A Story of a Search in Ireland for Hidden Spanish Treasure Where the Quaintest of Humor Pervades a Pleasing Romance
GEORGE A. BIRMINGHAM
Synopsis of Previous Chapters
The Rev. John Joseph Meldon, a genial Irish curate, and his friend, Major Kent of Ballymoy, a village on the west coast of Ireland, take a trip to the Island of Inishgowlan in search of treasure supposed to have been hidden there by a captain of one of the vessels belonging to the Spanish Armada. The major does not believe in the existence of the treasure, but Meldon is very sanguine.
On arriving at the island they find Higginbotham, an old college chum of Meldon’s, who is engaged in surveying the island for the Government, and a day or two later another yacht arrives which Meldon recognises as his own and which he had let to a Mr. Langton and his friend.
Meldon after exploring the island discovers on the opposite side an inlet and a cave which he decides is the most likely spot in which to find the treasure, and as he is attempting to enter it from the water he meets a man who is being lowered over the cliff and who he supposes is on the same errand as himself. In the course of a somewhat heated conversation he discovers this is Mr Giles Buckley, a neighbor of Major Kent’s, who also knew of the existence of the Spanish treasure. Sir Giles calls up to his friend Langton at the top of the cliff, who begins to haul him up, and it is at this point we take up the story in the present chapter.
HE swung slowly up, clinging with both hands to the rope above his head and pushing himself off the face of the cliff with his feet. Meldon, with a broad grin on his face, watched him reach the top, and then turned and swam back to the rock where the Major waited.
“I say, Major,” he gasped, “those fellows aren’t Members of Parliament after all, and the treasure is certainly in that hole.”
“I could see you standing up to your middle in water talking to a man. I couldn’t hear a word you said, of course. Who is he?”
“He’s Sir Giles Buckley, and that’s why I say the treasure is certainly in that hole.”
“I don’t,” said the Major, “precisely see how the one thing follows from the other. ’ ’
Meldon climbed out of the water and began to rub himself briskly with his towel.
“You wouldn’t,” he said, “but it does follow. Nothing could follow more plainly. It’s like a beastly syllogism. Here’s a man—two men, in fact—-who have no earthly business in Inishgowlan. It’s impossible even to invent a motive for their coming here now that we know they’re not Members of Parliament. Very well. They’re here all the same, and one of them risks his life on a rotten rope to get down the face of a cliff to a certain hole at the bottom of it. What would he do that for?”
“I don’t quite see yet,” said the Major, “how you prove that there is treasure in that hole.”
“Very well, I’ll start at the thing from the other direction. Hitherto I’ve been proceedingon what’s called the inductive method of reasoning. Bacon, you know, was the man who invented that. Now I’ll try deduction. Who else besides ourselves knows about that treasure?”
“We don’t know. At least I don’t. You’re trying to prove the treasure to
me at present by some method or other.” “Major, at times you make a saint go near swearing-. Have I got to go through the whole story of the wreck of that Spanish galleon again? If you don’t trust me you might at least believe your own grandfather. He said the treasure was here. Now, who else knew about it? Old Sir Giles Buckley did. Now, assume that he wrote down what he knew, just as your grandfather did. There’s nothing more likely. His son never reads the paper any more than your father did. But you read your grandfather’s diary after the death of the late Sir Giles. You follow me so far?”
“I follow you all right, but why don’t you put on your clothes? I’d have thought you’d have had enough of standing about in your skin for one day.” “I’m not going to dress yet,” said Meldon. “I may have to swim down the channel again at any moment. Suppose Sir Giles takes it into his head to drop over the cliff the minute he thinks that my back is turned. I can’t afford
to let him nip into the hole by himself.” “Do you mean to stand there stark naked day and night until Sir Giles chooses to leave the island?”
“No, I don’t. In another hour the tide will have risen, so that nobody can get into the hole. The mouth of it will be covered and the whole thing full of water inside. Hullo! There’s Sir Giles and Langton with him sitting on the cliff opposite us just where old T. O. P. sat yesterday. They’re watching us. Very well, let them watch. I’ll dress.”
“You may as well for all the good you’re likely to get out of that hole.” “Just you wait,” said Meldon, “till I get into my shirt and trousers and I’ll explain to you.”
“Now, where was I? Oh, yes! Sir Giles Buckley dies. His son, that playboy sitting on the cliff opposite, gets next to nothing out of the property, but he collars some family papers. He reads them. He sees, just as I saw, just as any man with a glimmer of intelligence would see, that he’s got a soft thing in this treasure. He doesn’t care about being recognized in Ballymoy, where he very likely owes money, so he sends a friend to hire a boat for him. He gets my boat and off he comes.”
“I don’t see that you’ve proved anything,” said the Major, “except that there’s one other ass in the world as giddy as yourself.”
“Unpack the luncheon,” said Meldon. “Your temper will improve while you eat. There’s just one thing left which puzzles me.”
“I shouldn’t have supposed that there was anything in the world that could puzzle you.”
“Well, there aren’t many things,” said Meldon frankly. “In fact, I’ve not vet come across anything which regularly defeated me when I gave my mind io it, but I don’t mind owning up that just for the moment I’m bothered over one point in this business. How did Buckley know about the hole in the cliff? How did he locate the exact spot where the treasure lies? He does know, for he walked straight up to it without hesitation. The minute he landed yesterday he went up to the top of that cliff. I
thought that he was just a simple Member of Parliament looking for a view, but I was wrong. He was prospecting about for the best way of getting at that hole. Now, how did he know? We only arrived at it by a process of exhaustive reasoning based on a careful examination of the locality. He walks straight up to it as if he’d known all along exactly where to go.”
“Perhaps he reasoned it out before he started.”
“He couldn’t. No man on earth could. I couldn’t have done it by myself. It wasn’t till I got to the spot that I was able to reconstruct the shipwreck and track the working of the Spanish captain’s mind. That disposes of your first suggestion. Got another?”
“Perhaps his grandfather knew the spot and made a note of it.”
'“Won’t wash either. We know that his grandfather couldn’t find the treasure any more than yours could. If he’d known about that hole in the cliff he would have found the treasure.”
“Always supposing it’s there,” said the Major.
Meldon glared at him.
“If it’s there! Major, you’re the Apostle Thomas and the Jew Apella and the modem scientific man rolled into one for invincible sceptisism. Is it possible to convince you of anything? Tell me that.”
For a time they ate in silence. Now and then Meldon glanced at the cliff opposite to assure himself that Sir Giles and Langton were still there. At last he said —
“It appears to me that Langton must be mixed up in the business somehow. Why did Sir Giles bring him? He isn’t any good at sailing the boat. He doesn’t look as if he’d be much good for anything. Depend upon it, he must have given the tip about the hole, but how he comes to be in the know I don’t precisely see. However, one thing is pretty clear, We’ve got to keep a very sharp eye on those two gentlemen opposite.”
“Unless you mean to sit here day and night,” said the Major, “I don’t see how you’re going to do it.”
“I told you before that you can only get into that hole from about threequarters low water to a quarter flood. Buckley knows that too, for he’s seen the place. He won’t come here at high tide nor yet at half tide. What we’ve got to do is to watch him at the other times. That gives us a chance to eat and sleep.”
“I expect he’ll watch you, too. That is to say, if he’s really after the treasure.”
“Let him. I’ll back myself to get the better of any man living at a game of hide-and-seek. Don’t you worry yourself about his watching us, Major. I’ll arrange a plan for circumventing' him. Look at the way I’ve diddled Higginbotham and old Thomas 0’Flaherty Pat and Mary Kate. What’s to stop me dealing with Buckley on similar lines?”
Half an hour later, having finished their luncheon and smoked their pipes, Major Kent and Meldon started to scramble back. The tide had risen suffi-
eiently to prevent any one not an experienced diver from getting into the hole. As they neared the pier they saw Sir Giles Buckley and his friend Langton rowing off to the Aureole in their punt.
“That’s all right,” said Meldon. “Now we can take it easy and think things over till to-morrow morning. They won’t attempt to get down that cliff in the dark. Hullo! Here’s Higginbotham coming out of his tin wigwam to meet us. Do you know, I think Higginbotham is becoming ráther a nuisance. I’m beginning to feel that I could get on nicely without Higginbotham. I wonder if we could get rid of him off the island anyhow?”
“Unless you cut his throat and sink the body,” said the Major, “I don’t see how you can.”
“I’d be sorry to do that. I’ve rather a liking for Higginbotham, though he is a bit of an ass. He used to come out with me sometimes of a Sunday afternoon when I was going to see my little girl in Rathmines. He used to talk to the mother on those occasions and I’ve always had a feeling of gratitude to him ever since. No; Higginbotham’s a nuisance, but I wouldn’t wish him any bodily harm. I won’t agree to your cutting his throat, Major, so drop the idea. Besides, you never can tell but he might come in useful to us in some way. He’s done us no harm so far, thanks to the way I’ve managed him. Hullo, Higginbotham ! How did you get on with the old boy about the house this morning?”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” said Higginbotham. “There was some sort of misunderstanding.”
“Do you tell me that? Well, now, I’m greatly surprised. I thought I’d left everything coiled down clear for running so that there couldn’t have been a hitch. Tell me now, Higginbotham, you didn’t try to revenge yourself in any way on Mary Kate, did you?”
“Mary Kate! Oh, is she the little girl who came about the sugar candy?”
“Don’t hark back to that sugar candy. I’ve told you before, Higginbotham, that the Major and I aren’t going into the sugar-candy row either on one side or the other. We’re dead-sick of the whole subject. You’ve gone and botched a perfectly simple business with dear old Thomas O’Flaherty Pat. I don’t know what you’ve done exactly, but I strongly suspect that you’ve made yourself offensive in some way about Mary Kate. Why can’t you leave that child alone?”
“I didn’t do anything to her,” said Higginbotham. “I didn’t even remember that she was the same child. But what between nobody except the old man being able to speak Irish and him not
being able to speak anything else-”
' “Now, that’s all nonsense,” said Meldon, “and you know it. Mary Kate speaks both languages fluently. I’m here acting for the National Board of Education, as I told you before, and I’ve made it my business to find out what Mary Kate knows and what she doesn’t. You can’t have taken the child the right way. I expect you’ve been try-
ing to come the Government official over her, and it won’t do. No child would stand it, especially a high-spirited little creature like Mary Kate. You ought to cultivate a more ingratiating manner. You mean well, I know; but good intentions aren’t everything.”
“The fact is-” said Higginbotham.
“Look here. I had a long talk this morning with Sir Giles Buckley. You know Sir Giles?”
“No, I don’t. Who is he?”
“He’s something in the Castle. I forget this moment what his particular tack
is, but I know he’s an important man. Major, do you recollect what Sir Giles is? Does he run the Crimes’ Act, or is he the man who bosses the Royal Commissions?”
“I don’t know. I never-”
“Oh, well, never mind. I think he specializes, so to speak, in Royal Commissions; but it doesn’t really matter much. If you read the newspapers you’ll be familiar with his name. He happens to be going round Ireland at present with Langton, his private secretary-”
“Not Euseby Langton?” said Higginbotham.
“Euseby Langton! I don’t know. I didn’t ask his Christian name. By the way, who is Euseby Langton? I seem to recognize the name, but somehow I can’t quite fix the man.”
“I don’t think you knew him; but I did very well. He was in the library in College in our time—some sort of an assistant there. He got sacked. They always said it was drink, but I don’t know. He went abroad somewhere afterwards. ”
“I remember,” said Meldon, “but this is a different man—couldn’t possibly be the same, you know.”
“Well,” said Higginbotham, for Meldon had relapsed into silence, “go on.” “Go on with what?”
“With what you were telling me about Sir Giles Buckley.”
“Oh! Ah! yes, Sir Giles, of course. Well, I put in a good word for you. I explained that you were doing the best you could with Thomas O’Flaherty Pat. He seemed rather anxious about that business. I said I expected it would pan out right enough in the end if he gave you a free hand. He evidently had some notion of stepping in to settle it himself. Now, what I want to know is this: Would you like him to try his hand at
it, or would you rather he left you alone to work it in your own way?”
“Of course if Sir Giles—it would be
very kind of him-”
“Very well. I’ll arrange that. You leave it to me, Higginbotham. And for goodness’ sake don’t go talking to Sir Giles about it yourself. You’ve no tact. You know you haven’t. You’d just put your foot into it again the way you did with Mary Kate.”
“I won’t go near him till you tell
“That’s right. Stick to that. I’ll see him as soon as I can and I’ll let you know. Goodbye for the present, old chap.”
“Thanks, awfully, Meldon. I’m really more obliged to you than I cun say. If ever I can do you a good turn of any sort------''
“Don't mention it. I’m only delighted to do what I can to help you. Goodbye.”
After dinner Major Kent and Meldon sat on the deck of the Spindrift and smoked. On the deck of the Aureole sat Sir Giles Buckley and Langton, who also smoked. Neither party made any attempt to go on shore. The Major tried two or three times to start a conversation and was severely snubbed. Meldon declared that he wanted time to think things over quietly. The situation was obviously a difficult one, and frivolous talk on such subjects as a slight fall of the barometer or the possibility of getting some fresh milk was quite out of place. After finishing his pipe, the Major dropped off to sleep in an uncomfortable position. At about halfpast five Meldon woke him up.
“I think I’ve fixed that fellow Langton,” he said.
The Major yawned.
“Have you?” he said. “What have you done to him?”
“I haven’t done anything to him yet. What I mean is that I’ve discovered where he comes in, how he happened to be in a position to give Sir Giles the tip about the hole under the cliff. You heard what Higginbotham said about Euseby Langton. Well, I recollect that this fellow signed the agreement I drew up about the Aureole ‘E. Langton.’ He’s evidently Higginbotham’s man.” “He might not be,” said the Major. “ ‘E. Langton’ might stand for Edward Langton or Edgar Langton or Ethelbert Langton.”
“It might stand for Ebenezer Ledbeater, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. It stands for Euseby Langton. Euseby Langton got the sack for drink, and this fellow looks as if he drank a lot, which also goes to show that he’s the same man.
“Well, suppose he is?”
“The next point is where did Euseby Langton get sacked from?”
“I forget. I wasn’t listening to Higginbotham. ’ ’
“Well, luckily enough I was. Euseby Langton got sacked from Trinity College Library. He had some sort of job there poking about among catalogues and things. Now you may not be aware, Major, of the fact that Trinity College Library is the biggest in the world. There are books in it that no man has ever read. Nobody could. I couldn’t mj'self, even if I gave my whole time to nothing else. What’s to hinder our
friend Langton from picking up the tip about the place where the treasure is from some book in the library?” “There’s no such book.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure of that. There are some extraordinary books in that library—books that aren’t in the college course anywhere—that even the men who go in for honors know nothing about. Besides, it mightn’t be a book exactly. It might be a manuscript—not a large illuminated missal of a thing
stuck in a glass case for every fool to stare at, but some quiet, unobtrusive, rather tattered manuscript which had lain for years, perhaps centuries, under a pile of other manuscripts. That’s the sort of place the information would be.”
“I don’t see how it could.”
“It might, in fact, he the log of the Spanish captain himself. You know there’s an organ in the big examination hall that was taken out of a Spanish Armada ship, Well, if they fetched a thing like an organ all the way to the college, you may be pretty sure that they fetched lots of manuscripts too. Once Euseby Langton got a taste for hunting up old manuscripts, he’d be just as likely as not to hit upon the log of our captain.”
“But you said he drank. Is it likely he had a taste for manuscripts?”
“He’s almost sure to have had. Most probably it was the manuscripts that drove him to drink. They would, you know, unless he was exceptionally strong-minded, and Langton clearly wasn’t that. Now suppose-”
“You can suppose any rigmarole you like.”
“I explained to you before, Major, the nature of a scientific supposition or hypothesis. It always strikes the outsider at first as a rigmarole. I needn’t go into that again. What we have to deal with is fact—hard fact—and to get some sort of reasonable explanation of things as they are. It’s quite evident that Sir Giles and Langton know that the treasure is in the hole under that cliff. It’s also evident that Langton gave Sir Giles the tip. It follows that Langton must have found the thing out somewhere. I don’t say for certain that he found it in a manuscript in the college library. I only say that, considering all the circumstances of the case, he’s more likely to have found it there than anywhere else. That may not strike you as a very good hypothesis; but unless you have a better one to propose, it seems to me quite good enough to go on with.”
“All right, go on with it. But I don’t see where you expect to arrive.”
“I’ll arrive, if you want to know, at a nice comfortable income and a good, well-furnished house, a place I can take my little girl to with some sort of satisfaction. That’s where I’ll arrive and I’m putting the treasure at the lowest possible figure.”
Meldon was very little troubled by the problems and perplexities which pressed on him. He turned into his bunk at nine o'clock and slept the unbroken sleep of a just man until six the next morning. Then he got up and plunged overboard for his morning dip. He swam in the direction of the Aureole and was rewarded by seeing Langton come on deck in his pyjamas. A few minutes later Sir Giles emerged, and the two stood in consultation watching the Spindrift. Meldon, having had as much of the water as he cared for. climbed on board and waved a greeting to the Aureole with his towel. He noticed while he dressed that
Sir Giles and Langton did not go below together. Either one or the other of them remained on deck to watch the Spindrift. Meldon roused the Major and then got breakfast ready. The meal, in spite of the Major’s opposition, was eaten on deck.
“It’s quite evident to me,” said Meldon, ‘ ‘ that those fellows mean to watch us. They’re pretty certain that we’re after the treasure, and they don’t intend to let us get round to the hole in the cliff without them.”
Major Kent snorted contemptuously. He, too, had slept well and had wakened in one of those moods of sound common sense which are strongest in men of Anglo-Saxon temperament during the early part of the day. The idea of treasure-seeking seemed to him more than ever absurd as he sat in the morning sunshine eating fried bacon and drinking tea. That two strangers in an ordinary and somewhat battered yacht like the Aureole should be spying upon his actions, as if he and they were conspirators, was a grotesquely impossible thought. Such things might have happened in the sixteenth century, or might happen even now in places like Russia. They couldn’t be real during the twentieth century anywhere in the dominions of His Britannic Majesty.
“I must make arrangements for dealing with them,” said Meldon.
“J. J.,” said the Major, with another snort of contempt, “I’ve had enough of this play-acting. You and I aren’t children that we should spend our time pretending we are brigands and hunting other fellows about in smugglers’ caves. I’ll have no more of it.”
“Do you mean to tell me that you don’t believe those two fellows are watching us, afraid of their lives that we should succeed in dodging them and getting the treasure?”
‘ ‘ Of course I don’t believe anything of the sort. It’s absurd on the face of it.
I don’t deny that it was odd their turning up yesterday at the very place you fancied there was treasure hidden; but as for their being after it or watching us, I simply don’t and' won’t and can’t believe a -word of it.”
“Very well. I’ll have to prove it to you. ’ ’
“You’d prove anything,” said the Major—“any blessed thing, once you start talking, but you won’t convince me. I’ve heard too many of your proofs.”
“I’ll prove it this time by the evidence of your own eyes and ears. You say that Sir Giles and Langton aren’t watching us and don’t mean to track us if we go after the treasure. Very well, I’ll demonstrate to you that they are and do.”
He stood up and hauled the punt alongside.
“Get in,” he said to the Major.
“Why should I get in? I don’t want to go ashore?”
“You’ll get in because I tell you and because once for all you’re going to be shaken out of that' vile attitude of sceptical superiority which you’ve chosen to assume.”
Major Kent shrugged his shoulders and submitted. Meldon stepped into the
punt after him and began paddling towards the pier.
There was a stir on board the Aureole. Langton was on watch when Meldon shoved off from the Spindrift. He went below at once. Then he and Sir Giles came on deck together and pulled their punt alongside. Meldon, who could watch the Aureole as he rowed, judged from the look on his face that Sir Giles Buckley was in a bad temper.
“I’d be prepared to bet now,” he said, “that Sir Giles is swearing like anything this minute. I expect he hadn’t finished his breakfast and hates being routed out at this hour to follow us. Don’t you look round, Major. If you do it’s ten to one you upset this patent punt, and I shouldn’t care to rely on Sir Giles to pick you up in his present mood.” Having reached the pier, Meldon, followed unwillingly by Major Kent, set out briskly towards the south end of the island.
‘ ‘ Where are we going now ? ’ ’ asked the Major.
“We’re going to convince you. If you don’t like it, you can lay the blame on your own sceptical nature. Look round now and tell me if the other two aren’t following us.”
They were. The Major unwillingly admitted the fact.
“They’re certainly coming this way,” he said. “But I don’t see why you should take it for granted that they’re tracking us.”
“Come on,” said Meldon.
He reached the house of the woman to whom he had talked on the occasion of his second interview with Mary Kate. He tapped at the door and entered, dragging the Major after him.
“Good morning to you, Mrs. O’Flaherty,” he said. “I’m glad to see the baby looking well.”
“He’s finely, thanks be to God.” “Do you happen to want to have him vaccinated or anything of that sort?”
“I do not.”
“I dare say you’re right. I asked the question because there’s a gentleman coming along this way in a few minutes who’s a great doctor. He’s on his holiday, of course; but I’m sure he’d vaccinate a fine boy like yours if you asked him to.”
“Would he give me a bottle for the old woman, do you think?”
“He would, of course. What’s the matter with her?”
“She’s ravelling in her talk this long time, and sorra the bit she’ll stir out of her bed, and me with all the work to do and never a one to give me a hand.” “That’s the very sort of case this doctor likes best. Come along with me now and we’ll speak to him. But don’t be calling him ‘doctor’ to his face. It’s a kind of lord he is. Call him ‘Sir Giles’ when you speak to him.”
Meldon, Mrs. O’Flaherty with her baby in her arms, and Major Kent, who lingered a little behind, set out to meet Sir Giles and Langton.
“Good morning, Sir Giles,” said Meldon. “Good morning, Mr. Langton. You got home safe yesterday off that cliff? That’s right. Take my advice and don’t risk it again. There isn’t a bird’s
egg in the world worth a broken neck. Do you happen to have a bottle about you ?’ ’
Sir Giles scowled. Meldon’s goodhupiored greeting evidently irritated him. “No,” he said. “I haven’t.”
“Oh, well,” said Meldon, “it can’t be helped. I dare say you have one on the yacht. ’ ’
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Sir Giles. “Do you, Langton?”
“Damned if I do?” said Langton. “What are you talking about, eh?” “Bottles,” said Meldon. “I was asking if you had a bottle on the yacht.” “What the devil is it to you whether I have or not?” said Sir Giles.
“Oh, nothing to me—nothing whatever —only Mrs. O’Flaherty wants a bottle for her old mother-in-law. Isn’t that so, Mrs. O’Flaherty?”
“It is, your honor. It is, Sir Giles. The old woman’s ravelling in her talk this long time, and what’s more, she won’t stir out of her bed; and if your honor would give her a bottle—” “Come now,” said Meldon, “you won’t refuse her, Sir Giles. It’s a small request. What’s a bottle to you one way or another? Slip back to the yacht and get her one. It won’t take you an hour. The Major and I will wait about till you come back.”
He winked at the Major as he spoke —a large obvious wink, which neither Sir Giles nor Langton could fail to notice.
“Now look here, Mr. John James
Meldon-” said Sir Giles.
“Joseph John,” said Meldon, “not that it matters; only just in case anything should turn up afterwards, it’s as well to be accurate.”
“I really don’t know,” said Sir Giles, “whether you’re more knave or fool, but if you think you’re going to send me back to the yacht on a hunt after a bottle or some such ridiculous thing while you go round the base of the cliffs again, you’re greatly mistaken.”
“Mrs. O’Flaherty,” said Meldon, “Sir Giles’ temper is a little short this morning, but he’s a good man at heart. Try him for the bottle again to-morrow and you’ll very likely get one. Good morning, Sir Giles. Good morning, Mr. Langton. This is better than grubbing about among fusty old manuscripts ill the college library, isn’t it? Come along, Major. We’ll be getting back.”
“I suppose,” said Major Kent, when they reached the pier, “that there wouldn’t be any use in my asking for an explanation of that performance?” “I told you before I started,” said Meldon, “that I was going to offer you ocular and oral demonstration that those fellows mean to track us, and won’t Íe' us stir in the direction of the cliffs without them. Now you’ve got it. I hopp you’re convinced.”
“Couldn’t you have done it without that bottle foolery?”
“Well, I might. To tell you the truth Major, the bottle incident was not part of my original plan. It’s what I call a brilliant improvisation. It came on me like a flash when I saw that plump baby of Mrs. O’Flaherty’s, and thought how the
poor little beggar had never been vaccinated. It developed in my mind when she began talking about her mother-inlaw. After that the thing simply worked itself out, and worked well. 1 don’t take any credit for it, not the least. But 1 ‘in rather pleased with the results. In the first place I’ve convinced Sir Giles that I’m a perfect fool.”
“He’s not far out if he believes that.” “Whether he is or not, Major, remains to be seen. In the second place I’ve convinced you that he and Langton mean to keep a close watch on us, which was the thing I set out to do originally. I have convinced you, haven’t I?”
“I think you’re all mad together,” said the Major. “I don’t understand what’s going on between you.”
“You mean that you won’t understand. You could, of course, if you liked.”
“What do you intend to do now?” “For the present, nothing. When the time comes for eluding the vigilance of Sir Giles, I’ll elude it. There will be difficulties, of course. Higginbotham will be a difficulty—so, very likely, will Mary Kate. In the meanwhile we’ll sit down here and wait till the tide rises and makes it impossible to get at the treasure. They are watching us from the hill beyond there. I don’t believe they mean to try for it themselves to-day. Now I come to think of it, they can’t; for they didn’t bring the rope with them. Come along, Major, we may safely go back on board.”
“This,” said Meldon, as he paddled the collapsible punt towards the Spindrift, “is out-and-away the best holiday I’ve ever had. I tell you, Major, it’s fine.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. Sure you wouldn’t like to slip off home and take out the rest of your time with your little girl?”
“I wouldn’t leave the treasure,” said Meldon, “at this stage of the proceedings, not if Gladys Muriel went down on lier bended knees to beg me. I wouldn't do it even if Sir Giles and Langton weren’t here. Now that they have come, and added a spice of real adventure to the hunt, I wouldn’t go away to marry the eldest daughter of the Emperor of Germany. I’m enjoying myself.”
There was no doubt that Meldon spoke the literal truth. Excitement and pleasure beamed from his very eyes. He sent the Major to get the dinner ready while be lay on deck, and with his eye just over the low gunwale of the yacht, watched Sir Giles and Langton row back to the Aureole in their punt. He ate his dinner hurriedly7, breaking in upon the meal at short intervals to mount the companionladder and take a look at the Aureole.
“Patience and calm,” he said after one of these excursions, “are the great things after all. There’s a French proverb about getting a thing in the end if you only wait quietly.”
“I suppose you think you’re practising these virtues now,” said the Major.
“I know I am. A man with less selfcontrol would have darted off to the cave this morning and probably had a
(Continued on page 97.)
(Continued from page 35.)
free fight with Sir Giles, which would have ended in Higginbotham taking possession of the treasure in the name of the Government. Whereas I sit here quietly and wait for the next move on the part of the enemy.”
“Oh, that’s the game now, is it?”
“That’s the game. Let Sir Giles show his hand and I’ll deal with him.”
For some time it appeared that Sir Giles also intended to play a waiting game. He and Euseby Langton sat on the deck of the Aureole and watched the Spindrift. They gazed at Meldon and the Major through binoculars when they had seen all they could with the unassisted eye. Meldon, in return, got out a pair of glasses and stared at them. The afternoon became very hot. The water of the bay lay in an unbroken sheet around the boats, and glowed a sullen reflection of the light. The Major fetched some cushions from the cabin, made himself really comfortable, and went to sleep.
At about four o’clock there was a stir on board the Aureole. Langton dragged the punt alongside. He and Sir Giles got into her and pulled for the shore. Meldon, watching them intently through his glasses, observed that they took no rope with them. He made up his mind that they did not intend to descend the cliff. The tide was still too high to permit of any one entering the hole. Yet it seemed evident to Meldon that this expedition to the shore must have some object. He became very anxious to discover what they were at. It was easy enough to row on shore after them and then follow them, as they had followed him in the morning. But ne realized that on an island without trees or hedges it would be totally impossible to follow them without himself being seen; and their plan, whatever it was, would certainly not he carried out before his eyes. Scanning the land with his glasses, he detected Mary Kate sitting in the shade of Higginbotham’s house to watch the strangers land. His mind was made up in a moment. He shook the Major.
“Give me another sixpence,” he said; •‘I’m going ashore.”
“My money’s in the pocket of my other trousers,” said the Major; “and they’re hanging beside my bunk. Take what you want and for Heaven’s sake leave me to have my sleep in peace. It’s the only comfort I get since I came to this island.”
Meldon made all the speed he could in the canvas punt, a craft singularly illsuited to a man in a hurry. He reached the pier shortly after Sir Giles and Langton had landed. Mary Kate, who had hesitated for some time between the desire to follow the strangers and the hope of another sixpence from the approaching Meldon, was on the pier to meet him. She grinned amiably when he greeted her.
“Mary Kate,” he said, “I’ve got another sixpence for you. You’ll be the
richest girl in the island in a few days if this goes on.”
‘‘I will so.” She spoke iu a tone of conviction.
‘‘Well now, go you up after those two gentlemen and just watch what they do You needn’t go too close to them. And, lisien to me now : if it should happen that they speak to you, just you take a leaf out of your grandda’s book and answer them in Irish, ‘Ni Beurla'—what do you call it? You know how to do it, don’t you?”
Mary Kate nodded. The instructions were not absolutely lucid, but she grasped their meaning.
‘‘Not another word out of your head now, mind that. And look as stupid as you can. I’ll run down and pay a visit to your aunt. Isn’t she your aunt ?”
‘‘She is not.”
‘‘Well, you know who I mean, anyhow. Mrs. O’Flaherty beyond there, the one that owns the baby with the niee fat legs. You drop down there as soon as ever those two gentlemen go back to their yacht, and tell me what they’ve been doing. I needn’t explain to you, Mary Kate, that I wouldn’t be setting you on a job of this kind if those two fellows weren’t a pair of bad ones. The fact is they’re land-grabbers—the worst kind of land-grabbers. That will probably convey to you better than anything else the sort of fellows they really are. ’ ’
He noticed that Mary Kate’s attention had wandered, hut he continued speaking for his own satisfaction.
‘‘If that isn’t exactly the literal truth, as people like the Major would say, it’s the nearest thing to the truth that you’re at all likely to understand. It will convey to you a perfectly true idea of the character of the men. You understand what I mean, Mary Kate, when I say they ’re land-grabbers, don’t you ? ’ ’
The child wasn’t listening to him. Her eyes were on the now distant figures ol Sir Giles and Langton. Even if she had listened, it is doubtful whether the word ‘‘land-grabber” would have conveyed anything to her. Politicians rarely, if ever, visit Inishgowlan, and the people, even the grown men, are uninstructed in the simple principles of modern nationalism. It had never been worth the while, even of a publican, to grab the land on Inishgowlan. In any case, whether she liad understood him or not, Meldon’s motives for having the strangers watched would not have interested Mary Kate. It was sufficient for her that she was to be paid sixpence for doing what natural curiosity would have prompted lier to do without a bribe.
Mrs. O’Flaherty seemed surprised to see Meldon. She was churning, plunging up and down an old-fashioned dash in the most primitive kind of churn. She was dressed in a sleeveless garment, tucked in to an old red petticoat which seemed likely, as her body swayed, to work its fastenings loose and fall off. Drops of milk, splashed from the churn, bespattered her. She was exceedingly hot, partly from her exertion, partly with annoyance at the lamentable howls of her baby, who had of necessity been left to the care of the old woman in the room off the kitchen. She was at
first far from being well pleased at seeing a visitor. She was not, indeed, embarrassed by the scantiness of her costume, but she foresaw that in mere politeness she might be obliged to stop churning, and to stop at a certain stage of the process is fatal to the production of butter. Meldon’s first words reassured her.
“Give me the dash,” he said, “and go you in and get the baby.”
“I will not,” she said. “I’d be spoiling your good clothes on you if I let you do the like of this work.”
“Did you never hear that there’s no luck when the stranger that comes in doesn’t put a hand to the churn?” “Faith, and that’s true. But who’d think of the likes of you knowing it?” “I know more than that,” said Mel • don. “I know things that would surprise you now, wise as you are. Give me the dash, I say.”
He took it from her and began to work vigorously, Mrs. O’Flahertv watched him.
“Maybe now it isn’t the first time you’ve done that,” she said.
“It is not, nor the second. But go you and take your baby. The shouts of him is enough to stop the butter coming. ’ ’
She returned in a few minutes with the child, quickly pacified, in her arms.
“Where’s himself?” said Meldon. “Why wouldn’t he be giving you a hand at this work?”
“Sure he does do a turn for me odd times, when he wouldn’t be earthing up the potatoes, or saving the hay, or burning the kelp or the like of that.” Meldon began to feel hot.
“The butter’s a mighty long time coming,” he said.
“You may say that. Whether it’s the warmth of the day or maybe—but sure you’re tired. It’s terrible hard work for them that’s not used to it. Give it up to me now.”
“Very well; I’ll have a try at the baby. Come here to me, Anthony Tom. Did you say Anthony Tom was the name you had on him?”
“It is not, then, but Michael Pat.” Meldon took Michael Pat in his arms. He was very successful as a nurse, but he found the work almost as hot as the churning. Michael Pat had reached the age at which happiness is found in perpetual motion, and it was necessary to keep on jumping him up and down.
“I’ll tell you what it is,” said Meldon at last. “I’d rather be saving hay or burning kelp, or doing any other mortal thing, than trying to mind a baby and make butter at the same time. Men have a much better time of it than women as things are arranged at present.”
“They might,” said Mrs. O’Flaherty, “but what would they be doing if it wasn’t for the women?”
“That’s true,” said Meldon; “but it isn’t saying that men don’t have the best of it.”
“And for the matter of that, how would the women get along wanting the men?”
“There’s something in that, too.” “Sure, God is good, and the troubles
He does be sending is no worse for me than another. If so be that Michael Pat doesn't be cutting or burning himself when I have him reared to be out of my arms, I’ve no cause to be complaining. And himself is a good head to me.”
Meldon danced Michael Pat vigorously. The sweat ran down his face, but be stuck to his work, realizing more and more clearly the strenuousness of a woman’s life. At last he spoke again, jerkily for want of breath.
“Mrs. O’Flaherty, ma’am, tell me this. Is there e’er a branch of the Woman’s Suffrage Association in this island?” “I never heard tell of any such a thing. ’ ’
“Well, take my advice. Found one at once. It may not do you much good, but it will relieve your feelings. You’re suffering under an intolerable injustice.” “Is it the Government you mean?” said Mrs. O’Flaherty, whose husband occasionally read a copy of the Ballymoy Tribune.
“It is not; it’s the men. What you want is what’s called sexuo-economic independence of women. Just wipe Michael Pat’s mouth with something, will you. I haven’t a handkerchief on me, and he’s dribbling worse than I could have believed possible.”
The half-door of the cabin was pushed open, and Mary Kate entered. At the sight of Meldon with Michael Pat in his arms she stood still and grinned broadly.
“Thank God!” said Meldon fervently. “Come here, Mary Kate. Sit down on the creepy stool there by the hearth and take the baby.”
Mary Kate hung back, still grinning. “Do what the gentleman bids you,” said Mrs. O’Flaherty.
Mary Kate obeyed reluctantly. She foresaw that it might be very difficult for her to escape from Michael Pat if
she once accepted the charge of him. She had the makings of a feminist in her. She valued her independence.
“Tell me now,” said Meldon, “did you do what I bid you?”
“I did,” said Mary Kate.
“And have the gentlemen gone back to the yacht?”
“They’re after going this minute.” “And where were they?”
“Listen to me now, Mary Kate. I’m not going to spend the rest of the day dragging information out of you as if each word you say is a tooth that it hurts you to part with. Tell me now straight—and no more nonsense—where did they go?”
“It’s yourself that’s the stubborn
little lady,” said Mrs. O’Flaherty.
“Why wouldn’t you be speaking to the gentleman when he wants to be listening
“They were up beyond at my grandda’s.”
“At Thomas O’Flaherty Pat’s! Were they talking to him?”
“They were not, then, for himself wasn’t in it.”
“What were they doing?”
“Looking at the Poll-na-phuca.”
“At the what?”
“That's the hole that there does be in the field back west of the house,” said Mrs. O’Flaherty. “Poll-na-phuea is the name there does be on it on account of them that ’s in it.”
“Is that all they did?”
“Sorra a thing else.”
“Well,” said Meldon, “that beats all. I must be getting away now, Mrs. O’Flaherty. I’ve had a delightful afternoon. Goodbye, Mary Kate. Be kind to Michael Pat. Remember that you were once that size yourself, and somebody had to sit on a stool and bold you.” He walked down to the seashore, selected a large flat stone, and sat down on it. He was very much puzzled by the account which Mary Kate had given him of the movements of Sir Giles and Euseby Langton. He could not understand why they had .gone up to Thomas 0 ’Flaherty Pat’s cabin or why they had looked at the hole in the field. He recalled the appearance of the cabin. It was a very dilapidated place, standing by itself two fields higher up than the cottage in which Mary Kate’s father lived. He went over all he knew about the field with the hole in it. It was, so Higginbotham said, a very small and barren field. There was no fenee round the hole; Higginbotham had lamented that. A heifer had fallen into it and got killed. There was nothing, so far as he could see, which could possibly interest Sir Giles about the cabin, the field, or the hole. Why should a man, out on a search for treasure, care to view the scene of a heifer’s death? A heifer is not a very important animal, even on Inishgowlan. He recollected that Poll-na-phuca meant the fairy’s hole. He liad understood from Higginbotham that the place was regarded by the islanders with some awe as the home of malevolent spirits. But this threw no light on his problem. He could not suppose that Sir Giles was an amateur of folk-lore, so enthusiastic as to suspend his treasure search for the purpose of investigating a local superstition, however interesting.
Meldon’s pipe went out, half-smoked. He wrinkled his forehead and half-shut his eyes in bitter perplexity. It hurt him that lie could not understand what Sir Giles had been doing. At last he rose Prom his stone with a deep sigh and walked ten or fifteen yards along the shore. He found another fiat stone and Sat down on it. He knocked the plug of f.obaceo out, refilled bis pipe and lit it. He deliberately gave up the problem which he could not solve, and set himself to work on another. He decided that he must himself reach (he hole where the "reasure lay at the earliest possible monent the next day, and that Sir Giles nust be prevented from following him. 3e smoked steadily this time, and his ’ace gradually cleared of the wrinkles he other problem had impressed upon t. At last be smiled slightly. Then he jrinned. He knocked the ashes out of iis pipe and put it in his pocket. He úcked up a few pebbles and flung them iheerfully into the sea. Then he rose rod walked hack to Mrs. O’Flaherty’s ottage.
The churning was over. Mrs. O’Flaherty was working the butter with her hands at the table. Mary Kate still sat with the baby on her knee.
“Good-evening to you, Mrs. 0’Flaherty,” said Meldon.
“Is it yourself again? Faith, I thought you were gone for to-day anyway.”
“1 looked in again to see if Michael Pat was all right after the shaking I gave him. Would you sooner be churning flic butter or churning the baby, Mrs. O’Flaherty? Or would you rather be taking them in turns the way we did this afternoon? I see you’ve got him asleep there, Mary Kate. Just put him into the cradle now and he’ll be all
“Mind, but he’ll wake on you,” said Mrs. O’Flaherty, “an me in the middle of squeezing the butter.”
“lie will not. Do you think I don’t know when a baby’s asleep? You wouldn’t wake him now if you put him into the churn head first. Do what I bid you, Mary Kate. That’s a good girl. Now the next thing you have to do is to run up to the iron house where the gentleman lives that does be measuring out the land and tell him I want to see him this evening. He’s to get some one to put him off to the yacht; do you understand? I’m not coming ashore again. Will you do that for me, like a good girl?”
“Well then, do. And look here. If lie isn’t there, just you sit down outside the door and wait till he comes. Now off with you. I’ll follow in a minute or two. It wouldn’t do for you and me to be seen walking about together every hour of the day, Mary Kate. They might say we were courting; and that wouldn’t suit you any more than myself. Goodbye to you, Mrs. O’Flaherty. I’m really off this time, but very likely I’ll look in tomorrow to see Michael Pat and the butter. Will you be off out of this, Mary Kate? You’ll spoil the look of vour mouth for life if you stand there grinning much longer.”
Meldon walked to the pier, passed it, and went down to the sandy beach which lay beyond. There were three curraghs drawn up and laid, as the custom is with such boats, bottom upward on the sand. One of them Meldon recognized as that in which Higginbotham had come off to the Spindrift. It was the property of Jamesy O’Flaherty. Meldon passed it and looked at the next. The canvas bottom revealed a large rent. It could not possibly go to sea. The third was sound. Meldon knelt down and looked under it. The oars were there as he expected. He went back to the pier, embarked in the collapsible punt, and rowed out to thfi> Spindrift.
He found that Major Kent had finished his nap and was reading, for want of other literature, the sheet of a week* old newspaper. It was spotted witk grease and a good deal crumpled, having, in fact, been used to wrap up the bacon which they ate at breakfast. The occupation showed that the Major was very
much bored. He gave frank expression to his feelings.
“How much longer do you intend to spend mousing round this wretched little island, J. JÁ I’m about sick of it. Thi? isn’t my idea of a cruise at all. I mean to up-anchor and slip across to Inishmore for a change.”
“Don’t you do anything of the sort. You’ll be sorry all your life afterwards if you do. I don’t mind telling you that we’re just on the very verge of bagging the treasure.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“I’ll give you my word, Major, that if you stay here to-morrow, I’ll be ready to go anywhere you like the next day. The next twenty-four hours, or thirtysix hours at the outside, will see the thing through.”
“That’s all very well. But if your treasure-hunting consists in sitting here all day watching those other two fellows on the Aureole, I tell you plainly it’s not good enough.”
“If it’s a little excitement you want, you shall have it to-morrow, I was thinking things out a bit after I finished nursing Michael Pat, and—— ” “Finished what?”
“Nursing Michael Pat, the baby Sir Giles wouldn’t vaccinate this morning. But you’re a slow-witted man, Major. It’s one of your great faults. Everything has to be explained to you. I suppose I must begin at the beginning.” “I wish you would.”
“Well, I will. But first of all, I majas well mention that I’ve planned a coup d’état for to-morrow. I’m not sure that I’ve got the expression quite right. Perhaps 1 ought to say a coup de théâtre; but you know what I mean, anyhow.” “I don’t; but I might make a guess if you’d begin at the beginning instead of in the middle or at the end.”
“The epic poet,” said Melden, “always begins in the middle. It’s a wellknown literary law that all first-rate narrative begins in the middle. If you don’t know the middle of a thing, how on earth can you appreciate the beginning? My coup—we’ll call it simply a coup, so as to get over the difficulty of not knowing exactly which sort of coup it is—comes off to-morrow, but it begins this evening. I don’t expect yon to play up to me. That would probably be beyond you, but I hope you’ll try and not actually give the show away when Higginbotham comes.”
“Oh, Higginbotham’s in it, is he?” “Of course Higginbotham’s in it. So is Mary Kate, so is Sir Giles, so is Langton, so are you and I. It wouldn’t be a coup of any sort if we weren’t all in it.”
“If it involves my adopting another disguise—— But what’s the good of my talking?”
“None. Just you listen, I went on shore this afternoon to find out what Sir Giles and the other man were after. I took sixpence with me for Mary Kate, I set the dear little girl on to watch Sir Giles while I went and nursed Michael Pat—a fine, plump baby, Michael Pat, but boisterous.”
“Is he part of the coup?”
“No. I should like to have him in it if I could, but I can’t manage it. Well, after a time Mary Kate returned and told me that Sir Giles and the man who owns the fur coat went up to Thomas O’Flaherty Pat’s field and looked at the hole there is in it.”
“Is the hole part of the coup?”
“It is not. The fact is I don’t quite see how the hole comes in. That’s what has me so set on bringing off my coup without delay. If I understood why they looked at that hole 1 might see my way to checkmate their move whatever it is. But I don’t. They may have a game on, or they may not. I’m not going to give them a chance.”
“Perhaps,” said the Major, “you’ll get to the coup soon.”
“I wanted to tell you about the coup first thing; but you kept nagging at me to go back to the beginning. Now I’ve gone back to the beginning and you're discontented because you havn’t got the end straight off. You’re a very hard man to please.”
“All I mean,” said the Major, “is that it’s near tea time.”
“That reminds me that Higginbotham may be here at any moment. Listen now. There seem to me to be only two available boats on this island, Jamesy O’Flaherty’s curragh and another.” “There’s a third. I saw three on the beach this morning.”
“One of those has a hole in her bottom you could put your foot through; so there are only two to be considered. Now if Jamesy O’Flaherty was to go off to-morrow to Inishmore in his curragh and if I could put the other one hors de
combat, so to speak-”
“Knock a hole in her, I suppose.” “Now would I do a thing like that to a curragh that belongs to a poor man, for all I know to the contrary to Mary Kate’s father? I wouldn’t if you paid me. All I mean to do is to temporarily conceal her oars so that she can’t be rowed. Now if Jamesy’s curragh is off at sea and the other one is not available, and if the Aureole’s punt were to go adrift, I don’t quite see how those two jokers could get ashore, do you?”
“So that’s the coup, is it?”
“Yes. You see it requires some management. There are three distinct points. First, Jamesy O’Flaherty’s curragh must be sent off. Next, the other curragh must be dealt with. Finally we must hope that the Aureole’s punt will go adrift during the night.”
“It won’t,” said the Major. “Why should it?”
“Oh, yes, it will. I mean to see to it myself that it goes adrift.”
“Do you mean to set Higginbotham afloat in it?”
“No, I don’t. I told you before that' I had a regard for Higginbotham. 1 don’t want to send him off without oars in an unseaworthy punt. I wouldn’t do it to any man, much less to a fellow whq used to come up with me every second
Sunday to Rathmines when I-”
“Don’t begin again about vour little girl.”
"I wasn’t going to mention my little girl. But as you’ve introduced the subject of little girls I must say that I think your tone about women is most discourteous. You display what I may call a graceless want of chivalry. I’m not a feminist myself or anything extreme of any kind, but I think a man ought to show some respect to women, and not be always sneering at them as you are. After all, Major, if you hadn’t had a mother where would you be now? You ought to try and remember little things like that.”
"Would there be anything unchivalrous,” said the Major, "in asking where Higginbotham does come in if lie’s not to go to sea in Sir Giles’s punt?”
"It’s my punt, not Sir Giles’s. But we needn’t argue about that. 1 be thing’s quite simple. Higginbotham is to go to Inishmore in Jamesy O’Flaherty’s curragh.”
"Oh, is he?”
"Yes. He’s to start early, about six
"Because I don’t see bow I’m to get Jamesy O’Flaherty off to Inishmore for the day in his curragh unless I make Higginbotham hire him for the purpose. Besides, I want Higginbotham out of the way, too. If he’s on the island he’ll do some sort of michief, with the best intentions, of course, and spoil the whole coup. There’s no saying what a kindhearted man like Higginbotham would do when he found out that Sir Giles and Langton were shut up on the Aureole and couldn’t get ashore. He might hunt us up and make us go off for them. No;
I don’t want even to inconvenience Higginbotham more than I can help ; hut I can’t have him on this island to-morrow. ’ ’
"The whole thing seems to me enormously complicated,” said the Major. "I don’t see how you can expect it to work without a hitch. All I insist on is that you don’t bring me into it.”
"It’s perfectly simple,” said Meldon. "I don’t see where a hitch can come in if the thing’s properly worked.”
Major Kent and Meldon liad finished their eggs and were eating bread-and-jam when Higginbotham, rowed by Jamesy O’Flaherty, reached the Spindrift. At. the sound of a bump against the yacht’s side Meldon went on deck.
"Come along, Higginbotham,” lie said. "Come below and have a cup of tea. Jamesy O’Flahertv, do you make your curragh fast and get. on hoard, i'll bring you up a glass of whisky in a minute. ”
He shepherded Higginbotham into the cabin. The Major rose to his feet nervousiy. He foresaw that tlie process of persuading Higginbotham to set out for Inishmore in a curragh at six the next morning would he trying.
"I think,” lie said. "I’ll go on deck and have a chat with Jamesy O'Flaherty."
‘ ‘ Do, ’ ’ said Meldon, ‘ ‘ and take a glass i of whisky with you. I want to have a ! quiet talk with Higginbotham.”
The Major departed, well satisfied that . he would escape taking part in the quiet : talk which was to follow.
“Help yourself to some tea,” said Meldon to Higginbotham, “and make j yourself comfortable with a slice of bread-and-jam. I think I mentioned to you yesterday that Sir Giles Buckley is rather a big bug in his own way.” “You said he was something in the Castle.”
“He is. I hinted, I think that either Grimes Acts or Royal Commissions were his particular line. I was wrong there 1 confused him for the moment with another man whose name is somewhat similar. The fact is that Sir Giles is the man whom they keep unattached, as it were, to take up any particular job that happens to be prominent at the moment. It may be a famine, or it may be crochet, or sick nurses, or Christmas-trees for workhouse children. Whatever it is, Sir Giles is the man who runs it. At present it happens to be tuberculosis.”
“I never heard of there being any such man in the Castle.”
“I dare say not. You official people get into very narrow grooves. You all of you seem to think that your own footy little Board is the only one in the country. Whereas there are lots and lots of others besides the one you happen to be connected with. Not that I mean to suggest that Sir Giles is a Board. He isn’t. He’s simply, as I said, unattached,” *
“Still, I think I must have heard of him if he’s what you say.”
“You might not. I tell you. Higginbotham, there aren’t half a dozen men in Ireland who could tell you even the principal kinds of regular officials; and when it comes to unattached freelances like Sir Giles, hardly anybody knows exactly what they are. I’m liable to make mistakes about them myself, as you saw when I spoke about Sir Giles yesterday.”
“I may not be using technically cori rect language when I call Sir Giles an unattached official. I dare say there’s ; some other name for what he is which ' you would recognize if you heard it. But the gist of the matter is the same, however you express it. He’s in charge of i the anti-tuberculosis movement, fighting the Great White Plague. That’s what he’s here for. This morning he made an examination of young Mrs. 0’Flaherty’s baby, little Michael Pat. You might have seen him going off in that direction at about half-past eight.”
“You saw him talking to her on thé side of the road and her with the babj
: in her arms?”
“Yes. I happened at the time to be going-”
“Well, there you are. If Sir Giles isn’t investigating tuberculosis on behalf of the Government, why should he bother his head about making a prolonged and minute examination of Mrs. O’Flahertv’s baby? Tell me that.”
“I don’t know. I suppose it's all right.”
“Well, then, don't contradict me flat when I’m giving you information which may come in useful to you. The fact is that Sir Giles wants you to help him tomorrow.”
“But—but I don’t know anything about tuberculosis.”
“Nobody supposes you do. What he wants you to do is to go over early tomorrow to Inishmore in Jamesy O’Flaherty’s curragh and make a list of all the cases of consumption you can find. You know the people, or at any rate you ought to, and of course Sir Giles doesn't. His plan is to follow you later on in the Aureole. You’re to start about six a.m. Allowing an hour and a half for the row over, you’ll be there by seventhirty. .After you’ve had a bit of breakfast—Sir Giles was most particular that you should breakfast properly; he thinks you might catch the thing yourself if you went at it on an empty stomach—after breakfast you’re to stroll round the island and keep your eye lifting for consumptives. You needn’t drag them out and lay them on the beach or anything of that sort. Just take a note of any case you come across so that when Sir Giles arrives there’ll be no unnecessary waste of time. ”
“I never heard of such a job in my life.”
“Very likely not. But you ought to recollect, Higginbotham, that you’d never heard of Sir Giles till I told you about him. And you’d never heard of the anti-tuberculosis crusade.”
“I had heard of that.”
“Oh, had you? Well, this morning you saw with your own eyes the way Sir Giles was examining little Michael Pat.” “I didn’t say I saw him examining the
child. I said I saw-”
“Don’t go back on what you’ve just admitted. You said you were watching Sir Giles this morning. I don’t call it a very gentlemanly action. But there ’s no use making the matter worse now by denying that you did it.”
Higginbotham stroked his moustache nervously. He took oil his spectacles and rubbed the glasses with his handkerchief. He cleared his throat.
“I can’t do a thing like that,” he said. “I don’t know how.”
“It’ll be all right,” said Meldon. “Call on the parish priest when you land; he’ll help you.”
Higginbotham still displayed signs of uneasiness.
“Why does Sir Giles send me this message through you?” he asked. “Why doesn’t he speak to me himself.” “He tried to. He and I were searching the island for you all afternoon. He went up to old Thomas O’Flaherty’s place to look for you. I told him that you were likely to be there, but you weren’t.”
“I heard he was up there. I thought he might have been speaking to the old man about-”
(To be continued.)