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Title: The Mystery of the Sea
Author: Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912
Language: English
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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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The Mystery of the Sea



New 6s. Novels


  THE ETERNAL CITY
    BY HALL CAINE

  THE ASSASSINS
    BY N. M. MEAKIN

  SCARLET AND HYSSOP
    BY E. F. BENSON

  THE LUCK OF THE VAILS
    BY E. F. BENSON

  THE STORY OF EDEN
    BY DOLF WYLLARDE

  A PROPHET OF THE REAL
    BY ESTHER MILLER

  SONS OF THE SWORD
    BY MARGARET L. WOODS

  BY BREAD ALONE
    BY J. K. FRIEDMAN

  THE RIGHT OF WAY
    BY GILBERT PARKER

  FOUR-LEAVED CLOVER
    BY MAXWELL GRAY

  JACK RAYMOND
    BY E. L. VOYNICH

  LOVE AND HIS MASK
    BY MÉNIE MURIEL DOWN

  TANGLED TRINITIES
    BY DANIEL WOODROFFE

  GILLETTE'S MARRIAGE
    BY MAMIE BOWLES

  VOYSEY
    BY R. O. PROWSE

  SAWDUST
    BY DOROTHEA GERARD

  FOREST FOLK
    BY JAMES PRIOR


  LONDON
  WILLIAM HEINEMANN
  21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.



  The
  Mystery of the Sea

  By
  Bram Stoker

  Author of "Dracula"


  [Illustration]


  London
  William Heinemann
  1902



  _All rights reserved._

  _This Edition enjoys copyright in all
  countries signatory to the Berne
  Treaty, and has been copyrighted in
  the United States of America by
  Bram Stoker, 1902._



  TO
  DAISY GILBEY RIVIERE
  OF THE
  THIRD GENERATION
  OF
  LOVING AND LOYAL FRIENDS



[Illustration]

    "To win the mystery o' the sea,
    "An' learn the secrets that there be,
    "Gather in ane these weirds three:

    "A gowden moon on a flowin' tide;
    "An' Lammas floods for the spell to bide;
    "An' a gowden mon wi death for his bride."

        [Gælic verse and English translation.]



CONTENTS


   CHAPTER                                           PAGE
        I. SECOND SIGHT                                 3
       II. GORMALA                                      9
      III. AN ANCIENT RUNE                             16
       IV. LAMMAS FLOODS                               23
        V. THE MYSTERY OF THE SEA                      32
       VI. THE MINISTERS OF THE DOOM                   44
      VII. FROM OTHER AGES AND THE ENDS OF THE EARTH   51
     VIII. A RUN ON THE BEACH                          66
       IX. CONFIDENCES AND SECRET WRITING              80
        X. A CLEAR HORIZON                             94
       XI. IN THE TWILIGHT                            104
      XII. THE CIPHER                                 113
     XIII. A RIDE THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS               122
      XIV. A SECRET SHARED                            130
       XV. A PECULIAR DINNER PARTY                    138
      XVI. REVELATIONS                                145
     XVII. SAM ADAMS'S TASK                           152
    XVIII. FIREWORKS AND JOAN OF ARC                  159
      XIX. ON CHANGING ONE'S NAME                     165
       XX. COMRADESHIP                                173
      XXI. THE OLD FAR WEST AND THE NEW               180
     XXII. CROM CASTLE                                187
    XXIII. SECRET SERVICE                             195
     XXIV. A SUBTLE PLAN                              200
      XXV. INDUCTIVE RATIOCINATION                    207
     XXVI. A WHOLE WEDDING DAY                        215
    XXVII. ENTRANCE TO THE CAVERN                     222
   XXVIII. VOICES IN THE DARK                         229
     XXIX. THE MONUMENT                               237
      XXX. THE SECRET PASSAGE                         244
     XXXI. MARJORY'S ADVENTURE                        251
    XXXII. THE LOST SCRIPT                            260
   XXXIII. DON BERNARDINO                             269
    XXXIV. THE ACCOLADE                               277
     XXXV. THE POPE'S TREASURE                        285
    XXXVI. THE RISING TIDE                            293
   XXXVII. ROUND THE CLOCK                            302
  XXXVIII. THE DUTY OF A WIFE                         310
    XXXIX. AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR                      317
       XL. THE REDEMPTION OF A TRUST                  326
      XLI. TREASURE TROVE                             335
     XLII. A STRUGGLE                                 346
    XLIII. THE HONOUR OF A SPANIARD                   355
     XLIV. THE VOICE IN THE DUST                      364
      XLV. DANGER                                     374
     XLVI. ARDIFFERY MANSE                            382
    XLVII. THE DUMB CAN SPEAK                         394
   XLVIII. DUNBUY HAVEN                               403
     XLIX. GORMALA'S LAST HELP                        413
        L. THE EYES OF THE DEAD                       423
       LI. IN THE SEA FOG                             433
      LII. THE SKARES                                 443
     LIII. FROM THE DEEP                              451



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   1618906126721322323364118814273612321263181243316
   1491184331684811411881691106451033213143831231243
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   7661262373223552125472180_



[Illustration]



THE MYSTERY OF THE SEA



CHAPTER I

SECOND SIGHT


I had just arrived at Cruden Bay on my annual visit, and after a late
breakfast was sitting on the low wall which was a continuation of the
escarpment of the bridge over the Water of Cruden. Opposite to me,
across the road and standing under the only little clump of trees in the
place was a tall, gaunt old woman, who kept looking at me intently. As I
sat, a little group, consisting of a man and two women, went by. I found
my eyes follow them, for it seemed to me after they had passed me that
the two women walked together and the man alone in front carrying on his
shoulder a little black box--a coffin. I shuddered as I thought, but
a moment later I saw all three abreast just as they had been. The old
woman was now looking at me with eyes that blazed. She came across the
road and said to me without preface:

"What saw ye then, that yer e'en looked so awed?" I did not like to
tell her so I did not answer. Her great eyes were fixed keenly upon me,
seeming to look me through and through. I felt that I grew quite red,
whereupon she said, apparently to herself: "I thocht so! Even I did not
see that which he saw."

"How do you mean?" I queried. She answered ambiguously: "Wait! Ye shall
perhaps know before this hour to-morrow!"

Her answer interested me and I tried to get her to say more; but she
would not. She moved away with a grand stately movement that seemed to
become her great gaunt form.

After dinner whilst I was sitting in front of the hotel, there was a
great commotion in the village; much running to and fro of men and women
with sad mien. On questioning them I found that a child had been drowned
in the little harbour below. Just then a woman and a man, the same that
had passed the bridge earlier in the day, ran by with wild looks. One of
the bystanders looked after them pityingly as he said:

"Puir souls. It's a sad home-comin' for them the nicht."

"Who are they?" I asked. The man took off his cap reverently as he
answered:

"The father and mother of the child that was drowned!" As he spoke I
looked round as though some one had called me.

There stood the gaunt woman with a look of triumph on her face.

       *       *       *       *       *

The curved shore of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, is backed by a waste of
sandhills in whose hollows seagrass and moss and wild violets, together
with the pretty "grass of Parnassus" form a green carpet. The surface of
the hills is held together by bent-grass and is eternally shifting as
the wind takes the fine sand and drifts it to and fro. All behind is
green, from the meadows that mark the southern edge of the bay to the
swelling uplands that stretch away and away far in the distance, till
the blue mist of the mountains at Braemar sets a kind of barrier. In
the centre of the bay the highest point of the land that runs downward
to the sea looks like a miniature hill known as the Hawklaw; from this
point onward to the extreme south, the land runs high with a gentle
trend downwards.

Cruden sands are wide and firm and the sea runs out a considerable
distance. When there is a storm with the wind on shore the whole bay is
a mass of leaping waves and broken water that threatens every instant
to annihilate the stake-nets which stretch out here and there along the
shore. More than a few vessels have been lost on these wide stretching
sands, and it was perhaps the roaring of the shallow seas and the terror
which they inspired which sent the crews to the spirit room and the
bodies of those of them which came to shore later on, to the churchyard
on the hill.

If Cruden Bay is to be taken figuratively as a mouth, with the sand
hills for soft palate, and the green Hawklaw as the tongue, the rocks
which work the extremities are its teeth. To the north the rocks of red
granite rise jagged and broken. To the south, a mile and a half away as
the crow flies, Nature seems to have manifested its wildest forces. It
is here, where the little promontory called Whinnyfold juts out, that
the two great geological features of the Aberdeen coast meet. The red
sienite of the north joins the black gneiss of the south. That union
must have been originally a wild one; there are evidences of an upheaval
which must have shaken the earth to its centre. Here and there are great
masses of either species of rock hurled upwards in every conceivable
variety of form, sometimes fused or pressed together so that it is
impossible to say exactly where gneiss ends or sienite begins; but
broadly speaking here is an irregular line of separation. This line
runs seawards to the east and its strength is shown in its outcrop. For
half a mile or more the rocks rise through the sea singly or in broken
masses ending in a dangerous cluster known as "The Skares" and which has
had for centuries its full toll of wreck and disaster. Did the sea hold
its dead where they fell, its floor around the Skares would be whitened
with their bones, and new islands could build themselves with the piling
wreckage. At times one may see here the ocean in her fiercest mood;
for it is when the tempest drives from the south-east that the sea is
fretted amongst the rugged rocks and sends its spume landwards. The
rocks that at calmer times rise dark from the briny deep are lost to
sight for moments in the grand onrush of the waves. The seagulls which
usually whiten them, now flutter around screaming, and the sound of
their shrieks comes in on the gale almost in a continuous note, for the
single cries are merged in the multitudinous roar of sea and air.

The village, squatted beside the emboucher of the Water of Cruden at the
northern side of the bay is simple enough; a few rows of fishermen's
cottages, two or three great red-tiled drying-sheds nestled in the
sand-heap behind the fishers' houses. For the rest of the place as it
was when first I saw it, a little lookout beside a tall flagstaff on
the northern cliff, a few scattered farms over the inland prospect, one
little hotel down on the western bank of the Water of Cruden with a
fringe of willows protecting its sunk garden which was always full of
fruits and flowers.

From the most southern part of the beach of Cruden Bay to Whinnyfold
village the distance is but a few hundred yards; first a steep pull up
the face of the rock; and then an even way, beside part of which runs
a tiny stream. To the left of this path, going towards Whinnyfold, the
ground rises in a bold slope and then falls again all round, forming a
sort of wide miniature hill of some eighteen or twenty acres. Of this
the southern side is sheer, the black rock dipping into the waters of
the little bay of Whinnyfold, in the centre of which is a picturesque
island of rock shelving steeply from the water on the northern side, as
is the tendency of all the gneiss and granite in this part. But to east
and north there are irregular bays or openings, so that the furthest
points of the promontory stretch out like fingers. At the tips of these
are reefs of sunken rock falling down to deep water and whose existence
can only be suspected in bad weather when the rush of the current
beneath sends up swirling eddies or curling masses of foam. These little
bays are mostly curved and are green where falling earth or drifting
sand have hidden the outmost side of the rocks and given a foothold to
the seagrass and clover. Here have been at some time or other great
caves, now either fallen in or silted up with sand, or obliterated with
the earth brought down in the rush of surface-water in times of long
rain. In one of these bays, Broad Haven, facing right out to the Skares,
stands an isolated pillar of rock called locally the "Puir mon" through
whose base, time and weather have worn a hole through which one may walk
dryshod.

Through the masses of rocks that run down to the sea from the sides
and shores of all these bays are here and there natural channels with
straight edges as though cut on purpose for the taking in of the cobbles
belonging to the fisher folk of Whinnyfold.

When first I saw the place I fell in love with it. Had it been possible
I should have spent my summer there, in a house of my own, but the want
of any place in which to live forbade such an opportunity. So I stayed
in the little hotel, the Kilmarnock Arms.

The next year I came again, and the next, and the next. And then I
arranged to take a feu at Whinnyfold and to build a house overlooking
the Skares for myself. The details of this kept me constantly going to
Whinnyfold, and my house to be was always in my thoughts.

Hitherto my life had been an uneventful one. At school I was, though
secretly ambitious, dull as to results. At College I was better off, for
my big body and athletic powers gave me a certain position in which I
had to overcome my natural shyness. When I was about eight and twenty I
found myself nominally a barrister, with no knowledge whatever of the
practice of law and but little less of the theory, and with a commission
in the Devil's Own--the irreverent name given to the Inns of Court
Volunteers. I had few relatives, but a comfortable, though not great,
fortune; and I had been round the world, dilettante fashion.



CHAPTER II

GORMALA


All that night I thought of the dead child and of the peculiar vision
which had come to me. Sleeping or waking it was all the same; my mind
could not leave the parents in procession as seen in imagination, or
their distracted mien in reality. Mingled with them was the great-eyed,
aquiline-featured, gaunt old woman who had taken such an interest in
the affair, and in my part of it. I asked the landlord if he knew her,
since, from his position as postmaster he knew almost everyone for miles
around. He told me that she was a stranger to the place. Then he added:

"I can't imagine what brings her here. She has come over from Peterhead
two or three times lately; but she doesn't seem to have anything at
all to do. She has nothing to sell and she buys nothing. She's not a
tripper, and she's not a beggar, and she's not a thief, and she's not
a worker of any sort. She's a queer-looking lot anyhow. I fancy from
her speech that she's from the west; probably from some of the far-out
islands. I can tell that she has the Gaelic from the way she speaks."

Later on in the day, when I was walking on the shore near the Hawklaw,
she came up to speak to me. The shore was quite lonely, for in those
days it was rare to see anyone on the beach except when the salmon
fishers drew their nets at the ebbing tide. I was walking towards
Whinnyfold when she came upon me silently from behind. She must have
been hidden among the bent-grass of the sandhills for had she been
anywhere in view I must have seen her on that desolate shore. She was
evidently a most imperious person; she at once addressed me in a tone
and manner which made me feel as though I were in some way an inferior,
and in somehow to blame:

"What for did ye no tell me what ye saw yesterday?" Instinctively I
answered:

"I don't know why. Perhaps because it seemed so ridiculous." Her stern
features hardened into scorn as she replied:

"Are Death and the Doom then so redeekulous that they pleasure ye intil
silence?" I somehow felt that this was a little too much and was about
to make a sharp answer, when suddenly it struck me as a remarkable thing
that she knew already. Filled with surprise I straightway asked her:

"Why, how on earth do you know? I told no one." I stopped for I felt all
at sea; there was some mystery here which I could not fathom. She seemed
to read my mind like an open book, for she went on looking at me as she
spoke, searchingly and with an odd smile.

"Eh! laddie, do ye no ken that ye hae een that can see? Do ye no
understand that ye hae een that can speak? Is it that one with the Gift
o' Second Sight has no an understandin' o' it. Why, yer face when ye saw
the mark o' the Doom, was like a printed book to een like mine."

"Do you mean to tell me" I asked "that you could tell what I saw, simply
by looking at my face?"

"Na! na! laddie. Not all that, though a Seer am I; but I knew that you
had seen the Doom! It's no that varied that there need be any mistake.
After all Death is only one, in whatever way we may speak!" After a
pause of thought I asked her:

"If you have the power of Second Sight why did you not see the vision,
or whatever it was, yourself?"

"Eh! laddie" she answered, shaking her head "'Tis little ye ken o'
the wark o' the Fates! Learn ye then that the Voice speaks only as it
listeth into chosen ears, and the Vision comes only to chosen een. None
can will to hear or to see, to pleasure themselves."

"Then" I said, and I felt that there was a measure of triumph in my tone
"if to none but the chosen is given to know, how comes it that you, who
seem not to have been chosen on this occasion at all events, know all
the same?" She answered with a touch of impatience:

"Do ye ken, young sir, that even mortal een have power to see much, if
there be behind them the thocht, an' the knowledge and the experience
to guide them aright. How, think ye, is it that some can see much, and
learn much as they gang; while others go blind as the mowdiwart, at the
end o' the journey as before it?"

"Then perhaps you will tell me how much you saw, and how you saw it?"

"Ah! to them that have seen the Doom there needs but sma' guidance to
their thochts. Too lang, an' too often hae I mysen seen the death-sark
an' the watch-candle an' the dead-hole, not to know when they are seen
tae ither een. Na, na! laddie, what I kent o' yer seein' was no by the
Gift but only by the use o' my proper een. I kent not the muckle o' what
ye saw. Not whether it was ane or ither o' the garnishins o' the dead;
but weel I kent that it was o' death."

"Then," I said interrogatively "Second Sight is altogether a matter of
chance?"

"Chance! chance!" she repeated with scorn. "Na! young sir; when the
Voice has spoken there is no more chance than that the nicht will follow
the day."

"You mistake me," I said, feeling somewhat superior now that I had
caught her in an error, "I did not for a moment mean that the
Doom--whatever it is--is not a true forerunner. What I meant was that
it seems to be a matter of chance in whose ear the Voice--whatever it
is--speaks; when once it has been ordained that it is to sound in the
ear of some one." Again she answered with scorn:

"Na, na! there is no chance o' ocht aboot the Doom. Them that send forth
the Voice and the Seein' know well to whom it is sent and why. Can ye no
comprehend that it is for no bairn-play that such goes forth. When the
Voice speaks, it is mainly followed by tears an' woe an' lamentation!
Nae! nor is it only one bit manifestation that stands by its lanes,
remote and isolate from all ither. Truly 'tis but a pairt o' the great
scheme o' things; an' be sure that whoso is chosen to see or to hear is
chosen weel, an' must hae their pairt in what is to be, on to the verra
end."

"Am I to take it" I asked, "that Second Sight is but a little bit of
some great purpose which has to be wrought out by means of many kinds;
and that whoso sees the Vision or hears the Voice is but the blind
unconscious instrument of Fate?"

"Aye! laddie. Weel eneuch the Fates know their wishes an' their wark, no
to need the help or the thocht of any human--blind or seein', sane or
silly, conscious or unconscious."

All through her speaking I had been struck by the old woman's use of the
word 'Fate,' and more especially when she used it in the plural. It was
evident that, Christian though she might be--and in the West they are
generally devout observants of the duties of their creed--her belief in
this respect came from some of the old pagan mythologies. I should have
liked to question her on this point; but I feared to shut her lips
against me. Instead I asked her:

"Tell me, will you, if you don't mind, of some case you have known
yourself of Second Sight?"

"'Tis no for them to brag or boast to whom has been given to see the
wark o' the hand o' Fate. But sine ye are yerself a Seer an' would
learn, then I may speak. I hae seen the sea ruffle wi'oot cause in the
verra spot where later a boat was to gang doon, I hae heard on a lone
moor the hammerin' o' the coffin-wright when one passed me who was soon
to dee. I hae seen the death-sark fold round the speerit o' a drowned
one, in baith ma sleepin' an' ma wakin' dreams. I hae heard the settin'
doom o' the Spaiks, an' I hae seen the Weepers on a' the crood that
walked. Aye, an' in mony anither way hae I seen an' heard the Coming o'
the Doom."

"But did all the seeings and hearings come true?" I asked. "Did it ever
happen that you heard queer sounds or saw strange sights and that yet
nothing came of them? I gather that you do not always know to whom
something is going to happen; but only that death is coming to some
one!" She was not displeased at my questioning but replied at once:

"Na doot! but there are times when what is seen or heard has no manifest
following. But think ye, young sir, how mony a corp, still waited for,
lies in the depths o' the sea; how mony lie oot on the hillsides, or are
fallen in deep places where their bones whiten unkent. Nay! more, to how
many has Death come in a way that men think the wark o' nature when his
hastening has come frae the hand of man, untold." This was a difficult
matter to answer so I changed or rather varied the subject.

"How long must elapse before the warning comes true?"

"Ye know yersel', for but yestreen ye hae seen, how the Death can follow
hard upon the Doom; but there be times, nay mostly are they so, when
days or weeks pass away ere the Doom is fulfilled."

"Is this so?" I asked "when you know the person regarding whom the Doom
is spoken." She answered with an air of certainty which somehow carried
conviction, secretly, with it.

"Even so! I know one who walks the airth now in all the pride o' his
strength. But the Doom has been spoken of him. I saw him with these
verra een lie prone on rocks, wi' the water rinnin' down from his hair.
An' again I heard the minute bells as he went by me on a road where is
no bell for a score o' miles. Aye, an' yet again I saw him in the kirk
itsel' wi' corbies flyin' round him, an' mair gatherin' from afar!"

Here was indeed a case where Second Sight might be tested; so I asked
her at once, though to do so I had to overcome a strange sort of
repugnance:

"Could this be proved? Would it not be a splendid case to make known; so
that if the death happened it would prove beyond all doubt the existence
of such a thing as Second Sight." My suggestion was not well received.
She answered with slow scorn:

"Beyon' all doot! Doot! Wha is there that doots the bein' o' the Doom?
Learn ye too, young sir, that the Doom an' all thereby is no for
traffickin' wi' them that only cares for curiosity and publeecity. The
Voice and the Vision o' the Seer is no for fine madams and idle gentles
to while away their time in play-toy make-believe!" I climbed down at
once.

"Pardon me!" I said "I spoke without thinking. I should not have said
so--to you at any rate." She accepted my apology with a sort of regal
inclination; but the moment after she showed by her words she was after
all but a woman!

"I will tell ye; that so in the full time ye may hae no doot yersel'.
For ye are a Seer and as Them that has the power hae gien ye the Gift
it is no for the like o' me to cumber the road o' their doin'. Know ye
then, and remember weel, how it was told ye by Gormala MacNiel that
Lauchlane Macleod o' the Outer Isles hae been Called; tho' as yet the
Voice has no sounded in his ears but only in mine. But ye will see the
time----"

She stopped suddenly as though some thought had struck her, and then
went on impressively:

"When I saw him lie prone on the rocks there was ane that bent ower him
that I kent not in the nicht wha it was, though the licht o' the moon
was around him. We shall see! We shall see!"

Without a word more she turned and left me. She would not listen to my
calling after her; but with long strides passed up the beach and was
lost among the sandhills.



CHAPTER III

AN ANCIENT RUNE


On the next day I rode on my bicycle to Peterhead, and walked on the
pier. It was a bright clear day, and a fresh northern breeze was
blowing. The fishing boats were ready to start at the turn of the tide;
and as I came up the first of them began to pass out through the harbour
mouth. Their movement was beautiful to see; at first slowly, and then
getting faster as the sails were hoisted, till at last they swept
through the narrow entrance, scuppers under, righting themselves as they
swung before the wind in the open sea. Now and again a belated smacksman
came hurrying along to catch his boat before she should leave the pier.

The eastern pier of Peterhead is guarded by a massive wall of granite,
built in several steps or tiers, which breaks the fury of the gale. When
a northern storm is on, it is a wild spot; the waves dash over it in
walls of solid green topped with mountainous masses of foam and spray.
But at present, with the July sun beating down, it was a vantage post
from which to see the whole harbour and the sea without. I climbed up
and sat on the top, looking on admiringly, and lazily smoked in quiet
enjoyment. Presently I noticed some one very like Gormala come hurrying
along the pier, and now and again crouching behind one of the mooring
posts. I said nothing but kept an eye on her, for I supposed that she
was at her usual game of watching some one.

Soon a tall man strode leisurely along, and from every movement of the
woman I could see that he was the subject of her watching. He came near
where I sat, and stood there with that calm unconcerned patience which
is a characteristic of the fisherman.

He was a fine-looking fellow, well over six feet high, with a tangled
mass of thick red-yellow hair and curly, bushy beard. He had lustrous,
far-seeing golden-brown eyes, and massive, finely-cut features. His
pilot-cloth trousers spangled all over with silver herring scales, were
tucked into great, bucket-boots. He wore a heavy blue jersey and a cap
of weazel skin. I had been thinking of the decline of the herring from
the action of the trawlers in certain waters, and fancied this would be
a good opportunity to get a local opinion. Before long I strolled over
and joined this son of the Vikings. He gave it, and it was a decided
one, uncompromisingly against the trawlers and the laws which allowed
them to do their nefarious work. He spoke in a sort of old-fashioned,
biblical language which was moderate and devoid of epithets, but full
of apposite illustration. When he had pointed out that certain fishing
grounds, formerly most prolific of result to the fishers, were now
absolutely worthless he ended his argument:

"And, sure, good master, it stands to rayson. Suppose you be a farmer,
and when you have prepared your land and manured it, you sow your seed
and plough the ridges and make it all safe from wind and devastatin'
storm. If, when the green corn be shootin' frae the airth, you take your
harrow and drag it ath'art the springin' seed, where be then the promise
of your golden grain?"

For a moment or two the beauty of his voice, the deep, resonant,
earnestness of his tone and the magnificent, simple purity of the man
took me away from the scene. He seemed as though I had looked him
through and through, and had found him to be throughout of golden
worth. Possibly it was the imagery of his own speech and the colour
which his eyes and hair and cap suggested, but he seemed to me for an
instant as a small figure projected against a background of rolling
upland clothed in ripe grain. Round his feet were massed the folds of
a great white sheet whose edges faded into air. In a moment the image
passed, and he stood before me in his full stature.

I almost gasped, for just behind him, where she had silently come,
stood Gormala, gazing not at the fisherman but at me, with eyes that
positively blazed with a sort of baleful eagerness. She was looking
straight into my eyes; I knew it when I caught the look of hers.

The fisherman went on talking. I did not, however, hear what he was
saying, for again some mysterious change had come over our surroundings.
The blue sea had over it the mystery of the darkness of the night; the
high noon sun had lost its fiery vigour and shone with the pale yellow
splendour of a full moon. All around me, before and on either hand, was
a waste of waters; the very air and earth seemed filmed with moving
water, and the sound of falling waters was in my ears. Again, the golden
fisherman was before me for an instant, not as a moving speck but in
full size now he lay prone; limp and lifeless, with waxen cold cheeks,
in the eloquent inaction of death. The white sheet--I could see now that
it was a shroud--was around him up to his heart. I seemed to feel
Gormala's eyes burning into my brain as I looked. All at once everything
seemed to resume its proper proportion, and I was listening calmly to
the holding forth of the Viking.

I turned instinctively and looked at Gormala. For an instant her eyes
seemed to blaze triumphantly; then she pulled the little shawl which she
wore closer round her shoulders and, with a gesture full of modesty and
deference turned away. She climbed up the ridges of the harbour wall and
sat looking across as at the sea beyond, now studded with a myriad of
brown sails.

A little later the stolid indifference as to time slipped all at once
from the fisherman. He was instinct with life and action, and with a
touch of his cap and a "Farewell good Master!" stood poised on the very
edge of the pier ready to spring on a trim, weather-beaten smack which
came rushing along almost grazing the rough stone work. It made our
hearts jump as he sprang on board and taking the tiller from the hand
of the steersman turned the boat's head to the open sea. As she rushed
out through the harbour mouth we heard behind us the voice of an old
fisherman who had hobbled up to us:

"He'll do that once too often! Lauchlane Macleod is like all these men
from Uist and the rest of the Out Islanders. They don't care 'naught
about naught.'"

Lauchlane Macleod! The very man of whom Gormala had prophesied! The very
mention of his name seemed to turn me cold.

After lunch at the hotel I played golf on the links till evening drew
near. Then I got on my bicycle to return home. I had laboured slowly up
the long hill to the Stirling quarry when I saw Gormala sitting on the
roadside on a great boulder of red granite. She was evidently looking
out for me, for when I came near she rose up and deliberately stood in
the roadway in my path. I jumped off my wheel and asked her point blank
what she wanted with me so much that she stopped me on the road.

Gormala was naturally an impressive figure, but at present she looked
weird and almost unearthly. Her tall, gaunt form lit by the afterglow in
a soft mysterious light was projected against the grey of the darkening
sea, whose sombreness was emphasised by the brilliant emerald green of
the sward which fell from where we stood to the jagged cliff-line.

The loneliness of the spot was profound. From where we stood not a house
was to be seen, and the darkening sea was desert of sails. It seemed as
if we two were the only living things in nature's vast expanse. To me
it was a little awesome. Gormala's first mysterious greeting when I had
seen the mourning for the child, and her persistent following of me ever
since, had begun to get on my nerves. She had become a sort of enforced
condition to me, and whether she was present in the flesh or not, the
expectation or the apprehension of her coming--I hardly knew which it
was--kept my thoughts perpetually interested in her. Now, her weird,
statuesque attitude and the scene around us finished my intellectual
subjugation. The weather had changed to an almost inconceivable degree.
The bright clear sky of the morning had become darkly mysterious, and
the wind had died away to an ominous calm. Nature seemed altogether
sentient, and willing to speak directly to a man in my own receptive
mood. The Seer-woman evidently knew this, for she gave fully a minute of
silence for the natural charm to work before she spoke. Then in a solemn
warning voice she said:

"Time is flying by us; Lammas-tide is nigh." The words impressed me, why
I know not; for though I had heard of Lammas-tide I had not the smallest
idea of what was meant by it. Gormala was certainly quick with her
eyes--she had that gypsy quality in remarkable degree--and she seemed to
read my face like an open book. There was a suppressed impatience in her
manner, as of one who must stop in the midst of some important matter to
explain to a child whose aid is immediately necessary:

"Ye no ken why? Is it that ye dinna heed o' Lammas-tide, or that ye no
ken o' the prophecy of the Mystery of the Sea and the treasures that
lie hid therein." I felt more than ever abashed, and that I should have
known long ago those things of which the gaunt woman spoke, towering
above me as I leaned on my wheel. She went on:

"An' ye no ken, then listen and learn!" and she spoke the following rune
in a strange, staccato cadence which seemed to suit our surroundings
and to sink into my heart and memory so deep that to forget would be
impossible:

    "To win the Mystery o' the Sea,
    "An' learn the secrets that there be,
    "Gather in one these weirds three:

    "A gowden moon on a flowin' tide,
    "And Lammas floods for the spell to bide;
    "And a gowden mon wi' death for his bride."

There was a long pause of silence between us, and I felt very strangely.
The sea before me took odd, indefinite shape. It seemed as though it was
of crystal clearness, and that from where I gazed I could see all its
mysteries. That is, I could see so as to know there were mysteries,
though what they were individually I could not even dream. The past and
the present and the future seemed to be mingled in one wild, chaotic,
whirling dream, from the mass of which thoughts and ideas seemed now and
again to fly out unexpectedly on all sides as do sparks from hot iron
under the hammer. Within my heart grew vague indefinite yearnings,
aspirations, possibilities. There came a sense of power so paramount
that instinctively I drew myself up to my full height and became
conscious of the physical vigour within me. As I did so I looked around
and seemed to wake from a dream.

Naught around me but the drifting clouds, the silent darkening land and
the brooding sea. Gormala was nowhere to be seen.



CHAPTER IV

LAMMAS FLOODS


When I got to Cruden it was quite dark. I had lingered by the way
thinking of Gormala MacNiel and all the queer kind of mystery in which
she seemed to be enmeshing me. The more I thought, the more I was
puzzled; for the strangest thing of all to me was that I understood
part of what seemed to be a mystery. For instance I was but imperfectly
acquainted with the Seer-woman's view of what was to be the result of
her watching of Lauchlane Macleod. I knew of course from her words at
our first conversation that in him she recognised a man doomed to near
death according to the manifestation of her own power of Second Sight;
but I knew what she did not seem to, that this was indeed a golden
man. From the momentary glimpse which I had had in that queer spell of
trance, or whatever it was which had come to me on the pier head, I had
seemed to _know_ him as a man of gold, sterling throughout. It was not
merely that his hair was red gold and that his eyes might fairly be
called golden, but his whole being could only be expressed in that way;
so that when Gormala spoke, the old rhyme seemed at once a prime factor
in the group of three powers which had to be united before the fathoming
of the Mystery of the Sea. I accordingly made up my mind to speak with
the Seer-woman and to ask her to explain. My own intellectual attitude
to the matter interested me. I was not sceptical, I did not believe;
but I think my mind hung in poise. Certainly my sympathies tended
towards the mysterious side, backed up by some kind of understanding of
the inner nature of things which was emotional or unintentional rather
than fixed.

All that night I seemed to dream, my mind working eternally round the
data of the day; hundreds of different relationships between Gormala,
Lauchlane Macleod, Lammas-tide, the moon and the secrets of the sea
revolved before me. It was grey morning before I fell asleep to the
occasional chirping of the earliest birds.

As sometimes happens after a night of uneasy dreaming of some disturbing
topic, the reaction of the morning carried oblivion with it. It was well
into the afternoon when all at once I remembered the existence of the
witch-woman--for as such I was beginning to think of Gormala. The
thought came accompanied by a sense of oppression which was not of fear,
but which was certainly of uneasiness. Was it possible that the woman
had in some way, or to some degree, hypnotised me. I remembered with a
slightly nervous feeling how the evening before I had stopped on the
roadway obedient to her will, and how I had lost the identity of my
surroundings in her presence. A sudden idea struck me; I went to the
window and looked out. For an instant my heart seemed to be still.

Just opposite the house stood Gormala, motionless. I went out at once
and joined her, and instinctively we turned our steps toward the
sand-hills. As we walked along I said to her:

"Where did you disappear to last night?"

"About that which is to be done!" Her lips and her face were set; I
knew it was no use following up that branch of the subject, so I asked
again:

"What did you mean by those verses which you told me?" Her answer was
given in a solemn tone:

"Them that made them alone can tell; until the time shall come!"

"Who made them?"

"Nane can now tell. They are as aud as the rocky foundations o' the
isles themselves."

"Then how did you come to know them?" There was a distinct note of pride
in her answer. Such a note as might be expected from a prince speaking
of his ancestry:

"They hae come doon to me through centuries. Frae mither to dochter, and
from mither to dochter again, wi' never a break in the lang line o' the
tellin'. Know ye, young master, that I am o' a race o' Seers. I take
my name from that Gormala o' Uist who through long years foresaw the
passing o' mony a one. That Gormala who throughout the islands of the
west was known and feared o' all men; that Gormala whose mither's
mither, and mither's mither again, away back into the darkness o' time
when coracles crept towards the sunset ower the sea and returned not,
held the fates o' men and women in their han's and ruled the Mysteries
o' the Sea." As it was evident that Gormala must have in her own mind
some kind of meaning of the prophecy, or spell, or whatever it was, I
asked her again:

"But you must understand something of the meaning, or you would not
attach so much importance to it?"

"I ken naught but what is seen to ma een, and to that inner e'e which
telleth tae the soul that which it seeth!"

"Then why did you warn me that Lammas-tide was near at hand?" The grim
woman actually smiled as she replied:

"Did ye no hearken to the words spoken of the Lammas floods, which be of
the Powers that rule the Spell?"

"Well, the fact is that I don't know anything of 'Lammas-tide!' We do
not keep it in the Church of England," I added as an afterthought,
explanatory of my ignorance. Gormala was clever enough to take advantage
of having caught me in a weak place; so she took advantage of it to turn
the conversation into the way she wished herself:

"What saw ye, when Lauchlane Macleod grew sma' in yer een, and girt
again?"

"Simply, that he seemed to be all at once a tiny image of himself, seen
against a waste of ripe corn." Then it struck me that I had not as yet
told her or any one else of what I had seen. How then did she know it? I
was annoyed and asked her. She answered scornfully:

"How kent I it, an' me a Seer o' a race o' Seers! Are ma wakin' een then
so dim or so sma' that I canna read the thochts o' men in the glances o'
their een. Did I no see yer een look near an' far as quick as thocht?
But what saw ye after, when ye looked rapt and yer een peered side to
side, as though at one lyin' prone?" I was more annoyed than ever and
answered her in a sort of stupor:

"I saw him lying dead on a rock, with a swift tide running by; and over
the waters the broken track of a golden moon." She made a sound which
was almost a cry, and which recalled me to myself as I looked at her.
She was ablaze. She towered to her full height with an imperious,
exultant mien; the light in her eyes was more than human as she said:

"Dead, as I masel' saw him an' 'mid the foam o' the tide race! An' gowd,
always gowd ahint him in the een of this greater Seer. Gowden corn, and
gowden moon, and gowden sea! Aye! an' I see it now, backie-bird that I
hae been; the gowden mon indeed, wi' his gowden een an' his gowden hair
and all the truth o' his gowden life!" Then turning to me she said
fiercely:

"Why did I warn ye that Lammas-tide was near? Go ask those that value
the months and days thereof, when be Lammas and what it means to them
that hae faith. See what they are; learn o' the comin' o' the moon and
o' the flowin' o' the tides that follow!"

Without another word she turned and left me.

I went back to the hotel at once, determined to post myself as to
Lammas-tide; its facts and constitutions, and the beliefs and traditions
that hung around it. Also to learn the hours of the tides, and the age
of the moon about the time of Lammas-tide. Doubtless I could have found
out all I wanted from some of the ministers of the various houses of
religion which hold in Cruden; but I was not wishful to make public,
even so far, the mystery which was closing around me. My feeling was
partly a saving sense of humour, or the fear of ridicule, and partly a
genuine repugnance to enter upon the subject with any one who might not
take it as seriously as I could wish. From which latter I gather that
the whole affair was becoming woven into the structure of my life.

Possibly it was, that some trait, or tendency, or power which was
individual to me was beginning to manifest itself and to find its means
of expression. In my secret heart I not only believed but knew that some
instinct within me was guiding my thoughts in some strange way. The
sense of occult power which is so vital a part of divination was growing
within me and asserting its masterdom, and with it came an equally
forceful desire of secrecy. The Seer in me, latent so long, was becoming
conscious of his strength, and jealous of it.

At this time, as the feeling of strength and consciousness grew, it
seemed to lose something of its power from this very cause. Gradually it
was forced upon me that for the full manifestation of such faculty as
I might possess, some kind of abstraction or surrender of self was
necessary. Even a few hours of experience had taught me much; for now
that my mind was bent on the phenomena of Second Sight the whole living
and moving world around me became a veritable diorama of possibilities.
Within two days from the episode at the Pier head I had had behind me a
larger experience of effort of occult force than generally comes to a
man in a lifetime. When I look back, it seems to me that all the forces
of life and nature became exposed to my view. A thousand things which
hitherto I had accepted in simple faith as facts, were pregnant with
new meanings. I began to understand that the whole earth and sea,
and air--all that of which human beings generally ordinarily take
cognisance, is but a film or crust which hides the deeper moving powers
or forces. With this insight I began to understand the grand guesses of
the Pantheists, pagan and christian alike, who out of their spiritual
and nervous and intellectual sensitiveness began to realise that there
was somewhere a purposeful cause of universal action. An action which in
its special or concrete working appeared like the sentience of nature in
general, and of the myriad items of its cosmogony.

I soon learned that Lammas day is the first of August and is so often
accompanied by heavy weather that Lammas floods are almost annually
recurrent. The eve of the day is more or less connected with various
superstitions.

This made me more eager for further information, and by the aid of a
chance friend, I unearthed at Aberdeen a learned professor who gave me
offhand all the information which I desired. In fact he was so full of
astronomical learning that I had to stop him now and again in order to
elucidate some point easily explainable to those who understood his
terminology, but which wrapped my swaddling knowledge in a mystery all
its own. I have a sneaking friendliness even now for anyone to whom the
word 'syzygy' carries no special meaning.

I got at the bases of facts, however, and understood that on the night
of July 31, which was the eve of Lammas-tide, the moon would be full at
midnight. I learned also that from certain astronomical reasons the tide
which would ostensibly begin its flow a little after midnight would in
reality commence just on the stroke. As these were the points which
concerned me I came away with a new feeling of awe upon me. It seemed
as though the heavens as well as the earth were bending towards the
realisation or fulfillment of the old prophecy. At this time my own
connection with the mystery, or how it might affect me personally, did
not even enter my head. I was content to be an obedient item in the
general scheme of things.

It was now the 28th July so, if it were to take place at the Lammas-tide
of the current year, we should know soon the full measure of the
denouêment. There was but one thing wanting to complete the conditions
of the prophecy. The weather had been abnormally dry, and there might
after all be no Lammas floods. To-day, however, the sky had been heavily
overcast. Great black clouds which seemed to roll along tumbling over
and over, as the sail of a foundered boat does in a current, loomed up
from the west. The air grew closer, and to breathe was an effort. A sort
of shiver came over the wide stretch of open country. Darker and darker
grew the sky, till it seemed so like night that the birds in the few
low-lying coppices and the scanty hedgerows ceased to sing. The bleat of
sheep and the low of cattle seemed to boom through the still air with a
hollow sound, as if coming from a distance. The intolerable stillness
which precedes the storm became so oppressive that I, who am abnormally
susceptible to the moods of nature, could almost have screamed out.

Then all at once the storm broke. There was a flash of lightning so
vivid that it lit up the whole country away to the mountains which
encircle Braemar. The fierce crash and wide roll of the thunder followed
with incredible quickness. And then the hot, heavy-dropped summer rain
fell in torrents.

All that afternoon the rain fell, with only a few brief intervals of
glowing sunshine. All night, too, it seemed to fall without ceasing,
for whenever I woke--which I did frequently with a sense over me of
something impending--I could hear the quick, heavy patter on the roof,
and the rush and gurgle of the overcharged gutters.

The next day was one of unmitigated gloom. The rain poured down
ceaselessly. There was little wind, just sufficient to roll
north-eastwards the great masses of rain-laden clouds piled up by the
Gulf Stream against the rugged mountains of the western coast and its
rocky islands. Two whole days there were of such rain, and then there
was no doubt as to the strength of the Lammas floods this year. All the
wide uplands of Buchan were glistening with runnels of water whenever
the occasional glimpses of sunshine struck them. Both the Water of
Cruden and the Back Burn were running bank high. On all sides it was
reported that the Lammas floods were the greatest that had been known in
memory.

All this time my own spiritual and intellectual uneasiness was
perpetually growing. The data for the working of the prophecy were all
fixed with remarkable exactness. In theatrical parlance 'the stage was
set' and all ready for the action which was to come. As the hours wore
on, my uneasiness changed somewhat and apprehension became merged in a
curious mixture of superstition and exaltation. I was growing eager to
the coming time.

The afternoon of July 31 was fine. The sun shone brightly; the air was
dry and, for the time of year, cool. It seemed as though the spell of
wet weather was over and that fiery August was coming to its own again.
The effects of the rainstorm were, however, manifest. Not only was every
rill and stream and river in the North in spate but the bogs of the
mountains were so saturated with wet that many days must elapse before
they could cease to send their quota to swell the streams. The mountain
valleys were generally lakes in miniature. As one went through the
country the murmur or rush of falling water was forever in the ears. I
suppose it was in my own case partly because I was concerned in the mere
existence of Lammas floods that the whole of nature seemed so insistent
on the subject. The sound of moving water in its myriad gamut was so
perpetually in my ears that I could never get my mind away from it. I
had a long walk that afternoon through roads still too wet and heavy for
bicycling. I came back to dinner thoroughly tired out, and went to bed
early.



CHAPTER V

THE MYSTERY OF THE SEA


I do not remember what woke me. I have a vague idea that it was a voice,
but whether outside the house or within myself I know not.

It was eleven o'clock by my watch when I left the Kilmarnock Arms and
took my way across the sandhills, heading for the Hawklaw which stood
out boldly in the brilliant moonlight. I followed the devious sheep
track amongst the dunes covered with wet bent-grass, every now and again
stumbling amongst the rabbit burrows which in those days honeycombed the
sandhills of Cruden Bay. At last I came to the Hawklaw, and, climbing
the steep terraced edge near the sea, sat on the top to breathe myself
after the climb.

The scene was one of exquisite beauty. Its natural loveliness was
enhanced by the softness of the full yellow moonlight which seemed to
flood the heavens and the earth alike. To the south-east the bleak
promontory of Whinnyfold stood out stark and black as velvet and the
rocks of the Skares were like black dots in the quivering sea of gold. I
arose and went on my way. The tide was far out and as I stumbled along
the rude path above the waste of boulders I had a feeling that I should
be late. I hurried on, crossed the little rill which usually only
trickled down beside the fishers' zigzag path at the back of Whinnyfold
but which was now a rushing stream--again the noise of falling water,
the voice of the Lammas floods--and took the cart track which ran hard
by the cliff down to the point which looked direct upon the Skares.

When I reached the very edge of the cliff, where the long sea-grass
and the deep clover felt underfoot like a luxurious carpet, I was not
surprised to see Gormala seated, looking out seawards. The broad track
of the moon lay right across the outmost rock of the Skares and falling
across some of the jagged rocks, which seemed like fangs rising from
the deep water as the heave of the waveless sea fell back and the white
water streamed down, came up to where we stood and seemed to bathe both
the Seer-woman and myself in light. There was no current anywhere, but
only the silent rise and fall of the water in the everlasting movement
of the sea. When she heard me behind her Gormala turned round, and the
patient calmness of her face disappeared. She rose quickly, and as she
did so pointed to a small boat which sailing up from the south was now
drawing opposite to us and appeared to be making a course as close to
shore as possible, just clearing the outer bulwark of the Skares.

"Look!" she said, "Lauchlane Macleod comes by his lanes. The rocks are
around him, and his doom is at hand!"

There did not appear any danger in such a course; the wind was gentle,
the tide was at the still moment between ebb and flow, and the
smoothness of the water beyond the rock seemed to mark its great depth.

All at once the boat seemed to stand still,--we were too far off to hear
a sound even on such a still night. The mast bent forward and broke
short off, the sails hung limp in the water with the peak of the lug
sail sticking up in a great triangle, like the fin of a mammoth shark. A
few seconds after, a dark speck moved on the water which became agitated
around it; it was evident that a swimmer was making for the land. I
would have gone to help him had it been of use; but it was not, the
outer rock was half a mile away. Indeed, though I knew it was no use,
I was yet about to swim to meet him when Gormala's voice behind me
arrested me:

"Do ye no see that gin ye meet him amid yon rocks, ye can, when the tide
begins to race, be no help to any. If he can win through, ye may help
him if ye bide here." The advice was good and I stayed my feet. The
swimmer evidently knew the danger, for he hurried frantically to win
some point of safety before the tide should turn. But the rocks of the
Skares are deadly steep; they rise from the water sheer everywhere,
and to climb them from the sea is a hopeless task. Once and again the
swimmer tried to find a chink or cranny where he could climb; but each
time he tried to raise himself he fell back into the water. Moreover I
could see that he was wounded, for his left hand hung idle. He seemed to
realise the hopelessness of the task, and turning, made desperately for
the part where we stood. He was now within the most dangerous spot in
the whole region of the Skares. The water is of great depth everywhere
and the needlepoints of rocks rise almost to the very surface. It is
only when the waves are rough at low water that they can be seen at all,
when the dip of the waves leaves them bare; but from the surface in
calm weather they cannot be seen as the swirl of the tide around them
is invisible. Here, too, the tide, rounding the point and having the
current broken by the masses of the great rock, rolls with inconceivable
rapidity. I had too often watched from the headland where my home was to
be the set of the tide not to know the danger. I shouted as loudly as I
could, but for some reason he did not hear me. The moments ere the tide
should turn seemed like ages; and yet it was with a sudden shock that I
heard the gurgle of moving water followed by the lap, lap, lap, getting
quicker each second. Somewhere inland a clock struck twelve.

The tide had turned and was beginning to flow.

In a few seconds the swimmer felt its effects, though he did not seem to
notice them. Then he was swept towards the north. All at once there was
a muffled cry which seemed to reach slowly to where we stood, and the
swimmer rolled over for an instant. It was only too apparent what had
happened; he had struck his arm against one of the sunken rocks and
injured it. Then he commenced a mad struggle for life, swimming without
either arm in that deadly current which grew faster and faster every
moment. He was breathless, and now and again his head dipped; but he
kept on valiantly. At last in one of these dips, borne by the momentum
of his own strength and the force of the current, he struck his head
against another of the sunken rocks. For an instant he raised it, and I
could see it run red in the glare of the moonlight.

Then he sank; from the height where I stood I could see the body roll
over and over in the fierce current which made for the outmost point to
the north-east of the promontory. I ran over as fast as I could, Gormala
following. When I came to the rock, which here shelved, I plunged in and
after a few strokes met by chance the body as it rolled upward. With a
desperate effort I brought it to land.

The struggle to lift the body from the water and to bear it up the rock
exhausted me, so that when I reached the top of the cliff I had to pause
for a few seconds to breathe hard. Since the poor fellow's struggle for
life had begun I had never for an instant given the prophecy a thought.
But now, all at once, as I looked past the figure, lying limp before me
with the poor arms twisted unnaturally and the head turned--away past
the moonlit sea and the great, golden orb whose track was wrinkled over
the racing tide, the full force of it burst upon me, and I felt a sort
of spiritual transformation. The air seemed full of fluttering wings;
sea and land alike teemed with life that I had not hitherto dreamed
of. I fell in a sort of spiritual trance. But the open eyes were upon
me; I feared the man was dead, but Briton-like I would not accept
the conviction without effort. So I raised the body to my shoulders,
determined to make with what speed I could for Whinnyfold where fire and
willing hands could aid in restoration. As I laid the limp body across
my shoulders, holding the two hands in my right hand to steady the
burden whilst with the left I drew some of the clothing tight, I caught
Gormala's eye. She had not helped me in any possible way, though more
than once in distress I had called to her. So now I said angrily:

"Get away woman! You should be ashamed of yourself never to help at
such a time," and I took my way unaided. I did not heed at the time
her answer, spoken with a certain measure of deprecation, though it
afterwards came back to me:

"Am I to wark against the Fates when They have spoken! The Dead are dead
indeed when the Voice has whispered in their ears!"

Now, as I passed along with the hands of the dead man in mine--the true
shell of a man whose spirit could be but little space away whilst the
still blood in the veins was yet warm--a strange thing began to happen.
The spirits of earth and sea and air seemed to take shape to me, and all
the myriad sounds of the night to have a sentient cause of utterance. As
I panted and struggled on, my physical effort warring equally with the
new spiritual experience so that nothing remained except sentience and
memory, I could see Gormala walking abreast me with even steps. Her eyes
glared balefully with a fierce disappointment; never once did she remit
the vigilant, keen look which seemed to pierce into my very soul.

For a short space of time there was something of antagonism to her; but
this died away imperceptibly, and I neither cared nor thought about her,
except when my attention would be called to her. I was becoming wrapped
in the realisation of the mightier forces around me.

Just where the laneway from the cliff joins Whinnyfold there is a steep
zigzag path running down to the stony beach far below where the fishers
keep their boats and which is protected from almost the wildest seas by
the great black rock--the Caudman,--which fills the middle of the little
bay, leaving deep channels on either hand. When I was come to this spot,
suddenly all the sounds of the night seemed to cease. The very air grew
still so that the grasses did not move or rustle, and the waters of the
swirling tide ceased to run in grim silence on their course. Even to
that inner sense, which was so new to me that the change in everything
to which it was susceptible became at once noticeable, all things stood
still. It was as though the spirits of earth and air and water were
holding their breath for some rare portent. Indeed I noticed as my eye
ranged the surface of the sea, that the moon track was for the time no
longer rippled, but lay in a broad glistening band.

The only living thing in all the wide world was, it seemed to me, the
figure of Gormala as, with lowering eyes and suspended breath, she stood
watching me with uncompromising, persistent sternness.

Then my own heart seemed to stand still, to be a part of the grim
silence of the waiting forces of the world. I was not frightened; I was
not even amazed. All seemed so thoroughly in keeping with the prevailing
influence of the time that I did not feel even a moment of surprise.

Up the steep path came a silent procession of ghostly figures, so misty
of outline that through the grey green of their phantom being the rocks
and moonlit sea were apparent, and even the velvet blackness of the
shadows of the rocks did not lose their gloom. And yet each figure was
defined so accurately that every feature, every particle of dress or
accoutrement could be discerned. Even the sparkle of their eyes in that
grim waste of ghostly grey was like the lambent flashes of phosphoric
light in the foam of moving water cleft by a swift prow. There was no
need for me to judge by the historical sequence of their attire, or by
any inference of hearing; I knew in my heart that these were the ghosts
of the dead who had been drowned in the waters of the Cruden Skares.

Indeed the moments of their passing--and they were many for the line was
of sickening length--became to me a lesson of the long flight of time.
At the first were skin-clad savages with long, wild hair matted; then
others with rude, primitive clothing. And so on in historic order men,
aye, and here and there a woman, too, of many lands, whose garments were
of varied cut and substance. Red-haired Vikings and black-haired Celts
and Phoenicians, fair-haired Saxons and swarthy Moors in flowing robes.
At first the figures, chiefly of the barbarians, were not many; but as
the sad procession passed along I could see how each later year had
brought its ever-growing tale of loss and disaster, and added more and
faster to the grim harvest of the sea. A vast number of the phantoms had
passed when there came along a great group which at once attracted my
attention. They were all swarthy, and bore themselves proudly under
their cuirasses and coats of mail, or their garb as fighting men of
the sea. Spaniards they were, I knew from their dress, and of three
centuries back. For an instant my heart leapt; these were men of the
great Armada, come up from the wreck of some lost galleon or patache to
visit once again the glimpses of the Moon. They were of lordly mien,
with large aquiline features and haughty eyes. As they passed, one of
them turned and looked at me. As his eyes lit on me, I saw spring into
them, as though he were quick, dread, and hate, and fear.

Hitherto I had been impressed, awed, by the indifference of the passing
ghosts. They had looked nowhere, but with steady, silent, even tread had
passed on their way. But when this one looked at me it was a glance from
the spirit world which chilled me to the very soul.

But he too passed on. I stood at the head of the winding path, having
the dead man still on my shoulders and looking with sinking heart at the
sad array of the victims of the Cruden Skares. I noticed that most who
came now were seamen, with here and there a group of shoresmen and a few
women amongst them. The fishermen were many, and without exception wore
great sea boots. And so with what patience I could I waited for the end.

At length it came in the shape of a dim figure of great stature, and
both of whose arms hung limp. The blood from a gash on his forehead had
streamed on to his golden beard, and the golden eyes looked far away.
With a shudder I saw that this was the ghost of the man whose body, now
less warm, lay upon my shoulders; and so I knew that Lauchlane Macleod
was dead. I was relieved when I saw that he did not even look at me;
though as I moved on, following the procession, he walked beside me with
equal steps, stopping and moving as I stopped and moved.

The silence of death was upon the little hamlet of Whinnyfold. There was
not a sign of life; not a dog barked as the grim procession had moved up
the steep path or now filed across the running stream and moved along
the footpath toward Cruden. Gormala with eager eyes kept watching
me; and as the minutes wore on I began to resume my double action of
thought, for I could see in her face that she was trying to reason out
from my own expression something of what I was looking at. As we moved
along she now began to make suggestions to me in a fierce whisper,
evidently hoping that she might learn something from my acquiescence in,
or negation of, her thought. Through that ghostly silence her living
voice cut with the harshness of a corncrake.

    "Shearing the silence of the night with ragged edge."

Perhaps it was for the best; looking back now on that awful experience,
I know that no man can say what his mind may suffer in the aftertime who
walks alone with the Dead. That I was strung to some amazing pitch was
manifested by the fact that I did not seem to feel the great weight
which lay upon my shoulders. I have naturally vast strength and the
athletic training of my youth had developed it highly. But the weight of
an ordinary man is much to hold or carry for even a short time, and the
body which I bore was almost that of a giant.

The path across the neck of land which makes the Skares a promontory is
flat, with here and there a deep cleft like a miniature ravine where the
water from the upland rushes in flood time down to the sea. All these
rills were now running strong, but I could hear no sound of murmuring
water, no splash as the streams leapt over the edge of the cliff on the
rocks below in whitening spray. The ghostly procession did not pause at
any of these streams, but moved on impassively to the farther side where
the path trends down to the sands of Cruden Bay. Gormala stood a moment
watching my eyes as they swept the long line passing the angle so that I
could see them all at once. That she guessed something was evident from
her speech:

"They are many; his eyes range wide!" I started, and she knew that she
had guessed aright. This one guess seemed to supply her with illimitable
data; she evidently knew something of the spirit world, though she could
not see into its mysteries. Her next words brought enlightenment to me:

"They are human spirits; they follow the path that the feet o' men hae
made!"

It was so. The procession did not float over the surface of field or
sand, but took its painful way down the zigzag of the cliff and over the
rocky path through the great boulders of the foreshore. When the head of
it reached the sand, it passed along the summit of the ridge, just as
every Sunday night the fishermen of Whinnyfold and Collieston did in
returning to their herring boats at Peterhead.

The tramp across the sands was long and dreary. Often as I had taken
that walk in rain or storm, with the wind almost sweeping me off my feet
whilst the sand drift from the bent-covered hills almost cut my cheeks
and ears, I had never felt the way to be so long or so hard to travel.
Though I did not realise it at the time, the dead man's weight was
beginning to tell sorely upon me. Across the Bay I could see the few
lights in the village of Port Erroll that were to be seen at such a
time of night; and far over the water came the cold grey light which is
the sign of the waning of the night rather than of the coming of the
morning.

When we came to the Hawklaw, the head of the procession turned inward
through the sandhills. Gormala, watching my eyes, saw it and an
extraordinary change came over her. For an instant she was as if
stricken, and stood stock still. Then she raised her hands in wonder,
and said in an awed whisper:

"The Holy Well! They gang to St. Olaf's well! The Lammas floods will aye
serve them weel."

With an instinct of curiosity strong upon me I hurried on so as to head
the procession. As I moved along the rough path amongst the sandhills I
felt the weight of the burden on my shoulders grow heavier and heavier,
so that my feet dragged as do the feet of one in a night-mare. As I
moved on, I looked round instinctively and saw that the shade of
Lauchlane Macleod no longer kept pace with me, but retained its place in
the procession. Gormala's evil eye was once more upon me, but with her
diabolical cunning she guessed the secret of my looking round. She moved
along, not with me but at the rate she had been going as though she
liked or expected to remain in juxtaposition to the shade of the dead
man; some purpose of her own was to be fulfilled.

As I pressed on, the shades around me seemed to grow dimmer and dimmer
still; till at the last I could see little more than a film or haze.
When I came to St. Olaf's well--then merely a rough pool at the base of
the high land that stretches back from the Hawklaw--the ghostly mist was
beginning to fade into the water. I stood hard by, and the weight upon
my shoulders became dreadful. I could hardly stand; I determined,
however, to hold on as long as I could and see what would happen. The
dead man, too, was becoming colder! I did not know whether the dimming
of the shadows was from this cause, or because the spirit of the man was
farther away. It was possibly both, for as the silent, sad procession
came on I could see more distinctly. When the wraith of the Spaniard
turned and looked at me, he seemed once more to look with living eyes
from a living soul. Then there was a dreary wait whilst the rest
came along and passed in awesome stillness down into the well and
disappeared. The weight upon my shoulders now became momentarily more
intolerable. At last I could bear it no longer, and half bending I
allowed the body to slip to the ground, I only holding the hands to
steady the descent. Gormala was now opposite to me, and seeing what
I had done leaped towards me with a loud cry. For one dim moment the
wraith of the dead man stood above its earthly shell; and then I saw the
ghostly vision no more.

At that instant, just as Gormala was about to touch the dead body, there
was a loud hiss and murmur of waters. The whole pool burst up in a great
fountain, scattering sand and water around for a wide space. I rushed
back; Gormala did the same.

Then the waters receded again, and when I looked, the corpse of
Lauchlane Macleod was gone. It was swallowed up in the Holy Well.

Overcome with physical weariness and strange horror of the scene I sank
down on the wet sand. The scene whirled round me.... I remember no
more.



CHAPTER VI

THE MINISTERS OF THE DOOM


When at last I looked around me I was not surprised at anything I saw;
not even at the intense face of Gormala whose eyes, bright in the full
moonlight, were searching my face more eagerly than ever. I was lying on
the sand, and she was bending over me so closely that her face almost
touched mine. It was evident, even to my half-awake sensibilities, that
she was listening intently, lest even a whispered word from me should be
missed.

The witch-woman was still seemingly all afire, but withal there was
manifested in her face and bearing a sense of disappointment which
comforted me. I waited a few minutes until I felt my brain clear, and
my body rested from the intolerable strain which it had undergone in
carrying that terrific burden from Whinnyfold.

When I looked up again Gormala recognised the change in me, and her own
expression became different. The baleful glitter of her eyes faded,
and the blind, unreasoning hate and anger turned to keen inquiry. She
was not now merely baffled in her hopes, and face to face with an
unconscious man; there was at least a possibility of her gaining some
knowledge, and all the energy of her nature woke again as she spoke:

"So ye are back wi' the moon and me. Whither went ye when ye lay down
upon the sand. Was it back ye went, or forrart; wi' the ghaists into the
Holy Well and beyond in their manifold course; or back to their comin'
frae the sea and all that could there be told? Oh! mon, what it is to me
that any ither can gang like that into spirit land, and me have to wait
here by my lanes; to wring my hands an' torture my hairt in broken
hopes!" I answered her question with another:

"How do you mean that ghosts go into the well and beyond?" Her answer
was at the first given in a stern tone which became, however, softer, as
she went on.

"Knew ye not, that the Lammas Floods are the carriers o' the Dead; that
on Lammas nicht the Dead can win their way to where they will, under the
airth by wherever there is rinnin' watter. Happy be they that can gain a
Holy Well, an' so pass into the bowels o' the airth to where they list."

"And how and when do they return?"

"Dinna jest wi' Fate an' the Dead. They in their scope can gang and
return again; no een, save your ain, o' man or Seer has seen the method
o' their gangin'. No een, even yours, can see them steal out again in
the nicht, when the chosen graves that they hae sought hae taken from
them the dross o' the airth." I felt it was not wise to talk further, so
without a word I turned and walked home by the sheep tracks amongst the
sand hills. Now and again I stumbled in a rabbit hole, and as I would
sink forward the wet bent would brush against my face.

The walk back in the dark dawn seemed interminable. All this time
my mind was in a turmoil. I did not even seem to remember anything
definitely, or think consecutively; but facts and fancies swept through
my mind in a chaotic whirl. When I got to the house, I undressed quickly
and got into bed; I must have instantly fallen into a deep sleep.

Next afternoon I walked by the shore to Whinnyfold. It was almost
impossible to believe that I was looking at the same place as on last
night. I sat on the cliff where I had sat last night, the hot August
sun and the cool breeze from the sea being inconceivably soothing. So I
thought and thought.... The lack of sufficient sleep the night before
and the tired feeling of the physical strain I had undergone--my
shoulders still ached--told upon me, and I fell asleep.

When I waked Gormala stood in front of me.

After a long pause she spoke:

"I see that ye remember, else would ye ha' spoken to me. Will ye no tell
me all that ye saw? Then, wi' your Seer's een an' my knowledge o' the
fact we may thegither win oot the great Secret o' the Sea." I felt
stronger than ever the instinctive conviction that I must remain keenly
on guard with her. So I said nothing; waiting thus I should learn
something, whether from her words or her silence. She could not stand
this. I saw her colour rise till her face was all aglow with a red flush
that shamed the sunset; and at last the anger blazed in her eyes. It was
in a threatening tone which she spoke, though the words were themselves
sufficiently conciliatory:

"The Secrets o' the Sea are to be won; and tae thee and me it is given
to win them. What hae been is but an earnest of what will be. For ages
ithers have tried to win but hae failed; and if we fail too for lack o'
purpose or because ye like me not, then to ithers will come in time the
great reward. For the secrets are there, and the treasures lie awaiting.
The way is open for those to whom are the Gifts. Throw not away the
favour of the Fates. For if they be kind to give where they will, they
are hard to thwart, and their revenge is sure!" I must confess that her
words began to weaken my purpose. In one way inexorable logic was on
her side. Powers such as were mine were surely given for some purpose.
Might I not be wrong in refusing to use them. If the Final Cause of
my powers were purposeful, then might not a penalty be exacted from
me because I had thwarted the project. Gormala, with that diabolical
cunning of hers, evidently followed the workings of my mind, for her
face lit up. How she knew, I know not, but I do know that her eyes never
left mine. I suppose it may be that the eyes which have power to see
at times the inwardness of things have some abnormal power also of
expressing the thoughts behind them. I felt, however, that I was in
danger. All my instincts told me that once in Gormala's power I should
rue it, so I spoke out on the instant strongly:

"I shall have nothing to do with you whatever. Last night when you
refused to help me with the wounded man--whom you had followed,
remember, for weeks, hoping for his death--I saw you in your true
colours; and I mean to have nothing to do with you." Fierce anger blazed
again in her eyes; but again she controlled herself and spoke with an
appearance of calm, though it was won with great effort, as I could see
by the tension of her muscles:

"An' so ye would judge me that I would not help ye to bring the Dead to
life again! I knew that Lauchlane was dead! Aye! and ye kent it too as
weel as I did masel'. It needed no Seer to tell that, when ye brocht him
up the rocks oot o' the tide. Then, when he was dead, for why wad ye
no use him? Do the Dead themselves object that they help the livin' to
their ends while the blood is yet warm in them? Is it ye that object to
the power of the Dead? You whose veins have the power o' divination of
the quick; you to whom the heavens themselves opened, and the airth and
the watters under the airth, when the spirit of the Dead that ye carried
walked beside ye as ye ganged to St. Olaf's Well. An' as for me, what
hae I done that you should object. I saw, as you did, that Lauchlane's
sands were run. You and I are alike in that. To us baith was given to
see, by signs that ages have made sacred, that Fate had spoken in his
ears though he had himself not heard the Voice. Nay more, to me was only
given to see that the Voice had spoken. But to you was shown how, and
when, and where the Doom should come, though you yersel' that can read
the future as no ither that is known, canna read the past; and so could
na tell what a lesser one would ha' guessed at lang syne. I followed the
Doom; you followed the Doom. I by my cunnin'; you when ye waked frae yer
sleep, followin' yer conviction, till we met thegither for Lauchlane's
death, amid Lammas floods and under the gowden moon on the gowden sea.
Through his aid--aye, young sir--for wi'oot a fresh corp to aid, no Seer
o' airth could hae seen as ye did, that lang line o' ghaists ye saw last
nicht. Through his aid the wonders o' the heavens and the deep, o' airth
and air, was opened till ye. Wha then be ye that condemn me that only
saw a sign an' followed? Gin I be guilty, what be you?"

It would be impossible to describe the rude, wild, natural eloquence
with which this was spoken. In the sunset, the gaunt woman seemed to
tower above me; and as she moved her arms, the long shadows of them
stretched over the green down before us and away over the wrinkled sea
as though her gestures were, giant like, appealing to all nature.

I was distinctly impressed, for all that she said was quite true. She
had in reality done nothing that the law would call wrong. Lauchlane's
death was in no possible way due to any act of hers. She had only
watched him; and as he did not even know that she watched he could not
have been influenced in any way by it or by her. As to my own part! Her
words gave me a new light. Why had I risen in the night and come out to
Whinnyfold? Was it intuition, or a call from the witch-woman, who in
such case must have had some hypnotic influence over me? Or was it----?

I stood appalled at the unspoken thought. Could it be that the powers
of Nature which had been revealed to me in the dread hour had not only
sentience but purpose!

I felt that my tone was more conciliatory as I answered her:

"I did not mean to blame you for anything you had done. I see now that
your wrong was only passive." I felt that my words were weak, and my
feeling was emphasised by the scorn of her reply:

"My wrang was only passive! My wrang! What wrang hae I done that you
should sit in judgment on me. Could I hae helpit it when Lauchlane met
his death amang the rocks in the tide. Why you yoursel' sat here beside
me, an' ye no helpit him or tried to, strong man though ye be, that
could carry his corp frae here to St. Olaf's Well; for ye kenned that no
livin' arm could aid him in that hour o' doom. Aye! laddie, the Fates
know their wark o'er weel to hae ony such betterment o' their plans! An'
div ye think that by any act o' yer ain, or by any refusal o' act or
speech, ye can baffle the purpose o' the Doom. Ye are yet young and
ye must learn; then learn it now whiles ye can, that when the Word is
spoken all follows as ordained. Aye! though the Ministers o' the Doom be
many an' various, an' though they hae to gather in ane from many ages
an' frae the furthermost ends o' the airth!"

Gormala's logic and the exactness of her statement were too much for me.
I felt that I owed her some reparation and told her so. She received it
in her gaunt way with the dignity of an empress.

But there her dignity stopped; for seeing that she had got a lever
in her hands she began at once, womanlike, to use it. Without any
hesitation or delay she asked me straightly to tell her what I had seen
the night before. The directness of her questioning was my best help; my
heart hardened and my lips closed. She saw my answer before I had spoken
it, and turned away with an eloquent, rugged gesture of despair. She
felt that her last hope was gone; that her last bolt had been sped in
vain.

With her going, the link with last night seemed to break, and as she
passed up the road the whole of that strange experience became dimmer
and dimmer.

I walked home by Cruden sands in a sort of dream. The chill and strain
of the night before seemed to affect me more and more with each hour.
Feeling fatigued and drowsy I lay down on my bed and sank into a heavy,
lethargic sleep.

The last thing I remember is the sounding of the dinner-gong, and a dim
resolution not to answer its call....

       *       *       *       *       *

It was weeks after, when the fever had passed away, that I left my bed
in the Kilmarnock Arms.



CHAPTER VII

FROM OTHER AGES AND THE ENDS OF THE EARTH


The last week in June of next year, 1898, found me back in Cruden.
My own house was in process of building. I had purposely arranged
with the builders that the fitting up and what the conveyancers call
"beautifyings" should not be done until I should be on the spot myself
next year, to be consulted about everything. Every day I went over
to see the place and become familiar with it before the plans for
decoration should be taken in hand. Still there was no enjoyment in
getting wet every time I went and came, or in remaining in wet clothes,
so that my day was mainly spent at home.

One of my first visits was to Peterhead which seemed to be in a state of
absolute activity, for the herring fishing had been good and trade of
all kinds was brisk. At the market place which was half full of booths,
could be had almost everything required for the needs or comfort of
life such as it can be on a fishing boat. Fruit and all sorts of summer
luxuries were abundant. Being Saturday the boats had returned early and
had got their nets away to the drying-grounds, and the men had been able
to shave and dress tidily. The women, too, had got their dressing done
early--the fish first and themselves afterwards.

For awhile I wandered about aimlessly amongst the booths, with that sort
of unsatisfaction upon me which had of late been the prelude to many of
the manifestations of the power of Second Sight. This used to be just
as if something within me was groping or searching unsuccessfully for
something unknown, the satisfaction coming with the realization of the
objective of the search.

Presently I came to an itinerant auctioneer who was dealing with a small
cart-load of odds and ends, evidently picked up in various places.
His auction or "roup" was on the "Dutch" plan; an extravagant price,
according to his own idea, being placed on each article, and the offer
decreasing in default of bidders. The auctioneer was ready with his
tongue; his patter showed how well he understood the needs and ideas of
the class whom he addressed.

"Here's the works of the Reverend Robert William McAlister of
Trottermaverish in twal volumes, wantin' the first an' the last twa;
three damaged by use, but still full of power in dealing with the
speeritual necessities o' men who go down to the great deep in ships. A
sermon for every day in the year, in the Gaelic for them as has na got
the English, an' in good English for them as has. How much for the twal
volumes, wantin' but three? Not a bawbee less than nine shellin', goin'
goin'. Wha says eight shellin' for the lot. Seven shellin' an' no less.
Goin' for six. Five shellin' for you sir. Any bidder at four shellin'.
Not a bawbee less than three shellin'; Half a croon. Any bidder at twa
shellin'. Gone for you sir!" the nine volumes were handed over to a
grave-looking old man, and the two shillings which he produced from a
heavy canvas bag duly pocketed by the auctioneer.

Everything he had, found some buyer; even a blue-book seemed to have
its attraction. The oddness of some of the odd lots was occasionally
amusing. When I had been round the basins of the harbour and had seen
the dressings and barrelling of the fish, I again came across the
auctioneer in the market place. He had evidently been using his time
well, for the cart was almost empty. He was just putting up the last
article, an old oak chest which up to now he had used as a sort of table
on which to display the object for sale. An old oak chest has always
charms for me, and I was about furnishing a house. I stepped over,
opened the lid and looked in; there were some papers tossed on the
bottom of it. I asked the auctioneer if the contents went with the
chest, my real object being to get a look at the lock which seemed a
very old one of steel, though it was much damaged and lacked a key. I
was answered with a torrent of speech in true auctioneer fashion:

"Aye, good master. Take the lot just as it stands. An oaken kist,
hundreds of years aud and still worthy a rest in the house-place of any
man who has goods to guard. It wants a key, truth to tell; but the lock
is a fine aud one and you can easy fit a key. Moreover the contents, be
they what they may, are yours also. See! aud letters in some foreign
tongue--French I think. Yellow in age an' the ink faded. Somebody's love
letters, I'm thinkin'. Come now, young men here's a chance. Maybe if
ye're no that fameeliar in writin' yer hairts oot to the lassies, ye can
get some hints frae these. They can learn ye, I warrant!"

I was not altogether unaccustomed to auctions, so I affected a
nonchalance which I did not feel. Indeed, I was unaccountably excited.
It might have been that my feelings and memories had been worked up by
the seeing again the pier where first I had met Lauchlane Macleod, and
the moving life which then had environed him. I felt coming over me that
strange impalpable influence or tendency which had been a part of my
nature in the days immediately before the drowning of the Out-islander.
Even as I looked, I seemed to feel rather than see fixed upon me the
baleful eyes of the man in the ghostly procession on that Lammas eve. I
was recalled to myself by the voice of the auctioneer:

"The kist and its contents will be sold for a guinea and not a bawbee
less."

"I take it!" I cried impulsively. The auctioneer who in his wildest
dreams had no hope of such a price seemed startled into momentary
comparative silence. He quickly recovered himself and said: "The kist is
yours, good master; and that concludes the roup!"

I looked around to see if there was present any one who could even
suggest in any way the appearance of the man in the ghostly procession.
But there was no such person. I met only _mirabile dictu_, the greedy
eyes of Gormala MacNiel.

That evening in my room at the Kilmarnock Arms, I examined the papers
as well as I could by lamplight. They were in an old-fashioned style
of writing with long tails and many flourishes which made an added
difficulty to me. The language was Spanish, which tongue I did not know;
but by aid of French and what little Latin I could remember I made out a
few words here and there. The dates ranged between 1598 and 1610. The
letters, of which there were eight, were of manifest unimportance, short
notes directed: "Don de Escoban" and merely arranging meetings. Then
there were a number of loose pages of some printed folio, used perhaps
as some kind of tally or possibly a cipher, for they were marked all
over with dots. The lot was completed by a thin, narrow strip of paper
covered with figures--possibly some account. Papers of three centuries
ago were valuable, were it only for their style of writing. So I locked
them all up carefully before I went to bed, with full intention to
examine them thoroughly some day. The appearance of Gormala just at the
time when I had become possessed of them seemed to connect them in some
mysterious way with the former weird experiences in which she had so
prominent a part.

That night I dreamed as usual, though my dreaming was of a scattered
and incoherent character. Gormala's haunting presence and all that had
happened during the day, especially the buying of the chest with the
mysterious papers, as well as what had taken place since my arrival at
Cruden was mixed up in perpetually recurring images with the beginning
of my Second Sight and the death of Lauchlane Macleod. Again, and again,
and again, I saw with the eyes of memory, in fragmentary fashion, the
grand form of the fisherman standing in a blaze of gold, and later
fighting his way through a still sea of gold, of which the only reliefs
were the scattered piles of black rock and the pale face patched with
blood. Again, and again, and again, the ghostly procession came up the
steep path from the depths of the sea, and passed in slow silent measure
into St. Olaf's Well.

Gormala's words were becoming a truth to me; that above and around me
was some force which was impelling to an end all things of which I could
take cognizance, myself amongst the rest. Here I stopped, suddenly
arrested by the thought that it was Gormala herself who had set my mind
working in this direction; and the words with which she had at once
warned and threatened me when after the night of Lauchlane's death we
stood at Witsennan point:

"_When the Word is spoken all follows as ordained. Aye! though the
Ministers of the Doom may be many and various, and though they may have
to gather in one from many ages and from the furthermost ends of the
earth!_"

The next few days were delightfully fine, and life was one long
enjoyment. On Monday evening there was a sunset which I shall never
forget. The whole western sky seemed ablaze with red and gold; great
masses of cloud which had rolled up seemed like huge crimson canopies
looped with gold over the sun throned on the western mountains. I was
standing on the Hawklaw, whence I could get a good view; beside me was a
shepherd whose flock patched the steep green hillside as with snow. I
turned to him and said:

"Is not that a glorious sight?"

"Aye! 'Tis grand. But like all beauty o' the warld it fadeth into
naught; an' is only a mask for dool."

"You do not seem to hold a very optimistic opinion of things generally."
He deliberately stoked himself from his snuff mull before replying:

"Optimist nor pessimist am I, eechie nor ochie. I'm thinkin' the
optimist and the pessimist are lears alike; takin' a pairt for
the whole, an' so guilty o' the logical sin o' _a particulari ad
universale_. Sophism they misca' it; as if there were anything but a lee
in a misstatement o' fac'. Fac's is good eneuch for me; an' that, let me
tell ye, is why I said that the splendour o' the sunset is but a mask
for dool. Look yon! The clouds are all gold and glory, like a regiment
goin' oot to the battle. But bide ye till the sun drops, not only below
the horizon but beyond the angle o' refraction. Then what see ye? All
grim and grey, and waste, and dourness and dool; like the army as it
returns frae the fecht. There be some that think that because the sun
sets fine i' the nicht, it will of necessity rise fine i' the morn. They
seem to no ken that it has to traverse one half o' the warld ere it
returns; and that the averages of fine and foul, o' light and dark hae
to be aye maintained. It may be that the days o' fine follow ane anither
fast; or that the foul times linger likewise. But in the end, the
figures of fine and foul tottle up, in accord wi' their ordered sum.
What use is it, then, to no tak' heed o' fac's? Weel I ken, that the
fac' o' the morrow will differ sair frae the fac's o' this nicht. Not in
vain hae I seen the wisdom and glory o' the Lord in sunsets an' dawns
wi'oot learnin' the lessons that they teach. Mon, I tell ye that it's
all those glories o' pomp and pageantry--all the lasceevious luxuries
o' colour an' splendour, that are the forerinners o' disaster. Do ye no
see the streaks o' wind rinnin' i' the sky, frae the east to the west?
Do ye ken what they portend? I'm tellin' ye, that before the sun sets
the morrow nicht there will be ruin and disaster on all this side o'
Scotland. The storm will no begin here. It is perhaps ragin' the noo
away to the east. But it will come quick, most likely wi' the risin' o'
the tide; and woe be then to them as has no made safe wi' all they can.
Hark ye the stillness!" Shepherd-like he took no account of his own
sheep whose ceaseless bleating, sounding in every note of the scale,
broke the otherwise universal silence of nature. "I'm thinkin' it's
but the calm before the storm. Weel sir, I maun gang. The yowes say it
is time for the hame comin'. An' mark ye, the collie! He looks at me
reproachful, as though I had forgot the yowes! My sairvice to ye, sir!"

"Good night" I answered, "I hope I shall meet you again."

"I'm thinkin' the same masel'. I hae much enjoyed yer pleasin'
converse. I hope it's mony a crack we yet may hae thegither!" And so my
philosophical egoist moved homewards, blissfully unconscious of the fact
that my sole contribution to the "pleasing converse" was the remark that
he did not seem optimistic.

The whole mass of his charge moved homewards at an even footpace, the
collie making frantic dashes here and there to keep his flock headed in
the right direction. Presently I saw the herd pouring like a foam-white
noisy river across the narrow bridge over the Water of Cruden.

The next morning was fine, very hot, and of an unusual stillness.
Ordinarily I should have rejoiced at such a day; but the warning of the
erudite and philosophical shepherd made me mistrust. To me the worst of
the prophecy business was that it became a disturbing influence. To-day,
perforce, because it was fine, I had to expect that it would end badly.
About noon I walked over to Whinnyfold; it being Saturday I knew that
the workmen would have gone away early, and I wanted to have the house
to myself so that I could go over it quietly and finally arrange the
scheme of colouring. I remained there some hours, and then, when I had
made up my mind as to things, I set off for the hotel.

In those few hours the weather had changed marvellously. Busy within
doors and thinking of something else, I had not noticed the change,
which must have been gradual however speedy. The heat had increased till
it was most oppressive; and yet through it all there was now and then
a cold shiver in the air which almost made me wince. All was still, so
preternaturally still that occasional sounds seemed to strike the ear as
disturbances. The screaming of the seagulls had mainly ceased, and the
sound of breaking waves on rocks and shore was at variance with the
silence over the sea; the sheep and cattle were so quiet that now and
again the "moo" of a cow or the bleat of a sheep seemed strangely
single. As I stood looking out seaward there seemed to be rising a cold
wind; I could not exactly feel it, but I knew it was there. As I came
down the path over the beach I thought I heard some one calling--a faint
far-away sound. At first I did not heed it, as I knew it could not be
any one calling to me; but when I found it continued, I looked round.
There is at least a sufficient amount of curiosity in each of us to
make us look round when there is a calling. At first I could not locate
it; but then sight came to aid of sound, and I saw out on a rock two
women waving handkerchiefs. The calling manifestly came from them. It
was not good for any one to be isolated on a rock at a time when a storm
was coming up; and I knew well the rocks which these women were amongst.
I hurried on as quickly as I could, for there was a good way to go to
reach them.

Near the south end of Cruden Bay there is a cluster of rocks which juts
out from shore, something like a cock's spur. Beyond this cluster are
isolated rocks, many of them invisible at high tide. These form part of
the rocky system of the Skares, which spread out fan-like from the point
of Whinnyfold. Amongst these rocks the sea runs at change of tide with
great force; more than once when swimming there I had been almost
carried away. What it was to be carried away amongst the rocks of the
Skares I knew too well from the fate of Lauchlane Macleod. I ran as fast
as I could down the steep pathway and along the boulder-strewn beach
till I came to the Sand Craigs. As I ran I could see from the quick
inrush of waves, which though not much at present were gathering force
every instant, that the storm which the shepherd had predicted was
coming fast upon us. In such case every moment was precious. Indeed it
might mean life; and so in breathless haste I scrambled over the rocks.
Behind the main body of the Sand Craigs are two isolated rocks whose
tops are just uncovered at high tide, but which are washed with every
wave. The near one of these is at low water not separated from the main
mass, but only joined by a narrow isthmus a few feet long, over which
the first waves of the turning tide rush vigourously, for it is in the
direct sweep of the flowing tide. Beyond this, some ninety or a hundred
feet off and separated by a deep channel, is the outer rock, always
in island form. From this spot at low water is the best view of the
multitudinous rocks of the Skares. On all sides they rise round you
as you stand, the granite seeming yellow with the washing of the sea
between the lines of high and low water; above the latter the black
seaweed ceases growing. This island is so hidden by the higher rocks
around it that it cannot be seen from any part of Cruden Bay or from
Port Erroll across it; it can only be seen from the path leading to
Whinnyfold. It was fortunate that some one had been passing just then,
or the efforts of the poor women to attract attention might have been
made in vain.

When I reached the Sand Craigs I scrambled at once to the farthest point
of the rocks, and came within sight of the isolated rock. Fortunately
it was low water. The tide had only lately turned and was beginning to
flow rapidly through the rocks. When I had scrambled on the second last
rock I was only some thirty yards from the outermost one and could see
clearly the two women. One was stout and elderly, the other young and
tall and of exceeding beauty. The elderly one was in an almost frantic
condition of fright; but the younger one, though her face was deadly
pale--and I could see from the anxious glances which she kept casting
round her that she was far from at ease--was outwardly calm. For an
instant there was a curious effect as her pale face framed in dark hair
stood out against the foam of the tide churning round the far off rocks.
It seemed as though her head were dressed with white flowers. As there
was no time to lose, I threw off my coat and shoes and braced myself for
a swim. I called as I did so: "What has become of your boat?" The answer
came back in a clear, young voice of manifestly American intonation:

"It drifted away. It has gone off amongst those rocks at the headland."

I had for a moment an idea that my best plan might be to fetch it first,
but a glance at the distance and at the condition of the sea made me see
the futility of any such hope. Already the waves were rising so fast
that they were beginning to sweep over the crest of the rocks. Even that
in front of me where the women stood was now topped by almost every
wave. Without further delay I jumped into the sea and swam across. The
girl gave me a hand up the rock, and I stood beside them, the old lady
holding tight to me whilst I held the younger one and the rising waves
washing round our feet. For a moment or two I considered the situation,
and then asked them if either of them could swim. The answer was in the
negative. "Then," I said decisively, "you must leave yourselves to me,
and I shall swim across with each of you in turn." The old lady groaned.
I pointed out that there was no other way, and that if we came at once
it would not be difficult, as the distance was short and the waves were
not as yet troublesome. I tried to treat the matter as though it were a
nice holiday episode so that I might keep up their spirits; but all the
same I felt gravely anxious. The distance to swim was only some thirty
yards, but the channel was deep, and the tide running strong. Moreover
the waves were rising, and we should have to get a foothold on the
slippery seaweed-covered rock. However there was nothing to be done but
to hasten; and as I was considering how best I should take the old lady
across I said:

"What a pity it is that we haven't even a strong cord, and then we could
pull each other across." The girl jumped at the idea and said:

"There was plenty in the boat, but of course it is gone. Still there
should be a short piece here. I took care to fasten the painter to a
piece of rock; but like a woman forgot to see that the other end was
fixed to the boat, so that when the tide turned she drifted away with
the stream. The fast end should be here still." When the coming wave
had rolled on she pointed to a short piece of rope tied round a jutting
piece of rock; its loose end swayed to and fro with every wave. I jumped
for it at once, for I saw a possible way out of our difficulty; even if
the rope were short, so was the distance, and its strands ravelled might
cover the width of the channel. I untied the rope as quickly as I could.
It was not an easy task, for the waves made it impossible to work except
for a few seconds at a time; however, I got it free at last and pulled
it up. It was only a fragment some thirty feet in length; but my heart
leaped for I saw my way clear now. The girl saw it too and said at once:

"Let me help you." I gave her one end of the rope and we commenced
simultaneously to ravel the piles. It was a little difficult to do,
standing as we did upon the uneven surface of the rock with the waves
rushing over our feet and the old lady beside us groaning and moaning
and imploring us to hasten. Mostly she addressed herself to me, as in
some way the _deus ex machina_ and thus superior to the occasion where
helpless women were concerned; but occasionally the wail was directed to
her companion, who would then, even in that time of stress and hurry,
spare a moment to lay a comforting hand on her as she said:

"Hush! oh hush! Do not say anything, dear. You will only frighten
yourself. Be brave!" and such phrases of kindness and endearment. Once
the girl stopped as a wave bigger than the rest broke over her feet. The
old lady tried to still her shriek into a moan as she held on to her,
saying "Oh Miss Anita! Oh Miss Anita!" plaintively over and over again.

At last we had ravelled the four strands of the rope and I began to knot
them together. The result was a rope long enough to reach from rock to
rock, though it was in places of very doubtful strength. I made a big
loop at one end of it and put it over the stout lady's head and under
her armpits. I cautioned both women not to tax the cord too severely by
a great or sudden strain. The elder lady protested against going first,
but was promptly negatived by the young lady, whose wishes on the
subject were to me a foregone conclusion. I took the loose end of the
rope and diving into the water swam across to the other rock upon the
top of which I scrambled with some little trouble, for the waves, though
not as yet in themselves dangerous, made difficult any movement which
exposed me to their force. I signed to the old lady to slide into the
sea which, assisted by the girl, she did very pluckily. She gasped and
gurgled a good deal and clutched the loop with a death grip; but I kept
a steady even strain on the rope whose strength I mistrusted. In a few
seconds she was safely across, and I was pulling her up by the hands up
the rock. When she was firmly fixed I gave her the loose end of the cord
to hold and swam back with the loop. The girl did not delay or give
any trouble. As she helped me up the rock I could not but notice what
strength she had; her grip of my wet hand was firm and strong, and there
was in it no quiver of anxiety. I felt that she had no care for herself,
now that her companion was safe. I signalled to the old lady to be
ready; the girl slipped into the water, I going in at the same time and
swimming beside her. The old lady pulled zealously. So absorbed was she
in her work that she did not heed my warning cry not to pull too hard.
She pulled as though on her strength rested the issue of life and death;
with the result that before we were a third of the way across the rope
broke and she fell sitting on the rock behind her. For an instant the
girl was submerged and came up gasping. In the spasmodic impulse common
at such moments she gripped me so hard round the neck that I felt
we were both in danger. Before we sank I wrenched, though with some
difficulty her hands away from me, so that when we rose I had her at
arm's length. For a few seconds I held her so that she could get her
breath; and as I did so I could hear the old lady screaming out in an
agonised way:

"Marjory! Marjory! Marjory!" With her breath came back the girl's
reason, and she left herself to me passively. As I held her by the
shoulder, a wave sweeping over the rock took us, and in my sudden effort
to hold her I tore away the gown at her throat. It was quite evident her
wits were all about her now for she cried out suddenly:

"Oh, my brooch! my brooch!" There was no time to waste and no time for
questions. When a man has to swim for two in a choppy sea, and when the
other one is a fully clothed woman, there is little to waste of strength
or effort. So I swam as I had never done, and brought her up to the rock
where the old lady helped her to scramble to her feet. When I had got my
breath I asked her about her brooch. She replied:

"I would not have lost it for all the world. It is an heirloom."

"Was it gold?" I asked, for I wanted to know its appearance as I
intended to dive for it.

"Yes!" she said, and without another word I jumped into the channel
again to swim to the outer rock, for it was close there it must have
been lost and I could dive from there. The channel between the rocks
has a sandy bottom, and it would be easy to see the gold. As I went she
called out to me to come back, not to mind, that she would rather lose
it a thousand times than have me run any risk, and so forth; things
mightily pleasant to hear when spoken by such lips. For myself I had
only exultation. I had got off both the women without accident, and the
sea was as yet, not such as to give any concern to a good swimmer. I
dived from the rock and got bottom easily, the depth being only ten or
twelve feet; and after a few seconds looking round me I saw the gleam of
gold. When I had risen and swam to the inner rock the two women pulled
me up to my feet.

When I gave her the brooch the young lady pressed it to her lips, and
turning to me with tears in her eyes said:

"Oh you brave man! You kind, brave man! I would not have lost this for
anything I call mine. Thank you that you have saved our lives; and
that you have saved this for me." Then with girlish impulsiveness and
unpremeditation she put up her face and kissed me.

That moment, with her wet face to mine, was the happiest of my life.



CHAPTER VIII

A RUN ON THE BEACH


The girl's kiss was so spontaneous and so natural that it could not
convey any false impression to me. It was a manifest expression of
gratitude, and that only. Nevertheless it set my heart beating and my
veins tingling with delight. From that instant I did not feel quite a
stranger to the giver; nor could I ever feel as quite a stranger again.
Something of the same idea may have passed through the girl's mind, for
she blushed and looked around her shyly; but, with a proud lifting of
her head and a slight stamp of her foot on the rock, she put the matter
behind her, for the present. The old lady, in the midst of her concern
for her companion and herself, was able to throw a glance of disapproval
on me, as though I had done something wrong; from which I gathered that
the younger lady was not only very dear to her, but held in some sort of
unusual respect as well. It was peculiar that she should in the midst of
her present condition be able to give a thought to so trivial a thing.
For though death did not now stare her in the face, she was cold and
wet; the rock she stood on was hard and slippery, and the foam of the
breaking waves was even now curling around her feet.

She looked about her apprehensively; she did not know whether or no we
were on another isolated rock. I reassured her on this subject, and we
scrambled as quickly as we could over the rocks on our way shoreward.
The elder lady took up most of my time. Here and there in a difficult
place, for the wind by now blew so strongly that one found it hard to
balance oneself as is necessary when walking on rocks, I offered the
younger my hand. At first she firmly declined; but then, manifestly
thinking it churlish, she relented and let me help her. That kiss was
evidently rankling in her mind.

Both the women breathed more freely when we had reached the shore and
stood secure from the sea. And indeed by this time the view, as we
looked back, was enough to frighten one. Great waves topped with white
were rolling in from as far as we could see; dashing over the rocks,
sending up here and there white towers of spray, or rolling in on the
flat shore in front of us with an ominous roar. Woe betide any one who
might be isolated now on any rock beyond; he would be swept off, and
beaten on the rocks. The old lady groaned as she saw it, and then said
audibly a prayer of thankfulness. Even the girl grew white for a moment;
then, to my secret joy, unconsciously she drew closer to me. I took
control of the party.

"Come," I said, "you mustn't stand here in your wet clothes. Hurry to
the hotel and get dried. You will get your death of cold. We must all
run! Or hasten, at all events!" I added, as I took in the dimensions of
the elder lady.

"We have left our trap at the hotel" said the younger lady as we began
to walk quickly in the direction of Port Erroll.

As we were moving off it suddenly struck me that Gormala might have seen
the episode of the rescue. The very thought of such a thing filled me
with such dismay that I groaned aloud. Not for all the world would I
have had her have a hand in this; it was too sacred--too delightful--too
much apart from ordinary things! Whilst I was lost in a reverie of
inexpressible sweetness for perhaps two or three seconds altogether, I
was recalled to myself by the voice of the girl who came close to me:

"Are you hurt? Please tell me if you are. I am a First Aid."

"Hurt?" I asked, surprised "not at all. What on earth makes you think
so?"

"I heard you groan!"

"Oh that----" I began with a smile. Then I stopped, for again the
haunting fear of Gormala's interference closed over my heart like a wet
mist. With the fear, however, came a resolution; I would not have any
doubt to torment me. In my glance about the shore, as we came off the
rocks on to the beach, I had not seen a sign of anyone. At this part of
the shore the sandhills have faded away into a narrow flat covered with
bent-grass, beyond which the land slopes up directly to the higher
plain. There was not room or place for any one to hide; even one lying
amongst the long bents could be seen at a glance from above. Without a
word I turned to the left and ran as quickly as I could across the beach
and up the steep bank of the sandy plateau. With a certain degree of
apprehension, and my heart beating like a trip-hammer--I had certainly
taken this matter with much concern--I looked around. Then I breathed
freely; there was not a sign of anyone as far as I could see. The wind,
now coming fiercely in from the sea, swept the tall bent-grass till it
lay over, showing the paler green of its under side; the blue-green,
metallic shimmer which marks it, and which painters find it so hard to
reproduce, had all vanished under the stress.

I ran back to join the ladies. The elder one had continued walking
stolidly along the shore, leaving a track of wet on the half dry sand
as she went; but the younger one had lingered and came towards me as I
approached.

"I hope there was nothing wrong?" she asked in a most natural way.

"No," I said it without thinking, for there was something about the
girl which made me feel as if we were old friends, and I spoke to her
unconsciously in this strain. "It's all right. She's not there!"

"Who?" she asked with unconsciousness of any _arrière pensée_, an
unconsciousness similar to my own.

"Gormala!" I answered.

"And who is Gormala?" For quite a minute or two I walked on without
speaking, for I wanted to think before I answered. I felt that it would
be hard to explain the odd way in which the Seer-woman seemed to have
become tangled up in my life; and yet I wanted to tell this girl. I
feared that she might laugh at me; that she might think me ridiculous;
that she might despise me; or even that she might think me a lunatic!
Then again Gormala might come and tell things to her. There was no
accounting for what the woman might do. She might come upon us at any
moment; she might be here even now! The effect of her following or
watching me had begun to tell on my mind; her existence haunted me. I
looked around anxiously, and breathed freely. There was no sign of her.
My eyes finally fetched up on the face of the girl.... Her beautiful,
dark eyes were fixed on me with interest and wonder.

"Well!" she said, after a pause, "I don't suppose I'm more inquisitive
than my neighbours, but I should just like to know, right here, what's
wrong with you. You looked round that time just as if you were haunted!
Why did you run away that time and search round as if some one had taken
a pot-shot at you and you wanted to locate him? Why did you groan before
you went, and come back humming? Who is Gormala, anyhow; and why were
you glad that you didn't see her? Why didn't you answer me when I asked
you who she was? Why did you walk along with your head up and your eyes
staring, as though you were seeing visions? And why----"

All at once she stopped, and a swift blush swept over her face and even
her neck. "Oh," she said in a low tone with a note of pathos in her
voice, "I beg your pardon! my unruly tongue ran away with me. I have no
right to ask so many questions--and from a stranger too!" She stopped as
suddenly as she had begun.

"You might have spared me that!" I said "I know I have been rude in
delaying to answer your question about Gormala; but the fact is that
there are so many odd things in connection with her that I was really
considering whether you would think me a fool or a lunatic if I told
them to you. And you certainly would not understand why I didn't want
to see her, if I didn't. And perhaps not even if I did," I added as an
afterthought. The girl's awkwardness slipped from her like a robe; the
blush merged into a smile as she turned to me and said:

"This is most interesting. O! do tell me--if you don't mind."

"I shall be delighted" I said, and I only expressed my thought.
"Gormala" I began; but just then the stout lady in front of us, who was
now a considerable way ahead, turned round and called to us. I could
only hear "Miss Anita;" but the girl evidently understood, for she
called out:

"All right! We are coming at once!" and she hurried on. It gave me a
thrill of pleasure that she said "we" not "I;" it was sweet to have a
part in such a comprehension. As we went she turned to me and said:

"You must tell me all about it; I shan't be happy till I hear the whole
story, whatever it is. This is all too lovely and exciting. I hadn't an
idea when we went out sleepily this morning that there would be so much
in the day to think of afterwards." I felt that I had taken my courage
in both hands as I said:

"You'll both dine with me at the hotel, won't you. You have missed
lunch and must be hungry, so we can dine early. It will be such a true
pleasure to me; and I can tell you all about everything afterwards, if
we can manage to get a moment alone."

She paused, and I waited anxiously. Then she spoke with a delightful
smile:

"That must be as Mrs. Jack says. But we shall see!" With this I had to
be content for the present.

When we came up to her, Mrs. Jack said in a woeful way:

"Oh, Miss Anita, I don't know what to do. The sand is so heavy, and my
clothes are so weighty with the wet, and my boots squish so with the
water in them that I'm beginning to think I'll never be able to get warm
or dry again; though I'm both warm enough and dry enough in other ways."
As she spoke she moved her feet somewhat after the manner of a bear
dancing, so as to make her wet boots squeak. I would have liked to have
laughed, though I really pitied the poor thing; but a glance at the
concern on Miss Anita's face checked me. Very tenderly she began to help
and comfort the old lady, and looked at me pleadingly to help her. "Why
dear" she said "no wonder it is hard walking for you with your clothes
so wringing wet," and she knelt down on the wet sand and began to wring
them out. I looked around to see what I could do to help. Just opposite,
where we were the outcrop of rock on which the Hawklaw is based sent up
a jagged spur of granite through the sand, close under the bent-covered
hillocks. I pointed to this and we led the old lady over to it and made
her sit down on a flat rock. Then we proceeded to wring her out, she
all the while protesting against so much trouble being taken about
her. We pulled off her spring-side boots, emptied them out and, with
considerable difficulty, forced them on again. Then we all stood up, and
the girl and I took her arms and hurried her along the beach; we all
knew that nothing could be done for real comfort till we should have
reached the hotel. As we went she said with gratitude in every note of
her voice, the words joggling out of her as she bumped along:

"Oh, my dears, you are very good to me."

Once again the use of the plural gave me pleasure. This time, however,
it was my head, rather than my heart, which was affected; to be so
bracketted with Miss Anita was to have hope as well as pleasure.

Things were beginning to move fast with me.

When we got to Cruden there was great local excitement, and much running
to and fro on the part of the good people of the hotel to get dry
clothes for the strange ladies. None of us gave any detail as to how the
wetting took place; by some kind of common consent it was simply made
known for the time that they had been overtaken by the tide. When once
the incomplete idea had been started I took care not to elaborate it. I
could see plainly enough that though the elder lady had every wish to be
profuse in the expression of her gratitude to me, the younger one not
only remained silent but now and again restrained her companion by a
warning look. Needless to say, I let things go in their own way; it was
too sweet a pleasure to me to share anything in the way of a secret with
my new friend, to imperil such a bliss by any breach of reticence. The
ladies were taken away to bedrooms to change, and I asked that dinner
for the three of us might be served in my room. When I had changed my
own clothes, over which operation I did not lose any time, I waited in
the room for the arrival of my guests. Whilst the table was being laid I
learned that the two ladies had come to the hotel early in the day in a
dogcart driven by the younger one. They had given no orders except that
the horse should be put up and well cared for.

It was not long before the ladies appeared. Mrs. Jack began to express
her gratitude to me. I tried to turn it aside, for though it moved me
a little by its genuineness, I felt somewhat awkward, as though I were
accepting praise under false pretences. Such service as I had been able
to render, though of the utmost importance to them, had been so easy of
execution to me that more than a passing expression of thanks seemed
out of place. After all I had only accepted a wetting on behalf of two
ladies placed in an awkward position. I was a good swimmer; and my part
of the whole proceeding was unaccompanied by any danger whatever, I
thought, of course, had it been later in the coming of the storm, things
might have been very different. Here I shuddered as my imagination gave
me an instantaneous picture of the two helpless women in the toils of
the raging sea amongst those grim rocks and borne by that racing tide
which had done poor Lauchlane Macleod to death. As if to emphasise my
fears there now came a terrific burst of wind which seemed to sweep over
the house with appalling violence. It howled and roared above us, so
that every window, chimney and door, seemed to bear the sound right in
upon us. Overhead was heard, between the burst which shook the windows
and doors, that vague, booming sound, which conveys perhaps a better
sense of nature's forces when let loose, than even the concrete
expression of their violence. In this new feeling of the possibilities
of the storm, I realised the base and the truth of the gratitude which
the ladies felt; and I also realised what an awful tragedy might have
come to pass had I or some one else not come down the path from
Whinnyfold just when I did.

I was recalled to myself by an expression of concern by Mrs. Jack:

"Look how pale he has got. I do hope he has not been hurt." Mechanically
I answered:

"Hurt! I was never better in my life," then I felt that my pallor must
have left me and that I grew red with pleasure as I heard Miss Anita
say:

"Ah! I understand. He did not have any fear for himself; but he
is beginning to feel how terrible it was for us." The fulness of
understanding on the part of the beautiful girl, her perfect and ready
sympathy, the exactness of her interpretation of my mind, made for me an
inexpressible pleasure.

When I told Mrs. Jack that I had ventured to claim them both as my
guests, and hoped that they would honour me by dining with me, she
looked at her companion in the same inquiring way which I had already
noticed. I could not see the face of the younger lady at the moment as
it was turned away from me, but her approval was manifest; the answer
was made gladly in the affirmative. Then I put forth a hope that they
would allow me to have a carriage ready to take them home, whenever they
might desire, so that they might feel at ease in remaining till they had
been thoroughly restored after their fatigue. I added that perhaps it
would be good for Miss Anita. Mrs. Jack raised her eyebrows slightly,
and I thought there was a note of distance in her voice, as though she
resented in a quiet way my mentioning the name:

"Miss Anita!" she said; and there was that unconscious stiffening of
the back which evidences that one is on guard. I felt somewhat awkward,
as though I had taken a liberty. The younger lady saw my difficulty, and
with a quick smile jumped to the rescue.

"Oh Mrs. Jack" she said "I quite forgot that we were never introduced;
but of course he heard you mention my name. It was rather hurried our
meeting; wasn't it? We must set it right now." Then she added very
demurely:

"Dear Mrs. Jack, will you present to Miss Anita, Mr.----" she looked at
me interrogatively.

"Archibald Hunter" I said, and the presentation was formally made. Then
Miss Anita answered my question about the carriage:

"Thank you for your kind offer, Mr. Archibald Hunter" I thought she
dwelt on the name, "but we shall drive back as we came. The storm will
not be quite so bad inland, and as it does not rain the cart will be all
right; we have plenty of wraps. The lamps are good, and I know the road;
I noted it well as we came. Is not that right?" she added, turning to
her companion.

"Quite right, my dear! Do just as you like," and so the manner of their
going was arranged.

Then we had dinner; a delightful, cosy meal. The fire leaped whenever
the wind roared; and as the darkness of the storm made a sort of
premature nightfall, it gave a pleasant, homely look to everything.
After dinner we sat round the fire, and I think for a time we were
all content. To me it was so like a dream. To sit there close to the
beautiful stranger, and to think of the romantic beginning of our
acquaintance, was enjoyment beyond words. As yet I did not dare to
cast a glance forwards; but I was content to wait for that. I had a
conviction that my own mind was made up.

After a little while we all became silent. Mrs. Jack was beginning to
doze in her chair, and we two young folk instinctively banded ourselves
together with our youthful superiority over sleep and fatigue. I
sat quite still; there was something so sweet in this organised
companionship of silence that it enraptured me. I did not need Miss
Anita's look of caution to remain quiet; there was something in her
face, some power or quality which was as eloquent as speech. I began to
think of it; and the habit of introspection, which had now become a part
of my nature, asserted itself. How much of this quality I thought, was
in her face, how much in my own eyes and the brain that lay behind them.
I was recalled to myself by a whisper:

"I thought for a moment you were going to sleep too. Hsh!" she placed a
finger on her lip a moment and then tiptoed over to the sofa; taking a
soft cushion she placed it under Mrs. Jack's head, which had now fallen
over sideways upon the arm of the chair. Then she sat beside me again,
and bending over said softly:

"While she is asleep would you mind walking down to the beach, I want to
see the waves. They must be big by now; I can hear their roaring from
here."

"I will go with delight;" I said "but you must wrap up properly. It will
not do to run any chance of a chill."

"All right, oh wise man! I obey, King Solomon! I shall wait to put on my
own clothes till I get back; and you can lend me a mackie-coat if you
will." I got one of mine for her, the newest; and we walked over the
sandhills to the beach.

The wind was blowing furiously. It never left off for a moment; but
occasionally there were bursts of such added violence that we found it
difficult to keep our feet. We clung to each other at such moments, and
the very sense of the strength which enabled me to shield her somewhat
from the violence of the storm, made a new feeling of love--I could not
now disguise it from myself. Something went out from me to her; some
subtle feeling which must, I suppose, have manifested itself in some
way, how I know not, for I kept guard upon myself. For one blissful
moment, possibly of forgetfulness, she clung to me as the weak cling to
the strong, the clinging of self-surrender which is equally dear to the
weak and the strong, to the woman and the man. And then she drew herself
sharply away from me.

There was no misunderstanding the movement; it was an intentional and
conscious one, and the motive which lay behind both was her woman's
mystery. I did not know much about women, but I could make no mistake
as to this. Inasmuch as Providence has thought fit in its wisdom to
make men and women different, it is just as well that each sex should
at critical times use its own potentialities for its protection and
advancement. Herein comes, in the midst of an unnatural civilisation,
the true utility of instinct. Since we have lost the need of early
information of the presence of game or of predatory animals or hostile
men, even our instincts adapt themselves to our surroundings. Many
an act which may afterwards seem the result of long and careful
premeditation is, on reflection, found to be simply the result of that
form of momentary impulse which is in reality a blind obedience to
some knowledge of our ancestors gained through painful experience.
Some protective or militant instinct whose present exercise is but a
variant of its primal use. For an instant the man and the woman were
antagonistic. The woman shrank, therefore it was the man's interest to
advance; all at once the man in me spoke through the bashfulness and
reticence of years:

"Why do you shrink from me? Have I done anything?"

"Oh no!"

"Then why?" A hot blush mantled her face and neck. Had she been an
English girl I should not probably have had a direct answer; she would
have switched conversation on some safer track, or have, after some
skirmishing, forbidden the topic altogether. This girl's training,
however, had been different. Her equal companionship in study with boys
in school and college had taught her the futility of trying to burke a
question when her antagonist was masculine; and the natural pluck and
dominance--the assertion of individuality which is a part of an American
woman's birthright--brought up her pride. Still blushing, but bearing
herself with additional dignity, she spoke. Had she been more
self-conscious, and could she have seen herself at the moment, she would
have recognised to the full that with so much pride and so much dignity
she could well afford to discuss any topic that she chose.

"The fault is not yours. It is, or it was, my own."

"You mean when I gave you back your brooch?" The blood deepened and
deepened to a painful intensity. In a low voice, in the tone of speech,
but with only the power of a whisper she answered me:

"Yes!" This was my chance and I said with all the earnestness I had, and
which I felt to the full:

"Let me say something. I shall not ever allude to it again unless you
wish. I took that sweet acknowledgment of your gratitude exactly as it
was meant. Do believe that I am a gentleman. I have not got a sister, I
am sorry to say, but if I had, I should not mind her giving a kiss to a
stranger under such circumstances. It was a sweet and womanly act and I
respect--and--like you more for it. I wouldn't, of course, for all the
world you hadn't done it; and I shall never forget it. But believe me
I shall never forget myself on account of it. If I did I should be a
howling cad;--and--that's all."

As I spoke her face brightened and she sighed with an expression of
relief. The blush almost faded away, and a bright smile broke over her
face. With a serious deep look in the eyes which glistened through her
smile she held out her hand and said:

"You are a good fellow, and I thank you with all my heart."

I felt as if I walked on air as we forced our way through the storm
which roared around us, over the sandhills towards the sea. It was with
an exultation that made my head swim that I noticed that she kept step
with me.



CHAPTER IX

CONFIDENCES AND SECRET WRITING


The shore was a miracle of wild water and white foam. When the wind
blows into Cruden Bay there is no end or limit to the violence of waves,
which seem to gather strength as they rush over the flat expanse of
shore. The tide was now only half in, and ordinarily there would have
been a great stretch of bare sand between the dunes and the sea.
To-night, however, the piling up of the waters sent in an unnatural tide
which swept across the flat shore with exceeding violence. The roaring
was interminable, and as we stood down on the beach we were enveloped
in sheets of flying foam. The fierce blasts came at moments with such
strength that it was physically impossible for us to face them. After a
little we took shelter behind one of the wooden bathing-boxes fastened
down under the sandhills. Here, protected from the direct violence
of the storm, the shelter seemed like a calm from which we heard the
roaring of wind and wave as from far off. There was a sense of cosiness
in the shelter which made us instinctively draw close together. I could
have remained happy in such proximity forever, but I feared that it
would end at any moment. It was therefore, with delight that I heard the
voice of Miss Anita, raised to suit the requirements of the occasion:

"Now that we are alone, won't you tell me about Gormala and the strange
occurrences?" I tried to speak, but the storm was too great for the
purposes of narrative. So I suggested that we should come behind the
sandhill. We went accordingly, and made a nest in a deep hollow behind
the outer range of hillocks. Here crouched among the tall bent, which
flew like whip lashes when the wilder bursts of the storm came, and amid
a never-ending scourge of fine sand swept from the top of the sandhills,
I told her of all my experiences of Gormala and Second Sight.

She listened with a rapt attention. At times I could not see her face,
for the evening was closing in and the driving clouds overhead, which
kept piling up in great masses along the western horizon, shut out the
remnants of the day. When, however, in the pauses of drifting sand and
flying foam I could see her properly, I found her face positively alight
with eager intelligence. Throughout, she was moved at times, and now and
again crept a little closer to me; as for instance when I told her of
the dead child and of Lauchlane Macleod's terrible struggle for life
in the race of the tide amongst the Skares. Her questions were quite
illuminating to me at moments, for her quick woman's intuition grasped
possibilities at which my mere logical faculties had shied. Beyond all
else, she was interested in the procession of ghosts on Lammas Eve. Only
once during my narrative of this episode she interrupted me; not an
intentional interruption but a passing comment of her own, candidly
expressed. This was where the body of armed men came along; at which she
said with a deep hissing intake of her breath through her teeth:

"Spaniards! I knew it! They were from some lost ship of the Armada!"
When I spoke of the one who turned and looked at me with eyes that
seemed of the quick, she straightened her back and squared her
shoulders, and looking all round her alertly as though for some hidden
enemy, clenched her hands and shut her lips tightly. Her great dark eyes
seemed to blaze; then she grew calm again in a moment.

When I had finished she sat silent for a while, her eyes fixed in front
of her as with one whose mind is occupied with introspection. Suddenly
she said:

"That man had some secret, and he feared you would discover it. I can
see it all! He, coming from his grave, could see with his dead eyes what
you could see with your living ones. Nay, more; he could, perhaps, see
not only that you saw, and what you saw, but where the knowledge would
lead you. That certainly is a grand idea of Gormala's, that of winning
the Secret of the Sea!" After a pause of a few moments she went on,
standing up as she did so and walking restlessly to and fro with
clenched hands and flashing eyes:

"And if there be any Secrets of the Sea why not win them? If they be of
Spain and the Spaniard, why not, a thousand times more, win them. If the
Spaniard had a secret, be sure it was of no good to our Race. Why--" she
moved excitedly as she went on: "Why this is growing interesting beyond
belief. If his dead eyes could for an instant become quick, why should
not the change last longer? He might materialise altogether." She
stopped suddenly and said: "There! I am getting flighty as usual. I
must think it all over. It is all too wonderful and too exciting for
anything. You will let me ask you more about it, won't you, when we meet
again?"

When we meet again! Then we would meet again: The thought was a delight
to me; and it was only after several rapturous seconds that I answered
her:

"I shall tell you all I know; everything. You will be able to help me in
discovering the Mystery; perhaps working together we can win the Secret
of the Sea."

"That would be too enchanting!" she said impulsively, and then stopped
suddenly as if remembering herself. After a pause she said sedately:

"I'm afraid we must be going back now. We have a long way to drive; and
it will be quite late enough anyhow."

As we moved off I asked her if I might not see her and Mrs. Jack safely
home. I could get a horse at the hotel and drive with them. She laughed
lightly as she answered:

"You are very kind indeed. But surely we shall not need any one! I
am a good driver; the horse is perfect and the lamps are bright. You
haven't any 'hold-ups' here as we have Out West; and as I am not within
Gormala's sphere of influence, I don't think there is anything to
dread!" Then after a pause she added:

"By the way have you ever seen Gormala since?" It was with a queer
feeling which I could not then analyse, but which I found afterwards
contained a certain proportion of exultation I answered:

"Oh yes! I saw her only two days ago--" Here I stopped for I was struck
with a new sense of the connection of things. Miss Anita saw the wonder
in my face and drawing close to me said:

"Tell me all about it!" So I told her of the auction at Peterhead and of
the chest and the papers with the mysterious marks, and of how I thought
it might be some sort of account--"or," I added as a new idea struck
me--"secret writing." When I had got thus far she said with decision:

"I am quite sure it is. You must try to find it out. Oh, you must, you
must!"

"I shall," said I, "if you desire it." She said nothing, but a blush
spread over her face. Then she resumed her movement towards the hotel.

We walked in silence; or rather we ran and stumbled, for the fierce
wind behind us drove us along. The ups and downs of the surface were
veiled with the mist of flying sand swept from amongst the bent-grass
on the tops of the sandhills. I would have liked to help her, but a
judicious dread of seeming officious--and so losing a step in her good
graces--held me back. I felt that I was paying a price of abstinence for
that kiss. As we went, the silence between us seemed to be ridiculous;
so to get over it I said, after searching in my mind for a topic which
would not close up her sympathies with me:

"You don't seem to like Spaniards?"

"No," she answered quickly, "I hate them! Nasty, cruel, treacherous
wretches! Look at the way they are treating Cuba! Look at the _Maine_!"
Then she added suddenly:

"But how on earth did you know I dislike them." I answered:

"Your voice told me when you spoke to yourself whilst I was telling you
about the ghosts and the man with the eyes."

"True," she said reflectively. "So I did. I must keep more guard on
myself and not let my feelings run away with me. I give myself away so
awfully." I could have made a reply to this, but I was afraid. That kiss
seemed like an embodied spirit of warning, holding a sword over my head
by a hair.

It was not long before I found the value of my silence. The lady's
confidence in my discretion was restored, and she began, of her own
initiative, to talk. She spoke of the procession of ghosts; suddenly
stopping, however, as if she had remembered something, she said to me:

"But why were you so anxious that Gormala should not have seen you
saving us from the rock?"

"Because," I answered, "I did not want her to have anything to do with
this."

"What do you mean by 'this'?" There was something in the tone of her
query which set me on guard. It was not sincere; it had not that natural
intonation, even, all through, which marks a question put in simple
faith. Rather was it in the tone of one who asks, knowing well the
answer which will or may be given. As I have said, I did not know much
about women, but the tone of coquetry, no matter how sweet, no matter
how ingenuous, no matter how lovable, cannot be mistaken by any man with
red blood in his veins! Secretly I exulted, for I felt instinctively
that there rested some advantage with me in the struggle of sex. The
knowledge gave me coolness, and brought my brain to the aid of my heart.
Nothing would have delighted me more at the moment than to fling myself,
actually as well as metaphorically, at the girl's feet. My mind was made
up to try to win her; my only thought now was the best means to that
end. I felt that I was a little sententious as I replied to her
question:

"By 'this' I mean the whole episode of my meeting with you."

"And Mrs. Jack," she added, interrupting me.

"And Mrs. Jack, of course," I went on, feeling rejoiced that she had
given me an opportunity of saying something which I would not otherwise
have dared to say. "Or rather I should perhaps say, my meeting with Mrs.
Jack and her friend. It was to me a most delightful thing to meet with
Mrs. Jack; and I can honestly say this day has been the happiest of my
life."

"Don't you think we had better be getting on? Mrs. Jack will be waiting
for us!" she said, but without any kind of reproach in her manner.

"All right," I answered, as I ran up a steep sandhill and held out my
hand to help her. I did not let her hand go till we had run down the
other side, and up and down another hillock and came out upon the flat
waste of sand which lay between us and the road, and over which a sort
of ghostly cloud of sand drifted.

Before we left the sand, I said earnestly:

"Gormala's presence seems always to mean gloom and sorrow, weeping and
mourning, fear and death. I would not have any of them come near you or
yours. This is why I thanked God then, and thank Him now, that in our
meeting Gormala had no part!"

She gave me her hand impulsively. As for an instant her soft palm lay
in my palm and her strong fingers clasped mine, I felt that there was a
bond between us which might some day enable me to shield her from harm.

When Mrs. Jack, and 'her friend', were leaving the hotel, I came to
the door to see them off. She said to me, in a low voice, as I bade
farewell:

"We shall, I daresay, see you before long. I know that Mrs. Jack intends
to drive over here again. Thank you for all your kindness. Good night!"
There was a shake of the reins, a clatter of feet on the hard road, a
sweeping round of the rays of light from the lamp as the cart swayed at
the start under the leap forward of the high-bred horse and swung up the
steep inland roadway. The last thing I saw was a dark, muffled figure,
topped by a tam-o'-shanter cap, projected against the mist of moving
light from the lamp.

Next morning I was somewhat _distrait_. Half the night I had lain awake
thinking; the other half I had dreamt. Both sleeping and waking dreams
were mixed, ranging from all the brightness of hope to the harrowing
possibilities of vague, undefined fear.

Sleeping dreams have this difference over day dreams, that the
possibilities become for the time actualities, and thus for good and
ill, pleasure or pain, multiply the joys or sufferings. Through all,
however, there remained one fixed hope always verging toward belief, I
should see Miss Anita--Marjory--again.

Late in the afternoon I got a letter directed in a strange hand, fine
and firm, with marked characteristics and well formed letters, and just
enough of unevenness to set me at ease. I am never quite happy with the
writer whose hand is exact, letter by letter, and word by word, and line
by line. So much can be told by handwriting, I thought, as I looked at
the letter lying beside my plate. A hand that has no characteristics is
that of a person insipid; a hand that is too marked and too various is
disconcerting and undependable. Here my philosophising came to an end,
for I had opened the envelope, and not knowing the writing, had looked
at the signature, "Marjory Anita."

I hoped that no one at the table d'hote breakfast noticed me, for I felt
that I was red and pale by turns. I laid the letter down, taking care
that the blank back page was uppermost; with what nonchalance I could I
went on with my smoked haddie. Then I put the letter in my pocket and
waited till I was in my own room, secure from interruption, before I
read it.

That one should kiss a letter before reading it, is conceivable,
especially when it is the first which one has received from the girl he
loves.

It was not dated nor addressed. A swift intuition told me that she had
not given the date because she did not wish to give the address; the
absence of both was less marked than the presence of the one alone. It
addressed me as "Dear Mr. Hunter." She knew my name, of course, for I
had told it to her; it was on the envelope. The body of the letter said
that she was asked by Mrs. Jack to convey her warm thanks for the great
service rendered; to which she ventured to add the expression of her own
gratitude. That in the hurry and confusion of mind, consequent on their
unexpected position, they had both quite forgotten about the boat which
they had hired and which had been lost. That the owner of it would no
doubt be uneasy about it, and that they would both be grateful if I
would see him--he lived in one of the cottages close to the harbour of
Port Erroll--and find out from him the value of the boat so that Mrs.
Jack might pay it to him, as well as a reasonable sum for the loss of
its use until he should have been able to procure another. That Mrs.
Jack ventured to give him so much trouble, as Mr. Hunter had been
already so kind that she felt emboldened to trespass upon his goodness.
And was "yours faithfully, 'Marjory Anita.'" Of course there was a
postscript--it was a woman's letter! It ran as follows:

  "Have you deciphered those papers? I have been thinking over them as
  well as other things, and I am convinced they contain some secret.
  You must tell me all about them when I see you on Tuesday.

  M."

I fear that logic, as understood in books, had little to do with my kiss
on reading this; the reasoning belonged to that higher plane of thought
on which rests the happiness of men and women in this world and the
next. There was not a thought in the postscript which did not give me
joy--utter and unspeakable joy; and the more I thought of it and the
oftener I read it the more it seemed to satisfy some aching void in my
heart, "Have you deciphered the papers"--the papers whose existence was
only known to her and me! It was delightful that we should know so much
of a secret in common. She had been 'thinking over them'--and other
things! 'Other things!'--I had been thinking of other things; thinking
of them so often that every detail of their being or happening was
photographed not only on my memory but seemingly on my very soul. And
of all these 'other things' there was one!!...

To see her again; to hear her voice; to look in her eyes; to see her
lips move and watch each varying expression which might pass across that
lovely face, evoked by thoughts which we should hold in common; to touch
her hand....

I sat for a while like one in a rapturous dream, where one sees all the
hopes of the heart fulfilled in completeness and endlessly. And this was
all to be on Tuesday next--Only six days off!...

I started impulsively and went to the oak chest which stood in the
corner of my room and took out the papers.

After looking over them carefully I settled quietly down to a minute
examination of them. I felt instinctively that my mandate or commission
was to see if they contained any secret writing. The letters I placed
aside, for the present at any rate. They were transparently simple
and written in a flowing hand which made anything like the necessary
elaboration impossible. I knew something of secret writing, for such had
in my boyhood been a favourite amusement with me. At one time I had been
an invalid for a considerable period and had taken from my father's
library a book by Bishop Wilkins, the brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell,
called "Mercury: or the Secret and Swift Messenger." Herein were given
accounts of many of the old methods of secret communication, ciphers,
string writing, hidden meanings, and many of the mechanical devices
employed in an age when the correspondence of ambassadors, spies and
secret agents was mainly conducted by such means. This experience had
set my mind somewhat on secret writing, and ever after when in the
course of miscellaneous reading I came across anything relating to the
subject I made a note of it. I now looked over the papers to see if I
could find traces of any of the methods with which I was acquainted;
before long I had an idea.

It was only a rudimentary idea, a surmise, a possibility; but still it
was worth going into. It was not any cause of undue pride to me, for it
came as a corollary to an established conclusion, rather than as a fine
piece of reasoning from acute observation. The dates of the letters gave
the period as the end of the sixteenth century, when one of the best
ciphers of that time had been conceived, the "Biliteral Cipher" of
Francis Bacon. To this my attention had been directed by the work
of John Wilkins and I had followed it out with great care. As I was
familiar with the principle and method of this cipher I was able to
detect signs of its existence; and this being so, I had at once strong
hopes of being able to find the key to it. The Biliteral cipher has as
its great advantage, that it can be used in any ordinary writing, and
that its forms and methods are simply endless. All that it requires in
the first instance is that there be some method arranged on between the
writer and the reader of distinguishing between different forms of the
same letter. In my desk I had a typewritten copy of a monograph on the
subject of the Biliteral cipher, in which I half suggested that possibly
Bacon's idea might be worked out more fully so that a fewer number of
symbols than his five would be sufficient. Leaving my present occupation
for a moment I went and got it; for by reading it over I might get some
clue to aid me. Some thought which had already come to me, or some
conclusion at which I had already arrived might guide me in this new
labyrinth of figures, words and symbols.[1]

      [1] See Appendix A.

When I had carefully read the paper, occasionally referring to the
documents before me, I sat down and wrote a letter to Miss Anita
telling her that I had undertaken the task at once on her suggestion and
that I surmised that the method of secret writing adopted if any, was
probably a variant of the Biliteral cipher. I therefore sent her my own
monograph on the subject so that if she chose she might study it and be
prepared to go into the matter when we met. I studiously avoided saying
anything which might frighten her or make any barrier between us;
matters were shaping themselves too clearly for me to allow myself to
fall into the folly of over-precipitation. It was only when I had
placed the letter with its enclosure in the envelope and written
Marjory's--Miss Anita's--name that I remembered that I had not got her
address. I put it in my pocket to keep for her till we should meet on
Tuesday.

When I resumed my work I began on the two remaining exhibits. The first
was a sheaf of some thirty pages torn out of some black-letter law-book.
The only remarkable thing about it was that every page seemed covered
with dots--hundreds, perhaps thousands on each page. The second was
quite different: a narrow slip of paper somewhat longer than a half
sheet of modern note paper, covered with an endless array of figures in
even lines, written small and with exquisite care. The paper was just
such a size as might be put as marker in an ordinary quarto; that it had
been so used was manifest by the discolouration of a portion of it that
had evidently stuck out at the top of the volume. Fortunately, in its
long dusty rest in the bookshelf the side written on had been downward
so that the figures, though obscured by dust and faded by light and
exposure to the air, were still decipherable. This paper I examined most
carefully with a microscope; but could see in it no signs of secret
writing beyond what might be contained in the disposition of the numbers
themselves. I got a sheet of foolscap and made an enlarged copy, taking
care to leave fair space between the rows of figures and between the
figures themselves.

Then I placed the copy of figures and the first of the dotted pages side
by side before me and began to study them.

I confined my attention at first chiefly to the paper of figures, for it
struck me that it would of necessity be the simpler of the two systems
to read, inasmuch as the symbols should be self-contained. In the dotted
letters it was possible that more than one element existed, for the
disposition of significants appeared to be of endless variety, and
the very novelty of the method--it being one to which the eyes and the
senses were not accustomed--made it a difficult one to follow at first.
I had little doubt, however, that I should ultimately find the dot
cipher the more simple of the two, when I should have learned its secret
and become accustomed to its form. Its mere bulk made the supposition
likely that it was in reality simple; for it would be indeed an endless
task, to work out in this laborious form two whole sheets of a
complicated cipher.

Over and over and over again I read the script of numbers. Forward and
backward; vertically; up and down, for the lines both horizontal and
vertical were complete and exact, I read it. But nothing struck me of
sufficient importance to commence with as a beginning.

Of course there were here and there repetitions of the same combination
of figures, sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes four together; but
of the larger combinations the instances were rare and did not afford me
any suggestion of a clue!

So I became practical, and spent the remainder of my work-time that day
in making by aid of my microscope an exact but enlarged copy, but in
Roman letters, of the first of the printed pages.

Then I reproduced the dots as exactly as I could. This was a laborious
task indeed. When the page was finished, half-blinded, I took my hat and
went out along the shore towards Whinnyfold. I wanted to go to the Sand
Craigs; but even to myself I said 'Whinnyfold' which lay farther on.

"Men are deceivers ever," sang Balthazar in the play: they deceive
even themselves at times. Or they pretend they do--which is a new and
advanced form of the same deceit.



CHAPTER X

A CLEAR HORIZON


If any ordinary person be afflicted with ennui and want something
to take his thoughts away from a perpetual consideration of his own
weariness let me recommend him to take up the interpretation of secret
writing. At first, perhaps, he may regard the matter lightly and be
inclined to smile at its triviality. But after a little while, if he
have in him at all any of the persistence or doggedness which is, and
should be, a part of a man's nature, he will find the subject take
possession of him to the almost entire exclusion of all else. Turn from
it how he will; make he never so many resolutions to put the matter
behind him; try he never so hard to find some more engrossing topic, he
will still find the evasive mystery ever close before him. For my own
part I can honestly say that I ate, drank, slept and dreamed secret
writing during the entire of the days and nights which intervened
between my taking up the task and the coming of Miss Anita to Cruden
Bay. All day long the hidden mystery was before me; wherever I was, in
my room, still or contorting myself; walking on the beach; or out on the
headlands, with the breezes singing in my ears, and the waves lapping
below my feet. Hitherto in my life my only experience of haunting
had been that of Gormala; but even that experience failed before the
ever-hopeful, ever-baffling subject of the cryptograms. The worst of my
feeling, and that which made it more poignant, was that I was of the
firm belief not only that there was a cryptogram but that my mind was
already on the track of it. Every now and again, sometimes when the MS.
or its copy was before me and sometimes when I was out in the open,
for the moment not thinking of it at all, a sort of inspiration would
come to me; some sort of root idea whose full significance I felt it
difficult to grasp.

My first relief came on Tuesday when at noon I saw the high dog-cart
dash past the gate and draw up short opposite the post-office.

I did not lose any time in reaching the cart so as to be able to help
the ladies down. Marjory gave me both her hands and jumped lightly, but
the elder lady required a good deal of help. It is always thus; the
experience of every young man is the same. Every woman, old or young,
except the one whom he likes to lift or carry tenderly, is willing to be
lifted or carried in the most leisurely or self-denying manner.

When Mrs. Jack and 'her friend' had come into the hotel sitting-room the
latter said to me:

"I hope you forgive us for all the trouble we have put you to."

"No trouble at all," I answered--and oh! it sounded so tame--"only a
pleasure!" "Thank you," she continued gravely, "that is very nice of
you. Now we want you to add to your kindness and take us out again on
that rock. I have not yet finished my sketch, and I don't like to be
baffled."

"Finished your sketch, my dear," said Mrs. Jack, in a tone which
manifestly showed that the whole thing was new to her. "Why, Marjory, it
was washed into the sea before Mr. Hunter came to help us!" The slight,
quick blush which rose to her face showed that she understood the false
position in which the maladroit remark placed her; but she went on
pluckily:

"Oh, yes, dear, I know! What I mean is, that having set my heart on
making that sketch, I want to do it; even if my first effort went wrong.
That is, dear Mrs. Jack, if you do not mind our going out there again."

"Oh, my dear," said the elder lady, "of course I will do just whatever
you wish. But I suppose it will do if I sit on the rock near at hand?
Somehow, since our experience there, I seem to prefer the mainland than
any place where you may have to swim to get away from it." Marjory
smiled at me as she said to her:

"That will do capitally. And you can keep the lunch basket; and have
your eye on me and the rising of the tide all the time."

So I sent to Whinnyfold to have a boat ready when we should drive over.
Whilst the ladies were preparing themselves for the boating trip I
went to my room and took in my pocket the papers from the chest and my
rescripts. I took also the letter which I had not been able to deliver.

At Whinnyfold Miss Anita and I took the steep zigzag to the beach,
piloted by one of John Hay's boys whilst the other took Mrs. Jack across
the neck of the headland to the Sand Craigs.

As we went down the steep path, the vision of the procession of ghosts
moving steadily up it on Lammas Eve, came back to me; instinctively I
looked round to see if Gormala was watching. I breathed more freely when
I saw she was not about.

I should dearly have liked to take Miss Anita alone in the boat, but I
feared that such was not safe. Rowing amongst the rocks of the Skares is
at the best of times no child's play, and I was guardian of too great a
treasure to be willing to run any risks. Young Hay and I pulled, the boy
being in the bow and doing the steering. This position of affairs suited
me admirably, for it kept me close to my companion and facing her. It
was at all times a pleasure to me as it would have been to any man, to
watch her face; but to-day her eager joy at the beauty of all around her
made me thrill with delight. The day was ideal for the place; a bright,
clear day with just a ripple of wind from the water which took the edge
from the July heat. The sea quivered with points of light, as though it
were strewn with diamonds, and the lines of the racing tide threading a
way amongst the rocks below were alone an endless source of interest.
We rowed slowly which is much the safest way of progression in these
waters, and especially when, as now, the tide was running towards the
end of the ebb. As the boy seemed to know every one of the myriad rocks
which topped the water, and by a sort of instinct even those that lay
below, we steered a devious course. I had told him to take us round by
the outer rocks from which thousands of seabirds rose screaming as we
approached; and as we crept in under the largest of them we felt that
mysterious sense of unworthiness which comes to one in deep water under
the shadow of rocks. I could see that Marjory had the sense of doubt,
or of possible danger, which made her clutch hard at each gunwale of
the boat till her knuckles grew white. As we rounded the Reivie o'
Pircappies, and found the tide swirling amongst the pointed rocks,
she grew so deadly pale that I felt concerned. I should have liked to
question her, but as I knew from my experience of her courage that she
would probably prefer that I remained silent, I pretended not to notice.
Male pretence does not count for much with women. She saw through me
at once, and with a faint smile, which lit the pallor of her face like
sunshine on snow, she said in so low a whisper that it did not reach the
fisher boy:

"I was thinking what it would have been for us that day--only for you."

"I was glad," I answered in an equally low voice, "to be able to render
any help to--to Mrs. Jack and her friend."

"Mrs. Jack--and her friend--are very much obliged to you," she answered
gaily in her natural voice and tone. I could see that she had fully
regained her courage, as involuntarily she took her hands from the sides
of the boat. We kept now well out from the rocks and in deep water,
and shortly sighted the Sand Craigs. As we could see Mrs. Jack and her
escort trudging leisurely along the sand, and as we did not wish to
hurry her, I asked young Hay with my companion's consent, to keep
round the outermost of the Sand Craigs, which was now grey-white with
sea-gulls. On our approach the birds all rose and wheeled round with
myriad screaming; the wonder and admiration of the girl's eyes as they
eagerly followed the sweep of the cloud of birds was good to see.

We hung around the great pointed rock till we saw Mrs. Jack making her
way cautiously along the rocks. We rowed at once to the inner rock and
placed the luncheon basket in a safe place. We then prepared a little
sheltered nook for Mrs. Jack, with rugs and cushions so that she might
be quite at ease. Miss Anita chose the place herself. I am bound to say
it was not just as I should have selected; for when she sat down, her
back was towards the rock from which she had been rescued. It was
doubtless the young girl's thoughtfulness in keeping her mind away from
a place fraught with such unpleasant memories.

When she was safely installed we dismissed the boys till the half tide.
Mrs. Jack was somewhat tired with her trudge over the sand, and even
when we left her she was nodding her head with coming sleep. Then Miss
Anita got out her little easel which I fixed for her as she directed;
when her camp stool was rightly placed and her palette prepared I sat
down on the rock at her feet and looked at her whilst she began her
work. For a little while she painted in silence: then turning to me she
said suddenly:

"What about those papers? Have you found anything yet?" It was only then
I bethought me of the letter in my pocket. Without a word I took it out
and handed it to her. There was a slight blush as well as a smile on her
face as she took it. When she saw the date she said impulsively:

"Why did I not get it before?"

"Because I had not got your address, and did not know how to reach you."

"I see!" she answered abstractedly as she began to read. When she had
gone right through it she handed it to me and said:

"Now you read it out loud to me whilst I paint; and let me ask questions
so that I may understand." So I read; and now and again she asked
me searching questions. Twice or three times I had to read over the
memorandum; but each time she began to understand better and better, and
at last said eagerly:

"Have you ever worked out such reductions?"

"Not yet, but I could do so. I have been so busy trying to decipher the
secret writing that I have not had time to try any such writing myself."

"Have you succeeded in any way?"

"No!" I answered. "I am sorry to say that as yet I have nothing
definite; though I am bound to say I am satisfied that there is a
cipher."

"Have you tried both the numbers and the dots?"

"Both," I answered; "but as yet I want a jumping-off place."

"Do you really think from what you have studied that the cipher is a
biliteral one, or on the basis of a biliteral cipher?"

"I do! I can't say exactly how I came to think so; but I certainly do."

"Are there combinations of five?"

"Not that I can see."

"Are there combinations of less than five?"

"There may be. There are certainly."

"Then why on earth don't you begin by reducing the biliteral cipher to
the lowest dimensions you can manage? You may light on something that
way."

A light began to dawn upon me, and I determined that my task--so soon as
my friends had left Cruden--would be to reduce Bacon's biliteral. It was
with genuine admiration for her suggestion that I answered Miss Anita:

"Your woman's intuition is quicker than my man's ratiocination. 'I shall
in all my best obey you, Madam!'" She painted away steadily for some
time. I was looking at her, covertly but steadily when an odd flash of
memory came to me; without thinking I spoke:

"When I first saw you, as you and Mrs. Jack stood on the rock, and away
beyond you the rocks were all fringed with foam, your head looked as
if it was decked with flowers." For a moment or two she paused before
asking:

"What kind of flowers?"

Once again in our brief acquaintance I stood on guard. There was
something in her voice which made me pause. It made my brain whirl, too,
but there was a note of warning. At this time, God knows, I did not want
any spurring. I was head over heels in love with the girl, and my only
fear was lest by precipitancy I should spoil it all. Not for the wide
world would I have cancelled the hopes that were dawning in me and
filling me with a feverish anxiety. I could not help a sort of satisfied
feeling as I answered:

"White flowers!"

"Oh!" she said impulsively, and then with a blush continued, painting
hard as she spoke:

"That is what they put on the dead! I see!" This was a counter-stroke
with a vengeance. It would not do to let it pass so I added:

"There is another 'first-column' function also in which white flowers
are used. Besides, they don't put flowers on the head of corpses."

"Of whom then?" The note of warning sounded again in the meekness of the
voice. But I did not heed it. I did not want to heed it. I answered:

"Of Brides!" She made no reply--in words. She simply raised her eyes and
sent one flashing glance through me, and then went on with her work.
That glance was to a certain degree encouragement; but it was to a much
greater degree dangerous, for it was full of warning. Although my brain
was whirling, I kept my head and let her change the conversation with
what meekness I could.

We accordingly went back to the cipher. She asked me many questions, and
I promised to show her the secret writings when we should go back to the
hotel. Here she struck in:

"We have ordered dinner at the hotel; and you are to dine with us." I
tried not to tremble as I answered:

"I shall be delighted."

"And now," she said "if we are to have lunch here to-day we had better
go and wake Mrs. Jack. See! the tide has been rising all the time we
have been talking. It is time to feed the animals."

Mrs. Jack was surprised when we wakened her; but she too was ready for
lunch. We enjoyed the meal hugely.

At half-tide the Hay boys came back. Miss Anita thought that there was
enough work for them both in carrying the basket and helping Mrs. Jack
back to the carriage. "You will be able to row all right, will you not?"
she said, turning to me. "You know the way now and can steer. I shall
not be afraid!"

When we were well out beyond the rock and could see the figures of Mrs.
Jack and the boys getting further away each step, I took my courage in
both hands; I was getting reckless now, and said to her:

"When a man is very anxious about a thing, and is afraid that just for
omitting to say what he would like to say, he may lose something that he
would give all the rest of the world to have a chance of getting--do--do
you think he should remain silent?" I could see that she, too, could
realise a note of warning. There was a primness and a want of the usual
reality in her voice as she answered me:

"Silence, they say, is golden." I laughed with a dash of bitterness
which I could not help feeling as I replied:

"Then in this world the gold of true happiness is only for the dumb!"
she said nothing but looked out with a sort of steadfast introspective
eagerness over the million flashing diamonds of the sea; I rowed on with
all my strength, glad to let go on something. Presently she turned to
me, and with all the lambency of her spirit in her face, said with a
sweetness which tingled through me:

"Are you not rowing too hard? You seem anxious to get to Whinnyfold. I
fear we shall be there too soon. There is no hurry; we shall meet the
others there in good time. Had you not better keep outside the dangerous
rocks. There is not a sail in sight; not one, so far as I know, over the
whole horizon, so you need not fear any collision. Remember, I do not
advise you to cease rowing; for, after all, the current may bear us
away if we are merely passive. But row easily; and we may reach the
harbour safely and in good time!"

Her speech filled me with a flood of feeling which has no name. It was
not love; it was not respect; it was not worship; it was not, gratitude.
But it was compounded of them all. I had been of late studying secret
writing so earnestly that there was now a possible secret meaning in
everything I read. But oh! the poverty of written words beside the
gracious richness of speech! No man who had a heart to feel or a brain
to understand could have mistaken her meaning. She gave warning, and
hope, and courage, and advice; all that wife could give husband, or
friend give friend. I only looked at her, and without a word held out my
hand. She placed hers in it frankly; for a brief, blissful moment my
soul was at one with the brightness of sea and sky.

There, in the very spot where I had seen Lauchlane Macleod go down into
the deep, my own life took a new being.



CHAPTER XI

IN THE TWILIGHT


It was not without misgiving that I climbed the steep zigzag at
Whinnyfold, for at every turn I half expected to see the unwelcome face
of Gormala before me. It seemed hardly possible that everything could
go on so well with me, and that yet I should not be disturbed by her
presence. Miss Anita, I think, saw my uneasiness and guessed the cause
of it; I saw her follow my glances round, and then she too kept an eager
look out. We won the top, however, and got into the waiting carriage
without mishap. At the hotel she asked me to bring to their sitting-room
the papers with the secret writing. She gave a whispered explanation
that we should be quite alone as Mrs. Jack always took a nap, when
possible, before dinner.

She puzzled long and anxiously over the papers and over my enlarged part
copy of them. Finally she shook her head and gave it up for the time.
Then I told her the chief of the surmises which I had made regarding the
means by which the biliteral cipher, did such exist, might be expressed.
That it must be by marks of some sort was evident; but which of those
used were applied to this purpose I could not yet make out. When I had
exhausted my stock of surmises she said:

"More than ever I am convinced that you must begin by reducing the
biliteral cipher. Every time I think of it, it seems plainer to me that
Bacon, or any one else using such a system, would naturally perfect it
if possible. And now let us forget this for the present. I am sure you
must want a rest from thinking of the cipher, and I feel that I do.
Dinner is ready; after it, if you will, I should like another run down
to the beach."

"_Another_" run to the beach! then she remembered our former one as a
sort of fixed point. My heart swelled within me, and my resolution to
take my own course, even if it were an unwise one, grew.

After dinner, we took our way over the sandhills and along the shore
towards the Hawklaw, keeping on the line of hard sand just below
high-water mark.

The sun was down and the twilight was now beginning. In these northern
latitudes twilight is long, and at the beginning differs little from the
full light of day. There is a mellowed softness over everything, and all
is grey in earth and sea and air. Light, however, there is in abundance
at the first. The mystery of twilight, as Southerns know it, comes later
on, when the night comes creeping up from over the sea, and the shadows
widen into gloom. Still twilight is twilight in any degree of its
changing existence; and the sentiment of twilight is the same all the
world over. It is a time of itself; between the stress and caution of
the day, and the silent oblivion of the night: It is an hour when all
living things, beasts as well as human, confine themselves to their own
business. With the easy relaxation comes something of self-surrender;
soul leans to soul and mind to mind, as does body to body in moments of
larger and more complete intention. Just as in the moment after sunset,
when the earth is lit not by the narrow disc of the sun but by the
glory of the wide heavens above, twin shadows merge into one, so in the
twilight two natures which are akin come closer to the identity of one.
Between daylight and dark as the myriad sounds of life die away one by
one, the chirp of birds, the lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep,
the barking of dogs, so do the natural sounds such as the rustle of
trees, the plash of falling water, or the roar of breaking waves wake
into a new force that strikes on the ear with a sense of intention or
conscious power. It is as though in all the wide circle of nature's
might there is never to be such a thing as stagnation; no moment of
poise, save when the spirits of nature proclaim abnormal silence, such
as ruled when earth stood "at gaze, like Joshua's moon on Ajalon."

The spirits of my companion and myself yielded to this silent influence
of the coming night. Unconsciously we walked close together and in step;
and were silent, wrapt in the beauty around us. To me it was a gentle
ecstasy. To be alone with her in such a way, in such a place, was the
good of all heaven and all earth in one. And so for many minutes we went
slowly on our way along the deserted sand, and in hearing of the music
of the sounding sea and the echoing shore.

But even Heaven had its revolt. It seems that whether it be on Earth or
in Heaven intelligence is not content to remain in a condition of poise.
Ever there are heights to be won. Out of my own very happiness and the
peace that it gave me, came afresh the wild desire to scale new heights
and to make the present altitude which I had achieved a stepping-off
place for a loftier height. All arguments seemed to crowd in my mind to
prove that I was justified in asking Marjory to be my wife. Other men
had asked women whom they had known but a short time to marry them; and
with happy result. It was apparent that at the least she did not dislike
me. I was a gentleman, of fair stock, and well-to-do; I could offer her
a true and a whole heart. She, who was seemingly only companion to a
wealthy woman, could not be offended at a man's offering to her all
he had to give. I had already approached the subject, and she had not
warned me off it; she had only given me in a sweetly artful way advice
in which hope held a distinct place. Above all, the days and hours and
moments were flying by. I did not know her address or when I should see
her again, or if at all. This latest thought decided me. I would speak
plainly to-night.

Oh, but men are dull beside women in the way of intuition. This girl
seemed to be looking over the sea, and yet with some kind of double
glance, such as women have at command, she seemed to have been all the
time looking straight through and through me and getting some idea
of her own from my changing expression. I suppose the appearance of
determination frightened her or set her on guard, for she suddenly said:

"Ought we not to be turning home?"

"Not yet!" I pleaded, all awake in a moment from my dreams. "A few
minutes, and then we can go back."

"Very well," she said with a smile, and then added demurely; "we must
not be long." I felt that my hour had come and spoke impulsively:

"Marjory, will you be my wife?" Having got out the words I stopped. My
heart was beating so heavily that I could not speak more. For a few
seconds, which seemed ages to me, we were both silent. I daresay that
she may have been prepared for something; from what I know now I am
satisfied that her own intention was to ward off any coming difficulty.
But the suddenness and boldness of the question surprised her and
embarrassed her to silence. She stopped walking, and as she stood still
I could see her bosom heave--like my own. Then with a great effort,
which involved a long breath and the pulling up of her figure and the
setting back of her shoulders, she spoke:

"But you know nothing of me!"

"I know all of you that I want to know!" This truly Hibernian speech
amused her, even through her manifest emotion and awkwardness, if one
can apply the word to one compact of so many graces. I saw the smile,
and it seemed to set us both more at ease.

"That sounds very rude," she said "but I understand what you mean, and
take it so." This gave me an opening into which I jumped at once. She
listened, seeming not displeased at my words; but on the whole glad of a
moment's pause to collect her thoughts before again speaking:

"I know that you are beautiful; the most beautiful and graceful girl I
ever saw. I know that you are brave and sweet and tender and thoughtful.
I know that you are clever and resourceful and tactful. I know that you
are a good comrade; that you are an artist with a poet's soul. I know
that you are the one woman in all the wide world for me; that having
seen you there can never be any one else to take your place in my heart.
I know that I would rather die with you in my arms, than live a king
with any other queen!"

"But you have only seen me twice. How can you know so many nice things
about me. I wish they were all true! I am only a girl; and I must say it
is sweet to hear them, whether they be true or not. Anyhow, supposing
them all true, how could you have known them?"

Hope was stepping beside me now. I went on:

"I did not need a second meeting to know so much. To-day was but a
repetition of my joy; an endorsement of my judgment; a fresh rivetting
of my fetters!" She smiled in spite of herself as she replied:

"You leave me dumb. How can I answer or argue with such a conviction."
Then she laid her hand tenderly on my arm as she went on:

"Oh, I know what you mean, my friend. I take it all in simple truth; and
believe me it makes me proud to hear it, though it also makes me feel
somewhat unworthy of so much faith. But there is one other thing which
you must consider. In justice to me you must." She paused and I felt my
heart grow cold. "What is it?" I asked. I tried to speak naturally but I
felt that my voice was hoarse. Her answer came slowly, but it seemed to
turn me to ice:

"But I don't know you!"

There was a pity in her eyes which gave me some comfort, though not
much; a man whose soul is crying out for love does not want pity.
Love is a glorious self-surrender; all spontaneity; all gladness, all
satisfaction, in which doubt and forethought have no part. Pity is a
conscious act of the mind; wherein is a knowledge of one's own security
of foothold. The two can no more mingle than water and oil.

The shock had come, and I braced myself to it. I felt that now if ever
I should do my devoir as a gentleman. It was my duty as well as my
privilege to shield this woman from unnecessary pain and humiliation.
Well I knew, that it had been pain to her to say such a thing to me; and
the pain had come from my own selfish impulse. She had warned me earlier
in the day, and I had broken through her warning. Now she was put in
a false position through my act; it was necessary I should make her
feelings as little painful as I could. I had even then a sort of dim
idea that my best plan would have been to have taken her in my arms and
kissed her. Had we both been older I might have done so; but my love was
not built in this fashion. Passion was so mingled with respect that the
other course, recognition of, and obedience to, her wishes seemed all
that was open to me. Besides it flashed across me that she might take it
that I was presuming on her own impulsive act on the rock. I said with
what good heart I could:

"That is an argument unanswerable, at present. I can only hope that time
will stand my friend. Only" I added and my voice choked as I said it
"Do, do believe that I am in deadly earnest; that all my life is at
stake; and that I only wait, and I will wait loyally with what patience
I can, in obedience to your will. My feelings and my wish, and--and my
request will stand unaltered till I die!" She said not a word, but the
tears rose up in her beautiful eyes and ran down her blushing cheeks as
she held out her hand to me. She did not object when I raised it to my
lips and kissed it with all my soul in the kiss!

We turned instinctively and walked homewards. I felt dejected, but not
broken. At first the sand seemed to be heavy to my feet; but when after
a little I noticed that my companion walked with a buoyancy unusual even
to her, I too became gay again. We came back to the hotel much in the
spirit in which we had set out.

We found Mrs. Jack dressed, all but her outer cloak, and ready for the
road. She went away with Marjory to finish her toilet, but came back
before her younger companion. When we were alone she said to me after a
few moments of 'hum'ing and 'ha'ing and awkward preparation of speech:

"Oh Mr. Hunter, Marjory tells me that she intends to ride on her bicycle
down to Aberdeen from Braemar where we are going on Friday. I am to
drive from Braemar to Ballater and then go on by train so that I shall
be in before her, though I am to leave later. But I am fearful about the
girl riding such a journey by herself. We have no gentleman friend here,
and it would be so good of you to take charge of her, if you happened
to be anywhere about there. I know I can trust you to take care of her,
you have been so good to her, and to me, already."

My heart leaped. Here was an unexpected chance come my way. Time was
showing himself to be my friend already.

"Be quite assured," I said as calmly as I could "I shall be truly glad
to be of the least service. And indeed it will just suit my plans, as I
hoped to go to Braemar on my bicycle one day very soon and can arrange
to go just as may suit you. But of course you understand that I must not
go unless Miss Anita wishes it. I could not presume to thrust myself
upon her."

"Oh that is all right!" she answered quickly, so quickly that I took it
that she had already considered the matter and was satisfied about it.
"Marjory will not object." Just then the young lady entered the room and
Mrs. Jack turning to her said:

"I have asked Mr. Hunter my dear to ride down with you from Braemar; and
he says that as it just suits his plans as he was going there he will be
very happy if you ask him." She smiled as she said:

"Oh since you asked him and he had said yes I need not ask him too; but
I shall be very glad!" I bowed. When Mrs. Jack went out, Marjory turning
to me said:

"When did you plan to go to Braemar?"

"When Mrs. Jack told me you were going" I answered boldly.

"Oh! I didn't mean that," she said with a slight blush "but at what time
you were to be there." To which I said:

"That will be just to suit your convenience. Will you write and let me
know?" She saw through my ruse of getting a letter, and smilingly held
up a warning finger.

As we strolled up the road, waiting for the dog-cart to be got ready,
she said to me:

"Now you can be a good comrade I know; and you said that, amongst other
things, I was a good comrade. So I am; and between Braemar and Aberdeen
we must both be good comrades. That and nothing more! Whatever may come
after, for good or ill, that time must be kept apart."

"Agreed!" I said and felt a secret exultation as we joined Mrs. Jack.
Before they started Marjory said:

"Mrs. Jack I also have asked Mr. Hunter to come on the ride from
Braemar. I thought it would please him if we both asked him, since he is
so diffident and unimpulsive!"

With a smile she said good-bye and waved it with her whip as they
started.



CHAPTER XII

THE CIPHER


I went straight to my own room and commenced to work afresh on the
biliteral cipher. More than ever had I the conviction upon me that the
reading of the secret writing would be the first step to the attainment
of my wishes regarding Marjory. It would have been strange therefore if
I had not first attempted the method which she had herself suggested,
the reducing the Baconian cipher to its lowest elements.

For many hours I laboured at this work, and finally when I had reduced
the Baconian five symbols to three I felt that I had accomplished all
that was possible in that way.[2]

      [2] See Appendix B.

When I had arrived at this result, and had tested its accuracy in
working, I felt in a position to experiment with my new knowledge on the
old number cipher. First I wrote out my method of reduction as a sort of
addendum to the paper which I had prepared for Marjory. Then I made a
key to cipher and one to de-cipher.[3] By this time the night was well
on and the grey of early morning was beginning to steal in by the edges
of the blinds; I was not sleepy, however; I was too much excited to
think of sleep, for the solving of the problem seemed almost within my
grasp. Excited to a state which almost frightened me by its intensity, I
got ready my copy of the number cipher and my newly prepared key. With
an effort which took me all my resolution I went on steadily writing
its proper letter under each combination without once looking back; for
I knew that even should some of the letters be misplaced in the key
the chance of recognising the right ones would be largely increased by
seeing a considerable number of letters together.

      [3] See Appendix C.

Then I glanced over the whole and found that many of the symbols made up
letters. With such a basis to work on, the rest was only labour. A few
tentative efforts and I had corrected the key to agreement with some of
the combinations in the cipher.

I found, however, that only here and there were letters revealed; try
how I would, I could not piece out the intervening symbols. At last it
occurred to me that there might be in the paper two or more ciphers. On
trying to follow out the idea, it became apparent that there were at
least a quantity of impeding numbers scattered through the cipher. These
might be only put in to baffle pursuit, as I had surmised might be done
when I made the cipher; or they might have a more definite purpose. At
any rate they hampered my work, so I struck them out as I went along.
That I continued till I had exhausted the whole list of numbers in the
script.

When I looked back over the letters translated from the cipher thus
depleted, I found to my inexpressible joy that the sequence and sense
were almost complete. The translation read as follows:

"To read the history of the Trust use cipher of Fr. Bacon. The senses
and the figures are less worthy than the Trinity B. de E."

One step more and my work was done. I set the discarded numbers in
sequence on another sheet of paper, and found to my intense satisfaction
they formed an inner record readable by the same key. The "encloased"
words, to use Bacon's phrase, were:

"Treasure Cave cliff one and half degree Northe of East from outer
rock."

Then and then only did I feel tired. The sun was well up but I tumbled
into bed and was asleep in a moment.

The gong was sounding for breakfast when I awoke. After breakfast when
I resumed my work I set myself to construct a variant of my number key
to suit the dotted letters, for my best chance, now that I was on the
track was to construct rather than to decipher. After some hard work I
at last constructed a cipher on this plan.[4]

      [4] See Appendix D.

I then began therefore to apply my new key to the copy of the cipher in
the printed pages.

I worked steadily and completed the whole of the first page, writing
down only the answer to those combinations which fitted into my scheme,
and leaving all doubtful matters blank. Then I laid aside my key, and
with a beating heart glanced over the result.

It more than satisfied me, for in the scattered letters though there
were many blanks, was manifestly a connected narrative. Then I took the
blanks and worked at them altering my key to suit the scheme of the
original writer, till by slow degrees I had mastered the secret of the
cipher construction.

From that hour on, till I had translated the cipher writing from
beginning to end I knew no rest that I could avoid. I had to take my
meals, and to snatch a few hours of sleep now and again; for the labour
of translation was very arduous and slow, and the strain on my eyes
was too great to be kept up continuously; with each hour, however, I
acquired greater facility in the work. It was the evening of the fourth
day, however, before my work was complete. I was then absolute master
of the writer's intent.

All this time I had not heard from Marjory, and this alone made
excessive work a necessary anodyne. Had I not had the long and
overwhelming preoccupation to keep my mind from dwelling on the never
ending disappointment, I do not know what I should have done. I fully
expected a letter by the last post that night. I knew Marjory was
staying somewhere in the County; it was by that post that we received
local letters. None came, however, and that night I spent in making a
fair transcript of the whole translation.

The first part of it was in the shape of a letter, and ran as follows:

  "My deare Sonne, These from the towne of Aberdeyne in Scotland
  wherin I lie sick, and before I go on my quest for the fullfillment
  of my Trust. I have written, from time to time during my long
  sickness, a full narrative of what has been; so that you may know
  all as though your own ears had heard and your own eyes had seen.
  All that I have written is to the one end--that you my eldest sonne
  and the rest of my children, may, should I fail--and I am weak in
  bodie to so strive--carry on the Trust to which I have pledged you
  as well as myself; so that untill that Trust be yielded up complete,
  neither I nor you nor they are free to any that may clash with the
  purpose to which our race is henceforth now devoted. But that mine
  oath may not press overhard on my children, and if need be on their
  children and their children's children to the end, it will suffice
  if one alone at all times shall hold himself or herself pledged to
  the fullfillment of the Trust. To this end I charge herewith all of
  my blood and race that the eldest sonne of each generation do hold
  himself pledged to the purpose of the Trust, unless some other of
  the direct lineage do undertake it on his behalf. In default of
  which, or if such undertaken Trust shall fail, then the duty
  reverteth back and back till one be found whose duty it is by
  priority of inheritance, unless by some other of the direct lineage
  the Trust be undertaken on his behalf. And be mindful one and all to
  whom is this sacred duty that secrecy is of its very essence. The
  great Trust was to me in the first instance in that His Holiness
  Pope Sixtus Fifth and my good kinsman known as the Spanish Cardinal
  held graciouslly that I was one in whose heart the ancient honour of
  our dear Spain had a place of lodgement so secure that time alone
  could not efface it nor its continuance in the hearts of my
  children. To the purpose then of this great Trust His Holiness hath
  himself given to me and mine full powers of all kinds so to deal
  with such circumstances as may arise that the labour which we have
  undertaken may in all cases be brought to a successful issue. To the
  which His Holiness hath formulated a Quittance which shall be
  co-existent with the Trust and which shall purge the natural sin of
  any to whom in the discharge of the duties of the Trust any
  necessity may arise. But inasmuch as the Trust is a secret one and
  the undue publication of such Quittance might call the attention of
  the curious to its existence, such Document is filed in the secret
  record of the Vatican, where, should necessity hereafter arise, it
  may be found by the Holy Father who may then occupy the Chair of St.
  Peter on application made to him on behalf of any who may so offend
  against law or the rules of well-being which govern the children of
  Christ. And I charge you, oh! my sonne to ever bear in mind that
  though there be some strange things in the narrative they are in
  mine own eyes true in all ways, though it may appear to you that
  they accord not with what may be said hereafter of these time's by
  other men.

  "And oh, my sonne, and my children all, take this my last blessing
  and with it my counsel that ye walk always in Faith and
  Righteousness, in Honour and in Good Report, with your duty ever to
  Holy Church and to the King in loyal service. Farewell! God and the
  Blessed Virgin and the Saintes and Angels watch over you and help
  you that your duty be done.

  "Your father in all love,
  "BERNARDINO DE ESCOBAN."

  "These will be brought by a trusty hand, for I fear lest they shall
  fall into the hands of the English Queene, or any of her hereticall
  surroundings. If it be that you fail at the first in the speedy
  fullfillment of the Trust--as may be, now that the purpose of our
  great Armada hath been checked--it may be well that whoso to whom
  is the Trust may come hither and dwell upon these shores so that he
  may watch over the purpose of the Trust and be at hand for its
  fullfillment when occasion may serve. But be mindful ever, oh my
  sonne, that who so guardeth the Trust will be ever surrounded by
  enemies, heathenish and without remorse, whose greed should it ever
  be awakened to this purpose would be fatal to all which we cherish.
  Dixi."

Following this came:

  "Narrative of Bernardino de Escoban, Knight of the Cross of the Holy
  See and Grandee of Spain.

  In this was set out at full length[5] the history of the great
  Treasure gathered by Pope Sixtus Fifth for the subjugation of
  England, and which he entrusted to the writer of the narrative who
  had at his own cost built and manned one of the vessels of the
  Armada the _San Cristobal_ flagship of the Squadron of the Galleons
  of Castile. The Pope, wearied by the demands of Philip of Spain and
  offended by his claim to appoint bishops under the new domain and
  further incensed by the incautious insolence of Count de Olivares
  the Spanish ambassador to Rome, has chosen to make this a secret
  trust and has on the suggestion of the Spanish Cardinal chosen Don
  Bernardino de Escoban for the service. In furtherance of his design
  he has sent him for his new galleon a "figurehead" wrought in
  silver and gold for his own galley by Benvenuto Cellini. Also he
  has given him as a souvenir a brooch wrought by the same
  master-hand, the figurehead wrought _in petto_. Don Bernardino
  gives account of the defeat of the Armada and tells how his vessel
  being crippled and he being fearful of the seizure of the treasure
  entrusted to him buries it and the coveted figurehead in a water
  cave at the headland of a bay on the coast of Aberdeyne. He has
  blown up the opening of the cave for safety. In the narrative were
  certain enlightening phrases such as when the Pope says:

      [5] See Appendix E.

"'To which end I am placing with you a vastness of treasure such as no
nation hath ever seen." Which was to be applied to only the advancement
of the True Faith, and which was in case of failure of the enterprise of
the Armada to be given to the custody of whatever King should, after the
death of Sixtus V, sit upon the throne. And again:

"'The Cave was a great one on the south side of the Bay with many
windings and blind offsets.... 'The black stone on one hand and the red
on the other giving back the blare of the lantern.'"

The memoranda which follow give the future history of the Trust:

  "The narrative of my father, the great and good Don Bernardino de
  Escoban, I have put in the present form for the preservation of the
  secret. For inasmuch as the chart to which he has alluded is not to
  be found, though other papers and charts there be, it may be
  necessary that a branch of our house may live in this country in
  obedience to the provision of the Trust and so must learn to speak
  the English as though it were the mother tongue. As I was but a
  youth when my father wrote, so many years have elapsed that death
  has wrought many changes and the hand that should have carried the
  message and given me the papers and the chart is no more, lying as
  is thought beside my father amongst the surges of the Skyres. So
  that only a brief note pointing to the contents of an oaken chest
  wherein I found them, though incomplete, was all that I had to guide
  me. The tongue that might have spoken some added words of import was
  silent for ever

  "FRANCISCO DE ESCOBAN."
  "23, October, 1599."


  "The narrative of my grandfather, together with my father's note
  have I Englished faithfully and put in this secret form for the
  guidance of those who may follow me, and whose life must be passed
  in this rigorous clime untill the sacred Trust committed to us by
  Pope Sixtus the Fifth be fullfilled. When on the death of my elder
  brother, I being but the second son, I was sent to join my father
  in Aberdeyne, I made grave preparation for bearing worthily the
  burden laid upon us by the Trust and so schooled myself in the
  English that it is now as my mother tongue. Then when my father,
  having completed the building of his castle, set himself to the
  finding of the cave whereof the secret was lost, in which emprise
  he, like my grandfather lost his life amongst the waters of the
  Skyres of Crudene. Ye that may follow me in the trust regard well
  this secret writing, made for the confusion of the curious but to
  the preservation of our secret. Bear ever in mind that not all that
  is shows on the surface of even simple words. The cipher of my
  Grandfather devised by Fr. Bacon now High Chancellor of England has
  many mouths, all of which may speak if there be aught to say.

  "BERNARDINO DE ESCOBAN."
  "4, July, 1620."


In addition to the cipher narrative I found on close examination that
there was a separate cipher running through the marginal notes on the
earlier of the printed pages. When translated it ran as follows:

  "Cave mouthe northe of outer rock one degree and half North of East.
  Reef lies from shore point three and half degrees South of South
  East."



CHAPTER XIII

A RIDE THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS


I read Don Escoban's narrative over and over again, till I had
thoroughly mastered every detail of it; then I studied the key of the
number cipher till I had it by heart. I had an instinct that memory
on this subject would be a help and a safety to me now or hereafter.
For now new doubts had begun to assail me. What I had learned was in
reality a State secret and had possible consequences or eventualities
which, despite the lapse of three centuries, might prove far-reaching
and dangerous. The treasure in question was so vast, its purpose so
definite, and its guardianship so jealously protected against time and
accident, that there was but little chance of forgetfulness regarding
it. I was not assailed by moral scruples in any way. The treasure had
been amassed and dedicated to the undoing of England; and for those
who had gathered it and sent it forth I had no concern. That it had
been hidden in Britain by Britain's enemies during time of war surely
deprived them of all right to recover by legal means. What the law might
be on the subject I did not know, and till I knew I cared little. It was
a case of "finders keepers," and if I could find it first I held myself
justified in using it to my own purposes. All the same I made up my mind
to look up the law of Treasure Trove, which I had a hazy idea was in a
pretty uncertain condition. At first none of these issues troubled me.
They were indeed side issues till the treasure should be found; when
they would become of prime importance. I had felt that my first step to
winning the hand of Marjory Anita was to read the cipher. This I had
done; and in the doing had made discovery of a secret of such a nature
that it might place me beyond the dreams of avarice, and in a position
to ask any girl in the world to marry me. I believe that I regarded the
treasure as already my own; as much as though I had already recovered it
from the bowels of the earth.

Early in the morning I took my way to Whinnyfold, bringing with me a
pocket compass so that I could locate the exact spot where the mouth
of the cave had been closed. I knew of course that even granite rocks
cannot withstand untouched the beating of three centuries of stormy sea,
the waste of three hundred summers and winters, and the thousands of
nights of bitter frost and days of burning sun which had come to pass
since the entrance of the cave had been so rudely shaken down. But I
was, I confess, not prepared for the utter annihilation which had come
to every trace of its whereabouts. Time after time the sea had bitten
into the land; and falling rocks, and creeping verdure, and drifting
sand had changed the sea-front beyond all recognition.

I did what I could, however, to take the bearings of the place as laid
down by Don de Escoban by walking along the top of the cliff, beginning
at the very edge of Witsennan Point till I reached a spot where the
south end of the outer rock of the Skares stood out.

Then to my surprise I found that it was as near as possible in the
direction of my own house. In fact when I looked at the plan which the
local surveyor had made of my house I found that the northern wall made
a bee line for the south end of the main rock of the Skares. As it was
manifest that what had originally been the front of the cave had fallen
in and been partly worn and worked away, my remaining hope was that the
cave itself lay under part of my ground if not under the house itself.
This gave a new feature to the whole affair. If my surmise were correct
I need not hurry at all; the safest thing I could do would be to quietly
make an opening from my house into the cave, and explore at leisure. All
seemed clear for this proceeding. The workmen who had done the building
were gone, and the coming of the decorators had not yet been fixed. I
could therefore have the house to myself. As I went back to the hotel, I
planned out in my mind how I should get from Glasgow or Aberdeen proper
implements for digging and cutting through the rock into the house;
these would be sent in cases, so that no one would suspect what I was
undertaking. The work would have to be done by myself if I wished to
preserve secrecy. I had now so much to tell Marjory when we should meet
that I felt I should hardly know where to begin, and the business side
of my mind began to plan and arrange so that all things might come in
due order and to the best effect.

When I got to the hotel I found awaiting me a letter from Marjory which
had come by the last post. I took it away to my room and locked the door
before opening it. It had neither address nor date, and was decidedly
characteristic:

  "My dear Sir: Mrs. Jack asks me to write for her to say that we
  shall be leaving Braemar on Tuesday. We shall be staying at the Fife
  Arms Hotel, and she will be very happy if you will breakfast with us
  at nine o'clock A. M. Room No. 16. This is all of course in case you
  care to ride down to Aberdeen. We are breakfasting so early as the
  ride is long, sixty miles, and Mrs. Jack thinks that I should have
  a rest at least twice on the way. As I believe you know the road,
  she will be glad if you will kindly arrange our stopping places.
  Mrs. Jack will leave Braemar at about three o'clock and drive down
  to Ballater to catch the half-past five train. She asks me to say
  that she hopes you will pardon her for the trouble she is giving
  you, and to impress on you that in case you would rather not come,
  or should anything occur to prevent you, she will quite understand a
  telegram with the single word 'regret.' By the way she will be
  obliged if you will kindly not mention her name--either her surname
  or her Christian name--before any of the people--strangers or hotel
  people, at Braemar or during the journey--or indeed during the day.
  Believe me,

  Yours very truly,
  "MARJORY ANITA."

  "P.S.--How about the cipher; have you reduced the biliteral, or got
  any clue yet?

  "P.P.S.--I don't suppose that anything, unless it be really
  serious, will prevent your coming. Mrs. Jack is so looking forward
  to my having that bicycle ride.

  "P.P.P.S.--Have you second-sighted any ships yet? Or any more white
  flowers--for the Dead?"

For long I sat with the letter in my hand after I had read it over and
over again many many times. Each time I read it its purpose seemed more
luminous. It may have been that my old habit of a year ago of finding
secret meanings in everything was creeping back to me. I thought and
thought; and the introspective habit made me reason out causes even in
the midst of imaginative flights. "Might not" I thought "it be possible
that there be minor forms of Second Sight; Day Dreams based on some
great effort of truth. In the real world there are manifestations of
life in lower as well as higher forms; and yet all alike are instinct
with some of that higher principle which divides the quick and the dead.
The secret voices of the brain need not always speak in thunder; the
Dream-Painter within us need not always have a full canvas for the
exercise of his craft."

On Tuesday morning when at nine o'clock to the minute I went to the Fife
Arms at Braemar, I found Marjory alone. She came forward with a bright,
frank smile and shook hands. "It's real good to see you" was all she
said. Presently she added:

"Mrs. Jack will be here in a minute or two. Before she comes, it is
understood that between this and Aberdeen and indeed for to-day, you and
I are only to be comrades."

"Yes!" said I, and then added: "Without prejudice!" She showed her
pearly teeth in a smile as she answered:

"All right. Without prejudice! Be it so!" Then Mrs. Jack came in, and
having greeted me warmly, we sat down to breakfast. When this was over,
Marjory cut a good packet of sandwiches and tied them up herself. These
she handed to me saying:

"You will not mind carrying these. It will be nicer having our lunch out
than going to a hotel; don't you think so?" Needless to say I cordially
acquiesced. Both our bicycles were ready at the door, and we lost no
time in getting under weigh. Indeed my companion showed some anxiety to
be off quickly, as though she wished to avoid observation.

The day was glorious. There was bright sunshine; and a sky of turquoise
with here and there a flock of fleecy clouds. The smart easterly breeze
swept us along as though we were under sail. The air was cool and the
road smooth as asphalt, but with the springiness of well-packed gravel.
With the least effort of pedalling we simply seemed to fly. I could see
the exhilaration on my companion's face as clearly as I could feel it in
my own nature. All was buoyancy, above, below, around us; and I doubt if
in all the wide circle of the sun's rays there were two such glad hearts
as Marjory's and my own.

As we flew along, the lovely scenery on either hand seemed like an
endless panorama. Of high mountains patched with heather which here and
there, early in the year as it was, broke out in delicate patches of
pink; of overarching woods whose creaking branches swaying in the wind
threw kaleidoscopic patterns of light along our way; of a brown river
fed by endless streams rushing over a bed of stones which here and there
lifted their dark heads through the foam of the brown-white water; of
green fields stretching away on either side of the river or rising
steeply from our feet to the fringes of high-lying pines or the black
mountains which rose just beyond; of endless aisles of forest where,
through the dark shade of the brown trunks, rose from the brown mass
of long-fallen pine needles which spread the ground below, and where
patches of sunlight fell in places with a seemingly intolerable glare!
Then out into the open again where the sunlight seemed all natural and
even the idea of shade unreal. Down steep hills where the ground seemed
to slide back underneath our flying wheels, and up lesser hills, swept
without effort by the wind behind us and the swift impetus of our pace.

After a while the mountains before us, which at first had seemed like an
unbroken line of frowning giants barring our course, seemed to open a
way to us. Round and round we swept, curve after curve yielding and
falling back and opening new vistas; till at the last we passed into the
open gap between the hills around Ballater. Here in the face of possible
danger we began to crawl cautiously down the steep hill to the town.
Mrs. Jack had proposed that we should make our first halt at Ballater.
As, however, we put on pace again at the foot of the hill Marjory said:

"Oh do not let us stop in a town. I could not bear it just after that
lovely ride through the mountains."

"Agreed!" I said "let us push on! That twenty miles seems like nothing.
Beyond Cambus-o-May there is a lake on the northern side; we can ride
round it and come back to the road again at Dinnet. If you like we can
have our lunch in the shelter of a lovely wood at the far side of it."

"That will be enchanting!" she said, and the happy girlish freshness of
her voice was like a strain of music which suited well the scene. When
we had passed Ballater and climbed the hill up to the railway bridge we
stopped to look back; and in sheer delight she caught hold of my arm and
stood close to me. And no wonder she was moved, for in the world there
can be few places of equal beauty of a similar kind. Right above us to
the right, and again across the valley, towered mountains of rich brown
with patches of purple and lines of green; and in front of us in the
centre of the amphitheatre, two round hills, looming large in a delicate
mist, served as portals to the valley which trended upward between
the hills beyond. The road to Braemar seemed like a veritable road of
mystery, guarded by an enchanted gate. With a sigh we turned our backs
on all this beauty, and skirting the river, ran by Cambus-o-May and
between woods of pine in an opening vista of new loveliness. Eastward
before us lay a mighty sweep of hill and moor, backed on every side by
great mountains which fell away one behind the other into misty distance
of delicate blue. At our feet far below, lay two spreading lakes of
sapphire hue, fringed here and there with woods, and dotted with little
islands whose trees bent down to the water's edge. Marjory stood rapt
for awhile, her breast heaving and her face glowing. At last she turned
to me with a sigh; her beautiful eyes were bright with unshed tears as
she said:

"Oh, was there ever in the world anything so beautiful as this Country!
And was there ever so exquisite a ride as ours to-day!"

Does ever a man love a woman more than when she shows herself
susceptible to beauty, and is moved to the fulness and simplicity of
emotion which is denied to his own sex? I thought not, as Marjory and I
swept down the steep road and skirted by the crystal lakes of Ceander
and Davan to the wood in which we were to have our _al fresco_ lunch.
Here, sheltered from the wind, the sunshine seemed too strong to make
sitting in the open pleasant; and we were glad to have the shade of the
trees. As we sat down and I began to unpack the luncheon, Marjory said:

"And now tell me how you have been getting on with the cipher." I stood
still for so long that she raised her head and took a sharp glance of
surprise at me.

In the charm of her presence I had absolutely forgotten all about the
cipher and what might grow from it.



CHAPTER XIV

A SECRET SHARED


"There is so much to tell" I said "that I hardly know where to begin.
Perhaps I had better tell you all here, where we are alone and not
likely to be disturbed. We have come so fast that we have lots of time
and we need not hurry. When you have had your lunch I shall tell you
all."

"Oh please don't wait till then," she said, "I am all impatience. Let me
know right away."

"Young woman" I said sternly "you are at present insincere. You _know_
you are ravenously hungry, as you should be after a twenty mile ride;
and you are speaking according to your idea of convention and not out of
your heart. This is not convention; there is nothing conventional in the
whole outfit. Eat the food prepared for you by the thoughtfulness of a
very beautiful and charming girl!" She held up a warning finger and
said:

"Remember '_Bon Camarade_--without prejudice.'"

"All right" I answered "so it shall be. But if the lady wants to hold me
up for criminal libel I shall undertake to repeat the expression when,
and where, and how she will. I shall repeat the assertion and abide by
the consequences." She went on eating her sandwiches, not, I thought,
displeased. When we had both finished she turned to me and said:

"Now!" I took from my pocket the rescript of Don Bernardino de
Escoban's narrative and handed it to her. She looked at it, turned over
the pages, and glanced at them as she went. Then she returned to the
beginning, and after reading the first few lines, said to me with an
eager look in her eyes:

"Is this really the translation of the secret writing? Oh, I am so glad
you have succeeded. You are cute!" She took out her watch, and having
looked at it, went on: "We have loads of time. Won't you read it for me?
It will be so much nicer! And let me ask you questions."

"Delighted!" I answered, "But would it not be better if I read it right
through first, and then let you ask questions! Or better still you read
it yourself right through, and then ask." I had a purpose in this. If I
had to read it, my eyes must be wholly engrossed in my work; but if she
read, I need never take them off her face. I longed to see the varying
expression with which she would follow every phase of the strange story.
She thought for a few seconds before answering, and as she thought
looked me straight in the eyes. I think she read my secret, or at any
rate enough of it to fathom my wish; nothing else could account for the
gentle blush that spread over her face. Then she said in quite a meek
tone:

"I shall read it myself if you think it best!"

I shall never forget that reading. Her face, always expressive, was to
me like an open book. I was by this time quite familiar with de
Escoban's narrative, as I had with infinite patience dug it out letter
by letter from the cipher in which it had been buried for so long. As
also I had written it out fair twice over, it was little wonder that
I knew it well. As she read I so followed that I could have told to a
sentence how far she had got in the history. Once she unconsciously put
her hand to her throat and felt the brooch; but immediately drew it
away again, glancing for a moment at me from under her eyelashes to see
whether I had observed. She saw I had, shook her head with a smile, and
read on.

When she had finished reading, she gave a long sigh and then held out
her hand to me saying:

"Bravo! I congratulate you with all my heart!" Her touch thrilled me;
she was all on fire, and there was a purposeful look in her face which
was outside and beyond any joy that she could have with regard to any
success of mine. This struck me so much that I said impulsively:

"Why are you so glad?" She answered instinctively and without thought:

"Because you will keep it from the Spaniards!" Then she stopped
suddenly, with a gesture of self repression.

I felt a little piqued. I would have thought that her concern would have
been rather individual than political. That in such a matter even before
racial hatred would have come gladness at the well-doing of even such a
friend--without prejudice--as I was. Looking at me, she seemed to see
through me and said

    "With her two white hands extended, as if praying one offended:"

"Oh, I am sorry! I did not mean to hurt you. I can't explain yet; not
to-day, which is for comradeship only.--Yes without prejudice"--for she
saw my look and answered it "But some day you will understand." She was
so evidently embarrassed and pained at having for some reason which I
did not comprehend to show reticence to me who had been so open with
her, that I felt it my duty to put her at ease. This I tried to do by
assuring her that I quite understood that she had some good reason,
and that I was quite content to wait. I could not help adding before I
stopped: "This is a small thing to have to wait for after all; when I
have to wait for something so much more important." The warning finger
was held up again with a smile.

Then we went over the whole of the narrative again, I reading this time
and she stopping to ask me questions. There was not much to ask; all the
story was so plain that the proceeding did not take very long. Then she
asked me to explain how I had come to decipher the cryptogram. I took
out my pocket book and proceeded to make a key to the cipher, explaining
as I went on the principle. "To me," I said, "it is very complete, and
can be used in an infinity of ways. Any mode of expression can be used
that has two objects with five varieties of each." Here she interrupted
me. As I was explaining I was holding out my hands with the fingers
spread as a natural way of expressing my meaning. She saw at once what
had escaped me, and clasping her hands exclaimed impulsively:

"Like your two hands! It is delightful! Two hands, and five fingers
on each. We can talk a new deaf and dumb alphabet; which no one but
ourselves can understand!" Her words thrilled through me. One more
secret to share with her; one more secret which would be in perpetual
exercise, in pursuance of a common thought. I was about to speak when
she stopped me with a gesture. "Sorry!" she said. "Go on; explain to me!
We can think of variety later!" So I continued:

"So long as we have means that are suitable, we have only to translate
into the biliteral, and we who know this can understand. Thus we have a
double guard of secrecy. There are some who could translate into symbols
with which they are familiar, symbols with which they are not; but in
this method we have a buffer of ignorance or mystery between the known
and the unknown. There is also this advantage; the cipher as it stands
is sufficiently on a basis of science or at any rate of order, that its
key is easily capable of reproduction. As you have seen, I can make
a key without any help. Bacon's biliteral cipher is scientifically
accurate. It can, therefore, be easily reproduced; the method of
exclusions is also entirely rational, so that we need have no difficulty
in remembering it. If two people would take the trouble to learn the
symbols of the biliteral, as kept after the exclusions and which are
used in this cipher, they might with very little practice be able to
write or read off-hand. Indeed the suggestion, which you have just made,
of a deaf-and-dumb alphabet is capital. It is as simple as the daylight!
You have only to decide whether the thumb or the little finger means 1
or 2; and then reproduce by right hand or left, and using the fingers
of each hand, the five symbols of the amended biliteral, and you can
talk as well and as easily as do the deaf mutes!" Again she spoke out
impulsively:

"Let us both learn off by heart the symbols of our cipher; and then we
shan't want even to make a key. We can talk to each other in a crowd,
and no one be the wiser of what we are saying."

This was very sweet to me. When a man is in love, as I was, anything
which links him to his lady, and to her alone, has a charm beyond words.
Here was a perpetual link, if we cared to make it so, and if the Fates
would be good to us.

"The Fates!" With the thought came back Gormala's words to me at the
beginning. She had told me, and somehow I seemed to have always believed
the same, that the Fates worked to their own end and in their own way.
Kindness or unkindness had no part in their workings; pity had no place
at the beginning of their interest, no more than had remorse at the end.
Was it possible that in the scheme of Fate, in which Gormala and I and
Lauchlane Macleod had places, there was also a place for Marjory? The
Witch-woman had said that the Fates would work their will, though for
the doing of it came elements out of past centuries and from the ends of
the earth. The cipher of Don de Escoban had lain hidden three centuries,
only to be revived at its due time. Marjory had come from a nation which
had no existence when the Don had lived, and from a place which in his
time was the far home of the red man and the wolf and the bison and the
bear.

But yet what was there to connect Marjory with Don de Escoban and his
secret? As I thought, I saw Marjory who had turned her back to me,
quietly take something from her throat and put it into her pocket. Here
was the clue indeed.

The brooch! When I had taken it up from the sea at the Sand Craigs I had
returned it to her with only a glance; and as I had often seen it since,
without any mystery, I had hardly noticed it. It rushed in on my mind
that it was of the same form as that described by Don de Escoban as
having been given by the Pope. I had only noticed a big figure and a
little one; but surely it could be none other than a figure of St.
Christopher. I should have liked to have asked Marjory about it at once;
but her words already spoken putting off explanation, and her recent
act, of which I was supposed to know nothing, in putting it out of
sight, forbade me to inquire. All the more I thought, however; and other
matters regarding it crowded into my mind.

The chain was complete, the only weak link being the connection between
Marjory and the St. Christopher brooch. And even here there was a
mystery, acknowledged in her concealment, which might explain itself
when the time came.

Matters took such a grave turn for me with my latest surmise, that I
thought it would be well to improve the occasion with Marjory, in so far
as it might be possible to learn something of her surroundings. I was
barred from asking questions by her own wish; but still I did not like
to lose the chance without an effort, so I said to her:

"We have learned a lot to-day, haven't we?"

"Indeed we have. It hardly seems possible that a day could make such a
change!"

"I suppose we should take it that new knowledge should apply new
conditions to established fact?" I said this with some diffidence; and I
could see that the change in my tone, much against my will, attracted
her attention. She evidently understood my wish, for she answered with
decision:

"If you mean by 'new conditions' any alteration of the compact made
between us for to-day--yes, I remember 'without prejudice'--there is
nothing in our new knowledge to alter the old ones. Do remember, sir,
that this day is one set apart, and nothing that is not a very grave
matter indeed can be allowed to alter what is established regarding it."

"Then," said I, "at all events let us learn the cipher--our cipher as
you very properly called it."

"Oh no! surely?" this was said with a rising blush.

"Indeed, yes--I am glad to say!"

"Take care!" she replied, meaningly, then she added:

"Very well! Ours let it be. But really and truly I have no right to its
discovery; it makes me feel like a fraud to hear you say so."

"Be easy," I replied. "You helped me more than I can say. It was your
suggestion to reduce the terms of the biliteral; and it was by that
means that I read the cipher. But at any rate when we call it 'ours' it
will content me if the word 'ours'"--I could not help repeating the word
for it was delight to me; it did not displease her either, though it
made her blush--"is applied not to invention but to possession!"

"All right," she said. "That is good of you. I cannot argue with you.
Amendment accepted! Come, let us get on our wheels again. You have the
key of _our_ cipher with you; you can tell me the items one by one, and
we will learn them as we go along."

And so as we swept round Davan Lake, with the wind behind us driving us
along except just before we regained the high road at Dinnet, I repeated
the symbols of the reduced biliteral. We went over and over them again
and again, till we were unable to puzzle each other questioning up and
down, 'dodging' as the school-boys say.

Oh, but that ride was delightful! There was some sort of conscious
equality between us which I could see my comrade felt as well as myself.
Down the falling road we sped almost without effort, our wheels seeming
to glide on air. When we came to the bridge over the railway just above
Aboyne, where the river comes north and runs in under a bank of shale
and rock, we dismounted and looked back. Behind us was our last view of
the gorge above Ballater, where the two round hills stood as portals,
and where the cloud rack hanging above and beyond made a mystery which
was full of delightful fascination and no less delightful remembrance.
Then with a sigh we turned.

There, before us lay a dark alley between the closing pines. No less
mysterious, but seemingly dark and grim.



CHAPTER XV

A PECULIAR DINNER-PARTY


We did not stop at Aboyne, but ran on beyond Kincardine O'Neill, and
took our second rest close to the Bridge of Potarch where we had tea at
the little hotel on the right bank of the river. Then for a while we
leaned over the parapet and looked at the water flowing swiftly far
below as the river narrows from its pebbly bed to the gorge of rock on
which the bridge rests. There is something soothing, perhaps something
hypnotic, in the ceaseless rush of water. It unconsciously takes one's
thoughts on and on, till the reality of the present is in some measure
lost and the mind wanders towards imagination through the regions of the
unknown. As I looked at Marjory, with the afternoon sun falling on her
superb figure and showing up her clear-cut profile with all the finish
of a cameo, I could not but be struck with the union of gentleness and
independence which was so clearly manifested in her. Without thinking, I
spoke out my mind. It is a privilege of those who understand each other,
or of the very young, to give voice to the latter portion of a train of
thought without feeling it necessary to enlighten the hearer as to what
has gone to make up the conclusion. The feeling was hourly growing upon
me that, even if I could not quite understand Marjory, at least she
understood me.

"But then all you American girls are so independent!" She did not seem
a bit surprised by this fag end of reasoning; she had evidently been
following up some train of thought of her own, and by some happy
instinct my words fitted in with it. Without turning towards me, but
still keeping her eyes fixed down the stream to where far away it swayed
to the right through a gap between pine clad hills she answered:

"Yes! We are as a rule brought up to be independent. It seems to be a
part of what our people call the 'genius' of the country. Indeed for
many, women as well as men, it is a sort of necessity. Our nation is
so vast, and it expands so quickly, that there is nearly everywhere
a family separation. In the main, all the children of one generation
become the heads of families of the next. Somehow, the bulk of our young
people still follow the sunset; and in the new life which comes to
each, whether in the fields or in the city or in the reclamation of
the wilderness, the one thing which makes life endurable is this
independence which is another form of self-reliance. This it is which
enables them to brave hunger and thirst and all danger which comes to
pioneers; which in the cities makes the solitude of lonely life bearable
to the young as well as to the old; which makes them work and study
in patience; which makes them self-sacrificing, and thrifty, and long
enduring. I tell you it is this which makes a race of patriots, whose
voices swell in unison till the great voice of the nation, raised in
some good cause, can ring and echo through the world!" As she spoke she
got more and more earnest, more and more enthusiastic, till her voice
began to vibrate and her face to flush. When she turned towards me at
the end, her eyes were full of spiritual light. I looked at her, and I
suppose my love as well as my admiration must have expressed itself, for
her eyes fell and the flush on her face melted into a soft blush. She
turned, looked at the water again, and then went on speaking:

"This is the good side of our independence and _faute de mieux_ it
serves; those who know no better do not miss what might be. But oh! it
has to be paid for. The little sufferings of day by day can grow into a
mass which in the end outweighs those seemingly far greater ills which
manifest themselves all at once. No one knows, no one ever will know,
how much quiet, dull pain goes to tame a woman's heart to the solitude
of life. I have not seen so much of it as some others; my life has been
laid in pleasant places, and only through the small accidents of life
have I come to know of the negative pain which other girls have to
endure. It is so much to have round one the familiar faces of our youth;
to meet sympathy at every turn of life, and to know that there is
understanding for us always. We women have to give something in order to
be happy. The stronger-minded ones, as we call them, blame the Creator
for this disposition of things--or else I do not know who or what they
blame; but the rest of us, who are wise enough to accept what cannot
be altered, try to realise what can be done for the best. We all want
to care for some one or something, if it is only a cat or a dog. For
myself, so far back as I can remember, I longed to have a brother or
sister, but I think that in my secret heart it was a brother I wanted.
Of course as I merged into my actual surroundings I grew out of this;
but once it was brought home to me with new force. We were staying for a
few days in one of those great English houses where there was a growing
family of boys and girls. There was one sweet young girl, just about my
own age, who seemed idolised by all her brothers. When we arrived they
were all going in to evening prayers. The last of the sunlight was
falling through the old stained glass window of the great baronial hall,
and lit up the little family group. The girl sat between two of her
young brothers, great stalwart lads who had all the characteristics of
a family of soldiers. During prayers each of them held one of her hands;
and when they all knelt, her arms went round their necks. I could not
help feeling deeply--down into the very depths of my soul--how good
it was for them all. I would have given everything I have, or am ever
likely to have, that mine had been such an upbringing. Think, how in
after years it will come back to those boys in hours of trial, or pain,
or prosperity, or passion; in all times when their manhood or their
honour or their worth is to be tried; how they will remember the words
which were spoken to them as those were spoken, and were listened to as
those were listened to, in the midst of sympathy and love. Many and many
a time in years to come those boys will bless such hours, and God
Himself will surely rejoice that His will was being wrought in so sweet
a way. And the same thing is going on in a thousand English homes!" She
paused and turned to me and the feeling in her heart found expression in
the silent tears that ran down her cheeks. Again she turned her eyes to
the running water and gazed awhile before speaking again. Then looking
at me, she went on:

"And the girl, too, how good it was for her! What an antidote to
selfishness! How much of self-control, of sympathy, of love, of
toleration was begun and fostered and completed in those moments of the
expression of her heart! What place can there really be for selfish want
and sorrows in the heart of a woman so trained to sympathise with and
help others? It is good! good! good! and I pray that in the later
development of my own dear country, all such things may have a part.
Expansion at its present rate must soon cease; and then some predominant
idea must take the place of the eternal self-independence. We shall, I
trust, moult no feather of our national feeling of personal duty; but
I am sure that our people, and more especially our women, will lead
happier as well as healthier lives."

This present phase of Marjory's character was new to me, fresh and
enchanting. Every hour seemed to bring out new worths and beauties of
the girl's character, of her intellectual gifts, of the endless wealth
of her heart.

When she ceased speaking I took her hand in mine, she not resenting, and
kissed it. I said only one word "Marjory!" but it was enough. I could
see that in her eyes which made my heart leap.

Then a new life seemed to come to both of us. With one accord we moved
towards our bicycles, and mounted in silence. After a few minutes of
rapid spin down the sloping road from the bridge, we began to chat again
gaily. For myself I was in wildly joyous spirits. Even a self-doubting
lover could not fail to understand such a look in his mistress's eyes.
If ever love spoke out in eloquent silence it was then, all doubt melted
from my heart, as the night shadows pale before the dawn. I was content
to wait now, illimitably and in silence. She, too, seemed altogether
happy, and accepted in unquestioning faith all the little pleasures
which came in the progress of our journey. And such pleasures are many.
As we drew down the valley of the Dee, with the mountains falling
back and the dark pinewoods running up them like tongues of flame and
emphasising by their gloom the brightness of grass and heather which
cropped up amongst the rocks beyond, every turn of the road brought us
to some new scene of peaceful beauty. From under the splendid woods of
Crathes Castle we saw the river running like a blue ribbon far to the
east and on either side of it fields and gardens and woods spreading
wide. On we sped with delight in every moment, till at last through
miles of shady woods we came to the great stone bridge, and ended our
jaunt over the rough granite cobblestones of Aberdeen.

We were a little before the time the train was due; so leaving our
wheels in the Palace Hotel we went down on the platform to meet Mrs.
Jack on her arrival.

We met her in due course, and brought her up to the hotel. At the
stairway Marjory, who had lingered half a flight behind her companion,
whispered to me:

"You have been a good boy to-day, a real good boy; and you shall before
long have your reward." As she gave me her hand, I whispered:

"I am content to wait now Marjory; dear Marjory!" She blushed and
smiled, and fled upstairs with a warning finger laid upon her lips.

It had been understood that I was to dine with Mrs. Jack and her friend,
so I went up to the room which I had secured, to change my clothes.
When I came down, in what I thought was a reasonable time, I went to
the private sitting-room and knocked. As there was no answer I knocked
again; then receiving no reply I took it for granted that the ladies had
not yet come from their rooms and entered.

The room was empty but on the table which was laid for dinner for three
was a note in Marjory's hand directed to me. With a sinking of the heart
I opened it, and stood for a few minutes amazed. It had no apostrophe
and ran as follows:--

  "We have had to leave suddenly, but Mrs. Jack wants you to oblige
  her very much if you will be so good. Stay in the room, and when
  dinner is served sit down by yourself and eat it. Please, please do
  not think hardly of Mrs. Jack's request; and do not fail to carry it
  out. There is good reason for it, as you will very soon know. More
  depends on your doing as Mrs. Jack"--the "Mrs. Jack" was written
  over an obliterated "I"--"asks than you may think. I am sure that by
  this time you know you can trust me.

  "MARJORY."

The situation was disappointing and both humiliating and embarrassing.
To be a guest under such conditions was almost ridiculous; and under
ordinary circumstances I should have refused. But then I remembered that
last look of Marjory's eyes at the bridge of Potarch! Without a word, or
another thought, of revolt I sat down to the dinner which the waiter was
just now bringing into the room.

As it was evident to me that my staying in the room was for some purpose
of delay, I lingered over my wine and had two cigars before I came
away.



CHAPTER XVI

REVELATIONS


In the hall I met together two men whom I knew well. The first was
Adams of the American Embassy in London; the second Cathcart of the
British Embassy at Washington, now on leave. I had not seen either
for two years, and it was with mutual pleasure that we met. After our
preliminary handshaking, and the inevitable drink at the American's
request, Adams slapped me on the shoulder and said heartily:

"Well, old fellow, I congratulate you; or rather am I to congratulate
you?"

"What do you mean?" I asked in feeble embarrassment.

"All right, old chap!" he said heartily. "Your blush is enough. I see it
hasn't come off yet at all events!" A man never lets well alone when he
is in an awkward position. If I had only held my tongue I might not have
made a guy of myself; but as I was in doubt as to what might be the
issue of my suit to Marjory, I felt additionally constrained to affect
ignorance of his meaning. So I floundered on:

"'Come off yet'? What on earth do you mean?" Again he slapped me on the
back as he said in his chaffing way:

"My dear boy I saw you come in over the bridge. You had had a long ride
I could see by your wheels; and I am bound to say that you did seem on
excellent terms with each other!" This was getting dangerous ground, so
I tried to sheer off. "Oh," I said, "you mean my bike ride with Miss
Anita"--I was interrupted by his sudden whistle.

"Oh," he said in exact imitation of my own manner. "You mean Miss Anita!
So it has come to that already! Anyhow I congratulate you heartily,
whether it has come, or may come, or will come to anything else."

"I don't see," I said, with a helpless feeling of having been driven
into a corner, "that there is anything especially remarkable in a man
having a bicycle ride with a young lady of his acquaintance."

"Keep your hair on, old man!" he said with a smile. "There is nothing
remarkable about a man riding with a young lady; but there is something
very remarkable about any man riding with this particular young lady.
Why, man alive, don't you know that there isn't a man in America, or out
of it, that wouldn't give the eyes out of his head to take your place on
such an occasion. To ride alone with Marjory Drake--"

"With whom?" I said impulsively; and having spoken could have bitten
out my tongue. Adams paused; he was silent so long that I began to grow
uneasy. His face grew very grave, and there spread over it that look
between cunning and dominance which was his official expression. Then he
spoke, but his words had not the same careless ring in them. There was a
manifest caution and a certain indefinable sense of distance.

"Look here, Archie Hunter! Is it possible that you don't know who it is
that you were with. All right! I know of course that you are acquainted
with her personally," for he saw I was about to protest, "the very fact
of your being with her and your knowing the name that she seldom uses
answer for that; and you may take it from me that the lady needs no
character for discretion from me. But how is it that you are on such
good terms with her, and yet don't seem even to know her name?" For
fully a minute there was silence between us. Cathcart had as yet
said not a word, and Adams was thinking. For myself I was in a sea of
multitudinous concerns; whichever way I turned I was face to face with
some new difficulty. It would not do to leave these men under the
impression that there was any social irregularity in my friendship with
Marjory; I was too jealous of her good name to allow such a thing to be
possible. And yet I could not explain at length how we had come to be
such good friends. Already there were so many little mysteries; right up
to this very evening when she and Mrs. Jack had gone away so strangely,
leaving me in the ridiculous position of a guest with no host. It was
not easy to explain these things; it was impossible to avoid them. In
the midst of this chaotic whirl of thoughts Adams spoke:

"I think I had better say no more, anyhow. After all, if Miss Drake
chooses to keep a secret, or to make one, it is not my business to give
it, or her, away. She knows what she's doing. You will excuse me, old
fellow, won't you; but as it is manifestly a lady's wish, I think I can
do best by holding my tongue."

"Any wish of that lady's," said I, and I felt that I must seem to speak
grandiloquently, "can only have my most loyal support."

There was an awkward silence which was relieved by Cathcart, who said to
me:

"Come up to my room, Archie; I want to tell you something. You'll join
us, too, Sam, won't you?"

"All right, Billy," said Adams, "I'll come in a few minutes. I want to
give some directions about a horse for to-morrow."

When we were in Cathcart's room, he closed the door and said to me with
the most genuine good feeling:

"I didn't like to say a word downstairs, old chap; but I could see you
were in some difficulty. Of course I know it's all right; but ought you
not to know something of the lady? With any one else but Sam and myself
such a thing might have conveyed a false impression. Surely you can best
protect the lady by knowing how to avoid anything that might embarrass
her!" This was all good sound common sense. For a moment I weighed up
the matter against the possibility of Marjory's wishing to keep her name
a secret. Looking back, however, I could see that any concealment that
had been was rather positive than negative. The original error had been
mine; she had simply allowed it to pass. The whole thing had probably
been the passing fancy of a bright, spirited young girl; to take it too
seriously, or to make too much of it might do harm. Why, even these
men might, were I to regard it as important, take it as some piece of
deliberate deceit on her part. Thus convinced of the wisdom of
Cathcart's proposition I spoke:

"You are quite right! and I shall be much obliged if you will--if you
will enlighten me." He bowed and smiled, and went on genially:

"The lady you called Miss Anita, you so far called quite correctly. Her
name is Anita; but it is only her second Christian name. She is known to
the world as Miss Marjory Drake, of Chicago."

"Known to the world." Was this a mere phrase, or the simple expression
of a fact! I asked directly:

"How known to the world? Do you mean that is the name known amongst her
circle of acquaintances? Is--is there any cause why the great world
outside that circle should know her at all?" He smiled and laid his
hand on my shoulder in a very brotherly way as he answered:

"Yes, old fellow. There is a reason, and a good one, why the great world
should know her. I see you are all in the dark; so I had better tell you
what I know. Marjory Anita Drake is an heiress, a great heiress, a very
great heiress; perhaps a long way the greatest heiress in America, or
out of it. Her father, who died when she was a baby, left her a gigantic
fortune; and her trustees have multiplied it over and over again." He
paused; so I said--it seeming necessary to say something:

"But being an heiress is not sufficient reason why a girl should be
known to the world."

"It is a pretty good one. Most people wouldn't want any better. But this
is not the reason in her case. She is the girl who gave the battle ship
to the American Government!"

"Gave the battle ship! I don't understand!"

"It was this way. At the time the reports kept crowding in of the
Spanish atrocities on the _reconcentrados_; when public feeling was
rising in the United States, this girl got all on fire to free Cuba. To
this end she bought a battle ship that the Cramp's had built for Japan.
She had the ship armed with Krupp cannon which she bought through
friends in Italy; and went along the Eastern coast amongst the sailors
and fishermen till she had recruited a crew. Then she handed the whole
thing over to the Government as a spur to it to take some action. The
ship is officered with men from the Naval Academy at Annapolis; and
they tell me there isn't one of the crew--from the cabin boy to the
captain--that wouldn't die for the girl to-morrow."

"Bravo!" I said instinctively! "That's a girl for a nation to be proud
of!"

"She is all that!" said Cathcart enthusiastically. "Now you can
understand why Adams congratulated you; and why he was so surprised when
you did not seem to know who she was." I stood for a moment thinking,
and all the clouds which wrapped Marjory's purpose in mystery seemed to
disperse. This, then, was why she allowed the error of her name to pass.
She had not made an _incognita_; chance had done this for her, and
she had simply accepted it. Doubtless, wearied with praise and with
publicity and notoriety in all its popular forms, she was glad to get
away and hide herself for a while. Fortune had thrown in her way a man
who was manifestly ignorant of her very existence; and it was a pleasure
to play with him at hide-and-seek!

It was, after all, an up-to-date story of the Princess in disguise; and
I was the young man, all unknowing, with whom she had played.

Here a terrible doubt assailed me. Other Princesses had played
hide-and-seek; and, having had their sport, had vanished; leaving
desolation and an empty heart behind them. Was it possible that she too
was like this; that she had been all the while playing with me; that
even whilst she was being most gracious, she was taking steps to
hide even her whereabouts from me? Here was I, who had even proposed
marriage; and yet who did not even know when or where I should see her
again--if indeed I should ever see her again at all. I could not believe
it. I had looked into her eyes, and had seen the truth. Here was no
wanton playing at bowls with men's hearts. My life upon her faith!

I seemed to have lost myself in a sort of trance. I was recalled from it
by Cathcart, who seeing me in a reverie had gone over to the fireplace
and stood with his back to me, filling his pipe at the mantel-piece:

"I think I hear Adams coming. Pardon me, old fellow, but though I am
sure he knows I have told you about Miss Drake, and though he probably
made an excuse for delay so that I might have an opportunity to do so,
he wants to appear not to enter on the subject. He is _diplomat_ all
over. Remember he is of the U. S. Embassy; and Miss Drake, as an
American citizen, is theoretically under his care in this foreign
country. Let us be talking of something else when he comes in!" Sam came
along the passage softly whistling a bar of "Yankee Doodle." Cathcart
nodded to me and whispered:

"I told you so! He takes good care that he may not surprise us." When he
came in we were talking of the prospects of the Autumn fishing on the
Dee.

When we left Cathcart's room, after a cigar, I, being somewhat tired
with my long ride, went at once to my room. Adams came with me as far as
the door.

I was just getting into bed when I heard a slight tap at the door. I
unlocked it and found Adams without. He raised a warning hand, and said
in a whisper:

"May I come in? I want to say something very privately." More than ever
mystified--everything seemed a mystery now--I opened the door. He came
in and I closed it softly and locked it.



CHAPTER XVII

SAM ADAMS'S TASK


Adams began at once: "Archie I want to tell you something; but it is in
the strictest confidence. You must promise me not to mention to any one,
mind _any one_, what I say; or even that I have spoken to you on the
subject." I thought for a moment before replying. It flashed across me
that what he had to say must concern Marjory, so I answered:

"I fear I cannot make such a promise, if the matter is regarding some
one other than myself." A shade of annoyance passed across his face as
he said:

"Well, it is about some one else; but really you must trust me. I would
not for the world, old fellow, ask you to do anything that was not
correct."

"I know that" I said "I know it right well; but you see it might be
regarding some one with whom my relations might be peculiar--not fixed
you know. It might be necessary for me to speak. Perhaps not now; but
later on." I was stumbling blindly, so sought refuge in fact and query,
"Tell me" I said "does it relate to Miss Drake?"

"It does; but I thought that you who are a friend of hers might like to
do her a service."

"Of course I would." I answered. "There is nothing I would not do for
her if it were in my power."

"Except hold your tongue!" he said with a touch of bitterness unusual
with him. I could see that anxious as I was to hear he was still more
anxious to tell me; so I was able to keep my temper and not make matters
worse by answering back sarcastically. I said:

"Yes, old chap, even by holding my tongue. If I could see that I would
benefit her by holding my tongue, or by cutting out my tongue, I would
do it. What I must refuse is to _promise_ to hold my tongue. Come, old
fellow, don't put me in a wrong position. You don't know all that I do,
or exactly how I am placed. Why don't you trust me? I am willing to
promise that I won't speak at all of the matter unless it be necessary;
and that I won't speak at all in any case of having been told anything
by you." He brightened up at once and said:

"All right, then we can drive on. I take it that since we met
last"--that was a few minutes ago, but he was a diplomatist--"you have
learned more about Miss Drake, or rather of her history and her position
and importance, than you knew at that time?"

"Yes," I answered, and I could not help smiling.

"Then we needn't go into that. We take facts for granted. Well, that
fine act of hers--you know what I mean--has brought her, or may bring
her, a peck of trouble. There are, or there were, a certain lot of
Spaniards--Copperheads--at home who look on her as a sort of embodiment
of the American antagonism to their own nation. They are the low lot;
for mind you, though we are at war with them I say it, the good Spaniard
is a fine fellow. It came to the ears of the authorities in Washington
that there was some sort of plot on foot to do her a harm. The Secret
Service was a little at fault, and couldn't get accurate or full
information; for naturally enough the Spaniards didn't trust any but
themselves in such a matter. We know enough, however, to be somewhat
concerned for her; and it was arranged that a secret watch should be
kept on her, so that no harm should come that could be prevented. The
proper men had been detailed off for the work; when to our surprise, and
a little to our consternation, it turned out that the young lady had
disappeared. We knew of course that her going was voluntary; she had
left word to that effect, so that there might not be any bother made
about her. But the trouble was that she did not know of the danger which
threatened her; and as our people didn't know where she was, no step
could be taken to protect or warn her. It is clear that my lady got
tired of fireworks and of the Joan of Arc business, and bolted. It was
considered necessary at headquarters that we should in the meantime all
keep our heads shut. But we were advised at the Embassy in London that
the plot was on, and that we should hump ourselves a bit to look after
her in case she was in England. The matter was handed over to me, and I
have been on the run ever since; but I have not been able to hear tale
or tiding of her. Two days ago we got a cable in our cipher which told
us that, from information received and the rest of it, they suspected
she was in England, or probably in Scotland; and that there was later
evidence that the plot was more active than ever. Unfortunately we have
as yet no details, and not even a clue. That is why I am here. I came
down with Cathcart, who fortunately was bound for the North, as it
covered up my purpose. I have been in a regular stew for days past.
Marjory Drake is too good to have any trouble come to her that any
American can help. You can imagine my delight when I saw her this
evening; for now that I have located her, I can take steps to look after
her safety if necessary. You two went so fast on your wheels that I lost
you at the Bridge; but I surmised that you would be coming here anyhow
after your ride. So I came up as quickly as I could, and saw you two and
the old lady come up from the railway station. I couldn't get to see
Miss Drake to-night; but I expect to look her up pretty early in the
morning."

Here was a new entanglement. It seemed to me as more than likely
that Marjory, having seen Adams and knowing his diplomatic position,
suspected some interference with her liberty, and made an escape at
once. This, then, was the reason why she had asked me to stay and eat
dinner alone; I was to cover up her tracks and secure her a night's
delay. Thus, even to Adams, my tongue was tied as to her movements. I
did not wish to seem to deceive him, so avoided the subject. In answer
to him I asked:

"But tell me, old fellow, how and where do I come into your story? Why
do you tell me this?" He answered very gravely:

"Because I want your help. This is, or rather may be, a very serious
matter to Miss Drake. The whole business is entrusted by our government
to my chief, who has detailed me on the service. It is of so delicate
and secret a nature that I cannot make confidence with many people, and
I am loth to trust any one but a gentleman. Besides Miss Drake is a very
peculiar girl. She is absolutely independent, thoroughly determined, and
more than plucky. If she knew there was a plot on foot, as likely as not
she would try to encourage it out of mere recklessness; and would try
to counterplot all by herself. Her enemies know this, and will avail
themselves of every chance and of every false move of hers; so that she
might help to work out herself the evil intended for her. This we cannot
permit; and I am quite sure that you, who are a friend of hers, are at
one with me here. Now, if you want to know exactly how you can help I
will tell you; and you will, I am sure, pardon me if I say too much--or
too little. If she were to know that the matter of her protection was
a Government one, nothing on earth would make her yield herself to our
views. But if it were suggested by a--a friend whom she--she valued, her
action would probably be quite the opposite. She is a girl all heart and
soul. When she is taken rightly you can lead her with a thread; but you
can't drag her with gun-ropes. From what I saw yesterday, I am inclined
to think that you might have more influence with her than any one else I
could pick out."

I could not say anything to this, either positive or negative, so I
remained silent. He went on:

"There is one other reason why I ask you to help, but it is secondary to
the other one, believe me, and one I only use to fortify a better one.
I ask you as an old friend to help me in a matter which, even if you
are not concerned in it, may be of the utmost importance to me in my
diplomatic career. This matter has been placed in my hands, and it would
not do for me to fail. There is not much κυδος to be got out of it if
all be well--except with my immediate chiefs; but if I failed it would
go far against me. If Marjory Drake should suffer from this Spanish
plot, she who had, so to speak, fired the torch of the nation in the
war, it would be formal, official ruin to me. There wouldn't be a man
from Maine to California, from the Lakes to the Gulf, who wouldn't look
on me as an imbecile, or worse!" Whilst he was speaking I was thinking,
and trying to make up my mind as to what I should do. Manifestly, I
could not tell him of the dawning relations between Marjory and myself.
I was not yet prepared to speak of the Pope's treasure. I could not in
honour give away Marjory's confidence in me in asking me to cover up her
escape, or the implied promise of my acceptance of it. Still, Adams's
confidence required some measure of frankness from me. His last appeal
to me as an old friend to help him as an individual in an important
work, which might mar if it could not make him, demanded that I should
stretch every point I could in his favour. So I said:

"Sam, I shall do all I honestly or honourably can. But I must ask you
to wait a while and trust me. The fact is I am not at liberty just at
present to turn any way I choose. I am already committed to certain
confidences, which were made before I saw you or had any knowledge of
what you tell me. Moreover, I am in certain ways ignorant in matters
that you would not expect. I shall at once take every step I can to be
in a position to speak to you more freely. I am more deeply stirred, old
fellow, by what you have told me than I can say; and out of the depths
of my heart I am grateful to you and your Government for your care for
Miss Anita--Miss Drake. I may say this, that until to-morrow at all
events, I am unable to help you in any possible way. Were I to try to do
anything till a certain thing happens, it would hinder rather than help
your purpose. So wait patiently and do please try to understand me."

He replied with unwonted sarcasm:

"Try to understand you! Why man alive I've been trying whilst you were
speaking, until my brain reels. But I'm blamed if I can make head or
tail of what you say. You seem to be snarled up in more knots than a
conjuror. What the hell does it all mean? You don't seem to be able to
turn anywhere or do anything, even when the safety or the life of such a
girl as Marjory Drake is in question. On my faith Mr. Hunter I hope I
don't make any mistake about you!"

"Yes, you do, Sam!" I said quietly, for I could not but feel that he had
good cause for disappointment or even anger. "At the first moment I am
free to do so, I shall tell you all I can; and you shall then see that
I am only doing what you would under similar circumstances do yourself.
Won't you trust me, old friend!" He gazed at me steadily for a few
seconds, and then his look softened.

"By God I will!" he said, as he held out his hand.

"Now tell me," I said "what can I do to keep in touch with you. I must
go back to Cruden in the morning. It is necessary." This was in answer
to his questioning look. "It is the first step in my doing as you wish."
I knew that Marjory would send to me, if at all, to Cruden. "But tell me
how or where I can wire you in case we are not within hail." For answer
he pulled out of his pocket a bundle of "priority" telegrams addressed
to the United States Embassy in London.

"Take them and use them as may be required. I am in constant touch with
the Embassy and they will know where to find me. How will I find you?"

"Send to me care of Post-office, Cruden Bay," I said, "I shall keep you
advised of wherever I may be." With that we said good night.

"I shall see you in the morning," he said as he went out.



CHAPTER XVIII

FIREWORKS AND JOAN OF ARC


For some time I did not sleep. Things were hurrying on so fast; and
so many new events and facts and dangers were coming to light, that I
hardly knew where to begin to think. Of course all things concerning
Marjory, principally her safety, took the first place. What could be
this Spanish plot; what could be its method or its purpose? At first
when Adams had told me of it, I had not been much concerned; it
seemed so far away, so improbable, that I fear I did not take it with
sufficient gravity. I had not thought at the time that the two nations
were actually at war, and that already, both before the war and during
it, deeds of desperate treachery had been done, the memory of which were
not even obliterated by the valour and chivalry which had been shown
by the nobler of America's foes. "_Remember The Maine_" was still a
watchword and war cry. There were many scoundrels, such as chiefly
come to the surface in war time, who would undertake any work, however
deadly, however brutal, however dangerous. Such villains might be at
work even now! With a bound I was out upon the floor. In that moment of
concrete thought of danger to Marjory I realised to the full the danger
of my own ignorance of her situation, and even of the locality where she
might be. This impotence to do anything was simply maddening; when I
felt it I could not but understand the annoyance of Adams in feeling a
measure of the same impotence, with what looked like my obstinacy added.
But think how I would, I could do nothing till I should see Marjory or
hear from her. With this thought, which, under the circumstances, was
more than harrowing, I went back to bed.

I was waked by the knocking of Adams who in reply to my "Come," slipped
in and shut the door behind him.

"They are gone!"

"Who?" I asked mechanically, though I well knew.

"Miss Drake and her friend. They went away last night, just after you
came back from the station. By the way, I thought you dined with them?"
he said interrogatively, and with a dash of suspicion in his tone.

"I was to dine with them;" I answered "but they were not there." He made
a long pause.

"I don't understand!" he said. I felt that as the time which I was
to cover had passed, I might speak; for all sakes I wanted to avoid
collision with Adams or the appearance of deceiving him. So I said:

"I can tell you now, Sam. I was asked to dine last night with Mrs. Jack
and Miss Anita--Miss Drake. When I came down to the room I found a
letter saying that they had to go away and making a special request that
I would dine alone, just as though they were there. I was not to say
a word to any one about their being away. Please understand, my dear
fellow--and I must ask you to take it that this is only a hint which you
must accept and not attempt to follow up--that there are reasons why I
should act on any request of Miss Drake's, blindfold. I told you last
night that my hands were tied; this was one of the cords. To-day I hold
myself free to explain I may now also tell you more. Last night I could
do nothing. I could take no step myself, nor could I help you to take
one; simply for the reason that I do not know where Miss Drake is
staying. She is I know stopping, or was till lately, somewhere on the
eastern side of Aberdeen County; but where the place is I have not the
faintest idea. I expect to know very shortly; and the moment I know I
will try to inform you, unless I am forbidden. You will know in time
that I have spoken exact truth; though you may have found my words or
meaning hard to understand. I am more than anxious to put Marjory on
guard. When you left me last night, the whole deadly seriousness of the
matter grew on me, till I was as miserable as a man can be." His face
lightened as I spoke.

"Well," he said "at least we are one in the matter; that is something.
I feared you were, and would be, working against me. Now look here, I
have been thinking the matter over, and I daresay I have come nearer to
understanding your position than you imagine. I don't want to limit or
hamper you in working in your own way for Miss Drake's good; but I may
tell you this. I mean to find her if I can, and in my own way. I am not
fettered anywhere, except by the necessary secrecy. Outside of this I am
free to act. I shall keep you advised at Cruden."

Before I was dressed I had another visitor. This time it was Cathcart
who, with considerable diffidence and all the shamefaced embarrassment
of an Englishman when doing a kindly action in which he may be taken as
intruding, offered me his services. I tried to set him at ease by the
heartiness of my thanks. Upon which he expanded enough to say:

"From something Adams let drop--in all confidence believe me--I gather
you are or may be in trouble about some friend. If this should be, and
from my heart I trust it may not, I hope you will bear in mind that I
am a friend, and unattached. I am pretty well alone in the world so far
as family is concerned, and there is no one to interfere with me. Indeed
there are some who would be happy, for testamentary reasons, to attend
my funeral. I hope you will remember this, old chap, if there is any fun
going." Then he went away, easy of carriage and debonair as usual. It
was in such wise that this gallant gentleman made me a proffer of his
life. It moved me more than I can tell.

I went down to Cruden by the next train, and arranged with the
postmaster to send on to me at once by messenger or wire any telegram
that might come directed as I had told Adams.

Towards dusk a letter was brought to me. It was in Marjory's hand, and
on my asking at once how it had come, I was told that it was brought by
a mounted man who on handing it in had said "no answer" and had ridden
away.

With hope and joy and misgiving mingled I opened it. All these feelings
were justified by the few words it contained:

"Meet me to-morrow at eleven at Pircappies."

I passed the night with what patience I could, and rose early. At ten I
took a light boat and rowed by myself from Port Erroll across the bay.
I hung round outside the Skares, ostensibly fishing but keeping watch
for any sign of Marjory; for from this point I could see the road to
Whinnyfold and the path by the beach. A little before eleven I saw a
woman wheeling a bicycle down the Whinnyfold laneway. Taking in my
lines, I pulled, quietly and avoiding any appearance of hurry, for I
knew not whether any one might see us, into the tiny harbour behind the
jutting rock. Marjory arrived just at the same time, and I rejoiced
to see that her face bore no mark or sign of care. As yet nothing had
happened. We met with a slight hand shake; but there was a look in her
eyes which made my heart leap. For the past thirty-six hours my anxiety
for her had put aside every other feeling. I had not thought of myself,
and therefore not of my love for her; but now my selfish instinct woke
again in full force. In her presence, and in the jubilance of my own
heart, fear in all forms seemed as impossible to realise as that the
burning sun above us should be blotted out with falling snow. With one
of her mysterious signs of silence she pointed to the rock that here
stretches out into the sea, and whose top is crowned with long sea
grass. Together we climbed the face of the cliff, and bearing across the
narrow promontory passed over the top of the rock. We found a cosy nest
hidden behind it. Here we were absolutely isolated from the world; out
of earshot of every one, and out of sight except from beyond the stretch
of rocky sea. In a demure way she acknowledged my satisfaction.

"Isn't it a nice place. I chose it out yesterday when I was here!" For
an instant I felt as though she had struck me. Just to think that she
had been here yesterday, whilst I was waiting for her only across the
bay, eating my heart out. However, there was no use looking back. She
was with me now, and we were alone. The whole delight of the thing
swept away every other feeling. With a pretty little motion of settling
herself comfortably, and which to me seemed to prelude a long talk, she
began:

"I suppose you know a lot about me now?"

"How do you mean?"

"Come now, don't prevaricate. I saw Sam Adams in Aberdeen, and of course
he told you all about me." I interrupted:

"No he didn't." The very tone of my voice enlightened her. With a smile
she said:

"Then some one else did. Answer me some questions. What is my name?"

"Marjory Anita Drake."

"Am I poor?"

"In the way of money, no."

"Right! Why did I leave America?"

"To run away from the fireworks and the Joan of Arc business."

"Right again; but that sounds mighty like Sam Adams. Well, that's all
right; now we may begin. I want to tell you something which you don't
know." She paused. Half in delight and half in fear, for her appearance
of purpose alarmed me, I set myself to listen.



CHAPTER XIX

ON CHANGING ONE'S NAME


With a smile Marjory began:

"You are satisfied that it was because of the fireworks and Joan of Arc
business that I came away?"

"Oh yes!"

"And that this was the final and determining cause?"

"Why certainly!"

"Then you are wrong!" I looked at her in wonder and in some secret
concern. If I were wrong in this belief, then why not in others? If
Adams's belief and my acceptance of it were erroneous, what new mystery
was there to be revealed? Just at present things had been looking so
well for the accomplishment of my wishes that any disturbance must be
unwelcome. Marjory, watching me from under her eyelashes, had by this
time summed me up. The stern look which she always had when her brows
were fixed in thought, melted into a smile which was partly happy,
partly mischievous, and wholly girlish.

"Make your mind easy, Archie" she said, and oh! how my heart leaped when
she addressed me by my Christian name for the first time. "There isn't
anything to get uneasy about. I'll tell you what it was if you wish."

"Certainly I wish, if you don't dislike telling me."

So she went on:

"I did not mind the fireworks; that is I did mind them and liked them
too. Between you and me, there has to be a lot of fireworks for one to
object to them. People may say what they please, but it's only those who
have not tasted popular favour that say they don't like it. I don't know
how Joan of Arc felt, but I've a pretty cute idea that she was like
other girls. If she enjoyed being cheered and made much of as well as
I did, no wonder that she kept up the game as long as she could. What
broke me all up was the proposals of marriage! It's all very well
getting proposed to by people you know, and that you don't dislike. But
when you get a washing basket full of proposals every morning by the
post; when seedy looking scallywags ogle you; when smug young men with
soft hats and no chins wait outside your door to hand you their own
poems; and when greasy cranks stop your carriage to proffer their hearts
to you before your servants, it becomes too much. Of course you can burn
the letters, though there are some of them too good and too honest not
to treat their writers with respect. But the cranks and egotists, and
scallywags and publicans and sinners, the loafers that float round one
like an unwholesome miasma; these are too many and too various, and too
awful to cope with. I felt the conviction so driven in to me that the
girl, or at any rate her personality, counts for so little, but that her
money, or her notoriety, or celebrity or whatever it is, counts for so
much, that I couldn't bear to meet strangers at all. Burglars and ghosts
and tigers and snakes and all kinds of things that dart out on you
are bad enough; but I tell you that proposers on the pounce are a holy
terror. Why, at last I began to distrust everyone. There wasn't an
unmarried man of my acquaintance that I didn't begin to suspect of some
design; and then the funny part of it was that if they didn't come up
to the scratch I felt aggrieved. It was awfully unfair wasn't it? But I
could not help it. I wonder if there is a sort of moral jaundice which
makes one see colours all wrong! If there is, I had it; and so I just
came away to get cured if I could.

"You can't imagine the freedom which it was to me not to be made much
of and run after. Of course there was a disappointing side to it;
I'm afraid people's heads swell very quick! But, all told, it was
delightful. Mrs. Jack had come with me, and I had covered up my tracks
at home so that no one would be worried. We ran up to Canada, and at
Montreal took a steamer to Liverpool. We got out, however, at Moville.
We had given false names, so that we couldn't be tracked." Here she
stopped; and a shy look grew over her face. I waited, for I thought it
would embarrass her less to tell things in her own way than to be asked
questions. The shy look grew into a rosy blush, through which came that
divine truth which now and again can shine from a girl's eyes. She said
in quite a different way from any in which she had spoken to me as yet;
with a gentle appealing gravity:

"That was why I let you keep the wrong impression as to my name. I
couldn't bear that you, who had been so good to me, should, at the very
start of our--our friendship, find me out in a piece of falsity. And
then when we knew each other better, and after you had treated me with
so much confidence about the Second Sight and Gormala and the Treasure,
it made me feel so guilty every time I thought of it that I was ashamed
to speak." She stopped and I ventured to take her hand. I said in as
consolatory a way as I could:

"But my dear, that was not any deceit--to me at any rate. You took
another name to avoid trouble before ever I even saw you; how then could
I be aggrieved. Besides" I added, feeling bolder as she did not make any
effort to draw away her hand, "I should be the last person in the world
to object to your changing your name!"

"Why?" she asked raising her eyes to mine with a glance which shot
through me. This was pure coquetry; she knew just as well as I did what
I meant. All the same, however, I said:

"Because I too want you to change it!" She did not say a word, but
looked down.

I was now sure of my ground, and without a word I bent over and kissed
her. She did not draw back. Her arms went round me; and in an instant I
had a glimpse of heaven.

Presently she put me away gently and said:

"There was another reason why I did not speak all that time. I can tell
it to you now."

"Pardon me" I interrupted "but before you tell me, am I to take it
that--well, what has just been between us--is an affirmative answer to
my question?" Her teeth flashed as well as her eyes as she answered:

"Have you any doubt? Was there any imperfection in the answer? If so,
perhaps we had better read it as 'no.'"

My answer was not verbal; but it was satisfactory to me. Then she went
on:

"I can surely tell you now at all events. Have you still doubts?"

"Yes" said I, "many, very many, hundreds, thousands, millions, all of
which are clamouring for instant satisfaction!" She said quietly and
very demurely, at the same time raising that warning hand which I
already well knew, and which I could not but feel was apt to have an
influence on my life, though I had no doubt but that it would always be
for good:

"Then as there are so many, there is not the slightest use trying to
deal with them now."

"All right" I said "we shall take them in proper season and deal with
them seriatim." She said nothing, but she looked happy.

I felt so happy myself that the very air round us, and the sunshine,
and the sea, seemed full of joyous song. There was music even in the
screaming of the myriad seagulls sweeping overhead, and in the wash of
the rising and falling waves at our feet. I kept my eyes on Marjory as
she went on to speak:

"Oh, it is a delight to be able to tell you now what a pleasure it was
to me to know that you, who knew nothing of me, of my money, or my ship,
or all the fireworks and Joan of Arc business--I shall never forget that
phrase--had come to me for myself alone. It was a pleasure which I could
not help prolonging. Even had I had no awkwardness in telling my name,
I should have kept it back if possible; so that, till we had made our
inner feelings known to each other, I should have been able to revel in
this assurance of personal attraction;" I was so happy that I felt I
could interrupt:

"That sounds an awfully stilted way of putting it, is it not?" I said.
"May I take it that what you mean is, that though you loved me a
little--of course after I had shown you that I loved you a great
deal--you still wished to keep me on a string; so that my ignorance of
your extrinsic qualities might add a flavour to your enjoyment of my
personal devotion?"

"You talk" she said with a joyful smile "like a small book with gilt
edges! And now, I know you want to know more of my surroundings, where
we are living and what are our plans."

Her words brought a sort of cold shiver to me. In my great happiness I
had forgotten for the time all anxiety for her safety. In a rush there
swept over me all the matters which had caused me such anguish of mind
for the last day and a half. She saw the change in me, and with poetic
feeling put in picturesque form her evident concern:

"Archie, what troubles you? your face is like a cloud passing over a
cornfield!"

"I am anxious about you" I said. "In the perfection of happiness
which you have given me, I forgot for the moment some things that are
troubling me." With infinite gentleness, and with that sweet tenderness
which is the sympathetic facet of love, she laid her hand on mine and
said:

"Tell me what troubles you. I have a right to know now, have I not?" For
answer I raised her hand and kissed it; then holding it in mine I went
on:

"At the same time that I learned about you, I heard of some other things
which have caused me much anxiety. You will help to put me at ease,
won't you?"

"Anything you like I shall do. I am all yours now!"

"Thank you, my darling, thank you!" was all I could say; her sweet
surrender of herself overwhelmed me. "But I shall tell you later; in the
meantime tell me all about yourself, for that is a part of what I wait
for." So she spoke:

"We are living, Mrs. Jack and I, in an old Castle some miles back in the
country from here. First I must tell you that Mrs. Jack is my old nurse.
Her husband had been a workman of my father's in his pioneer days. When
Dad made his own pile he took care of Jack--Jack Dempsey his name was,
but we never called him anything but Jack. His wife was Mrs. Jack then,
and has been so ever since to me. When mother died, Mrs. Jack, who had
lost her husband a little while before, came to take care of me. Then
when father died she took care of everything; and has been like a mother
to me ever since. As I dare say you have noticed, she has never got over
the deferential manner which she used to have in her poorer days. But
Mrs. Jack is a rich woman as women go; if some of my proposers had an
idea of how much money she has they would never let her alone till she
married some one. I think she got a little frightened at the way I was
treated; and there was a secret conviction that she might be the next to
suffer. If it hadn't been for that, I doubt if she would ever, even to
please me, have fallen in with my mad scheme of running away under false
names. When we came to London we saw the people at Morgan's; and the
gentleman who had charge of our affairs undertook to keep silence as to
us. He was a nice old man, and I told him enough of the state of affairs
for him to understand that I had a good reason for lying dark. I thought
that Scotland might be a good place to hide in for a time; so we looked
about amongst the land agents for a house where we would not be likely
to be found. They offered us a lot; but at last they told us of one
between Ellon and Peterhead, way back from the road. We found it in a
dip between a lot of hills where you would never suspect there was a
house at all, especially as it was closely surrounded with a wood. It is
in reality an old castle, built about two or three hundred years ago.
The people who own it--Barnard by name, are away, the agent told us, and
the place was to let year after year but no one has ever taken it. He
didn't seem to know much about the owners as he had only seen their
solicitor; but he said they might come some time and ask to visit the
house. It is an interesting old place, but awfully gloomy. There are
steel trellis gates, and great oak doors bound with steel, that rumble
like thunder when you shut them. There are vaulted roofs; and windows in
the thickness of the wall, which though they are big enough to sit in,
are only slits at the outside. Oh! it is a perfect daisy of an old
house. You must come and see it! I will take you all over it; that is,
over all I can, for there are some parts of it shut off and locked up."

"When may I go?" I asked.

"Well, I had thought," she answered, "that it would be very nice if you
were to get your wheel and ride over with me to-day."

"Count me in every time! By the way what is the name of the place?"

"Crom Castle. Crom is the name of the little village, but it is a couple
of miles away." I paused a while thinking before I spoke. Then with my
mind made up I said:

"Before we leave here I want to speak of something which, however
unimportant you may think it, makes me anxious. You will let me at the
beginning beg, won't you, that you do not ask me who my informant is, or
not to tell you anything except what I think advisable." Her face grew
grave as she said:

"You frighten me! But Archie, dear, I trust you. I trust you; and you
may speak plainly. I shall understand."



CHAPTER XX

COMRADESHIP


"I want you to promise me that you will not hide yourself where I cannot
find you. I have grave reason for the request. Also, I want you, if
you will, to let some others know where you are." At first there was
instinctive defiance in her mouth and nostrils. Then her brows wrinkled
in thought; the sequence was an index to character which I could not but
notice. However the war was not long; reason, whatever was the outcome
of its dominance, triumphed over impulse. I thought I could understand
the logical process which led to her spoken conclusion:

"You want to report me to 'Uncle Sam'."

"That's about it!" I answered, and hurried on to give her a reason
before she made up her mind to object.

"Remember, my dear, that your nation is at war; and, though you are
at present safe in a country friendly to both belligerents, there are
evil-minded people in all countries who will take advantage of anything
unusual, to work their own ends. That splendid gift of yours to the
nation, while it has made you a public favourite and won for you
millions of friends--and proposals--has yet made for you a host of
enemies. It is not as if you had given a hospital-ship or an ambulance.
Your gift belongs to the war side and calls out active hatred; and no
doubt there are men banded together to do you harm. This cannot be
allowed. Your friends, and the nation as a whole, would take any step
to prevent such a thing; but they might all be powerless if you were
hidden anywhere where they could not find you." As I spoke, Marjory
looked at me keenly, not with hostility, but with genuine interest. When
I had finished she said quietly:

"That is very well; but now tell me, dear"--how the word thrilled me; it
was the first time she had used it to me--"did Sam Adams fill you up
with that argument, or is it your own? Don't think me nasty; but I want
to know something of what is going on. Believe me, I am willing to
do all _you_ wish if it is your own will; and I am grateful for your
thought for me. But I don't want you to be a mere mouthpiece for any
party moves by the politicians at home."

"How do you mean?"

"My dear boy, I don't suppose you know enough of American politics to
see how a certain lot would use to their own advantage anything that
came in their way. Anybody or anything which the public takes an
interest in would be, and is, used by them unscrupulously. Why, if the
hangers-on to the war party wanted to make a show, they might enroll my
proposers and start a new battalion."

"But," I remonstrated, "you don't think the Government is like that?" In
reply she smiled:

"I don't altogether know about that. Parties are parties all the world
over. But of course the Washington people wouldn't do things that are
done by local politicians. And one other thing. Don't imagine for a
moment that I think Sam Adams is anything of the kind. He belongs to the
service of the nation and takes his orders from his chief. How can he,
or any one fixed like him, know the ins and outs of things; except
from what he hears privately from home, or gathers from what goes on
around him if he is cute?" It appeared to me that all this was tending
to establish an argument against taking the American Embassy into
confidence, so I struck in before it should be complete. As I was not
at liberty to take Marjory into confidence with regard to my source of
information, I had to try to get her to agree to what I thought right or
necessary on other grounds:

"My dearest, can you not leave out politics, American or otherwise. What
on earth have politics to do with us?" She opened her eyes in wonder;
she was reasoning better than I was. With an air of conviction she said:

"Why, everything! If any one wants to do me harm, it must be on the
grounds of politics. I don't believe there is any one in the world who
could want to injure me on private grounds. Oh! my dear, I don't want
to talk about it, not even to you; but all my life I have tried to help
other people in a quiet way. My guardians would tell you that I have
asked them for too much money to give to charities; and personally I
have tried to do what a girl can in a helpful way to others. I have been
in hospitals and homes of all kinds; and I have classes of girls in my
own house and try to make them happier and better. Archie, don't think
poorly of me for speaking like this; but I couldn't bear that _you_
should think I had no sense of the responsibility of great wealth. I
have always looked on it as a trust; and I hope, my dear, that in time
to come you will help me to bear the burden and to share the trust!" I
had thought up to now that I couldn't love her more than I did. But when
I heard her words, and recognised the high purpose that lay behind them,
and saw the sweet embarrassment which came to her in speaking them to
me, I felt that I had been mistaken. She looked at me lovingly, and,
holding my hand in both of hers, went on:

"What then could hurt me except it came from the political side. I could
quite understand it if Spaniards wished to harm me, for I have done
what I can to hinder them from murdering and torturing other victims.
And I could understand if some of our own low-down politicians would try
to use me as a stalking horse, though they wouldn't harm me. I want to
keep clear of politics; and I tell you frankly that I shall if I can."

"But Marjory dear, there may be, I believe there are, Spaniards who
would try to harm you. If you were in America you would be safer from
them; for there at present, whilst the war is on, every stranger is a
marked man. Here, on neutral ground, foreigners are free; and they are
not watched and observed in the same way. If there were such fiends, and
I am told there are, they might do you a harm before any one could know
their intention or have time to forestall them."

All the native independence of Marjory's race and nature stood out in
strong relief as she answered me:

"My dear Archie, I come from a race of men who have held their lives in
their hands from the cradle to the grave. My father, and my grandfather,
and my great grandfather were pioneers in Illinois, in Kentucky, in
the Rockies and California. They knew that there were treacherous foes
behind them every hour of their lives; and yet they were not afraid. And
I am not afraid either. Their blood is in my veins, and speaks loudly to
me when any sense of fear comes near me. Their brains, as well as their
hands, kept guard on their lives; and my brains are like theirs. I do
not fear any foe, open or secret. Indeed, when I think of a secret foe
all the keenness of my people wakes in me, and I want to fight. And this
secret work is a way in which a woman can fight in an age like ours. If
my enemies plot, I can counter-plot; if they watch without faltering to
catch me off guard, I can keep guard unflinchingly. A woman can't go out
now-a-days, except at odd times, and fight with weapons like Joan of
Arc, or the Maid of Saragossa; but she can do her fighting in her own
way, level with her time. I don't see that if there is to be danger
around me, why I shouldn't do as my ancestors did, fight harder than
their foes. Here! let me tell you something now, that I intended to say
later. Do you know what race of men I come from? Does my name tell you
nothing? If not, then this will!"

She took from her neck, where again it had been concealed by a lace
collar, the golden jewel which I had rescued from the sea. As I took it
in my hand and examined it she went on:

"That came to me from my father, who got it from his, and he from his,
on and on till our story of it, which is only verbal, for we have no
records, is lost in the legend that it is a relic of the Armada brought
to America by two cousins who had married, both being of the family to
which the great Sir Francis Drake belonged. I didn't know, till lately,
and none of us ever did, where exactly in the family the last owners of
the brooch came in, or how they became possessed of such a beautiful
jewel. But you have told me in your translation of Don de Escoban's
narrative. That was the jewel that Benvenuto Cellini made in duplicate
when he wrought the figurehead for the Pope's galley. The Pope gave it
to Bernardino de Escoban, and he gave it to Admiral Pedro de Valdes.
I have been looking up the history of the time since I saw you, and I
found that Admiral de Valdes when he was taken prisoner by Sir Francis
Drake at the fight with the Armada was kept, pending his ransom, in the
house of Richard Drake, kinsman of Sir Francis. How the Drake family got
possession of the brooch I don't know; but anyhow I don't suppose they
stole it. They were a kindly lot in private, any of them that I ever
knew; though when they were in a fight they fought like demons. The old
Spanish Dons were generous and free with their presents, and I take it
that when Pedro de Valdes got his ransom he made the finest gift he
could to those who had been kind to him. That is the way I figure it
out."

Whilst she was speaking, thoughts kept crowding in upon me. Here was
indeed the missing link in the chain of Marjory's connection with the
hidden treasure; and here was the beginning of the end of Gormala's
prophecy, for as such I had come to regard it. The Fates were at work
upon us. Clotho was spinning the thread which was to enmesh Marjory and
myself and all who were in the scheme of the old prophecy of the Mystery
of the Sea and its working out.

Once more the sense of impotence grew upon me. We were all as
shuttlecocks, buffeted to and fro without power to alter our course.
With the thought came that measure of resignation which is the anodyne
to despair. In a sort of trance of passivity I heard Marjory's voice run
on:

"Therefore, my dear Archie, I will trust to you to help me. The
comradeship which has been between us, will never through this grow
less; though nearer and dearer and closer ties may seem to overshadow
it."

I could not answer such reasoning; but I took her in my arms and kissed
her. I understood, as she did, that my kisses meant acquiescence in her
wishes. After a while I said to her:

"One thing I must do. I owe it as a duty of honour to tell my informant
that I am unable to give your address to the American Embassy, and that
I cannot myself take a part in anything which is to be done except by
your consent. But oh! my dear, I fear we are entering on a dangerous
course. We are all staying deliberately in the dark, whilst there is
light to be had; and we shall need all the light which we can get."
Then a thought struck me and I added, "By the way, I suppose I am free
to give information how I can, so long as you are not committed or
compromised?" She thought for quite a few minutes before she answered.
I could see that she was weighing up the situation, and considering it
from all points of view. Then she said, putting both her hands in mine:

"In this, as in all ways, Archie, I know that I can trust you. There is
so much more than even this between us, that I should feel mean to give
it a thought hereafter!"



CHAPTER XXI

THE OLD FAR WEST AND THE NEW


Presently Marjory jumped up and said:

"Now you must get your wheel and come over to Crom. I am burning to show
it to you!" We crossed the little isthmus and climbed the rocks above
the Reivie o' Pircappies. As we topped the steep path I almost fell back
with the start I gave.

There sat Gormala MacNiel, fixed and immovable as though she were of
stone. She looked so unconcerned that I began to suspect her. At first
she seemed not to notice us; but I could see that she was looking at us
under her eyelashes. I was anxious to find out how long she had been
there, so I said, mentioning her name in order that Marjory might know
who she was:

"Why, Gormala, what has become of you? I thought you were off again to
the Islands. We haven't seen you for a long time." She replied in her
usual uncompromising way:

"I hae nae doot that ye thocht me far, gin ye did na see me. Aye! Aye!
the time has been lang; but I could wait: I could wait!"

"What were you waiting for?" Marjory's voice seemed almost as that of a
being from another world. It was so fresh, so true, so independent that
it seemed at variance with Gormala and her whole existence. As a man
beside two women, I felt more as a spectator than as a participant, and
my first general impression was that the New World was speaking to the
Old. Gormala seemed to me absolutely flabbergasted. She stared, and
looked in a dazed way, at the girl, standing up as she did so with the
instinctive habit, ingrained through centuries of custom, of an inferior
to a superior. Then she moved her hand across her forehead, as though to
clear her brain, before she replied:

"What was I waitin' for? I'll tell ye, an ye will. I was waitin' for the
fulfillment o' the Doom. The Voices hae spoken; and what they hae said,
will be. There be them that would stand in the way o' Fate, and would
try to hinder the comin' that must be. But they will fail; they will
fail! They can no more block the river o' time wi' ony deeds o' mon,
than they can dam the spate wi' a bairn's playtoy." Again came Marjory's
searching question, with all the mystery-dispelling freshness of her
unfettered youth; and indeed it seemed as if the Old-world mystery could
not hold its dignity in the face of overt, direct questioning:

"By the way, what was it that the Doom said? Was it anything that an
American girl can understand?" Gormala gazed at her in manifest wonder.
To her, reared in the atmosphere of the Old Far West, this product of
the New Far West seemed like a being of another world. Had Marjory been
less sweet in her manner than she was, or less fair to look upon, less
dignified, or less grave, the old woman would probably have shown
hostility at once. But it seemed to me impossible that even a
witch-woman could be hostile to Marjory to-day. She looked so sweet, and
kind and happy; so bright and joyous; so much like the incarnation of
ideal girlhood, that criticism was disarmed, and hostility could not
force a way into the charmed circle of that radiant presence. To me, her
attitude towards Gormala was incomprehensible. She knew Gormala, for I
had told her of who and what the Seer was, and of the prophecies and
warnings that she had already uttered; and yet from her manner she
appeared ignorant of all concerning both her and them. She was not
conciliatory after the manner of the young who wish to please the old,
or to ingratiate themselves with them. She was not hostile, as would be
one who had determined on opposition. About her or her manner there was
nothing hard, or frivolous or contradictory. And yet it was apparent to
me that she had some fixed, determined purpose of her own; and it became
before long apparent to me also, that the other woman knew, or at any
rate suspected, such an existence, though she could neither comprehend
nor locate it. Gormala seemed once, twice, as though she were about to
speak, but hesitated; at last with an effort she spoke out:

"The Voice o' the Doom no sounds in words such as mortals can hear. It
is spoken in sounds that are heard of the inner ear. What matter the
words, when the ear that hearkens can understan'!"

"But," said Marjory, "could I not be told the words, or if there were no
actual words, could you not give me in your own words what the sounds
uttered seemed to you to mean?" To anyone but a Seer such a request
would seem reasonable enough; but visionaries who have a receptive power
of their own, and who learn by means whose methods are unconscious to
them, can hardly undertake to translate the dim, wide-stretching purpose
of the powers of the Unknown into bald, narrow, human speech. Gormala's
brows wrinkled up in thought; then a scowl of disappointment swept over
her face. In an angry tone she turned to me and said:

"Wha be yon lassie that questions so blithely the truth o' the Voice
that is kent by ye an' me? Why dinna ye tak her awa' before she mocks
me, an' in me the Doom; an' I speak oot to her?" Marjory spoke up for
herself.

"Please do not think it a liberty to ask you; but I should like so much
to know exactly what was said. It is so easy for people to confuse ideas
when words are loosely used. Don't you find it so?" I do not think
Gormala MacNiel had any humour at all; if she had, I had certainly never
seen any trace of it. Had it been there it would have surely saved her
from anger; for there was something delicious in the way in which
Marjory put her question, as though to one of her own kind and holding
the same views as herself on general matters. Gormala did not like it.
Though there was a blank in her mind as to the existence of humour, she
must have felt conscious of the blank. She could not understand the
other woman; and for a little while sought refuge in a silence composed
of about equal parts of sulk and dignity. But Marjory was not content
with silence; she pressed home her question in the most polite but most
matter of fact way, till I could see the Witch-woman mentally writhe. I
should have interfered, for I did not want any unpleasant scene in which
Marjory must have a part; but I felt that the girl had some purposeful
meaning in her persistence. Had Gormala had a pause in the attack
she would, I felt, have gone away and bided her time: but in such a
pushing of the matter as Marjory braced herself to, there could be no
withdrawal, unless under defeat. Gormala looked round now and again,
as one, man or animal, does when hunted; but each time she restrained
herself by an effort. At last her temper began to rise; her face
flushed, and the veins, of passion stood out on her forehead. Her eyes
flashed, and white marks began to come and go about the face, especially
round the nose. I could see from the leap of fire in Marjory's eyes that
this was what she was waiting for. She lowered her voice, and the tone
of her speaking, till both matter and manner were icily chill; but all
the time she persisted in her matter-of-fact questioning.

At last Gormala's temper broke, and she turned on the girl in such
a fury that for a few seconds I thought she was going to attack her
physically. I stood ready to hold her off if necessary. At the first
moment the passion in her was so great that she spoke in Gaelic; blind,
white-hot fury will not allow a choice of tongues. The savage in her was
speaking, and it spoke in the tongue it knew best. Of course neither
of us could understand it, and we only stood smiling. Marjory smiled
deliberately as though to exasperate her; I smiled because Marjory was
smiling. Presently, through the tumult of her passion, Gormala began to
realise that we did not understand her; and, with an effort which shook
her, began to speak in English. With the English which she had, came
intention and the restraint which it implies. Her phrases were not
common curses, but rather a picturesque half prophecy with a basis of
hate. The gravamen of her charge was that Marjory had scoffed against
the Doom and Fate and the Voices. To me, who had suffered the knowledge
to which she appealed, the attack was painful. What was charged was a
sort of natural sacrilege; and it wounded me and angered me to see
Marjory made the subject of any attack. I was about to interfere, when
with a gesture, which the Witch-woman did not see, she warned me to
silence. She struck into the furious woman's harangue with quiet,
incisive, cultured voice which made the other pause:

"Indeed you do me a wrong; I scoffed at nothing. I should not scoff at
your religion any more than I should at my own. I only asked you a few
questions as to facts which seemed to touch a friend of mine." The
point of this speech which, strange to say, affected the woman most was
regarding her religion:

"Wha be ye, ye hizzie, that wad daur to misca' me that is a Christian
woman all my days. What be your releegion, that ye try to shame me wi'
mine." Marjory said deliberately, but with all the outward appearance of
courtesy:

"But I did not know that in the scheme of the Christian belief there
were such things as the Doom and the Voice and Fate!" The old woman
towered up; for a moment she was all Seer and Prophet. Her words
thrilled through me; and I could see through Marjory also. Though she
held herself proudly, her lips grew pale:

"Then learn while ye may that there be lesser powers as well as greater
in the scheme o' God's warld, and o' His working o' the wonders therein.
Ye may scoff at me wha' am after all but an aud wife; though one to whom
are Visions given, and in whose ears the Voice has spoken. Ye may pride
yersel' that yer ignorance is mair than the knowledge o' ithers. Ye
may doot the truths that hae been garnered oot o' centuries o' dour
experience, an' tak' the cloak o' yer ignorance as an answer to a' the
mysteries that be. But mark me weel! the day will come--it is no far aff
the noo--when ye will wring yer honds, and pray wi' all the power an'
bitter grief o' yer soul for some licht to guide ye that ye no hae had
yet!" She paused and stood in a sort of trance, stiffening all over like
a pointer at mark. Then she raised one hand high over her head, so that
the long arm seemed to extend her gaunt form to an indefinite length.
With a far-away solemn voice she spoke:

"I see ye too, though no by yer lanes, in the wild tide-race amang the
rocks in the dark nicht, mid leaping waves. An' lo! o'er the waste o'
foam is a floatin' shrood!" Then she stopped, and in a few seconds came
back to herself. In the meantime Marjory, whose lips had grown white as
death, though she never lost her proud bearing, groped blindly for my
hand and held it hard. She never for a moment took her eyes off the
other.

When Gormala was quite her own woman again, she turned without a word
and walked away in her gaunt, stately manner, feeling I am sure, as we
did, that she did not go without the honours of war. Marjory continued
to watch her until she had passed up the track, and had disappeared
behind the curve of the hill.

Then, all at once, she seemed to collapse in a faint; and had I not held
her hand, and so was able to draw her into my arms, she must have fallen
to the ground.

In a wonderfully short time she recovered her senses, and then with a
great effort stood up; though she still had to steady herself by my
hand. When she was all right again she said to me:

"I suppose you wonder why I attacked her like that. Oh! yes, I did
attack her; I meant to," for she saw the question in my eyes. "It was
because she was so hostile to you. What right had she to force you to do
anything? She is harmful to you, Archie. I know it! I know it! I know
it! and I determined not to let her have her way. And besides,"--this
with a shy loving look at me, "as she is hostile to you she must be to
me also. I want to be with you, even in the range of the hate and the
love of others. That is to be one; and as we are to fight together I
must share your lot in all!" I took her in my arms, and for some divine
moments, our hearts beat together.

In those moments my mind was made up as to the wishes of Adams. How
could I refuse in any way to fight the battle, as she might wish it
fought, of a girl who so loyally shared my lot!

Then we arranged that I should go home for my bicycle, and meet Marjory
at the bridge by the Parish Church.



CHAPTER XXII

CROM CASTLE


When I rejoined Marjory, we went up the high road and then turned off
by a by-way which took us round innumerable slopes and mounds, so
characteristic of this part of Aberdeen. The entire county, seen from
high places, looks bare and open; but it has its hills and hollows in
endless variety. From the cross road we turned up another and still
another, till I lost my bearings entirely.

The part of the country where we now were was a sort of desolation of
cultivation; endless low hills clad with fields of wheat and barley with
never a house to be seen, except some far off cottage or the homestead
of a laird perched on the top of a hill. At last we entered through an
open gateway with broken pillars, still bearing the remains of some
armorial device in statuary. There was an avenue, fringed with tall
trees on either side, and beyond a broad belt of undergrowth. The avenue
wound round and round in an endless series of curves. From the gate
where we entered was a thick, close wood nearly a quarter of a mile in
width. Here the trees stood so close, and their locking branches made
such a screen, that it was quite gloomy within. Here too the road was
made in perpetual curves, so that it was not possible to see far ahead.
Indeed I remarked to Marjory as we rode along:

"No wonder you chose this as a place to hide in; it looks as if it was
made for concealment. It is a regular Rosamund's Bower!"

When we had passed through the wood, we came out on a great piece of
level ground with a wide mound some twenty feet high, in the midst of
it. On this was built of granite, a crenelated castle. It was not very
high, but extended wide in a square, with a low arched doorway in front
of us through which it might be possible to drive with care. The doorway
was closed by two gates; first a massive network of interlocking steel
bars of seemingly foreign workmanship, and secondly great gates of oak
fortified with steel bands and massive bosses of hammered iron. Before
going in, Marjory took me right round the castle and I saw that it was
the same on all four sides. It was built by the points of the compass;
but there was no gateway except on one side. The ordinary way of
entering was by a more modern door on the south side. From inside the
castle it was not possible to see anywhere beyond the wood. Even from
the stone roof, made for defence, where Marjory took me, it was only
possible to get a glimpse through the tree tops here and there of
round-topped hills yellow with ripening grain or crowned with groves of
scanty wind-swept pine trees. Altogether it was as gloomy a place as I
had ever seen. It was cut off altogether from the outer world; one might
remain in it for a life-time unknown.

Inside it was, if possible, more gloomy. Small rooms almost everywhere,
except the great hall, and one room at the top facing the south side
which lay just under the roof and which was lined with old oak. Here
there were quite a number of windows such as Marjory had described, all
of them, though wide on the inner side, narrowed to mere slits on the
outer. In castles and houses built, like this, for defence, it did
not do to allow opportunities to an attacking force to send missiles
within.

Mrs. Jack and Marjory had made this their living room, and here were all
the pretty treasures and knick-knacks which they had gathered on their
travels. The old lady welcomed me warmly. Then Marjory took her aside
and told her something in whispers. I could guess what it was; but any
doubts I might have had were dispelled when she came over and kissed me
and said:

"Indeed, I congratulate you with all my heart. You have won the best,
and sweetest, and dearest girl that ever drew breath. I have been with
her all my life; and I have not found a flaw in her yet. And I am glad
that it is you whom she has chosen. Somehow, I wished it from the first
moment I saw you. That you may both be happy, I pray the good Lord God!
And I know you will; for you are true, and Marjory has a heart of gold."

"A heart of gold!" Her words had given me more than pleasure; but the
last phrase pulled my joy up short. A cold shiver ran through me. A
golden man had been a part of the prophecy of the Mystery of the Sea;
and only a little while ago Gormala had in her vision seen Marjory
struggling in the tide-race with a shroud in the air.

I think Marjory felt something of the same kind, for she looked at me
anxiously and grew a little pale. She said nothing, however, and I
thought it better to pass the matter by. Although Marjory had heard the
expression of the Witch-woman's vision, and though I had told her of
my first experience of the old rhyming prophecy, the former was at a
time when neither I myself nor the whole mystery was of any special
importance to her. She might not have remembered it; I trusted that this
was so.

However, we could not either of us be sad for long to-day. Our joy was
too fresh to be dimmed by any thought of gloom, except momentarily as a
mirror is by a passing breath.

Tea in the old oak room was a delight, with the afternoon sun coming
in slantwise through the narrow windows and falling in lines of light
across the floor. Marjory made the tea and served me; and each time I
took anything from her hand our fingers met, she no more than myself
avoiding the touch. Then, leaving the old lady upstairs, she took me
through the various rooms; and in her pretty, impulsive way she told me
all the romances which she had already woven about them in her brain.
She came and saw me off; with her kiss of good-bye on my lips I rode
back through the gloomy wood, feeling as proud and valiant as a knight
of old.

I found my way to Ellon and went on the train to Aberdeen, for I felt it
due to Adams that I should see him at once. It was impossible to write
all I had to say; and besides I wanted to retain his good will, and to
arrange for securing his aid, if he would consent to do so under our
altered conditions.

I found him in his room hard at work. He was writing something which I
suppose he considered important, for he put it carefully away and locked
his despatch box before we began to talk. Of course it might have been
only his diplomatic habit; but he seemed grave over it. I entered at
once on the matter between us, for I thought to get the disagreeable
side over first and let concessions and alterations follow:

"I am sorry, Sam, I shall not be able to help you with information
regarding Miss Drake."

"Why? Haven't you heard from her?"

"It is not that; but I am not free to do what you wish." Adams looked at
me for a long time. Then he said quietly:

"I see. You have your orders! Well, I am sorry for it; it may bring
dreadful harm to her, and I daresay to you too, now. Say, old chap, is
that decision of yours final? The matter is more grave than I thought
when I saw you last. We have had more information, and they are pressing
us from Washington to take all precautions we can. Come, won't you help
me--help her?"

"I can't, the way you say. Sam Adams, you know I would do anything I
could for you; but in this matter I am pledged. I have been given a
secret, and I must keep it honourably at all hazards. But look here, I
am anxious all the same. Can't you trust me a little bit and tell me
what to look for. I won't give you away; and I may be able to carry out
your wishes as to helping to guard her, though I have to do it in my own
way." He smiled, though very bitterly and ironically. I was glad to see
the smile anyhow, for we were old and tried friends and I should not
like there to be any break between us. Besides I wanted his help; his
knowledge now, and his resources later on, if need should be. He was an
official, and the matter was an official one though his heart was in it;
it was not as if his personal feelings or his honour had been involved.

"Well," he said, "you have a fine gall anyhow! You refuse point blank to
give me the slightest help, though I ask it on all grounds, official for
America, personal as I am in charge, and for the sake of your own girl;
and then you expect me to tell you all I can. Well, look here, I'll tell
you anything that will help you as soon as I know it, if you will keep
me advised of exactly where you are--so--so that I may be able to find
you if I wish."

I told him heartily that I would keep him posted as to my movements.
Then, as there was nothing to remain for, I said good-bye--a good-bye, I
am glad to say, given and taken with our old heartiness. Before I went I
said:

"Sam, you know how a message can find me if there is anything you
should think it well to tell me." To which he replied:

"All right, Archie, I'll remember. You understand that as I shall have
to work this racket alone I must do it in my own way: otherwise we shall
have complications. But if there is anything I can do on your side, I
shall do it all the same. You know how to reach me. If you send for
me I shall come any hour of the day or night. And say, old chap, I go
heeled!" he pointed to his pistol pocket. "Let me advise you to do the
same just at present!"

I took his advice and bought in Aberdeen, before returning to Cruden,
two of the finest revolvers I could get. One of them was made for a
lady; the other I always carried myself from that day forward.



CHAPTER XXIII

SECRET SERVICE


Next morning after breakfast I wheeled over to Crom, bringing in my
bicycle bag the revolver and ammunition for Marjory. I could not but
feel alarmed for her safety as I rode through the wood which surrounded
the house. It would need a regiment to guard one from a stray assassin.
For myself I did not have any concern; but the conviction grew and grew
on me to the point of agony that harm which I should be powerless to
prevent might happen here to Marjory. When I was inside the house the
feeling was easier. Here, the place was to all intents and purposes
fortified, for nothing short of cannon or dynamite could make any
impression on it.

Marjory received my present very graciously; I could see from the way
that she handled the weapon that she had little to learn of its use. I
suppose the thought must have crossed her that I might think it strange
to find her so familiar with a lethal weapon, for she turned to me and
said with that smoothness of tone which marks the end rather than the
beginning of a speech:

"Dad always wished me to know how to use a gun. I don't believe he was
ever without one himself, even in his bed, from the time he was a small
boy. He used to say 'It never does any one any harm to be ready to
get the drop first, in case of a scrap!' I have a little beauty in my
dressing-case that he got made for me. I am doubly armed now."

I stayed to lunch, but went away immediately after as I was anxious to
find if Adams had sent me any message. Before going, I asked Marjory
to be especially careful not to be out alone in the woods round the
house, for a few days at any rate. She demurred at first; but finally
agreed--'to please you' as she put it--not to go out at all till I
had come again. I told her that as I was coming to breakfast the next
morning if I might, it was not a very long time of imprisonment.

When I asked for telegrams at the post-office, which was in the hotel,
I was told that a gentleman was waiting to see me in the coffee room. I
went in at once and found Sam Adams reading an old newspaper. He started
up when he saw me and straightway began:

"I hurried over to tell you that we have had further news. Nothing very
definite to-day; but the Washington people hope to have a lot of detail
by to-morrow night. So be ready, old chap!" I thanked him, but even in
the act of doing so it struck me that he had taken a deal of trouble to
come over when he could have sent me a wire. I did not say so, however;
doubts of an act of this kind can always wait.

Sam had tea with me, and then we smoked a cigar outside on the little
terrace before the hotel. There were some fishermen and workmen, as
usual sitting on or leaning against the wall across the road, and three
men who were lounging about, evidently trippers waiting for their tea to
be served. When we came out and had passed them, the little group went
into the coffee room. They were, all three, keen-looking, alert men, and
I had a passing wonder what they were doing in Cruden as they had no
golf bags with them. Sam did not remain long but caught the six-ten
train back to Aberdeen.

I cannot say that my night was an easy one. Whilst I lay awake I
imagined new forms of danger to Marjory; and when I fell asleep I
dreamt them. I was up early, and after a sharp ride on my bicycle came
to Crom in time for breakfast.

As we had a long forenoon, Marjory took me over the house. It was all of
some interest, as it represented the life and needs of life in the later
days of Queen Elizabeth in a part of the country where wars and feuds
had to be prepared for. The Castle was arranged for siege, even to the
water supply; there was a well of immense depth situated in a deep
dungeon under the angle of the castle which they called the Keep. They
did not, however, ordinarily depend on this, as there was otherwise an
excellent water supply. In the dungeon were chains and manacles and some
implements of torture, all covered with the rust of centuries. We hoped
that they had not been used. Marjory consoled herself with the thought
that they had been placed there at the time of the building as part of
the necessary furnishing of a mediæval castle. One room, the library,
was of great interest. It had not been built for the purpose, for there
was no provision of light; but it must have been adapted to this use not
long after the place was built. The woodwork of carved oak was early
seventeenth century. I did not have time to look over the books, and
there was no catalogue; but from the few which I glanced at I could see
that whoever had gathered the library must have been a scholar and an
enthusiast.

In the course of our survey of the castle, Marjory showed me the parts
which were barred up and the rooms which were locked. That such a thing
should be in a house in which she lived was a never-ending source of
curiosity. There was a dozen times as much room as she could possibly
want; but here was something unknown and forbidden. She being a woman,
it became a Tree of Knowledge and a Bluebeard's Chamber in one. She was
so eager about it that I asked if she could not get permission from the
agent to go through the shut rooms and places so as to satisfy herself.
She replied that she had already done so, the very day after she had
arrived, and had had an answer that the permission could not be given
without the consent of the owner; but that as he was shortly expected
in Scotland her request would be forwarded to him and his reply when
received would be at once communicated to her. Whilst we were talking of
the subject a telegram to Mrs. Jack came from the agent, saying that the
owner had arrived and was happy to give permission required and that
further he would be obliged if the tenant would graciously accord him
permission to go some day soon through the house which he had not
seen for many years. A telegram was at once sent in Mrs. Jack's name,
thanking him for the permission and saying that the owner would be most
welcome to go through the house when he pleased.

As I was anxious to hear if there was any news from Adams I said
good-bye at the door, and rode back on my bicycle. I had asked Marjory
to renew her promise of not going out alone for another day, and she had
acceded; 'only to please you,' she said this time.

I found a wire from Adams sent at six o'clock:

"Important news. Come here at once." I might catch the train if I
hurried, so jumped on my bicycle and got to the station just in time.

I found Adams in his room at the Palace Hotel, walking up and down like
a caged panther. When I came in he rushed over to me and said eagerly as
he handed me a sheet of note paper:

"Read that; it is a translation of our cipher telegram. I thought you
would never come!" I took it with a sinking heart; any news that was so
pressing could not be good, and bad must affect Marjory somehow. I read
the document over twice before I fully understood its meaning. It ran as
follows:

"Secret Service believe that Drake plot is to kidnap and ransom. Real
plotters are understood to be gang who stole Stewart's body. Are using
certain Spanish and other foreigners as catspaw. Heads of plot now
in Europe, Spain, England, Holland. Expect more details. Use all
precautions."

"What do you think of that?" said Adams when I had taken my eyes off the
paper.

"I hardly know yet. What do you make of it? You have thought of it
longer than I have."

"Just what I have thought all along. The matter is serious, very
serious! In one way that wire is something of a relief. If that
kidnapping gang are behind it, it doesn't mean political vengeance, but
only boodle; so that the fear of any sudden attack on her life is not so
imminent. The gang will take what care they can to keep from killing the
goose that lays the golden eggs. But then, the political desperadoes who
would enter on such a matter are a hard crowd; if they are in power, or
at any rate in numerical force, they may not be easy to keep back.
Indeed, it is possible that they too may have their own game to play,
and may be using the blackmailers for their own purpose. I tell you, old
man, we are in a very tight place, and must go to work pretty warily.
The whole thing swings so easily to one side or the other, that any
false move on the part of any of us may give the push to the side we
would least care should win. By the way, I take it that you are of the
same mind still regarding Miss Drake's wishes."

"Now and always! But as you can guess I am anxious to know all I can
that can help me to guard her." Somewhat to my astonishment he answered
heartily:

"All right, old chap, of course I will tell you; but I will depend on
your letting me know of anything you are free to tell which might serve
me in my work."

"Certainly! I say," I added, "you don't mind my not having worked with
you about finding her address."

"Not a bit! I have to find it in my own way; that is all!" There was
a sort of satisfaction, if not of triumph, in his tone which set me
thinking.

"Then you know it already?" I said.

"Not yet; but I hope to before the night is over."

"Have you a clue?" He laughed.

"Clue? a hundred. Why, man, none of us were born yesterday. There isn't
a thing on God's earth that mayn't be a clue now and again if it is
properly used. You are a clue yourself if it comes to that." In a
flash I saw it all. Adams had come to Cruden to point me out to his
detectives. These were the keen-looking men who were at Cruden when he
was. Of course they had followed me, and Marjory's secret was no secret
now. I said nothing for a little while; for at the first I was angry
that Adams should have used me against my will. Then two feelings strove
for mastery; one of anxiety lest my unconscious betrayal of her secret
might hurt me in Marjory's eyes, the other relief that now she was in a
measure protected by the resources of her great country. I was easier in
my mind concerning her safety when I thought of those keen, alert men
looking after her. Then again I thought that Adams had done nothing
which I could find fault with. I should doubtless have done the same
myself had occasion arisen. I was chagrined, however, to think that it
had all been so childishly simple. I had not even contemplated such a
contingency. If I couldn't plot and hide my tracks better than that,
I should be but a poor ally for Marjory in the struggle which she had
voluntarily undertaken against her unknown foes.

Before I left Adams, I told him that I would come back on the to-morrow
evening. I went to bed early in the Palace hotel, as I wanted to catch
the first train back to Cruden.



CHAPTER XXIV

A SUBTLE PLAN


It was now a serious matter of thought to me how I could take Marjory
into proper confidence, without spoiling things and betraying Adams's
confidence. As I pondered, the conviction grew upon me that I had better
be quite frank with her and ask her advice. Accordingly when I saw
her at Crom at noon I entered on the matter, though I confess with
trepidation. When I told her I wanted to ask her advice she was all
attention. I felt particularly nervous as I began:

"Marjory, when a man is in a hole he ought to consult his best friend;
oughtn't he?"

"Why certainly!"

"And you are my best friend; are you not?"

"I hope so! I should certainly like to be."

"Well, look here, dear, I am in such a tangle that I can't find a way
out, and I want you to help me." She must have guessed at something like
the cause of my difficulty, for a faint smile passed over her face as
she said:

"The old trouble? Sam Adams's diplomacy, eh?"

"It is this. I want to know how you think I should act so as to give
least pain to a very dear friend of mine, and at the same time do a very
imperative duty. You may see a way out that I don't."

"Drive on dear; I'm listening."

"Since we met I have had some very disturbing information from a source
which I am not at liberty to mention. I can tell you all about this,
though you must not ask me how I know it. But first there is something
else. I believe, though I do not know for certain, that your secret is
blown; that the detectives have discovered where you live." She sat up
at once.

"What!" I went on quickly:

"And I am sorry to say that if it is discovered it has been through me;
though not by any act or indeed by any fault of mine." She laid her hand
on mine and said reassuringly:

"If you are in it, I can look at it differently. May I ask how you came
into that gallery?"

"Certainly! I am not pledged as to this. It was by the most simple and
transparent of means. You and I were seen together. They did not know
where to look for you or follow you up, when they had lost the scent;
but they knew me and watched me. Voila!"

"That's simple enough anyhow!" was her only comment. After a while she
asked:

"Do you know how far they have got in their search?"

"I do not; I only know that they expected to find where you lived two
days ago. I suppose they have found it out by this."

"Sam Adams is getting too clever. They will be making him President, or
Alderman or something, if he doesn't look out. But do you know yet why
all this trouble is being taken about me."

"I can tell you," I answered "but you must not tell any one, for it
would not do for the sake of others if it got about. There is a plan got
up by a gang of blackmailers to kidnap you for a ransom." She jumped up
with excitement and began to clap her hands.

"Oh, that is too delicious!" she said. "Tell me all you know of it. We
may be able to lead them on a bit. It will be an awful lark!" I could
not possibly share her mirth; the matter was really too grave. She saw
my feeling in my face and stopped. She thought for a minute or two with
her brows wrinkled and then she said:

"Are you really serious, Archie, as to any danger in the matter?"

"My dear, there is always danger in a conspiracy of base men. We have
to fear, for we don't know the power or numbers of the conspiracy. We
have no idea of their method of working, or where or how we may expect
attack. The whole thing is a mystery to us. Doubtless it will only come
from one point; but we must be ready to repel, all round the compass."

"But, look here, it is only danger."

"The danger is to you; if it were to me, I think I could laugh myself.
But, my darling, remember that it is out of my love for you that my fear
comes. If you were nothing to me, I could, I suppose, bear it easily
enough. You have taken new responsibilities on you, Marjory, since you
let a man love you. His heart is before you to walk on; so you have to
tread carefully."

"I can avoid treading on it, can't I?" she said falling into the vein of
metaphor. "Surely, if there is anything in the world that by instinct I
could know is in danger, it would be your heart!"

"Ah, my dear, it does not stay still. It will keep rolling along with
you wherever you go; hopping back and forward and sideways in every
conceivable way. You must now and again tread on it for all your care;
in the dark or in the light."

"I had no idea," she said "that I had taken such a responsibility on my
shoulders when I said I would marry you."

"It is not the marrying" I said "but the loving that makes the
trouble!"

"I see!" she replied and was silent for a while. Then she turned to me
and said very sweetly:

"Anyhow Archie, whatever we may settle about what we are to do, I am
glad you came to consult me and to tell me frankly of your trouble. Do
this always, my dear. It will be best for you, and best for me too, to
feel that you trust me. You have given me a pleasure to-day that is
beyond words."

Then we spoke of other things, and we agreed to wait till the next day
before arranging any fixed plan of action. Before I went away, and
whilst the sentiment of parting was still on her, she said to me--and I
could see that the thought had been in her mind for some time:

"Archie, you and I are to live together as man and wife. Is it not
so? I think we both want to be as nearly one as a man and a woman can
be--flesh of each other's flesh, and bone of bone, and soul of soul.
Don't you think we shall become this better by being joined, us two,
against all comers. We have known each other only a short time as yet.
What we have seen of each other has been good enough to make us cling
together for life. But, my dear, what has been, has been only the
wishing to cling; the clinging must be the struggle that is to follow.
Be one with me in this fight. It is my fight, I feel, begun before I
ever knew you. When your fight comes, and I can see you have it before
you with regard to that treasure, you will know that you can count on
me. It may be only a fancy of mine, but the comradeship of pioneers,
when the men and women had to fight together against a common foe,
runs in my blood! Let me feel, before I give myself altogether to your
keeping, or you to mine, that there is something of this comradeship
between us; it will make love doubly dear!"

What could a man in love say to this? It seemed like the very essence of
married love, and was doubly dear to me on that account. Pledged by my
kisses I came away, feeling as if I had in truth left my wife behind.

When I got back to Cruden I took up the matter of the treasure whilst I
was waiting for news from Adams. In the stir of the events of the last
few days I had almost forgotten it. I read the papers over again, as
I wished to keep myself familiar with the facts; I also went over the
cipher, for I did not wish to get stale in it. As I laboured through it,
all Marjory's sweetness to me on that day of the ride from Braemar came
back to me; and as I read I found myself unconsciously drumming out the
symbols on the table with the fingers of my right hand and my left after
the fashion of Marjory's variant. When I was through, I sat pondering,
and all sorts of new variants kept rising before me in that kind of
linked succession when the mind runs free in day-dreaming and one idea
brings up another. I was not altogether easy, for I was now always
expecting some letter or telegram of a disconcerting kind; anxiety
had become an habitual factor in my working imagination. All sorts of
possibilities kept arising before me, mostly with reference to Marjory.
I was glad that already we understood in common one method of secret
communication; and I determined then and there that when I went over to
Crom on the next day I would bring the papers with me, and that Marjory
and I would renew our lesson, and practice till we were quite familiar
with the cipher.

Just then a message was brought to me that a gentleman wished to see
me, so I asked the maid to bring him up. I do not think that I was
altogether surprised to find that he was one of the three men whom I had
seen at Cruden before. He handed me in silence a letter which I found to
be from Adams. I read it with a sinking heart. In it he told me that it
was now ascertained that two members of the blackmail gang had come to
England. They had been seen to land at Dover, but got out between there
and London; and their trace was lost. He said he wished to advise me at
once, so that I might be on the alert. He would himself take his own
steps as I understood. The messenger, when he saw I had read the letter,
asked me if there was any answer. I said "only thanks" and he went away.
It was not till afterwards that I remembered that I might have asked the
man to tell me something of the appearance of the suspected men, so that
I might know them if I should come across them. Once again I fell in my
own esteem as a competent detective. In the meantime I could do nothing;
Marjory's last appeal to me made it impossible for me to take steps
against her wishes. She manifestly wanted the fight with the kidnappers
to go on; and she wanted me to be with her in it heart and soul.
Although this community of purpose was sweet, there grew out of our very
isolation a new source of danger, a never-ending series of dangers. The
complications were growing such that it would soon be difficult to take
any step at all with any prospect of utility. Marjory would now be
watched with all the power and purpose of the American Secret Service.
That she would before long infallibly find it out, and that she would in
such case endeavour at all hazards to escape from it, was apparent. If
she did escape from their secret surveillance, she would be playing into
the hands of her enemies; and so might incur new danger. I began to
exercise my brain as to how I could best help her wishes. If we were to
fight together and alone, we would at least make as good a battle as we
could.

I thought, and thought, and thought till my head began to spin; and then
an idea all at once sprang into my view. It was so simple, and so much
in accord with my wishes; so delightful, that I almost shouted out with
joy.

I did not lose a minute, but hurried a change of clothes into a bag and
caught the train for Aberdeen _en route_ for London.

I did not lose any time. Next morning I was in London and went with my
solicitor to Doctor's Commons. There I got a license of the Archbishop
of Canterbury entitling Archibald Hunter and Marjory Anita Drake to be
married anywhere in England--there being no similar license in Scotland.
I returned at once, stopping at Carlisle to make arrangements with a
local clergyman to be ready to perform a marriage service at eight
o'clock of the second morning.



CHAPTER XXV

INDUCTIVE RATIOCINATION


I think Marjory must have suspected that I had something strange to say,
for almost as soon as I came in the morning room I saw that queer little
lift of her eyebrows and wrinkle in her brows which I was accustomed
to see when she was thinking. She held out her two hands towards me so
that I could see them without Mrs. Jack being able to. She held up her
fingers in the following succession:

Left index finger, right middle finger, left little finger, right little
finger, left thumb, right fourth finger, right index finger, left thumb,
right index finger; thus spelling "wait" in her own variant of our
biliteral cipher. I took her hint, and we talked commonplaces. Presently
she brought me up to the long oak-lined room at the top of the Castle.
Here we were all alone; from the window seat at the far end we could see
that no one came into the room unknown to us. Thus we were sure of not
being overhead. Marjory settled herself comfortably amongst a pile of
cushions, "Now" she said "go on and tell me all about it!"

"About what?" said I, fencing a little.

"The news that you are bursting to tell me. Hold on! I'll guess at
it. You are elated, therefore it is not bad; but being news and not
bad it must be good--from your point of view at any rate. Then you
are jubilant, so there must be something personal in it--you are
sufficiently an egoist for that. I am sure that nothing business-like
or official, such as the heading off the kidnappers, would have such a
positive effect on you. Then, it being personal, and you having rather
more of a dominant air than usual about you--Let me see--Oh!" she
stopped in confusion, and a bright blush swept over her face and neck.
I waited. It frightened me just a wee bit to see the unerring accuracy
with which she summed me up; but she was clearing the ground for me
rapidly and effectively. After a pause she said in a small voice:

"Archie show me what you have got in your waistcoat pocket." It was my
turn to blush a bit now. I took out the tiny case which held the gold
ring and handed it to her. She took it with a look of adorable sweetness
and opened it. I think she suspected only an engagement ring, for when
she saw it was one of plain gold she shut the box with a sudden "Oh!"
and kept it hidden in her hand, whilst her face was as red as sunset. I
felt that my time had come.

"Shall I tell you now?" I asked putting my arms round her.

"Yes! if you wish." This was said in a low voice "But I am too surprised
to think. What does it all mean? I thought that this--this sort of thing
came later, and after some time was mutually fixed for--for--_it_!"

"No time like the present, Marjory dear!" As she was silent, though she
looked at me wistfully, I went on:

"I have made a plan and I think you will approve of it. That is as a
whole; even if you dislike some of the details. What do you think of
an escape from the espionage of both the police and the other fellows.
You got hidden before; why not again, when once you have put them off
the scent. I have as a matter of fact planned a little movement which
will at any rate try whether we can escape the watchfulness of these
gentlemen."

"Good!" she said with interest.

"Well, first of all" I went on, getting nervous as I drew near the
subject "Don't you think that it will be well to prevent anyone talking
about us, hereafter, in an unpleasant way?"

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand!"

"Well, look here, Marjory. You and I are going to be much thrown
together in these matters that seem to be coming on; if there is any
escaping to be done, there will be watchful eyes on us before it, and
gossiping tongues afterwards; and inquiries and comparing of notes
everywhere. We shall have to go off together, often alone or under odd
circumstances. You can't fight a mystery in the open, you know; and
you can't by walking out boldly, bamboozle trained detectives who have
already marked you down."

"Not much; but it doesn't need any torturing of our brains with thinking
to know that."

"Well then my suggestion is that we be married at once. Then no one can
ever say anything in the way of scandal; no matter what we do, or where
we go!" My bolt was sped, and somehow my courage began to ooze away. I
waited to hear what she would say. She waited quite a while and then
said quietly:

"Don't be frightened, Archie, I am thinking it over. I must think; it
is all too serious and too sudden to decide on in a moment. I am glad,
anyhow, that you show such decision of character, and turn passing
circumstances into the direction in which you wish them to work. It
argues well for the future!"

"Now you are satirical!"

"Just a little. Don't you think there is an excuse?" She was not quite
satisfied; and indeed I could not be surprised. I had thought of the
matter so unceasingly for the last twenty-four hours that I did not miss
any of the arguments against myself; my natural dread of her refusal
took care of that. As, however, I almost expected her to begin with a
prompt negative, I was not unduly depressed by a shade of doubt. I was,
however, so single-minded in my purpose--my immediate purpose--that
I could endure to argue with her doubts. As it was evident that she,
naturally enough, thought that I wanted her to marry me at once out of
the ardour of my love, I tried to make her aware as well as I could of
my consideration for her wishes. Somehow, I felt at my best as I spoke;
and I thought that she felt it too:

"I'm not selfish in the matter, Marjory dear; at least I don't wish to
be. In this I am thinking of you altogether; and to prove it let me say
that all I suggest is the formal ceremony which will make us one in
form. Later on--and this shall be when you choose yourself and only
then--we can have a real marriage, where and when you will; with flowers
and bridesmaids and wedding cake and the whole fit out. We can be good
comrades still, even if we have been to church together; and I will
promise you faithfully that till your own time I won't try to make love
to you even when you're my wife--of course any more than I do now.
Surely that's not too much to ask in the way of consideration."

My dear Marjory gave in at once. It might have been that she liked the
idea of an immediate marriage; for she loved me, and all lovers like the
seal of possession fixed upon their hopes:

    "Time goes on crutches, till love have all his rites."

But be this as it may, she wished at any rate to believe in me. She came
to me and put both her hands in mine and said with a gentle modesty,
which was all tenderness in fact, and all wifely in promise:

"Be it as you will, Archie! I am all yours in heart now; and I am ready
to go through the ceremony when you will."

"Remember, dear" I protested "it is only on your account, and to try
to meet your wishes at any sacrifice, that I suggested the interval
of comradeship. As far as I am concerned I want to go straight to the
altar--the real altar--now." Up went her warning finger as she said
lovingly:

"I know all that dear; and I shall remember it when the time comes. But
what have we to do to prepare for--for the wedding. Is it to be in a
church or at a registry. I suppose it doesn't matter which under the
circumstances--and as we are to have the real marriage later. When do
you wish it to be, and where?"

"To-morrow!" She started slightly as she murmured:

"So soon! I did not think it could be so soon."

"The sooner the better" said I "If we are to carry out our plans. All's
ready; see here" I handed her the license which she read with glad eyes
and a sweet blush. When she had come to the end of it I said:

"I have arranged with the clergyman of St. Hilda's Church in Carlisle to
be ready at eight o'clock to-morrow morning." She sat silent a while and
then asked me:

"And how do you suggest that I am to get there without the detectives
seeing me?"

"That is to be our experiment as to escape. I would propose that you
should slip out in some disguise. You will of course have to arrange
with Mrs. Jack, and at least one servant, to pretend that you are still
at home. Why not let it be understood that you have a headache and are
keeping your room. Your meals can be taken to you as would be done, and
the life of the household seem to go on just as usual."

"And what disguise had you thought of?"

"I thought that if you went dressed as a man it would be best."

"Oh that would be a lark!" she said. Then her face fell. "But where am
I to get a man's dress? There is not time if I am to be in Carlisle
to-morrow morning."

"Be easy as to that, dear. A man's dress is on its way to you now by
post. It should be here by now. I am afraid you will have to take chance
as to its fit. It is of pretty thick cloth, however, so that it will
look all right."

"What sort of dress is it?"

"A servant's, a footman's. I thought it would probably avoid suspicion
easier than any other."

"That goes! Oh this is too thrilling;" she stopped suddenly and said:

"But how about Mrs. Jack?"

"She will go early this afternoon to Carlisle and put up at a little
hotel out of the way. I have got rooms in one close to the station. At
first I feared it would not be possible for her to be with us; but then
when I thought it over, I came to the conclusion that you might not care
to let the matter come off at all unless she were present. And besides
you would want her to be with you to-night when you are in a strange
place." Again she asked after another pause of thought:

"But how am I to change my clothes? I can't be married as a footman; and
I can't go to a strange hotel as one, and come out as a young lady."

"That is all thought out. When you leave here you will find me waiting
for you with a bicycle in the wood on the road to Ellon. You will have
to start about half past five. No one will notice that you are using a
lady's wheel. You will come to Whinnyfold where you will find a skirt
and jacket and cap. They are the best I could get. We shall ride into
Aberdeen as by that means we shall minimise the chance of being seen.
There we will catch the eight train to Carlisle where we shall arrive
about a quarter to two. Mrs. Jack will be there ready for you and will
have the dress you will want to-morrow."

"Oh, poor dear won't she be flustered and mystified! How lucky it is
that she likes you, and is satisfied with you; otherwise I am afraid she
would never agree to such precipitancy. But hold on a minute! Won't it
look odd to our outside friends on the watch if a footman goes out and
doesn't return."

"You will return to-morrow late in the evening. Mrs. Jack will be home
by then; she must arrange to keep the servants busy in some distant
part of the house, so that you can come in unobserved. Besides, the
detectives have to divide their watches; the same men will not be on
duty I take it. Anyhow, if they do not consider the outgoing of a
footman as sufficiently important to follow him up they will not trouble
much about his incoming."

This all seemed feasible to Marjory; so we talked the matter over and
arranged a hundred little details. These things she wrote down for Mrs.
Jack's enlightenment, and to aid her memory when she would be alone to
carry out the plans as arranged.

Mrs. Jack was a little hard to convince; but at last she came round. She
persisted to almost the end of our interview in saying that she could
not understand the necessity for either the hurry or the mystery. She
was only convinced when at last Marjory said:

"Do you want us to have all the Chicago worry over again, dear? You
approve of my marrying Archie do you not? Well, I had such a sickener of
proposals and all about it, that if I can't marry this way now, I won't
marry at all. My dear, I want to marry Archie; you know we love each
other."

"Ah, that I do, my dears!"

"Well then you must help us; and bear with all our secrecy for a bit;
won't you dear?"

"That I will, my child!" she said wiping tears from the corners of her
eyes.

So it was all settled.



CHAPTER XXVI

A WHOLE WEDDING DAY


Fortune favoured us admirably in our plans. Mrs. Jack, taking only her
dressing bag and a few odd parcels, went by the afternoon train from
Ellon to Aberdeen. In hearing of the household she regretted that she
had to go alone, as Miss Marjory was unable to leave her room. About
five o'clock I was in the wood as appointed; and in about half an hour
Marjory joined me in her footman's livery. I had a flannel coat in my
bag which we exchanged for that which she wore and which we hid in the
wood. We were thus less noticeable. We reached Whinnyfold a little after
six, and Marjory went into the house and changed her dress which was
left ready. She was not long; and we were soon flying on our road to
Aberdeen. We arrived a little before eight and caught the mail; arriving
at Carlisle at ten minutes to two o'clock. In the hotel we found Mrs.
Jack anxiously awaiting us.

In the early morning we were ready; and at eight o'clock we all went
together to St. Hilda's Church, where the clergyman was waiting as had
been arranged. All formalities were gone through and Marjory and I
were made one. She looked oh! so sweet in her plain white frock; and
her manner was gentle and solemn. It all seemed to me like a dream of
infinite happiness; from which every instant I feared I should wake, and
find in its stead some grim reality of pain, or terror, or unutterable
commonplace.

When we went back to breakfast at the hotel, we did not even go through
the form of regarding it as in any way a wedding feast. Marjory and I
had each our part to play, and we determined--I certainly did--to play
it well. Mrs. Jack had been carefully coached by Marjory as to how she
should behave; and though now and again she looked from one to the other
of us wistfully, she did not make any remark.

After a little shopping we got the 12:53 train, arriving at Aberdeen at
6:20. Mrs. Jack was to go on by the 7 train to Ellon where the carriage
was to meet her. My wife and I got our bicycles and rode to Whinnyfold
by Newburgh and Kirkton so as to avoid observation. When she had changed
her clothes in our own house, we started for Crom. In the wood she
changed her coat and left her bicycle.

Before we parted she gave me a kiss and a hug that made my blood tingle.

"You have been good" she said "and that is for my husband!" Once again
she held up that warning finger which I had come to know so well, and
slipped away. She then went on alone to the Castle, whilst I waited in
nervous expectancy of hearing the whistle which she was to blow in case
of emergency. Then I rode home like a man in a dream.

I left my bicycle at the hotel, and after some supper walked by
the sands to Whinnyfold, stopping to linger at each spot which was
associated with my wife. My wife! it was almost too much to think of; I
could hardly realise as yet that it was all real. As I sat on the Sand
Craigs I almost fancied I could see Marjory's figure once again on the
lonely rock. It seemed so long ago, for so much had happened since then.

And yet it was but a few days, all told, since we had first met. Things
had gone in a whirl indeed. There seemed to have been no pause; no room
for a pause. And now I was married. Marjory was my wife; mine for good
or ill, till death did us part. Circumstances seemed to have driven us
so close together that we seemed not new lovers, not bride and groom,
but companions of a lifetime.

And yet.... There was Marjory in Crom, compassed round by unknown
dangers, whilst I, her husband of a few hours, was away in another
place, unable even to gaze on her beauty or to hear her voice. Why, it
was not like a wedding day or a honeymoon at all. Other husbands instead
of parting with their wives were able to remain with them, free to come
and go as they pleased, and to love each other unfettered as they would.
Why....

I brought myself up sharp. This was grumbling already, and establishing
a grievance. I, who had myself proposed the state of things to Marjory,
to my wife. She was my wife; mine against all the rest of the world. My
love was with her, and my duty was to her. My heart and soul were in her
keeping, and I trusted her to the full. This was not my wedding day in
the ordinary sense of the word at all. This was _not_ my honeymoon.
Those things would come later, when our joy would be unfettered by
circumstances. Surely I had reason to rejoice. Already Marjory had
called me her husband, she had kissed me as such; the sweetness of her
kiss was still tingling on my lips. If anything but love and trust could
come to me from sitting still and sentimentalising and brooding, then
the sooner I started in to do some active work the better!...

I rose straightway and went across the headland to my house, unpacked
the box of tools which had come from Aberdeen, and set about my task of
trying to make an opening into the cave.

I chose for various reasons the cellar as the spot at which to make the
first attempt. In the first place it was already dug down to a certain
depth, so that the labour would be less; and in the second, my working
could be kept more secret. In clearing the foundations of the house the
workmen had gone down to the rock nearly all round. Just at the end of
Witsennan point there seemed to be a sort of bowl-like hollow, where
the thin skin of earth lay deeper than elsewhere. It was here that the
cellar was dug out, and the labour of cutting or blasting the rock
saved. With a pick-axe I broke and stripped away a large patch of the
concrete in the centre of the cellar, and in a short time had dug and
shovelled away the earth and sand which lay between the floor level and
the bed rock. I cleared away till the rock was bare some four or five
feet square, before I commenced to work on it. I laboured furiously.
What I wanted was work, active work which would tire my muscles and keep
my thoughts from working into channels of gloom and disintegration.

It took me some time to get into the way of using the tools. It is all
very well in theory for a prisoner to get out of a jail or a fortress by
the aid of a bit of scrap iron. Let any one try it in real life; under
the most favourable conditions, and with the best tools available, he
will come to the conclusion that romancing is easy work. I had the very
latest American devices, including a bit-and-brace which one could lean
on and work without stooping, and diamond patent drills which could,
compared with ordinary tools of the old pattern, eat their way into
rock at an incredible rate. My ground was on the gneiss side of the
geological division. Had it been on the granite side of the line my
labour and its rapidity might have been different.

I worked away hour after hour, and fatigue seemed to come and go. I was
not sleepy, and there was a feverish eagerness on me which would not let
me rest. When I paused to ease my muscles cramped with work, thought
came back to me of how different this night might have been.... And then
I set furiously to work again. At last I took no heed of the flying
hours; and was only recalled to time by the flickering of my lamp, which
was beginning to go out. When I stood up from my task, I was annoyed to
see how little I had done. A layer of rock of a few inches deep had been
removed; and that was all.

When I went up the steps after locking the cellar door behind me and
taking away the key, I saw the grey light of dawn stealing in through
the windows. Somewhere in the village a cock crew. As I stepped out of
the door to return home, the east began to quicken with coming day. My
wedding night had passed.

As I went back to Cruden across the sands my heart went out in love
without alloy to my absent wife; and the first red bolt of dawn over the
sea saw only hope upon my face.

When I got to my room I tumbled into bed, tired beyond measure. In an
instant I was asleep, dreaming of my wife and all that had been, and all
that was to be.

Marjory had arranged that she and Mrs. Jack were for the coming week at
least, to come over to Cruden every day, and lunch at the hotel; for my
wife had set her heart on learning to swim. I was to be her teacher, and
I was enthusiastic about the scheme. She was an apt pupil; and she was
strong and graceful, and already skilled in several other physical
accomplishments, we both found it easy work. The training which she had
already had, made a new accomplishment easy. Before the week was over
she was able to get along so well, that only practice was needed to make
her a good swimmer. All this time we met in public as friends, but no
more; we were scrupulously careful that no one should notice even an
intimacy between us. When we were alone, which was seldom and never for
long, we were good comrades as before; and I did not venture to make
love in any way. At first it was hard to refrain, for I was wildly
in love with my wife; but I controlled myself in accordance with my
promise. I soon began to have a dawning feeling that this very obedience
was my best means to the end I wished for. Marjory grew to have such
confidence in me that she could be more demonstrative than before, and
I got a larger share of affection than I expected. Besides I could see
with a joy unspeakable that her love for me was growing day by day; the
tentative comradeship--without prejudice--was wearing thin!

All this week, whilst Marjory was not near, I worked in the cellar at
Whinnyfold. As I became more expert with the tools, I made greater
progress, and the hole in the rock was becoming of some importance.
One day on coming out after a spell of afternoon work, I found Gormala
seated on a stone against the corner of the house. She looked at me
fixedly and said:

"Be yon a grave that ye thole?" The question staggered me. I did not
know that any one suspected that I was working in the house, or even
that I visited it so often as I did. Besides, it did not suit my purpose
that any one should be aware, under any circumstances, that I was
digging a hole. I thought for a moment before answering her:

"What do you mean?"

"Eh! but I'm thinkin' ye ken weel eneuch. I'm no to be deceived i' the
soond. I've heard ower mony a time the chip o' the pick, not to ken it
though there be walls atween. I wondered why ye came by yer lanes to
this dreary hoose when ye sent yon bonnie lassie back to her hame. Aye
she is bonnie though her pride be cruel to the aud. Ah, weel! The Fates
are workin' to their end, whatsoe'er it may be. I maun watch, so that I
may be nigh when the end cometh!"

There was no use arguing with her; and besides anything that I could say
would only increase her suspicion. Suspicion abroad about my present
task was the last thing I wished for.

She was round about the headland the next morning, and the next, and the
next. During the day I never saw her; but at night she was generally to
be found on the cliff above the Reivie o'Pircappies. I was glad of one
thing; she did not seem to suspect that I was working all the time. Once
I asked her what she was waiting for; she answered without looking at
me:

"In the dark will be a struggle in the tide-race, and a shrood floatin'
in the air! When next death an' the moon an' the tide be in ane, the
seein' o' the Mystery o' the Sea may be mine!"

It made me cold to hear her. This is what she foretold of Marjory; and
she was waiting to see her prophecy come to pass.



CHAPTER XXVII

ENTRANCE TO THE CAVERN


One night, when I had got down a considerable depth into the rock, I
took the pick to loosen out some stone which I had drilled. As I struck,
the sound of the rock was hollower than I had before noticed. My heart
leaped into my mouth, and I had to pause. Then I struck again harder,
and the sound was more hollow still. Whether or no it was the place I
was looking for, there was some cave in the rock below me. I would have
gone on working straightway had there been anyone with me; but being
alone I had to be careful. I was now standing on, evidently, only a
layer of rock, over an opening of whose depth I was in ignorance. Should
this piece of stone break away, as was quite possible from my working
on it, I might be precipitated into a living tomb. The very secrecy in
which I had kept my work, might tend to insure my death. Therefore I
made all preparation for such a casualty. Henceforth I worked with round
my waist a short rope the other end of which was fastened to a heavy
staple in the wall. Even if the rock should give way underneath me, a
foot or two would limit my fall. This precaution taken, I worked more
furiously than ever. With a large hammer I struck the rock at the bottom
of the shaft, again and again, with all my might. Then I heard a dull
sound of something rattling below me; the top of the cave was falling
in. I redoubled my efforts; and all at once a whole mass of rock sunk
beneath my hammer and disappeared into a black chasm which sent up
a whiff of cold air. I had seized my rope to scramble out, fearing
asphyxiation; but when I smelled salt water I did not fear. Then I knew
that I had got an opening into a sea cave of some sort. I stuck to my
work till I had hammered an irregular hole some three feet square. Then
I came up to rest and think. I lowered a rope with a stone at the end,
and found that the depth was some thirty feet. The stone had gone into
water before it touched bottom. I could hear the "plop" as it struck the
surface. As I thought it better not to descend by myself, lest there
should be any danger of returning, I spent the rest of my stay for that
evening in rigging up a pulley in the roof over the hole so that I might
be lowered down when the time should come. Then I went home, for I
feared lest the fascinating temptation to make the descent at once would
overcome me.

After breakfast I rode over to Crom, and when I was alone with Marjory
told her of my discovery. She was wild with excitement, and I rejoiced
to find that this new pleasure drew us even closer together. We agreed
that she should come to help me; it would not do to take any one else
into our confidence, and she would not hear of my going down into the
cave alone. In order to avoid comment we thought it better that she
should come late in the evening. The cave being dark, it was of course
immaterial whether day or night was appointed for the experiment. Then
it was, I could not help it, that I said to her:

"You see now the wisdom of our being married. We can go where we like;
and if we should be found out no one can say a word!" She said nothing;
there was nothing to say. We decided that she had better slip out,
as she had done before, in the footman's dress. I went off and made
preparation for her coming, bringing in food for supper and plenty of
candles and matches and lamps and rope; for we did not know how long the
exploration might take.

A little before nine o'clock I met her as before in the wood. She
changed her livery coat for the flannel one, and we rode off to
Whinnyfold. We got into the house without being noticed.

When I took her down to the cellar and turned into the hole the
reflector of the strong lamp, she held on to me with a little shiver.
The opening did certainly look grim and awesome. The black rock was
slimy with sea moisture, and the rays of the light were lost far below
in the gloom. I told her what she would have to do in lowering me down,
and explained the rude mechanism which I had constructed. She was, I
could see, a little nervous with the responsibility; and was anxious to
know any detail so thoroughly that no accident of ignorance could occur.

When the rope was round me and I was ready to descend, she kissed me
more fondly than she had ever done yet, and held on to me as though loth
to part. As I sank into the opening, holding the gasoline bicycle lamp
which I had elected to take with me, I saw her pretty forehead wrinkled
up in anxiety as she gave all her mind to the paying out of the rope.
Even then I was delighted with the ease and poise of her beautiful
figure, fully shown in the man's dress which she had not changed, as it
was so suitable for the work she had to do.

When I had been lowered some twenty feet, I turned my lantern down and
saw through the sheen of water a bottom of rock with here and there
a cluster of loose stones; one big slab which stuck up endwise, was
evidently that which had fallen from the roof under my hammer. It was
manifest that there was, in this part of the cave at any rate, not
sufficient water to make it a matter of any concern. I called to Marjory
to lower slowly, and a few seconds later I stood in the cave, with the
water just above my knees. I moved the new-fallen slab to one side lest
it might injure any one who was descending. Then I took the strong rope
from me, and knotted round my waist the end of the thin rope which I
had brought for the purpose. This formed a clue, in case such should be
necessary, and established a communication with Marjory which would tend
to allay her anxiety. With the cord running through her fingers, she
would know I was all right. I went cautiously through the cave, feeling
my way carefully with the long stick which I had brought with me. When I
had got some distance I heard Marjory's voice echoing through the cave:

"Take care there are no octopuses!" She had been thinking of all sorts
of possible dangers. For my own part the idea of an octopus in the cave
never crossed my mind. It was a disconcerting addition to my anxieties;
but there was nothing to do. I was not going to abandon my project for
this fear; and so I went on.

Further inland the cave shelved down on one side, following the line of
the rock so that I passed through an angular space which, though wide
in reality, seemed narrow by comparison with the wide and lofty chamber
into which I had descended. A little beyond this again, the rock dipped,
so that only a low tunnel, some four feet high, rose above the water. I
went on, carefully feeling my way, and found that the cave ended in a
point or narrow crevice.

All this time I had been thinking that the appearance of the place did
not quite tally with the description in de Escoban's narrative. No
mention had been made of any such difficulties; as the few men had
carried in what must have been of considerable bulk and weight there
would have been great difficulties for them.

So I retraced my steps, intending to see if there was any other branch
nearer to the sea. I kept the line taut so that Marjory might not be
alarmed. I think I was as glad as she was when I saw the light through
the opening, and the black circle of her head as she looked down
eagerly. When underneath, I told her of my adventure, and then turned
seawards to follow the cave down. The floor here was more even, as
though it had been worn smooth by sea wash and the endless rolling of
pebbles. The water deepened only a few inches in all. As I went, I threw
the rays of my lamp around, anxiously looking for some opening. The
whole distance from the place where I had made the entry to the face
of the cliff was not very great; but distance in the open seems very
different from that within an unknown cavern. Presently I came to a
place where the floor of the cave was strewn with stones, which grew
bigger and more as I went on; till at last I was climbing up a rising
pile of rocks. It was slippery work, for there seemed some kind of ooze
or slime over the stones which made progress difficult. When I had
climbed up about half way towards the roof, I noticed that on my left
side the slope began to fall away. I moved over and raising my lamp saw
to my inexpressible joy that there was an opening in the rock. Getting
close I found that though it was nearly blocked with stones there was
still a space large enough to creep through. Also with pleasure I saw
that the stones here were small. With a very slight effort I dislodged
some of them and sent them rolling down, thus clearing the way. The
clatter of the stones evidently alarmed Marjory for I heard her calling
to me. I hurried back under the opening--the way seemed easy enough now
I knew it--and told her of my fresh discovery.

Then I went back again and climbed down the slope of fallen stones; this
was evidently the debris of the explosion which had choked the mouth of
the cave. The new passage trended away a little to the right, making a
sharp angle with the cave I had left. Then after deflecting to the left
it went on almost straight for a considerable distance, thus lying, as
I made it out, almost parallel to the first cave. I had very little
anxiety as to the safety of the way. The floor seemed more level than
even that of the entrance to the first cave. There was a couple of feet
of water in the deepest part, but not more; it would not have been
difficult to carry the treasure here. About two hundred feet in, the
cave forked, one arm bending slightly to the left and the other to the
right. I tried the former way and came to a sheer dip in the rock such
as I had met with before. Accordingly I came back and tried the second.
When I had gone on a little way, I found my line running out; so I went
back and asked Marjory to throw me down the end. I was so sure of the
road now that I did not need a clue. At first she demurred, but I
convinced her; taking the rope I fixed one end of it within the cave
before it branched. Then I started afresh on my way, carrying the coil
of rope with me.

This branch of the cave went on crookedly with occasionally strange
angles and sharp curves. Here and there, on one side or the other and
sometimes on both, the rock walls bellied out, making queer chambers or
recesses, or narrowing the cave to an aperture only a few feet wide. The
roof too was raised or fell in places, so that I had now and again to
bend my head and even to stoop; whilst at other times I stood under a
sort of high dome. In such a zigzag course I lost my bearings somewhat;
but I had an idea that the general tendency was inland to the right.
Strange to say, the floor of the cave remained nearly level. Here again,
ages of tide and rolling pebbles had done their work effectively. My
cord ran out again and I had to lose the far end and bring it on, fixing
it afresh, as I did not like to proceed without keeping a clue behind
me. Somewhat further on, the cave dipped and narrowed so that I had to
bend nearly double to pass, my face being just above the water as I
went. It was with difficulty that I kept the lamp from touching the
water below or knocking against the rock above. I was much chagrined to
find this change in the structure of the cave, for since I had entered
on this branch of it I had completely made up my mind that I was on the
right road and that only a short time and a little distance lay between
me and the treasure. However there was nothing to do but to go on.

A few feet more and the roof began to rise; at first in a very gentle
slope, but then suddenly. Stretching my cramped back and raising my
head, I looked around. I raised my lamp high, turning it so that its
rays might let me take in a wide circle.

I stood at the side of a large, lofty cave, quaint of outline, with here
and there smooth walls from which great masses of red rock projected
ominously. So threatening did these overhanging masses look, that for a
few seconds I feared to stir lest some of them should topple over on me.
Then, when my eyes had become accustomed to the greater glare, I saw
that they were simply masses of the rugged rock itself. The whole cave,
so far as I could see, was red granite, formed of the great rock flung
upward in the pristine upheaval which had placed the Skares in the sea.



CHAPTER XXVIII

VOICES IN THE DARK


I looked round the cave with mingled feelings. The place itself was,
as a natural wonder, superb; but to me as a treasure hunter it was a
disappointment. In no way did it answer the description of Don de
Escoban. However I did not despair; there were many openings, and some
one of them might bring me to the required spot. I passed to the centre
of the cavern and looked round. As I did so, I got a momentary fright,
for several of the openings were so much alike that only for my rope I
would not have been able to distinguish that by which I had come in. The
lesson of this shock should not be lost; I must make a mark by which I
could distinguish this entrance from the others. No matter where the
other openings might lead to, this alone, so far as I could tell, was
the one which could lead me to safety. With a heavy pebble I hammered
away at the right side of the entrance till I had chipped off a piece of
rock. I could tell this place again by sight or by touch. Then I went
round the cave examining the various branches. It was here that I began
to feel the disadvantage of my imperfect light. I wanted some kind of
torch which would give sufficient light to see the whole place at once.
One could get no fit idea of proportion by merely making the little
patch of dim light from the bicycle lamp travel along the rocky walls.
I felt that all this time Marjory must be anxious about me, doubly so
since she had no clue to where I had gone. So I determined to come back
at once, and postpone the thorough examination of the place until I
should have proper appliances. Accordingly I made my way back to the
place where Marjory anxiously awaited me.

Her reception of me was sweet and tender. It was so natural that its
force was hardly manifest. It may have been that my mind was so full of
many things that I did not receive her caress with the same singleness
of devotion as was my wont. Now that I was assured of her love for me,
and since I had called her my wife, my love lost its element of anxiety.
It is this security which marks the difference of a husband's love
from that of a lover; doubt is an element of passion, but not of true
conjugal love. It was only afterwards, when I was alone, and Marjory's
enchanting presence was not with me, that I began to realise through
the lenses of memory and imagination the full sweetness of my wife's
greeting in her joy at the assurance of my safety. It took a very
few moments to tell her all the details of my adventure, and of the
conclusion which I had come to as to the need for postponement. She
thoroughly agreed with me in the necessity; and we then and there
settled that it would be wiser for her to go back to Crom to-night. We
were to settle later, when all preparations had been made, when we
should again attempt the investigation of the cave.

When I had put on dry clothes, we set out for Crom. We walked our
bicycles past Whinnyfold, and were grateful for the unique peculiarity
of that village, an absence of dogs. We did not light our lamps till we
got on the Peterhead road; and we put them out when we got into the
mesh of crossroads near Crom. In the wood Marjory once more resumed her
footman's coat, and we set out for the castle. On our way we had agreed
that it would be best to try the other side of the castle where it was
not likely that any stranger would attempt to approach, as there was
only the mossy foot track through the wood by the old chapel. In the
later days both Marjory and I had used our opportunities of finding new
paths through the wood round the castle; and we had already marked down
several tracks which we could follow even in the dark with a little
care. This was almost a necessity, as we had noticed of late traces of
the watchers round the main gateway through which all in the castle were
accustomed to come and go.

The path which we took to-night required a long detour of the wood, as
it lay right on the other side from the entrance gate. It was only a
narrow grass path, beginning between two big trees which stood closely
together not very far from one of the flanking mounds or hillocks which
here came closer down to the castle than any of the others. The path
wound in and out among the tree trunks, till finally it debouched at the
back of the old chapel which stood on a rising rock, hidden in the wood,
some three hundred feet from the west side of the castle. It was a
very old chapel, partly in ruins and antedating the castle by so many
centuries that it was manifestly a relic of the older castle on whose
site Crom was built. It may have been used for service early in the
sixteenth century; but it could not even have been in repair, or even
weather-proof, for there were breaches at the end of it in which had
taken root seedlings which were now forest trees. There was one old oak
whose girth and whose gnarled appearance could not have been achieved
within two centuries. Not merely the roots but the very trunk and
branches had pushed aside the great stones which lay firmly and
massively across the long low windows peculiar to the place. These
windows were mere longitudinal slits in the wall, a sort of organised
interstices between great masses of stone. Each of the three on either
side of the chapel was about two feet high and some six feet in length;
one stone support, irregularly placed, broke the length of each. There
was some kind of superstition amongst the servants regarding this place.
None of them would under any circumstances go near it at night; and not
even in daytime if they could decently excuse themselves.

In front of the chapel the way was very much wider. Originally there had
been a clear space leading through the wood: but centuries of neglect
had done their work. From fallen pine-cone, and beech-mast, and acorn,
here and there a tree had grown which now made of the original broad
alleyway a number of tortuous paths between the towering trunks. One
of the reasons why we had determined to use this path was that it was
noiseless. Grass and moss and rusty heaps of pine needles betrayed no
footfall; with care one could come and go unheard. If once she could get
through the wood unnoticed, Marjory might steal up to the doorway in the
shadow of the castle and let herself in, unobserved.

We went hand in hand slowly and cautiously, hardly daring to breathe;
and after a time that seemed endless came out at the back of the chapel.
Then we stole quietly along by the southern wall. As we passed the first
window, Marjory who was ahead of me stopped and gripped my hand so hard
that I knew there must be some good cause for her agitation. She pressed
back so that we both stood away from the window opening which we could
just see dimly outlined on the granite wall, the black vacancy showing
against the lichen-covered stone. Putting her lips close to my ear she
whispered:

"There are people there. I heard them talking!" My blood began to run
cold. In an instant all the danger in which Marjory stood rushed back
upon me. Of late we had been immune from trouble, so that danger which
we did not know of seemed to stand far off; but now the place and the
hour, the very reputation of the old chapel, all sent back in a flood
the fearful imaginings which had assailed me since first I had known of
the plot against Marjory. Instinctively my first act was to draw my wife
close to me and hold her tight. Even in that moment it was a joy to me
to feel that she let herself come willingly. For a few moments we stood
silent, with our hearts beating together; then she whispered to me
again:

"We must listen. We may perhaps find out who they are, and what they
intend."

Accordingly we drew again close to the opening, Marjory standing under
the aperture, and I beside it as I found I could hear better in this
position. The stooping made the coursing of my own blood sound in my
ears. The voice which we first heard was a strong one, for even when
toned to a whisper it was resonant as well as harsh and raucous:

"Then it's settled we wait till we get word from Whiskey Tommy. How long
is it likely to be?" The answering voice, also a whisper, was smooth and
oily, but penetrating:

"Can't say. He has to square the Dutchy: and they take a lot of sugar,
his kind. They're mighty pious when they're right end up; but Lordy!
when they're down they're holy terrors. This one is a peach. But he's
clever--I will say that; and he knows it. I'm almost sorry we took him
in now, though he is so clever. He'd better mind out, though, for none
of us love him; and if he goes back on us, or does not come up to the
mark--" He stopped, and the sentence was finished by a click which I
knew was the snapping of the spring of a bowie knife when it is thrown
open.

"And quite right too. I'm on if need be!" and there was another click.
The answering voice was strong and resolute, but somehow, for all the
wicked intent spoken, it did not sound so evil as the other. I looked
at Marjory, and saw through the darkness that her eyes were blazing. My
heart leaped again; the old pioneer spirit was awake in her, and somehow
my dread for her was not the same. She drew close to me and whispered
again:

"Be ready to get behind the trees at the back, I hear them rising." She
was evidently right, for now the voices were easier to hear since the
mouths of the speakers were level with the window. A voice, a new one,
said:

"We must git now. Them boys of Mac's 'll be on their round soon." With
a quick movement Marjory doubled under the window and came to me. She
whispered as before:

"Let us get behind trees in front. We may see them coming through the
door, and it will be well to know them." So motioning to her to go on
the side we were on, I slipped round the back, and turning by the other
side of the chapel, and taking care to duck under the windows, hid
myself behind one of the great oak trees in front, to the north of the
original clearing. From where I stood I could see Marjory behind a tree
across the glade. From where we were we could see any one who left
the chapel; for one or other of us commanded the windows, and we both
commanded the ruined doorway. We waited, and waited, and waited, afraid
to stir hand or foot lest we should give a warning to our foes. The time
seemed interminable; but no one came out and we waited on, not daring to
stir.

Presently I became conscious of two forms stealing between the trees up
towards the chapel. I glided further round behind my sheltering tree,
and, throwing an anxious glance toward Marjory, was rejoiced to see that
she was doing the same. Closer and closer the two forms came. There was
not the faintest sound from them. Approaching the door-way from either
side they peered in, listened, and then stole into the darkness between
the tree trunks which marked the breach in the wall. I ventured out and
slipped behind a tree somewhat nearer; Marjory on her side did the same,
and at last we stood behind the two nearest trees and could both note
the doorway and each of us the windows on one side. Then there was a
whisper from within; somehow I expected to hear a pistol shot or to see
a rush of men out through the jagged black of the doorway. Still nothing
happened. Then a match was struck within. In the flash I could see the
face of the man who had made the light--the keen-eyed messenger of Sam
Adams. He held up the light, and to our amazement we could see that,
except for the two men whom we had seen go in, the chapel was empty.

Marjory flitted over to me and whispered:

"Don't be afraid. Men who light up like that aren't likely to stumble
over us, if we are decently careful." She was right. The two men, seeing
that the place was empty, seemed to cast aside their caution. They came
out without much listening, stole behind the chapel, and set off along
the narrow pathway through the wood. Marjory whispered to me:

"Now is my chance to get in before they come back. You may come with me
to the edge of the wood. When I get in, dear, go back home as fast as
you can. You must be tired and want rest. Come to-morrow as soon as you
can. We have lots to talk over. That chapel must be seen to. There is
some mystery there which is bigger than anything we have struck yet.
It's no use going into it now; it wants time and thinking over!" We were
whispering as we walked along, still keeping carefully in the shadow of
the trees. Behind the last tree Marjory kissed me. It was her own act,
and as impulsively I clasped her tight in my arms, she nestled in to me
as though she felt that she belonged there. With a mutual 'good-night'
and a whispered blessing she stole away into the shadow. I saw her reach
the door and disappear through it.

I went back to Cruden with my mind in a whirl of thoughts and feelings.
Amongst them love was first; with all the unspeakable joy which comes
with love that is returned.

I felt that I had a right to call Marjory my very own now. Our dangers
and hopes and sympathies made a tie which seemed even closer than that
tied in the church at Carlisle.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE MONUMENT


For the remainder of that night, whether rushing home on my bicycle,
preparing for rest, lying awake, or even in my sleep, I thought over
the mystery of the disappearance of the speakers in the old chapel.
Certainly I went to sleep on the thought, and woke with it. It never
left me even after breakfast as I rode out towards Crom. It was manifest
that there must be some secret vault or hiding place in the chapel; or
it might be that there was some subterranean passage. If the latter,
where did it lead to? Where else, unless to the castle; such would be
the natural inference. The very thought made my blood run cold; it was
no wonder that it overspread my mind to the exclusion of all else. In
such case Marjory's enemies were indeed dangerous, since they held a
secret way to her at all times; once within the castle it would not be
hard to work evil to her.

I thought that this morning I would do a little prospecting on my own
account. Accordingly I left my bicycle in the wood and went a long
circuit, keeping in the shadow of the woods where possible, and
elsewhere stealing behind the hedgerows, till I got to the far side of
the hill or spur which came nearest to the old chapel. This was one of
the hills up whose base the trees ran in flame-shaped patches. Half way
up, the woods ceased, and there was a belt of barrenness--outcropping
rock fringed with green grass. The top, like most of the hills or
mounds around the castle, was covered with woods, close-growing masses
of pine which made a dusk even in the noonday.

I took my way up the back of the hill and stole through the wood,
carefully keeping a watchful look out all round me, for I feared the
presence of either of the sets of spies. At the very top I came upon a
good sized circle of masonry, low but heavily built of massive stones
completely covered with rich green lichen. The circle was some fifteen
feet diameter, and the top was slightly arched as though forming a
roof. Leaning over it I could hear a faint trickle of water; this was
evidently the source of the castle supply.

I walked round it, examining it carefully; anything which had any direct
communication with the castle was at present of possibly the supremest
importance. There was no flaw or opening anywhere; and from the unbroken
covering of the stones by the lichen, it was apparent that there had
been no disturbance for years.

I sat down on the edge of the stonework and for a long time thought over
matters of probability. If underneath me, as was almost to be taken
for granted, lay the reservoir of the castle, it must have been made
coevally with Crom itself, or even with the older castle on whose
ruins it was built. It must be fed by springs in the rock which formed
the base of the hill and cropped out all over it; and if it was not
approachable from without, there must be some way of reaching the water
from within. It might be that the chamber which contained the reservoir
had some other entrance from the hill top, or from some lower level.
Accordingly I made as I conceived a bee line for the castle, till I
came to the very base of the hill, for I knew that in matters of water
conduit the direct way is always chosen where work has to be done. As
I went, I conned the ground carefully; not merely the surface for that
was an uniform thick coating of brown pine needles, but the general
conformation. Where a trench has been made, there is ever after some
trace of it to be found. Even if the workmen level the trench most
carefully there and then, the percolation of rain through the softer
broken earth will make discovery of the change by shrinkage. Here,
however, there was no such sign; the ground, so far as one could judge,
had never been opened. The trees grew irregularly, and there was no gap
such as would be, had one ever been removed. Here and there particles of
rock cropped out amongst the pine needles just as anywhere else. If any
opening existed it was not on the direct line between the reservoir and
the castle.

Back again I went to the reservoir, and, using it as a base, began to
cast around for some opening or sign. I made circles in all directions,
just as a retriever does when looking for a fallen partridge in a dry
stubble when the scent is killed by heat.

At last I came upon something, though whether or no it might have any
point of contact with my purpose, I could not at once decide. It was a
rude monument of some kind, a boulder placed endwise on a slab of rock
roughly hewn to form a sort of square plinth. This again was surrounded
on the outside, for the whole monument was on the very edge of a
steeply-dipping crag, by a few tiers of rough masonry. The stones were
roughly cut and laid together without mortar; or if mortar or cement
there had ever been, time and weather had washed it away. In one respect
this structure was in contrast to that above the reservoir, there was
not a sign of moss or lichen about it. The trees of the wood came close
up behind it; in front it was shut out from view below by the branches
of a few pine trees which grew crookedly from a precarious foothold
amongst the ledges of rock beneath. As I stood in front of it, I could
see nothing immediately below me; however, when I had scrambled to a
ledge a few feet lower down, the back wall of the old chapel became
visible, though partly obscured by trunks and branches of intervening
trees. I searched all over the monument for some inscription, but could
see none. Then I stood on the plinth to see if there might be any
inscription on the top of the boulder. As I stood, looking over the top
of it from the bank, I could just see through a natural alleyway amongst
the tree tops, the top of one corner of the castle, that on the side of,
and farthest from the old chapel. As I looked, a bright thought struck
me. Here was a place from which one might correspond with the castle,
unseen by any one save at the one spot. I determined then and there,
that Marjory and I should arrange some method of signalling to one
another.

Somehow this place impressed me, possibly because it was the only thing,
except the reservoir, which seemed to have a purpose in the whole scheme
of the hill top. Where there was labour and manifest purpose, there must
surely be some connection. I examined all round the place minutely,
scrambling down the rocks below and on either side, but always keeping
a bright look out in case of spies. The only thing I noticed was that
there seemed a trace of some kind of a pathway through the wood here.
It was not sufficiently marked to allow one to accept it with certainty
as a pathway; but there is something about a place which is even
occasionally trodden, which marks it from its surroundings virgin of
footsteps. I could not find where the path ended or where it began. It
seemed to grow from the monument, but here underfoot was stone and hard
gravel; and the wind coming over the steep slope swept the fallen pine
needles back amongst the shelter of the trees. After a few hundred yards
any suggestion of a pathway disappeared, lost in the aisles of the pine
trees spreading round on every side. There was no need of a pathway here
where all was open. Once or twice as I searched the thought came to me
that there might be some opening here to a secret way or hiding place;
but look how I would, I could not find the faintest trace or suggestion
of any opening. In the end I had to take it that the erection was merely
a monument or mark of some kind, whose original purpose was probably
lost in time.

At last, as the day was well on, I made my way back to where my bicycle
was hidden, always taking care to keep from observation. Then emerging
on the road, I went as usual through the old ruined gateway and the long
winding avenue to the castle.

Marjory met me with an anxious look, and hung on to my arm lovingly as
she said:

"Oh, you are late! I have been quite nervous all the morning lest
anything should have happened to you!" Mrs. Jack, after we had greeted,
discreetly left us alone; and I told my wife of all that I had thought
since we had parted, and of what I had seen on the hill top. She was
delighted at the idea of a means of signalling; and insisted on my
coming at once to the roof to make further arrangements and discoveries.

We found the spot which I had indicated admirably adapted for our
purpose. One could sit on the stone roof, well back from the wall, and
through one of the openings in the castellation see the top of the
monument amongst the tree tops; and could yet be unobserved oneself from
any other spot around. The angles of the castellation of the various
walls shut out the tops of the other hills or mounds on every side.
As the signs of our code were already complete we had only to fix on
some means of signalling 'A' and 'B'. This we did by deciding that by
daylight A should be signified by red and B by white and at night A by
red and B by green. Thus by daylight two pocket handkerchiefs of red
and white or two flowers of white and red; or a piece of paper and
a red leaf or flower would suffice. We fixed on colour as the best
representative, as the distance made simplicity necessary. By night an
ordinary bicycle lamp with the lens covered could be used; the ordinary
red and green side lights could be shown as required. Then and there we
arranged that that very afternoon when I had left the castle I should
steal back to the monument and we should make a trial of our signalling.

Then we talked of other things. Alone there on the roof we could talk
freely; and the moments flew swiftly by in a sweet companionship. Even
if the subjects which we had to discuss were grim ones of danger and
intrigue; of secret passages and malignant enemies; of spies and
possibilities of harm to one or both of us, still mutuality of our
troubles and dangers made their existence to us sweet. That we shared
in common even such matters was dear to us both. I could not but be
conscious of Marjory's growing love for me; and if I had to restrain
myself now and again from throwing my arms round her and pressing her
beautiful body close to me and sweeping her face with kisses, I was
repaid when, as we descended she put both her hands in mine and said:

"Oh Archie! you are good to me! and--and--I love you so!" Then she sank
into my arms and our mouths met in a long, loving kiss.

We decided that as there must be some hidden opening in the old chapel,
we should make search for it the next day. I was to come soon after
sunrise, for this we judged would be the time when the spies of both
kinds would least expect movement from the castle. I was to come by the
grass path between the trees into the old chapel where she would meet
me and we should make our investigations together.

After tea I came away. Marjory came out on the steps with me to see me
off. As we bade each other good-bye she said aloud in case any one might
be listening:

"Remember, you are to come to tea to-morrow and to bring me the book. I
am quite anxious to know how it ends. It is too bad of the librarian not
to send us all the volumes at once!"

When I got to the road I hid my bicycle in the old place, and took
my way secretly to the monument. Marjory had been much struck by the
suggestion of the footpath, and, woman-like, had made up her mind on the
subject. She had suggested that we should test whether any one came or
went by it, and to this end gave me a spool of the finest thread so that
I might lay a trap. Before I should leave the place I was to stretch
threads across it here and there between the tree trunks. If on the next
visit I should find them broken, we might take it that some one had been
there.

From the top of the boulder I made signal and was immediately answered.
My own signal was simply the expression of my heart's feeling:

"I love you, my wife!" The answer came quickly back filling me with joy:

"I love you, my husband! Don't forget me! Think of me!"



CHAPTER XXX

THE SECRET PASSAGE


That night was one of rest. I was physically tired out, and after I had
posted a few letters to merchants in Aberdeen, giving orders for various
goods to be sent at once to Whinnyfold, I went to bed and slept till the
early morning. I got up at daylight, and after my morning swim rode off
to Crom. Again I left my bicycle in the wood and took my way round to
the back of the hill and up through the wood to the monument beyond the
reservoir. It was still early morning, as it is counted in the cities,
though the sun was well up. I went with extra caution, stealing from
tree to tree; for I knew nothing of the locality of the watchers at
this hour. I saw no sign of anyone; and coming at last to where the
rudimentary pathway lay, examined carefully where I had placed the first
thread. As I did so I straightened myself quickly and looked round with
apprehension. The thread was broken across, though the two ends were
tied where I had placed them!

With a beating heart I examined all the others in turn, with the same
result. It was quite evident that some one, or some thing had passed
along the track. In spite of my concern I rejoiced, for something had
been found. It was at least probable that there was a regular route
somewhere at hand. Accordingly I prepared my traps afresh, this time
placing them in various directions, and at irregular distances along the
path and all round the monument. I might thus be able to trace the
exact route of anyone who might disturb them. This done, and it took
some time, I went back to the wood, and thence rode to the castle.

Marjory was eager for news, but it thrilled me to see that her eagerness
was not all from this cause; hour by hour I found myself growing in her
affection. When I told her of the broken threads, she clapped her hands
with delight; the hunter spirit hereditary in her was pleased. She gave
her opinion that on the next morning I should be able to locate the
entrance to the passage, if one there was. In the midst of her speaking
thus she stopped; a bright, keen light came into her eyes, and her brows
knitted.

"Why," she said, "how stupid I am. I never once thought of doing the
same at my end. Yesterday, after you left, I spent an hour in the old
chapel and went over every inch of it; but it never occurred to me to do
there what you had gone to do at the monument. If I had done so, I might
this morning have been able to discover the secret of the disappearance
of the kidnappers. I shall take good care to do it this evening."

While she was speaking a fear grew upon me lest being alone in the ruin
she might give her enemies the very opportunity they wanted. She saw my
distress, and with her quick woman's wit guessed the cause of it. With
a very tender movement she placed her hand on the back of mine, and
without squeezing it held it there firmly as she said:

"Don't be frightened for me, dear. These are expert workmen that we are
dealing with. They won't move till their plans are all ready. They don't
wish to get hold of me for five minutes and let "Mac's men"--as lacking
due respect for President McKinley, they call the Secret Service agents
of my country--catch them red-handed. They are only laying their plans
as yet. Perhaps we may have cause to be anxious when that is done; but
as yet it's all right. Anyhow, my dear, as I know it will make you
easier in your mind, when you are not at hand to protect me, I shall lay
the traps whilst you are with me. There now! Am I good to my husband, or
am I not?" I made her aware in my own way--I could not help it--that she
was good! and she let the incident pass unrebuked. Even lovers, though
they have not the status of the husband, must be allowed a little
latitude now and again.

We talked over all the possibilities that we could either of us think of
with regard to a secret passage between the castle and the monument. It
was apparent that in old time such a hidden way might have been of the
utmost importance; and it was more than possible that such a passage
might exist. Already we had reason to believe that there was a way
between the ruined chapel and the top of the reservoir hill, and we knew
that there must be existing some secret hiding place gained from the
interior of the chapel. What we had still to discover, and this was the
most important of all, was whether there was a method of communication
between the castle and the chapel. After tea we started out together;
and as we had arranged between us before starting, managed in our
strolling to go quite round the castle and through many of the grassy
alleys between the woods. Then, lest there should be any listener, I
said:

"Let us go into the old chapel. I haven't had a good look at it since I
have been coming here!" So we went into the chapel and began to lay our
traps. Of course we could not guard against any one spying upon us.
There might be eyes of enemies bent on us through some secret chink or
cranny or organised spy-hole. This we could not help, and had to take
our chances of it; but if anyone were within ear-shot and unable to
see us, we guarded our movements by our misleading remarks concerning
history and art. Deftly Marjory stretched sections of her gossamer
thread from place to place, so that if any one went in the chapel their
course must be marked by the broken threads. We finished near the door,
and our artless, innocent, archæological conversation stopped there,
too. We strolled back to the castle, feeling sure that if there were any
secret hiding place within the ruin we should have located the entrance
to it in the morning.

That afternoon I went to the house at Whinnyfold. Most of the things
which I had ordered had arrived, and when I had had the various boxes
and bundles moved inside I felt able to start on my work.

First I rigged up a proper windlass over the hole into the cave; and
fixed it so that any one could manipulate it easily and safely from
above. It could be also worked from below by aid of an endless chain
round the axle. I hammered the edges of the hole somewhat smoother,
so that no chance friction might cut the rope; and I fixed candles
and lanterns in various places, so that all the light which might be
necessary could be had easily. Then I furnished a room with rugs and
pillows, and with clothes for Marjory for changing. She would be sure to
require such, when our search after the treasure should come off. I had
ready some tins of provisions, and I had arranged at the hotel that as
I might sometimes stay and work in my own home--I was supposed to be an
author--some fresh provisions were to be sent over each morning, and
left ready for me with Mrs. Hay at Whinnyfold. By the time my work was
through, it was late in the evening, and I went to the hotel to sleep.
I had arranged with Marjory to be with her early in the morning. It
was hardly daylight when I woke, but I got up at once and took my way
towards Crom, for the experience of the day before had shown me that
whoever used the path near the monument used it in the grey of the dawn.
As usual I hid my bicycle and took my way cautiously to the monument. By
this time the sun was up and the day was bright; the dew lay heavy, and
when I came on any of my threads I could easily distinguish them by the
shimmering beads which made each thread look like a miniature rope of
diamonds.

Again the strings across the path were broken. My heart beat heavily
as I began to follow back towards the monument the track of the broken
thread. It led right up to it, on the side away from the castle, and
then stopped. The other threads all round the monument were intact.
Having learned so much, my first act was to prevent discovery of my
own plan. Accordingly I carefully removed all the threads, broken and
unbroken. Then I began to make minute investigation of the monument
itself. As it was evident that whoever had broken the threads had come
straight from it, there was a presumption that there was an opening
somewhere. The rock below was unbroken and the stonework was seemingly
fixed on the rock itself. By a process of exclusions I came to the
belief that possibly the monument itself might be moveable.

Accordingly I began to experiment. I pressed against it, this way and
that. I tried to move it by exercising pressure top and bottom in turn;
but always without avail. Then I began to try to move it sideways as
though it might be on a pivot. At first there was no yielding, no answer
of any kind to my effort; but suddenly I thought I perceived a slight
movement. I tried again and again, using my strength in the same way;
but with no result. Then I tried turning it in the suspected direction,
holding both my hands low down on the corners of the boulder; then going
gradually up higher I pursued the same effort; again no response. Still
I felt I was on the track and began to make efforts in eccentric ways.
All at once, whilst I was pressing with my left hand low down whilst I
pulled with my right high up on the other edge, the whole great stone
began to move in a slow easy way, as though in perfect poise. I
continued the movement and the stone turned lazily over on one side,
revealing at my very feet a dark opening of oval form some three feet
across its widest part. Somehow I was not altogether surprised; my head
kept cool in what was to me a wonderful way. With an impulse which was
based on safety, lest the opening of the hole should make discovery of
my presence, I reversed the action; and the stone rolled slowly over to
its old position. Several times I moved it from its place and then back
again, so that I might become accustomed to its use.

For a while I hesitated as to whether I should explore the opening
immediately; but soon came to the conclusion that I had better begin
at once. So I went back to my bicycle and took the lamp with me. I had
matches in my case, and as I had the revolver which I always carried
now, I felt equal to any emergency. I think I was finally influenced in
my decision to attempt the passage at once by the remembrance of
Marjory's remark that the kidnappers would make no effort until their
plans were quite complete. They, more than I, might fear discovery; and
on this hope I was strong as I lowered myself down through the narrow
opening. I was glad to see that there was no difficulty in moving the
stone from the inside; there were two iron handles let into the stone
for the purpose.

I cannot say I was at ease in my mind, I was, however, determined to go
on; and with a prayer to God for protection, and a loving thought of
Marjory, I went on my way.

The passage was doubtless of natural origin, for it was evident that
the seams in the rock were much like those on the coast where the strata
of different geological formations joined. Art had, however improved the
place wonderfully. Where the top had come too low it had been quarried
away; the remnants still lay adjacent where the cave broadened out. The
floor where the slope was steep was cut into rough steps. Altogether,
there were signs of much labour in the making of the passage. As I went
down, I kept an eye on the compass whenever I came to a turn, so that I
might have a rough idea of the direction in which I was going. In the
main the road, with counterbalancing curves and angles, led straight
down.

When I had got to what I considered must be half way, allowing for the
astounding magnitude which seems to be the characterisation of even a
short way under ground; the passage forked, and at a steep angle another
passage, lower and less altered than that along which I had come, turned
away to the left. Going a few feet up it I could hear the sound of
running water.

This was evidently the passage to the reservoir.



CHAPTER XXXI

MARJORY'S ADVENTURE


As I felt that time, in which I had the passage all to myself, was
precious, I turned back to the main way down. The path was very steep
and low and the rock underfoot was cut in rude steps; as I held the
lantern before me I had to droop it so that I could smell the hot metal
where the flame touched the back. It was indeed a steep and difficult
way, made for others than men of my own stature. As I went, I felt my
first fears passing away. At first I had dreaded a lack of air, and all
sorts of horrors which come to those who essay unknown passages. There
came back to my recollection passages in Belzoni's explorations in the
Pyramids when individuals had got lost, and when whole parties were
stopped by the first to advance jamming in a narrow passage as he
crawled along on his belly. Here, though the roof came down in places
dangerously low, there was still ample room, and the air came up sweet
and cool. To any one unused to deep burrows, whether the same be natural
or artificial, there is a dread of being underground. One is cut off
from light and air; and burial alive in all its potential horrors is
always at hand. However, the unexpected clearness and easiness of the
way reassured me; and I descended the steep passage with a good heart.
All distance underground seems extravagantly long to those unaccustomed
to it; and to me the mere depth I had descended seemed almost impossible
when the way before me became somewhat level again. At the same time
the roof rose so that I could stand upright. I guessed that I must
be now somewhere at the foot of the hillock and not far from the old
chapel; so I went forward carefully, keeping my hand ready to cover up
the front of the lamp. As the ground was fairly level, I could in a
way pace it; and as I knew that there was only about two hundred feet
distance from the foot of the hill to the chapel, I was not surprised
when after some eighty paces I found the passage end in a sort of rude
chamber cut in the rock. At right angles to the place of my entry there
was a regular stairway, partly cut in rock and partly built, leading
upward. Before I ascended I looked around carefully and could see that
sections of the walls of the chamber were built of great blocks of
stone. Leaving further investigation for the future I went upward with a
beating heart.

The stair was rudely circular, and I had counted thirty steps when I saw
the way blocked by a great stone. For a few seconds I was in fear lest I
should find this impossible; then I looked carefully for any means of
moving the obstacle. I thought it more than likely that something of the
same process would be adopted for both ends of the passage.

Luck was certainly on my side to-day! Here were two iron handles, much
the same as those with which I had been enabled to move the monument
from within. I grasped them firmly, and began to experiment as to which
way the stone moved. It trembled under my first effort; so exerting a
very little of my strength in the same direction the great stone began
to move. I saw a widening line of open space through which a dim light
shone in upon me. Holding the stone in poise with one hand, I covered
the front of the lamp with my cap, and then resumed the opening process.
Slowly, slowly, the stone rolled back till a clear way lay abreast of me
through which, doubled up, I could pass. From where I stood I could see
part of the wall of a building, a wall with long low windows in massive
stone; and I knew that at last I had reached the old chapel. A joyous
feeling rushed over me; after the unknown perils of the cavern passage
at last I had reached safety. I bent low and began to step out through
the narrow opening. There was fully four feet in the circumference of
the stone so that two such steps as were possible to me were necessary
to take me out. I had taken one and my foot was lifted for the second
when a clear firm voice said in a whisper:

"Hands up! If you move you are a dead man!" I stopped of course, and
raising my face, for my head was bent low in the necessary effort of
stooping, I found myself opposite the muzzle of a revolver. For an
instant I looked at it; it was firm as the rock around me, and I felt
that I must obey. Then I looked beyond it, to the hand which held it,
and the eyes which directed. These too were inflexible; but a great joy
came over me when I recognised that the hand and eyes were those of
Marjory. I would have sprung forward to her, but for that ominous ring
of steel in front of me. I waited a few seconds, for it seemed strange
that she did not lower the revolver on seeing who it was. As, however,
the pistol still covered me unpleasantly, I said:

"Marjory!" In an instant her hand dropped to her side. I could not but
notice with an admiration for her self-control and the strength of her
resolution, that she still held the revolver in her grasp. With a glad
cry she leaped towards me with a quick impulsive movement which made my
heart bound, for it was all love and spontaneity. She put her left hand
on my shoulder; and as she looked into my eyes I could feel the glad
tremor that swept through her.

For several seconds she stood, and then with a sigh said in a voice of
self-reproach:

"And _I_ did not know _you_!" The way she spoke the words "I" "you" was
luminous! Had I not already known her heart, she would in that moment
have stood self-revealed.

We were manifestly two thoroughly practical people, for even in the
rapture of our meeting--to me it was no less than rapture to come
from so grim an aperture in the secret cavern passage--we had our wits
about us. I think she was really the first to come to a sense of our
surroundings; for just as I was opening my mouth to speak she held up a
warning finger.

"Hush! Some one may come; though I think there is no one near. Wait
dear, whilst I look!" she seemed to flit noiselessly out of the doorway
and I saw her vanish amongst the trees. In a few minutes she returned
carrying carefully a wicker basket. As she opened it she said:

"Some one might suspect something if they saw you in that state."
She took from the basket a little bowl of water, soap, towel and a
clothes-brush. Whilst I washed my face and hands she was brushing me
down. A very short time completed a rough toilet. Then she poured
the water carefully into a crack in the wall, and putting the things
together with my lamp, back in the basket, she said:

"Come now! Let us get to the Castle before any one finds us. They will
think that I have met you in the wood." We went as unobtrusively as we
could to the Castle; and entered, I think, unobserved. I had a thorough
clean up before I let any one see me; our secret was too precious to
risk discovery by suspicion. When I had seen Mrs. Jack, Marjory took me
to her boudoir in the top of the castle, and there, whilst she sat by
me holding my hands, I told her every detail of my adventure. I could
feel how my story moved her; when there was any passage of especial
interest the pressure of her clasp grew tense. She, who had seemingly no
fear for herself, was all in fear for me!

Then we talked matters over. We had now a good clue to the comings
and goings of the kidnappers; and we felt that by a little thoughtful
organisation we might find their hours, and be able to trace them one
by one. By lunch time we had decided on our plan of action. We took our
idea from one of the old "Tales of the Genii" where the conquered king
was brought by his faithful vizier into a cavern and asked to cut a rope
which was stretched before him, and which he soon discovered released
the great rock which roofed the pavilion specially built by the vizier
to be seen and occupied by the conqueror. We would fix a fine thread to
the top of the monument and bring it secretly to the castle, where its
breaking would apprise Marjory of the opening of the passage; thus she
would discover the hour of the coming of the kidnappers to the chapel.
We arranged another ingenious device, whereby a second thread, fastened
to the stone in the old chapel, would be broken by the opening of the
stone, and would cause a book to fall on Marjory's bed and wake her if
she were asleep. The better part of the afternoon was taken up by us
carrying out these ideas, for we went slowly and cautiously to work.
Then I went home.

I was early at the monument in the morning, and getting behind the stone
signalled to the Castle roof in case Marjory should happen to expect me
and be there. But there was no answer. So I sat down to wait till it
would be decent time to go to the Castle for an early breakfast.

As I sat waiting I thought I heard a sound, either close to me and
muffled, or else distant; I could hardly tell which. Matters might be
lively if I were discovered; so I got my revolver ready. With my heart
beating so heavily that I mistook it at moments for the foreign sound, I
listened and listened, all ears.

It was as I had suspected; the sound came from the tunnel beneath me. I
hardly knew whether to stay or go. If I waited I could see who came from
the opening; but on the other hand I should at once be known to have
discovered the secret. Still as the stone might roll back at any moment,
it was necessary that I should make up my mind; I should either go or
stay. I decided that I would stay and make discovery at once. In any
case should I succeed in capturing a blackmailer, or even in discovering
or partially discovering his identity, I should be aiding in Marjory's
safety. So I got my revolver ready; and standing back so that I could
not be seen at once by any one emerging, waited.

No one came; but I could still hear a slight sound. Filled with a
growing unrest, I determined to take the initiative, and began to move
close to the stone. As I looked, it began to quiver, and then to move
slowly. As it rolled softly back I kept behind it so that I might not be
seen; and waited with revolver ready and what patience I could.

There was dead silence; and then a hand holding a revolver rested a
moment on the edge of the opening.

I knew the hand, and I knew the revolver, and I knew the quickness of
both. I did not say a word or make a sound, till Marjory with an alert
movement seemed to sweep up out of the opening and whirled round with
ready pistol, as though suspecting an enemy on every side.

Marjory, all covered with dust, her cheeks as white as snow, so that the
smears of dust lay on them like soot; and eyes with pupils distended
as in coming from the dark. For a few seconds she seemed hardly to
recognise me; but when she did she sprang gladly into my arms.

"Oh! Archie, I am glad to see you. It was so terrible and lonely in the
dark. I began to fear I might never find my way out!" In the dark! I
began to fear, and asked her:

"But, dear one, how did you come; and why? Hadn't you got a light with
you? Surely you didn't come unprepared, if you did venture into the
cave!" Then in a rush she told me the whole story. How before dawn she
had been waked by the dropping of the book and had hurried to the castle
roof to watch the stone. With her field glass she had presently seen it
move. She was then satisfied that the watchers had gone home; and had
determined on a little adventure on her own account.

"I put on a grey tweed dress, and taking my revolver and bicycle lamp,
stole out of the castle and reached the old chapel. Having lit my lamp,
I rolled back the stone and set out to explore the tunnel. I followed
from your description, the passage to its bifurcating, and determined to
explore the other arm to the reservoir. I easily found it, a deep, dark
tank cut in the rock and seemingly fed by springs which bubbled up from
patches of fine sand, the accumulation of years of wasting rock. Whilst
I was trying to look into the depth of the reservoir, holding my bicycle
lamp so as to throw its light downwards, I saw something white at the
bottom. Just then the lamp from its inverted position began to smoke,
but as I looked in that last moment through the crystal pure water I
recognised that the white object was a skull. In the sudden shock of the
discovery, the lamp dropped from my hand and disappeared hissing and
bubbling in the last flicker of light." As she told me this, I took her
hand for I feared that the memory of such an appalling moment must have
unnerved her; but to my surprise her nerves were as firm as my own. She
let her hand remain in mine; but she had evidently understood my thought
for she said:

"Oh! it's all right now, Archie. For a moment or two I do believe I was
frightened. You can have the laugh on me there if you like! But then
common sense came to my aid. I was in a tight place, and it would need
all I knew to get out. I thought the matter over as coolly as I could;
and do you know that coolness seemed to grow with the effort! I was in
the dark, in a cave, deep underground, the entrance to which was secret;
I had no means of getting a light even for an instant, for though I had
taken plenty of wax matches they were all in my lamp. The only thing I
could do was to try to grope my way out. I had noted the passage as
I came along, but I found so soon as I had felt my way out of the
reservoir chamber, how little use an abstract recollection is when every
second there is a new detail. I found, too, the astonishing difference
between sight and touch; what I had remembered had been with my eyes and
not with my fingers. I had to guard all round me, my head, my feet, my
sides. I am amazed, now when I think of it, how many different kinds of
mistakes and calculations I made in a few yards. It seemed a terribly
long time till I came to the place where the passage forks. There I
weighed up the matter of whether it would be better to go back by the
way I had come to the old chapel, or to go up the other passage to the
monument of which you told me. Somehow the latter seemed to me the more
feasible. I think it must have been that I trusted you more than myself.
You had not shrunk from going into that passage; and I would not shrink
from going out."

I squeezed her hands hard, I had got both by this time. She blushed a
little and looked at me fondly and went on:

"There was something cheering in the mere fact of going up instead of
down. It was like coming towards the air and light again; and the time
did not seem so long till I came to the end of the passage, for so far
as I could feel there was nothing but solid rock all round me. For a
little bit my heart sank again; but I soon bucked up. I knew that this
must be the way out; and I felt around for the iron handles of which you
had told me. And then, Thank God for His goodness! when the stone began
to turn I saw the light, and breathed fresh air again. They seemed to
give me back all my courage and caution. Up to this I had not troubled
about kidnappers; there was quite enough to think of in getting along
the passage. But now I was my own woman again, and I determined to take
no chances. When I saw it was your gun that was aimed at me I was
glad!"



CHAPTER XXXII

THE LOST SCRIPT


After a little consideration of ways and means, we decided that the best
thing we could do was to pass through the passage to the old chapel.
It was still very early, so early that in all probability none of the
household were yet awake; if Marjory could regain her room before
being seen, it would avoid curiosity. She was certainly in a shocking
condition of dust and dishevelment. Her groping in the dark through that
long rugged passage had not been accomplished without many hardships.
Her dress was torn in several places, and her hat was simply knocked to
pieces; even her hair was tumbled about, and had been put up again and
again with dusty fingers. She saw me smiling; I think it pained her a
little for she suddenly said:

"Come along quick; it's simply awful standing here in the light of day
in this filthy state. It won't feel half so bad in the dark passage!"
Without more ado I lit my lamp, and having, of course, closed the
entrance behind us, we went back into the cavern.

The tramp back through the tunnel did not seem nearly so long or so
difficult as at first. It may have been that comparative familiarity
made it easier; it certainly eased its terrors. Or it is possible that
our companionship, each to the other, made the bearing of fears and
difficulties lighter.

Anyhow, it was something of a surprise to both of us to find ourselves
so quickly in the rude chamber whence the steps led up to the old
chapel. Before we left this, we made a rough examination of it, turning
the lantern over walls and floor and ceiling; for I had an idea that the
passage from the castle, which I was satisfied must exist, made its exit
here. We could not, however, see any external sign of an opening; the
walls were built up of massive unmortared stones, and were seemingly as
solid as the rock itself.

When we got into the chapel we found the utility of Marjory's foresight.
In a corner was her little basket with soap and towel, water and clothes
brush; and together we restored her to some semblance of decency. Then
she went back to the castle and got in unobserved, as I, watching from
the shelter of the trees, could see. I took my way back through the
passage; and so to the wood where my bicycle was hidden. I washed my
hands in the stream and lay down in the shelter of a thick grove of
hazel, where I slept till breakfast time. When I rode up to the castle,
I found Marjory with her kodak on the sweep outside, taking views of its
various points.

The morning was intensely hot; and here, in the shelter of the little
valley and the enclosing wood, the air was sultry, and the sun beat down
pitilessly. We had a table set out under the shelter of the trees and
breakfasted _al fresco_.

When we were alone in her boudoir I settled with Marjory that we would
on that evening attempt to find the treasure, as the tide would be out
at midnight. So we went down to the library and got out Don de Escoban's
narrative and began to read it afresh, noting as we went every word and
sign of the secret writing, in the hope that we might in thus doing
stumble on some new secret or hidden meaning.

Whilst we were thus engaged a servant came looking for Mrs. Jack, for
whom a stranger had brought a letter. Marjory told where she might be
found, and for some time we went on with our work.

Suddenly the door opened, and Mrs. Jack entered, speaking over her
shoulder as she came to a high-bred looking, dark man who followed her.
As she saw us she stopped and said to Marjory:

"Oh! my dear, I didn't know you were here. I thought you were in the
ladies' room." This was what they usually called the big room at the top
of the castle. We both rose, seeing a stranger. For my own part there
was something in his face which set me thinking; as to Marjory I could
not help noticing that she drew herself up to her full height, and held
herself at tension in that haughty way which now and again marked her
high spirit and breeding. There seemed so little cause for this attitude
that my own thinking of the new-comer was lost in the contemplation
of hers. Mrs. Jack noticed that there was some awkwardness, and spoke
hurriedly:

"This is the gentleman, my dear, that the agent wrote about; and as
he wanted to look over the house I brought him myself." The stranger
probably taking his cue from her apologetic tone spoke:

"I trust I have not disturbed the Senora; if I have, pardon! I have but
come to renew my memory of a place, dear to me in my youth, and which
through the passing of time and of some who were, is now my own
heritage." Marjory smiled, and swept him a curtsey as she said, but
still in her distant arm's-length manner:

"Then you are the owner of the castle, sir. I hope that we do not
disturb you. Should you wish to be anywhere alone we shall gladly
withdraw and wait your pleasure." He raised a hand of eloquent protest,
a well-kept, gentleman's hand, as he said in tones sweet and deferent:

"Oh! I pray you, do not stir. May I say that when my house is graced
with the presence of so much loveliness I am all too full of gratitude
to wish for any change. I shall but look around me, for I have a certain
duty to do. Alas! this my heritage comes not only as a joy, but with
grave duties which I must fulfill. Well I know this room. Many a time as
a boy I have sat here with my kinsman, then so old and distant from me
in my race; and yet I am his next successor. Here has he told me of old
times, and of my race of which we who have the name are so proud; and of
the solemn duty which might some day come to me. Could I but tell...."
Here he stopped suddenly.

His eyes had been wandering all over the room, up and down the
bookshelves, and at the few pictures which the walls contained. When
they rested on the table, a strange look came into them. Here lay
the type-script which we had been reading, and the secret writing of
the dotted printing. It was on the latter that his eyes were fixed
absorbingly.

"Where did you get that?" he said suddenly, pointing to it. The question
in its bald simplicity was in word rude, but his manner of asking it was
so sweet and deferential that to me it robbed it of all offence. I was
just about to answer when my eye caught that of Marjory, and I paused.
There was such meaning in her eyes that my own began roving to find the
cause of it. As I looked she put her hands on the table before her, and
her fingers seemed to drum nervously. To me, however, it was no nervous
trifling; she was speaking to me in our own cipher.

"Be careful!" she spelled out "there is some mystery! Let me speak."
Then turning to the stranger she said:

"It is curious is it not?"

"Ah, Senora, though curious it be in itself, it is nothing to the
strangeness of its being here. If you only knew how it had been searched
for; how the whole castle had been ransacked from roof to dungeon to
find it, and always without avail. Did you but understand the import of
that paper to me and mine--if indeed the surmises of many generations
of anxious men availed aught--you would pardon my curiosity. In my own
youth I assisted in a search of the whole place; no corner was left
untouched, and even the secret places were opened afresh." As he went
on, Marjory's eyes were resting on his face unflinchingly, but her
fingers were spelling out comments to me.

"There are secret places, then; and he knows them. Wait" the stranger
went on:

"See, I shall convince you that I speak from no idle curiosity, but from
a deep conviction of a duty that was mine and my ancestors' for ages."
There was a sternness mingled with his grave sweetness now; it was
evident that he was somewhat chagrined or put out by our silence.
Leaving the table he went over to one of the bookshelves, and after
running his eye over it for a moment, put his hand up and from a shelf
above his head took down a thick leather-covered volume. This he laid
on the table before us. It was a beautiful, old black letter law book,
with marginal notes in black letter and headings in roman type. The
pagination was, I could see as he turned it over, by folios. He turned
to the title-page, which was an important piece of printing in many
types, explanatory of the matter of the book. He began to read the
paragraphs, placed in the triangular in form in vogue at that day;
following the text with his forefinger he read:

"A collection in English of the Statutes now in force, continued from
the beginning of Magna Charta made in the 9. yeere of the reigne of King
H. 3. until the ende of the Session of Parliament holden in the 28 yeere
of the reigne of our gracious Queene Elizabeth under Titles placed by
order of Alphabet. Wherein is performed (touching the Statutes wherewith
Justices of the Peace have to deale) so much as was promised in the
Booke of their office lately published. For which purpose"--&c.
&c.,--Then turning over the page he pointed to a piece of faded writing
on the back of it which had been left blank of printing. We bent down
and read in the ink, faded to pale brown by time:

"My sonnes herein you will find the law which binds the stranger in this
land, wherein a stranger is a Vagabond. F. de E.

  XXIII. X. MDLXLIX."

Then he turned rapidly over the leaves, till towards the end there was a
gap. On the right hand page, where the folio number was all along placed
was the number 528.

"See," he said, turning back and pointing to the bottom of the title
page "Anno 1588. Three hundred years, since first my people used it."

Turning back he looked at the folio before the gap; it was 510. "See"
he said, placing his hand on the pinmarked pages. "Folio 511 and the
heading of 'Vagabonds, Beggars, et cetera.'" He folded his arms in a
dignified way and stood silent.

All along I had been following my own train of thought, even whilst
I had been taking in the stranger's argument, and at the same time
noting Marjory's warning. If this man who owned the Castle knew of the
existence of the secret writing; whose ancestors had owned the book in
which was the clue signed F. de E., surely then this could be none other
than the descendant of the Don Bernardino who had hidden the treasure.
This was his castle; no wonder that he knew its secret ways.

Matters were getting complicated. If this man were now the hereditary
guardian of the hidden treasure--and from his likeness to the ghostly
Spaniard whom I had seen in the procession at Whinnyfold I saw no reason
to doubt it--he might be an enemy with whom we should have to cope. I
was all in a whirl, and for a few seconds I think quite lost my head.
Then rushed over me the conviction that the mere lapse of time passed
in these few minutes of agonised silence was betraying our secret. This
brought me up with a round turn, and I looked about me. The strange man
was standing still as marble; his face was set, and there was no sign of
life in him except his eyes which blazed as they wandered around, taking
everything in. Mrs. Jack saw that there was something going on which she
did not understand, and tried to efface herself. Marjory was standing by
the table, still, erect and white. Her fingers began to drum softly as
she caught my eye, and spelled out:

"Give him the paper, from Mrs. Jack. Lately found in old oak chest. Say
nothing of interpretation." This seemed such a doubtful move that with
my eyes I queried it. She nodded in reply. So I gathered myself together
and said:

"I'm afraid, sir, that there is some mystery here which I cannot
undertake to understand. I think I may say, however, for my friend Mrs.
Jack, that there will be no trouble in your having full possession of
your book. I am told that these pages were lately found in an old oak
chest. It is remarkable that they should have been missing so long. We
were attracted by the funny marks. We thought that there might be some
sort of cryptogram; and I suppose I may take it, from the fact of your
looking for them so long, that this is so?"

He grew suspicious in a moment, and stiffened all over. Marjory saw, and
appreciated the reason. She smiled at me with her eyes as she drummed on
the table:

"The herring is across his path!" As the awkward pause was this time
with the stranger, we waited with comparative ease. I saw with a feeling
of wonder that there was, through all her haughtiness, a spice of malice
in Marjory's enjoyment of his discomfiture. I looked at Mrs. Jack and
said: "May I give these papers to Mr. ----" She answered promptly:

"Why cert'nly! If Mr. Barnard wants them." Marjory turned round suddenly
and in a surprised voice said:

"Mr. Barnard?"

"That is the name given in the letter which he brought, my dear!" The
stranger at once spoke out:

"I am Mr. Barnard here; but in my own country I am of an older name.
I thank you, sir, and Madam" turning to Mrs. Jack "for your courteous
offer. But it will be time enough for me to consider the lost pages when
through the unhappiness of your departure from my house, I am enabled to
come hither to live. In the meantime, all I shall ask is that the pages
be replaced in this book and that it be put in its place on the shelf
where none shall disturb it." As he spoke in his sweet, deferential way
there was something in his look or manner which did not accord with his
words; a quick eager shifting of his eyes, and a breathing hard which
were at variance with his words of patience. I did not pretend, however,
to notice it; I had my own game to play. So without a word I placed the
pages carefully in the book and put the latter back on the shelf from
which he had taken it. There was an odd look in Marjory's face which I
did not quite understand; and as she gave me no clue to her thoughts by
our sign language, I waited. Looking at the stranger haughtily, and with
a distinctly militant expression she said:

"The agent told us that the Barnard family owned this castle!" He bowed
gravely, but a hot, angry flush spread over his face as he replied:

"He spoke what truth he knew." Marjory's reply came quickly:

"But you say you are one of the family, and the very memorandum you
pointed out was signed F. de E." Again the hot flush swept his face; but
passed in an instant, leaving him as pale as the dead. After a pause of
a few moments he spoke in a tone of icy courtesy:

"I have already said, Senora, that in this country our name--my name, is
Barnard. A name taken centuries ago when the freedom of the great land
of England was not as now; when tolerance for the stranger was not. In
my own land, the land of my birth, the cradle of my race, I am called
Don Bernardino Yglesias Palealogue y Santordo y Castelnuova de Escoban,
Count of Minurca and Marquis of Salvaterra!" As he rehearsed his titles
he drew himself up to his full height; and pride of race seemed actually
to shine or emanate from him. Marjory, too, on her side of the table
drew herself up proudly as she said in a voice in which scorn struggled
for mastery with dignity:

"Then you are a Spaniard!"



CHAPTER XXXIII

DON BERNARDINO


The stranger held himself with, if possible, greater hauteur as he
answered:

"I have that great honour."

"And I, sir," said Marjory, with a pride rivalling his own, "am an
American!" Issue was joined.

For a period which from its strain seemed very long, though it was
probably but a few seconds, they stood facing each other; types of the
two races whose deadly contest was then the interest of the world. The
time was at any rate sufficiently long for me to consider the situation,
and to admire the types. It would have been hard to get a better
representative of either, of the Latin as well as of the Anglo-Saxon.
Don Bernardino, with his high aquiline nose and black eyes of eagle
keenness, his proud bearing and the very swarthiness which told of
Moorish descent, was, despite his modern clothes, just such a picture as
Velasquez would have loved to paint, or as Fortuny might have made to
live again.

And Marjory! She looked like the spirit of her free race, incarnate.
The boldness of her pose; her free bearing; her manifest courage and
self belief; the absence of either prudery or self-consciousness; her
picturesque, noble beauty, as with set white face and flashing eyes she
faced the enemy of her country, made a vision never to be forgotten.
Even her racial enemy had unconsciously to fall into admiration; and
through it the dominance of his masculine nature spoke. His words were
gracious, and the easy gracefulness of their delivery was no less marked
because the calm was forced:

"Our nations alas! Senora are at war; but surely not even the courtesies
of the battlefield need be strained when individuals, even of the most
loyal each to their own, meet on neutral soil!" It was evident that even
Marjory's quick wit did not grasp at a suitable reply. The forgiveness
of enemies is not the strong point of any woman's nature, or of her
education. The only remark she made was to again repeat:

"I am an American!" The Spaniard felt the strength of his position;
again his masculinity came out in his reply:

"And all good women, as well as all men, should be loyal to their Flag.
But oh Senora, before even your nationality comes your sex. The Spanish
nation does not make war on women!" He seemed really to believe what he
said; for the proud light in his face could not have been to either a
dastard or a liar. I confess it was with a shock that I heard Marjory's
words:

"In the _reconcentrados_ were as many women as men. More, for the men
were fighting elsewhere!" The passionate, disdainful sneer on her lips
gave emphasis to the insult; and blood followed the stab. A red tide
rushed to the Spaniard's swarthy face, over forehead and ears and neck;
till, in a moment of quick passion of hate, he seemed as if bathed in
red light.

And then in truth I saw the very man of my vision at Whinnyfold.

Marjory, womanlike, feeling her superiority over the man's anger, went
on mercilessly:

"Women and children herded together like beasts; beaten, starved,
tortured, mocked at, shamed, murdered! Oh! it is a proud thought for a
Spaniard, that when the men cannot be conquered, even in half a century
of furious oppression, their baffled foes can wreak their vengeance on
the helpless women and children!"

The Spaniard's red became white; a deathly pallor which looked grey
in the darkened room. With his coldness came the force of coldness,
self-command. I had a feeling that in those few moments of change had
come to him some grim purpose of revenge. It was borne in upon me by
flashes of memory and instinct that the man was of the race and class
from which came the rulers and oppressors of the land, the leaders of
the Inquisition. Eyes like his own, burning in faces of deathly white,
looked on deeds of torture, whose very memory after centuries can appal
the world. But with all his passion of hate and shame he never lost the
instinct of his dignity, or his grace of manner. One could not but feel
that even when he struck to kill he would strike with easeful grace.
Something of the feeling was in his speech, perhaps in the manner rather
than the words, when after a pause he said:

"For such foul acts I have nought but indignation and grief; though in
the history of a nation such things must be. It is the soldier's duty to
obey; even though his heart revolt. I have memory of hearing that even
your own great nation has exercised not so much care as might be"--how
he sneered with polished sarcasm as he turned the phrase--"in the
dealing with Indians. Nay more, even in your great war, when to kill was
fratricidal, there were hardships to the conquered, even to the helpless
women and children. Have I not heard that one of your most honoured
generals, being asked what was to become of the women in a great march
of devastation that he was about to make, replied, "The women? I would
leave them nothing but their eyes to weep with!" But, indeed, I grieve
that in this our mutual war the Senora grieves. Is it that she has
suffered in herself, or through others dear to her?" Marjory's eyes
flashed; pulling herself to full height she said proudly:

"Sir, I am not one who whines for pain of my own. I and mine know how to
bear our own troubles, as our ancestors did before us. We do not bend
before Spain; no more to-day than when my great ancestors swept the
Spaniard from the Western Main, till the seas were lit with blazing
masts and the shores were fringed with wreckage! We Americans are not
the stuff of which you make _reconcentrados_. We can die! As for me, the
three hundred years that have passed without war, are as a dream; I look
on Spain and the Spaniard with the eyes, and feel with the heart, of my
great uncle Francis Drake."

Whilst she was speaking Don Bernardino was cooling down. He was
still deadly pale, and his eyes had something of the hollow glare of
phosphorus in the sockets of a skull. But he was master of himself; and
it seemed to me that he was straining every nerve to recover, for some
purpose of his own, his lost ground. It may have been that he was
ashamed of his burst of passion, with and before a woman; but anyhow he
was manifestly set on maintaining calm, or the appearance of it. With
the fullness of his grace and courtesy he said, turning to Mrs. Jack:

"I thank you for the permission, so graciously granted to me, to visit
again this my house. You will permit me, however, I hope without any
intention of offence, to withdraw from where my presence has brought so
much of disturbance; the which I deplore, and for which I crave pardon."

To me he bowed stiffly with a sort of lofty condescension; and finally,
looking towards Marjory, he said:

"The Senora will I trust believe that even a Spaniard may have pity
to give pain; and that there are duties which gentlemen must observe
because they are gentlemen, and because they reverence the trust that is
reposed in them more than do common men. She can appreciate the call of
duty I know; for she can be none other than the new patriot who restores
in the west our glorious memories of the Maid of Saragossa. I pray that
the time may come when she shall understand these things and believe!"
Then, with a bow which seemed the embodiment of old-fashioned grace and
courtesy, he bent almost to the ground. Marjory instinctively bowed. Her
training as to good manners, here stood her in good stead; not even
patriotic enthusiasm can at times break the icy barrier of social
decorum.

When the Spaniard left the room, which he did with long strides but
bearing himself with inconceivable haughtiness, Mrs. Jack, with a glance
at us, went with him. Instinctively I started to take her place; in the
first instance to relieve her from an awkward duty, and beyond this with
a feeling that I was not quite satisfied with him. No one could be in
antagonism with Marjory, and acquire or retain my good will. As I moved,
Marjory held up her hand and whispered to me to stay. I did so, and
waited for her to explain. She listened intently to the retreating
footsteps; when we heard the echoing sound of the closing the heavy
outer door, she breathed freely and said to me with relief in her voice:

"I know you two would have fought if you had got alone together just
now!"

I smiled, for I was just beginning to understand that that was just how
I felt. Marjory remained standing at the table, and I could see that she
was buried in thought. Presently she said:

"I felt it was cruel to say such things to that gentleman. Oh! but he
is a gentleman; the old idea seems embodied in him. Such pride, such
haughtiness; such disdain of the commoner kind; such adherence to ideas;
such devotion to honour! Indeed, I felt it very cruel and ungenerous;
but I had nothing else to do. I had to make him angry; and I knew he
couldn't quarrel with me. Nothing else would have taken us all away from
the cipher." Her words gave me quite a shock. "Do you mean to say
Marjory," I asked, "that you were acting a part all the time?"

"I don't know" she answered pensively, "I meant every word I said, even
when it hurt him most. I suppose that was the American in me. And yet
all the time I had a purpose or a motive of my own which prompted me. I
suppose that was the woman in me."

"And what was the motive or purpose?" I asked again, for I wondered.

"I don't know!" she said naively. I felt that she was concealing
something from me; but that it was a something so tender or so deep in
her heart that its very concealment was a shy compliment. So I smiled
happily as I said:

"And that is the girl in you. The girl that is American, and European,
and Asiatic, and African, and Polynesian. The girl straight out of the
Garden of Eden, with the fragrance of God's own breath in her mouth!"

"Darling!" she said, looking at me lovingly. That was all.

During the day, we discussed the visitor of the morning. Mrs. Jack said
very little, but now and again implored Marjory to be cautious; when she
was asked her reason for the warning her only reply was:

"I don't like a man who can look like that. I don't know which is worst,
when he is hot or cold!" I gathered that Marjory in the main agreed
with her; but did not feel the same concern. Marjory would have been
concerned if the danger had been to anyone else; but she was not
habituated to be anxious about herself. Besides, she was young; and the
antagonist was a man; and haughty and handsome, and interesting.

In the afternoon we completed our arrangements for the visit to the
treasure cave. We both felt the necessity for pressing on this matter,
since the existence of the secret writing was known to Don Bernardino.
He had not hesitated to speak openly, though he did not know of course
the extent of our own knowledge of the subject, of a grave duty which he
had undertaken from hereditary motives, or of the tragic consequences
which might ensue. It was whilst we were speaking of the possibility of
his being able to decipher the cryptogram, that Marjory suddenly said:

"Did you understand exactly why I asked you to give him the paper at
once?"

"Far be it from me" I answered "to profess to understand _exactly_ the
motives of any charming woman."

"Not even when she tells you herself?"

"Ah! then the real mystery only begins!" I said bowing. She smiled as
she replied:

"You and I are both fond of mysteries. So I had better tell you at once.
That man doesn't know the secret. I am sure of it. He knows there is a
secret; and he knows a part, but only a part. That eager look wouldn't
have been in his eye if he had known already. I daresay there is,
somewhere, some duplicate of what the original Don Bernardino put down
in his story. And of course there must be some allusion to the treasure
in the secret records at Simancas or the Quirinal or the Vatican.
Neither the kings of Spain nor the Popes would let such a treasure pass
out of mind. Indeed it is possible that there is some key or clue to it
which he holds. Did you notice how he referred at once to the secret
meaning of the memorandum in the beginning of the law book? If we had
not given it up at once, he would have forced on the question and wished
to take the paper away; and we could not have refused without letting
him know something by our very refusal. Do you understand any more of
my meaning now? And can you forgive me any more for my ill-mannered
outbreak? That is what I am most sorry for, of all that has been in the
interview to-day. Is that also any more light to you on the mystery of a
woman's mind?"

"It is, you dear! it is!" I said as I took her for a moment in my arms.
She came easily and lovingly to me, and I could not but be assured that
the yielding even momentarily to tenderness helped to ease the strain
which had been bearing upon her for so long. For my Marjory, though a
strong and brave one, was but a woman after all.

At six o'clock I took my way back to Whinnyfold; for I wanted to have
all ready for our enterprise, and take full advantage of the ebb tide.
We arranged that on this occasion Marjory should come alone to join me
at the house--our house.



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE ACCOLADE


When Marjory arrived, I had all ready for our exploration. There were
several packages waiting for her, and when she emerged from the room
where she had gone to change, their purpose was manifest. She appeared
in a flannel tennis frock, short enough to show that she had put on her
sand shoes on her bare feet. She saw that I noticed and said with a
little blush:

"You see I am dressed for the part; you came back so wet the last time
that I thought I had better prepare for it too."

"Quite right, my dear," I said. "That pretty head of yours is level." We
went to the cellar at once where I had lamps and candles prepared and
ready to light. I showed Marjory how to get up and down by herself,
in case anything should happen to me. This made the gravity of our
enterprise apparent. Her face grew a trifle anxious, though she did not
change colour; I could see that all her anxiety was for me and none
for herself. We took care to bring a plentiful supply of matches and
candles, as well as an extra lamp and an oil can, and some torches and
red and white lights. All these were in a tin box to insure their being
kept dry. I had a meal of bread and meat packed ready; also a bottle of
water and a flask of brandy, for the exploration might take a long time.
The tide was not quite out, and there was still in places a couple of
feet of water; but we decided to go on at once as it would give us more
time if we started on a falling tide.

I took Marjory first up the passage inland, so that she might understand
something of the lines of the cave system. There was, however, too much
tide just then to show her where I surmised there might be some deep
opening, perhaps permanently under water, into some of the other
caves. Then we retraced our steps and gained the pile of debris of the
explosion at the cave's mouth. I could not but notice how much Marjory
was impressed by the stillness of the place. Here, the tide, filtering
in by innumerable crevices and rifts between the vast pile of stones,
showed no sign of the force of waves without. There was not time for the
rise and fall of waves to be apparent; but the water maintained its
level silently, except for that ceaseless gurgle which comes with the
piling in of water anywhere, and is so constant that it does not strike
one as a sound. It was borne in upon us that the wildest storm without,
would make no impress upon us here in this cavern deep; and with it, as
an inevitable corollary, came the depressing thought of our helplessness
should aught go wrong in the fastnesses of this natural prison.

Marjory bounded over the slippery stones like a young deer, and when we
passed through the natural archway into the cave beyond, her delight was
manifest. She was hurrying on so quickly that I found it necessary to
tell her she must go slow so as to be able to take stock of all around
her as she went. It was needful to look back as well as forward, so that
she might recognise the places when coming the other way. I reminded her
of caution by holding up the great ball of stout cord which I carried,
the end of which was attached to the rope of the windlass in the
cellar. "Remember, dear," I said, "that you have to be prepared for all
eventualities; if necessary to go back alone and in the dark." She
shuddered a little and drew closer to me; I felt that the movement was
one of protection rather than of fear.

When we went along the passage, where on the first occasion I had found
the water rise nearly to the roof, we had to wait; a little way ahead of
us, where the cave dipped to its lowest, the water was still touching
the top. We possessed our souls with what patience we could, and in
about half an hour's time we were able to pass. We were quite wet,
however, for only our faces and our lamps were above water; with the
exception, of course, of the tin box with the candles and matches and
our provisions, which I took care to keep dry.

Marjory's delight at the sight of the huge red cave was unspeakable.
When I lit one of the red lights the blinding glow filled the place,
exposing every nook and corner, and throwing shadows of velvet
blackness. The natural red of the granite suited the red light, the
effect being intensely rich. Whilst the light lasted it was all like a
dream of fairyland; and Marjory hung on to me in an ecstasy of delight.
Then, when the light died down and the last sparks fell into the natural
darkness, it seemed as if we and all around us were steeped in gloom.
The little patches of faint light from our lamps seemed to our dazzled
eyes to openly emphasise the surrounding blackness.

Marjory suggested that we should explore the great cavern before we did
anything else. I acquiesced, for it was just as well that we should be
thoroughly acquainted with the various ramifications of the cave. I was
not by any means sure as yet that we should be able to get to the cave
of the treasure. Here, all around us, was red; we were entirely within
the sienite formation. When I had been first in the cave I had not seen
it lit up. Only where the comparatively feeble light of my bicycle
lantern had fallen had I seen anything at all. Of course it may have
been that the red light which I had burned had misled me by overwhelming
everything in its lurid glow. So this time I got a white light out of
the box and lit it. The effect was more ghastly and less pleasant. In
the revealing glare, the edges of everything stood out hard and cold,
and so far repulsive that instinctively Marjory drew closer to me. While
the light remained, however, I was able to satisfy myself of one thing;
all around was only the red granite. Colour and form and texture all
told the same thing; we had passed the stratification of gneiss and
entered on that of the sienite. I began to wonder and to think, though I
did not at once mention the matter to Marjory. The one guiding light as
to locality in the Don's narrative was the description of the cave "the
black stone on one hand and the red on the other." Now at Broad Haven
the gneiss and the red sienite join, and the strata in places seem as if
welded together or fused by fire. Here and there can be found patches in
the cliff where it is hard to say where one class of rock ends and the
other begins. In the centre bay, however, to the north of my house,
there is a sort of dip in the cliff covered deep with clay, and bright
with grass and wild flowers. Through this a tiny stream rushes in wet
weather, or in dry trickles down the steep incline. This is the natural
or main division between the geological formations; for on either side
of it is a different kind of rock--it was here that I expected to find
that the treasure cave was situated. It had been of course impossible
for me, though I had had a compass with me, to fix exactly the windings
of the cave. I knew, however, that the general trend was to the right;
we must, therefore, have passed behind the treasure cave and come into
the region of red granite. I began to have an idea, or rather the
rudiment of one, that later on we should have to go back on our tracks.
Inasmuch as my own house stood on the gneiss formation, we should have
to find whereabout in the cave windings the red and the black rocks
joined. From this point we might be able to make new and successful
progress towards discovery of the treasure itself. In the meantime I was
content to linger a few minutes in the great cavern. It was evident that
Marjory was in love with it, and was at present in a whirl of delight.
And, after all, she was my world, and her happiness my sunshine. I fully
realised in the delightful passages of our companionship the truth of
the lover's prayer in Herrick's pretty poem.

   "Give me but what this Ribbon bound,
    Take all the rest the sun goes round."

Every day, every hour, seemed to me to be revealing new beauties of my
wife's character and nature. She was herself becoming reconciled to our
new relationship; and in the confidence of her own happiness, and in her
trust of her husband, the playful and sweet sides of her nature were
gaining a new development. I could not help feeling at times that all
was going on for the best; that the very restraint of the opening of
our married life was formative of influence for good on us both. If
all young husbands and wives could but understand the true use of the
old-fashioned honeymoon, the minute knowledge of character coming in
moments of unconscious self-revelation, there might be more answers
in the negative to the all important nineteenth century philosophical
query, "Is marriage a failure?" It was evident that Marjory was
reluctant to leave the cave. She lingered and lingered; at last in
obedience to a command of hers, conveyed--for she said nothing--in some
of those subtle feminine ways, which, though I did not understand their
methods, I was beginning to learn to obey, I lit a torch. Holding it
aloft, and noticing with delight how the light danced in my wife's
beautiful eyes as she clapped her hands joyously with the overt pleasure
of a child, I said:

"Her Majesty wishes to inspect her new kingdom. Her slave awaits her
pleasure!"

"Lead on!" she said. "Her Majesty is pleased with the ready
understanding of her Royal Consort, and with his swift obedience to her
wishes; and oh! Archie isn't this simply too lovely for anything!" The
quick change into the vernacular made us both laugh; and taking hands
like two children we walked round the cavern. At the upper end of it,
almost at the furthest point from where we entered, we came across a
place where, under an overhanging red wall which spread out overhead
like a canopy, a great rock rose from the level floor. It was some
nodule of especial hardness which in the general trituration had not
been worn away by the wash of the water and the rolling of pebbles which
at one time undoubtedly helped to smooth the floor. In the blinking
light of the torch, the strength of which was dimmed in the vastness of
the cavern, the isolated rock, standing as it did under the rocky canopy
whose glistening surface sent down a patchy reflex of the glare, seemed
like a throne. The idea occurred simultaneously to both of us; even as I
spoke I could see that she was prepared to take her seat:

"Will not Her Majesty graciously take her seat upon the throne which the
great Over-Lord, Nature, has himself prepared for her?"

She took the stick which she carried to steady her in the wading, and
holding it like a sceptre, said, and oh, but her sweet voice sounded
like far music stealing through the vastness of the cavern:

"Her Majesty, now that she has ascended her throne, and so, formally
taken possession of her Kingdom, hereby decrees that her first act of
power shall be to confer the honour of Knighthood on her first and
dearest subject. Kneel therefore at the feet of your Queen. Answer me by
your love and loyalty. Do you hereby promise and vow obedience to the
wishes of your Queen? Shall you love her faithfully and truly and
purely? Shall you hold her in your heart of hearts, yielding obedience
to all true wishes of hers, and keeping the same steadfastly to the end?
Do--you--love--me?"

Here she paused; the rising emotion was choking her words. The tears
welled into her eyes and her mouth quivered. I was all at once in a fire
of devotion. I could then, and indeed when I think of it I can now,
realise how of old, in the days when loyalty was a passion, a young
knight's heart flowered and blossomed in the moment of his permitted
devotion. It was with all the truth of my soul and my nature that I
answered:

"I do love you, oh, my gracious Queen. I hereby take all the vows you
have meted to me. I shall hold you ever, as I do now, in my very heart
of hearts. I shall worship and cherish you till death parts us. I shall
reverence and obey your every true wish; even as I have already promised
beside the sea and at the altar. And whithersoever my feet may go
in obedience to your will, my Queen and my Love, they shall go on
steadfast, to the end." Here I stopped, for I feared to try to say more;
I was trembling myself and the words were choked in my throat. Marjory
bent over as I knelt, laid her wand on my shoulder and said:

"Rise up, Sir Archibald, my own True Knight and Loyal Lover!" Before I
rose I wanted to kiss her hand, but as I bent, her foot was temptingly
near. I stooped lower to kiss it. She saw my intention and saying
impulsively: "Oh, Archie dear, not that wet, dirty shoe," kicked it off.
I stooped still lower and kissed her bare foot.

As I looked up at her face adoringly, a blush swept over it and left her
pale; but she did not flinch. Then I stood up and she stepped down from
her throne, and into my arms. She laid her head against my shoulder, and
for a few moments of ecstasy our hearts beat together.



CHAPTER XXXV

THE POPE'S TREASURE


"Now," said Marjory, at last disengaging herself from me, "let us get
down to business. We've got to find the treasure, you know!" So we set
ourselves down to a systematic search.

We explored one after another all the caves leading out of the main
cavern. Some of them were narrow and tortuous; some were wide and low
with roof dropping down, down, until it was impossible for anything in
the shape of humanity to pass. All these, however, with one exception,
ended in those fissure-like clefts, running somewhere to a point, which
characterise cavern formations. The exception was at the north west side
of the cavern where a high, fairly wide passage extended, with an even
floor as though it too had been levelled by rolling pebbles. It kept on
straight for a good length, and then curved round gently to the right,
all the while fairly maintaining its proportions. Presently it grew so
high that it was like a narrow way between tall houses. I lit a white
light, and in the searching glare noticed that far overhead the rocky
walls leaned together till they touched. This spot, just above us, was
evidently the highest point; the roof thence fell rapidly till at last
it was only some ten feet high. A little further on it came to a sudden
end.

Here there was a great piled-up mass of huge, sharp-edged rocks, at the
base of which were stones of all sizes, some round and some jagged.
Scattered near and isolated were many stones rounded by constant
friction.

As I looked, the whole circumstances seemed to come to me. "See," I
cried to Marjory, "this was evidently another entrance to the cave. The
tides, ebbing or flowing, drove in through one way and out at the other;
and the floor was worn level in process of countless years by rolling
pebbles like these. Then came some upheaval or wearing away by water
drift of supporting walls of rock; and this mouth of the cave fell in.
We must be by now somewhere at the Cruden side of Whinnyfold; we are
facing almost due north."

As there was manifestly nothing to be done here, we took our way back
to the main cavern. When we began to look around us for a new place to
explore, Marjory said:

"There doesn't seem to be any treasure cave at all here. We have now
tried everywhere." Then it was that my mind went back again to the Don's
description "Black on the one hand and red on the other." "Come,"
I said, "let us go back till we find the joining of the gneiss and
granite." As we went back the floor was almost dry; only a few pools of
water here and there, lying in the depressions, called attention to the
fact that we were under tidal influence. As we went we kept a careful
look-out for the fusion of the rocks; and found it where the passage
with the descending roof debouched into that which led from the blocked
up entrance of the cave. There was here, however, no sign of another
passage, and the main one outside was like that under my own house,
entirely through the gneiss.

I could not help feeling a little disappointed. For many weeks my mind
had been set on finding the Pope's treasure; and though I believe it was
not greed which controlled me even to any great extent, I was deeply
chagrined. I had a sort of unworthy fear that it might lower me in the
eyes of Marjory. This feeling, however, was only momentary; and when it
went, it went for good. Drawing in my note-book a rough outline of
Whinnyfold, I dotted lines where I took the various branches of the cave
to lie and then marked in the line of fusion of the gneiss and the
granite as it was manifest on the cliffs and on the shore beyond.
Marjory was at once convinced; indeed when I saw my surmise put down in
black and white it seemed to me quite apparent that it must be correct.
The treasure cave must be within that space which lay between the
dismantled entrance on the side of the Skares, and that which had fallen
in on the north side. The logical inference was that if there was an
entrance to be found at all it would be close to the debris from the
Don's explosion. So we took in silence, our way back to that point and
began at once to examine the debris for any sign of an opening in the
rock to the north side. Marjory scrambled up to the top of the pile
whilst I explored the base. Turning my lantern on the rocky wall I began
to examine it foot by foot and inch by inch.

Suddenly Marjory cried out. I raised my head and looked at her. Her
face, lit by the rays of my own lamp which, with the habit of searching
now familiar to me I had turned as my eyes turned, was radiant with joy
and excitement.

"Look! look!" she cried. "Oh, Archie, there is the top of an opening
here. The stones fill it up." As she spoke she pushed at a stone on the
top of the pile; under her hand it moved and disappeared with a hollow
rattle. By this time I had scrambled up the slippery pile and was beside
her. The disappearance of the stone had enlarged the opening, and
something like a foot square was discovered.

So we began to work at the heap of stones, only we pulled and threw
them into the cave where we were so as not to block the place we aimed
at. The top layer of stones was easy to move, as they were comparatively
small, and were not interlocked, but below them we found a much more
difficult task. Here the rocks were larger and more irregular in shape,
and their points and edges interlocked. We did not mind, however, but
toiled on. I could not but notice as we did so, a trait of Marjory's
coolness of head in the midst of all her excitement, when she took from
her pocket a pair of heavy gloves and put them on.

In some fifteen or twenty minutes we had unmasked a hole sufficiently
large to pass through comfortably. I found that the oil of my lamp was
running low; so I refilled it and Marjory's also. Then holding my own
lamp carefully, whilst Marjory turned hers in the direction I was going,
I passed over the top of the miniature moraine, and in a few seconds was
on the floor of the other cave. Marjory threw me the ball of string and
scrambling down joined me at once. We went along carefully, for the roof
of the cave dipped very low and we had in more than one place to bend
considerably; even then we were walking in a couple of feet of water as
the floor dipped as well as the roof. When we had gone some distance,
however, the roof rose as the cave turned sharp to the left, round a
corner of very broken and jagged rock in which I could see signs of the
fusion of the two geological formations. Our hearts beat high and we
took hands instinctively; we were now confident that we were in the
treasure house at last.

As we went up the cave, here running, so far as I could ascertain by the
compass, straight in and from the sea, we could note, as we turned our
lamps now and again to either side, that on our left was all black rock
whilst on the right was all red. The cave was not a long one; nothing
to compare with those we had left. It was not very many seconds, though
we had to go slow as we did not know for certain as to the floor level,
before the cave began to expand.

When, however, it widened and became more lofty, the floor rose in all
some three feet and we went up a sharp incline though not of very great
magnitude. This dipped a little again forming a pool which spread ahead
of us so far as we could see by the dim light of our bicycle lamps. As
we did not know the depth I waded in, Marjory enjoining me anxiously to
be careful. I found it deepened very slowly; so she joined me and we
went on together. By my advice, Marjory kept a few feet in the rear, so
that in case I should stumble or meet with a deep hole and so lose my
light, hers would still be safe. I was so intent on my feet, for I
feared lest Marjory following so close might get into some trouble, that
I hardly looked ahead, but kept cautiously on my way. Marjory, who was
flashing her lamp all around as she went, suddenly called out:

"Look! look! There to the right, the figure of the San Cristobal with
the golden Christ on his shoulder."

I turned my lantern to the angles of the cave to the right to which we
were now close. The two lamps gave us light enough to see well.

There, rising from the water under the shelf of rock, was the figure
that Benvenuto had wrought, as Don Bernardino had left it three
centuries ago.

As I moved forwards I stumbled; in trying to save myself the lamp was
shaken from my hand and fell hissing in the dark water. As it fell I saw
by the flash of light the white bones of a skeleton under the San
Cristobal. Instinctively I called out to Marjory:

"Stand still and take care of your lamp; I've dropped mine!"

"All right!" came back her answer coolly; she had quite command of
herself. She turned the lamp downwards, so that we could see into the
water, and I found I had stumbled against an iron box, beside which, in
about two feet of water, lay my lamp. I picked this up first and shook
the water from it and laid it on the shelf of rock. "Wait here a
moment," I said, "I shall run back and get a torch." For I had left the
tin box on the top of the heap of debris when we had scrambled through
the hole. I was starting back at once when she said after me, and
in that cave the voice came after me "monotonous and hollow like a
ghost's:"

"Take my lamp with you dear. How can you find the box, or even the way
to it, in the dark?"

"But I can't leave you alone here; all in the dark, too."

"Oh, I'm all right," she answered gaily, "I don't mind a bit! And
besides it will be a new sensation to be here alone--with Olgaref and
the treasure. You won't be long, will you, dear?" I felt that her query
almost belied her brave words; but I knew that behind the latter lay her
pride which I must not offend; so I took the lamp she was holding out to
me and hurried on. In a few minutes I had found the box and brought it
back; but I could see that even those minutes had been a trying time
to Marjory, who was deathly white. When I came close, she clung to me;
after a second or two she said, as she drew herself away, looking at me
diffidently as though to excuse herself, or rather to account for her
perturbation:

"The moment you had gone and I was alone in the dark with the treasure,
all the weird prophecying of Gormala came back to me. The very darkness
itself made light patches, and I saw shrouds floating everywhere. But
it's all right now that you are here. Light a torch, and we shall look
at the Pope's treasure." I took a torch out of the box and lit it; she
laid it so that the lighted end projected well beyond the shelf of rock
and gave a fine if fitful, light to all around. We found water about
three feet deep at its worst; in the glare of the torch and because of
its crystal purity, it did not look even so much. We stooped down to
examine the box, which was only one of several lying in front of a great
heap of something, all dark with rust and age, which filled up a whole
corner of the cave.

The hasp was eaten through with rust, as well it might be after three
centuries in the water, and only retained its form. This was doubtless
due to the stillness of the water, for even the shock of my striking the
box with my boot had broken it across. When I pulled at it, it crumbled
to pieces in my fingers. In the same way the iron of the box itself was
rusted right through; and as I tried to lift the lid which was annealed
by corrosion to the sides of the box, it broke in my hands. I was able
to tear it away like matchwood. The contents were not corroded, but were
blackened by the sea. It was all money, but whether silver or gold we
could not tell, and did not stop to see. Then we opened box after box in
the same way, and in all but one found coins. This took a considerable
time; but we did not in our excitement note its flying. The heap in
the corner was composed of great ingots, to lift any of which took a
distinct effort of strength. The one box unfilled with coins contained
smaller boxes or caskets which were uncorroded and were, we presumed, of
some superior metal, silver or gold. They were all locked; I lifted one
of them and laid it on the shelf of rock whilst I searched for a key. It
was a difficult matter to find any definite thing whilst stooping in the
water, so I took my knife and tried with its point to prise open the
casket. The lock must have been of iron and corroded; it gave way
instantly under pressure, disclosing a glittering heap of stones which,
even through all the cloudiness of the saline deposit of centuries,
flashed red lights everywhere.

"Rubies!" cried Marjory who stood close to me, clapping her hands. "Oh!
how lovely. Darling!" she added kissing me, for her expression of
delight had to find a vent on something.

"Next!" I said as I bent to the iron chest to lift out another of the
caskets.

I drew back with a shudder; Marjory looking anxiously at my face divined
the cause and cried in genuine alarm:

"The tide! The tide is rising; and is shutting us in!"



CHAPTER XXXVI

THE RISING TIDE


I think there must be some provision of nature which in times of real
danger keeps men's minds away from personal fears. I can honestly say
that not a thought of danger for myself crossed my mind; though I was
harrowed up and appalled by fears for Marjory. My mental excitement,
however, took a practical shape, and thought after thought flashed
through my brain as to how I could best serve my wife. The situation
with its woeful possibilities came first; and afterwards, in quick
succession, the efforts which might be made. But first I must see how we
really stood. I did not know this cave and the lengths and levels of it
well enough to be sure whether the tide could block us completely in. If
there were but head-room the actual distance was not far to swim. This
I could soon settle; taking Marjory's lamp which stood on the ledge of
rock I ran down the cave calling out as I went:

"Stay here a minute, dear, I want to see how far the tide is in." The
double winding of the cave made it hard for me to judge at a glance; it
was only when I came to the piece of straight passage leading up from
the sea that I could judge. From the time I left the treasure chamber of
the cave the water got deeper and deeper as I went, but the difficulty
was not in this way; I knew that so long as there was headway I could
swim for it and take Marjory with me. But when I came down the straight,
my hopes were altogether dashed. As the floor dipped towards the sea so
did the roof in much greater degree. I knew that there was one place
where at low water there was only barely headway even when we stooped
low; but I was not prepared for what I saw. The water had already risen
so far that this place was, from where I stood waist high in water,
obliterated; the rocky roof sank into the still, level water. For a
moment I considered whether it would not be best to dive through it. I
had the cord to guide me, and I knew that towards its mouth the cave
roof rose again. But then there was Marjory. She was not like myself an
accomplished diver. It might be possible if the worst should come to
the worst to draw her through the water-choked piece of tunnel by the
guiding cord. But if the cord should break or anything go wrong.... The
thought was too dreadful! I hurried back to Marjory to see how far it
might be advisable to make the attempt, however dangerous, rather than
be drowned in the deepening water of the cave, or asphyxiated if the
space left were too small to allow us breathing till the falling of the
tide.

I found Marjory standing on the shelf of rock, to which she had climbed
by the aid of the San Cristobal figurehead. She was holding up the torch
and examining carefully the walls and roof of the cave. When she heard
the splash of my coming through the water, she turned; I could see that
though her face was pale she was very calm and self-possessed. She said
quietly:

"I have been looking for high-water mark, but I can hardly see any sign
of it. I suppose in this dark cave, where neither seaweed nor zoophyte
exists, there is no such thing. Unless of course it be that the whole
cave is under the water line; in which case we must be ready for
the worst." As she spoke she was raising the torch till its light
illuminated, so far as was possible, the extreme angle of the cavern
where it ran up to a sort of point. I scrambled up beside her, and
making use of my greater height, took the torch and keeping it away
at arm's length put my hand into the narrowing angle. I had a sort of
secret hope that there might be some long crack or rift which, though it
might be impossible for our bodies, might still give us air. Any such
half-formed hope was soon shattered; the angle of the cave was in the
solid rock, and there was no fissure or even crack beyond.

As there was no clue to the level reached by the tide, I tried back on
the possibility of gauging it by measuring from low water, so far as my
memory of the tides might serve. Judging by the depth of the water, so
far as I had gone, the fall of the floor level must here have been some
three feet. The floor level of the cave was almost that of low water,
except where it dipped under the overhanging roof, or where was the
ascending grade up to the pool in which the treasure boxes lay. As here
on the border of the North Sea, with no estuary to increase tidage, the
normal rise of the tide is between eleven and twelve feet, we had to
account for another eight or nine feet for the rise of the tide.
The ledge was about a foot above the surface of the water. If my
calculations were correct there was head room and breathing space, for
as I stood on the ledge the top of my head was still about two feet from
the highest point of roof over us. I could not, however, be certain of
my calculations, within a couple of feet. If, therefore, we could keep
our place on the shelf of rock and endure the cold we might yet win
through. The cold was a serious matter. At Cruden where the full sweep
of the icy current from the North Sea runs in shore, the water is
grievously cold, even in the hottest summer time. Already we were
feeling the effects of our wet clothes, even in this silent cavern where
the heat seemed to be much more than outside. When we had been looking
at the jewels, I had myself felt the chill, and could feel Marjory
shiver now and again. Indeed, I had been about to suggest our returning
when I made the discovery of the rising tide.

It was no use regretting, however. We were caged in the cavern; and our
only chance was to hold on somehow, till the tide should fall again. The
practical side of Marjory's mind was all awake. It was she who quietly
refilled the two lamps, and, with much spluttering of the wick at first,
lighted again the one which I had let fall into the water. When both
lamps were ready, she put out the torch and placed it in the tin box
which she handed to me, saying:

"We may need all the air we can get for our breathing, and the torches
would burn it up. We must have two lamps lest one should fail. Shove the
box as far as it will go into the corner of the cave; it will be safe
there--as safe as us at any rate, for it will be over our heads."

As she spoke a new idea occurred to me. I might raise the level of the
ledge by piling the ingots on it! I did not lose any time, but jumping
down began at once to lift them one by one on the ledge. It was heavy
work, and no one but a very strong man could have lifted them from off
the ground, much less have placed them on a ledge over where he stood.
Moreover I had to bend into the water to reach them, and in the years
which they had lain there in juxtaposition some deposit of salt or sea
lime of some kind had glued them together. After the separation of the
first, however, this difficulty grew less. Marjory aided me in placing
the bars in position; when they were once fixed their great weight kept
them in place.

It was odd how little in these moments the treasure counted for. The
little heap of rubies lay on the shelf of rock unnoticed, and when in
the strain of placing the ingots some of them were brushed off into the
water, neither Marjory nor I took the trouble even to sweep them with
a brush of the hand into a safer place. One of the metal caskets was
tumbled bodily into the water without a thought.

When the ingots were all in place, and shaken into steady position,
we got on the ledge together and began to test the security of our
platform; it would be too late to find out any flaw of construction when
the tide should have risen. We had made a foothold nearly two feet
above the surface of the ledge, and this might give us at the last an
additional chance. At any rate, even if we should not be so hard pressed
as to have to raise our heads so high, it would give us a longer period
of comparative dryness. We were already beginning to feel the chill
of the tide. In those caves the air is all right, and we had not felt
chilled, although we were more or less wet through; but I dreaded lest
it might numb either of us so much as to prevent our taking every
chance. When we stood together on the pile of gold and silver, our heads
were so close to the roof that I felt safe so far as actually drowning
or asphyxiation were concerned if the tide did not rise higher than
I had computed. If we could only hold out till the tide had fallen
sufficiently, we might get back.

And then we began the long, dreary wait for the rising tide. The time
seemed endless, for our apprehension and suspense multiplied the real
danger whatever it might be. We stood on the cave floor till the water
had reached our waists, and all this time tried to keep moving, to
dance up and down, to throw about arms and legs so as to maintain the
circulation of the blood. Then we climbed up and sat on the platform of
bullion till the water rose round our knees again. Then we stood on the
ledge and took what exercise we could till the water climbed up over our
feet and knees. It was a terrible trial to feel the icy, still water
creep up, and up, and up. There was not a sound, no drip or ripple of
water anywhere; only silence as deadly as death itself. Then came the
time when we had to stand together on the pile of bullion which we had
built up. We stood close, for there was merely foothold; I held Marjory
up as well as I could, so as to lessen for her the strain of standing
still. Our hearts beat together. We felt it, and we knew it; it was only
the expression of both our thoughts when Marjory said:

"Thank God! dear, at the worst we can die together." In turn we held the
lamp well over the water, and as we looked in aching suspense we saw the
dark flood rise up to the sloping roof of the cave and steal towards us
with such slow, relentless precision that for my own part I felt I must
scream. I felt Marjory tremble; the little morsel of hysterics which
goes to make up the sum total of every woman was beginning to assert
itself. Indeed there was something hypnotic in that silent line of death
creeping slowly towards us. At this time, too, the air began to feel
less fresh. Our own breaths and the exhalations of the lamp was
vitiating our breathing space. I whispered to Marjory:

"We must put out the light!" She shuddered, but said with as brave a
voice as she could:

"All right! I suppose it is necessary. But, darling, hold me tight and
do not let me away from you, or I shall die!"

I let the lantern fall into the water; its hissing for a moment drowned
my own murmur of grief and Marjory's suppressed groan.

And now, in the darkness, the terror of the rising flood grew worse and
worse. The chill water crept up, and up, and up; till at last it was
only by raising her head that Marjory could breathe. I leaned back
against the rock and bending my legs outward lifted her so that she
rested her feet upon my knees. Up and up rose the chill water till it
reached my chin, and I feared that the last moments had come.

There was one chance more for Marjory: and though it cut me to the soul
to speak it, for I knew it would tear at her very heartstrings, I had to
try it:

"Marjory, my wife, the end is close! I fear we may not both live. In a
few minutes more, at most, the water will be over my mouth. When that
time comes I shall sink over the pile of treasure on which we rest. You
must then stand on me; it will raise you sufficiently to let you hold
out longer." A dreadful groan broke from her.

"Oh, my God!" was all she said, but every nerve in her body seemed to
quiver. Then without a word she seemed to become limp and was sliding
out of my arms. I held her up strongly, for I feared she had swooned:
she groaned out:

"Let me go, let me go! Either of us can rest on the other's body. I
shall never leave this if you die."

"Dear one" I said "do as I wish, and I shall feel that even death will
be a happy thing, since it can help you." She said nothing but clung to
me and our mouths met. I knew what she meant; if die we must, we should
die together in a kiss.

In that lover's kiss our very souls seemed to meet. We felt that the
Gates of the Unknown World were being unbarred to us, and all its
glorious mysteries were about to be unveiled. In the impassive stillness
of that rising tide, where never a wave or ripple broke the dreadful,
silent, calm, there was no accidental fall or rise which might give
added uneasiness or sudden hope. We had by this time become so far
accustomed to its deadly perfection as to accept its conditions. This
recognition of inevitable force made for resignation; and I think that
in those moments both Marjory and I realised the last limitations of
humanity. When one has accepted the inevitable, the mere act of dying is
easy of accomplishment.

But there is a contra to everything in the great ledgers of the Books
of Life and Death, and it is only a final balance which counts for gain
or loss. The very resignation which makes the thought of death easy
to bear, is but a balance of power which may not be gainsayed. In the
struggle of hope and despair the Winged One submits, and that is all.
His wings are immortal; out of fire or water, or pestilence, or famine,
or the red mist of battle they ever rise again, when once there is light
of any kind to animate them.

Even when Marjory's mouth was bent to mine in a fond kiss of love and
death, the wings of Hope fluttered around her head. For an instant or
two she paused, as if listening or waiting, and then with a glad cry,
which in that narrow space seemed to ring exultingly, she said:

"You are saved! You are saved! The water is falling; it has sunk below
your lips." Even in that dread moment of life and death, I could not but
be touched by her way of rejoicing in the possibility of our common
safety. Her only thought was for me.

But her words were true. The tide had reached its full; the waters were
falling. Minute by minute we waited, waited in breathless suspense;
clinging to each other in an ecstasy of hope and love. The chill which
had been upon us for so long, numbing every sense and seeming to make
any idea of effort impossible, seemed to have lost its power. In the new
quickening of hope, our hearts seemed to beat more warmly, till the
blood tingled in our veins. Oh! but the time was long, there in the
dark, with the silent waters receding inch by inch with a slowness which
was inconceivable. The strain of waiting became after a while almost
unbearable; I felt that I must speak to Marjory, and make her speak and
keep speaking, lest we should both break down, even at the very last. In
the time of our waiting for death we had held on to our determination,
blindly resolute to struggle to the last; even though we had accepted
the inevitable. But now there was impatience added to our apprehension.
We did not know the measure of our own endurance; and Terror seemed to
brood over us with flapping wings.

Truly, the moments of coming Life are longer than hours of coming
Death.



CHAPTER XXXVII

ROUND THE CLOCK


When the water had fallen so far that we could sit on the ledge, we
rested for a few minutes to relieve the long and terrible strain of
standing, cramped and chilled as we were. But we soon felt the chill of
the water and stood again till the rocky ledge was quite free. Then we
enjoyed a rest, if the word "enjoyment" could be applied to our wearied,
teeth-chattering, exhausted condition. I made Marjory sit on my lap, so
that we could get some warmth together, and that she might be saved from
the benumbing coldness of the rock. We wrung out our clothes as well as
we could, and with braver hearts set ourselves down to the second spell
of our dark captivity. Well we knew that the tide had risen higher than
the tin box in the corner of the cave, and tacitly put off the moment of
assured knowledge. Presently when the chill had somewhat passed from her
and she shivered less, she stood up and tried to get down the box. She
could not reach it, so I rose and took it down. Then we resumed our
places on the ledge, and, with the box beside us, began to investigate.

It was a sadly helpless performance. In the dark everything seemed
strange, with regard to size as well as to shape. Our wet hands could
not of themselves discriminate as to whether anything was wet or dry.
It was only when we found that the box was quite full of water that we
realised that there was no hope of light in this quarter, and that we
must have patience through the darkness as well as we could. I think
that Marjory cried a little. She covered it up for me in some womanly
way. But there are eyes in the soul that can see even through cimmerian
gloom; and I knew that she cried, though my senses could detect no sign.
When I touched her face, my wet hands and my own wet face could tell me
nothing. Still we were happy in a way. The fear of death had passed, and
we were only waiting for light and warmth. We knew that every minute,
every breath we drew, the tide was falling; and we knew too that we
could grope our way through the cavern. We rejoiced now that there was
no labyrinth of offshoots of the cave; and we were additionally glad
that our clue, the cord which we had taken with us, remained. We could
easily pick it up when we should begin to move, for there was no stir of
water to shift it and draw it away.

When we thought that a sufficient time must have elapsed, even at the
deadly slow pace at which it crawled, we kissed each other and began our
first effort to escape.

We easily found the cord, and keeping hold of it, felt our way slowly
along the rugged wall. I made Marjory keep close behind me, a little to
the right, for I was feeling way by the left hand alone. I feared lest
she should get bruised by the jagged rock which protruded here and
there. It was well I did so, for in the first dozen yards I got some
severe knocks that might have permanently scarred her tender skin. The
experience made me careful, however, and after it I took care to feel my
way all round before advancing a step. I found by experience that it was
the cord which had misled me by straining where there was a curve or an
angle, and so taking me close to the rock instead of in the middle of
the passage where we had originally dropped it as we went along.

When we had passed the first two bends, the anxious time came; it was
here that the roof dropped, and we did not know if the tide had fallen
low enough to let us through. We pushed on however into the deepening
water, Marjory still keeping close behind me, though I wished to go on
alone and explore. We found that the rock dipped below the water level
when we had gone some way into the tunnel. So we came back and waited
a good while--it seemed a long, long time. Then we essayed again, and
found that though the water was still high there were some inches of
space between rock and water.

Joyfully we pushed on slowly; our hearts beat gladly when we could raise
our heads from the stooping position and raise them freely in the air.
It only took us a few minutes to reach the pile of rocks; then holding
the cord as a clue to the narrow opening we scrambled up as well as we
could. I helped Marjory as much as possible, but in this matter she
was as good as I was; nay better, for all her woman's instinct came to
aid, and it was she who first got through the narrow hole. Then very
carefully we climbed down the other side, and, still holding our guiding
cord, came at last to the tackle by which we had lowered ourselves into
the cave. It was rather a surprise to us when we reached it, for we
expected to see the welcome light through the opening before we had come
under it.

At first, in the whirl of thoughts, I imagined that something had gone
wrong, a rock fallen in, or some sort of general collapse. Then I
fancied that we had been tracked down, and that some one had tried to
bury us in the cave. It is wonderful what strange thoughts come to
one in a prolonged spell of absolute darkness; no wonder that even
low-grade, violent, unimaginative criminals break down in the black
hole! Marjory said nothing; but when she spoke, it was evident from her
words that she had some of the same ideas herself. There was a tone of
relief in her voice which was unmistakable, and which must have followed
some disconcerting thought:

"Of course not! It is only that the lamps and candles have burned
out. We have forgotten the long time which has passed; but the lights
haven't!" It was evident enough now. We had been so many hours in the
cave that the lights were exhausted; and at no time was there a gleam of
natural light in the cellar.

I found it a little difficult to work the tackle in the dark with my
numbed hands. Hope, however, is a paramount force, and very soon Marjory
was swinging up through the hole in the rock. I called to her to get
light as soon as she could; but she refused point blank to do anything
until I was beside her. When I got the rope round me, we both pulled;
and in a very few seconds I too was up through the hole and in the
cellar. I found the matches easily enough and oh! the glorious sight of
the light even in this spluttering form. We did not linger an instant
but moved to the door, which I unlocked, and we stepped out and ran
up the steps. The lantern on the roof which lit the staircase was all
ablaze with sunshine, and we felt bathed in light. For a second or two
we could not realise it, and blinked under the too magnificent glare.

And then, with inconceivable rapidity, we came back to the serenity and
confidence which comes with daylight. In less than a second we were
again in the realities of life; and the whole long night of darkness and
fear was behind us like a dream.

I hurried Marjory into the room where she had dressed, and where were
a store of her clothes; and then I proceeded to make up a fire. The
chimney place in the dining room was made after the old fashion, wide
and deep, and had in the back a beautiful old steel rack with brackets
on which to hang pots and kettles. I thought this would be the best
place for a fire, as it was the biggest in the house. So I got from
the fuel house off the kitchen an armful of dry furze and another of
cut billets of pine which I dumped on top of it. A single match was
sufficient, and in an instant, there was a large fire roaring up the
chimney. I filled a great copper kettle with water and slung it in the
blaze, and then, when I found myself in a cloud of steam from my wet
clothes, ran into my own room. After a hard rub down which made my skin
glow, and a wash which was exquisite, I put myself into dry clothes.
When I came back to the dining room I found Marjory busy getting ready
a meal--supper, breakfast, dinner, we did not know what to call it.
One glad moment in each other's arms, and then kneeling together we
thanked God for the great mercy which He had shown us. Then we resumed
preparations to eat, for we were ravenous. The kettle was beginning to
sing, and we soon had hot delicious tea, which sent a glow through us.
There were plenty of cooked provisions, and we did not wait to warm
them: such luxuries as hot food would come into our lives later. It was
only when we had satisfied our appetites that we thought of looking at
the time. My own watch had stopped when I had first tried the entrance
to the great cave and had been waist high in water, but Marjory had left
hers in her room when she had changed her dress for the expedition. It
was now one o'clock and as the sun was high in the heavens it was--P. M.
Allowing for the time of dressing and eating, we must have been in all
in the caves some twelve hours. I looked amongst my books and found
Whittaker's Almanach, from which I gathered that as the tide was full at
half past six o'clock we must as the normal rise of the tide was between
eleven and twelve feet have been immersed in the water some four hours.
The very thought of it made us shudder; with an instinctive remembrance
of our danger and misery we drew close together.

Then a heavy sleepiness seemed all at once to settle on us. Marjory
would not leave me, and I did not wish her to. I felt, as she did, that
we could not sleep easily if separated. So I got great armloads of rugs
and cushions and made up two nests close to the fire which I built up
with solid logs. I wrapped her in a great, warm plaid and myself in
another, and we sank down on our couches, holding hands and with her
head upon my shoulder.

When I woke it was almost pitch dark; only for a slight glow which came
from the mass of red embers on the hearth the darkness would have been
as complete as that of the cave. It is true that the sunblinds were down
and the curtains drawn; but even so, when there was light outside some
gleams of it even, if only reflected, found their way in. Marjory was
still sleeping as I stole softly to the window and looked out.

All was dark. The moon was hidden behind a bank of cloud, only the edges
of which tinged with light showed its place in the heavens. I looked at
Marjory's watch which she had laid upon the table, having wound it up
instinctively before the sleepiness had come upon her. It was now a few
minutes past one.

We had slept right round the clock.

I began to make up the fire as softly as I could, for I did not wish to
wake Marjory. I felt that sleep and plenty of it was the best thing for
her after the prolonged strain and trial which she had undergone. I got
ready clean plates and knives and forks, and put on the kettle again.
Whilst I was moving about, she woke. For an instant or two she looked
round in a dazed uncomprehending way; and then all at once the whole
remembrance of the night swept across her. In a single bound, with the
agility of a young panther, she sprang to her feet, and in an instant
her arms were round me, half protectingly and whole lovingly.

We had another hearty meal. It was pic-nic-ing _in excelsis_, and I
doubt if the whole world held two happier beings. Presently we began to
talk of the cave and of the treasure, and I was rejoiced to find that
all the trial and anxiety had left no trace on Marjory's courage. It was
she herself who suggested that we should go back to the cave and take
out what she called those dear little boxes. We put on once more our
cave clothes, which were dry again but which had shrunk lamentably, and
laughing at each other's grotesque appearance we went down into the
cellar again. Having renewed the lamps and made all safe for our return,
we took lamps and torches and matches and set out on our quest. I think
we both felt a little awed--we were certainly silent--as we crept
through the hole over the moraine and took our way up the treasure cave.
I confess that my own heart sank within me when we saw the ledge, with
the San Cristobal and the infant Christ seeming to keep guard upon it;
and I felt a pity, which I had not felt before, for the would-be thief,
Olgaref. Marjory I think felt the same way as I did, for she kept very
close to me and now and again held on to me; but she said nothing. We
lit a torch and renewed our search. Whilst I stooped over the box and
took out other caskets containing gems, Marjory held the light with one
hand whilst she gathered the little heap of rubies from the first box
and put them in the pocket of my jacket. Her feminine care was shown
in her searching for the box and the rubies which had fallen into the
water so that none might be lost. There were not many of the little
caskets--it is astounding what a small space will contain a many
precious gems. They easily fitted into the bag which I had brought for
the purpose. Then we took our way back to the house.

When we had ascended, we put out the lights and locked the cellar. We
changed our clothes again, Marjory putting on her livery; it was now
nearly four o'clock in the morning, and it was time to be getting back
to Crom.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE DUTY OF A WIFE


Just as we were about to start Marjory said to me, half in jest but
wholly in earnest:

"I wonder what has become of Gormala these times. If she knew of the
last two nights, she would simply become desperate; and there is no
knowing what she might prophecy!"

Strangely enough, I had been myself thinking of the Witch-woman. I
suppose it was that the memory of the finding of the treasure, and
of the hovering near us of death, had recalled her weirds. With the
thought of her, came once more that strange feeling which I had before
experienced, a feeling as if she were present. Motioning to Marjory to
put out the light, I stole to the window. The heavy curtains, when I had
passed through them, shut out the glimmer of the firelight. Marjory came
and joined me, and we looked out together. There were drifting clouds,
and thus, moments of light and shadow. In one of the former I saw a dark
mass on the edge of the deep grass that crowns the rock just over the
entrance of Witsennan Point. If it was a woman it was probably Gormala;
and if it was Gormala she was probably watching me, for of course she
could not know that Marjory was with me. I determined to find out if I
could; so I told Marjory to slip out by the back door whilst I went to
the point. We arranged to join at the upper village of old Whinnyfold.

Having placed my bicycle ready to start, and shut the door behind me
softly, I stole over to the cliff. Lying just below the edge, but so
that her head was at the top lay Gormala, asleep. At first I thought
it was pretence, for I knew the wily nature of the old woman; but on
examining closely I found her sleep was real. She looked worn and tired
out, and I concluded that it was the second night of watching on end
which had finished her. It was well she slept, for had she been awake
she must have seen us. The place she had chosen commanded both paths
away from the house left and right; only by stealing back over the hill
and keeping the house all the time between us and herself could we have
avoided her prying eyes. Even then, were there light enough, she might
have seen us debouching on the roadway had we gone inland by Whinnyfold.
I could not but be sorry for her; she looked so old and feeble, and
yet with such purpose in her strong, stern face. I could afford to be
pitiful now; my life was running on happy lines. I had won Marjory, and
we had found the treasure!

I left her undisturbed; I would have put some rug or covering over her;
but I was afraid lest I should awake her, and so make discovery of our
plans. Besides it would be hard to account for my being awake myself and
about at that hour of the night--or morning, I hardly knew which it was.
Almost as hard as it would have been for Gormala to explain why she was
in similar case.

When I joined Marjory, we took our way as quickly as possible to
Crom; we were both anxious that she should get into the castle before
daylight. It was with a certain dread, for the experiences of the night
were not yet hardened in memory, that I saw Marjory descend into the
cave when we rolled away the stone. She too was not free from misgiving;
I knew it from the emphasis with which she impressed on me that I was
not to fear for her. She was to wave a white handkerchief from the roof
when she had got in safely.

Looking over the stone towards the castle whence must come her signal I
waited with an anxiety which I could not conceal from myself. The grey
dawn grew paler and paler as I looked, and the sky began to quicken.
Here and there around me came every now and again the solitary pipe of
an awakening bird. I could just see the top of the castle, looking bare
and cold through the vista between the treetops. In a short time, almost
shorter than I could have anticipated, I saw on the roof the flutter of
a white handkerchief. My heart leaped; Marjory was safe. I waved my own
handkerchief; she answered again, and there was no more sign. I came
away satisfied, and wheeled back to Cruden with what speed I could. It
was still very early morning, when I reached Whinnyfold. Not a soul was
up as I passed on my way, and I crept in secretly by the back of the
house.

When I looked carefully out of a window in front, I could see in the
growing light of morning that Gormala still lay on the edge of the
cliff, motionless and manifestly asleep.

I lay down for a while and dozed till the morning was sufficiently
advanced. Then after a cold bath and a cup of hot tea, took my way to
Crom, timing myself so as to arrive for an early breakfast.

Mrs. Jack met me, beaming. She was so hearty, and so manifestly glad to
see me, that I bent over and kissed her. She was not a bit displeased;
she seemed a little touched by the act, and smiled at me. Then Marjory
came in, looking radiant. She greeted me with a smile, and went over to
and kissed Mrs. Jack affectionately. Then she kissed me too, and there
was a glad look in her eyes which made my heart thrill.

After breakfast she sat in the window with Mrs. Jack, and I went to the
fireplace to light a cigarette. I stood with my back to the fire and
looked over at Marjory; it was always a joy to me when she was in my
sight. Presently she said to Mrs. Jack:

"Weren't you frightened when I didn't come back the night before last?"
The elderly lady smiled complacently as she answered:

"Not a bit, my dear!" Marjory was astonished into an exclamation:

"Why not?" The affectionate old woman looked at her gravely and
tenderly:

"Because I knew you were with your husband; the safest place where a
young woman can be. And oh! my dear, I was rejoiced that it was so; for
I was beginning to be anxious, and almost unhappy about you. It didn't
seem right or natural for two young people like you and your husband to
be living, one in one place and one in another." As she spoke she took
Marjory's hand in hers and stroked it lovingly. Marjory turned her
head away from her, and, after one swift glance at me from under her
eyelashes, from me also. Mrs. Jack went on in a grave, sweet way,
lecturing the girl she loved and that she had mothered; not as a woman
lectures a child but as an old woman advises her junior:

"For oh! Marjory, my dear one, when a woman takes a husband she gives
up herself. It is right that she should; and it is better too, for us
women. How can we look after our mankind, if we're thinking of ourselves
all the time! And they want a lot of looking after too, let me tell you.
They're only men after all--the dears! Your bringing-up, my child, has
not made you need them. But you would well understand it, if when you
was a child, you was out on the plains and among the mountains, like I
was; if you didn't know when you saw your daddy, or your brother, or
your husband go out in the morning whether you'd ever see him come back
at night, or would see him brought back. And then, when the work was
over, or the fight or whatever it might be, to see them come home all
dirty and ragged and hungry, and may be sick or wounded--for the Indians
made a lot of harm in my time with their good old bows and their bad new
guns--where would we women and girls have been. Or what sort of women
at all at all, if we didn't have things ready for them! My dear, as I
suppose you know now, a man is a mighty good sort of a thing after all.
He may be cross, or masterful, or ugly to deal with when he has got his
shirt out; but after all he's a man, and that's what we love them for.
I was beginning to wonder if you was a girl at all, when I see you let
your husband go away from you day after day and you not either holdin'
him back, or goin' off with him, way the girls did in my time. I tell
you it would have been a queer kind of girl in Arizony that'd have let
her man go like that, when once they had said the word together. Why, my
dear, I lay awake half the night sayin' my prayers for the both of you,
and blessin' God that He had sent you such a happiness as true love;
when there might have been them that would have ben runnin' after your
fortun' and gettin' on your weak side enough to throw dust in your eyes.
And when in the grey of the dawn I looked into your room and found you
hadn't come, why I just tip-toed back to my bed and went to sleep happy.
And I was happy all day, knowin' you were happy too. And last night I
just went to sleep at once and didn't bother my head about listenin' for
your comin'; for well I knew you wouldn't be home then. Ah! my dear,
you've done the right thing. At the least, your husband's wishes is as
much as your own, seein' as how there's two of you. But a woman only
learns her true happiness when she gives up all her own wishes, and
thinks only for her husband. And, mind you, child, it isn't givin' up
much after all--at least we didn't think so in my time--when she pleases
her husband that she loves, by goin' off to share his home."

I listened full of deep emotion as the old lady spoke. I felt that every
word she said was crystallised truth; and there was no questioning the
deep, earnest, loving-kindness of her intent. I was half afraid to look
at Marjory lest I should disconcert her; so I turned round quietly till
I faced the fireplace, and leaning on the plinth of it stole a glance in
the old oval mirror above. Marjory sat there with her hand in Mrs.
Jack's. Her head was bent, and there was a flush on her neck and arms
which told its own story. I felt that she was silently crying, or very
near it; and a lump rose in my own throat. This was one of the crises in
her life. It was so borne in upon me; and I knew its truth. We have all,
as the Scotch say, to "dree our own weird," this was a battle with her
own soul which Marjory must fight alone. The old woman's wise words
sounded a trumpet note of duty. She was face to face with it, and must
judge for herself. Even with all my love, I could not help her. I stood
silent, scarcely daring to breathe lest I should disturb or distract
her. I tried to efface myself, and for a few minutes did not even look
in the mirror. The old woman too, knew the value of silence, for she sat
still; there was not even the rustle of her dress. At last I could hear
Marjory's in-drawn breath, and looked in the mirror. Her attitude had
not changed, except that she had raised her head; I could tell by its
proud poise that she was her own woman again. She still kept her face
away; and there was the veil of recent tears over her sweet voice as she
spoke tenderly:

"Thank you, dear. I am so glad you have spoken to me so freely and so
lovingly." I could see from the motion of the two hands and her own
whitening knuckles that she was squeezing her companion's fingers.
Then, after a few moments she rose quietly, and, still keeping her head
averted, sailed quietly out of the room in her own graceful manner. I
did not stir; I felt that I could please her best by keeping quiet.

But oh! how my heart went with her in her course.



CHAPTER XXXIX

AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR


I chatted with Mrs. Jack for a few minutes with what nonchalance I could
muster, for I wanted to cover up Marjory's retreat. I have not the
faintest idea what we talked about; I only know that the dear old lady
sat and beamed on me, with her lips pursed up in thought, and went on
with her knitting. She agreed with everything I said, whatever it was.
I longed to follow Marjory and comfort her. I could see that she was
distressed, though I did not know the measure of it. I waited patiently,
however, for I knew that she would either come to me, or send me word to
join her when she wanted me.

She must have come back very quietly, almost tip-toe, for I had not
heard a sound when I saw her in the doorway. She was beckoning to me,
but in such a manner that Mrs. Jack could not see her. I was about to
go quietly, but she held up a warning hand with five fingers outspread;
from which I took it that I was to follow in five minutes.

I stole away quietly, priding myself on the fact that Mrs. Jack did not
notice my departure; but on thinking the matter over later, I came to
the conclusion that the quiet old lady knew a good deal more of what was
going on round her than appeared on the surface. Her little homily to
Marjory on a wife's duty has set me thinking many a time since.

I found Marjory, as I expected, in the Ladies' Room. She was looking
out of the window when I came in. I took her in my arms for an instant,
and she laid her head on my shoulder. Then she drew herself away, and
pointed to a great chair close by for me to sit down. When I was seated
she took a little stool, and placing it beside me, sat at my feet. From
our position I had to look down at her, and she had to look up at me.
Often and often since then have I recalled the picture she made, sitting
there in her sweet graceful simplicity. Well may I remember it, for
through many and many an aching hour has every incident of that day,
however trivial, been burned into my brain. Marjory leant one elbow
on the arm of my chair, and put the other hand in mine with a sweet
confiding gesture which touched me to the heart. Since our peril of two
nights before, she was very, very dear to me. All the selfishness seemed
to have disappeared from my affection for her, and I was her true lover
as purely as it is given to a man to be. She wanted to speak; I could
see that it was an effort to do so, for her breast heaved a few times,
as a diver breathes before making his downward leap. Then she mastered
herself, and with infinite grace and tenderness spoke:

"I'm afraid I have been very selfish and inconsiderate. Oh! yes I have"
for I was commencing a protest. "I know it now. Mrs. Jack was quite
right. It never occurred to me what a brute I have been; and you so
good to me, and so patient. Well, dear, that's all over now! I want
to tell you, right here, that if you like I'll go away with you
to-morrow--to-day if you wish; and we'll let every one know that we are
married, and go and live together." She stopped, and we sat hand in hand
with our fingers clasping. I remained quite still with a calm that
amazed me, for my brain was in a whirl. But somehow there came to me,
even as it had come to her, a sense of duty. How could I accept such a
sweet sacrifice. The very gravity of her preparation for thought and
speech showed me that she was loth to leave the course on which she had
entered. That she loved me I had no doubt; was it not for me that she
was willing to give it all up. And then my course of action rose clear
before me. Instinctively I stood up as I spoke to her, and I felt that
big stalwart man as I was, the pretty self-denying girl at my feet ruled
me, for she was more to me than my own wishes, my own hopes, my own
soul.

"Marjory, do you remember when you sat on the throne in the cave, and
gave me the accolade?" She bowed her head in acquiescence; her eyes
fell, and her face and ears grew rosy pink. "Well, when you dubbed me
your knight, and I took the vow, I meant all I said! Your touch on
my shoulder was more to me than if it had come from the Queen on her
throne, with all the glory of a thousand years behind her. Oh, my dear,
I was in earnest--in earnest then, as I am in earnest now. I was, and
am, your true knight! You are my lady; to serve, and make her feet walk
in easy ways! It is a terrible temptation to me to take what you have
offered as done, and walk straightway into Paradise in our new life.
But, my dear! my dear! I too can be selfish if I am tempted too far; and
I must not think of my own wishes alone. Since I first saw your face
I have dreamt a dream. That a time would come when you, with all the
world to choose from, would come to me of your own free will. When you
wouldn't want to look back with regret at anything, done or undone. I
want you to be happy; to look forward only--unless the backward thought
is of happiness. Now, if you give up your purpose and come to me with
the feeling that you have only made a choice, the regret that you did
not have the opportunity you longed for, may grow and grow, till--till
it may become an unhappiness. Let me be sententious for a moment.
'Remember Lot's wife' was not merely the warning of a fact; it touched a
great allegory. You and I are young; we are both happy; we have all the
world before us, and numberless good things to thank God for. I want you
to enjoy them to the full; and, my dear one, I will not stand in your
way in anything which you may wish. Be free, Marjory, be quite free! The
girl I want beside my hearth is one who would rather be there than
anywhere else in the wide world. Isn't that worth wishing for; isn't
it worth waiting for? It may be selfish in the highest plane of
selfishness; I suppose it is. But anyhow, it is my dream; and I love you
so truly and so steadfastly that I am not afraid to wait!"

As I spoke, Marjory looked at me lovingly, more and more. Then all at
once she broke down, and began to sob and cry as if her heart would
break. That swept away in a moment all my self-command; I took her in my
arms and tried to comfort her. Kisses and sweet words fairly rained upon
her. Presently she grew calm, and said as she gently disengaged herself:

"You don't know how well you argue. I'm nearer at this moment to giving
up all my plans, than I ever thought I should be in my life. Wait a
little longer, dear. Only a little; the time may be shorter than you
think. But this you may take for your comfort now, and your remembrance
later; that in all my life, whatever may come, I shall never forget your
goodness to me, your generosity, your love, your sympathy--your--! But
there, you are indeed my Knight; and I love you with all my heart and
soul!" and she threw herself into my arms.

When I left Crom after lunch the weather seemed to have changed. There
was a coldness in the air which emphasised the rustling of the dry
leaves as they were swept by intermittent puffs of wind. Altogether
there was a sense of some presage of gloom--or disaster--of discontent,
I knew not what. I was loth to part with Marjory, but we both felt it
was necessary I should go. I had not had my letters for three days; and
besides there were a thousand things to be attended to about the house
at Whinnyfold. Moreover, we began to think of the treasure, the portable
part of which--the jewels--was left almost open in the dining room. I
did not want to alarm Marjory by any dim fears of my own; I knew that,
in any case, there might be a reaction from her present high spirits.
The remembrance of the trials and anxieties of the past few days would
come back to her in the silence of the night. She saw, however, with the
new eyes of her wifely love, that I was anxious about something; justly
inferring that it was about her, she said to me quietly:

"You need not be alarmed about me, darling. I promise you I shall not
stir out of the house till you come. But you will come as early as you
can to-morrow; won't you. Somehow, I don't like your leaving me now. I
used not to mind it; but to-day it all seems different. We don't seem to
be the same to each other, do we, since we felt that water creep up us
in the dark. However, I shall be very good. I have a lot of work to do,
and letters to write; and the time may not go so very slowly, or seem so
very long, till I see my husband again."

Oh! it was sweet to look in her eyes, and see the love that shone from
them; to hear the delicate cooing music of her voice. My heart seemed
to fly back to her as I moved away; and every step I took, its strings
seemed nearer and nearer to the breaking point. When I looked back at
the turn of the winding avenue between the fir trees, the last I saw
through my dimming eyes was the wave of her hand and the shining of her
eyes blending into one mass of white light.

In my rooms at the hotel I found a lot of letters about business, and a
few from friends. There was one however which made me think. It was in
the writing of Adams, and was as follows, no place or date being given:

"The people at Crom had better be careful of their servants! There is a
footman who often goes out after dark and returns just before morning.
He may be in league with enemies. Anyhow, where he gets out and in, and
how, others may do the same. _Verb. sap, suff. A._"

We had been watched then, and by the Secret Service detectives. I was
glad that Marjory had promised not to go out till I came. If "Mac's men"
had seen her, others might also; and the eyes of the others might have
been more penetrating, or their reasoning powers more keen. However, I
thought it well to send her a word of warning. I copied Adams's letter
into mine, with just a word or two of love added. I was amazed to find
that altogether it ran to several pages! The gillie of the hotel took it
over in a pony cart, with instructions to bring me back an answer to
Whinnyfold. For safety I enclosed it in an envelope to Mrs. Jack. Then,
when I had written a few notes and telegrams, I biked over to my house
on the cliff.

It was a bleak afternoon and everything seemed grey, sky and sea alike;
even the rocks, with their crowning of black seaweed swept with the foam
of lapping waves. Inside the house nothing had of course been stirred;
but it seemed so bleak without a fire and with the curtains wide, that I
made up a fire of billets and drew the heavy curtains close. As I stood
in the great bay window and looked out on the fretting sea, and listened
to the soughing of the rising wind, a great melancholy seemed to steal
over me, so that I became in a way lost in a mist of gloom. So far as
I remember, my thoughts were back with the time when I had seen the
procession of the dead coming up out of the sea from the Skares beyond,
and of the fierce looking Spaniard who walked alone in their ranks and
looked at me with living eyes. I must have been in a sort of day-dream
and unconscious of all around me; for, though I had not noticed any one
approaching, I was startled by a knocking at the door. The house was not
quite finished; there were electric bells in position, but they had not
yet been charged, and there was no knocker on the door. The knocking was
that of bare knuckles on a panel. I thought of course that it was the
gillie back from Crom, for I did not expect any one else; so I went at
once and opened the door. I recoiled with pure wonder. There, looking
grave and dignified, an incarnation of the word 'gentleman' stood Don
Bernardino. His eyes, though now serene, and even kindly, were the eyes
of the dead man from the sea. Behind him, a few yards off, stood Gormala
MacNiel with an eager look on her face, half concealed by such a grin
as made me feel as though I had been trapped, or in some way brought to
book. The Spaniard at once spoke:

"Sir, your pardon! I wish much that I may speak with you in private, and
soon. Forgive me if that I trouble you, but it is on a matter of such
moment, to me at the least, that I have ventured an intrusion. I learned
at the hotel that you had hither come; so with the guidance of this good
lady, who did me much inform, I have found." As he spoke of Gormala,
he half turned and made a gesture towards her. She had been watching
our every movement with cat-like eagerness; but when she saw that we
were speaking of her, a dark look swept her face, and she moved away
scowling. The Spaniard went on:

"What I have to say is secret, and I would be alone with you. May it
be that I enter your house; or will you come to mine? I do not mean my
castle of Crom, but the house at Ellon which I have taken, until such
time as the Senora Jack and that so fair patriot of hers shall wish to
leave it." His manner was so gravely courteous and his bearing so noble,
that I found it almost impossible to mistrust him, even when there
flashed across my memory that dark red-eyed look of his at Crom, which
recalled so vividly the dead Spaniard with the living eyes of hate in
the procession of ghosts from the Skares. I felt that, in any case,
it could not do any harm to hear what he had to say: 'Forewarned is
forearmed' is a good apothegm in dealing with an enemy. I motioned him
into the house; he bowed gravely and entered. As I shut the door behind
us, I caught sight of Gormala with an eager look on her face stealing
swiftly towards the house. She evidently wanted to be near enough to
watch, and to hear if she could.

As I was opening the door of the drawing-room for Don Bernardino to
enter, a sudden glimpse of its interior, seen in the dim light through
the chinks of the shutters, changed my plans. This was the room
improvised as a dressing room for Marjory, and the clothes which she had
worn in the cave were scattered about the room, hung over the backs of
chairs to dry. Her toilet matters also were on the table. Altogether
I felt that to bring the stranger into the room would not only be an
indelicacy towards my wife, but might in some way give a clue to our
enemy to guess our secret. With a hasty excuse I closed the door and
motioned my guest into the dining room across the hall. I asked him
to be seated, and then went over to the window and pulled aside the
curtains to give us light. I felt that somehow I was safer in the light,
and that it might enable me to learn more than I could have done in the
dim twilight of the curtained room.

When I turned round, the Spaniard was still standing, facing me. He
appeared to be studiously keeping himself still; but I could see that
under his long black lashes his eyes were roaming round the room.
Unconsciously to myself, as I know now, my eyes followed his and took in
the frightful untidiness of the place. The great hearth was piled with
extinct ashes; the table was littered with unwashed cups and plates
and dishes, for we had not cleared up anything after our night in the
cave. Rugs and pillows were massed untidily on the floor, and the stale
provisions on the table made themselves manifest in the close atmosphere
of the room. I was moving over to throw up the window so as to let in a
little fresh air, when I remembered that Gormala was probably outside
with her ears strained close to the wall to hear anything that we might
say. So, instead, I apologised for the disorder, saying that I had
camped me there for some days whilst working at my book--the excuse I
had given at the hotel for my spells of solitary life.

The Spaniard bowed low with grave courtesy, and implored that I would
make no apology. If there were anything not perfect, and for himself he
did not see it, such deficiencies were swept away and lost in the tide
of honour with which I had overwhelmed him in the permission to enter my
house; and much more to the same effect.

Then he came to the serious side of things and began to speak to the
point.



CHAPTER XL

THE REDEMPTION OF A TRUST


"Senor, you may wonder why I am here, and why I would speak with you
alone and in secret. You have seen me only in a place, which though my
own by birthright, was dominated by the presence of ladies, who alas! by
their nationality and the stress of war were mine enemies. From you is
not such. Our nations are at peace, and there is no personal reason why
we should not be of the most friendly. I come to you, Senor, because it
is borne to me that you are cavalier. You can be secret if you will, and
you will recognise the claims of honour and duty, of the highest. The
common people know it not; and for the dear ladies who have their own
honour, our duties in such are not a part of their lives--nay! they are
beyond and above the life as it is to us. I need not tell you of a
secret duty of my family, for it is known to me that all of such is
already with you. The secret of the Pope's treasure and of the duty of
my House to guard and restore it has been in your mind. Oh yes, this I
know" for he saw I was about to speak. "Have I not seen in your hands
that portion of the book, so long lost!" Here he stopped and his eyes
narrowed; some thought of danger, necessitating caution, had come
to him. I, too, was silent; I wanted to think. Unless I had utterly
misconceived him, he had made an extraordinary admission; one which had
given him away completely. The only occasion on which I had seen him
was when he had pointed out to us that the pages which I had found
belonged to the book in the library. It is true that we had suggested to
him that there was a cipher in the marking of the letters, but he had
not acknowledged it. At the time he certainly did not convey the idea to
us that he believed we had grasped the secret. How then did he know; or
on what assumption did he venture to state that I knew his secret. Here
was a difficult point to pass. If I were silent he would take all for
granted; in such case I might not learn anything of his purpose. So I
spoke:

"Your pardon, Sir, but you presume a knowledge on my part of some secret
history of your family and of a treasure of the Pope; and then account
for it that you have seen in my hand the book, a part of which was long
lost. Am I to take it that because there is, or may be, a secret, any
one who suspects that there is one must know it?" The steady eyes of the
Spaniard closed, narrower and narrower still, till the pupils looked
like those of a cat in the dark; a narrow slit with a cavern of fire
within. For fully half a minute he continued to look at me steadily, and
I own that I felt disconcerted. In this matter he had the advantage of
me. I knew that what he said was true; I did know the secret of the
buried treasure. He had some way of knowing the extent of my knowledge
of the matter. He was, so far, all truth; I was prevaricating--and we
both knew it! All at once he spoke; as though his mind were made up, and
he would speak openly and frankly. The frankness of a Latin was a fell
and strange affair:

"Why shall we beat about the bush. I know; you know; and we both know
that the other knows. I have read what you have written of the secret
which you have drawn from those marked pages of the law book."

As he spoke the whole detail of his visit to Crom rose before me. At
that time he had only seen the printed pages of the cipher; he had not
seen my transcript which had lain, face down, upon the table. We had
turned it, on hearing some one coming in.

"Then you have been to the castle again!" I said suddenly. My object was
to disconcert him, but it did not succeed. In his saturnine frankness
had been a complete intention, which was now his protection against
surprise.

"Yes!" he said slowly, and with a smile which showed his teeth, like the
wolf's to Red Ridinghood.

"Strange, they did not tell me at Crom," I said as though to myself.

"They did not know!" he answered. "When next I visited my own house, it
was at night, and by a way not known, save to myself." As he spoke, the
canine teeth began to show. He knew that what he had to tell was wrong;
and being determined to brazen it out, the cruelty which lay behind his
strength became manifest at once. Somehow at that moment the racial
instinct manifested itself. Spain was once the possession of the Moors,
and the noblest of the old families had some black blood in them. In
Spain, such is not, as in the West, a taint. The old diabolism whence
sprung fantee and hoo-doo seemed to gleam out in the grim smile of
incarnate, rebellious purpose. It was my cue to throw my antagonist off
his guard; to attack the composite character in such way that one part
would betray the other.

"Strange!" I said, as though to myself again. "To come in secret into
a house occupied by another is amongst civilised people regarded as an
offence!"

"The house is my own!" he retorted quickly, with a swarthy flush.

"Strange, again!" I said. "When Mrs. Jack rented the castle, there was
no clause in her agreement of a right to the owner to enter by a secret
way! On the contrary such rights as the owner reserved were exactly
specified."

"A man has a right to enter his own house, when and how he will; and to
protect the property which is being filched from him by strangers!" He
said the last words with such manifest intention of offence that I stood
on guard. Evidently he wanted to anger me, as I had angered him. I
determined that thenceforward I should not let anything which he might
say ruffle me. I replied with deliberate exasperation:

"The law provides remedies for any wrongs done. It does not, that I
know of, allow a man to enter secretly into a house that he has let to
another. There is an implied contract of peaceful possession, unless
entry be specified in the agreement." He answered disdainfully:

"My agent had no right to let, without protecting such a right."

"Ah, but he did; and in law we are bound by the acts of our agents.
'_Facit per alium_' is a maxim of law. And as to filching, let me tell
you that all your property at Crom is intact. The pieces of paper that
you claimed were left in the book; and the book has remained as you
yourself placed it on the shelf. I have Mrs. Jack's word that it would
be so." He was silent; so, as it was necessary that the facts as they
existed should be spoken of between us, I went on:

"Am I to take it that you read the private papers on the table of the
library during your nocturnal visit? By the way, I suppose it was
nocturnal."

"It was."

"Then sir," I spoke sharply now, "who has done the filching? We--Miss
Drake and I--by chance discovered those papers. As a matter of fact they
were in an oaken chest which I bought at an auction in the streets of
Peterhead. We suspected a cipher and worked at it till we laid bare the
mystery. This is what we have done; we who were even ignorant of your
name! Now, what have you done? You come as an admitted guest, by
permission, into a house taken in all good faith by strangers. When
there you recognised some papers which had been lost. We restored them
to you. Honour demanded that you should have been open with us after
this. Did you ask if we had discovered the secret of the trust? No! You
went away openly; and came back like a thief in the night and filched
our secret. Yes sir, you did!" He had raised his hand in indignant
protest. "It was our secret then, not yours. Had you interpreted the
secret cipher for yourself, you would have been within your rights; and
I should have had nothing to say. We offered to let you take the book
with you; but you refused. It is evident that you did not know the whole
secret of the treasure. That you knew there was a treasure and a secret
I admit; but the key of it, which we had won through toil, you stole
from us!"

"Senor!" the voice was peremptory and full of all that was best
and noblest in the man. "A de Escoban is not wont to hear such an
allegation; and he who makes such shall in the end have his own death
to answer for!" He stopped suddenly, and at his stopping I exulted
secretly; though I wished to punish him for his insinuation that Marjory
had filched from him, I had no desire to become entangled in a duel. I
was determined to go on, however; for I would not, at any hazard, pass
a slight upon my peerless wife. I think that his sudden pause meant
thought; and thought meant a peaceful solution of things on my own
lines. Nevertheless, I went on forcing the issue:

"I rejoice, sir, that you are not accustomed to hear such allegations;
I trust that you are also not accustomed to deserve them!" By this time
he was calm again, icily calm. It was wonderful with what rapidity, and
how widely, the pendulum of his nature swung between pride and passion.
All at once he smiled again, the same deadly, dreadful smile which he
imagined to be the expression of frankness.

"I see I am punished! 'Twas I that first spoke of stealing. Senor, you
have shown me that I was wrong. My pardon to that so good lady who is
guest of my house; and also to that other patriotic one who so adorns
it. Now let me say, since to defend myself is thrust upon me, that you,
who have, with so much skill made clear the hidden mystery of that law
book which I have only lately read, know best of all men how I am bound
to do all things to protect my trust. I am bound, despite myself, even
if it were not a duty gladly undertaken for the sake of the dead. It was
not I who so undertook; but still I am bound even more than he who did.
I stand between law and honour, between life and death, helpless. Senor,
were you in my place, would you not, too, have acted as I did? Would you
not do so, knowing that there was a secret which you could not even try
to unravel, since long ago that in which it was hidden had been stolen
or lost. Would you not do so, knowing, too, that some other--in all good
faith and innocence let us say--had already made discovery which might
mock your hopes and nullify the force of that long vigil, to which ten
generations of men, giving up all else, had sacrificed themselves? Would
not you, too, have come in secret and made what discovery you could.
Discovery of your own, mark you! Would not also that lady so patriotic,
to whom all things come after that devotion to her country, which so
great she holds?"

Whilst he was speaking I had been thinking. The pretence of ignorance
was all over to both of us; he knew our knowledge of the secret trust,
and we knew that he knew. The only thing of which he was yet ignorant,
was that we had discovered the treasure itself. There was nothing to
be gained by disputing points of conjectural morals. Of course he was
right; had either Marjory or myself considered ourselves bound by such a
duty as lay so heavy on him we should have done the same. I bowed as I
answered;

"Sir, you are right! Any man who held to such a duty would have done the
same."

"Senor," he answered quickly, "I thank you with all my heart!" Poor
fellow, at that moment I pitied him. The sudden flash of joy that leaped
to his face showed by reaction in what a hell he must have of late
been living. This momentary episode seemed to have wiped away all his
bitterness; it was in quite a different way that he spoke again:

"And now, Senor, since your engaging frankness has made my heart so
glad, may I ask further of your kindness. Believe me that it is not of
my own will, but from an unbending sense of duty that I do and may have
to do such things; my life till lately has been otherwise, oh! so much
so! You have the feelings of honour yourself; like me you are also man
of the world, and as such we can sacrifice all things save honour. Is
there no way in which you can aid me to fulfill my trust; and let there
be peace between us?" He looked at me anxiously; I said:

"I fear I hardly understand?" With manifest embarrassment he went on;

"You will forgive me if I err again; but this time I must make myself
clear. It is manifest to me that in these days of science nothing can
long remain hidden, when once a clue has been found. You already know
so much that I am placed almost as though the treasure has already
been found. Thereafter where am I; what am I? One who has failed in
his trust. Who has allowed another to step in; and so dishonour him! A
moment, Senor, and I am done," for he saw that I was about to speak. "It
is not the treasure itself that I value, but the trust. If I could make
it safe by the sacrifice of all my possessions I would gladly do so.
Senor, you are still free. You have but to abandon your quest. It is not
to you a duty; and therefore you sacrifice naught of honour should you
abandon it. Here I pledge to you--and, oh Senor, I pray have patience
that you take no affront that I do so--that in such case I shall give to
you all that I have. Give it gladly! So, I may redeem the trust of my
House; and go out into the wide world, though it may be as a beggar, yet
free--free! Oh! pause, Senor, and think. I am rich in the world's goods.
My ancestors were of vast wealth; even at that time when the great
Bernardino did give his ship to his king. And for three centuries all
have been prudent; and all their possessions have grown. There are vast
lands of corn, great forests, many castles, whole ranges of mountains
as yet untouched for their varied treasures which are vast. There are
seaports and villages; and in all, the dwellers are happy and content. I
am the last of my race. There is none to inherit; so I am free to pledge
myself." He did not bow or bend; there was no persistence of request in
his voice, or tone, or manner. In all there was no feeling of a bargain.
It was an offer, based on the fulfillment of his own desires; given in
such a lordly way that there could be no offence in it. He recognised so
thoroughly the strength of my own position, that the base side of barter
became obliterated; it was an exchange of goods between gentlemen. Such,
at least, I recognised was his intellectual position; my own remained
the same. How could I, or any man, take advantage of such an offer.
After thinking a few seconds I said to him:

"Sir, you have honoured me by grouping us as men of honour. What would
you do in my place?" His eye brightened, and his breath came more
quickly as he replied:

"Were it my case, I should say: 'Senor, your duty is one of honour; mine
is one of gain. There can be no comparisons. Fulfill your debt to your
forefathers! Redeem the pledge that they have made in your name!
Discover your treasure; and be free!'" There was infinite pride in his
voice and manner; I think he really meant what he said. I went on with
my questioning:

"And what about the taking of your estate as a reward of forbearance?"

He shrugged his shoulders: "For that," he said, "it matters not."

"Ah, for you to give you mean?" He nodded.

"But what for me to take? Would you do so in my place?" He was
manifestly in a dilemma. I could see something of the working of
his mind in his face. If he said he would himself take it, he would
manifestly lower himself in his own eyes; and to such pride as his, his
own self-respect was more than the respect of others, in proportion to
his self-value. If he said he would not, then he might peril his chance
of getting what he desired. The temptation was a cruel one; with all
my heart I honoured him for his answer, given with the fullness of his
mighty pride:

"Senor, I can die; I cannot stoop! But what avails my own idea? The
answer is not for me! I have offered all I have. I will in addition
pledge myself to hold my life at your service when this great trust is
relieved. To this my honour is guardian; you need not fear it shall be
redeemed! Now Senor, you have my answer! To redeem the trust of my sires
I give all I have in the world, except my honour! The answer rests with
you!"



CHAPTER XLI

TREASURE TROVE


There was no doubt that the Spaniard's devotion to his cause placed me
in a considerable difficulty. I could not disguise from myself that he
put forward a very strong claim for the consideration of one gentleman
by another. It was only on hurriedly thinking the matter over that the
weakness of his cause was apparent. Had the whole affair been a private
or personal one; had the treasure belonged to his ancestors, I should
have found it in my own heart a very difficult matter to gainsay him,
and be subsequently at ease with myself. I remembered, however, that
the matter was a public one. The treasure was collected by enemies of
England for the purpose of destroying England's liberty, and so the
liberty of the whole human race for which it made. It was sent in charge
of a personal enemy of the country in a ship of war, one of many built
for the purpose of invading and conquering England. In time of national
stress, when the guns were actually thundering along our coast from the
Thames to the Tyne, the treasure had been hidden so as to preserve it
for future use in its destined way. Though centuries had passed, it was
still held in mind; and the very men who had guarded it were, whilst
professing to be Britons, secret enemies of the country, and devoted to
her ultimate undoing. Beyond this again, there was another reason for
not giving it up which appealed to me more strongly than the claim of
my own natural duty, because it came to me through Marjory. Though Spain
was at peace with my country, it was at war with hers; the treasure
collected to harm England might--nay, would--be used to harm America.
Spain was impoverished to the last degree. Her treasuries were empty,
her unpaid soldiers clamourous for their arrears. Owing to want at home,
there was in places something like anarchy; abroad there was such lack
of all things, ships, men, stores, cannon, ammunition, that the evil
of want came across the seas to the statesmen of the Quirinal with
heart-breaking persistence. America, unprepared for war at first, was
day by day becoming better equipped. The panic had abated which had set
in on the seaboard towns from Maine to California, when each found
itself at the mercy of a Spanish fleet sweeping the seas, no man knew
where. Now if ever, money would be of value to impoverished Spain. This
great treasure, piled up by the Latin for the conquering of the
Anglo-Saxon, and rescued from its burial of three centuries, would come
in the nick of time to fulfill its racial mission; though that mission
might be against a new branch of the ancient foe of Spain, whose roots
only had been laid when the great Armada swept out in all its pride and
glory on its conquering essay. I needed no angel to tell me what would
be Marjory's answer, were such a proposition made to her. I could see
in my mind's eye the uprearing of her tall figure in all its pride and
beauty, the flashing of her eyes with that light of patriotic fire which
I knew so well, the set of her mouth, the widening of her nostril, the
wrinkling of her ivory forehead as the brows were raised in scorn----

"Sir," said I with what dignity I had, "the matter is not for you or me
to decide. Not for us both! This is an affair of two nations, or rather
of three: The Papacy, the Spaniard, the Briton. Nay, it touches another
also, for the lady who shares the secret with me represents the country
with which your nation is at war!" The Spaniard was manifestly baffled;
the red, hellish light shone in his eyes again. His anger found
expression in a sneer:

"Ah! so I suppose you do not propose to deal with the treasure, when
found, as a private matter; but shall hand it over to your government
to deal with!" The best answer to his scorn was complacency; so I said
quietly:

"There again we are in a difficulty. You see, my dear fellow, no one
exactly knows how we stand in this matter. The law of Treasure Trove,
as we call it in this country, is in a most chaotic state. I have been
looking it up since I undertook this quest; and I am rather surprised
that in all the years that have elapsed since our practical law-making
began, nothing has been done to put such matters on an exact basis. The
law, such as it is, seems to rest on Royal Prerogative; but what the
base of that prerogative is, no one seems exactly to know. And besides,
in the various constitutional changes, and the customs of different
dynasties, there are, or certainly there may be, barriers to the
assertion of any Crown right--certainly to the fulfillment of such!" He
seemed staggered. He had manifestly never regarded the matter as other
than the recovery of property entrusted to him through his ancestors. I
took advantage of his mental disturbance; and as I myself wanted time to
think, so that I might fix on some course of action which would suit
Marjory's wishes as well as my own, I began to tell him the impression
left on my mind by such study of the subject of Treasure Trove as I had
been able to achieve. I quoted now and again from notes made in my
pocket book.

"The Scotch law is much the same as the English; and as we are in
Scotland, we are of course governed by the former. The great point of
difference, seen with the eyes of a finder, is that in Scotland the
fraudulent concealment of Treasure Trove is not a criminal offence, as
it is in England. Thus, from my point of view, I have nothing to fear
as to results; for though by the General Police Act the finder is bound
to report the find to the Chief Constable, the statute only applies to
things found on roads or in public places. So far as this treasure is
concerned, it may turn out that it can, in a sense, be no treasure trove
at all."--

"According to Blackstone, treasure trove is where any money or coin,
gold, silver, plate or bullion is found hidden _in_ the earth or other
private place, the owner thereof being unknown. If found _upon_ the
earth, or in the sea, it belongs, not to the Crown, but to the finder,
if no owner appears. It is the hiding, not the abandoning, which gives
the Crown the property."--

"Coin or bullion found at the bottom of a lake or in the bed of a river
is not treasure trove. It is not hidden in the earth."--

"The right of the Crown is ... limited to gold or silver, bullion or
coin. It extends to nothing else."...

When I had got thus far the Spaniard interrupted me:

"But sir, in all these that you say, the rights of the owner seem to be
recognised even in your law."

"Ah, but there comes in again a fresh difficulty; or rather a fresh
series of difficulties, beginning with what is, in the eye of the
law, the 'owner.' Let us for a moment take your case. You claim this
treasure--if it can be found--as held by you for the original possessor.
The original possessor was, I take it, the Pope, who sent it with the
Armada, to be used for the conversion or subduing of England. We will
take the purpose later, but in the meantime we are agreed that the
original owner was Pope Sixtus V. Now, the Popedom is an office, and on
the death of one incumbent his successor takes over all his rights and
powers and privileges whatever they may be. Thus, the Pope of to-day
stands in exactly the same position as did Pope Sixtus V, when he sent
through King Philip, and in trust of Bernardino de Escoban the aforesaid
treasure." I felt that the words 'aforesaid treasure' sounded very
legal; it helped to consolidate even my own ideas as I went along. "So,
too, you as the representative of your own family, are in the same
position of original trustee as was your great ancestor of which this
record takes cognisance." This too was convincingly legal in sound. "I
do not think that British law would recognise your position, or that
of your predecessors in the trust, in the same way as it would the
continuation of the ownership, if any, on the part of the succession of
the Popes. However, for the sake of the argument, let us take it they
would be of equal force. If this be so, the claim of ownership and
guardianship would be complete." As I paused, the Spaniard who had been
listening to me with pent up breath, breathed more freely. With a
graceful movement, which was almost a bow, he said:

"If so that you recognise the continued ownership, and if you speak
as the exponent of the British law, wherein then is the difficulty of
ownership at all; should it be that the treasure may be found?" Here was
the real difficulty of both my own argument and Don Bernardino's. For
my own part, I had not the faintest idea of what the law might be; but
I could see easily enough that great issues might be raised for the
British side against the Spanish. As I had to 'bluff' my opponent to a
certain extent, I added the impressions of personal conviction to my
manner as I answered:

"Have you considered what you, or rather your predecessors in title and
trust, have done to forfeit any rights which you may have had?" He paled
and was visibly staggered; it was evident that this view of the question
had not entered his mind. The mere suggestion of the matter now opened
up for him grave possibilities. His lips grew dry, and it was with a
voice hoarser than hitherto that, after a pause, he said:

"Go on!"

"This treasure was sent, in time of war, by the enemies of England, for
the purpose of her undoing--that is her undoing from the point of view
of the established government of the time. It was in itself an act
of war. The very documents that could, or can, prove the original
ownership, would serve to prove the hostile intent of such owners in
sending it. Remember, that it came in a warship, one of the great Armada
built and brought together to attack this country. The owner of the
treasure, the Pope, gave it in trust for the _cestui que trust_, the
King of Spain to your ancestor Bernardino de Escoban, as hereditary
trustee. Your ancestor himself had the battleship _San Cristobal_ built
at his own cost for the King's service in the war against England. You
see, they were all--the individual as well as the nation--hostile to
England; and the intention of evil towards that country, what British
law calls 'malice prepense' or the '_mens rea_' was manifest in all!"
The Spaniard watched me intently; I could see by the darkening of his
swarthy face and the agonised contraction of his brows that the argument
was striking home to his very heart. The man was so distressed that,
enemy as I felt him to be, it was with a pang that I went on:

"It remains to be seen what view the British law would take of your
action, or what is the same, that of your predecessor in the trust, in
hiding the treasure in the domains of Britain. As a foreigner you would
not have, I take it, a right in any case. And certainly, as a foreigner
in arms against this country, you would have--could have--no right in
either domestic or international law. The right was forfeit on landing
from your warship in time of war on British shores!"

There was a long pause. Now that I came to piece out into an argument
the scattered fragments of such legal matters as I had been able to
learn, and my own ideas on the subject, the resulting argument was
stronger than I had at first imagined. A whole host of collateral
matters also cropped up. As I was expounding the law, as I saw it, the
subject took me away with it:

"This question would then naturally arise: if the forfeiture of the
rights of the original owner would confer a right upon the Crown of
Britain, standing as it does in such a matter as the 'remainder man.'
Also whether the forfeited treasure having been hidden, being what the
law calls '_bona vacantia_,' can be acquired by the finder, subject to
the law relating to the Royal prerogative. In both the above cases there
would arise points of law. In either, for instance, the nature of the
treasure might limit the Crown claim as over against an individual
claiming rights as finder."

"How so?" asked Don Bernardino. He was recovering his _sang froid_, and
manifestly was wishful to reassert himself.

"According to the statement of Don Bernardino, which would assuredly be
adduced in evidence on either side, the treasure was, or is, of various
classes; coined money, bullion, gems and jewel work. By one of the
extracts which I have read you, the Crown prerogative only applies to
precious metals or bullion. Gems or jewellery are therefore necessarily
excluded; for it could not, I think, be claimed that such baubles were
contraband of war."

"Again, the place of hiding may make a bar to Crown claim as treasure
trove. According to the cipher narrative the place of hiding was a sea
cave. This could not be either 'on' the ground, which would give title
to the finder; or 'in' the ground which would give Crown claim. But
beyond this again, there might arise the question as to whether the
treasure should in any way come into the purview of the law at all. You
will remember, in one of my excerpts Blackstone excepts the sea from the
conditions of treasure trove. It might have to be fought out in the Law
Courts, right up to the House of Lords which is our final Court of
Appeal, whether the definition of 'sea' would include a cave into which
the tide ran." Here I stopped; my argument was exhausted of present
possibilities. The Spaniard's thought now found a voice:

"But still ownership might be proved. Our nations have been at peace
ever since that unhappy time of the Invincible Armada. Nay more, have
not the nations fought side by side in the Peninsula! Besides, at no
time has there been war between England and the Pope, even when his
priests were proscribed and hunted, and imprisoned when captured.
The friendship of these countries would surely give a base for the
favourable consideration of an international claim. Even if there may
have been a constructive forfeiture, such was never actually exacted;
England might, in her wisdom, yield the point to a friendly nation, when
three hundred years had elapsed." Here another idea struck me.

"Of course" I said "such might be so. England is rich and need not
enforce her right to a treasure, however acquired. But let me remind you
that lawyers are very tenacious of points of law, and this would have
to be decided by lawyers who are the servants of the state and the
advisers of the governments. Such would, no doubt, be guided by existing
principles of law, even if the specific case were not on all fours with
precedents. I learn that in India, which is governed by laws made by
Britons and consonant with the scheme of British law, there is actually
an act in existence which governs Treasure Trove. By this, the
magisterial decision can be held over to allow the making of a claim of
previous ownership within a hundred years. So you see that by analogy
your claim of three hundred years of peace would put you clean out of
court." We both remained silent. Then the Spaniard, with a long sigh,
rose up and said courteously:

"I thank you Senor, for the audience which you have given to me. As
there is to be no _rapprochement_ to us, what I can say may not avail.
I must now take my own course. I am sad; for what that course may have
to be, I know not. I would have given my fortune and my life to have
acquitted me honourably of the trust imposed on me. But such happiness
may not alas! be mine. Senor" this he said very sternly "I trust that
you will always remember that I tried all ways that I know of, of peace
and honour, to fulfill my duty. Should I have to take means other
to discharge my duty, even to the point of life and death, you will
understand that I have no alternative."

"Would you take life?" I said impulsively, half incredulous.

"I would not scruple regarding my own life; why should I, regarding that
of another?" he said simply, then he went on:

"But oh! Senor, it is not the taking of life, my own or another's, which
I dread. It is that I may have to walk in devious ways, where honour is
not; have I not already tasted of its bitterness! Understand me that
this duty of guardianship of the trust is not of my choosing. It was set
to me and mine by other and greater powers than ourselves, by the
Vicegerent of God Himself; and what is ordained by him I shall do in all
ways that are demanded of me."

I was sorry for him, very sorry; but his words made a new fear. Hitherto
I had been dealing with a gentleman, and there is much protection in
this thought to any opponent. Now, however, he calmly announced that he
would act without scruple. I was in future to dread, not fair fighting
alone, but crooked ways and base acts. So I spoke out:

"Am I not then to look on you as a man of honour?" His face darkened
dangerously; but all its haughty pride was obliterated by a look of
despair and grief as he said sadly:

"Alas I know not. I am in the hands of God! He may deal mercifully with
me, and allow me to pass to my grave not dishonoured; but for myself my
path has been set in ways that may lead I know not whither."

Somehow his words made me feel like a cad. I didn't mind fighting a man
fair; or indeed fighting him anyway, so long as we understood the matter
from the first. But this was against the grain. The man had shown
himself willing to give up everything he had, so as to fulfill his trust
and be free; and for me now to have a part in forcing him into ways of
dishonour seemed too bad. It didn't seem altogether fair to me either. I
had always tried to act honourably and mercifully, so that to have my
own hand forced to acquiesce in the downfall of another man was in its
way hard lines on me too. Truly, the ways of wealth are full of thorns;
and when war and politics and intrigue are joined in the chase for
gold, there is much suffering for all who are so unhappy as to be drawn
within the spell. I was weakening in my resolve regarding the treasure,
and would, I am sure, in a moment of impulse have made some rash proffer
to the Spaniard; when once more there came back to me the purpose of the
treasure, and what Marjory might think if I allowed it to go back where
it might be used against her country. Whatever I might do, there was no
hope of compromise on the part of Don Bernardino. His one purpose, blind
and set, was to fulfill the obligation set by his forefather and to
restore the treasure to Spain, by whom it might or might not be restored
to the Pope. The intensity of my thought had concentrated my interests
to such an extent that I did not consciously notice what was going on
around me. Only in a sort of dim way did I know that the Spaniard's eyes
were roving round the room; seeking, in the blind agony of the despair
which was upon his soul for a clue or opening somewhere.

All at once I became broad awake to the situation of things which had
happened in those few seconds. He was gazing with eyes of amazement on
the heap of metal caskets, dimmed with three centuries of sea water,
which were piled on the side table amongst the scattered heaps of odds
and ends of various kinds, made manifest by some trick of light. Then
there came a light into his eyes as he raised his hand and pointed
saying:

"So the treasure has been found!"



CHAPTER XLII

A STRUGGLE


I think that at first sheer amazement had controlled the Spaniard's
thoughts. But whatever the cause of the control was, it soon passed
away; then the whole fiery nature of the man seemed to sweep from him
like a torrent:

"And so all the learned arguments with which you have overwhelmed me,
were but a cloak to cover your possession of the treasure which it was
given to me and mine to guard. I might have guessed, that without the
certainty of possession you would not have been so obdurate to my offer,
given in all sincerity as it was. From other things, too, I might have
known! That woman, so old, who watches you with eyes that see more than
is to see, and who have reason of her own to mistrust you, she telled
to me that nightly she has heard you dig in the rock as though you make
grave. Take care it is not so! I am guardian of that treasure; and I am
desperate! Already have I told you that all things are to me, all ways
to fulfill the trust of my fathers. We are here alone! I am armed; and
already my life is forfeit to this course. Yield yourself, then, to me!"

Like a flash of light he had drawn a dagger from his breast; and with an
upward sweep of his hand held it poised, either to strike or throw.
But already I had taken warning from his eyes. Ever since danger had
threatened Marjory, I had carried my revolver with me; even at night it
rested under my pillow. The practice which Marjory and I had often had,
till she had taught me the old trick which her father had taught her of
getting "the drop" on an adversary, stood me now in good stead. Whilst
he had been drawing his dagger, I had already covered him; he finished
the words of his command straight into the muzzle of my six-shooter.
I said as quietly as I could, for it was with a mighty effort I kept
approximately calm under stress of such a sudden attack:

"Drop that dagger! Quick; or I shall shoot it from your hands!" He
recognised his helplessness in the matter. With a despairing sigh he
opened his fingers; the dagger fell jingling to the floor. I went on:

"Now hold up your hands, well above your head! Move back to the wall!"
He did so, and stood facing me with a disdainful smile. I stooped, and
with my right hand picked up the dagger, still keeping him covered with
my left. I put the weapon on the far side of the table, and approached
him. He did not move, but I could see that he was sizing me up. This
gave me no anxiety, for I knew my own strength; and I had also a shrewd
idea that if he had any other arm about him he would not be calculating
his chances for a physical struggle. Cautioning him that his life
depended on his stillness, for I still held my revolver to his breast, I
passed my hand lightly over him; he had manifestly no other weapon. The
only sign of one was the sheath of his dagger; this I took from him.
I placed the dagger in it and put it in my own pocket; then I drew a
chair to the middle of the room and motioned him to sit down. He obeyed
sullenly. Having by this time regained something of my serenity of mind,
I spoke:

"Your pardon, Sir, for the indignity to which I have been obliged to
submit you; but I am sure you will remember that it was not I who began
the question of force. When you thought it right to draw arms upon me in
my own house, you made it necessary that I should protect myself. Now,
let me say something in answer to your charge against me. The finding of
the treasure has nothing whatever to do with my theory of action;
I should hold my present view just as strongly had we not made the
discovery. Indeed, I may say that since we have had actual possession of
the treasure, it seems not nearly so desirable as it had been. So far as
I am concerned, I don't care a straw whether I have ultimate possession
of it or not; but I am so fixed up that if I waive my rights--that is if
I have any to waive--that I may aid in doing a repugnant thing to a very
dear friend. That I shall not do. I shall oppose its doing by any means
in my power!" The Spaniard saw a chance, and spoke:

"But if I undertake----" I cut him short:

"Sir, in this matter you are not in a position to undertake. By your own
showing, you are simply bound to fulfill your trust and to restore the
treasure to the King, who will restore it to the Pope; or to restore it
to the Pope direct." He answered quickly:

"But I can stipulate----" again I interrupted him for this was a useless
road to travel;

"How can you stipulate? You would, or might, be told to simply fulfill
the duty that had been undertaken for you. Did you refuse, from whatever
motive, no matter how justly founded, on ground of right or honour, you
would not be holding to the simple terms of your trust. No! sir. This is
no private affair to be settled by you or me, or by us both together. It
belongs to politics! and international politics at that. The Government
of Spain is desperately in want of money. How do you know to what shift,
or to what specious argument it will condescend in its straits. I have
no doubt that, should anything be done contrary to your idea of fair
play, you would be grievously pained; but that is not to the point. Your
Government would not take thought for any wish of yours, any more than
for aught of mine. Your King is a minor; his regent is a woman, and his
councillors and governors are all men chosen to do what they can to save
their country. Sir, but a few minutes ago you professed it your duty to
take any step, even to crime and dishonour, to carry out your duty.
Indeed, you drew a weapon upon me, a presumably unarmed man, in my own
house in which you are a self-invited guest. Suppose some of the
Government of Spain hold ideas of their duty, equally strong and equally
unscrupulous; who then is to answer for what they do. Why, in such case,
they would undertake anything, until they had got possession of the
treasure; and would then act entirely upon what they would call their
'better judgment.'" His native pride awoke in an instant for he said
hotly:

"I would have you know, Senor, and remember always when you talk with a
Spaniard, that our statesmen are not criminals, but men of honour." I
bowed instinctively as I answered him:

"Sir, I have no doubt whatever, and I speak in all sincerity, that you
yourself are, under normal circumstances, a man of the highest honour.
Your self-sacrificing offer has shewn me that; and I have added to that
knowledge by seeing the pain you have suffered at even the thought of
dishonour." Here he bowed low, and there was a look of gratitude in his
eyes which touched me to the quick. "And yet even you have openly told
me that all your belief in honour, all your life-long adherence to its
behests, will not keep you from fulfilling a duty should these things
clash. Nay more, you have already done things which I take it are at
variance with your principles. How then can you, or I, believe that
other men, of less lofty lineage and less delicate sense of honour,
will forego an advantage for their country in distress, yielding to a
theoretical point of right or wrong. No sir" I went on pitilessly, for I
felt that it would be a kindness to him to shut absolutely this door of
hope, "We must take no step which will place in the hands of others the
guardianship of that treasure, of which you have hitherto conceived
yourself trustee, and of which I now believe myself to be the owner."
For fully several minutes we faced each other in silence. His face grew
more and more fixed and stern; at last he stood up with such a look of
resolution that instinctively my fingers tightened round the butt of my
revolver. I thought that he might be about to throw himself upon me, and
attempt even at such odds as were against him, a struggle for present
mastery. Then, without moving from his place, he spoke:

"When I have done all I can to fulfill my trust in its completeness,
and have failed, I shall ask the government of my country to make
representation to her friend England of a friendly claim, so that we may
get even a part of the treasure; and then I will devote myself to the
avenging of my honour on those who have foiled me in my duty!" This was
a sort of speech which braced me up again. It was a promise of war, man
to man, and I could understand it better than the subtleties which now
enmeshed us. I put my pistol back in my pocket, and bowed to my opponent
as I answered:

"And when that time comes, Sir, you will find me at your service; how
you will; where you will; and when you will. In the meantime, when first
you place the matter on the international plane, I shall take care that
the American government, in which dear friends of mine are interested,
shall make friendly demand of her friend, England, that she shall take
no step with regard to this particular treasure--if indeed it be then in
her possession--which may be used to the detriment of the trans-Atlantic
power. Thus you see, sir, that time must in any case elapse before a
final settlement. Nothing can be done till the close of the present war,
when I take it that immediate need of the sinews of war shall have
ceased to exist. Be very careful, then, how you take any steps to bring
upon the scene other powers than ourselves; powers vastly more strong,
and vastly less scrupulous--perhaps." He answered nothing, but looked at
me a long time in silent cold disdain. Then he said quietly:

"Have I your permission, Senor, to depart?" I bowed, and brought him
to the door. When outside he turned, and, lifting his hat high in an
old-fashioned, stately way, bowed. He passed up the laneway towards
Whinnyfold, without once glancing back.

As I stood looking at him, I saw in the dusk Gormala's head now and
again showing above the low green bank which guarded the edge of the
cliff. She was bent double, and was in secret following the Spaniard.

I went back to the house to think over matters. Altogether, we were
getting so complicated that there did not seem any straight road to
take. In the back of my mind I had a firm idea that the best thing
I could do would be to hand over the treasure to the custody of the
police; inform the Sheriff; and get my solicitor to enter a formal claim
of ownership, wherever the claim should be made. Then I should get
Marjory to come upon our honeymoon. I could see that her mind was
almost, if not quite, made up to accept this step; and for a while I
lost myself in a day dream.

I came back to the reality of things by dimly and gradually realising
that it had grown dark. So I made preparation for the night, bearing in
mind that I had a vast treasure in my possession, and that a desperate
man who claimed to represent its ownership was aware that I had it in
the house. It was not till I had seen to the fastenings of every window
and door, that I began to prepare a meal.

By this time I was exceedingly hungry; when I had eaten I seated myself
before a rousing fire of pine logs, lit my pipe, and began to think.
Without, the wind was rising. I could hear it whistle along the roof,
and now and again it roared and boomed down the chimney; the leaping
fire seemed to answer its call. I could not think definitely; my
thoughts kept whirling in a circle from the Spaniard to the treasure,
from the treasure to Gormala, from Gormala to Marjory, and from Marjory
back to the Spaniard again. Every time the cycle became complete and my
thoughts came back to Marjory, my rapture as I thought of her and of
our future, became clouded by a vague uneasiness. It was out of this
that the thought of Don Bernardino came to commence the next round of
thought. In all my mental wanderings he became a dominant character;
his pride, his sense of duty which subordinated even honour, his
desperation, his grief, all seemed to be with me and around me. Now and
again I trembled, when I thought that such self-sacrificing forces might
be turned against Marjory.

Little by little, despite all my anxiety, stole over me the disposition
of sleep. I was indeed almost worn out. The events of the past few days
had crowded together so quickly that I had had no time for pause. Even
the long sleep which had crowned the vigil in the water cave had not
enabled me to lay in, so to speak, a provision of sleep; it had been the
payment of a debt to nature rather than the putting by of capital. I
had the consoling thought that Marjory had promised me she would not
leave Crom Castle till I came. Safe in this thought I rolled myself in
rugs--choosing those that she had used--and fell asleep.

I think that even in sleep I did not lose the sense of my surroundings,
for in dreams my thoughts ran in their waking channel. Here again, all
the disturbing elements of my life of late became jumbled together; and
a sort of anxiety regarding something unknown seemed to brood over me.
So far as I remember, I slept fitfully; waking often in a sort of agony
of indefinite apprehension. A couple of times I made up the fire which
was falling low, for there was a sort of companionship in it. Without,
the wind howled more loudly, and each time as I sank back to rest I
pulled the rugs more closely around me.

Once, I started broad awake. I thought I heard a cry, and naturally, in
my present frame of mind, my thoughts flew to Marjory in some danger;
she was calling me. Whatever the cause was, it reached my brain through
a thick veil of sleep; my body answered, and before I had time to think
of why or wherefore, I was standing on the floor broad awake, alert and
panting. Again there came a sharp cry outside, which threw me in an
instant into a cold sweat. Marjory was in danger and was calling me!
Instinctively I ran to the window, and pulling open the shutters, threw
up the sash. All was dark outside, with just that cold line on the far
Eastern horizon which told of coming dawn. The wind had risen high, and
swept past me into the room, rustling papers and making the flames
dance. Every now and again a bird swept by me on the wings of the
wind, screaming as it flew; for the house was so close to the sea that
the birds took no note of it as they would ordinarily do of a human
habitation. One of them came so close that its scream seemed to sound
loudly in my ears; it was doubtless just such a cry as this which had
torn me from my sleep. For a while I hesitated whether I should go right
away to Crom; but second thoughts prevailed. I could not get into the
house at such an hour, without creating alarm and causing comment. So I
went back to the chimney corner, and, piling on fresh logs and snuggling
into my nest of rugs, soon found sleep again descending on me. The
serenity of thought which comes with the day was using its force....

This time I woke more slowly. The knocking was continuous and
imperative; but it was not a terrifying sound. We are all more or less
used to such sounds. I listened; and gradually consciousness of my
surroundings came back to me. The knocking was certainly persistent....
I put on my shoes and went to the door.

Outside was Mrs. Jack, looking troubled and hot in spite of the cold of
the wind which seemed to sing around the house. As I opened the door,
she slipped past me and closed it behind her. Her first words made my
heart sink, and my blood run cold with vague terror:

"Is Marjory here?"



CHAPTER XLIII

THE HONOUR OF A SPANIARD


Mrs. Jack saw the answer in my eyes before speech came, and staggered
back against the wall.

"No," I said "Why do you ask?"

"She is not here! Then there is something wrong; she was not in her room
this morning!"

This morning! The words set my thoughts working. I looked at my watch;
it was past ten o'clock. In a dazed kind of way I heard Mrs. Jack go on.

"I did not say a word to any of the servants at first, for I didn't want
to set them talking. I went all over the house myself. Her bed had not
been slept in; I pulled the clothes off it and threw them on again
roughly so that the maid might not suspect. Then I asked quietly if any
of the maids had seen her; but none had. So I said as quietly as I could
that she must have gone out for an early walk; and I took my breakfast.
Then I had the cart got ready, and drove over here myself. What can it
be? She told me last night that she was not going out until you came;
and she is always so exact when she says a thing, that there must be
something wrong. Come back with me at once! I am so anxious that I don't
know what to do."

Two minutes sufficed for my toilet; then shutting the door behind us,
we got into the cart and drove to Crom. At the first and at the last we
went quietly, so as not to arouse attention by our speed; but in the
middle space we flew. During the journey Mrs. Jack had told me that
last night she had gone to bed as usual, leaving in the drawing room
Marjory, who had told her that she was going presently into the library
to write as she had a lot of letters to get through, and that no one was
to wait up for her. This was her usual habit when she sat late; it
therefore excited no extra attention. Mrs. Jack who was an early riser,
had been dressed for an hour before she went to Marjory's room. In
the course of her enquiries amongst the servants, one of them, whose
business it was to open the hall door, told her that she had found it
locked and chained as usual.

Within the house at Crom we found all quiet. I went at once into the
library, as that was presumably the last place where Marjory had been.
As we went, I asked Mrs. Jack if any letters had been left out to post.
She said no! that the usual habit was to put such in the box on the hall
table, but she had herself, looked, when she came down to put in a
letter for America. I went over at once to the table near the fire where
Marjory usually sat at night. There were plenty of writing materials
and blank paper and envelopes; but not a sign of a letter or anything
written. I looked all round the room but could see nothing to attract
my attention. Once more I asked Mrs. Jack what Marjory had said to her
about her intention of not leaving the castle till I had come. With some
hesitation at first, as though she were fearful of breaking confidence,
but afterwards more freely as if glad to be able to speak, she told me
all:

"The dear child took to heart what I said yesterday about her living
with her husband. After you had gone she came to me and laid her head on
my breast, as she used to do as a little child, and began to cry; and
told me that I had been very good to her. The darling! And that her mind
was made up. She realised now her duty to her husband; and that as he
wished her to stay in the house, nothing in the world would induce her
to leave it till he came. That was the first act of her new duty! And,
oh my dear! that is why I was so concerned when I found that after all
she was not in the house. I don't understand it; there must be something
on foot that I don't know; and I am full of fear!" Here the old lady
quite broke down. I felt that any self control now was precious. It
would not do to leave Mrs. Jack in ignorance of the danger, so I told
her in as few words as I could of the blackmailing going on and of
the watch set by the United States Secret Service. At first she was
overwhelmed; but her early apprenticeship to dangers of all kinds stood
her in good stead. Very soon her agitation took practical shape. I told
her I was off to seek for help, and that she must keep the house till I
returned. I would have tried the secret tunnel, but from what Mrs. Jack
had said I was convinced that Marjory had never left the house of her
own accord. If she had been captured she was doubtless far away by this
time. It was possible that the blackmailers had found the secret passage
into the Castle by which Don Bernardino had come. Here the thought came
to me in full force; that was how they had discovered it. They had
seen and watched the Don!... I felt that another debt for our day of
reckoning had been piled up against him.

I got in the cart again and went to Cruden as hard as the mare could go.
As I went, I formed my plans, and had my telegrams made up in my mind
ready to write them out at once. For a while I doubted whether I should
go to another telegraph office, lest the Cruden people might come to
know too much. But there was no need of concealment now. I was not
afraid of any one knowing, though I determined to be discreet and
secret if possible. The circuit was occupied, so I found the use of the
priority telegraph forms Adams had sent me. There was not a moment lost;
one was being despatched whilst I was writing the next. To Adams I said:

"They have succeeded: Wire men see me at Crom right away. Come if you
can. Want all help can get. Time vital...."

To Cathcart I wired at his house in Invernesshire:

"Come to me without moment's delay. Vital. Want every kind of help." I
knew he would understand, and would come armed.

As it would be some little time before anything could be done, I
determined to find Don Bernardino if possible; and induce him to show me
the secret exit. Without knowledge of this we would be powerless; with
it we might find some clue. I did not make up my mind as to what I would
do if he refused; but to myself the instinctive grinding of my teeth,
and clenching of my fingers, seemed to answer my question. Of one thing
I was glad, he was a gentleman. In such a matter as that in which I was
engaged, there were possibilities, if even there were not definite hope.

I drove to Ellon; and from the agent there got his address. I soon found
it; an old-fashioned house near the town, in a tiny park surrounded with
great trees. I left the cart on the road, with the mare tethered to the
gate post, there being no lodgekeeper or no lodge. Before I rang the
hall-door bell I saw that my revolver was ready to my hand. The instant
the door was opened I stepped in, and said to the old woman who opened
it:

"Mr. Barnard is in the study I suppose? I have pressing business with
him!" She was so taken aback by the suddenness of my entry and speech
that she pointed to a door saying: "He is in there."

As I entered the room, closing the door behind me, the Don, who had been
seated in a large chair with his back to the door turned unconcernedly.
He had evidently not expected any disturbing visitor. The instant he
saw me, however, he leaped to his feet, all his hostility awake. As
he scanned my face his concern grew; and he glanced around, as though
seeking for some weapon. I put my hand on my revolver, and said as
quietly as I could, remembering his own precision of manner:

"Forgive my intrusion, Sir; but I have urgent need of speech with you."
I suppose there was something in my tone which bore home to his brain
the idea that I had changed in some way since we had met. Do what I
would, I could not conceal the anxiety of my voice. After a pause he
said:

"Regarding the treasure?"

"No!" said I: "Since last night I have not even given it a thought." A
strange, new look came over his face, a look in which hope and concern
seemed to have equal parts. He paused again; I could see he was
thinking. Mechanically I tapped my foot on the floor with impatience;
the golden moments were flying by. He realised my gravity of purpose,
and, manifestly turning his attention to me, said:

"Speak on Senor!" By this time I had well in my mind what I intended to
say. It was not my purpose to further antagonise the Spaniard; at the
outset at any rate. Later on, that might be necessary; but I should
exhaust other means first.

"I have come, Sir, to ask your aid, the help of a gentleman; and I feel
at a loss how to ask it." Through the high-bred courtesy of the
Spaniard's manner came a note of bitterness, as he answered:

"Alas! Senor, I know the feeling. Have not I myself asked on such a
plea; and stooped in vain!" I had nothing to say in reply to this, so
went on:

"Sir, I am aware that you can make much sacrifice: I ask, not for
myself, but for a lady in peril!" He answered quickly:

"A lady! in peril! Say on Senor!" There was such hope and purpose in his
quick tone that my heart instinctively leaped as I went on:

"In peril, sir; of life; of honour. To you I appeal to lay aside your
feelings of hate towards me, however just they may be; and come like a
true gentleman to her aid. I am emboldened to ask this because it was,
I think, by your act that the peril--the immediate peril, has come to
her." He flushed at once:

"Through me! Peril to a lady's honour through me! Have a care, sir! Have
a care!" With a rush I went on:

"By your going into the castle through a secret passage, other enemies
of the lady, low, base and unscrupulous who have been plotting to carry
her off for ransom, have doubtless made an entry otherwise impossible to
them. Now we must find a clue, and at once. Tell me, I implore you, of
the secret way; that thus we may at once begin our search." For a few
seconds he looked me through and through; I think he suspected some plot
or trap, for he said slowly:

"And the treasure; can you leave it?" I answered hotly:

"The treasure! I have not even thought of it since the news came of
Marjory's disappearance!" Here I took it that he was beginning his
unscrupulous purpose, and was playing my loss against his own; and a
thought came to me that had not even crossed my mind before--had he been
the abductor for the purpose of just such a bargain? I took from my
pocket the key of the house in Whinnyfold and held it out to him. "Here
Sir" I said "is the key of my house. Take it with all it contains, and
all it leads to! The treasure is as you left it last night; only help me
in my need."

He waved my hand aside with an impatient gesture as he said simply:

"I do not bargain with a woman's honour. Such comes before all the
treasures of Popes or Kings; before the oath and duty of a de Escoban.
Come! Senor, there is no time to lose. Let us settle this affair first;
later we can arrange matters that rest between thee and me!"

"Your hand, Sir" was all I could say. "In such trouble as mine, there is
no help like that of a gentleman. But will you not honour me by keeping
the key? This other is a trust which you have won by honour; as your
great ancestor won his glorious duty long ago." He did not hesitate; all
he said as he took the key was:

"It is a part of my duty which I must not forego."

As we left the house he looked like a new man--a man born again; there
was such joyous gladness in his face and voice and movements that I
wondered. I could not help saying when we had got into the cart and were
on our way:

"You seem happy, Sir. I would that I could feel the same."

"Ah, Senor, I am happy beyond belief. I am happy as one raised from Hell
to Heaven. For now my honour is no more perilled. God has been good to
me to show a way, even to death, without dishonour."

As we flew along to Crom I told him what I knew of the secret passage
between the chapel and the monument. He wondered at my having discovered
the secret; but when I told him of how the blackmailing gang had used
the way to evade the Secret Service men, he suddenly cried out:

"There was but one who ever knew the secret of that passage; my kinsman,
with whom I stayed in Crom when young, told me of him. He tried much to
find the entrance to the Castle, and finally under threat he went away
to America. He was a base-born and a thief. It must be he who has come
back after these years and has told of the secret way. Alas! they must
have watched me when I went, all unsuspicious; and so discovered the
other secret." Then he tried to explain where the entrance was. It was
not in the chamber where we had expected it would be, but in a narrow
corner of the stair, the whole corner being one stone and forming the
entrance.

When we arrived at Crom we found that the Secret Service men were
waiting for me, having been instructed from London. There were also
telegrams from Adams and Cathcart saying that they were on the way to
join me. Adams wired from Aberdeen, and Cathcart from Kingussie. Mrs.
Jack was with the detectives and had taken them through the rooms which
Marjory had used. They had had up the servants one by one and examined
them as to what they knew. The chief man had insisted on this; he said
matters were now too serious to play the fool any longer. The servants
were not told anything, even that Marjory was missing; but of course
they had their suspicions. A peremptory order was given that no one
should leave the house without permission. The chief confided to me that
Mrs. Jack had quite broken down when she was telling him that Marjory
knew all along about the blackmailers and had never told her. "But she's
all right now, Sir," he concluded. "That old lady is just full of sand;
and I tell you her head is level. She's been thinking of everything
which could possibly be of use to us. I guess I have heard more of
this racket within the last half hour than I have done in the last two
weeks."

By the instructions of Don Bernardino we went into the library. I asked
Mrs. Jack to send for lamps and candles, and these were brought shortly.
In the meantime I asked that one of the detectives should be sent into
the old chapel and another to the monument on the hill. Both were warned
to have their guns ready, and to allow no one to pass at any hazard. To
each before going I explained the secret mode of entry.

The Don went over to one of the book-cases--the very section containing
the shelf in which I had replaced the old law book. Taking out that
particular volume, he put his hand in and pressed a spring. There was a
faint click. He replaced the book and pressed against the bookcase with
slow level pressure. Very slowly it seemed to give way before him; and
then turning on a hinge at one side, left an open cavity through which a
man could easily pass. I was about to rush in, and was quite ready, with
a lamp in one hand and a revolver in the other, when the chief of the
detectives laid a restraining hand on my arm as he said:

"Wait a moment. If you go too fast you may obliterate some sign which
would give us a clue!" The wisdom of his speech was not to be gainsaid.
Instinctively I fell back; two of the trained observers drew close to
the doorway, and holding their lamp in such wise as to throw light all
round the opening, began an exact scrutiny. One of them knelt down and
examined the flooring; the other confined his attention to roof and
walls. After a silence, lasting perhaps a minute, the man kneeling stood
up and said:

"Not a doubt about it! There has been a violent struggle here at the
doorway!"



CHAPTER XLIV

THE VOICE IN THE DUST


One of the men produced his note book and began taking down in shorthand
the rapid utterances of the chief, repeating it so as to check the
accuracy as he went on:

"Easy to see the marks; the floor is deep in dust, and the walls are
thick with it. On floor, mark of several feet--confused in struggle, may
articulate separately later on--one woman's--also trailing of long
skirt. On walls marks of hands, fingers outspread, as if trying to
grasp. Some of the long marks down the wall others across." The speaker
here raised his lamp and held it in the opening as far as his arm would
go; then he went on:

"Steps wind downwards to right. Struggle seems to have stopped.
Footmarks more clear."... Then the chief turned to us:

"I think gentlemen, we may follow in now. The footmarks may be
discriminated and identified later. We must chance destroying them, or
we cannot pass in this narrow passage." Here I spoke; a thought had been
surging up in my brain ever since the detective had pointed out the
finger marks on the wall "down and across":

"Stop a moment please! Let me see the marks on the wall before any one
enters; the passage is narrow and they may be rubbed off." A glance was
enough, just time enough to formulate which was the symbol of "a" and
which of "b." The perpendicular strokes were "a" and the horizontal "b."
Marjory had kept her head, even at this trying time, and was leaving a
message for me as she was forced along. I understood why the struggle
had ceased. Seized and forced through the narrow doorway, she had at
first struggled hard. Then, when she realised that she could leave a
clue behind her, she had evidently agreed to go quietly; for so she
might have her hands free. It would be a hard job to carry or force
along an unwilling captive through that narrow uneven passage; doubtless
the captors were as willing as she was that she should go quietly. I
said to the detectives:

"These marks on the wall are in a cipher which I can read. Give me the
best lamp we have, and let me go first."

So, in an orderly procession, leaving two men in the library with Mrs.
Jack to guard the entrance, we passed into the secret passage. As I read
off the words written on the wall, the man with the note-book took them
down, his companion holding a candle so as to enable him to do so. How
my heart beat as I read my dear girl's message, marked on the wall on
the inner side whichever way the curves ran. Obviously it would create
less attention by guiding herself in this wise as she passed. She had
kept her hand well down so that her signs should not be confused with
the marks made by the men who, guiding themselves likewise, had held
their hands at a natural height. Her sign marks ran continuously,
even after we had passed into the passage between the chapel and the
monument; the writing ran as follows:

"Four men came in--two waiting in passage through bookcase--late--striking
one--struggled--then quiet--hands free--same voice we heard in Chapel.
Feathers thin voice, small man, dark--all masked--Whisky Tommy hoarse
voice, big man, sandy, large hands--Dago, deep voice, swarthy, little
finger missing left hand--Max, silent, nods for speech, think dumb--two
others on ahead too far see, hear."

In a pause I heard the chief detective murmur:

"That girl's a peach. We'll get her yet!" The spot at which we were
pausing was where the way to the reservoir branched off. Here Marjory
probably stood with her back to the wall and used her hands behind her
back, for the strokes were smaller and more uneven. There were faults
which put me out and I could only read a few words--"whispering"--"only
word can hear 'manse.'" There was evidently some conversation going on
between her captors, and she was making use of her opportunities. Then
we went on and found the signs renewed. It cut me to the heart when I
saw a smear of blood on one of the marks; the rough uncertain movement
and the sharp edges of the rock had told on her delicate skin. But later
on, the blood marks were continued, and I could not but think that she
had cut her fingers on purpose to make a more apparent clue. When I
mentioned my surmise to the detective, his instinct having been trained
in such matters, showed a keener insight than my own:

"More likely she is preparing to leave a mark which we can see when they
get her out of the tunnel. They may not suspect intention if her fingers
are bleeding already!" The words following the stop where I had read
"manse" were:

"Boat ready--Seagull--Coffin--Hearse--bury isl--" Here the next mark
instead of being horizontal took a sudden angle down, and the blood was
roughly rubbed off. It was as though her hand had been struck in the act
of making the mark. Her captors had suspected her. There were no more
marks on the wall. I could not imagine, however, that Marjory would be
entirely baffled. She had infinite resource, and would doubtless find
some other means of leaving a clue. Telling the others therefore to keep
back I threw the rays of the lamp over roof and walls and floor as we
proceeded.

It was a strange scene. The candles and lamp showing up but patches of
light in the inky black darkness; the moving figures projected against
the lights as I looked back; the silence broken by the shuffling tread
of stumbling feet on the rock floor; the eager intense faces, when a
change in the light flashed them into view. It all moved me at moments,
for there was a gleam of hope in its earnestness.

I tried to put myself in Marjory's position. If her hands were useless,
as they would be if she could not use them without suspicion--even were
they not tied now as was probable--her next effort would be with her
feet; I therefore looked out carefully for any sign made this way.
Presently I came across a mark which I suspected. It was only a few
steps beyond the last mark on the wall. It was a sort of drag of the
foot, where there was any slight accumulation of dust, or rubbish, or
sand. There were more such traces ahead. So motioning to the others to
keep back, I followed them up, taking care not to disturb any of them.
They were but the rough marks made during a stumbling progress; and for
a time I was baffled; though I could distinguish the traces of Marjory's
little feet amongst the great ones. Then I went back and looked at them
afresh from the beginning, and a light burst upon me. They were made
with the right or left foot as required; thus she could reproduce the
bi-literal symbol. Interpretation was now easy enough, and hence on, to
the exit from the tunnel, I could tell almost every word written. There
being only a few cases where the sign was not sufficiently marked for
me to read it.

"Suspicious. Hands tied--gagged--find Seagull--find Manse."

It was sadly slow work, and my heart at times sank within me at the
exasperating delay in our progress. However, it was progress after
all; and that sustained us. All along, as we worked our way towards
the monument, I had been thinking of the word "manse;" and now its
repetition showed its importance. It would be necessary that the
abductors have some place in which to conceal their captive, before they
should be able to get her out of the country. That this latter would be
a necessary step towards their object was manifest; but the word
_Seagull_ settled it.

When we got to the entrance of the tunnel we examined every inch of the
way; this was the wish of the detective rather than my own. Marjory
would, it seemed to me, go quietly through the entrance. She would
know that she was being watched here with extra carefulness; and would
reserve herself for a less suspicious opportunity. She would also know
that if I were on her track at all, I would be able to follow through
the secret entrance.

Outside, on the ground beside the monument, were no unusual signs
of passage. The patch of bare earth and gravel, which we had before
noticed, left no trace of footsteps. Those who had used it had evidently
taken care that there should be no sign. We went slowly along the
route, which, by my former experiments with the thread, I had found was
habitually used. Presently one of the Americans asked me to stop, as he
had seen a trace of feet. For my life I could distinguish nothing in the
seemingly undisturbed mass of pine needles. But the man, who in his
youth had been in Indian country, had learned something of tracking;
he could interpret signs unseen to others with less highly developed
instincts. He went down on his knees and examined the ground, inch by
inch, using a microscope. For some ten yards he crawled along on hands
and knees engaged in this way. Then he stood up and said:

"There's no error about it now. There are six men and a woman. They have
been carrying her, and have let her down here!" We did not challenge his
report, or even ask how he had arrived at it; we were all well content
to accept it.

We then moved on in the manifest direction in which the ground trended;
we were working towards the high road which ran past the gates of Crom.
I asked the others to let me go first now, for I knew this would be
Marjory's chance to continue her warning. Surely enough, I saw presently
a slight disturbance in the pine needles, and then another and another.
I spelled out the word "Manse" and again "Manse" and later on "try all
Manses near." Then the sign writing ceased; we had come out of the wood
on to a grass field which ran down to the high road. Here, outside a gap
at the bottom of the field, were the marks in the dust of several feet,
the treading of horses, and the ruts of wheels. A little further on,
the wheel marks--some four-wheeled vehicle--were heavy; and from the
backward propulsion of the dust and gravel in the hoof-tracks we could
easily see that the horses were galloping.

We stopped and held a council of war. It was, of course understood by us
all that some one should follow on the track of the carriage, and try to
reach the quarry this way. For my own part, I felt that to depend on a
wheel mark, in such a country of cross roads, was only the off chance.
In any case, this stern chase must be a long one; whereas time was
vital, every moment being precious. I determined to try to follow out
Marjory's clue. "Try every Manse near." To do this we should get to
some centre where we could obtain a list of all the churches in the
neighbourhood. Ellon was naturally the place, as it was in the centre of
the district. They all acquiesced in my view; so we hurried back to
Crom, leaving two men, the tracker and another, to follow the fugitives.
Hitherto Don Bernardino had hardly said a word. He was alert, and the
eager light of his eye was helpful; but after he had shown us the secret
way, and found that already I knew the outer passage as well as he did,
or better, he had contented himself with watchfulness. Now he suggested:

"There is also the boat! May it not be well that some one should follow
up that side of the matter? Thus we shall be doubly armed."

His advice commended itself to the chief of the detectives; though I
could see that he took it suspiciously from the Spaniard. It was with
manifest purpose of caution that he answered:

"Quite right! But that we shall see to ourselves; when Mr. Adams comes
he will work that racket!" The Spaniard bowed, and the American returned
the courtesy with a stiff back. Even in such a time of stress, racial
matters were not to be altogether forgotten.

In the hall at Crom, we found, when we came back through the old chapel,
Sam Adams. He had arrived just after we had set out on our search, but
was afraid to follow over-ground lest he should miss us; wisely he did
not attempt the underground way as he had no proper light. His coming
had been a great comfort to Mrs. Jack, who, always glad to see a
countryman of her own, now almost clung to him. He had brought with him
two young men, the very sight of whom made my heart warmer. One of them
he introduced as "Lootenant Jackson of West Point" and the other as
"Lootenant Montgomery of Annapolis." "These boys are all right!" he
added, laying a hand affectionately on the shoulder of each.

"I am sure they are! Gentlemen, I thank you with all my heart for
coming!" I said as I wrung their hands. They were both fine specimens
of the two war Academies of the United States. Clean-built from top to
toe; bright-eyed, resolute and alert; the very type of highly bred and
trained gentlemen. The young soldier Jackson answered me:

"I was too delighted to come, when Adams was good enough to get leave
for me."

"Me too!" echoed the sailor "When I heard that Miss Drake was in
trouble, and I was told I might come, I think I danced. Why, Sir, if you
want them, we've only to pass the word, and we can get you a man of
war's crew--if every man of them has to desert!"

Whilst we were speaking there was a sound of rapid wheels, and a
carriage from Ellon drew up at the door. Out jumped Cathcart, followed
by a tall, resolute looking young man who moved with the freedom of an
athlete.

"Am I in time?" was Cathcart's greeting as he rushed towards me. I told
him exactly how we stood. "Thank God!" he said fervently "we may be in
time yet." Then he introduced his friend MacRae of Strathspiel. This was
the host with whom he had been staying; and who had volunteered to come,
on hearing of his summons:

"You may trust Donald!" was his simple evidence of the worth of his
friend.

This addition to our forces gave us great hope. We had now a sufficiency
of intelligent, resolute men to follow up several clues at once; and in
a brief council we marked out the various duties of each. Cathcart was
to go to Ellon and get a list of all the manses in the region of
Buchan, and try to find out if any of them had been let to strangers. We
took it for granted that none of the clergy of the place were themselves
concerned in the plot. MacRae was to go with Cathcart and to get all the
saddle horses he could without attracting public attention, and bring
them, or have them brought, to Crom as soon as possible. Secrecy of
movement was insisted on with almost agonised fervour by Adams and the
Secret Service men. "You don't know these wretches," said the chief of
the latter "They are the most remorseless and cruel villains in the
world; and if they are driven to bay will do anything however cruel or
base. They are well plucked too, and don't know what fear means. They
will take any chances, and do anything to get their way and protect
themselves. If we don't go right in this matter, we may regret it to the
last of our days."

The silence in the room was only broken by the grinding of teeth, and by
Mrs. Jack's suppressed sobs.

Adams was to go to Aberdeen as a working centre, and was to look after
the nautical side of the adventure; he was to have Montgomery in this
work with him. Before he left Crom, he wrote some cipher telegrams to
the Embassy. He explained to me that one of his suggestions was that
an American war-ship which was cruising in the North Sea should, if
possible, be allowed to lie off the coast of Aberdeen ready for any
emergency. When Montgomery heard it, he asked that if possible a message
should be sent from him to the first officer of the _Keystone_: "Tell
the men privately that they are helping Marjory Drake!--There will
be a thousand pair of eyes on the watch then!" he added by way of
explanation.

I was to wait with the detectives till we should get word from any of
our sources as to what could be done.

For there were several possibilities. The trackers might mark down the
locality where the prisoner was hidden. Cathcart might, before this,
come with the list of manses and their occupants. Adams or Montgomery
might get wind of the _Seagull_; for Montgomery had already orders to go
to Petershead and Fraserburgh, where the smacks for the summer fishing
were gathered.

Don Bernardino remained with me at Crom.



CHAPTER XLV

DANGER


The time of waiting was inconceivably long and dreary. When Marjory and
I had been waiting for death in the water-cave, we thought that nothing
could be so protracted; but now I knew better. Then, we had been
together, and whatever came, even death itself, would be shared by us.
But now I was alone; and Marjory away, and in danger. In what danger I
knew not, I could only imagine; and at every new thought of fear and
horror I ground my teeth afresh and longed for action. Fortunately there
was something to do. The detectives wanted to know all I could tell
them. At the first, the chief had asked that Mrs. Jack would get all the
servants of the house together so that he might see them. She had so
arranged matters that they would be together in the servants' hall, and
he went down to inspect. He did not stay long; but came back to me at
once with an important look on his face. He closed the door and coming
close to me said:

"I knew there was something wrong below stairs! That footman has
skipped!" For a few seconds I did not realise what he meant, and asked
him to explain.

"That footman that went out gallavantin' at nights. He's in it, sure.
Why isn't he in the hall where the others are? Just you ask the old lady
about him. It'll be less suspicious than me doing it." Then it dawned on
me what he meant.

"There is no footman in the house!" I said.

"That's so, Mister. That's just what I'm tellin'! Where is he?"

"There is none; they don't have any male servants in the house. The only
men are in the stables in the village."

"Then that makes it worse still. There is a man who I've seen myself
steal out of the house after dark, or in the dusk; and sneak back again
out of the wood in the grey of the dawn. Why, I've reported it to Mr.
Adams. Didn't he warn you about it; he said he would."

"He did that."

"And didn't you take his tip?"

"No!" here from the annoyed expression of his face I took warning.
It would never do to chagrin the man and set him against me by any
suspicion of ridicule. So I went on:

"The fact is, my friend, that this was a disguise. It was Mar--Miss
Drake who used it!" He was veritably surprised; his amazement was
manifest in his words:

"Miss Drake! And did she put on the John Thomas livery? In the name of
thunder, why?"

"To escape you!"

"To escape me! Wall, I'm damned! That elegant young lady to put on
livery; and to escape me!"

"Yes; you and the others. She knew you were watching her! Of course she
was grateful for it!" I added, for his face fell "but she couldn't bear
it all the same. You know what girls are," I went on apologetically,
"They don't like to be cornered or forced to do anything. She knew you
were all clever fellows at your work and didn't take any chances." I was
trying to conciliate him; but I need not have feared. He was of the
right sort. He broke into a laugh, slapping his thigh loudly with his
open hand as he said heartily:

"Well, that girl's a daisy! she's a peach; she's "It"! To think of her
walking out under our noses, and us not having an idea that it might
be her, just because we didn't think she'd condescend to put on the
breeches--and the footman's at that. Well, it's a pity we didn't get on
to her curves; for it might have been different! Never mind! We'll take
her out of her trouble before long; and Mr. Whisky Tommy and his push
will have to look out for their skins!"

This little episode passed some of the time; but the reaction to the
dreary waiting was worse than ever. As I began again an endless chain of
surmises and misgivings, it occurred to me that Don Bernardino might be
made of some use. The blackmailers had evidently watched him; it might
be that they would watch him again. If so, he could be the means of a
trap being laid. I turned the matter over in my mind, but at present
could see no way to realise the idea. It gave me another thought,
however. The Don had been very noble in his attitude to me; and I might
repay some of his goodness. Although he was so quiet and silent, I knew
well that he must be full of his own anxiety regarding the treasure, now
exposed as it might be to other eyes than his own. I could ask him to
go to see after it. With some diffidence I broached the matter to him,
for I did not want in any way to wound him. Since I had determined to
relinquish the treasure if necessary, I was loth to make the doing so
seem like an ungracious act. At first he almost took offence, reminding
me with overt haughtiness that he had already assured me that all the
treasures of Spain or of the Popedom were secondary to a woman's honour.
I liked him all the better for his attitude; and tried to persuade him
that it was his duty to guard this trust, as otherwise it might fall
into bad hands. Then a brilliant idea struck me, one which at once met
the case and made the possibility of a trap. I told him that as the
blackmailers had watched him once they might have done so again, and
have even followed him to my house. As I was speaking, the thought
struck me of how well Providence arranges all for the best. If Don
Bernardino had not taken from the library the typescript of the secret
writing, it might have fallen into the hands of the gang. When I
mentioned the idea to him he said in surprise:

"But I did not take the papers! I read them on the table; but did not
think of moving them. Why, had I done so, I should have at once made
suspicion; and it was my purpose to keep the secret if I could." An idea
struck me and I ran over to the table to look where the papers usually
were.

There was not a sign of them about. Somebody had secured them; it could
hardly have been Marjory who lacked any possible motive for doing so.
The Spaniard, eagerly following my face, saw the amazement which I felt;
he cried out:

"Then they have taken them. The treasure may yet prove a lure through
which we may catch them. If it be that they have followed me to your
house, and if they have any suspicions that came to me on reading that
paper, then they will surely make some attempt." If anything were to be
tried on this line, there was no time to lose. I had to carry out the
matter privately; for on mentioning to Don Bernardino that I should ask
one of the detectives to go with him, he at once drew back.

"No!" he said, "I have no right to imperil further this trust. The
discovery was yours, and you knew of the hiding place before I did; but
I could not with my consent allow any other person to know the secret.
Moreover, these men are enemies of my country; and it is not well
that they should know, lest they should use their knowledge for their
country's aid. You and I, Senor, are _caballero_. To us there is,
somewhere, a high rule of honour; but to these people there is only
law!"

"Well," I said, "if you are going, you had better lose no time. These
people have had nearly six hours already; I left the house with Mrs.
Jack a little after ten. But you had better go carefully. The men are
desperate; and if they find you alone, you may have a bad time."

For answer he pulled a revolver from his pocket. "Since yesterday," he
said, "I go armed, till these unhappy businesses are all over!"

I then told him of the entrance to the caves, and gave him the key of
the cellar. "Be sure you have light." I cautioned him "Plenty of light
and matches. It will be towards low water when you get there. The rope
which we used as a clue is still in its place; we did not take it away."
I could see that this thought was a new source of anxiety to him; if the
gang were before him it would have served to lead them to the treasure
itself. As he was going, I bade him remember that if there was any sign
of the men about, he was to return at once or send us word, so that we
could come and catch them like rats in a trap. In any case he was to
send us word, so that we might have knowledge of his movements, and
inferentially of those of our enemies. In such a struggle as ours,
knowledge was everything.

Not long after he had gone, Cathcart and MacRae arrived on horseback.
They said there were three other saddle horses coming after them.
Cathcart had a list of all the churches, and the manses of all the
clergy of all shades of doctrine, in Buchan; and a pretty formidable
list it made. He had also a map of Aberdeen County, and a list of such
houses as had been let for the summer or at any period during it. Such
was of course only an agent's list, and would not contain every letting
privately.

We set to work at once with the map and the lists; and soon marked the
names which were likely to be of any use to us, those which had at any
time lately been let to strangers. Then Cathcart and Gordon and all the
detectives, except the chief, went off on horseback with a list of
places to visit. They were all to return to report as soon as possible.
The chief kept tab of the places to be visited by each. When the rest
had gone, I asked him if he knew where any of those supposed to be
of the gang lived in the neighbourhood. He said he felt awkward in
answering the question, and he certainly looked it. "The fact is," he
said sheepishly, "since that young lady kicked those names on the dirt,
and so into my thick head, I know pretty well who they are. Had I known
before, I could easily have got those who could identify them; for I
never saw them myself. I take it that 'Feathers' is none other than
Featherstone who was with Whisky Tommy--which was Tom Mason--in the
A. T. Stewart ransom case. If those two are in it, most likely the
one they called the 'Dago' is a half-bred Spaniard that comes from
somewheres over here. That Max that she named, if he's the same man,
is a Dutchman; he's about the worst of the bunch. Then for this
game there's likely to be two Chicago bums from the Levee, way-down
politicians and heelers. It's possible that there are two more; a man
from Frisco that they call Sailor Ben--what they call a cosmopolite for
he doesn't come from nowhere in particular; and a buck nigger from Noo
Orleans. A real bad 'un he is; of all the.... But I hope he isn't in the
gang. If he is, we haven't no time to lose."

His words made my blood run cold. Was this the crowd, within whose
danger I had consented that Marjory should stand. The worst kind of
scoundrels from all over the earth. Oh! what it was to be powerless,
and to know that she was in their hands. It took me all my strength of
purpose not to weep, out of very despair. I think the detective must
have wished to cheer me a little, for he went on:

"Of course it's not their game to do her any harm, or let harm come to
her. She's worth too many millions, alive and unharmed, for them to
spoil their market by any foolishness. It's here that I trust Whisky
Tommy to keep the rest straight. I suppose you know, Sir, that criminals
always work in the same way every time. We know that when the Judge
wouldn't pay up for old A. T., Featherstone threatened to burn up the
stiff; but Whisky Tommy knew better than to kill the golden goose like
that. Why he went and stole it from Featherstone and hid it somewhere
about Trenton till the old lady coughed up about twenty-five thousand.
Tommy's head's level; and if that black devil isn't in the squeeze,
he'll keep them up to the collar every time."

"Who is the negro?" I asked, for I wanted to know the worst. "What has
he done?"

"What hasn't he done that's vile, is what I'd like to know. They're a
hard crowd in the darkey side of Noo Orleans; and a man doesn't get a
bad name there easily, I tell you. There are dens there that'd make God
Almighty blush, or the Devil either; a darkey that is bred in them and
gets to the top of the push, doesn't stick at no trifles!

"But you be easy in your mind as yet, Sir; at present there's naught to
fear. But if once they get safe away, they will try to put the screw on.
God knows then what may happen. In the meantime, the only fear is lest,
if they're in a tight place, they may kill her!"

My heart turned to ice at his words. What horrible possibilities were
there, when death for my darling was the "only" fear. It was in a faint
enough voice I asked him:

"Would they really kill her?"

"Of course they would; if it was their best course. But don't you be
downhearted, Sir. There's not much fear of killing--as yet at all
events. These men are out for dough; and for a good heap of it, too.
They're not going to throw away a chance till the game's up. If we get
on to their curves quick, they'll have to think of their own skins. It's
only when all's up that they'll act; when they themselves must croak if
she doesn't!"

Oh! if I had known! If I had had any suspicion of the dangerous nature
of the game we were playing--that I had consented that Marjory should
play--I'd have cut my tongue out before I'd have agreed. I might
have known that a great nation like the United States would not have
concerned itself as to any danger to an individual, unless there had
been good cause. Oh fool! fool! that I had been!

If I had been able to do anything, it might not have been so bad. It was
necessary, however, that I should be at the very heart and centre of
action; for I alone knew the different ramifications of things, and
there was always something cropping up of which I had better knowledge
than the others. And so I had to wait in what patience I could pray for.
Patience and coolness of head were what were demanded of me for the
present. Later on, the time might come when there would be action; and
I never doubted that when that time did come it would not find me
wanting--even in the issues of life and death.



CHAPTER XLVI

ARDIFFERY MANSE


In the dreary time of waiting I talked with the detective chief.
Everything which he told me seemed to torture me; but there was a weird
fascination in his experience as it bore on our own matter. I was face
to face, for the first time in my life, with that callousness which is
the outcome of the hard side of the wicked world. Criminal-hunters, as
well as criminals, achieve it; so I suppose do all whose fortunes bring
them against the sterner sides of life. Now and again it amazed me to
hear this man, unmistakably a good fellow and an upright one, weighing
up crime and criminals in a matter-of-fact way, without malice, without
anger, without vindictiveness. He did seem to exercise in his habitual
thought of his _clientele_ that constructive condemnation which sways
the rest of us in matters of moral judgment. The whole of his work, and
attitude, and purpose, seemed to be only integral parts of a game which
was being played. At that time I thought light of this, and consequently
of him; but looking back, with judgment in better perspective, I am able
to realise the value of just such things. There was certainly more
chance of cooler thought and better judgment under these conditions,
than when the ordinary passions and motives of human life held sway.
This man did not seem to be chagrined, or put out personally in any way,
by the failure of his task, or to have any rancour, from this cause, in
his heart for those to whom the failure was due. On the contrary, he,
like a good sportsman, valued his opponent more on account of the
cleverness which had baffled him. I imagined that at first he would
have been angry when he learned how all the time in which he and his
companions had been watching Crom Castle, and were exulting in the
security which their presence caused, their enemies had been coming and
going as they wished by a safe way, unknown; and had themselves been the
watchers. But there was nothing of the kind; I really believe that,
leaving out of course the possibly terrible consequences of his failure,
he enjoyed the defeat which had come to him. In his own way he put it
cleverly:

"Those ducks knew their work well. I tell you this, in spite of the
softies we have been, it isn't easy to play any of us for a sucker. Just
fancy! the lot of us on sentry-go day and night round the castle, for,
mind you, we never neglected the job for one half hour; and all the
time, three lots of people--this push, you and the girl, and this Dago
lord of yours--all going and coming like rabbits in a warren. What
puzzles me is how you and Miss Drake managed to escape the observation
of Whisky Tommy's lot, even if you went through us!"

It had been after five o'clock when the party set out to visit the
manses; at six o'clock the reports began to come in. The first was a
message scribbled on a leaf torn from a note book, and sent in one of
the envelopes taken for the purpose.

"All right at Auquharney." From this on, messengers kept arriving,
some on foot, some on horseback, some in carts: but each bearing a
similar message, though couched in different terms. They came from
Auchlenchries, Heila, Mulonachie, Ardendraught, Inverquohomery,
Skelmuir, and Auchorachan. At nine o'clock the first of the searchers
returned. This was Donald MacRae; knowing the country he had been able
to get about quicker than any of the others who had to keep to the
main roads. His report was altogether satisfactory; he had been to six
places, and in each of them there was no ground for even suspicion.

It was nearly three hours before the rest were in, but all with the same
story; in none of the manses let to visitors through an agent, and in
none if occupied by their incumbents, could the fugitives have hidden.
The last to come in were the two trackers, disappointed and weary. They
had lost the track several times; but had found it again on some cross
road. They had finally lost it in a dusty road near Ardiffery and had
only given up when the light had altogether gone. They themselves
thought their loss was final, for they could not take up the track
within a quarter of a mile of either side of the spot where they had
lost it.

It was now too late to do anything more for this night; so, after a
meal, all the men, except one who remained on watch, went to sleep for a
few hours. We must start again before dawn. For myself I could not rest;
I should have gone mad, I think, if I had to remain the night without
doing something. So I determined to wheel over to Whinnyfold and see how
Don Bernardino had progressed. I was anxious, as I had not heard from
him.

At Whinnyfold all was still, and there was no sign of light in the
house. I had brought with me the duplicate key which I had given to
Marjory, and which Mrs. Jack found for me on her dressing table; but
when I inserted it, it would not turn. It was a Yale lock; and it was
not likely that it should have got out of order without the use of
some force or clumsiness. I put it down in the first instance to the
inexperience of the Don in such mechanism. Anyhow, there was nothing to
be done as to entry by that way, so I went round to the back to see if
I could make an entry there. It was all safe, however; I had taken care
to fasten every door and window on the previous night. As the front door
was closed to me, it was only by force that I could effect entrance to
my own house. I knocked softly at the door, and then louder; I thought
perhaps, for some reason to be explained, the Don had remained in the
house and might now be asleep. There was no sound, however, and I began
to have grave doubts in my own mind as to whether something serious
might have happened. If so, there was no time to lose. Anything having
gone wrong meant that the blackmailers had been there. If I had to break
open the door I might as well do it myself; for if I should get help
from the village, discussion and gossip would at once begin, if only
from the fact that I could not wait till morning.

I got a scaffold pole from the yard where some of the builder's material
still remained, and managed by raising it on my shoulder and making a
quick run forward to strike the door with it just over the lock. The
blow was most efficacious; the door flew open so quickly that the handle
broke against the wall of the passage. For a few seconds I paused,
looking carefully round to see if the sound had brought any one to the
spot; but all was still. Then carefully, and with my revolver ready in
my right hand and the lamp of my bicycle in my left, I entered the
house.

A glance into each of the two sitting-rooms of the ground floor showed
me that there was no one there; so I closed the hall-door again, and
propped it shut with the scaffold pole. Quickly I ran over the house
from top to bottom, looking into every room and space where anyone could
hide. The cellar door was locked. It was odd indeed; there was not a
sign of Don Bernardino anywhere. With a sudden suspicion I turned into
the dining-room and looked on the table, where the several caskets which
we had taken from the cave had lain.

There was not a sign of them! Some one had carried them off.

For a while I thought it must have been Don Bernardino. There came back
to me very vividly the conversation which we had had in that very room
only a day before; I seemed to see the red light of his eyes blaze
again, as when he had told me that he would not stop at anything to
gain possession of the treasure. It must have been, that when he found
himself in possession, the desire overcame him to take away the treasure
to where he could himself control it.

But this belief was only momentary. Hard upon its heels came the
remembrance of his noble attitude when I had come to ask his help for a
woman in distress--I who had refused his own appeal to my chivalry only
a few hours before. No! I would not believe that he could act so now. In
strength of my belief I spoke aloud: "No! I will not believe it!"

Was it an echo to my words? or was it some mysterious sound from the sea
beneath? Sound there certainly was, a hollow, feeble sound that seemed
to come from anywhere, or nowhere. I could not locate it at all. There
was but one part of the house unsearched, so I got a great piece of wood
and broke open the door of the cellar. There was no one in it, but the
square hole in the centre of it seemed like a mystery itself. I listened
a moment; and the hollow sound came again, this time through the hole.

There was some one in the cave below, and the sound was a groan.

I lit a torch and leaning over the hole looked down. The floor below
was covered with water, but it was only a few inches deep and out of
it came the face of the Spaniard, looking strangely white despite its
natural swarthiness. I called to him. He evidently heard me, for he
tried to answer; but I could distinguish nothing, I could only hear a
groan of agony. I rigged up the windlass, and taking with me a spare
piece of rope lowered myself into the cave. I found Don Bernardino just
conscious; he was unable, seemingly, to either understand my questions
or to make articulate reply. I tied the spare rope round him, there
being no time or opportunity to examine him as he lay in the water, and
taking the spare end with me pulled myself up again. Then, putting the
rope to which he was attached on the windlass, I easily drew him up to
the cellar.

A short time sufficed to give him some brandy, and to undress him and
wrap him in rugs. He shivered at first, but the warmth soon began to
affect him. He got drowsy, and seemed all at once to drop asleep. I lit
a fire and made some tea and got provisions ready. In less than half an
hour he awoke, refreshed and quite coherent. Then he told me all that
had passed. He had opened the door without trouble, and had looked into
the dining-room where he found the caskets still on the table. He did
not think of searching the house. He got a light and went into the
cellar, leaving the door open, and set about examining the winch, so as
to know the mechanism sufficiently well as to be able to raise and lower
himself. Whilst stooping over the hole, he got a violent blow on the
back of the head which deprived him of his senses. When he became
conscious again there were four men in the cellar, all masked. He
himself was tied up with ropes and gagged. The men lowered each other
till only one remained on guard. He heard them calling to each other.
After a long wait they had come back, all of them carrying heavy burdens
which they began to haul up by the windlass. He said that it creaked
loudly with the weight as they worked it. He had the unutterable chagrin
of seeing them pack up in sacks and bags, extemporised from the material
in the house, the bullion of the treasure which his ancestor had
undertaken to guard, and to which he had committed his descendants
until the trust should have been fulfilled. When all was ready for
departure--which was not for many hours, and when two of the men had
returned with a cart of some sort, whose wheels he heard rumbling--they
consulted as to what they should do with him. There was no disguise made
of their intent; all was spoken in his hearing with the most brutal
frankness. One man, whom he described as with grey lips of terrific
thickness, and whose hands were black, was for knifing him at once or
cutting his throat, and announced his own readiness to do the job. He
was overruled, however, by another, presumably the leader of the gang,
who said there was no use taking extra risks. "Let us put him into the
cave," he said. "He may break his neck; but anyhow it does not matter
for the tide is rising fast and if anyone should come they will find
that he met his death by an accident."

This suggestion was carried out; he was, after the ropes and gag were
removed with the utmost care but with the utmost brutality, lowered into
the cave. He remembered no more till the deadly silence around him was
broken by the sound, seemingly far away, of a heavy blow on wood which
reverberated.

I examined him all over carefully, but could find no definite harm done
to him. This knowledge in itself cheered him up, and his strength and
nerve began to come back; with his strength came determination. He
could, however, tell me nothing of the men who had attacked him. He said
he would know their voices again, but, what with their masks and his
cramped position, he could not see enough to distinguish anything.

Whilst he was recovering himself I looked carefully round the room and
house. From the marks at one of the windows at the back I gathered that
this was the means by which they had gained admission. They were expert
housebreakers; and as I gathered from the detective that Whisky Tommy
was a bank burglar--most scientific and difficult of all criminal
trades, except perhaps, banknote forgery--I was not surprised that they
had been able to gain admittance. None of the jewels which Marjory and I
had taken from the cave were left behind. The robbers had evidently made
accurate search; even the rubies, which I had left in the pocket of the
shooting-coat which I had worn in the cave, had disappeared.

One thing I gathered from their visit; they evidently felt secure as to
themselves. They dared not risk so long delay had not their preparations
been complete; and they must have been satisfied as to the mechanism
of their escape since they could burden themselves with such weight of
treasure. Moreover, their hiding place, wherever it was, could not be
far off. There were engaged in this job four men; besides, there were
probably watchers. Marjory had only recorded in her cipher six engaged
in her abduction, when presumably their full strength would have been
needed in case of unexpected difficulties or obstacles. The Secret
Service chief presumed at least eight. I determined, therefore, that I
would get back to Crom as soon as possible, and, with the aid of this
new light, consult as to what was best to be done. I wanted to take Don
Bernardino with me, or to try to get a trap to take him on; but he said
he would be better remaining where he was. "I can be of no use to any
one till I get over this shock," he said. "The rest here, if I remain
longer, will do me good; and in the morning I may be able to help." I
asked him if he was not afraid to be left alone in his present helpless
condition: His reply showed great common sense:

"The only people whom I have to fear are the last who will come to this
place!"

I made him as comfortable as I could, and fixed the catch of the door so
that the lock would snap behind me. Then I got on my bicycle and rode to
Crom as quickly as I could. As it was now nearly early morning the men
were getting ready for their day's work. Cathcart and I discussed the
new development with the detective chief. I did not tell him of the
treasure. It was gone; and all I could do was to spare the Spaniard's
feelings. It was enough that they knew of the attack on Don Bernardino,
and that they had taken from my house whatever was of value in it. As I
went over the practical side of the work before us, I had an idea. It
was evident that these men had some secret hiding place not far away;
why should it not be an empty house? I made the suggestion to my two
companions, who agreed with me that we should at once make search for
such a place. Accordingly we arranged that one man of the force should
go into Ellon, as soon as it was possible to find any one up, and
another into Aberdeen to try to find out from various agents what houses
in the district were at present unoccupied. In the meantime I looked
over the list of Manses and found that there were two which were open
for letting, but had not yet been occupied, Aucheries and Ardiffery. We
determined to visit the latter first, as it was nearer, amid a network
of cross roads on the high road to Fraserburgh. When we were arranging
plans of movement, the two trackers who wanted to resume their work said
that we might put them down on our way, as the spot they aimed for lay
in the same direction. We left two men behind; the rest of us kept
together.

As we drove along in the brake, the trackers showed us how they had
followed the carriage. It brought an agonising hope to me to think that
we were actually travelling on the same road as Marjory had gone. I had
a secret conviction that we were going right. Something within me told
me so. I had in former days--days that now seemed so long ago--when I
realised that I had the Second Sight, come to have such confidence in my
own intuition that now something of the same feeling came back to me as
a reality. Oh! how I longed that the mysterious gift might now be used
on behalf of her I loved. What would I not have given for one such
glimpse of her in her present situation, as I had before seen of
Lauchlane Macleod, or of the spirits of the Dead from the Skares. But it
is of the essence of such supernatural power that it will not work to
command, to present need, to the voice of suffering or of prayer; but
only in such mysterious way and time as none can predicate. Whilst I
thought thus, and hoped thus, and prayed with all the intensity of my
poor breaking heart, I seemed to feel in me something of the mood in
which the previous visions had come. I became lost to all surroundings;
and it was with surprise that I became conscious that the carriage had
stopped and that the trackers were getting off. We arranged with them
that after our visit to the Manse at Ardiffery we should return for
them, or to see how they had got on with their task. They were not
hopeful of following a two-day-old trail of a carriage on these dusty
roads.

The cross road to Ardiffery branched off to our left, and then to the
left again; so that when we came near the place, we were still within
easy distance, as the crow flies, from where we had left our men.

The Manse at Ardiffery is a lonely spot, close to the church, but quite
away from the little clachan. The church stands in its own graveyard, in
a hollow surrounded with a wall of considerable dimensions. The garden
and policies of the house seem as though carved out of the woodland
growth. There is a narrow iron gate, sheer in the roadway, and a
straight path up to the front of the house; one arm branches to the
right in a curved lane-way through fir trees leading to the stable and
farm offices at the back of the house. At the gateway was a board with
a printed notice that the house, with grounds, gardens and policies,
was to be let until Christmas. The key could be had from, and details
supplied by, Mrs. MacFie, merchant at the Ardiffery cross roads. The
whole place had a deserted air; weeds were growing everywhere, and,
even from the roadway, one could see that the windows were fouled from
disuse.

As we drew near, the odd feeling of satisfaction--I can hardly describe
it more fully--seemed to grow in me. I was not exultant, I was scarcely
hopeful; but somehow the veil seemed to be lifting from my soul. We left
the brake on the road, and went up the little avenue to the front of the
house. For form's sake we knocked, though we knew well that if those we
sought should be within there would be little chance of their responding
to our call. We left one man at the door, in case by any chance any one
should come; the rest of us took the other way round to the back of the
house. We had got about half way along it, where there was an opening
into the fields, when the detective chief who was in front of us held up
his hand to stop. I saw at a glance what had struck him.

Whilst the rest of the rough roadway was unkempt and weed-grown, the
gravel from this on, to the back of the house, had been lately raked.

"Why?"

The only answer to the unspoken query of each of us was that Marjory had
made some marks, intentionally or unintentionally--or some one had; and
the gang had tried to efface them.

Fools! their very effort to obliterate their trace was a help to us.



CHAPTER XLVII

THE DUMB CAN SPEAK


The Secret Service men spread round the house, moving off silently right
and left, in accordance with the nods of their chief in answer to their
looks of query. As they moved, keeping instinctively in shelter from any
possible view from the house so far as the ground afforded opportunity,
I could see that each felt that his gun was in its place. They all knew
the gang they had to deal with, and they were not going to take any
chances. MacRae said to me:

"I'll go and get the key! I know this country better than any of you;
I can run over to the cross roads in a few minutes and it will be less
marked than driving there." As he went out at the gate he told the
driver to pull down the road, till the curve shut him out of sight.
Whilst he was gone, the men surrounded the house, keeping guard at such
points that nothing coming from it could escape our notice. The chief
tried the back door but it was shut; from its rigidity it was manifestly
bolted top and bottom.

In less than a quarter of an hour MacRae returned and told us that Mrs.
MacFie was coming with the key as quickly as she could. He offered to
take it, telling her who he was; but she said she would come herself and
make her service, as it would not be respectful to him and the other
gentlemen to let them go alone. In a few minutes she was with us; the
chief detective, Cathcart, and I stayed with MacRae, the rest of the
men remaining on watch and hidden. There was a little difficulty with
the lock, but we shortly got in, Mrs. MacFie leading the way. Whilst she
was opening the shutters of the back room, which was evidently the
Minister's study, Cathcart and the chief left the room, and made a
hurried, though thorough, search of the house. They came back before the
old lady was well through her task, and shook their heads.

When the light was let in, the room presented a scene of considerable
disorder. It was evident that it had been lately inhabited, for there
were scattered about, a good many things which did not belong to it.
These included a washing jug, and a bowl full of dirty water; a rug and
pillows on the sofa; and a soiled cup and plate on the table. On the
mantlepiece was a guttered out candle. When the old woman saw the state
of the room, she lifted her hands in horrified amazement as she spoke:

"Keep's 'a! The tramps must ha' been here. In the Meenester's own study,
too! An' turnin' the whole place topsal-teerie. Even his bukes all
jumm'lt up thegither. Ma certes! but won't he be upset by yon!"

Whilst she had been speaking, my eyes had been taking in everything. All
along one side of the room was a bookcase, rough shelves graduated up in
height to suit the various sizes of books. There were in the room more
than enough books to fill them; but still some of the shelves towards
the right hand end were vacant and a great quantity of books lay on the
floor. These were not tumbled about as if thrown down recklessly, but
were laid upon the floor in even rows. It looked as if they had been
taken down in masses and laid out in the same order as though ready to
put back. But the books on the shelves! It was no wonder that the old
woman, who did not understand the full meaning, was shocked; for never
was seen such seeming disorder in any library. Seldom did a volume of a
series seem to be alongside its fellow; even when several were grouped
together, the rest of the selection would be missing, or seen in another
part of the shelf. Some of the volumes were upside down; others had
the fronts turned out instead of the back. Altogether there was such
disorder as I had never seen. And yet!...

And yet the whole was planned by a clever and resolute woman, fighting
for her life--her honour. Marjory, evidently deprived of any means of
writing--there was neither pen nor ink nor pencil in the room--and
probably forbidden under hideous threats to leave any message, had yet
under the very eyes of her captors left a veritable writing on the wall,
full and open for all to read, did they but know how. The arrangement of
the books was but another variant of our biliteral cipher. Books as they
should be, represented A; all others B. I signed to the man with the
notebook, who took down the words wrought in the cipher as I read them
off. Oh, how my heart beat with fear and love and pride as I realised in
the message of my dear girl the inner purpose of her words:

"To-morrow off north east of Banff _Seagull_ to meet whaler
_Wilhelmina_. To be Shanghaied--whatever that means. Frightful threats
to give me to the negro if any trouble, or letters to friends. Don't
fear, dear, shall die first. Have sure means. God with us. Remember
the cave. Just heard Gardent--" Here the message ended. The shelf was
empty; and the heap of books, from which she had selected so many
items, remained as they had been placed ready to her hand. She had been
coerced; or else she feared interruption in her task, and did not want
to cause suspicion.

Coerced! I felt as though choking!

There was nothing further to be gained here; so we told the old lady
that we should write regarding the rental if we decided to take the
house. When we went back to our wagonette, we picked up our two
trackers--there was no use for them now--and went back to Crom as fast
as the horses could gallop. It was necessary that we should arrange from
headquarters our future plans; such maps and papers as we had were at
Crom, where also any telegrams might await us. In the carriage I asked
the detective chief what was meant by 'Shanghaied' for it was evidently
a criminal class word.

"Don't you know the word," he said surprised. "Why I thought every one
knew that. It isn't altogether a criminal class word, for it belongs
partly to a class that call themselves traders. The whalers and others
do it when they find it hard to get men; as a rule men nowadays don't
like shipping on long whaling voyages. They get such men delivered on
board by the crimps, drunk or, more generally, hocussed. Then when they
get near a port they make them drunk again, which isn't much of a job
after all, and they don't make no kick; or if things are serious they
hocus them a bit again. So they keep them one way or another out of
sight for months or perhaps years. Sometimes, when those that are not
too particular want to get rid of an inconvenient relative--or mayhap
a witness, or a creditor, or an inconvenient husband--they just square
some crimp. When he gets his hooks on the proper party, there ain't no
more jamboree for him, except between the bulwarks, till the time is up,
or the money spent, or whatever he is put away for is fixed as they want
it."

This was a new and enlightening horror to me. It opened up fresh
possibilities of distress for both Marjory and myself. As I thought of
this, I could not but be grateful to Montgomery for his message to the
man-of-war's men. If once they succeeded in getting Marjory on board
the _Seagull_ we should, in the blindness of our ignorance as to her
whereabouts, be powerless to help her. The last word of her message
through the books might be a clue. It was some place, and was east of
Banff. I got the big map out at once and began to search. Surely enough,
there it was. Some seven or eight miles east of Banff was a little port
in a land-locked bay called Gardentown. At once I sent off a wire to
Adams at Aberdeen, and another to Montgomery to Peterhead on chance that
it might reach him even before that which Adams, whom he kept posted as
to his every movement, would be sure to send to him! It was above all
things necessary that we should locate first the _Seagull_ and then the
_Wilhelmina_. If we could get hold of either vessel we might frustrate
the plans of the miscreants. I asked Adams to have the touching of the
_Wilhelmina_ at any port telegraphed to him at once from Lloyds.

He was quite awake at his end of the wire; I got back an answer in an
incredibly short time:

"_Wilhelmina_ left Lerwick for Arctic seas yesterday."

Very shortly afterwards another telegram came from him:

"Montgomery reports _Seagull_ fishing this summer at Fraserburgh. Went
out with fleet two days ago." Almost immediately after this came a third
telegram from him:

"_Keystone_ notified. Am coming to join you."

After a consultation we agreed that it was better that some of us
should wait at Crom for the arrival of Adams, who had manifestly some
additional knowledge. In the meantime we despatched two of the Secret
Service men up to the north of Buchan. One was to go to Fraserburgh, and
the other to Banff. Both were to follow the cliffs or the shore to
Gardentown. On their way they would get a personal survey of the coast
and might pick up some information. MacRae went off himself to send a
telegram ordering his yacht, which was at Inverness, to be taken to
Peterhead, where he would join her. "It may be handy to have her at the
mouth of the Firth," he said. "She's a clipper, and if we should want to
overhaul the _Seagull_ or the _Wilhelmina_, she can easily do it."

It was a long, long wait till Adams arrived. I did not think that a man
could endure such misery as I suffered, and live. Every minute, every
second, was filled with some vague terror. _Omne ignotum pro mirifico._
When Fear and Fancy join hands, there is surely woe and pain to some
poor human soul.

When Adams at last arrived he had much to tell; but it was the
amplification of what we had heard, rather than fresh news. The U. S.
cruiser _Keystone_ had been reached from Hamburgh, and was now on her
way to a point outside the three-mile limit off Peterhead; and a private
watch had been set on every port and harbour between Wick and Aberdeen.
The American Embassy was doing its work quietly as befits such an arm
of the State; but its eyes and ears were open, and I had no doubts its
pockets, too. Its hand was open now; but it would close, did there be
need.

When Adams learned our purpose he became elated. He came over to me and
laid his hand tenderly on my shoulder as he said:

"I know how it is with you, old fellow; a man don't want more than two
eyes for that. But there's a many men would give all they have to stand
in your shoes, for all you suffer. Cheer up! At the worst now it's her
death! For myself I feared at first there might be worse; but it's plain
to me that Miss Drake is up to everything and ready for everything. My!
but she's a noble girl! If anything goes wrong with her there's going to
be some scrapping round before the thing's evened up!" He then went on
to tell me that Montgomery would be joined at Peterhead by two other
naval fellows who were qualified in all ways to do whatever might be
required. "Those boys won't stop at much, I can tell you," he said.
"They're full of sand, the lot; and I guess that when this thing is
over, it won't harm them at Washington to know that they've done men's
work of one kind or another."

It was comfort to me to hear him talk. Sam Adams knew what he meant,
when he wanted to help a friend; thinking it all over I don't see what
better he could have said to me--things being as they were. He went back
to Aberdeen to look out for news or instructions, but was to join us
later at Banff.

We left two men at Crom; one to be always on the spot, and the other to
be free to move about and send telegrams, etc. Then the rest of us drove
over to Fyvie and caught the train to Macduff.

When we arrived we sent one man in the hotel in Banff in case we should
want to communicate, and the rest of us drove over in a carriage to
Gardentown. It is a lovely coast, this between Banff and Gardentown, but
we should have preferred it to be less picturesque and more easy to
watch.

When our man met us, which he did with exceeding caution, he at once
began:

"They've got off, some of them; but I think the rest of the gang's
ashore still. That's why I'm so particular; they may be watchin' us now
for all I can tell." Then he proceeded to give us all the information he
had gleaned.

"The _Seagull_ was here until yesterday when she went out into the
Firth to run down to Fifeshire, as the fish were reported going south.
She had more than her complement of men, and her skipper volunteered the
information that two of them were friends whom they were taking to join
their own boat which was waiting for them at Burnt Island. From all
accounts I gather," he went on, "that they wasn't anything extra
high-toned. Most of them were drunk or getting a jag on them; and it
took the two sober ones and the Skipper to keep them in order. The
Skipper was mighty angry; he seemed somehow ashamed of them, and hurried
out of port as quick as he could when he made his mind up. They say he
swore at them frightful; though that was not to be wondered at when
he himself had to help bring the nets on board. One of the men on the
quay told me that he said if that was the effect on his men of waiting
round for weeks doing nothing, he would see that another time their
double-dashed noses were kept to the grindstone. I've been thinking
since I heard of the trouble they had in carrying on the nets, that
there was something under them that they meant to hide. The men here
tell me that the hand-barrow they carried would have been a job for six
men, not three, for it was piled shoulder high with nets. That's why
the skipper was so wrathy with them. They say he's a sort of giant,
a Dutchman with an evil, cunning face; and that all the time he was
carrying the back handles he never stopped swearing at the two in front,
though they was nigh speechless with the effort of carrying, and their
faces as red as blazes. If I'm right we've missed them this time.
They've got the girl on the fishing boat; and they're off for the
whaler. She's the one we'll have to find next!"

As he spoke my heart kept sinking deeper and deeper down. My poor
girl, if alive, was in the hands of her enemies. In all the thoughts
which filled me with anguish unspeakable there was but one gleam of
consolation--the negro was not on board, too. I had come to think of
this miscreant as in some way the active principle of whatever evil
might be.

Here, we were again at a fault in our pursuit. We must wait for the
reports of Montgomery who was making local inquiries. We had wired him
to join us, or send us word to Gardentown; and he had replied that he
was on the way.



CHAPTER XLVIII

DUNBUY HAVEN


We had to-day been so hot in the immediate pursuit of Marjory that we
had hardly been able to think of the other branches of our work; but all
at once, the turn of the wheel brought up as the most important matter
before us what had been up to now only a collateral. Hitherto the
_Seagull_ had been our objective; but now it must be the _Wilhelmina_.
Adams had been in charge of the general investigation as to these boats,
whilst Montgomery had been attending to local matters. It was to the
former, therefore, rather than the latter, that we had to look for
enlightenment. Montgomery and MacRae were the first to arrive, coming on
horseback from Fraserburgh, the former with all the elan and abandonment
of a sailor ashore. He was frightfully chagrined when he heard that the
_Seagull_ had got safely away. "Just like my luck!" he said, "I might
have got her in time if I had known enough; but I never even heard of
Gardentown till your wire came to me. It isn't on the map." He was still
full of lamentings, though I could tell from the way he was all nerved
and braced up that we should hear of him when the time for action came.
When we arrived at the station at Macduff to meet Adams, we hurried him
at once into the carriage which we had waiting; he gave us his news as
we hurried off to Gardentown. We felt that it might be a mistake our
going there, for we should be out of the way of everything; but we had
made arrangements for news to be sent there, and it was necessary we
should go there before holding our council of war. Adams told us that
the whaler _Wilhelmina_ had been reported at Lerwick two days ago, but
that she had suddenly left on receipt of a telegram, hurrying in the
last of her stores at such a rate that some of them had been actually
left behind. He had not been able to gain any specific information by
wire. The Master of the ship had said to the Harbour Master that he was
going to Nova Zembla; but nothing more definite could be obtained.

When we got together in the hotel at Gardentown we were surprised by
another arrival; none other than Don Bernardino, who had come by the
same train as Adams, but had had to wait to get a carriage. We had got
away so quickly that none of us had seen him.

Things were now at such a stage that it would not do to have any
concealment whatever; and so after a moment in private with the Don, I
told my companions of the attack on the Spaniard in my house, and of the
carrying off the great treasure. I did not give any details of the
treasure or its purpose; nor did I even mention the trust. This was now
the Don's secret, and there was no need to mention it. We all agreed
that if we should have any chance at all of finding Marjory, it would be
by finding and following the members of the gang left on shore. Sam
Adams who was, next to the Secret Service men, the coolest-headed of our
party, summed up the situation.

"Those fellows haven't got off yet. It is evident that they only came to
look for the treasure after Miss Drake had been shipped off from
Gardentown. And I'm pretty sure that they are waiting somewhere round
the coast for the _Wilhelmina_ to pick them up; or for them to get
aboard her somehow. They've got a cartload of stuff at the very least to
get away; and you may bet your sweet life that they don't mean to leave
it to chance. Moreover, you can't lay your hand at any minute on a
whaler ready for shanghaieing any one. This one has been fixed up on
purpose, and was waiting up at Lerwick for a long time ready to go when
told. I think myself that it's more than likely she has orders to take
them off herself, for a fishing smack like the _Seagull_ that has to be
in and out of these ports all the time, doesn't want to multiply the
chances of her discovery. Now that she has done a criminal thing and is
pretty sure that it can't be proved against her, she'll take her share
of the swag, or whatever was promised her, and clear out. If the
_Wilhelmina_ has to get off the gang it'll have to be somewhere off this
coast. They are nearly all strangers to start with, and wouldn't know
where else to go. If they go south they get at once into more thickly
peopled shores, where the chances of getting off in secret would be
less. They daren't go anywhere along the shore of the Firth, for their
ship might be cut off at the mouth, and they might be taken within the
three-mile limit and searched. Beyond the Firth they can know nothing.
Therefore, we have got to hunt them along this shore; and from the lie
of the land I should say that they will try to get off somewhere between
Old Slains and Peterhead. And I'll say further that, in-as-much-as the
shore dips in between Whinnyfold and Girdleness outside Aberdeen, the
ship will prefer to keep up the north side, so that she can beat out to
sea at once, when she has got her cargo aboard."

"Sam is about right!" broke in Montgomery "I have been all along the
coast since we met, surveying the ground for just this purpose. I tried
to put myself in the place of that crowd, and to find a place just such
as they would wish. They could get out at Peterhead or at Boddam, and so
I have set a watch at these places. Some of our sailors who were sent
up to me from London are there now, and I'll stake my word that if the
_Wilhelmina_ tries to come in to either of these places she won't get
out again with Marjory Drake on board. But it's not their game to come
near a port. They've got to lie off shore, somewhere agreed on, and take
off their friends in a boat. There are dozens of places between Cruden
and Peterhead where a boat could lie hidden, and slip out safely enough.
When they got aboard they could hoist in the boat or scuttle her; and
then, up sails and off before any one was the wiser. What I propose,
therefore, is this, for I take it I'm the naval expert here such as it
is. We must set a watch along this bit of coast, so as to be ready to
jump on them when they start out. We can get the _Keystone_ to lie off
Buchan; and we can signal her when we get sign of our lot. She'll be
well on the outside, and these scallywags don't know that she'll be
there to watch them. When the time comes, she'll crowd them into shore;
and we'll be ready for them there. If she can hunt the _Wilhelmina_ into
the Firth it will be easy enough to get her. "Fighting Dick" Morgan
isn't a man to stand on ceremony; and you can bet your bottom dollar
that if he gets a sight of the Dutchman he'll pretty well see that she
hasn't any citizen of the United States aboard against her will. Dick
wouldn't mind the people in Washington much, and he'd take on the Dutch
to-morrow as well as the Spaniards. Now, if in addition this gentleman's
yacht is to the fore, with any one of us here aboard to take
responsibility, I guess we can overhaul the whaler without losing time."

"I'll be aboard!" said Donald MacRae quietly. "The _Sporran_ is due at
Peterhead this afternoon. Just you fit me up with signals so that we'll
know what to do when we get word; and I'll see to the rest. My men are
of my own clan, and I'll answer for them. They'll not hang back in
anything, when I'm in the front of them."

I wrung the hands of the two young fellows. East and West, it was all
the same! The old fighting gallantry was in their hearts; and with the
instinct of born Captains they were ready to accept all responsibility.
All they asked was that their men should follow them.

They immediately sat down to arrange their signals. Montgomery was of
course trained in this work, and easily fixed up a simple scheme by
which certain orders could be given by either flags, or lights, or
rockets. There was not need for much complication; it was understood
that when the _Wilhelmina_ should be sighted she should be boarded at
once, wherever or however she might be. We were, one and all of us,
prepared to set at defiance every law--international, maritime, national
or local. Under the circumstances we felt that, given we could once get
on track with our enemy, we held a great power in our hands.

Before long, MacRae was off to Peterhead to join his yacht, which would
at once start on a sort of sentry-go up and down the coast. The rest of
us set about arranging to spread ourselves along the shore between
Cruden and Peterhead. We did not arrange watches, for time was now
precious to all, on both sides of the encounter. If an attempt was to
be made to take off the treasure, it would in all probability be made
before morning; every hour that passed multiplied the difficulties and
dangers of the blackmailers. The weather was becoming misty, which was
a source of inconvenience to us all. Thick patches of white fog began
to drift in from the north east, and there was ominous promise in the
rising wind of there being danger on sea and shore before many hours had
passed. We each took provision with us for the night, and a sufficiency
of rockets and white and red lights for our signalling work, in case
there might be need of such.

In disposing of our forces, we had not of course a sufficiency of men to
form a regular cordon; but we so arranged ourselves that there was no
point at which a boat could land which was not in view of some of us. I
was terribly anxious, for as the evening came on, the patches of white
mist came driving in more quickly, and getting thicker and more dense.
Between them the sea was clear, and there was no difficulty in keeping
accurate observation; but as each fog belt came down on the rising wind
our hearts fell. It would come on like a white cloud, which would seem
to strike the land and then close in on every side, as though wrapping
the shore in a winding sheet. My own section for watching was between
Slains Castle and Dunbuy, as wild and rocky a bit of coast as any one
could wish to see. Behind Slains runs in a long narrow inlet with
beetling cliffs, sheer on either side, and at its entrance a wild
turmoil of rocks are hurled together in titanic confusion. From this
point northward, the cliffs are sheer, to where the inlet of Dunbuy has
its entrance guarded by the great rock, with its myriad of screaming
wildfowl and the white crags marking their habitation. Midway between
those parts of my sentry-go is a spot which I could not but think would
be eminently suited for their purpose, and on this for some time I
centred my attention. It is a place where in old days the smugglers
managed to get in many a cargo safe, almost within earshot of the
coastguards. The _modus operandi_ was simple. On a dark night when
it was known that the coastguards were, intentionally or by chance,
elsewhere, a train of carts would gather quickly along the soft grass
tracks, or through the headlands of the fields. A crane was easily
improvised of two crossed poles, with a longer one to rest on them; one
end held inland, could be pushed forward or drawn back, so as to make
the other end hang over the water or fall back over the inner edge of
the cliff. A pulley at the end of this pole, and a long rope with its
shore end attached to the harness of a strong horse completed the
equipment. Then, when the smugglers had come under the cliff, the rope
was lowered and the load attached; the waiting horse was galloped
inland, and in a few seconds the cluster of barrels or cases was swung
up on the cliff and distributed amongst the waiting carts.

It would be an easy matter to invert the process. If all were ready--and
I knew that the gang were too expert to have any failing in that
respect--a few minutes would suffice to place the whole of the treasure
in a waiting boat. The men, all save one, could be lowered the same way,
and the last man could be let down by the rope held from below. I knew
that the blackmailers had possession of at least one cart; in any case,
to men so desperate and reckless to get temporary possession of a few
carts in a farming country like this would be no difficult task. So I
determined to watch this spot with extra care. It was pretty bare at
top; but there was a low wall of stone and clay, one of those rough
fences which are so often seen round cliff fields. I squatted down
behind a corner of this wall, from which I could see almost the whole
stretch of my division. No boat could get into Dunbuy or Lang Haven, or
close to the Castle rocks without my seeing it; the cliff from there up
to where I was was sheer, and I could see well into the southern passage
of the Haven inside Dunbuy Rock. Sometimes when the blanket of fog
spread over the sea, I could hear the trumpeting of some steamer far
out; and when the fog would lift, I would see her funnels spouting black
smoke in her efforts to clear so dangerous a coast. Sometimes a fishing
boat on its way up or down would run in shore, close hauled; or a big
sailing vessel would move onward with that imperceptible slowness which
marks the progress of a ship far out at sea. When any fishing boat came
along, my heart beat as I scanned her with the field glass which I had
brought with me. I was always hoping that the _Seagull_ would appear,
though why I know not, for there was now little chance indeed that
Marjory would be on board her.

After a spell of waiting, which seemed endless and unendurable, in one
of the spells of mist I thought I saw on the cliff a woman, taking
shelter of every obstacle, as does one who is watching another. At that
moment the mist was thick; but when it began to thin, and to stream away
before the wind in trails like smoke, I saw that it was Gormala. Somehow
the sight of her made my heart beat wildly. She had been a factor of so
many strange incidents in my life of late years--incidents which seemed
to have some connection or fatal sequence--that her presence seemed to
foretell something fresh, and to have some kind of special significance.
I crouched still lower behind the corner of the wall, and watched with
enhanced eagerness. A very short study of her movements showed me that
she was not watching any specific individual. She was searching for some
one, or some thing; and was in terror of being seen, rather than of
missing the object of her search. She would peer carefully over the edge
of the cliff, lying down on her face to do so, and putting her head
forward with the most elaborate care. Then, when she had satisfied
herself that what she sought was not within sight, she would pass on
a little further and begin her survey over again. Her attitude during
the prevalence of a mist was so instructive, that I found myself
unconsciously imitating her. She would remain as still as if turned to
stone, with one ear to windward, listening with sharp, preternatural
intentness. I wondered at first that I could not hear the things that
she manifestly did, for the expression of her face was full of changes.
When, however, I remembered that she was born and reared amongst the
islands, and with fisher folk and sea folk of all kinds whose weather
instincts are keener than is given to the inland born, her power was no
longer a mystery. How I longed at that moment to have something of her
skill! And then came the thought that she had long ago offered to place
that very power at my disposal; and that I might still gain her help.
Every instant, as past things crowded back to my memory, did that help
seem more desirable. Was it not her whom I had seen watching Don
Bernardino when he left my house; mayhap she had guided him to it. Or
might it not have been Gormala who had brought the blackmailers to my
door. If she had no knowledge of them, what was she doing here now? Why
had she sought this place of all places; why at this time of all times?
What or whom was she seeking amongst the cliffs?

I determined not to lose sight of her at present, no matter what might
happen; later, when I had come at her purpose, either by guessing or
by observation, I could try to gain her services. Though she had been
enraged with me, I was still to her a Seer; and she believed--must
believe from what had passed--that I could read for her the Mystery of
the Sea.

As she worked along the cliff above Dunbuy Haven, where the rock
overhung the water, she seemed to increase both her interest and her
caution. I followed round the rude wall which ran parallel to the cliff,
so that I might be as near to her as possible.

Dunbuy Haven is a deep cleft in the granite rock in the shape of a Y,
the arms of which run seawards and are formed by the mother cliff on
either hand and the lofty crags of the island of Dunbuy. In both these
arms there is deep water; but when there is a sea on, or when the wind
blows strong, they are supremely dangerous. Even the scour of the tide
running up or down makes a current difficult to stem. In fair weather,
however, it is fairly good for boating; though the swell outside may be
trying to those who are poor sailors. I had often tossed on that swell
when I had been out with the salmon fishers, when they had been drawing
their deep floating nets.

Presently I saw Gormala bend, and then disappear out of sight. She had
passed over the edge of the cliff. I went cautiously after her, and
throwing myself on my face so that she could not see me, peered over.

There was a sort of sheep track along the face of the cliff, leading
downward in a zigzag. It was so steep, and showed so little foothold,
that even in the state of super-excitement in which I then was, it made
me dizzy to look at it. But the old woman, trained on the crags of the
western islands, passed along it as though it were the broad walk of a
terraced garden.



CHAPTER XLIX

GORMALA'S LAST HELP


After Gormala had disappeared down the zigzag under the rock, where I
could no longer see her movements, I waited for her return. At the end
of the Haven, where the little beach runs up to the edge of the cliff,
there is a steep path. Even this is so steep that it is impracticable to
ordinary persons; only fisher folk, dalesmen and hunters can use such
ways. For myself I dare not leave my post; from the end of the Haven I
could not see any part at all of the coast I had come to watch, except
the narrow spot between great cliffs where the channels ran right and
left of the Rock of Dunbuy. So I crept back to my hiding place behind
the angle of the wall, from which I could watch the entrance to the
track down which she had passed.

Time wore away slowly, slowly; and the mist kept coming in more frequent
belts, heavier and more dank. After the sunset the fog seemed to come
more heavily still, so that the promise of the night was darkness
invincible. In Aberdeen, however, the twilight is long, and under
ordinary conditions it is easy to see for hours after sunset. All at
once, after the passing of a belt of mist, I was startled by a voice
behind me:

"And for what is it ye watch, the nicht? Is it the Mystery o' the Sea
that holds ye to the dyke; or maybe it is the treasure that ye seek!"
Gormala had evidently come up the path at the end of the Haven. For a
while I did not say a word, but thought the matter over. Now, if ever,
was there need to use my wits, and I could best deal with Gormala if I
should know something of her own wishes beforehand; so I tried to master
her purpose and her difficulties. Firstly, she must have been in search
of some hiding place herself, or she would not have come behind the
wall; I was quite sure that she had not known of my presence before she
went down the sheep track. If she wanted cover, what then was it she was
watching? She had been down to the beach of the Haven, and so must have
known whether or no it was bare of interest. As she was choosing a
corner whence she could watch the track, it was at least likely that she
expected some one to go up or down by it. If she were looking for some
one to go down, she would surely rather watch its approaches than the
place itself. It was, therefore, for some one to come up for whom she
wished to watch. As, instead of hurrying away or hiding herself from me
when she had seen me without my seeing her, she had deliberately engaged
with me in conversation, it was evident that she did not expect whomever
she watched for to come up at once. In fine I concluded, she intended to
watch for some one who _might_ come; with this knowledge I drew a bow at
a venture:

"So your friend isn't coming up yet? Why didn't you fix matters when
you were down below?" For an instant she was betrayed into showing
astonishment; the surprise was in both her expression and in the tones
of her voice as she replied:

"How kent ye that I was doon the Haven?" Then she saw her mistake and
went on with a scowl:

"Verra clever ye are wi' yer guesses; and a daft aud wife am I to no ken
ye better? Why did----"

"Did you find him down below?" even whilst I was speaking the
conviction came to me--I scarcely know how, but it was there as though
deep-rooted in my brain all my life--that our enemies were down below,
or that they had some hiding place there. Gormala must have seen the
change in my face, for she exclaimed with jubilation:

"It would hae been better for ye that ye had taken my sairvice. The een
that watched others micht hae been watchin' to yer will. But it's a'
ower the noo. What secret there was is yours nae mair; an' it may be
waur for ye that ye flouted me in the days gone." As she spoke, the
bitterness of her manner was beyond belief; the past rushed back on me
so fiercely that I groaned. Then came again, but with oh! what pain, the
thought of my dear one in the hands of her enemies.

Let no man question the working of the Almighty's hand. In that moment
of the ecstasy of pain, something had spoken to the heart of the old
woman beside me; for when I came back to myself they were different
eyes which looked into mine. They were soft and full of pity. All the
motherhood which ever had been, or might have been, in that lonely soul
was full awake. It was with a tender voice that she questioned me:

"Ye are muckle sad laddie. Do I no ken a look like that when I speer it,
and know that the Fates are to their wark. What maks ye greet laddie;
what maks ye greet?" for by this time the revulsion of tenderness had
been too much for me and I was openly weeping. "Is it that the lassie
is gone frae ye? Weel I ken that nane but a lassie can mak a strong man
greet." I felt that the woman's heart was open to me; and spoke with all
the passion of my soul:

"Oh, Gormala help me! Perhaps you can, and it may not be too late. She
is stolen away and is in the hands of her enemies; wicked and desperate
men who have her prisoner on a ship somewhere out at sea. Her life, her
honour are at stake. Help me if you can; and I will bless you till the
last hour of my life!" The old woman's face actually blazed as I spoke.
She seemed to tower up in the full of her gaunt height to the stature of
her woman's pride, as with blazing eyes she answered me:

"What! a woman, a lassie, in the hands o' wicked men! Aye an' sic a
bonnie, gran' lassie as yon, though she did flout me in the pride of her
youth and strength. Laddie, I'm wi' ye in all ye can dae! Wi' a' the
strength o' my hairt an' the breath o' my body; for life or for death!
Ne'er mind the past; bad or good for me it is ower; and frae this oot
I'm to your wark. Tell me what I can dae, an' the grass'll no grow under
my feet. A bonnie bit lassie in the power o' wicked men! I may hae been
ower eager to win yer secret; but I'm no that bad to let aught sic come
between me and the duty to what is pure and good!" She seemed grand and
noble in her self-surrender; such a figure as the poets of the old sagas
may have seen in their dreams, when the type of noble old womanhood was
in their hearts; in the times when the northern nations were dawning. I
was quite overcome; I could not speak. I took her hand and kissed it.
This seemed to touch her to the quick; with a queer little cry she
gasped out:

"Oh, laddie, laddie!" and said no more. Then I told her of how Marjory
had been carried off by the blackmail gang; I felt that she was entitled
to this confidence. When I had spoken, she beat with her shut hand on
the top of the wall and said in a smothered way:

"Och! if I had but kent; if I had but kent! To think that I might
hae been watchin' them instead o' speerin' round yon hoose o' yours,
watchin' to wring yer secret frae ye, an' aidin' yer enemies in their
wark. First the outland man wi' the dark hair; an' then them along wi'
the black man wi' the evil face that sought ye the nicht gone. Wae is
me! Wae is me! that I ha' done harm to a' in the frenzy o' my lust, and
greed, and curiosity!" She took on so badly that I tried to comfort her.
I succeeded to a measure, when I had pointed out that the carrying off
of Marjory was altogether a different matter from what had gone on in my
house. Suddenly she stopped rocking herself to and fro; holding up one
long gaunt arm as I had seen her do several times before, she said:

"But what matters it after a'! We're in the hands o' Fate! An' there are
Voices that speak an' Een that see. What is ordered of old will be done
for true; no matter how we may try to work our own will. 'Tis little use
to kick against the pricks."

Then all at once she became brisk and alert. In a most practical tone of
voice she said:

"Noo tell me what I can dae! Weel I ken, that ye hae a plan o' yer ain;
an' that you and ithers are warkin' to an end that ye hae set. Ye hae
one ither wi' ye the nicht; for gude or ill." She paused, and I asked
her:

"Why did you go down the sheep path to the Haven. For what or for whom
were you looking?"

"I was lookin' for the treasure that I suspect was ta'en frae your
hoose; an' for them that took it! 'Twas I that guided them, after the
dark man had gone; and watched whiles they were within. Then they sent
me on a lang errand away to Ellon; and when I got back there was nane
there. I speered close, and saw the marks o' a cairt heavy loaden. It
was lost on the high road; an' since then, nicht an' day hae I sought
for any trace; but all in vain. But I'm thinkin' that it's nigh to here
they've hid it; I went down the yowes' roadie, an' alang the rock, an'
up the bit beach; but never a sign did I see. There's a many corners
aboot the crags here, where a muckle treasure might lie hid, an' nane
the wiser save them that pit it there!" Whilst she was talking I was
scribbling a line in my pocket-book; I tore out the page and handed it
to her:

"If you would help me take that letter for I must not leave here. Give
it to the dark gentleman whom you know by sight. He is somewhere on the
rocks beyond the Castle." My message was to tell Don Bernardino that I
believed the treasure was hidden somewhere near me, and that the bearer
of the note would guide him if he thought wise to join me.

Then I waited, waited. The night grew darker and darker; and the fog
belts came so thick and so heavy that they almost became one endless
mass. Only now and again could I get a glimpse of the sea outside the
great rock. Once, far off out at sea but floating in on the wind, I
heard eight bells sound from a ship. My heart beat at the thought; for
if the _Keystone_ were close at hand it might be well for us later on.
Then there was silence, long and continuous. A silence which was of
the night alone; every now and again when some sound of life from near
or far came to break its monotony the reaction became so marked that
silence seemed to be a positive quality.

All at once I became conscious that Gormala was somewhere near me. I
could not see her, I could not hear her; but it was no surprise to me
when through the darkness I saw her coming close to me, followed by Don
Bernardino. They both looked colossal through the mist.

As quickly as I could, I told the Don of my suspicions; and asked his
advice. He agreed with me as to the probabilities of the attempt to
escape, and announced his willingness to go down the path to Dunbuy
Haven and explore it thoroughly so far as was possible. Accordingly,
with Gormala to guide him, he went to the end of the Haven and descended
the steep moraine--it was a declension rather than a path. For myself I
was not sanguine as to a search. The night was now well on us, and even
had the weather been clear it would have been a difficult task to make
search in such a place, where the high cliffs all around shut out the
possibilities of side light. Moreover, along the Haven, as with other
such openings on this iron-bound coast, there were patches of outlying
rock under the cliffs. Occasionally these were continuous, so that at
the proper state of the tide a fairly good climber could easily make way
along them. Here, however, there was no such continuity; the rocks
rising from the sea close under the cliffs were in patches; without a
boat it would be useless to attempt a complete exploration. I waited,
however, calmly; I was gaining patience now out of my pain. A good while
elapsed before the Don returned, still accompanied by Gormala. He told
me that only the beach had been possible for examination; but as far as
he could see out by either channel, there was no sign of anyone hiding,
or any bulk which could be such as we sought.

He considered it might be advisable if he went to warn the rest of our
party of our belief as to the place appointed, and so took his way up
north. Gormala remained with me so as to be ready to take any message if
occasion required. She looked tired, so tired and weary that I made her
lie down behind the rough wall. For myself sleep was an impossibility; I
could not have slept had my life or sanity depended on it. To soothe,
her and put her mind at rest, I told her what she had always wanted to
know; what I had seen that night at Whinnyfold when the Dead came up
from the sea. That quieted her, and she soon slept. So I waited and
waited, and the time crept slowly away.

All at once Gormala sat up beside me, broad awake and with all her
instincts at her keenest. "Whish!" she said, raising a warning hand. At
this moment the fog belt was upon us, and on the wind, now risen high,
the white wreaths swept by like ghosts. She held her ear as before
towards seaward and listened intently. This time there could be no
mistake; from far off through the dampness of the fog came the sound of
a passing ship. I ran out from behind the wall and threw myself face
down at the top of the cliff. I was just at the angle of the opening of
the Haven and I could see if a boat entered by either channel. Gormala
came beside me and peered over; then she whispered:

"I shall gang doon the yowes' roadie; it brings me to the Haven's mooth,
and frae thence I can warn ye if there be aught!" Before I replied she
had flitted away, and I saw her pass over the edge of the cliff and
proceed on her perilous way. I leaned over the edge of the cliff
listening. Down below I heard now and again the sound of a falling
pebble, dislodged from the path, but I could see nothing whatever. Below
me the black water showed now and again in the lifting of the fog.

The track outwards leads down to the sea at the southern corner of the
opening of the Haven; so I moved on here to see if I could get any
glimpse of Gormala. The fog was now on in a dense mass, and I could see
nothing a couple of feet from me. I heard, however, a sort of scramble;
the rush and roll of stones tumbling, and the hollow reverberating
plash as they struck the water. My heart jumped, for I feared that some
accident might have happened to Gormala. I listened intently; but heard
no sound. I did not stay, however, for I knew that the whole effort of
the woman, engaged on such a task, would be to avoid betraying herself.
I was right in my surmise, for after a few minutes of waiting I heard a
very faint groan. It was low and suppressed, but there was no mistaking
it as it came up to me through the driving mist. It was evident that
Gormala was in some way in peril, and common humanity demanded that I
should go down to help her if I could. It was no use my attempting the
sheep track; if she had failed on it there would not be much chance of
my succeeding. Besides, there had been a manifest slip or landslide; and
more than probably the path, or some necessary portion of it, had been
carried away. It would have been madness to attempt it, so I went to the
southern side of the cliff where the rock was broken, and where there
was a sort of rugged path down to the sea. There was also an advantage
about this way; I could see straight out to sea to the south of Dunbuy
Rock. Thus I need not lose sight of any shore-coming boat; which might
happen were I on the other path which opened only in the Haven.

It was a hard task, and by daylight I might have found it even more
difficult. In parts it actually overhung the water, with an effect of
dizziness which was in itself dangerous. However, I persevered; and
presently got down on the cluster of rocks overhung by the cliff. Here,
at the very corner of the opening to the Haven, under the spot where the
sheep track led down, I found Gormala almost unconscious. She revived a
little when I lifted her and put my flask to her lips. For a few seconds
she leaned gasping against my breast with her poor, thin, grey hair
straggling across it. Then, with a great effort, she moaned out feebly,
but of intention keeping her voice low lest even in that lone spot amid
the darkness of the night and the mist there might be listeners:

"I'm done this time, laddie; the rocks have broke me when the roadie gav
way. Listen tae me, I'm aboot to dee; a' the Secrets and the Mysteries
'll be mine soon. When the end is comin' haud baith my hands in ane o'
yours, an' keep the ither ower my een. Then, when I'm passin' ye shall
see what my dead eyes see; and hear wi' the power o' my dead ears.
Mayhap too, laddie, ye may ken the secrets and the wishes o' my hairt.
Dinna lose yer chance, laddie! God be wi' ye an' the bonny lass. Tell
her, an' ye will, that I forgie her floutin' me; an' that I bade the
gude God keep her frae all harm, and send peace and happiness to ye
both--till the end. God forgie me all my sins!"

As she was speaking her life seemed slowly ebbing away. I could feel it,
and I knew it in many ways. As I took her hand in mine, a glad smile was
on her face, together with a look of eager curiosity. This was the last
thing I saw in the dim light, as my hand covered her filming eyes.

And then a strange and terrible thing began to happen.



CHAPTER L

THE EYES OF THE DEAD


As I knelt with the dead woman's hands in one of mine and the other over
her eyes, I seemed to be floating high up in the air; and with amazing
vision to see all round for a great distance. The fog still hung thick
over the water. Around, the vast of the air and the depths of the sea
were as open as though sunshine was on them and I was merely looking
through bright water. In the general panorama of things, so far as the
eye could range, all lay open. The ships on the sea, and the floor under
it; the iron-bound coast, and the far-lying uplands were all as though
marked on a picture chart. Far away on the horizon were several craft,
small and large. A few miles out was a ship of war; and to the north of
her but much closer in shore lay a graceful yacht, slowly moving with
the tide and under shortened sail. The war ship was all alert; on every
top, and wherever there was a chance of seeing anything, was the head of
a man on the look-out. The search-light was on, and sea and sky were lit
alternately with its revolving rays. But that which drew my eyes, as
the magnet draws the iron, was a clumsily rigged ship close in shore,
seemingly only a few hundred yards beyond the Dunbuy Rock. She was a
whaler I knew, for on her deck were the great boats for use in rough
seas, and the furnace where the blubber was melted. With unconscious
movement, as though my soul were winged as a bird, I hung poised over
this vessel. It was strange indeed, but she seemed all as though
composed of crystal; I could see through her, and down into the deep
below her where her shadow lay, till my eyes rested on the patches of
bare sand or the masses of giant seaweed which swayed with the tide
above the rocks on which it grew. In and out amongst the seaweed the
fishes darted, and the flower-like limpets moved ceaselessly outside
their shells on the rocks. I could even see the streaks on the water
which wind and current invariably leave on their course. Within the
ship, all was clear as though I were looking into a child's toy-house;
but a toy-house wrought of glass. Every nook and cranny was laid bare;
and the details, even when they did not interest me, sank into my mind.
I could evermore, by closing my eyes, have seen again anything on which
in those moments of spiritual vision the eyes of my soul had rested.

All the time there was to me a dual consciousness. Whatever I saw before
me was all plain and real; and yet I never lost for a moment the sense
of my own identity. I knew I was on shore amid the rocks under the
cliff, and that Gormala's dead body was beside me as I knelt. But there
was some divine guiding principle which directed my thought--it must
have been my thought, for my eyes followed as my wishes led, as though
my whole being went too. They were guided from the very bow of the ship
along the deck, and down the after hatchway. I went down, step by step,
making accurate and careful scrutiny of all things around me. I passed
into the narrow cabin, which seemed even to me to smell evilly. The rank
yellow light from the crude oil lamp with thick smoky wick made the
gloom seem a reality, and the shadows as monstrous. From this I passed
aft into a tiny cabin, where on a bunk lay Marjory asleep. She looked
pale and wan; it made my heart sick to see the great black circles round
her eyes. But there was resolution in her mouth and nostrils; resolution
fixed and untameable. Knowing her as I did, and with her message "I can
die" burned into my heart, it did not need any guessing to know what was
in the hand clenched inside the breast of her dress. The cabin door was
locked; on the outside was a rough bolt, newly placed; the key was not
in the lock. I would have lingered, for the lightning-like glimpse made
me hungry for more; but the same compelling force moved me on. In the
next cabin lay a man, also asleep. He was large of frame, with a rugged
red beard streaked with grey; what hair remained on his head, which was
all scarred with cicatrices, was a dull red turning white. On a rack
above him, under the chronometer--which marked Greenwich time as
2.15,--ready to his hand, were two great seven shooters; from his pocket
peeped the hilt of a bowie knife. It was indeed strange to me that
I could look without passion or vindictiveness on such a person so
disposed. I suppose it was the impersonal spirit within me which was at
the moment receptive, and that all human passion, being ultimately of
the flesh, was latent. At the time, though I was conscious of it, it did
not strike me as strange; no more strange than that I could see far and
near at the same glance, and take in great space and an impossible
wilderness of detail. No more strange, than that all things were for me
resolved into their elements; that fog ceased to deaden or darkness
to hide; that timber and iron, deck and panel and partition, beam and
door and bulkhead were as transparent as glass. In my mind was a vague
intention of making examination of every detail which could bear on the
danger of Marjory. But even whilst such an idea was in its incipient
stage, so swift is the mechanism of thought, my eyes beheld, as though
it were through the sides of the ship, a boat pass out from a watercave
in the cliffs behind the Rock of Dunbuy. In it I saw, with the same
seeing eye which gave me power in aught else, seven men some of whom I
knew at a glance to be those whom Marjory had described in the tunnel.
All but one I surveyed calmly, and weighed up as it were with
complacency; but this one was a huge coal-black negro, hideous, and of
repulsive aspect. A glimpse of him made my blood run cold, and filled my
mind at once with hate and fear. As I looked, the boat came towards the
ship with inconceivable rapidity. It was not that she moved fast through
the water, for her progress was in reality slow and laboured. The wind
and the sea had risen; half a gale was blowing and the seas were running
so high that the ship rose and fell, pitched and rolled and tossed
about like a toy. It was, that time, like distance, was in my mind
obliterated. Truly, I was looking with spirit eyes, and under all
spiritual conditions.

The boat drew close to the whaler on the port side, and I saw, as if
from the former, the faces of several men who at the sound of oars came
rushing from the other side of the ship and leaned over the bulwarks. It
was evident that they had expected arrival from the starboard. With some
difficulty the boat got close, for the sea was running wilder every
moment; and one by one the men began to climb the ladder and disappear
over the bulwark. With the extraordinary action of sight and mind and
memory which was to me at present, I followed each and all of them at
the same time. They hurriedly rigged up a whip and began to raise from
the boat parcels of great weight. In the doing of this one of them, the
negro, was officious and was always trying to examine each parcel as it
came on board; but he was ever and always repulsed. The others would not
allow him to touch anything; at each rebuff he retired scowling. All
this must, under ordinary conditions, have taken much time, but to my
spirit-ruled eyes it all passed with wondrous rapidity....

I became conscious that things around me were growing less clear. The
fog seemed to be stealing over the sea, as I had seen it earlier in the
evening, and to wrap up details from my sight. The great expanse of the
sea and the ships upon it, and all the wonders of the deep became lost
in the growing darkness. I found, quicker and quicker, my thoughts like
my eyes, centred on the deck of the ship. At a moment, when all others
were engaged and did not notice him, I saw the great negro, his face
over-much distorted with an evil smile, steal towards the after hatchway
and disappear. With the growing of the fog and the dark, I was losing
the power to see through things opaque and material; and it came to me
as an actual shock that the negro passed beyond my vision. With his
going, the fear in my heart grew and grew; till, in my frantic human
passion, all that was ethereal around me faded and went out like a dying
flame....

The anguish of my soul, in my fear for my beloved, tore my true spirit
out of its phantom existence back to stern working life....

I found myself, chilled and sick at heart, kneeling by the marble-cold,
stiffening body of Gormala, on the lone rock under the cliff. The rising
wind whistled by me in the crannies above, and the rising sea in angry
rushes leaped at us by the black shining rocks. All was so dark around
me that my eyes, accustomed to the power given in my vision of making
their own light, could not pierce the fog and the gloom. I tried to look
at my watch, but could only see the dial dimly; I could not distinguish
the figures on it and I feared to light a match lest such might betray
my presence. Fortunately my watch could strike the hours and minutes,
and I found it was now half past one o'clock. I still, therefore, had
three-quarters of an hour, for I remembered the lesson of the whaler's
chronometer. I knew there would be no time nor opportunity to bring
Gormala's body to the top of the cliff--at present; so I carried her up
to the highest point of the underlying rock, which was well above high
water mark.

Reverently and with blessing I closed her dead eyes, which still looked
up at the sky with a sort of ghostly curiosity. Then I clambered up
the steep pathway and made my way as quickly as I could round to the
other side of the Haven, to try if I could discover any trace of the
blackmailers, or any indication of the water-cave in which their boat
was hidden. The cliffs here are wofully steep, and hang far over the
sea; so that there is no possibility of lying on the cliff edge and
peering over. Round here also the stark steepness forbids the existence
of even the tiniest track; a hare could not find its way along these
beetling cliffs. The only way of making search of this channel would be
to follow round in a boat. The nearest point to procure one would be at
the little harbour beside the Bullers O'Buchan, and for this there was
not time. I was in dire doubt as to what was best to do; and I longed
with a sickening force for the presence of Montgomery or some of our
party who would know how to deal with such a situation. I was not
anxious for the present moment; but I wanted to take all precautions
against the time which was coming. Well I knew that the vision I had
seen with the eyes of the dead Gormala was no mere phantasm of the mind;
that it was no promise of what might be, but a grim picture of what
would be. There was never a doubt in my mind as to its accuracy. Oh! if
I could have seen more of what was to happen; if I could have lingered
but a few instants longer! For with the speed at which things had
passed before my inner eye in that strange time, every second might have
meant the joy or sorrow of a lifetime. How I groaned with regret, and
cursed my own precipitancy, that I could not wait and learn through the
medium of the dead woman's spiritual eyes the truths that were to be
borne in mind!

But it was of no use to fret; action of some sort would be necessary if
Marjory was to be saved. In one way I might help. Even alone I might
save her, if I could get out to the whaler unknown to her crew. I knew I
could manage this, for anyhow I could swim; for a weapon which the water
could not render useless I had the dagger I had taken from Don
Bernardino. Should other weapons be necessary I might be able to lay
hands on them in the cabin next Marjory's, where the red-bearded man lay
asleep. I did not know whether it would be better to go in search of
some of my comrades, or to wait the arrival of the Don, who was to be
back within an hour of the time of leaving. I was still trying to make
up my mind when the difficulty was settled for me by the arrival of the
Spaniard, accompanied by one of the young American naval officers.

When I told them of my vision I could see, even in the darkness which
prevailed, that neither of them was content to accept its accuracy
in blind faith. I was at first impatient; but this wore away when I
remembered that neither of them had any knowledge of my experiences in
the way of Second Sight, or indeed of the phenomenon at all. Neither in
Spain nor America does such a belief prevail; and I have no doubt that
to both of them came the idea that worry and anxiety had turned my
brain. Even when I told them how I meant to back my belief by swimming
out beyond the Dunbuy Rock in time to reach the ship before the boat
would arrive, they were not convinced. The method of reception of the
idea by each was, however, characteristic of his race and nation. To
the high-bred Spaniard, whose life had been ruled by laws of honour and
of individual responsibility, no act done in the cause of chivalry could
be other than worthy; he did not question the sanity of the keeping of
such a purpose. The practical American, however, though equally willing
to make self-sacrifice, and to dare all things in the course of honour
and duty, looked at my intention with regard to its result; was I taking
the step which would have the best result with regard to the girl whom
we were all trying to save. Whilst the Spaniard raised his hat and said:

"May God watch over your gallant enterprise, Senor; and hold your life,
and that of her whom you love, in the hollow of His hand!" The American
said:

"Honest injun! old chap, is that the best you can do? If it's only a man
and a life you want, count me in every time. I'm a swimmer, too; and I'm
a youngster that don't count. So far as that goes, I'm on. But you've
got to find the ship, you know! If she was there now, I should say 'risk
it'; and I'd come with you if you liked. But there's the whole North Sea
out there, with room for a hundred million of whalers without their
jostling. No, no! Come, I say, let us find another way round; where we
can help the girl all together!" He was a good young fellow, as well
as a fine one, and it was evident he meant well. But there was no use
arguing; my mind was made up, and, after assuring him that I was in
earnest, I told him that I was taking a couple of rockets with me which
I would try to keep dry so that should occasion serve I would make
manifest the whereabouts of the whaler. He already knew what to do with
regard to signalling from shore, in case the boats of the whaler should
be seen.

When we had made what preparations we could for the work each of us had
in hand, the time came for my starting on my perilous enterprise. As
my purpose became more definite, my companions, who I think doubted in
their hearts its sincerity, became somewhat more demonstrative. It was
one thing to have a vague intention of setting out on a wild journey of
the kind, and even here common sense rebelled. But on the edge of the
high cliff, in the dark, amid the fog which came boiling up from below
as the wind puffs drove it on shore; when below our feet the rising
waves broke against the rocks with an ominous sound, made into a roar by
the broken fastnesses of the cliffs, the whole thing must have seemed as
an act of madness. When through a break in the fog-belt we could catch
a glimpse of the dark water leaping far below into furious, scattering
lines of foam, to dare the terrors of such a sea at such a time was like
going deliberately to certain death. My own heart quailed at moments;
when I saw through the fog wreaths the narrow track, down which I must
again descend to where Gormala's body lay, fading into a horrid gloom;
or when the sound of breaking water drove up, muffled by the dark mist.
My faith in the vision was strong, however, and by keeping my mind
fixed on it I could shut out present terrors. I shook hands with my two
friends, and, taking courage from the strong grip of their hands, set
myself resolutely to my journey down the cliff. The last words the young
navy man said to me were:

"Remember, if you do reach the whaler, that a gleam of light of any kind
will give us a hint of where you are. Once the men of the _Keystone_ see
it, they'll do the rest at sea; as we shall on land. Give us such a
light when the time comes--if you have to fire the ship to get it!"

At the foot of the cliff path the prospect was almost terrifying. The
rocks were so washed with the churning water, as the waves leaped at
them, that now and again only black tops could be seen rising out of
the waste of white water; and a moment after, as the wave fell back,
there would be a great mass of jagged rocks, all stark and grim, blacker
than their own blackness, with the water streaming down them, and great
rifts yawning between. Outside, the sea was a grim terror, a wildness of
rising waves and lines of foam, all shrouded in fog and gloom. Through
all came a myriad of disconcerting sounds, vague and fearsome, from
where the waves clashed or beat into the sounding caverns of Dunbuy.
Nothing but the faith which I had in the vision of Marjory, which came
to me with the dead eyes of the western Seer, could have carried me out
into that dreadful gloom. All its possibilities of horror and danger
woke to me at once, and for a moment appalled me.

But Faith is a conquering power; even the habit of believing, in which I
had been taught, stood to me in this wild hour. No sceptic, no doubter,
could have gone forth as I did into that unknown of gloom and fear.

I waited till a great wave was swept in close under my bare feet. Then,
with a silent prayer, and an emboldening thought: 'For Marjory!' I
leaped into the coming water.



CHAPTER LI

IN THE SEA FOG


For a few minutes I was engaged in a wild struggle to get away from the
rocks, and not to be forced back by the shoreward rush and sweep of the
waves. I was buffeted by them, and half-choked by the boiling foam; but
I kept blindly and desperately to my task, and presently knew that I had
only to deal with the current and the natural rise and fall of the
rollers. Down on the water the air was full of noises, so that it was
hard to distinguish any individual sound; but the fog lay less dense on
the surface than above it, so that I could see a little better around
me.

On the sea there is always more or less light; even in this time of
midnight gloom, with moon and stars hidden by the fog, and with none of
that phosphorescence which at times makes a luminous glow of its own
over the water, I could see things at an unexpected distance. More than
all, was I surprised as well as cheered to find that I could distinguish
the features of the land from the sea, better than I could from land
discern anything at sea. When I looked back, the shore rose, a dark
uneven line, unbroken save where the Haven of Dunbuy running inland made
an angle against the sky. But beside me, the great Rock of Dunbuy rose
gigantic and black; it was like a mountain towering over me. The tide
was running down so that when I had got out of the current running
inland behind the rock I was in comparatively calm water. There was no
downward current, but only a slow backwater, which insensibly took me
closer to the Rock. Keeping in this shelter, I swam on and out; I saved
myself as much as I could, for I knew of the terrible demand on my
strength which lay before me. It must have been about ten minutes,
though it seemed infinitely longer, when I began to emerge from the
shelter of the Rock and to find again the force of the outer current.
The waves were wilder here too; not so wild as just in shore before they
broke, but they were considerably larger in their rise and fall. As I
swam on, I looked back now and then, and saw Dunbuy behind me towering
upward, though not so monstrously as when I had been under its lee. The
current was beginning already to bear me downwards; so I changed my
course, and got back to the sheltered water again. Thus I crept round
under the lee of the Rock, till all at once I found myself in the angry
race, where the current beat on and off the cliff. It took me all my
strength and care to swim through this; when the force of the current
began to slacken, as I emerged from the race, I found myself panting and
breathless with the exertion.

But when I looked around me from this point, where the east opened to
me, there was something which restored all my courage and hope, though
it did not still the beating of my heart.

Close by, seemingly only a couple of hundred yards off to the north
east, lay a ship whose masts and spars stood out against the sky. I
could see her clearly, before a coming belt of fog bore down on her.

The apprehension lest I should miss her in the fog chilled me more than
the sea water in which I was immersed; for all possibilities of evil
became fears to me, now that the realisation of my vision was clear. I
was glad of the darkness; it was a guarantee against discovery. I swam
on quietly, and was rejoiced to find as I drew close that I was on the
port side of the ship; well I remembered how in my vision the boat
approached to port, to the surprise of the men who were looking out for
it on the other side. I found the rope ladder easily enough, and did not
have much difficulty in getting a foothold on it. Ascending cautiously,
and watching every inch of the way, I climbed the bulwark and hid behind
a water barrel close to the mast. From this security I looked out, and
saw the backs of several men ranged along the starboard bulwark. They
were intent on their watching, and unsuspicious of my proximity; so I
stole out and glided as silently as I could into the cabin's entrance.
It was not new to me; I had a sense of complete security as to my
knowledge. The eyes of Gormala's soul were keen!

In the cabin I recognised at once the smoky lamp and the rude
preparations for food. Thus emboldened, I came to the door, behind which
I knew Marjory lay. It was locked and bolted, and the key was gone. I
slid back the bolt, but the lock baffled me. I was afraid to make the
slightest noise, lest I should court discovery; so I passed on to the
next cabin where was her jailer. He lay just as, in the vision, I had
seen him; the chronometer was above him and the two heavy revolvers hung
underneath it. I slipped in quietly--there were not shoes to remove--and
reaching over so that the water would not drip from my wet underclothing
on his face, unhooked the two weapons. I belted them round my waist with
the strap on which they hung. Then I looked round for the key, but could
see no sign of it. There was no time to lose, and it was neither time
nor place to stand on ceremony; so I took the man by the throat with my
left hand, the dagger being in my right, and held with such a grip that
the blood seemed to leap into his face in a second. He could utter
no sound, but instinctively his hand went back and up to where the
revolvers had hung. I whispered in a low tone:

"It's no use. Give me the key. I don't value your life a pin!" He was
well plucked, and he was manifestly used to tight places. He did not
attempt to speak or parley; but whilst I had been whispering, his right
hand had got hold of a knife. It was a bowie, and he was dexterous with
it. With some kind of sharp wrench he threw it open; there was a click
as the back-spring worked. If I had not had my dagger ready it would
have been a bad time for me. But I was prepared; whilst he was making
the movement to strike at me, I struck. The keen point of the Spanish
dagger went right through the upturned wrist, and pinned his hand down
to the wooden edge of the bunk. Whilst, however, he had been trying
to strike with his right hand, his left had clutched my left wrist. He
tried now to loose my grasp from his throat, whilst bending his chin
down he made a furious effort to tear at my hand with his teeth.
Never in my life did I more need my strength and weight. The man was
manifestly a fighter, trained in many a wild 'rough-and-tumble', and his
nerves were like iron. I feared to let go the hilt of the dagger, lest
in his violent struggling he should tear his wrist away and so free his
hand. Having, however, got my right knee raised, I pressed down with it
his arm on the edge of the bunk and so freed my right hand. He continued
to struggle ferociously. I knew well it was life and death, not only for
me, but for Marjory.

It was his life or mine; and he had to pay the penalty of his crime.

So intent was I on the struggle that I had not heard the approach of the
boat with his comrades. It was only when I stood panting, with the limp
throat between my fingers which were white at the knuckles with the
strain, that the sound of voices and the tramp of feet on deck reached
my intelligence. Then indeed I knew there was no time to lose. I
searched the dead man's pockets and found a key, which I tried in the
lock of Marjory's cabin. When I opened the door she started up; the hand
in her bosom was whipped out with a flash, and in an instant a long
steel bonnet pin was ready to drive into her breast. My agonised
whisper:

"Marjory, it is I!" only reached her mind in time to hold her hand. She
did not speak; but never can I forget the look of joy that illumined her
poor, pale face. I put my finger on my lip, and held out my hand to her.
She rose, with the obedience of a child, and came with me. I was just
going out into the cabin, when I heard the creak of a heavy footstep on
the companion way. So I motioned her back, and, drawing the dagger from
my belt, stood ready. I knew who it was that was coming; yet I dared not
use the pistols, save as a last resource.

I stood behind the door. The negro did not expect anyone, or any
obstacle; he came on unthinkingly, save for whatever purpose of evil was
in his mind. He was armed, as were all the members of the blackmail
gang. In a belt across his shoulder, slung Kentucky fashion, were two
great seven shooters; and across his waist behind was a great bowie
knife, with handle ready to grasp. Moreover, nigger-like, the handle of
a razor rose out of the breast pocket of his dark flannel shirt. He did
not, however, manifestly purpose using his weapons--at present at any
rate; there was not any sign of danger or opposition in front of him.
His comrades were busy at present in embarking the treasure, and would
be for many an hour to come, in helping to work the ship clear into
safety. Every minute now the wind was rising, and the waves swelling to
such proportions that the anchored ship rocked like a bell-buoy in a
storm. In the cabin I had to hold on, or I should have been shot from
my place into view. But the huge negro cared for none of these things.
He was callous to everything, and there was such a wicked, devilish
purpose in his look that my heart hardened grimly in the antagonism of
man to man. Nay more, it was not a man that I loathed; I would have
killed this beast with less compunction than I would kill a rat or a
snake. Never in my life did I behold such a wicked face. In feature and
expression there was every trace and potentiality of evil; and these
superimposed on a racial brutality which made my gorge rise. Well indeed
did I understand now the one terror which had in all her troubles come
to Marjory, and how these wretches had used it to mould her to their
ends. I knew now why, sleeping or waking, she held that steel spike
against her heart. If--

The thought was too much for me. Even now, though I was beside her, she
was beset by her enemies. We were both still practically prisoners on a
hostile ship, and even now this demon was intent on unspeakable wrong. I
did not pause; I did not shrink from the terrible task before me. With a
bound I was upon him, and I had struck at his heart; struck so truly and
so terrible a blow, that the hilt of the dagger struck his ribs with a
thud like the blow of a cudgel. The blood seemed to leap out at me, even
as the blow fell. With spasmodic reaction he tumbled forwards; fell
without a sound, and so quickly that had not I, fearing lest the noise
of his falling might betray me, caught him, he would have dropped like a
stricken bullock.

Never before did I understand the pleasure of killing a man. Since then,
it makes me shudder when I think of how so potent a passion, or so keen
a pleasure, can rest latent in the heart of a righteous man. It may have
been that between the man and myself was all the antagonism that came
from race, and fear, and wrongdoing; but the act of his killing was to
me a joy unspeakable. It will rest with me as a wild pleasure till I
die.

I took all the arms he had about him, two revolvers and a knife; they
would give me fourteen more shots were I hard pressed. In any case they
were safer, so far as Marjory and I were concerned, in my hands than
in those of our enemies. I dragged the body of the negro into the cabin
with the other dead man; then I closed the door on them, and when
Marjory joined me, I locked the door of her cabin and took away the key.
In case of suspicion this might give us a few minutes of extra time.

Marjory came with me up on deck; and as she caught sight of the open sea
there was an unspeakable gladness on her face. We seized a favourable
opportunity, when no one was looking, for all on deck were busy hauling
up the treasure; and slipped behind the cask fastened to the mast. There
we breathed freely. We both felt that should the worst come to the
worst we could get away before any one could touch us. One rush to the
bulwarks and over. They would never attempt to follow us, and there was
a chance of a swim to shore. I gave Marjory a belt with two revolvers.
As she strapped it on she felt safer; I knew it by the way she drew
herself up, and threw back her shoulders.

When the last of the bags which held the treasure came on board, the men
who had come with it closed in a ring around the mass as it lay on deck.
They were all armed; I could see that they did not trust the sailors,
for each moment some one's hand would go back to his gun. We heard one
of them ask as he looked round: "What has become of that damned nigger?
He must take his share of work!" Marjory was very brave and very still;
I could see that her nerve was coming back to her. After a little
whispered conversation, the newcomers began to carry the bags down to
the cabin; it was slow work, for two always stood guard above, and two
remained down below evidently on similar duty. Discovery of the dead man
must come soon, so Marjory and I stole behind the foremast which was
well away from every one. She was first, and as she began to pass behind
she recoiled; she got the drop on some one in front of her. There was a
smothered 'h-s-s-sh' and she lowered her weapon. Turning to me she said
in a faint whisper:

"It is the Spaniard; what is he doing here?" I whispered back:

"Be good to him. He is a noble fellow, and has behaved like a knight of
old!" I pressed forward and took his hand. "How did you get here?" I
asked. His answer was given in so faint a voice that I could see that he
was spent and tired, if not injured:

"I swam, too. When I saw their boat pull out of the northern channel, I
managed to scramble down part of the cliff, and then jumped. Fortunately
I was not injured. It was a long, weary swim, and I thought I should
never be able to get through; but at last the current took me and
carried me to the ship. She was anchored with a hawser, not a cable.
I managed to climb up it; and when I was on board I cut it nearly
through."

Even as he spoke there was a queer lurch of the ship which lay stern
forward, and a smothered ejaculation from all the seamen.

The hawser had parted and we were drifting before wind and tide. Then it
was that I felt we should give warning to the yacht and the battleship.
I knew that they were not far off; had I not seen them in my vision,
which had now been proven. Then it was also that the words of the young
American came back to me: "Give us a light, if you have to fire the ship
to get it."

All this time, from the moment when I had set foot on the whaler's deck
till this instant, events had moved with inconceivable rapidity. There
had been one silent, breathless rush; during which two lives had been
taken and Marjory set free. Only a few minutes had elapsed in all; and
when I looked around under the altered conditions, things seemed to be
almost where they had been. It was like the picture in one's mind made
by a lightning flash; when the period of reception is less than the time
of the smallest action, and movement is lost in time. The fog belt was
thinning out, and there was in the night air a faint suggestion that one
might see, if there were anything to be seen.

The great Rock of Dunbuy towered up; I could just distinguish so much on
the land side. Whilst I was looking, there came a sudden light and then
a whirr; high overhead through the sea fog we could see faintly the
fiery trail of a rocket.

Instantly out at sea was an answer; a great ray of light shot upwards,
and we could see its reflection in the sky. None of us said anything;
but instinctively Marjory and I clasped hands. Then the light ray seemed
to fall downward to the sea. But as it came down, the fog seemed to
grow thicker and thicker till the light was lost in its density. There
was stir of all on our ship. No loud word was spoken, but whispered
directions, given with smothered curses, flew. Each man of the crew
seemed to run to his post, and with a screeching and straining the sails
rose. The vessel began to slip through the water with added speed. Now,
if ever, was our time to warn our friends. The little rockets which I
had brought had been sodden with water and were useless, and besides we
had no way of getting a light. The only way of warning was by sound, and
the only sound to carry was a pistol shot. For an instant I hesitated,
for a shot meant a life if we should be pushed to it. But it must be
done; so signing to the others I ran aft and when close to the mast
fired my revolver. Instantly around me was a chorus of curses. I bent
double and ran back, seeing through the darkness vague forms rush to
where I had been. The fog was closing thicker around us; it seemed to
boil over the bulwarks as we passed along. We had either passed into
another belt of fog, or one was closing down upon us with the wind. The
sound of the pistol shot had evidently reached the war ship. She was far
off us, and the sounds came faintly over the waste of stormy sea; but
there was no mistaking the cheer followed by commands. These sounded
faint and hoarsely; a few words were spoken with a trumpet, and then
came the shrill whistle of the boatswain's pipe.

On our own deck was rushing to and fro, and frenzied labour everywhere.
The first object was to get away from the searchlight; they would seek
presently, no doubt, for who had fired the betraying shot. If I could
have known what to do, so as to stay our progress, there would have been
other shots; for now that we were moving through the water, every second
might take us further from the shore and place us deeper in the toils of
our foes.



CHAPTER LII

THE SKARES


I whispered to Marjory and Don Bernardino:

"If they once get away we are lost! We must stop them at all hazards!"
The Spaniard nodded and Marjory squeezed my hands; there was no need
of speech. Then I fixed the order of battle. I was to fire first, then
the Spaniard, then Marjory, each saving his fire till we knew whether
another shot was required. This precaution was necessary, as we had no
reserve ammunition. We took it for granted that the chambers of the
revolvers were full; my one shot had been satisfactory in this respect.
When the sails were set and we began rushing through the water I saw
that even at the risk of betraying ourselves to our enemies we must give
warning again, and so fired. There was an answering cheer from the
_Keystone_ through the fog; and then a sudden rush forward of those on
our own deck. When they were close to us, the seamen hung back; but the
men of the gang kept on firing as they came. Fortunately we were in a
line behind cover, for I could hear the 'ping' and the tearing wood as
the bullets struck the mast. I fired a shot just to show that we were
armed; and heard a sharp cry. Then they fell back. In a moment or two
they also had formed their plan of battle. These were men used to such
encounters; and as they knew that at such times a quick rush may mean
everything, they did not let the grass grow under their feet. I could
see one of the seamen remonstrating with them, and hear the quick,
angry tones of his voice, though I could not distinguish the words.

He pointed out into the fog, where now there was distinctly a luminous
patch of light: the searchlight was moving towards us. The _Keystone_
was coming down on us.

The blackmailer shook off the seaman and, then gave some directions to
his comrades; they spread out right and left of us, and tried to find
some kind of cover. I lifted Marjory and put her standing on the barrel
fastened behind the mast, for I thought that as the flash of my pistol
had come from the deck they would not expect any one to be raised so
high. Don Bernardino and I curled down on the deck, and our opponents
began to fire. In the thickening fog, and with the motion of the ship
which threw us all about like ninepins, their aim was vague; fortunately
no one was hit. When I thought I had a chance I fired, but there was
no response; the Don got a shot and Marjory another, but there was no
sound, save that of the bullets striking on wood or iron. Then Marjory,
whose traditional instinct was coming into play, fired twice in rapid
succession; there was a quick exclamation and then a flood of horrible
profanity, the man was only winged. Again and again they fired, and I
heard a groan behind me from the Don.

"What's that?" I whispered, not daring to stop or even to look back:

"My arm! Take my pistol, I cannot shoot with my left hand." I put my
hand back, and he placed the revolver in it. I saw a dark form rush
across the deck and fired--and missed. I tried another shot; but the
weapon only answered with a click; the chambers were exhausted. So I
used the other revolver. And so for a few minutes a furious fight went
on. Marjory seldom fired, she was holding herself in reserve; but
before I knew what was happening my second revolver was empty. Our
antagonists were no chickens at their work; there was little to teach
any of them in such a method of contest as this. Some one had evidently
been counting the shots, for he suddenly called out:

"Not yet boys! They've at least three shots still!" With a sudden
simultaneous rush they ran back into shelter.

During this time we had been tearing through the water at our full
speed. But behind us on the port quarter was the sound of a great ship
steaming on. The roar of the furnaces could be heard in the trumpeting
of the funnels. The boatswain's whistles were piping, and there were
voices of command cutting hoarsely through the fog. The searchlight too
was at work; we could see its rays high up on the mist, though they did
not at the moment penetrate sufficiently to expose us to the lookout of
the _Keystone_. Closer on our starboard quarter was another sound which
came on the trailing wind, the rush of a small vessel running fast.
We could hear down the wind the sharp 'slap slap' of the waves on the
bows, and the roaring of the wind among the cordage. This must be
the _Sporran_ following us close with grim disregard of danger. The
commander of the whaler, recognising the possibility of discovery, put
his helm hard to starboard. I could myself not see through the darkness;
but the seaman did and took his chance of grounding in Cruden Bay. When
we had run in a little way the helm was jammed hard down again, and
we ran on the other tack; for the moment we were lost to both the war
ship and the yacht. Marjory looked at me appealingly and I nodded; the
situation was not one to be risked. She fired another shot from her
pistol. There was an immediate reply from far out on our port side in
the shape of more directions spoken with the trumpet and answering
piping from the boatswains. Several shots were fired towards us by the
gang; they were manifestly on chance, for they went wildly wide of us.
Then we could hear an angry remonstrance from the whaler captain, and a
threat that if there were any more firing, he would down with his sails
and take chance of being captured. One of the gang answered him:

"That packet can't capture you within the three-mile limit; it's a
cruiser of Uncle Sam's and they won't risk having to lie up in harbour
here till the war is over." To which the other surlily replied:

"I wouldn't put money on it. Anyhow someone will! You keep quiet if you
can. There's enough against us already if we should be caught!" The
reply of the blackmailer was at least practical. I could not see what he
did, but I took it that he put his pistol to the captain's head as he
said with a frightful oath:

"You'll go on as you arranged with me; or I'll blow your brains out
where you stand. There's quite enough against any of us, you included;
so your one chance anyhow is to get out of this hole. See?" The captain
accepted the position and gave his orders with a quiet delivery, to the
effect that we ran first shorewards and then to starboard again till we
were running back on our tracks like a hare.

Suddenly, however, this course was brought to an end by our almost
running into a small vessel which as we passed I could see by its trim
appearance was a yacht. We were so close for a few seconds, whilst we
ran across her stern, that I shouted out:

"All right, MacRae. All safe as yet. She's trying to run out to sea. Try
to tell the _Keystone_." The answer was a cheer from all aboard.

As our ship swept into the fog, several of our enemies ran at us. I
handed Don Bernardino his own dagger and took the bowie knife myself.
Then we stood ready in case our foes should get to close quarters.
They got nearly up to us, firing as they came; but we were just then
sheltering behind the mast and no injury was done. They hesitated to
come on, not seeing us; and we waited. As we stood with beating hearts
the ship began to come to starboard again. We must have been sheltered
in some way, for we did not seem to feel either wind or tide so much as
before. Suddenly one of the seamen said:

"Whist! I hear breakers!" The rest paused and listened, and the captain
called out:

"Hard to starboard; we are running on shore!" The ship answered at once,
and we began to run across the wind, feeling the tide at the same time.
But as we went, a searchlight flashed on the fog before us. We could not
stop or change quick enough to quite avoid the ship from which it came,
but the helm was put hard to starboard again and we ran close along side
a great war ship. I could see her tower with protruding cannon as we ran
by. A voice came through a speaking trumpet, and I could just catch the
first words as the vessel swept by us:

"Rocks ahead!" The instinct of the seaman spoke, even at such a time, to
keep another vessel from harm. The answer from our vessel was a volley
of curses. Then the searchlight swept our deck, and we could see all our
enemies. They were round us in a great ring and closing in upon us. They
saw us, too, and with a shout began to run in. I took Marjory by the
waist and ran with her to the bow of the ship; I flung her up on the
bulwark and jumped up beside her. Don Bernardino joined us in a moment,
and we saw the searchlight as it passed us and pierced into the fog
ahead. Already the bulk of the battleship was almost lost in the mist;
there was only a faint indication of her presence in a monstrous mass
behind the searchlight, and the end of a spar rising above the fog. In
front of us there was a great roaring of water and that sharp rushing
sound which comes from the back sweep of a broken wave. Our skipper saw
the danger, and in a voice like a trumpet gave his orders.

But it was too late to do anything. As the searchlight again swept our
deck, I saw the ring of men break up and scatter; almost at the same
moment the rays passing beyond us, fell on a low rock rising from the
sea up whose sides great waves were dashing. We were rushing to it,
borne by wind and tide in a terrible haste.

At that instant we struck a rock below the water. With the shock we
three were thrown forward into the sea. I heard a despairing shout
behind us; and then the water closed over my head.

When I rose it was in a wild agony of fear for Marjory. She had been
sitting to my left on the bulwark and must therefore have fallen to
seaward of me. I raised myself as well as I could and looked around;
and, by God's grace, saw two hands rising above the water a few yards
from me. With all my might I struggled towards them, and was able to
drag my wife up to the surface. When I had her with me, though my terror
and anxiety increased, I could think. At such moments the mind acts with
lightning speed, and in a second or two I came to the conclusion that
the rock we had struck must be amongst the Skares. If so, the only
chance was to edge in with the tide and try to avoid striking any of the
underlying rocks which I knew well were so deadly. Had not I seen
Lauchlane Macleod come to his death through them.

It was a desperate struggle before us. The tide was racing amongst the
rocks, and even were there no waves it would have been a difficult task
to have won through it into shore. For myself I was a strong enough
swimmer to have found my way in, even if I had had to round the outer
rock and keep up to the harbour of Whinnyfold. But with Marjory to care
for, too--Marjory who had only lately learned to swim.... The prospect
was indeed a terrible one. We must not lose a chance, and so I made my
wife loose her skirts which fell away in the drag of the water; she
could then swim more freely and to the best of her power.

The wind beat fiercely, and the tops of the breaking waves nearly choked
us as they flew. There was just light enough down on the water level to
see rocks a few yards ahead; the line of the shore rose like one dim
opaque mass. In the darkness and the stress of the tide race there was
little I could do, save keep Marjory's head and my own above the water
and let the current bear us on. I must avoid the rocks as well as I
could, and let all my efforts tend to bring us shorewards. There was not
time for fears or doubting, or hoping; the moments must pass and the
struggle be made, never-ending though it seemed to be.

After a few minutes I began to tire; the strain of the last few days and
my late effort in reaching the whaler had begun to tell on me. I had now
and again a passing thought of Don Bernardino and the friends who had
been helping us; but they were all far off. The Spaniard I should
probably never seen again; the others might never see us.... I was
relapsing into the lethargy of despair.

With a violent effort I woke to the task before me, and kept sternly on
my way. Marjory was striving her utmost; but her strength was failing.
Her weight was becoming deader.... That nerved me to further effort,
and I swam on so frantically that I drew closer to the mainland. Here
there was shelter of a kind; the waves broken by the outer rocks
were less forceful. The crested tops which the wind had driven on us
were weakening also. There was hope in this and it kept me up. On I
fought--on--on--on. Oh! would the struggle never end! I shut my teeth,
and forged on fiercely. I could feel that we were going with the rush of
the waves through a gully between sunken rocks.

Joy! there was shore beneath my feet, rough pebbles which rolled and
worked against each other. The wave pulled us back. But my heart was
renewed again. I made one more frantic effort, and swam closer to the
land. Then as I saw the wave began to recoil I put down my feet, and
with the last of my strength lifting Marjory in my arms I fought
fiercely with the retreating wave. Staggering over the screaming
pebbles, exhausted to the point of death, I bore her high up on the
beach and laid her down. Then I sank lifeless beside her cold body.

The last thing I remember was the faint light of the coming dawn,
falling on her marble-white face as she lay on the shore.



CHAPTER LIII

FROM THE DEEP


It could not have been more than a few minutes before I recovered
consciousness, if indeed I were ever absolutely unconscious. It was
rather the inevitable yielding to a strain on nerve and muscle and
brain, than a time of oblivion. I think that I always knew that I was
by the sea, and that Marjory was beside me and in trouble; but that was
all. I was in the nightmare stage, when one can understand danger and
realise terror; and when the only thing impossible to one is to do
anything. Certainly, when I came to myself I was fully conscious of my
surroundings. I was even surprised that I did not see on Marjory's pale
face, the cold faint gleam of light which had been there when last I saw
her. The general light had, however, increased. The strand and the rocks
looked now not black, but inexpressibly drear in the uniform grey which
seemed to make all colour and shape and distance into one sad flat
screen. My first work was of course to attend Marjory. For a while I
feared that she was dead, so white was she amid the surrounding grey.
But her heart still beat, and her breast moved, though very slightly,
with her breathing. I could now see that we were in Broad Haven and, so,
close to my own home. I could see through the pierced rock called the
"Puir Mon." I took my wife in my arms and carried her, though with
infinite difficulty for I was sorely exhausted, up the steep path, and
brought her into the house. I had to break the door in again, but there
was no one to help me or to interfere in the matter. I got some brandy
and poured a few drops into her mouth, and laid her in a pile of rugs
whilst I lit the fire. The supply of whin bushes in the wood house was
not exhausted, and very soon there was a roaring fire. When Marjory
opened her eyes and looked around the room, a certain amount of
consciousness came to her. She imagined the occasion of her being with
me was the same as when we had escaped from the flooded cave; holding
out her arms she said to me with infinite love and sweetness:

"Thank God, dear, you are safe!" A moment later she rubbed her eyes and
sat up, looking wildly around as one does after a hideous dream. In her
survey, however, her eyes lit on her own figure, and a real wave of
shame swept over her; she hastily pulled the rug round her shoulders and
sank back. The habit of personal decorum had conquered fear. She closed
her eyes for a moment or two to remember, and when she opened them was
in full possession of all her faculties and her memory.

"It was no dream! It is all, all real! And I owe my life to you,
darling, once again!" I kissed her, and she sank back with a sigh of
happiness. A moment later, however, she started up, crying out to me:

"But the others, where are they? Quick! quick! let us go to help them if
we can!" She looked wildly round. I understood her wishes, and hurrying
into the other room brought her an armful of her clothes.

In a few minutes she joined me; and hand in hand we went out on the edge
of the cliff. As we went, I told her of what had happened since she
became unconscious in the water.

The wind was now blowing fiercely, almost a gale. The sea had risen,
till great waves driving amongst the rocks had thrashed the whole region
of the Skares into a wild field of foam. Below us, the waves dashing
over the sunken rocks broke on the shore with a loud roaring, and washed
high above the place where we had lain. The fog had lifted, and objects
could be seen even at a distance. Far out, some miles away, lay a great
ship; and by the outermost of the Skares a little to the north of the
great rock and where the sunken reef lies, rose part of a broken mast.
But there was nothing else to be seen, except away to south a yacht
tossing about under double-reefed sails. Sea and sky were of a leaden
grey, and the heavy clouds that drifted before the gale came so low as
to make us think that they were the fog belts risen from the sea.

Marjory would not be contented till we had roused the whole village of
Whinnyfold, and with them had gone all round the cliffs and looked into
every little opening to see if there were trace or sign of any of those
who had been wrecked with us. But it was all in vain.

We sent a mounted messenger off to Crom with a note, for we knew in what
terrible anxiety Mrs. Jack must be. In an incredibly short time the
good lady was with us; and was rocking Marjory in her arms, crying and
laughing over her wildly. By and bye she got round the carriage from the
village and said to us:

"And now my dears, I suppose we had better get back to Crom, where you
can rest yourselves after this terrible time." Marjory came over to me,
and holding my arm looked at her old nurse lovingly as she said with
deep earnestness:

"You had better go back, dear, and get things ready for us. As for me, I
shall never willingly leave my husband's side again!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The storm continued for a whole day, growing rougher and wilder with
each hour. For another day it grew less and less, till finally the wind
had died away and only the rough waves spoke of what had been. Then the
sea began to give up its dead. Some seamen presumably those of the
_Wilhelmina_ were found along the coast between Whinnyfold and Old
Slains, and the bodies of two of the blackmailers, terribly mangled,
were washed ashore at Cruden Bay. The rest of the sailors and of the
desperadoes were never found. Whether they escaped by some miracle, or
were swallowed in the sea, will probably never be known.

Strangest of all was the finding of Don Bernardino. The body of the
gallant Spanish gentleman was found washed up on shore behind the Lord
Nelson rock, just opposite where had been the opening to the cave in
which his noble ancestor had hidden the Pope's treasure. It was as
though the sea itself had respected his devotion, and had laid him by
the place of his Trust. Marjory and I saw his body brought home to Spain
when the war was over, and laid amongst the tombs of his ancestors. We
petitioned the Crown; and though no actual leave was given, no objection
was made to our removing the golden figure of San Cristobal which
Benvenuto had wrought for the Pope. It now stands over the Spaniard's
tomb in the church of San Cristobal in far Castile.



APPENDICES



APPENDIX A


"In the First Edition of his work "The Two Bookes of Francis Bacon,
of the proficience and advancement of Learning, divine and humane"
published at London in 1605, the Author only alludes briefly to his
Bi-literal Cipher. Speaking of Ciphers generally (Booke II) he says:

"But the vertues of them, whereby they are to be preferred, are three;
that they be not laborious to write and reade; that they bee impossible
to discypher; and in some cases, that they bee without suspicion.
The highest Degree whereof, is to write OMNIA PER OMNIA; which is
undoubtedly possible, with a proportion Quintuple at most, of the
writing infoulding, to the writing infoulded, and no other restrainte
whatsoever."

It was not till eighteen years later that he gave to the public an
explanation of this 'infoulding' writing. In the rarely beautiful
edition of the work in Latin printed in London by Haviland in 1623, the
passage relating to secret writing is much amplified. Indeed the entire
work is completed in many ways and greatly enlarged as is shown by its
title.

"De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum. Libros IX."

The following is his revised statement:

"Ut vero suspicio omnis absit, aliud Juventum subijciemus, quod certe,
cum Adolescentuli essemus Parisiis, excogitavimus; nec etiam adhuc visa
vobis res digna est, quae pereat. Habet enim gradum Ciphrae altissimum;
nimirum ut _Omnia per Omnia_ significari possint: ita tamen, ut Scriptis
quae involuitut, quintuplo minor sit, quam ea cui involvatur: Alia nulla
omnino requiritur Conditio, aut Restrictio. Id hoc modo fiet. Primo,
universae literae Alphabeti in duas tantummodo Literas soluantur, per
Transpositionem earum. Nam Transpositis duarum Literarum, per Locos
quinque, Differentiis triginta duabus, multo magis viginti quatuor (qui
est Numerus Alphabeti apud nos) sufficiet. Huius _Alphabeti_. Exemplum
tale est."

       *       *       *       *       *

"But for avoiding suspicion altogether, I will add another contrivance,
which I devised myself when I was at Paris in my early youth, and which
I still think worthy of preservation. For it has the perfection of a
cipher, which is to make anything signifying anything; subject however
to this condition, that the infolding writing shall contain at least
five times as many letters as the writing infolded; no other condition
or restriction is required. The way to do it is this: First let all the
letters of the Alphabet be resolved into transpositions of two letters
only. For the transposition of two letters through five places will
yield thirty-two differences; much more twenty-four, which is the number
of letters in our Alphabet. Here is an example of such an Alphabet.

    A     B     C     D     E     F     G     H
  aaaaa aaaab aaaba aaabb aabaa aabab aabba aabbb

    I     K     L     M     N     O     P     Q
  abaaa abaab ababa ababb abbaa abbab abbba abbbb

    R     S     T     V     W     X     Y     Z
  baaaa baaab baaba baabb babaa babab babba babbb

"Nor is it a slight thing which is thus by the way effected. For heare
we see how thoughts may be communicated at any distance of place by
means of any objects perceptible either to the eye or ear, provided
only that those objects are capable of two differences; as by bells,
trumpets, torches, gunshots, and the like. But to proceed with our
business. When you prepare to write, you must reduce the interior
epistle to this bi-literal alphabet. Let the interior epistle be:

           Fly.
  Example of reduction.
      F     L     Y
    aabab ababa babba

"Have by you at the same time another alphabet in two forms; I mean in
which each of the letters of the common alphabet, both capitals and
small, are exhibited in two different forms,--any forms that you find
convenient."

[For instance, Roman and Italic letters; "a" representing Roman and "b"
representing Italic.]

"Then take your interior epistle, reduced to the bi-literal shape, and
adapt it, letter by letter, to your exterior epistle in the biform
character; and then write it out. Let the exterior epistle be:

        "Do not go till I come."
          Example of reduction
             F     L     Y
           aabab ababa babba
  DO_N_O_T_  G_O_T_I_L  _L_I_CO_M--_E_
     do not     go till      I come

       *       *       *       *       *

From the above given dates it would almost seem as if Bacon had treated
the matter in a purely academic manner, and had drawn out of his
remembrance of his younger days a method of secret communication which
had not seen any practical service. Spedding mentions in his book
"Francis Bacon and his Times" that Bacon may have got the hint of the
'bi-literal cypher' from the work of John Baptist Porta, "De occultis
literarum notis," reprinted in Strasburg in 1606, but the first edition
of which was published when Porta was a young man. It is however
manifest from certain evidence, that Bacon practised his special cipher
and used it for many years. Lady Bacon, mother of the philosopher,
writing in 1593, to her son Anthony, elder brother of Francis, speaking
of him, Francis, says, "I do not understand his enigmatical folded
writing." Indeed it is possible that many years before he had tried to
have his invention made use of for public service. His was an age of
secret writing. Every Ambassador had to send his despatches in cipher,
for thus--and even then not always--could they be safe from hostile
eyes. The thousands of pages of reports to King Philip made by Don
Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish Ambassador at the Court of Queen
Elizabeth, before the time of the Armada, were all written in this form;
the groaning shelves of the records at Simancas bear evidence of the
industry of such political officials and of their spies and secretaries.
An ambitious youth like Francis Bacon, son of the Lord Keeper, and so
traditionally and familiarly in touch with Court and Council, who in his
baby days was addressed by Elizabeth as her "young Lord Keeper," and who
spent the time between his sixteenth and eighteenth years in the suite
of the English Ambassador in Paris, Sir Amyas Paulet, must have had
constant experience of the need of a cipher which would fulfill the
conditions which he laid down as essential in 1605--facility of
execution, impossibility of discovery, and lack of suspiciousness. When,
in a letter of 16 Sept. 1580, to his uncle Lord Burghley, he made suit
to the Queen for some special employment, it is possible that the post
he sought was that of secret writer to Her Majesty. His letter, though
followed up with a more pressing one on 18th October of the same year,
remained unanswered. Whatever the motive or purpose of these last two
letters may have been, it remained on his mind; for eleven years later
we find him again writing to his uncle the Lord Keeper: "I ever have a
mind to serve Her Majesty," and again, "the meanness of my estate doth
somewhat move me." In the interval, on 25th August, 1585, he wrote to
the Right Hon. Sir Francis Walsingham, Principal Secretary to the Queen:
"In default of getting it, will go back to course of practice (at Bar) I
must and will follow, not for my necessity of estate but for my credit's
sake, which I fear by being out of action will wear." His brother
Anthony spent the best part of his life abroad, presumably on some
secret missions; and as Francis was the recipient of his letters it was
doubtless that "folded writing" which so puzzled their mother which was
used for the safety and secrecy of their correspondence. Indeed to what
a fine point the biliteral method must have been brought by Bacon and
his correspondents is shown by the extraordinarily minute differences
given in his own setting forth of the symbols for "a" and "b" etc., in
the "_De Augmentis_" of 1623 and later. In the edition printed in Latin
in Paris the next year, 1624, by Peter Mettayer, the differences,
possibly through some imperfection of printing, are so minute that
even the reader studying the characters set before him, with the extra
elucidation of their being placed under their proper headings, finds it
almost impossible to understand them. The cutting for instance of the
"n" which represents "a" and that which represents "b" seems, even after
prolonged study, to be the same.

It is to be noticed that Bacon in setting forth the cipher in its
completeness directs attention to its infinite possibilities and
variations. The organised repetition of any two symbols in combinations
of not more than five for one or both symbols may convey ideas. Not
letters only but colours, bells, cannon, or other sounds may be used
with effect. All the senses may be employed, or any or some of them, in
endless combinations.

Again it is to be noted that even in his first allusion to the system in
1605, he says, "to write Omnia per Omnia, which is undoubtedly possible,
with a proportion _Quintuple at most_, of the writing infoulding, to the
writing infoulded."

"Quintuple at most!" But in the instances of his system which he gives
eighteen years later, when probably his time for secret writing as a
matter of business had ceased, and when from the lofty altitude of
the Woolsack he could behold unmoved any who had concealments to
make--provided of course that they were not connected with bribes--there
is only one method given, that of five infolding letters for each one
infolded. In the later and fuller period he speaks also of the one
necessary condition "that the infoulding writing shall contain _at least
five times as many letters_ as the writing infoulded"--

Even in the example which he gives "Do not go till I come," there is a
superfluous letter,--the final "e;" as though he wished to mislead the
reader by inference as well as by direct statement.

Is it possible that he stopped short in his completion of this
marvellous cipher? Can we believe that he who openly spoke from the
first of symbols "_quintuple at most_," was content to use so large a
number of infolding letters when he could possibly do with less? Why,
the last condition of excellence in a cipher which he himself laid down,
namely, that it should "bee without suspicion," would be endangered by
a larger number than was actually necessary. It is by repetition of
symbols that the discovery of secret writing is made; and in a cipher
where, manifestly, the eye or the ear or the touch or the taste must be
guided by such, and so marked and prolonged, symbols, the chances of
discovery are enormously increased. Doubtless, then, he did not rest in
his investigation and invention until he had brought his cipher to its
least dimensions; and it was for some other reason or purpose that
he thus tried to divert the mind of the student from his earlier
suggestion. It will probably be proved hereafter that more than one
variant and reduction to lower dimensions of his biliteral cipher was
used between himself and his friends. When the secrets of that
"Scrivenry" which, according to Mr. W. G. Thorpe in his interesting
volume, "The Hidden Lives of Shakespeare and Bacon," Bacon kept at work
in Twickenham Park, are made known, we shall doubtless know more on the
subject. Of one point, however, we may rest assured, that Bacon did not
go back in his pursuance of an interesting study; and the change from
"Quintuple at most" of the infolding writing of 1605, to "Quintuple
at least," of 1623, was meant for some purpose of misleading or
obscuration, rather than as a limitation of his original setting forth
of the powers and possibilities of his great invention. It will some
day be an interesting theme of speculation and study what use of his
biliteral cipher had been made between 1605 and 1623; and what it was
that he wished to conceal.

That the original cipher, as given, can be so reduced is manifest. Of
the Quintuple biliteral there are thirty-two combinations. As in the
Elizabethan alphabet, as Bacon himself points out, there were but
twenty-four letters, certain possibilities of reduction at once unfold
themselves, since at the very outset one entire fourth of the symbols
are unused.



APPENDIX B

ON THE REDUCTION OF THE NUMBER OF SYMBOLS IN BACON'S BILITERAL CIPHER


When I examined the scripts together, both that of the numbers and those
of the dots, I found distinct repetitions of groups of symbols; but no
combinations sufficiently recurrent to allow me to deal with them as
entities. In the number cipher the class of repetitions seemed more
marked. This may have been, however, that as the symbols were simpler
and of a kind with which I was more familiar, the traces or surmises
were easier to follow. It gave me hope to find that there was something
in common between the two methods. It might be, indeed, that both
writings were but variants of the same system. Unconsciously I gave my
attention to the simpler form--the numbers--and for a long weary time
went over them forward, backward, up and down, adding, subtracting,
multiplying, dividing; but without any favorable result. The only
encouragement which I got was that I got additions of eight and nine,
each of these many times repeated. Try how I would, however, I could not
scheme out of them any coherent result.

When in desperation I returned to the dotted papers I found that this
method was still more exasperating, for on a close study of them I could
not fail to see that there was a cipher manifest; though what it was, or
how it could be read, seemed impossible to me. Most of the letters had
marks in or about them; indeed there were very few which had not.
Examining more closely still I found that the dots were disposed in
three different ways: (a) in the body of the letter itself: (b) above
the letter: (c) below it. There was never more than one mark in the
body of the letter; but those above or below were sometimes single and
sometimes double. Some letters had only the dot in the body; and others,
whether marked on the body or not, had no dots either above or below.
Thus there was every form and circumstance of marking within these three
categories. The only thing which my instinct seemed to impress upon me
continually was that very few of the letters had marks both above and
below. In such cases two were above and one below, or _vice versa_; but
in no case were there marks in the body and above and below also. At
last I came to the conclusion that I had better, for the time, abandon
attempting to decipher; and try to construct a cipher on the lines of
Bacon's Biliteral--one which would ultimately accord in some way with
the external conditions of either, or both, of those before me.

But Bacon's Biliteral as set forth in the _Novum Organum_ had five
symbols in every case. As there were here no repetitions of five, I set
myself to the task of reducing Bacon's system to a lower number of
symbols--a task which in my original memorandum I had held capable of
accomplishment.

For hours I tried various means of reduction, each time getting a little
nearer to the ultimate simplicity; till at last I felt that I had
mastered the principle.

Take the Baconian biliteral cipher as he himself gives it and knock out
repetitions of four or five aaaaa: aaaab: abbbb: baaaa: bbbba: and
bbbbb. This would leave a complete alphabet with two extra symbols for
use as stops, repeats, capitals, etc. This method of deletion, however,
would not allow of the reduction of the number of symbols used; there
would still be required five for each letter to be infolded. We have
therefore to try another process of reduction, that affecting the
variety of symbols without reference to the number of times, up to five,
which each one is repeated.

Take therefore the Baconian Biliteral and place opposite to each item
the number of symbols required. The first, (aaaaa) requires but one
symbol "a," the second, (aaaab) two, "a" and "b;" the third (aaaba)
three, "a" "b" and "a;" and so on. We shall thus find that the 11th
(ababa) and the 22nd (babab) require five each, and that the 6th, 10th,
12th, 14th, 19th, 21st, 23rd and 27th require four each. If, therefore,
we delete all these biliteral combinations which require four or five
symbols each--ten in all--we have still left twenty-two combinations,
necessitating at most not more than two changes of symbol in addition to
the initial letter of each, requiring up to five quantities of the same
symbol. Fit these to the alphabet; and the scheme of cipher is complete.

If, therefore, we can devise any means of expressing, in conjunction
with each symbol, a certain number of repeats up to five; and if we can,
for practical purposes, reduce our alphabet to twenty-two letters,
we can at once reduce the biliteral cipher to three instead of five
symbols.

The latter is easy enough, for certain letters are so infrequently used
that they may well be grouped in twos. Take "X" and "Z" for instance.
In modern printing in English where the letter "e" is employed seventy
times, "x" is only used three times, and "z" twice. Again, "k" is only
used six times, and "q" only three times. Therefore we may very well
group together "k" and "q," and "x" and "z." The lessening of the
Elizabethan alphabet thus effected would leave but twenty-two letters,
the same number as the combinations of the biliteral remaining after
the elision. And further, as "W" is but "V" repeated, we could keep a
special symbol to represent the repetition of this or any other letter,
whether the same be in the body of a word, or if it be the last of
one word and the first of that which follows. Thus we give a greater
elasticity to the cipher and so minimise the chance of discovery.

As to the expression of numerical values applied to each of the
symbols "a" and "b" of the biliteral cipher as above modified, such
is simplicity itself in a number cipher. As there are two symbols
to be represented and five values to each--four in addition to the
initial--take the numerals, one to ten--which latter, of course, could
be represented by 0. Let the odd numbers according to their values stand
for "a":

      a=1
     aa=3
    aaa=5
   aaaa=7
  aaaaa=9

and the even numbers according to their values stand for "b":

      b=2
     bb=4
    bbb=6
   bbbb=8
  bbbbb=0

and then? Eureka! We have a Biliteral Cipher in which each letter is
represented by one, two, or three, numbers; and so the five symbols of
the Baconian Biliteral is reduced to three at maximum.

Variants of this scheme can of course, with a little ingenuity, be
easily reconstructed.



APPENDIX C

THE RESOLVING OF BACON'S BILITERAL REDUCED TO THREE SYMBOLS IN A NUMBER
CIPHER


Place in their relative order as appearing in the original arrangement
the selected symbols of the Biliteral:

  a a a a a
  a a a a b
      &c

Then place opposite each the number arrived at by the application of odd
and even figures to represent the numerical values of the symbols "a"
and "b."

  Thus aaaaa will be as shown 9
       aaaab will be as shown 72
       aaaba will be as shown 521

and so on. Then put in sequence of numerical value. We shall then have:
0. 9. 18. 27. 36. 45. 54. 63. 72. 81. 125. 143. 161. 216. 234. 252. 323.
341. 414. 432. 521. 612. An analysis shows that of these there are two
of one figure; eight of two figures; and twelve of three figures. Now
as regards the latter series--the symbols composed of three figures--we
will find that if we add together the component figures of each of those
which begins and ends with an even number they will tot up to nine;
but that the total of each of those commencing and ending with an odd
number only total up to eight. There are no two of these symbols which
clash with one another so as to cause confusion.

To fit the alphabet to this cipher the simplest plan is to reserve one
symbol (the first--"0") to represent the repetition of a foregoing
letter. This would not only enlarge possibilities of writing, but would
help to baffle inquiry. There is a distinct purpose in choosing "0" as
the symbol of repetition for it can best be spared; it would invite
curiosity to begin a number cipher with "0," were it in use in any
combination of figures representing a letter.

Keep all the other numbers and combinations of numbers for purely
alphabetical use. Then take the next five--9 to 45 to represent the
vowels. The rest of the alphabet can follow in regular sequence, using
up of the triple combinations, first those beginning and ending with
even numbers and which tot up to nine, and when these have been
exhausted, the others, those beginning and ending with odd numbers and
which tot up to eight, in their own sequence.

If this plan be adopted, any letter of a word can be translated into
numbers which are easily distinguishable, and whose sequence can be
seemingly altered, so as to baffle inquisitive eyes, by the addition of
any other numbers placed anywhere throughout the cipher. All of these
added numbers can easily be discovered and eliminated by the scribe who
undertakes the work of decipheration, by means of the additions of odd
or even numbers, or by reference to his key. The whole cipher is so
rationally exact that any one who knows the principle can make a key in
a few minutes.

As I had gone on with my work I was much cheered by certain resemblances
or coincidences which presented themselves, linking my new construction
with the existing cipher. When I hit upon the values of additions of
eight and nine as the component elements of some of the symbols, I felt
sure that I was now on the right track. At the completion of my work I
was exultant for I felt satisfied in believing that the game was now in
my own hands.



APPENDIX D

ON THE APPLICATION OF THE NUMBER CIPHER TO THE DOTTED PRINTING


The problem which I now put before myself was to make dots in a printed
book in which I could repeat accurately and simply the setting forth
of the biliteral cipher. I had, of course, a clue or guiding principle
in the combinations of numbers with the symbols of "a" and "b" as
representing the Alphabetical symbols. Thus it was easy to arrange that
"a" should be represented by a letter untouched and "b" by one with
a mark. This mark might be made at any point of the letter. Here I
referred to the cipher itself and found that though some letters were
marked with a dot in the centre or body of the letter, those both above
and below wherever they occurred showed some kind of organised use. "Why
not," said I to myself, "use the body for the difference between "a" and
"b;" and the top and bottom for numbers?"

No sooner said than done. I began at once to devise various ways of
representing numbers by marks or dots at top and bottom. Finally I
fixed, as being the most simple, on the following:

Only four numbers--2, 3, 4, 5--are required to make the number of times
each letter of the symbol is repeated, there being in the original
Baconian cipher, after the elimination of the ten variations already
made, only three changes of symbol to represent any letter. Marks at the
top might therefore represent the even numbers "2" and "4"--one mark
standing for "two" and two marks for "four"; marks at the bottom would
represent the odd numbers "3" and "5"--one mark standing for "three" and
two marks for "five."

Thus "a a a a a" would be represented by "a̤" or any other letter with
two dots below: "a a a a b" by ä b, or any other letters similarly
treated. As any letter left plain would represent "a" and any letter
dotted in the body would represent "b" the cipher is complete for
application to any printed or written matter. As in the number cipher,
the repetition of a letter could be represented by a symbol which in
this variant would be the same as the symbol for ten or "0." It would be
any letter with one dot in the body and two under it, thus--t̺.

For the purpose of adding to the difficulty of discovery, where two
marks were given either above or below the letter, the body mark
(representing the letter as "b" in the Biliteral) might be placed at the
opposite end. This would create no confusion in the mind of an advised
decipherer, but would puzzle the curious.

On the above basis I completed my key and set to my work of deciphering
with a jubilant heart; for I felt that so soon as I should have adjusted
any variations between the systems of the old writer and my own, work
only was required to ultimately master the secret.


The following tables will illustrate the making and working--both in
ciphering and de-ciphering--of the amended Biliteral Cipher of Francis
Bacon:


CIPHER FOR NUMBERS AND DOTS.

  P (Plain) means letter left untouched
  D (Dot) means letter with dot in body
  One Dot--(.) at Top (t)--_2
  One Dot--(.) at Bottom (b)--_3
  Two Dots--(..) at Top (t)--_4
  Two Dots--(..) at Bottom (b)--_5

  ================+==========+============+==========+=================
                  |          |  NUMBER    |          |
                  |          |  CIPHER.   |          |
                  |  No. of  +------------+ Alphabet |
   BACON CIPHER.  | Symbols  | No. Values |   to be  |  DOT CIPHER
                  | Required |    of      | arranged |
                  |          |  Symbols   | in order.|
                  |          | reported.  |          |
  ----------------+----------+------------+----------+-----------------
  A-- 1--a a a a a|  --1--   | 9          | --A      | --P..b
  B-- 2--a a a a b|  --2--   | 7.2        | --D      | --P..t--D
  C-- 3--a a a b a|  --3--   | 5.2.1      | --Y      | --P .b--D--P
  D-- 4--a a a b b|  --2--   | 5.4        | --B      | --P .b--D.t
  E-- 5--a a b a a|  --3--   | 3.2.3      | --T      | --P .t--D--P.t
  F-- 6--a a b a b|  --4--   | 3.2.1.2    |          |
  G-- 7--a a b b a|  --3--   | 3.4.1      | --X.Z.   | --P .t--D.t--P
  H-- 8--a a b b b|  --2--   | 3.6        | --O      | --P .t--D.b
  I-- 9--a b a a a|  --3--   | 1.2.5      | --P      | --P--D--P.b
  K--10--a b a a b|  --4--   | 1.3.3.2    |          |
  L--11--a b a b a|  --5--   | 1.2.1.2.1  |          |
  M--12--a b a b b|  --4--   | 1.2.1.4    |          |
  N--13--a b b a a|  --3--   | 1.4.3      | --R      | --P--D .t--P.t
  O--14--a b b a b|  --4--   | 1.4.1.2    |          |
  P--15--a b b b a|  --3--   | 1.6.1      | --S      | --P--D .b--P
  Q--16--a b b b b|  --2--   | 1.8        | --E      | --P--D..t
  R--17--b a a a a|  --2--   | 2.7        | --I      | --D--P..t
  S--18--b a a a b|  --3--   | 2.5.2      | --K.Q.   | --D--P .b--D
  T--19--b a a b a|  --4--   | 2.3.2.1    |          |
  V--20--b a a b b|  --3--   | 2.3.4      | --H      | --D--P .t--D.t
  W--21--b a b a a|  --4--   | 2.1.2.3    |          |
  X--22--b a b a b|  --5--   | 2.1.2.1.2  |          |
  Y--23--b a b b a|  --4--   | 2.1.4.1    |          |
  Z--24--b a b b b|  --3--   | 2.1.6      | --G      | --D--P--D.b
     25--b b a a a|  --2--   | 4.5        | --U.V.   | --D.t--P.b
     26--b b a a b|  --3--   | 4.3.2      | --M      | --D.t--P.t--D
     27--b b a b a|  --4--   | 4.1.2.1    |          |
     28--b b a b b|  --3--   | 4.1.4      | --L      | --D .t--P--D.t
     29--b b b a a|  --2--   | 6.3        | --C      | --D .b--P.t
     30--b b b a b|  --3--   | 6.1.2      | --N      | --D .b--P--D
     31--b b b b a|  --2--   | 8.1        | --F      | --D..t--P
     32--b b b b b|  --1--   | 9          | --Repeat | --D..b
  ================+==========+============+==========+=================

NOTE.--When there are to be two dots at either top or bottom of a
letter, the dot usually put in the body of a letter which is to indicate
"b" can be placed at the opposite end of the letter to the double
dotting. This will help to baffle investigation without puzzling the
skilled interpreter.


KEY TO NUMBER CIPHER

Divide off into additions of nine or eight. Thus if extraneous figures
have been inserted, they can be detected and deleted.

      Cipher.     De-Cipher.

       A = 9        O = Repeat Letter
       B = 54     125 = P
       C = 63     143 = R
       D = 72     161 = S
       E = 18      18 = E
       F = 81     216 = G
       G = 216    234 = H
       H = 234    252 = K or Q
       I = 27      27 = I
     K.Q = 252    323 = T
       L = 414    341 = X or Z
       M = 432     36 = O
       N = 612    414 = L
       O = 36     432 = M
       P = 125     45 = U or V
       R = 143    521 = Y
       S = 161     54 = B
       T = 323    612 = N
     U.V = 45      63 = C
     X.Z = 341     72 = D
       Y = 521     81 = F
  Repeat = O        9 = A


FINGER CIPHER.

Values the same as Number Cipher.

The RIGHT hand, beginning at the thumb, represent the ODD numbers,

The LEFT hand, beginning at the thumb, represent the EVEN numbers.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]


KEY TO DOT CIPHER

  P--Letter left plain.
  D--Dot in centre or where are two dots t or b in other end (b or t).
  .--Dot.
  t--top of letter.
  b--bottom of letter.

          Cipher.                               De-Cipher.

    A = P .. b                        P ------  D  ------ P . b = P
    B = P  . b -- D  . t              P ------  D  . t -- P . t = R
    C = D  . b -- P  . t              P ------  D .. t -------- = E
    D = P .. t -- D                   P ------  D  . b -- P --- = S
    E = P -- D .. t                   P  . t -- D ------- P . t = T
    F = D .. t -- P                   P  . t -- D  . t -- P --- = X or Z
    G = D -- P -- D  . b              P  . t -- D  . b -------- = O
    H = D -- P  . t -- D  . t         P .. t -- D ------------- = D
    I = D -- P .. t                   P  . b -- D ------- P     = Y
  K.Q = D -- P  . b -- D              P  . b -- D  . t -------  = B
    L = D  . t -- P -- D  . t         P .. b -----------------  = A
    M = D  . t -- P  . t -- D         D ------- P ------- D . b = G
    N = D  . b -- P    --   D         D ------- P  . t -- D . t = H
    O = P  . t -- D  . b              D ------- P .. t -------- = I
    P = P -- D -- P  . b              D ------- P  . b -- D --- = K or Q
    R = P -- D  . t -- P  . t         D  . t -- P ------- D . t = L
    S = P -- D  . b -- P              D  . t -- P  . t -- D --- = M
    T = P  . t -- D -- P  . t         D  . t -- P  . b -------- = U or V
  U.V = D  . t -- P  . b              D .. t -- P ------------- = F
  X.Z = P  . t -- D  . t -- P         D  . b -- P ----- D ----- = N
    Y = P  . b -- D -- P              D  . b -- P  . t -------- = C
    Repeat = D .. b (W = U repeated)  D .. b -------- = Repeat (W)


MEMORANDA.

Begin fresh with each line.

Take no account of stops.

Take no account of Capitals or odd words.

yͤ is one letter.



APPENDIX E

Page ----

NARRATIVE OF BERNARDINO DE ESCOBAN, KNIGHT OF THE CROSS OF THE HOLY SEE
AND GRANDEE OF SPAIN


When my kinsman who was known as the "Spanish Cardinal" heard of my
arrival in Rome in obedience to his secret summons, he sent one to me
who took me to see him at the Vatican. I went at once and found that
though the carriage of his great office had somewhat aged my kinsman
it had not changed the sweet bearing which he had ever had towards me.
He entered at once on the matter regarding which he had summoned me,
leaving to later those matters of home and family which were close to us
both, and prefacing his speech with an assurance--unnecessary I enforced
on him--that he would not have urged me to so great a voyage, and at a
time when the concerns of home and of His Catholic Majesty so needed me
in my own place, had there not been strictest need of my presence at
Rome. This he then explained, ever anticipating my ignorance, so lucidly
and with sweet observance of my needs, that I could not wonder at his
great advancement.

Entering at once on the enterprise of the King as to the restoration of
England to the fold of the True Church he made clear to me that the one
great wish of His Holinesse was to aid in all ways the achievement of
the same. To such end he was willing to devote a vast treasure, the
which he had accumulated for the purpose through many years. "But" said
my kinsman, and with so much smiling as might become his grave office
"the King hath here at the Court of Rome one to represent him, who,
though doubtless a zealous and faithful servant of his Royal Master,
hath not those qualities of discretion and discernment, of the
subjugation of self and the discipline of his own ideas, which go to
make up the perfection of the Ambassador. He hath already many times and
in many ways, to many persons and in many Countries, said of His
Holinesse such things as, even if true--and they are not so--were, in
the high discretion of his office as Ambassador, better unspoken. This,
moreover, in an Embassy wherein he wishes to acquire much which the
mundane world holds to be of great worth. The Count de Olivares hath
spoken freely and without reserve of the Holy Father's reticence in
handing over vast sums of money to His Catholic Majesty as due to
parsimony, to avarice, to meanness of spirit, and to other low qualities
which, though common enough in men, are soil to the name of God's
Vicegerent on Earth! Nay" he went on, seeing that my horror was such as
to verge on doubt, "trust me in this, for of the verity of these things
I am assured. Rome hath many eyes, and the hearing of her ears is
widecast. The Pope and his Cardinals are well served throughout the
world. Little indeed happens in Christendom--aye and beyond it--which is
not echoed in secret in the Vatican. I know that not only has Count de
Olivares spoken of his beliefs regarding the Holy Father to his mundane
friends, but he has not hesitated in his formal despatches to say the
same to his Royal Master. It hath grieved His Holinesse much that any
could so misunderstand him, and it hath grieved him more that His
Catholic Majesty should receive such calumnies without demur. Wherefore
he would take some other means than the hand of the King of Spain to
accomplish his own secret ends. He knoweth well the high purpose of His
Catholic Majesty, your Royal Master, in the restoration of England
to the True Faith; but yet his mind is much disturbed by his recent
pronouncements regarding the Bishoprics. The See of Rome is the Arch
Episcopate of the Earth, and to its Bishop belongs by God's very
ordinance the ruling of all the bishoprics of the Church. "Upon this
Rock shall I build my Church." Now His Holinesse hath already promised
a million crowns towards the great emprise of the Armada; and he hath
promised it so that it be handed over to the King when his emprise,
which is after all for the enlargement of his own kingdom, hath begun to
bear fruit. But Count de Olivares is not content with this promise--the
promise remember of God's Vicegerent--and he is ever clamorous, not only
for the immediate payment of this promised sum, but for other sums. His
new request is for another million crowns. And even in the very presence
of His Holinesse, he so bears himself as if the non-compliance with his
demand were a wrong to him and to his Master. From all which His
Holinesse, consulting in privacy with me who am also his friend--such is
the greatness with which he honoureth me--hath determined that, whereas
he will of course keep to the last letter his promise of help, and will
even exceed largely the same, he will dispose in other ways of the great
treasure which he had already set aside for this English affair. When he
honoured me by asking my advice as to whom should be entrusted with this
high endeavour, and had shown that of necessity it should be some
Spaniard so that hereafter it might not be said that the emprise of the
Armada had not his full sanction and support, I ventured to suggest that
in you first of all men this high trust should be reposed. For yourself,
I said that I had known you from childhood, and had found you without
a flaw; and that you came from a race that had gone clothed in honour
since the time of the Moors."

Much other of like kind, my children, did my kinsman tell me that he had
said to His Holinesse; which so satisfied him that he had commanded him
to send for me so that he could have the assurance of his own seeing
what manner of man I was. My kinsman then went on to tell me how he had
told His Holinesse of what I had already taken in hand regarding the
Great Armada. How I had promised the King a galleon fully equipped and
manned with seamen and soldiers from our old Castile; and how His
Majesty was so pleased, since my offer had been the first he had
received, that he had sworn that my vessel should carry the flag of the
squadron of the galleons of Castile. He told him also that the galleon
was to be called the _San Cristobal_ from my patron saint; and also that
so her figurehead should bear the image of the Christ into English
waters the first of all things that came from my Province. Which idea so
wrought upon the mind of His Holinesse that he said: "Good man! Good
Spaniard! Good Christian! I shall provide the figurehead for the _San
Cristobal_ myself. When Don de Escoban comes here I shall arrange it
with him."

When my kinsman had so informed me as to many things he left me a while,
saying that he would ask the Pope to arrange for an audience with me.
Shortly he returned with haste, saying that the Holy Father wished me to
come to him at once. I went in exaltation mingled with fear; and all my
unworthiness of such high honour rose before me. But when I came to His
Holinesse and knelt before him he blessed me and raised me up himself.
And when he bade me, I raised my eyes and looked at him in the face.
Whereat he turned to the Spanish Cardinal and said: "You have spoken
under the mark, my brother. Here is a man indeed in whom I can trust to
the full."

And so, my children, he made me sit by him, and for a long time--it was
more than two hours by the clock--he talked with me about his wish. And,
oh my children, I would that you and others could hear the wise words of
that great and good man. He was so worldly-wise, in addition to his
Saintly wisdom, that nothing seemed to lack in his reasoning; nothing
was too small to be outside his understanding and considerations of the
motives and arts of men. He told me with exceeding frankness of his
views of the situation. All the while, my kinsman smiled and nodded
approval now and again; and it filled me with pride that one of my own
blood should stand so close to the counsels of His Holinesse. He told
me that though war was a sad necessity, which he as himself an earthly
monarch was compelled to understand and accept, yet he preferred
infinitely the ways of peace; and moreover believed in them. In his own
wise words, "the logic of the cannon, though more loud, speaks not so
forcibly as the logic of the living day between sunrise and sunset."
When later he added to this conviction that, "the chink of the money-bag
speaks more loudly than either," I ventured an impulsive word of
protest. Whereupon he stopped and looking at me sharply asked if I knew
how to bribe. To which I replied that as yet I had given none, nor taken
none. Then smilingly he laid his hand in friendlinesse on my shoulder
and said: "My friend, Saint Escoban, these be two things, not one; and
though to take a bribe is to be unforgiven, yet to give one at high
command is but a duty, like the soldier's duty to kill which is not
murder, which it would be without such behest." Then raising his hand
to silence my protest he said: "I know what you would say: 'Woe to that
man by whom the scandal cometh,' but such argument, my friend, is my
province; and its responsibility is mine. Ere you proceed on your
mission you shall have indemnity for the carriage of all my commands.
You go into an enemy's country; a country which is the professed and
malignant enemy of Holy Church, and where faith and honour are not.
God's work is to be done in many ways. It is sufficient that He has
allowed instruments that are unworthy and unholy; and as unworthy and
unholy we must use them to His ends. You, Don de Escoban, shall have no
pain in such matters, and no shame. My commands shall cover you!"
Then, when I had bowed my recognition of his will, he resumed his
instructions. He said that in England in high places were many men who
were open to sell their knowledge or their power, and that when once
they had accepted payment it were needful for their own credit and
even for their safety, that they should further the end which they had
undertaken. "These English," he said, "are pagans; and it was said of
this our Holy City in pagan times '_Omnia Romae venalia sunt!_'"
Whereupon there was borne upon me a recollection of years before when I
was in the suite of the Ambassador at Paris, how a boy in the British
Embassy who was shewing me a cipher of encloased writing which he
had just perfected had written in it with uncouth lettering as an
illustration "_Omnia Britaniae venalia sunt_." And further did remember
how we had enlarged and perfected the cipher when we resided together at
Tours. His Holinesse told me that in great seasons it were needful to
scatter favours with a lavish hand, and that no season was or could be
so great as that which foreran the restoring to the fold a great and
active nation who was already beginning to rule the seas. "To which
end," he said, "I am placing with you a vastness of treasure such as
no nation hath ever seen. The gifts of the Faithful have begun it
and enlarged it; and the fruits of many victories have enhanced it.
Regarding it, there is only one promise which I will exact from you,
and that I shall exact in the most solemn way of which the Church has
knowledge; that this vast treasure be applied to onely that purpose to
which it is ordained--the advancement of the True Faith. It will add
also, of course, to the honour and glory of the Kingdom of Spain, so
that for all time the world may know that the comfort of the Roman See
is on the emprise of the Great Armada! In proof of which should, for the
sins of men, the great emprise fail, you or those who may succeed you in
the Trust are, if I myself be not then living, to hand the Treasure to
the custody of whatever monarch may then sit upon the throne of Spain
for his good guardianship, in trust with me."

So he proceeded to detail; and gave full instructions as to the amount
of the treasure. How it was to be placed in my hands, and when; and all
details of its using when the Armada should have made landing on English
shores. And how I should use it myself, in case I were not told to hand
it over to some other. If I were to yield up the treasure, the mandate
should be enforced by letter, together with the showing of a ring, which
he took from the purse where he kept the Fisherman's ring wherewith he
signs all briefs, and allowed me to examine it so that I might recognize
it if shown to me hereafter. All of which things of using are not now
of importance to you, my children, for the time of their usefulness has
passed by; but only to show that the treasure is to be guarded, and
finally given to the custody of the King of Spain.

Then His Holiness spoke to me of my own vessel. He promised me that a
suitable figurehead, one wrought for his own galley by the great
Benvenuto Cellini, and blessed by Himself, should be duly sent on to me.
He promised also that the Quittance to me and mine, which he had named
should be completed and lodged in the secret archives of the Papacy.
Then once more he blessed me, and on parting gave me a relic of San
Cristobal, whose possession, together with the honour done me, made me
feel as I left the Vatican as though I walked upon air.

On my return to Spain I visited the ship yard at San Lucar, where
already the building of the _San Cristobal_ was in progress. I arranged
in private with the master builder that there should be constructed in
the centre of the galleon a secret chamber, well encased round with teak
wood from the Indies, and with enforcement of steel plates; and with
a lock to the iron door, such as Pedro the Venetian hath already
constructed for the treasure chest of the King. By my suggestion,
and his wisdom in the doing of the matter, the secret chamber was so
arranged in disposition, and so masked in with garniture of seeming
unimportance, that none, unless of the informed, might tell its
presence, or indeed of its very existence. It was placed as though in a
well of teak wood and steel, hemmed in on all sides; without entrance
whatever from the lower parts, and only approachable from the top which
lay under my own cabin, down deep in the centre of the galleon. Men in
single and detachments, were brought from other ship yards for the doing
of this work, and all so disposed in Port that none might have greater
knowledge than of that item which he completed at the time. Save only
those few of the guilds whose faith had long been made manifest by their
rectitude of life and their discretion of silence.

Into this secret receptacle (to continue this narrative out of its due
sequence) when the final outfitting of the Invincible Armada came to
pass, was placed, under my own supervision, in the night time and in
secret, all the vast treasure which had before then been sent to me
secretly by agents of His Holinesse. Full tally and reckoning made I
with my own hand, nominating the coined money by its value in crowns and
doubloons, and the gold and silver in bullion by their weight. I made
a list in separate also of the endless array of precious stones, both
those enriched in carvings and inriching the jewells of gold and silver
wrought by the cunning of the great artizans. I made list also of the
gems unplanted, which were of innumerable number and of various bigness.
These latter I specified by kind and number, singling out some of rare
size and quality for description. The whole table of the list I signed
and sent by his messengers to the Pope, specifying thereon that I had
them in trust for His Holinesse to dispose of them as he might direct;
or to yield over to whomsoever he might depute to receive them whenever
and wherever they might be in the guardianship of me or mine, the order
of His Holinesse being verified by the exhibition by the new trustee of
the Eagle Ring.

Before the _San Cristobal_ had left San Lucar, there arrived from Rome,
in a package of great bulk--brought by a ship accredited by the Pope, so
that corsairs other than Turks and pagans might respect the flag, and so
abstain from plunder--the figurehead of the galleon which His Holinesse
had promised to supply. With it came a sealed missive cautioning me that
I should open the package in privacy, and deal with its contents only
by means of those in whom I had full trust, since it was even in its
substance most precious. In addition to which it had been specially
wrought by Benvenuto Cellini, the Master goldsmith whose work was
contended for by the Kings of the earth. It was the wish of His
Holinesse himself that on the conversion of England being completed,
either through peace or war, this figurehead of the _San Cristobal_
should be set over the High Altar of the Cathedral at Westminster, where
it would serve for all time of an emblem of the love of the Pope for the
wellbeing of the souls of his English children.

I opened the case with only present a chosen few; and truly we were
wonderstruck with the beauty and richness of the jewell, for it was none
other, which was discloased to us. The great figure of San Cristobal was
silver gilded to look like gold, and of such thickness that the hollow
within rang sweetly at a touch as though a bell sounded there. But the
Figure of the child Christ which he bore upon his shoulder was of none
other than solid gold. When we who were present saw it, we sank to our
knees in gratitude for so great a tribute of Holinesse, and also the
beauty of the tribute to the Divine Excellence. Truly the kindness of
the Pope and the zeal of his artist were without bound; for with the
figurehead came a jewell made in the form of a brooch carven in gold
which represented it _in petto_. It was known to all the Squadron that
the Pope himself had sent the figurehead of the _San Cristobal_; and as
our vessel moved along the line of galleons and ships, and hulks, and
pataches, and galleys of the Armada, the heads of all were uncovered and
the knees of all were bent. We had not any christening of the galleon,
for the blessing of the Holy Father was already on the figurehead of the
ship and encompassed it round about.

None knew on board the _San Cristobal_ of the existence of the treasure,
save only the Captain of the galleons and ships, and hulks, and
pataches, and galleys of the Squadron of Castile, to both of whom I
entrusted the secret of the treasure (though not the giver nor the
nature of the Trust nor the amount thereof), lest ill should befall me,
and in ignorance the whole through some disaster be lost. And let me
here say to their honour that my confidence was kept faithfully to the
last; though it may be that had they known the magnitude of the treasure
it might have been otherwise, men being but as flax before the fire of
cupidity.

For myself after I embarked, I went on the journey with mixed feelings;
for my body unaccustomed to the sea warred mightily with my soul that
had full trust in the enterprise. The many days of storm and trial after
we had left Lisbon, until we had found a refuge in Corunna did seem as
though the comings of eternity had been made final. For the turmoil
of the winds and the waves was indeed excessive, and even those most
skilled in the ways and the wonders of the deep asseverated that never
had been known weather so unpropitious to the going forth of ships.
Truly this time, though less than three weeks in all, did seem of a
durance inconceivable to one on land.

Whilst we lay in the harbour of Corunna, which was for more than four
weary weeks, we effected some necessary repairs. The _San Cristobal_ had
been taking water at the prow, and we should find the cause and remedy
it. Possibly it was that the bow was left unfinished at San Lucar for
the better fixing of the figurehead, and that some small flaw thus begun
met enlargement from the straining of the timbers in the prolonged
storm. To the end of this repairing the work was given to some of the
ship-men on board, Swedes and other Northerns, the same being expert
calkers on account of their much experience of their repair of ships
injured in their troublous seas. Among them was one whom I mistrusted
much, as did all on board, so that he should not have been retained save
only that he was a nimble and fearless mariner who be the seas never so
great would take his place in the furlment of sails or in other perilous
labour of the sea. He was a Russian Finn and like all these heathen
people had strange powers of evill, or was by all accredited with the
same. For be it known that these Finns can, by some subtile and diabolic
means, suck or otherwise derive the strength from timbers; so that many
a tall ship has through this agency gone down to the deep unknown. This
Finn, Olgaref by name, was a notable calker and with some others was
slung over the bow to calk the gaping seams. I made it to myself a
necessity to be present, for I regarded ever the cupidity of man
together with the inestimable value of the Pope's gift. Right sure was
I that no Spaniard or no Christian would lay a sacrilegious hand on
the Sacred Figure of Our Lord or of the good Saint who bore Him; and
hitherto the esteem of all had been so great that none would dare so
much. But with a pagan such considerations avail not, and I feared
lest even his suspicions might be aroused. Well indeed were my fears
justified. For as I leaned over the prow, I saw him touch the metal of
the Christ and of the Saint as though some of the same diabolic instinct
which had taught him to deal infamously with the timbers of ships had
guided him to the discernment of the metals also. Then as I looked, he,
all unknowing of my observation, tapped softly with his calking-mallet
on both the metals which in turn gave out sounds which no one could
mistake. He seemed satisfied with his quest, and resumed his work upon
the oakum with renewed zeal. Thenceforth during our stay in Corunna I so
arranged matters that ever both day and night there was a sentinel on
the prow of the _San Cristobal_. When the day came when, praise be to
God, 8,000 soldiers and sailors confessed to the friars of the fleet
on an island in the harbour in which the Archbishop of Santiago had
arranged altars--for we had no Bishop on the Armada--I feared lest
Olgaref should make, through some inadvertence of those left behind,
some attempt upon the precious gift. He was too wary, however, and
behaved with such discretion that for the time my suspicion was
disarmed.

On the 22nd. July, after a Council of War in the Royal Galleon in which
the chief Admirals of the Fleet took part, our squadron, which had been
waiting outside the harbour of Corunna with the squadron of Andalusia,
the Guipuzcoan Squadron and the squadron of Ojeda, set sail on our great
emprise.

Truly it did seem as though the powers of the seas and the winds was
leagued against us; for after but three days of fair weather we met with
calms and fogs and a very hurricane which was as none other of the same
ever known in the month of Leo. The waves mounted to the very heavens,
and some of them broke over the ships of the fleet doing thereby a vast
of damage which could not be repaired whilst at sea. In this storm the
whole of the stern gallery of our galleon was carried away, and it was
only by the protection of the Most High that the breach so made was not
the means of ultimately whelming us in the sea. With the coming of the
day we found that forty of the ships of the Armada were missing. On this
day it was that that great and bold mariner the Admiral Don Pedro de
Valdes by his great daring and the hazard of his life saved my own life,
when I had been swept overboard by a mighty sea. In gratitude for which
I sent him that which I held most dear of my possessions, the jewell of
the San Cristobal given me by the Pope.

Thenceforth for a whole week were we hourly harassed by the enemy,
who, keeping aloof from us, yet managed by their superior artillery to
inflict upon us incalculable damage; so that our carpenters and divers
had to work endlessly to stop the shot holes above water and below it
with tow and leaden plates.

On the last day of July two disasters befell, in both of which our
galleon afterwards had a part. The first, was to the ship _San Salvador_
of Admiral Miguel de Aquendo's squadron, through the diabolic device of
a German gunmaster, who in revenge for punishment inflicted on him by
Captain Preig, threw, after firing his gun, his lighted linstock into a
barrel of powder, to the effect of blowing up the two afterdecks and the
poop castle, and killing over two hundred men. As on this ship was Juan
de Huerta the Paymaster General with a great part of the treasure of the
King, it was necessary that she should if possible be saved from the
enemy who were rushing in upon her. The Duke, therefore firing a signal
gun to the fleet to follow, stood by her to the dismay of the English,
thus baulked of so rich a prey. In the strategy of getting the wounded
ship back to her place in the formation came the second disaster; for
the foremast of the flagship of Don Pedro de Valdes _Nuestra Senora del
Rosario_ gave way at the hatches, falling on the mainsail boom. The
rising sea forbade the giving her a hawser; the Duke ordered Captain
Ojeda to stand by her with our pataches together with Don Pedro's own
vice flagship the _San Francisco_ and our own _San Cristobal_. A galleon
also was to try to fix a hawser for towing; but the night shut down on
us, and the wiser counsel of the Admiral-in-Chief advised by Diego
Flores forbade so many ships to remain absent from the going on of the
Armada lest they too should be cut off. So we said farewell to that
gallant mariner Don Pedro de Valdes.

That same evening the wind began to blow and the sea to rise so that the
injured ship of Admiral Oquendo was in danger of sinking; wherefore the
High Admiral, on such word being brought to him, gave orders that we
should keep close to her and take in our care the mariners and soldiers
on board her and also the King's treasure chest; for it was said that
His Catholic Majesty had on the Armada half a million crowns in bullion
and coined money. It was dark as pitch when we saw the signal made when
the flagship shortened sail--two lanterns at the poop and one halfway
up the rigging, put out for the guidance of the fleet. Fearsome their
lights looked shining over the dark heaving waters which now and again
so broke with the oncoming waves that the tracks of light seemed in
places to rise and fall about as though they could never be reunited.
But our Mariners answered to the call, and the boats soon rocked by our
sides and with a flash of our blades in the lamplight--for the battle
lanterns were lit to aid them--one by one they were swept into the dark.
It was long before they came back, for the wild sea made their venture
impossible. But before noon of the next day they again made essay; and
in several voyages brought back many men and great store of heavy boxes,
which latter were forthwith lodged in the powder room which was guarded
by night and day. This made greater anxiety for Senor de las Alas, in
that his seamen and mariners, and worse still the foreigners, knew that
there was such a store of wealth aboard.

Thenceforth we bore our part in the running fight which ensued between
our Armada and the Squadrons of Drake and the Lord Admiral Howard; and
also that of John Hawkins which assailed us with such insistence that we
fain thought the Devil himself must have some hand in his work. At last
came a time when by God's grace the flagship of the enemy was almost
within our grasp, for she lay amongst us disabled. But many oar-boats of
her consorts flocked to her, and towed her to safety in the calm which
forbade us to follow. In this action a dire disaster had almost befallen
us, and Christendom too, for a shot struck us athwart the bow and so
loosened the girding of our precious figurehead that almost it had
fallen into the sea. San Cristobal watched over his own, however; and
presently we had with ropes haled it aboard and held it firmly with
cables so that it was immediately safe. It was covered up with tow and
sacking and so hidden under pretence of safety that none might discover
the secret of its intrinsic preciosity. Ere this was completed we were
again called to action, as for our fleetness we were required to chase
with the _San Juan_ of Portugal, the flagship of the enemy which was
flying from our attack. For the English ships, though not so large, were
swift as our own and more easy of handling; and by their prerogative of
nimble steerage could so thwart our purposes that ere we could recover
on following their tacking, they were well away with full-bellied sail.
By this, however, we were saved much pain of concern, for when off
Calais roads the Armada lay at anchor we, coming amongst the latermost,
were placed on the skirts of the fleet. Thus when the English on the
night of Sunday August 7th. sent their fire ships floating with wind and
tide down on the Armada, so that in panic most of the great vessels had
to slip their anchors or even to cut their cables, we could weigh with
due deliberance and set sail northerly according to our orders from the
Duke.

When by Newcastle we saw the English ships drop off in their pursuit we
knew thereby that their finding was at an end and their magazines empty.
Whereupon, setting our course ever northwards, so that rounding Scotland
and Ireland we might seek Spain once more, we began our task of counting
our scars, and thence to the work of the leech. Truly we were in
pitiable plight, for the long continued storm and strain had opened our
seams and we took water abominably. In that we were of the most swift
of the vessels of the fleet, our galleon and the _Trinidad_ of our own
squadron outsailed the rest, and bearing away to the eastward, though
not too much so, and thence north, found ourselves on the 11th day of
August, off the coast of Aberdeyne. The sea had now fallen so far that
though the waves were more than we had reckoned upon at the first yet
they were but mild in comparison with what had been. Here in a sandy
bay close under Buquhan Ness we cast anchor and began to overhaul.

       *       *       *       *       *

Both our ships had been very seriously damaged, and repairs were indeed
necessary which required careening, had such been possible. But it could
not be in a latitude where, even in the summer, the seas rose so fast
and broke so wildly. Our consort the _Trinidad_, though in sad plight,
was not so bad as we were; and it was greatly to be feared that if
occasion was not to be had for making good the ravages of the storm and
the enemy she might meet with disaster. But such amending might not be
at this time. The weather was threatening; and moreover the enemy would
soon be following hard behind us. From one of our foreign seamen, a
Scotchman who in secret visited Aberdeyne, we learned that Queen
Elizabeth was sending out a swift patache to scour the whole northern
coast for any traces of the Armada. Though we were two galleons, we yet
feared such a meeting; for our stores were exhausted and our powder had
run low. Of ball we had none, for such fighting as these dogged
Englishmen are prone to. Moreover it is the way of these islanders to so
hold together that when one is touched all others run to aid; whereby
were but one gun of ours fired, even off that desolate coast, in but a
little while would be an army on the shore and a squadron of ships upon
the sea. It began therefore sorely to exercise my conscience as to how I
should best protect the treasure entrusted to me. Were it to fall into
the hands of our enemies it were the worst that could happen; and
matters had already so disastrously arranged themselves that it was to
be feared we should not hold ourselves in safety. Therefore, taking
much counsel with Heaven, whose treasure indeed it was that I was
guarding, I began to look about for some secret place of storage, to
the which I might resort in case danger should threaten before we could
get safely away from the shore. The Artificers said that two days, or
perhaps three, would be required to complete our restorations; and on
the first of these I took a small boat, and with two trusty mariners of
my own surroundings I set out to explore the land close to us, which
was of a veritable desolation. The shallow bay, in whose mouth we were
anchored in a sufficiency of water at all tides, was lined with great
sandhills from end to end save at the extremities, where rocks of
exceeding durability manifested themselves even at high tide, but which
shewed with ferocity at low water. We essayed at first the northern
side, but presently abandoned the quest, for though there were many deep
indentures, wherein the sea ran at times with exceeding violence, the
simple contours of the rocks and of the land above gave little promise
of a secret place of storage.

But the south side was different. There had been in times long past much
upheaval of various kinds, and now were many little bays, all iron-bound
and full of danger, lying between outflanking rocks of a steepness
unsurpassable. Seaweed was on many great rocks rising from the sea
whereon multitudinous wild fowl sat screaming; between them rose
numberless points often invisible, save when the surges fell from
them in their course, and amongst which the tide set with a wonderful
current, most perilous. Here, after we had many times escaped
overturning, being borne by the side of sunken rocks, I at last made
discovery of such a place as we required. Elsewhere I have recorded for
your guidance its bearings and all such details as may be needful for
the fullfillment of your duty. The cave was a great one on the south
side of the bay, with many windings and blind offsets; and as best met
my wishes in accordance with my task, the entrance was not easy to be
discovered, being small and of a rare quality for concealment. Here I
made preparation for the landing of the treasure, in so far as that I
took note of all things and made perfect my designs. I had left the
mariners in the boat, enjoining them to remain in her in case of need,
so that none of them, much though I trusted them, knew of the discovered
cave. When we had returned to the galleon night had fallen.

Forthwith, after secret consultation with our admiral, I visited the
captain of the _Trinidad_ and obtained his permission to use on that
same night one of his boats with a crew for some special private
service. For I had thought that it were better that none of our own
crew, who might have had suspicion of what wealth we carried, should
have a part in our undertaking. This my own kinsman Admiral de las Alas
had advised. When night came, he had so disposed matters on the _San
Cristobal_ that whilst our debarkation was being made, not even the
sentries on deck or in the passage ways could see aught--they being sent
below. The Captain himself onely remained on deck.

We made several voyages between the ship and the shore, piling after
each our weighty packets on the pebble beach. None were left to guard
them, there being no one to molest. Last of all we took the great
figurehead of silver and gold, which Benvenuto had wrought and which the
Pope had blessed, and placed it on the shore beside the rest. Then the
boat went back to the _Trinidad_. Climbing on the rock overhead, I saw a
lantern flashed on her deck, as signal to assure me that the boat had
returned.

Presently a boat of our own vessel drew near, as had been arranged,
manned by three trusty men of my own; and in silence we brought the
treasure into the cave. In the doing so we were mightily alarmed by a
shot from a harquebuss from one of the ships in the bay. Eagerly we
climbed the rocks and looked around as well as we could in the darkness.
But all was still; what so had been, was completed. In the darkness, and
whilst the tide was low, we placed the treasure in a far branch of the
cave, placing most of it in the shallow water. The sides of the rock
were sheer in this far chamber, save onely at the end where was a
great shelf of rock. On this we placed the image of San Cristobal, not
thinking it well that the Sacred Figure should lie prone. In this far
cave the waters rose still and silent, for the force of the waves was
broken by the rocks without. It was risen so high in places as to cause
us disquietude as we made our way out. My chosen mariners made, before
we left the shore, solemn oath on the Holy Relic of San Cristobal which
the Pope had given to me that they would never reveal aught of the
doings of the night.

Before dawn, which cometh early in these latitudes, we were back on
board ship; and sought our various quarters silently that none who knew
of our absence might guess whence we came.

Morning brought only more trouble to me. I was told that in the night
the harquebussier on sentry had seen a man swim from the ship and had
fired at him. He could not tell in the darkness if his aim had been
true. I said nothing of my suspicion; but later on discovered that the
Russian Finn, Olgaref, had disappeared. I knew then that this man,
having suspicions, had watched us; and that if he was still alive he
perhaps knew of the entrance of the cave.

All day I took much counsel with myself as to how I should act; and at
the last my mind was made up. I had a sacred duty in protecting the
treasure. I should seek Olgaref if he had reached the shore and should
if need be kill him; and by this and other means, secure the secret of
the entrance of the cave. Thus, you will see, oh! my children, the heavy
nature of the Pope's Trust, and what stern duty it may entail on all of
us who guard it.

Secretly during the day I made preparation for my enterprise. I placed
on board the small boat which we had used, some barrels of gunpowder,
wherein I had very much difficulty for our store of armament had run low
indeed and only the Admiral's knowledge of the greatness of my Trust and
the measure of my need inclined him to part with even so much. I rowed
myself ashore in the afternoon, and harquebuss in hand made search of
all the many promontories and their secret recesses for the Finn. For
some hours I searched, examining every cranny in the rock; but no sign
could I find of Olgaref. At last I gave up my search and came to the
cave to complete the work which I had determined upon. Lighting my
lantern I waded into the shallow water which lay in the entrance and
stretched inland under the great overhanging rock flanked by two great
masses of stone that towered up on either hand. Patiently I waded on,
for the tide was low, through the curvings of the cave; the black stone
on one hand and the red on the other giving back the flare of the
lantern. Turning to the right I waded on, knowing that I would see
before me the golden figure of San Cristobal. But suddenly I came to an
end and for a moment stood appalled. The Figure no longer stood erect
as placed on the wide shelf of rock, but lay prone resting on something
which raised one end of it. Lifting high the lantern, I saw that this
mass was none other than the dead body of Olgaref.

The wretched man had after all escaped from the galleon and in secret
followed us to the cave. He had climbed upon the shelf and in an
endeavour to steal the precious figure had pulled it over on himself;
and the weight of the gold which formed the Christ had in falling killed
him. He had evidently not known of the other treasure, and had followed
only this of which he had knowledge. As I was about to shut the entrance
to the cave until such time as I could come with safety to open it, I
did not disturb the body, but left it underneath the Holy Image which he
had dared to touch with sacrilegious hand.

At the Judgment Day, should the treasure not be recovered, he will find
it hard to rise from that encumbrance that his evil deed had brought
upon him.

With sad heart I came away; and then, for that I had to guard the Pope's
treasure, I fixed the barrels of gunpowder in place to best wreak the
effect I wished. After piling them with rocks as mighty as I could lift,
I laid a slow match which I lighted; then I stood afar off to wait and
watch.

Presently the end came. With a sound as of many cannon, though muffled
in its coming, the charge was fired, and with a great puff of white
smoke which rose high in air together with stones and earth and the
upheaval of a great mass of rock which seemed to shake the far off place
on which I rested, the whole front of the cave blew up. Then the white
cloud sank lower and floated away over the grass; and for a few minutes
only a dark thin vapour hung over the spot. When this had gone too I
came close and saw that the great stone pinnacles had been overthrown,
and that so many great rocks had fallen around that the entrance to the
cave was no more, there being no sign of it. Even the channel of water
which led up to it was so overwhelmed with great stones that no trace of
it remained.

Then I breathed more freely, for the Pope's treasure was for the
present safe, and enclosed in the great cave in the bowels of the earth,
where I or mine though with much labour could find it again, in good
season.

In the dark I came back to the _San Cristobal_ where my kinsman the
admiral told me that already rumours were afloat that I had gone to hide
some treasure. Whereupon we conferred together, and late that night, but
making such noise that many of the soldiers and mariners could hear what
was being done and give news in secret of our movements, we made
pretense of making a great shipment into the _Trinidad_ so that the
suspicions of all were thereupon allayed.

In the morning the Armada--all that was left of it--hove in sight; and
joining it we began a dreary voyage, amid storms and tempests and trials
and the loss of many of our great ships on the inhospitable coast of
Ireland, which lasted many days till we found ourselves back again in
Spain.

Thence, in due season, anxious to see that the Pope's treasure had not
been discovered, I made my way in secret again to Aberdeyne where there
overtook me, from the rigours of this northern climate and from many
hardships undergone, the sickness whereof I am weary.

Where and how the place of hiding will be found I have told in the
secret writing deposited in the place prepared for it, the chart being
exact. I have written all these matters, because it is well that you my
sonne, and ye all my children who may have to look forward so much and
so long to the fullfillment of the Trust, may know how to look back as
well.

These letters and papers, should I fail to return from that wild
headland, shall be placed in your hands by one whose kindness I have
reason to trust, and who has sworn to deliver them safely on your
application. Vale.

  BERNARDINO DE ESCOBAN.



_BOOKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR_


  DRACULA
  THE WATTER'S MOU
  THE SNAKES' PASS
  UNDER THE SUNSET
  THE SHOULDER OF SHASTA
  MISS BETTY



Transcriber's note


Text in italics was surrounded with _underscores_, and text in small
capitals was changed to all capitals.

The numbers on page xi originally had spaces between them. They were
removed to keep the page within the limitations of width.

Some punctuation errors were silently corrected, but a lot of seemingly
missing commas were not added. (In sentences like: "There is so much to
tell" I said "that I hardly know where to begin.")

Oddities like the repeating of parts of a sentence ("at all at all" on
page 314), and possibly misspelled foreign words ("clientele" without
accent) were not corrected.

Errors in the chapter numbers were corrected.

Inconsistently spelled or hyphenated words were usually not corrected,
the few exceptions are mentioned in the following list.

These corrections are made, on page

   ix "510" was changed to "310" (THE DUTY OF A WIFE 310)
   29 "fulfilment" changed to "fulfillment" (realisation or fulfillment
      of the old prophecy)
   36 "felt" changed to "fell" (I fell in a sort of spiritual trance.)
   49 "jugment" changed to "judgment" (that you should sit in judgment
      on me.)
   54 "MacNeil" changed to "MacNiel" (the greedy eyes of Gormala
      MacNiel.)
   86 "as" changed to "is" (This is why I thanked God then)
  165 paragraph break added between "if you don't dislike telling me."
      and "So she went on:"
  247 "Marjorie" changed to "Marjory" (Deftly Marjory stretched
      sections of her gossamer thread)
  310 "night" changed to "nights" (If she knew of the last two nights)
  332 "embarassment" changed to "embarrassment" (With manifest
      embarrassment he went on)
  350 "subleties" changed to "subtleties" (better than the subtleties
      which)
  473 "33" changed to "23" (--23--b a b b a)
  477 "Ambasador" changed to "Ambassador" (his office as Ambassador)
  485 "galleons leons" changed to "galleons" (Captain of the galleons
      and ships).

Otherwise the original was preserved.





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