Treasure is by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
In Ardevora, a fishing-town on the Cornish coast not far from the
Land's End, lived a merchant whom everybody called 'Elder' Penno, or
'The Elder'not because he had any right, or laid any claim, to that
title. His father and grandfather had worn it as office-bearers in a
local religious sect known as the Advent Saints; and it had survived
the extinction of that sect and passed on to William John Penno, an
orthodox Wesleyan, as a family sobriquet.
He was sixty-three years old, a widower, and childless. His
fellow-townsmen supposed him to be rich because he had so many irons in
the fire and employed, in one way and another, a great deal of labour.
He held a number of shares in coasting vessels, and passed as owner of
half a dozenall of them too heavily in debt to pay dividends. He
managed (ostensibly as proprietor, but actually in dependence on the
local bank) a shipbuilding-yard to which the fishermen came for their
boats. He had an interest in the profit of most of these boats when
they were launched, as also in a salt-store, a coal-store, a company
for the curing of pilchards, and an agency for buying and packing of
fish for the London market. He kept a retail shop and sold almost
everything the town needed, from guernseys and hardware to tea, bacon,
and tallow candles. He advanced money, at varying rates of interest, on
anything from a ship to a frying-pan; and by this means had made
himself accurately acquainted with his neighbours' varying degrees of
poverty. But he was not rich, although generally reputed so: for
Ardevora's population was not one out of which any man could make his
fortune, and of poor folk who borrow or obtain goods on credit quite a
large number do not seriously mean to pay a fact often overlooked,
and always by the borrowers themselves.
Still, and despite an occasional difficulty in keeping so many balls
in the air at one time, Elder Penno wasas a widower, a childless man,
and in comparison with his neighbourswell-to-do. Also he filled many
small public officesdistrict councillor, harbour commissioner, member
of the School Board, and the like. They had come to himhe could not
quite tell how. He took pride in them and discharged them
conscientiously. He knew that envious tongues accused him of using them
to feather his nest, but he also knew that they accused him falsely. He
was thick-skinned, and they might go to the devil. In person he was
stout of habit, brusque of bearing, with a healthy, sanguine
complexion, a double chin, shrewd grey eyes, and cropped hair which
stood up straight as the bristles on a brush. He lived abstemiously,
rose at six, went to bed at nine, and might be found, during most of
the intervening hours, hard at work at his desk in the little office
behind his shop. The office had a round window, and the window
overlooked the quay, the small harbour (dry at low water), and the
curve of a sandy bay beyond.
One morning Elder Penno looked up from his desk and saw, beyond the
masts of the fishing-boats lying aslant as the tide had left them, a
small figurea speck, almoston the sandy beach, about three furlongs
He was engaged at the moment in adding up a column of figures.
Having entered the total, he looked up again, laid down his pen,
frowned with annoyance, and picked up an old pair of field-glasses that
stood ready to hand on the sill of his desk beside the ink-well. He
glanced at the clock on his chimney-piece before throwing up the
The hour was elevenfive minutes after eleven, to be exact; the
month April; the day sunny, with a humming northerly wind; the tide
drawing far out towards low-ebb, and the air so clear that the small
figure standing on the edge of the waves could not be mistaken.
As he threw up the sash Elder Penno caught sight of Tom Hancock, the
school attendance officer, lounging against a post on the quay below.
You're the very man I want, said the Elder. Isn't that Tregenza's
grandchild over yonder?
Looks like her, said the A.O., withdrawing a short clay pipe from
his mouth, and spitting.
Then why isn't she at school at this hour?
'Tis a hopeless case, if you ask me. The A.O. announced this with
a fine air of resignation. His pay was 2s. 6d. a week, and he never
erred on the side of zeal.
Better fit you was lookin' up such cases than idlin' here and
wastin' baccy. That's if you ask me, retorted the Elder.
I've a-talked to the maid, an' I've a-talked to her gran'father,
till I'm tired, said Hancock, and spat again. She'll be fourteen next
May, an' then we can wash our hands of her.
A nice look-out it'd be if the eddication of England was left in
your hands, said the Elder truthfully, if obviously.
You can't do nothin' with her. The A.O. was used to censure and
wasted no resentment on it. Nothin'. I give 'ee leave to try.
The Elder stood for a moment watching the small figure across the
sands. Then, with a snort of outraged propriety, he closed the window,
reached down his hat from its peg, marched out of his officethrough
the shop and forth upon the sunny quay. A flight of stone stairs led
down to the bed of the harbour, now deserted by the tide; and across
this, picking his way among the boats and their moorings, he made for
the beach where the sea broke and glittered on the firm sand in long
curves of white.
A tonic northerly breeze was blowing, just strongly enough to lift
the breakers in blue-green hollows against the sunshine and waft a
delicate film of spray about the figure of the child moving forlornly
on the edge of the foam. She was not playing or running races with the
waves, but walking soberly and anon halting to scan the beach ahead.
Her legs were bare to the knee, and she had hitched up her short skirt
high about her like a cockle-gatherer's. In the roar and murmur of the
surf she did not hear the Elder approaching, but faced around with a
start as he called to her.
What are you doing here? he asked.
For answer she held up a billet of wood, bleached and frayed with
long tossing on the seas, worthless except for firewood, and almost
worthless for that. The Elder frowned. Look here, he said, you ought
to be in school at this moment instead of minchin idle after a few
bits o' stick, no good to anyone. A girl of your age, too! What's your
Please, sir, Liz, the child stammered, looking down.
You're Sam Tregenza's grandchild, hey?
Then do you go home an' tell your grandfather, with my compliments,
he ought to know better than to allow it. It's robbin' the ratepayers,
that's what it is.
Yes, sir, she murmured, glancing down dubiously at the piece of
wood in her hand.
You don't understand me, said the Elder. The ratepayers spend
money on a school here that the children of Ardevora mayn't grow up
into little dunces. Now, if the children go to school as they ought,
the Government up in London gives the ratepayersme, for
instancesome of their money back: so much money for each child. If a
child minches, the money isn' paid. 'Tisn' the wood you pick upthat's
neither here nor therebut the money you're takin' out of folks'
pockets. Didn' you know that?
Your grandfather knows it, anywaynot, went on the Elder with
sudden anger in his voice, that Sam Tregenza cares what folks he
robs! He pulled himself up, slightly ashamed of this outburst. The
child, however, did not appear to resent it, but stood thoughtful, as
if working out the logic of his argument.
It's the money, he insisted. As for the wood, why you might come
to my yard and steal as much as you can carry, an' 'twouldn' amount to
what you rob by playin' truant like this; no, nor half of it. That's
one thing for you to consider; and here's another: There's a
truant-school, up to Plymouth; a sort of place that's half a school and
half a prison, where the magistrates send children that won't take
warning. How would you like it, if a policeman came, one of these days,
and took you off to that kind of punishment?
He looked down on the child, and saw her under-lip working. She held
back her tears bravely, but was shaking from head to foot.
There now! said the Elder, in what for him was a soothing voice.
There's no danger if you behave an' go to school like other children.
You just attend to that, an' we'll say no more about it.
He turned back to his office. On the quay he paused to tell Tom
Hancock that he reckoned the child would be more careful in future: he
had given her something to think over.
A week later, at nine o'clock, Elder Penno was retiring to rest in
his bedroom, which overlooked his boat-building yard, when a clattering
noise broke on the night without, and so startled him that he all but
dropped his watch in the act of winding it.
The noise suggested an avalanche of falling boxes. The Elder blew
out his candle, lit a bull's-eye lantern which he kept handy by his
bed, and, throwing up the window, challenged loudlyWho's there?
For the moment the ray of the bull's-eye revealed no one. He turned
it upon the corner of the yard where, as a rule, stood a pile of empty
packing-cases from the shop, 'empties' waiting to be sorted out and
returned, old butter-barrels condemned to be knocked to pieces for
kindling-wood. Yes: the sound had come from there, for the pile had
toppled over and lay in a long moraine across the entrance gate. Must
ha' been built up top-heavy, said the Elder to himself: and with that,
running his lantern-ray along the yard wall, he caught sight of a small
bare leg and a few inches of striped skirt for an instant before they
slid into darkness across the coping. He recognised them.
This beats Old Harry! muttered the Elder. Bringin' up the child
to be a gaol-bird nowand on my premises! As if Sam Tregenza hadn'
done me injury enough without that!
For two years the Elder had been unable to think of Sam Tregenza or
to hear his name mentioned, but a mixture of rage and indignation
boiled up within him. To be sure, the old man was ruined, had fallen on
evil days, subsisted now with the help of half a crown a week parish
relief. But he had behaved disgracefully, and his fall was a signal
vindication of God's justice. How else could one account for it? The
man had been a wise fisherman, as knowledgable as any in Ardevora. He
had been bred to the fishing, and had followed it all his life, but
alwaysuntil his sixtieth yearas a paid hand, with no more than a
paid hand's share of the earnings. For this his wife had been to
blamean unthrifty woman, always out at heel and in debt to the shop;
but with her death he started on a new tack, began to hoard, and within
five years owned a boat of his ownthe Pass By luggerbought
with his own money, save for a borrowed seventy-five pounds. He worked
her with his one son Seth, a widow-man of forty, and Seth's son, young
Eli, aged fifteen, Liz's father and brother. The boat paid well from
the first, and the Tregenzasthe three generationstook a monstrous
pride in her.
It was Elder Penno who had advanced the borrowed seventy-five
pounds, of course taking security in the boat and upon an undertaking
that Tregenza kept her insured. But on the morrow of the black day when
she foundered, drowning Seth and Eli, and leaving only the old man to
be picked up by a chance drifter running for harbour, it was discovered
that the Tregenzas had missed by two months the date of renewing her
premium of insurance. The boat was gone, and with it the Elder's
To think of recovering it upon Tregenza's sticks of furniture was
idle. The Elder threatened it, but the whole lot would not have fetched
twenty pounds, and there were other creditors for small amounts. The
old man, too, was picked up half crazy. He had been clinging to a
fish-box for five and twenty minutes in the icy-cold water; but whether
his craziness came of physical exhaustion or the shock of losing boat,
son, and grandchild all in a few minutes, no one could tell. He never
set foot on board a boat again, but sank straight into pauperism and
The Elder, for his part, considered such an end no more than the due
of one who had played him so inexcusable a trick over the insurance.
From the first he had suspected this weakening of Tregenza's intellect
to be something less than genuinea calculated infirmity, to excite
public compassion and escape the blame his dishonest negligence so
As he closed the window that night and picked up his watch to resume
the winding of it, the Elder felt satisfied that there were depths in
Tregenza's craziness which needed sounding. He would pay him a visit
to-morrow. He had not exchanged a word with him for two years. Indeed,
the old scoundrel seldom or never showed his face in the street.
At eleven o'clock next morning he rapped at the door of Tregenza's
hovel, which lay some way up the hill above the harbour, in a nexus of
mean alleys and at the back of a tenement known as Ugnot's. His knock
appeared to silence a hammering in the rear of the cottage. By and by
the door openedbut a very little wayand through the chink old
Tregenza peered out at himgaunt, shaggy, grey of hair and of face,
his beard and his very eyebrows powdered with sawdust.
Kindly welcome, said Tregenza, blinking against the light.
You won't say that when I've done wi' you, said the Elder to
Won't you step inside? asked Tregenza.
Yes, said the Elder, I will. I've a-got something serious to talk
The sight of Tregenza irritated him more than he had expected, and
irritated him the worse because the old man appeared neither confused
with shame nor contrite.
I've a-got something serious to talk about, the Elder repeated in
the kitchen; though, as between you and me, any talk couldn't well be
pleasant. No, I won't sit downnot in this house. 'Tis only a sense o'
duty brings me to-day, though I daresay you've wondered often enough
why I ha'n't been here before an' told you straight what I think o'
No, said Tregenza simply, as the Elder paused for an answer. I
ha'n't wondered at all. I knowed 'ee better.
What's that you're sayin'?
I knowed 'ee better. First along the old man spoke as if with a
painful effort of memoryfirst along, to be sure, I reckined you
might ha' come an' spoke a word o' comfort; not that speakin' comfort
could ha' done any good, an' so I excused 'ee.
You excused me? Word of comfort! Word of comf The Elder gasped
for a moment, his mouth opening and shutting without sound. An' what
about my seventy-five pounds?all lost to me through your not keepin'
up the insurance!
Ay, assented old Tregenza. Ay, to be sure. Terrible careless,
For a moment the Elder felt tempted to strike him. Look here, he
said, tapping his stick sharply on the floor; as it happens, I didn'
come here to lose my temper nor to talk about your conductleastways,
not that part of it. 'Tis about your granddaughter. She've been
stealin' my wood.
Yes; I caught her in my yard at nine o'clock last night. No
mistakin' what she was after. There, in the darkshe was stealin' my
What sort o' wood?
Man alive! Does it matter what sort o' wood, when I tell you the
child was thievin'. You encourage her to play truant, defyin' the law;
an' now she's doin' what'll bring her to Bodmin Gaol, as sure as fate.
A child scarce over thirteenan' you're makin' a gaol-bird o' her! The
Lord knows, Sam Tregenza, I think badly enough of you, but will you
stand there an' tell me 'tis no odds to you that your grandchild's a
Liz wouldn' steal your wood, nor nobody's-else's, unless some
person had put her up to it, answered the old man, knitting his brows
to which the sawdust still adhered. Come to think, now, the maid told
me the other day that you'd been speakin' to her, sayin' that minchin'
from school was robbin' the public, an' she'd do honester to be
stealin' it from you than pickin' it up along the foreshore durin'
school-hours. You may depend that's what put it into her head. She's a
very well-meanin' child.
The Elder shook like a ship in stays. The explanation was
monstrousyet it was obviously the true one. What could he say to it?
What could any sane man say to it?
While he stood and cast about for words, his face growing redder and
redder, a breeze of air from the hill behind the cottage blew open the
upper flap of its back doorwhich Tregenza had left on the latchand
passing through the kitchen, slammed-to the door leading into the
street. The noise of it made the Elder jump. The next moment he was
gasping again, as his gaze travelled out to the back-court.
Good Lord, what's that?
Eh?Tregenza followed his gazeYou mean to tell me you ha'n't
heard? Well, well. . . . You live too much alone, Elder; you take my
word. That's the terrible thing about riches. They cut you off from
your fellows. But only to think you never heard tell o' my boat!
The old man led the way out into the yard; and there, indeed, amid
an indescribable litter of timberwreckwood in balks and boards,
worthless lengths of deck-planking, knees, and transoms, stem-pieces
and stern-posts, and other odds and ends of bygone craft, condemned
spars, barrel-staves, packing-casesa boat reposed on the stocks; but
such a boat as might make a sane man doubt his eyesight. The Elder
stared at her slowly, incapable of speech; stared and pulled out a
bandanna handkerchief and slowly wiped the back of his neck. She
measured, in fact, nineteen or twenty feet over-all, but to the eye she
appeared considerably longer, having (as the Elder afterwards put it)
as many lines in her as a patchwork quilt. Her ribs, rising above the
unfinished top-strakes, claimed ancestry in a dozen vessels of varying
sizes; and how the builder had contrived to fix them into one keelson
passed all understanding or guess. For over their unequal curves he had
nailed a sheath of packing-boards, eked out with patches of sheet-tin.
Here and there the eye, roaming over the structure, came to rest on a
piece of scarfing or dovetailing which must have cost hours of patient
labour and contrivance, cheek-by-jowl with work which would have
disgraced a boy of ten. The whole thing, stuck there and filling the
small back-court, was a nightmare of crazy carpentry, a lunacy in the
Why, bless your heart! said Tregenza, laying a hand on the boat's
transom with affectionate pride, you must be the only man in Ardevora
that don't know about her. Scores of folk comes here, Sunday
afternoons, an' passes me compliments upon her. He passed a hand
caressingly over her stern board. There's a piece o' timber for you!
Inch-an'-a-quarter teak, an' seasoned! That's where her name's
to gothe Pass By. No; I couldn't fancy any other name.
The Elder was dumb. He understood now, and pitied the man, who
nevertheless (he told himself) deserved his affliction.
No, I couldn' fancy any other name, went on Tregenza in a musing
tone. If the Lord has a grievance agen me for settin' too much o' my
heart on the old Pass By, He've a-took out o' me all the
satisfaction He's likely to get. 'Tisn' like the man that built a new
Jericho an' set up the foundations thereof 'pon his first-born an' the
gates 'pon his youngest. The cases don't tally; for my son an' gran'son
went down together in th' old boat, an' I got nobody left.
There's your gran'daughter, the Elder suggested.
Liz? Tregenza shook his head. I reckon she don't count.
She'll count enough to get sent to gaol, said the Elder tartly,
if you encourage her to be a thief. And look here, Sam Tregenza, it
seems to me you've very loose notions o' what punishment means, an' why
'tis sent. The Lord takes away the Pass By, an' your son an'
gran'son along with her, an' why? (says you). Because (says you) your
heart was too much set 'pon the boat. Now to my thinkin' you was a deal
likelier punished because you'd forgot your duty to your neighbour an'
neglected to pay up the insurance.
Tregenza shook his head again, slowly but positively. 'Tis curious
to me, he said, how you keep harkin' back to that bit o' money you
lost. But 'tis the same, I've heard, with all you rich fellows. Money's
the be-all and end-all with 'ee.
The Elder at this point fairly stamped with rage; but before he
could muster up speech the street-door opened and the child Lizzie
slipped into the kitchen. Slight noise though she made, her grandfather
caught the sound of her footsteps. A look of greed crept into his face,
as he made hurriedly for the back-doorway.
Liz! he called.
Where've yer been?
Been to school.
Brought any wood?
How could I bring any wood when Her voice died away as she
caught sight of the Elder following her grandfather into the kitchen;
and in a flash, glancing from her to Tregenza, the Elder read the
truththat the child was habitually beaten if she failed to bring home
timber for the boat.
She stood silent, at bay, eyeing him desperately.
Look here, said the Elder, and caught himself wondering at the
sound of his own voice; if 'tis wood you want, let her come and ask
for it. I'm not sayin' but she can fetch away an armful now an'
thenin reason, you know.
The longer Elder Penno thought it over, the more he confessed
himself puzzled, not with Tregenza, but with his own conduct.
Tregenza was mad, and madness would account for anything.
But why should he, Elder Penno, be moved to take a sudden interest,
unnecessary as it was inquisitive, in this mad old man, who had fooled
him out of seventy-five pounds?
Yet so it was. The Elder came again, two days later, and once again
before the end of the week. By the end of the second week the visit had
become a daily one. What is more, day by day he found himself looking
forward to it.
That Tregenza also looked forward to it might be read in the
invariable eagerness of his welcome; and this was even harder to
explain, because the Elder never failed to harpseldom, indeed,
relaxed harpingon old misdeeds and the lost insurance money. Nay,
perhaps in scorn of his own weakness, he insisted on this more and more
offensively; rehearsing each day, as he climbed the hill, speeches
calculated to offend or hurt. But in the intervals he would betrayas
he could not help feelingsome curiosity in the boat.
One noondaya few minutes after the children had been dismissed
from schoolhe walked out into the yard, in the unconfessed hope of
finding Lizzie there: and there she was, engaged in filling her apron
Listen to me, he saidfor the two by this time had, without
parley, grown into allies. Your grandfather'll get along all right
till he've finished buildin'. But what's to happen when the boat's
ready to launch? Have you ever thought 'pon that?
Often an' often, said Lizzie.
If 'twould even floatwhich I doubt said the Elderthe
dratted thing couldn' be got down to the water, without pullin' down
seven feet o' wall an' the butt-end of Ugnot's pigsty.
We must lengthen out the time, said the practical child. Please
God, he'll die afore it's finished.
You mustn' talk irreligious, said her elderly friend. Besides,
there's nothin' amiss with him, settin' aside his foolishness. I've
a-thought sometimes, now, o' buildin' a boat down here, an', when the
time came, makin' believe to exchange. Boat-buildin' is slack just now,
but I might trust to tradin' her off on someonewhen he'd done with
herwhich in the natur' of things can't be long. I've a model o' the
old Pass By hangin' up somewhere in the passage behind the shop.
We might run her up in two months, fit to launch, an' finish her at
leisure, call her the Pass By, and I daresay the Lord'll send
along a purchaser in good time.
Lizzie shook her head. She would have liked to call Mr. Penno the
best man in the world; but luckilyfor it would have been an
untruthshe found herself unequal to it.
Their apprehensions were vain. The whole town had entered into the
fun of Tregenza's boat, and she was no sooner felt to be within
measureable distance of completion than committeescomposed at first
of the younger fishermen (but, by and by, the elders joined
shamefacedly), held informal meetings, and devised a royal launch for
her. What though she could not, as Mr. Penno had foreseen, be
extricated from the yard but at the expense of seven feet of wall and
the butt-end of Ugnot's pigsty? Half a dozen young masons undertook to
pull the wall down and rebuild it twice as strong as before; and the
landlord of Ugnot's, being interviewed, declared that he had been
exercised in mind for thirty years over the propinquity of the pigsty
and the dwelling-house, and would readily accept thirty shillings
compensation for all damage likely to be done.
Report of these preparations at length reached Elder Penno's ears,
and surprised him considerably. He sent for the ringleaders and
remonstrated with them.
I've no cause to be friends with Tregenza, the Lord knows, he
said. Still, the man's ailin' and weak in his mind. Such a shock as
you're makin' ready to give 'en, as like as not may land the fellow in
Land 'en in his grave? they answered. Why the old fool knows the
whole programme! He've a-sent down to the Ship Inn to buy a bottle o'
wine for the christenin' an' looks forward to enjoyin' hisself
The Elder went straight to Tregenza, and found this to be no more
than the truth.
And here have I been lyin' awake thinkin' how to spare your
feelin's! he protested.
'Tis a very funny thing, answered Tregenza, that you, who in the
way o' money make it your business to know every man's affairs in
Ardevora, should be the last to get wind of a little innercent
merrymakin'. That's your riches, again.
After this one must allow that it was handsome of the Elder to
summon the committee again and point out to them the uncertainty of the
Pass By's floating when they got her down to the water. Had they
considered this? They had not. So he offered them five hundredweight of
lead to ballast and trim her; more, if it should be needed; and
suggested their laying down moorings for her, well on the outer side of
the harbour, where from his garden the old man would have a good sight
of her. He would, if the committee approved, provide the moorings
On the day of the launch Ardevora dressed itself in all its bunting.
A crowd of three hundred assembled in and around Tregenza's backyard
and lined the adjacent walls to witness the ceremony and hear the
speeches; but Elder Penno was neither a speech-maker nor a spectator.
He could not, for nervousness, leave the quay, where he stood ready
beside a cauldron of bubbling tar and a pile of lead pegs, to pay the
ship over before she took the water, and trim her as soon as ever she
floated. But when, amid cheers and to the strains of the Temperance
Brass Band, she lay moored at length upon a fairly even keel, with the
red ensign drooping from a staff over her stern, he climbed the hill to
find Tregenza contemplating her with pride through the gap in his
I missed 'ee at the christ'nin', said the old man. But it went
off very well. Lev' us go into the house an' touch pipe.
It surprises me, said the Elder, to find you so cheerful as you
be. An occupation like this goin' out o' your lifeI reckoned you
might feel it, a'most like the loss of a limb.
A man o' my age ought to wean hisself from things earthly, said
the old man; an' besides, I've a-got you.
Henceforth I've a-got you, an' all to yourself.
Seems a funny thing, mused the Elder; an' you at this moment
owin' me no less than seventy-five pound!
Sam Tregenza settled himself down in his chair and nodded as he lit
pipe. Nothin' like friendship, after all, he said. Now you're
 Playing truant.