more than I had any right to ask. I take that as a mark of confidence,
which I will try to deserve. I hope, sir, you will let me regard you as
He evaded my proffered friendship with a blunt proposal to rejoin the
mess; and yet a moment later, contrived to alleviate the snub. For, as
we entered the smoking-room, he laid his hand on my shoulder with a kind
"I have just prescribed for Mr. Dodd," says he, "a glass of our
I have never again met Dr. Urquart: but he wrote himself so clear
upon my memory that I think I see him still. And indeed I had cause to
remember the man for the sake of his communication. It was hard enough
to make a theory fit the circumstances of the Flying Scud; but one in
which the chief actor should stand the least excused, and might retain
the esteem or at least the pity of a man like Dr. Urquart, failed me
utterly. Here at least was the end of my discoveries; I learned no more,
till I learned all; and my reader has the evidence complete. Is he more
astute than I was? or, like me, does he give it up?
CHAPTER XVIII. CROSS-QUESTIONS AND CROOKED ANSWERS.
I have said hard words of San Francisco; they must scarce be literally
understood (one cannot suppose the Israelites did justice to the land of
Pharaoh); and the city took a fine revenge of me on my return. She had
never worn a more becoming guise; the sun shone, the air was lively, the
people had flowers in their button-holes and smiles upon their faces;
and as I made my way towards Jim's place of employment, with some very
black anxieties at heart, I seemed to myself a blot on the surrounding
My destination was in a by-street in a mean, rickety building; "The
Franklin H. Dodge Steam Printing Company" appeared upon its front, and
in characters of greater freshness, so as to suggest recent conversion,
the watch-cry, "White Labour Only." In the office, in a dusty pen,
Jim sat alone before a table. A wretched change had overtaken him in
clothes, body, and bearing; he looked sick and shabby; he who had once
rejoiced in his day's employment, like a horse among pastures, now sat
staring on a column of accounts, idly chewing a pen, at times heavily
sighing, the picture of inefficiency and inattention. He was sunk deep
in a painful reverie; he neither saw nor heard me; and I stood and
watched him unobserved. I had a sudden vain relenting. Repentance
bludgeoned me. As I had predicted to Nares, I stood and kicked myself.
Here was I come home again, my honour saved; there was my friend in want
of rest, nursing, and a generous diet; and I asked myself with Falstaff,
"What is in that word honour? what is that honour?" and, like Falstaff,
I told myself that it was air.
"Jim!" said I.
"Loudon!" he gasped, and jumped from his chair and stood shaking.
The next moment I was over the barrier, and we were hand in hand.
"My poor old man!" I cried.
"Thank God, you're home at last!" he gulped, and kept patting my
shoulder with his hand.
"I've no good news for you, Jim!" said I.
"You've come - that's the good news that I want," he replied. "O, how
I've longed for you, Loudon!"
"I couldn't do what you wrote me," I said, lowering my voice. "The
creditors have it all. I couldn't do it."
"Ssh!" returned Jim. "I was crazy when wrote. I could never have looked
Mamie in the face if we had done it. O, Loudon, what a gift that woman
is! You think you know something of life: you just don't know anything.
It's the GOODNESS of the woman, it's a revelation!"
"That's all right," said I. "That's how I hoped to hear you, Jim."
"And so the Flying Scud was a fraud," he resumed. "I didn't quite
understand your letter, but I made out that."
"Fraud is a mild term for it," said I. "The creditors will never believe
what fools we were. And that reminds me," I continued, rejoicing in the
transition, "how about the bankruptcy?"
"You were lucky to be out of that," answered Jim, shaking his head;
"you were lucky not to see the papers. The _Occidental_ called me a
fifth-rate Kerbstone broker with water on the brain; another said I was
a tree-frog that had got into the same meadow with Longhurst, and
had blown myself out till I went pop. It was rough on a man in his
honeymoon; so was what they said about my looks, and what I had on, and
the way I perspired. But I braced myself up with the Flying Scud. How
did it exactly figure out anyway? I don't seem to catch on to that
"The devil you don't!" thinks I to myself; and then aloud: "You see
we had neither one of us good luck. I didn't do much more than cover
current expenses; and you got floored immediately. How did we come to go
"Well, we'll have to have a talk over all this," said Jim with a sudden
start. "I should be getting to my books; and I guess you had better
go up right away to Mamie. She's at Speedy's. She expects you with
impatience. She regards you in the light of a favourite brother,
Any scheme was welcome which allowed me to postpone the hour of
explanation, and avoid (were it only for a breathing space) the topic
of the Flying Scud. I hastened accordingly to Bush Street. Mrs. Speedy,
already rejoicing in the return of a spouse, hailed me with acclamation.
"And it's beautiful you're looking, Mr. Dodd, my dear," she was kind
enough to say. "And a miracle they naygur waheenies let ye lave the
oilands. I have my suspicions of Shpeedy," she added, roguishly. "Did ye
see him after the naygresses now?"
I gave Speedy an unblemished character.
"The one of ye will niver bethray the other," said the playful dame, and
ushered me into a bare room, where Mamie sat working a type-writer.
I was touched by the cordiality of her greeting. With the prettiest
gesture in the world she gave me both her hands; wheeled forth a chair;
and produced, from a cupboard, a tin of my favourite tobacco, and a book
of my exclusive cigarette papers.
"There!" she cried; "you see, Mr. Loudon, we were all prepared for you;
the things were bought the very day you sailed."
I imagined she had always intended me a pleasant welcome; but the
certain fervour of sincerity, which I could not help remarking, flowed
from an unexpected source. Captain Nares, with a kindness for which
I can never be sufficiently grateful, had stolen a moment from his
occupations, driven to call on Mamie, and drawn her a generous picture
of my prowess at the wreck. She was careful not to breathe a word of
this interview, till she had led me on to tell my adventures for myself.
"Ah! Captain Nares was better," she cried, when I had done. "From your
account, I have only learned one new thing, that you are modest as well
I cannot tell with what sort of disclamation I sought to reply.
"It is of no use," said Mamie. "I know a hero. And when I heard of you
working all day like a common labourer, with your hands bleeding and
your nails broken - and how you told the captain to 'crack on' (I think
he said) in the storm, when he was terrified himself - and the danger
of that horrid mutiny" - (Nares had been obligingly dipping his brush in
earthquake and eclipse) - "and how it was all done, in part at least, for
Jim and me - I felt we could never say how we admired and thanked you."
"Mamie," I cried, "don't talk of thanks; it is not a word to be used
between friends. Jim and I have been prosperous together; now we shall
be poor together. We've done our best, and that's all that need be said.
The next thing is for me to find a situation, and send you and Jim up
country for a long holiday in the redwoods - for a holiday Jim has got to
"Jim can't take your money, Mr. Loudon," said Mamie.
"Jim?" cried I. "He's got to. Didn't I take his?"
Presently after, Jim himself arrived, and before he had yet done mopping
his brow, he was at me with the accursed subject. "Now, Loudon," said
he, "here we are all together, the day's work done and the evening
before us; just start in with the whole story."
"One word on business first," said I, speaking from the lips outward,
and meanwhile (in the private apartments of my brain) trying for the
thousandth time to find some plausible arrangement of my story. "I want
to have a notion how we stand about the bankruptcy."
"O, that's ancient history," cried Jim. "We paid seven cents, and a
wonder we did as well. The receiver - - " (methought a spasm seized him
at the name of this official, and he broke off). "But it's all past
and done with anyway; and what I want to get at is the facts about the
wreck. I don't seem to understand it; appears to me like as there was
"There was nothing IN it, anyway," I said, with a forced laugh.
"That's what I want to judge of," returned Jim.
"How the mischief is it I can never keep you to that bankruptcy? It
looks as if you avoided it," said I - for a man in my situation, with
"Don't it look a little as if you were trying to avoid the wreck?" asked
It was my own doing; there was no retreat. "My dear fellow, if you make
a point of it, here goes!" said I, and launched with spurious gaiety
into the current of my tale. I told it with point and spirit; described
the island and the wreck, mimicked Anderson and the Chinese, maintained
the suspense.... My pen has stumbled on the fatal word. I maintained the
suspense so well that it was never relieved; and when I stopped - I dare
not say concluded, where there was no conclusion - I found Jim and Mamie
regarding me with surprise.
"Well?" said Jim.
"Well, that's all," said I.
"But how do you explain it?" he asked.
"I can't explain it," said I.
Mamie wagged her head ominously.
"But, great Caesar's ghost! the money was offered!" cried Jim. "It won't
do, Loudon; it's nonsense, on the face of it! I don't say but what you
and Nares did your best; I'm sure, of course, you did; but I do say, you
got fooled. I say the stuff is in that ship to-day, and I say I mean to
"There is nothing in the ship, I tell you, but old wood and iron!" said
"You'll see," said Jim. "Next time I go myself. I'll take Mamie for the
trip; Longhurst won't refuse me the expense of a schooner. You wait till
I get the searching of her."
"But you can't search her!" cried I. "She's burned."
"Burned!" cried Mamie, starting a little from the attitude of quiescent
capacity in which she had hitherto sat to hear me, her hands folded in
There was an appreciable pause.
"I beg your pardon, Loudon," began Jim at last, "but why in snakes did
you burn her?"
"It was an idea of Nares's," said I.
"This is certainly the strangest circumstance of all," observed Mamie.
"I must say, Loudon, it does seem kind of unexpected," added Jim. "It
seems kind of crazy even. What did you - what did Nares expect to gain by
"I don't know; it didn't seem to matter; we had got all there was to
get," said I.
"That's the very point," cried Jim. "It was quite plain you hadn't."
"What made you so sure?" asked Mamie.
"How can I tell you?" I cried. "We had been all through her. We WERE
sure; that's all that I can say."
"I begin to think you were," she returned, with a significant emphasis.
Jim hurriedly intervened. "What I don't quite make out, Loudon, is that
you don't seem to appreciate the peculiarities of the thing," said he.
"It doesn't seem to have struck you same as it does me."
"Pshaw! why go on with this?" cried Mamie, suddenly rising. "Mr. Dodd is
not telling us either what he thinks or what he knows."
"Mamie!" cried Jim.
"You need not be concerned for his feelings, James; he is not concerned
for yours," returned the lady. "He dare not deny it, besides. And this
is not the first time he has practised reticence. Have you forgotten
that he knew the address, and did not tell it you until that man had
Jim turned to me pleadingly - we were all on our feet. "Loudon," he said,
"you see Mamie has some fancy; and I must say there's just a sort of a
shadow of an excuse; for it IS bewildering - even to me, Loudon, with my
trained business intelligence. For God's sake, clear it up."
"This serves me right," said I. "I should not have tried to keep you in
the dark; I should have told you at first that I was pledged to secrecy;
I should have asked you to trust me in the beginning. It is all I can
do now. There is more of the story, but it concerns none of us, and my
tongue is tied. I have given my word of honour. You must trust me and
try to forgive me."
"I daresay I am very stupid, Mr. Dodd," began Mamie, with an alarming
sweetness, "but I thought you went upon this trip as my husband's
representative and with my husband's money? You tell us now that you
are pledged, but I should have thought you were pledged first of all
to James. You say it does not concern us; we are poor people, and my
husband is sick, and it concerns us a great deal to understand how we
come to have lost our money, and why our representative comes back to
us with nothing. You ask that we should trust you; you do not seem to
understand; the question we are asking ourselves is whether we have not
trusted you too much."
"I do not ask you to trust me," I replied. "I ask Jim. He knows me."
"You think you can do what you please with James; you trust to his
affection, do you not? And me, I suppose, you do not consider," said
Mamie. "But it was perhaps an unfortunate day for you when we were
married, for I at least am not blind. The crew run away, the ship is
sold for a great deal of money, you know that man's address and you
conceal it, you do not find what you were sent to look for, and yet you
burn the ship; and now, when we ask explanations, you are pledged to
secrecy! But I am pledged to no such thing; I will not stand by in
silence and see my sick and ruined husband betrayed by his condescending
friend. I will give you the truth for once. Mr. Dodd, you have been
bought and sold."
"Mamie," cried Jim, "no more of this! It's me you're striking; it's only
me you hurt. You don't know, you cannot understand these things. Why,
to-day, if it hadn't been for Loudon, I couldn't have looked you in the
face. He saved my honesty."
"I have heard plenty of this talk before," she replied. "You are a
sweet-hearted fool, and I love you for it. But I am a clear-headed
woman; my eyes are open, and I understand this man's hypocrisy. Did he
not come here to-day and pretend he would take a situation - pretend he
would share his hard-earned wages with us until you were well? Pretend!
It makes me furious! His wages! a share of his wages! That would have
been your pittance, that would have been your share of the Flying
Scud - you who worked and toiled for him when he was a beggar in the
streets of Paris. But we do not want your charity; thank God, I can work
for my own husband! See what it is to have obliged a gentleman. He would
let you pick him up when he was begging; he would stand and look on, and
let you black his shoes, and sneer at you. For you were always sneering
at my James; you always looked down upon him in your heart, you know
it!" She turned back to Jim. "And now when he is rich," she began, and
then swooped again on me. "For you are rich, I dare you to deny it; I
defy you to look me in the face and try to deny that you are rich - rich
with our money - my husband's money - - "
Heaven knows to what a height she might have risen, being, by this time,
bodily whirled away in her own hurricane of words. Heart-sickness,
a black depression, a treacherous sympathy with my assailant, pity
unutterable for poor Jim, already filled, divided, and abashed my
spirit. Flight seemed the only remedy; and making a private sign to Jim,
as if to ask permission, I slunk from the unequal field.
I was but a little way down the street, when I was arrested by the sound
of some one running, and Jim's voice calling me by name. He had followed
me with a letter which had been long awaiting my return.
I took it in a dream. "This has been a devil of a business," said I.
"Don't think hard of Mamie," he pleaded. "It's the way she's made; it's
her high-toned loyalty. And of course I know it's all right. I know your
sterling character; but you didn't, somehow, make out to give us the
thing straight, Loudon. Anybody might have - I mean it - I mean - - "
"Never mind what you mean, my poor Jim," said I. "She's a gallant little
woman and a loyal wife: and I thought her splendid. My story was as
fishy as the devil. I'll never think the less of either her or you."
"It'll blow over; it must blow over," said he.
"It never can," I returned, sighing: "and don't you try to make it!
Don't name me, unless it's with an oath. And get home to her right away.
Good by, my best of friends. Good by, and God bless you. We shall never
"O Loudon, that we should live to say such words!" he cried.
I had no views on life, beyond an occasional impulse to commit suicide,
or to get drunk, and drifted down the street, semi-conscious, walking
apparently on air, in the light-headedness of grief. I had money in my
pocket, whether mine or my creditors' I had no means of guessing; and,
the Poodle Dog lying in my path, I went mechanically in and took
a table. A waiter attended me, and I suppose I gave my orders; for
presently I found myself, with a sudden return of consciousness,
beginning dinner. On the white cloth at my elbow lay the letter,
addressed in a clerk's hand, and bearing an English stamp and the
Edinburgh postmark. A bowl of bouillon and a glass of wine awakened in
one corner of my brain (where all the rest was in mourning, the blinds
down as for a funeral) a faint stir of curiosity; and while I waited the
next course, wondering the while what I had ordered, I opened and began
to read the epoch-making document.
"DEAR SIR: I am charged with the melancholy duty of announcing to you
the death of your excellent grandfather, Mr. Alexander Loudon, on
the 17th ult. On Sunday the 13th, he went to church as usual in the
forenoon, and stopped on his way home, at the corner of Princes Street,
in one of our seasonable east winds, to talk with an old friend. The
same evening acute bronchitis declared itself; from the first, Dr.
M'Combie anticipated a fatal result, and the old gentleman appeared to
have no illusion as to his own state. He repeatedly assured me it
was 'by' with him now; 'and high time, too,' he once added with
characteristic asperity. He was not in the least changed on the approach
of death: only (what I am sure must be very grateful to your feelings)
he seemed to think and speak even more kindly than usual of yourself:
referring to you as 'Jeannie's yin,' with strong expressions of regard.
'He was the only one I ever liket of the hale jing-bang,' was one of his
expressions; and you will be glad to know that he dwelt particularly
on the dutiful respect you had always displayed in your relations.
The small codicil, by which he bequeaths you his Molesworth and other
professional works, was added (you will observe) on the day before his
death; so that you were in his thoughts until the end. I should say
that, though rather a trying patient, he was most tenderly nursed by
your uncle, and your cousin, Miss Euphemia. I enclose a copy of the
testament, by which you will see that you share equally with Mr. Adam,
and that I hold at your disposal a sum nearly approaching seventeen
thousand pounds. I beg to congratulate you on this considerable
acquisition, and expect your orders, to which I shall hasten to give my
best attention. Thinking that you might desire to return at once to this
country, and not knowing how you may be placed, I enclose a credit for
six hundred pounds. Please sign the accompanying slip, and let me have
it at your earliest convenience.
"I am, dear sir, yours truly,
"W. RUTHERFORD GREGG."
"God bless the old gentleman!" I thought; "and for that matter God bless
Uncle Adam! and my cousin Euphemia! and Mr. Gregg!" I had a vision of
that grey old life now brought to an end - "and high time too" - a vision
of those Sabbath streets alternately vacant and filled with silent
people; of the babel of the bells, the long-drawn psalmody, the shrewd
sting of the east wind, the hollow, echoing, dreary house to which
"Ecky" had returned with the hand of death already on his shoulder; a
vision, too, of the long, rough country lad, perhaps a serious courtier
of the lasses in the hawthorn den, perhaps a rustic dancer on the green,
who had first earned and answered to that harsh diminutive. And I asked
myself if, on the whole, poor Ecky had succeeded in life; if the last
state of that man were not on the whole worse than the first; and the
house in Randolph Crescent a less admirable dwelling than the hamlet
where he saw the day and grew to manhood. Here was a consolatory thought
for one who was himself a failure.
Yes, I declare the word came in my mind; and all the while, in another
partition of the brain, I was glowing and singing for my new-found
opulence. The pile of gold - four thousand two hundred and fifty double
eagles, seventeen thousand ugly sovereigns, twenty-one thousand two
hundred and fifty Napoleons - danced, and rang and ran molten, and lit
up life with their effulgence, in the eye of fancy. Here were all things
made plain to me: Paradise - Paris, I mean - Regained, Carthew protected,
Jim restored, the creditors...
"The creditors!" I repeated, and sank back benumbed. It was all theirs
to the last farthing: my grandfather had died too soon to save me.
I must have somewhere a rare vein of decision. In that revolutionary
moment, I found myself prepared for all extremes except the one: ready
to do anything, or to go anywhere, so long as I might save my money.
At the worst, there was flight, flight to some of those blest countries
where the serpent, extradition, has not yet entered in.
On no condition is extradition
Allowed in Callao!
- the old lawless words haunted me; and I saw myself hugging my gold in
the company of such men as had once made and sung them, in the rude
and bloody wharfside drinking-shops of Chili and Peru. The run of my
ill-luck, the breach of my old friendship, this bubble fortune flaunted
for a moment in my eyes and snatched again, had made me desperate and
(in the expressive vulgarism) ugly. To drink vile spirits among vile
companions by the flare of a pine-torch; to go burthened with my furtive
treasure in a belt; to fight for it knife in hand, rolling on a clay
floor; to flee perpetually in fresh ships and to be chased through
the sea from isle to isle, seemed, in my then frame of mind, a welcome
series of events.
That was for the worst; but it began to dawn slowly on my mind that
there was yet a possible better. Once escaped, once safe in Callao, I
might approach my creditors with a good grace; and properly handled by
a cunning agent, it was just possible they might accept some easy
composition. The hope recalled me to the bankruptcy. It was strange, I
reflected: often as I had questioned Jim, he had never obliged me
with an answer. In his haste for news about the wreck, my own no less
legitimate curiosity had gone disappointed. Hateful as the thought was
to me, I must return at once and find out where I stood.
I left my dinner still unfinished, paying for the whole, of course, and
tossing the waiter a gold piece. I was reckless; I knew not what was
mine and cared not: I must take what I could get and give as I was able;
to rob and to squander seemed the complementary parts of my new destiny.
I walked up Bush Street, whistling, brazening myself to confront Mamie
in the first place, and the world at large and a certain visionary judge
upon a bench in the second. Just outside, I stopped and lighted a cigar
to give me greater countenance; and puffing this and wearing what (I
am sure) was a wretched assumption of braggadocio, I reappeared on the
scene of my disgrace.
My friend and his wife were finishing a poor meal - rags of old mutton,
the remainder cakes from breakfast eaten cold, and a starveling pot of
"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Pinkerton," said I. "Sorry to inflict my
presence where it cannot be desired; but there is a piece of business
necessary to be discussed."
"Pray do not consider me," said Mamie, rising, and she sailed into the
Jim watched her go and shook his head; he looked miserably old and ill.
"What is it, now?" he asked.
"Perhaps you remember you answered none of my questions," said I.
"Your questions?" faltered Jim.
"Even so, Jim. My questions," I repeated. "I put questions as well as