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Title: Young Lord Stranleigh - A Novel
Author: Barr, Robert
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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YOUNG LORD STRANLEIGH

A Novel

By Robert Barr

Illustrated

New York: D. Appleton And Company

1908

[Illustration: 0001]

[Illustration: 0008]

[Illustration: 0009]



YOUNG LORD STRANLEIGH



CHAPTER I--THE KING’S MOVE IN THE CITY

IT was shortly after nine o’clock in the morning that young Lord
Stranleigh of Wychwood, in a most leisurely fashion, descended the front
steps of his town house into the street. The young man was almost too
perfectly dressed. Every article of his costume, from his shiny hat to
the polished boots, was so exactly what it should he, that he ran
some danger of being regarded as a model for one of those beautiful
engravings of well-dressed mankind which decorate the shops of
Bond-Street tailors. He was evidently one who did no useful work in the
world, and as a practical person might remark, why should he, when his
income was more than thirty thousand pounds a year? The slightly bored
expression of his countenance, the languid droop of his eyelids, the
easy but indifferent grace of motion that distinguished him, might have
proclaimed to a keen observer that the young man had tested all
things, and found there was nothing worth getting excited about. He was
evidently a person without enthusiasm, for even the sweet perfection of
his attire might be attributed to the thought and care of his tailor,
rather than to any active meditation on his own part. Indeed, his
indolence of attitude made the very words “active” or “energetic” seem
superfluous in our language. His friends found it difficult, if not
impossible, to interest Lord Stranleigh in anything, even in a horse
race, or the fling of the dice, for he possessed so much more money
than he needed, that gain or loss failed to excite a passing flutter of
emotion. If he was equipped with brains, as some of his more intimate
friends darkly hinted, he had hitherto given no evidence of the fact.
Although well set up, he was not an athlete. He shot a little, hunted a
little, came to town during the season, went to the Continent when the
continental exodus took place, always doing the conventional thing, but
not doing it well enough or bad enough to excite comment. He was the
human embodiment of the sentiment: “There is nothing really worth
while.”

In marked contrast to him stood, undecided, a man of his own age, with
one foot on the lower stone step which led up to the front door of his
lordship’s town house. His clothes, of undistinguished cut, were worn so
carelessly that they almost gave the impression of being ready-made. His
flung-on, black slouch hat suggested Western America or Southern Africa.
His boots were coarse and clumsy.

But if the attire was uninspiring, the face merited, and usually
received, a second glance. It was smooth-shaven, massive and strong,
tanned to a slight mahogany tinge by a more eager sun than ever shines
on England. The eyes were deep, penetrating, determined, masterful.

Lord Stranleigh’s delicate upper lip supported a silken mustache
carefully tended; his eyes were languid and tired, capable of no such
gleam of intensity as was now turned upon him from the eyes of the
other.

“I beg your pardon, sir, but are you Lord Stranleigh of Wychwood?”

His lordship paused on the upper steps, and drawled the one word “Yes.”

“My name is Peter Mackeller, and the Honorable John Hazel gave me a
letter of introduction to you, saying I should probably catch you in at
this hour. It seems he underestimated your energy, for you are already
abroad.”

There was an undercurrent of resentment in the impatient tone Mackeller
had used. He was manifestly impressed unfavorably by this modern
representative of a very ancient family, but the purpose he had in view
caused him to curb his dislike, although he had not been tactful
enough to prevent a hint of it appearing in his words. If the other had
gathered any impression of that hint, he was too perfectly trained to
betray his knowledge, either in phrase or expression of countenance. The
opinion of his fellows was a matter of complete indifference to him. A
rather engaging smile stirred the silken mustache.

“Oh, Jack always underestimates my good qualities, so we won’t trouble
about his note of introduction. Besides, a man cannot read a letter in
the street, can he?”

“I see no reason against it,” replied the other sharply.

“Don’t you really? Well, I am going across to my club, and perhaps as we
walk along together, you will be good enough to say why you wish to see
me.”

Lord Stranleigh was about to proceed down another step when the other
answered “No” so brusquely that his lordship paused once more, with a
scarcely perceptible elevation of the eyebrows, for, as a rule, people
did not say “No” to Lord Stranleigh of Wychwood, who was known to enjoy
thirty thousand pounds a year.

“Then what do you propose?” asked his lordship, as though his own
suggestion had exhausted all the possibilities of action.

“I propose that you open the door, invite me in, and give me ten minutes
of your valuable time.”

The smile on his lordship’s countenance visibly increased.

“That’s not a bad idea,” he said, with the air of one listening to
unexpected originality. “Won’t you come in, Mr. Mackeller?” and with
his latchkey he opened the door, politely motioning the other to precede
him.

Young Mackeller was ushered into a small room to the left of the hall.
It was most severely plain, paneled somberly in old oak, lit by one
window, and furnished with several heavy leather-covered chairs. In the
center stood a small table, carrying a huge bottle of ink, like a great
dab of black metal which had been flung while soft on its surface,
and now, hardened, sat broad and squat as if it were part of the table
itself. On a mat lay several pens, and at one end of the table stood a
rack such as holds paper and envelopes, but in this case of most minute
proportions, displaying three tiers, one above the other, of what
appeared to be visiting cards; twelve minute compact packs all in all,
four in each row.

“This,” said Lord Stranleigh, with almost an air of geniality, “is my
business office.”

The visitor looked around him. There were no desks; no pillars of
drawers; no japanned-metal boxes that held documents; no cupboards; no
books; no pictures.

“Pray be seated, Mr. Mackeller,” and when the young man had accepted the
invitation, Lord Stranleigh drew up opposite to him at the small table
with the packets of cards close to his right hand.

“And now, if you will oblige me with Jack’s letter, I will glance over
it, though he rarely writes anything worth reading.”

Mackeller handed him the letter in an open envelope. His lordship
slowly withdrew the document, adjusted an eyeglass, and read it; then he
returned it to the envelope, and passed it back to its owner.

“Would it be too much if I asked you to replace it in your pocket, as
there is no waste-paper basket in this room?”

Mackeller acted as requested, but the frown on his broad brow deepened.
This butterfly seemed to annoy him with his imperturbable manner, and
his trifling, finicky, childish insincerity. Confronted with a real man,
Mackeller felt he might succeed, but he had already begun to fear that
this bit of mental thistle-down would evade him, so instead of going on
with his recital, he sat there glowering at Lord Stranleigh, who proved
even more of a nonentity than the Honorable John Hazel had led him to
believe. He had been prepared to meet some measure of irresponsible
inanity, but not quite so much as this. It was Lord Stranleigh himself
who broke the silence.

“What do you want?” he asked, almost as if some of his opponent’s
churlishness had hypnotically permeated into his own being.

“Money,” snapped the other shortly.

“Ah, they all do,” sighed his lordship, once more a picture of indolent
nonchalance.

He selected from the rack beside him four cards, one from each of the
little packs in the lower range. These he spread face upward on the
table before him.

“I never trouble about money,” said his lordship, smiling.

“You probably don’t need to, with thirty thousand a year,” suggested
Mackeller.

“Ah, that’s exaggerated,” explained his lordship. “You forget the
beastly income tax. Still, I was not referring to the amount; I merely
wished to explain my methods of dealing with it. Here are the names and
addresses of four eminent solicitor persons in the city. There is little
use of my keeping four dogs and barking myself, is there? I’ve really
twelve dogs altogether, as represented in this cardcase, but one or
other of these four will doubtless suit our purpose. Now, this firm of
solicitors attends to one form of charity.”

“I don’t want charity,” growled Mackeller.

“Quite so. I am merely explaining. This firm attends to all the
charities that are recognized in our set; the hospitals, the--well
whatever they happen to be. When applied to personally in these matters,
I write my name on the card of these solicitors, and forward it.
Application is then made to them. They look into the matter, and save
me the fatigue of investigation. The next firm”--holding up a second
card--“deals with charities that are our of our purview; halfdays at
the seaside, and that sort of thing. Now I come to business. This
firm”--showing the third card--“looks after permanent investments,
while this”--lifting the fourth--“takes charge of anything which is
speculative in its nature. The applicant receives the particular card
which pertains to his particular line of desire. He calls upon the
estimable firm of solicitors, and either convinces them, or fails:
gets his money, or doesn’t. So you see, my affairs are competently
transacted, and I avoid the emotional strain of listening to
explanations which probably I have not the mental grasp of business to
understand. Now, which of these four cards may I have the pleasure of
autographing for you?”

“Not one of them, my lord,” replied Mackeller. “The Honorable John Hazel
said that if you would listen to me, he thought I might interest you.”

“Oh, impossible,” drawled his lordship, sitting back languidly in his
chair.

“Yes, he said it would be a hard task, but I am accustomed to
difficulties. I asked you, as we came in, to give me ten minutes. Will
you do it?”

“Why,” protested his lordship, “we have already spent ten minutes at
least.”

“Yes, fooling with cards.”

“Ah, I’m more accustomed to handling cards than listening to a financial
conversation; not these kind of cards, either.”

“Will you, for the sake of John Hazel, who tells me he is a friend of
yours, give me ten minutes more of your time?”

“What has Jack Hazel to do with this? Are you going to share with him?
Is he setting you on to me for loot, and then do you retire into a dark
corner, and divide? Jack Hazel’s always short of money.”

“No, we don’t divide, my lord. Mr. Hazel has been speculating in the
city, and he stands to win a bit if I can pull off what I’m trying to
do. So, if you agree to my proposal, he will prove a winner, so will I,
so will you, for you will share in the profits.”

“Oh, but I don’t need the money.”

“Well, we do.”

“So I understand. Why doesn’t Jack confine himself to the comparative
honesty of the dice? What does he want to muddle about in the city for?”

“I suppose because he hasn’t got thirty thousand a year.”

“Very likely; very likely. Yes, that strikes me as a sufficient
explanation. All right, Mr. Mac-keller, take your ten minutes, and try
to make your statement as simple as possible. I hope statistics do not
come into it. I’ve no head for figures.”

“My father,” began the young man, with blunt directness, “is a
stockbroker in the city. The firm is Mackeller and Son. I am the son.”

“You don’t look to me like a stockbroker. That is, what I’ve always
expected such a person to be: I’ve never met one.”

“No, I’m in reality a mining engineer.”

“But, my dear sir, you have just said you were a stockbroker.”

“I said my father was.”

“You said Mackeller and Son, and that you were the son.”

“Yes, I am a partner in the firm, but, nevertheless, a mining engineer.”

“Do stockbrokers make mining engineers of their sons?”

“One of them did. My father is a rigidly honest man, and preferred me to
be an engineer.” His lordship’s eyebrows again elevated themselves.

“An honest man and a stockbroker? Ah, you _do_ interest me, in spite of
my pessimism.”

“The great difficulty,” went on Mackeller, unheeding, “is to obtain an
honest estimate of the real value of any distant mining property which
is offered for sale in London. There has never been a mining swindle
floated on the public which has not had engineer’s reports by men of
high standing, showing it to possess a value which after events proved
quite unreliable. So my father made me a mining engineer, and before he
touches any property of this nature, or advises his clients to invest,
he compels the promoters to send me out to the mine, and investigate.”

“I see,” said his lordship, with almost a glimmer of comprehension in
his eyes. “Rather a shrewd old man, I take it. He protects himself and
his customers, provides a good livelihood for you, his son, and that at
the expense of the promoters. Excellent. Go on.”

For the first time young Peter Mackeller smiled. “Yes,” he said, “my
father is very shrewd. He comes from the North, but for once he has got
nipped, and the next few hours will decide whether the accumulations of
a lifetime are swept away or not. Indeed,” he continued, glancing at his
watch, “that will be decided within eight minutes, depending on whether
I interest you or not.”

“Continue,” commanded his lordship.

“Early in the year a property called the Red Shallows, situated in
West Africa, was brought to him by a syndicate of seven men, able, but
somewhat unscrupulous financiers. Their story appeared incredible on
its face, for it was no less than that the gold was on the surface, in
estimated value a thousand times the amount for which they wished the
company formed. They wished my father to underwrite the company for a
hundred thousand pounds, and they stipulated that the shares should
be sold, not by public subscription, but taken up privately among my
father’s clients. Afterwards, when the value of the property was fully
proved, there would be an immense flotation running into millions, and
the profit of this my father was to share.”

“Pardon my interruption,” said his lordship.

“If what these men stated was true, why didn’t they send some one with
a basket, and gather the gold they needed, without going to any
stockbroker and sharing with him.”

“That, my lord, is practically what my father thought, although, of
course, he did not believe a word of their story. Still, he understood
that these men were not mine magnates in the proper sense of the word;
they were merely financiers, speculators, who did not wish to wait for
the full development of their property, but simply intended, so they
said, to go as far as was necessary to convince the public that this was
an even bigger thing than the wealthiest mine of the Rand, and so loot
their gold, not from the bosom of the earth, but from the pockets of the
British public; but, as I have said, he did not believe a word of their
story. However, he made the usual proviso that they should send me out
there, and the seven men instantly placed in his hands the necessary
amount for my expenses, and I sailed away.”

“Why should sane financiers spend good money when they knew they would
be found out if they were not telling the truth?”

“Well, my lord, that thought occurred to both my father and myself. I
reasoned it out in this way. These seven men had acquired the goldfields
from a party of explorers, or from a single explorer, who had discovered
it. They probably paid very little money to the discoverer, perhaps not
buying it outright, but merely securing an option. Whoever had parted
with his rights had evidently succeeded in convincing the syndicate that
he spoke the truth. Whether the syndicate hadn’t sufficient capital
to develop the property, or preferred to risk other people’s cash in
opening the mine, I do not know, but they evidently thought it worth
while to spend some of their own money and send me out there, that they
might receive an independent and presumably honest opinion on its value.
Be that as it may, there was no exposure forthcoming. The property
proved even richer than they had stated. It so seldom happens in the
city that anything offered for sale greatly exceeds in value the
price asked for it, that the members of the syndicate were themselves
surprised when they read my report. It had been arranged, and the
document signed before I left England, that my father should get
for them not less than fifty thousand pounds nor more than a hundred
thousand, for working capital to send out an expedition, buy machinery,
and so forth. Now, however, the syndicate proposed that the company
should be formed for something like a million pounds. My father pointed
out to them the impossibility of getting this sum, for the property was
in a locality not hitherto known as a gold-bearing region. Then again,
my own standing as a mining engineer carried no particular weight.
Although my father believed implicitly in my reports, I was so lacking
in celebrity in my profession, it would be folly to attempt to raise any
considerable sum on my unsupported word, and rather unsafe to make this
discovery public by sending out more eminent engineers. Besides, as I
have said, the papers were all signed and stamped, and my father, having
a good deal of northern stubbornness in his nature, insisted on the
project being carried out as originally projected, so the syndicate was
compelled to postpone its onslaught upon the purse of the public.

“My father’s compensation was to be a large allotment of paid-up shares
in the company, but in addition to this, so great was his faith in
my report he himself subscribed, and paid for stock to an extent that
rather narrowed his resources. However, his bank agreed, the manager
knowing him well, to advance money on his Red Shallows as soon as they
had received a quotation on the Stock Exchange.

“The flotation was carried out successfully, my father’s friends
subscribing largely on his mere word that Red Shallows was a good
thing. Only fifty thousand pounds’ worth of shares were sold, that
being considered enough to purchase the machinery, and send out men in a
chartered steamer, with materials for the erection of whatever buildings
and appliances as were supposed to be necessary. The rest of the stock
was held by the syndicate, with the exception of the amount allotted
to my father as compensation for his work. I was to have been appointed
engineer of the mine, and had gone to Southampton to charter a suitable
steamer, when suddenly an attack was opened upon the new company.
Several of the financial papers led this attack, saying that the public
had been grossly misled; that there was no gold or other minerals within
hundreds of miles of the spot, and that all who had invested in the
venture would lose their money. Immediately after this the syndicate
dumped its shares on the market, and their price went down with a run.”

“Wait a moment,” interrupted his lordship. “I think I have given you
more than the promised ten minutes, but I believe I have been able to
follow you up to the present point. Now, I should like to ask a question
or two. Didn’t the seven men know that throwing their shares on the
market would lower the price?”

“Oh, they knew it perfectly well.”

“Then why should they wish to disparage their own property?”

“To freeze out my father and his friends.”

“How could they do that if your father and his friends refused to sell?”

“As a matter of fact many of my father’s friends have sold. They became
frightened, and preferred to lose part rather than the whole. You see,
my father had placed every security he possessed into the bank, but with
the persistent pounding down of the stock it’s going lower and lower
every day; in fact, it is unsalable at the present moment. The bank has
called upon him to put in further securities, or cash, otherwise it will
sell all his possessions for what they will bring.”

“But in ruining your father, does not this syndicate ruin itself?”

“No. The financiers have held their annual meeting, appointed a
president, board of directors, and all that, and this board is securely
in office for a year. As soon as my father and his friends are wiped out
the syndicate will quietly buy back the stock at a much lower price than
that at which they sold it, and even in crushing my father they will
have made a pot of money for themselves.”

“Killing two birds with one stone, eh? Isn’t there such a thing as
gratitude in the City at all?”

“I fear, my lord, there isn’t very much of it.”

“What amount of money do you need to protect your father’s stock?”

“I think five thousand pounds would do.”

“I don’t pretend to know much about business, Mr. Mackeller, but it
seems to me that would merely be the thin end of the wedge. Suppose they
keep on, and lower the price of stock still further? Should not I need
to put a second five thousand pounds into your hands to protect the
first?”

“That is true, Lord Stranleigh, but I don’t see how the shares can go
much lower than they are. They closed yesterday at two and nine per
one-pound share. But in any case the bank will stand by my father if
it can. The manager believes in him, although this official, of course,
must look after his own employers, but the very fact that my father can
put in five thousand pounds this morning will do much to maintain his
credit with the manager, and within a very few days we will have time
to turn round. I have already seen one or two financiers, and told them
what the property is, but they are city-wise, and shake their heads at
what they regard as an attempt to unload upon them. So I went to Mr.
Hazel, and asked him for an introduction to some one who was rich, and
who knew nothing of the ways of the city.”

For the first time during the interview, his lordship leaned back and
laughed a little.

“You are playing on my ignorance, then?”

“No, I thought perhaps I could get you to believe me.”

His lordship did not say whether he believed him or not, but he pressed
a button underneath the desk, and there entered to him a solemn-faced
man, who stood like a statue, awaiting orders.

“Perkins, will you bring me four check books?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And, Perkins, tell Henri to be at the door with my red automobile
within six minutes.”

“Yes, my lord.”

The man departed, and returned a few moments later, placing on the desk
four very thin check books, finally retiring as noiselessly as he had
entered.

“An ordinary check book,” said his lordship to Mackeller, “does so
distort one’s coat when placed in an inside pocket, that I cause my
books to be made with only one check each inside. I shall now write you
out one for five thousand pounds, so that I shall not need to carry its
cover with me.”

With great leisureliness the young man wrote out a check, tore it from
its attachment, and handed it to Mackeller.

“I lend this to you, but I don’t think it will be of the slightest use,
you know.”

“I am quite positive it will protect my father’s stock, my lord, and as
I am sure that stock will be worth a hundred sovereigns on the pound, if
you will accept half my father’s holding for this check, I can promise
you this will be the biggest day’s work you’ve ever done.”

“Ah, that wouldn’t be saying very much. Of course, as I told you, I
don’t pretend to understand business, but where the weak point in your
defense lies seems to be in this. Your seven wise men have a year to
play about in. I think you said the president and board of directors had
been elected only the other day?”

“Yes, my lord, that is so.”

“Very well, don’t you see they have nearly twelve months during which
they can still further press down your stock. The bank will tire of
holding what they consider worthless securities, and unless your father
can get enough money to redeem all that he has placed in the bank, this
five thousand will not even prove a stop-gap.”

“I don’t agree with your lordship. You see, I shall now keep hammering
away on my side. I shall print my report, and post it to every big
financier in the city. I shall tell the whole sordid story of this
syndicate’s action.”

“People won’t believe you, Mackeller.”

“A great many will not, but several may, and these will say ‘The stock
is so cheap, we might as well take a flutter on a quantity of it.’ Then
the members of the syndicate are shrewd enough to know that they will
excite curiosity, and that some other engineer may be sent out to the
property. No, I am convinced that if they do not manage to ruin my
father before the end of next week, they will never risk what they now
know to be a valuable property by letting its shares lie round loose for
anyone to pick up.”

“Ah, you are optimistic, I see. That’s because you have been out in the
open so much, instead of haunting your father’s office.”

At this moment the arrival of the automobile was announced, and his
lordship rose slowly to his feet.

“I’m going to give you a lift as far as your father’s office, and I want
you to introduce him to me. I have been looking at this question merely
from the mining engineer’s standpoint. I should like to know what the
city point of view is, and that I shall get from your father, if he
is the honest man you say he is. So we will run down into the city
together. I suppose the sooner my check is in your bank the better.”

“Yes, the bank opens at ten, and it is past that hour now.”

“We have taken a little more than our ten minutes,” said his lordship,
beaming on his guest with that inane smile of his, as they stepped
together into the tonneau of a very large red automobile, which was soon
humming eastward.

Into the private room of the stockbroker, Mac-keller ushered Lord
Stranleigh of Wychwood, and there they found at his desk a rugged-faced,
white-haired, haggard-looking man, who glanced up at them with lowering
brows.

“I’ve got five thousand pounds,” said the son at once.

“Then run with it to the bank.”

“I will, as soon as I have introduced to you Lord Stranleigh of
Wychwood. Your lordship will excuse me, I am sure.”

“Oh, yes. I stipulated for your absence, you remember, because I do not
in the least rely upon your plan,” but the young man had departed before
his lordship’s sentence was finished.

The elder Mackeller looked intently at the newcomer. Being offered a
chair, his lordship sat down.

“Is it from you that my son got the money?”

“Yes.”

“If you did not believe in his plan, why did you give him the cash?”

“Well, Mr. Mackeller, that is just the question I have been asking
myself. I suppose I rather took to him, and in spite of my determination
not to, I became interested in the story he told me. I think your seven
syndicate men must be rather exceptional, are they not?”

“No. I am exceptional in allowing myself to be caught like a schoolboy.”

“I am quite unversed in the ways of the city, Mr. Mackeller, and I
should like to know the _modus operandi_ of a case like this. Are your
seven men personally selling their stock?”

“How do you mean personally? They don’t go on the market and trade, of
course.”

“Then they must employ some one else?”

“Oh, they are employing a score of brokers, all offering the shares with
no takers.”

“Do you know these brokers, Mr. Mackeller?”

“Every man jack of them.”

“Are they enemies of yours?”

“There is neither enmity nor friendship in the city, Lord Stranleigh.”

“Your most intimate acquaintance, then, would smash you up all in the
way of business?”

“Of course.”

“What a den of wild beasts you are!”

“Yes, I have long thought so, and, indeed, with this transaction I had
intended to withdraw from the business and settle on my farm. You see, I
did not bring up my son--he’s the only boy I have--to this business, but
unluckily I got nipped just at the moment I intended to stop, as is so
often the case. I expected that my holding in this mine would leave
me not only well off, but rich, for I have the utmost confidence in
my son’s report, and my certainty of a fortune caused me to relax my
natural caution at exactly the moment when I should have been most wide
awake.”

“Do you think the five thousand pounds will clear you?”

“I don’t know. There’s been a panic among those whom I induced to go in
with me on this deal, but if I say it myself, my reputation is good, and
I think if I can hold on for a week or two longer, the tide will turn.
All my life I have endeavored to conduct this business strictly on a
truth-telling plan, and that is bound to tell in my favor the moment the
panic ceases.”

“Do you mean, then, Mr. Mackeller, that the hammering of this mine has
caused a financial panic in the city?”

“Oh, no, no! When I refer to a panic, I mean only among those few that
have gone in with me; that believed me when I told them this was one of
the best things I ever had offered to me. The Red Shallows flotation
is too small an affair to cause even a flutter in the city, yet it
threatens to grind me to pieces.”

“There are, you say, twenty stockbrokers selling these shares, and you
know their names. Where do they offer the shares?”

“On the Stock Exchange, in their offices, in the street, anywhere.”

“Is there another twenty stockbrokers whom you could trust?”

“Yes.”

“Suppose at twelve o’clock to-day, exactly to the minute, your twenty
went to the offices of the other twenty, would they find in those
offices some one to sell them this stock?”

“Yes.”

“Even if the principal were absent?”

“Yes.”

“Before selling, would the syndicate score of stockbrokers communicate
with each other, or with their principals?”

“I don’t know. It would depend on their instructions.”

“Suppose they refused to sell when a _bona fide_ offer was made?”

“Then the stock would instantly rise, and your five thousand pounds
would not be needed. I see what you mean, Lord Stranleigh. You are going
to make what they call a bluff. But, you see, they’d instantly unload
the stock on you. They wouldn’t refuse to sell.”

“Ah, I was afraid they would. Very well, Mr. Mackeller, take this
commission from me, the first I have ever given in the city. I am more
accustomed to gambling in my club, or at Monte Carlo, so I must depend
on you to look after the details. Quietly but quickly select your twenty
men; give them _carte blanche_, but make it a sure proviso that they
each attack the stockbroker you direct them to, at exactly the same
moment. Let there be no intercommunication if possible, and tell
your twenty to buy everything in sight so far as the Red Shallows are
concerned.”

“But, my lord, that may take a fortune, and the sellers will insist on
immediate payment.”

“They will get it, Mr. Mackeller. I am naturally a plunger, and this
game fascinates me, because I don’t understand it.”

“I think you understand it a great deal better than you pretend, my
lord, but this may require half a million of money.”

“Very well. Get whatever papers ready that are necessary to protect
you. I’ll place the money at your disposal, and we ought to have all the
stock that’s for sale by ten minutes after twelve. Your son and I have
been doing business on a ten-minutes’ basis, but in this case we’ll
allow half an hour, and see what happens.”

The elder Mackeller looked sternly at this dapper young man of the
bandbox, so beautiful, so neat, so debonair, so well-groomed, and the
young man became so uncomfortable under the fierce scrutiny of those
hawklike eyes, that his own drooped modestly like those of a girl, and
with the thin, elegant glove which he held loosely in his right hand
Stranleigh flicked an invisible particle of dust from his trouser leg.

One need not be deeply versed in human nature to understand the
temptation which now assailed the gray-haired stockbroker. It was as if
a fawn-colored dove had made an appeal to a bald eagle that had swooped
down from its eyrie in the crags where its young lay starving. It was
as if a bleating lamb, all alone, were making courteous suggestions to
a hungry wolf. Here was reproduced the situation of which city men dream
when they enjoy a good night. Here, into the den of a stockbroker had
innocently walked a West-end clubman, a titled person, almost shamefully
rich, concealing beneath the culture of the colleges an arrogance and
an ignorance equally colossal. Here was a fowl to be plucked, and its
feathers were not only abundant but of the most costly eiderdown nature,
and here the astute Mackeller had the victim entirely to himself, with
none to protect or interfere. The aged stockbroker, wise in the ways
of the city, and yet but now entrapped by them, drew a long breath and
heaved a deep sigh ere he spoke.

“Lord Stranleigh,” he said at last, with severity, “it is my duty to
warn you that you are putting your foot into a quagmire which may be
so bottomless that it will overwhelm you. No man can say what this
syndicate has up its sleeve, and once you involve yourself, you may be
drawn in and stripped of all your possessions, great as I am told they
are. You have given a check for five thousand pounds to my boy, and you
say it is because you believed in him. That expression touches my flinty
heart. I believe in him, and this belief is about everything of value
I retain in the world to-day. Now, if you wish to protect that five
thousand, do it by giving him another five, or another. My boy is all
I’ve got left. I’m fighting for him more than for myself. Now here
are you, about his own age, yet completely inexperienced in financial
trickery, so I cannot allow you to walk blindly into this financial
turmoil.”

The young man looked up at the speaker, and his smile was singularly
winning. The usual vacant expression of his countenance had given place
to pleasurable animation.

“But you are experienced, Mr. Mackeller?”

“Yes, and see where my experience has landed me. I’m up to the neck,
yes, to the very lips, in this foul quagmire; a bankrupt at a word from
my banker.”

“Are you a college man, Mr. Mackeller?”

“No.”

“Perhaps you have little faith in a college training?”

“I have none at all for a practical man. It is the worst training in the
world for a person who is to be engaged in business.”

“In that case, Mr. Mackeller, I hesitate to cite a historical instance
which occurred to my mind when your son was talking to me of your
syndicate of seven. As the incident is six hundred years old, it is
unlikely to impress a modern city man. Nevertheless, there was once upon
this earth a syndicate of seven much more powerful and important than
your johnnies. The chief of this syndicate was Jaques de Molay, Grand
Master of the Templars, and the other six were his powerful, pious
officers. They were arrogant people, and their wealth was enormous.
Kings and noblemen had deposited their treasures with the Templars, the
bankers of that time, and the Order was so rich it had become a menace
to the world. Why, your seven nonentities, with which you try to
frighten me, are mere helpless puppets compared with those seven giants
of finance, and besides money this notable seven had an armed force
of veterans at their back before whom even a king with his army might
tremble. But Philippe le Bel, King of France, did not tremble. He worked
in on the seven the twelve-o’clock rule that I am recommending to
you. At high noon, on the 13th October, 1307 (please note the fatal
conjunction of the two thirteens) every Templar in France was arrested.
He gave them no chance of communicating with each other. The army of the
Templars lay helpless and officerless. The wealth of the Templars was at
the mercy of the king. The syndicated seven were burned at the stake in
Paris.

“I imagine that your son thought my attention wandered two or three
times during his narrative. I saw him set his jaw as one who says
‘I will interest this man in spite of his brainlessness.’ But I was
thinking of the magnificent simultaneousness of the king’s action, and
I have no doubt the Mackeller of his day warned him of his danger in
meddling with the Templars. An unholy desire filled me to try this
six-century-old method, the king’s move, as we would say at chess, on
our modern and alert city. I have some loose cash in the bank, and don’t
need to sell any securities. For the last ten years my income has been
thirty thousand pounds annually, and very seldom have I spent more than
five thousand of that sum in one twelvemonth. My automobile is at your
door, and at your disposal. You and I will drive first to my bankers,
and arrange that there will be no hitch so far as cash is concerned;
then I shall take a cab to my club. Telephone number, 15760 Mayfair.
Just note that down, please. Now what are the shares of Red Shallows
selling for this morning?”

“They opened at two shillings and sevenpence on the pound share, but
have dropped several points since.”

“Ah, well, a few hundred thousand pounds will buy quite a quantity of
half-crown shares, and if we act simultaneously, as the king struck, we
will acquire everything in sight before the stuff has time to rise. Come
along, Mr. Mackeller, there’s not a moment to lose. If you organize
this sortie in silence and effectively, you will show the savage seven
there’s life in the old dog yet.”

At ten minutes after one that day a large red automobile drew up in
front of the Camperdown Club on Pall Mall, and Mackeller with his son
stepped out of it. Lord Stranleigh met them in the hall apparently cool
and unexcited, but he was coming away from the tape machine, which was
recording that Red Shallows were leaping up toward par. Lord Stranleigh
led his visitors in to the Strangers’ Room, which was empty, and closed
the door.

“Well, my lord,” said Mackeller, “those fools have sold some fifty
thousand shares more of stock than there is in existence.”

“It seems to me,” drawled his lordship, “although I know nothing of city
ways, that such overselling is injudicious.”

“Injudicious!” shouted young Mackeller, “why, you’ve got them like
that,” and he raised his huge fist into the air and clenched it with
a force resembling hydraulic pressure. “You can smash them. They can’t
deliver. They’ve not only lost the mine, but you can ruin them by
placing any price you please on the shares they’ve sold and cannot
produce.”

“That’s true,” corroborated old Mackeller, nodding his head, “and the
bank didn’t use your five-thousand-pound check after all.”

“Here it is,” said the young man, producing it.

“Ah, well,” said Lord Stranleigh, slipping the paper into his waistcoat
pocket. “Let us be thankful you two are just in time to join me at an
excellent meal. I’ve been expecting you, and I’ve ordered a French lunch
in honor of the late Philippe le Bel. He burned his syndicate of seven
at the stake, but we’ll merely burn our syndicate’s fingers.”



CHAPTER II--THE PREMATURE COMPROMISE

THE Camperdown Club in Pall Mall is famous for its cuisine, and young
Lord Stranleigh of Wychwood provided a lunch on the day of the great
coup that was notable even in the Camperdown. The elder Mackeller did
justice to the prime vintage which his lordship shared with him, but
young Mackeller proved to be a water drinker. After lunch they retired
to a small private smoking room, where they could review the situation
without being interrupted, and here coffee, liquors, cigars, and
cigarettes were set out, and the waiter retired.

“It would seem, then,” began his lordship, “that you and I, Mr.
Mackeller, are owners of a property situated somewhere along the west
coast of Africa, a dozen miles or so up a river whose name I do not
remember, and which I could not pronounce if I did.”

“The Paramakaboo,” interjected Mackeller, junior.

“Thanks,” drawled Lord Stranleigh. “The property is known as the Red
Shallows: I suppose because gold is red and the deposit is on the
surface.”

The two Mackellers nodded.

“I hope I am not unduly confident when I take it for granted that there
are no ’buses running to Para-what-you-call-it, nor steam launches
either?”

“No,” said Peter Mackeller, “it is several hundred miles from the
nearest port of call by any of the regular liners, or even tramp
steamers. Once there, you must charter whatever kind of sailing craft is
available, for the mouth of the Paramakaboo.”

“I see. Now, I presume, Mr. Mackeller, that, being an adept at this sort
of thing, you have made your purchases of shares strictly according to
the rules of the game. No hole is left for this syndicate of seven to
crawl out, is there?”

“No,” said the elder Mackeller.

“They will probably try to wriggle away,” suggested Stranleigh, “as soon
as they learn they are trapped.”

“Undoubtedly,” replied Angus Mackeller, “but I see no way of escape
except through the court of bankruptcy, which is a road these men won’t
want to travel, and even if they did, they have lost all this property,
at any rate. They’ve done themselves out of Red Shallows, whatever
happens.”

“How many shares did you buy, Mr. Mackeller?”

“In round numbers, three hundred thousand.”

“And how much did that cost me?”

“Again in round numbers, thirty-seven thousand, five hundred pounds.
Some of the stock was bought as low as two-and-four, the bulk at half a
crown, and a quantity of shares at two-and-seven and two-and-eight. I’m
reckoning the lot to average half a crown a share.”

“How many shares does the company possess?”

“The authorized capital of the company is £250,000 in shares of one
pound each. Fifty thousand shares were sold to provide working capital,
and ten thousand allotted to me for forming the company, and securing
the fifty thousand pounds without publicity.”

“Well, Mr. Mackeller, my head is useless so far as figures are
concerned, but it seems to me, speaking heedlessly, that these men have
promised to deliver to me sixty thousand shares, the bulk of which does
not exist, while the rest is in our possession.”

“More than that, Lord Stranleigh,” replied Mackeller, “because I bought
a quantity of shares in addition to the ten thousand allotted me; then
three or four of my colleagues have not sold, including your friend, the
Honorable John Hazel.”

“Well, then, it would appear that these syndicate johnnies have bitten
off more than they can chew, as they say out West. How soon will they
discover the particulars of the situation?”

“They doubtless know it now, my lord.”

“And what will be their first move?”

“They will probably endeavor to compromise.”

“Which means they will try to see you, for of course they know nothing
of me in this transaction.”

“It is very likely they will approach me.”

“What will you do, Mr. Mackeller?”

“I shall await your instructions.”

“Oh, my instructions are of no value. I’m a mere amateur, you know,
whose dependence is on you. What is your advice, Mr. Mackeller?”

“I should compromise if I were you.”

“Yes, an Englishman dearly loves a compromise, doesn’t he? But if I
thought these fellows would put up a decent and interesting fight, I
should like to see them squirm.”

“That isn’t business, my lord.”

“Isn’t it? Well, what would the city call business in this instance?”

“Strip them of everything they possess, short of making them bankrupt.”

“Oh, that’s a beastly sort of compromise! That’s the city’s idea of fair
play, is it? Well, I’m blest! They’d surely fight if confronted with
such a prospect as that.”

“How can they fight? They’ve undertaken to turn over to you anywhere
from sixty to seventy thousand shares of Red Shallows, which they do not
possess, and cannot obtain. You’re the only man in the world from whom
they can buy this material which they have sold. There is no competition
in this deal. They must pay the price you ask. If you say these shares
you bought for two-and-sixpence are now worth ten pounds, they must pay
the difference, or go broke.”

“Well, Mr. Mackeller, that seems simple enough, doesn’t it? The only
information I need is how much money these fellows possess. How shall I
set about finding out?”

“Your bank could give you a pretty close estimate, and I’ll inquire at
mine.”

“Then that’s all settled. I’m cast for the hardhearted villain in the
piece, I suppose?”

“Yes, you may be hard-hearted or the reverse, just which you choose.”

“Will their women and children come and plead with me, on their knees,
with tears in their eyes?”

“I’ve known that done, my lord, but I’ve never heard that it has had any
effect in the city.”

“I think I’ll turn that job over to you, Mr. Mac-keller. You’ll be my
plea-receiver. I dislike having my emotions worked upon. They tell me
that a harrowing of the emotions causes wrinkles and sallowness, and
I’m particularly careful of my complexion. Both you and your son seem
to have neglected these simple precautions, for your complexions are
irretrievably ruined; yours through leading a hard-hearted life in the
city, and his by yachting on the river Paraboola.”

“Paramakaboo,” corrected young Mackeller.

“Thanks, so it is. How should we make the first move toward gathering in
those shares which do not exist?”

“I suggest,” replied the elder man, “that you should formally demand
that the president of the company and the board of directors turn over
to you all the papers and belongings of the company, also its balance
at the bank, also the resignations of the president and each of the
directors. Give them legal notice that no check is to be drawn upon the
bank account.”

“How much money do you suppose is left in the bank?”

The younger man answered.

“They have chartered the tramp steamer Rajah, which now lies at
Southampton. I was in charge of its fitting out. A few thousand pounds
have been spent in surface-mining machinery, in provisions, and in
corrugated iron for the building of shelters for the engineering staff
and workmen. It was not the intention at first to erect a smelting
furnace at the mine, but to load the ship with ore, and send her back
to England. I returned to London from Southampton, when my father
telegraphed to me about the crisis in the affairs of the company. I
had spent less than five thousand pounds, so there should be forty or
forty-five thousand pounds in the bank.”

“I suppose,” suggested his lordship, in a tone of supreme indifference,
“that they have probably drawn the whole amount out by this time, and
perhaps have divided it among the immaculate seven.”

“In that case,” replied the elder, “they will be forced to account for
every penny of it.”

The conference was here interrupted by a gentle knock at the door,
and one of the club servants, entering, presented a card to Lord
Stran-leigh, which bore the words, “Jacob Hahn; Hahn and Lewishon,
Solicitors, Frankfort Buildings, Bucklersbury.”

“I don’t know this man,” said his lordship, looking at the servant. “Are
you sure he asked for me?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Perhaps it’s you he wishes to see, Mr. Mac-keller. Do you know Jacob
Hahn, solicitor?”

“Oh, yes, Hahn and Lewishon. They are solicitors for the syndicate, and
also solicitors for your Red Shallows company.”

“Ah, quite so! Had I better see him, or shall I refer him to you at your
office?”

“As this is a private room, my lord, and as there are three of us
present, while he will be alone, I think it would do no harm to hear
what he has to say.”

“Very good. Bring him in.”

Jacob Hahn proved to be a big, genial-looking man, with a cast of
countenance that gave but a very slight hint of Hebraic origin. Despite
the air of confidence with which he advanced, he seemed to be somewhat
taken aback at seeing Mackeller and his son seated there. He nodded
to them with a smile of good fellowship, nevertheless, and said to the
elder man:

“Perhaps, Mr. Mackeller, you will introduce me to Lord Stranleigh of
Wychwood.”

“That is as his lordship says,” commented Mackeller grimly, but Lord
Stranleigh rose to his feet with a smile as engaging as that of the
solicitor.

“I think no introduction is necessary, Mr. Hahn, for I understand you
and your partner represent me, temporarily, at least, so far as the
Red Shallows property is concerned. Pray, take a chair, Mr. Hahn. May I
offer you some coffee, and what liquor do you prefer?”

“No liquor, if your lordship pleases. Thanks for the coffee.”

“Then help yourself, Mr. Hahn, to cigars and cigarettes, whichever you
prefer. You’ll find them not half bad.”

“Thank you.”

“How did you know I was interested in the gold mine, Mr. Hahn?”

“Ah, your lordship, it is our business to make these little discoveries.
I called at Mackeller’s office, but no one knew where he was. I
realized, however, that he had not been the financier of this rather
startling incursion, and it was not long before I learned the facts
of the matter. Oh, not at your office, Mr. Mackeller! There was no one
there but that most discreet old man who is even more difficult to
pump than you are yourself. I’ve tried it with both of you on various
occasions, so I am quite competent to make a comparison,” and with this,
the good-natured man laughed. “I then drove to your residence, my lord,
and finally to this club, on the chance of finding you.”

“Ah, you city chaps are so clever, Mr. Hahn, that it is easy for you to
catch us less alert people of the West End.”

The solicitor laughed heartily, as if he greatly admired Lord
Stranleigh’s remark. He was a very friendly person, and beamed upon the
young nobleman in a most ingratiating manner.

“I’m afraid it’s the other way about, my lord. I happen to know several
stockbrokers who within the past few hours have come to the conclusion
that the West End is up to snuff, as one might say. There are some
people in the city who have been caught, to repeat your own word.”

“Really? Have some of the stockbrokers been getting nipped? I always
understood they were a very sharp body of men.”

“They are generally supposed to be, my lord, but in the case we were
just speaking of, some of them tell me they have oversold; that is to
say, they have promised to deliver shares which are not at present in
their possession, a rather reckless thing to do.”

“Oh! then it was the stockbrokers who made that mistake, was it?”

“Yes, some of them exceeded their instructions. They knew that there
were in existence some two hundred and fifty thousand shares, and when
our shrewd friend here, Mr. Mackeller, approached them for five or ten
thousand, some of them imagining they could get practically as many more
as they desired--for the stock had been kicking about London for a week
with no takers, and, being temporarily blinded by the commission they
were to receive, and the fact that the purchase was a cash transaction,
which I imagine they had some doubt of Mr. Mackeller’s ability to make
good--they pressed upon him more shares than had been given them to
sell, and now they are in rather a panic. I think I am correct in
saying, Mr. Mackeller, that in several instances you were offered more
shares than you asked for?”

“I didn’t ask for shares at all,” gruffly responded Mackeller, “but
I learn from my brokers that in all instances they were offered more
shares than they required, but my instructions were definite enough,
which were to accept and pay for all the shares they could get. In
one or two cases, my brokers telephoned to me for instructions, and I
suppose that’s how the news got out that they were acting for me, and if
these brokers of yours thought they were pushing farther into a corner
a man already there, they can’t expect much sympathy from me when they
find themselves in the corner instead.”

“Ah, no one would be optimistic enough to expect sympathy from _you_,
Mr. Mackeller,” pursued the lawyer.

“Then they won’t be disappointed when they don’t get it,” curtly
commented Mackeller.

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Hahn,” interposed Stranleigh, “but am I to take
it you have come to see me on behalf of these unfortunate stockbrokers?”

“No, my lord. I represent Mr. Conrad Schwartzbrod and his colleagues.”

“Oh! and who is Mr. Schwartzbrod?”

Before the solicitor could reply, Mackeller said, with lowering brows:

“He is the head of the syndicate, the president of your company, and his
colleagues are the board of directors.”

“I see, I see. Then Mr. Schwartzbrod and his friends are not sufferers
by this little deal of mine?”

“Oh! bless you, no, Lord Stranleigh, except in so far as they have
parted with their property a little more cheaply than they had intended.
I believe Mr. Schwartzbrod considers that a fair price for the shares
would have been from three-and-six to four shillings.”

“I’m not very good at figures,” complained his lordship, with a slight
wrinkle in his forehead, “but if three-and-six is a fair price, then the
loss of the syndicate is merely a shilling a share, and as they sold me
three hundred thousand shares, that comes to--” He looked helplessly at
Mac-keller.

“Fifteen thousand pounds,” said Mackeller sharply.

“Ah, thanks. Fifteen thousand pounds. Well, that divided between seven
amounts to----”

Again he turned an appealing eye to the somber Mackeller, who replied
promptly:

“Two thousand one hundred and forty-two pounds, six shillings each.”

“I’m ever so much obliged, Mackeller. What a deuce of an advantage it
is to possess brains! I am told that east of the Danube people cannot
figure up simple little sums in their mind, and so this gives the Jews
a great advantage over them in commercial dealings, which adds to
the wealth of the Jew, but detracts from his popularity. I fear the
inability to count often begins west of Regent Street, and afflicts many
of us who are accustomed to paying the waiter at the club exactly what
he demands. But to return to our muttons, Mr. Hahn, I must congratulate
you on the fact that your clients, who I understand are rich and
estimable men, lose merely a couple of thousand each on a deal involving
some hundreds of thousands, although it occupied but a few minutes of
the time of forty stockbrokers acting simultaneously. I suppose as the
amount of their loss is so trifling, you have not come here to make any
appeal for clemency on behalf of the respectable Mr. Schwartzbrod and
his colleagues?”

“Oh, not at all, your lordship. No, Mr. Schwartzbrod is merely anxious
that the transfer should be made in such a way as to give you as little
trouble as possible.”

“I’m delighted to hear you say that, Mr. Hahn, because the sole purpose
of my life is to avoid trouble. I employ no less than twelve solicitors
to intercept whatever trouble comes to hand so that it doesn’t get past
them to me. I should be glad to take on another solicitor, but that
would make thirteen, which is a very unlucky number, Mr. Hahn. Mr.
Schwartzbrod and his partners, then, will put no difficulties in my
way?”

“Oh, none in the least, Lord Stranleigh. They have commissioned me to
convey their compliments and congratulations to your lordship on the
acquirement of what they consider a very valuable property.”

“Oh, not so valuable, Mr. Hahn. Only a shilling a share, you know.
Still, I believe that’s considered a reasonably profitable margin. I
don’t know exactly what per cent it runs to, but----”

“Forty per cent,” snapped Mackeller.

“Is it really? Well, I think I’m only getting four on a large portion of
my money. I must speak to my investment solicitor about this. If a mere
amateur like myself can make forty per cent in ten minutes, don’t you
think a solicitor should do better than content himself with four per
cent in a whole year?”

“Your investment solicitor probably takes no risk, Lord Stranleigh.”

“Ah, that will be it. I knew there was a flea on the wall somewhere,
but, you see, I’m not well versed in these things. But I interrupted
you, Mr. Hahn. You were going to say----”

“I was going to say, my lord, that there are two hundred and fifty
thousand shares in the company, all of which are now vested in yourself,
Mr. Mackeller, and probably one or two others. Of course the unfortunate
stockbrokers cannot produce the fifty thousand shares or more that are
not in existence, and I don’t suppose your lordship has any thought
of forcing these people into bankruptcy merely because of a little
overzealousness on their part. _Noblesse oblige_, you know.”

“Ah, quite so. _Noblesse oblige_. I thought the phrase hadn’t penetrated
yet into the city.” Again the solicitor laughed heartily.

“A fair hit. A fair hit, my lord. Well, as I was about to add, Mr.
Schwartzbrod and his friends are prepared to transfer to you instantly
this property if you desire this to be done.”

“Yes, I rather think that is my desire. You see, when a man buys a
thing, and pays the money for it, he usually expects it to be turned
over, don’t you know?”

“Quite so, my lord. I have brought with me the documents pertaining to
the transfer, all duly made out, signed and sealed, ready for delivery.
But it occurred to my principals that perhaps you did not care yourself
to develop the property, and perhaps your intention was to take what
you considered a fair profit on the transaction, and relinquish whatever
claim you possess on this land. You would thus make a clear gain, and
run no further risk.”

“Mining is a somewhat uncertain business, isn’t it, Mr. Hahn?”

“Personally, I have had no experience with it, my lord, but they tell me
that gold-mining is about the most hazardous occupation that a man can
adopt. If he is not a practical miner, he is swindled on all hands by
those to whom he intrusts the operations.”

“I’m afraid I am not a practical man, Mr. Hahn, and know as little about
gold-mining as you do.”

“In that ease, Lord Stranleigh, I think we should have no difficulty in
arriving at an understanding acceptable to both sides.”

“I should be delighted. What do your principals consider a fair profit?”

“That is a matter for mutual discussion, my lord. They propose to pay
you back the amount you have invested, and in addition to that hand over
to you, say fifteen or twenty thousand pounds. Or they would be willing
that you should retain a substantial holding in the venture if you wish
to profit by their experience, and that there should be a _pro rata_
deduction from the amount they are to hand over to you.”

“I see. Well, that is very good of them, but as I told Mr. Maekeller
to-day, I am by way of being a plunger. It is all or nothing with me,
and so, having in a manner of speaking been drawn into the vortex, I
think I’ll stay in and see what happens. That being the case, I think it
would be most unfair to make others share a risk over which they could
exercise no control. I dare say I am very stupid. My friend, Jack Hazel,
who knows city men and their ways, says that it is a practice there to
minimize risk by spreading it over a number of persons, but I shouldn’t
be happy, if my plans went wrong, to think that others were suffering
through my foolishness. I should feel toward them as Mr. Schwartzbrod
feels toward those unfortunate stockbrokers who exceeded his
instructions, a sentiment which does him great credit. So, if you don’t
mind, I think we will confine our attention to the simple transfer you
propose.”

“Very good, my lord. Whatever plan commends itself the more strongly to
your lordship will be cheerfully acquiesced in by my principals. Here,
then, are the papers which make over the gold fields to you, and if
you will just sign this formal receipt we may regard the transaction as
complete.”

“My dear Mr. Hahn, it is a pleasure to deal with a man of your courtesy
and comprehension.”

His lordship, with a bow, took up the papers the other had laid down on
the table, glanced at them, and passed them along to Angus Mackeller,
who scrutinized them with the eye of a hawk. His lordship then read very
slowly the document he had been asked to sign, and he took a long time
in his examination, during which period the keen eyes of the solicitor
could scarcely conceal their apprehension. At last his lordship laid it
down.

“I am somewhat at a disadvantage,” he said, “among legal instruments.
As I informed you, I am fortunate in possessing the services of a dozen
sharper men than myself who are good enough, for a consideration, to
advise me on these topics. But, alas! not one of them is present at this
moment.”

“Why, my lord, I don’t think you have any reason to complain. I’m here
alone, without any corroborative witness on my behalf, while there are
three of you sitting here.”

“Ah, now you speak, Mr. Hahn, as if we were contestants--combatants, as
one might say--instead of being a quartette of friends. There is no need
of witnesses where everything has gone on as smoothly as has been the
case since you entered this room. You represent men who are only too
anxious to do the right thing, and you meet, I hope, a man who is
desirous of effecting a compromise, and I think I may say the same for
my friend Mackeller. I am sure nothing would give Mackeller greater
pleasure than to treat Mr. Schwartzbrod in the same generous, equitable
way in which Mr. Schwartzbrod would treat him.” The solicitor leaned
back in his chair, while his smile became a sort of fixed grin.

“Precisely, precisely,” he murmured.

“Of course I don’t pretend to penetrate into all the intricacies of
this apparently simple little receipt, but it seems to me that in Mr.
Schwartzbrod’s generous desire to protect his stockbrokers, he is doing
so, doubtless unconsciously, at my expense.”

“At your expense, my lord?”

“Well, that’s the way it looks to me. These stockbrokers, poor devils,
must produce some sixty or seventy thousand shares on which they cannot
lay their hands, and this, as my ancient friend Euclid used to remark,
is impossible. Now, if I sign this receipt, it appears that I waive
all claim against these unfortunate, but nevertheless careless
stockbrokers.”

“I thought it was understood, my lord, that, as you obtained quiet
possession of the gold field, you were not inclined to push to the
wall--I think that is your own phrase--a number of men who, as things
are going in the city this year, have not been overburdened with
business. Indeed, the stagnation in financial circles, the high bank
rate, and all that, doubtless accounts for the eagerness with which
these men, regarding the honest commission they were earning, ventured
to overstep the bounds set for them, thus placing themselves, as one may
say, at your mercy. I somehow took it for granted that you had no animus
against this unlucky score.”

“Animus? Oh, no, bless my soul, not the least. Animus is an emotion I
confess I scarcely know the meaning of. I think all my friends will tell
you I am a most good-natured chap, who would rather forgive an injury
than remember it.”

“I am delighted to hear you say so, my lord, and admit that, for the
moment, I was slightly apprehensive.”

“Your apprehensions were quite groundless, Mr. Hahn; quite groundless,
I assure you. I shall not injure one of your stockbrokers, and when you
report my words to the kindly Mr. Schwartzbrod and his colleagues, I can
fancy with what relief they will hear your repetition of them.”

“Thank you, my lord, I shall have great pleasure in telling them what
you have said.”

“On the other hand, Mr. Hahn, justice is justice, as you yourself would
be the first to admit. I am entitled to what Mr. Schwartzbrod and his
coadjutors would call fair profit on these sixty or seventy thousand
shares they cannot produce. Now, although I am so ignorant of business
methods, I nevertheless believe that a principal is responsible for the
actions of his agents. My chauffeur was fined, down in Surrey the other
day, for exceeding the speed limit. I was not in the car, but here in
my club. Nevertheless, I was compelled to pay the fine and the costs,
because the chauffeur was in my employ. The syndicate of seven,
animated, as I believe, by a desire to crush Mr. Mackeller and possess
themselves, not only of all his stock, but of the shares of his friends
who paid a pound each for them, forgot during one critical ten minutes
that a buyer might happen along who had some money in his pockets. It is
due to the energy and the persuasive powers of this young engineer here,
formerly in their employ, that a purchaser materialized at the
crucial moment. I think it is a fact that if Mr. Schwartz-brod and his
distinguished company of pirates had not jauntily run up the black flag
with the skull and crossbones on it, they would not be today in the
place of jeopardy in which they stand. To continue my nautical simile,
they thought Mr. Mackeller here was an unprotected merchantman, and
proceeded to board and scuttle him, when over the horizon there appeared
the latest thing in turbine twenty-five-knot-an-hour cruisers, armed
with 4.7 guns, or whatever bally pieces of artillery such a cruiser
carries. Now, after presenting the good Mr. Schwartzbrod with my
compliments, tell him not to lose any sleep because of the unfortunate
stockbrokers, because I am going to attack him, not them. If, in the
scrimmage, any of the stockbrokers go under, I will set them up in
business again, but I shall not do so at my own expense. I shall simply
raise my price to the immaculate syndicate of seven.”

All geniality had departed from the solicitor’s face, leaving it hard as
granite.

“I think you are threatening us, Lord Stran-leigh,” he said.

“Oh, dear me, no. How can you put such a construction on my words? I am
merely making a suggestion. You will leave with me all those transfer
papers. You will ask Schwartzbrod and the six directors to send me
their resignations. You will warn them not to draw a penny from the bank
account of the company.”

“The bank account of the company is already overdrawn,” said the
solicitor; then apparently thinking he had spoken a little prematurely,
added hastily: “at least, so I understand. They have gone in largely for
materials necessary for the development of the property.”

“Oh, that is very interesting, Mr. Hahn. You don’t happen to know at
what time to-day the money was taken out?”

“I didn’t say it was taken out to-day. I don’t know when it was
withdrawn.”

“Of course not. Still, that is a trifle that really doesn’t matter,
and doubtless your principals will ask of me to allow them quietly to
replace it.”

“I cannot leave these transfer papers with you unless you sign that
receipt. You know enough of business to understand that, I suppose. A
man like myself, acting merely as agent, must have documentary proof
that he has fulfilled his duty. If I leave the papers with you, I must
bear away the signed receipt in lieu of them.”

“I’ll willingly sign a receipt, Mr. Hahn, simply acknowledging your
delivery of the papers.”

“My instructions were quite definite, my lord, and I dare not vary from
them.”

“Oh, I thought that Mr. Schwartzbrod had placed negotiations entirely in
your hands, and would do as you advised.”

“I shall, of course, give him my best advice, but I honestly could not
advise him to part with all his advantages in the situation, and receive
nothing in return.”

“His advantages? What are they?”

“Well, my lord, they are probably greater than you imagine. He and his
colleagues have been elected president and board of directors of the Red
Shallows company. They hold office for a year. You spoke just now of
the withdrawal of the money. It is quite within their legal right to not
only withdraw the money, but to issue debentures against the shares that
you hold. If you read the articles of association, you will see that
this is so. Although you hold all the shares of the company, you cannot
compel them to resign, and you cannot vote your stock until the next
annual meeting, which is nearly twelve months distant. During that time
the president and board of directors, who are clothed with large powers,
for I myself drew up the articles of association, and I know their
contents--these seven men may do practically what they please with your
property, unless we come to an amicable settlement.”

“Ah, who is threatening now, Mr. Hahn?”

“I am not, my lord. I am merely telling you, in the plainest possible
words at my command, just how the situation stands.”

“I thank you, Mr. Hahn, for the clarity of your explanation. I take it,
then, that you cannot leave these documents with me?”

“Not unless you will sign that receipt, my lord.”

“As I feel disinclined to do that, Mr. Hahn, and suffer no qualms of
conscience whatever regarding the unlucky stockbrokers, I hereby return
them to you, receipt and all. Now, you tell Mr. Schwartzbrod that the
price of Red Shallows shares is one hundred pounds each, and if there
are seventy thousand shares coming to me which your principles cannot
produce, their check for seven million pounds will do me quite as well.”

“My lord, you pretend ignorance in business affairs. I suppose you are
now trying to prove it. You cannot make the shares a hundred pounds
apiece, nor can you enforce such an exorbitant condition through any
court in the land. My principals would receive relief from any court of
equity.”

“It is not my intention, Mr. Hahn, to trouble the courts with the matter
at all. In fact, I refuse to accept cash from your principals. They
have sold me the shares, and I insist on the delivery of those shares.
I happen to be the only person in the world who owns the shares, and
my price for each share is a hundred pounds. Your principals will be
compelled to beg me to sell them the shares. As a matter of fact, I do
not intend to place any such figure upon them. I merely used a hundred
pounds as an illustration. Of course, if I put them at that price I
would break your principals, and no court in the kingdom could save
them. To be perfectly frank with you, for I do not possess the mental
qualification necessary to cope with business men of genius such as I
doubt not your principals are, I will now tell you what I intend to do.
I shall put the price of shares at exactly what your people sold them
to the public for, that is, one pound each. They cannot complain of my
doing what they have done themselves, now can they? It is true that
I bought these shares at two-and-six, but that also was not my fault.
They, by throwing their shares on the market, knocked down the price to
the figure I have named, and I bought the shares from the stockbrokers
of your principals. If you say their action was not done to embarrass
Mr. Mac-keller, then I at once accept your statement as true. For some
other reason they battered down the price from one pound to half a
crown. A few weeks ago they had sold fifty thousand of these shares for
one pound each, and because of their unexplained smashing of the market,
these good people lost a large portion of the money they had paid
out. Now surely, surely, being a just and equitable man, your Mr.
Schwartzbrod cannot refuse to drink the cup he has himself brewed. He
could not show even the court of equity that I was doing a usurious
thing in placing the stock back at the figure he himself originally
settled, in following the illustrious example of Mr. Schwartzbrod
himself. Now, I leave it to you, Mr. Hahn, as a fair and just man,
whose indignant expostulation at my figure of a hundred pounds was
most laudable, and entirely to your credit, are you not surprised at my
moderation?”

“I should hardly go so far as to say that, my lord. This stock cost you
thirty thousand pounds.”

“Oh, don’t underestimate, Mr. Hahn, it cost thirty-seven thousand five
hundred pounds.”

“Even in that case you are asking my principals to pay double. In other
words, you will have deprived them of their property, getting it not
only for nothing, but with a bonus of thirty odd thousand pounds in
cash. If that is not an act of piracy, as you said, what in the name of
Heaven is?”

His lordship shrugged his shoulders, and spread forth his hands. His
expression showed that he was grieved and disappointed.

“Then instead of thanking me----”

He sighed deeply and did not continue the sentence.

“As I have informed you, Lord Stranleigh, my principals are not liable
to you for those seventy thousand shares. You must seek your remedy
against the stockbrokers.”

“That is exactly what I shall not do.”

“Then you will be non-suited in the courts.”

“But, my dear sir, haven’t I been telling you I’m not going to the
courts? Like all respectable pirates, I abominate a court of law. It’s
such a waste of time, don’t you know. Not only shall I take no action
against the stockbrokers, but if your principals do not agree in writing
also to take no action against them the price of shares shall rise
suddenly. I am so much in sympathy with Mr. Schwartzbrod’s tender
feelings toward the stockbrokers that I intend to protect them, and I am
sure you will forgive me if I say that I very much doubt if any of the
stockbrokers exceeded their instructions, even though times are hard in
the city.”

“Then,” said Mr. Hahn, rising, and replacing the documents he brought
once more in his inside pocket, “that is your ultimatum, is it?”

“I beg you, Mr. Hahn, not to give to my poor and stammering remarks so
harsh a term. Ultimatum? Bless us all, no. I’m no President Kruger, but
merely a somewhat lackadaisical man who is innocent of many of the ways
of this wicked world. I hope you won’t represent me to the virtuous Mr.
Schwartzbrod as a hard, contentious fellow. Tell him that I’m the most
easy person in the world to deal with. Tell him the moment he sends
me his check for seventy thousand pounds--I hope it will be a little
less--Mr. Mac-keller here will figure out the exact amount, and run it
into shillings and pence, and even farthings if necessary--the moment
I get that check, the resignations, the guarantee that no harm will be
done to the simple-minded stockbrokers, the balance in the bank, and
some account of everything the company has done since it came into
existence until the time it fell into my hands, why, tell him he has no
greater admirer or well-wisher than myself.”

“I shall give him your message, my lord.”

“Do, but add to it that charming Biblical text, ‘Agree with thine
adversary quickly.’ I think there’s something about squaring up things
before the sun goes down, but I shan’t be so hasty as all that.
Stock will remain at a pound during tomorrow. Next day it will rise a
shilling, next day another shilling, the third day a third shilling.
It’s so very easy to keep count of; just make a red mark on your
calendar to-day, and if he allows two weeks to go past, why, there’s
fourteen shillings added to the twenty he would have had to pay before.”

The solicitor, who would have made an excellent actor, forced a laugh
that did not sound half bad.

“Ah, you are joking now, my lord.”

“I don’t think so, Mr. Hahn, although I do sometimes joke
unconsciously.”

“You will, I am sure, give us a week to think this matter over.”

“Oh, very well. Anything for the sake of peace and quietness, and
an amicable settlement. I should hate Mr. Schwartzbrod to think me
exacting. Now, don’t go away thinking I’m reluctant to make concessions,
and big ones. That’s seven shillings a share I am giving you, and on
seventy thousand shares--how much is that, Mr. Mackeller, you know I’ve
no head for figures?”

“Twenty-four thousand five hundred pounds.”

“Why, look at that, Mr. Hahn. Here are you, who refuse to leave me those
documents you carry, who have been thinking hard of me--there, don’t
deny it; I saw it by the expression of your countenance--here am
I giving to Mr. Schwartz-brod and the delectable six a present
of--of--of----”

“Twenty-four thousand five hundred pounds,” prompted Mackeller the
elder.

“Yes, twenty-four thousand five hundred pounds in hard cash, bestowing
it upon men I never saw, and up till to-day never even heard of. I don’t
want to boast of my virtues, Mr. Hahn, but I doubt if you could find any
man in the city who would so jauntily fling away twenty-four thousand
five hundred pounds. I got the amount correct that time, Mackeller. I’m
improving, you see.”

“Very good, my lord. Shall I communicate with you further at this club?”

“No. Hereafter our interviews must be on a hard business basis. The
generous nature of our ‘78 wine makes me a little open-handed. The next
interview will take place at Mr. Mackeller’s office in the city any time
that suits your convenience, and I should be glad to have twenty-four
hours’ notice, because I mustn’t devote my whole life to finance, don’t
you know, for I am rather fond of automobiling, and may be out of town.”

“Thank you. Good afternoon, my lord. Good afternoon, Mr. Mackeller.”

The solicitor departed, and Lord Stranleigh smiled at his two
companions, who had sat so long silent.

“Well, my young chap,” said the frowning Mackeller, drawing a deep
breath, “if you ever get to understand finance, God help the city!” His
lordship indulged in a laugh, then turned to Peter and said:

“I think you should resume your place at Southampton. You were seeing to
the loading of a ship--what did you call it?”

“The _Rajah_--the steamer _Rajah_.”

“Well, even if I am not president or board of directors, I ask you
to resume that occupation. You are still officially engineer for the
company, I take it?”

“Yes.”

“Very good. Say not a word to anybody, but go down to Southampton, and
proceed with getting the machinery and provisions into the steamer, just
as if nothing had happened. If you meet any opposition, telegraph me,
and I think I can overcome the obstruction.”

So Peter took himself off to Southampton, and met with no obstacle in
resuming his duties.

The syndicate consumed the full week, and made an appointment with Mr.
Mackeller and Lord Stranleigh on the last day before the shares
would begin to go up. This time Mr. Hahn did not appear, but Conrad
Schwartzbrod, unmistakably German and unmistakably Hebraic, came
cringing in. He spent hours trying to get improved terms, and indeed
Lord Stranleigh made him several important concessions. At last
he delivered over everything that was demanded, and got from Lord
Stranleigh a signed document giving Conrad Schwartzbrod full acquittance
of everything he had done up to date. This document was witnessed by
Mackeller, and, placing it safely in his pocketbook, the old financier
cringed out of the office with an evil leer that would have done credit
to the late Sir Henry Irving’s _Shy-lock_.

“I wouldn’t have conceded an inch to him,” said the stern Mackeller.

“Ah, well, what does it matter. If he’d treated a little longer I’d have
given him easier terms yet, so I’m glad he’s gone.”

A telegraph messenger entered the room with a dispatch for Mr.
Mackeller, who tore it open, read it, and swore. It was from his son.

“Do not settle with those scoundrels,” it ran. “Three days ago when I
was seeing to the storing of cargo in the Rajah, I was battened down in
the hold, and the steamer sailed. I was put ashore with the pilot, and
have just been landed at Plymouth.”

“By God!” cried Mackeller, bringing his fist down on the desk. “That
document you have signed and I have witnessed, gives him quittance for
this theft of the steamer. Now they are going to loot the surface gold
and recoup themselves. They have three days’ start of us, and it will
take a week to get a steamer and fit her out.”

His lordship’s countenance was serene, and he blew slowly some rings of
cigarette smoke up into the air.

“I can’t help admiring the courage of old Schwartzbrod,” he said. “Think
how fine he cut it! And yet it might disturb him to know I’m a friend of
the Honorable Mr. Parsons.”

“What has that to do with it?” growled Mackeller.

“Nothing, except that the speed of the _Rajah_ is seven knots an hour,
and my large yacht, _The Woman in White_, lying in Plymouth Harbor,
is fitted with Parsons’s latest turbines and can, at a pinch, steam
twenty-five knots an hour. Poor old Schwartzbrod! We’re going to have
some fun with him after all.”



CHAPTER III--THE MISSION OF “THE WOMAN IN WHITE”

THE breakfast room of Lord Stranleigh’s town house was a most cheerful
apartment, and the young man who entered sat down to a repast which was
at once abundant and choice. The appointments could scarcely have been
bettered; the spotless linen, the polished silver, the prismatic cut
glass, and the dainty porcelain, formed a pleasant table picture,
enhanced by the pile of luscious fruit, the little rolls of cool, golden
butter, the crisp white crescents, the brown toast, while the aroma of
celestial coffee from the silver urn over a small electric furnace was
enough to spur the longing of a sybarite. It is perhaps to be regretted
that truth compels record of the fact that the languid person who found
himself confronted by delicacies in season and out was healthily hungry,
for some of us grumble that to him that hath shall be given, which seems
unfair, and there appears to be a human satisfaction in the fact that
John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in the world, is compelled to
breakfast on a diluted glass of milk. But regrettable or no, Lord
Stranleigh of Wychwood was preparing to do full justice to the
excellence of the meal when his man said to him, in a hushed,
deferential whisper:

“Mr. Peter Mackeller has called, my lord, and insists on seeing you
immediately. He says it is a matter of the utmost importance.”

“Oh, dim!” ejaculated his lordship, “how these conscientious, earnest
people tire me. As if anything could be a matter of importance at this
hour except breakfast! Well, I suppose there is no escape: show him in.”

He heaved a deep sigh, and murmured to himself:

“This is what comes of meddling with the city.” The stalwart young
Mackeller entered, and his very presence seemed to put the refined room
to shame, his grim force causing his surroundings to appear _dilettante_
and needlessly expensive. He was even more than usually unkempt, as if
he had been sitting up all night in the hold of the tramp steamer which
had kidnapped him. A deep frown marked his brow, and heightened the
expression of rude strength that radiated from his determined face.

“Ah, Mackeller, good morning,” drawled his lordship, looking at the
young man over his shoulder. “I’m delighted to see you, and just in the
nick of time, too. Won’t you sit down and breakfast with me!”

“Thank you,” said Mackeller, in tones as hard as the other’s were
affected. “I breakfasted two hours and a half ago.”

“Did you really? Well, call it lunch, and draw up your chair.”

“No, I’ve not come to a banquet, but to a business conference.”

“I’m sorry for that. My head is not very clear on business matters at
any hour of the day, but in the morning I am particularly stupid. Do try
a peach; you’ll find them exceedingly good.”

“No, thanks.”

“Then have a cigarette?”

His lordship raised the heavy lid of a richly chased box of silver,
displaying a quantity of the paper tubes, and pushed this toward his
visitor.

“They are a blend that is made for me in Cairo, but perhaps you prefer
Virginians?”

“I have no choice in the matter,” said Mackeller, selecting a cigarette.

The butler snapped aglow an electric lighter, and held it convenient for
the young engineer’s use, who drew in his breath, and exhaled a whiff of
aromatic smoke.

“Do sit down, Mackeller!”

“Thanks, no; I’m in a hurry. Time is of great value just now.”

“Although I am very stupid in the morning, as I told you, nevertheless
the moment you came in I surmised you were in a hurry. For whom are you
working, Mr. Mackeller?”

“Working? What do you mean?”

“Who is your employer, or are you on your own, as the vulgar say?”

“Why, my lord, I understood I was in your employ.”

“In that case why don’t you sit down when I tell you to?” asked his
lordship with a slight laugh.

Peter Mackeller dropped into a chair with such suddenness that the laugh
of his chief became more pronounced.

“You see, Peter, my boy, it is a rule of the world that the man who pays
for the music calls the tune. You say it is to be a quick-step: I insist
upon a minuet. How do you like those cigarettes?”

“They are excellent, my lord.”

“Not half bad, I think. You don’t mind my going on with breakfast, and
I am sure you will excuse me if I fail to regard this table as a quick
lunch counter. I think our sturdiness as a nation depends very largely
on our slowness at meals.”

“Perhaps. Still, that slowness should not extend to every function of
life,” replied Peter severely.

“You think not? Well, perhaps you are right, although I must confess
that I do dislike to be hustled, as the saying is. My mind works slowly
when it condescends to work at all, and my body rather accommodates
itself to my mental condition. You appear to be under the impression
that my affairs at the moment need the spur rather than the curb. Am I
right in that conjecture?”

“Why, my lord, if ever there was a transaction where speed is the
essence of the contract, as the lawyers say, it is the present condition
of your gold property.”

“Why, I fail to see that, Mackeller. I buy a property for, say,
thirty-five thousand pounds. I receive a check for sixty-five thousand
from the estimable Mr. Schwartzbrod and his colleagues. I have therefore
acquired what you state is a valuable property for nothing, and there
is bestowed upon me a bonus of thirty thousand pounds in addition for
taking it over. Whether or not any gold exists on the west coast of
Africa, there certainly reposes thirty thousand golden sovereigns at my
disposal in the bank; sovereigns which yesterday I did not possess, so
I think I have concluded the deal very creditably for a sluggish-brained
person like myself, and after such a profitable bit of mental exertion
it seems to me I am entitled to a rest, but here you come, bristling
with energy, and say ‘Let’s hurry.’ In Heaven’s name, why? I’ve finished
the transaction.”

“Finished?” cried Mackeller. “Finished? Bless my soul, we’ve only just
begun. Do you understand that the tramp steamer _Rajah_, with some
hundred and fifty hired thieves aboard, is making as fast as steam can
push her through the waters, for your property, with intent to loot the
same? Do you comprehend that that steamer has been loaded by myself
with the most modern surface-mining machinery, with dynamite, with
provisions, with every facility for the speedy robbing of those gold
fields, and that you have given that pirate Schwartzbrod a document
acquitting him of all liability in the premises?”

“Yes, Peter, I suppose things are very much as you state them, but your
tone implies that somehow I am to blame in the matter. I assure you that
it is not my fault, but the fault of circumstances. Then why worry about
a thing I am not in the least responsible for? You are not censuring me,
I hope?”

“No, my lord, I have no right to censure you whatever happens.”

“Oh, don’t let any question of right suppress a just indignation,
Mackeller. If you think I’m guilty of negligence, pray give expression
to your feelings by the use of any combination of words that brings
relief. Don’t mind me. I really very much admire the use of terse
language, although I have been denied the gift of emphatic denunciation
myself.”

“Don’t you intend to do anything, my lord?”

“Yes, I intend to enjoy my breakfast, and really, if you knew how tasty
this coffee is, you would yield to my pleadings and indulge in at least
one cup.”

“Don’t you propose to prosecute that scoundrel Schwartzbrod?”

“Prosecute? Bless my soul, what for?”

“For the trick he played on you and my father. He got that exculpating
document from you under false pretenses.”

“Not at all, not at all. I made certain stipulations; he complied with
them. I then gave him the exculpating document, as you call it, and
there it ends. If I had been gifted with second sight, this vision would
have revealed to me that the clever Schwartzbrod had caused the _Rajah_
to sail with you a prisoner in her hold. But Schwartzbrod is not to
blame because I possess no clairvoyant power, now is he?”

“You will do nothing, then?”

“My dear boy, there’s nothing to do.”

“Don’t you intend to stop these pirates from mining your gold, and
getting it aboard the _Rajah?_”

“Certainly not: why should I?”

“Nor give information to the authorities?”

“Of course not. The authorities have more information now than they can
use.”

“Then you will not even tell the police?”

“The police are a land force: they cannot take a rowboat and chase the
_Rajah_, and if they could they wouldn’t catch her, so what’s the good
of asking impossibilities from either Scotland Yard or the Foreign
Office?”

“You have no intention, then, of interfering with this band of gold
robbers?”

“Oh, no.”

“You’re going to take it lying down?”

“No, sitting up,” and with that his lordship pushed back his chair,
threw his right leg over his left, selected a cigarette, and lit it.

“I should be glad, my lord, to head an expedition, fit up another ship,
follow the _Rajah_, and force those claim-jumpers to abandon their raid
on another man’s goods.”

“I don’t like force, Mackeller. I don’t mind possessing a giant’s
strength, but we must remember we should not use it like a giant.”

Lord Stranleigh, a picture of contentment, leaned back in his chair,
and blew rings of filmy cigarette smoke toward the ceiling. Peter
Mae-keller, the gloom on whose face had grown darker and darker, watched
the nonchalant young man opposite him with a curl of contempt on his
lip, yet he realized that if his lordship could not be forced to move,
he himself was helpless. At last he rose slowly to his feet, the first
tardy movement he had made since he entered the breakfast room.

“Very good, my lord. Then you have no further need of me, and I beg you
to accept my resignation.”

“I’m sorry,” drawled his lordship, “but before you quit my service, I
should like to receive one well thought-out opinion from you.”

“What is your problem, my lord?”

“It is this, Mackeller. I consider the after-breakfast cigarette the most
enticing smoke of the day. A man who has slept well, and breakfasted
adequately seems just in tune to enjoy to the utmost these enchanting
vaporous exhalations. I wish to know if you agree with me.”

“Oh, damnation!” cried Mackeller, bringing his huge fist down on the
table, and setting the breakfast things a-jingling, and with this
regrettable word and action, he strode toward the door. The butler was
there as if to open it for him, but his lordship made a slight turning
motion of his wrist, whereupon Ponderby instantly locked the door and
put the key in his pocket, standing there as silent and imperturbable
as if he had not just imprisoned a free-born British subject, which
he certainly had no legal right to do. The enraged captive fruitlessly
shook the door, then turned round, his face ablaze with anger. Neither
his lordship nor the butler moved a muscle.

“Mr. Mackeller,” drawled his lordship, “you have been conversing most
interestingly, I admit, on subjects that did not in the least concern
you. Now, perhaps, you will resume your duty.”

“My duty? What is my duty?” demanded the engineer.

“Why, I hoped it would not be necessary to remind you of it. I sent you
down to Southampton to look after my property; the _Rajah_, which I
had hired, and the machinery, provisions, etcetera, which I had bought.
Through your negligence, carelessness, laches, default, supineness,
inattention, or whatever other quality it pleases you to attribute the
circumstance, you allowed yourself to be hoodwinked like a schoolboy,
trapped like a rat, tied like a helpless sack on a pack horse for an
unstated number of miles, flung like a bundle into a pilot boat, and
landed like a haddock on the beach. A man to whom all this happened
must be well endowed with cheek to enter my house and berate me for
indolence. So cease standing there like a graven image with your back to
the door, and do not perambulate the room as you did a minute ago,
like a tiger in his cage at the Zoo, but sit down here once more, light
another cigarette, fling one leg over the other, and give me, slowly, so
that I can understand it, a formal report of your Southampton mission,
and the disaster which attended it. I shall be glad to receive and
consider any excuse you may offer for your own utter incompetence, and
you may begin by apologizing for dealing a deadly blow at my table,
which is quite innocent, and for offending my ears by the expletive that
preceded such action.”

Mackeller strode over to the chair again, and plumped down like the fall
of a sledge-hammer.

“You’re right. I apologize, and ask you to pardon my tongue-play and
fist-play.”

His lordship airily waved his hand.

“Granted,” he said. “I sometimes say ‘dim’ myself, if I may quote Sir W.
S. Gilbert. Go on.”

“When I went aboard the _Rajah_, neither the captain nor any of the
officers offered opposition to my resuming command of the loading. The
stuff was on the wharf, and in less than three days it was all aboard,
well stowed away. During this time I had seen nothing to rouse my
suspicion that anything underhand was to be attempted. I had informed
the captain that you were now the charterer of the steamer, and he
received the intelligence with apparent indifference, saying something
to the effect that it mattered nothing to him who his owners were so
long as his money was safe. The last material taken aboard was a large
quantity of canvas for making tents, and lucky for me it was that I
placed this at the foot of the ladder up from the hold. The workers
had all gone on deck, and I was taking a final look around, wondering
whether anything had been forgotten. I then mounted the ladder, and was
amazed to see old Schwartzbrod standing there, talking to a tall, dark
man who was, I afterwards learned, the leader of the expedition. This
man, without a word, planted his foot against my breast, and heaved me
backward down into the hold. Immediately afterwards I was battened down,
and in darkness. By the running about on the deck above me, I realized
that the steamer was getting ready to cast off, and within an hour I
heard the engines and screw at work.

“It was night, and we were thrashing seaward through the Channel when
the covering of the hatchway was lifted, and the man who had imprisoned
me came down the ladder alone, with a lantern in his hand, which struck
me as rather brave in the circumstances, but then he was armed, and I
was not, so after all I had little chance against him. He placed the
lantern on the bales of canvas upon which I had fallen, and began, with
seeming courtesy, by begging pardon for what he had done. Throughout he
spoke very quietly, and impressed me as a determined and capable person.
He said that if I gave him my word that I should speak to no one aboard,
or attempt to hail any passing craft, should such come near us, he would
allow me on deck, and would send me ashore when the pilot left the ship.

“‘And if I refuse to give my word?’ I asked. “’ In that case,’ he
replied, ‘I shall supply you with food and water, and will carry you to
the end of our voyage.’

“‘And where is that?’ I asked.

“‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I have nothing to do with the navigation of
the ship. I believe we are making for some port in South America, but I
couldn’t say for certain.’

“I realized that I could do nothing while in the hold, and although I
knew perfectly well they were making for the West African coast, and
not for South America, I would be equally helpless once I reached there.
Besides, it was of vital importance that I should telegraph to you and
my father. In fact, I was amazed that, having taken the risk of placing
me in confinement as they had done, they should allow me to get on
shore so soon, but I suppose the crafty old Schwartzbrod knew that if I
remained missing long, there would be an outcry in the newspapers, so
he reckoned it was safer to risk my being put ashore, as he estimated we
could not possibly fit out another steamer and start in pursuit under a
week at the very least, and with that start they could have the channel
of the river blocked, a fort or two erected, and so bid us defiance when
we did arrive.”

“But if they blocked the river,” interrupted his lordship, “they would
shut themselves in, as well as shut us out.”

“Not necessarily,” continued the engineer. “I have reason to believe
that before I reached Southampton, a number of floating mines were
stowed away in the front part of the ship. These mines could be planted
in the mouth of the river, and a chart kept, which, in the possession of
the captain, would enable him to thread the channel in safety, while a
navigator without this protection and guide would run a thousand chances
of finding his ship blown up.”

“Why,” said his lordship with admiration, “our seven syndicaters are
brave as the buccaneers of ancient times. They are certainly running
considerable risk of penal servitude for life?”

“I am not sure that they are, my lord,” replied Mackeller. “You see,
this property is situated in a native state. The concession was granted
by the chief of the ruling tribe in that district. British law does not
run in that locality, and I very much doubt if the steamer _Rajah_ will
ever again put into a British port. My notion is that they will load
her up with ore, and make for some point, probably in the Portuguese
possessions, where they will smelt the ore, sell the ingots, and in the
shape of hard cash which cannot be earmarked, the product of your
mine will reach the syndicate in London. Now, my lord, you spoke of
negligence, culpability, and all that. There is the story, and if you
can show me where I was negligent of your interests, all I can say is
that my error was not intentional.”

“Well, you see, Mackeller, you were acquainted with old Schwartzbrod,
and I wasn’t. I had not met him up to that time, and I knew nothing
personally of the syndicate, whereas you did. I think you should have
put some shrewd man on to watch the trains, and learn if any of these
men had come to Southampton, or perhaps you should have given us the
tip in London, and we could have had the immaculate seven shadowed. I
expected to meet legal chicanery, but not bold swashbuckling of this
sort.”

“Yes, it would have been better to set a watch, but although I knew
the men, nothing in their conduct led me to suspect a trick like this.
However, as I am no longer in your employ, you shall not suffer further
from my incompetence.”

“I think, Maekeller, you ought to give me a week’s notice, you know.”

“Very well. This day week I quit.”

“I am not sure but I am entitled to a month. How much should I have to
pay you if I dismissed you?”

“Six months’ salary, I believe, is the legal amount.”

“Well, then, why not give me half a year’s notice?”

“I suppose you are entitled to it, my lord.”

“Then that’s all right. Half a year from now we shake hands and bid
each other a tearful farewell. Much may happen in twenty-six weeks, you
know.”

“Not if you’re going to do nothing, Lord Stranleigh.”

“Maekeller, you may not be a thing of beauty, but you are a joy forever.
Still, there is one characteristic which I do not like about you.
Perhaps it is oversensitiveness on my part, but it sometimes seems to me
that you think I am lacking in energy. I hope, however, I am mistaken.”
 His lordship paused and gazed with quaint anxiety at his visitor,
who, however, made no response, whereupon his lordship sighed ever so
slightly, and put on the look of patient resignation which becomes a
misunderstood man.

“Silence gives consent, I think, and I may find it difficult to put your
mind right on this subject. Let me give you an illustration, chosen from
your own interesting profession of mining engineering. I am credibly
informed that if a hole is drilled in a piece of hard rock, and a
portion of dynamite inserted therein, the explosion which follows
generally rends the rock in twain.” Again he paused, and again there was
no reply. It was but too evident that the serious Mackeller considered
himself being trifled with. Unabashed, his lordship proceeded:

“That is energy, if you like. Shall we name it Mackellerite--this form
of energy? Now I shall tell you of a thing I have seen done on one of
my own estates. A number of holes were bored in a large bowlder, and
instead of dynamite, we drove in a number of wooden pins, and over those
pins we placidly poured clear, cold water. After a time the rock
gently parted. There was no dust, no smoke, no flame and fury and
nerve-shattering detonation, yet the swelling pins had done exactly the
same work that your stick of dynamite would have performed. Now, that
also was energy, of the Stranleighite variety. I suppose it would be
difficult to make the stick of dynamite understand the stick of wood,
and vice versa. By the way, have you seen your father since you returned
from Southampton!”

“Yes.”

“Did he tell you I possess a trim little oceangoing steam yacht at
present lying in a British harbor!”

“No, he did not.”

“But I thought I made him aware of what I intended to do!”

“Apparently he understood you no better than I do; at least he told me
he did not know what course you proposed to take.”

“I informed him that my yacht was fitted out with turbine engines, and
could reel off, at a pinch, twenty-five knots an hour. Now, how far away
is this bally gold property of yours!”

“About three thousand five hundred miles.”

“Very good. Toward this interesting spot the _Rajah_ is plodding along
at seven knots an hour, perhaps doing a little less, as her owners
guarantee that speed. How long will it take her to reach the
what-do-you-call-it river? There is no use of my attempting figures when
I have an uncivil engineer in my employ.”

“About twenty-one days,” replied Mackeller.

“Very well. If my yacht goes only twice that speed, which she can
accomplish in her sleep, we’d get there in half the time, wouldn’t we? I
think that mathematical calculation is correct?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Then we’d be Johnnie-on-the-spot in about eleven days, wouldn’t we?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“The _Rajah_ has now four days the start of us. Then don’t you see we
can spend six more days over our porridge in the morning, and still
reach our river before she does? Now don’t you begin to be ashamed of
yourself, Mackeller? Why rush me over my frugal meal when we have such
ample time to spare? I’d much rather spend the six days here in London
than up some malarious alligator-filled river on the west coast of
Africa.” Mackeller’s stern face brightened.

“Then you do intend to chase them, after all, my lord?”

“Chase them? Lord bless you, no. Why should I chase them? They are the
good Schwartzbrod’s hired men. He’s paying their wages. Chase them? Of
course not; but I’m going to pass them, and get up the river before they
do.”

Mackeller sprang to his feet, his face ablaze with enthusiasm, his right
fist nervously clenching and unclenching.

“Now, do sit down, Peter,” wailed his lordship. “Do not let us display
unnecessary energy. I’ve told you two or three times I don’t like it.”

Peter sat down.

“What I was trying to do when you went off prematurely was to show you
the folly of underestimating a fellow creature. You come storming in
here, practically accusing me of doing nothing, whereas I am doing
nothing because everything is done, and you, on the rampage, have
arrived from a total and grotesque failure.”

“I apologized for that already, my lord.”

“So you did, Peter. I had forgotten. A man shouldn’t be asked to pay
twice for the same horse and cart, should he? Ponderby,” he continued,
turning to his impassive butler, “would you be so good as to go into my
business office, and bring me my telegraph duplicate book.”

Then, turning to his visitor, he added:

“I am so methodical that I keep a copy of every telegram I send. I shall
ask you to look through this book with the critical eye of an engineer,
and you will learn that while you were raging up from Plymouth I
was ordering by telegraph to be sent to my yacht the more important
materials for the contest in which we may be involved. A man must make
some move to protect his own property, you know.”

“Why, my lord, that’s just what I’ve been saying all along, but you gave
me to understand you were going to do nothing.”

“I cannot account for such an idea arising in your mind. I think you
must have jumped at conclusions, Mackeller. Still, as long as I can
convince you that I am really a practical man, everything will be all
right between us.”

The butler placed before Lord Stranleigh the book containing copies of
the telegrams sent the day before, and his lordship handed it gracefully
to Mackeller.

“Nothing like documentary evidence,” he said, “to convince a stubborn
man. I think even you will admit that I have risen to the occasion.”
 Mackeller turned the leaves of the book, reading as he went along. His
eyebrows came lower and lower over his gloomy eyes, and a faint smile
moved the lips of his lordship as he sat there watching him. Finally, he
snapped the book shut, and put it down with a slap on the table.

“Twenty-four dozens of champagne; fifty dozens of claret, burgundy,
bock, Scotch whisky----”

“Oh, and Irish whisky, too,” interrupted his lordship eagerly. “I
haven’t forgotten anything, you know. You see, I have some Irish
blood in my veins, and I occasionally touch it up with a little of the
national brew.”

“I don’t think your blood needs any stimulation,” said Mackeller
dejectedly. “Here you have ordered tobacco by the hundredweight, pipes
by the score, cigars and cigarettes by the thousand. I suppose you think
there’s something funny in handing me these messages. Are you never in
earnest, my lord?”

“Never more so than at the present moment, Mackeller. I am disappointed
that you failed to detect genius in the commissariat.”

“Are you going to fight this band of ruffians, my lord, by popping
champagne corks at them, or smothering them in tobacco smoke?”

“I have told you once or twice, Mackeller, that I don’t intend fighting
any one at all, but if the band of ruffians should come to dine with me
aboard the yacht, I’d like the hospitality shown them to do me credit.”

“Very well, your lordship,” said Peter with resignation. “You have
reminded me that my time is not my own, but yours, so if it gives you
any pleasure to befool me, don’t allow consideration for my feelings to
retard you.”

“Ah, you got in a good left-hander on me there, Peter. That’s where
you score. Now, the proper time having elapsed after a meal when a man
should talk business, even if, like me, he does not understand it,
he can at least pretend to be wise, no matter how foolish, he is in
reality. What is the name of that river of yours again?”

“The Paramakaboo.”

“Thanks. Well, as I understood you, it reaches the sea by several
channels. Is our property on the main stream?”

“The streams are all about the same size, so far as I was able to
learn.”

“How far back from the coast are the mountains?”

“You can hardly call them mountains. They are reasonably high hills,
and I estimate the distance to be from twenty-five to thirty miles. Our
property is twelve miles up the river.”

“A steamer drawing the depth of the Rajah could get up there you think?”

“Oh, yes, and could lay alongside the rocks in front of the gold field
without needing a wharf of any sort.”

“If I took the yacht up another channel, would she be out of sight of
any one stationed on our property?”

“The delta is rather flat for a few miles back from the coast, but if
you go upstream for fifteen miles or so, there are plenty of hills that
would conceal even a line of battle-ship, but any one on your property
could see her sailing up the stream while she was in low-lying country.”

“That doesn’t matter. I intend to get there before our friends do, so
there will be no trouble on that score.”

“Don’t you intend to arm your yacht?”

“Oh, yes; I shall have on board a few sporting rifles, some shotguns,
and plenty of ammunition. Is there any game back in the mountains?”

“I don’t know. How many riflemen do you propose to take with you?”

“I was thinking of inviting some of my younger gamekeepers; perhaps half
a dozen.”

“But they can’t hold out against a hundred and fifty well-armed men, not
to mention the sailors belonging to the _Rajah_.”

“My dear fellow, why is your mind always running on fighting? This is no
Treasure Island cruise, with stockades, and one-legged John Silver, and
that sort of thing. We are not qualifying for literary immortality, not
being filibusters, but merely staid, respectable city persons going
to look over a property we have purchased. If we are discovered
and attacked, we will valorously fly, and as, at a pinch, I can get
twenty-five knots an hour out of the boat, I think with the current
of the stream in my favor we can reach the sea in case these misguided
persons become obstreperous. You forget that as a city man I am an
investor, not a speculator.”

“I don’t see how that course of action will save your gold from being
stolen.”

“Don’t you? Well, you’ll have an inkling by and by. Now, I wish you to
go back to Southampton. You negotiated for the charter of the _Rajah_, I
believe.”

“Yes.”

“Who are her owners?”

“Messrs. Sparling & Bilge.”

“Very well. I’ll give you a blank check and ask you to return to
Southampton. Discover, if you can, what is the reasonable value of the
_Rajah_, then go to Sparling & Bilge and purchase the steamer. See that
everything is done legally, and arrange the transfer to me.”

“Is there to be any limit in the price I am to pay, Lord Stranleigh?”

“Oh, yes, of course we must place a limit; say ten times the value of
the ship. Make as good a bargain as you can. Part of the arrangement
must be that Sparling & Bilge write a letter to the captain, telling him
that they have sold the boat, that it belongs to me, and that they have
transferred to me whatever contract they made with him, the officers and
the crew; that I will be responsible hereafter for the pay of the same.
Then find out what can be done toward changing the name of the steamer.
I wish to paint out the word _Rajah_ and substitute, out of compliment to
you, the name _Blue Peter_. Blue Peter means the flag of that color with
a white square which is run up to the masthead when the ship is about to
sail, and I doubt not the Blue Peter was flying over Peter Mackeller as
he lay in the hold. Please learn if we can change the name legally, and
if we cannot, why, we’ll see what can be done when the ship is in our
possession. I am not going to indulge in any amateur piracy, so I expect
you to look sharply after the legal points of the transfer. Get the
assistance of the best marine lawyer there is in Southampton. Do you
understand what I mean?”

“Yes, my lord, and I will carry out your instructions to the letter. I
think I see what you intend to do.”

“I am the most transparent of men, Mackeller. There’s no subtlety about
me, so you can gain little credit by fathoming my plans. We will suppose
that two days are required to put me in possession of the _Rajah_.
Return then to London, pack your trunk, bid good-by to all your friends,
and say nothing to them of what you have done, or what you intend to do,
what you guess, or what you know, not even to your father, whom I have
made president of the company, because I dislike unnecessary publicity,
and desire to keep my name in the shade of that modest obscurity which
has always enveloped it. Buy anything you think you may require for the
voyage, and ship your dunnage to Plymouth, addressed, care of the yacht,
_The Woman in White_. Then engage a berth in the sleeping car on the
9.50 Penzance express, Great Western Railway, first-class fare, and five
shillings extra for your stateroom, and don’t forget to charge it to me.
At the unholy hour of 6.49 in the morning, you will arrive at Redruth in
Cornwall, where you can indulge in an early breakfast, which you seem
to delight in. In the environs of that village you will find a little
property which is owned by me, and on that bit of land is an abandoned
copper mine with a smelting furnace. I think the smelting apparatus is
in reasonably good order, but I doubt if any of the other appurtenances
of the mine are of much value. Now, having gone into the mining
business, I intend to work this property for all it’s worth, and I
propose that you spend a day or two getting a suitable manager, rigging
up windlasses, and that sort of thing, so that we will see whether
there is more money in copper to-day than was the case when the mine
was abandoned, years and years ago. I suppose that modern processes may
enable us to extract more copper out of the ore than our fathers found
possible. Anyhow, my idea is to get the blast furnace in working order
once more, and by the time we return to England, we shall probably know
whether there is any brass, in another sense of the word, in the mine.
Do you think you comprehend that task as well as the buying of the----

“But why trouble with copper, Lord Stranleigh, when you have on your
hands the most prolific gold mine, as I believe it to be, in the world?”

“You said it was in the other fellow’s hands, Mackeller.”

“Don’t you intend to stop that crew in some way from lifting the ore?”

“Oh, no, I shall not interfere with them in the least.”

“Then what are you going to West Africa for?”

“For the voyage. For the scenery. For the chance of big game in the back
country. To drink some of that champagne I have ordered, and to smoke a
few of those cigarettes which I sent aboard. I shall read all the latest
books that I haven’t had time to peruse here in London. By the way, is
the neighborhood of our mine a healthy locality?”

“I should say it was rather feverish along the coast, but up toward the
hills I think it as healthy as Hampstead.”

“I shall induce a doctor friend of mine to come with us. I’m glad I
thought of that. If you indulge in your predilection for coercion,
giving free rein to your passion for fighting, a surgeon will be
necessary for amputations, the dressing of wounds, and generally useful
in attending to those exciting incidents that follow in the train of
a conqueror like yourself, who believes in brute force rather than in
alert brains.”

“Then I am to set this copper mine of yours in operation down in
Cornwall?”

“Exactly. And leave a competent manager to engage the men, renew the
machinery, and all that.”

“Is there to be any limit in the expenditure?”

“Limit? Of course there is to be a limit. Aren’t we always limiting
expenditure? Isn’t my life spent in putting a check on the outgoings?
Yes, you will instruct the new manager that this is merely a tentative
experiment of mine, and that he is not to purchase machinery wholesale,
nor engage many miners, but merely to test the capabilities of the
copper vein, and smelt as much of the ore as he can until you return.”

“Of course it’s no business of mine, my lord, but it strikes me that
this is an unnecessary and losing venture. The copper industry of
Cornwall has been steadily decreasing in value, and I doubt if there are
half as many copper mines in operation as there were ten years ago.”

“Oh, Peter, Peter, how little of the foresight of your saintly namesake
do you possess! Does not your imagination see the little harbor of
Portreath, which means the sandy cove? Of course it doesn’t, for you are
probably ignorant that such a port exists. Our smelter is situated near
this marine haven of rest. Stir up your fancy, my boy, and see in your
mind’s eye the steamer _Rajah_, loaded with ore, but renamed the _Blue
Peter_, floating majestically into Portreath. What more natural than
that the grasping Stranleigh should own another copper mine where there
is no smelter, and that this ship brings copper ore to our Cornwall
furnace? The _Blue Peter_ shall probably first put into Plymouth, where
she is less likely to be recognized by seafaring folk than would be the
case at Southampton. We will there discharge the crew, giving every man
double pay. We will compensate the captain and his officers, sending
everybody away happy. Then we will engage another captain and another
crew, who know nothing of where the steamer has come from, and thus we
sail round Land’s End, and put in to little Portreath.”

“You propose, then, to capture the _Rajah_ on the high seas, following
it with your much more speedy yacht?”

“Oh, no, not capture. I’m going to take possession, that’s all. The
_Rajah_ is mine as incontestably as the yacht is. The ore with which she
will be loaded is also mine. Everything shall be done as legally as if
we were transacting our affairs in the Temple or Gray’s Inn. Doesn’t
that put to shame your wild Scottish Highland ideas of fighting and
slaughter? You ought to wear kilts and a dirk, Mackeller, but my
instrument is a quill pen and nice red stamps embossed at Somerset
House.”

“And who will pay the men who are blasting out the ore on the banks of
the river Paramakaboo?”

“Why, really, Mackeller, that is no affair of mine. These industrious
people are employed by the saintly Schwartzbrod. If that astute
financier elects to engage a large body of labor to get out my ore for
me, then I think you will admit, Mackeller, much as you are prejudiced
against him, that he is really the philanthropic benefactor of his race
I have always said he was.”

“But--but--but,” stammered Mackeller, “when they discover how they have
been befooled, there will be a riot.”

“I don’t see that. When I discharge the captain and crew at Plymouth,
I shall have cut the live wire, if I may use an expression from your
absorbing profession. The connecting cable between those deluded miners
in West Africa and the amiable syndicate in London, will be severed. The
captain knows nothing, I take it, of Schwartzbrod. He was employed by
Sparling & Bilge. Going ashore at Plymouth, out of a job, he would
probably look for a ship in that port, and failing to find one, might
journey to his old employers at Southampton. But, although I discharge
the captain, I don’t intend to turn him adrift. I have already set
influences at work which will secure for him a better boat than the
_Rajah_, and the contented man will sail away from Plymouth, from
London, or from some northern port, as the case may be. It is not likely
that captain, officers, or crew know the nature of the ore they will be
carrying, but I don’t intend to leave the wire partially cut. I shall
provide places on various ships for officers and crew, and scatter them
over the face of the earth, casting my breadwinners on the waters, as
one may say, hoping they will not return for many days.”

“But when Schwartzbrod hears nothing of the _Rajah_ at whatever foreign
port he ordered her to sail, he will make inquiries of Sparling &
Bilge.”

“I very much doubt that.”

“Why?”

“Because he has chartered their ship, and must either produce the
steamer or renew the charter. That reminds me, for how long a period was
the _Rajah_ engaged?”

“For three months with option of renewal.”

“Good. Toward the end of that time old Schwartzbrod will write to
Sparling & Bilge extending the charter for another three months. He dare
not go to see these shipping men because he has mislaid their steamship,
and does not wish to answer embarrassing questions regarding her
whereabouts.”

“Yes, but Sparling & Bilge will merely reply that they have sold the
_Rajah_ to Lord Stran-leigh, and beg to refer Schwartzbrod to the new
owner.”

“Bravo, Peter. You are actually beginning to get an inkling of Mr.
Schwartzbrod’s dilemma. I had almost despaired of making this clear to
you.”

“Still, I don’t understand the object of cutting the live wire, as you
call it, if you leave another communicating wire intact. You take great
pains to prevent captain or any of the crew meeting Schwartzbrod, yet
you make it inevitable that Schwartzbrod will learn you are the owner of
the _Rajah_. Perhaps you wish me to pledge Sparling & Bilge to secrecy?”

“Oh, dear no. I anticipate great pleasure in meeting Mr. Schwartzbrod.
I picture him cringing and bowing and rubbing one hand over the other
as he pleads for a renewal of the charter, and crawls away from all my
inquiries regarding the whereabouts of the steamer. I will be back in
London by the time the syndicate begins to get uneasy about the _Rajah_,
and I shall renew the charter with the utmost cheerfulness, without
insisting on learning where the _Rajah_ is. But imagine the somewhat
delicate position of a man compelled to negotiate with me for the hire
of a boat to steal my own gold. The venerable Schwartzbrod will need to
keep a close guard on his tongue or he will give himself away. It is a
delicious dilemma. I hope you comprehend all the possibilities of the
situation, but be that as it may, get you off to Southampton, and when
you are done with the copper mine, report on board my yacht at Plymouth,
where you will find me waiting for you. Then for the blue sea and red
carnage if it is so written. Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest, yo, ho,
ho, and a bottle of champagne, and all that sort of thing, Peter.”



CHAPTER IV--THE MAGNET OF THE GOLD FIELD

THE young and energetic Mackeller completed his purchase of the steamer
_Rajah_ in something less than three hours, instead of taking the two
days which Lord Stranleigh had allowed him. It is very easy to buy
a ship in Southampton if you happen to have the money about you. An
excellent express on the South Western line whisked him up to London
again, and he spent the afternoon in securing what he needed for the
long voyage that was ahead of him, dispatching his purchases, as his
lordship had directed, to the care of the yacht at Plymouth. As his
acquaintance with Lord Stranleigh progressed, his first impression of
the lord of Wychwood became considerably modified. In spite of the
young nobleman’s airy, nonchalant manner in speaking of what the young
engineer regarded as serious subjects, Mackeller began slowly to realize
that there was thought and method behind all this persiflage which he
so much disliked, and he began to doubt his theory that Stranleigh’s
successful encounter with the syndicate had been merely a fluke, as, at
first, he had supposed. The plan his lordship so sketchily outlined, of
regaining his own property on the high seas, struck the practical mind
of Mackeller as probably feasible, but although all the legality would
be on his lordship’s side; although his opponents were engaged in
a gigantic scheme of barefaced robbery, nevertheless, Mackeller had
knocked about at the ends of the earth too much to be ignorant of the
fact that in certain quarters of the globe lawfulness of action was
but a minor point in the game. Indeed, the law-abiding citizen was at
a distinct disadvantage unless he held superior force at his command to
compel rather than to persuade. There is little use in arguing with a
man who holds a loaded revolver, so on one point Lord Stranleigh failed
to convince his subordinate. Mackeller thought it folly to proceed to
West Africa with a small body of men, and no more persuasive ammunition
than champagne and cigarettes. Therefore, in purchasing his own
equipment Mackeller took the precaution of buying a dozen of the latest
repeating rifles, with many thousand cartridges to fit the same, and
this battery he ordered forwarded to the yacht to supplement whatever
sporting guns Lord Stranleigh provided for the gamekeepers and foresters
whom he took with him. Mackeller believed that these would be stanch,
stubborn, capable young men, and although few in number, they might, if
well armed, put the rabble of a hundred and fifty to flight, should a
contest arise.

The dark man who kicked Mackeller downstairs into the hold, and who
afterwards interviewed him alone by lantern light, had impressed
Mackeller as being a capable leader of men, and he would probably drill
his following into some sort of shape during the long voyage to the
south. That the captain, officers, and crew, or any of the hundred
and fifty knew the piratical nature of the expedition, Mackeller very
strongly doubted, but the prompt manner in which the leader, with his
energetic foot, broke the law, and very nearly broke Mackeller’s neck,
convinced the engineer that the dark man was well aware of the criminal
nature of his proceeding, and undoubtedly, when once the force was
landed, he would be very much on the alert, expecting that as soon as
the flight of the steamer became known, instant arrangements would
be made for pursuit. He would doubtless send out scouts, and endeavor
roughly to understand the lay of the land on which he found himself.
It was morally certain, thought Mackeller, that one or other of those
scouts would ultimately come upon the yacht, no matter how securely
they hid her, and so soon as her presence came to the knowledge of the
strenuous leader of the filibusters, an attack on the yacht was certain,
and her capture or destruction most probable, unless they could escape
quickly to the open sea. So, as Mackeller knew there were no gun shops
along the Paramakaboo River, he took precaution to make provision
beforehand without saying anything to his peace-loving master. A man
whose daily walk is Piccadilly is scarcely in a position to predict what
may happen on the Paramakaboo.

At 9.50 that night Mackeller was in occupation of his most comfortable
little room in the sleeping car of the Penzance express, and an
excellent night’s rest followed his busy day. Seven o’clock next morning
found him at breakfast in Redruth, and so resolutely did he go about his
business that in two days he formed complete the organization which was
to operate the old copper mine. Then he took train for Plymouth, and
was rowed out in the evening to the white yacht at anchor in the
harbor, resting beautiful as a swan on the placid waters. Mackeller was
astonished to find her so great a boat. She was almost as large as the
_Rajah_, but of much more dainty shape, her fine lines giving promise of
great speed. Thin cables, extending from slanting mast to slanting mast,
he recognized as the outside paraphernalia for wireless telegraphy, and
although he saw from this that Lord Stranleigh treated himself to the
latest scientific inventions, he was quite unprepared for the quiet
luxury that everywhere met his eye once he was aboard of the yacht.

He found Lord Stranleigh aft, seated in a cane chair, his feet resting
on another. He had been reading the latest evening paper brought aboard,
and he laid this on his knee as he looked lazily up at his mining
engineer.

“Finished with copper, Mackeller?” he asked. “Yes, my lord.”

“I did not expect you before to-morrow night. I imagine, you gave your
disconcerting energy full play down in Cornwall.”

“I have been reasonably busy, my lord.”

“Would you mind pressing that electrical button? It is just out of my
reach.”

Mackeller did so, and a cabin boy immediately put in an appearance.

“Go forward, and ask Captain Wilkie if he will be good enough to allow
me a word with him.” Captain Wilkie proved to be a grizzled old sea-dog
of unmistakably Scotch extraction. He rolled aft, and saluted his owner.

“Everything ready, captain?”

“Everything ready, sir.”

“Very well; up anchor and away.”

The captain went forward and mounted the bridge.

“Draw up your chair, Peter, and let me have your verbal report, and as
you drop into the chair, drop also that appellation ‘my lord.’ If you
want to be extra respectful at any time, say ‘sir’ as the captain does,
and I’ll do the same by you, if you require it.”

Mackeller gave him a full account of his occupation during the last
three days, but whether Stranleigh was asleep or not throughout the
recital, he could not be sure. At any rate he did not interrupt, but
lay back in his chair with closed eyes. Then, without opening them, he
remarked:

“You have done very well, Mackeller, and as a reward I will give you the
choice of a spot in the Bay of Biscay or the Atlantic Ocean where you
may wish your case of rifles and ammunition heaved overboard.”

“Oh, have you been examining my dunnage, sir?” asked Mackeller.

“Dear me, no,” replied Stranleigh languidly. “Your fool of a gunsmith
did not understand your instructions, and not knowing where to find you,
and supposing you were acting for me, he telegraphed asking which of two
rifles named should be sent. Learning that twelve had been ordered, I
thought of telegraphing in the old phrase, ‘Six of one and half a dozen
of the other,’ but I finally took on a score altogether, ten of each
kind with ammunition to match.”

“Why purchase more guns than I did, if you’re going to drop them in the
Bay of Biscay.”

“Oh, they’ll make the bigger plump when they go down.”

“What harm will they do aboard, sir? If we don’t need them, we won’t
use them. If we do need them, then you’ll be sorry they’re in the Bay of
Biscay.”

“So you’re going to choose the Bay of Biscay, are you? I thought perhaps
you might toss them over farther along than that. I hope you understand,
Mackeller, I am on a mission of peace, and if, for any reason, the
yacht should be searched, your rifles and ammunition would be rather a
giveaway, wouldn’t they?”

“I don’t see that. You’ve got more than a score of men aboard here, and
the repeaters can be used for sporting purposes.”

“All right, Mackeller, don’t be alarmed. The boxes are stowed safely
away in the forrard hold, and we’ll not drop them overboard anywhere.
After all, you know the locality for which we are bound better than I
do, and so your rifles and ammunition may prove friends in need. I see
the boy hovering about in the offing, and I am sure he wishes to conduct
you to your cabin. By the time you’ve washed the railway dust from your
sylphlike form, the dinner gong will be filling the air with a welcome
melody. I’ve got my own favorite chef with me, and I understand we
shall not need to live on porridge and tinned milk. And, by the way,
Mackeller, did you happen to pack such wearing apparel as dinner togs in
your dunnage, as you call it?”

“Dinner togs?” echoed Mackeller, aghast. “Why, hang it all, I’m a mining
engineer. I haven’t even a starched shirt with me, let alone a dress
suit. I didn’t know I was coming to an evening party?”

“No, you paid attention to the trivialities of life, such as rifles and
ammunition, and quite neglected the more important affair of costume.”

“I’ll eat forward with the men,” said Mackeller gruffly.

“Oh, there’s no need for that. As you tried to bolt through the door
from my breakfast room the other day, when Ponderby was on guard, I saw
him measure your proportions critically with his eye, in case it should
be necessary for him to use that force which I deplore, so I told
Ponderby to make a guess at what would fit you, and to go to the extent
of three evening suits of varying sizes made to order. You will find
them all laid out in your room, and the able Ponderby will give you
critical advice regarding which fits you best.”

“Well, sir, if you expect me to look pretty every night----”

“Oh, no,” interrupted his lordship, “I never expect the impossible,
but, you see, Captain Wilkie is rather a stickler on etiquette. He will
occupy one end of the table, brave in a uniform of gold lace made by the
premier naval tailor of London, so we must play up to him, my boy,
and do the best we can. Then there will be our chief engineer, also in
uniform, and the wireless telegraphy operator, who is rather a la-de-da
young man, and lastly there’s the doctor, an Oxford graduate, and so
we must do honor to the university. You and I are in the minority, and
we’ll just need to make the best of it.”

Mackeller departed dejectedly to his room, which he found so spacious
and so luxuriously fitted up that he stood on its threshold for a few
moments, dumfounded, regarding it with dismay. He emerged when the gong
rang, and entered the long broad saloon which extended from side to
side of the ship. Lord Stranleigh occupied the head of the table, and he
introduced Mackeller to Dr. Holden, and to Mr. Spencer, electrician and
telegrapher. Neither the captain nor the engineer put in an appearance
during dinner, the one waiting to see his ship in more open waters,
and the other standing by to watch the behavior of the machinery at the
beginning of a long run.

“You have a fine boat here, Stranleigh,” said the doctor.

“It isn’t half bad,” admitted his lordship. “Still, there’s always a
fly in the ointment. I call her _The Woman in White_, after the title
of Wilkie Collins’s famous novel. You know the book, Mac-keller, I
suppose?”

“I never heard of it. I don’t read novels.”

“Oh, well, we must convert you before the voyage is ended. You’ll find
plenty of fiction on board this boat. There’s a copy of “The Woman in
White” in every room, large and small, each copy in a style of binding
that suits the decoration of the room, so I beg of you, Mackeller,
to begin reading the story in your own apartment, and if, getting
interested in it, you wish to continue in the saloon, or on deck, I hope
you will take the saloon or deck copy, so that the color of the binding
will not clash with your surroundings. I ought really to have the copies
chained in their places, as was the case with the ancient books in our
churches, for it is a terribly distressing sight to see a man reading a
mauve book in a white-and-gold saloon, or a scarlet copy up on deck.”

“Yes, I should think that would be appalling,” sneered Mackeller.

“Now, don’t be sarcastic, Peter, and thus lacerate my tenderest artistic
tastes. You may come to know, some day, when you are starving in a
wilderness on the West Coast, that these are really the serious things
of life.”

“I dare say,” replied Peter gruffly.

“Then the fly in the ointment,” said the doctor, “is the fact that your
passengers persist in taking away the volumes from the rooms where they
belong?”

“Oh, no; a man who calls his yacht _Woman in White_, should have a
captain named Wilkie Collins. I searched England and Scotland for one
of that name, and couldn’t find him, so I was compelled to compromise, a
thing I always dislike doing. My captain’s name is Wilkie, and my chief
engineer’s name is Collins, and thus I divide the burden of congruity
upon the shoulders of two different men, whereas one would have sufficed
if his parents had only exhibited some common sense at his christening.
I’d pay any salary in reason for a captain named Wilkie Collins.”

“I think I’ll write a book myself, some day,” said the doctor, “and call
it ‘The Grievous Worries of a Millionaire.’ Would you object if I took
you as my model for my Croesus?”

“On the contrary, I should be flattered, and as you progress with the
work I may be able to supply you with incidents to weave into your
narrative.”

Mackeller sat silent while this frivolous conversation went on, and this
silence he maintained during the greater part of the voyage. Mackeller’s
mind was troubled. He was a serious young man, whose opinions were
strongly grounded on common sense, and there were many elements in the
situation that gave him just cause for anxiety. When it came down to
finalities, he possessed a strong belief in the efficiency of force.
So far as his knowledge went, the Lord was always on the side of the
biggest battalion. He represented the American confidence in the big
stick, the British faith in keeping your powder dry, the German reliance
on the mailed fist.

And now here he was treading the deck of a confection in naval
construction; a dainty flower of marine architecture, which slipped
through the water as gracefully as if she were a living white swan. Her
well-molded, snowy sides were of the finest quality of pressed steel,
almost paper thin, and he was convinced that even a single shot from
a small cannon would send her shivering to the bottom, shattering her
metal covering as a pane of glass is shattered by a well-thrown
stone, and for this delusion he was scarcely to be blamed, because his
education had been concentrated on mining engineering, and the mechanism
of air-tight and water-tight compartments did not form part of his
curriculum. He knew that on the open sea _The Woman in White_ could not
be overtaken by any craft afloat except one or other of the most recent
torpedo-boat destroyers, which were not likely to be encountered along
the west coast of Africa, but he knew the locality to which _The Woman
in White_ was bound, and he pictured her from twelve to twenty-four
miles away from the coast, where, if discovered, she would need to make
her way down a narrow river, flanked on each side, after she left the
shelter of the hills, by a flat country. In this position it would be
impossible, owing to windings of the stream, to take advantage of her
full speed, and being under the misapprehension that a single well-aimed
shot would disable, if not sink, her, he pictured the beautiful yacht
and her crew helplessly trapped somewhere between the hills and the
lagoon, at the mercy of well-armed, desperate men, in a region where
no law, save that of might, ran: men who would not feel the slightest
scruple in removing from the earth, all trace of the vessel and those
aboard of her.

If Mackeller had been told that the little craft might have been riddled
like a sieve, and still keep afloat, and that so long as a stray shot
did not destroy her motive power, she could, within a few minutes, get
out of range of any land force, so long as there was a sufficient
depth of water in the river, he would not have believed it. He strongly
suspected that the _Rajah_ was well provided not only with cannon and
ammunition, but also with floating mines to seal up the river, rendering
exit impossible. Into this fatal _impasse_ Lord Stranleigh, with a
levity that saddened Mackeller, was running his unprotected cruiser,
armed only with luxury. Officers and crew would be of little use in a
fight, and the extra men, whatever might be the shooting qualities of
the gamekeepers and foresters whom Stranleigh had requisitioned from
his estates, were quite undisciplined, and although most of them were
doubtless expert enough with a shotgun, their efficiency with magazined
arms of precision such as he had sent on board, was more than doubtful.

Once or twice during the early portion of the voyage, Mackeller had
endeavored to imbue Lord Stranleigh with some of his own apprehension,
but the young nobleman was usually in company with the doctor, or with
the telegrapher, or one or other of the officers, and he invariably
turned aside Mackeller’s attempts with a joke, refusing to discuss
anything seriously. By the time they had arrived at that portion of
the waters where they should have passed the _Rajah_, according to
Mackeller’s calculation, they were sailing through an empty sea. Day
after day Mackeller, from the front of the vessel, swept the bald
horizon with the most powerful of binoculars, but he saw nothing of the
tramp steamer. The voyage had been monotonous with its good weather.
Nothing had happened, either in the way of a breakdown of machinery, or
the encountering of even a moderate storm.

Lord Stranleigh recognized his anxious search with an amused smile, but
said nothing. At last Mackeller gave up scrutiny of sea and sky. It was
no longer possible that the _Rajah_ could have covered the distance _The
Woman in White_ had already traversed. Still, his earnest meditations
had at last evolved a plan, and the adoption of that plan he must now
urge upon his chief, so seeing that Stranleigh, for once, was alone,
he strode aft to the spot where the head of the expedition lolled in a
reclining cane chair, with his slippered feet extended on the adjustable
rest. Like the woman for whom his ship was named, he was clad entirely
in white, for the weather was warm, although the yacht slipped so
speedily through the oily water that a comforting breeze greeted every
one on deck. The young man placed the book he had been reading face
downward on the little table at his elbow, and looked up at the on-comer
with an expression of amusement on his face.

“Well, Mackeller,” he cried, “have you found her?”

“Found whom, sir?”

“Why, the _Rajah_, of course.”

“How did you know I was looking for her?”

“You’ve been looking for something these few days past, so I took the
liberty of surmising it was the _Rajah_.”

“You are quite right.’”

“I always am, Mackeller. Haven’t you discovered that yet? Always be
right and then you’ll be happy, although you’ll also be extremely
disliked by everybody else. Still, I never aimed at popularity,
not wishing to write a book, or stand for Parliament, so a lack of
popularity does not matter.”

“I never pretend to be always right, sir.”

“Well, that’s a good thing. I dislike pretense myself; nevertheless, it
is so easy to be right that I sometimes wonder you don’t practice the
art. All that is necessary is knowledge and brains.”

“I do not lack knowledge in my own line of business, and no one ever
hinted before that I was lacking in brain power.”

“I do not hint that at all, Mackeller. I bear willing testimony to your
brain power, but I sometimes think you don’t exercise it enough. For
instance, you think things out in somber silence, when sometimes a
question might throw a good deal of light on your problem. Take my own
actions, for instance. Do you suppose I wish the whereabouts of my yacht
reported in the marine columns of the English newspapers day by day,
thus running the risk that certain people will begin to wonder what I am
doing so far south?”

“Of course not.”

“Very well. Why have we met none of the South African liners, or
overtaken any of the tramps threshing their way to Cape Town?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“Oh, yes, you do, if you’ll only think. The reason is this: that having
ample time at my command, the course of my yacht was deflected from
south to southwest when we reached north latitude 40. We spun along
merrily in that direction till daylight did appear, and then resumed our
progress south. We passed outside of the islands, and out of the track
of any steamer that might report us. Now turn your brain power upon that
amiable gentleman who kicked you downstairs. He must at least strongly
suspect that he’s engaged on an illegal expedition. Would he deflect, do
you think, and waste valuable time on the face of the ocean?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Of course you don’t. He’d make for your what-do-you-call-it river on
a bee-line. The course we have taken puts us two hundred miles, more or
less, from his path, and as they tell me you cannot see more than thirty
miles on the water, you may now conjecture how fruitless has been your
scanning of the ocean. I had no desire to see the _Rajah_, but in any
case I did not wish the _Rajah_ to see me. We will steam as we are
going until we are directly opposite your gold mine; then round at
right angles and straight eastward is our course. You should do as I do,
Mackeller, and read that incomparable sea writer, W. Clark Russell, then
you’d begin to understand what you are about. He’d put you up to all
the tricks of the trade. It’s one of his books I’m perusing now,
which accounts for my trickiness at sea. Have you ever read any of his
novels?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Very well, then, begin with the ‘Wreck of the Grosvenor.’ We’ve got
all his works on board, and pretty soon you’ll know what to do with a
mutiny, how to conduct yourself when marooned, the proper etiquette to
adopt if tackled by a cyclone, what to say when you and a nice girl are
left alone on a wreck. Of course I admit that W. W. Jacobs is excellent,
and that he puts forth most admirable text-books on navigation, but he
is only good below-bridge, as you might put it; for rivers and other
inland waters, and perhaps a bit of the coast. When you take to deep-sea
navigation you must study Clark Russell, my boy. Take the advice of a
tarry old salt like myself, and study Clark Russell. Do not be deluded
by my white apparel; I am tar to the finger ends, and full of salt junk,
because I’m three quarter way through his latest book.”

“I suppose it would be useless for me to say, sir, that I believe you
are running into a trap?”

“Oh, quite. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. You refer, of
course, to our being bottled up in that unpronounceable river, and
ordinarily I should give some attention to the matter, but I cannot now,
as I am in the middle of the most exciting chapter in this most
exciting book. Once we are inside the trap, Mackeller, we’ll study its
construction, and find a way out. There seems to me little practical
use in studying an imaginary trap which may not be there when we arrive.
That leads to disappointment. Let us first get into the trap if we can;
then if there’s no way out, we will console ourselves by the knowledge
that there are plenty of provisions and books to read on board. If the
worst comes to the worst, we will get our wireless telegraphy at
work until we pick up a liner similarly equipped, and thus get into
communication with Clark Russell, relate our position, and ask him what
to do. I’ll bet you a fiver he’ll send a solution of the problem.”

Mackeller compressed his lips, and turned on his heel without a word.

“Oh, very well,” laughed Stranleigh, “have it your own way. Try Jacobs
if you like, but I bank on Russell,” and with that parting remark his
lordship resumed his reading.

Mackeller grimly resolved to make no further attempt to instill
common sense into an empty head, neither did he take to the reading of
freshwater or salt-water authors. He devoted what time remained to
him in poring over certain scientific works he had discovered in the
library.

One night he woke up suddenly. The boat was strangely still. Light as
had been the unceasing purr of the turbines, its cessation had instantly
aroused him. He made his way to the deck. The steamer swayed gently in
the heave of the sea. From the east came the low murmur of breakers on
the shore, sounding like a distant waterfall. The dim outline of dark
hills against a less dark sky could be distinguished, and that was all.
Mackeller paced the deck until daylight, when the steamer got under
weigh again, and cautiously approached the shore. One of the ship’s
boats was swung into the water, and under Mackeller’s guidance sounded
with a lead the depths of the channel, the yacht crawling after them,
until at last it entered the river. By nine o’clock it was moored
alongside the gold fields. A few minutes later Lord Stranleigh appeared
on deck, well-groomed, clear-eyed, and fresh as a youth whose night’s
rest has been undisturbed. He expressed no surprise on seeing the
position of his steamer, but merely remarked to his captain:

“That was rather a good shot, old man, considering the size of the
target and the distance. When did you sight the coast?”

“At four bells, sir.”

“Did you need to cruise up and down to find the spot?”

“No, sir.”

“Look at that, now, and yet Maekeller thinks we’re going to be trapped.”

After breakfast Lord Stranleigh gave orders that the steamer should
proceed upstream to the head of navigation, wherever that was, so they
cast off, and began to explore. They discovered that the stream
they were navigating was merely a branch, and not the main river, as
Mackeller had supposed. About a mile above the mines the land began to
rise, and both banks were clothed with splendid forests. Arriving at the
head of the delta they found that the river itself proceeded due north,
while a branch similar to that which passed the gold fields struck
off through the forest to the southwest. The southwest branch was the
smallest of the three streams, so they did not trouble with it, but went
down the main river until they reached a defile with hills to the west
of them facing the continuous range to the east.

“This will be our camping spot, I imagine,” said Stranleigh. “We will
return to it, but first I wish to investigate the channel at the mouth
of the river.”

They discovered, to Mackeller’s surprise, that the stream flowed so far
to the north that when at last it turned west the steamer could reach
the ocean without any possibility of being seen from the gold region.
Stranleigh laughed when this fact was made plain, and smote Mackeller on
the shoulders.

“Where’s your trap now, my boy?” he cried. “You would have saved
yourself some worry if you had known that the lay of the land was like
this.”

“Nevertheless,” said Mackeller, “if they discover this channel, they may
fill it with floating mines:”

“So they may the mouth of the Thames, but they won’t. An engineer should
stick to probabilities, Peter. Now we will return, and seek our secluded
glen, mooring against the eastern bank, so that if we are discovered
by our opponents, as the song says, they will have one more river to
cross.”

They reached the ravine in the evening, and Lord Stranleigh complained
of a hard day’s work virtuously accomplished, with the prospective
dinner well earned, although his exertions had consisted mainly of
sitting in an armchair at the prow, with his feet on the rail.

Next morning he crossed the river with Mackeller and a party of
foresters, some of whom carried axes, one a huge telescope with its
stand, and another a small tent. At the top the foresters cleared away
intervening underbrush so that a view might be had of the distant gold
fields. The telescope stand was placed upon the rock, and the tent
erected over it. Stranleigh, adjusting the focus, gazed at the gold
fields, then rubbed his hands with satisfaction.

“Why,” he said, “we can see their inmost thoughts with this.”

When they descended, Stranleigh sent another party to the top, one laden
with wireless telegraphy apparatus, which the operator was requested to
get into working order.

“If successful it will save us a telephone wire,” said his lordship.

The rest were laden with provisions.

“Mackeller,” he said, “I appoint you to the outlook, and your companion
will be our second telegraph operator. One never knows what may happen
in this locality, so if our steamer is compelled to cut and run, you
people up on top, with everything so well concealed, can lie low, yet
keep in touch with us so long as we are within the four-mile radius, or
whatever is the limit of the wireless. I noticed a little spring about
halfway up in the forest, and that will supply you with drink nearer
than the river, and I counsel you it is better for you than champagne,
although I have sent up a ease of that. And now, to show you how
economical I am, and thus make an appeal to your Scottish heart, I am
going to send my woodmen into the forest alongside, and while here we
will burn nothing but hard wood, and save coal. Indeed, I have consulted
with my chief engineer, and with his consent I am going to fill our
bunkers with the most combustible timber I can find. I take no further
interest in your mountain top until the _Rajah_ is sighted, but while
the woodmen, with their axes and saws, are filling the bunkers, I shall
attend to the larder with fishing tackle and gun, and here’s where my
gamekeepers will earn their wages.”

Game proved to be plentiful, and many wondrous fishes were captured.

“Oh!” cried Stranleigh, one night after an exceptionally good fish and
game dinner. “Piccadilly is a fool of a place to this. If the postal
arrangements were only a little better, we would be all right. I must
send a letter to the _Times_ about the negligence of our Government, and
score the postmaster-general, as all right-minded correspondents do. I
have almost forgotten what a postman looks like, but I expect when we
get our wireless at work we’ll be able to give Signor Marconi some hints
when we return.”

The _Rajah_ was three days late, according to Mackeller’s calculations,
but one morning Mac-keller recognized her slowly stemming the current
of the Paramakaboo River, and at once the information was telegraphed to
Stranleigh, who did not receive the message, as he was out shooting. The
young man had taken his lunch with him, so the operator on the steamer
informed those up aloft, and no one knew when he would be back.

Mackeller, his eye glued to the telescope, watched the landing of the
army that the Rajah carried, and saw the two steam cranes, one fore
and one aft, begin at once to swing ashore the cargo from the hold. He
momentarily expected the arrival of his chief, but the dinner hour
came, bringing no visitor to the hilltop. Mackeller and the operator
descended, and there, to his amazement, on the after-deck he saw
Stranleigh seated, calmly reading a novel, and awaiting the sound of the
gong.

“Didn’t you get our message?” demanded Mackeller.

“Oh, yes, a couple of hours ago. The _Rajah_ has come in, you say?
That’s very interesting. You’ll be glad to know, Mackeller, that I have
had a most successful day’s shooting.”

“Yes, that, as you remark, is very interesting,” replied Mackeller
dryly. “I thought, if you got my message in time, you would have come up
to the outlook.”

“I am sorry to have disappointed you, Peter, but when I place an
excellent man on the spot I never interfere with him. I should be quite
superfluous on the hilltop, and it’s so much more comfortable down
here.”

“You might have been surprised to know how many men they landed from the
_Rajah_. Enough, I estimate, to clean us up in short order if they find
us.”

“Well, let us hope they won’t find us, Peter.”

“They’ve got a number of tents erected already, and they began blasting
operations at one o’clock.”

“They are not losing any time, are they?”

“No, they are not. I see they have arranged electric searchlights on
the two masts, apparently to cover the field of operations, so I suppose
they will be working day and night shifts.”

“I do love an energetic body of men,” said his lordship with admiration.
“If there was a funicular to the top of your hill, I’d take up an
armchair merely for the pleasure of sitting and watching them. Ah,
there’s the dinner gong, thank goodness. Peter, I shot some birds to-day
that I think you’ll enjoy.”

“Thank you, but all I wish is a sandwich. I’m going back to the outlook.
We haven’t broken into the boxes of provisions yet. I must learn if
these people are actually going to work all night.”

“Take my advice, Peter, and don’t. Enjoy a good rest in your comfortable
bed. Those who sleep well live long.”

“I am going back,” said Peter.

“Ah, I see what you’re trying to do. You’ll force me to give you both
a day and a night salary, or perhaps you are yearning to imitate the
energy of those johnnies on the gold rock. Now do be persuaded, for my
sake, to consume a good dinner when it is all ready for you. Place the
sandwiches in your pocket, if you like, to munch during the watches
of the night, if you will persist in climbing that distressingly steep
hill.”

Mackeller shook his head.

“I implore you to be persuaded, Peter, because if you will not succumb
to gentle measures, I shall command you, and then if you refuse, I’ll
put you in irons. I’m not going to tramp all day over Africa on your
behalf, and then have my bag ignored when I return. One concession I
will make: don’t trouble to-night about your evening clothes. Be not
abashed by the splendor of your table companions, but devote your
attention to the dinner, which I hope you will pronounce good, and I
will order the steward to make you up a parcel of delicious sandwiches.”

So Mackeller, being a hired minion, was forced to comply. At the head
of the table that evening, Lord Stranleigh held forth eloquently on the
wickedness of work.

“I don’t agree with my friend, President Roosevelt,” he said, “regarding
the strenuous life. The President quite overlooks the fact that work
was placed upon this earth as a curse, and now many unthinking people
pretend to look upon it as a blessing. Roosevelt reminds me something of
Mackeller here, except that he is more genial, and possesses a greater
sense of humor. Mackeller, actuated by the promptings of duty, and
assisted by porridge-fed muscle, is actually going to climb that steeple
of a hill tonight, while we will be playing bridge. This will give him
a feeling of superiority over us which to-morrow he will be unable to
conceal. I always sympathize with those people who eliminated Aristides
called the Just.”

Mackeller remained silent through all this badinage, but nevertheless
enjoyed his dinner, although the moment coffee was served and the card
table set out, he rowed himself across the river, tied up his boat
securely, and ascended through the darkness of the forest to see the
electric lights blazing over the gold mine when he reached the top.

In spite of his apparent indifference, Lord Stranleigh appeared on the
summit shortly after breakfast. He found Mackeller stretched on the
rock, sound asleep, and did not disturb him, but turned his attention
instead to the telescope, through which he saw enough of industry going
on to satisfy the most indolent. He turned the telescope this way and
that, and at last fixed it at a point covering the river lower down than
the mine. There he gazed quietly for a long time, until interrupted by
Mackeller sitting up, and giving utterance to an exclamation when he saw
his chief seated on the stump that did duty for a chair.

“Good morning, Peter. Watchman, what of the night?”

“They worked all night, sir, both at the blasting of the ore, and the
unloading of the ship.”

“Then that means we shall soon need to be getting under weigh again. If
they load the _Rajah_ as quickly as they have unloaded her, she will be
out in the ocean before we know where we are.”

“That’s why I came up last night, sir. I thought you didn’t quite
appreciate how speedily our visit here is drawing to a close.”

“And yet,” drawled Stranleigh, “what they are doing now seems to point
to a lengthened stay on the part of the _Rajah._”

“What are they doing now?” demanded Mackeller.

“About half a mile below the gold fields they are planting floating
mines in the river. They have just finished one row that goes clear
across the stream, and are engaged upon the second series a quarter of
a mile, as I estimate the distance, nearer the ocean. They have two
ordinary ship’s boats at work, and one steam launch. The river is sealed
up, and there is a practical declaration of war, my boy, with Mackeller
sound asleep.”



CHAPTER V--AN INVITATION TO LUNCH

MACKELLER, now wide awake, sprang to his feet and gazed through the
telescope. “You see,” he cried triumphantly, “I was right after all!”

“Yes, you were right on one point and wrong on another. I confess I did
not believe in the floating mine, because it is not an article you can
buy at every ironmonger’s; but you were wrong in predicting they would
leave a channel for the _Rajah_ to get out: they have completely sealed
the river. Of course that is an advantage. When it is time for the
_Rajah_ to leave, you will see those mines picked up and brought
inshore; so, by watching the mine field on the river, we will receive
notice of the _Rajah’s_ departure.”

“And do you intend to follow her out when the mines are cleared away?”

“Bless you, no. We will depart by the main channel.”

“Then you will do nothing about this nest of explosives?”

“What is there to do? If we were Japanese, and reckless of human life,
we might steal down there and set the mines adrift; but that would be a
dangerous business, and if one or more got out into the ocean we might
find ourselves practically responsible for the destruction of a Cape
liner. But after all,” continued his lordship dreamily, sprawling at
full length on the place that Mackeller had deserted, “after all, what
is the use of this gold? You can’t eat it or drink it, except in London
or Paris, or some such center of so-called civilization. You have just
seen what brutes it makes of men in quest of it, when they will in cold
blood prepare for the annihilation of their fellow creatures.”

“But you knew all that, sir, before you left England.”

“True, true, so I did; but here the fact has made a greater impression
on my mind. I have arrived at a theory. I believe this spot to be the
Garden of Eden. The soil and climate will grow anything. You may enjoy
whatever temperature you like by simply rising higher and higher in
the hills; the higher you get the lower the temperature. There is ample
timber of all kinds, and yesterday I discovered a lovely waterfall which
would give us enough electricity to endow a city with power, so I intend
to found a modern Utopia, and have selected a spot where this very day we
will begin to clear away the forest and build log huts. The nucleus
of our colony will be situated at the head of the delta alongside the
stream that passes the gold field and flows direct to the ocean. I shall
move the steamer over there, and thus, Peter, you will be deserted, for
I insist that you shall watch our potential enemies from this spot, and
report by wireless what they are doing.”

“So you intend to give up this mining property without a struggle?”

“Oh, I hate struggling. The climate is too perfect to struggle. Let us
be happy when there is a chance of happiness.”

The young man reclined there with his hands clasped behind his
head, looking up quizzically with half-closed eyes at the bewildered
Mackeller.

“By the way, Mackeller, there is something afloat on the river near the
yacht that would interest you. Did I tell you I had picked up a little
gem of a motor boat at Thomycroft’s, actually armored and bullet-proof?
In it we could go down and visit the mine, and return, letting them
pepper away at us, while we lay full length on deck protected by the
armored bulwarks. No one could be hit, unless the shooter were on top of
a church steeple. I think I’ll visit the mining camp.”

“I strongly advise you, sir, to do nothing of the kind.”

“Oh, very well, I won’t, then, but this little craft will come in handy
for visiting you. It is a nimble little beast, and much more effective
on these waters than the row boat.”

“Are you in earnest about that Utopia, sir?”

“Certainly, which reminds me I must make a beginning.”

He rose, lazily stretched himself, nodded good-by to Mackeller, and
proceeded in leisurely fashion down the hill.

The woodmen on board _The Woman in White_ received the announcement of
the new Utopia in a spirit quite differing from that of Mackeller, but
of course they knew nothing of the gold that had been the object of the
cruise. The yacht proceeded to the side of the plateau that Stranleigh
had selected as the site of his first village, and presently the air was
filled with a crash of falling trees, with the ringing sound of the ax,
and the snarl of the saw. Gamekeepers and crew were all set to work,
those who could not chop being useful at the two-handed saw, or the
rolling of logs to the river bank, where Stranleigh ordered them to be
piled.

Mackeller and the telegrapher occupied their lonely perch night and day,
and sent in reports of progress. At last Mackeller announced that
the loading of ore had gone so far that the Plim-soll’s mark on the
_Rajah’s_ side was already submerged, which fact, added Mackeller,
showed that the steamer did not intend sailing to England. Within half
an hour of the receipt of this message the swift little motor boat
brought Stran-leigh and the doctor to the foot of Outlook Hill, and
presently the two arrived at the summit.

“Mackeller,” said Stranleigh, “turn your telescope upstream to the first
bit of clear water you see.”

While Mackeller was doing this, the chief turned to the operator--and
said:

“Send a message to your colleague: these words--‘Let’em all come.’ Ask
him to repeat them to show that he has understood.”

“Are you expecting an attack?” asked Mackeller, putting his own
interpretation on the familiar defiant phrase.

“A sort of an attack,” replied Stranleigh. “You watch the surface of
that water, and tell me what you see.”

“Oh!” cried Mackeller, “there seems to be a raft coming down.”

“No, they are separate logs. They have understood our signal, doctor,
and have acted promptly. Now, Mackeller, turn your glass on the floating
mines, and give up your place to the doctor. I have promised him the
first sight. How many mines did they lay down, Mackeller?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Ah, yes, I remember; you were asleep at your post. Well, I’m happy
to inform you that the number I saw placed in the river was exactly
twenty-seven. Now, Mr. Telegrapher, stand up here and make yourself
useful. If explosions occur, no man is to speak, but each is to keep
count of the number of spurts of water he sees, then we will compare
notes at the end of the fusillade.”

“By Jove!” exclaimed the doctor, his eyes glued to the telescope.

A tall pillar of water, white as snow, rose into the air, paused, broke
like a sky-rocket, and subsided in a misty rain, which the wind caught
and blew along the surface of the water. Then three more shot up into
the air as if in competition. A sound like distant thunder came across
the delta, and now it seemed that one mine had set off another, or else
the logs were even thicker than might have been expected, for a wall of
water rose from the surface of the river, extending, with breaks
here and there, from shore to shore, and instead of a rumble, a sharp
thunderclap was heard by the four men on the mountain. This made
counting impossible. For a few moments nothing further happened, then a
quarter of a mile down the river the line of mines went off practically
simultaneously, forming for a brief instant a Niagara in the sky.

“I think we’ve got them,” said Stranleigh quietly, as he slung over his
shoulder again the binoculars he had been using. “Turn your telescope to
the land again, doctor, and see those comical people tumbling over each
other in their haste to find out what has happened. They look like a
nest of disturbed ants.”

“What have you done with the yacht?” asked Mackeller. “If any of
those people have seen sawn logs float down the river there will be an
investigation very speedily to discover who has done the sawing.”

“That is true, Mackeller. I have therefore taken the yacht across the
river out of gunshot, or the sight of our abandoned Utopia. If they come
by land they can’t reach her.”

“They are not coming by land,” said the doctor. “The steam launch is
being got ready, and three men are standing on the rock ledge preparing
to go aboard, I fancy. They are armed with rifles, too.”

“Just glance through the telescope, Mackeller,” said Stranleigh, “and
tell me if you recognize the three men.”

“Yes; there is the tall manager, with the captain of the _Rajah_ on one
side of him, and the first mate on the other.”

“Don’t say ‘first mate,’ Peter,” corrected Stranleigh. “Clark Russell
says there’s no such thing as a first mate. He is merely the mate, and
then you have second and third mate, and I don’t know how many more.
Well, doctor, let us get away, and meet them in the motor boat. We’re
innocent lumbermen, searching for timber that has tumbled off the bank,
remember.”

“You are surely not going down there,” protested Mackeller.

“Why, of course. We’ll fill them up with our story before they even
begin to ask questions.”

“But you are unarmed.”

“Quite.”

“And they possess rifles.”

“So it seems.”

“Then it is a foolhardy thing to meet them without being accompanied by
an equal body of armed men to protect you, at least. I should take all
that the motor boat will hold.”

“I know you would, Peter, but then, as I have often said, you are a
bloodthirsty person. We can drop behind the bulwarks flat on our faces,
before any one of the three can shoot; then in that recumbent position
I will explain to them as well as I can that the Thornycroft motor boat
possesses a submarine prow as effective as that of a battle ship, and if
they don’t want their steam launch rammed and sunk, they’d better drop
their rifles to the deck. I shall insist that whoever speaks to me shall
talk as one gentleman to another. I’ll tell them I’m a member of the
Peace Conference at The Hague. Come along, doctor. We’ll invite those
johnnies to lunch, and cheer them up with the best wine and cigars
that’s to be had in Africa,” and with that Stranleigh and the doctor
departed for the waiting motor boat.

The steersman of the little motor boat crouched over his wheel, which
had some resemblance to that of an automobile, as the swift craft sped
up the river until it came to the branch that led to the mine, then into
this watery lane it turned at full speed. Stranleigh and the doctor were
standing up, and on rounding a bend came in sight of the steam launch
laboriously churning up toward them against the current.

“Stop the engine,” said Stranleigh. “Swing round the stem of the launch,
and come up alongside at a distance of about twenty feet, then regulate
her speed to suit that of the launch.”

The manager, captain, and mate, all standing up, seemed struck into
immobility with astonishment at seeing such a cutter in such a region.

They made no motion to raise their guns, or even to salute the oncomer.
The motor boat came past them like a wild duck, without sound of
machinery or sight of vapor, swung gracefully round, and came up
alongside with a light precision which should have aroused the
admiration of an old salt like the captain of the _Rajah_.

[Illustration: 0159]

But the three men were filled with consternation. The ruddy,
weather-beaten face of the captain turned to a mottled purple; his jaw
dropped, and he stood there gaping, with fear in his bulging eyes.
The erect, easy grace of Lord Stran-leigh, clad in white, instantly
suggested to his experienced eye the British naval officer. This error
was heightened by the natty, gold-braided hat worn by the doctor; but
the attitude of the two men in white was not so disquieting as the
demeanor and appearance of the boat herself. She was most expertly
handled, and came alongside with that impudent, saucy air characteristic
of midshipmen and the smaller units of the British navy. There was a
touch of arrogance in her rakish build, as if she knew the whole power
of a maritime nation was typified in her. The significance of her
armored sides was not lost on the two seafaring men, even though the
manager of the mine did not become immediately conscious of it, but all
three recognized the sinister significance of that projecting prow of
steel, which was plainly, if waveringly seen, through the transparent
green waters, dangerous as the nose of a maneating shark.

Lord Stranleigh smiled as he realized the panic his sudden appearance
had caused.

“Good morning,” he greeted them pleasantly. “Have you seen anything of
timber floating down this river?”

“Timber?” gasped the manager of the mine. “Yes--yes--we have.”

“Is it lost, do you think?”

“I--I suppose most of it is bobbing about in the surf of the Atlantic
Ocean.”

“Not lost, but gone before,” murmured the doctor.

Stranleigh surmised that captain and mate knew more of the piratical,
thieving nature of their expedition than he had supposed. They were both
well aware that British cruisers were nosing about in all sorts of odd
comers of the world, mostly where they were not wanted, but even so a
worthy seaman, if engaged in his lawful occupation, had no reason to
fall into a state of nervous collapse at the sight of a craft which
looked like a baby torpedo boat. He had hitherto believed that captain,
officers, and crew of the _Rajah_ were innocent participators in a
scheme of villainy and theft, but now he knew that the captain and mate
were equally in the plot with the tall, dark-looking manager, and this
information he placed at the back of his brain for future use when he
should meet the captain on the open sea.

“Are you a naval officer, sir?” stammered the captain, speaking for the
first time.

“Oh, dear, no,” replied Stranleigh airily; “merely a private person.”

All three heaved a simultaneous sigh of relief, and their statuesque
posture lost something of its stiffness.

“I’m cruising about the coast in my yacht.”

“That isn’t your yacht, is it?” asked the mine manager.

“No, my yacht lies a few miles farther up the river, and is an
ocean-going affair. It is built with an eye to comfort and to the
housing of a good number of men.”

“Ah, how many men do you carry?” demanded the manager, his courage
visibly returning.

“Blessed if I know,” replied his lordship. “How many men have we,
doctor?”

“I never counted them, sir,” replied the doctor with a noncommittal air
of indifference.

“They are scattered over the face of the country,” continued the chief.
“Many of them are woodmen, and the rest are gamekeepers from my own
estates in England. They can all shoot a bit--trust a gamekeeper for
that.”

“And is your yacht built on the model of this boat of yours?”

“No. As I told you, it is built for comfort. I’d like very much to show
her to you if you will honor me with a visit. Indeed, it is getting near
to midday, so I should be delighted if you three gentlemen would be
good enough to lunch with me. I can promise you a passable meal, some
excellent wine, and cigars that will call up recollections of Havana.”

The manager whispered to the captain, who somewhat doubtfully nodded his
head, as who would say: “Well, I suppose we’d better see what’s in this,
anyway.”

The manager then spoke up:

“Thank you, sir,” he said. “We’ll be very glad of a bite and a drink
and a smoke. My friend here is captain of the _Rajah_, and this is Mr.
Thompson, the mate. I am Frowningshield, representing the owners of this
district.”

“Delighted to make your acquaintance, gentlemen. My name is Stranleigh.”

“And a very well-known name in Africa, Mr. Stanley.”

“S-t-r-a-n-l-e-i-g-h,” spelled his lordship. “I cannot claim the
distinction of being a namesake of the explorer.”

“May I inquire the object of your visit in these regions?” asked the
manager.

“In a small way I am looking after big game, and so carry some of
my gamekeepers with me. Then again, as you are probably aware, I am
interested in timber, hence my woodmen with their axes and saws. We
have cut a considerable quantity of firewood, with which we hope
to supplement our coal. My third object may strike you as largely
impractical. I had some thoughts of founding a settlement here, or on
any other healthy and suitable spot not too far from the coast. I am
delighted with this section of the country. Back in the hills while
shooting I have discovered several waterfalls which could supply cheap
power. Some days ago I gave orders to my woodmen to prepare logs for the
building of huts. I was away shooting at the time they began operations,
and I fear rather neglecting my duties as a settlement founder. Be that
as it may, they piled the logs too near the brink of the river, where
the incline is steep. This morning, like the Gadarene swine, the logs
seem to have tumbled one after another into the water. I suppose one
heap set another going. As I tell you, I was absent, but when word was
brought to me, I took this launch and followed down the river, thinking
perhaps the sawn logs had lodged or jammed somewhere, and might be towed
back; but if, as you say, they are already in the ocean, I fear they are
lost to us, and we’ll need to cut some more.”

Frowningshield listened to this recital with wrinkled brow, and intense
gaze upon the speaker, who talked in an easy, indolent manner which
impressed the manager with the belief that he had encountered some
rich fool with more money at his disposal than was good for him, and
gradually the nerve of the man who had kicked Mackeller into the hold
began to reassert itself. He felt ashamed of his failure in courage when
he had supposed he was confronted by the power of Great Britain.

“Perhaps you are not aware, Mr. Stranleigh, that the timber you are
cutting is situated on private property.”

“You are surely mistaken,” protested the young man. “All the maps I
have seen--I’ll show you them when we come aboard the yacht--depict this
district as a sort of no-man’s-land.”

“Such is not the case, Mr. Stranleigh. More than a hundred square miles
of this territory has been acquired by a European syndicate, of whom I
am the representative.”

“You amaze me. From what government did this syndicate buy the
property?”

“They did not buy it from any government, they acquired the concession
from native chiefs. No European government holds jurisdiction over this
section of Africa.”

“That’s what I thought. Are you forming a settlement, then, farther down
the river? Is that where you have come from?”

“Yes.”

“You arrived in the steamer you spoke of--I forget the name?”

“The _Rajah_. Yes. I am a mining engineer, and we are experimenting with
the mineral resources of this country.”

“I see. Then you are probably loading the _Rajah_ with such ore as you
can find, and are taking it back to Europe to test it.”

“Exactly.”

“What you tell me is most interesting, but surely you were not here when
I came up this river in my yacht less than a month ago?”

“No, we were not here then, but we prospected, and secured possession
more than a year ago.”

“Then you are clothed with authority to order me to move on?”

“I assure you, Mr. Stranleigh, that so far as I am personally concerned
you might form your settlement, or stay here as long as you please,
but I am not acting for myself. In the interest of my employers, and to
prevent future complications, should we discover valuable minerals, I
fear I must warn you off.”

“Could you oblige me with the address of that European syndicate?”

“It would be useless, sir. I was instructed that they do not intend to
grant any concessions or franchises to outsiders. Whether they gain or
lose, they intend to exploit this region for their own sole benefit.
If you dispute my authority, I shall be pleased to produce documentary
evidence corroborating what I say.”

“My dear Mr. Frowningshield,” protested Stranleigh, “I should not dream
of disputing your authority. I confess I was rather taken with this
upper country, though I don’t think much of the stretch of land along
the coast. However, Africa is large, and I do not doubt I may find some
spot equally favorable for the carrying out of my plans. What you
say merely shows how small the world is getting to be. Who would have
imagined that in this seemingly virgin territory, thousands of miles
from what we call civilization, the land should be all taken up, just as
if it were a newly plotted piece of acreage in the vicinity of New York
or London, to be exploited and covered with jerry-built villas. Well,
well, we live and learn. It’s rather disappointing, but it can’t be
helped. I hope you won’t send in an exorbitant bill for the trees I have
illegally felled, especially when you remember that I have lost most of
the timber.”

“Oh, no,” said Frowningshield, with a laugh. “That will be all right.”

“It seems so strange that I, of all people, should be a trespasser and
a poacher, for when at home I am a stern upholder of the rights of
property. I own several estates in England, and am a very pig-headed
Tory when any of my privileges are threatened; so I should be the last
man to trespass on the rights of others, and I hope, Mr. Frowningshield,
when you are communicating with the proprietors, you will convey to
them my humble apologies, with the assurance that if ever again I fell a
tree, I shall take pains to know it has grown on my own land.”

“Oh, that will be all right,” repeated Frowningshield reassuringly.

“There!” cried Stranleigh, as they approached the triple outflow, and
waving his hand to the right, “you see the gash I have made in your
forest. That is the spot I had chosen for the nucleus of my settlement.
There are the remainder of the logs, and I present them freely to you
with no charge for the cutting.”

“They are piled rather close to the edge,” commented Frowningshield.

“Yes, we all realize that now, when it is too late. Locking the door
when the horse is stolen. I must inquire how it happened. I have not
seen my men since I heard of the disaster. I suppose they will present
plenty of plausible excuses, and will fasten the fault of the occurrence
on anything but their own stupidity. Ah, captain, what do you think of
my yacht?”

“Very fine lines, sir,” replied the captain, as he and the mate gazed at
the white steamer lying on the other bank of the main stream.

“If you will excuse me,” said Stranleigh, “I will precede you on board,
to inform cook and steward that three more plates are to be provided.”

He and the doctor sprang up the steps; the motor boat gave itself
a flick astern, and then the steam launch came to the floor of the
gangway. Stranleigh welcomed his guests at the head of the stair,
conducted captain and manager to easy-chairs aft, and ordered the deck
steward to bring them sherry and bitters. He made a mental note of the
fact that the mate had remained in the launch, and from this surmised
that he had not succeeded in allaying the suspicions of captain and
manager. He resolved to give them an opportunity of consulting alone
together, wondering what their action would be when they had come to a
decision regarding recent events.

“I must go below to see about the wine. Like a prudent owner I hold the
keys of the wine bin myself. With a mixed crew you know the wisdom of
such a course, captain.”

“Yes, sir, I do,” and with this the genial host went down the companion
way with the doctor.

“What do you think of him?” muttered the captain, when they were thus
left in solitude on the after deck.

“Oh, he’s all right,” said Frowningshield confidently. “I’ve met plenty
of that kind before. A rich ass, good-natured, without too much brains,
blowing in the money he has inherited.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” replied the captain.

“Oh, you’re suspicious of everybody. He has blundered in here, and I
dare say has amused himself as he said, shooting and chopping, and what
not.”

“Do you see,” murmured the captain, “that this boat is fitted up for
wireless telegraphy? That’s the meaning of the line between the masts.”

Frowningshield looked aloft.

“Oh, that’s it, is it? Well, I don’t see anything to worry about,
even if it is so. I suppose plenty of yachts are fitted with Marconi
apparatus nowadays. It certainly can’t be much use to him here in West
Africa.”

“He might be in communication with some one outside.”

“Out in the ocean, you mean? What would be the good of that?”

“I don’t know,” replied the captain. “This chap is too smooth-tongued to
suit my book.”

“What do you propose to do? Sink his craft and drown the lot of them?”

“No.”

“What then?”

“Keep an eye on him, and not drink too much of his wine.”

“You don’t need to give that warning to me, captain. It would come more
pat applied nearer home.”

“You are right,” admitted the captain. “If you notice me becoming
talkative, just give me a nudge, will you? We must sit together at
table.”

“I think you are unduly suspicious, captain. This boat must have left
England before we did.”

“I’m not so sure of that. Some of these oceangoing yachts are very fast.
She may be turbine-engined.”

“Can’t a sea-wise man like you tell whether she is or not by the look of
her?”

“No, not from the outside. A question to one of the men would settle
it.”

“Ah, here comes a waiter with the drinks. Well, my man, this is a very
nice yacht you have here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Turbine engines, I suppose?”

“I don’t know, sir. The engineer would be able to tell you.”

“Yes, I suppose he would. How long is it since you left England?”

“Very sorry, sir, but I don’t remember the date. The captain or the
owner would know.”

“Why, of course. Have you been stopping at many places since you quit
the old sod?”

“Running in here and there, sir.”

“Lisbon, or Teneriffe, perhaps?”

“Well, sir, I never had no head for them foreign places. They all look
alike to me, sir. Plymouth, or Southampton, or Liverpool, sir, there’s
some difference between them.”

“So there is, so there is,” murmured Frowningshield, as the man
respectfully withdrew.

“You see,” said the captain, “even the stewards are on their guard.”

“Oh, that’s the noncommittal nature of the English servant. I imagine
Stranleigh is by way of being a swell. There’s something of that
‘You-be-damned’ air about him, in spite of his politeness, and the
servants of such people know when they’re in a good place, and keep
their mouths shut. Still, I can’t imagine a la-de-da chap like this,
with a fashionable yacht, and a gang of gamekeepers, sent out to
interfere with us. What can he do?”

“The steel prow of that motor boat didn’t look fashionable,” growled the
captain. “She could sink the _Rajah_, loaded down as she is, in about
ten seconds, although she’d crumple herself up if she tried it, and as
to what he can do, look at what he has already done. The tumbling of all
that timber in the river may have been an accident, as he says, but I
don’t believe it. It fitted the case of the mines too cursedly pat
to suit me. He couldn’t have hit it off better, and at less cost to
himself, if he had studied for a year.”

“Yes, it does take a bit of explaining, doesn’t it? Still, there’s
nothing to be done with his crew of landlubbers. He daren’t attack us;
there are too many of us.”

“I think you’ll change your opinion before the week is out, Mr.
Frowningshield. See what he’s already done. He’s cleared the river, and
the waterway from the ocean to the mine is open. I tell you what it
is, Mr. Frowningshield; there’s been a miscalculation, and that man
Schwartzbrod isn’t as clever as you thought he was.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because, according to your story, it should have taken them a week or
two to fit out another steamer, and by that time you expected to get the
river protected, and erect a few forts. Now what has happened? Instead
of that they have chartered the quickest yacht they could find in
England, and they have cut in here ahead of us. This fellow’s smooth
talk about founding a colony is all balderdash. They’ve been spying
upon us ever since we came here. The other fellows in England have taken
their time in fitting up a steamer, or perhaps two steamers, or perhaps
three. This chap has cleared the channel for them, and any fine morning
you may see three or four ships in the offing, carrying perhaps three or
four hundred men. _Then_ what are you going to do?”

“There wouldn’t be anything to do, of course, if all that happened.
Nevertheless, all you say is mere surmise, but if the worst came to the
worst they couldn’t touch us. We’re doing nothing illegal. I tell you
old Schwartzbrod assured me he would get from the new owners a legal
document covering everything he ordered done.”

“But suppose he didn’t get that document?”

“‘We’re both blooming prisoners, that’s what we are!’”

“Oh, trust him! Of course he’s got it, but even if he hadn’t, we are
doing nothing illegal. Here you are with your fortune made if you run
three trips to Lisbon and back. You are quite safe, whatever comes, for
you are bound to obey the orders of those who chartered the vessel. But
apart from all that, we are out of British jurisdiction here, and you
will be out of British jurisdiction at Lisbon. You’ve done nothing, and
can do nothing, so long as you obey orders, that will render you liable
to British law.”

“I don’t like the job a bit, Mr. Frowningshield; I tell you that
straight.”

“Nonsense, man. If any one is in danger, it’s me, and I’m not afraid.
You’re protected by your ship’s papers. You are under orders, and you
must obey them. If anything is wrong, it is other people who must stand
the brunt. It isn’t criminal to sail a ship from Southampton to the West
African coast, and it isn’t criminal to make voyages to Lisbon and back.
You are all right, who-ever’s hurt, so don’t get into a panic, captain,
merely because a rich fool and his yacht appears to have discovered the
Paramakaboo River.”

The captain, sorely troubled, but somewhat comforted by the confident
tone of his comrade, was absentmindedly turning the picture pages of
the _Sphere_, which he had taken from the wicker table at his elbow.
Suddenly something caught his eye.

“By the Lord, Frowningshield, look at the date of the _Sphere!_ 24th of
May, it says, and we sailed on the 13th--a mighty unlucky day I call
it. He bought this paper more than a week after we left! I tell you,
Frowningshield, we’re done for. We’re blooming prisoners, that’s what we
are!”

[Illustration: 0175]



CHAPTER VI--AN ATTACK ON THE HIGH SEAS

Mr. manager frowningshield took up the copy of the _Sphere_ in his
hand, and gazed with troubled brow at this conclusive evidence of the
date.

“Yes,” he said at last, “he was in England a week later than we were,
and must have come direct to this spot, passing us somewhere on the way;
during the night, probably.”

The captain was now standing up, his fists clenched.

“What do you propose to do?” inquired the manager.

“I should like to know first whether we are here as his guests or his
prisoners. We were fools to have accepted his invitation without giving
ourselves time to think and consult.”

“But, hang it all, captain, he came on us so unexpectedly that there was
no time to plan, or even to suspect. He seemed to speak so honestly and
straightforwardly, and was so ready with his explanation that even up to
a moment ago I believed he was but a blameless tourist, with, eccentric
tastes, and the money to indulge them; a craze for big game shooting,
like so many of them toffs have, and, of course, that kind of a man is
mouching all over the world. You meet them everywhere: South America,
Africa, Asia. Of course he’s got us aboard here, and could steam away
past your ship, and my settlement, with us two flung down the hold,
and helpless, just as I put away that Scotch engineer on the _Rajah_ at
Southampton. By Jove, I shouldn’t wonder a bit but that’s what’s in
his mind: taking a leaf out of my own book. We would have no chance of
self-defense with so many men on board, and our steam launch could not
keep within sight of him if this boat has turbine engines. The mines are
exploded, and the way is clear.”

“Don’t you think your men would give her a shot as she went by?”

“Not unless I was there to command them. I’ve left nobody in authority.
I wonder what he’s doing so long down below? If we are his guests, he
should be here to entertain us.”

“He is probably giving his orders,” said the captain gloomily. “We are
trapped, my boy. He wouldn’t leave us this long to consult together
unless he was sure of us.”

“Why hasn’t your mate come up from the launch?”

“I told him to stay there until I called him. You see, I had my doubts
of this man from the first. If he attempts to lay hands on us, I’ll
shout to the mate to cut for it.”

“What good could that do?” protested the manager. “The motor boat can
overtake our launch even if she were half way to camp.”

“Ah, here he comes,” said the captain, as Stran-leigh, debonair and
smiling, appeared at the head of the companion way. “I’ll settle the
question whether we are prisoners or not within two seconds.”

“I hope you’ll excuse me,” began Stranleigh, coming forward, “but you
are the first guests I have had the pleasure of receiving aboard since
I left England, and I wish my to do his best, so I took the liberty of
giving special orders for our lunch, and the gong will ring, they tell
me, in about a quarter of an hour.”

“I am very sorry, Mr. Stranleigh,” replied the captain, “but I am a
little anxious about my ship, so I have told my mate to remain in our
launch, and I must ask you to excuse me. I cannot remain to lunch.”

“Dear me, I’m sorry,” said Stranleigh. “Why is that? What harm can come
to your steamer?”

“Well, I’ve seen those logs piled up still very close to the brink of
the river, and I fear if they tumbled down also, coming end on upon us,
they might do the _Rajah_ some damage.”

“My men tell me,” Stranleigh reassured him, “that there’s no further
danger of more logs getting into the river. Still, they are such fools
that they may possibly be mistaken, and I quite share and sympathize
with your anxiety. By the way, did any of the other logs damage your
boat?”

“That I don’t know yet. Some of them certainly struck her.”

“Then, captain, you must let me pay for whatever damage has been done;
yes, and overpay, because, after all, I am the man responsible. Of
course, you see, when we came up the river, there was no ship there,
and no sign of any settlement. Still, that does not excuse my not having
kept a better outlook. If the timber struck the steamer, is it likely
the damage will be serious?”

“That, of course, I cannot tell without examination,” replied the master
of the _Rajah_.

“Well, captain, we come of a sporting race. I’ll give you a hundred
pounds here in gold, win or lose. If the damage is a thousand pounds,
then you’ve lost. If there’s no damage at all, you’ve won a hundred
pounds. Come, captain, what do you say?”

“If no damage has been done, Mr. Stranleigh, I don’t want any money from
you. Even if the steamer is hurt, I am not sure I should have a valid
claim against you. After all, the affair was an accident.”

“Are you satisfied to give me a quit claim for a hundred pounds, cash
down?”

“I’ll be quite satisfied if you excuse me from attending luncheon, and
allow me to go back to my ship.”

“Oh, certainly, but I’d like you to take the money. Can’t you send the
mate, and order him to come back and report to you? It’s a pity to miss
a meal, you know.”

“I’d feel safer if I went myself.”

“Yes, I know exactly how anxious you must feel, and in your place I
should do the same. Very well, captain, the only point between us is the
hundred pounds or not. To tell the truth, I shall not object to pay full
compensation to your owners for what I have done. I imagine, however, so
stanch a ship as yours has come to no harm. She lies bow upstream, and
the current is not so strong down there as it is up here. The timber, I
think, if it struck at all, would glance off, carrying away nothing but
a bit of paint; but if you must go, I shall insist on your taking the
hundred pounds.”

“Take the money, captain,” said the manager, looking up at him with a
smile. It was evident that his fears had once more been overcome, but
the captain was not so easily cajoled.

“Very well,” he said, anxious to end the situation and learn whether he
was to be let go or not.

“And now, Mr. Frowningshield,” continued Stranleigh, turning to the
manager, “let us settle all our financial affairs before lunch, so that
we may enjoy our meal without the thought of commercialism at the hoard.
You have seen the damage I have caused in your forest, thinking all the
while it was my own property. Of course, if you were acting for yourself
alone, I am certain I could drive a very easy bargain with you, but you
are responsible for the care of these lands to the European syndicate
you spoke of, and so, on its behalf, you must be just, rather than
generous. At how much coin of the realm do you place my depredations?
I know it would cost me a pretty penny if I committed so unforgivable a
trespass in England.”

“How many trees did you cut down, Mr. Stranleigh?”

“Oh, Lord knows! Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, or a hundred
perhaps. That can easily be discovered. We’ll send a man across in the
motor boat to count the stumps.”

“Oh, it isn’t worth while. Would you be content to part with another
hundred pounds?”

“Done; and you’ve let me off cheaply, Mr. Frowningshield. Just pardon
me a moment until I get the money,” and once more he disappeared down
below.

But all this had not changed in the least the captain’s apprehension.

“He’s gone to give the signal,” he said.

“Well, you know, captain, I’ve a great regard for you, yet I cannot find
it possible to distrust the faith of that young man. He may be a fool,
but he’s a gentleman. I don’t believe he would invite three men to
a feast, and then imprison them. Now, I’m no fool, but then I’m no
gentleman, either, and I’d do it in a minute, if I had an enemy in my
power, yet I’m sure he won’t. You’ll see him come up with the money, and
you’ll miss a mighty good feed by going off to the _Rajah_.”

“I’m willing to miss the meal, if I once get aboard my ship. I’ll turn
her round, and make for the ocean within the hour. You stop here as long
as you can; all afternoon, if possible, and give the _Rajah_ a chance to
get out of sight before this fellow follows.”

“But he can easily overtake you. Still, what could he do if he did? You
surely don’t expect him to seize your vessel?”

“I don’t know what I expect, but I am afraid of him. I think him quite
capable of following me to sea, and capturing the _Rajah_.”

“Nonsense, that would be rank piracy. That would be a hanging matter. It
would do him no good to sink you, and what could he do with the _Rajah_
once he had her? There are too many witnesses on board. He wouldn’t dare
to sail into any port in the world. But then there’s not the slightest
danger of that. He’s no pirate. The days of piracy are past. He may be a
fool, but he’s not such a fool as to try a trick like that.”

“Will you stop here and give me a chance to get away?”

“Willingly.”

“Very well, if I once get out of sight there are ten chances to one he
can’t catch me before I’m in the Tagus.”

Stranleigh reappeared with some rolls of gold done up in paper, and
these he divided equally between the captain and Frowningshield. The
latter could not resist the temptation of asking a question.

“I’ve been looking at this illustrated newspaper, and I notice its date
is very recent. You must have made a quick voyage from England, Mr.
Stranleigh.”

For a moment they had the young man on the hip, but he did not allow the
knowledge of this to change the expression of his placid face. He took
the journal in his hand, and looked at the date.

“Yes, they do these things quickly nowadays, but perhaps not so quickly
as one unaccustomed to journalism would imagine. I believe that the
illustrated weeklies are dated some time ahead, and I have been told
they send forth their foreign editions as far in advance as possible.
This, now, could have come from London, through by way of Paris to
Lisbon, and reach that city probably several days before the date
mentioned on the cover. I must ask the doctor where he bought this copy,
whether at Lisbon or Teneriffe.”

He flung the _Sphere_ carelessly down on the table as if the matter,
after all, was of no moment, and even Frowningshield, who was watching
him like a detective of fiction, could distinguish no note of hesitation
in his voice, nor catch any glance of annoyance from his eyes.

“Well, Mr. Stranleigh,” said the captain, who was not equally successful
in keeping an inflection of anxiety from his words, “I am very much
obliged to you for your invitation, even though I cannot take advantage
of it, so I shall bid you good-by.”

“Oh, you’re not away yet, captain,” said Stranleigh, with a slight
laugh, and the captain drew himself up with a little start of surprise.
Stran-leigh walked to the head of the companion way, and said:

“Will you be as quick as you can down there?”

As his back turned on them, the captain grasped Frowningshield’s wrist.

“He’s playing with me like a cat with a mouse,” he whispered.

“Nonsense,” replied the other. “Your nerves have gone wrong. He’s as
transparent as glass.”

Stranleigh turned, followed this time by a steward carrying a hamper,

“I don’t like to think of your losing your lunch, captain,” he said, “so
I’ve had them put up a basketful for you and the mate on your way to
the _Rajah_. There is in the hamper several bottles of champagne that
I think will commend itself to you, or to any other judge of a good
vintage, and there is also a box of cigars. If these weeds do not elicit
the highest commendation I’ll insist that you bestow on me a better box
the next time we meet. So good-by, captain, and good luck to you. May
you sail the high seas prosperously and safely. Here’s hoping I shall
meet you again when you are not in such a hurry.”

Basket and hamper had been placed in the launch, and Stranleigh waved
his hand at the captain and mate as their craft steamed out into the
current and made for the mining camp.

The gong sounded out at last.

“Well, Mr. Frowningshield,” said the young man, returning from the side,
“if you’re as hungry as I am, you’ll enjoy this meal. Come along.”

The manager did enjoy the meal, and they lingered long over the
consuming of it, coming up on deck after it was over to indulge in
coffee, liquors, and cigars. The manager fell under the charm of the
young man’s conversation, and began to revise his first estimate that
his host was a fool. He had drunk but sparingly of the generous wine,
yet in the glow of contentment which it produced he laughed quietly to
himself now and then at the unfounded fears of the captain, which had
cause him to run away from so excellent a repast.

“If this is a cigar from a similar box to the one you gave the captain,
the old man is to be congratulated.”

“Yes, it is. The captain, of course, will see civilization long before
you do, and so can provide himself with any variety of the weed he
fancies; but you, in this out-of-the-world place, are not so fortunate,
therefore I must beg of you to accept six boxes in remembrance of the
enjoyable time I have spent in your society.”

“Why, Mr. Stranleigh, I’m awfully much obliged, and I may tell you at
once I am not going to refuse. A man doesn’t get a present like that
every year of his life, worse luck.”

“Then to make up the average, Mr. Frowning-shield, you must let me add a
few cases of our champagne.”

“Really, you are most kind. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Don’t attempt it, I beg of you.”

A steward approached and presented Stranleigh with a sealed envelope,
which, begging the pardon of his guest, he tore open, saying:

“I give all my orders in writing, so that there can be no mistake, and I
rarely receive verbal reports from any one.”

“A good idea,” said Frowningshield.

“Yes, it prevents disputes afterwards.”

He read to himself the penciled words of the telegrapher who had
transcribed a wireless message from the hilltop.

“The _Rajah_ is turning round, and is evidently about to depart.”

Stranleigh, with a pencil, wrote on the back of the letter the following
dispatch to Mackeller.

“Report once more if the _Rajah_ actually sails; then take with you
anything you don’t want to leave, and come down to the water. The
motor boat will be waiting for you. Come aboard at the prow, and get
immediately out of sight in the forecastle, for sitting aft with me
is the man who kicked you down into the hold, and I don’t wish him to
recognize you.”

Giving this to the waiting steward, Stranleigh resumed conversation with
his guest, who showed no desire to depart. Shortly after came the second
message: “The Rajah has sailed. Send motor boat now.”

Stranleigh folded up the sheet of paper, and handed it to the steward.

“Give that to the captain,” he said, and a few minutes later the purr
of the motor boat was heard leaving the ship. The sound aroused
Frowningshield.

“Are you sending away the motor boat?” he asked. “As our steam launch
has not returned, I fear I must depend on you for getting me down to the
camp.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” replied Stranleigh easily. “The boat isn’t going
far; just to pick up two of my men who’ve been prospecting in the hills.
In fact, this is the end of my trespass, for there is little use in my
gazing on a Promised Land that has been promised to somebody else.
As for the motor boat, and getting to camp, I can take you there more
comfortably than on that little craft. You see, there’s nothing further
to keep me here, as I have said, unless I can make terms with your
syndicate, and that very likely would not suit my book, because
cheapness of land was one of my objects in coming so far. If your
syndicate expects to find valuable minerals on this property, they are
not likely to sell any of their holdings to me at such a price as I
should care to pay, so I think I shall cast off and away, but whether I
shall go north or south will depend on circumstances when I get out to
sea.”

“What, you are not going to sail to-night, are you?” said
Frowningshield, sitting up.

“Yes, there’s no use in stopping here any longer. Do you happen to know
any place along the coast which would be suitable as a colonizing place
for Englishmen? I should like it to resemble this as much as possible:
hills, a large flow of pure water, free from any fever swamps, and good
soil.”

“No, Mr. Stranleigh, this is the only portion of Africa I am acquainted
with.”

“It’s very likely the captain of the _Rajah_ may be able to give me some
hints. He has probably knocked around the world a bit, and doubtless has
kept his eyes open. I wish I had thought of asking him before he left
whether or not he knows this coast. Besides, I would like to learn for
certain if I have damaged his ship. It’s a good thing she wasn’t facing
the other way, otherwise a log might have wrecked rudder or screw, or
both.”

“I am afraid,” stammered Frowningshield, “that you won’t see the captain
again. He was very anxious to be off, and I rather fancy by this time
he’s well out at sea.”

“Ah, in that case,” remarked Stranleigh indifferently, “I shall be
consoled by the assurance that his steamer is uninjured.”

In due time the motor boat returned, and its occupants entered the yacht
without being seen by their master’s guest. The motor boat was hoisted
on board, and the captain, coming aft, said:

“Any further orders, sir?”

“Yes. Plymouth, if you please. And, captain, just stop on your way at
the camp, which I am informed is on the left-hand bank of the
river. Draw up at the landing if there is one; if not, perhaps Mr.
Frowningshield’s launch will be waiting for him. There are some packages
to go ashore.”

The steamer proceeded down the river with just enough speed on to give
her steering way. Frowningshield sat very silent, but his host made
up with loquacity for the other’s taciturnity. He told entertaining
stories, and related odd experiences, and all with a delicate courtesy,
as if his guest was the most honored of men, instead of being merely an
adventurer and a marauder on a gold quest.

The captain drew up expertly at the landing. Nothing was to be seen of
the _Rajah_ that so lately had been berthed there. In spite of the fact
that they saw their boss stepping ashore, large groups of men had ceased
work, and were standing twenty or thirty yards back from the landing,
viewing with eyes of wonderment the trim white steamer that had come out
of the wilderness. Frowning-shield stepped ashore like a man in a dream,
and a couple of stewards placed the cases of champagne and the boxes of
cigars on the rock beside him. Lord Stranleigh leaned against the rail,
and bade farewell to the manager.

“Wouldn’t you like to come on to Plymouth with us?” he said. “Penny all
the way. County Council express boat. No stop between Chelsea and London
Bridge.”

“God knows I wish I could,” said Frowning-shield, with a deep sigh.

“Well, at least,” cried Stranleigh cheerfully, “we’ve had one pleasant
afternoon, and I’m more than grateful for your company. I hope that you
will find valuable minerals on this spot; a second Klondike or Kimberley
in either gold or diamonds. Somehow I think you’ll be successful, and so
I’ll leave you my best wishes. Good-by, good-by.”

The steamer was moving off down the river as Stranleigh waved his hand
at the choice gang of ruffians that manned the highest outcrop of the
reef.

“After all,” he murmured to himself, “they’re Englishmen, poor devils,
and we’re all a long way from home!”

The manager standing there on the rock suddenly bethought himself, and
raised his hat. A cheer broke forth from the outlaws, and they waved
aloft tattered caps.

“Pull the whistle, captain, with a hip-hip-hip-hurrah,” and the siren
sounded across the delta.

The manager stood for a long while watching the retreating boat, with
his hands clasped behind him.

“By God,” he said, “I don’t know what to make of that man! I believe the
captain’s right, and that he’ll capture the _Rajah_ before nightfall,
yet he’ll have no shot from my cannon.”

_The Woman in White_, as soon as she was out of sight of the camp, made
record time to the coast, traversed the deep channel between the river
and the sea with some caution, then struck straight out to the west. The
sun was still about two hours above the western ocean. Far to the north
the _Rajah_ could be seen keeping closer inshore than seemed quite safe,
the captain’s idea being doubtless to get out of sight behind the first
headland he might encounter. The heavily laden boat was burning up coal
with reckless prodigality, the slight wind from the shore carrying out
to sea a great black banner of smoke. Stranleigh walked forward to the
captain.

“Can you overtake him before sunset?” he asked.

“I think so, sir.”

“Well, I imagine our best plan is to convince him as speedily as
possible that he can’t run away from us. I don’t like to see him wasting
coal like that. Coal is more valuable than the ore he carries until we
reach Teneriffe. Full speed ahead, captain.”

The hum of the turbines rose and rose, and the trembling of the yacht
perceptibly increased as the sharp prow clove through the waters with
the speed of a torpedo-boat destroyer. The steward, setting out cups and
saucers for tea, on a wicker table, found some difficulty in keeping the
jingling dishes from catastrophe. The _Rajah_ had about four hours the
start, and had probably worried away thirty knots of the long route she
was to travel. Higher and higher she seemed to rise in the water, and
the sun was still a good quarter of an hour above the horizon when _The
Woman in White_ came tearing up alongside to landward of her, carried
now by her own momentum, for the turbines had been stopped some distance
away. Apparently everybody on board was leaning over the rail watching
the amazing speed of the swanlike craft, white and graceful, as she
gradually slowed down. Stranleigh recognized the anxious face of the
captain, and shouted up at him:

“Tell your stokers to economize on that coal.” The captain replied
truculently:

“No one gives orders on this steamer but me.”

“Quite right,” replied Stranleigh, with less imperiousness than had
barbed his first shout. “That’s why I’m asking you to give the command.”

The captain, after a moment’s hesitation, sent the order below, then
turned again to the white vessel, which was now keeping exact time with
his own black one.

“Captain,” said Stranleigh, in his ordinary tone of voice, “both
Frowningshield and myself were very sorry you could not lunch with us,
so perhaps you will be good enough to come aboard this yacht and dine
with me.”

“A captain cannot leave his ship,” curtly replied the master of the
_Rajah_.

“Ordinarily, no, but this is an exceptional case. I’ve got a letter for
you, captain.”

“Then why didn’t you give it to me at noon?”

“Oh, come now, a man can’t think of everything when he is overjoyed at
receiving an expected and very welcome guest. You must admit, captain,
that once I undertook the work of ocean postman, I lost no time in
giving you the double knock. I don’t think there’s anything in these
waters would have overhauled you so quickly as I have done. Won’t you
then make an exception, and honor us with your presence?”

“No, I will not. If, as you say, you’ve got a letter for me, I’ll throw
down a line for it.”

“Well, on the face of it, that seems fair. A man in England drops you
a line, and you drop a line for his line. Nevertheless, this letter,
although addressed to you, I do not intend to part with. There are
several documents in my pocket which I’d like to show you, and I wish to
make some explanations that will interest you.”

“Look here, Mr. Stranleigh, I’m captain aboard this steamer, and I’m on
the high seas. I warn you, before witnesses here, that any interference
on your part is piracy. I shall not come aboard your steamer, nor shall
I allow any one from your steamer to come aboard of me. I take orders
from none but my own masters, the owners of this ship. I am now under
their orders, and acting upon them. I won’t stand any interference.”

“Again I say quite right, captain. Your sentiments are admirable, and
your views of nautical duty are correct. Nevertheless, it is necessary
that you and I should enjoy a quiet talk together, and I ask you to
favor me by coming aboard.”

“Well, I won’t.”

“Then, as the mountain wouldn’t come to Mahomet, Mahomet went to the
mountain. I ask your permission to go aboard your vessel.”

“I shan’t give it. I’ve told you that before. Now, sheer off, or I’ll
put a cannon ball into your engine room.”

“Oh, have you got a cannon ball on board? How jolly! We are entirely
unarmed so far as ordnance is concerned, but I’d like to say, captain,
that the chances are ten to one your cannon ball wouldn’t do much harm.
You might even plant a floating mine in front of _The Woman in White_,
and although it probably would blow her prow up, yet I think, crablike,
I could crawl backward to the nearest port, as the White Star liner
_Suevic_ made her way from the Lizard to Southampton.”

“Are you going to sheer off, sir.”

“No, and you are not going to fire, either, captain. It isn’t etiquette
at sea to shoot cannon balls at a man until you have finished the cigars
he has presented to you. I dislike very much to allude to my own gifts
in this way, but still I wish you to understand that I am well versed in
nautical law.”

“I want to get along with my voyage, Mr. Stranleigh, unmolested.”

“Why, bless your tarry heart, captain, get along with your voyage. If
you can run away from us, don’t let me put any obstacle in your path.”

“Will you sheer off, sir.”

“Certainly not. I’m quite within my rights. This part of the ocean
belongs as much to me as to the _Rajah_. I’m not delaying you in the
least, and all your talk of interference is mere humbug. If I ran my
craft close enough to endanger yours, you might have a right to object;
but I call your attention to the fact that we are under perfect control,
and I can keep the distance between the ships to an inch. If I went
farther away, I should be unable to converse with you without straining
my throat, which I decline to do. Now, you will neither come aboard my
vessel, nor allow me to go aboard yours.”

“That’s right.”

“Well, I don’t think it is. Nevertheless, you force me to do what I
should much rather, for your sake, not do, and that is I am compelled to
read your letter, and the documents I have referred to, in the hearing
of your crew and my own.”

“You may read what you like to the crew.”

“Captain, I ask you to reconsider that dictum. I grant that you might
honestly have made such a remark on any other voyage you have ever
taken during your long seafaring life, except this one. Just think for
a moment. Don’t reply rashly, and be assured that I mean no harm to you,
nor to anybody else aboard your ship. Quite the contrary. What I intend
to do will be greatly to your advantage, and to that of every man who is
with you.”

When Lord Stranleigh made reference to his present voyage, the captain,
who had been leaning against the rail, stood up suddenly. The men were
whispering with one another. The captain saw that Stranleigh had taken
from his pocket several envelopes, and stood there awaiting his reply.
At last the captain said huskily:

“Will you come aboard alone, sir?”

“Oh, quite alone, of course, since it is your wish, or you can come
aboard here with half a dozen or a dozen men as your bodyguard, if you
like. Bring the cannon, too, if it makes you feel any safer.”

“I’d rather you came aboard here, sir.”

“Very good. Fling over a slightly stronger line than you’d have sent
down for the letter, and I’ll be with you in a jiffy.”

“But how am I to know some others won’t climb up?”

“Well, hang it, arm your men with handspikes, and knock ’em down
again. Don’t keep me waiting here all night. It will be dark very
soon, and I shan’t occupy more than ten minutes of your time. You seem
spoiling for a fight, but I can’t accommodate you. I’m a man of peace,
and that’s why I shudder when you speak to me of cannon. I swear I’ll
tell Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and President Roosevelt the way
you’re behaving. You’re a positive danger on the high seas, with your
ultimatums, and your shots through the engine room, and all that. Heave
over a line, and get your men to watch that the yacht doesn’t spring
aboard of you. No wonder we English are disliked for our browbeating.”

The captain seemed rather ashamed of his fears in face of this
bantering, and besides, some of his crew had laughed, which still
further disconcerted him. A rope fell coiling through the air, and came
slap on deck.

“Hang tight aloft there,” cried Stranleigh, as he jerked the rope taut,
swung himself free of his own boat, and clambered up the black cliff of
the _Rajah_ hand over hand, feet against the side like a monkey.



CHAPTER VII--THE CAPTAIN OF THE “RAJAH” STRIKES OIL

THE captain strode gloomily to the evil-smelling den he called the
cabin, and Stranleigh went down the steps with him, seating himself at
the table.

“Now, captain,” he began, “can we be overheard?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, I come here as your friend. I want to save you, if possible.”

“Save me?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t need any saving.”

“Yes, you do, and a good deal of it. I thought at first that
Frowningshield was the sole culprit, and that you were merely an
innocent victim. I learned to-day that such was not the case; in fact,
I surmised it before, because when you assisted in planting those mines
across the Paramakaboo River you must have known you were committing a
capital offense.”

“Then it wasn’t an accident; you _did_ send down the logs?”

“Of course I did.”

“You watched us ever since we arrived there?”

“Yes, I came from England for that purpose. I left a week after you did,
and was there a week before you, more or less. My man, Mackeller, whom
you kidnapped on board this steamer at Southampton----”

“I didn’t kidnap him, sir. It was Frowning-shield.”

“Oh, I know all about it. Mackeller is on my boat now, within three
hundred yards of where you are sitting. He was up on the hilltop with a
telescope, scrutinizing every action of yours since you landed.”

“But I’m compelled to obey orders.”

“Oh, no, you aren’t. If you are ordered to do a criminal action, you
must not only refuse, but you are in honor bound to give information to
the authorities.”

“I had nothing to do with putting Mackeller into the hold.
Frowningshield put him in, and I didn’t know he was there till we were
more than a day out. It was me insisted he should be sent ashore with
the pilot. Frowningshield wanted to take him with us.”

“That’s neither here nor there, captain. Of course, whenever you knew
a man had been kidnapped in that way aboard your ship, you should have
turned, made straight back to Southampton, giving information to the
authorities. But even if such an unlawful action did not arouse your
suspicions you must have known perfectly well when you planted those
mines that it wasn’t toy balloons you were putting in the water. It’s
too late to pretend innocence. You’ve been bribed to commit a crime.”

“The floating mines weren’t set in English waters.”

“My dear sir, your offense is against international law. No man is
allowed to place floating mines in a river up which a British steamer
may ascend, and so far as that is concerned, you deliberately put them
there to wreck a British steamer. You are at this moment commanding a
pirate ship filled with stolen ore.”

“I know nothing about that, sir. This ship was chartered, and I was told
by my owners to obey the orders of them that chartered her, and that’s
old Schwartzbrod and his gang.”

“We’re merely losing time, captain. You talk about charters and owners.
Well, I am the owner of the _Rajah_. I bought her from Sparling &
Bilge.”

“So _you_ say. That’s nothing to do with me. Even if you bought the
ship, you are bound by law to carry out the charter. Till a charter runs
out and isn’t renewed, owners are helpless. I obey the charter while it
holds, and as long as I do that I’m doing nothing wrong.”

“You are perfectly well aware of what you are doing. I am convinced
of that. You were not born yesterday. Now, you are not sailing toward
Portugal, you are sailing toward a policeman, and it is from that
policeman I wish to save you.”

“Oh, yes, you’d like to get possession of the ship and cargo for
yourself, wouldn’t you?” sneered the captain.

“Yes, exactly.”

“Well, you won’t get it!” cried the master angrily, bringing his huge
fist down on the table. “Talk to me of thieving! What are you? Why,
you’re a pirate, that’s what you are. I said so to Frowningshield, and
he wouldn’t believe me. He thought you wouldn’t dare come aboard of me
on the high seas; that you knew better. You and your policeman! Why,
damn it all, I’d be justified in hanging you from the yardarm!”

“You couldn’t do that, captain,” protested Stranleigh, with great
mildness.

“Why couldn’t I?”

“Because those two masts of yours are not provided with yardarms. You
might possibly hang me from the funnel, or allow me to dangle in chains
from one of the arms of your steam crane, but that’s all.”

“Why don’t you and your gang of ruffians climb aboard here like real
pirates, and make me walk the plank?”

“I have climbed aboard like a real pirate, and I am going to make you
walk the plank.”

“The devil you are!” cried the captain, rising, his two clenched hands
resting on the table, his naturally florid face still further flushed
with wrath. “I’ll show you--I’ll show you what we do to men of your kind
that dare to come aboard a ship on the high seas.”

“Sit down, my dear man, sit down,” pleaded Stranleigh soothingly.
“Don’t bluster. What’s the use of making a fuss? Let’s discuss the thing
amicably.”

“Make me walk the plank, will you?” roared the captain, a-quiver with
resentment.

“Oh, well, well, if you object, of course that puts a different
complexion on the matter. I thought that walking the plank was a
customary nautical amusement. I seem to have been misled by friend Clark
Russell. If it isn’t etiquette, let’s say no more about it. Do sit down,
captain.”

But the captain wouldn’t sit down. His eyes glared, his face grew
redder, and his lips quivered with animosity.

“You come alongside with your toy yacht!”

“It’s a toy, captain, that spins along a little faster than this old
tub.”

“You and your jackanapes dressed up like naval officers, dare to come
aboard o’ me.”

“That’s splendid, captain. I like that phrase, ‘aboard o’ me.’ I’m
delighted to have Clark Russell corroborated from your mouth. Yes, I
come aboard o’ you. What then?”

“What then? Why, then you try to browbeat me in my own cabin, on my own
ship. Who the devil do you think you are, I’d like to know?”

“I am Earl Stranleigh of Wychwood.”

The captain now, without being told, slowly relapsed into his chair,
and gazed across the table at the young man. That latent respect for the
aristocracy which permeates even the most democratic of his Britannic
Majesty’s subjects caused an instant collapse of the truculence which
had threatened an abrupt conclusion to the conference. Curiously enough,
the honest captain never thought of questioning the statement, which had
been made in a quiet, but very convincing tone.

“Earl Stranleigh!” he gasped.

“Yes; of Wychwood. We always insist on the Wychwood, though I’m sure I
don’t know why, for there isn’t another Lord Stranleigh, and Wychwood is
far from being the most important of my estates. Still, there you have
it, captain. English life is full of incongruities.”

“The _rich_ Lord Stranleigh?” questioned the captain, with an accent on
the adjective.

“I’ve just told you there’s only one.”

“Then why in the name of Neptune are you pirating on the high seas? Is
_that_ the way you made your money?”

“No, my money was more or less honestly accumulated by my ancestors, but
I think their method was highway robbery rather than piracy. The looting
of land that didn’t belong to them seemed to occupy their spare time,
and so, what with the rise of manufacturing cities in the midlands, on
portions of our property, the discovery of coal mines, and what not,
my family prospered better than it deserved, and here am I the
twentieth-century representative of it.”

“If that is so, why the deuce are you meddling in this affair?”

“Because I like to see a man minding his own business. The ship which
you so worthily sail is mine. I bought her a few days after you left
Southampton. Here is the deed of transfer, and here is the letter I
spoke of, written to you by Messrs. Sparling & Bilge, informing you that
I am the new owner, that I shall be responsible for your pay hereafter,
and as a consequence they will be much obliged, as, indeed, so shall I,
if you do what I tell you.”

The captain read the documents with slow care, then looked up.

“It’s Sparling & Bilge’s signature all right, and nobody knows it better
than I do, but what about the cargo? Do you intend to unship at Lisbon?”

“No, I intend to run it to Plymouth.”

“But even if the ship’s yours, the cargo isn’t.”

“Surely you knew they were stealing the ore, captain?”

“They told me they had a right to it for three months. Mr. Schwartzbrod
showed me papers to that effect. That’s why they were in such a hurry.
Wanted to get as much out in the time as they could, and offered me a
bonus of five thousand pounds over and above my wages if I ran three
voyages to Lisbon, and two thousand for each extra voyage within the
time.”

“Then, captain, why didn’t they concentrate their energies on the mining
of the ore, and not bother with the mining of the river?”

“Why, Frowningshield told me that they were on the lookout for some
pirates that was going to interfere with them. We didn’t intend to blow
up any vessels unless they were determined to come up the river in spite
of us. That’s why we didn’t put the mines at the mouth of the river. On
the high ground west of the camp, Frowning-shield had two men on watch
all the time. If they saw any ship approach, they were to go down the
river in a boat that was kept below the mines, and order the steamer
to go back. If the captain wouldn’t go back, then he came on at his own
risk.”

“I see. And did Frowningshield tell his men to inform captain and crew
that the river was mined?”

“I don’t know.”

“Now, captain, talking as one seafaring man to another, didn’t all this,
in conjunction with the large sums of money promised you, strike you as
rather fishy? Did this appear to you an honest trading?”

“Well, earl, I’ve sailed to all parts of distant seas, and I’ve known
things done that would have looked mighty queer in Southampton Harbor,
and yet they were all right as far as ever I knew. Things happen in the
South Seas that would seem rather odd in Bristol Channel, you know.”

“You didn’t think you were running any risk, then?”

“Oh, risk! A seafaring man runs risks every time lie leaves port. If
this was a risk, there was good money at the end of it, and that isn’t
always the case when a man ships on a tramp steamer nowadays, what with
everything cut to pieces by foreign competition. You see, earl, men born
to money don’t always appreciate what people will do who’re trying to
pile up a little cash against their old age. I’ve got a wife and family
in a hired house in Southampton--three girls I’ve got at home, earl, and
girls is helpless left poor--not to mention my old woman.”

The captain’s eyes took on a dreamy, far-away look that seemed to
penetrate and question the future. He had, for the moment, forgotten the
young man sitting opposite him, and went on as if talking to himself.

“There’s a piece of land running down to Southampton water--five acres
and a bit more. Somebody built a cottage there and put up a flagpole
on the lawn in front. Then they got tired of it, and it’s for sale. A
thousand pounds they want for the place, everything included. There’s a
few trees, and there’s outhouses; splendid spot to raise chickens. Then
there’s a veranda in front, and an oldish man might sit in an easy-chair
smoking his pipe, and see the American liners come sailing past. And my
family’s living in a rented house on a back street. I’ve always wanted
that bit of land, earl, but never had the money to spare, and when
I come to settle down, like as not somebody else will own it, and we
couldn’t afford it, anyhow. Risks? Of course there’s risks, but when I
think of that little cottage--well, I took the risk, earl.”

“My dear captain,” said the earl softly, “your bit of land makes me
ashamed of myself, and of my moral lectures. I have so much land, and
others have so little. Here’s a hard-working man like you, landless, and
here’s a loafer like me with thousands of acres! Hang me if I wouldn’t
turn Radical were it not for the awful example of William Thomas Stead.
Well, captain, that plot of land is yours from this moment. If somebody
else has bought it in your absence, we’ll evict them. I’ll go bail
that old Schwartzbrod will pay you all he promised whether you make
the voyages or not. Indeed, you are not going to make the voyages, as a
matter of fact. I don’t believe Schwartzbrod ever intended to keep
his promise, and I very much doubt if you could collect. Now, I’m an
excellent collector, and I think I can persuade Schwartzbrod to plead
for the privilege of paying you. You see these city men are much too
sharp for simple, honest chaps like you and me. After you had done
their work, they would have left you in the lurch if you were caught, or
cheated you out of your compensation if you escaped. You may depend upon
it, Schwartzbrod and his crowd have done everything in the most legal
manner. Indeed, as a matter of fact, the last time I saw him he wheedled
a document from me which I have reason to believe covers the villainy
of this expedition. I do not in the least doubt that if I took the case
into the law courts I’d get beaten. That’s why I preferred to fight the
case on the high seas, where an injunction can’t be served till it’s too
late. You and I, captain, are not shrewd enough to be a match for these
rascals.”

There was almost a smirk of self-satisfaction on the captain’s face as
he found himself thus linked with a man of Lord Stranleigh’s rank.

“Well, earl,” he said, “what do you want me to do?”

They were interrupted by the heavy steps of the mate coming down the
stairs.

“What do you want?” roared the captain. “Get out of here.”

“Beg pardon, sir,” explained the mate, “but they’re getting uneasy on
the yacht, and want to know what’s become of the boss.”

“Just excuse me for a moment, captain,” said Stranleigh, “and I’ll speak
to them. You know you did rather tyrannize over us when we first hailed
you, and they probably think you’ve Mac-kellered me. I rather flatter
myself I’ve made a pun there, for ‘keller’ is the German for cellar.”
 The young man sprang lightly up the steps, and went over to the
bulwarks.

“Is it all right, sir?” shouted Mackeller.

“All right, thank you.”

“It’s getting dark, you know. Hadn’t I better heave a revolver up to
you, and if they try any tricks you can fire it off, and we’ll be aboard
before you can say ‘Schwartzbrod.’”

“Ah, Mackeller, Mackeller, you’re always thinking of deadly weapons
and acts of piracy! No wonder I get a bad name in marine circles.
Everything’s going smoothly, and I expect to be with you within ten
minutes.”

Stranleigh returned to the cabin, where he found the captain sitting,
staring into vacancy. Some one had lit an odorous oil lamp.

“Well, captain, before answering your question, I wish to say that I am
interested in mercantile traffic aside from my ownership of the _Rajah_.
Before I left England I reserved for you the berth of captain on a new
steamer called the _Wychwood_, twice the size of this boat, that is
intended for the South American trade. I think she will be ready for you
by the time we reach Plymouth, and the moment we are in Plymouth I shall
hand you a check for a thousand pounds to secure that bit of land by
Southampton water. What sort of a crew have you aboard here? A mutinous
lot, or easy going?”

“Oh, the crew’s all right, earl. They’re Devon men, most of them. It was
a rough lot of passengers we took out under charge of Frowning-shield,
but they herded most by themselves, and held no truck with the crew. The
crew’s all right, sir.”

“Do you think any of the crew knew what was going on?”

“No, I don’t suppose anybody knew what was going on but me and
Frowningshield.”

“Would you like to have your present crew with you on the new steamer?”

“Yes, sir, I would.”

“Officers, too?”

“Yes, I would. Officers, too.”

“Very well, I want you to come aboard my yacht, and be captain of her
from here to Plymouth. Take the mate with you, if you like, or any of
the other officers, and take such of the crew as are not Devon men. I’ll
put some of my own fellows aboard in their place.”

“You mean me to leave the ship, my lord?”

“Yes. The yacht’s captain and mate will take the place of you and your
mate.”

The captain’s face was a study of indecision and doubt.

“It doesn’t seem quite right, my lord.”

“Your late owners have told you to obey me, and I am your new owner. It
is quite right. I have merely transferred you to the yacht as if I were
transferring you to a ferry boat, in order to take you the more quickly
to your new command. We’ll reach Plymouth in a fortnight, or three weeks
before the _Rajah_ does. I’d rather you didn’t go to Southampton, but
if you think you can keep out of sight, I don’t mind your running across
there, seeing your family, and securing that property. Indeed, if the
property is still in the market, and the house empty, there’s no reason
why you shouldn’t move your people into it. You’ll have time enough,
then you can return to Plymouth, see to your new ship, and engage what
men you need to supplement the _Rajah’s_ crew when she arrives.”

The captain made no reply: bowed head and wrinkled brow showed that a
mental conflict was going on.

“I suppose you are very well known in Southampton?”

“No,” he said; “not so well known as you might think. I’m there for a
little while, then off on a long voyage. Not as well known as might be.”

“You see, captain, I’m determined to get out of old Schwartzbrod the
money wherewith to pay not only you, but Frowningshield and his men. I
don’t intend to leave them marooned there while Schwartzbrod sits safe
in London, so I wish no rumor of what has taken place to reach the ears
of Schwartzbrod and his syndicate, therefore I don’t want you to be seen
and recognized by anybody, if possible, and if you are recognized I am
anxious that you should not talk about what has occurred.”

“I see. You want to get all the witnesses shipped off to South America.
Well, you know, my lord, meaning no disrespect, your way of doing things
seems a little fishy, too, as you said a while ago.”

“Of course it looks fishy, but you must fight a whale with a shark
if you haven’t got a harpoon. I must either go to law, which is the
harpoon, with old Schwartzbrod, who is the whale, or else adopt his own
methods, and play the shark. You’ve got to choose which course of fish
you’re going to take, and you’ve got to give your order to the waiter
now.”

“Suppose I refuse, what will you do? Attempt to capture us?”

“Bless you, no. I’ll merely follow you, just as a shark follows a doomed
vessel. The moment you approach a port that contains a British consul,
I’ll dash on ahead, show my papers, and set the law in motion, which,
as I have informed you, I am reluctant to do. The moment that happens
I can’t save you, captain. I don’t know what the penalty is, or whether
there is a penalty. Perhaps your obedience to orders may allow you to
slip through the meshes of the net, and then again perhaps it won’t.
If it doesn’t, then that little cottage on Southampton water, which was
yours a moment ago, will never be occupied by your family. Oh, hang it
all, I’m either coercing or bribing you now, whichever it is. You must
make a free choice. Whatever happens, I’ll buy that piece of land, and
present it to your wife, if you will tell me where it is, and give me
her address. Now, captain, make your choice: the whale or the shark.”

The captain heaved a deep, almost a heartrending sigh, that seemed to
come from the very bottom of his hoots. He rose slowly and ponderously,
and stretched forth his hand.

“Lord Stranleigh,” he said solemnly, as one about to cross the Rubicon,
“Lord Stranleigh, I am ready to walk the plank.”

When Lord Stranleigh emerged from the captain’s cabin of the _Rajah_,
and drew a long, satisfying breath of the sweet evening air outside, he
saw that the moon had risen, while the glow from the sunset still tinted
the western sky. The slight breeze from Africa had completely died away,
and the sea lay around the two ships smooth as a polished mirror. At
a word from Stranleigh the captain of the yacht drew her alongside
the Rajah, and the engines of both steamers stopped. Captain Wilkie,
forewarned, had all his belongings packed, and they were speedily swung
aboard the black steamer. The captain of the Rajah, and his mate, flung
their possessions into boxes, and thus the transfer was made without
loss of time.

“Mackeller,” said Stranleigh, “I fear that luxury is thrown away on you,
and besides, experience on the yacht has shown you that there is
little chance of anything exciting happening. It must discourage you to
remember that none of your repeating rifles have even been unpacked, so
I will cause the cases to be swung aboard the _Rajah_, with sufficient
ammunition to massacre our entire naval force, and I’ll give you six of
my gamekeepers. You can either use the gamekeepers to shoot the crew, or
arm the crew and eliminate the gamekeepers. I had intended to take the
crew of the _Rajah_ upon the yacht, and put the crew of the yacht on the
_Rajah_, but I am so selfish that I cannot bring myself to trust
those clumsy seafarers from a tramp steamer with the somewhat delicate
organization of my yacht. Will you accept the commission, and sail for
home on the comfortless _Rajah?_”

“I shall be delighted, sir,” said Mackeller. “You see, I feel just a
little uncertain about the wisdom of leaving Captain Wilkie unprotected
with what is, after all, a strange crew. Their captain gives them a good
character, but Captain Wilkie, who is a martinet in his way, may get at
loggerheads with them, so it is well that he should have a bloodthirsty
commander and irresistible force at his beck and call. But remember,
Peter, that for every sailor you shoot, one of your gamekeepers must
take to the sailoring trade, which might turn out inconvenient in a
storm, so repress your war spirit until the captain orders it to belch
forth. I imagine your frowning appearance as, resembling the German
Emperor, you walk the deck, will quell any incipient mutiny in the bud,
if buds are quelled. Nevertheless, it is safer to hold the rifles in
the background in case of an emergency. So call for six volunteers from
among my men, and then fling your trunk aboard the lugger, after which
it will be good-by till I meet you again at Plymouth.” When the exchange
was completed the white yacht drew away from the tramp and speedily
disappeared to the north like a ghost. Captain Wilkie watched her
departure with regret, and was unhappy at his promotion to the
unkempt and dirty tramp steamer, with her slouching crew, dressed like
scarecrows. The new commander of the yacht felt equally out of place in
this trim, scrupulously clean, nickel-plated, bride’s-cake of a ship,
while the sailors, in their spick-and-span natty uniforms, gave him the
impression of being in a nightmare where an uncouth private had been
placed in charge of a company of officers. As he was about the same size
as Wilkie, the useful Ponderby, at Stranleigh’s orders, fitted him out
next morning in a gorgeous uniform which added to the beauty of his
outward appearance without materially augmenting his inward comfort.
However, the bluff captain understood his business, no matter what
costume he wore, and Stranleigh, studying him very unobtrusively as the
voyage went on, came to place a great confidence in him, and felt rather
ashamed of the distrust that had caused him to transfer the captain from
the _Rajah_ to the yacht. Before a week was past, he was certain that
this gruff sea dog would have taken the _Rajah_ direct to Plymouth once
he had given his word, quite as faithfully as Captain Wilkie was doing.
Although Stranleigh said nothing of this trust, and even doubted if
the simple old man had seen the reason of the change, he nevertheless
resolved to make amends, though not in words. The weather throughout
had been almost obtrusively gentle, and Stranleigh complained that the
voyage was falsifying all of Clark Russell’s novels. He grumbled to
the doctor that his faith in Clark Russell was undergoing a tremendous
strain.

“When we reach a dead calm in one of Clark Russell’s novels,” he said
to the doctor, “we always know what to expect. Suddenly out of the west
comes a ripping cyclone which lays us over on our beam ends. Then
wild, blinding rain and utter darkness, lit up only by vivid flashes of
lightning. Every one has to cling to whatever is nearest him: overboard
go the chicken coops, and there is such a general pandemonium that the
voice of command cannot be heard. Crash go the masts, funnels, and what
not: we right ourselves, staggering under the mountainous waves, and
find ourselves a dismantled hulk next morning, with the cook missing,
and no hot rolls for breakfast. Now, in reality we have had evenings
without a zephyr afloat, then follows a peaceful night, and morning
comes with a maidenly blush, like that on a new-born rose. I imagine the
ocean has improved since Clark Russell’s time, or perhaps the Government
weather bureau has regulated tilings. We are a wonderful people, doctor,
and at last Britannia really does rule the waves.”

Fast as his yacht was, the young man had become tired of the voyage. He
yearned for his morning paper and a stroll down Piccadilly. When well
across the placid Bay of Biscay, he called up one of his wireless
telegraphers, and said to him:

“I say, my son, cannot you tune up your heavenly harp, and pull us
some news down out of the sky? Aren’t we within the Marconi range of
civilization yet?”

“Yes, sir. Several private messages have come through, and some scraps
of news, but nothing important. The chancellor of the exchequer is
speaking in the House of Commons on some bill, so far as I understand
it, to regulate the Bank of England.”

“I fear that wouldn’t be very exciting reading, my boy, and besides,
I don’t understand finance, and never did. Still, I’d welcome even
the words of a politician this evening, so if the chancellor is still
talking, write out what he says. And, by the way, if you get a chance
to talk back, you might ask the horizon what races were on to-day,
and which horses won. After all, it is encouraging to know that the
chancellor of the exchequer is on his feet. That shows that old England
is still a going concern. It seems a year since I was there.”

The operator departed for the telegraphic cabin, and Stranleigh went on
with his cigar and after-dinner coffee. Presently the young man returned
with a grin on his face.

“He’s at it again, sir,” he said, and handed Stranleigh a sheet of paper
headed:

“CHANCELLOR EXCHEQUER.

“During the past decade our bank rate has been in a state of constant
fluctuation, changing many times, and ranging from two-and-a-half
to seven per cent., a variation which has exercised anything but a
beneficial effect upon business. The gold in the issue department of
the Bank of England usually amounts to about thirty millions of pounds,
which are shown to be inadequate to the needs of our time. On the other
hand, the Bank of France rarely allows its reserve to fall below a
hundred millions of pounds, with a consequence that the French bank rate
remains steady at from two-and-a-half to three per cent., and has not
risen to four per cent for thirty years. In the twelve months preceding
the report of 1904 the bank rate of France had not been changed once,
while our own bank rate had jumped from----”

Here Stranleigh crumpled the paper into a ball in his hand, and flung it
into the ocean.

“Great heavens!” he cried. “I wonder what kind of a brain revels in that
sort of rot! And not a word about the races! What do these telegraphers
imagine news is, anyhow?”

The ignorant young man little dreamed that the message he was reading
would exercise an astounding influence on his own career on that day
when the Bank of England was compelled by the new Act of Parliament to
raise its reserve of gold from thirty millions of pounds to one hundred
millions. A world-wide financial disturbance lay ahead which Stranleigh
did not suspect any more than did the wise lawmakers who passed the bill
by a large majority. Most of them, including his lordship, thought the
races more important and interesting.

The captain strolled aft. More and more as the days went on the
frivolous young man’s liking for this veteran of the sea had increased,
in spite of the fact that the captain had endeavored to carry away his
gold mine.

“Sit down, captain,” he cried. “What will you drink?”

“A cup of coffee, to keep me awake. I expect to be up all night, or at
least till we pass the Ushant.”

“Right you are, and coffee it is. Oh, by the way, I have changed my
mind, and you must change your course. Instead of striking straight
across from Ushant to Plymouth, steer your course up the Channel for
Southampton.”

“Very good, earl.”

“And I’ve also changed my mind regarding that bit of land of yours.”

“Oh, have you, earl?” said the captain, with a catch in his voice, and
disappointment visible on his countenance.

“Yes, that’s the reason we’re going to Southampton. You will lay this
yacht up--I think that is the nautical term--alongside your bit of land.
As you know, I am anxious that you shouldn’t be seen, and also that
nobody aboard should have a chance to talk.”

“I’ll see to that, earl.”

“My dear man, don’t call me earl. I told you I was an earl in strict
confidence. Haven’t you noticed that everyone addresses me as ‘sir,’ and
I don’t even insist on that. We are all free and equal at sea, except
the captain, who rules over us. When we reach Southampton water I’ll go
ashore in the motor boat, will call on the land agent, secure the estate
of five acres, give the deeds to your wife, and invite her and the
family to come up and view the cottage.”

“She knows where it is, sir. We’ve often been there together.”

“Then you’ll grant no shore leave, not even to yourself. You’ll keep
the lads busy while I’m ashore. Take the yacht to the nearest coaling
station, wherever it is, and fill her up with black diamonds. We may
want to go to New York, for all I know. What time do you expect to pass
Ushant?”

“About one bell, sir; half an hour after midnight.”

“How long is the run from Ushant to Southampton?”

“We should do it easy in eleven hours.”

“Then we’ll reach there at noon to-morrow? Very good. You had better,
perhaps, run me right up to Southampton, attend to the port formalities,
see to the coaling, and be lying off your bit of property by six o’clock
next evening. I’ll stop the night at a hotel, so you needn’t trouble
about me. How large is your family, captain?”

“The three eldest are at sea, and the three girls at home with the
missus.”

“Three girls? Oh, that’s jolly! Very well, I think we’ve everything
arranged. You will see that the motor boat is ready for me at the
landing both to-morrow afternoon and all next day. I shall probably
want to run up the bay to the bit of land, or down, whichever it is. I
suppose you can point it out to me as we pass?”

“Oh, yes, sir. I never enter or leave Southampton without looking at
that bit of ground.”

“Very well. At about five o’clock p.m. day after to-morrow I shall
invite the missus and the three girls to take a trip with me in the
motor boat. Arriving there I shall hand the keys and the deeds to the
lady of the house, and if you come ashore I’ll introduce you to the
family. You may stop all night ashore. Next morning take the yacht,
and navigate her slowly round to Plymouth. There you may give everybody
shore leave, but don’t overdo it. You understand what I want, which is
that no man shall talk about the mine in West Africa or the transfer in
midocean, so I expect you to keep your section of the crew in hand. I
can answer for my fellows. Oh, yes, by the way, I’ll take my woodmen off
at noon to-morrow, together with all that are left of my gamekeepers,
and send them home, including the excellent Ponderby, so you will have
none to deal with except those belonging to the yacht.”

_The Woman in White_ did even better than the captain anticipated,
and landed her owner in Southampton at ten minutes to eleven. He bade
farewell to his men, and dispatched them to their homes, none the poorer
for their long voyage. He visited the land agent’s office, transacted
his business within ten minutes, drew his check, and told the manager
to have the papers ready by twelve o’clock next day. Then he went to the
back street, and knocked at the number the captain had given him.
The door was opened by a buxom young woman, in whose flashing eyes he
recognized her father.

“Well, my dear,” he said, chucking her under the chin, “are you
the gallant captain’s daughter, as we say in the revised version of
‘Pinafore’?”

The girl drew back in righteous anger, and if a dagger glance of the
eyes could have slain, he would have been in danger, but the callous
young man merely laughed.

“Mother at home?” he asked.

“Who are you?” demanded the offended girl.

“That’s the same question your father asked me. It’s a secret, and I’ll
tell it only to your mother.”

At this moment the mother, hearing the high tones of her daughter, and
fancying something was wrong, appeared in the hall; a stout, elderly
woman, who frowned at the tall, nattily dressed stranger.

“My name is Stranleigh, madam, and I am by way of being a shipowner.
Your husband is one of my captains.”

“He is nothing of the sort. He is captain of the _Rajah._’”

“Quite right, and I am the owner of the _Rajah_. Your husband has just
bought that little bit of property down the bay; the one with a cottage
and a flag pole, you know.”

“What are you talking about, sir? My husband is hundreds and hundreds of
miles away at sea.”

“Oh, no, madam, it’s you who are at sea. Of course, he didn’t buy the
property personally. I have acted as his agent, and I come merely to
tell you of the transaction. The deeds are promised by noon to-morrow,
when I am promising myself the pleasure of handing them to you.”

“Then his venture has turned out a success? I had my doubts of it.”

“So had I, madam, but we who predict disaster are often confounded.
Everything is all right, as you remark.” Then, turning to the one who
had let him in, he said reproachfully: “Please don’t scowl at me like
that, but close the door and invite me into the parlor. Don’t you see
I’m a visitor?”

The girl said nothing, but looked at her mother.

“Come this way, sir,” said the woman, opening the door at the left,
whereupon the girl, with visible reluctance, closed the front door.

“Where are the other two girls’?” demanded Stranleigh.

“They are in the kitchen, sir.”

“Please send for them. I wish to see the whole family, being so well
acquainted with the captain.”

The still unmollified door opener, at a nod from her mother,
disappeared, returning shortly with the two younger children shrinking
bashfully behind their elder sister, who quite evidently ruled the
household.

“Ah,” said Stranleigh, “what a fine family! It is evident that these
girls did not depend for their beauty solely on their father.”

“I think,” said the elder girl haughtily, “that my father is the finest
looking man in the world.”

“You’ll change your mind some of these days, miss, or I’m greatly
mistaken. I admit the worth of your father, but you’ll never see his
picture on a beauty post card. And now, if you’re prepared for a bit of
news, and if every one promises not to faint, I’ll tell you what it is.”

“Oh, he isn’t arrested?” cried the wife in alarm.

“Arrested? Of course not. Why should he be? He is coaling my yacht at
this moment somewhere in Southampton harbor, within half a mile of where
you are sitting.”

There were some shrieks of surprise at this intelligence, but Stranleigh
went on unheeding.

“Now, as I have told you, the cottage is yours, and I wish you to do
something very enterprising; to hustle, as they say in America. My motor
boat is down at the landing, and can take you to and from the cottage as
often as you like, and it will be speedier than tram or cab or railway
carriage. Missus, you will be chief of the finest burst of shopping
Southampton has ever seen. Your husband will land at the cottage at six
o’clock tomorrow night. The chances are that the empty house will not be
any the worse for a little cleaning, so your eldest daughter here should
take with her a host of charwomen, and scrub the edifice from top room
to basement. Then, madam, you are to go to whatever furniture shop you
choose, ignore all that you now possess, and furnish every room in that
house before four o’clock tomorrow.”

“But, sir, that will cost a mint of money, and we----”

“Yes, I didn’t expect it done for nothing, and I haven’t the remotest
idea what the total will be. But here are three hundred pounds to go
on with. I got this purposely to-day in crisp Bank of England notes.
Whatever more is needed I will pay you to-morrow.”

“But how are we ever to pay you, sir?” asked the astonished woman.

“No need of that, madam. Your husband did me a very great service, and
I am merely arranging this as a pleasant surprise for him, and also
because of the intense admiration your eldest daughter exhibits for me.”

The girl tossed her head.

“He’s a humbug, mother; don’t believe him. There’s something bogus in
all this. I’ll warrant you those notes are counterfeit. He wants to get
us out of the house, and then steal the furniture. I read about a person
like him in the papers. He got seven years.”

Lord Stranleigh laughed.

“Why, how sharp you are, unbelieving creature. You’ve guessed it the
first time. Is the furniture in this villa worth three hundred pounds?”

“No, it isn’t,” said the girl promptly.

“Very well. Take those notes to the bank, and get golden sovereigns for
them, leaving your mother on guard till you return. They’ll probably ask
you where you got them, and you will answer thus: ‘They are the proceeds
of a draft for three hundred pounds which Lord Stranleigh of Wychwood
cashed at the London and County to-day, at half-past eleven.’ If they
still wish to know how you came by them, say that Lord Stranleigh is
the owner of several steamships, and that your father is captain of the
largest of them. Say nothing of the _Rajah_, because he is now chief
of a steamer twice her size. I took notes because they were lighter to
carry, but when you get the gold I hope you will do what I ask of you,
and leave this house promptly, so that I can steal its furniture without
molestation.”

“Are you Lord Stranleigh?” gasped the mother.

“Yes, madam, and there’s one other favor I beg of you, and of these
three charming girls. Mention to nobody that your father has returned.
Neither he nor I wish this known for a while yet, and I am quite sure
four women can keep the secret, even if one man can’t.”

“There’s nothing wrong, is there?” asked the anxious woman.

“Nothing wrong at all. It’s merely a matter concerning his new ship,
which lies at Plymouth, where he must go on the morning of day after
tomorrow.”

Energetic as the captain’s family was, they never put in such a day
and a half of nervous, capable speed in their lives before, and this
included the intervening night, during which none of them slept.

By five o’clock in the afternoon everything was ship-shape, although
not quite to the satisfaction of the eldest daughter, and at six
Lord Stranleigh had the felicity of introducing the captain to his
possessions, human and material, old and new. Then he rushed back in his
motor boat, and took the train to London.



CHAPTER VIII--THE “RAJAH” GETS INTO LEGAL DIFFICULTIES

A CAB from the London terminus speedily deposited Lord Stranleigh at
his favorite club in Pall Mall. Two acquaintances coming down the
steps nodded to him casually, so casually that the salutation, taken in
conjunction with the lack of all interest displayed in the smoking room
when he entered, caused him to realize that he had never been missed,
and this indifference keeps a man from becoming too conceited when he
has victoriously pitted his intelligence against bears or brigands in
far-away corners of the earth, and lives to tell the tale, or keep quiet
about it, as the case may be. As he was attired in the ordinary business
suit that had done two days’ hard duty at Southampton, he could not
commit the solecism of entering the dining room. Indeed, gleaming,
snowy shirt fronts were so prevalent in the smoking room itself that he
experienced the unaccustomed, but rather enjoyable feeling of being a
wild and woolly pioneer, who had strayed by mistake into a stronghold
of fashionable civilization. The dining room being forbidden ground,
Stranleigh contented himself with a couple of sandwiches and a tankard
of German beer. As he partook of this frugal fare, a broad shirt front
bore down upon him that reminded him of the sail of a racing yacht.

“Hello, Stranleigh,” said Sir William Grainger, the owner of the shirt
front. “Remember me telling you last week that Flying Scud was sure of a
place in the Maple-Durham stakes?”

“I don’t remember having received that information from you,” replied
Stranleigh. “Did Flying Scud pull it off, then?”

“Pull it off? Why, the race isn’t run till tomorrow.”

“Oh, I beg pardon, I had forgotten the date.”

“Well, Stranleigh, I’ve got it straight that Flying Scud will romp in a
winner. It’s a sure thing. Don’t you give it away, but act on the hint,
and you won’t be sorry. Odds are twenty-five to one at the present
moment, and for every blooming quid you put up, you’ll get a pony.”

“That’s very attractive, Billy.”

“Attractive? Why, it’s simply found money.”

“Ah, well, such chances are not for me, Billy. I’ve had to pawn my
evening togs in order to get a sandwich and a glass of beer. I’m a
hornyhanded son of toil trying to pick up an honest living. Why don’t you
follow my example, Billy, and do something useful? This deplorable habit
of betting on the races will lead you into financial straits by and by,
and what is worse, the gambling fever may become chronic if you don’t
check it in time.”

Sir William Grainger laughed joyously at this. He was a young man who
had already run through a large patrimony left him by his father, and
since that time had developed a genius for borrowing which would have
done credit to Harriman, the railway king.

“Come, Stranleigh, don’t preach, or at least, if you do preach, don’t
hedge. You know what I want. Lend me a pony till next Monday, there’s
a good fellow. That sum will bring me in six hundred and twenty-five
pounds before to-morrow night. I’ve figured it all out on a sheet
of club paper, but I’m stony broke, so fork over the twenty-five,
Stranleigh.”

Lord Stranleigh, without demur, took from his pocketbook some Bank of
England notes of ten pounds each, selected three of them, and passed
them on to Sir William, who thus getting five pounds more than he had
asked for, lovingly fingered the tenacious, crisp pieces of paper, then
put forward a bluff of getting one of them changed, that he might return
the extra money.

“Oh, don’t trouble about that,” said Stranleigh, somewhat wearily. He
had had a tiring day at Southampton, and beer and sandwiches were not a
very inspiring meal at the end of it. “Don’t trouble about that. If you
take another sheet of club paper, you may be able to calculate how much
more the extra five pounds will bring you in to-morrow night.”

“By Jove, that’s true,” said Sir William, much relieved, and then the
ease with which he had made the haul seemed to stir up his covetousness
and still further submerge all self-respect.

“Talking of the extra amount I will gain reminds me, Stranleigh, that if
you will give me one more ten-pound note, the whole loot will be an
even thousand at twenty-five to one, you know. I’ll pay it all back on
Monday, but it seems a pity to miss such a chance, doesn’t it?”

“How wonderfully you can estimate the odds, Billy. If forty pounds will
bring you a thousand, then, as you say, it would be a pity to miss such
an opportunity. Well, here you are,” and he passed the fourth ten-pound
note into the other’s custody.

Still Sir William lingered. Perhaps it would have been more merciful if
his lordship had demurred rather strenuously against accommodating him
with the so-called loan. The sight of the other’s notes now returning to
his pocket filled him with envy. He felt some remnant of reluctance in
attempting to increase his acquisition, so he put it in another form:

“I say, Stranleigh, if you’d like me to lay a bit on for you, so far as
Flying Scud is concerned, I’ll do it with pleasure.”

“Thanks, old man, but I shan’t trouble you. I intend to put on some
money, but it will be against Flying Scud.”

“What! have you heard anything?” cried Sir William in alarm, but the
other interrupted----

“I know nothing about the horse at all, but I know a good deal about
your luck, and I’ll have that forty pounds back on Monday, without
troubling you, except by betting against you.” Sir William laughed a
little, shrugged his shoulders, and walked away with the loot.

“Yes,” murmured Stranleigh to himself, “this is dear old London again,
sure enough. The borrowing of money has begun.”

In spite of being touched for varying amounts, Lord Stranleigh enjoyed
to the full his return to the Metropolis, and for many days strolled
down Piccadilly with the easy grace of a man about town, the envy of
less fortunate people who knew him. This period of indolence was put an
end to by the receipt of a telegram from Mackeller. That capable young
man had sent his message from the northwest corner of Brittany,
having ordered the _Rajah_ to be run into the roadstead of Brest.
The communication informed Stranleigh that Mackeller had hoisted up a
portion of the cargo, and placed it aboard a lugger, which was to sail
direct for Portreath. This transhipment of part of the cargo had brought
Plimsoll’s mark on the side of the _Rajah_ into view once more, and the
steamer might now enter the harbor of Plymouth without danger of being
haled before the authorities, charged with overloading. He expected to
reach Plymouth next day.

Stranleigh was lunching at home that day because in the morning he had
been favored with a telephone call, and on putting the receiver to his
ear, had distinguished the still, small voice of Conrad Schwartzbrod,
who appeared to be trying to say something with reference to the
_Rajah_. Stranleigh was afflicted with a certain dislike of the
telephone, and often manifested an impatience with its working which he
did not usually show when confronted with the greater evils of life, so
after telling the good Mr. Schwartzbrod to stand farther away from the
transmitter, to come closer, to speak louder, he at last admitted he
could not understand what was being said, and invited the financier to
call upon him at his house that afternoon at half past two, if what he
had to say was important enough to justify a journey from the city to
the West End.

At the luncheon table Mackeller’s long telegram was handed to him, and,
after he had read it, Stranleigh smiled as he thought how nearly its
arrival had coincided with Schwartzbrod’s visit, and he wondered how
much the latter would give for its perusal if he knew of its existence.
He surmised that the Stock Exchange magnate was becoming a little
anxious because of the nonarrival of the _Rajah_ at Lisbon, where,
doubtless, his emissaries awaited her. In spite of his pretense of
misapprehension, he had heard quite distinctly at the telephone receiver
that Schwartz-brod had just learned he was the owner of the _Rajah_, and
that he wished to renew his charter of that slow-going, deliberate steam
vessel, but he could not deny himself the pleasure of crossquestioning
so crafty an opponent face to face. He had been expecting an application
from Conrad Schwartzbrod for some days, and now it had arrived almost
too late, for he directed Ponderby to secure him a berth on the Plymouth
express for that night.

The young nobleman did not receive the elderly capitalist in his
business office downstairs, as perhaps would have been the more
suitable, but greeted him instead in the ample and luxurious
drawing-room on the first floor, where Stranleigh, enjoying the liberty
of a bachelor, was smoking an after-luncheon cigar, and he began the
interview by offering a similar one to his visitor, which was declined.
Mr. Schwartzbrod, it seemed, never smoked.

The furtive old man was palpably nervous and ill at ease. He sat on the
extreme edge of an elegant chair, and appeared not to know exactly what
to do with his hands. The news which had reached him from Sparling &
Bilge in Southampton, that Lord Stranleigh was the new owner of the
_Rajah_, had disquieted Schwartzbrod, and his manner showed this to his
indolent host, who lounged back in an easy-chair, calmly viewing the
newcomer with an expression of countenance that was almost cherublike in
its innocence.

[Illustration: 0247]

“Sorry you don’t smoke,” drawled the younger man. “You miss a great deal
of pleasure in life by your abstention.”

“It is a habit I never acquired, my lord, and so perhaps I do not feel
the lack of it so much as one accustomed to tobacco might suppose. I
lead a very busy life, and, indeed, a somewhat anxious one, since
times are so bad in the city, therefore I have little opportunity of
cultivating what I might call--I hope with no offense--the smaller
vices.”

“Ah, there speaks a large trader. You go in for the big things in life,
whether in finance or in vice.”

“I hope I may say without vanity, my lord, that I have always avoided
vice, large or small.”

“Lucky man; I wish I could make the same confession. So times are bad in
the city, are they?”

“Yes, they are.”

“Then why don’t you chuck the city, and come and live in the West End
where life is easy?”

“A rich man may live where he pleases, my lord, but I have been a hard
worker all my life.”

“Poor, but honest, eh? Still, when all’s said and done, Mr.
Schwartzbrod, I really believe that you hard workers enjoy your money
better when you get it than we leisurely people who have never known
the lack of it. I believe in honesty myself, and if I were not of so
indolent a nature, I think I might perhaps have become an honest man.
But a busy laborer like yourself, Mr. Schwartzbrod, has not come to the
West End to hear me talk platitudes about honesty. In America the man
goes West who intends to work hard. In London a man comes west when he
has made money.

“‘You miss a great deal of pleasure in life.’”

“He has his pile in the city, and expects to cease work. You have come west
temporarily to see me about some matter which the telephone delighted in
mixing up with buzzings and rattlings and intermittent chattering that
made your theme difficult to comprehend. Perhaps you will be good enough
to let me know in what way I may serve you.”

“At the time when I expected to operate the gold field, which you know
of, my lord, I chartered a steamer, named the _Rajah_, at Southampton.”

“Oh, the _Rajah!_” interrupted his lordship, sitting up, a gleam of
intelligent comprehension animating his face. “The _Rajah_ was what you
were trying to say? I thought you were speaking of a Jolly Roger. Roger
was the word that came over to me, and ‘Jolly Roger’ means the flag of
a pirate ship, or something pertaining to piracy, so I, recognizing your
voice, thinks to myself: ‘What, in the name of Moses and the Prophets,
can a respectable city personage mean by speaking of the Jolly Roger,
as if he were a captain of buccaneers.’ Oh, yes, the _Rajah!_ _Now_ I
understand. Proceed, Mr. Schwartzbrod.”

The personage seemed to turn a trifle more sallow than usual as the
other went on enthusiastically talking of pirate ships and buccaneers,
but he surmised that the young nobleman meant nothing in particular,
as he sank back once more in his easy-chair, and again half closed his
eyes, blowing the smoke of his cigar airily aloft. Presently, moistening
his lips, Conrad Schwartzbrod found voice, convinced that the other’s
allusion to marine pillage was a mere coincidence, and not a covert
reference to Frowningshield and his merry men, or to the mission of the
_Rajah_ herself.

“I was about to say, my lord, that I had chartered the _Rajah_ from
a firm of shipping people in Southampton, intending to use her in the
development of the mineral property in West Africa. That property having
passed from the hands of myself and my associates into yours, my lord, I
determined to employ the _Rajah_ in the South American cattle trade, as we
own an extensive tract of territory in the Argentine, the interests of
which we are endeavoring to forward with the ultimate object of floating
a company.”

Again the prospective company promoter moistened his lips when they had
safely delivered this interesting piece of fiction.

“So the _Rajah_ has gone to the Argentine Republic, has she?” said
Stranleigh.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Filled with dynamite and mining machinery, eh? Surely a remarkable
cargo for a herdsman to transport, Mr. Schwartzbrod?”

“Well, you see, my lord, the dynamite and machinery was on our hands,
and as there are many mines in South America, we thought we could sell
the cargo there to better advantage than in Southampton.”

“Of course I don’t in the least doubt, Mr. Schwartzbrod, that you own
large ranches in South America, but I strongly suspect----”

He paused, and opened his eyes to half width, looking quizzically at his
_vis-à-vis_.

“You strongly suspect what, my lord?” muttered Schwartzbrod.

“I suspect that you own a mine in South America that you are keeping
very quiet about.”

“Well, my lord,” confessed Schwartzbrod, with apparent diffidence, “it
is rarely wise to speak of these things prematurely.”

“That is quite true, and I have really no wish to pry into your secrets,
but to tell the truth, I felt a little sore about your action with
regard to the _Rajah_.”

“My action? What action?”

“You must admit, Mr. Schwartzbrod, that when I acquired those so-called
gold fields, I became possessor of everything the company owned, or at
least I thought I did. Now, in the company was vested the charter of the
_Rajah_, and it was the company’s money which bought all the materials
with which you have sailed away to South America. It therefore seemed to
me--I don’t wish to put it harshly--that you had, practically, made off
with a portion of my property.”

“You astonish me, my lord. It never occurred to me that such a view
could be held by any one, especially one like yourself, so well
acquainted with facts.”

Stranleigh shrugged his shoulders.

“Acquainted with the facts? Oh, I don’t know that I’m so very well
versed in them. I’m not a business man, Mr. Schwartzbrod, and although
I engage business men to look after my interests, it seems to me that
sometimes they are not as sharp as they might be. I thought, after the
acquisition of the company’s property, that the charter of the _Rajah_
and the contents of her hold belonged to me, just as much as the
company’s money in the bank did, or as its gold in West Africa.”

“I assure you, my lord, you are mistaken. The _Rajah_ and her charter
were not mentioned in the documents of agreement between you and me,
while the money in the bank was. But aside from all that, my lord,
you gave me a document covering all that had been done previous to its
signing, and the _Rajah_ had sailed from South America several days
before that instrument was completed. Everything was done legally, and
under the advice of competent solicitors--yours and mine.”

“Do not mistake me, Mr. Schwartzbrod; I am not complaining at all, nor
even doubting the legality of the documents to which you refer. I am
merely saying that I thought the _Rajah_ and her cargo was to be turned
over to me. There, doubtless, I was mistaken. It seems to me after all,
Mr. Schwartzbrod, that there is a higher criterion of action than mere
legality. You, probably, would be the first to admit that there is
such a thing as moral right which may not happen to coincide with legal
right.”

“Assuredly, assuredly, my lord. I should be very sorry indeed to
infringe upon any moral law, but, unfortunately, in this defective
world, my lord, experience has shown that it is always well to set down
in plain black and white exactly what a man means when a transfer
is made, otherwise your remembrance of what was intended may differ
entirely from mine, and yet each of us may be scrupulously honest in our
contention.”

“Yes, you have me there, Mr. Schwartzbrod. I see the force of your
reasoning, and a man has only himself to blame if he neglects those
necessary precautions which you have mentioned, so we will say nothing
more about that phase of the matter, but you will easily understand that
having thought myself entitled to the use of the Rajah, I may not feel
myself inclined to renew your charter now.”

“Ah, there again, my lord, it is all set down in black and white. The
charter distinctly states that I am to have the option of renewal for a
further three months when the first three months has expired.”

“You corner me at every point of the game, Mr. Schwartzbrod. I take
it, then, that my purchase of the _Rajah_ does not invalidate the
arrangement made with you by her former owners?”

“Certainly not, my lord. If you buy a property, you take over all its
liabilities.”

“That seems just and reasonable. So your application for renewal is a
mere formality, against which any objection of mine would be futile?”

“Did not Sparling & Bilge explain to you, my lord, that the steamer was
under charter?”

“I never saw those estimable gentlemen, Mr. Schwartzbrod. The purchase
was made by an agent of mine, and I have no doubt Sparling & Bilge made
him acquainted with all the liabilities I was acquiring. If you insist
on exercising your option, Mr. Schwartzbrod, I suppose I must either
postpone the development of my gold-bearing property, or charter another
steamer?”

“I should be sorry to put you to the trouble and expense of chartering
another boat when the _Rajah_ is so well suited to your purpose, my
lord. It is possible that, even before the first charter is completed,
the _Rajah_ may have returned to Southampton, and our experiments in the
cattle trade may end with the first voyage. In that case I shall be very
pleased to relinquish my claim upon your steamer.”

“That is very good of you, Mr. Schwartzbrod. By the way, where is the
_Rajah_ now?”

“She is probably in some port along the Argentine coast, south of Buenos
Ayres.”

“Really? Then perhaps you can tell me where Mackeller is?”

“Mackeller? You mean the mining engineer, son of the stockbroker?”

“Yes, I thought he was in my employment, and sent him down to attend the
loading of the _Rajah_, but he has disappeared. Did you engage him?”

“No, I know nothing of him.”

“I thought perhaps he had sailed with the _Rajah_.”

“Not to my knowledge. Doesn’t his father know where he is?”

“His father appears to know no more than I do. Just as much, or just as
little, whichever way you like to put it.”

“He’s no employee of mine, my lord.”

“I think he should have given me notice if he intended to quit my
service. Probably he has gone hunting a gold mine for himself.”

“I think there are many mining engineers more valuable than young
Mackeller, my lord. He always seemed to me a stubborn, unmannerly
person.”

“Yes, he lacked the polish which the city gives to a man. I suppose his
life in the various wildernesses he has visited has not been conducive
to the acquirement of the art of politeness. Still, as you say, there
is no lack of mining engineers in London, and doubtless, when the time
comes that I need one, I shall find a suitable man for the vacancy.”

“I shall be very glad to help you in the selection, my lord, if you care
to consult me.”

“Thanks, I’ll remember that. I take it with regard to this charter that
I have to sign something, haven’t I, although I suppose I shouldn’t
sign until my solicitors are consulted; still, I feel quite safe in your
hands, Mr. Schwartzbrod, and if you will send me the document, and mark
with a lead pencil where my signature is to go, I shall attend to it.”

“I have brought the papers with me, my lord,” said the financier
eagerly, extracting them from his pocket.

“Could you also oblige me with a fountain pen? Ah, thanks. You go about
fully equipped for business, Mr. Schwartzbrod. That’s what it is to be a
methodical man.”

His lordship cleared a little space on the table, and wrote his name at
the bottom of two documents, which, however, he took the precaution to
read with some care before attaching his autograph to them, in spite
of his disclaimer that he understood nothing about these things. He
complained languidly of the obscure nature of the papers, and said
it was no wonder lawyers were so much needed to elucidate them.
Schwartzbrod put the papers in his pocket with a satisfaction he could
scarcely conceal, then, standing up, he buttoned his coat, ever so much
more alert than the weary young man, half his age, who stood up from his
writing as if the exertion had almost exhausted him. He, however, made
a quiet, casual remark in parting that suddenly electrified the room and
made his guest shiver and turn pale.

“When did you say you expected the _Rajah_ from Lisbon, Mr.
Schwartzbrod?”

For a few moments there was intense stillness. Stranleigh was lighting
another cigar, and did not look up at the terror-stricken man, whose
bulging eyes were filled with fear.

“Lisbon--Lisbon?” he gasped, trying to secure control of his features.
“I--I never mentioned Lisbon.”

“Oh, yes, you did. You said she was at some point south of Lisbon,
didn’t you?”

“I said Buenos Ayres.”

Stranleigh made a gesture of impatience as if he were annoyed with
himself.

“Why, of course you said Buenos Ayres. How stupid of me. I am always
mixing these foreign places up. I suppose it is because the Argentine
Republic is one of those former Spanish possessions, and Lisbon being in
Spain, I confused the two.”

“Lisbon is in Portugal, my lord; the capital of Portugal.”

“You are right. It was Madrid I was thinking of Madrid is in Spain,
isn’t it?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And it isn’t a port, either?”

“No, my lord.”

“And is Lisbon on the sea?”

“On the river Tagus, my lord.”

“I am an ignoramus, that’s what I am. I ought really to go to school
again. I have forgotten everything I learned there. Well, good
afternoon, Mr. Schwartzbrod. Anything else I can do for you, you know,
don’t hesitate to call on me. We financiers must stand by one another,
while times are so bad in the city.”

The young man stood at the head of the stairs, a cigar between his
lips, and his hands deep in his trousers pockets, seeing which Mr.
Schwartzbrod, who had tentatively made a motion to shake hands in
farewell, thought better of it, and went down the stairs, at the bottom
of which the silent Ponderby waited to open the door for him. When he
reached the floor below Schwartzbrod cast one look over his shoulder
up the stairs. The young man still stood on the landing, gazing
contemplatively down upon his parting guest. He nodded pleasantly, and
“Ta-ta,” he said, but the expression on Schwartzbrod’s face could
not have shown greater perturbation if Satan himself had occupied
Stranleigh’s place.

“A very uncomfortable companion is an uneasy conscience, even in the
city,” said Stran-leigh to himself, as he turned away.

Schwartzbrod hailed a cab, and drove to his office in the city; anxious
about the _Rajah_; glad he had secured the renewal of the charter
without protest or investigation; uneasy regarding Stranleigh’s
apparently purposeless remarks about pirates and Lisbon. Arriving at his
office, he rang for his confidential clerk.

“Any word from Lisbon?” he demanded.

“Yes, sir. The same code word. No sign of the _Rajah_ there, sir.”

“How long is it since you sent warning to all our agents along the
Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean to look out for her?”

“Just a week to-day, sir, and a wire came in shortly after you left,
from our man at Brest. I’d have telephoned you, sir, if I had known
where you had gone.”

“Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me,” repeated Schwartzbrod
impatiently. He clutched it in his trembling hands, and read:

“Steamer flying English flag, named _Rajah_ Wilkie captain, in roadstead
to-day. Unloading ore into lugger.”

The moral Mr. Schwartzbrod now gave way to a paroxysm of bitter language
that was dreadful to hear, but his stolid clerk seemed used to it, and
bent his head before the storm. During a lull for lack of breath he
ventured one remark:

“It can’t be our ship, sir. Our man is Captain Simmons.”

“What has that to do with it, you fool?” roared Schwartzbrod. “That
old scoundrel Simmons can easily change his name. He’s sold me out, the
sanctimonious hound. Very likely he and Frowningshield are both in the
plot against me. Simmons is a thief, for all his canting objections when
we were striking a bargain. I don’t believe Frowningshield’s any
better, and he’s got more brains. They’ll smelt the ore in France, after
carrying it to some suitable spot along the coast in sailing boats.
But it’ll take two or three days to unload, and I’ll give old Simmons a
fright before that is done. See if there’s a steamer from Southampton
to St. Malo to-night. If not I must go to Brest by way of Paris. I can’t
trust this job to any one else.”

As it happened there was a boat that evening for St. Malo, and so
the two persons who had indulged in a long conversation regarding the
_Rajah_ that afternoon were each in pursuit of her, moving westward;
Schwartzbrod in his berth on board the St. Malo boat, Stranleigh in
his berth on the Plymouth express, while between the two the stanch
old _Rajah_ was threshing her way across the Channel between Brest and
Plymouth, heading for the latter seaport.

Next day Stranleigh greeted Mackeller with something almost approaching
enthusiasm. Neither of them entertained the least suspicion that the
stop at Brest might put Conrad on the trail; but even if they had, they
must have known that the arrival of the _Rajah_ at Plymouth would have
entailed similar consequences if Schwartzbrod’s minions were looking
sharply after his interests.

The _Rajah’s_ stay at Plymouth was very short, merely giving time for
the crew of the yacht to take its station aboard the _Rajah_,
under command of Captain Wilkie, while the crew that had brought
the _Rajah_ into port was placed in the care of Captain Simmons, whose
big steamer, the _Wychwood_, was not yet ready to sail. The _Rajah_ then
rounded the southwest corner of England, and found a berth in the little
haven of Portreath, within easy distance of the smelting furnace.
The _Rajah_ was unloaded with the utmost speed, and the ore conveyed
as quickly as possible to the inclosure which surrounded the smelting
furnace. Stranleigh thought it just as well to get his raw material
under cover with the least possible delay, for, although Portreath
was not a tourist center, one could never be quite certain that some
scientific chap might not happen along, who, picking up a specimen,
would know that it contained gold and not copper. Besides this, the
engineer of the _Rajah_ reported certain defects in engines and boilers
that needed to be seen to and amended before it was safe to face so long
a voyage again; therefore, that no time should be lost, the _Rajah_ was
hurried back to Plymouth to undergo the necessary repairs.

When, after its long abandonment, Lord Stranleigh, with the aid of
Mackeller, restarted his ancient copper mine in Cornwall, he, knowing
nothing of figures, as he said, turned over the mathematical department
of the business to an accountant, one of the twelve business men who
kept his affairs in order. Just before leaving London for Plymouth, he
requested this accountant to furnish him with a statement of profit and
loss, so far as the mine was concerned. This statement he merely glanced
at, saw with satisfaction that the working had resulted in a deficit,
and put the document into his pocket. When the _Rajah_ left Plymouth to
worry her way round the toe of England to Portreath, Lord Stranleigh and
Mackeller took train from Plymouth, and reached Redruth in two hours and
fifteen minutes, from which station they drove together to the copper
mine, Stranleigh having given Mackeller the statement of profit and
loss, and instructing him what he should say when he met the manager of
the mine, whom Peter himself had installed in that position.

Arriving at the office of the works, Mackeller consulted with the
manager, while Lord Stranleigh, beautifully attired in fine garments
quite unsuitable for such a locality, strolled round, taking such
intelligent interest in his environment as a casual tourist displays in
unaccustomed surroundings. The grimy, hard-working smelters gazed with
undisguised contempt at this dandified specimen of humanity, who had so
unexpectedly wandered in among them, and made remarks on his personal
appearance more distinguished for force than courtesy. To these
uncomplimentary allusions the young man paid not the slightest
attention, but dawdled about, one of the men complained, as if he owned
the place. At last the manager and Mackeller came out of the office
together, and word was sent down the pit that all the miners were to
come up. Ribald comment ceased, and an uneasy feeling spread among the
employees that something unpleasant was about to happen. Their intuition
was justified when all the men were gathered together, and the manager
began to speak. He informed them that the reopening of the mine had been
merely an experiment, and he regretted to add that this experiment had
failed through the simple elementary fact that the amount of copper
produced cost more than it would fetch in the metal market of the world.
Operations had been conducted at a loss, and the proprietor was thus
reluctantly compelled to disband his forces, all except four smelters,
who would remain to assist in converting into ingots the remnant of
the ore which had been mined. This intelligence was received in doleful
silence by those whom it affected. Each of them before now had faced the
tragedy caused by lack of work, but custom had made its recurrence none
the more welcome for all that.

The manager, after a pause, continued. The proprietor, he said, was Lord
Stranleigh, and he had given orders which, for generosity, the manager
in all his experience thought was unexampled. Each man was to receive
a year’s pay. At this announcement the gloom suddenly lifted, and a
resounding cheer went up from the men. The manager added that he himself
had been given an important position in one of his lordship’s coal mines
in the north, whereupon the good-natured crowd cheered the manager, who
appeared to be popular with them.

“And now,” concluded the manager, “as Lord Stranleigh is himself
present, he will perhaps choose from the six smelters the four whom he
wishes to employ.”

Stranleigh had been standing apart from the group, listening to the
eloquence of the manager, and now every one turned and looked at him
with more than ordinary interest. His hands, as usual, were in his
pockets, a cigarette between his lips, which nevertheless did not
conceal the humorous smile with which his lordship regarded the six
smelters, who were quite evidently panic-stricken to learn that they
had been exercising their robustious wit on the man with the money; the
important boss who paid the wage. Lord Stranleigh slowly removed his
left hand from his pocket, and took the cigarette from between his lips.

“I think, Mr. Manager,” he said, “we will retain all six,” and so the
congregation was dismissed.

The hoisting gang was retained until all tools and movable ore were
hoisted from the bottom of the mine to the surface of the earth.
Stranleigh himself went down when the cage made its last trip, and
there, by torchlight, examined the workings, listening to explanations
by Mackeller. When he reached daylight again he ordered the dismantling
of the hoisting apparatus, which work of destruction was taken to mean
the final abandonment of the copper mine. Mackeller, thrifty person,
protested against this demolition.

Stranleigh smiled, but did not countermand the order. He and Mackeller
took up their quarters in the manager’s house, its late occupant
having taken his departure for the north. The six smelters were rude,
unintelligent, uneducated men, who saw no difference between one yellow
bar and another, so there was little risk of discovery through their
detection.

“What are you going to do with the gold ingots?” asked Mackeller.

“I was thinking of placing them in a safe deposit vault.”

“You will need to look well to its locks, bolts, and bars,” said the
cautious engineer.

“There will be no bolts and bars,” said Stranleigh. “I shall leave the
ingots open to the sky, without lock or latch. Nobody will interfere
with them.”

“Bless my soul, you’ll never be so foolish as that?” cried Mackeller.
“Why, even the copper was protected by the strongest and safest locks I
could secure.”

Lord Stranleigh merely shrugged his shoulders, and made no further
explanation of his intentions.

At the first smelting the gold was run into ingots weighing about a
hundred pounds each. When the smelters had departed for the day, and the
gates were closed, Stranleigh said to Mackeller:

“Come along, and I’ll show you my safe deposit vault.”

With this he hoisted to his shoulder one of the ingots; still warm,
walked to the mouth of the pit, and flung it into space.

“Not a bad idea,” growled Mackeller, as he followed the example of his
chief, until between them all the gold from the first smelting rested on
the deep and dark floor of the mine.

One day, as the two were sitting together consuming the frugal lunch
that Peter had prepared, a telegram was brought in to Lord Stranleigh.
The young man laughed when he read it, and tossed it across the table to
Mackeller, who read:

“_Rajah_ ready to sail, but to-day was taken possession of by legal
authorities under action of a man named Schwartzbrod. I am under arrest
charged with stealing the _Rajah_. No objection going to prison, but
await instructions. Wilkie, captain.”

“By Jove, the enemy has tracked her,” ejaculated Peter. “I wonder how
they did it!”

“That isn’t the point to wonder over, Peter, when you remember that the
arrival and departure of shipping is announced in every morning paper.
The wonder is that they didn’t get hold of her some days ago. Oh, dear
me, how I am pestered by obstreperous men! Here are you constantly
trying to involve me in a fight, and now here is Schwartzbrod entangling
me in the meshes of the law, while, peaceful man that I am, I detest
equally battles or lawsuits, but the righteous have always been
persecuted, and I suppose I must accept my share of trouble.
Nevertheless, I anticipate some amusement with my friend Schwartzbrod.
If you don’t help me, Peter, don’t help the bear, and you’ll see the
funniest legal fight that ever happened.”

With this Stranleigh retired to dress for town.

“Peter,” he said, on emerging from his bedroom, attired as if he
intended a dawdle down Piccadilly rather than a scramble over Cornish
hills, “Peter, I am going to desert you. Continue the smelting as if we
had not parted, and fling as many bars of gold down that pit as you can,
thankful that for our purposes it is not bottomless, even though the
possession of too much gold may lead to such. It is not that I like your
cooking less, but that I love the cuisine of my club more.”

“You are going to London, then?”

“Ultimately to London, my son, but first to Redruth station; then to
Plymouth. I cannot allow my captain courageous to be flung into prison
merely to please Conrad Schwartzbrod, who ought to be there himself.
I must foregather at Plymouth with some one learned in the law, and so
disconcert, delay, annoy, and at least partially beggar that old thief
Schwartzbrod; therefore, ta-ta, my son, and be as good as you can during
my absence, and when you feel proud because of your ever accumulating
wealth, remember how difficult it is for a rich man to enter heaven, and
thus resume your natural modesty. Good-by.”



CHAPTER IX--THE FINAL FINANCIAL STRUGGLE WITH SCHWARTZBROD

ARRIVING at Redruth, Stranleigh sent off three telegrams, one
instructing his chief solicitors in London to request the leading marine
lawyer of Plymouth to call upon him at once at the Grand Hotel in that
town. The second telegram bade Captain Wilkie cheer up, as ample bail
was approaching him by the next train from the west, requesting him,
if at liberty, to call at the Grand Hotel about six o’clock. The third
telegram secured a suite of rooms at the Grand Hotel, and this task
finished, Stranleigh had just time to catch the 2.49 train for Plymouth.

On driving up to the Grand Hotel shortly after six o’clock, he found
both Captain Wilkie and Mr. Docketts, the marine lawyer, waiting for
him, and the three went together up to the engaged apartments.

“So they haven’t put you in quod, captain,” said the young man, as he
shook hands with him.

“No, sir; they thought better of that. In fact, there seems to be a good
deal of hesitation about their procedure. They placed men in possession,
and then have taken them out again. Just before I left the ship a fresh
lot came aboard. At first they were going to put handcuffs on me, then
they consulted about it, and asked if I could provide bail. Not knowing
whether you wished me to go to prison or not, I refused to answer.”

“Safest thing in the absence of instructions,” put in Mr. Docketts.
“What is it all about, my lord?”

“It’s rather a complicated case, Mr. Docketts,” said Stranleigh,
throwing himself into the easiest chair he could find, “and it is not
necessary to go into the whole story at the present time.”

The lawyer shook his head doubtfully.

“If I am to be of any assistance, Lord Stranleigh, I think you should
tell me everything. A point that may seem unimportant to the lay mind,
often proves of the utmost significance to the legal student.”

“You are wrong, Mr. Docketts. What you are thinking of is the detective
story. It is the detective that the slightest incident furnishes with
an important clew. You mustn’t insult my intellect by calling it a lay
mind, Mr. Docketts, because I take my marine law from that excellent
practitioner, Clark Russell; therefore, when it comes to ships I know
what I am talking about. The first point I wish to impress on you is
that I am not to appear in this case. No one is to know who engages you.
The second point is that no action will be fought in the courts. I could
settle the case in ten minutes merely by going to the venerable Conrad
Schwartzbrod, who has heedlessly set the law in action; but such a
course on my part would be most unfair to an eminent limb of the law
like yourself, who wishes to earn honest fees.”

Mr. Docketts bowed rather gravely, an inclination of the head which
contrived subtly to convey respect for his lordship’s rank in life, and
yet mild disapproval of his flippant utterances.

“I always advise my clients, my lord, to avoid litigation if they can.”

“Quite right, Mr. Docketts. That is good legal etiquette, so long as
the advice is conveyed in such a manner that it does not convince the
client. Now this steamer, the _Rajah_, belongs to me, but it has been
chartered for a number of months by the aforesaid Conrad Schwartzbrod--I
trust I am using correct legal phraseology--and the aforesaid Conrad
Schwartzbrod is one of the rankest, most unscrupulous scoundrels that
the city of London has ever produced, which statement is regrettably
libelous, but without prejudice, and uttered solely in the presence
of friends. The law, of course, is designed to settle, briefly and
inexpensively, such disputes as may be brought before it, nevertheless
it is my wish that the law shall be twisted and turned from its proper
purpose, so that this case may be dragged on as long as may be, with
injunctions, and restraints, and cross pleas, and demurrers, and
mandamuses, or any other damus things you can think of. Whenever you
find you are cornered, Mr. Docketts, and must come into the light of day
before a judge, you telegraph to me, and you will be astonished to know
how speedily everything will be quashed.”

Again the lawyer bowed very solemnly.

“I think I understand your lordship,” he said impressively.

“I am sure of it, and I hope you will do me the pleasure of remembering
your quickness of comprehension, so that you may charge extra for it
when you send in the bill. I assure you, quite candidly, that nothing
gives me such delight as the paying of an adequate fee to a competent
man. If these people should attempt any further molestation of Captain
Wilkie, you are to protect him, and I will furnish bail to any amount,
reasonable or the reverse. And now, Mr. Docketts, if you will let me
have your card, with your address on it, I shall leave the case in your
hands.”

Mr. Docketts complied with the request, and took his deferential
departure. Captain Wilkie also rose, but Stranleigh waved him to his
seat again.

“Sit you down, captain. Has the _Wychwood_ sailed yet?”

“No, sir, she has not. I met Captain Simmons yesterday. He came across
to the _Rajah_ to take away some of his belongings that were still in his
cabin. He said the Wychwood might be ready for sea to-morrow or next
day.”

“Well, I think I’ll go over and call on him. I can do that before
dinner. The estimable Mackeller has been my cook for some time past,
and if this lucky action had not been begun by that public benefactor,
Schwartzbrod, I do not know what would have become of me, for I did not
wish to cast any reflection upon Mackeller’s kitchen skill by desertion.
But now that I have been compelled by law to desert him, I hope,
captain, you will take pity on a lonesome man, and dine here with me at
eight o’clock. I’ll order such a dinner as will make this tavern sit up.
You’ll stand by, won’t you, captain?”

“Thank you, sir, I’ll be delighted.”

“Well, that’s settled. Now, if you will guide me to the _Wychwood_, I’ll
go aboard for a chat with Captain Simmons, and you will meet me in the
dining room at eight o’clock.”

The two parted alongside that huge steamer, the _Wychwood_, and
Stranleigh climbed aboard, greeting Captain Simmons on deck.

“Well, captain, you haven’t got off yet?”

“No, sir--my lord, not yet,” said the astonished captain. “If you’d sent
word you was coming, earl, I’d have had dinner prepared for you. As it
is, there’s nothing fit to eat aboard.”

“I am accustomed to that, captain. I was just complaining to Wilkie,
who brought me here, that Mackeller was my cook, and he seemed to
sympathize. No, it’s the other way about. You’re coming to dine with
me. I’ve invited Captain Wilkie, and we will form a hungry trio about
a round table at the Grand Hotel to-night at eight. Three Plymouth
brethren, as you may call us: you two practical salts, and me an
amateur. Have you been back to that little cottage on Southampton
water?”

“No, my lord--sir, but I keep a-thinking of it all the time with great
pleasure, and the wife or one of the girls writes to me every day. They
are delighted, sir--my lord. I didn’t know till after you left that
’twas you had bought all that furniture, but you must let me pay for
that, earl, on the instalment plan.”

“Oh, that’s all right, captain. You wait till I send round a collector.
Never worry about payment till it’s asked for. That’s been my rule in
life. Now, captain, take me down to your cabin. I wish to have a quiet
chat with you, and on deck, with men about, is a little too public.”

The captain led the way, and Stranleigh, standing, gazed about him.

“Ah, this is something like. This beats the _Rajah_, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does, my lord--I mean sir. I never expected to find myself in
a cabin like this, sir, and a fine ship she is, too; well found and
stanch. I’d like to sail her into Southampton water some day, just to
let the missus and the kids see her.”

“I’ll tell you what you must do, captain. Send a telegram to Mrs.
Simmons and the girls, asking them to lock up the shop, and come at
once to Plymouth. I’ll make arrangements for them at the Grand Hotel and
they’ll stay here until you sail, which can’t be for some days yet.
And now to business, captain. Old Schwartzbrod has discovered where
the _Rajah_ is, and has jumped aboard with a blooming injunction or some
such lawyer’s devilment as that: tried to _habeas corpus_ innocent
old Wilkie, or whatever they call it; anyhow, something that goes with
handcuffs, but the old boy was game right through to the backbone,
and was willing to go to the Bastile itself if his doing so would
accommodate me, but I’ve invited him to dinner instead.”

“Then Schwartzbrod will be trying to find me, very likely?” said Captain
Simmons, in no way pleased with the prospect.

“I shouldn’t wonder, so I’d keep my weather eye abeam, if I were you,
for very likely Schwartzbrod is in Plymouth. Still, I’ve told an eminent
lawyer to go full speed ahead, and I anticipate Schwartzbrod will have
quite enough to occupy his mind in a few days. Now, Captain Simmons,
although our acquaintance has been very short, I am going to trust you
fully. Since this action was taken by Schwartzbrod, it has occurred
to me that the proper person to go to the Paramakaboo River is the
redoubtable captain who has already been there, and that person is
yourself.”

“Well; sir, Captain Wilkie has also been there, in your yacht, and
perhaps he’d like this new ship. I’m sure he doesn’t care about the
_Rajah._”

“Oh, he doesn’t need to care about the _Rajah_. He’s off the _Rajah_ for
good, and will take command of my yacht again. No, you are the man for
the Paramakaboo. You know Frowningshield, and you know his gang, and he
knows you. Now, I leave everything to your own discretion. If you tell
Frowningshield how everything stands, there is one chance in a thousand
he may seize the _Wychwood_, and compel you to sail for Lisbon, or
wherever he likes. It all depends how deeply he is in with that subtle
rogue, Schwartzbrod.”

“I’ll tell him nothing about it, sir.”

“That’s my own advice. I should say nothing except that they have
furnished you with a larger steamer, so that you can get away with
double the quantity of ore, all of which is true enough. But if
circumstances over which you have no control compel you to divulge the
true state of affairs, get Frowningshield alone here in the cabin,
and talk to him as I talked to you on the high seas. He’s engaged in a
criminal business, whether he is under the jurisdiction of the British
flag or not; but the main point I wish you to impress upon him is this:
I shall stand in Schwartzbrod’s place; that is to say, I shall make good
to him, as I made good to you, every promise that rascal has given. I
know that virtue is its own reward, yet I sometimes wish that virtue
would oftener deal in the coin of the realm in addition. It doesn’t seem
fair that all the big compensations are usually on the devil’s side.
Anyhow, I trust this ship and this business entirely to you.
You act as you think best, and if they compel you to sail to Lisbon or
anywhere else, telegraph fully to me whenever you get into touch with
a wire. I don’t anticipate any trouble of that kind, however.
Frowningshield will know on which side his bread is buttered, even if he
is a villain, which I don’t believe. Now, Schwartzbrod promised you five
thousand pounds extra for three trips to Lisbon, and two thousand pounds
for every additional voyage. How many additional voyages could you have
made?”

“I couldn’t have made one, sir, with the _Rajah_.”

“Well, let us call it two. That amounts to nine thousand pounds. I’ll
give you a check for that amount to-morrow, and you can hand it to the
missus to put in the bank when she returns to Southampton.”

“I couldn’t think of taking that from you, sir,” said the captain, with
an unfeigned look of distress.

“It’s not from me at all, Captain Simmons. I am going to make
Schwartzbrod hand over that amount to my bank. I am merely anticipating
his payments; passing it on from him to you, as it were. In a similar
way I shall recompense Frowningshield, and I shall give you a sufficient
number of gold sovereigns with which to pay all his men, and this will
create a certain satisfaction in the camp, even although there is no
spot within a thousand miles where they can spend a penny. So, captain,
you will load up your ship with an ample supply of provisions for those
in camp, and take out to them anything that you think they may need,
charging the same to me, which account I shall pass on to Schwartzbrod.”

“But isn’t there a chance, sir, that Schwartzbrod may charter another
steamer, in which case we may have to fight?”

“No, I don’t think so. I am having old Schwartzbrod watched, and from
the latest report he has not even chartered a rowboat. No, I have
extended his charter of the _Rajah_ for an extra three months, and he will
hope to get possession of her. It will take him a few days to realize
the extent of the law’s delay, and with such a start, together with the
speed of the _Wychwood_ you will find no difficulty about filling this
ship, and getting away without encountering any opposition. No, I don’t
want any fight. You see, I can’t spare Mackeller, and it would break his
heart to think there was a ruction and he not in it.

“Here is a suggestion which has just occurred to me, and you may act
on it or not as circumstances out there dictate. When the _Wychwood_ is
fully loaded with ore, and ready to sail, you might ask Frowningshield
to come aboard with you for that twelve-mile run down the river. The
steam launch could follow and take him back. Inform him that you have
something important to say which cannot be told ashore, then get
him down here into your cabin, and relate to him everything that has
happened. He cannot stop the _Wychwood_ then if he wanted to. Your crew
will obey you, and no matter what commands he gave them to put about,
they would pay no attention to him. Show him that he can make more money
by being honest than by following the lead of old Schwartzbrod. Tell
him you have received your nine thousand pounds--and, by the way, that
reminds me I had better give you the check tonight before dinner, so
that you can post it to your bank at Southampton, and receive the bank’s
receipt for it before you sail. The deposit receipt will be just as
cheering to Mrs. Simmons as the check would be--and then you can tell
Frowningshield, quite conscientiously, that the money is already in
your hands. I always believe in telling the truth to a pirate like
Frowningshield if it is at all possible. Don’t imagine I’m preaching,
captain. What I mean is that the truth is ever so much more convincing
than even the cleverest of lies. We will suppose, then, that
Frowningshield comes to the same decision that you did, and agrees to
join me in preserving my own property from an unscrupulous thief. In
that case tell him that Schwartzbrod will very likely send some other
steamer to carry away the ore, as soon as he realizes he cannot again
get hold of the _Rajah_, and that I shall expect Frowningshield and his
merry men not to allow such a vessel to take away any of my ore.”

“Shall I tell him to sink Schwartzbrod’s steamer?”

“Sink her? No, bless my soul, no. What would you sink her for? Tell
him to use gentle persuasion, and not give up the ore. An ordinary crew
cannot fill the hold with ore which a hundred and fifty men refuse to
allow them to touch. You don’t need to fight. If Frowning-shield will
just line up his hundred and fifty men along that reef, one glance at
their interesting faces will convince any ship’s captain that he’d be
safer out at sea.

“I think the _Wychwood_ will answer our purposes very well. She is
large and fast. Try to find out, if you can, exactly what Schwartzbrod
promised Frowningshield and his men, and let me know when you return.
Now, captain, I think you understand pretty well what your new duties
are, so get off for the south just as quickly as you can. Meanwhile we
must be moving on toward the Grand Hotel. I’m rather anxious to meet
that dinner, and on the way we will send a telegram to Mrs. Simmons and
the family. After that we three roisterers will make a night of it, for
I must go up to London to-morrow.”

*****

Mackeller worked industriously at his smelting, dumping the gold down
into the abandoned mine after his assistants had left him for the night.
He was anxious to hear what had become of the _Rajah_, and what had
happened to Captain Wilkie threatened with imprisonment, but no letter
came from Lord Stranleigh, which was not to be wondered at, for all
Stranleigh’s friends knew his dislike of writing.

The third morning after Stranleigh’s departure Mackeller received a long
telegram which had evidently been handed in at London the night before.
At first Mackeller thought it was in cipher, but a close study of
the message persuaded him that no code was necessary for its
disentanglement. It ran as follows:

“Take half a pound of butter, one pound of flour, half a pound of moist
sugar, two eggs, one teaspoonful of essence of lemon, one fourth glass
of brandy or sherry. Rub the butter, flour, and sugar well together, mix
in the eggs after beating them, add the essence of lemon and the brandy.
Drop the cakes upon a frying pan, and bake for half an hour in a quick
oven.”

Mackeller muttered some strenuous remarks to himself as at last he
gathered in the purport of this communication. He detained the telegraph
boy long enough to write a line which he sent to Lord Stranleigh’s
residence at a cost of sixpence.

“What have you done about the _Rajah_--Mackeller.”

Late in the afternoon the telegraph boy returned, and bestowed upon the
impatient and now irascible Mackeller the following instructions:

“For two persons alone at the mouth of a pit take one plump fowl, add
white pepper and salt to suit the taste, one half spoonful of grated
nutmeg, one half spoonful of pounded mace, a few slices of ham, three
hard-boiled eggs, sliced thin, half a pint of water, and some puff paste
crust to cover. Stew for half an hour, and when done strain off the
liquor for gravy. Put a layer of fowl at the bottom of a pie dish,
then a layer of ham, then the slices of hard-boiled egg, with the mace,
nutmeg, pepper and salt between the layers. Put in half a pint of water,
cover with puff paste, and bake for an hour and a half.”

“I suppose,” growled Mackeller to himself, “he thinks that’s funny, but
it will cost him a pretty penny if he keeps it up every day.”

“Any answer?” said the telegraph boy.

“Yes,” answered Mackeller, and being made reckless by example, he wrote
a more lengthy message than was customary with him:

“Everything going on well here. The cooking I am doing consists in the
production of hardbake cake, and the receipt is as follows: Take ore
from Africa, salt and pepper to suit the taste, mix it with hard coal
from the north, quick fire and a hot oven. When completely baked run
into molds of sand, and place in a deep cellar to cool. Save the money
you are wasting on the postoffice department by sending me, through
parcel post, the cook book from which you are stealing those items, and
use a telegram to let me know what has happened to the _Rajah_ and Captain
Wilkie.”

In the evening an answer came.

“That’s not a bad receipt of yours, Mackeller. I didn’t think so serious
a man as you was capable of such frivolity. The _Rajah_ is in Chancery,
in litigation, in irons, in Plymouth harbor, in-junctioned. I expect it
will be a long time before the _Rajah_ gets out of court. Captain Wilkie
is all right, and back on my yacht. The _Wychwood_, with Simmons in
command, is off to Paramakaboo. I expect to be with you after you have
had time to study the volume which at your suggestion I send to-day by
parcel post; ‘Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management’; bulky but
useful.”

*****

Lord Stranleigh did not return, however, as promised, to the Cornish
mine. Although apparently leading an aimless life at home, or in one or
other of his clubs, or at an interesting race meeting, he was keeping
his eye on Schwartzbrod by means of an efficient secret agent. He
wondered how soon so shrewd a man as the financier would come to the
knowledge that the _Rajah_ was tied up with the red tape of the law, as
immovable in her berth as if she had been chained to the breakwater by
cables of steel. He was determined that Schwartzbrod should not
further complicate the situation by sending out another steamer on an
ore-stealing expedition to West Africa; and when at last he received a
report from his agent that Schwartzbrod’s men were in negotiation
once more with Sparling & Bilge of Southampton, the indolent young man
thought it time to strike, so he telephoned to Schwartz-brod, asking him
to call at his town house next morning at half past ten, bringing his
check book with him.

Schwartzbrod, spluttering at his end of the telephone, wished further
explanation about the request for the check book. The charter money, he
said, was not due. Nothing had been said in the document signed about
payment in advance, but Stranleigh rang off, and left the financier
guessing. When, some minutes later, Schwartzbrod got once more into
communication with the house, the quiet-voiced Ponderby told him that
his lordship had left for his club, but would expect to see him promptly
at half past ten next day.

When Schwartzbrod arrived, he was shown this time into Lord Stranleigh’s
scantily furnished business office on the ground floor. He had been so
anxious to know what the cause of the summons was that he found himself
ten minutes before the half hour, and that ten minutes he spent alone in
the little room. As the clock in the hall chimed the half hour, the door
opened, and Lord Stranleigh entered.

“Good morning, Mr. Schwartzbrod. There are several little business
matters which I wish to discuss with you and, as I expect to leave
London shortly, I thought we might as well get it over.” Stranleigh sat
down in a chair on the opposite side of the table from the keen-eyed
city man, who watched him with furtive sharpness.

“As I was telling you, my lord, there is nothing in the papers you
signed saying that any payment was to be made in advance on account of
the _Rajah_.”

“You object, then, to paying in advance?”

“I don’t object, my lord, if it’s any accommodation to you. The first
payment, you see, was made to Messrs. Sparling & Bilge.”

“Of course, I’ve nothing to do with that.”

“Well, the second amount I did not expect to be called on to pay until
the steamer had earned some money.”

“Ah, yes, I see. That seems quite just. The steamer, then, hasn’t been
earning money, I take it.”

“It is too soon yet to say, my lord, whether she is earning money or
not.”

“Is she still at South America?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Has she not returned since I saw you last?”

“No, my lord.”

“That’s very strange,” murmured Stranleigh, more to himself than to the
other. “Shows how blooming inaccurate those newspapers are.”

He took out from his inside pocket a thin memorandum book, searched
slowly among some slips of loose paper, and at last took out a cutting
from some daily journal.

“The paper from which I clipped this was issued a day or two after
we last met. My attention was called to the item by the fact that
so shortly before we had been in negotiation regarding the _Rajah_;
successful and pleasant negotiation, if I remember rightly, and I signed
the papers you presented to me without consulting a solicitor, and the
impression left on my mind is that you went away satisfied.”

“Oh, I was perfectly satisfied, my lord, perfectly satisfied. Yes, you
very kindly signed the renewal of the charter.”

“You said, if I remember rightly, that the trip of the _Rajah_ was merely
an experiment. It had something to do with the cattle business; a ranch,
or several ranches, in the Argentine Republic.”

“Quite right, my lord. I regret to say the business has not been as
prosperous as I had hoped.”

“I am sorry to hear that. I have always looked on ranching as a sure way
to wealth, but it seems there are exceptions. Now, you said to me that
if the experiment did not prove successful, which, regrettably, seems to
be the case, you would turn the _Rajah_ over to me when she returned.”

“But she has not returned, my lord.”

“Then what does this journal mean by stating that a few days after we
foregathered in this house the _Rajah_ arrived at Plymouth from Brest, in
France?”

“That must be a mistake, my lord. Would you let me read the item?”

Schwartzbrod extended his hand, trembling slightly, and took the slip
of paper, adjusting his glasses to see the better, visibly gaining time
before committing himself further.

“The item is very brief,” commented Stranleigh, “still, it is definite
enough. ‘Steamer _Rajah_, Captain Wilkie, arrived at Plymouth from
Brest.’”

“That cannot have been our _Rajah_,” said Schwartzbrod at last, having
collected his wits. “The captain on your steamer, my lord, is named
Simmons.”

“Simmons? Oh, Captain Simmons of Southampton? Why, I know the man. A
fine, bluff old honest tar, one of the bulwarks of Britain. So Simmons
was the captain of the _Rajah_, was he? Still, he may have resigned.”

“He couldn’t resign in midocean, my lord.”

“Oh, I’ve known the thing done. I’ve known captains transferred from one
steamer to another on the high seas.”

“I’ve never heard of such a thing, my lord, unless one vessel was
disabled, and then abandoned when another came along.”

“My dear Mr. Schwartzbrod, accept my assurance that these daring devils
of sea captains do things once they are out of our sight which we honest
men ashore would not think of countenancing.”

“I thought you said just now they were the bulwarks of Britain?”

“So they are, so they are, but bulwarks, Mr. Schwartzbrod, need to be
made of stouter and coarser timber than that which lines the cabin. You
must not think I am attributing anything criminal to our captain, Mr.
Schwartzbrod; not at all, but it has often seemed to me that they do
not always pay that scrupulous attention to the law which animates our
business men in the city of London, for instance. A captain out of the
jurisdiction of England, much as it may shock you to hear it, will dare
to do things that would make our hair stand on end, and send a lawyer or
a judge into a dead faint. Now, there’s the Captain Simmons, of whom
you just spoke. He tells me that he has undertaken devilish deeds in
out-of-the-way parts of the world which he would not think of doing
under that arch in the main street of Southampton.”

The company promoter moistened his lips, and stroked the lower part of
his face gently with his open hand. Lord Stranleigh beamed across at him
with kindly expectancy, as if wishing some sympathetic corroboration of
the statements he had made. At last the city man spoke.

“You have perhaps had more experience with seafaring people than I, my
lord. I had always supposed them to be a rough-and-ready sort of folk,
as reasonably honest as the rest of us.”

“It was to be expected, Mr. Schwartzbrod, that your kind heart would
hesitate to credit anything condemnatory said about them. Because you
would not do this or that, you think other people are equally blameless.
Take Captain Simmons, for instance, and yet, when I think of him I
remember, of course, there were mitigating circumstances in the case.
Captain Simmons had set his eye on a little bit of property, something
like five acres, stretching down to Southampton water. There was a
cottage and a veranda, and the veranda seemed to lure Captain Simmons
with its prospect of peace, as he passed up Southampton water in command
of the disreputable old _Rajah_. But Simmons never could succeed in
saving the money to buy this modest homestead, but at last far more than
the money necessary was offered him if he did a certain thing. It was a
bribe, Mr. Schwartzbrod, and perhaps at first he did not see where he
was steering the blunt snout of the old _Rajah_. He did not completely
comprehend into what miasmatic and turbid waters his course would lead
him. But when at last he saw it was involving him in theft, in wholesale
robbery, and in potential murder, in the sinking of ships, and the
drowning of crews, Simmons drew back.”

A gentle expression of concern came into Lord Stranleigh’s face as he
saw the man before him in visible distress, sinking lower and lower in
his chair. His face was ghastly: only the eyes seemed alive, and they
were fixed immovably on his opponent, striving to penetrate at the
thought or the knowledge that might be behind the mask of carelessness
he wore.

“Don’t you feel well, Mr. Schwartzbrod? Would you like a little
stimulant?”

Without waiting for an answer he rang the bell.

“Bring some whisky and soda,” he said, “also a decanter of brandy.”

Schwartzbrod took a cautious sip or two of the weaker beverage.

“Were any names mentioned?” he asked.

“Simmons told me the tempter was a city man; some rank scoundrel who
wished to profit by another’s loss, and did not hesitate at robbery so
long as he was legally safe in London, and others were taking the risk.
They were to take the risk, and he was to secure the property. I even
doubt if he intended to give the recompense he had promised. It amounted
in Simmons’s case to nine thousand pounds, and only one thousand was
needed for the purchase of the place on which he had set his heart.”

“But Simmons must have known, if such a sum was offered him, that he was
undertaking a shady transaction?”

“That’s exactly what I told him, but, you see, he had committed himself
before he realized what he was letting himself in for. ‘Chuck the whole
business,’ I said to him. ‘You’ve got friends enough who’ll buy that
little place and present it to you. I am willing myself to subscribe
part of the money,’ and so Simmons struck. He is off, I understand,
on another steamer. He has influential friends who got him a better
situation than the one he held. Now, as I have said, I am willing to put
some money on the table to buy that little house near Southampton. How
much will you give, Mr. Schwartzbrod?”

Schwartzbrod now took a gulp of the whisky and soda. His courage was
returning.

“Do you mean to tell me, Lord Stranleigh, that you have called a
busy man like me to the West End in order to ask him for a charity
subscription?”

“But surely you subscribe to many charities, Mr. Schwartzbrod?”

“I do not. It’s as much as I can do to keep my own head above water,
without troubling with other people. I believe in being just before
being generous. If I pay my debts, that’s all any man can ask.”

“Most true philosophy, Mr. Schwartzbrod, but a little hard, you know.
Some poor fellows get under the harrow, and surely we may stop our
cultivation for a moment, and lift the harrow long enough to allow him
to crawl out.”

Schwartzbrod finished the whisky and soda, but made no further comment.

“It was not altogether for charitable purposes that I requested the
pleasure of your call. There is business mixed with it. But you,
Schwartzbrod, try to place the worst side of yourself before the world.
You are really a very generous man. At heart you are; now, you know it.”

“I don’t know anything about it, my lord, and I do not understand the
trend of this conversation.”

“Well, I have come to the conclusion that you are one of the most
generous men in London. You have done things that I think no other
business man in London would attempt. You do good by stealth, and blush
to find it fame, as I think the poet said. You’ve been doing me a great
benefit, and yet you’ve kept quiet about it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, I mean Frowningshield and his hundred and fifty men on my gold
reef.”

“What!” roared Schwartzbrod, springing to his feet.

“The kidnapping of Mackeller I did not mind. That’s all in the day’s
work, and a mining engineer must expect a little rough and tumble in
this world.”

“I had nothing to do with that, my lord.”

“No, it was Frowningshield who did it. Am I not saying that you are
perfectly blameless? When I learned about the _Rajah’s_ expedition,
about the money offered to Captain Simmons, about the compensation
that was to be given to Frowningshield, about the running of the ore to
Lisbon; when I heard all this, so prejudiced was my brain that I said
to myself: ‘Here I’ve caught the biggest thief in the world.’ But when
I learned that you had done it, I saw at once what your object was.
You were going to smelt that ore without expense to me, take it over in
ingots to England, and say, ‘Here, Lord Stranleigh, you’re not half
a bad sort of chap. You don’t understand anything about mining or the
harsh ways of this world. Here is your gold.’”

Schwartzbrod poured down his throat a liquor glass full of brandy, and
collapsed in his chair.

“You see, Mr. Schwartzbrod, there were only two alternatives for a poor
brain like mine to accept: first, that you are the most generous man in
the world; second, that you are the most daring robber in the world.
Do you think I hesitated? Not for a moment. I knew you were no thief.
Thieves are in Whitechapel, and Soho, and the East End generally, but
not in the City of London. They’re all men of law there. You are not
a thief, are you, Mr. Schwartzbrod? No. Then sit down, honest man, and
write me a check for the nine thousand pounds I have already paid
to Captain Simmons, and for the amount which you promised to
Frowningshield. I accept the benefit of your generosity in the same
spirit in which it is tendered. I do not ask you where the gold is, I’ll
look after that; but the new ship you are trying to charter must not
sail for the Paramakaboo. I cannot accept further kind offices from you.
All I ask of you is to write a check for such an amount that it will
fulfill the promises you made to Simmons and Frowningshield. That’s why
I requested you to bring your check book.”

Schwartzbrod, with a groan, sat down at the table and drew forth his
check book.



CHAPTER X--THE MEETING WITH THE GOVERNOR OF THE BANK

THE mere accumulating of money does not call for a high, order of
intelligence. A stealthy craft is more valuable in that business than
the intellect of a Shakespeare. The low cunning of a fox is often
successful where the brave strength of a lion fails. Of course there are
estimable men who accumulate a fortune through manufactory, discovery,
or invention: men who are benefactors to their fellow creatures, and to
whom money comes through the fruition of their endeavors to enrich
the world rather than themselves. But a Stock Exchange speculator like
Schwartzbrod, equipped with the sneaking slyness of an avaricious but
ignorant peasant, becomes a mere predatory beast, producing nothing;
fattening on the woes and losses of others; stealthy and cruel as the
man-eating tiger. It is probable that as civilization advances such a
vampire will be secluded from his fellows as the leper is in Eastern
lands.

Since his first disastrous encounter with Lord Stranleigh, Schwartzbrod
had been animated by a vicious hatred of this seemingly happy-go-lucky
young man, whose attention appeared to be concentrated mainly on dress,
but as they met again and again, this rancor became tinctured with a
slowly rising fear, not of the urbane nobleman’s intellect, but of his
amazing good luck, for nothing could have persuaded Schwartzbrod that
Stranleigh possessed intellect of any kind. He regarded this junior
financier merely as a polite but brainless fop. To one as rich as
Schwartzbrod, the writing of a check to fulfill his promises to Captain
Simmons and Frowningshield should have been scarcely more important than
the tossing of a penny to a beggar by an ordinary man. But
Schwartzbrod brooded over it, grit his teeth, and swore vengeance. Now,
vindictiveness is a quality which does not pay. In our modern strenuous
life the man who wastes thought on revenge runs a risk of falling behind
in the procession, but in a time of crisis such deflection of thought
upon trivialities, when all senses should be on the alert to prepare for
the coming storm, may be fatal. Schwartzbrod was like a man in an open
boat on the sea, with too much canvas spread, who, instead of casting
his weather eye around the horizon, and shortening sail, was fuming
because some one had spilled a cupful of water at the bottom of the
boat, pondering over the method of mopping it up, and flinging the
soaked rag in the face of him who had upset the cup. A financial typhoon
was approaching which would unroof many a house in England and America
before it had run its course. Shrewd navigators on the treacherous
waters of finance were preparing to scud under bare poles until the
clouds rolled by.

It may be admitted at once that Lord Stranleigh no more suspected
what was coming than did Schwartzbrod himself, for, as his lordship
frequently confessed, he did not understand these things. He had,
without browbeating or recrimination, eliminated all chance of
Schwartzbrod’s further interference with his mine. Schwartzbrod knew
that Lord Stranleigh was possessed of every fact in the case, and these
facts, if brought forward in a court of law, might very well sequester
the city financier in a prison for the rest of his life, and Stranleigh,
quite correctly, counted on this fear restraining Schwartzbrod’s hand.

The big steamer _Wychwood_ passed unmolested from southern to northern
seas and back again, and Mackeller’s industrious smelters had tumbled
down into the safe deposit some two thousand tons of solid gold.

It was when city men began to return from their summer holidays that a
slight whisper floated round the halls of Mammon which sent a shiver up
and down the backs of shrewd people here and there. The whisper was to
the effect that the Bank of England was in trouble. On three separate
occasions within as many weeks, the bank rate had been raised, and now
stood at so high a figure that it threatened to check enterprise and
speculation during the approaching autumn, when everyone had hoped
business would mend in the city. Cautious bankers began calling in their
loans, which is a bank’s method of shortening sail. Ambitious projects
were being abandoned here and there through fear of shortness of money.
Companies whose promoters looked forward to a successful flotation
before Christmas, were held over. Affairs in the city were stagnant,
and weather-wise people feared worse was to come. About the beginning
of October a sinister rumor went abroad, founded on a highly sensational
article in a New York yellow journal. This rumor, on account of its
origin, was discredited at first, but presently the world came to learn
that there was too good a foundation for it. The New York paper said
that as soon as the financial amateurs of the British Parliament had
placed on the statute books an Act commanding the Bank of England by the
first of January to maintain its gold reserve at a hundred million of
pounds, a powerful syndicate of financial experts had been formed in
Wall Street for the cornering of gold. Wheat had often been cornered, to
the great benefit of some one individual either in New York or Chicago,
and to the universal loss of a hungry world, but no one had hitherto
attempted to corner gold. Wheat could not be produced at will. Once
the sowing was done, the mathematicians could estimate very accurately,
given a full crop, the maximum number of bushels of wheat likely to be
placed on the market the coming autumn, and to this amount no man could
add, because the production of wheat depended on the slow revolution of
the seasons. With gold it was different: gold could be produced summer
and winter, night and day, therefore no individual, be he as rich as
Midas, and no syndicate, however powerful, had heretofore dared to
attempt the cornering of gold. Wheat was consumed year by year, but
gold was practically everlasting, preserved in the shape of ornaments,
bullion, plate, and what not. Old coinage, minted centuries before the
birth of Christ, was still in existence, and although a few grains of
wheat grown in the time of the Pharaohs rested in the palms of certain
mummies, the great bulk of year before last’s wheat was already ground
and baked and eaten. It would seem, then, that the boldest financial
coup ever attempted had been successfully accomplished by the men of
Wall Street. This, however, the New York paper pointed out, was not the
case. Tremendous as might be the consequences of the corner, there
was, after all, little risk to the operators. Gold, unlike wheat, was
a staple commodity. Wheat rose and fell in price. Gold practically did
not. These men had paid no exorbitant rates for gold, but merely kept
silent, and through the help of their agents all over the world, they
either secured actual possession of the available metal, or had obtained
an option on it, which did not expire until June, while the Bank of
England was compelled by the new law to acquire possession of at least
a hundred million pounds sterling of gold on January the first. Even if
the corner failed, this would entail no loss to the monopolists,
because they possessed the actual metal for which everything is sold.
No sensational fall in the price of gold could take place, as would have
been inevitable in the case of wheat should the corner fail, while as
a result of the hold-up, if the bank was forced to come to their terms,
the profit to be divided would be enormous. It was also stated that the
Wall Street men had secured bank notes and orders for gold upon the Bank
of England which they would present at a critical moment, demanding
the metal, thus facing this venerable institution with the drastic
alternative of accepting their terms, or suspending payment. The _Times_
in a leading article, intended to soothe the public mind, attempted to
show that the proposed cornering of gold was impossible; that millions
upon millions of hoarded gold would be brought out at the proper
moment if enough were offered for it; that these millions were in the
possession of people of whom Wall Street knew nothing and had no means
of getting into touch with.

This article had some effect in staying the panic, or at least in
postponing it. Those responsible for the management of the Bank of
England kept silent, as is their usual course, and for a week it seemed,
so great was the confidence of Englishmen in their most important
financial institution, that nothing disastrous was about to happen. Then
stocks of all kinds began to come down with a run. One important house
failed, then another, and another, and another, and shrewd men realized
that both England and America were face to face with the greatest
financial disaster of modern times. It seemed that the punishment fitted
the crime, because of the fact that in America, which originated the
crisis, the panic was much more severe than in England, and throughout
all the United States, especially in the West, there was a simultaneous
denunciation of Wall Street, to which Wall Street, accustomed to popular
ebullition, paid little attention.

In England meetings were held calling on the Government to rescind their
bill, and give the bank more time, but, as was pointed out, the bank had
not asked for time, and although the governor and directors were known
to have been bitterly opposed to the bill, the Government could scarcely
with dignity offer relief where relief had not been sought.

Lord Stranleigh sat at ease in one of the comfortable leather-covered
armchairs which helped to mitigate the austerities of life in the
smoking room of the Camperdown Club. His attitude was one of meditation.
The right leg was thrown over the left; his finger tips met together,
and those rather fine, honest eyes of his were staring through the thin
film of smoke, and apparently seeing nothing. One of the men who
had successfully borrowed money from him the day before, and whose
salutation Lord Stranleigh ignored, not on account of the borrowed
money, but simply because he had not seen the borrower, remarked to some
friends that Stranleigh thought he was thinking, which caused a laugh,
as these people did not know that the same remark had been made many
years before, and were also under the delusion that Stranleigh was
incapable of thought.

The Camperdown Club, as everyone knows, is more celebrated as a center
of sport than as a resort of business men, yet it has two or three of
the latter on its very select list of members. One of these entered,
paused at the door, and looked about him for a moment as if wishing to
find a chair alone, or searching for some friend whom he expected
to meet. This was Alexander Corbitt, manager of Selwyn’s Bank, a
smooth-faced, harsh-featured man, under whose direction this bank,
although a private institution, stood almost as high in public
estimation as the Bank of England itself. As Corbitt stood there, the
dreamy nature of Lord Stranleigh’s gaze changed into something almost
approaching alertness.

“Corbitt,” he said, “here’s a chair waiting for you.”

The banker, without hesitation, strode forward, and sat down. There
was a certain definite directness about each movement of his body which
contrasted strikingly with the indifferent, indolent air assumed by most
of the members; a decisive man of iron nerve, even one who knew little
of him might have summed him up.

“What will you imbibe?” asked Stranleigh.

“Nothing, thank you. I just dropped in at the club for a bite of dinner,
and having a few moments to spare, will now indulge in one cigar; then I
must return to the bank.”

“What, at this hour of the evening? I thought banks closed at four
o’clock, or is it three?”

“I expect to be there all night,” said Corbitt, shortly, as he held a
match to his cigar.

“I wanted to ask you a few questions.”

“Ask them.”

“You know I am as ignorant as a child of all matters pertaining to
finance, high and low?”

“Yes, I know that.”

“What’s all this fuss about, Corbitt?”

“What fuss?”

“Why, the accounts I read in the evening papers, and the morning papers,
too, for that matter. They say there’s a panic in the city. Is there?”

The banker laughed a little; a low, harsh, mirthless laugh.

“Yes, there’s a panic,” he said. “You are not nipped in it, I hope. I
was told you were dabbling in the city a while ago. Is that true?”

“Oh, merely a small flutter, Corbitt, on behalf of some friends of
mine.”

“Have you been speculating lately?”

“Oh, no. I possess neither the brains nor knowledge requisite for
success in the city.”

“Brains and knowledge are at a discount just now. What is needed is
cash. The biggest fool with ready cash can do more at this moment than
the wisest man with a world of knowledge.”

“Then I’d better jump into the turmoil,” said Stranleigh, smiling.

“Take my advice, and keep out of it. There are rocks ahead. I see by
to-night’s papers that Conrad Schwartzbrod has gone under, and has
carried down with him six or seven men who are considered the most
acute financiers in the city. In ordinary times their standing might be
supposed unimpeachable.”

“Schwartzbrod bankrupt! Then it must be a fraudulent bankruptcy,
surely?”

“No, it isn’t. Everything has been swept away. He’s had no time to
hedge, or you may depend upon it he would have done so.”

“Corbitt, what’s the cause of the whole thing? Can’t a man of your
powerful intellect make it plain as A B C to an infant of my caliber?”

“The cause is simple enough. It is the attempt to do the right thing
in the wrong way. The cause is the Bank of England’s Gold Reserve Act,
passed last May, and coming into force on the first of January next
year. This Act makes it obligatory on the Bank of England to hold a
reserve of a hundred millions in gold, where formerly it has only held,
say, thirty millions. Do you understand so far?”

“Yes, Corbitt, I do. In fact, I remember last May picking up by wireless
telegraphy part of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this
very bill, but I didn’t understand it then, and don’t now.”

“Very well, the object which the Act sought to attain is one I have
advocated for ten years past, but the way of accomplishing it is another
instance of the conceited folly of a democracy meddling in a science
that demands years of training and minds of a certain caliber. A
democracy thinks that the right way to do a thing is the method
adopted in bringing down the walls of Jericho. They beat drums and blow
trumpets, and march round and round. Now, the exasperating feature of
this case is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew at the time the
folly of his own action, although, of course, he did not perceive the
tremendous disaster it was going to bring upon not only his own country,
but practically all the solvent nations of the world. He should have
withstood the pressure of his unreasonable and ignorant followers.
He should have arranged an interview with the managers of the Bank of
England; should have told them that a bill of this kind was inevitable
if they did not themselves put their house in order. He should have
arranged with them quietly, without any beating of tom-toms, and blowing
of horns, for the bank slowly to accumulate the needed reserve. Then he
should have got up in his place in Parliament, and announced that the
Bank of England already held the amount in gold which all thoughtful
financiers believed to be necessary if we are to get rid of this
eternally fluctuating bank rate.

“Of course, the Bank of England itself is also to blame; it being
for all practical purposes a branch of the Government. It should have
requested an interview, and come to some understanding before the bill
passed into law. I expected that the lords would throw it out, and
perhaps they thought the same. However, it passed both houses, received
royal assent, and then the mischief was done. These very clever Wall
Street men at once saw the possibilities of the situation, as they do
with all amateur legislation. The bank remained silent and solemn; has
given no word to this day, and then, at too late an hour, showed its
distress by raising its bank rate again and again and again, hoping that
would prove a magnet to attract gold, whereas it was merely hoisting a
signal of distress, and acquainting the whole world with the fact it is
drifting on a lee shore.”

“Do you mean to say, Corbitt, that there’s a chance of the Bank of
England stopping payment?”

“No, I do not go so far as that. Here we come to the comic element of
the tragedy, which shows the loose folly with which these Parliamentary
bills are drawn. There is no penalty attached to the Act; it merely
orders the bank to provide such a reserve by such a date. But if the
bank doesn’t do it, there can be neither a fine inflicted, nor can the
governor be put into prison for contumely. If I were governor of the
Bank of England, I would snap my fingers at Parliament, at the Act,
and at the gold-cornering syndicate. I should say that as soon as was
convenient to me I would accumulate this reserve of a hundred million,
but that such action was impossible in the time given, therefore I
should make no attempt to comply with the Act at the present moment.”

“What would be the result of such a statement on the part of the
governor?”

“I don’t know. It would probably have a quieting result; or it might
further accentuate the panic. Of course, when the governor began to
perceive that it was going to be difficult to get the gold, he should
have approached Parliament while it was in session, and got a relief
bill, postponing the date, say for another year, but, as I have, said,
he stood on his dignity; the Government stands on _its_ dignity, and
between the two of them they bring unnecessary ruin and disaster upon
the country.”

“Isn’t it possible the bank will get the seventy extra millions by the
first of January?”

“I see no possibility of it, unless they are prepared to pay two hundred
millions for the accommodation to the Wall Street syndicate.”

“Has the Wall Street syndicate got the gold? That is, the actual coin?”

“Yes, and showing its confidence, the money is actually in vaults here
in London, so the syndicate seems to have no fear that our Government
will commandeer the gold as Kruger did before the Transvaal War began. I
understand that the syndicate has notified the Bank of England that the
price of this metal will rise two hundred thousand pounds each day until
the bank accepts their proposals.”

“Corbitt, must the gold held in reserve by the Bank of England be in
actual sovereigns, or raw metal?”

“Either one or the other.”

“Suppose on the first of January the governor of the Bank of England
were to announce that there are a hundred million pounds worth of gold
in his vaults. What would be the effect on the country?”

“Stranleigh, there’s more in that question than perhaps you think. I
have never been just absolutely certain that you are as ignorant as you
pretend. Most men in the city would tell you that such an announcement
might instantly relieve the crisis, but if nothing were said until the
first of January, and the announcement made then, I am not sure but it
would be almost as disastrous as the former panic. It would be like
the sudden releasing of a powerful and compressed spring, and anything
sudden and powerful is apt to disarrange machinery. I think the
inevitable result would be the instant soaring of stocks to much beyond
their actual value. That, then, would bring ruin to many of those that
had been spared by the fall of stocks. We should have a very disturbed
market until things subsided to their proper level. And now you will
have to excuse me, Stranleigh. I must be off.”

The banker threw away the stub of his cigar, and marched out. Lord
Stranleigh went over to one of the tables, and wrote several letters.
Among them was a request for an interview at an early date sent to the
governor of the Bank of England. Another was an order forwarded to Peter
Mackeller in Cornwall. A third requested the honor of a meeting with
Mr. Conrad Schwartzbrod. Then Stranleigh took the calendar of the dying
year, and slowly counted the number of days remaining to its credit.

“I think there will be time enough,” he said to himself, as he completed
the count.

Four days after the lesson he had received on the crisis Lord Stranleigh
kept the first appointment he had made by meeting Schwartzbrod in the
little business office of the town house. The young man was shocked
at the appearance of the aged financier, and, much as he disliked him,
could not but feel sorry for him. He seemed almost ten years older than
when last they met. His face was haggard, drawn, pinched; his shoulders
stooping under the increased burden which misfortune had laid upon
them. The only unchanged feature was his eyes, and from them gleamed the
baleful light of unconquerable hate.

“I received your letter from the club,” Schwartzbrod began. “I have
come, you see, I have come. I am not afraid to meet you; you smooth,
brainless sneak, you can do me no further harm. You have done your
worst, and if you have called me here to triumph over me, I give you
that pleasure, and freely acknowledge that you are the cause of all my
misfortunes.”

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Schwartzbrod, but you are quite mistaken in what
you say. The cause of your misfortune goes farther back than any action
of mine. The beginning was on the day when you resolved to crush the
Mackellers. They had helped you, father and son. They were innocent men,
and honest. Each in his own way had assisted you to the possibility of
almost unlimited wealth. That did not satisfy you. You determined to
take from them their just compensation, and to fling them, paupers, into
the gutter. It happened through one of those freaks of fate which
keeps alive our faith in eternal justice, that the day you came to this
resolve you were a doomed man.”

“That’s what you called me here to tell me, is it, you human poodle dog,
you contemptible puppy, rich through the thefts of your ancestors.”

“Your language, Mr. Schwartzbrod, seems to have become tinged with the
intemperance of the panic. I did not intend to refer to the past at all.
You set the subject of our conversation the moment you entered the room,
and I merely followed your lead, and strove to remove a misapprehension
from your mind as to the original causes of things. No, my invitation to
this house had quite another object. I shall not strain your credulity
by asking you to believe that when I heard four days ago you were
bankrupt, a feeling of slight regret was uppermost in my mind. I don’t
like to see people suffer.”

The old man laughed, like the grating of a file on a saw.

“Of course I don’t ask you to believe that, and should be sorry to put
such a strain on whatever belief in human nature you may possess, so
don’t trouble any further about my statements, which you doubtless
regard as absurd. Have you got any money left?”

“Not a stiver.”

“How about your six colleagues; are they cleaned out?”

“Even if they had money, they would not intrust a penny of it to me. You
talk about my belief in human nature. Well, the faith in human nature
in me is gone. I have done my best for them, and lost every point in the
game, together with their money and my own.”

“Very well, Mr. Schwartzbrod, we must rehabilitate you. I possess what I
think is the finest red automobile in London, and my chauffeur would add
dignity to the equipage of an emperor. I will lend you chauffeur and car
for the day, and if you drive through the streets round the bank for a
few hours, those who turn up their noses at you will be lifting their
hats instead.”

“I suppose you think that’s funny, Lord Stranleigh. You wish to exhibit
me in your motor car after the fashion of the Romans parading their
captives in their chariots when defeated. I don’t know why I came here,
but I warn you I did not come to be insulted.”

“Of course not. It is incredible you should imagine it possible for me
to insult a man in my own house. Now listen to me. My banker has asked
as a favor that I should not draw any checks upon him until this flurry
is over. Of course, if I did draw a check, he would honor it, but I have
given him my promise. Under the back seat of this automobile I have hid
away eight bars of gold, each weighing a hundred pounds or thereabout,
and valued probably at five thousand pounds sterling. That means forty
thousand pounds in exactly the commodity all London is howling for
at the present moment. I don’t know precisely what the position of a
bankrupt is, and it may be possible that your creditors can take away
those bars of gold if they knew you possessed them, therefore trade
in my name if you like; act as my agent. Go in this automobile to your
bank, and get the porters to carry the bullion inside. There they will
weigh it, and estimate its value, giving you the credit for the amount.
Now, pay strict attention to me. Buy the value of those bars in stocks
which you know possess some intrinsic worth, but are now far beneath
their proper level. Hold those stocks until the first of January, when
you will see begin the greatest boom that London has ever known. I
advise you to sell as soon after New Year’s day as possible, because
stocks are likely to shoot up to a higher point than they may be able
later to maintain. This gold comes from a mine which was once in your
possession, and my immature puppy mind is so absurdly constructed that I
have felt uneasily in your debt for a long time, and now am glad of the
opportunity to allow you a share in the prosperity of the mine, if you
will be obliging enough to accept it.”

The truculence of the ruined financier immediately fell from him at the
mention of gold, and in its place came the old cringing manner, with a
flattering endeavor to mitigate the harshness of his former remarks, a
change of manner that made the young man shrink a little farther from
him, and hurriedly end the interview.

“That’s all right, Mr. Schwartzbrod. Words break no bones, unless they
cause the recipient to fling the dealer in them down a steep stairway.
The automobile is waiting for you at the door. The chauffeur thinks the
metal under the seat is copper. Your banker will tell you it is gold, so
keep an eye on it till it is safely in his possession. There, there, do
not thank me, I beg of you. I assure you I am not seeking for gratitude,
but I am a little short of time to-day. In half an hour I am to meet the
governor of the Bank of England, so I must bid you farewell.”

“Will you not come with me, then, in your own automobile, my lord?”

“Thank you, no. I think it best that you should be seen alone in the
automobile if there have been rumors regarding your position down in the
city. If anyone asks you what the machine cost, you can tell them its
price is a net two thousand pounds. You will journey in that, and I
shall take the twopenny tube, being a democratic sort of person. Good
morning, Mr. Schwartz-brod, good morning.”

So Lord Stranleigh went down the huge lift at the twopenny tube, and in
due time emerged to daylight at the Bank of England. He arrived in the
anteroom a few minutes before the time of his appointment, and exactly
at the arranged moment was called for, and ushered into the presence,
for punctuality is the politeness of kings, and--governors of the Bank
of England.

The stern, almost commanding attitude of this monarch of finance
abashed the young man, and made him feel the useless worm of the dust
Schwartzbrod had indicated he was. Stranleigh, who was always more
scrupulously polite to a beggar than was his custom with the king,
resented the sensation of inferiority which came upon him when
confronted with the forbidding ruler of the bank. He said to himself:

“Good Heavens, is it possible that if I meet a man who is big enough, I
shall actually cringe in my soul as Schwartzbrod does with his body?”

Nevertheless, that slight hesitation in speech which was apt to
incommode him at critical moments overpowered him now, and his dislike
of any attempt to win the respect of the iron man before him sent him
in the other direction, and he knew that for the next ten minutes he was
going to be regarded as the most hopeless fool in London. Yet he did
not consider himself a fool, and his latent sense of humor prevented him
from making any attempt at endowing his conversation with that wisdom
which seemed so suitable to this somber room.

When the governor’s secretary had presented Lord Stranleigh’s letter to
him, the head of the bank had peremptorily refused to waste time with
a member of the aristocracy of whom he knew nothing, but the secretary,
whose business it was to know everything, dropped one word in a short
phrase that arrested the governor’s attention.

“It’s the _rich_ Lord Stranleigh, sir.”

The word “rich” was the straw at which the drowning man clutched. So
here was Stranleigh, the living contradiction of that phrase “The last
of the Dandies.” Here was the embodiment of the spirit of Piccadilly and
Bond Street confronted with the rugged, carelessly dressed dictator of
Threadneedle Street, a frown on the beetling brow of one man, an inane,
silly smile on the lips of the other. At the sight of this smile the
governor saw at once that his first thought had been right. He should
not have wasted a moment on this nonentity, yet he had before him the
herculean task of providing the institute over which he presided with
seventy millions of pounds worth of gold within five days, or stand
discredited before the world. Despair was strangling expiring hope as he
realized that this simpering noodle could not be the god in the machine;
godlike in stalwart form, perhaps, but that simpering smile would have
discredited Jove himself.

“What can I do for you, my lord?” he bellowed forth, temper, patience,
and time short.

“Well, sir,” sniggered Stranleigh, “there’s--there’s several things you
can do for me. In--in the first place you don’t mind my sitting down, do
you? It seems to me I can speak better sitting down. I’ve--I’ve really
never been able to make a speech in my life, even after dinner, simply
because a fellow has to stand up, don’t you know.”

“I hope, my lord, you won’t think it necessary to make a speech here.”

“No, no, I merely wished a quiet talk,” said his lordship, drawing up a
chair without invitation, and sitting down. “You see, I have no head
for figures, and so little knowledge of business do I possess that I am
compelled to engage twelve professional men to look after my affairs.”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes,” snapped the governor.

“Well, you see, governor, now and again I act without asking any advice
from those men. Seems kind of a silly thing to do, don’t you think?
Keeping twelve dogs, and barking a fellow’s bally self, don’t you know.”

“Yes. What has all that to do with the Bank of England?”

“I’m coming to that. You see, we are all imbued with the same respect
for the bank that we feel for the church, and the navy, and the king,
and sometimes for the Government, but not always, as, for instance, when
they pass silly Acts about your gold reserve, instead of coming to you
in a friendly manner, as I’m doing, and settling the thing quietly.”

“I quite agree with you, my lord, but my time is very limited, and I
should be obliged----”

“Quite so, sir, quite so. These ideas are not my own, at all. I
didn’t know much about the crisis until four or five days ago when
Mr. Corbitt--Alexander Corbitt, you know, of Selwyn’s Bank. You’re
acquainted with him, perhaps?”

“I know Mr. Corbitt--yes.”

“Well, those are his opinions, and I agree with him, you know.”

“Mr. Corbitt is an authority on finance,” admitted the governor, as if,
instead of praising the absent man, he was denouncing him.

“Now, what bothers me about gold is this. A sovereign weighs a hundred
and twenty-three grains, decimal--well I forget the decimal figures,
but perhaps you’re up in them. I never could remember--to tell you the
truth, the moment I get into decimals, I’m lost. I can figure out that
two and two are four, but beyond that----”

“I assure you, my lord,” interrupted the governor, “a great many people
cannot go so far as that. If you will have the kindness, not to say
the mercy, to tell me exactly what you want, I will guarantee that your
answer will be brief and prompt.”

“All right. To get directly at the nub of the business, then, do you
have twelve ounces to the pound of gold, or sixteen?”

The governor’s fingers were drumming on the hard surface of the table.
He glared at his visitor, but said nothing.

“When I get entangled with decimals or vulgar fractions, it’s bad
enough, but when I don’t know whether the pounds I am dealing with
are twelve ounces or sixteen ounces, then the ease gets kind of
hopeless--ah, I see you are in a hurry. Now tell me how much would be
the value of a bar of gold weighing a hundred pounds, and we’ll let troy
or avoirdupois go. Just give me a rough estimate.”

“My Lord Stranleigh,” said the governor, with ominous calmness, “have
you come here under the impression that the Bank of England is an infant
school?”

Lord Stranleigh blushed a delicate pink, until his cheeks were as smooth
and crimson as that of a girl receiving her first proposal. The contempt
of the man before him was so unconcealed that poor Stranleigh thought,
as he closed his open hand, he might feel it, so thick was it in the
air. He plunged desperately into another tack.

“My dear governor,” he stammered, trying to conciliate his opponent by
cordial familiarity, “as I told you I have the utmost respect for the
Bank of England. You see, I am rather well off, and within the last day
or two I have plunged, and every available asset I possess except one I
have put into stocks and shares. I’ve thought this thing out----”

“Oh, you’ve thought it out,” said the governor.

“Yes, as well as I was able, and I believe that after the first of
January London is going to see the greatest boom in stocks and shares
that has ever taken place in the history of finance.”

“What are your grounds for such a belief, my lord?”

“The--the respect I hold for the Bank of England. We want to see the
good old Bank of England buck up. It’s humiliating to think that an
upstart like Wall Street should be able to play Hey-diddle-diddle, the
cat and the fiddle, with a venerable institution like this. Why, it’s
as if some one spoke disrespectfully of one’s grandmother. I want to see
the bank buck up, and that’s why I’m here.”

The governor bucked up. He rose like a statue of wrath.

“My lord, this interview must terminate. The Bank of England cannot
assist you in your speculations. You should have consulted Alexander
Corbitt if you wished further credit, should he happen to be your
banker.”

Stranleigh had risen when he saw the governor on his feet.

“I did.”

“Then you had better go back to him. He surely never advised you to see
me?”

“No, but what he told me of the situation filled me with a desire to
meet you.”

“I dare say. Well, Lord Stranleigh, you have met me. I bid you good
morning, sir.”

Stranleigh became a deeper crimson at what he considered this rude
dismissal. He was not accustomed to being treated in such a way. His
shoulders squared back, and the smile left his lips.

“Then you don’t want the gold?” he said, almost as sternly as the other
had spoken.

“What gold?”

“My gold.”

“I thought you said that all your assets had been vested in the buying
of stocks.”

“I said, sir, all my assets except one. The one asset remaining is
gold.”

“Gold?”

“Yes.”

“In what form?”

“In the form of ingots.”

“How much gold have you got? What’s its value?”

“Now, governor, I put it to you, as one man to another, you’re a little
unreasonable. Didn’t I tell you that unless I can multiply a hundred and
twenty-three decimal-whatever-it-happens-to-be, I can’t even estimate
it? I asked--I hope with courtesy--the favor of your assistance in
calculating the value of my gold, but you began to talk about infant
schools. You see, I have got a mine down in Cornwall that holds two
thousand tons of gold.”

“Nonsense,” interrupted the governor, waxing impatient. “There are no
gold mines in Cornwall.”

“Sir, I did not say there were. The mine I speak of is a copper mine.”

“I have had enough of this fooling, my lord, and I think I have already
bade you farewell.”

“Then you don’t want my gold?”

“How many pounds of raw gold have you got?”

“Pounds? Oh, I don’t estimate my gold in pounds. I hold at present
upward of two thousand tons.”

“Two thousand tons! In ore, do you mean?”

“Certainly not. If the Bank of England is not an infant school, I
suppose it is not a smelting furnace, either. This gold, as I told you,
has been smelted, and is in ingots. I came down by twopenny tube to keep
my appointment because I had lent my principal automobile to a man named
Conrad Schwartzbrod. I see my automobile standing outside, and as I gave
Schwartzbrod eight bars of this metal, telling him to take it to his
bank, he seems to have taken it to this bank, so if this seminary for
young ladies has purchased these eight bars, we may go at once and
examine them. My two thousand tons is divided into ingots similar to
those Schwartzbrod has sold you.”

“Where is your gold?”

“A thousand tons of it is in Cornwall still, but can be delivered here
within a day or two. The other thousand tons is on a special train of
the Great Western Railway, which has already arrived in London, and its
contents may be in your vaults this evening if your vans look sharp.”

The governor sat down in his chair more hurriedly than he had
anticipated, drew out a handkerchief and wiped his brow.

“Are you telling the truth, or is this--is this--What you say, my lord,
is incredible.”

“Very well, come up to the Great Western goods depot, and see for
yourself. I have always avoided the city as a cynical place, but I had
no idea that unbelief was so prevalent there as it seems.”

“A thousand tons of gold! Worth a hundred and ten million pounds
sterling!”

“There, you see how easy it is to calculate when a man who knows figures
gets at it. Is that what my thousand tons is worth?”

“Where did this gold come from?”

“From the West African coast; a very valuable surface mine I own there.
We’ve been working most of the year transporting the ore to Cornwall and
smelting it, tossing the ingots down into an empty copper mine I own,
which I call my safe deposit vault.”

“How much do you demand for this gold?”

“Oh, I don’t demand anything at all. I’m no business man, as I told you.
It struck me that the gold was quite as safe in your vaults as in my
copper mine, therefore I engaged a special train to bring half of it up.
You can have the other half if you wish.”

“My lord, will you accompany me in my automobile to the Great Western
goods depot, and show me that special train of yours?”

“Governor, I shall be delighted.”

A few mornings later Lord Stranleigh sat at his appetizing breakfast,
and smiled as he read the leading article in the _Times_:

“As our readers know, we did not join in the outcry of the sensational
press which did so much to mislead public opinion both in England and
America. Never for an instant, during all the tumult, did our faith in
that greatest and most venerable of financial institutions, the Bank
of England, waver. On October the fourteenth we pointed out the
impossibility of cornering gold, no matter how powerful the financial
syndicate might be which undertook his labor of Sisyphus. How long this
treasure, whose very figures read like some romance of the ‘Arabian
Nights,’ has lain in the vaults of the bank, no one but the governor,
and those in his confidence, can tell. While the country was ringing
with predictions of failure on the part of the bank to conform with a
new and absurd law, those responsible for the direction of our leading
financial institution quietly and in silence had gathered together
the almost unimaginable amount of three hundred million pounds’ worth
sterling of virgin gold. Those journals which for the past four months
have been foremost in deluding their readers, and bringing a crisis on
the country, are now loud in their denunciation of the governor of the
bank for not speaking sooner. But if the governor of the bank
undertook to reply to statements, malicious or ignorant, concerning the
institution over which he so worthily presides, there would be little
time left for him to perform those functions that he has so ably
accomplished. Those people who held faith in their country are rewarded.
The almost unprecedented heights to which stocks and shares have risen
means the enrichment of every investor who was not carried away by a
senseless panic. As for ourselves, we have in season and out of season
never swerved from----”

Lord Stranleigh laughed.

“Good old _Times_,” he said, “how wise you are! A fitting companion
grandmother to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street!”


THE END





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