[Illustration: “The captain walked home deep in thought.”]
Prudence, who was sitting in the window reading, looked up at his entrance and smiled.
“Edward Tredgold has been in to see you,” she remarked.
The captain nodded. “Couldn’t he stop?” he inquired.
“I don’t know,” said his niece; “I didn’t see him. I was upstairs when he came.”
Captain Bowers looked perturbed. “Didn’t you come down?” he inquired.
“I sent down word that I had a headache,” said Miss Drewitt, carelessly.
Despite his sixty odd years the captain turned a little bit pink. “I hope you are better now,” he said, at last.
“Oh, yes,” said his niece; “it wasn’t very bad. It’s strange that I should have a headache so soon after you; looks as though they’re in the family, doesn’t it?”
Somewhat to the captain’s relief she took up her book again without waiting for a reply, and sat reading until Mr. Tasker brought in the tea. The captain, who was in a very thoughtful mood, drank cup after cup in silence, and it was not until the meal was cleared away and he had had a few soothing whiffs at his pipe that he narrated the events of the afternoon.
“There!” said Prudence, her eyes sparkling with indignation. “What did I say? Didn’t I tell you that those three people would be taking a holiday soon? The idea of Mr. Tredgold venturing to come round here this afternoon!”
“He knows nothing about it,” protested the captain.
Miss Drewitt shook her head obstinately. “We shall see,” she remarked. “The idea of those men going after your treasure after you had said it wasn’t to be touched! Why, it’s perfectly dishonest!”
The captain blew a cloud of smoke from his mouth and watched it disperse. “Perhaps they won’t find it,” he murmured.
“They’ll find it,” said his niece, confidently. “Why shouldn’t they? This Captain Brisket will find the island, and the rest will be easy.”
“They might not find the island,” said the captain, blowing a cloud so dense that his face was almost hidden. “Some of these little islands have been known to disappear quite suddenly. Volcanic action, you know. What are you smiling at?” he added, sharply.
“Thoughts,” said Miss Drewitt, clasping her hands round her knee and smiling again. “I was thinking how odd it would be if the island sank just as they landed upon it.”
Mr. Chalk, when half-awake next morning, tried to remember Mr. Stobell’s remarks of the night before; fully awake, he tried to forget them. He remembered, too, with a pang that Tredgold had been content to enact the part of a listener, and had made no attempt to check the somewhat unusual fluency of the aggrieved Mr. Stobell. The latter’s last instructions were that Mrs. Chalk was to be told, without loss of time, that her presence on the schooner was not to be thought of.