Part 2 out of 4
lecture, calling me a greedy young thief. Let me not eat another
cabin biscuit, he said, or he'd do to me what they always did to
thieves:--drag them under the ship from one side to another, so
that the barnacles would cut them (as he said) into Spanish
sennet-work. When I answered him, he lost his temper, in sailor
fashion, saying that if I said another word he'd make me sick
that ever I learned to speak.
I will not go into the details of the rest of that first day's
misery. I was kept hard at work for the whole time of daylight,
often at work beyond my strength, always at work quite strange to
me. Nobody in the ship, except perhaps the mate, troubled to show
me how to do these strange tasks; but all swore at me for not
doing them rightly. What I felt most keenly was the injustice of
their verdicts upon me. I was being condemned by them as a dirty,
snivelling, lying, thieving young hound. They took a savage
pleasure in telling me how I should come to dance on air at
Cuckold's Haven, or, in other words, to the gallows, if I went on
as I had begun. Whereas (but for my dishonest moment in the
morning) I had worked like a slave since dawn under every
possible disadvantage which hasty men could place in my way.
After serving the cabin supper that night I was free to go to my
hammock. There was not much to be glad for, except the rest after
so much work. I went with a glad heart, for I was tired out. The
wind had drawn to the east, freshening as it came ahead, so that
there was no chance of our reaching our destination for some
days. I had the prospect of similar daily slavery in the schooner
at least till our arrival. My nights would be my only pleasant
hours till then. The noise of the waves breaking on board the
schooner kept me awake during the night, tired as I was. It is a
dreadful noise, when heard for the first time. I did not then
know what a mass of water can come aboard a ship without doing
much harm. So, when the head of a wave, rushing across the deck,
came with a swish down the hatch to wash the 'tweendecks I
started up in my hammock, pretty well startled. I soon learned
that all was well, for I heard the sailors laughing in their
rough, swearing fashion as they piled a tarpaulin over the open
hatch-mouth. A moment later, eight bells were struck. Some of the
sailors having finished their watch, came down into the
'tweendecks to rest. Two of them stepped very quietly to the
chest below my hammock, where they sat down to play cards, by the
light of the nearest battle-lantern. If they had made a noise I
should probably have fallen asleep again in a few minutes; for
what would one rough noise have been among all the noise on deck?
But they kept very quiet, talking in low voices as they called
the cards, rapping gently on the chest-lid, opening the lantern
gently to get lights for their pipes. Their quietness was like
the stealthy approach of an enemy, it kept a restless man awake,
just as the snapping of twigs in a forest will keep an Indian
awake, while he will sleep soundly when trees are falling. I kept
awake, too, in spite of myself (or half awake), wishing that the
men would go, but fearing to speak to them. At last, fearing that
I should never get to sleep at all, I looked over the edge of the
hammock intending to ask them to go. I saw then that one of them
was my enemy the boatswain, while the other was the ship's
carpenter, who had eaten supper in the galley with me, at the
cook's invitation. As these were, in a sense, officers, I dared
not open my mouth to them, so I lay down again, hoping that
either they would go soon, or that they would let me get to sleep
before the morning. As I lay there, I overheard their talk. I
could not help it. I could hear every word spoken by them. I did
not want their talk, goodness knows, but as I could not help it,
"Heigho," said the boatswain, yawning. "I sha'n't have much to
spend on Hollands when I get there. Them rubbers at bowls in
London have pretty near cleaned my purse out."
"Ah, come off," said the carpenter. "You can always get rid of a
coil of rope to someone, on the sly, you boatswains can. A coil
of rope comes to a few guilders. Eh, mynheer?"
"I sold too many coils off this hooker," said the boatswain. "I
run the ship short."
"Who sleeps in the hammock there?" the carpenter asked.
"The loblolly boy for the cabin," the boatswain answered. "Young
clumsy hound. I clumped his fat chops for him this morning."
"Mr. Jermyn's boy?" said the carpenter, sinking his voice.
"There's something queer about that Mr. Jermyn. 'E wears a false
beard. That Mr. Scott isn't all what he pretends neither."
"I don't see how that can be," the boatswain said, "I wish I'd a
drink of something. I'm as dry as foul block."
"There'd be more'n a dram to us two, if Mr. Scott was what I
think," said the carpenter. "I'm going to keep my eye on that
"Keep your eye on the moon," said the boatswain.
"I tell you what'd raise drinks pretty quick."
"That loblolly boy would."
"Eh?" said the carpenter. "Go easy, Joe. He may be awake."
"Not he," said the boatswain, carelessly glancing into my
hammock, where I lay like all the Seven Sleepers condensed. "Not
he. Snoring young hound. Do him good to raise drinks for the
"Eh," said the carpenter, a quieter, more cautious scoundrel than
the other (therefore much more dangerous). "How would a boy like
that?" He left his sentence unfinished.
"Sell him to one of these Dutch East India merchants," said the
boatswain. "There's always one or two of them in the Canal, bound
for Java. A likely young lad like that would fetch twenty pounds
from a Dutch skipper. A white boy would sell for forty in the
East. Even if we only got ten, there'd be pretty drinking while
This evidently made an impression on the carpenter, for he did
not answer at once. "Yes," he said presently. "But a lad like
that's got good friends. He don't talk like you or I, Joe."
"Friends in your eye," said the other. "What's a lad with good
friends doing as loblolly boy?"
"Run away," the carpenter said. "Besides, Mr. Jermyn isn't likely
to let the lad loose in Haarlem."
"He might. We could keep a watch," the boatswain answered. "If he
goes ashore, we could tip off Longshore Jack to keep an eye on
him. Jack gets good chances, working the town."
"Yes," said the other. "I mean to put Longshore Jack on to this
Mr. Jermyn. If I aren't foul of the buoy there's money in Mr.
Jermyn. More than in East Indian slaves."
"Oh," the boatswain answered, carelessly, "I don't bother about
my betters, myself. What d'ye think to get from Mr. Jermyn?"
The carpenter made no answer; but lighted his pipe at the
lantern, evidently turning over some scheme in his mind. After
that, the talk ran on other topics, some of which I could not
understand. It was mostly about the Gold Coast, about a place
called Whydah, where there was good trading for negroes, so the
boatswain said. He had been there in a Bristol brig, under
Captain Travers, collecting trade, i.e. negro slaves. At Whydah
they had made King Jellybags so drunk with "Samboe" (whatever
Samboe was) that they had carried him off to sea, with his whole
court. "The blacks was mad after," he said, "the next ship's crew
that put in there was all set on the beach. I seed their bones
after. All picked clean. But old King Jellybags fetched thirty
pound in Port Royal, duty free." He seemed to think that this
story was something laugh at.
I strained my ears to hear more of what they said. I could catch
nothing more relating to myself. Nothing more was said about me.
They told each other stories about the African shore, where the
schooners anchored in the creeks, among the swamp-smells, in
search of slaves or gold dust. They told tales of Tortuga, where
the pirates lived together in a town, whenever they were at home
after a cruise. "Rum is cheaper than water there," the bo'sun
said. "A sloop comes off once a month with stores from Port
Royal. Its happy days, being in Tortuga." Presently the two men
crept aft to the empty cabin to steal the captain's brandy. Soon
afterwards they passed forward to their hammocks.
When they had gone, I lay awake, wondering I was to avoid this
terrible danger of being sold to the Dutch East India merchants.
I wondered who Longshore Jack might be. I feared that the
carpenter suspected our party. I kept repeating his words,
"There's money in Mr. Jermyn," till at last, through sheer
weariness, I fell asleep. In the morning, as cleared away
breakfast, from the cabin-table, I told Mr. Jermyn all that I had
heard. The Duke seemed agitated. He kept referring to an
astronomical book which told him how his ruling planets stood.
"Yes," he kept saying, "I've no very favourable stars till July.
I don't like this, Jermyn." Mr. Jermyn smoked a pipe of tobacco
(a practise rare among gentlemen at that time) while he thought
of what could be done. At last he spoke.
"I know what we'll do, sir. We'll sell this man as carpenter to
the Dutch East India man. We'll give the two of them a sleeping
draught in their drink. We'll get rid of them both together."
"It sounds very cruel," said the Duke.
"Yes," said Mr. Jermyn, "it is cruel. But who knows what the sly
man may not pick up? We're playing akes, we two. We've got many
enemies. One word of what this man suspects may bring a whole
pack of spies upon us. Besides, if the spies get hold of this boy
we shall have some trouble."
"The boy's done very well," said the Duke.
"He's got a talent for overhearing," Mr. Jermyn answered. "Well,
Martin Hyde. How do you like your work?"
"Sir," I answered, "I don't like it at all."
"Well," he said, "we shall be in the Canal to-night, now the wind
has changed. Hold out till then. think, sir," he said, turning to
the Duke, "the boy has done really very creditably. The work is
not at all the work for one of his condition."
The Duke rewarded me with his languid beautiful smile.
"Who lives will see," he said. "A King never forgets a faithful
The phrase seemed queer on the lips of that man's father's son;
but I bowed very low, for I felt that I was already a captain of
a man-of-war, with a big blazing decoration on my heart. Well,
who lives, sees. I lived to see a lot of strange things in that
CHAPTER VII. LAND RATS AND WATER RATS
I will say no more about our passage except that we were three
days at sea. Then, when I woke one morning, I found that we were
fast moored to a gay little wharf, paved with clean white
cobbles, on the north side of the canal. Strange, outlandish
figures, in immense blue baggy trousers, clattered past in wooden
shoes. A few Dutch galliots lay moored ahead of us, with long
scarlet pennons on their mastheads. On the other side of the
canal was a huge East Indiaman, with her lower yards cockbilled,
loading all three hatches at once. It was a beautiful morning.
The sun was so bright that all the scene had thrice its natural
beauty. The clean neat trimness of the town, the water slapping
past in the canal, the ships with their flags, the Sunday trim of
the schooner, all filled me with delight, lit up, as they were,
by the April sun. I looked about me at my ease, for the deck was
deserted. Even the never-sleeping mate was resting, now that we
were in port. While I looked, a man sidled along the wharf from a
warehouse towards me. He looked at the schooner in a way which
convinced me that he was not a sailor. Then, sheltering behind a
bollard, he lighted his pipe.
He was a short, active, wiry man, with a sharp, thin face,
disfigured by a green patch over his right eye. He looked to me
to have a horsey look, as though were a groom or coachman. After
lighting his pipe, he advanced to a point abreast of the
schooner's gang-way, from which he could look down upon her, as
she lay with her deck a foot or two below the level of the wharf.
"Chips aboard?" he asked, meaning, "Is the carpenter on board?"
"Yes," I said. "Will you come aboard?"
He did not answer, but looked about the ship, as though making
notes of everything. Presently he turned to me.
"You're new," he said. "Are you Mr. Jermyn's boy?" I told him
that I was.
"How is Mr. Jermyn keeping?" he asked. "Is that cough of his
better?" This made me feel that probably the man knew Mr. Jermyn.
"Yes," I said. "He's got no cough, now." "He'd a bad one last
time he was here," the man answered. For a while he kept silent.
He seemed to me to be puzzling out the relative heights of our
masts. Suddenly he turned to me, with a very natural air. "How's
Mr. Scott's business going?" he asked. "You know, eh? You know
what I mean?" I was taken off my guard. I'm afraid I hesitated,
though I knew that the man's sharp eyes noted every little change
on my face. Then, in the most natural way, the man reassured me.
"You know," he said. "What demand for oranges in London?" I was
thankful that he had not meant the other business. I said with a
good deal too much of eagerness that there was, I believed, a big
demand for oranges. "Yes," he said, "I suppose so many young boys
makes a brisk demand." I was uneasy at the man's manner. He
seemed to be pumping me, but he had such a natural easy way,
under the pale mask of his face, that I could not be sure if he
were in the secret or not. I was on my guard now, ready for any
question, as I thought, but eager for an excuse to get away from
this man before I betrayed any trust. "Nice ship," he said
easily. "Did you join her in Spain?" "No," I answered. "In
London." In London?" he said. "I thought you'd something of a
Spanish look." "No," I said."I'm English. Did you want the
"Yes," he answered. "I do. But no hurry. No hurry, lad." Here he
pulled out a watch, which he wound up, staring vacantly about the
decks as he did so. "Tell me, boy," he said gently. "Is Lane come
over with you?" To tell the truth, it flashed across my mind,
when he pulled out his watch, that he was making me unready for a
difficult question. I was not a very bright boy; but I had this
sudden prompting or instinct, which set me on my guard. No one is
more difficult to pump than a boy who is ready for his
questioner, so I stared at him. "Lane?" I said, "Lane? Do you
mean the bo'sun?"
"No," he said. "The Colonel. You know? Eh?"
"No." I said. "I don't know."
"Oh well," he answered. "It's all one. I suppose he's not come
over." At this moment the mate came on deck with the carpenter,
carrying a model ship which they had been making together in
their spare time. They nodded to the stranger, who gave them a
curt "How do?" as though they had parted from him only the night
before. The mate growled at me for wasting time on deck when I
should be at work. He sent me down to my usual job of getting the
cabin ready for the breakfast of the gentlemen. As I passed down
the hatchway, I heard the carpenter say to the stranger, "Well.
So what's the news with Jack?" It flashed into my mind that this
man might be his friend, the "Longshore Jack" who was to keep an
eye upon me as well as upon Mr. Jermyn. It gave me a most horrid
qualm to think this. The man was so sly, so calm, so guarded,
that the thought of him being on the look-out for me, to sell me
to the Dutch captains, almost scared me out of my wits. The mate
brought him to the cabin as I was laying the table. "This is the
cabin," he was saying, "where the gentlemen messes. That's our
stern-chaser, the gun there."
"Oh," said the stranger, looking about him like one who has never
seen a ship before. "But where do they sleep? Do they sleep on
the sofa (he meant the lockers), there?"
"Why, no," said the mate. "They sleep in the little cabins
yonder. But we musn't stay down here now. I'm not supposed to use
this cabin. I mustn't let the captain see me." So they went on
deck again, leaving me alone. When the gentlemen came in to
breakfast, I had to go on deck for the dishes. As I passed to the
galley, I noticed the stranger talking to the carpenter by the
main-rigging. They gave me a meaning look, which I did not at all
relish. Then, as I stood in the galley, while the cook dished up,
I noticed that the stranger raised his hand to a tall, lanky,
ill-favoured man who was loafing about on the wharf, carrying a
large black package. This man came right up to the edge of the
wharf, directly he saw the stranger's signal. It made me uneasy
somehow. I was in a thoroughly anxious mood, longing to confide
in some one, even in the crusty cook, yet fearing to open my
mouth to any one, even to Mr. Jermyn, to whom I dared not speak
with the captain present in the room. Well, I had my work to do,
so I kept my thoughts to myself. I took the dishes down below to
the cabin, where, after removing the covers, I waited on the
"Martin," said Mr. Jermyn. "This skylight over our heads makes
rather a draught. We can't have it open in the morning for
"Did you open it?" the captain asked. "What made you open it?"
"Please, sir, I didn't open it."
"Then shut it," said the captain. "Go on deck. The catch is fast
I ran very nimbly on deck to shut the skylight, but the catch was
very stiff; it took me some few moments to undo. I noticed, as I
worked at it, that the deck was empty, except for the lanky man
with the package, who was now forward, apparently undoing his
package on the forehatch. I thought that he was a sort of pedlar
or bumboatman, come to sell onions, soft bread, or cheap
jewellery to the sailors. The carpenter's head showed for an
instant at the galley-door, He was looking forward at the pedlar.
The hands were all down below in the forecastle, eating their
breakfast. The other stranger seemed to have gone. I could not
see him about the deck. At last the skylight came down with a
clatter, leaving me free to go below again. As I went down the
hatchway, into the 'tweendecks gloom, I saw a figure apparently
at work among the ship's stores lashed to the deck there. I could
not see who it was; it was too dark for that but the thing seemed
strange to me. I guessed that it might be my enemy the boatswain,
so I passed aft to the cabin on the other side.
Soon after that, it might be ten minutes after, while the
gentlemen were talking lazily about going ashore, we heard loud
shouts on deck.
"What's that?" said the captain, starting up from his chair.
"Sounds like fire," said Mr. Jermyn.
"Fire forward," said the captain, turning very white. "There's
five tons of powder forward."
"What?" cried the Duke.
At that instant we heard the boatswain roaring to the men to come
on deck. "Aft for the hose there, Bill," we heard. Feet rushed
aft along the deck, helter-skelter. Some one shoved the skylight
open with a violent heave. Looking up, we saw the carpenter's
head. He looked as scared as a man can be.
"On deck," he cried. "We're all in a blaze forward. The lamp in
the bo'sun's locker. Quick."
"Just over the powder," the captain said, rushing out.
"Quick, sir," said Jermyn to the Duke. "We may blow up at any
"No," said the Duke, rising leisurely. "Not with these stars.
All the same, the two men followed the captain in pretty quick
time. Mr. Jermyn rushed the Duke out by the arm. I was rushing
out, too, when I saw the Duke's hat lying on the lockers. I
darted at it, for I knew that he would want it, with the result
that my heel slipped on a copper nail-head, which had been worn
down even with the deck till it was smooth as glass. Down I came,
bang, with a jolt which shook me almost sick. I rose up, stupid
with the shock, so wretched with the present pain that the fire
seemed a little matter to me. Indeed, I did not understand the
risk. I did not know how a fire so far forward could affect the
A couple of minutes must have passed before I picked up the hat
from where it lay. As I hurried through the 'tweendecks some
slight noise or movement made me turn my head. Looking to my
right. I saw the horsey man, the stranger, rummaging quickly in
the lockers of the Duke's cabin, As I looked, I saw him snatch up
something like a pocketbook or pocket case, with a hasty "Ah" of
approval. At the same moment, he saw me watching him.
"Where's Mr. Scott?" he cried, darting out on me. "We may all
blow up in another moment."
"He's on deck," I said. "Hasn't he gone on deck?"
"On deck?" said the man. "Then on deck with you, too." He pushed
me up the hatch before him. "Quick," he cried. "Quick. There's
Mr. Scott forward. Get him on to the wharf.
He gave me a hasty shove forward, to where the whole company was
working in a cloud of smoke, passing buckets from hand to hand. A
crowd of Dutchmen had gathered on the wharf. Everybody was
shouting. The scene was confused like a bad dream. I caught sight
of the pedlar man at the gangway as the stranger thrust me
forward. In the twinkling of an eye the stranger passed something
to him with the quick thrust known as the thieves' pass. I saw
it, for all my confusion. I knew in an instant that he had stolen
something. The pedlar person was an accomplice. As likely as not
the fire was a diversion. I rushed at the gangway. The pedlar was
moving quickly away with his hands in his pockets. It all
happened in a moment. As I rushed at the gangway, with some wild
notion of stopping the pedlar, the horsey man caught me by the
"What," he said, in a loud voice. "Trying to desert, are you? You
come forward where the danger is." He ran me forward. He was as
strong as a bull.
"Mr. Jermyn," I cried. "Mr. Jermyn. This man's a thief."
The man twisted my collar on to my throat till I choked. "Quiet,
you," he hissed.
Then Mr. Jermyn dropped his bucket to attend to me.
"A thief," I gasped. "A thief." Mr. Jermyn sprang aft, with his
eyes on the man's eyes. The stranger flung me into Mr. Jermyn's
way, with all the sweep of his arm. As I went staggering into the
fore-bitts (for Mr. Jermyn dodged me) the man took a quick side
step up the rail to the wharf. I steadied myself. Mr. Jermyn,
failing to catch the man before he was off the ship, rushed below
to see what was lost. The crowd of workers seemed to dissolve
suddenly. The men surged all about me, swearing. The fire was
out. Remember, all this happened in thirty seconds, from the
passing of the stolen goods to the stranger's letting go my
throat. The very instant that I found my feet against the bitts,
I jumped off the ship on to the wharf. There was the stranger
running down the wharf to the right, full tilt. There was the
lanky pedlar slouching quickly away as though he were going on an
errand, with his black box full of groceries.
"That's the man, Mr. Scott," I cried. "He's got it."
The captain (who, I believe, was a naval officer in the Duke's
secret) was up on the wharf in an instant. I followed him, though
the carpenter clutched at me as I scrambled up. I kicked out
behind like a donkey. I didn't kick him, but some one thrust the
carpenter aside in the hurry so that I was free. In another
seconds I was past the captain, running after the pedlar, who
started to run at a good speed, dropping his box with a clatter.
Half a dozen joined in the pursuit. The captain had his sword
out. They raised such a noise behind me that I thought the whole
crew was at my heels. The pedlar kept glancing behind; he knew
very little about running. He doubled from street to street, like
a man at his wits' ends. I could see that he was blown. When he
entered into that conspiracy, he had counted on the horsey man
diverting suspicion from him. Suddenly, after twisting round a
corner, he darted through a swing door into a stone-paved court,
surrounded by brick walls. I was at his heels at the moment or I
should have lost him there. I darted through the swing door after
him. I went full sprawl over his body on the other side. He had,
quite used up, collapsed there.
CHAPTER VIII. I MEET MY FRIEND
"Give it me," I said. "Give it me, Longshore Jack. Before they
catch us." To my horror, I saw that the creature was a woman in a
man's clothes. She took me for one of her gang. She was too much
frightened to think things out. "I thought you were one of the
other lot," she gasped, as she handed me a pocketbook.
"Didn't he get the letters, too?" I asked at a venture. "No," she
said, sitting up, now, panting, to take a good look at me. I
stared at her for a moment. I, myself, was out of breath.
"They're going," I said, hearing the noise of the pursuit passing
away in the check. "I'll just spy out the land." I opened the
door till it was an inch or two ajar, so that I could see what
was going on outside. "They're gone," I said again, still keeping
up the pretence of being on her side. As I said it, I glanced
back to fix her features on my memory. She had a pale, resolute
face with fierce eyes, which seemed fierce from pain, not from
any cruelty of nature. It was a pleasant face, as far as one
could judge of a face made up to resemble a dirty pedlar's face.
Seeing my look, she seemed to watch me curiously, raising herself
up, till she stood unsteadily by the wall. "When did you come
in?" she said, meaning, I suppose, when did I join the gang.
"Last week," I answered, swinging the door a little further open.
Footsteps were coming rapidly along the road. I heard excited
voices, I made sure that it was the search party going back to
"Digame, muchacho," she said in Spanish. It must have been some
sort of pass-word among them. Seeing by my face that I did not
understand she repeated the words softly. Then at that very
instant she was on me like a tigress with a knife. I slipped to
one side instinctively. I suppose I half saw her as the knife
went home. She grabbed at the pocket-book, which I swung away
from her hand. The knife went deep into the door, with a drive
which must have jarred her to the shoulder. "Give it me," she
gasped, snatching at me like a fury. I dodged to one side, up the
court, horribly scared. She followed, raving like a mad thing,
quite ghastly white under her paint, wholly forgetful that she
was acting a man's part. When once we were dodging I grew calmer.
I led her to the end of the court, then ducked. She charged in,
blindly, against the wall, while I raced to the door, very
pleased with my success. I did not hear her follow me, so, when I
got to the door, I looked back. Just at that instant, there came
a smart report. The creature had fired at me with a pistol; the
bullet sent a dozen chips of brick into my face. I went through
the door just as the shot from the second barrel thudded into the
lintel. Going through hurriedly I ran into Mr. Jermyn, as he came
round the corner with the captain. "I've got it," I said. "Look
out. She's in there."
"Who?" they said. "The thief? A woman?" They did not stay, but
thrust through the door.
Mr. Jermyn dragged me through with them. "You say you've got it,
"Yes," I answered, handing him the book. "Here it is."
"That's a mercy," he said. "Now then, where's the thief?"
I had been out of the court, I suppose thirty seconds; it cannot
have been more. Yet, when I went back with those two men, the
woman had gone, as though she had never been there. "She's over
the wall," cried the captain, running up the court. But when we
looked over the wall there was no trace of her, except some
slight scratches upon the brick, where her toes had rested. On
the other side of the wall was a tulip bed full of rows of late
flowering tulips, not yet out. There was no footmark on the
earth. Plainly she had not jumped down on the other side.
"Check," said captain. "Is she in one of the houses?"
But the houses on the left side of the court (on the other side
the court had no houses, only brick walls seven feet high) were
all old, barred in, deserted mansions, with padlocks on the
doors. She could not possibly have entered one of those.
"They're old plague-houses," said Mr. Jermyn.
"They've been deserted twenty years now, since the great
"Yes?" said the captain, carelessly. "But where can she have got
"Well. It beats me," Mr. Jermyn replied. "But perhaps she ran
along the wall to the end, then jumped down into the lane. That's
the only thing she could have done. By the way, boy, you were
shot at. Were you hit?"
"No," I answered. "But I got jolly near it. The bullet went just
"Ah," he said. "Take this. You'll have to be armed in future."
He handed me a beautiful little double-barrelled pocket pistol.
"Be careful," he said. "It's loaded. Put it in your pocket. You
musn't be seen carrying arms here. That would never do."
"Boy," said the captain. "D'ye think you could shin up that
water-spout, so as to look over the parapet there, on to the
leads of the houses?"
"Yes," I said. "I think I could, from the top of the wall."
"Why," Mr. Jermyn said. "She couldn't have got up there."
"An active woman might," the captain said. "You see, the
water-spout is only six feet long from the wall to the eaves.
There's good footing on the brackets. It's three quick steps.
Then one vigorous heave over the parapet. There you are, snug as
a purser's billet, out of sight."
"No woman could have done it," Mr. Jermyn said. "Besides, look
here. We can't go further in the matter. We've recovered the
book. We must get back to the ship."
So the scheme of climbing up the water pipe came to nothing. We
walked off together wondering where the woman had got to. Long
afterwards I learned that she heard all that we said by the wall
there. While we talked, she was busy reloading her pistol,
waiting. At the door of the court we paused to pull out her knife
from where it stuck. It was a not very large dagger-knife, with a
small woman's grip, inlaid with silver, but bound at the guard
with gold clasps. The end of the handle was also bound with gold.
The edge of the broad, cutting blade curved to a long sharp
point. The back was straight. On the blade was an inscription in
Spanish, "Veneer o Morir" ("To conquer or die"), with the maker's
name, Luis Socartes, Toledo, surrounded by a little twirligig. I
have it in my hand as I write. I value it more than anything in
my possession. It serves to remind me of a very remarkable woman.
"There, Martin," said Mr. Jermyn. "There's a curiosity for you.
Get one of the seamen to make a sheath for it. Then you can wear
it at your back on your belt like a sailor."
As we walked back to the ship, I told Mr. Jermyn all that I had
seen of the morning's adventure. He said that the whole, as far
as he could make it out, had been a carefully laid plot of some
of James the Second's spies. He treated me as an equal now. He
seemed to think that I had saved the Duke from a very dreadful
danger. The horsey man, he said, was evidently a trusted secret
agent, who must have made friends with the carpenter on some
earlier visit of the schooner. He had planned his raid on the
Duke's papers very cleverly. He had arrived on board when no one
was about. He had bribed the carpenter (so we conjectured,
piecing the evidence together) to shout fire, when we were busy
at breakfast. Then, when all was ready, this woman, whoever she
was, had gone forward to the bo'sun's locker, where she had set
fire to half a dozen of those fumigating chemical candles which
she had brought in her box. The candles at once sputtered out
immense volumes of evil smelling smoke. The carpenter, watching
his time, raised the alarm of fire, while the horsey man, hidden
below, waited till all were on deck to force the spring-locks on
the Duke's cabin-door. When once he had got inside the cabin, he
had worked with feverish speed, emptying all the drawers, ripping
up the mattress, even upsetting the books from the bookshelf, all
in about two minutes. Luckily the Duke kept nearly all his secret
papers about his person. The pocket-book was the only important
exception. This, a very secret list of all the Western gentry
ready to rise, was locked in a casket in a locked drawer.
"It shows you," said Mr. Jermyn, "how well worked, that he did
all this in so little time. If you hadn't fallen on the nail,
Martin, our friends in the West would have fared badly. It was
very clever of you to bring us out of the danger." When we got
back aboard the schooner, we found, as we had expected, that the
men in league with the horsey man had deserted. Neither carpenter
nor boatswain was to be found. Both had bolted off in pursuit of
the horsey man at the moment of alarm, leaving their chests
behind them. I suppose they thought that the plot had succeeded.
I dare say, too, that the horsey man, who was evidently well
known to them both, had given them orders to desert in the
confusion, so that he might suck their brains at leisure
elsewhere. Altogether, the morning's work from breakfast time
till ten was as full of moving incident as a quiet person's life.
I have never had a more exciting two hours. When I sat down to my
own breakfast (which I ate in the cabin among the gentlemen) I
seemed to have grown five years older. All three men made much of
me. They brought out all sorts of sweetmeats for me, saying I had
saved them from disaster. The Duke was especially kind. "Why,
Jermyn," he said, "we thought we'd found a clever messenger; but
we've found a guardian angel." He gave me a belt made of green
Spanish leather, with a wonderfully wrought steel clasp. "Here,"
he said. "Wear this, Martin. Here's a holster on it for your
pistol. These pouches hold cartridges. Then this sheath at the
back will hold your dagger, the spoils of war."
"There," said the captain. "Now I'll give you something else to
fit you out. I'll give you a pocket flask. What's more, I'll
teach you how to make cartridges. We'll make a stock this
While he was speaking, the mate came down to tell us how sorry he
was that it was through him that the horsey man was shown over
the ship. "He told me he'd important letters for Mr. Scott," he
said, "so I thought it was only right to show him about, while
you was dressing. The carpenter came to me. 'This gentleman's got
letters for Mr. Scott,' he said. So I was just taken in. He was
such a smooth spoken chap. After I got to know, I could 'a' bit
my head off." They spoke kindly to the man, who was evidently
distressed at his mistake. They told him to give orders for a
watchman to walk the gangway all day long in future, which to me
sounded like locking the stable door too late. After that, I
learned how to make pistol cartridges until the company prepared
to go ashore. The chests of the deserters were locked up in the
lazaret, or store cupboard, so that if the men came aboard again
they might not take away their things.
"Before we start," the Duke said, "I must just say this. We know,
from this morning's work, that the spies of the English court
know much more than we supposed. We may count it as certain that
this ship is being watched at this moment. Now, we must put them
off the scent, because I must see Argyle without their knowledge.
It is not much good putting to sea again, as a blind, for they
can't help knowing that we are here to see Argyle. They have only
to watch Argyle's house to see us enter, sooner or later. I
suggest this as a blind. We ought to ride far out into the
country to Zaandam, say, by way of Amsterdam. That's about twenty
miles. Meanwhile Argyle shall come aboard here. The schooner
shall take him up to Egmont; he'll get there this afternoon. He
must come aboard disguised though. At Zaandam, we three will
separate, Jermyn will personate me, remaining in Zaandam. The boy
shall carry letters in a hurry to Hoorn; dummy letters, of
course. While I shall creep off to meet Argyle--somewhere else.
If we start in a hurry they won't have time to organize a
pursuit. There are probably only a few secret agents waiting for
us here. What do you say?"
"Yes," said Mr. Jermyn. "I myself should say this. Send the boy
on at once to Egmont with a note to Stendhal the merchant there.
They won't suspect the boy. They won't bother to follow him,
probably. Tell Stendhal to send Out a galliot to take Argyle off
the schooner while at sea. The galliot can land Argyle somewhere
on the coast. That would puzzle them rarely. She can then ply to
England, or elsewhere, so that her men won't have a chance of
talking. As for the schooner, she can proceed north to anchor at
the Texel till further orders. At the same time, we could ride
south to Noordwyk; find a barge there going north. Hide in her
cabin till she arrives, say, at Alkmaar. Meet Argyle somewhere
near there. Then remain hidden till it is time to move. We can
set all the balls moving, by sticking up a few bills in the
towns." I did not know what he meant by this. Afterwards I
learned that the conspirators took their instructions from
advertisements for servants, or of things lost, which were stuck
up in public places. To the initiated, these bills, seemingly
innocent, gave warning of the Duke's plan. Very few people in
Holland (not more than thirty I believe) were in the secret of
his expedition. Most of these thirty knew other loyalists, to
whom, when the time came, they gave the word. When the time came
we were only about eighty men all told. That is not a large
force, is it, for the invasion of a populous kingdom?
They talked it out for a little while, making improvements on Mr.
Jermyn's plan. They had a map by them during some of the time.
Before they made their decision, they turned me out of the cabin,
so that I know not to this day what the Duke did during the next
few days. I know only this, that he disappeared from his enemies,
so completely that the spies were baffled. Not only James's
spies, that is nothing: but the spies of William of Orange were
baffled. They knew no more of his whereabouts than I knew. They
had to write home that he had gone, they could not guess where;
but possibly to Scotland to sound the clans. All that I know of
his doings during the next week is this. After about half an hour
of debate, the captain went ashore to one of the famous inns in
the town. From this inn, :he despatched, one by one, at brief
intervals, three horses, each to a different inn along the Egmont
highway. He gave instructions to the ostlers who rode them to
wait outside the inns named till the gentlemen called for them.
He got the third horse off, in this quiet way, at the end of
about an hour. I believe that he then sent a printed book (with
certain words in it underlined, so as to form a message) by the
hand of a little girl, to the Duke of Argyle's lodging. I have
heard that it was a book on the training of horses to do tricks.
There was probably some cipher message in it, as well as the
underlined message. Whatever it was, it gave the Duke his
CHAPTER IX. I SEE MORE OF MY FRIEND
After waiting for about an hour in the schooner, I was sent
ashore with a bottle-basket, with very precise instructions in
what I was to do. I was to follow the road towards Haarlem, till
I came to the inn near the turning of the Egmont highway. There I
was to leave my bottle-basket, asking (or, rather, handing over a
written request) for it to be filled with bottles of the very
best gin. After paying for this, I was to direct it to be sent
aboard the schooner by the ostler (who was waiting at the door
with a horse) the last of those ordered by the captain. I was
then to walk the horse along the Egmont road, till I saw or heard
an open carriage coming behind. Then I was to trot, keeping ahead
of the carriage, but not far from it, till I was past the third
tavern. After that, if I was not recalled by those in the
carriage, I was free to quicken up my pace. I was then to ride
straight ahead, till I got to Egmont, a twenty mile ride to the
north. There I was to deliver up my horse at the Zwolle-Haus inn,
before enquiring for M. Stendhal, the East India merchant. To him
I was to give a letter, which for safety was rolled into a blank
cartridge in my little pistol cartridge box. After that, I was to
stay at M. Stendhal's house, keeping out of harm's way, till I
received further orders from my masters.
You may be sure that I thought myself a fine figure of gallantry
as I stepped out with my bottle-basket. I was a King's secret
agent. I had a King's letter hidden about my person. I was armed
with fine weapons, which I longed to be using. I had been under
fire for my King's sake. I was also still tingling with my King's
praise. It was a warm, sunny April day; that was another thing to
fill me with gladness. Soon I should be mounted on a nag, riding
out in a strange land, on a secret mission, with a pocket full of
special service money. Whatever I had felt in the few days of the
sea-passage was all forgotten now. I did not even worry about not
knowing the language. It would keep me from loitering to chatter.
My schoolboy French would probably be enough for all purposes if
I vent astray. I was "to avoid chance acquaintances, particularly
if they spoke English." That was my last order. Repeating it to
myself I walked on briskly.
I had not gone more than three hundred yards upon my way, when a
lady, very richly dressed, cantered slowly past me on a fine bay
mare. She was followed by a gentleman in scarlet, riding on a
little black Arab. They had not gone a hundred yards past me when
the Arab picked up a stone. The man dismounted to pick it out,
while the lady rode back to hold the horse, which was a ticklish
job, since he was as fresh as a colt. He went squirming about
like an eel. The man had no hook to pick the stone with; nor
could he get it out by his fingers. I could hear him growling
under his breath in some strange language, while the horse sidled
about as wicked as he could be.
As I approached, the horse grew so troublesome that the man
decided to take him back to the town, to have the stone pulled
there. He was just starting to lead him back when I came up with
them. He asked me some question in a tongue which I did not know.
He probably asked me if I had a hook. I shook my head. The lady
said something to him in French, which made him laugh. Then he
began to lead back the horse towards the town. The lady, after
waving her hand to him, started to ride slowly forward in front
of me. Like most ladies at that time she wore a little black
velvet domino mask over her eyes. All people could ride in those
days; but I remember it occurred to me that this lady rode
beautifully. So many women look like meal-sacks in the saddle.
This one rode as though she were a part of the horse.
She kept about twenty yards ahead of me till I sighted the inn,
where an ostler was walking the little nag which I was to ride.
She halted at the inn-door, looking back towards the town for her
companion. Then, without calling to anybody, she dismounted,
flinging her mare's reins over a hook in the wall. She went into
the inn boldly, drawing her whip through her left hand. When I
entered the inn-door a moment later, she was talking in Dutch to
the landlord, who was bowing to her as though she were a great
I handed over my bottle-basket, with the letter, to a woman who
served the customers at the drinking bar. Then, as I was going
out to take my horse, the lady spoke to me in broken English.
"Walk my horse, so he not take cold," she said. It was in the
twilight of the passage from the door, so that I could not see
her very clearly, but the voice was certainly like the voice of
the woman who had fired at me in the courtyard. Or was I right?
That voice was on my nerves. It seemed to be the voice of all the
strangers in the town. I looked up at her quickly. She was
masked; yet the grey eyes seemed to gleam beyond the velvet, much
as that woman's eyes had gleamed. Her mouth; her chin; the
general poise of her body, all convinced me. She was the woman
who had carried away the book from Longshore Jack. I was quite
sure of it. I pretended not to understand her. I dropped my eyes,
without stopping; she flicked me lightly with her whip to draw my
"Walk my horse," she said again, with a little petulance in her
voice. I saw no way out of it. If I refused, she would guess (if
she did not know already) that I was not there only for bottles
of gin. "Oui, mademoiselle," I said. "Oui. Merci." So out I went
to where the mare stood. She followed me to the door to see me
take the mare. There was no escape; she was going to delay me at
the door till the man returned. I patted the lovely creature's
neck. I was very well used to horses, for in the Broad Country a
man must ride almost as much as he must row. But I was not so
taken up with this mare that I did not take good stock of the
lady, who, for her part, watched me pretty narrowly, as though
she meant never to forget me. I began to walk the beast in the
road in front of the inn, wondering how in the world I was to get
out of the difficulty before the Duke's carriage arrived. There
was the woman watching me, with a satirical smile. She was
evidently enjoying the sight of my crestfallen face.
Now in my misery a wild thought occurred to me. I began to time
my walking of the mare so that I was walking towards Sandfoort,
while the other horse-boy was walking with my nag towards Egmont
on the other side of the inn. I had read that in desperate cases
the desperate remedy is the only measure to be tried. While I was
walking away from the inn I drew the dagger, the spoils of war. I
drew it very gently as though I were merely buttoning my
waistcoat. Then with one swift cut I drew it nine-tenths through
the girth. I did nothing more for that turn, though I only bided
my time. After a turn or two more, the other horse-boy was called
up to the inn by the lady to receive a drink of beer. No doubt
she was going to question him (as he drank) about the reason for
his being there. He walked up leisurely, full of smiles at the
beer, leaving his nag fast to a hook in the wall some dozen yards
from the door. This was a better chance than I had hoped for; so
drawing my dagger, I resolved to put things to the test. I ripped
the reins off the mare close to the bit. Then with a loud shout
followed by a whack in the flank, I frightened that lovely mare
right into them, almost into the inn-door. Before they knew what
had happened I was at my own horse's head swiftly casting off the
reins from the hook. Before they had turned to pursue me, I was
in the saddle, going at a quick trot towards Egmont, while the
mare was charging down the road behind me, with her saddle under
her belly, giving her the fright of her life.
An awful thought came to me. "Supposing the lady is not the
English spy, what an awful thing I have done. Even if she be,
what right have I to cut her horse's harness? They may put me in
prison for it. Besides, what an ass I have been. If she is what I
think, she will know now that I am her enemy, engaged on very
special service." Looking back at the inn-door, I saw a party of
people gesticulating in the road. A man was shouting to me.
Others seemed to be laughing. Then, to my great joy, round the
turn of the road came an open carriage with two horses, going at
a good pace. There came my masters. All was well. I chuckled to
myself as I thought of the lady's face, when these two passed
her, leaving her without means of following them. When we were
well out of sight of the inn, I rode back to the carriage to
report, wondering how they would receive my news. They received
it with displeasure, saying that I had disobeyed my orders, not
only in acting as I had done; but in coming back to tell them.
They bade me ride on at once to Egmont, before I was arrested for
cutting the lady's harness. As for their own plans, whatever they
were, my action altered them. I do not know what they did. I know
that I turned away with a flea in my ear from the Duke's reproof.
I remember not very much of my ride to Egmont, except that I
seemed to ride most of the time among sand-dunes. I glanced back
anxiously to see if I was being pursued; but no one followed. I
rode on at the steady lope, losing sight of the carriage, passing
by dune after dune, rising windmill after windmill, to drop them
behind me as I rode. In that low country, I had the gleam of the
sea to my left hand, with the sails of ships passing by me. The
wind freshened as I rode, till at last my left cheek felt the
continual stinging of the sand grains, whirled up by the wind
from the bents. Where the sea-beach broadened, I rode on the
sands. The miles dropped past quickly enough, though I rode only
at the lope, not daring to hurry my horse. I kept this my pace
even when going through villages, where the people in their
strange Dutch clothes hurried out to stare at me as I bucketed
by. I passed by acre after acre of bulb-fields, mostly
tulip-fields, now beginning to be full of colour. Once, for ten
minutes, I rode by a broad canal, where a barge with a scarlet
transom drove along under sail, spreading the ripples, keeping
alongside me. The helmsman, who was smoking a pipe as he eyed the
luff of his sail, waved his hand to me, as I loped along beside
him. You would not believe it; but he was one of the Oulton
fishermen, a man whom I had known for years. I had seen that
tan-sailed barge many, many times, rushing up the Waveney from
Somer Leyton, with that same quiet figure at her helm. I would
have loved to have called out "Oh, Hendry. How are you? Fancy
seeing you here." But I dared not betray myself; nor did Hendry
recognize me. After the road swung away from the canal, I watched
that barge as long as she remained in sight, thinking that while
she was there I had a little bit of Oulton by me.
At last, far away I saw the church of Egmont, rising out of a
flat land (not unlike the Broad land) on which sails were passing
in a misty distance. I rose in my stirrups with a holloa; for
now, I thought, I was near my journey's end. I clapped my horse's
neck, promising him an apple for his supper. Then, glancing back,
I looked out over the land. The Oulton barge was far away now, a
patch of dark sail drawing itself slowly across the sky. Out to
sea a great ship seemed to stand still upon the skyline. But
directly behind me, perhaps a mile away, perhaps two miles,
clearly visible on the white straight ribbon of road, a clump of
gallopers advanced, quartering across the road towards me. There
may have been twenty of them all told; some of them seemed to
ride in ranks like soldiers. I made no doubt when I caught sight
of them that they were coming after me, about that matter of the
lady's harness. My first impulse was to pull up, so that Old
Blunderbore, as I had christened my horse, might get his breath.
But I decided not to stop, as I knew how dangerous a thing it is
to stop a horse in his pace after he has settled down to it. had
still three miles to go to shelter. If I could manage the three
miles all would be well. But could manage them? Old Blunderbore
had taken the eighteen miles we had come together very easily.
Now I was thankful that I had not pressed him in the early part
of the ride. But Egmont seemed a long, long way from me. I dared
not begin to gallop so far from shelter. I went loping on as
before, with my heart in my mouth, feeling like one pursued in a
As I looked around, to see these gallopers coming on, while I was
still lollopping forward, I felt that I was tied by the legs,
unable to move. Each instant made it more difficult for me to
keep from shaking up my horse. Continual promptings flashed into
my mind, urging me to bolt down somewhere among the dunes. These
plans I set aside as worthless; for a boy would soon have been
caught among those desolate sandhills. There was no real hiding
among them. You could see any person among them from a mile away.
I kept on ahead, longing for that wonderful minute when I could
hurry my horse, in the wild rush to Egmont town, the final wild
rush, on the nag's last strength, with my pursuers, now going
their fastest, trailing away behind, as their beasts foundered.
The air came singing past. I heard behind me the patter of the
turf sent flying by Old Blunderbore's hoofs. The excitement of
the ride took vigorous hold on me. I felt on glancing back that I
should do it, that I should carry my message, that the Dutchman
should see my mettle, before they stopped me. They were coming up
fast on horses still pretty fresh. I would show them, I said to
myself, what a boy can do on a spent horse.
Old Blunderbore lollopped on. I clapped him on the neck. "Come
up, boy! Up!" I cried. "Egmont--Egmont! Come on, Old
Blunderbore!" The good old fellow shook his head up with a
whinny. He could see Egmont. He could smell the good corn
perhaps. I banged him with my cap on the shoulder. "Up, boy!" I
cried. I felt that even if I died, even if I was shot there, as I
sailed along with my King's orders, I should have tasted life in
that wild gallop.
A countryman carrying a sack put down his load to stare at me,
for now, with only a mile to go, I was going a brave gait, as
fast as Old Blunderbore could manage. I saw the man put up his
hands in pretended terror. The next instant he was far behind,
wondering no doubt why the charging squadron beyond were
galloping after a boy. Now we were rushing at our full speed,
with half a mile, a quarter of a mile, two hundred yards to the
town gates. Carts drew to one side, hearing the clatter. I
shouted to drive away the children. Poultry scattered as though
the king of the foxes was abroad. After me came the thundering
clatter of the pursuit. I could hear distant shouts. The nearest
man there was a quarter of a mile away. A man started out to
catch my rein, thinking that my horse had run away with me. I
banged him in the face with my cap as I swung past him. In
another second, as it seemed, I was pulled up inside the gates.
As far as I remember,- but it is all rather blurred now,--the
place where I pulled up was a sort of public square. I swung
myself off Old Blunderbore just outside a tavern. An ostler ran
up to me at once to hold him. So I gave him a silver piece !what
it was worth I did not know) saying firmly "Zwolle-Haus. Go on.
The ostler smiled as he repeated Zwolle-Haus, pointing to the
tavern itself, which, by good luck, was the very house.
"M. Stendhal," I said. "Where is M. Stendhal? Mynheer Stendhal?
Mynheer Stendhal Haus?"
The ostler repeated, "Stendhal? Stendhal? Ah, ja. Stendhal. Da."
He pointed down a narrow street which led, as I could see, to a
I thanked him in English, giving him another silver piece. Then
off I went, tottering on my toes with the strangeness of walking
after so long a ride. I was not out of the wood yet, by a long
way. At every second, as I hurried on, I expected to hear cries
of my pursuers, as they charged down the narrow street after me.
I tried to run, but my legs felt so funny, it was like running in
a dream. I just felt that I was walking on pillows, instead of
legs. Luckily that little narrow street was only fifty yards
long. It was with a great gasp of relief that I got to the end of
it. When I could turn to my right out of sight of the square I
felt that I was saved. I had been but a minute ahead of the
pursuers outside on the open. Directly after my entrance, some
cart or waggon went out of the town, filling the narrow gateway
full, so that my enemies were forced to pull up. This gave me a
fair start, without which I could hardly have won clear. If it
had not been for that lucky waggon, who knows what would have
As it was, I tottered along with drawn pistol to the door of a
great house (luckily for me the only house), which fronted the
canal. I must have seemed a queer object, coming in from my ride
like that, in a peaceful Dutch town. If I had chanced upon a
magistrate I suppose I should have been locked up; but luck was
with me on that day. I chanced only on Mynheer Stendhal as he sat
smoking among his tulips in the front of his mansion. He jumped
up with a "God bless me!" when he saw me.
"Mynheer Stendhal?" I asked.
"Yes," he said in good English. "What is it, boy?"
"Take me in quick," I said. "They're after me."
CHAPTER X. SOUNDS IN THE NIGHT
In another minute, after Mr. Stendhal had read my note, I was
skinning off my clothes in an upper bedroom. Within three minutes
I was dressed like a Dutch boy, in huge baggy striped trousers
belonging to Stendhal's son. In four minutes the swift Mr.
Stendhal had walked me across the wharf in sabots to one of the
galliots in the canal, which he ordered under way at once, to
pick up Argyle at sea. So that when my pursuers rode up to Mr.
Stendhal's door in search of me, I was a dirty little Dutch boy
casting off a stern-hawser from a ring bolt. They seemed to storm
at Mr. Stendhal; but I don't know what they said; he acted the
part of surprised indignation to the life. When I looked my last
on Mr. Stendhal he was at the door, begging a search party to
enter to see for themselves that I was not hidden there. The
galliot got under way, at that moment, with a good deal of crying
out from her sailors. As she swung away into the canal, I saw the
handsome lady idly looking on. She was waiting at the door with
the other riders. She was the only woman there. To show her that
I was a skilled seaman I cast off the stern-hawser nimbly, then
dropped on to the deck like one bred to the trade. A moment later
I was aloft, casting loose the gaff-topsail. From that fine
height as the barge began to move I saw the horsemen turning away
foiled. I saw the lady's leathered hat, making a little dash of
green among the drab of the riding coats. Then an outhouse hid
them all from sight. I was in a sea-going barge, bound out, under
all sail, along a waterway lined with old reeds, all blowing down
with a rattling shiver.
Now I am not going to tell you much more of my Holland
experiences. I was in that barge for about one whole fortnight,
during which I think I saw the greater part of the Dutch canals.
We picked up Argyle at sea on the first day. After that we went
to Amsterdam with a cargo of hides. Then we wandered about at the
wind's will, thinking that it might puzzle people, if any one
should have stumbled on the right scent. All that fortnight was a
long delightful picnic to me. The barge was so like an Oulton
wherry that I was at home in her. I knew what to do, it was not
like being in the schooner. When we were lying up by a wharf, I
used to spend my spare hours in fishing, or in flinging fiat
pebbles from a cleft-stick at the water-rats. When we were under
sail I used to sit aloft in the cross-trees, looking out at the
distant sea. At night, after a supper of strong soup, we all
turned in to our bunks in the tiny cabin, from the scuttle of
which I could see a little patch of sky full of stars.
A boy lives very much in the present. I do not think that I
thought much of the Duke's service, nor of our venture for the
crown. If I thought at all of our adventures, I thought of the
handsome woman with the grey, fierce eyes. In a way, I hoped that
might have another tussle with her, not because I liked
adventure, no sane creature does, but because I thought of her
with liking. I felt that she would be such a brave, witty person
to have for a friend. I felt sad somehow at the thought of not
seeing her again. She was quite young, not more than twenty, if
her looks did not belie her. I used to wonder how it was that she
had come to be a secret agent. I believed that the sharp-faced
horsey man had somehow driven her to it against her will.
Thinking of her at night, before I fell asleep, I used to long to
help her. It is curious, but I always thought tenderly of this
woman, even though she had twice tried to kill me. A man's bad
angel is only his good angel a little warped.
On the second of May, though I did not know it then, Argyle set
sail for Scotland, to raise the clans for a foray across the
Border. On the same day I was summoned from my quarters in the
barge to take up my King's service. Late one evening, when it was
almost dark night, Mr. Jermyn halted at the wharf-side to call me
from my supper. "Mount behind me, Martin," he said softly,
peering down the hatch. "It's time, now." I thought he must mean
that it was time to invade England. You must remember that I knew
little of the rights of the case, except that the Duke's cause
was the one favoured by my father, dead such a little while
before. Yet when I heard that sudden summons, it went through me
with a shock that now this England was to be the scene of a
bloody civil war, father fighting son, brother against brother. I
would rather have been anywhere at that moment than where I was,
hearing that order. Still, I had put my hand to the plough. There
was no drawing back. I rose up with my eyes full of tears to say
good-bye to the kind Dutch bargemen. I never saw them again. In a
moment I was up the wharf, scrambling into the big double saddle
behind Mr. Jermyn. Before my eyes were accustomed to the darkness
we were trotting off into the night I knew not whither.
"Martin," said Mr. Jermyn, half turning in his saddle, "talk in a
low voice. There may be spies anywhere."
"Yes, sir," I answered, meekly. For a while after that we were
silent; I was waiting for him to tell me more.
"Martin," he said at length, "we're going to send you to England,
with a message."
"Yes, sir?" I answered.
"You understand that there's danger, boy?"
"Life is full of danger. But for his King a Christian man must be
content to run risks. You aren't afraid, Martin?"
"No, sir," I answered bravely. I was afraid, all the same. I
doubt if any boy my age would have felt very brave, riding in the
night like that, with danger of spies all about.
"That's right, Martin," he said kindly. "That's the kind of boy I
thought you." Again we were quiet, till at last he said:
"You're going in a barquentine to Dartmouth. Can you remember
Blick of Kingswear?"
"Blick of Kingswear," I repeated. "Yes, sir."
"He's the man you're to go to."
"Yes, sir. What am I to tell him?"
"Tell him this, Martin. Listen carefully. This, now. King Golden
Cap. After Six One."
"King Golden Cap. After Six One," I repeated. "Blick of
Kingswear. King Golden Cap. After Six One."
"That's right," he said. "Repeat it over. Don't forget a word of
it. But I know you're too careful a lad to do that." There was no
fear of my forgetting it. I think that message is burned in into
my brain under the skull-bones.
"There'll be cipher messages, too, Martin. They're also for Mr.
Blick. You'll carry a little leather satchel, with letters sewn
into the flap. You'll carry stockings in the satchel. Or
school-books. You are Mr. Blick's sister's son, left an orphan in
Holland. You'll be in mourning. Your mother died of low-fever,
remember, coming over to collect a debt from her factor. Your
mother was an Oulton fish-boat owner. Pay attention now. I'm
going to cross-examine you in your past history."
As we rode on into the gloom, in the still, flat, misty land,
which gleamed out at whiles with water dykes, he cross-examined
me in detail, in several different ways, just as a magistrate
would have done it. I was soon letter-perfect about my mother. I
knew Mr. Blick's past history as well as I knew my own.
"Martin," said Mr. Jermyn suddenly. "Do you hear anything?"
"Yes, sir," I answered. "I think I do, sir."
"What is it you hear, Martin?"
"I think I hear a horse's hoofs, sir."
"Yes, sir. A long way behind."
"Hold on then, boy. I'm going to pull up."
We halted for an instant in the midst of a wide fiat desert, the
loneliest place on God's earth. For an instant in the stillness
we heard the trot trot of a horse's hoofs. Then the unseen rider
behind us halted, too, as though uncertain how to ride, with our
"There," said Mr. Jermyn. "You see. Now we'll make him go on
again." He shook the horse into his trot again, talking to him in
a little low voice that shook with excitement. Sure enough, after
a moment the trot sounded out behind us. It was as though our
wraiths were riding behind us, following us home. "I'll make
sure," said Mr. Jermyn, pulling up again.
"You're a cunning dog," he said gently. "You heard that?" Indeed,
it sounded uncanny. The unseen rider had feared to pull up,
guessing that we had guessed his intentions. Instead of pulling
up he did a much more ominous thing, he slowed his pace
perceptibly. We could hear the change in the beat of the
horse-hoofs. "Cunning lad," said Mr. Jermyn. "I've a good mind to
shoot that man, Martin. He's following us. Pity it's so dark. One
can never be sure in the dark like this. But I don't know. I'd
like to see who it is."
We trotted on again at our usual pace. Presently,, something
occurred to me. Mr. Jermyn, I said; "would you like me to see who
it is? I could slip off as we go. I could lie down flat so that
he would pass against the sky. Then you could come back for me."
He did not like the scheme at first. He said that it would be too
dark for me to see anybody; but that when we were nearer to the
town it might be done., So we rode on at our quick trot for a
couple of more, hearing always behind us a faint beat of
upon the road, like the echo of our own hoofs. After a time they
stopped suddenly, nor did we hear them again.
"D'you know what he's done, Martin?" said Mr. Jermyn.
"No, sir," I answered.
"He's muffled his horse's hoofs with duffle shoes. A sort of
thick felt slippers. He was in too great a hurry to do that
before. There are the lights of the town."
"Shall I get down, sir?"
"If you can without my pulling up. Don't speak. But lay your head
on the road. You'll hear the horse, then, if I'm right."
"Then I'll lie still," I said, "to see if I can see who it is."
"Yes. But make no sign. He may shoot. He may take you for a
footpad. I'll ride back to you in a minute."
He slowed down the horse so that I could slip off unheard on to
the turf by the roadside. When he had gone a little distance, I
laid my ear to the road. Sure enough, the noise of the other
horse was faint but plain in the distance, coming along on the
road, avoiding the turf. The turf vas trenched in many drains, so
as to make dangerous riding at night. I lay down flat on the
turf, with my pistol in my hand. I was excited; but I remember
that I enjoyed it. I felt so like an ancient Briton lying in wait
for his enemy. I tried to guess the distance of this strange
horse from me. It is always difficult to judge either distance or
location by sound, when the wind is blowing. The horse hoofs
sounded about a quarter of a mile away. I know not how far they
really were. Very soon I could see the black moving mass coming
quietly along the road. The duffle hoof-wraps made a dull
plodding noise near at hand. Nearer the unknown rider came,
suspecting nothing. I could see him bent forward, peering out
ahead. I could even take stock of him, dark though it was. He was
a not very tall man, wearing a full Spanish riding cloak. It
seemed to me that he checked his horse's speed somewhere in the
thirty yards before he passed me. Then, just as he passed, just
as I had a full view of him, blackly outlined against the stars,
his horse shied violently at me, on to the other side of the
road. The rider swung him about on the instant to make him face
the danger. I could see him staring down at me, as he bent
forward to pat his horse's neck. I bent my head down so that my
face was hidden in the grass.
The stranger did not see me. I am quite sure that he did not see
me. He turned his horse back along the road for a few snorting
paces. Then with a sounding slap on his shoulder he drove him at
a fast pace along the turf towards me. I heard the brute whinny.
He was uneasy; he was trying to shy; he was twisting away, trying
to avoid the strange thing which lay there. I hid my head no
longer. I saw the horse above me. I saw the rider glaring down.
He was going to ride over me. I saw his face, a grey blur under
his hat. The horse seemed to be right on top of me. I started up
to my feet with a cry. The horse shied into the road, with a
violence which made the rider rock. Then, throwing up his head,
he bolted towards the town, half mad with the scare. Fifty yards
down the road he tore past Mr. Jermyn, who was trotting back to
pick me up. We heard the frantic hoofs pass away into the night,
growing louder as the duffle wraps were kicked off. Perhaps you
have noticed how the very sound of the gallop of a scared horse
conveys fear. That is what we felt, we two conspirators, as we
talked together, hearing that clattering alarm-note die away.
"Martin," said Mr. Jermyn. "That was a woman. She chuckled as she
galloped past me."
"Are you sure, sir?" I asked, half-hoping that he might be right.
I felt my heart leap at the thought of being in another adventure
with the lady.
"Yes," he said, "I'm quite sure. Now we must be quick, so as to
give her no time in the town." When I had mounted, we forced the
horse to a gallop till we were within a quarter of a mile of the
walls, where we pulled up at a cross-roads.
"Get down, Martin," he said. "We must enter the town by different
roads. Turn off here to the right. Then take the next two turns
to the left, which will bring you into the square. I shall meet
you there. Take your time. There's no hurry."
About ten minutes later, I was stopped in a dark quiet alley by a
hand on the back of my neck. I saw no one. I heard no noise of
breathing. In the pitch blackness of the night the hand arrested
me. It was like my spine suddenly stiffening to a rod of ice.
"Quiet," said a strange voice before I could scream. "Off with
those Dutch clothes. Put on these. Off with those sabots." I was
in a suit of English clothes in less than a minute. "Boots," the
voice said in my ear. "Pull them on." They were long leather
knee-boots, supple from careful greasing. In one of them I felt
something hard. My heart leapt as I felt it.
It was a long Italian stiletto. I felt myself a seaman indeed,
nay, more than a seaman, a secret agent, with a pair of such
boots upon me, "heeled," as the sailors call it, with such a
weapon. "Go straight on," said the voice.
As I started to go straight on, there was a sort of rustling
behind me. Some black figure seemed to vanish from me. Whoever
the man was that had brought me the clothes, he had vanished,
just as an Indian will vanish into grass six inches high.
Thinking over my strange adventures, I think that that changing
of my clothes in the night was almost the most strange of all. It
was so eerie, that he should be there at all, a part of Mr.
Jermyn's plan, fitting into it exactly, though undreamed of by
me. Would indeed that all Mr. Jermyn's plans had carried through
so well. But it was not to be. One ought not to grumble.
A few steps farther on, I came to a public square, on one side of
which (quite close to where I stood) was a wharf, crowded with
shipping. I had hardly expected the sea to be so near, somehow,
but seeing it like that I naturally stopped to look for the ship
which was to carry me. The only barquentine among the ships lay
apart from the others, pointing towards the harbour entrance. She
seemed to be a fine big vessel, as far as I could judge in that
light. I lingered there for some few minutes, looking at the
ships, wondering why it was that Mr. Jermyn had not met me. I was
nervous about it. My nerves were tense from all the excitement of
the night. One cannot stand much excitement for long. I had had
enough excitement that night to last me through the week. As I
stood looking at the ships, I began to feel a horror of the
wharf-side. I felt as though the very stones of the place were my
enemies, lying in wait for me. I cannot explain the feeling more
clearly than that. It was due probably to the loneliness of the
great empty square, dark as a tomb. Then, expecting Mr. Jermyn,
but failing to meet with him, was another cause for dread. I
thought, in my nervousness, that I should be in a fine pickle if
any enemies made away with Mr. Jermyn, leaving me alone, in a
strange land, with only a few silver pieces in my pocket. Still,
Mr. Jermyn was long in coming. My anxiety was almost more than I
At last, growing fearful that I had somehow missed him at the
mouth of the dark alley, I walked slowly back in my tracks,
wishing that I had a thicker jacket, since it was beginning to
rain rather smartly. There was a great sort of inn on the side of
the square to which I walked. It had lights on the second floor.
The great windows of that story opened on to balconies, in what
is, I believe, the Spanish way of building. I remember feeling
bitterly how cheery the warm lights looked, inside there, where
the people were. I stood underneath the balcony out of the rain,
looking out sharply towards the alley, expecting at each instant
to see Mr. Jermyn. Still he did not come. I dared not move from
where I was lest I should miss him. I racked my brains to try to
remember if I had obeyed orders exactly. I wondered whether I had
come to the right square. I began to imagine all kinds of evil
things which might have happened to him. Perhaps that secret
fiend of a woman had been too many for him. Perhaps some other
secret service people had waylaid him as he entered the town.
Perhaps he was even then in bonds in some cellar, being examined
for letters by some of the usurper's men.
CHAPTER XI. AURELIA
While I was fretting myself into a state of hysteria, the catch
of one of the great window-doors above me was pushed back.
Someone came out on the balcony just over my head. It was a
woman, evidently in some great distress, for she was sobbing
bitterly. I thought it mean to stand there hearing her cry, so I
moved away. As I walked off, the window opened again. A big
heavy-looted man came out.
"Stop crying, Aurelia," the voice said. "Here's the stuff. Put it
in your pocket."
"I can't," the woman answered. "I can't."
I stopped moving away when I heard that voice. It was the voice
of the Longshore Jack woman who had had those adventures with me.
I should have known her voice anywhere, even choked as it then
was with sobs. It was a good voice, of a pleasant quality, but
with a quick, authoritative ring.
"I can't," she said. "I can't, Father."
"Put it in your pocket," her father said. "No rubbish of that
sort. You must."
"It would kill me. I couldn't," she answered. "I should hate
"No more of that to me," said the cold, hard voice with quiet
passion. "Your silly scruples aren't going to outweigh a nation's
need. There it is in your pocket. Be careful you don't use too
much. If you fail again, remember, you'll earn your own living.
Oh, you bungler! When I think of--"
"I'm no bungler. You know it," she answered passionately. "I
planned everything. You silly men never backed me up. Who was it
guessed right this time? I suppose you think you'd have come here
without my help? That's like a man."
"Don't stand there rousing the town, Aurelia, the man said. "Come
in out of the rain at once. Get yourself ready to start."
As the window banged to behind them, a figure loomed up out of
the night--two figures, more. I sprang to one side; but they were
too quick for me. Someone flung an old flour-sack over my head.
Before I was ready to struggle I was lying flat on the pavement,
with a man upon my chest.
"It's him," said a voice. "You young rip, where are the letters?"
"What letters?" I said, struggling, choking against the folds of
"Rip up his boots," said another. "Dig him with a knife if he
"Bring him in to the Colonel," said the first.
"I've got no letters," I said.
"Lift him up quick," said the man who had suggested the knife.
"In with him. Here's the watch."
"Quick, boys," the leader said. "We mustn't be caught at this
Steps sounded somewhere in the square. Hearing them, I squealed
with all my strength, hoping that somebody would come.
"Choke him," said one of the men.
I gave one more loud squeal before they jammed the sack on my
mouth. To my joy, the feet broke into a run. They were the feet
of the watch, coming to my rescue.
"Up with him," said the leader among my captors. "Quick, in to
the Colonel with him."
"No, no! Drop it. I'm off. Here's the watch," cried the other
They let me drop on to the pavement after half lifting me. In
five seconds more they were scattering to shelter. As I rose to
my feet, flinging off the flour-sack, I found myself in the midst
of the city watch, about a dozen men, all armed, whose leader
carried a lantern. The windows of the great inn were open; people
were thronging on to the balcony to see what the matter was;
citizens came to their house-doors. At that moment, Mr. Jermyn
appeared. The captain of the guard was asking questions in Dutch.
The guardsmen were peering at my face in the lantern light.
Mr. Jermyn questioned me quickly as to what had happened. He
interpreted my tale to the guard. I was his servant, he told
them. I had been attacked by unknown robbers, some of whom, at
least, were English. One of them had tried to stifle me with a
flour-sack, which, on examination under the lantern, proved to be
the sack of Robert Harling, Corn-miller, Eastry. Goodness knows
how it came to be there; for ship's flour travels in cask. Mr.
Jermyn gave an address, where we could be found if any of the
villains were caught; but he added that it was useless to expect
me to identify any of them, since the attack had been made in the
dark, with the victim securely blindfolded. He gave the leader of
the men some money. The guard moved away to look for the culprits
(long before in hiding, one would think), while Mr. Jermyn took
me away with him.
As we went, I looked up at the inn balcony, from which several
heads looked down upon us. Behind them, in the lighted room, in
profile, in full view, was the lady of the fierce eyes. I knew
her at once, in spite of the grey Spanish (man's) hat she wore,
slouched over her face. She was all swathed in a Spanish riding
cloak. One took her for a handsome young man. But I knew that she
was my enemy. I knew her name now, too; Aurelia. She was looking
down at me, or rather at us, for she could not have made out our
faces. Her face was sad. She seemed uninterested; she had,
perhaps, enough sorrow of her own at that moment, without the
anxieties of others. A big, burly, hulking, handsome person of
the swaggering sort which used to enter the army in those days,
left the balcony hurriedly. I saw him at the window, speaking
earnestly to her, pointing to the square, in which, already, the
darkness hid us. I saw the listlessness fall from her. She seemed
to waken up into intense life in an instant. She walked with a
swift decision peculiar to her away from the window, leaving the
hulking fellow, an elderly, dissolute-looking man, with the wild
puffy eyes of the drinker, to pick his teeth in full view of the
When we left watching our enemies, Mr. Jermyn bade me walk on
tiptoe. We scurried away across the square diagonally, pausing
twice to listen for pursuers. No one seemed to be following.
There was not much sense in following; for the guard was busy
searching for suspicious persons. We heard them challenging
passers-by, with a rattle of their halberds on the stones, to
make their answers prompt. We were safe enough from persecution
for the time. We went down a dark street into a dark alley. From
the alley we entered a courtyard, the sides of which were vast
houses. We entered one of these houses. The door seemed to open
in the mysterious way which had puzzled me so much in Fish Lane.
Mr. Jermyn smiled when I asked him how this was done. "Go on in,
boy," he said. "There are many queer things in lives like ours."
He gave me a shove across the threshold, while the door closed
itself silently behind us.
He took me into a room which was not unlike a marine store of the
better sort. There were many sailor things (all of the very best
quality) lying in neat heaps on long oak shelves against the
walls. In the middle of the room a table was laid for dinner.
Mr. Jermyn made me eat a hearty meal before starting, which I
did. As I ate, he fidgeted about among some lockers at my back.
Presently, as I began to sip some wine which he had poured out
for me, he put something over my shoulders.
"Here," he said, "this is the satchel, Martin. Keep the straps
drawn tight always. Don't take it off till you give it into Mr.
Blick's hands. His own hands, remember. Don't take it off even at
night. When you lie down, lash it around your neck with
spun-yarn." All this I promised most faithfully to do. "But," I
said, examining the satchel, which was like an ordinary small old
weather-beaten satchel for carrying books, "where are the
"Sewn into the double," he answered. "You wouldn't be able to sew
so neatly as that. Would you, now?"
"Oh, yes, I should, sir," I replied. "I am a pretty good hand
with a sail-needle. The Oulton fishermen used to teach me the
stitches. I can do herring-bone stitch. I can even put a cringle
into a sail."
"You're the eighth wonder of the world, I think," Mr. Jermyn
said. "But choose, now. Choose a kit for yourself. You won't get
a chance to change your clothes till you get to Mr. Blick's if
you don't take some from here. So just look round the room here.
Take whatever you want."
I felt myself to have been fairly well equipped by the stranger
who had made me change my clothes in the alley. But I knew how
cold the Channel may be even in June; so I chose out two changes
of thick underwear. Weapons I had no need for, with the armory
already in my belt; but a heavy tarred jacket with an ear-flap
collar was likely to be useful, so I chose that instead. It was
not more than ten sizes too large for me; that did not matter; at
sea one tries to keep warm; appearances are not much regarded.
Last of all, when I had packed my satchel, I noticed a sailor's
canvas "housewife" very well stored with buttons, etc. I noticed
that it held what is called a "palm," that is, the leather
hand-guard used by sail-makers for pushing the needle through
sail cloth. It occurred to me, vaguely, that such a "housewife"
would be useful, in case my clothes got torn, so I stuffed it
into my satchel with the other things. I saw that it contained a
few small sail-needles (of the kind so excellent as egg-borers)
as well as some of the strong fine sail-twine, each thread of
which will support a weight of fifty pounds. I put the housewife
into my store with a vague feeling of being rich in the world's
goods, with such a little treasury of necessaries; I had really
no thought of what that chance impulse was to do for me.
"Are you ready?" Mr. Jermyn asked.
"Yes, sir. Quite ready."
"Take this blank drawing-book," he said, handing me a small
pocket-book, in which a pencil was stuck. "Make a practice of
drawing what you see. Draw the ships. Make sketches of the coast.
You will find that such drawings will give you great pleasure
when you come to be old. They will help you, too, in impressing
an object on your mind. Drawing thus will give you a sense of the
extraordinary wonder of the universe. It will teach you a lot of
things. Now let's be off. It's time we were on board."
When we went out of the house we were joined by three or four
seamen who carried cases of bottles (probably gin bottles). We
struck off towards the ship together at a brisk pace, singing one
of those quick-time songs with choruses to which the sailors
sometimes work. The song they sang was that very jolly one called
"Leave her, Johnny." They made such a noise with the chorus of
this ditty that Mr. Jermyn was able to refresh my memory in the
message to be given to Mr. Blick.
The rain had ceased before we started. When we came into the
square, we saw that cressets, or big flaming port-fires, had been
placed along the wharf, to give light to some seamen who were
rolling casks to the barquentine. A little crowd of idlers had
gathered about the workers to watch them at their job; there may
have been so many as twenty people there. They stood in a pretty
strong, but very unsteady light, by which I could take stock of
them. I looked carefully among them for the figure of a young man
in a grey Spanish hat; but he was certainly not there. The
barquentine had her sails loosed, but not hoisted. Some boats
were in the canal ahead, ready to tow her. out. She had also laid
out a hawser, by which to heave herself out with her capstan. I
could see at a glance that she was at the point of sailing. As we
came up the plank-gangway which led to her deck we were delayed
for a moment by a seaman who was getting a cask aboard.
"Beg pardon, sir," he said to Mr. Jermyn. "I won't keep you
waiting long. This cask's about as heavy as nitre."
"What 'a' you got in that cask, Dick?" said the boatswain, who
kept a tally at the gangway.
"Nitre or bullets, I guess," said Dick, struggling to get the
cask on to the gang plank. "It's as heavy as it knows how."
"Give Dick a hand there," the boatswain ordered. A seaman who was
standing somewhere behind me came forward, jogging my elbow as he
passed. In a minute or two they had the cask aboard.
"It's red lead," said the boatswain, examining the marks upon it.
"Sling it down into the 'tweendecks."
After this little diversion, I was free to go down the gangway
with Mr. Jermyn. The captain received us in the cabin. He seemed
to know my "uncle Blick," as he called him, very well indeed. I
somehow didn't like the looks of the man; he had a bluff air; but
it seemed to sit ill upon him. He reminded me of the sort of
farmer who stands well with his parson or squire, while he
tyrannizes over his labourers with all the calculating cowardly
cruelty of the mean mind. I did not take to Captain Barlow, for
all his affected joviality.
However, the ship was sailing. They showed me the little trim
cabin which was to be mine for the voyage. Mr. Jermyn ran ashore
up the gangway, after shaking me by the hand. He called to me
over his shoulder to remember him very kindly to my uncle. A
moment later, as the hawsers were cast off, the little crowd on
the wharf called out "Three cheers for the Gara barquentine,"
which the Gara's crew acknowledged with three cheers for
Pierhead, in the sailor fashion. We were moving slowly under the
influence of the oared boats ahead of us, when a seaman at the
forward capstan began to sing the solo part of an old capstan
chanty. The men broke in upon him with the chorus, which rang
out, in its sweet clearness, making echoes in the city. I ran to
the capstan to heave with them, so that I, too, might sing. I was
at the capstan there, heaving round with the best of them, until
we were standing out to sea, beyond the last of the fairway
lights, with our sails trimmed to the strong northerly wind.
After that, being tired with so many crowded excitements, which
had given me a life's adventures since supper-time, I went below
to my bunk, to turn in.
I took off my satchel, intending to tie it round my neck after I
had undressed. Some inequality in the strap against my fingers
made me hold it to the cabin lamp to examine it more closely. To
my horror, I saw that the strap had been nearly cut through in
five places. If it had not been of double leather with an inner
lining of flexible wire, any one of those cuts would have cut the
thong clean in two. Then a brisk twitch would have left the
satchel at the cutter's mercy. It gave me a lively sense of the
craft of our enemies, to see those cuts in the leather. I had
felt nothing. I had suspected nothing. Only once, for that
instant on the wharf, when we stopped to let Dick get his barrel
aboard, had they had a chance to come about me. Yet in that
instant of time they had suspected that that satchel contained
letters. They had made their bold attempt to make away with it.
They had slashed this leather in five places with a knife as
sharp as a razor. But had it been on the wharf, that this was
done? I began to wonder if it could have been on the wharf. Might
it not have been done when I was at the capstan, heaving round on
the bar? I thought not. I must have noticed a seaman doing such a
thing. It would have been impossible for any one to have cut the
strap there; for the capstan was always revolving. The man next
to me on the bar never took his hands from the lever, of that I
was certain. The men on the bar behind me could not have reached
me. Even if they had reached me the mate must have noticed it. I
knew that sailors were often clever thieves; but I did not
believe that they could have been so clever under the mate's eye.
If it had not been done at the capstan it could not have been
done since I came aboard; for there had been no other
opportunity. I was quite convinced, after a moment's thought,
that it had been done on the wharf before I came aboard. Then I
wondered if it had been done by common shore thieves, or
"nickers," who are always present in our big seaport towns, ready
to steal whenever they get a chance. But I was rather against
this possibility; for my mind just then was much too full of
Aurelia's party. I saw their hands in it. It would have needed
very strong evidence to convince me that they were not at the
bottom of this last attack, as they had doubtless been in the
attack under the inn balcony.
Thinking of their cunning with some dismay, I went to my door to
secure it. I was in my stockinged feet at the moment, as I had
kicked my boots off on coming into the cabin. My step, therefore,
must have been noiseless. Opening the door smartly,
half-conscious of some slight noise on the far side, I almost ran
into Captain Barlow, who was standing without. He showed a
momentary confusion, I thought, at seeing me thus suddenly. It
was a bad sign. To me, in my excited nervous state, it was a very
bad sign. It convinced me that he had been standing there, trying
to spy upon me through the keyhole, with what purpose I could
guess only too well. His face changed to a jovial grin in an
instant; but I felt that he was searching my face narrowly for
some sign of suspicion.
"I was just coming in to see if you wanted anything," he said.
"No. Nothing, thanks," I answered. "But what time's breakfast,
"Oh, the boy'll call you," he answered. "Is that your school
satchel? Hey? What you carry your books in? Let's see it?"
"Oh," I said, as lightly as I could, feeling that he was getting
on ticklish ground. "I've not unpacked it yet. It's got all my
things in it."
By this time he was well within my cabin. "Why," he said, "this
strap's almost cut in two. Does your master let you bring your
satchel to school in that state? How did it come to be cut like
I made some confused remark about its having always been in that
state; as it was an old satchel which my father used for a
shooting-bag. I had never known boys to carry books in a satchel.
That kind of school was unknown to me.
"Well," he said, fingering the strap affectionately, as though he
was going to lift it off my head, "you let me take it away with
me. I've got men in this ship, who can mend a cut leather strap
as neat as you've no idea of. They'd sew up a cut like them so as
you'd hardly know it had been cut."
I really feared that he would have the bag away from me by main
force. But I rallied all my forces to save it. "I'm lagged now,"
I said. "I haven't undone my things. I'll give it to you in the
It seemed to me that he looked at me rather hard when I said
this; but he evidently thought "What can it matter? Tomorrow will
serve just as well." So he just gave a little laugh. "Right," he
said. "You turn in now. Give it to me in the morning. Good night,
"Good night," I said, as he left the cabin, adding, under my
breath, "Good riddance, too. You won't find quite so much when
you come to examine this bag by daylight." After he had gone--but
not at once, as I wished not to make him suspicious,--I locked my
cabin-door. Then I hung my tarred sea-coat on the door-hook, so
that the flap entirely covered the keyhole. There were bolts on
the door, but the upper one alone could be pushed home. With this
in its place felt secure from spies. Yet not too secure. I was
not certain that the bulkheads were without crannies from which I
could be watched. The crack by the door-hinge might, for all I
knew, give a very good view of the inside of the cabin. Thinking
that I might still be under observation I decided to put off what
I had to do until the very early morning, so I undressed myself
for bed. I took care to put out the light before turning in, so
that I might not be seen lashing the satchel round my neck with a
length of spunyarn. I slept with my head upon it.
CHAPTER XII. BRAVE CAPTAIN BARLOW
Very early the next morning, at about half-past four, a little
before sunrise, I woke up with a start, wondering where I was.
Looking through my little scuttle port, I could see the flashing
of bright waves, which sometimes dowsed my window with a shower
of drops. The ship was apparently making about three knots an
hour, under all her sails. Directly I woke, I turned out of my
bunk to do what I had to do. After dressing, I took my
sail-making tools from my housewife. I had resolved to cut the
letters from their hiding-place so that I might make them up into
tiny rolls, small enough to hide in my pistol cartridges. Very
carefully I cut the threads which bound the leather flaps of the
satchel together. I worked standing up, with the satchel in my
bunk. I could hardly have been seen from any point. In a few
moments the letters were in my hands. They were small sheets of
paper, each about four inches square. They were nine in number,
all different. They were covered with a neat cipher very
different from the not very neat, not quite formed hand of the
Duke himself. What the cipher was, I did not know. It was one of
the many figure ciphers then in use. I learned long afterwards
that the figures which frequently occurred in them stood for King
James II. Such as they were, those cipher letters made a good
deal of difference to many thousands of people then living
contentedly at home.
As soon as I had removed them, I rolled them up very carefully
into pistol cartridges from which I drew the charges. I was just
going to throw away the powder, when I thought, "No, I'll put the
powder back. It'll make the fraud more difficult to detect." So I
put the powder back with great care. Then I searched my mind for
something with which to seal up the cartridge wads over the
powder. I could think of nothing at all, till I remembered the
tar-seams at my feet. I dug up a fragment of tar-seam from the
dark corners of the cabin under my bunk. Then I lit my lamp with
my little pocket tinder-box, so that I could heat the tar as I
needed it. It took me a long time to finish the cartridges
properly; but I flatter myself that I made neat jobs of them. I
was trained to neat habits by my father. The Oulton seamen had
given me a taste for doing clever neat work, such as plaits or
pointing, so that I was not such a bungler at delicate handicraft
as most boys of my age. I even took the trouble to hide the tar
marks on my wads by smearing wetted gunpowder all over them. When
I had hidden all the letters, I wrote out a few pencilled notes
upon leaves neatly cut from my pocket-book. I wrote a varying
arrangement of ciphers on each leaf, in the neatest hand I could
command. I always made neat figures; but as I had not touched a
pen for nearly a month, I was out of practice. Still, I did very
creditably. I am quite sure that my neat ciphers gave the usurper
James a very trying week of continual study. I daresay the whole
privy council puzzled over those notes of mine. I felt very
pleased with them when they were done.
I had not much more than a half-hour left to me when I finished
writing them out. The ship's bells told me that it was seven
o'clock. Cabin breakfast, as I knew very well, would be at eight.
I could expect to be called at half past seven. I put the two
flaps of the satchel evenly together, removing all traces of the
thread used in the earlier sewing. Then I very trimly sewed the
two flaps with my sail-needle, using all my strength to make
secure stitches. I used some brown soap in the wash-stand as
thread wax, to make the sewing more easy. "There," I thought, "no
one will suspect that this was sewn by a boy." When I had
finished, I thought of dirtying the twine to make the work look
old; but I decided to let well alone. I might so easily betray my
hand by trying to do too much. The slight trace of the soap made
the work look old enough. But I took very great care to remove
all traces of my work in the cabin. The little scraps of thread
which I had cut out of the satchel I ate, as I could see no safer
means of getting rid of them. I cannot say that they disagreed
with me, though they were not very easy to get down. My palm,
being a common sea-implement, not likely to seem strange in a
ship's cabin, I hid in a locker below my bunk. My sail-needles I
thrust at first into the linings of the pockets of my tarred
sea-coat. On second thoughts, I drove them into the mattress of
my bunk. My hank of twine I dropped on deck later, when I went
out to breakfast. Having covered all traces of my morning's work,
I washed with a light heart. When some one came to my cabin-door
to call me, I cried out that I would be out in a minute.
When the breakfast bell rang, I walked aft to the great cabin,
with my satchel over my shoulder. The captain asked me how I had
slept; so I said that I had slept like a top, until a few minutes
before I was called.
"That's the way with you young fellows," he said. "When you come
to be my age you won't be able to do that." Presently, as we were
sitting down to breakfast, he began his attack upon the satchel.
"You still got your satchel, I see," he said. "Do you carry it
about with you always? Or are you pretending to be a military man
with a knapsack?"
I looked a little uncomfortable at this; but not from the reason
which flashed through his mind. I said that I liked carrying it
about, as it served instead of a side coat-pocket, which was
"By the way," he said; "you must let me take that beloved satchel
after breakfast, so that I can get the strap sewn up for you."
It came into my mind to look blank at this. I stammered as I said
that I didn't mind the straps being cut, because there was a wire
heart to the leather which would hold till we got to England,
when I could put on a new strap for myself.
"Oh, nonsense," he said, serving out some of the cold bacon from
the dish in front of him. "Nonsense. What would your uncle say if
you landed slovenly like that? Besides, now you're at sea you're
a sailor. Sailors don't wear things like that at meals any more
than they wear their hats."
After this, I saw that there was no further chance of retaining
the satchel, so I took it from my neck, but grudgingly, as though
I hated doing so. I heard no more about it till after breakfast,
when he made a sudden playful pounce upon it, as it lay upon the
chair beside me, at an instant when I was quite unprepared to
"Aha," he cried, waving his booty. "Now then. Now."
I knew that he would expect a passionate outcry from me, nor did
I spare it; because I meant him to think that I knew the satchel
contained precious matters.
"No, no," I cried. "Let me have it. I don't want it mended."
"What?" he said. "Not want it mended? It must be mended."
At this I made a sort of playful rush to get it. He dodged away
from me, laughing. I attacked again, playing my part admirably,
as I thought, but taking care not to overdo it. At last, as
though fearing to show too great an anxiety about the thing, I
allowed him to keep it. I asked him if he would be able to sew
the leather over the wire heart.
"Why, yes," he said. I could see that he smiled. He was thinking
that I had stopped struggling in order to show him that I set no
real value on the satchel. He was thinking that he saw through my
"Might I see you sew it up?" I said. "I should like to learn how
to sew up leather."
He thought that this was another sign of there being letters in
the satchel, this wish of mine to be present when the sewing was
"Why, yes," he said. "I'll do it here. You shall do it yourself
if you like. I will teach you." So saying, he tossed me an orange
from his pocket. "Eat that," he said, "while I go on deck to take
He left the cabin, swinging the satchel carelessly in his left
hand. I thought to myself that I had better play anxiety; so,
putting the orange on the table, I followed him into the
'tweendecks, halting at the door, as though in fear about the
satchel's fate. Looking back, he saw me there. My presence
confirmed him in his belief that he had got my treasure. He waved
to me. "Back in a minute," he said. "Stay in the cabin till I
come back. There's a story-book in the locker."
I turned back into the cabin in a halting, irresolute way which
no doubt deceived him as my other movements had deceived him.
When I had shut the door, I went to the locker for the
Now the story-book, when I found it, was not a story-book, but a
little thick book of Christian sermons by various good bishops. I
read one of them through, to try, but I did not understand it.
Then I put the book down with the sudden thought: "This Captain
Barlow cannot read. He thinks that these sermons are stories. Now
who is it in this ship to whom the letters will be shown? Or can