Part 3 out of 3
He had reached the passage when the door he had just opened was
suddenly darkened. Turning rapidly, he was conscious of a gaunt
figure, grotesque, silent, and erect, looming on the threshold
between him and the sky. Hidden in the shadow, he made a stealthy
step towards it, with an iron wrench in his uplifted hand. But the
next moment his eyes dilated with superstitious horror; the iron
fell from this hand, and with a scream, like a frightened animal,
he turned and fled into the passage. In the first access of his
blind terror he tried to reach the deck above through the
forehatch, but was stopped by the sound of a heavy tread overhead.
The immediate fear of detection now overcame his superstition; he
would have even faced the apparition again to escape through the
loft; but, before he could return there, other footsteps approached
rapidly from the end of the passage he would have to traverse.
There was but one chance of escape left now--the forehold he had
just quitted. He might hide there until the alarm was over. He
glided back to the hatch, lifted it, and it closed softly over his
head as the upper hatch was simultaneously raised, and the small
round eyes of Abner Nott peered down upon it. The other footsteps
proved to be Renshaw's but, attracted by the open door of the loft,
he turned aside and entered. As soon as he disappeared Mr. Nott
cautiously dropped through the opening to the deck below, and,
going to the other hatch through which the Lascar had vanished,
deliberately refastened it. In a few moments Renshaw returned with
a light, and found the old man sitting on the hatch.
"The loft door was open," said Renshaw. "There's little doubt
whoever was here escaped that way."
"Surely," said Nott. There was a peculiar look of Machiavellian
sagacity in his face which irritated Renshaw.
"Then you're sure it was Ferrieres you saw pass by your window
before you called me?" he asked.
Nott nodded his head with an expression of infinite profundity.
"But you say he was going FROM the ship. Then it could not have
been he who made the noise we heard down here."
"Mebbee no, and mebbee yes," returned Nott, cautiously. "But if he
was already concealed inside the ship, as that open door, which you
say you barred from the inside, would indicate, what the devil did
he want with this?" said Renshaw, producing the monkey-wrench he
had picked up.
Mr. Nott examined the tool carefully, and shook his head with
momentous significance. Nevertheless, his eyes wandered to the
hatch on which he was seated.
"Did you find anything disturbed THERE?" said Renshaw, following
the direction of his eye. "Was that hatch fastened as it is now?"
"It was," said Nott, calmly. "But ye wouldn't mind fetchin' me a
hammer and some o' them big nails from the locker, would yer, while
I hang round here just so ez to make sure against another attack."
Renshaw complied with his request; but as Nott proceeded to gravely
nail down the fastenings of the hatch, he turned impatiently away
to complete his examination of the ship. The doors of the other
lofts and their fastenings appeared secure and undisturbed. Yet it
was undeniable that a felonious entrance had been made, but by whom
or for what purpose still remained uncertain. Even now, Renshaw
found it difficult to accept Nott's theory that de Ferrieres was
the aggressor and Rosey the object, nor could he justify his own
suspicion that the Lascar had obtained a surreptitious entrance
under Sleight's directions. With a feeling that if Rosey had been
present he would have confessed all, and demanded from her an equal
confidence, he began to hate his feeble, purposeless, and
inefficient alliance with her father, who believed but dare not tax
his daughter with complicity in this outrage. What could be done
with a man whose only idea of action at such a moment was to nail
up an undisturbed entrance in his invaded house! He was so
preoccupied with these thoughts that when Nott rejoined him in the
cabin he scarcely heeded his presence, and was entirely oblivious
of the furtive looks which the old man from time to time cast upon
"I reckon ye wouldn't mind," broke in Nott, suddenly, "ef I asked a
favor of ye, Mr. Renshaw. Mebbee ye'll allow it's askin' too much
in the matter of expense; mebbee ye'll allow it's askin' too much
in the matter o' time. But I kalkilate to pay all the expense, and
if you'd let me know what yer vally yer time at, I reckon I could
stand that. What I'd be askin' is this. Would ye mind takin' a
letter from me to Rosey, and bringin' back an answer?"
Renshaw stared speechlessly at this absurd realization of his wish
of a moment before. "I don't think I understand you," he
"P'r'aps not," returned Nott, with great gravity. "But that's not
so much matter to you ez your time and expenses."
"I meant I should be glad to go if I can be of any service to you,"
said Renshaw, hastily.
"You kin ketch the seven o'clock boat this morning, and you'll
reach San Rafael at ten--"
"But I thought Miss Rosey went to Petaluma," interrupted Renshaw
Nott regarded him with an expression of patronizing superiority.
"That's what we ladled out to the public gin'rally, and to Ferrers
and his gang in partickler. We SAID Petalumey, but if you go to
Madrono Cottage, San Rafael, you'll find Rosey thar."
If Mr. Renshaw required anything more to convince him of the
necessity of coming to some understanding with Rosey at once it
would have been this last evidence of her father's utterly dark and
supremely inscrutable designs. He assented quickly, and Nott
handed him a note.
"Ye'll be partickler to give this inter her own hands, and wait for
an answer," said Nott gravely.
Resisting the proposition to enter then and there into an elaborate
calculation of the value of his time and the expenses of the trip,
Renshaw found himself at seven o'clock on the San Rafael boat.
Brief as was the journey it gave him time to reflect upon his
coming interview with Rosey. He had resolved to begin by
confessing all; the attempt of last night had released him from any
sense of duty to Sleight. Besides, he did not doubt that Nott's
letter contained some reference to this affair only known to Nott's
dark and tortuous intelligence.
Madrono Cottage lay at the entrance of a little canada already
green with the early winter rains, and nestled in a thicket of the
harlequin painted trees that gave it a name. The young man was a
little relieved to find that Rosey had gone to the post-office a
mile away, and that he would probably overtake her or meet her
returning--alone. The road--little more than a trail--wound along
the crest of the hill looking across the canada to the long, dark,
heavily-wooded flank of Mount Tamalpais that rose from the valley a
dozen miles away. A cessation of the warm rain, a rift in the sky,
and the rare spectacle of cloud scenery, combined with a certain
sense of freedom, restored that lighthearted gayety that became him
most. At a sudden turn of the road he caught sight of Rosey's
figure coming towards him, and quickened his step with the
impulsiveness of a boy. But she suddenly disappeared, and when he
again saw her she was on the other side of the trail apparently
picking the leaves of a manzanita. She had already seen him.
Somehow the frankness of his greeting was checked. She looked up
at him with cheeks that retained enough of their color to suggest
why she had hesitated, and said, "YOU here, Mr. Renshaw? I thought
you were in Sacramento."
"And I thought YOU were in Petaluma," he retorted gayly. "I have a
letter from your father. The fact is, one of those gentlemen who
has been haunting the ship actually made an entry last night. Who
he was, and what he came for, nobody knows. Perhaps your father
gives you his suspicions." He could not help looking at her
narrowly as he handed her the note. Except that her pretty
eyebrows were slightly raised in curiosity she seemed undisturbed
as she opened the letter. Presently she raised her eyes to his.
"Is this all father gave you?"
"You're sure you haven't dropped anything?"
"Nothing. I have given you all he gave me."
"And that is all it is." She exhibited the missive, a perfectly
blank sheet of paper folded like a note!
Renshaw felt the angry blood glow in his cheeks. "This is
unpardonable! I assure you, Miss Nott, there must be some mistake.
He himself has probably forgotten the inclosure," he continued, yet
with an inward conviction that the act was perfectly premeditated
on the part of the old man.
The young girl held out her hand frankly. "Don't think any more of
it, Mr. Renshaw. Father is forgetful at times. But tell me about
In a few words Mr. Renshaw briefly but plainly related the details
of the attempt upon the Pontiac, from the moment that he had been
awakened by Nott, to his discovery of the unknown trespasser's
flight by the open door to the loft. When he had finished, he
hesitated, and then taking Rosey's hand, said impulsively, "You
will not be angry with me if I tell you all? Your father firmly
believes that the attempt was made by the old Frenchman, de
Ferrieres, with a view of carrying you off."
A dozen reasons other than the one her father would have attributed
it to might have called the blood to her face. But only innocence
could have brought the look of astonished indignation to her eyes
as she answered quickly:
"So THAT was what you were laughing at?"
"Not that, Miss Nott," said the young man eagerly: "though I wish
to God I could accuse myself of nothing more disloyal. Do not
speak, I beg," he added impatiently, as Rosey was about to reply.
"I have no right to hear you; I have no right to even stand in your
presence until I have confessed everything. I came to the Pontiac;
I made your acquaintance, Miss Nott, through a fraud as wicked as
anything your father charges to de Ferrieres. I am not a
contractor. I never was an honest lodger in the Pontiac. I was
simply a spy."
"But you didn't mean to be--it was some mistake, wasn't it?" said
Rosey, quite white, but more from sympathy with the offender's
emotion than horror at the offense.
"I am afraid I did mean it. But bear with me for a few moments
longer and you shall know all. It's a long story. Will you walk
on, and--take my arm? You do not shrink from me, Miss Nott. Thank
you. I scarcely deserve the kindness."
Indeed so little did Rosey shrink that he was conscious of a slight
reassuring pressure on his arm as they moved forward, and for the
moment I fear the young man felt like exaggerating his offense for
the sake of proportionate sympathy. "Do you remember," he
continued, "one evening when I told you some sea tales, you said
you always thought there must be some story about the Pontiac?
There was a story of the Pontiac, Miss Nott--a wicked story--a
terrible story--which I might have told you, which I OUGHT to have
told you--which was the story that brought me there. You were
right, too, in saying that you thought I had known the Pontiac
before I stepped first on her deck that day. I had."
He laid his disengaged hand across lightly on Rosey's, as if to
assure himself that she was listening.
"I was at that time a sailor. I had been fool enough to run away
from college, thinking it a fine romantic thing to ship before the
mast for a voyage round the world. I was a little disappointed,
perhaps, but I made the best of it, and in two years I was second
mate of a whaler lying in a little harbor of one of the uncivilized
islands of the Pacific. While we were at anchor there a French
trading vessel put in, apparently for water. She had the dregs of
a mixed crew of Lascars and Portuguese, who said they had lost the
rest of their men by desertion, and that the captain and mate had
been carried off by fever. There was something so queer in their
story that our skipper took the law in his own hands, and put me on
board of her with a salvage crew. But that night the French crew
mutinied, cut the cables, and would have got to sea if we had not
been armed and prepared, and managed to drive them below. When we
had got them under hatches for a few hours they parleyed, and
offered to go quietly ashore. As we were short of hands and unable
to take them with us, and as we had no evidence against them, we
let them go, took the ship to Callao, turned her over to the
authorities, lodged a claim for salvage, and continued our voyage.
When we returned we found the truth of the story was known. She
had been a French trader from Marseilles, owned by her captain; her
crew had mutinied in the Pacific, killed their officers and the
only passenger--the owner of the cargo. They had made away with
the cargo and a treasure of nearly half a million of Spanish gold
for trading purposes which belonged to the passenger. In course of
time the ship was sold for salvage and put into the South American
trade until the breaking out of the Californian gold excitement,
when she was sent with a cargo to San Francisco. That ship was the
Pontiac which your father bought."
A slight shudder ran through the girl's frame. "I wish--I wish you
hadn't told me," she said. "I shall never close my eyes again
comfortably on board of her, I know."
"I would say that you had purified her of ALL stains of her past--
but there may be one that remains. And THAT in most people's eyes
would be no detraction. You look puzzled, Miss Nott--but I am
coming to the explanation and the end of my story. A ship of war
was sent to the island to punish the mutineers and pirates, for
such they were, but they could not be found. A private expedition
was sent to discover the treasure which they were supposed to have
buried, but in vain. About two months ago Mr. Sleight told me one
of his shipmates had sent him a Lascar sailor who had to dispose of
a valuable secret regarding the Pontiac for a percentage. That
secret was that the treasure was never taken by the mutineers out
of the Pontiac! They were about to land and bury it when we
boarded them. They took advantage of their imprisonment under
hatches to BURY IT IN THE SHIP. They hid it in the hold so
securely and safely that it was never detected by us or the Callao
authorities. I was then asked, as one who knew the vessel, to
undertake a private examination of her, with a view of purchasing
her from your father without awakening his suspicions. I assented.
You have my confession now, Miss Nott. You know my crime. I am at
Rosey's arm only tightened around his own. Her eyes sought his.
"And you didn't find anything?" she said.
The question sounded so oddly like Sleight's, that Renshaw returned
a little stiffly--
"I didn't look."
"Why?" asked Rosey simply.
"Because," stammered Renshaw, with an uneasy consciousness of
having exaggerated his sentiment, "it didn't seem honorable; it
didn't seem fair to you."
"Oh, you silly! you might have looked and told ME."
"But," said Renshaw, "do you think that would have been fair to
"As fair to him as to us. For, don't you see, it wouldn't belong
to any of us. It would belong to the friends or the family of the
man who lost it."
"But there were no heirs," said Renshaw. "That was proved by some
impostor who pretended to be his brother, and libelled the Pontiac
at Callao, but the courts decided he was a lunatic."
"Then it belongs to the poor pirates who risked their own lives for
it, rather than to Sleight, who did nothing." She was silent for a
moment, and then resumed with energy, "I believe he was at the
bottom of that attack last night."
"I have thought so too," said Renshaw.
"Then I must go back at once," she continued impulsively. "Father
must not be left alone."
"Nor must YOU," said Renshaw, quickly. "Do let me return with you,
and share with you and your father the trouble I have brought upon
you. Do not," he added in a lower tone, "deprive me of the only
chance of expiating my offense, of making myself worthy your
"I am sure," said Rosey, lowering her lids and half withdrawing her
arm, "I am sure I have nothing to forgive. You did not believe the
treasure belonged to us any more than to anybody else, until you
"That is true," said the young man, attempting to take her hand.
"I mean," said Rosey, blushing, and showing a distracting row of
little teeth in one of her infrequent laughs, "oh, you know what I
mean." She withdrew her arm gently, and became interested in the
selection of certain wayside bay leaves as they passed along. "All
the same, I don't believe in this treasure," she said abruptly, as
if to change the subject. "I don't believe it ever was hidden
inside the Pontiac."
"That can easily be ascertained now," said Renshaw.
"But it's a pity you didn't find it out while you were about it,"
said Rosey. "It would have saved so much talk and trouble."
"I have told you why I didn't search the ship," responded Renshaw,
with a slight bitterness. "But it seems I could only avoid being a
great rascal by becoming a great fool."
"You never intended to be a rascal," said Rosey, earnestly, "and
you couldn't be a fool, except in heeding what a silly girl says.
I only meant if you had taken me into your confidence it would have
"Might I not say the same to you regarding your friend, the old
Frenchman?" returned Renshaw. "What if I were to confess to you
that I lately suspected him of knowing the secret, and of trying to
gain your assistance?"
Instead of indignantly repudiating the suggestion, to the young
man's great discomfiture, Rosey only knit her pretty brows, and
remained for some minutes silent. Presently she asked timidly,--
"Do you think it wrong to tell another person's secret for their
"No," said Renshaw, promptly.
"Then I'll tell you Monsieur de Ferrieres's! But only because I
believe from what you have just said that he will turn out to have
some right to the treasure."
Then with kindling eyes, and a voice eloquent with sympathy, Rosey
told the story of her accidental discovery of de Ferrieres's
miserable existence in the loft. Clothing it with the unconscious
poetry of her fresh, young imagination, she lightly passed over his
antique gallantry and grotesque weakness, exalting only his lonely
sufferings and mysterious wrongs. Renshaw listened, lost between
shame for his late suspicions and admiration for her thoughtful
delicacy, until she began to speak of de Ferrieres's strange
allusions to the foreign papers in his portmanteau. "I think some
were law papers, and I am almost certain I saw the word Callao
printed on one of them."
"It may be so," said Renshaw, thoughtfully. "The old Frenchman has
always passed for a harmless, wandering eccentric. I hardly think
public curiosity has ever even sought to know his name, much less
his history. But had we not better first try to find if there IS
any property before we examine his claims to it?"
"As you please," said Rosey, with a slight pout; "but you will find
it much easier to discover him than his treasure. It's always
easier to find the thing you're not looking for."
"Until you want it," said Renshaw, with sudden gravity.
"How pretty it looks over there," said Rosey, turning her conscious
eyes to the opposite mountain.
They had reached the top of the hill, and in the near distance the
chimney of Madrono Cottage was even now visible. At the expected
sight they unconsciously stopped--unconsciously disappointed.
Rosey broke the embarrassing silence.
"There's another way home, but it's a roundabout way," she said
"Let us take it," said Renshaw.
She hesitated. "The boat goes at four, and we must return to-
"The more reason why we should make the most of our time now," said
Renshaw with a faint smile. "To-morrow all things may be changed;
to-morrow you may find yourself an heiress, Miss Nott. To-morrow,"
he added, with a slight tremor in his voice, "I may have earned
your forgiveness, only to say farewell to you forever. Let me keep
this sunshine, this picture, this companionship with you long
enough to say now what perhaps I must not say to-morrow."
They were silent for a moment, and then by a common instinct turned
together into a narrow trail, scarce wide enough for two, that
diverged from the straight practical path before them. It was
indeed a roundabout way home, so roundabout, in fact, that as they
wandered on it seemed even to double on its track, occasionally
lingering long and becoming indistinct under the shadow of madrono
and willow; at one time stopping blindly before a fallen tree in
the hollow, where they had quite lost it, and had to sit down to
recall it; a rough way, often requiring the mutual help of each
other's hands and eyes to tread together in security; an uncertain
way, not to be found without whispered consultation and concession,
and yet a way eventually bringing them hand in hand, happy and
hopeful, to the gate of Madrono Cottage. And if there was only
just time for Rosey to prepare to take the boat, it was due to the
deviousness of the way. If a stray curl was lying loose on Rosey's
cheek, and a long hair had caught in Renshaw's button, it was owing
to the roughness of the way; and if in the tones of their voices
and in the glances of their eyes there was a maturer seriousness,
it was due to the dim uncertainty of the path they had traveled,
and would hereafter tread together.
When Mr. Nott had satisfied himself of Renshaw's departure, he
coolly bolted the door at the head of the companion way, thus
cutting off any communication with the lower deck. Taking a long
rifle from the rack above his berth, he carefully examined the
hammer and cap, and then cautiously let himself down through the
forehatch to the deck below. After a deliberate survey of the
still intact fastenings of the hatch over the forehold, he
proceeded quietly to unloose them again with the aid of the tools
that still lay there. When the hatch was once more free he lifted
it, and, withdrawing a few feet from the opening, sat himself down,
rifle in hand. A profound silence reigned throughout the lower
"Ye kin rize up out o' that," said Nott gently.
There was a stealthy rustle below that seemed to approach the
hatch, and then with a sudden bound the Lascar leaped on the deck.
But at the same instant Nott covered him with his rifle. A slight
shade of disappointment and surprise had crossed the old man's
face, and clouded his small round eyes at the apparition of the
Lascar, but his hand was none the less firm upon the trigger as the
frightened prisoner sank on his knees, with his hands clasped in
the attitude of supplication for mercy.
"Ef you're thinkin' o' skippin' afore I've done with yer," said
Nott with labored gentleness, "I oughter warn ye that it's my style
to drop Injins at two hundred yards, and this deck ain't anywhere
mor'n fifty. It's an uncomfortable style, a nasty style--but it's
MY style. I thought I'd tell yer, so yer could take it easy where
you air. Where's Ferrers?"
Even in the man's insane terror, his utter bewilderment at the
question was evident. "Ferrers?" he gasped; "don't know him, I
swear to God, boss."
"P'r'aps," said Nott, with infinite cunning, "yer don't know the
man ez kem into the loft from the alley last night--p'r'aps yer
didn't see an airy Frenchman with a dyed moustache, eh? I thought
that would fetch ye!" he continued, as the man started at the
evidence that his vision of last night was a living man. "P'r'aps
you and him didn't break into this ship last night, jist to run off
with my darter Rosey? P'r'aps yer don't know Rosey, eh? P'r'aps
yer don't know ez Ferrers wants to marry her, and hez been hangin'
round yer ever since he left--eh?"
Scarcely believing the evidence of his senses that the old man
whose treasure he had been trying to steal was utterly ignorant of
his real offense, and yet uncertain of the penalty of the other
crime of which he was accused, the Lascar writhed his body and
stammered vaguely, "Mercy! Mercy!"
"Well," said Nott, cautiously, "ez I reckon the hide of a dead
Chinee nigger ain't any more vallyble than that of a dead Injin, I
don't care ef I let up on yer--seein' the cussedness ain't yours.
But ef I let yer off this once, you must take a message to Ferrers
"Let me off this time, boss, and I swear to God I will," said the
"Ye kin say to Ferrers--let me see--" deliberated Nott, leaning on
his rifle with cautious reflection. "Ye kin say to Ferrers like
this--sez you, 'Ferrers,' sez you, 'the old man sez that afore you
went away you sez to him, sez you, "I take my honor with me," sez
you'--have you got that?" interrupted Nott suddenly.
"'I take my honor with me,' sez you," repeated Nott slowly.
"'Now,' sez you--'the old man sez, sez he--tell Ferrers, sez he,
that his honor havin' run away agin, he sends it back to him, and
ef he ever ketches it around after this, he'll shoot it on sight.'
Hev yer got that?"
"Yes," stammered the bewildered captive.
The Lascar sprang to his feet with the agility of a panther, leaped
through the hatch above him, and disappeared over the bow of the
ship with an unhesitating directness that showed that every avenue
of escape had been already contemplated by him. Slipping lightly
from the cutwater to the ground, he continued his flight, only
stopping at the private office of Mr. Sleight.
When Mr. Renshaw and Rosey Nott arrived on board the Pontiac that
evening, they were astonished to find the passage before the cabin
completely occupied with trunks and boxes, and the bulk of their
household goods apparently in the process of removal. Mr. Nott,
who was superintending the work of two Chinamen, betrayed not only
no surprise at the appearance of the young people, but not the
remotest recognition of their own bewilderment at his occupation.
"Kalkilatin'," he remarked casually to his daughter, "you'd rather
look arter your fixin's, Rosey, I've left 'em till the last.
P'r'aps yer and Mr. Renshaw wouldn't mind sittin' down on that
locker until I've strapped this yer box."
"But what does it all mean, father?" said Rosey, taking the old man
by the lapels of his sea-jacket, and slightly emphasizing her
question. "What in the name of goodness are you doing?"
"Breakin' camp, Rosey dear, breakin' camp, jist ez we uster,"
replied Nott with cheerful philosophy. "Kinder like old times,
ain't it? Lord, Rosey," he continued, stopping and following up
the reminiscence, with the end of the rope in his hand as if it
were a clue, "don't ye mind that day we started outer Livermore
Pass, and seed the hull o' the Californy coast stretchin' yonder--
eh? But don't ye be skeered, Rosey dear," he added quickly, as if
in recognition of the alarm expressed in her face. "I ain't
turning ye outer house and home; I've jist hired that 'ere Madrono
Cottage from the Peters ontil we kin look round."
"But you're not leaving the ship, father," continued Rosey,
impetuously. "You haven't sold it to that man Sleight?"
Mr. Nott rose and carefully closed the cabin door. Then drawing a
large wallet from his pocket, he said, "It's sing'lar ye should hev
got the name right the first pop, ain't it, Rosey? but it's
Sleight, sure enough, all the time. This yer check," he added,
producing a paper from the depths of the wallet, "this yer check
for 25,000 dollars is wot he paid for it only two hours ago."
"But," said Renshaw, springing to his feet furiously, "you're
"Young man," said Nott, throwing a certain dignity into his
habitual gesture of placing his hands on Renshaw's shoulders, "I
bought this yer ship five years ago jist ez she stood for 8,000
dollars. Kalkilatin' wot she cost me in repairs and taxes, and wot
she brought me in since then, accordin' to my figgerin', I don't
call a clear profit of 15,000 dollars much of a swindle."
"Tell him all," said Rosey, quickly, more alarmed at Renshaw's
despairing face than at the news itself. "Tell him everything,
Dick--Mr. Renshaw; it may not be too late."
In a voice half choked with passionate indignation Renshaw
hurriedly repeated the story of the hidden treasure, and the plot
to rescue it, prompted frequently by Rosey's tenacious memory and
assisted by Rosey's deft and tactful explanations. But to their
surprise the imperturbable countenance of Abner Nott never altered;
a slight moisture of kindly paternal tolerance of their
extravagance glistened in his little eyes, but nothing more.
"Ef there was a part o' this ship, a plank or a bolt ez I don't
know, ez I hevn't touched with my own hand, and looked into with my
own eyes, thar might be suthin' in that story. I don't let on to
be a sailor like YOU, but ez I know the ship ez a boy knows his
first hoss, as a woman knows her first babby, I reckon thar ain't
no treasure yer, onless it was brought into the Pontiac last night
by them chaps."
"But are you mad! Sleight would not pay three times the value of
the ship to-day if he were not positive! And that positive
knowledge was gained last night by the villain who broke into the
Pontiac--no doubt the Lascar."
"Surely," said Nott, meditatively. "The Lascar! There's suthin'
in that. That Lascar I fastened down in the hold last night
unbeknownst to you, Mr. Renshaw, and let him out again this morning
"And you let him carry his information to Sleight--without a word!"
said Renshaw, with a sickening sense of Nott's utter fatuity.
"I sent him back with a message to the man he kem from," said Nott,
winking both his eyes at Renshaw, significantly, and making signs
behind his daughter's back.
Rosey, conscious of her lover's irritation, and more eager to
soothe his impatience than from any faith in her suggestion,
interfered. "Why not examine the place where he was concealed? he
may have left some traces of his search."
The two men looked at each other. "Seem' ez I've turned the
Pontiac over to Sleight jist ez it stands, I don't know ez it's
'xactly on the square," said Nott doubtfully.
"You've a right to know at least WHAT you deliver to him,"
interrupted Renshaw brusquely: "Bring a lantern."
Followed by Rosey, Renshaw and Nott hurriedly sought the lower deck
and the open hatch of the forehold. The two men leaped down first
with the lantern, and then assisted Rosey to descend. Renshaw took
a step forward and uttered a cry.
The rays of the lantern fell on the ship's side. The Lascar had,
during his forced seclusion, put back the boxes of treasure and
replaced the planking, yet not so carefully but that the quick eye
of Renshaw had discovered it. The next moment he had stripped away
the planking again, and the hurriedly-restored box which the Lascar
had found fell to the deck, scattering part of its ringing
contents. Rosey turned pale; Renshaw's eyes flashed fire; only
Abner Nott remained quiet and impassive.
"Are you satisfied you have been duped?" said Renshaw passionately.
To their surprise Mr. Nott stooped down, and picking up one of the
coins handed it gravely to Renshaw. "Would ye mind heftin' that
'ere coin in your hand--feelin' it, bitin' it, scrapin' it with a
knife, and kinder seein' how it compares with other coins?"
"What do you mean?" said Renshaw.
"I mean that that yer coin--that ALL the coins in this yer box,
that all the coins in them other boxes--and ther's forty on 'em--is
all and every one of 'em counterfeits!"
The piece dropped unconsciously from Renshaw's hand, and striking
another that lay on the deck gave out a dull, suspicious ring.
"They waz counterfeits got up by them Dutch supercargo sharps for
dealin' with the Injins and cannibals and South Sea heathens ez
bows down to wood and stone. If satisfied them ez well ez them
buttons ye puts in missionary boxes, I reckon, and 'cepting ez
freight, don't cost nothin'. I found 'em tucked in the ribs o' the
old Pontiac when I bought her, and I nailed 'em up in thar lest
they should fall into dishonest hands. It's a lucky thing, Mr.
Renshaw, that they comes into the honest fingers of a square man
like Sleight--ain't it?"
He turned his small, guileless eyes upon Renshaw with such child-
like simplicity that it checked the hysterical laugh that was
rising to the young man's lips.
"But did any one know of this but yourself?"
"I reckon not. I once suspicioned that old cap'en Bowers, who was
always foolin' round the hold yer, must hev noticed the bulge in
the casin', but when he took to axin' questions I axed others--ye
know my style, Rosey? Come."
He led the way grimly back to the cabin, the young people
following; but turning suddenly at the companionway he observed
Renshaw's arm around the waist of his daughter.
He said nothing until they had reached the cabin, when he closed
the door softly, and looking at them both gently, said with
"Ef it isn't too late, Rosey, ye kin tell this young man ez how I
forgive him for havin' diskivered THE TREASURE of the Pontiac."
. . . . . . . . .
It was nearly eighteen months afterwards that Mr. Nott one morning
entered the room of his son-in-law at Madrono Cottage. Drawing him
aside, he said with his old air of mystery, "Now ez Rosey's ailin'
and don't seem to be so eager to diskiver what's become of Mr.
Ferrers, I don't mind tellin' ye that over a year ago I heard he
died suddenly in Sacramento. Thar was suthin' in the paper about
his bein' a lunatic and claimin' to be a relation to somebody on
the Pontiac; but likes ez not it's only the way those newspaper
fellows got hold of the story of his wantin' to marry Rosey."