GEO. A. BIRMINGHAM
The Story of a Search for Treasure on the Coast of Ireland and the Amusing Situations which Arose
SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS CHAPTERS
The Rev. J. J. Meldon, curate of Ballymoy, a village on the west coast of Ireland, while visiting his friend, Major Kent, comes across an old pocket-book of the Major's grandfather, in which he finds an account of some treasure. supposed to have been hidden by the Spaniards of one of the vessels of the Spanish Armada, on the Island of Inishgowlan. The Major possesses an excellent yacht, The Spindrift, and they decide to take a trip to the island and search for the treasure, which Meldon is very confident oj finding, but of the existence of which the Major is very skeptical. Meldon also owns a yacht, The Aureole, a worthless tub, which he lets to a Mr. Langton, who, with a friend, wishes to take a trip round the coast. On
arriving at the island Meldon and the Major find Higginbotham, an old college chum of Meldon’s, engaged in surveying the island for the Government, and dividing it up into allotments. He informs them he is prevented from completing his work by the obstinacy of one old man, named Thomas O’Flaherty Pat, who owns a piece of land in the very center of the island, entirely surrounded by other people’s land, but with ichich he will not part at any price. Meldon, not wishing to divulge the real reason of his visit, tells Higginbotham the Major is a Government mineralogical expert tcho has been sent to examine and report on the island’s mineral resources. Meldon and the Major start to explore the island and discover they are being followed everywhere by an old man, who turns out to be Thomas O’Flaherty Pat, and who declares he cannot understand a word of English. Meldon tells him they are naturalists looking for sea beetles, and manages to get rid of him; continuing their search, they find an inlet with a hole, which is only visi ble at low tide, and here Meldon decides the hidden treasures must lie. On returning to the yacht they notice the arrival in the harbor of the Aureole. The following day Meldon starts for the inlet and the cave, and on his arrival discovers a man, who is being lowered over the cliff to the entrance of the cave. This turns out to be a Sir Giles Buckley, the friend who is with Langton, on the Aureole, and a son of a neighbor of the Major’s, who had lately died. Sir Giles would also have heard of the treasure, as his grandfather teas a friend of the Major’s grandfather, and had visited the island with him. After some discussion, Sir Giles calls out to Langton to haul him up, and both he and Meldon depart, as the tide has nearly covered the hole in the rocks. The following day, Meldon, having set
adrift Sir Giles’ boat to prevent his leaving the yacht, again visits the cave with the Major. They make their way through a long underground passage and eventually find two old iron boxes which, however. are empty. At this point Langton and Sir Giles appear on the scene through a hole in the top of the cavern which it seems is just under Thomas O’Flaherty Pat’s plot of land. Disappointed, they all return to the yachts, and find that the Government yacht has arrived in the harbor with Mr. Willoughby, the Chief Secretary, on board. Willoughby lands to visit Higginbotham, and Meldon follows. Higginbotham in vain tries to dissuade Meldon from seeing Willoughby, who is much incensed at Meldon’s tale of the geological survey, but Meldon insists, and we here find him in the midst of a con versation with Willoughby, who is beginning to be amused at his good-humored nonsense. Afterwards Thomas 0’Flaherty Pat approaches Meldon secretly and tells him that he has found the treasure and, being afraid of the neighbors and Sir Giles, he wants the clergyman to take charge of it for him. He takes Meldon that night to his house and shows him the treasure hidden under the stones of the hearth. They have been followed by Sir Giles and Langton, who attack them in the dark and, overpowering them, tie up both O’Flaherty and Meldon. The latter is left alone and manages to roll into the next field.
SIR GILES and Langton appeared. They carried between them the leather bag, full almost to the bursting-point. Langton held the candle in one hand, but it was almost immediately extinguished by a gust of wind. Their eyes were not yet accustomed to the darkness. They took the first few steps cautiously. Meldon turned over on his face and waited, lying quite flat. He felt a foot touch him. He drew his knees up under him and arched his back suddenly. The stratagem was entirly successful. Sir Giles pitched forward and fell, dragging the bag from Langton’s hand. It burst open and the contents were scattered broadcast over the muddy lane. Meldon, highly delighted, waited for the volley of oaths which was to be expected. He was disappointed. Sir Giles rose in silence. His anger this time was too fierce for blasphemy. He stood over Meldon and kicked him savagely on arms and legs and body. He was wearing rubber-soled yachting shoes, and his vengeance was not as ferocious as it looked. Missing Meldon once or twice owing to the darkness and his rage, he kicked stones and hurt his own toes greatly. Langton, who failed to realize the feebleness of the assault, protested.
“Drop that. Drop it, I say. Do you want to let yourself and me in for being
hanged? If you leave the man in the middle of the path you’ve no one to blame but yourself when you trip over him. What’s the use of behaving like a mad -man?”
“I didn’t leave him here. He crawled here himself.”
“Rot,” said Langton. “He couldn’t crawl.”
“I’ll put him somewhere this time that he won’t get away from so easy.”
He gripped Meldon by the feet and hauled him up the bank. He dragged him along the grass till he came to a wall. He called Langton to his assistance and between them they lifted Meldon over it and deposited him in a ditch at the far side.
“Get back over that if you can,” said Sir Giles.
He kicked Meldon again. “So far,” he said, “I’ve just had one solid piece of satisfaction this evening. I’ve stopped your talking with that gag. If I did right I’d cut your tongue out now I have you tied, so that you’d never be able to talk again.”
Meldon listened. It annoyed him very much that he could not speak. He wanted to refer Sir Giles to the case, discussed by the historian Gibbon, of certain Christian martyrs, who spoke fluently and well after being deprived of their tongues by an executioner. He also wanted to say, that so far, working
against long odds, he had got the better of the struggle and had annoyed Sir Giles more than Sir Giles had annoyed him. He tried to give expression to his feelings by winking first with one eye and then with the other. But it was so dark that the winks could not be seen, and Sir Giles departed without knowing what Meldon thought of him.
SIR GILES and Langton went back to the lane and set about the task of hunting for the gold which had been scattered. They found the bag at once and in a corner of it a couple dozen coins. The rest were strewed about among the mud, the pools, the running water, and the loose stones. The wind tore across the island in violent gusts. The rain beat furiously upon them. The candle which Langton had put in his pocket was lighted and promptly extinguished. Sir Giles made a kind of shelter for it with his coat and tried to keep it burning. He succeeded for a minute or two. Then a gust of wind whirled over the coat and the candle was blown out again.
“Let’s give it up,” said Langton. “Let’s go back and get another load.”
“I will not give it up. Do you suppose I’m going to leave a small fortune lying in this lane when I might have it for the gathering? Go back to the hut
and try if you can find any kind of a lantern.”
Langton searched in vain, for old O’Flaherty owned no lantern. He returned to report his ill-success.
“I’ll go down to the yacht,” said Sir Giles, “and get one of her lamps. You wait for me here and pick up what you can in the meanwhile.”
But Langton had no taste for crawling about on his hands and knees feeling for coins in mud and water. He was chilled and dispirited. When Sir Giles left him he stumbled back into the hut, wrung the water out of his coat, and waited in shelter. In about three-quarters of an hour Sir Giles returned with the Aureole’s’riding light in his hand. The search began again. After half an hour’s hard work the bag was nearly filled, and, carrying it between them, the two men set out for the Aureole.
“Two more trips will be enough,” said Sir Giles. “If we haven’t got it all we shall have to leave the rest behind us. Thank the gods, the rain is stopping. The wind will go down now. If it doesn’t, Langton, you may say your prayers. We’d never fetch Ballymoy or anywhere else in this gale.”
Meldon lay in his ditch. The ropes with which he was bound began to cut into his flesh. He was more bruised than ever. But he found a real satisfaction in picturing to himself Sir Giles as he searched for the coins in the dark. He was determined to try and free himself. A few efforts convinced him that he could do nothing with the ropes on his arms and legs. The gag seemed more hopeful. It was a woollen scarf. It was forced between his teeth, pulled tight from behind so as to drag his lips out into a kind of grin and knotted firmly at the back of his neck. He tried to gnaw it through with his teeth, but only succeeded in biting the insides of his cheeks until they bled. He wriggled along the ditch and got the side of his head against a stone with a sharp edge. He worked his head up and down, rubbing the woollen gag against the stone. He hoped in this way to wear the stuff through. The work was tedious and painful. But he persevered and in the end reaped his reward. The last strands of the wool parted. His mouth was free.
He looked round him and took stock of his position. At first he could see nothing but the stone wall, the grassy side of the ditch, and the sky. He noticed that it was beginning to get light. The rain had ceased. The clouds were being blown apart. Meldon guessed that it must be nearly three o’clock. He remembered that Sir Giles intended to lower him into the Poll-na-phuca as soon as there was light enough. He had no intention of being buried alive there if he could help it. He set to work to writhe and wriggle himself out of the ditch. He found himself at last in the field below O’Flaherty’s house. He had a clear view of the bay and saw Sir Giles rowing out to the Aureole. The light increased and he noticed with great satisfaction that there was a heavy sea running outside
the bay. He reflected that it would be totally impossible for the Aureole to leave her sheltered anchorage. But the wind was falling. In a couple of hours a venturous man might attempt to run for the mainland with three or four reefs tied down in his sail.
Sir Giles and Langton left the yacht again and pulled for the pier. Meldon decided that they must still have another load of treasure to ship. They had, as he calculated, an hour and a half’s work before them. He saw below him, two fields off, the house in which Mary Kate and her parents lived. He made up his mind that he must get near enough to waken somebody in it before Sir Giles came to him again. There was only one possible way of getting there. He must roll down the hill.
He made up his mind to act at once. Having the use of his mouth he shouted a word of encouragement to Thomas O’Flaherty before he started;—
“Hullo! Thomas O’Flaherty Pat! Hullo! I expect you’re gagged and tied somewhere and can’t answer. But I’ve got the beastly thing worked out of my mouth and I’m going to get the better of those two blackguards yet. It’ll all depend on my being able to get hold of Mary Kate. Good-bye. I’ll see that this business pans out all right in the end.”
The field in which he lay sloped even more steeply than most fields in the island. At the bottom of it was a wall and in the middle of the wall a gap. Beyond the gap was another steep field and at the bottom of it was the house. Meldon aimed for the gap. He congratulated himself that Higginbotham’s philanthropic plans for the bettering of the islanders’ system of land tenure had not yet been carried out. In the fences that were to be erected there would not be gaps and no man could roll over a six-foot Congested Districts Board bank.
He wriggled himself into position and started rolling down the hill. He advanced rapidly for a few yards and then came to a dead stop, lying up and down the hill. He wriggled again, rolled again, and was again brought up short by the impossibility of keeping his body parallel to the slope of the hill. Still he advanced and at length actually arrived at the gap. He lay still, giddy and breathless. He saw Sir Giles and Langton go into the hut. He started, as soon as he could, to roll across the second field. There were four bullocks in it which were lying together in a group when Meldon rolled suddenly among them. They were startled, struggled to their feet and galloped off in four different directions. After a while curiosity conquered their terror. They returned cautiously and slowly, sniffing and pawing, starting now and then in fresh alarm. Convinced at last that Meldon was harmless they gathered close round him and eyed him with wonder. He lay quite still because he could see Sir Giles and Langton coming out of the hut and suspected that they would search for him. He realized that the cattle hid him effectually.
Having lowered O’Flaherty into the cave Sir Giles and Langton went to the ditch in which they had left Meldon. They were surprised to find that he had disappeared.
“Can he have, got loose?” said Langton nervously.
“If he’d got so much as his tongue loose,” said Sir Giles, “he’d have raised the hell of a row by this time. That fellow would no more keep quiet than a corncrake would stop making the vile row it does make in the middle of the night. He can't have gone far. We must look for him.”
“No. Let’s get out. of this at once. The people will be awake and about
“We ought to have been off two hours ago,” said Sir Giles. “Only for that cursed parson we would have been.
First we had to waste time dragging him out of the hut, and then his infernal practical jokes cost us another hour and a half. We’ll have to leave him now and chance it. We can only hope he’s lying dead somewhere.”
Meldon watched them tramp down the bohireen and realized that he was safe. He understood also that he had very little time to spare. In half an hour Sir Giles would be on board the yacht
“He’ll have to tie down three reefs,” said Meldon to the nearest bullock, “if he doesn’t want to be drowned. And that’ll take him some time with
nobody but Langton to help him.”
The remark caused the bullocks to edge away a little. Meldon started rolling again towards the cottage. Now and then as he drew nearer to it he shouted. At length, when he had got within about twenty yards of it the door opened and Mary Kate peered out. Meldon shouted
“Mary Kate! I say, Mary Kate! come here as quick as you can.”
The child approached him cautiously. Like the bullocks, she had never before seen anything exactly like Meldon as he lay in the field.
“Mary Kate,”, he said, in tones meant to be reassuring, “do you go to bed in
The question was reasonable. The child was dressed just as usual in her red petticoat and flannel bodice.
“I do not,” said Mary Kate. “I dressed
myself when I heard the shouts of you.” “Very well, then. Go and get a knife.” “A knife, is it?”
“It is,” said Meldon. “A knife.” “What sort of a knife?”
“Any sort of a knife you like, from a scythe down to a lancet, will do. In fact, I dare say we could manage with your mother’s scissors. But run now and get something that will cut.”
Mary Kate went back into the house and returned with a sickle.
“My da will be wanting the scythe today,” she said, “but if this will do you, you can have the loan of it.”
“I don’t want the loan of it. I want you to cut the rope that’s round my arms, and be quick about it.”
“The Lord save us and help us! Is
it tied you are? Who’s after doing the like of that to you?”
“I am tied. But if you’d stop standing there staring like a stuck pig, and come over here with the sickle, I’d soon be loose.”
Mary Kate approached him grinning. “Don’t grin,” said Meldon. “I’ve said that to you before. Look here, Mary Kate, I’ve been cracking you up all over the island the last three days for one of the most intelligent children I ever met. It was only last night I offered your grandfather to marry you if he liked. But I’ll not marry you. And I’ll never say another good word for you, and what’s more I’ll take the half-crown and the three sixpences away from you unless you come here and cut the rope.” “You couldn’t,” said Mary Kate.
But the threat produced its effect on
her. She stopped grinning and began
sawing at the rope. The sickle was blunt, but Mary Kate worked vigorously. One strand after another parted. Meldon got his arms free.
“Give me the sickle,” he said.
His hands were numb and he was obliged to rub them up and down against his legs before he could take a firm grip of it. At last he managed to hold it, and set to work at the rope that bound his ankles.
“Mary Kate,” he said, “go back to your da. Is he in bed?”
“He might, then.”
“Well, if he is, get him out and tell him to go up to the Poll-na-phuca with a rope and a ladder, and he’ll find your grandda at the bottom of it if he isn’t dead.”
“The Lord save us! They’ve took him
at the latter end.” “Don’t,” said Meldon, “get any rotten idea about fairies into your head. This isn’t a fairy matter at all. Tell your father that if he doesn’t go at once the old man will be dead, and as sure as ever he is I’ll have your father hanged for murdering him. Do you understand me now?”
“I do,” said Mary Kate.
Meldon found it difficult to stand, and was only able to totter down towards the pier. He saw Sir Giles and Langton reach the Aureole and board her. He quickened his pace as much as his numbed, stiff limbs would allow. He watched the mainsail being hoisted, and
noticed that the gaff was pulled little more than three-quarters way up the mast.
“Thank God!” he muttered, “they see that they must tie down some reefs. I’ll do them yet.”
He reached the pier. Realizing that the water was still rough, he turned from the Major’s punt and went along the beach to Jamesy O’Flaherty’s curragh. He launched it and took the oars. There was no need for him to row. The wind drifted him rapidly from the shore. Sir Giles and Langton were tying down reefpoints in the flapping mainsail of the Aureole and did not see him. He headed the curragh for the Granuaile and climbed on to the steamer’s deck. Everybody on board was asleep. As the readiest way of attracting attention Meldon began to ring the bell which hung
I amidships and to shout “Fire!” at the top of his voice.
A couple of sailors ran on deck and stood staring at him. Others followed them and began to ask questions. Meldon continued shouting “Fire!” and ringing the bell. He saw that Sir Giles had stopped tying reef-points and was hoisting the sail as quickly as he could. The Chief Secretary emerged in his pyjamas. Father Mulcrone followed him in a white cotton night-shirt and a pair of trousers.
“What’s on fire?” said Mr. Willoughby.
“Nothing,” said Meldon. “I wanted to wake you up, that’s all. Send a boat at once and stop that yacht sailing.”
Meldon’s mind worked quickly. He realized that long before he could tell the story of the treasure and reply to all the questions which would necessarily be asked, Sir Giles would have got off. Already he could see that the Aureole’s jib was being hoisted.
“Never mind why,” he said. “Do it.”
“I can’t possibly,” said Mr. Willoughby,“send a boat to capture a gentleman’s yacht without rhyme or reason. It would, I imagine, amount to an act of piracy on the high seas. I’d do a good deal for you, Mr. Meldon; but, after all, I have to recollect that I am Chief Secretary for Ireland. Just fancy—the House of Commons—the newspapers-”
Meldon turned without listening to the end of the apology. He appealed to the crew of the Granuaile.
“Will any of you lower a boat and come with me?”
The men hung back, some grinning, some open-mouthed in blank astonishment. One glance at them convinced Meldon of the hopelessness of his appeal. He looked round him and caught sight of Father Mulcrone.
“Come along, Father Mulcrone. You’re the only man in the whole crowd. Hop into the curragh as quick as you can.”
“Give me time to tuck my night-shirt into my trousers and I’m with you,” said the priest.
He crossed the deck and dropped into the curragh, Meldon followed him. Mr. Willoughby peered over the bulwarks of the Granuaile.
“Stop!” he shouted. “Wait! Hold
The curragh shot out from the steamer’s side.
“It’s no good,” said Mr. Willoughby, “they’re off. I have always heard that the clergy did queer things here in the West of Ireland, but—I’m hanged if the other fellows don’t seem as anxious to get off as the priest and the parson are to catch them.”
Sir Giles and Langton, one at each side of the winch in the bow of the Aureole, were working with frenzied vigor to get the anchor up.
“He can’t cut the cable,” said Meldon to the priest. “Thank God, it’s chain; the only thing on board the Aureole that isn’t absolutely rotten.”
“Pull away,” said Father Mulcrone. “She’s over her anchor now. He’ll have it off the bottom in a minute.”
Meldon pulled hard.
“He has it,” said the priest. “Now he’s hauling the jib across her to get her head round. Shove the stern of the curragh in, and I’ll grab her before she gets way on.”
The Aureole’s head paid slowly round and the mainsail began to draw. In obedience to a violent tug at the oars the curragh spun round and her stern struck the yacht amidships. Father Mulcrone gripped the weather bulwarks with both hands. The curragh swung alongside and was dragged stern first through the water as the yacht gathered way. Sir Giles left the tiller, sprang across the deck and began hammering at the priest’s hands with his clenched fists.
“Let go,” he yelled; “let go.”
He stood up and kicked at the priest’s hands. Then he trampled on them, still yelling, “Let go.” Father Mulcrone held on. Sir Giles kicked at his face, holding on to the weather runner to preserve his balance.
“Let go or I’ll brain you.”
Father Mulcrone held on. He was not the kind of man who lets go. Mr. Willoughby had discovered this about him when dealing with the question of seed potatoes for Inishmore. Meldon scrambled on board the yacht. He came on Sir Giles from behind, seized him by the shoulders, swung him round, rushed him across the sharply sloping deck, and flung him overboard.
“Let go now,” he shouted to Father Mulcrone, “and pick up the fellow I’ve pitched into the sea. He may be able to swim or he may not. In any case you’d better look after him. I’ll manage the other man and the yacht.”
Langton sat dazed and helpless in the cockpit, holding the end of the mainsheet in his hand. Meldon snatched it from him and seized the tiller.
“Loose the jib sheet,” he shouted, “and let me get her sailing.”
Langton did not stir. Meldon dropped the tiller, ran forward and loosened the sheet himself. Then he got the yacht under command and set her racing to windward across the bay.
“If you stir hand or foot,” he said to Langton, “I’ll pitch you into the sea.
I don’t believe you can swim, whatever Sir Giles can do. Ready about now, and mind yourself.”
The yacht swung round and flew off on the new tack. The half-reefed mainsail bellied ridiculously. The water rushed green along the deck and foamed over the coaming of the cockpit. Meldon, a light of triumph on his face, stood up and looked round him.
Father Mulcrone had Sir Giles in tow behind the curragh and was pulling for the shore. It is difficult to get a swimmer into any small boat. It is totally impossible to get one into a canvas curragh. The priest had gone as near rescuing Sir Giles as was possible under the circumstances. A boat was lowered hastily from the Granuaile and the Chief Secretary, still in his pyjamas, got into her. She was pulled towards the curragh. A small group of islanders, men and women, stood on the end of the pier. Major Kent was awake and watched the
exciting scene from the deck of the Spindrift. The Aureole ran under her lee. Meldon threw his boat up into the wind and hailed the Major.
“Hullo! Everything’s all right. I’ve got the treasure safe here. I always said I would and I have. I’ll send Father Mulcrone off for you as soon as he’s done rescuing Sir Giles.”
The Granuaile’s boat reached the curragh. Sir Giles, spluttering sea-water and curses, was hauled on board. Meldon, having got the Aureole on the third tack, flew past them and shouted—
“I say, Father Mulcrone, just put back to the Spindrift and bring Major Kent ashore. It’s a pity for him to be missing all the fun.”
A little group of men came down the hill towards the pier. Among them, supported by his son-in-law and a nephew, was old Thomas O’Flaherty Pat. In front of him, dancing with delight and excitement, her hair blown wild with the wind, went Mary Kate.
Meldon’s tacks became shorter as he neared the land. The men on the pier cheered him each time he passed them. He waved his hand in response, and, when that seemed an inadequate acknowledgment of the enthusiasm, took Langton’s cap and waved it. The Granuaile’s boat reached the pier and was greeted with more cheers. The people of Inishgowlan, not yet aware of what had happened, were ready to cheer anybody. The Chief Secretary, stepping daintily, for he was barefooted, went on shore. Sir Giles, dripping and dismal, followed him. Meldon made his last tack and beached the Aureole close alongside the pier. The islanders and the men from the Granuaile’s boat ran to him with offers of help. Meldon gripped Langton by the collar of the coat and lifted him over the side of the yacht into the water.
“Take him,” he said, “and stand him up on the pier beside the other blackguard.”
He stepped over the side himself.
“I expect the boat has a hole in her,” he said to three of the men who still waited. “You had better get the anchor on shore and make it fast. If she goes adrift on us now, she’ll sink.”
He waded ashore, went to the pier and greeted Mr. Willoughby.
“Sorry I hustled you this morning,” he said. “It seemed the only thing to do at the time.”
“I don’t mind being hustled in the east,” said Mr. Willoughby. “Living the (ind of quiet, monotonous life a Chief Secretary does live, I’m sure a hustle now and then is good for me.”
“It’s very kind of you to say so. Sure ?0U don’t mind coming ashore in your ayjamas?”
“Not a bit. I rather enjoy it for a change. But I’d greatly like to know vhat this is all about.”
“I never,” said Meldon, “saw pyjamas ust that particular shade of pink before. Where do you get them?”
“They’re Irish manufacture, if that’s vhat you’re driving at. I daren’t wear
anything else even at night. But you
haven’t told me yet-”
“Oh, that’s a long story.”
“I’m sure it must be. Perhaps you’d rather put off telling it till after breakfast?”
“Not at all,” said Meldon. “It’s not so long as that. Oh, here’s Father Mulcrone. Didn’t you get the Major?”
“He wouldn’t come ashore,” said Father Mulcrone. “He didn’t seem to care about meeting the Chief Secretary.” “Oh, the geological survey, I suppose,” said Meldon. “That’s all over and done with; isn’t it, Mr. Willoughby?”
“Quite,” said Mr. Willoughby. “It lies buried in a remote past. Things move so rapidly on this island that the affairs of yesterday7 are prehistoric before we are dressed this morning. Besides, a geological survey is nothing compared to the—the pragmatist method by which you roused us from our berths. Why did you give us the idea that something was on fire?”
“Because I wanted you to prevent Sir Giles Buckley from sailing off in the Aureole.”
“I gathered that from the way you spoke at the time. But please tell me why you wanted to stop him.”
Meldon glanced at the dripping Sir Giles. He was most unwilling to tell the story of the gold which lay in the Aureole’s cabin. Hé wondered whether Sir Giles could be counted on to back up a version of the morning’s adventure in which no mention of the treasure appeared.
“You may not know that that boat”-— he indicated the Aureole with his thumb —“is rotten. Everything in her is rotten except the anchor chain.”
“Yes?” said Mr. Willoughby.
“Well,” said Meldon, “that explains what you want to know, doesn’t it?” “Not quite. I’m stupid, I suppose; but as a matter of fact it doesn’t explain anything to me.”
“Don’t you see that if Sir Giles had gone to sea in a rotten boat with the wind that’s blowing to-day, he’d have been drowned to a certainty?”
“Oh,” said Mr. Willoughby, “you wanted to save him from drowning?” “Him and his friend.”
“But, as well as I could make out, you flung him into the sea?”
“Quite so,” said Meldon. “There wasn’t anything else to do. Was there, Father Mulcrone?”
“There was not,” said the priest. “The man was dancing on my knuckles and trying to kick my face.”
“I suppose he must have very much wanted to be drowned,” said Mr. Willoughby.
“Well, I wouldn’t go as far as that,” said Meldon. “But there’s no use taking up these speculative questions. Where’s Higginbotham?”
“He must be asleep still,” said Mr. Willoughby.
“Dear me,” said Meldon; “that’s a pity now. Higginbotham is just the man who might have helped to clear things up.”
“I don’t know if it interests any oi
you”—it was Sir Giles Buckley who spoke—“but you’re listening to a pack of damned lies.”
“I wish,” said Meldon, “that you’d try and break yourself of that habit of swearing, Sir Giles. I think I’ve mentioned it to you before.”
“Of course,” said Mr. Willoughby, “it’s no business of mine. Still, I should like very much to understand what all this fuss has been about. Perhaps, Father Mulcrone, you may be able to throw a little light on it.”
“Not a bit,” said the priest. “All I know is that the gentleman there who seems to be catching his death of cold-”
“So am I, for that matter,” said Mr. Willoughby.
“I see,” said the priest, “that the men have come up from your boat, Mr. Meldon. They seem rather angry about something. Old Thomas O’Flaherty is talking to them hot and strong and he’s pointing this way. Perhaps we’d better go somewhere else before entering on an explanation.”
“Right,” said Meldon. “Higginbotham’s tin house is handy. Let’s go there. It would do Higginbotham good to be made to get out of bed.”
“I should prefer the Granuaile myself,” said Mr. Willoughby. “I’d like to get into a suit of clothes.”
“Right,” said Meldon. “It’s all the same to me. In fact, of the two I rather prefer the Granuaile. I don’t expect Higginbotham could rise to much in the way of breakfast for this party. We’d better take Sir Giles and Langton with us. Those fellows at the other end of the pier are looking rather nasty, and I happen to know that I’m not the man they want to kill.”
“It can’t be me,” said Mr. Willoughby. “It is not you,” said Meldon. “Nor it’s not Father Mulcrone. It’s Sir Giles. That’s the reason I said we ought to take him with us. But before we start I think you should make the men a speech, Mr. Willoughby. It might quiet them down.” “A speech! Good gracious! What about?”
“Oh, anything. The University question, or the intentions of the Government about the land, or Devolution. Yes, Devolution would be the proper thing. It would turn their minds away from Sir Giles and Langton. Try them with Devolution.”
“Get into the boat,” said Mr. Willoughby. “I can’t stand on this pier and make a speech in my pyjamas.”
“No? Perhaps not. Well, you have a go at them, Father Mulcrone. You won’t? I suppose we’d better not turn on Sir Giles. He might make them more irritable. I’ll have to do it myself, though I must say it’s rather hard on me. I’m the one of the party who has worked hardest during the night. I can’t tell you how trying it is to have to roll about in the dark with your hands and feet tied.”
The Chief Secretary and Father Mulcrone remonstrated with him vigorously. He yielded to them so far as to forbear
making a speech, but he insisted on having a word in private with Mary Kate.
Taking the child out of earshot, he said to her—
“Mary Kate, go you to your grandda and tell him this from me: If there’s anything that belongs to him in that yacht let him get it out of her and away with it before we come on shore again. Do you understand me now?”
Mary Kate nodded, grinning. Meldon joined Mr. Willoughby and Father Mulcrone in the Granuaile’s boat. Sir Giles and Langton eyed the men who were standing in a group at the far end of the pier and then followed Meldon.
“You’re right to come with us,” said Meldon. “Old Thomas O’Flaherty is looking uncommon wicked, and you can’t altogether blame him. He’s working the rest of them up. I don’t think that Inishgowlan will be exactly a safe island for you to picnic on, Sir Giles; not for a few weeks anyhow.”
“I’m becoming more and more curious,” said Mr. Willoughby. “I want a key to the mysteries which surround me. I’m a little anxious, too. If ever we get back to civilization we may find ourselves in a police-court. Don’t mix me up in anything criminal if you can help it, Mr. Meldon. Consider my position as Chief Secretary.”
“You’re pledged,” said Father Mulcrone .with a grin, “to the preservation of law and order in Ireland.”
“It’s all right,” said Meldon. “I’ll keep your name out of the business as far as I can. Father Mulcrone and I will take whatever blame there is.”
“I won’t take any blame,” said the priest. “I know nothing about what’s going on, either good or bad.”
“You’ll have to,” said Meldon, “whether you like it or not. It’s your parish, so of course you’re responsible if anything goes wrong.”
“T COULD do with a wash,” said Mel-Idon when the party reached the Granuaile.
“You shall have it,” said Mr. Willoughby. “You shall have my bath.” “Oh, don’t bother about a bath. There’s no use running into extremes. I’m a moderate man in every way, politically and otherwise.”
“Better have the bath.”
“All right, then, I will. But if I do, somebody’ll have to go over to the Spindrift and get me another suit of clothes. Father Mulcrone, perhaps you wouldn’t mind-”
“I’ll send a boat,” said Mr. Willoughby. “Father Mulcrone wants to dress like the rest of us.”
“All right,” said Meldon. “I don’t care who goes. But I wouldn’t like to get into these things again if once I took them off. By the way, have you any sticking-
“I think I have a bit in my dressingcase,” said Mr. Willoughby.
“I’ll want a good big bit—yards of it, I expect. I’m not sure till I get my
clothes off, but I fancy there are very few parts of me just this minute with the skin on.”
“I’ll send you what I have. And now, Sir Giles, I must get a dry suit of clothes for you.”
In about half an hour the party reassembled for breakfast. Mr. Willoughby made another appeal for an explanation of the morning’s events.
“I told you my story,” said Meldon, “and Sir Giles contradicted me flat—not that I mind being contradicted. I’m accustomed to it. But I think it’s his turn to speak now. Anyway I want to eat my breakfast.”
Sir Giles was not eating heartily, but he seemed unwilling to speak.
“You hinted,” said Mr. Willoughby to Sir Giles, “that the account which Mr. Meldon gave us of his actions was—er— perhaps exaggerated.”
“ ‘Damned lies’ was his expression,” said Meldon. “I don’t know if that’s your idea of a hint that I exaggerated.”
“You appeared to think,” said Mr. Willoughby, “that Mr. Meldon omitted from his statement some points of interest.”
Meldon, whose mouth was full, got into difficulties in suppressing a laugh. Sir Giles stared sulkily at Mr. Willoughby.
“Come, now,” said Father Mulcrone, “let’s have your story. You’ll feel easier when it’s off your mind.”
“I’m not in your confessional,” said Sir Giles, “and I’m damned if I’ll speak unless I choose.”
“Come, gentlemen,” said Mr. Willoughby, “we needn’t any of us lose our tempers. I think, Sir Giles, that you are bound either to substantiate or withdraw the very offensive statement that you made on the pier this morning. You called Mr. Meldon a liar.”
“So far as I’m concerned,” said Meldon, “I don’t mind that in the least. I’m quite accustomed to it. There’s hardly a man on this island who hasn’t called me a liar. I quite recognize that Sir Giles’ temper wasn’t altogether under control when he spoke. He has a hot temper. I’ve had to speak to him about it before.”
“I suppose that you think it good fun,” said Sir Giles, “to sit there bating me and setting that cursed curate on to sling insults at me. But I’ve stood all I’m going to stand of it. I’ll stay here no longer. Come, Langton.”
The whole party, with the exception of Meldon, stood up.
“Don’t go away like this,” said Mr. Willoughby to Sir Giles. “Sit down again and talk things over, I am sure we can come to some understanding if we can only find out what all this trouble is about.”
“Make your mind easy,” said Meldon, “he can’t go just yet.”
“Can’t go!!” said Sir Giles furiously. “Why not? Who’s going to stop me? So far as I know, nobody has a warrant out for my arrest.”
“You can’t go yet,” said Meldon, “be-
cause you’ve got on the Chief Secretary’s Sunday clothes.”
Father Mulcrone burst into a loud
“That’s easily remedied,” said Sir Giles. “I’ll change.”
“Please don’t worry about the clothes,” said Mr. Willoughby. “You’re welcome to them. I wouldn’t like you to put on your own things yet. They can’t be dry.”
“Lend him your pink pyjamas,” said Meldon.
For a moment it seemed likely that Sir Giles would make a violent assault on Meldon. His hand twitched. His face was deeply flushed. But he restrained himself and went into the cabin where his own clothes lay.
“This is an extraordinary business,” said Mr. Willoughby. “Surely, Mr. Meldon, you’ll tell me what it all means.”
“He can’t go far,” said Meldon. “I’m prepared to bet my best hat that there’s a hole in the bottom of the Aureole and the Major won’t take him in the Spindrift.”
“I don’t like it at all,” said Mr. Willoughby plaintively. “I hate being kept in the dark.”
He took Father Mulcrone aside and spoke to him.
“What do you advise?” he said. “What do you think of all this?”
“I think,” said the priest, “that you and I had better go ashore with Sir Giles and the other man. I expect the people on the island know the ins and outs of the whole story by this time, and I’ll be able to get it from some of them. There’s been some rough work during the night. You saw the state Mr. Meldon was in when he came on board. I expect that Sir Giles, whoever he may be, has been up to some mischief. I don’t like that man.”
“Still, it’s an awkward affair. It seems to me that we’re aiding and abetting Mr. Meldon in robbery, and something like an attempt at murder. He threw Sir Giles into the sea, you know.”
“I expect Mr. Meldon’s all right. But we can’t say anything till we get on shore and hear the whole story.”
Mr. Willoughby turned to Meldon.
“Father Mulcrone and I,” he said, “have decided to go— Dear me, he’s fast asleep !”
Meldon had fallen forward. His head lay among the crumbs beside his plate on the breakfast-table. His arms sprawled among the cups and dishes. A halfsmoked cigar burned a hole in the tablecloth. Meldon slumbered profoundly.
' I ' WO hours later Mr. Willoughby and Father Mulcrone returned to the Granuaile. The Chief Secretary’s face wore an expression of delight, tempered by anxiety. Father Mulcrone was jubilant and triumphant. They descended at once to the cabin where Meldon still slept on the sofa. Father Mulcrone shook him vigorously.
“Mr. Meldon, wake up; wake up at
Meldon opened his eyes, and saw the Chief Secretary and the priest standing over him.
“Hullo!” he said. “I believe I must have had a nap. Breakfast has been cleared away, I see. I wonder what they did with my cigar. I had a cigar, I know, and I don’t believe I finished it.” “Here’s the box,” said Mr. Willoughby, “take another.”
“Thanks, I will. Where are Sir Giles and Langton? They were here at breakfast, weren’t they?”
“They’re on shore,” said Mr. Willoughby.
“Oh, are they? They haven’t gone off in the Aureole by any chance?”
The priest smiled. “They have not,” he said.
“I told you they wouldn’t—couldn’t in fact. Nobody but me knows how rotten that boat is and what a little bump would knock a hole in her.”
“We’ve been on shore,” said Mr. Willoughby.
“Have you? Pleasant spot that island. I wonder more people don’t come here in the summer.”
“We heard the whole story,” said Mr. Willoughby, “and we both want to congratulate you on the way you behaved.” “Now, who did you hear it from?” “Well, partly from Thomas O’Flaherty and-”
“I didn’t think the old boy was such a fool.”
“And partly,” went on Mr. Willoughby, “from a little girl.”
“Mary Kate O’Flaherty,” said the priest.
“I thought better of Mary Kate,” said Meldon. “She ought to have had a keener eye to her own. interest than to tell that story. I suppose you’ve grabbed the treasure in the name of the Government.”
“He has not, then,” said Father Mulcrone grinning.
“No,” said Mr. Willoughby. “There was no treasure to grab. At least we couldn’t find any. To put the matter plainly, the Aureole has been looted.” “That’s all right,” said Meldon. “I wouldn’t have liked to see poor old Thomas O’Flaherty Pat robbed by the Government any more than by Sir Giles. But how did you get the story? As far as I know Thomas O’Flaherty he’s not the sort of man to talk more than he need, and I never got more than half a dozen words and grin out of Mary Kate at one time.”
“The way of it was this,” said Father Mulcrone. “No sooner did Sir Giles and Langton leave us to go down to the Aureole than all the children on the island, seven or eight of them, began to boo at them and throw stones. Mary Kate O’Flaherty was at the head of the crowd.”
“She would,” said Meldon. “I always said she was a high-spirited little thing besides being intelligent. I expect, now, she hit them with as many as three out of every four stones she threw.”
“I shouldn’t wonder,” said the priest. “Anyhow, Sir Giles lost his temper.” “He’s always doing that. I hope he
didn’t hurt Mary Kate in any way or use language that a little girl oughtn’t to listen to.”
“The language,” said Mr. Willoughby, “so far as I could hear it—I was some way off—was pretty bad. But he didn’t do the children any bodily harm.”
“It wasn’t for want of wishing to if he didn’t,” said the priest. “He looked as if he’d have been glad to skin the lot of them alive and pickle them afterwards.” “They ran for their lives, I suppose?” “No, then, they did not. But the fathers and the mothers of them came at Sir Giles with scythes and pitchforks and hayrakes and all sorts. It was then we thought we’d better interfere. Well, I’m not a coward exactly. You’ll give me credit for that. But I give you my word I didn’t fancy running into that crowd at all. I could have faced the men
right enough, but the women-! Did
ever you notice, Mr. Meldon, that a woman when she gets her blood up is twice as reckless as any man? She doesn’t care who she hits or where she hits him. I tell you I thought twice about facing the women. But the Chief Secretary is a hero, a regular hero.”
“It was nothing,” said Mr. Willoughby modestly. “I’m accustomed to women. A Cabinet Minister must be nowadays. If he didn’t get hardened to it he would be dead in a year.”
“Anyway you went for them like an hero,” said Father Mulcrone. “I never admired a man more.”
“I’ll tell you what it is,” said Meldon to the priest, “you ought to let him off those seed potatoes as a token of your respect and esteem.”
“I will,” said the priest. “I’ll do that.
I wish you’d seen young Mrs. O’Flaherty brandishing a flail and looking as if she’d skelp an archbishop if he came her way.”
“Had she Michael Pat with her?”
" “She had not.”
“Well, if nobody was left at home to mind Michael Pat I expect the old woman’s dead by now. But that can’t be helped. Go on with the story.”
“We got them quietened down after a bit,” said Father Mulcrone, “and then Mr. Willoughby made them a short speech.”
“And did old O’Flaherty get his treasure back safe?”
“I didn’t get any very definite information about the treasure,” said Mr. Willoughby.
“If you ask me,” said Father Mulcrone, “I should say that every man of the island has his own whack of that treasure by this time. If half old O’Flaherty says is true, they have money enough among them
TWO years later Major Kent took another cruise in the Spindrift, this time with a hired man to assist hirp in managing the boat. He anchored for an hour in the bay at Inishgowlan, and then, not feeling inclined to go ashore alone, sailed on to Inishmore. He found Father Mulcrone in the presbytery and invited him to spend the evening in the cabin of the
Spindrift. There had been a change of government some months before, and Mr. Willoughby had left Ireland. The priest j lamented his loss.
“The new man’s not his equal,” he said. “I don’t say but what he means well. Only it’s my belief that he’ll never understand this country. I met him when he was round seeing the West. I told him the way the treasure was found on Inishgowlan, and what do you think he said to me?”
“I don’t know,” said the Major. “What was it?”
“He said, ‘That’s a good story, Father Mulcrone.’ Now that was as much as to tell me to my face that the story wasn’t one an honest man would take his oath to in a court of justice. There’s unbelief for you. A fellow that starts off by thinking himself clever enough to know what’s true and what isn’t will do no good in Ireland. A simple-hearted, innocent kind of a man has a better chance.”
“One like Higginbotham?” said the Major.
“I hear he’s high up now, earning a good salary. He deserves it. How’s Mr. Meldon getting along with his parish?” “I was over there last summer,” said the Major.
“I was standing godfather to the baby. She had another godfather, too, which is unusual with a girl. It was Mr. Willoughby stood along with me.”
“And what did they call her?”
“Cecily May was the name the mother chose.”
“But what about the parish? I heard the men in it were a rough lot and disrespectful to their clergy.”
“They’re cured of that now. There was a man there, a sort of leader among the colliers, who set up to be an agnostic or something of that kind, and was for ever talking to the rest of them about the folly of believing what the clergy said.” “A fellow like that would turn the milk with his blasphemies. I’ve heard of
“Well, the Rev. J. J. used to go to that man’s house two evenings in the week and argue with him. The rest of the people took to coming to listen until they had to move into the schoolroom to accommodate the congregation. By the time I got over there that agnostic was singing in the choir with a surplice on
“He was convinced in the end, then?” “I’m not sure that he was convinced.
I was talking to him one day and he told me, privately, that he wasn’t any more persuaded than ever he was. He said he’d lost his taste for arguing. My own belief is that the man was cowed, and that if J. J. had wanted him to swear publicly to the truth of all the confessions of faith of all the Churches in Christendom he’d have done it for fear of having to argue any more. And he wasn’t the only man in the place that changed his way of living. There was more than one that gave up beating his wife on account of the amount of talk he got from J. J. whenever he was caught at it. The very worst of them mended their language. You’d see a man looking
round him and up and down the road before he’d venture on a simple ‘damn.’ I needn’t tell you, Father Mulcrone, that the necessity for that sort of precaution takes all the pleasure out of a swear. And as for drink-”
“What did he do about the drink? I’ve had my own trouble over that. Since ever the people of Inishgowlan got the gold out of the yacht I’ve been administering the temperance pledge to them in batches of half a dozen at a time, and often to the same lot twice in six months. I’d like to hear what Mr. Meldon did about the
“I don’t quite know how he did it,” said the Major, “but I’m told that whenever a man in that parish feels that he must have a burst he goes off somewhere else and doesn’t come back till there isn’t a sign left on him of what he’s been doing. And even so he’s generally made to feel sorry for himself.”
“I’d like to have a talk with Mr. Meldon about the way he manages.”