“Well,” said I, “the hour is late: and however cheerfully you men of conscience and of casuistry may look forward to spending the night in these caves, I have seen enough, and have enough imagination at the back of it, to desire nothing so little.”
“I will escort you,” said the Doctor.
“That was implied,” I answered: and after shaking hands with my kinsman and promising to visit him on the morrow, I suffered myself to be guided back along the horrible passages. On the way the Doctor Gonsalvez paused more than once to chuckle, and at each remove I found this indulgence more uncanny.
In the great cellar we came upon the sergeant of the 36th, still slumbering. I stirred him with my foot, and, sitting up, he amicably invited us to join him in a drink. I did so, the Doctor drawing it from the spigot into a pail.
“Might be worse!” hiccupped the sergeant, watching me.
I agreed that it might be a great deal worse. Between us we steered him out, through the tunnel, along the ledge, and so to the archway under which Venus sparkled in the purple heaven. Here the Doctor bade us good-night, and left me to pilot my drunkard down the cliff. At the foot he shook hands with me in a fervour of tipsy gratitude: and I returned the grasp with an empressement, a passion almost, the exact grounds of which unless he should happen to read these lines and remember the circumstances—contingencies equally remote—he will spend his life without surmising.
If any one cares to buy the yawl Siren, he may have her for 200 pounds, or a trifle less than the worth of her ballast, as lead goes nowadays. For sufficient reasons—to be disclosed in the course of this narrative—I am unable to give her builder’s name, and for reasons quite as sufficient I must admit the figures of her registered tonnage (29.56), cut on the beam of her forecastle, to be a fraud. I will be perfectly frank; there is a mystery about the yacht. But I gave 400 pounds for her in the early summer of 1890, and thought her dirt cheap. She was built under the old “Thames rule,” that is, somewhere between 1875 and 1880, and was therefore long and narrow to begin with. She has been lengthened since. Nevertheless, though nobody could call her a dry boat, she will behave herself in any ordinary sea, and come about quicker than most of her type.