“Well, Simpson, what news?” Frank asked as she rowed alongside.
“Well, sir, we have found out as how all the Phantom’s crew are ashore. Some of the chaps told us that they came back a fortnight ago, the crew having been paid off. Rawlins said that I’d better come off and tell you that. He has gone off to look one of them up, and bring him off in a shore boat. He knows where he lives, and I expect we shall have him alongside in a few minutes.”
“Do you think that is good news or bad, sir?” George Lechmere asked.
“I think that it is bad rather than good,” Frank said. “Before, it seemed to me that, whatever the craft was in which she was carried away, she would probably be transferred to the Phantom, which might be lying in Portland or in Dover, or be cruising outside the island, and if I had heard nothing of the Phantom I should have searched for her. However, I suppose that the scoundrel thought that he could not trust a crew of Cowes men to take part in a business like this. But we shall know more when Rawlins comes off.”
In half an hour the shore boat came alongside with Rawlins and a sailor with a Phantom jersey on.
“So you have all been paid off, my lad?” Frank said to the sailor as he stepped on deck.
“Yes sir. It all came sudden like. We had expected that she would be out for another month, at least. However, as each man got a month’s pay, we had nothing to grumble about; although it did seem strange that even the skipper should not have had a hint of what Mr. Carthew intended, till he called him into his cabin and paid him his money.”
“And where is she laid up?”
“Well, sir, she is at Ostend. I don’t know whether she is going to be hauled up there, or only dismantled and left to float in the dock. The governor told the skipper that he thought he might go to the Mediterranean in December, but that till then he should not be able to use her. It seemed a rum thing leaving her out there instead of having her hauled up at Southampton or Gosport, and specially that he should not have kept two or three of us on board in charge. But, of course, that was his affair. Mr. Carthew is rather a difficult gentleman to please, and very changeable-like. We had all made sure that we were going to race here after winning the Cup at Ryde; and, indeed, after the race he said as much to the skipper.”
“Has he anyone with him?” Frank asked.
“Only one gentleman, sir. I don’t know what his name was.”
“What was he like?”
“He was a smallish man, and thin, and didn’t wear no hair on his face.”
“Thank you. Here is a sovereign for your trouble.
“That is something, at any rate, George,” he went on, as the man was rowed away. “The whole proceeding is a very strange one, and you see the description of the man with Carthew exactly answers to that of the man who found out from the boat’s crew that Dr. Maddison was attending Lady Greendale; and now you see that it is quite possible that the Phantom is somewhere near, or was somewhere near yesterday afternoon. Carthew may have hired a foreign crew, and sailed in her a couple of days after her own crew came over; or he may have hired another craft either abroad or here. At any rate, there is something to do. I will go up to town by the midday train, and then down to Dover, and cross to Ostend tonight.”