“What on earth has happened, doctor?—have you got into disgrace with the populace?”
“No, no; give me some drink—some water, I am very faint—very faint.”
“Give him some wine, or, what’s better, some grog,” said the admiral. “Why, he’s been yard-arm with some pirate or other, and he’s damaged about the figure-head. You ain’t hurt in your lower works, are you, doctor?” said the admiral.
But the doctor took no notice of the inquiry; but eagerly sipped the contents of a glass that Charles Holland had poured out of a bottle containing some strong Hollands, and which appeared to nerve him much.
“There!” said the admiral, “that will do you good. How did all this damage to your upper works come about, eh?”
“Let him wash his face and hands first; he will be better able to talk afterwards.”
“Oh, thank you,” said Chillingworth. “I am much better; but I have had some hard bruises.”
“How did it happen?”
“I went by myself to watch in the room where the picture was in Bannerworth Hall.”
“Where the picture was!” said Henry; “where it is, you mean, do you not, doctor?”
“No; where it was, and where it is not now.”
“Yes, gone away; I’ll tell you all about it. I went there to watch, but found nobody or nothing there; but suddenly a man stepped out from behind the picture, and we had a fight over it; after which, just as I was getting the worst of it, Jack Pringle came in.”
“The dog!” muttered the admiral.
“Yes, he came in just in time, I believe, to save my life; for the man, whoever he was, would not have hesitated about it.”
“Well, Jack is a good man,” said the admiral; “there may be worse, at least.”
“Well, we had a desperate encounter for some minutes, during which this fellow wanted to carry off the picture.”
“Carry off the picture?”
“Yes; we had a struggle for that; but we could not capture him; he was so violent that he broke away and got clear off.”
“With the picture?”
“No, he left the picture behind. Well, we were very tired and bruised, and we sat down to recover ourselves from our fatigue, and to consider what was best to be done; but we were some time before we could leave, and then we determined that we would take the picture away with us, as it seemed to be coveted by the robber, for what object we cannot tell.”
“Well, well—where is the picture?”
“You shall hear all about it in a minute, if you’ll let me take my time. I am tired and sore. Well, we brought the picture out, and Jack helped me carry it till he came within a couple of hundred yards of the cottage, and there left me.”
“The lubber!” said the admiral, interjectionally.
“Well, I rested awhile, and then taking the picture on my shoulders, I proceeded along with it until I came to the wall, when suddenly I heard a great shout, and then down came something heavy upon me, just as if a man had jumped down upon me.”