The fourth day we had scarcely started to dig before Klootz struck on a second chest that sounded like another full one—
Here Miss Belcher turned a page, glanced overleaf, and came to a full stop.
“For pity’s sake, Lydia—” protested Mr. Rogers, who sat leaning forward, his elbows on the table.
“There’s no more,” Miss Belcher announced.
“Not a word.” She fumbled quickly through the remaining blank leaves. “Not a word more,” she repeated.
“Death cut short his hand,” said Captain Branscome, his voice breaking in upon a long silence.
“Cut short his fiddlestick-end!” snapped Miss Belcher. “The man funked it at the last moment—started out promising to tell the whole truth, but refused the fence. Look back at the story, and you can see him losing heart. Just note that when he comes to A. G.—that’s the man Aaron Glass, I suppose—he dares not write down the man’s name. There has been foul work, and he’s afraid of it. That’s as plain as the nose on my face.”
“But what’s to be done?” asked Mr. Rogers, picking up the manuscript and turning its pages irritably.
“Dear me,” said a voice, “there is surely but one thing to be done! We must go and search for ourselves.”
We all turned and stared at Plinny.
IN WHICH PLINNY SURPRISES EVERYONE.
Everybody stared; and this had the effect of making the dear good creature blush to the eyes.
“I beg your pardon, ma’am?” said Mr. Jack Rogers.
“It—it was not for me to say so, perhaps.” Her voice quavered a little, and now a pair of bright tears trembled on her lashes; but she kept up her chin bravely and seemed to take courage as she went on. “I am aware, sir, that in all matters of hazard and enterprise it is for the gentlemen to take the lead. If I appear forward—if I speak too impulsively—my affection for Harry must be my excuse.”
Mr. Rogers stared at Captain Branscome, and from Captain Branscome to Mr. Goodfellow, but their faces did not help him.
“That’s all very well, ma’am, but an expedition to the other end of the world—if that’s what you suggest?—at a moment’s notice—on what, as like or not, may turn out to be a wild-goose chase—Lord bless my soul!” wound up Mr. Rogers incoherently, falling back in his chair.
“I was not proposing to start at a moment’s notice,” replied Plinny, with extreme simplicity. “There will, of course, be many details to arrange; and I do not forget that we are in the house of mourning. The poor dear Major claims our first thoughts, naturally. Yes, yes; there must be a hundred and one details to be discussed hereafter—at a fitting time; and it may be many weeks before we find ourselves actually launched—if I may use the expression—upon the bosom of the deep.”