The Story of a Search for Treasure on the Coast of Ireland and the Amusing Situations which Arose
By GEO. A. BIRMINGHAM
SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS CHAPTERS
The Rev. J. J. Meldon, curate, of Ballymoy, a village on the icest coast of Ireland, while visiting his Jrtend, Major Kent, comes across an old pocket-book of the Major’s grandfather, in which he finds an account of some treasure, supposed to have been hidden by the Spaniards of one of the vessels of the Spanish Armada, on the Island of Inishgowlan. The Major possesses an excellent yacht, The Spindrift, and they decide to take a trip to the island to search for the treasure, which Meldon is very confident of finding, but of the existence of which the Major is very skeptical. Meldon also owns a yacht, The Aureole, a worthless tub, which he lets to a Mr. Langton, who, with a friend, wishes to take a trip round the coast. On arriving at the island Meldon and the Major find Higginbotham, an old college chum of Meldon’s, engaged in surveying the island for the Government, and dividing it up into allotments. He informs them he is prevented from completing his work by the obstinacy of one old man, named Thomas 0’Flaherty Pat, who owns a piece of land in the very centre of the island, entirely surrounded by other people's land, but with which he will not part at any price. Meldon, not wishing to divulge the real reason of his visit. tells Higginbotham the Major is a Government mineralogical expert who has been sent to examine and report on the islayid’s mineral resources. Meldon and the Major start to explore the island and discover they are being followed everywhere by an old man, who turns out to be Thomas O’Flaherty Pat, and who declares he cannot understand a word of English. Meldon tells him they are naturalists looking for sea beetles, and manages to get rid of him; continuing their search, they find an inlet with a hole, which is only visible at low tide, and here Meldon decides the hidden treasures must lie. On returning to the yacht they notice the arrival in the harbor of the Aureole. The following day Meldon starts for the inlet and the cave, and on his arrival discovers a man, who is being lowered over the cliff to the entrance of the cave. This turns out to be a Sir Giles Buckley, the friend who is with Langton, on the Aureole, and son of a neighbor of the Major’s, who had lately died. Sir Giles would also have heardof the treasure, as his grandfather was a friend of the Major’s grandfather, and had visited the island with him. After some discussion, Sir Giles calls out to Langton to haul him up, and both he and Meldon depart, as the tide has nearly covered the hole in the rocks. The following day, Meldon having set adrift Sir Giles’ boat to prevent his leaving the yacht; again visits the cave tcith the Major. They make their way through a long underground passage ayid eventually find two old iron boxes which, however, are empty. At this point Langton and Sir Giles appear on the scene through a hole in the top of the cavern which it seems is just under Thomas O’Flaherty Pat’s plot of land. Disappointed they all return to the yachts, and Sir Giles and Langton later on pay a visit to Meldon and the Major suggesting that as the treasure is evidently somewhere on the island, they should all join forces instead of working in opposition to each other. We here find them discussing the mutter.
"IN Trinity College Library,” said Langton, “before I resigned my post there.”
“Resigned?” said Meldon, with a grin.
“If politics are barred,” said Sir Giles, “so are offensive remarks. I have agreed to respect Major Kent’s feelings about the Union Jack, though I’m blest if I understand how they come in. You must not insult my friend Langton.”
“I apologize,” said Meldon. “We’ll be non-sectarian as well as non-political.”
“You tell this part, Langton,” said Sir Giles.
“There’s not much to tell. While I was in the College Library I came across an old manuscript written in Spanish. It was a good deal mutilated—in fact there was neither beginning nor end to it. It appeared to be the log of one of the Armada captains. It began with an account of being shipwrecked on a small island off the west coast of Ireland. The island wasn’t named, nor the situation described, but he told how he and his crew left the island in two curraghs. Their own boats were, I suppose, destroyed. Before they went-”
“They hid the treasure,” said Meldon.
“Precisely. They couldn’t take it in the curraghs. They meant to go back for it.”
■ “Did he mention the hole in Thomas O’Flaherty’s field?”
“I see. I could not understand how you got at that. This is most interesting. Go on.”
“There isn’t much more to tell,” said Sir Giles. We put our stories together-”
“Oh, but I want to hear what happened to the Spaniard,” said Meldon.
“It doesn’t matter about him. The log broke off abruptly, didn’t it, Langton? What we did was, put our stories together. We made up our minds that the thing was good enough to try for. The sale of the furniture in Ballymoy House brought in some money. I sent Langton over to hire a small yacht. He knew nothing about boats, and you stuck him badly with your old Aureole.”
“I don’t like that,” said Meldon. “We agreed to be non-sectarian and you go introducing religion.”
“I only said you stuck him over the boat. There’s nothing religious about that remark.”
“There is,” said Meldon. “To stick a man is a form of swindling, and swindling is a distinct breach of one of the Ten Commandments. There isn’t a sect of Christians in the world which doesn’t profess to have more or less respect for the Ten Commandments, therefor your remark about sticking Langton over the boat is in the highest degree sectarian and a distinct infringement of the terms of our agreement.”
“I’ve knocked about a good deal in my day,” said Sir Giles, “and I’ve met lots of queer people. In fact, I thought I’d met every kind of man there is in the world. But I'm hanged—‘hanged’ isn’t swearing, it’s only a form of emphasis —I’m hanged if I ever met quite as queer a fellow as you.”
“What do you propose to do now?” said the Major.
It was his first contribution to the dis-
cussion, and the other three men looked at him in surprise.
“Before going into that,” said Sir Giles, “we’d like to hear what you know about the treasure. You’ve had our story. Let us hear yours.”
“We’ve no story,” said Meldon. “We had the information in Major Kent’s grandfather’s log, pretty much the same as what you got from your grandfather. That’s all.”
Sir Giles and Langton looked at each other. Suspicion was in both their faces.
“We had nothing else to go on,” said Meldon.
“Then how did you find the cave?”
“By inductive reasoning,” said Meldon. “By careful observation, and a proper use of what is called the scientific imagination.”
“If you won’t be open and above-board with us,” said Sir Giles, “there’s no use our talking to you. It’s neither fair nor honorable of you to keep a card up your sleeve in this way when we’ve laid all ours on the table.”
“I’ve got no card up my sleeve,” said Meldon. “As a matter of fact, I don’t play cards, so I wouldn’t be likely to have one about me—up my sleeve or anywhere else. I haven’t played cards since I left college, and even there I didn’t
“Do you expect us to believe that out of all possible places on this island where that treasure might have been hidden you lit on that cave straight off by accident?”
“I don’t expect you to believe anything of the sort. What I said was, that I arrived at the cave by a process of reasoning. You may not be able to reason
yourself, but there’s no use denying that other people can.”
“Strikes me as a bit thick, that. What do you say, Langton?”
“It’s a damned lie,” said Langton.
“Now, if I said a thing like that to either of you,” said Meldon, “you’d lose your tempers and try to break my head
with a stone. But I happen to have some self-control.”
“I believe,” said the Major to Meldon, with a broad grin, “that this is the first time you’ve spoken the truth since we came to this island, and it’s the only time you haven’t been believed.”
“We may as well go,” said Sir Giles.
“There’s nothing to be gained by standing here arguing with men who have no sense of honor or decency.”
Langton gulped down the remains of his whisky and water and stood up. A sharp bump against the yacht’s side shook him into his seat again.
“What the devil’s that?” said Sir Giles.
“It must be Higginbotham,” said Major Kent. “He always does that. He’s come on board twice before and each time he has rammed the yacht as if he were a torpedo specially paid to knock holes in the sides of ships.”
“I’ll fetch him down,” said Meldon. “Don’t go yet, Sir Giles. You’ll like Higginbotham when you meet him, I’m sure. He’ll want to talk to you about tuberculosis. He’s frightfully keen on every kind of consumption, and he’s got it into his head that you’re interested in the subject.”
He rose to go on deck. Before he succeeded in getting clear of the table Higginbotham descended rapidly, legs first, into the cabin. He was flushed, eager, and ■ evidently in a condition of great nervous excitement.
“I’ve just got back,” he said. “I came off at once—I haven’t a minute to spare —to tell you that the Granuaile is in.” “What is the Granuaile?” said Sir Giles.
“Oh, I beg your pardon. I didn’t see that you were here, Sir Giles. I was going over to your yacht to tell you. I thought you’d like to know. It will be time enough to give my report later on, won’t it? I can’t stay now.”
“What’s the Granuaile?” said Sir Giles. “Let’s get that first.”
“She’s the C.D.B. yacht, and the—” “For God’s sake, man, don’t talk alphabetical riddles. What’s the A.B.C.?” “C.D.B.,” said Meldon mildly, “stands for Congested Districts Board. Mr. Higginbotham is part of the C.D.B. He’s the board’s representative on Inishgowlan.”
“The Chief Secretary is here,” said Higginbotham. “I can’t possibly stay. I’m expecting him up at my place every minute. I must be there to meet him. Good-bye. I suppose you’ll come ashore soon and pay your respects. Good-bye for the present.”
He backed rapidly up the companion ladder and disappeared. A minute later there was a sound of scraping and another bump against the yacht’s side.
“Am I to understand,” said Major Kent, “that the Chief Secretary is on the island?”
“Apparently he is,” said Meldon. “I wasn’t expecting him, but now that he has turned up we must all try to make his stay as pleasant for him as possible.” “Who is the Chief Secretary?” said Sir Giles. “What is he Chief Secretary of? Is it that A.B.C. thing which the last lunatic talked about?”
“You’ve lived abroad,” said Meldon, “or else you’d know that the Chief Secretary is the principal boss of the Government of this country. In fact, he is the Government. He’s far and away a bigger man than the Lord-Lieutenant, although he doesn’t wear such good clothes or look so ornamental. He varies, of course, from time to time according to circumstances, that is to say, according to whether the English people think they’d like a Conservative or a Liberal for Prime Minister. At present he’s a man called Willoughby—the Right Honorable Eustace Willoughby, M.P. By the way, Major, I told you there was sure to be a Member of Parliament on that
steam yacht. I turned out to be right, you see, in spite of your sneers. I don’t happen to have met this Chief Secretary, but they tell me he’s not a bad sort of man in private life. I shall look forward to having some quiet chats with him while he’s here.”
“You won’t get them,” said the Major, in a determined tone. “I’m off at once.”
“Whatever he is, he has nothing to do with us,” said Sir Giles. “We’ve got our own business to see to. Come now, Mr. Meldon, before we go, you may as well tell us the truth about how you found that cave.”
“There’s no use my repeating what I’ve said before. I’ve told you all we know about the matter. If you don’t choose to believe me, don’t believe me. 1 can’t help it.”
Sir Giles scowled at him.
“Very well, Mr. Parson, if you are a parson, which I doubt. We’ve offered to run this business in partnership with you and to go shares. It was a fair offer and you’ve refused it. You won’t have me for your friend. You’ll find me h nasty enemy to deal with. I tell you straight I mean to handle that treasure before I leave the island. Come along, Langton.”
Meldon went on deck with them, saw them into their punt, and waved a cheerful farewell as they rowed away. Sir Giles, who was rowing and faced the Spindrift, scowled in reply, and, to Meldon’s intense delight, began to swear.
MAJOR KENT came on deck. He was agitated and showed signs of being in a hurry. Without speaking a word to Meldon he went to the end of the boom and began to unlace the cover of the mainsail. Meldon watched him take it off, roll it up, and stow it in the sail locker.
“What are you at now?” said Meldon.
“I’m going to get up sail and go home at once. I’ll listen to no more talk from you, J. J. I’ve had too much of it already. My mind is made up. I’ll not stay in this place another hour.”
“Why?” said the Major, who was casting loose the ties which bound the mainsail to the boom. “Do you ask me why? Didn’t you hear Higginbotham saying that the Chief Secretary is. on the island? I’m not going to stay here to be made look like a fool over all the lies you’ve told. What could I say to the man if I met him?”
“Do you mean about the geological survey?”
“Yes I do. Of course I do. And about Sir Giles being a medical missionary or whatever the fool lie you told about him was. And about the National Board of Education building a school, Higginbotham is sure to tell him everything you’ve said.”
“You may make your mind quite easy so far as the school is concerned. That is no business of the Chief Secretary’s. The Education Board is the one thing in the country that he has no control over. That came out in Parliament some time ago, as you ought to remember.”
“Well, what about the geological survey? You said I’d been sent here by the Chief Secretary and the Lord-Lieutenant. And what about Sir Giles and the tuberculosis?”
“Take one thing at a time, Major, like a good man, and don’t confuse yourself. You’re afraid he’ll be angry because I said he sent you here to make a geological survey of the island. I assure you he won’t even be surprised. You don’t know these Cabinet Ministers, and, of course, it’s hard for you to realize the life they lead. Now just listen to me. That man, Eustace Willoughby, spends his time mainly in receiving deputations. Hundreds and hundreds of deputations wait on him every week. There isn’t a public body in the country, not so much as an association of licensed publicans, which doesn’t send two or three deputations to each Chief Secretary. I expect he’s receiving one this moment, headed by Thomas O’Flaherty Pat. To every deputation he says something—something nice and sympathetic. He must, you know. That’s how he earns his salary. Now I put it to you as a sensible man, can he possibly recollect all the things he’s said to all the deputations? He can’t, of course. You put a bold face on it. Speak to him civilly, but without any show of timidity. Tell him that you went to him as part of a deputation from the Irish Incorporated Geological Surveyors’ Institute, and that he sent you to this island. He won’t know in the least what you’re talking about, but he’ll be afraid to give himself away by saying he doesn’t remember. He’ll believe what you say. He must.’’
“I don’t mean to give him the chance. I’m going home.”
“Well, if you funk it,” said Meldon, “though I can’t myself see what there is to be afraid of, I’ll go on shore and talk to him. I’ll settle the matter all right. You can trust me not to let you in for anything unpleasant."
“I wouldn’t trust you an inch. I’ve trusted you a great deal too much already, and look at the fix I’m in. I’m going straight home.”
“Think of the treasure.”
“I wouldn’t give you the chance of talking to the Chief Secretary for £500 down. You’d make things worse than they are at present, if that’s possible.”
“Do think of the treasure,” said Meldon, persuasively.
“There’s no treasure, or if there is, somebody else has got it. I tell you I wouldn’t stay here to be bullyragged and bullied by a Chief Secretary for all the treasure in the world.”
“I’m not putting the matter before you in that selfish way at all. Do try to be a little altruistic, Major. I am speaking about the treasure from the point of view of public duty. Either Higginbotham or Thomas O’Flaherty Pat, probably the latter, has the treasure. But that scoundrel Sir Giles means to steal it. I could see it in his eye that he meant to, and so could you. Sir Giles, as you know, is a man who sticks at nothing. He wanted to murder me to-day with a stone. We’re the only people on the island who are in a position to interfere with his abominable plans. If we go away
he’ll do poor old Thomas O’Flaherty out of his hard-earned gold. He’ll rot Mary Kate of her inheritance, of the money that would make life brighter for her. I tell you, Major, I’ve got to be very fond of that little girl and I won’t let the thing be done. Or, if it’s Higginbotham that has the money. Sir Giles will go at night and cut Higginbotham’s throat. You wouldn’t like to think of poor Higginbotham lying all gory in a lonely grave in Inishgowlan, far from his family burying-place and the associations of his innocent youth. It’ll be your fault, remember, if he does, because you won’t stay here to protect him. I should think that Higginbotham’s ghost, a most objectionable-looking spectre, will haunt you to the end of your life. And you’L richly deserve it.”
Major Kent made no answer. He loosed the halyard from the belaying pir at the foot of the mast.
“You’re still determined,” said Meldon, “after all I’ve said, to get up sail.”
“Yes; I’m going home.”
“You may get up sail but you’ll not go
“Because there’s no wind, as you could have seen for yourself long ago if you hadn’t been off your head with nervousness. It may amuse you to hoist the sails and get up anchor, and then drift about, up and down the bay, till night-time. The only result will be that you’ll go foul of the Aureole or the Granuaile. If that’s what you want to do, I’ll help you, of course; but I must say it seems to me a rotten way of spending the afternoon.”
Major Kent sat down on the deck and glared at Meldon.
“Why couldn’t you have told me that before,” he said, “instead of standing there and talking like a born fool?”
“I preferred,” said Meldon, “to appeal to your higher nature first. I’d like
to have seen you doing your plain duty voluntarily. There’s very little credit in staying here simply because there’s no wind to take you away.”
Major Kent smiled feebly.
“I give up,” he said. “Say what you like to the Chief Secretary; make any muddle you can. You’ll most likely land me in prison before you’ve done. You’ll certainly have every newspauer in the three kingdoms making fun of us. 1 can’t help it. I can do no more. I don’t even mean to try ”
“You needn’t; I’ll manage all right. All you have to do is to keep cool and avoid fuss and excitement. Come on shore and let us interview the Chief Secretary at once. I expect we’ll find him quite a reasonable man. After all, a fellow can’t climb right up to the top of the tree, become a Chief Secretary, r. Cabinet Minister, and all that sort of thing, without being more or less reasonable. As long as a man is reasonable it’s always quite easy to get on with him. The people who kick up rows and make themselves unpleasant are the smaller kind, the men with prejudices and ridiculous conventional views. Willoughby must have knocked about a good deal in his day. I know he’s been ragged a lot by Suffragettes, and that shakes a man up. I expect we'll find him quite amusing.”
A boat pulled by two men with a coxswain in the stern left the pier and headed for the Granuaile Major Kent saw her and pointed her out.
“Perhaps he’s leaving at once,” he said; the yacht has steam up still.”
Meldon got the glasses and took a long look at the boat, following her in her course to the Granuaile.
“He’s not in that boat,” he said. “He wouldn’t be pulling an oar himself. Tha^ wouldn’t be suitable for a man in his position, and the fellow who’s steering
is evidently one of the yacht’s officers. He has gold buttons on his coat Besides, they’d be sure to fly a white ensign, or whistle ‘God Save the King,’ or make some kind of show if they had a Chief Secretary on board; whereas that’s just a plain, ordinary boat.”
He laid down the glasses and looked at the pier.
“I see a stranger standing there with Higginbotham,” he said; “a plump, little man in light grey clothes with a Panama hat. Give me the glasses again. He has a small, brown moustache and a thick, short nose. I can see him distinctly. It’s certainly the Right Honorable Eustace Willoughby. I’d know him anywhere by his likeness to a cartoon there was of him in Punch a couple of weeks ago. I wonder, now, why the boat’s going off and leaving him there?”
He shifted his position and looked at the Granuaile again.
“By Jove! the yacht’s getting up anchor and hoisting the boat on the davits. She’s off somewhere in a dickens of a hurry. But why have they left the Chief Secretary behind? What will he do? He can’t surely mean to stop the night in Higginbotham’s wigwam There’s onlv one bed, and I happen to know that it’s full of broken glass. It was just underneath the pane I smashed this morning when I hove the oars in through the window. All the bits of glass went into the bed; I saw them. This is becoming serious. The Granuaile is certainly off. He must mean to sleep in Higginbotham’s bed. He’ll probably lose his temper if he does. No man likes being cut about the body with broken glass just as he’s going off to sleep. I wouldn’t like it myself, and I expect it would be perfect torture to a plump man like Willoughby. What had I better do?”
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Continued from Page 28.
“I don’t know,” said the Major. “I dare say you’re sorry now there’s no wind. I think if I were you I’d go ashore and try to slip round some back way an.i sweep out Higginbotham’s bed before night.”
“I won’t do that. I hate sneaking, underhand ways of doing things. Let us be gentlemen, Major, whatever else we are. We’ll go ashore with out heads up. We’ve nothing to be ashamed of.”
“You may go by yourself. I won’t. I’ll stay on the yacht till there’s breeze enough to take her out of this.”
“Very well, I’ll go alone After all, the man is a stranger here, and whether there’s glass in his bed or not we ought to try and cheer him up. Higginbotham isn’t very interesting. I’m su; e he’s boring Willoughby already. I expect the poor man is feeling a bit lonely too. seeing the Granuaile go off. By the way. I wonder where she’s going to? She headed for the south point of the island, and that looks rather as if she meant to fetch Inishmore. I hope to goodness Higginbotham hasn’t been talking about Sir Giles and the tuberculosis. I’d like to have a chance of making a good impression before I have to begin explaining that business. I wish Sir Giles hadn’t gone off in a ridiculous huff. If we’o been friends I might have got him to stand over the tuberculosis and it would have been all right. The Chief Secretary couldn’t well contradict a baronet, whatever he might think in his own mind. It isn’t my fault Sir Giles took offence the way he did. I was telling him the literal truth. I couldn’t start inventing a lot of lies just to please him.”
“I don’t see why you couldn’t. You’ve invented plenty the last few days.”
“I’m going on shore now,” said Meldon. “I see Willoughby and Higginbotham strolling up together towards the hut. I don’t suppose he’s likely to go to bed at this hour of the afternoon, but in case of accidents I’ll go at once.”
“The only thing you seem to mind about is that broken glass. It doesn’t seem to me nearly so serious as the other things.” -
“It isn’t. Considered by itself, it isn’t really serious at all. The thing is that Higginbotham won’t know how it got there. He won’t have any explanation to offer. The Chief Secretary, gashed and bleeding, will blame the wrong man. He’ll think that Higginbotham has been playing off some new kind of apple-pie bed on him and he’ll be upset about it. That will ruin Higginbotham’s prospects in life. That’s why I’m anxious about the bed. I must get off at once.”
“Go on,” said the Major, with a sigh. “The Lord alone knows what you’ll do when you get ashore. Things can’t be much worse, anyway.”
“Don't be gloomy,” said Meldon, as he got into the punt. “Just trust me a little. I’m not at the end of my resources yet, by any means. After all, what’s a Chief Secretary? I suppose
he’s only flesh and blood like the rest of us. And besides, he’s a migratory kind of bird. He’s here to-day, and back in his native England to-morrow.”
Higginbotham, his face white with anxiety and distress, ran down the hill from his hut and greeted Meldon as he I came alongside the pier.
“Meldon,” he said, “I’m awfully sorry, but you’d better go back to the yacht at once. Don’t come on shore. Like a good man, go back. I can’t tell you how sorry I am about it all. He’s frightfully angry.”
“Who’s angry?” said Meldon, stepping ashore with the painter in his hand. “Do try to be intelligible, Higginbotham, and don’t speak till you’ve got your breath. I hate having things gasped out at me. Who’s angry?”
“The Chief Secretary.”
“Has he gone to bed yet?”
“No, he hasn’t. Why should he go to bed? He’s up at my place sitting on a chair. I left him just for a moment when I saw you coming ashore. I ran down to warn you, in, case you thought of coming up.”
“If he hasn’t gone to bed,” said Meldon, “I don’t see that he’s anything particular to be angry about.”
“It’s about Major Kent and the geological survey of the island. He said he’d never heard of such a thing in his life. He said a most unwarrantable use had been made of his name. I can’t tell you all he said. He called it intolerable insolence. I give you my word, Meldon, I wouldn’t have mentioned the matter if I’d had the slightest idea that you were only pulling my leg. I really believed you. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“If I’d told you I shouldn’t have pulled your leg. What on earth would be the use of playing off a spoof on a man and at the same time telling him you were doing it? I wish you’d be reasonable, Higginbotham.”
“Fortunately I didn’t mention the National School or Sir Giles Buckley. When I saw how things really were, I dried up at once. I’m more sorry than I can possibly tell you. Somehow I never thought-”
“That’ll do,” said Meldon. “Don’t go on apologizing. I don’t blame you in the least. You acted in a perfectly natural
Meldon stooped and made fast the painter of the punt. -
“You’re not coming ashore, are you?” said Higginbotham. “Don’t do it. Please don’t. Go back to the yacht.”
“I’m going up to have a chat with the Chief Secretary,” said Meldon.
“But he won’t speak to you, I know he won’t. I tell you he’s simply savage.” “It’s for your sake I’m going. I want to prevent your getting into trouble. I don’t want to have your prospects blighted on account of any misunderstanding with the Chief Secretary.” “But I’m not in any trouble. I assure you he doesn’t blame me. He said so himself. It’s only you he’s angry with.”
“If he’s not angry with you now, he very soon will be. As soon as ever he gets into bed he’ll be wanting to tear
you limb from limb, unless I go up and straighten things out.”
“But why? What has he to be angry with me about?”
“You’ll find that out as soon as he gets into bed.”
Meldon began to walk towards the hut. Higginbotham’s fears came back on him ■ and rendered him almost inarticulate. He seized Meldon by the arm and tried to hold him forcibly. With actual tears in his eyes he entreated his friend to stop. He ejaculated unintelligible sentences about “awful rows,” “legal proceedings,” and “public disgrace.” He even mentioned high treason.
“Don’t be an ass,” said Meldon. “I’m going up to talk sense to that Chief Secretary. If everybody else he comes across is as much afraid of him as you are, it’s quite time that somebody that isn’t took him in hand. Pull yourself together, Higginbotham, and come up with me. I want you to introduce me. It’s awkward walking in on a man you’ve never met without an introduction.”
Higginbotham shook his head. After a last appeal he sat down helplessly on the grass. Meldon walked on towards the hut.
THE Chief Secretary lay back in Higginbotham’s hammock-chair. There was a frown on his face. His sense of personal dignity was outraged by the story he had just heard. He had not been very long Chief Secretary of Ireland, and, though not without a sense of humor, he took himself and his office very seriously. He came to Ireland intending to do justice and show mercy. He looked forward to a career of real usefulness. He was prepared to be opposed, maligned, misunderstood, declared capable of every kind of iniquity. He did not expect to be treated as a fool. He did not expect that an official in the pay of one of the Government boards would assume as a matter of course that he was a fool and believe any story about him, however intrinsically absurd. He failed to imagine any motive for the telling of such a story. There must, he assumed, have been a motive, but what it was he could not even I guess.
Meldon entered the hut without knockin g at the door.
“Mr. Willoughby, I believe,” he said cheerily. “You must allow me to introduce myself since Higginbotham isn’t | here to do it for me. My name is Mel¡ don—the Rev. J. J. Meldon, B.A., of j T.C.D.”
The Chief Secretary intended to rise with dignity and walk out of the hut. He failed because no one can rise otherwise than awkwardly out of the depths ¡ of a hammock-chair.
“Don’t sir,” said Meldon, watching his struggles. “Please don’t stir. I shouldn’t dream of taking your chair. I’ll sit on the corner of the table. I’ll be quite ; comfortable, I assure you. How do you I like Inishgowlan, now you are here? It’s a nice little island, isn’t it?”
Mr. Willoughby succeeded in getting )
out of the chair. He walked across the hut, turned his hack on Meldon, and stared out of the window.
“I came up here to have a chat with you,” said Meldon. “Perhaps you wouldn't mind turninfr round. I always find it more convenient to talk to a man who isn’t looking the other way. I don’t make a point of it. of course. If you’ve got into the habit of keeping your back turned to people, 1 don't want you to alter it on my account.”
Mr. Willoughby turned round. He seemed to be on the point of making an angry remark. Meldon faced him with a bland smile. The look of irritation faded in M r. Willoughby’s face. He appeared I puzzled.
“It’s about Higginbotham’s bed,” said Meldon. “that I want to speak. It’s an excellent bed, I believe, though I never slept in it myself. But--”
“If there’s anything the matter with the bed,” said Mr. Willoughby severely, “Mr. Higginbotham should himself represent the facts to the proper authorities.”
“You quite misunderstand me. And in any case Higginbotham can't move in the matter because lie doesn’t, at present, know that there’s anything wrong about the bed. By the time he finds out it will be too late to do anything. I simply want to give you a word of advice. Don’t sleep in Higginbotham’s bed to-night.”
“I haven’t the slightest intention of sleeping in it.”
“That’s all right.. I’m glad you haven’t. The fact is”—Meldon’s voice sank almost to a whisper—“there happens to be a quantity of broken glass in that bed. I need scarcely tell a man with your experience of life that broken glass in a bed isn’t a thing which suits everybody. It’s all right, of course, if you’re used to it, but I don’t suppose you
Mr. Willoughby turned, this time towards the door. There was something in the ingenuous friendliness of Meldon’s face which tempted him to smile. He caught sight of Higginbotham standing white and miserable on the threshold. He made a snatch at the dignity which had nearly escaped him and frowned severely.
“I think, Mr. Higginbotham,” he said, “that I should like to take a stroll round the island.”
“Come along,” said Meldon. “I’ll show you the sights. You don’t mind climbing walls, I hope. You’ll find the place most interesting. Do you care about babies? There’s a nice little beggar called Michael Pat. Any one with a taste for babies would take to him at once. And there’s a little girl called Mary Kate, a great friend of Higginbotham’s She’s the granddaughter of old Thomas O’Flaherty Pat. By the way, how are you going to manage about Thomas O’Flaherty’s bit of land? There’s been a lot of trouble over that.”
Mr. Willoughby sat down again in the hammock-chair and stared at Meldon.
“Of course it’s your affair, not mine,” said Meldon. “Still, if I can be of any help to you, you’ve only got to say so. I know old O’Flaherty pretty well, and I may say without boasting that I have
as much influence with him as any man on the island.”
“If I want your assistance I shall ask for it,” said Mr. Willoughby coldly.
“That’s right,” said Meldon. “I’ll do anything I can. The great difficulty, of course, is the language. You don’t talk Irish yourself, I suppose. Higginbotham tells me he’s learning. It’s a very difficult language, highly inflected. I’m not very good at it myself. I can’t carry on a regular business conversation in it. By the way, what is your opinion of the Gaelic League?”
A silence followed. Mr. Willoughby gave no opinion of the Gaelic League. Meldon sat down again on the corner of the table and began to swing his legs. Higginbotham still stood in the doorway. Mr. Willoughby, with a bewildered look on his face, lay back in the hammockchair.
“I see,” said Meldon, “that you’ve sent your yacht away. That was what made me think you were going to sleep in Higginbotham’s bed. I suppose she’ll be back before night?”
“Really-” began Mr. Willoughby.
Meldon replied at once to the tone in which the word was spoken.
“I don’t want to be asking questions. If there’s any secret about the matter you’re quite right to keep it to yourself.
I quite understand that you Cabinet Ministers can’t always say out everything that’s in your mind. I only mentioned the steamer because the conversation seemed to be languishing. You wouldn’t talk about Thomas O’Flaherty Pat’s field, and you wouldn’t talk about the Gaelic League, though I thought that would be sure to interest you. Now you won’t talk about the steamer. However, it’s quite easy to get on some other subject. Do you think the weather will hold up? The glass has been dropping the last two days.”
Mr. Willoughby struggled out of the hammock-chair again. He drew himself up to his full height and squared his shoulders. His face assumed an expression of rigid determination. He addressed Higginbotham.
“Will you be so good as to go up to the old man you spoke of-”
“Thomas O’Flaherty Pat,” said Meldon. “That’s the man he means—you know, Higginbotham.”
“And tell him-” went on Mr.
“If you’re to tell him anything,” said Meldon, “don’t forget to take someone with you who understands Irish.”
“And tell him,” repeated Mr. Willoughby, “that I shall expect him here in about an hour to meet Father Mulcrone.”
“I see,” said Meldon. “So that’s where the yacht’s gone. You’ve sent for the priest to talk sense to the old boy. Well, I dare say you’re right, though I think we could have managed with the help of Mary Kate. She knows both languages well, and she’d do anything for me, though she has rather a down on Higginbotham. It’s a pity you didn’t consult me before sending the
steamer off all the way to Inishmore. However, it can’t be helped now.”
Higginbotham departed on his errand and shut the door of the hut after him. The Chief Secretary turned to Meldon.
“You’ve chosen,” he said, “to force your company on me this afternoon in a most unwarrantable manner.”
“I’ll go at once if you like,” said Meldon. “I only came up here for your own good, to warn you about the state of Higginbotham’s bed. You ought to be more grateful to me than you are. It isn’t every man who’d have taken the trouble to come all this way to save a total stranger from getting his legs cut with broken glass. However, if you hunt me away, of course I’ll go. Only 1 think you’ll be sorry afterwards if I do. I may say without vanity that I’m far and away the most amusing person on this island at present.”
“As you are here,” said Mr. Willoughby, “I take the opportunity of asking you what you mean by telling that outrageous story to Mr. Higginbotham. I’m not accustomed to having my name used in that way and, to speak plainly, I regard it as insolence.”
“You are probably referring to the geological survey of this island?”
“Yes. To your assertion that I employed a man called Kent to survey this island. That is precisely what I do refer to.”
“Then you ought to have said so plainly at first, and not have left me to guess at what you were talking about Many men couldn’t have guessed, and then we should have been rambling about at cross purposes for the next hour or so without getting any further. Always try and say plainly what you mean, Mr. Willoughby. I know it’s difficult, but I think you’ll find it pays in the end. Now that I know what’s in your mind, I’ll be very glad to thrash it out with you. You know Higginbotham, of course?”
“I met him this afternoon for the firsl
“Then you can’t be said really to know Higginbotham. That’s a pity, becaust without a close and intimate knowledge of Higginbotham you’re not in a positior to understand that geological survej story. Take my advice and drop the whole subject until you know Higgin botham better. After spending a few days on the island in constant intercourse with Higginbotham you’ll be able to understand the whole thing. Ther i you’ll appreciate it. In the meanwhile j I’m sure you won’t mind my adding ¡ since we are on the subject—and it was you who introduced it^—that you oughl not to go leaping to conclusions without a proper knowledge of the facts. I saic the same thing this morning to Majoi Kent when he insisted that you had come i here to search for buried treasure.”
Mr. Willoughby pulled himself together with an effort. He felt a sense of bewilderment and hopeless confusion. The sensation was familiar. He had experienced it before in the House of Com-
mons when Irish members of both parties asked questions on the same subject. He knew that his only chance was to ignore side-issues, however fascinating, and get back at once to the original
“I’m willing,” he said, “to listen to any explanation you have to offer; but I do not see how Mr. Higginbotham’s character alters, or can alter, the fact that you told him what I can only describe as an outrageous lie.”
“The worst thing about you Englishmen is that you have such blunt minds. You don’t appreciate the lights and shades, the finer nuances, what I may perhaps describe as the chiaroscuro of things. It’s just the same with my friend Major Kent. By the way, I ought to apologize for him. He ought to have come ashore and called upon you this afternoon. It isn’t the want of loyalty which prevented him. He’s a strong Unionist, and on principle he repects his Majesty’s Ministers whatever party they belong to. The fact is he was a bit nervous about this geological survey business. He didn’t know exactly how you’d take it. I told him that you were a reasonable man and that you’d see the thing in a proper light, but he wouldn’t come.”
“Will you kindly tell me what is the proper light in which to view this extraordinary performance of yours?” “Certainly. It will be a little difficult, of course, when you don’t know Higginbotham, but I’ll try.”
“Leave Mr. Higginbotham out,” said the Chief Secretary irritably. “Tell me simply this, were you justified in making a statement which you knew to be a baseless invention? How do you explain the fact that you told a deliberate—that you didn’t speak the truth?”
“I’ve always heard of you as an educated and cultured man. I may assume therefore that you know all about pragmatism.”
“Well, you ought to. It’s a most interesting system of philosophy quite worth your while to study. I’m sure you’d like it if you understood it. In fact, I expect you’re a pragmatist already without knowing it. Most of us practical men are.”
“I’m waiting for an explanation of the story you told Mr. Higginbotham.” “Quite right. I’m coming to that in a minute. Don’t be impatient. If you’d been familiar with the pragmatist philosophy it would have saved time. As you’re not—though as Chief Secretary for Ireland I think you ought to be— I’ll have to explain. Pragmatism may be described as the secularizing of the Ritschlian system of theological thought. You understand the Ritschlian theory of value judgments, of course?”
“No, I don’t.” Mr. Willoughby began to feel very helpless. It seemed easier to let the tide of this strange lecture sweep over him than to make any effort to assert himself.
“Do you mind if I smoke?” he said. “I think I could listen to your explanation better if I smoked.”
He took from his pocket a silver cigar-
“Smoke away,” said Meldon. “I don’t mind in the least. In fact I’ll take a cigar from you and smoke too. I can’t afford cigars myself, but I enjoy them when they’re good. I suppose a Chief Secretary is pretty well bound to keep decent cigars on account of his position.”
Mr. Willoughby handed over the case. Meldon selected a cigar and lit it. Then he went on—
“The central position of the pragmatist philosophy and the Ritschlian theology is that truth and usefulness are identical.”
“What that means is this. A thing is true if it turns out in actual practice to be useful, and false if it turns out in actual practice to be useless. I dare say that sounds startling to you at first, but if you think it over quietly for a while you’ll get to see that there’s a good deal
Meldon puffed at his cigar without speaking. He wished to give Mr. Willoughby an opportunity for meditation. Then he went on—
“The usual illustration—the one you’ll find in all the text-books—is the old puzzle of the monkey on the tree. A man sees a monkey clinging to the far side of the trunk of the tree.—I never could make out how he did see it, but that doesn’t matter for the purposes of the illustration.—He, the man, determines to go round the tree and get a better look at the monkey. But the monkey creeps round the tree so as always to keep the trunk between him and the man. The question is whether, when he’s gone round the tree, the man has or has not gone round the monkey. The older philosophies simply gave that problem up. They couldn’t solve it, but
“Either you or I,” said Mr. Willoughby feebly, “must be going mad.”
“Your cigar has gone out,” said Meldon. “Don’t light it again. There’s nothing tastes worse than a relighted cigar. Take a fresh one. There are still two in the case, and I shall be able to manage along with one more.”
“Would you mind leaving out the monkey on the tree and getting back to the geological survey story?”
“Not a bit. If it bores you to hear an explanation of the pragmatist theory of truth I won’t go on with it. It was only for your sake I went into it. You can just take it from me that the test of truth is usefulness. That’s the general theory. Now apply it to this particular case. The story I told Higginbotham turned out to be extremely useful—quite as useful as I had any reason to expect. In fact, I don’t see that we could have very well gone on without it. I can’t explain to you just how it was useful. If I did, I should be giving away Major Kent, Sir Giles Buckley, Euseby Langton, and perhaps old Thomas O’Flaherty Pat; but you may take it that the utility of the story has been demonstrated.”
Mr. Willoughby made an effort to rally. He reminded himself that he was i Cabinet Minister and a great man, that he had withstood the firiest eloquence of Members for Munster constituencies and survived the most searching catechisms of the men from Antrim and Down. He called to mind the fact that he had resolutely said “No” to at least twenty-five per cent, of the people who came to him in Dublin Castle seeking to have jobs perpetuated. He tried to realize the impossibility of a mere country curate talking him down. He hardened his heart with the recollection that he was in the right and the curate utterly in the wrong. He sat up as well as he could in the hammock-chair and said sternly—
“Am I to understand that you regard any lie as justifiable if it serves its purpose?”
“Certainly not,” said Meldon; “you are missing the whole point. I was afraid you would when you prevented me from exDlaining the theory of truth to you. I never justify lies under any circumstances whatever. The thing I’m trying to help you to grasp is this: A statement isn’t a lie if it proves itself in actual practice to be useful—it’s true. There now, you’ve let that second cigar go out. You’d better light that one again. I hate to see a man wasting cigar after cigar, especially when they’re good •ones.”
Mr. Willoughby fumbled with the matches and made more than one attempt to relight the cigar.
“The reason,” Meldon went on, “why I think you’re almost certain to be a pragmatist is that you’re a politician. You’re constantly having to make speeches, of course; and in every speech you must more or less say something about Ireland. When you are Chief Secretary the other fellow, the man in opposition who wants to be Chief Secretary but isn’t, gets up and says you are telling a pack of lies. That’s not the way he expresses himself, but it’s exactly what he means. When his turn comes to be Chief Secretary and you are in opposition, you very naturally say that he’s telling lies. Now that’s a very crude way of talking. You are, both of you, as patriotic and loyal men, doing your best to say what is really useful. If the things you say turn out in the end to be useful, why, then, if you happen to be pragmatists, they aren’t lies.”
Mr. Willoughby stuck doggedly to his point. Just so his countrymen, though beaten by all the rules of war, have from time to time clung to positions which they ought to have evacuated.
“A lie,” he said, “is a lie. I don’t see that you’ve made your case at all.”
“I know I haven’t, but that’s because you would insist on stopping me. If you’ll allow me to go back to the man who went round the tree with the monkey
“Don’t do that. I can’t bear it.”
To Be Continued.