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Title: Gray youth - The story of a very modern courtship and a very modern marriage
Author: Onions, Oliver
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gray youth - The story of a very modern courtship and a very modern marriage" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Illustration: "INSTANTLY A THIRD SHOT WHIZZED PAST OUR SANCTUARY."
(See page 42.)]



                       [Illustration: Title page]



                             CLUTTERBUCK’S
                                TREASURE


                                   BY

                              FRED WHISHAW



                                 LONDON
                              HENRY FROWDE
                          HODDER AND STOUGHTON
                                  1910



                               *CONTENTS*

Chap.

      I. A Cowardly Attack
     II. The Old Miser
    III. The Great Prize is offered
     IV. I enter for the Race
      V. Treachery!
     VI. Rats in a Trap
    VII. Ghosts
   VIII. Neck and Neck for the First Lap
     IX. More Treachery
      X. A Serious Check
     XI. Stalking a Man
    XII. Scotching a Snake
   XIII. An Unexpected Tragedy
    XIV. A Glimpse of the Winning-Post
     XV. Eureka!
    XVI. "All that glitters is not Gold!"
   XVII. Lost!
  XVIII. How we buried ourselves alive for the Love of Science
    XIX. A Night with a Lion
     XX. Our Trusty Nigger to the Rescue
    XXI. The Bad Elephant
   XXII. I am mourned for Dead
  XXIII. A Rude Awakening
   XXIV. Strong sprints and gains a Lap
    XXV. Lapped, but still in the Race
   XXVI. How we prospected for Coal
  XXVII. Eldorado or—Hogland
 XXVIII. What the Elder did with Strong
   XXIX. Much Digging
    XXX. I take a Strong Lead in the Race
   XXXI. The Elder makes a good Bargain, and Michail a poor one
  XXXII. We receive a Terrible Shock
 XXXIII. How Strong escaped from Prison
  XXXIV. Exit Strong
   XXXV. More Checks
  XXXVI. We find an Old Friend
 XXXVII. Mr. Strong makes an Effective Reappearance
XXXVIII. Arrested
  XXXIX. Digging again
     XL. Jack proves Himself a Genius
    XLI. The Excitement becomes intense
   XLII. All over but—
  XLIII. —the Shouting



                        *CLUTTERBUCK’S TREASURE*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                          *A COWARDLY ATTACK*


When my father died and left me unexpectedly penniless, all those kind
friends whom I consulted upon my obvious failure to find anything to do
were quite agreed as to this fact: that when a young man is desirous of
finding employment in this world, and of making his way and keeping his
head up among his fellows, his failure to do so, if he does fail, must
certainly be his own fault.  He lacks, they said, either energy or
perseverance or pluck, or all three; in a word, he wants "grit."

Therefore the reader will kindly understand this about me as a
standpoint: that since I failed miserably to find employment befitting a
young person of my position, at a time when it was necessary to find
employment or go to the wall, I must—by all the rules of the
probabilities—not only have gone to the wall, but also be deficient in
all those qualities which are most dear to the British intelligence,
namely—pluck, perseverance, and so forth.

And yet I did not go to the wall.  On the contrary, I am, though still a
young man, in an exceedingly comfortable position; while as for the
British virtues which I am supposed to lack, I do not think—though I
will not boast—that the reader will hesitate to acquit me of the charge
of wanting every quality that goes to make an average Englishman, when
he shall have read the curious tale I have to unfold.

My father’s death, followed by the unexpected revelation of his
insolvency, was a terrible blow to me.  I had been educated without
regard to expense.  At Winchester I had plenty of pocket-money, and was,
for this reason—and because I was a good athlete and but a moderate
scholar—a popular character.  At New College, Oxford, during the one
year I spent there, I was in a set whose ideas centred rather upon the
pleasures of life than upon its duties and responsibilities.

I still had plenty of money, and undoubtedly the last thing in the world
that would have been likely to trouble my head at this time was any
reflection as to where the funds came from.  My father, as I believed,
was a rich man, a member of the Stock Exchange, and having the disposal,
as I had always understood, of practically unlimited supplies of money.

Then came the telegram from home announcing disaster, and at a moment’s
notice I found myself fatherless, penniless, and as good as hopeless
too; for at my age, and with my inexperience, I was utterly at a loss to
know what to do or how to set about to find some means of supporting
myself.

My father’s business, it appeared, had suddenly and completely
collapsed.  He had "got himself cornered," as I was informed, though I
did not understand the term, and had lost every farthing that he
possessed and more.  The shock of it all had proved fatal to my poor
parent, and he had succumbed suddenly—a broken heart, as I heard someone
say; but I fancy my father’s heart had always been a weak point in his
economy, and the collapse in his fortunes doubtless gave to it the
finishing touch.

So then, at the age of nineteen, I found myself master of my own
fortunes, which certainly looked very like _mis_fortunes; and in that
stress of circumstances it was that I applied to my friends for advice,
and received from each the assurance that if I possessed those British
qualities to which reference has been made I should certainly find
something to do; and that if I failed to "get on" I might rest assured
that I had no one to thank but myself.  Nevertheless, I found nothing to
do. There could be no talk of any of the learned professions; I was too
old for Sandhurst, even if I could have passed the examination; the navy
was, of course, out of the question.

My ideas wildly wandered from professional football or cricket to
enlistment in the line, and from that to life in the bush, or digging
for hidden wealth in the soil of Rhodesia or of Klondyke, but the
expense of the outfit and journey rendered this latter project
impossible.  There remained ultimately two resources from which to
choose: enlistment or desk-work at a London office, which I believed I
could obtain without difficulty if I should be reduced to so unpalatable
an alternative.

But office life, I felt, would be worse than purgatory to me.  The very
idea of confinement and the lack of plenty of fresh air and exercise was
intolerable, and I ultimately resolved that I would take the Queen’s
shilling, and submit to barrack discipline and all the indignities of
existence among my social inferiors rather than bind myself for ever to
the misery of the city.  Indeed, I had quite made up my mind to journey
to Trafalgar Square, in order to interview one of the recruiting
sergeants generally to be found at the north-eastern corner of that
favourite rendezvous, when something happened to set my ideas flowing in
a new channel.

My father’s house, in our days of prosperity, had been one of those fine
mansions overlooking Streatham Common; and though I had left the
dismally stripped and dismantled place as soon as the miserable
formalities of funeral and sale were over, I had taken a cheap lodging
in Lower Streatham, because in the chaos of my ideas and plans it
appeared to me that I might as well stay in the neighbourhood of my old
home as anywhere else, until the fifty pounds still remaining to my
credit at my Oxford bankers had gone the way of all cash, or until I
should have made up my bewildered mind as to where, in all this wide and
pitiless world, I should go for a living.

I had practically determined, as I say, to enlist, and was walking one
warm summer evening along the green lane which runs from Thornton Heath
to Lower Streatham, deep in somewhat melancholy reflection upon the step
I was about to take, when a noise of scuffling and bad language
distracted my thoughts from the contemplation of to-morrow’s
barrack-yard trials, and brought them up with a run to the consideration
of the present instant.  I suppose the noise that they were themselves
making prevented the four persons taking part in the scrimmage, which I
now suddenly saw, from observing my approach, for they continued to
tussle and to wrangle on their side of the hedge, while I watched them
for a moment from mine, desiring, if possible, to discover what the
quarrel was about and on which side the right lay, if either.

Then I soon perceived that the fight was an iniquitous and unequal one,
for three younger men had set upon one elderly person and were obviously
engaged in attempting to relieve him of his money and valuables, an
attempt which the old gentleman made gallant but naturally futile
efforts to frustrate, hitting out right valiantly with his umbrella, but
doing far more violence to the Queen’s English than to the heads and
persons of his assailants, upon whom the blows of his feeble weapon
produced little effect.

I need scarcely say that, having ascertained what was passing, I did not
waste time in making up my mind as to which side should receive the
favour of my support, and in far less time than it takes to write the
words, I had burst through the hedge and rushed to the assistance of the
swearing and furious old gentleman.

At my appearance one of the fellows bolted like a hare across the field
towards Norbury, and I saw no more of him.  Now, I had paid some little
attention to the study of self-defence while at Oxford, and though the
remaining two rascals stood up to me for a moment, I soon placed my
right fist in so convincing a manner upon the tip of the nose of one
that he went down like a nine-pin and lay where he fell, while the
other, after feinting and dodging and ducking for a few seconds as I
squared up to him with the intention, if necessary, of treating him like
his fellow, suddenly turned, darted through the hedge, and was away down
the lane towards Thornton Heath in the twinkling of an eye, I following.

Away we went at hundred-yards’ speed, he leading by about ten paces, and
for about fifty yards it was anybody’s race.  Then I began to gain, and,
seeing this, the fellow threw something down and ran on; he careered for
another half hundred paces and then ridded himself of something else;
and I, fearing, if I continued the pursuit, to lose my chance of
recovering the old man’s property—which, I rightly conjectured, was what
the fellow had relieved himself of—stopped to pick it up while I could.
I thus allowed my friend to escape, which was, of course, what he most
desired at the moment, even more than the possession of the pocket-book
and the gold watch which I soon found in the road and recovered.

Then I returned to the spot where I had left my fallen foe and the old
gentleman whose property had been the original cause of disagreement
between the contending parties.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                            *THE OLD MISER*


I found my ally beating the prostrate enemy with his umbrella, and still
using language which would have been unseemly in any person, and sounded
doubly shocking in the mouth of an old man.

"Come," I said, "you needn’t swear, sir; and I wouldn’t continue to
whack a man who is down, if I were you."

"Kill him! kill him—the cowardly rascal!  Kick him on the head and kill
him!" shrieked the infuriated old gentleman; "they have robbed me
between them, and I’ll have his life for it!  I’m a poor man, and
they’ve taken my all; kick him in the head, if you’re a man, and kill
him!"

I could not help laughing.  "It’s because I’m a man that I shall do
nothing of the kind," I said. "Stop dabbing at him with your umbrella
and attend to business; here’s your property—take it."  I presented him
with his pocket-book and watch as I spoke, and never did I behold so
complete a metamorphosis in the expression of a man’s face as now passed
over his.  He seized his property with both hands and hugged it to his
breast.  He beamed and chuckled over it, mumbling inarticulate words of
delight as he fondly drew forth a bundle of notes and counted them.

It struck me that here was a considerable sum of money for a poor man to
carry about with him; for though he jealously hid from me the figures
that would have revealed the value of the notes, I was able to observe
that there were at least fifteen or twenty of these, which, even
supposing them to have been mere "rivers," would represent a decidedly
respectable sum.  The old fellow observed me watching him.

"Private papers, private papers!" he muttered; "letters from my dead
wife that I would not lose for their weight in diamonds!"

"You old humbug!" I thought; "if ever you had a wife you starved her,
I’ll bet."

But the condition of our prostrate enemy began to give me some anxiety,
and I was obliged to transfer my attention from the old miser to him. He
lay groaning and snoring, his eyes shut, and his nose still bleeding a
little.  Suddenly he opened his eyes slightly and looked at the old man
and at me.  He scowled as he saw me, but his lips muttered "Water!"

"Go and fetch the man some water—you, sir," I said; "you can finish
counting your notes afterwards.  I would go, but I dare not leave him
with you."

"Water for the rogue that robbed me?  Not I," said the old fellow; "let
him lie and rot first!"

"Then I will go," I said, for positively the rogue looked like expiring,
and I was really anxious for him.  If he were actually as bad as he
looked there was not much danger in leaving him.  I knew of a duck-pond
near a farmhouse close by, and towards this I proceeded at my best
speed, for the fellow must not be allowed to die—rascal though he
undoubtedly was.

The rascal, it appeared, had no intention of dying, however, just at
present; for when I returned with water from the duck-pond, he had
departed, and departed—as I gathered—in company with the old gentleman’s
pocket-book, for its owner sat on the grass evidently dazed, nursing a
portion of the _porte-monnaie_, for which, I suppose, he had made a good
fight, if the jagged and torn appearance of the remnant was any
indication of a struggle.

I could see our friend careering down the lane, some distance away,
towards Thornton Heath, well out of reach of pursuit, and I was
straining my eyes after him in hopes of marking him down somewhere, when
the old miser behind me suddenly interrupted my reflections by bursting
anew into a paroxysm of abuse and bad language, which threw even his
previous excursions into the shade.

Whether I or the thief, or both of us, were the objects of his frenzy
was not very apparent, for his vituperations were incoherent and
inarticulate; but I gathered presently that I was at least in part
responsible for the disaster, for he inquired, with many added flowers
of speech, why I had been so foolish as to go for water and leave him
with a cold-blooded ruffian who had robbed a poor old man of his entire
fortune.

I was sorry for the unfortunate victim to my ill-judged humanity, and
did my best to soothe him.

"You must stop the notes at once," I said; "and as for the fellow
himself, why, we’ll describe him to the police and identify him in no
time; we shall get your money back, never fear."

"It’s a lie!" he shrieked; "I am ruined!  I shall never see a penny of
it; you and your accomplices will fatten upon the old man’s savings.
Curse you all!  I wish you were dead!"

"Thank you," I said; "if that’s the case I shall wish you good afternoon
and depart, or my accomplices will levant with my share of the spoil."
I started to go in the direction of Streatham.  The old fellow came to
his senses at once.

"Stop a minute!" he cried; "I don’t mean that.  Stop and help me to
recover my money."

"What, from my own accomplices?" said I. He took no notice.

"Help me to recover my money," he continued, "and to bring that rogue to
the gallows, and—and you won’t be sorry for it!"

"It isn’t a hanging matter," I said; "but I am ready to help you if you
talk like a sensible man. How much has the fellow taken?"

This was an unfortunate remark, for it instantly plunged the old man
into renewed paroxysms of rage and woe.  I therefore did not pursue my
inquiries, but led my friend slowly towards Streatham, he spluttering
and muttering his maledictions, I patiently awaiting the dawn of reason.
I inquired, however, presently, whether he knew the numbers of his
stolen notes, and as my companion inquired, in response, whether I took
him for a fool, I concluded that he did possess this information.

The old man grew calmer after a while, and I accompanied him first to
the police station, and afterwards to the telegraph office, where he
wrote and despatched a wire to the manager of the Bank of England.  The
clerk read out his message as we stood at the counter, and I was
astonished and rather shocked to learn that my new friend’s loss,
according to his list of notes, amounted to something very near three
hundred pounds.

During the next few days my acquaintance with the strange old man
ripened considerably; for together we were called upon by the police
authorities to attend, at least once _per diem_, at the Streatham police
station, in order to identify the culprit among a large assortment of
suspicious characters brought up daily for our inspection. I think it
was on the fifth or sixth day after the robbery that our pilgrimages to
the police station were at last crowned with success, and we had the
pleasure of seeing once again the unmistakable features of the rogue we
were in search of, and afterwards of getting him condemned by a
magistrate to a period of enforced virtue and innocence.  We were,
moreover, successful in recovering a portion of the stolen property,
though not all of it—a circumstance which greatly pleased me, for I
honestly believed that the lost three hundred pounds represented the
whole of my old friend’s worldly possessions, as he had led me to
understand, and I had been grieved to think of the poor old fellow’s
sudden misfortune and ruin through the guile of a fellow-creature.

Mr. Clutterbuck, which was the old miser’s name, lived in a small villa
in Lower Streatham—a dingy, dull-looking house situated in the midst of
a moderate garden surrounded by a high brick wall. So far as could be
seen, there was no way of entering the abode excepting by a small door
in the wall leading up through the square garden to the house; and
though I several times, during that week of attendance at the police
station and the police court, accompanied the old man home, he never
once invited me within doors; neither did he ever express to me one word
of thanks for the services I had rendered him in connection with the
loss he had sustained and the recovery of a good portion of his
property.

Meanwhile, however, this affair had delayed my enlistment for more than
a week, and during that period I received an invitation from a college
friend in the country to pay him a visit at his house in
Gloucestershire; an invitation which I gladly accepted, thanking my
lucky stars that some good, at least, had thus come of my strange
encounter with the eccentric old miser, Clutterbuck.

Assuredly, when I parted from him for the last time, after the
completion of the business which had brought us daily together for a
week or near it, I never supposed that any other good could possibly
proceed from the acquaintance, or from the delay in my "career" which
the affair had occasioned.  After my visit to Gloucestershire I should
return to London and enlist without further delay; and as for old
Clutterbuck, I had neither expectation nor desire ever to behold his
face or hear his name again.  For how could I know that—

As a matter of fact I never did see the old man again.  I went to
Gloucestershire and forgot him, or at all events forgot to think of him,
until—nearly a month after—I received a letter which brought him
suddenly and very forcibly to remembrance—a letter which was destined to
lead to a complete "general post" of all my ideas and plans in life,
driving from my mind all thoughts of enlistment and office drudgery and
everything else of the kind; a letter which told of the miser’s end and
gave me hope of a new beginning, and which proved, after I had learned
its full significance, that even misers may remember benefits conferred,
and show a sense of gratitude for which they do not, as a rule, obtain
much credit.

I read the letter, first, with my heart all a-flutter with excitement;
but presently my agitation cooled down, for, I reflected, even though I
should have been chosen as the old man’s heir, or part-heir, what could
the old fellow have to leave?

"Don’t be a sanguine fool, man!" I said to myself.  "There isn’t much in
the business."

Which showed that, though good at games, I was no better prophet than I
was scholar!



                             *CHAPTER III*

                      *THE GREAT PRIZE IS OFFERED*


The letter, so far as I can remember the wording of it, read something
like this—


"DEAR SIR,"—(it ran)—"By desire of the late Mr. William Clutterbuck I
have to invite you to be present at his burial, on Friday next, in the
churchyard of St. Mary’s, Norbury, and also at the subsequent reading of
my late client’s will on the same afternoon at Aston Villa, Lower
Streatham."


The signature was that of some lawyer.

"By George!  Peter, old chap," said my college chum, to whom I handed
the letter after reading it, "you’re in for a legacy, you lucky old
rascal!  Who is it?—an uncle?  You won’t have to enlist after all!"

"Uncle?" I repeated; "no!  I haven’t such a thing in the world; and as
for legacy—there may be a fiver or so in it, but nothing more.  It’s an
old fellow who carried all his fortune in a pocket-book and got it
stolen;" and I told Henderson the whole story of my futile attempt to
defend old Clutterbuck’s property in Green Lane a month ago.

Henderson was immensely interested.

"Don’t you make any mistake; that pocket-book never contained his entire
fortune," he said. "The old boy was a miser on the face of him, any fool
could see that; he may have got a hundred thousand hidden in a cellar,
half eaten by the rats, and all left to you.  Why, man, I have heard of
huge fortunes left to fellows for far less."

And Henderson proceeded to tell me of how a man he had read or heard of
was left fifty thousand for letting an old lady look over his hymnbook
in church; and how another fellow got as much again for paying an old
gentleman’s omnibus fare when the conductor refused to give him change
and threatened to be disagreeable; and many other choice examples of a
similar character.

But I was firmly convinced that there was nothing romantic forthcoming
as the result of my acquaintance with old Clutterbuck, at least nothing
more romantic than a five- or ten-pound note, and I took the train to
Paddington with the sense that the journey was an unmitigated nuisance,
since it was unlikely to lead to anything seriously interesting, while
it cut short an extremely pleasant visit in a circle of society from
which I should perforce be excluded before long in my capacity of plain
Tommy Atkins, the recipient of the Queen’s shilling and wearer of the
uniform of the humblest of her servants militant.

Steggins, the lawyer, was, however, decorously polite when I made my
appearance at Aston Villa. There were three or four other persons
present, expectant legatees like myself, I concluded; so that the
contents of dead Mr. Clutterbuck’s pocket-book were to be divided among
five, at least, of us. There was nothing in the business—I was certain
of it; I had been a fool to leave my comfortable quarters in the country
upon such an errand; would that I had stayed!

Mr. Clutterbuck had died, I was told, of heart disease.  He had never
quite recovered the shock of the assault in Green Lane, and it was
believed that he had encountered one of his assailants on the day of his
death and recognised him, and that the excitement of the _rencontre_ had
proved fatal. My fellow-legatees were, it appeared, relatives of the
deceased, and one and all of these looked askance at me as an
interloper, several of them inquiring of Steggins, in my hearing, what I
had had to do with the testator, and what claim I possessed upon the
property.

Mr. Steggins replied that he believed I had performed some service to
the deceased for which the testator was grateful.

"What’s the figure, Steggins, old man?" asked one.  "How does the old
boy cut up?"

"That’s what we are about to learn," said the man of law.

We did learn it a few minutes later; and a very remarkable lesson it
was!

I suppose that Mr. Clutterbuck’s testamentary dispositions were just
about as surprising and unexpected as such dispositions can well be,
unless indeed they had emanated from an absolute lunatic, and this Mr.
Clutterbuck certainly was not.  We who were present as expectant
legatees were taken aback, one and all, and when I use this expression
about my own feelings I am choosing an exceedingly mild one.

As a matter of fact, I was, to use a more serviceable word,
"flabbergasted."  For me alone of those present the large amount of
money which the testator had to dispose of was an absolute surprise.  I
learned afterwards that all the rest were well aware that their relative
had been possessed of considerable wealth, though perhaps none of them
may have realised the real extent of his hoarded riches.  At all events
no one could possibly have guessed how the eccentric old man intended to
dispose of his money.  So that in this matter the surprise of the rest
was as great as my own.

"The will, gentlemen," said Mr. Steggins, preparing to read that
document, "is very short, very clear as to its dispositions, though not
worded in the customary legal phraseology" (I could not help laughing at
the _non sequitur_ involved in this explanation), "and exceedingly
eccentric.  It begins with the words, ’The Prize to the Swift,’ which
sentence heads the document as a kind of text, and it continues as
follows:—

"’I wish to preface my testamentary dispositions with the remark that my
personal estate amounts, at the time of writing, to exactly ninety-seven
thousand eight hundred and ninety-two pounds three shillings and
sixpence, free of legacy duty. The accumulation of this sum of money has
occasioned me much hard labour, much thought, much disappointment, many
dangers, much travel by land and sea.  I have no intention that my heir
should acquire that which has been gained by the sweat of my brow
without corresponding labour and suffering on his own part.’

"That is the opening paragraph of the will itself," said Mr. Steggins;
"this is how it proceeds:—

"’I have therefore decided that, as I have indicated in the initial
sentence of this my will, the prize shall go to the swift.  Let me
explain my meaning.  Those of my possible heirs who have known me long
are aware that I have devoted considerable time during recent years to
foreign travel.  During one of my latest journeys I took the opportunity
to bury a box containing treasure at a place indicated in the map of
Bechuanaland which I have sketched.

"’I now bequeath to him who first succeeds in reaching that spot, and in
finding the treasure, the entire fortune which I possess, and which I
estimate to be the equivalent of the sum quoted above.  Those whom I
have authorised by name to compete in this race for wealth are advised
that many qualities of mind and body will be called into requisition by
the winner: such as energy, perseverance, pluck, judgment, acuteness.
Without the determination to employ each and all of these qualities, it
would be useless to undertake the search which must be the toilsome
preliminary to enjoyment of my wealth.

"’The competitors who shall alone be legally competent to inherit from
me are the following:—

"’William John Clutterbuck, nephew.

"’James Strong, nephew.

"’Charles Strong, nephew.

"’John Ellis, cousin.

"’Godfrey Bernard Hewetson, of 13 Enderby Terrace, Streatham, to whom I
am indebted for a service rendered.’"

(This last name is my own.)

"’If none of these five persons shall have succeeded within three years
of my death in finding the buried treasure, my lawyer, Mr. Steggins,
shall have power to seek new instructions within the sealed letter which
has been entrusted to him for that purpose.

"’Each competitor, as above enumerated, shall receive, immediately after
the reading of this my will, one-fifth share of any money found upon my
person or within my house at the time of my decease. To save trouble, I
may add that any such money will be found within my pocket-book; there
is none anywhere besides the notes and change therein contained.  The
house and garden will, of course, remain the property of the successful
discoverer of the rest of my estate.’

"The will ends there," said Steggins; "but there is a postscript which I
may read out, though it has no actual bearing upon the matter in hand:—

"’I should like to add’ (writes the testator) ’that, since none of my
relatives have ever shown me the slightest affection, or paid me any
attention which was not obviously interested, I should be glad if the
last-named among the competitors—Mr. Godfrey Bernard Hewetson, who has,
at least on one occasion, done me a very signal service—should prove
himself, as I fancy he is as likely as any to do, the successful
competitor.  My relatives are, so far as I know them, but poor specimens
of humanity, and little likely to carry away the prize in a competition
requiring such qualities as energy and courage.  I have authorised them
to compete, however, as a matter of family duty.  Possibly the desire
for gain may transform one or all of them into animated human beings.’"

The faces of those surrounding the table at which Steggins had sat and
read this remarkable document were black enough when he had finished.
One or two men swore audibly.  Every one of them scowled at me, as
though I were in some way to blame for the eccentric dispositions, which
had evidently disappointed them.

As for me, I was so dumbfounded by the stupefying thoughts and
considerations to which the recital of Mr. Clutterbuck’s dispositions
had given rise, that I think I must have made a poor show as I sat and
blushed and helplessly blinked my eyes, while the others burst into a
torrent of angry conversation.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                         *I ENTER FOR THE RACE*


"Do you consider, Mr. Steggins," said one, "that any British jury would
regard the precious document you have just read as the work of a sane
man?"

"Certainly," replied Steggins; "I don’t see how any British jury could
help themselves.  It is surely proper that you gentlemen, his only
relatives, should have been accorded equal chances of becoming his heirs
with this other gentleman, in whose favour his sympathies had been
gained."

"That is not the point," said another—one of the Strongs, I think; "the
question is, What right has this Mr. Hewetson to benefit, and whether
undue influence can be proved?"

"Very doubtful indeed, I should say," said Steggins.  "I happen to know
that, beyond the fact that Mr. Hewetson saved the life of Mr.
Clutterbuck, as the deceased firmly believed, and afterwards assisted
him in the recovery of certain bank-notes of which he had been robbed,
the testator had no acquaintance whatever with this gentleman; his act
is one of disinterested gratitude."

"How do we know that this person is not in possession of private
information which will enable him to discover the treasure while we are
helplessly searching for it all over Africa?" asked another of the
amiable nephews.  The question aroused me from my stupor, and from this
moment I was myself again.

"To suggest such a thing is an insult to the deceased," said Steggins
gravely; "and as for searching all Africa, the little map which you hold
in your hand, together with the footnotes explaining it, affords a
precise guide to the spot, within an acre or so, in which the treasure
is declared to lie buried."

"As to that," I broke in hotly, "allow me to add my assurance that I
know no more about this matter than has been read aloud by Mr. Steggins.
I have no information whatever beyond that which the map and
explanations convey.  If any gentleman present still feels doubt as to
my _bonâ fides_, I shall be grateful if he will kindly mention it."  No
one spoke.  "As a matter of fact," I continued, "I shall probably take
no part in the search for this problematical treasure.  I shall consider
the question, but I shall perhaps decide to remain at home."

I did not say this because the idea of a journey to South Africa was in
any way distasteful to me. On the contrary, nothing, I felt, could
possibly be more congenial than such a trip, especially when combined
with the delightful excitement of a search for hidden treasure.

The fact was that I did not see my way to undertaking the journey, for
the best of reasons. My last fifty pounds were all but spent already; my
one-fifth share of the old gentleman’s petty cash could not well amount
to more than thirty pounds (it was actually twenty-eight pounds four
shillings and twopence).  How should I equip myself for the enterprise,
or pay my passage to the Cape and the expenses of the trip up-country
afterwards?

My fellow-heirs did not, however, set much faith in my assertion, so I
gathered from their looks, though none of them replied in any way to my
remark.  This galled me again, and I added that I intended to consider
the question thoroughly before finally deciding.  I should not, I said,
surrender my rights if I could help it!

Before leaving the room, I took the precaution to interrogate Mr.
Steggins as to certain matters: whether, firstly, Mr. Clutterbuck had
actually been in possession of the large sums of money he claimed to
dispose of; and whether, secondly, my own legal position, supposing that
I should be fortunate enough to find the treasure, would be
unassailable; whether, in two words, there was any treasure to find, and
whether the "finder" would be recognised by the law as the "keeper."

Steggins assured me that he knew for a positive fact that a very few
years ago Mr. Clutterbuck had undoubtedly possessed at least as large a
fortune as that named in the will, and that it was extremely unlikely
that he should have spent all or any large portion of it in the interim.
My position would certainly be unassailable.  It might be argued that
the journey to South Africa for the purpose of burying his fortune in
order that his heirs might not succeed to it without personal trouble
was the act of an eccentric; but the desire to test the perseverance and
energy of his heirs was sane enough, and the device—if clumsy—was not an
insane one.  Mr. Clutterbuck had disliked his nephews, Steggins
explained, and had often declared that he would "make the lazy young
rogues sweat a bit before they touched his money."  The will had been
made out before the event which introduced myself to his notice, and my
name had been added.

"Mr. Clutterbuck often expressed the wish," concluded Steggins, "during
the last week or two of his life, that you should be the successful one,
and disappoint these nephews of his, upon whom, as I say, he did not
waste much affection."

And no wonder, thought I, for a more disagreeable-looking set of fellows
than the three nephews I do not think I ever saw.  The cousin was an
elderly man, and was a person of a different stamp from the rest, two at
least of whom obviously belonged to that class of society of whom it is
often remarked that one would not care to meet them alone in a dark
lane.

Steggins’s remarks were rather encouraging, and I began seriously to
regret that my funds—or, rather, my lack of them—was likely to prove a
stumbling-block to success, or even to any attempt on my part to take a
hand in the extremely "sporting" game which dead Mr. Clutterbuck
proposed to us.  The more I thought over it the more I deplored the
poverty which not only stood in the way of my winning this tantalising
race, but which actually made it impossible for me to find the
preliminary entrance fee!  And such a prize at stake—oh, why had I not a
few hundred pounds! Truly my luck was abominable!


I returned the same night to Henderson’s place in Gloucestershire, and
talked the matter over with my college chum.

To my surprise and great pleasure Henderson, who was a year senior to me
at Oxford and had just taken his degree, received my news with
extraordinary excitement and delight.  Not only did he instantly insist
upon my "entering for the race," as he called it, but he insisted also
upon constituting himself my "backer" and trainer, and announced his
intention of coming with me to see fair play.

Henderson had no reason whatever to mind the expense of journey and
equipment.  I should pay him back my share, he laughingly declared, out
of the treasure when we found it!  He had nothing in the world to detain
him in England at present. On the contrary, he longed for a big travel
before settling down to country life as a Gloucestershire squire.  This
business was simply a godsend for both of us!

Needless to say, I was easily persuaded that it was even as Jack
Henderson declared, and that he really desired to accompany me and to
take the risk of my being able to repay him some day for his outlay on
my behalf.  As a matter of fact, I am quite as certain that Jack really
wished to go (he was always a sporting character, was Jack Henderson) as
I am that he cared no more whether I ever repaid him my expenses than he
reflected whether these should amount to one hundred pounds or two
thousand.

Actually they came to a good deal, because Jack Henderson insisted upon
doing everything in the best style.  We should enjoy a bit of sporting,
he said, after I had found the cash; and therefore we provided ourselves
with heavy rifles for big game, small ones for antelope, shot guns,
revolvers, knives, ammunition enough of every kind to stock a fortress,
and every luxury and convenience that the up-country sportsman in Africa
can possibly expect to require.

What is more, in spite of all the purchases and preparations we made, we
were on board ship within forty-eight hours of my return to
Gloucestershire, fortified with the knowledge that none of my
fellow-competitors could, at all events, have stolen a march upon me in
this, the first move of the campaign; for the _Chepstow Castle_, the
fine steamer in which we had secured berths, was the first vessel that
had left any London dock for the Cape since the day on which Steggins
read out the will and metaphorically fired the pistol which started us
five competitors upon our race.

I had secured a flying start at anyrate.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                              *TREACHERY!*


For several days I was under the impression that, for some reason or
other, the rest of Mr. Clutterbuck’s potential heirs had left me to
"walk over."  Probably, I thought, they intended to allow me to find the
treasure unchallenged, and would contest the will and my right to
inherit after I should have saved them the trouble of unearthing the
money.  This, I felt, was foolish of them, because my position,
according to Steggins, was unassailable.  It could easily be proved that
I had not, and could not possibly have, exerted any undue influence upon
the old man.  They might contest as much as they pleased, but no British
jury would listen to their nonsense, and I should remain in blessed
possession!  I should, moreover, have all the fun of this "big travel,"
as Henderson called it, and the excitement of the treasure hunt thrown
in!  Poor-spirited creatures these nephews of old Clutterbuck; the old
man had not been a bit too hard upon them in the postscript to his will!

But about the fifth day out I was almost sure that I caught sight of one
of my rivals—the man called James Strong, who had made certain
unpleasant innuendoes as to my good faith after the reading of the will.
The fellow stood, half hidden, behind a donkey-engine on the deck used
by second-class passengers, well wrapped to the chin in a waterproof or
some kind of long cloak. I suppose I must have betrayed the fact that I
had recognised, or half recognised, him, though I did my best to conceal
it; for the next time that I came in sight of the spot which he had
occupied he had disappeared, and I did not see him again.

Anxious to discover whether the fellow really had been James Strong, or
merely some second-class passenger whose appearance bore an accidental
resemblance to that individual, I made friends with the steward of the
second-class mess, and begged from him a sight of the list of passengers
under his charge; but in his list there was no person bearing the name I
sought, neither was there a Clutterbuck nor an Ellis.

"They may be on board under assumed names!" suggested Jack Henderson,
but I scouted the idea.

"Why should they?" I said.  "They would gain nothing by that sort of
game, for we should be sure to see them at landing, if not before; and,
besides, what if we didn’t see them?"

"Why, then we should conclude that we had the hunt to ourselves, don’t
you understand," explained Jack, "and that would suit them very well."

"Why so?" continued dense I.

"Because in that case we would not hurry up-country, but allow them to
get a start of us and have first dig for the treasure."

"That’s true, by George!" I assented reflectively; "you are a sharper
customer than I thought, Jack!" and from this moment until we reached
the Canaries, where we were delayed a couple of days on account of
something going wrong with our screw, I kept a very sharp lookout for my
co-heirs among both second-class and steerage passengers.

Once I was almost certain that I saw both James Strong and his brother;
and once, too, I thought I recognised the other nephew, Clutterbuck; but
in each case I was unable to determine the matter with certainty,
because the suspected individual disappeared as soon as observed.

Under the circumstances, both Henderson and I thought that it would be
wise to waste no time at all at Cape Town.  We would buy horses and
spades, and be off without delay, taking the train as far as it would
carry us in the required direction, and acting generally as though my
suspicions as to the identity of the second-class passengers were
actually verified.

But all our good intentions to frustrate the guile of those who thought
to get the better of us by superior cunning were nipped in the bud by an
unforeseen and very unfortunate occurrence.

Our propeller went wrong, and it was found necessary to put into port at
the Canary Islands in order to repair the damage, which the captain
hoped would be effected in a day, but which actually occupied two days.
A strong south-east wind happened to be blowing, and this rendered the
harbour at Las Palmas unsafe; we were therefore obliged to lie in the
protected waterway between the islands Graciosa and Lanzarote, a very
fine anchorage of one mile in width, the former of these islands being
uninhabited (excepting by seagulls and other fowl), while Lanzarote can
boast of a small population.

Jack Henderson and I, together with many of the other passengers, landed
on the second day to stretch our legs, some visiting Lanzarote, while we
and a few others chose Graciosa.  Captain Eversley impressed upon all
who went ashore that it was absolutely necessary to be on board by seven
in the evening, as at that hour the _Chepstow Castle_ must sail, whether
all were aboard or not.  Since we had not the slightest intention of
remaining ashore so long as this, however, we allowed the captain’s
warning to be adopted and digested by those to whose intended
proceedings it might be applicable. As for ourselves, we started with
our shot guns for a walk along the rocky beach.

It was a fine day, and the walk was pleasant enough after the protracted
confinement aboard ship, and Jack and I felt buoyant and happy as we
trudged along the sand and shingle at the foot of some fine cliffs that
frowned down upon us from the shore side, banging our guns off at every
winged creature that would give us a chance at anything like shooting
distance, and laughing and singing after the fashion of schoolboys let
loose.  The head steward had provided us with sandwiches, and these we
consumed as we lay sprawling in the sunshine on the sand, having walked
and scrambled a mile or two over very rough "going," and intending after
lunch and a rest to turn and go back to our ship.

We had heard a few shots now and again from the top of the cliff, and
had agreed that the same idea must have occurred to others of the
passengers besides ourselves—namely, to employ some of their spare time
and work off some of their energy in banging at the sea-birds that
circled and flitted about the rocks in hundreds; but beyond
congratulating ourselves upon the fact that we were well below the line
of fire, and not likely to be hit by a stray shot, we had not paid much
attention to the cannonading of our neighbours.  I believe I had fallen
asleep.  It was warm, sleepy weather, and the sand couch we lay upon,
with our backs to a rock, was very comfortable.  Suddenly Jack seized my
arm and shook me.

"Good Heavens, Godfrey!" he said, "look out, old man; did you hear that
last shot?  It was ball, I’m certain, and the bullet struck this
rock—there’s the mark, see!  Somebody had a shot at us.  Slip behind,
quick!"

Wide awake now, I slipped behind the rock in a moment, Jack doing the
same; and we were only just in time, it appeared, for at the same
instant a second shot was fired and a splinter flew from the rock close
to the spot which we had occupied.

"Shout out at them that there are people here!" I said.  "They must be
firing at a mark!"

"Firing at a grandmother!" laughed Jack; "_we_ were the mark, man.  Wait
a bit, look here, I’ll show you!"

Jack adopted an old device: he took his cap, and placing it at the end
of the muzzle of his gun, held it up over the top of the rock behind
which we cowered, as though someone had popped out his head to look
abroad.  Instantly a third shot whizzed past our sanctuary.

"There," said Henderson; "that’s James Strong, or his brother, or the
other rascal!"

"Oh, impossible!" I said.  "No fellow could be so base as to attempt to
murder us in cold blood. Besides, we are not even certain whether they
were on board."

"Well, you may take it from this moment that they _were_!" said Jack,
laughing; "they have sent in their cards.  Now let’s think what’s best
to be done.  We can’t go back along the sands because we shall be within
shot pretty nearly all the way. We must make a bolt for the cliff, get
under its shelter, and either storm their position or hide there until
they are gone."

"What! and miss the steamer?" I said, "we can’t afford to do that,
Jack!"

"Can we better afford to get ourselves knocked down like cocoanuts at a
fair?" asked Henderson pertinently.  "We shall have to make a bolt for
the cliffs; when there we’ll try to climb the rocks so stealthily that
we surprise the enemy and fall upon him unawares."

This seemed the only feasible course, under the circumstances, and we
decided to take it.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                            *RATS IN A TRAP*


It is not the pleasantest thing in the world to be obliged to bolt like
a rabbit across the open, even for twenty yards or so, under a hot fire.

"We must hope they are poor shots!" said Jack, smiling grimly.  "If they
couldn’t hit us lying quietly on the sand they are not likely to bowl us
over running."

"Count the shots they fire," I said; "then we shall know how many of
them are in it."

"Now," whispered Jack, "we’ll draw their fire with the cap once more;
and the instant you hear the shot run for all you’re worth to the base
of the cliff.  Do you understand?"

I nodded my head.  I was horribly frightened, I confess.  I do not think
I am a coward when I can hit back if assailed, but I always lose heart
when helpless.  To cut and run for other fellows to shoot at you is, to
a reflective mind, one of the most unpleasant things a man can be called
upon to do.

However, there was nothing else to be done. Jack held up the cap; two
shots were fired at it, and away we ran.

Three more reports rang out as we raced across the open, and, to my
horror and despair, Jack fell. All my terror vanished at the sight, and
only rage remained.  I seized Jack’s feet with an exclamation—it may
have been an oath and it may have been a prayer—and dragged him along on
his back in a manner which must have been dreadfully trying to a wounded
man.  One more shot was fired, but it flew over our heads; I heard the
whistle of it distinctly.  I deposited my burden at the foot of the
cliffs,—the whole affair did not last four seconds,—and to my
astonishment and intense relief the victim rose to his feet and laughed
consumedly, though not noisily.

"I’m awfully sorry I frightened you, old man," he said, "but it was part
of the game; I only invented it on the spot, or I would have warned
you."

"Aren’t you wounded?" I gasped.

"Not a bit of it!" said Jack.  "I shammed on purpose.  I’m hoping
they’ll come down now they imagine there’s only one to deal with.  If
they do, there’ll be ’ructions’!"

I cordially agreed with Jack on this point.  I would not mind all three
nephews, and would gladly throw in the cousin as well, at close quarters
and in equal fight.  Any fool can frighten me if he shoots at me from an
ambush.

But though we waited in silence for some little while the enemy made no
sign, and we came to the conclusion that the risk of being seen and
recognised weighed more with them than the desire to wipe me off the
face of the earth at any hazard.

"They’ve got to deny all knowledge of this little affair when we meet on
board ship, you see," explained Jack.

"But they are sure to have another shot at us before they leave us," I
rejoined.  "Even if we creep along under the lee of the cliffs they’ll
find some place where they can sight us, confound them!"  I looked up
and around uncomfortably. I hated the position.

"We won’t let them ’draw a bead’ on us if we can help it," said Jack.
"What say you to creeping quietly along for half a mile, and then trying
to scale the cliffs?  I’d give something to surprise the rogues, and
have a shy at them at close quarters as they come along!"

This very distinctly met my views, and we started at once, creeping over
rocks, springing quickly over level stretches of sand, wading here and
there,—getting rapidly over the ground one way or another,—and all so
close to the steep cliffs that unless a man lay on his waistcoat at the
top and looked over the edge he could not have seen us. But we came to
no place where the rocks looked climbable or anything like it; and we
reached, instead, a spot where the sea had advanced to the foot of the
rocks, and was breaking against them at a depth of a few inches.

"By George! how the tide has come up!" said Jack, looking serious; "we
must dash through this, and hope that it will be all right beyond."

But though we plunged and waded for a couple of hundred yards beyond the
corner, we found that the water became deeper rather than shallower, and
that unless we returned at once we should have to swim back to the dry
beach.  There was no disguising the fact—we were cut off by the tide!

I am afraid we both used strong language when, after wading back to the
beach, we realised what this misfortune meant for us.  It meant, of
course, that in all probability we should be left behind by the
_Chepstow Castle_, for it was now past five o’clock, and likely enough
the tide was still coming in.  It was too excruciatingly cruel for
anything excepting naughty words, and we must be forgiven if one or two
of these slipped out in a moment of bitter disappointment.

There was, however, no actual danger in our position.  As we could see
by the mark of high water on the cliffs, we should not, in any case, get
much more than a foot-bath if we remained where we now stood.  That was
a comfort, so far as it went, and something to be thankful for.  But to
think that those rascals—the Strongs, and the rest of them—would gain a
week’s start in the race for Bechuanaland!  It was too bitter to speak
of, and for the first hour or two we dared not trust ourselves to
mention the grievance, lest the fires that smouldered within should
burst forth and consume us.

We employed our time in making frantic efforts to scale the cliffs, and
we succeeded in getting ourselves, each in turn, into positions of
unique and unparalleled peril, out of which each had to be rescued by
the other; but as for climbing the cliff, we never reached anywhere
within hail of the top, and if we had persevered from that day to this
we should never have succeeded in attaining thereunto.

Sorrowfully we came to the conclusion, at last, that there was nothing
for it but to wait for the fall of the tide with all the patience and
philosophic calm we could command; and these, I fear, were qualities
which no known instrument could measure, for there was scarcely a
microscopical trace of either in the pair of us.

At seven o’clock by my watch, punctually, we heard the booming signal of
the _Chepstow Castle_, and we knew what that meant only too well.  It
meant that the steamer was leaving the anchorage, having on board my
rival competitors, as well as our rifles and ammunition and revolvers,
and everything we possessed, and that for a week or so after reaching
Cape Town these men would be adding every hour and every minute to the
odds against me in the race for old Clutterbuck’s treasure.

"We shall meet them coming home with the money-box," said I presently,
following the train of my own thoughts, "about half-way to Vryburg; and
we can’t well scrag them at sight, for we have no absolute evidence that
it was they who shot at us."

"If we had," Jack assented, "we could relieve them of the money-box, and
all would be well. However, they may not have found it by the time we
reach the spot.  We don’t stand to win, I confess, but we won’t quit the
field till we are beaten hopelessly out of it."

"We shall have to keep our eyes open in the veldt as we go," I said,
"for evidently the fellows are not particular."

"They wouldn’t dare murder us there," rejoined Jack.  "There was not
much risk here, you see. Oh, what wouldn’t I give to have the rascals
just exactly here now, where my fist reaches!"

I agreed that this would be sweetly consoling. One might spend a quarter
of an hour, I said, very happily in pummelling Messrs. Strong and
Clutterbuck; but obviously there were few things less likely than that
we should see either or any of them again this side of Vryburg, so that
there was not much use in hoping for it.

It was nine in the evening before we found ourselves able to return to
the spot at which we had landed, and when we reached it we learned from
an Englishman who was about to return in his boat to Las Palmas, whence
he had come during the day on sport intent, that we were too late.

The _Chepstow Castle_ had sailed, as Captain Eversley had declared he
would, at seven o’clock.



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                                *GHOSTS*


Our new friend professed the utmost sympathy when we somewhat
shamefacedly explained that we had been caught by the tide, and
concealed a smile; but he proved a good fellow by offering to put us up
for a few nights until the arrival of the next steamer going Capewards,
an offer which we gladly and gratefully accepted. This good fellow
informed us that he had seen the last boatful of passengers taken on
board at about six o’clock or half-past, and in reply to my inquiry
added that the last to arrive had been a party of three with guns; they
had a few seagulls with them, he said, and had declared that no one else
remained on shore so far as they were aware.

"And when are we likely to get on from here?" asked Jack; to which our
host replied that it might be a fortnight and might be a week, and
possibly a steamer might arrive this very night.  There was a cargo
steamer overdue now that was to touch here on her way south.

In the morning there was a joyful surprise awaiting us; for when we
awoke and looked out upon the bright waters of the Las Palmas harbour,
there—black and ugly in the morning sunshine, but of all sights the most
beautiful in our eyes to-day—floated a big English cargo-steamer,
already busily engaged in discharging that portion of her cargo which
had been consigned to Las Palmas.  Needless to say, we lost no time in
going on board, and as little in settling with the captain to take us on
to Cape Town, for a consideration.  We would have paid ten times the
price with pleasure if he had asked it.

The _Panther_, our new vessel, was to sail by sunset that very evening,
so that—by a happy turn of Fortune’s wheel—we should, after all, have
waited but twenty-four hours in this place. The _Panther_ would travel
considerably slower than the _Chepstow Castle_, however, so that we must
still lose another day or two in time before Cape Town should be
reached; but, under the circumstances, things might have been so very
much worse that we were inclined to be perfectly contented for the
moment, though we suffered many an hour of mental torture before
arriving at the great southern city.

For the trusty ship _Panther_ bore us at a uniform rate of about twelve
knots per hour, and we realised as we neared Cape Town that the
_Chepstow Castle_ must be several days ahead of us: we had hoped and
expected to travel faster than this.  Nevertheless the unforeseen
occasionally happens, and a pleasant surprise was in store for us on our
arrival; for when Jack and I sought out the local offices of the company
to which the last-named steamer belonged, in order to claim our goods
and be off northwards as quickly as possible, we were informed, to our
huge delight, that the _Chepstow Castle_ had not yet arrived. She had
had trouble with her propeller, the clerk informed us, and had been
delayed, first at Las Palmas and afterwards at Walfisch Bay.

Then that clerk nearly had a fit, because Jack and I manifested the
wildest delight and roared with laughter; I am not sure that we did not
execute a step or two of an improvised skirt dance.  The clerk smilingly
observed presently that if we were in hopes that somebody we expected in
the _Chepstow Castle_ was going down to the bottom, or anything of that
sort, it was his duty to disappoint us, because the steamer was all
right and perfectly safe, and would arrive this evening.

"Oh no," said Jack very heartlessly; "our rich uncles and aunts are not
on board!"

"I thought they must be," said the clerk, "as you seemed so pleased to
hear of the ship’s accident."  He eyed us as though doubts as to our
sanity had begun to dawn in his mind.

"Why, man," said Jack, "we are passengers ourselves—that’s the joke of
it!"

"Passengers on board what ship?" asked the clerk.

"The _Chepstow Castle_" exclaimed Jack.

Then the doubts as to our sanity which had dawned in that clerk’s mind
ripened into certainty, and he began to look about for a safe place; he
also grasped his ruler in case of emergency, resolved, no doubt, to sell
his life dearly.

"We got out at Las Palmas," I explained.  I made the remark in
sympathetic sorrow for that clerk’s agony of mind.  But my explanation
did not reassure him much.

"You can’t be in two places at once," he said. "If you got out at Las
Palmas, you are there still.  Besides, if you got out you surely knew
enough to get in again?"

"We’d have got in again if we could," I said, "but we missed the boat
and had to come on by the _Panther_, which arrived this morning.  Here
are our tickets—they will prove that we started by the _Chepstow
Castle_."

The clerk examined our tickets and wiped his forehead; then he looked us
over, laughed almost as loud as we did, and said it was rather funny
that we should have turned up first after all.  If he had known what a
poor joke it was for some others on board the _Chepstow Castle_, I
daresay he would have laughed still more.  As it was, he entered so
heartily into the spirit of the thing that he obtained permission for us
to board the steamer in the company’s tug so soon as the ship should
arrive in sight, a permission which we were right glad to have, because
we were somewhat anxious as to our property on board, in case certain
persons should have found means during our absence to possess themselves
of that which was not theirs.

There was also another reason for our desire to go on board in the
darkness and unexpected. We desired to do a little spiritualism in real
life, and to appear before our friends the Strongs in the morning as
though we had never left the ship.

"Nothing like playing the ghost for getting at the truth of things,"
said Jack, as we left the office. "We shall see by the rascals’ faces,
when they catch sight of us, whether it was really they who fired the
shots at us!"

That shipping clerk was of the greatest service to us in another way,
for he gave us much excellent advice as to how best to proceed in our
journey up-country, what natives to engage, how many oxen to purchase,
and the best kind of waggon, together with a quantity of other useful
information as to roads and the chances of sport to be obtained.  It was
dusk by the time the _Chepstow Castle_ arrived in the offing, and we
boarded her during the dinner-hour, when of passengers there were none
on deck.  Captain Eversley was on duty, however, and our ghostly
reappearance began propitiously with that cordial officer, who first
stared at us in a bewildered manner and afterwards burst into laughter.

"Well, you are nice sort of young fellows," he said; "you ought to be
still vegetating at the Grand Canary if you had your deserts!  What
became of you?—lose yourselves?"

"Caught by tide," Jack explained, "and brought on by a freighter."

"Come for your things, I suppose?" said the captain.  "All right; I had
them removed from your cabin because two second-class passengers asked
to be allowed to pay the difference and come in when there was room.
The steward has your property.  They’re all at dinner below; you’d
better join them—they’ll take you for ghosts."

"Who are the fellows in our cabin?" I inquired.

"Brothers, I believe, called Smith," said Eversley.  "They have a friend
among the second-classers; they have not been popular among the
state-room people.  We have wished you back more than once."

We thanked the captain and retired, as he had suggested, below.  Here
our sudden appearance caused first a dead silence of amazement, followed
by the uproar of a dozen or two tongues speaking at once; and then, to
add to the dramatic interest of the situation, one of the passengers
rose from his seat at the lower end of the table as though to leave the
room, uttered a kind of groan, and fainted.  I saw him and recognised
him in a moment—it was Charles Strong.  His brother, seated beside him,
quickly dragged his unconscious relative away.

A word or two of explanation soon convinced our late fellow-travellers
that we were not ghosts, and in order to reassure them more fully as to
our substantiality we both sat down and made a remarkably good dinner.
I am sorry to say that it was the unanimous opinion of all present that,
had we been still looking out for a sail at Las Palmas instead of
comfortably dining almost within the harbour of Cape Town, we should
have had nothing but our own foolishness to thank for it.

As for the Strongs, or Smiths, no one had a good word to say for them.
They never spoke, we were told, at meals, and they spent all their time
conspiring and whispering together over maps and papers on the
second-class deck, where they had a fellow-mystery.  They were set down
by universal consent as miners or gold-diggers who had received a "tip"
as to some rich spot, which they intended to find and exploit.
Universal consent had not made such a very bad guess, as it turned out.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                   *NECK AND NECK FOR THE FIRST LAP*


When we went to claim our property afterwards from the steward’s
pantry—which we did in some anxiety, seeing who our successors in the
cabin had been (for we naturally concluded that the Strongs would not
have paid money for the pleasure of occupying our berths unless they had
had designs upon something we might have left there), we missed my small
handbag.

"Were these new fellows in the cabin before our things were removed?" we
asked of the steward.

"Oh no, sir," said that functionary; "one of them looked in to see if it
would suit, but he wasn’t there five minutes; you wouldn’t surely
suspect the gentleman of"—

"Oh dear, no!" I said, "certainly not, steward; probably my little bag
escaped your notice and his too.  Go and ask for it, like a good man; it
was under the sofa when we were in the cabin, and it’s probably there
now."

The steward went off on his mission somewhat flustered; for it was a
reflection upon his carefulness that the bag had been left behind. When
I said that it might have escaped Strong’s notice as well as his own, I
really meant what I said, though the sceptical Jack grinned at my
"innocence," as he called it.  The bag contained, as Jack knew, a few
exceedingly important articles—namely, my slender stock of ready money
(about thirty-five pounds), a copy of the all-important map and
instructions for finding Clutterbuck’s treasure, my revolver, and a few
other things of less importance.

Nevertheless, when the steward brought the bag to me a few minutes later
with "Mr. Smith’s" apology, and declared that the latter gentleman said
that neither he nor his brother had seen or touched it, I believed him.
I was the more disposed to acquit the Strongs when I opened the bag and
found money, map, revolver, and everything else still within it just as
I had left them; but subsequent events proved that Jack’s scepticism was
in the right after all, though we did not discover this until later.

We saw no more of the Strongs that evening, and when—very early in the
morning—we went on deck to see the ship moored in dock, we found that
our friends had already departed.

"We can afford to make a good breakfast and give them that much start,"
said Jack; "for they will probably have a lot to buy and to arrange
before they can start, while most of our preliminary arrangements were
made yesterday."  Therefore we made a good breakfast.

The train, we found, would take us as far as Vryburg, after which we
should have to purchase horses and push along over the Chartered
Company’s road towards Bulawayo.  Our destination was several days’
journey short of that town, however, and lay some way to the east of the
pioneer waggon-road used by the company during the first Matabele
campaign.  At Vryburg we encountered the Strongs and Clutterbuck at a
horse-dealer’s yard.  They, like ourselves, had come to buy horseflesh,
and we surprised them in the midst of their bargaining.

There was no particular reason for pretending that I did not recognise
them, for it was likely enough that we should be near neighbours when it
came to digging, and we were all encamped upon a couple of acres of
land.  I therefore addressed them, and bade them good-morning, by name.

They growled an unwilling greeting in return.

"We’re all here, I see, excepting Mr. Ellis," I continued.  "I suppose
he is to follow later?"

"I know no more about him than you," said James Strong surlily.  "Who’s
this, may I ask, with you, and what right has he to come digging for our
treasure?"

"Is he digging for our treasure?" I asked.

"That’s what he’s here for, you bet," said Strong; "if he finds it, let
me tell you, your claim won’t stand, remember that."

"My good man," said Henderson exasperatingly, "do wait until you have
caught me at it! As my friend suggests, I am not thinking of digging; I
am here to keep him company, and to act as a kind of bodyguard."

"Can’t the poor fellow take care of himself?" said Strong, laughing
rudely; "what’s he afraid of?  We are all respectable people here!"

"You see," said Jack, with exasperating coolness, "in some countries the
bullets fly very promiscuously; people have been known to shoot at
seagulls and to hit men.  Now only the other day, at an island called
Graciosa"—at this point the second Strong dragged his brother away to
look at a horse, and as the proprietor of the establishment beckoned us
mysteriously aside at the same moment, we saw no more of our friends at
this time; when we returned to the yard they had taken their departure.
The horse-dealer’s object in beckoning us aside was, it appeared, to
inform us that—if we liked to pay for them—he had a horse or two which
would be likely to suit gentlemen like ourselves much better than this
rubbish.

We were quite ready to pay for a good article—delighted; at least Jack
was, and I was quite glad that he should.  After all, if the fellow
mounted us better than the Strongs & Co., the privilege would be well
worth paying for.

We certainly paid for it, at anyrate; but whether our horses were really
much, or any, better than the "rubbish" that fell to Strong’s lot is a
question.  Possibly Strong squared the horse-dealer before we came; if
so, he was no fool, and perfectly within his rights.

We had bought our waggon and oxen, seasoned or "salted" animals chosen
without regard to expense, and had engaged a Kaffir driver and a native
of Bechuana or Somali land to act as huntsman, in case we should find
the treasure and have time upon our hands for some big-game hunting
afterwards.

All these matters had been arranged before we left Cape Town, and our
party were even now trekking slowly northwards towards the appointed
rendezvous on the Bulawayo road, at the point, in fact, where—as per
map—our side route branched off from the main road.

We had left the heavy rifles and most of our ammunition to be brought on
after us by the waggon, and we hoped that by the time the question of
the treasure had been decided we should find our property waiting for us
at the rendezvous. Jack said we should "do a bit of sporting" whether we
dug up the treasure or no.

So that we had not much in the way of impedimenta actually with us.
Each carried a light spade, a blanket, a waterproof coat, a light rifle,
a revolver, cartridge-belt and case, saddle-bags with tinned food and
biscuits, a bottle of brandy as medicine, and little else besides.  Thus
equipped, however, we both felt that we could easily and comfortably
spend a week or two without any more of the comforts of civilisation
than we carried about us, and we set out upon our hundred-mile ride in
the highest possible spirits, even though we were well aware that "the
enemy" were on the road before us.

"I don’t want to kill anybody if I can help it, you know, Peter," Jack
had said (he always called me Peter, though my name is Godfrey; I was
called Peter at school, for some inscrutable schoolboy reason!), "but
I’m hanged if I am going to let these fellows have any more shots at me
gratis. If any fellow lets fly at me again and misses, he’s a dead man
if I can make him one!"

I quite agreed with Jack that we would not again play at being targets
without taking our turns at the shooting afterwards.  I do not relish
the idea of shedding human blood any more than Jack, but one must draw
the line somewhere, and we were going to draw it at those who took shots
at us from an ambush; for such we would have no pity.

On the evening of the first day we came up with our friends the Strongs.
They were encamping on the banks of a river over which there was a ford.

Our horses were not tired, we had not ridden very hard, and we agreed
that this would be a good opportunity to push on and obtain a good start
of the Strongs.  The complacency with which these men had settled down
in this place and were, apparently, prepared to see us pass them in the
race, perplexed and puzzled us not a little.  We were suspiciously
inclined towards them, and it appeared to us that they would not allow
us to get ahead so easily without a good reason.  However, it was
unlikely that we should learn their reason by asking for it, and we did
not desire more of their society than was absolutely necessary; we
therefore agreed to push on—to play our game and allow them to play
theirs.  We could take care of ourselves, though they were three to two.

So we proceeded to ford the river, the Strongs watching us intently,
though they pretended to be taking little notice of us.  Jack’s horse
led the way, and was wading in the water considerably over his knees,
when something floating in mid-stream caught my eye, and I invited Jack
to stop a moment and look at the object.  Jack pulled up at once and
stared with me at the dark-looking thing floating slowly with the
current.

"I should say it was a log of wood if I did not happen to know that
crocodiles abound here," he said.

"If it’s a log of wood it’s a nimble one," I rejoined; "for see, Jack,
it is coming this way, partly against current."

For reply, Jack wheeled his horse round and plunged madly for the land.

"Back to the shore, Peter, quick!" he shouted, "for your life!"



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                            *MORE TREACHERY*


When we reached the bank and looked round, the dark object had
disappeared, but almost immediately it reappeared within five yards of
us.  We could see it plainly now—a huge, scaly head, half out of the
water, and a wicked little eye looking straight at us as though gloating
over the feast it had just lost by a hair’s-breadth. It was horrible.

"Oh, the cruel-looking, bloodthirsty, gaol-bird brute!" muttered Jack,
raising his rifle.  "Thank Heaven we were not a quarter of a minute
later, Peter!  Now watch—this is for his eye-socket."

As the little rifle sent out its message with a light, ping-like report,
there was a strange upward lift of the great head, a vast commotion for
a moment of the water, then the tail went up and the head went down;
there was a little reddening of the mudded stream, the crocodile
disappeared, and the tragedy was over.

To my surprise, Jack immediately turned and made for the group of
men—the two Strongs and Clutterbuck—sitting by their camp fire and
watching us; he still held his rifle in his hand—his little
double-barrelled sporting weapon.  I took my revolver and followed him,
for I did not know what he meant to do.  Henderson strode right up to
the group and addressed them without any kind of preface.

"If I were certain you fellows were aware that the crocodile held the
ford," he said, "I’m hanged if I wouldn’t chuck you in after him, one by
one."

"Words don’t cost much," said James Strong; "we are three to your two.
It is foolish to boast of what you would do if you were strong enough."

"You are right; words are cheap," said Jack; "but for want of something
trustier I must ask you to give yours that you knew nothing of that
crocodile.  If you cannot give me an assurance on this point I shall do
as I threaten.  I know you are three to two, but we need not fear a set
of cowards who shoot at helpless persons from an ambush."

James Strong flushed and glanced at his companions, who reddened also.
Nevertheless, he maintained a bold front, and replied readily enough—

"We have not come into the interior of Africa to guess riddles.  I know
nothing about any crocodiles; but if one had eaten your friend there as
he crossed the ford we should not have gone into mourning.  It might
have had you too, without many tears from us.  As to shooting from an
ambush, you may explain what you mean if you please, or do the other
thing if you prefer it. There’s no law against riddles and lunatics that
I know of, in these parts."

"Very well, then; so be it," said Jack.  "At the same time let me tell
you this: Prevaricate as you will, we know well enough what we know; you
shot at us from the cliffs at Graciosa—good. Luckily you are very bad
shots, all of you.  Now I am a dead shot.  I have twice been in the
Queen’s Hundred at Wimbledon and Bisley, and my friend here is not far
behind me at a mark. What you are to understand is this—that if any of
you fellows at any time fire at us, either of us, and miss, we shall
shoot back, and we shall not miss; if we can’t get a shot at you at once
(for you are likely to be behind an ambush), we shall let fly at our
next meeting.  Bear this in mind for your good."

"Come, chuck the sermon," said James Strong, who was the spokesman of
the party, and a very rude one at that.

"Very well," said Jack, "words are thrown away upon fools; next time I
shall shoot."

And with this crude repartee we left these worthies and crossed the
ford, and gained a good ten miles upon them by nightfall.

Now that my tale is taking us rapidly towards the spot in which,
according to our maps, old Clutterbuck’s treasure lay buried, it would
be as well to present for the reader’s assistance a copy of the map and
instructions as we each received them from Steggins the lawyer on the
day of the reading of the will.

Here is the copy, which I present to the reader with apologies for its
shortcomings as an artistic production.  I could have made it more
presentable and accurate, but it is better to reproduce it as I received
it.


[Illustration: Explanation of Map.]

"Take the road to Bulawayo from Vryburg.

"Ride about one hundred miles to a village called Ngami; there turn
aside eastward into the veldt. Head straight for a conical hill fifteen
miles distant from the road and visible from Ngami.  At the foot of the
mountain is a sandy plain covered with rocks and occasional thorn
bushes.  Between the highest thorn bush and the slope of the hill is an
open space of sandy soil about two acres in extent, and covered with
scrubby grass.  Within this area I have planted four posts.  The
treasure is buried at a spot within the space defined by these four
posts."


Jack Henderson and I rejoiced greatly when we off-saddled that night ten
miles ahead of the others.  This would give us a good start of them,
and, unless we had our own lack of energy to blame, we should never
allow them to make up the difference.  We were to have first dig, after
all! We drank a little hot brandy and water in memory of our crocodile;
for to him, we agreed, we owed the advantage we had now gained.  But for
his good offices our friends would certainly have pushed on farther.

"Perhaps," I suggested, "it was all a trick—their camping there, I
mean—and they are even now at our heels and coming up hand over hand!"

"By Jove! you may be right, Peter," said Jack.  "I had not thought of
it.  I’ll tell you what, man; it won’t do for both of us to sleep at the
same time.  We must take watches—at all events just now, while we are in
the neighbourhood of these bad characters!"

We were to discover before very long that we could not afford to camp
out in these African forests without setting a watch, even when far away
from bad characters of the biped persuasion! There are some very shady
characters in Bechuanaland that walk on four feet, and perform all
manner of wickedness under the cover of night! We had not realised this
fact as yet, but we were to realise it pretty soon.  Nevertheless, in
compliment to the poor opinion we held of the Strongs and their ways, we
agreed to divide our night into two parts, and that one of us should
sleep while the other watched, and _vice versâ_ at "half time."

I was not sleepy, and undertook the first watch, and a right creepy
function I found it.  Those who have never slept out of their own beds
would scarcely believe in how many unexpected and unrecognisable voices
old Mother Night can speak. In the heart of an African forest she has
tongues innumerable, and, moreover, all of them weird and startling,
while some are absolutely terrifying.

We had built up a good fire, and had taken the precaution to pile up an
ample supply of fuel almost at hands’ reach from the spot at which I lay
with my toes to the blaze.  But when it became necessary to rise from my
place and walk two yards to the pile of firewood in order to add fuel, I
must confess with shame that I was so thoroughly cowed and frightened by
a feeling of supernatural awe, brought on by the thousand weird and
startling noises to which I had lain and listened for two hours or more,
that I could scarcely summon sufficient nerve to assume an erect
attitude, but lay trembling on the ground endeavouring to gather the
courage which had left me, a prey to unworthy feelings of horror.

"However," I reflected, "if I do not keep the fire up, all these awful
beasts that are now prowling about in the darkness and dare not come
near will become bolder, and"—  This thought settled it, and I arose,
sweating with foolish terror, and piled a mass of dry material upon the
languishing flames at my feet.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                           *A SERIOUS CHECK*


As I did so there was a scuffle and a yelp a few yards away, by a bush,
and in the light that the fire shot suddenly around I distinctly caught
sight of a brute which I believe was a hyena.

After this I lay with my revolver in my hand, determined that if any
savage brute became bold enough again to venture within sight of me I
would let fly at him, at the risk of frightening poor slumbering Jack
out of his wits.  Better that than to have a loathsome hyena or jackal
come nibbling at one’s leg while one lay asleep.  A single shot would
probably ensure quiet for the rest of the night.

Before my watch was over I did catch sight of another beast, or rather,
I suppose, of the same one. I raised my revolver and pulled the trigger.
The weapon misfired.

The "click" of the hammer was sufficient to scare my friend away for the
time being; but it was not pleasant to think that our ammunition was not
to be relied upon, and I determined to overhaul the stock in the
morning.  Meanwhile, I changed the cartridges in my revolver, for the
little weapon had been loaded ever since leaving England, and it was
possible that these were damp.

What if some brute had really attacked us, or—which was at least as
likely—if the Strongs had crept up and fallen upon us, and our safety
had depended upon this cartridge which had misfired?  Ugh! I lay a while
and reviled, in thought, revolver, gunner who made it, cartridge filler,
and everyone remotely connected with the matter, including myself for
neglecting to change the charge.  Then I had a better thought, and
offered up thanks for being saved twice this night from disaster: from
the crocodile first, and afterwards from all kinds of unknown horrors
lurking around us in the darkness.

After all, I reflected, whether we are at home in bed or in the midst of
an African forest, we are in God’s hands, to save or to kill.  How
pitifully helpless is every human being that lies and sleeps
unconscious, and how entirely at the mercy of a Providence which one has
probably angered times unreckoned!  Misfortune might as easily assail us
at home in bed as here in the veldt, if it were so willed!  Disaster,
after all, can no more befall me here than there unless the Almighty
decrees it.

This reflection was of much comfort to me subsequently, throughout many
a weird and creepy night—in hours of real danger, compared with which
the mostly imagined perils of that first night out were as the merest
child’s play.

Jack was made of sterner stuff than I, and even the unseen perils of the
darkness and of the ambush scarcely affected his nerves.

His watch passed off, it may be assumed, without much trial of his
courage, and when I awoke at high daylight one of the first things my
eyes beheld was the carcass of our friend the hyena, which Jack had shot
with his revolver.  The report had not disturbed me, which may be taken
as evidence that it must have been fairly "bedtime" when the end of my
watch opened for me the door of slumberland.

We covered thirty good miles that day, and though we continually looked
out for them, we saw nothing of "our friends the enemy."  The night
passed without adventure, and—though I cannot honestly say that I was
absolutely free from those feelings of dread which had so unmanned me on
the previous night—I am justified in declaring that I was not nearly so
frightened at this second experience.

On the third day, towards evening, we came to a village, and here I was
for turning aside into the veldt eastwards.

"Westwards," corrected Jack.

"No," I said, "eastwards, surely!"

"I bet you sixpence your map says westwards!" said Jack.  "I was looking
at it yesterday, and noticed it particularly!"

Now I could have taken the most solemn oath that I had read "eastwards"
in the instructions at the foot of the map, and the route shown, as I
remember, was to the right of the road, which would be eastwards.

Yet now, when I looked at our plan, the route was undoubtedly shown as
lying to the left of the road—westwards—just as Jack said.

So to the left we went, and rode for an hour towards a hill whose
outline we could just make out in the dim distance.  Then the darkness
came on, and we off-saddled for the night, full of spirits; for
to-morrow, we thought, we should be on the very spot, and at work within
a few yards of the treasure itself, and with a good start of our rivals
into the bargain.


We were up and away with the first rays of light in the morning, and
rode fast and joyously forward, merry as two schoolboys out for a
jollification.

"It’s a longish fifteen miles to _that_ hill, I know," said Jack when we
had ridden ten miles. "The map says fifteen miles; but we rode an hour
last night and have ridden another to-day, and I’m hanged if we are any
nearer than we were before."

This seemed true enough.

"It doesn’t look what I should call ’conical,’ either," I added.  "I
should call it a flat-topped thing if I were asked."

"So should I," said Jack; and we rode on.

"I wonder if there can be any mistake," I said, when we had ridden
another ten miles and had stopped for a long rest.

"What kind of a mistake?" asked Jack.

"Why, about the map.  That hill positively looks as far off as ever."

"It really does," Jack assented.  "It must be a good fifty from the
road."

"Perhaps the old boy wrote fifty and not fifteen, as we both seem to
remember it," I said, fishing in my saddle-bag for the case which
contained my map.

"I’m sure it’s fifteen there," said Jack, "for I took the precaution of
making a copy of both plan and instructions at Cape Town, in case those
rascally friends of yours should get hold of our map and leave us to dig
up all Africa for our treasure.  I remember the wording quite well—it
was ’westwards,’ and fifteen miles to a conical hill, over a sandy
plain."

These words of Jack’s made me think—not those which referred to his
taking of a copy of the map; I had done the same myself while on board
the _Chepstow Castle_, and had my copy in my pocket at this moment.  The
words which struck me were those which referred to my "rascally
friends," and suggested the possibility of the stealing of our map by
them.  The idea reminded me that my black bag with the map in it had
been at their mercy in the cabin of the _Chepstow Castle_ for a week or
more; though, it must be remembered, my money was apparently left
untouched, as well as my revolver and the other things.  Could they have
tricked us by altering the map?

Flushed and excited at the very idea of such a thing, I communicated my
idea to Jack.

"Good Heavens, man!" said he.  "I never thought of it; yet it’s the most
likely thing in the world.  Let’s have a look at the map!"



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                            *STALKING A MAN*


We scanned that map over and over, but could find no trace of
alterations.  Jack suggested that it might be altogether new—a bogus
copy, in fact; almost exactly like the real one, in case we should
remember the original, but incorrect enough to lead us astray at the
critical moment.

"What a pity my copy was done _after_ these rascals had had their chance
of doctoring it," said Jack; "otherwise we should soon see whether this
one has been got at."

"But I have a copy done _before_ we were left at Las Palmas!" I cried.
"We can compare it with that, which _must_ be right!"

"Peter, you are a trump!" said Jack, banging me on the back.  "You’re a
glorious fellow! Produce it at once!  Ha! ha!  When in doubt, play
Peter!"

I produced my copy, a rough thing, but accurately copied in the most
essential portion, which was that which supplied instructions as to this
very place.  We compared my copy with the original, as we had supposed
it to be, and found that it was as we suspected.  We had been duped. The
rascals had substituted for my original map a production of their own,
made so like the former in the matter of handwriting and style, and even
paper, that it would easily pass, if unsuspected, as the real article.

Furious with rage, we turned and retraced our way towards the road.  We
had come nearly thirty miles westward instead of turning, as we ought to
have done, to the east, and had wasted a day and a half—it was
intolerable!  If we had met the Strongs at this time there would have
been a battle; we were blood-hot, and should not have spared them.  They
had tricked us, and had, in all probability, unearthed the treasure by
this time, and departed with it.  I could not trust myself to speak as
we rode swiftly back, in grim silence, upon our own tracks.  Jack said
nothing either.

That night, as we lay by our fire, it suddenly occurred to me to look at
my revolver.  It, after all, had been in my small black bag as well as
the map. Probably they had tampered with it; for, otherwise, why should
my weapon have missed fire and Jack’s not?  They had soused my
cartridges—that much was pretty certain; but perhaps they had done the
revolver some injury besides.

I examined it carefully.  The lock worked all right; the drum revolved
perfectly.  I looked down the barrel; looked straight down it at the
firelight, and saw nothing.

"Well?" said Jack.

I handed him the revolver.  Jack looked down the barrel as I had; then
he took a thin stick and poked at it.

"The demons!" he said; "they’ve choked it with lead or something.  Curse
them! it would have burst in your hand if you had fired it!  We’ll pay
them out for this, Peter, if we have to chase them half round the world
for it!"

Thirty miles back to the waggon road, twenty miles farther northwards,
and then at last we were at the spot where, according to the original
map, we should have turned off at the village called Ngami.  Our bogus
map gave no name to the village, which showed, as Jack said, the
fiendish cunning of the Strongs; for if they had called it Ngami, we
should have gone on until we had reached a village of that name, and
from it we should have plainly seen, as we now saw, the conical hill on
our right.  As it was, we had gone sixty miles out of our way, and might
have gone six hundred, or, indeed, never have struck the right road at
all, but for my happy idea on board ship to take a copy of the map in
case of accidents.

It was dusk when we arrived, riding with exceeding caution, within a
mile or so of the conical hill.  Here we dismounted by Jack’s orders;
for he, by the most natural process in the world—namely, the simple
slipping into his proper place, as nature intends that people like Jack
should do—had assumed the leadership of our party of two. It was quite
right and proper that he should lead, for Jack had twice the resource
and the readiness that I had been furnished withal; his wits were
quicker workers than mine, and his judgment far more acute and correct.
Jack decreed, then, that we should dismount and wait, and listen.  If
they had not yet found the treasure, he said, they would, of course,
still be upon the ground; and if there, they would certainly light a
fire when darkness fell.

"Then will come our chance!" added Jack.

"Of doing what?" I asked.  "You don’t think of shooting them asleep,
Jack, surely!"

Jack laughed gently.  "That’s what they deserve, the blackguards!" he
said.  "Why do you suppose they spiked your revolver?  I’ll tell you.
So that when they attacked you, as they fully intended to do, and would
do now if we gave them the chance, you should be harmless and unable to
hit them back."

It certainly did seem pretty mean, viewed in this light—a cold-blooded,
premeditated, murderous kind of thing to do.  The idea made me very
angry.  It gave me that almost intolerable longing one sometimes
feels—which, at anyrate, I feel—to punch some offender’s head; it is a
feeling which generally assails one at helpless moments, as, for
instance, when a schoolmaster (whose head cannot be punched with
propriety) takes advantage of his position to bombard some wretched
victim, who can utter no protest, with scathing remarks.

"What are we going to do, then?" I continued. "Of course we are not
going to murder them in cold blood; but can’t we punch their heads?"

Jack laughed.  "Oh, it may come to that, likely enough," he said; "but
what we must go for first is to disarm them.  It is perfectly impossible
to live near these men in any sort of comfort or security unless we
first deprive them of their rifles and revolvers.  That’s what I want to
do to-night. One or two of them will be asleep, the other watching.  We
must stalk them at about midnight, cover them with our revolvers, and
make them ’hands up!’"

"No good covering them with my revolver," I said.  "I’d better cover a
pair with my rifle, and you the other fellow with your pistol.  They
know mine won’t go off, well enough!"

"That’s true," said Jack.  "All right, your rifle then.  We must shiver
here till about midnight; you won’t mind that for once."

And shiver we did for several hours, as much with excitement as with the
cold of the night; for at about nine o’clock we saw the glow of a fire a
mile or so away, which gave us the welcome assurance that our friends
had not, at anyrate, found the treasure and departed.

I entreated Jack several times to let us be up and at them; but Jack was
inexorable, and would not budge until our watches told us that midnight
had come.  Then Jack arose and stretched himself.

"Are you ready?" he said.

"Rather!" said I; "come on!"

"No hurry," continued my friend exasperatingly. "Change your cartridges
first; so.  Now take a drop of brandy neat, to correct the chill of the
night—not too much.  We may have to shoot a man; are you up to doing
it?"

"If necessary," I said; "but I’d rather not."

"Of course not, nor would I; but if there is any hitch, or if either of
the men show signs of being about to put in a quick shot, yours or mine
must be in first; do you understand?  Am I to command, or would you
prefer to?  It is better that one should take the lead."

"You, of course!" I said.

"Then do just as I tell you when we are among them.  Now, are you ready?
Then come along!"

Cautiously and softly we crept towards the place where the fire twinkled
and glowed in the distance. As we came nearer, we could see that it had
been built up close to a mimosa bush which lay between us and the circle
of light shed by the burning brushwood.  This was favourable to our
purpose, for we were enabled to creep along without the danger of being
seen, as we might have been even in the dark, had we been obliged to
cross one of the wide open spaces which checked the plain.

No thieving jackal or designing lion could have stalked that party more
patiently and noiselessly than we did; foot by foot, and yard by yard,
we drew nearer to our prey, and at last we had reached the mimosa bush
and were watching them as they lay, the rays of their fire all but
shining upon us as we crouched, but falling just short.  Jack placed his
hand upon my arm, and whispered—

"James Strong watching, very sleepy," he breathed, scarcely audibly;
"the others fast asleep. I take James, and you the other two.  Are you
ready?  Follow me and stand at my side, but keep your rifle at your
shoulder from now on, and never lower it for an instant.  Are you
ready?"

"Ready!" I managed to whisper, but my lips were so dry that hardly any
sound came from them. Then Jack instantly rose and stepped out into the
firelight—I following him.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                          *SCOTCHING A SNAKE*


James Strong was lying half waking and half sleeping, his rifle at his
side; he saw us instantly, however, as we stepped into the firelight,
and was on his feet in a moment, dragging his rifle up with him.

"Drop the gun, James Strong," said Henderson, "and put up your hands.  I
am covering you, you see, and this is not the revolver you choked. Drop
it at once, or I fire.  I will count three. One—two"—Strong let the
rifle fall.  Neither the thud of this nor the sound of Jack’s voice
awoke the other two, who still slept, I covering them with my rifle.

"Pick that thing up, Peter," said Jack.  "I’ll see to the covering."  I
did as my captain bade me.

"Chuck it on the fire," he continued.  "I shall pay you for it, Mr.
Strong, but I am afraid you are scarcely to be trusted with a rifle just
at present."

I heard Strong grind his teeth as I picked up his gun, took the
cartridges out, and threw the weapon on the fire.

"Sit down, Mr. Strong, and empty your pockets," continued Jack, and his
victim obeyed, because he could do nothing else.

"Take those other rifles, Peter, and do the same by them," pursued Jack;
"then wake those fellows, and see if they sport revolvers.  Have you
none, Mr. Strong?  Come, produce it if you have. Feel his pockets,
Peter, and his saddle-bags.  What, has he none?  Well, you shall give
him yours, Peter, one day; perhaps he will know how to get the lead out
since he put it in!"

Strong’s face through all this was not a pleasant study.

I obeyed Jack’s decrees to the letter.  I collected all the
weapons—three rifles and one revolver—and threw them on the fire; I
awoke the two sleepers, who swore frightful oaths when they realised the
position of affairs, and cleared their pockets and wallets and
saddle-bags of cartridges, all of which I confiscated.

"Good-night, gentlemen," said Jack, when my work was finished.  "I shall
repay you for all that has been taken from you to-night.  Your zeal, you
will understand, has been a little too great; you have given yourselves
away.  But for your premature attempt to rid yourselves of us on the
island, and for one or two foolish matters since then, we might never
have been aroused to our danger, and you would certainly have enjoyed
many opportunities of shooting us at your leisure—in the back, of
course.  Now, you see, we have the whip hand of you."

"And you will use it, curse you," said James Strong, "to prevent us
taking our legal share in the search for my uncle’s property.  I know
you!"

"Nothing of the kind, my good man," said Jack cordially.  "Dig away, by
all means; you shall see that neither of us will interfere."

"Yes, and if we find the treasure, you will shoot us down; I know you, I
say!" replied Strong. We made allowance for his temper, which was
shocking to-day; but then his provocation had really been considerable.

"If you find the treasure you shall take it away with you in peace, so
far as my friend and myself are concerned," said Jack.  "We shall not
shoot you, and you can’t very well shoot _us_ without rifles, can you?
Good-night all; come, Peter."

We could see our good friends frenziedly poking among the embers for
their burning weapons the moment we had departed; but, as Jack remarked,
they were welcome to the barrels, and since he had taken care to keep up
the conversation long enough to allow the woodwork to burn away, that
would be all they would get.

Returning to our camp, we made up a fire for ourselves and tossed up for
first sleep, for we must keep a stricter watch than ever now, or these
desperate fellows would steal our weapons and turn the tables upon us.
So we slept and watched by turns until morning, and it was on this night
that I heard for the first time in my life the roar of a lion. It was
not very near at hand, but, far away as it was, it sounded terrible
enough to the inexperienced ear, and I thought over all I had read of
the ways of lions in the works of Mr. Selous and other African
sportsmen, and recalled an awkward propensity some of them have of
coolly coming into camp and foraging among the waggons even in the glare
of the firelight.  If this brute were to come now and help itself to
Jack Henderson before I could interfere, what a truly terrible thing it
would be!  The idea impressed me so deeply that I awoke Henderson and
told him there was a lion roaring somewhere within hearing.

Jack was very sleepy, and my watch was only half over, which made him
ridiculously angry to have been awaked.

"Well, what then?" he said.  "Let him roar and be hanged! if he didn’t
wake me, why should you?"

"Why, he might come and bag you while you slept," I said; "travellers
say they do that kind of thing."

"Well, what are you there for, man?" said Jack angrily, settling himself
to sleep again.  "You are there to shoot James Strong, or lions, or
she-bears, or anything else that comes and plays the fool around here.
For goodness’ sake don’t wake a fellow to talk about the habits of
lions—shoot him if he comes, that’s all you have to do!"

I suppose the lion had other engagements for that night, for his roars
receded farther away and were lost, presently, in the distance.

We were up in the morning at the first glint of light, for we were
naturally anxious to see the ground upon which our labours were to be
lavished until the envious soil should reveal to us or the others the
secret of old Clutterbuck.  There it was, the open space of sandy
hummocky soil, and there were the posts, three of them at least; we
could not see the fourth.  And there, too, was the upturned earth over a
considerable area, representing the day’s work, or the day and a half’s
work, of the Strongs, who had evidently toiled for all they were worth
in order to make the most of the start they had gained upon us.  The
result of this haste on their part was to be seen in the shallowness of
their digging, which appeared to have nowhere extended to a greater
depth than six to nine inches.  As we stood and surveyed the ground, our
three friends came with their spades and set to work at once.  They
scowled at us ferociously, but made no reply to Jack’s polite
"Good-morning."

"I daresay they _are_ rather annoyed with us," said Jack.  "Now, Peter,
don’t be lazy, but begin to dig at once.  I’m your bodyguard, remember,
and shall do no work except thinking."

"Aren’t you going to dig?" I said.

"Certainly not," said Jack; "I’m not one of the authorised.  If I dug
and found the treasure, there might be a legal point.  Now dig up, man,
and don’t argue; you’re wasting your time.  Think of the nuggets and
diamonds only awaiting the magic touch of your spade!  George! if I had
a legal position, wouldn’t I dig!"

I did dig.  I dug that morning until the sweat poured from my face and
head like drops of rain.  I dug till my arms and back ached so that I
almost cried with the pain, while Jack sat or lay and watched, keeping
an eye on the Strong party and entertaining me with light conversation.
By the evening I was perfectly exhausted, and the greater part of the
space of about two acres had been dug over, though not to any great
depth, by one or other of the four workers, yet nothing had been
discovered.

When Jack awoke me to take my watch at half-time that night, he said—

"Peter, I’ve been thinking."

"What about?" I asked sleepily.

"About that fourth post," he said.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                        *AN UNEXPECTED TRAGEDY*


"I was wondering what has become of that fourth post," continued Jack.
"It can’t have disappeared very well."

"It doesn’t matter much," I rejoined, "for it can only have been in one
spot—the fourth corner of a square; the other three are absolutely
symmetrically placed.  We can easily judge of the position of the
missing one."

"I’m not so sure," said Jack.  "I don’t think it’s a trick of the
Strongs, for they seem to take it for granted, as we have done, that the
area is a square. I shall look about for it to-morrow while you dig."

"I wish you’d dig while I look about!" said I; "it’s the most fatiguing
thing I ever tried in my life."

"That’s because you never did a day’s work till yesterday, my son; but
cheer up, you’ll find it less fatiguing every day, take my word for it."
Jack yawned and lay down, and in a minute was fast asleep.  As for me, I
very nearly fell asleep also—in fact, I believe I was actually
dozing—when my friend the lion suddenly roared from somewhere so close
at hand that my heart went into my boots and I felt my knees tremble
together as I lay.  So loud was it that even Jack awoke and started to
his feet.

"What on earth was that?" he said.  "Did someone shoot?"

"It was a lion’s roar, close behind us here in the bush," I said, my
teeth chattering.  I don’t think I am a coward, but I do hate dangers
that I cannot see.

"By George!—fancy those wretched chaps over by that fire," said Jack,
"without rifles; what a state of terror they will be in!"

What a good fellow Jack was!  I had never thought, in my selfishness, of
the infinitely more dangerous position of the others.

At this moment the lion roared again.

"Listen to that!" continued Jack.  "What a voice the brute has!  It’s
enough to terrify anyone, especially unarmed people.  Ought we to go and
stand by those chaps, think you, Peter?"

I am glad to think that I replied in the affirmative.

"And yet," said Jack, "I’m not sure that one of us hadn’t better stop
here to take care of our horses.  Shall we toss up who goes?  You see,
it was we who disarmed the poor beggars; we can’t very well leave them
unprotected when real danger comes."

I cordially endorsed the sentiment, and though I would far rather have
let our horses go by the board than separate from Jack in this crisis, I
tossed up with him as to who should go and who stay.

"Heads stay—tails go," said Jack.  "You toss."

I tossed, and the coin showed tails.

"Tails; then you go—lucky rascal!" said Jack; "you get all the fun.
Shout for me if anything happens.  Cæsar! there he is, roaring again,
and nearer their camp.  Be off, Peter, and mind your hide!"

I have said that I do not consider myself a coward, but assuredly the
greatest coward in the world could not have been more frightened than
was I during that most weird and uncanny walk through the darkness
towards the twinkling glow of the Strongs’ camp fire, but a very few
hundreds of yards away.  The word darkness hardly expresses the almost
opaque blackness of the night as I stumbled over hummock and thorn bush
in the direction of the fire.

Beasts were abroad, it appeared, in horrible profusion.  Scuttling,
growling, rushing, they seemed to jump up from before and around me at
almost every step, as though an army of them were stalking me, and came
repeatedly within springing distance, only to lose heart as I
approached, and dash away into the darkness.

I have since come to the conclusion that these were hyenas, for no other
beast would be likely to be about in close proximity to a roaring lion.

The lion advertised himself freely.  Once, at least, he roared within
twenty yards of me, and though I held my rifle to my shoulder ready for
him, I quite gave myself up for lost.  But his designs were not, it
appeared, directed against myself, for a moment after he roared again
much nearer to the Strongs’ camp fire, and presently from beyond that
point.

I could hear the Strongs talking excitedly and loudly, and could see
that they were busily engaged in piling brushwood upon their fire, for
at intervals it seemed to blaze up brightly and to smoke more
vigorously.  The lion, I could not help thinking, was prospecting both
our party and theirs, and walking round and round both, working himself
up to the necessary pitch of audacity for an attack.

So, stumbling, groping, creeping upon my uncanny way, I came at last
within fifty yards of the Strongs’ camp.  The lion had been silent now
for several minutes, a fact which rendered my horror all the more
intense, because I could no longer tell where the brute was, and, for
all I knew, he might be at my heels or a couple of yards away on either
side of me, licking his lips, and, as it were, choosing his joint in
preparation for a spring.

Of a sudden I was startled by the most piercing shrieks and yells that I
had ever heard.  The noise came from the Strongs’ camp, and set the seal
of horror upon my soul, so that I fell on my knees then and there and
prayed aloud with the most intense earnestness I had ever put into
prayer. Then I sprang to my feet in a flush of shame. The lion, I
suddenly realised, had made his appearance among these wretched, unarmed
folk, while I, their protector, knelt and prayed like a coward for the
safety of my own skin!

Aroused and stimulated by this thought, I rushed madly for the camp,
careless now of the darkness and danger and horror of the night, and in
a moment or two had reached, breathless, the circle of light shed by the
Strongs’ fire.  Here a weird sight presented itself to me.

Clutterbuck knelt and gabbled prayers aloud, his eyes, almost starting
from his head, fixed upon a spot just on the verge of the firelight,
where James Strong stood, armed with a burning log, cursing as loudly as
the other prayed, and staring into the darkness beyond.

Both started as I appeared, but both immediately looked away from me
again and resumed their occupations.

"What is it?" I gasped.  "Has anything happened?  Where is your brother,
Strong?"

"It’s the most infernal murder, that’s what it is!" shouted the fellow,
turning suddenly upon me and stamping his foot; "as clear a case of
murder as ever a criminal committed!"

"What has happened, man?  Was it the lion?" I cried.  "Stop your
blithering and tell me; we may save the fellow yet!"

James Strong growled out some curse.

"Yes; go out into the dark and save him. You are a likely man to do
that, you coward!" he shrieked; "you who rob men of their defences and
leave them at the mercy of brute beasts. This is as clear a case of
murder as need be, and you shall hang for it yet!"

Sick at heart, but not any longer with fear, I seized a burning brand,
and, shouting for Jack, rushed away into the bush in the direction which
I supposed the brute had taken.

But though I wandered alone for a while, and with Jack, who soon joined
me, for another longer while, we found no trace of either victim or
lion, and we were obliged to give up the search in despair.

And here I may say that his shriek as the lion sprang upon him was the
last that was ever heard of poor Charles Strong.  We picked up a piece
of cloth which had been a portion of his coat, but beyond this we never
found sign of the unfortunate fellow, whose fate sat like a midnight
horror upon our souls for many a day.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                    *A GLIMPSE OF THE WINNING-POST*


There was no digging done the next morning, for both we and the rival
camp spent all our time wandering about in the forlorn hope of finding
poor Strong—wounded, but perhaps still alive—left by the lion, who, we
hoped but scarcely believed, might have been terrified by our shouts and
by the shots we fired for the purpose of frightening the brute, and have
dropped his victim and departed.

James Strong, though frequently within speaking distance of us, neither
spoke to us nor looked at us, excepting now and again to scowl fiercely
as his way, in the searching, crossed ours.  But Clutterbuck spoke to me
several times and to Jack also, entreating us, for the love of Heaven,
either to provide him with firearms, or to take him at nighttime under
our protection.  If he had to pass another night unarmed, he said, after
this, he should certainly go mad.

We promised, however, to protect the unfortunate fellow, and this
soothed him wonderfully.

That night both James Strong and Clutterbuck were encamped close to our
fire, between their own and ours, the two fires being built up within
ten yards of one another.  Strong was too proud to ask for protection as
Clutterbuck had, but anyone could see that he was glad and greatly
relieved when we came and made our camp near theirs.  I was sorry for
the fellow, rogue though he was, and thought that it was certainly the
least we could do to take him under our wing, since we had deprived him
of the means of protecting himself.

As for his brother’s death, I do not take any share of responsibility
for that misfortune.  For, as we learned afterwards from Clutterbuck
himself, in all probability no shot would have been fired even if the
three men had still been in possession of their rifles.

According to Clutterbuck’s narrative, the thing happened something like
this: He, Clutterbuck, had been deputed to watch for the first three
hours of the night, the two Strongs sleeping meanwhile. But Clutterbuck
himself fell asleep, and allowed the fire to languish and almost die
out, when of a sudden the roaring of the lion awoke not only him but the
Strongs also.  Then all three men rushed about, getting brushwood and
sticks to make a blaze that would keep the lion at a distance; but while
poor Charles Strong was ten yards away in the bush there was a sudden
roar and a scuffle, and a shriek for help from him, and that was all
that either Clutterbuck or James Strong knew of the matter.  Neither of
them had seen the lion.

All this Clutterbuck himself told me as we lay awake together on the
first night after the mishap, during my watch.  The poor fellow,
naturally a timid creature, was far too frightened to sleep, and was, I
think, grateful for being allowed to talk.

The lion did not come near us, neither did he treat us, even at a
distance, to any of those terrible roars which I had found so unmanning.
Clutterbuck was even more communicative to Jack when his watch came
round; he told Jack many interesting things, and among others this—which
I suspect the artful Henderson gradually wormed out of him—that he found
himself a companion and partner of the Strongs, whom he disliked, by the
stress of circumstances rather than of deliberate choice.

Our suspicions as to the affair near Las Palmas were well founded, said
Clutterbuck; for it was the simple truth that the Strongs and he himself
set out that day with the deliberate purpose of murdering us.  It was
James Strong’s idea, he declared, and his brother had accepted it
readily.  He, Clutterbuck, had pretended to do so, but in reality had
had no intention of hurting us.

"No, no, Clutterbuck, that won’t do!" said Jack at this point of the
narrative; "for we counted the shots fired, and there was at least one
volley of six shots!  You fired with the rest, man; I am not so easily
taken in!"

"That’s true enough," said Clutterbuck; "but did I hit you?"

"No, that you certainly did not," replied Jack; "but then you are a very
poor shot, my friend!"

"I fired wide on purpose, I’ll swear to it!" said Clutterbuck.

After this, Jack inquired about the crocodile, and found that here, too,
the Strongs had cherished amiable intentions with regard to us.  They
saw the brute right enough, and that was why they left us to ford the
river and themselves stayed behind.

"You ought to have warned us somehow," said Jack.

"I dared not," said the other.  "James is an awful fellow, and his
brother is nearly as bad—was, I mean—poor chap!"

As for the spiking of my revolver and the changing of the map,
Clutterbuck knew nothing of either.  It was done in the state-room, and
he was not there to see.

"You would probably have been shot as you forded the river," he
continued, "if you hadn’t rather frightened the Strongs by what you said
a moment before—that you were a crack shot, and would have no mercy if
they missed you."

"So you see, Peter," concluded Jack, telling me all this afterwards, "it
pays to blow your own trumpet sometimes.  They wouldn’t have hit us,
probably, but then we should have been obliged to make three bull’s-eyes
of _them_, and that would have been unpleasant too!"

But all this while the treasure still lay hid in the bosom of the veldt.
Charles Strong’s death was very terrible, but I must dig, dig.  Regrets
and sentiment are mere waste of time with one hundred thousand pounds
waiting to be dug out of the earth!

Whatever measure of grief James Strong may have felt for his unfortunate
brother, his sorrow did not prevent him betaking himself very seriously
to his digging work as soon as day dawned on the second morning after
the mishap.  He went about his business in grim silence, vouchsafing us,
as before, neither word nor look.

Neither were we dilatory.  I went back to my digging with back and
shoulders still stiff from the labours of the first day, while Jack
expressed his intention to search about for the fourth post.

"Either there’s some trick about the position of that post," he said,
"or it has got moved away by an accident; some elephant or other big
brute has used it for a scratching-post, or knocked it down and perhaps
rolled it away; in any case, we ought to know where it was."

I still thought that in all probability the fourth post had simply
completed the square suggested by the other three, and that it had been
in some way removed from its place—perhaps by an elephant, as Jack said,
or more likely by a gust of wind.  I did not consider the question at
all important.

As it proved, Jack was right.  He found the fourth post twenty yards at
least out of the square, and planted right in the middle of a
prickly-pear bush.  But though I extended my operations to the new
ground introduced by the change of area, and though the two other men
and I together dug it superficially over, so that the entire space
between the four posts had now been dug up—to a certain depth—the result
of the day’s work was "nothing to nobody," as Jack facetiously expressed
it. Indeed, I, for one, began to wonder whether we had embarked upon a
wild-goose chase, and whether the hundred thousand pounds ever existed
save in the imagination of old Clutterbuck; and again, whether,
supposing the money to have actually existed, the old miser had not
purposely so hidden his treasure that no other human eye should ever
behold it, since he himself could no longer gloat over it.  But when I
communicated these views to Jack Henderson, he said—

"Bosh! man; don’t be a fool.  Dig for all you’re worth!"

If real hard work could have insured success, it would have been a
difficult matter to judge between James Strong and myself as to who
should bear away the prize.  Clutterbuck laboured away too, after his
kind; but he was of a different kidney from ours, and I think I turned
up more soil in an hour than he did in half a day.

For the best part of a week we vied thus with one another, toiling
day-long in the sweat of our brows and meeting with no success.

On the evening of the sixth day Jack said to me, as we walked together
towards our camp fire—

"Do you believe in second sight and that kind of thing, Peter?"

"No," I said, "I don’t.  Why?"

"Because I have a kind of idea that I know where the treasure may be,"
said Jack unexpectedly.

I laughed.

"I too am beginning to have a pretty firm conviction as to where it is,"
I said.

"Tell me where _you_ think first," continued my friend; "and then I’ll
tell you my idea."

"Nowhere," said I; "at least, nowhere that you or I, or anyone else,
will ever know of."

"Well, now listen to my idea; you can act upon it or not, as you like.
Have you thought of removing the posts and looking into the holes?"

"No, I haven’t," I said; "but I’ll do it."

"Do it when the others are asleep to-night," Jack rejoined.

"Why, what’s the hurry?" I asked.  "Must I grope about in the dark, and
all among the hyenas and lions?  Hang it all, let me wait till morning!"

"The thing is, it’s a new idea; and if Strong sees you removing one
post, he’ll remove another, and Clutterbuck a third, and you split your
chances. _They_ may look under the right post while you are busy
unearthing the wrong one!"

"You seem to be very cocksure of your posts, old chap!" I said,
laughing.

Jack’s answer astonished me.

"Do as I tell you," he said; "and begin with the erratic post in the
thorn bush.  I have a very strong idea about that post."

"Why—have you seen anything?" I gasped. Jack’s manner impressed and
excited me.

"It’s like this," he said; "and, of course, my idea may be worth
nothing.  The post is not very tightly fixed in the ground, and to-day I
shook it about and up and down.  Well, it seems to rest upon something
hard and smooth, that’s all.  I left it for you to pull up."



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                               *EUREKA!*


Jack’s communication rendered me frantic with excitement, and I
instantly determined that I would do as he had suggested.  The idea of
wandering about the bush at night, alone, was not pleasant; but if the
treasure were really at the foot of Jack’s post, why, it would be worth
running the gauntlet of a score of lions to get it. Besides, I could
take a torch.  Of course, the hard and smooth surface the post rested
upon might prove to be a stone and no more; still, I would go and see
for myself.

Jack and I divided the watching every night. We could not, of course,
trust either of the others to undertake the duty.  Such a step would
have been suicidal indeed on our part; for James Strong, at anyrate, and
possibly Clutterbuck also, would have taken so good an opportunity to
rid himself of a rival and of a rival’s inconvenient friend at a swoop.
Hence both men were allowed to sleep, if they would, all and every
night.

This evening we supped well upon an antelope shot by Jack in the bush
while we laboured in our treasure-field, and by the time darkness was
well set in, James Strong and Clutterbuck were already in full snore.
Then, moving cautiously, I took rifle, spade, and torch, and sallied
forth, not without some trepidation, upon my enterprise.

Whether owing to the occasional shots fired by us in this place in the
pursuit of game, or whether by reason of their natural dislike for
abiding in the continued proximity of mankind, we had not been bothered
during the last few days by the presence of many hyenas or other
creatures of the kind about our camp.  A few days ago, if I had
undertaken the gruesome night enterprise upon which I had now embarked,
I should have been startled almost at every step by some suddenly
rushing or creeping brute; but to-night I was left to pursue my journey
almost in peace.

I had no difficulty in groping my way to our treasure-area, which
resembled a ploughed field by this time, with all the digging and
re-digging it had suffered.  Nor was I long in discovering the post as
to which Jack had formed so strong and optimistic an opinion.

After all, it was not unlikely that our old miser should have planted a
post over the grave of his treasures, and I was somewhat surprised that
it had not occurred either to me or to the Strong faction to remove the
posts and look underneath them, since we had dug up the whole of the
area enclosed by them without result.  Doubtless it would have occurred
to us to do so after we had dug a little deeper in the space enclosed.

At all events, here was Jack’s post, and I laid hold of it and shook it,
and moved it up and down just as he had described that he had done
himself. Sure enough, the post struck hard and dead on some flat,
unyielding substance beneath.  My heart beat in a ridiculous fashion—was
I really on the brink of a discovery that would place me for ever out of
reach of poverty and of the necessity to embark in some lifelong,
uncongenial occupation? I felt so faint in the agitation of the moment
that I was obliged to pause and gather strength before I was
sufficiently master of my energies to lay hold of the post and pull it
up.

"Now, Godfrey," I said to myself, "don’t be a fool.  In moments of
difficulty preserve an equal mind; if you can’t do that, what was the
use of your learning Horace?  Pull yourself together and play the man!"

I seized the post and tugged at it.  It was stiff enough to resist
displacement, though it had wobbled about when shaken to and fro.  But
having once mastered my agitation, I was equal to any amount of
exertion; and by dint of working it backwards and forwards and up and
down for five minutes, and twisting it round in my embracing arms, I
succeeded at last in raising and removing it.  My torch had gone out
meanwhile, and I could see nothing, of course, in the dark hole which
had formed the socket of the post.

Kneeling over it, therefore, with palpitating heart, I plunged my hand
down.  My arm did not reach the bottom in this way, however, and I lay
down on my side and plunged it in a second time to the very armpit.
This time the ends of my fingers just touched the bottom of the hole,
and distinctly felt what seemed a cold, flat substance lying there, but
could not grasp and raise it.

I tried to keep cool and think how best to act under the agitating
circumstances.

Then I lay down again, after scraping away some of the sandy soil at the
edge of the hole, in order to gain a few inches in reach by getting my
shoulder lower; and this time I was able to distinguish, by the touch, a
small tin box, and to get my fingers under it.  In the joy of that
moment I could scarcely forbear to shout aloud.  Eureka! I had found the
treasure!  I was a rich man; the whole world was my own—to the full
extent of about ninety-eight thousand pounds odd.

Slowly and carefully I raised the little box to the surface; my grip
upon it was as tight as that of a drowning man to the hand that will
save him. Up it came, a small tin thing like a cheap money-box by the
feel; now I had it safely, and was standing shaking it, half dazed,
trying to realise what its discovery meant for me.  Oh for a light, that
I might open it and gloat without delay over its thrice-blessed
contents!

The next moment I was careering at full speed towards the camp fire to
tell Jack of the marvellous success of my night enterprise, and to open
with him the treasure-box that burned my hands as I carried it.  But
stay! what if James Strong were awake?  Could I postpone the joy of
raising the lid of that box until the morning, and the almost equal
delight of telling Jack all about it?  No, I felt I could not.  If I
might not open the box, and talk about it too, I should certainly "go
crazy."

As I approached the fire, however, I saw that both James Strong and
Clutterbuck were fast asleep, Jack watching.  He heard me coming, though
I crept softly for fear of awakening the sleepers, and long before he
could possibly have seen me he had his finger to his lip in token that
caution was required.  I concealed the box in the "hare-pocket" of my
Norfolk jacket, and stepped into the firelight.  I suppose that Jack
thought I was about to speak, for he said very softly, "Ssh!" and made a
warning gesture.

It was tantalising indeed.  Nevertheless, I sat down by the fire close
to Henderson, and for a few minutes neither of us spoke or whispered a
word. The only sign that passed between us was an interrogatory
uplifting of the eyebrows by Jack, which I took to mean, "Any success?"
and to which I responded with the very slyest possible closing of the
left eyelid, which I intended to signify "_Rather!_"

After about ten minutes of listening to James Strong’s measured snoring
and Clutterbuck’s groans, grunts, and snortings, Jack leant over and
whispered—

"Strong sat up and looked around while you were away.  He made as though
he did not notice your absence, but I have an idea that he knew all
about it.  We must be very careful indeed.  Have you really had any
luck?"

"The best possible," I whispered back.  "Can I show you something?"

"Wait a bit, old man!" said Jack, pressing my hand; "this is splendid!
I congratulate you; but for Heaven’s sake be careful!  I don’t trust
that fellow Strong’s sleeping; he may be wide awake, watching.  He’s as
cunning as they’re made."

"Let’s try him," I suggested.  "I’ll suddenly cough loudly, and you keep
a careful watch on his eyes; probably he’ll wince if he’s awake."

"Go on, then," said Jack.  I didn’t cough; I said "Hello!" very shortly
and sharply.  Strong gave a slight start, but then so did Clutterbuck,
and both went on sleeping.

"We’ll give them another ten minutes," whispered Jack, "and then risk
it."

At the expiration of that period I looked inquiringly at Jack, and he
nodded affirmatively.

Slowly and cautiously, and with my eyes fixed upon Strong’s face, I drew
the tin box from my deep pocket; I heard Jack’s breath come quick and
short as he caught sight of the prize.  It was, as I thought, a plain
tin money-box, painted black and gold, such as anyone may buy at any
ironmonger’s for a few shillings.  It was tied round with a wire, but
unlocked, and with trembling fingers I removed the wire and opened the
lid.

Within was a second tin box, a small thing like a sandwich-box, and this
too was unlocked.

I paused to take a look at the sleepers; both were still, apparently, as
fast asleep as ever.

"Go on!" whispered Jack; "it’s all right."

I put my hand inside the case and produced a leather pocket-book, and
from this I drew an envelope!

"Ah, a cheque!" whispered Jack; "and a fat one if it’s for the lot!"

There were several papers in the envelope. First a letter, which I put
aside to read later, because the rest were bank-notes, and I was anxious
to learn the amount of my inheritance.

Then came two terrible shocks, one after the other.

Shock number one.  There were twenty five pound notes.  No more, and no
less!



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                   *"ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD!"*


One hundred pounds!

A nice little sum in itself, but not one that would tempt a man to
imperil his life in as many ways as it contained notes!  Surely the old
man had not brought me all this distance to give me one hundred pounds
at the end of it?  The letter would prove to be an order upon his
bankers for the bulk of his fortune.  The hundred was intended to cover
my expenses home to England.

In so far as concerned the hundred pounds my surmise was correct enough.
But the letter was not a bank order.  It was a very original document,
and I purpose giving it _in extenso_.  Here it is:—


                        "THE PRIZE TO THE SWIFT.

                 "To my Heir: a message from the tomb.

"MY DEAR HEIR,—If ever you read these words it must happen after my
death, because I shall take care that no man handles my money until I am
in my grave.  That is why I call this a message from the tomb.  The dead
can gain nothing by lying; therefore I give you no other assurance that
what I have to say is the absolute truth.

"You have done well to come so far, whichever of my potential heirs you
may be.  My treasure is not here, neither are your journeys at an end.

"From South Africa to the Finnish Gulf is a considerable stretch, but
one hundred thousand pounds is a large sum; it is a sum that has
occasioned its owner more trouble to acquire than is involved in a
pleasant journey from Africa to Finland.  If it is worth your while to
undertake this journey, you will act as I shall presently direct you; if
not, you will leave my money to rest where it is, and where, assuredly,
neither you nor any relative of mine shall ever find it.

"If my treasure fall into hands for which it was not intended, may my
curse rest upon it for ever; and if none find it from this day until the
day of resurrection, I, William Clutterbuck, shall be just as happy.
Let him who is wise read the following instructions, and obey them to
his profit:—

[Illustration: Old Clutterbuck’s Second Map]

"The island is about five miles in length. Steamers from Hull or London
to Cronstadt pass within half a mile of lighthouse.

"Special arrangements must be made with shipowners to land upon island.

"An open space will be found in the forest at about the spot indicated
by a cross.  Here are four posts, defining the area within which it is
necessary to dig.

"The Prize to the Swift.

"W. CLUTTERBUCK."


By the time I had read to the end of this precious document, my heart
was in the usual condition of hearts whose cherished "hope" has been
deferred.  The disappointment was almost more than I could bear; the
thing was so unexpected, and the pill so bitter.

If I had followed the impulse of the moment I should have torn that
hateful letter into a thousand pieces and danced upon it, then and
there, to the tune of all the worst names I could think of to revile its
author withal.  Yet, when I glanced at Jack to see how he took this
disappointment, I saw that he was shaking with suppressed laughter.

"I would give worlds to have known that old chap!" he whispered.  "It is
the finest notion for giving healthy occupation to a set of lazy nephews
that ever an uncle devised.  He was a grand old fellow, this, Peter!"

"What nonsense you talk!" I whispered.  "I believe the whole thing is a
hoax, from beginning to end.  The man was mad on all matters concerning
money.  He was determined no one should ever touch his treasure, since
he could not carry it away himself, and this is his dodge; he will trot
us backwards and forwards after the infernal stuff until we die or get
our throats cut, and the money will rest unfound in Timbuctoo, or
Jerusalem, or the Grand Canary!"

"I don’t think so," said Jack.  "I believe the old man was entirely sane
and entirely serious. Just think; if you had a lot of money to leave and
no one to leave it to (he didn’t know _you_, remember, when he wrote
this!), except a set of good-for-nothing scamps like these Strongs,
and"—

As Jack referred to Strong by name, I glanced up at the sleeping form of
that individual, whose very existence I had forgotten for the last few
minutes in the excitement of examining the money-box and its contents,
and to my horror I distinctly saw that his eyes were wide open, and that
he was both looking and listening with every faculty at high pressure.
He closed his eyes the instant he saw me look up, and was, apparently,
as fast asleep as ever.

I whispered my discovery to Jack, but that practical person was not in
the least discouraged.

"Much good may it do him!" he said.  "Take a copy of the map of the
island, though," he added, "and of the instructions."

And this I did, then and there.

It was, of course, useless after this to attempt to conceal our
discovery from James Strong and his companion.  We therefore determined
to take the bull by the horns—in other words, to inform them we had
found all there was to be found, and that, consequently, we intended to
depart, in order to return presently to England.

It fell to me to undertake the duty of making this communication to my
fellow-competitors.  I did not care for the job, but, desiring to get it
over, I plunged "into the middle of things" at breakfast, in the
morning.

"James Strong," I said, "I think I ought to inform you that I have found
what we all came to seek, and that it is all up with your chance and
Clutterbuck’s.  I should recommend you to return quietly to England, and
if you give me no further trouble I shall take no further steps about
the affair at Las Palmas."

"You’re a pretty cool hand, I will say," said Strong, forcing a laugh.
"And you won’t take steps about Las Palmas, won’t you?  You are too
generous to live, hang me if you aren’t!  And do you suppose I’m going
to keep quiet about my brother’s murder?"

"Take proceedings against the lion by all means," said Jack with a
laugh.  "What a fool you are, James Strong!  Why can’t you talk sense
among grown men?  We are not schoolboys, my friend; you can’t frighten
us that way.  Now, what do you want for your spoilt guns—the three of
them?"

"Curse you and your money!" said Strong; "we shall see what I want for
my spoilt guns when we get back to England."

"Very well," said Jack; "then I shall settle with Mr. Clutterbuck."

We did settle with him, paying him one hundred pounds for the three
burned guns, to which Jack generously added another hundred pounds for
expenses, advising Clutterbuck to return to England at once, and to
have, in future, as little to do with Mr. James Strong as circumstances
permitted; and this advice Clutterbuck promised to take to heart.  I
certainly considered Henderson’s settlement in the matter of guns and
expenses an extremely generous one.

Then those two rode away from the field, leaving me the conqueror.  My
victory was a barren one, as I feared; but still, I had found all there
was to find, and Jack had quite persuaded me by this time to follow up
my success, and to treat old Clutterbuck and his "message from the tomb"
with perfect seriousness—nay, I was determined that I would have that
hundred thousand pounds if I had to seek it in the ends of the earth,
and to dig up half a continent to find it!



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                                *LOST!*


As for Jack and me, since we had in our pockets the map of the spot in
which the treasure lay awaiting our pleasure to come and dig it up, and
since James Strong could not possibly know to what quarter of the world
we had been directed, or, indeed, any part of the purport of the miser’s
eccentric letter, we determined to enjoy a week or two of real sport
before returning to civilisation and the digging of treasures in high
latitudes.

We had given Strong no weapons, since we could not trust him; but to
Clutterbuck, who was nervous of travelling unarmed, we presented my old
revolver, choked as it was with lead, together with a handful of
cartridges, Clutterbuck vowing by all his gods never to give the weapon
to Strong, or even to let that untrustworthy person know that he had it.

After he had made us this solemn promise, I revealed to Clutterbuck a
plan I had thought of for clearing the barrel.  It was simple enough.
All he would have to do would be to heat the jammed portion of the
barrel in the fire, when the lead would quickly melt and come out.

James Strong’s face was a study as he rode away with his companion, and
Jack made the remark that he would not for a good sum be in
Clutterbuck’s shoes and have to ride back all the way to Vryburg, if not
to Cape Town, with such a murderous-looking, scowling ruffian as James
Strong in his present temper.

"Oh, well," I said; "Clutterbuck’s the grey mare this time.  It’s he
that has the pistol, and therefore the last word."

"Yes, if he can keep it," said Jack sagaciously. "But I should be
surprised to hear that the poor chap reaches Cape Town in company with
his share of the two hundred pounds or the revolver either.  However,
that’s not our affair.  I hope we’ve seen the last of both of them for
many a long day, or for ever; and the latter for choice."

After this, for a space, we gave my co-heirs no further attention, but
devoted ourselves entirely to the delights of sport.

We first rode back to the village of Ngami in order to see whether our
ox-waggon and hunters had arrived, but did not find them waiting for us,
as we had hoped might be the case.  We therefore decided to employ the
hours or days of waiting in a little impromptu sport in the
neighbourhood.

We had no guide, and were without any very large stock of ammunition for
the light rifles which we had brought with us; therefore, we agreed, it
would be foolish to venture too far into the bush. It would be well too,
if possible, to keep our conical hill in sight as a landmark in our
guideless wanderings.

So away we rode into the jungle, with our rifles slung over our
shoulders, half a hundred cartridges apiece disposed about our persons,
a blanket each, plenty of matches, very little food of any kind,—for we
would shoot our dinner day by day,—and, lastly, with old Clutterbuck’s
absurd but invaluable "message from the tomb" buttoned up safely within
the inner pocket of my Norfolk jacket, and a copy thereof in Jack’s
secret waistcoat lining in case of accidents.

It was a somewhat unfortunate circumstance that we went astray at the
very outset.  A herd of beautiful elands crossed the open before our
very eyes, and we did the most natural thing for Englishmen of our age:
we tally-ho’d and galloped away in pursuit; and a fine chase those
elands led us, heading straight for the jungle a couple of miles farther
away.

Up to this point our conduct had been that of fairly sane men; but no
sooner did the big antelopes disappear, at a distance of some two
hundred yards in front of us, into the dense forest, than without a
thought we plunged in after them, gaining rapidly upon the hindermost,
at which we had fired three shots as we rode, and which—with rare bad
luck for the eland, for we were not accustomed to firing at full
gallop—we had wounded.

We rode madly into the thick cover, straining every nerve to overtake
our prey.  We could hear them crashing their way through the trees, very
close at hand, and this excited us to even greater exertion.

The result was a foregone conclusion.  When, a quarter of an hour later,
we succeeded in overtaking the wounded beast and administering the _coup
de grâce_, and had admired to the full the splendid proportions of the
beautiful dead animal at our feet, it struck us that we had perhaps done
a rash thing in venturing into this jungle.

"I wonder where we are?" one of us remarked laughingly.

"Do you remember the way out of this place?" asked Jack of me, looking
around him.

The tangled growths on every side were of such density that it was
impossible to see fifty yards in any direction.

"We must follow our tracks back, I suppose," I said.  "That won’t be
difficult, will it, as the elands crashed through the same way?"

Jack did not think it would be very difficult, neither did I.  Yet,
after we had ridden back for a few hundred yards we came to a place
where the right way might be any one of three ways; for either our herd
had dispersed at this spot, or other companies of deer or other wild
animals had passed, making several trampled tracks which our
inexperienced eyes could not distinguish from our own, and any one of
which might, as I say, be the right one.

"This is the way, I believe," said Jack, showing one trampled path.

But I was almost sure that the right course was not this, but another.
We argued; we laughed; we grew serious; we argued again; but all that we
said and adduced in support of our respective contentions only tended to
puzzle us both the more.  In the end we were no nearer a solution of the
difficulty, but rather, if possible, further away; for I believe it is a
fact that we were both so muddled by the arguments, and by the general
sameness of the look of the place in every direction, that we neither of
us knew at last which trampled path we had selected in the first
instance to swear by.  I daresay I changed over to Jack’s and he to
mine.

At all events, we eventually agreed to one thing, and that was that we
were most distinctly and decidedly lost.

We climbed a tall tree or two in the hope of thus seeing, over the heads
of the rest, our old friend the conical hill; but not a thing could we
detect near or far but the waving tops of other trees in apparently
endless lines of hopelessly innumerable and impenetrable leaf-screens.

We inspected every apology for a track until it branched off into two or
more other paths.  We rode for several hours, absolutely ignorant
whether we went deeper into the forest or towards the open out of which
we had entered it, until at last Jack pulled up, tied his horse to a
tree, and threw himself down on the ground, rolling from side to side in
a paroxysm of laughter, which I found very contagious and in which I
joined immediately.

Of course, there was nothing to laugh at that I knew of; on the
contrary, our position was somewhat serious.  Nevertheless, I laughed
simply because Jack did, until he suddenly looked up and pointed, and
then at last I saw the reason of his mirth.  Our dead eland lay about
fifteen paces from us.  We had ridden for four or five hours, and had
returned to the spot from which we had started!—at which discovery I
laughed again until I nearly cried.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

        *HOW WE BURIED OURSELVES ALIVE FOR THE LOVE OF SCIENCE*


"Talk of returning to one’s mutton!" said Jack; "here’s our venison!"

I confess I was uncommonly glad to see that eland; for since breakfast I
had scarcely tasted food, and the prospect of camping out for the night
upon a little tinned meat and a couple of biscuits had not presented
itself to my imagination in the brightest of colours.

Under the soothing influence of roast venison, however, and a
comfortable fire, our prospects for the night brightened very
considerably, our only source of anxiety for the present being the want
of a "long drink."  We had our brandy-flasks still nearly full, for we
were resolved to keep the spirits for medicinal purposes only; but as
the stuff was unmixed with water, we were unable to satisfy our thirst
by means of a pull from the flask.  We were lucky enough, however, to
come across a kei-apple tree which provided us with a kind of dessert;
not particularly luxurious certainly, but palatable enough to thirsty
souls with nothing to drink.

That night passed without adventure.  We heard wild animals in the
distance, but none came very near us, and if they had we were growing
accustomed to them by this time, and my spell of night-watching was
passed without serious attacks of "creeps" and "horrors," such as had
rendered my first night or two in the bush periods of mental torture to
me.

On the morrow we breakfasted upon more of our eland, and cut and cooked
sundry slices to take away with us.  Our Kaffir apples again served as
substitutes for "drinkables," but I think either Jack or I would have
given pretty nearly all we were worth for a cup of tea or a drink of
water.

"We must get out of this jungle to-day, Peter," said Jack, "and find
some water; kei-apples are not good enough."

I quite agreed.  We must get out of this jungle, if only for the sake of
having a long drink.

Our horses, which had filled themselves with the cactus-like growths
abounding at our feet—elephant’s-foot, or Hottentot bread, and other
delicacies of a like nature—were presumably as anxious to find water as
we were.  They carried us in whatsoever direction we urged them, but
went listlessly, as though by no means in love with our enterprise.

When we had wandered thus for a few hours, and were growing somewhat
depressed by reason of our continued failure to find a way out of the
jungle, I proposed to Jack to allow the horses to go where they liked.

"They can’t make a worse business of it than we have done," I added;
"and they may possibly be guided by instincts which we don’t possess."

"Good idea," said Jack; "we’ll try it."

The result was rather astonishing.

Those two sagacious creatures, feeling their bridles loose upon their
necks, and recognising that they were to be permitted to go where they
pleased, pricked up their ears and started off at a quick walk.

"I wonder if they really know where they are going, or whether this is
only a kind of ’swagger’?" said Jack.  It certainly seemed as though
they knew all about it.  Why should they not, after all, as well as any
other animal that is wild and has a vested interest in the forest?
Horses came originally from a wild stock, and doubtless possess the
inheritance of their species—namely, the instinctive power to find their
way unerringly from point to point as well through pathless jungle as
over the easy open.

At any rate, our good steeds had scarcely travelled an hour without our
interference when we saw to our delight that the forest grew thinner and
the light stronger, and a few minutes later we were actually in the
open, with the jungle behind us.  We could see our conical hill in the
distance, but on the other side of the belt of forest through which we
had so laboriously passed.  It was also clear to us that there existed a
way to Ngami, skirting the forest, which would obviate for us the
necessity to plunge again into those dangerous fastnesses; and this
discovery was a great relief to our feelings, for it would have been a
sore test, to my nerves at least, to re-enter those dark shades in order
to get into the road for home.

Meanwhile our horses walked briskly onwards, as though determined to see
through the matter which had been entrusted to their instinct; and
whether my readers believe it or not, it is nevertheless the fact that
they travelled as straight as the bee flies, never diverging by a yard
from their line, until presently they brought us up on the banks of a
wide stream, into whose cool current they promptly plunged their noses,
and we ours, in very abandonment to the luxurious delight of
thirst-quenching.

This little adventure, or misadventure, was a lesson to us, and a most
useful one, throughout our wanderings in search of big game during the
next month or more; and as at this time we passed through several
"’scapes" and incidents of an interesting if alarming kind I now purpose
to set down one or two of these for the benefit of those of my readers
who have a taste for adventure and wild beasts.  I do not mean to
describe in detail the whole of our month of jungle life, but merely to
pick out an incident or two as samples of the rest, for an average
volume would not contain the narrative of all we saw and did during
those momentous thirty days.

Jack and I slept that night by the river which the instinct of our
horses (as I suppose) had discovered for us; and, it being a warm
evening, we determined to do without a camp fire for once, and to
conceal ourselves by means of deep holes dug in the ground, in which we
would crouch with our heads and shoulders concealed in the scrub, or by
boughs lopped from tree and bush. We had heard of hunters adopting this
plan at spots by a river’s bank to which wild animals were in the habit
of coming down to drink at night, in order to obtain easy shots from
their ambush at the unsuspecting lion, leopard, antelope, elephant, or
what not, that came to slake its thirst at the stream.

So Jack and I dug holes, being provided with spades brought for quite a
different purpose, and lopped heaps of branches and scrub with our
hunting-knives; and when darkness fell we got into our graves, a yard or
two apart, within whispering distance, and piled branches and greenery
around the mouths of each pit so that we might put our heads and
shoulders out, if need be, and still not be seen; and then we waited for
developments.

The night was full of a holy calm, warm and still, and instinct with a
kind of sense of waiting for something to happen.  One felt that the
silence and peace were very delicious, but that this sort of thing could
not continue long, and must not, for it would grow intolerable after a
while.

Then, just as one began to weary of the strain of the stillness and
utter noiselessness, a leopard, or some such creature, came to the
rescue, far away, and roared half a dozen times on end.

I thought, and whispered my conviction to Jack in the next grave, that
this habit of roaring when about to go a-hunting was a very foolish
trait in leopards, tigers, and other beasts of prey. It amounted to
calling out, "Now, then, all you fat deer and juicy antelopes, you’d
better clear out or I’ll have you for supper!"

Jack said it reminded him of a master at school, who used to call out
"_Cave_, gentlemen, _cave_!" before going the round of the studies, and
was, in consequence, the favourite master in the school.

I was just beginning to propound my opinion as to which was the greater
and which the lesser fool, the master or the leopard, when suddenly a
sound as of a gust of wind broke in upon us, came nearer, disintegrated
itself into the noise of the scurrying of many feet, and in a moment we
were in the midst of a splendid squad of antelopes, plunging, bucking,
kicking, boring, leaping, grunting, squeaking,—all intent upon the
water, and each creature apparently in mortal fear lest its companions
should drain the supply before it had its share.

One or two of the beautiful little animals actually leaped over my head
as I ducked to avoid being kicked, and I put out my hand and patted
another which stood close by, to its unspeakable surprise and terror,
causing it to dive madly in among its fellows and raise a pandemonium in
the ranks, for which, I am sure, the rest could have discerned no
reason.  Probably my friend obtained the character of being a mad
antelope among his companions from that night forward.

All this—the confusion and the trampling of the mud at the water’s edge
and the drinking—lasted about five minutes; then, as though they had
suddenly realised that they were doing an exceedingly rash and foolish
thing, the whole family, as with one accord, turned right about and
galloped away into the darkness.  A moment—and they were here;
another—and they were gone thither whence they came, and where that was,
no man knows.

What had startled them?  The plunging of our horses, perhaps; for those
poor picketed beasts were, for some reason or other, very nervous, and
we could hear them stamping their hoofs and shaking their heads as
though anxious to break away.  A hyena or two were prowling about in the
neighbourhood, disagreeably noisy as usual, but the horses could
scarcely be nervous on their account.

Suddenly all is explained: the hasty "skedaddle" of the antelope herd;
the agitation of our horses; the sudden hush of all voices of the
forest. Somebody is arriving—a great and majestic and terrific
personage, at whose coming my coward heart goes with a jump into my
boots.  It is a lion—and a hungry one!



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                         *A NIGHT WITH A LION*


Without a sound, without a roar, without warning of any kind whatever,
the great creature is suddenly standing before us.  He was on his way to
the river, doubtless, and became aware, by means of his acute gift of
scent, that visitors were somewhere in the neighbourhood.

This is Leo Rex; and he is saying to himself, "Well, I may be mistaken,
but unless I were assured to the contrary I should be inclined to think
that there was a man about!  Yes, I am sure of it.  And—yes, upon my
life, horse too; is it horse, now, or bullock?  Certainly something
civilised—horse it is!  Well, now, this is really very surprising and
delightful!  You are in luck to-night, your majesty!  Let me see, shall
it be man first or horse, or a long drink?"

Then the king decides that he will first roar. That, he thinks, will
start the game.  At present he does not know _exactly_ where the man is;
after a good roar from him there will probably be a rustle and a bolt;
as when a terrier gives tongue at a thorn bush in order to set a-running
the rabbit that lurks therein.

So the great king set up a terrific roar, and the immediate effect
was—besides nearly deafening Jack and me, and frightening me half out of
my wits—to terrify our poor horses to such an extent that both broke
away at the same moment and fled. We heard the clatter of their hoofs as
they galloped away into the sanctuary of the darkness, and we could make
out also that the great beast standing so close to us raised his head to
listen.

I daresay he was blaming himself in the worst feline language for being
so foolish as to drive away good food in this way.  I do not know for
certain what he thought, for at this moment Jack took his turn at the
game of startling poor me, and, before I had any idea of his intention,
crashed off first one barrel and then the other, the two reports being
almost simultaneous.

I do not know how it was, but I had not thought of shooting; I do not
think my rifle was out of the pit.  It had been understood between us
that we were to observe, this night, not kill; the fact being, of
course, that we had not expected a lion to come down to the water, but
at most a herd or two of antelopes or zebras, or perhaps an eland.  I
was not prepared for action when Jack fired, and the succeeding events
somewhat took me aback.

It all happened in a single moment, however, so that my confusion did
not last more than a second or two at most.  It was like this: at Jack’s
shot the huge brute first gave forth the most awful roar that ever
assailed human ears, then in an instant it launched itself into the air,
alighting, as I saw to my horror, exactly upon the spot from which Jack
had fired.  Probably the smoke hung over the place and attracted it.

For an instant I gave up Jack for lost, and the sudden horror of the
catastrophe so paralysed me that I had neither thought nor power of
action. The next moment the idea came to me that I might at least
discharge my rifle into the brute’s body, and perhaps prevent it from
carrying poor dead Jack into the jungle and eating him there.

The lion was standing over Jack, roaring loud enough to be heard at the
Cape, and doubtless tearing the flesh from my friend’s bones; but it was
too dark to see anything.  I could distinguish an opaque mass standing
close at my elbow, and I knew this to be the lion; but it was impossible
to discern what he was doing.

I put my rifle to my shoulder, but could not see the sights; then I
stretched the weapon to arm’s length until I could feel the end of it
against the brute’s ribs, and pulled the trigger—both triggers.

I thought that the great roar to which he had previously treated us had
been a fairly effective production, but a terrific noise, half roar,
half bellow, to which he now gave vent, put the first completely into
the shade.  At the same time the brute, so far as I could distinguish,
seemed to rise up on his hind legs, paw the air, and fall over
backwards.

I thought of dead Jack, and fury lent me courage; I reloaded both
barrels of my rifle, climbed out of my pit, and placing the muzzle once
more to the brute’s side—though he lay quite still and did not seem to
require a second dose—I fired both cartridges simultaneously.  At the
same moment a wonderful thing happened.

Out of the pit in which he had lain hid suddenly popped Jack’s head, and
Jack’s voice cheerily hailed me.

"Peter, old man!" it said, "I’m really awfully obliged to you!"  At the
words so fierce a flood of joy rushed up to my throat that all utterance
was choked and I could say nothing.  "You have saved a very precious
life," continued Jack.  "Do you know the brute was simply feeling for me
with his claws when you fired and stopped his game? Look here!"

It was not of much use to look, for the night was pitch dark; but I may
say that afterwards, by the firelight, I was somewhat shocked to observe
that Jack’s Norfolk jacket about the left shoulder was torn to shreds,
and that his arm was considerably scratched beneath it.  If the pit had
been an inch or two shallower, Jack’s arm would have been lacerated in a
fearful way; as it was, the brute only just touched him.

We found the lion was as dead as a post when we had fired some brushwood
and were able to examine him, which we did without loss of time, for it
was unpleasant to feel that the brute might possibly be still alive, and
gathering up his dying energies for a little _vendetta_, to be enacted
upon us so soon as one of us should come within grabbing distance of
that tremendous mouth of his!

I confess that I was very proud and happy over that dead lion.  It was
"my bird" undoubtedly; for though Jack was a crack shot and had fired
both barrels at it, at a distance of about ten paces, or not much more,
yet he had missed it clean.  He could not see the end of his rifle, he
explained, and had simply pointed the weapon according to the grace that
was in him, hoping for the best results. The results were a clean miss
and a big lion sitting, as he picturesquely put it, on the top of his
head and digging at his arm.  As a matter of fact, I believe this is
what happened: the lion, enraged by the shot, instantly sprang towards
the only visible thing that it could see, which was the white smoke of
Jack’s rifle.

It had alighted with its great carcass stretched over the pit, the hind
legs short of the aperture, head and shoulders beyond it, but one of its
front legs happened to fall just inside the hole; and it was in
struggling to regain its footing and draw its great arm out of the
mysterious hole into which it had fallen, that the brute spoiled Jack’s
coat and very nearly spoiled his arm and shoulder as well.

My shots came at the right moment, and the mystery which that lion must
have already felt to exist with regard to the banging and the hole in
the ground, and things in general, was, for that lion, never solved.  He
went away to the Happy Hunting Grounds with his last moments in this
world made mysterious by unguessable and incomprehensible riddles,
leaving me a very proud and elated young person.

Perhaps other lions who have been shot by a visible creature, and with
whom my first victim has by this time scraped acquaintance in those
shady retreats, have now explained it all for him, and have described
what an artful, tricky, fire-spitting, incomprehensible race are we
humans, who have about as much strength in our whole bodies as lions
have in one muscle of their forearms, but who can nevertheless spit fire
at a lion from the other end of nowhere, and burn him up in an instant
from out of sight.



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                   *OUR TRUSTY NIGGER TO THE RESCUE*


We did not attempt to skin that lion, for the best of reasons—because we
did not know how.

Simple Jack was very much inclined to try, because, said he, it could
not be very difficult.  He had heard that if one cut it straight down
the proper place one could pull the whole skin clean off over the
beast’s head, like a fellow having his football jersey pulled off after
a match.  But I did not encourage his enterprising spirit in this
matter, because I did not think Jack’s theory would "come off," or the
lion’s skin either.

We made up a splendid fire after this adventure, and passed the rest of
the night in comfort and self-laudation.  We could not expect to see
much more animal life out of our pit ambushes after all the banging and
talking in which we had indulged.

But we heard several hyenas—probably the pilots and squires of Lord Leo,
departed—which came around and said a great many things in derisive
tones, as it seemed to us; but whether they intended thereby to rejoice
over the downfall of a tyrant, or to abuse us for depriving them of
their patron and food-provider; or whether, again, they were addressing
their remarks to the lion himself, ignorant of his death, and assuring
him, wherever he might be, that he was wasting invaluable time, inasmuch
as two fat and juicy young men were ready and waiting for his kind
attention down by the river, I really cannot say, not knowing hyenese.

But this I know, that once, when Jack and I had both (oh, how
imprudently!) just dozed off for a few minutes of repose, I suddenly
awoke to the consciousness—like a person in a ghost story—that we were
"not alone."

Up I started, and up started Jack also, aroused by the same sound that
had awakened me.  What was it?—another lion?

Not only was it not another lion, but lion number one had disappeared.
We sat up and rubbed our eyes.  We stood up and looked carefully around,
and asked one another what in the name of all that was mysterious was
the meaning of it?

At the sound of our voices there was a scuffle behind the scrub close in
front of us, and a pattering of feet; growlings, moanings, yelpings
followed the scuffle: and we ran, rifle in hand, to solve the mystery.

There lay our lion, dragged from the spot in which he had died, and
there, under the lee of a prickly-pear bush, his friends the hyenas
would, in another minute or two, have torn him to pieces.

I did not know then that the hyenas would have eaten their lord and
patron.  It struck me that they had dragged away his carcass in order to
hide it, in honour, from his enemies, perhaps to bury it.  I mentioned
this to Jack, who laughed rudely.

"Bury it?" he said.  "Yes; in their stomachs."

I had conceived quite a wrong idea of the relations between the hyena
and the lion, it appeared.  The respect of the former for the latter, I
now know, though great during life, vanishes with the breath of his
nostrils.  The hyena flatters and adores the lion while he can roar and
kill food for him; but when the lion dies the hyena instantly eats him
if he can get hold of the royal carcass.

The morning after our exploit with the lion, which had first so nearly
eaten Jack and afterwards been itself so nearly devoured by hyenas, we
left our quarry to take care of itself, for this was the only course
open to us, and went on foot towards Ngami, leaving it on the ground at
the mercy of vultures or hyenas, or anything else that should smell it
out and descend upon it.  We went on foot, because our horses had broken
away and departed, as we feared "for good," whither we knew not.

But to our great joy and surprise, when we reached a grassy glade near
the village (having walked about ten miles from the spot in which we had
passed the night), we suddenly came upon them feeding quietly, with
their torn halters dangling on the ground, neither surprised nor
disconcerted to see us.

They allowed themselves, moreover, to be caught by us, which was really
exceedingly obliging of them, for there they were with the whole of
Africa to run about in if they pleased, and no one to prevent them; and
yet they submitted tamely to be placed once more under the yoke, and to
enter into bondage upon the old conditions!

At the village of Ngami we found our waggon, with its, to us, invaluable
accompaniment of native hunter and Kaffir driver, and its welcome load
of little luxuries such as bottled beer, and big luxuries such as
express rifles, with other delights.

The native hunter was a Somali, and knew a little English.  His name,
for those who liked it, was M’ngulu; but we felt that we could never do
justice to such a name as that without a special education, and called
him "M" for short.  He had convoyed other bands of young English
sportsmen, and knew enough English words to convey his meaning when he
wanted anything, such as tobacco, which he called "to-bac," or whiskey,
which he called "skey," but which, since we soon found that he was
better without it, we never offered him.

I do not think our Kaffir driver had a name of his own; we called him
"Nig," or, sometimes "Hi!" and he was equally pleased with either, being
an extremely good-natured person.

M’ngulu, or M, took to us at once.  I think it was on account of the
lion of the previous night, to whose remains we very quickly introduced
him.  I had made sure that the hyenas would have picked its bones by the
time we reached the spot, but, to my joy, there the brute lay,
untouched.  As we neared the place, however, three huge vultures rose
from a tree close by and flapped lazily away to another a few yards
farther down the bank, which showed that we were only just in time to
save our property.

It was a treat to see M skin that lion, or any other animal.  There was
no mystery about the proceeding when _he_ had a hand in it.  Off came
the skin as easily as if the fellow were divesting himself of his
waistcoat, which, by the bye, is a garment that he did not actually
wear.  When I come to think of it, I am afraid I should be puzzled to
tell you what M _did_ wear.  I do not think it can have been much, or I
should have remembered it.

When M saw that we had really killed a lion, and without his assistance,
he evidently felt that he was in for a good thing.  He had cast in his
lot with a couple of great sportsmen, and that was enough to make him
very happy.

Those who had recommended M’ngulu to us informed us that he knew
Bechuanaland as well as most men know their own back gardens.  You might
set him, they said, anywhere within a hundred or two miles of Vryburg,
blindfold; then remove the handkerchief and ask him where he was, and he
would tell you.  I do not know that this was an exaggeration.  I am
certain that we, at all events, never succeeded in finding a place which
he did not know, or pretend to.

M now desired to be informed where we wanted to go to, and in pursuit of
what game?

"Oh, elephant," said Jack.  "Let’s have a turn after the elephants
first, Peter; don’t you think so?"

I did, and remarked forthwith to M’ngulu, interrogatively, "Elephants?"

"Oh, elfunts," said M.  "M’ngulu know—not here—come."

And M’ngulu took a turn to the north-east and went away with us after
those elephants, up through the continent of Africa, as though he knew
every clump of trees from sea to sea, and all that dwelt therein.

Wherever the elephant country may have been, we occupied a week in
getting there; a week, however, which was not wasted, but which was full
of adventure and delight; of days spent in stalking or tracking, and of
nights luxuriously passed within the waggon under the comfortable
knowledge that M’ngulu lay asleep without by the fireside with one eye
open, and that if a lion or any other large beast were to move a whisker
within a mile or so, M would know the reason why.

And at length one day, as we passed by a dense copse of trees whose
appearance was unfamiliar to us, M remarked, "This right tree; elfunt
like him not far now!" from which we inferred that we had passed into a
district which produced the food beloved by the big creatures we had
come to find.

Soon after this we made a camp, by M’ngulu’s directions, and left the
waggon under the care of the Nig, to whom we presented a rifle for use
in case of accidents, and departed, all three of us, on horseback into
the jungle.

Jack said that it was to be hoped no one would alarm Nig and cause him
to wish to fire that rifle; for that would be a fatal moment for poor
Nig, who knew no more about firearms than he did about the rule of
three.  Nig spoke English fairly well, and we asked him at parting what
he would do if attacked by a lion?  Whereupon the Kaffir seized his
rifle (which was loaded), and waved it wildly about his head (with
accompaniment of bad language and war dance), in a fashion that caused
us to ride away in great haste over the veldt, and not to draw rein
until we were well out of range of his weapon. It was on the second day
after leaving camp that we saw our first elephant, and made our
acquaintance for the first time with an animal actually and undoubtedly
"possessed," and a pretty lively introduction it was for us!



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                           *THE BAD ELEPHANT*


We were riding slowly, in Indian file, through a rather dense belt of
forest, M leading, when that worthy suddenly drew up and slowly turned
his head round to shoot a warning glance at us.  When he did this old M
always looked so exactly like a setter drawing up to a point, that it
was all Jack and I could do to avoid laughing aloud.

At this particular moment, laughter or anything else of a noisy
description would have been a grave mistake, for M was very much in
earnest.  He beckoned us up to him, and pointed to a tree which had been
almost stripped of its leaves and smaller twigs, and said, "Elfunt—bad
elfunt!"

"Why _bad_?" whispered Jack to me; "and how does he know whether it is
bad or good?"

To this I could give no reply, for I could not imagine wherein consisted
the goodness or the badness of an elephant.  There did not appear to me
to be anything peculiarly wicked in an animal helping itself to its
natural and favourite food without M’ngulu’s leave; and I confess that
up to this point my sympathies were in favour of the elephant and
against his traducer, M; but I was to learn presently that this elephant
was a very bad animal indeed—a really wicked creature without one
redeeming feature about his character.

It seems that the acute M’ngulu formed his opinion as to the elephant
upon whose traces he had suddenly chanced by the manner in which he had
eaten his breakfast.  He had not only stripped the tree, but had
savagely pulled it about and broken its branches, scattering bits far
and wide, and from this fact M promptly concluded that he was a bad or
"rogue" elephant—namely, one who by reason of his evil temper has found
it impossible to remain with the herd to which he belongs, and has
therefore separated himself or been forcibly separated from his fellows,
and has departed to vent his fury, in future, upon trees, or strangers,
or anything that is encountered.

"You know," said Jack, when we discussed this question together
afterwards, "it’s a capital idea! Why don’t we fellows of the human
persuasion adopt the plan?  Fancy, if one could always banish sulky
chaps, at school or anywhere, and send them away to rage about the place
until they recovered their senses and returned mild and reasonable!"

I said that I scarcely thought the plan would work in polite society,
because, though the community to which he belonged would no doubt be
excellently well rid of the rampageous one, the rest of the world would
probably object to his being at large, and would likely enough return
him to the fold in several pieces.

M’ngulu followed up that elephant, by some mysterious process of his
own, for two hours, at the end of which period we had drawn so close to
the quarry that we could distinctly hear him somewhere in front of us,
still breakfasting, apparently in his own distinctively "roguish" way,
for there was a sound of continual rending and tearing of branches, and
the ground here and there was littered with wasted food which, Jack
whispered, might have been given to the elephantine poor instead of
being chucked about in this ruthless way!

A minute or two more, and M’ngulu stopped, sitting motionless upon his
horse, finger to lip. Wondering and excited, we followed his example,
sitting like two statues.

Presumably M’ngulu had caught sight of the elephant, but I could see
nothing of the brute; neither could Jack, it appeared, for he craned his
neck to this side and that, and looked excited but vacant.  The rending
noise had ceased.  Doubtless the "rogue" was becoming suspicious;
perhaps he had heard us, or seen us, or scented us.

"That’s the worst of having a Somali hunter," whispered Jack; "one _can_
smell them quite a long way off!  Any fool of an elephant ought to"—

But Jack’s frivolity was suddenly broken off at this moment by a loud
ejaculation from M’ngulu, who turned swiftly about at the same instant
and whipped up his horse, shouting out something to us in his native
lingo, which we took for instructions to follow his example.

Off we scudded, all three of us, separating as we went; and as we turned
and fled I heard a sound which was somewhat terrifying to the
inexperienced—a shrieking, trumpeting noise, accompanied by the crashing
of trees and shuffling of great limbs; and I knew, without being told,
that the "bad" elephant had taken this hunt into his own hands.

In spite of all the noise and circumstance affording unmistakable
evidence that our friend the "rogue" was really close at hand, I had not
caught sight of him up to this time, and it was only when M’ngulu had
galloped away in one direction and Jack and I (rather close together) in
another, and when the elephant had very wisely selected M to pursue,
that we two got our first glimpse of him.

He was a huge fellow, and he looked very much in earnest as, with his
big, sail-like ears stretched to their full width on either side of his
head, his trunk uplifted and his tail cocked, he went crashing after our
nimble nigger, trumpeting and squealing like a steam-engine gone mad.  I
felt some anxiety on M’ngulu’s account as pursuer and pursued
disappeared in the dense depths of the jungle through which we had come.

M was by far the worst mounted of the three of us, and was armed only
with one of our small rifles, a bullet from which might stop an elephant
once in a thousand shots, and, certainly, would do nothing of the sort
the other nine hundred and ninety-nine times.  It would appear that the
angry brute had appreciated these facts in choosing M’ngulu to vent his
fury upon instead of one of us, for we were armed with our express
rifles, bought by Jack with a view to this very work, and we were
besides, much better mounted than our good nigger.

But we need not have feared for M’ngulu. That acute person knew very
well indeed what he was about; and as Jack and I still sat wondering
whether we ought to follow in his tracks, or whether M would have the
gumption to bring the elephant round so as to pass within easy shot of
us, we became aware that M’ngulu had proved himself to possess the
required quality, and was, indeed, at this moment approaching with the
elephant at his horse’s heels.

The first indication of this was a violent trembling and quaking on the
part of my horse as the crashing and trumpeting began to tend in our
direction instead of away.  Jack’s horse, on the contrary, showed signs
of a desire to bolt; and it was with difficulty that he restrained it
until, just as the hunt came in sight, the brute gave itself up to
complete terror, and, refusing all persuasion, twisted round and
galloped madly away in the opposite direction.

Mine showed a less frantic disposition.  Though it quaked and shook like
a man in an ague fit, it stood its ground and allowed me to bring my
heavy rifle to bear upon the furious brute as it came by.

Away darted M’ngulu’s terrified horse, making better pace than ever it
had made before this day, straining every nerve to keep ahead of the mad
brute behind it.  Even old M looked a little nervous, I thought,
glancing back over his shoulder at the pursuing "rogue," and shouting
something to me as he flew by.  I did not catch what he said.  The
elephant was distinctly closer to his horse’s heels now, than when, a
few minutes ago, they had disappeared in the jungle, and it certainly
seemed to me that it gained at every stride; no wonder poor M looked
nervous.  A considerable responsibility attached to my shot, I felt; for
if I could not stop the brute he would undoubtedly have M or his horse
in another minute unless they contrived to dodge him.

I could still hear Jack’s horse crashing away in the distance, and
Jack’s voice remonstrating with it very loudly and heartily; there was
no help to be expected from him in this crisis.

All this takes so long to describe, while the thoughts themselves passed
like lightning through the brain.

I brought my rifle to bear upon the brute as well as I could for the
trembling of my horse, and pulled the trigger just as it passed within
thirty yards of me, aiming for its heart, which I hoped and believed was
to be found just outside the top of the shoulder.  I pulled both
triggers at once, feeling that this was a crisis, and that I should not
get another chance of putting two heavy balls in at a favourable
distance and in a vulnerable spot.

The immediate effect of my shot was twofold. In the first place, the
recoil of the rifle from the double discharge was so great and
unexpected as to cause me to lose my balance and fall backwards clean
out of the saddle.  That was the effect as it concerned myself.  As for
the elephant, it stopped short in its career, falling forward upon its
knees, and smashing both of its fine tusks with the concussion.

For a moment I fancied that I had killed it outright at a shot; but the
next I discovered that this was far from being the case, for in an
instant the great beast struggled to its feet and looked about it with
the nastiest expression in its eyes that ever disfigured the optics of
man or brute.  Blood streamed down its side, but not from the shoulder
or near it; I had missed my mark by a good foot, and wounded it in the
ribs—badly no doubt, but not in such a manner as to render it
immediately harmless.

I had fallen off my horse, as I explained, and was at this moment behind
it, with one foot in the stirrup, about to remount, watching the
elephant over the top of the saddle, uncertain whether it would be wiser
to trust to my horse’s legs or my own; and whether, indeed, there would
be time to mount and get under way before the brute discovered us and
charged.

The elephant did not allow much opportunity for reflection.  He turned
his head in our direction as soon as he was upon his feet, and of course
saw my terrified horse.

Up went his trunk, out went his great ears, forth bellowed his scream of
rage.  Silenced as he had been, for a moment or two, by the sudden shock
of his wound and his fall, he was doubly furious and vindictive now by
reason of the pain he had been caused, and in less time than is occupied
by the pious British man who calls at need upon his patron saint, Jack
Robinson, the great animal was in full descent upon my horse.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                        *I AM MOURNED FOR DEAD*


My steed was doomed; that was clear enough, for it still stood, helpless
and terrified, rooted to the spot and quaking with abject, nerveless
fear.  Apparently terror had completely bereft it of the power to move,
for from the moment (only half a minute ago, in spite of all this talk
and telling!) when it caught sight of the "rogue" in full pursuit of
M’ngulu until now, it had stood with forefeet apart, ears cocked
forward, eyes and nostrils dilated, trembling and snorting, and
insensible to direction from the saddle.

As for me, seeing that my horse was doomed, and that if I had still been
mounted I should probably have shared its fate, I thanked Heaven for my
escape and sprang back into the bush without further ado, leaving the
poor brute to its evil destiny.  Safe behind a dense, thorny bush I was
free to reload my rifle and watch, if I desired it, the elephant’s
behaviour with regard to his victim.

This was not a very pleasant sight, and the idea of what would have
become of me had I remained in the saddle, trying to get the horse to
move, until too late, made me quite faint.  It is enough to say that
when the "rogue" had done with the poor beast there was not an unbroken
bone in its body; for he had knelt upon it, danced upon it with his huge
feet, gored it with the stumps of his tusks, thrown it hither and
thither, and torn it to bits with his trunk, and, in a word, vented upon
it an abandonment of fury which was absolutely terrific to behold.

So quickly did he perform his work, in the madness of his rage, that I,
who was obliged to set to work cautiously and with little movement for
fear of attracting his attention, had not finished loading my rifle when
the second act of the tragedy began.

It was M’ngulu who reappeared next upon the boards.  He came galloping
up, wailing and weeping at full voice, under the impression, I suppose,
that I had fallen a victim as well as my horse; and as he dashed past
the elephant’s nose, he first spat at it and cursed it, and then fired
off his rifle in a very "promiscuous" manner, one handed.  This, though
it did not injure the elephant, served to enrage him yet further; and
involved M’ngulu in a second race for life.

Of this race and of its upshot I was not a witness, for our good nigger
and the raging "rogue" at his heels passed immediately out of my sight,
and it was only when I heard in the distance first one shot and then two
more that I knew where to look for the hunt.  Having now reloaded my
rifle, I felt justified in rejoining the chase on foot; and careered
away at my best pace in the direction of the shooting.  I presently
encountered both Jack and the nigger galloping back to meet me so
rapidly that I thought at first they were pursued, and hid myself behind
a tree in order to save my own skin and perhaps get a telling shot as
the brute passed me.  But there was no elephant, and M’ngulu was weeping
and wailing, and Jack’s face looked white and scared and haggard.

"Jack!" I shouted as the pair rode by.  "Hold on a bit!  Where’s the?"—

Jack pulled up in a instant, so did M, who ceased wailing on the spot,
and, jumping off his horse, commenced dancing around Jack and me in a
manner that made me suspect for a moment that the madness of the
elephant had infected him.

"Good Heavens, man!" cried Jack, "I thought you were done for.  This
fool of a nigger has been telling me you were dead—’White man Peter
dead—kill,’ he has been saying, and crying and wailing fit to raise the
dead."

"I wish he could raise my dead horse," I said; and I described to Jack
my own escape.

"Great scissors!" cried Jack.  And for some little time such foolish and
unmeaning expressions as "Cæsar!" "Snakes alive!" "Scissors!" and so on
were the only remarks I could get my friend to make.

"I don’t know which was the bigger fool," he said at last, "your horse
that wouldn’t go or mine that wouldn’t stay.  This fool of a beast of
mine took me half a mile away before he would consent to return, and I
only got a look in at the hunt _then_ thanks to old M here, who kindly
brought the elephant to me as I was not allowed to go to the elephant."

"Still," I said, "I think your horse was less of a fool than mine under
the circumstances.  It’s no fault of my poor brute that I was not made
jam of by that raging beast.  By the bye, I suppose you killed it
between you, as you are here and the elephant is not?"

"He’s dead," said Jack.  "You made two good holes in him, but in the
wrong place.  M’ngulu brought him by me, and I put in a lovely
bull’s-eye in the forehead.  He went down like a sheep, but struggled
upon his knees again.  Then I put in a second near the same spot, and M
fired off his piece and nearly knocked my cap off—he never went near the
elephant.  He is a free cannonader, is M; I don’t think we’ll give him
rifles to hold in future, Peter—at least, not loaded ones."

We were now at the scene of the bad elephant’s demise, and Jack showed
me where he had stood, and where M’ngulu, and how it had all happened.
M’s bullet had really passed very close to Jack’s head, it appeared, for
the tree trunk was splintered by it a foot or two above the spot where
Jack had been standing.

There lay the "bad ’un," terrible even in death; a big, vicious, mangy,
bony, ungainly elephant as ever went mad and was expelled by a
respectable herd.  His tusks had been good, but they were spoiled by his
first fall, and though we collected the pieces, and M deftly dug out the
roots, they were useless as specimens.  We made them over to M, however,
who sold them, I daresay, for a good price.

After this we shot two or three other elephants before returning
southwards; but in each case it being we who hunted them and not they
us, as in the instance of the "bad ’un," the record of our achievements
would be uninteresting in comparison, and I shall leave the tale of them
to the imagination of my readers, who know well enough how the thing is
done, and resume the thread of our history proper, which must be pursued
without further digressions; and those who have skipped the hunting
adventures may now read on in the certainty that the Treasure business
will in future be strictly "attended to," and that they will not be
called upon to skip again, unless, indeed, it be from pure excitement in
the incidents of the legitimate story of the hidden money.

Had we known it, we were on the brink, even now, of a very terrible
incident indeed.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                           *A RUDE AWAKENING*


Our hunting trip over, Jack and I left M’ngulu, our Somali hunter, and
the nigger driver in charge of the ox-waggon, which was to follow us at
leisure to Vryburg.  On their arrival we purposed to sell oxen and
horses and waggon, pay off our men, and depart by train for Cape Town,
thence to England, and thence again to our new treasure island in the
Gulf of Finland.

As on our ride from Vryburg, we now took nothing with us excepting our
light rifles and ammunition, our one remaining revolver, brandy,
blankets, a small supply of tinned food, and two small kegs of water (of
which we had learned the necessity by the bitter experience of our two
days’ waterless wanderings in the jungle near Ngami).

It was but a hundred or so of miles to Vryburg, but we were determined
to enjoy the return ride thoroughly, and to keep ourselves in food by
the way through the medium of our rifles, though we did not look to have
anything in the way of adventures, since our friends James Strong and
Clutterbuck were no longer by to afford us the excitement of a race to
the treasure ground, with its added interest of possible shots from
behind or from an ambush.

I cannot say that I was sorry to feel that Strong was well out of the
way, and probably half-way to England by now.  I do not like the
feeling, when travelling, that every tree may have an enemy behind it,
only waiting for an opportunity to put a bullet into you as you come
along.  I am a plain man, and like a quiet manner of travelling best—the
civilised kind, without the excitement of ambushes and cock-shots, and
so on.

We did not go far each day, for there was no hurry.  M’ngulu and the
nigger were going to spend a few days at Ngami, to rest the oxen, before
starting after us; but we ourselves would rather pass our time in the
veldt than at Vryburg. So we hunted antelopes, and shot all manner of
birds that looked queer but tasted excellent, and we camped out at
night, and enjoyed life amazingly, as any two young Britons would under
similar circumstances; for we had had a successful and delightful
hunting expedition, and we were on our way home to England with the
secret of the treasure safely buttoned up in our breast pockets; the
object of our journey had been attained; the present moment was full of
delight—what could any man desire more than this?

We were no longer afraid of lions at night. As a matter of fact, they
were rare enough so far south, and in all probability the one we had
shot at Ngami, before the waggon reached us, was the same animal which
had captured and devoured poor Strong, junior, that terrible night at
the treasure field.  There were plenty farther north, as we well knew.
But now we were thirty or forty miles south of Ngami, and on the
highroad to Vryburg, and there was not much danger of a night surprise
from any of our old friends.

Hence we were somewhat careless when on the watch over the camp fire.
Nominally we still took our sleep in turn and watched during the
interval; but as a matter of fact, the function of watching was honoured
by us in the breach more than in the observance, and it often happened
that we both slept soundly for hours together.  Thus when, on the fourth
night, a most unexpected and alarming surprise broke over us, like a
thunderclap from a clear sky, we found that we had been living in a
fool’s paradise.

For once, old Jack—generally so much more to be depended upon than I,
being a more gifted person all round, and infinitely smarter and more
wide awake than your humble servant, the present scribe—old Jack, the
acute, was caught napping. It was his watch, and he ought, undoubtedly,
to have been awake—wide awake.  Instead of that he was asleep—fast
asleep—when, as he described the event afterwards, he was awakened by
being stirred in the ribs by someone’s foot.

Assuming that it was I who took this liberty with him, Jack lashed out
with his own foot, and hacked someone violently upon the shin, eliciting
an oath which, I am glad to say, Jack instantly realised could not have
proceeded from lips so refined as mine.

"Come, sit up!" said a strange and yet familiar voice, with added
expletives which I omit.  It may be taken as understood that in the
subsequent conversation there was an oath to every three words of one of
the speakers, for this was a person who, I may tell you, was quite
unable to speak the Queen’s English without a large admixture of strong
language: there are such people—more than are needed.

Jack opened his eyes with a start, and recognised James Strong.  Then he
twisted round and felt for his rifle, which lay at his side ready for
emergency; but he could not find it.

Strong, who held a revolver in his left hand, laughed aloud.

"No, no," he said; "I’ve seen to it; you taught me that trick, you know.
See there!"

Jack followed Strong’s eyes to the fire, and there he beheld the butts
of our two rifles blazing merrily among the twigs and logs.

"Burn nicely, don’t they?" said Strong.  "Now chuck that revolver of
yours in.  No, no! none of that, my lad; if you turn the muzzle anything
like in my direction I shoot.  I can get mine off long before yours is
pointed my way.  Drop it out of the pouch, anyhow it comes.  You needn’t
touch it.  Open the pouch and shake it out—so!"

Jack was obliged to obey, for Strong’s revolver covered him all the
time, and Strong was a man to shoot in a moment if it suited him.
Jack’s revolver fell at his feet.

"Kick it towards me!" said Strong, and Jack was obliged to do so.
Strong kicked it into the fire.

"Now then," he said, "that little matter being settled, hand me up the
letter you took from Clutterbuck’s tin box."

"I haven’t it," said Jack; "Godfrey has it."

"Turn out your pockets," said Strong.  "You took a copy; I saw you do
it.  Now, please, no shilly shally—out with everything."

Strong turned over with his foot the few articles which Jack produced
from the pocket of his Norfolk jacket.  The copy of our precious
document was not there.

"Take off that waistcoat," said Strong; "Or, stay, what do I care where
you have hidden the blessed thing?  Look here, I give you one minute to
produce it."

There was nothing to be done.  Poor Jack was obliged to reveal the
secret places of his waistcoat lining, and to bring out the required
document. What else could he do?  The man with the revolver is bound to
have the last word.  If I had been awake, instead of sleeping like a pig
by the fire, we might have had him; as it was, Jack was at his mercy.

"Now," said Strong, "go away into the bush; step out one hundred yards,
and stay there while I negotiate this snoring tomfool here!"

Jack, feeling, as he said afterwards, that a worm would have appeared a
dignified creature in comparison with himself, stepped out his hundred
yards, or pretended to; as a matter of fact he remained behind a thorn
bush about seventy paces away, determined to rush in at any risk if the
fellow threatened me any harm.

Then Strong woke me as he had awakened Jack, by stirring me with his
foot, and I am thankful to think that I too "landed him one" for his
trouble; for I lashed out just as Jack did, and my foot certainly
encountered some portion of his frame, and as certainly elicited flowers
of speech which I omit.

"Come, get up!" he said sulkily; "the game’s played out."

I started to my feet, feeling for my rifle; it was gone, as the reader
knows.  Only half awake, I stared at Strong; then I looked round for
Jack, who had disappeared.

Strong’s revolver covered me all the while, just as he had held Jack in
peril of instant death.

"Jack!" I screamed.  I do not know what I thought.  I believe I had an
awful fear that Strong had murdered and buried him.  "Jack, where are
you?"  To my intense relief Jack shouted back—

"All right, Peter; do as he tells you, just now!"

Strong laughed loudly, and swore atrociously.

"D’you hear that?" he said.  "You are to do just as I tell you; the
captain says so.  If you don’t, your brains will fly in about two
seconds. Your rifles are burnt, so is your revolver; your smart friend
wasn’t quite acute enough to-night, and he’s a prisoner.  Hand up the
letter, or cheque, or bank order, or whatever it may be that you took
out of Clutterbuck’s tin box that night.  You thought I was asleep,
curse you, but that’s where you spoiled yourselves."

I handed Strong the document he asked for. "There goes," I thought, "my
chance of the treasure!"

Strong glanced at it and pocketed the paper.

"Any bank-notes in that pocket-book?" he said; "if so, hand them over."
I had thirty pounds in cash, which he took.  I had subscribed the rest
to make up Clutterbuck’s two hundred pounds.

"Now," resumed Strong, "if you move a finger while I’m in sight I shoot.
Come, hands up! Stand!"

He left me standing like a confounded statue, with my hands over my
head.  Then he laughed, swore a disgusting oath at me, loosened the
bridle of his horse, which was tied to a tree quite close at hand, and
started to ride away.



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                    *STRONG SPRINTS AND GAINS A LAP*


Jack was at my side in a moment.

"Quick," he whispered "let’s mount and be after him; I shall never be
happy again until I have kicked that fellow within an inch of his
grave!"

We dashed into the wood for our horses—they were not where we had left
them.  Of course they were not; the man would have been a fool to leave
us our horses—we might have raced into Vryburg before him, and got him
arrested!  Strong was about as perfect an example of a scoundrel as you
would find in Africa or any other continent, but no fool!

We stood and stamped and murdered our native language, diving to the
lowest depths of our vocabularies for expressions of hatred and rage and
of abuse, and the promise of future dire vengeance.  We still stood and
raged, when suddenly Strong came riding back.

"You have disobeyed orders," he said; "don’t blame me for enforcing
discipline.  Go back to your place, you—Henderson, or whatever your name
is!—hands up, you other!"

"I shall have it out of you, one day, for this, you infernal scoundrel,"
said Jack, whose temper was now beyond his control.  "Get down and fight
me on the ground—you may have your revolver, I’ll use my fists."

"You fool!" rejoined Strong with an oath; "a man does not ask a leopard
to spit out his teeth before attacking him.  Go back to your place, I
tell you, or I fire!"

Jack did not move.

"You are a murderer already," he said, "and you know it.  What have you
done with Clutterbuck and his money, you scoundrel?  That’s his pistol
you hold; do you think I don’t know it? Never fear, you shall hang one
day, my friend!"

For answer James Strong fired his revolver straight at Jack’s head.  I
do not think he had intended from the beginning to murder us.  Either he
had calculated that his plans would work out without the need of killing
us; or he had reflected that his own skin would be the safer, when in
England, if he spared ours; for inquiries would certainly be set on foot
if Henderson disappeared though few would know or care whether poor I
disappeared or not.

But when Jack accused him of murdering Clutterbuck, his comrade—a crime
which in all probability he had actually committed, though Jack only
drew his bow at a venture—Strong changed his mind and suddenly
determined that it would be the safer plan to shoot us both down.
Accordingly, he first fired at Jack and missed him clean.  Then he fired
another shot and missed again, and swore, and turned his pistol on me
and fired three shots at me; at the third I fell, feeling a sharp pain
in my shin-bone—my leg would not support me.

Jack had drawn a log from the fire and was about to hurl it at Strong
when he fired his last shot, at Jack this time, and rode away into the
grey of the early morning, before the last named could launch his clumsy
missile at him.  The shooting of the six shots did not occupy altogether
more than ten seconds.

Jack sprang to my side, white and terrified.

"For Heaven’s sake, Peter, where are you hurt?" he gasped.  "Can you
speak?  Are you dying?  Where is the pain?"

"My leg," I said, writhing, for the pain was very severe.  "It’s only a
broken leg—but it’ll lose us the race!"

As a matter of fact, my leg was not broken, as the term is generally
understood—there was no bone setting required; but the bullet had
carried away a splinter of my shin-bone, having all but missed me, but
taking, as it were, a little bite out of me as it passed.

Nevertheless, trivial as the wound was, this misfortune delayed us three
weeks at Vryburg; for though Jack doctored me with all the devotion and
skill that he could command, the weather was hot, and I suppose there
were some wretched little bacilli about of the kind "to play old
gooseberry with open wounds," as Jack learnedly expressed it; for my
shin became very painful and inflamed before we reached Vryburg, and I
was obliged to take to my bed at the hotel there and remain in it for a
tantalising spell of three weeks.

As for our journey to Vryburg, I performed it in the waggon.  Jack
carried me, or half carried me, back to a village on the highroad which
we had passed through on the previous evening without stopping, and
there we awaited the arrival of the waggon, sleeping in a native hut and
collecting, I suppose, the bacilli that were destined to play the part
with my wound which Jack described as "old gooseberry."  Had we stayed
in that village on the previous evening we should have learned that a
white man had been living in the place for a month, waiting for friends
to come down from Bulawayo, and that he was living there still.  This
was, of course, our friend Strong, who had deliberately waited a month
for us, in ambush, and had sallied after us when we passed through, and
caught us napping, as described, over our camp fire.

But we learned another significant fact bearing upon this matter.  When
the white man originally came to the village a month ago, he was, we
were told, accompanied by a friend who lived with him in a hut which the
white men made for themselves. But after about a week the little white
man disappeared, and the big white man explained that he had gone on to
Cape Town, being tired of waiting.

But after another week—that is, a fortnight ago—Umgubi, who was a kind
of village herdsman, and looked after the cattle belonging to the chief
men of the place, came upon the body of the little white man in a nullah
with steep banks two miles or so off the road.  Then the big white man
said that the little one must have gone astray and fallen down into the
nullah, or else an eland or some other big animal had attacked him and
pushed him down; and all the natives of the village said that he must
have terribly offended his gods for so great a misfortune to have
happened to him, and that doubtless an eland had pushed him over into
the nullah, or else he had fallen over by himself without the eland.

Only, if that was the case, said our informant innocently, why was there
a bullet-hole in the back of his head!

It was when M’ngulu and the nigger had arrived with our waggon and
translated the tale for us that we heard the details of this story of
Strong’s villainy; and I may honestly say that, though shocked to hear
of poor Clutterbuck’s end, I was not altogether surprised.  It was a
comfort to think that we had done our best for him by furnishing him
with a pistol, while Strong was left quite unarmed.  If Clutterbuck,
with so great an advantage, was unable to retain the upper hand, there
could be, after all, no one to blame but himself.

How Strong dispossessed him of the revolver; by what stratagem or
plausible arguments or threats he succeeded in persuading Clutterbuck to
part with all that stood between himself and his murderous companion;
and how, when he had obtained the weapon, he used it for his fell
purpose, will, I suppose, never be known.  Perhaps the dark tale of
deceit and murder will be revealed at the last tribunal of all; but it
is certain that the tragedy must remain one of the mysteries in this
life.

Meanwhile, where was the murderer?  Half-way towards Hogland and my
hundred thousand pounds?

As for ourselves, we determined to collect what evidence we could in
order to bring the miscreant before the judges at Cape Town, if we could
catch him there; but events proved that the fox was not to be so easily
run to earth as we had hoped.

To this end we telegraphed from Vryburg, just a week after our own
interview with James Strong, explaining that we had evidence of his
connection with a murder, and giving his name and appearance.

But when, three weeks later, we reached Cape Town, we found to our
disappointment that the police had utterly failed to find Strong.  No
person of that name, or answering to the description, had either been
seen or had taken passage by any of the late steamers bound for home.
The nearest approach to our description of the man "wanted" was of one
Julius Stavenhagen, who had sailed in the _Conway Castle_ before our
telegram was delivered.

Jack and I looked at one another on receiving this information.  If this
were Strong himself—and we had a firm conviction that such was the
case—then he had not only escaped just chastisement for his crime, but
he had also obtained a three weeks’ start of us in the race for
Clutterbuck’s Treasure.



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                    *LAPPED, BUT STILL IN THE RACE*


It may strike some of those who read this narrative that, considering
the fact that we had (in a cowardly manner, as they may deem it, and
with far too much regard for the safety of our skins) surrendered to
James Strong not only our invaluable map of the spot to which we were
directed by old Clutterbuck’s "message from the tomb," but also the copy
of that document which we had been prudent enough to make in case of
emergency—that, considering these facts, it did not really matter very
much whether Strong sailed for England with one day’s start of us or one
year’s; for he now possessed every available clue to the discovery of
the treasure, while we had none whatever.

Our game was played out and lost.  Strong had won.  We might sail for
England to-morrow or this day five years, but James Strong would now
both possess himself of and retain the hundred thousand pounds for which
we had toiled and travelled and suffered, simply because we were
ignorant where to look for either the treasure or for him.

Yet this was not the case, for we—Jack and I—had been in this matter
craftier than the fox and wiser than the eagle; and each independently
of the other, too.

We discovered this on the morning after Strong’s checkmate of us, as I
lay by our camp fire, when, intending to spring a mine of surprise and
delight upon Jack, I started bewailing the shipwreck of our hopes to
find the treasure.  Strong had stolen from us, with fiendish cunning,
both the plan and the copy.  I dwelt upon this disastrous fact because I
intended presently to send Jack into ecstasies of admiration for my
sagacity by informing him that it did not really matter a bit, seeing
that I had committed the whole letter to memory, and knew by heart every
jot and tittle of plan and instructions.

But Jack spoiled my little game by saying—

"Oh, I don’t think you need worry, old man, about the loss of the
’message from the tomb.’"

"Why not?" I asked.

"I know it by heart," he said, "every word of it; and the plan too—I
could draw it exactly. Look here!"

This was disappointing, for I really had thought I was going to score
for once over my acute one!

However, we praised one another, and came unanimously to the conclusion
that any two foxes would have to take a back seat for cunning if he and
I were to drop treasure hunting and take to robbing farmyards!  And that
is how it came about that the loss of our papers was not so serious a
disaster for us as it might have been if we had been "other than we
were"—_i.e._ less clever.

So three weeks after Mr. Julius Stavenhagen’s departure, or, if you
prefer it, Mr. James Strong’s, Jack Henderson and I sailed at last from
Cape Town; a bad second, of course, but still not without hope that
Strong might hitherto have failed to find the treasure when we should
have reached the island of Hogland, or Hochland; indeed, it might even
prove that, fearing lest we should have remembered the name of the
island, he might have hesitated to visit the place at all, in case we
should follow and denounce him for the murderer he was.

I did not greatly rely on this last faint hope, however, for Strong was
not the kind of man to surrender an undoubted advantage for any
consideration of craven expediency.  He would rather occupy the island
of Hogland, and shoot us if we appeared to disturb him; and that was
what we must look out for, supposing that we ever found the island with
Strong in possession.

"It would simply amount to a shooting match in that case," said Jack;
and I think he just about expressed it.

My leg was quite cured by this time, and my only trouble on the voyage
to England was that the _Bangor Castle_, which is one of the fastest
passenger steamers afloat, did not travel quickly enough.  I was
beginning to consume my soul in anxiety to be even with James Strong for
his smart trick upon us, and to be "one point ahead" in the matter of
the treasure.

But we reached England in due time, and I journeyed straight up north to
Hull, in order to lose not a moment in making arrangements for our
departure; while Jack took the train at Paddington for Gloucestershire,
binding himself first by a solemn promise to come up north the instant I
telegraphed for him.

My faithful old friend had vowed to see me through with this treasure
hunt, and declared, moreover, that he considered himself under a solemn
obligation to discover James Strong and see him thoroughly well hanged
for his misdeeds.

So away went Jack for Gloucestershire, and I travelled northwards to
Hull and interviewed without delay the shipowners, Messrs. Wilcox, who,
I found, ran a line of regular steamers from this port to St. Petersburg
and Cronstadt.  And first I inquired, with not a little anxiety as to
the reply, whether there really existed in the Gulf of Finland any such
island as Hogland.  The clerk’s answer was encouraging.

"Why, certainly!" he said.  "Here, Captain Edwards, you can tell this
gentleman all about what he wants to know far better than I can. Captain
Edwards has just returned from a trip to Cronstadt, and must have passed
this very Hogland a few days since."

"At five forty-five last Sunday afternoon," said the captain, a quiet
and most gentlemanly little man, who, I was afterwards to learn, was a
pronounced favourite not only with his employers but also with every
passenger who had the good luck to take the trip in his fine steamer,
the _Thomas Wilcox_.

"Do passengers ever land there?" was my next question.

"Well, they don’t get a chance, as a matter of fact," said Captain
Edwards; "for we never stop. There is nothing particularly attractive in
the island to cause passengers to wish to land and explore it.  Stay,
though; I have heard of one visitor to the place—in fact, I took him off
the island eventually, though it was not I that landed him."

"Not just now—this month?" I blurted.  The communication gave me a
shock, for it struck me that the passenger referred to could be no other
than James Strong, who, if he had already visited and left the island,
must have taken the treasure with him.

"Now?  Dear, no!" said Edwards.  "Four years since, at least—if not
five.  An old fellow—cracky, I should say.  He gave out on board the
_Rinaldo_, tripping from Hull to Cronstadt, that he was in search of an
island to bury treasure in, and asked to be landed in Hogland when he
passed it. You remember the story, Mr. Adams?"

Mr. Adams laughed, and said he had heard about it.

I laughed too, to hide my deeper emotions. This was delightful
confirmation of my best hopes!

"Was he landed there?" I asked.  The captain’s first words rather
staggered me.

"No, he wasn’t," he replied.  "He couldn’t be without permission from
the Russian Government. But he went on to St. Petersburg, got his
permission, and was landed by the _Rinaldo_ on her return journey.  I
took him off and brought him home.  Dotty, I should say, decidedly.  He
was in the rarest spirits, and declared that he had tricked his
blackguards of heirs, as he called them.  They were not going to touch
his money, he said, before they had sweated a bit to earn it—just as he
had. Nobody believed he had a farthing to leave.  He was dressed like a
pauper, and disputed his steward’s bill."

Nothing could have portrayed my late revered acquaintance more
realistically than these words.

"It’s sport, I suppose, isn’t it?" continued Captain Edwards.  "I am
told that numbers of wolves, foxes, and game birds of all kinds come
over the ice in winter, and some are caught there when the thaw sets in.
You might have a pleasant week—lonely, though; only a few fisherfolk and
the lighthouse people.  The island is five or six miles in length."

I blushed, and declared that sport was—in part, at least—the object of
my visit; but that my main idea was to make some investigations in the
hope of finding coal and iron, which were supposed to exist in the
islands of the Gulf of Finland as on the mainland of Esthonia on the
Russian side of the water.

"Oh, I see!" said Captain Edwards.  "Well, look out for my old friend’s
treasure if you get digging.  Who knows you mayn’t hit upon something
that will pay you even better than coal and iron!"

Captain Edwards laughed merrily at his little joke; he did not dream how
near he came to touching the truth.

"Get yourself ready in a week," he added, "and I’ll take you out.
You’ll have to get leave, though, before you can land.  Try the Russian
Consul; he’s a sensible chap, and isn’t likely to refuse anyone with
commercial intentions that might benefit his country."

I thanked Captain Edwards, and left the ship-owners’ office to digest
what I had heard.

James Strong had apparently not sailed for Hogland from Hull; or, if he
had, he had not revealed his intention to land before sailing.  If that
was the case, then he would not be landed at all—unless, indeed, he
relied upon getting permission from the authorities in St. Petersburg to
visit the island, and then returning thence to the spot.

After all, thought I, he would scarcely be so rash as to give himself
away by announcing who he was, and why he desired to visit the island of
Hogland.  He would reflect that the first thing we should do on reaching
England would be to travel up to Hull and inquire after his movements;
and whether our designs upon him should prove to have reference to the
treasure or to the welfare of his neck, he would naturally prefer to
keep his whereabouts a secret.  He would guess that, though we had lost
our maps, we might at least remember the name of Hogland, and that it
lay somewhere between St. Petersburg and Hull.



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

                      *HOW WE PROSPECTED FOR COAL*


I happened to have some distant relatives in Hull, and, partly because I
could not as yet make up my mind upon the particular cock-and-bull story
that would best serve me with the Russian Consul, and partly because, I
suppose, if one possesses very few relatives of any kind the heart warms
towards even very distant ones when there is a chance of making or
renewing acquaintance with them, I determined to pay them a call.

I was glad afterwards that I did so; for my father’s cousin and his
people were pleasant folk, and I have since learned to know and value
them well.  But over and above these good and sufficient domestic
reasons there was another.  My relative was well acquainted with the
Russian Consul, I found, and not only did he offer to introduce me to
that official, but even volunteered to go with me and use his good
offices in persuading Mr. Oboohofsky to grant my request.

My cousin, moreover, knew something of mining matters, and was somewhat
enthusiastic about my idea of coal and iron to be found in paying
quantities in Hogland.  There were coalfields in Esthonia, he said; why
not in the islands off the coast?  Why not, indeed?  I began to look
upon Hogland as a kind of "land of promise," and grew quite in love with
my own ridiculous fable of exploiting the place for mineral wealth,
though at the same time I was somewhat ashamed of myself for, as it
were, taking in my relative in this matter. There might be coal and
iron, however, in the place, and if I happened to find any, why, so much
the better; my cousin should have the entire profit and exploitation of
it for himself.

Still, I would not promise to dig very deep for it; that would depend
upon the depth at which old Clutterbuck had buried his money-boxes; I
should go no deeper than that!

The Russian Consul was a practical person, and did not feel so
enthusiastic about my mining schemes as I had hoped he would.  He wanted
to know why on earth I had thought of going to the Gulf of Finland for
coal; whereupon I trotted out my Esthonian coalfields—knowledge culled
from some physical geography book, and, by some inscrutably mysterious
process of mind, remembered where most other items of knowledge were
clean gone out.

Then he asked, why particularly Hogland? And it was at this point of the
conversation that I showed a readiness of resource and a nice
appreciation of difficult situations, otherwise "corners," and of how to
get out of them, which, if I could only act at all times up to the
"form" of that morning in September, would undoubtedly lead me into very
high places in the diplomatic and political world.

I pointed out to the Russian Consul that for purposes of coaling the
Baltic fleet a fuel-producing island like Hogland, in mid-channel on the
direct line from Cronstadt to everywhere else, would be an unspeakable
boon to the nation.  At present most of the coal used by Russian
warships came from Hull and other English and Welsh ports But what if
the Baltic were blocked in time of war?

The Russian Consul did not burst into tears, and, while thanking Heaven
for this revelation of the terrible possibilities of the future, entreat
me, with streaming eyes, to go to Hogland and find a little coal for his
imperial master’s warships; but he laughed, and said that the English
were wonderful people, and seemed to be for ever prepared to take a
great deal of trouble all over the world on the chance of very small
results, and added that he hoped, if I found my coal, that I would make
him a director of the company started to work it and would present him
with a few shares.

I promised that if I found coal I would let him know, but we have never
corresponded.

However, thanks to the good offices of my cousin, who was quite intimate
with the Consul, and my own obvious enthusiasm, which he did not for a
moment suspect to be founded on any more substantial basis than coal—and
extremely problematical coal at that—Mr. Consul Oboohofsky granted my
request for permission to land at Hogland, and countersigned my passport
to that effect with the words—"Bon pour l’île de Hochland;" and Jack
Henderson’s also.

This matter being satisfactorily arranged, and there being still four
days to pass before a start could be made, I ran down to Gloucestershire
and spent that time with Jack and his sister, who is one of the sweetest
girls that ever—but no, I think I will not enter into that matter in
this place; if I have anything more to say about the Hendersons and
their family circle I shall say it later on.

Enough that on the Saturday following Jack and I returned to Hull and
took ship on board the _Thomas Wilcox_, whose captain had special
permission from his owners to land us on the island of Hogland.  I
confess that I left the shores of England feeling depressed and
miserable, and disinclined to go and dig for treasure or anything else,
and that I looked long and sadly back at the dull shores of the Humber
and wondered whereabouts exactly lay Gloucestershire, and what the good
folks at Henderson Court were doing just at this moment, and especially
Gladys—there I go again!

The North Sea is a cruel, ruthless body of water, and a stumbling-block
to passengers.  I had travelled to the Cape and back, and scarcely felt
inconvenience; but here, one day out from England, I was treated to such
a pitching and a rolling and a tumbling that my very soul refused
comfort, and I lay and wished I was dead like any novice upon shipboard;
and so did Jack, which was a great consolation to me, and did me more
good than all the ministrations of the benevolent chief steward and the
encouragement of kind Captain Edwards.

But all was forgotten and forgiven when Copenhagen was reached and the
historical castle of Elsinore, one of the ugliest fastnesses, I should
say, that ever mason put together for the joint accommodation of
long-dead, disreputable kings, exemplary living monarchs, and
respectable ghosts.

We passed Elsinore at midnight, and I did think that—as we had paid a
good sum of money for our passages, and had stayed up and yawned for an
hour beyond our usual sea-time for retiring—there might have been some
little spiritual manifestation for our benefit.  But Hamlet’s father is,
I suppose, laid by this time; or the rebuilt castle, upon whose
battlements he used to walk, is not to his taste (in which case he is
the ghost of a wise and discriminating spirit!), for he never appeared
to us; and we were obliged to retire to bed baffled and disappointed,
resolved to pen a complaint to the Psychical Research authorities, who
ought to see that passengers _viâ_ Elsinore are not disappointed in this
way.

And so on into the Baltic, and past many islands belonging to Denmark
and Sweden, and with distant glimpses of a most uninteresting-looking
mainland; and presently the Gulf of Finland was reached, and our pulses
began to beat once more with the old ardour of treasure hunting—a
sensation we had almost forgotten since the agitating days of the Ngami
search, and the many exciting adventures and crises through which we had
passed in the last three months.

As we drew hourly nearer to our island, my excitement grew positively
painful.  I was oppressed with a kind of horror that we should find
Strong waiting to be taken off, with a smile of triumph upon his face
and a cheque for one hundred thousand pounds securely buttoned up in his
breast pocket!

Captain Edwards, who proved a good and kind friend to us throughout,
strongly recommended us to take with us to Hogland a sailor—one whom he
could easily spare us, since he was now within a twelve hours’ run of
his destination—of Russian nationality, who could speak English.  He had
more than one such "hand" on board, and we arranged with a certain
Michail Andreyef to land with us and act as our interpreter—a post which
that gentleman, having ascertained that no work of any kind would be
involved in the situation, accepted with alacrity at a moderate wage;
and remarkably useful he proved to us in our sojourn in that lonely
island.

I do not think that Michail, good man, would have landed with us if he
had known that there was no drinking shop on the island; but he found
out our flasks after a day or two, and these no doubt afforded him some
little consolation, though, of course, the contents did not last him
long, and he was only drunk three days on the entire proceeds. And now
here, at last, was Hogland itself—our Eldorado, as we hoped, if only
James Strong had not already landed and ruined our prospects!

How I stared at it, and wondered and wondered whether the fateful tin
box that contained old Clutterbuck’s cheque lay somewhere within its
soil, peacefully slumbering until the right man came along to unearth
the treasure!  And oh! how I wished it might prove that Strong had
neither arrived nor forestalled me!



                            *CHAPTER XXVII*

                         *ELDORADO OR—HOGLAND*


The island looked bare and desolate enough from the point of view of the
deck of our steamer, long and rather narrow at each end, but bulging in
the middle to a width of several miles; covered with pine forests and
patches of moorland, and with a high backbone of tree-clad hills running
down the middle from end to end.  It was exceedingly like the old man’s
map as we remembered it, and the first sight of it so whetted my
enthusiasm and treasure-ardour that I could scarcely contain my joy when
we steamed into view of it.

Jack and I, nevertheless, made the most of the bird’s-eye prospect of
the island which we now obtained; for we knew well that such a survey of
the place might be exceedingly useful to us in our subsequent
investigations.  We saw the spot which appeared to us to answer to that
described in our lost maps as the grave of Clutterbuck’s Treasure, and
we noted the best way to get to it, which was by the seashore to the
left from the lighthouse.

The keepers of that most useful building must have been surprised indeed
to see a large British steamer stop within half a mile of the
hungry-looking rocks upon which their house and tower were erected; for
though such vessels passed daily, none ever stayed.  Three men, two
women, and several children came out in a hurried way and stood staring
like startled rabbits at us and our proceedings before bolting back to
their holes as the boat approached into which we had transferred
ourselves and our luggage, guns, spades, and provisions.

So far as these good folk were concerned, we might as well have had no
passport at all; and as for the "bon pour Hochland" of the Consul, if we
had written across the document any such legend as, for instance,
"Herrings at tenpence a dozen," it would have served the purpose equally
well. For the lighthouse keeper, after having studied the passports
wrong way up, and scratched his head for inspiration, and spat on the
ground in true Muscovite protest against the incomprehensible, and
having crossed himself in case there should be anything appertaining to
the evil eye or the police (which he regarded as amounting to much the
same thing) about the proceedings, gave it up as a bad job, and inquired
of our interpreter, Michail, what on earth we had come for.

I fancy Michail indulged in some pleasantry at our expense, for the two
women and three men and seven children, standing gaping around us, all
burst out laughing at the same moment, and the conversation among them
"became general."

Presently, however, Michail informed us that it was all right, and that
we might remain if we pleased.  He said a small offering to the
lighthouse keeper, for "tea," would be acceptable, and this we
cheerfully provided, with the result that that gentleman and all his
following were our sworn friends for life, in the hope of more tea-money
some other day.

We were offered quarters in the wooden houses in which these good people
lived; but when we entered their abode and learned that we should be
expected to herd in one suffocatingly hot room, together with every
person whom we had yet seen, and perhaps others to whom we had not yet
been introduced, and to sleep on straw upon the floor, or on sheepskins
upon the top of a huge brick stove which occupied half the room, we
explained to Michail that we had other engagements.  There were several
reasons for this decision besides those given—some crawly ones and some
jumpy.  We saw a number of the former on the walls, and had already
begun to suspect the presence of the latter nearer still to our persons.

Michail might come back and sleep here, we told him, after he had
accompanied us to the small fishing village where we desired to make a
few inquiries.

This seemed to please Michail, who, we concluded, had some good reason
for liking the poor dumb animals on the wall better than we did.  I
suppose there is good in most things, if one can only discern it through
the evil.

Michail inquired, at our request, whether anyone had landed here lately,
within the last month or so; upon which the lighthouse keeper informed
us that the last stranger who had visited the island, so far as he knew,
was a madman from England, or Germany, or other foreign parts, where
everyone, he was told, was more or less mad.  This English lunatic had
landed here a few years ago; he had gone and hidden himself in the woods
for a week, alone, sleeping, he believed, at the village at the other
end of the island, and passing his time counting the trees in the
forest, or doing something equally insane.  After a week he had
returned, and had been taken on board by a steamboat.

"No one else, this month?" we insisted.

"Certainly not," said the man; why should anyone come to the island if
he could live on the mainland, where there were drink-shops?

This was unanswerable, and quite delightful too, though how it happened
that we had contrived to arrive before the wide-awake Mr. James Strong
was more than I, or Jack either, could imagine.

"Perhaps he was wrecked, and drowned on the way here," I suggested.

Jack dissented.  That would not be "playing the game," he said; Mr.
Strong was born to be hanged; of that there could be no possible doubt
whatever.  Perhaps he would arrive while we were still on the island!
Michail must keep a lookout, and come and warn us if anyone landed.  We
had no particular desire to be bombarded again by Mr. James Strong.

As an additional precaution we promised the lighthouse keeper the sum of
ten roubles, which is about equal to one pound, if he refused to allow
any other person to land, and were comforted by that individual’s
assurance that he would refuse admittance to the Tsar of England himself
for such a sum of money as that.

Then we went to the fishing village in order to glean any information
that the inhabitants might have to dispense at their end of the island;
but to all our questions as to whether any person had landed on the
island within the last month, the "elder," or head man of the village,
to whom we applied, declared that he knew nothing and cared nothing
about anybody or anything; and that, when it was necessary, he also saw
nothing and heard nothing.

"Ask him, Michail, if a rouble would refresh his memory as to anything
he may have seen or heard," suggested Jack.

The head man said he did not know; it might.

Then he took the rouble, and declared that no one had been near the
island for years.

This was very satisfactory, and we added a second rouble in the joy of
our hearts; at which evidence of our generosity Alexander, the elder,
crossed himself and prayed aloud for the welfare of our souls.  Then he
said he had some articles for sale which might be useful to us if we
intended to try a little sport on the island, and produced—to our
surprise—an English-looking revolver.  I was about to take it from his
hand, when Jack snatched the weapon from me.

"Why, great skittles!  Peter," he cried.  "Look at it!  Look at it, man;
look at it!  What do you see?"  Jack burst out laughing, and then
suddenly grew grave.  I took the weapon from him to examine it,
surprised at his excitement.

"It’s loaded," I said, "in four chambers."

"Yes; but look at it well!" he cried.  "Don’t you know it, man?"

I looked again, and the weapon almost dropped from my hand.  It was my
own revolver, not a doubt of it—my own name was scratched along the
lower side of the barrel.  It was the same that Strong had choked with
lead, that I had afterwards presented to Clutterbuck, that Strong had
stolen from that unfortunate fellow, and with which he had murdered his
companion; the same with which he had attacked ourselves on the road to
Vryburg, at our last encounter with the rascal, and a bullet from which
had taken a bit out of my shin-bone.

For a moment or two I was too bewildered to collect my thoughts.  Jack
brought me to my senses.

"Well," he said, "what do you make of it?"

"I make of it that we are too late," I groaned. "The rogue has been too
quick for us, confound him!"

"Yes," said Jack, "that’s what I’m thinking too.  But how did this
fellow get hold of the pistol?"

It was a question to which I could find no reply.

"Ask him where he got the pistol from," said Jack to Michail; and our
interpreter put the question as desired.

The reply was that the pistol was for sale; would we buy it?  The elder
knew nothing about the antecedents of the weapon, but it was his
property, and for sale.

"Ask him if he will remember anything about its history if we buy it,"
said Jack.

The elder was of opinion that he might remember a little for ten
roubles.

This sum was instantly transferred, and our friend presently informed
us, through Michail, that the weapon had belonged to a Swedish person
who had come over from the coast of Finland, from Helsingfors, in a
sailing boat about three weeks ago, and who had made him a present of
it.  That was all he had to say.  The Swede had departed a fortnight
ago.

At this reply my heart sank lower than before, for here was the
confirmation of my worst fears.  All was lost—that much was obvious.
James Strong had been too smart for us.  He had travelled _viâ_ Sweden
and crossed from Stockholm to Helsingfors, sailing over to Hogland from
that port—absolutely the simplest, and at the same time the most artful,
course he could pursue, seeing that he was unwilling to travel direct
from Hull by reason of the obvious publicity of such a proceeding.

All was lost—that was now certain.  I was a pauper again.  The only
consolation was that, so far as I could see, I could not have done
anything to circumvent Strong.  He had had too long a start.



                            *CHAPTER XXVIII*

                    *WHAT THE ELDER DID WITH STRONG*


Jack looked as dejected as I did.

"The only thing I don’t understand is," he said presently, "why Strong
should have presented the fellow with his revolver.  Do you suppose he
intended us to find it here, as a sort of mocking message to us that we
had failed?"

"More likely he wished to be rid of an awkward piece of evidence in case
he was ever collared by us," I said.  "If we ever caught him, and he had
this thing in his possession, we should easily have proved our
accusations against him."

"Of course he found the treasure," said Jack, "or he wouldn’t have gone
away."

"Of course," I echoed dismally.

"Still," said Henderson, "it would be interesting to hear all about
_how_ he found it and where; I’d give another ten roubles to be told all
this grimy gentleman knows."

I was not at all certain that it would be an unmixed joy to be taken and
shown the pit out of which another fellow had dug the treasure which I
had so ardently hoped to make my own.  But Jack was evidently anxious on
the subject, and curiosity was burning a hole in my resolution as well.
I reflected a minute or two.

"Well, ask him if you like," I assented presently; "it will be a painful
thing for me, though, I can tell you."  More painful than Jack guessed,
perhaps; for I was tenfold more anxious to be rich to-day than I had
been a few months since in Africa.  I had found a new reason, down in
Gloucestershire, for wishing to own the treasure, and now all hope of
possessing old Clutterbuck’s golden hoard had vanished.  Painful?  It
would be _torture_ to be shown the hole in which the treasure, and all
my hopes of happiness with it, had rested but a short three weeks since;
to be ruthlessly torn from their sanctuary by the bloodstained hands of
a double-dyed rascal like James Strong.

"Michail," said Jack, "tell the fellow there is more tea-money to be had
if his memory improves."

Michail conveyed this intelligence to his grimy companion, who grinned
and scratched his shaggy yellow locks, and spat and made a gesture as
though he now abandoned in our favour all previously observed
considerations of discretion.  Then he bade Michail tell us that for a
second ten-rouble note he would tell us the whole history of the pistol,
which he had just remembered.

Jack was artful this time, having gained experience upon this artless
island.  When he had heard the story, he said, he would hand over the
tempting-looking red bank-note for ten roubles, which he now carefully
removed from his purse and displayed, invitingly held between his
fingers.

Then the elder, after looking wolfishly at the note and indulging in a
final scratching among his tousled locks, began his tale, which proved
to be a sufficiently exciting one.

"It was a lunatic of a Swede," he said, "who had sailed over in a small
sailing-boat from Helsingfors, and had moored his craft over there at
the Finnish side of the island and come ashore. He couldn’t talk a word
of anything that anyone could understand in the island, and would not
come to the village, but slept on the shore close to his boat; and if
anyone came near to have a look at him he stamped and raved and scolded
them away again.

"On the morning after the first night I went down to the shore to see
what the Swede was about," continued the elder, "that being my duty as
elder of the village, and I took with me Kuzmá, my brother-in-law, and
Gavril, my brother; for we have no right to admit strangers upon the
island without passports.  But this fellow had no passport, and
threatened me with his fists for demanding one of him.

"So Kuzmá and Gavril and I sat down on the shore to watch what the
Swedish lunatic would do.

"He waited, hoping that we would go away; and we waited, to see what he
wanted on our island. He did nothing but read letters and look this way
and that through the trees, and then down again at his letter, like any
lunatic.

"Presently he grew tired of waiting, and stood up and shouted at us to
go away.  We did not understand his lingo, but that was doubtless the
meaning of it, only the man was so angry that he could hardly speak, but
only screamed at us and stamped his foot.  Kuzmá grew a little
frightened and said, ’Shall we go, brothers?  This man is mad; it would
be wise to preserve our bodies from harm.’

"But I said, ’No.  We will pretend to depart, and hide ourselves among
the trees; then we shall see but not be seen!’  So we departed and hid
ourselves where the mad Swede could not see us.

"After a while," continued the elder, "the madman took his letters and a
spade, and wandered about among the trees until he came to a certain
place, and there he began to dig.

"We desired to know, naturally, why he dug in the earth of our island,
and while he was very busy with his digging we came nearer to see what
we could see.

"And then, of a sudden, Kuzmá coughed, and that mad Swede looked up and
saw us.

"Holy Saint Vladimir, equal to the apostles, preserve us from such
demons as that Swedish maniac when he caught sight of Kuzmá and me and
Gavril!  He rushed straight at us like a wild bull, bellowing and
shouting, and then—what think you, Mercifulness?—he whipped this very
pistol from his pocket and banged one shot at Kuzmá and one at me.  Me
he missed, by the mercy of the Highest, and thanks, doubtless, to the
interposition of my patron saint, Alexander of the Neva; but Kuzmá was
struck by a bullet in the arm, and lay yelling on the ground."

The elder here paused in his narrative, which, for me, was about as
interesting a tale as ever human lips unfolded, and spat five several
times on the earth, crossing himself after each performance of the
function.  I waited impatiently for him to recommence.  Jack’s face,
which I glanced at, was a study; he too was absorbed by the interest of
the tale.

When the elder had finished his semi-religious duties, he continued—

"Gavril," he said, "my brother, to whom may the saints ensure a heavenly
kingdom for his behaviour that day,—Gavril, with his staff, whacked the
Swede on the head before he had quite killed Kuzmá and me, and knocked
him senseless; in which condition Gavril and I put him in his boat and
sailed across to Narva, where we gave in our evidence against him in the
police court.  We showed the pistol, and promised to produce Kuzmá when
his arm was well enough to allow him to travel.  This is his pistol that
you have bought; and that is my tale.  It’s all I know, and may the holy
saints preserve those who are honest folk, and punish the evil doers!
If I have pleased your Mercifulness, I will place the ten-rouble note
along with the other."

Thus, or to this effect, did the elder wander along, Michail laboriously
translating, and then he stopped, having said his say.

"Good Heavens!  Peter," said Jack after a pause, "that’s a tale well
worth ten roubles, I fancy; what say you?"

"Stop a bit," I gasped.  "Ask him, Michail, what the Swede got out of
the earth?  Does he know what the fellow was digging for, and did he
find it?"

"He did not give himself time," said the elder. "He flew at us before he
had dug for half an hour. As for that which he expected to find, how
should a plain fisherman know that?  He was mad; what would a madman
expect to find growing upon an island, that he could dig up with a
spade?  Gold and jewels, perhaps!"  The elder laughed aloud and spat
freely.  Jack still withheld the note.

"At anyrate, he found nothing?" he asked.

"Nothing but sand, Mercifulness."

"And what has become of the Swede?" said I. "Was he detained at Narva?"

"Detained at Narva to be tried, Mercifulness," said the elder.  "But
there is hope that when the police behold Kuzmá’s arm, which will be
next week, the rascal may journey to Siberia without further trouble."

Jack handed in the ten-rouble note; our friend had certainly earned it;
for though, of course, I would not go so far as to say that this elder
told the truth (being a Russian that, of course, would be impossible;
the only Russian who ever told the truth is dead), yet that his tale was
not all lies was proved by the pistol.

Jack thought of a way of obtaining a little supplementary evidence in
corroboration.

"Get him to show us where the Swede shot at him," he said, addressing
Michail.  "It would be interesting to see the mark in the tree made by
the bullet fired at the elder."

Strong’s latest victim had no objection to giving us this pleasure, and
we were conducted to a place in the wood, and shown a tree which had an
undoubted bullet mark some seven feet up the trunk.

"Ah!  I see," said artful Jack.  "So that is where you stood, and Kuzmá
here, and the mad Swede came rushing from over there."

"No, not there," said the elder; "your Mercifulness may see, if you
will, where the fellow was digging in the ground when we saw him.
Heaven! to come all this way to dig!"



                             *CHAPTER XXIX*

                             *MUCH DIGGING*


The elder’s invitation fell out very propitiously with artful Jack’s
designs, and we were shown the open space among the trees where Strong
had commenced his digging operations, which had come to such an untimely
end.  There was the hole he had dug when interrupted and made to lose at
once his temper and his chance of wealth.

There too were the four posts, arranged exactly as in Bechuanaland, in
an irregular square.  Strong, remembering where the treasure had been
found in the first instance, had gone straight to the corresponding
corner here, had pulled up the outer post, and begun to dig about its
socket.  Jack laughed.

"The old fellow wouldn’t have been likely to hide it in the same spot
twice," he said; "that would be too easy for us!"

I suggested that, at anyrate, we must not lay ourselves open to
suspicion by digging about or even remaining in the neighbourhood of
this particular spot, or we should have the whole village coming and
digging with us.  We must pretend that our curiosity was satisfied by
the sight of the scene of the struggle, and that there our interest in
this spot ended.  We must do a little hunting or fishing for a day or
two, and then return unsuspected to our real labours.

So we hired the elder and Gavril, the hero of the broomstick which had
overthrown James Strong, and went a-fishing among the tiny islands and
rocks that fringed the shores of Hogland itself, and here we spent a day
very pleasantly in allaying the suspicions of the elder and in catching
some good fish, in weight from one to fifteen pounds, including a few
which I believe to have been large lake trout.  The water here was
scarcely brackish and the fish we caught were all denizens of the fresh
water.

But excitement and longing to be up and about so as to discover the
hidden treasure, burned like a banked fire within my bosom, and I was
feverishly anxious to be ashore once more and at work.

We were out all night, and a cold function indeed it was; and right glad
were we that we had brought our flasks to keep us alive and help our
circulation to maintain the struggle.  It was now that Michail
discovered the existence of those flasks, for we had presented both the
elder and our interpreter each with a small portion of the contents, and
both men had found the English brandy to their taste.  The consequence
to us was, that when we landed and retired to sleep those two artless
Russians stole our flasks and disappeared.

Now this, far from proving, as at first sight it might seem, an unmixed
disaster, was, as a matter of fact, the greatest boon that could have
happened to us; for though there was not very much of the spirit in our
stolen flagons, yet it was strong, and there was enough to keep both men
handsomely employed in recovering from its effects for three days.

Those three days of investigation, free from inquisitive observation and
possible interference, were exactly what we most desired, and at the
very first opportunity we shook off both the elder and Michail, who were
already in secret possession of the flasks and quite pleased to be
shaken off, and set to work in earnest at our digging.

The area to be investigated was of the same shape as our African
treasure-field, but smaller by half, for which mercy I was grateful to
destiny; for even half the old area was quite sufficient for the digging
of two men, unless they happened to desire to dig themselves into their
own graves, which Jack and I certainly did not.

Needless to say, Jack now felt no compunction about taking his turn with
the spade, for I might fairly consider myself the only competitor now
left "in the running."  Poor Clutterbuck murdered; young Strong eaten;
James Strong in Siberia, or on the way there—there were none left to
contest my claims.

So Jack dug with me, and very hard work he found it, and very stiff he
felt at the end of the first profitless day; so that I was able to screw
out of him a kind of apology for his want of sympathy with my stiffness
at Ngami.  We had half intended to set a decoy for wolves, of which
there were said to be a few on the island; but we were both too tired
for anything of the sort, and preferred to sleep, wrapped in our
blankets, over a fire in the forest, as in the African days, only with
dark pines waving over our heads, and a sharper air biting at the
exposed parts of our persons, instead of strange palmy and ferny trees,
and prickly-pears and kei apples, and a soft, hothouse kind of air
around us.

On the second day we toiled from morn till dewy eve, but found nothing
to repay us, and by that time the surface of our ground was upheaved
from end to end to the depth of a spade-head. Then we determined to
spend the third day in trying various experiments.

We were full of excellent ideas, but the same thoughts had unfortunately
not occurred to old Clutterbuck while hiding his treasure.

First of all, we procured from the village a ball of string; they had
plenty there, for the making and mending of nets.

Then we fastened an end to one of the posts and carried a line across
diagonally to a second, and from a third across to the fourth, as from A
to B and from C to D in the chart—

    A      C
         E
       D   B

Where the strings crossed at E, we dug a deep hole and had great hopes
for the result.  But it seemed that this excellent plan had not occurred
to Mr. Clutterbuck; he had not concealed his wealth in accordance with
our ingenious geometrical device.  Then we went and borrowed a horse and
a plough from the fisherfolk, who had a field or two near the village
for the growing of their rye and potatoes.  And with that plough we
turned up every scrap of our acre of land, and began to grow desperate
because there was not a vestige of treasure or anything else but sandy
soil and a few worms.

Then we sat down to reflect, and gnashed our teeth, and took in vain the
name of old Clutterbuck who had beguiled us to this forsaken island to
dig for treasure which he had never buried.

"I believe Strong found it, after all," said Jack—"found it in five
minutes in the very first hole he made."

"If I thought that I would go to Siberia after him," I said, "and screw
his neck till he gave it up."

"My dear man, he couldn’t take a load of treasure with him to Siberia!"
said Jack.  "The authorities would have it in a minute."

"It might be all in one cheque," said I; "and he’s hidden it—swallowed
it, or put it in his boot or something."

"Well, you can’t very well follow him to Siberia with a stomach-pump in
one hand and your revolver in the other," laughed Jack; "but you may
bet, if he had found the stuff he would not have been so quarrelsome; he
would have been too pleased with himself to rush straight at these poor
peasants and empty his revolver at their heads!"

This seemed true, and we turned our thoughts once more to the invention
of devices that might have occurred to the old man for the more
ingenious concealment of his treasures.  It could scarcely be supposed
that the old miser really desired to defeat altogether the ingenuity of
his heirs, should they prove to be in possession of a quantum of that
commodity; for if it had been his intention to deprive us altogether of
the money, he need never have made us his potential heirs.  The money
must be here—that was as good as certain.

Then we tested other geometrical designs. We counted as many feet
towards the middle, from each post in turn, as the old man had lived
years, seventy-one; and we dug deeply at each seventy-first foot.  We
turned up the soil at the spot where fell the only shadow of the day—the
shadow of a tall pine whose topmost boughs afforded us a few feet of
shade towards evening; but nothing came of it.  We tried many other
devices, each more deeply ingenious, not to say "far-fetched," than the
last; but the third day drooped and faded, and still we were no wiser
than before.

That night Michail returned to camp, looking as though he had passed
through great tribulation and had been making good resolutions.  He
slunk in and lay down by the fire, and slept so soundly that no ordinary
artillery firing a royal salute at his ear would have disturbed him.

We were sorry to see Michail, for we did not desire his presence here.
We wished we had another flask for him.

This wish was redoubled when in the morning, as we dug and
delved—toiling and perspiring and almost despairing, though still
manfully playing up to the motto of my own family crest: "_Dum spiro
spero_" (which Jack translated "Stick to it, boys, till you’re
pumped!")—while Michail still slept, the elder appeared suddenly upon
the scene.  He too bore traces of bacchanalianism, though he did not
seem to have suffered so severely from the malady as Michail.  The elder
was surprised to see us working, and asked us what we were about.

We gathered that this was the meaning of the elder’s remark, but until
we had kicked Michail into the realms of consciousness in order to
translate it for us we could not be certain.  Michail awoke at the
seventeenth kick, and said he had not been asleep, but had been lying
and thinking.  He told us what the elder had said, the elder repeating
it.

"Tell him that’s our business," said Jack surlily—he was disgusted, like
myself, with the failure of our labours; "and that he’d better go home
to the village and mind his own."

"Oh," said the elder, on hearing this, "certainly I will obey; I had no
wish to intrude upon their Mercifulnesses; only I thought their
Mercifulnesses might be digging here in order to find a certain tin box
with a letter in it which I myself found near this spot some years ago!"

The spade dropped from my hand; Jack’s fell also.

"Michail," he said, or gasped; "what does the fellow mean?  Where is the
tin box and the letter that he found here?  Ask him quickly, idiot, or
I’ll brain you with my spade!"

The elder was not disturbed by our excitement; he said he thought the
tin box was somewhere up at the village; he wasn’t quite sure!



                             *CHAPTER XXX*

                   *I TAKE A STRONG LEAD IN THE RACE*


Jack seized the elder by the shoulders and shook him—shook him
handsomely and thoroughly till his splendid white moujik-teeth rattled
in his head.  The elder burst into tears and fell on his knees as soon
as Jack let go of him, crossing himself repeatedly and jabbering
vociferously.  The fox had changed in an instant into a rabbit, and a
timid one at that.  It was impossible to translate what he said, Michail
protested.  On being pressed to do so, Michail observed—

"He say his prayers," and I think that must have been about the measure
of it; at all events, he was saying nothing about tin boxes.

"Tell him we don’t wish to hurt him," said Jack; "but we intend to have
that tin box; and if his memory does not improve in the next five
minutes, so that he leads us straight to where he has hidden it,
something dreadful will happen to him."

This truculent message was given to the elder, who allowed himself but
one more minute for the consolation of prayer and then took to his heels
for the village, we taking care to keep up with him. Jack’s threat
seemed to have wonderfully assisted the process of recalling the past,
for Alexander led us straight to his own house, into the living room
(where his astonished wife and five amazed children were feasting upon
black bread and dried fish, their mouths, opened to receive those
dainties, remaining open by reason of their surprise), and without
hesitation opened a kind of cupboard in the corner in which he kept his
three teacups and his two tumblers (one cracked), together with his
store of vodka.

From this receptacle, which he opened but a fraction, as though jealous
lest we should steal a peep at his teacups, he quickly produced a tin
box, the facsimile of that which I had unearthed in far-away Bechuana.
The elder crossed himself, spat on the ground, made a droll gesture of
surrender to superior force, and banged the box down upon the table.

Then his face assumed a beseechful, maudlin expression, and he said that
he had done as the gentleman desired, but if the gentleman considered it
worth a gratuity that he should have safely preserved this box until the
gentleman came for it, why—

"Tell him to go to the deuce," said Jack; "and wait there till we see
what’s in it and what isn’t. Here, Peter; it’s yours—examine."

I opened the box: there was another within it, as before; neither was
locked; and as before, inside the inner receptacle was an envelope, and
within the envelope a letter; no cheque to bearer, no bank-notes for one
hundred thousand pounds.... My disgust and disappointment were too great
for words; I could not speak; I could not even swear; I believe I burst
into tears.

"Come, come!" said Jack bracingly, "don’t give way, old chap; it’s just
as well there are no diamonds or gold—this elder fellow would have had
the lot!  Cheer up, man, and read the letter, or I will!  I for one
don’t mind another journey—I haven’t travelled half enough yet!  Read
the letter!"

It was all very well for Jack.  The issue was nothing to him
(comparatively speaking); to me it was everything—all the world, and the
happiness of life!

"I told you how it would be," I raved; "the old rascal meant to swindle
us from the beginning. He will keep us travelling from pillar to post in
this way till the worms have eaten up his hoardings and his miser’s
carcass as well.  The whole thing’s a fraud, Jack, and I am the victim."

"You’re better off than the other victims, at all events," said Jack.
"Read the letter, man.  Don’t abuse the old boy till you know he
deserves it."

"Confound the letter," I said, "and him too! Read it yourself—I’m sick
of the business!"

I was, as my conduct indicates, very angry, very disappointed, and very
ridiculous.  I have since exonerated Mr. Clutterbuck and apologised to
Jack, many a time.  I still think, however, that the old man’s methods
were extremely exasperating; and though ashamed of my loss of temper, I
am not in the least surprised that I should have succumbed to my
feelings of rage and disappointment.

But there was one thing which I have never regretted in the slightest
degree, and that is, that when Michail suddenly laughed out at this
point, finding, I suppose, something comical about my words or actions,
I laid hold of him by the shoulders from behind, and walked him twice
round the room and out at the door, I kicking and he yelling.  After
this I felt consoled and returned to hear Jack read out the letter.

It was very much like the other.

"The Prize to the Swift," the document began, and continued as follows:—


"Do not despair, you whose energy has proved equal to emergency.  Having
succeeded up to this point, you are sure to succeed to the end.  My
treasure is not here.  I would never leave it so far from home and at
the mercy of prying strangers in a foreign land.  How do I know that I
am not watched at this moment by jealous eyes from the fishing village a
mile away?  This box will possibly be dug up after my departure, but I
do not dread such an event, since it will add, perhaps, to your trouble
in finding it, my most indolent relatives and heirs, and that is a
contingency which I hail with joy.  That any finder of the box will
destroy it, I am not afraid.  He will rather keep it by him and sell it
to those who come to seek it.

"As for you, my treasure is where it should be, and must ever have been,
for I would never trust it elsewhere—in my own country and in my own
home.  Where else should it be?  Return, then, successful pilgrim; seek
nearer home.  Where my treasure is, there is my heart, or near it.  I
lie buried in Streatham churchyard; my treasure is not far away from my
bones! ... Dig, dig, and dig again.

"The only land upon which I or my heirs possess the right of digging is
my own garden in Streatham.  Dig there, my friend, and success to him
who digs wisest and deepest.

"My portrait is part of the spoil for the winner; it was done for me by
a pavement artist for two shillings and three pence, but do not throw it
away on that account.  It is the portrait of your benefactor, and his
blessing will go to him who preserves it well."


The letter ended here, without signature or date.



                             *CHAPTER XXXI*

                  *THE ELDER MAKES A GOOD BARGAIN, AND
                          MICHAIL A POOR ONE*


"What does he mean?" I growled. "Where’s the portrait?"

Jack looked in the boxes, and turned the letter round; there was no sign
of a drawing or of anything connected with portraiture.

I walked up to the elder’s cupboard and looked in.  Besides the teacups
and other domestic treasures there was a tin case, in size about one
foot by nine inches.  I took this without permission from the elder, who
had disappeared after Michail.  I opened it.

Sure enough, it was a portrait of old Clutterbuck—the vilest that could
be conceived, but still recognisable.  The old man could never, I should
say, have laid claim to good looks; but the "pavement artist" had
scarcely done him justice; he had, in fact, represented his client as so
repulsively hideous that the lowest criminal would probably have
reconsidered his position and turned over a new leaf if informed that he
possessed a face like this of poor maligned Clutterbuck.

"By George!" said Jack, "the old chap couldn’t have been very vain to
bequeath such a thing as that to his heirs.  What a terrible specimen he
must have been!  Was he like this thing?"

"He wasn’t as bad as that," I replied.  I felt that I had a grievance
against the man, and I was not inclined to give him more than the barest
justice; but I was bound to admit this much.

"I’m glad to hear it," said Jack; "for if he had been, I think I should
have lost my faith in the _bonâ fides_ of his letters and of the whole
thing. That pavement artist ought to have been hanged, and his body
danced on.  What, in Heavens name, did the old man want to leave you a
thing like that for?  Why couldn’t he get himself photographed if he was
sentimentally anxious that his heirs should possess his portrait?"

Jack laughed; I could not help joining in.  It was really rather funny;
and the more one looked at the picture the more one felt inclined to
laugh. The artist was evidently not ashamed of his work, for he had
painted his name in full at the foot of it, "Thomas Abraham Tibbett,"
bless him!  I know his name well—I read it every day of my life, for his
masterpiece hangs over my washstand, and I look at it whenever I feel
low in spirits and think that a little T. A. Tibbett will do me good.

"What a merciful dispensation that one can’t see his eyes, or, rather,
that they are looking downwards and don’t follow you about as they do in
some portraits that are not by pavement artists," said Jack.  "Look at
them; there’d be a lifetime of nightmares in a pair of eyes like those,
if they happened to be looking up."

I have often thought how true this was, and have rejoiced that the
artist of the pavement mistrusted his skill and made the eyes as he did;
but for my joy there are more reasons than now appear.

Michail and the elder were outside when we left the house.  I think they
were conspiring against us; no violence, or anything of that sort—a mere
conspiracy of roubles.  Michail desired a solatium for the kicks he had
received from me; the elder grieved because he had delivered up his tin
box, under the influence of fear, without pecuniary equivalent.

Both were sulky and uncommunicative, or perhaps assumed sulkiness for
their own ends. The only information that we could obtain from Michail,
in reply to our requests that he would inquire of the elder where and
how he found the tin boxes, was that Kuzmá was going to sail across to
Narva to give evidence against the Swede who had shot him.

"What has that to do with it?" said Jack.

Michail grinned and scratched his head, and said something in Russian to
the elder, who did likewise and cleaned up his mouth with the back of
his hand besides.

"Well?" said Jack; "go on!"

"The other great lord kicked me in a painful manner!" continued Michail,
placing his hand near the afflicted part.

"He will kick you again in a still more painful manner," said Jack, "if
you don’t explain yourself."

"There is plenty of good vodka at Narva," said Michail, "forty, fifty,
or sixty copeks the bottle, or two-forty for a _vedro_."  (A _vedro_
contains, approximately, a gallon.)

"Oh, I see," said Jack.  "All right, sonny, you shall be healed, don’t
fear; and the other fellow too, but ask him about the boxes first!"

"Tea-money first!" said Michail.  "Alexander says the little box is
worth five roubles and the big one ten.  At Narva, if I complained
against the merciful gentleman for kicking me, he would be detained and
fined.  A gallon of vodka and twenty roubles is my price for being
kicked by the honourable lord."

"Kicked how many times?" said Jack.  "For that sum we shall certainly
kick you round the island, my friend.  The police at Narva will fine as
much for one kick as for thirty.  We shall take all our kicks,
remember!"

Michail decided not to go to Narva, and to charge me for the original
kicking only—the price of which was fixed at a vedro of vodka, to be
brought back from Narva by Kuzmá, and one rouble.

As for the elder, we paid him for the tin boxes, for, after all, they
were treasure-trove, and might prove to be very much more valuable to us
than the price asked.

This little matter being satisfactorily settled, Alexander the elder
deigned to inform us how he came by the property.

This, he said, was a very simple matter.  He had had the things five
years, keeping them because he felt sure someone would arrive one day to
find them.  Five years ago an old Englishman had come on the island, all
alone, to seek rare flowers and plants, as he informed everyone through
a pilot at the lighthouse, since departed, who spoke English.

The elder had watched the old man’s botanical researches, and saw him
collect a number of roots of "_brusnika_ and other rubbish," and saw him
also plant four posts in the wood, digging holes for each and putting
them in and piling earth to keep them steady.  Then he had dug a fifth
hole, somewhere near, and buried these boxes in it, laughing and
jabbering to himself, said the elder, like a madman.  The rest was very
simple.  Old Clutterbuck sailed away in the English steamer that stopped
to pick him up, and the elder quickly went and dug up the boxes, hoping
to find cash, but discovering nothing more valuable than a letter he
could not read.  He had thought of destroying both this and "the picture
of the devil," as he called old Clutterbuck’s portrait, but had taken
the wiser course of preserving both in case someone to whom they were
not valueless should come to find them.

When Strong arrived and commenced his digging operations, the elder
hoped that his opportunity had dawned; but Strong proved to be a madman
with whom it was impossible to enter into negotiations.

The rest, of course, we knew.

Were we really on the road to success at last? At all events, Jack and I
had the grace to admit that we had enjoyed fairly good luck after all,
supposing that the letter was actually the passport to wealth which it
purported to be.  If the elder had destroyed it we should never have got
any farther than Hogland in our researches!  As for the picture, he
might have done what he liked with that, we thought; though, since it
seemed to be the desire of the testator that we should keep it, we
piously determined to do so.

So that here we were with our object attained, or attained so far as it
was possible to attain it, and with another week or so on our hands to
be spent on this island before the steamer could be expected to return
and fetch us away.  What was to be done, and how should the time be
spent?

There was fishing, and there was wandering about with our shot guns, in
hopes of picking up a few grouse or other game which might be met with
in the moorland and woods which covered the island.  But the elder made
a tempting suggestion which we caught at, though we did not anticipate
much result from his idea.

There were three wolves on the island, he said, half-starved and rather
savage.  They lived here because they could not return to the mainland,
whence they had come in the days of ice, last February or March.  If we
liked to pay for a sheep, he would kill one and lay it down as a decoy.
On the third night, if we passed the hours of darkness in a tree over
the spot, we should probably have an opportunity of shooting the brutes,
and a good thing too; and it was in consideration of this fact that the
elder would let us have a sheep for a merely nominal sum—fifteen
roubles.

We agreed to pay this sum, so the sheep fell a victim, and was laid to
rest not in but upon the earth beneath a tree.

Meanwhile the wounded Kuzmá was about to sail for the mainland in order
to bring up his bandaged arm in testimony against James Strong, and the
question arose whether Jack and I were not bound to accompany him in
order to do what we could to ensure a fair trial to a fellow-countryman
in distress.

He had done his best to murder us more than once, true.  He had also
foully done to death his own cousin, the younger Clutterbuck; and he had
only failed to shoot down three innocent Russian peasants because one of
the three had had the cleverness to knock him on the head before his
purpose was half accomplished.

Yet, for all his crimes, we felt compunction about allowing him to pass,
friendless and helpless, into the hands of those who are ever ready, as
Englishmen (who know nothing about it) invariably believe, to draft
their victims away to Siberia whether guilty or innocent.  He deserved
"Siberia," whatever that name may imply, as thoroughly as any rascal;
but, somehow, though neither of us would have moved a finger to save his
neck had it been in danger at the hands of an English hangman, yet we
felt inexplicably averse to permitting Russians to have the twisting of
it.

Why this was so I do not attempt to explain—it is a psychological
problem which I leave to other heads to solve; all I know, is that it
was only the sturdy good sense of Jack Henderson that prevented me from
stepping on board his fishing-lugger with Kuzmá, and another peasant,
and sailing away to Narva to make a quixotic fool of myself in defence
of the indefensible James Strong.



                            *CHAPTER XXXII*

                     *WE RECEIVE A TERRIBLE SHOCK*


As it was, we contented ourselves with sending a letter to the British
Consul there (supposing that there existed such a functionary),
exhorting him to use his influence to obtain a fair trial for the rogue
called James Strong, and to see that he was not sent to Siberia without
good and sufficient cause shown.

"Great Jupiter!" said Jack, when he had read over my letter.  "Why, man,
we have evidence enough to send the fellow to Siberia, or to the next
world for that matter, half a dozen times over!"

So we had, of course.

"And I’ll tell you what, Peter!" continued Jack, "it will serve us well
right, when we’ve got the rascal out of his scrape by our confounded
meddling, if he turns up just in time to snatch the treasure out of your
fingers at the very last minute.  What’ll you do if he shows up at
Streatham and claims the right to dig with you, neck and neck for the
last lap?"

"Oh, come," I said, "that’s quite a different thing!  I should let him
hang in England, fast enough, but it’s unpleasant to think of Russians
stringing the poor beggar up far away from friends and country!"

Doubtless Jack agreed with me, for he took no steps to prevent the
despatch of my letter.  But it has since struck me that it is, after
all, very doubtful whether the proximity of "friends and country" would
have comforted Strong much if he had had the rope round his neck, even
an English rope.

What with fishing all day and sitting shivering in pine trees all night
(like a couple of frozen-out sedge-warblers, as Jack picturesquely
expressed it), we contrived to pass away the time for the best part of a
week, and then Kuzmá arrived, having prepared for us a surprise which
for absolute breathless unexpectedness undoubtedly broke the record in
so far as my own limited experience went, or Henderson’s either!

Michail came running up to the moor where Jack and I were busily engaged
in trying to induce a covey of grouse to allow us within range of our
guns, and imparted the exciting information that Kuzmá’s boat was in
sight.

At the news Jack and I gladly conceded the honours of war to our covey
of grouse and hastened down to the shore to see Kuzmá’s boat, for it had
come to this, that we were so very hard up for excitement on this island
that we would have gone miles to see anything or nothing.

"There are three men on board," said Jack, as the boat came nearer,
running straight for the shore before a fresh breeze.  "I suppose
they’ve brought a police officer along to make inquiries on the spot."

"I hope he won’t ask _us_ to go to Narva as witnesses!" I laughed.
"That would be a bad look-out for poor Strong, Jack, eh?"

Jack was gazing at the boat as it neared the land; I gazed too, watching
the jolly little craft cut the water into an endless V as it flew
scudding towards us, as though rejoiced at the prospect of getting home.

"Peter," said Jack presently, "look at the fellow in the bows; he’s got
his head round this way. If I were not absolutely certain that such a
thing were impossible, I should say it was James Strong."

"_What?_" I shrieked, "which? where?"  I stared at the man; it _was_
Strong, there could not be a doubt of it—there was no mistaking his
face, even at this distance.

"Good gracious!  Jack, what are we to do?" I said, trembling at the
knees like any coward. "Heaven help us, what will happen now?" I added.
My nerve seemed to have taken to itself wings at the sight of James
Strong!

"Why, what’s the matter, man?" said Jack. "It’s a mystery to me how the
fellow happens to be in that boat, but you may take your oath that he’s
pretty harmless as far as _we_ are concerned; he won’t catch us napping
again, if we have to watch him all day and night till the steamer
comes!"

I recovered presently, and called myself many evil names for yielding to
a craven instinct at sight of this ill-omened person.  I was not really
afraid of the fellow; it was the unexpected that upset me—it always
does.

As a matter of fact, there was little to be afraid of in the wretched
man.  It was not the James Strong whom we had known in Africa that
landed among us that afternoon in Hogland.  It was a poor,
broken-spirited, hopeless creature that raised his arms with a cry of
despair at seeing us, and hid his face and trembled and refused to leave
the boat when Kuzmá and others beached it and ran it, with him still
seated in the bows, up the shore.  I felt quite sorry for the terrified
wretch.

"Well, James Strong," said Jack, "this is an unexpected meeting, after
all that has passed!  How come _you_ here, pray?"

"I didn’t expect to find you on the island," said Strong.  "Oh, curse my
luck!" he added, in a wailing tone which changed into one of sudden
ferocity as his eye fell upon Jack, who was laughing at him.

"Yes, it _is_ poor luck for you, I admit," said the latter, "but, if it
is any comfort for you to know it, you would have been too late in any
case, for we have got all there was to find."

"I don’t believe a word of it," said Strong.

"And what’s more," continued Jack, ignoring Strong’s remark, "the elder
had it all the while, and would have given it to you if you hadn’t shot
at him.  So you see what comes of evil temper, James Strong.  Now, if
you had not shot poor Clutterbuck, and tried to murder my friend and me,
you might have followed us to England, and perhaps, even yet, have
robbed us of our possessions. As it is, you see, if you come to England
you will certainly hang!"

James Strong swore one of his vile oaths and spluttered there was no
proof.  Who was going to believe our lies?  It was much more probable
that we had shot Clutterbuck than he, and any jury of Englishmen would
see that the whole yarn was a foul conspiracy.  Then he changed his tone
and whimpered, and said he had passed a miserable fortnight in the
Russian prison in Narva, and beseeched us, if we were men and
Englishmen, to help him escape to England and thence anywhere we
pleased.  The Narva police would be after him by to-morrow for a
certainty, even if these Russian fiends did not carry him back and
deliver him up.

"Tell us your story, with as few lies as you can put into it," said
Jack, "and we’ll think what’s best to be done with you."



                            *CHAPTER XXXIII*

                    *HOW STRONG ESCAPED FROM PRISON*


"You’re such an infernal blackguard, you see, Strong," continued Jack,
with engaging candour, "that one must be very careful in dealing with a
man like yourself.  It seems to me that it’s Siberia or the gibbet, my
friend; and upon my word, I don’t quite know which to advise in your
best interests.  Tell us what happened at Narva."

James Strong was considerably cowed by his experiences, and obeyed
without further demur. Undoubtedly, his tale was full of untruth, but as
he gave it to us I will pass it on to the reader.  We were able to learn
a truer version subsequently.

Strong declared that he had been taken to Narva by the fishermen, having
been bound by them while still unconscious from the effects of a blow on
the head from Gavril’s staff.  At Narva he was thrust into a miserable
prison or police cell, where he was interrogated by persons who could
not understand him, nor he them.  A Swedish interpreter was brought, and
Strong was knocked about and bullied because he protested that he could
understand Swedish no better than Russian.  He repeated the word
"English" in hopes that an English interpreter would be produced, but
none appeared.  He was half starved and atrociously bullied by Russian
policemen, and so the time passed until the witness Kuzmá came to give
evidence against him.  At the trial the English Consul came and spoke
for him (this was in consequence of our letter, no doubt), but he was
taken back to his cell, the Consul informing him that he could do
nothing to save him from the consequences of his violence.  He would
probably be convicted of attempted murder and deported to Siberia.

That night was celebrated, Strong explained, some Russian church
holiday, and everyone was drunk or half drunk.  He succeeded in escaping
from the wooden building in which he was confined, and in finding his
way down by the river to the port, securing a small boat, which proved
to be rotten and to leak vilely, in which he put out to sea; he hoped to
get away and finally return somehow to Hogland, where he might even yet
find the treasure before we arrived, and escape with it on the first
steamer that passed.

"You can’t blame me for that," interposed Strong at this point.  "I had
as much right to the treasure as you, if I could find it first."

"Oh, quite so, Strong," said Jack.  "We don’t always approve of some of
your methods—as, for instance, of your attempts to remove us out of the
way, us and poor Clutterbuck—but we never denied your right to compete.
Proceed.  Whom did you murder, and how, in order to escape from your
cell?"

"You never give me a chance, curse you!" said Strong, looking livid with
rage.  "I have never killed a human creature.  Clutterbuck fell down a
nullah and broke his neck.  I shot wide of you on purpose—it was
necessary to frighten you off—and these fellows too.  Did I murder one
of them or one of you?"

"What about my leg, Strong? you infernal lying blackguard!" I said.

"I was bound to keep you back how I could," he cried hotly; "I am sorry
I hurt you, but that’s not murder, and you know it."

"I know it was meant to be," I said.

"It was not," he cried; "I fired wide on purpose. One doesn’t hit a man
in the leg if one means killing."

"Oh, come, Strong; you are a poor shot, you know, at the best!" said
Jack.  "We don’t forget Graciosa!  Go on with your story."

"Oh, curse Graciosa, and you too!" said Strong surlily, and not another
word could we get out of him at this time.

But Kuzmá told us the rest of it—that is to say, from the point at which
Strong left off—though we only heard the true version of his escape from
Narva at a later date, and from another source.

Kuzmá returning to Hogland in his fishing-boat, had seen in the
distance, when about an hour out from Narva, a small craft occupied by
one man, who seemed to be in difficulties, since he shouted and
gesticulated.

As Kuzmá and his companion consulted whether to head for the small boat
in order to offer assistance, they suddenly observed that the vessel had
disappeared.  Sailing up to the place where it had sunk they had come
upon a man swimming, whom they did not recognise for Strong until they
had pulled him on board.

When they did recognise him, said Kuzmá, they were for pitching him back
into the sea; but Strong had a knife, and looked so dangerous, that they
thought it wiser to bring him along, which they did.  They knew nothing
of his escape or anything else, excepting that they fully intended to
make a little money out of the job, presently, by restoring him to the
authorities, and claiming a gratuity.

Had they known more, they would probably have smashed in his head with
an oar, and pitched him back into the gulf.  Cash rewards are very, very
pleasant things; but under some circumstances Kuzmá would have felt even
greater satisfaction in smashing a head than in earning money by
preserving it whole for others to smash!

On the following day we might fairly begin to look out for the return of
our good steamship the _Thomas Wilcox_, and it became necessary to
settle something as to James Strong and his fate.

The Russians, Kuzmá and his friends, being aggrieved parties, and also
interested in a pecuniary way in returning the prisoner to his bonds,
were naturally all for conveying him back to Narva under strong escort;
but this James Strong besought us with tears and piteous entreaties at
all hazards to disallow.  He would assuredly be sent to Siberia or
starved or flogged to death, he protested; nothing could save him.  "For
the love of Heaven," he begged us, "let me sail with you from this
accursed place."

"But I can’t, we can’t do it, as honest men!" said Jack, in some
perplexity for the wretched fellow.  "Don’t you see, man, that if you
set foot in England we are bound to denounce you?"

"Then land me at Copenhagen," said Strong, "or anywhere."

"But you’ll take the first steamer on to Hull, and the difficulties will
all begin again," said I.

"I won’t—I swear it!" he cried.  "I’ll sign anything you like."

Jack and I held a consultation over this knotty question.  No doubt it
will be said that our duty was obviously either to abandon the miscreant
to these poor fellows, whom he had deeply aggrieved, and who would
restore him into the hands of those who would try him; or else to take
him to England ourselves, and arraign him there.

And yet, stern and judicial reader of these lines, we felt that either
course would be equally repugnant to us.  We could not allow these
Russians to have their will of the fellow; how did we know that they
would not knock him on the head, without trial, so soon as we were
afloat?  As for taking him to England and accusing him of murder, fully
as we believed him guilty, we were without absolute proof, and the work
of establishing a case against him was not an enterprise we cared to
undertake.

In the end we decided to buy the man off from these islanders for the
sum of one hundred roubles, which they gladly accepted, and to allow him
to accompany us as far as Copenhagen, where he should land.  In
consideration, therefore, of a signed statement from him that he was
guiltless of the murder of Clutterbuck, who, he solemnly declared, had
fallen in fair fight during a struggle for the revolver, which had
exploded and killed Clutterbuck on the spot; in consideration, I say, of
a declaration to this effect, Jack and I both undertook to leave Strong
unmolested so long as he did not cross our path in England.  So sure as
he ever came near us again, for good or ill, he should be denounced by
us without further compunction.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIV*

                             *EXIT STRONG*


We did not altogether believe Strong’s story even then; I believe it now
still less, in the light of subsequent information bearing upon his
conduct at Narva.  Taking him all in all, I daresay, and indeed I hope,
that I shall never look upon the like of James Strong again; for I do
not suppose the earth contains many such callous and sanguinary rascals
as he, and it would be more than my share of ill luck to come across two
such scoundrels in the course of one lifetime.

I will not dwell upon his "gratitude" and joy when our decision was
communicated to him.  He had knelt weeping before us, praying aloud and
blubbering while we had the matter in consideration, and when the thing
was decided he—well, it was a sickly exhibition, and, of course, his
gratitude was only sham.  He would have stabbed either of us in the back
any minute, for a five-pound note.

Thus, when the good ship _Thomas Wilcox_ arrived off the island next
morning early, we took leave of our gentle but avaricious elder and his
friends, and left the island without much regret, and James Strong went
with us.

"Well," said kind and hearty Captain Edwards, shaking each of us warmly
by the hand, "found your coal?"

As for me, I had completely forgotten our coal-mining enterprise, and
was foolishly taken aback by the remark.  But Jack, as usual, was "all
there."

"There is certainly coal in the island," he said; "but I don’t think it
will prove to exist in paying quantities."

I don’t think it will either; for, so far as I know, the only coals to
be found in the place are the few ashes shot out by steamers passing the
island near enough for their siftings to be washed ashore.

"Ah, that’s a pity!" said Edwards; "I was looking forward to be a
director, one day!  So your trip’s been a failure?"

"Well, not altogether," said Jack, grave as a judge; "we’ve enjoyed some
good fishing, and haven’t had a bad time altogether."

We paid Strong’s passage to Copenhagen, and landed him there.  Not
wishing to enter into particulars as to his story, we gave out that he
had come to the island a month ago, _viâ_ Helsingfors, upon much the
same errand as ourselves; and if Captain Edwards was surprised to hear
that there had been three fools instead of two in the matter, he was too
polite to say so.  But after Strong had, to our relief, finally
departed, and we were once more in full sail for England, we received a
piece of news from Captain Edwards which gave us what is commonly called
"a turn," and we were glad at first that we had not received it but a
few hours earlier.  We had just seen Strong off, and were sitting and
talking in the dining-saloon, discussing various matters, when Edwards
suddenly startled us by saying—

"Nice pranks a countryman of ours has been playing at Narva!"

"What—Strong?" I blurted in my foolishness. Jack coughed as though
choking over his glass of sherry.

"How your mind is running upon Strong, Peter!" he said.  "At Narva this
was, Captain Edwards said; didn’t you, captain?"

"Yes, at Narva," said Edwards, suspecting nothing; "it’s a place not so
very far from Hogland, on the Esthonian shore.  The fellow was a sailor
apparently, and had behaved violently towards other sailors, Russians—I
don’t know the history of it; but he was placed in ’quod’ for his
misdeeds.  Well, what does the fellow do one night, finding that most
people about the lock-up were drunk by reason of a church holiday (it’s
a sin to be sober on a church holiday, you must know, in Russia); what
does he do but set fire to the place, stick a knife into one policeman,
brain another with a stool, and escape in the confusion down to the
water, where he gets to sea in a leaky boat, and goes Heaven knows
where?—probably to the bottom, for the boat is described as a totally
impossible craft."

"Do you mean to say, captain, that the two men he attacked are actually
dead—murdered?" I asked, feeling that I was paler than I ought to be to
hear of these excesses in a stranger.

"Why, certainly," said the captain; "he appears to have run amuck
entirely; and I should say that if he went to the bottom he did a deuced
wise thing, for if they catch him there’ll be a bad quarter of an hour
for him; on that you may bet your pile."

"Anyone burnt?" said Jack.  He too looked somewhat appalled by these
revelations.

"Most probably—I only saw a telegram, mind you, in the French paper, the
_Journal de St. Petersbourg_. There must have been a number of drunken
people about the place,—bah! it isn’t a pretty story. Upon my word, you
have both gone quite pale over it.  Pass the sherry, Mr. Henderson—help
yourself and your friend; you both look to require it."

Talking over this horrible story with Jack, afterwards, we agreed that
if we had known of this before leaving Hogland, we could not possibly,
in conscience, have allowed the fellow to escape.  We must have sent him
back to Narva.  It was lucky indeed that Kuzmá had known nothing of it,
having simply picked the man up in mid-sea!

"What should we have done if Captain Edwards had told us this story
while Strong was still on board?" I asked.

"Nothing," said Jack.  "What would have been the use?  It would have
been very awkward for Edwards; and besides, rogue as Strong is, I don’t
think I should hand the poor wretch back to Russian judges any the
easier after this.  Heaven only knows what would happen to him!"

At all events, it was a matter to be thankful for that we were at length
happily quit of this nightmare, and, as we hoped, for ever.

As we hoped, yes.  But it’s a delusive thing, this bubble "Hope," and
very given to bursting!

It was during lunch that Captain Edwards had told Jack and me all about
the Narva business, and it was while sitting and smoking a pipe in my
cabin an hour later that it suddenly occurred to me—I don’t know why—to
have a look at old Clutterbuck’s last letter and the daub which was
supposed to be a reproduction of his features upon canvas.

I did not suspect anything.  On the contrary, it never for one moment
occurred to me that anything could have happened to the things.  They
were useless to anyone but myself, unless it were Strong; but that
thoroughly cowed individual would never have dared possess himself of
them—why should he?  It was impossible for him to show himself in
England, for he would know that we should have no mercy if he were
deliberately to disobey orders and risk his neck in this way.

I suppose I wanted to have a peep at the things—my stock in trade, such
as it was; just as one enjoys taking out one’s money, from time to time,
and counting it, in the mere pleasure of possession. I can think of no
other reason why I should have gone to my portmanteau to have a look at
that foolish old letter and that unspeakable caricature.  At anyrate I
went.

The portmanteau was unlocked, and strapped only on one side, because of
the nuisance of hunting up keys and unfastening buckles when at sea.
Dressing in a cabin with a rocking floor beneath one’s feet is an
extremely disagreeable process, and I am always unwilling to add to the
necessary time to be expended in the operation by fastening up bags and
portmanteaus.

Let them lie open, day and night—there are no thieves to come picking
and stealing at the first-class passengers’ end of the ship!  That is
what had been my idea in the matter, an idea supported by the reflection
that I had nothing worth stealing. But when I went to the portmanteau
and found that both letter and picture had totally disappeared, I
realised, not for the first time, that Mr. James Strong was an
individual whose craftiness should not be measured with the ordinary
tape-yard applicable to the shrewdness of others.  He required a measure
all to himself.  He had got the better of us again!



                             *CHAPTER XXXV*

                             *MORE CHECKS*


I rushed upstairs to Jack, who had gone on deck.

"Jack," I cried, almost shouting in my excitement,—"he’s done us
again!—he’s got the things! Heaven only knows what he means to do with
them, but he’s got them and—and we haven’t!" I concluded lamely.

"What do you mean, man?" said Jack. "Who’s got what?"

"Why, Strong—Strong again!  Don’t you understand?—he’s stolen the letter
and the picture too, and Heaven only knows where he’s gone with them."

It was now Jack’s turn to be moved.

"Impossible!" he exclaimed; "he would never dare; why—man alive!—he
knows well enough he must swing if he sets foot in England, and what use
are the things to him anywhere else?"  Jack rose and strode about the
deck.

"He might have done it out of spite, though," he added next minute;
"very likely he was determined that if _he_ couldn’t have the money, at
all events _we_ shouldn’t have it either.  Are you sure they are gone?"

"Come and see for yourself," I said; and together we hurried down again,
through the saloon and into my cabin.

Here we turned out every single article that my portmanteau contained;
we searched every corner of the tiny room in case the things should have
been mislaid; but we found nothing, and finally, in desperation, we
called up the steward and cross-questioned him as to whether anyone
could possibly have entered the cabin, either by day or night, without
being seen by him or by his sub.

But neither did the steward know anything of the lost articles, nor
would he admit that anyone could or would have entered the saloon
without his being aware of the fact.

"Why, my pantry’s at the foot of the stairs," he said, "and if I’m not
in it Arthur is, and the stewardess is generally knocking around about
here too; how’s anyone going to pass the lot of us without someone
knowing of it?  Besides, we don’t keep no thieves aboard _this_ ship,"
he concluded, with displeasure.  "No one but me and Arthur’s been in
this ’ere cabin since you came aboard at Hogland, and that’s a fact!"

"No, you’re wrong there, steward!" I said, "for that Russian sailor
Michail came in to close the portholes last night, and woke me; what’s
more, he said you sent him."

The steward admitted that this suddenly recollected circumstance was
correct.  He had forgotten it, he explained.  Michail had come to him at
about two in the morning, and had asked whether he should close the
passengers’ windows, as the wind seemed to be rising and the portholes
might ship a sea or two presently.  "If you suspect him, or me, or any
of us, all you have to do is to examine our things," the steward ended.

But we disclaimed any such desire.  We would like to see Michail,
however, and as soon as possible; for if the things were not
forthcoming, we must—as Jack expressed it—"get out at Elsinore, and
walk!"

So Michail came up for examination.

Did he often volunteer for the duty of closing portholes at night? we
asked.

Michail said he did it sometimes; he generally offered to do it because
he liked the job; the passengers now and then gave him a small gratuity.
On this occasion, Michail added, the gentlemen had given him nothing,
but it was not too late should they desire to repair the omission.

"Wait a minute, Michail," said Jack.  "The time has not yet arrived to
speak of gratuities. What about this portmanteau, here?  Have you seen
it before?"

"Often," said Michail; "it is the very one I carried ashore on Hogland,
for the gentleman with red hair."  (My hair is _not_ red, it is a warm
yellow; Michail meant me, nevertheless, for Jack’s locks are raven
black.)

"Yes; but have you been a-fishing in it lately—just an innocent search,
you know, for something of interest; not a burglary of course."

Michael started back in horror and surprise. "Do the _barins_ take me
for a thief?" he asked with some indignation.

"That was the idea," said Jack, quite coolly. "But you may have been
acting for another—for that other Englishman, for instance, Strong."

"Which Englishman is that?" asked Michail innocently; "one of the
sailors?"

"The Narva man; you know well enough!" said Jack.

Michail crossed himself very devoutly. "_Barin!_" he said; "as if I
would act with that _skoteena_!" (rascal)

"Come, Michail," continued Jack, "will ten roubles do it?"

"There is nothing to tell of myself," said Michail reflectively; "but
for the sum of money mentioned, I might possibly be induced to tell you
something that I heard him say to one of our men in the fo’c’sle."

"Well," I said, "go on Michail.  It sounds promising.  When did he say
it, and what did he say?"

"It was yesterday," replied Michail; "you two were walking on deck, and
I saw him point to you and say those two passengers had the worst
tempers of any two men he’d ever seen; they go mad angry every two or
three days, he said, and tear around, playing Old Harry with everything.
Very likely they’ll want to be landed in the middle of the North Sea,
and they’ll paint everything red till they’re allowed, too; and I shan’t
be there to see the fun, he said, for I shall have been put ashore at
Copenhagen."

"What did he mean by that?  You’re romancing, Michail!" said Jack
severely.

Michail replied that he would scorn to tell us anything but the plain
truth, though he was always glad to tell that—for a consideration.

"Well, you’ve earned nothing yet, my friend; the ten roubles remain with
me, so far.  You’d better remember a little more if you want the money."

"That was all the _skoteena_ himself said," Michael continued; "but if
the _barins_ desire it, I will tell them what some of those in the
fo’c’sle thought about it."

"Go on," said Jack; "what did they say?"

"They said—when the _skoteena_ had told us about your tempers and what
you would do in the North Sea after he had gone—that he wouldn’t say a
thing like that unless he had a reason for it; and probably the reason
was that he had got hold of some of your property, and you’d find out
about it in a day or two and go mad with rage, and want to be landed
wherever was nearest so as to go after him."

"Oh, that was it, was it?" said Jack.

Michail received his ten roubles, and Jack drew me aside.

"I’ll tell you what it is, Peter, old chap; Michail’s right.  Whether he
said it because he has a guilty conscience, and wants us off the ship;
or whether Strong really used the expression he attributes to him, one
thing’s certain—we must land."

"Where can we?—anywhere here along the Danish coast?  By George! if we
catch him again, Jack, he shan’t escape us, eh?"

"He should swing if it depended upon me, now, and I could prove
anything," said Jack grimly.  "But come and interview Captain Edwards,
and see if he’ll stop the ship and land us."  Captain Edwards was upon
the bridge with the pilot, whom we had shipped at Copenhagen.

"Of course," Jack added, as we caught sight of the jolly-looking,
weather-beaten Dane standing beside our own skipper—"the pilot!  We’ll
ask Edwards to let us go ashore in his boat, with him; that’ll probably
be Elsinore.  Confound it all, though, we shall be six hours behind him
at Copenhagen!"

"But why, what’s up, what’s happened?" asked bewildered Captain Edwards,
when we had made known to him the nature of our request; "has the other
fellow bolted with the money-bags?"

We explained that this was just about the state of the case; the man had
robbed us, and we must land and be after him.

"Are you quite sure it was he?" continued Edwards; "it would be funny if
you went after this fellow and left the real culprit, _plus_ your
property, on board!"

But we explained that there was no reasonable doubt as to this.  The
only person now on the ship who might possibly have had a hand in it was
Michail, and we begged the captain to keep an open eye on this rascal,
and even have him watched on landing in Hull.  It was possible that he
might have in his possession a picture belonging to us, and of some
value.

"What! a work of art?" laughed Edwards. "May I ask how you came to be
travelling about and landing and prospecting on Hogland in company with
a valuable work of art?"

Well, we thought it best—and probably the shorter way as well—to tell
the skipper all about it, and we did so.  Now that Strong was out of our
hands we need not scruple to conceal the fact that he was perhaps the
greatest rascal unhung, and that he and the hero of the Narva exploit
were one and the same person.

Captain Edwards was naturally somewhat excited.

"The scoundrel ought to have been sent back to Narva," he said, "not
brought on here and set free.  You deserve what’s happened for setting
such a monster loose upon society.  It’s not fair dealing towards your
kind, young men, upon my soul it isn’t; you may take that from an older
man than yourselves.  However, please God you’ll catch him yet.  You
must land with the pilot, of course; that’ll be at Elsinore, in half an
hour’s time.  You’d better get your traps ready."

We went down to prepare for our departure. In the cabin a thought
occurred to me.  What if Michail and Strong were in direct collusion,
and had agreed upon a base of action such as this: that Michail should
convey to us, just as he had done, by innuendo, that Strong had stolen
our property, in order that we might be induced to land at Elsinore and
hurry back after him by train to Copenhagen; that meanwhile Strong
should have caught the first train to Elsinore, and—having "done" the
distance by land much faster than we should have accomplished it by
water—be waiting at Elsinore or beyond it, knocking around in a small
boat all ready to be picked up at dusk by his friend Michail. In that
case he would have left the property on board, and would simply continue
his journey to Hull, and land there in two days and a half, or three
days, while we were still hunting him, goodness knows where, all over
the Continent, perhaps!

"Well," said Jack, "if that _is_ the plan, Master Strong will find
himself in the wrong box.  I don’t believe he could get taken on board
out of a small boat without stopping the ship, or the captain or mate
knowing something of it; but if he did, Edwards knows all about him now,
and he’d be as safe here as in Newgate, _pro tem_.  Let him come, by all
means; the arrangement would be all right for us even though we did lose
a few days travelling about the Continent."

Nevertheless we warned Captain Edwards that it was just possible Strong
might turn up again beyond Elsinore and demand to be taken aboard, or
perhaps be assisted by Michail in making a secret reappearance.

"Not he!" said Edwards; "he wouldn’t risk it—don’t you make any mistake!
I only wish he would.  It would be putting his head in a bag with a
vengeance!"

I think I ought to make an apology, at this point, to the memory of the
astute Mr. James Strong.  I ought never to have imagined him capable of
so crude an enterprise as that which my fancy accused him of
undertaking.



                            *CHAPTER XXXVI*

                        *WE FIND AN OLD FRIEND*


The ugly castle of Elsinore was in sight when we came on deck, and a few
minutes later the pilot’s own little craft, splendidly sailed by his
mate and a boy, came alongside, and without asking us to stop for her,
made fast to us and raced along in our company.

After a hasty farewell with Captain Edwards, and a whispered injunction
under all circumstances to keep a good look-out upon Michail, we threw
our portmanteaus into the arms of the astonished Dane below, and
followed the pilot down the steps swung over the side of the ship for
our accommodation.

Though the pilot lived at a village at some little distance from
Elsinore, he kindly agreed to convey us to the railway station at the
latter town, and with a fair wind we soon made the jetty close to the
very spot from which the trains start.  Here, having paid off our
gallant boatmen, we jumped ashore and hurried with all speed to the
station, to find that we had just missed one train and that we could not
now catch another for an hour and more. This was tantalising and
vexatious; but at least we were ashore and in full chase after our
quarry, and that was a source of some comfort to us.

Together we paced up and down the platform of Elsinore Station.  We
tried to converse.  I asked Jack what he thought would be Hamlet’s
opinion of the state of affairs if he were to "come down" and see a
railway station within a stone’s-throw of his capital castle of
Elsinore.

Jack replied that all depended upon whether Strong should have been
lucky in catching his train; if one had started from Copenhagen soon
after he landed there, then his advantage over us would be very great,
and probably our best way would be to let him go, and hurry back to
England, ourselves, by land.

Presently, standing at a spot whence he commanded a good view of the
castle, Jack observed that if Hamlet’s father’s ghost ever walked upon
the parapet of the great ugly building nowadays, he must be as active as
a cat, for there would be a lot of climbing to do, there being a kind of
miniature turret at every few yards which the ghost would have to
negotiate if he desired to get along.

To which I replied, in a contemplative fashion, that in any case we knew
well enough without the paper where we had to dig for the money, and the
only thing that really mattered was the picture. The question was, did
we absolutely require the daub to help us find the treasure, or not?  At
anyrate, Strong knew too much to come fooling around in England.  He
must know that we would nab him at once.  There was no fear of Strong
himself turning up.  From all of which it will be gathered that our
conversation was a little mixed.  However, the train started at last,
and we left Elsinore behind us.

At Copenhagen many inquiries had to be made, and at first we were
somewhat helpless; for though the language sounded sufficiently like
English to make it additionally annoying that we could not understand
it, yet neither we nor those with whom we attempted to converse could
make head or tail of that which we or they respectively tried to convey.
At the station we could do nothing towards making our wishes known, and
at length we determined to visit the nearest hotel and engage an
interpreter, if such a person existed.

Here we were lucky, for we found the very man, and to him we confided
our need, namely, to get upon the track of an individual who landed from
an English steamer, and had, presumably, gone on by the first train
elsewhere.

"But where?" asked our commissionaire; and to this question we had, of
course, no reply.

"We must begin at the beginning, and go down first to the
landing-stage," said our friend.

Now this was annoying, because the journey would be a loss of time; but
it was obviously the correct course, and we took it.  We must begin our
inquiries from the spot at which he first touched land.

Down at the wharf our Dane interviewed several boatmen, all of whom had
seen the _Thomas Wilcox_ arrive and depart, and all of whom agreed that
a passenger had landed and had engaged a conveyance and driven away.

"To the station, of course," said I.  "Why do we wait?  This is all a
waste of precious time!"

"Which station?" asked our Dane grimly; and, when I had no reply to
make, he added, "That is what we have come for to find out."

It seemed, however, that the point was a most difficult one to
establish, and that we should be obliged to drive to each station in
turn, thereby wasting more time, until there wandered upon the scene,
presently, a Danish youth who said he had taken the passenger’s bag out
of the boat and put it into the carriage.  The passenger was a German,
he said.

"How do you know that?" asked Jack, through the interpreter.

"Because he wanted to get to Kiel," said the boy; "he knew no Danish,
and could only hold up his finger to the driver and say, ’Skielskor, for
Kiel!’"

This was good enough for us.  We drove rapidly towards the station,
feeling that we were about to make a real start at last.

The clerk at the booking-office remembered the man we wanted.  He had
hurried into the station and said, in an interrogative manner,
"Skielskor?" and when the clerk had replied that it was all right, if he
meant that he required a ticket for that place, he had repeated,
"Kiel—Bremen?"  Whereupon the clerk, seeing that conversation would be
difficult, had tentatively offered two tickets, one to Skielskor, and
the other through to Kiel; of which he had selected and paid for the
latter.  He had left just an hour ago.

"Can’t we get to Kiel direct by water, quicker than by land to
Skielskor, and thence across?" asked Jack.  "If there should be a
steamer going just about now, we might possibly cut him off at Kiel."

Fortune favoured us quite handsomely this time.

Hastening back to the waterside we actually found a Kiel steamer about
to depart; that is, a large steamer lay in mid-channel, having arrived
since we were down here half an hour before; she had stopped to put down
passengers, just as the _Thomas Wilcox_ did, and would proceed almost
immediately.

We signalled her to take us on board, and left without a moment’s delay.

"Great Scott, Jack!" I exclaimed; "Strong will have the luck of the evil
one himself if he reaches Kiel before us now; this is splendid!"

We ascertained that, all being well, we should reach our destination
considerably before Strong could do so, he travelling by land and then
by small steamer to Kiel, even though he should catch one just about to
start.  Under these circumstances the jubilation which we felt was most
justifiable, and over a capital dinner we spoke with delight of the joy
in store for us, when we should stand on the landing-stage waiting for
the arrival of the little Skielskor steamer, and see the countenance of
Mr. James Strong change when he caught sight of us there.

"Will he have a fit, think you, Jack?" I asked in glee.

Jack said he thought it quite likely; it would appear so uncanny to the
wretched chap, and so utterly unexpected.  "I should certainly have a
fit under similar circumstances," he added.

We went to bed with the conviction that fortune was treating us kindly
this time, and that to-morrow had consolations for us in expiation for
the shocks and disappointments of to-day.

But these rascally to-morrows never perform exactly what is expected of
them.  Our programme was all of the colour of the rose, and justifiably
so; but certain circumstances marred the order of events, and things
fell out differently.

Now our steamer, the _Peter der Grosse_, had come from Cronstadt, just
as our own _Thomas Wilcox_ had, and in Russia at this time the cholera
was having one of those periodical innings which it enjoys at regular or
irregular intervals in that country.  And when we arrived at Kiel and
requested to be landed as quickly as might be, we were met by the
stunning statement that this would be impossible until the quarantine
officer should have come on board and passed us.

"How long will that be?" we asked, and were informed that it might be a
couple of hours and might be twelve.

"They are very particular here," said the captain, "and are as likely as
not to leave us half a day or so, just to give the germs a chance, in
case they should require this much extra time to develop."

As a matter of fact, the quarantine officer did not visit us until
nearly evening, we having arrived before midday.  Just before his
arrival I had noticed a little Danish steamer creep into harbour, and
through the captain’s glasses I distinguished, or thought to
distinguish, the words "_Helma_—Skielskor."

"Jack," I said, "look at the little craft just running into
harbour—here, take the glasses."

Jack took them and had a long steady gaze at the small steamer.

"You’re quite right," he said presently (I had expressed no opinion
whatever!); "he’s just done it; that must be his boat; there’s no
question of it!"

Then Jack muttered an expressive word between his teeth, and I another.

Then I looked at Jack and he at me, and—having nothing better or wiser
to do, I suppose—we both burst into a roar of laughter.

It was sickening to see the fellow just gliding out of our very hands;
but at the same time it was really very funny.

"Never mind," said Jack.  "We’ll be after him directly, and we know he’s
going _viâ_ Bremen. Perhaps we may catch the same train yet."

But we were not destined to reap this crop of good fortune.  The
quarantine officers came on board and examined carefully every creature
in the ship.  This occupied a couple of hours. Fortunately for us, we
were able to prove that we had joined the steamer at Copenhagen; still
more so, we were not asked for passports, otherwise the fact would have
been revealed that we too had come from Russia, and we, like the rest of
the passengers, would have been delayed in quarantine for twenty-four or
forty-eight hours, or whatever the term may have been.

As it was, we were allowed to land, though the rest were detained; and
without a moment’s delay we made for the station, calling on the way at
the jetty, at which lay, sluggishly steaming, the little Skielskor
steamer which had arrived a short while since.

We inquired of the captain, as best we could, as to the passengers he
had brought over.  Was there an Englishman? we asked; and we described
our friend Strong.  The captain who—excellent man!—spoke English,
replied that most certainly there had been an Englishman among his
passengers, a charming, cheery sort of person, who had laughed and drunk
Swedish punch all the way, and told capital stories.  He was a generous
kind of a man too, and had stood drinks all round.  He had also made
him, the skipper, a little present which he declared to be of some
value, though it could not be said to have the appearance of much
intrinsic worth, so far as he, the skipper, was able to judge!

"Oh," said Jack, not greatly interested; "and what was that?"

"The picture of an old man—Dutch School; after Gerard Dow, so he said,"
laughed the skipper. "You can see it, if you like; you may be a judge of
these things.  Lord knows why he gave it me—drunk, I suppose!"



                            *CHAPTER XXXVII*

              *MR. STRONG MAKES AN EFFECTIVE REAPPEARANCE*


This communication was as exciting as it was utterly unexpected.  We
entreated the skipper, as calmly as we could, to produce his work of
art.  He did so.  It was the portrait, of course.

And we to talk of ill-luck!  Why, supposing the thing to be really of
any value to us, it was a stroke of the most magnificent good fortune to
have found it in this way!  I realised this fact as the skipper brought
the ugly thing out, and—with a laugh—placed it on the table before us.

"There," he said; "a beauty, isn’t it?  If it’s by Gerard Dow, why, I
don’t think much of Gerard Dow, and that’s the truth.  Any offers?" he
added, with another laugh.

"Ten shillings!" said Jack, laughing also. "It isn’t Gerard Dow, nor yet
_after_ him; but I collect these old Dutch daubs, and I’ll take it off
your hands for a half sovereign."

"That and a drink round," said the skipper.

And ten minutes later we were driving in a German droshky to the
station, having our newly-recovered treasure in tow.

It mattered little, now, whether we caught Strong or not.  As a matter
of fact he would be more of an embarrassment than anything else. What
should we do with him if we caught him?

At anyrate, however, we would shadow him and see what he intended to do.
If his destination should prove to be England, then matters would be
different and it would be our duty to follow and arrest him.

"We can’t prove anything," I said.

"We shall have to try," replied Jack.  "A rogue like him can’t be
allowed to prowl about England free."  This was, of course, perfectly
true.

"Why did the chap steal the portrait, only to chuck it away again?" I
said presently, as we drove along.  "Simply to annoy us, or prevent us
finding the treasure, even though he daren’t go and dig for it at
Streatham himself?"

"That’s the idea, I should think," said Jack; "that if _he_ can’t have
it, _you_ shan’t!"

Upon reaching the station we found that Mr. Strong was, at anyrate, not
to be caught in Kiel. The Bremen train had left just an hour ago, with
him in it.  There would be another in fifty minutes.

"Gad, Peter, we are in the race, at anyrate, after all!" said Jack, with
a guffaw; "if we have any luck in the trains we may catch him yet."

"Let’s find out how long he’ll have to wait at Hamburg for the Bremen
train," I suggested.

We did so, and found to our annoyance that our train reached Hamburg
just ten minutes after Strong’s was timed to leave that station for
Bremen. There would be another one, however, in an hour or less, and a
quicker one than his; so that we might get him at Bremen, It would
depend upon what should be his next destination.

"It doesn’t much matter," I reflected.  "If we don’t catch him at Bremen
we’d better just see where he’s gone to and then set off for Streatham,
_viâ_ Hanover and Flushing, as quickly as possible. Are you very keen to
see him, Jack?"

"It depends," said Jack.  "I should dearly like to see him, just once
more, in a dark lane and without witness or revolvers, but with a pair
of football boots upon my feet.  That would be very sweet indeed.  At a
crowded station, one might get in a little comforting language; but
kicking would be out of the question, and therefore the case would not
really be met.  However, it would be nice just to see his face, when
_he_ sees _ours_, and to tell him one or two things about himself."

So we took train for Bremen _viâ_ Hamburg, and at this latter place we
found, to our amusement, that our train, though starting after Strong’s,
who had already gone on, ran into Bremen a short while before the other;
ours being an express.

"Gad, Peter, this is splendid!" cried old Jack, rubbing his hands with
delight.

It really was; it was splendid!  Destiny was playing a strong game in
our favour; there was no doubt about it.

We should thus have the ecstatic pleasure of meeting Mr. Strong upon the
platform, and of observing his expression of delight upon seeing us
waiting for him.

It was at some little station outside Bremen, and about five miles from
that city, that we overtook Strong’s train, which, no doubt, was waiting
there in order to allow the express to go by.

We did not know it was Strong’s train, of course. We discovered the fact
in this way—

I was reading, Jack was looking out of the window.  Suddenly he startled
me with an exclamation. He was staring, all eyes, through the glass,
which was closed on account of the dustiness of the German railways.

"What is it?" I inquired.  I looked out, but saw nothing very startling
or unusual; a train lay alongside of ours, and Jack was staring, as it
appeared, into one of the carriages.

"What is it?" I repeated.

"Hush!" said Jack.  "Don’t make a row, but just look in there—the
compartment exactly opposite this one.  Don’t speak too loud or you may
awake the dear kind soul."

I looked, and first my heart gave a great jump; then, almost
immediately, I was attacked by the most violent desire to laugh aloud,
and I sank back in my place and heaved about, stuffing my handkerchief
into my mouth to prevent an outburst of noise therefrom.

For it was Strong himself, alone in a carriage, and fast asleep—the
pretty innocent—not dreaming of the possibility of enemies at hand!
Happy; at peace with all the world; slumbering upon his second-class
cushions in all the guileless confidence of a weary child.  It was too
beautiful for words.

Almost immediately our train started with a sudden jerk, and spoiled our
contemplation of the sweet picture before us.  But in marring one it
gave us another—a mere lightning flash of a picture, this last,
certainly; but one which I would not have missed for untold sums, and
the memory of which is even now a constant delight to me whenever
conjured up by the wizard Imagination.

The movement of our train caused Strong to open his eyes languidly and
to raise them towards the cause of his awakening.

At the same instant he caught sight of Jack’s face and then of mine, and
a more sudden and startled rushing of a sleepy intelligence into full
and disgusted wakefulness I have never beheld. Strong’s eyes went from
languid and fishy expressionlessness into swiftly alternating phases
representing surprise, disgust, rage and terror; they seemed to start
from his head and to grow, visibly, to about twice their normal size.
It was a noteworthy and unforgettable spectacle; it was beautiful.  As
we passed out of his scope of vision, we saw the fellow start from his
seat as though to put his head out of the window and follow us away with
his eyes.

"Did you ever see the like of that?" exclaimed Jack, subsiding into his
seat and beginning to roar with laughter.

"_I_ never did!" I concurred.  "The only thing is," I added, "the rascal
will get out, now, and not come on to Bremen."

"That doesn’t matter a bit," said Jack; "let him; it will save us
trouble; we don’t want him now, for we have the picture, which is all he
took from us barring Clutterbuck’s letter, of which we each have a
couple of copies, besides one apiece by heart."

"He may come on to England after us," I said. Jack laughed.

"I don’t believe it.  He wouldn’t dare.  This last fright would put him
off even if he had contemplated it.  As a matter of fact, I don’t
believe he ever meant digging.  He wouldn’t have given away the picture
if he had, for he could scarcely have failed to suppose that it has
something to do with the treasure finding, though I’m bound to say I,
for one, can’t imagine _what_!"

"Then why did he steal it from us?" I exclaimed.

"Malice, my dear chap; pure, unadulterated malice and devilment; the
rascal wouldn’t be happy unless he were playing Old Nick upon someone or
other."  I daresay Jack was perfectly right.

We waited at Bremen Station, however, for the arrival of Strong’s train,
in case he should be in it, and—as it happened—we should have saved
ourselves both time and vexation of spirit if we had gone on and left
him.

Strong was in the train.  He came out as bold as brass, and showed no
fear or surprise when he met us upon the platform.  He even wished us
good-evening, and asked us how we came to be here and not on board the
_Thomas Wilcox_, in the middle of the North Sea.

"Well, you’re a darned cool hand, Strong, I must say!" said Jack.  "What
about the work of art, and the other things?"

"What work of art?" he asked, positively without a blush.

"Clutterbuck’s picture—you know quite well what we mean," I said.  "You
stole it out of our cabin."

"I never went near your blamed cabin," he said; "you’d better prove what
you say.  You’re too jolly fond of accusing innocent people, you two
bounders.  If I had you in a quiet place I’d make you swallow all those
infernal lies about me that you invented on Hogland."

"Oh, that’s your line is it, Strong?" said Jack "You’re going to figure
as the injured innocent, are you?  All right, my man; you’re safe here
in Germany, but don’t you show yourself in England."

"You cannot prove anything, curse you!" cried Strong, "and you know it."

"Very well; quite likely; at the same time, think twice before crossing
the Channel; we may have a little evidence up our sleeve that you don’t
know of."

Strong uttered one of his oaths, which need not be repeated.

"You deny stealing the picture, then?" continued Jack.

"I may have it and I may not," said Strong, too angry now to care what
he said.  "At anyrate, it seems _you_ haven’t."

"Never judge by appearances, Strong," said Jack; "we have it, all right,
such as it is.  Pity to allow a work of art by G. Dow to remain in the
hands of a man who can’t even recognise the beauty of it.  Your friend
sold the keepsake you gave him—unkind of him, wasn’t it?"  Strong
winced.

"You have the luck of the devil," he snarled. "What’s your game?  You
can’t touch me, here; you know that.  Michail took the picture; I didn’t
want the infernal thing—he took it in revenge for your kicking him on
the island—there!  You’re welcome to it; it’s as like my darned uncle as
two peas, I’m sick when I look at it.  It may help you to find the
treasure, though how in perdition it’s going to do it beats me.  If you
want my opinion, there isn’t any treasure—at least, not for you or me.
The blamed old miser played a trick on us all; it’s rotting somewhere,
like him; and no one’ll ever dig up the money any more than his carcass.
The whole thing’s blamed, bally rot, and we’ve all been a parcel of
silly idiots; that’s my opinion—take it or leave it."

"We’ll leave it, thanks, Strong," said Jack; "and we’ll leave you too,
if you’ll excuse us. Good-night, my man; you’d better keep this side of
the Channel, that’s _our_ opinion, take or leave _it_."

Strong darted a look of anger at Jack, and turned on his heel with an
oath.  He slunk out of the station and disappeared in the dusk outside.

We were in two minds whether to follow and keep him in sight, or let him
be.  But we decided to let him go, since he did not appear to have any
intention of molesting us further.

So we sought out a hotel near the station and engaged a room together,
for it would be just as well to double our chance of hearing Strong
should he, by any chance, resolve to make another attempt to deprive us
of the picture, or otherwise rob us, and somehow force an entry into the
room.

As it happened, we were disturbed before we were an hour older; but not
by Strong.

A very unexpected and exasperating thing happened—comical too, after a
fashion, especially after the event.

We were seated over our supper in the coffee-room of our hotel, when a
scared-looking waiter informed us that both the English Herren were
wanted downstairs.

"By whom?" we asked in some surprise.

"By the police," said the man; "should he invite them upstairs, or would
we step below into the entrance hall?"

Jack and I looked at one another.  What did this mean?

"We will come down," said Jack; and to the great hall below we
descended.  Here an astonishing spectacle greeted our eyes: a group of
policemen in uniform; a man in civilian garb, presumably an interpreter;
and—Mr. James Strong!



                           *CHAPTER XXXVIII*

                               *ARRESTED*


"Yes," observed Mr. Strong, upon our appearance, "these are the very
men.  Tell the police, Mr. Interpreter, that these persons have robbed
me; the robbery was effected while _en route_ from Russia; they are, I
believe, in possession of a work of art belonging to myself; their
luggage had better be searched."

I was absolutely speechless with surprise. This was certainly the most
audacious act I had ever heard of.  I did not know whether to be more
furious or amused.

Jack apparently decided in favour of fury. "You infernal rascal,
Strong!"—he began, but Strong said something to the interpreter, who
signed to the police, who promptly laid hold of Jack and me.  It was too
ridiculous.

"Strong, you"—Jack began again, and—"Gad, Strong, if I don’t"—began I;
but our policemen would not have us speak, and marched us up to our
room, Strong and the interpreter following, bidding us in curt military
fashion hold our tongues.  It was a ridiculous position.  I have laughed
over the memory of it scores of times; I even felt inclined to laugh
then.  What could Strong’s motive be in acting in this way?  He could
not want the picture, or he would never have given it to the skipper at
Kiel.  Had he thought better of it, and determined, if possible, to get
us locked up here for a few days while he hurried away to Streatham to
dig without us?

He couldn’t, surely!  Why, we could prove our right to the work of art
by telegraphing to Kiel, and, if necessary, producing the skipper to
witness to our purchase.  Besides, he would have to prove _his_ right to
the thing before they could justly deliver it over to him.

It must be an act of spite, then, conceived in the simple desire to
score one against us.

Of course the picture was found in my portmanteau.  Equally, of course,
we protested that it was our own, while Strong declared that we had
stolen it from him during the voyage to Copenhagen.  No less was it to
be expected that upon seeing the work of art, both policemen and
interpreters smiled grimly, and that one of them observed—

"_Was ist aber Dass für ein Teufelskopf!_"

In the end, the police took possession of the disputed picture, but
allowed us to remain in peace at the hotel.  This was, however, Saturday
night, so that the examination into the matter of ownership which, we
were informed, it would be necessary to hold, could not be brought into
court before Monday.

This was very unfortunate, for if Strong should really have devised this
little interlude with the sole desire to gain time, in order to reach
the treasure-ground in Streatham a day or two before us, he had
certainly gained his end.

It was in vain that we assured our captors that we could easily prove
our title to the work of art by simply telegraphing to Kiel, to the man
from whom we purchased it.

"That will be very good evidence on Monday, supposing that the seller
appears in person," said the police.  "Meanwhile, we will take care of
the work of art, and on Monday you shall speak, and your friend here
shall speak, and the plaintiff shall speak, and then we shall see to
whom the beautiful picture belongs."

"This gentleman will not wait to hear the case argued," said Jack,
indicating Strong; "he will be in England by Monday!"

"Then he will lose the picture," said the man, shrugging his shoulders.
"Whoever remains alone to claim it, to him we shall consider that it
rightfully belongs."

"You’re a nice, audacious blackguard, Strong, I will say!" muttered Jack
to our friend, as—accompanied by his little band of interpreter and
police, with the picture—Strong left the room; "I warn you, you’d better
be out of Streatham by Tuesday, for by all that’s certain, we shall have
no mercy if we catch you on our side of the water!"

"Don’t fret," said Strong; "I shall have the cash by that time, and you
may catch me when you can find me."

"Do you really mean to dig, Strong?" I said.  "I wish you’d take advice
and keep away; we don’t want to be the cause of your hanging, but we
shall be forced to give you up if we catch you in England; you must know
that."

"Well, catch me there, curse you!" said Strong rudely.  "You’ll have to
be a darned sight sharper than you’ve been yet, either of you, before
you touch either me or the money!  That’s my last word."

"Well, _we_ are off by the next train," said Jack (to my surprise); "so
you’ll not get the start you expect.  You don’t suppose we’re going to
wait for that ridiculous picture, do you?"

Strong looked foxily at Jack for a second or two; but he said nothing,
and followed the others from the room.

"Lord!" said Jack, when they had gone, "I don’t know whether to laugh or
cry; what a mysterious, incomprehensible, snake of a beast it is!
What’s his game?  One thing is clear, either it hasn’t struck him (which
is improbable), or he has decided against believing, that the picture
has anything to do with finding the money."

"So have you, apparently," I said; "for you told him that we were not
going to wait for it."

"That was bluff, man; don’t you understand? It was said to frighten him
from going on by the first train to Streatham; because, don’t you see,
if he thinks that we are going at once, why, _he_ can’t."

"Do you think he’s still after the treasure?" I asked.

"That’s what I can’t make out," replied Jack; "it would be a fearful
risk for him to be about the place when we are there too, he knows that
well enough; yet I can’t help thinking that he has not abandoned all
hope of the money.  He’s such a snake, that’s the mischief of it; who’s
to know what his game is?  At anyrate, we must wait and get the picture.
It may and may not have a bearing on the search, but we won’t risk
anything."

"What if he waits too, and claims it?"

"That is not at all likely; he doesn’t want the picture.  I should say
he’ll be up at the station for the next Flushing train, and if he
doesn’t see us there, he’ll go on.  Perhaps we’d better show up at the
station in order to prevent his departure."

We agreed to do this, and having found out that a Flushing train started
early on Sunday morning, we both drove to the station, great-coated as
though for travelling, and stood about near the train as though
intending to board it at any moment.

Carefully we scrutinised the faces of all who passed and repassed us,
about to travel by the express, but we did not see Strong.  He had not
thought good to journey to England, then; probably Jack’s hint that we
were intending to travel by the first opportunity had deterred him.
Presently, after much bell-ringing and whistling, and loud-voiced
invitations, from stentorian German throats, to take our seats, the
train slowly began to move forward.

"Well, _that’s_ all right," said Jack; "he isn’t in _there_, anyhow."

"Good-morning, gentlemen both," said someone leaning out of a carriage
window—the last carriage—just as we were about to turn and depart.
"Wish me luck with my digging, won’t you?  Forty-eight hours’ start
ought to do me, eh? Well, ta-ta; take care of the picture—it’s a beauty,
it is!"

Strong bawled out the last sentence or two at the top of his voice from
far away down the platform, to the surprise of a few porters and
loiterers who gazed at us suspiciously.  Jack shook his fist in Strong’s
direction, a civility which was replied to by that individual by a
grimace, and a gesture of the hands—as the train passed round a curve
and out of sight—which might have been intended to signify digging, and
might not.

Jack burst out laughing; I did not feel mirthful.

"It’s all very well," I said, "but I don’t like it.  He has forty-eight
hours’ start of us.  He may find the treasure in that time, by some
fluke."

"He’s been too clever for us, Peter, and that’s the plain truth,"
laughed Jack.  "Mind you, I don’t think he’ll find the money, and maybe
he doesn’t intend to try; but we have been badly scored off, and there’s
no denying the fact.  We must hope it is only spite.  I daresay it’s
that."

But on Monday morning when we turned up at the police court to claim our
work of art, the police, finding that Strong had departed without
waiting for the case to be heard, exclaimed—"_Lieber Gott im Himmel!_
you were then right!" upon which the interpreter added that he supposed
the other Englishman had not waited for the original because the copy
which he possessed of it, and which he had shown him, the interpreter,
was probably sufficient for him.

"Had he a copy?" asked Jack quickly.

"Certainly," said the man; "a very exact one. Done, he told me, by a
clever sailor on the ship which brought him from Russia.  He had it
painted as a precaution, he said, lest certain persons should steal the
original for their own purposes."

The police allowed us to take away our work of art, however, without
further difficulties.

"Gad," said Jack, as we left the court, "my opinion of that chap’s
cuteness strengthens every day! he _has_ intended, all along, to have
another dig for the treasure.  He expected to gain a day by being set
down at Copenhagen; he gave away this picture simply because he didn’t
require it, having got safely away with the other; this may be only the
copy."

"It looks like our old friend," I said moodily; "but one can’t tell.
Anyhow, we’ve lost, Jack; it’s very sickening after all we’ve been
through"—

"Nonsense, man! the battle isn’t lost until it’s won.  Do you suppose
Strong is going to win right off, in a day and a half?  Why, there’s a
fortnight’s hard digging in a garden of that size! Don’t lose heart so
easily, Peter, it doesn’t become you."

It was all very well, I thought, for Jack to be sanguine and spirited.
He had nothing hanging upon the issue of this matter, excepting the
sporting desire to win, and the friendly wish that I—as his chum—should
succeed.  To me success was absolutely everything!

We caught a train on the Monday evening, and reached Flushing in due
course; but the weather was so terribly stormy that the steamers were
not running.

This circumstance put the coping-stone to my disgust and depression.  It
was too bad—too utterly unfortunate.  The delay would cost us another
twenty-four hours, every second of which time was a clear profit to
Strong.

When the weather moderated, and the steamer was advertised to start in
the evening, we found that an immense number of passengers had assembled
to make the crossing.  We obtained berths with difficulty, and at some
additional expense.  At supper I asked the steward whether his steamer
was always crowded in this way.

"Oh dear, no, sir," said my friend; "most of these passengers have been
waiting two days and more.  We haven’t run since the gale began—Sunday
night."  A moment later, the significance of this statement suddenly
occurred to me.

"Why, Jack!" I exclaimed, "then"—

"Yes," said Jack.  "Either he’s on board now, or else he has seen us,
and remained behind on shore; at anyrate there’s been no digging done at
Streatham."

"Thank God!" I exclaimed.  "I was a brute to rave about bad luck, Jack,
before I knew."

"Yes," said Jack, smiling; "the winds and waves and all the elements
seem to have fought on our side this time, old man!  It strikes me we
are going to win yet."

At Queenborough Station, in the morning, we scrutinised every passenger
that landed from the _Princess Clementine_.  There were many pale,
sea-sick, travel-worn people that came ashore to take train to London;
but we were both certain that Strong was not among them.  Neither did he
alight at Victoria.  There was no doubt about it; for once Strong’s
cleverness had been over-trumped by the forces of nature!



                            *CHAPTER XXXIX*

                            *DIGGING AGAIN*


Jack was determined to see me through with my treasure hunting, now—as
we hoped—at its last stage, and came with me to Streatham without even a
flying visit to his Gloucestershire home; which was good of old Jack.

Arrived at Streatham, we put up at the best hotel we could find, and
lost no time in walking down to old Clutterbuck’s house in the lower
town. The place looked gloomy and forbidding, and we rang at the garden
gate—the only entrance—with a feeling that our trouble was not quite
over yet, and that in all probability the old man would have exerted his
eccentric ingenuity to the uttermost in order to make the last stage of
our search at least as difficult and toilsome as any, in spite of the
seemingly simple instructions of the letter, which were merely to go and
dig in his own garden at Streatham, and find what we should find.

As a matter of fact, we encountered one difficulty before getting
farther than the garden gate—the _outside_ of it, I mean; for an old
caretaker answered the ring, and, opening the door an inch or two, but
without removing the chain which secured it, peeped out and asked us
what we wanted.

I said that we had authority from its late master to take possession of
the house and garden.

The old fellow produced from his pocket an envelope, from which he drew
a scrap of paper.

"Is your name William Clutterbuck?" he asked.

"He’s dead," I replied.

"James Strong?" he continued.

"Oh, hang it, no! not that blackguard," said Jack.  "It’s all right, old
gentleman; this is Mr. Clutterbuck’s heir."

The old caretaker took no notice of this remark.

"Charles Strong?" he continued, unmoved.

"He’s dead too," I said.

"Ellis?" said the old fellow, doubling up his paper and preparing to
return the envelope into his pocket.

"No," said I, "but"—

"Then you don’t come in here," concluded the man, banging the door in
our faces and double-locking it.

The old caretaker’s arbitrary action nonplussed me for the moment.

"But my name is down in the will together with those you have read out,"
I cried through the panels.  Jack stood and laughed.  I heard the old
man stumping towards the house.  I shrieked out a repetition of my last
appeal.  He paused and spoke.  An errand boy stopped to look on, and
whistled "D’isy, D’isy, give me your answer do," so loudly that I could
scarcely hear the reply.

"No, it ain’t," shouted the old fellow back again.  "For I copied these
down from it myself, and there wasn’t another.  And what’s more, this
’ere door don’t git opened to no one else but these four, and if yer
wants to git into the garden, yer’ll ’ave to climb the wall and see what
yer’ll git from the dawg.  He’s loose in here—speak, Ginger!"

Ginger spoke, and the utterance was certainly alarming.  Ginger’s voice
was a deep bass, and it seemed to say—unless my imagination gave it a
meaning which it did not really possess—that it was as well for those
outside that there was a wall between them and Ginger.  It was
ridiculous; but it was extremely aggravating also.

"But my name was added afterwards," I pleaded, while Ginger barked and
Jack laughed, and the errand boy, interested, stopped whistling to hear
the reply.  This was not encouraging.

"Garn!" said the rude old man; "I know what I knows; you go and git yer
’air cut, and come back and show me the will."

"I can do that easily enough," I shouted, "and the lawyer who drew it up
too, so you’d better save trouble and let me in at once."

"You find me a lawyer and a will as gives more than four names, and in
you may walk," said the heroic caretaker; "and till then you can take
yourself off or do the other thing—but out you stay!"

This was evidently the ultimatum, for the old fellow could be heard
stumping up towards the house.  The dog Ginger remained and continued
his observations in the same tone until we retired. The errand boy
remembered an engagement and departed, disappointed with us, no doubt.
We ought, of course, to have scaled that wall and been eaten by Ginger
in order adequately to perform our duty to that errand boy; but we had
other views, and went and called on the lawyer, Steggins.

That good fellow was sincerely glad to see me, I believe, and to hear
that I was the successful competitor up to this point.  We told him—in
skeleton form—of our adventures, promising him a detailed account if he
would dine with us at the hotel, which he gladly undertook to do.  Then
we told him of our difficulties with the old caretaker, who had received
his instructions, evidently, before my name had been added to the will.
Steggins laughed.

"What, old Baines?" he said.  "I’ll soon put that right; we are old
friends, he and I.  But I’m afraid this other gentleman, Mr.——er"—

"Henderson," interposed that worthy.

"Mr. Henderson cannot take any part with yourself in the digging
operations; the instructions are so clear that _only_ the successful
competitor is to be allowed in the house or garden until the treasure
has been found.  Otherwise, you see, all the rest might have remained at
home, and still have been in at the death, so to speak.  They might
simply wait till the report went about that you were busy digging in the
garden, and would then come and take a hand on equal terms with you, who
had had all the trouble."

This seemed true.  It was annoying, however, that I was not to have the
benefit of Jack’s help in my last dig.  As I told Jack, I had
particularly wished him to have half the work of digging.

"And half the fun of being worried by Ginger!" added Jack; "thanks
awfully, Peter.  It will be rather fun to stand outside and hear you
’Good-dogging’ Ginger, and presently your squalls when he lays hold of
you!"

"Ginger’s all right," laughed Steggins.  "He’s almost as old as his
master, and hasn’t a tooth in his head; besides, he’s the friendliest of
animals, and wouldn’t injure a baby."

"His voice doesn’t sound like it," I said. "Jack grew quite pale when he
heard it."  Jack shinned me under the table for this, I am sorry to say.
He is a vindictive and un-Christian-like person, is Jack, when his pride
is touched.

"Ginger’s voice is his fortune," said Steggins; "it always has been;
he’s the finest dog for the other side of a wall that ever I saw."

I may say that presently, when Steggins had taken me down and introduced
me to Baines and Ginger as the _bonâ fide_ heir-at-law, I found that
Ginger was quite as benevolent a being as Steggins had described him.
He was a St. Bernard, of enormous size and the very mildest of manners,
and his voice was a complete fraud, for whereas it threatened gore and
thunder, its real purport and intent were nothing more shocking than
small beer or milk and water.  For all he knew, I might have been a
murderous desperado, but he took to me at sight, like David to Jonathan.

Old Baines, too, was polite enough on his own side of the wall, and
showed me over the house and garden.  He was surprised when I asked for
spades, but produced one nevertheless; however, when he had watched me
turn over the first few sods of turf, he retired muttering into the
house, and I could see plainly enough that the new proprietor was, in
his opinion, about to prove a disappointing master, inasmuch as he was
harmlessly but hopelessly mad.

The garden measured sixty-three yards by forty-eight, and on that first
morning of my solitary digging I ardently wished, with all my heart,
that it had been one-quarter the size.  For to dig up a garden of this
area, and dig it deeply too, as the latest instructions suggested, and
all by oneself, was a task involving more trouble than is agreeable, or
ever has been, to the present scribe, who is no lover of monotonous
drudgery.

There were a few trees here and there, but not a flower-bed in the
place; the whole area was roughly covered with turf upon which coarse
grass had been allowed to grow throughout the summer, which grass I was
obliged to mow down with a scythe before I could proceed in any comfort
with my digging.

Jack did not desert me, though he might not assist me on my own side of
the wall.  He remained at the hotel, where I lunched and dined with him
daily; and during these meals we consulted upon my labours and the
direction these should take; and sometimes Jack would come and carry on
a conversation from the top of the wall, upon which he climbed when none
were by to see.  Ginger used to look up and wag his tail affectionately
upon the stranger appearing in that unorthodox fashion within the
domains he was kept to watch over.  If Jack had been a burglar, Ginger
could not have looked up more lovingly at him as he sat on the wall and
gave the dog bits of biscuit.

Several days passed, and the late Mr. Clutterbuck’s garden now resembled
a ploughed field; but never a glint of gold had I struck yet, nor a
glimmer of diamonds, nor the pale crisp delight of a bank-note or
cheque.

Mr. Baines knew nothing, he protested, about anything whatsoever; he
merely thought me a madman, and considered it the safer way to leave me
entirely alone.  I questioned him, now and again, as to whether he had
ever observed the late lamented, whom he had served as _factotum_ in
life, employed in digging or in taking measurements in the garden; but
to all these inquiries Mr. Baines gave answers courteously but plainly
pointing to one and the same conclusion—namely, that though old
Clutterbuck had been undoubtedly a "skinflint" (as he picturesquely
described the parsimonious character of the deceased), yet he had always
shown himself a _sane_ skinflint, and therefore unlike the gentleman who
now took his place as master of the establishment.  By which Mr. Baines
meant to infer that old Clutterbuck neither took measurements nor dug in
the garden, and that I—who did both—must therefore be mad.  He did not
say so in as many words, but he made it pretty clear that this was his
meaning.

There was no assistance to be got out of old Baines.



                              *CHAPTER XL*

                     *JACK PROVES HIMSELF A GENIUS*


After all, it was only natural that "the testator," desiring to give his
heirs as much trouble as possible, should scarcely confide his secret to
one who would probably reveal it, afterwards, to the first that offered
him half a crown for the information.

At the end of the fourth day I was very tired and rather depressed.  I
had measured the garden from end to end and across, and dug down at
every spot where, according to carefully thought out calculations,
stretched strings would cross one another; I tried every dodge I could
think of or that Jack could suggest.  I gazed a dozen times at the old
portrait, and could suck no inspiration from it; indeed, as regards that
work of art, I had quite decided ere this that the thing was no more
than a sickly joke on the part of its grim old original. I took
Clutterbuck’s age and measured it out in feet, and dug at the end of the
seventy-first, and in inches, and diagonally in yards, starting each
from the house, and the two first from the centre.  I pulled up the old
stump of a cut-down tree and looked inside the hole it left behind.  I
think I really tried nearly every device that the mind of man could
conceive, but nothing had as yet come of my labours excepting fatigue
and depression and stiffness.

Then, one day, on returning to the hotel, weary and cross by reason of
repeated failure, I found Jack studying the portrait of old Clutterbuck,
which annoyed me still more; for I was angry with the miser and his
detestable expedients for keeping his money out of the hands of honest
persons who had worked for it and fairly earned it.

"Look here, Peter," said Jack, smiling, "here’s fun for you; see what I
have found on the back of this work of art—read it for yourself!"  He
passed the portrait over to me.

I took it with, I am afraid, a growl of ill-temper, and read the words
he had pointed out to me. They were written very faintly and in pencil
on the back of the portrait, at a spot where the paper had become loose
under the beading, and ran as follows—it was a doggerel rhyme, and this
fact annoyed me still more in my ridiculously furious state of mind at
the moment:—

    "If you’d save yourself some trouble,
    Dig at three foot six, and double!"


"What does it mean?" said Jack.

"Oh, take the confounded thing and chuck it into the fire!" I said
sulkily.

"Well, but what _does_ it mean, if it means anything?" Jack insisted.
"You’ve got to take tips if you can get them, you know; so make the most
of this, though it does seem to convey a rather unpleasant meaning.  As
I understand it, you have to dig to a depth of seven feet—that is,
_double_ three foot six, and"—

"What!" said I hotly, "dig over the whole garden to a depth of seven
feet?  I’ll see the old skinflint"—

"Don’t swear," said Jack, though I had not sworn; "but keep cool and
help me to think this matter out.  Now look here: he said, ’Dig at seven
feet in order to save yourself trouble,’ or words to that effect.  Now,
I can’t help thinking he meant this for a tip; for if it meant that you
were to dig over the whole garden to a depth of seven feet, what trouble
would you save yourself by doing that?  What the old boy meant was, find
the right spot, and _then_ dig down seven feet."

"Yes," I said, laughing mockingly and throwing the portrait on the
table, "find the right spot; that’s just the _crux_!  If you’ll kindly
find the spot for me, I’ll dig to any depth you like—sink an artesian
well, if you please; but where the dickens _is_ the spot?"

"You are angry and disinclined to speak like a sensible creature," said
Jack.  "Have your dinner, and then perhaps you’ll be in a fit mood to
listen to an idea which has struck me."

This rather sobered me.

"Have you really an idea?" I asked, flushing.

"Yes," said Jack, "I have; but I’m not going to tell you till you’ve
dined.  A full man is a less dangerous being than an empty one; you
might fall upon me and rend me now, if you thought my idea absurd, as
you very likely may."

Entreaties broke like little waves upon the shingle of Jack’s obstinacy.
I said I was sorry for being rude and angry; I begged to hear his last
new idea.  Jack’s only reply was—

"Dinner’s at eight; you’d better change those digging clothes and make
yourself look like a decent Christian, if you can."

Jack was perfectly right.  Dinner made a wonderful difference in the
view I took of things in general; it always does.  After dinner, armed
with his pipe, sitting over an early fire in our private sitting-room,
Jack dismounted from his high horse and admitted me into his confidence.

"I daresay you won’t think anything of it," he said; "but it was the
portrait of old Clutterbuck that set me dreaming."

"_What!_" I said, jumping to my feet and seizing a dessert knife, "you
don’t mean to say, after all my digging, that the money’s hidden in it?"

"Why, man, no!  I never thought of that," said Jack.  "However, open the
back carefully and see, if you like."

I did so; I ripped the back off and looked in the space between it and
the canvas upon which the odious caricature was painted.  An earwig ran
out, but there was no treasure.  I threw the thing back upon the table,
and the knife with it.

"Don’t fret," said Jack; "that’s not what I meant at all.  What I did
mean is this: do you suppose that any sane man—and you cannot say that
old Clutterbuck was anything else—would any man who was not insane take
the trouble to carry a picture to the Gulf of Finland and bury it there
for his heirs to find—an odious misrepresentation of his features
too—unless there were some object to gain by so doing?  In a word, what
I can’t understand is how both you and I should hitherto have accepted
the ridiculous fact without suspicion."

"But we _did_ suspect," I cried.  "We said at the time that the thing
was about as idiotic as it could be; but when one’s right to benefit by
a will depends on the sanity of the testator, one doesn’t like to air
one’s opinion that he was mad, even though one may think so."

"Depend upon it, the old boy was no madder than you or I," said Jack
gravely.  "I am beginning to think that he was very sane indeed, and
that he has managed the whole of this business with consummate
skill—always bearing in mind his expressed desire to make his heirs
sweat for their money.  Now listen here.  I have been thinking while you
did your hard labour in the garden, and I am now perfectly convinced
that the old fox did not bury his precious piece of rubbish because he
valued it or thought his heir would.  Quite the contrary.  He knew that
it was extremely likely that his heir—probably James Strong, as he
supposed at the time—would chuck the portrait in the fire with a curse
at the memory of the original. And why, think you, did he take the
trouble to have this picture painted and to bury it and solemnly
bequeath it to his heir if he suspected that the finder would burn it?"

"It beats me," said I.  "Go on."

"Because he knew that the portrait was indispensable, or nearly so, to
the finding of the treasure," said Jack mysteriously.  "See here. He
hates Strong and the rest, and knows they hate him.  Therefore he makes
his portrait indispensable in the hope that they will destroy it, and
with it their chance of finding his money."

"Very well," said I, "let us admit all that; but how _can_ the portrait
be indispensable to, or have any connection with, the finding of the
hidden treasure?"

"That’s what we have to learn," said Jack; "but I have evolved a theory
on that point also."

I laughed.

"Upon my life, Jack, it’s too funny," I said. "You are as ingenious as
Machiavelli himself; but how are you going to connect that awful daub
with the buried treasure?  You can’t do it; I defy you!"

"Well, I’ll tell you, anyhow; it may be as ridiculous as you suppose,
and it may not," said Jack.  "You see the eyes of the awful personage in
the picture: look here, I hold the portrait thus. Now get in front of
the thing and try if you can find a place where the eyes focus you;
you’ll have to lie down on the carpet."

Still amused, but interested nevertheless, I lay down along the carpet,
as desired, and presently found a spot where the eyes certainly seemed
to gaze at me.

"Well," I said, "what then?  They are to gaze at the spot where the
money lies hidden?  Is that it?"

"That’s just exactly it," said Jack, flushing a little.



                             *CHAPTER XLI*

                    *THE EXCITEMENT BECOMES INTENSE*


"But, man alive," said I, "where’s the picture going to hang, or be
held, in order to point out the spot?"

"That’s what we’ve to find out," said Jack. "If my theory is right, the
old boy will have prepared a place for it to hang.  Are there trees, or
nails in the wall?"

"There are trees, certainly," said I; "I don’t know about the nails.
And am I to dig a seven-foot hole wherever the confounded picture will
hang?"

"Yes, you are," said Jack imperturbably, "and you know it.  And now you
had better go to bed; partly because you’ll require some rest for these
seven-foot holes, but chiefly because you are in such an evil humour
to-night that I’m blessed if I will endure your society any longer!"

And so to bed I went.

That night I dreamed a great many wonderful dreams, and in each and all
of them I was digging and for ever digging, and the treasure was still
unfound or, when found, snatched from me!  In one of my dreams, I
remember, I fancied that I had hit upon the right tack, when of a sudden
three huge Mahatmas bore silently down upon me from the world of spirits
and demanded of me what I sought.

They looked out upon me with piercing black eyes let into cavernous
sockets framed in dead-white faces, and they flapped their sable mantles
over me and frightened me.

"Oh, sirs," I said, "I am seeking for buried treasure; I am within an
ace of finding it and yet have not found it.  Help me, I beseech you, to
light upon it, and you shall do with me as you will!"

"Treasure is vanity, vanity, vanity!" cried one of the Mahatmas.

"Gold is dross, dross, dross!" wailed a second.

"Nevertheless, I will show you where to find it!" sang the third, in a
mournful monotone.  "Come!"

I dreamed that I followed the Mahatma back, earthwards, and we alighted
in Clutterbuck’s garden.  He did but turn over one spadeful of earth,
and there lay revealed a sack of glittering gold pieces.  Instantly the
two other Mahatmas flew shrieking to the treasure and fought for it,
tearing the black mantles from one another’s shoulders.  But the third
slew them both from behind, and, seizing the sack of gold, fled over
land and sea, I, shrieking, after him.

But just as I was overtaking him he turned, and I saw his face—it was
James Strong.  At the same moment he cried aloud, and said: "For
treasure I have sinned and murdered, and lo!  I have bartered my soul in
vain—for see what this gold of yours is!"

With the words he poured the gold out of the sack’s mouth, and behold!
it was ashes, and they fell hissing into the sea.

In another of my dreams I was busily digging, while the dog Ginger
watched my efforts. Suddenly I turned up a sod in which lay a piece of
bread, and in the bread was folded a cheque for one hundred thousand
pounds; but even as I read the figures, and was about to cry aloud for
joy, the dog snatched both bread and paper from my hand, and swallowed
them.

All this dreaming went to prove that I was far more interested and
influenced by Jack’s rather brilliant idea than I had chosen to show;
his suggestion was on my mind and had "murdered sleep," quiet, solid
sleep, such as I usually indulged in.  Consequently, I was up very early
on the following morning in order to set about putting the new idea to a
trial.  I hurried through breakfast, and was out of the hotel and busy
at work in the garden before Jack was dressed.

First I tried the trees.

There was a willow, a fine tree with two big branches, almost as large
as the parent stem, about ten feet from the ground.  There was no
excrescence from this tree small enough to hang the picture upon, and I
passed on to the next, a poplar.  Here, at about five feet from the
earth, there was a twig from which the picture might be got to hang in a
lopsided kind of way; but the twig was evidently a young shoot, and had
probably sprung into existence since the picture had been taken to
Hogland and buried, so that I spared myself a seven-foot dig beneath
that poplar.

Then there was a lime, a small one, near the end of the garden; and into
the trunk of this tree, on the wall side, I discovered that a nail had
been knocked.  I grew hot and cold at the sight, for I thought I had
"struck oil" at last.

But, alas! when I had hung the picture by its little ring to this nail,
and tried to get my face where the eyes would be fixed upon it, I found
that the portrait glared at a spot about half-way down the brick wall,
and not at any place on the ground whereinto a man might sink a spade.

There were no more trees, and I now turned my attention to the wall
itself, and looked for nails up and down, and from end to end.  I found
one, to my delight, and having hung up the portrait, was engaged in the
occupation of lying on my stomach and wooing the stony glare of old
Clutterbuck’s lack-lustre eyes, when Jack mounted the wall just above
it, and nearly fell off again for laughing at the ridiculous spectacle
which he said I presented.  However, I focussed the eyes, and planted a
stick in the exact spot.

"It’s the only nail in the garden, Jack," I cried excitedly.  "I do
believe we’ve hit off the place at last!"

"Good!" said Jack grimly; "now dig for all you’re worth!"

I did dig.  I dug that seven-foot hole as though at the bottom of it
some terrible earthworm had seized by the throat all that I held most
dear in the world.  Never were seven feet of earth displaced in quicker
time by human energy.

But there was nothing there.

"Dig another three-foot-six!" said Jack from the wall.  "The rhyme may
mean ’Three foot six, and double _that_ besides’—that is, ten feet six
in all."

Breathless, despondent, stiff, half dead with fatigue, I dug on till the
water was up to the top of my boots; it was of no use.

"I won’t dig another inch!" I groaned; "not to-day, at all events."

"Come out then, and consult," said Jack. Even he seemed dejected with
the last failure.

I came out, dead beat.

"Are there no more nails in the wall, _anywhere_?" he asked.

"Not one," said I.  "I couldn’t dig again to-day if there were!"

"Have you tried the trees?"

"Yes; there’s nothing to hang the confounded thing from on any of them."

"I see the cut-up trunk of a felled tree against the shed, over there.
When was that one cut down?"

I didn’t know.

"Ask old Baines," said Jack.

Baines was within doors, though Ginger was with me; the dog had been a
terrible nuisance all day, licking my face when I had to lie on my
waistcoat in order to focus those eyes, and while I was digging the huge
hole standing at the brink and whining and howling as though he expected
me to unearth a huge cat for his delectation.  As a matter of fact, he
would have run away if a mouse had jumped out.  Ginger was not a brave
dog; he was too benevolent to be really brave.

I went and fetched Baines, and asked him who had cut down the tree, and
when and why?

Baines said that he had felled it a year ago at his master’s orders.

"What for?" I asked.  But Baines did not know that.  Only, he said, he
had strict orders not to burn the wood, or even touch it, for some
reason or other.

This seemed rather curious, and I reported to Jack on the wall.

"Great scissors!" said that most ingenious individual; "go and see if
there’s a nail in the trunk!"

To my astonishment and delight, there was a nail; I shouted this news to
Jack.

"Oh, hang it all, I’m coming over!" cried Jack; "this is too exciting
for sitting on walls," he added, as he joined me and looked at and felt
the nail for himself.  "Where was this tree?"  I took Jack and showed
him the big hole in the centre of the garden out of which I had dug the
root.

"Come on," said he; "we must have that root in again!  Shove!"

Together we shoved the stump back into its own place, taking care to fit
it into the hole exactly as it had rested there in life, and to keep its
sawn surface level with the earth in order that the sundered portions of
the trunk might be made to stand one upon another and all upon the
parent stump, straight and without tipping forward or backward.



                             *CHAPTER XLII*

                            *ALL OVER BUT——*


Then we brought the round thick logs which had formed the trunk, and
which had been sawn into lengths of about four feet, and piled them one
on top of another in their own order, which was obvious and unmistakable
on account of the lessening girth of the trunk as it went higher. We
piled three of these, fitting them one upon the other as they had stood
in life, and the nail was in the fourth, with which we crowned the
edifice, Jack standing upon a step-ladder and I handing up the logs.

"There!" he said, when he had built up the edifice to the height of some
fifteen feet; "there’s our tree as it stood in life, wobbly, no doubt,
and insecure; but it will bear the picture though it wouldn’t stand much
of north-easter.  Hand up the work of art."

We hung up the portrait, and again I lay on the ground here and there
and ogled the hideous thing until I had wooed its eyes to meet my own.

Then we dug together.  Jack had thrown all ridiculous fastidiousness to
the winds of heaven, and helped me like a man and a sensible being.

Together we dug, and the hole rapidly grew, and with it grew also our
own excitement and Ginger’s, who looked on whining, as before, for the
game that we were to start from our burrow for him to run away from.  We
had had no lunch, and the afternoon was fleeting fast; but we dug on.


Now the grave was two feet deep, and now four, now five.  I had never
felt so excited as this, even at that supreme moment when my fingers
touched the tin box in the African veldt.

Now the hole was six feet in depth, and Jack’s head, when he stood up,
was just below the earth-level.  Ginger, in his excitement, pulled
Jack’s cap off and laid it on the ground beside him, probably determined
that if we were to disappear altogether, he would preserve at least a
memento of us to swear by.

Six feet and a half, and now my spade (it _was_ mine; I am glad it was
mine), _my_ spade struck against something hard and metallic.

"Hullo!" cried Jack, who heard the sound.

"Only a stone, I’m afraid!" said I, trembling so that I could hardly
raise my spade.  Jack stopped work to watch.

"Your first blood!" he said.  "Dig again and see; if there are honours,
they shall be yours!"

There _were_ honours.  Half impotent with excitement, I dug again.

It was no stone.  Trembling, I cleared the clayey soil from the object,
whatever it might be, and revealed a vessel of hardware.

"Pull it out, pull it out, man!" said Jack; "don’t stand quaking there!"

I made an effort, and removed the thing and handed it to Jack; I felt
cold and faint with the excitement.  I could only just see out of my
eyes sufficiently to recognise that the object I had found was a large
earthen jar, corked and sealed round.

Jack scrambled out of the hole and gave me a hand; I climbed out in a
dream.

"Open it," he said.

"No—you," I gasped.  I sat down and watched, only half alive.

Jack put the vessel on the ground and broke it neatly in two pieces.
Inside was a small tin box, hardly larger than the envelope which Jack
drew forth from it after prising it open.

"Another sickening disappointment?" I gasped.

"I don’t know," said Jack; "read it, and see."

"I can’t," I said; "open it and read it to me; if it’s another sell, I
shall curse Clutterbuck and die."

Jack—looking pale and thin—broke the seal of the envelope.  I saw the
colour rush back to his face.

"What is it, in Heaven’s name?" I said; "don’t madden me!"

"All right this time, old boy," cried Jack, handing me the paper with
flashing eyes—"a cheque to bearer."

It was so.  A cheque for ninety-seven thousand odd pounds!


I do not know what I did.  Jack, who sometimes tells the truth, says
that I deliberately stood on my head on the very top of the pile of
earth we had dug out of the hole, and that Ginger licked my face just as
I had reached the third bar of the National Anthem (performed then
positively for the first time in that position!) and brought me down
with a run.  Personally I do not recollect the episode.


The cheque was duly paid, the bank manager gravely smiling as I handed
it to him in his private room.  He was, I found, partially in the
secret. He asked for, and I gave him, a short account of my adventures,
when he was kind enough to express the opinion that I deserved the
money.



                            *CHAPTER XLIII*

                            *—THE SHOUTING*


That evening Jack and I gave a party.  That is, we sent down to old
Baines a box of cigars, a bottle of champagne, and a hamper of
delicacies which—I have since reflected—must have made him very unwell,
if he ate them.  We did not forget Ginger; Ginger enjoyed, that night, a
meal which he must, I am sure, have believed to have been cooked in the
Happy Hunting Grounds, and to have been sent specially from that abode
of canine bliss for the comfort of his declining years.  To this day I
sometimes see him, when asleep, licking his lips and going through the
action of masticating imaginary food.  Well, I believe he is, at such
moments, enjoying once again—in the sweet glades of remembrance—the
ecstasies of that _gala_ banquet.

As for ourselves, Jack invited me and I him to a Gaudeamus, and together
we celebrated the occasion in a manner befitting so glorious a finish to
our wanderings and toil (not that Jack ever did much of the digging!)
and sufferings and disappointments, and so on.  Together we fought o’er
again every encounter, whether with Strong, with elephants, with lions,
or with the devils of despair and disappointment, and it was on this
festive occasion that Jack made me promise to write down for your
benefit, my dear reader, the record of our experiences and adventures.
I may say that we drank your health, dear owner of this volume, whoever
you may be, and voted you an excellent fellow for buying, or having
presented to you, the book; and wished you were twins and each had a
copy,—all for your own benefit, you know, because the tale is a jolly
good—but perhaps I had better leave all this for others to say; only I
should just like you to know that we thought of you, as of a wise person
to have possessed yourself of the book, that’s all.  Well, among other
things that night, absurd things that—in our joy and triumph—we said and
did, we drank Strong’s health and wished that he might escape the
hangman’s rope; we also breathed a fervent wish that we might never see
the rascal again, and then, in more serious mood, discussed the question
as to whether it was at all likely that we ever should.

We both decided that it was extremely unlikely. He certainly had
audacity enough and—to do him justice—pluck enough for five men; but
when a man knows that he is a murderer, and a double or treble murderer,
and that if his crimes could be brought home to him he must "swing" for
them, he is not likely to haunt those parts of the world where he would
be most in danger.  The world is big enough.  He would keep away from
us, at anyrate!

"I wonder what he is doing now?" said Jack with a laugh; "and where he
is, and what he would say or do if he knew of to-day’s little success,
eh?"

"Well, I’m glad on the whole that he doesn’t," I said; and in this
conclusion Jack concurred; for, without being exactly afraid of the
fellow, we had had enough of him, and that’s the truth.

Now, the longer I live in this world the more I realise that we human
beings are but a poor, blind, helpless lot of creatures; we are best
pleased with ourselves when we have, in reality, little cause for
satisfaction; we imagine ourselves safely out of what is familiarly
termed "the wood," when, as a matter of fact, a very jungle of trouble
lies immediately before us, could we but see it!  Here is a case in
point.  We were very, very happy that night, and apparently with every
legitimate reason; moreover, when I laid my head upon the pillow at
about twelve o’clock, I imagined that I should awake at eight or so,
ready to step into a new bright world which the sunshine of yesterday’s
success should have transformed for me into a very paradise of bliss.  I
had every reason to suppose that this would be so.  I never for one
moment imagined, for instance, that this might be the last time that I
should lay my head to rest in this world, and that the sleep I now
courted should be an endless one in so far as concerned the usual
awaking to a terrestrial morrow!

And yet this came very near to being the actual and exact state of the
case.

It was, I think, about two or three o’clock in the morning, when some
pleasant dream I was enjoying began to be marred—I remember the feeling
quite well—by a kind of choky sensation, a difficulty in breathing.  I
can even recall the fact that some friend—a dream-friend, I mean—made
the heartless remark that prosperity was making me so fat that the
function of getting breath had become a labour to me.

But the sensation became rapidly unpleasant and intolerable, and I awoke
suddenly, sweating and in terror.  What had happened to me?

Then I heard Strong’s voice, very subdued and soft, but certainly
Strong’s voice.  Could this be still a part of the dream?

No, it was reality; Strong’s voice was a reality; so was a handkerchief
which he had tied over my mouth, gag-wise; so was a candle which he had
lighted in the room, and the light of which revealed the detested face
and ferocious expression of the scoundrel as he bent over me, and hissed
his oaths and threats into my ear.

"Ah, you’re awake, are you?" he murmured (I omit the oaths with which he
befouled his language)—"I have you at last, you see, you infernal"—(I
really cannot repeat the names he called me, they were too vile even to
mention), "say your prayers, for you’re off this time, to glory!"

I could not speak for the gag upon my mouth. I tried to raise my hands,
but I found the rascal had tied them together at the wrists.  I could
hardly breathe, for the bandage was so tightly drawn that I was half
suffocated already.

Strong saw that this was so.  He put his hand behind my head and
slightly loosened the handkerchief.

"Now, you whelp of Satan," he said, "get out of bed and show me where
you’ve hidden the treasure, curse you!  I’ve wasted time enough over it
already.  Don’t pretend this hundred pounds odd, in your letter-case, is
the lot.  Lies won’t do, you’re off to Kingdom Come in two minutes;
you’d better not go with a lie on your lips!  Come,—I saw you find
it,—you’d better be quick!"

I glared at the scoundrel, but did not move. I was thinking hard!  Oh
that I could get my hands free and be at him! or my mouth, that I might
shout for Jack—who was in the adjoining bedroom.  My heart was almost
bursting with rage and hatred for this man; yet I was absolutely
helpless; I could do nothing.

"What, you won’t budge, won’t you?" said the scoundrel.  His face, at
this crisis, looked exactly what I should imagine the devil to be like:
the very incarnation of hatred and malice and all evil—but I daresay my
own was not, at the moment, a type of innocent beauty and passionless
charm, any more than his!

Strong placed his hand behind my neck a second time, and tightened the
gag.  I was suffocating—I kicked and struggled—my heart was bursting, my
brain reeled and swam, my veins swelled—I sweated from head to foot in
my agony and terror, and then—at the critical moment—by God’s mercy an
idea occurred to me.

I sprang out of bed and rushed to the wash-hand stand, and, whether by
kicking, or falling over upon them, or pushing with bound hands or with
elbow, I contrived, somehow, before Strong realised my intention, to
send the jug and basin crashing upon the floor with a noise, I suppose,
that would have awakened an army of men a mile away.  At the same moment
I lost consciousness, and therefore for the events of the next few
minutes I am indebted to second-hand information.

This is, I understand, what happened.

Jack is a lightish sleeper.  He was dreaming, he says, of a cricket
match in which he once took part at "Lords," playing for his school
against the M.C.C. in the great annual function held, as a rule, on the
first two days of the holidays.  Jack was batting, it appears, to
Strong’s bowling. Dream-bowling is sometimes very difficult to play by
dream-batsmen.  It depends very much upon whether the batsman has dined
judiciously or the reverse.  Jack had assisted at a banquet, as has been
shown; and Strong’s bowling was giving him a lot of trouble.  Strong had
sent down four balls, of which the slowest, Jack declared, could have
given points to a flash of buttered lightning. One of them killed the
wicket-keeper; and another, being a wide, lamed short-slip for life; no
one knew what became of the other two balls, they were never caught
sight of at all.  Then Strong sent down the fifth, and Jack—though he
saw nothing of it—slogged at it for all he was worth. The wicket-keeper,
it seems, just before he died, had assured Jack that Clutterbuck’s
treasure would be lost to us for ever, and that Strong was to be
declared the legitimate proprietor of the same, by special rule just
passed by the committee of the M.C.C., unless he contrived to make four
runs in this over.  So that it was absolutely necessary, Jack explained,
to hit this fifth ball to the boundary.

By some fluke Jack caught the ball full; he did not see it; he admits
having shut his eyes; Strong’s face was more than he could stand up to.
He lashed out at it blindly, and sent it flying, at the rate of a
million miles an hour, over Strong’s head, straight for the pavilion
seats.

That marvellous fellow, Strong—the dream-Strong—rushed after it, and
careered so fast (at the rate, in fact, of a million and one miles per
hour) that he was just able to leap into the air at the very pavilion
rail and touch the ball.

He could not hold it, however, and, losing his balance—owing to the
great pace at which he had travelled—he flew head over heels clean
through the glass windows of the pavilion, and alighted upon the
luncheon-table, which fell with a frightful crash.

This crash was my little contribution to Jack’s dream; it was the
overthrow of my jug and basin, and the tumult of it roused Jack in an
instant. He sprang from his bed, wide awake, and seeing that a light
burned in my room, and hearing—as he thought—some sound there, pushed
the door open and entered, full of wonder and some alarm.

He was just in time to see a figure disappearing out of the door, and
without stopping to help me—indeed, he declares that he didn’t notice me
lying there in the corner!—sprang away after the man at the door,
believing that it was I, and that I had gone suddenly and mysteriously
mad.

Things went propitiously.  Several people rushed into my room, wakened
and startled by the crash of china and the sound of feet scudding down
the passage; and one of them speedily removed the bandage from my mouth
and the cord from my wrists.  I think this saved my life. Indeed, I was
already half dead, and even when released I did not for some minutes
recover consciousness.

Meanwhile, Jack had scudded after Strong without knowing whom he
pursued.

Strong made for the outer hall, intending to escape from the hotel; but
delay at the front door, which he found locked, enabled Jack to run him
to earth.

Strong fished out a revolver and pointed it at Jack’s head, but Jack
luckily dashed it aside, and it fell upon the marble floor of the
entrance hall, exploding as it did so, with a startlingly loud report,
which effectually roused those few people sleeping in the hotel whose
slumbers had survived the upsetting of my jug and basin.

Then Jack, recognising Strong at last, fell upon the scoundrel and
administered the grandest possible thrashing and kicking that you can
imagine.  That thrashing of Strong, Jack always says, did him a heap of
good, and made a new and self-respecting man of him again; for he had
lost of late some of his self-respect by reason of Strong’s indisputable
cleverness in Copenhagen and Bremen, where he had scored heavily against
us.

When, however, he had "scarcely begun," as he says, the process of
kicking and punching the wretched man, the performance was interrupted
by an inrush of frightened people, who had heard a pistol-shot and were
rushing downstairs to see what was the matter.

So that there was no difficulty about securing Strong; and that arch
scoundrel was presently led upstairs to my room, bound tightly at the
wrists, in order that I might testify to his identity as set forth by
Jack.

Well, there was little doubt about that, and as little trouble in
getting the midnight burglar transferred from the hotel to the police
cell.  He had been caught red-handed.  My money and my letter-case, with
my own cards in one of the pockets, were found in his possession, two
hundred pounds in notes, the bulk of Clutterbuck’s cheque had of course
been deposited by me in the bank.  It was as clear a case of burglary as
ever delighted policeman’s ears, and the constable, summoned to remove
Strong, looked as pleased as one who has come, unexpectedly, into a good
thing.

We found that Strong had—under an assumed name, of course—actually slept
for three nights within a room or two of us!  He had taken care to
remain invisible at all such times as we spent within the hotel,
however; but had kept a watch upon our actions, and had even—as he
declared—watched me find the treasure,—peeping over the wall at a spot
where his face was well hidden by the branch of a spreading tree.  He
probably concluded that I should have the entire proceeds of the cheque
with me in the hotel.  It was just as well that I took the precaution to
bank the money, however; for had he found it, he would have got clear
away without awaking me.  As it was, he deliberately awoke me in order
to compel me, by the torture of suffocation, to point out where I had
hidden my property.

There is not much more to tell.  The magistrate committed our rascal for
trial at the Croydon sessions, and in due time he was sentenced by the
court to a term of hard labour.  Jack and I consulted earnestly as to
whether we ought to reveal the miscreant’s criminal acts in Bechuana and
in Narva; but we decided that it would be useless to attempt to prove
the major offence of murder; we were without evidence of any kind; and,
after all, so long as the fellow was safe within stone walls and under
many locks and keys at Millbank or Portland or at Dartmoor, or wherever
it might be, it would be out of his power to commit further mischief.

Did he intend to murder me in the hotel, I wonder?  Jack says he thinks
not; but then Jack did not feel the torture of that gag, and the horror
of imminent suffocation as I did; and I am certain that, whether Strong
intended it or not, I should have died then and there, if my good friend
had not rushed in and released me in the nick of time.

I suppose there are not many, even among the convicts in Dartmoor, so
utterly evil and cruel in disposition as this man James Strong, and I am
glad that I may here take leave of him—in these pages at least—for good
and all.  I daresay the reader is as glad to be rid of him as I am.  I
humbly hope and pray that I may never meet him again in this world.


And now at length I was able to enter into peaceful possession of my
hard-earned inheritance of Clutterbuck’s treasure.  I had worked and
suffered much for it, and I think on the whole that I deserved it.  Of
course, money earned by regular daily toil is, in a way, more worthily
obtained; but since destiny placed in my way the opportunity to make my
fortune, as it were, by a single sustained effort, the only condition
being that I should possess the necessary pluck and perseverance to
continue that effort right up to the goal, Success, why, I am not
troubled with any compunctions as to the comparative shortness of the
road which, in my case, led to wealth and prosperity.  Nevertheless,
feeling that I should better enjoy my prosperity if I were assured of
the well-being of those (always excepting James Strong) whom my own
success had, in a manner, disappointed of expected benefit, I sought
out, through Steggins, the relatives of the murdered Clutterbuck, who—I
found—had been a widower. He had left two children in poor
circumstances, and the future of these youngsters I shall make it my
business to secure.  They are living in comfort with a sister of their
dead father, and will never know, I hope, but that their parent perished
through an accidental fall into an African nullah.

Ellis, the cousin, a meek person, who refused from the first to take
part in the treasure hunt, though one of the five potential heirs of the
old man, was, I found, fairly well-to-do, and declined with thanks my
offer to make him a small allowance.

As for myself—well, you have probably had enough of me by this time.
But I will just mention this much: that the little affair down in
Gloucestershire to which I have once or twice made slight allusion ended
in accordance with my dearest hopes; and that Jack and I are now even
more than school and college chums, being united by a tie whose name is
Gladys, and who is certainly one of the sweetest—  But no!  I will not
go into that.  She suits me excellently, and that, after all, is the
main thing!

We live in Gloucestershire, near Henderson Court, in a house that was
once a farmhouse but which has been glorified for our benefit by Jack,
who is its owner.

Jack and I have not many elephants and lions, or even ibex and elands,
about the premises; in fact, I do not remember to have shot a single
one. But we have plenty of rabbits and not a few partridges, and
occasionally a pheasant or two.  As for our ".500 Expresses," they are
hanging ready on the wall in case any of the above-mentioned types of
the larger animals should come down into Gloucestershire; so that we are
all right.

Ginger came to the wedding.  He _would_ come into church with the rest
of us, and he sat between two school children and behaved shockingly;
for he nosed all the hymn-books off the pew in about half a minute, and
howled aloud when I told Gladys that with all my worldly goods I her
endowed.

Jack said afterwards that there spoke the spirit of old Clutterbuck, who
was doubtless present in the form of Ginger, and who hated to hear me
make over his property in this way without forcing Gladys to do a single
day’s work for it.



           _Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London and Bungay._





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