The Goth -
Editor C. Arthur
Young Cargill smiled as Mrs. Lardner finished
"And do you really think that the fact that
the poor chap was drowned had anything to do
with it?" he asked. "Why, you admit yourself
that he was known to have been drinking
just before he fell out of his boat!"
"You may say what you like," returned his
hostess impressively, "but since first we came
to live at Tryn yr Wylfa only four people besides
poor Roberts have defied the Fates, and each
of them was drowned within the year.
"They were all tourists," she added with something
suspiciously like satisfaction.
"I am not a superstitious man myself," supplemented
the Major. "But you can't get away
from the facts, you know, Cargill."
Cargill said no more. He perceived that they
had lived long enough in retirement in the little
Welsh village to have acquired a pride in its
The legend and the mountains are the two
attractions of Tryn yr Wylfa—the official guidebook
devotes an equal amount of space to each.
It will tell you that the bay, across which the
quarry's tramp steamers now sail, was once
dry land on which stood a village. Deep in the
water the remains of this village can still be seen
in clear weather. But whosoever dares to look
upon them will be drowned within the year.
A local publication gives full details of those
who have looked—and perished.
The legend had received an unexpected boom
in the drowning of Roberts, which had just
occurred. Roberts was a fisherman who had
recently come from the South. One calm day
in February he had rowed out into the bay in
fulfilment of a drunken boast. He was drowned
three days before Midsummer.
After dinner young Cargill forgot about it.
He forgot almost everything except Betty
Lardner. But, oddly enough, as he walked back
to the hotel it was just Betty Lardner who made
him think again of the legend. He was in love,
and, being very young, wanted to do something
insanely heroic. To defy the Fates by looking
on the sunken village was an obvious outlet for
He must have thought a good deal about it
before he fell asleep, for he remembered his
resolution on the following morning.
After breakfast he sauntered along the brief
strip of asphalt which the villagers believe to be
a promenade. He was not actually thinking
of the legend; to be precise, he was thinking of
Betty Lardner, but he was suddenly reminded
of it by a boatman pressing him for his custom.
"Yes," he said abruptly. "I will hire your
boat if you will row me out to the sunken village.
I want to look at it."
The Welshman eyed him suspiciously,
perceived that he was not joking, and shook
"Come," persisted Cargill, "I will make it
a sovereign if you care to do it."
"Thank you, but indeed, no, sir," replied
the Welshman. "Not if it wass a hundred
"Surely you are not afraid?"
"It iss not fit," retorted the Welshman,
turning on his heel.
It was probably this opposition that made
young Cargill decide that it would be really
worth while to defy the legend.
He did not approach the only other boatman.
He considered the question of swimming. The
knowledge that the distance there and back
was nearly five miles did not render the feat
impossible, for he was a champion swimmer.
But he soon thought of a better way. He went
back to the hotel and sought out Bissett. Bissett
was a fellow member of the Middle Temple,
as contentedly briefless as himself. And Bissett
possessed a motor-boat.
Bissett was not exactly keen on the prospect.
"Don't you think it is rather a silly thing
to do?" he reasoned. "Of course it's all rot
in a way—it must be. But isn't it just as well
to treat that sort of thing with respect?"
Eventually he agreed to take the motor-boat
to within a few hundred yards of the spot. They
would tow a dinghy, in which young Cargill
could finish the journey.
It took young Cargill half-an-hour to find the
spot. But he did find it, and he did look upon,
and actually see, all that remained of the sunken
He felt vaguely ashamed of himself when he
returned to dry land. He noticed that several
of the villagers gave him unfriendly glances;
and he resolved that he would say nothing of the
matter to the Lardners.
They were having tea on the lawn when he
dropped in. He thought that Mrs. Lardner's
welcome was a trifle chilly. After tea Betty
executed a quite deliberate manœuvre to avoid
having him for a partner at tennis. But he ran
her to earth later, when they were picking up
"How could you?" was all she said.
"I—I didn't know you knew," he stammered
"Of course everybody knows! It was all
over the village before you returned.
"Can't you see what that legend meant to
us?" she went on. "It was a thing of beauty.
And now you have spoilt it. It's like burning
down the trees of the Fairy Glen. You—you
"But suppose I am drowned before the year
is out—like Roberts?" he suggested jocularly.
"Then I will forgive you," she said. And to
Cargill it sounded exactly as if she meant what
A few days later he returned to town. For
six months he thought little about the legend.
Then he was reminded of it.
He had been spending a week-end at Brighton.
On the return journey he had a first-class smoker
in the rear of the train to himself. Towards
the end of the hour he dozed and dreamt of the
day he had looked on the sunken village. He
was awakened when the train made its usual
stop on the bridge outside Victoria.
It had been a pleasant dream, and he was still
trying to preserve the illusion when his eye
fell lazily on the window, and he noticed that
there was a dense fog.
"Bit rough on the legend that I happened
to be a Londoner!" he mused. "It isn't easy
to drown a man in town!"
He stood up with the object of removing his
dressing-case from the rack. But before he
reached it there was the shriek of a whistle, a
violent shock, and he was hurled heavily into
the opposite seat.
It was not a collision in the newspaper sense
of the word. No one was hurt. A local train,
creeping along at four miles an hour, had simply
missed its signal in the fog and bumped the
Young Cargill, in common with most other
passengers put his head out of the window. He
saw nothing—except the parapet of the bridge.
"By God!" he muttered. "If that other
train had been going a little faster——"
He could just hear the river gurgling beneath
He had got over his fright by the time he
"Just a common-place accident," he assured
himself, as he drove in a taxi-cab to his chambers.
"That's the worst of it! If I happened to be
drowned in the ordinary way they'd swear it
was the legend. I suppose, for that reason,
I had better not take any risks. Anyhow,
I needn't go near the sea until the year is
The superstitious would doubtless affirm that
the Fates had sent him one warning and, angered
at his refusal to accept it, had determined to
drive home the lesson of his own impotence.
For when he arrived at his chambers he found
a cablegram from Paris awaiting him.
"Hullo, this must be from Uncle Peter!"
he exclaimed, as he tore open the envelope.
"Fear uncle dying. Come at once.—Machell."
Machell was the elder Cargill's secretary, and
young Cargill was the old man's heir.
It was not until he was in the boat-train that
he realised that he was about to cross the sea.
It was a coincidence—an odd coincidence.
When the ship tossed in an unusually rough crossing
he was prepared to admit to himself that
it was an uncanny coincidence.
He stayed a week in Paris for his uncle's funeral.
When he made the return journey the Channel
was like the proverbial mill pond. But it was
not until the ship had actually put into Dover
that he laughed at the failure of the Fates to
take the opportunity to drown him.
He laughed, to be exact, as he was stepping
down the gangway. At the end of the gangway
the fold of the rug which he was carrying on his
arm, caught in the railings. He turned sharply
to free it and stepping back, cannoned into an
officer of the dock. It threw him off his balance
on the edge of the dockside.
Even if the official had not grabbed him, it
is highly probable that he could have saved
himself from falling into the water, because
the gangway railing was in easy reach; and if
you remember that he was a champion swimmer,
you will agree that it is still more probable that
he would not have been drowned, even if he had
But the incident made its impression. His
thoughts reverted to it constantly during the next
few days. Then he told himself that his attendance
at the last rites of his uncle had made him
morbid, and was more or less successful in dismissing
the affair from his mind.
He had many friends in common with the
Lardners. Early in February he was invited
for a week's hunting to a house at which Betty
Lardner was also a guest.
She had not forgotten. She did her best
to avoid him, and succeeded remarkably well,
in spite of the fact that their hostess, knowing
something of young Cargill's feelings, made
several efforts to throw them together.
One day at the end of the hunt he came alongside
of her and they walked their horses home
together. When he was sure that they were
out of earshot he asked:
"You haven't forgiven me yet?"
"You know the conditions," she replied
"You leave me no alternative to suicide,"
"That would be cheating," she said. "You
must be drowned honestly, or it's no good."
Then he made a foolish reply. He thought
her humour forced and it annoyed him. Remember
that he was exasperated. He had
looked forward to meeting her, and now she
was treating him with studied coldness over
what still seemed to him a comparatively trifling
"I am afraid," he said, "that that is hardly
likely to occur. The fact of my being a townsman
instead of a drunken boatman doesn't
give your legend a fair chance!"
Less than an hour afterwards he was having
his bath before dressing for dinner. The water
was deliciously hot, and the room was full of
steam. As he lay in the bath a drowsiness
stole over him. Enjoying the keen physical
pleasure of it, he thought what a wholly delightful
thing was a hot bath after a day's hard hunting.
His mind, bordering on sleep, dwelt lazily
on hot baths in general. And then with a
startling suddenness came the thought that,
before now, men had been drowned in their
With a shock he realised that he had almost
fallen asleep. He tried to rouse himself, but
a faintness had seized him. That steam—he
could not breathe! He was certain he was
going to faint.
With a desperate effort of the will he hurled
himself out of the bath and threw open the
It must have been the bath episode that
first aroused the sensation of positive fear
in Cargill. For it was almost a month later
when he surprised the secretary of that swimming
club of which he was the main pillar by
his refusal to take part in any events for the
He was beginning to take precautions.
Late one night, when taxi-cabs were scarce,
he found that his quickest way to reach home
would be by means of one of the tubes. He
was in the descending lift when he suddenly
remembered that that particular tube ran beneath
the river. Suppose an accident should
occur—a leakage! After all such a thing was
within the bounds of possibility. Instantly
there rose before him the vision of a black torrent
roaring through the tunnel.
Without waiting for the lift to ascend he rushed
to the staircase, and sweating with terror gained
the street and bribed a loafer to find him a
He made an effort to take himself seriously
in hand after that. More than one acquaintance
had lately told him that he was looking "nervy."
In the last few weeks his sane and normal self
seemed to have shrunk within him. But it was
still capable of asserting itself under favourable
conditions. It would talk aloud to the rest of
him as if to a separate individual.
"Look here, old man, this superstitious
nonsense is becoming an obsession to you," it
said one fine April morning. "Yes, I mean
what I say—an obsession! You must pull
yourself together or you'll go stark mad, and
then you'll probably go and throw yourself over
the Embankment. That legend is all bosh!
You're in the twentieth century, and you're
not a drunken fisherman——"
"Hullo, young Cargill!"
The door burst open and Stranack, oozing
health and sanity, glared at him.
"Jove! What a wreck you look!" continued
Stranack. "You've been frousting too much.
I'm glad I came. The car's outside, and we'll
run down to Kingston, take a skiff and pull
up to Molesey."
The river! Young Cargill felt the blood
singing in his ears.
"I'm afraid I can't manage it. I—I've got
an appointment this afternoon," he stammered.
Stranack perceived that he was lying, and
wondered. For a few minutes he gossiped,
while young Cargill was repeating to himself:
"You must pull yourself together. It's
becoming an obsession. You must pull yourself
He was vaguely conscious that Stranack
was about to depart. Stranack was already
in the doorway. His chance of killing the
obsession was slipping from him! A special
effort and then:
"Stop!" cried Cargill. "I—I'll come with
Oddly enough, he felt much better when they
were actually on the river. He had never
been afraid of water, as such. And the familiar
scenery, together with the wholesome exercise
of sculling, acted as a tonic to his nerves.
They pulled above Molesey lock. When they
were returning, Stranack said:
"You'll take her through the lock, won't
It was a needless remark, and if Stranack
had not made it all might have been well. As
a fact, it set Cargill asking himself why he should
not take her through the lock. He was admitted
to be a much better boatman than Stranack,
and everyone knew that it required a certain
amount of skill to manage a lock properly.
Locks were dangerous if you played the fool.
Before now people had been drowned in locks.
The rest was inevitable. He lost his head
as the lower gates swung open, and broke the
rule of the river by pushing out in front of a
launch. The launch was already under way,
and young Cargill trying to avoid it better,
thrust with his boat-hook at the side of the
lock. The thrust was nervous and ill-calculated,
and the next instant the skiff had blundered
under the bows of the launch.
It happened very quickly. The skiff was forced,
broadside on, against the lock gates, and was
splintered like firewood. Cargill fell backwards,
struck his head heavily against the gates—and
He returned to consciousness in the lock-keeper's
lodge. He had been under water a
dangerously long time before Stranack, who had
suffered no more than a wetting, had found
him. It had been touch and go for his life,
but artificial respiration had succeeded.
He soon went to pieces after that.
From one of the windows of his chambers
the river was just visible. One morning he
deliberately pulled the blind down. The action
was important. It signified that he had definitely
given up pretending that he had the power
of shaking off the obsession.
But if he could not shake it off, he could at
least keep it temporarily at bay. He started
a guerilla campaign against the obsession with
the aid of the brandy bottle. He was rarely
drunk, and as rarely sober.
He was sober the day he was compelled to
call on an aunt who lived in the still prosperous
outskirts of Paddington. It was one of his
good days and, in spite of his sobriety, he had
himself in very good control when he left his
In his search for a cab it became necessary
for him to cross the canal. On the bridge he
paused and, gripping the parapet, made a surprise
attack upon his enemy.
Some children, playing on the tow path, helped
him considerably. Their delightful sanity in
the presence of the water was worth more to
him than the brandy. He was positively winning
the battle, when one of the children fell into
For an instant he hesitated. Then, as on the
night of the Tube episode, panic seized him.
The next instant the man who was probably
the best amateur swimmer in England, was
running with all his might away from the canal.
When he reached his chambers he waited,
with the assistance of the brandy, until his
man brought him the last edition of the evening
paper. A tiny paragraph on the back sheet
told him of the tragedy.
An hour later his man found him face downwards
on the hearthrug and, wrongly attributing
his condition wholly to the brandy, put him to
He was in bed about three weeks. The doctor,
who was also a personal friend, was shrewd
enough to suspect that the brandy was the
effect, rather than the cause of the nerve trouble.
About the first week in June Cargill was allowed
to get up.
"You've got to go away," said the doctor
one morning. "You are probably aware that
your nerves have gone to pieces. The sea is
the place for you!"
The gasp that followed was scarcely audible,
and the doctor missed it.
"You went to Tryn yr Wylfa about this
time last year," continued the doctor. "Go
there again! Go for long walks on the mountains,
and put up at a temperance hotel."
He went to Tryn yr Wylfa.
The train journey of six hours knocked him
up for another week. By the time he was
strong enough for the promenade it was the
fourteenth of June. He noticed the date on
the hotel calendar, and realised that the Fates
had another ten days in which to drown him.
He did not call on the Lardners. He felt
that he couldn't—after the canal episode. Four
of the ten days had passed before Betty Lardner
ran across him on the promenade.
She noticed at once the change in him, and
was kinder than she had ever been before.
"Next Saturday," he said, "is the anniversary!"
For answer she smiled at him, and he might
have smiled back if he had not remembered
She met him each morning after that, so that
she was with him on the day when he made his
There had been a violent storm in the early
morning. It had driven one of the quarry
steamers on to the long sand-bank that lies
submerged between Tryn yr Wylfa and Puffin
Island. The gale still lasted, and the steamer
was in momentary danger of becoming a complete
There is no lifeboat service at Tryn yr Wylfa.
It was impossible to launch an ordinary boat
in such a sea.
Colonel Denbigh, the owner of the quarry
and local magnate, who had been superintending
what feeble efforts had been made to effect
a rescue, answered gloomily when Betty Lardner
asked him if there were any hope.
"It's a terrible thing," he jerked. "First
time there has been a wreck hereabouts. It's
hopeless trying to launch a boat——"
"Suppose a fellow were to swim out to the
wreck with a life-line in tow?"
It was young Cargill who spoke.
The Colonel glared at him contemptuously.
"He would need to be a pretty fine swimmer,"
"I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but
I am considered to be one of the best amateur
swimmers in the country," replied Cargill calmly.
"If you will tell your men to get the line ready,
I will borrow a bathing suit from somewhere."
They both stared at him in amazement.
"But you are still an invalid," cried Betty
She stopped short and regarded him with
fresh wonder. Somehow he no longer looked
Mechanically she walked by his side to the
little bathing office. Suddenly she clutched
"Jack," she said, "have you forgotten the—the
"Betty," he replied, "have you forgotten
While he was undressing the attendant asked
him some trivial question. He did not hear the
man. His thoughts were far away. He was
thinking of a group of children playing on the
bank of a canal.
To the accompaniment of the Colonel's protests
they fixed a belt on him, to which was attached
He walked along the sloping wooden projection
that is used as a landing stage for pleasure
skiffs, walked until the water splashed over
him. Then he dived into the boiling surf.
Thus it was that he earned Betty Lardner's