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Title: Matt - A Story of A Caravan
Author: Buchanan, Robert Williams
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MATT

A Story Of A Caravan

By Robert Buchanan

A New Edition, with a Frontispiece

London: Chatto & Windus

1897


[Illustration: 0010]


[Illustration: 0013]



MATT



CHAPTER I.--FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE CARAVAN.

The afternoon was still very warm, but a grey mist, drifting from
the Irish Channel and sailing eastward over the low-lying Island of
Anglesea, was beginning to scatter a thin penetrating drizzle on the
driver of the caravan.

To right and left of the highway stretched a bleak and bare prospect of
marshland and moorland, closed to the west by a sky of ever-deepening
redness, and relieved here and there by black clumps of stunted
woodland. Here and there peeped a solitary farmhouse, with outlying
fields of swampy greenness, where lean and spectral cattle were
lugubriously grazing; and ever and anon came a glimpse of some lonely
lake or tarn, fringed all round with thick sedges, and dotted with
water-lilies. The road was as desolate as the prospect, with not a
living soul upon it, far as the eye could see. To all this, however, the
driver of the caravan paid little attention, owing to the simple fact
that he was fast asleep.

He was roused by a sudden jolting and swaying of the clumsy vehicle,
combined with a sound of splashing water, and opening his eyes sleepily,
he perceived that the grey mare had turned aside from the centre of
the road, and, having entered a stagnant pond on the roadside, was
floundering and struggling in the mud thereof, with the caravan rocking
behind her. At the same moment, a head was thrust round the back part of
the vehicle, and an angry voice exclaimed--

“Tim, you scoundrel, where the devil are you driving to? Wake up, or
I’ll break every bone in your skin.”

Thus addressed, Tim woke himself with an effort, and looking round with
an insinuating smile, replied--

“Begorra, Master Charles, I thought it was an earthquake
entirely----Come out of that, now! Is it wanting to drownd yourself you
are?--G-r-r-r! Sh! Aisy now, aisy!”

The latter portion of the above sentence was addressed to the mare,
which was at last persuaded to wade out of the cool mud, and return to
the dusty track, where she stood quivering and panting. No sooner was
the return to _terra firma_ accomplished than a light agile figure
descended the steps at the back of the caravan, and ran round to the
front. An excited colloquy, angry on the one side, and apologetic on the
other, ensued, and did not cease, even when the driver, with a flick
of his whip, put the caravan again in motion, while the other strode
alongside on foot.

It was just such a caravan as may be seen any summer day forming part
of the camp on an English common, with the swart face of a gipsy woman
looking out at the door, and half a dozen ragged imps and elves rolling
on the grass beneath; as may be observed, smothered in wickerwork of all
descriptions, or glittering pots and pans, moving from door to door in
some sleepy country town, guided by a gloomy gentleman in a velveteen
coat and a hareskin cap, and attended by a brawny hussy, also smothered
in wickerwork or pots and pans; as, furthermore, may be descried forming
part of the procession of a travelling circus, and drawn by a piebald
horse which, whenever a good “pitch” is found, will complete its day’s
labour by performances in the ring. A caravan of the good old English
kind, with small windows ornamented by white muslin curtains, with a
chimney atop for the smoke to come through from the fire inside, with a
door behind ornamented with a knocker, and only lacking a doorplate to
make it quite complete; in short, a house on wheels.

The driver, though rough enough, and red with sun and wind, had nothing
in common with the ordinary drivers of such vehicles, and, in point
of fact, he was neither a gipsy, nor a travelling tinker, nor a circus
performer. Though it was summer-time, he wore a large frieze coat,
descending almost to his heels, and on his head a wideawake hat,
underneath which his lazy, beardless, and somewhat sheepish face shone
with indolent good humour. His companion, Master Charles, as he was
called, bore still less resemblance to the Bohemians of English lanes
and woodlands. He was a slight, handsome, fair-haired young fellow
of two or three and twenty, in the tweed attire of an ordinary summer
tourist; and every movement he made, every word he spoke, implied the
“gentleman born.”

Presently, at a signal from his master (such he was), Tim drew rein
again. By this time the sun was setting fiery red, far away to the west,
and the thin drizzle was becoming more persistent.

“How far did they say it was to Pencroes?”

“Ten miles, sor.”

“The mare is tired out, I think. We shall have to camp by the roadside.”

“All right, Master Charles. There’s a handy shelter beyant there where
you see the trees,” Tim added, pointing up the road with his whip. The
young man looked in that direction, and saw, about a quarter of a
mile away, that the highway entered a dark clump of woodland. He nodded
assent, and walked rapidly forward, while the caravan followed slowly in
his rear.

Reaching the spot where the wood began, and entering the shadow of the
trees, he soon found a spot well fitted for his purpose. To the left,
the road widened out into a grassy patch of common, adorned with, one
or two bushes of stunted brown, and stretched out a dusty arm to touch
a large white gate, which opened on a gloomy grass-grown avenue winding
right through the heart of the wood. The caravan, coming slowly up,
was soon placed in a snug position not far from the gate; the horse was
taken out and suffered to graze; while Tim, searching about, soon found
some dry sticks, and began to light a fire. Diving into the caravan, the
young man re-emerged with a camp-stool, on which he sat down, lighted
a meerschaum pipe, and began to smoke. They could hear the rain faintly
pattering in the boughs above them, but the spot they had chosen was
quite sheltered and dry.

The fire soon blazed up. Entering the caravan in his turn, Tim brought
out a tin kettle full of water, and placed it on the fire, preparatory
to making tea. He was thus engaged when the sound of horse’s hoofs
was heard along the highway, and presently the figure of a horseman
appeared, approaching at a rapid trot. As it came near to the group in
the wayside, the horse shied violently, springing from one side of the
road to the other, so that its rider, a dark, middle-aged man in an
old-fashioned cloak, was almost thrown from the saddle. Uttering a
fierce oath, he recovered himself, and, reining in the frightened
animal, looked angrily round; then, seeing the cause of the mischance,
he forced his horse with no small difficulty to approach the figures by
the fire.

“Who are you?” he demanded, in harsh, peremptory tones. “What are you
doing here?”

The young man, pipe in mouth, looked up at him with a smile, but made no
reply.

“What are you? Vagrants? Do you know this place is private?”

And he pointed with his riding-whip to a printed “Notice!” fixed close
to the gate upon the stem of a large fir tree.

“I beg your pardon,” said the young man, with the utmost _sang froid_;
“we are, I imagine, on the Queen’s highway, and there, with your
permission, we purpose to remain for the night.”

Struck by the superior manner of the speaker, the new-comer looked at
him in some surprise, but with no abatement of his haughty manner. He
then glanced at Tim, who was busy with the kettle, from Tim to the grey
mare, and from the grey mare to the house on wheels. The scowl on his
dark face deepened, and he turned his fierce eyes again on the young
man.

“Let me warn you that these grounds are private. I suffer no wandering
vagabonds to pass that gate.”

“May I ask your name?” said the young man in the same cool tones, and
with the same quiet smile.

“What is my name to you?”

“Well, not much, only I should like to know the title of so very amiable
a person.”

The other condescended to no reply, but walked his horse towards the
gate.

“Here, fellow!” he cried, addressing Tim. “Open this gate for me!”

“Don’t stir!” said his master. “Let our amiable friend open the gate for
himself.”

With an angry exclamation, the rider leapt from his saddle, and still
holding the horse’s reins, threw the gate wide open. Then, still leading
his horse, he strode over towards the young man, who, looking up, saw
that he was nearly six feet high, and very powerfully built, “My name is
Monk, of Monkshurst,” he said. “I’ve a good mind to teach you to
remember it.”

“Don’t be afraid,” was the reply. “Monk, of Monkshurst? I shall be
certain not to forget it, Mr. Monk, of Monkshurst!--Tim, is the water
boiling?”

For a moment Mr. Monk, as he called himself, seemed, ready to draw his
ridingwhip across the young man’s face; but, conquering himself, he
surveyed him from head to foot with savage anger. Nothing daunted, the
young man returned his stare with something very like supreme contempt.
At last, muttering beneath his breath, Mr. Monk turned away, and leading
his horse into the avenue, closed the gate, and remounted; but even then
he did not immediately depart, but remained for some minutes, seated in
the saddle, scowling over at the encampment.

Thus occupied, his face and figure set in the gloomy framework of the
trees, he looked even more forbidding than before.’ His face, though
naturally handsome, was dark with tempestuous passions, his eyes
deep-set and fierce, his clean-shaven jaw square and determined. For
the rest, his black hair, which was thickly mixed with iron-grey, fell
almost to his shoulders, and his upper lip was covered with an iron-grey
moustache.

At last, as if satisfied with his scrutiny, Mr. Monk turned his horse
round with a fierce jerk of the rein, and rode rapidly away in the
shadow of the wood.



CHAPTER II.--LEAVES FROM A YOUNG GENTLEMAN’S JOURNAL.

Before setting forth on this memorable pilgrimage to nowhere, I
promised a certain friend of mine, in literary Bohemia, to keep notes of
my adventures, with a view to future publication, illustrated by my own
brilliant sketches. I fear the promise was a rash one, firstly,
because I am constitutionally lazy and averse to literary exertion; and
secondly, because I have, as yet, met with no adventures worth writing
about. Not that I have altogether lost my first enthusiasm for the idea.
There would be novelty in the title, at any rate: ‘Cruises in a Caravan,
by Charles Brinkley, with illustrations by the author; photographic
frontispiece, the caravan, with Tim as large as life, smirking
self-consciously in delight at having his ‘pictur’ taken. My friend
B------ has promised to find me a publisher, if I will only persevere.
Well, we shall see. If the book does not progress, it will be entirely
my own fault; for I have any amount of time on my hands. Paint as hard
as I may all day, I have always the long evenings, when I must either
write, read, or do nothing.

“So I am beginning this evening, exactly a fortnight after my first
start from Chester. I purchased the caravan there from a morose
individual with one eye, who had had it built with a view to the
exhibition of a Wild Man of Patagonia, but said Wild Man having taken
it into his head to return to County Cork, where he was born, and the
morose individual having no definite idea of a novelty to take his
place, the caravan came into the market. Having secured this travelling
palace, duly furnished with window-blinds, a piece of carpet, a chair
bedstead, a table, a stove, cooking utensils, not to speak of my own
artistic paraphernalia, I sent over to Mulrany, Co. Mayo, for my old
servant, Tim-na-Chaling, or Tim o’ the Ferry--otherwise Tim Lenney;
and with his assistance, when he arrived, I purchased a strong mare at
Chester Fair. All these preliminaries being settled, we started one
fine morning soon after daybreak, duly bound for explorations along the
macadamized highways and byways of North Wales.

“I am pleased to say that Tim, after he had recovered the first shock
of seeing a peripatetic dwelling-house, took to the idea wonderfully.
‘Sure, it’s just like the ould cabin at home,’ he averred, ‘barrin’
the wheels, and the windies, and the chimley, and the baste to pull
it along;’ and I think the resemblance would have been complete in his
eyes, if there had only been two or three pigs to trot merrily behind
the back door. As for myself, I took to the nomad life as naturally as
if I had never in my life been in a civilized habitation. To be able to
go where one pleased, to dawdle as one pleased, to stop and sleep where
one pleased, was certainly a new sensation. My friends, observing my
sluggish ways, had often compared me to that interesting creature, the
snail; now the resemblance was complete, for I was a snail indeed, with
my house comfortably fixed upon my shoulders, crawling tranquilly along.

“Of course the caravan has its inconveniences. Inside, to quote the
elegant simile of our progenitors, there is scarcely room enough to
swing a cat in; and when my bed is made, and Tim’s hammock is swung just
inside the door, the place forms the tiniest of sleeping-chambers. Then
our cooking arrangements are primitive, and as Tim has no idea whatever
of the culinary art, beyond being able to boil potatoes in their skins,
and make very doubtful ‘stirabout,’ there is a certain want of variety
in our repasts. To break the monotony of this living I endeavour,
whenever we come to a town with a decent hotel in it, to take a square
meal away from home.

“Besides the inconveniences which I have mentioned, but which were,
perhaps, hardly worth chronicling, the caravan has social drawbacks,
more particularly embarrassing to a modest man like myself. It is
confusing, for example, on entering a town, or good-sized village, to be
surrounded by the entire juvenile population, who cheer us vociferously,
under the impression that we constitute a ‘show,’ and afterwards, on
ascertaining their mistake, pursue us with opprobious jeers; and it
is distressing to remark that our mode of life, instead of inviting
confidence, causes us to be regarded with suspicion by the vicar of the
parish and the local policemen. We are exposed, moreover, to ebullitions
of bucolic humour, which have taken the form of horse-play on more than
one occasion. Tim has had several fights with the Welsh peasantry, and
has generally come off victorious; though on one occasion he would
have been overpowered by numbers if I had not gone to his assistance.
Generally speaking, nothing will remove from the rural population an
idea that the caravan forms an exhibition of some sort. When I airily
alight and stroll through a village, sketch-book in hand, I have
invariably at my heels a long attendant train of all ages, obviously
under the impression that I am looking for a suitable ‘pitch,’ and am
going to ‘perform.’

“To avoid these and similar inconveniences we generally halt for the
night in some secluded spot--some roadside nook, or outlying common. But
there is a fatal attraction in the caravan: it seems to draw spectators,
as it were, out of the very bowels of the earth. No matter how desolate
the place we have chosen, we have scarcely made ourselves comfortable
when an audience gathers, and stragglers drop in, amazed and
open-mouthed. I found it irksome at first to paint in the open air,
with a gazing crowd at my back making audible comments on my work as
it progressed; but I soon got used to it, and having discovered certain
good ‘subjects’ here and there among my visitors, I take the publicity
now as a matter of course. Even when busy inside, I am never astonished
to see strange noses flattened against the windows--strange faces
peeping in at the door. The human temperament accustoms itself to
anything. When all is said and done, it is flattering to be an object
of such public interest; and I do believe that when I return to
civilization, and find no one caring in the least what I do, I shall
miss the worldly tribute which is now my daily due.

“I begin this record in the Island of Anglesea, where we have arrived
after our fortnight’s wanderings in the more mountainous districts of
the mainland. Anglesea, I am informed, is chiefly famous for its pigs
and its wild ducks. So far as I have yet explored it, I find it flat and
desolate enough; but I have been educated in Irish landscapes, and don’t
object to flatness when combined with desolation. I like these dreary
meadows, these black stretches of melancholy moorland, these wild lakes
and lagoons.

“At the present moment I am encamped in a spot where, in all
probability, I shall remain for days. I came upon it quite by accident,
about midday yesterday, when on my way to the market town of Pencroes;
or rather, when I imagined that I was going thither, while I had in
reality, after hesitating at three cross roads, taken the road which
led in exactly the opposite direction. The way was desolate and
dreary beyond measure--stretches of morass and moorland on every side,
occasionally rising into heathery knolls or hillocks, or strewn with
huge pieces of stone like the moors in Cornwall Presently the open
moorland ended, and we entered a region of sandy hillocks, sparsely
ornamented here and there with long harsh grass. If one could imagine
the waves of the ocean, at some moment of wild agitation, suddenly
frozen to stillness, and retaining intact their tempestuous forms, it
would give some idea of the hillocks I am describing. They rose on every
side of the road, completely shutting out the view, and their pale livid
yellowness, scarcely relieved with a glimpse of greenness, was wearisome
and lonely in the extreme. As we advanced among them, the road we were
pursuing grew worse and worse, till it became so choked and covered with
drifted sand as to be hardly recognizable, and I need hardly say that it
was hard work for one horse to pull the caravan along; more than once,
indeed, the wheels fairly stuck, and Tim and I had to pull with might
and main to get them free.

“We had proceeded in this manner for some miles, and I was beginning
to realize the fact that we were out of our reckoning, when, suddenly
emerging from between two sand-hills, I saw a wide stretch of green
meadow land, and beyond it a glorified piece of water. The sun was
shining brightly, the water sparkled like a mirror, calm as glass, and
without a breath. As we appeared, a large heron rose from the spot in
the water-side where we had been standing

                   Still as a stone, without a sound

                   Above his dim blue shade,

and sailed leisurely away. Around the lake, which was about a mile in
circumference, the road ran winding till it reached the further side,
where more sand-hills began; but between these sand-hills I caught a
sparkling glimpse of more water, and (guided to my conclusion by the red
sail of a fishing-smack just glimmering in the horizon line) I knew that
further water was--the sea.

“The spot had all the charm of complete desolation, combined with the
charm which always, to my mind, pertains to lakes and lagoons. Eager as
a boy or a loosened retriever, I ran across the meadow, and found the
grass long and green, and sown with innumerable crowsfoot flowers;
underneath the green was sand again, but here it glimmered like
gold-dust. As I reached the sedges on the lake-side, a teal rose in full
summer plumage, wheeled swiftly round the lake, then returning, splashed
down boldly, and swam within a stone’s throw of the shore, when, peering
through the rushes, I caught a glimpse of his mate, paddling anxiously
along with eight little fluffs of down behind her. Then, just outside
the sedges, I saw the golden shield of water broken by the circles
of rising trout. It was too much. I hastened back to the caravan, and
informed Tim that I had no intention of going any further--that day at
least.

“So here we have been since yesterday, and, up to this, have not set
eyes upon a single soul. Such peace and quietness is a foretaste of
Paradise. As this is the most satisfactory day I have yet spent in my
pilgrimage, although it bears, at the same time, a family likeness to
the other days of the past fortnight, I purpose setting down verbatim,
seriatim, and chronologically the manner in which I occupied myself from
dawn to sunset.

“6 a.m.--Wake and see that Tim has already disappeared, and folded up
his hammock. Observe the morning sun looking in with a fresh cheery
countenance at the window. Turn over again with a yawn, and go to sleep
for another five minutes.

“7.15 a.m.--Wake again, and discover, by looking at my watch, that
instead of five minutes I have slept an hour and a quarter. Spring up
at once, and slip on shirt and trousers; then pass out, barefooted,
into the open air. No sign of Tim, but a fire is lighted close to the
caravan, which shadows it from the rays of the morning sun. Stroll down
to the lake, and, throwing off what garments I wear, prepare for a bath.
Cannot get out for a swim on account of the reeds. The bath over, return
and finish my toilet in the caravan.

“8 a.m.--Tim has reappeared. He has been right down to the sea-shore, a
walk of about two miles and a half. He informs me, to my disgust, that
there is some sort of a human settlement there, and a lifeboat station.
He has brought back in his baglet, as specimens of the local products,
a dozen new-laid eggs, some milk, and a loaf of bread. The last, I
observe, is in a fossil state. I asked who sold it him? He answers,
William Jones.

“8.30 a.m.--We breakfast splendidly. Even the fossil loaf yields
sustenance, after it is cut up and dissolved in hot tea. Between whiles,
Tim informs me that the settlement down yonder is, in his opinion, a
poor sort of a place. There are several white-washed cottages, and a
large roofless house for all the world like a church. Devil the cow or
pig did he see at all, barrin’ a few hens. Any boats? I ask. Yes, one
with the bottom knocked out, belonging to William Jones.

“Tim has got this name so pat, that my curiosity begins to be aroused.
‘Who the deuce _is_ William Jones?’ ‘Sure, thin,’ says Tim, ‘he’s the
man that lives down beyant, by the sea.’ I demand, somewhat irritably,
if the place contains only one inhabitant. Devil another did Tim see, he
explains,--barrin’ William Jones.

“2.30 a.m. (s.c.)--Start painting in the open air, under the shade of a
large white cotton umbrella. Paint on till 1 p.m.

“1 p.m.--Take a long walk among the sand-hills, avoiding the settlement
beyond the lake. Don’t want to meet any of the aboriginals, more
particularly William Jones. Walking here is like running up and down
Atlantic billows, assuming said billows to be solid; now I am lost in
the trough of the sand, now I re-emerge on the crest of the solid wave.
Amusing, but fatiguing. I soon lose myself, every hillock being exactly
like another. Suddenly, a hare starts from under my feet, and goes
leisurely away. I remember an old amusement of mine in the west of
Ireland, and I track puss by her footprints--now clearly and beautifully
printed in the soft sand of the hollows, now more faintly marked on the
harder sides of the ridges. The sun blazes down, the refraction of the
heat from the sand is overpowering, the air is quivering, sparkling,
and pulsating, as if full of innumerable sand-crystals. A horrible croak
from overhead startles me, and looking up, I see an enormous raven,
wheeling along in circles, and searching the ground for mice or other
prey.

“Looking at my watch, I find that I have been toiling in this sandy
wilderness for quite two hours. Time to get back and dine. Climb the
nearest hillock, and look round to discover where I am. Can see nothing
but the sandy billows on every side, and am entirely at a loss which
way to go. At last, after half an hour’s blind wandering, stumble
by accident on the road by the lakeside, and see the caravan in the
distance.

“4 p.m.--Dinner. Boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, fried bacon. Tim’s
cooking is primitive, but I could devour anything--even William Jones’s
fossil bread. I asked if any human being has visited the camp. ‘Sorra
one,’ Tim says, looking rather disappointed. He has got to feel himself
a public character, and misses the homage of the vulgar.

“Paint again till 6 p.m.

“A beautiful sunset. The sand-hills grow rosy in the light, the lake
deepens from crimson to purple, the moon comes out like a silver sickle
over the sandy sea. A thought seizes me as the shadows increase. Now is
the time to entice the pink trout from their depths in the lake. I get
out my fishing-rod and line, and, selecting two or three flies which
seem suitable, prepare for action. My rod is only a small singlehanded
one, and it is difficult to cast beyond the sedges, but the fish are
rising thickly out in the tranquil pools, and, determined not to be
beaten, I wade in to the knees. Half a dozen small trout, each about
the size of a small herring, reward my enterprise. When I have captured
them, the moon is high up above the sand-hills, and it is quite dark.

“Such is the chronicle of the past day. By the light of my lamp inside
the caravan I have written it down. It has been all very tranquil and
uneventful, but very delightful, and a day to be marked with a white
stone in one respect--that from dawn to sunset I have not set eyes on a
human being, except my servant.

“Stop, though! I am wrong. Just as I was returning from my piscatorial
excursion to the lake I saw, passing along the road in the direction of
the sea, a certain solitary horseman, who accosted me not too civilly on
the roadside the night before last. He scowled at me in passing, and
of course recognized me by the aid of the caravan. His name is Monk, of
Monkshurst, and he seems to be pretty well monarch of all he surveys. I
have an impression that Mr. Monk, of Monkshurst, and myself are destined
to be better, or worse, acquainted.”



CHAPTER III.--MATT MAKES HER FIRST APPEARANCE.

Eureka! I have had an adventure at last; and yet, after all, what am
I talking about? It is no adventure at all, but only a commonplace
incident. This is how it happened.

“I was seated this morning before my easel, out in the open air,
painting busily, when I thought I heard a movement behind me.

“I should have premised, by the way, that Tim had gone off on another
excursion into the Jones’s territory, on the quest for more eggs and
milk.

“I glanced over my shoulder, and saw, peering round the corner of my
white sunshade, a pair of large eager eyes--fixed, not upon me, but upon
the canvas I was painting.

“Not in the least surprised, I thought to myself, ‘At last! The caravan
has exercised its spell upon the district, and the usual audience is
beginning to gather.’ So I went tranquilly on with my work, and paid no
more attention.

“Presently, however, fatigued with my work, I indulged in a great yawn,
and rose to stretch myself. I then perceived that my audience was more
select than numerous, consisting of only one individual--a young person
in a Welsh chimney-pot hat. Closer observation showed me that said hat
was set on a head of closely cropped curly black hair, beneath which
there shone a brown boyish face freckled with sun and wind, a pair of
bright black eyes, and a laughing mouth with two rows of the whitest of
teeth. But the face, though boyish, did not belong to a boy. The young
person was dressed in an old cotton gown, had a coloured woollen shawl
or scarf thrown oyer the shoulders, and wore thick woollen stockings and
rough shoes, the latter many sizes too large. The gown was too short for
the wearer, who had evidently outgrown it; it reached only just below
the knee, and when the young person moved one caught a glimpse of
something very much resembling a dilapidated garter.

“The young person’s smile was so bright and good-humoured that I found
myself answering it with a friendly nod.

“‘How are you?’ I said gallantly. ‘I hope you are quite well?’

“She nodded in reply, and stooping down, plucked a long blade of grass,
which she placed in her mouth and began to nibble--bashfully, I thought.

“‘May I ask where you come from?’ I said. ‘I mean, where do you live?’

“Without speaking, she stretched out her arm and pointed across the
lake in the direction of the sea. I could not help noticing then, as an
artist, that the sleeve of her gown was loose and torn, and that her arm
was round and well-formed, and her hand, though rough and sun-burned,
quite genteelly small.

“‘If it is not inquisitive, may I ask your name?’

“‘Matt,’ was the reply.

“‘Is that all? What is your other name?’ “‘I’ve got no other name. I’m
Matt, I am.’

“‘Indeed. Do your parents live here?’

“‘Got no parents,’ was the reply.

“‘Your relations, then. You belong to some one, I suppose?’

“She gave me another nod.

“‘Yes,’ she answered, nibbling rapidly. ‘I belong to William Jones.’

“‘Oh, to _him_,’ I said, feeling as familiar with the name as if I had
known it all my life. ‘But he’s not your father?’

“She shook her head emphatically.

“‘But of course he’s a relation?’

“Another shake of the head.

“‘But you belong to him?’ I said, considerably puzzled. ‘Where were you
born?’

“‘I wasn’t born at all,’ answered Matt. ‘I come ashore.’

“This was what the immortal Dick. Swiveller would have called a
‘staggerer.’ I looked at the girl again, inspecting her curiously from
top to toe. Without taking her eyes from mine, she stood on one leg
bashfully, and fidgeted with the other foot. She was certainly
not bad-looking, though, evidently a very rough diamond. Even the
extraordinary head-gear became her well. “‘I know what you are doing
there,’ she cried suddenly, pointing to my easel. ‘You, was painting!’

The discovery not being a brilliant one, I took no trouble to confirm
it; but Matt thereupon walked over to the canvas, and, stooping down,
examined it with undisguised curiosity. Presently she glanced again at
me.

“‘I know what _this_ is,’ she cried, pointing. ‘It’s water. And that’s
the sky. And that’s trees. And these here’--for a moment she seemed in
doubt, but added hastily--‘pigs.’

“Now, as the subject represented a flock of sheep huddling together
close to a pond on a rainy common, this suggestion was not over
complimentary to my artistic skill. I was on the point of correcting my
astute critic, when she added, after a moment’s further inspection--

“‘No; they’re sheep. Look ye now, I know! They’re sheep.’

“‘Pray, don’t touch the paint,’ I suggested, approaching her in some
alarm. ‘It is wet, and comes off.’

“She drew back cautiously; and then, as a preliminary to further
conversation, sat down on the grass, giving me further occasion
to remark her length and shapeliness of limb. There was a
free-and-easiness, not to say boldness, about her manner, tempered
though it was with gusts of bashfulness, which began to amuse me.

“‘Can you paint faces?’ she asked dubiously.

“I replied that I could even aspire to that accomplishment, by which I
understood her to mean portrait painting, if need were. She gave a quiet
nod of satisfaction.

“There was a painter chap came to Aberglyn last summer, and he painted
William Jones.’

“‘Indeed?’ I said, with an assumption of friendly interest.

“‘Yes; I wanted him to paint _me_, but he wouldn’t. He painted William
Jones’s father though, along o’ William Jones.’

“This with an air of unmistakable disgust and recrimination. I looked at
the girl more observantly. It had never occurred to me till that moment
that she would make a capital picture,--just the sort of ‘study’ which
would fetch a fair price in the market. I adopted her free and easy
manner, which was contagious, and sat down on the grass opposite to her.

“‘I tell you what it is, Matt,’ I said familiarly, ‘I’ll paint you,
though the other painter chap wouldn’t.’

“‘You will!’ she cried, blushing with delight.

“‘Certainly; and a very nice portrait I think you’ll make. Be good
enough to take off your hat that I may have a better look at you.’

“She obeyed me at once, and threw the clumsy thing down on the grass
beside her. Then I saw that her head was covered with short black curls,
clinging round a bold white brow unfreckled by the sun. She glanced at
me sidelong, laughing and showing her white teeth. Whatever her age was
she was quite old enough to be a coquette.

“Promptly as possible I put the question: ‘You have not told me how old
you are?’

“‘Fifteen,’ she replied without hesitation.

“‘I should have taken you to be at least a year older.’

“She shook her head.

“‘It’s fifteen year come Whitsuntide,’ she explained, ‘since I come
ashore.’

“Although I was not a little curious to know what this ‘coming ashore’
meant, I felt that all my conversation had been categorical to monotony,
and I determined, therefore, to reserve further inquiry until another
occasion. Observing that my new friend was now looking at the caravan
with considerable interest, I asked her if she knew what it was, and if
she had ever seen anything like it before. She replied in the negative,
though I think she had a tolerably good guess as to the caravan’s uses.
I thought this a good opportunity to show my natural politeness. Would
she like to look at the interior? She said she would, though without
exhibiting much enthusiasm.

“I thereupon led the way up the steps and into the vehicle. Matt
followed; but, so soon as she caught a glimpse of the interior, stood
timidly on the threshold. What is there in the atmosphere of a house,
even the rudest, which places the visitor at a disadvantage as compared
with the owner? Even animals feel this, and dogs especially, when
visiting strange premises, exhibit most abject humility. But I must
not generalize. The bearings of this remark, to quote my friend Captain
Cuttle, lie in the application of it. Matt for a moment was awed.

“‘Come in, Matt; come in,’ I said.

“She came in by slow degrees; and I noticed for the first time--seeing
how near her hat was to the roof,--that she was unusually tall. I then
did the honours of the place; showed her my sleeping arrangements, my
culinary implements, everything that I thought would interest her. I
offered her the armchair, or turned-up bedstead; but she preferred a
stool which I sometimes used for my feet, and sitting down upon it,
looked round her with obvious admiration.

“‘Should you like to live in a house like this?’ I asked encouragingly.

“She shook her head with decision.

“‘Why not?’ I demanded.

“She did not exactly know why, or at any rate could not explain. Wishing
to interest and amuse her, I handed her a portfolio of my sketches,
chiefly in pencil and pen-and-ink, but a few in water-colours. Her
manner changed at once, and she turned them over with little cries of
delight. It was clear that Matt had a taste for the beautiful in Art,
but her chief attraction was for pictures representing the human face or
figure.

“Among the sketches she found a crayon drawing of an antique and
blear-eyed gentleman in a skull cap, copied from some Rembrandtish
picture I had seen abroad.

“‘I know who this is!’ she exclaimed. ‘It’s William Jones’s father!’

“I assured her on my honour that William Jones’s father was not
personally known to me, but she seemed a little incredulous. Presently
she rose to go.”

“‘I can’t stop no longer,’ she explained; ‘I’ve got to go up to
Monkshurst for William Jones.’

“‘Monkshurst? Is that where the polite Mr. Monk resides?’

“‘Yes; up in the wood,’ she replied, with a grimace expressive of no
little dislike.

“‘Is Mr. Monk a friend of yours?’

“Her answer was a very decided negative. Then, slouching to the door,
she swung herself down to the ground. I followed, and stood on the
threshold, looking down at her.

“‘Don’t forget that I’m to paint your picture,’ I said. ‘When will you
come back?’

“‘To-morrow, may be.’

“‘I shall expect you. Good-by!’

“‘Good-by, master,’ she returned, reaching up to shake hands.

“I watched her as she walked away toward the road, and noticed that she
took bold strides like a boy. On reaching the road, she looked back and
laughed, then she drew herself together, and began running like a
young deer, with little or nothing of her former clumsiness, until she
disappeared among the sand-hills.

“Thursday.--This morning, just after breakfast, when I had entered the
Caravan to prepare my materials for the day’s painting, Tim appeared at
the door with a horrid grin.

“‘There’s a young lady asking for ye,’ he said.

“I had forgotten for the moment my appointment of the day before, and,
when I leaped from the Caravan, I perceived, standing close by, with her
back to me, and her face toward the lake, the figure of a young woman.
At first I failed to identify her, for she wore a black hat and a white
feather, a cloth jacket, and a dress which almost reached the ground;
but she turned round as I approached her, and I recognized my new
acquaintance.

“I can not say that she was improved by her change of costume. In
the first place, it made her look several years older--in fact,
quite young-womanly. In the second place, it was tawdry, not to say,
servant-gally, if I may coin such an adjective. The dress was of thin
silk, old and frayed, and looking as if it had suffered a good deal from
exposure to the elements, as was indeed the actual case. The jacket was
also old, and seemed made of the rough material which is usually
cut into sailors’ pea-jackets; which was the case also. The hat was
obviously new, but, just as obviously, home-made.

“‘So you have come,’ I said, shaking hands. ‘Upon my word, I didn’t know
you.’

“She laughed delightedly, and glanced down at her attire, which clearly
afforded her the greatest satisfaction.

“‘I put on my Sunday clothes,’ she explained, “cause I was going to have
my likeness took. Don’t you tell William Jones.’

“I promised not to betray her to that insufferable nuisance, and
refrained from informing her that I thought her ordinary costume far
more becoming than her seventh-day finery.

“‘That’s a nice dress,’ I said, hypocritically. ‘Where did you buy it?’

“‘I didn’t buy it. It come ashore.’

“‘What! When you “come ashore” yourself?’

“‘No fear!’ she answered. ‘Last winter when the big ship went to bits
out there.’

“‘Oh, I see! Then it was a portion of a wreck?’

“‘Yes, it come ashore, and, look ye now, this jacket come ashore too. On
a sailor chap.’

“‘And the sailor chap made you a present of it, I suppose?’

“‘No fear!’ she repeated, with her sharp shake of the head. ‘How could
he give it me, when he was drownded and come ashore? William Jones gave
it to me, and I altered it my own self, look ye now, to make it
fit.’

“She was certainly an extraordinary young person, and wore her
mysterious finery with a coolness I thought remarkable, it being quite
clear, from her explanation, that all was fish that came to her net,
or, in other words, that dead men’s clothes were as acceptable to her
unprejudiced taste as any others. However, the time was hastening on,
and I had my promise to keep. So I got my crayon materials, and made
Matt sit down before me on a stool, first insisting, however, that she
should divest herself of her head-gear, which was an abomination, but
which she discarded with extreme reluctance. Directly I began, she
became rigid, and fixed herself, so to speak, as people do when being
photographed--her eyes glaring on vacancy, her whole face lost in
self-satisfied vacuity.

“‘You needn’t keep like that,’ I cried, ‘I want your face to have some
expression. Move your head about as much as you like, laugh and talk--it
will be all the better.’

“‘Last time I was took,’ she replied, ‘the chap said I mustn’t move.’

“‘Ah! I suppose he was a travelling photographer.’

“He had a little black box, like, on legs, and a cloth on top of it, and
he looked at me through a hole in the middle. Then he cried, ‘Now,’
and held up his hand for me to keep still as a mouse; then he counted
fifty--and I was took.’

“‘Ah! Indeed! Was it a good likeness?’”

“‘Yes, master. But I looked like the black woman who come ashore last
Easter was a year.’”

“With conversation like this we beguiled the time, while I proceeded
rapidly with my drawing. At the end of a couple of hours Matt had become
so fidgety that I thought it advisable to give her a rest. She sprang up
and ran over to inspect the picture. The moment her eyes fell upon it,
she uttered a rapturous cry.

“‘Look ye now, ain’t it pretty? Master, am I like _that?_’

“I answered her it was an excellent likeness, and not too flattering.
Her face fell however a little as she proceeded.

“‘Are my cheeks as red as that, master?’”

“‘You are red, Matt,’ I replied, flippantly; ‘so are the roses.’”

“She looked at me thoughtfully. ‘When it’s finished, will you give it to
me to keep?’

“‘Well, we shall see.’

“‘I gave t’other chap a shilling for his, frame and all, but I’ve got no
more money,’ she continued, with an insinuating smile, which, as a man
of gallantry, I could not resist. So I promised that, if she behaved
herself properly, I would in all probability make her the present she
coveted.

“‘You must come again to-morrow,’ I said, as we shook hands, ‘and I’ll
finish the thing off.’

“’ All right, master, I’ll come.’

“And, with a nod and a bright smile, she walked away.

“During the whole of this interview, Tim had not been unobservant, and
so soon as I was left alone he looked up from the work he was engaged
upon, viz. potato-washing, and gave a knowing smile.

“‘Sure she’s a fine bold colleen,’ he said. ‘Does your honour know who
she is?’

“‘I have not the slightest idea.’

“‘They’re saying down beyant that she’s a say-fondling, and has neither
father nor mother, nor any belongings.’

“‘Pray who was your informant?’

“‘The man who picked her from the say--William Jones hisself.’

“That name again. It was becoming too much for flesh and blood to bear.
From the first moment of my arrival I had heard no other, and I had
begun to detest its very sound.”



CHAPTER IV.--INTRODUCES WILLIAM JONES AND HIS FATHER.

Our story is now bound to follow; in the footsteps of Matt, who, in
quitting the presence of her artist-friend, walked rapidly along the
sand-encumbered road in the direction of the sea.

Skirting the lake upon the left hand, and still having the ocean
of sand-hills upon her right, she gradually slackened her pace. A
spectator, had he been by, would have doubtless observed that the change
was owing to maiden meditation; that, in other words, Matt had fallen
into a brown study.

Presently she sat down upon a convenient stone, or piece of rock, and,
resting her elbows on her knees, her chin in her hands, looked for some
minutes at vacancy. At last she rose, flushing warmly, and murmuring
something to herself.

The something was to this effect:

“His hands are as white as a lady’s when he pulls off them gloves, and
he said I was as pretty as my picture.”

I can only guess at the train of reasoning which led to this soliloquy,
and express my opinion that Matt had well-developed ideas on the subject
of the sexes. True, she was not above sixteen, and had little or
no experience of men, none at all of men who were both young and
good-looking. Nevertheless, she was not insensible to the charms of a
white hand, and other tokens of masculine refinement and beauty.

By a natural sequence of ideas she was led to stretch out her own right
hand and look at it critically. It was very brown, and covered with huge
golden freckles. The inspection not being altogether satisfactory she
thrust both her hands irritably into the pockets of her jacket, and
walked on.

Leaving the lake behind her, she followed the road along a swampy
hollow, down which the very shallowest of rivulets crept along to
the sea, now losing itself altogether in mossy patches of suspicious
greenness, again emerging and trickling with feeble glimmers over pebble
and sand. Presently she left the road and came upon a primitive wooden
bridge, consisting of only one plank, supported on two cairns of stone.
Here she paused, and, seeing a red-legged sand-piper running about
on the edge of the water just below her, made a gesture like a boy’s
throwing a stone, whereon the sand-piper sprang up chirping, and flew
along out of sight.

By this time she was in full sight of the sea. Dead calm, and covered
with rain-coloured shadows, it touched the edges of the flat sands about
a mile away, and left one long creamy line of changeless foam.

The sands themselves stretched away to the westward far as eye could
see. But to the left and eastward, that is to say, in the direction
towards which she was going, there was a long rocky promontory with
signs of human habitation. Breaking into a swing-like trot, Matt
hastened thither, following a footpath across marshy fields.

In due time she came out upon a narrow and rudely made road which wound
along the rocky promontory, at low water skirting the sand, at high
water, the sea. The first house she reached was a wooden lifeboat house,
lying down in a creek; and it being then low tide, at some distance from
the water’s edge. On the roadside above the house was a flagstaff, and
beneath the flagstaff a wooden seat. All was very still and desolate,
without a sign of life; but a little further along-the road was a row
of cottages which seemed inhabited, and were, in fact, the abodes of the
coastguard. Instead of lingering here Matt proceeded on her way until
she reached, what, at first sight, looked like the beginning of a
village, or small town. There were houses on each side of the road, some
of them several stories high; but close inspection showed that most of
them were roofless, that few of them possessed any windows or doors, and
that nearly all were decayed and dilapidated from long disuse, while not
a few had a blasted and sinister appearance, as if blackened by fire.
And still there was no sign of any human soul. Suddenly, however,
the street came to an end, and Matt found herself on a sort of rocky
platform overlooking the sea; and on this platform, shading his eyes
from the blazing sun, and looking out seaward, was a solitary man.

So intent was he on his occupation that he was unconscious of Matt’s
approach till she was standing by his side. He turned his eyes upon her
for a moment, and then once more gazed out to sea.

A short, plump, thickset man, with a round, weather-beaten face,
which would have been good-humoured but for its expression of extreme
watchfulness and greed. The eyes were blue, but very small and keen; the
forehead low and narrow; the hair coarse and sandy; the beard coarser
and sandier still. He might have been about fifty years of age. His
dress was curious: consisting of a yellow sou’-wester, a pair of
seaman’s coarse canvas trousers, and a blue pilot jacket, ornamented
with brass buttons which bore the insignia of Her Majesty’s naval
service.

Presently, without turning his eyes again from the far distance, the man
spoke in a husky, far-away whisper:--

“Matt, do you see summat out yonder?” Matt strained her gaze through the
dazzling sunlight, but failed to discern any object on the light expanse
of water.

“Look ye now,” continued the man; “it may be drifting weed, or it may be
wreck; but it’s summat. Look again.”

“Summat black, William Jones?”

“Yes. Coming and going. Now it comes, and it’s black; now it goes, and
the water looks white where it was. If it isn’t wreck, it’s weed; if
it ain’t weed, it’s wreck. And the tide’s flowing, and it’ll go ashore
afore night at the Caldron Point, if I wait for it. But I shan’t wait,”
 he added eagerly. “I’ll go and overhaul it now.”

He looked round suspiciously, and then said, “Matt, did you see any of
them coastguard chaps as you come along?”

“No, William Jones.”

“Thought not. They’re up Pencroes way, fooling about; so there’s a
chance for a honest man to look arter his living without no questioning.
You come along with me, and if it _is_ summat, I’ll gie thee tuppence
some o’ these fine days.”

As he turned to go, his eye fell for the first time on her attire.

“What’s this, Matt? What are you doing in your Sunday clothes?”

The girl was at a loss how to reply. She blushed scarlet and hung down
her head. Fortunately for her the man was too absorbed in his main
object of thought to catechize her further. He only shook his fat head
in severe disapprobation, and led the way down to a small creek in the
rocks, where a rough coble was rocking, secured by a rusty chain.

“Jump in and take the paddles. I’ll sit astarn and keep watch.”

The girl obeyed and leapt in; but before sitting down she tucked up her
dress to her knees to avoid the dirty water in the bottom of the boat.
William Jones followed, and pushed off with his hands. Calm as the water
was there was a heavy shoreward swell, on which they were immediately
uplifted with some danger of being swept back on the rocks; but Matt
handled the paddles like one to the manner born, and the boat shot out
swiftly on the shining sea.

The sun was burning with almost insufferable brightness, and the light
blazed on the golden mirror of the water with blinding refracted rays.
Crouching in the stern of the boat, William Jones shaded his eyes with
both hands, and gazed intently on the object he had discovered far out
to sea. Now and then he made a rapid motion to guide the girl in her
rowing, but he did not speak a word.

Oh, how hot it was out there on the sun-scorched waves! For some time
Matt pulled on in silence, but at last she could bear it no longer,
and rested on her oars, with the warm perspiration streaming down her
freekled cheeks.’

“Pull away, Matt,” said the man, not looking at her. “You ain’t tired,
not you!”

With a long-drawn breath Matt drew in the oars, and swift as thought
peeled off her jacket and threw off her hat, leaving her head exposed to
the burning sun.

Now the silk gown she wore had evidently been used by its original owner
as a festal raiment, for it had been cut low, and had short sleeves.
So Matt’s shoulders and arms were perfectly bare, and very white they
looked in contrast with her sun-freckled hands, her sunburnt face, and
her warm brown neck. Her bust was as yet undeveloped, but her neck and
shoulders were fine, and her arms beautifully moulded. Altogether,
her friend the painter, could he have seen her just then, would have
regarded her with increasing admiration.

Freed from the encumbrance of her jacket, she now pulled away with easy
grace and skill. Further and further the boat receded from shore,
till the promontory they had left was a couple of miles away. Suddenly
William Jones made a sign to the girl to stop, and stood up in the boat
to reconnoitre.

The object at which he had been gazing so long was now clearly visible.
It consisted of something black, floating on a glassy stretch of
water, and surrounded by fragments of loose scum or foam; it was to all
appearance motionless, but was in reality drifting wearily shoreward on
the flowing tide.

William Jones now evinced increasing excitement, and urged his companion
to hurry quickly forward--which she did, putting out all her strength
in a series of rapid and powerful strokes. Another quarter of an hour
brought them to the spot where the object was floating. Trembling with
eagerness, the man leant over the boat’s side with outstretched hands.

As he did so Matt turned her head away with a curious gesture of dread.

“What is it, William Jones?” she asked, not looking at him. “It
isn’t--you know--one o’ _them?_”

“No, it ain’t!” replied the man, leaning over the side of the coble, and
tilting the gunwale almost to the water’s edge; “Too early for _them_,
Matt. If they comes, it won’t be till Sunday’s tide. They’re down at the
bottom now, and ain’t yet rose. Easy! Lean t’other way! So there--look
out!”

As he spoke he struggled with something in the water, and at last, with
an effort which almost capsized the boat, pulled it in. Matt looked now,
and saw that it was a small flat wooden trunk, covered with pieces of
slimy weed. Floating near it were several pieces of splintered wood
which seemed to have formed part of a boat. These, too, William secured,
and threw down on the foot-board beneath him.

“It’s a box, that’s what it is,” cried Matt.

“It’s a box, surely,” said Jones. “And it’s locked, too. And look ye
now. I misdoubt there’s nowt inside, or mayhap it would have sunk,
Howsomever, we’ll see!”

After an unavailing effort to force it open with his hands, he drew
forth a large clasp-knife, worked away at the lock, and tried to force
open the lid, which soon yielded to his efforts, as the action of the
salt water had already begun to rot the wood. On being thus opened, the
box was found to contain only a couple of coarse linen shirts, an old
newspaper, two or three biscuits, and half a bottle of some dark fluid.

After examining these articles one by one, William Jones threw them back
into the box with gestures of disgust, retaining only the bottle, which
he uncorked and applied to his lips.

“Rum!” he said, smacking his lips and nodding at Matt. Then re-corking
the bottle carefully he returned it to the box, and standing up,
reconnoitred the sea on every side. But nothing else rewarded his eager
search; he threw himself down in the stem of the boat, and ordered Matt
to pull back to shore.

As they went he closed one eye thoughtfully, and mused aloud: “Night
afore last it blew half a gale from the south’ard. This here box came
awash from the east coast of Ireland. Maybe it was a big ship as was
lost; them planks was part of a wessel’s long boat. More’s coming if
the wind don’t come up from the norrard. The moon’s full to-night and
to-morrow. I’ll tell the old ’un, and keep a sharp, look-out off the
Caldron Pint.”

Matt rowed on steadily till they came within a quarter of a mile of the
shore, when William Jones stood up again and reconnoitred the prospect
inland.

“Pull in, Matt!” he said, after a minute. “All’s square!”

Soon afterwards the boat reached the rocks.. William Jones sprang out,
and running up to the platform above, took another survey. This being
satisfactory, he ran down again and lifted the box out of the boat,
carrying it with ease under one arm.

“Make the boat fast,” he said in a husky whisper, “and bring them bits
o’ wood along with you for the fire. I’ll cut on to the cottage with
this here. It ain’t much, but it’s summat; so I’ll carry it clean out o’
sight before them precious coastguards come smelling about.”

With these words he clambered up the rocks with his burthen, leaving
Matt to follow leisurely in his wake.



CHAPTER V.--CONCLUDES WITH A KISS.

Not far from the spot where William Jones had landed, and removed some
little distance from the deserted village with its desolate main street
and roofless habitations, there stood a low one-storied cottage, quite
as black and forbidding-looking as any of the abandoned dwellings in its
vicinity. It was built of stone, and roofed with slate, but the doorway
was composed of old ship’s timber, and the one small window it contained
had originally formed the window of a ship’s cabin. Over the door was
placed, like a sign, the wooden figure-head of a young woman, naked
to the waist, holding a mirror in her hand, and regarding herself with
remarkable complacency, despite the fact that accident had deprived her
of a nose and one eye, and that the beautiful red complexion and jet
black hair she had once possessed had been entirely washed away by the
action of the elements, leaving her all over of a leprous pallor. The
rest of the building, as I have suggested, was of sinister blackness,
though here and there it was sprinkled with wet sea sand. Sand, too, lay
on every side, covered a small patch, originally meant for a garden, and
drifted thickly up to the very door.

To this cottage William Jones ran with his treasure trove, and, entering
in without ceremony, found himself in almost total darkness--for the
light which crept through the blackened panes of the small windows was
only just sufficient to make darkness visible. But this worthy seaside
character, having, in addition to a cat’s predatory instincts, something
of a cat’s power of vision, clearly discerned everything in the chamber
he just entered--a rude stone-paved kitchen, with an open fireplace,
and no grate, black rafters overhead, from which were hung sundry lean
pieces of bacon, a couple of wooden chairs, a table, and in one corner a
sort of bed in the wall, where a human figure was reposing. Setting
down the trunk on the floor, he marched right over to the bed, and
unceremoniously shook the individual lying upon it, whom he discovered
to be snoring and muttering in a heavy sleep. Finding that he did not
wake with shaking, William Jones bent down and cried lustily in his
ear--

“Wreck! wreck ashore!”

The effect was instantaneous. The figure rose up in bed, disclosing the
head and shoulders of a very old man, who wore a red cotton nightcap,
and whose hair and beard were as white as snow.

“Eh? Wheer? Wheer?” he cried in a shrill treble, looking vacantly around
him.

“Wake up, old ’un!” said William, seizing him, and shaking him again.
“It’s me, William Jones.”

“William? Is it my son William?” returned the old man, peering out into
the darkness.

“Yes, father. Look ye now, you was a-talking again in your sleep, you
was. A good thing no one heerd you but your son William. Some o’ these
days you’ll be letting summat out, you will, if you go on like this.”

The old man shook his head feebly, then clasping his hands together in a
kind of rapture, he looked at his son, and said--

“Yes, William, I was a-dreaming. Oh, it was such a heavingly dream! I
was a-standing on the shore, William, and it was a-blowing hard from the
east, and all at once I see a ship as big as an Indiaman, come in wi’
all sail set, and go ashore; and I looked round, William dear, and there
was no one nigh but you and me; and when she broke up, I see gold and
silver and jewels come washing ashore just like floating weeds, and the
drownded, every one of ’em, had rings on their fingers, and gold watches
and cheens, and more’n that, that their hands was full of shining gold;
and one on ’em--a lady, William--had a bright dimond ring, as big as a
walnut; but when I tried to pull it off, it wouldn’t come--and just as
I pulled out my leetle knife to cut the finger off, and put it in my
pocket, you shook me, William, and woke me up. Oh! it was a heavingly
dream!”

William Jones had listened with ill-disguised interest to the early
part of this speech, but on its conclusion, he gave another grunt of
undissembled disgust.

“Well, you’re awake now, old ’un, so jump up. I’ve brought summat
home. Look sharp, and get a light.”

Thereupon the old man, who was fully dressed, in a pair of old woollen
trousers and a guernsey, slipped from the bed, and began fumbling about
the room. He soon found what he wanted--a box of matches and a rude
home-made candle, fashioned of a long, coarse reed dipped in sheep’s
tallow, but owing to the fact that he was exceedingly feeble and
tremulous, he was so long in lighting up that his gentle son grew
impatient.

“Here, give ’un to me!” said William. “You’re wasting them matches
just as if they cost nowt. A precious father _you_ are, and no mistake.”

The candle being lit and burning with a feeble flame, he informed the
old man of what he had found. In a moment the latter was down on his
knees, opening the box, and greedily examining its contents. But
William pushed him impatiently away, and closed the lid with a bang.

“Theer, enough o’ that, old ’un! You hold the light while I carry the
box in and put it away.”

“All right, William dear; all right,” returned the old man, obeying
gleefully. “I know’d we should have luck, by that beautiful dream.”

The two men--one holding the light and the other carrying the
trunk--passed through a door at the back of the kitchen and entered
an inner chamber. This chamber, too, contained a window, which was so
blocked up however by lumber of all kinds that little or no daylight
entered. Piled up in great confusion were old sacks, some partly full,
some empty, coils of rope, broken oars, broken fragments of ships’
planks, rotten and barnacled, a small boat’s rudder, dirty sails,
several oilskin coats, bits of iron ballast, and other flotsam and
jetsam; so that the chamber had a salt and fish-like smell, suggesting
the hold of some vessel. But in one corner of the room was a small
wooden bed, with a mattrass and coarse bed-clothing, and hanging on
a nail close to it was certain feminine attire which the owner of the
caravan would have recognized as the garb worn by Matt on the morning of
her first appearance.

Placing the box down, William Jones carefully covered it with a portion
of an old sail.

“It’s summat, but it ain’t much,” he muttered discontentedly. “Lucky
them coastguards didn’t see me come ashore. If they did, though, it
wouldn’t signify; for what’s floating on the sea belongs to him as finds
it.”

A sound startled him as he spoke, and looking round suspiciously he saw
Matt entering the room, loaded with broken wood. But she was not alone;
standing behind her in the shadow was a man--none other, indeed, than
Monk of Monkshurst.

While Matt entered the room to throw down her load of wood Monk stood in
the doorway. His quick eye had noted the movements of father and son.

“More plunder, William Jones?” he asked grimly.

In a moment William Jones was transformed. The keen expression of his
face changed to one of mingled stupidity and sadness; he began to whine.

“More plunder, Mr. Monk?” he said; “no, no; the days for finding that
is gone. Matt and me has been on the shore foraging for a bit o’
firewood,--that be all. Put it down, Matt; put it down.”

Matt did as she was told: opening her arms, she threw her load into a
corner of the room; then William Jones hurried the whole party back into
the kitchen.

The men seated themselves on benches; but Matt moved about the room
to get a light. The light as well as everything else was a living
illustration of the meanness ol William Jones. It consisted, not of a
candle, but of a long rush, which had been gathered from the marshes by
Matt, and afterwards dried and dipped in grease by William Jones. Matt
lit it, and fixed it in a little iron niche which was evidently made for
the purpose and which was attached to a table near the hearth. When
the work was finished she threw off her hat and jacket, retired to the
further end of the hearth, and sat down on the floor.

During the whole of this time Mr. Monk had been watching her gloomily;
and he had been watched in his turn by William Jones. At last the latter
spoke.

“Matt’s growed,” said he; “she’s growed wonderful. Lord bless us! she’s
a bit changed, she is, sin’ that night when you found her down on the
shore. Why, her own friends wouldn’t know her!”

Mr. Monk started and frowned.

“Her friends?” he said; “what friends?”

“Why, them as owns her,” continued William Jones; “if they wasn’t all
drownded in the ship what she came ashore from, they must be somewheer.
Mayhap some day they’ll find her, and reward me for bringin’ her up a
good gal,--that’s what I allus tell her.”

“So that’s what you always tell her, do you?” returned Monk grimly.
“Then you’re a fool for your pains. The girl’s got no friends--haven’t I
told you that before?”

“Certainly you have, Mr. Monk,” returned William Jones meekly; “but look
ye now, I think----”

“You’ve no right to think,” thundered Monk; “you’re not paid for
thinking; you’re paid for keeping the girl, and what more do you
want?--Matt,” he continued in a softer tone, “come to me.”

But Matt didn’t hear--or, at any rate, did not heed; for she made no
movement. Then Monk, gazing intently at her, gave vent to the same
remark as William Jones had done a few hours before.

“Where have you been to-day,” he said, “to have on that frock?”

Again Matt hung her head and was silent. Monk repeated his question; and
seeing that he was determined to have an answer, she threw up her head
defiantly and said, with a tone of pride in her voice--

“I put it on to be took!”

“To be took?” repeated Monk.

“Yes,” returned Matt; “to have my likeness took. There be a painter chap
here that lives in a cart; he’s took it.”

It was curious to note the changes in Mr. Monk’s face: at first he tried
to appear amiable; then his face gradually darkened into a look of angry
suspicion.

Matt never once withdrew her eyes from him--his very presence seemed to
rouse all that was bad in her--and she glared at him through her tangled
locks in much the same manner that a shaggy terrier puppy might gaze at
a bull which it would fain attack, but feared on account of its superior
strength.

“Matt,” said Mr. Monk again, “come here.”

This time she obeyed; she rose slowly from her seat and went reluctantly
to his side.

“Matt, look me in the face,” he said; “do you know who this painter is?”

Matt shook her head.

“How many times have you seen him?”

“Twice.”

“And what has he said to you?”

“A lot o’ things.”

“Tell me one thing.”

“He asked me who my mother was, and I told him I hadn’t got none.”

Mr. Monk’s face once more grew black as night.

“So,” he said, “poking and prying and asking questions. I thought as
much. He’s a scoundrelly vagabond!”

“No, he ain’t,” said Matt bluntly.

“Matt, my girl,” said Mr. Monk, taking no notice of her interruption, “I
want you to promise me something.”

“What is it?”

“Not to go near that painter again!” Matt shook her head.

“Shan’t promise,” she said, “’cause I shall go. My likeness ain’t took
yet--he takes a time, he does. I’m going to put them things on to-morrow
and be took again.”

For a moment the light in his eyes looked dangerous, then he smiled and
patted her cheek, at which caress she shrank away. “What’s the matter?”
 he asked.

“Nothing,” said Matt. “I don’t like to be pulled about, that’s all.”

“You mean you don’t like _me?_”

“Don’t know. That’s telling.”

“And yet you’ve no cause to hate me, Matt, for I’ve been a good friend
to you--and always shall, because I like you, Matt. Do you understand? I
like you.”

So anxious did he seem to impress this upon her, that he put his arm
around her waist, drew her towards him, and kissed her on the cheek, a
ceremony he had never performed before. But Matt seemed by no means to
appreciate the honour; as his lips touched her cheeks she shivered; and
when he released her she began rubbing at the place as if to wipe the
touch away.

If Mr. Monk noticed this action on the part of the girl he deemed it
prudent to take no notice of it. He said a few more pleasant things
to Matt, and again patted her cheek affectionately, then he left the
cottage, taking William Jones with him. Ten minutes later William Jones
returned alone.

“Where’s _he?_” asked Matt.

“Meanin’ Mr. Monk, Matt--he be gone!” said William Jones.

“Gone for good?” demanded Matt, impatiently.

“No; he ain’t, Matt. He’ll be down here to-morrow, he will; and you’d
best be at home!”

Matt said nothing this time; she only turned away sullenly and shrugged
her shoulders.

“Matt,” said William Jones, presently.

“Well?”

“Mr. Monk seems uncommon fond of you, he do.”

Matt reflected for a moment, then she replied--

“I wonder what he’s fond o’ me for, William Jones?”

“Well, I dunno--‘cause he is, I suppose,” returned William Jones, having
no more logical answer at his command.

“‘Tain’t that,” said Matt; “he don’t love me ’cause I’m _me_, William
Jones. There’s somethin’ else, and I should just like to know what that
somethin’ is, I should.”

William Jones looked at her, conscious that there was a new development
of sagacity in her character, but was utterly at a loss to understand
what that new development meant.



CHAPTER VI.--ALSO CONCLUDES WITH A KISS.

When Matt awoke the next morning, the first thing she did was to
look around for her Sunday clothes, which on retiring to rest she had
carefully placed beside her bed. They were gone, and in their place lay
the habiliments she was accustomed to wear on her erratic pilgrimages
every day.

Her face grew cloudy, she hunted all round the chamber, but finding
nothing that she sought she was compelled to array herself as she best
could.

“William Jones,” she said, when she sat with that worthy at a hermit’s
breakfast of dry bread and whey, “where’s my Sunday clothes?”

William Jones fidgeted a bit, then he said--

“They’re put where you won’t find ’em. Look ye now, Matt, you’d better
be doin’ summat more useful than runnin’ about after a painter chap. I
was down on the shore this morning, and I seen heaps o’ wood--you’d best
get some of it afore night!”

Matt gave a snort, but said nothing. A few minutes later her benign
protector left the cottage, and a little after he had disappeared Matt
issued forth; but instead of beating the shore for firewood, as she had
been told to do, she ran across the fields to the painter.

She found him already established at his work. The fact was he had
been for some time strolling about with his hands in his pockets, and
scanning the prospect on every side, for a sight of her. Having got
tired of this characteristic occupation, he at length sat down and began
to put a few touches to the portrait. Seeing that he was unconscious of
her approach, Matt crept up quietly behind him and took a peep at the
picture.

Her black eyes dilated with pleasure.

“Oh, ain’t it beautiful!” she exclaimed.

“So you have come at last,” said Brinkley quietly, going on with his
painting.

She made no movement and no further sound, so he continued--

“Perhaps now you _have_ come you’ll be good enough to step round that I
may continue my work. I am longing to refresh my memory with a sight of
your face, Matt!”

“Well, you can’t,” said Matt; “they’re locked up!”

“Eh! what’s locked up--my memory or your face?”

It was clear Matt could not appreciate banter. She saw him smile,
and guessed that he was laughing at her, and her face grew black and
mutinous. She would have slunk off, but his voice stopped her.

“Come here, Matt,” he said. “Don’t be silly, child; tell me what’s the
matter, and--why, what has become of your resplendent raiment--your
gorgeous Sunday clothes?”

“Didn’t I tell yer?--they’re locked up.”

“Indeed!”

“Yes, William Jones done it ’cause _he_ told him. _He_ don’t want me
to come here and be took.”

“Oh! Tell you what it is, Matt, we will have our own way, in spite of
them. For the present this picture shall be put aside. If in a day or so
you can again don your Sunday raiment, and sit to me again in them--if
not, I dare say I shall be able to finish the dress from memory. That
portrait I shall give to you. In the mean time, as I want one for
myself, I will paint you as you are. Do you approve?”

Matt nodded her head vigorously.

“Very well,” said Brinkley. “Then we will get on.”

He removed from his easel and carefully covered the portrait upon which
he had been working. Then he put up a fresh cardboard and sat down,
inviting Matt to do the same.

With the disappearance of the Sunday clothes the girl’s stiffness seemed
to have disappeared also, and she became again a veritable child of
Nature. She looked like a shaggy young pony fresh from a race on the
mountain side as she threw herself on the ground in an attitude which
was all picturesqueness and beauty. Then with her plump sunburnt hand
she carelessly began to pull up the grass, while her black eyes searched
alternately the prospect and the painter’s face.

Presently she spoke.

“_He_ says you’re a pryin’ scoundrel,” she said.

Brinkley looked up and smiled.

“Who is _he_, Matt?”

“Mr. Monk,” she replied, and gave a jerk with her head in the direction
of Monkshurst.

“Oh, indeed,” said Brinkley. “It is my amiable equestrian friend, is it?
I’m sure I’m much obliged to him. And when, may I ask, did he bore you
with his opinion of me?”

“Last night, when he come to see William Jones. He said I wasn’t to be
took no more, ‘cause you was a scoundrel poking and prying.”

Brinkley began to whistle, and went on for a while vigorously touching
up his work. Then he looked up and regarded the girl curiously.

“Mr. Monk seems to be very much interested in _you_, Matt?”

The girl nodded her head vigorously; then remembering the odious caress
to which Mr. Monk had subjected her, she began to rub her cheek again
violently.

“Why is Mr. Monk so interested in you? Do you know?”

“P’raps it’s ’cause he found me when I come ashore?”

“Oh, _he_ found you, did he? Then why doesn’t he keep you?”

“He do, only I live along o’ William Jones.”

Again Brinkley began whistling lightly, and working away vigorously with
his brush. Presently the conversation began again.

“Matt, what things did you come ashore in?”

“I dunno!”

“You have never heard whether anything was found with you which might
lead to your finding your relations?”

“No, no more has William Jones. He says maybe they’ll find me some day
and reward him; but Mr. Monk says they were all drownded, and I ain’t
got no friends ’cept him and William Jones.”

“Well, since he found you, I suppose he ought to know; and since you
_have_ no relations, Matt, and no claim upon anybody in the world, it
was very kind of Mr. Monk to keep you, instead of sending you to the
workhouse as he might have done.”

On this point Matt seemed rather sceptical.

“Well,” continued Brinkley, as he went on lightly touching up his work,
“perhaps I have done my equestrian friend a wrong. Perhaps his unamiable
exterior belies his real nature; perhaps he is good and kind, generous
to the poor, willing to help the helpless--like you, for instance.”

“Is it him?” exclaimed Matt, “Monk of Monkshurst! Why, he don’t give
nothin’ to nobody. No fear.”

“And yet, according to your own showing, he has helped to support you
all these years--you, who have no claim whatever upon him.”

This was an enigma to which Matt had no solution. She said no more, but
Brinkley, while he continued his painting, silently ruminated thus:

“It strikes me this puzzle would be worth unravelling if I could only
find the key. Query, is the young person the key, if I but knew how to
use her? Perhaps, since the amiable Monk evidently dislikes my coming
into communication with her. But it would be useless to lay the case
before her, since, if she is the key, she is quite unconscious of it
herself.”

He threw down his brush, rose and stretched himself, and said--

“Look here, Matt, I’m tired of work. The sun shining on those sand-hills
and on the far-off sea is too tempting. I shall go for a walk, and you,
if you are in the mood, shall be my guide.”

She evidently was in the mood, for she was on her feet in an instant.

“All right, master,” she said, “I’ll go.”

“Very well.--Tim, bring forth some refreshment. We will refresh the
inner man and girl before we start.”

Tim disappeared into the caravan. Presently he re-appeared bearing a
small tray, on which was a small flask of brandy, a large jug of milk,
some biscuits, and a couple of glasses. This he placed on the camp
stool, which his master had just, vacated, and which, when not in use
as a seat, served as a table. Brinkley poured out two glasses of milk,
then, looking at Matt, he held the little flask on high.

“Brandy, Matt?”

She shook her head.

“Very well, child; I think you are wise. Here, take the milk and drink
confusion to your enemies!”

Matt took the glass of milk and drank it down, while Brinkley hastened
to dilute and dispose of the other. Then he gave some orders to Tim, and
they started off. As they had no particular object in view, they chose
the pleasantest route, and clearly the pleasantest lay across the
sand-hills. Not because the sand-hills were pleasant in themselves; they
were not, especially on a day when the sun was scorching the roads and
making the sea like a mill-pond; but because by crossing the sand-hills
one came on the other side upon a footpath which led, by various
windings, gradually to the top of breezy cliffs.

To the sand-hills, therefore, they wended their way. Having gained them
they followed a route which Matt knew full well, and which soon brought
them to the narrow footpath beyond. During the walk she was singularly
silent, and Brinkley seemed to be busily trying to work out some
abstruse problem which had taken possession of his brain.

When they had followed the footpath for some distance, and had gained
the greensward on the top of the cliffs, the young man threw himself
upon the grass, and invited Matt to do the same. It was very pleasant
there, soothing both to the eye and to the mind. The cliff was
covered--somewhat sparsely, it is true--with stunted grass, and just
below on their right lay the ocean, calm as any mill-pond, but sighing
softly as the water kissed the rocks and flowed back again with rhythmic
throbs. On their left lay the sand-hills, glittering like dusty gold in
the sun rays, while just before and below them was the village.

“Do you see that house standing all by itself, close to shore?” said
Matt, pointing to the cottage where she lived; “that belongs to William
Jones--and look ye now, there be William Jones on the rocks!”

Looking down, Brinkley beheld a figure moving along the rocks, just
where the water touched the edge.

“Very lazy of William Jones,” he said. “Why isn’t he at work?”

“At work?”

“Yes; tilling the fields or fishing. By the way, I forgot to ask you, is
he a fisherman?”

“No, he ain’t,” said Matt “He’s a wrecker, he is!”

“A what?” exclaimed Brinkley.

“A wrecker,” continued Matt, as if wrecking was the most natural
occupation in the world.

Brinkley looked, at her, imagining that she must be practising some wild
joke. He had certainly heard of wreckers, but he had always believed
that they were a species of humanity which had belonged to past
centuries, and were now as extinct as a mammoth. But the girl evidently
meant what she said, and thought there was nothing extraordinary in the
statement.

“That sea don’t look ugly, do it?” she continued, pointing at the ocean,
“but it is--there’s rocks out there where the ships split on, then they
go all to pieces, and the things come ashore.”

“And what becomes of all the things, Matt?”

“Some of ’em’s stole and some of ’em’s took by the coastguards. They
do say,” she added, mysteriously, “as there’s lots o’ things--gold and
silver--hid among them sand-hills. Before the coastguards come all the
folk was wreckers like William Jones, and they used to get what come
ashore, and they used to hide it in the sand-hills.”

“Indeed! Then if that is the case, why don’t they take the treasure up,
and turn it into money?”

“Why? ’Cause they can’t; them sandhills is allus changing and shifting
about, they are; though they know well enough the things is there,
there’s no findin’ of ’em!”

“I always thought William Jones was poor?”

“So he is, he says!” replied Matt, “’cause though he be allus
foraging, he don’t find much now on account o’ them coastguard chaps.”

After they had rested themselves, they went a little further up the
cliff, then they followed a narrow winding path, which brought them to
the shore below. Here Matt, who seemed to be pretty well grounded in the
history of the place, pointed him out the wonders of the coast.

She showed him the caves, which tradition said had been formerly used as
wreckers’ haunts and treasure stores, but which were now washed by the
sea, and covered with slimy weeds; then she brought him to a promontory
where they told her she herself had been found. This spot Brinkley
examined curiously, then he looked at the girl.

“I suppose you had clothes on when you came ashore, didn’t you, Matt?”

“Why, of course, I had. William Jones has got ’em!”

“Has he? Where?”

“In his cave, I expect.”

“His cave! Where is that?” asked Brinkley, becoming very much
interested.

“Dunno,” returned Matt; “perhaps it’s somewhere hereabout. I’ve seen
William Jones come about here, I have, but I never could track him!”

Matt’s information on the subject was so vague that it seemed useless
to institute a search; so, after a regretful look at the rocks, Brinkley
proposed that they should saunter back along the shore.

“By the way,” said he, “I want you to introduce me to William Jones.”

“To William Jones?”

“Yes. Strange as the fancy may seem to you, I should like for once in my
life to stand face to face with a real live wrecker.”

They made their way back along the coast, until they reached William
Jones’s cottage. Here they paused, principally for Brinkley to take a
glance at the quaint dwelling, then they crossed the threshold. What
sort of a place he had got into, it was utterly impossible for Brinkley
to tell; it was so dark, he could see nothing. Having crossed the
threshold, therefore, he paused; but Matt went fearlessly forward,
struck a light, and ignited the rushlight on the table.

“William Jones,” said she, “here be the painter!”

By the light of the flickering rushlight Brinkley now looked about him.
At a glance he noted some of the details of the queer little room,
then his eye fell upon the occupants, whom, from Matt’s description, he
recognized as William Jones and the grizzly author of his being.

The old man, who Brinkley perforce admitted certainly bore some
resemblance to the Rembrandtish head which Matt had recognized, sat
dozing fitfully by the hearth, while his son was busily employed in
mending an old lantern.

Upon the entrance of Brinkley, the lantern was quickly thrown aside,
and William Jones, assuming a most obsequious manner, hastened to give
a welcome to the stranger. Brinkley was amused. He accepted William
Jones’s offer of a seat, then he lit up his briar-root pipe, and while
smoking lazily, he put a few questions to his host. But if he expected
to gain information of any kind he was soon undeceived. William Jones
was no fool. Combined with excessive avarice, he possessed all the
cunning of the fox, and the moment he saw that the stranger was pumping
him, he was on his guard.

Presently, however, his curiosity gained the day. Categorically, in his
turn, he began to question Brinkley about his doings.

“I suppose now, master,” said he, “you travel about a deal i’ that cart
o’ your’n?”

Brinkley explained that the “cart” in question had been in his
possession only a few months.

“But I travelled a good deal before I got it,” he explained. “This time
last year I was in Ireland.”

“In Ireland, master?”

“Yes, on the west coast; do you know it?”

William Jones shook his head.

“There be plenty wreck there, ain’t there?” said he suddenly.

“Wreck?” repeated Brinkley.

“Yes, I’ve heard tell o’ wonderful storms and big ships breaking up.
Look ye, now, they do tell wonderful stories; and I wonder sometimes if
all they says be true.”

Brinkley looked at his host for a minute or so in silent wonder, for the
little man was transformed. Instead of gazing about him with the stupid
expression which up till now his face had worn, his face expressed all
the keenness of a foxhound well on the scent. There was also another
curious thing which the young man noticed, that the word “wreck” seemed
to act like magic on the other member of the Jones’ household. At the
first mention of it the old man started from his sleep; and he now sat
staring wildly before him, evidently imagining he was standing on a
headland, gazing out to sea.

“Wreck!” he murmured; “ay, there it be, driftin’ in wi’ the wind and the
tide, William; driftin’ in wi’ the tide.”

“Shut up, old man,” said William, giving his father a nudge; then
turning again to Brinkley, he said, “Be them tales true, master?”

“Eh?--Oh yes; perfectly true,” said Brinkley, being in a lively humour,
and determined to give his host a treat.

The expression in the eyes of William Jones became even more greedy.

“P’raps,” he said, “you’ve seen some of them wrecks.”

“Dear me, yes,” answered Brinkley, determined to give the reins to his
imagination. “I’ve seen any number of them. Huge ships broken up like
match-boxes, and every soul on board them drowned; then afterwards----”

“Ah yes, master,” said William Jones eagerly as the other paused;
“arter----”

“Well, afterwards, my friend, I’ve seen treasures come ashore that would
have made you and me, and a dozen others such, men for life.”

“Dear, dear! and what became of it, master--tell me that?”

“What became of it?” repeated Brinkley, whose imagination was beginning
to give way; “why, it was appropriated, of course, by the population.”

“And didn’t you take your share, master?”

“I?” repeated Brinkley, who was getting muddled; “well, firstly, because
I didn’t wish to--I have a superstitious horror of wearing dead men’s
things; and secondly, because I could not have done so had I wished. The
people are clannish; they wanted it all for themselves, and would have
killed any interfering stranger.”

“I suppose, master, there be no coastguard chaps _there?_” said William
Jones.

“Oh dear, no! No coastguards.”

“Ah!” sighed the old man, coming out of his trance. “It warn’t so long
ago when there warn’t no coastguard chaps _here_ neither. Then times was
better for honest men. On a dark night ’twas easy to put a light on
the headland, and sometimes we got a prize or two that way, didn’t we,
William dear; but now----”

“You shut up!” roared William, giving his parent a very forcible dig in
the ribs. “You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, you don’t.--The old
’un is a bit queer in the head, master,” he explained; “and he’s allus
a dreamin’, he is. There ain’t no prizes here, the Lord knows; it’s
a’most as much as we can do to git a bit o’ bread. Matt knows that;
don’t ee’, Matt?”

But whatever Matt knew she evidently meant to keep to herself, for she
gave no reply. Presently, after a little more general conversation,
Brinkley rose to go. He offered a two-shilling piece to William Jones;
and somewhat to his amazement, that worthy accepted it gratefully.

“Good-bye, Matt,” said Brinkley. But in a trice Matt was beside him.

“I’m going to show you the way,” she explained as she went out with him
into the air.

“Whew!” said Brinkley when they were fairly clear of the cabin; “the
open air is better than that den; but then William Jones is very poor,
isn’t he, Matt?”

“He _says_ he is.”

“But don’t you believe it?”

“P’raps I do, and p’raps I don’t; it don’t matter to you, does it?”

“Not the least in the world.”

They went on for a while in silence; then Matt, who had been furtively
watching his face all the while, spoke again.

“You ain’t angry, are you, master?” she asked.

“I angry?--what for?”

“‘Cause I said that just now.”

“Dear me, no; whatever _you_ might say, Matt, wouldn’t offend me.”

If he expected to please her by this he was mistaken.

“That’s ’cause you don’t care. Well, I don’t care neither, if _you_
don’t.”

She ran a little ahead of him, and continued to precede him until she
gained the last sand-hill, and caught a glimpse of the caravan. Then she
paused.

“You don’t want me to go no further, do you?”

“No.”

“All right--good-bye.”

She gave a bound, like a young deer, and prepared to start for a swift
run back, but the young man called her.

“Matt, come here.”

She came up to him. He put his arm about her shoulders, bent over her
upturned face, and kissed her. In her impulsive way. Matt returned the
kiss ardently, then to his amazement, she gave one strange look into his
eyes--blushed violently, and hung her head.

“Come, give me another, Matt,” he said.

But Matt would not comply. With one jerk she freed herself from him;
then, swift as lightning, she ran back across the hills towards the sea.



CHAPTER VII.--MATT GROWS MATRIMONIAL.

That night the young man of the caravan had curious dreams, and
throughout them all moved, like a presiding fairy, Matt of Abertaw.
Sometimes he was wandering on stormy shores, watching the wrecks of
mighty argosies; again, he was in mysterious caverns underneath the
ground, searching for and finding buried treasure; still again, he
was standing on the decks of storm-tossed vessels, while the breakers
thundered close at hand, and the bale-fires burned on the lonely
headlands. But at all times, and in all places, Matt was his companion.

And curiously enough, Matt in his dream was very different to the Matt
of waking reality--taller and brighter--in fact, as beautiful as a
vision can be; so that his spirit was full of a strange sensation
of love and pity, and the touch of the warm little hand filled his
imagination with mysterious joy. So vivid did this foolish dream become
at last, that he found himself seated on a sunny rock by the sea, by
Matt’s side; and he was talking to her like a lover, with his arm around
her waist; and she turned to him, with her great eyes fixed on his, and
kissed him over and over again, so passionately--that he awoke!

It was blowing hard, and the rain was pelting furiously on the roof of
the caravan. He tried to go to sleep again, but the face of Matt (as he
had seen it in his dream) kept him for a long time awake.

“Now, young man,” he said to himself, “this is idiotic. In the first
place, Matt is a child, not a young woman; in the second place, she is a
vulgar little thing, not a young lady; in the third place, you ought
to be ashamed of yourself for thinking of sentiment at all in such a
connection. Is your brain softening, youngster? or are you labouring
under the malign influence of William Jones? The kiss you gave to this
unsophisticated daughter of the desert was paternal, or say, amicable;
it was a very nice kiss, but it has no right to make you dream of stuff
and nonsense.”

But the influence of the dream was over him, and in that half-sleeping,
half-waking state, he felt like a boy in love. He found himself
calculating the age of his own friend. Let him see! it was fifteen years
since, in her own figurative expression, she “come ashore,” and the
question remained, how old was she on that interesting occasion? As far
as he could make out from her appearance, she could not be more than
sixteen. For a damsel of that age, her kiss was decidedly precocious.

At last he tumbled off again, and dreamed that Matt was a young lady of
beautiful attire and captivating manners to whom he was “engaged;” and
her speech, strange to say, was quite poetical and refined; and they
walked together, hand in hand, to a country church on a green hillside,
and were just going to enter, when who should appear upon the threshold
but Mr. Monk of Monkshurst? But they passed him by, and stood before the
altar, where the parson stood in his white robes, and when the parson
asked aloud whether any one saw any just cause or impediment why the
pair should not be joined in holy matrimony, the same Monk stepped
forward with Mephistophelian smile, and cried, “Yes, I do!” On which the
young man awoke again in agitation, to find that it was broad daylight,
and a fine fresh summer morning.

Whom should he find waiting for him when he had dressed himself and
stepped from the house on wheels but Matt herself?

Yes, there she was, as wild and quaintly attired as ever, quite unlike
the ethereal individual of his dreams; but for all that her smile was
like sunshine, and her eyes as roguish and friendly as ever.

Conscious of his dream he blushed while greeting her with a friendly
nod.

“Well, Matt? Here again, eh?” he said; adding to himself, “This won’t do
at all, my gentleman; if the young person continues to appear daily, the
caravan will have to ‘move on.’”

Matt had evidently something on her mind. After looking at Brinkley
thoughtfully for some few minutes, she exclaimed abruptly--

“William Jones don’t like you neither. No more does William Jones’s
father.”

“Dear me!” said the young man. “I’m very sorry for that.”

“He says--William Jones says--you’re come here prying and spying. Do
you?”

“My dear Matt,” replied the young man lightly, “I come here as a humble
artist, seeking subjects for my surpassing genius to work upon. If it
is prying and spying to attempt to penetrate into the beauties of
nature--both scenic, animal, and human--I fear I must plead guilty; but
otherwise----”

She interrupted him with an impatient exclamation, accompanied by a
hitch of her pretty shoulders.

“Don’t talk like that; for then I know you’re chaffing. Talk serious,
and I’ll tell you something.”

“All right. I’ll be serious as a parson. Go ahead!”

“Mr. Monk of Monkshurst wants to marry me. He said so to William Jones.”

The information was delivered with assumed carelessness; but after it
was given, Matt watched the effect of it upon the hearer with precocious
interest. Brinkley opened his eyes in very natural amazement.

“Come, come, Matt; you’re joking.”

“No, I ain’t. It’s true.”

“But you’re only a child--a very nice child, I admit--but to
talk of holy matrimony in such a connection is--excuse my
frankness--preposterous. People don’t marry little girls.”

But Matt did not consent to this proposition at all.

“I ain’t a little girl,” she affirmed with a decisive nod of the head.
“I’m sixteen, and I’m growed up.”

The young man was amused, and could not refrain from laughing heartily.
But the girl’s brow darkened as she watched him, and her under lip fell
as if she would like to cry.

“If you go on laughing,” she said, “I’ll run straight back home, and
never come here no more.”

“Well, I’ll try to keep my countenance; but the idea is very funny.
Really, now? Don’t you see it in that light yourself?”

Certainly Matt did not, to judge from the expression of her face. She
turned her head away; and Brinkley saw, to his surprise, that a tear was
rolling down her cheek.

“Come, Matt,” he said kindly; “you mustn’t take this so seriously. Tell
me all about it--there’s a good girl.”

“I will--if you won’t laugh.”

“I won’t then--there.”

“Well, when I was lying in my bed this morning, I heard William Jones
a-talking to some one. He thought I was asleep, but I got up and
listened, and I heard Mr. Monk’s voice; and he said, says he, ‘She’s
over sixteen years old, and I’ll marry her;’ and William Jones said,
‘Lord, Mr. Monk; what can you be a-thinking about? Matt ain’t old
enough; and, what’s more, she ain’t fit to be the wife of a fine
gentleman.’ Then Mr. Monk he stamped with his foot, like he does when
he’s in a passion, and he said, says he, ‘My mind’s made up, William
Jones, and I’m going to marry her before the year’s out; and I don’t
care how soon.’ Then I heard them moving about, and I crept back to bed
and pretended to be fast asleep.”

The young man’s astonishment increased. There could be no doubt of
the veracity and sincerity of the speaker; and the story she told was
certainly puzzling. Brinkley made up his mind, without much reflection,
that if Mr. Monk wanted to go through the marriage ceremony with
that child, he had some special and mysterious reason for so
doing; unless--which was scarcely possible--he was of a sentimental
disposition, and, in the manner of many men advanced towards middle age,
was enamoured of Matt’s youth and inexperience.

“Tell me, Matt,” said Brinkley, after pondering the matter for some
minutes; “tell me how long have you known this Mr. Monk?”

“Ever since I come ashore,” was the reply.

“Humph! Is he well-to-do?--rich?”

Matt nodded emphatically.

“All Abertaw belongs to him,” she said; “and the woods up there, and the
farms, and the horses up at the big house, and--everything.”

“And though he is such a great person he is very friendly with William
Jones?”

“Oh yes,” answered Matt; “and I think William Jones is afraid of
him--sometimes; but he gives William Jones money for keeping me.”

“Oh, indeed! He gives him money, does he? That’s rather kind of him, you
know.”

At this Matt shook her head with great decision, but said nothing.
Greatly puzzled, the young man looked at her, and mused. It was clear
that there was a mystery somewhere, and he was getting interested.
Presently, he invited Matt to sit down on the steps of the caravan, and
he placed himself at her side. He was too absorbed in speculation to
notice how the girl coloured and brightened as they sat there together.

“You have often told me that you came ashore,” he said, after a long
pause. “I should like to know something of how it happened. I don’t
exactly know what this ‘coming ashore’ means. Can you explain?”

“I don’t remember,” she replied, “but I know there was a ship, and it
went to pieces, and I floated to shore in a boat, or something.”

“I see--and William Jones found you?”

“Mr. Monk, he found me, and gave me to William Jones to keep.”

“I begin to understand. Of course, you were very little--a baby, in
fact.”

“William Jones says I could just talk some words, and that when he took
me home I called him ‘Papa.’”

“What was the name of the ship? Have you ever heard?”

“No,” said Matt.

“Did you come ashore all alone? It is scarcely possible!”

“I came ashore by myself. All the rest was drownded.”

“Was there no clue to who you were? Did nothing come ashore besides to
show them who you were, or where you came from?”

Matt shook her head again. Once more the young man was lost in
meditation. Doubtless it was owing to his abstraction of mind that he
quietly placed his arm round Matt’s waist, and kept it there. At first
Matt went very red, then she glanced up at his face, and saw that his
eyes were fixed thoughtfully on the distant sand-hills. Seeing he
still kept silence, she moved a little closer to him, and said very
quietly--“I didn’t tell William Jones that you--kissed me!”

Brinkley started from his abstraction, and looked at the girl’s blushing
face.

“Eh? What did you say?”

“I didn’t tell William Jones that you kissed me!”

These words seemed to remind the young man of the position of his arm,
for he hastily withdrew it. Then the absurdity of the whole situation
appeared to return upon him, and he broke into a burst of boyish
laughter--at which his companion’s face fell once more. It was clear
that she took life seriously, and dreaded sarcasm.

“Matt,” he said, “this won’t do! This won’t do at all!”

“What won’t do?”

“Well--_this!_” he answered, rather ambiguously. “You’re awfully young,
you know--quite a girl, although, as you suggested just now, and, as you
probably believe, you may be ‘growed up.’ You must--ha!--you must look
upon me as a sort of father, and all that sort of thing.”

“You’re too young to be my father,” answered Matt, ingenuously.

“Well, say your big brother. I’m interested in you, Matt, very much
interested, and I should really like to get to the bottom of the mystery
about you; but we must not forget that we’re--well, almost strangers,
you know. Besides,” he added, laughing again cheerily, “you are engaged
to be married, some day, to a gentleman of fortune.”

Matt sprang up, with heaving bosom and flashing eyes.

“No, I ain’t!” she said. “I hate _him!_”

“Hate the beautiful Monk of Monkshurst! Monk the beneficent! Monk the
sweet-spoken! Impossible!”

“Yes, I hate him,” cried Matt; “and--and--when _he_ kissed me, it made
me sick.”

“What, did he? Actually? Kissed you?”

As he spoke, the young man actually felt that he should like to assault
the redoubtable Monk.

“Yes, he kissed me--once. If he kisses me again, I’ll stick something
into him, or scratch his face.”

And Matt looked black as thunder, and set her pearly teeth angrily
together.

“Sit down again, Matt!”

“I shan’t--if you laugh.”

“Oh, I’ll behave myself. Come!”--and he added as she returned to her
place, “Did it make you sick when _I_ kissed you?”

He was playing with fire. The girl’s face changed in a moment, her eyes
melted, her lips trembled, and all her expression became inexpressibly
soft and dreamy. Leaning gently towards him, she drooped her eyes, and
then, seeing his hand resting on his knee, she took it in hers, and
raised it to her lips.

“I should like to marry _you_,” she said, and blushing, rested her cheek
against his shoulder!

Now, our hero of the caravan was a truehearted young fellow, and a man
of honour, and his position had become extremely embarrassing. He
could no longer conceal from himself the discovery that he had made an
unmistakable impression on Matt’s unsophisticated heart. Hitherto he had
looked upon her as a sort of _enfant terrible_, a very rough diamond;
now he realized, with a shock of surprise and self-reproach, that she
possessed, whether “growed up” or not, much of the susceptibility of
grownup young ladies. It was clear that his duty was to disenchant her
as speedily as possible, seeing that the discovery of the hopelessness
of her attachment might, if delayed, cause her no little unhappiness.

In the meantime he suffered her to nestle to him. He did not like to
shake her off roughly, or to say anything unkind. He glanced round into
her face; the eyes were still cast down, and the cheeks were suffused
with a warm, rich light, which softened the great freckles and made her
complexion look, according to the image which suggested itself to his
mind, like a nice ripe pear. She was certainly very pretty. He glanced
down at her hands, which rested in her lap, and again noticed that they
were unusually delicate and small. Her foot, which he next inspected, he
could not criticize, for the boots she wore would have been a good fit
for William Jones. But the whole outline of her figure, in spite of the
hideous attire she wore, was fine and symmetrical, and altogether----

His inspection was interrupted by the girl herself. Starting as if from
a delightful trance, she sprang to her feet and cried--

“I can’t stop no longer. I’m going.”

“But the picture, Matt?” said Brinkley, rising also. “Shan’t I finish it
to-day!”

“I can’t wait. William Jones wants to send me a message over to
Pencroes, and if I don’t go, he’ll scold.”

“Very well, Matt.”

“But I’ll come,” she said, smiling, “tomorrow; and I’ll come in my
Sunday clothes, somehow.”

“Don’t trouble. On reflection, I think you look nicer as you are.”

She lifted her hat from the ground, and still hesitated as she put it
on.

“Upon my word,” cried the artist, “those Welsh hats are very becoming.
Good-bye, Matt.”

She took his outstretched hand and waited an instant, with her warm,
brown cheek in profile temptingly near his lips. But he did not yield to
the temptation, and after a moment’s further hesitation, in which I
fear she betrayed some little disappointment, Matt released her hand and
sprang hurriedly away.

“Upon my word,” muttered the young man, as he watched her figure
receding in the distance, “the situation is growing more and more
troublesome! I shall have to make a clean bolt of it, if this goes on.
Fancy being caught in a flirtation with a wild ocean waif, a child of
the wilderness, who never even heard of Lindley Murray? Really, it will
never do!”



CHAPTER VIII.--THE DEVIL’S CAULDRON.

It so happened that the young man of the caravan had two considerable
faults. The first fault my reader has, no doubt, already guessed--he was
constitutionally lazy. The second fault will appear more clearly in the
sequel: he was, also, constitutionally inquisitive. Now, his laziness
was of that not uncommon kind which is capable of a great deal of
activity, so long as that activity is unconscious, and not realized
as being in the nature of _work_; and its possessor, therefore, would
frequently, in his idle way, bestir himself a good deal; whereas, if he
had been ordered to bestir himself, he would have yawned and resisted.
Here his other constitutional defect came in, and set him prying into
matters which in no way seriously concerned him. A little time before
the period of his present excursion, when he was studying law in Dublin,
and rapidly discovered that he loved artistic amateurship much better,
he had often been known to work terribly hard at “cases” in which his
curiosity was aroused; and I may add in passing that he had shown on
these occasions an amount of shrewdness which would have made him an
excellent lawyer, if his invincible objection to hard work, _qua_ work,
had not invariably interfered.

No sooner was he left to his own meditations, which the faithful Tim
(who had fortunately been away on a foraging expedition during the
episode described in my last chapter) was not at hand to disturb,
than our young gentleman began puzzling his brains over the curious
information she had given him. The facts, which he had no reason to
question, ranged themselves under four heads:--

1. Matt had been cast ashore, fifteen years previously, at an age when
she could pronounce the word “Papa.” It followed as a rational argument
that she had been, say, one year old, or thereabouts.

2. Mr. Monk had found her, and given her into the care of William Jones,
and had since given that worthy sums of money for taking care of her.
_Query_, What reason had the said Monk for exhibiting so much care
for the child, unless he were a person of wonderfully benevolent
disposition, which my hero was not at all inclined to believe?

3. Said Monk and said Jones were on very familiar terms, which was
curious, seeing the difference in their social positions. _Query_ again,
Was there any private reason, any mysterious knowledge, any secret
shared in common, which bound their interests together?

4. Last and most extraordinary of all, said Monk had now expressed his
wish and intention of _marrying_ the waif he had rescued from the sea,
committed to the care of said Jones, and brought up in ragged ignorance,
innocent of grace or grammar, on that lonely shore. _Query_ again, and
again, and yet again, What the deuce had put the idea into Monk’s head;
and was there at the bottom of it any deeper and more conceivable motive
than the one of ordinary affection for a pretty, if uncultivated, child?

The more Charles Brinkley pondered all these questions, the more
hopelessly puzzled he became. But his curiosity, once roused, could not
rest. He determined, if possible, to get to the midriff of the mystery.
So intent was he on this object, which fitted in beautifully with his
natural indolence, that he at once knocked off painting for the day, and
after breakfasting on the fare with which Tim had by this time appeared,
he strolled away towards the sea shore.

He had not gone far when he saw approaching him a tall figure which he
seemed to recognize. It came closer, and he saw that it was Mr. Monk of
Monkshurst.

This time Monk was on foot. He wore a dark dress, with knickerbockers
and heavy shooting boots, and carried a gun. A large dog, of the species
lurcher, followed at his heels.

Brinkley was passing by without any salutation when, to his surprise,
the other paused and lifted his hat.

“I beg your pardon,” he said. “We have met once before; and I think
I have to-apologize to you for unintentional incivility. The fact
is--h’m--I mistook you for a--vagrant! I did not know you were a
gentleman.”

So staggered was the artist with this greeting, that he could only
borrow the vocabulary of Mr. Toots--

“Oh, it’s of no consequence,” he said, attempting to pass on.

But the other persevered.

“I assure you Mr.------, Mr.------ (I have not the pleasure of knowing
your name), that I had no desire of offending you; and if I did so, I
beg to apologize.”

Brinkley looked keenly at the speaker. His words and manner were greatly
at variance with his looks,--even with the tone of his voice. Though he
smiled and showed his teeth, a dark frown still disfigured his brow, and
his mouth twitched nervously as if he were ill at ease.

Regarding him thus closely, Brinkley saw that he had been somewhat
mistaken as to his age. He was considerably under forty years of age,
but his hair was mixed with grey, and his features strongly marked as
with the scars of old passions. A handsome man, certainly; an amiable
one, certainly not! Yet he had a peculiar air of power and breeding, as
of one accustomed to command.

Curiosity overcame dislike, and the young man determined to receive Mr.
Monk’s overture as amiably as possible.

“I dare say it was a mistake,” he said. “Gentlemen don’t usually travel
about in caravans.”

“You are an artist, I am informed,” returned Monk.

“Something of that sort,” was the reply. “I paint a little for
pleasure.”

“And do you find this neighbourhood suit your purpose?--It is somewhat
flat and unpicturesque.”

“I rather like it,” answered Brinkley. “It is pretty in summer; it must
be splendid in winter, when the storms begin, and the uneventful career
of our friend William Jones is varied by the excitement of wrecks.” How
Monk’s forehead darkened! But his face smiled still as he said--

“It is not often that shipwrecks occur now, I am glad to say.”

“No,” said Brinkley, drily. “They used to be common enough fifteen
years ago.” Their eyes met, and the eyes of Monk were full of fierce
suspicion.

“Why fifteen years ago, especially?”

The young man shrugged his shoulders.

“I was told only to-day of the loss of one great ship, at that time.
Matt told me, the little foundling. You know Matt, of course?”

“I know whom you mean. Excuse me, but you seem to be very familiar with
her name?”

“I suppose I am,” replied the young man. “Matt and I are excellent
friends.”

Monk did not smile now; all his efforts to do so were ineffectual. With
an expression of savage dislike, he looked in Brinkley’s face, and his
voice, though his words were still civil, trembled and grew harsh “as
scrannel pipes of straw.”

“May I ask if you purpose remaining long in the neighbourhood?”

“I don’t know,” answered the artist. “My time is my own, and I shall
stay as long as the place amuses me.”

“If I can assist in making it do so, I shall be happy, sir.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you care for rabbit shooting? If so, there is some sport to be had
among the sand-hills.”

“I never shoot anything,” was the reply, “except, I suppose, ‘folly as
it flies;’ though with what species of firearm that interesting sport is
pursued,” he added, as if to himself, “I haven’t the slightest idea!”

“Well, good day,” said Monk, with an uneasy scowl. “If I can be of any
service to you, command me!”

And, raising his hat again, he stalked away.

*****

“Now, what in the name of all that is wonderful, does Mr. Monk of
Monkshurst mean by becoming so civil?”

This was the question the young man asked himself, as he strolled away
seaward. He could not persuade himself that he had wronged Monk,
that that gentleman was in reality an amiable person, instead of
a domineering bully; no, that suggestion was contradicted by every
expression of the man’s baleful and suspicious face. What, then, could
be the explanation of his sudden access of courtesy?

An idea! an inspiration! As it flashed into his mind, the young man gave
vent to a prolonged whistle. Possibly, Monk was--jealous!

The idea was a preposterous one, and almost amusing. It was not to be
conceived, on the first blush of it, that jealousy would make a surly
man civil, a savage man gentle; it would rather have the contrary
effect, unless--here Brinkley grew thoughtful--unless his gloomy rival
had some sinister design which he wished to cloak with politeness?

But jealous of little Matt! Brinkley laughed heartily, when he fully
realized the absurdity of the notion.

He crossed the sand-hills, and came again to the path which he and Matt
had followed the previous day. A smart breeze was coming in from the
sou’-west, and the air was fresh and cool though sunny; but clouds were
gathering to windward, and the weather was evidently broken. Reaching
the cliffs, he descended them, and came down on the rocks beneath. A
long jagged point ran out from the spot where he stood, and the water to
leeward of the same was quite calm, though rising and falling in strong
troubled swells. So bright and tempting did it look in that sheltered
place, that he determined to have a swim.

He stripped leisurely, and, placing his clothes in a safe place, took
a header off the rocks. It was clear at once that he was a powerful
swimmer. Breasting the smooth swell, he struck out from shore, and
when he had gone about a hundred yards, floated lazily on his back and
surveyed the shore.

The cliffs were not very high, but their forms were finely picturesque.
Here and there were still green creeks, fringed with purple weed; and
large shadowy caves, hewn roughly in the side of the crags; and rocky
islets, covered with slimy weed and awash with the lapping water. A
little to the right of the spot from which he had dived, the cliff
seemed hollowed out, forming a wide passage which the sea entered with a
tramp and a rush and a roar.

Towards this passage Brinkley swam. He knew the danger of such places,
for he had often explored them both in Cornwall and the West of Ireland;
but he had confidence in his own natatory skill. Approaching the shore
leisurely with strong, slow strokes, he paused outside the passage, and
observed that the sea swell, entering the opening, rushed and quickened
itself like a rapid shooting to the fall, turning at the base of the
cliff into a cloud of thin prismatic spray. Suddenly, through the top of
the spray, a cloud of rock pigeons emerged, winging their flight rapidly
along the crags.

Brinkley knew by the last phenomenon that the spray concealed the
entrance of some large subterranean cavern. If any doubt had remained on
his mind, it would have been dispelled by the appearance of a solitary
pigeon, which leaving its companions, wavered lightly back, flew back
through the spray with a rapid downward flight, and disappeared.

He was floating a little nearer, with an enjoyment deepened by the sense
of danger, when a figure suddenly appeared on the rocks close by him,
wildly waving its hands.

“Keep back! Keep back!” cried a voice.

He looked at the figure, and recognized William Jones. He answered him,
but the sound of his voice was drowned by the roar from the rocks. Then
William Jones shouted again more indistinctly, and repeated his excited
gestures. It was clear that he was warning the swimmer against some
hidden danger. Brinkley took the warning, and struck out from the shore,
and then back to the place where he had left his clothes.

Watching his opportunity, he found a suitable spot and clambered in upon
the rocks. He had just dried himself and thrown on some of his clothes,
when he saw William Jones standing near and watching him.

“How are you?” asked the young man, with a nod. “Pray, what did you mean
by going on in that absurd way just now?”

“What did I mean?” repeated William, with a little of his former
excitement. “Look ye, now, I was waving you back from the Devil’s
Cauldron. There’s many a man been drowned there, and been washed away
Lord knows where. I’ve heerd tell,” he added solemnly, “they’re carried
right down into the Devil’s own kitchen.”

“I’m much obliged to you, Mr. Jones, but I’m used to such places, and I
think I know how to take care of myself.”

William Jones shook his head a little angrily.

“Don’t you come here no more, that’s all!” he said, and muttering
ominously to himself, retired. But he only ascended the neighbouring
crag, and squatting himself there like a bird of ill-omen, kept his eyes
on the stranger.

Having dressed himself, Brinkley climbed in the same direction. He found
William seated on the edge of the crag, looking the reverse of amiable,
and amusing himself by throwing stones in the direction of the sea.

“You seem to know this place well?” said the young man, standing over
him.

William Jones replied, without looking up.

“I ought to; I were born here. Father were born here. Know it? I wish I
know’d as well how to make my own fortin’.”

“And yet they tell me,” observed the other, watching him slily, “that
William Jones of Abertaw has money in the bank, and is a rich man!”

He saw William’s colour change at once, but recovering himself at once,
the worthy gave a contemptuous grunt, and aimed a stone spitefully at a
large gull which just then floated slowly by.

“Who told you _that?_” he asked, glancing quickly up, and then looking
down again. “Some tomfool, wi’ no more sense in un than that gull. Rich?
I wish I was, I do!” Brinkley was amused, and a little curious. Laughing
gaily, he threw himself down by William’s side. William shifted his seat
uneasily, and threw another stone.

“My dear Mr. Jones,” said the young man, assuming the flippant style
which Matt found so irritating, “I have often wondered how you get your
living.”

William started nervously.

“You are, I believe, a fisherman by profession; yet you never go
fishing. You possess a boat, but you are seldom seen to use it. You
are not, I think, of a poetical disposition; yet you spend your days in
watching the water, like a poet, or a person in love. I conclude, very
reluctantly, that your old habits stick to you, and that you speculate
on the disasters of your fellow creatures.”

“What d’ye mean, master?” grunted William, puzzled and a little alarmed
by this style of address.

“A nice wreck, now, would admirably suit your tastes? A well-laden
Indiaman, smashing up on the reef-yonder, would lend sunshine to your
existence, and deepen your faith in a paternal Providence? Eh, Mr.
Jones?”

“I don’t know nowt about no wrecks,” was the reply. “They’re no consarn
o’ mine.”

“Ah, but I have heard you lament the good old times, when wrecking was
a respectable occupation, and when there were no impertinent coastguards
to interfere with respectable followers of the business. By the way, I
have often wondered, Mr. Jones, if popular report is true, and if, among
these cliffs or the surrounding sand-hills, there is buried treasure,
cast up from time to time by the sea, and concealed by energetic persons
like yourself?”

William Jones could stand this no longer. Looking as pale as it was
possible for so rubicund a person to become, and glancing round him
suspiciously, he rose to his feet, “I know nowt o’ that,” he said. “If
there _is_ summat, I wish I could find it; but sech things never come
the way of honest chaps like me. Good mornin’, master! Take a poor man’s
advice, and don’t you go swimming no more near the Devil’s Cauldron!”

So saying, he walked off in the direction of the deserted village.
Presently Brinkley rose and followed him, keeping him steadily in view.
From time to time William Jones looked round, as if to see whether the
other was coming; lingering when Brinkley lingered, hastening his pace
when Brinkley hastened his. As an experiment, Brinkley turned and began
walking back towards the cliffs. Glancing round over his shoulder, he
saw William Jones had also turned, and was walking back.

“Curious!” he reflected. “The innocent one is keeping me in view. I have
a good mind to breathe him!”

He struck off from the path, and hastened, running rather than walking,
towards the sand-hills. So soon as he was certain that he was followed,
he began to run in good earnest. To his delight, William began running
too. He plunged among the sandhills, and was soon engaged busily running
up and down them, hither and thither. From time to time he caught a
glimpse of his pursuer. It was an exciting chase. When he had been
engaged in it for half an hour, and was almost breathless himself, he
suddenly paused in one of the deep hollows, threw himself down on his
back, and lit a cigar. A few minutes afterwards, he heard a sound as
of violent puffing and breathing, and the next instant William Jones,
panting, gasping, perspiring at every pore, appeared above him.

“How d’ye do, Mr. Jones?” he cried gaily. “Come and have a cigar!”

Instead of replying, William Jones looked completely thunderstruck, and
after glaring feebly down and muttering incoherently, disappeared as
suddenly as he had come.

Brinkley finished his cigar leisurely, and then strolled back to the
caravan.



CHAPTER IX.--THE SECRET OF THE CAVE.

The young man of the caravan was now thoroughly convinced that one of
two things must be true, either that William Jones had been instructed
to keep a watch upon him, or that he, William Jones, had a secret
of some sort which he was anxious not to have revealed. After both
suppositions had been duly weighed, the second was accepted as the most
likely; and it forthwith received the young man’s consideration.

If there was a secret, he argued, it was in some way connected, firstly,
with William Jones’s worldly prosperity; secondly, with the reports
current of treasure hidden in times past among the sand-hills or the
dangerous caverns of the sea. Was it possible, after all, that those
reports were true, and that in some mysterious manner Jones had become
acquainted with the hiding-place? It seemed very improbable for many
reasons, one of the chief being the man’s extreme poverty, which
appeared to touch the very edge of sheer starvation.

A little inquiry in the neighbourhood, however, elicited the information
that Jones, despite his abject penury, was certainly well-to-do, and
had money in the bank of the neighbouring market town; that the ruined
village of Abertaw belonged almost entirely to him; and that, in short,
he was by nature and habit a miserly person, who would prefer hoarding
up whatever he possessed to purchasing with it the commonest necessaries
of life.

An old coastguard, whom Brinkley found next day on the station, was his
chief informant.

“Don’t you believe him, sir,” said this old salt, “if he tells you he’s
poor. He’s a shark, William Jones is, and couldn’t own up even to his
own father. It’s my belief he’s got gold hidden somewheres among them
sandhills, let alone what he’s got in the savings bank. Ah, he’s a
artful one, is William Jones.”

Brinkley had said nothing of his own private suspicions, but had merely
introduced in a general way the subject of Jones’s worldly position.
Further conversation with Tim, who had made a few straggling
acquaintances in the district, corroborated the other testimony. The
young man became more and more convinced that William Jones was worth
studying.

Matt had not turned up that morning. Instead of looking after her,
Brinkley took another stroll towards the vicinity of the Devil’s
Cauldron. He had not gone far before he discovered that he was watched
again. The figure of William Jones followed in the distance, but keeping
him well in view.

It was certainly curious.

He walked over to the cliffs and looked down at the scene of yesterday’s
bathing adventure. A strong wind was blowing, and the waves were surging
up the rocks with deafening roar and foamy spume. The place looked very
ugly, particularly near the Cauldron. All the passage was churned to
milky white, and the sound from beneath was, to quote an old simile,
like the roar of innumerable chariots.

He glanced over his shoulder, and saw the head of William Jones eagerly
watching, the body being hidden behind an intervening rock.

“Strange!” he reflected. “My predatory friend can’t keep his treasure,
if he possesses any, down in that watery gulf. Yet whenever I come near
it his manner tells me that I am ‘warm,’ as they say in the game of hide
and seek.”

To test the matter a little further he set off on a brisk walk along the
cliffs, leaving the Cauldron behind. He found, as he had suspected, that
he was no longer followed. Returning as he came, and resuming his old
position, he saw William Jones immediately re-appear.

That day he discovered no clue to the mystery, nor the next, nor the
next again, though on each day he went through a similar performance.
Strange to say, Matt had not put in an appearance, and for reasons of
his own he had thought it better not to seek her.

On the morning of the third day--a dark chilly morning after a night of
rain--Tim put his head into the caravan, where his master was seated at
his easel, and grinned delightedly.

“Mr. Charles! She’s come, sor!”

“Who the deuce has come?” cried Brinkley.

“The _lady_, your honour, to have her picture taken. Will I show her
into the parlour?”

But as he spoke Matt pushed him aside and entered. She wore her best
clothes, but looked a little pale and anxious, Brinkley thought, as he
greeted her with a familiar nod.

“So you’ve come at last? Tim, get out, you rascal. I thought you had
given me up.”

He assumed a coldness, though he felt it not, for he had made up his
mind not to “encourage” the young person.

“I couldn’t come before--they wouldn’t let me. But last night William
Jones he didn’t come home, and I broke open the box and took out my
clothes, and ran straight off here.”

Her face fell as she proceeded, for she could not fail to notice the
coolness of the young man’s greeting.

“Well, since you _have_ come, we’ll get to work,” said Brinkley. “It’s
chilly and damp outside, so we’ll remain here in shelter.”

Matt took off her hat, and then proceeded to divest herself of her
coarse jacket, revealing for the first time the low-necked silk dress
beneath. Meantime the young man placed the sketch in position. Turning
presently, he beheld Matt’s transformation.

Old and shabby as the dress was, torn here and there, and revealing
beneath glimpses of coarse stockings and clumsy boots, it became her
wonderfully. As a result of much polishing with soap and water her face
shone again, and her arms and neck were white as snow. Thus attired,
Matt looked no longer a long shambling girl, but a tall, bright,
resplendent, young lady.

It was no use. Brinkley could not conceal his admiration. Matt’s arm
alone was enough to make a painter wild with delight.

“Why, Matt, you look positively magnificent. I had no idea you were so
pretty.”

The girl blushed with pleasure.

*****

The young man worked away for a good hour and a half, at the end of
which time he put the finishing touch to the sketch.

“_Finis coronat opus!_” he cried. “Look, Matt!”

Matt examined the picture with unconcealed delight. It was herself, a
little idealized, but quite characteristic, and altogether charming.

“May I take it home?” she asked eagerly.

“I’ll get you to leave it a few days longer. I must get a frame for it,
Matt, and then you shall have it all complete. Now, let me look at you
again,” he said, taking her by both hands and looking up at her sunny
face. “Are you pleased? Will you take care of the picture for the
painter’s sake?”

Matt’s answer was embarrassing. She quietly sat down on his knee, and
gave him a smacking kiss.

“Matt! Matt!” he cried. “You mustn’t!”

But she put her warm arm round his neck, and rested her cheek against
his shoulder.

“I should like to have pretty dresses and gold bracelets and things, and
to go away from William Jones and to stay with _you_.”

“My dear,” said Brinkley, laughing, “you couldn’t. It wouldn’t be
proper.”

“Why not?” asked Matt simply.

“The world is censorious little one. I am a young man, you are a young
lady. We shall have to shake hands soon and say good-bye. There, there,”
 he continued, seeing her eyes fill with tears, “I’m not gone yet. I
shall stay as long as I can, only--really--you must look upon me as
quite an old fellow. I _am_ awfully old, you know, compared to you.”

He gently disengaged himself, and Matt sat down on a camp stool close
by. Her face had grown very wistful and sad, “Matt,” he said, anxious to
change the subject, “tell me something more about William Jones.”

“I hate William Jones. I hate everybody--but _you_.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, I feel greatly flattered. But about the gentle Jones? You say he
was out all last night.”

Matt nodded.

“He goes out nigh every night,” she said, “and often don’t come home
till morning, Sometimes he finds things and brings ’em. He finds bits
o’ gold and old ropes and bottles o’ rum.”

“Very odd. Where?”

“He don’t tell; _I_ know.”

“I wish you’d tell me, Matt. Do, I have a particular reason for wanting
the information.”

“You won’t say I told? William Jones would be downright wild, he would.”

“I’ll keep the secret faithfully. Now.” Thus urged, Matt informed her
friend that on two occasions, out of curiosity, she had followed her
guardian on his nightly pilgrimages, and watched him go in the direction
of the Devil’s Cauldron. On both occasions the night was very dark. On
getting clear of the coastguard station, and among the sand-hills, Jones
had lighted a lantern which he carried. Trembling and afraid, she had
followed the light along the cliffs, then out among the sand-hills.
But all at once the light and its bearer had disappeared into the solid
earth, leaving her to find her way home in terror.

The explanation of all this was, in Matt’s opinion, very simple. William
Jones was a bad man, and went to “visit the fairies.”

“Yes,” she cried, “and every time he goes the fairies give him summat,
and he brings it home.”

“Each time you followed him,” asked Brinkley, thoughtfully, “he
disappeared at about the same place?”

“Yes,” said Matt, “and the light and him sunk right down and never come
up again.”

* * * * *

The result of the information thus communicated was to leave the young
man of the caravan far more curious than ever. He determined to turn the
tables on William Jones, and to watch his movements, not in the daytime,
but during the summer night, waiting for his appearance in the immediate
neighbourhood of the Devil’s Cauldron.

The first night he saw nothing--it was stormy, with wild gusts of rain.
The second night was equally uneventful. Nothing daunted, he went for
a third and last time, and lay in the moonlight on the cliffs, looking
towards the village.

The night was dark and cloudy, but from time to time the moon came out
with sudden brilliance on the sea, which was gently stirred by a breeze
from the land.

He waited for several hours. About midnight he rose to go home. As he
did so he was startled by the sound of oars, and lying down perceived a
small boat approaching on a silver patch of moonlit sea.

The moon came out, and he saw that the occupant of the boat was a
solitary man.

It approached rapidly, making direct for the Devil’s Cauldron. Lying
down on his face and peeping over, Brinkley saw it stop short just
outside the foaming passage, while the man stood up, stooped, lifted
something heavy from the bottom, and threw it overboard. Then, after
watching for a moment a dark object which drifted shoreward, right into
the Cauldron, he rowed away until he reached a sheltered creek close
to the scene of the swimming adventure. Here he ran the boat ashore and
leapt out.

The next minute Brinkley heard him coming up the cliffs, trembling with
excitement he lay down flat on his face and waited. Presently the man
emerged on the top of the cliffs, within a few yards of Brinkley’s
hiding-place. Just then the moon flashed brightly out, and Brinkley
recognized him.

It was William Jones, carrying on his shoulders something like a loaded
sack, and dangling from his left wrist, a horn lantern.

He looked round once or twice and then hurried towards the sand-hills.
Brinkley followed stealthily. The moon now went in, and it became pitch
dark. Presently Jones paused, set down his load, and lit the lantern;
then he hurried on.

For fifty or sixty yards a coarse carpet of green sward covered the
cliffs; then the sandhills began. Passing over the first sand-hill,
Jones disappeared. Quick as thought the young man followed, and, peering
over, saw the light in the hollow beneath; it rose higher and higher
till it reached the top of the next sand-hill, where it paused. Crawling
on hands and knees Brinkley slipped down into the hollow, and then
crept upward; halfway up the mound he found a huge rock, behind which he
crouched and peeped.

As he did so, William Jones, light in hand, seemed to dive down into the
solid earth and disappear.

For a minute after the disappearance, Charles Brinkley lay as if
petrified; and, indeed, he was altogether lost in wonder. What had
happened? Had an earthquake swallowed the mysterious one, or had he
tumbled down in a fit? Brinkley waited and watched, five minutes had
passed, ten minutes, and still the light did not re-emerge. At last,
overcome by his curiosity, Brinkley rose, and, stooping close to the
ground, crept from the rock behind which he had lain concealed, and
crawled across the summit of the sand-hill. Suddenly he stopped short,
and went down on hands and knees, for he now clearly discerned, coming
out of the solid earth or sand, the glimmer of the light.

It glimmered, then disappeared again. Just then the moon came out of her
cloud, illuminating the hillocks with vitreous rays; and he perceived
close by him a dark hole opening into the very heart of the hillock.

He crept closer and looked down, but could see nothing. He held his head
over the hole and listened; all he heard was a dull, hollow moaning,
like the sound of the sea. The light of the moon, however, enabled him
to perceive that the hole had been covered with a loose piece of wood,
or lid, about four feet square, and with an iron ringbolt in the
centre, which lid was now lying by the side of the opening, ready to
be replaced. A number of large pieces of stone, such as were strewn
everywhere about the sand-hills, lay piled close by.

He lay for some time waiting and listening. All at once, far behind him,
the light glimmered again. Quick as thought he rose and crept away, only
just in time; for he had no sooner regained the shelter of the rock, and
crouched there watching, than he saw the light re-emerge, accompanied
by a human head; a human body followed, and then he clearly discerned
William Jones-standing in the moonlight without the burthen he had
previously carried, and holding in his hand a lantern.

Setting the lantern down, William busied himself for several minutes,
and finally, having concluded the work on which he was engaged,
extinguished the light. Then, after glancing suspiciously round him on
every side, he walked rapidly down the sand-hill, and disappeared in the
direction of the sea.

Not until he distinctly heard the splash of oars, and saw the black
silhouette of the boat pass out from the shadow of the rock on to the
moonlit sea, did Brinkley again begin to stir; and even then he did
so very cautiously, lest his figure should be perceived against the
moonlight by the lynx-eyed rower.

Creeping on hands and knees, he again crawled to the mysterious spot,
and found, as he had indeed anticipated, that the hole was covered up,
and the wooden lid or trapdoor so carefully covered with stones and
loose sand as to be completely hidden.

His first impulse was to displace the _debris_, and at once to explore
the mysterious place; but reflecting that he was unprovided with lights
of any kind, and that the cavity below would most certainly be in
total darkness, he determined to postpone his visit of inspection until
daylight. By this time there was no sight or sound of the boat. Rising
to his feet, he mused. It was all very well to talk of returning
another time, but how was he to find the spot? The sea of sandy hillocks
stretched on every side, and he knew by experience how difficult it
was to distinguish one hillock from another. As to the cairns of loose
stones, such cairns were nearly as numerous as the hillocks themselves.

At last he thought of the rock where he had first concealed himself.
Such rocks were numerous, too; but pulling out his ease of crayons,
he marked the base of the rock with a small streak of colour. Finally,
remembering that the drift sand might cover this mark so made, he drew
out his penknife, and made a large cross in the hard sand. Having taken
these precautions, he made the best of his way down to the cliffs, and
following the open green sward which fringed the crags, made the best of
his way home to the caravan.

At daybreak the next day he strolled back along the crags, first taking
a bird’s-eye view of the village; and perceiving no sight of William
Jones, who had doubtless no suspicion that he would rise so early, he
soon found the spot where he had stood overnight, watching the approach
of the boat; and first reconnoitring the neighbourhood, struck off among
the sand-hills. At first he was guided by footprints, but as the sand
grew harder, these disappeared. At length, after a somewhat bewildering
search, he found the sandhill he sought, the rock with his mark upon it,
the cross marked in the ground, and finally, the well-concealed mouth of
the hole.

He looked keenly to right and left. No one was visible. Stooping down
he displaced the stones and loose sand, and disclosed the trap-door with
its iron ring. A long pull, a strong pull, and up came the trap. Open
Sesame! Behind him was a dark cavity, with a slanting path descending
into the bowels of the earth.

Anxious to lose no time, he squeezed himself through the aperture, and
began descending. While he did so he heard the hollow roaring he had
heard the night before. As he proceeded he drew out a box of matches
and a candle, which he lit. Proceeding cautiously on his back, and
restraining himself with his elbows from too rapid descent, he found
himself surrounded not by sand, but by solid rock, and peering downward,
saw that he was looking down into a large subterranean cave.

Just beneath him was a flight of steps cut in the solid. Descending
these carefully, for they were slippery as ice, he reached the bottom,
and found it formed of sea-gravel and loose shells, forming indeed a
decline like the sea-shore itself, to the edge of which, filling about
half the cavern, the waters of the sea crept with a long monotonous
moan. Approaching the water’s edge he saw facing him the solid walls of
the cliff, but just at the base there was an opening, a sort of slit,
almost touching the waves at all times, quite touching them when the
swell rose, and through this opening crept beams of daylight, turning
the waves to a clear malachite green.

The mystery was now clear enough. The cave communicated directly with
the sea, but in such a way as to make an entrance for any large object
impossible from that direction.

Turning his back upon the water, and holding up the candle, he examined
the interior. The damp black rocks rose on every side, and from the
roof hung spongy weeds and funguses like those which are to be seen in
sunless vaults of wine, but piled against the inner wall was a hoard of
treasures enough to make a smuggler’s mouth water or turn a wrecker’s
brain.

Puncheons of rum and other spirits, bales of wool, planks of mahogany
and pine, oars, broken masts, coils of rope, tangles of running rigging,
flags of all nations, and other articles such as are used on ship-board;
swinging tables, brass swinging lamps, masthead lanterns, and hammocks;
enough and to spare, in short, to fit out a small fleet of vessels.
Lost in amazement, Brinkley examined this extraordinary hoard, the
accumulation doubtless of many years. All at once his eye fell upon a
large canvas bag, rotten with age, and gaping open. It was as full as it
could hold with pieces of gold, bearing the superscription of the mint
of Spain.

Oh, William Jones! William Jones! And all this was yours, at least by
right of plunder, upon the Queen’s sea-way; all this which, turned into
cash, would have made a man rich beyond the dreams of avarice, was the
possession of one who lived like a miserly beggar, grudged himself and
his flesh and blood the common necessaries of life, and had never been
known, from boyhood upward, to give a starving fellow-creature so much
as a crust of bread, or to drop a penny into the poor-box. Oh, William
Jones! William Jones!

The above reflections belong, not to the present writer, but to my
adventurous discoverer, the captain of the caravan.

As Brinkley proceeded on his tour of inspection, he became more and
more struck with wonder. Nothing seemed too insignificant or too
preposterously useless for secretion in that extraordinary ship’s
cavern. There were mops and brooms, there were holy-stones, there were
“squeegees,” there were canisters of tinned provisions, there were
bags of adamantine ship-biscuits, there were sacks of potatoes (which
esculents, long neglected, had actually sprouted, and put forth leaves),
there were ringbolts, there were tin mugs, and, lastly, _mirabile
dictu_, there were books--said books lay piled on the top of a heap of
sacks, and were in the last stage of mildew and decay. For what purpose
had they been carried there? Certainly not to form a library, for
William Jones could not read. As curiosity deepened, Brinkley opened
some of the forlorn volumes, covered with mildew, and full of hideous
crawling things. Most were in foreign tongues, but there were several
English novels half a century old, and a book of famous “Voyages,” also
in English. Near to them were several large paper rolls--ship’s charts,
evidently, and almost falling to pieces. And on the top of the charts
was a tiny Prayer-book, slime-covered, and dripping wet!

What possessed Brinkley to examine the Prayer-book I cannot determine,
but in after years he always averred that it was an inspiration. At
any rate, he did open it, and saw that the fly-leaf was covered with
writing, yellow, difficult to decipher, fast fading away. But what more
particularly attracted his attention was a loose piece of parchment,
fastened to the title-page with a rusty pin, and covered also with
written characters.

Fixing the candle on a nook in the damp wall, he inspected the
title-page, and deciphered these words:--

“Christmas Eve, 1864, on board the ship _Trinidad,_ fast breaking up on
the Welsh coast. If any Christian soul should find this book and these
lines where I place them, if they sink not with their bearer (on whom I
leave my last despairing blessing) to the bottom of the sea, or if God
in His infinite mercy should spare and save the little child” (the book
trembled in his hand, as he read. The writing went on): “I cast her
adrift in her cradle in sight of shore, on a little raft made by my own
hands. ’Tis a desperate hope, but He can work miracles, and if it is
His will, she may be saved. Attached to this holy book are the proofs of
her poor dead mother’s marriage and my darling’s birth. May she live
to inherit my name. Signed, Matthew Thorpe Monk, Colonel, 15th Cavalry,
Bengal.”

The mystery was deepening indeed! At last Brinkley thrust the book
and its contents into his pocket, and, after one look round, took the
candle, and made his way up the rocks, and out of the cave. When he
saw the light of day above him, he blew out the light, and crawled
up through the aperture. Then, standing on the lonely sand-hill, he
surveyed the scene on every side. There was no sign of any living soul.
Carefully, but rapidly, he returned the trap-door to its place, covered
it with the stones and liberal handfuls of loose sand, and walked away,
taking care, for the first hundred yards, to obliterate his footprints
as he went.



CHAPTER X.--MYSTERIOUS BEHAVIOUR OF THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN.

About this time Matt noticed a curious change come over her artist
friend. He was more thoughtful, and consequently less entertaining.
Often when she appeared and began chatting to him about affairs in which
she thought he might take some interest, she had the mortification not
merely of eliciting no reply, but of finding that he had not heard a
word of her conversation.

Now this style of proceeding would certainly have caused her some
annoyance, but for one compensating fact, which put the balance entirely
on the other side. It was evident that, despite the change, Brinkley’s
interest in Matt was not lessening, nay, it rather seemed to be on
the increase, and this fact Matt, very woman as she was, was quick to
perceive.

Very often, on looking suddenly at him, she found his eyes fixed
wonderingly and sympathetically upon her. She asked him on one occasion
what he was thinking about.

“_You_, Matt,” he answered promptly. “I was trying to imagine,” he
continued, seeing her blush and hang her head, “how you would look in
silks and velvets; got up, in fact, like a grand demoiselle. What would
you say, now, if a good fairy were to find you out some day, and were
to offer to change you from what you are to a fine young lady--would you
say Yes?”

Matt reflected for a moment, then she followed her feminine instinct,
and nodded her head vigorously.

“Ah!--by the way, Matt, can you _read?_”

“Print, not writing.”

“And write?”

“Just a bit.”

“Who taught you? William Jones?”

“No, that he didn’t. I learned off Tim Pensera down village. William
Jones, he can’t read and he can’t write; no more can William Jones’s
father.”

“This last piece of information set the young man thinking so deeply
that the rest of the interview became rather dull for Matt. When she
rose to go, however, he came out of his abstraction, and asked her if
she would return on the following day.

“I don’t know--p’raps!” she said.

“Ah,” returned the young man, assuming his flippant manner, “you find
me tedious company, I fear. The fact is, I am generally affected in this
manner in the present state of the moon. But come to-morrow, Matt.
Your presence does me good.” However, the next day passed, and the next
again, and there was no sign of Matt. He began to think that the child
had taken offence, and that he would have to seek her in her own home,
when her opportune appearance prevented the journey. He was taking
his breakfast one morning inside the caravan, when he suddenly became
conscious that Matt was standing outside watching him.

“Oh, you are there, are you?” he said coolly. “Come in and have some
breakfast, Matt.”

He rose negligently, went to the door, and held forth his hand; Matt
took it, gave one spring, and landed inside the vehicle.

“Tim, another knife and fork for the young lady--some more eggs and
milk; in fact, anything you’ve got!” said Brinkley, as he placed a seat
for Matt at the little table.

Tim gave a grunt of dissatisfaction. This “bold colleen,” as he called
her, was becoming too much for him; but he perforce obeyed his master’s
commands. Matt sat down and ate with an appetite; Brinkley played
negligently with his knife, and watched her.

“It is two days since you were here, Matt,” said he. “I was seriously
thinking of coming to look for you. Why wouldn’t you come before?”

“’Twasn’t that!” said Matt. “I couldn’t.”

“Couldn’t? Why?”

“Why, _he_ wouldn’t let me, William Jones. He says he’ll smash me if I
come here and talk to you.”

As Matt spoke, her bosom heaved and her eyes flashed fire.

“He ain’t at home to-day,” she said, in answer to the young man’s query
concerning the ex-wrecker; “he’s gone up to market town, and won’t be
back before night.”

As Brinkley looked at her, a sudden thought seemed to strike him.

“Matt,” he said, “you and I will go wreck-hunting this afternoon; that
is, if you’ve no objection.”

She certainly had none: wherever he went she seemed willing to follow.
In a very little while the two had started off. It was Brinkley who led
this time, Matt walking along beside him like a confiding child.

“By the way, Matt,” he said presently, “you told me once of treasures
being hidden amongst the sand-hills. Did anybody ever find any?”

“Not that I know on.”

“William Jones, for instance?”

“No. Leastways, _I_ don’t know.”

“Well, what would you say, Matt, if I told you that _I_ had found one?”

“_If you?_”

“Yes. I wonder if you can keep a secret? Yes, on reflection I think you
can. Now, before we go any further, Matt, first you place your hand in
mine, and promise never to mention until I give you permission what I am
about to confide in you.”

Matt’s curiosity was aroused.

“All right,” she replied eagerly, “_I_ shan’t tell.”

“Very good,” replied Brinkley. “We will now proceed.”

They passed on amongst the sand-hills, and came to the entrance of the
cave. Brinkley removed the stones and sand from the hole, and entered.
Breathless with curiosity, Matt followed. They reached the bottom.
Brinkley struck a light, and pointed out to her all the wonderful
treasures which the cave contained. It was such a surprise to the girl
that for a time she could do nothing but stare and stare in speechless
wonder. Whistling gaily, Brinkley turned about the casks of rum and
brandy, and thrust his hands into the bags, and let the gleaming gold
slip through his fingers.

Matt’s amazement turned into awe.

“Don’t,” she said, in a fearful whisper; “it belongs to the fairies.”

Brinkley laughed.

“It belongs to a very substantial fairy, Matt; but I don’t think that
to-day I will mention that fairy’s name. Did you ever see so much, money
in all your life before, Matt?”

She shook her head, but her eyes were still fixed upon the gold.

“I see,” observed Brinkley flippantly, “the sight of that gold
fascinates you. Well, so it did me at first; but you see what use
does. I can regard it now with comparative calmness. However, I have a
particular wish to accustom _you_ to the sight of wealth; therefore I
shall bring you here and show you this now and again. Come, Matt, tell
me what you would do if you were very rich--if all this flotsam and
jetsam, in fact, belonged to you.”

Without the slightest hesitation Matt replied--

“I should give it to _you_--leastways, half of it.”

“Ah! the reply is characteristic, and clearly shows you are not at
present fitted to become the possessor of riches. But I shall bring you
to the proper state of mind in time, no doubt. The next time I ask you
a similar question you will propose to give me a third, the next an
eighth, and so on, until you will finally come to a proper state of
mind, and decline to give me any at all. And now that I have made you
the sharer of my secret, we will go.”

They left the cave once more, and made their way back across the
sand-hills, Brinkley pausing to obliterate their footprints as they
went. When they had proceeded some distance he paused, and took the
girl’s hand.

“Good-bye, Matt,” said he. “If it wasn’t for that promised thrashing, I
should certainly see you home.”

“Then do,” returned Matt. “I don’t care if he _does_ smash me!”

“Probably not; but I do. It would be an episode in your career which
it would not be pleasant to reflect upon--therefore, goodbye, Matt,
and--and God bless you, my girl!”

He gave her a fatherly salute upon the forehead; a bright flush
overspread her cheek as she bounded away. Brinkley watched her until
she was out of sight, then he turned, and strolled quietly on in the
direction of the caravan.

“It’s a strange game,” he said, “and requires careful playing. I wonder
what my next move ought to be?”

He thought very deeply, but when he reached the caravan he found he had
come to no definite conclusion as to his plans. He therefore partook
cheerfully of the repast which Tim had prepared for him; and after he
had smoked a couple of pipes in the open air, he retired to rest.

The next morning he began pondering again.

“I have got my trump card,” he said to himself, “but how to play up to
it? I have a splendid hand, but it will want skilful playing if I am
to win the game. One false move would do for me, for my opponents are
crafty as foxes, and they are two against one. What is my right move, I
wonder? I wish some good fairy would guide me!”

He took out his pipe, which was his usual consoler, and smoked while he
took a few turns on the green sward outside the caravan.

Suddenly an idea struck him.

“I think I’ll pay a domiciliary visit to Mr. Monk,” he said. “I can
meet him now on pretty equal terms. If I hint a few things to him, the
amiable gentleman may think of becoming just.”

He called up Tim, and sent him on some trivial errand down to the
village. As soon as he was well out of the way, Brinkley entered the
caravan, produced some papers from the inner pocket of his coat, and
locked them up securely in his trunk.

“So far so good,” he said. “My amiable friend may not be in an amiable
mood, and I don’t wish him to get any advantage of me!”

He did not even take with him the key of the box, but having attached to
it a small piece of paper, on which were some written instructions, he
hid it in the caravan, and started off upon his journey.

It was a dark, gloomy morning, giving every promise of coming storms. As
he passed through the wood which surrounded Monkshurst House, the wind
whistled softly among the trees, making a moan like the sound of human
voices.

“A gloomy place,” said Brinkley; “a fit residence for such as he. Any
dark deed might be committed here, and who would know?”

The path which he followed was a neglected carriage-drive, strewn with
stones, overgrown with weeds, and bordered on either side by the thick
trees of the forest. Presently the trees parted, and he came in view of
the house.

A large gloomy-looking building, as neglected as the woodland in the
centre of which it stood. It seemed as if only part of it was inhabited,
and the large garden at its back was unprotected by any wall, and full
of overgrown fruit trees.

The door was opened by a grim elderly woman. He inquired for Mr. Monk,
and was informed that he was at home. The next minute he was standing
in a lonely library, where the owner of the house was busy writing. Monk
rose, and the two stood face to face.



CHAPTER XI.--BURIED!

It is not my purpose to describe the interview which took place between
my hero and Mr. Monk. Suffice it to say that when the young man again
emerged from the gloomy shadows of the dwelling there was a curious
smile upon his face, while Mr. Monk, who had followed him to the door,
and watched his retreating figure, wore a horrible expression of hatred
and fear.

No sooner had he disappeared than Monk left the house also, and,
following a footpath, through the woods, made straight for William
Jones’s cottage. Entering unceremoniously, he found that worthy seated
beside the hearth. Without a word he rushed upon him, seized him by the
throat, and began pummelling his head upon the wall.

The attack was so sudden that for several minutes William Jones offered
no resistance whatever. Indeed, so passive was he, and so violent was
the rage of his opponent, that there was every prospect of his head
being beaten to a jelly. Presently, however; Monk’s fury abating, his
unfortunate victim was allowed to pick himself up. He sat and stared
before him, while Monk, looking like the Evil One himself, glared
savagely in his face.

“You villain! You accursed, treacherous scoundrel!” he said. “Tell me
what you’ve done, or I’ll kill you!”

But William Jones was unconscious of having done anything, and he said
as much, whereupon Monk’s fury seemed about to rise again.

“Mr. Monk,” cried William Jones, in terror, “look ye now, tell me what’s
the matter?”

“I mean you to tell _me_ what you have been hiding from me all these
years. Something came ashore with that child--something that might lead
to her identity, and you have kept it, thinking to realize money upon
it, or to have me in your power. What means it? Speak, or I’ll strangle
you!” But William Jones was evidently unable to speak, being perfectly
paralyzed with fear. Monk stretched forth his hands to seize him again,
when the old man, who had been a horrified spectator of all this,
suddenly broke in with--

“Look ye, now, I know there was summat. It were a leetle book, stuffed
in the front of her frock!”

“A book!” returned Monk, eagerly; “and what did you do with it? Tell me
that, you old fool! Did you burn it?”

“Burn it?” exclaimed the other. “No, mister; we don’t burn nothin’,
William and me. You know where you put it, William dear, in the old
place.”

“Then curse you for an avaricious old devil,” thundered Monk. “The book
has been stolen--do you hear!--stolen by that young painter!”

He could say no more, the effect of his words upon William Jones was
electrical. He gave one wild shriek, and began tearing his hair. It now
became his turn to moan and rave, and for some time nothing coherent
could be got from him.

At length, however, Monk gathered that there was some secret
hiding-place which Brinkley had discovered.

“I thought his poking and prying meant summat,” moaned William Jones.
“I fancied, too, I seen marks i’ the sand, but I never could find no one
near, and I thought they was my own marks. Oh, what will come to me! I’m
ruined!”

“Curse your folly!” exclaimed Monk, “you’ve brought it all on yourself
by your own greed, and you don’t deserve I should help you; but I _will_
help you! Listen, then! It is clear that this young man has possessed
himself somehow of your secret and mine. But from what he said to me,
I fancy he has not as yet divulged it to a single soul. He is the
only human being we have to fear. We must cease to fear him. Do you
understand?”

No, William Jones did not understand; so in order to make his meaning
clear, Mr. Monk drew him out from the cottage, and whispered something
in his ear. William Jones turned as white as death, and began to tremble
all over.

“I couldn’t do it, sir,” he moaned. “Look ye now--I couldn’t do it!”

Monk stamped his foot impatiently; then he turned to his frightened
victim.

“Listen to me, William Jones. You ought to know by this time that I have
both the power and determination to effect my ends. Continue to oppose
me, and play the fool, and all that power shall be used against _you_.
Do you hear? I will ruin, you! I will hand you over to the authorities
as a thief--I will have you tried for concealing the papers which might
have proved the identity of the child found washed ashore fifteen years
ago! Do you hear?”

Mr. Monk evidently knew the nature of the man with whom he had to deal,
for after a little more conversation William Jones, cowering like a
frightened child, promised implicit obedience.

“Now, then,” said Monk, when he had brought matters to a satisfactory
termination, “you will show me this hiding-place of yours.”

To this William Jones at first objected, but Monk was firm.

“Who knows,” said he, “but there may be other things having reference to
the child? I mean to see for myself. Now, William Jones.”

So William Jones, seeing that resistance would be useless, promised to
conduct his friend to the cave; and after a good deal of hesitation and
of continued show of unwillingness on William Jones’s part, the two men
started off.

When they drew near to the cave, William Jones gave a cry, and pointed
to the sand. Looking down, Monk clearly saw footprints. They followed
them, and found that they led right to the mouth of the cave.

“It’s standing open!” cried William Jones, as he pointed down with
trembling finger.

“Follow me!” said Monk, crawling down into the hole.

Jones followed in terror.

As he reached the path below, he heard a sharp cry, and looking down
saw, by the dim light of a candle stuck in the wall, Brinkley struggling
helplessly in the powerful grip of Monk. He had been sprung upon from
behind, and was helpless through a sort of garotte.

Horrified and trembling, William Jones was rooted to his place.

Suddenly he saw the young man fall backward lifeless, and, with one last
gasp, lie perfectly still. Monk stooped over him, and looked into his
face.

“Oh, Mr. Monk!” cried William, “is he--is he----”

“He is dead,” was the reply. “So much the better.”

As he spoke, he bent down and searched the young man’s pockets. His brow
blackened, for he did not find what he sought. Then he took the light
from the wall, and held it close to Brinkley’s eyes.

Satisfied that he did not breathe, he climbed up the path and rejoined
his trembling companion. They passed out of the place, hurriedly
replaced the trap-door, and piled on sand and stones.

“There!” said Monk, with a wild smile on his deadly pale face. “He won’t
trouble either of us again. Come, come!”

And he strode hastily away, followed by William Jones, leaving the young
man of the caravan in the subterranean tomb.



CHAPTER XII.----WILLIAM JONES IS SERIOUS.

The two men walked together through the darkness as far as the door
of William Jones’s hut; then they parted. Mr. Monk struck across the
sand-hills towards his own home, while Jones entered the doorway of his
cabin.

He would fain have found that cabin empty, for the memory of that last
scene in the cave was still upon him, and made him as nervous as a
child. But the old man was there, and wide-awake, and evidently pleased
at his son’s return.

“Where have you been, William dear?” said he. The question was innocent
enough in itself, but it was full of hidden meaning for William Jones.

“Where have I been?” he repeated; “at work to be sure!”

The tone of his reply startled the old man. He looked up, and saw to his
amazement that William was as white as a ghost, and trembling violently.

“What’s the matter, William, dear?” he asked eagerly. “Have ye seen a
wreck, my son?”

“No, I ain’t!” responded his son violently; “and look ye now, old ’un,
you jest be quiet, and let me alone, that’s all!”

The old man, knowing his son’s temper, did as he was told, and William
began to potter aimlessly about the room. He was certainly trembling
very much, and was almost overcome with a nervousness for which he
himself could not account. For he was no coward. To get possession of a
prize on the high seas he would have faced a storm which might well make
brave men tremble, not to mention that he knew that he had on more than
one occasion humanely hastened the end of shipwrecked sailors, whom he
had found and pillaged on the shore. After these acts he had been able
to sleep the sleep of virtue without being haunted by dead men’s eyes.
But now the case was different. He had not to deal with a victim without
friends, a man whose body, described as that of a “shipwrecked mariner,”
 could be buried and forgotten without any more ado. In all probability
there would this time be a hue and cry, and William Jones trembled lest
his share in the ghastly business might ultimately be discovered.

True, he was not actually the culprit, and so, even at the worst, he
might escape the gallows--but to a man of his sensitive and affectionate
nature the thought of transportation was not pleasant. It was this that
made him nervous--this that made him start and tremble at every sound.

Presently a thought struck him.

“Where’s Matt?” he asked.

“Don’t know, William, dear; she ain’t been here for hours and hours.
Maybe she’s on the shore.”

“Maybe she is. I’ll go and have a look,” returned William.

It must not be supposed for a moment that William Jones had become
afflicted with a sudden and tender interest in Matt--he merely wanted
to get quit of the cabin, that was all, and he saw in this a reasonable
excuse for walking out alone. He accordingly made his escape, and went
wandering off along the shore.

It was ten o’clock when he returned; he was still pale, and drenched to
the skin. The old man was dozing beside the fire, and alone.

“Where’s Matt?” asked William again.

“Ain’t you seen her, William, dear? Well, she ain’t here.”

William Jones did look a little uneasy this time, and it is but due
to him to confess that his uneasiness was caused by Matt’s prolonged
absence. Erratic as she was in her movements, she had not been
accustomed to staying out so late, especially on a night when the rain
was pouring, and not a glimmer of star or moon was to be seen.

“Wonder what she’s doin’ of?” said William; “suppose I’d best wait up
for her.. Here, old man, you go to bed, d’ye: hear--_you_ ain’t wanted
anyhow.”

The old man accordingly went to bed, and William sat up to await Matt’s
return. He sat beside the hearth, looked into the smouldering fire,
and listened to the rain as it poured down steadily upon the roof.
Occasionally he got up, and went to the door; he could see nothing, but
he heard the patter of the falling rain, and the low dreary moan of the
troubled sea.

Hour after hour passed, and Matt did not come. William Jones began to
doze by the fire--then he sank into a heavy sleep.

He awoke with a start, and found that it was broad daylight. The fire
was out, the rain had ceased to fall, and the morning sun was creeping
in at the windows. He looked round, and saw that he was still alone. He
went into Matt’s room--it was empty. She had not returned.

He was now filled with vague uneasiness. He made up a bit of fire, and
was about to issue forth again in search of the truant, when all further
trouble was saved him--the door opened, and Matt herself appeared.

She seemed almost as much disturbed as William Jones himself. Her face
was very pale, her hair wild, her dress in great disorder. She started
on seeing him; then, assuming rather a devil-may-care look, she lounged
in.

“You’re up early, William Jones,” she said.

“Yes, I am up early,” he replied gruffly; “’cause why?--’cause I
ain’t been to bed. And where have _you_ been--jest you tell me that.”

“Why,--I’ve been out, of course!” returned the girl defiantly.

“That won’t do, Matt,” returned William Jones. “Come, you’ll jest tell
me where you’ve been. You ain’t been out all night for nothing.”

The girl gave him a look half of defiance, half of curiosity; then she
threw herself down, rather than sat, upon a chair.

“I’m tired, I am,” she said; “and hungry, and cold!”

“Will you tell me where you’ve been, Matt?” cried William Jones,
trembling with suspicious alarm.

“‘Course I will, if you keep quiet,” said the girl in answer. “There
ain’t much to tell neither. I were away along to Pencroes when the heavy
rain came on, then I lay down behind a haystack and fell asleep, and
when I woke up it was daylight, and I came home.”

William Jones looked at her steadfastly and long; then, as if satisfied,
he turned away. About an hour later he left the hut and walked along the
shore, straining his eyes seaward. But instead of looking steadfastly
at one spot, as his custom was, he paused now and again to gaze uneasily
about him. At every sound he started and turned pale. In truth, he
was becoming a veritable coward--afraid almost of the sound of his own
footsteps on the sands.



CHAPTER XIII.--THE CARAVAN DISAPPEARS.

Several days passed away, during which William Jones showed a strange
and significant affection for his own fireside. He went out a little in
the sunlight; but directly night came he locked and barricaded the door
as if against thieves, and declined, on any inducement, to cross the
threshold. Even had a three-decker gone ashore in the neighbourhood, he
would have thought twice before issuing forth into the dreaded darkness.

For William Jones was genuinely afraid; his hereditary calm of mind
was shaken, not so much with horror at a murderous deed, as with
consternation that his lifelong secret had been discovered by one man,
and might, sooner or later, be discovered by others. He did not put
implicit faith even in Monk; it was his nature to trust nobody where
money was concerned.

As to returning to the cave until he had quite recovered his equanimity,
that was out of the question. Even by daylight he avoided the spot with
a holy horror. Only in his dreams, which were dark and troubled, did he
visit it,--to see the face of the murdered man in the darkness, and the
hand of the murdered man pointing at him with cold, decaying finger.

The day after the murder he had been greatly unsettled by a visit from
Tim Lenney, who demanded news of his master, and said that he had not
returned to the caravan all night. Tim seemed greatly troubled, but gave
vent to no very violent ebullitions of grief. When he was gone Matt sat
by the fireside, and looked long and keenly at William Jones.

“What are you staring at?” cried he, fidgeting uneasily under her gaze.

“Nowt,” said Matt; “I were only wondering----”

“Then don’t go wondering,” exclaimed the good man rather inconsistently.
“_You_ mind your own business, and don’t be a fool!”

And he turned testily and gazed at the fire. But Matt, whose eyes were
full of a curious light, was not to be abashed.

“Ain’t you well, William Jones?” she asked.

“I’m well enough,--I am.”

“It’s queer, ain’t it, that the painter chap never come home?”

“How should I know?” growled William. “Maybe he’s gone back to where he
come from.”

“Or maybe he’s drownded? Or maybe summat else has happened to him?”
 suggested Matt.

“Never you mind _him_, my gal. _He’s_ all right, never fear. And if he
ain’t, it’s no affair o’ yours, or mine neither. _You_ go along out and
play.”

Matt went out as directed, and it was some hours before she returned.
She found her guardian seated in his old place by the fire, looking at
vacancy. He started violently as she entered, and made a clutch at the
rude piece of ship’s iron which served as a poker.

“Be it you, Matt? Lor’, how you startled me I I were--I were--taking a
doze.”

“I’ve been up yonder,” said Matt.

“Up wheer?”

“Up to the painter chap’s cart. He ain’t come back; and the man’s
searchin’ for him all up and down the place.”

Fortunately it was very dark, so that she could not see the expression
of her hearer’s face. She walked to the fireplace, and, taking a box
of lucifers from a ledge, began to procure a light, with the view of
igniting the rushlight fixed to the table. But in a moment “William blew
out the match, and snatched the box from her.

“What are you doin’ of?” he cried. “Wasting the matches, as if they cost
nowt. You’ll come to the workus, afore you’re done.”

The days passed, and there was no news of the absent man. Every day Matt
went up to the caravan to make inquiries. At last, one afternoon, she
returned looking greatly troubled; her eyes were red, too, as if she had
been crying.

“What’s the matter now?” demanded William, who had left his usual seat
and was standing at the door.

“Nowt,” said Matt, wiping her eyelids with the back of her hand.

“Don’t you tell no lies. You’ve heerd summat? Stop! What’s that theer
under your arm?”

All at once he had perceived that she carried a large roll of something
wrapped in brown paper. He took it from her, and opened it nervously. It
was the crayon portrait of herself executed by the defunct artist.

“Who gave you this here?” cried William Jones, trembling more than ever.

“Tim.”

“Who’s _he?_”

“Him as come looking arter his master. The painter chap ain’t found;
and now Tim’s goin’ away in the cart to tell his friends. And he give me
this--my pictur’; he give me it to keep. His master said I were to have
it; and I mean to keep it now he’s dead!”

William Jones handed back the picture, and seemed relieved, indeed, when
it was out of his hands.

“Dead?” he muttered, not meeting Matt’s eyes, but looking right out to
sea. “Who told you he were dead?”

Matt did not reply, but gazed at William so long and so significantly,
that the good man, conscious of her scrutiny, turned and plunged into
the darkness of his dwelling.

An hour later a loud voice summoned him forth. He went to the door, and
there was Monk of Monkshurst. It was the first time they had met since
they parted on the night of the murder. Monk was dressed in a dark
summer suit, and looked unusually spick and span.

“Where’s the girl?” he cried, after a whispered colloquy of some
minutes. “Matt, where are you?”

In answer to the call Matt appeared at the door. No sooner did she
perceive Monk than she trembled violently, and went very pale.

“Come here, Matt,” he said with an insinuating smile. “See! I’ve brought
something for you--something pretty for you to wear.”

As he spoke he drew from his waistcoat pocket a small gold ring, set
with turquoise stones. But Matt still trembled, and shrank away.

“I don’t want it!--I sha’n’t wear it,” she cried.

“Nonsense, Matt!” said Monk. “Why, it’s a ring fit for a lady. Come, let
me put it on your finger.”

So great seemed her agitation, so deep her dread of him, that she could
not stir; so that when he approached, laughing, and caught her round the
waist, he slipped the ring on her finger before she could resist. But it
only remained there a moment. With a quick, sharp cry, she tore herself
free, and, taking the ring off, threw it right away from her upon the
sand. Then, with a wild gesture of fear and loathing, she rushed into
the cottage.

William Jones walked over and picked up the ring, while Monk stood
scowling darkly after the fugitive.

“What the devil ails the girl?” cried the latter, with a fierce oath,
pocketing the present.

“I dunno. She’s never been the same since--since the painter chap went
missing. I’m afeerd he turned the gal’s head.”

“He’ll turn no more heads,” muttered Monk under his breath; then added
aloud and with decision, “There must be an end to this. She must be
married to me at once.”

“Do you mean it, master? When you spoke on it fust I thought you was
joking.”

“Then you were a fool for your pains. She’s old enough, and bold enough,
and vixenish enough; but I’ll tame her. I tell you there must be no more
delay. My mind’s made up, and I’ll wait no longer.” Sinking their voices
they continued to talk together for some time. Now Matt was crouching
close to the threshold, and had heard every word of the above
conversation, and much that followed it. When Monk walked away and
disappeared, leaving William Jones ruminant at the broken gate, she
suddenly reappeared.

Curiously enough all her excitement had departed. Instead of weeping or
protesting, she looked at William Jones--and laughed.

Monk had left his horse at the coastguard station. Remounting, he rode
rapidly away through the sand-hills in the direction of the lake. As he
approached the spot of the old encampment, he saw that the caravan had
gone.

He rode on thoughtfully till he gained the highway, when he put his
horse into a rapid trot. Just before he gained the gate and avenue near
to which he had first encountered Brinkley, he saw the caravan before
him on the dusty road.

He hesitated for a moment; then hurried rapidly forward, and, arriving
close to the vehicle, saw the Irishman’s head looking round at him from
the driver’s seat. He beckoned, and Tim pulled up.

“Has your master returned? I am informed that he has been missing for
some days.”

Tim shook his head very dolefully.

“No, sor I sorra sight have I seen of him for three days and three
nights. I’m going back wid the baste and the house, to tell his friends
the bad news. Maybe it’s making fun of me he is, and I’ll find him
somewhere on the road.”

“I hope you will,” said Monk sympathetically. “I think--hum--it is quite
possible he has, as you suggest, wandered homeward. Good-day to you.”

So saying, Monk turned off by the gate which they had just reached, and
rode away up the avenue.

Tim looked after him till he disappeared. Then the same curious change
came over him which had come over Matt after she had been listening to
the colloquy between Monk and William Jones.

He laughed!



CHAPTER XIV.--A BRIDAL PARTY AND A LITTLE SURPRISE.

A week passed away. The shadow of the caravan no longer fell on the
green meadow by the lake, and the straggling population of Aberglyn,
unsuspicious of foul play, had already forgotten both the caravan and
the owner.

And if facts were to be taken into consideration in estimating the
extent of her memory, Matt too had forgotten. It was common talk now,
that she, the grammarless castaway, the neglected _protégée_ of William
Jones, was to be married to the master of the great house! Nay, the very
day was fixed; and that very day was only two sunrises distant; and Monk
of Monkshurst had in his pocket a special license, which he had
procured, at an expenditure of five pounds, from London.

Doubtless, in any other more populous locality the affair would have
occasioned no little scandal, and many ominous shakings of the head; but
the inhabitants were few and far between, and had little or no time
for idle gossiping. The coastguardsmen and their wives were the only
individuals who exhibited any interest, and even their excitement was
faint and evanescent, like the movements of a fish in a shallow and
unwholesome pool.

But the really extraordinary part of the whole affair was the conduct of
Matt herself. Apparently quite cured of her former repugnance to a union
with Monk, she made no objection whatever to the performance of the
ceremony, and laughed merrily when she was informed that the day was
fixed. Monk, in his grim, taciturn way, was jubilant. He came to and fro
constantly, and assumed the manners of a lover. Had he been less bent on
one particular object two things might have struck him as curious:--(1)
That Matt, though she had consented to marry him, steadfastly refused
to wear his ring, or accept any other presents; and (2) that she still
shrunk, with persistent and ill-disguised dislike, from his caresses.

It was now late in the month of August, and the weather was broken by
troublous winds and a fretful moon. For several weeks William Jones, in
his mortal terror, had refrained from visiting the cave; he had never
set his foot therein, indeed, since the night of the assassination. At
last he could bear the suspense no longer. Suppose some one else had
discovered his treasure, and robbed him? Suppose some subterranean
change had obliterated the landmarks or submerged the cavern! Suppose
a thousand dreadful things! Tired of miserable supposition, William
determined, despite his terror, to make sure.

So late one windy and rainy night he stole forth with his unlit lantern,
and fought his way in the teeth of half a gale to the familiar place,
which he found, however, with some little difficulty. He was neither
superstitious nor imaginative, but throughout the journey he was a prey
to nameless terrors. Every gust of wind went through his heart like a
knife; every sound of wind or sea made that same heart stop and listen.
Only supreme greed and miserly anxiety led him on. But at last he
gained the cave, within which there was a sound as of clashing legions,
clarions shrieking, drums beating, all the storm and stress of the awful
waters clashing on the cliffs without, and boiling with unusual screams
through the black slit between the cave and the Devil’s Cauldron.

Trembling, with perspiration standing in great beads on his face, he
searched the cave for the corpse of the murdered man, expecting to
find it well advanced in decomposition. Strange to say, however, it had
disappeared.

William Jones was at once relieved and alarmed; relieved because he was
spared a horrible experience; alarmed because he could not account for
the disappearance.

A little reflection, however, suggested that one of those tidal waves
so common on the coast might have arisen well up into the cavern, washed
away the body from its place on the shingle, and carried it away in the
direction of the Cauldron.

“In which case,” he reflected, “them coastguard chaps would find it some
day among the rocks or on the shore, and think it had been drowned in
the way of natur’.”

Satisfied that everything else was undisturbed, he retired as hastily as
possible, sealed up the entrance to the cavern, and ran hastily home.

The morning of the marriage came--a fine sunny morning. An open dog-cart
belonging to Monk, and driven by one of his servants, stood at William
Jones’s door, and close to it a light country cart, borrowed by William
Jones himself from a neighbouring farmer. The population, consisting
of an aged coastguardsman, two coastguardsmen’s wives, and half-a-dozen
dejected children, crowded in front of the cottage.

The bridegroom, attired in decent black, with a flower in his
button-hole, stood waiting impatiently in the garden. Despite the
festive occasion, he had a gloomy and hangdog appearance. Presently
there emerged from the door William Jones, attired in a drowned seaman’s
suit several sizes too large for him, and wearing a chimney-pot hat and
a white rosette. Leaning on his arm was Matt, dressed in a dress of blue
silk, neatly made for her by one of the coastguard women, out of damaged
materials supplied by Jones, a light straw hat with blue ribbons to
match, and a light lace shawl. Behind this pair hobbled William Jones’s
father, whose costume was nautical like his son’s, but more damaged, and
who also sported a chimney-pot hat and a white rosette.

The crowd gave a feeble cheer. Matt looked round and smiled, but mingled
with her smile there was a kind of vague anxiety and expectation.

It was arranged that Monk should drive Matt in the dog-cart, while
William Jones and his father followed in the commoner vehicle. At
Pencroes, where the ceremony was to be performed, they were to meet with
one Mr. Penarvon, a country squire and kindred spirit of Monk’s, who had
promised to be “best man.”

Monk took the reins, while Matt got in and seated herself beside him,
the groom getting up behind; and away they went along the sand-choked
road, followed by Jones and his father.

The day was bright and merry, but Matt never thought of the old proverb,

“Happy is the bride that the sun shines on;” she was too busy examining
the prospect on every side of her. All at once, as the bridal procession
wound round the edge of the lonely lake, she uttered a cry of delight.
There, standing in its old place by the lake-side, was the caravan.

Monk looked pale--there was something ghostly in the re-appearance even
of this inanimate object. He was a man of strong nerve, however, and he
speedily smiled at his own fears.

As they approached the spot they saw Tim standing near the vehicle in
conversation with two strange gentlemen, one a little elderly man in
black broadcloth, the other a tall, broad-shouldered fellow, wearing a
light overcoat and a wideawake hat. Directly the procession approached,
this group separated, and its three members walked severally into the
road, he with the wideawake hat standing right in the centre of the road
quietly smoking a cigar.

As the dog-cart came up he held up his hand. Unable to proceed without
running him down, Monk pulled up angrily.

“What is it? Why do you block the road?” he cried fiercely, “Excuse
me, governor,” returned the other coolly. “Mr. Monk of Monkhurst, I
believe?”

“That’s my name.”

“Sorry to trouble you on such a day, but I should like a few words with
you.”

“I cannot stay--I am going to be married!”

“So I heard,” said the man, lifting his hat and bowing with a grin to
Matt. “Glad to see you, miss. How do you do? But the fact is, Mr. Monk,
my business won’t keep. Be good enough to step this way.” Full of some
unaccountable foreboding, inspired partly by the stranger’s suave, yet
determined, manner, partly by the reappearance of the caravan, Monk
alighted, and followed the other across the grass to the close vicinity
of the house on wheels. The little elderly man followed, and the man who
had first spoken went through the ceremony of introduction.

“This is Mr. Monk, sir. Mr. Monk, this gentleman is Mr. Lightwood, of
the firm of Lightwood and Lightwood, solicitors, Chester.”

“And you--who the devil are _you?_” demanded Monk with his old savagery.

“My name is Marshall, Christian name, John, though my friends call me
Jack,” answered the other with airy impudence. “John Marshall, governor,
of the detective force.”

Monk now went pale indeed. But recovering himself he cried, “I know
neither of you. I warned you that I was in haste. What do you want? Out
with it!”

The little man now took up the conversation, speaking in a prim
business-like voice, and occasionally referring to a large note-book
which he carried.

“Mr. Monk, you are, I am informed, the sole heir male of the late
Colonel Monk, your cousin by the father’s side, who was supposed to have
died in India in the year 1862.”

“Yes, that’s true. What then?”

“On the report of his death, his name being included in an official list
of officers killed and wounded in action, and it being understood
that he died without lawful issue, you laid claim to the demesne of
Monkshurst, in Cheshire, and that of the same name in Anglesea. Your
claim was recognized, and in 1864 you took possession.”

“Well. Have you detained me to hear only what I already knew?”

“Pardon me, I have not finished. I have now to inform you that you
inherited under a misconception, first because Colonel Monk was married
and had issue, secondly, because he did not die in India, but reached
the shores of England, where he perished in the shipwreck of the ship
_Trinidad_, in the year 1864.”

Monk was livid. At this moment Jones, who had been watching the scene
from a distance, came over, panting and perspiring in ill-concealed
terror.

“Lor’, Mr. Monk, what’s the matter? Look ye now, we shall be late for
the wedding.”

As he spoke Marshall, the detective, clapped him playfully on the
shoulder.

“How d’ye do, William Jones? I’ve often heard of you, and wished to know
you. Pray stop where you are. I’ll talk to _you_ presently.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Monk now said with dogged desperation,
“with all this rigmarole, Mr. Lightwood, or whatever your name is. It
seems to me you are simply raving. If I am not my cousin’s heir, who is,
tell me that?”

“His daughter,” said the man quietly.

“He never married, and he never had a daughter.”

“His daughter, an infant twelve or fourteen months old, sailed to
England with him, was shipwrecked with him, but saved by a special
Providence, and has since been living in this place under the name of
Matt Jones.”

“Your intended bride, you know,” added Marshall with an insinuating
smile. “Hullo, where _is_ the young lady?”

Monk looked round towards the dog-cart and on every side, but Matt was
nowhere to-be seen.

“I see her go into that theer cart,” said William Jones.

“Call her,” cried Monk. “I’ll stay no longer here. Listen to me, you two.
Whether you are telling truth or lies, that girl is going to become my
wife--I have her guardian’s consent, and she herself, I may tell you,
fully appreciates the honour I am doing her.”

“Indeed!” said Mr. Lightwood, smiling. “Unfortunately I, as Miss Monk’s
legal adviser, must have a say in the matter. Doubtless this marriage
would be a very pretty arrangement for keeping the late Colonel Monk’s
fortune and property in your possession, but I cannot conscientiously
approve of the young lady’s marriage to an _assassin_.”

“An assassin!--what--what do you mean?” gasped Monk, staggering as if
from a blow.

“Tell him, Mr. Marshall.”

“All right, sir. Well, you see, Mr. Monk of Monkshurst,” continued
the detective, grimly yet playfully, “you’re accused of making away
with--murdering, in fact--a young gentleman who came to Aberglyn a few
weeks ago in that little house on wheels; and this nice friend of yours,”
 (here he again slapped William Jones on the shoulder) “is accused of
being your accomplice.”

“No, no. I never done it! I’m innocent, I am!” cried William Jones.
“Tell ’em, Mr. Monk, tell ’em--I’d nowt to do with it.”

“Silence, you fool,” said the other; then he added, turning on his
accusers, “You are a couple of madmen, I think! I know nothing of the
young man you speak of! I have heard that he is missing, that is all;
but there is no evidence that any harm has come to him, for his body has
not been found.”

Here Marshall turned with a wink to William Jones, and nudged him in the
ribs.

“Don’t you think now,” he asked, “it might be worth while looking for it
in _that little underground parlour_ of yours, down alongside the sea?”

William Jones uttered a despairing groan, and fell on his knees.

“I’m ruined!” he cried. “Oh, Mr. Monk, it’s your doing! Lord help me!
They knows everything.”

“Curse you, hold your tongue!” said Monk, with a look of mad contempt
and hatred. “These men are only playing upon your fears, but they cannot
frighten _me._”

“No?” remarked the detective, lighting his cigar, which had gone out. “I
think we shall even manage _that_ in time.”

As he spoke he carelessly, and as if inadvertently, drew out a pair of
steel handcuffs, which he looked at reflectively, threw up and caught
underhand in the air.

“You accuse me of assassination?” said Monk, trembling violently. “I
warn you to beware, for I will not suffer such accusations without
seeking redress. If you have any proof of the truth of your preposterous
charge, produce it.”

At this moment Matt, looking bright as sunshine, leaped out of the
caravan.

“There’s my proof,” said Marshall. “Miss Monk, this amiable bridegroom
of yours denies being concerned in harming Mr. Charles Brinkley. Is he
telling the truth?”

Matt’s face darkened, and she looked at Monk with eyes of cordial
detestation.

“No,” she said, “he’s lying!”

“Matt,” cried Monk fiercely, “take care!”

“He’s lying,” she repeated, not heeding him. “I see him do it with my
own two eyes, and I see William Jones helping him and looking on. They
thought that no one was nigh, but _I_ was. I was hiding behind them
sacks and barrels in the cave!”

* * * * *

Monk now felt that the game was almost up, for he was beset on every
side, and the very ground seemed opening under his feet. The wretched
Jones, in a state bordering on frenzy, remained on his knees wailing
over his own ruin. The two strangers, Lightwood and Marshall, looked
on as calm but interested spectators. Matt, having delivered her
home-thrust of accusation, stood and gazed into Monk’s face with cool
defiance, “It is a plot!” Monk cried, presently, “an infamous plot to
ruin me! You have-been tampering, I see, with this wild girl, whom you
foolishly suppose kin to me by blood. Arrest me, if you please--I shall
not take the trouble to resist, for I am perfectly innocent in this
matter.”

He added, while they looked at one another as if somewhat puzzled--

“As to the girl’s relationship with my dead cousin, the very idea is
absurd. Where are the proofs of her birthright?”

“Here,” said a quiet voice.

Monk turned his eyes and started back in wonder, while William Jones
shrieked and fell forward on his face. Standing before them in the
sunshine was the reality or the semblance of--the murdered young man of
the caravan!



CHAPTER XV.--THE “MURDERED” MAN!

Yes, it was the artist himself, looking a little pale, and carrying one
arm in a sling, but otherwise, to all appearance, in good health.

Monk had strong nerves, but he could not prevent himself from uttering
a wild cry of horror and wonder. At the same moment, Matt went to the
young man’s side, and with an air of indescribable trust and sweetness,
took his hand--the hand which was free--and put it to her lips.

“The proof is here,” he said calmly, “here upon my person. I am not
quite dead, you see, Mr. Monk of Monkshurst, and I thought I should like
to bring it you myself. It consists, as you are aware, of Colonel Monk’s
dying message, written on the fly-leaf of his Prayer-book, and of the
marriage certificate of his wife; both these having been placed upon his
child’s person, concealed by the unsuspecting and illiterate Jones, and
found by me after a lapse of many years.”

Monk did not speak; his tongue was frozen. He stood aghast, opening
and shutting his clenched hands spasmodically, and shaking like a
leaf. Reassured to some extent by the sound of the voice, unmistakably
appertaining to a person of flesh and blood, William Jones gradually
uplifted his face, and looked in ghastly wonder at the speaker.

“You will be anxious to ascertain,” proceeded Brinkley, with his old air
of lightness, “by what accident, or special Providence, I arose from the
grave in which you politely entombed me. The explanation is very simple.
My young friend here, Matt, the foundling, or, as I should rather call
her, Miss Monk of Monkshurst, came to my assistance, attended to my
injuries, which were not so serious as you imagined, and enabled me,
before daybreak, to gain the kindly shelter of my caravan. Tim and a
certain rural doctor did the rest. I am sorry to disappoint you, Mr.
Monk, but I felt bound to keep my promise--to interfere seriously with
your little arrangements, if you persistently refused to do justice to
this young lady.”

As he spoke, Monk uttered a savage oath and rushed towards the road;
but Marshall was after him in a moment, and sprang upon him. There was a
quick struggle. Suddenly Monk drew a knife, opened it, and brandished
it in the air; so that it would have gone ill with his assailant if the
herculean Tim, coming to the rescue, had not pinioned him from behind.
In another moment the knife was lying on the grass, and Monk was neatly
handcuffed by the detective.

“Now, governor, you’d better take it quietly!” said Marshall, while Monk
struggled, and gnashed his teeth in impotent rage. “You’re a smart one,
you are, but the game’s up at last.”

Monk recovered himself and laughed fiercely.

“Let me go! Of what do you accuse me? It was murder just now, but since
the murdered person is alive (curse him!) I should like to know on what
charge you arrest me.”

“Oh, there’s no difficulty about that!” said Brinkley, looking at him
superciliously. “In the first place, you have by fraud and perjury
possessed yourself of what never legally belonged to you. In the second
place, you _attempted_ murder, at any rate. But upon my life, I don’t
think you are worth prosecuting. I think, Mr. Marshall, you might let
him go.”

“It’s letting a mad dog loose, sir,” replied Marshall. “He’ll hurt
somebody.”

“What do _you_ say, Miss Monk?” said Brinkley. “This amiable-looking
person is your father’s cousin. Shall I release your bridegroom, in
order that you may go with him to the altar of Hymen and complete the
ceremony?”

“I hate him,” cried Matt; “I should like to drown him in the sea.”

Brinkley laughed.

“Your sentiments are natural, but unchristian. And the gentle Jones,
now, who is looking at you so affectionately, what would you do with
_him?_ Drown him in the sea too?”

“No, no, Matt,” interposed William Jones, abjectly; “speak up for me,
Matt. I ha’ been father to you all these years.” Matt seemed perplexed
what to say. So Brinkley again took up the conversation.

“On reflection we will refer William Jones to his friends the
‘coastguard chaps.’ I think he will be punished enough by the
distribution of his little property in the cave. Eh, Mr. Jones?”

Jones only wrung his hands and wailed, thinking of his precious
treasure.

“And so, Matt,” continued Brinkley, “there will be no wedding after all.
I’m afraid you’re awfully disappointed.”

Matt replied by taking his hand again, lifting it to her lips and
kissing it fondly. The young man turned his head away, for his eyes had
suddenly grown full of grateful tears.



CONCLUSION.


My tale is told. The adventure of the caravan has ended. Little more
remains to be said.

Monk of Monkshurst was not brought to trial for his iniquities, but he
was sorely enough punished by the loss of his ill-gotten estates. Before
the claim of the foundling was fully proved he left England, never to
return. Whether he is alive or dead I cannot tell.

William Jones, too, escaped legal punishment. A severer retribution came
upon him in the seizure and dispersal of the hoards in the great cave.
So sorely did he take his loss to heart that he crept to his bed and
had an attack of brain fever. When he reappeared on the scene of his old
plunderings his intellect was weakened, and he showed curious evidences
of imbecility. But the ruling passion remained strong within him. I saw
him only last summer, rambling on the sea-shore, talking incoherently to
himself, and watching the sea in search of wreckage, as of old.

And Matt?

Well, her title to Monkshurst and the property was fully proved. For
a long time she did not realize her good fortune, but gradually the
pleasant truth dawned upon her in a sunrise of nice dresses, jewellery,
and plenty of money. Chancery stepped in like a severe foster-parent,
and sent her to school. There she remained for several years; but
Charles Brinkley, who had first taken in hand the vindication of her
claims, and who never ceased to be interested in her, saw her from time
to time, and took particular note of her improvement in her grammar and
the gentle art of speech.

“Matt,” he said, when they met last Christmas in London, and when he saw
before him, instead of a towsy girl, as bright and buxom a young lady as
ever wore purple raiment and fine linen, “Matt, you are ‘growed up’ at
last!”

Matt blushed and hung her head, with a touch of her old manner.

“Yes, I am grown up, as you say. I wonder what William Jones would think
if he saw me now?”

“And if he noticed those pretty boots, Matt, and heard you play
the piano and prattle a little in French. Upon my word, it’s a
transformation! You always were a nice girl, though.”

“Do you really think so?” asked Matt, shyly. “Did you _always_ think
so?”

“Certainly.”

“Even when I told you I liked you so much, and you told me ‘it wouldn’t
do?”

It was Brinkley’s turn to blush now. It was clear that Matt, despite
other changes, still retained her indomitable frankness.

“Even then,” he replied, laughing. “But I say, you were a precocious
youngster. You _proposed_ to me, you know!”

“I know I did,” said Matt, “and it wasn’t leap year then”--she added
still more slyly--“But it’s leap year _now!_”

Their eyes met. Both blushed more and more.

“Matt, don’t! It won’t do, you know! Yes, I say so still. You’re a rich
woman, and I’m only a poor devil of a painter. You must marry some great
swell.”

But Matt replied--

“I shall never marry any one but _you!_”

“You won’t? Do you mean it?”

“Of course I do.”

He caught her in his arms.

“My darling Matt--yes, I shall call you by that dear name to the end of
the chapter. You love me, then? I can’t believe it!”

“I have loved you,” she answered, laughing, “ever since I first
came--‘to be took!’”

And she rested her head on his shoulder, just as she had done in the old
days, when she was an unsophisticated child of Nature.

“So there’s to be a wedding, after all,” he said, kissing her. “Matt,
I’ve an idea!”

“Yes?”

“When we marry, suppose we arrange to spend the honeymoon in--a
CARAVAN!”


THE END.





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