MR. DARLING SETS OUT ON A JOURNEY
This John Darling was no ordinary shell-back. His father was an English parson, his uncle a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, and his eldest brother a commander in the Royal Navy. John was poor in worldly gear, however, and had recently been third officer of the Durham Castle. Now he was without a berth, and was making a bid for fortune of an unusual and adventurous kind. In London, Sir Ralph Harwood had made him a private offer of one thousand pounds for the recovery of the necklace of diamonds and rubies. Darling had landed in St. John’s, on his quest, about six days before his meeting with Dick Lynch. Upon landing he had learned at the Merchants’ Club that the Royal William, bound for New York from London, was reported lost. She had foundered in mid-ocean or had been shattered upon some desolate coast. The underwriters had paid up like men—and both the American and English press had lamented the tragic fate of Miss Flora Lockhart, the young New York singer, who had so lately won fame in London.
Darling had taken the news of Flora’s terrible fate keenly to heart. He had crossed the ocean with her three years before; and she had haunted his dreams, waking and sleeping, ever since. Though he had always felt that his devotion was hopeless, it was no less real for that. And now, from a drunken fisherman, he had learned that she was alive, in good health, and a captive!
Mr. Darling went straight to his own hotel from the Ship Ahoy. He cleaned his pistols, made a rough map of the east coast, south of Witless Bay, from the information obtained from Dick Lynch, packed a couple of saddle-bags, rolled up a pair of blankets and sent for the landlord. From the landlord he obtained change for two five-pound Bank of England notes, information concerning the road from St. John’s to the head of Witless Bay, and hired a horse.
Mr. Darling set out on his adventurous journey after an early breakfast eaten by candle-light. He felt courageous, invincible. He would rescue the lady of his long sea-dreams from that black-faced, black-hearted pirate who was called the skipper of Chance Along. In the flush of this determination the necklace was forgotten. So confident was he of success, and so intent upon picturing the rescue of that beautiful creature who had bewitched him three long, varied sailor-years ago, that he had covered several miles of his journey before noticing the stumblings and gruntings of the ill-conditioned beast between his knees. He departed from the city by way of a road leading westward from the head of the harbor. This he followed for three miles, through slush and half-frozen mud, then turned to the left. He forced his horse into a trot. It pecked badly, and he shot over its bowed head and landed in a mud-hole. Scrambling to his feet he noticed for the first time the gaunt ribs, heaving flanks and swollen legs of