However, by the time Charles had eaten a couple of grouse, and drunk a bottle of his excellent Rudesheimer, his spirits and valour revived exceedingly. Doubtless he inherits from his Boer ancestry a tendency towards courage of the Batavian description. He was in capital feather.
“After all, Sey,” he said, leaning back in his chair, “this time we score one. He has not done us brown; we have at least detected him. To detect him in time is half-way to catching him. Only the remoteness of our position at Seldon Castle saved him from capture. Next set-to, I feel sure, we will not merely spot him, we will also nab him. I only wish he would try on such a rig in London.”
But the oddest part of it all was this, that from the moment those two people landed at Niggarey, and told the fishermen there were some gentlemen stranded on the Seamew’s island, all trace of them vanished. At no station along the line could we gain any news of them. Their maid had left the inn the same morning with their luggage, and we tracked her to Inverness; but there the trail stopped short, no spoor lay farther. It was a most singular and insoluble mystery.
Charles lived in hopes of catching his man in London.
But for my part, I felt there was a show of reason in one last taunt which the rascal flung back at us as the boat receded: “Sir Charles Vandrift, we are a pair of rogues. The law protects you. It persecutes me. That’s all the difference.”
THE EPISODE OF THE GERMAN PROFESSOR
That winter in town my respected brother-in-law had little time on his hands to bother himself about trifles like Colonel Clay. A thunderclap burst upon him. He saw his chief interest in South Africa threatened by a serious, an unexpected, and a crushing danger.
Charles does a little in gold, and a little in land; but his principal operations have always lain in the direction of diamonds. Only once in my life, indeed, have I seen him pay the slightest attention to poetry, and that was when I happened one day to recite the lines:—
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark, unfathomed caves of ocean bear.
He rubbed his hands at once and murmured enthusiastically, “I never thought of that. We might get up an Atlantic Exploration Syndicate, Limited.” So attached is he to diamonds. You may gather, therefore, what a shock it was to that gigantic brain to learn that science was rapidly reaching a point where his favourite gems might become all at once a mere drug in the market. Depreciation is the one bugbear that perpetually torments Sir Charles’s soul; that winter he stood within measurable distance of so appalling a calamity.
It happened after this manner.