Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Rogue's Haven
Author: Bridges, Roy
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rogue's Haven" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                          [Picture: Book cover]



                             _Rogues’ Haven_


                                    BY
                              _ROY BRIDGES_

                               _Author of_
            “_The Bubble Moon_,” “_The Vats of Tyre_,” _etc._

                                * * * * *

                          _HODDER AND STOUGHTON_
                        _LIMITED_         _LONDON_

                                * * * * *

                              _To my friend_
                             _M. A. MINOGUE_.

                                * * * * *

Printed in Great Britain by C. TINLING & CO., LTD.,
                     53, Victoria Street, Liverpool,
                     and at London and Prescot.

                                * * * * *



_Contents_

     CHAPTER                                         PAGE
          I.  MR. BRADBURY                              9
         II.  AT THE HALL                              15
        III.  MRS. MARY HOWE                           29
         IV.  A JOURNEY PLANNED                        39
          V.  THE JOURNEY BEGUN                        45
         VI.  THROUGH THE DARKNESS                     53
        VII.  THE RIDERS                               59
       VIII.  THE GREEN-CURTAINED ROOM                 65
         IX.  MR. CHARLES CRAIKE                       75
          X.  SCRUPLES OF ROGER GALT                   83
         XI.  EVENTS AT THE STONE HOUSE                89
        XII.  CAPTAIN EZRA BLUNT                       97
       XIII.  OUT OF THE STONE HOUSE                  105
        XIV.  MODESTY OF MR. GALT                     111
         XV.  THE DOOMED HOUSE                        119
        XVI.  OLD MR. EDWARD CRAIKE                   129
       XVII.  CREED OF MR. CHARLES                    139
      XVIII.  COMPACT OF TOLERANCE                    147
        XIX.  COMPANY AT DINNER                       155
         XX.  SOUL OF A MAN                           161
        XXI.  MY COUSIN OLIVER                        169
       XXII.  THE WEB OF IVY                          177
      XXIII.  DYING FIRES                             185
       XXIV.  THE WOOD                                191
        XXV.  INSISTENCE OF CAPTAIN BLUNT             201
       XXVI.  SIR GAVIN MASTERS                       207
      XXVII.  SUSPICIONS OF MR. CHARLES CRAIKE        213
     XXVIII.  SPILT WINE                              219
       XXIX.  INTERVENTION OF MR. BRADBURY            225
        XXX.  NOT YET                                 233
       XXXI.  THE NIGHT WATCH                         239
      XXXII.  WILL OF A MAN                           251
     XXXIII.  CARRION CROWS                           259
      XXXIV.  FLIGHT OF CROWS                         269
       XXXV.  DEPARTURE OF MR. CHARLES CRAIKE         279
      XXXVI.  DAWN                                    291
     XXXVII.  MY UNCLE COMES TO HIS OWN               299
    XXXVIII.  LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT                 305



_Chapter I_.  _Mr. Bradbury_


But for the coach and pair carrying Mr. Bradbury to Chelton, Tony Vining
and I would not have been haled before the Squire, but would have got off
scot-free as any time before.  Tony and I had made the round of our
snares.  Tony had poked a young rabbit into his jacket-pocket; I was
carrying a hare in my bag, and we were sneaking homewards through the
dusk, when Tim Kerrick, ash-plant in hand, and brace of keepers at heel,
stepped out of the coppice.

“What be you lads doin’ here?” Tim demanded, barring our way.  “You’re
after no good, I’ll warrant.  What’s in your bag, John Howe?”

I did not stay to answer.  I swung round and was away.  Tony raced off
with me; old Tim and his keepers followed.  We led them about the
coppice, but they pressed us hard, Tim roaring, “Stop, ye young varmint!
Stop!  It’ll be all the worse for ye.  Stop, I say!”

Dreading Tim’s ash-plant, we ran on with all speed.  The hare in the bag
hung heavily on me; when we were out in the furze, I let the bag slip
from me, and ran more swiftly.  I had need, for Tony was now well ahead,
and Tim and the keepers were hot at my heels; I could hear Tim’s snorting
as much for anger as the rigour of the chase.  Furze tore my breeches and
stockings; as we took the bank above the road, a bramble almost led to my
undoing; it caught the tail of my jacket, and for the moment held me.
Tim charged forward with a yell of triumph; it was premature, for,
kicking his toe against a root, he tumbled forward on his nose; on the
evidence of his curses he pitched headlong into the bramble.  I tore
myself away from the thorn, and dashed up the bank after Tony.

Down then we plunged into the road; the keepers, not staying to help Tim
to his feet, pressed closely on us.  And as we shot down into the road,
destiny in a coach and pair—to wit, Mr. Bradbury—encountered us.  For
scarcely were we on the road, and racing on, than with a flash of yellow
lamplight through the dusk, cracking of whip, and rattle of wheels, the
coach was driven round a bend in the way, blocking our path, and sending
us up against the bank to save ourselves.  Tony cried out, for the horses
almost trod him down; instantly the pair took fright, and swerved to
left.  A wheel descending into a deep rut, the coach toppled over; a
horse fell, and the driver was lost in a swirl of dust, confusion of
struggling, plunging horses and smashing vehicle.  On this disaster we
might have sped away; no more than my curiosity, or maybe, desire to give
a hand to the driver, held me there leaning against the bank and for the
moment staring.  But then I darted back with Tony, and caught at the
bridle of the plunging horse; by then the driver was the master of its
fellow.  Scarcely had we prevailed, than old Tim, cursing still, was upon
us, roaring to his keepers, “Hold the young varmints!  Don’t let ’em get
away!”  Promptly the keepers had Tony and me as securely as we held the
horse; Tim was standing glowering at us, ash-plant quivering in his right
hand, when out of the wrecked coach stepped Mr. Bradbury.

Now in the days to be from my first meeting with Mr. Bradbury the
demeanour and the characteristics of the gentleman were to be stamped so
vividly upon my mind that perhaps I write of him here with a detail
beyond my perception in the dusk, for the light of the carriage lamps had
been put out.  I picture him as a keen-faced gentleman,—then of sixty
years of age,—as lean and stooping slightly; his black cloak lined with
white silk blowing out from his shoulders; his long white hands striving
now to secure it at his breast, and now to hold his hat upon his head.
He would be wearing his coat of fine black cloth, black, flapped
waistcoat, black silken breeches and black silken stockings, shining
silver-buckled shoes, linen of superfine quality and whiteness,—I recall
the glint of white jewels on his fingers.  His hair was snow-white, and
bound with a black ribbon; his spectacles were as two owl-like eyes.

“Ha-ha!” the gentleman exclaimed, observing Tony and me in the grip of
the keepers.  “Whom have we here?  Gentlemen of the road?”—and chuckled
in a dry, crackling way.

“Poachers,—lads from the village, Mr. Bradbury, sir,” Tim growled,
touching his hat.  “These young dogs has been poachin’, and I be goin’ to
dust their jackets, as they’ve needed dustin’ many a day.  ’Twas them as
frightened the hosses, an’ nigh broke your honour’s neck and the lad’s
there.  You’ve took no hurt, sir, I hopes and trusts.”

“None!  None!” Mr. Bradbury answered, indifferently.  “But my driver?”

“Well enough, sir, thank ’ee,” the fellow said, busying himself with the
traces of the fallen horse.  “No thanks to these young rascals.”

“Ay!  Ay!  I’ll be walking on then to the hall,” said Mr. Bradbury,
glancing at the ruined coach.  “And I’ll leave you free, Tim Kerrick, to
dust the jackets and whatsoever else of the attire of these lads as may
occur to you.”  He chuckled again, and pulled his flapping cloak about
him.

“The road’s rough and broken with the rains, Mr. Bradbury,” said Tim.
“As like as not you’ll be tumblin’ into the ditch, or missin’ your way.
I’ll send one of my lads with you.  Hey, you Dick, have you your lantern
there?”

“Yes, I’ve it here, Mister Kerrick,” the keeper answered.

“Light it, lad, light it, and go along with Mr. Bradbury!  Joe and me can
finish our business with these varmint.”

The keeper, relinquishing me to Tim’s custody, lit his lantern, and stood
forward to attend Mr. Bradbury, who, leaning on his cane, was
scrutinising Tony and me.

“Show the light on this lad here,” said Mr. Bradbury, suddenly, pointing
to me.  As the light flashed on me, Mr. Bradbury peered at me through his
spectacles; his face expressed nothing of his thought; shamefaced I stood
before him.  “What’s your name, boy?” Mr. Bradbury demanded, sharply.

“John Howe, sir,” I answered.

“Howe!—H’m—Kerrick!”

“Sir?” said Tim, touching his hat.

“Bring this lad to the Hall.”

“After I’ve basted him, sir?”

“Let the penalty be suspended.  Later, maybe.  Jacket or breeches then,
as you will,” said Mr. Bradbury, chuckling.  “Who’s the other lad?”

“Parson’s son, sir,—young Vining.”

“Bring them both before Mr. Chelton at the Hall,” Mr. Bradbury ordered.
“It’s only just that they should suffer equally, as Mr. Chelton thinks
fit; one’s as culpable as the other.  Bring them both after me, Kerrick!
Now, my man, go ahead with the lantern.”

Wrapped in his cloak, hat pressed down over his brows, Mr. Bradbury went
up the road, leaving Tim to curse, since justice and an overdue vengeance
on our skins had been taken arbitrarily from his hands.



_Chapter II_.  _At the Hall_


It was dark long before Tony and I were marched up the drive to the Hall.
The great house stood out a grey mass against the starry sky; the windows
fronting us were golden with light; and light flowed from the open door
and down the steps.  I heard loud laughter; the Squire had company, as he
might any night of the week.  He favoured fox-hunting gentlemen of a like
pattern to himself, seasoned to drink under the table any gentleman of
fashion and Tory out of session who should quit the Town for the
hospitality of Chelton.  Hearing the voices and the laughter, and seeing
the blaze of light from the dining-room, I had little fear of the temper
of Mr. Chelton, before whom Tony and I were presently to be haled.  None
the less, for the thought that the Squire might think fit to parade us
before his company to provide sport for them, I would have begged Tim
Kerrick to deal with us summarily; I would have endured the ash-plant
about me for all my seventeen years of age but that the sudden interest
of Mr. Bradbury had excited my natural curiosity.  I pictured Mr.
Bradbury standing by us, chuckling to himself, and his piercing look,
while the lantern light was playing across my face; and I recalled his
queer, sharp tone when he ordered me to be brought on to the Hall.  What
should the gentleman want with me?  Squire’s family lawyer, Tim told me,
gruffly, in answer to my eager question.  How we should fare with Mr.
Chelton was of less concern.

I knew Mr. Chelton for a good-humoured gentleman.  I did not fear that,
though Tony and I had been found poaching on his preserves, the Squire
would do worse than bid Tim Kerrick dress us down with his ash-plant.  I
did not dread committal, the Assizes and the terror of their Lordships,
the Judges.  Indeed, I believed that unseen I had dropped the hare out of
sight in the furze; and I took it that Tony had long since rid himself of
the rabbit from his pocket.  Only when we were before the house did I
find the chance of a word with Tony.  Tim, loosing his grip then, and
staring up doubtfully at the door, as if not knowing whether or not to
conduct us before the Squire and Mr. Bradbury immediately, I poked my
head forward and whispered to Tony, “Did you get rid of that rabbit?”

He whispered back, “No!  It’s stuck in my pocket;” but he could add
nothing, for Tim gripped me instantly, and shook me, with the
observation: “No talkin’!  If it’s the rabbit you’re thinkin’ of, it’s in
his pocket yet, for I’ve felt it there.  And I saw you drop the bag with,
belike, another inside.  So don’t go thinkin’ yourself clever, John Howe!
It’s gaol, or transportation, or at the very least a basting you’ve never
felt the like of, and’ll never want to feel again.  Squire’s at dinner.
You’ll wait till Squire’s dined and wined, you will.”

With this cheerful augury Tim Kerrick propelled me before him, and the
keeper following with Tony, we were marched about the house to the
stables and into the harness-room.  “You’ll be safe and snug here,” Tim
said, ere he turned the key upon us, “Squire’ll deal with you, but not
for a good two hours or more.  So you can just think it all over in the
dark.”

Slamming the door Tim locked us in, and stumped away.  His assertion that
Mr. Chelton would not deal with us, till he had dined, gave me instant
concern for my mother’s anxiety at my failure to return for supper.  I
pictured her dolefully—with my meal set all ready for me; sitting
listening for my steps, peering up at the clock, and running out to the
gate and waiting there, but seeing still no sign of me.  And dreading, I
guessed well, lest I should have disappeared as from the face of the
earth—vanished with never a word to her, even as my father—of whom I
shall tell presently.  I cursed Tim Kerrick, Squire Chelton, and Mr.
Bradbury.

“What’s going to happen to us now, John?” Tony muttered through the dark.
“What’ll the Squire do with us, do you think?”

“Oh, he’ll laugh, for he’s sure to be half drunk when he sees us.  Tell
us we’ll be hanged, if we’re not shot for poachers first.  And if Tim
Kerrick makes the case black enough, Squire’ll give him leave to baste
us.”

“Yes, but Tim would have basted us properly, and let us go,” said Tony.
“Why should that old black crow want to spoil Tim’s sport and bid him
bring us here, unless he’s a notion of having us clapped in gaol?  But
for him we’d have been through Tim’s hands by now, and been limpin’ home.
Do you know him, John?”

“Oh, I only know he’s Squire’s lawyer.  You heard Tim say so, if you
didn’t know before.  I’d never heard of him or clapped eyes on him.”

“He seemed to know you.”

“Yes, he did.  But I don’t know how.  We’ll hear, when Squire’s dined.
Pray God, he doesn’t spare the bottle!  Sit ye down, Tony, while you’re
able.”

And in the dark we sat down on the cold, flagged floor.  I tell you the
harness-room was like a vault for gloom and chill.  The time we were held
there seemed unending; only Tim came near us, and then merely to be
assured that we were safe, and to growl vengefully at us, as he flashed
his lantern down on us.  We wearied soon of conjecturing what should
happen to us.  We sat huddled together silently, and while Tony sought to
pull the rabbit from his pocket, and at last succeeded to sling it from
him with a curse, I set myself to pondering over Mr. Bradbury’s
mysterious interest in me, and to striving to recollect when, if ever, I
had set eyes on the gentleman before.  Never, so far as my memory served
me, though my mother and I had lived ten years at Chelton.

To my seventh year we had lived with my father in London.  I remembered
my father clearly, tall and darkly handsome, his black hair
silver-threaded, though at the time of his mysterious disappearance he
was not more than thirty-seven years of age.  I remembered the moods of
brooding melancholy darkening the natural liveliness of his disposition;
his strength, his tenderness with my mother and myself.  I remembered, as
the most sorrowful time of my childhood, the day of his disappearance,—my
mother waiting the hours through from eve till dawn, hoping against hope
for the sound of his return,—the days succeeding of alternate hopes never
fulfilled and terrors not allayed.

My father had held a poor clerkship with the East India Company.  He had
left the House late in the day to carry a letter down to the docks for
the master of an Indiaman; but had never delivered the letter, and had
vanished without trace or word.  I remembered my mother’s pitiful
distress, as day succeeded day without tidings, and the cloud of mystery
was in no way lifted.  A countrywoman and friendless, she could make
little search for him; it was assumed by the gentlemen of the East India
House, that he had been pressed aboard one of the King’s ships; even so,
none of his name was ever found among the crews, though the interest of
the Company secured inquiry from the Commissioners of His Majesty’s Navy.

And my mother, distraught for many days, seemed stricken with terror of
the Town and its associations, and took coach and fled away with me to
Chelton; all the years since we had had no word of my father and did not
know whether he was alive or dead.  We had lived quietly in a little
cottage on the edge of Chelton—the last dwelling, indeed, of the village
ere the street passed into the great highway.  My mother was possessed of
small means—a legacy, I believed, from a kinsman, though she would tell
me nothing either of my father’s family or of her own.  She had not
sufficient for our needs; she added to our means by fine needlework for
the Squire’s lady and her folk; how she found the five guineas a year for
which the Rev. Mr. Vining allowed me to share the studies and the
discipline of his son Tony I did not know.  Yet, though I, lazy and
graceless young dog as I was, urged her to let me seek employment in
Chelton or in London itself, she would not hear of this.  She declared,
dear soul, that she would have me first a scholar; even though I had
turned seventeen, there was time and to spare for me to choose a calling.
So with Tony I had become an equally indifferent scholar, in spite of Mr.
Vining’s cane, and as abandoned a rogue and poacher.  So I sat now with
the parson’s son awaiting Squire Chelton’s summary justice, and most like
Tim Kerrick’s execution of it.  But Mr. Bradbury—?

Mr. Bradbury sat in a cushioned chair by the fire; Mr. Chelton supported
his huge body more or less steadily against the chimney-piece, when at
last Tim Kerrick paraded us before them in the library.  It was a vast
room,—its shelves lined with books, none of which, I fear, Mr. Chelton
had ever opened from the day when his father’s death put him into
possession of the Hall and its acres.  Old Mr. Gilbert Chelton’s portrait
looked coldly down from its gilded frame above the chimney-piece on his
stout son, flushed from his drink—his red coat, buckskins and high boots
all mud-splashed from the cross-country ride of the day.  Squire Chelton
had not changed his rig to do honour to his guests, who, I took it from
the roars of laughter yet sounding in the dining-room, were gentlemen of
tastes similar to his own.  His iron-grey hair was wind-blown; his
blood-shot eyes were as unsteady as his legs.  He exuded good
humour—natural to him, but stimulated by as liberal an indulgence in the
contents of his cellar as he expected from any gentleman of his company.
While Mr. Gilbert’s portrait looked its disapproval, the paintings of
four other dead and gone Cheltons of a marked resemblance to the Squire
seemed to regard him enviously from their old frames.

Mr. Bradbury, if he had not been permitted to spare the bottle at dinner,
made no show of it in his complexion.  He sat by the fire, his legs
crossed; he had a silver snuff-box set with some glittering gem in his
left hand; his face was almost as white as his linen.  Observing him, I
had a sense that the mind at the back of his broad brow was as keen and
as sparkling as the jewels on his fingers.  With his leanness, his
bloodlessness, his coldly impassive face, his cunning eyes peering
through his spectacles, he was as odd a contrast to his stout,
drink-flushed patron in his riding-rig as were his air of precision and
the trimness of his dress to the frank disorder of the rich furniture in
the room.  Squire Chelton’s desk was littered with papers and parchments;
an inkhorn was overset among them; goose quills had blown to the carpet;
hats, cloaks, riding-whips, and gloves were tossed pell-mell on chairs
and table.  On this dark oaken table a half-emptied flagon of crystal and
silver was set, and a circle of glasses stained with the red dregs of
wine.  The library was lit by many tall candles in silver sticks, and by
the leaping flames from the hearth before which Mr. Bradbury warmed
himself, with the reflections flashing from his jewelled hands, his
snuff-box and the silver buckles of his shoes.  I noted the keenness of
Mr. Bradbury’s gaze immediately Tim thrust us forward; all the while I
remained in the room, I fancied that his eyes never left me.

“Here’s the young varmints, sir and Mr. Bradbury,” Tim announced,
touching his forelock.

“Young Vining and young Howe,—hey?” cried Mr. Chelton, essaying to frown
majestically.  “Caught poaching!  Ye’re a credit to the parson who has
the schooling of the pair of ye.  What have ye to say for yourselves?
Come!”

We stared up at Mr. Chelton; grinned foolishly, but said nothing.

“Answer the Squire, varmint!  Answer the Squire!” Tim muttered hoarsely
at our backs.

“Tell the story for them, Kerrick,” said Mr. Chelton.  “Maybe when they
hear your account they’ll be ready enough to answer for themselves and
call you a liar”—chuckling.

Tim, stepping forward, briskly told his tale—no, he told the tale of
poachings from Chelton for the twelvemonth past, not limiting himself to
the matter of the evening, the rabbit in Tony’s jacket or the conjectured
content of my bag.  Not a pheasant, not a hare, not a rabbit had been
poached from Chelton, but had gone—on Tim’s assertion—in company with
Tony and me,—the worst pair of varmints, Tim dubbed us, as never was.
Meanwhile, Squire Chelton from ruddy grew purple, from good-humoured
choleric and from choleric nigh choking with passion.  From time to time,
as Tim proceeded, Mr. Chelton would burst out, “D’ye hear this,
Bradbury?” or “D’ye hear that?”  Mr. Bradbury nodded; said nothing, and
took snuff, while he peered at me through his spectacles.  Tim wound up
with a narration of the affair of the evening,—glowering at him I
rejoiced to see the damage wrought by the bramble to his nose and chin.

“Now, you rogues,—now!” Mr. Chelton stormed.  “What have ye to say to me?
D’ye know this is a matter for Assizes?  D’ye know that ye may be hanged
for this?  D’ye know that at the least ye’ll be shipped overseas?  What
d’ye think of it, Bradbury?”

“I think, my dear sir,” said Mr. Bradbury, smoothly, “that Kerrick
overstates his case.  Indeed, so much he overstates it, that did I
instruct counsel for the defence of these lads, I promise that it would
end with the committal of Kerrick here on a charge of perjury”—Mr.
Bradbury laughed shrilly to himself, and took more snuff.

Tim stared at him with his eyes goggling, his jaw dropping.  Mr. Chelton
growling thunderously, “Upon my soul, Bradbury!  Upon my soul!” lurched
to the table, and poured himself a glass of wine.  Tony and I rejoicing
fixed our eyes on Mr. Bradbury.

“Mr. Chelton,” Mr. Bradbury proceeded, “there’s no more in this matter
than the roguery of these lads to-night,—a rabbit or so snared; these
lads are poachers, and, no doubt, have taken a pretty picking off
Chelton.  But Kerrick here would lay to their account the poachings of
the countryside,—of gipsies, vagrants, village folk and odd.  Without a
tittle of proof, Mr. Chelton, without a tittle of proof that would hold
good in a court of law.”

“Askin’ your pardon, Mr. Bradbury, sir,” Tim protested, “Parson’s son had
a rabbit in his pocket, when we caught ’em, and young John Howe was
carryin’ summat in his bag.  He dropped it over in the furze.”

“Maybe,” said Mr. Bradbury, testily.  “We’ll admit these facts, Tim
Kerrick, we’ll admit them; but to seek, as you’ve done, my man, to prove
against these lads the losses of a year past—losses which you’ve failed
to prevent,—why, it’s preposterous, Kerrick,—it’s rank perjury!”

“Have you turned advocate for rogues and vagabonds, Bradbury?” asked Mr.
Chelton, solemnly, though his eyes were twinkling once more, as much from
the glass of wine, no doubt, as from Tim Kerrick’s indignation and
discomfiture.

“Nay, Mr. Chelton,” cried Mr. Bradbury, “only consider the facts!  The
parson’s son and, doubtless, excellently schooled by his father.”

“Vining’s a worthy fellow,” Mr. Chelton admitted, grinning.  “I could
tell you a rare story, Bradbury—” but broke off, as recollecting Tony’s
presence, yet continuing to chuckle to himself.  Mr. Vining, though
devout, was a fox-hunting parson after the Squire’s own heart.

“Ay, and the lad Howe?” Mr. Bradbury asked, observing me steadily.

“A young varmint!” Tim asserted, vengefully.

“His folk, Mr. Chelton?”

“Mother’s a widow woman—a decent body,” Mr. Chelton answered readily.
“Never a day behind with her rent.  The lad was well enough till he
turned poacher with young Vining there.”

“Village folk?  Chelton folk?”

“The mother and the lad have lived here these ten years.  From London,
I’ve heard say, Bradbury.”

Mr. Bradbury took snuff.  “Now, Mr. Chelton,” he said, laughing, “these
lads have done no more than a taste of Tim’s ash-plant should have
corrected in them.  And would have corrected, but that I ordered them to
be brought to the Hall,—I’ll have a word with you, sir, presently, on my
reason.  But for two hours or so they’ve been in Tim’s hands; they’ve
been locked up in the dark, maybe, and they’ve been haled before you.
The lesson should serve ’em, sir.”

“Ain’t I to baste ’em properly, Squire?” asked Tim, aghast.  “They’re
varmint—varmint, sir!”

“No doubt,” said Mr. Bradbury.  “But they’ll need no further lesson.
Admonish them as you will, Mr. Chelton, and send them packing home to
make their peace with their folk as they may.  It’ll meet the purpose, I
promise you.  You’ll not be troubled with them again,” and standing up,
he laughed shrilly and snapped his snuff-box lid.  I realised that Mr.
Bradbury’s purpose—to satisfy some passing curiosity—had been fulfilled.
He stood peering at me still, his eyes darting like the jewels upon his
fingers.  “You’re long away from your guests, Mr. Chelton,” he said, with
a wave of his hand toward the door.

The Squire hesitated a moment; then, with sudden roaring laughter, cried
to us, “Oh, get away home, you dogs!  Don’t let me have you here again.
Out of this!—No, you don’t, Kerrick!  You’ll remain here,” as Tim started
for the door, purposing, I assumed, still to exercise justice upon us.

We did not stay to thank the Squire or Mr. Bradbury, but slinking out of
the room, scurried through the hall, and presently were racing down the
drive apace, lest Kerrick with his ash-plant pursue and overtake us.



_Chapter III_.  _Mrs. Mary Howe_


My mother was looking out from the gate into the moonlit street when I
reached home.

I saw her white cap poking from among the evergreens, as I rounded the
corner.  She was white and shaking when she hurried to meet me.

“My dear, where have you been?” she cried.  “I’ve been waiting for you
these three hours or more.  I’ve been so much afraid.”

“I’m sorry, mother,” I answered, as I kissed her.  “I’ve been with Tony.
Nothing’s amiss.  I went with him up to the Hall, and saw the Squire,
that’s all.”

“You’ve been in trouble, then?  Oh, you’ve been caught poaching with
young Vining!  That’s what you mean, isn’t it?” she said, indignantly.

“Yes, that’s it, mother, but Squire only laughed.”

She said no more, but stepped before me through the garden—now all
silvered with the moon and scented with gillie-flowers and stocks and
sweet moss-roses—into the cottage.  She kept our dwelling as neat and
trim within as the garden about it.  The room we entered was freshly
lime-washed; the windows were hung with snow-white curtains and gay with
flowers in boxes.  Settle and chairs and table were oaken, and dark with
age; an old Dutch clock, brass candlesticks and canisters stood on the
chimney-piece; blue and white ware and lustre were ranged upon the
shelves, with pewter polished silver-white even as the brasses shone like
gold.  My supper was set on bleached white linen—a cold pasty, bread and
cheese, and cider in a covered jug; though I was well-nigh starving for
the lateness of the hour, and though my mother hastened to cut a wedge
from the pasty for me, I could not eat or drink till I had told the tale
of our adventure and of Mr. Bradbury’s interest.  At the first mention of
Mr. Bradbury’s name, I believed that she started, and that the colour
crept into her cheeks.  My mother was pale and tall and fine,—all white
and black, ivory-white of skin, dark of eye and hair—wearing black stuff
gowns, snow-white mob-caps and aprons, save of a Sunday, when she put on
her silk dress, in which she made a figure fitter to the Hall than to the
village,—so it seemed to me.

Observing her stirred from her placidity, I asked, “Who’s Mr. Bradbury,
mother?  Squire’s lawyer, I know, but what can be his interest in us?
Why didn’t he let Tim baste Tony and me?  And why did he question the
Squire about you and me, and how long we’d lived in the village?  And
then the way he watched me!”

She said quietly, though there was a tremor in her voice, “Sit down and
eat your supper, John.  It’s late and I’m weary.  Mr. Bradbury is the
servant of many great families.  Once—years ago—he knew me, before I was
wed to Richard Howe.  And—and—he knew your father.  You’re very like your
father.”  Watching her, I believed that I saw dread in her eyes, and that
her lips were trembling.  Meeting my look, she added steadily, “That is
all, John.  Promise me that you’ll not go poaching with Tony again!”

“Oh, it’s easy enough to promise, mother,” I said, sitting down to my
supper, “but it’s not so easy to keep my word.”

“Why?  It should be easy!”

“Yes, and it would be, if I had anything else to occupy me.  You see, I’m
weary of wasting my days in Chelton.  You’d have me a scholar; and that
I’ll never be.  Mr. Vining would tell you so, for I’m sure he tells me as
much every day of the week.  And what should Tony and I be doing except
getting into mischief?”

“I’ve asked you, John,” she said, simply, “to wait just a little longer.
I couldn’t have you go to London.  Remembering your father!  You’re safe
here.  I wish you could be happy.”

“But here I am turned seventeen.  I’ve not the head for book-learning.
And what’s the purpose of it all?  Do you want me to be a schoolmaster or
a clergyman?”

“No,” she said quickly, “to be a gentleman.  This Mr. Bradbury—did he say
anything else to you?  Anything about your father?”

“Only what I’ve told you.”

She nodded, but said no more; sitting silent and abstracted until I had
eaten my supper; rising then to clear away the meal, whilst I, taking
down my Latin grammar, set myself to conning my lesson for the morrow,
apprehending that Mr. Vining’s cane would make amends for the punishment
of which Mr. Bradbury’s intervention had disappointed Tim Kerrick.  But
if my eyes were fixed on the page, my thoughts were straying back to Mr.
Bradbury, from his appearance out of his wrecked coach to the moment when
I had left him standing chuckling beside Squire Chelton.  My mother,
coming back quietly, sat down with her sewing; so we remained till the
hands of the clock pointed to the hour of eleven.  And even as I shut my
Latin grammar to prepare for bed, and my mother rose to set away her
sewing, a tapping sounded on the door.

My mother started; whispered to me, “Who should come so late?”—and, going
to the door, demanded, “Who is there?”

A low voice answered, “Mr. Bradbury, seeking Mrs. Mary Howe.”

I heard my mother gasp, and saw her throw her hands up; controlling
herself then she unbarred the door, and curtsied, as Mr. Bradbury,
wrapped in his black cloak, entered the room.

“Forgive me, Mrs. Howe,” he said, with his stiff bow.  “I’d not have come
so late, but that I desired my business with you and your son to be kept
secret, and that it brooked of no delay.”

Whilst I stood gaping at Mr. Bradbury, my mother barred the door, and
dusting a chair, then set it by the table for him.  When he sat down, she
remained standing facing him; though her eyes seemed to regard him with
terror, and her breath came swiftly, she uttered not a word, or asked the
purpose of his visit.  He looked at her, and smiled to himself; sought
his jewelled box in his pocket, and took snuff deliberately.  He said at
last, “I was not mistaken, Mrs. Howe.  The boy’s looks and likeness did
not mislead me.  Need I express myself as very happy to renew our
acquaintance?”

My mother, leaning forward, said slowly, “Since my son told me, sir, of
your interest, I did not doubt that you would come here.  Let me say only
this: that had I dreamt that you would ever come to Chelton, and
recognise him so easily, I’d not have stayed in the village.  I’d have
sought another hiding-place.”

“Mrs. Howe,” he said, smiling, “you’re frank with me.  I’m happy that you
should be.  You will be frank with me in answering all I have to ask
you.”  She watched him silently; he waved his hand towards me, asking,
“Isn’t it time for the lad to be abed?”

“He stays here, Mr. Bradbury,” she answered with composure.  “What you
may have to say need be no secret from him.”

He nodded, his look expressing satisfaction, but his keen eyes darting at
her, as though to read her thought; she continued steadily to watch him.
He said, “Your answer gives me confidence, Mrs. Howe.  I’m happy that
you’re willing that the boy remain.”

“Mr. Bradbury,” cried she, with mounting colour, “pray ask your
questions!”

“First let me put this to you—the boy’s father—?”

“I think him dead.  He passed by the name of Richard Howe in London.
When he left me I believed at first that he must have returned to his
home.  He has gone out of my life.  I—I cannot think him living”—with a
sudden gasp and start of tears.  “Mr. Bradbury, you do not come from
him?”

“Alas no!”

“From whom, then?  From them?”

He did not answer, saying, as if he had not heard her question, “To
anyone knowing my honoured client, old Mr. Edward Craike, this young
gentleman would pass unquestionably as his grandson.—His look would
establish his identity as Richard’s son.  If—forgive me—proof of your
marriage were available?  You use—your maiden name!”

I felt my cheeks burn, and started forward; he waved me impatiently
aside; my mother interrupted hastily, her face expressionless, but the
colour staining her face, “You need not ask your question, Mr. Bradbury.”

He proceeded coolly, “Mr. Richard Craike has been lost to his family for
many years.  Having known Richard I appreciate easily the reasons which
actuated him in cutting himself wholly from his family and in passing
under an assumed name.  Richard’s death—again forgive me, madam, should
render his son heir to Mr. Edward Craike,—a gentleman of considerable
fortune,—as I need not remind you.”  He smeared his lip with snuff, and
paused, eyeing her closely.  She answering nothing, he said swiftly, “You
do not help me, Mrs. Craike.”

“Pray, sir, go on,” she said, impatiently.  “Say what you have to say.”

He said, still in that hard tone of his, “From one who had suffered at
the hands of the Craike family—more particularly at the hands of Mr.
Charles Craike, and at the hands of Mrs. Charles,—since deceased,—of Mr.
Charles, then, heir in the event of Richard’s death, it might be idle for
me to seek any assistance only to serve the interests of my client—Mr.
Edward—as I conceive these interests.  Idle to plead the loneliness of an
old, unhappy man, having lost the one thing that made life precious to
him—his elder son, the very light of his eyes.  But if I urge, Mrs.
Craike, that the opportunity presents itself,—not only of insuring the
fortunes of Richard’s son-but also of retaliating upon Charles Craike, of
excluding him, his son, Oliver, from a rich inheritance,—what then, Mrs.
Craike?”

She looked up at him, her eyes curiously alight, her lips curling, but
for the moment did not answer.

“And Charles Craike being responsible—possibly responsible—for the
disappearance of his brother”—he proceeded, tapping impatiently upon his
snuff-box, “what then, Mrs. Craike?”

“Mr. Bradbury,” she said instantly, “this is a question I shall not
answer now.”

“Mr. Edward Craike is of advanced years and broken health.  His death is
shortly to be expected,” he said.  “Your decision is of some urgency.
Nor do I desire my visits to you to be a matter of gossip at Chelton.”

“You may come to-morrow night,” she answered indifferently, “as you have
come to-night.”

“Ay, surely,” he said, rising stiffly, “but you should be able to answer
me immediately.”

“I have said to-morrow night.”

“You, madam, guaranteeing that you will remain here in the meantime on my
assurance that I do not seek to promote the interests of Mr. Charles
Craike.  You will not seek to elude me?”

“You have my promise, Mr. Bradbury,” she said quietly; and moving to the
door, unbarred it.  She curtsied to his stiff bow; wrapping his cloak
about him he passed out swiftly.



_Chapter IV_.  _A Journey Planned_


When Mr. Bradbury returned to the cottage on the following evening, my
mother would not allow me to remain in the room to hear what passed.  She
would have had me go to bed immediately on Mr. Bradbury’s knocking at the
door; recollecting then, that from my room I must inevitably hear all
that passed, she bade me wait in the garden, until her conversation with
him was ended.

She had refused in the interval between his visits to answer any of my
eager questions; she offered me no information.  To be sure, my head was
full of notions; this much I knew: that my grandfather was wealthy; that
my father and mother had assumed her name—for what reason I could not
conjecture, and that Mr. Bradbury, if he had his will, would surely make
me known as the only son of Richard Craike, and, may be, heir to old
Edward.  Ay, and that Charles, my father’s brother, was an enemy of my
mother; that he and his wife had wronged her cruelly in the past; that
she hated him, and that the prospect of revenge on him inclined her to
accede to Mr. Bradbury’s wish.

Through the day my mother went about her household duties calmly, as was
her wont.  She insisted that I should go to my studies with Mr. Vining
and Tony as on any day; only stressing that I should say nothing to my
friend concerning Mr. Bradbury.  But, I promise you, I had no mind that
day for Latin grammar, or for the _Letters of Cicero_; the event was
inevitable,—Mr. Vining caning me soundly, with a display of wrath
ill-fitting a clergyman, even as, I took it from Tony’s uneasiness and
writhing on his chair, he had chastised his son for his late return the
night before.  I was all eagerness for the night and the coming of Mr.
Bradbury.

He came stealthily—wrapped in his black cloak.  As he entered, my mother
bade me leave the room and wait in the garden.  I waited all impatiently.
I could scarcely refrain from sneaking up under the window, and listening
to their conversation.  An hour or more their voices sounded from within;
at no time did my mother raise her tone; often I heard Mr. Bradbury
dictatorial, occasionally persuasive; I believed at last from his
laughter that he had prevailed.  I lounged drearily about the garden,
until I heard the door opening, and saw Mr. Bradbury coming out, his
cloak about him and his hat bent down over his brows.

As I stepped forward to open the gate for him, he paused in his path, and
eyed me smiling.  “So, Mr. John Craike,” he greeted me.  “So!”

“Mr. John Craike!” I repeated.

“From now on, Mr. John Craike.  Or from the moment of your departure from
the village, Mr. John Craike.  Can you forget, sir, that you were ever
John Howe?”

“I don’t understand, sir?”

“Necessarily, no, Mr. Craike.  But I am to have your company to London a
week from now.  You, sir, are to honour my house, until I have
communicated with my client, Mr. Edward Craike; then I trust to have the
pleasure of presenting you to your grandfather.”

“What has happened, Mr. Bradbury?” I asked eagerly.  “What has my mother
told you?”

“Nay, there, Mr. Craike, I must be silent.  I must leave it to your good
mother to satisfy your curiosity, if she will, sir; if she will.  Till
this day week, sir”—and with a polite bow he slipped past me, and was
gone.

I hurried into the cottage.  My mother sat by the table, her hands
clasped; so rapt was she that she did not hear me when I came in; she did
not heed me till I caught her arm, crying, “What has happened, mother?
Tell me!”

She said then, “What has happened!  What I have prayed would never come
to pass!”

“Dear, what is the matter?”

“That for all my prayers,” she went on, as if speaking to herself; “that
for all my hope to keep my son from that doomed house,—this yet should
be!  Dear God, if it be Thy purpose that out of evil shall at last come
good—” but broke off and looked wildly at me.

I held her hands, and, wondering, asked, “Who are the Craikes, then?
What is the doomed house?  Why have we passed for all these years as
Howe, and lived as village folk at Chelton, if our name be Craike?
Hiding from them—my father’s kinsfolk?”

“Yes, yes, hiding from them, and from their wealth—their ill-gotten
wealth.”

“Ill-gotten,—how?”

“You’ll know—oh, soon enough, you’ll know.”

“Mr. Bradbury said a week to-day I go away with him.  And you—what of
you, mother?”

“I stay here!”

“You stay here alone, and I go to London and on to my grandfather’s
house?  Not I!”

“Yes, you go!  You go to your grandfather—to be rich—his heir.  You go to
bring to nothing all your uncle’s years of plotting, all the hurt that he
has ever done to mine and me.  Surely you go!  But never shall I set foot
in that accursed house.”

“And yet you’d have me go.”

She answered, “I’d have you go to your own.  I’d have you go, thinking
I’ve made you man—not as old Edward Craike or his son Charles.  Your
father’s son.”

“My father, you have heard of him?  He is alive?”

“I have heard nothing—nothing.  I think him dead.  He does not come to me
in dreams as living.  Charles Craike would have him dead; and he is
surely dead.  And oh, at last to have my reckoning with Charles Craike—to
have my reckoning, as surely I shall have!”

“Tell me more!  I do not understand.  Why do you hate the Craikes so
much?  What wrong have they done you?  Tell me all!”

She rose up from her chair and drew her hands from mine.  “Your father,
whom we loved so much,” she said, “was taken from us.  Whether he was
done to death, or carried out of England by the plotting of Charles
Craike, I do not know.  I think his brother guilty, knowing his hate for
him and me.  Charles Craike has thought to profit by your father’s death.
I’d have you go with Mr. Bradbury to your grandfather.  I am assured by
Mr. Bradbury that you shall go in safety and return in safety.  I fear
Charles Craike—I fear for you, as I have feared these years that we have
hidden here.  I fear the fortune of old Edward Craike, piled up by sin
and cruel wrong to others, will bring no good or happiness to you or any
of his house.  I fear—and yet because I hate Charles Craike, and I would
punish him, and bring his sins to nothing, I’d have you go.  Believing
that you will avenge your father, and come again to me; believing Heaven
wills it so!”



_Chapter V_.  _The Journey Begun_


By break of day a week thence I waited by the highway for the coach and
pair which should carry me with Mr. Bradbury up to London.  My mind was
yet confused for the swiftness of events.  My mother, after her first
outburst on the evening of Mr. Bradbury’s second visit, had become
secretive; she whose life had seemed to me so open and simple, had grown
inscrutable; she would satisfy me fully on none of the matters of most
concern to me.  This much I gathered—that I was John Craike, son of
Richard Craike, who had passed by the name of Howe; that my grandfather
was possessed of considerable means, and that for greed of this Charles
Craike, my uncle, had plotted against his brother, bringing about his
disappearance from England, if not his death.  I believed that my mother
at the time of her marriage had held some menial position in the service
of Mrs. Charles Craike; that the match had excited bitter opposition from
the Craike family, and that my father and she had been wedded secretly,
and had lived under her name in London, fearing Charles Craike and his
hostility.  And that she had found from the first the hand of Charles
Craike in the disappearance of her husband, and had fled away to live at
Chelton through her concern for me and the enmity of Charles.

But of my grandfather’s fortune—“ill-gotten,” she named it,—and of “the
doomed house,” she would say no more; her secrecy hung like a shadow over
us for that last week of mine at Chelton.  She went quietly about her
preparations for my journey, refusing to listen to my appeals that I
should stay with her; insisting that, if I loved her, I should give
myself wholly into Mr. Bradbury’s hands.  “For,” she said, “I believe in
him—nay, I know him for a friend of yours and mine.  And he has great
influence with your grandfather, and will insure your safe return to me.”
Only from all the week of wondering and doubts unanswered I realised the
bitterness of her spirit toward Charles Craike, and the keenness of her
desire that I, as only son of the elder son, should come between him and
the inheritance for which he had planned; this hate of him and this
desire for his punishment outweighed even her fears for me.  Though Mr.
Bradbury had convinced her that he would insure for me a safe journey and
a safe return.

But at the time of parting,—ere the dawn was come,—her hardness passed
from her.  I saw, as I had never seen, since the day of my father’s
disappearance, tears falling from her eyes.  She clasped me to her, as if
she would never loose me from her arms.  Not my first separation from
her—I believed then it would be brief, and that, when Mr. Bradbury had
made me known to my grandfather, I would return to her; and all would be
as before,—alone affected her.  I understood now, indeed, she feared for
me, and that her terrors surging up almost induced her thus late to break
her word to Mr. Bradbury.  Looking back, ere I passed out of sight from
the cottage, I saw her standing as a grey shadow in the doorway; I waved
my hat back to her; and so I left her.

And then the spirit of adventure and new experience took me, and I swung
out on to the highway.  I had put on my best black clothes, and the fine
frilled shirt my mother had stitched and starched for me.  I carried only
a little knapsack containing such few articles as I should need on my
journey up to London with Mr. Bradbury; there, my mother had told me, I
would be fitted out with garments more suitable to my condition than she
could fashion for me.  At the first milestone from the village I stood to
wait by the highway for the coming of Mr. Bradbury in his coach; it was
his wish and my mother’s that my departure with him should not become a
matter of village gossip.  I had parted regretfully from my friend Tony;
giving him only to understand that I journeyed up to London with Mr.
Bradbury to be made known to my father’s folk, assuring him that I would
soon return, and binding him to secrecy.

The morn came chill and grey.  A drear wind was abroad; the pale dust
whirled down the highway.  I waited in the cold for a good half-hour—the
sun was up, and the countryside leaping in its light from blackness and
greyness into the rich green of spring—ere the coach and pair bearing Mr.
Bradbury approached, driven rapidly from Chelton.  As the driver pulled
up for me, Mr. Bradbury’s gloved hand let down the glass; nodding his
head to me in welcome, he hastened to admit me into the coach.  It had
been repaired from the damages of its overthrow; it was cushioned
luxuriously; my body sank into its warm depth, and Mr. Bradbury, with all
politeness, hastened to wrap a robe of furs about me for the chill of the
morning.  He embarrassed me by his close scrutiny; I assumed that he
regarded superciliously my rustic appearance in the best clothes I had;
realising my confusion, he said, laughing, “Forgive me, Mr. Craike, I
marvel only that a lady of your mother’s intelligence should ever have
thought to keep your kinship to the Craikes a secret.”

“She has left me, sir, very much in the dark,” I told him.  “A week since
I was John Howe.  To-day I am John Craike and ride with you.  I do not
understand your interest in me.”

“Mr. Craike,” he said, leaning towards me, “if you have your father’s
look, you have a little of your mother’s, too.  I esteem highly her
prudence and intelligence.  And, sir, your likeness to your mother
encourages me to be frank and open with you, realising that, whatever
passes between us is said in confidence,—I, acting in your interest, and
in the interest of Mr. Edward Craike, whose adviser I have the honour to
be.”

“To be sure, sir, I ask for frankness, and pledge my word of honour to
you.”

He said earnestly, “Mr. Craike, in serving your interest I believe that I
shall best serve the interest of my client.  I purpose, to be sure, to
take you to London and prepare you for presentation to your grandfather.
I purpose to accompany you to his house.  You are by no means assured of
a welcome from him; you are assured only of the hostility of your Uncle
Charles,—your mother’s enemy—and mine!  Ay,—and mine!  I have a purpose
in promoting your interests.  I have the purpose of keeping from the
inheritance of a great estate—Charles Craike!”

“A great estate!”

“No great acreage, but wealth such as few commoners in England own.  I
would keep this from the hands of Charles Craike, knowing that if it pass
to him, it becomes a force for evil, surely it becomes.”

“Why?”

He answered swiftly, “A week or more from now, Mr. Craike, you’ll know
Charles Craike.  Judge for yourself.”

“But from where did my grandfather derive his fortunes?” I asked,
remembering my mother’s words after Mr. Bradbury had left her that night
at the cottage.  “By trade, or as an inheritance?”

I believed that his eyes flickered and that he hesitated.  He answered
glibly, “The fruits, Mr. Craike, of his own industry.”

I stared at him and muttered, “What should my mother mean, Mr. Bradbury,
by the words ‘that doomed house’ and ‘the wealth ill-gotten’?”

He said swiftly, “Doomed, if the inheritance go to Charles Craike!
Surely doomed!  Ill-gotten!  Gotten as honestly as most!”

“Mr. Bradbury, forgive me,—are you frank with me?”

He took snuff ere he replied.  “Mr. John Craike, at your grandfather’s
house you’ll learn the answers to your questions.  Will you forgive me if
now I do not answer you?”

“Well, then, concerning this house—its whereabouts?  I know nothing.”

He laughed a little.  “Craike House,” he said, “passes among the folk of
the neighbourhood—it is far from here—by an odd name.  ‘Rogues’ Haven,’
sir.  ‘Rogues’ Haven.’”

“From the reputation of my kinsfolk?”

“Surely not,” he answered, “but from the retired nature of your
grandfather’s life, and from the practice of the vulgar to ascribe
mystery and evil where their curiosity is not satisfied.  And from the
charity of your grandfather in keeping about him his old servants and
dependants.  An odd company, maybe, Mr. John—a very odd company.  But
judge of the house and its inmates yourself, sir.  I warn you only—I am
bound to warn you—against Mr. Charles Craike.”



_Chapter VI_.  _Through the Darkness_


Three weeks thence I accompanied Mr. Bradbury on the journey down from
London to my grandfather’s house.  Mr. Bradbury had sent off a letter to
Mr. Craike announcing that he purposed to visit him, and to present his
grandson to him.  He had received only a few lines of a letter in reply,
penned, he believed, not by the old man but by his son Charles,—to the
effect that Mr. Bradbury’s information astounded Mr. Edward Craike, but
that he consented to receive Mr. Bradbury and the young gentleman when it
should be convenient for them to journey down to Craike.  Mr. Bradbury
seemed ill-pleased with the nature of the letter; he took pains to
impress on me the desirability of my commending myself to my
grandfather’s favour and affection.

From Mr. Bradbury’s first admission to me, on our journey up to London,
that he had no liking for Charles Craike, and that his purpose was to
prevent his inheriting his father’s fortune, he had stressed repeatedly
my uncle’s certain chagrin at my appearance in Craike House and his
inevitable hostility to me.  Already, indeed, I hated my Uncle Charles,
and was ardent to avenge on him my parents’ sufferings at his hands;
else, I had only a natural curiosity in these kinsfolk of mine, and a
lively interest in the prospect of adventure.  “Rogues’ Haven”—so the
country folk named Craike House; Mr. Bradbury would tell me only that the
name resulted from rustic curiosity and from the eccentricities of my
grandfather’s servants; the gentleman’s very reticence concerning my
kinsmen, the stock from which they were sprung, and the sources of their
wealth, intrigued me the more.

Mr. Bradbury had treated me handsomely at his fine house in London; a
country lad, I had enjoyed the wonders and diversions of the Town.  He
had put me into the hands of his tailor; so that now I was dressed, if
not as fastidiously, at least with a fashion equal to his own.  I had not
ceased to admire my blue cloth coat, silver-buttoned and braided, or my
white breeches, or to appreciate the ease of silken stockings on my legs
and fine linen on my body.  Now wrapped warmly in greatcoat and shawls I
sat with Mr. Bradbury in his coach, driven through the night towards
Craike House.  We should have arrived at our destination on the second
afternoon of our journey, but delayed by a cast shoe, here were we now
seated still in the coach, stiff and weary; I felt my stomach sinking
from the lack of a meal; and the dark was come.  Ay, the night was come
with a rough gale from the sea; the mud from the wet roads obscured the
glass; this mattered nothing, for the night was inky black with clouds
wind-driven.  We were out, Mr. Bradbury told me, on a wild and lonely
stretch of road, and not more than nine miles from our destination.  But
when the lash of rain washed clear the carriage-glass, and the light of
the lamps flashed on his face, I saw him anxious and his eyes alert; I
understood his concern, which I had remarked throughout our journey, over
a little oaken box by his side.  I had assumed that it contained
documents; now that it was open on his knees, I saw that it held a pair
of pistols; he was looking at the priming of them as the light allowed
him.  I cried out, to be heard above the roll of the wind and the rumble
of the wheels, “What d’ye fear, sir?  Highwaymen?”

He cried back, “A mere precaution, Mr. Craike.  I’m always cautious on
these roads,—lonely and dark, and no one within hail.”

“Pray let me handle one,” I called; but he answered, smiling, “Nay, my
dear sir, I’ll not trust you with ’em, if you’ll allow me.  For you might
easily be pistoling one of your own folk, not knowing.”

“Have no fear, sir, I’ve had the handling of a pistol ere this,” I
assured him.  But, smiling that odd smile of his, he answered nothing.

Now it seemed that Mr. Bradbury’s coachboy knew the road well—the
gentleman having travelled over it often before; for, without direction
from his master he drove on as steadily through the dark as the roughness
of the way and the weariness of the horses would allow.  Ay, and the
wildness of the night—the great wind from the sea; we were travelling
near to the coast; once when Mr. Bradbury let down the glass to peer out,
the salt tang and the reek of mud flats was borne in on the chill air.  I
realised that Mr. Bradbury’s apprehension grew with the darkness and the
storm.  When he drew up the glass and sat down, he did not lie back on
his cushions or muffle his shawl about his ears; he leaned towards the
window, staring forth into the dark, seeming, too, by his impatient wave
of his hand when I would have spoken, to be listening intently.  I
strained my ears to hear, but for the time heard nothing save the rumble
of wheels, and the rushing of the wind; afar a thunderous sound as the
beating of the sea, no more, until the wind was cut from us in a dip of
the road, as if we drove among great trees, or between high hedgerows;
then it seemed I heard the pounding of hoofs upon the road, as if the
riders were at no great distance in the rear.  The sound was
indistinguishable, when presently we swept out into the open country; and
the wind had its way with us once more.  As we drove on apace, Mr.
Bradbury remained intent by the window; committing myself to Providence
and Mr. Bradbury, I lay back on my cushions.  Indeed, I attached little
import to the sounds; I was dull with weariness and hunger; I had been
travelling for nigh two days.  I had spent the worst of bad nights
through the suffocation of a deep feather bed at the inn in which we had
lodged for the night.  I tell you the desire for sleep prevailed over
uneasiness at the loneliness of our way and sounds of riders through the
night; or my excitement at the thought of presentation to my kinsfolk.  I
lay back; pulled my greatcoat about me, and slept.  From time to time,
the jolting of the coach, as the wheels dipped in the ruts or struck on
stones, would rouse me; always I saw dully that Mr. Bradbury sat stiffly
by the window, and that his left hand strayed towards the case of pistols
open on the seat beside him.

I was awakened by the crash and splintering of glass.  As I started up, I
was flung backwards by the shock of plunging horses and reeling coach;
half-dazed, I believed that I heard hoarse voices above the roaring wind.
I believed that the door of the coach was dragged open; that Mr. Bradbury
sought to hold it; failing, swung round and gripped his pistols; but at
that instant the coach reeled, and he was flung out into the road; I saw
the flashes of his discharging pistols as he fell.

The coach came to a standstill.  I remember crying out, and leaping to my
feet, to spring down into the road to Mr. Bradbury.  I remember then only
a flash of light—no more.



_Chapter VII_.  _The Riders_


I remember that once an itinerant showman, passing through Chelton,
essayed _Mazeppa_; none the less, the sorry performance took my fancy.
Now, when I became conscious, I had a sense that I was borne forward so
through the night bound upon a horse; my next sensation, after the
throbbing of my head, was the friction of the saddle beneath me.  I
realised at last that I was, indeed, held upon the horse; not cords, but
the strong arm of the rider held me before him in saddle; he was riding
with me at a great speed through the night.  I must have cried out, for I
recall his hoarse voice in my ear, “Keep your mouth shut, my lad, or
’twill be the worse for you!”—and the grip of his arm tightened about me.

Now I was no light burden, and I was stoutly built for a stripling; even
so, he carried me easily, and when my head cleared and my strength came
back, the grip of his arm held me securely.  I must needs sit before him
helpless, though the saddle galled me sorely; my brows throbbed, and my
mind was dark with apprehensions.  To be sure my coming to Rogues’ Haven
must have been dreaded by my uncle; and to be sure this was some trick of
his to prevent my presentation to my grandfather; but what should be the
end of this adventure, and to what fate would my enemies consign me?  I
told myself that surely, if they had planned to make an end of me, they
would have done so immediately on the taking of the coach, and not have
borne me off in this mysterious manner through the night.

And what of Mr. Bradbury?  Had he died in his fall?  Had they done him
further violence?  I had grown to have a high regard for the gentleman,
yet I fear my immediate concern for his fate was chiefly that he should
be alive to bring me speedy aid.  Lying passive in the grip of that
strong arm, I believed that one other horseman bore us company; I could
hear hoof-beats and the jingle of accoutrements; once, as the moon
flashed through the racing clouds, I caught a glimpse of a dark rider a
little ahead.  My captor pushed his horse forward at scarcely less speed,
though the moon, ere the clouds hid it, revealed to me that we were
riding over rough country.  I saw the boughs of gnarled and twisted trees
toss to the stormy heaven; I saw a waste of rock and furze before me; I
believed that we were yet at no great distance from the coast, for the
salt was upon my lips, as though the gale sweeping up bore scud with it.
Momentarily we paused upon an upland; such was the force of the wind that
it seemed the horse must be rolled over with us; then, with the wind
blowing at our backs, we struck away inland.

The blow had torn my scalp; the blood was wet upon my brows; my head was
racked with the movement of the horse beneath us; my body cruelly galled.
All this was nothing to the ever-increasing terror of the thought—what
would they do to me, now that they had me captive?  Once I cried out,
“What’s your purpose with me, in God’s name?” but the sole answer was the
tightening of the grip upon me.  Bending back my head, I tried to make
out in the dark what manner of man was holding me; save for the
shoulders, the thick neck, and the great head, I could discern nothing; I
heard his jeering laughter above me.  How long, how far we rode, I could
not conjecture; the time seemed endless for my pains and terrors.  Ever
the thought tormented me—what would they do with me?  Put me aboard some
ship to carry me overseas?  No, for it seemed that they were bearing me
away from the coast, and mounting slowly to wild and rugged country;
would they hold me prisoner there, or murder me out of the ken of folk?
And, if Mr. Bradbury lived, how would he endure defeat by Charles Craike,
through whose agency surely I came to be in this plight?

We were riding at last over more level country from the increasing
swiftness of our flight; we slackened speed going among trees; I heard
the rushing of the wind through their complaining boughs.  We mounted a
low hill, and swiftly descended.  Again the moon was clear; I believed
that we were going down into a cup in the moors; that rocks and woods
were all about us.  And ahead at last I saw a light flicker like a
will-o’-the-wisp,—a spark of light that increased to the square shining
of a window—a greenish light; the moon breaking again from the clouds I
saw that we rode down to a house alone in this lonely hollow of the
moors.  We rode soon over level ground; we reached a high stone wall; the
rider ahead of us had leaped down and was unlocking an iron gate; we
passed through, and the gate crashed to behind us.  At a walk now we
clattered over cobbles up to the front of the house; I saw the green
shining off the curtained window from the grey front of moonlit stone.
It was a house of two stories in height, a drear grey house, grey-roofed
and over-topped by chimney stacks; looking up I believed that I saw iron
bars before the unshuttered windows.  My captor roared out, “Hallo,
there!” as we pulled up before the door; and gripping me by my collar
lowered me to the ground, dropping down after me, and lugging me with him
into the porch.  The door opened with a clash and clatter like the
iron-bound door of a prison.  And blinking for the light from a lantern,
I saw peering out a crone, bent nigh double, one skinny claw holding up
the lantern, so that it shone upon her shrivelled livid face, her
red-lidded, pale green eyes, on her grey hair wind-blown, and the blue
shawl she clutched at her throat.  I saw her looking malevolently at me,
and heard her tittering laughter, as my captor thrust me past her into
the house.

The door clashed after us.  He lugged me through a dark stone hall, and
brought me into the green-curtained room; so thick was the air with the
smoke of peat and the reek of an oil-lamp that in a moment my eyes were
blinded; and I was coughing, choking.



_Chapter VIII_.  _The Green-Curtained Room_


When my sight cleared, I found myself in a long, low grey room—grey from
the smoke and the stone walls.  It was lit by a curious hanging lamp of
iron, black with soot and oil; a fire of peat smouldered on the deep
hearth; for furniture the room had in it a long table black with age, and
grease, and oil dribbling from the lamp; heavy black chairs were set on
either side of the hearth and at the table, and a black press standing
against the wall, its brass fittings green and corroded.  The brass
candlesticks upon the chimney-piece were green and corroded, too; the
curtain drawn before the window was green and moth-eaten; the floor was
sanded; the rafters above were black with soot and dusty cobwebs.  My
captor pulling me forward,—as the old woman waited by the door presently
to admit the other rider—dropped me like a sack of meal on to a chair;
and straddled before the fire, stretching his arm cramped by the weight
of me all that while in saddle.

Blinking up at him I saw him for a huge fellow; he must have stood six
feet in height, and was of a great breadth of shoulder and depth of
chest.  As his sleeve slipped back from his hairy forearm I saw its
swelling muscles, and understood ruefully the ease with which he had held
me.  His face was handsome in a rough, bold way, though coarse and
besotted; his chin and jaws were blue-black from the razor; his hair
black and curling; his eyes blood-shot from drink.  He wore a battered
brown hat, a rough, brown riding coat, with leather breeches and
mud-splashed riding boots; his soiled cravat was held by a brooch of
flashing red stones.  Looking up at him, understanding the strength of
the man, for something of good humour in his coarse drunken face I did
not fear him, as I feared the crone, whose evil green eyes had glittered
at me when my captor thrust me into the house.  He grinned down at me,
and growled, “So you’re well enough for the time, eh, young sir?”

“Well enough but what’s your purpose with me?  Why have you brought me
here?”

“When you know that,” said he, “you’ll know as much as I do.  Nay, you’ll
know more.”

“You mean that you’re hired for this?  You’re only the servant of an
enemy of mine, whose interest it is to keep me out of Rogues’ Haven?”

“Rogues’ Haven!  So you’ve caught the name?”

“To be sure I know the name,” I answered boldly for the good humour of
the fellow.  “And know the reason for it.  And think I know the name of
your principal.”

“Oh, ho!  Though he plays his game in secret.  You’ll be knowin’ more’n
it’s safe for you to know, young sir.  And”—with a sudden gesture towards
the door—“if you’ll take a word from me, you’ll be wiser, if you keep
your mouth shut.”

While yet I blinked at him, I heard the old woman once more unlock the
door to admit the big fellow’s companion, who presently entered the room.
I saw him for a lean, cadaverous, young man of no great height; his
high-crowned hat, his coat, his buckskins, the laces at his throat
dandified; he was jauntily flicking his top boots with his riding switch,
and his spurs were jingling.  An ill-looking fellow,—I marked his pale
sneering lips and the sinister light of his green eyes; I feared him as
an enemy even as I feared the crone with the blue shawl about her black
rags, her evil eyes peering at me, and her jaws working, as she hobbled
after him.

“So-ho, Martin, here we are, all safe and snug,” cried the big man from
the hearth.  “Find us the tipple in that cupboard of yours, Mother Mag,
and then I’ll be packing.”

“You’ll be staying here, my friend Roger,” said Martin, coolly, dropping
into a chair by the table.  “You’re to wait until he comes.”

“I tell you I’ll have my drink and be off,” Roger growled, scowling at
him.  “Who the devil are you to be givin’ me orders?  I’ve an affair
twenty miles off as ever was by break o’ day.”

“Yet you’ll be staying,” the young man insisted quietly.  “I’m giving you
his orders, not mine.  What’s it to me whether you go or stay?”

“I’m damned, if I’ll wait!” Roger asserted.

“You’re damned, if you go,” sneered Martin, his eyes flashing up suddenly
like two wicked green gems.  “Get him the drink, Mother Mag, and he’ll be
staying—not risking his neck by going.”

I saw the red blood rush to Roger’s face.  I heard him growl and mutter
to himself; he straddled still across the hearth.  Laughing hoarsely then
he cried out, “Ay, the drink, Mother Mag—the drink,” and turning his back
on Martin, kicked savagely at the fire.

While I sat blinking at them, and wondering whether it should be my Uncle
Charles expected at the house, and what bearing his arrival should have
upon my fortunes, the hag, taking a key from the jingling ring at her
side, unlocked the press; and out of its recess drew a bloated bottle of
violet-coloured glass; hugging this to her, she set out four thick, blue
goblets, and poured into them some dark spirit or cordial, pausing ere
she filled the fourth to point her skinny fingers at me, and then peer at
Martin, as if to gather from him whether I was to drink with them.

He replied curtly, “Ay, pour him a dram,—half a glass—Mother Mag; he
looks about to croak,” and sneered at me.

Roger, swinging round from the fire, took up his glass and tossed off the
contents; snatching the bottle then from Mother Mag he filled up a glass
which he handed to me, growling, “Drink it down, lad! it’ll put heart
into you.”  The woman, with a shrill cry, leaped like a cat upon him,
seeking to snatch the bottle from him; holding it above her reach and
fending her off from me, he refilled and drained his glass, and set the
bottle down once more.  She clutched it to her, set in the stopper, and
poked it away in the cupboard, all the while chattering to herself and
mouthing like some gibbering ape.  Taking her own glass then, with so
palsied a hand that she surely spilt half the contents, she hobbled to
the hearth and crouched down by it, alternately licking her fingers and
sipping her grog,—her green eyes glinting at Roger and me.

I tasted the liquor in the glass, and finding it a spirit that burnt my
very lips, I did not drink it, but handed the glass back to Roger, who,
muttering “Your health, young master,” drained it for me.  Martin sat
drinking slowly; Roger, as warming from the stuff, began to stamp
impatiently to and fro over the stone floor.  Pausing at last by Martin,
he demanded, thickly, “What hour’s he like to be here?  How long am I to
wait in this stinkin’ den?”—at which Mother Mag cackled sardonically,
choked and spat, lying back against the chimney-piece red-eyed and
gasping.

“He did not say what hour,” Martin answered, indifferently.  “How should
he know what hour the coach would come, or we be here?  Sit down by the
fire, man.  Get your pipe; there’s tobacco in the jar on the shelf.”

“Am I to be kept here all night, when by break o’ day I should be about
my business?”

Martin lifted his glass as though to admire its colour in the lamp-light.
“Go then, my friend,” he said smoothly.  “Oh, go by all means!  Only
blame yourself, not me, for aught that may happen in the course of a day
or so.  You’d make a pretty figure in the cart, Roger, and ’twould need a
double rope to hold your body.”

“Damn you!” roared Roger, swinging up his hand, but Martin’s eyes,
watching him intently, and the smile flickering still upon his lips, the
big man swung round once more and pointed to me.  “You’re makin’ a sweet
song o’ hangin’, Martin,” he muttered.  “You’re sayin’ what your precious
gentleman may do or mayn’t, as the case may be.  Peach on me, you mean—if
so be I don’t wait for him, and if so be I don’t do as I’m told.  Only,
don’t you be forgettin’, that ’twas him as told us to hold up old
Skinflint’s coach, and nab the lad there.  And that’s robbery by the
King’s highway,—and get that into your head, and keep it there.  And, by
God, Martin, if he’s got his claws on me, I’ve got my claws on to him
from this night forth; and if he talks of hangin’, there’s others—ay,
there’s others.  You, Martin, and old Mag here, and him.”

“Pish, man,” said Martin, coolly, though his look was livid.  “Who’d
listen to you?  Who’d believe you?  Old Gavin Masters—eh?  He loves you,
Roger.  He has confidence in you.”

Roger stood cursing to himself, demanding finally, “And the lad
here,—what’s he goin’ to do with the lad?”

“How in the devil’s name does it concern you, Galt?” cried Martin, with
sudden flaming anger.  “You’ve done your share of the work and you’ll be
paid for it.”

“Ay, but you answer me!  What’s to be done with the lad?  Hark ’ee,
Martin, I’m sick to death of the whole crew of ye.  And of none more than
yourself, unless it’s himself.  I’ve done my work on the roads, and
there’s a few the poorer for it; but I’ve never done aught of a kind with
this.  Kidnappin’ an’ maybe murder at the finish.”

“What d’ye mean?” Martin asked, drawing back his chair, to be out of
reach of Roger Galt’s rising rage, as the drink worked within him.

“What’s he goin’ to do with the lad there?” Roger growled.  “Get him out
of the way—oh, ay, I know that, and can guess for why.  From the looks of
him!  But how’s he goin’ to rid himself of him?  Ship him overseas with
Blunt, or what?  Martin, I’ll have no hand in aught that don’t give the
lad a chance for his life,—d’ye hear me?  Who’s he?  Dick Craike’s lad as
ever was!  And they did for Dick Craike—ay, they did, they did, years
agone.”

Martin, starting up, screeched out, “Shut your fool’s mouth!  You’re
drunk, Roger Galt.  The lad’s to be kept here, till he comes.  He’ll be
here to-night.  Tell him what you’ve said to me!  Tell him!  Get the
lantern and give me the keys, Mother Mag.  We’ll lock the lad away
upstairs; when the master comes he’ll not be wanting him taking his ease
here like a gentleman!”



_Chapter IX_.  _Mr. Charles Craike_


Directing me with a gesture to rise and follow, Martin opened the door
into the hall.  The woman, taking the lantern, lit it from the fire with
a twig.  A moment I hesitated, preferring to remain with big Roger Galt,
who was inclined to make my cause his own, to following the sinister
Martin and old Mother Mag, but Roger had lurched to a chair, and sat
there glowering and muttering to himself without further regard for me.
Moreover, Martin, observing my hesitation, plucked a pistol from his
pocket, and cocking it, swore with a bitter oath to blow out my brains
unless I followed him.  Roger still paying no heed, I slouched out into
the hall.

The woman crept before me; Martin followed with the pistol pointing at my
head; the lantern showed me presently a dark wooden stairway.  It was
rotten and riddled with decay; it creaked dismally beneath us; the
balusters were broken; as I set my hand against the wall to steady me,
going up after the slowly climbing light, I touched grime and cobwebs;
the startled rats came squeaking and tumbling down the stair.  Presently
we reached the head of the stair—I have said that the house was two
stories only in height; Mother Mag unlocked a door before me, and the
cold air blowing in from the glassless window of the room struck on my
face.  The crone, standing aside for me to enter the room, leered and
mumbled at me as I passed in, urged forward by the prodding of Martin’s
pistol.  I heard the rats scurrying over the floor before me.  The wind
blowing out the sacking before the window, the moonlight illumined the
room,—it was big and bare as the room below it, but the rafters were high
above me.  A narrow wooden bedstead, with a pile of rags upon it, was
propped against the wall; there was no other furniture save a
three-legged stool.  An open hearth with a rusted iron brazier stuck in
it was at the farther end of the room.  Martin, stepping in, demanded of
the woman, “You’re sure the fellow will be safe here?”

“You should know, my dear,” the woman tittered, holding to the doorway.

He strode to the window, plucked aside the sacking and tried the iron
bars; satisfied then stepped over to the hearth, asking, “What of the
chimney?  Could he climb it?”

“If he should try,” Mag answered, laughing shrilly, “he’d only stick
there and choke for soot.  More, it’s near blocked with the bricks fallen
in it.  I heard ’em tumble in a gale two year back, and thought the Stone
House was all comin’ down about my ears.  Ay, but you knows the Stone
House well as I do, Martin, and for why are you askin’?”

“For why, Mother Mag,” he snarled.  “You should know for why.  Not the
devil, your master, could save you from—you know from whom—if he comes,
and finds the young dog missing.  Ay, and he knows enough to stretch that
scraggy neck of yours, well as big Roger Galt’s below.  Look to it,
Mother Mag,—d’ye look to it!”

She cowered and mumbled to herself; he, poking his head forward to look
up the chimney, brought down a shower of soot upon him, and, cursing
foully, he drew back, and made for the door.

“You’ll lie here for the night,” he said to me.  “You’ll be safe and snug
here for the night.  Don’t be trying to break out and get away, for I’ll
be within hearing of you the night through.  Out of this, Mother Mag.”

“What’s your purpose with me?” I asked, dully.  “Why was I brought here?”

“You’ll know,” he answered, laughing his hateful laugh.  “You’ll know.
But I’m paid only to catch and cage you, not to answer questions.”

“If it’s only pay,” said I, “a word from me to Mr. Bradbury—”

“Bah, I’d not trust Bradbury living, and Bradbury lying in the road when
we left him looked more like a corpse than Mother Mag there.  Lie down
and sleep, you’ll get nothing from me,” and pulling the door to with a
crash, he left me.

I ran instantly to the window, and dragged back the sacking; the bars of
iron, set there, I took it, for defence in the old days, were bedded
firmly in the stone; there was no hope for me to crawl between them.  The
recurrent light of the cloud-harried moon showed me the nature of my
prison; the dust lay thick upon the rotting floor; the oaken panels were
riddled by the rats, and dropping in decay from the stone walls; the
black, cobwebbed rafters, were high above me.  I believed that a
trap-door in the ceiling opened beneath the roof; I could hear the rats
scurrying over my head.  I turned back to the window; and the moon showed
me the cobbled courtyard, the high stone wall, the rim of the bowl, in
which the house lay, rising blue-black beyond; boughs tossing in the wind
upon the rim; through the wild crying of the gale overhead, its battering
on the house, I thought I heard the distant drumming of the sea.  Again I
tried to wrench the bars apart; their red rust had run into the stone and
mortar and set them there only the more firmly; though I tested each bar
with the full strength of my arms, none shifted.  Could I but force them
sufficiently apart for me to wriggle through, the drop to the ground
would be dangerous but not impossible for me.  Staring upwards then I
could see nothing of the roof owing to the thickness of the wall and the
depth of the window.  No, I was held securely; when I tried to peer up
the chimney, I found it blocked as Mother Mag had said; the door of thick
oak, though mouldering, was clamped with iron.  I took it that the house
had been built years since, maybe in the troublous times of Charles the
Martyr—built stoutly for protection against marauders in that lonely
hollow of the moorlands.  On the thick high wall about the courtyard I
believed that I could discern rusting iron spikes.  And knowing myself
held fast in a prison chosen for me by my Uncle Charles—surely by him—and
guarded by his rogues, I must have despaired but for my hope that Mr.
Bradbury might have survived the attack upon the coach, and would not
rest till he found and rescued me.  I recalled his apprehension when we
were overtaken by the darkness, and his play with the pistols before our
disaster.  I remembered seeing him flung out from the door of the coach,
and the red discharge of his pistols, as they struck the road.  How had
the astute Mr. Bradbury come thus to underestimate his man, Charles
Craike, with consequences disastrous to himself and likely to prove
disastrous to me?

I was in no mood for lying down on the wretched pallet.  I tore off my
cravat and bound it about my broken head.  I was sick and weary, but I
feared to sleep, lest they come upon me silently in the dark, and make an
end of me.  And I knew that he, whose name they would not utter before
me, but who was surely Charles Craike, was expected at the house that
night; I determined to overcome my heavy weariness, and stay awake
awaiting his coming.  I heard their voices, as I stood by the bed.  Roger
growling yet, and Martin laughing his mocking laugh, while they sat
waiting in the room below, whence came that thin smoke rising through the
rotting floor.  I knelt down then, and with my hands I widened the breach
in the rotting wood, hoping to hear what passed between these rogues, and
what they plotted against me.  The light shone soon more clearly; a chink
in the ceiling below was visible; surely I had only to lie down and press
my ear against the breach to hear their very words.

I was deterred from my purpose by a sudden cry from the gate, and the
loud baying of a hound at the rear of the house.  Starting up, I stole to
the window, and drawing back the sacking, set me to watch who came.  I
heard the doors below me open and clash; presently I saw the lantern
shine through the dark, for the clouds held the moon, though it seemed
rapidly to approach to a break between cloud and cloud.  Overhead the
wind went wailing; it beat against the house, as though to tumble it to
ruins; I stood shivering, for the bitter cold of the night and for my
terrors; the strip of sacking bellied out like a sail as I clung to it.
And to the crying of the wind he came.

The moon broke through the clouds; the wet cobbles of the court below me
gleamed like a pool of silver water.  He came riding swiftly to the
house, leaving Mother Mag to secure the gate; I saw him sitting stiffly
upon a great black horse, a black cloak flapping all about him.  A gust
swept his hat from his head, but his hand caught it; his silver-white
hair was blown out in disorder.  He looked up, as he drew in before the
door; momentarily I saw a proud and baleful face; cut like a piece of
fine white ivory.  I saw the very shining of his eyes, as moonlight and
the lamplight from the house played fully on him; and on the instant,
indeed, I understood from that cruel face—like, yet so much unlike, my
father’s—none whom this man hated or feared might hope for mercy from
him.

And thus for the first time I looked upon my Uncle Charles Craike of
Rogues’ Haven.



_Chapter X_.  _Scruples of Roger Galt_


As the gentleman entered the house, I slipped back to the bed, purposing,
when I was assured that he would not come directly to my room, to test
whether I could hear through the break in the ceiling of the room below
and the parting of the flooring under my feet what should pass among my
enemies.  I heard him enter the room; I heard Mother Mag’s return to the
house and the clashing of the doors, as she made all fast.  I dropped
down then, and lying prone, found that by pressing my ears against the
parting in the floor I could hear distinctly.  And I found the gentleman
berating Roger by the fire.

“Mark you, my man, I’ll have no more of this,” he was declaring, in
clear, authoritative tone.  “You’ll serve me when I will, or how I will,
or take the consequences.”

“Mr. Charles Craike,” growled Roger, “I tell you I’ll not endure too much
from you or any other man.  I’ll serve you when I will, and as it suits
me.  Set the runners on to me—ay, set them—it won’t be the first time by
a many as I’ve shown ’em a clean pair of heels.  I’ve an affair of my own
callin’ me miles from here; I should have been off long since.”

“Peace, fool!” said Mr. Craike, contemptuously.

“And listen to me,” Roger blustered, “if you’d peach on me, I know enough
to pull you down.”

“My good Roger Galt,” said my uncle, laughing easily.  “I’m not
questioning that you’ve served me as well this night as you’ve served me
on any other occasion.  And I’ll pay you well, as I’ve paid you always.
Where’s the boy, Martin?”

“Fast up above,” Martin replied.

“And Bradbury?”

“Lying in the road like a dead man when we left him.”

“I trust,” said Mr. Craike, piously, “that you’ve done him no hurt beyond
repair.”

“No more than he did himself,” said Martin, laughing.  “He’d a pair of
barkers with him, when the coach pulled up.  He fell out into the road;
his pistols fired; and he lay there in the mire.”

“And you took the boy and have him safely here.  Ay, ay.”

“Would you see him?” Martin asked.

“Oh, not I!  What’s he like, though?”

“As like his father,” Roger broke in heavily, “as one barker’s like its
pair.”

“His father!  Ay!  His father was passionate—lacked discretion; the boy’s
the offspring of his father’s folly,” with a laugh at which I raged
silently, understanding the slur he put upon me.

“And what now of the lad?” Roger persisted.  “What would you do with him,
now he’s here?”

“Friend Roger Galt, you’re asking too much of me and my affairs!”

“Ay, ay, but what’s the answer?  You’ve kidnapped him; would ye ship him
overseas?  That I’ll not quarrel with; he’d have a chance for his life,
and he’d fare none so ill, for a rope’s end’s well for a lad.”

“Maybe that is my purpose,” my uncle said, coldly.

“But no more than that!” cried Roger Galt.  “By God, Mr. Craike, I’ll not
have him done to death by Mart and Mother Mag or any other of your
rogues.  I’ll not!”

“He’s so commended himself to you,” my uncle sneered.

“He’s like his father.  Your brother Dick treated me kind as a lad.  He’d
give me a guinea when you’d have no more for me than a fine word.”

“And you’d stand a friend to his bastard, eh?”

“I’m none too sure as the lad’s base-born,” said Roger, stoutly.  “He’s
something of the look of Mary Howe about him, as well as the looks of you
Craikes.  And Mary Howe was not the lass to listen to the talk of Dick
Craike, or any man, unless a ring and a book went with it.  No, it’s
because the boy’s born a Craike you’ll not have him meet old Edward.”

“Silence!”  Mr. Craike’s command cut through the air like a whip.  “I’m
accountable to no man, Galt, for what I do.  You presume to preach to
me—you, my hang-dog; you’ve threatened me a while since.  Threatened!
Would any take your word for aught?”

“Any knowing you, Mr. Craike.”

“Have it so, then!  Match yourself against me.  At least this is assured
your hanging for a highwayman; are you so confident that you will lay me
by the heels?  Come!  Are you so confident—knowing me?”

But Roger Galt answered only with a string of oaths.

“You’re not so confident,” my uncle said, coolly.  “You bluster only,
Roger, when the drink’s in you.  And when you’re sober—seldom,
Roger—you’re no fool; you’re ready to serve me, knowing I pay.  Your
interests are mine, friend Roger.”

“Ay, that’s well enough.  But what of the boy, now you’ve got him in this
ken?”

“The boy,” said Mr. Craike, “will come to no hurt at my hands.  Have it
so, if you will!  He does not come yet to my father’s house; have that
so!  He goes overseas with Ezra Blunt, when the rogue makes port.  He’ll
go overseas and be set ashore to work his way home as he may.  He’ll
suffer no worse; but he’ll not make Rogues’ Haven in these two years to
be.  And till Blunt is here, Mother Mag and you, Martin, look to it that
the fellow lie snugly at the Stone House.  And if Bradbury live,—God rest
him, body and soul—and raise the hue and cry, look to it that no one find
the fellow here.  Keep him fast, keep him hidden—d’ye hear me?—fast and
hidden!  I’ve your wage with me, Roger, though not yours yet, Martin, or
yours, Mother Mag.  Hark to the chink of the coin, Roger!  Did you ever
empty such saddle-bags?—Why, what the devil—?” for the hag had screeched
out shrilly.

“What’s fallin’?  What’s fallin’?” cried Mother Mag.  “Where’s the dust
all fallin’ from?”

“Rats gnawin’ through,” said Roger.  “The ken’s haunted with ’em.”

“Or the boy?  What’s he doing this while?” Mr. Craike demanded,
furiously.

Instantly I started up, and dusted my breeches and jacket; I lay down on
the bed, as Martin came rushing up the stairs.  But I made no pretence of
sleep when he pulled the door open, and flashed the lantern on me.  I sat
up and stared at him.  He swung the lantern over me; observing the dust
yet upon me, and the length of my body marked in dust upon the floor, he
muttered, “So you’ve been eaves-dropping, you dog—hey, you dog?”

I answered him boldly, though my heart beat the devil’s tattoo within my
breast, “Ay, I’ve heard every word, my friend.  And say this from me to
my kinsman, Charles Craike—as he has not the courage to face me here—that
for all I’ve suffered and am to suffer from him here, he’ll pay me yet.
If further hurt come to me; if I am put aboard Blunt’s ship, I’ve
friends—not Mr. Bradbury alone—who’ll never rest till he’s laid by the
heels.  Ay, and tell him this from me: that for his foul lie against me
and my mother, I’ll have a reckoning yet from him and his.”



_Chapter XI_.  _Events at the Stone House_


To be sure, I passed the most dismal of nights locked in the upper room
of the Stone House.  Whether Martin had had the courage to bear my
message to Charles Craike I could not tell; I heard the mumble of their
voices in the room below, but I did not set my ear again to the breach in
the flooring-boards.  I heard the doors creak and crash presently, and,
slipping to the window, I saw the gentleman mount and ride away.  I lay
down then on the bed, spreading my greatcoat over the miserable rags; and
when Martin and Mother Mag climbed the stairs, and entered the room, that
the fellow might satisfy himself of my safety, and further test the
security of bars and chimney, I lay there paying them no heed, nor did
they speak to me.  But the woman brought me a pitcher of water, and bread
and meat upon a platter, of which I was glad, for I was fainting with
hunger; she set my supper down upon the floor, and they left me, locking
the door upon me.

I ate my supper, and surveyed my fortunes.  Indeed, they were of the
poorest.  My one hope was that Mr. Bradbury was no more than stunned by
his fall; and would take prompt steps to find and rescue me.  Else, I
must be held a prisoner in the Stone House, till the seaman Blunt made
port.  I was then to be put aboard his ship and taken overseas.  My
uncle’s assumption was—unless he purposed more particularly to instruct
Blunt regarding the disposal of me—that I could not possibly return
during his father’s lifetime; though by entail I might be master of
Rogues’ Haven, I took it that the gentleman by then would be in complete
enjoyment of his father’s private fortunes, and would set me at defiance,
if ever I returned; but I believed that Charles Craike would so plan it
that I should never return.  Lying on the miserable bed, hearing the
winds blow drearily about the house, I writhed at the thought that the
man who had done my parents bitter hurt should have me in his toils.  Was
there hope from Roger Galt, gentleman of the road, hating Charles Craike?
Though Galt might fret under the yoke, Craike was surely his master.

Awhile I heard the folk of the house stirring below me; once I heard the
stairs creak, and believed that Martin or the woman crept up to my door.
Indeed, I fancied that I caught the sound of breathing by the door; I lay
still, wondering whether they would come upon me secretly in the dark,
and make an end of me.  But it seemed that the man or the woman came only
to be assured that I was not endeavouring to break gaol; as satisfied,
the watcher crept presently down the stairs.

But would they yet come upon me in the dark?  At the thought I rose and
set the stool, with pitcher and platter, against the door; the crash, if
the door were opened, would surely rouse me.  I could not lie awake all
night; I could not for the weariness clouding my brain.  I fell at last
asleep; yet, such was the influence of my fears upon me that I woke
repeatedly, believing that my enemies were in the room.  At first I woke
only to see moonlight leap white and spectral through the window, as the
sack flapped in the wind; then to lie quaking in the darkness, hearing
the gale, which was violent the night through; always when I woke I heard
it hammering on the house; I heard the rats scurry, and bounce, and
squeak beside my bed.

No one came in the night.  I was awake by daybreak, and rose to stare out
on drear grey fog; the gale had abated.  All about the house the dank fog
lay in the hollow; I could not see as far as the stone wall from my
window.  Looking about the mouldering room, I set my thought upon the
trap-door through the ceiling; it was clouded with dust-weighted cobwebs,
and clearly had not been opened for many years.  I believed that I could
raise it, and reach the roof; had there been more furniture within the
room, I might have climbed to it; the bedstead would not reach half-way,
and by its rottenness would crash under my weight.

But the inmates of the Stone House were now astir.  I heard the working
and splash of a pump, the sound of an axe, the clatter of heavy boots on
the cobbles.  I heard muttering and movement in the room below me.
Hungry and impatient, and less afraid now that the day was come, I waited
until, at last, Mother Mag and a young man climbed the stairs and entered
the room.  The fellow seemed of gipsy blood,—black, towsled hair poking
about his ears, his eyes dark and furtive, his skin copper-red,—as
ill-looking a rogue as Martin.  He wore leather breeches, leggings, and
hobnails, a fustian jacket over a ragged shirt; he had silver rings in
his ears.  He was clearly of a lithe strength; he carried a blackthorn,
and he eyed me with a surly and vengeful look, as if he would use his
cudgel on me for any pretext I might afford him.

Mother Mag, poking her skinny fingers at me, croaked, “You can come
downstairs, young master.  You can wash you at the pump, if you will
wash.  When you’ve fed, you’ll be free to walk the court, if you will.
But don’t try to run away!  Don’t try,”—and laughed shrilly, and pointed
at the young man.

He grinned at me, flourished his blackthorn suggestively, and gripped my
wrist as if to demonstrate his strength; his fingers clasped on my flesh
like a steel trap.  But he said not a word, as, nodding, I followed the
woman down the stairs; he came after, pressing my heels.

As we reached the hall, Martin appeared in the doorway of the long room;
seeing him, yellow-skinned and malevolent, I detected still a resemblance
in build and feature to the gipsy lad; and believed them kinsmen, though
Martin aped the appearance of a gentleman, and the rustic was rough and
ragged, and reeked of the stable.  Martin gave me no greeting; I followed
Mother Mag through the hall into a great kitchen, damp, close, and
cheerless, but for the peat smouldering on the hearth.  Rashers were
frying in a pan; provision of bacon, smoked fish and ropes of onions hung
from the sooty rafters.

“Would ye wash?” Mother Mag asked, leering at me.

“To be sure, I’d wash, thank ’ee,” said I.

She took down a coarse towel from a peg and flung it to me; she pointed
to soap upon the bench, “You can wash at the pump,” she said.  “Bart’ll
go with you.  Don’t ’ee go tryin’ to run, young master, now don’t ’ee.
For you’ll never get to the wall; and you’ll never climb if you run so
far—” and, unlocking the door, pointed, laughing, at the hound chained at
the foot of the steps.

The hound, leaping up, bayed at me; Bart, clattering down the steps,
struck at it with his cudgel; it leaped and bayed at him, plunging as
though it would snap its chain.  He uttered not a word, seeming to take
delight in the torment of the savage brute, and beating it back at last
into the kennel; though, when I descended, it sprang at me, and, but for
my jumping aside, it would have borne me down.  Mother Mag laughed
shrilly from the door; Bart said not a word or yet a word while he
mounted guard over me at the pump.  I took it that the fellow was dumb,
but, as I plied the towel, I said carelessly, to test him, “How long am I
to be held in this ken, lad?”  He answered nothing, only swung his
cudgel, grinning at me.  I took a hasty look about me; the stone wall was
built high about the cobbled yard; away from the house were low stone
out-buildings; beyond the wall I could see trees dimly through the
thinning fog.

I said then, “You’re paid to keep me here.  Whatever you’re paid, my
friends will pay you more.  D’ye understand me?  If you’ll take a message
to Mr. Bradbury, whom I think to be at Rogues’ Haven—”

With black and menacing look he gripped my arm, and pointed back to the
house.  So I must needs tramp back to my prison; though I was tempted to
make a dash for freedom, when he loosed my arm, I was debarred by the
sight of Martin standing, pistol in hand, by the steps.  He, sweeping off
his hat with a mocking bow, as I returned, my endurance left me.  While
the hound raved at me, I cried furiously to Martin, “I warn you all
you’ll pay for this.  I’ve other friends than Bradbury, who’ll never rest
till they’ve found me.  By the Lord, you’ll rue the day!”

“Brave words,” he sneered.  “Blunt’ll make port this day or to-morrow.
And you’ll lie snug enough, till you’re set aboard.”

I passed by him into the kitchen.  Mother Mag had set bread and bacon and
a mug of ale on the table for me.  I sat down and ate hungrily, while the
three watched me from the fireside, saying not a word to me, and the
great hound bayed yet without the door.



_Chapter XII_.  _Captain Ezra Blunt_


Now, the four days I passed at the Stone House I was like to die for
weariness and suspense.  The routine was unbroken.  I ate my breakfast in
the kitchen with the woman and the two men watching me; for an hour
thence I was free to exercise myself in the courtyard; all the days the
grey fog hung dank in the hollow, and the cobbles were wet and slippery.
The silent Bart was always within reach of me; Martin watched me from the
door, and the hound raved by the steps.  Thence I was locked in my room
for the remainder of the morning; again brought down for dinner, again to
exercise in the courtyard; finally to be locked in my room for the night.
At dark, Mother Mag brought me my supper of bread and water; ere
midnight, Martin surveyed my room, to be assured that I was not
attempting to break out.  I saw nothing of Roger Galt all this while.  I
assumed that he had ridden away from the Stone House; through the parting
in the floor I could hear of a night only the mumblings of Martin and
Mother Mag; Bart never bore them company.  From the certain likeness
among the three, I came to believe them all of the one evil brood; the
age of the hag, I thought, should make her their grandame, though Martin
treated her and Bart with the sneering insolence which he displayed
towards me.  I knew that they expected daily the arrival of Captain Ezra
Blunt, who, I gathered from Martin, was master of the brig, _Black
Wasp_,—whether he was trader, smuggler, or pirate of the American coasts
I did not learn, but rather assumed, and dreaded all the more the life
awaiting me aboard.

But of Mr. Bradbury all this while?  Was he dead?  Or was he searching
for me, and on that lawless coast finding officers of the law poor
assistance to him?  Would he yet come to the Stone House, and would he
come in time?

Now, the grey afternoon of the fourth day, I was looking drearily out of
my window, when I heard a voice calling from the gate.  Mother Mag,
hobbling from the house, admitted Roger Galt; he rode up, mounted on his
great horse; by the flush of his reckless face and by his rolling in
saddle, he had been drinking deeply.  Spying me at the window, he essayed
to flourish his hat, and almost fell from his horse in this endeavour.  I
heard him presently wrangling with Martin in the room below, the deep
booming of his voice, the smash of a glass, as if he had failed to pour
himself a dram, or had slung a goblet at Martin’s head.  But I paid
little heed to him, for my acute interest in the fellows whom Mother Mag
admitted on Roger’s heels into the courtyard.  Twenty or more,—sunburned
seamen in loose breeches, rough jackets and red caps, a cutlass at every
man’s belt; a few country folk, men and women, driving a train of laden
pack-horses.  Smugglers!  I knew then the use of the Stone House, lonely
and near the sea, and guessed how the silks and laces and brandies and
what-not were secreted in its old cellars for distribution through the
countryside.  There rode with these folk a rakish red-faced fellow on a
cob; his blue cloak, blown back in the wind, showed me his blue coat
ornate with gold lace and buttons, his white breeches poked into high,
mud-stained boots; he had a black hat thrust down upon his brows.  All
these folk, entering the yard with much sound and clatter, passed about
the house, and out of view, Mother Mag following and calling for Bart.  I
heard from beyond the house, presently, the rolling of barrels over
cobbles, the voices of the smugglers, and the baying of the hound.  So
Blunt was come, with his seamen and his smuggled goods; so I was soon to
be handed over to him to be shipped overseas.  Trembling, I waited by the
window, till the grey afternoon gave place to dusk and dark, with a cold
wind blowing, ever gaining strength and ever crying out around the house,
as though to share in the ever-swelling tumult of the smugglers.  For the
quiet of the Stone House was at an end; it seemed that Captain Ezra
Blunt—if the fellow with the copper-red face were Blunt—and his folk
would spend a gay night ashore.

When the rolling of the barrels and the trampling of the horses ceased, I
heard the company clatter into the kitchen,—Mother Mag’s voice was shrill
as a fiddle-string over their laughter and the baying of the hound.
Their leader left them soon to join Martin and Roger in the room below
me; lying with my ear to the crack in the floor, I heard Martin address
him as “Blunt.”  It appeared that Galt was now lying drunk by the fire,
for said Martin, “Our friend here’s been unloading an earlier cargo of
yours, Mr. Blunt.  Don’t mind him!  Sit you down and taste a dram!”—and I
heard the clink of glasses, and Blunt’s voice at first so low that I
could not make out his words.

“Will you be making back to the _Black Wasp_ to-night?” Martin asked.
“Mr. Craike would have a word with you at the Haven.”

I believed that Blunt answered that he had already met Mr. Craike.
Martin proceeded, “Don’t let these men of yours get too drunk, then.  You
know what you’re to take away with you.”

“Ay, ay,” Blunt answered.  “Young Craike.”

“Howe’s his name,” Martin asserted.  “We’ve kept him safe for you.  So
don’t let your men get too drunk!”

“Oh, they’ll be sober enough by dawn,” Blunt answered easily.  “If not,
you and Bart can give me a hand down to the ship with him.  Galt’s very
drunk.”

“He’s always drunk nowadays,” said Martin.  “Don’t trouble about him.
But Mr. Craike surely gave you to understand that the lad was to be got
aboard in the dark.  He must have told you of the old fool Bradbury, and
the hunt he’s making.  Gavin Masters is backing him.  There’s talk over
at the Haven of runners down from London.  We’ll be having ’em here, if
Masters sets his wits to work.  We’ll get the lad away now, if you’re
wise and willing, Blunt.”

“I’m not willing,” Blunt answered angrily.  “I’m weary to death.  I’ll
have supper and a bottle or more from old Mag’s cupboard, before I stir
this night.  Damn Craike!  What’s Craike to me?”

“Your master,” Martin snarled; then, as though apprehensive of my
listening, he lowered his voice; Blunt following suit, I heard them
muttering together; and, drearily, I rose and sat down on the bed.  I was
to be taken out of the Stone House that night, and be set aboard Blunt’s
ship, _Black Wasp_, and that under the very nose of Mr. Bradbury and his
folk.  Unless they came that night!  I lifted my hands to heaven then,
and prayed that they might come to the house in time, or intercept my
captors on the way down to the sea.  But I sat in the dark for hours, and
none came nigh me; below, the carousal rose to tumult.

I heard their voices roaring a chanty; I heard drunken laughter; once I
heard the sounds of strife, smash of bottles, clash of steel, fierce
cries; this uproar ceasing presently, the uproar and the singing
continued far into the night.  All the while the wind rolled about the
Stone House; when I peered out, I saw the moon, now at the full,
cloud-chased; the light alternated swiftly with dark in the room, as the
wind blew the sacking to and fro.  Ever the smugglers rioted within, and
the wind was riotous without.

Other folk came to the house in the night; at every cry at the gate I
would leap to my feet, hoping against hope that Mr. Bradbury and the
searchers after me were there; peering out, I saw in the moonlight only
seamen come, bringing still the smuggled cargo from the ship, and country
folk with teams to carry it away for distribution; the sounds of
discharge and loading from the courtyard were added to the sounds of
carousal in the house itself.

Not till long after moonrise did Mother Mag bring me my supper; this
night, she brought a mug of steaming spirits with bread and meat; when
she had set it down, she giggled shrilly at me; caught at my sleeve with
her skinny claw, and cried, “Eat and drink, young master,—drink while
your grog’s hot!  You’re to travel far this night, and it’s bitter cold.
Drink!”

Her eagerness warned me, of course, against the grog.  I answered, “I’m
not thirsty.  I’ll not drink.  Leave it there!”

She mouthed at me, and shook her fist at me; but, going out, paused at
the door to shriek at me, “Whether you drink or no, master, you’re going
from here to-night.  Going, and never coming back!”  Dragging the door to
with a crash, she descended the stair.



_Chapter XIII_.  _Out of the Stone House_


As the night wore on, the clamour dulled; the roisterers were surely
drunken or wearied; few seemed astir.  I heard the mumble of voices still
from the room below me; occasionally the shred of a chanty from the
kitchen; at times, the clatter of shoes over the cobbles of the yard, and
the outcry of the hound.  But ever the wind blew through the night,
seeming to cry to me concerning great waters storm-tossed, whereon I
should be sailing after this night to the port of no return.  Night drew
toward the hour before dawn; the moon was long since lost in massing
clouds packed high against the heaven by the wind.  Lord, how the wind
battered at the house, making new clamour when the clamour died below;
always it cried to me of storm-tossed waters,—I had this sense upon me,
even when my overwrought mind growing dull, I fell asleep upon the bed,
and I had the sense still in my dreams.  But suddenly I woke with a start
and a cry, to understand that pebbles were pattering through the bars and
falling into the room, and that a voice was muttering below the window,
“Young Craike,—hey, young Craike!”  I snatched the sacking back, and in
the grey dawn saw a dark figure perched upon a ladder, his head a foot or
so below the sill.

“Galt!” I whispered.

“Hist!  They may have heard the stones.  Lord, how you slept!  D’ye hear
them stirring?”

“No!  No!  Help me!”

“Can you slip through the bars?”

“No, they’re set too close and firm.”

He muttered, “Bart’s sleepin’ on the stair and Martin’s in the hall.  The
woman’s got the key.  Can you reach the roof by the chimney?”

“Blocked with brick!”

“No other way?”

“A manhole in the ceiling.  If I could only reach it.”

“If you can only break out of that room, I’ll take you out of this.  My
horse is saddled, waiting.  I forgot those bars.”

I pressed my face down against the bars and whispered, “If you could
raise the ladder, we could pass it through the bars.  It’d get me to the
trap-door.  There’s sure a way out through the old roof.  And a coil of
rope, if there’s one at hand.  Tie that to the ladder.”

Grunting he descended; presently I saw him setting a barrel below the
window, and fixing a coil of rope to a rung of the ladder.  He climbed on
to the barrel, gripped the ladder, and raised its head towards the
window.  I caught the ladder, tilted it, and presently, rejoicing, had it
in the room, with no more sound than the wind should hide from the
drunken rogues below.  Setting the ladder against the wall, and hitching
the coil of rope about my arm, I climbed, and to my joy reached easily
the trap-door above me.  Exerting all my strength, I strove to force the
trap-door upwards.  Lord, the shower of dust that descended, as the door
lifted, blinded me; broken slate or brick fell with the dust, and the
crash on the floor seemed fit to wake the dead.  But, blindly struggling
upwards, and gripping a rafter, I pulled myself from the ladder, and
squeezed under the half-opened trap into the loft above my room.

An instant I lay in the dust and litter, exhausted,—the rats went
scurrying all about me; I heard the flapping of birds under the roof.
Struggling to my shaking knees, I forced the trap back into its place,
and without pausing to listen whether the fall of rubbish into the room
had roused the house, I groped forward through the blackness, my hope
being that I should find a trap opening on the roof itself, or that, with
the rottenness of the slates and the timbers I might break through, and
coiling my rope about a chimney, lower myself sufficiently to drop to the
ground.  But as yet all was dark about me; a thick litter of dust and
feathers lay under my feet; groping still, I touched the slanting roof,
but thrusting with my hand found it yet set firmly for all the decay of
the years; I believed that I heard hoarse voices without the house, or
the growling of the wind upon the roofs.  Creeping forward still, I
rejoiced to feel a cold draught of air blow upon me, and to see pale
light through many chinks.  Loose slates, rotten wood, surely a decaying
patch in the roof, I dared to stand erect then, though fearing that the
mouldering, worm-eaten rafters would give way beneath me, and I should
crash into one of the upper rooms of the Stone House.

And as I lurched up, with a crash and splintering of slates, I broke
through the rotten roof; I was nigh the chimney stack; I could see the
leaden gutters below me,—birds flew out in a whirl.  I could see Roger
Galt standing by his horse away from the house; I could hear the outcry
of the hound,—none of the folks save Roger seemed astir.  I wriggled out
from the hole in the roof, though at first the slates cracked like thin
ice beneath me; and I began slowly to creep towards the chimney stack,
finding my hold in the breaks of the slates and the thick growths of moss
stuck closely to them.  The roof held me; but, ere I reached the chimney,
the light was strong; had anyone come out of the Stone House I must have
been clear to view, though the sound of the wind hid the rasping of my
body over the slates.  And slowly, with the wind beating upon me as if to
cast me down, I brought the rope about the chimney, and, securing it, let
myself slide down gradually to the gutter; gripping rope and gutter, I
lowered myself over the edge.  On the instant, the hound broke into
furious clamour; a cry sounded below me; Martin was roaring, “Bart!
Blunt!  Come here!  Damn you—here!”

I was swinging now down the rope; at the end of the length I was little
below the gutter.  At the alarm I lost my grip, and fell—by some chance
into a pile of bales of smuggled stuffs that they had left lying under
the wall; though the breath was knocked out of my body, and I lay there
gasping an instant, I was unhurt.  I started up; dropped from the bales
on to the cobbles, and was staggering off; but, coming in a rush from the
house, the rogues were upon me.  Martin and Bart had gripped me;
struggling wildly, I was borne backwards; on the instant came Roger Galt,
riding thunderously upon them.  His riding-whip cracked upon Bart’s head;
his horse nigh trod Martin down; Roger’s great hand gripped my collar,
and swung me up before him.

Martin was screeching, “Galt!  You’ll hang for this!  Galt!  Damn you!
Stop!”  His pistol cracked after us, as Roger, turning his horse, set him
at full speed from the house.  After us they came pell-mell,—Martin and
Blunt and his crew; I heard shots and their roaring voices.  The gate was
barred against us; swinging back under the wall, Roger Galt suddenly put
his horse to it, and with a shock that almost drove my senses from me,
the horse brought us safely over.

We were away then at a gallop, and the clamour from the Stone House was
dying on the wind.



_Chapter XIV_.  _Modesty of Mr. Galt_


Roger Galt was laughing triumphantly.  He roared in my ear, “So you’ll
not go sailing overseas yet awhile, John Craike, to pleasure Uncle
Charles.  Blunt’ll never earn his guineas for your kidnapping.”

“Thanks to you!  Will they come after us, do you think?”

“There’s not a man among ’em has a horse can match mine.  Save Martin!
And he’ll not dare.  I vow by now Martin’s gallopin’ like the devil to
Craike House with the bad news for Charles.”

“Yes, and you’re like to suffer for it at Craike’s hands.”

He answered lugubriously, “Ay, I’m like to suffer for it if I remain in
this part of the country.  But I’ll be riding elsewhere,—when I’ve set
you down.  I’m not so much afraid of Craike or aught that he may do, that
I’ll dance to his fiddling always.”

“Why d’ye help me now?”

“For no more than knowin’ that you’re Dick Craike’s son.”

“He was your friend?”

“Ay, friend and master.”

“You said that he’d been put out of the way, as I’d be put out of the
way.  What did you mean by that?”

“He was shipped overseas, I’ve heard tell.”

“You don’t know?”

“No, I don’t know.”

“Whither do you take me now?”

“Come to think of it now,” he answered, laughing, “I hadn’t thought of it
before.  Not to Rogues’ Haven.”

“Do you know Mr. Bradbury?”

“I’ve heard tell of him.”

“He’s with old Gavin Masters—whoever he may be.  Will you take me to him,
or set me down on the way to Masters’ house?”

He answered uneasily, “I’ll set you down near his house.  I’ll not wait
on old Sir Gavin, I’m that modest, Mr. Craike.  He’s a gentleman.  He’s a
justice—as Charles Craike’s a justice.”  His laughter sounded out on the
wind.  “Ay, I’ll take you near enough.  Get on, old horse!  Get on!”

We were out then from the green cup in which the Stone House lay.
Looking back from the ridge, ere the trees took us into their company, I
saw the old house stand grey to the morning; I saw a confusion of figures
all about it; I saw a rider dashing from the gate and galloping of apace.

“Martin!” growled Roger.  “He’s riding of for Rogues’ Haven to give
Craike word.  I’ve a mind to cut him off.”

“Who is Martin?  Bart and he are brothers, aren’t they?”

“Martin and Bart Baynes, ay, they’re brothers, both rogues, spawn of old
Mag Baynes’s son Adam,—he that was transported and died some year back.
Ay, transported he was, but died.  Craike’s men, Mart and Bart—rogues
both!”

“Where does Rogues’ Haven lie?”

“That way”—with a sweep of his hand towards the rocky uplands.  “Away,
with the wood all about it.”

“Why the name?”

“Didn’t you see and hear enough, young sir, in Mag’s house?”

“Smugglers—ay, and worse—is that why?”

“Ay, ay; and there’s odd tales of old Edward, how his money come—” but he
broke of—“I’m not forgettin’ you’re the old man’s grandson.”

“Forget that I am, and tell me.”

“There’s odd tales.  Maybe he made his fortune in the East, like any
India merchant.  He came as honest by it as many another, I’ve no doubt.”

“You mean dishonestly.  What was my grandfather?”

He answered, laughing, “A gentleman of fortune, folk say”—and galloped on
through the trees and out upon the open moorlands.

Seated before him in saddle, with nigh as much discomfort to me as when
he had borne me on to Mag’s farm in the night, I fell to pondering over
the mystery of old Edward Craike.  How had he come by his money?  Mr.
Bradbury would never tell me, fencing me delicately; Roger Galt would
not, but “gentleman of fortune”—it might mean buccaneer, freebooter,
pirate, as Henry Morgan or many another.  Ever my mother’s words recurred
to me, “the doomed house”—“ill-gotten wealth”—the thought of her hate of
Charles and terror of Rogues’ Haven.  And the name and the company old
Edward kept?  Howbeit, I should know soon.  When once I was safe with Mr.
Bradbury, and the justice Sir Gavin Masters, and the thief-catchers from
London.  And how would my uncle take all this, and what should be his
punishment, after his plot against me-defeated by this gentleman of the
road whom he had vowed to hang, if he should play him false, as Roger
Galt had played him!

But my thoughts were yet all awhirl, even as my body was jolted and
jarred before Roger Galt on his great black horse, as now putting his
mount to its full speed he galloped over the moors.  He descended at last
on to a rough and broken road, striking back, as nearly as I might guess,
for the highway on which Mr. Bradbury and I had been intercepted.  And,
suddenly, rounding a bend in the road, we came face to face with four
riders, at the sight of whom Roger pulled up abruptly—to snatch a pistol
from his holster, loosing his hold upon me, and muttering, “Jump down!
Quick!  I’ll not stay!”

They came onward riding swiftly, as I dropped stiffly to my feet.  Roger
Galt, with a wave of his hand and a cry, “Good day to ye, lad,” turned
his horse and was off at a gallop, ere I understood who came and why he
fled.  And standing in the road, I swung round to meet the riders.  I saw
Mr. Bradbury come riding swiftly through the morning; beside him a stout
gentleman in a scarlet coat as flushed as his jovial face; after them two
hard-looking fellows, who, by their grim visages and rigs, I took for the
runners whom Mr. Bradbury had called down from London.

Mr. Bradbury, with an exclamation, pulled up beside me; but the
red-coated gentleman, roaring, “After him!  After him!  There’s Galt!
There’s our man!” set spurs to his mount and galloped apace down the
track, with the two fellows clattering after.

Mr. Bradbury dismounted stiffly; hands outstretched, he came to me,
crying in that shrill voice of his, “Why, Mr. Craike—my dear sir!  My
dear sir!”

“Good morning, Mr. Bradbury,” I answered, as he took my hands.  “I’m glad
to see you.”

“But where in the devil’s name had they hid you?  With whom were you
riding?  He had cause to fear my friend here, Sir Gavin.”

“He’s Roger Galt.  He took me out of Charles Craike’s hands, when he held
me prisoner in a farmhouse away on the moors miles from here.”

“Galt!  A notorious fellow.  Highwayman!  There’s a price on his head.”

“Yet my father’s friend and mine.  I’m safe through him.  But for him I
should be aboard the ship of one Blunt, smuggler—may be worse; oh, it’s
been the prettiest of plots, Mr. Bradbury, and I’ve the wildest of tales
for you.”

“So!” he said swiftly.  “So!  Charles Craike thought to trick us, and
you’ve tricked Charles Craike.  By heaven, he’ll answer for this—by
heaven!  My dear sir, I’ve hunted high and low for you.  Charles Craike
denied all knowledge of you.  Old Mr. Edward would not lift a finger.
Lord knows and I guess the story our precious gentleman has told him of
you.  But I’ll lay Charles Craike by the heels yet.”

“Mr. Bradbury,” said I, “your friend here and the runners follow after
Galt.  I’d have no hurt come to him, for through him, and him only,
despite Craike, I’m here and safe ashore.  Not that they’re like to take
him,” as I stared up the road and saw the riders pulling in, while Roger
vanished from view.  “Charles Craike has sworn that Roger Galt shall pay
for this; I’d not have your friend there play Craike’s part, and set his
hands on Galt.”

“I’ll have a word with Sir Gavin,” Mr. Bradbury assented.  “Not that
’twill count, for Sir Gavin is set against the fellow, he’s been swearing
indeed, for all I might say to the contrary, that not Charles Craike but
Galt was responsible for the outrage upon us.”

“You took little hurt from your fall, I trust, Mr. Bradbury.”

“Little save a bad shaking.  I was afoot almost at once.  And must step
it every foot of the way to the village—there’s a tolerable inn there,
whither I’ll now lead you, Mr. Craike.”

“And what then?” I asked.

“Why, surely, we’ll proceed to wait upon your grandfather, sir.”

“Unless my Uncle Charles plans otherwise.”

“Nay, we’ll ride thither this afternoon, sir, if you’re rested and well.
But the runners shall go beside our coach, lest Mr. Charles Craike still
desire that we shall not meet your grandfather.”



_Chapter XV_.  _The Doomed House_


That afternoon I drove with Mr. Bradbury to my grandfather’s house, and
the two thief-catchers rode beside us.  The house stood at a distance of
five miles from the little village that looked down upon the sea; from
the inn window I had caught sight of Blunt’s brig already putting out.
It was an ancient dwelling of the Craike family, that my grandfather,
enriched by trade in the East, Mr. Bradbury now assured me, had set in
repair for his habitation.

For all the outrage of my imprisonment, Mr. Bradbury would have me keep a
secret from old Sir Gavin Masters my detention in the Stone House.  Let
it remain a secret, and let the scandal be hushed, he insisted, until we
had had our interview with my grandfather.  I had an uneasy suspicion
that he believed the old man himself implicated in the plot against me,
or at least feared his resentment at interference with a crew of
smugglers, with whom he and his son were associated.  Committing my cause
to Mr. Bradbury, I pleaded exhaustion; left him to tell what tale he
would to Sir Gavin, and kept my room until the hour of our departure from
the inn.  I contented myself with insistence that Roger Galt should have
due credit for returning me to safety, and should not be held guilty of
the sins of Charles Craike and his rogues.  What tale Mr. Bradbury told,
I knew not; as we drove away, he gave me to understand that Sir Gavin had
relinquished the search after Roger; I assumed that the justice himself
would not welcome an open breach with the smuggling fraternity—with whom,
indeed, I took it from furtive whisperings and black looks at me, the
folk at the inn—as, no doubt, the fisher-folk at the village—were in
league.

But what was my grandfather’s share in the plot of my kin against me I
conjectured bitterly.  Mr. Bradbury observed that my uncle had
established great influence over the old man; that, indeed, the one
thought and acted habitually as the other.  But he was bent still on my
presentation to my grandfather, as if he hoped that Mr. Craike might take
a liking to me, and my favour with him counteract the influence of my
Uncle Charles.  So, cleanly-clad, well-dressed once more, I sat by Mr.
Bradbury in his coach, and proceeded with him to Craike House, as if none
of the events of the Stone House had happened; indeed, my curiosity to
learn what manner of man was my grandfather prevailed for the time over
perplexity and dread.

We drove always within sound of the sea, though it was hid from our sight
for the most; our way taking us over an old stone road; but at times,
where the cliffs were broken, we saw the waters grey and leaden still for
hanging clouds; the violence of the wind had abated, yet it blew keenly;
always the tang of the sea was in my nostrils.  Our road struck at last
from the sea inland; we were driving soon through a deep wood; this was
unbroken, ere we came to iron gates in an old brick wall.  A woman,
coming out of the gate-keeper’s cottage at the sound of coach and riders,
stared at us through the bars, but at the sight of Mr. Bradbury’s head
poking out of the window, and at his curt order, “Open the gates, woman.
Mr. Bradbury to see Mr. Craike!” she unlocked and opened the gates,
staring at us as we passed by.  I saw her for a big woman, as nut-brown
as a gipsy, and as vivid in her red shawl and green kirtle; a swath of
orange-coloured stuff was about her black hair.  We drove on, and the
runners clattered after us.  Looking back, I saw the woman run into the
cottage, and reappear presently with a bearded fellow, rubbing his eyes
sleepily; I saw the glint of big rings in his ears, his rig of wide blue
breeches and red-striped shirt,—both remained staring after us, till the
trees hid them from us.  The coach rolled on through a park, ill-tended,
overgrown, a very wilderness; green darkness dropped about us till we
came in sight of Craike House.

It stood amid tall pine and fir trees—a sombre, dreary house; the ivy
holding it in a green net, webbed across shuttered windows, climbing to
the very leads, and gripping the chimney stacks.  An ancient, crumbling
house,—I had a notion that but for the ivy it must fall in ruins to the
ground; a house of gloom from the dark ivy—the evil green ivy, with the
black pines and fir trees all about it, with weeds and tangle of flowers
before it, where once had been rose gardens; with nettles and lank green
grass upon its lawns.  We drove up, seeing no one; we pulled up before
the flight of stone steps leading up to its door,—steps worn by rains of
centuries, and by the feet of generations; steps guarded by stone
dragons, wingless and earless from their years, their eyes blinded and
their jaws stopped with green moss.  Sombre and secret stood the house
amid the black cloud of pine and fir trees; I saw the black clouds lower
above it; I heard the winds cry out about it; the old trees strain and
sigh, and toss their boughs like arms, in lamentation or in terror for
the house,—the doomed house, where my kinsmen dwelt.  Afar I heard the
drumming of the sea against the rock-bound coast.  I had a curious
shapeless notion—prescience—that even as all the evil of the house—the
ill-gotten fortunes of the house—came from the sea, out of the sea should
retribution—vengeance—come.

Mr. Bradbury bade the runners and the coach-boy wait for us.  Taking my
arm, he climbed the steps with me to the door; its oak was bound with
iron in fantastic pattern, and studded with copper nails; the knocker was
of copper in the form of a satyr’s grinning face,—and all this copper was
corroded, and the green stained the door as the evil green of the ivy
stained the front of the house.  Mr. Bradbury raised the knocker with
difficulty; though it clashed heavily, it failed to bring response from
the house; whispering to me, “I’d have thought Charles would have been
keeping a sharper look out for our arrival than this,” he knocked double
knocks, until the clank of a chain and the screech of bolts sounded
within.  The door opened, and an old man stood blinking out at us—an old
man, his clean-shaven face shrivelled and brown, and his eyes palely
blue; his white hair was powdered, and his suit of black on his bent and
withered body as neat and precise as his linen.

“Mr. Bradbury, sir,” he quavered.

“Your ears are not as sharp as they might be, Thrale,” said Mr. Bradbury,
drily.  “Pray, open the door to Mr. Craike and me, and tell your master
that we have the honour to wait upon him in obedience to his wish.”

Thrale answered in that shaking voice of his—though his eyes looked
keenly and wickedly at me, “To be sure, gentlemen, to be sure!  Pray step
inside!”—and opened the door slowly into the hall.  It was a dark and
gloomy vault; ere old Thrale closed the door, I caught a glimpse of a
hall panelled all in oak, of canvases mouldering in mildewed frames, and
of a wide black stairway opposite the door, leading up into darkness.  If
fanlight above the door or windows at the head of the stair should have
lit the hall, all light was kept out by curtains, shutters, or netted
ivy; the darkness of night fell with the closing of the door.

Mr. Bradbury, grasping my arm hurriedly, cried out, “Gad, how dark and
cold this house is, Thrale!  I’m not prepared to take my death of a chill
waiting here till you announce us to your master.  Go ahead of us, man,
and show us into his room immediately—d’ye hear me?”  He adopted a tone
of brusque good humour, though well I understood his apprehension of what
might yet befall me, if we were left standing in the dark.  The dark hung
mysterious all about us; I could feel cold draughts of air; I believed
that I could hear furtive whisperings and footsteps, doors softly opening
and closing, hangings waving; all this might have been the wind without.
Certainly I heard Thrale chuckle behind me, as he locked the door and
fixed the chain; he answered Mr. Bradbury, “As you wish, sir.”

“Strike a light, Thrale,—d’ye hear me?—a light.  I’ve no mind to break a
leg or my neck in the dark!  A light, Thrale!”

“Certainly, sir,” Thrale’s answer floated back to us, as he flitted away
in the dark.

“Why, damn the fellow, he’s leaving us after all,” gasped Mr. Bradbury.
“Thrale, you hear me?  Thrale!  Come back, man!”

But there came no sound save of the whisperings, gliding footsteps,
rustlings of hangings waving in the dark, or of the ghostly wind that
seemed to haunt the House of Craike.  Mr. Bradbury’s left hand grasped my
arm; I understood that his right groped in his coat pocket for his
pistol.  The impress of the blackness and gloom of the house was upon me,
while I had good cause to dread my uncle’s plotting; I stood straining my
eyes and ears in the darkness, imagining that figures advanced upon us in
the dark.  Mr. Bradbury drew me back against the door, muttering, “By the
Lord, if the old rogue’s not back presently, I’ll take upon me to make a
dash for the stair and force my way into the master’s room.”

But he was silent, as a glimmer of light showed through the darkness.
Thrale was returning, carrying a silver candlestick; his face was
villainous and livid in the pale light.

“Where the deuce have you been, Thrale?” cried Mr. Bradbury.  “Didn’t you
hear me call after you?”

Thrale answered quietly, “I asks pardon, Mr. Bradbury, sir.  As you said,
I don’t hear as well as I might.  I’d flint and steel to find,”—and stood
blinking at us, with the candlestick lifted high in his bone-white hands.

A skeleton’s hands—mere bone—they seemed to me, as the old rogue, at Mr.
Bradbury’s peremptory order, lit us up the stairs.  The glimmer of pale
light, the lime-white head, the bone-white hands, the silver candlestick,
seemed from his noiseless movement to glide before us.  From the head of
the stair wide galleries led off to right and left and before
us,—galleries shrouded with dark tapestries.  I saw rusty armour standing
against the walls.  I kicked against a pile of tumbled mail as the old
man flitted before us by many fast-shut doors down the corridor to the
left.  He paused at a high black door, the glimmer of the candle showed
me grotesque carvings and tarnished gilding upon it; he rapped smartly on
this door with his bony fingers.  No one answering, he opened the door,
and swept aside the thick green curtains hanging before it.

The room revealed was high and wide; only a pale green light crept
through the diamond panes of its two windows stained by the mosses of the
years and netted with the ivy.  For the time I had no eye for its
furnishings, but only for the figure in the carved black chair by the
fire.  He was an old man; he had been of great stature and strength, his
bulk was supported now by faded purple cushions.  He seemed to prop
himself upon the arms of his chair; his wide, brown hands were stained
with red jewels; I had an uneasy fancy of blood-smeared hands.  His
clean-shaven face was very broad, bronzed and congested, his brows were
framed in white hair tumbling about his immense shoulders; his eyes were
coal-black beneath ash-grey brows.  His whole aspect suggested decaying
will, as his body decaying strength.  A quilted gown of green and
gold-brocaded silk was corded about his middle; his bent legs were cased
in black silken breeches and hose; his shoe buckles were set with
smoke-blue jewels; an ebony stick rested by his chair.

“Mr. Craike,” said Mr. Bradbury, stepping swiftly forward and bowing
politely, “I have the honour at last to present your grandson—Mr. John
Craike!”



_Chapter XVI_.  _Old Mr. Edward Craike_


It may have been only the leaping flame upon the hearth, but it seemed to
me that colour rose to the old brown face, and that light burned in the
coal-black eyes.  An instant only, and his aspect was hard and grim.  He
did not offer his hand to Mr. Bradbury or me; he seemed still to prop
himself upon the arms of his chair; he said, in tones curiously rich and
full for so old a man, “You wrote to me, Bradbury, and Charles answered
you at my dictation that I would receive you.”

“Well, we are here, sir,” said Mr. Bradbury, easily.

“And you are here!  You know me well enough, Mr. Bradbury, to understand
my wishes.  I do not welcome your visit.  I felt bound only to receive
you and hear you.  Why have you come?”

Mr. Bradbury, standing forward, sought his snuff-box, and made play with
it; the cold jewels shining white upon his fingers, his eyes hard and
keen as his diamonds.  “Mr. Craike,” he said, “our interview with you
should surely be in private.  Is there any need for Thrale to remain?”

“Set chairs, Thrale, and I’ll ring for you—if I need you.  Is Mr. Charles
in the house?”

“No, sir,” answered Thrale, his malignant look marking resentment against
Mr. Bradbury.  “He’s abroad.”

“If he return, tell him to come to my room.  Set chairs—damn you!  Set
chairs!  Don’t stand there like a candle in a draught.  Like to be blown
out any minute—eh, Bradbury, eh?” and passed from sudden passion to loud
laughter.

As Thrale set chairs by the fire for Mr. Bradbury and me, I found the
opportunity to look about the room.  It was lit by those green panes
dully for the lateness of the afternoon, and by the leaping flame.  It
had been a rich, ornate room; I saw dull gold and faded colours in some
sombre painting upon the ceiling; faces on the walls—portraits of gloomy
folks much of the aspect of the grim old man looking across the
green-veined marble hearth at us.  A panelled room with heavy tapestries
corrupt with moth and grime, with heavy furniture dark with age, a huge
four-poster with black silken curtains, black presses, black table; pale
gleam of crystal and silver upon a sideboard, old books in a high case.
Only a Persian carpet by my grandfather’s chair and his garish gown and
gems lent rich colour to the room; all else was gloomy, tarnished, faded.
Gloom—surely over all the house was gloom; surely the wind beating on the
windows, moaning and sighing, was burdened with a tale of sins; surely a
sense of evil brooded in this room,—where sat old Edward Craike to think
of life drawing near to death,—to think, maybe, of punishment for years
of sinning.  For on the face was scored a record of old sins and dead
passions; its aspect was evil; the lips were merciless; the brooding
eyes, from the sudden blazing wrath at Thrale, could burn with an unholy
fire.  Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood,—I could feel for this old
broken man no pity, no affection.  I found myself conjecturing only that
these eyes would face death—surely so near him—courageously, as an
intrepid voyager’s looking on uncharted seas.

Thrale, stepping noiselessly, withdrew.

Mr. Bradbury leaned forward swiftly.  “Now, sir,” he said, “I ask you to
listen to me patiently.”

“Go on, Bradbury!”

“I ask you to remember your affection for your son Richard—such affection
as you have not felt for any other being.”

He said heavily, “Why recall the past, Bradbury?  What is the past but a
voyage I have made, and come from with an empty hold?”

“Ay, surely,” assented Mr. Bradbury, taking snuff and smiling.  “You have
a gift of melancholy, Mr. Craike.”

“Bradbury, you speak to me as no man dares to speak.”

“You permit me,” said Mr. Bradbury quietly, “to speak frankly to you,
knowing me your friend, Mr. Craike, and honest in my dealings with you.
As your friend—as your son’s friend—I am here.  Mr. Craike, you’ve sailed
over the world in your day; you’ve suffered shipwreck; you’ve been cast
away.  What would you not have given—even you—to have had with you upon
the desert isle you’ve told me of, one of your kind—one of your blood?”

“Allegory, Bradbury?” he said, impassively.

“Allegory, surely!  Seeing you sitting here alone—knowing you all these
days alone, as surely as were you on your desert isle, longing—as any
human being must long—for kith and kin, for friend, at least for one of
whose companionship—affection even—you might be assured.”

“You mean this lad here?” in unaltered tone.

“Who else?  Look at this lad!  Frame a picture in your mind, Mr.
Craike—your son Richard’s—set Richard’s likeness and this boy’s side by
side.  And will you say that this lad seated here is not, feature for
feature, colour of eyes and hair and skin, in body, manner—your son,
Richard?”

My grandfather said slowly, “Richard was as all our race.  The lad is
Richard look for look.  What is it to me, Bradbury?  My son was never
wed.”

I felt my cheeks burn; ere Mr. Bradbury might restrain me, I started up,
and facing the old man, cried out, “And there you lie!  If I be the son
of Richard Craike—and that I be I care not—no man shall question or deny
my parents’ honour, take their name lightly.  You hear me,—you lie!”

He did not stir in his chair; his aspect was unchanged save that the
light seemed to burn up in his old eyes.  He said coolly, “The lad is
Richard’s son, Bradbury.”

“And rightly resentful of your words, sir,” cried Mr. Bradbury, snapping
his snuff-box.

“Bradbury, don’t try me too far.  You are at liberty to go at once—with
Richard’s son.”

“Mr. Craike,” said Mr. Bradbury, leaning forward in his chair, and
looking intently at my grandfather, “knowing you—your sense of justice—I
dare to tell you, as the lad has told you, that you lie.  Your son was
wedded nineteen years back to Mary Howe—you will recall her.”

“Surely—serving-woman to Mrs. Charles.”

“He was wedded to her in London, after Charles and his wife,
understanding Richard’s passion for her, had driven her from this house.
Their enmity pursued her—from house to house, employment to employment.
She was in London—destitute, nigh starving—when Richard, returning from
the Continent, sought and found her.  He married her in London—nineteen
years since, Mr. Craike, nineteen years since.  He lived for several
years with her in London under her name of Howe, earning his living
honestly, not communicating with you and taking nothing from you.  He
disappeared ten years or so back.  Mr. Craike, the agency that robbed you
of your son; that took him from his wife and child, that shipped him out
of England or hid his body in the ground—for whether he be alive or dead
I cannot tell, even as you—I do believe to be the active enmity of your
son Charles—his jealousy of Richard Craike, his elder brother and your
heir.”

And now at last I saw the cruel lips part; and now I heard the old man
gasp and mutter to himself; I saw the red flash upon his shaking hands; I
saw his eyes burn up, and flame from Bradbury to me.

“Mr. Craike,” Mr. Bradbury proceeded, “the proofs of this marriage—of the
boy’s legitimacy—are in my hands.”

“You have these proofs with you?”

“Mr. Craike, would I be such a fool as to bring them here?  Would Mrs.
Richard Craike entrust them to me, coming to this house?  We have them
and we hold them.”

“Fearing me?”

“No!  Fearing your son Charles.  With cause, sir, with bitter cause!  And
hear this, sir, we should have been here days since—would have been—but
for your son.  His agents waylay our coach; his agents carry off the boy
and gaol him in the Stone House you may know of.  Ay, and would have
shipped him overseas with Blunt—smuggler, freebooter—what is he?  All
this, all this,—to keep the lad from you, sir, while you sit by your fire
alone—alone!”

“You’ve proof of this?  I have no knowledge of any plot?”

“Proof!  Am I fool or trickster, Mr. Craike?”

“I do not think you fool or trickster, Bradbury.”

“Look on this boy: his likeness to your son Richard.  Knowing your son
Charles, think at what he would stay to keep him from your sight.”

He said deliberately, “I know my son Charles even as I know myself.  I am
no censor, Bradbury.  Charles would have kept this lad away from me, say
you?  Fearing lest he commend himself to me and profit by it; take more
at my death than by the law he must inherit.  Money and jewels—knowing on
what I have my hand.  What of it, Bradbury?  Had I been Charles; had I
desired to keep my brother’s son out of my father’s sight—for such a
reason—I would have done as Charles has done.  Only, I was bolder in my
day than Charles.  Enough, what is all this to me?”

“Yet Charles has failed,” said Mr. Bradbury, grinning, “and you will
profit by it, Mr. Craike.  Do you love Charles?”

“You need not ask that, Bradbury.”

“And you loved Richard.  You should favour Richard’s son.  Alone—I said
of you—alone, with thoughts—and terrors.”

“Had the sea ever terror for me, Bradbury, or peril, or the dark?  What
terrors now?”

“Mr. Craike, you are a man, and the unknown after death is terrible to
men.  Except they have a faith that you have not.  Unhappily!”

“I have no faith, or fear.”

“Oh, if you be prepared to sit alone in your last years,—face death
alone,” Mr. Bradbury said earnestly, “I appeal still to what was human in
you—love for your son Richard.  Let your heart turn to Richard’s son.”

“What purpose would you serve?”

Mr. Bradbury did not answer, but was taking snuff, and coldly regarding
my Uncle Charles, who had drawn aside the curtain, and was standing in
the doorway.



_Chapter XVII_.  _Creed of Mr. Charles_


He stepped forward—a handsome, smiling gentleman of middle age, his face
ivory-white, his white hair held by a black ribbon, his dress as precise
as Mr. Bradbury’s, but set off by his shapely body.  He wore no jewel; he
had no touch of colour on him, save the red line of his lips and the cold
blue of his eyes.  He bowed with a courtly grace to Mr. Bradbury; he
vouchsafed me the merest lift of his brows.

Mr. Bradbury met him with an equal composure.  “It’s as well that you
came here, Mr. Charles,” he said.  “You formed the subject of our
conversation.”

“Indeed,” he answered, indifferently, and, pulling forward a chair, he
seated himself beside his father.  “I am happy to believe, sir, that
you’re prepared to speak of me as freely in my presence as in my
absence.”

“I am to take this as your permission, Charles?” asked Mr. Bradbury,
smoothly.

“Why not?” my uncle asked, smiling.

“Well, then, I have introduced this young gentleman to your father as
your brother’s son, John Craike.  I have already informed your father of
the steps you took to prevent his arrival at Craike House.”

“My sole concern,” said the gentleman, carelessly, “is that I failed.”

“You admit your culpability?” asked Mr. Bradbury, meeting him with an
equal composure.

“Culpability!  Pray, your snuff-box, Bradbury—I haven’t mine by me.
Thank you!” leaning forward and taking a pinch.  “I admit no culpability,
my dear Bradbury.”

“It is, to be sure, merely a question of phrase,” Mr. Bradbury conceded,
drily.  “It is enough for me that you failed.  Admitting this, then, do
you admit equally your responsibility for your brother’s disappearance
from England?”

I saw my grandfather lean forward in his chair, his hands now gripping
the ebony stick; the movement was not lost upon my uncle.

He answered swiftly, “That, Bradbury, I deny wholly.  You are well aware
of my affection for my brother, and my natural grief at his
disappearance.”

“Well aware,” said Mr. Bradbury, with some show of anger.  “And well
aware, Charles, that if you were responsible, you would not dare to admit
this before your father, knowing his actual affection for your brother as
for no other being.  Yet you admit before him your culpability—your
guilt—in regard to this young gentleman—your brother’s son.
Understanding that Mr. Edward Craike here takes a—shall I say
tolerant?—view of many things that others,—I,—that the law of England
regard as crimes, Charles Craike—as crimes punishable with the utmost
rigour.”

“Really, Bradbury, you grow prosy,” Mr. Charles protested.

“You impose upon our friendship, Bradbury,” the old man muttered.

“Mr. Craike,” said Mr. Bradbury, “would you have me make-believe to you
of all men?  Your son attempts to put away his brother’s son.  He admits
his guilt coolly—with effrontery, and you say nothing!  I expected you to
say nothing.  But by his denial of his responsibility for the
disappearance of Richard Craike from England, Charles here proves this to
me—his realisation of your love for his brother, and the certainty of
your righteous anger and his punishment, if it could be proved against
him.”

“Bradbury!  Bradbury!” Charles Craike murmured, smiling; but for the
first time I saw a show of colour in his face, and a tightening of his
lips.

“The lad,” persisted Mr. Bradbury, “is Richard’s son.  Legitimate!  Be
silent, Charles”—as the gentleman, with a bitter exclamation, started
from his chair.  “Don’t think that I, of all men, would come here,
present this lad to Mr. Craike as his grandson, unless I were in
possession of irrefutable proofs—that Richard Craike was married to Mary
Howe, and that the boy is the child of that marriage.  Nor would I have
brought him to this house, but that I realise, as fully as I understand
aught of Mr. Craike—that the best of Mr. Craike—his natural affection—was
given wholly to his elder son.”

Mr. Bradbury leaned forward, eyeing the pair keenly.  Charles Craike,
impassive now, sat back in his chair; the old man had lowered his eyes,
and now it seemed at last was moved and trembling; the ebony stick in his
grasp clattered upon the hearth.

“I hoped,” said Mr. Bradbury, “to offer my client a little happiness in
his last days.  If I could not give him back his son, at least I could
give him his grandson—look for look, colour for colour—the image of his
son.”

Now my grandfather’s eyes burned suddenly upon me; now he leaned forward
in his chair; colouring and confused, I sat staring at him in turn.  He
muttered then, “Bradbury—these proofs!”

“The proofs are in our possession, sir.  Necessarily, I could not bring
them to this house.”

“Ay, but proofs, proofs—your bare word.”

“Mr. Craike,” said Mr. Bradbury, disdainfully, “when have you ever had
occasion before to question my probity?”

My grandfather was silent; again his eyes were cast down; the ebony stick
in his grasp did not cease to clatter on the hearth.  Charles Craike sat
silent.  Mr. Bradbury, snapping his snuff-box, rose from his chair.

“That is all I have to say to you, Mr. Craike,” he said, quietly.  “I beg
you to give this matter your earnest consideration, realising that at
least the boy is the heir of Craike House, and realising that it is in
your power to enrich him from your private fortunes as surely, sir, you
would have enriched your son.”

I wondered at the composure of my Uncle Charles.  He had risen with Mr.
Bradbury, and now stood leaning against the chimney-piece, his face
revealing nothing of the rage which surely racked him.

“I beg to take my leave of you, Mr. Craike,” said Mr. Bradbury, bowing to
my grandfather.  “Come, lad!”

But as I started up, glad enough to be away, the old man’s cane smote
heavily upon the hearth.  “The lad,” he growled, “stays here, Bradbury!”

“Mr. Craike, were you alone in this house,” said Mr. Bradbury, swiftly,
“nothing could give me keener pleasure than that your grandson should
remain with you.  But Craike House is Craike House, and the lad goes with
me.”

“He stays here!” cried the old man, with sudden stormy anger. “Damn you,
Bradbury, he stays here!”

“Mr. Craike, I am answerable for the lad’s safety.”

“Really, Bradbury, really!” Charles deprecated.

“The lad will come to no hurt in this house,” the old man said, and his
eyes blazed suddenly at Charles.  “You hear me, Charles?  No hurt shall
come to him!  If hurt come to him,—if, in defiance of me you seek to
injure him, and separate my son’s son from me, as they took my son from
me,—look to it, Bradbury, that no concern for me, and no desire further
to keep the secrets of this house, shall stand between my grandson’s
enemies and justice!  Justice, Bradbury!  The boy stays here.  You remain
to dine with me, Bradbury.  There are affairs.”

Smiling triumphantly, Mr. Bradbury bowed.

“I am honoured, Mr. Craike,” he said; and with a flourish, offered his
snuff-box to my Uncle Charles, who accepted a pinch, maintaining an
ineffable composure.



_Chapter XVIII_.  _Compact of Tolerance_


An hour thence I sat in the room which was to be mine while I remained in
Craike House, and to which the shadowy Thrale had conducted me.  It was a
great bed-chamber, its windows overlooking dark woods and hills, and afar
through the dropping dusk the leaden greyness of the sea.  On entering, I
had hastened to throw wide the casement, regardless of the coldness of
the wind, but seeking by its freshness to dispel the thick, dead
mustiness of the room.  A gloomy chamber—the fire smoking on the hearth,
the furniture of old dark oak, a great four-poster hung with sombre green
silk, presses like tombs, the mirrors, so dull with damp, neglect and
age, as scarcely to reflect the pale gleam of the candles, which I had
lit against the approaching darkness.

One painting only hung within the room, above the black marble
chimney-piece.  It might have been a portrait of my Uncle Charles, yet if
the painter had depicted faithfully the manner of the man, this cavalier
wore no such mask as my uncle affected; the face was boldly evil.  The
sinister gaze seemed to follow me from hearth to window-seat, the head to
bend forward from the rich lace collar; the jewelled hands of this
cavalier in green and silver to touch the sword in menace.  A hateful
portrait, yet I had less dislike of it than of my uncle’s aspect; the
portrait might well have revealed the soul of Charles Craike, hid in him
by his smiling and composed demeanour, his distinction of person, mode
and manner, even as the beauty of the body conceals the skeleton.  The
ceiling of my room, painted after the manner of my grandfather’s room,
suggested by its riot of bodies, gold gleam of wine cups and brocades,
the taste of a dead kinsman; mayhap, the cavalier over the chimney-piece
had had the decoration of Craike House.  Like the hangings of the bed,
the tapestries upon the wall—recording the devoutness of some kinswoman
by depicting the quest of the Sangreal—were riddled with moth and dull
with dust.  Over all the room, as over the house and the wood about it, a
cloud seemed to brood; still, in the whipping of the ivy against the
panes, the whistling of the wind, and the stir of the hangings, I seemed
to hear the whispering voices; the gloom prevailed over the pale
candlelight or the spurts of flame upon the smoking hearth.  “The doomed
house—the doomed house”—I repeated my mother’s words.  I found
resemblance between the house of Craike and my grandfather,—in the decay
upon them both, the storms scored on the front of man and house; the
breaking frames concealing secret sins, the end approaching.  The doomed
house—so from my first knowledge of it I thought of my kinsmen’s home
amid the darkling wood.

And here was I to remain after Mr. Bradbury’s departure from the house
that night.  I had the assurance of my grandfather’s protection, against
my uncle, who hated me, as he had hated my father.  What was this
treasure old Edward Craike had amassed that for it—surely for it—Charles
should have sold his soul?  Now, for the fear of losing this treasure,
compelled by the threatening of an old and breaking man to hold his hand
from me—his rival; the irony of it brought a bitter smile to my lips.  I
had no definite terror yet of the house and its folk; terror I might have
on the moors, terror in the Stone House—to be done to death in my sleep,
or terror in the hands of Blunt—shipped aboard his brig, for, it might
be, the port of death; but here I was no more afraid of the event than a
man may be afraid of life’s adventure.  I understood easily that the will
of one man—though this man near to dying—held in thrall the folk of
Rogues’ Haven; that this will decreed that I should dwell securely in the
house; I believed my uncle, for all his jealous hate of me, would not
dare lift his hand further to do me hurt.  The mystery of the house, even
as the mystery of life to be, allured me; I was glad to be in the Rogues’
Haven, and in the company of its folk, even as I was glad to be alive.

As yet my grandfather had not addressed me directly.  The fluttering
ghost, Thrale, ere leaving me in my room, had said no more than that a
bell would summon me to dinner; that he would then have the room properly
prepared for me; and that a groom would bring my baggage over from the
inn that night.  I had laved my face and hands, and smoothed my hair;
this was all the toilet I might make for dinner, and I was resting in a
chair by the hearth when there came a knocking on my door.  At my call
“Come in!” my uncle entered.  He stood an instant in the doorway; from my
subsequent knowledge of him he had a just appreciation of the advantages
of his appearance,—a superb figure of a man, even as in the niceties and
preciseness of his dress and his courtly manners he bore the semblance of
a gentleman.  He had made a change of his dress; he wore still sober
black, which he affected ever; but his coat and breeches were cut very
elegantly; his linen was of a silver whiteness, and illumined by a fine
diamond in his cravat; the snuff-box in his delicate fingers was set with
brilliants.  He made me a little bow and smiled upon me.

“Pray be seated, nephew,” he said, as I rose from my chair.  “I trust
that I do not intrude on your repose.”

I sought to match my manners with his own, but failed lamentably; bowing
with an ill grace, drawing a chair forward for him with a clatter, and
feeling myself colour to the tips of my ears, I said, “I’m not so weary
for the want of rest these past few nights, sir, that I’d be sleeping
now.  Pray sit down!”

He sat down, lolling back in his chair, and crossing his shapely legs.
“Surely between kinsmen,” he said, smiling, “frankness is natural.  Your
meaning is patent.  Having had so little sleep through my detention of
you at the Stone House, you’re weary, and would rest alone.  My dear
nephew, selfishness has always been my failing—indeed, it is a failing of
our family.  Forgive me, then, if I trespass, having a word or two to say
to you.  Will you hear me?”

“Surely.”

He said deliberately, “For aught that I have done to keep you from this
house; for aught that I have said concerning you, your parentage and
birth, I offer no excuse and ask no pardon.  I am no hypocrite at least,
my nephew.  Indeed, I did believe, when I read Bradbury’s letter to my
father, that though our blood might run in you, you could have no
legitimate claim upon us.  I do not question Mr. Bradbury’s assurance
now”—with a hasty wave of his hand, as if to pacify my swift resentment.
“You took affront—natural affront—at words of mine you overheard in the
Stone House; accepting Mr. Bradbury’s assurance, I own myself mistaken.
I tell you, nephew, believing as I then believed, I still would do what I
have done to keep you from my father, and to prevent any marks of favour
he may show you.  Am I frank with you?”

“You’d have me believe so,” I muttered, vengefully.

He laughed, and made me a bow.  “Nephew,” he said, “you’re here; you’ve
caught the fancy of your grandfather; how long you’ll retain it I’ll not
conjecture, knowing so little of you.  He’ll have no hurt come to you at
my hands; it is my habit to obey him,”—with a bitter sneer.

“Fearing him?” I ventured.

“As much as I fear any man,” he answered, carelessly.  “It’s to my
advantage to be dutiful; it is to the advantage of any man to be dutiful
to a rich kinsman, as of the place-hunter to fawn upon a personage with
star or ribbon.  Tush, nephew, my practice is the practice of all wise
men: to accept the fact, and shape myself to the fact, to seek advantage,
and employ what wit I have for the attainment of it.  I’m not prepared to
love you, nephew; there is no need for that hypocrisy.”

“None!” I assented bitterly.

“But while my father lives,” he proceeded, “we’re to be inmates of this
house.  We’re to meet daily; to live our lives together; to appear in
public together.  It would be tedious to me that we should be for ever
wrangling.  Let us then be frank with each other,—hate each other, but
let us not show our lack of breeding by impoliteness.  John, while we’re
together in this house, I am prepared to play dutiful kinsman, preceptor,
friend.  And you?”

For my very hate of him I could only seek to match my wit with his own.
I answered, “And I, my dear uncle, am prepared to ape the part of dutiful
nephew—to assume all the respect, affection, trust, I do not feel for
you.”

He laughed; he rose from his chair.  “We understand one another, nephew.
I compliment you upon your breeding.  Let us join the gentlemen.”

He took my arm with a gay show of cordiality; arm in arm we went down to
dinner, as the bell was clanging through the house.



_Chapter XIX_.  _Company at Dinner_


The dining-room was gloomy as a vault.  The candles, burning in branching
silver sticks on the white cloth, might have been tapers burning for the
dead.  A tapestry of flickering lights and shadows seemed to drape the
room; ever and anon the leaping firelight or the waving candle-flame
would be reflected from some piece of plate, or crystal, or gilded frame.
I saw the colour show like blood from one great canvas.  In the dimness,
the servants moving to and fro in final preparation for the meal, seemed
ghostly figures.  I wondered that all should be old men, till I
recollected Mr. Bradbury’s explanation to me of the name of Rogues’
Haven, the fact that my grandfather retained about himself his associates
and servitors in the making of his fortunes.

I found my grandfather seated in a chair by the fire, and engaged in
conversation with Mr. Bradbury.  Mr. Craike had put off his gown for an
old-fashioned coat of black, gold-braided and gold-buttoned, and a
flapped waistcoat of black silk, flowered with gold; the red jewels
glittered still upon his hands, and a brooch of red stones secured the
fine laces at his throat.  He presented a singular, almost barbaric
figure in contrast to the precision of my uncle and Mr. Bradbury.

Waiving formality, all the company at dinner was assembled in the
dining-room; two young folk were seated a little apart,—a girl of about
my own years and a youth perhaps a year older—him I knew, by his dark
likeness to my uncle, for his son Oliver, whom Mr. Bradbury had already
mentioned to me; but he had not spoken to me of the girl.  My uncle,
leading me forward, presented me to her; I scarcely caught his words for
my confusion, as I bowed awkwardly to her curtsy; but I gathered that she
was his ward, Miss Milne; and I recollected that Milne was his wife’s
name.  I remember that I was repelled by my impression of a dark, sullen
face; her black hair fell in ringlets about thin white shoulders, her
lips were pale, her grey eyes seemed sunken.  Her grey gown became her
ill, and she wore no ornament.

My attention was claimed instantly by my uncle—“My dear John,—your cousin
Oliver”—blandly making us known, yet his tone suggesting to me disfavour,
if not actual dislike, for the ungainly figure of his son.  Ungainly, yet
built strongly, wholly lacking his father’s elegance,—his hair coarse and
black, his brows black, his look sullen and lowering—Oliver Craike yet
pleased me more than any of my kinsmen to whom I had been made known.  I
understood the sturdy strength of him for the rippling muscles displayed
by the fine cut of his black clothes; his hand gripped mine with a force
that was not hostile; his eyes looked as sullenly at me as Miss Milne’s.
“You’re welcome, cousin,” he muttered, while my uncle smiled on us
urbanely, and expressed a polite wish that as kinsmen we might be
friends.

But Mr. Bradbury claimed my immediate attention; with a word of apology
to my grandfather, he rose from his chair, and drew me apart from them.

“I’ll be penning a letter to Chelton,” he said.  “Have you any commission
with which you care to entrust me?  My letter to your mother at least
will be delivered.”

“No more than a message to her,” I answered, with a sudden longing for
the peace and happiness of Chelton and my mother’s cottage, and for the
companionship of Tony Vining.  “That I’m all eagerness to return to her.
That I’ll not long remain here.”

“I shall assure her,” he said, smiling at me, “that you’re safe with your
grandfather, and that you’ve commended yourself to his favour, and are
happy.”

“You interpret me too freely, Mr. Bradbury,” I said.

“Nay, now,” he protested, smiling.  “I’m anxious only to convey to your
good mother a message that may allay her fears, and set her mind at
rest.”  Lowering his tone, that only I might hear him, he added, “You’re
safe here, lad.  Your grandfather’s will is law.  I assure you that you
have won his favour by your looks and speech, your resemblance to your
father.  You will be safe; a year or so, a few months—nay, days,
maybe—and you’ll be rich and free to live your life where and how you
will.  And I’ll be accurately informed of your condition here; I’ll be at
hand.”

He broke off, observing that from the hearth my grandfather and my uncle
watched us closely.  And at the moment Thrale stepped forward to announce
that dinner was served; my uncle gave my grandfather his arm to assist
him to his chair at the head of the table.  The old man presided, with
Mr. Bradbury on his right and my uncle on his left; I sat with the girl
beside me, my cousin Oliver frowned darkly at us from across the board.

Mr. Bradbury had prepared me for my grandfather’s wealth—the neglect and
disorder of house and grounds might have served to negative this; I
wondered yet at the magnificence of the silver upon the table and at the
luxury of the meal.  I wondered at the richness, and the fantastic design
and chasing of this massy plate, at the curious goblets of crystal, as at
the rare wines and meats and fruits.  But I was amazed and more concerned
at my grandfather’s servants—old men, old rogues—I looked on wrinkled
faces, brown as with the burning of tropic suns and the lashing of
tropical seas; brown hands offered me dishes and filled my glass; a
sleeve slipping back from a bony wrist showed me dull blue tattoo marks;
glancing over my shoulder I saw an evil brown face, and believed that the
old man leered at me.  All the while the girl beside me uttered not a
word; Oliver devoted himself to his dinner; and my grandfather conversed
in low tones with Mr. Bradbury.  Not till the girl had left us silently,
and the cloth was drawn, and we sat over our wine, did aught come to
break the silence about me.  My cousin, I saw, was drinking deeply; his
face was flushed with wine; once, as he looked up suddenly, and our eyes
met, he scowled blackly at me.  My uncle was sitting watching his son,
his look expressive of contempt; now, as if to divert my attention from
Oliver’s intoxication, he leaned forward, and with a tolerable show of
cordiality, bade me draw in my chair, and take wine with him.

But my grandfather broke in, “I’ve a toast, Bradbury—a toast, Charles,”
and rose unsteadily, and lifted his glass in a shaking hand.  Mr.
Bradbury raised his glass, my uncle watched the old man, smiling; Oliver
was muttering thickly to himself; I saw the old brown men watching from
the shadows.

“A toast,—I’ll drink few more, Bradbury—I’ll drink few more.  I’ll give
ye the fortunes of our family—Charles, and the rest of ye.  I’ll drink to
my son Dick’s home-coming—hey, Charles—hey, Bradbury?  Or, if he’s dead,
I’ll have ye drink to my heir—whosoever he may be!”

He laughed harshly, and drank his wine.  The stem of the crystal snapped
suddenly in my uncle’s fingers; the wine ran blood-red from his white
hand.  Oliver burst into a roar of drunken laughter.



_Chapter XX_.  _Soul of a Man_


Mr. Bradbury took his leave shortly after dinner, driving off in his
coach, attended by the Bow Street runners.  He was allowed no further
opportunity of speech with me, my uncle engaging him in conversation; my
grandfather sitting grim and silent by the fire.  From time to time, I
found his eyes studying me, as I sat glumly apart; his face was
expressionless of his sentiment to me.  My cousin Oliver had been aided
from the room by Thrale on my uncle’s direction.  On Mr. Bradbury’s
departure, the old man went to his room, leaning on his son; and I was
left alone by the fire.

The fire was burning down into coals; the candles flickered on the
chimney-piece; the reflections flitted like white moths over the mirrors;
else the room was draped with shadows.  All about me I heard furtive
sounds; out of the gloom I believed that the bleared eyes of the old
rogues who served my grandfather surveyed me secretly,—this may have been
no more than a phantasm of my mind, yet I could have sworn that, when the
coals fell, and the red flame splashed into the well of darkness about
me, I saw those wrinkled brown faces—surely burnt by the suns of the
Spanish Main or the Indies.  Rogues’ Haven!  I was realising what manner
of man was my grandfather; I was conjecturing that he had sailed across
the seas in his heady youth, and grown rich with plunder.

I have a belief—it dates from the time I passed at Rogues’ Haven—that the
spirit of a man is stamped upon the house in which he dwells.  Surely the
spirit of old Edward Craike impressed itself upon his gloomy home, and
the mystery of the man was the mystery of the house.  Ay, the past of our
race and the past of my grandfather alike affected the ancient house,
meshed in a monstrous web of dark green ivy, clouded by gloomy woods, and
blown upon by melancholy winds.  Now did faces peer our of the shadows at
me, seated drearily by the fire?  Did I hear whispering, muttering, or
did I but imagine voices in the wind come up from stormy sea to the black
woods, to cry about the dwelling, and moan and sigh, and to creep in by
breach and crack and cranny, to stir the dusty, moth-corrupted hangings,
and fill the house with secret rustling, sighing?

My uncle did not rejoin me till the night was far advanced.  He came in
stepping so stealthily that at the sudden sight of him standing beside
me, and watching me with haunted eyes, I started from my chair, and
scarcely repressed a cry.  He smiled at me, but his gaiety of the early
evening had passed from him; he dropped heavily into a chair facing me,
giving me not a word.  I watched the shadows fall about his face, as the
coals blackened out, and the candles, waving in the draughts, guttered,
burned down, and smoked.  If a light leaped high from silver stick, I saw
him white as ivory, lips twisted, eyes brooding.  He looked at me
malevolently at times; I understood how much in truth he hated me; how my
resemblance to my father tormented him; what was the repression compelled
upon him by his father.

He said suddenly, “It’s a cruel trick of fate, nephew, brings you to this
house!”

“How?” I asked.  “I’m not here by any wish of mine.”

“Or by any wish of mine,” he said, with a bitter laugh.  “Fate, in the
form of Bradbury!  Odd, kinsman, that my father should be so near to
death, and I who have endured him all these years bid fair to lose in
these last days of his my profit on it.  I’ve a notion, nephew, that in
the few weeks you will remain here you’ll benefit by all I looked for.
Estimate my sentiment towards you!”

“The hate that looked from your eyes a moment since.”

“A poor expression of it, nephew,” he said.  “There is no look, or word
spoken or written, shall reveal a man’s soul.  The fellow Rousseau has
essayed to reveal his soul, to be sure, and has revealed but the body of
an ape.  I have a philosophy of my own, John Craike,—that my soul is not
my body’s own; that aught I do, while my soul is in my body, counts
nothing in the score against me.  If I do aught—pride myself on it or am
ashamed—I need not plume myself, or fret me.  For it is not my deed.”

“A comfortable creed,” said I.  “It would absolve you from aught that you
have done or plan to do against your brother or your brother’s son.”

“I take it so,” he answered, coolly.  “Nephew, this will of mine—I name
it ‘will’—is no more mine, no more controllable by me than that wind
blowing from the sea, and crying out about this dreary house.  The
actions of our lives are inevitable as storm or summer sun.  My very
promise to my father to do no hurt to you, while you are in this house,
is no more mine than the injury I have essayed and failed to do you.  We
are predestined, nephew, as surely as any hapless wretch who walked the
plank, or drowned in scuttled ship, or burned with its burning—at my
father’s hands.”

“I did not know,” I whispered, “the manner of his past.  And do you tell
me?”

“I tell you nothing that you must not know,” he said indifferently.
“Rogues’ Haven—this house is but a haven for old rogues,—rogues who were
young and lusty with him once, and sinned at his command.  Sinned!  Nay,
there is no sin; there is no virtue that is a man’s own.
Predestined!”—his laughter rang out over the winds that beat against the
shutters—“Will you tell all this to my father, nephew?  Will you seek to
blacken me to him that you may profit by it?  It will not change a whit
his disposition to me.  He is not wholly past all love or hate, though he
is near to death.  And lacking my philosophy, he is not past all terror.
He fears death; he fears dead men who, living, troubled him not at all.
He is afraid to go down to their company—their company—the maw of the
worm or the fish, the decay of all who go down into the ground or sink in
the sea.  His soul—it never was his soul!  He loved your father; he ever
hated me.  Till he grew old, his will was stronger than my will.  My will
grows stronger, nephew; I warn you my will may yet prevail over his old
affection for your father, on which your hope with him rests wholly.”

“Will!” I repeated.  “It accords ill with your creed, my uncle.”

“Will!” he said, laughing.  “Oh, it’s no more than the force given to the
wind or the wave.  Predestined!  If I win yet, nephew, so it is fated;
not any act of yours or mine may stay it.  I do not see the event.  No
man may look beyond the minute that is now.  Nephew, I vow I saw you
yawning; I prose; I weary you; I am a dull fellow,—and who would not be,
living in this house?”

“No, I am tired, that’s all.  I’ll go to bed.”

He caught the bell-rope, and old Thrale answering, he bade him light me
to my room.  The fire upon its hearth burned brightly; the bed was warm
and soft, but my comfort lulled in no way my apprehension of the night.
Though I locked the door and set a chair against it, I did not feel
secure.  Knowing myself friendless in the house, with no more than the
decaying will of an old man between me and my enemy.  Knowing the house
peopled with old rogues, who, I conjectured, had been seamen on my
grandfather’s ship, when he was young, and sinned unpardonable sins, and
grew rich under a black flag.  I fell to picturing him in his youth and
strength—the dark ruthless face, the powerful body, the strong, cruel
hands.  I pictured him on the deck of his ship,—I conjured up its build
for swiftness, its rakish masts, the swell of its white sails.  I
conjured up illusions of glittering seas, blue as the sheen on copper in
the sun; a phantasm of those old rogues, withered, bloated, tottering
now, as lusty with youth.  Stark to the waist I saw them, their bodies
muscular and brown as iron, and lithe as steel; the wicked aged faces
that had peered at me out of the shadows now young, and red with drink
and lust and greed; I saw these rogues now toiling at the guns,—through
smoke I saw them: their hands grip cutlass, or knife, or pistol now for
dish or glass or bottle.  I saw such treasure, as the massy plate upon
the board that night, piled on red decks with bursting chests of rich
apparel—dyed silks and satins, laces; gold pieces, precious gems, even as
the red gems upon my grandfather’s fingers.  And I heard piteous
lamentation in the wind screaming from the sea; cries of the dying and
tormented in its wailing round the house, and in its rumbling above the
chimney stacks the roar of guns; and the wash of waters in the sweeping
of the pine and fir boughs.  The dark curtains of my bed were half-drawn;
when the moon shone in, I saw a black flag flying and a death’s head on
it.

For my terrors, born of the evil brooding in this house, I could not
rest.  I fell to wondering whether my grandsire slept soundly in his bed,
or whether phantoms crowded upon him, and the winds cried menace to
him—an old man black with sins and nigh to dying.



_Chapter XXI_.  _My Cousin Oliver_


I slept towards morning, and did not wake until the sun was rising; the
light came golden-green through the stained windows.  I rose from my bed,
and, opening the casement, looked out over sunlit woods; afar, through
the break in the trees, I could make out the glittering waters of the
sea.  In the decaying garden I saw the colours of many flowers among
weeds; a hawthorn by an overgrown walk was a silver fount of blossom.
The gloom of the garden and the wood had passed with the darkness and the
sea wind; only the pines and firs were sombre yet and sighing in the
breeze.

I was still in my shirt when a rapping sounded on my door.  I hastened
silently to pull away the chair, asking, “Who’s there?”

My cousin Oliver answered gruffly, “It’s I, cousin,” and I let him in.
He was in shabby riding-rig, his black hair tumbled over his nose; he
stood awkwardly in the doorway.  With the flush of drink off him he
seemed not so ill a fellow, though his look was lowering and sullen, and
he possessed none of his father’s elegance, but only a hard strength such
as must have been my grandfather’s in his youth.  “Get into your
breeches, cousin,” he muttered, “and ride with me.”

“Why, I’ll be happy,” said I.

“We’ll ride down to the sea and swim in it, if you’ve a mind for it.”

“I’ve a mind for it, yes.”

“Dress then.  I’ll wait for you,” and moved over to the window-seat and
lounged there, till I had pulled on my clothes.  He sat sullenly
regarding me; I could not estimate his disposition to me, believing that
his father had instructed him to treat me with civility; from time to
time I stole a glance at him reflected dully in the mirror, noting the
health and strength of him, and could not find it in me to hate the
fellow as with cause I hated his father.  Dressed at last, a towel about
my neck, I said, “At your service, cousin,” and he, lurching up from his
seat, strode before me down the gallery, and brought me by a dark stair
out of the house into the courtyard.  I had a certain hesitation in
accompanying him—with my escape from being shipped overseas with Blunt on
the _Black Wasp_ fresh in my mind; but reassured that I was safe now
through my grandfather’s direction, I set my dread aside.

He had anticipated my hesitation, it seemed, for he swung round, and
demanded curtly, “Are you afraid to go with me, cousin?”

“No, I’m not afraid,” I answered.

He cast a look about him, shot out his hand and gripped my sleeve.  He
said, in that harsh tone of his, “You’ve no need to be, whatever others
may do.  D’ye understand me?”

“I’m happy to understand.”

“You saw me swilling last night.”

“Ay, I saw.”

He said simply, “Wouldn’t the house and the folk in it drive a man to the
devil?”—and turned abruptly and crossed the courtyard with me at his
heels.

The courtyard was deserted.  Neglect and decay marked it; the moss grew
green in crevices and cracks of the paving stones; the ivy held the
out-buildings as it held the house.  The great stables were bare but for
three horses in the stalls; a fellow ill of look, of middle-age, but
seeming young by comparison with the old men about my grandfather, was
plying a broom.

“Saddle the mare for Mr. Craike, Nick,” Oliver ordered.  “I’ll get my
horse out.”

Nick responding, “Ay, ay, sir,” set down his broom, and stared at me.  A
seaman surely, he was as brown as the old rogues; the silver rings in his
ears, and the tattoo-marks on his bare arms, accorded ill with his shabby
rig of a groom.

I waited by the stable-door until Nick brought out the mare; Oliver
followed, leading a powerful black horse; and making down to the gates,
he leaped to saddle.  I, rejoicing at the prospect of a better mount than
ever it had been my lot to ride, disdained Nick’s assistance into saddle,
and rode out after Oliver.  I had already a hope of friendship with this
strong, uncouth, young kinsman of mine.  I thought to find him in his
disposition no more a pattern of my uncle than he resembled the gentleman
in his fashion and graces.  Yet I feared to confide in any of the folk of
the house, and I resolved to keep my own counsel until I knew more of my
cousin.  Indeed, he gave me no opportunity for conversation.  He made off
at a gallop down the drive; and I had much ado to keep within sight of
him.  He did not ride for the gates, but swerving off to the left, he
rode down through the park to the wall, where it was crumbling and
broken.  Setting his horse to the breach, he leaped it; and I following,
he led me at a gallop down towards the sea.

The joy of the morn dispelled for a time my thoughts of the gloomy house
and its folk.  The sun was now clear; the breeze blew sweetly from the
sea; little white clouds sailed over a blue heaven.  We came out of the
wood into open country; we swept through green meadows and drained lands;
he rode like the very devil, taking hedge and ditch; he did not pause
till we were riding out through a break in the cliffs.  The shingly beach
of a little cove was before us; the waters rolling in and the foam
scudding.  I saw the white gulls wheel and dip; fishing boats were out at
sea; no dwelling was in sight; the beach was all our own.  Oliver,
dismounting, secured his bridle to a stunted tree, and silently walked
down with me over the rocks to the beach; drawing apart from me to strip.
I had no proper realisation of his strength till I saw him racing out
into the sea—it seemed to me to break with a dangerous wash upon the
beach; he splashed out with the sunlight white upon him, and the waters
foaming against him; he swam far out then and rode back with the
breakers.  I, being accustomed only to inland waters, was nigh drowned,
when I attempted to follow him; I was no more his match as swimmer than
as horseman.  I was dressed, and glowing with warmth and health, ere he
desisted and pulled on his clothes.

“Faith, cousin,” said I, “I would I had your strength and courage.  Had I
dared swim out as you, I’d have drowned for sure.”

He nodded, not ill-pleased, and said, grinning, “I should have wagered
you you’d not dare.  If you’d have drowned—” but broke off and turned
from me.

“You mean, if I’d have drowned,” said I, “it would have been all to the
advantage of other folk?”

“What does it matter what I meant?  Hark’ee, cousin, while you’re in the
house, whatever’s done to get you out of it, I’m not for profiting by
it.”

“You mean you’re my friend.”

“I didn’t say so,” he answered heavily.  “I’m saying that I’m not for
profiting at your cost—d’ye understand me?”  He did not face me, but
stood staring seawards.  I said nothing, but waited.  He burst out
presently, “You’ve a notion by now how old Edward came by his money.  If
he have money?  If all this talk among the rogues about him be more than
the chattering of old fools?  They talk of a secret store he keeps by him
at the house.  They talk, when they fancy none’s listening to ’em, of
gold and jewels.  They vow he’s hid his store in the house, and none
knows where save himself.  From their talk ’twas evilly come by.  There’s
blood upon it—every coin and gew-gaw; there’s a curse upon it; they say
no man’ll ever profit by it; and every rogue among them itches to set his
claws upon it, curse or no curse.”  He laughed and waved his hand
seawards.  “We’re an ill race, we Craikes,” he muttered.  “We’ve been of
the sea and the coasts year in, year out.  The sea calls every man of us
down to it—you and I’ll be sailing yet, cousin; the sea calls us and the
sea has us in the end.  Did you hear the beat of the sea like drums
through the night, cousin?  Did you hear the wind crying?”

“Ay, as if the spirits of the dead were in it.  Ay, and I feared.”

He said slowly, “I’ve heard it, many a night about the old house.  I’ve
heard the voices growing louder.  D’ye think old Edward lies awake, and
listens and fears?  He’s near to death.  He’s turned eighty years.  And
all the old rogues about him know him breaking and cease to fear him.  He
was their captain once by the strength and the will of him.  He would
have died at their hands but for his strength and will, and never have
brought his ship and his treasure home.  He’s breaking.  What’s to be the
end, cousin?”—he laughed savagely to himself.  “D’ye think me mad, John
Craike?”

“No, having passed a night in the house.”

“We’re like to see the end, you and I and my father,—he has wit enough to
win.  But that fellow Blunt.”

“A damned rogue!”

“Blunt and his men of the _Black Wasp_, Thrale and old Mistress Barwise,
will see to it yet there’s wild doings at the house.  She’s housekeeper,
to be sure.  Blunt was ship’s boy with old Edward.  They think a
treasure’s hid in the house.  What d’ye think of it all?”

“Think!  That I’d have you for my friend, cousin?”

“You’re like to be the heir of all this,” he said, laughing.  “Why should
I be your friend?”

“Being what I think you,” I told him; “not what you’d have me think.
Your hand, cousin.”

He swung round, his brows scowling, his face flushed.  He muttered, “D’ye
mean it, John Craike?  After seeing me as I was last night?  You’ll see
me so any night of the week.  You’ll see me a butt for my father.  You’ll
find me a cross-grained, ill-mannered fellow.”

“I think you as you are,” I answered steadily.  “Your hand, cousin.”



_Chapter XXII_.  _The Web of Ivy_


My grandfather summoned me to his presence before noon.  I breakfasted
with Oliver; my uncle did not honour us; it was his habit, his son
informed me, to lie abed late.  The girl Evelyn Milne came down, slim and
pale in her black gown; she gave us the chillest of “good mornings,” and
sat silent and obscure through the meal.  Thrale waited on us; recalling
all Oliver had said to me on the beach, I eyed the old man in the light
of day—observing the brownness of his shrivelled skin, the bony hands
serving us so deftly; and from time to time I saw him peer at me, his
eyes gleam sinister; his face expressed nothing; his voice was thin and
reedy.  The girl passed not a word with us, ere she rose from breakfast;
she seemed a poor, scared, fluttering thing, afraid of Oliver and me.

“How do we pass the day, cousin?” I asked, as Oliver pulled back his
chair.  “Do we ride abroad?”

Thrale interrupted swiftly, “Will you pardon me, sir?”

“Surely, Thrale.”

“Your grandfather, sir, desires a word with you.  He asks you to remain
here.  He’ll send for you when he’s ready for you.”

I nodded.  Oliver, without a word, marched out, leaving me to yawn the
morning away by the fire.  Thrale, clearing the table, vanished
presently; I sat waiting glumly; silence had fallen over the house.  The
sunlight filtered through the dull panes, revealing the decay of the
house, the tattered tapestries, the mouldering oak, the green-specked
mirrors and the paintings dark with smoke and grime.  I pondered heavily,
feeling the gloom descend once more upon me, and hearing stealthy
footsteps through the house, and muttering voices.  The air of the room
was thick with the musty odours of decay; the windows, when I would have
opened them, proved bound with ivy.  I grew so weary that at last I would
have pulled the bell-rope for Thrale, and asked him to bring me a book,
or let me out into the air, until my grandfather should summon me.  I
started to find Thrale was in the room and beckoning to me, “Your
grandfather will see you now, sir,” he said.

I followed him readily up the stairs and down the corridor to my
grandfather’s room.  He announced me with all formality, “Mr. John, sir,”
and left me standing before the grim old figure in the brocaded gown.  He
sat huddled by the fire, his jewelled hands seemed palsied, as he warmed
them at the blaze; his lips scarcely to support his tobacco pipe—the air
was heavy with smoke.  He pointed to the chair before him; when I sat
down, he regarded me for awhile in silence.  He said at last, “Well,
grandson—Bradbury swears you’re my grandson, and Bradbury has no cause to
lie.”

“I’m happy that you think so, sir,” I flashed, colouring.

He chuckled to himself, “You’ve Richard’s look,” he said.  “You’ve his
evil temper—I’ve horsed him for it many a time.  Ay, and he’s dead—isn’t
he?”

“For all I know.  Or overseas.”

“Or overseas!” he repeated slowly.  “Your mother now—does she know?”

“My mother thinks him dead.”

“She was a fine, upstanding lass,” he said, pulling at his pipe.  “Ay,
ay, years since.  And she wedded Richard—he-he—for all that Charles and
his wife might do.  She feared and hated us all, except Richard.  She’s
paying Charles coin for coin.  What’s she said of us to you.”

“Little, and that’ll I’ll not say, sir, by your leave.”

His brow grew dark; he muttered, “Years since—not so many—and you’d not
have answered so.  You’re bold—hey, you’re bold.  Little she said, but no
good—hey?”

“Why should she speak well of you?” I said, quietly.  “You were her
enemies.”

He chuckled, “Ay, and so she kept you hid from us all these years.  You’d
not be in the house but for Bradbury.  Cunning dog, Bradbury.”

“And even for Mr. Bradbury,” said I, “I’ll not be staying, sir.”

“Why?  D’ye fear Charles?  Has Charles done aught—after my word to him?”
He lurched up from his chair and stood glowering down on me; the tobacco
pipe, dropping from his grasp, smashed on the hearth.

“No, he’s done nothing.”

“Why would you go then?  Are you afraid—our ways not being yours?  Why
would you go?”

I answered, “I do not like the house or the folk around you.  What’s
there about this house, sir?  What’s it in the very wind of a night?
What’s all the muttering in the dark?”

He returned to his chair, and leaning forward in it, watched me intently
with his red-lidded eyes.

“I feared the house,” I went on, “when I first came up through the woods
with Mr. Bradbury, and saw it in its cobweb of ivy and the black pines at
its back.  I’ve no cause to remain here, and I’ll not remain.”

He muttered, “Yet you’ll remain.”

“I’m gaoled here, then.  Is that it?”

“You’ll remain,” he repeated, “though you’ll be free to ride abroad with
the young cub Oliver.  You’re safe here; there’s naught in the house to
fear.  There’s none dares do you hurt.”

“None of those old men, your servants?” said I.  “Those old brown men
with the evil eyes, and the rings in their ears, and the tattoo-marks on
their arms?  I’m afraid, maybe, of Blunt and his crew—not of these old
men.”

“Once,” he chuckled.  “Ay, but once.”

“Once these old rogues were to be feared, you mean?”

“Once, I was feared, as—by God!—I am yet to be feared.  I’m master of my
house, grandson, as I was master of my ship.  Master of Blunt—any who’d
do you hurt.  You’ll stay!”—poking out his shaking hand, the red gems
gleaming, “You’ll stay, as your father would have stayed by me, till the
breath’s out of my body.  Not so very long!”  His tone was quavering and
eager, “You’ll bear me company, and you’ll profit by it.  I’ll soon be
dead, and you’ll soon be rich.  Would you have me think you care nothing
to be rich?”

“Why, surely we all care.”

“Ay,” nodding his head.  “I could tell of a treasure a man would sell his
soul for”—lowering his tone, peering about him, and muttering.  “You can
come by it honestly, if that’s aught to you, and more than if only you
come by it.  D’ye see these red rings?”

“Like blood upon your hands,” I ventured, shrinking from him.

He laughed to himself, “Like blood!  Rubies!  I’ll show you yet—when it’s
fitting—and tell you a tale.”

“Plundered treasure!”

“What of it?  What gives a man the right to the treasure of the earth
except the strength to take and hold it?”

“As any of the rogues about this house would take.”

“Ay, if they dared.  And knew where I hold it.  Fearing me yet and not
knowing.  Will ye not stay?”

“And yet I’ll not stay in this house.”

He said heavily, but without anger, “You’re like your father in more than
looks.  I’d have you by me, till I die.  You fear the dark and the sounds
of the wind and sea.  You’re young-what should you hear in the wind, or
see moving in the dark?  What should you see stepping over the floor,
when the moon comes up?  I fear nothing in the winds or the dark or the
moon.  Ay, and I’ve sailed in uncharted seas, and I’ll sail the sea that
shall never have a chart.  Not fearing!  But I’d have you by me, till I
embark.”

He fell to silence; awhile I sat and watched him.  He said then, musing,
“I’ve rotted in this accursed house, since I left the sea.  The house
with the green ivy webbed about it; I’ve a sense of being caught in the
weed—held to die and rot.  There’s talk among seamen of waters where the
weed’s taken many a ship—I’m held so by the weed.  Its roots ’ll strike
into my heart.  It battens on dead men.”

I knew his mind was decaying with the breaking body.  I pitied
remembering that he had loved my father.  I knew now that, black with
guilt, he feared the uncharted sea on which he must soon set sail.  And I
thought of the old rogues about him watching, waiting, until they feared
no longer, and might take what long ago they would have taken, had they
dared.  Yet I think not pity, not the desire that all men have to be
rich, would have prevailed against the terror of the house in the
night—the doomed house.  I think that I, being of his blood, was led by
the spirit of adventure to stay by him.  Adventure, and desire to see the
play to its end.

“I’ll stay here, sir,” I said, “if you’ll have it so.  On a
condition—that I be free to go about and abroad as I will.”

“Ay, so long as you bear me company when I’ve need of you,” he answered,
with a show of satisfaction.



_Chapter XXIII_.  _Dying Fires_


My grandfather, pulling the bell-rope, summoned Thrale, and ordered
curtly, “Send Barwise and her man to me!”  As Thrale vanished, the old
man said to me, “I’ve orders for ’em, John—orders.  She’s housekeeper;
he’s butler, and their son Nick’s groom.  Rogues all!”

He chuckled, and sought his snuff-box; so he made play with it that I
observed it cut from ebony, with a silver skull and bones patterned upon
it.  He ceased his senile chuckling at the rapping on the door; I saw him
grip the arms of his chair and hold his head high, as if to make a show
of strength and sanity before Barwise and his wife.

The woman held my attention rather than the man.  She had been a fine
handsome woman in her day; she bore herself still stiffly erect, though
she was very old.  A black silken gown hung loosely about her shrunken
body; keys in a little basket on her arm rattled like fetters.  She had a
high, white mob-cap on her thick, iron-grey hair; the skin was drawn and
withered about the bones of her face; her mouth was firm yet, and her
eyes clear and black,—of all the rogues who served my grandfather, I came
to like none so ill as the Barwise woman.  Her husband was a fat, bald,
old rogue, clad in shabby black, his paunch protruding; rolls of fat
beneath his chin; his hands were fat and oily.  His sunburn was ripened
to the rich glow of wine; his little eyes were bloodshot.  The woman made
a curtsy; the clash of her keys startled me with a notion that all her
bones were rattling.  Barwise bowed.

My grandfather addressed the woman with the strong and measured utterance
he had employed to Mr. Bradbury.  “I’ve sent for you, Barwise, and your
man there,” he said, “as I’d have you know that this young gentleman, my
grandson, is to be obeyed.”

She curtsied once more; for an instant her eyes rested balefully on me.

“I’d have you so instruct your folk,” my grandfather proceeded.  “While
he’s in my house, you’ll all treat him as your master—d’ye understand
me?”

She nodded, staring at him curiously as if remarking a strength become
strange to her.

“He’s likely to be master after me, d’ye hear?” my grandfather added.
“You take your orders now from me; whatever orders he chooses to give,
you take them as from me.”

The woman croaked, “It’s well for you, Mr. Craike, to have the young
gentleman by you.  I mark a change in you already.”

Her bold eyes warred with his; as understanding her meaning that she knew
him near to decay and that this assumed strength was no more than the
flash of a dying fire, he roared out, “I want no words from you,
mistress!  You’re old; you’re presuming on your service.  Mark me, I’ll
be obeyed!” and started to his feet, and rapped his cane upon the floor
with such bullying wrath and strength that she quailed before him and
shrank back, her husband staring at him and quivering like a jelly.

She muttered, “I meant nothing!”

“Ay, meant nothing!  Time was—” but he broke off, hesitated, at last
cried out, “Ay, and the time is yet.  I’ll be obeyed.  You’ve thought me
old, Barwise—you and the lazy crew I support here of my bounty.  Take
care I don’t make a sweep of ye all—of ye all—d’ye mark me?”  Mastering
himself then and dropping heavily back in his chair, “That’s all,
Barwise.  You’ll obey Mr. John Craike—all of ye!”

Propping his chin upon his cane, he sat glaring at them, till, with a
venomous look at me, the woman whisked from the room, her husband
shuffling after.  So he sat stiffly till the door was shut; then lay back
in his chair and fell again to senile chuckling.  “Eh, John; but they
think me near to dying,” he said.  “Eh, John, did ye mark how I took the
wind from her sails?  Eh, but I’m stronger for having Richard’s son
beside me.  I thought to die captain of my ship many a time.  And I think
to die master of my own house,” and so, sat chuckling and shaking, his
strength leaving him as suddenly as his will had summoned it.  He rambled
on, “She’s an ill fowl—eh, John?  She’s a skeleton held together by her
skin—no more.  Barwise’s woman,—she’d looks once,—hair black as the storm
and eyes as black.  She’d wear silks and gold rings.  She took a fat
picking from my men, when I sailed my ship.  She’d a tavern Shadwell
way.”  He broke off, and looked dully at me.  He muttered, “Can you not
see, lad, the manner of man I was?  Can you not see the wreck I am?  How
I ruled ’em once and how now that they think me broken—they’d mutiny,
they’d rob me; they’d have what they’ll never set their fingers on?”

“Surely my uncle would discipline them at a word from you.  Clear the
house of them.”

“Ay, ay, Charles!  Charles watches me, as they, and thinks to rob me!”
He gasped, and huddled in his chair; ghastly now, and the sweat beading
his brow.

I said swiftly, “Shall I ring for Thrale?  You’re ill, sir!”

He croaked, “And let ’em see me so!”—and clawed in his pocket and poked a
slim key into my hands, and whispered, “Hey!  The press there—the
bottle—pour me a dram!”

I unlocked the press beside him, and taking out a bloated green
bottle—much as the bottle at Mother Mag’s—poured some spirit into a
glass; and his hands now shaking, so that he must have spilt the drink, I
held it to his lips, until he swallowed it down, choking and coughing.
Whatever the stuff, it lent him speedy strength and colour.  He sat
blinking at me with those evil old eyes of his.  I could feel scant pity
for him, save for the thought that he had been so strong, and was now old
and weak, and that the rogues who had formed his crew, and whom for some
odd fancy, or fear, he had kept about him would now tear him down, as
they would have torn him down, had he been less strong and ruthless, on
his ship.

I said, “You’ve a pretty crew of rogues about you, sir.  Give me but the
word, and I’ll drive off and have Mr. Bradbury back here, and we’ll make
a sweep of the whole company.”

He answered, “No.  Rogues, but they serve me well.  And I ruled ’em once.
And I’ll rule ’em till I’m dead.  You’ll stay by me, John—ay, ay, and
you’ll profit by it, and Charles shall pay for his sins.  Now you may
leave me, lad.  They’ll obey you.  They’ll fear you, fearing me still.
There are many books in the old house.  There’s a horse in the stable.
There’s the wench, Milne; and there’s the whelp, Oliver, who’ll ride with
you, and drink with you, and rook you.  Ay, and there’s guineas for the
spending”—clawing suddenly into the pocket of his gown, and drawing out a
purse and slinging it to me.  It rang with gold, as I caught it in my
hand.



_Chapter XXIV_.  _The Wood_


Now I was not fated long to test the efficacy of my grandfather’s control
over his son and his servants.  I’d have you know that twelve folk served
my grandfather at Craike House, and that excepting Nick Barwise, the
groom, these rogues were of the crew who served under Mr. Craike when he
sailed his own ship, and that in his fantastic spirit he would have them
by him after his return to England to assume his position as Craike of
Craike House.  The gates were kept by Isaac, second son of the Barwise
union, and his woman, the swart gipsy, whom I had observed on my arrival
with Mr. Bradbury.  All this disreputable company, as much as my
grandfather’s eccentricities, had won the house its ill-name—Rogues’
Haven, among the folk of the countryside; these rogues, too, were leagued
with smugglers such as Blunt, who plied their traffic under the very nose
of the justice Gavin Masters, and the coastguards.

My uncle, since his father’s advanced years and decay pointed to his
speedy death, had torn himself away from the diversions of London and
society, of which he was adjudged an ornament.  Penniless, while he
played devoted son, he had established an advantageous understanding with
Blunt and his folk, who would alternate long voyages to America and the
Indies, on Lord knows what nefarious traffic, with running smuggled stuff
from the Continent to the English coast.  That my uncle fretted under the
yoke of duty manifested itself daily in his covert sneers at his father;
the chagrin of Charles, my grandfather remarked to me, had lent a zest to
living.

The days I spent in Craike House passed dully and without noteworthy
event.  I did not lose my dread of the house in the night; the
impressions of my first night under its roof abated in no way, but the
good-humour of my uncle, the servility of Thrale and his fellow-rogues,
the companionship of Oliver, and the sports which I shared with him, lent
me a confidence which was to prove groundless.  I passed much of my time
in playing chess with my grandfather, in reading to him from old voyagers
and romancers—of whose works he had by him a great store, or in listening
to his narrative of his own sailings, which, if incomplete, gave me a
portrait of him by no means calculated to advance my affection for him.
Yet that I advanced daily in his favour was patent; my uncle masked his
chagrin under a bland demeanour, and a display of the graces and
accomplishments which surely rendered his absence deplored by society.
But though my grandfather assured me of protection, and though my uncle
professed a truce, I would have been wise to follow my first
inclination—not to remain under the roof of Craike House, as I shall now
relate.

One morn, a month, I should say, from my coming to Rogues’ Haven, my
grandfather informing me, through Thrale, that I was free to pass the day
as I pleased, I bade Thrale unlock the door for me, and passed out of the
house.  The gold sunlight lay upon the garden; if it dispelled for a time
the gloom, it emphasised the disrepair of the old house, the ivy climbing
to the chimney stacks and lacing the windows; a few it had obscured
wholly.  As I looked up, I saw the sinister face of Mrs. Barwise looking
from a high window; she bobbed back instantly.  I estimated the covert
hostility of the rogues of Craike House; and, having a certain
apprehension of walking abroad unarmed, I took out my knife and speedily
fashioned me a heavy cudgel.  I went down then by a flight of stone steps
into the old sunken garden to the right from the house,—steps crumbling
and green with moss, and overshadowed by a tangle of roses and
honeysuckle, descending into a cool depth which had been laid out once in
ornate flower beds and lawns, but was now overrun with fox-gloves,
prevailing through their sturdy strength over other flowers.  Yet the air
was sweet with the white-starred jasmine over the crumbling walls,
shutting the deep garden from the old plantation, which had become a
dense wood.

Once paths had curved to the sundial at the heart of the garden.  The
dial was broken and corroded now; a bramble had caught it in its claws;
sparrows fought and chirruped upon it in the sun.  Arbours had become
thickets; through the broken wall I saw the wood go deep, but the
sunlight struck through the trees upon a path among tall grasses and
flowers spilled from the garden.

I climbed the broken wall and sauntered down the woodland path, taking
delight in beauty, and presently departing from the track, passed down to
left into a deep glade—silver and green in the sunlight; the dew was not
yet dry on fern and grass.  And suddenly I saw the girl Evelyn Milne,—she
sat upon a fallen log, moss-grown and bramble-clustered.  Her head was
bare; her bonnet lying on the turf beside her; she sat bent with her
hands clasped at her knees—a picture of melancholy and loneliness; yet
the sun found the glossy sheen in her dark hair, and the whiteness of her
neck and hands.  At the crack of a stick under my feet, she started up,
and stood regarding me with sullen eyes.  I swept off my hat, but she
offered me no greeting.

I stammered, “I ask your pardon, Miss Milne.  I did not think to disturb
you.”

She looked about her hurriedly; leaning towards me then, she whispered,
“Now you’re out of the house—away from them all, why not go on and on
through the wood, and never return?”

“You mean,” I said, staring at her pale face, at her white hands
fluttering at her bosom, “it would be safer for me, that I’ll never be
safe in the house?”

“I mean—it doesn’t matter what I mean.  Only, were I you, and had any
friends away from here—were not alone as I am alone—I’d go.  I’d never
return.”

“Miss Milne,” said I, “I do assure you that I’m not afraid.  Why should I
run away?”

“Afraid!” she whispered still.  “You’re only a fool.  You’re only a boy.
Your life’s before you.  Why would you stay?  Hoping to profit, and be
rich, when that old man is dead?  Is that why you’d stay?  There’s no
price that’s worth your life—to you.  Why did you ever come to such a
house, or, knowing them for what they are, remain?”

“They are my folk,” I muttered, thinking her—from the wildness of her
look, the sudden fevered shining of her eyes, the ceaseless fluttering of
her thin hands—distraught from the terrors of the house; recalling how,
day after day, she sat by me at table, uttering not a word, and addressed
by no one; going then from table to be seen no more, till the next meal
was served.  She had been no more to me than a pale grey shadow in the
house of shadows.

Nor had I felt in her more interest than to ask Oliver carelessly how she
spent her days; and he had answered, “Hid in her room for the most,
haunting the garden; she’s lifeless, bloodless, the wraith of a maid.”

“They are my folk,” then, I muttered, staring at her.

“Your folk!  Are you as they?” she whispered still.  “You think only of
the money the old man has, and care not how ’twas come by.  You’ll smile
and fawn on him—that man, that evil old man—as his son smiles and fawns.
Knowing—as you must know—”

“The manner of man he is, and the manner of the men about him?  The
danger I’m like to meet?  Miss Milne, I’m not afraid.  They failed once;
do you know that?”

“I know—yes, I know.  They failed once; they’ll not fail again”—suddenly
leaning forward clasping her hands, peering at me with wild bright eyes,
and whispering, “Go!  Go now ere it’s too late.  Go! and take me with you
from this house—this wicked house!”

I was silent, and stared at her, colouring; thinking her surely mad—such
the wildness and terror of her look; as realising, she seemed to struggle
to control herself; facing me white and quivering, she said at last more
calmly, “Mr. Craike, I hear so many secrets in the house.  I have lived
here so many years—so many lonely years, and am so little accounted, that
they do not heed me, or care, if I hear many things that, if they feared
me, I would not hear and know.  Knowing—I do beseech you, do not stay
within the house!  Oh, let no thought of loss, if you offend your
grandfather, prevail with you!  Go!—ere it is too late!”

I said, standing clumsily before her, no longer meeting her look, “Miss
Milne, you ask me to assist you.  I know—surely by now I know—the house
is no house for a maid; I’ll aid you to leave it.  Have you no kin or
friends out of the house?”

“No kin, no friends.  I have lived in this house since I was a little
child.  No friends within the house; none in all the world.”

“I’ve a purse of gold,” I said.  “I’ll give it to you.  With it you may
make your way to London and seek out Mr. Bradbury.  With this message
from me—that he conduct you to my mother, who will befriend you.
Come—here’s the purse.  I’ll go with you through the wood.  You may take
a coach from the village inn and drive to London.  But I stay here.”

She drew back from me.  She whispered, “No!  Go now, and take me with
you!  How should I find my way to London alone, or seek out this man
Bradbury, or your mother?  I have lived nigh all my life in this house; I
am afraid.  Go with me!”

“Miss Milne, I must remain,” I said.

“For money?” she said, with scorn; but I answered, “Think that if you
will.  For adventure, for a promise.”

“It’s like to end in death,” cried she, and drew back from me.

“Well, then, what have you heard?” I asked.

“Plots!  Plots!  What use to tell you, if you will not heed me?  If I
tell you, will you go from this house?  Will you take me out of it?”

“I do not say I’ll go.  But I’ll help you, surely!”

She looked at me with her eyes now dark and sullen; bitterly she said,
“I’ve given you warning.  I’ll not tell you more.  Why should I tell you
aught I know?  What do I know of you save that you seem a boy—a fool—and
not yet lost as they.  Though coming of their stock—”

“I do assure you,” I stammered, “I—”

She burst out, “Stay—if you will!  Stay!  And yet I warn you.”  She
slipped from me, and vanished like a wraith into the shadows of the wood.



_Chapter XXV_.  _Insistence of Captain Blunt_


Now attempting to follow Miss Milne, and have further conversation with
her, I found myself presently in a wild tangle of the wood, so that I had
much difficulty in forcing my way through it.  Not finding her,
bramble-scratched and moss-stained at last I reached the wall, and
followed it down, thinking to find the breach by which I had left the
garden.  But as I approached it, I halted suddenly, hearing voices from
the garden; and, knowing them for the voices of Blunt and Martin Baynes
and my uncle, engaged in an unseemly wrangle, I rejoiced that I was still
hidden by the creepers hanging over the wall.

Blunt was growling, “Ay, ay, you’ve given me to know you’ll be rich, when
the old man’s gone.  You think to lay your hands then on the spoil he’s
piled up and held all these years.  Ay, but the old man’s alive, and I’m
sailin’ again with never a penny of profit to me.”

“And the lad’s come to the old man,” Martin broke in, “and by all saying
he’s likely to have every penny, and you not the colour of a farthing.
What d’ye say to that, Mr. Craike? what d’ye say?”

My uncle answered disdainfully, “You get nothing from me.  You’re a
pretty pair of rogues to come and threaten.  I trust you, Baynes, to hold
the rogue and you to take him aboard, Blunt; and he slips through your
hands.  I wonder at your audacity.”

“Fine talk!” cried Blunt; and Martin burst out, “You’ll pay nothing!
Will you not?  What if I go to old Sir Gavin?  What if I give him the
tale?  He’d listen and he’d set you by the heels, as gladly as he’d set
Roger Galt.  Though you’re one of his kind—”

“You have it,” my uncle assented, “one of Sir Gavin’s kind.  Do you
threaten me, Martin Baynes, you, for all the repute of the Stone House
and Mistress Baynes and her grandsons?  Are there not strange tales of
the Stone House—of travellers lost on the moors?  Of a pedlar whose dog
was heard wailing at the gates of the Stone House, as dogs wail for their
dead masters?  Do you threaten me, Martin Baynes?  And you, Blunt?  Did
you never sail further than the coasts of France?  Did you never plunder
an English ship?  Were you never more than smuggler?”

“Never more,” cried Blunt, “than Edward Craike, and never so much.”

“A gentleman of fortune,” said my uncle, “a voyager born a hundred years
and odd after his time.  Tush, that my father profited by his voyages is
nothing, Blunt; he plundered no English ships; if his men spilt any
blood, it was not English.”

“Barwise in his cups—” Blunt began.

“Barwise is just such a besotted fellow,” cried my uncle, “as should
pitch you the tale you’d wish to hear, Blunt.  Now ere you two presume to
threaten me, think who’ll believe you?  If I sought to keep John Howe out
of the house, and have him shipped overseas—what of it?  What should this
count against me save with a few virtuous fools to whose praise or blame
I am indifferent?  D’ye think I’ve no credit with His Majesty’s
Ministers?  D’ye think that the Town would ever regard me as other than a
man of birth and fashion?  What if there be rumours of my father’s past,
or scandal against me?  Your words would avail you nothing.  But you, you
rogues; the word from me would hang you both.  Tush, when you threaten
me, you’re fools.”

“We want no more than payment,” Blunt growled.

“That I’d not have to give you, if you’d earned it.”

“There’s money in the house,” Blunt urged.  “There’s plate.  There’s talk
of a great chest of gold and jewels.”

“I would,” said my uncle softly, “I might dip my hands into it.”

“D’ye not know of it?” Blunt asked.  “D’ye not know it’s talk among all
the folk of the house that the old man hid the richest stuff he ever
took?”

“I do not know this, Blunt—upon my honour.”

“And I know,” Martin struck in, “that whatsoever the old man has is like
to go to his grandson.  And that the old man’s threatened you, if you so
much as lift a finger against the boy, he’ll not spare you.  I have it
from old Thrale.”

“Tush,” said my uncle, “I’ve listened too long, my friends.  Your threats
do not perturb me.  I hold the cards, not you.  I know nothing of such a
chest.  Pray, go!  Well for you to be sailing, Blunt.  Sir Gavin is no
fool, and the _Wasp_ lies off the coast too long for your security.  And
well for you, Martin Baynes, to be sailing with Blunt; you’re idle;
you’re mischievous; you’d be well away.”

“Ay, and the lad?” Blunt asked.  “Would you have him sail with us yet?”

“I have no preference.”

“Ay, but if you knew he was safe aboard, and sailing with me—not for
France, for pickings in the Indies—would you find me the hundred guineas
then, Mr. Craike, ere I sailed?”

“I should find one hundred guineas with ease,” my uncle answered.  “I
suggest nothing, direct nothing—have no share in any plot against my
nephew.  Yet if I knew—and none here knew—that he was safely under
hatches, Blunt, I’d pay this hundred guineas ere you sailed.”

“He’ll be out of the house this night, aboard by the morning,” Blunt
vowed.

I heard my uncle’s light laughter; I heard him humming a tune as he
walked away.  Blunt and Martin came scrambling over the wall, and not
detecting me hidden under the creepers, tramped away through the wood.



_Chapter XXVI_.  _Sir Gavin Masters_


Now for a space I lay hid under the wall, having no mind to enter the
garden and meet my uncle, but seeking time to review the perils
threatening me, and the steps by which I should avoid them.  I believed
that Blunt, ere he made his offer to my uncle, had already planned with
the old rogues my removal from the house, and that of this the girl
Evelyn Milne would have warned me.  I thought first of going immediately
to my grandfather and of laying the plot before him; having with me
always the thought of the broken figure, of the will striving ever to
prevail over decay, I could perceive little hope from such a course.  Had
Miss Milne faced me now; had she appealed to me to take her out of the
house, and escape with her to my friends, I should have hesitated not at
all; my concern for myself urged me to instant flight; yet I was no such
coward as to take to my heels, and leave her friendless in a house of
which she had expressed such terror.  I could devise no better plan than
further to search the wood for her, and if I failed to find her, proceed
to seek out Sir Gavin Masters, tell my tale to him, and urge his
intervention and protection for us, and his immediate communication with
Mr. Bradbury.  I marvelled that one so acute as Mr. Bradbury, knowing the
character of the house and its folks, and the peril I must encounter,
should have thought fit to leave me at Rogues’ Haven.

I remained hid under the wall, till Blunt and Martin should be well away;
crawling back then to the wood I sought the girl as best I might, fearing
to call her name, lest I bring my enemies upon me.  Failing, I forced my
way out of the old plantation; struggled through a ditch; climbed through
a sunken fence, and muddy and torn with brambles, sought the road by
which Mr. Bradbury had brought me to Craike House.

It was now toward noon of a clear day; the wood was green about me; the
sunlight and the sense of freedom after the terrors of the close old
house restored my spirits speedily.  I had a certain compunction at my
flight—leaving the girl, and, indeed, my grandfather, old and broken,
among the covetous rogues.  I told myself that I should save them better
by reaching Sir Gavin Masters, yet I could not rid my mind of the thought
that by running off in fear of Blunt I played the coward.  So much at
last this thought concerned me, that even on the very bank above the road
I stood irresolute.  Not yet was I resolved when the sound of hoof-beats
made me cower into the grass, for fear lest any of my enemies should ride
that way.  Peering through the covert, I saw a stout red-coated gentleman
mounted on a cob; with joy I recognised Sir Gavin Masters.  He paused
below me, sheltering his eyes with his hand against the sun, he was
staring up toward Craike House, whose chimney stacks alone showed above
the wood.  As I rose out of the grass, he uttered an exclamation; his
hand sought the pistol in his holster.

“Sir Gavin,” cried I, “don’t you know me—John Craike?”

“Aha, Master Craike—aha!”  He laughed and touched his hat with his whip.
“What are you doing here, lad?  Walking abroad?”

“Seeking you, Sir Gavin.  Asking your help and advice.  Purposing as soon
as I may to seek Mr. Bradbury in London.”

“Oho, not liking the house and the folk in it,” drawing in by the bank,
and beckoning me to him.

Standing beside him, I saw that his face, which I had thought dull as
worthy Mr. Chelton’s, was marked by a certain strength and intelligence;
his eyes watched me shrewdly.  He muttered, “So you’ve had trouble, lad!
You want advice from me and Bradbury.  Well then!”

“Mr. Bradbury being now in London—” I began.

“Mr. Bradbury,” he laughed, “is no further away than at my house.  That’s
for your ear alone.  He’s within your reach whenever you may have need of
him.”

“I’ve need of him at once,” I said, overjoyed.

“Must you have speech with him?” he asked, “or is it a word that I may
carry to him?”  I looked at him doubtfully; he went on swiftly, “Mr.
Bradbury made no mention to you of his association with me, I being
newly-appointed justice of the peace for these parts, and bent on
enforcing His Majesty’s laws, and putting an end to a variety of
evil-doings.  I’m well-informed of Bradbury’s wishes.  It’s his wish that
you remain at Craike House.  You’re running away.  Why?”

“Having overheard a pretty plot to put me aboard Blunt’s ship and get me
out of England.  Fearing—ay, fearing though you think me a coward, sir,
to stay in the house with never a friend.”

“Young Oliver!  You’ve been riding abroad with him; you were swimming in
the sea with him this morn.  You seemed friends.”

“You saw us, sir?”

“Some of my folk.  Oliver’s your friend?”

“Yes, my friend, but—”

“I tell you this, John Craike,” he said, impatiently, “if you’ll believe
me and trust me and my folk, knowing that Bradbury’s within reach, you’ll
go back to the house.  I promise you none of the rogues in the house’ll
do you hurt, while old Mr. Edward lives, and I promise you Blunt’ll never
take you out of it or ship you aboard.  For Blunt’ll never sail.”  He
spoke now in low and earnest tone, his eyes keeping a sharp watch, as if
apprehensive lest any overhear or see us together.  “Hark ’ee,” he said,
“go back!  It’s well that you stay to profit by your grandfather’s fancy
for you.  Take my assurance for it, lad; my plans and Bradbury’s are
surely set; they’re one and the same.  Take my word for it.”

“Ay, but the old man’s near to dying,” I said, doubtfully.

He muttered, “So!  Bradbury gave me no word of it.”

Rapidly I recounted the nature of my interviews with my grandfather, his
orders to his servants, his collapse on that first morning, my belief
that his reason tottered,—all the whispering menace of the rogues about
us.  I told him of my uncle’s conversation with Blunt and Martin, and of
the warning from Miss Milne.

He heard me attentively, his brows frowning.  He said at last, “Ay,
ay,—and for all Bradbury’s plans it’s high time to make an end—high time!
But first I must have a word with Bradbury.  Will you go back this day
assured that speedily you’ll hear from us?”

I answered, “If you’ll have it so, Sir Gavin, surely I’ll go.”

He dipped his hand into his holster; drew out a pistol; and handed it to
me swiftly.  He took a little bag from his pocket, and muttered, “The
barker’s loaded.  Here’s powder and ball.  In case you need it, lad.  You
go back!”

I answered, “Yes, I’ll go back, and I’ll remain till I hear from Mr.
Bradbury and understand his wishes.”

He said, “I promise you you’ll hear from us at once, lad!”—and as I
plunged up the bank, he turned his cob and rode off rapidly.



_Chapter XXVII_.  _Suspicions of Mr. Charles Craike_


It was afternoon when I climbed back through the breach in the wall and
dropped into the garden.  I had noted, as I went through the garden that
morning, an arbour overgrown with honeysuckle; in the sunshine now it was
a pavilion of gold and green.  I was hurrying by this arbour when I was
startled to hear my uncle’s voice.

“Nephew!” he called; and, turning, I saw him in the arbour, lounging
indolently on an old garden seat of marble, yellow with age and stains;
his arms outstretched along its back; he seemed bloodless, ivory-white,
in the green shade.

“Nephew!” he called again, and beckoned to me.  Much as I feared and
hated him I obeyed him.  He smiled benignly on me; observing my colour
and the disorder of my dress, he asked, “Why, nephew, nephew, into what
mischief have you been straying?  You’re too old for boyish pranks, and I
assume too young for philandering.”

I answered, “I’ve been walking in the wood.”

“The wood!” he repeated.  “You’re gaining confidence in us, John.  A week
or two since and you’d not have had the courage to stir from the house.
And yet the wood is none too safe, nephew.”

I answered boldly, “I agree with you, sir.  For example, I chanced upon
two rogues, Blunt and Martin Baynes.”

Maybe my tones confirmed the suspicions he had formed when I came
scrambling over the wall.  He said drily, “You mean more than your words,
John.  The encounter should warn you not to walk in the wood, or yet ride
down to the coast with my son.  Mayhap, Oliver is no more than a
decoy”—his lips curling.

“I do not think it of my cousin,” I said.

“Oh, I’m happy to have your assurance, John.  You look to find a friend
in Oliver.  And yet I should not think it, John.  My lad’s well enough,
but rough, uncouth; I fear he does me poor credit.  How he passes his
days I know not.  He’s dissolute; you’ve observed him with the bottle.”

He broke off, as wearying of the theme; he looked languidly over the
sunlit garden to the ivied walls, “Here’s the very wreck and ruin of a
great house, John!” he sighed.  “I have a notion—nay, since your coming I
have it not—of shaping order out of chaos.  Here in this garden, with a
book on such a sunlit afternoon; but here, with delightful arbours, trim
walks and plots of flowers,—a fountain playing silver!  Mark that old
fountain, John—the form of it, the seamaids who support the sea-green
shells; the fountain’s dry; the lovely shapes of bronze corroded.  Or the
designs on this pale marble: see where the moss grows green in these
delicate designs of Italy.  The sun-dial where the sparrows chirp—why,
here’s an enchanted garden, John, where time stands still, as in the old
wives’ tale.  Ay, see the hedge of thorns grows all about the castle!
Time stands still!  Nay, ah nay!  I’d picture, John, the garden in the
days when the second Charles was King of England.  Why, I have looked
from my window of a summer night, and I have seen the ghosts walk in the
garden, as it was, and I have known the beauty and the colour and the
laughter of this garden and this house, as once they were.  I have
thought of the beauty of Craike House restored, the greatness of our
race—ah me!  Here am I, penniless son of—Mr. Edward Craike; penniless
parent of—Oliver!  I’d tell my hope to you, John Craike, that, if you
win, you yet may care to carry out my own ambition.”

He had spoken earnestly; while his fine, melancholy voice sounded, I did
believe him,—knowing him for a rogue.  His mood did not endure.  He
laughed, and eyeing me, he said, “So you’ve progressed, my friend, in the
favour of your grandfather.  So you’re a master in the house, and his
retainers take their orders from you as from himself!”

“He did no more than insure me against insolence,” I answered uneasily.
“You’re well served, my uncle!”

“Oh, I am!” he conceded.  “To be sure, the woman Barwise came raging to
me that morning.  They’re servile to you, nephew, are they not?  Thinking
my father not yet in his dotage!  And yet he is so near to breaking.”
His eyes held mine; he said quietly, “Nephew, I’ve a proposal to you,
more than truce—alliance.  Liking you!”

“As you’ve surely proved, sir!”

“Yet hear me out,” he said.  “You stand in favour with your grandfather.
But you’re no fool; what should you say would happen, were the old man’s
wits to go wandering, or were he to die, suddenly, as old men die, if
they be fortunate?  How should you fare at the hands of all these rogues,
John?”

“Or at your hands?” I muttered.

“Or at my hands!  I compliment you, nephew, on your wit.  Or at the hands
of Blunt, or Barwise?  This old man so near to dying or to dotage,
nephew!  I put this to you.”

“Why, I’d suffer no more,” said I, “than Mr. Bradbury would speedily call
you to account for.”

“A lonely house,” he muttered, “so near the coast.  And none save old Sir
Gavin within miles of us.  Should we not work our will with you, and set
our fingers on what’s hid in the house, and be away—in France, or whither
in the world we would—ere Bradbury might lift a finger.”

“What’s hid in the house!” I repeated.

With sudden impatience he cried out, “Ay, what’s hid in the house!  Why
not be frank with me, nephew?  You know this—Bradbury knows, as I—there’s
in this house more than a moiety of all my father ever took on his
voyages.  There’s treasure in this house, about this house; and one man
knows where it is hidden.  And one man knows, and this one man may die,
or his mind grow dark, and he forget, and it never be known.  You know of
the existence of this treasure, nephew, this secret hoard of his—and yet
you lie to me!”

Unguardedly I answered, “I’ve heard no more than a talk of the treasure.”

“When?  From whom?” he took me up instantly, and his face was livid, and
his eyes were two evil gems.  “This morn!  Surely you heard this morn.
Talk near the wall there.  Or do you know from him?”

I said coolly, “I’ll tell you nothing.”

He mastered himself; he lay back on the seat; his lips sneered at me.  “I
would have made alliance with you, nephew,” he said.  “I would have
shared with you—as kinsman.  I would have offered you security.  Ay, I
offer it now.”

I answered deliberately, “I’ll have no dealings with you.  None!”

“Nephew,” he said, with mock severity, “I abhor duplicity.  I confess
myself mistaken in you.  Pray go!  You stand between me and the
sunshine!”

I swung upon my heel and left him.  I heard him humming his little tune
as I climbed the steps.



_Chapter XXVIII_.  _Spilt Wine_


I passed the remainder of the day in my room with a book.  Now I have
since found agreeable entertainment in the works of Mr. Fielding; but
though I had before me _The History of Amelia_, I heeded little of aught
I read.  I had good cause for reflection.  That I was yet in the old
house; that all about me were my enemies; though I had Sir Gavin’s
assurance no hurt should befall me, I yet dreaded that steps would be
taken to spirit me away, and Blunt, having laid hands on me, would elude
pursuit.  I looked for Mr. Bradbury’s arrival; Mr. Bradbury did not come.

None came nigh me; my grandfather did not summon me to his presence.  The
day closed clouded; the darkness of the sky and the rising wind promised
storm to follow on the sunshine of the day.  At dusk, Thrale came with
lighted candles; but for the warmth of the evening I bade him leave the
fire unlit.  I made my toilet hurriedly for dinner at the clangour of the
bell through the house; secreting the loaded pistol in my tail-pocket,
and praying God that I should not sit upon it forgetful, I went down into
the dining-hall.  My grandfather, leaning upon his son, entered ahead of
me; he gave me no word or nod in greeting.  I stood apart with Oliver,
and Evelyn Milne, who did not glance at me or speak to me; Oliver seemed
to have returned half-drunken from the alehouse in the village, whither
he had ridden that day.

Regarding my grandfather, as his son assisted him to his chair, I saw
with apprehension that his face was livid; his eyes were dull and heavy;
the rubies blazed upon his shaking hands.  And from the gloom behind his
chair the old rogues watched him.  I heard them mutter and whisper among
themselves; I knew that the sickness so plainly on my grandfather could
not be lost even to their dull eyes and wits.  The girl was whispering by
me, “He’s sick!  To death!  Had you but listened to me!”

I paid her no heed.  I set myself to my meal; seeking by exercise of will
to hide my perturbation from my uncle, whom I saw watching me with eyes
triumphant and malignant.  The old man sat staring before him.  The
tapers waved in the draughts of cold air.  I know not what my grandfather
saw in that pale light or in those shadows seeming to dance a wild dance
all about us, as the ever-rising wind beat on the house, and found its
way into the room by chink and broken pane.  I had a prescience that
death was in the wind that night; that the dead from the deep called him
at last to be of their company for ever.

My uncle essayed gay conversation; the old man sat beside him like the
very figure of death; he uttered not a word; he would have lifted a glass
to his lips, and the spilt red wine dyed his mouth and hands.  As the
glass broke upon the board, my uncle, with assumed concern, said in a
loud, clear voice, as if to be assured it reached the ears of all the
rogues, standing peering from the shadows like so many carrion crows.
“You’re sick, sir!  Shall I aid you to your room?”

He cried out angrily, “I’m well!  I’m well!  Another glass!”

Thrale, filling a glass, handed it to him; I understood from the working
of the old man’s face and by the sweat upon his brow the bitter struggle
of the breaking will to assert itself.  My grandfather lifted the wine to
his lips, and sipped a little of it.  He sought then to eat, but ate
nothing; he sat stiffly in his chair, until the girl had gone like a pale
ghost from the room; and the cloth was drawn.  She cast a look at me, as
I rose at her departure; and there was terror in her eyes,—as there was
terror in my mind.  For the ending struggle of the old man’s will and
body, for the clamour of the winds about the house, for all the faces
peering malevolently from the dark, for the ghostly dance of lights and
shadows; always the cold draughts struck in and set the candles
flickering.

My uncle, filling his glass, invited me to take wine with him; Oliver was
drinking heavily.  “A glass of wine, nephew!” cried my uncle, gaily.  “A
glass of wine with me.”

My grandfather muttered suddenly, “Do you make a play for me, Charles?”

“Make a play, sir!” Charles repeated.  “Forgive me.  I am dull.  I do not
understand you.”

“Ay,—do you pretend friendship—affection, for—for your brother’s son, or
your brother, sitting over there?”

My uncle, looking at me, cried out in amaze, “My brother, sir!  My
nephew, surely!”

“Nay!  Nay!” the old man insisted, testily.  “Your brother!”

“The lad, sir?” Charles faltered.

“The lad!  Damn the lad!  Are you blind, Charles?  Are you blind?  Your
brother sitting there!”  His shaking hand stole out; he pointed not at
me, but at the empty chair beside me, “Your brother—Richard!”

And now my uncle’s triumphant look had fled.  Now staring fearfully, now
in turn shaking, he whispered, “Sir, you’re sick!  No one sits there.
Pray let me aid you from the table,” and rose and offered his hand.

The old man thrust it from him, and pointed still.  “Sick!  Are you
drunk, Charles, that you do not see?  Richard!”

“Sitting there!”

“Ay, sitting there!  Would you have me think him a ghost, Charles?  Would
you have me think him dead?”

“I pray not!” my uncle whispered.  I saw that he was ashen, and stared at
nothing wildly, as the old man stared at nothing, pointed at no one.
Suddenly my grandfather lowered his hand; the light seemed to die out
from his eyes.  He sat mute and stiff; his fingers with the red gems
flaming upon them gripping the board.  My uncle lifted his glass hastily
to his lips.

“To whom would you drink, Charles?” my grandfather muttered.  “What
toast?”

“Surely your health, sir!  Your health!”

“You lie!” he roared, and started from his chair.  An instant I saw him
standing with the aspect of a madman upon him: the rush of blood to his
dark face lent him the appearance of youth; his right hand was raised
high.  A moment I saw him—surely I saw him—for the manner of man he had
been.

He clutched at his breast, cried out; and fell back in his chair.



_Chapter XXIX_.  _Intervention of Mr. Bradbury_


At the immediate confusion and rush of figures I started up to assist my
uncle; Thrale and his fellow-servants were before me.  My uncle cried
out, “Stand back, nephew!  Stand back all of you; let him have air!”—and
the crowding of the old men about the chair withheld me from my
grandfather.  So the event held me that I was insensible to other sound
than the gasping of the old man; I caught a glimpse of his face, livid
and sweating, as his head rested against my uncle’s breast; his eyes were
agonised.  I saw Nick Barwise thrust the old men aside; supported by him
and my uncle my grandfather was aided from the room, while the old rogues
fluttered and squeaked and gibbered about him.  As they led him past me,
I realised that Evelyn Milne was back in the room and was plucking at my
sleeve and crying in my ear, “Are you deaf?  Are you daft?  Hark to the
knocking on the door!  Why don’t you bid them open?”

And I heard the clashing of the knocker and the beating on the door above
the wind, as if death or the devil came in the storm, and clamoured for
admission.  I heard my uncle crying out, “Keep the door fast!  No one
comes in this night!”  I stood confused, hoping that the knocking told
the arrival of Mr. Bradbury at the house, and dreading lest Blunt and his
rogues were come to take me openly and violently; still the knocking
sounded over the beating wind.  The old men, crowding out after my
grandfather, muttered and laughed in wicked glee, that surely at last the
end was come.  And only the girl and Oliver and I were left in the room
with the candles casting their ghostly lights upon us; and the weird
shadows, dancing all about us; always the gale cried out about the house;
the heavy, steady knocking sounded on the door.

“Who should come?” the girl cried to me.  “Who should knock so?  Your
friends—have you friends like to come?  Or friends of Charles Craike and
the folk within the house?”

Dazed yet, but calling to mind Sir Gavin’s promise, I said, “I think my
friends—I hope—I’ll go and open the door!”

“No, no!” cried she.  “Stay here in the light!  You’re safer in the
light.  I’ll go!” and instantly sped from the room.

With my back to the fire, and my fingers set upon the pistol, I stood and
looked at Oliver; he sat at table still, seeming drunken and insensible
of the old man’s sudden sickness, the tumult of the storm, the knocking
at the door.  But his dull, tragical, young eyes meeting mine, I was
amazed to hear him give expression to my first fantastic thought, “Death
and the Devil knock!  They’re come for him!  Hark!”

The door from the hall swung open.  I saw the faces—the old brown faces
and the evil eyes of the rogues; I knew how they hated me; what shift I
should have at their hands, if but the word came down that their stricken
master was dead.  I heard them gibe and mutter; I heard the woman
Barwise’s voice cracked and shrill, “Ay, he’ll not lord it over us.  No
longer!  Ay, by the Lord he’ll not!”—but her sudden scream, “Who’s that?
Who let you in?”

Mr. Bradbury cried out from the hall, “By your leave, Mistress
Barwise,—by your leave!”

At this I rushed to the door, and met him thrusting his way among the
crowding rogues.  He came in calm and trim, flinging back his cloak, and
drawing off his gloves.  He gave me his hand, and exclaiming, “Ah, my
dear sir!” demanded, “What’s to do here?  What’s all this chattering and
clattering?  Why am I kept waiting at the door on a night like this?
What’s to do?”

“My grandfather!” I gasped.  “Sick!  Dying maybe—”

“So!” he said, swiftly, and an instant I saw perturbation in his look.
He had not come alone.  I saw three tall fellows, great-coated armed with
bludgeons, standing in the doorway, and at their back the malignant,
baffled faces of the rogues.  The two runners and a third fellow—a huge
figure, vaguely familiar to me, though he was muffled about his jaws, and
kept his hat tilted over his nose, so that I could not see his face.
Oliver lay back in his chair, seeming sodden with drink.

“Thrale!” cried Mr. Bradbury, “Mistress Barwise—some of you!”

The woman, pushing her way forward, stood before him, her arms akimbo,
demanding, insolently, “Well, sir—well?”

“Announce to Mr. Charles Craike my arrival.  Tell him that I require to
see him at once.  At once!  D’ye hear me?”

“Hoity-toity!” cried the woman, bridling.  “Who are you to be orderin’
me?”—but quailed and recoiled before Mr. Bradbury’s sudden darkling
anger.

“D’ye hear me?” Mr. Bradbury repeated.  “D’ye understand me, baggage?  At
once!”

“What is this?”—and my uncle, seeming to have been summoned on the
admission of Mr. Bradbury and his men, stood in the doorway.

“Ah, my dear sir!” Mr. Bradbury exclaimed, stepping forward, his hand
outstretched.

“Mr. Bradbury,” said my uncle coolly, “your coming’s most inopportune!”

“I realise it,” Mr. Bradbury agreed readily.  “Most inopportune!”

“My father’s sudden seizure!  He’s nigh to death.”

“My profound sympathy, sir, with you in your natural grief.  My profound
sympathy!  Pray conduct me to him!”

“Mr. Bradbury, you assume an extraordinary air of authority,” my uncle
protested.  “My father cannot see you.”

“Authority!” said Mr. Bradbury, coldly.  “My dear sir, I take my
authority from my clients.  I take it from Mr. Edward Craike.  I am here
to act at once in his interests, and in the interests of my client here,
Mr. John Craike.”

The gentleman faced him, and barred his way.  He said, “I regret, Mr.
Bradbury, that you cannot see my father.”

“And I say to you, Mr. Craike, that I insist on seeing him.”

“By gad, sir, you insist!  Will you force your way to him, dying?”

“I ask you, sir, to spare me the necessity.  I am here this night by Mr.
Craike’s desire, expressed to me on my lash visit.  His business with me,
he instructed me, would be of supreme importance.”

“I tell you he’s near death.”

“Who then?” said Mr. Bradbury, with a wave of his hand, “should give
orders in this house except his grandson and heir?”

I heard the mutter of voices and the shrill, crackling laughter from the
door; I saw my uncle’s eyes blaze at me like gems; the woman Barwise
glare at me and clench her hands in her skirts.  I took my cue instantly
from Mr. Bradbury.  “And I,” I said, “insist that Mr. Bradbury accompany
me at once to my grandfather.  Come, sir!”

My uncle looked upon me; the mask was lifted; and all his hate of me was
revealed upon his face.  I took a candle from the shelf, and signed to
Mr. Bradbury to follow me.  I thought that Charles Craike would bar my
way, or strike me down, or cry out to the rogues not to let me pass; to
my amaze my uncle stepped aside with a contemptuous bow.

“Bid your men follow us!” I said to Mr. Bradbury; so we went out among
the rogues in the hall, and up the stairway and by the gallery to my
grandfather’s room.

“Wait here,” said Mr. Bradbury to his men; and opening the door, drew
back the curtain and stepped with me into the room.  My grandfather,
wrapped in his gown, lay in his chair.  He seemed the very figure of
death; the candlelight and the dancing fire showed his face livid; his
eyes staring at us were anguished; no one was with him except Thrale, who
held a glass.  My grandfather’s hands gripped the arms of his chair; the
sweat dripped from his face.  All the while the lamenting winds were
beating on the windows, the curtains of the bed were waving; the
flickering lights and shadows dancing a ghostly dance about the room.
His voice came gasping.  “Bradbury!  Ah, not too late,—though death’s
crying out for me this night.”

“I am here,” said Mr. Bradbury simply, “somewhat ahead of the appointed
time, Mr. Craike.  I have with me the document drawn in accordance with
your instructions.  I ask but your approval and signature, sir.  Go,
Thrale!  Your grandson, sir, must not remain.”

“Nay, bid him wait outside the door.  Go, lad, go!”

I went out after Thrale, and Mr. Bradbury locked the door upon me.  I
waited in the corridor with the three fellows standing grim about me.  I
wondered that presently Mr. Bradbury should summon the two runners into
the room, leaving me with his third attendant.  I heard the tempest
battering upon the old house, and shuddered for the deathly chill of the
corridor and for the shadows seeming to cower beyond the radius of the
candlelight.  The tall fellow by me was growling presently at my ear,
“D’ye not know me, master?  Roger Galt, as got ye out of the Stone House.
Didn’t think to see me here, did ye?  ‘Set a thief to catch a thief,’
says Mr. Bradbury.  Hist!”



_Chapter XXX_.  _Not Yet_


But ere I might question Roger Galt, I saw my uncle come swiftly out of
the darkness of the corridor; remarking me holding a candle high he gave
me not a word and only a malignant glance, and without knocking he would
have thrust open the door.  But Mr. Bradbury had turned the key; and the
gentleman turning to me, his face revealing his rage, though his voice
was smooth, he said, “So, nephew, though you’re heir of Craike, you
permit Bradbury to lock you out in the cold!  What’s the gentleman’s
business then?”

“Business at which he’d not have you or me disturb him,” I answered.

He assented, “Ay, no doubt!  But would he keep me from my father’s
death-bed?”—and knocked angrily upon the door.

Awhile Mr. Bradbury paid no heed; my uncle, knocking repeatedly and
failing to obtain an answer, drew away from the door; and, mastering his
choler, said quizzically to me, “Well for you, John, you’re telling
yourself, no doubt, that Bradbury and his hinds found their way into this
house to-night.  You’re bidding fair to lose your guardian and
protector—eh?”

“Well for me,” I answered, “as you know, sir.”

“And does Bradbury think to keep me shivering here?”—he was beginning,
but ceased, as Mr. Bradbury unlocked the door.

“Your pardon, Charles,” said Mr. Bradbury, smoothly, “but my business
with your father was private and particular.  Pray step in!  Your natural
anxiety may be allayed.  You’ll find Mr. Craike much easier in mind and
body,”—smiling blandly, and ushering my uncle into the room.  The
thief-catchers coming out, he bade them await him.  “Pray step in, Mr.
John,” he said to me, laying his hand upon my arm, and leading me in at
my uncle’s heels.

My grandfather lay in his chair; though he was ghastly of look, and his
body was propped up with cushions, his sweating had ceased; his eyes, if
dull, were sane and steady.  My uncle, looking down on him, assured him,
“I’m happy to see you better, sir!  Shall I ring for Thrale?  Were there
a physician within miles—”

“No!  When I need Thrale, I’ll ring,” the old man answered huskily.  “But
hark ’ee, Charles, hark ’ee”—seeming to labour with his speech, his hands
shaking on the arms of his chair.

“I listen, sir,” said Charles.

“Ay, that’s well!  You thought me broken, Charles!”

“I am so much relieved that—”

“Oh, ay!  We’re all liars, Charles!  I promise there was a pretty to-do,
when I was taken sick.”

“The natural alarm of your old servants.”

“I picture ’em,” he croaked, chuckling, “thinking me dying.  Plotting
mutiny, and robbing me of what I have; thinking to lay hands on what
they’ve itched for all these years.”

“Sir, you agitate yourself unnecessarily,” Charles protested.  “Let me
ring for Thrale to help you to bed.”

“No.  I’ll have the boy by me.  Richard’s son.  Hey, Bradbury, you’re
going and will soon be back?”

“Immediately I have carried out your instructions, Mr. Craike,” said Mr.
Bradbury.

“Ay, and you’ll be careful lest Charles or any of ’em seek to rob you by
the way,”—chuckling to himself.

“Sir, you wrong me cruelly,” said Charles.

“Take a message down to ’em, Charles,” said the old man malignantly.
“This from me—two words, ‘Not yet!’”—and chuckled still; and huskily went
on, “Not a night in all my years of sailing they’d not have made an end
of me, had they known me sick and broken as they think me now.  If I’d
have died to-night, they’d have been drunk by now on the best from my
cellars; they’d have been searching all over the house for what they’ll
never get.  Give ’em the words from me, Charles!  Not yet!”

“And pray give them this from me, Mr. Charles—under authority from their
master,” cried Mr. Bradbury, “that with this night there’s an end of
their doings in this house.  Tell them that, though I go, I return to
make an end!”

“You go!” my uncle repeated, smiling on Mr. Bradbury, “and you return!
Surely, Bradbury.”

I had a notion instantly that he contemplated directing attack on Mr.
Bradbury, believing that the gentleman bore with him the secret of my
grandfather’s hoard—if there were hoard.  Or, indeed, that my uncle had
remained downstairs after us to give instructions to the stouter rogues.

“I go armed and with my men armed,” said Mr. Bradbury significantly.
“Let them understand this for an obvious reason, Charles.  And that I
have friends at hand.  With whom I shall return.  Come, John!”

“Nay, the boy stays by me,” my grandfather piped from his chair.

“My dear sir,” said Mr. Bradbury, taken aback.

“John stays by me!  Or by God, Bradbury, I’ll—I’ll—you’ll not take
away—what you take!  Charles, but those words ‘Not yet!’ and there’s not
a dog among ’em shall bark this night.  Am I not master yet?  Am I not,
Bradbury?”

He grew so violent, the blood rushing to his face, the sweat starting
from him, that Mr. Bradbury hastened to pacify him.  “Surely, sir,
surely,” he said, “Mr. John will stay, if you’ll have it so.”

“I’ll have it so!  Hark ’ee, John, are you afraid to watch the night
through with me?”

“I’m not afraid,” I lied.  “To be sure I’ll stay!”—though I was shaking
in my shoes, and would have given much to be out of the house with Mr.
Bradbury.

He nodded approval.  He muttered, “Bradbury, I’ve thought to die on a
night like this!  To go out on the storm.  Hark to the wind and the
voices in it!  And the wind blows from the sea.  Oh, God, there’s many a
soul of the dead men out of the sea rides with the wind to-night!”

“Sir,” cried Mr. Bradbury, shuddering, “the dead shall not rise from the
sea till the last trump sound!”

“I’ll have the boy by me,” the old man whispered.  “I’ll have him watch.
I’ll lie upon my bed; I’ll rest—if he’ll watch by me.”

“Surely, sir,” said Charles, “I am willing to sit with you!”

“I’ll have the boy,” he growled.  “Not you—John here!”

Mr. Bradbury, securing his cloak about him, said in a clear voice, though
he looked uneasily at me, “Then, sir, I take my leave of you.  Mr. John
Craike shall stay by you.  But, Charles, let this be known among the folk
of this house—it’s no time to mince words: if any harm come to him, I’ll
have the reckoning.  Gentlemen, I go, and I’ll return with all the speed
I may.  Good night!  Charles, pray, will you light me down the stair?”



_Chapter XXXI_.  _The Night Watch_


Now the event proved the truth of my assumption that Mr. Bradbury had
about him that which he was eager to convey immediately from the house to
safety, lest Charles, or Blunt, or any other rogues should lay their
hands upon it.  He feared to leave me in the house, but believing that my
grandfather had a secret purpose in his insistence, he consented,
thinking to return speedily with assistance.

My grandfather cried out to my uncle, as he took my candle to light Mr.
Bradbury from the room, “You’ll not return, Charles, unless I ring!”

Charles, eyeing him askance, nodded, and went out with Mr. Bradbury.

My grandfather, looking cunningly at me, chuckled and muttered, “Good
lad!  Good lad!  You’re not afraid of Charles.  You’ll profit by stayin’.
Hey, you will!  We’ll have the merriest of nights of it.  Hark to the
wind on the house.  Like as if the crew below were knocking.  Lock the
door and bar it!”

I sped to the door and turned the key, and set the iron bar across it in
its sockets, noting how massive was the door, and how great the lock;
feeling safer then, though dreading the mad humour of my grandfather.

As I would have sat down, he called out, “Find the bottle and the
glasses.  Pour me a dram!  Pour yourself a dram; ’twill put heart in
you.”

Taking bottle and glasses from the press, I poured the drink; he took his
glass in his shaking hand and raised it to his lips, but scarcely tasted
the liquor, muttering to me, “Drink, lad!  You’re not afraid of your
grog, are ye?  You can carry it.”

I made pretence of drinking the fiery stuff; and piling up the fire, I
sat down facing him.  He remained mute awhile thence, his head poked
forward, and his look intent, as though he listened for sounds below.
But no sound rose distinguishable from the tumult of the wind; ever the
wind cried out, and beat upon the windows; and the moon, breaking from
the driving clouds, illumined the green panes; the lashing ivy cutting
its pale gleam.  Weird lights and shadows flickered on the floor, and
seemed to glide towards the bed, cower and leap back, as the clouds took
the moon once more, and darkness fell without.  So with the fitful moon,
the waving candles and the leaping fire, the whole room seemed awhirl
with ghostly lights and shadows; and with the draughts, the curtains of
the bed, the tapestries upon the walls, continually were stirred; rustled
and flapped like wings, or bulged as though some rogue or visitant were
secreted behind them.  I sat and shivered by the fire, my mind oppressed
with terror and forebodings.

My grandfather, breaking the silence fallen between us, muttered at last,
“I’ve thought to die on such a night as this.  Lad, what’s after, d’ye
think?  What’s after?”

I answered awkwardly, “We’re told mercy to the repentant.”

“Repentance!” he said, laughing.  “What’s repentance but fear?  When I
was young and strong, I didn’t fear aught; I repented nothing.  What use
now—hey?  What d’ye think?”

“I do not know.  Yet—”

“Ay, to be safe, be penitent,” he mocked.  “You think me near my death,
lad, and I am.  To-night a knife seemed to stick into my heart, and the
knife’ll strike again, till my heart’s broken for the pain of it.  I die,
soon—maybe this night.  I go into the dark.  I know not whither.  Repent!
I’m no such fool or coward.  Hey, John, but I lived my life as it pleased
me, till I was old.  I sinned what sins I would.  Repent, ay,—and mutter
prayers,—make a good death of it—for fear!  I’ve had no god save my own
self.  I’ve owned no other judge.”  He lifted up his shaking hand, and
the red jewels seemed blood upon it, “For all my sins I’m ready for the
reckoning, repenting nothing, unafraid!”

It seemed as though the very storm took up the challenge.  For the wind
smote upon the house with a great sound, as seas upon a cliff, or thunder
from the heaven.  The old house shuddered; the chimneys rumbled; the
casement was blown back; the wind struck cold as death upon us.
Instantly the candlelight was gone; the room was black save for the red
glow upon the hearth; horror of darkness and chaotic sound were all about
us.  I started up, and rushing to the window sought to close the
casement; momentarily the wind prevailed; vainly I fought against it;
looking back, I saw my grandfather stagger from his chair; the red flames
blowing up from the hearth seemed to burn all about him.  Still his
laughter sounded like a madman’s defiance to the wind.

The wind lulled for the time.  I closed the casement; I hurried back to
relight the candles.  The curtains of the bed flapped yet like the wings
of death about me.  With light I saw him lying in his chair; he shuddered
now; he muttered, “For the time—I thought—death came.  And yet—and yet—I
live!”

He remarked then the curtains moving, and pointed to the bed, “When the
wind came,” he croaked, “I heard the beating of the wings of death.  I
saw the dark take shape and thought to die, and go out on the storm.
’Twas nothing—nothing but the curtains and the darkness and the cold!
Ay, ay, though never have I known ghosts or terrors in the dark and storm
until to-night . . . I could tell you . . . We were off the Cape just
such a night, with the winds and the seas sounding so.  I remember
them—Barwise and Thrale and the rest—crying out, and comin’ scuttlin’ all
about me.  They’d seen the ghost-ship—the Dutch ship—that seeks to
weather the Cape, while time is.  I remember the moon riding white
through the clouds, as it rides this night.  Ay, they vowed that they saw
the Dutchman still, the ghosts on the decks, and the lights burning
blue,—we’d never make port again, they swore; and they all fell to
prayers—Barwise and Thrale and the rest.  They to pray!  But I said no
prayers.  For I saw no phantom-ship.  And I brought my own ship safe to
port. . . .  Hark, the wind comes again.  Like voices on it!  Hark!”

The wind came crying from the sea.  Again it forced the casement open; as
I reached the window, momentarily I saw the garden illumined by the moon.
I saw dark shadows hurrying to the house; I forced the window to,
believing for the instant that I had seen only the shadows of the
wind-tossed trees; remembering then Blunt’s threat to take me from the
house, I feared.

When I re-lit the candles, my grandfather perceived my concern, and
caught me by the arm, muttering, “What did ye see?  Or think to see?”

I answered, “Shadows, maybe, or men—Blunt’s men.”

“Blunt’s men?  Or do ye think ’em ghosts?  Why do ye look so white, lad?
Why should Blunt’s men come here this night?  Look again!”

Returning to the window, opening the casement, and peering down, I saw
only the leaping shadows of the trees, much as those dark, hurrying
figures.  I called back to him, “Shadows—only shadows!” and secured the
casement.

We sat in silence then by the fire.  The storm was nearing its height;
wave of sound following upon wave of sound as breaker upon breaker; the
house appeared to reel under the succession of shocks, always the voices
sounded on the wind.  If there were sound below, if drunken voices,
menacing voices, were uplifted, as seemed to me, I could not be assured;
the wind usurped all sounds, in or without the house.  My grandfather lay
back in his chair with his hands clutching its arms; I saw him lift his
right hand from time to time, and eye it shaking with the palsy, the red
gems leaping into flame upon it; for all his will and his professed
hardihood, I believed that the terror of the night grew on him, even as
on me.  He leaned forward at last, and quavered, “What’s death, d’ye
think, lad?  What comes after?”

“How can I answer?  Who should tell?” I said, being in no mood now to
preach faith or penitence to him.

“You’re honest!” he said, nodding.  “Charles would have turned priest.
Charles would have talked of Judgment Day.  Ay, you’re honest!  Eighty
years I’ve lived, and till these weeks past never thought of what came
after; or of to-morrow but as to-day or yesterday.  I never thought of
myself as dead.  John”—with sudden starting terror—“doesn’t that show
it?”

“What, sir—what?”

“When we die and rot and the worms have us, it’s not the end of us.
We’re never able to think of ourselves as dead!  Whether we’re strong and
lusting with life, or whether we’re old and breaking, we never think of
ourselves as dead.  Because we never die!”

He mumbled on, “Ay, there’s voices in the wind to-night!  Voices I’ve
heard!  I do remember a merchantman—from the East it was—and full to the
decks with rich stuffs.  Many folks aboard.  We boarded it at noon, and
we sunk it at eve.  None could live; there were men aboard as had known
me.  I remember the sunset—blood-red it was—and the seas were like blood
about us.  And the great cry when the ship went down; and the crying of
the wind that night, as we sailed away.  How the wind cries!”

I saw the sweat again upon him.  I saw his brows wet, and his wet hands
stained with the red gems.  He gasped, “I’ve never thought to die! . . .
Ah, Christ, that I rot in the ground and end so! . . .  But to blow with
the winds about the world, forever about the world—knowing no rest—no
rest!”

I rose and held his glass to his lips.  He drank, and for the time his
courage and strength were restored to him; he gibed and mocked the crying
wind, the voices that were about the house, in the house; surely now I
heard sounds from below, laughter, and roaring chorus of drunken voices.
No one yet sought admission to the room.

Now leaning forward, plucking at my sleeve, he whispered, “You’ve been
wondering why I kept you here this night?”

“Surely because you loved my father, and would have me by you!  Will you
not lie down on your bed and rest?”

“No!  No!  But to show you—give you—what’s mine, what’s to be yours.
Help me up!  I’m weak!  I fear the pain.  Bring a light, boy!”

Wondering, I gave him my arm, and propped by me he made his way from the
hearth to the wall beyond his chair.  I saw him clutch at the tapestry
and tear it aside; the cloud of dust nigh blinded me.  Drawing from my
support, he tapped and clawed at the old oaken panels; they parted
suddenly, revealing a deep recess in the stones of the wall.  Leaning
against me, he fumbled at his breast, and took forth two slim keys on a
silken ribbon strung about his neck, and groped in the recess, muttering,
“The light, boy!  Show the light!”

And while I held the candle, I saw in the recess a little iron door built
into the stone; he set a key at last in the lock, and opening the door
drew out a black box.  This box was deep, but of no great length; it was
heavy, for he nigh dropped it when he pulled it out; he clutched it to
his breast and bore it to his chair with him.  He cried to me, “Pull the
curtain back.  Hide the panels!  Come and see!”

He sat with the black box resting on his knees; it seemed of ebony, and
was bound plainly with silver.  He set the key in the lock, and lifted
the lid.  Leaning over him, I saw that the contents of the box were
packed in black silk.  At his word, I aided him to lift this package out,
and set the box down at his feet.  The silk reeked with spices; with
clawing fingers he unfolded the wrapper of silk, till it draped about his
knees to the hearth—a flag of black silk it seemed, wrought with a design
in silver thread and ringed with silver.  And suddenly the grim thing
shrouded in this black silken flag, broidered with the death’s head and
cross bones, lay bare to me; for he gripped between his palms a white
skull.  Now this skull was fashioned into the form of a casket
overwrought with silver, having a silver lid upon the crown, and in the
sockets of the eyes two blue jewels burning to the reflection of the
candles and the fire with an unholy light.  The jaws were banded with
silver, so that the skull resting on his palms, grinned at me, as
shuddering I drew back, and dared not look upon the old man’s face and
feared his laughter.  Lowering the skull upon his knees, he touched the
silver crown of it with his fingers; the lid flew up; and instantly, at
the wonder of it, I cried out, for it seemed that fire burned from the
casket—a miracle of light and colour, as the flame upon the hearth and
from the candles gave life to the gems within.  My grandfather’s fingers
seemed to dip in fire.  He laughed to himself; he drew out wonderful
gems; held them gorgeous and glowing on his palms; he let them fall back
into the skull.

He muttered, “Only a little store, only a little store,—and yet half the
years of my sinning, child, are told in this odd little box.  I had it
fashioned to my fancy; they’re rare gems for its eyes.  D’ye understand
what’s hid in it?  D’ye understand there’s not a man but would sell his
soul for what’s in this little box?  D’ye see this white stone—this big
white stone?  Did ever the moon or the sun shine like it?  Was ever blood
so red as this red stone, or leaf so green as this, or ever the Main so
blue?  Ay, there’s diamonds, there’s rubies, emeralds and sapphires; and
there’s wonderful pearls.  And thirty years and odd went to fill this
box.  Gold and plate, and many a precious thing that was scarce safe to
sell—ivory and silks and spices—ay, they’re all told in the stones of
this little box.  There’s been blood on these stones—many of ’em.
They’ve been plucked from white necks and dead fingers—ay, many of them!
Charles has lost his soul for the bare tell of ’em.  All my rogues are
lost for the lust of ’em—Barwise and Thrale and the rest.  Knowing I held
my hoard—though where ’twas hid no one knew, and feared to seek, and
feared to murder me, lest where ’twas hid should never be known.
Ay—What’s that?”

“Knocking upon the door!” I whispered, shuddering.

He closed and hid his terrible casket in the black flag, and thrust the
bundle back into the box.  He muttered to me, “For you!  D’ye hear me?
For my son’s son!  Set the box back; keep ye the keys”—and thrust box and
keys into my hands, and whispered, “Haste!  Haste!  Quiet as you go.
They’re out there—mayhap all of ’em!”

Loud and insistent the knocking sounded, as I sped across the room to set
the box back; close the panel, and draw the hangings into place once
more.



_Chapter XXXII_.  _Will of a Man_


My grandfather asking, “What hour is it?” stretched out his hand to a
press beside him and drew forth a pistol, and set this by him on the arm
of his chair.

“Midnight!” I answered, glancing at the clock.

“Bradbury should have returned,” he said.  “Go to the door, lad, and ask
who knocks.”

I hurried to the door, and to my question “Who’s there?” my Uncle Charles
replied, “I, to be sure, nephew.  Pray open the door!”

“Let him come in,” my grandfather said.  “I bade him keep away.  Yet let
him in.”

I drew the bar and opened the door, and instantly was thrust aside.
There entered, indeed, my uncle; there entered with him Blunt, Thrale,
Mistress Barwise and her man and sons; and at their heels there came a
surging crew, striving so one to precede the other that they blocked the
doorway momentarily; cursing, struggling, contending, they came on,—all
the old rogues of Rogues’ Haven, and with them seamen of Blunt’s crew.
Fired with drink, disorderly they came, with clatter of shoes, roar of
voices, sounding above the very wind; all so intent upon their
purpose—all so covetous for plunder, that though they flung me back
against the wall, they passed me by.  I realised that Oliver was by me;
that his hands gripped my arms, and pulled me back, when I would have
struggled to reach my grandfather; he was growling thickly, “Get away!
Now’s your chance!  Get away!  They’re mad with drink.  God knows what
they’ll do.”

“I’ll stay here,” cried I.  “Don’t hold me, Oliver!  What of Miss Milne?”

“Locked in her room or fled the house.  I’ve not heard or seen her.
They’ve been looting.  Get away!”

I shook my head; his strong hands held me back against the wall; I must
stand and watch, nor bear a hand to aid my grandfather.  He needed none,
for though they burst in with a rush after my uncle, they paused, and
fell to silence, seeing the old man sitting grimly in his chair.
Charles, slipping from them, held himself behind his father’s chair; the
rogues crowding about the hearth approached no nearer.

My grandfather roared out in so full and strong a tone that for the shock
of it they fell back from him, “What in the devil’s name is this?  Have
ye gone mad?  Why d’ye come bursting into my room in the dead of night?
Speak, some of ye!  Charles, what is this?”

“I do assure you,” said my uncle clearly, “I have no part in this.”

“No part,” the woman Barwise jeered.  “Ay, then, no share in what we’ve
come for, and what we’ll surely have.”  She thrust herself forward, her
face enflamed; she pointed her skinny hand at my grandfather and cried:

“D’ye hear me?  What we’re going to have!  What we’ve waited for too
long.  What you took when you was pirate, and sunk English ships, and
murdered—what you stole!”

He broke out with a bellow of anger, “Mutiny, hey?  Mutiny!  Thinking me
dead or dying.  Thinking now you’ll take what you never had the courage
to take—ay, and you’ve all grown old waiting for.  Mutiny!  Hey, you
dogs?  Mark me, you dogs—am I broken?  Am I broken yet?”

And then it seemed that the will of the man triumphed over the wreck of
his body.  Watching him from the wall, I saw him rise up from his chair,
his hand gripping his pistol; I saw his eyes blaze and his face take
colour; I saw the old rogues cower and break before him,—only the Barwise
sons and the men who had never sailed with him yet held their ground; and
Blunt watched unfaltering.  He laughed upon them trembling before him; he
pointed his pistol at Thrale, and the fellow quivered like a leaf, and
seemed the palsied dotard, while the master was yet strong.

“Hey, Thrale,” my grandfather mocked him, “you were bold with drink when
you came in; but you never had the heart of a man.  You’d slit a throat
in the dark; you’d no stomach for a red deck, and you’d vomit at the
smoke of powder—rogue!  Hey, Barwise,—hey, your woman took you, for you’d
not the heart to refuse her.  Ay, you’re drunk now, and you thought you
were brave, but you sweat for terror.  Mistress, you were a bold wench
once, and you did many things in your thieves’ kitchen at Shadwell a man
would shudder for the very thought of.  Hey, you rogues, mutiny is it?
Mutiny?  You’d rob me—murder me—thinking me sick and weak?  D’ye mind a
night off Malabar?  Roger Quirk it was—he’d a mind to be master of my
ship.  And he came sneaking into my cabin in the night, thinking to find
me sleeping, and some of you were shuddering in the dark at his back, and
ready to call him captain, and sail under him, if so be he murdered me.
But Roger Quirk died; at midnight he died, and it’s midnight now.  Hey,
Roger Quirk led you then; who leads you now?”

They answered nothing; Charles leaned indolently against his father’s
chair.  My grandfather grinned at the cowering rogues; he pointed at
Mistress Barwise, “Is it old Bess Barwise?  D’ye shelter behind her
skirts?  Blunt—you, why the devil do you break into my house in the
night?  Answer me!”

But Mr. Blunt met him boldly, “I’m no servant of yours, Craike,” he said.
“I’ve no cause to fear you.  Nor have I ever feared.”

“Ay, you were cabin-boy on my last cruise, and profited by it.”

“And kept my eyes and ears open.  And know what you put away.  More, I’ve
a right to come into the house when I will, and I’ve come.  You’ve
profited by me.  Your son’s profited.  Your cellars are stocked with my
cargoes.  I’ll not go out of this house to-night till I have what I’ve
come for.  Where’s the loot?  That’s what you’ll hand over to us before
we go to-night”—and suddenly swung round, and called to his seamen,
“Where’s the boy?”

The seamen were upon me instantly; Oliver was thrust aside, cursing most
foully.  Two fellows gripped me and dragged me forward, ranging me a
prisoner before my grandfather and Blunt.  Said Blunt coolly, “Here’s one
who’ll make you speak.  Hark’ee, Craike, you tell us where the loot is,
or the lad’ll suffer for it.  Have you told him, Craike, where it’s hid?
Have you?  Then, by the Lord, he’ll tell us!”

“Loose the boy!” my grandfather said, quietly, “Hands off the boy!”

“Not till you say where the stuff’s hid.  He’ll go down to my ship
to-night, except you speak.  D’ye hear me, Craike?”

My grandfather’s right hand shot up suddenly from the fold of his gown.
His pistol blazed; I heard Blunt scream; I saw him fall and writhe, and
struggle on the floor.  My grandfather was roaring, “Loose the boy!
Loose him!”—and as the seamen recoiled before him, his hand had dragged
me from them, and pulled me in beside him.  And a great cry arose among
them all; and silence fell as suddenly—silence save for the crying of the
winds about the house.  I snatched my pistol from my tail-pocket and
thrust it into his hand; he advanced slowly, and they fell back from him;
he towered above them—a man above wolves.  I could picture him so upon
the deck of his own ship in battle or in storm, or mutineers so cowering
before him; peril could be of no account to such a man—no, though he knew
himself upon the shores of the eternal sea; though all the night seemed
burthened with his sins; though his enemies were all about him, menacing
in the house, or risen from the sea, he blenched in no way.  The huge
figure, the face suffused, the eyes aflame, the head thrown proudly back,
the mocking laughter on his lips.

He cried to them, “Would you threaten me, rogues?  Would you come like
carrion crows about a dying beast?  Think you that I am dying—think you?
Hey, but I’ve whipped you many’s the time, when you’ve thought to put me
from command of my ship, and set another in my place!  Hey, and men have
died, and backs have run red—hey, and I’ve won; always I’ve won!  Blunt
would have robbed me!  Take your man!  You!  You!”—pointing to two
fellows of Blunt’s crew.  “Pick him up and take him out of here.  D’ye
hear me?”—the pistol quivering in his grasp.

The seamen cowered; bent low, took up Blunt’s body, and so bore him
forth—their shipmates slouching after.  I heard the muttering of their
voices and the clatter of their shoes sound away down the corridor.
Mistress Barwise and the old rogues would have scuttled after, but my
grandfather roared out, “Stay!  I’ve words for your ears—for you who have
robbed me.  Stay!”

Shuddering, pale-faced, the rogues stood eyeing him,—the old brown men
peering like so many ghosts from the dark by the door, the dying candles
casting only a dim light, the leaping flame reflected in the puddle of
blood where Blunt had lain.  My grandfather faced them still, laughing
upon them.  The wind came rolling up, and struck the house; the crying of
the wind was as the crying of many voices; the rushing of the wind as the
onrush of the sea.  He ceased to laugh; staring at him, while my uncle,
white to the lips and wide-eyed, watched him from the hearth, I saw him
stagger.  The pistols dropped from his hands.  He fell with a crash
across the hearth.



_Chapter XXXIII_.  _Carrion Crows_


My uncle, rushing forward, dropped on his knees beside him, and lifted up
his head.

I took the glass from the press, and poured a little of the spirit into
it, and handed this to my uncle, who moistened my grandfather’s lips with
it, and sought to dribble a few drops down his throat.  And nearer,
nearer yet, crept the rogues; recoiling from the living, they feared him
still, lest even now he should arise, and his voice send them scurrying
as so little a while before.  But he lay still,—his eyes open and glassy;
his lips parted.  My uncle lowered his head to the floor, and rising,
said, “I think him dead”—but with no tremor in his voice or hint of
sorrow or compassion.

And instantly the woman Barwise laughed horribly, and screamed, “Dead,
and we’ve naught to fear!”—and pointing her hand at me, “What now, Mr.
John—what now?”

My uncle, in a harsh voice cried out, “Be silent, woman!  Respect the
dead!  Out of the room, all of you!”

She answered with defiance, “Not now!  While he was livin’, we couldn’t
have what we’re here for.  And I for one stays here, and don’t stir for
you; that’s what I say, and that’s what ye all say, if ye’re men.”
Whereat her sons thrust their way forward, and the old men piped shrilly,
“Ay, ay, that’s what we all say.  Ay, ay!”

My uncle said disdainfully, “I can tell you only that, if you think to
find treasure in the house, you deceive yourselves grievously.  Do you
think that my father was such a fool as to hoard money or jewels in this
house with such a company as you about him?  I promise you that all he
had was long since converted into East India stock and the like; he kept
nothing by him.”

“But that’s a lie!” Thrale piped.  “He had treasure by him.  Many’s the
time he’s been laughing to himself for thinking that we who’d fought and
bled, and risked the sea and the shot and the rope, sought our share of
it, and never took a dollar of it.  I’ve been minded to stick this knife
into him many a time!”—and his skeleton-hand showed a lean, glittering
blade, “Oh, and I come in one day and he don’t hear me, and he has a box
and a death’s head, and ’tis all on fire with baubles.  All aflame!
What’s come of ’em, Mr. Charles, what’s come of ’em?”

“I tell you—” my uncle began; but their yell of derision silenced him; a
wicked ring of faces was about us: old faces stained with all the sins,
old eyes bright for the lust of treasure, old hands clutching and
covetous; their voices sounding as the cawing of crows; like carrion
crows they flapped about us, and the dead man lying stretched across the
hearth.  The tall Barwise sons watched them, grinning and muttering
between themselves.  Four of Blunt’s men had sneaked back into the room.

My uncle, smiling contemptuously upon the rogues, asked quietly, “Do you
know anything of this, nephew?”

I answered steadily, “Nothing!  Nothing!”—but must have flushed for my
lie; the woman Barwise cried out instantly, “He’s lying!  He’s lying!
look at him,—all red-faced now, when he was sick and white afore”—and
rushing on me, clawing at my jacket, “Where’s it hid?  You know!  Where’s
it hid?”

But instantly my uncle intervened—concerned now for my knowledge, and by
the dread that all these rogues should share the secret.  He ordered her,
“Stand back, woman!  Do you hear me?  Stand back!” in so threatening a
tone that she recoiled and loosed me.

My uncle, gripping me by the shoulder, drew me beside him; I had taken up
the pistols fallen from his father’s hands; now we stood with our backs
against the chimney-piece, and my grandfather’s body lay between us and
the rogues.  Oliver came shouldering his way among them to our side, a
hunting crop clutched in his hand.  Mistress Barwise, as beside herself,
screamed out a curse at us, and shook her fist, so inciting them that in
a sullen surge they were sweeping forward, when my uncle, livid with
rage, cried out, “Back, you fools,—back!  Do you know this, that while
you waste your time here, Bradbury returns, with Gavin Masters and his
folk, who’ve sworn to smoke us out of this hold?  Do you know this and
palter?”

“Ay, then stand aside,” retorted Mistress Barwise, “and let us have the
handling of the lad there.  He knows for sure, and we have the means to
make him talk”—and pointed to the fire.  “He’ll speak for the burning of
his bare flesh.  He’ll speak, if he knows to keep his mouth shut now,
means to keep it shut come Judgment Day!”

“You’ll not lay hands upon him!” said my uncle, as I made play with the
loaded pistol.  “Give me a word with him alone!  All of you out of the
room now!  Let me but reason with him!”

“And plot to rob us!” Thrale squeaked.

“Nay, nay!” my uncle protested, smiling.

The Barwise woman, swinging round, muttered and whispered with old
Thrale; turning back to us presently to say, “We’ll go—but only outside
the door.  But we’ll keep the key, lest you think to lock us out.”
Oliver had drawn away from the hearth to the wall.

“Surely take the key, Barwise,” said my uncle.  “But a few words with my
nephew, and you’ll know whether he will confide in me or no.  And if he
prove intractable, I promise you that I’ll hand him over to you for
discipline”—I believed that the gentleman found himself at a loss to
prevent their participation in my secret.

“Out of the room, then, all of you,” she ordered them, and drove them
before her like so many hens; they protested with many oaths; she
screaming at them in kind so berated them that they were out at last.
She paused by the door to take the key from the lock.  Of a sudden Oliver
leaped forward and thrust her after them; banged the door with a crash,
and turned the key.  Her cry of rage was shrill as the wind itself; she
plunged against the door and beat upon it like a madwoman, screaming out,
“Break it down!  Break it down!  They’re tricking us!”

Oliver set the bar in its place, and turned back to us grinning.

My uncle smiled his approval, “I never gave you credit for any wit,” he
said; “I offer you apology.  I confess I was at a loss,—I thank you for
having given me the opportunity of a little talk with my nephew.  Be sure
of the bar, Oliver; the door will hold them out, I trust, till Bradbury
returns.”

Oliver, coming back to the hearth, growled, “Help me first to lift the
old man.  Is he to lie here longer in this blood?”

“Nay, nay,” said my uncle hastily; and among us, we lifted my
grandfather’s body and laid it upon the bed, and drew the curtains; all
the while the clamour at the door continued; the winds yet beat upon the
house.  My uncle, returning to the fireside, sat down in his father’s
chair—for all the raging of the rogues without seeming as indolent and
unruffled as in the arbour.

“Nephew,” he said, “I would our conversation could have been conducted
with proper privacy.  Oliver, oblige me by withdrawing to the door.”

Oliver answered boldly, “I stay here!”

“You heard me, Oliver!”

“I heard you, sir!  And you have never heard me ere this night.  By God,
sir, you should have taught me by now to be ashamed at nothing;
yet—yet—to know the part that you have played this night,—you to have
raised these rogues against my cousin and the old man there!”

My uncle smiling, though his brow grew black, cried out, “If I’d my cane,
sir, I’d discipline you now.  Are you drunk yet from dinner?  Or do you
think to win your cousin’s patronage at my expense?  You think him heir
to Craike and all my father had.  I having nothing, you range yourself
beside him!”

“I am ashamed,” said Oliver, regarding him with dark and lowering look.
“By God, sir, I’ve been silent long enough.  I’ll endure no more.  Now
this I’ll say to my cousin—if he’ll believe me; if he’ll think I have no
motive but to be his friend, and save my father from fresh roguery and
shame—I stand beside him.”

“When the door goes down, my good fellow, as presently it will,” my uncle
sneered, “they’ll have your life and his.”

Oliver stretched out his hand to me; I gripped it; side by side we faced
my uncle.

He said, “I have no time to bandy words with you, my son.  I say this to
you, John, that the Barwise sons are pledged to me, and will obey me, and
Blunt’s men also will obey me!  It is my condition only that you tell me
where my father’s hoard is hid; for clearly he revealed it to you while
you were with him; and that the agreement between us be, that we shall
share this treasure.  It’s hid in the house,—I assume in this very room.”

“And you assume,” I said, “my grandfather revealed it to me.  You assume
too much, sir.”

“Dear lad, your very face reveals your knowledge to me.  Come, write,
sign—there are pens and paper in the press there!”

“I answer this,” I said; “whatever come or have come to me from my
grandfather, you shall not share.  You would have had me kidnapped and
shipped out of England.  You have ever been an enemy to mine and me.
What of my father?”

“Nephew,” he said, “hark to the pack outside the door!”

He rose; his look surveyed the room—the hangings were waving in the
draught.  He pointed suddenly to the tapestry drawn yet a little aside
from the sliding panel; and at my start and confusion he laughed
triumphantly, and strode forward.  I lost my head; I sought to interpose;
he thrust me from him, and rushing to the wall drew back the hangings.
All this while the rogues without battered upon the door; I heard it
groan and split, and knew that it was going down before their blows.

My uncle’s fingers strayed over the panels; touched the spring; the
panels parted.  He cried out gaily, “Oh, ’tis here, nephew—’tis here!
And I asked but a half, nephew,—what now?  What now?”

“Would you steal?” Oliver growled.  “Are you thief?”

He answered, snarling, “Ah, God, what I’ve endured these years, and now
this boy would rob me.  I’ll have what’s mine.  I care not how you fare,
nephew—whether they do you to death, or drag you aboard the _Black
Wasp_—I care not.  I’ll have what’s mine, and be away ere Bradbury
comes!”—and thrust the panels back, and fumbled with the lock, but could
make nothing of it.

I laughed at him.  “My uncle,” cried I, “it’s for me to dictate terms.
Your interest with these rogues for me, and I’ll make you rich; but the
secret of the lock I’ll keep!”

He whirled round upon me, his mask off, his face malignant, his lips
snarling.  He let the tapestry fall before the hollow in the wall.  He
pointed to the door.  It had parted asunder, the wreckage fell against
the bar.



_Chapter XXXIV_.  _Flight of Crows_


Mrs. Barwise headed them still—Lord, what a strength must have been hers
in youth; even now her withered hands tore at the wreckage of the door.
Her sons and she had cleared a way presently; the bar was drawn, and all
the rogues were in the room once more.  But, setting my back against the
chimney-piece, with Oliver beside me, I levelled my pistol as they came
on, menacing, and I cried out, “Keep back!  You’ll not lay hands on me.
Back, I say!”

At this Mrs. Barwise checked her onrush; and whirled round towards my
uncle stepping back from the wall.  The rogues at her back halted and
peered at us, muttering among themselves; Nick and Isaac Barwise and
Blunt’s men yet held apart.  The woman demanded furiously of my uncle,
“Well?  Well?  What’s the answer?  You’ve not tricked us after all, d’ye
see?  D’ye see?  What’s his answer?”

He said coolly, “I’ve no answer for you.  Ask him!”

As she swung round and faced me, I said, as bravely as I might, though
shaking still for terror of them, “My answer is that there’s no treasure.
Ay, and were there treasure, every gold piece or jewel of it would belong
to me, even as, now my grandfather is dead, this house belongs to me.
And I say to you you’d best be packing while you may.  You there from the
_Black Wasp_, d’ye know that while you’re paltering here your ship’s cut
out?  D’ye know the King’s men are aboard her?”

“Bold words, but lies!” cried Mistress Barwise.

“No!  For but yesterday I was with old Sir Gavin, who’s sworn to put an
end to smuggling on the coast here.  Your ship was never to put to sea.
Not Blunt himself would have got her from the teeth of the King’s ship.
Would you be taken here?”

The four seamen muttered among themselves; I saw them drawing to the
doorway—scuttling out; only the old rogues and the Barwise sons yet held
their ground, and Mrs. Barwise sought still to enflame them to her
purpose.

“Words—ay, but we’ve not come for words from you, master,” she burst out.
“Where’s the baubles, master?  Where’s the gold?  Our baubles and our
gold!”

“Ay, ay, ours!  That’s what we’re here to know!  Where’s the stuff
hid?”—came the chorus.

I faced them still,—Oliver with his swinging whip beside me.  I said,
“Keep back!  I’ve a word for you, as a word for Blunt’s men.  I tell you
Mr. Bradbury comes this night, with his men, and Sir Gavin’s folk, and
all the gentry round.  He comes to make an end here—to sweep this house
clean—for me!  You’ve threatened murder; you’ve robbed and broken; you’ve
set every man of you his neck in reach of a rope to-night; I warn you
all, for you served my grandfather, that soon, perhaps now, the house
must be surrounded.  You’ve escaped hanging so long, how d’ye like the
prospect of swinging at the end of a rope at the end of your days?  Take
what you’ve looted—plate and what not?—and go!  You’ll take no more.
There is no treasure!”

“Lies!” screamed the woman, as they quailed and wavered.  “Where’s the
blunt first?  Don’t go till you’ve laid hands on what’s your own.”

“Go now!” I shouted, to be heard above the instant uproar.  “Go now
before it is too late!”

As they wavered, she shrieked out, “Pull him down!  Take him and hold him
but the moment, and I’ll have the truth out of him—with the irons and the
fire!”

They surged forward, but before my levelled pistol and Oliver’s uplifted
hunting crop, they wavered still; having each and every man of them so
little left of life, and valuing it at a price above visionary treasure.
My uncle, leaning unconcerned against his father’s chair, neither incited
them nor assisted us; Nick and Isaac Barwise seemed to await their orders
from him, yet holding themselves apart from the old rogues.

And suddenly I saw Mr. Bradbury standing within the doorway, his hair all
blown with the wind—else, as cool and unperturbed as ever I had known
him; seeing him come in, with Galt and the two runners at his back, I
cried out triumphantly, “Too late!  Too late!”

Mistress Barwise uttered a shrill scream, and rushed back among the
rogues; they broke, fell back; scuttled like rats about the room; seeking
the door, and finding Roger and the runners standing grimly before it,
they huddled together against the wall.  Mr. Bradbury, stepping forward,
demanded swiftly, “What is this?  Where is Mr. Craike?”

I pointed to the bed, “My grandfather lies there,” I said.  “He died an
hour since, sir—died while he faced these rogues.  What now?”

Mr. Bradbury whispered, “Sir Gavin waits below!  We hold the hall-door
and the stair.  We come well-armed,—we’re none too many.”

“And these rogues!”

“Bid them go!  If they go quietly, so much the better for us, so much the
less scandal.  We’re not so many that they may not pass,—unless you’d
hold them here!  Yet bid them go!  We’re not too many!”

I faced them then; I cried out, to be heard above a gust of the falling
wind, “You’ve yet a chance to get away.  Go now—all of you—out of this
house!  You served my grandfather, and for that I’ve no mind to punish
you for what you’ve done this night.  Take what’s your own—no more, and
be away from this house within an hour.  D’ye hear me?  Go!”

Galt and the runners stood aside at a wave of Mr. Bradbury’s hand.  Like
a flight of carrion crows the rogues sped from the room; save only
Mistress Barwise, and she, her eyes blazing, her mouth spitting curses,
her hands clawing the air, as she backed from the room, wore rather the
aspect of an aged cat than of a carrion crow.  Pell-mell they fled, as
swiftly as their withered shanks would bear them; clattered along the
corridor, and were gone.

So there were left in the room with the dead only Mr. Bradbury and his
men, my kinsfolk and myself.  My uncle, lounging in his father’s chair,
with a poor assumption of his old effrontery, asked of Mr. Bradbury, “By
what authority, pray tell me, does this lad ape the master of the house?
As heir to Craike?”

“I shall leave the question unanswered, Charles,” said Mr. Bradbury
gravely, motioning towards the bed.  “This is neither the time nor the
place.”

“By what authority?” my uncle repeated, his eyes suddenly alight.

“Surely as your elder brother’s son,” said Mr. Bradbury.  “My honoured
and lamented client’s will—signed by his hand this night—and taken by me
from this house and lodged in safety, will be produced and read by me in
due course.”

“By what authority?” cried my uncle, with bitter anger.  “Answer my
question, Bradbury!”

“Till I read this will, and divulge its provisions to you,” said Mr.
Bradbury steadily, “may I say that Mr. John Craike must enjoy in this
house an authority not inferior to your own?  By no means inferior, my
dear sir!”

But ere my uncle might retort, there came a sound of scuffling from the
door—a shrill scream—one of the runners growling, “You’ll not go in,
mistress—I tell you you’ll not go in!”

And the shrill voice piping, “I’ll see Mr. Charles, I will see Mr.
Charles!”—with a string of oaths ending in choking, coughing; surely
’twas Mother Mag.

My uncle rose from his chair, and demanded angrily, “What’s this to-do?
What does the woman want?  Let her come in!”

“Let her come in!” repeated Mr. Bradbury; and, while I stared, Mother
Mag, escaping from the runner, was in the room.  She stood there, bent
nigh double, her skinny hands clawing at her shawl; she said no word, but
spying Charles, crept forward to him.

“What is it, woman?” Mr. Bradbury asked, sharply; she blinked still at
Charles, muttering, “I’ve a word for Mr. Craike—no more!”

“Speak!” said my uncle, indifferently.

“Martin would have me come!” croaked she.  “Martin would have me come
every step o’ the way, though it’s a weary, weary way, and the devil’s
loose to-night.  With a word for Mr. Charles.”

“Speak!” cried my uncle again.

“No more than this—no more: ‘Adam Baynes’ come home again!’  Adam
Baynes—!”

But I recalled the words of Roger Galt as he bore me away from the Stone
House, that Adam Baynes, this woman’s son, had been transported overseas
and had died; and I wondered that, if the man lived and Roger had lied,
the woman showed no joy in her son’s return—surely he had escaped—but
only terror; that, shuddering and shaking, she stood blinking at my
uncle, and muttering to herself, clutching her blue shawl about her
throat, and sweeping her wind-blown hair from her face.

Mr. Bradbury cried out sharply, “What is the meaning of all this,
Charles?  Who is this Adam Baynes?  What concern is it of yours?”

“He is this woman’s son,” my uncle answered, seeming to strive for
mastery of himself.  “He was a servant of this house—once; that is all!
Well, mistress, well?  You’ve brought your grandson’s message.  Tell
Martin Baynes he’ll hear from me!  That is all!  Go now!  I’ve other
concerns.”

She peered at him; muttered to herself; and tottered towards the door.
Mr. Bradbury started forward as though to stay her; instantly my uncle
intervened, protesting, “Let the woman go, Bradbury.  She’s of no concern
to you or me.”

While Mr. Bradbury hesitated, the woman slipped past the runners, and was
gone; my uncle turned back to the fire, and again sat down in his
father’s chair.  I watched him, wondering at the terror on his face, his
twisting lips, his flickering eyes—at what new dread was borne upon him
by the woman’s words, “Adam Baynes’ come home again!”

Roger Galt was growling from the doorway.  “Who’s Adam Baynes?  Mother
Mag’s son never went overseas, after all.  Mother Mag’s son stayed here
and died from a pistol-ball in the breast!”

Mr. Bradbury, turning back to my uncle, cried out sharply, “Who’s this
fellow, Charles?  Why should this woman bring word to you?  Who should
come from overseas, that you should fear, and shudder so?”

My uncle answering nothing, Mr. Bradbury called out sharply to the
runners, “Hold that woman!  Don’t let her leave the house.  Hold her!
There’s more in this.”

But though we started to the door, and Roger and the runners went
scurrying down the corridor, Mother Mag had vanished like a ghost in the
darkness of the house.



_Chapter XXXV_.  _Departure of Mr. Charles Craike_


We went out presently to descend the stairs in search of Sir Gavin
Masters and his men.  My uncle strode out ahead of us, Oliver slipped
away; I held Mr. Bradbury’s arm as he would have hurried off, to direct
search for Mother Mag, and to insure that if Mistress Barwise and the
rogues left the house, they did not bear their plunder of plate away with
them.  I whispered to him, “There’s in the room—in the wall there—a
box—stuffed with gems.  My grandfather revealed them to me, ere he died.
My uncle knows of them; he sought to rob me of them.  I’ll not trust them
here!”

“Ay, ay,” said Mr. Bradbury, “I had some notion of them,—by the old man’s
talk this night.  Where are they hid?”

I dragged the hangings back.  I took the key, unlocked the iron door, and
drew the box out of its hiding place.  “Pray take my pistol, sir,” said
I.  “The box is heavy—bursting with the jewels in it.  I’ve never looked
upon such jewels—like fire!  My uncle will not rest till he’s laid hands
on them.”

Mr. Bradbury took my pistol; he paused an instant to pull back the
curtains from the bed, and reverently draw the coverlet over the old
man’s body.  Blowing out all the candles then, save one to light us down
the stair, he went before me from the room, pausing to lock the door upon
the dead; and cried out to Roger and the runners, still searching for old
Mag along the corridors, to go with us down the stairs.  As we descended,
I heard voices muttering in the hall; and saw the gleam of lanterns, and
made out it might be half-a-dozen stout fellows.  I saw, as we passed by
them, that every man was armed with cutlass, pistol or bludgeon.  Sir
Gavin Masters, emerging from the doorway, cried out jovially, “Ah, John
Craike!  So your throat’s not cut yet, and ye’re not kidnapped.  Where’s
the old man, Bradbury?  The devil of a time you’ve been!”

“Pray step with us into the dining-room, Sir Gavin,” said Mr. Bradbury.
“Old Mr. Craike is dead—an hour or more since!”

“Murdered!” the justice roared.

“Nay, nay—though there’s been wild doings here this night,” said Mr.
Bradbury.  “The rats are scuttling all about the house.”

“Ay, I’ve heard them scurrying, squeaking.  Have we men enough with us to
trap ’em, Bradbury?”

“I think not—no!” said Mr. Bradbury hastily.  “Pray, sir, come with us.
Bid your men keep on guard still, and let no one enter!  Come, sir,
come!”

But I hung back and called out, “Sir Gavin—Mr. Bradbury, there’s the
girl—my uncle’s ward, Miss Milne!  What’s chanced to her I fear to
think.”

“Oh, the maid,” Sir Gavin answered, laughing.  “She’s safe enough.  ’Twas
she opened the door for us, when we were thinking to break it down.
She’s safe.  She’s in the room here!”

Thus reassured, I passed with them into the dining-room.  Lord, the reek
of drink, and the disorder of it!—the presses open and broken, for the
plate they held; the shattered glass and crystal on floor and table;
bottles from the broached cellars.  The silver candlesticks were gone
from the chimney-piece; the mirrors starred or shivered wholly; the
tapestries rent from the wall; the pictures torn down, as if the rogues
had searched even behind them for any sign of treasure.  By the hearth,
where a few coals blackened, Evelyn Milne was sitting; the candle borne
by Mr. Bradbury showed me how deathly pale she was, her hair blown all
about her shoulders, her eyes feverish yet from terror and lack of sleep.
She started up, as we came in; I set the box down on the table, and took
her hands, and cried out, “Miss Milne!  Thank God, you’re safe!”

“Ay, ay, and have served us well this night,” Mr. Bradbury declared; and
Sir Gavin added gallantly, “Upon my soul she has!”

She smiled, and drew her hands from mine; looking at Mr. Bradbury, she
asked, “Would you have me go, sir?  Would you be alone?”

“Nay, nay,” said he, hastily.  “Stay here, my dear!  The house is not yet
safe for you.  Stay here!”

She bowed and returned to her seat.  Mr. Bradbury, setting down the
candle by the box, drew up a chair to the table, and dropping wearily
into it, said, “Sir Gavin, with the few fellows you’ve been able to bring
here, it’s well that we remain here till the dawn; it cannot be far off.”

“Ay, but all these rogues?” the justice grumbled.  “Not a rat among them
have we trapped.  I thought to take the nest full of them.  What’s
chanced to the old man?  What passed to-night ere we came, young John?
Where’s the villain, Charles?”

“We’ll have the tale from Mr. John Craike later,” said Mr. Bradbury
impatiently.  “Old Mr. Craike was near to death when I left him, and he
died to-night.  I know not whether Charles Craike is yet in the house, or
whether he’s gone sneaking away, as I take it all the old rogues have by
now.  Nay, Sir Gavin, I am troubled more by the coming of the woman
Baynes but now, and the word she brought Charles Craike from the Stone
House, and the effect of her tidings on him!”

“What of the hag?” Sir Gavin muttered.  “What’s all this, Bradbury?”

“She brought this message from Martin Baynes: ‘Adam Baynes’ come home
again!’—and Charles went grey with terror.”

“Adam Baynes!  Old Mag’s son,” said the justice.  “Shipped overseas ten
years or so since, with Captain Phillip from Portsmouth for Botany Bay.
How should the rogue have ever come back from New South Wales?  He went
overseas for life.”

Mr. Bradbury rose swiftly, and, hurrying to the door, called, “Roger
Galt!  Come here!  And bring a lantern!  We need more light.”

Roger Galt came slowly and unwillingly into the room, and stood blinking
before us, watching Sir Gavin apprehensively.

“You dog!” growled the justice.  “I’ve sworn to clap you in gaol till
you’re hanged.  But for this night’s work—”

“For this night’s work, Sir Gavin would tell you, Galt,” Mr. Bradbury
interrupted with impatience, “that all will be forgotten.  Don’t
interrupt me, pray, Sir Gavin—that is your meaning.  Galt, a while since
you said that Adam Baynes was never shipped overseas; that actually he
remained in England; and that he died from a bullet in some highway
robbery.”

“That’s so, master,” Roger muttered, glancing round at the door, as if
prepared to break away from the justice and possible custody at any
moment.

“What more do you know of this, Galt?” Mr. Bradbury persisted.  “How
should this rogue, sentenced to transportation, have been free in
England?  Did he escape and return, or did he never sail?”

“He never sailed,” vowed Roger.  “Guineas went to get him out of the
hands of them as was taking him to Portsmouth to put him aboard.”

“He escaped, and no search was ever made for him?” cried Mr. Bradbury.
“Do you expect us to believe that, Roger Galt?  Why, man, it’s
unbelievable!”

Galt muttered, “I’ve heard tell—Mother Mag’s cackled over it when in
drink—another was put aboard in his place; another went overseas as Adam
Baynes—someone they wanted to get out of England.”

“How long,” asked Mr. Bradbury, “since Captain Phillip sailed?”

“Ten years since, to my thinking,” the justice answered reflectively.

“Ten years since!” repeated Mr. Bradbury; and, as understanding of his
theory came upon me, I gasped, and stared wildly at him,—he cried out
sharply, “Sir Gavin!  Bid a couple of fellows go with my men from Bow
Street, and seek Charles Craike.  His rooms are immediately above us!
Bid them seek him there, and, if he have not fled yet, bring him here!
That will do, Galt.  Go!”

I caught at Mr. Bradbury’s arm, and would have sought an answer of him to
my thoughts and terrors; he did not heed me, but, speaking swiftly and
with agitation growing upon him, he burst out, “Sir Gavin, at whatever
risk of falling in with Blunt’s men, and being worsted by them and the
rogues of this place and the Stone House—for surely they’ve all gone
scurrying for the Stone House this night—we must ride for the Stone
House.  I’ve sent for Charles Craike here, to question him; for surely
he’ll lie to us—and to delay him, if he think to go thither this night.
For, ten years since, Mr. Richard Craike disappeared from home and wife
and son in London; and for ten years has not been heard of.  If, Sir
Gavin, it should be—it is the wildest fancy—that Richard Craike went
overseas in place of Adam Baynes?  If this should be?”

“Bradbury—surely!” gasped Sir Gavin.  “It could not be!”

“Ay, ay; but if it should be, and if Richard Craike’s escaped—come home
to England; if Richard Craike was on his road to Craike House yesterday;
and Martin Baynes, Blunt’s men—came upon him?  For, surely, Richard
Craike coming home, and seeking wife and son in London, and finding no
trace of them, would hurry hither.  And if Richard Craike’s again in the
hands of his enemies at the Stone House?”

“If!  If!” cried the justice.  “The maddest of fancies, Bradbury!”

“No!  For the woman comes in the night to Charles Craike.  And the woman
says ‘Adam Baynes’ come home again!’  And Charles Craike—looks like
death—at the very words!”

“I would,” growled Sir Gavin, “that I’d more men with me.  It’s damnably
unfortunate, Bradbury, that the coastguard should be held to the shore
to-night, while that young whipper-snapper of a lieutenant—Abbott—seeks
to cut out Blunt’s brig in the dark.”

“Whatever be the peril,” Mr. Bradbury declared, “we needs must ride for
the Stone House this night.  For I tell you that, if this be Richard
Craike, and he be in the hands of Martin Baynes and the rogues whom we’ve
beaten at their game to-night, he is in peril—peril of death.”

“Ay, but you’ll hear Charles—if he’s not gone,” Sir Gavin muttered,
rising.  “I hear them coming down the stair.”

My uncle had not fled the house, but he was dressed for riding—booted and
spurred.  He came in with his hat pressed down upon his brows, a hunting
crop in his right hand, his left thrust deeply into his greatcoat pocket.
He was livid yet; his face wore the cruel and implacable aspect he had
shown when first I looked upon him from the window of the Stone House,
and I had known that none whom he feared or hated might look for mercy
from him.  He strode in boldly, the fellows who had brought him down to
us hung doubtfully in the doorway—standing back at a wave of Sir Gavin’s
hand.  He looked upon me, and the hate he showed struck me with terror;
his gaze passed from me to Mr. Bradbury and Sir Gavin—to the black box
lying on the table by them, with the light of candle and lamp playing
upon its silver mountings.  He said angrily, “What’s this, Bradbury?  Why
have you sent your rogues breaking into my room, Masters?  Would you lay
me by the heels for a thief?”

“I would—ay, surely I would!” roared Sir Gavin, starting to his feet, and
pushing forward; at Mr. Bradbury’s plucking at his sleeve, he growled,
purple with choler, “Ay, ay, by the Lord, if I had my way.  As I will!”

“We sent for you, Charles Craike,” said Mr. Bradbury swiftly, “to ask
these questions of you: This man Adam Baynes—who is he?  Has he risen
from the dead?  Or has one come back in place of Adam Baynes?  Charles
Craike, should not this man—of whose arrival you were warned this
night—whom we think held a prisoner at the Stone House, as the lad was
held by you, prove to be Richard Craike—your brother?”

My uncle answered instantly, “Bradbury, you had my answer in my father’s
hearing—that I’ve no knowledge of my brother—of his death, his
disappearance, or his flight from England.  The message of that hag
conveyed to me no more than that her son is back again from
transportation.”

“Galt says the fellow died in England years since!” Sir Gavin growled.

“Galt is a liar and rogue, whom you, Sir Gavin, were you an active
justice, would have clapped in gaol long since.”

“Charles Craike,” said Mr. Bradbury, seeking to restrain Sir Gavin, “you
wear a brave face and use a bold tone to us for all your villainy.
Whither would you ride this night?”

“Whither should I ride,” my uncle cried, “than away from this house—for
London?  Knowing that the boy has all—damn him!—has all that should be
mine”—and still he stared at the black box lying on the table.

“You do not think to ride to London,” said Mr. Bradbury.  “You think to
ride to the Stone House to-night.  You shall not leave the house!  Sir
Gavin, give orders to your men!  Bid them hold the door!”

I saw my uncle leap forward; the pistol gleam in his hand; his hunting
crop swing high—Sir Gavin roaring out as the two old gentlemen recoiled
from, him, “Galt!  Any of you!  Seize him!”

But the hunting crop smote down upon the lantern and the candle;
instantly the room was dark; all was a confusion of rushing, struggling
figures.  I leaped towards the box, but was thrown back by a plunging
body, and went headlong to the floor.  Sir Gavin was roaring, “Hold the
door!  Don’t let him go!  Light!  You dolts!  Light!”—And I, rolling on
the floor, squealed out, “The box!  Look to the box!  Sir Gavin, Mr.
Bradbury!”

A roar of voices; a smash of glass from the window; lanterns flashing in
at the door.  As dazed I rose to my feet, I saw that my uncle and the box
of gems were gone.



_Chapter XXXVI_.  _Dawn_


A half-hour thence we were in saddle—Sir Gavin, Mr. Bradbury, and I—and
riding with the two runners, and four of Sir Gavin’s servants, as swiftly
as we might through the dark for the Stone House.  Roger Galt had not
waited for us; but, taking horse, had ridden off immediately in pursuit
of my uncle escaping with the jewels.  We conjectured that Mr. Charles
would not proceed now to the Stone House, but would ride for London,
hoping to out-distance us, and lie hid there, till he might find a ship
and escape for the Continent.

Ere we dared leave Craike House, we assured ourselves that the Haven was
emptied of its rogues.  My cousin Oliver remained with two of Sir Gavin’s
folk, to guard Miss Milne, lest any of the carrion crows fly back
thither.  Now fully assured from my uncle’s speech and action that the
Stone House held the secret of my father’s disappearance from
England—that, indeed, he had returned and was held a prisoner by Martin
Baynes and his fellow-rogues, Mr. Bradbury, with an activity beyond his
years, was bent himself on riding thither; I—for all my bitter chagrin
that the gems should have fallen into my uncle’s hands—was shaking with
excitement for the thought that my father was at last come home, yet lay
at the Stone House in peril of his life.  The horses were gone from the
stables; my uncle had ridden away on Sir Gavin’s own horse—to the
justice’s choler; he must needs mount his servant’s horse, and I the
other fellow’s.

We rode out then in the dark; swept down the avenue, and out the open
gates—the woods yet roaring about us in the straining wind, though the
strength of the gale had abated.

So long as we held to the open road and to the byeways by which Roger
Galt had brought me off the moors on the morn of my escape from the Stone
House, we went at high speed—not pausing or drawing rein.  And the wind
blowing from the sea smote roundly on us; the beating of the breakers on
the cliff rolled up like thunder; once, as we passed in view of the sea,
I saw a red flash out of the blackness, and thought that, belike, the
King’s ship fired upon Blunt’s brig; but I could be sure of nothing for
the pitch blackness or distinguish sound of cannon over the thunderous
beat of the seas and crying of the wind.

Coming out on the wastes, we were compelled for the dark to go more
cautiously for the broken ground; Sir Gavin pressed on steadily a little
ahead, guiding us for the Stone House.  We went in silence—intent upon
our purpose; I wondering over the grim events of the long night, and
dreading yet the event—that we should come too late, and that the rogues
fleeing from Craike House, and black with rage at their defeat, should
wreak their vengeance on my father—if indeed they held him at the Stone
House—ere we might arrive.

I thought of Charles Craike flying through the night: he who had wrought
this evil; victorious yet, the plundered jewels in his possession,—the
jewels for which, as surely as my grandfather, he had sold his very soul.
I thought of his triumphant laughter, as he fled through the night; I
thought of all the cunning and the tricks by which he surely would escape
us yet, and fly to France, and spend the treasure as he would, and where
upon the Continent he would.  But I thought, too, of black Roger racing
grimly after through the night; I trusted yet that he, with all his
knowledge of the roads, mounted on his great horse which many a time had
carried him to safety, would come up with my uncle, and take him and the
treasure.

On in the dark we rode.  The way over the moorlands seemed unending;
black coppice and rock, black upland appeared to join the blackness of
the moonless, starless night; the bleak winds blowing at our backs, the
lash of rain now falling on our shoulders.  On and on, the blackness
giving place to the one greyness of clouded skies and moorlands; the pale
dawn coming.

And with the dawn we came out on the height above the Stone House, and
saw it lie grey in the hollow below us; no gleam of firelight showed from
its windows; no smoke curled up.  No one was stirring; the house seemed
deserted.  The baying of the hound sounded up to us.  But, as we paused
and drew together, Sir Gavin Masters, pointing with his whip, growled
out, “They’re here—some of the rogues.  See the horses feeding down by
the wall there”—and suddenly bellowing with triumph, “Ay, and by God,
Charles Craike himself is here; that’s my nag with the saddle on its
back—inside the wall!”

Mr. Bradbury cried out sharply, “Come down, Sir Gavin!  Come down!  We
dare not wait!  What may be done within?”—and rode off apace.

Sir Gavin, following with the rest of us, gasped, “But what of Roger
Galt?  What’s come to the fellow?”

Roger Galt was nigh the gateway.  He stood, hatless, mired, and bleeding
from a gash upon his brow, regarding his horse, lying dead on the stones
before him.  He was dazed yet from his fall, for, as we rode all about
him, and Sir Gavin cried out, “What’s chanced to you, Galt?” he stood
blinking at us stupidly a moment without answering.  He swept his hand
across his brow then, and wiped back the blood; and muttered, “That’s his
work—damn him!  The horse there!  I come up with him at the gate.  He
pulled his barker on me, and I whipped out mine, and blazed at him.  He’s
away—and his bullet’s in my horse!  He tried to take the London road; he
couldn’t get away from me in the dark.  I know the dark.”

“You’re not hurt, Galt,” cried Sir Gavin.  “The fellow’s like to be in
the house still.  Ah, the gate’s open.  See to your barkers, all of ye!
Two of you ride to the back of the house.  Come now!”

At our head then Sir Gavin rode through the gateway; we clattered after
him over the cobbles and up to the house.  The front door was shut fast
and the windows closed; no sound and no light came from within.  Sir
Gavin scrambling down, we all dismounted; he, pistol in right, hunting
crop in left, strode boldly up to the door, and hammered upon it, roaring
out, “Open this door!  In the King’s name—d’ye hear me?  Open the door!”

No sound coming in answer, he turned back, and beckoning to his two
fellows, ordered, “Look about ye for a log!  We’ll have the door down!”
and while they searched about the house, again he approached the door,
and beat upon it, roaring out, “Open!  Open!  In the King’s name!  Damn
ye all—why don’t ye open the door?”

Roger Galt came staggering up from the gates, a bludgeon in his hand.
Mr. Bradbury looked carefully to his pistols.  I, staring up at the
barred window of the room where I had been held a prisoner, cried out
suddenly and pointed upwards.  For a hand had drawn aside the sacking,
and my uncle stood looking down upon us.  My uncle—nay, though in the
greyness of the morn the face had seemed my uncle’s for the instant; this
face was lean and sunburnt, the eyes sunken, the grey hair was blown back
by the wind.  The face was gone immediately; crying out, I rushed forward
to the door, as Sir Gavin’s men came plunging forward with a great log
between them; still crying out I know not what, I gripped it with them,
and aided them propel it with a crash against the door.  Mr. Bradbury
beside me was calling out, “What is it, lad?  What did ye see?  Who stood
at the window?”

And I cried back, as again we staggered under the weight of the log, and
again propelled it against the door, “My father!  I think my father—held
a prisoner here!”

With a crash, the rotten timbers and rusted ironwork broke before us.
And we were rushing forward into the house.



_Chapter XXXVII_.  _My Uncle Comes to his Own_


In the half dark of the house, as we leaped forward—Sir Gavin and I, the
runners and his fellows coming scurrying after—I saw Martin Baynes and
Bart spring back before us, and gain the stairway.  Martin faced us
there—his pistol quivering in his hand, and Bart at his back with cutlass
lifted.  Sir Gavin cried out, “In the King’s name!  Down with your arms!
Or, by God, you’ll hang for it.”

Martin spat out a curse in answer and drew trigger; at the blaze and roar
of the pistol, Sir Gavin hopped smartly back; flung up his arm and fired.
Martin cried out, and fell down before us.  Bart, leaning forward,
cutlass in hand, leaped down suddenly upon us.  I, slipping aside to the
wall, heard the clash of his blade upon a tough bludgeon, and the fall of
one of Sir Gavin’s fellows; instantly it seemed that the runners were on
Bart, and the cutlass was dragged from his hand, and clanking against the
stones.  I had no thought save only to mount the stair.  I saw faces
peering down through the dark above me; I knew the folk for Barwise and
big Nick; but as Sir Gavin, pushing me aside and snatching my pistol from
me, plunged up the stair, they did not stay, and vanished in the dark
before the door, scurrying away, I took it, to shelter in one of the
rooms.  I reached the stair-head; groping in the dark, I found the key
yet in the lock, and presently had the door open, and with Sir Gavin was
staring into the room where I had been held those days a prisoner.  There
faced us a tall man, poorly-clad and travel-stained, staring at us with
sombre eyes; looking upon my father’s face, I understood the tragedy of
weary years of suffering and exile written upon it; feature for feature
he seemed like my uncle—yet so unlike.

He said no word as we advanced, but looked upon us dully, as without
comprehension; Sir Gavin, gasping for very breathlessness as from
excitement, demanded of him, “Who are ye?  Aren’t ye Richard Craike?”

“Richard Craike—yes—come from overseas, brought to this place, and gaoled
here.”

I sprang forward, stretching out my hands.  I cried out, “I am John
Craike—your son!  Don’t you know me, father?  Don’t you know me?”

His hands clasped mine,—rough, toil-worn hands—all trembling; he bent his
head and stared down at me, and whispered, “John Craike! Ay, ay—John
Craike,” in lifeless tone.

As I drew back, and stared at him in terror, Sir Gavin put his hand upon
my shoulder and whispered, “He is mazed yet, lad; he doesn’t know you—he
doesn’t understand!  Ah—they’re quiet below”—and rushing out, roared down
the stairs, “Is all safe there?  Have you taken that rogue?”

“Ay, ay, sir—we have him safe!” they shouted up in answer; and Sir Gavin
growling, “Ay, but where the devil’s that villain, Charles?” took my
father’s arm and brought him with me down the stair.  Bart struggled in
the grip of one runner, whilst the second bound his hands; Roger Galt and
Sir Gavin’s men were standing guard over Martin lying against the wall,
and seeking to staunch the flow of blood from his shoulder; Mr. Bradbury,
pistol in hand, stood in the doorway.  But Mr. Bradbury, at the sight of
my father, stepped forward, crying out, “My dear Richard!  My dear sir!
Alive and well,—that’s brave!”

“Ay, ay—alive, but not too well,” growled Sir Gavin.  “He’s dazed
yet—sick.  Bradbury, get him out in the air!  Stay here, boy!  Leave him
with Bradbury awhile.  Now, you hangdog”—to Martin—“where the devil’s
Charles Craike?”

Martin cursed him bitterly in answer; Sir Gavin, approaching the door of
the living-room, sought to open it; and finding it locked, cried out,
“Open the door!  Or by the Lord, we’ll have it down!  In the King’s
name—d’ye understand!  Open it!  Here, you Charles Craike—if you’re in
there, the game is played—d’ye hear?  It’s gone against you!”

I believed that I heard my uncle’s voice faintly within.  I heard a chair
drawn back, and presently the key turn in the lock.  And the door was
drawn slowly open; and old Thrale, shuddering and ghastly, was looking at
us.

“Out of the way!” cried Sir Gavin, and flung the door wide.  “See to the
stairs and doors.  Let no one pass!”—and, pistol raised, he strode into
the room with me at his heels.

The green curtain was drawn across the window; the room was dim in green
light, as the sunrise struck against the house.  I saw three figures in
the room: old Thrale slinking back to the wall; Mistress Barwise,
cowering in her chair by the fire; my uncle seated at the table—the black
box broken open before him.  I saw the blue jewels in the skull gleam
dully.  My uncle said no word, and did not stir in his chair.

“Pull back the curtain!” cried Sir Gavin to Thrale.

Thrale’s shaking hands plucked the green curtain from before the window.
The room was illumined instantly by the sun.  The yellow light woke the
blue jewels in the eye sockets of the skull to life, and the gems spilt
from the casket on to the black flag into a many-coloured flame.

My uncle sat staring at us; his eyes flickering, his lips smiling,
blood-smeared; his face ghastly as death.  His white hands fluttered over
the black silk; touched the skull; clawed among the jewels.  He stood up
from his chair; pressed his hands against his red-stained breast, and
fell forward suddenly among the gems.

“Galt’s bullet—by God!” Sir Gavin cried, rushing towards him, whilst I
stood trembling and aghast, and Mistress Barwise cowered by the fire, and
Thrale shuddered by the wall.



_Chapter XXXVIII_.  _Last Will and Testament_


My uncle’s lips had smiled before he died, lying upon the black flag, by
the death’s head, among the scattered gems.  It was a bitter piece of
irony—well might his lips have smiled for it—that he laid hands upon the
treasure only the morning of his death.  For the lust of the treasure all
his gifts of mind and body had been spent in vain; surely this
treasure—this ill-gotten treasure—had corrupted his whole life, worked as
a disorder in his blood; turned his mind to infamy and black plots
against his kin, and steeled his heart to desperate purpose.  He had wit
as he had courage; he might have served well his King and country, and
won fame and riches honourably.  He had but attained his forty-fifth
year; he lay there dead—his lifeblood spilt among the gems, staining the
fell design in silver upon his father’s flag.

We rode from the Stone House—my father, Mr. Bradbury, and I—leaving Sir
Gavin and his folk to bring away my uncle’s body, and to march the
rogues—Martin and Bart and big Nick Barwise—off to the county gaol.  But
though Sir Gavin stormed and blustered, Mr. Bradbury had his way with
him, that Thrale and Mistress Barwise and her man should be left free to
go whither they would—so long as never again they came nigh Craike House.
Mr. Bradbury would have none of these old rogues laid by the heels, and
the scandal of Rogues’ Haven, its master and its old servitors, noised
through the kingdom.  So these three were left to go their way with
Mother Mag, when she should come tottering home; what chanced to them I
know not to this day; for I was never to set eyes upon them more.  Long
ere I pen these words all those old rogues, who served my grandfather
afloat and ashore, must surely have followed him underground.

As we rode from the Stone House, I had the black box securely in the
saddle before me; Roger Galt rode ahead of us, lest we should yet fall in
with any of Blunt’s men on our way back to Craike.  Let me say here and
now that Blunt’s brig, the _Black Wasp_, slipped from the coast under
cover of the storm and the darkness, eluding the revenue cutter
despatched against her at the instance of Sir Gavin Masters; no trace was
found of Blunt’s body and Blunt’s men; we assumed that the seamen who had
come ashore with him must have gone safely aboard.  What was the truth of
this, or what the end of the _Black Wasp_, I may not tell, for Blunt’s
brig and Blunt’s men never again sailed back to the coast nigh Craike
House, to my knowledge.

We rode in silence, Mr. Bradbury jaded and weary; I, for all the perils
of my sleepless night, and all the rigours of our ride to the Stone
House, borne up for the joy of my father’s safe return, and for the
thoughts of happiness awaiting mine and me.  He rode beside me—bent and
broken, seeming an old man though he was not yet in his forty-eighth
year, sorrowful lines about his mouth, his eyes haunted surely by the
memories of his sufferings overseas.  From time to time I saw him
watching me intently; his lips smiled at me when my eyes met his; he said
no word through all our ride across the sunlit moors and by the woodlands
back to Craike House.  Ay, the sun burned on the house that morn,
lighting the sombre ivy, and flowing in through the shattered window of
the dining-hall, where Evelyn Milne had spread a meal in readiness for
our return.

It fell to Mr. Bradbury to draw Oliver apart, and tell him of his
father’s death; my cousin said no word, but, brushing past us, left the
house, and was not seen by me again that day.  My father sat down with us
to our meal, remaining silent and dejected still.  I watched him with
increasing apprehension, dreading the result upon him of his long
sufferings; though Mr. Bradbury—now almost dropping from his chair for
very weariness—sought to assure me all would yet be well.

I must have fallen asleep in my chair, and so been carried off by Sir
Gavin’s fellows left to guard the house; certainly I woke to find the
candles burning in my room, and the fire blazing, and to observe a figure
seated in my chair—him for a moment I thought my uncle, and cried out in
terror.  My father rose up from his chair, and came toward me swiftly,
his hands outstretched, his eyes alight now with intelligence and joy;
and his voice cried to the very heart strings of me, “John!  My lad!  My
son!”

And ere we parted that night, I had from him the story: how by my uncle’s
plotting he was taken out of England—seized in London, borne away to
Portsmouth, and shipped aboard the _Sirius_ of Captain Phillip’s Fleet on
the very eve of its departure for the distant clime of New South Wales.
Now this Adam Baynes, in whose place he was shipped out of England, had
been laid by the heels for highway-robbery and sentenced at Assizes to be
transported overseas for life.  Taken out of the county gaol for
conveyance to Portsmouth, he had been rescued on the road by his
associates of Rogues’ Haven from his bribed guards; another man had been
given, bound and stunned from blows, into their keeping; this man had
been borne to Portsmouth, and put aboard the prison-ship.  Rogues of
Rogues’ Haven had carried out my uncle’s plot; my uncle’s guineas had
surely paid; bribes and the dread of punishment had kept the mouths of
the Bow Street runners shut.  For many days my father had lain nigh to
death aboard the _Sirius_; when his senses were restored to him, and he
declared himself not Adam Baynes but Richard Craike, the master and his
officers pronounced him rogue or madman, and, indeed, for his agony of
thought and from the blow upon his head, he believed now that he was
indeed bereft of reason for many months of the voyage out to Botany Bay.
Not Captain Phillip or any of his officers believed his tale, or would
send off a letter to his folk in England.  He was held in bondage;
toiling as any slave about the Settlement at Sydney, for the torment of
his mind and body, he told me sadly now, he was no better than a madman
much of his time.  But so at last he won the interest of Captain Hunter,
Governor of the Colony, that slowly and by degrees he convinced him that
there might be truth in his story, so that, though hesitating, the
Governor took upon himself to send him back to England, penning and
forwarding to the Secretary of State a letter setting forth this case and
desiring his investigation.  My father had landed in London a week since;
reference to the East India office, in Mr. Bradbury’s absence from Town,
had proved to the Secretary that he was indeed Richard Craike; he had
been set instantly at liberty.  And failing to find my mother at the
lodging where we had dwelt in London, or to learn aught of her or me, he
had come hurrying down to Craike, to fall in with Martin Baynes and
Blunt’s men near his home, and to be borne off a prisoner to the Stone
House.  He had been nigh beside himself with rage and terror, that again
he should have fallen into the hands of his enemies, and be again at his
brother’s mercy.  “Surely,” he said quietly, as he wound up his tale, “my
wits were wandering again this morn, that seeing my son I should not have
known him my son, or Bradbury for Bradbury!”

Now, though our thoughts were only for my mother—to hurry away to Chelton
and bring joy and peace to her heart, Mr. Bradbury would have us remain
at Craike House, till my grandfather and my uncle were laid in their
graves, and the old man’s last will and testament read to us.  Indeed,
Mr. Bradbury took proper credit to himself at breakfast next morning,
that he had so far anticipated our wishes, that his coachboy and his
coach and pair were already travelling apace for Chelton to bring my
mother across country to Craike House.  I found myself wondering whether
my mother would credit the news conveyed in Mr. Bradbury’s letter; and
whether she was not likely to suspect the hand of Charles Craike in it,
and refuse to come to Craike House, whose doors she had vowed to me never
again to enter.  But four days thence she came.

That morn my grandfather and my uncle were borne out from Craike House to
be laid in the grim vault which the old man had directed to be built for
himself and his sons, nigh the village church where lay the bones of so
many of our kin.  Above the church the cliffs rose high; here he had set
his rock-built tomb in the sound of the sea, and in the track of the
winds from the sea; and he had placed upon its side a broad tablet of
bronze, bearing the design of a ship amid great waters.  All through the
burial service I heard the beat of the seas on the cliff; I thought of
seas and sea winds sounding through his sleep till Judgment Day.

Now if I could feel for my grandfather no love, or sorrow, I had before
me always the recollection of him as he had faced the rogues and saved me
out of their hands, and of the power of the will which had triumphed for
the time over decay of mind and body; kindled old fires in him, and
conjured up odd strength,—to break and end in death.

But on my return with my father, Oliver, and Mr. Bradbury to Craike
House, my thoughts were diverted instantly to the arrival of my good
mother in Mr. Bradbury’s coach.  I sped down the steps to welcome her; I
caught her in my arms as she descended from the coach; I led her,
trembling and tearful, to the doorway where my father stood.  And so I
left them, and did not again approach them, till we must assemble for the
reading of my grandfather’s will.

We assembled in the dining-hall; my mother seated hand in hand with my
father; my cousin Oliver, dark and sullen to all seeming as ever; the
girl Evelyn Milne,—into whose cheeks these past few days colour had
seemed to steal, as light into her eyes.  Mr. Bradbury, taking my
grandfather’s chair, would have me sit by him.  The change upon the house
was surely marked by the windows opened wide to the light of day.  The
sunlight played into the room, with sweet air scented from the flowers in
the garden.

Mr. Bradbury, breaking the seals of the will, spread the parchment out
before him; cleared his throat and adjusted his spectacles.  But ere he
read, he said quietly, looking at my father, “My dear sir, before I read,
I’d say this to you: that had you come to Craike but a few hours earlier,
this will had never borne the signature of my lamented client, Mr. Edward
Craike.  I do assure you, sir, your father had for you a strong
affection; indeed, I feel that you alone—save in the past few weeks, your
son—were dear to him.”

My father bowed his head.  “I do not question—I shall never question,” he
said, “my father’s affection for me.  Pray, sir, proceed.”

“If you had come, sir,” Mr. Bradbury went on, “you must have inherited
not only Craike House and its lands, but your father’s fortune—by no
means represented in the contents of that strange box—the precious stones
which Mr. Edward Craike, from some eccentricity of his own, would have by
him always, and which, indeed, resulted from certain—ahem—trading
ventures conducted by him personally abroad—would surely have passed in
its entirety to you.  I say this, knowing your father’s affection for
you, Richard.  Such a will was framed by me before you left Craike House
for London; the will was revoked by my lamented client only when you had
disappeared from England, and by no investigation could we ascertain
whether you were alive or dead.  The second will divided my client’s
fortune between you and your brother Charles; your father was at no time
assured in his own mind that you were dead; a certain
resentment—inevitable resentment, I fear—that you should have deserted
him wholly, dictated this later disposition of his estate.  Under that
will, the death of either of his sons, if proved, would have left the
other sole heir to Mr. Edward Craike; and on his father’s death possessor
of a fortune representing in money, in East India stock and such, and in
these jewels, of not less, I should say, than two hundred thousand
pounds.  But Mr. Craike grew to suspect the circumstances in which the
disappearance, if not the death, of his elder son had taken place.”

Mr. Bradbury paused to clear his throat, and took up the will.

“A few weeks since Mr. Edward Craike had no knowledge that his elder son
had married.  I myself had the supreme satisfaction of meeting Mr. John
Craike at Chelton—recognising him immediately from his likeness to you,
Richard—and of presenting him to Mr. Edward Craike as his grandson.  Ere
I left the house on his reception—favourable reception—of Mr. John, Mr.
Craike had directed me to prepare a fresh will—this will—in the terms I
am about to disclose to you.  He desired that his grandson should remain
in this house for a month, so that he might acquaint himself with him and
judge his fitness to enjoy the benefits which he then contemplated
bestowing on him.  Mr. John Craike was happy in commending himself to his
grandfather’s favour.  For this will, signed, witnessed, and sealed on
the night of Mr. Edward Craike’s death, revokes all previous wills, and
leaves Mr. John Craike in possession of his grandfather’s entire
fortune—Craike House and lands alone passing, to be sure, in the natural
order of inheritance, to you, Mr. Richard.”

And though I gasped, and my mother cried out, and my father leaned
forward to clasp my hand, Mr. Bradbury proceeded to read deliberately and
with an obvious appreciation of legal phrases as of dry wine.  “Mr. John
Craike,” said Mr. Bradbury, laying down the parchment at last, “I have
the honour and the happiness to congratulate you,” and shook hands with
me, bowed, and sought his snuff-box.

I remember then blurting out that I’d take not a penny; that all should
have gone to my father; and that all was his, will or no will, save only
that my cousin Oliver and Miss Milne must share.  Oliver, though shaking
hands with me, growled that he would take nothing from me; Mr. Bradbury,
chuckling, avowed that as trustees and guardians, Sir Gavin Masters and
he would see to it that I did not dissipate my fortune ere I attained my
majority.  And presently I was left with only my mother and my father by
me; and we were falling to planning all that we might do with this
fortune that was ours: build up the old house and its race again, and
spend wisely and for the happiness of the folk about us out of the
treasure which my grandfather had won in the years of his sailing.

Now I might tell our story through the years since that far sunlit
afternoon, and find delight in telling.  I might tell of the happiness
that was ours; I might tell how my kinsman Oliver fought with the Great
Duke, and of the honours that were his; I might tell how Roger Galt died
by his side years after, at Waterloo; I might tell how I sailed with
Nelson to his dying in his most glorious _Victory_.  Long ere Oliver was
come back from the wars, I had quitted the sea to turn country squire,
and to win Evelyn Milne, who from pale maid was grown the most desirable
of brides and most adorable.  I might tell—

Nay, I have set down faithfully only the story of my coming to Rogues’
Haven, and all that happened to me at my kinsman’s hands.  Ay, and the
clock strikes midnight; the candles burn down into their silver sticks;
through the open window of my library I see the moonlight white upon the
terrace,—on the deep lawns, the flowers in the garden, even as my uncle
dreamed so long ago.

His words come sounding to me from that far afternoon, when last he
walked within the garden: “I have looked from my window of a summer
night, and I have seen the ghosts walk in the garden as it was, and I
have known the beauty and the colour and the laughter of this garden and
this house, as once they were.  I have thought of the beauty of Craike
House restored, the greatness of our race.”

I think almost to hear my uncle’s laughter out of the moon-lit garden
where his ghost may walk, and take delight in this white, scented night
of summer.

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rogue's Haven" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home