“I burnt the map,” said the captain, with a smile.
“Burnt it?” gasped Mr. Chalk. “Burnt it?”
“Burnt it to ashes,” said the captain, jovially.
“It’s a load off my mind. I ought to have done it before. In fact, I never ought to have made the map at all.”
Mr. Chalk stared at him in speechless dismay.
“Try that,” said the captain, handing Mr. Stobell his glass.
Mr. Stobell took it from mere force of habit, and sat holding it in his hand as though he had forgotten what to do with it.
“I did it yesterday morning,” said the captain, noticing their consternation. “I had just lit my pipe after breakfast, and I suppose the match put me in mind of it. I took out the map and set light to it at Cape Silvio. The flame ran half-way round the coast and then popped through the middle of the paper and converted Mount Lonesome into a volcano.”
He gave a boisterous laugh and, raising his glass, nodded to Mr. Stobell. Mr. Stobell, who was just about to drink, lowered his glass again and frowned.
“I don’t see anything to laugh at,” he said, deliberately.
“He can’t have been listening,” said Mr. Tredgold, in a low voice, to Miss Drewitt.
“Well, it’s done now,” said the captain, genially. “You—you’re not going?”
“Yes, I am,” said Mr. Stobell.
He bade them good-night, and then pausing at the door stood and surveyed them; even Mr. Tasker, who was gliding in unobtrusively with a jug of water, shared in his regards.
“When I think of the orphans and widows,” he said, bitterly, “I——”
He opened the door suddenly and, closing it behind him, breathed the rest to Dialstone Lane. An aged woman sitting in a doorway said, “Hush!”
Miss Drewitt sat for some time in her room after the visitors had departed, eyeing with some disfavour the genuine antiques which she owed to the enterprise, not to say officiousness, of Edward Tredgold. That they were in excellent taste was undeniable, but there was a flavour of age and a suspicion of decay about them which did not make for cheerfulness.
She rose at last, and taking off her watch went through the nightly task of wondering where she had put the key after using it last. It was not until she had twice made a fruitless tour of the room with the candle that she remembered that she had left it on the mantelpiece downstairs.
The captain was still below, and after a moment’s hesitation she opened her door and went softly down the steep winding stairs.
The door at the foot stood open, and revealed the captain standing by the table. There was an air of perplexity and anxiety about him such as she had never seen before, and as she waited he crossed to the bureau, which stood open, and searched feverishly among the papers which littered it. Apparently dissatisfied with the result, he moved it out bodily and looked behind and beneath it. Coming to an erect position again he suddenly became aware of the presence of his niece.