OUR NEW SERIAL
A Story of a Search in Ireland for Hidden Spanish Treasure Where the Quaintest of Humor Pervades a Pleasing Romance
GEORGE A. BIRMINGHAM
MOY BAY is full of islands, inhabited and uninhabited, and has many smaller bays leading from its main waters far inland. If it were anywhere but in Connacht it would be the haunt of yachtsmen. Being where it is, a pleasure boat rarely sails on it. At the south-eastern corner of the bay stands the town of Ballymoy. It is rich, like most West of Ireland towns, in publichouses and ecclesiastical buildings. It is rich in nothing else. Westwards, along the shore of the bay, runs the road which connects the town with the farmhouses of the neighborhood and at last with the poverty-stricken villages which are scattered over the great bog. On this road there is a great deal of traffic. Country carts, droves of .cattle, donkeys laden with panniers of turf and Major Kent’s smart dogcart come into the town along it on market days and fair days. Therefore during nine-tenths of the year it is extremely muddy. When it is not muddy the dust blows in great clouds over it, to the discomfort of wayfarers who are accustomed to wet feet and mud-clogged boots, but hate to feel limestone grit between their teeth and in their eyes.
The Rev. Joseph John Meldon bicycled along this road one afternoon near the end of May. The day was very hot and the little wind there was blew against him as he rode. The dust had powdered his black clothes till they looked grey, and lay thick in the creases of his trousers, which were bound round his ankles by thin steel clasps. He rode rapidly and was most uncomfortably hot. His hands were red and moist. Every now and then a drop of sweat gathered beside his nose, trickled down and lodged among the hairs of his thick red moustache. A soft felt hat, grey with dust like his clothes, was pushed back from his glistening forehead.
Editor’s Note.—“Spanish Gold” is the name of our new serial for which we have been so fortunate as to secure the Canadian rights. This popular novel has had a most wonderful sale in Great Britain and on the London book stalls the author’s books are now being run in extra cheap editions so great is the demand for them. The manager of a leading news-stand in the West end of London informed us in September that this was his greatest seller.
A play based on the author’s other popular book, “General John Regan,” is undoubtedly one of the most amusing that has appeared on the stage in London this year. One of Canada’s leading financiers who went to the play recently, told us that it was one of the most laughable things he had ever heard.
“Spanish Gold” is even more laughable than “General John ReganThe delightful humor set in the simple yet dignified diction of the author will appeal to every reader of Maclean’s Magazine. It is the wittiest book that has appeared since Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” was given to the public.
Unlike many books the chapters in this one make almost complete stories in themselves. This is to the serial reader one of the pleading features of it. Canadian readers will have, therefore, an opportunity of getting acquainted with this most popular and delightful of authors. George A. Birmingham is none other than the Rev. Canon Hannay, a clergyman of the Church of Ireland, whose reputation as a preacher is an enviable one. He is particularly popular among the Ulster people. In this issue we have given our readers a generous instalment and the story will be continued through the next half dozen issues.
There was no reason why Mr. Meldon, curate of Ballymoy, should have ridden fast on such a day. He was out upon no desperate enterprise^ rode no race against death or misfortune, would win no bet by arriving anywhere at ' any specified time. His day’s work, not a very arduous one—for members of the Church of Ireland are few in Ballymoy —was done. He might have ridden slowly if he liked, might have walked, need not have travelled the road at all unless he chose. The afternoon and evening were before him, and he proposed to spend them with Major Kent at Portsmouth Lodge. It made no difference when he arrived there. Four o’clock,
five o ’clock, six o ’clock, any hour up to seven o’clock, when he dined, would be the same to Major Kent, who was one of those fortunate gentlemen who have nothing particular to do in life. Mr. Meldon rode fast and got hot, when he might have ridden slowly and been no more than warm, because he was a young man of great energy and liked going as quickly as he could on all occasions.
“I hope,” he murmured, conscious of his heat while he enjoyed increasing it, “that old Kent will give me a proper drink when I arrive. I could do nicely this minute with a lemon squash. ’ ’
Another man, while dwelling with pleasure on the expectation of a drink, would have also wished for a wash and the use of a clothes brush. The ideal curate, the “dilettante, delicate-handed priest” of Tennyson’s poems, the beloved of ladies in English country towns, would have wished first to be clean and then desired some mild refreshment — tea, perhaps, served in an old china cup, But Mr. Meldon was no such curate, Indeed, those who knew him well wondered at his being a curate at all. He was more at ease in a smokingroom than a drawing-room, and preferred a gun to a Sunday-school roll-book. He cared little about his personal appearance, and considered that he paid sufficient respect to the virtue of cleanliness if he washed every morning. He was physically strong, played most games well", had been distinguished as an athlete in college, smoked black tobacco, and was engaged to be married. Also, though no one ever gave him credit for being studious, he read a great many books.
“A dash of whiskey,” lie murmured again, “would improve that lemon squash. To do the Major justice, he’s free with his drinks. A fellow has to be careful of himself with that old boy.”
A dogcart approached him, driven towards Ballymoy. The driver was a stout, fair man. Beside him, wrapped in a shabby, fur-lined coat, sat a thin, sallow youth.
“Hullo, Doyle,” shouted Meldon, “what brings you out here?”
He dismounted from his bicycle and stood in the middle of the road. He recognized that the sallow youth in the fur coat was a stranger in Ballymoy. Meldon wanted to find out something about him—all about him if possible. Ballymoy is situated in a district not frequented by tourists. Therefore strangers are rare and objects of great curiosity to the regular inhabitants. There are, broadly speaking, just two classes of strangers to be met in West of Ireland towns which lie off the tourist track. There are gentlemen connected with the Government, the engineers, surveyors, and inspectors of our various benevolent boards; Members of Parliament on tour, and journalists despatched by editors to report on the state of Ireland, who are regarded by the people of Ballymoy as more or less connected with the Government, a sort of camp followers. This class of strangers is only moderately interesting. In Connacht we are getting quite familiar with the Government, and familiarity breeds, if not actual contempt, at all events a lack of curiosity. The second class consists of men who have come to grief somewhere else, through wine, women, or one of the other usual causes of disgrace, and are seeking seclusion till the memory of their misdeeds has faded from the minds of relatives and friends. Respectable relatives and friends, English for the most part, have apparently come to the conclusion that the pastures of the West of Ireland are peculiarly suitable to black sheep. This class is smaller than the other, but much more interesting. The stories of the exile’s misdeeds, when we get to know them, as we always do in the end, are frequently most diverting.
Meldon leaped to the conclusion that Mr. Doyle’s companion belonged to the class of scandalous livers. He had not the look of benevolent intelligence which is always to be found on the faces of men connected with the Government, and he wore a fur coat, whereas officials, Members of Parliament, and journalists always wear brown tweed suits and disdain luxurious overcoats when they wander in wild places. Besides, Mr. Doyle, the owner of the principal inn in Ballymoy, was likely to have a stranger of the second class under his care, while anyone connected with the Government would prefer to go round the country with a priest or a policeman. Meldon wondered whether it was love, or debt, or whisky, which had brought this prodigal to Ballymoy.
Mr. Doyle pulled up his horse and greeted the curate.
“Good-evening to you, Mr. Meldon. A warm evening for the end of May. I’d rather be driving, than riding that machine of yours to-day. On your way to see the Major, eh? You’ll find him
at home. We’ve just been out at his place. ’ ’
“Ob, have you? Wanting to buy the chestnut filly? Take my advice and don’t do it. She wouldn’t suit your work at all. She’s cut out for a polo pony, that one. You’re too fat to start polo, Doyle. It wouldn’t agree with you at your time of life. You may take my word for that.”
“H wasn't the filly I was after. The fact is tnat this gentleman, Mr. Langley-”
“Langton,” said the stranger.
“That this gentleman,” said Doyle, avoiding a second attempt at the name, “wants to hire a yacht, and I thought the Major might let him have the Spindrift. She’s the best boat about these parts, though there’s others, of course— plenty of others.”
“I have one myself,” said Meldon.
“You have,” said Doyle, “and I was intending to take the gentleman round to your place this evening. Your boat would just suit him.”
“What sort of a boat does he want?” said Meldon.
“I’m looking out for a small yacht,” said Langton, “anything from ten tons down to five would do. I and a friend intend to take a little cruise together, and we want something that we can work without professional assistance.”
“The Major didn’t see his way to hiring his,” said Doyle.
Meldon eyed the stranger and thought that the Major was quite right in refusing to trust the smart, well found Spindrift to Mr. Langton. The man didn’t look as if he ought to go to sea without professional assistance. He looked like a man who might make a wreck of a boat though incapacity to manage her. Meldon’s own boat was neither smart nor well found. He had got her cheap because her hull was rotten and most of her rigging untrustworthy. It was one thing to hire the trim Spindrift to a chance stranger, who might knock the bottom out of her or ruin her sails; it was quite a different thing to bargain for the use of his own Aureole, which no amount of battering could make much worse.than she was. Like everyone else in the West of Ireland, cleric or layman, Meldon had a keen taste for making money out of a stranger. He looked at Langton and hoped that it was love or whisky, not debt, which had driven him to Ballymoy.
“There’s more boats in the country than the Major’s,’,’ he said.
“That’s what I’m just after telling the gentlemen,” said Doyle, “there’s yours.”
“I’m wanting her for my own use.”
“She’s a good boat,” said Doyle.
“I must be getting along,” said Meldon. “Good-evening to you, Doyle. Good-evening, Mr. Langton.”
“You wouldn’t be wanting to hire her?” said Doyle, unimpressèd by the curate’s farewell. “It’s not often you take her out.”
“How long would your friend require her for?”
“One month,” said Langton. “My friend and I want to have a cruise on your charming coast, to take a pleasure trip. To find repose from the tumult of the world on the bosom of the Atlantic.”
Doyle winked at the curate. Meldon, reflecting that a man who talked in such a way in broad daylight must be a fool about money, determined to hire the Aureole to the stranger.
“I can’t wait now,” he said, “but I’ll call round at your place to-night, Doyle. Don’t go to bed till I come. We’ll talk the matter over.”
He mounted his bicycle and rode towards Portsmouth Lodge.
Kent is an English name. The traveller meets it in Connacht with surprise; perhaps if he is an amateur of local color, with disgust. An inhabitant of Mayo or Galway ought to have a name beginning with O’, a name with several apparently unnecessary letters in it. He has no business to sign himself John Kent. Still less has a house in the West of Ireland any right to a name like Portsmouth Lodge. It raises thoughts of merry England, of the concreted parade of some naval town. It is incongruous. It meets the sentimental traveller, who expects the Celtic glamour, Tir-na-noge, and fairy lore, like a slap in the face. Yet it never occurred to the Major to alter one name or the other. He was born too early to come under the spell of the Gaelic revival, and never felt the slightest inclination to write himself Seaghan Ceannt, or to translate his address into Béal an Chuain. He had inherited both names from his grandfather, an English sailor, the first of his family to settle in Ireland.
The Major himself had served for many consecutive years in a line regiment. The drill, to which he took naturally, being the kind of man who enjoys drill, had straightened his back, and it continued to be straight long after his retirement from military life. The feeling in favor of smartness of attire which prevails among men holding His Majesty’s commission remained with Major Kent and distinguished him among the small landholders and professional men of the Ballymoy district. They preferred comfort to neatness. Major Kent, at great sacrifice of leisure, creased his trousers and dressed for dinner every night. He had a taste for discipline which he carried into the management of his small estate and into the business of the petty sessions court. He annoyed both his tenants and his neighbors by his fads, but was a popular man because of the real goodness of his heart. He was an excellent shot, a good amateur yachtsman, a regular subscriber to the funds of the church, and a bachelor. He had formed a friendship with the Rev. Joseph John Meldon in spite of the curate ’s free-and-easy manners, habitual unpunctuality, and incurable untidiness. It is said that men are attracted to those who differ from them, that like does not readily mate with like. If this is a law of nature, the friendship between Major Kent and the curate formed a fine example of its working.
(Continued on page 97.)
Continued from page 47
Meldon entered the dining-room of Portsmouth Lodge and found the Major at the writing-table with a pile of papers and parchments beside him. Papers of any kind, except the Times, which the Major read regularly, were rare in Portsmouth Lodge. To see his friend occupied with what looked like legal documents was unprecedented in Meldon’s experience. He stood amazed at the sight. The Major looked up.
“Who the devil’s disturbing me now? Oh, it’s you, J. J. I beg your reverence’s pardon for swearing, but this is the fourth time I’ve been interrupted this afternoon already. First there was James Fintan, the publican from Ballyglunin, wanting an occasional licence for the day of the races, the old reprobate. He’ll poison half the county with the stuff be sells as whisky in those tents of his. Then nothing would do the chestnut filly but to cut her near hind leg on the barbed wire, and she had to be seen to. Then Jemmy Doyle came over with some stranger who wanted to hire the Spindrift. As if I’d lend my boat to a man I’ve never set eyes on before—a fellow in a fur coat, who most likely knows no more about sailing than I do about midwifery. And now it’s you, J. J. But sit down and light your pipe. I suppose you want a drink. There’s whiskey and a syphon of soda on the sideboard.”
“I want a lemon,” said the curate, “and a big tumbler.”
“Well, then, you’ll have to ring the bell. The housekeeper will get them for you. When you’ve settled yourself you may as well give me a hand with the job I’m at.”
“I’ll go to the kitchen and get what I want,” said Meldon. “That’ll be quicker and easier than ringing bells.” He secured his lemon and concocted for himself the drink he desired. With the tumbler on the floor beside him, he stretched himself in a deep chair and lit Lis pipe.
“Now. Major,” he said, “Pm ready. What can I do for you?”
“Can you read Latin and Greek?” said the Major.
“Of course I can. I’m a B.A. of Trinity College, Dublin, and that means that I’ve read a heap of Latin and Greek in my day. At the same time, Major, I warn you fairly, that if you want me to sit here translating Plato or Aristotle to you all the evening, I’m not on. The weather’s too hot.”
“What are you talking about?” said the Major. “Who wants you to translate Plato? When I asked if you could read Latin and Greek what I meant was, can you read lawyer’s English?”
“Oh, you meant that, did you? Well, I can read lawyer’s English or any other kind of English for that matter. I tell you, Major, a man who has been through the Divinity School of T.C.D. and read Pearson on the Creed isn’t likely to be beaten by anything a lawyer could write. What’s your difficulty?”
“Old Sir Giles Buckley’s dead,” said the Major.
“I know that. The rector’s in a fine fizz over losing his subscription to the church. The old boy hasn’t been near the place this twenty years, but he paid up like a man. Now the property has gone to a nephew, who means to sell it,
I hear, as soon as he can, and who doesn’t care a rap about the church. By the way, isn’t there a son somewhere?” “There is. A bad lot—and always was a bad lot. Cards, women, horses, and the devil. The Lord alone knows where he is now. He got the baronetcy, of course, and the house and demesne, which were entailed. But that’s all. Old Sir Giles didn’t leave him a penny nor an acre more than he could help. But that’s no affair of mine. The point for me is this. My grandfather got the land I hold now from old Sir Giles’ father. He got it for services rendered in’98, when the French landed at Killala. He
was a sailor, a naval man-”
“I know,” said Meldon. “ ‘Hearts of oak are our ships, hearts of oak are our men,” and all that sort of thing.”
‘ ‘ The Sir Giles of that day got into a panic when the French landed. It appears that he wasn’t particularly popular in the county, and he didn’t feel quite sure what the people might do to him.”
‘ ‘ They might have done several things. They might, for instance, have hanged him. ’ ’
“So he seemed to think. Well, my grandfather took him off in his sloop, which happened to be lying in the bay at the time, and kept him safe till the business was over. In return he get the land out of old Buckley, and here we are, father and son, three generations of us, ever since, the Kents of Portsmouth Lodge. Now that this new man is going to sell the estate, the question comes up what kind of title have I?”
“That’ll be all right,” said Meldon. “Don’t you worry about the matter. I’ll see you through. Just you hand me over those papers. You trot off and do anything you think you have to do before dinner. I’ll get the meaning out of the papers for you and have a clear statement of the case ready when you get back. Give me the whole bundle. There’s a little brown hook left on your desk. Hand it over with the rest.”
“It’s of no importance.”
“Is it private? No? Then pass it over. What you think of no importance is just as likely as not to be the vital document. It’s always the papers that seem unimportant to the mere amateur which turn out to contain the clue in these cases of disputed inheritance, and so forth. You don’t read many novels, I know, Major, but you must have noticed that fact.” “But this little book is nothing but an old diary of my grandfather’s.”“Quite so,” said Meldon. “That’s just the sort of thing I want to get at. Now do you he off and leave me in peace. ’ ’
“I’ll go down and have a look at the Spindrift,” said the Major. “I’m having her overhauled and fitted out for a cruise. What do you say, J. J.? Will you come with me for a week? We
might go off to Inishgowlan and shoot seals.”
“Are there seals on Inishgowlan?” “There are, I believe. When do you get your holiday?”
“June,” said Meldon. “The rector’s taking July and a bit of August. I don’t care to put off till September. But I can’t go with you. I’m booked. I promised to spend a week with my governor and the rest of the time with my little girl in Rathmines.”
“Bother your little girl.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you saw her. She’s a remarkably nice little girl, nicer han any you’ve ever seen. I have
her photo here-” He put his hand
into his breast pocket.
“Thanks,” said the Major. “You’ve shown me her photo before.”
“This is a different photo. It’s a new one, done by a first-rate man. Look here.”
“Keep it till after dinner. I must be off to take a look at the Spindrift.” “Very well then, go. But you may whistle for the photo after dinner. I won’t show it to you. No man shall say 1 rammed my little girl down his throat. You may be a callous old mysogynist, Major-”
“A what? I wish you wouldn’t use that sort of language out of the pulpit, J. J.”
“A mysogynist. It means a sort of curmudgeon who doesn’t care to look at the photo of a pretty girl when he gets the chance.”
11A mysogynist shows some sense then,” chuckled the Major.
“You may think so; but I can tell you a mysogynist is the exact opposite kind of man to what Solomon was, and he is generallv given credit for not being quite a fool.”*
MAJOR KENT returned at half-past six o’clock, well satisfied with the condition of the Spindrift. He found Meldon absorbed in the little brown book, the diary of the Kent who was a sea captain and flourished in 1798.
“Have you worked through the papers?” asked the Major.
“Haven’t looked at one of them,” said Meldon, “and don’t mean to. I’ve got something here worth Portsmouth Lodge and your whole footy little property along with it.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Very well, then, don’t. Be an incredulous Jew, if you like. But I can tell you you’ll open your eyes when you hear what I’ve found.”
“Hurry up, then, and tell me. It’s time for me to go and dress for dinner.” “Go on. Get into your starched shirt and your silk-lined coat. After dinner I’ll tell you all about it.”
“Wouldn’t vou like a wash yourself, J. J.?”
“No,” said the curate, “I’m a busy man. I can’t spend hours and hours every day washing and dressing myself. I’ve something else to do. At present I have to run through this log of your grandfather’s again and copy out a few of the most important bits.”
Major Kent dressed quietly. He dined with a good appetite and without hurry. Meldon seemed excited and eager to get dinner over. Contrary to his usual custom, he ate very little. He kept the old diary beside his plate, and every now and then stroked it affectionately.
At last the meal came to an end. The servant, after leaving coffee on the table, finally withdrew. Major Kent lit a pipe and lav back in a comfortable chair, Meldon stood with his back against the chimneypiece.
“I’m coming with you on your cruise to Inishgowlan,” he said.
“What about your poor old governor and the little girl in Rathmines?” “Never you mind about them. When I’ve explained things to you a bit you’ll see that it’ll he a jolly sight better both for my governor and for my little girl if I go with you.”
“You mean to shoot seals and to make muffs out of their skins for the little girl. ’ ’
1‘ No, I don ’t. I know well enough that the seals off this coast don’t have the proper sort of skins for muffs. I mean to go to Inishgowlan and bring back a whole pot of money, thousands and thousands of pounds. I’ll rig my little girl out in proper furs when I get back. She shall have silk dresses and real lace and a motor-car, and I’ll drive her up and down Grafton Street and buy her any mortal thing she chooses. I’ll take my poor old governor out of tnat beastly dispensary, where lie’s slaving away doctoring people who neither pay nor say ‘Thank you.’ I’ll set him up in a jolly little house down near Kingstown with a couple of daily papers, a bottle of good whiskey, and as much tobacco as he cares to smoke. I’ll save the rector a couple of hundred or so for the church, and make his mind easy about the loss of
Sir Giles’ subscription. I’ll--”
“Perhaps you’ll tell me,” said the Major, “where this enormous fortune is to come from.”
“Out of Inishgowlan.”
“Oh! out of Inishgowlan. I see. But how?”
“Look here, Major. Your grandfather went to that Island in 1798 with Sir Giles and Lady Buckley. He anchored his sloop in the bay, and, naturally, as they were there nearly six weeks, they occasionally went on shore.”
“I shouldn’t wonder if they did.” “Very well. The people of Inishgowlan in those days talked nothing but Irish, and so naturally your grandfathei and Sir Giles couldn’t understand them. But Lady Buckley could.”
“I know what you’re at now,” said the Major. “I’ve read that diary or log or whatever the old man called it. You’ve got a hold of that cock-and-bull story about the Spanish Armada shipwreck and 'the lost treasure.”
“Do you mean to deny,” said Meldon, “that a Spanish ship was wrecked on Inishgowlan ? ’ ’
“No, I don’t. I daresay there was one wrecked there. That Armada seems to have piled up ships all round this coast. My grandfather brought back an old
iron chest from lnishgowlan which is in the house this minute. 1 always heard it was an Armada chest.”
“So far, so good. You give in to the shipwreck. Now it appears that Lady Buckley didn’t say a word to her husband or your grandfather at the time about what she heard from the island people. But when she came home she told them a long story. All the people believed then that there was a pile of gold hidden somewhere on the island. They said that the Spanish captain left the island with the remains of his crew in two of their eurraghs, or rather their great-grandfather 's eurraghs, and didn 't, in fact couldn’t, take anything with him except some papers and arms. That’s the story Lady Buckley heard.”
“I don’t think much of it,” said the Major. “I don’t see where the treasure comes in.”.
“Well, you must be uncommonly thick-headed if you don’t. If the Spanish captain didn’t carry off the treasure, he must have left it on the island. You follow that reasoning, I suppose?”
“I do, of course, hut-”
“Well, if the treasure had been found anytime between the shipwreck and 1798 the people would have known about it, wouldn’t they? And they wouldn’t have told Lady Buckley it was still on the island. Therefore the treasure was still ihere in 1798. See?”
“Wait a moment. If the treasure was liscovered since 1798 we’d have heard of t. Those lnishgowlan men come in here ;o Ballymoy to do their marketing. Now luppose they’d taken to offering the ihopkeepers hundreds and thousands of Spanish gold coins any time during the ast century, do you suppose we shouldi’t have heard of it? Why, man, the vhole country would be full of stories of heir find. But nobody in this neighborood has ever so much as seen a Spanish oin. therefore the lnishgowlan people an’t have found the treasure. Therefore ;’s on the island still.”
Meldon paused triumphantly. His hain of reasoning was complete.
“That’s all right,” said the Major, supposing there ever was anv treasure > find.”
My dear Major, do try to be sensible, urther on in the log-book, which you iy you’ve read, I find that old Sir Giles ad your grandfather, having heard ady Buckley’s story, made another exsdition to the island to look for the ■easure. ’ ’
“They did, and brought back the old on chest that’s in my bedroom this Inute.”
“Now I ask you,” said Meldon, “were )ur grandfather and old Sir Giles the nd of men to go off on a wild-goose ïase after treasure which didn’t exist? hey weren’t that kind of men at all, ther of them. They were shrewd, hardgeel men who thought things out earetlly before they acted. If they had a ■ult, it was that they were a bit too ten about money.”
“How do you know all that?”
“It stands to common sense,” said eld on. “People who keep their prop-
erty safe, as the Buckley’s did, all through the eighteenth century in Ireland, must have been pretty sharp business men. Besides, I always heard that the first Buckley came over from Scotland. And the Scots, as,we all know, don’t waste their time fooling after treasure which doesn’t exist. You may take my word for it, Major, that those two old gentlemen knew what they were about. ’ ’
“They didn’t find it.”
“No, they didn’t. That’s where we come in. If they’d found it, it wouldn't be there for us, would it?”
“I don’t see that you’ve proved yet that there was any treasure to find. The ship, supposing there was a ship wrecked there, mightn’t have had treasure in her. ’ ’
“That’s where your want of a proper education tells against you, Major. If you’d read history you’d know that all those Spanish ships were full of treasure. Take Kingsley’s ‘Westward Ho!’ for instance. You may have read that perhaps.”
“That’s only a novel.” v “Well, I can’t help quoting novels to you when you’ve read nothing else, and very few of them. If you’d read other books I’d refer you to them. But ‘Westward Ho!’ will show you that the Spaniards never went to sea without a good supply of gold in the holds of their ships, besides silver cups and any amount of ecclesiastical robes, copes, and mitres and things, simply studded witli gems. That’s the kind of men the Spaniards were.”
“1 suppose you think you’re going to find all this wonderful treasure yourself.”
“Of course I am. It only wants a little intelligence.”
“You said just now that old Sir Giles and my grandfather were intelligent men, and they didn’t find it.”
“They hadn’t the advantages we have now,” said Meldon. “I don’t deny their intelligence, but they didn’t know, they couldn’t know, how to go about the business. The discovery of buried treasure hadn’t become an exact science in their time. Edgar Allen Poe hadn't
written Lis sones. The art of the detective hadn’t been developed. They hadn’t so much as heard of Sherlock Holmes. They had about as much chance of finding that treasure as Galileo with his old-fashioned telescope liad of discovering a disease germ. Now we are in quite a different position. We start with all the methods of highly-trained intellects ready to our hand, so to speak. There’s only one tiling I’m sorry for, and that is that there isn’t a cryptogram. I’m particularly good at cryptograms. ’ ’
“How do you mean to start?”
“It would have been easier.” said Meldon, “if there had been a cryptogram. However, there isn’t. Or, if there is, we haven’t got it. As it is, we’ve got to do without it. The first thing is to put ourselves in the place of the Spanish captain. That’s the way great detectives always begin. They put themselves in the other fellow’s place and think
what they’d have done if they’d beei him. Now, supposing you’d been tin Spanish captain and found that yoi couldn’t carry off your treasure, wha would you have done with it?”
“I suppose I’d have dug a hole am buried it.”
“No, you wouldn’t. Not unless you’« been a perfect fool. If you’d been thi Spanish captain you’d have had mon sense than you appear to have now. ’ ’ “Then it wouldn’t have been me.” “It would, because we started with the supposition that you were the Span ish captain, and he must have had sonn sense. You don’t suppose the Spaniards the greatest nation on earth at the time would have started off a thing like tha Armada without seeing that the captain; of the ships were sensible men. 0. course they wouldn’t.”
“But if the captain had sense and haven’t-”
‘ ‘ There ’s no use arguing round a sub ject in that way. Put it like this. Sup pose I was the Spanish captain, wha would I have done? I wouldn’t havt dug a hole, because I would have knowi that the people of the island would watched me dig it. Even if I’d dug i at night they’d have seen the marks ner morning, and the moment my back wai turned they’d have dug the treasure uj again. You must give the captain credi for being a reasonable man.”
“Well, now you’ve barred burying thi treasure, which I still think was the ob
“Too obvious. That’s my point.” “What would you do? There aren’ any caves on the island that ever Io of.”
“I shouldn’t have put it into a cave ii any case. A cave is exactly the place tk amateur treasure-seeker always looks fo: first. No. If I were the Spanish captan I should have picked out an unobtrusive looking hole or cleft in the rocks, jus above high-water mark, and dumped nr stuff down there. What we have too is to find that hole or cleft.”
“That will be a longish job,” said tk Major. “I should guess the island ti be about two miles around. It will tak some time to poke into every hole in tw> miles of rough rocks.”
“We shan’t do that. We shall pro ceed on a carefully reasoned, scientifi plan, which I shall think out and expiai] to you when we get there.”
Meldon lit his pipe, which he hai hitherto neglected, poured himself ou a cup of coffee, and sat down. He re mained silent, and it was evident that hi was thinking out the scientific plan. Thi Major took up his Times and begano read a leading article on the appallingly lawless condition of Ireland. At the en( of a quarter of an hour Meldon spoke. “Have you a map of the island?” “No. I have a chart and the sailing directions, but they are on boardo Spindrift.”
_ Again Meldon remained silent for £
time. Then he asked-
“Are there many people on thi island ?”
“Ten families, I believe,” said thi Major. “All cousins of each other.”
“I ask,” said Meldon, “because if there are people there we may find it necessary to adopt some disguise.”
“If you imagine for a moment that I’m going to wander round that island, or any other, dressed up in a false beard and blue spectacles-”
“I don’t imagine anything of the kind. When I said that we must adopt some disguise, I meant that we must be able to give a reasonable account of our proceedings to the natives. If we let them know we’re after their treasure there may be trouble. They will naturally want to go shares in our find.”
“I’d take half a crown,” said the Major, “for all I find.”
Maldon knocked the ashes out of his pipe and rose.
“I must be off,” he said. “I’ve got to see Doyle and that fellow Langton tonight about hiring my boat to them. I was thinking of asking £30 for the month.”
“The boat’s not worth it to buy,” said the Major. “You only gave £25 for her.”
“Well, I said I’d ask £30. I’m quite prepared to take £25. That will simply be getting my money back, with no profit on the business at all.”
“You’ll have the boat at the end of the month.”
“Will I? Unless the friend he talks about js a different sort of man from j what Langton looks there’ll be precious little of the Aureole left at the end of ! the month.”
“All right,” said the Major. “Get what you can. If the man is fool enough to hire your Aureole for £25 lie’s certainly fool enough to smash her up. But I advise you to see the color of his money before you hand over the boat.
“In any case,” said the Major, “he’d I be a fool to go to sea in her. She's I rotten.”
“I don’t expect he wants to go to sea,” said Meldon. “He’ll just potter about among the islands in the bay. Anyway, he’s got to take my boat if he wants one at all. You won’t hire yours, and there’s no other. Doyle said this afternoon that there were plenty, but that was only to encourage Langton to stay on at the hotel. There’s nothing else that could be called a yacht within fifty miles of Ballymoy. But I must be off. Let me see, is there anything else we have to settle?”
“You might fix a day for starting,”
! said the Major.
“Monday next. I’ll see the rector to; morrow and arrange about it. I could j start on Sunday night if you like. It’s my turn to preach in the evening and I’d cut it a bit short, so as to be out here ! with you by half-past seven.”
“No, thanks. Monday morning will be time enough for me. But we’ll get off early. You’d better come out and j sleep here or on the boat. I’m glad i you’re coming, J. J. We’ll have a jolly cruise. We’ll spend a couple of days on the small island and then run across to the big one.”
i “We’ll do nothing of the sort. I can’t give more than a week altogether, and it will take us all that time to get the ! treasure.”
“You don’t mean to say that you really expect to get that treasure?”
“1 do, of course. I tell you, Major, I’ve all my life bad a taste for treasureseeking. Next to piracy or being wrecked on a desert island, there’s nothing in the world I’m so keen on as hidden treasure. I’m pretty sure that I have a special talent for finding it. Do you suppose I’m going to miss my chance now I’ve got it? Not likely.”
“J. J.,” said the Major solemnly, “you’re a bigger fool than any one would take you for by your looks.” “All right. Just you wait till we’re coming home again, and see who is the fool then.”
Meldon mounted his bicycle and rode towards Ballymoy even more rapidly than he had ridden out in the afternoon. It was a moonless night and the road in some places was difficult to see. About three miles from the town Meldon ran into a donkey, which, after a fashion common among donkeys in Connacht, was lying asleep in the middle of the road. The creature was greatly startled but not much hurt. It floundered over the bank into the nearest field as quickly as its hobbled forelegs allowed it. Meldon was pitched over bis handle-bars and cut the palms of both his hands. He picked himself up and found that the front forks of his bicycle were badly bent. It was impossible to ride and almost impossible to wheel the machine. With the perfect confidence in everybody’s honesty which residence in the West of Ireland begets in a man, he laid the machine in a ditch and walked on. His card was in the tool-bag, and he felt sure that some carter would bring the thing into the town in the morning. He whistled cheerfully as he tramped along. The Rev. J. J. Meldon bad an excellent temper. It took more than a trifling accident and a few cuts to upset it. He didn’t even use unkind language about the donkey.
It was late when he arrived in Ballymoy. The windows of most of the houses were dark and the people were in bed. A light still burned in an upper window of Mr. Doyle’s hotel. Before the days of the Land League it had been called the “Buckley Arms.” Mr. Doyle’s father, recognizing the fact that politicians and farmers were his best customers, had taken down the old sign, which might have been offensive, and put up in large gilt letters, “The Imperial Hotel,” Some day, perhaps, if patriotism becomes the motive power of Irish agitation, another Doyle will change the name again and call his house “The National.” In the meanwhile “The Imperial” is a good name. It suggests a certain spacious sumptuousness and justifies the price which Mr. Doyle charges for beds, dinners, and breakfasts.
The prospect of the large fortune which he expected to get on Inishgowlan Island did not in the least modify Meldon’s eagerness to make the best possible bargain with the stranger. Even if
lie had actually secured all the Spanish gold, lie would still have been keenly anxious to get the most he could for his boat. Like all Irishmen, lie found a pleasure in bargaining, and haggled for shillings without being particularly covetous, in the spirit of the sportsman who hunts foxes which be doesn't want to eat. Meldon looked forward to being able to brag afterwards of having got the better of a sranger. That, and the delight of proving himself the better ¡ man, were the attractive things, not the mere acquisition of a pound or two.
He entered the hotel and found Mr. Langton sitting in lonely splendour in a room called the drawing-room. There was a bottle of whiskey on a table before him and a jug of water. But Mr. Langton, perhaps because the visitor lie expected was a clergyman, bad drunk very little. The bottle was almost full. The carpet was littered with tobacco ash and the ends of cigarettes. All the books which usually adorned Mr. Doyle’s solitary bookshelf were on the floor. Mr. Langton bad been trying to read them and bad failed. There were four sixpenny novels, three biographies of saints with gilt tops to their leaves, a prayerbook with an imitation ivory cross on its cover, a copy of Moore's “Melodies” with the music, and several very old magazines. There was also a tattered book called “Speeches from the Dock,” which Mr. Langton seemed to have found more interesting than the others, for lie held it in his hand.
“Good-evening to you, sir,” said Meldon. “I called with reference to the boat about which we were speaking this afternoon.”
“Quite so. I'm glad to see you. Sit down. Do you mind if I ring the hell for Mr. Doyle? He kindly promised to give me the benefit of his advice.”
“I don’t believe that bell acts.” said Meldon, as Langton tugged at a knob beside the chimneypiece. “For the matter of that I don’t know a bell in Ballymov that does act, barring, of course, the church hell and the chapel bell, which are different.”
“Stupid of me,” said Langton. “I ought to have guessed that, except those of the various churches, which are, as you say, different, the bells in this country wouldn’t he meant to ring. It is, if I may say so, characteristic of Ireland that they don’t.”
Meldon looked at the man in front of him. It crossed his mind that the stranger might possibly be poking fun at him. He dismissed the idea at once as absurd.
“If you want Doyle,” he said, “the best thing to do is to go to the top of the stairs and shout. I told him not to go to bed till after T’d called.”
Langton shouted as ho was bidden, and in a few minutes Doyle entered the room.
“Good-evening to you, Mr. Meldon.” lie said. “I suppose now you didn’t succeed in persuading the Major to change his mind about, the boat.”
“I did not,” said Meldon.
(To be continued.)