When my uncle finished there was a long pause. Finally he reached out his hand for his pipe, filled it, and looked up. His kindly face was furrowed with the marks of weeping, and big tears were yet standing in his eyes.
“Murdered,” he said, “murdered, if ever man was murdered.”
“Yes,” I echoed, “murdered.”
“But we’ll have the villain,” he exclaimed, bringing his fist down on the table with sudden energy. “We’ll have him for all his cunning, eh, boy?”
“Not yet,” I answered; “he is far away by this time. But we’ll have him: oh, yes, we’ll have him.”
Uncle Loveday looked at me oddly for a moment, and then repeated—
“Yes, yes, we’ll have him safe enough. Joe Roscorla must have given the alarm before he had time to go far. And to think,” he added, throwing up his hand, “that I talked to the villain only yesterday morning as though he were some unfortunate victim of the sea!”
I am sure that my uncle was regretting the vast deal of very fine language he had wasted: and, indeed, he had seldom more nobly risen to an occasion.
“Pearls, pearls before swine! Swine did I say? Snakes, if it’s not an insult to a snake to give its name to such as Colliver. What did you say, Jasper?”
“We’ll have him.”
“Jasper, my boy,” said he, scanning me for a second time oddly, “maybe you’ll be better in bed. Try to sleep again, my poor lad— what do you think?”
“I think,” I answered, “that we have not yet looked at the clasp.”
“My dear boy, you’re right: you’re right again. Let us look at it.”
The piece of metal resembled, as I have said, the half of a waist-buckle, having a socket but no corresponding hook. In shape it was slightly oblong, being about 2 inches by one and a half inches. It glittered brightly in the candle’s ray as Uncle Loveday polished it with his handkerchief, readjusted his spectacles, and bent over it.
At the end of a minute he looked up, and said—
“I cannot make head or tail of it. It seems plain enough to read, but makes nonsense. Come over here and see for yourself.”
I bent over his shoulder, and this is what I saw—
The edge of the clasp was engraved with a border of flowers and beasts, all exquisitely small. Within this was cut, by a much rougher hand, an inscription which was plain enough to read, though making no sense whatever. The writing was arranged in five lines of three words apiece, and ran thus:—
MOON END SOUTH. N.N.W. 22 FEET. NORTH SIDE 4. DEEP AT POINT. WATER 1.5 HOURS.
I read the words a full dozen times, and then, failing of any interpretation, turned to Uncle Loveday—
“Jasper,” said he, “to my mind those words make nonsense.”
“And to mine, uncle.”
“Now attend to me, Jasper. This is evidently but one half of the clasp which your father discovered. That’s as plain as daylight. The question is, what has become of the other half, of the hook that should fit into this eye? Now, what I want you to do is to try and remember if this was all that the man Railton gave you.”