“Well, ma’am, since you know so much, you probably know also that I have sold my pension. How am I to live if I do not turn my hand to work?”
Mrs. Westmacott produced a large registered envelope from beneath the sheets and tossed it over to the old seaman.
“That excuse won’t do. There are your pension papers. Just see if they are right.”
He broke the seal, and out tumbled the very papers which he had made over to McAdam two days before.
“But what am I to do with these now?” he cried in bewilderment.
“You will put them in a safe place, or get a friend to do so, and, if you do your duty, you will go to your wife and beg her pardon for having even for an instant thought of leaving her.”
The Admiral passed his hand over his rugged forehead. “This is very good of you, ma’am” said he, “very good and kind, and I know that you are a staunch friend, but for all that these papers mean money, and though we may have been in broken water lately, we are not quite in such straits as to have to signal to our friends. When we do, ma’am, there’s no one we would look to sooner than to you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” said the widow. “You know nothing whatever about it, and yet you stand there laying down the law. I’ll have my way in the matter, and you shall take the papers, for it is no favor that I am doing you, but simply a restoration of stolen property.”
“How’s that, ma’am?”
“I am just going to explain, though you might take a lady’s word for it without asking any questions. Now, what I am going to say is just between you four, and must go no farther. I have my own reasons for wishing to keep it from the police. Who do you think it was who struck me last night, Admiral?”
“Some villain, ma’am. I don’t know his name.”
“But I do. It was the same man who ruined or tried to ruin your son. It was my only brother, Jeremiah.”
“I will tell you about him—or a little about him, for he has done much which I would not care to talk of, nor you to listen to. He was always a villain, smooth-spoken and plausible, but a dangerous, subtle villain all the same. If I have some hard thoughts about mankind I can trace them back to the childhood which I spent with my brother. He is my only living relative, for my other brother, Charles’s father, was killed in the Indian mutiny.
“Our father was rich, and when he died he made a good provision both for Jeremiah and for me. He knew Jeremiah and he mistrusted him, however; so instead of giving him all that he meant him to have he handed me over a part of it, telling me, with what was almost his dying breath, to hold it in trust for my brother, and to use it in his behalf when he should have squandered or lost all that he had. This arrangement was meant to be a secret between my father and myself, but unfortunately his words were overheard by the nurse, and she repeated them afterwards to my brother, so that he came to know that I held some money in trust for him. I suppose tobacco will not harm my head, Doctor? Thank you, then I shall trouble you for the matches, Ida.” She lit a cigarette, and leaned back upon the pillow, with the blue wreaths curling from her lips.