Captain Brisket, looking suddenly very solemn, shook his head and said that it was impossible. He spoke in moving terms of the danger to discipline, and called upon Mr. Duckett to confirm his fears. Meantime, Mr. Stobell, opening his right eye slowly, winked with the left.
“You go on with them alterations,” he repeated.
Captain Brisket started and reflected. A nod from Mr. Tredgold and a significant gesture in the direction of the unconscious Mr. Chalk decided him. “Very good, gentlemen,” he said, cheerfully. “I’m in your hands, and Peter Ducket’ll do what I do. It’s settled he’s coming, I suppose?”
Mr. Tredgold, after a long look at the anxious face of Mr. Duckett, said “Yes,” and then at Captain Brisket’s suggestion the party adjourned to the Jack Ashore, where in a little room upstairs, not much larger than the schooner’s cabin, the preparations for the voyage were discussed in detail.
“And mind, Peter,” said Captain Brisket to his friend, as the pair strolled along by the harbour after their principals had departed, “the less you say about this the better. We don’t want any Biddlecombe men in it.”
“Why not?” inquired the other.
“Because,” replied Brisket, lowering his voice, “there’s more in this than meets the eye. They’re not the sort to go on a cruise to the islands for pleasure—except Chalk, that is. I’ve been keeping my ears open, and there’s something afoot. D’ye take me?”
[Illustration: “There’s more in this than meets the eye.”]
Mr. Duckett nodded shrewdly.
“I’ll pick a crew for ’em,” said Brisket. “A man here and a man there. Biddlecombe men ain’t tough enough. And now, what about that whisky you’ve been talking so much about?”
Further secrecy as to the projected trip being now useless, Mr. Tredgold made the best of the situation and talked freely concerning it. To the astonished Edward he spoke feelingly of seeing the world before the insidious encroachments of age should render it impossible; to Captain Bowers, whom he met in the High Street, he discussed destinations with the air of a man whose mind was singularly open on the subject. If he had any choice it appeared that it was in the direction of North America.
“You might do worse,” said the captain, grimly.
“Chalk,” said Mr. Tredgold, meditatively “Chalk favours the South. I think that he got rather excited by your description of the islands there. He is a very—”
“If you are going to try and find that island I spoke about,” interrupted the captain, impatiently, “I warn you solemnly that you are wasting both your time and your money. If I had known of this voyage I would have told you so before. If you take my advice you’ll sell your schooner and stick to business you understand.”
Mr. Tredgold laughed easily. “We may look for it if we go that way,” he said. “I believe that Chalk has bought a trowel, in case we run up against it. He has got a romantic belief in coincidences, you know.”