Doubloons/Chapter 3

 

CHAPTER III.

No sooner had the Endeavor passed her hawsers to the wharf at Falmouth than the stalwart young mate leaped ashore and struck out for a white cottage as his journey’s end. His ruddy cheek was freshly shaven, and the blue serge suit was smartly cut. A very proper figure of a sailor and a man to steer clear of in a quarrel, he looked fit to fight Eudora’s battles as well as his own. She had decided to forewarn him of the situation, but to say nothing in prejudice of William Marmaduke Mannice. Let Dan form his own judgment and then advise her.

They therefore met in the road near home, quite by chance, of course, because he must not think she had come to look for him. Wistfulness shadowed his engaging features, for he hoped that absence might have made her fonder, but she gave no sign beyond a gracious friendliness as they shook hand's and moved toward the cottage.

“Yes, I am truly glad to see you, Dan,” said Eudora. “A good run, was it, from Norfolk?”

“Fair. We lost a barge in a squall off Cape Cod, but picked her up again,” said the resonant voice. “Snatched her oft the shoals just before she bumped. A line parted and knocked me overboard. How goes it with you? Whew, but the days do drag when I’m way! It’s worse every voyage, Eudora.”

“Pooh! They say you have a girl in every port, Eton.”

“They lie,” exclaimed the mate, “and you know better. I’m making a good record these days. Won’t you give me any credit for it?”

“Indeed I do, and there are times when I’m proud of you,” was her sweetly candid assurance. “But we must talk about something else just now. My sensible father has decided to go roaming off to find a buried treasure, and I am completely upset.”

“He has talked that foolishness until he believes there is something in it?” was the cheerful query. “Well, we’ll just have to talk him out of it. A restless fit, I presume. He wants some excuse to go to sea again. What touched him off?”

“A man named Mannice, who found a pirate’s chart in the old Wanderer, Dan, he is some kind of a newspaper writer. Father ha‘s taken a great fancy to him.”

“A young man, is he?” And Mr. Sloan scowled. This exhibition of temper seemed to please Eudora, who smiled demurely as she replied:

“Fairly young, and quite captivating. Don’t look so wrathy, please. I am only quoting his opinion of himself. I don’t like him, and I wish that father had never laid eyes on him.”

“Some kind of a crooked game in the wind, Eudora?” briskly demanded Dan, who was clearing for action.

“I don’t know. There is nothing that I can put a finger on. But I feel uneasy and helpless. They won’t tell me anything definite. Father and I have always been so chummy. Now he won’t even consult me.”

“About this chart,” slowly remarked Dan. “Have you seen it? Can I get a squint at it? This Mannice rooster knew where to find it?”

“He got on the track of it, yes. I’m sure they will refuse to tell you anything about it. So please ask no questions when you meet them. It would only make it harder for me.”

“I see. I might be able to give you some idea of what the chart amounts to. Your dad is a first-rate navigator, but in a case like this his judgment is befogged. It’s easy for a man to believe a thing when his mind has a slant that way. He actually talks of sailing somewhere?”

“They are planning it now, Dan. In a vessel of their own. It will cost a lot of money.”

“Well, it will take some time to charter and outfit, and all that,” the sailor soothingly suggested. “Meanwhile, the skipper may wake up from this pipe dream. And I can look up this Mannice proposition. I’m acquainted with ship-news reporters from Boston to Baltimore, and if there is anything wrong with the man, they will be glad to run it out for me. I’ll stand by, Eudora.”

“I know you will,” she softly told him, and the intonations moved him beyond words. They seemed to be drawn closer together than he had hitherto dared hope for. His hand sought hers, but she eluded him, and a moment later they were turning into the cottage. Mannice and the captain walked a path arm in arm, as though the little garden were their own quarter-deck. When Eudora appeared with the mate of the Endeavor, the two treasure seekers halted in their tracks and seemed a trifle startled. It amused Eudora, who had never seen her father look so like a naughty boy caught in the act. Evidently he regarded Dan Sloan as an untimely intruder, but he recovered his hearty manner and presented his friend, Mr. William Marmaduke Mannice.

The latter gentleman had a voluble greeting ready, but he inwardly wondered who the devil this Sloan fellow might be and in what relation he stood to Eudora. They disliked each other at sight, and the feeling was more than primitive jealousy. Mannice was afraid of this clean, virile sailor who looked him straight in the eye, while Dan was conscious of a rising contempt. The contrast between them instantly impressed Eudora, and she discerned in Mannice, for all his ingratiating airs, a soul that was flaccid and furtive.

“A newspaper man, I understand,” said Dan, coming to the point at once. “What owners are you signed with at present?”

“Unattached, Mr. Sloan,” smiled Mannice. “It pays me better to write on my own hook. My name has some value, don’t you know.”

“Ah, yes. I haven’t happened to come across it. Have you found any interesting material in Falmouth? Fond of the sea?”

“In a literary way,” replied the other, glancing at Captain Kempton. “Some great stuff here.”

“I have persuaded Mr. Mannice to make us a visit, Eudora,” said the skipper. “We can easily find room for him.”

Dan glowered at this, and yearned to eject the trespasser, but he had promised to live down his cyclonic past. It was obvious that nothing was to be said to him about the treasure quest. He determined to talk with Captain Kempton alone at the first opportunity and beg him to do nothing rash until Mannice could be investigated.

Just then there sounded from the direction of Falmouth six long blasts of a steam whistle, deep and sonorous. An interval and they were repeated. The mate of the Endeavor looked dismayed as he explained to Eudora:

“The recall signal from my boat. Hurry orders to coal up and put to sea. And I expected to have several days in port. Well, it’s good-by. Will you come as far as the road with me, Eudora?”

He turned quickly, with a farewell nod to the others, who showed no signs of sorrow. In fact, William Marmaduke Mannice displayed a beaming countenance which, luckily for him, the sailor failed to observe. Eudora went a little way with him, and he stood, reluctant, as he told her:

“This is hard luck for me. I ought to be on hand. I don’t like the looks of things, but it may clear up without me. Don’t worry any more than you can help, and be sure to write if you need me.”

“But you don’t know where you are going, Dan,” ruefully cried the girl.

“I’ll send you a note from Falmouth to-day before we sail. A letter in care of our agents will find me without much delay. Bless your heart, I’ll jump ship anywhere if you send me a call.”

“Don’t do that, Dan. Duty first. God bless you. I will let you know just what is going on, and you may be back in port to-morrow for all we know.”

His hard, brown hand clasped hers with a lingering caress, and he left her gazing after him as he broke into a swinging trot and hastened to rejoin his vessel. In a low-spirited mood, Eudora turned toward the outer harbor and waited until the Endeavor passed out to sea, trailing a long banner of smoke. At home, she found a brief message, scrawled in pencil and delivered by a boy;

 

Big steamer in distress with a broken shaft. A hundred miles offshore. Will probably tow to Boston. As always, your faithful Dan.

 

The captain and his companion were not to be found, nor did they return until supper had been waiting for some time. Eudora heard her father say as he crossed the porch:

“Much better luck than I expected. The schooner was chartered for the fishing season, but there was some trouble over terms, and she has been lying idle for two months. We are getting her dirt cheap, and she can be made ready for sea in a few days.”

“A crew and provisions, and it’s ‘once aboard the lugger——’” blithely returned Mr. Mannice.

“You had better run into Boston and get your things together. It’s short notice for you, of course, and whatever cash you need, why, we’ll drop into the bank in the morning.”

Eudora, an indignant eavesdropper, perceived that matters were moving much faster than she had anticipated. Dan Sloan was out of reach, and it was futile for her to fight lone-handed. She therefore did the next best thing, which was to announce, in her pleasantest manner:

“Please reserve the most comfortable stateroom for me and a one-third share of the treasure.”

“Delighted, Miss Kempton,” exclaimed Mannice. “A true viking’s daughter. I should refuse to sail without you.”

“If she insists, there’s no stopping her,” said the captain, who comprehended that Eudora had made up her mind.

“I’m sure I can handle a shovel with either of you,” she observed, looking hard at the poorly conditioned figure of Mr. Mannice. “The Seven Islands! You were kind enough to tell me that much. May I ask where they are? If I am to get my clothes ready right away, I should like some idea of the length of the voyage.”

Her father was grimly taciturn, and left it to Mannice to say: “Mum’s the word, Miss Kempton. You know how it is with a treasure expedition. The merest hint, and away they all go after you. As a partner, you are entitled to know all about it, but the captain has put the lid on until we leave port. It will be a short voyage on this side of the Atlantic, say two or three weeks. None of the tropical stuff, palms and coral reefs and brown-skinned natives.”

Eudora picked up spirits at this. Dan Sloan would not seem so hopelessly far away as she had feared. Her father felt relieved that she had turned tractable and made no more effort to dissuade him. For Eudora another ray broke through the cloud when he informed her:

“I crossed the hawse of old Harvey Mattoon in Falmouth this afternoon and coaxed him to join as cook for a sort of yachting cruise, as I called it. He will make it seem like the days gone by in the Endymion

“Is he still tending his lobster pots? Why, he sailed with you when I was a little girl, and you never had a more faithful man. I’m so glad. And the rest of your crew?”

“Four Falmouth lads will do, fishermen ashore. I’ll round them up to-morrow. I shall carry no mate.”

For three d&ys thereafter, the two adventurers were prodigiously busy and seldom at home. Mannice went to Boston, and was intrusted with the purchase of sundry supplies at a ship chandler’s in that port. Captain Kempton, wrapped in mystery, inspected his schooner, mustered his crew, and looked after a thousand and one details. He enjoyed it all, and was much happier than Eudora had seen him in years. His training came back to him, and he drove the work without bluster or flurry, a man supremely competent at his own trade.

Hearing nothing more from Dan and the Endeavor, Eudora waited until the last day before the schooner was to flit from the harbor. Then she wrote, with a sorely troubled mind:

 

My Dear Friend Dan: Father is carrying me off to-morrow in the Challenge for parts unknown. It is a coastwise voyage—I know that much. I never got so much as a peep at the chart. Does Seven Islands convey any meaning to you? I am more and more convinced that Mannice is up to something, although I can’t fathom it at all. He had no money. A lot owing to him and no time to collect it, said he, which seemed to satisfy poor dad, who couldn’t sleep for impatience to start. For fear folks might think it queer and ask questions at seeing Captain Kempton fitting out a vessel, he has let Mannice pose as the financier, and, I am afraid, given him some of the funds to handle.

I shall keep my eyes open every minute. Mannice has been courteous enough to me, but he knows I suspect and dislike him, I am sure. I will write again, Dan, if we touch at any port. I wish you were in the party. I should feel ever so much easier about the venture. Please don’t worry. Father will take the best of care of me. My anxiety is on his account. I shall think of you very often. Isn’t it nice of me to say that much? Eudora.