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The Black Joke by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

A REPORTED TALE OF TWO SMUGGLERS.

I.

My mother's grandfather, Dan'l Leggo, was the piousest man that ever went smuggling, and one of the peaceablest, and scrupulous to an extent you wouldn't believe. He learnt his business among the Cove boys at Porthleah—or Prussia Cove as it came to be called, after John Carter, the head of the gang, that was nicknamed the King o' Prussia. Dan'l was John Carter's own sister's son, trained under his eye; and when the Carters retired he took over the business in partnership with young Phoby Geen, a nephew by marriage to Bessie Bussow that still kept the Kiddlywink at Porthleah, and had laid by a stockingful of money.

These two, Dan'l Leggo and Phoby Geen (which was short for Deiphobus), lived together and worked the business for five years in boundless harmony; until, as such things happen, they both fell in love with one maid, which brought out the differences in their natures to a surprising degree, converting Dan'l into an Early Christian for all to behold, while Phoby turned to envy and spite, and to a disgraceful meanness of spirit. The reason of this to some extent was that the girl—Amelia Sanders by name—couldn't abide him because of the colour of his hair and his splay feet: yet I believe she would have married him (her father being a boat-builder in a small way at Porthleven, and beholden to the Cove for most of his custom) if Dan'l hadn't come along first and cast eyes on her; whereby she clave to Dan'l and liked him better and better as time brought out the beautiful little odds-and-ends of his character; and when Phoby made up, she took and told him, in all the boldness of affection, to make himself scarce, for she wouldn't have him—no, not if he was the last man in the world and she the last woman. I daresay she overstated the case, as women will. But what appeared marvellous to all observers was that the girl had no particular good looks that wouldn't have passed anywhere in a crowd, and yet these two had singled her out for their addresses.

Dan'l (that had been the first in the field) pointed this out to his partner in a very reasonable spirit; but somehow it didn't take effect. “If she's as plain-featured as you allow,” said Phoby, “why the dickens can't you stand aside?”

“Because of her affectionate natur',” answered Dan'l, “and likewise for her religious disposition, for the latter o' which you've got no more use than a toad for side-pockets.”

“We'll see about that,” grumbled Phoby; and Dan'l, taking it for a threat, lost no time in putting up the banns.

Apart from this he went on his way peaceably never doubting at all that, when the knot was tied, Phoby would let be bygones and pick up with another maid; whereby he made the mistake of judging other folks' dispositions by his own. The smuggling, too, was going on more comfortably than ever it had in John Carter's time, by reason that a new Collector had come to Penzance—a Mr. Pennefather, a nice little, pleasant-spoken, round-bellied man that asked no better than to live and let live. Fifteen years this Pennefather held the collectorship, with five-and-twenty men under him, besides a call on the military whenever he wanted 'em; and in all that time he never made an enemy. Every night of his life he stepped over from his lodgings in Market Jew Street for a game of cards with old Dr. Chegwidden, who lived whereabouts they've built the Esplanade since then, on the Newlyn side of Morrab Gardens; and after their cards—at which one would lose and t'other win half a crown, maybe— the doctor would out with a decanter of pineapple rum, and the pair would drink together and have a crack upon Natural History, which was a hobby with both. Being both unmarried, they had no one to call bedtime; but the Collector was always back at his lodgings before the stroke of twelve.

With such a Collector, as you may suppose, the free trade in Mount's Bay found itself in easy circumstances; and the Covers (as they were called) took care in return to give Mr. Pennefather very little trouble. In particular, Dan'l had invented a contrivance which saved no end of worry and suspicion, and was worked in this way:—Of their two principal boats Dan'l as a rule commanded the Black Joke, a Porthleven-built lugger of about forty tons, as we measure nowadays (but upon the old plan she would work out nearer a hundred and forty); and Phoby a St. Ives ketch, the Nonesuch, of about the same size. But which was the Black Joke and which the Nonesuch you never could be sure, for the lugger carried fids, topmast, crosstrees, and a spare suit of sails to turn her into a ketch at twenty minutes' notice; and likewise the ketch could ship topmast, shift her rigging, and hoist a spare suit of lug-sails in no longer time. The pair of them, too, had false quarter-pieces to ship and unship for disguise, and each was provided with movable boards painted with the other's name, to cover up her own. The tale went that once when the pair happened to be lying together in New Grimsby Sound in the Scillies, during an eclipse of the sun, Dan'l and Phoby took it into their heads to change rigs in the darkness, just for fun; and that the Revenue Officer, that had gone over to the island of Bryher to get a better view of the eclipse, happening to lower his telescope on the vessels as the light began to grow again, took fright, waded across to Tresco for his life (the tide being low), and implored the Lord Proprietor's agent to lock him up; “for,” said he, “either the world or my head has turned round in the last twenty minutes, and whichever 'tis, I want to be put in a cool place out of temptation.” But the usual plan was, of course, for the two to change rigs at night-time when on a trip, and by agreement, and for the one to slock off suspicion while the other ran the cargo. Yes, yes; Dan'l Leggo and Phoby Geen were both very ingenious young men, though by disposition so different: and when John Carter in his retirement heard of the trick, he slapped his leg and said in his large-hearted way that dammy he couldn't have invented a neater; and at the same time fined himself sixpence for swearing, which had been his rule when he was Cove-master. I once saw a bill of his made out in form, and this was how it ran:—

     John CARTER in account with ROGER TRISCOTT otherwise CLICKPAW.

     To I weeks arnins ten shillin

     Item share on 40 ankers at sixpence
     per anker one pound
     less two dams at 6d. and a worse word
     at (say) 1s. but more if it hapn again. two shillin

     Balance due to R.T. One pound eight or value
                     recd, as per margin.

But the mildest of men will have their whimsies; and for some reason or other this same trick of the two boats—though designed, as you might argue, to save him trouble—made Pennefather as mad as a sheep. He couldn't hear tell of the Black Joke or the Nonesuch but the blood rushed into his head. He swore to old Dr. Chegwidden that the Covers, by making him an object of derision, were breaking all bounds of neighbourly understanding: and at last one day, getting information that Dan'l Leggo was at Roscoff and loading-up to run a cargo into St. Austell Bay on the east side of the Blackhead, he so far let his temper get the better of him as to sit down and warn the Collector at Fowey, telling him the when and how of the randivoo, and bidding him look out as per description for that notorious lugger the Black Joke.

The letter was scarcely sent before the good soul began to repent. He had an honest liking for Dan'l Leggo, and would be sorry (even in the way of duty) to see him in Bodmin Gaol. He believed in Mount's Bay keeping its troubles to itself; and in short, knowing the Collector at Fowey to be a pushing fellow, he had passed two days in a proper sweat of remorse, when to his great relief he ran up against Phoby Geen, that was walking the pavement with a scowl on his face and both hands deep in his trousers, he having been told that very morning by Amelia Sanders, and for the twentieth time of asking, that sooner than marry him she would break stones on the road.

'Tis a good job, I reckon, that folks in a street can't read one another's inside. Old Pennefather pulled up in a twitter, tapping his stick on the pavement. What he wanted to say was, “Your partner, Dan'l Leggo, has a cargo for St. Austell Bay. He'll get into trouble there, and I'm responsible for it; but I want you to warn him before 'tis too late.” What he did was to put on a frown, and, said he, “Looky here, Mr. Geen, I've been wanting to see you or Leggo for some days, to give you fair notice. I happen to have lost sight of the Nonesuch for some days; though I conclude, from meeting you, that she's back at Porthleah at her moorings. But I know the movements of the Black Joke, and I've the best reason to warn you that she had best give up her latest game, or she must look out for squalls.”

Well, this was a plain hint, and in an ordinary way Phoby Geen would have taken it. But the devil stirred him up to remember the insult he'd received from Amelia Sanders that very day; and by and by, as he walked home to Porthleah, there came into his mind a far wickeder thought. Partners though he and Dan'l were, each owned the boat he commanded, or all but a few shares in her. The shares in the Black Joke stood in Dan'l's name, and if anything went wrong with her the main loss would be Dan'l's. All the way home he kept thinking what a faithful partner he'd been to Dan'l in the past, and this was Dan'l's gratitude, to cut him out with Amelia Sanders and egg the girl on to laugh at the colour of his hair. She would laugh to another tune if he chose to hold his tongue on Mr. Pennefather's warning, and let Dan'l run his head into the trap. The Fowey Collector was a smart man, capable of using his information. (Phoby, who could see a hole through a ladder as quick as most men, guessed at once that Pennefather had laid the trap, and then repented and spoken to him in hope to undo the mischief.) Like as not, St. Austell Bay would be patrolled by half a dozen man-of-war's boats in addition to the water-guard: and this meant Dan'l's losing the lugger, losing his life too, maybe, or at the least being made prisoner. Well, and why not? Wasn't one man master enough for Porthleah Cove? And hadn't Dan'l and the girl deserved it?

I believe the miserable creature wrestled against his temptation: and I believe that when he weighed next morning and hoisted sail in the Nonesuch for Guernsey, where the Black Joke was to meet him in case of accident, he had two minds to play fair after all. 'Twas told afterwards that, pretty well all the way, he locked himself in his cabin, and for hours the crew heard him groaning there. But it seems that Satan was too strong for him; for instead of bearing straight up for Guernsey, where he well knew the Black Joke would be waiting, he stood over towards the French coast, and there dodged forth and back, under pretence of picking her up as she came out of Roscoff. His crew took it for granted he was following out the plan agreed upon. All they did was to obey orders, and of course they knew naught of Mr. Pennefather's warning.

To be short, Dan'l Leggo, after waiting the best part of two days at St. Peter's Port and getting no news to the contrary, judged that the coast must be clear, and stood across with a light sou'-westerly breeze, timing it so as to make his landfall a little before sunset: which he did, and speaking the crew of a Mevagissey boat some miles off the Deadman, was told he might take the lugger in and bring her up to anchor without fear of interruption. (But whether or no they had been bribed to give this information he never discovered.) They told him, too, that his clients—a St. Austell company—had the boats ready at Rope Hauen under the Blackhead, and would be out as soon as ever he dropped anchor. So he crept in under darkness and brought up under the loom of the shore— having shifted his large lug for a trysail and leaving that set, with his jib and mizzen—and gave orders at once to cast off the hatches. While this was doing, sure enough he heard the boats putting off from the beach a cable's length away, and was just congratulating himself on having to deal with such business-like people, when his mate, Billy Tregaskis, caught hold of him by the elbow.

“Hark to them oars, sir!” he whispered.

“I hear 'em,” said Dan'l.

“You never heard that stroke pulled by fishermen,” said Billy, straining to look into the darkness. “They're man-o'-war's boats, sir, or you may call me a Dutchman!”

“Cut the cable!” ordered Dan'l, sharp and prompt.

Billy whipped out his knife, ran forward, and cut loose in a jiffy; but before the Black Joke could gather headway the two boats had run up close under her stern. The bow-man of the first sheared through the mizzen-sheet with his cutlass, and boarding over the stern with three or four others, made a rush upon Dan'l as he let go the helm and turned to face them; while the second boat's crew opened with a dozen musket-shots, firing high at the sails and rigging. In this they succeeded: for the second or third shot cut through the trysail tack and brought the sail down with a run; and almost at the same moment the boarders overpowered Dan'l and bore him down on deck, where they beat him silly with the flat of their cutlasses and so passed on to drive the rest of the lugger's crew, that were running below in a panic.

The struggle had carried Dan'l forward, so that when he dropped 'twas across the fallen trysail. This served him an ill turn: for one of the cutlasses, catching in a fold of it, turned aslant and cut him cruelly over the bridge of the nose. But the sail being tanned, and therefore almost black in the darkness, it served him a good turn too; for after his enemies had passed on and were busy making prisoners of the rest of the crew, he lay there unperceived for a great while, listening to the racket, but faint and stunned, so that he could make neither head nor tail of it. At length a couple of men came aft and began handling the sail; and “Hullo!” says one of them, discovering him, “here's one as dead as a haddock!”

“Put him below,” says the other.

“What's the use?” asks the other, pulling Dan'l out by the legs and examining him; “the poor devil's head is all jelly.” Just then a cry was raised that one of the boats had gone adrift, the boarders having forgotten to make her fast in their hurry, and someone called out an order to man the other and pull in search of her. The two fellows that had been handling Dan'l dropped him and ran aft, and Dan'l—all sick and giddy as he was—crawled into the scuppers and, pulling himself up till his eyes were level with the bulwarks, tried to measure the distance between him and shore. Now the lugger (you'll remember) was adrift when the Navymen first boarded her, through Billy Tregaskis having cut the cable; and with the set of the tide she must been carried close in-shore during the scrimmage before they brought her up: for, to Dan'l's amazement, she lay head-to-beach, and so close you could toss a biscuit ashore. There the shingle spread, a-glimmering under his nose, as you might say; and he put up a thanksgiving when he remembered that a minute ago his only hope had been to swim ashore—a thing impossible in his weak state; but now, if he could only drop overside without being observed, he verily believed he could wade for it—that is, after the first few yards—for the Black Joke drew from five to six feet of water, and since she lay afloat 'twas certain the water right under him must be beyond his depth. Having made up his mind to the risk—for anything was better than Bodmin prison—he heaved a leg across the bulwarks, and so very cautious-like rolled over and dropped. His toes—for he went down pretty plump—touched bottom for a moment: but when he came to strike out he found he'd over-calculated his strength, and gave himself up for lost. He swallowed some water, too, and was on the point of crying out to be taken aboard again and not left to drown, when the set of the tide swept him forward, so that he fetched up with his breast against a shore-line that someone had carried out from the bows: and hauling on this he dragged himself along till the water reached no higher than his knees. Twice he tried to run, and twice he fell through weakness, but he came ashore at last at a place where the beach ended in a low ridge of rock covered with ore-weed. Between the rocks ran stretches of whity-grey shingle, and he lay still for a while and panted, considering how on earth he could cross these without being spied by the Navymen, that had recovered their boat by this time and were pulling back with her to the lugger. While he lay there flat on his stomach, thinking as hard as his bruised head would let him, a voice spoke out of the darkness close by his ear, and said the voice, “You belong aboard the lugger, if I'm not mistook?”—which so terrified Dan'l that he made no answer, but lifted himself and stared, with all his teeth chattering. “You stay still where you are,” the voice went on, “till the coast is a bit clearer, as 'twill be in a minute or two. There's a two-three friends up the beach, that were hired for this business; but the Preventive men have bested us this time. Hows'ever, you've had luck to get ashore—'tis better be lucky than rich, they say. Hutted, are 'ee?” The boats being gone by this time, the man that owned the voice stepped out of the darkness, lifted him—big-boned man though he was—and hefted him over the rocks. A little higher up the foreshore he was joined by two others, and the three between 'em took hold of Dan'l and helped him up the cliff and through a furze-drake till they brought him to a cottage, where, in a kitchen full of people, he found half a dozen of the Cove-boys that had dropped overboard at the first alarm and swam for shore—the lot gathered about a young doctor from St. Austell that was binding up a man whose shoulder had been ripped open by a musket-ball.

Poor Dan'l's injury being more serious, and his face a clot of blood from the cutlass-wound over his nose, the doctor turned to him at once and plastered him up for dear life; after which his friends, well knowing that a price would be set on him as skipper of the Black Joke, carried him off to St. Austell in a cart that had been brought for the tubs; and at St. Austell hired a chaise to carry him home to Marazion, taking the precaution to wrap his head round with bandages, so that the post-boys might not be able to swear to his looks. A Cover called Tummels drove with him, bandaged also; and stopping the chaise a mile outside Marazion, lifted Dan'l out, managed to hire a cart from a farm handy-by the road, and so brought him, more dead than alive, home to Porthleah.

But though more dead than alive, Dan'l had not lost his wits. Except for the faithful Tummels and Bessie Bussow at the Kiddlywink, the Cove was all deserted—the Nonesuch and her crew being yet on the high seas. The very next day he sent Tummels over to Porthleven to tell Amelia Sanders of his mishap, and that he was going into hiding for a time, but would send her word of his movements; and on Tummels' return the pair sat down and cast about where the hiding had best be, Dan'l being greatly uplifted by Tummels' report that the girl had showed herself as plucky as ginger, in spite of the loss of the lugger, declaring that, come what might, she would rather have Dan'l with all his Christian virtues than a fellow like Phoby Geen with all his riches and splay feet. Moreover—and such is the wondrous insight of woman—she maintained that Phoby Geen must be at the bottom of the whole mischief.

Dan'l didn't pay much heed to this, but set it down to woman's prejudice. After talking the matter well out, he and Tummels decided on a very pretty hiding-place and a fairly comfortable one. This was a tenantless house on the coast near St. Ives. A Bristol merchant had built it, meaning to retire there as soon as he'd made his fortune: but either the cost had outrun his plans or the fortune didn't come quite so soon as he expected. At any rate, neither he nor his family had ever taken up abode there. A fine house it was, too, and went in the neighbourhood by the name of Stack's Folly. It stood in the middle of a small farm of about a hundred and fifty acres, besides moor and waste; and, as luck would have it, a brother-in-law of Tummels, by name William Sleep, rented the farm and kept the keys of the house, being supposed to look after it in the family's absence.

Across to Stack's Folly, then, Dan'l was driven in a cart, under a great pile of ore-weed; and William Sleep not only gave over the keys and helped to rig up a bed of straw for him—for the house hadn't a stick of furniture—but undertook to keep watch against surprise and get a supply of food carried up to him daily from the farmhouse, which stood in the valley below, three-quarters of a mile away. So far so good: yet now a new trouble arose owing to Dan'l's wounds showing signs of inflammation and threatening to set up wildfire. Tummels and Sleep put their heads together, and determined that a doctor must be fetched.

Now Dr. Chegwidden, who was getting up in years, had engaged an assistant to take over the St. Ives part of his practice; a young fellow called Martyn, a little on the right side of thirty, clever in his profession, and very well spoken of by all. (Indeed, Dr. Chegwidden, that had taken a fancy to him first-along for his knowledge of Natural History, in due time promoted him to be partner, so that when the old man died, five or six years later, Dr. Martyn stepped into the whole practice.) William Sleep at first was for fetching this young doctor boldly; but Tummels argued that he was a new-comer from the east part of the Duchy, if not from across Tamar, and they didn't know enough of him to warrant the risk. So in the end, after many pros and cons, they decided to trust themselves first to Dr. Chegwidden.

That same night, as the old doctor, after his game of cards with Mr. Pennefather, sat finishing his second glass of rum and thinking of bed, there came a ring at the night-bell, which of all sounds on earth was the one he most abominated. He went to the front door and opened it in a pretty bad temper, when in walked Tummels and William Sleep together and told their business. “A man—no need to give names—was lying hurt and in danger—no matter where. They had a horse and trap waiting, a little above Chyandour, and, if the doctor would come and ask no questions, the same horse and trap should bring him home before morning.”

The old doctor asked no questions at all, but fetched his greatcoat, tobacco-pouch, tinder-box, and case of instruments, and walked with them to the hill over Chyandour, where he found the trap waiting, with a boy at the horse's head. Tummels dismissed the boy, and in they all climbed; but before they had driven half a mile the doctor was asked very politely if he'd object to have his eyes blindfolded.

He chuckled for a moment. “Of course I object,” said he; “for—you may believe it or not—if a man can't see that his pipe's alight he loses half the enjoyment of it. But two is stronger than one,” said he; “and if you insist I shall submit.” So they blindfolded him.

In this way they brought him to Stack's Folly, helped him down from the cart, and led him into the bare room where Dan'l lay in the straw; and there by lantern-light the old man did his job very composedly.

“You're not altogether a pair of fools,” said he, speaking for the first time as he tied the last bandage. “If you hadn't fetched someone, this man would have been dead in three days from now. But you're fools enough if you think I'm going to take this jaunt every night for a week and more—as someone must, if Dan'l's to recover; and you're bigger fools if you imagine I don't know the inside of Stack's Folly. My advice is that in future you save yourselves trouble and call up my assistant from St. Ives; and further, that you don't try his temper with any silly blindfolding, but trust him for the gentleman and good sportsman I know him to be. If 'tis any help to you, he'll be stepping over to Penzance to-day on business, and I'll take the opportunity to drop him a hint of warning.”

They thanked him, of course. “And sorry we are, doctor,” said Tummels, “to have put you to this inconvenience. But there's no friend like an old friend.”

“Talking of friends,” answered Dr. Chegwidden, “I think it well to set you on your guard.” He pulled out a handbill from his pocket. “I had this from Mr. Pennefather to-night,” said he; “and by to-morrow it will be posted all over the country: an offer for the apprehension of Daniel Leggo; the reward, two hundred and fifty pounds.”

“Two hundred and fifty pounds!” Weak as he was, Dan'l sat upright in the straw, and the other two stared at the doctor with their jaws dropping— which Dan'l's jaw couldn't, by reason of the bandages.

“And you ask us to trust this young furriner, with two hundred and fifty pounds for his hand to close on!” groaned Tummels.

“I do,” said the doctor. “The man I would warn you against is a man you'd be ten times apter to trust; and that is your partner, Deiphobus Geen. I understand he's away from home just now; but—reward or no reward—when he returns I advise you to watch that fellow closer than any of the Preventive men: for to my certain knowledge he had ample warning of what was to happen, and I leave you to judge if 'twas by accident he let his friend Dan'l, here, run into the trap.”

Tummels made a motion to draw out a musket from under the straw where Dan'l lay. “If I thought that,” he growled, “I'd walk straight over to Porthleah, wait for him, and blow his scheming brains out.”

“You'd be a bigger fool, then, than I take ye for,” answered the doctor quietly, “and I know you've but wits enough for one thing at a time. Your business now is to keep Dan'l hidden till you can smuggle him out of the country: and if Dr. Martyn or I can help, you may count on us, for I hate such foul play as Deiphobus Geen's, and so, I believe, does my assistant.”

With that the doctor took his leave of Dan'l and was driven home by Tummels, William Sleep remaining to stand guard: and next day, according to promise, Dr. Martyn was told the secret and trusted with the case.

II.

Sure enough, Dr. Martyn turned out to be most clever and considerate; a man that Dan'l took to and trusted from the first. His one fault was that when Dan'l began to converse with him on religious matters, he showed himself a terrible free-thinker. The man was not content to be a doctor: night after night he'd sit up and tend Dan'l like a nurse, and would talk by the hour together when the patient lay wakeful. But his opinions were enough to cut a religious man to the heart.

Dan'l had plenty of time to think over them, too. From daybreak (when the young doctor took his leave), till between ten and eleven at night (when he came again) was a terrible lonely while for a man shut in an empty house and unable to move for pain. As the days wore on and his wound bettered, he'd creep to the door and sit watching the fields and the ships out at sea and William Sleep moving about the slope below. Sometimes he would spend an hour in thinking out plans for his escape; but his money had gone with the lugger, and without money no plan seemed workable. Sometimes he'd think upon the girl Amelia Sanders. But that was crueller pain; for if he could not even escape, how on earth was he to get married? So he fell back on thoughts of religion and in making up answers to the doctor's terrible arguments; and these he would muster up at night, tackling the young man finely, till the two were at it like a pair of wrestlers. But when Dan'l began to grow flushed and excited, and stammered in his speech, the talk would be turned off somehow to smuggling, or sport, or natural history—in all of which the doctor had a hundred questions to ask. I believe these discussions worked the cure faster than any ointments or lotions: but Dan'l used to say afterwards that the long days came nigh to driving him mad; and mad they would have driven him but for a small bird—a wheatear—that perched itself every day on the wall of the court and chittered to him by the hour together like an angel.

Tummels, all this while, kept quiet at Porthleah, like a wise man, and sat watching Phoby Geen like a cat before a mousehole. Phoby had turned up at the Cove in the Nonesuch on the fourth day after the lugger was lost, and at once began crying out, as innocent as you please, upon the mess that Dan'l had made through his wrongheadedness. Also the crew of the Nonesuch couldn't make out where the plan had broken down. But Tummels, piecing their information with what Dr. Chegwidden had told him, saw clearly enough what trick had been played. Also by pumping old Bessie Bussow (who had already been pumped by Phoby) he learned that Phoby knew of Dan'l's return to the Cove and disappearance into hiding. Tummels scratched his head. “The fellow knows that Dan'l is alive,” he reasoned. “He knows, too, there's a price on his head. Moreover he knows my share in hiding the man away. Then why, if he's playing honest even now, doesn't he speak to me? . . . But no: he's watching to catch me off my guard, in the hope that I'll give him the clue to Dan'l's hiding.” Thus Tummels reasoned, and, though it went hard with him to get no news, he decided that 'twas safer to trust in no news being good news than, by making the smallest move, to put Phoby Geen on the track. In this he did wisely; but he'd have done wiser by not breathing a word to Amelia Sanders of where he'd stowed her sweetheart. For what must the lovesick woman do—after a week's waiting and no news—but pack a basket and set out for St. Ives, under the pretence of starting for Penzance market? She carried out the deception very neatly, too; actually went into Penzance and sold two couple of fowls, besides eggs of her own raising; and then, having spent the money in a few odds-and-ends her sweetheart would relish, slipped out of the town and struck away north.

What mischief would have followed but for a slant of luck, there's no knowing: for Master Phoby had caught sight of her on the Helston Road (where he kept a watch), pushed after her hot-foot, worked her through the market like a stoat after a rabbit, and more than half-way to St. Ives (laughing up his sleeve), when his little design went pop! and all through the untying of a shoe-lace!

On the road after you pass Halsetown there's a sharp turn; and, a little way farther, another sharp turn. For no reason that ever she discovered, 'twas just as she passed the first of these that her shoe-string came untied, and she sat down by the hedge to tie it; and here in tying it she broke the lace, and, while mending it, looked up into Phoby Geen's face— that had come round the corner like the sneak he was and pulled up as foolish as a sheep.

In my experience a woman may be a fool, but 'tis within limits. Amelia Sanders, looking Phoby Geen in the face, went on tying her shoe; and, while she looked, she saw not only how terrible rash she had been, but also—without a guess at the particulars—that this man had been at the bottom of the whole mischief and meant to be at the bottom of more. So, said she, very innocent-like—

“Aw, good-afternoon, Mr. Geen!”

“Good-afternoon!” responded Phoby. “Who'd ever ha' thought to meet you here, Miss Sanders?”

“'Tis a tiring way from Porthleah to St. Ives, Mr. Geen.”

“Or from Porthleven, for that matter, Miss Sanders.”

“Especially when you walk it on tippy-toe, which must be extra-wearisome to a body on feet shaped like yours, Mr. Geen.”

Phoby saw that he was fairly caught. “Look here,” said he roughly, “you're bound on a randivoo with Dan'l Leggo, and you can't deny it.”

“I don't intend to,” she answered. “And you be bound on much the same errand, though you'd deny it if your face could back up your tongue.”

“Dan'l Leggo has a-been my partner in business for five years, Miss Sanders. Isn't it nat'ral enough I should want to visit and consult him?”

“Nothing more natural,” answered the girl cheerfully. “I was just wonderin' where they'd hidden him: but since you know, my trouble's at an end. You can show me the way. Which is it, Mr. Geen—north, south, east, or west?”

Phoby understood that she was laughing at him. “Don't you think, Miss Sanders,” he suggested, “that 'twas pretty rash of you to give folks a clue as you've a-done to-day, and everybody knowing that you've been asked in church with Dan'l?”

“I do,” said she. “I've behaved foolish, Mr. Geen, and thank you for reminding me. He won't thank a second partner for putting him in a trap,” she went on, speaking at a venture; but her words caught Phoby Geen like a whip across the face, and, seeing him blanch, she dropped a curtsey. “I'll be going home, Mr. Geen,” she announced. “I might ha' walked farther without finding out so much as you've told me; and you may walk twenty miles farther without finding out half so much.”

He glowered at her and let out a curse; but the girl was his match, though timmersome enough in an ordinary way.

“Iss, iss,” she said scornful-like; “I know the kind of coward you are, Mr. Phoby Geen. But I bless this here corner of the road twice over; first because it has given me a look into your sneaking heart, and next because 'tis within earshot of Halsetown, where I've a brace of tall cousins living that would beat you to a jelly if you dared lift a hand against me. I'm turning back to ask one of them to see me home; and he'll not deny me, as he'll not be backward to pound every bone in your ill-shapen body if he hears what I've to tell.”

Phoby Geen glowered at her for half a minute longer, and then snapped his fingers.

“As it happens,” said he, “you're doing me a cruel injustice; but we needn't talk of that. A man o' my savings—though you've sneezed at 'em— doesn't want to be searching the country for two-hundred-and-fifty pound.”

He swung on his heel and walked off towards St. Ives. Amelia Sanders watched him round the next bend, and turning, began to run homewards for dear life, when, just at the corner, she fell into the arms of Tummels.

“A nice dance you've led me,” grunted Tummels, as she fought down her hysterics. “I've been pulling hot-foot after the man all the way from Penzance. I tracked him there; but you and he between you gave me the slip in the crowd. 'Tis the Lord's mercy you didn' lead him all the way to Stack's Folly: for if I'd a-caught up with him there I must have committed murder upon him.”

“Oh, take me home!” sobbed Amelia Sanders.

“Take you home? How the dickens be I to take you home?” Tummels demanded. “I've got to follow that villain into St. Ives if he goes so far, and stick to him like a shadow.”

So Amelia Sanders trudged it back to Porthleven, calling herself every name but what she was christened: and Phoby Geen trudged it fore to St. Ives, cursing his luck, but working out a problem in his wicked little mind. At the top of the hill over the town he stood quiet for a minute and snapped his fingers again. Since 'twas near St. Ives that Dan'l lay in hiding, what could the hiding-place be but Stack's Folly! Tummels had hidden him: Tummels' brother-in-law rented the farm of Stack's Folly and kept the keys of the house. Why, the thing fitted in like a child's puzzle! Why hadn't he thought of it before?

None the less he did not turn aside towards the great desolate barrack, though he eyed it as he went down the slope between it and the sea. He had not yet begun to think out a plan of action. He wanted Dan'l disposed of without showing his hand in the business. As it was, the girl (and he cursed her) had guessed him to blame for the loss of the lugger. Was it more than a guess of hers? He couldn't say. He had told her at parting that he was walking to St. Ives on business. On a sudden thought he halted in the main street and turned to walk up towards Tregenna, the great house overlooking the town. Its owner, Squire Stephens, was an old client of his.

Squire Stephens was at home, and Phoby Geen sat closeted with him for an hour and more. Nothing was talked of save business, and when the Squire mentioned Dan'l Leggo and the price on his head, Phoby waved a hand mute-like, as much as to beg off being questioned.

Twilight was falling as he took the road back to Porthleah; and Tummels, who had been waiting behind a hedge above the town, dogged him home through the dusk and through the dark.

Phoby's call on the Squire had begun and ended with business. The Nonesuch had made another trip to Roscoff, and he had one hundred and fifty pounds' worth of white cognac to dispose of, all sunk—for Mr. Pennefather had put on a sudden activity—off Old Lizard Head. He had reason to believe that the Preventive men were watching his usual routes inland. Since the accident to Dan'l he had felt, in his cunning way, a new watchfulness in the air.

The day after his journey to St. Ives, the Nonesuch sailed again for Roscoff. At the last moment he decided not to command her this trip; but turned the business over to his mate, Seth Rogers—a very dependable man, though not clever at all. So away she went, leaving the Cove empty but for himself only and Bessie Bussow and Tummels, that lived in a freehold cottage on his savings and didn't draw a regular wage, but only took a hand in a run when he chose. Moreover, Tummels had never sailed for years past but in the Black Joke, and the Black Joke was taken and her crew in prison or in hiding.

Phoby would lief enough have seen Tummels' back. For the job he meditated the man was not only worse than useless, but might even spy on him and carry warning. His plan was to get the sunk crop of brandy round to St. Ives, deliver it to Squire Stephens, and, at the same time, under cover of the business, make sure of Dan'l's being at Stack's Folly, and treat with him, under threats, to give up claim upon his sweetheart. To this end, one night while Tummels was sleeping, he unmoored the Fly tender—a twenty-foot open boat carrying two sprit-sails, owned by him and Dan'l in common, and used for all manner of odd jobs—worked her down to Old Lizard Head single-handed, and crept up to the sunk crop of brandy. Back-breaking work it was to heave the kegs on board; but in an hour before midnight he had stowed the lot and was steering for St. Ives with a stiffish breeze upon his port quarter. The weather couldn't have served him better. By daylight the Fly was rounding in for St. Ives Quay, having sunk her crop again off the mouth of a handy cave on the town side of Treryn Dinas; and Phoby Geen stepped ashore and ordered breakfast at the George and Dragon before stepping up to talk with Squire Stephens.

In the meantime, Tummels, waking up at four in the morning, as his custom was, and taking a look out of window, missed the Fly from her moorings, which caused him to scratch his head and think hard for ten minutes. Then he washed and titivated himself and walked down to the Kiddlywink.

“Hullo, Tummels!” said Bessie Bussow, hearing his footstep on the pebbles, and popping her old head out of window, nightcap and all. “What fetches you abroad so early?”

“Dress yourself, that's a dear woman! Dress yourself and come down!” Tummels waited in a sweat of impatience till the old woman opened her front door.

“What's the matter with the man?” she asked. “Thee'rt lookin' like a thing hurried in mind.”

“I wants the loan of your horse and trap, missus,” said Tummels.

“Sakes alive, is that all? Why on the wide earth couldn't you ha' gone fore to stable an' fetched 'em, without spoilin' my beauty-sleep?” asked Bessie.

“No, missus. To be honest with 'ee that's not nearly all.” Tummels rubbed the back of his head. “Fact is, I'm off in s'arch of your nephew Phoby Geen, that has taken the Fly round to St. Ives, unless I be greatly mistaken; and what's more, unless I be greatly mistaken, he means to lay information against Dan'l.”

“If you can prove that to me,” says Bessie, “he's no nephew o' mine, and out he goes from my will as soon as you bring back the trap, and I can drive into Helston an' see Lawyer Walsh.”

“Well, I'm uncommon glad you look at it in that reasonable light,” says Tummels; “for, the man being your own nephew, so to speak, I didn' like to borry your horse an' trap to use against 'en without lettin' 'ee know the whole truth.”

“I wish,” says Bessie, “you wouldn' keep castin' it in my teeth—or what does dooty for 'em—that the man's my nephew. You'll see how much of a nephew he is if you can prove what you charge against 'en. But family is family until proved otherwise; and so, Mr. Tummels, you shall harness up the horse and bring him around, and I'll go with you to St. Ives to get to the bottom o' this. On the way you shall tell me what you do know.”

She was a well-plucked woman for seventy-five, was Bessie Bussow; and had a head on her shoulders too. While Tummels was harnessing, she fit and boiled a dish o' tea to fortify herself, and after drinking it nipped into the cart as spry as a two-year-old. Off they drove, and came within sight of Stack's Folly just about the time when Phoby Geen was bringing the Fly into St. Ives harbour.

They pulled up at the farmhouse under the hill, and out came William Sleep to welcome them. He listened to their errand and stood for a minute considering.

“There's only one thing to be done,” he announced; “and that is to fetch up Dr. Martyn. We're workin' that young man hard,” said he; “for he only left the patient a couple of hours ago.” He invited Bessie to step inside and make herself at home; and while Tummels stalled the horse, he posted down in search of the doctor.

About an hour later the two came walking back together, William Sleep with news that the Fly was lying alongside St. Ives Quay. He had seen nothing of Phoby Geen, and hadn't risked inquiring. The young doctor, though grey in the cheeks and worn with nursing, rang cheerful as a bell.

“If you'd told me this a month ago,” said he, “I might have pulled a long face about it; but now the man's strong enough to bear moving. You, Mr. Sleep, must lend me a suit of clothes, with that old wideawake of yours. There's not the fellow to it in this parish. After that, all you can do at present is to keep watch here while I get Dan'l down to the sea. You, Mr. Tummels, by hook or crook, must beg, borrow, or steal a boat in St. Ives, and one that will keep the sea for three or four days at a push.”

“If the fellow comes sneaking round the Folly here, William Sleep and I can knock him on the head and tie him up. And then what's to prevent my making use of the Fly hersel'?”

“That's not a bad notion, though we'll avoid violence if we can. The point is, you must bring along a boat, and as soon after nightfall as may be.”

“You may count on it,” Tummels promised. “Next question is, where be I to take the poor chap aboard? There's good landing, and quiet too, at Cawse Ogo, a little this side of Treryn Dinas.” Tummels suggested it because he knew the depths there close in-shore, the spot being a favourite one with the Cove boys for a straight run of goods.

“Cawse Ogo be it,” said the doctor. “I know the place, and I think the patient can walk the distance. Unless I'm mistaken it has a nice handy cave, too; though I may think twice about using it. I don't like hiding with only one bolt-hole.”

“You haven't found any part for me in your little plans,” put in Bessie Bussow. “Now, I'm thinkin' that when he finds himself on the high seas and wants to speak a foreign-bound ship, this here may come in handy.” She pulled out a bag from her under-pocket and passed it over to Tummels.

“Gold?” said he. “Gold an' notes? 'Tis you have a head on your shoulders, missus.”

“Thank 'ee,” said she. “There's twenty pound, if you'll count it. An' 'tis only a first instalment; for the lad shall have the rest in time, if I live to alter my will.”

From the farmhouse Dr. Martyn walked boldly up to Stack's Folly with the bundle under his arm: and in twenty minutes had Dan'l rigged up in William Sleep's clothes. The day was turning bright and clear, and away over the waste land towards Zennor you could see for miles. Tis the desolatest land almost in all Cornwall, and by keeping to the furze-brakes and spying from one to the next, he steered his patient down for the coast and brought him safe to the cliffs over Cawse Ogo. There in a lew place in the middle of the bracken-fern they seated themselves, and the doctor pulled out his pocket spyglass and searched the coast to left and right. By and by he lowered the glass with a start, seemed to consider for a moment, and looked again.

“See here,” said he, passing over the spyglass, “if you can keep comfortable I've a notion that a bathe would do me good.”

Dan'l let him go. Ten minutes later, without help of the glass—his hand being too shaky to hold it steady—he saw the doctor in the water below him, swimming out to sea with a strong breast-stroke. Three hundred yards, maybe, he swam out in a straight line, appeared to float and tread water for a minute or two, and so made back for shore. In less than half an hour he was back again at Dan'l's side, and his face changed from its grey look to the picture of health.

“I want you to answer me a question if you can,” said he. “Does your friend, Mr. Phoby Geen, wear a peewit's wing-feather in his hat?”

“He does, or did,” answered Dan'l; “in one of his hats, at least. Did you meet the man down there?”

“No; and I've never set eyes on him in my life,” said the doctor. “I just guessed.” He laughed cheerful-like, enjoying Dan'l's wonder. “But this guess,” he went on, “changes the campaign a little; and I'll have to ask you to lie here alone for some while longer—maybe an hour and more.”

He nodded and walked off, cautious at first, but with great strides as soon as he struck into the cliff-path. When he came in sight of the Folly he spied a man's figure on the slope there among the furze, and the man was working up towards the Folly on the side of the hill hidden from William Sleep's farm.

“Lend me a gun,” panted the doctor, running into the farmhouse. “A gun and a powder-horn, quick! And a lantern and wads, and a spare flint or two—never mind the shot-flask—” He told what he had seen. “I'll keep the fellow under my eye now, and all you have to do, Mr. Tummels, is to take out his boat after sunset and bring her down to Cawse Ogo.”

He caught up the gun and ran out of the cottage, clucking under the hedges until he came round again to the farther side of the hill; and there he saw Master Phoby Geen come slamming out of the empty Folly and post down the slope at a swinging pace towards Cawse Ogo. “And a pretty rage he's carrying with him I'll wager,” said the doctor to himself. “The Lord send he doesn't stumble upon Dan'l, or I may have to hurt him, which I don't want, and lose the fun of this. I wouldn't miss it now for five pounds.”

His heart jumped for joy when, still following, he saw the man turn down towards the shore by a track a good quarter of a mile to the right of the spot where Dan'l lay. He was satisfied now; and creeping back to Dan'l, he dropped his full length in the bracken and lay and laughed.

“But what's the gun for?” Dan'l demanded.

“You've told me often enough about the seals on this bit of coast. Well, to-night, my friend, we're going to have some fun with them.”

“Doctor, doctor, think of the risk! Besides, I ben't strong enough for seal-hunting.”

“There's no risk,” the doctor promised him; “and all the hunting you'll be called upon to do is to sit still and smile. Have I been a good friend to you, or have I not?”

“The best friend in the world,” Dan'l answered fervent-like.

“On the strength of that you'll have to trust me a little longer. I can't afford you more than a little while longer, for my practice is going to the dogs already. I've sent word home by Tummels that if anyone in St. Ives falls sick to-day he'll have to send over to Penzance.”

The greater part of the afternoon Dan'l slept, and the doctor smoked his pipe and kept watch. At six o'clock they finished the loaf that had been packed up with William Sleep's clothes, emptied the doctor's flask, and fell to discoursing for the last time upon religion. They talked of it till the sun went down in their faces, and then, just before darkness came up over the sea, the doctor rose.

There was just light enough for them to pick their way down over the cliff, treading softly; and just light enough to show that the beach beneath them was empty. On the edge of the sand the doctor chose a convenient rock and called a halt behind it. Peering round, he had the mouth of the cave in full view till the darkness hid it.

“Now's the time!” said he. He took off his coat and lit the lantern under it, muffling the light. “Seals? Come along, man; I promise you the cave is just full of sport!”

He crept for the cave, and Dan'l at his heels, the sand deadening all sound of their footsteps. Close by the cave's mouth he crouched for a moment, felt the hammer of his gun, and, uncovering the lantern with a quick turn of the hand, passed it to Dan'l and marched boldly in.

The soft sand made a floor for the cave for maybe sixty feet within the entrance. It ended on the edge of a rock-pool a dozen yards across, and deep enough to reach above a man's knees. As the doctor and Dan'l reached the pool they heard a sudden splashing on the far side of it.

“Hold the lantern high!” sang out the doctor. Dan'l obeyed, and the light fell full not only on his face, but on the figure of a man that cowered down before it on the patch of shingle where the cave ended.

“Seals?” cried the doctor, lifting his gun. “What did I promise you?”

With a scream, the poor creature flung himself on his knees.

“Don't shoot! Oh, don't shoot!” His voice came across the pool to them in a squeal like a rabbit's.

“Eh? Hullo!” said the doctor, but without lowering his gun. “Mr. Deiphobus Geen, I believe?”

“Don't shoot! Oh, don't shoot me!”

“Be so good as to step across here,” the doctor commanded.

“You won't hurt me? Dan'l, make him promise he won't hurt me!”

“Come!” the doctor commanded again, and Phoby Geen came to them through the pool with his knees knocking together. “Put out your hands, please. Thank you. Dan'l, search, and you'll find a piece of cord in my pocket. Take it, and tie up his wrists.”

“I never meant you no harm,” whined Phoby; but he submitted.

“And now,”—the doctor turned to Dan'l—“leave him to me, step outside and bring word as soon as you hear or glimpse a boat in the offing. At what time, Mr. Geen, are the carriers coming for the tubs out yonder? Answer me: and if I find after that you've answered me false, I'll blow your brains out.”

“Two in the morning,” answered Phoby.

“And Tummels will be here in an hour,” sighed the doctor, relieved in his mind on the one point he had been forced to leave to chance. “Step along, Dan'l; and don't you strain yourself in your weak state by handling the tubs: Tummels can manage them single-handed. You see, Mr. Geen, plovers don't shed their feathers hereabouts in the summer months; and a feather floating on a tideway doesn't, as a rule, keep moored to one place. I took a swim this morning and cleared up those two points for myself. Step along, Dan'l, my friend; I seemed to hear Tummels outside, lowering sail.”

Twelve hours later, Dan'l, with a pocketful of money, was shipped on the high seas aboard a barque bound out of Bristol for Georgia; and there, six months later, Amelia Sanders followed him out and married him. Not for years did they return to Porthleven and live on Aunt Bussow's money, no man molesting them. The Cove had given up business, and Government let bygones be bygones, behaving very handsome for once.

 
 
 

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