Read “CAPTAIN JACK,” THE GOLD SMUGGLER: CHAPTER XXIII of The Light of Scarthey , free online book, by Egerton Castle, on ReadCentral.com.

THE DAY: NOON

There stood two men and they did point their fingers at that house.
And on his finger one had blood; the other’s finger shook.

Luteplayer’s Song.

Broken lengths of wall, a crumbling indication of the spring of once exquisite arches, windows gaping darkly like the eye sockets of a skull this was all that was left of the old priory of Pulwick, whilom proud seat of clerical power and learning. But the image of decay was robbed of all melancholy by the luxuriance of climbing vegetation, by the living screen of noble firs and larches arranged in serried ranks upon the slopes immediately behind it, with here and there a rugged sentinel within the ruinous yards and rooms themselves; by wild bushes of juniper and gorse and brambles. And, with the bright noon sun pouring down upon the worn red sandstone, and gilding the delicate tassels of the larches’ green needles; with the light of young love, spreading glamour upon every leaf and stone, in the eyes of the lovers, the scene, witness of so many sweet meetings, bore that day a beautiful and home-like aspect.

Captain Jack was standing upon the grass-grown floor of what had been the departed monks’ refectory, with ears eagerly bent to listen.

Three ragged walls, a clump of fir trees, and a bank of brambles screened him from any chance passer-by, and he now and again peered through a crevice on to a path through the woods, cautiously, as if fearful to venture forth. His face was pale beneath its tan, and had none of its usual brightness; his attire for him was disordered; his whole appearance that of a man under the pressure of doubt and anxiety. Yet, when the sound of a light footfall struck among the thousand whispering noises of wind and leaf that went to make up the silence of the ruins, the glory of joy that lit up eye and lip left no room for any other impression.

Madeleine stood in the old doorway: a vision of beautiful life amid emblems of decay and death.

“I come alone to-day,” she said, with her half-shy smile. And then, before she could utter a further word of explanation, she was gathered into her lover’s strong arms with a passion he had never as yet shown in his chivalrous relations with her. But it was not because they met without the sympathetic rapture of Miss Landale’s eye upon them; not because there was no other witnesses but the dangling ivy wreath, the stern old walls, the fine dome of spring sky faintly blue; not because of lover’s audacious joy. This Madeleine, feeling the stormy throbbing of his heart against hers, knew with sure instinct. She pushed him gently from her as soon as she could, the blushes chased from her cheeks by pale misgivings, and looked at him with eyes full of troubled questioning.

Then he spoke, from his full heart:

“Madeleine, something has happened a misfortune, as I wrote to you. I must now start upon my venture sooner than I thought at once. I shall have to fly in fact, to-day. There have been spies upon me, and my secret trust is in danger. How they have tracked me, how suspicion has been aroused, I cannot guess. But I have been tracked. A fellow came at dawn. I had to defend my secret the secret not my own, the charge entrusted to me. The man was hurt. I cannot explain, dear love, there is no time; even now I run the risk of my life by being here, and life is so dear to me now, my Madeleine! Hush! No, do not be afraid! I am afraid of nothing, so long as you trust me. Will you trust me? I cannot leave you here behind; and now, with this cursed stroke of ill-luck, this suspicion upon me, it may be long before I can return to England. I cannot leave you behind, I cannot! Will you trust me, Madeleine, will you come with me? We shall be married in France, my darling. You should be as a queen in the guard of her most humble slave. I am half mad to think I must go. Ah, kiss me, love, and say yes! Listen! I must sail away and make believe that I have gone. My Peregrine is a bird that none can overtake, but I shall come back to-night. Listen: If you will be on the island to-night Sir Adrian is there already, and I hear your sister is coming a freak of fancy and he, God bless him, has told her to bring you too (it shows my luck has not deserted me yet). I shall be there, unknown to all except Renny. I cannot meet you nearer home, but you will be my own brave bride and keep your own counsel. You will not be frightened, will you, my beautiful love? All you have to do is to follow Renny’s instructions. My ship will be back, waiting, an hour after dark, ready, when you set foot on it, to spread its wings with its treasures treasures, indeed! And then we shall have the world before us riches, love, such love! And once safe, I shall be free to prove to you that it is no common blood I would mate with that dear and pure stream that courses in your veins. You shall soon know all; will you trust me?”

She hung upon his hot words, looking at him with loving, frightened eyes. Now he gathered her to his arms again, again his bursting heart throbbed its stormy passion to her ear. She was as one carried away by a torrent against which resistance is useless. He bent his head over her face; the scent of the bunch of violets in her breast rose deliciously to his nostrils. Alas! Hubert Cochrane was not to reach that kiss of acquiescence, that kiss from which it seemed that but so small a fraction of space and time divided him! Some one, who had stepped along in the shadow as silently as a cat coming upon a bird, clapped here a hand upon his shoulder.

“Who are you, sir, and what do you want?” exclaimed Captain Jack, wrenching himself free, falling back a pace and measuring the new-comer from head to foot with furious glances, while, with burning blushes Madeleine faltered:

“Rupert!”

Nothing awakens anger in hot blood sooner than an unsanctioned touch. In certain moods the merest contact is as infuriating as a blow. Such an insult, added to the irreparable injury of interrupting their meeting at the most exquisite and crucial moment, drove Captain Jack beside himself with rage.

But Madeleine’s hand was still on his arm. She felt it suddenly harden and twitch with murderous anger. But, by an effort that made the veins of his temple swell like whipcord, he refrained from striking the double offender.

Mr. Landale surveyed the pair for a moment in silence with his grave look; then coldly he answered the sailor’s irate speech.

“My name, fellow, is Rupert Landale. I am here to protect my cousin from an unprincipled and criminal adventurer.”

“You take a sharp tone sir,” cried Captain Jack, the flush on his face deepening yet a shade, his nostrils ominously dilated, yet speaking without further loss of self-control. “You probably count upon the presence of this lady to prevent my resenting it; but as my time with her is short and I have still much to say, I shall be forced promptly to eject you from the ruins here, unless you will be good enough to immediately remove yourself. I shall hope for another meeting with you to discuss the question as to your right of interference; but to-day I cannot spare the time.”

Rupert smiled without moving; then the sailor gently disengaging himself from Madeleine would have put her behind him but that she pressed forward and laid a hand upon an arm of each of the men.

“Stay, Jack,” she pleaded, “let me speak. There is some mistake here. Cousin Rupert, you cannot know that I am engaged to this gentleman and that he is a friend of your brother’s as well as of other good friends of mine.”

“My poor child,” answered Rupert, closing a cold hand gently over hers and speaking with a most delicate tenderness of accent, “you have been grossly imposed upon, and so have others. As for my poor brother Adrian, he is, if anything, easier to deceive than you, innocent convent-bred girl! I would have you to go home, my dear, and leave me to deal with this gentleman. You have bitter truths to learn; would it not be better to wait and learn them quietly without further scandal?”

This was too much for Captain Jack, who fairly ground his teeth. Rupert’s honeyed tones, his grasp of Madeleine’s hand were more unbearable even than the words. He advanced upon the elder man and seizing him by the collar whirled him away from the girl as easily as a straw puppet.

The fine gentleman of sensitive nerves and unworked sinews had no chance against the iron strength of the man who had passed all the years of virility fighting against sea and storm. The two faced each other; Jack Smith, red and panting with honest rage, only the sense of his lady’s proximity keeping him from carrying his high-handed measures a little further. Mr. Landale, livid, with eyes suddenly black in their orbits, moistening his white lips while he quivered from head to foot with a passion so tense that not even his worst enemy could have attributed it to fear.

An unequal match it would seem, yet unequal in a way that the young man, in the conscious glory of his strength could not have conceived. Madeleine neither screamed nor fainted; she had grown white, in natural apprehension, but her eyes fixed upon her lover’s face shone with admiration. Mr. Landale turned slowly towards her.

“Madeleine,” he said, readjusting his stock and smoothing the folds of his collar with a steadfast striving after coolness, “you have been grossly deceived. The man you would trust with your life and honour is a mere smuggler. He has no doubt told you fine stories, but if he has given himself out for aught else he lied, take my word for it he lied. He is a common smuggler, and the vessel he would carry you away in is packed with smuggled goods. To-day he has attacked and wounded an officer, who, in the discharge of his duty, endeavoured to find out the nature of his suspicious purpose. Your would-be lover’s neck is in danger. A felon, he runs the risk of his life every moment he remains on land but he would make a last effort to secure the heiress! Look at him,” his voice raising in spite of himself to a shriller pitch “he cannot deny it!”

Madeleine gazed from one to the other. Her mind, never a very quick one at decision, was too bewildered to act with clearness; moreover with her education and ignorance of the world the indictment conveyed no special meaning to her.

But there was an agony of suspense and beseeching in the glance that her lover cast upon her; and to that appeal she smiled proudly. Hers were no true love, she felt, were its confidence shaken by the slandering of anger. Then the thought of his danger, danger admitted by his own lips, flashed upon her with terror. She rushed to him,

“Oh go, Jack, go! As you love me, go!”

Mr. Landale, who had already once or twice cast impatient looks of expectation through a window of the east wall, taken by surprise at this unforeseen result of his speech, suddenly climbed up upon a broken piece of stone-work, from which there was an abrupt descent towards the shore, and began to signal in eager gesticulation. There was a sound of heavy running footfalls without. Captain Jack raised his head, every nerve on the alert.

“Go, go,” again cried Madeleine, dreading she knew not what. A fat panting red face looked over the wall; Mr. Landale turned for a second to throw at the lovers a glance of elation.

But it seemed as if the sailor’s spirits rose at the breath of danger. He rapidly looked round upon the ruins from which there were no other outlets than the window guarded by Mr. Landale, and the doorway in which the red-faced new-comer now stood, framed in red stone; then, like a cat he darted on to the ledge of the wall at the opposite end, where some invading boughs of larch dropped over the jagged crest, before the burly figure in the blue coat of the preventive service had recovered from the surprise of finding a lady in his way, or gathered his wits and his breath sufficiently to interfere.

There the nimble climber stood a moment balancing himself lightly, though the ivied stones rocked beneath him.

“I go, love,” he cried in ringing voice, “but one word from you and I go ”

“Oh, I trust you! I will trust you!” screamed the girl in despair, while her fascinated gaze clung to the erect figure silhouetted against the sky and the stout man looked up, open-mouthed. Mr. Landale snarled at him:

“Shoot, fool shoot!” And straining forward, himself drew a pistol from the man’s belt, cocked it and thrust it into his grasp.

Captain Jack kissed his hand to Madeleine with a joyful gesture, then waved his hat defiantly in Rupert’s direction, and with a spring disappeared, just as the pistol cracked, drawing a shriek of terror from the girl, and its bullet flattened itself against the upper stone of the wall considerably wide of the mark.

“Come, this way!” screamed Mr. Landale from his window sill, “you have another!”

But the preventive shook his head, and thrust his smoking barrel back through his belt, with an air of philosophical resignation; and slowly approaching the window, through which the fugitive could now be seen steadily bowling down the seaward slope, observed in slow, fat tones:

“Give you a hand, sir?”

Rupert, thrusting his extended arm aside jumped down beside him as if he would have sprung at his throat.

“Why are you so late? why have you brought no one with you? I gave you notice enough. You fool! You have let him slip through your fingers, now, after all! Couldn’t you even shoot straight? Such a mark as he made against the sky Pah! well may the sailors say, lubberly as a land preventive!”

“Why, there you are, Mr. Landale!” answered the man with imperturbable, greasy good-humour. “The way you shoved that there pistol into my hand was enough to put off anybody. But you country magistrate gentlemen, as I have always said, you are the real sort to make one do illegal actions with your flurry and your hurry over everything. ‘Shoot!’ says you, and damme, sir, if I didn’t shoot straight off before I knew if I were on my head or on my heels. It’s a mercy I didn’t hit the sweet young lady it is indeed. And as for the young gentleman, though to be sure he did show a clean pair of heels at the sight of me, I had no proper time for i-dentification no time for i-den-ti-fi-cation, Mr. Landale, sir. So I say, sir, it’s a mercy I did not hit him either, now I can think of it. Ah, slow and sure, that’s my motter! I takes my man on his boat, in the very middle of his laces and his brandy and his silk I takes him, sir, in the very act of illegality, red-handed, so to speak, and then, if he shows fight, or if he runs away, then I shoots, sir, and then if I hits, why it’s a good job too but none of this promiscuous work for Augustus Hobson. Slow and sure, that’s my motter.”

The speaker who had been rolling a quid of tobacco in his mouth during this exposition of policy, here spat emphatically upon the grass, and catching Madeleine’s abstracted eye, begged pardon for the liberty with a gallant air.

“Aye, so slow, man, that you are pretty sure to fail,” muttered Mr. Landale.

“I knows my business, sir, meaning no offence,” retorted Mr. Hobson serenely. “When I has no orders I acts on regulation. I brought no one with me because I had no one to bring, having sent, as per regulation, my one remaining man to give notice to the water service, seeing that that there schooner has had the impudence to come back, and is at this very moment cruising quite happy-like just the other side of the bank; though if ever their cutter overhauls her well, I’m a Dutchman! You might have done wiser, perhaps (if I may make so bold as to remark), to leave the management of this business to them as understands such things. As to being late, sir, you told me to be in the ruins at twelve noon, and I beg to insinuate that it’s only just past the hour now.”

At this point the preventive man drew from his capacious breeches a brass time-piece, of congenial stoutness, the face of which he turned towards the magistrate.

The latter, however, waved the proffered witness impatiently aside. Furtively watching his cousin, who, leaning against the door-post, her pale head thrown out in strong relief by the dark stones, stood as if absolutely detached from her surroundings, communing over troubled thoughts with her own soul, he said with deliberate distinctness:

“But have I been misled, then, in understanding that you were with the unfortunate officer who was so ferociously assaulted this morning? that you and he did come upon this Captain Smith, red-handed as you call it, loading or unloading his vessel on Scarthey Island?”

“Aye, sir,” rolled out the other, unctuously, “there you are again, you see. Poor Nat Beavor, he was one of your hot-headed ones, and see what it has brought him to a crack in his skull, sir, so that it will be days before he’ll know himself again, the doctor says, if ever he does in this world, which I don’t think. Ah, I says to him, when we started in the dawn this morning agreeable to our arrangement with you: ’For peeping and prying on the quiet without any running risks and provoking others to break the law more than they’re doing, I’m your man,’ says I; ’but as for attacking desperate individles without proper warrant and authority, not to speak of being one to ten, I tell you fair, Nat Beavor, I’ll have nothing to do with it.’ But Nat, he went off his head, clean, at the sight of Captain Jack and his men a trundling the little kegs down the sands, as neat and tidy as could be; and so he cut out from behind the rocks, and I knew there was mischief ahead! Ah, poor fellow, if he would only have listened to me! I did my best for him, sir; started off to call up the other man, who was on the other side of the ruins, as soon as I saw his danger, but when I came back ”

“The birds were flown, of course,” interrupted Rupert with a sneer, “and you found the body of your comrade who had been dastardly wounded, and who, I hear, is dead now. So the villain has twice escaped you. Cousin Madeleine,” hastily breaking off to advance to the girl, who now awakening from her reflective mood seemed about to leave the ruins, “Cousin Madeleine, are you going? Let me escort you back.”

She slowly turned her blue eyes, burning upon him from her white face. “Cousin Rupert, I do not want your company.” Then she added in a whisper, yet with a passion for which Rupert would never have given her credit and which took him vastly by surprise, “I shall never forgive you.”

“My God, Madeleine,” cried he, with genuine emotion, “have I deserved this? I have had no thought but to befriend you, I have opened your eyes to your own danger ”

“Hold your tongue, sir,” she broke in, with the same repressed anger. “Cease vilifying the man I love. All your aspersions, your wordy accusations will not shake my faith in him. Mon Dieu,” she cried, with an unsteady attempt at laughter, looking under her lashes and tilting her little white round chin at Mr. Hobson, who, now seated upon a large stone, and with an obtrusive quid of tobacco bulging in an imperfectly shorn cheek, was mopping his forehead with a doubtful handkerchief. “That is the person, I suppose, whose testimony I am to believe against my Jack!”

“Your Jack was prompt enough in running away from him, such as he is,” retorted her cousin bitterly. He could not have struck, for his purpose, upon a weaker joint in her poor woman’s armour of pride and trust.

She caught her breath sharply, as if indeed she had received a blow. “Well, say your say,” she exclaimed, coming to a standstill and facing him; “I will hear all that you and your your friend have to say, lest,” with a magnificent toss of her head, “you fancy I am afraid, or that I believe one word of it all. I know that Jack that Captain Smith, as he is called is engaged upon a secret and important mission; but it is one, Rupert, which all English gentlemen should wish to help, not impede.”

“Do you know what the mission is do you know to whom? And if, my fair cousin, it is such that all English gentlemen would help, why then this secrecy?”

She bit her lip; but it trembled. “What is it you accuse him of?” she asked, with a stamp of her foot.

“Listen to me,” said Rupert gently, “it is the kinder thing that you should know the truth, and believe me, every word I say I can substantiate. This Captain Jack Smith, whatever his real name may be, was picked up when a mere boy by an old Liverpool merchant, starving in the streets of that town. This merchant, by name Cochrane, an absurd person who gave himself out to be a relative of Cochrane of Shaws, adopted the boy and started him upon a slaver, that is a ship which does trade in negro slaves, my dear a pretty trade. He next entered a privateer’s ship as lieutenant. You know what these are ocean freebooters, tolerated by government for the sake of the harm they wreck upon the ships of whatever nation we may happen to be at war with a sort of pirate ship hardly a much more reputable business than the slaver’s; but Captain Smith made himself a name in it. Now that the war is over, he has taken to a lower traffic still that of smuggling.”

“But what is smuggling?” cried the girl, tears brimming up at last into her pretty eyes, and all her heat of valiance suddenly gone. “What does it mean?”

“What is smuggling? Bless your innocence! I beg your pardon, my dear miss I should say but if you’ll allow me I think I’m the man to explain that ’ere to you.” The husky mellifluous tones of the preventive-service man, who had crept up unnoticed to listen to the conversation, here murmured insinuatingly in her ear.

Rupert hesitated; then reading shrinking aversion upon Madeleine’s face, shrewdly conjectured that the exposition of her lover’s doings might come with more force from Mr. Hobson’s lips than from his own, and allowed the latter to proceed unmolested.

“Smuggling, my pretty,” wheezed the genial representative of the custom laws, “again asking pardon, but it slipped out, smuggling is, so to say, a kind of stealing, a kind of cheating and that of a most rank and heinous kind. For, mind you, it ain’t stealing from a common man, nor from the likes of you and me, nor from a nobleman either: it’s cheating and stealing from his most gracious Majesty himself. For see you, how ’tis, his Majesty he says, ‘Every keg of brandy,’ says he, ‘and every yard of lace and every pipe o’ tobacco as is brought into this here country shall be paid for, so much on, to me, and that’s called a tax, miss, and for that there are the custom houses and custom officers which is me to see his Majesty paid right and proper his lawful dues. But what does your smuggler do, miss your rollicking, dare-devil chap of a smuggler? Why he lands his lace and his brandy and his ’baccy unbeknownst and sells ’em on the sly and pockets the profit! D’ye see? and so he cheats his Majesty, which is a very grievous breaking of the law; so much so that he might as well murder at once Kind o’ treason, you may say and that’s what makes ’em such desperate chaps. They knows if they’re caught at it, with arms about them, and two or three together it’s clank.”

Mr. Hobson grasped his own bull neck with an unpleasantly significant gesture and winked knowingly at the girl, who turned white as death and remained gazing at him with a sort of horrified fascination which he presently noted with an indulgent smile.

“Don’t take on now, my lass no offence, miss but I can’t bear to see a fine young ’oman like you upset-like I’m a damned, hem, hem, a real soft hearted fellow. Your sweetheart’s heels have saved his gullet this time and though he did crack poor Nat upon the skull (as I can testify for I as good as saw him do it which makes it a hanging matter twice over I won’t deny), yet there’s a good few such as him escapes the law and settles down arter, quite respectable-like. A bit o’ smuggling now is a thing many a pretty fellow has taken to in his day, and has made a pretty penny out of too, and is none the worse looked to arter, as I said. Aye, and there’s many a gentleman and a magistrate to boot as drinks his glass of smuggled brandy and smokes his smuggled baccy and finds them none the worse, oh dear no! Human nature it is and human nature is a queer thing. Even the ladies, miss, are well-known to be soft upon the smuggled lace: it’s twice as cheap you see as t’other, and they can get double as handsome for the money. Begging your pardon if I may make so bold ” stretching out a great, coarse, tobacco-stained finger and thumb to close them appreciatively upon the hanging lace of Madeleine’s neck handkerchief, “may be your spark brought you that there, miss, now? He, he, he as pretty a bit of French point it is as has ever been my fate to lay hands on Never fear,” as the girl drew back with a gesture of loathing from the contact. “I ain’t agoing to seize it off you or take you up, he he he eh, Mr. Landale? I’m a man o’ my duty, I hope, but our orders don’t run as far as that.”

“Rupert!” cried Madeleine, piteously turning a dark gaze of anguish at him it seemed as if she were going to faint.

He hastened up to her, shouldering the clumsy form of Mr. Augustus Hobson unceremoniously out of the way: the fellow had done his work for the time being, and this last piece of it so efficaciously indeed that his present employer felt, if not remorse, at least a certain pity stir within him at the stricken hopelessness of the girl’s aspect. He passed his arm round her waist as she shivered and swayed. “Lean on me,” he said, his fine eyes troubled with an unwonted softness and anxiety.

“Rupert,” she whispered, clutching at his sleeve, eagerly fixing him with a look eloquent of unconscious pleading, “all these things this this man talks of are things which are brought into England are they not? I know that he was bringing nothing into the country, but he was going to another country upon some important trust, the nature of which he had promised not to reveal. Therefore he cannot be cheating the King, if that is smuggling Oh Rupert, is there not some grievous mistake?”

“My poor child,” said Rupert, holding her close and tenderly, and speaking with a gentle gravity in which there was this time less hypocrisy, “there is one thing which is smuggled out of England, and it is as dishonest and illegal work as the other, the most daring and dangerous smuggling of all in fact; one in which none but a desperate man would engage that of gold.”

“Yes, gold,” exclaimed the girl sharply, withdrawing herself from her cousin’s arms, while a ray of intelligence and hope lit up her face. “Gold for the French King’s service.”

Rupert betrayed no emotion; he drew from the inner pocket of his coat a crushed news-sheet.

“Deceived there, as well as everywhere else, poor little cousin,” he said. “And did the scoundrel say so? Nay, he is a damnable scoundrel who could betray your trustfulness to your own sweet face. Gold indeed but not for the King gold for the usurper, for the tyrant who was supplied already, no doubt, by the same or similar traitor hands with enough to enable him to escape from the island where he was so justly imprisoned. See here, Madeleine, Bonaparte is actually landed in France: it has all been managed with the most devilish ingenuity and takes the whole world by surprise. And your lover, doubtless, is engaged upon bringing him fresh supplies to enable him to begin again and rack humanity with hideous wars. Oh, he never told you of the Corsican’s escape, yet this news is three days old. See you, my dear, this explains the whole mystery, the necessity for absolute secrecy; all England is friendly to the French monarch; no need to smuggle gold for his aid but the other...! It is treason, the blackest treason on every side of it, treason to his King, to his country, to your King, to you. And he would have cozened you with tales of his loyalty to the rightful cause!”

“Give me the paper,” said Madeleine. A tide of blood had swept into her face; she was no longer white and shaken, but erect and beautiful in strong indignation. Rupert examined her, as if a little doubtful how to take the sudden change; but he handed her the printed sheet in silence. She read with lips and nostrils expanded by her quick breathing; then crumpled up the sheet and cast it at his feet. And after a pause, with her princess air of dignity, “I thank you, cousin Rupert,” she said; then, passing him with stately steps, moved towards the house.

He pressed forward to keep up with her; and upon the other side, smiling, irrepressible, jocose, Mr. Hobson did the same.

“You are not fit to go alone,” urged the former, while the latter engagingly protruding an elbow, announced that he’d be proud to give her an arm as far as the Hall.

She drew away from this well-meaning squire of dames with such shuddering distaste, and looked once more so white and worn and sickened after her sudden blaze of passion, that Mr. Landale, seeing that the only kindness was to let her have her will, arrested his companion roughly enough, and allowed her to proceed as she wished.

And so, with bent head, Madeleine hurried forth. And the same glorious sun smiled down upon her in her anguish that had greeted her when she hastened an hour before glowing and light-hearted if, indeed, a heart so full of love could be termed light to meet her lover; the same brambles caught her dress, the same bird trilled his song. But Madeleine thought neither of ray nor leaf, nor yet of mating songsters: all the spring world, as she went, was to her strewn with the wreck of her broken hopes, and encompassed by the darkness of her lonely future.

Mr. Landale and the preventive service man stood some time watching her retreating figure through the wood, and then walked slowly on for a while, in silent company.

Presently the latter, who during the last part of the interview, had begun to feel a little ruffled by the magistrate’s persistently overbearing manner, inquired with something of dudgeon in his voice: “Begging your pardon, sir, what was that I heard the young lady call out just now? ‘Gold!’ she cries. Is it guineas that nipping young man is a taking over seas, if I may make so bold? Now you see, sir, we haven’t had no orders about no gold on this station that sort of thing is mostly done down south. But what I wants to know is: Why, if you knew all about the fellow’s little games, you sent us to spy on him? Ah, poor Nat would want a word or two with you on that score, I fancy! Now it’s as plain as Salisbury....”

“But I know nothing certain,” impatiently interrupted Mr. Landale. “I know no more than you do yourself. Only not being a perfect idiot, I can put two and two together. What in the name of goodness can a man smuggle out of England but gold? But I wanted the proofs. And your business, it was agreed with the Chief Officer, was to follow my instructions.”

“And so we did,” grumbled Mr. Hobson; “and a pretty business it’s turned out! Nat’s to pocket his bludgeoning, I suppose, and I am to bear the blame and lose my share. A cargo of guineas, by God! I might have nosed it, down south, but here.... Blast it! But since you was so clever over it, sir, why in blazes if I may speak so to a gentleman and a magistrate,” pursued the man with a rueful explosion of disgust, “didn’t you give me the hint? Why, guineas is contraband of war it’s treason, sir and guineas is a cargo that’s fought for, sir! I shouldn’t have moved with two men in a boat patrol, d’ye think? I should have had the riding officers, and the water-guard, and a revenue cruiser in the offing, and all tight and regular. But you would have all the credit, and where are you? and where’s my share? and where is Nat? Bah!”

“You are forgetting yourself, officer,” said Mr. Landale, looking severely into the eyes of the disappointed preventive man, whose rising ebullition became on the instant reduced.

“So I am, sir, so I am and beg your pardon. But you must admit, it’s almost enough to make ... but never mind, sir, the trick is done. Whatever it may be that that there schooner carries in her bottom, she is free now to take it, barring accident, wherever she pleases. I’ll trouble you to look this way, sir.”

They had emerged from the wooded part of the park, and the rising ground on which they stood commanded a wide sea-view, west of the great bay.

“There she is again, sir,” said Mr. Hobson, waving his broad paw, like a showman displaying his goods, with a sort of enraged self-satisfaction. “There is the schooner, ready to hoist sail as soon as he comes alongside. And that there black point which you may see, if your eyes are good enough, is a six-oared galley with as ship-shaped a crew if it’s the same as I saw making off this morning as ever pulled. Your Captain Smith, you may take your oath, is at the tiller, and making fun of us two to the lads. In five minutes he will be on board, and then the revenue cutter from the station may give chase if she likes!... And there she is, due to the time about a mile astern. But bless you, that’s all my eye, you may take your oath! They know well enough that in an open sea they can’t run down a Salcombe schooner. But to earn their pay they will hang on till they lose her, and then sail home, all cosy. I’m thinking,” he added slily, with a side glance at the magistrate: “we won’t hang him this time.”

Mr. Landale made no answer; during the last few minutes his reflections had enabled him to take a new view of the situation. After all the future fate of Captain Jack was of little moment. He had been successfully exposed before Madeleine, whose love for the young man was, as had just been sufficiently proved, chiefly composed of those youthful illusions which dispelled once, never can return.

Rupert fell gradually into a reverie in which he found curious satisfaction. His work had not been unsuccessful, whatever Mr. Hobson’s opinion might be. But, as matters stood between Madeleine and her lover, the girl’s eyes had been opened in time, and that without scandal.... And even the escape of Captain Jack was, upon reflection, the best thing that could have happened.

And so it was with a return to his usual polite bearing, that he listened to the officer’s relapse into expostulation.

“Now if you had only given me the hint first of all,” the man was grumblingly saying, “and then let me act for who would have suspected a boat, yacht-rigged like that? A friend of Sir Adrian’s, too! If you’d only left it to me! Why that six-oared galley alone is agin the law unless you can prove good reason for it ... as for the vessel herself....”

“Yes, my dear Mr. Hobson,” interrupted Mr. Landale, smiling propitiously. “I have no doubt you would have secured him. I have made a mess of it. But now you understand, least said, soonest mended, both for me and (between ourselves, Mr. Hobson) for the young lady.”

The man, in surprise at this sudden alteration of manner, stopped short and gaped; and presently a broad smile, combined with a knowing wink, appeared on his face. He received the guineas that Mr. Landale dropped in his palm with an air of great candour, and, without further parley, acted on the kind advice to repair to the Priory and talk with one Mrs. Puckett the housekeeper, on the subject of corporeal refreshment.

“Well,” said Molly, bursting in upon her sister, who sat by her writing-table, pen in hand, and did not even raise her head at the unceremonious entrance. “This is evidently the day for mysterious disappearances. First Rupert and Sophia; then my lord and master who is fetched hurriedly to his island (that isle of misfortune!) God knows for what though I mean to know presently; then you, Mademoiselle, and Rupert again. It is, faith, quite a comedy. But the result has been that I have had my meals alone, which is not so gay. Sophia is in bed, it turns out; Rupert out a-riding, on important business, of course! all he does is desperately important. And there you are alone in your room, moping. God, child, how pale you are! What ails you then?”

“Molly,” cried Madeleine, ignoring Lady Landale’s question and feverishly folding the written sheet which lay under her hand, “if you love me, if ever you loved me, will you have this letter conveyed by a safe messenger to Scarthey, and given to Rene to none but Rene, at once? Oh, Molly, it will be a service to me, you little guess of what moment!”

Voyez un peu!” said Lady Landale coolly. “What trust in Molly, all at once! Aha, I thought it would come. If I love you? Hum, I’m not so sure about that. If ever I loved you? a droll sort of plea, in truth, considering how you have requited my love!”

Madeleine turned a dazed look upon her sister, who stood surveying her, glowing like a jewel of dazzling radiance, from her setting of black mantle and black plumed hat. “So you will not!” she answered hopelessly, and let her forehead fall upon her hand without further protest.

“But I did not say I would not as it happens I am going to the island myself. How you stare oh you remember now do you? Who told you I wonder? of course, such a couple as we are, Adrian and I, could not be divided from each other for over half a day, could we? By the way, I was to convey a gracious invitation to you too. Will you come with me? No? strange girl. So even give me the letter, I will take it to no, not to Rene, ’tis addressed to Captain Smith, I see. Dear me you don’t mean to say, Madeleine, that you are corresponding with that person; that he is near us? What would Tanty say?”

“Oh, Molly, cease your scoffs,” implored poor Madeleine, wearily. “You are angry with me, well, now rejoice, for I am punished well punished. Oh, I would tell you all but I cannot! my heart is too sick. See, you may read the letter, and then you will understand but for pity’s sake go Do not fail to go; he will be there on the island at dark he expects me Oh, Molly! I cannot explain indeed I cannot, and there is no time, it will soon be dusk; but there is terrible danger in his being there at all.”

Molly took the letter, turned it over with scornful fingers and then popped it in her pocket. “If he expects you,” she asked, fixing cold, curious eyes on her sister’s distress, “and he is in danger, why don’t you go?”

A flush rose painfully to Madeleine’s face, a sob to her throat. “Don’t ask me,” she murmured, turning away to hide her humiliation. “I have been deceived, he is not what I thought.”

Lady Landale gazed at the shrinking figure for a little while in silence. Then remarking contemptuously: “Well you are a poor creature,” turned upon her heel to leave her. As she passed the little altar, she paused to whisk a bunch of violets out of a vase and dry the stems upon her sister’s quilt.

“Molly,” cried Madeleine, in a frenzy, “give me back my letter, or go.”

“I go, I go,” said Lady Landale with a mocking laugh. “How sweet your violets smell! There, do not agitate yourself: I’m going to meet your lover, my dear. I vow I am curious to see the famous man, at last.”