“Yours?” asked Captain Branscome, after a long stare at her.
“Certainly not,” answered Dr. Beauregard. “And that is why I brought you here.”
THE SCREAM ON THE CLIFF.
“A boat?” said Captain Branscome, staring again, and slowly rubbing the back of his head.
He took a step forward, to descend to the beach and examine her, but Dr. Beauregard laid a hand on his arm.
“Not so fast, my friend! Qui dit canot dit canotier—a glance will assure you that she did not beach herself in that position, above high-water mark, still less furl her own sail and stow it. Further, if you study the country behind us, you will see that, while we came unobserved and stand at this moment in excellent cover, by crossing the beach we expose ourselves to observation and the risk of a bullet.”
“I take it, sir,” answered Captain Branscome, still puzzled, “you knew this boat to be here, and have brought us with some purpose.”
“I knew it, to be sure, and my purpose is simple. We cannot have a rival party of treasure-seekers on the island. We have ladies in our charge—gentle, well-bred ladies—and of the crew of that boat, one man, to my knowledge, is a pretty desperate ruffian. The other two—”
“You have seen them, then?”
Dr. Beauregard lifted his shoulders slightly, and took snuff.
“My good friend,” he answered, “as lord proprietor of Mortallone, I pay attention to all my visitors. Well, as I was saying, to cross the beach just now would be venturesome and foolish to boot, seeing that we hold all the cards and have only to wait.”
“What of the ladies?” asked the Captain.
“We can return at once and join them at luncheon. But the ladies, as you remind me, complicate the affair. Before you arrived, I had laid my plans to let these rascals have the run of the island and amuse me by their activities. I had, in fact, prepared a little deception for them—oh, a very innocent little trick! I don’t know, my dear sir, if it has struck you how much simpler our amusements tend to become as we grow older. I had promised myself to watch them, lying perdu, and in the end to dismiss them with a quiet chuckle. You have read your Tempest, Captain Branscome? Well, I have no obedient Ariel to play will-o’-the-wisp with such gentry; yet I would have led them a very pretty dance. But the ladies—the ladies, to be sure! We cannot expose them to dangers, nor even to alarms. We must use more summary methods.” He stood for a moment or two reflective, tapping his snuff-box. “Mr. Goodfellow is a carpenter, I understand.”
“At your service, sir.”
Mr. Goodfellow’s hand went halfway to his waistcoat pocket, as if to produce his business card.
“I seem to remember, Mr. Goodfellow that you carry a bag of tools in the boat?”