Part 2 out of 3
arter her," he said to himself softly.
A slow regular step in the gangway interrupted his paternal
reflections. Hastily buttoning across his chest the pea-jacket
which he usually wore at home as a single concession to his
nautical surroundings, he drew himself up with something of the
assumption of a ship-master, despite certain bucolic suggestions of
his boots and legs. The footsteps approached nearer, and a tall
figure suddenly stood in the doorway.
It was a figure so extraordinary that even in the strange
masquerade of that early civilization it was remarkable; a figure
with whom father and daughter were already familiar without
abatement of wonder--the figure of a rejuvenated old man, padded,
powdered, dyed, and painted to the verge of caricature, but without
a single suggestion of ludicrousness or humor. A face so
artificial that it seemed almost a mask, but, like a mask, more
pathetic than amusing. He was dressed in the extreme of fashion of
a dozen years before; his pearl gray trousers strapped tightly over
his varnished boots, his voluminous satin cravat and high collar
embraced his rouged cheeks and dyed whiskers, his closely-buttoned
frock coat clinging to a waist that seemed accented by stays.
He advanced two steps into the cabin with an upright precision of
motion that might have hid the infirmities of age, and said
deliberately with a foreign accent:--
In the actual presence of the apparition Mr. Nott's dignified
resistance wavered. But glancing uneasily at his daughter and
seeing her calm eyes fixed on the speaker without embarrassment, he
folded his arms stiffly, and with a lofty simulation of examining
the ceiling, said,--
"Ahem! Rosa! The gentleman's account."
It was an infelicitous action. For the stranger, who evidently had
not noticed the presence of the young girl before, started, took a
step quickly forward, bent stiffly but profoundly over the little
hand that held the account, raised it to his lips, and with "a
thousand pardons, mademoiselle," laid a small canvas bag containing
the rent before the disorganized Mr. Nott and stiffly vanished.
That night was a troubled one to the simple-minded proprietor of
the good ship Pontiac. Unable to voice his uneasiness by further
discussion, but feeling that his late discomposing interview with
his lodger demanded some marked protest, he absented himself on the
plea of business during the rest of the evening, happily to his
daughter's utter obliviousness of the reason. Lights were burning
brilliantly in counting-rooms and offices, the feverish life of the
mercantile city was at its height. With a vague idea of entering
into immediate negotiations with Mr. Sleight for the sale of the
ship--as a direct way out of his present perplexity, he bent his
steps towards the financier's office, but paused and turned back
before reaching the door. He made his way to the wharf and gazed
abstractedly at the lights reflected in the dark, tremulous, jelly-
like water. But wherever he went he was accompanied by the absurd
figure of his lodger--a figure he had hitherto laughed at or half
pitied, but which now, to his bewildered comprehension, seemed to
have a fateful significance. Here a new idea seized him, and he
hurried back to the ship, slackening his pace only when he arrived
at his own doorway. Here he paused a moment and slowly ascended
the staircase. When he reached the passage he coughed slightly and
paused again. Then he pushed open the door of the darkened cabin
and called softly:--
"What is it, father?" said Rosey's voice from the little state-room
on the right--Rosey's own bower.
"Nothing!" said Mr. Nott, with an affectation of languid calmness;
"I only wanted to know if you was comfortable. It's an awful busy
night in town."
"I reckon thar's tons o' gold goin' to the States tomorrow."
"Pretty comfortable, eh?"
"Well, I'll browse round a spell, and turn in myself, soon."
Mr. Nott took down a hanging lantern, lit it, and passed out into
the gangway. Another lamp hung from the companion hatch to light
the tenants to the lower deck, whence he descended. This deck was
divided fore and aft by a partitioned passage,--the lofts or
apartments being lighted from the ports, and one or two by a door
cut through the ship's side communicating with an alley on either
side. This was the case with the loft occupied by Mr. Nott's
strange lodger, which, besides a door in the passage, had this
independent communication with the alley. Nott had never known him
to make use of the latter door; on the contrary, it was his regular
habit to issue from his apartment at three o'clock every afternoon,
dressed as he has been described, stride deliberately through the
passage to the upper deck and thence into the street, where his
strange figure was a feature of the principal promenade for two or
three hours, returning as regularly at eight o'clock to the ship
and the seclusion of his loft. Mr. Nott paused before the door,
under the pretence of throwing the light before him into the
shadows of the forecastle; all was silent within. He was turning
back when he was impressed by the regular recurrence of a peculiar
rustling sound which he had at first referred to the rubbing of the
wires of the swinging lantern against his clothing. He set down
the light and listened; the sound was evidently on the other side
of the partition; the sound of some prolonged, rustling, scraping
movement, with regular intervals. Was it due to another of Mr.
Nott's unprofitable tenants--the rats? No. A bright idea flashed
upon Mr. Nott's troubled mind. It was de Ferrieres snoring! He
smiled grimly. "Wonder if Rosey'd call him a gentleman if she
heard that," he chuckled to himself as he slowly made his way back
to the cabin and the small state-room opposite to his daughter's.
During the rest of the night he dreamed of being compelled to give
Rosey in marriage to his strange lodger, who added insult to the
outrage by snoring audibly through the marriage service.
Meantime, in her cradle-like nest in her nautical bower, Miss Rosey
slumbered as lightly. Waking from a vivid dream of Venice--a
child's Venice--seen from the swelling deck of the proudly-riding
Pontiac, she was so impressed as to rise and cross on tiptoe to the
little slanting porthole. Morning was already dawning over the
flat, straggling city, but from every counting-house and magazine
the votive tapers of the feverish worshipers of trade and mammon
were still flaring fiercely.
The day following "steamer night" was usually stale and flat at San
Francisco. The reaction from the feverish exaltation of the
previous twenty-four hours was seen in the listless faces and
lounging feet of promenaders, and was notable in the deserted
offices and warehouses still redolent of last night's gas, and
strewn with the dead ashes of last night's fires.
There was a brief pause before the busy life which ran its course
from "steamer day" to steamer day was once more taken up. In that
interval a few anxious speculators and investors breathed freely,
some critical situation was relieved, or some impending catastrophe
momentarily averted. In particular, a singular stroke of good
fortune that morning befell Mr. Nott. He not only secured a new
tenant, but, as he sagaciously believed, introduced into the
Pontiac a counteracting influence to the subtle fascinations of de
The new tenant apparently possessed a combination of business
shrewdness and brusque frankness that strongly impressed his
landlord. "You see, Rosey," said Nott, complacently describing the
interview to his daughter, "when I sorter intimated in a keerless
kind o' way that sugar kettles and hair dye was about played out ez
securities, he just planked down the money for two months in
advance. 'There,' sez he, 'that's YOUR SECURITY--now where's
MINE?' 'I reckon I don't hitch on, pardner,' sez I; 'security what
for?' ''Spose you sell the ship?' sez he, 'afore the two months is
up. I've heard that old Sleight wants to buy her.' 'Then you gets
back your money,' sez I. 'And lose my room,' sez he; 'not much,
old man. You sign a paper that whoever buys the ship inside o' two
months hez to buy ME ez a tenant with it; that's on the square.'
So I sign the paper. It was mighty cute in the young feller,
wasn't it?" he said, scanning his daughter's pretty puzzled face a
little anxiously; "and don't you see ez I ain't goin' to sell the
Pontiac, it's just about ez cute in me, eh? He's a contractor
somewhere around yer, and wants to be near his work. So he takes
the room next to the Frenchman, that that ship captain quit for the
mines, and succeeds naterally to his chest and things. He's might
peart-lookin, that young feller, Rosey--long black moustaches, all
his own color, Rosey--and he's a regular high-stepper, you bet. I
reckon he's not only been a gentleman, but ez NOW. Some o' them
contractors are very high-toned!"
"I don't think we have any right to give him the captain's chest,
father," said Rosey; "there may be some private things in it.
There were some letters and photographs in the hair-dye man's trunk
that you gave the photographer."
"That's just it, Rosey," returned Abner Nott with sublime
unconsciousness, "photographs and love letters you can't sell for
cash, and I don't mind givin' 'em away, if they kin make a feller
"But, father, have we the RIGHT to give 'em away?"
"They're collateral security, Rosey," said her father grimly. "Co-
la-te-ral," he continued, emphasizing each syllable by tapping the
fist of one hand in the open palm of the other. "Co-la-te-ral is
the word the big business sharps yer about call 'em. You can't get
round that." He paused a moment, and then, as a new idea seemed to
be painfully borne in his round eyes, continued cautiously: "Was
that the reason why you woudn't touch any of them dresses from the
trunks of that opery gal ez skedaddled for Sacramento? And yet
them trunks I regularly bought at auction--Rosey--at auction, on
spec--and they didn't realize the cost of drayage."
A slight color mounted to Rosey's face. "No," she said, hastily,
"not that." Hesitating a moment she then drew softly to his side,
and, placing her arms around his neck, turned his broad, foolish
face towards her own. "Father," she began, "when mother died,
would YOU have liked anybody to take her trunks and paw around her
things and wear them?"
"When your mother died, just this side o' Sweetwater, Rosey," said
Mr. Nott, with beaming unconsciousness, "she hadn't any trunks. I
reckon she hadn't even an extra gown hanging up in the wagin, 'cept
the petticoat ez she had wrapped around yer. It was about ez much
ez we could do to skirmish round with Injins, alkali, and cold, and
we sorter forgot to dress for dinner. She never thought, Rosey,
that you and me would live to be inhabitin' a paliss of a real
ship. Ef she had she would have died a proud woman."
He turned his small, loving, boar-like eyes upon her as a
preternaturally innocent and trusting companion of Ulysses might
have regarded the transforming Circe. Rosey turned away with the
faintest sigh. The habitual look of abstraction returned to her
eyes as if she had once more taken refuge in her own ideal world.
Unfortunately the change did not escape either the sensitive
observation or the fatuous misconception of the sagacious parent.
"Ye'll be mountin' a few furbelows and fixins, Rosey, I reckon, ez
only natural. Mabbee ye'll have to prink up a little now that
we've got a gentleman contractor in the ship. I'll see what I kin
pick up in Montgomery Street." And indeed he succeeded a few hours
later in accomplishing with equal infelicity his generous design.
When she returned from her household tasks she found on her berth a
purple velvet bonnet of extraordinary make, and a pair of white
satin slippers. "They'll do for a start off, Rosey," he explained,
"and I got 'em at my figgers."
"But I go out so seldom, father, and a bonnet--"
"That's so," interrupted Mr. Nott, complacently, "it might be jest
ez well for a young gal like yer to appear ez if she DID go out, or
would go out if she wanted to. So you kin be wearin' that ar
headstall kinder like this evening when the contractor's here, ez
if you'd jest come in from a pasear."
Miss Rosey did not however immediately avail herself of her
father's purchase, but contented herself with the usual scarlet
ribbon that like a snood confined her brown hair, when she returned
to her tasks. The space between the galley and the bulwarks had
been her favorite resort in summer when not actually engaged in
household work. It was now lightly roofed over with boards and
tarpaulin against the winter rain, but still afforded her a
veranda-like space before the gallery door, where she could read or
sew, looking over the bow of the Pontiac to the tossing bay or the
further range of the Contra Costa hills.
Hither Miss Rosey brought the purple prodigy, partly to please her
father, partly with a view of subjecting it to violent radical
changes. But after trying it on before the tiny mirror in the
galley once or twice, her thoughts wandered away, and she fell into
one of her habitual reveries seated on a little stool before the
She was roused from it by the slight shaking and rattling of the
doors of a small hatch on the deck, not a dozen yards from where
she sat. It had been evidently fastened from below during the wet
weather, but as she gazed, the fastenings were removed, the doors
were suddenly lifted, and the head and shoulders of a young man
emerged from the deck. Partly from her father's description, and
partly from the impossibility of its being anybody else, she at
once conceived it to be the new lodger. She had time to note that
he was young and good-looking, graver perhaps than became his
sudden pantomimic appearance, but before she could observe him
closely, he had turned, closed the hatch with a certain familiar
dexterity, and walked slowly towards the bows. Even in her slight
bewilderment, she observed that his step upon the deck seemed
different to her father's or the photographer's, and that he laid
his hand on various objects with a half-caressing ease and habit.
Presently he paused and turned back, and glancing at the galley
door for the first time encountered her wondering eyes.
It seemed so evident that she had been a curious spectator of his
abrupt entrance on deck that he was at first disconcerted and
confused. But after a second glance at her he appeared to resume
his composure, and advanced a little defiantly towards the galley.
"I suppose I frightened you, popping up the fore hatch just now?"
"The what?" asked Rosey.
"The fore hatch," he repeated impatiently, indicating it with a
"And that's the fore hatch?" she said abstractedly. "You seem to
"Yes--a little," he said quietly. "I was below, and unfastened the
hatch to come up the quickest way and take a look round. I've just
hired a room here," he added explanatorily.
"I thought so," said Rosey simply; "you're the contractor?"
"The contractor!--oh, yes! You seem to know it all."
"Father's told me."
"Oh, he's your father--Nott? Certainly. I see now," he continued,
looking at her with a half repressed smile. "Certainly, Miss Nott,
good morning," he half added and walked towards the companion way.
Something in the direction of his eyes as he turned away made Rosey
lift her hands to her head. She had forgotten to remove her
father's baleful gift.
She snatched it off and ran quickly to the companion way.
"Sir!" she called.
The young man turned half way down the steps and looked up. There
was a faint color in her cheeks, and her pretty brown hair was
slightly disheveled from the hasty removal of the bonnet.
"Father's very particular about strangers being on this deck," she
said a little sharply.
"Oh--ah--I'm sorry I intruded."
"I--I--thought I'd tell you," said Rosey, frightened by her
boldness into a feeble anti-climax.
She came back slowly to the galley and picked up the unfortunate
bonnet with a slight sense of remorse. Why should she feel angry
with her poor father's unhappy offering? And what business had
this strange young man to use the ship so familiarly? Yet she was
vaguely conscious that she and her father, with all their love and
their domestic experience of it, lacked a certain instinctive ease
in its possession that the half indifferent stranger had shown on
first treading its deck. She walked to the hatchway and examined
it with a new interest. Succeeding in lifting the hatch, she gazed
at the lower deck. As she already knew the ladder had long since
been removed to make room for one of the partitions, the only way
the stranger could have reached it was by leaping to one of the
rings. To make sure of this she let herself down holding on to the
rings, and dropped a couple of feet to the deck below. She was in
the narrow passage her father had penetrated the previous night.
Before her was the door leading to de Ferrieres's loft, always
locked. It was silent within; it was the hour when the old
Frenchman made his habitual promenade in the city. But the light
from the newly-opened hatch allowed her to see more of the
mysterious recesses of the forward bulkhead than she had known
before, and she was startled by observing another yawning hatch-way
at her feet from which the closely-fitting door had been lifted,
and which the new lodger had evidently forgotten to close again.
The young girl stooped down and peered cautiously into the black
abyss. Nothing was to be seen, nothing heard but the distant
gurgle and click of water in some remoter depth. She replaced the
hatch and returned by way of the passage to the cabin.
When her father came home that night she briefly recounted the
interview with the new lodger, and her discovery of his curiosity.
She did this with a possible increase of her usual shyness and
abstraction, and apparently more as a duty than a colloquial
recreation. But it pleased Mr. Nott also to give it more than his
usual misconception. "Looking round the ship, was he--eh, Rosey?"
he said with infinite archness. "In course, kinder sweepin' round
the galley, and offerin' to fetch you wood and water, eh?" Even
when the young girl had picked up her book with the usual faint
smile of affectionate tolerance, and then drifted away in its
pages, Mr. Nott chuckled audibly. "I reckon old Frenchy didn't
come by when the young one was bedevlin' you there."
"What, father?" said Rosey, lifting her abstracted eyes to his
At the moment it seemed impossible that any human intelligence
could have suspected deceit or duplicity in Rosey's clear gaze.
But Mr. Nott's intelligence was superhuman. "I was sayin' that Mr.
Ferrieres didn't happen in while the young feller was there--eh?"
"No, father," answered Rosey, with an effort to follow him out of
the pages of her book. "Why?"
But Mr. Nott did not reply. Later in the evening he awkwardly
waylaid the new lodger before the cabin door as that gentleman
would have passed on to his room.
"I'm afraid," said the young man, glancing at Rosey, "that I
intruded upon your daughter to-day. I was a little curious to see
the old ship, and I didn't know what part of it was private."
"There ain't no private part to this yer ship--that ez, 'cepting
the rooms and lofts," said Mr. Nott, authoritatively. Then,
subjecting the anxious look of his daughter to his usual faculty
for misconception, he added, "Thar ain't no place whar you haven't
as much right to go ez any other man; thar ain't any man, furriner
or Amerykan, young or old, dyed or undyed, ez hev got any better
rights. You hear me, young fellow. Mr. Renshaw--my darter. My
darter--Mr. Renshaw. Rosey, give the gentleman a chair. She's only
jest come in from a promeynade, and hez jest taken off her bonnet,"
he added, with an arch look at Rosey, and a hurried look around the
cabin, as if he hoped to see the missing gift visible to the
general eye. "So take a seat a minit, won't ye?"
But Mr. Renshaw, after an observant glance at the young girl's
abstracted face, brusquely excused himself, "I've got a letter to
write," he said, with a half bow to Rosey. "Good night."
He crossed the passage to the room that had been assigned to him,
and closing the door gave way to some irritability of temper in his
efforts to light the lamp and adjust his writing materials. For
his excuse to Mr. Nott was more truthful than most polite pretexts.
He had, indeed, a letter to write, and one that, being yet young in
duplicity, the near presence of his host rendered difficult. For
it ran as follows:--
"As I found I couldn't get a chance to make any examination of the
ship except as occasion offered, I just went in to rent lodgings in
her from the God-forsaken old ass who owns her, and here I am a
tenant for two months. I contracted for that time in case the old
fool should sell out to some one else before. Except that she's
cut up a little between decks by the partitions for lofts that that
Pike County idiot has put into her, she looks but little changed,
and her FORE-HOLD, as far as I can judge, is intact. It seems that
Nott bought her just as she stands, with her cargo half out, but he
wasn't here when she broke cargo. If anybody else had bought her
but this cursed Missourian, who hasn't got the hayseed out of his
hair, I might have found out something from him, and saved myself
this kind of fooling, which isn't in my line. If I could get
possession of a loft on the main deck, well forward, just over the
fore-hold, I could satisfy myself in a few hours, but the loft is
rented by that crazy Frenchman who parades Montgomery Street every
afternoon, and though old Pike County wants to turn him out, I'm
afraid I can't get it for a week to come.
"If anything should happen to me, just you waltz down here and
corral my things at once, for this old frontier pirate has a way of
confiscating his lodgers' trunks.
If Mr. Renshaw indulged in any further curiosity regarding the
interior of the Pontiac, he did not make his active researches
manifest to Rosey. Nor, in spite of her father's invitation, did
he again approach the galley--a fact which gave her her first vague
impression in his favor. He seemed also to avoid the various
advances which Mr. Nott appeared impelled to make, whenever they
met in the passage, but did so without seemingly avoiding HER, and
marked his half contemptuous indifference to the elder Nott by an
increase of respect to the young girl. She would have liked to ask
him something about ships, and was sure his conversation would have
been more interesting than that of old Captain Bower, to whose
cabin he had succeeded, who had once told her a ship was the
"devil's hen-coop." She would have liked also to explain to him
that she was not in the habit of wearing a purple bonnet. But her
thoughts were presently engrossed by an experience which
interrupted the even tenor of her young life.
She had been, as she afterwards remembered, impressed with a
nervous restlessness one afternoon, which made it impossible for
her to perform her ordinary household duties, or even to indulge
her favorite recreation of reading or castle building. She
wandered over the ship, and, impelled by the same vague feeling of
unrest, descended to the lower deck and the forward bulkhead where
she had discovered the open hatch. It had not been again
disturbed, nor was there any trace of further exploration. A
little ashamed, she knew not why, of revisiting the scene of Mr.
Renshaw's researches, she was turning back when she noticed that
the door which communicated with de Ferrieres's loft was partly
open. The circumstance was so unusual that she stopped before it
in surprise. There was no sound from within; it was the hour when
its queer occupant was always absent; he must have forgotten to
lock the door or it had been unfastened by other hands. After a
moment of hesitation she pushed it further open and stepped into
By the dim light of two port-holes she could see that the floor was
strewn and piled with the contents of a broken bale of curled horse
hair, of which a few untouched bales still remained against the
wall. A heap of morocco skins, some already cut in the form of
chair cushion covers, and a few cushions unfinished and unstuffed
lay in the light of the ports, and gave the apartment the
appearance of a cheap workshop. A rude instrument for combing the
horse hair, awls, buttons, and thread heaped on a small bench
showed that active work had been but recently interrupted. A cheap
earthenware ewer and basin on the floor, and a pallet made of an
open bale of horse hair, on which a ragged quilt and blanket were
flung, indicated that the solitary worker dwelt and slept beside
The truth flashed upon the young girl's active brain, quickened by
seclusion and fed by solitary books. She read with keen eyes the
miserable secret of her father's strange guest in the poverty-
stricken walls, in the mute evidences of menial handicraft
performed in loneliness and privation, in this piteous adaptation
of an accident to save the conscious shame of premeditated toil.
She knew now why he had stammeringly refused to receive her
father's offer to buy back the goods he had given him; she knew now
how hardly gained was the pittance that paid his rent and supported
his childish vanity and grotesque pride. From a peg in the corner
hung the familiar masquerade that hid his poverty--the pearl-gray
trousers, the black frock coat, the tall shining hat--in hideous
contrast to the penury of his surroundings. But if THEY were here,
where was HE, and in what new disguise had he escaped from his
poverty? A vague uneasiness caused her to hesitate and return to
the open door. She had nearly reached it when her eye fell on the
pallet which it partly illuminated. A singular resemblance in the
ragged heap made her draw closer. The faded quilt was a dressing-
gown, and clutching its folds lay a white, wasted hand.
The emigrant childhood of Rose Nott had been more than once
shadowed by scalping knives, and she was acquainted with Death.
She went fearlessly to the couch, and found that the dressing-gown
was only an enwrapping of the emaciated and lifeless body of de
Ferrieres. She did not retreat or call for help, but examined him
closely. He was unconscious, but not pulseless; he had evidently
been strong enough to open the door for air or succor, but had
afterward fallen in a fit on the couch. She flew to her father's
locker and the galley fire, returned, and shut the door behind her,
and by the skillful use of hot water and whisky soon had the
satisfaction of seeing a faint color take the place of the faded
rouge in the ghastly cheeks. She was still chafing his hands when
he slowly opened his eyes. With a start, he made a quick attempt
to push aside her hands and rise. But she gently restrained him.
"Eh--what!" he stammered, throwing his face back from hers with an
effort and trying to turn it to the wall.
"You have been ill," she said quietly. "Drink this."
With his face still turned away he lifted the cup to his chattering
teeth. When he had drained it he threw a trembling glance around
the room and at the door.
"There's no one been here but myself," she said quickly. "I
happened to see the door open as I passed. I didn't think it worth
while to call any one."
The searching look he gave her turned into an expression of relief,
which, to her infinite uneasiness, again feebly lightened into one
of antiquated gallantry. He drew the dressing-gown around him with
"Ah! it is a goddess, Mademoiselle, that has deigned to enter the
cell where--where--I--amuse myself. It is droll--is it not? I
came here to make--what you call--the experiment of your father's
fabric. I make myself--ha! ha!--like a workman. Ah, bah! the
heat, the darkness, the plebeian motion make my head to go round.
I stagger, I faint, I cry out, I fall. But what of that? The
great God hears my cry and sends me an angel. Voila!"
He attempted an easy gesture of gallantry, but overbalanced himself
and fell sideways on the pallet with a gasp. Yet there was so much
genuine feeling mixed with his grotesque affectation, so much
piteous consciousness of the ineffectiveness of his falsehood, that
the young girl, who had turned away, came back and laid her hand
upon his arm.
"You must lie still and try to sleep," she said gently. "I will
return again. Perhaps," she added, "there is some one I can send
He shook his head violently. Then in his old manner added, "After
"I mean--" she hesitated--"have you no friends?"
"Friends,--ah! without doubt." He shrugged his shoulders. "But
Mademoiselle will comprehend--"
"You are better now," said Rosey quickly, "and no one need know
anything if you don't wish it. Try to sleep. You need not lock
the door when I go; I will see that no one comes in."
He flushed faintly and averted his eyes. "It is too droll,
Mademoiselle, is it not?"
"Of course it is," said Rosey, glancing round the miserable room.
"And Mademoiselle is an angel."
He carried her hand to his lips humbly--his first purely unaffected
action. She slipped through the door, and softly closed it behind
Reaching the upper deck she was relieved to find her father had not
returned, and her absence had been unnoticed. For she had resolved
to keep de Ferrieres's secret to herself from the moment that she
had unwittingly discovered it, and to do this and still be able to
watch over him without her father's knowledge required some
caution. She was conscious of his strange aversion to the
unfortunate man without understanding the reason, but as she was in
the habit of entertaining his caprices more from affectionate
tolerance of his weakness than reverence of his judgment, she saw
no disloyalty to him in withholding a confidence that might be
disloyal to another. "It won't do father any good to know it," she
said to herself, "and if it DID it oughtn't to," she added with
triumphant feminine logic. But the impression made upon her by the
spectacle she had just witnessed was stronger than any other
consideration. The revelation of de Ferrieres's secret poverty
seemed a chapter from a romance of her own weaving; for a moment it
lifted the miserable hero out of the depths of his folly and
selfishness. She forgot the weakness of the man in the strength of
his dramatic surroundings. It partly satisfied a craving she had
felt; it was not exactly the story of the ship, as she had dreamed
it, but it was an episode in her experience of it that broke its
monotony. That she should soon learn, perhaps from de Ferrieres's
own lips, the true reason of his strange seclusion, and that it
involved more than appeared to her now, she never for a moment
At the end of an hour she again knocked softly at the door,
carrying some light nourishment she had prepared for him. He was
asleep, but she was astounded to find that in the interval he had
managed to dress himself completely in his antiquated finery. It
was a momentary shock to the illusion she had been fostering, but
she forgot it in the pitiable contrast between his haggard face and
his pomatumed hair and beard, the jauntiness of his attire, and the
collapse of his invalid figure. When she had satisfied herself
that his sleep was natural, she busied herself softly in arranging
the miserable apartment. With a few feminine touches she removed
the slovenliness of misery, and placed the loose material and
ostentatious evidences of his work on one side. Finding that he
still slept, and knowing the importance of this natural medication,
she placed the refreshment she had brought by his side and
noiselessly quitted the apartment. Hurrying through the gathering
darkness between decks, she once or twice thought she had heard
footsteps, and paused, but encountering no one, attributed the
impression to her over-consciousness. Yet she thought it prudent
to go to the galley first, where she lingered a few moments before
returning to the cabin. On entering she was a little startled at
observing a figure seated at her father's desk, but was relieved at
finding it was Mr. Renshaw.
He rose and put aside the book he had idly picked up. "I am afraid
I am an intentional intruder this time, Miss Nott. But I found no
one here, and I was tempted to look into this ship-shape little
snuggery. You see the temptation got the better of me."
His voice and smile were so frank and pleasant, so free from his
previous restraint, yet still respectful, so youthful yet manly,
that Rosey was affected by them even in her preoccupation. Her
eyes brightened and then dropped before his admiring glance. Had
she known that the excitement of the last few hours had brought a
wonderful charm into her pretty face, had aroused the slumbering
life of her half-awakened beauty, she would have been more
confused. As it was, she was only glad that the young man should
turn out to be "nice." Perhaps he might tell her something about
ships; perhaps if she had only known him longer she might, with de
Ferrieres's permission, have shared her confidence with him, and
enlisted his sympathy and assistance. She contented herself with
showing this anticipatory gratitude in her face as she begged him,
with the timidity of a maiden hostess, to resume his seat.
But Mr. Renshaw seemed to talk only to make her talk, and I am
forced to admit that Rosey found this almost as pleasant. It was
not long before he was in possession of her simple history from the
day of her baby emigration to California to the transfer of her
childish life to the old ship, and even of much of the romantic
fancies she had woven into her existence there. Whatever ulterior
purpose he had in view, he listened as attentively as if her
artless chronicle was filled with practical information. Once,
when she had paused for breath, he said gravely, "I must ask you to
show me over this wonderful ship some day that I may see it with
"But I think you know it already better than I do," said Rosey with
Mr. Renshaw's brow clouded slightly. "Ah," he said, with a touch
of his former restraint; "and why?"
"Well," said Rosey timidly, "I thought you went round and touched
things in a familiar way as if you had handled them before."
The young man raised his eyes to Rosey's and kept them there long
enough to bring back his gentler expression. "Then, because I
found you trying on a very queer bonnet the first day I saw you,"
he said, mischievously, "I ought to believe you were in the habit
of wearing one."
In the first flush of mutual admiration young people are apt to
find a laugh quite as significant as a sigh for an expression of
sympathetic communion, and this master-stroke of wit convulsed them
both. In the midst of it Mr. Nott entered the cabin. But the
complacency with which he viewed the evident perfect understanding
of the pair was destined to suffer some abatement. Rosey, suddenly
conscious that she was in some way participating in ridicule of her
father through his unhappy gift, became embarrassed. Mr. Renshaw's
restraint returned with the presence of the old man. In vain, at
first, Abner Nott strove with profound levity to indicate his arch
comprehension of the situation, and in vain, later, becoming
alarmed, he endeavored, with cheerful gravity, to indicate his
utter obliviousness of any but a business significance in their
"I oughtn't to hev intruded, Rosey," he said, "when you and the
gentleman were talkin' of contracts, mebbee; but don't mind me.
I'm on the fly, anyhow, Rosey dear, hevin' to see a man round the
But even the attitude of withdrawing did not prevent the exit of
Renshaw to his apartment and of Rosey to the galley. Left alone in
the cabin, Abner Nott felt in the knots and tangles of his beard
for a reason. Glancing down at his prodigious boots which, covered
with mud and gravel, strongly emphasized his agricultural origin,
and gave him a general appearance of standing on his own broad
acres, he was struck with an idea. "It's them boots," he whispered
to himself, softly; "they somehow don't seem 'xactly to trump or
follow suit in this yer cabin; they don't hitch into anythin', but
jist slosh round loose, and, so to speak, play it alone. And them
young critters nat'rally feels it and gets out o' the way." Acting
upon this instinct with his usual precipitate caution, he at once
proceeded to the nearest second-hand shop, and, purchasing a pair
of enormous carpet slippers, originally the property of a gouty
sea-captain, reappeared with a strong suggestion of newly
upholstering the cabin. The improvement, however, was fraught with
a portentous circumstance. Mr. Nott's footsteps, which usually
announced his approach all over the ship, became stealthy and
Meantime Miss Rosey had taken advantage of the absence of her
father to visit her patient. To avoid attracting attention she did
not take a light, but groped her way to the lower deck and rapped
softly at the door. It was instantly opened by de Ferrieres. He
had apparently appreciated the few changes she had already made in
the room, and had himself cleared away the pallet from which he had
risen to make two low seats against the wall. Two bits of candle
placed on the floor illuminated the beams above, the dressing-gown
was artistically draped over the solitary chair, and a pile of
cushions formed another seat. With elaborate courtesy he handed
Miss Rosey to the chair. He looked pale and weak, though the
gravity of the attack had evidently passed. Yet he persisted in
remaining standing. "If I sit," he explained with a gesture, "I
shall again disgrace myself by sleeping in Mademoiselle's presence.
Yes! I shall sleep--I shall dream--and wake to find her gone?"
More embarrassed by his recovery than when he was lying helplessly
before her, she said hesitatingly that she was glad he was better,
and that she hoped he liked the broth.
"It was manna from heaven, Mademoiselle. See, I have taken it all--
every precious drop. What else could I have done for
He showed her the empty bowl. A swift conviction came upon her
that the man had been suffering from want of food. The thought
restored her self-possession even while it brought the tears to her
eyes. "I wish you would let me speak to father--or some one," she
said impulsively, and stopped.
A quick and half insane gleam of terror and suspicion lit up his
deep eyes. "For what, Mademoiselle! For an accident--that is
nothing--absolutely nothing, for I am strong and well now--see!" he
said tremblingly. "Or for a whim--for a folly you may say, that
they will misunderstand. No, Mademoiselle is good, is wise. She
will say to herself, 'I understand, my friend Monsieur de Ferrieres
for the moment has a secret. He would seem poor, he would take the
role of artisan, he would shut himself up in these walls--perhaps I
may guess why, but it is his secret. I think of it no more.'" He
caught her hand in his with a gesture that he would have made one
of gallantry, but that in its tremulous intensity became a piteous
"I have said nothing, and will say nothing, if you wish it," said
Rosey hastily; "but others may find out how you live here. This is
not fit work for you. You seem to be a--a gentleman. You ought to
be a lawyer, or a doctor, or in a bank," she continued timidly,
with a vague enumeration of the prevailing degrees of local
He dropped her hand. "Ah! does not Mademoiselle comprehend that it
is BECAUSE I am a gentleman that there is nothing between it and
this? Look!" he continued almost fiercely. "What if I told you it
is the lawyer, it is the doctor, it is the banker that brings me, a
gentleman, to this, eh? Ah, bah! What do I say? This is honest,
what I do! But the lawyer, the banker, the doctor, what are they?"
He shrugged his shoulders, and pacing the apartment with a furtive
glance at the half anxious, half frightened girl, suddenly stopped,
dragged a small portmanteau from behind the heap of bales and
opened it. "Look, Mademoiselle," he said, tremulously lifting a
handful of worn and soiled letters and papers. "Look--these are
the tools of your banker, your lawyer, your doctor. With this the
banker will make you poor, the lawyer will prove you a thief, the
doctor will swear you are crazy, eh? What shall you call the work
of a gentleman--this"--he dragged the pile of cushions forward--"or
To the young girl's observant eyes some of the papers appeared to
be of a legal or official character, and others like bills of
lading, with which she was familiar. Their half-theatrical
exhibition reminded her of some play she had seen; they might be
the clue to some story, or the mere worthless hoardings of a
diseased fancy. Whatever they were, de Ferrieres did not
apparently care to explain further; indeed, the next moment his
manner changed to his old absurd extravagance. "But this is stupid
for Mademoiselle to hear. What shall we speak of? Ah, what SHOULD
we speak of in Mademoiselle's presence?"
"But are not these papers valuable?" asked Rosey, partly to draw
her host's thoughts back to their former channel.
"Perhaps." He paused and regarded the young girl fixedly. "Does
Mademoiselle think so?"
"I don't know," said Rosey. "How should I?"
"Ah! if Mademoiselle thought so--if Mademoiselle would deign--" He
stopped again and placed his hand upon his forehead. "It might be
so!" he muttered.
"I must go now," said Rosey, hurriedly, rising with an awkward
sense of constraint. "Father will wonder where I am."
"I shall explain. I will accompany you, Mademoiselle."
"No, no," said Rosey, quickly; "he must not know I have been here!"
She stopped. The honest blush flew to her cheek, and then returned
again, because she had blushed.
De Ferrieres gazed at her with an exalted look. Then drawing
himself to his full height, he said, with an exaggerated and
indescribable gesture, "Go, my child, go. Tell your father that
you have been alone and unprotected in the abode of poverty and
suffering, but--that it was in the presence of Armand de
He threw open the door with a bow that nearly swept the ground, but
did not again offer to take her hand. At once impressed and
embarrassed at this crowning incongruity, her pretty lip trembled
between a smile and a cry as she said, "Good-night," and slipped
away into the darkness.
Erect and grotesque de Ferrieres retained the same attitude until
the sound of her footsteps was lost, when he slowly began to close
the door. But a strong arm arrested it from without, and a large
carpeted foot appeared at the bottom of the narrowing opening. The
door yielded, and Mr. Abner Nott entered the room.
With an exclamation and a hurried glance around him, de Ferrieres
threw himself before the intruder. But slowly lifting his large
hand, and placing it on his lodger's breast, he quietly overbore
the sick man's feeble resistance with an impact of power that
seemed almost as moral as it was physical. He did not appear to
take any notice of the room or its miserable surroundings; indeed,
scarcely of the occupant. Still pushing him, with abstracted eyes
and immobile face, to the chair that Rosey had just quitted, he
made him sit down, and then took up his own position on the pile of
cushions opposite. His usually underdone complexion was of watery
blueness; but his dull, abstracted glance appeared to exercise a
certain dumb, narcotic fascination on his lodger.
"I mout," said Nott, slowly, "hev laid ye out here on sight,
without enny warnin', or dropped ye in yer tracks in Montgomery
Street, wherever ther was room to work a six-shooter in comf'ably?
Johnson, of Petaluny--him, ye know, ez had a game eye--fetched
Flynn comin' outer meetin' one Sunday, and it was only on account
of his wife, and she a second-hand one, so to speak. There was
Walker, of Contra Costa, plugged that young Sacramento chap, whose
name I disremember, full o' holes just ez HE was sayin' 'Good by'
to his darter. I mout hev done all this if it had settled things
to please me. For while you and Flynn and that Sacramento chap ez
all about the same sort o' men, Rosey's a different kind from their
sort o' women."
"Mademoiselle is an angel!" said de Ferrieres, suddenly rising,
with an excess of extravagance. "A saint! Look! I cram the lie,
ha! down his throat who challenges it."
"Ef by mam'selle ye mean my Rosey," said Nott, quietly laying his
powerful hands on de Ferrieres's shoulders, and slowly pinning him
down again upon his chair, "ye're about right, though she ain't
mam'selle yet. Ez I was sayin', I might hev killed you off-hand if
I hed thought it would hev been a good thing for Rosey."
"For her? Ah, well! Look, I am ready," interrupted de Ferrieres,
again springing to his feet, and throwing open his coat with both
hands. "See! here at my heart--fire!"
"Ez I was sayin'," continued Nott, once more pressing the excited
man down in his chair, "I might hev wiped ye out--and mebbee ye
wouldn't hev keered--or YOU might hev wiped ME out, and I mout hev
said, 'Thank'ee,' but I reckon this ain't a case for what's
comf'able for you and me. It's what's good for ROSEY. And the
thing to kalkilate is, what's to be done."
His small round eyes for the first time rested on de Ferrieres's
face, and were quickly withdrawn. It was evident that this
abstracted look, which had fascinated his lodger, was merely a
resolute avoidance of de Ferrieres's glance, and it became apparent
later that this avoidance was due to a ludicrous appreciation of de
"And after we've done THAT we must kalkilate what Rosey is, and
what Rosey wants. P'raps, ye allow, YOU know what Rosey is?
P'raps you've seen her prance round in velvet bonnets and white
satin slippers, and sich. P'raps you've seen her readin' tracks
and v'yages, without waitin' to spell a word, or catch her breath.
But that ain't the Rosey ez I know. It's a little child ez uster
crawl in and out the tail-board of a Mizzouri wagon on the alcali
pizoned plains, where there wasn't another bit of God's mercy on
yearth to be seen for miles and miles. It's a little gal as uster
hunger and thirst ez quiet and mannerly ez she now eats and drinks
in plenty; whose voice was ez steady with Injins yelling round her
nest in the leaves on Sweetwater ez in her purty cabin up yonder.
THAT'S the gal ez I know! That's the Rosey ez my ole woman puts
into my arms one night arter we left Laramie when the fever was
high, and sez, 'Abner,' sez she, 'the chariot is swingin' low for
me to-night, but thar ain't room in it for her or you to git in or
hitch on. Take her and rare her, so we kin all jine on the other
shore,' sez she. And I'd knowed the other shore wasn't no
Kaliforny. And that night, p'raps, the chariot swung lower than
ever before, and my ole woman stepped into it, and left me and
Rosey to creep on in the old wagon alone. It's them kind o'
things," added Mr. Nott thoughtfully, "that seem to pint to my
killin' you on sight ez the best thing to be done. And yet Rosey
mightn't like it."
He had slipped one of his feet out of his huge carpet slippers,
and, as he reached down to put it on again, he added calmly: "And
ez to yer marrying HER it ain't to be done."
The utterly bewildered expression which transfigured de Ferrieres's
face at this announcement was unobserved by Nott's averted eyes,
nor did he perceive that his listener the next moment straightened
his erect figure and adjusted his cravat.
"Ef Rosey," he continued, "hez read in vy'ges and tracks in
Eyetalian and French countries of such chaps ez you and kalkilates
you're the right kind to tie to, mebbee it mout hev done if you'd
been livin' over thar in a pallis, but somehow it don't jibe in
over here and agree with a ship--and that ship lying comf'able
ashore in San Francisco. You don't seem to suit the climate, you
see, and your general gait is likely to stampede the other cattle.
Agin," said Nott, with an ostentation of looking at his companion
but really gazing on vacancy, "this fixed up, antique style of
yours goes better with them ivy kivered ruins in Rome and Palmyry
that Rosey's mixed you up with, than it would yere. I ain't
saying," he added as de Ferrieres was about to speak, "I ain't
sayin' ez that child ain't smitten with ye. It ain't no use to lie
and say she don't prefer you to her old father, or young chaps of
her own age and kind. I've seed it afor now. I suspicioned it
afor I seed her slip out o' this place to-night. Thar! keep your
hair on, such ez it is!" he added as de Ferrieres attempted a quick
deprecatory gesture. "I ain't askin yer how often she comes here,
nor what she sez to you nor you to her. I ain't asked her and I
don't ask you. I'll allow ez you've settled all the preliminaries
and bought her the ring and sich; I'm only askin' you now,
kalkilatin you've got all the keerds in your own hand, what you'll
take to step out and leave the board?"
The dazed look of de Ferrieres might have forced itself even upon
Nott's one-idead fatuity, had it not been a part of that
gentleman's system delicately to look another way at that moment so
as not to embarrass his adversary's calculation. "Pardon,"
stammered de Ferrieres, "but I do not comprehend!" He raised his
hand to his head. "I am not well--I am stupid. Ah, mon Dieu!"
"I ain't sayin'," added Nott more gently, "ez you don't feel bad.
It's nat'ral. But it ain't business. I'm asking you," he
continued, taking from his breast-pocket a large wallet, "how much
you'll take in cash now, and the rest next steamer day, to give up
Rosey and leave the ship."
De Ferrieres staggered to his feet despite Nott's restraining hand.
"To leave Mademoiselle and leave the ship?" he said huskily, "is it
"In course. Yer can leave things yer just ez you found 'em when
you came, you know," continued Nott, for the first time looking
around the miserable apartment. "It's a business job. I'll take
the bales back ag'in, and you kin reckon up what you're out,
countin' Rosey and loss o' time."
"He wishes me to go--he has said," repeated de Ferrieres to himself
"Ef you mean ME when you say HIM, and ez thar ain't any other man
around, I reckon you do--'yes!'"
"And he asks me--he--this man of the feet and the daughter--asks
me--de Ferrieres--what I will take," continued de Ferrieres,
buttoning his coat. "No! it is a dream!" He walked stiffly to the
corner where his portmanteau lay, lifted it, and going to the outer
door, a cut through the ship's side that communicated with the
alley, unlocked it and flung it open to the night. A thick mist
like the breath of the ocean flowed into the room.
"You ask me what I shall take to go," he said as he stood on the
threshold. "I shall take what YOU cannot give, Monsieur, but what
I would not keep if I stood here another moment. I take my Honor,
Monsieur, and--I take my leave!"
For a moment his grotesque figure was outlined in the opening, and
then disappeared as if he had dropped into an invisible ocean
below. Stupefied and disconcerted at this complete success of his
overtures, Abner Nott remained speechless, gazing at the vacant
space until a cold influx of the mist recalled him. Then he rose
and shuffled quickly to the door.
"Hi! Ferrers! Look yer--Say! Wot's your hurry, pardner?"
But there was no response. The thick mist, which hid the
surrounding objects, seemed to deaden all sound also. After a
moment's pause he closed the door, but did not lock it, and
retreating to the centre of the room remained blinking at the two
candles and plucking some perplexing problem from his beard.
Suddenly an idea seized him. Rosey! Where was she? Perhaps it
had been a preconcerted plan, and she had fled with him. Putting
out the lights, he stumbled hurriedly through the passage to the
gangway above. The cabin-door was open; there was the sound of
voices--Renshaw's and Rosey's. Mr. Nott felt relieved but not
unembarrassed. He would have avoided his daughter's presence that
evening. But even while making this resolution with characteristic
infelicity he blundered into the room. Rosey looked up with a
slight start; Renshaw's animated face was changed to its former
expression of inward discontent.
"You came in so like a ghost, father," said Rosey with a slight
peevishness that was new to her. "And I thought you were in town.
Don't go, Mr. Renshaw."
But Mr. Renshaw intimated that he had already trespassed upon Miss
Nott's time, and that no doubt her father wanted to talk with her.
To his surprise and annoyance, however, Mr. Nott insisted on
accompanying him to his room, and without heeding Renshaw's cold
"Good-night," entered and closed the door behind him.
"P'rap's," said Mr. Nott with a troubled air, "you disremember that
when you first kem here you asked me if you could hev that 'er loft
that the Frenchman had down stairs."
"No, I don't remember it," said Renshaw almost rudely. "But," he
added, after a pause, with an air of a man obliged to revive a
stale and unpleasant memory, "if I did--what about it?"
"Nuthin', only that you kin hev it to-morrow, ez that 'ere
Frenchman is movin' out," responded Nott. "I thought you was
sorter keen about it when you first kem."
"Umph! we'll talk about it to-morrow." Something in the look of
wearied perplexity with which Mr. Nott was beginning to regard his
own mal a propos presence, arrested the young man's attention.
"What's the reason you didn't sell this old ship long ago, take a
decent house in the town, and bring up your daughter like a lady?"
he asked with a sudden blunt good humor. But even this implied
blasphemy against the habitation he worshiped did not prevent Mr.
Nott from his usual misconstruction of the question.
"I reckon, now, Rosey's got high-flown ideas of livin' in a castle
with ruins, eh?" he said cunningly.
"Haven't heard her say," returned Renshaw abruptly. "Good-night."
Firmly convinced that Rosey had been unable to conceal from Mr.
Renshaw the influence of her dreams of a castellated future with de
Ferrieres, he regained the cabin. Satisfying himself that his
daughter had retired, he sought his own couch. But not to sleep.
The figure of de Ferrieres, standing in the ship side and melting
into the outer darkness, haunted him, and compelled him in dreams
to rise and follow him through the alleys and by-ways of the
crowded city. Again, it was a part of his morbid suspicion that he
now invested the absent man with a potential significance and an
unknown power. What deep-laid plans might he not form to possess
himself of Rosey, of which he, Abner Nott, would be ignorant?
Unchecked by the restraint of a father's roof he would now give
full license to his power. "Said he'd take his Honor with him,"
muttered Abner to himself in the dim watches of the night; "lookin'
at that sayin' in its right light, it looks bad."
The elaborately untruthful account which Mr. Nott gave his daughter
of de Ferrieres's sudden departure was more fortunate than his
usual equivocations. While it disappointed and slightly mortified
her, it did not seem to her inconsistent with what she already knew
of him. "Said his doctor had ordered him to quit town under an
hour, owing to a comin' attack of hay fever, and he had a friend
from furrin parts waitin' him at the Springs, Rosey," explained
Nott, hesitating between his desire to avoid his daughter's eyes
and his wish to observe her countenance.
"Was he worse?--I mean did he look badly, father?" inquired Rosey
"I reckon not exackly bad. Kinder looked ez if he mout be worse
soon ef he didn't hump hisself."
"Did you see him?--in his room?" asked Rosey anxiously. Upon the
answer to this simple question depended the future confidential
relations of father and daughter. If her father had himself
detected the means by which his lodger existed, she felt that her
own obligations to secrecy had been removed. But Mr. Nott's answer
disposed of this vain hope. It was a response after his usual
fashion to the question he IMAGINED she artfully wished to ask, i.
e. if he had discovered their rendezvous of the previous night.
This it was part of his peculiar delicacy to ignore. Yet his reply
showed that he had been unconscious of the one miserable secret
that he might have read easily.
"I was there an hour or so--him and me alone--discussin' trade. I
reckon he's got a good thing outer that curled horse hair, for I
see he's got in an invoice o' cushions. I've stored 'em all in the
forrard bulkhead until he sends for 'em, ez Mr. Renshaw hez taken
But although Mr. Renshaw had taken the loft, he did not seem in
haste to occupy it. He spent part of the morning in uneasily
pacing his room, in occasional sallies into the street from which
he purposelessly returned, and once or twice in distant and furtive
contemplation of Rosey at work in the galley. This last
observation was not unnoticed by the astute Nott, who at once
conceiving that he was nourishing a secret and hopeless passion for
Rosey, began to consider whether it was not his duty to warn the
young man of her preoccupied affections. But Mr. Renshaw's final
disappearance obliged him to withhold his confidence till morning.
This time Mr. Renshaw left the ship with the evident determination
of some settled purpose. He walked rapidly until he reached the
counting-house of Mr. Sleight, when he was at once shown into a
private office. In a few moments Mr. Sleight, a brusque but
passionless man, joined him.
"Well," said Sleight, closing the door carefully. "What news?"
"None," said Renshaw bluntly. "Look here, Sleight," he added,
turning to him suddenly. "Let me out of this game. I don't like
"Does that mean you've found nothing?" asked Sleight,
"It means that I haven't looked for anything, and that I don't
intend to without the full knowledge of that d----d fool who owns
"You've changed your mind since you wrote that letter," said
Sleight coolly, producing from a drawer the note already known to
the reader. Renshaw mechanically extended his hand to take it.
Mr. Sleight dropped the letter back into the drawer, which he
quietly locked. The apparently simple act dyed Mr. Renshaw's cheek
with color, but it vanished quickly, and with it any token of his
previous embarrassment. He looked at Sleight with the convinced
air of a resolute man who had at last taken a disagreeable step but
was willing to stand by the consequences.
"I HAVE changed my mind," he said coolly. "I found out that it was
one thing to go down there as a skilled prospector might go to
examine a mine that was to be valued according to his report of the
indications, but that it was entirely another thing to go and play
the spy in a poor devil's house in order to buy something he didn't
know he was selling and wouldn't sell if he did."
"And something that the man HE bought of didn't think of selling;
something HE himself never paid for, and never expected to buy,"
"But something that WE expect to buy from our knowledge of all
this, and it is that which makes all the difference."
"But you knew all this before."
"I never saw it in this light before! I never thought of it until
I was living there face to face with the old fool I was intending
to overreach. I never was SURE of it until this morning, when he
actually turned out one of his lodgers that I might have the very
room I required to play off our little game in comfortably. When
he did that, I made up my mind to drop the whole thing, and I'm
here to do it."
"And let somebody else take the responsibility--with the
percentage--unless you've also felt it your duty to warn Nott too,"
said Sleight with a sneer.
"You only dare say that to me, Sleight," said Renshaw quietly,
"because you have in that drawer an equal evidence of my folly and
my confidence; but if you are wise you will not presume too far on
either. Let us see how we stand. Through the yarn of a drunken
captain and a mutinous sailor you became aware of an unclaimed
shipment of treasure, concealed in an unknown ship that entered
this harbor. You are enabled, through me, to corroborate some
facts and identify the ship. You proposed to me, as a speculation,
to identify the treasure if possible before you purchased the ship.
I accepted the offer without consideration; on consideration I now
decline it, but without prejudice or loss to any one but myself.
As to your insinuation I need not remind you that my presence here
to-day refutes it. I would not require your permission to make a
much better bargain with a good natured fool like Nott than I could
with you. Or if I did not care for the business I could have
warned the girl--"
"The girl--what girl?"
Renshaw bit his lip but answered boldly, "The old man's daughter--a
poor girl--whom this act would rob as well as her father."
Sleight looked at his companion attentively. "You might have said
so at first, and let up on this camp-meetin' exhortation. Well
then--admitting you've got the old man and the young girl on the
same string, and that you've played it pretty low down in the short
time you've been there--I suppose, Dick Renshaw, I've got to see
your bluff. Well, how much is it! What's the figure you and she
have settled on?"
For an instant Mr. Sleight was in physical danger. But before he
had finished speaking Renshaw's quick sense of the ludicrous had so
far overcome his first indignation as to enable him even to admire
the perfect moral insensibility of his companion. As he rose and
walked towards the door, he half wondered that he had ever treated
the affair seriously. With a smile he replied:
"Far from bluffing, Sleight, I am throwing my cards on the table.
Consider that I've passed out. Let some other man take my hand.
Rake down the pot if you like, old man, I leave for Sacramento to-
When the door had closed behind him Mr. Sleight summoned his clerk.
"Is that petition for grading Pontiac Street ready?"
"I've seen the largest property holders, sir; they're only waiting
for you to sign first." Mr. Sleight paused and then affixed his
signature to the paper his clerk laid before him. "Get the other
names and send it up at once."
"If Mr. Nott doesn't sign, sir?"
"No matter. He will be assessed all the same." Mr. Sleight took
up his hat.
"The Lascar seaman that was here the other day has been wanting to
see you, sir. I said you were busy."
Mr. Sleight put down his hat. "Send him up."
Nevertheless Mr. Sleight sat down and at once abstracted himself so
completely as to be apparently in utter oblivion of the man who
entered. He was lithe and Indian-looking; bearing in dress and
manner the careless slouch without the easy frankness of a sailor.
"Well!" said Sleight without looking up.
"I was only wantin' to know ef you had any news for me, boss?"
"News?" echoed Sleight as if absently; "news of what?"
"That little matter of the Pontiac we talked about, boss," returned
the Lascar with an uneasy servility in the whites of his teeth and
"Oh," said Sleight, "that's played out. It's a regular fraud.
It's an old forecastle yarn, my man, that you can't reel off in the
The sailor's face darkened.
"The man who was looking into it has thrown the whole thing up. I
tell you it's played out!" repeated Sleight, without raising his
"It's true, boss--every word," said the Lascar, with an appealing
insinuation that seemed to struggle hard with savage earnestness.
"You can swear me, boss; I wouldn't lie to a gentleman like you.
Your man hasn't half looked, or else--it must be there, or--"
"That's just it," said Sleight slowly; "who's to know that your
friends haven't been there already?--that seems to have been your
"But no one knew it but me, until I told you, I swear to God. I
ain't lying, boss, and I ain't drunk. Say--don't give it up, boss.
That man of yours likely don't believe it, because he don't know
anything about it. I DO--I could find it."
A silence followed. Mr. Sleight remained completely absorbed in
his papers for some moments. Then glancing at the Lascar, he took
his pen, wrote a hurried note, folded it, addressed it, and,
holding it between his fingers, leaned back in his chair.
"If you choose to take this note to my man, he may give it another
show. Mind, I don't say that he WILL. He's going to Sacramento
to-night, but you could go down there and find him before he
starts. He's got a room there, I believe. While you're waiting
for him, you might keep your eyes open to satisfy yourself."
"Ay, ay, sir," said the sailor, eagerly endeavoring to catch the
eye of his employer. But Mr. Sleight looked straight before him,
and he turned to go.
"The Sacramento boat goes at nine," said Mr. Sleight quietly.
This time their glances met, and the Lascar's eye glistened with
subtle intelligence. The next moment he was gone, and Mr. Sleight
again became absorbed in his papers.
Meanwhile Renshaw was making his way back to the Pontiac with that
light-hearted optimism that had characterized his parting with
Sleight. It was this quality of his nature, fostered perhaps by
the easy civilization in which he moved, that had originally drawn
him into relations with the man he had just quitted; a quality that
had been troubled and darkened by those relations, yet, when they
were broken, at once returned. It consequently did not occur to
him that he had only selfishly compromised with the difficulty; it
seemed to him enough that he had withdrawn from a compact he
thought dishonorable; he was not called upon to betray his partner
in that compact merely to benefit others. He had been willing to
incur suspicion and loss to reinstate himself in his self-respect,
more he could not do without justifying that suspicion. The view
taken by Sleight was, after all, that which most business men would
take--which even the unbusiness-like Nott would take--which the
girl herself might be tempted to listen to. Clearly he could do
nothing but abandon the Pontiac and her owner to the fate he could
not in honor avert. And even that fate was problematical. It did
not follow that the treasure was still concealed in the Pontiac,
nor that Nott would be willing to sell her. He would make some
excuse to Nott--he smiled to think he would probably be classed in
the long line of absconding tenants--he would say good-by to Rosey,
and leave for Sacramento that night. He ascended the stairs to the
gangway with a freer breast than when he first entered the ship.
Mr. Nott was evidently absent, and after a quick glance at the
half-open cabin door, Renshaw turned towards the galley. But Miss
Rosey was not in her accustomed haunt, and with a feeling of
disappointment, which seemed inconsistent with so slight a cause,
he crossed the deck impatiently and entered his room. He was about
to close the door when the prolonged rustle of a trailing skirt in
the passage attracted his attention. The sound was so unlike that
made by any garment worn by Rosey that he remained motionless, with
his hand on the door. The sound approached nearer, and the next
moment a white veiled figure with a trailing skirt slowly swept
past the room. Renshaw's pulses halted for an instant in half
superstitious awe. As the apparition glided on and vanished in the
cabin door he could only see that it was the form of a beautiful
and graceful woman--but nothing more. Bewildered and curious, he
forgot himself so far as to follow it, and impulsively entered the
cabin. The figure turned, uttered a little cry, threw the veil
aside, and showed the half troubled, half blushing face of Rosey.
"I--beg--your pardon," stammered Renshaw; "I didn't know it was
"I was trying on some things," said Rosey, recovering her composure
and pointing to an open trunk that seemed to contain a theatrical
wardrobe--"some things father gave me long ago. I wanted to see if
there was anything I could use. I thought I was all alone in the
ship, but fancying I heard a noise forward I came out to see what
it was. I suppose it must have been you."
She raised her clear eyes to his, with a slight touch of womanly
reserve that was so incompatible with any vulgar vanity or girlish
coquetry that he became the more embarrassed. Her dress, too, of a
slightly antique shape, rich but simple, seemed to reveal and
accent a certain repose of gentlewomanliness, that he was now
wishing to believe he had always noticed. Conscious of a
superiority in her that now seemed to change their relations
completely, he alone remained silent, awkward, and embarrassed
before the girl who had taken care of his room, and who cooked in
the galley! What he had thoughtlessly considered a merely vulgar
business intrigue against her stupid father, now to his extravagant
fancy assumed the proportions of a sacrilege to herself.
"You've had your revenge, Miss Nott, for the fright I once gave
you," he said a little uneasily, "for you quite startled me just
now as you passed. I began to think the Pontiac was haunted. I
thought you were a ghost. I don't know why such a ghost should
FRIGHTEN anybody," he went on with a desperate attempt to recover
his position by gallantry. "Let me see--that's Donna Elvira's
dress--is it not?"
"I don't think that was the poor woman's name," said Rosey simply;
"she died of yellow fever at New Orleans as Signora somebody."
Her ignorance seemed to Mr. Renshaw so plainly to partake more of
the nun than the provincial that he hesitated to explain to her
that he meant the heroine of an opera.
"It seems dreadful to put on the poor thing's clothes, doesn't it?"
Mr. Renshaw's eyes showed so plainly that he thought otherwise,
that she drew a little austerely towards the door of her state-
"I must change these things before any one comes," she said dryly.
"That means I must go, I suppose. But couldn't you let me wait
here or in the gangway until then, Miss Nott? I am going away to-
night, and I mayn't see you again." He had not intended to say
this, but it slipped from his embarrassed tongue. She stopped with
her hand on the door.
"You are going away?"
"I--think--I must leave to-night. I have some important business
She raised her frank eyes to his. The unmistakable look of
disappointment that he saw in them gave his heart a sudden throb
and sent the quick blood to his cheeks.
"It's too bad," she said, abstractedly. "Nobody ever seems to stay
here long. Captain Bower promised to tell me all about the ship
and he went away the second week. The photographer left before he
finished the picture of the Pontiac; Monsieur de Ferrieres has only
just gone, and now YOU are going."
"Perhaps, unlike them, I have finished my season of usefulness
here," he replied, with a bitterness he would have recalled the
next moment. But Rosey, with a faint sigh, saying, "I won't be
long," entered the state-room and closed the door behind her.
Renshaw bit his lip and pulled at the long silken threads of his
moustache until they smarted. Why had he not gone at once? Why
was it necessary to say he might not see her again--and if he had
said it, why should he add anything more? What was he waiting for
now? To endeavor to prove to her that he really bore no
resemblance to Captain Bower, the photographer, the crazy Frenchman
de Ferrieres? Or would he be forced to tell her that he was
running away from a conspiracy to defraud her father--merely for
something to say? Was there ever such folly? Rosey was "not
long," as she had said, but he was beginning to pace the narrow
cabin impatiently when the door opened and she returned.
She had resumed her ordinary calico gown, but such was the
impression left upon Renshaw's fancy that she seemed to wear it
with a new grace. At any other time he might have recognized the
change as due to a new corset, which strict veracity compels me to
record Rosey had adopted for the first time that morning. Howbeit,
her slight coquetry seemed to have passed, for she closed the open
trunk with a return of her old listless air, and sitting on it
rested her elbows on her knees and her oval chin in her hands.
"I wish you would do me a favor," she said after a reflective
"Let me know what it is and it shall be done," replied Renshaw
"If you should come across Monsieur de Ferrieres, or hear of him, I
wish you would let me know. He was very poorly when he left here,
and I should like to know if he was better. He didn't say where he
was going. At least, he didn't tell father; but I fancy he and
father don't agree."
"I shall be very glad of having even THAT opportunity of making you
remember me, Miss Nott," returned Renshaw with a faint smile; "I
don't suppose either that it would be very difficult to get news of
your friend--everybody seems to know him."
"But not as I did," said Rosey with an abstracted little sigh.
Mr. Renshaw opened his brown eyes upon her. Was he mistaken? was
this romantic girl only a little coquette playing her provincial
airs on him? "You say he and your father didn't agree? That
means, I suppose, that YOU and he agreed?--and that was the
"I don't think father knew anything about it," said Rosey simply.
Mr. Renshaw rose. And this was what he had been waiting to hear!
"Perhaps," he said grimly, "you would also like news of the
photographer and Captain Bower, or did your father agree with them
"No," said Rosey quietly. She remained silent for a moment, and
lifting her lashes said, "Father always seemed to agree with YOU,
and that--" she hesitated.
"That's why YOU don't."
"I didn't say that," said Rosey with an incongruous increase of
coldness and color. "I only meant to say it was that which makes
it seem so hard you should go now."
Notwithstanding his previous determination Renshaw found himself
sitting down again. Confused and pleased, wishing he had said
more--or less--he said nothing, and Rosey was forced to continue.
"It's strange, isn't it--but father was urging me this morning to
make a visit to some friends at the old Ranch. I didn't want to
go. I like it much better here."
"But you cannot bury yourself here forever, Miss Nott," said
Renshaw with a sudden burst of honest enthusiasm. "Sooner or later
you will be forced to go where you will be properly appreciated,
where you will be admired and courted, where your slightest wish
will be law. Believe me, without flattery, you don't know your own
"It doesn't seem strong enough to keep even the little I like
here," said Rosey with a slight glistening of the eyes. "But," she
added hastily, "you don't know how much the dear old ship is to me.
It's the only home I think I ever had."
"But the Ranch?" said Renshaw.
"The Ranch seemed to be only the old wagon halted in the road. It
was a very little improvement on outdoors," said Rosey with a
little shiver. "But this is so cozy and snug and yet so strange
and foreign. Do you know I think I began to understand why I like
it so since you taught me so much about ships and voyages. Before
that I only learned from books. Books deceive you, I think, more
than people do. Don't you think so?"
She evidently did not notice the quick flush that covered his
cheeks and apparently dazzled his troubled eyelid for she went on
"I was thinking of you yesterday. I was sitting by the galley
door, looking forward. You remember the first day I saw you when
you startled me by coming up out of the hatch?"
"I wish you wouldn't think of that," said Renshaw, with more
earnestness than he would have made apparent.
"I don't want to either," said Rosey, gravely, "for I've had a
strange fancy about it. I saw once when I was younger, a picture
in a print shop in Montgomery Street that haunted me. I think it
was called 'The Pirate.' There was a number of wicked-looking
sailors lying around the deck, and coming out of a hatch was one
figure with his hands on the deck and a cutlass in his mouth."
"Thank you," said Renshaw.
"You don't understand. He was horrid-looking, not at all like you.
I never thought of HIM when I first saw you; but the other day I
thought how dreadful it would have been if some one like him and
not like you had come up then. That made me nervous sometimes of
being alone. I think father is too. He often goes about
stealthily at night, as if he was watching for something."
Renshaw's face grew suddenly dark. Could it be possible that
Sleight had always suspected him, and set spies to watch--or was he
guilty of some double intrigue?
"He thinks," continued Rosey with a faint smile, "that some one is
looking around the ship, and talks of setting bear-traps. I hope
you're not mad, Mr. Renshaw," she added, suddenly catching sight of
his changed expression, "at my foolishness in saying you reminded
me of the pirate. I meant nothing."
"I know you're incapable of meaning anything but good to anybody,
Miss Nott, perhaps to me more than I deserve," said Renshaw with a
sudden burst of feeling. "I wish--I wish--you would do ME a favor.
YOU asked me one just now." He had taken her hand. It seemed so
like a mere illustration of his earnestness, that she did not
withdraw it. "Your father tells you everything. If he has any
offer to dispose of the ship, will you write to me at once before
anything is concluded?" He winced a little--the sentence of
Sleight, "What's the figure you and she have settled upon?" flashed
across his mind. He scarcely noticed that Rosey had withdrawn her
"Perhaps you had better speak to father, as it is HIS business.
Besides, I shall not be here. I shall be at the Ranch."
"But you said you didn't want to go?"
"I've changed my mind," said Rosey listlessly. "I shall go to-
She rose as if to indicate that the interview was ended. With an
overpowering instinct that his whole future happiness depended upon
his next act, he made a step towards her, with eager outstretched
hands. But she slightly lifted her own with a warning gesture, "I
hear father coming--you will have a chance to talk BUSINESS with
him," she said, and vanished into her state-room.
The heavy tread of Abner Nott echoed in the passage. Confused and
embarrassed, Renshaw remained standing at the door that had closed
upon Rosey as her father entered the cabin. Providence, which
always fostered Mr. Nott's characteristic misconceptions, left that
perspicacious parent but one interpretation of the situation.
Rosey had evidently just informed Mr. Renshaw that she loved
"I was just saying 'good-by' to Miss Nott," said Renshaw, hastily
regaining his composure with an effort. "I am going to Sacramento
to-night, and will not return. I--"
"In course, in course," interrupted Nott, soothingly; "that's wot
you say now, and that's what you allow to do. That's wot they
"I mean," said Renshaw, reddening at what he conceived to be an
allusion to the absconding propensities of Nott's previous
tenants,--"I mean that you shall keep the advance to cover any loss
you might suffer through my giving up the rooms."
"Certingly," said Nott, laying his hand with a large sympathy on
Renshaw's shoulder; "but we'll drop that just now. We won't swap
hosses in the middle of the river. We'll square up accounts in
your room," he added, raising his voice that Rosey might overhear
him, after a preliminary wink at the young man. "Yes, sir, we'll
just square up and settle in there. Come along, Mr. Renshaw."
Pushing him with paternal gentleness from the cabin, with his hand
still upon his shoulder, he followed him into the passage. Half
annoyed at his familiarity, yet not altogether displeased by this
illustration of Rosey's belief of his preference, Renshaw
wonderingly accompanied him. Nott closed the door, and pushing the
young man into a chair, deliberately seated himself at the table
opposite. "It's just as well that Rosey reckons that you and me is
settlin' our accounts," he began, cunningly, "and mebbee it's just
ez well ez she should reckon you're goin' away."
"But I AM going," interrupted Renshaw, impatiently. "I leave to-
"Surely, surely," said Nott, gently, "that's wot you kalkilate to
do; that's just nat'ral in a young feller. That's about what I
reckon I'D hev done to her mother if anythin' like this hed ever
cropped up, which it didn't. Not but what Almiry Jane had young
fellers enough round her, but, 'cept ole Judge Peter, ez was lamed
in the War of 1812, there ain't no similarity ez I kin see," he
"I am afraid I can't see any similarity either, Mr. Nott," said
Renshaw, struggling between a dawning sense of some impending
absurdity and his growing passion for Rosey. "For Heaven's sake
speak out if you've got anything to say."
Mr. Nott leaned forward, and placed his large hand on the young
man's shoulder. "That's it. That's what I sed to myself when I
seed how things were pintin'. 'Speak out,' sez I, 'Abner! Speak
out if you've got anything to say. You kin trust this yer Mr.
Renshaw. He ain't the kind of man to creep into the bosom of a
man's ship for pupposes of his own. He ain't a man that would hunt
round until he discovered a poor man's treasure, and then try to
"Stop!" said Renshaw, with a set face and darkening eyes. "WHAT
treasure? WHAT man are you speaking of?"
"Why Rosey and Mr. Ferrers," returned Nott, simply.
Renshaw sank into his seat again. But the expression of relief
which here passed swiftly over his face gave way to one of uneasy
interest as Nott went on.
"P'r'aps it's a little highfalutin talkin' of Rosey ez a treasure.
But, considerin', Mr. Renshaw, ez she's the only prop'ty I've kept
by me for seventeen years ez hez paid interest and increased in
valooe, it ain't sayin' too much to call her so. And ez Ferrers
knows this, he oughter been content with gougin' me in that horse-
hair spec, without goin' for Rosey. P'r'aps yer surprised at
hearing me speak o' my own flesh and blood ez if I was talkin'
hoss-trade, but you and me is bus'ness men, Mr. Renshaw, and we
discusses ez such. We ain't goin' to slosh round and slop over in
po'try and sentiment," continued Nott, with a tremulous voice, and
a hand that slightly shook on Renshaw's shoulder. "We ain't goin'
to git up and sing, 'Thou'st larned to love another thou'st broken
every vow we've parted from each other and my bozom's lonely now oh
is it well to sever such hearts as ourn for ever kin I forget thee
never farewell farewell farewell.' Ye never happen'd to hear Jim
Baker sing that at the moosic hall on Dupont Street, Mr. Renshaw,"
continued Mr. Nott, enthusiastically, when he had recovered from
that complete absence of punctuation which alone suggested verse to
his intellect. "He sorter struck water down here," indicating his
heart, "every time."
"But what has Miss Nott to do with M. de Ferrieres?" asked Renshaw,
with a faint smile.
Mr. Nott regarded him with dumb, round, astonished eyes. "Hezn't
she told yer?"
"And she didn't let on anythin' about him?" he continued, feebly.
"She said she'd liked to know where--" He stopped, with the
reflection that he was betraying her confidences.
A dim foreboding of some new form of deceit, to which even the man
before him was a consenting party, almost paralyzed Nott's
faculties. "Then she didn't tell yer that she and Ferrers was
sparkin' and keepin' kimpany together; that she and him was
engaged, and was kalkilatin' to run away to furrin parts; that she
cottoned to him more than to the ship or her father?"
"She certainly did not, and I shouldn't believe it," said Renshaw,
Nott smiled. He was amused; he astutely recognized the usual
trustfulness of love and youth. There was clearly no deceit here!
Renshaw's attentive eyes saw the smile, and his brow darkened.
"I like to hear yer say that, Mr. Renshaw," said Nott, "and it's no
more than Rosey deserves, ez it's suthing onnat'ral and spell-like
that's come over her through Ferrers. It ain't my Rosey. But it's
Gospel truth, whether she's bewitched or not; whether it's them
damn fool stories she reads--and it's like ez not he's just the
kind o' snipe to write 'em hisself, and sorter advertise hisself,
don't yer see--she's allus stuck up for him. They've had
clandesent interviews, and when I taxed him with it he ez much ez
allowed it was so, and reckoned he must leave, so ez he could run
her off, you know--kinder stampede her with 'honor.' Them's his
"But that is all past; he is gone, and Miss Nott does not even know
where he is!" said Renshaw, with a laugh, which, however, concealed
a vague uneasiness.
Mr. Nott rose and opened the door carefully. When he had satisfied
himself that no one was listening, he came back and said in a
whisper, "That's a lie. Not ez Rosey means to lie, but it's a
trick he's put upon that poor child. That man, Mr. Renshaw, hez
been hangin' round the Pontiac ever since. I've seed him twice
with my own eyes pass the cabin windys. More than that, I've heard
strange noises at night, and seen strange faces in the alley over
yer. And only jist now ez I kem in I ketched sight of a furrin
lookin' Chinee nigger slinking round the back door of what useter
be Ferrers's loft."
"Did he look like a sailor?" asked Renshaw quickly, with a return
of his former suspicion.
"Not more than I do," said Nott, glancing complacently at his pea-
jacket. "He had rings on his yeers like a wench."
Mr. Renshaw started. But seeing Nott's eyes fixed on him, he said
lightly, "But what have these strange faces and this strange man--
probably only a Lascar sailor out of a job--to do with Ferrieres?"
"Friends o' his--feller furrin citizens--spies on Rosey, don't you
see? But they can't play the old man, Mr. Renshaw. I've told
Rosey she must make a visit to the old Ranch. Once I've got her
ther safe, I reckon I kin manage Mr. Ferrers and any number of
Chinee niggers he kin bring along."
Renshaw remained for a few moments lost in thought. Then rising
suddenly he grasped Mr. Nott's hand with a frank smile but
determined eyes. "I haven't got the hang of this, Mr. Nott--the
whole thing gets me! I only know that I've changed my mind. I'm
NOT going to Sacramento. I shall stay HERE, old man, until I see
you safe through the business, or my name's not Dick Renshaw.
There's my hand on it! Don't say a word. Maybe it is no more than
I ought to do--perhaps not half enough. Only remember, not a word
of this to your daughter. She must believe that I leave to-night.
And the sooner you get her out of this cursed ship the better."
"Deacon Flint's girls are goin' up in to-night's boat. I'll send
Rosey with them," said Nott with a cunning twinkle. Renshaw
nodded. Nott seized his hand with a wink of unutterable
Left to himself Renshaw tried to review more calmly the
circumstances in these strange revelations that had impelled him to
change his resolution so suddenly. That the ship was under the
surveillance of unknown parties, and that the description of them
tallied with his own knowledge of a certain Lascar sailor, who was
one of Sleight's informants--seemed to be more than probable. That
this seemed to point to Sleight's disloyalty to himself while he
was acting as his agent, or a double treachery on the part of
Sleight's informants was in either case a reason and an excuse for
his own interference. But the connection of the absurd Frenchman
with the case, which at first seemed a characteristic imbecility of
his landlord, bewildered him the more he thought of it. Rejecting
any hypothesis of the girl's affection for the antiquated figure
whose sanity was a question of public criticism, he was forced to
the equally alarming theory that Ferrieres was cognizant of the
treasure, and that his attentions to Rosey were to gain possession
of it by marrying her. Might she not be dazzled by a picture of
this wealth? Was it not possible that she was already in part
possession of the secret, and her strange attraction to the ship,
and what he had deemed her innocent craving for information
concerning it, a consequence? Why had he not thought of this
before? Perhaps she had detected his purpose from the first, and
had deliberately checkmated him. The thought did not increase his
complacency as Nott softly returned.
"It's all right," he began with a certain satisfaction in this rare
opportunity for Machiavellian diplomacy, "it's all fixed now.
Rosey tumbled to it at once, partiklerly when I said you was bound
to go. 'But wot makes Mr. Renshaw go, father,' sez she; 'wot makes
everybody run away from the ship?' sez she, rather peart like and
sassy for her. 'Mr. Renshaw hez contractin' business,' sez I; 'got
a big thing up in Sacramento that'll make his fortun',' sez I--for
I wasn't goin' to give yer away, don't ye see. 'He had some
business to talk to you about the ship,' sez she, lookin' at me
under the corner of her pocket handkerchief. 'Lots o' business,'
sez I. 'Then I reckon he don't care to hev me write to him,' sez
she. 'Not a bit,' sez I, 'he wouldn't answer ye if ye did. Ye'll
never hear from that chap agin.'"
"But what the devil--" interrupted the young man impetuously.
"Keep yer hair on!" remonstrated the old man with dark
intelligence. "Ef you'd seen the way she flounced into her
stateroom!--she, Rosey, ez allus moves ez softly ez a spirit--you'd
hev wished I'd hev unloaded a little more. No sir, gals is gals in
some things all the time."
Renshaw rose and paced the room rapidly. "Perhaps I'd better speak
to her again before she goes," he said, impulsively.
"P'r'aps you'd better not," replied the imperturbable Nott.
Irritated as he was, Renshaw could not avoid the reflection that
the old man was right. What, indeed, could he say to her with his
present imperfect knowledge? How could she write to him if that
knowledge was correct?
"Ef," said Nott, kindly, with a laying on of large benedictory and
paternal hands, "ef yer are willin' to see Rosey agin, without
SPEAKIN' to her, I reckon I ken fix it for yer. I'm goin' to take
her down to the boat in half an hour. Ef yer should happen--mind,
ef yer should HAPPEN to be down there, seein' some friends off and
sorter promenadin' up and down the wharf like them high-toned chaps
on Montgomery Street--ye might ketch her eye unconscious like. Or,
ye might do this!" He rose after a moment's cogitation and with a
face of profound mystery opened the door and beckoned Renshaw to
follow him. Leading the way cautiously, he brought the young man
into an open unpartitioned recess beside her stateroom. It seemed
to be used as a storeroom, and Renshaw's eye was caught by a trunk
the size and shape of the one that had provided Rosey with the
materials of her masquerade. Pointing to it Mr. Nott said in a
grave whisper: "This yer trunk is the companion trunk to Rosey's.
SHE'S got the things them opery women wears; this yer contains the
HE things, the duds and fixin's o' the men o' the same stripe."
Throwing it open he continued: "Now, Mr. Renshaw, gals is gals;
it's nat'ral they should be took by fancy dress and store clothes
on young chaps as on theirselves. That man Ferrers hez got the
dead wood on all of ye in this sort of thing, and hez been playing,
so to speak, a lone hand all along. And ef thar's anythin' in
thar," he added, lifting part of a theatrical wardrobe, "that you
think you'd fancy--anythin' you'd like to put on when ye promenade
the wharf down yonder--it's yours. Don't ye be bashful, but help
It was fully a minute before Renshaw fairly grasped the old man's
meaning. But when he did--when the suggested spectacle of himself
arrayed a la Ferrieres, gravely promenading the wharf as a last
gorgeous appeal to the affections of Rosey, rose before his fancy,
he gave way to a fit of genuine laughter. The nervous tension of
the past few hours relaxed; he laughed until the tears came into
his eyes; he was still laughing when the door of the cabin was
suddenly opened and Rosey appeared cold and distant on the
"I--beg your pardon," stammered Renshaw hastily. "I didn't mean--
to disturb you--I--"
Without looking at him Rosey turned to her father. "I am ready,"
she said coldly, and closed the door again.
A glance of artful intelligence came into Nott's eyes, which had
remained blankly staring at Renshaw's apparently causeless
hilarity. Turning to him he winked solemnly. "That keerless kind
o' hoss-laff jist fetched her," he whispered, and vanished before
his chagrined companion could reply.
When Mr. Nott and his daughter departed Renshaw was not in the
ship, neither did he make a spectacular appearance on the wharf as
Mr. Nott had fondly expected, nor did he turn up again until after
nine o'clock, when he found the old man in the cabin awaiting his
return with some agitation.
"A minit ago," he said, mysteriously closing the door behind
Renshaw, "I heard a voice in the passage, and goin' out who should
I see agin but that darned furrin nigger ez I told yer 'bout,
kinder hidin' in the dark, his eyes shinin like a catamount, I was
jist reachin' for my weppins when he riz up with a grin and handed
me this yer letter. I told him I reckoned you'd gone to
Sacramento, but he said he wez sure you was in your room, and to
prove it I went thar. But when I kem back the d----d skunk had
vamoosed--got frightened I reckon--and wasn't nowhar to be seen."
Reashaw took the letter hastily. It contained only a line in
Sleight's hand. "If you change your mind, the bearer may be of
service to you."
He turned abruptly to Nott. "You say it was the same Lascar you
"Then all I can say is he is no agent of de Ferrieres's," said
Renshaw, turning away with a disappointed air. Mr. Nott would have
asked another question, but with an abrupt "Good-night" the young
man entered his room, locked the door, and threw himself on his bed
to reflect without interruption.
But if he was in no mood to stand Nott's fatuous conjectures, he
was less inclined to be satisfied with his own. Had he been again
carried away through his impulses evoked by the caprices of a
pretty coquette and the absurd theories of her half imbecile
father? Had he broken faith with Sleight and remained in the ship
for nothing, and would not his change of resolution appear to be
the result of Sleight's note? But why had the Lascar been haunting
the ship before? In the midst of these conjectures he fell asleep.
Between three and four in the morning the clouds broke over the
Pontiac, and the moon, riding high, picked out in black and silver
the long hulk that lay cradled between the iron shells of
warehouses and the wooden frames of tenements on either side. The
galley and covered gangway presented a mass of undefined shadow,
against which the white deck shone brightly, stretching to the
forecastle and bows, where the tiny glass roof of the photographer
glistened like a gem in the Pontiac's crest. So peaceful and
motionless she lay that she might have been some petrifaction of a
past age now first exhumed and laid bare to the cold light of the
Nevertheless this calm security was presently invaded by a sense of
stealthy life and motion. What had seemed a fixed shadow suddenly
detached itself from the deck, and began to slip stanchion by
stanchion along the bulwarks toward the companion way. At the
cabin door it halted and crouched motionless. Then rising, it
glided forward with the same staccato movement until opposite the
slight elevation of the forehatch. Suddenly it darted to the
hatch, unfastened and lifted it with a swift, familiar dexterity,
and disappeared in the opening. But as the moon shone upon its
vanishing face, it revealed the whitening eyes and teeth of the
Dropping to the lower deck lightly, he felt his way through the
dark passage between the partitions, evidently less familiar to
him, halting before each door to listen. Returning forward he
reached the second hatchway that had attracted Rosey's attention,
and noiselessly unclosed its fastenings. A penetrating smell of
bilge arose from the opening. Drawing a small bull's-eye lantern
from his breast he lit it, and unhesitatingly let himself down to
the further depth. The moving flash of his light revealed the
recesses of the upper hold, the abyss of the well amidships, and
glanced from the shining backs of moving zig-zags of rats that
seemed to outline the shadowy beams and transoms. Disregarding
those curious spectators of his movements, he turned his attention
eagerly to the inner casings of the hold, that seemed in one spot
to have been strengthened by fresh timbers. Attacking this
stealthily with the aid of some tools hidden in his oil-skin
clothing, in the light of the lantern he bore a fanciful
resemblance to the predatory animals around him. The low
continuous sound of rasping and gnawing of timber which followed
heightened the resemblance. At the end of a few minutes he had
succeeded in removing enough of the outer planking to show that the
entire filling of the casing between the stanchions was composed of
small boxes. Dragging out one of them with feverish eagerness to
the light, the Lascar forced it open. In the rays of the bull's-
eye, a wedged mass of discolored coins showed with a lurid glow.
The story of the Pontiac was true--the treasure was there!
But Mr. Sleight had overlooked the logical effect of this discovery
on the natural villainy of his tool. In the very moment of his
triumphant execution of his patron's suggestions the idea of
keeping the treasure to himself flashed upon his mind. HE had
discovered it--why should he give it up to anybody? HE had run all
the risks; if he were detected at that moment, who would believe
that his purpose there at midnight was only to satisfy some one
else that the treasure was still intact? No. The circumstances
were propitious; he would get the treasure out of the ship at once,
drop it over her side, hastily conceal it in the nearest lot
adjacent, and take it away at his convenience.--Who would be the
wiser for it?
But it was necessary to reconnoitre first. He knew that the loft
overhead was empty. He knew that it communicated with the alley,
for he had tried the door that morning. He would convey the
treasure there, and drop it into the alley. The boxes were heavy.
Each one would require a separate journey to the ship's side, but
he would at least secure something if he were interrupted. He
stripped the casing, and gathered the boxes together in a pile.
Ah, yes, it was funny too that he--the Lascar hound--the d----d
nigger--should get what bigger and bullier men than he had died
for! The mate's blood was on those boxes, if the salt water had
not washed it out. It was a hell of a fight when they dragged the
captain--Oh, what was that? Was it the splash of a rat in the
bilge, or what?
A superstitious terror had begun to seize him at the thought of
blood. The stifling hold seemed again filled with struggling
figures he had known; the air thick with cries and blasphemies that
he had forgotten. He rose to his feet, and running quickly to the
hatchway, leaped to the deck above. All was quiet. The door
leading to the empty loft yielded to his touch. He entered, and,
gliding through, unbarred and opened the door that gave upon the
alley. The cold air and moonlight flowed in silently; the way of
escape was clear. Bah! He would go back for the treasure.