When I bade her good-bye, however, I saw Tamsin watching us, and the look on her face almost made me shudder, and at that moment I repented bringing Naomi to Mullion Cove. It was too late to draw back now, however; besides, I was powerless.
One of the difficulties which confronted me after I had left was what to do with the horses, and Eli and I had a long conversation as to the course we should pursue concerning them. While we talked Tamsin came to us.
"Mr. Jasper," she said, "can I help you?"
"You are very good, Tamsin," I said; "I am afraid you could not. I want to send these horses back to Trevose, and I know not how it is to be done."
"Even a sister may be useful," she said, in tones which I could not understand.
I looked at her questioningly.
"I will see that the horses are taken to Trevose," she said, quietly.
"I have many means. My father has many men who will do anything for me."
"Could it be done without letting the Tresidders know?" I asked, eagerly.
"Why not? They could be taken to an inn at St. Columb or Padstow, and then the man who goes with them could take a note to the Jonathan Cowling you told us about, telling him what he had done."
I thought over this plan very carefully, and then I congratulated Tamsin on being such a clever girl. She did not reply to my words, however, but instead kept her eyes on the ground as though she were thinking deeply.
"Will you arrange this, Tamsin?" I said, presently.
"Yes, I will arrange it."
"So that neither your father nor the Tresidders shall suspect anything?"
"Yes, it shall be done."
Then I went away, pondering at Tamsin's behaviour, for although she seemed to be kind I could not understand her.
Now, Mullion Forth is only a few miles from Kynance Cove, and as I was anxious not to meet with any of Cap'n Jack's gang, I suggested to Eli that we should keep as far inland as possible.
"No," grunted Eli.
"You said that we must vind the dreckshuns for Granfer's treasure."
"Yes, but they are at St. Eve, are they not?"
"No, no! Aw, aw!" and he laughed like one tickled.
"Tell me what you mean, Eli."
"Cap'n Jack do think 'ee's awful clever, 'ee do. 'Ee do zay 'ee can vind out everything. But 'ee ded'n reckon 'pon poor little Eli. Little Eli knawed he'd be allays at mawther. He ded think the dreckshuns was cloase to Granfer's Caave. Zo they wos, but Eli took 'em to a plaace ovver by Kynance Cove. Aw, aw!"
"Then they are near Cap'n Jack's house?"
"Iss, iss. Cloase by. Mawther was purtly frightened when she cudden vind the paper. But little Eli knawed, an' ded'n zay nothin'."
"And what are we to do?"
"Git cloase to the Cove, then lop round till dark, after that little Eli'll tell 'ee."
"But why did you take the papers there?"
"People do look everywhere cipt cloase by their own doors. Little Eli ed'n a fool!"
Now I must confess that all this talk about the buried treasure became very foolish to me at this time. As I have said, there were many tales when I was a boy about such things until no one took any heed. Still I determined to make the most of Eli's knowledge, for if what he suspected were true, I should be able to buy back Pennington at once, and have the Tresidders in my power. All the same, I built very little upon it, and through the day tried to make plans which should be more feasible.
When darkness came on we made our way across Goonhilly Downs and came down to the cove when the tide was at its ebb. I saw Cap'n Jack's house in the distance, by means of a light which shone from the window, and could not help thinking of the morning when I first saw it, and of the circumstances under which I came thither. Only a little more than a year had passed away since then, and yet it seemed ages.
"We must be very careful, Eli," I said; "if I am caught by Cap'n Jack's gang I am a dead man."
"All right," grunted Eli. "You'll not be seed. I'll take care o' that. Come after me."
He led the way down a beaten track until we came to a deep gorge, by which we were completely hidden.
When we had reached the bottom of the gorge I stopped suddenly.
"I heard a noise, Eli," I whispered. "Stop, listen!"
We stopped, but all was silent. No wind blew, and so every sound was easily heard. I ran up the path again, and looked around. The moon had not yet risen, but the night was clear. Still I could see nothing.
"Maaster Jasper es feartened," grunted Eli; "come on."
I followed him again, and had scarcely reached the beach when a sound like the crack of a musket reached our ears.
"The devil es blawin' hes billies (bellows) to-night," laughed Eli.
Now, as all the world knows, the devil is supposed to wander much among the caves in Kynance Cove. Perhaps this is owing to many of the strange sounds heard there. In one of the caves a terrible hissing sound may be heard, which is called the "Devil's Frying-Pan;" in another is a deep hole, from which a vapour like steam comes forth, and this is called the "Devil's Punch-Bowl." It is also said that he walks in bodily form among the rocks, and makes great noises with his bellows.
"We need'n fear Cap'n Jack's gang to-night," laughed Eli.
"They never come near 'ere when th'oull Sir Nick is blowin' hes billies by night."
I remembered the stories I had heard when I lived among them, and believed he told the truth.
"I shudden like to zee th'oull chap hisself," grunted Eli, with a laugh, "I shudden mind, though. We cud git our way ef he wos to come. We cud jist sell ourselves to un, and then you'd bait the Trezidders aisy."
I did not reply, for a great dread laid hold of me. Besides, the sight of Eli, as he made his way between the rocks, grunting and making all sorts of weird noises, was enough to make one's blood run cold.
"Remember, Eli," I said, "everything must be clear and right. I'll have no dealings with darkness, mind that."
But Eli made no answer, except to go jabbering as though he were mad.
"'Tes a good job the tide es out," he grunted, presently.
"We cudden git in the Devil's Church else."
"What have we to do with the Devil's Church?"
"The dreckshuns be there," and he laughed in his strange, guttural way.
As I have said, being better educated than most of the Cornish folk, I had been led to disbelieve in many of the foolish stories told, but I shuddered at the idea of going there. For, first of all, it was very difficult to get into, and could only be reached when the tide was out, and it was, moreover, reputed to be accursed ground. Here shipwrecked sailors had been lured by inviting lights and welcome sounds, and here they had met their doom.
"I'll not go there, Eli," I gasped.
"Don't be a vool, Jasper Pennington," snarled Eli. "We sh'll be saafe there. Nobody will disturb us. I put it there, I did. Come on, Pennington; and yer love is there, you boobah."
I saw that the dwarf was much excited, and, like one under a spell, I followed him without another word. We climbed over many slippery, dangerous rocks, and then walked over the grass-grown summits of a small island. Then we slowly descended on the south side of the island. Neither of us spoke, for we were in great danger. Below us, many feet down, were great jagged rocks, at whose feet the frothy waves leaped.
"How much farther?" I asked.
"Here we be," grunted Eli, and he disappeared.
The next minute I found myself in a roomy cavern.
"Wait, and I'll get a light," cried Eli, feeling in his pockets.
I heard a strange whizzing noise, and then something struck against my face, and I heard a screech in the darkness outside.
"This is the Devil's Church," grunted Eli, "and 'tes 'ere I've put the dreckshuns."
HOW I FOUND THE SECRET OF THE TREASURE, AND WENT TO THE SCILLY ISLES
The cave called the Devil's Church is little known, and yet it is larger than any of the caverns in Kynance Cove. Strangely enough, too, it is shaped like a church; even the entrance looks as though it might have been fashioned by the hands of men. It was perfectly dry, for the sea never entered it except at very high tides, and even when it entered the water was never known to reach the roof. It was, moreover, seldom visited, for, as I have before stated, in addition to its evil name, it was extremely difficult to reach.
"You say you've put the papers here?" I said to Eli.
"Iss; 'ere, stoop down and laive me git top yer back."
I stooped down, and the dwarf climbed on my shoulders. I had no idea he was so heavy, and when he placed his shoes on my shoulders I gave a cry of pain.
"Aw," laughed Eli, "I be'ant no wizard, be I? I be 'eavier than the church Bible, I be. Ther' now, hold yerself stiddy, and I'll take et out."
He felt along the roof of the cavern, and presently gave a grunt of satisfaction.
"I've got et, Jasper, I've got et. 'Tes oal 'ere. Pennington and the purty maid. Aw, aw!"
With that I let him down on the floor, and saw that he held something in his hand.
"Now, then, let's see it," I cried, for in my eagerness I had forgotten all about my ghostly fears.
"Come 'ere to a lew place," said Eli; "this'll do. I'll hould the candle while you raid."
The packet which he had taken from a hole in the cave was covered with some kind of skin, and was carefully sewn with strong twine. I took my knife from my pocket, and was about to cut it open when I looked around. The candle which Eli held partially lit up the cave, sufficient, indeed, to enable me to see nearly every part of it. A moment later I had started to my feet and seized the pistol which I had bought at Truro, but my hand became nerveless.
Close to me, not ten feet away, I saw that which turned my blood to ice. It seemed to my excited imagination a creature fashioned in the likeness of a man, and yet its eyes shone as I had never seen human eyes shine, and the face was terrible to look upon. The thing held up its hands, and I saw that they were long and lean. He uttered a cry. "No, no, no!" he said.
A mist came before my eyes, and my senses seemed to depart from me. For a minute or more I was ignorant of what passed.
"You be a vool, Jasper!" I heard Eli say.
"What is it?" I asked. "Where is it gone?"
"Dunnaw, dunnaw. We'll go out."
I hurried out of the cave, forgetful of the purpose for which we came, and I did not rest until I reached the mainland.
"This is terrible, Eli!" I said.
The dwarf laughed.
"I 'spect it was Granfer's ghost," he grunted; "but what of that? He ed'n goin' to stop we."
"He has stopped us."
"Not a bit of it. I've got the dreckshuns 'ere. I bean't no vool ef you be."
I hurried on, for I was terribly afraid, and yet at each step I felt more glad that Eli had taken the papers. All the time Eli kept close to my heels, sometimes laughing at my fears, and at others grumbling with me. Presently I seemed to see things in a new light. Wasn't this apparition merely the creature of my own imaginations? Had I not conjured up the spectre myself?
"Eli," I said presently, trying to be brave, "you are right, I am a fool. That thing was nothing but my fancy."
"Aw, aw!" laughed Eli.
"Come," I said, "there's a furze-cutter's hut somewhere, I saw it as we crossed the downs to-day. Let us go and read the papers."
"Tha's yer soarts," replied Eli. "'Ere we be."
With that we found our way to a hut which some one had built as a temporary shelter, and a few minutes later Eli had lit another candle. The wind which had risen howled across Goonhilly Downs, on which the hut was built, but the place was sufficiently sheltered to allow the candle to burn steadily.
"Here 'tes," cried Eli, safely; "raid, Maaster Jasper, raid."
A nervous dread again laid hold of me as I took the thing in my hands, but mastering my weakness, I cut the threads, and a few minutes later I had smoothed out the piece of paper on which the directions, of which Eli had so often spoken, were written.
The following is a copy, as nearly as I can make it, although it is impossible for me to reproduce the peculiar characters in which it was written.
CILLYILES ANNETT NOBODELIVIN KAMSAY. LAWTID Be sur ov this DOO SOTH. VURS KUNGIT. SOTH AGIN Lik thiky DEVILS POINT
BLAKPLAS ELLS MOTH S W. BILYSED N. W. PIK BAR SHOWL IREBOX JAMTITE Loard be marciful to we.
I pored over the directions for a long time, while Eli looked over my shoulder, as if trying to decipher the characters.
"Eli bea'nt no schullard," he grunted at length; "Jasper be, Jasper raid et to Eli."
"Wait a bit, Eli," I said, trying to remember some of the things I had learnt at school, "it's beginning to get plain to me."
"Wish I was schullard," he cried excitedly.
Again I pored over the paper, and presently I translated it to mean as follows:
Name of Island: Annette. Uninhabited.
Calm sea. (Be sure of this.)
Due south of the island. Go as far as possible. Here southward still is a rock, of which a rough sketch is given. The treasure is laid at the point indicated by the black spot, called the Devil's Point.
Hell's Mouth S.W. Billy's Head N.W. An iron box jammed tight. Take pick, crowbar, and shovel.
The longer I looked at the paper the more certain I was that I had given the correct meaning to it, and yet the whole idea of a buried treasure became absurd.
"Eli," I said, "are you sure this is intended to tell where a treasure is?"
"Look, Eli, tell me the history of this paper. Tell me who wrote it, and what Granfer Fraddam had to do with it. Tell me how it came into your mother's hands and into yours."
"Shaan't tell 'ee nothin' more," grunted Eli. "'Tes there. Give et to me ef you doan't want et."
I sat for a long time in deep thought, for I scarcely knew what step to take. Presently, however, my mind was made up. I would, at any rate, see if these rudely drawn characters had any meaning. By this means I might get back Pennington, and I should not take Naomi to the altar a penniless outcast.
If these directions had no meaning I should be none the worse; if there were a treasure, I had as much right to it as any other man; nay, more. Eli was Granfer Fraddam's descendant, and he had given the paper to me.
Besides, the longer I thought of it, the more I was convinced that there was a meaning in what I had been reading. Why should it have been written at all? Why was Granfer Fraddam so particular to preserve it? And, above all, why should Cap'n Jack Truscott be so eager to obtain it?
I had heard of Annette as forming one of a group of islands lying about thirty miles from the Land's End, but beyond that I knew nothing. It was evidently uninhabited, and regarded by the pirates, if pirates they were, as a safe place to bury their treasure.
Anyhow I determined to follow the directions given. So far I had done nothing to get back my own. I had been driven from pillar to post without making a single step forward. At worst I could but fail, while it might be possible that by this step I might be revenged on my enemies.
"Yes, Eli," I said, "we'll go, you and I."
"Tha's yer soarts," grunted Eli.
"We shall want a boat, and we shall want tools, Eli. How are we to get them?"
"Aisy, aisy," cried Eli.
"Come on, we must be off."
"We must walk to Land's End," cried Eli, "and git a boat there. Another say voyage, aw, aw!"
I did not altogether like this arrangement, and yet I knew no better plan, so we started on our journey. We had not gone more than a few yards when I turned and looked around.
"I heard a footstep," I said.
"You be feartened," grunted Eli.
"There is some one following us, I'm sure."
"How can there be? We be 'ere in the oppen downs, and can zee oal around."
He spoke the truth. Around us was a vast stretch of open country upon which nothing grew save stunted furze bushes. It seemed impossible that any one could hide from us.
I took heart, therefore, and trudged forward. I feared nothing living—it was the departed dead, the powers of darkness that held me in awe. But for Naomi I would not have ventured to go to the Scilly Isles; the remembrance of her, however, nerved me, for my Pennington pride mixed largely with my love. I knew that if the desires of my heart were fulfilled and she became my wife, I could easily obtain the means to buy back Pennington, but the thought was repugnant to me. Somehow I felt as though I should be disgraced in my own eyes if I did such a thing, natural as some people might regard it, for we Penningtons have always been regarded as an independent race, desiring nothing but that which we could obtain by our own hands and brains. And thus, although I loved Naomi very dearly, I could not bear the thought of asking her to link her life to a penniless outcast.
Besides another fear possessed me. From what Lawyer Trefry had hinted when we parted, and from what Naomi had said to me, it was possible that the Tresidders had become possessed of her property. I pondered long over what she had said concerning the conversation held between the priests and Richard Tresidder. I tried to discover why they desired to have her regarded as dead. To my dull mind everything was enshrouded in mystery, but the very mystery urged me forward to find out the truth concerning Granfer Fraddam's treasure.
When we reached Penzance I bought a compass and a chart containing many particulars about the Scilly Isles. This done we trudged on to the Land's End, and, arrived there, the real difficulties of our adventure presented themselves. First of all we had to possess a boat, and to do this without causing suspicion seemed difficult. Then we had to obtain tools and start on our journey without being seen. Eli, however, laughed at my fears.
"'Tes arternoon now, Jasper Pennington," he said; "I'll git the boat, you git the other things."
I asked him many questions as to how the boat was to be obtained, but he made no answer save to tell me to be in Gamper Bay, close by a rock called the Irish Lady, at ten o'clock that night, when the moon would rise. I knew I could trust him; so walking to the village of St. Bunyan, which is about three miles from Land's End, I obtained at a blacksmith's shop a pick, a crowbar, and a shovel, according to the directions given. This done I found my way back to the coast again. I had plenty of time, so putting the tools in a safe place I wandered along the edge of the cliffs. The moon had not yet risen, but for the time of the year the weather was very calm and pleasant. The waves leaped pleasantly on the great rock called the Armed Knight, and even the breakers on Whicksand Bay were not angry, as is usually the case on this wild coast. A few clouds swept along the sky, but mostly the heavens were clear. Presently I looked at my watch, and after some trouble discovered that it was nearly nine o'clock. As I was nearly a mile from the Irish Lady I determined to start, and was just going to the place where I had laid the pick and shovel when I heard the sound of voices in the near distance. I immediately fell flat on the ground, for I did not wish to be seen. A minute later I knew that two men were coming toward me, and I judged would pass close beside me. However, I lay still. I was partly covered by the heather which grew abundantly just there, and in the dim light could not be distinguished by the ordinary passer-by from the many great gray rocks which were scattered along the headland.
"I heard the dwarf say," said a voice which I could not recognise, and yet which seemed very familiar to me, "that they would start from the Irish Lady at ten o'clock."
"Iss, sur," was the reply.
"They cannot get a boat nearer than Sennen Cove, can they?"
"'Tes the only place a booat can be got to-night."
"And it could not be got without your knowledge?"
"You are quite sure?"
"And you have given orders as I directed?"
"Iss, that I 'ave for sure."
"Very good; but keep a sharp look-out. I shall be at the Ship Inn at Sennen. If by any means they launch a boat let me know."
"I've put six men to watch, sur."
"That's all right."
They passed within six feet of me, but they did not see me. A few seconds later they were out of sight. So far I was safe, then, but what did this conversation mean? Who was this man who had been watching my actions, and what could be his purpose? He spoke like an educated man, and I could not imagine why he should place six men to watch the coast. Was he a creature of Richard Tresidder, or did he belong to Cap'n Jack Truscott's gang?
"I must go and find Eli," I thought, so I made my way toward the Irish Lady as fast as I was able. I had just reached a part of the cliff where it was safe to descend to the beach when I saw a dark object creeping toward me. I was about to rush toward it and grapple with it when I heard Eli's voice.
"Summin in the wind, Maaster Jasper. Somebody 'ave hired all the booats."
I was not surprised at his words; what I had heard previously prepared me for them.
"I tried to stall one, but 'twas no use. All the cove is watched."
"What have you done, then?"
"Nothin'. I did'n want nobody to take notice of me."
For once my slow-thinking mind was able to hit upon a plan. I remembered when I was with Cap'n Jack's gang hearing of a cave in Gramper Bay, not far from the Irish Lady, where smugglers landed their goods. One of Cap'n Jack's men had pointed it out to me, and had told me that a gang who worked with them sometimes often kept a boat in it.
This I told to Eli, who immediately suggested our trying to find it.
"What we do we must do dreckly, Maaster Jasper," he said; "they be watchin' for we."
I felt the truth of his words, and a few minutes later we had accomplished a precipitous and dangerous descent to the shore beneath. We should have got down more quickly but for the tools which I carried.
We searched very quietly, very cautiously, for I remembered what I had heard, and were not long in finding out the cave I have mentioned.
I may say here that I visited the Land's End only last week, and I find that the place is now quite open to view. A great mass of cliff which formerly hid its mouth has during the last few years fallen away, so that it can be no longer regarded as secret. Then, however, the opening was fairly well hidden.
On entering the place I was delighted to find two fairly large boats. I discovered, too, that oars were lying in them, also a small mast and sails.
"Good, good!" cried Eli, in a hoarse whisper. "Lev us be off right away."
"The moon has not yet risen, Eli," I said; "it'll be dangerous to go out among so many rocks."
"All the better, they waant zee us."
I saw there was much truth in this, especially as they did not expect us to start until ten o'clock. So together we pulled out what seemed to be the best boat, and a few minutes later we were rocking on the heaving waves.
It was, perhaps, a foolish adventure. As all the world knows, there are no wilder seas than those off Land's End. Here two mighty currents meet, and often when the waters are smooth elsewhere they are wild and troubled here. Besides, to undertake a long journey of more than thirty miles in the open sea in a rowing-boat, and to visit a group of islands noted for the treachery of their coasts, seemed harebrained and senseless, especially so when we were watched by people who were, as I judged, far from friendly toward us. And yet this fact added zest to the adventure; it made me feel that I was not chasing a phantom, else why should precautions be taken to hinder us, why were we the objects of so much suspicion?
Nothing happened to us during our sail across the waters, and yet more than once I almost regretted undertaking the journey in such a way, for with the rising of the moon came also the turbulence of the waves. Indeed, when we had accomplished only half our journey I feared we should never reach the Scilly Isles at all. Our boat was tossed on the waves like a cork, and so rough was the sea that I was almost unable to row. Matters became better presently, however, and as morning came on I was able to hoist our little sail, and thus the latter part of our journey was far more pleasant than the first.
As soon as daylight came we looked eagerly to see if we were followed, but a light mist had fallen upon the sea, and thus all vision was obscured. Still I imagined that we were safe, and I eagerly made plans whereby we should visit Annette Island, and formed many a wild conjecture as to what the treasure would be.
It was not without considerable difficulty that we effected a landing. At first I determined to make straight for the place we had come to seek, but presently I felt hungry, which led me to remember that we had no food on board, and that we should surely need some before we reached the object of our search. So after much haggling with Eli, we at length decided to land at St. Mary's, where there was a safe harbour, which we did after much hard struggling. Indeed, so much had the journey fatigued us that, supposing that we found what we desired, I almost despaired of ever taking it to the mainland, unless the sea were much becalmed. Still I imagined that we might on returning commence our journey in the morning, and if the wind were favourable accomplish a great part of the distance before the night came on.
Our appearance at Hugh Town, St. Mary's, seemed to call forth no special comment. Accustomed as were the islanders to all sorts of sea excursions, they apparently regarded our voyage as natural. At the same time they were curious as to our visit, and in a kindly way asked our business.
I left all the questions for Eli to answer, who was far more adept at such matters than I, and who seemed to satisfy the curiosity of the fisher people without trouble. Perhaps they thought we were smugglers like themselves, for I suppose that almost all the men on the islands were in some way interested in deceiving the king's officers. They were very hospitable, however, and would charge nothing for the hearty meal of which we partook.
Late in the afternoon we boarded our little boat again, and without apparently attracting any attention we rowed for Annette Island. It was well it was calm, for the place was surrounded with low-lying rocks, which might any moment destroy our craft. Never shall I forget the reef off Annette Head, for even on that calm day the innumerable "dogs" churned the waters into foam as they roared around them, as if to tell us that if we came near them they would surely destroy us. And we were near becoming wrecked, too, for there were many cross currents, which, had we not been very watchful, would surely have drawn us to destruction. One especially was dragging us to the reef of the Hellweathers, and but for my great strength we should never have landed.
As the day was closing, however, we saw a small cove, and toward this we made our way, and finally succeeded in landing. I saw now why this island had been chosen for the burial of the treasure, if, indeed, one was buried. Even the islanders themselves seldom visited it because of its dangerous coast, and because there seemed nothing on it to tempt them to go thither.
Once on land, however, we climbed Annette Head and looked cautiously around. No one was, as far as I could see, in sight. We were alone on a tract of land about forty acres big, entirely surrounded by treacherous waves and rocks.
"Come, Eli," I said, "we are safe so far. Now we will see if this paper has any meaning."
I saw that he was nearly as excited as I, for his eyes shone strangely, and he uttered many wild ejaculations as we wended our way southward.
HOW WE FOUND THE IRON BOX ON ANNETTE ISLAND, AND THE TERRIBLE ENDING TO OUR ADVENTURE
There can, I think, be few drearier prospects than the one which presented itself to us as we made our way toward the south of Annette. Above was a gray sky, all around was a sullen sea. True, the waters were calm, but they looked as though at any moment they might rouse themselves to fury. East of us we could see the Island of St. Agnes, but beyond this no land was visible, except the rocky islets which lifted their heads from out the dark sea.
On the Island of Annette we could see nothing of interest. No human being lived there, neither was any cattle to be seen. Possibly there might be enough verdure to keep a few alive, but I think that even they would have died of loneliness. The people at Hugh Town said that scarcely any one ever thought of going to Annette. Why should they? there was nothing to induce them there.
Since then I have seen the whole group of islands bathed in the sunlight of summer, I have seen them covered with rich vegetation, I have seen the waves shine bright as they leaped on the many-coloured cliffs, and make sweet music as they played around the innumerable rocks. Seen in this way they are pleasing to all who can enjoy a strange and lovely beauty, but on the day of which I am writing they were gloomy beyond all the power of words to tell.
Even the wind, little as there was of it, wailed and sobbed as it moved along the waters, while birds, the like of which I had never seen before, cried as though they were in bitter pain.
"Eli," I said, "surely we are on the devil's mission, and God is forbidding us to go further."
Eli made no answer save to grunt savagely.
"Let us row back to St. Mary's again," I said, "this place is given over to Satan."
"Then you'll go by yourself, Jasper Pennington!" snarled Eli. "I ded'n come 'ere to go away without gittin' what I wanted. Besides, 'tes nearly dark. I be'ant goin' to go 'way from here till daylight. Ef we tried we should both be drowned."
I saw that he spoke the truth. None but a madman would put out to sea off Annette in the dark, and I saw by the gathering darkness that in a few minutes night would be upon us.
"Cheer up," continued Eli, "Pennington es 'ere, so es the purty maid. Eli do love Jasper, Eli do," and the dwarf caught my hands and fondled them.
In spite of myself I was cheered by his words, and throwing off my superstitious fears, I made my way southward to the spot where the great rock was supposed to lie.
When we had walked a few minutes we saw that the island tapered down to a narrow point; we saw, too, that the strip of land was about three quarters of a mile long, perhaps a quarter of a mile broad, and lay pretty well north and south. Arriving at the southern extremity, we looked eagerly around. As I said, day was fast departing, but there was sufficient light to see the general features of the coast.
I gave a start. Yes, there was the rock mentioned in the paper which I have described.
"Wurrah!" cried Eli excitedly, "we be rich as Jews, Maaster Jasper."
"Come, Eli," I said, as excited as he, "give me the tools. I'll get there at once."
"We cannot do et yet," replied Eli. "In five minutes more 't'll be dark."
"What fools we were not to come before!" I said, angrily.
"No," grunted Eli; "ef people was to zee us diggin' they'd begin to 'spect summin. We mus' do et in the dark."
"How, Eli? You must be mad."
The dwarf looked anxiously at the sky.
"'T'll clear up dreckly," he replied complacently, "and the moon'll rise earlier to-night than he did last night. Ef 'tes clear moonlight we c'n zee. Ef tes'n, we must be up as zoon as ther's any light and find et afore anybody can be about."
"Spend the night here?" I cried.
"We sh'll 'ave to do that anyhow," he said. "We mus'n stay 'ere now," continued the dwarf, "we must git away. Tell 'ee, I b'leeve we be watched as et es."
"What makes you think so?"
"Never mind," and he looked anxiously toward St. Agnes. "Tell 'ee, Jasper, 't'll be a rough night's work."
I, too, looked toward St. Agnes, but could see nothing.
"Come on, come on!" he cried excitedly; "we've got the dreckshuns; we knaw," and he walked northward as fast as he was able, carrying the spade under his arm. Presently we reached a deep pool not far from Annette Head, and near here we found some huge overhanging rocks. Underneath these we both crept, and here we sat for a considerable time. We had brought food with us, and of this we partook, after which we tried to pass away the time by smoking some prime tobacco which I had bought at Penzance. It was just after six o'clock when we finished our meal, and we sat there in the darkness for two hours. I rejoiced to see the clouds depart and the stars begin to shine, for the genius of loneliness seemed to govern the place. We could see nothing but the sea, which in the night looked as black as ink as it surged among the rocks. Even "Great Smith," a huge black rock which lay about half a mile from us, was almost hidden from view, and no sound of anything living reached us save the weird, unnatural cry of the sea birds which now and then fluttered among the rocks on the coast.
When eight o'clock came Eli crawled out from our hiding-place and crept to the headland. Here he stayed for some minutes.
"We be saafe, I reckon," he grunted when he came back; "ther's nobody here, nobody 'toal. We'll go back to the rock again. We musn't talk, jist go quiet."
I followed him, for somehow I felt that he was more capable of leading than I. He kept perfectly cool, I was excited and irritable. Moreover, a nameless dread had laid hold of me. We kept close by the northeast coast of the island, while at frequent intervals Eli would hide behind a rock or lie flat on the ground, listening intently all the while.
"Are you anxious, Eli?" I asked. "Who could come here without our knowledge? while, as you say, it would mean death for any one to come in the dark."
"Cap'n Jack and Cap'n Billy Coad be'ant like other people," he grunted. "I've bin thinkin', thinkin'."
"Sha'ant tell 'ee!" he snarled; "but I reckon we be oal right. Come on."
Presently we reached the southern extremity of the little tract of land again, and as I made my way to the rock I became possessed of a feverish desire to get the treasure. All ghostly fears departed, I felt strong and capable again, and it was with great impatience that I waited for the moon to rise.
The wind had gone to rest, while the sea was settling down to dead calm.
"'Nother aaf an hour, Jasper," grunted Eli.
"Yes," I cried, and I grasped my crowbar.
But we had to wait for more than half an hour, for with the rising of the moon came also a black cloud which obscured its light until it had risen some distance in the heavens. By and by, however, the moon shot above the cloud, and that which before had been obscured by darkness became plain. There was the great rugged rock which bore a resemblance to the rude scratching on the paper. By the side of the rock ran a deep gulf filled with black water. Near by, perhaps twenty feet away, was another and larger mass of cliff. I looked at the water which lay between the two, and saw that it whirled and eddied, as though there were some terrible forces underneath which moved it at will.
I picked up a bit of stick and threw it into the middle of the gulf, which ran perhaps forty feet into the island. I saw the water take it and carry it a little way seaward, and then it came back again. After that it started whirling around, and in a minute or so later it seemed to be drawn downward, for it disappeared from our sight.
"Ef a man was to git in there 'ee'd never git out again," grunted Eli.
"No, never," was my reply, and I shuddered as I spoke.
"Well, then, be careful, Jasper Pennington."
Seizing the pick and crowbar, I crept along the rock until I had reached the extreme point.
I remembered the words written on the piece of paper: "Hell's Mouth, S. W." Yes, that was the gulf into which I had thrown the stick.
"Billy's Head N. W." I looked to the right of me and saw a rock shaped something like a man's head.
The night became lighter. The moon was rising higher and higher in the heavens and sailing in a cloudless sky.
I examined the Devil's Point carefully, but I could see no sign of place into which an iron box could be placed.
"Can 'ee find et?" I heard Eli say, in a low, rasping voice.
"No; there's nothing here. From here it is perpendicular to the sea, a dozen feet down."
Eli swore a terrible oath.
"For God's sake, don't," I cried; "this place is true to its name. That's Hell's Mouth, and this is the Devil's Point right enough."
He crept by me, grunting savagely, and began to feel around the edge of the rock.
"Be careful, Eli," I said, "if you slip you are lost."
"I sha'ant slip," he cried savagely, "I sha'ant!"
Then I saw him lift a stone several pounds weight and throw it into the sea. This was quickly followed by another.
"Pick, Jasper!" he cried.
He placed the pick between two stones and began to heave at the handle.
"Ca'ant move um!" he snarled. "'Ere, you do et."
I caught the handle of the pick and lifted. I felt it begin to break in my hands.
"It's no use," I said; "I must use the bar."
I inserted the point of the bar into the crevice and lifted. I felt a rock move. I put forth my strength, and a great slat several hundredweight fell into the sea with sullen splash.
Eli got on his knees beside the hole we had made.
"We'm right," he gasped, and I felt he had spoken the truth. After this we took away several stones from the fissure which nature had formed at the Devil's Point.
I put my bar into the hole we had made and let it slip through my hands. Its point struck a piece of iron.
"Iron box. Jammed tight!" grunted Eli savagely. "We've got um!"
We were terribly excited. For my own part, I had forgotten everything, save that a treasure lay at my feet. The treacherous waters in Hell's Mouth troubled me not one whit; all my superstitious fears had fled.
As well as I was able I crept into the fissure and felt one foot on a piece of iron. Then I put my hand down and felt carefully. Yes, an iron box had been put there. It lay edgeways, at least I judged so. The part I could feel seemed about a foot wide and three feet long.
"Got et?" gasped Eli.
"Yes," I cried; "my God, here's a handle!"
"Heave um up, then, you who be sa strong."
I tried to lift the thing out, but could not.
"I can't move it, Eli."
"Jammed tight," he grunted.
He was right. Many hard stones were driven in at its sides.
How long it took me to move these stones I know not, but at length I succeeded in unloosing many until I was able to rock the box from side to side.
"It'll come now!" cried Eli. "Heave agin!"
Never was my strength put to such a test as at that time. I saw sparks of fire flash before my eyes, while the muscles of my arms seemed as though they would snap. It was all in vain, however.
"Let me rest a bit, Eli," I said, "then I'll try again."
"No time to rest," snarled Eli.
He seized the crowbar, and after much manoeuvring he passed it through the iron handle of the box, and rested the point against the side of the fissure.
"Haive now, Jasper," he grunted.
I did as he bade me. The box freed itself from the sides of its resting-place.
I had nothing but the weight of the casket to lift now, so I caught the handle again. The thing was ponderously heavy, but I drew it to the top of the fissure, and laid it on the rock called the Devil's Point.
"Ho! ho! ho!" yelled Eli, like one frenzied.
As for me, I was nearly mad with joy.
"My beauty," I said, fondling the box, "I see Pennington in you, I see Naomi's joy on you. You make me free, you make me independent. I love you, I do—I love you!"
"Laive us drag un away from the Devil's Point," cried Eli; "Hell's Mouth is too close to plaise me."
So I placed my arms around it and prepared to carry it from the rock, and away from the inky waters that curled and hissed in the "Devil's Mouth." No sooner had I lifted it from the ground, however, than I let it fall again.
"No! no!" screamed a voice near me. It was not Eli's guttural cry, it was a repetition of the words we had heard in the "Devil's Church" at Kynance Cove.
On starting up I saw the same ghastly-looking creature, the same long beard, the same wild eyes, the same long, lean hands.
"No! no! no! I tell you no!" cried the thing again.
"Why?" I asked, half in anger, half in terror, for I could but realise what such an apparition meant to us.
"Because the thing is accursed!" he cried—"because it is red with the blood of innocence, black with sin, heavy with the cries of orphans' tears and widows' moans. It is the price of crime, red crime, black crime! Come away."
I jumped from the rock and caught the strange thing in my hands. It was flesh and blood, and all fear departed. I turned his face to the light, then I burst into a loud laugh.
"Ho! ho!" I cried, "the madman of Bedruthan Steps. Well, well, you saved my life, you fed me when I was hungry, you clothed me when I was naked. I forgive you. But let me be now. I must take this away."
"No, no, Jasper Pennington," he cried again, "your hands are yet unstained with blood. The moment you were to use such gains the curse of a hundred Cains would be upon you. I know, I have felt."
"Why?" I said; "I do no harm in getting it; I hurt no man. It is mine as much as any other man's—nay, it is more. Eli Fraddam really owns it, and he has given it to me."
"Look you, Jasper Pennington," he cried, "you would get back your birthright. If you got it back in such a way you would lose the better birthright, the birthright of God. I know of this treasure, I have heard its history. It is red with blood, I tell you, and black with crime."
In spite of myself the man's vehemence affected me.
"But," I said, "I love. I cannot go to her empty-handed. A Pennington does not do that. Besides, I am afraid that my love is also penniless, afraid that she has been robbed."
"Look, Jasper Pennington," he said, "I have heard strange things. I have been afraid to ask questions, because—because—but tell me, who is the maiden you love?"
"Naomi Penryn," I replied.
"Yes, yes; I know that, but who is Naomi Penryn? whose child is she? Does she come from Penryn? Who is her mother? who her father? where was she born? Tell me."
"He is mad, stark, staring mad," I said to myself, yet I humoured him. True, the treasure lay at my feet, and I wanted to take it away, while Eli kept grumbling at my delay, but the man seemed to drag an answer from me.
"She was born at Trevose House, close by Trevose Head," I replied. "Indeed, she should be the owner of the estate."
"And her mother?" he cried.
"Was some relative of the Tresidders."
"And her father? Tell me, man, tell me quickly."
"Her father was called Penryn—John Penryn, I think his name was."
"But how can that be? Did he not kill his wife before—that is, did she not die?"
"No," I said, "he did not. He thought he killed her, and because of it committed suicide, but his wife was not dead. She got better soon after—indeed, she died only a year or two ago."
"And Penryn committed suicide, you say?"
"And the girl you love is his child?"
"Yes. But what is all this to you? Why have you followed me? What are my affairs to you?"
"Everything, Jasper Pennington. Stop, let me think."
"I cannot stop, I must get this away! Look you, man," and I caught his arm, "this is nothing to you, I have found it," and I kicked the iron box. "It's mine, mine!"
"No, no; it's not yours, I tell you." He stopped and looked around him, then clenched his hands as though he were passing through a terrible crisis.
"Do you say the Tresidders have taken Trevose from the—the maid you love?"
"I am afraid they have. I believe they have."
"But where is she?"
"It is naught to you. She is away from all danger. When I have taken this treasure to a place of safety I shall go to her. I shall buy back Pennington and take her to my home."
"No, Jasper Pennington, this must not be. Naomi Penryn must never live in a home bought with the price of crime. But you are sure she is safe?"
He spoke like a man demented, and yet his earnestness, his evident hatred of crime made me patient. Moreover, he had come upon me at a critical time, and was to an extent a sharer in my secret.
"Look you, Esau, or Cain, or whatever else you may call yourself," I said, "these are but idle words of yours—idle words. I have committed no crime, I hurt no man, I am poor, I have been robbed of my rights, my home. Here, I trust, is my power to win back my home and give it to my love, who is dearer to me than my life."
"There is no need, Jasper Pennington, I tell you there is no need! Throw this thing to the Hell's Mouth, by which it has been lying. Take me to your love; let me see her face, and then—well, I will not promise what, but it shall be well with you," and he laughed like a man from whose life a great fear had gone.
I looked at him, and he presented a strange appearance in the light of the moon on that lonely island. I could not let the treasure slip from my hands at his bidding, for what was the promise of such as he, whose every action told me he was mad?
"Look you," he continued, "I have followed you for your good. I tried to keep you from leaving Land's End last night, I followed you to the cave in Kynance Cove. Come, there is more danger around than you think."
"What danger?" I asked.
The words had scarcely escaped my lips when I heard the sound of voices, and Eli gave a shriek as though some one had given him a deadly blow.
I turned and saw several men standing close by me. A moment later one spoke.
"Oa, Jasper Pennington, this es kind of 'ee to come 'ere like this. You knawed I wanted to vind out Granfer Fraddam's secret, did'n 'ee, then? An' you was a goin' to make a present of et to me, wad'n 'ee, then? Well, you be kind, Jasper."
"Cap'n Jack!" I cried.
"Iss, Cap'n Jack. Allays a friend to 'ee, Jasper, a stiddy, pious man I be. So es Billy Coad 'ere. Ther's few people c'n give sich a religious experience as Billy. Well, we vound out wot you was up to, so we be cum to help 'ee, my deear boy."
I saw that all was lost. The treasure, if treasure there was, could never be mine.
"You told them this!" I cried, turning to the madman, to whom I had been talking.
"No, Jasper Pennington, I have told nothing. But I heard they were coming, and I came to warn you."
He spoke quietly and with dignity. His madness was gone, he seemed a new man.
"Ded 'ee think that we wos vools, Jasper, my deear? Aw, iss, Eli es a clever boy, but law, Cap'n Jack's gang 'ave got eyes everywhere. And we cudden find the dreckshuns, and we bea'nt no schullards, but we do knaw that two and two do maake vower. That's how we vound out. Aw, aw, Jasper, my deear, you bea'nt a-goin' to buy back Pennington in that way. No, no; and I have my doubts ef the weather 'll laive 'ee git back to the caave in Gamper Bay again, for oal you stailed my boat from there."
His words drove me to madness, especially when they roused a laugh from Israel Barnicoat, who stood close by him.
"Then I'm not to have this," I cried, pointing to the box.
"No, you bea'nt, my deear. I be a generous man, but I cudden afford that."
"Then you shan't!" I cried.
With a strength that was unnatural I seized the heavy iron box, and before they could prevent me I threw it into the black waters of the gulf.
"There," I said, "if I cannot have it neither shall you, or if you get it, you shall go into Hell's Mouth after it."
Cap'n Jack gave a terrible oath. "Send him after it, Israel Barnicoat!" he cried.
I stooped to seize the crowbar in order to defend myself, but before I could use it as a weapon Israel Barnicoat threw himself upon me. My foot slipped upon the rock, and before I could regain my footing I received a stunning blow. A moment later I felt myself sinking in the black waters from which Eli Fraddam had said there was no escape. And all this happened in a few seconds—so quickly, indeed, did it take place that I had not even time to call upon God to have mercy upon my poor, sinful soul.
TELLS OF THE STRANGE REVELATION MADE BY THE MADMAN OF BEDRUTHEN STEPS, AND OF TAMSIN TRUSCOTT'S TREACHERY
For a moment I gave myself up as lost. I remembered how the black waters of the gulf coiled and circled, and knew that there must be some strong current underneath. I remembered, too, how the stick I had thrown into it had disappeared from sight, and felt that there could be no hope for me. But this was only for a moment. I was a strong swimmer, and had been accustomed to the water all my life. After all, "Hell's Mouth" was not very wide, and I hoped I should be able to grasp the edge of the rocks and thus save myself. Then I remembered that Cap'n Jack and his followers would, if possible, keep me from ever escaping if it were in their power so to do. I had in a moment destroyed their hopes of ever getting Granfer Fraddam's treasure, for not one of them would dare to descend into the treacherous depths of the waters where I had thrown it.
All this passed through my mind like a flash, and then I felt myself drawn by a terrible current down and down into the depths.
"It's all over," I thought. "I shall have to go to my Maker without ever saying good-bye to my darling," and then death seemed terrible to me; so terrible, indeed, was the thought of it, that I determined I would not die, and I held my breath as well as I could while I was carried along by the force of the current.
How long I was under water I cannot say. It could not have been long, for one cannot live long without air, but it seemed ages to me. As I look back now it seems as though those few seconds were long years. I will not try and tell the thoughts that passed through my mind, or of the terrible things through which I thought I went. It is not a part of this story, neither do I expect I should be believed if I related it.
God in His infinite mercy, however, did not wish me to die, for presently my head shot above the water, and that without any effort of my own, and then instinctively I started swimming, after drawing a deep breath. As soon as I was able I looked around me, but the surroundings were entirely strange. Above me rose a cliff a good many feet high, and toward this I swam, being very careful, however, to save myself from striking against any of the countless rocks, some of which were only partially covered.
The sea was very calm, and this was my salvation, for presently I was able to get a footing on one of the rocks without being hurt. This done, I again looked around me, but all in vain. On the one hand was the sea, on the other rose the black cliff.
As I said, the night was very calm, only now and then the sobbing, moaning wind swept along the waters, and it was through this fact that I ascertained my whereabouts. On listening I thought I heard the sound of voices, loud, angry voices, but I was so bewildered that at first I knew not what they meant, but I fancied they were not far away; then I fell to thinking of the direction from which the sound came, and I imagined that the current must have carried me to the east side of the island, not far from the southern extremity where I had been.
This brought back to my mind the reason why I had been thrust into the water, for those terrible feelings which possessed me as I was sucked down into the depths of Hell's Mouth had driven from my mind all thoughts of the purpose which had brought me on the island. And here I must confess, to my shame, that my first definite thought on realising my condition was not thankfulness to God for having saved me from manifold danger, but one of anger and impatience because I had been foiled in my purpose. It seemed to me as though defeat tracked my steps everywhere. Ever and always I was outwitted by more clever brains than my own, and now when I fancied I had wealth and power within my grasp, it was snatched from me in a moment. I did not remember the probability that the supposed treasure was no treasure at all, for the improbability of any one hiding a box of great value at such a place had never occurred to me. To my mind the whole business had been plain enough. Granfer Fraddam knew of such a thing, and had kept its whereabouts a profound secret, and only through the cleverness and affection of Eli had I become possessed of its secret. Evidently, too, Cap'n Jack Truscott's anxiety to possess the directions showed his belief in the reality of hidden riches. Since then, however, I have much doubted it. It seems to me next to impossible that such a place should be chosen to hide great riches. Moreover, what was the reason for hiding it? Why had it not been taken away before? And yet, on the other hand, why had the box been placed there with so much care, and in such a wild, unfrequented place, if it did not contain something of great value? These questions, I suppose, will never be answered now. The box lies at the bottom of "Hell's Mouth," and all the riches of the world would not tempt me to try and drag it from its resting-place. I was saved by the infinite mercy of God, and strong man as I am, I cannot help shuddering even now at the thought of what I felt as I was dragged by unknown powers through the depths of that awful place. I write this that any who may read these lines may not be tempted to venture life and reason to obtain that iron chest. Not even Cap'n Jack Truscott or any of his gang dared to do this, and what they dared not attempt is not for flesh and blood to regard as possible.
At that time, however, I did not think of these things. To me it contained untold riches; in that grim iron casket lay love, riches, happiness, home. I had failed to obtain it, even although I had dragged it from its resting-place, because of the subtlety of Cap'n Jack's gang. And yet I rejoiced that I had thrown it into the gulf. If they had foiled me, I had also foiled them. All the same, I was enraged because of my failure, especially as I saw no means of getting back Pennington.
Then I thought of Naomi at Mullion Cove, and wondered how she fared. I had told her that when I came to her again I should bring the means whereby all her difficulties would be removed, and the intensity of my love for her made my disappointment the greater. I thought how sorrowful she would be, and yet I rejoiced with a great joy because of her love for me. Ay, even there, clinging to a rock close to that lonely island, with enemies near me, I could have shouted with joy at the memory of her words to me as I left her by the cottage to which I had taken her.
For love overcometh all things.
All these things passed quickly through my slow-working brain; indeed, they were an impression rather than a series of thoughts. Presently, too, I was able to distinguish the words that were spoken. I could hear Eli pouring forth curses, which I will not here write down, while the stranger seemed to be speaking in my praise. As for Cap'n Jack, he seemed anxious to appease Eli's anger.
"Come now, Soas," I heard him say, "'tes a pity for sure. I be as zorry as can be. I be all for paice, I be. I wos a bit vexed when Jasper thrawed un into the say; who wudden be? But I ded'n main to kill un. There now, it ca'ant be 'elped now; and Jasper Pennington ed'n the first good man that's gone to the bottom of the say."
"He's at the bottom of ''Ell's Mouth'!" shrieked Eli. "You thrawed un there; but you shall suffer, Jack Fraddam. Ef mawther es a witch, I be a wizard, and you shall suffer wuss than the darkness of thicky plaace. I ded love Jasper, he was kind to me, he was. He loved me, he ded. He tooked little Eli round with un, he ded." And then followed words which I will not write, for, indeed, they were very terrible.
After this many things were said until Cap'n Jack got angry.
"Gab on, you little varmin," he cried, "gab on. You thought you could outwit Jack, ded 'ee? Well, you be quiet now, or you'll folla Jasper."
"You dar'nt tich me!" shrieked Eli—"you dar'nt. I'd maake your flesh shrink up ef you ded. I'd make your eyeballs burn like coals of vire, I wud. Begone from me 'ere now, or I'll summon the devil, I will. He ed'n vur far from 'ere, I tell 'ee." And then he said things which he must have borrowed from his mother, for I know of no other who could think of them.
Anyhow he frightened Cap'n Jack and his gang, for they cried out to their leader to leave Eli and the madman, because they were afraid. This they did with many terrible oaths and threats. All the same they left, although they tried to seem to try and do so in a brave way.
"Iss," I heard Israel Barnicoat say, "Jasper be out of the way now, sure enough. Ef you can rise un from the dead, Eli, tell un what I knaw 'bout the maid that he took to Mullion, but she ed'n there now, she ed'n. She's where he would never git to 'er ef he was livin'." And he laughed brutally, and yet fearfully I thought.
I believe I should have cried out at this had I not heard a moan of agony, such as I trust I may never hear again. It was the stranger, I was sure, whom I had heard.
"Tell me where she is," he cried, and I knew he had followed them. Then I heard the sound of blows followed by groans.
"Lev us do for thicky little imp, too," I heard a voice say, "and then nobody 'll know nothin'."
"No," cried Cap'n Jack, "Betsey 'll vind out ef we do." And then I heard their footsteps going northward.
All this time I had been lying against the rock, and half of my body being under water, I was chilled to the bone. When I tried to move I found that all my limbs were numb, and again I began to fear of escaping from where I was. But this did not remain long. The words Israel Barnicoat had spoken about Naomi made despair impossible, and quickened my mind and body to action.
I waited until I judged Cap'n Jack's gang to be out of hearing, then I gave a low whistle, the nature of which was known only to Eli and myself. In an instant I heard an answering cry, and a few seconds later I heard his hoarse, guttural voice overhead.
"Jasper, Jasper, es et you? Thank the Lord!"
"Yes, Eli, that rope you brought."
"Iss, iss, my deear, in a minute."
A few seconds later I saw a rope descending. The cliff was perhaps thirty feet in height just here. I could not judge exactly, but it was about perpendicular, so I could not climb it. After much struggling, however, I reached a point where ascent was possible, and aided by Eli, who pulled like a madman at the rope I had fastened around my body, I at length reached a place of safety.
"Oa, Maaster Jasper, Maaster Jasper!" sobbed Eli, "how glad I be! How I do love 'ee!" And he fondled my wet, clammy hands tenderly.
"Is the madman dead?" I asked.
"I dunnaw. Never mind 'bout he; be you all right? You'n sure et's you?"
"Sure, Eli, safe and sound. Let us go to him."
By the aid of the bright moonlight we found him lying seemingly stark and dead on the ground. I soon discovered to my joy, however, that he was only stunned, and a few minutes later he sat up and spoke to us.
"Jasper Pennington not dead!" he cried.
"No," I said, telling him how I had escaped; "but come, can you walk? Have you any bones broken?"
"No; the fellow tried to stab me, but he failed; I was only stunned."
"Then let us go."
"Go where?" he said, in a dazed kind of way.
"I must go to Naomi," I said.
"Yes, yes," he cried eagerly, "how could I forget? Yes, we must go this moment, this very moment. I am quite well and strong. Come at once."
He spoke with a kind of dignity, and I looked at him again to assure myself that he was the madman who had saved me by Trevose Head.
"We ca'ant go to-night, ted'n saafe," said Eli, who continued to fondle my hands and to utter all sorts of endearing terms.
"We must," he cried, "we must. There's not a second to lose. We must go straight to the house where you left her, and find her if she is there; if not we must not rest till she is in a place of safety."
He spoke in a tone of authority, and was so peremptory that I wondered.
"Who are you?" I asked; "what is my love's safety to you?"
"Everything, Jasper Pennington," he replied; "I am Naomi Penryn's father."
"What!" I said aghast.
"Yes," he repeated, "I am Naomi Penryn's father. Come hither, Jasper Pennington, and let me tell you."
He led me away from Eli, who uttered strange, low sounds, as he always did when he was excited, and then the man whom I had thought mad spoke to me in low, earnest tones.
"You have heard my story, Jasper Pennington," he said—"heard how I struck my wife when she was in a perilous condition. It is true. I thought I had killed her, and since then I have never had an hour's peace. I will not tell you what I have done since or where I have been, except that I have been in hell. You thought me mad—perhaps I have been; I think I have. A little while ago I was drawn to come back to Trevose, but I was afraid to ask any questions. I seemed to be followed by the powers of darkness, who forbade me to speak. And yet I was fascinated to the spot. You can guess why. I need not tell you anything else now, you know what I would say. The thought that I have a daughter alive and that I did not kill my wife has made the world new."
"And you did not commit suicide, then?" I said, in an unmeaning, foolish sort of way.
"No. Coward that I was, I ran away, and for years, years—nearly twenty now—I have been followed by—but never mind, it is gone—all gone. Only let us go! You love my child, Jasper Pennington. Come, let us find her."
"Yes, yes," I replied; "but why did you follow me here?"
"Why? In my madness I felt sure that you had the secret of my life's joy, and because my life has been such that I could not bear you to obtain that which is the price of lost souls. I—I have been—where I have heard the history of that thing which lies under water. It is not a treasure, Jasper Pennington, it is damnation. Perhaps I will tell you more some day, but not now. Let us leave the island."
"But it is not safe to leave it by night."
"Yes; I know the way. I have been here many times—I mean among the islands, I will take you to the sailing-boat which brought me to St. Agnes. Come, I will tell you all that needs telling as we go back."
"But Cap'n Jack's gang?"
"Their boat is at St. Mary's."
"How do you know?"
"Enough that I have found out their plans."
After this Eli and I followed him to a little cove where a boat rocked, and ere long we were landed at St. Agnes. Here we found a good-sized sailing-boat, and here, too, I dried my clothes in a fisherman's cottage, wondering all the while at the strange things which had befallen me.
As soon as morning came we started for St. Ives, for thither Naomi's father determined to go, for Naomi's father I believed him to be.
He said that we should thus escape Cap'n Jack's gang, and be almost as near Mullion as if we landed at Penzance. We did not, however, land at St. Ives. The men who owned the boat consented to take us on to Hayle, which was five miles nearer Mullion than St. Ives.
During our sail across I reproached myself greatly for placing Naomi in the care of Tamsin Truscott, for I believed that she had been led to be unfaithful, and had told Israel Barnicoat of her whereabouts. I talked much with Mr. Penryn about these things, over whom a very great change had come. He was no longer violent in language or in deed, rather he seemed subdued and very thoughtful. He spoke very calmly and thoughtfully, and suggested many things which would never have occurred to me. Such was the power of what I had told him that all his fears seemed to have gone, the wild, haunted look had passed away from his eyes, while his actions were those of a refined gentleman.
On arriving at Hayle we, after much delay and difficulty, obtained horses, and rode rapidly toward Mullion, my heart sometimes beating high with hope, and at others lying in my bosom as though all joy were gone; for be it known the revelations of the last few hours had made everything appear in a new light. If this man was Naomi's father, and, as I said, I believed he was, I could no longer assume the position of her guardian and protector. She would no longer look to me as her sole helper and friend. Her father would claim to be first. This led to many other surmises, not many of which were pleasant, and which made me ofttimes gloomy and dejected.
But these were not the matters concerning which I troubled the most. I worried about the words of Israel Barnicoat. What did he mean by saying that Naomi was where I should never be able to get her?
I had had but little sleep for many hours, but I felt no weariness. My strength seemed to increase with my difficulties, and I did not once droop in my saddle or rub my eyes like a drowsy man. It must have been near a twenty miles' ride from Hayle to Mullion, but we were not long in covering it; indeed, after we had reached Helston, we rode as fast as the horses could carry us.
On coming in sight of Mrs. Crantock's house I left my companions, so eager was I, and thus reached the white house with a green porch some minutes before they came up. Opening the door without knocking I entered, and found Mrs. Crantock, looking pale and anxious, but I could nowhere see Naomi.
"Thank God you have come!" cried the woman.
"Why? Where is she?" I asked.
"She's gone, I know not where."
"How is that?" I cried angrily. "You promised you would care for her, that you would guard her as if she were your own child."
"Yes, yes. Oh, young man, it is wrong to trust to an arm of flesh."
"Look you," I cried, catching her roughly by the arm, "I want no religious talk! I left a lonesome, helpless maid with you whom you promised to protect. Where is she now?" I said this like one demented, as, indeed, I was.
I heard Eli and Naomi's father enter the room, but I took no heed, neither did I listen carefully to the story the woman told. I had some vague remembrance about her saying she went to hear Mr. Charles Wesley, leaving Naomi with Tamsin, and that on her return that morning both had gone. She had inquired of her neighbours, and had been told that three men had come to the house at daybreak, and that when they went away Tamsin and Naomi rode with them in the carriage they had brought.
It was well Naomi's father was with me, for my mind was too confused to ask the necessary questions. I reproached myself for trusting Tamsin and for not taking better precautions. I felt I had by my own foolishness lost my love and again allowed her to be in the power of my enemies. I thought of a score of things I ought to have done, while Mr. Penryn asked many pointed questions.
We were about to take to the saddle again when Tamsin Truscott rushed into the house. The poor girl's face was as pale as that of a ghost, and she trembled from head to foot.
"Forgive me, Jasper," she cried.
I did not speak, for I knew not how to control my words.
"Oh, Jasper, I—I could not help it. It was so hard, so terribly hard. I—I loved you, and I thought that when she was gone you would forget her, and then—"
She did not finish her sentence, but sobbed bitterly, as though she was in sore straits and truly contrite, as, indeed, I thought she was.
She went on to utter many words of self-accusation. She confessed that she had betrayed Naomi's hiding-place, with many other things which I need not here write down.
"Where is she now?" I cried angrily.
"She is being taken to Padstow," she said. "You know why."
"Is it the priest?" I asked.
"Yes," she answered, "and the Tresidders."
"Let us get to our saddles," I cried, "we may get there before they."
"Yes, you can if you ride hard."
"What about horses?" said Mr. Penryn; "these are poor nags; they were the best I could get, but they are spent with a twenty miles' ride."
"They will last to Falmouth," I cried, "we must get fresh ones there."
"God forgive me, but I have no more money," he said, and at this I, too, hung my head, for I was penniless.
I looked to Eli, but before the dwarf could speak Tamsin had caught my hands.
"I have plenty, Jasper," she cried. "Oh, let me help you! It was all my fault, let me do what I can now."
"Where is your money, girl?" asked Mr. Penryn.
"It is at Kynance, Jasper," she said, not noticing him; "father is not yet home, and we can get there before he returns."
"It is scarcely out of our way," I said to Mr. Penryn, and it seemed our only hope. And so we went thitherward, although I had grave doubts as to whether Cap'n Jack had not returned.
HOW WE WENT TO PENNINGTON, AND HOW THE TRESIDDERS WON THE VICTORY
On looking over what I have just written, it has struck me that I have told this part of my story hastily, scarcely relating enough to tell how matters stood. I ought to have said that it took us fifteen hours to sail from St. Agnes Island to Hayle. Thus having left the island at daybreak—that is, about eight o'clock in the morning—we did not arrive at Hayle till the following midnight, and such was our difficulty in getting horses at Hayle, that we did not leave there until morning, thus arriving at Mullion just before noon. We were there, I should imagine, something over an hour, and as Porth Mullion is only some seven or eight miles from Kynance, I had hopes of getting to Captain Jack's house an hour or two before dark. I discovered, too, that Tamsin had ridden from Kynance to Mullion on horseback. She had, in a fit of jealousy, betrayed our secret to Israel Barnicoat, and this had led to Naomi being taken away; and anxious, so she said, to atone, she had come to Mullion to tell her story.
It may seem foolish in me to have trusted her again after she had once betrayed me, but I have always been one who yielded to the promptings of the heart rather than to the conclusions of reason, so I rode toward Kynance without demur, and even Mr. Penryn made no objection. Eli, however, grumbled greatly, and said we were going to a nest of adders; but indeed our horses were useless, and I knew not how we could get fresh ones, except through Tamsin's offer of money.
There was no sign of life at Captain Jack's house when we came to it, so I concluded that he had not yet returned from the Scilly Isles. I was very thankful for this, because I knew his presence would mean great danger to me. He fancied that I was dead, and but for the mercy of God I should have been—murdered, as it were, by his hand, and by that of Israel Barnicoat. I knew he was as cunning as Satan himself, and when he found out that I was alive would, I believed, stop at no means to end my life. And thus nothing but sore necessity would have taken me to Kynance at that time. But as Mr. Penryn had said, the horses we rode, which were but little better than farm beasts, were sore spent with a ride of twenty miles or so, and as it was fully fifty to Padstow—nay, nearer sixty, taking into consideration the nature of the road—it was useless to think of trying to ride them thither.
"This way, Jasper," cried Tamsin; "this way to father's chest. No one knows where it is but him and me. Oh, you do forgive me, don't you? I did it because I wanted you so! You believe me, don't you, Jasper?" and the poor girl sobbed piteously.
I did not speak, for my heart felt very bitter, even though I thought she was trying to atone for what she had done.
She had led me to a little outhouse, cunningly hidden among the rocks, and which could not be reached save by going through the kitchen, owing to a precipice behind. Arrived here she opened a box, and took from it a bag heavy with gold.
"Here's money enough, Jasper," she said eagerly. "Oh, Jasper, if you only knew!"
"Knew what, Tamsin?" I said, for the girl's sorrow made me gentle toward her, even although my heart was torn with anxiety about Naomi.
"Knew how hard it is," she cried. "Oh, Jasper, are you sure you love that maid so? She does not care for you as I do. Could you not think of me and forget her?" and the girl held my hand tightly in hers.
Now I am, and always shall be awkward in my ways toward women. A woman's tears always unman me, and make me soft-hearted. So I knew not what to say to her, and for the life of me I could not be angry. In the providence of God all men love all women, only there must be one especially to stir the depths of each man's heart. And, verily, had not mine heart been taken captive, I should have taken Tamsin in my arms and kissed her, so piteous was her cry, and so full of love was the light which shone from her eyes.
"Look you, Tamsin," I said, "I cannot help it, but that maid hath taken all my love. But for her I might have been different; now I can only love you as a brother should love a sister."
Then her eyes became hard, and I knew I had spoken wrongly.
"I must go now," I continued, "for she is in danger; and if we ride not hard, I may not see her again."
"Yes, go," she said with an angry laugh; "overtake her, rescue her, if you can."
This aroused my suspicions. "Tamsin," I said, "have you told me truly? Are these men taking her to Padstow? I am trusting you implicitly. It is hard for a man to threaten a woman, but if you have told me wrongly, may God have mercy upon you, for I will not."
"I have spoken the truth, Jasper; only be careful to inquire at Penryn if the Golden Cross has been seen in the harbour. I know they talked about it being there. If it has been seen, they have gone on to Padstow."
"How do you know?"
"I heard the priest say so," said Tamsin. "He said if the Golden Cross is lying at Penryn, we can get to Bristol without going to Padstow; if it isn't, we ride to Padstow."
"You swear this, Tamsin? My heart is very sore," I cried.
"Yes; this is truth, Jasper, this is what they said;" but she did not look me in the face as she spoke.
I pushed the bag of money in my pocket and turned to go, but she caught my arm again.
"Won't you kiss me, Jasper?" she said, "just to show you forgive me. Just kiss me once; it will be the only time in this world."
So I kissed her as a brother might kiss a sister, and not as a lover kisses a maid. This I swear by my love for the only maid I ever loved, and by my faith as a Christian man. But she clung to me, and would not let me go, and even as she did so I heard the sound of many voices in the house adjoining, and then Captain Jack and Israel Barnicoat came to the little hut in which we were.
"Jasper Pennington!" they both cried together with terrible oaths, and then both of them sprang upon me. I had thrown off Tamsin as I heard their cry, and so in a degree was able to defend myself; at the same time I was greatly at a disadvantage, so much so that they mastered me, and held me so that I could not put forth my strength. Then I saw Israel Barnicoat lift a knife to strike me, and for the life of me I could make no defence, and could only hold my breath and await his blow.
It fell, but not on me, for Tamsin had thrown herself between us and had received it.
"My God," cried Israel, "I have killed Tamsin!" and the thought so frightened them both that they loosened their hold on me, and so in a moment I was free. I knew, too, at that moment that few men are loved as Tamsin loved me, for she herself had voluntarily received the blow that would perchance have killed me.
But so great was their evident hatred for me, that for the moment neither took notice of Tamsin, but sprung upon me again. This time, however, I was ready for them, so I met Israel with a blow so heavy that he fell to the floor like a log of wood. I would have spared Captain Jack if I could, for he was past his prime, but he came upon me so savagely that I dared not.
"Go, Jasper, go!" gasped Tamsin. "They will kill you. Don't wait; go, only—"
"Are you much hurt, Tamsin?" I said. "Tell me if I can help you."
"No, no; you cannot help me. Go—go to Pennington; go to Pennington!"
"Why?" I cried; "you said Penryn."
"Pennington!" she repeated. "Go at once."
I grieved at leaving her there, but it seemed my duty; besides, I could not help her.
So I went to her. "Good-bye, Tamsin; I will send Betsy Fraddam to you. She knows more than any doctor. Good-bye. You have told me the truth this time. God bless you; you have saved my life."
"Forgive my telling you lies. Oh, I wanted you so, but I think I am dying now. Go quickly to Pennington, and forgive me, Jasper."
I left her then, much bewildered and troubled, for I felt it hard to leave her there without knowing whether she would live or die, and remembering all the time that if she died, she died for love of me.
When I got to the front of the house I found Mr. Penryn and Eli in the custody of Billy Coad and another man, but they let them free as I came. Then I told Billy to go to a doctor who lived at Lizard Town.
I told Mr. Penryn many of the things which I have here written down, and then we rode rapidly away toward Pennington, Eli also coming with us.
"Eli, are you afraid of Captain Jack's gang?" I said presently.
"No, I be'ant."
"Would they hurt you?"
"No, they wudden; not waun ov 'em."
"Then go to Lizard Town yourself, and take the doctor to Tamsin, then come back to your mother's house and tell me how Tamsin is."
"No," said Naomi's father; "you will come to Pennington and ask for him there." This he said looking at me steadily.
"You do not know Richard Tresidder," I said.
"He will have me to deal with," he said quietly. "Jasper, that girl told you the truth at the last. My child is taken there."
"I believe she is," I replied.
"I have felt it might be so all the day," he continued, "only the girl seemed so sincere. Truly the heart of a woman is a strange thing."
Then we both fell to silence as we rode along, for I had much to think about, and so, indeed, had he. At the time I did not think how eager he must be to see his daughter, so filled was my own heart with longing, but as I look back now I feel how little I understood his heart at that time.
Just as daylight was dying we arrived at Pennington Gates. I must confess to a strange feeling as I rode through them, for many things had happened since I last rode to Pennington. Then I had come from Kynance, and then, too, I had come to see my love.
"I will go first, Jasper," said Naomi's father quickly. "I would we were more presentable, but up to a few days ago I had no hope of—but never mind that. Our errand must explain the nature of our attire. You stand behind me, and the servant may admit us."
He seemed to have forgotten all about the past, and spoke as though he had a right to enter the house from which my father had been ejected.
On coming to the door I could hear that something of importance was going on within. I heard the noise of many footsteps and the sound of many voices. When the servant came to the door he did not seem to regard us with surprise; nay, rather, he seemed to expect us. I afterward discovered that he mistook us for some one else. The day had now nearly gone, and thus in the shades of evening he did not see who we were.
"Will you come this way?" he said. "Mr. Tresidder is in the library, and is expecting you."
Had I been alone I should have acted foolishly, so great was my surprise at his words. But Mr. Penryn saw in a moment how things stood.
"Is she safe?" he asked the servant in a whisper, which I thought a very foolish question, but a second later I saw how wise it was.
"The escaped nun?" said the man. "Yes, sir. She was carried from the carriage to the snuggery. She's there now."
"Is she ill?"
"No, sir. She's kept quiet, that is all, sir."
"Thank you. Take us to your master."
The servant led the way without a word, and a few seconds later we stood in the library, the servant closing the door behind us.
There were six people in the room. Richard Tresidder's mother was there, the woman whom my grandfather had married, and who had been the cause of all our trouble. She was an old woman, but evidently strong and agile. I could not help noticing even then how brightly her eyes shone, and how grimly her lips were pressed together. Richard Tresidder was there, too, looking, I thought, much worried and careworn, while young Nick stood by his side, his face very pale, and his arm in a sling. The other three men I did not know, although I fancied I had seen one of them before. Richard Tresidder turned to us as if to tell us something, then seeing me, he cried out angrily, and with great astonishment.
Now, not until that moment did I realise that we had come into a place of danger. Instinctively I measured the men who stood before us. Leaving out Nick Tresidder, we were but two to four, besides which we were in the house of a man who had servants to do his bidding. Still I feared nothing; nay, rather a great joy came into my heart that at last I should meet the Tresidders in this way face to face.
"Jasper Pennington!" cried Richard Tresidder, and then both Nick and his grandmother started up as though they had been attacked by a great evil.
"And John Penryn." This Naomi's father said.
"John Penryn. Do you remember me, Dick Tresidder?"
"No, no. John Penryn committed suicide. He killed his wife and committed suicide." It was my grandfather's second wife who spoke.
"He did not kill his wife, he did not commit suicide," replied John Penryn quietly. "True, I struck my wife in a fit of madness. Of the provocation I will say nothing. I thought I had killed her, and then, like a coward, I ran away from my home, afraid to face what would follow. But in the mercy of God I did not kill her. In the mercy of God, too, a child was born to us; and you became her guardian, Richard Tresidder. Where is she now?"
For a moment silence fell upon the company. All awaited the outcome of the strange scene. I watched Richard Tresidder's face, and saw how frightened he was. I was sure, too, that his mind was seeking some way out of the difficulty in which he was placed.
"You are an impostor. We cannot speak to you. Leave the house!" Again it was my grandfather's second wife who spoke.
"If you wish," replied Naomi's father, "it shall be taken to a court of law. It would be painful for me to have the past recalled, but it shall be so if you will. You are my daughter's legal guardian, and until my identity is established you can exercise a certain amount of control. But remember this, if my past is made public, so will yours be. I shall want many things explained which will not be creditable to you, neither will you be free from the law's just punishment. My child will be placed in the witness-box, and she will have to tell many things which, I should judge, will not be pleasant to you."
In saying this he never raised his voice, although I knew his excitement was great, and that he had much difficulty in restraining his passion.
For a few seconds there was a deathly silence, for neither Richard Tresidder nor his mother spoke a word. Both seemed stunned by what was said. I saw, however, that presently they looked at the men who stood near, and who as yet had not spoken a word.
"I do not think you will find physical force of much use," went on Mr. Penryn quietly, "for even if Jasper Pennington could not fell an ox with one blow of his arm, and you could get rid of us by the means you are considering, it would be of no use. Think you we have come here without precautions? I knew better than that."
Then I remembered that he had spoken to Eli Fraddam when I had sent him away. I saw what he meant now, although at the time I wondered what he had to say to the dwarf.
Then Richard Tresidder's mother rose to her feet, and came up close to where we stood.
"Let me look at you, and see if you be John Penryn," she said, and he stood still while the woman gazed steadily at him, as though she would read the secrets of his heart.
Presently her eyes flashed as though she had come to a decision.
"There is no doubt, Richard," she said, "this is John Penryn. I remember his face, I can recall his voice now. You must give up your ward, my son. We have guarded her in many trying times, we have shielded her from great danger. But now it is at an end. Of course there must be many formalities to go through, but there need be no trouble, no publicity. All our actions can be explained. All we have done has been for the child's good. You are welcome, John, and Pennington must be your home until your claim to Trevose is made good, as it will be, for we shall raise no barriers."
This she said with many other things which I will not here write down. She spoke pleasantly and plausibly, too, until for a moment I forgot who she was, and thought her to be truly a lovable and motherly old lady.
But this was only for a moment, and I must confess I was not at all pleased at the turn things were taking, especially as she seemed to impress Mr. Penryn favourably.
"Where is my child now?" he asked eagerly.
"She is here, John; here in this very house. You shall see her anon. We have been obliged to be careful for her, for she has had an enemy in that man by your side. He, a penniless scoundrel, has dogged her footsteps, and sought to ruin her life, and out of love for her we have been obliged to take steps that may have seemed harsh, but which, believe me, John, were for the good of the child whom we thought an orphan, and wholly dependent on us."
"And who is this enemy?" asked Naomi's father.
"It is Jasper Pennington," she cried, "the man by your side, a cowardly ruffian, a drunken swaggerer, and the companion of the vilest people in the country. We have sought to save her from him, John Penryn; and now, thank God, our work is done."
This she said with a tremor in her voice, as though she had been an injured woman.
"You know it is a lie!" I cried vehemently. "You know it to be a base lie!"
And this was all I could say, for the wily woman seemed to take all words from my mouth, save those of a blank denial to her wicked lies. Besides my heart sunk like lead as I saw how her words weighed with Naomi's father, and as though he saw everything in a new light.
"Let me see my child," he said at length, and after both Richard Tresidder and his mother had made themselves out to be the guardian angels of Naomi's life, while I had been plotting her destruction.
"You shall see her when he is gone," she said, pointing to me. "I can never consent for her to come here while that wretch is in the room." Whereupon John Penryn asked many questions, which they answered so cunningly that I was tongue-tied, and could say nothing except foolish, wild ejaculations.
"Go, Jasper Pennington," he said at length, "leave me here."
"No," I said; "I came to find Naomi, my love. I will see her before I go. She has promised to be my wife."
"His wife!" cried Richard Tresidder's mother. "Think of it. He possesses not one stick. He is a wild vagabond, a terror wherever he goes. How can Naomi Penryn become his wife?"
"Pennington should be mine!" I cried, like one demented. "You robbed it from my father."
"You know the history of Pennington, John," cried the old woman; "it is held in trust for my son. It should have been given to him outright, but my poor husband was mad at the time, and he made a madman's will. But can this fellow buy it back? Has he wealth sufficient to pay half the worth of the estate?"
"Go, Jasper Pennington," said Naomi's father again; "I will do what is right. This woman says you are an evildoer. Well, it shall be my work to guard my child against evildoers."
Then all the heart went out of me, and I, who had hoped so much, left the house of my fathers without so much as seeing Naomi or knowing whether I should ever behold her again. Ay, I left it a beaten man, without a hope, without one bright spot in the sky of my life.
I saw that Naomi's father had been dragged into the Tresidders' net, and that he would be the creature of their wills, the tool to help them to fulfil their purposes.
Except for this my mind was a perfect blank. Slow as I always was to think, I saw no way out of my difficulties. That which I had hoped for came not, and my worst fears were realised.
In this state of mind I, forgetful of the horse on which I rode to the house, walked until I came to the gates, where, in the light moonlight, I thought I saw Eli Fraddam coming toward me.
TELLS OF MY FORTUNES IN WINNING BACK MY BIRTHRIGHT, AND FINISHES THE TALE
"She ed'n killed," was his first greeting. "She'll get better." Then I remembered that he had come from Kynance Cove, and spoke of Tamsin Truscott.
"I did ride vast," he grunted again presently, but I spoke not.
"What's the matter?" he continued presently. "Tell poor little Eli; he do love Jasper."
So while we walked to his mother's cottage I told him all that had been said at Pennington. I told it in more fulness than I have related it here, for it was then fresh in my memory. The dwarf chuckled much as though he vastly enjoyed the cleverness of the Tresidders, but he made no remark for a long time after I had finished my story; then he said quietly:
"We must watch thicky maazed man, Jasper."
"Why?" I asked.
"To zee no 'arm do come to un. Iss, and we must keep our peepers oppen fur the purty maid, too. Watch night and day."
"You think they are in danger?" I said.
"They Tresidders be slippery," he grunted.
"But how can we watch?"
"Little Eli will zee to that. Fust thing in the morning you must go to Lawyer Trefy into Turo, and tell 'im everything. And I must watch—iss, as I will, too. Little Eli ed'n a vool."
Presently we came to Betsy Fraddam's cottage, and the old dame welcomed her son warmly, but she said little to me, although she prepared food for me. For a long time I sat quietly in the chimney corner, and watched the flames leap upward and tried to think of my position. By and by, however, nature asserted herself, and, in spite of my anxiety, I felt myself going to sleep. So I lay down on the couch which Eli prepared for me, and slept long and soundly. The next day I walked to Truro, and told my story to Lawyer Trefy, but he gave me little or no satisfaction, neither would he give me his opinion concerning the behaviour of Naomi's father. He asked many questions—keen, searching questions, such as only a lawyer can ask, but he left me entirely in the dark concerning his own thoughts. And so I came back to St. Eve, having made no step forward; and only one piece of advice did Lawyer Trefy give me, and that was to go to a tailor and get some new clothes, also to a barber and let him dress my hair. This I did, and, in spite of the dreariness of my prospect, I must confess I was pleased at the change made in my appearance; for youth, I suppose, always loves finery; and thus, although I could see no meaning in his advice, I was glad the lawyer had given it.
The next day I tried to get admission into Pennington House, but in this I was unsuccessful. The servant told me I could not be admitted, although I thought he spoke respectfully to me. This fact I attributed to my fine attire. As for Eli, he was constantly watching the house, and although I asked him many questions concerning his investigations, he was silent as the Sphinx, neither would he communicate to me his thoughts. Indeed, at this time I began to doubt the loyalty of Eli. He knew that my heart was almost breaking with disappointment, and yet he was cheerful and gay. He did not sympathise with me in my sorrows, neither did he speak one helpful word.
Altogether at this time my condition was deplorable. My love was cut off from me, and my sky was black from horizon to horizon.
This went on for several days, and then I found that Naomi's father had made his home at Pennington, and that he had been visited by lawyers and others interested in the Trevose Estate. I learnt, too, that no objections whatever had been raised as to his assuming the proprietorship, and that all legal forms had been satisfactorily complied with. And yet neither he nor Naomi sent me one word of cheer; nay, they did not even recognise my existence, which, it must be admitted, was hard to bear. Then, as if to add another drop to the filled goblet of my sorrow, I one day met the Pennington carriage, in which was seated Richard Tresidder and Nick, together with John Penryn and my love, but none of them noticed me; nay, not even Naomi gave me as much as a nod. This, as may be imagined, made my prospects darker than ever, for I felt that my love's father had taken the Tresidders' part against me.
And yet I could not drive away from my heart the feeling that my love loved me. I remembered our meeting in the summer-house in Lanherne Garden, I remembered the words she spoke; nay, more, I felt the joy of her kisses, and so I could not wholly despair. On the other hand, however, I felt that she was now under the control of her father, and if his mind had been poisoned against me my case was indeed hopeless.