“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.”
“Very good,” said the captain, turning away. “Only don’t blame me, whatever happens. You can’t say I have not warned you.”
He clutched his stick by the middle and strode off down the road. Mr. Tredgold, gazing after his retreating figure with a tolerant smile, wondered whether he would take his share of the treasure when it was offered to him.
The anxiety of Miss Vickers at this period was intense. Particulars of the purchase of the schooner were conveyed to her by letter, but the feminine desire of talking the matter over with somebody became too strong to be denied. She even waylaid Mr. Stobell one evening, and, despite every discouragement, insisted upon walking part of the way home with him. He sat for hours afterwards recalling the tit-bits of a summary of his personal charms with which she had supplied him.