“Drat the boy! He’s beginning now!”
“Take me home,” I implored her, stammering. “Please, Miss Belcher!”
“Now, I’ll lay three to one,” said Miss Belcher, holding me off and regarding me, “that no one has thought of giving this child an honest breakfast. And”—she turned on Mr. Jack Rogers—“you call yourself a justice of the peace!”
HOW I BROKE OUT THE BED ENSIGN.
We were seated in council in the little parlour of Minden Cottage— Miss Belcher, Miss Plinlimmon, Mr. Jack Rogers, Mr. Goodfellow, and I. Mr. Goodfellow had been included at Miss Belcher’s particular request. Constable Hosken had been despatched to search the plantation thoroughly and to report. Two other constables had arrived, and were coping, in front and rear of the cottage, with a steady if straggling incursion of visitors from the near villages and hamlets of St. Germans, Hessenford, Bake, and Catchfrench, drawn by reports of a second murder to come and stand and gaze at the premises. The report among them (as I learned afterwards) ran that a second body—alleged by some to be mine, by others to be Ann the cook’s—had been discovered lying in its own blood in the attic; but the marvel was how the report could have spread at all, since Miss Belcher had sworn the two woodmen to secrecy. Whoever spread it could have known very little, for the sightseers wasted all their curiosity on the house and concerned themselves not at all with the plantation.
From the plantation Miss Belcher had led me straight to the house, and there in the darkened parlour I had told my story, corroborated here and there by Mr. Goodfellow. In the intervals of my narrative Miss Belcher insisted on my swallowing great spoonfuls of hot bread-and-milk, against which—faint though I was and famished—my gorge rose. Also the ordeal of gulping it under four pairs of eyes was not a light one. But Miss Belcher insisted, and Miss Belcher stood no nonsense.
I told them of my acquaintance with Captain Coffin; how he had invited me to his lodgings and promised me wealth; of his studying navigation, of his reference to the island and the treasure hidden on it, and of the one occasion when he vouchsafed me a glimpse of the chart; of the French prisoner, Aaron Glass, and how we escaped from him, and of the plan we arranged together at the old windmill; how Captain Danny had taken boat to board the St. Mawes packet; how the man Glass had followed; how I had visited the lodgings, and of the confusion I found there. I described the ex-prisoner’s appearance and clothing in detail, and here I had Mr. Goodfellow to confirm me under cross-examination.
“An’ the cap’n,” said he, “was afraid of him. I give you my word, ladies and gentlemen, I never saw a man worse scared in my life. Put up his hands, he did, an’ fairly screeched, an’ bolted out o’ the door with his arm linked in the lad’s.”