“There’s one comfort,” she said to the depressed Mr. Tasker. “I’ve got you, Joseph. They can’t take you away from me.”
“There’s nobody could do that,” responded Mr. Tasker, with a sigh of resignation.
“And if I had to choose,” continued Miss Vickers, putting her arm round his waist, “I’d sooner have you than a hundred thousand pounds.”
Mr. Tasker sighed again at the idea of an article estimated at so high a figure passing into the possession of Selina Vickers. In a voice broken with emotion he urged her to persevere in her claims to a fortune which he felt would alone make his fate tolerable. The unsuspecting Selina promised.
“She’ll quiet down in time,” said Captain Bowers to Mr. Chalk, after the latter had been followed nearly all the way to Dialstone Lane by Miss Vickers, airing her grievance and calling upon him to remedy it. “Once she realizes the fact that the ship is lost, she’ll be all right.”
Mr. Chalk looked unconvinced. “She doesn’t want to realize it,” he said, shaking his head.
“She’ll be all right in time,” repeated the captain; “and after all, you know,” he added, with gentle severity, “you deserve to suffer a little. You had no business with that map.”
On a fine afternoon towards the end of the following month Captain Brisket and Mr. Duckett sat outside the Swan and Bottle Inn, Holemouth, a small port forty miles distant from Biddlecombe. The day was fine, with just a touch of crispness in the air to indicate the waning of the year, and, despite a position regarded by the gloomy Mr. Duckett as teeming with perils, the captain turned a bright and confident eye on the Fair Emily, anchored in the harbour.
“We ought to have gone straight to Biddlecombe,” said Mr. Duckett, following his glance; “it would have looked better. Not that anything’ll make much difference.”
“And everybody in a flutter of excitement telegraphing off to the owners,” commented the captain. “No, we’ll tell our story first; quiet and comfortable-like. Say it over again.”
“I’ve said it three times,” objected Mr. Duckett; “and each time it sounds more unreal than ever.”
“It’ll be all right,” said Brisket, puffing at his cigar. “Besides, we’ve got no choice. It’s that or ruin, and there’s nobody within thousands of miles to contradict us. We bring both the ship and the map back to ’em. What more can they ask?”
[Illustration: “‘It’ll be all right,’ said Brisket, puffing at his cigar.”]
“You’ll soon know,” said the pessimistic Mr. Duckett. “I wonder whether they’ll have another shot for the treasure when they get that map back?” “I should like to send that Captain Bowers out searching for it,” said Brisket, scowling, “and keep him out there till he finds it. It’s all his fault. If it hadn’t been for his cock-and-bull story we shouldn’t ha’ done what we did. Hanging’s too good for him.”