you----"

"And the stain?" I asked.

"How it came there I do not know," she said. "But this I do know,--it
was not your hand that marked it. I never knew that Cullen was on
Tresco. I never saw him, much less spoke to him. You will believe
that? No! Why should I have kept it secret if I had?" and her head
drooped as she saw that still I did not believe.

There was silence between us. She stood without changing her attitude,
her head bent, her hands nervously clasping and unclasping. The wind
came through the open door into the hall. Once in the silence Helen
caught her breath; it was as though she checked a sob; and gradually a
thought came into my mind which would serve to explain her
silence--which would, perhaps, justify it--which, at all events, made
of it a mistaken act of kindness. So I spoke with all gentleness--and
with a little remorse, too, for the harshness I had shown:

"You said we were good friends, you hoped; and, for my part, I can say
that the words were aptly chosen. I am your friend--your good
_friend_. You will understand? I want you also to understand that it
was not even so much as friendship which brought me down to Tresco. It
was Dick's sturdy example, it was my utter weariness, and some spark
of shame Dick kindled in me. I was living, though upon my soul
_living_ is not the word, in one tiresome monotony of disgraceful
days. I had made my fortune, and in the making had somehow unlearnt
how fitly to enjoy it."

"But this I know," interrupted Helen, now lifting her face to me.

"I never told you."

"But my violin told me. Do you remember? I wanted to know you through
and through, to the heart's core. So I took my violin and played to
you in the garden. And your face spoke in answer. So I knew you."

It was strange. This confession she made with a blush and a great deal
of confusion--a confession of a trick if you will, but a trick to
which no one could object, by which anyone might be flattered. But
that other more serious duplicity she could deny with an unwavering
assurance!

"You know then," I went on. "It makes it easier for me. I want you to
understand then that it was to serve myself I came, and I do verily
believe that I have served myself better than I have served you. Why,
I did not even know what you were like. I did not inquire of
Clutterbuck, he drew no picture of you to persuade me to my journey.
Thus then there is no reason why you should be silent concerning
Cullen out of any consideration for me."

She looked at me in perplexity. My hint had not sufficed. I must make
myself more clear.

"I have no doubt," I continued, "that you have seen. No doubt I might
have been more circumspect. No doubt I have betrayed myself this last
day. But, believe me, you are under no debt to me. If I can bring
Cullen Mayle back to you, I will not harbour a thought of jealousy."

Did she understand? I could not be sure. But I saw her whole face
brighten and smile--it was as though a glory shone upon it--and her
figure straighten with a sort of pride. Did she understand at the last
that she need practise no concealments? But she said nothing, she
waited for me to say what more I had to say. Well, I could make the
matter yet more plain.

"Besides," I said, "I knew--I knew very well before I set out from
London, Clutterbuck told me. So that it is my own fault, you see, if
when I came here I took no account of what he told me. And even so,
believe me, I do not regret the fault."

"Lieutenant Clutterbuck!" she exclaimed, with something almost of
alarm. "He told you what?"

"He told me of a night very like this. You were standing in this hall,
very likely as you stand now, and the door was open and the breeze and
the sound of the sea came through the open door as it does now. Only
where I stand Cullen Mayle stood, asking you to follow him out through
the world. And you would have followed, you did indeed begin to
follow----"

So far I had got when she broke in passionately, with her eyes afire!

"It is not true! How can men speak such lies? Lieutenant Clutterbuck!
I know--he told me the same story. It would have been much easier, so
much franker, had he said outright he was tired of his--friendship for
me and wished an end to it. I should have liked him the better had he
been so frank. But that he should tell you the same story. Oh! it is
despicable--and you believe it?" she challenged me. "You believe that
story. You believe, too, I went to a trysting with Cullen on Castle
Down, the night you came, and kept it secret from you and let you run
the peril of your life. You will have it, in a word, whatever I may
say or do," and she wrung her hands with a queer helplessness. "You
will have it that I love him. Pity, a sense of injustice, a feeling
that I wrongly possess what is rightly his--these things you will not
allow can move me. No, I must love him."

"Have I not proof you do?" I answered. "Not from Clutterbuck, but from
yourself. Have I not proof into what despair your love could throw
you?" And I took from my pocket the silk scarf. "Where did I get
this?"

She took it from my hands, while her face softened. She drew it
through her fingers, and a smile parted her lips. She raised her eyes
to me with a certain shyness, and she answered shyly:

"Yet you say you were not curious to know anything of me in London
before you started to the West."

The answer was no answer at all. I repeated my question:

"How do I come to have that scarf?"

"I can but guess," she said; "I did not know that Lieutenant
Clutterbuck possessed it. But it could be no one else. You asked it of
Lieutenant Clutterbuck in London."

For a moment I could not believe that I had heard a right. I stared at
her. It was impossible that any woman could carry effrontery to so
high a pitch. But she repeated her words.

"Lieutenant Clutterbuck gave it to you no doubt in London, and--will
you tell me?--I should like to know. Did you ask him for it?"

Should I strip away this pretence? Should I compel her to own where I
found it and how I came by it? But it seemed not worth while. I turned
on my heel without a word, and went straight out through the open door
and on to the hillside.

And so this was the second night which I spent in the gorse of Castle
Down. One moment I was hot to go back to London and speak to no woman
for the rest of my days. The next I was all for finding Cullen Mayle
and heaping coals of fire upon Helen's head. The coals of fire carried
the day in the end.

As morning broke I walked down to the Palace Inn fully resolved. I
would search for Cullen Mayle until I found him. I would bring him
back. I would see him married to Helen from a dark corner in St.
Mary's Church, and when the pair were properly unhappy and miserable,
as they would undoubtedly become--I was very sorry, but miserable they
would be--why then I would send her a letter. The writing in the
letter should be "Ha! ha!"--not a word more, not even a signature, but
just "Ha! ha!" on a blank sheet of paper.

But, as I have said, I had grown very young these last few days.



                             CHAPTER XVII

                       CULLEN MAYLE COMES HOME


The search was entirely unsuccessful. Through the months of November
and December I travelled hither and thither, but I had no hint as to
Cullen Mayle's whereabouts; and towards the end of the year I took
passage in a barque bound for St. Mary's, where I landed the day
before Christmas and about the fall of the dusk. It was my intention
to cross over that night to Tresco and report my ill-success, which I
was resolved to do with a deal of stateliness. I was also curious to
know whether Peter Tortue was still upon the island.

But as I walked along the street of Hugh Town to the "Dolphin" Inn, by
the Customs House, a band of women dancing and shouting, with voices
extraordinarily hoarse, swept round the corner. I fell plump amongst
them, and discovered they were men masquerading as women. Moreover,
they stopped me, and were for believing that I was a woman
masquerading as a man; and, indeed, when they had let me go I did come
upon a party of girls dressed up for sea captains and the like, who
swaggered, counterfeiting a manly walk, and drawing their hangers upon
one another with a great show of spirit.

The reason of these transformations was explained to me at the
"Dolphin." It seems that they call this sort of amusement "a
goose-dancing," and the young people exercise it in these islands at
Christmas time. I was told that it would be impossible for me to hire
a boatman to put me over to Tresco that night; so I made the best of
the matter, and to pass the time stepped out again into the street,
which was now lighted up with many torches and crowded with
masqueraders. They went dancing and singing from house to house; the
women paid their addresses with an exaggeration of courtly manners to
the men, who, dressed in the most uncouth garments that could be
devised, received them with a droll shyness and modesty, and
altogether, what with liquor and music, the festival went with a deal
of noise and spirit. But in the midst of it one of these false women,
with a great bonnet pulled forward over her face, clapped a hand upon
my shoulder and said in my ear:

"Mr. Berkeley, I hope you have been holding better putt cards of
late;" and would have run on, but I caught him by the arm.

"Mr. Featherstone," said I, "you stole my horse; I have a word to say
to you."

"I have not the time to listen," said he, wrenching his arm free as he
flung himself into the thick of the crowd. I kept close upon his
heels, however, which he perceived, and drawing into a corner he
suddenly turned round upon me.

"Your horse is dead," said he. "I very much regret it; but I will pay
you, for I have but now come into an inheritance. I will pay you for
it to-morrow."

"I did not follow you to speak of the horse, or to Mr. Featherstone at
all, but to Mr. Cullen Mayle."

"You know me?" he exclaimed, looking about him lest the name should
have been overheard.

"And have news for you," I added. "Will you follow me to the
'Dolphin?'"

I went back to the inn, secured from my host a room where we could be
private, and went out to the door. Cullen Mayle was waiting; he
followed me quickly in, hiding his face so that no one could recognise
him, and when the door was shut--

"How in the world did you come to know of my name?" said he. "I cannot
think, but I shall be obliged if you will keep it secret for a day or
so, for I am not sure but what I may have some inconvenient friends
among these islands."

"Those inconvenient friends are all gone but one," said I.

"You know that too," he exclaimed. "Indeed, Mr. Berkeley, you seem to
be very well acquainted with my affairs; but I cannot regret it, since
you give me such comforting news. Only one of my inconvenient friends
left! Why, I am a match for one--I think I may say so without
vaunting--so it seems I can come to Tresco and take up my
inheritance."

With that he began briskly to unhook the cotton dress which he had put
on over his ordinary clothes.

"Inheritance!" said I. "You mentioned the word before. I do not
understand."

"Oh," said he, "it is a long story and a melancholy. My father drove
me from the house, and bequeathed his fortune to an adopted daughter."

"Yes," said I quickly, "I know that too."

"Indeed!" and he stopped his toilette to stare at me. "Perhaps you are
aware then that Helen Mayle, conscious of my father's injustice,
bequeathed it again to me."

"Yes, but--but--you spoke of an immediate inheritance."

"Ah," said he, coolly, "there is something, then, I can inform you of.
Helen Mayle is dead."

"What's that?" I cried, and started to my feet. I did not understand.
I was like a man struck by a bullet, aware dimly that some hurt has
come to him, but not yet conscious of the pain, not yet sensible of
the wound.

"Hush!" said Cullen Mayle, and untying a string at his waist he let
his dress fall about his feet. "It is most sad. Not for the world
would I have come into this inheritance at such a cost. You knew Helen
Mayle, perhaps?" he asked, with a shrewd glance at me. "A girl very
staunch, very true, who would never forget a _friend_." He emphasised
that word "friend" and made it of a greater significance. "Indeed, I
am not sure, but I must think it was because she could not forget
a--friend that, alas! she died."

I was standing stupefied. I heard the words he spoke, but gave
them at this moment no meaning. I was trying to understand the one
all-important fact.

"Dead!" I babbled. "Helen Mayle--dead!"

"Yes, and in the strangest, pitiful way. I cannot think of it, without
the tears come into my eyes. The news came to me but lately, and you
will perhaps excuse me on that account." His voice broke as he spoke;
there were tears, too, in his eyes. I wondered, in a dull way, whether
after all he had really cared for her. "But how comes it that you knew
her?" he asked.

I sat down upon a chair and told him--of Dick Parmiter's coming to
London, of my journey into the West. I told him how I had come to
recognise him at the inn; and as I spoke the comprehension of Helen's
death crept slowly into my mind, so that I came to a stop and could
speak no more.

"You were on your way to Tresco," said he, "when we first met. Then
you know that she is dead?"

"No," I answered. "When did she die?"

"On the sixth of October," said he.

I do not think that I should have paid great heed to his words, but
something in his voice--an accent of alarm--roused me. I lifted my
eyes and saw that he was watching me with a singular intentness.

"The sixth of October," I repeated vaguely, and then I broke into a
laugh, so harsh and hysterical that it seemed quite another voice than
mine. "Your news is false," I cried; "she is not dead! Why, I did not
leave Tresco till the end of October, and she was alive then and no
sign of any malady. The sixth of October! No, indeed, she did not die
upon that day."

"Are you sure?" he exclaimed.

"Sure?" said I. "I have the best of reasons to be sure; for it was on
the sixth of October that I first set foot in Tresco," and at once
Cullen Mayle sprang up and shook me by the hand.

"Here is the bravest news," he said. His whole face was alight; he
could not leave hold of my hand. "Mr. Berkeley, I may thank God that I
spoke to you to-night. 'Helen!'"--and he lingered upon the name. "Upon
my word, it would take little more to unman me. So you landed on the
sixth of October. But are you sure of the date?" he asked with
earnestness. "I borrowed your horse but a few days before. You would
hardly have travelled so quickly."

"I travelled by sea with a fair wind," said I. "It was the sixth of
October. Could I forget it? Why, that very night I crossed Castle Down
to Merchant's Point; that very night I entered the house. Dick
Parmiter showed me a way. I crept into the house, and slept in your
bedroom----"

I had spoken so far without a notion of the disclosure to which my
words were leading me. I was not looking at Cullen Mayle, but on to
the ground, else very likely I might have read it upon his face. But
now in an instant the truth of the matter was clear to me. For as I
said, "I slept in your bedroom," he uttered one loud cry, leapt to his
feet, and stood over against me, very still and quiet. I had
sufficient wit not to raise my head and betray this new piece of
knowledge. That sad and pitiful death on the sixth of October, of
which he had heard with so deep a pain--he had never heard it, he had
_planned_ it, and the plan miscarried. He knew why, now, and so was
standing in front of me very still and quiet. He had seen Helen that
night on Castle Down; there, no doubt, she had told him how in her
will she had disposed of her inheritance; and he had persuaded her,
working on her generosity--with what prepared speeches of despair!--to
that strange, dark act which it had been my good fortune to interrupt.
It was clear to me. The very choice of that room, wherein alone
secrecy was possible, made it clear. He had suggested to her the whole
cunning plan; and a moment ago I had almost been deceived to believe
his expressions of distress sincere!

"I told you I was nearly unmanned," I heard him say; "and you see even
so I underrated the strength of my relief, so that the mere surprise
of your ingenious shift to get a lodging took my breath away."

He resumed his seat, and I, having now composed my face, raised it
full to him. I have often wondered since whether, as he stood above
me, motionless and silent during those few moments, I was in any
danger.

"Yes," said I, "it was no doubt surprising."

This, however, was not the only surprise I was to cause Cullen Mayle
that night.

He proposed immediately that we should cross to Tresco together, and
on my objecting that we should get no one to carry us over--

"Oh," said he, "I have convenient friends in Scilly as well as
inconvenient." He looked out of the window. "The tide is high, and
washes the steps at the back of the inn. Do you wait here upon the
steps. I will have a boat there in less than half an hour;" and on the
word he hooked up his dress again and got him out of the inn.

I waited upon the steps as he bade me. Behind me were the lights and
the uproar of the street; in front, the black water and the cool
night; and still further, out of sight, the island of Tresco, the
purple island of bracken and gorse, resonant with the sea.

In a little I heard a ripple of water, and the boat swam to the steps.
I was careful as we sailed across the road to say nothing to Cullen
Mayle which would provoke his suspicion. I did not even allow him to
see I was aware that he himself had been upon Tresco on the sixth of
October. It was not difficult for me to keep silence. For as the water
splashed and seethed under the lee of the boat, and Tresco drew
nearer, I had to consider what I should do in the light of my new
knowledge. It would have been so much easier had only Helen been frank
with me.

Tresco dimly loomed up out of the darkness.

"By the way," said Cullen Mayle, who had been silent too, "you said
that one of the watchers had remained. It will be George Glen, I
suppose."

"No," I answered. "It is a Frenchman, Peter Tortue," and by the mere
mention of the name I surprised Cullen Mayle again that evening. It is
true that this time he uttered no exclamation, and did not start from
his seat. But the boat shot up into the wind and got into irons, as
the saying is, so that I knew his hand had left the tiller. But he
said nothing until we were opposite to the Blockhouse, and then he
asked in a low trembling voice:

"Did you say Peter Tortue?"

"Yes."

There was another interval of silence. Then he put another question
and in the same tone of awe:

"A young fellow, less than my years----"

"No. The young fellow's father," said I. "A man of sixty years. I
think I should be wary of him."

"Why?"

"He said, 'I am looking, not for the cross, but for a man to nail upon
the cross,' and he meant his words, every syllable."

Again we fell to silence, and so crossed the Old Grimsby Harbour and
rounded its northern point. The lights of the house were in view at
last. They shot out across the darkness in thin lines of light and
wavered upon the black water lengthening and shortening with the
slight heave of the waves. When they shortened, I wondered whether
they beckoned me to the house; when they lengthened out, were they
fingers which pointed to us to be gone?

"Since you know so much, Mr. Berkeley," whispered Cullen Mayle,
"perhaps you can tell me whether Glen secured the cross."

"No, he failed in that."

"I felt sure he would," said Cullen with a chuckle, and he ran the
boat aground, not on the sand before the house but on the bank beneath
the garden hedge. We climbed through the hedge; two windows blazed
upon the night, and in the room sat Helen Mayle close by the fire, her
violin on a table at her side and the bow swinging in her hand. I
stepped forward and rapped at the window. She walked across the room
and set her face to the pane, shutting out the light from her eyes
with her hands. She saw us standing side by side. Instantly she drew
down the blinds and came to the door, and over the grass towards us.
She came first to me with her hand outstretched.

"It is you," she said gently, and the sound of her voice was wonderful
in my ears. I had taken her hand before I was well aware what I did.

"Yes," said I.

"You have come back. I never thought you would. But you have come."

"I have brought back Cullen Mayle," said I, as indifferently as I
could, and so dropped her hand. She turned to Cullen then.

"Quick," she said. "You must come in."

We went inside the door.

"It is some years since I trod these flags," said Cullen. "Well, I am
glad to come home, though it is only as an outcast; and indeed, Helen,
I have not the right even to call it home."

It was as cruel a remark as he could well have made, seeing at what
pains the girl had been, and still was, to restore that home to him.
That it hurt her I knew very well, for I heard her, in the darkness of
the passage, draw in her breath through her clenched teeth. Cullen
walked along the passage and through the hall.

"Lock the door," Helen said to me, and I did lock it. "Now drop the
bar."

When that was done we walked together into the hall, where she
stopped.

"Look at me," she said, "please!" and I obeyed her.

"You have come back," she repeated. "You do not, then, any longer
believe that I deceived you?"

"There is a reason why I have come back," I answered. It was a reason
which I could not give to her. I was resolved not to suffer her to lie
at the mercy of Cullen Mayle. Fortunately, she did not think to ask me
to be particular about the reason. But she beat her hands once or
twice together, and--

"You still believe it, then!" she cried. "With these two months to
search and catch and hold the truth, you still hold me in the same
contempt as when you turned your back on me and walked out through
that door?"

"No, no!" I exclaimed. "Contempt! That never entered into any thought
I ever had of you. Make sure of that!"

"Yet you believe I tricked you. How can you believe that, and yet
spare me your contempt!"

"I am no philosopher. It is the truth I tell you," I answered, simply;
and the face of Cullen Mayle appeared at the doorway of the parlour,
so that no more was said.



                            CHAPTER XVIII

                    MY PERPLEXITIES ARE EXPLAINED


There is no need for me to tell at any length the conversation that
passed between the three of us that night. Cullen Mayle spoke frankly
of his journey to the Sierra Leone River.

"Mr. Berkeley," he said, "already knows so much, that I doubt it would
not be of any avail to practise mysteries with him. And besides there
is no need, for, if I mistake not, Mr. Berkeley can keep a secret as
well as any man."

He spoke very politely, but with a keen eye on me to notice whether I
should show any confusion or change colour. But I made as though I
attached no significance to his words beyond mere urbanity. He told us
how he made his passage to the Guinea Coast as a sailor before the
mast, and then fell in with George Glen. It seemed prudent to
counterfeit a friendly opinion that the cross would be enough for all.
But when they discovered the cross was gone from its hiding place, he
took the first occasion to give them the slip.

"For I had no doubt that my father had been beforehand," said he. "Had
I possessed more wisdom, I might have known as much when I heard him
from my bed refuse his assistance to George Glen, and so saved myself
an arduous and a perilous adventure. For my father, was he never so
rich, was not the man to turn his back on the King of Portugal's
cross."

Of his father, Cullen spoke with good nature and a certain hint of
contempt; and he told us much which he had learned from George Glen.
"He went by the name of Kennedy," said Cullen, "but they called him
'Crackers' for the most part. He was not on the _Royal Fortune_ at the
time when Roberts was killed, so that he was never taken prisoner with
the rest, nor did he creep out of Cape Corse Castle like George Glen."

"Then he was never tried or condemned," said Helen, who plainly found
some relief in that thought.

"No!" answered Cullen, with a chuckle. "But why? He played
rob-thief--a good game, but it requires a skilled player. I would
never have believed Adam had the skill. Roberts put him in command of
a sloop called the _Ranger_, which he had taken in the harbour of
Bahia, and when he put out to sea on that course which brought him
into conjunction with the _Swallow_, he left the _Ranger_ behind in
Whydah Bay. And what does Adam do but haul up his anchor as soon as
Roberts was out of sight, and, being well content with his earnings,
make sail for Maryland, where the company was disbanded. I would I had
known that on the day we quarrelled. Body o' me, but I would have made
the old man quiver. Well, Adam came home to England, settled at
Bristol, where he married, and would no doubt have remained there till
his death, had he not fallen in with one of his old comrades on the
quay. That frightened him, so he come across to Tresco, thinking to be
safe. And safe he was for twenty years, until George Glen nosed him
out."

Thereupon, Cullen, from relating his adventures, turned to questions
asking for word of this man and that whom he had known before he went
away. These questions of course he put to Helen, and not once did he
let slip a single allusion to the meeting he had had with her in the
shed on Castle Down. For that silence on his part I was well prepared;
the man was versed in secrecy. But Helen showed a readiness no whit
inferior; she never hesitated, never caught a word back. They spoke
together as though the last occasion when they had met was the night,
now four years and a half ago, when Adam Mayle stood at the head of
the stairs and drove his son from the house. One thing in particular I
learned from her, the negro had died a month ago.

It was my turn when the gossip of the islands had been exhausted, and
I had to tell over again of my capture by Glen and the manner of my
escape. I omitted, however, all mention of an earlier visitant to the
Abbey burial grounds, and it was to this omission that I owed a
confirmation of my conviction that Cullen Mayle was the visitant. For
when I came to relate how George Glen and his band sailed away towards
France without the cross, he said:

"If I could find that cross, I might perhaps think I had some right to
it. It is yours, Helen, to be sure, by law, and----"

She interrupted him, as she was sure to do, with a statement that the
cross and everything else was for him to dispose of as he thought fit.
But he was magnanimous to a degree.

"The cross, Helen, nothing but the cross, if I can find it. I have a
thought which may help me to it. 'Three chains east of the east window
in south aisle of St. Helen's Church.' Those were the words, I think."

"Yes," said I.

"And Glen measured the distance correctly?"

"To an inch."

"Well, what if--it is a mere guess, but a likely one, I presume to
think,--what if the chains were Cornish chains? There would be a
difference of a good many feet, a difference of which George Glen
would be unaware. You see I trust you, Mr. Berkeley. I fancy that I
can find that cross upon St. Helen's Island."

"I have no doubt you will," said I.

Cullen rose from his chair.

"It grows late, Helen," said he, "and I have kept you from your sleep
with my gossiping." He turned to me. "But, Mr. Berkeley, you perhaps
will join me in a pipe and a glass of rum? My father had a good store
of rum, which in those days I despised, but I have learnt the taste
for it."

His proposal suited very well with my determination to keep a watch
that night over Helen's safety, and I readily agreed.

"You will sleep in your old room, Cullen," she said, "and you, Mr.
Berkeley, in the room next to it;" and that arrangement suited me very
well. Helen wished us both good-night, and left us together.

We went up into Mayle's cabin and Cullen mixed the rum, which I only
sipped. So it was not the rum. I cannot, in fact, remember at all
feeling any drowsiness or desire to sleep. I think if I had felt that
desire coming over me I should have shaken it off; it would have
warned me to keep wide awake. But I was not sensible of it at all; and
I remember very vividly the last thing of which I was conscious. That
was Cullen Mayle's great silver watch which he held by a ribbon and
twirled this way and that as he chatted to me. He spun it with great
quickness, so that it flashed in the light of the candle like a
mirror, and at once held and tired the eyes. I was conscious of this,
I say, and of nothing more until gradually I understood that some one
was shaking me by the shoulders and rousing me from sleep. I opened my
eyes and saw that it was Helen Mayle who had disturbed me.

It took me a little time to collect my wits. I should have fallen
asleep again had she not hindered me; but at last I was sufficiently
roused to realise that I was still in the cabin, but that Cullen Mayle
had gone. A throb of anger at my weakness in so letting him steal a
march quickened me and left me wide awake. Helen Mayle was however in
the room, plainly then she had suffered no harm by my negligence. She
was at this moment listening with her ear close to the door, so that I
could not see her face.

"What has happened?" I asked, and she flung up her hand with an
imperative gesture to be silent.

After listening for a minute or so longer she turned towards me, and
the aspect of her face filled me with terror.

"In God's name what has happened, Helen?" I whispered. For never have
I seen such a face, so horror-stricken--no, and I pray that I never
may again, though the face be a stranger's and not one of which I
carried an impression in my heart.

Yet she spoke with a natural voice.

"You took so long to wake!" said she.

"What o'clock is it?" I asked.

"Three. Three of the morning; but speak low, or rather listen! Listen,
and while you listen look at me, so that I may know." She seated
herself on a chair close to mine, and leant forward, speaking in a
whisper. "On the night of the sixth of October I went to the shed on
Castle Down and had word with Cullen Mayle. Returning I passed you,
brushed against you. So much you have maintained before. But listen,
listen! That night you climbed into Cullen's bedroom and fell asleep,
and you woke up in the dark middle of the night."

"Stop! stop!" I whispered, and seized her hands in mine. Horror was
upon me now, and a hand of ice crushing down my heart. I did not
reason or argue at that moment. I knew--her face told me--she had been
after all ignorant of what she had done that night. "Stop; not a word
more--there is no truth in it."

"Then there is truth in it," she answered, "for you know what I have
not yet told you. It is true, then--your waking up--the silk noose! My
God! my God!" and all the while she spoke in a hushed whisper, which
made her words ten times more horrible, and sat motionless as stone.
There was not even a tremor in the hands I held; they lay like ice in
mine.

"How do you know?" I said. "But I would have spared you this! You did
not know, and I doubted you. Of course--of course you did not know.
Good God! Why could not this secret have lain hid in me? I would have
spared you the knowledge of it. I would have carried it down safe with
me into my grave."

Her face hardened as I spoke. She looked down and saw that I held her
hands; she plucked them free.

"You would have kept the secret safe," she said, steadily. "You liar!
You told it this night to Cullen Mayle."

Her words struck me like a blow in the face. I leaned back in my
chair. She kept her eyes upon my face.

"I--told it--to Cullen Mayle?" I repeated.

She nodded her head.

"To-night?"

"Here in this room. My door was open. I overheard."

"I did not know I told him," I exclaimed; and she laughed horribly and
leaned back in the chair.

All at once I understood, and the comprehension wrapped me in horror.
The horror passed from me to her, though as yet she did not
understand. She looked as though the world yawned wide beneath her
feet. "Oh!" she moaned, and, "Hush!" said I, and I leaned forward
towards her. "I did not know, just as you did not know that you went
to the shed on Castle Down, that you brushed against me as you
returned,--just as you did not know of what happened thereafter."

She put her hands to her head and shivered.

"Just as you did not know that four years ago when Cullen Mayle was
turned from the door, he bade you follow him, and you obeyed," I
continued. "This is Cullen Mayle's work--devil's work. He spun his
watch to dazzle you four years ago; he did the same to-night, and made
me tell him why his plan miscarried. Plan!" and at last I understood.
I rose to my feet; she did the same. "Yes, plan! You told him you had
bequeathed everything to him. He knew that tonight when I met him at
St. Mary's. How did he know it unless you told him on Castle Down?
He bade you go home, enter his room, where no one would hear you,
and--don't you see? Helen! Helen!"

I took her in my arms, and she put her hands upon my shoulders and
clung to them.

"I have heard of such things in London," said I. "Some men have this
power to send you to sleep and make you speak or forget at their
pleasure; and some have more power than this, for they can make you do
when you have waked up what they have bidden you to do while you
slept, and afterwards forget the act;" and suddenly Helen started away
from me, and raised her finger.

We both stood and listened.

"I can hear nothing," I whispered.

She looked over her shoulder to the door. I motioned her not to move.
I walked noiselessly to the door, and noiselessly turned the handle. I
opened the door for the space of an inch; all was quiet in the house.

"Yet I heard a voice," she said, and the next moment I heard it too.

The candles were alight. I crossed the room and squashed them with the
palm of my hand. I was not a moment too soon, for even as I did so I
heard the click of a door handle, and then a creak of the hinges, and
a little afterwards--footsteps.

A hand crept into mine; we waited in the darkness, holding our breath.
The footsteps came down the passage to the door behind which we stood
and passed on. I expected that they would be going towards the room in
which Helen slept. I waited for them to cease that I might follow and
catch Cullen Mayle, damned by some bright proof in his hand of a
murderous intention. But they did not cease; they kept on and on.
Surely he must have reached the room. At last the footsteps ceased. I
opened the door cautiously and heard beneath me in the hall a key turn
in a lock.

A great hope sprang up in me. Suppose that since his plan had failed,
and since Tortue waited for him on Tresco, he had given up! Suppose
that he was leaving secretly, and for good and all! If that
supposition could be true! I prayed that it might be true, and as if
in answer to my prayer I saw below me where the hall door should be a
thin slip of twilight. This slip broadened and broadened. The murmur
of the waves became a roar. The door was opening--no, now it was
shutting again; the twilight narrowed to a slip and disappeared
altogether.

"Listen," said I, and we heard footsteps on the stone tiles of the
porch.

"Oh, he is gone!" said Helen, in an indescribable accent of relief.

"Yes, gone," said I. "See, the door of his room is open."

I ran down the passage and entered the room. Helen followed close
behind me.

"He is gone," I repeated. The words sounded too pleasant to be true. I
approached the bed and flung aside the curtains. I stooped forward
over the bed.

"Helen," I cried, and aloud, "out of the room! Quick! Quick!"

For the words _were_ too pleasant to be true. I flung up my arm to
keep her back. But I was too late. She had already seen. She had
approached the bed, and in the dim twilight she had seen. She uttered
a piercing scream, and fell against me in a dead swoon.

For the man who had descended the stairs and unlocked the door was not
Cullen Mayle.



                             CHAPTER XIX

                               THE LAST


Mesmer at this date was a youth of twenty-four, but the writings of
Van Helmont and Wirdig and G. Maxwell had already thrown more than a
glimmering of light upon the reciprocal action of bodies upon each
other, and had already demonstrated the existence of a universal
magnetic force by which the human will was rendered capable of
influencing the minds of others. It was not, however, till seventeen
years later--in the year 1775, to be precise--that Mesmer published
his famous letter to the Academies of Europe. And by a strange chance
it was in the same year that I secured a further confirmation of his
doctrines and at the same time an explanation of the one matter
concerned with this history of which I was still in ignorance. In a
word, I learned at last how young Peter Tortue came by his death.

I did not learn it from his father. That implacable man I never saw
after the night when we listened to his footsteps descending the
stairs in the darkness. He was gone the next morning from the islands,
nor was any trace of him, for all the hue and cry, discovered for a
long while--not, indeed, for ten years, when my son, who was then a
lad of eight, while playing one day among the rocks of Peninnis Head
on St. Mary's, dropped clean out of my sight, or rather out of Helen's
sight, for I was deep in a book, and did not raise my head until a cry
from my wife startled me.

We ran to the loose pile of boulders where the boy had vanished, and
searched and called for a few minutes without any answer. But in the
end a voice answered us, and from beneath our feet. It was the boy's
voice sure enough, but it sounded hollow, as though it came from the
bowels of the earth. By following the sound we discovered at last
between the great boulders an interstice, which would just allow a man
to slip below ground. This slit went down perpendicularly for perhaps
fifteen or twenty feet, but there were sure footholds and one could
disappear in a second. At the bottom of this hole was a little cave,
very close and dark, in which one could sit or crouch.

On the floor of this cave I picked up a knife, and, bringing it to the
light, I recognised the carved blade, which I had seen Tortue once
polish upon his thigh in the red light of a candle. The cave, upon
inquiry, was discovered to be well known amongst the smugglers, though
it was kept a secret by them, and they called it by the curious name
of Issachum--Pucchar.

This discovery was made in the year of 1768, and seven years later I
chanced to be standing upon the quay at Leghorn when a vessel from
Oporto, laden with wine and oil, dropped anchor in the harbour, and
her master came ashore. I recognised him at once, although the years
had changed him. It was Nathaniel Roper. I followed him up into the
town, where he did his business with the shipping agent and thence
repaired to a tavern. I entered the tavern, and sitting down over
against him at the same table, begged him to oblige me by drinking a
glass at my expense, which he declared himself ready to do. "But I
cannot tell why you should want to drink with me rather than another,"
said he.

"Oh! as to that," said I, "we are old acquaintances."

He answered, with an oath or two, that he could not lay his tongue to
the occasion of our meeting.

"You swear very fluently and well," said I. "But you swore yet more
fluently, I have no doubt, that morning you sailed away from St.
Helen's Island without the Portuguese King's cross."

His face turned the colour of paper, he half rose from his chair and
sat down again.

"I was never on Tresco," he stammered.

"Who spoke of Tresco, my friend?" said I, with a laugh. "I made
mention of St. Helen's. Yet you were upon Tresco. Have you forgotten?
The shed on Castle Down? The Abbey burial ground?" and then he knew
me, though for awhile he protested that he did not.

But I persuaded him in the end that I meant no harm to him.

"You were at Sierra Leone with Cullen, maybe," said I. "Tell me how
young Peter Tortue came by his death?" and he told me the story which
he had before told to old Peter in an alehouse at Wapping.

Peter, it appeared, had not been able to hold his tongue at Sierra
Leone. It became known through his chattering that Glen's company and
Cullen Mayle were going up the river in search of treasure, and it was
decided for the common good to silence him lest he should grow more
particular, and relate what the treasure was and how it came to be
buried on the bank of that river. George Glen was for settling the
matter with the stab of a knife, but Cullen Mayle would have none of
such rough measures.

"I know a better and more delicate way," said he, "a way very amusing
too. You shall all laugh to-morrow;" and calling Peter Tortue to him,
he betook himself with the whole party to the house of an old
buccaneering fellow, John Leadstone, who kept the best house in the
settlement, and lived a jovial life in safety, being on very good
terms with any pirate who put in. He had, indeed, two or three brass
guns before his door, which he was wont to salute the appearance of a
black flag with. To his house then the whole gang repaired, and while
they were making merry, Cullen Mayle addressed himself with an arduous
friendliness to Peter Tortue, taking his watch from his fob and
bidding the Frenchman admire it. For a quarter of an hour he busied
himself in this way, and then of a sudden in a stern commanding voice
he said:

"Stand up in the centre of the room," which Peter Tortue obediently
did.

"Now," continued Cullen, with a chuckle to his companions, "I'll show
you a trick that will tickle you. Peter," and he turned toward him.
"Peter," and he spoke in the softest, friendliest voice, "you talk too
much. I'll clap a gag on your mouth, you stinking offal! To-morrow
night, my friend, at ten o'clock by my watch, when we are lying in our
boat upon the river, you will fall asleep. Do you hear that?"

"Yes," said Peter Tortue, gazing at Mayle.

"At half-past ten, as you sleep, you will feel cramped for room, and
you will dangle a leg over the side of the boat in the river. Do you
hear that?"

"Yes!"

"Very well," said Cullen. "That will learn you to hold your tongue.
Now come back to your chair."

Peter obeyed him again.

"When you wake up," added Cullen, "you will continue to talk of my
watch which you so much admire. You will not be aware that any time
has passed since you spoke of it before. You can wake up now."

He made some sort of motion with his hands and Peter, whose eyes had
all this time been open, said:

"I'll buy a watch as like that as a pea to a pea. First thing I will,
as soon as I handle my share."

Cullen Mayle laughed, but he was the only one of that company that
did. The rest rather shrank from him as from something devilish, at
which, however, he only laughed the louder, being as it seemed
flattered by their fear.

The next day the six men started up the river in a long-boat which
they borrowed of Leadstone, and sailed all that day until evening when
the tide began to fall.

Thereupon Cullen, who held the tiller, steered the boat out of the
channel of the river and over the mudbanks, which at high tide were
covered to the depth of some feet.

Here all was forest: the great tree-trunks, entwined with all manner
of creeping plants, stood up from the smooth oily water, and the roof
of branches over head made it already night.

"I have lost my way," said Cullen. "It will not be safe to try to
regain the channel until the tide rises. It falls very quickly here,
Leadstone tells me, and we should get stuck upon some mudbank. Let us
look for a pool where we may lie until the tide rises in the morning."

Accordingly they took their oars and pulled in and out amongst the
trees, while Cullen Mayle sounded with the boathook for a greater
depth of water. The tide fell rapidly; bushes of undergrowth scraped
the boat's side, and then Mayle's boathook went down and touched no
bottom.

"This will do," said he.

It was nine o'clock by his watch at this time, and the crew without
any fire or light made their supper in the boat as best they could.
Meanwhile the tide still sank; banks of mud rose out of the black
water; the forest stirred, and was filled with a horrible rustling
sound, of fish flapping and crabs crawling and scuttering in the
slime; and on the pool on which the boat lay every now and then a
ripple would cross the water as though a faint wind blew, and a broad
black snout would show, and a queer lugubrious cough echo out amongst
the tree-trunks.

"Crocodiles, Peter," said Cullen gaily, and he clapped Tortue on the
shoulder. "It would not be prudent to take a bath in the pool. Hand
the lantern over, Glen!" and when he had the lantern in his hand he
looked at his watch.

"Five minutes to ten," said he. "Well, it is not so long to wait."

"Four hours," grumbled Tortue, who was thinking of the tide.

"No, only five minutes, my friend," Cullen corrected him, softly; and
sure enough in five minutes Peter stretched himself and complained
that he was sleepy.

Cullen laughed with a gentle enjoyment and whistled a tune between his
teeth. But the others waited in a sort of paralysis of horror and
amazement. Even these hardened men were struck with a cold fear. The
suggestions of the place, too, had their effect. Above them was a
black roof of leaves, the close air was foul with the odour of things
decaying and things decayed, and everywhere about them was perpetually
heard the crawling and pattering of the obscene things which lived in
the mud.

Peter Tortue stirred in his sleep, and Cullen held up the face of his
watch in the light of the lantern so that all in the boat might see.
It was half-past ten. Peter lifted his leg over the side and let it
fall with a splash in the water. It dangled there for about five
minutes, and then the man uttered a loud scream and clutched at the
thwart, but the next instant he was dragged over the boat's side.

Roper told me this story, and the horror of it lived again upon his
face as he spoke.

"Well," said I, "the father took his revenge. He stabbed Cullen Mayle
to the heart as he lay in bed. There is one thing more I would like to
know. Can you remember the paper with the directions of the spot where
the cross was buried?"

"Yes," said he; "am I likely to forget it?"

"Could you write them out again, word for word and line for line, as
they were written?"

"Yes," said he.

I called for a sheet of paper and a pen and ink, and set them before
Roper, and he wrote the directions laboriously, and handed the paper
back to me. There were only two lines with which I was concerned, and
they ran in this order:


"The S aisle of St. Helen's Church. Three chains east by the compass
of the east window."


"Are you sure you have made no mistake?" I asked. "This is a facsimile
of the paper which you took from the hollow of the stick. Look again!"

I gave it back to him and he scratched his head over it for a little.
Then he wrote the directions again upon a second sheet of paper, and
when he had written, tore off a corner of the paper.

"Ah!" said I, "that is what I thought." He handed it to me again, and
it ran now:--


"The S aisle of S. Helen's Church. Three                chains
east by the compass of the east window."


On that corner which had been torn a word had been written. I knew the
word. It would be "Cornish." I knew, too, who had torn off the corner.

The cross still lies then three Cornish chains east of that window, or
should do so. We at all events have not disturbed it, for we do not
wish to have continually before our eyes a reminder of those days when
the sailors watched the house at Merchant's Point. Even as it is, I
start up too often from my sleep in the dark night and peer forward
almost dreading again to see the flutter of white at the foot of the
bed, and to hear again the sound of some one choking.



                               THE END.





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