It had rained so persistently in San
Francisco during the first week of January, 1854,
that a certain quagmire in the roadway of Long Wharf
had become impassable, and a plank was thrown over
its dangerous depth. Indeed, so treacherous was
the spot that it was alleged, on good authority, that
a hastily embarking traveler had once hopelessly lost
his portmanteau, and was fain to dispose of his entire
interest in it for the sum of two dollars and fifty
cents to a speculative stranger on the wharf.
As the stranger’s search was rewarded afterwards
only by the discovery of the body of a casual Chinaman,
who had evidently endeavored wickedly to anticipate
him, a feeling of commercial insecurity was added
to the other eccentricities of the locality.
The plank led to the door of a building
that was a marvel even in the chaotic frontier architecture
of the street. The houses on either side irregular
frames of wood or corrugated iron bore evidence
of having been quickly thrown together, to meet the
requirements of the goods and passengers who were
once disembarked on what was the muddy beach of the
infant city. But the building in question exhibited
a certain elaboration of form and design utterly inconsistent
with this idea. The structure obtruded a bowed
front to the street, with a curving line of small
windows, surmounted by elaborate carvings and scroll
work of vines and leaves, while below, in faded gilt
letters, appeared the legend “Pontiac Marseilles.”
The effect of this incongruity was startling.
It is related that an inebriated miner, impeded by
mud and drink before its door, was found gazing at
its remarkable façade with an expression of the deepest
despondency. “I hev lived a free life,
pardner,” he explained thickly to the Samaritan
who succored him, “and every time since I’ve
been on this six weeks’ jamboree might have
kalkilated it would come to this. Snakes I’ve
seen afore now, and rats I’m not unfamiliar
with, but when it comes to the starn of a ship risin’
up out of the street, I reckon it’s time to pass
in my checks.” “It is a ship,
you blasted old soaker,” said the Samaritan
It was indeed a ship. A ship
run ashore and abandoned on the beach years before
by her gold-seeking crew, with the debris of her scattered
stores and cargo, overtaken by the wild growth of the
strange city and the reclamation of the muddy flat,
wherein she lay hopelessly imbedded; her retreat cut
off by wharves and quays and breakwater, jostled at
first by sheds, and then impacted in a block of solid
warehouses and dwellings, her rudder, port, and counter
boarded in, and now gazing hopelessly through her
cabin windows upon the busy street before her.
But still a ship despite her transformation.
The faintest line of contour yet left visible spoke
of the buoyancy of another element; the balustrade
of her roof was unmistakably a taffrail. The
rain slipped from her swelling sides with a certain
lingering touch of the sea; the soil around her was
still treacherous with its suggestions, and even the
wind whistled nautically over her chimney. If,
in the fury of some southwesterly gale, she had one
night slipped her strange moorings and left a shining
track through the lower town to the distant sea, no
one would have been surprised.
Least of all, perhaps, her present
owner and possessor, Mr. Abner Nott. For by the
irony of circumstances, Mr. Nott was a Far Western
farmer who had never seen a ship before, nor a larger
stream of water than a tributary of the Missouri River.
In a spirit, half of fascination, half of speculation,
he had bought her at the time of her abandonment,
and had since mortgaged his ranch at Petaluma with
his live stock, to defray the expenses of filling
in the land where she stood, and the improvements
of the vicinity. He had transferred his household
goods and his only daughter to her cabin, and had
divided the space “between decks” and
her hold into lodging-rooms, and lofts for the storage
of goods. It could hardly be said that the investment
had been profitable. His tenants vaguely recognized
that his occupancy was a sentimental rather than a
commercial speculation, and often generously lent
themselves to the illusion by not paying their rent.
Others treated their own tenancy as a joke, a
quaint recreation born of the childlike familiarity
of frontier intercourse. A few had left carelessly
abandoning their unsalable goods to their landlord,
with great cheerfulness and a sense of favor.
Occasionally Mr. Abner Nott, in a practical relapse,
raged against the derelicts, and talked of dispossessing
them, or even dismantling his tenement, but he was
easily placated by a compliment to the “dear
old ship,” or an effort made by some tenant
to idealize his apartment. A photographer who
had ingeniously utilized the forecastle for a gallery
(accessible from the bows in the next street), paid
no further tribute than a portrait of the pretty face
of Rosey Nott. The superstitious reverence in
which Abner Nott held his monstrous fancy was naturally
enhanced by his purely bucolic exaggeration of its
real functions and its native element. “This
yer keel has sailed, and sailed, and sailed,”
he would explain with some incongruity of illustration,
“in a bee line, makin’ tracks for days
runnin’. I reckon more storms and blizzards
hez tackled her then you ken shake a stick at.
She’s stampeded whales afore now, and sloshed
round with pirates and freebooters in and outer the
Spanish Main, and across lots from Marcelleys where
she was rared. And yer she sits peaceful-like
just ez if she’d never been outer a pertater
patch, and hadn’t ploughed the sea with fo’sails
and studdin’ sails and them things cavortin’
round her masts.”
Abner Nott’s enthusiasm was
shared by his daughter, but with more imagination,
and an intelligence stimulated by the scant literature
of her father’s emigrant wagon and the few books
found on the cabin shelves. But to her the strange
shell she inhabited suggested more of the great world
than the rude, chaotic civilization she saw from the
cabin windows or met in the persons of her father’s
lodgers. Shut up for days in this quaint tenement,
she had seen it change from the enchanted playground
of her childish fancy to the theatre of her active
maidenhood, but without losing her ideal romance in
it. She had translated its history in her own
way, read its quaint nautical hieroglyphics after
her own fashion, and possessed herself of its secrets.
She had in fancy made voyages in it to foreign lands;
had heard the accents of a softer tongue on its decks,
and on summer nights, from the roof of the quarter-deck,
had seen mellower constellations take the place of
the hard metallic glitter of the Californian skies.
Sometimes, in her isolation, the long, cylindrical
vault she inhabited seemed, like some vast sea-shell,
to become musical with the murmurings of the distant
sea. So completely had it taken the place of
the usual instincts of feminine youth that she had
forgotten she was pretty, or that her dresses were
old in fashion and scant in quantity. After
the first surprise of admiration her father’s
lodgers ceased to follow the abstracted nymph except
with their eyes, partly respecting her
spiritual shyness, partly respecting the jealous supervision
of the paternal Nott. She seldom penetrated the
crowded centre of the growing city; her rare excursions
were confined to the old ranch at Petaluma, whence
she brought flowers and plants, and even extemporized
a hanging-garden on the quarter-deck.
It was still raining, and the wind,
which had increased to a gale, was dashing the drops
against the slanting cabin windows with a sound like
spray when Mr. Abner Nott sat before a table seriously
engaged with his accounts. For it was “steamer
night,” as that momentous day of
reckoning before the sailing of the regular mail steamer
was briefly known to commercial San Francisco, and
Mr. Nott was subject at such times to severely practical
relapses. A swinging light seemed to bring into
greater relief that peculiar encased casket-like security
of the low-timbered, tightly-fitting apartment, with
its toy-like utilities of space, and made the pretty
oval face of Rosey Nott appear a characteristic ornament.
The sliding door of the cabin communicated with the
main deck, now roofed in and partitioned off so as
to form a small passage that led to the open starboard
gangway, where a narrow, inclosed staircase built
on the ship’s side took the place of the ship’s
ladder under her counter, and opened in the street.
A dash of rain against the window
caused Rosey to lift her eyes from her book.
“It’s much nicer here
than at the ranch, father,” she said coaxingly,
“even leaving alone its being a beautiful ship
instead of a shanty; the wind don’t whistle
through the cracks and blow out the candle when you’re
reading, nor the rain spoil your things hung up against
the wall. And you look more like a gentleman
sitting in his own ship you
know, looking over his bills and getting ready to give
Vague and general as Miss Rosey’s
compliment was, it had its full effect upon her father,
who was at times dimly conscious of his hopeless rusticity
and its incongruity with his surroundings. “Yes,”
he said awkwardly, with a slight relaxation of his
aggressive attitude; “yes, in course it’s
more bang-up style, but it don’t pay Rosey it
don’t pay. Yer’s the Pontiac that
oughter be bringin’ in, ez rents go, at least
three hundred a month, don’t make her taxes.
I bin thinkin’ seriously of sellin’ her.”
As Rosey knew her father had experienced
this serious contemplation on the first of every month
for the last two years, and cheerfully ignored it
the next day, she only said, “I’m sure
the vacant rooms and lofts are all rented, father.”
“That’s it,” returned
Mr. Nott thoughtfully, plucking at his bushy whiskers
with his fingers and thumb as if he were removing dead
and sapless incumbranees in their growth, “that’s
just what it is them’s ez in it themselves
don’t pay, and them ez haz left their goods the
goods don’t pay. The feller ez stored them
iron sugar kettles in the forehold, after trying to
get me to make another advance on ’em, sez he
believes he’ll have to sacrifice ’em to
me after all, and only begs I’d give him a chance
of buying back the half of ’em ten years from
now, at double what I advanced him. The chap
that left them five hundred cases of hair dye ’tween
decks and then skipped out to Sacramento, met me the
other day in the street and advised me to use a bottle
ez an advertisement, or try it on the starn of the
Pontiac for fire-proof paint. That foolishness
ez all he’s good for. And yet thar might
be suthin’ in the paint, if a feller had nigger
luck. Ther’s that New York chap ez bought
up them damaged boxes of plug terbaker for fifty dollars
a thousand, and sold ’em for foundations for
that new building in Sansome Street at a thousand
clear profit. It’s all luck, Rosey.”
The girl’s eyes had wandered
again to the pages of her book. Perhaps she was
already familiar with the text of her father’s
monologue. But recognizing an additional querulousness
in his voice, she laid the book aside and patiently
folded her hands in her lap.
“That’s right for
I’ve suthin’ to tell ye. The fact
is Sleight wants to buy the Pontiac out and out just
ez she stands with the two fifty vara lots she stands
“Sleight wants to buy her?
Sleight?” echoed Rosey incredulously.
“You bet! Sleight the
big financier, the smartest man in ’Frisco.”
“What does he want to buy her
for?” asked Rosey, knitting her pretty brows.
The apparently simple question suddenly
puzzled Mr. Nott. He glanced feebly at his daughter’s
face, and frowned in vacant irritation. “That’s
so,” he said, drawing a long breath; “there’s
suthin’ in that.”
“What did he say?” continued the
young girl, impatiently.
“Not much. ‘You’ve
got the Pontiac, Nott,’ sez he. ‘You
bet!’ sez I. ‘What’ll you take
for her and the lot she stands on?’ sez he, short
and sharp. Some fellers, Rosey,” said
Nott, with a cunning smile, “would hev blurted
out a big figger and been cotched. That ain’t
my style. I just looked at him. ’I’ll
wait fur your figgers until next steamer day,’
sez he, and off he goes like a shot. He’s
awfully sharp, Rosey.”
“But if he is sharp, father,
and he really wants to buy the ship,” returned
Rosey, thoughtfully, “it’s only because
he knows it’s valuable property, and not because
he likes it as we do. He can’t take that
value away even if we don’t sell it to him, and
all the while we have the comfort of the dear old
Pontiac, don’t you see?”
This exhaustive commercial reasoning
was so sympathetic to Mr. Nott’s instincts that
he accepted it as conclusive. He, however, deemed
it wise to still preserve his practical attitude.
“But that don’t make it pay by the month,
Rosey. Suthin’ must be done. I’m
thinking I’ll clean out that photographer.”
“Not just after he’s taken
such a pretty view of the cabin front of the Pontiac
from the street, father! No! he’s going
to give us a copy, and put the other in a shop window
in Montgomery Street.”
“That’s so,” said
Mr. Nott, musingly; “it’s no slouch of
an advertisement. ‘The Pontiac,’
the property of A. Nott, Esq., of St. Jo, Missouri.
Send it on to your Aunt Phoebe; sorter make the old
folks open their eyes oh? Well, seein’
he’s been to some expense fittin’ up an
entrance from the other street, we’ll let him
slide. But as to that d d
old Frenchman Ferrers, in the next loft, with his
stuck-up airs and high-falutin style, we must get quit
of him; he’s regularly gouged me in that ere
“How can you say that, father!”
said Rosey, with a slight increase of color.
“It was your own offer. You know those
bales of curled horsehair were left behind by the
late tenant to pay his rent. When Mr. de Ferrieres
rented the room afterwards, you told him you’d
throw them in in the place of repairs and furniture.
It was your own offer.”
“Yes, but I didn’t reckon
ther’d ever be a big price per pound paid for
the darned stuff for sofys and cushions and sich.”
“How do you know he knew it, father?”
“Then why did he look so silly
at first, and then put on airs when I joked him about
“Perhaps he didn’t understand
your joking, father. He’s a foreigner,
and shy and proud, and not like the others.
I don’t think he knew what you meant then,
any more than he believed he was making a bargain
before. He may be poor, but I think he’s
been a a gentleman.”
The young girl’s animation penetrated
even Mr. Nott’s slow comprehension. Her
novel opposition, and even the prettiness it enhanced,
gave him a dull premonition of pain. His small
round eyes became abstracted, his mouth remained partly
open, even his fresh color slightly paled.
“You seem to have been takin’
stock of this yer man, Rosey,” he said, with
a faint attempt at archness; “if he warn’t
ez old ez a crow, for all his young feathers, I’d
think he was makin’ up to you.”
But the passing glow had faded from
her young cheeks, and her eyes wandered again to her
book. “He pays his rent regularly every
steamer night,” she said, quietly, as if dismissing
an exhausted subject, “and he’ll be here
in a moment, I dare say.” She took up her
book, and leaning her head on her hand, once more
became absorbed in its pages.
An uneasy silence followed.
The rain beat against the windows, the ticking of
a clock became audible, but still Mr. Nott sat with
vacant eyes fixed on his daughter’s face, and
the constrained smile on his lips. He was conscious
that he had never seen her look so pretty before,
yet he could not tell why this was no longer an unalloyed
satisfaction. Not but that he had always accepted
the admiration of others for her as a matter of course,
but for the first time he became conscious that she
not only had an interest in others, but apparently
a superior knowledge of them. How did she know
these things about this man, and why had she only
now accidentally spoken of them? He would
have done so. All this passed so vaguely through
his unreflective mind, that he was unable to retain
any decided impression, but the far-reaching one that
his lodger had obtained some occult influence over
her through the exhibition of his baleful skill in
the horsehair speculation. “Them tricks
is likely to take a young girl’s fancy.
I must look arter her,” he said to himself
A slow regular step in the gangway
interrupted his paternal reflections. Hastily
buttoning across his chest the pea-jacket which he
usually wore at home as a single concession to his
nautical surroundings, he drew himself up with something
of the assumption of a ship-master, despite certain
bucolic suggestions of his boots and legs. The
footsteps approached nearer, and a tall figure suddenly
stood in the doorway.
It was a figure so extraordinary that
even in the strange masquerade of that early civilization
it was remarkable; a figure with whom father and daughter
were already familiar without abatement of wonder the
figure of a rejuvenated old man, padded, powdered,
dyed, and painted to the verge of caricature, but
without a single suggestion of ludicrousness or humor.
A face so artificial that it seemed almost a mask,
but, like a mask, more pathetic than amusing.
He was dressed in the extreme of fashion of a dozen
years before; his pearl gray trousers strapped tightly
over his varnished boots, his voluminous satin cravat
and high collar embraced his rouged cheeks and dyed
whiskers, his closely-buttoned frock coat clinging
to a waist that seemed accented by stays.
He advanced two steps into the cabin
with an upright precision of motion that might have
hid the infirmities of age, and said deliberately
with a foreign accent:
In the actual presence of the apparition
Mr. Nott’s dignified resistance wavered.
But glancing uneasily at his daughter and seeing
her calm eyes fixed on the speaker without embarrassment,
he folded his arms stiffly, and with a lofty simulation
of examining the ceiling, said,
“Ahem! Rosa! The gentleman’s
It was an infelicitous action.
For the stranger, who evidently had not noticed the
presence of the young girl before, started, took a
step quickly forward, bent stiffly but profoundly
over the little hand that held the account, raised
it to his lips, and with “a thousand pardons,
mademoiselle,” laid a small canvas bag containing
the rent before the disorganized Mr. Nott and stiffly
That night was a troubled one to the
simple-minded proprietor of the good ship Pontiac.
Unable to voice his uneasiness by further discussion,
but feeling that his late discomposing interview with
his lodger demanded some marked protest, he absented
himself on the plea of business during the rest of
the evening, happily to his daughter’s utter
obliviousness of the reason. Lights were burning
brilliantly in counting-rooms and offices, the feverish
life of the mercantile city was at its height.
With a vague idea of entering into immediate negotiations
with Mr. Sleight for the sale of the ship as
a direct way out of his present perplexity, he bent
his steps towards the financier’s office, but
paused and turned back before reaching the door.
He made his way to the wharf and gazed abstractedly
at the lights reflected in the dark, tremulous, jelly-like
water. But wherever he went he was accompanied
by the absurd figure of his lodger a figure
he had hitherto laughed at or half pitied, but which
now, to his bewildered comprehension, seemed to have
a fateful significance. Here a new idea seized
him, and he hurried back to the ship, slackening his
pace only when he arrived at his own doorway.
Here he paused a moment and slowly ascended the staircase.
When he reached the passage he coughed slightly and
paused again. Then he pushed open the door of
the darkened cabin and called softly:
“What is it, father?”
said Rosey’s voice from the little state-room
on the right Rosey’s own bower.
“Nothing!” said Mr. Nott,
with an affectation of languid calmness; “I
only wanted to know if you was comfortable. It’s
an awful busy night in town.”
“I reckon thar’s tons o’ gold goin’
to the States tomorrow.”
“Pretty comfortable, eh?”
“Well, I’ll browse round a spell, and
turn in myself, soon.”
Mr. Nott took down a hanging lantern,
lit it, and passed out into the gangway. Another
lamp hung from the companion hatch to light the tenants
to the lower deck, whence he descended. This
deck was divided fore and aft by a partitioned passage, the
lofts or apartments being lighted from the ports,
and one or two by a door cut through the ship’s
side communicating with an alley on either side.
This was the case with the loft occupied by Mr. Nott’s
strange lodger, which, besides a door in the passage,
had this independent communication with the alley.
Nott had never known him to make use of the latter
door; on the contrary, it was his regular habit to
issue from his apartment at three o’clock every
afternoon, dressed as he has been described, stride
deliberately through the passage to the upper deck
and thence into the street, where his strange figure
was a feature of the principal promenade for two or
three hours, returning as regularly at eight o’clock
to the ship and the seclusion of his loft. Mr.
Nott paused before the door, under the pretence of
throwing the light before him into the shadows of
the forecastle; all was silent within. He was
turning back when he was impressed by the regular recurrence
of a peculiar rustling sound which he had at first
referred to the rubbing of the wires of the swinging
lantern against his clothing. He set down the
light and listened; the sound was evidently on the
other side of the partition; the sound of some prolonged,
rustling, scraping movement, with regular intervals.
Was it due to another of Mr. Nott’s unprofitable
tenants the rats? No. A bright
idea flashed upon Mr. Nott’s troubled mind.
It was de Ferrieres snoring! He smiled grimly.
“Wonder if Rosey’d call him a gentleman
if she heard that,” he chuckled to himself as
he slowly made his way back to the cabin and the small
state-room opposite to his daughter’s. During
the rest of the night he dreamed of being compelled
to give Rosey in marriage to his strange lodger, who
added insult to the outrage by snoring audibly through
the marriage service.
Meantime, in her cradle-like nest
in her nautical bower, Miss Rosey slumbered as lightly.
Waking from a vivid dream of Venice a child’s
Venice seen from the swelling deck of the
proudly-riding Pontiac, she was so impressed as to
rise and cross on tiptoe to the little slanting porthole.
Morning was already dawning over the flat, straggling
city, but from every counting-house and magazine the
votive tapers of the feverish worshipers of trade
and mammon were still flaring fiercely.
The day following “steamer night”
was usually stale and flat at San Francisco.
The reaction from the feverish exaltation of the previous
twenty-four hours was seen in the listless faces and
lounging feet of promenaders, and was notable in the
deserted offices and warehouses still redolent of
last night’s gas, and strewn with the dead ashes
of last night’s fires.
There was a brief pause before the
busy life which ran its course from “steamer
day” to steamer day was once more taken up.
In that interval a few anxious speculators and investors
breathed freely, some critical situation was relieved,
or some impending catastrophe momentarily averted.
In particular, a singular stroke of good fortune that
morning befell Mr. Nott. He not only secured
a new tenant, but, as he sagaciously believed, introduced
into the Pontiac a counteracting influence to the
subtle fascinations of de Ferrieres.
The new tenant apparently possessed
a combination of business shrewdness and brusque frankness
that strongly impressed his landlord. “You
see, Rosey,” said Nott, complacently describing
the interview to his daughter, “when I sorter
intimated in a keerless kind o’ way that sugar
kettles and hair dye was about played out ez securities,
he just planked down the money for two months in advance.
‘There,’ sez he, ‘that’s
your security now where’s
mine?’ ’I reckon I don’t hitch
on, pardner,’ sez I; ‘security what for?’
‘’Spose you sell the ship?’ sez
he, ’afore the two months is up. I’ve
heard that old Sleight wants to buy her.’
‘Then you gets back your money,’ sez I.
‘And lose my room,’ sez he; ’not
much, old man. You sign a paper that whoever
buys the ship inside o’ two months hez
to buy me ez a tenant with it; that’s on
the square.’ So I sign the paper.
It was mighty cute in the young feller, wasn’t
it?” he said, scanning his daughter’s pretty
puzzled face a little anxiously; “and don’t
you see ez I ain’t goin’ to sell the Pontiac,
it’s just about ez cute in me, eh? He’s
a contractor somewhere around yer, and wants to be
near his work. So he takes the room next to
the Frenchman, that that ship captain quit for the
mines, and succeeds naterally to his chest and things.
He’s might peart-lookin, that young feller,
Rosey long black moustaches, all his own
color, Rosey and he’s a regular high-stepper,
you bet. I reckon he’s not only been a
gentleman, but ez now. Some o’ them
contractors are very high-toned!”
“I don’t think we have
any right to give him the captain’s chest, father,”
said Rosey; “there may be some private things
in it. There were some letters and photographs
in the hair-dye man’s trunk that you gave the
“That’s just it, Rosey,”
returned Abner Nott with sublime unconsciousness,
“photographs and love letters you can’t
sell for cash, and I don’t mind givin’
’em away, if they kin make a feller creature
“But, father, have we the right to give
“They’re collateral security,
Rosey,” said her father grimly. “Co-la-te-ral,”
he continued, emphasizing each syllable by tapping
the fist of one hand in the open palm of the other.
“Co-la-te-ral is the word the big business
sharps yer about call ’em. You can’t
get round that.” He paused a moment, and
then, as a new idea seemed to be painfully borne in
his round eyes, continued cautiously: “Was
that the reason why you wouldn’t touch any of
them dresses from the trunks of that opery gal ez
skedaddled for Sacramento? And yet them trunks
I regularly bought at auction Rosey at
auction, on spec and they didn’t
realize the cost of drayage.”
A slight color mounted to Rosey’s
face. “No,” she said, hastily, “not
that.” Hesitating a moment she then drew
softly to his side, and, placing her arms around his
neck, turned his broad, foolish face towards her own.
“Father,” she began, “when mother
died, would you have liked anybody to take her
trunks and paw around her things and wear them?”
“When your mother died, just
this side o’ Sweetwater, Rosey,” said Mr.
Nott, with beaming unconsciousness, “she hadn’t
any trunks. I reckon she hadn’t even an
extra gown hanging up in the wagin, ’cept the
petticoat ez she had wrapped around yer. It was
about ez much ez we could do to skirmish round with
Injins, alkali, and cold, and we sorter forgot to
dress for dinner. She never thought, Rosey, that
you and me would live to be inhabitin’ a paliss
of a real ship. Ef she had she would have died
a proud woman.”
He turned his small, loving, boar-like
eyes upon her as a preternaturally innocent and trusting
companion of Ulysses might have regarded the transforming
Circe. Rosey turned away with the faintest sigh.
The habitual look of abstraction returned to her eyes
as if she had once more taken refuge in her own ideal
world. Unfortunately the change did not escape
either the sensitive observation or the fatuous misconception
of the sagacious parent. “Ye’ll be
mountin’ a few furbelows and fixins, Rosey,
I reckon, ez only natural. Mabbee ye’ll
have to prink up a little now that we’ve got
a gentleman contractor in the ship. I’ll
see what I kin pick up in Montgomery Street.”
And indeed he succeeded a few hours later in accomplishing
with equal infelicity his generous design. When
she returned from her household tasks she found on
her berth a purple velvet bonnet of extraordinary
make, and a pair of white satin slippers. “They’ll
do for a start off, Rosey,” he explained, “and
I got ’em at my figgers.”
“But I go out so seldom, father, and a bonnet ”
“That’s so,” interrupted
Mr. Nott, complacently, “it might be jest ez
well for a young gal like yer to appear ez if she did
go out, or would go out if she wanted to. So
you kin be wearin’ that ar headstall kinder
like this evening when the contractor’s here,
ez if you’d jest come in from a pasear.”
Miss Rosey did not however immediately
avail herself of her father’s purchase, but
contented herself with the usual scarlet ribbon that
like a snood confined her brown hair, when she returned
to her tasks. The space between the galley and
the bulwarks had been her favorite resort in summer
when not actually engaged in household work.
It was now lightly roofed over with boards and tarpaulin
against the winter rain, but still afforded her a
veranda-like space before the gallery door, where
she could read or sew, looking over the bow of the
Pontiac to the tossing bay or the further range of
the Contra Costa hills.
Hither Miss Rosey brought the purple
prodigy, partly to please her father, partly with
a view of subjecting it to violent radical changes.
But after trying it on before the tiny mirror in the
galley once or twice, her thoughts wandered away,
and she fell into one of her habitual reveries seated
on a little stool before the galley door.
She was roused from it by the slight
shaking and rattling of the doors of a small hatch
on the deck, not a dozen yards from where she sat.
It had been evidently fastened from below during
the wet weather, but as she gazed, the fastenings
were removed, the doors were suddenly lifted, and
the head and shoulders of a young man emerged from
the deck. Partly from her father’s description,
and partly from the impossibility of its being anybody
else, she at once conceived it to be the new lodger.
She had time to note that he was young and good-looking,
graver perhaps than became his sudden pantomimic appearance,
but before she could observe him closely, he had turned,
closed the hatch with a certain familiar dexterity,
and walked slowly towards the bows. Even in
her slight bewilderment, she observed that his step
upon the deck seemed different to her father’s
or the photographer’s, and that he laid his
hand on various objects with a half-caressing ease
and habit. Presently he paused and turned back,
and glancing at the galley door for the first time
encountered her wondering eyes.
It seemed so evident that she had
been a curious spectator of his abrupt entrance on
deck that he was at first disconcerted and confused.
But after a second glance at her he appeared to resume
his composure, and advanced a little defiantly towards
“I suppose I frightened you,
popping up the fore hatch just now?”
“The what?” asked Rosey.
“The fore hatch,” he repeated impatiently,
indicating it with a gesture.
“And that’s the fore hatch?”
she said abstractedly. “You seem to know
“Yes a little,”
he said quietly. “I was below, and unfastened
the hatch to come up the quickest way and take a look
round. I’ve just hired a room here,”
he added explanatorily.
“I thought so,” said Rosey
simply; “you’re the contractor?”
“The contractor! oh, yes! You
seem to know it all.”
“Father’s told me.”
“Oh, he’s your father Nott?
Certainly. I see now,” he continued,
looking at her with a half repressed smile. “Certainly,
Miss Nott, good morning,” he half added and
walked towards the companion way. Something in
the direction of his eyes as he turned away made Rosey
lift her hands to her head. She had forgotten
to remove her father’s baleful gift.
She snatched it off and ran quickly to the companion
“Sir!” she called.
The young man turned half way down
the steps and looked up. There was a faint color
in her cheeks, and her pretty brown hair was slightly
disheveled from the hasty removal of the bonnet.
“Father’s very particular
about strangers being on this deck,” she said
a little sharply.
“Oh ah I’m sorry
“I I thought
I’d tell you,” said Rosey, frightened by
her boldness into a feeble anti-climax.
She came back slowly to the galley
and picked up the unfortunate bonnet with a slight
sense of remorse. Why should she feel angry with
her poor father’s unhappy offering? And
what business had this strange young man to use the
ship so familiarly? Yet she was vaguely conscious
that she and her father, with all their love and their
domestic experience of it, lacked a certain instinctive
ease in its possession that the half indifferent stranger
had shown on first treading its deck. She walked
to the hatchway and examined it with a new interest.
Succeeding in lifting the hatch, she gazed at the lower
deck. As she already knew the ladder had long
since been removed to make room for one of the partitions,
the only way the stranger could have reached it was
by leaping to one of the rings. To make sure
of this she let herself down holding on to the rings,
and dropped a couple of feet to the deck below.
She was in the narrow passage her father had penetrated
the previous night. Before her was the door leading
to de Ferrieres’s loft, always locked.
It was silent within; it was the hour when the old
Frenchman made his habitual promenade in the city.
But the light from the newly-opened hatch allowed
her to see more of the mysterious recesses of the
forward bulkhead than she had known before, and she
was startled by observing another yawning hatch-way
at her feet from which the closely-fitting door had
been lifted, and which the new lodger had evidently
forgotten to close again. The young girl stooped
down and peered cautiously into the black abyss.
Nothing was to be seen, nothing heard but the distant
gurgle and click of water in some remoter depth.
She replaced the hatch and returned by way of the
passage to the cabin.
When her father came home that night
she briefly recounted the interview with the new lodger,
and her discovery of his curiosity. She did this
with a possible increase of her usual shyness and abstraction,
and apparently more as a duty than a colloquial recreation.
But it pleased Mr. Nott also to give it more than
his usual misconception. “Looking round
the ship, was he eh, Rosey?” he said
with infinite archness. “In course, kinder
sweepin’ round the galley, and offerin’
to fetch you wood and water, eh?” Even when
the young girl had picked up her book with the usual
faint smile of affectionate tolerance, and then drifted
away in its pages, Mr. Nott chuckled audibly.
“I reckon old Frenchy didn’t come by
when the young one was bedevlin’ you there.”
“What, father?” said Rosey,
lifting her abstracted eyes to his face.
At the moment it seemed impossible
that any human intelligence could have suspected deceit
or duplicity in Rosey’s clear gaze. But
Mr. Nott’s intelligence was superhuman.
“I was sayin’ that Mr. Ferrieres didn’t
happen in while the young feller was there eh?”
“No, father,” answered
Rosey, with an effort to follow him out of the pages
of her book. “Why?”
But Mr. Nott did not reply.
Later in the evening he awkwardly waylaid the new
lodger before the cabin door as that gentleman would
have passed on to his room.
“I’m afraid,” said
the young man, glancing at Rosey, “that I intruded
upon your daughter to-day. I was a little curious
to see the old ship, and I didn’t know what
part of it was private.”
“There ain’t no private
part to this yer ship that ez, ’cepting
the rooms and lofts,” said Mr. Nott, authoritatively.
Then, subjecting the anxious look of his daughter
to his usual faculty for misconception, he added,
“Thar ain’t no place whar you haven’t
as much right to go ez any other man; thar ain’t
any man, furriner or Amerykan, young or old, dyed
or undyed, ez hev got any better rights. You
hear me, young fellow. Mr. Renshaw my
darter. My darter Mr. Renshaw.
Rosey, give the gentleman a chair. She’s
only jest come in from a promeynade, and hez
jest taken off her bonnet,” he added, with an
arch look at Rosey, and a hurried look around the
cabin, as if he hoped to see the missing gift visible
to the general eye. “So take a seat a minit,
But Mr. Renshaw, after an observant
glance at the young girl’s abstracted face,
brusquely excused himself, “I’ve got a
letter to write,” he said, with a half bow to
Rosey. “Good night.”
He crossed the passage to the room
that had been assigned to him, and closing the door
gave way to some irritability of temper in his efforts
to light the lamp and adjust his writing materials.
For his excuse to Mr. Nott was more truthful than
most polite pretexts. He had, indeed, a letter
to write, and one that, being yet young in duplicity,
the near presence of his host rendered difficult.
For it ran as follows:
“As I found I couldn’t
get a chance to make any examination of the ship except
as occasion offered, I just went in to rent lodgings
in her from the God-forsaken old ass who owns her,
and here I am a tenant for two months. I contracted
for that time in case the old fool should sell out
to some one else before. Except that she’s
cut up a little between decks by the partitions for
lofts that that Pike County idiot has put into her,
she looks but little changed, and her fore-hold,
as far as I can judge, is intact. It seems that
Nott bought her just as she stands, with her cargo
half out, but he wasn’t here when she broke
cargo. If anybody else had bought her but this
cursed Missourian, who hasn’t got the hayseed
out of his hair, I might have found out something
from him, and saved myself this kind of fooling, which
isn’t in my line. If I could get possession
of a loft on the main deck, well forward, just over
the fore-hold, I could satisfy myself in a few hours,
but the loft is rented by that crazy Frenchman who
parades Montgomery Street every afternoon, and though
old Pike County wants to turn him out, I’m afraid
I can’t get it for a week to come.
“If anything should happen to
me, just you waltz down here and corral my things
at once, for this old frontier pirate has a way of
confiscating his lodgers’ trunks.
If Mr. Renshaw indulged in any further
curiosity regarding the interior of the Pontiac, he
did not make his active researches manifest to Rosey.
Nor, in spite of her father’s invitation, did
he again approach the galley a fact which
gave her her first vague impression in his favor.
He seemed also to avoid the various advances which
Mr. Nott appeared impelled to make, whenever they
met in the passage, but did so without seemingly avoiding
her, and marked his half contemptuous indifference
to the elder Nott by an increase of respect to the
young girl. She would have liked to ask him
something about ships, and was sure his conversation
would have been more interesting than that of old
Captain Bower, to whose cabin he had succeeded, who
had once told her a ship was the “devil’s
hen-coop.” She would have liked also to
explain to him that she was not in the habit of wearing
a purple bonnet. But her thoughts were presently
engrossed by an experience which interrupted the even
tenor of her young life.
She had been, as she afterwards remembered,
impressed with a nervous restlessness one afternoon,
which made it impossible for her to perform her ordinary
household duties, or even to indulge her favorite
recreation of reading or castle building. She
wandered over the ship, and, impelled by the same
vague feeling of unrest, descended to the lower deck
and the forward bulkhead where she had discovered the
open hatch. It had not been again disturbed,
nor was there any trace of further exploration.
A little ashamed, she knew not why, of revisiting
the scene of Mr. Renshaw’s researches, she was
turning back when she noticed that the door which
communicated with de Ferrieres’s loft was partly
open. The circumstance was so unusual that she
stopped before it in surprise. There was no
sound from within; it was the hour when its queer
occupant was always absent; he must have forgotten
to lock the door or it had been unfastened by other
hands. After a moment of hesitation she pushed
it further open and stepped into the room.
By the dim light of two port-holes
she could see that the floor was strewn and piled
with the contents of a broken bale of curled horse
hair, of which a few untouched bales still remained
against the wall. A heap of morocco skins, some
already cut in the form of chair cushion covers, and
a few cushions unfinished and unstuffed lay in the
light of the ports, and gave the apartment the appearance
of a cheap workshop. A rude instrument for combing
the horse hair, awls, buttons, and thread heaped on
a small bench showed that active work had been but
recently interrupted. A cheap earthenware ewer
and basin on the floor, and a pallet made of an open
bale of horse hair, on which a ragged quilt and blanket
were flung, indicated that the solitary worker dwelt
and slept beside his work.
The truth flashed upon the young girl’s
active brain, quickened by seclusion and fed by solitary
books. She read with keen eyes the miserable
secret of her father’s strange guest in the poverty-stricken
walls, in the mute evidences of menial handicraft performed
in loneliness and privation, in this piteous adaptation
of an accident to save the conscious shame of premeditated
toil. She knew now why he had stammeringly refused
to receive her father’s offer to buy back the
goods he had given him; she knew now how hardly gained
was the pittance that paid his rent and supported
his childish vanity and grotesque pride. From
a peg in the corner hung the familiar masquerade that
hid his poverty the pearl-gray trousers,
the black frock coat, the tall shining hat in
hideous contrast to the penury of his surroundings.
But if they were here, where was he, and
in what new disguise had he escaped from his poverty?
A vague uneasiness caused her to hesitate and return
to the open door. She had nearly reached it when
her eye fell on the pallet which it partly illuminated.
A singular resemblance in the ragged heap made her
draw closer. The faded quilt was a dressing-gown,
and clutching its folds lay a white, wasted hand.
The emigrant childhood of Rose Nott
had been more than once shadowed by scalping knives,
and she was acquainted with Death. She went fearlessly
to the couch, and found that the dressing-gown was
only an enwrapping of the emaciated and lifeless body
of de Ferrieres. She did not retreat or call
for help, but examined him closely. He was unconscious,
but not pulseless; he had evidently been strong enough
to open the door for air or succor, but had afterward
fallen in a fit on the couch. She flew to her
father’s locker and the galley fire, returned,
and shut the door behind her, and by the skillful use
of hot water and whisky soon had the satisfaction
of seeing a faint color take the place of the faded
rouge in the ghastly cheeks. She was still chafing
his hands when he slowly opened his eyes. With
a start, he made a quick attempt to push aside her
hands and rise. But she gently restrained him.
he stammered, throwing his face back from hers with
an effort and trying to turn it to the wall.
“You have been ill,” she said quietly.
With his face still turned away he
lifted the cup to his chattering teeth. When
he had drained it he threw a trembling glance around
the room and at the door.
“There’s no one been here
but myself,” she said quickly. “I
happened to see the door open as I passed. I
didn’t think it worth while to call any one.”
The searching look he gave her turned
into an expression of relief, which, to her infinite
uneasiness, again feebly lightened into one of antiquated
gallantry. He drew the dressing-gown around him
with an air.
“Ah! it is a goddess, Mademoiselle,
that has deigned to enter the cell where where I amuse
myself. It is droll is it not?
I came here to make what you call the
experiment of your father’s fabric. I make
myself ha! ha! like a workman.
Ah, bah! the heat, the darkness, the plebeian motion
make my head to go round. I stagger, I faint,
I cry out, I fall. But what of that? The
great God hears my cry and sends me an angel.
He attempted an easy gesture of gallantry,
but overbalanced himself and fell sideways on the
pallet with a gasp. Yet there was so much genuine
feeling mixed with his grotesque affectation, so much
piteous consciousness of the ineffectiveness of his
falsehood, that the young girl, who had turned away,
came back and laid her hand upon his arm.
“You must lie still and try
to sleep,” she said gently. “I will
return again. Perhaps,” she added, “there
is some one I can send for?”
He shook his head violently.
Then in his old manner added, “After Mademoiselle no
“I mean ” she hesitated “have
you no friends?”
“Friends, ah! without
doubt.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“But Mademoiselle will comprehend ”
“You are better now,”
said Rosey quickly, “and no one need know anything
if you don’t wish it. Try to sleep.
You need not lock the door when I go; I will see
that no one comes in.”
He flushed faintly and averted his
eyes. “It is too droll, Mademoiselle,
is it not?”
“Of course it is,” said
Rosey, glancing round the miserable room.
“And Mademoiselle is an angel.”
He carried her hand to his lips humbly his
first purely unaffected action. She slipped
through the door, and softly closed it behind her.
Reaching the upper deck she was relieved
to find her father had not returned, and her absence
had been unnoticed. For she had resolved to
keep de Ferrieres’s secret to herself from the
moment that she had unwittingly discovered it, and
to do this and still be able to watch over him without
her father’s knowledge required some caution.
She was conscious of his strange aversion to the
unfortunate man without understanding the reason,
but as she was in the habit of entertaining his caprices
more from affectionate tolerance of his weakness than
reverence of his judgment, she saw no disloyalty to
him in withholding a confidence that might be disloyal
to another. “It won’t do father
any good to know it,” she said to herself, “and
if it did it oughtn’t to,” she added
with triumphant feminine logic. But the impression
made upon her by the spectacle she had just witnessed
was stronger than any other consideration. The
revelation of de Ferrieres’s secret poverty
seemed a chapter from a romance of her own weaving;
for a moment it lifted the miserable hero out of the
depths of his folly and selfishness. She forgot
the weakness of the man in the strength of his dramatic
surroundings. It partly satisfied a craving she
had felt; it was not exactly the story of the ship,
as she had dreamed it, but it was an episode in her
experience of it that broke its monotony. That
she should soon learn, perhaps from de Ferrieres’s
own lips, the true reason of his strange seclusion,
and that it involved more than appeared to her now,
she never for a moment doubted.
At the end of an hour she again knocked
softly at the door, carrying some light nourishment
she had prepared for him. He was asleep, but
she was astounded to find that in the interval he had
managed to dress himself completely in his antiquated
finery. It was a momentary shock to the illusion
she had been fostering, but she forgot it in the pitiable
contrast between his haggard face and his pomatumed
hair and beard, the jauntiness of his attire, and
the collapse of his invalid figure. When she
had satisfied herself that his sleep was natural, she
busied herself softly in arranging the miserable apartment.
With a few feminine touches she removed the slovenliness
of misery, and placed the loose material and ostentatious
evidences of his work on one side. Finding that
he still slept, and knowing the importance of this
natural medication, she placed the refreshment she
had brought by his side and noiselessly quitted the
apartment. Hurrying through the gathering darkness
between decks, she once or twice thought she had heard
footsteps, and paused, but encountering no one, attributed
the impression to her over-consciousness. Yet
she thought it prudent to go to the galley first,
where she lingered a few moments before returning
to the cabin. On entering she was a little startled
at observing a figure seated at her father’s
desk, but was relieved at finding it was Mr. Renshaw.
He rose and put aside the book he
had idly picked up. “I am afraid I am
an intentional intruder this time, Miss Nott.
But I found no one here, and I was tempted to look
into this ship-shape little snuggery. You see
the temptation got the better of me.”
His voice and smile were so frank
and pleasant, so free from his previous restraint,
yet still respectful, so youthful yet manly, that
Rosey was affected by them even in her preoccupation.
Her eyes brightened and then dropped before his admiring
glance. Had she known that the excitement of
the last few hours had brought a wonderful charm into
her pretty face, had aroused the slumbering life of
her half-awakened beauty, she would have been more
confused. As it was, she was only glad that
the young man should turn out to be “nice.”
Perhaps he might tell her something about ships; perhaps
if she had only known him longer she might, with de
Ferrieres’s permission, have shared her confidence
with him, and enlisted his sympathy and assistance.
She contented herself with showing this anticipatory
gratitude in her face as she begged him, with the timidity
of a maiden hostess, to resume his seat.
But Mr. Renshaw seemed to talk only
to make her talk, and I am forced to admit that Rosey
found this almost as pleasant. It was not long
before he was in possession of her simple history from
the day of her baby emigration to California to the
transfer of her childish life to the old ship, and
even of much of the romantic fancies she had woven
into her existence there. Whatever ulterior purpose
he had in view, he listened as attentively as if her
artless chronicle was filled with practical information.
Once, when she had paused for breath, he said gravely,
“I must ask you to show me over this wonderful
ship some day that I may see it with your eyes.”
“But I think you know it already
better than I do,” said Rosey with a smile.
Mr. Renshaw’s brow clouded slightly.
“Ah,” he said, with a touch of his former
restraint; “and why?”
“Well,” said Rosey timidly,
“I thought you went round and touched things
in a familiar way as if you had handled them before.”
The young man raised his eyes to Rosey’s
and kept them there long enough to bring back his
gentler expression. “Then, because I found
you trying on a very queer bonnet the first day I saw
you,” he said, mischievously, “I ought
to believe you were in the habit of wearing one.”
In the first flush of mutual admiration
young people are apt to find a laugh quite as significant
as a sigh for an expression of sympathetic communion,
and this master-stroke of wit convulsed them both.
In the midst of it Mr. Nott entered the cabin.
But the complacency with which he viewed the evident
perfect understanding of the pair was destined to
suffer some abatement. Rosey, suddenly conscious
that she was in some way participating in ridicule
of her father through his unhappy gift, became embarrassed.
Mr. Renshaw’s restraint returned with the presence
of the old man. In vain, at first, Abner Nott
strove with profound levity to indicate his arch comprehension
of the situation, and in vain, later, becoming alarmed,
he endeavored, with cheerful gravity, to indicate
his utter obliviousness of any but a business significance
in their tete-a-tete.
“I oughtn’t to hev intruded,
Rosey,” he said, “when you and the gentleman
were talkin’ of contracts, mebbee; but don’t
mind me. I’m on the fly, anyhow, Rosey
dear, hevin’ to see a man round the corner.”
But even the attitude of withdrawing
did not prevent the exit of Renshaw to his apartment
and of Rosey to the galley. Left alone in the
cabin, Abner Nott felt in the knots and tangles of
his beard for a reason. Glancing down at his
prodigious boots which, covered with mud and gravel,
strongly emphasized his agricultural origin, and gave
him a general appearance of standing on his own broad
acres, he was struck with an idea. “It’s
them boots,” he whispered to himself, softly;
“they somehow don’t seem ’xactly
to trump or follow suit in this yer cabin; they don’t
hitch into anythin’, but jist slosh round loose,
and, so to speak, play it alone. And them young
critters nat’rally feels it and gets out o’
the way.” Acting upon this instinct with
his usual precipitate caution, he at once proceeded
to the nearest second-hand shop, and, purchasing a
pair of enormous carpet slippers, originally the property
of a gouty sea-captain, reappeared with a strong suggestion
of newly upholstering the cabin. The improvement,
however, was fraught with a portentous circumstance.
Mr. Nott’s footsteps, which usually announced
his approach all over the ship, became stealthy and
Meantime Miss Rosey had taken advantage
of the absence of her father to visit her patient.
To avoid attracting attention she did not take a
light, but groped her way to the lower deck and rapped
softly at the door. It was instantly opened
by de Ferrieres. He had apparently appreciated
the few changes she had already made in the room, and
had himself cleared away the pallet from which he
had risen to make two low seats against the wall.
Two bits of candle placed on the floor illuminated
the beams above, the dressing-gown was artistically
draped over the solitary chair, and a pile of cushions
formed another seat. With elaborate courtesy
he handed Miss Rosey to the chair. He looked
pale and weak, though the gravity of the attack had
evidently passed. Yet he persisted in remaining
standing. “If I sit,” he explained
with a gesture, “I shall again disgrace myself
by sleeping in Mademoiselle’s presence.
Yes! I shall sleep I shall dream and
wake to find her gone?”
More embarrassed by his recovery than
when he was lying helplessly before her, she said
hesitatingly that she was glad he was better, and
that she hoped he liked the broth.
“It was manna from heaven, Mademoiselle.
See, I have taken it all every precious
drop. What else could I have done for Mademoiselle’s
He showed her the empty bowl.
A swift conviction came upon her that the man had
been suffering from want of food. The thought
restored her self-possession even while it brought
the tears to her eyes. “I wish you would
let me speak to father or some one,”
she said impulsively, and stopped.
A quick and half insane gleam of terror
and suspicion lit up his deep eyes. “For
what, Mademoiselle! For an accident that
is nothing absolutely nothing, for I am
strong and well now see!” he said
tremblingly. “Or for a whim for
a folly you may say, that they will misunderstand.
No, Mademoiselle is good, is wise. She will
say to herself, ’I understand, my friend Monsieur
de Ferrieres for the moment has a secret. He
would seem poor, he would take the rôle of artisan,
he would shut himself up in these walls perhaps
I may guess why, but it is his secret. I think
of it no more.’” He caught her hand in
his with a gesture that he would have made one of gallantry,
but that in its tremulous intensity became a piteous
“I have said nothing, and will
say nothing, if you wish it,” said Rosey hastily;
“but others may find out how you live here.
This is not fit work for you. You seem to be
a a gentleman. You ought to be a
lawyer, or a doctor, or in a bank,” she continued
timidly, with a vague enumeration of the prevailing
degrees of local gentility.
He dropped her hand. “Ah!
does not Mademoiselle comprehend that it is because
I am a gentleman that there is nothing between it and
this? Look!” he continued almost fiercely.
“What if I told you it is the lawyer, it is
the doctor, it is the banker that brings me, a gentleman,
to this, eh? Ah, bah! What do I say?
This is honest, what I do! But the lawyer,
the banker, the doctor, what are they?” He shrugged
his shoulders, and pacing the apartment with a furtive
glance at the half anxious, half frightened girl,
suddenly stopped, dragged a small portmanteau from
behind the heap of bales and opened it. “Look,
Mademoiselle,” he said, tremulously lifting a
handful of worn and soiled letters and papers.
“Look these are the tools of your
banker, your lawyer, your doctor. With this
the banker will make you poor, the lawyer will prove
you a thief, the doctor will swear you are crazy, eh?
What shall you call the work of a gentleman this” he
dragged the pile of cushions forward “or
To the young girl’s observant
eyes some of the papers appeared to be of a legal
or official character, and others like bills of lading,
with which she was familiar. Their half-theatrical
exhibition reminded her of some play she had seen;
they might be the clue to some story, or the mere
worthless hoardings of a diseased fancy. Whatever
they were, de Ferrieres did not apparently care to
explain further; indeed, the next moment his manner
changed to his old absurd extravagance. “But
this is stupid for Mademoiselle to hear. What
shall we speak of? Ah, what should we speak
of in Mademoiselle’s presence?”
“But are not these papers valuable?”
asked Rosey, partly to draw her host’s thoughts
back to their former channel.
“Perhaps.” He paused
and regarded the young girl fixedly. “Does
Mademoiselle think so?”
“I don’t know,” said Rosey.
“How should I?”
“Ah! if Mademoiselle thought
so if Mademoiselle would deign ”
He stopped again and placed his hand upon his forehead.
“It might be so!” he muttered.
“I must go now,” said
Rosey, hurriedly, rising with an awkward sense of
constraint. “Father will wonder where I
“I shall explain. I will accompany you,
“No, no,” said Rosey,
quickly; “he must not know I have been here!”
She stopped. The honest blush flew to her cheek,
and then returned again, because she had blushed.
De Ferrieres gazed at her with an
exalted look. Then drawing himself to his full
height, he said, with an exaggerated and indescribable
gesture, “Go, my child, go. Tell your father
that you have been alone and unprotected in the abode
of poverty and suffering, but that it was
in the presence of Armand de Ferrieres.”
He threw open the door with a bow
that nearly swept the ground, but did not again offer
to take her hand. At once impressed and embarrassed
at this crowning incongruity, her pretty lip trembled
between a smile and a cry as she said, “Good-night,”
and slipped away into the darkness.
Erect and grotesque de Ferrieres retained
the same attitude until the sound of her footsteps
was lost, when he slowly began to close the door.
But a strong arm arrested it from without, and a large
carpeted foot appeared at the bottom of the narrowing
opening. The door yielded, and Mr. Abner Nott
entered the room.
With an exclamation and a hurried
glance around him, de Ferrieres threw himself before
the intruder. But slowly lifting his large hand,
and placing it on his lodger’s breast, he quietly
overbore the sick man’s feeble resistance with
an impact of power that seemed almost as moral as
it was physical. He did not appear to take any
notice of the room or its miserable surroundings;
indeed, scarcely of the occupant. Still pushing
him, with abstracted eyes and immobile face, to the
chair that Rosey had just quitted, he made him sit
down, and then took up his own position on the pile
of cushions opposite. His usually underdone
complexion was of watery blueness; but his dull, abstracted
glance appeared to exercise a certain dumb, narcotic
fascination on his lodger.
“I moût,” said Nott,
slowly, “hev laid ye out here on sight, without
enny warnin’, or dropped ye in yer tracks in
Montgomery Street, wherever ther was room to work
a six-shooter in comf’ably? Johnson, of
Petaluny him, ye know, ez had a game eye fetched
Flynn comin’ outer meetin’ one Sunday,
and it was only on account of his wife, and she a
second-hand one, so to speak. There was Walker,
of Contra Costa, plugged that young Sacramento chap,
whose name I disremember, full o’ holes just
ez he was sayin’ ‘Good by’ to
his darter. I moût hev done all this if
it had settled things to please me. For while
you and Flynn and that Sacramento chap ez all about
the same sort o’ men, Rosey’s a different
kind from their sort o’ women.”
“Mademoiselle is an angel!”
said de Ferrieres, suddenly rising, with an excess
of extravagance. “A saint! Look!
I cram the lie, ha! down his throat who challenges
“Ef by mam’selle
ye mean my Rosey,” said Nott, quietly laying
his powerful hands on de Ferrieres’s shoulders,
and slowly pinning him down again upon his chair,
“ye’re about right, though she ain’t
mam’selle yet. Ez I was sayin’,
I might hev killed you off-hand if I hed thought it
would hev been a good thing for Rosey.”
“For her? Ah, well!
Look, I am ready,” interrupted de Ferrieres,
again springing to his feet, and throwing open his
coat with both hands. “See! here at my
“Ez I was sayin’,”
continued Nott, once more pressing the excited man
down in his chair, “I might hev wiped ye out and
mebbee ye wouldn’t hev keered or
you might hev wiped me out, and I moût
hev said, ‘Thank’ee,’ but I reckon
this ain’t a case for what’s comf’able
for you and me. It’s what’s good
for Rosey. And the thing to kalkilate is,
what’s to be done.”
His small round eyes for the first
time rested on de Ferrieres’s face, and were
quickly withdrawn. It was evident that this abstracted
look, which had fascinated his lodger, was merely
a resolute avoidance of de Ferrieres’s glance,
and it became apparent later that this avoidance was
due to a ludicrous appreciation of de Ferrieres’s
“And after we’ve done
that we must kalkilate what Rosey is, and what
Rosey wants. P’raps, ye allow, you
know what Rosey is? P’raps you’ve
seen her prance round in velvet bonnets and white satin
slippers, and sich. P’raps you’ve
seen her readin’ tracks and v’yages, without
waitin’ to spell a word, or catch her breath.
But that ain’t the Rosey ez I know. It’s
a little child ez uster crawl in and out the tail-board
of a Mizzouri wagon on the alcali pizoned plains,
where there wasn’t another bit of God’s
mercy on yearth to be seen for miles and miles.
It’s a little gal as uster hunger and thirst
ez quiet and mannerly ez she now eats and drinks in
plenty; whose voice was ez steady with Injins yelling
round her nest in the leaves on Sweetwater ez in her
purty cabin up yonder. That’s the gal
ez I know! That’s the Rosey ez my olé
woman puts into my arms one night arter we left Laramie
when the fever was high, and sez, ‘Abner,’
sez she, ’the chariot is swingin’ low
for me to-night, but thar ain’t room in it for
her or you to git in or hitch on. Take her and
rare her, so we kin all jine on the other shore,’
sez she. And I’d knowed the other shore
wasn’t no Kaliforny. And that night, p’raps,
the chariot swung lower than ever before, and my olé
woman stepped into it, and left me and Rosey to creep
on in the old wagon alone. It’s them kind
o’ things,” added Mr. Nott thoughtfully,
“that seem to pint to my killin’ you on
sight ez the best thing to be done. And yet
Rosey mightn’t like it.”
He had slipped one of his feet out
of his huge carpet slippers, and, as he reached down
to put it on again, he added calmly: “And
ez to yer marrying her it ain’t to be done.”
The utterly bewildered expression
which transfigured de Ferrieres’s face at this
announcement was unobserved by Nott’s averted
eyes, nor did he perceive that his listener the next
moment straightened his erect figure and adjusted
“Ef Rosey,” he continued,
“hez read in vy’ges and tracks in
Eyetalian and French countries of such chaps ez you
and kalkilates you’re the right kind to tie
to, mebbee it moût hev done if you’d been
livin’ over thar in a pallis, but somehow it
don’t jibe in over here and agree with a ship and
that ship lying comf’able ashore in San Francisco.
You don’t seem to suit the climate, you see,
and your general gait is likely to stampede the other
cattle. Agin,” said Nott, with an ostentation
of looking at his companion but really gazing on vacancy,
“this fixed up, antique style of yours goes better
with them ivy kivered ruins in Rome and Palmyry that
Rosey’s mixed you up with, than it would yere.
I ain’t saying,” he added as de Ferrieres
was about to speak, “I ain’t sayin’
ez that child ain’t smitten with ye. It
ain’t no use to lie and say she don’t
prefer you to her old father, or young chaps of her
own age and kind. I’ve seed it afor now.
I suspicioned it afor I seed her slip out o’
this place to-night. Thar! keep your hair on,
such ez it is!” he added as de Ferrieres attempted
a quick deprecatory gesture. “I ain’t
askin yer how often she comes here, nor what she sez
to you nor you to her. I ain’t asked her
and I don’t ask you. I’ll allow
ez you’ve settled all the preliminaries and bought
her the ring and sich; I’m only askin’
you now, kalkilatin you’ve got all the keerds
in your own hand, what you’ll take to step out
and leave the board?”
The dazed look of de Ferrieres might
have forced itself even upon Nott’s one-idead
fatuity, had it not been a part of that gentleman’s
system delicately to look another way at that moment
so as not to embarrass his adversary’s calculation.
“Pardon,” stammered de Ferrieres, “but
I do not comprehend!” He raised his hand to
his head. “I am not well I am
stupid. Ah, mon Dieu!”
“I ain’t sayin’,”
added Nott more gently, “ez you don’t feel
bad. It’s nat’ral. But it ain’t
business. I’m asking you,” he continued,
taking from his breast-pocket a large wallet, “how
much you’ll take in cash now, and the rest next
steamer day, to give up Rosey and leave the ship.”
De Ferrieres staggered to his feet
despite Nott’s restraining hand. “To
leave Mademoiselle and leave the ship?” he said
huskily, “is it not?”
“In course. Yer can leave
things yer just ez you found ’em when you came,
you know,” continued Nott, for the first time
looking around the miserable apartment. “It’s
a business job. I’ll take the bales back
ag’in, and you kin reckon up what you’re
out, countin’ Rosey and loss o’ time.”
“He wishes me to go he
has said,” repeated de Ferrieres to himself
“Ef you mean me when you
say him, and ez thar ain’t any other man
around, I reckon you do ’yes!’”
“And he asks me he this
man of the feet and the daughter asks me de
Ferrieres what I will take,” continued
de Ferrieres, buttoning his coat. “No!
it is a dream!” He walked stiffly to the corner
where his portmanteau lay, lifted it, and going to
the outer door, a cut through the ship’s side
that communicated with the alley, unlocked it and flung
it open to the night. A thick mist like the breath
of the ocean flowed into the room.
“You ask me what I shall take
to go,” he said as he stood on the threshold.
“I shall take what you cannot give, Monsieur,
but what I would not keep if I stood here another
moment. I take my Honor, Monsieur, and I
take my leave!”
For a moment his grotesque figure
was outlined in the opening, and then disappeared
as if he had dropped into an invisible ocean below.
Stupefied and disconcerted at this complete success
of his overtures, Abner Nott remained speechless,
gazing at the vacant space until a cold influx of
the mist recalled him. Then he rose and shuffled
quickly to the door.
“Hi! Ferrers! Look
yer Say! Wot’s your hurry, pardner?”
But there was no response. The
thick mist, which hid the surrounding objects, seemed
to deaden all sound also. After a moment’s
pause he closed the door, but did not lock it, and
retreating to the centre of the room remained blinking
at the two candles and plucking some perplexing problem
from his beard. Suddenly an idea seized him.
Rosey! Where was she? Perhaps it had been
a preconcerted plan, and she had fled with him.
Putting out the lights, he stumbled hurriedly through
the passage to the gangway above. The cabin-door
was open; there was the sound of voices Renshaw’s
and Rosey’s. Mr. Nott felt relieved but
not unembarrassed. He would have avoided his
daughter’s presence that evening. But
even while making this resolution with characteristic
infelicity he blundered into the room. Rosey
looked up with a slight start; Renshaw’s animated
face was changed to its former expression of inward
“You came in so like a ghost,
father,” said Rosey with a slight peevishness
that was new to her. “And I thought you
were in town. Don’t go, Mr. Renshaw.”
But Mr. Renshaw intimated that he
had already trespassed upon Miss Nott’s time,
and that no doubt her father wanted to talk with her.
To his surprise and annoyance, however, Mr. Nott insisted
on accompanying him to his room, and without heeding
Renshaw’s cold “Good-night,” entered
and closed the door behind him.
said Mr. Nott with a troubled air, “you disremember
that when you first kem here you asked me if you could
hev that ’er loft that the Frenchman had down
“No, I don’t remember
it,” said Renshaw almost rudely. “But,”
he added, after a pause, with an air of a man obliged
to revive a stale and unpleasant memory, “if
I did what about it?”
“Nuthin’, only that you
kin hev it to-morrow, ez that ’ere Frenchman
is movin’ out,” responded Nott.
“I thought you was sorter keen about it when
you first kem.”
“Umph! we’ll talk about
it to-morrow.” Something in the look of
wearied perplexity with which Mr. Nott was beginning
to regard his own mal a propos presence, arrested
the young man’s attention. “What’s
the reason you didn’t sell this old ship long
ago, take a decent house in the town, and bring up
your daughter like a lady?” he asked with a
sudden blunt good humor. But even this implied
blasphemy against the habitation he worshiped did
not prevent Mr. Nott from his usual misconstruction
of the question.
“I reckon, now, Rosey’s
got high-flown ideas of livin’ in a castle with
ruins, eh?” he said cunningly.
“Haven’t heard her say,”
returned Renshaw abruptly. “Good-night.”
Firmly convinced that Rosey had been
unable to conceal from Mr. Renshaw the influence of
her dreams of a castellated future with de Ferrieres,
he regained the cabin. Satisfying himself that
his daughter had retired, he sought his own couch.
But not to sleep. The figure of de Ferrieres,
standing in the ship side and melting into the outer
darkness, haunted him, and compelled him in dreams
to rise and follow him through the alleys and by-ways
of the crowded city. Again, it was a part of
his morbid suspicion that he now invested the absent
man with a potential significance and an unknown power.
What deep-laid plans might he not form to possess
himself of Rosey, of which he, Abner Nott, would be
ignorant? Unchecked by the restraint of a father’s
roof he would now give full license to his power.
“Said he’d take his Honor with him,”
muttered Abner to himself in the dim watches of the
night; “lookin’ at that sayin’ in
its right light, it looks bad.”
The elaborately untruthful account
which Mr. Nott gave his daughter of de Ferrieres’s
sudden departure was more fortunate than his usual
equivocations. While it disappointed and slightly
mortified her, it did not seem to her inconsistent
with what she already knew of him. “Said
his doctor had ordered him to quit town under an hour,
owing to a comin’ attack of hay fever, and he
had a friend from furrin parts waitin’ him at
the Springs, Rosey,” explained Nott, hesitating
between his desire to avoid his daughter’s eyes
and his wish to observe her countenance.
“Was he worse? I
mean did he look badly, father?” inquired Rosey
“I reckon not exackly bad.
Kinder looked ez if he moût be worse soon ef
he didn’t hump hisself.”
“Did you see him? in
his room?” asked Rosey anxiously. Upon
the answer to this simple question depended the future
confidential relations of father and daughter.
If her father had himself detected the means by which
his lodger existed, she felt that her own obligations
to secrecy had been removed. But Mr. Nott’s
answer disposed of this vain hope. It was a
response after his usual fashion to the question he
imagined she artfully wished to ask, i. e. if
he had discovered their rendezvous of the previous
night. This it was part of his peculiar delicacy
to ignore. Yet his reply showed that he had been
unconscious of the one miserable secret that he might
have read easily.
“I was there an hour or so him
and me alone discussin’ trade.
I reckon he’s got a good thing outer that curled
horse hair, for I see he’s got in an invoice
o’ cushions. I’ve stored ’em
all in the forrard bulkhead until he sends for ’em,
ez Mr. Renshaw hez taken the loft.”
But although Mr. Renshaw had taken
the loft, he did not seem in haste to occupy it.
He spent part of the morning in uneasily pacing his
room, in occasional sallies into the street from which
he purposelessly returned, and once or twice in distant
and furtive contemplation of Rosey at work in the
galley. This last observation was not unnoticed
by the astute Nott, who at once conceiving that he
was nourishing a secret and hopeless passion for Rosey,
began to consider whether it was not his duty to warn
the young man of her preoccupied affections.
But Mr. Renshaw’s final disappearance obliged
him to withhold his confidence till morning.
This time Mr. Renshaw left the ship
with the evident determination of some settled purpose.
He walked rapidly until he reached the counting-house
of Mr. Sleight, when he was at once shown into a private
office. In a few moments Mr. Sleight, a brusque
but passionless man, joined him.
“Well,” said Sleight,
closing the door carefully. “What news?”
“None,” said Renshaw bluntly.
“Look here, Sleight,” he added, turning
to him suddenly. “Let me out of this game.
I don’t like it.”
“Does that mean you’ve
found nothing?” asked Sleight, sarcastically.
“It means that I haven’t
looked for anything, and that I don’t intend
to without the full knowledge of that d d
fool who owns the ship.”
“You’ve changed your mind
since you wrote that letter,” said Sleight coolly,
producing from a drawer the note already known to the
reader. Renshaw mechanically extended his hand
to take it. Mr. Sleight dropped the letter back
into the drawer, which he quietly locked. The
apparently simple act dyed Mr. Renshaw’s cheek
with color, but it vanished quickly, and with it any
token of his previous embarrassment. He looked
at Sleight with the convinced air of a resolute man
who had at last taken a disagreeable step but was
willing to stand by the consequences.
“I have changed my mind,”
he said coolly. “I found out that it was
one thing to go down there as a skilled prospector
might go to examine a mine that was to be valued according
to his report of the indications, but that it was
entirely another thing to go and play the spy in a
poor devil’s house in order to buy something
he didn’t know he was selling and wouldn’t
sell if he did.”
“And something that the man
he bought of didn’t think of selling; something
he himself never paid for, and never expected
to buy,” sneered Sleight.
“But something that we
expect to buy from our knowledge of all this, and
it is that which makes all the difference.”
“But you knew all this before.”
“I never saw it in this light
before! I never thought of it until I was living
there face to face with the old fool I was intending
to overreach. I never was sure of it until
this morning, when he actually turned out one of his
lodgers that I might have the very room I required
to play off our little game in comfortably. When
he did that, I made up my mind to drop the whole thing,
and I’m here to do it.”
“And let somebody else take
the responsibility with the percentage unless
you’ve also felt it your duty to warn Nott too,”
said Sleight with a sneer.
“You only dare say that to me,
Sleight,” said Renshaw quietly, “because
you have in that drawer an equal evidence of my folly
and my confidence; but if you are wise you will not
presume too far on either. Let us see how we
stand. Through the yarn of a drunken captain
and a mutinous sailor you became aware of an unclaimed
shipment of treasure, concealed in an unknown ship
that entered this harbor. You are enabled, through
me, to corroborate some facts and identify the ship.
You proposed to me, as a speculation, to identify the
treasure if possible before you purchased the ship.
I accepted the offer without consideration; on consideration
I now decline it, but without prejudice or loss to
any one but myself. As to your insinuation I need
not remind you that my presence here to-day refutes
it. I would not require your permission to make
a much better bargain with a good natured fool like
Nott than I could with you. Or if I did not care
for the business I could have warned the girl ”
“The girl what girl?”
Renshaw bit his lip but answered boldly,
“The old man’s daughter a poor
girl whom this act would rob as well as
Sleight looked at his companion attentively.
“You might have said so at first, and let up
on this camp-meetin’ exhortation. Well
then admitting you’ve got the old
man and the young girl on the same string, and that
you’ve played it pretty low down in the short
time you’ve been there I suppose,
Dick Renshaw, I’ve got to see your bluff.
Well, how much is it! What’s the figure
you and she have settled on?”
For an instant Mr. Sleight was in
physical danger. But before he had finished
speaking Renshaw’s quick sense of the ludicrous
had so far overcome his first indignation as to enable
him even to admire the perfect moral insensibility
of his companion. As he rose and walked towards
the door, he half wondered that he had ever treated
the affair seriously. With a smile he replied:
“Far from bluffing, Sleight,
I am throwing my cards on the table. Consider
that I’ve passed out. Let some other man
take my hand. Rake down the pot if you like,
old man, I leave for Sacramento to-night. Adios.”
When the door had closed behind him
Mr. Sleight summoned his clerk.
“Is that petition for grading Pontiac Street
“I’ve seen the largest
property holders, sir; they’re only waiting for
you to sign first.” Mr. Sleight paused
and then affixed his signature to the paper his clerk
laid before him. “Get the other names and
send it up at once.”
“If Mr. Nott doesn’t sign, sir?”
“No matter. He will be
assessed all the same.” Mr. Sleight took
up his hat.
“The Lascar seaman that was
here the other day has been wanting to see you, sir.
I said you were busy.”
Mr. Sleight put down his hat. “Send him
Nevertheless Mr. Sleight sat down
and at once abstracted himself so completely as to
be apparently in utter oblivion of the man who entered.
He was lithe and Indian-looking; bearing in dress
and manner the careless slouch without the easy frankness
of a sailor.
“Well!” said Sleight without looking up.
“I was only wantin’ to know ef you had
any news for me, boss?”
“News?” echoed Sleight as if absently;
“news of what?”
“That little matter of the Pontiac
we talked about, boss,” returned the Lascar
with an uneasy servility in the whites of his teeth
“Oh,” said Sleight, “that’s
played out. It’s a regular fraud.
It’s an old forecastle yarn, my man, that you
can’t reel off in the cabin.”
The sailor’s face darkened.
“The man who was looking into
it has thrown the whole thing up. I tell you
it’s played out!” repeated Sleight, without
raising his head.
“It’s true, boss every
word,” said the Lascar, with an appealing insinuation
that seemed to struggle hard with savage earnestness.
“You can swear me, boss; I wouldn’t lie
to a gentleman like you. Your man hasn’t
half looked, or else it must be there, or ”
“That’s just it,”
said Sleight slowly; “who’s to know that
your friends haven’t been there already? that
seems to have been your style.”
“But no one knew it but me,
until I told you, I swear to God. I ain’t
lying, boss, and I ain’t drunk. Say don’t
give it up, boss. That man of yours likely don’t
believe it, because he don’t know anything about
it. I do I could find it.”
A silence followed. Mr. Sleight
remained completely absorbed in his papers for some
moments. Then glancing at the Lascar, he took
his pen, wrote a hurried note, folded it, addressed
it, and, holding it between his fingers, leaned back
in his chair.
“If you choose to take this
note to my man, he may give it another show.
Mind, I don’t say that he will. He’s
going to Sacramento to-night, but you could go down
there and find him before he starts. He’s
got a room there, I believe. While you’re
waiting for him, you might keep your eyes open to
“Ay, ay, sir,” said the
sailor, eagerly endeavoring to catch the eye of his
employer. But Mr. Sleight looked straight before
him, and he turned to go.
“The Sacramento boat goes at
nine,” said Mr. Sleight quietly.
This time their glances met, and the
Lascar’s eye glistened with subtle intelligence.
The next moment he was gone, and Mr. Sleight again
became absorbed in his papers.
Meanwhile Renshaw was making his way
back to the Pontiac with that light-hearted optimism
that had characterized his parting with Sleight.
It was this quality of his nature, fostered perhaps
by the easy civilization in which he moved, that had
originally drawn him into relations with the man he
had just quitted; a quality that had been troubled
and darkened by those relations, yet, when they were
broken, at once returned. It consequently did
not occur to him that he had only selfishly compromised
with the difficulty; it seemed to him enough that
he had withdrawn from a compact he thought dishonorable;
he was not called upon to betray his partner in that
compact merely to benefit others. He had been
willing to incur suspicion and loss to reinstate himself
in his self-respect, more he could not do without justifying
that suspicion. The view taken by Sleight was,
after all, that which most business men would take which
even the unbusiness-like Nott would take which
the girl herself might be tempted to listen to.
Clearly he could do nothing but abandon the Pontiac
and her owner to the fate he could not in honor avert.
And even that fate was problematical. It did
not follow that the treasure was still concealed in
the Pontiac, nor that Nott would be willing to sell
her. He would make some excuse to Nott he
smiled to think he would probably be classed in the
long line of absconding tenants he would
say good-by to Rosey, and leave for Sacramento that
night. He ascended the stairs to the gangway
with a freer breast than when he first entered the
Mr. Nott was evidently absent, and
after a quick glance at the half-open cabin door,
Renshaw turned towards the galley. But Miss
Rosey was not in her accustomed haunt, and with a feeling
of disappointment, which seemed inconsistent with
so slight a cause, he crossed the deck impatiently
and entered his room. He was about to close
the door when the prolonged rustle of a trailing skirt
in the passage attracted his attention. The
sound was so unlike that made by any garment worn
by Rosey that he remained motionless, with his hand
on the door. The sound approached nearer, and
the next moment a white veiled figure with a trailing
skirt slowly swept past the room. Renshaw’s
pulses halted for an instant in half superstitious
awe. As the apparition glided on and vanished
in the cabin door he could only see that it was the
form of a beautiful and graceful woman but
nothing more. Bewildered and curious, he forgot
himself so far as to follow it, and impulsively entered
the cabin. The figure turned, uttered a little
cry, threw the veil aside, and showed the half troubled,
half blushing face of Rosey.
“I beg your
pardon,” stammered Renshaw; “I didn’t
know it was you.”
“I was trying on some things,”
said Rosey, recovering her composure and pointing
to an open trunk that seemed to contain a theatrical
wardrobe “some things father gave
me long ago. I wanted to see if there was anything
I could use. I thought I was all alone in the
ship, but fancying I heard a noise forward I came
out to see what it was. I suppose it must have
She raised her clear eyes to his,
with a slight touch of womanly reserve that was so
incompatible with any vulgar vanity or girlish coquetry
that he became the more embarrassed. Her dress,
too, of a slightly antique shape, rich but simple,
seemed to reveal and accent a certain repose of gentlewomanliness,
that he was now wishing to believe he had always noticed.
Conscious of a superiority in her that now seemed
to change their relations completely, he alone remained
silent, awkward, and embarrassed before the girl who
had taken care of his room, and who cooked in the
galley! What he had thoughtlessly considered
a merely vulgar business intrigue against her stupid
father, now to his extravagant fancy assumed the proportions
of a sacrilege to herself.
“You’ve had your revenge,
Miss Nott, for the fright I once gave you,”
he said a little uneasily, “for you quite startled
me just now as you passed. I began to think
the Pontiac was haunted. I thought you were
a ghost. I don’t know why such a ghost
should frighten anybody,” he went on with
a desperate attempt to recover his position by gallantry.
“Let me see that’s Donna Elvira’s
dress is it not?”
“I don’t think that was
the poor woman’s name,” said Rosey simply;
“she died of yellow fever at New Orleans as
Her ignorance seemed to Mr. Renshaw
so plainly to partake more of the nun than the provincial
that he hesitated to explain to her that he meant
the heroine of an opera.
“It seems dreadful to put on
the poor thing’s clothes, doesn’t it?”
Mr. Renshaw’s eyes showed so
plainly that he thought otherwise, that she drew a
little austerely towards the door of her state-room.
“I must change these things
before any one comes,” she said dryly.
“That means I must go, I suppose.
But couldn’t you let me wait here or in the
gangway until then, Miss Nott? I am going away
to-night, and I mayn’t see you again.”
He had not intended to say this, but it slipped from
his embarrassed tongue. She stopped with her
hand on the door.
“You are going away?”
“I think I
must leave to-night. I have some important business
She raised her frank eyes to his.
The unmistakable look of disappointment that he saw
in them gave his heart a sudden throb and sent the
quick blood to his cheeks.
“It’s too bad,”
she said, abstractedly. “Nobody ever seems
to stay here long. Captain Bower promised to
tell me all about the ship and he went away the second
week. The photographer left before he finished
the picture of the Pontiac; Monsieur de Ferrieres has
only just gone, and now you are going.”
“Perhaps, unlike them, I have
finished my season of usefulness here,” he replied,
with a bitterness he would have recalled the next moment.
But Rosey, with a faint sigh, saying, “I won’t
be long,” entered the state-room and closed
the door behind her.
Renshaw bit his lip and pulled at
the long silken threads of his moustache until they
smarted. Why had he not gone at once? Why
was it necessary to say he might not see her again and
if he had said it, why should he add anything more?
What was he waiting for now? To endeavor to
prove to her that he really bore no resemblance to
Captain Bower, the photographer, the crazy Frenchman
de Ferrieres? Or would he be forced to tell
her that he was running away from a conspiracy to
defraud her father merely for something
to say? Was there ever such folly? Rosey
was “not long,” as she had said, but he
was beginning to pace the narrow cabin impatiently
when the door opened and she returned.
She had resumed her ordinary calico
gown, but such was the impression left upon Renshaw’s
fancy that she seemed to wear it with a new grace.
At any other time he might have recognized the change
as due to a new corset, which strict veracity compels
me to record Rosey had adopted for the first time
that morning. Howbeit, her slight coquetry seemed
to have passed, for she closed the open trunk with
a return of her old listless air, and sitting on it
rested her elbows on her knees and her oval chin in
“I wish you would do me a favor,”
she said after a reflective pause.
“Let me know what it is and
it shall be done,” replied Renshaw quickly.
“If you should come across Monsieur
de Ferrieres, or hear of him, I wish you would let
me know. He was very poorly when he left here,
and I should like to know if he was better.
He didn’t say where he was going. At least,
he didn’t tell father; but I fancy he and father
“I shall be very glad of having
even that opportunity of making you remember
me, Miss Nott,” returned Renshaw with a faint
smile; “I don’t suppose either that it
would be very difficult to get news of your friend everybody
seems to know him.”
“But not as I did,” said
Rosey with an abstracted little sigh.
Mr. Renshaw opened his brown eyes
upon her. Was he mistaken? was this romantic
girl only a little coquette playing her provincial
airs on him? “You say he and your father
didn’t agree? That means, I suppose, that
you and he agreed? and that was the
“I don’t think father
knew anything about it,” said Rosey simply.
Mr. Renshaw rose. And this was
what he had been waiting to hear! “Perhaps,”
he said grimly, “you would also like news of
the photographer and Captain Bower, or did your father
agree with them better?”
“No,” said Rosey quietly.
She remained silent for a moment, and lifting her
lashes said, “Father always seemed to agree with
you, and that ” she hesitated.
“That’s why you don’t.”
“I didn’t say that,”
said Rosey with an incongruous increase of coldness
and color. “I only meant to say it was
that which makes it seem so hard you should go now.”
Notwithstanding his previous determination
Renshaw found himself sitting down again. Confused
and pleased, wishing he had said more or
less he said nothing, and Rosey was forced
“It’s strange, isn’t
it but father was urging me this morning
to make a visit to some friends at the old Ranch.
I didn’t want to go. I like it much better
“But you cannot bury yourself
here forever, Miss Nott,” said Renshaw with
a sudden burst of honest enthusiasm. “Sooner
or later you will be forced to go where you will be
properly appreciated, where you will be admired and
courted, where your slightest wish will be law.
Believe me, without flattery, you don’t know
your own power.”
“It doesn’t seem strong
enough to keep even the little I like here,”
said Rosey with a slight glistening of the eyes.
“But,” she added hastily, “you
don’t know how much the dear old ship is to me.
It’s the only home I think I ever had.”
“But the Ranch?” said Renshaw.
“The Ranch seemed to be only
the old wagon halted in the road. It was a very
little improvement on outdoors,” said Rosey with
a little shiver. “But this is so cozy
and snug and yet so strange and foreign. Do you
know I think I began to understand why I like it so
since you taught me so much about ships and voyages.
Before that I only learned from books. Books
deceive you, I think, more than people do. Don’t
you think so?”
She evidently did not notice the quick
flush that covered his cheeks and apparently dazzled
his troubled eyelid for she went on confidentially.
“I was thinking of you yesterday.
I was sitting by the galley door, looking forward.
You remember the first day I saw you when you startled
me by coming up out of the hatch?”
“I wish you wouldn’t think
of that,” said Renshaw, with more earnestness
than he would have made apparent.
“I don’t want to either,”
said Rosey, gravely, “for I’ve had a strange
fancy about it. I saw once when I was younger,
a picture in a print shop in Montgomery Street that
haunted me. I think it was called ’The
Pirate.’ There was a number of wicked-looking
sailors lying around the deck, and coming out of a
hatch was one figure with his hands on the deck and
a cutlass in his mouth.”
“Thank you,” said Renshaw.
“You don’t understand.
He was horrid-looking, not at all like you. I
never thought of him when I first saw you; but
the other day I thought how dreadful it would have
been if some one like him and not like you had come
up then. That made me nervous sometimes of being
alone. I think father is too. He often
goes about stealthily at night, as if he was watching
Renshaw’s face grew suddenly
dark. Could it be possible that Sleight had
always suspected him, and set spies to watch or
was he guilty of some double intrigue?
“He thinks,” continued
Rosey with a faint smile, “that some one is
looking around the ship, and talks of setting bear-traps.
I hope you’re not mad, Mr. Renshaw,”
she added, suddenly catching sight of his changed
expression, “at my foolishness in saying you
reminded me of the pirate. I meant nothing.”
“I know you’re incapable
of meaning anything but good to anybody, Miss Nott,
perhaps to me more than I deserve,” said Renshaw
with a sudden burst of feeling. “I wish I
wish you would do me a favor.
You asked me one just now.” He had
taken her hand. It seemed so like a mere illustration
of his earnestness, that she did not withdraw it.
“Your father tells you everything. If
he has any offer to dispose of the ship, will you
write to me at once before anything is concluded?”
He winced a little the sentence of Sleight,
“What’s the figure you and she have settled
upon?” flashed across his mind. He scarcely
noticed that Rosey had withdrawn her hand coldly.
“Perhaps you had better speak
to father, as it is his business. Besides,
I shall not be here. I shall be at the Ranch.”
“But you said you didn’t want to go?”
“I’ve changed my mind,” said Rosey
listlessly. “I shall go to-night.”
She rose as if to indicate that the
interview was ended. With an overpowering instinct
that his whole future happiness depended upon his
next act, he made a step towards her, with eager outstretched
hands. But she slightly lifted her own with a
warning gesture, “I hear father coming you
will have a chance to talk business with him,”
she said, and vanished into her state-room.
The heavy tread of Abner Nott echoed
in the passage. Confused and embarrassed, Renshaw
remained standing at the door that had closed upon
Rosey as her father entered the cabin. Providence,
which always fostered Mr. Nott’s characteristic
misconceptions, left that perspicacious parent but
one interpretation of the situation. Rosey had
evidently just informed Mr. Renshaw that she loved
“I was just saying ‘good-by’
to Miss Nott,” said Renshaw, hastily regaining
his composure with an effort. “I am going
to Sacramento to-night, and will not return.
“In course, in course,”
interrupted Nott, soothingly; “that’s wot
you say now, and that’s what you allow to do.
That’s wot they allus do.”
“I mean,” said Renshaw,
reddening at what he conceived to be an allusion to
the absconding propensities of Nott’s previous
tenants, “I mean that you shall keep
the advance to cover any loss you might suffer through
my giving up the rooms.”
“Certingly,” said Nott,
laying his hand with a large sympathy on Renshaw’s
shoulder; “but we’ll drop that just now.
We won’t swap hosses in the middle of the river.
We’ll square up accounts in your room,”
he added, raising his voice that Rosey might overhear
him, after a preliminary wink at the young man.
“Yes, sir, we’ll just square up and settle
in there. Come along, Mr. Renshaw.”
Pushing him with paternal gentleness from the cabin,
with his hand still upon his shoulder, he followed
him into the passage. Half annoyed at his familiarity,
yet not altogether displeased by this illustration
of Rosey’s belief of his preference, Renshaw
wonderingly accompanied him. Nott closed the
door, and pushing the young man into a chair, deliberately
seated himself at the table opposite. “It’s
just as well that Rosey reckons that you and me is
settlin’ our accounts,” he began, cunningly,
“and mebbee it’s just ez well ez she should
reckon you’re goin’ away.”
“But I am going,”
interrupted Renshaw, impatiently. “I leave
“Surely, surely,” said
Nott, gently, “that’s wot you kalkilate
to do; that’s just nat’ral in a young
feller. That’s about what I reckon I’d
hev done to her mother if anythin’ like this
hed ever cropped up, which it didn’t.
Not but what Almiry Jane had young fellers enough round
her, but, ’cept olé Judge Peter, ez was
lamed in the War of 1812, there ain’t no similarity
ez I kin see,” he added, musingly.
“I am afraid I can’t see
any similarity either, Mr. Nott,” said Renshaw,
struggling between a dawning sense of some impending
absurdity and his growing passion for Rosey.
“For Heaven’s sake speak out if you’ve
got anything to say.”
Mr. Nott leaned forward, and placed
his large hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“That’s it. That’s what I
sed to myself when I seed how things were pintin’.
‘Speak out,’ sez I, ’Abner!
Speak out if you’ve got anything to say.
You kin trust this yer Mr. Renshaw. He ain’t
the kind of man to creep into the bosom of a man’s
ship for pupposes of his own. He ain’t
a man that would hunt round until he discovered a poor
man’s treasure, and then try to rob ’”
“Stop!” said Renshaw,
with a set face and darkening eyes. “What
treasure? What man are you speaking of?”
“Why Rosey and Mr. Ferrers,” returned
Renshaw sank into his seat again.
But the expression of relief which here passed swiftly
over his face gave way to one of uneasy interest as
Nott went on.
a little highfalutin talkin’ of Rosey ez a treasure.
But, considerin’, Mr. Renshaw, ez she’s
the only prop’ty I’ve kept by me for seventeen
years ez hez paid interest and increased in valooe,
it ain’t sayin’ too much to call her so.
And ez Ferrers knows this, he oughter been content
with gougin’ me in that horse-hair spec, without
goin’ for Rosey. P’r’aps yer
surprised at hearing me speak o’ my own flesh
and blood ez if I was talkin’ hoss-trade, but
you and me is bus’ness men, Mr. Renshaw, and
we discusses ez such. We ain’t goin’
to slosh round and slop over in po’try and sentiment,”
continued Nott, with a tremulous voice, and a hand
that slightly shook on Renshaw’s shoulder.
“We ain’t goin’ to git up and sing,
’Thou’st larned to love another thou’st
broken every vow we’ve parted from each other
and my bozom’s lonely now oh is it well to sever
such hearts as ourn for ever kin I forget thee never
farewell farewell farewell.’ Ye never happen’d
to hear Jim Baker sing that at the moosic hall on
Dupont Street, Mr. Renshaw,” continued Mr. Nott,
enthusiastically, when he had recovered from that
complete absence of punctuation which alone suggested
verse to his intellect. “He sorter struck
water down here,” indicating his heart, “every
“But what has Miss Nott to do
with M. de Ferrieres?” asked Renshaw, with a
Mr. Nott regarded him with dumb, round,
astonished eyes. “Hezn’t she told
“And she didn’t let on anythin’
about him?” he continued, feebly.
“She said she’d liked
to know where ” He stopped, with
the reflection that he was betraying her confidences.
A dim foreboding of some new form
of deceit, to which even the man before him was a
consenting party, almost paralyzed Nott’s faculties.
“Then she didn’t tell yer that she and
Ferrers was sparkin’ and keepin’ kimpany
together; that she and him was engaged, and was kalkilatin’
to run away to furrin parts; that she cottoned to
him more than to the ship or her father?”
“She certainly did not, and
I shouldn’t believe it,” said Renshaw,
Nott smiled. He was amused;
he astutely recognized the usual trustfulness of love
and youth. There was clearly no deceit here!
Renshaw’s attentive eyes saw the smile, and his
“I like to hear yer say that,
Mr. Renshaw,” said Nott, “and it’s
no more than Rosey deserves, ez it’s suthing
onnat’ral and spell-like that’s come over
her through Ferrers. It ain’t my Rosey.
But it’s Gospel truth, whether she’s
bewitched or not; whether it’s them damn fool
stories she reads and it’s like ez
not he’s just the kind o’ snipe to write
’em hisself, and sorter advertise hisself, don’t
yer see she’s allus stuck up
for him. They’ve had clandesent interviews,
and when I taxed him with it he ez much ez allowed
it was so, and reckoned he must leave, so ez he could
run her off, you know kinder stampede her
with ‘honor.’ Them’s his very
“But that is all past; he is
gone, and Miss Nott does not even know where he is!”
said Renshaw, with a laugh, which, however, concealed
a vague uneasiness.
Mr. Nott rose and opened the door
carefully. When he had satisfied himself that
no one was listening, he came back and said in a whisper,
“That’s a lie. Not ez Rosey means
to lie, but it’s a trick he’s put upon
that poor child. That man, Mr. Renshaw, hez
been hangin’ round the Pontiac ever since.
I’ve seed him twice with my own eyes pass the
cabin windys. More than that, I’ve heard
strange noises at night, and seen strange faces in
the alley over yer. And only jist now ez I kem
in I ketched sight of a furrin lookin’ Chinee
nigger slinking round the back door of what useter
be Ferrers’s loft.”
“Did he look like a sailor?”
asked Renshaw quickly, with a return of his former
“Not more than I do,”
said Nott, glancing complacently at his pea-jacket.
“He had rings on his yeers like a wench.”
Mr. Renshaw started. But seeing
Nott’s eyes fixed on him, he said lightly, “But
what have these strange faces and this strange man probably
only a Lascar sailor out of a job to do
“Friends o’ his feller
furrin citizens spies on Rosey, don’t
you see? But they can’t play the old man,
Mr. Renshaw. I’ve told Rosey she must
make a visit to the old Ranch. Once I’ve
got her ther safe, I reckon I kin manage Mr. Ferrers
and any number of Chinee niggers he kin bring along.”
Renshaw remained for a few moments
lost in thought. Then rising suddenly he grasped
Mr. Nott’s hand with a frank smile but determined
eyes. “I haven’t got the hang of
this, Mr. Nott the whole thing gets me!
I only know that I’ve changed my mind.
I’m not going to Sacramento. I shall
stay here, old man, until I see you safe through
the business, or my name’s not Dick Renshaw.
There’s my hand on it! Don’t say
a word. Maybe it is no more than I ought to do perhaps
not half enough. Only remember, not a word of
this to your daughter. She must believe that
I leave to-night. And the sooner you get her out
of this cursed ship the better.”
“Deacon Flint’s girls
are goin’ up in to-night’s boat.
I’ll send Rosey with them,” said Nott
with a cunning twinkle. Renshaw nodded.
Nott seized his hand with a wink of unutterable significance.
Left to himself Renshaw tried to review
more calmly the circumstances in these strange revelations
that had impelled him to change his resolution so
suddenly. That the ship was under the surveillance
of unknown parties, and that the description of them
tallied with his own knowledge of a certain Lascar
sailor, who was one of Sleight’s informants seemed
to be more than probable. That this seemed to
point to Sleight’s disloyalty to himself while
he was acting as his agent, or a double treachery
on the part of Sleight’s informants was in either
case a reason and an excuse for his own interference.
But the connection of the absurd Frenchman with the
case, which at first seemed a characteristic imbecility
of his landlord, bewildered him the more he thought
of it. Rejecting any hypothesis of the girl’s
affection for the antiquated figure whose sanity was
a question of public criticism, he was forced to the
equally alarming theory that Ferrieres was cognizant
of the treasure, and that his attentions to Rosey were
to gain possession of it by marrying her. Might
she not be dazzled by a picture of this wealth?
Was it not possible that she was already in part
possession of the secret, and her strange attraction
to the ship, and what he had deemed her innocent craving
for information concerning it, a consequence?
Why had he not thought of this before? Perhaps
she had detected his purpose from the first, and had
deliberately checkmated him. The thought did
not increase his complacency as Nott softly returned.
“It’s all right,”
he began with a certain satisfaction in this rare
opportunity for Machiavellian diplomacy, “it’s
all fixed now. Rosey tumbled to it at once, partiklerly
when I said you was bound to go. ‘But wot
makes Mr. Renshaw go, father,’ sez she; ’wot
makes everybody run away from the ship?’ sez
she, rather peart like and sassy for her. ‘Mr.
Renshaw hez contractin’ business,’
sez I; ’got a big thing up in Sacramento that’ll
make his fortun’,’ sez I for
I wasn’t goin’ to give yer away, don’t
ye see. ’He had some business to talk to
you about the ship,’ sez she, lookin’
at me under the corner of her pocket handkerchief.
‘Lots o’ business,’ sez I.
’Then I reckon he don’t care to hev me
write to him,’ sez she. ‘Not a bit,’
sez I, ’he wouldn’t answer ye if ye did.
Ye’ll never hear from that chap agin.’”
“But what the devil ”
interrupted the young man impetuously.
“Keep yer hair on!” remonstrated
the old man with dark intelligence. “Ef
you’d seen the way she flounced into her stateroom! she,
Rosey, ez allus moves ez softly ez a spirit you’d
hev wished I’d hev unloaded a little more.
No sir, gals is gals in some things all the time.”
Renshaw rose and paced the room rapidly.
“Perhaps I’d better speak to her again
before she goes,” he said, impulsively.
better not,” replied the imperturbable Nott.
Irritated as he was, Renshaw could
not avoid the reflection that the old man was right.
What, indeed, could he say to her with his present
imperfect knowledge? How could she write to him
if that knowledge was correct?
“Ef,” said Nott, kindly,
with a laying on of large benedictory and paternal
hands, “ef yer are willin’ to see Rosey
agin, without SPEAKIN’ to her, I reckon I ken
fix it for yer. I’m goin’ to take
her down to the boat in half an hour. Ef yer
should happen mind, ef yer should happen
to be down there, seein’ some friends off and
sorter promenadin’ up and down the wharf like
them high-toned chaps on Montgomery Street ye
might ketch her eye unconscious like. Or, ye
might do this!” He rose after a moment’s
cogitation and with a face of profound mystery opened
the door and beckoned Renshaw to follow him.
Leading the way cautiously, he brought the young man
into an open unpartitioned recess beside her stateroom.
It seemed to be used as a storeroom, and Renshaw’s
eye was caught by a trunk the size and shape of the
one that had provided Rosey with the materials of
her masquerade. Pointing to it Mr. Nott said
in a grave whisper: “This yer trunk is the
companion trunk to Rosey’s. She’s
got the things them opery women wears; this yer contains
the he things, the duds and fixin’s o’
the men o’ the same stripe.” Throwing
it open he continued: “Now, Mr. Renshaw,
gals is gals; it’s nat’ral they should
be took by fancy dress and store clothes on young
chaps as on theirselves. That man Ferrers hez
got the dead wood on all of ye in this sort of thing,
and hez been playing, so to speak, a lone hand
all along. And ef thar’s anythin’
in thar,” he added, lifting part of a theatrical
wardrobe, “that you think you’d fancy anythin’
you’d like to put on when ye promenade the wharf
down yonder it’s yours. Don’t
ye be bashful, but help yourself.”
It was fully a minute before Renshaw
fairly grasped the old man’s meaning.
But when he did when the suggested spectacle
of himself arrayed a la Ferrieres, gravely promenading
the wharf as a last gorgeous appeal to the affections
of Rosey, rose before his fancy, he gave way to a
fit of genuine laughter. The nervous tension
of the past few hours relaxed; he laughed until the
tears came into his eyes; he was still laughing when
the door of the cabin was suddenly opened and Rosey
appeared cold and distant on the threshold.
“I beg your pardon,”
stammered Renshaw hastily. “I didn’t
mean to disturb you I ”
Without looking at him Rosey turned
to her father. “I am ready,” she
said coldly, and closed the door again.
A glance of artful intelligence came
into Nott’s eyes, which had remained blankly
staring at Renshaw’s apparently causeless hilarity.
Turning to him he winked solemnly. “That
keerless kind o’ hoss-laff jist fetched her,”
he whispered, and vanished before his chagrined companion
When Mr. Nott and his daughter departed
Renshaw was not in the ship, neither did he make a
spectacular appearance on the wharf as Mr. Nott had
fondly expected, nor did he turn up again until after
nine o’clock, when he found the old man in the
cabin awaiting his return with some agitation.
“A minit ago,” he said,
mysteriously closing the door behind Renshaw, “I
heard a voice in the passage, and goin’ out who
should I see agin but that darned furrin nigger ez
I told yer ‘bout, kinder hidin’ in the
dark, his eyes shinin like a catamount, I was jist
reachin’ for my weppins when he riz up
with a grin and handed me this yer letter. I
told him I reckoned you’d gone to Sacramento,
but he said he wez sure you was in your room, and
to prove it I went thar. But when I kem back
the d d skunk had vamoosed got
frightened I reckon and wasn’t nowhar
to be seen.”
Reashaw took the letter hastily.
It contained only a line in Sleight’s hand.
“If you change your mind, the bearer may be
of service to you.”
He turned abruptly to Nott.
“You say it was the same Lascar you saw before.”
“Then all I can say is he is
no agent of de Ferrieres’s,” said Renshaw,
turning away with a disappointed air. Mr. Nott
would have asked another question, but with an abrupt
“Good-night” the young man entered his
room, locked the door, and threw himself on his bed
to reflect without interruption.
But if he was in no mood to stand
Nott’s fatuous conjectures, he was less inclined
to be satisfied with his own. Had he been again
carried away through his impulses evoked by the caprices
of a pretty coquette and the absurd theories of her
half imbecile father? Had he broken faith with
Sleight and remained in the ship for nothing, and would
not his change of resolution appear to be the result
of Sleight’s note? But why had the Lascar
been haunting the ship before? In the midst of
these conjectures he fell asleep.
Between three and four in the morning
the clouds broke over the Pontiac, and the moon, riding
high, picked out in black and silver the long hulk
that lay cradled between the iron shells of warehouses
and the wooden frames of tenements on either side.
The galley and covered gangway presented a mass of
undefined shadow, against which the white deck shone
brightly, stretching to the forecastle and bows, where
the tiny glass roof of the photographer glistened
like a gem in the Pontiac’s crest. So
peaceful and motionless she lay that she might have
been some petrifaction of a past age now first exhumed
and laid bare to the cold light of the stars.
Nevertheless this calm security was
presently invaded by a sense of stealthy life and
motion. What had seemed a fixed shadow suddenly
detached itself from the deck, and began to slip stanchion
by stanchion along the bulwarks toward the companion
way. At the cabin door it halted and crouched
motionless. Then rising, it glided forward with
the same staccato movement until opposite the slight
elevation of the forehatch. Suddenly it darted
to the hatch, unfastened and lifted it with a swift,
familiar dexterity, and disappeared in the opening.
But as the moon shone upon its vanishing face, it
revealed the whitening eyes and teeth of the Lascar
Dropping to the lower deck lightly,
he felt his way through the dark passage between the
partitions, evidently less familiar to him, halting
before each door to listen. Returning forward
he reached the second hatchway that had attracted
Rosey’s attention, and noiselessly unclosed
its fastenings. A penetrating smell of bilge
arose from the opening. Drawing a small bull’s-eye
lantern from his breast he lit it, and unhesitatingly
let himself down to the further depth. The moving
flash of his light revealed the recesses of the upper
hold, the abyss of the well amidships, and glanced
from the shining backs of moving zig-zags of rats
that seemed to outline the shadowy beams and transoms.
Disregarding those curious spectators of his movements,
he turned his attention eagerly to the inner casings
of the hold, that seemed in one spot to have been
strengthened by fresh timbers. Attacking this
stealthily with the aid of some tools hidden in his
oil-skin clothing, in the light of the lantern he
bore a fanciful resemblance to the predatory animals
around him. The low continuous sound of rasping
and gnawing of timber which followed heightened the
resemblance. At the end of a few minutes he
had succeeded in removing enough of the outer planking
to show that the entire filling of the casing between
the stanchions was composed of small boxes.
Dragging out one of them with feverish eagerness to
the light, the Lascar forced it open. In the
rays of the bull’s-eye, a wedged mass of discolored
coins showed with a lurid glow. The story of
the Pontiac was true the treasure was there!
But Mr. Sleight had overlooked the
logical effect of this discovery on the natural villainy
of his tool. In the very moment of his triumphant
execution of his patron’s suggestions the idea
of keeping the treasure to himself flashed upon his
mind. He had discovered it why
should he give it up to anybody? He had
run all the risks; if he were detected at that moment,
who would believe that his purpose there at midnight
was only to satisfy some one else that the treasure
was still intact? No. The circumstances
were propitious; he would get the treasure out of
the ship at once, drop it over her side, hastily conceal
it in the nearest lot adjacent, and take it away at
his convenience. Who would be the wiser
But it was necessary to reconnoitre
first. He knew that the loft overhead was empty.
He knew that it communicated with the alley, for
he had tried the door that morning. He would
convey the treasure there, and drop it into the alley.
The boxes were heavy. Each one would require
a separate journey to the ship’s side, but he
would at least secure something if he were interrupted.
He stripped the casing, and gathered the boxes together
in a pile.
Ah, yes, it was funny too that he the
Lascar hound the d d
nigger should get what bigger and bullier
men than he had died for! The mate’s blood
was on those boxes, if the salt water had not washed
it out. It was a hell of a fight when they dragged
the captain Oh, what was that? Was
it the splash of a rat in the bilge, or what?
A superstitious terror had begun to
seize him at the thought of blood. The stifling
hold seemed again filled with struggling figures he
had known; the air thick with cries and blasphemies
that he had forgotten. He rose to his feet, and
running quickly to the hatchway, leaped to the deck
above. All was quiet. The door leading
to the empty loft yielded to his touch. He entered,
and, gliding through, unbarred and opened the door
that gave upon the alley. The cold air and moonlight
flowed in silently; the way of escape was clear.
Bah! He would go back for the treasure.
He had reached the passage when the
door he had just opened was suddenly darkened.
Turning rapidly, he was conscious of a gaunt figure,
grotesque, silent, and erect, looming on the threshold
between him and the sky. Hidden in the shadow,
he made a stealthy step towards it, with an iron wrench
in his uplifted hand. But the next moment his
eyes dilated with superstitious horror; the iron fell
from this hand, and with a scream, like a frightened
animal, he turned and fled into the passage.
In the first access of his blind terror he tried to
reach the deck above through the forehatch, but was
stopped by the sound of a heavy tread overhead.
The immediate fear of detection now overcame his superstition;
he would have even faced the apparition again to escape
through the loft; but, before he could return there,
other footsteps approached rapidly from the end of
the passage he would have to traverse. There
was but one chance of escape left now the
forehold he had just quitted. He might hide
there until the alarm was over. He glided back
to the hatch, lifted it, and it closed softly over
his head as the upper hatch was simultaneously raised,
and the small round eyes of Abner Nott peered down
upon it. The other footsteps proved to be Renshaw’s
but, attracted by the open door of the loft, he turned
aside and entered. As soon as he disappeared
Mr. Nott cautiously dropped through the opening to
the deck below, and, going to the other hatch through
which the Lascar had vanished, deliberately refastened
it. In a few moments Renshaw returned with a
light, and found the old man sitting on the hatch.
“The loft door was open,”
said Renshaw. “There’s little doubt
whoever was here escaped that way.”
“Surely,” said Nott.
There was a peculiar look of Machiavellian sagacity
in his face which irritated Renshaw.
“Then you’re sure it was
Ferrieres you saw pass by your window before you called
me?” he asked.
Nott nodded his head with an expression
of infinite profundity.
“But you say he was going from
the ship. Then it could not have been he who
made the noise we heard down here.”
“Mebbee no, and mebbee yes,”
returned Nott, cautiously. “But if he was
already concealed inside the ship, as that open door,
which you say you barred from the inside, would indicate,
what the devil did he want with this?” said
Renshaw, producing the monkey-wrench he had picked
Mr. Nott examined the tool carefully,
and shook his head with momentous significance.
Nevertheless, his eyes wandered to the hatch on which
he was seated.
“Did you find anything disturbed
there?” said Renshaw, following the direction
of his eye. “Was that hatch fastened as
it is now?”
“It was,” said Nott, calmly.
“But ye wouldn’t mind fetchin’ me
a hammer and some o’ them big nails from the
locker, would yer, while I hang round here just so
ez to make sure against another attack.”
Renshaw complied with his request;
but as Nott proceeded to gravely nail down the fastenings
of the hatch, he turned impatiently away to complete
his examination of the ship. The doors of the
other lofts and their fastenings appeared secure and
undisturbed. Yet it was undeniable that a felonious
entrance had been made, but by whom or for what purpose
still remained uncertain. Even now, Renshaw found
it difficult to accept Nott’s theory that de
Ferrieres was the aggressor and Rosey the object,
nor could he justify his own suspicion that the Lascar
had obtained a surreptitious entrance under Sleight’s
directions. With a feeling that if Rosey had
been present he would have confessed all, and demanded
from her an equal confidence, he began to hate his
feeble, purposeless, and inefficient alliance with
her father, who believed but dare not tax his daughter
with complicity in this outrage. What could
be done with a man whose only idea of action at such
a moment was to nail up an undisturbed entrance in
his invaded house! He was so preoccupied with
these thoughts that when Nott rejoined him in the
cabin he scarcely heeded his presence, and was entirely
oblivious of the furtive looks which the old man from
time to time cast upon his face.
“I reckon ye wouldn’t
mind,” broke in Nott, suddenly, “ef I asked
a favor of ye, Mr. Renshaw. Mebbee ye’ll
allow it’s askin’ too much in the matter
of expense; mebbee ye’ll allow it’s askin’
too much in the matter o’ time. But I
kalkilate to pay all the expense, and if you’d
let me know what yer vally yer time at, I reckon I
could stand that. What I’d be askin’
is this. Would ye mind takin’ a letter
from me to Rosey, and bringin’ back an answer?”
Renshaw stared speechlessly at this
absurd realization of his wish of a moment before.
“I don’t think I understand you,”
returned Nott, with great gravity. “But
that’s not so much matter to you ez your time
“I meant I should be glad to
go if I can be of any service to you,” said
“You kin ketch the seven o’clock
boat this morning, and you’ll reach San Rafael
at ten ”
“But I thought Miss Rosey went
to Petaluma,” interrupted Renshaw quickly.
Nott regarded him with an expression
of patronizing superiority. “That’s
what we ladled out to the public gin’rally, and
to Ferrers and his gang in partickler. We said
Petalumey, but if you go to Madroño Cottage,
San Rafael, you’ll find Rosey thar.”
If Mr. Renshaw required anything more
to convince him of the necessity of coming to some
understanding with Rosey at once it would have been
this last evidence of her father’s utterly dark
and supremely inscrutable designs. He assented
quickly, and Nott handed him a note.
“Ye’ll be partickler to
give this inter her own hands, and wait for an answer,”
said Nott gravely.
Resisting the proposition to enter
then and there into an elaborate calculation of the
value of his time and the expenses of the trip, Renshaw
found himself at seven o’clock on the San Rafael
boat. Brief as was the journey it gave him time
to reflect upon his coming interview with Rosey.
He had resolved to begin by confessing all; the attempt
of last night had released him from any sense of duty
to Sleight. Besides, he did not doubt that Nott’s
letter contained some reference to this affair only
known to Nott’s dark and tortuous intelligence.
Madroño Cottage lay at the entrance
of a little canada already green with the early
winter rains, and nestled in a thicket of the harlequin
painted trees that gave it a name. The young
man was a little relieved to find that Rosey had gone
to the post-office a mile away, and that he would
probably overtake her or meet her returning alone.
The road little more than a trail wound
along the crest of the hill looking across the canada
to the long, dark, heavily-wooded flank of Mount Tamalpais
that rose from the valley a dozen miles away.
A cessation of the warm rain, a rift in the sky,
and the rare spectacle of cloud scenery, combined
with a certain sense of freedom, restored that lighthearted
gayety that became him most. At a sudden turn
of the road he caught sight of Rosey’s figure
coming towards him, and quickened his step with the
impulsiveness of a boy. But she suddenly disappeared,
and when he again saw her she was on the other side
of the trail apparently picking the leaves of a manzanita.
She had already seen him.
Somehow the frankness of his greeting
was checked. She looked up at him with cheeks
that retained enough of their color to suggest why
she had hesitated, and said, “You here,
Mr. Renshaw? I thought you were in Sacramento.”
“And I thought you were
in Petaluma,” he retorted gayly. “I
have a letter from your father. The fact is,
one of those gentlemen who has been haunting the ship
actually made an entry last night. Who he was,
and what he came for, nobody knows. Perhaps your
father gives you his suspicions.” He could
not help looking at her narrowly as he handed her
the note. Except that her pretty eyebrows were
slightly raised in curiosity she seemed undisturbed
as she opened the letter. Presently she raised
her eyes to his.
“Is this all father gave you?”
“You’re sure you haven’t dropped
“Nothing. I have given you all he gave
“And that is all it is.”
She exhibited the missive, a perfectly blank sheet
of paper folded like a note!
Renshaw felt the angry blood glow
in his cheeks. “This is unpardonable!
I assure you, Miss Nott, there must be some mistake.
He himself has probably forgotten the inclosure,”
he continued, yet with an inward conviction that the
act was perfectly premeditated on the part of the
The young girl held out her hand frankly.
“Don’t think any more of it, Mr. Renshaw.
Father is forgetful at times. But tell me about
In a few words Mr. Renshaw briefly
but plainly related the details of the attempt upon
the Pontiac, from the moment that he had been awakened
by Nott, to his discovery of the unknown trespasser’s
flight by the open door to the loft. When he
had finished, he hesitated, and then taking Rosey’s
hand, said impulsively, “You will not be angry
with me if I tell you all? Your father firmly
believes that the attempt was made by the old Frenchman,
de Ferrieres, with a view of carrying you off.”
A dozen reasons other than the one
her father would have attributed it to might have
called the blood to her face. But only innocence
could have brought the look of astonished indignation
to her eyes as she answered quickly:
“So that was what you were laughing at?”
“Not that, Miss Nott,”
said the young man eagerly: “though I wish
to God I could accuse myself of nothing more disloyal.
Do not speak, I beg,” he added impatiently,
as Rosey was about to reply. “I have no
right to hear you; I have no right to even stand in
your presence until I have confessed everything.
I came to the Pontiac; I made your acquaintance,
Miss Nott, through a fraud as wicked as anything your
father charges to de Ferrieres. I am not a contractor.
I never was an honest lodger in the Pontiac.
I was simply a spy.”
“But you didn’t mean to
be it was some mistake, wasn’t it?”
said Rosey, quite white, but more from sympathy with
the offender’s emotion than horror at the offense.
“I am afraid I did mean it.
But bear with me for a few moments longer and you
shall know all. It’s a long story.
Will you walk on, and take my arm?
You do not shrink from me, Miss Nott. Thank
you. I scarcely deserve the kindness.”
Indeed so little did Rosey shrink
that he was conscious of a slight reassuring pressure
on his arm as they moved forward, and for the moment
I fear the young man felt like exaggerating his offense
for the sake of proportionate sympathy. “Do
you remember,” he continued, “one evening
when I told you some sea tales, you said you always
thought there must be some story about the Pontiac?
There was a story of the Pontiac, Miss Nott a
wicked story a terrible story which
I might have told you, which I ought to have
told you which was the story that brought
me there. You were right, too, in saying that
you thought I had known the Pontiac before I stepped
first on her deck that day. I had.”
He laid his disengaged hand across
lightly on Rosey’s, as if to assure himself
that she was listening.
“I was at that time a sailor.
I had been fool enough to run away from college,
thinking it a fine romantic thing to ship before the
mast for a voyage round the world. I was a little
disappointed, perhaps, but I made the best of it,
and in two years I was second mate of a whaler lying
in a little harbor of one of the uncivilized islands
of the Pacific. While we were at anchor there
a French trading vessel put in, apparently for water.
She had the dregs of a mixed crew of Lascars
and Portuguese, who said they had lost the rest of
their men by desertion, and that the captain and mate
had been carried off by fever. There was something
so queer in their story that our skipper took the law
in his own hands, and put me on board of her with
a salvage crew. But that night the French crew
mutinied, cut the cables, and would have got to sea
if we had not been armed and prepared, and managed
to drive them below. When we had got them under
hatches for a few hours they parleyed, and offered
to go quietly ashore. As we were short of hands
and unable to take them with us, and as we had no evidence
against them, we let them go, took the ship to Callao,
turned her over to the authorities, lodged a claim
for salvage, and continued our voyage. When we
returned we found the truth of the story was known.
She had been a French trader from Marseilles, owned
by her captain; her crew had mutinied in the Pacific,
killed their officers and the only passenger the
owner of the cargo. They had made away with the
cargo and a treasure of nearly half a million of Spanish
gold for trading purposes which belonged to the passenger.
In course of time the ship was sold for salvage and
put into the South American trade until the breaking
out of the Californian gold excitement, when she was
sent with a cargo to San Francisco. That ship
was the Pontiac which your father bought.”
A slight shudder ran through the girl’s
frame. “I wish I wish you hadn’t
told me,” she said. “I shall never
close my eyes again comfortably on board of her, I
“I would say that you had purified
her of all stains of her past but
there may be one that remains. And that
in most people’s eyes would be no detraction.
You look puzzled, Miss Nott but I am coming
to the explanation and the end of my story.
A ship of war was sent to the island to punish the
mutineers and pirates, for such they were, but they
could not be found. A private expedition was
sent to discover the treasure which they were supposed
to have buried, but in vain. About two months
ago Mr. Sleight told me one of his shipmates had sent
him a Lascar sailor who had to dispose of a valuable
secret regarding the Pontiac for a percentage.
That secret was that the treasure was never taken
by the mutineers out of the Pontiac! They were
about to land and bury it when we boarded them.
They took advantage of their imprisonment under hatches
to bury it in the ship.
They hid it in the hold so securely and safely that
it was never detected by us or the Callao authorities.
I was then asked, as one who knew the vessel, to
undertake a private examination of her, with a view
of purchasing her from your father without awakening
his suspicions. I assented. You have my
confession now, Miss Nott. You know my crime.
I am at your mercy.”
Rosey’s arm only tightened around
his own. Her eyes sought his. “And
you didn’t find anything?” she said.
The question sounded so oddly like
Sleight’s, that Renshaw returned a little stiffly
“I didn’t look.”
“Why?” asked Rosey simply.
“Because,” stammered Renshaw,
with an uneasy consciousness of having exaggerated
his sentiment, “it didn’t seem honorable;
it didn’t seem fair to you.”
“Oh, you silly! you might have looked and told
“But,” said Renshaw, “do
you think that would have been fair to Sleight?”
“As fair to him as to us.
For, don’t you see, it wouldn’t belong
to any of us. It would belong to the friends
or the family of the man who lost it.”
“But there were no heirs,”
said Renshaw. “That was proved by some
impostor who pretended to be his brother, and libelled
the Pontiac at Callao, but the courts decided he was
“Then it belongs to the poor
pirates who risked their own lives for it, rather
than to Sleight, who did nothing.” She
was silent for a moment, and then resumed with energy,
“I believe he was at the bottom of that attack
“I have thought so too,” said Renshaw.
“Then I must go back at once,”
she continued impulsively. “Father must
not be left alone.”
“Nor must you,” said
Renshaw, quickly. “Do let me return with
you, and share with you and your father the trouble
I have brought upon you. Do not,” he added
in a lower tone, “deprive me of the only chance
of expiating my offense, of making myself worthy your
“I am sure,” said Rosey,
lowering her lids and half withdrawing her arm, “I
am sure I have nothing to forgive. You did not
believe the treasure belonged to us any more than
to anybody else, until you knew me ”
“That is true,” said the
young man, attempting to take her hand.
“I mean,” said Rosey,
blushing, and showing a distracting row of little
teeth in one of her infrequent laughs, “oh, you
know what I mean.” She withdrew her arm
gently, and became interested in the selection of
certain wayside bay leaves as they passed along.
“All the same, I don’t believe in this
treasure,” she said abruptly, as if to change
the subject. “I don’t believe it
ever was hidden inside the Pontiac.”
“That can easily be ascertained now,”
“But it’s a pity you didn’t
find it out while you were about it,” said Rosey.
“It would have saved so much talk and trouble.”
“I have told you why I didn’t
search the ship,” responded Renshaw, with a
slight bitterness. “But it seems I could
only avoid being a great rascal by becoming a great
“You never intended to be a
rascal,” said Rosey, earnestly, “and you
couldn’t be a fool, except in heeding what a
silly girl says. I only meant if you had taken
me into your confidence it would have been better.”
“Might I not say the same to
you regarding your friend, the old Frenchman?”
returned Renshaw. “What if I were to confess
to you that I lately suspected him of knowing the
secret, and of trying to gain your assistance?”
Instead of indignantly repudiating
the suggestion, to the young man’s great discomfiture,
Rosey only knit her pretty brows, and remained for
some minutes silent. Presently she asked timidly,
“Do you think it wrong to tell
another person’s secret for their own good?”
“No,” said Renshaw, promptly.
“Then I’ll tell you Monsieur
de Ferrieres’s! But only because I believe
from what you have just said that he will turn out
to have some right to the treasure.”
Then with kindling eyes, and a voice
eloquent with sympathy, Rosey told the story of her
accidental discovery of de Ferrieres’s miserable
existence in the loft. Clothing it with the unconscious
poetry of her fresh, young imagination, she lightly
passed over his antique gallantry and grotesque weakness,
exalting only his lonely sufferings and mysterious
wrongs. Renshaw listened, lost between shame
for his late suspicions and admiration for her thoughtful
delicacy, until she began to speak of de Ferrieres’s
strange allusions to the foreign papers in his portmanteau.
“I think some were law papers, and I am almost
certain I saw the word Callao printed on one of them.”
“It may be so,” said Renshaw,
thoughtfully. “The old Frenchman has always
passed for a harmless, wandering eccentric. I
hardly think public curiosity has ever even sought
to know his name, much less his history. But
had we not better first try to find if there is
any property before we examine his claims to it?”
“As you please,” said
Rosey, with a slight pout; “but you will find
it much easier to discover him than his treasure.
It’s always easier to find the thing you’re
not looking for.”
“Until you want it,” said Renshaw, with
“How pretty it looks over there,”
said Rosey, turning her conscious eyes to the opposite
They had reached the top of the hill,
and in the near distance the chimney of Madroño
Cottage was even now visible. At the expected
sight they unconsciously stopped unconsciously
disappointed. Rosey broke the embarrassing silence.
“There’s another way home,
but it’s a roundabout way,” she said timidly.
“Let us take it,” said Renshaw.
She hesitated. “The boat goes at four,
and we must return to-night.”
“The more reason why we should
make the most of our time now,” said Renshaw
with a faint smile. “To-morrow all things
may be changed; to-morrow you may find yourself an
heiress, Miss Nott. To-morrow,” he added,
with a slight tremor in his voice, “I may have
earned your forgiveness, only to say farewell to you
forever. Let me keep this sunshine, this picture,
this companionship with you long enough to say now
what perhaps I must not say to-morrow.”
They were silent for a moment, and
then by a common instinct turned together into a narrow
trail, scarce wide enough for two, that diverged from
the straight practical path before them. It was
indeed a roundabout way home, so roundabout, in fact,
that as they wandered on it seemed even to double
on its track, occasionally lingering long and becoming
indistinct under the shadow of madroño and willow;
at one time stopping blindly before a fallen tree
in the hollow, where they had quite lost it, and had
to sit down to recall it; a rough way, often requiring
the mutual help of each other’s hands and eyes
to tread together in security; an uncertain way, not
to be found without whispered consultation and concession,
and yet a way eventually bringing them hand in hand,
happy and hopeful, to the gate of Madroño Cottage.
And if there was only just time for Rosey to prepare
to take the boat, it was due to the deviousness of
the way. If a stray curl was lying loose on
Rosey’s cheek, and a long hair had caught in
Renshaw’s button, it was owing to the roughness
of the way; and if in the tones of their voices and
in the glances of their eyes there was a maturer seriousness,
it was due to the dim uncertainty of the path they
had traveled, and would hereafter tread together.
When Mr. Nott had satisfied himself
of Renshaw’s departure, he coolly bolted the
door at the head of the companion way, thus cutting
off any communication with the lower deck. Taking
a long rifle from the rack above his berth, he carefully
examined the hammer and cap, and then cautiously let
himself down through the forehatch to the deck below.
After a deliberate survey of the still intact fastenings
of the hatch over the forehold, he proceeded quietly
to unloose them again with the aid of the tools that
still lay there. When the hatch was once more
free he lifted it, and, withdrawing a few feet from
the opening, sat himself down, rifle in hand.
A profound silence reigned throughout the lower deck.
“Ye kin rize up out o’ that,” said
There was a stealthy rustle below
that seemed to approach the hatch, and then with a
sudden bound the Lascar leaped on the deck. But
at the same instant Nott covered him with his rifle.
A slight shade of disappointment and surprise had
crossed the old man’s face, and clouded his
small round eyes at the apparition of the Lascar, but
his hand was none the less firm upon the trigger as
the frightened prisoner sank on his knees, with his
hands clasped in the attitude of supplication for
“Ef you’re thinkin’
o’ skippin’ afore I’ve done with
yer,” said Nott with labored gentleness, “I
oughter warn ye that it’s my style to drop Injins
at two hundred yards, and this deck ain’t anywhere
mor’n fifty. It’s an uncomfortable
style, a nasty style but it’s my
style. I thought I’d tell yer, so yer
could take it easy where you air. Where’s
Even in the man’s insane terror,
his utter bewilderment at the question was evident.
“Ferrers?” he gasped; “don’t
know him, I swear to God, boss.”
said Nott, with infinite cunning, “yer don’t
know the man ez kem into the loft from the alley last
night p’r’aps yer didn’t
see an airy Frenchman with a dyed moustache, eh?
I thought that would fetch ye!” he continued,
as the man started at the evidence that his vision
of last night was a living man. “P’r’aps
you and him didn’t break into this ship last
night, jist to run off with my darter Rosey?
P’r’aps yer don’t know Rosey, eh?
P’r’aps yer don’t know ez Ferrers
wants to marry her, and hez been hangin’
round yer ever since he left eh?”
Scarcely believing the evidence of
his senses that the old man whose treasure he had
been trying to steal was utterly ignorant of his real
offense, and yet uncertain of the penalty of the other
crime of which he was accused, the Lascar writhed
his body and stammered vaguely, “Mercy!
“Well,” said Nott, cautiously,
“ez I reckon the hide of a dead Chinee nigger
ain’t any more vallyble than that of a dead Injin,
I don’t care ef I let up on yer seein’
the cussedness ain’t yours. But ef I let
yer off this once, you must take a message to Ferrers
“Let me off this time, boss,
and I swear to God I will,” said the Lascar
“Ye kin say to Ferrers let
me see ” deliberated Nott, leaning
on his rifle with cautious reflection. “Ye
kin say to Ferrers like this sez you, ‘Ferrers,’
sez you, ’the old man sez that afore you went
away you sez to him, sez you, “I take my honor
with me,” sez you’ have you
got that?” interrupted Nott suddenly.
“‘I take my honor with
me,’ sez you,” repeated Nott slowly. “‘Now,’
sez you ’the old man sez, sez he tell
Ferrers, sez he, that his honor havin’ run away
agin, he sends it back to him, and ef he ever ketches
it around after this, he’ll shoot it on sight.’
Hev yer got that?”
“Yes,” stammered the bewildered captive.
The Lascar sprang to his feet with
the agility of a panther, leaped through the hatch
above him, and disappeared over the bow of the ship
with an unhesitating directness that showed that every
avenue of escape had been already contemplated by
him. Slipping lightly from the cutwater to the
ground, he continued his flight, only stopping at the
private office of Mr. Sleight.
When Mr. Renshaw and Rosey Nott arrived
on board the Pontiac that evening, they were astonished
to find the passage before the cabin completely occupied
with trunks and boxes, and the bulk of their household
goods apparently in the process of removal. Mr.
Nott, who was superintending the work of two Chinamen,
betrayed not only no surprise at the appearance of
the young people, but not the remotest recognition
of their own bewilderment at his occupation.
remarked casually to his daughter, “you’d
rather look arter your fixin’s, Rosey, I’ve
left ’em till the last. P’r’aps
yer and Mr. Renshaw wouldn’t mind sittin’
down on that locker until I’ve strapped this
“But what does it all mean,
father?” said Rosey, taking the old man by the
lapels of his sea-jacket, and slightly emphasizing
her question. “What in the name of goodness
are you doing?”
“Breakin’ camp, Rosey
dear, breakin’ camp, jist ez we uster,”
replied Nott with cheerful philosophy. “Kinder
like old times, ain’t it? Lord, Rosey,”
he continued, stopping and following up the reminiscence,
with the end of the rope in his hand as if it were
a clue, “don’t ye mind that day we started
outer Livermore Pass, and seed the hull o’ the
Californy coast stretchin’ yonder eh?
But don’t ye be skeered, Rosey dear,”
he added quickly, as if in recognition of the alarm
expressed in her face. “I ain’t
turning ye outer house and home; I’ve jist hired
that ’ere Madroño Cottage from the
Peters ontil we kin look round.”
“But you’re not leaving
the ship, father,” continued Rosey, impetuously.
“You haven’t sold it to that man Sleight?”
Mr. Nott rose and carefully closed
the cabin door. Then drawing a large wallet
from his pocket, he said, “It’s sing’lar
ye should hev got the name right the first pop, ain’t
it, Rosey? but it’s Sleight, sure enough, all
the time. This yer check,” he added, producing
a paper from the depths of the wallet, “this
yer check for 25,000 dollars is wot he paid for it
only two hours ago.”
“But,” said Renshaw, springing
to his feet furiously, “you’re duped,
“Young man,” said Nott,
throwing a certain dignity into his habitual gesture
of placing his hands on Renshaw’s shoulders,
“I bought this yer ship five years ago jist
ez she stood for 8,000 dollars. Kalkilatin’
wot she cost me in repairs and taxes, and wot she brought
me in since then, accordin’ to my figgerin’,
I don’t call a clear profit of 15,000 dollars
much of a swindle.”
“Tell him all,” said Rosey,
quickly, more alarmed at Renshaw’s despairing
face than at the news itself. “Tell him
everything, Dick Mr. Renshaw; it may not
be too late.”
In a voice half choked with passionate
indignation Renshaw hurriedly repeated the story of
the hidden treasure, and the plot to rescue it, prompted
frequently by Rosey’s tenacious memory and assisted
by Rosey’s deft and tactful explanations.
But to their surprise the imperturbable countenance
of Abner Nott never altered; a slight moisture of kindly
paternal tolerance of their extravagance glistened
in his little eyes, but nothing more.
“Ef there was a part o’
this ship, a plank or a bolt ez I don’t know,
ez I hevn’t touched with my own hand, and looked
into with my own eyes, thar might be suthin’
in that story. I don’t let on to be a sailor
like you, but ez I know the ship ez a boy knows
his first hoss, as a woman knows her first babby,
I reckon thar ain’t no treasure yer, onless
it was brought into the Pontiac last night by them
“But are you mad! Sleight
would not pay three times the value of the ship to-day
if he were not positive! And that positive knowledge
was gained last night by the villain who broke into
the Pontiac no doubt the Lascar.”
“Surely,” said Nott, meditatively.
“The Lascar! There’s suthin’
in that. That Lascar I fastened down in the
hold last night unbeknownst to you, Mr. Renshaw, and
let him out again this morning ekally unbeknownst.”
“And you let him carry his information
to Sleight without a word!” said
Renshaw, with a sickening sense of Nott’s utter
“I sent him back with a message
to the man he kem from,” said Nott, winking
both his eyes at Renshaw, significantly, and making
signs behind his daughter’s back.
Rosey, conscious of her lover’s
irritation, and more eager to soothe his impatience
than from any faith in her suggestion, interfered.
“Why not examine the place where he was concealed?
he may have left some traces of his search.”
The two men looked at each other.
“Seem’ ez I’ve turned the Pontiac
over to Sleight jist ez it stands, I don’t know
ez it’s ’xactly on the square,”
said Nott doubtfully.
“You’ve a right to know
at least what you deliver to him,” interrupted
Renshaw brusquely: “Bring a lantern.”
Followed by Rosey, Renshaw and Nott
hurriedly sought the lower deck and the open hatch
of the forehold. The two men leaped down first
with the lantern, and then assisted Rosey to descend.
Renshaw took a step forward and uttered a cry.
The rays of the lantern fell on the
ship’s side. The Lascar had, during his
forced seclusion, put back the boxes of treasure and
replaced the planking, yet not so carefully but that
the quick eye of Renshaw had discovered it.
The next moment he had stripped away the planking
again, and the hurriedly-restored box which the Lascar
had found fell to the deck, scattering part of its
ringing contents. Rosey turned pale; Renshaw’s
eyes flashed fire; only Abner Nott remained quiet
“Are you satisfied you have
been duped?” said Renshaw passionately.
To their surprise Mr. Nott stooped
down, and picking up one of the coins handed it gravely
to Renshaw. “Would ye mind heftin’
that ’ere coin in your hand feelin’
it, bitin’ it, scrapin’ it with a knife,
and kinder seein’ how it compares with other
“What do you mean?” said Renshaw.
“I mean that that yer coin that
all the coins in this yer box, that all the coins
in them other boxes and ther’s forty
on ’em is all and every one of ’em
The piece dropped unconsciously from
Renshaw’s hand, and striking another that lay
on the deck gave out a dull, suspicious ring.
“They waz counterfeits got up
by them Dutch supercargo sharps for dealin’
with the Injins and cannibals and South Sea heathens
ez bows down to wood and stone. If satisfied
them ez well ez them buttons ye puts in missionary
boxes, I reckon, and ’cepting ez freight, don’t
cost nothin’. I found ’em tucked
in the ribs o’ the old Pontiac when I bought
her, and I nailed ’em up in thar lest they should
fall into dishonest hands. It’s a lucky
thing, Mr. Renshaw, that they comes into the honest
fingers of a square man like Sleight ain’t
He turned his small, guileless eyes
upon Renshaw with such child-like simplicity that
it checked the hysterical laugh that was rising to
the young man’s lips.
“But did any one know of this but yourself?”
“I reckon not. I once
suspicioned that old cap’en Bowers, who was
always foolin’ round the hold yer, must hev noticed
the bulge in the casin’, but when he took to
axin’ questions I axed others ye know
my style, Rosey? Come.”
He led the way grimly back to the
cabin, the young people following; but turning suddenly
at the companionway he observed Renshaw’s arm
around the waist of his daughter.
He said nothing until they had reached
the cabin, when he closed the door softly, and looking
at them both gently, said with infinite cunning
“Ef it isn’t too late,
Rosey, ye kin tell this young man ez how I forgive
him for havin’ diskivered the treasure
of the Pontiac.”
. . . . .
. . . .
It was nearly eighteen months afterwards
that Mr. Nott one morning entered the room of his
son-in-law at Madroño Cottage. Drawing him
aside, he said with his old air of mystery, “Now
ez Rosey’s ailin’ and don’t seem
to be so eager to diskiver what’s become of Mr.
Ferrers, I don’t mind tellin’ ye that
over a year ago I heard he died suddenly in Sacramento.
Thar was suthin’ in the paper about his bein’
a lunatic and claimin’ to be a relation to somebody
on the Pontiac; but likes ez not it’s only the
way those newspaper fellows got hold of the story of
his wantin’ to marry Rosey.”